Masks - Part I
Saturday, September 5, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. A new story, with old and new friends alike. Serenity is on her way to Lazarus so Inara can meet the newest Tam. NEW STORY


The Empress of Sihnon slipped through the emptiness of space like a hot knife through butter.

Of course, as River pointed out on more than one occasion, space isn’t really all that empty, what with micro-meteorites, dust and other detritus, and a hot knife melts butter, it doesn’t cut it. In fact, due to the relative densities of blade and comestible, there was a case to be made for … At this point the Reader usually shut up, as the look on the Captain’s face promised a close, personal encounter with the airlock if she persisted.

So, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the Empress of Sihnon slipped through the not-quite-empty of space like a luxury liner with an advanced uranium accelerator core, her stateliness belying her speed.

Deck after deck of staterooms, restaurants, the highest quality boutiques, 3D Cortex halls, high grav gymnasiums and low grav swimming pools … the ship was the best Blue Sun had to offer, and the price of a first class ticket would have bankrupted some of the smaller border moons.

A voice made itself known. “Looks like a whorehouse I went to on Chandrey. ‘Cept I think the whorehouse was prettier.”

“I don’t care. Put the uniform on.”

“Aw, Mal …”


Some time earlier …

They’d been gone three days from Phoros, heading for Lazarus so that Inara, Sam and the girls could see the new arrival, and for the entire three days – or so it seemed – that same new arrival hadn’t stopped yelling his head off.

“Simon, do something,” Mal ordered, standing in the middle of the galley.

“Like what?” The young doctor looked harassed, and very … no, make that extraordinarily tired. He had a mug of coffee in his hand, but seemed to be ignoring it.

“He’s your son.”

“And I’ve checked him over a dozen times. There’s nothing physically wrong with him.”

“A’course there ain't,” Kaylee said, nursing David and jiggling him as she swung from side to side.

Mal looked away, feeling faintly sea-sick. “Then how come he ain’t stopping?”

“Because all babies are different,” Simon explained for what felt like the nine-hundredth time. “He’ll probably quieten down. As soon as he gets used to being on a ship.”

“Is that the problem?” Mal wanted to know. “Because if it is, there ain’t a lot I can do about it.”

“Nobody’s asking you to.” Simon knew he sounded short-tempered, but he couldn’t help it. “Just remember that Ethan wasn’t always quiet.”

“He slept through the night pretty much from the start.”

“Jesse didn’t.”

Mal’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Doc –”

“I’ll take him into the engine room with me,” Kaylee interrupted, not wanting to see a fight, and feeling remarkable premonitious that there might be one. “Maybe it’ll calm him a bit.”

“See that you do,” Mal said firmly, adding quickly, “Only … see that he don’t fall into anything, dong mah? Seeing as he’s … you know …”

“You’re really a big softie, ain't you?” Kaylee said, stepping close to her captain, the sound of her son showing his lungs were really well developed all the louder for it.

“No, I ain’t. I’m a mean old man, and all I'm thinking about is the mess, and who’s gonna clear it up.”

“Right.” She reached up and planted a kiss on his cheek. “Captain Meany.”

Mal couldn’t help the slight smile on his face as she walked away, singing a lullaby under her breath, the sound of David Tam muting a little. He did, however, manage to wipe it off before turning to the young man next to him. “Doc, go to bed.”

“What?” Simon stared at him out of bloodshot eyes.

“Go. To. Bed.” He enunciated clearly, considering punctuating it with a well-aimed finger to the chest, but deciding it would probably have the recipient on his back on the deck. “Afore I get River to come out here and dope you.”

“I'm fine,” Simon insisted, only then noticing the cup in his hand. He took a mouthful of cold coffee, his tastebuds so tired that he swallowed it without his brain intervening. “Absolutely shiny.”

Mal gently extricated the mug, placing it on the table. “You need to get some sleep. Not long, just for an hour or two.”

“I can’t.” Simon could be very stubborn when he wanted. “I have things to do, examinations to make. The crew’s physicals are due, and Ben was complaining of feeling stuffy at breakfast, so he might have a cold, and what with Zoe’s wrenched shoulder –”

“If’n I didn’t know what she was doing when she wrenched it, I might be more concerned. But playing catch as catch can with Hank and the kids … well, I figure maybe she brought it on herself.”

“You’re going to tell her that, are you?” Simon’s asperity was back full force.

“Already did.”

“And you’re still walking and talking. She must be feeling worse than I thought.” He drew himself up. “All the more reason to check her over, make sure there’s nothing I missed.”

A thread of unease ran down Mal’s spine. “Do you think you did?”

“No,” Simon admitted. “But I like to be thorough.”

“No, doc. What you like to be is a pain in the backside, but what you’re good at is being thorough.”

“If you want to argue over semantics –”

“I ain’t arguing about anything. Strange to tell, I'm captain. Have been for a while now. And when this here captain tells his medic to take to his bed, he expects to be obeyed.”

“Mal, I –”

Mal sighed, and put his arm around the younger man’s shoulders. “Simon, you’re almost dead on your feet. And I for one don’t want you rummaging around anyone’s inside in the state you’re in.”

“Rumma … What are you talking about?”

“Hopefully nothing, but you never know. What if your wife does something she shouldn’t with the engine, and we have to land quick, only the natives don’t exactly take kindly to us being there, and somebody gets shot?”

Simon couldn’t hold it in. He laughed, long and loud. “You mean like you?” he managed to say, trying to get his dignity back.

Mal grinned. “That’s better. You’ve been wound tighter’n a watch-spring these last few days. You needed to let it out.”

“So that was all psychology?” Simon shook his head. “I’m surprised.”

“Don’t be. And I don’t care what you call it, long as it worked.”

A last chuckle eased out of the young doctor’s throat, and he felt … calmer. “And that’s your professional opinion, is it? That I need some sleep.”

“Ain't even gonna bother asking when the last time you got more’n a coupla decent hours was, doc. ‘Cause yes, you do.”

Simon opened his mouth, then closed it again. Then … “Mal, if you ever tell this to a mortal soul I will make your next visit to my table less than comfortable, but you’re right. I need some sleep.”

“Good. And I'm sure we’re gonna survive until you wake up.”

Simon took a deep breath and nodded. “But if anything happens, if you need me –”

“We’ll call.”

“Okay.” He smiled. “And it isn’t fair to threaten me with River.”

“Fair, well, maybe not. But she was the one told me to make you, so you take it out on your sis next time, not me.”

“Oh, I will.” Simon waved vaguely and headed off in the direction of his and Kaylee’s quarters, an appointment with his mattress and a pair of ear plugs uppermost in his mind.

Mal grinned, the years dropping from his face at the job well done, and went to find his wife.


Kaylee hummed something and nothing, more or less able to ignore David in his sling around her chest as she tinkered, her mind only half on her work and half on the family she’d left behind.

It had been so good to see them, and for so long, too. They’d never managed to spend that long a time on Phoros before, and she knew it was only because of the good fortune they’d had on Jericho that they’d been able to do it now. Having that little cushion of cashey-money to fall back on made life a bit more comfortable, even if there wasn't enough for them to retire.

“That what you’d like to do, Winnie?” her father had asked as she packed up the last of her things from the house. After Simon had pronounced her fit enough to climb the stairs, she moved them both into her old room, the big crib sitting in the corner by the fire, warmed and waiting.

For more than three weeks they’d lived in splendour, knowing her brothers were around her, her parents just across the way, and if she found herself wanting to see Bethie and Hope in the middle of the night, well … that first time Mal had complained vociferously about them leaving the cargo bay door open to the elements, stating he’d woken up with frostbite and a frozen hip, although what he was really worried about was the fact that they’d walked all the way to the Fryes on their own. After that he’d insisted they stay in the house, just in case. But now she was moving back to the ship, lock stock and barrel, and it felt … odd.

“No, I ain't saying that. It’s just … it’s like leaving home all over again.”

He smiled, dropping his head so she didn’t think he was laughing at her. “Seems to me the last time you did that you were all manner of in a rush. Just so’s your captain wouldn’t leave you behind.”

“Yeah, well, I weren't sure then. I am now. And I ain't the little girl he took on, neither. I'm a grown woman, with a husband and three kids. And that’s a whole new ball game.”

“You’re still Winnie to me.”

“I know, Pa. And that helps, it really does.” She smiled, but it wasn’t her usual full-blown splendour.

“You know, you could stay. Work with me. Between us we’d make the name of Frye famous.”

“Oh, you don’t need me for that. And I ain’t staying. My home’s on Serenity now.” She sat down rather suddenly on the bed. “It’s just … it’s hard, you know?”

He lowered himself next to her. “Having your Ma at your beck and call. Not having to lift a finger. Let alone four brothers around to handle the baby-sitting duties …”

She punched him lightly on the arm. “I ain’t been as bad as all that!”

“Kaylee, I understand. I do. You left home to see the ‘verse, and from what I gather you’ve seen a pretty fair chunk of it, and had your ups and downs with it too. This last month … it was just a reminder, is all. Of what you came from, and maybe what’s in your future. But that’s a long time off, for when you and that wandering husband of yours decide to put down something like roots. It don’t have to be here, although your Ma would be pleased as punch if it was. But someplace where your kids can have kids.”

Kaylee had to laugh. “That’s an awful long way off.”

“You think that captain of yours is going to let you leave any time soon? Because I don’t. You’re the only one knows how anything works on that boat.” He tugged her to his side, somewhat roughly so she couldn’t see the emotion in his eyes. “You just remember that, Kaywhinnet Lee Tam. Nobody else knows her like you do.”

Just the memory brought a grin to her face, and she began working in earnest, adjusting the transducers so their output stayed more regular, twisting her wrench in time to David Gabriel’s cries.


“How can you sleep?” Mal asked, more than a little disgruntled.

“Practice.” Freya didn’t open her eyes, just lay on their bunk, her hands lightly clasped on her belly, her legs crossed at the ankles. “It comes from meditating. You should try it some time.”

He hooked his arm through the ladder he’d just climbed down. “I would, if I didn’t have to end up smelling like a brothel keeper.”

She flashed him a glare, which he returned with a grin, then went back into her semblance of repose once more. “Besides, I’m not sleeping. I’m still mentally working off that farewell meal Ellie cooked.” She groaned slightly. “I'm surprised the table stayed in one piece.”

“Me too. But then again, this is her little Kaylee. Did you … um …” Mal mimed something, curving the fingers on his left hand into a circle and pushing the first two fingers of his right hand into it.

Freya looked at him, slightly askance. “You do realise that particular gesture is obscene on fifteen worlds, don’t you?”

“I meant, did you put money in the pot?”

“I know what you meant. And yes, I did. Don’t worry. They’re not going to go short.”

“Do you think they know?” Mal asked, sitting down on the edge of the bed and putting his hand on her thigh.

“Ellie does, that’s for sure. Eddie … I don’t think so. He’d make you take it back.”

“I conjure you’re right.” He shook his head, a rueful smile on his face. “And I know for a fact Eddie isn’t going to touch that money we left behind, either.” He could see, playing in full and glorious colour in his mind’s eye, Eddie placing the bags into his specially designed safe in the cellar room.

She shifted slightly, as if uncomfortable. “Mal …”

“What?” He rubbed her thigh.

“I … uh … gave Bobby some cash as well.”

“You too?”

Her eyes flew open. “You?”

“Mmn.” He chuckled. “Him and Tyree seem to be getting on well, and I maybe see them setting up home together, ‘cept the prospect of letting yourself go knowing your brothers are next door, and your parents are over the way …”

“Kaylee’s right. You are a big softie.”

His eyes narrowed a fraction, but it was resigned humour in his tone when he asked, “Were you peeking?”

“Maybe my walls were a bit thin.” She grinned, her eyes closing again as he rubbed his hand gently up and down her thigh. “I'm glad you made Simon go to bed, though. Maybe he’ll be better tempered when he wakes up.”

“Hey, I thought that was me.”

“You too.”

He leaned down and brushed his lips tenderly across her. “And don’t you forget it.”

“So have you looked at those files Inara sent you?”

“Files?” He attempted nonchalance.

“Files. On the cruises the girls want to go on.”

“Nope. Doesn’t ring a bell.”

She lifted herself onto her elbows. “Mal, they’ve done a lot of work. Dates, times, itineraries … and I have to say the Empress of Sihnon looks rather lovely.”

“Looks like a floating bordello.”

Glaring at him, she said accusingly, “You did read them!”

A flash of guilt crossed his features, then he said, as if tossing it away, “Well, maybe I did glance at ‘em.”


“And … what?”

“Mal …”

“You know, I been thinking maybe this isn’t such a good idea. This cruising lark. There’s too much can go wrong, and … well, maybehaps you should be talking them out of it.”

This caused Freya to sit up fully. “Me talking them out of it?”

“Seeing as you’re my wife.”

She dropped back onto the pillow, shaking her head vehemently. “Oh, no. If you think you’re going to disappoint those girls, you’re going to have to do your own dirty work.”

“Even if it’s for their own good?”

“Even then.”

“Even if I …” His hand moved up her thigh.

“Stop it.”

“Stop what?”



“Because I'm not in the mood.”


She took hold of his hand, removing it from her leg and placing it back on his own. “Not in the mood,” she repeated.

“You’re always in the mood.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Not today.”

Mal gazed steadily at her. “And if I say I’ll look over those files? Properly? Give it my full and honest attention?”

“You already said yes,” she pointed out.

“I was poorly.”

Freya’s mind flashed involuntarily to the vision of Simon up to his wrists in Mal’s chest, and she couldn’t help the slight shudder that ran through her. “That’s no excuse,” she said, covering.

He knew though, understood that it still affected her. Hell, it still affected him, seeing it was the closest he’d come to dying since the war. “I’ll take a look,” he promised.


“No, not now. Got me some better things to be doing right now.” He put his hand back on her thigh, his fingertips massaging lightly as he leaned down to kiss her.

“Mal, you wanna get up here?”

Mal sighed heavily, just an inch from his wife’s face. “Ain't there some way I can do without that man?” he asked quietly.

“Zoe might have something to say about that,” Freya said, chuckling.

“I guess.” He got to his feet and crossed to the com. “Kinda busy, Hank.”

“Oh, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.”

“I am already.”

“Don’t be like that.” The pilot sounded almost hurt.

“Fine. I’ll be right up.” Mal clicked off, then looked back at Freya. “Don’t move.”

She wriggled her hips at him, and he groaned as he ascended the ladder.

Up in the corridor, he looked across to the kitchen, where Zoe was sitting with Ben at the table, working on some of the maths problems Freya had set last time the children had lessons. The strapping holding Zoe’s right arm to her side was apparent, and both of them appeared to have ear plugs in, since the youngest Frye was still exercising his right to free speech.

Wondering how his first mate and her son could possible do homework like that, Mal ascended the steps to the bridge two at a time. “Well?” he demanded. “What is it?”

“Distress call.” Hank was staring at the console. “It’s faint, and I thought I’d lost it a couple of times, but … definitely a ship in distress.”

“Any idea where?”

“Pretty much on our current heading, from what I can make out.”

“Are we in vid range?”


Something in Hank’s demeanour was setting off alarm bells in Mal’s gut. “What? What is it you’re not telling me?”

Hank looked up, trying for innocence, but coming across more like a schoolboy caught in an orchard. “Um, does that signature look familiar?”

Mal leaned over Hank’s shoulder, staring at the readout. A smile slowly made its way onto his face. “I believe it does.”

“You want me to call?”

“Oh, only if it’s convenient.”

to be continued


Saturday, September 5, 2009 4:59 PM


Love your foreshadowing about the cruise ship. Love that David Tam isn't a perfect baby and that Simon is the harried parent in desperate need of sleep. Of course you couldn't tell us who their intended rescuee is going to be. The Mal/Freya give and take was fun and so true about a steady relationship. Looking forward to more.

Monday, September 7, 2009 12:05 AM


Lovely, such a joy to have another story in the MAYA 'verse. Poor sleep deprived Simon, glad the Captain got him to go and get some sleep. I thought that when Kaylee took David to the engine room he would automatically quieten down, as he didn't he must take after the Tam side of the family. Can't wait to see what happens next with that distress call and all. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, September 7, 2009 3:41 PM


Another great start!! Like the way Kaylee's pa still talks to her.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 6:49 AM


You know I love your writing and it's such a joy to have another story in the Maya Verse. I can not wait until we see just how they got themselves on the cruise ship. :)


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Now and Then - a Christmas story
“Then do you have a better suggestion? No, let me rephrase that. Do you have a more sensible suggestion that doesn’t involve us getting lost and freezing to death?”

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little standalone festive tale that kind of fits into where I am in the Maya timeline, but works outside too. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Epilogue
"I honestly don’t know if my pilot wants to go around with flowers and curlicues carved into his leg.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. The end of the story, and the beginning of the last ...]

Monied Individual - Part XX
Mal took a deep breath, allowing it out slowly through his nostrils, and now his next words were the honest truth. “Ain’t surprised. No matter how good you are, and I’m not complaining, I’ve seen enough battle wounds, had to help out at the odd amputation on occasion. And I don’t have to be a doc myself to tell his leg ain’t quite the colour it should be, even taking into account his usual pasty complexion. What you did … didn’t work, did it?”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Simon has no choice, and Luke comes around.]

Monied Individual - Part XIX
“His name’s Jayne?”

“What’s wrong with that?” the ex-mercenary demanded from the doorway.

“Nothing, nothing! I just … I don’t think I’ve ever met a man … anyone else by that name.”

“Yeah, he’s a mystery to all of us,” Mal said. “Even his wife.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Hank's not out of the woods yet, and Mal has a conversation. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVIII
Jayne had told him a story once, about being on the hunt for someone who owed him something or other. He’d waited for his target for three hours in four inches of slush as the temperature dropped, and had grinned when he’d admitted to Hank that he’d had to break his feet free from the ice when he’d finished.
[Maya. Post-BDM. The Fosters show their true colours, Jayne attempts a rescue, and the others may be too late.]

Snow at Christmas
She’d seen his memories of his Ma, the Christmases when he was a boy on Shadow, even a faint echo of one before his Pa died, all still there, not diminished by his burning, glowing celebrations of now with Freya.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A seasonal one-off - enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVII
Jayne hadn’t waited, but planted a foot by the lock. The door was old, the wood solid, but little could stand against a determined Cobb boot with his full weight behind it. It burst open.

[Maya. Post-BDM. The search for Hank continues. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XVI
He slammed the door behind him, making the plates rattle on the sideboard. “It’s okay, girl, I ain't gonna hurt you.” The cook, as tradition dictated, plump and rosy cheeked with her arms covered to the elbows in flour, but with a gypsy voluptuousness, picked up a rolling pin.

[Maya. Post-BDM. Kaylee finds the problem with Serenity, and Jayne starts his quest. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XV
“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]

“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]