A Perfect Day - Part III
Friday, August 14, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Conversations around the breakfast table at the Fryes, and Kaylee's labour is progressing. NEW CHAPTER


9.00 am

Labour was progressing well (according to Simon), slowly (according to the person it was progressing on), and interestingly (according to River, timing each contraction).

There had been a point around four-thirty, just as the birds were starting to think of singing, when the pains appeared to stop, and Kaylee didn’t have a contraction for well over an hour. She’d even managed to doze off.

“Braxton Hicks?” Mal asked, sounding as if he knew what he was talking about, and to some degree he did, since Freya had been afflicted with false labour pains with Jesse, before the real ones kicked in.

“No, I don’t think so.”

They were standing outside the back door in the cold pre-dawn, each needing a breath of the fresh air that crystallised in front of them as they exhaled.

“Then what?”

Simon pushed his hands through his hair. “It might just be a quiet spell. It happens. Or labour may have stopped.”

“That happen too?”

“On occasion.” Simon shook his head. “You’ve got to realise, I’m not an obstetrician, and no matter what I read on the Cortex, it isn’t the same as doing it for real.”

“You’ve delivered a number of kids now, doc. Two of ‘em mine. And if you need help, there’s that hospital we knocked over just a ways off.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“Hey, I got every confidence in you, Simon. Else I’d never let you anywhere near me or anyone else on my crew. It’s you who seem to be lacking.”

Simon raised an eyebrow. “This from the man who panicked when Petaline started.”

Mal felt his lips trying to curve. “Now, that ain’t true.” At Simon’s look, he grinned, the action taking the years off him. “Okay. Maybe I did. But I’ve had a bit more practice now, and I’ve kinda come to the conclusion that babies come along, in their own time, no matter what you do.”

“I just ... it’s different when it’s your own.”

Mal put his arm around Simon’s shoulders. “And River’s still sitting inside the door with that gorram stopwatch, so I think everything’s on schedule. Where’d she get that thing, anyway?”

“The Skyplex, I think.”

“Only it’s kinda creepy. The way she counts down and then Kaylee ... you know.”

“I know.”

The two men exchanged a knowing look, brothers in adversity. Then River poked her head around the door.

“Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one,” she said, her stopwatch in her hand.

“Simon!” Kaylee’s voice rang through the house.

“Oh, diyu,” the young man said, and legged it back upstairs.

Mal grinned, then turned to face the faint lightening of the sky, the stars beginning to dim, his mind elsewhere as he thought back on the births of his own children. Fingering the small gold cross hanging on the chain around his neck, he sent up an idle prayer to whoever might be listening that one day, not too far in the future, it would be his own baby he was waiting on. Two was fine, but three – or maybe even four – was better.


From that point there had been no more pauses, each contraction coming regularly, and getting slightly closer together. But not enough that Simon could predict the exact time of birth. River tapped her stopwatch, making her brother sigh.

As the rest of Serenity’s crew began to filter across, Ellie began cooking.

“You don’t have to,” Freya said, getting the plates out of the cupboard.

“I gotta be doing something,” the older woman said as she sliced bacon. “No wonder Eddie looked so frazzled when I was birthing. I always thought I had the hard part, but maybe it wasn't that much better for him.”

“They worry.” Freya put the plates to warm at the back of the stove.

“But this time there’s nothing to worry about, right?”

“Not a thing.” Leaning against the worktop, Freya said, “I still find it hard to believe, though.”

Ellie paused. “I know what you mean. I know I gave Simon that tea, and all, but ... he was so sure they couldn’t.”

“He’s been wrong before.” Her thoughts slipped back to the time Simon had told her, emotion in his voice that had almost overwhelmed him, that she’d be unlikely to ever conceive. Yet here she was, two children to the good.

“And you want more.”

Freya looked at her. “You are psychic, aren’t you?”

“No. Just observant. I figure that’s a lot of what this psychic stuff is, really. Seeing things others don’t, and being able to put two and two together.”

“And coming up with five, quite a lot.”

Ellie laughed. “No, I think you and River are right more times than you’re wrong. Bethie too.”

“And Ethan.”

The laughter stopped, like a tap turned off. “Ethan?”

“I think he’s developing ... something.” Freya quickly went over what they’d discovered, that Ethan wasn’t just empathic, but could tell where people were, what they were doing.

“Oh, honey.” Ellie pulled her into her arms, hugging her tightly.

“It might not be anything else. It could be just that. But ...”

“You don’t think so.”

Freya took a deep breath. “No.”

“Come on.” Ellie led her to the table, making her sit down. “Now, does Mal know?”

“About Ethan being able to ... yes.”

“I meant that you’re scared.”

For a long moment Freya looked into Ellie’s warm, lined face, and knew she could tell her anything. “No,” she admitted, barely whispering. “No, he doesn’t.”

“Don’t you think you should tell him?”

“He’s got enough to worry about.”

“And this is his son.”

“Ethan might grow out of it.”

“Or he might end up as powerful as you.”

Freya dropped her head to stare at her hands. “Yes.”

“Now you listen to me.” Ellie wrapped her fingers around her friend’s. “Ethan has a wonderful family, loving parents who’ll do pretty much anything to keep him and his sister safe. And you can teach him, like you’re teaching Bethie.” At Freya’s slight smile, she felt encouraged, and went on, “I know I ain’t psychic, at least not in the traditional way of thinking, but I’ve read the leaves. Ethan’s destined for great things. I can see that. Might just be captaining a ship of his own, or maybe he’s gonna save the ‘verse, but it’ll be because of you and Mal.”

“With Bethie at his side?” Freya hazarded.

Ellie laughed. “Maybe. If they don’t kill each other first.”

“There is that.”

The outside door blew open. “Hey, where’s breakfast?” Jayne asked, stomping in. Then he saw the two women sitting at the table. “Uh ... you want I should come back later? Stop the others?”

“No,” Ellie said, patting Freya’s hands and standing up. “I think we’re done here.” She hurried to the stove. “How’re you at frying bacon?”

Jayne smacked his lips together. “Almost as good as at eating it.”

“Fine. You do that side, I’ll get the rest together.”

Mal stuck his head into the kitchen. “Thought I heard your voice. The others coming?”

“That they are. Just getting the kids into their cold weather gear. It’s cold enough to freeze the ti–”

“Jayne,” Mal warned.


“Ellie, that was wonderful,” Hank said, leaning back in his seat and rubbing his stomach.

“It’s nice to cook for people who appreciate it.”

“You saying we don’t?” Eddie asked, picking a sliver of something from between his teeth.

“Not at all. It’s just that I know you like my cooking, so it makes a change for others too as well.”

“Does that actually make sense?” He ducked as she tossed a tea towel at him.

“Eddie?” A young man with rough, sandy-coloured hair poked his head into the room. “Oh, sorry. Didn’t know you had visitors.”

“These ain’t visitors. They’re Kaylee’s crew.” Eddie glanced at Mal. “That there’s Cullen. He’s a distant relation. Third cousin or some such. He came to the wedding, but I doubt you’d remember him from the crowd.”

“You have a big family,” Mal observed.

“We surely do.” He turned back to the young man. “What’s up?”

“Pa sent me to ask you if you could come with your tools. The pump’s gone again, and half the town’s dry.”

Eddie shook his head, getting to his feet quickly. “That gorram thing’s more trouble than it’s worth,” he grumbled. “That’s the third time it’s broke down this year.”

“Is there anything we can do?” Mal asked, stirring in his seat.

“Not really. Least, not at the moment. Depends on what needs fixing this time.”

“Well, Kaylee bought a whole load of parts at the Skyplex – if there’s anything might be useful ...”

Eddie grinned. “Thanks, Mal. I might just take you up on that.”

“Then I’ll come with you,” Freya said, standing up. “I’ve been having lessons on engine maintenance. I might not be able to fix anything, but if you tell me what you need I can probably find it.” She looked at Mal. “Just don’t tell Kaylee.”

“No.” Serenity’s captain smiled. “She’d be as like to get up out of that bed and insist on fixing it herself.”

“I was thinking more along the lines of her being mad that you’re giving away her bits and pieces.”

“True.” He ran his hand up her hip. “Don’t be too long.”

“I’ll try not to be.” Freya leaned down and kissed him briefly before grabbing her coat and following Eddie and Cullen out of the back door, just as River came through from the parlour.

“Your turn,” the young psychic said, grabbing Mal’s arm and pulling.

He stayed put. “My turn?”

“Simon needs to eat, or he’ll collapse and die.”

Ma’s lips curved. “Die?”

“Well, complain a lot. But he needs to eat.”

“And you think I should be in with Kaylee?”

“I’ll be there too, but she needs strength.” She tugged harder. “She needs you.”

He felt a lump of pride swell in his chest, all warm and snug, and lifted himself out of his seat. “She needs me?”

“Simon needs a break from her swearing at him.” She shook her head slightly. “She’s very creative.”

“So I'm just convenient.”

She ignored his words, instead starting to drag him out of the room. “Come on.”

He laughed, allowing her to lead him away.

“Do we get a turn?” Hank asked, looked at Zoe.

“I imagine we all will, before this is over,” his wife conceded.

Wiping her fingers on her napkin and carefully studying the remaining adults, Bethie made a decision. “Uncle Jayne, will you take us for a walk?” she asked, doing the puppy dog eyes at him.

“Huh?” He looked down at her where she was sitting next to him. “What was that, short stub?”

“A walk. Maybe to the river? Fiddler would like it.” She could feel the little dog get to his feet under the table at the sound of his name. “He needs to ... you know.”

“That would be a good idea,” Zoe said, smiling at the little girl approvingly. “All the children need some fresh air, a little exercise ...”

“And you can collect some mushrooms,” Ellie added.

“Mushrooms?” Jayne peered out of the window at the frost-covered ground. “Ain’t it too cold for ‘em?”

“Not these ones.” Ellie pulled a trug out from under the sink, quickly wiping any dist from its curved wooden interior. “These ones are native to Phoros, and seem to like the snow. It’s a mite early for them, but you never know. Joe will go with you, show you where they are. They’re real good eating, especially in my beef stew.”

“Beef stew?” Jayne brightened up.

“I was thinking of making one for supper, if I got the ‘shrooms.”

“Please, Uncle Jayne?” Bethie leaned against him.

He knew he was a goner, but determined to make it as hard as possible. “If I'm going mushrooming, I need me a heavy coat. My old jacket was okay coming this far, but I ain’t getting frostbite for no-one. And I don’t got –”

“There’s plenty in the big cupboard.” Ellie pointed. “We Fryes don’t throw anything away, so there’s lots of sizes. Should be one that’d fit you.”

“Uncle Jayne?” Bethie had the pout ready if necessary.

Jayne sighed heavily. “Looks like I’m backed into a corner,” he said. “Just don’t think I’m always a soft touch.”

“Thank you, Uncle Jayne!” Bethie bounced up in her seat and kissed him on the cheek.

“Yeah, well ...”

“How’s about we all go?” Peter said. “I think there’s still a couple of old bats in there. We could have a game, keep us warm.”

“Sounds fun,” his brother Bill said.

“Not me,” Bobby put in. “I’m gonna stay here.”

“Your sister has enough people around her,” Ellie pointed out, ruffling his hair. “She’ll be fine.”

“I know. It ain't that. I just ... don’t feel like being much company.” He stood up and strode out, and they could hear his feet taking the stairs two at a time.

“Is he okay?” Zoe asked quietly.

“I’m not sure,” Ellie admitted. “He’s been off for a few days now, but I thought, seeing Kaylee ...” She shook herself. “I’m sure he’ll be fine. Come on. Let’s get you all ready.”


For ten minutes Simon had said nothing, just eaten the food that Ellie put down in front of him, his knife and fork working rhythmically until the plate was empty. Sighing, he sat back, wiping his mouth.

“Thank you,” he said with heartfelt gratitude.

“Well, if you’re anything like Eddie, he wouldn’t even take more’n a sandwich until it was over. And we did it five times.”

Simon smiled. “I haven’t slept in twenty-four hours, haven’t eaten in twelve ... but I should be able to keep going now.”

“And this will help.” Ellie swirled a teapot in front of him and poured into his cup.

Simon looked at the brown liquid suspiciously. “Is that …”

“No.” Ellie laughed. “It’s not the stuff I gave you before. Which worked, didn’t it?”

“Well …”

“I mean, my Kaylee’s lying in that room about to give birth, so it must have.”

Simon sighed. “I don’t know, Ellie. I did drink it, at least once in a while,” he added, wanting to be scrupulously honest. “But I don’t know. I …” He glanced down for a moment, almost as if feeling embarrassed at talking about these things to his mother-in-law.

“What?” She took his hand in hers, rubbing it between her palms. “Simon?”

He looked back up. “I tested myself again, once I found out Kaylee was pregnant. I’m still infertile, Ellie.”

She stopped rubbing, her eyes fixed on his face. “You’re not saying you think Kaylee’s been –”

“No, no!” he interrupted, wanting to derail that suggestion as quickly as possible. “Kaylee’s faithful, always has been, and always will be. That wasn’t what I meant.”

Ellie exhaled slowly. “Good. Good. Because my Kaylee’s a good girl. Oh, she had her flings in the past, but as soon as she met you, that all went out of the window. She’s not even done so much as looked at another man, let alone …”

“I know. Oh, Ellie, I know. And sometimes I wonder what I did right to have Buddha give me such a gift.”

Ellie smiled at the devotion in his eyes. “Looking after your sister the way you did might have something to do with it.”

“Maybe.” Simon smiled wistfully. “There are occasions when I wonder what would have happened if I’d got to Persephone a day later, or a day earlier. If I’d not seen Kaylee, hadn’t taken Serenity. My life would be so different.”


“No.” He shook his head firmly. “Oh, no. Much, much worse. I doubt another captain would have put up me us like Mal did. Taken us in, made us family. We’d have been left to fend for ourselves on Whitefall, or worse.”

“You know, from what I've seen of your captain, he’d never do that.”

“I thought he would. At first.”

“But like you said, he was looking out for his own.”

“And that’s what we became.” Simon picked up his cup. “He’s the reason we’re still alive.”

“Then I’ll be thanking him personally.” She nodded towards his tea. “Go on, drink up. It’ll give you energy.”

Simon, not wanting to offend her, did as he was told, and sipped. His eyes widened. “But that’s …”

Ellie beamed. “Good, isn’t it? My sister Jemima has this herb garden, and she grows things you’ve never heard of. And every single one of ‘em has a use. Apart from looking pretty, a’course. We call that one Mother’s Rest.”

“Can I … can I see it?”

“’Course.” Ellie stood up, only taking a moment to bring a jar back to the table.

Simon took it, unscrewing the lid and looking inside. The scent wafting up to his nostrils was distinctive, almost familiar, and it grew as he moved the contents around with his finger. He was no botanist, and as far as he was concerned it was all chopped twigs to him, but the shape of one of the bits of leaf … “Is this what’s in that vase next to Kaylee’s bed?”

Ellie beamed like he’d got a particularly hard question right. “Same stuff, just in flower from Mima’s greenhouse. It’s traditional. It helps ease a woman’s trials during childbirth.”

“I have drugs for that.”

“And is Kaylee letting you give them to her?”

“Well, not at the moment, no.”

Ellie gave a short laugh. “We’re all the same, us Frye women. We think we can deal with everything ourselves, don’t want to ask for help from anyone. Not even when it hurts.”

“So what does this do, exactly?”

“Exactly?” Ellie shrugged. “Couldn’t say, not for sure. But it takes the edge off the pain, makes it easier to breathe, and somehow gives a person energy.”

“And you think I need that?”

“Simon, honey, it’s been over ten hours already. And I can’t say it’s likely to be anytime soon, right?”

His mind flickered to the last examination, less than thirty minutes before. “No. She’s not anywhere near fully dilated yet.”

“Then she needs as much help as she can get, don’t you?”

“As do we all.” They both looked up, seeing Mal leaning in the doorway. “Doc, your wife’s swearing at me again,” he said. “She’s already been around the bedroom a dozen times, and I think she’s getting antsy for the engine.”

“Ah.” Simon quickly swilled the rest of the tea around his mouth, swallowing painfully. “I’d better go and …” He wiped a droplet from his chin. “Thanks, Ellie.”

“And you call me Ma. You’re Kaylee’s husband, and that makes you part of my family. So you call me Ma, okay?”

Simon grinned. “Yes, Ma,” he said dutifully, feeling a rush of warmth as he went back to check on his wife.

“You want some, Mal?” Ellie asked, lifting the tea pot.

“Sure, thanks.” He smiled at her. “If it’s as good as that breakfast …”

As she poured she said, “Are you flirting with me, Captain Reynolds?”

He chuckled. “Might be. Although Frey’s cooking is improving.”

She laughed. “She’s already asked for some lessons. She wants me to teach her and Bethie how to make my famous cookies.”

“That’s not a bad thing.”

“Only I get the impression there’s something else behind it.” She passed over the cup and saucer, her best set, and fixed him with a bright eye.

For a moment Mal wondered whether to say anything, but he figured Ellie could keep a secret. “Perhaps there is. Only it doesn’t leave the two of us.”

Ellie sat down quickly. “Not a word will cross my lips.”

Mal smiled again, and quickly told her about the cookie heist. “So Frey had a word with Miss Bethie about who it was okay to steal from,” he finished up, “and they decided to ask you to teach them.”

“I'm sure it wasn’t quite on those lines, but …” Ellie shook her head, looking down into her cup as if she could see the future in it, which she probably could, considering her gifts.

“What?” Mal asked. “What is it?”

Ellie sniffed hard, and shook her head again. “Nothing.”

“Ellie, it’s something. You want I should get Simon for you?” He went to get up, but she took his hand, making him sit again.

“It’s nothing. Silly, more than anything.” She looked into his blue eyes, warm and concerned. “You just take care of this family of yours, dong mah?”

“Always do, Ellie. Always do.”

“Then that’s all that matters.” She stood up, brushing down her apron. “Now, since everyone else is otherwise engaged, you can help me with that stew.”

“Are you putting me on fatigues, Mrs Frye?”

“I am, Captain Reynolds.” She raised her eyebrows. “You got a problem with that?”

He held up his hands and laughed lightly. “Nope. Nary a one.”

to be continued


Friday, August 14, 2009 4:48 AM


Oh good gorram, what did Ellie see in those confounding tea leaves to make her sad? I'm hoping you are not piling up a whole heap of sorrow for our shiny crew. Another great chapter in a very shiny series, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, August 14, 2009 6:46 AM


What were in those leaves? Seems she knows a lot about herbs etc.

And Mal wanting three or four? I think he needs to talk to Freya first.

Friday, August 14, 2009 3:38 PM


Dang your foreshadowing! Love the good foreshadowing about Ethan, dreading the "silly" foreshadowing from Ellie. Please be careful of your Jossian powers to, you know, go Jossian on people. Love the humor you've included. It was a very natural part of the story and flowed so well with the storyline.

Saturday, August 15, 2009 9:31 AM


Am loving this story. Been in and out from the past few weeks, but wanted to know it's good. More please...

Sunday, August 16, 2009 1:18 PM


All the fluff and then....well, guess I'll just have to hold on for the ride, won't I?! :)


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