Still Flying - Part VI
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Next in the Keeping On 'Verse. Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. Part VI: Mal and Zoe complete the job, with interesting results, while a bored River finds a way to occupy herself.


Still Flying - Part VI

Disclaimer: Firefly, Serenity, and all related characters are copyright 2002-2005 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. This is a work of fanfiction. No copyright infringement is intended.

Arriving on Bellephron was a relief to Mal. So far no one but he, Inara, and Simon knew the secret behind the paintings. He was also damn curious as to what this buyer was really like. He just didn’t understand the appeal of illegal drugs or the people who bought sold them.

“We’ve been given clearance to land, Captain.” Lilah informed him as he came up to the bridge. “This place is breath-taking; and more than a little sad.” She said, cocking her head and looking out at the view of the couple dozen floating estates.

“What makes ya think it’s sad?” Mal asked.

“These people, they’re so removed from the world and all that’s in it, shutting themselves away in luxury and wealth. They’re doing everything but actually living.” She said. “And that’s sad.”

“Never really thought of it like that, but there’s an amount of truth in there.” Mal said. “How goes the progress on River’s socks?” He asked.

Lilah pulled out her project and held it up, before reaching back down into the bag and pulling out an already completed sock. “It’s coming along nicely.” She said, smiling.

“Well, once you get us landed at the exchange site you can get back to being domestic.” Mal said. “We got us a job to finish.”

“I’m getting to it,” Lilah said. “Just had to get clearance first. It’s not exactly easy to get near this area.”

“Wash used to call it the home of the rich and the paranoid.” Mal said with a chuckle.

“He wasn’t wrong.”

“Where’s Crazy?” Jayne asked. “Ain’t she coming with us?”

“Actually, no. This is a simple enough job. And the last time she took off when we weren’t exactly airborne is still fresh in my mind. And it’s just Zoe and I on this job, Jayne. We’ll be fine.”

“You sure, Mal?” Jayne pushed.

“Jayne, go and be productive.” Mal said, he and Zoe each took a handle on the crate and carried out of cargo bay. Jayne was standing in the bay, watching him leave.

“Aww, cheer up Jayne. Ain’t like things went well enough for you the last time we was here.” Kaylee said cheerfully. “Ya done got all shocked up. This time you’ll be shock-free.”

Jayne nodded vaguely and left for the mess, intent on finding something to eat.

River scowled as she felt Mal and Zoe leave the ship. She had wanted to go with them. She wanted to feel the air on her face and know what it was like to fly on the ground with the sky above her and the ocean below her. Her captain was still upset with her, with what she had done.

She had wanted to help. And she had also wanted to be a real girl again. She didn’t feel romantic attraction to Badger anymore than he felt romantic attraction for her. She’d amused him and he’d amused her and they’d ended up having a laugh and a nice evening at Malcolm Reynolds’s expense. She’d felt real and she’d had a good time. She didn’t want to feel sorry for that, though she was sorry that she’d somewhat lied to her captain.

She was so incredibly bored. Her mind was racing with nothing to do and the more she sat idle the harder it was to filter her mind. She remembered the ballet and how she’d been riveted and completely focused on the performance. And then, she had an idea.

She started rummaging through her drawers until she found what she was looking for. She pulled out a tight tank top that she had purchased and a pair of black leggings that she’d managed to sneak past Inara. Removing a box from under her bed, she opened it to find Simon’s gift to her for her eighteenth birthday: a pair of ballet slippers that he had somehow managed to find in an old store on Persephone.

She had smiled delightedly when he had given them to her, originally intending to place them over her bed, before she’d had a nightmare that night where she was back in the Academy and told she wasn’t a girl, wasn’t a human being. She was told that she was just a weapon. Just a thing, with no feelings. She’d stuck the box underneath her bed and had pushed it from her mind.

But now the slippers could help her keep her mind and she would wear them. She dressed quickly, finding a pretty gauzy kind of scarf to tie around her waist. She walked barefoot to Inara’s shuttle and knocked, slippers in hand.

Inara bid her come in. River did so and asked without preamble

“May I please borrow your cortex tablet?”

“Of course. May I inquire as to why?” Inara said, opening a drawer next to her bed and pulling the thin tablet out.

“I wish to play music in the cargo bay. It’s the only area big enough.” River said.

“For what?”

River simply held up her ballet slippers, then noticed her hair.

“Do you also have something I can use to pull my hair back?”

Inara nodded, going and fetching an elastic band, which River accepted with thanks.

“I will return these when I am done with them.” River told Inara, leaving.

Inara smiled gracefully, puzzled by River’s demeanor.

River walked down to the cargo bay, grateful that she was alone. She set the table down on a crate and sat down to begin pulling on her slippers. They were broken in, but River decided that she would have to change the padding in the toes to better accommodate her feet. She laced them up almost reverently and then stood, inhaling and exhaling deeply.

She began warming up, working her way through all the exercises that she could recall from her childhood when her favorite thing to do was dance. She thrilled with the knowledge that she could feel her muscles warming and stretching and moving like a real girl’s would. After a half an hour of warm-ups, she pulled her hair back out of her face and into a tight bun. She began searching on the cortex for the music she wanted, and after she had compiled a suitable list, she turned the volume up, took her place in the middle of the cargo bay, and began to dance.

Mal and Zoe ended up traveling clear across the floating estate after being told by Mrs. Wu’s butler that Mrs. Wu was on the other side of the estate, working in her gardens. Mal had nearly sighed in frustration; he just wanted this job to be over.

The walk across the estate took nearly an hour; they were told to leave the crate, and Mal was grateful that he’d thought to lock up the crate containing the paintings. The estate was nearly as luxurious as Duran Haymer’s had been, but with many more gardens full of exotic flowers that Mal hadn’t known existed. Whoever this Mrs. Wu was, she certainly loved flowers and plants.

Shiloh Wu turned out to be a short, elderly woman who had a fondness for large straw hats with ribbons. Her hat looked ridiculous on her, but Mal had come to learn that the rich and the powerful were also the strange and the odd. She also appeared incredibly kind and sweet, and when she asked Mal to walk her back to her mansion, he couldn’t help but smile and do as she asked.

“I’m not a big collector of art,” She said. “My passion in life is my gardening. I look out my windows and I see all the art in the world on my estate. These paintings are for my grandson, for his birthday. He’s a collector and when he mentioned that he was eyeing some paintings from artists on Persephone, I couldn’t help but buy them for him.”

She smiled brightly at Mal and Zoe.

“Would you like to come in for some pie?” She asked suddenly, while they were walking.

“Beg pardon?” Mal asked.

“Pie. Would you and Miss Zoe like some pie?”

“Er, no, thank you. I’m trying to cut back.” Mal said awkwardly.

“How about you, Dearie?” She asked Zoe, who looked as calm as she always did.

“No thank you, but it’s kind of you to offer.”

“Would you like to view your shipment?” Mal asked, hoping to get back to business.

“Yes, I believe I would.” She said, smiling as she nodded to the doorman who promptly opened the door to large mansion that sat on the estate.

She squealed with delight when the paintings were revealed and hurried away for a few moments, coming back with a black leather bag that contained their pay. She went back to looking at each one and pointing out her favorite things while Mal and Zoe nodded politely, trying not to look too uncomfortable.

“Of course, the frames will have to go. They’re absolutely hideous, but I have a few that I can spare to the cause.” She winked outrageously at Mal who couldn’t help but smile back. Elderly Mrs. Wu was like a child on a sugar rush who was told that she could have an extra piece of candy. “My grandson is going to be so pleased.” She exclaimed.

“Would you like help with the re-framing?” Mal asked solicitously.

“Well, if you could take them off and put them in the garbage, I’ll have the hideous things incinerated at once.” Mrs. Wu said. “I’ll re-frame them myself later tonight; it’ll be a little pet project. I have to keep myself spry or I’m no good to anyone.”

Mal nearly let out a sigh of utmost relief. His expression did not go unnoticed by Zoe, who gave him a look that informed him that he and she would be having words later. He nodded slightly and he and Zoe made short work of stripping the frames and disposing of them in the automated garbage system.

Mrs. Wu was beaming proudly at them and shook their hands multiple times. Then, looking as if she’d had a brilliant idea, she told them to wait right where they were for just a minute and hurried off.


“Yes, Sir?” Zoe asked, weary of the playful tone of his voice.

“That stuff she’s got to be on that makes her act like she’s twelve again?”

“What about it?”

“I think I want some.” Mal said innocently.

“Consider it noted, Sir.” Zoe said, restraining herself from smacking him upside the head.

Mrs. Wu reappeared, carrying several square white boxes. She placed them in Mal’s arms, smiling widely.

“Here are some pies for you. I know you said that you’re trying to cut back, but all boys love pie.” She said, sounding for all the world like she was a grandmother to him. “There’s pecan and pumpkin and chocolate and apple and strawberry and peach and sugar crème and banana crème and blueberry and I even threw in a cheesecake for you. And they’re all made from scratch. Just make sure that you don’t ruin your appetites. It’s important to have a good diet.” She added sternly.

Mal assured her that they would be very diligent with the pies and their diets while Zoe nodded firmly.

She thanked them again enthusiastically and finally escorted them to the door.

“Can you uh, give me a hand with these?” Mal asked Zoe, who rolled her eyes and took half of the boxes. “So damn glad this job is over.”

“And why is that, Sir?” Zoe asked, looking at him suspiciously.

“I’ll tell you once we get back on ship.”

"You'd better."

While the music that had drawn the others to the cargo bay, it was River who made them stay. A sad bittersweet tune was playing and River was dancing with near flawless technique. There wasn’t a crew member who wasn’t captivated by the sight.

Simon was smiling sadly as he caught glimpses of the fourteen year old girl he knew his sister would never be again. She was as graceful as ever and his heart ached for the young woman his sister had not been allowed to grow into. He looked down as Kaylee took his hand and leaned against him, squeezing gently and keeping her eyes on River.

Lilah stood quietly watching her. She reminded Lilah deeply of her brother Alexander and Lilah wondered if Alexander and River would have ever crossed paths had the Alliance not intervened. They would have made quite a pair if they had danced together.

Jayne and Inara were watching her as well. Inara was smiling widely as River dipped and twirled with an invisible partner, her body melting into the music in ways Inara had never seen.

“She’s very talented,” Inara whispered to Jayne. “She could have had a brilliant career as a dancer if hadn’t gone to the Academy.”

“’S pretty an’ all, but ruttin’ useless. Ain’t much use for dancin’ ‘round like an idjit out in the Black, ‘Nara.” Jayne said gruffly.

“I don’t think she’s just dancing,” Inara said, still watching River as the music changed to something much more militant and ominous, like a march to the gallows. “Look.”

Jayne studied her movements, recognizing them. He’d seen those moves before, when River had nearly castrated him in the Maidenhead bar. Jayne stood and watched as River elevated fighting into an art form. It was fluid and graceful and Jayne knew that if there were actual people down there with her, they would be dead from where she was delivering the blows.

The music changed again into what Inara, Lilah, and Simon recognized as a waltz. River was on tip-toe, twirling gracefully with some young man that only existed in her mind. Her face lit up as she spun around and nearly collided with Mal and Zoe, who were just then coming up the ramp, each carrying several square white boxes.

Mal barely had time to hand his boxes over to Zoe as River pulled him into her dance. He smiled widely as he let her spin him around a few times before he took the lead, dancing her around the bay for a few minutes. He momentarily forgot that he was supposed to be cross with River and that he had some explaining to do to Zoe. For a few moments, he was just dancing around with a girl who’d become somewhat of a daughter to him.

The music ended and Mal managed to bow to a curtseying River without looking like a complete dumbass. He collected a few of the boxes from Zoe and beamed at River.

“Been keeping yourself busy?” He asked.

River smiled and nodded. “The music called to me.” She said. “And I hadn’t broken in Simon’s birthday gift to me.”

“Good. Just keep stayin’ outta trouble and we’ll all be shiny.” He said.

Mal looked up at where the crew had gathered on the catwalks…Simon and Kaylee were standing together, Inara was near her shuttle and Jayne was near Inara…Lilah was standing by herself, as close to the bridge as she could get on the catwalks.

“Lilah,” He called. “Get us on our way to Persephone, smartish!”

She mockingly saluted him.

“Yes, Sir, Mr. Captain, Sir!” She turned and left, smirking as she heard the laughter of everyone but Mal. It was so much fun to goad him.

“What’s in the boxes, Cap’n?” Kaylee asked as Mal came up the stairs, following Zoe.

“It turned out that our contact was actually an eight year-old on a sugar rush in an elderly woman’s body. And apparently she likes to garden and make pies. Lots and lots of pies.” Mal said.

“We got pie?” Jayne perked up, following the group into mess. “What kind?”

“Take your pick.” Zoe answered, entering the mess locker and setting the boxes on a nearby shelf before opening up their deep freezer and shifting around various items to make room for the boxes. She loaded hers into the freezer, seeing pumpkin, strawberry, apple, blueberry, and banana crème on the boxes. She held her hands out to Mal, who began handing his boxes to her one at a time. Peach, the cheesecake, sugar crème, pecan, and chocolate each got loaded as well.

“We ain’t gonna have one now?” Kaylee pouted.

“We already have desert in the main fridge, Kaylee. Ain’t no need to let it go to waste.” Mal said. He eyed his crew, particularly Jayne and Kaylee. “Anyone sneaking ‘round these pies is gonna find his or herself on septic duty for a month.” He said warningly.

Kaylee and Jayne scowled.

“Ruttin’ tyrant.” Jayne muttered.

“Jayne,” Zoe said. “Go and find something to do.”

“Pair of ruttin’ tyrants,” Jayne corrected loudly as he walked away. “At least one of ya’s hot. An’ no, Mal, it ain’t you.”

“You know, Zoe,” Mal said. “There are times when I think back on the day we hired him on, remember that day?”

“He was in the middle of trying to rob us, Sir. I remember.” Zoe said blandly.

“Yeah, I think back on that day, and I wonder why I didn’t just let him shoot us.” He finished.

“You didn’t because I would have found a way to kill you before he did, Sir.” Zoe said dryly. “And he is upon occasion useful. Like when he’s displacing snipers and pulling me back from a pack of Reavers.”

Mal smiled. “Things wouldn’t be nearly as much fun around here without him, would they?”

Zoe rolled her eyes.

I hope you enjoy! Questions, comments, and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated!



Tuesday, September 15, 2009 6:04 PM


Hmm. I sense a bad grandson... And am concerned about the fidelity and loyalty of the PIES.

Very concerned. Might take the role of a beefeater, risk a taste of treachery.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 11:16 PM


I'm thinking the stuff old Mrs Wu is on is maybehaps inside them there pies. If so, Mal could be getting his wish a lot sooner than he thought! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 2:12 AM


Oh, I hope Amdobell is right ... I'd love to see them lose their control after eating the pies. Or maybe just Jayne and Kaylee, because (heaven knows) they're not going to be able to keep out of them!

Thursday, September 17, 2009 2:40 PM


Very cool though I hope we don't have to wait as long for the next chapter.

Thursday, September 17, 2009 3:08 PM


What a riot! Loved the Jayne synopsis at the end. I really hope that the little old lady isn't harmed when the bad guys find out about the frames. I loved your humor in this - very well done and a pleasure to read. You gave us enough hints in the beginning that I remembered easily what was in the preceding chapters without rereading them - thanks!


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Innocence Lost
He thinks he can see a connection. Part two of <i>If's & Maybe's</i>, a series of unrelated pieces dedicated to exploring the characters of Mal and Inara and the relationship between them.

Promises: Bent, Not Broken
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse. Lilah has an emotional breakdown, and gets some insight from the one person she never thought would give it: Mal.

Still Flying - Part VII
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part VII</i>: Mal and Zoe discuss their previous job, Zoe and Lilah come to an understanding, and a handsome man of dubious character receives his birthday gift. Now Complete.

Still Flying - Part VI
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part VI</i>: Mal and Zoe complete the job, with interesting results, while a bored River finds a way to occupy herself.

Still Flying - Part V
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part V</i>: Things are reserved on <i>Serenity</i>, and Mal finds out that his flush new deal is a great deal more trouble than he originally thought.

Still Flying - Part IV
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part IV</i>: Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Lilah, and Monty pay a quiet little visit to an Alliance-friendly bar on Unification Day.

Still Flying - Part III
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part III</i>: The deal with Badger is made, but with a catch. Meanwhile, a spat breaks out between Simon and Kaylee. Reviews would be lovely.

Still Flying - Part II
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part II</i>: The crew makes the drop, a bar fight is had, and things get a little too intense while flying to Persephone.

Still Flying - Part I
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part I</i>: Mal, Zoe, and River meet with their new contact and Lilah learns how Wash died. Reviews would be lovely.

The Serenity Book Club
Simon and Lilah discuss a book they've both recently read. This is just a silly little piece set after <i>Keeping On</i> but before its sequel.