Interludes: Sparring
Monday, May 17, 2010

Maya. Post-BDM. Second in the series of one-offs. This one is for Angellemarcs for her plot bunny! Freya can't sleep, and Mal helps. Maybe a little parental guidance, just for the sake of form.


Thump. Thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump-thump. Thump.

Mal listened to the broken rhythm as he walked along the corridor, doing up his shirt but leaving his suspenders hanging. Zoe and Hank’s hatch was closed, which wasn’t surprising, given the ship time. Everyone had been in bed for more than three hours, as he had until ten minutes since, when he’d woken and found himself on his own. He’d waited, but Freya hadn’t come back, so he got up, pushing his feet into cold boots and tugging on the clothing that had been abandoned on the chair.

He yawned and scratched his head, leaning in the doorway to the kitchen, but the galley was dark, unoccupied, and beyond he could see the red-lit engine room was empty too. As it should be, since Kaylee and Simon were probably wrapped up together down in the lower crew quarters. He grimaced as his mind skittered away from the possibility of something else they might be doing.

Still, that didn’t explain the noise. Turning away, he headed for the cargo bay.


Some time back, when they were in the middle of nowhere without the sniff of a job or anyplace to go, Jayne had hung a makeshift punching bag from under one of the catwalks, taking out some of his frustrations on the old leather rather than shooting up the ship, which Mal for one had been glad about. Things had improved, and now there was coin chinking in their pockets, but Jayne had left the bag hanging, and most of the crew did occasional sessions on it. Admittedly, River made it look like she was performing some sort of lethal dance with it, while Hank only did enough to keep from getting soft around the middle again, but the sound of fists pounding wasn’t unknown.

Except in the middle of the night.

He watched Freya, her shoulders hunched slightly, hands wrapped in tape, as she threw punch after punch, left hook, right hook, then a short sequence that would have had an opponent first winded, then aching, and finally down on the ground, holding his belly in outright pain.

Mal smiled. He had to admit there was something downright erotic about the whole thing. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but seeing the woman who could make him moan ... alright, make him scream into his pillow in bed to avoid waking the rest of the ship, beating hell out of a swinging bag of sawdust, had him contemplating lewd thoughts of sweat on warmed skin, of tattoos flaming down supple spines, of ...

He stopped, suddenly aware things weren’t quite right. Something had woken her up, the same something that had made her get up and dress in a soft pair of pants and sleeveless t-shirt, and punch away at the bag until her side of the bed was cold.

Thump. Thump. Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump ... She paused, resting her forehead on the leather, and Mal took his chance.

“Now, what’s my wonderful ai ren doing beating the crap outta that old thing?” he asked, stepping down the metal staircase.

She looked up and smiled. “Did I wake you? Sorry.”

“Don’t be. Although I might make an exception since you left our bed. And me.”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

He reached the bay floor. “Really? ‘Cause I seem to recall you actually snoring before I drifted off myself.”

“I don't snore.”

“Cute little snuffly noises I’d’a thought more appropriate to Kaylee.” He grinned, crossing to the weight benches and sitting down on his son’s.

Freya pulled a towel down from where it hung over the edge of the catwalk and wiped her face. “I do not snore.”

“Okay. Musta been me, then.” He leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees. “So what stopped you getting your beauty sleep then? Not that you need it, a’course, but I was just wondering.”

She dropped the towel to the deck and turned back to the bag. “Nothing. Just ... nothing.”

“Frey, I’m not psychic, but I know my wife. Wanna try that again?”

She punched twice. Thump. Thump. Left then right. “Dreams,” she said finally.

Dreams. That explained it. Everyone on board had those kind of dreams once in a while, himself included. His tended towards Serenity Valley, and later with Miranda, visions of Wash skewered through the chest and asking through a mouth full of blood why he hadn’t been saved – no, not that. Too close to the bone. But the fact was Freya hardly ever talked about hers at all. Still, maybe this time. “Are you going to enlighten me?”

She looked at him over her shoulder. “Do I have to?”

“Might help. You know, a trouble shared ...” He moved along the bench, leaving a gap which he patted.

“Mal ...”

“Come on.”

She sighed heavily, but walked slowly to him, lowering herself down. “Mal, it was just a bad dream.”

He pressed against her, feeling her warmth through his pants leg. “Frey, if you really don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine. But I'm here for you. You know that.”

“I know.” She nodded, her lips lifting a little. “And I wish I could tell you, but ...”

“Okay.” He put his hand on her thigh. “It’s okay, Frey.”

“No, I mean it, I wish I could, but they’re ...” She shook her head. “Muddled. Crazy. Bits and pieces that don’t make any sense, except they make me feel ... broken. Angry.”

“You were dreaming about the past?”


Okay. Things were a little clearer now. At suppertime Kaylee had been talking about her childhood, back on Phoros, and that had set the rest of the crew to reminiscing. Hank had mentioned being made to dress up as an angel in his elementary school play, and when everyone had stopped laughing Mal had kept it going by talking about some of the exploits he and Lyle Bradcombe had gotten into trouble over.

“It’s nice to hear you talk about when you were a kid, Cap’n,” Kaylee had said, smiling widely. “You don’t often.”

And the truth was Mal didn’t really know why he was doing so sitting at the table, except that it seemed right. But considering back on it, maybe Freya hadn’t been laughing as hard as the rest.

“It got you thinking, didn’t it?” he hazarded now.

She nodded. “Not so much about my childhood, or ... or the Academy, but later.”

“The war?”


This he understood. The day they were let out of the camps, given a hundred credits each and told to get back to the Rim where they belonged, Freya vanished. He and Zoe had been talking, not really sure what they wanted to do beyond go and crawl into a bottle for a month, then he’d turned around and she was gone. It was a year before they saw her again, and she’d never been very forthcoming over her activities during those twelve months. He was pretty sure River knew, had probably picked it out of his wife’s brain at some point or other, but he wasn’t going to ask. Not until Freya herself was ready to tell him. Which, he had to admit, could very likely be never. “I see.”

She fixed him with her hazel eyes. “Do you?”

He shrugged. “Nope. But then I guess we all have secrets.”

“Mal, I want to tell you, but I’m afraid you might not love me any more.”

“That bad?”


He smiled, his own blue gaze soft and full of love. “Bao bei, if you never tell me, that’s okay. I’ll admit to a certain amount of curiousness, but that’s your decision to make. And I’ll never stop loving you. No matter what.” Reaching across he ran a finger down her cheek. “But I conjure it makes an appearance now and again in your dreams.”

“Once in a while,” she agreed ruefully. “I wish I could control them better.”

“Simon’d say we need them to be a little bit wild, to get rid of the tensions of the day.”

She chuckled, and Mal felt a fraction of the tension relax out of her. “I don't think he’d put it quite like that.”

“Maybe not. I’ve a notion there’d be a few more ten credit words in there, but that’d be the gist. But that’s all they are, Frey. Just dreams.”

“But they’re so real,” she whispered.

For a moment he could hear the gunfire, the rumbling of the heavy artillery, smell the dust and blood, but he pushed it away to lie with memories of dead friends. “The nature of dreams, Frey. But knowing the difference between them and reality is what makes us human.”

“I know. In here.” She tapped her temple.

“But in here it’s different, right?” He laid his hand on her breast, above her heart.


“And that makes you want to get physical.”


“Then that’s fine. You do that. In fact, I'll help.” He stood up. “Come on.”

She looked confused. “What? Where?””

“Spar with me.”


He held out a hand. “Come on. I promise to be gentle.”

“It’s not you I’m worried about.” She let him lift her to her feet. “The way I’m feeling … I don't want to hurt you.”

“Then don’t.”

She dropped her eyes, and when she finally looked up at him there was an odd expression on her face. “I might not be able to stop myself.”

“Of course you can. You’re my xin gan.” He said it simply, honesty radiating off him.

Freya couldn’t help it. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him. “Mal.”

He smiled, holding her close, breathing deeply of the scent of warm skin, perspiration, and Freya. “Better,” he whispered into her ear. “And you won’t hurt me. Mainly because I don’t think you want to be explaining to the rest of the crew how I got a black eye and a coupla broken ribs.”

“That could be awkward, yes.”

“So we’ll take it easy.” Pushing her gently away, he stripped off his shirt, dropping it on the bench, and picking up the roll of tape. He picked at the end, then wrapped a fair length around his knuckles and wrists, even as he felt her gaze on him. As he said, he wasn’t psychic, but he knew his wife. She was checking out every inch of his skin, from the nape of his neck down to his waist, counting the scars, knowing each one intimately. That, and admiring the curve of his back.

She chuckled again, and he knew she’d read him. “You think you're that pretty?” she asked.

“Frey, honey, I’m beautiful.” He grinned as he turned back to her. “Now, you ready?”

“As always.”

They circled each other, feinting first one way then the other, until Mal stepped forward and jabbed at his wife’s shoulder. She slid away from the blow, ducking beneath it, her hand reaching out and pushing hard at his chest, palm first.

He staggered backwards but recovered quickly. “Like that, is it?” he asked, smiling.

“You wanted to spar,” she pointed out, not even breathing hard.

“That I did.”

“You're holding back.”

“I don't want to hurt you.”

“You won’t.”

“Huh.” He moved around to his left, his wife following. “Ready?”

Freya shook out her hands. “Whenever you are, zhang fu. Whenever you are.”

He grinned, falling naturally into the combative position that had served him so well in the past through a hundred bar brawls, some of which he’d won. This time, though, he wasn’t actually going to be fighting dirty.

Except apparently Freya wasn't of the same mind. She stepped forward and he retreated half a pace, but at the same time she somehow managed to hook her leg around his, and his own momentum carried him to the deck, jarring his back.

A look of pain must have crossed his face, because she immediately dropped her hands and went down on her knees next to him. “Mal? Are you okay?”

For a moment he just lay there, sucking air back into lungs that had momentarily been forcefully emptied, then he grabbed her by the arms, rolling over until she was underneath him. “This what you mean by playing fair?” he asked, his hair flopping over his forehead as he gazed down at her.

“Did I mention fair?” She bucked her hips slightly, but he was too heavy for her to push off, at least from this angle.

“No, come to mention it, you didn’t. But then again, neither did I.” He dropped down and pressed his lips to hers. Her mouth opened in surprise, and he slipped his tongue inside.

When he let her up for air, her face was flushed. “Let me go.”

He grinned. “Depends what you’re planning on doing if I do.”

In response she tilted her head and bit him on the chest, just hard enough to feel it but not hard enough to draw blood. “Mal, let me go,” she whispered, licking the same spot.

He felt his breath hitch. “That ain’t fighting fair either.”

She pushed up with her hips again, but this time there was a smile playing around her eyes. “I don’t think you mind,” she said, grinding a little.

“You think?” He was surprised he could keep his voice on such an even keel.


He laughed. “Frey, honey, I’ve been hard for you ever since I saw you hitting that punching bag.”

She licked her lips, just a flick of the tongue. “Is that the case?”

“It surely is. And I'm thinking there are other ways to work off that little problem of yours.” He dipped his head and nuzzled beneath her jaw.

“I'm not the only one with a little problem,” she murmured, her eyes closing.

“Not so little,” he said, grinning against her skin.

“What about the rest of the crew?” she managed to say as he suckled gently where her neck joined her shoulder.

“Ain’t inviting them.”

“We’re not exactly … woh de mah … private here.”

He lifted his head enough to look into her eyes, his own hooded with desire. “Ai ren, one of these days you’re gonna believe me when I say this is my boat. I do what I like. Where I like.”

“Who you like?”

He kissed her lips again, this time tenderly. “Love, Frey. Who I love.”

“Let me go,” she said again, this time with more urgency. Mal.

He released her hands, and felt them on his skin, pulling him down to her, blending their bodies together even as her mind filled him with heat. He smiled, feeling complete again.


Monday, May 17, 2010 6:14 AM


So perfect! I love the last few lines and the fact she worried about hurting him. The past here is the hidden gem and I enjoyed that reflection of Frey's. It opened her up a bit and that's always good for a character. Thank you and you're next once I finish the bday scene. :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010 3:43 PM


Never judge a relationship by how the couples work out their problems together - literally. Loved the snarky answers - so true to Mal as Captain.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 6:25 AM


Wow, loved this! I always love your FREYA stories especially when there actually IS Mal and Frey goodness in it rather than guest appearances so this was perfect. *Xie xie nie*, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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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!]