Masks - Part XVI
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Maya. Post-BDM. A little home life back on Serenity, then Val and Flynn's arguing reaches its peak. NEW CHAPTER (and so soon!)


“I need your advice.” Simon stepped carefully down the stairs to the floor of the cargo bay, holding onto the handrail and easing his leg as much as possible. Mal and Hank were standing by the rock-filled containers and discussing if there was any way they could increase their speed without tossing it out of the airlock, while Jayne was lifting weights, his rhythmical movements almost hypnotic, echoed by Bethie on her little bench, and Ethan on his. This last was a new addition to the bay, and it still made the crew smile to see the three of them working out together.

When Jayne had unveiled it, to the boy’s wonder and delight, Mal had turned slightly to Zoe, his lips barely moving. “I see a day coming when there’s a whole row of these things, and each of the kids has their own.”

“I’ll have the capture ready, sir.”

This time, though, he merely asked, “Whose advice?”

“Everyone’s. Anyone’s.” Simon glanced down at the baby in the sling across his chest. “I don’t know what to do about Noah’s sweater.”

Jayne sat up, picking up a towel. “What about it? It works, don’t it?” He wiped his face and neck.

Bethie and Ethan did the same, following their Uncle exactly.

“I’m not saying it doesn’t. And with Kaylee gone I wouldn’t be able to get any work done without it. But ...”

Mal perched on a wooden crate. “But what, doc?”

“Well, we’ve been using it for a little while now, and it’s ... well ...” Simon looked a little abashed.

Jayne got to his feet and ambled over. He leaned down and took a deep sniff. “Oh, I get yah. It’s pretty ripe.” His brow creased. “Unless that’s –”

“He’s just been changed.”

“You sure?”

“I'm sure.”

“Only he’s kinda –”

“It’s the sweater!”

The big man shrugged. “Then I’m seeing your problem.”

Hank chuckled. “This from the man who never used to willingly change his underwear.”

Jayne tossed him a glance. “Don’t hardly wear any.”

The pilot grimaced. “Please. Way, way too much information.”

“And you know Zoe ain’t here to defend you, little man.”

“I’m not that little.”

“You could be.”

“Uncle Jayne.” Bethie had stood up and was now facing the big man. “That’s not nice.”

He looked down at her. “Ain’t I ever gonna get away with nothing no more?”

She put her hands on her hips. “No.”

“Gorramit.” But he smiled and swung her up to stand on one of the crates. “Sorry, short stub.”

“That’s okay.” She leaned forward and kissed his cheek.

“Rather you than me,” Hank muttered.

Jayne glared at him over Bethie’s shoulder and opened his mouth yet again.

“Solomon.” River’s voice cut through the promising argument.

They all looked up to where she stood on the top catwalk, leaning on the railing, her hair falling forward over her face.

“What was that, albatross?” Mal asked, smiling at her.

“Solomon was confronted one day with two women, both claiming to be a baby boy’s mother. Neither would back down, so Solomon declared the child should be cut in half, and each have one portion. The true mother, appalled at the possible death of her beloved baby, said the other woman could have him, just so long as the boy wasn’t harmed. Solomon understood, and gave the child back to his real mother.”

There was a moment’s silence, then Simon said, “I'm not cutting my son in half, mei-mei.”

“I conjure she doesn’t mean that,” Mal said, the smile still twitching his lips. “I figure she was suggesting you cut Noah’s sweater in two, and wash one half. See if it’s the feel of the wool or the smell. And if it’s the latter, you can wean David off it gradually.”

“Solomon,” River repeated, nodding at him as if he’d got a great problem solved exactly right.


“Oh.” Simon turned just the palest of pinks. “I must be more tired than I thought.”

“Well, getting shot and looking after a baby … takes it out of a man.”

“You should know,” Hank added unwisely. “How many times did you get injured while Ethan and Jesse were still …” He stopped. “Right. No Zoe.”

“Besides, you’re not the only ones arguing.” River sat down on the top step, holding out her arms so Caleb could walk towards her, mouthing the couple of teeth he’d managed to acquire on his toy horse.

“Oh?” Mal perked up his ears. “So who else is?”

She smiled enigmatically.


“You are unbelievable!”

“And you think you are?”

“You’re so high and mighty – you think you know everything!”

“Like you don’t pretend to be. Big tough man, except you hide behind that gun!”

“I don’t hide!”

“You never take the gorram thing off!”

“Because I’m working!”

“Is that what you call it?”

Freya could hear the raised voices from halfway down the corridor, and she glanced at Zoe. “Oh oh.”

“You can say that again,” the first mate agreed.

They hurried to their suite, throwing the door open.

“What the hell’s going on?” Freya demanded.

Not that either of the two people standing in the middle of the room took any notice. Almost nose to nose, Valentia Reilly and Flynn Youngblood were glaring at each other, spitting words into each other’s faces.

“I don’t see you earning a living,” Flynn was saying, looking her up and down. “Although I don’t know what you could do. Apart from on your back.”

She slapped him. Hard. “Si gui.”

He ignored the cherry red hand print on his cheek. “Does Mal know you talk like that?”

“Enough!” Freya’s voice fractured the anger around them, and they looked at her in surprise. Even Zoe felt her backbone trying to straighten, wanting to stand to attention, and understood why. Freya hardly ever used that tone, but it was one her subordinates knew during the war, when she was their lieutenant and she needed something done there and then.

Val went almost as pink as the mark on Flynn’s face. “Aunt Frey.”

Flynn took a step backwards. “Oh.”

“Oh indeed.” Freya stalked towards them. She pointed at Val. “You, go to your room. I’ll be along in a minute.” Her ice-hot gaze turned on Flynn. “You wait here. Zoe’s going to have a word with you.”

“I am?” Zoe’s eyebrows lifted.

“You are.”

“Shiny.” Her physio session with Dr Barkin had been painful, particularly as he’d insisted on flirting all the way through, so she was felt a righteous looking forward to chewing someone out.

“Aunt Frey –” Val began, then saw the look in her eyes. “Yes, Aunt Frey,” she ended meekly, walking away, her head down.

Flynn coughed. “Frey, I don’t think –”

“No, I don’t suppose you did.” She glared at him. “Where are the others?”


“The others. Phoebe, Kaylee and Inara.”

“Oh. I think they’re shopping.”

“Good. I wouldn’t want them to see the way you’ve been behaving.” Although I have the feeling Phoebe would be a more than willing spectator, she added to herself. Glancing at Zoe, who nodded slightly, she followed Val.

For a long moment there was silence, then Zoe crossed to one of the sofas, lowering herself gently into it, favouring her arm a little.

“Are you okay?” Flynn found himself asking before he could stop.

“I’m fine. Just a little uncomfortable.”

“Can I get you anything?”

Zoe’s lips twitched, an almost nothing movement. “No. But thanks.” She looked him up and down. “So you called Val a whore.”

Flynn’s jaw dropped. “I did no such thing!”

“Sure sounded like it to me.”

“I …” His mind raced back over what they’d been saying, and a tinge of pink ran quickly across his cheeks. “I didn’t mean that.”

“So what did you mean?”

“I … we were just arguing.”

“Just arguing. From the sound of it, if Frey and I hadn’t come in that moment, you’d’ve come to blows.”


“Val already hit you.” She leaned back and crossed one leg over her knee, staring at his cheek where the redness hadn’t quite faded. “Quite rightly, too, from what I heard.”

“She annoys me!” The words were out before he could drag them back, much worse than asking if Zoe was okay.

“Annoys you.”

“With her high and mighty ways. Always acting like she knows everything, and more than willing to tell me when I’m wrong.” He began to pace. “Sometimes I can hardly get a word in edgeways.”

“You’re a bodyguard. Should you be talking to your client?”

He stopped, turned on her. “So I should let her goad me?”


“Zoe –”

“She’s paying for your services. Not me. Not Frey. Val. So whatever she thinks, however she treats you, is up to her, don’t you think?”

“She treats me like I'm something she walked in on her shoe!”

“Then stop behaving like it and maybe she won’t.” Zoe sighed. “You’re a grown man. You’ve done this kind of job before. Why are you letting a girl get to you?”

His face set into a sullen expression. “I'm not.”


He didn’t respond, just crossed his arms and tightened his lips.


In Val’s room, the conversation wasn’t any easier.

“He thinks he’s Buddha’s gift!”

Freya had made her sit down on the bed, but it was only an arm around her shoulders that stopped the girl from getting to her feet and wearing a hole in the carpet.

“What else has he said?”

“He keeps telling me I'm stupid. That I don’t know anything, seen anything.” Val scoffed. “I couldn’t live with my father without having seen too much sometimes.”

It took Freya a fraction of a second to remember she was talking about Reilly, her natural father, and not Mal. “That wasn’t nice of him.”

“I didn’t let him get away with it.”

“No, I don’t expect you did.”

A certain tone in Freya’s voice had the girl looking up sharply. “He’s not even as fast on the draw as Uncle Jayne, let alone Uncle Mal.”

“And how do you know that? Considering he’s not allowed to carry guns on board.”

Val coloured a little. “I made him show me. Down on the firing range on one of the lower levels.”

“When was this?”

“A few days ago.” She glanced down at her hands.

Ah. About the time the arguing got much, much worse. “And you told him as much.”

“I might have mentioned I didn’t think he was very good.” She looked up, two bright red spots in her cheeks. “He thinks he’s so grown up, so … so bad.”

“Oh, Val. This is what he does for a living.”


“It’s his job. Oh, he’s not doing it very well at the moment, I’ll grant you, but … what if someone tried to kidnap you?”

“I don’t –”

“And he told you to run, or get down, or stay quiet, and all you did was argue?”

“I wouldn’t!”

“You can promise me that, can you?”

Val opened and closed her mouth, then much quieter said, “No, Aunt Frey.”

“It’s his job to keep you safe, especially when me and your other aunts aren’t around anymore, and if that isn’t going to happen then you know what your Uncle Mal’s going to say.”

Sighing heavily, Val nodded. “That we can’t continue on the cruise, and he’ll make us go home to Lazarus.”

“Well, he’ll do his damndest to persuade you. Both you and Phoebe are of age and can do what you like, but he’d take it hard if you disobeyed him over this.”

“But Flynn ...”

Freya squeezed her shoulder. “Dillon’s looking for someone else anyway. I can wave him, ask him to look for two someone elses, to take over when we get to Persephone.”

For a moment an odd look crossed Val’s face. “You mean you’d fire Flynn?”

“I’d have to. If you won’t behave. He can’t take care of you if all he’s thinking about is the next snappy comeback.”

“Huh. He couldn’t make a snappy comeback if it leapt up and bit him.”


The girl shrank into herself a little. “Sorry. But it’s not fair if I can’t tell him what I think of him.”

“Then we find a replacement.”

“But –”

“Val, it’s up to you. There’s nearly a week until we need to make a decision. Try and ... well, try and use some of that deportment Inara taught you. Gorramit, she tried to make you into ladies, didn’t she?”

Val smiled a little. “I don’t know Phoebe took to it that well.”

“Maybe not, but I know you did. So act like one.”

For a moment there was silence, then Val nodded. “Yes, Aunt Frey.”

Heading back to the main salon to tell Zoe that the crisis had at least been delayed if not averted, Freya couldn’t help but wonder just what was going to happen next.

to be continued


Wednesday, January 27, 2010 2:52 PM


Slow build up. Excellent as usual. All the threads you have laid out are slowly being woven into a tapestry of imminent violence!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 3:39 PM


Very nice conflict between the two looking for a resolution through imminent crisis and violence. Good stuff! I especially enjoyed Hank having to watch his mouth without Zoe to back him up.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 6:24 AM


Loving it. The way you weave makes me feel like I am part of the action. Loved our Captain in this, but I do agree with Katesfriend...Hank was quite coll without Zoe there. :)


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