Yes, River, There Is... (Part 3 of 3)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just a short little tale to warm hearts this holiday season. Usual disclaimers apply...


When Mal got back to the ship, carrying a bundle he was able to scrape together from various little shops, he noticed a significant difference in the amount of people onboard. And they were all looking for something. Or, rather, someone. "Hey," Mal said, setting down the bundle down on the cargo bay floor. Zoë and Kaylee looked up from the hideaway in the wall. "You lose something?" "We can't find River," Kaylee whispered. "Simon told us you said she was sleepin' somewhere, but he still can't find her. We're helping him look." "She's not on the bridge," Wash said, coming down the stairs. "I thought you were staying in town," Mal ventured. Zoë shook her head. "Mix-up with the hotel," she replied. "I said I was sorry!" Wash insisted. Mal nodded. "What's all this?" Kaylee asked, indicating the bundle. Mal looked at it and then at his mechanic. "Christmas," he replied. "From Santa." "Santa?" Zoë repeated. "As in, jolly old elf in a red suit?" "As in River never had Christmas before," Mal replied. Kaylee looked at him and beamed. "So you know where River is?" Zoë asked softly. "She's sleeping," Mal replied. "And it'd probably be best if we could set this up 'fore she wakes." "There's a spot in the kitchen," Wash offered, helping Mal pick up the awkward parcel. "Shepherd and I have some presents laid out on the table," Kaylee explained. They managed to get to the kitchen without too much fuss and unwrapped a small fir Mal had overpaid for knowingly. The rest of the bundle revealed small candy canes and tinsel and small wrapped items Mal insisted were presents. As Wash and Kaylee manufactured a small stand out of bits Mal was sure he'd seen in the scraps he'd asked Kaylee to chuck, Zoë, Simon and the Shepherd hung tinsel and candy canes from various branches. Jayne had shown up after a quick shower and disappeared into his bunk only to return with an odd assortment of ornaments that looked as though they'd been made by a drunk five year old... Jayne proudly hung each one on the tree. Mal strung lights around the room, quietly wondering why he was doing this. Mal continued to dodge the question of where River was sleeping. While he would have loved to see Simon squirmat the thought, he didn't want to be the one to say "Your sister is in my bed." You never knew what a little girl's big brother would do to you... When everything was near completion, Mal pulled Zoë aside. "Would you go into my bunk and...wake...River?" he managed to ask. Zoë fought back a smile and quite possibly a laugh before nodding and sneaking off without anyone's notice. When River and Zoë returned, Mal saw the look of joy spread from River's face to Simon' Kaylee' Jayne' Book' Zoë' Wash's...and even to his own. The rest of the afternoon was spent watching River unwrap bits of paper to reveal shiny baubles, some coloring pencils, a set of hair ribbons and a cloth doll. Kaylee took the time as an opportunity to hand out the presents she had bought for everyone. Soon other presents found their way out from beneath the tree - Mal realized that in the time spent decorating the room and tree, his crew had snuck presents for each other underneath it as well. He sat at the table and watched Zoë open a faded pink sweater from her husband, Wash gained a few more dinosaurs, Kaylee received a flowered shirt from the Shepherd and an ornate ink design from the doc. Jayne received a shaving kit from Book, and gave the older man in return a bottle of 'shine he'd been saving. Smiles and laughter filled the room as stories of how long that had been hidden and who had known and helped pick out what. Coffee and tea and hot chocolates were poured as time wore on and more stories of childhood were told and soon enough, it was time dinner was prepared. The semi-traditional toast was made with more smiles than had been in the past and a warmth not felt in some time spread around the table. Clean-up was uncommonly cheerful and Mal took the opportunity to leave unnoticed. He went off the ship to look at the clear, crisp evening sky. "Did you get what you wanted?" Book's voice interrupted his quiet. Mal turned with a sardonic smile. "For Christmas, did you get what you most hoped for?" "Sure," Mal shrugged. "A blue mug from Kaylee and some gloves from Zo. Couldn't ask for more." "You sure you didn't ask for those you care for to be nearby, happy and healthy?" Book smiled. "Because, one might have guessed you did, based on what we saw today. It was practically a Christmas miracle, just for you." "Shepherd," Mal half-laughed, "if that's all it takes for you to see 'miracle,' maybe you should re-visit your abbey for a refresher course. That was coincidence and Kaylee's over-protective manner all comin' together. A miracle would be something...hell, I don't even know." "Call it what you like, Captain," Book shrugged. "But this crew isn't happy, healthy and together every day and I think you know that." "Shepherd, if I was gonna ask for a Christmas miracle," Mal replied. "It'd probably start with an angel of Heaven coming down to earth and proclaiming peace on earth, good will toward men. Something real I could see with my own eyes." Inara's shuttle crested over the trees and began its docking routine. The Shepherd politely covered his chortle with a cough. "That doesn't prove anything," Mal insisted, passing Book on his way back inside. By the time he was in the cargo bay once more, Inara was just leaving her shuttle. "Back a might early?" Mal called out to her, startling her momentarily. She regained her composure quickly and hurried down the stairs towards him. "Yes, I supposed a few nights earlier than plan might give us the advantage," she explained. "There was a report about a Firefly-class freighter that might be carrying fugitives on my client's scanner. When he heard about it, he told me we should leave and take any problems we may have with us." "He told you all this?" Mal asked, turning back to call the Shepherd inside. "He likes the peace on this planet the way it is," Inara replied. "And he believes in good will toward men at this time of year." Mal stopped, but only for a second. He shook the thought away and managed to get Book's attention. "I looked for Zoë and Wash in town," Inara went on as the Shepherd hurried inside in acute confusion. "But they checked out of their hotel this morning when reinforcements from neighboring towns took over the rooms." "They're in the kitchen," Mal replied, hurrying past her. "Everyone's on board, you sure we're clear to go?" "Yes," Inara answered with certainty. "If we leave now, right away." "What's going on?" Book asked. "A Christmas miracle," Mal ground out. He found Wash and Zoë strolling towards them. "Wash, get to the bridge, we got tagged. Go now!" *** River felt the ship heave beneath her as they left the winter wonderland behind them. She was laying beneath the last-minute tree, staring up at the lights as they twinkled and glowed in the branches. She heard them coming, the jumble of words they were saying to each other to cover what they wanted to say, and lay perfectly still in the knowledge they wouldn't notice her in this far corner. "--grateful for the tip, truly," He was saying this out loud. "Don't know what kind of a first Christmas it woulda made for her to get caught." "You did all this?" She was in awe of him. "I had help." "Magic elves?" "Of a sort." He was smiling. "It's beautiful." "Yeah?" "It's the thought that counts, of course." "In more ways than one, today," he was thinking of her, here, smiling as she opened presents. He was thinking of white berries in the doorway now... "Well, it's lovely," she was grinning. She was imagining what she had missed - presents, dinner, laughter... He was thinking of the white berries again. Louder. "I know you don't celebrate the holiday much," she was talking again to him. He was trying to not think about where the berries in the doorway had come from. He was trying to think of what would happen if... He was trying to not think of what would happen if... "But I hope you had a happy Christmas, Mal." She took a step towards the doorway. He stayed where he was at the table. "Merry Christmas, Nara," he said in reply. She was gone, through the doorway, her trailing thoughts of mistletoe lingering longer than her perfume. Her thoughts mingled with his own of mistletoe and miracles. His eyes drifted to the little fir tree as his thoughts drifted to Christmases long ago...a little boy staying awake to catch a glimpse of magic and instead finding his mother arranging gifts beneath a tree and the words she offered him in comfort. The efforts he made that very morning for a young girl in need of magic and affirmation of her attempts to be a good girl. Then, smiling, he left the room. "Yes, Malcolm, there is a Santa Claus," she whispered to the vaporous memories left in his wake. "He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist..." She stared into the lights on the tree and allowed herself to be carried away on the ship in a sea of stars. On the bridge, she could almost hear a voice softly reciting a poem to his wife and River joined his voice in the midst of her reverie... "Now dash away, dash away, dash away all..."


Tuesday, December 15, 2009 3:42 PM


Ah. Heartwarming indeed. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 4:42 PM


Bravo! Loved a happy ending to this and loved the angel descending!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 3:53 AM


Very heartwarming and well written.. Loved it..

Ho Ho Ho and Merry Christmas to All Browncoats in the verse, and wherever you are.. I hope there is Peace in your hood.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 5:44 AM


I too lay under the Christmas tree and look up at the lights and the ornaments and the magic. Thank you for a wonderful little story. It was much needed for me today. :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 3:39 PM


Thank you so much. It was a wonderful story.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 7:36 PM


brought a tear to this old mercs eye ;)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 8:57 PM


Love your work, thanks for writing:)

Friday, December 18, 2009 7:55 AM


I loved it! Particularly the angel, although I think Mal should have given into his temptation in that respect. Thank you.

Saturday, December 19, 2009 6:53 AM


very shiny and touching story. merry xmas to all. its snowing in PA now very good to have a white xmas week.


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