'Til Death Parts Us--Part IV
Monday, October 10, 2011

Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. The search is on for Anya, and Adam faces the music.


Marcus stood still for a moment, listening intently for the sound of another person breathing, preferably a near-teenage girl with more determination than she had any right to have. But he could hear nothing but the roar of his own pulse in his ears and he cursed silently. It was going to be bad enough to tell Mal and Zoe that he could not find Anya, but gorram it if he did not love the young girl his own self as well. He closed his eyes, picturing her pretty blond hair, her beautiful blue eyes, the smile she had that lit up a room. And he thought about how she had been so open to Pierre, not letting the pilot’s former appearance deter her from showing genuine kindness to the man.

That openness, that willingness to befriend others was what made Marcus’ blood run cold now, as he thought about where the child could be, and what danger she could be in. The ‘verse was sometimes a terrible place, and Marcus had seen his share of its horrors with his own eyes. Shaking himself out of that morbid train of thought, he removed the cover over the main air vent in the room and peered inside.


Jim paced like a caged tiger, in stark contrast to Zoe, who sat completely immobile at the helm of Serenity. “What is taking so long?” he muttered darkly.

“It’s a big ship,” Zoe replied, her voice even.

Jim bit back an angry retort, knowing that for all her outward calm, Zoe was in a dangerous mood. Jim felt the strong need to hit something himself, to feel the satisfying pain of fist connecting to a deserving target. But in this case, there was no deserving target, no one yet determined on which to vent his wrath. However, if by some merciless twist of fate, Anya had managed to disembark before the crew of the Hit or Miss had seen her and some other ship had taken her somewhere, he would have targets aplenty, he thought grimly. Looking at his wife’s profile, he realized he would probably have to stand in line for the privilege.


“Let me talk to him,” River said, a little more forcefully than she had the first time. “You’re too angry.”

“Gorram right I am,” Mal hissed. “If anything happens to that girl because he didn’t tell us…”

“What?” River said, a small pulse beating in her temple as she stared down her irate husband. “If anything happens, what?”

Mal forcibly unclenched his fists and sighed raggedly. “If he’d just told us, River, there wouldn’t even be any question about where she is. And now…well now, what if it’s too late?”

River swallowed convulsively, her liquid brown eyes heavy with sadness. “Being angry with Adam won’t change anything for the better,” she said tiredly. “He feels badly enough about it already.” For a moment, her mind caught a flash of her son, sitting on his bed waiting for news of Anya and wiping hot tears from his cheeks. “Just let me talk to him, ai ren.”

Mal nodded, barely able to speak past the cold lump of dread in his throat. “Go ahead.”

River nodded and padded quietly down the stairs and to her son’s room, feeling Mal’s eyes fixed solidly on her back until she slid Adam’s door quietly shut behind her.

“I’m sorry, Mama,” Adam said immediately, looking up at her with miserable eyes.

River nodded and sat down on the bed beside her son. “I am too, Adam,” she began. “I’m sorry that you didn’t feel that you could come to your father and me as soon as Anya left.”

Adam shuddered, his thin shoulders hunched as he stared fixedly at the floor. “Didn’t want to tell on my best friend,” he murmured.

“Adam, look at me,” River said firmly. When he complied, she went on, “I understand that Anya is your best friend. And I know that you two share things like a brother and sister, since you live together on Serenity. But, there are times that you have to do what is in the best interest of a friend, even if your friend doesn’t want you to. Being a friend is about caring for someone, and looking out for someone just like you would look out for yourself.” She paused for a moment, her heart breaking at the single tear that now ran down her son’s face. “Do you know why what Anya did was wrong and dangerous?”

Adam swallowed thickly. “’Cause she’ll be alone out there with maybehaps some people who are bad people,” he whispered.

“That’s one reason,” River agreed. “And Anya is too young to be making decisions about where she can go and with whom she can be. I know she seems much older sometimes than she really is, but she is just a girl, Adam. And someone of her age, on her own, is a very vulnerable person.” She suppressed a sliver of memory of just how vulnerable a young girl could be in the hands of the wrong people.

Adam’s lips quivered. “Is she gonna be okay, Mama?”

“I don’t know,” River answered honestly. She cocked her head to the side for a moment, thinking. “Do you?”

“No,” he whispered. “I can’t hear her anymore. She’s too far away, I think.”

River nodded. “You know that everyone on Serenity and everyone on the Hit or Miss will do everything we can to find her and bring her home. But Adam, you must promise me something.”

“What, Mama?”

“You must promise me that you will not keep secrets from your father and me,” she responded. “We love you, Adam, and we love our whole family on Serenity. And there can be no room for secrets in our family. Do you understand?”

Adam nodded, his mouth too dry to speak. River sighed again, knowing that to ask her Reader child to promise not to keep secrets was akin to asking a fish not to swim. How to help him learn the balance between revealing things that would harm someone and revealing things that would do nothing but help a situation was a problem left better for another day, she thought tiredly.

Licking his lips, Adam whispered, “Mama?”

“Yes, baby mine,” she said, drawing him closer to her.

“I wish…” he began wistfully. “I wish it had never happened.”

“Me too,” River said sadly. “But it did happen, and now we have to deal with it. Right?”

Adam laid his head on his mother’s shoulder. “Is Daddy really, really mad at me?” he asked in a small voice.

River considered her answer carefully, skating thinly between honesty and compassion. “He’s upset about the situation,” she said finally. “He’s very worried about Anya, and very disappointed that you did not trust us enough to tell us what was happening earlier.”

Adam nodded, stricken by the thought that his father was disappointed in him. His tears fell onto River’s dress. “Think it would help if I told him I was sorry?”

Before River could answer, Mal’s voice came from behind the door. “I know you are, son,” he said, sliding the door open. “I know.” He held out his arms to his boy, holding River’s steady gaze as Adam ran to embrace him.

“I’m expectin’ you to make better choices if this ever happens again, dong ma?” Mal said gruffly as his arms closed around Adam.

“I will,” Adam said, relieved to feel his father’s love in his mind, though it was shot through with worry for Anya. “I will.”

And over Adam’s head, River smiled softly at her anxious husband.


“I’m sorry, Mal,” Marcus said. “We’ve looked everywhere we can think of.”

Mal inhaled deeply, searching for words for a long moment. “Thanks for lookin’, Marcus. It was a kindness.”

Marcus nodded and watched the vid screen go black. He scrubbed his hand over his eyes dejectedly. “Have to say that was one of the worst pieces of bad news I’ve ever had to deliver,” he said tightly.

“Couldn’t be helped,” Pierre replied, though his own hands gripped the arms of his chair more tightly than absolutely necessary. “We’ve looked all over the ship. I can’t think of another place she could have hidden.”

“I wonder if she was ever onboard at all,” Bear sighed. “I didn’t find any evidence of her having been here. Did anybody else?”

The four men shook their heads. Marcus sighed. “Best thing at this point is to walk the docks and see if anybody’s taken her on. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll catch ‘em before they break atmo.” Turning to Pierre, he said, “You stay here, in case she comes back…or in case Mal waves again with good news. We’ll be back as soon as we can.”

Pierre nodded and watched Marcus, Bear, and Murdocke leave the Hit or Miss heading in three different directions to cover the most ground in the shortest time. Thinking that it might be time to remember how to pray again, he headed back to the bridge and sat looking out at the dusty landscape.

After a few minutes, he became aware, with that innate sense of a man who makes his living with a gun, that there was someone moving stealthily toward him. Reaching his gun with lightning speed, he turned to face his assailant.

“Ggaahhh,” he sputtered, narrowly avoiding shooting a very frightened looking Anya where she stood.

She held out her hands in the universal gesture of surrender. “It’s me,” she breathed out a little unsteadily.

Thinking that several years had just been shaved off his lifespan, Pierre holstered his weapon. “I see that,” he managed to get out. Willing his heart to stop galloping madly, he took a moment to really look at the girl. What he saw did nothing to improve his pulse rate. Her dress was torn, hanging from her slender shoulders by barely a thread and there was a bruise forming, obscenely purple against her pale wrist.

“You okay?” he ground out, half dreading the answer he might hear.

She shuddered once, seeming to realize for the first time how she might look. Pulling the tatters of her dress back together self-consciously, she said in a small voice, “I am now that….that I’m here.”

Pierre was seized of a sudden desire to rip out some hundan’s throat with his bare hands. “What happened? Who did this?” He motioned sharply to her dress.

She looked down at her attire. “The Captain of the Dreamcatcher,” she said.

Pierre bolted up, ready to do violence. Anya grabbed his arm, stopping his progress. “It’s not what you think,” she said quickly, a deep blush rising from her chest to her hairline. “He didn’t…I mean, it’s my fault my dress is torn.”

Pierre drew in a deep breath. “Are you going to tell me what happened or not?”

Anya sighed. “I didn’t think it all the way through,” she blurted out. “I mean, I didn’t know how much coin it was gonna’ take to get me to Osiris.” She licked her lips nervously, seeing the barely contained violence still burning in Pierre’s eyes. “I mean, I thought that if I could get this far, maybe I’d have enough for the rest of the trip. But, when I slipped out of the Hit or Miss this morning when everybody was out on the job, there were only two ships on the docks that were even going to Osiris, and when I asked how much they wanted for a fare…” She paused, shifting uncomfortably on her feet. “…I didn’t have anything near enough.”

“Go on,” Pierre prodded, waiting somewhat impatiently to hear how she had come to sport such a bruise.

Anya swallowed thickly, ashamed now to tell him the rest of the story. Deciding to get it out in one long rush, she said, “So, I thought I’d sneak onto the Dreamcatcher and stow away like I did on your ship. Only the Captain saw me, and he yelled for me to stop. And I started running, but his legs were longer and he reached out and grabbed my wrist.” She looked at her wrist, marveling at how quickly it had turned purple. “And I was scared, so I…well, I kicked him in the shin…and he let me go for a minute. So, I started running again, but he was closing the bay door to trap me in…and I had to jump…and my dress got caught somehow on the doorframe….and then I got all the way out and ran back here.”

Pure, sweet relief coursed through Pierre’s veins, and he released the breath he had not been aware of holding. “That’s all?”

Anya nodded soberly. “That’s all.”

“Do you have any idea how very stupid what you have done is?” he asked, sitting down before his rubbery knees gave way.

“Yes,” she said quietly, ducking her head.

Pierre nodded. “Good,” he said. “Because I don’t ever want to hear that you’ve done anything like this again. Dong ma?”

She nodded silently.

“We need to wave Serenity,” Pierre said.

Anya turned pale. “Couldn’t we just wait a little longer?” she asked, thinking of what would happen when she had to face Zoe.

“No,” Pierre said, hitting the buttons with more force than necessary to send the wave. “And I don’t envy you having to face your mother.” Listening to Anya’s audible gulp, he thought for a moment how very glad he was that he was not a father.


To be continued


Monday, October 10, 2011 6:48 AM


About the best ending Anya could honestly hope for. This might work for a couple of months to make the kids listen better but it won't last.

Monday, October 10, 2011 9:03 AM


Oh my. Glad that Anya has found her way back to the Hit or Miss, with nothing worse than (it appears) a torn dress. She's really not old enough for this kind of thing. I hope she learns. I'm sure Zoe will have a very effective way of impressing upon her the seriousness of what she just tried to do.

Monday, October 10, 2011 10:19 AM


Anya is very, very lucky, but I think she knows that. And as mad as she's likely to be at Adam for telling on her, she knows he was right, too.

Not sure why I feel like Dreamcatcher is going to play a part in this story, but perhaps it's because maybe Anya left her bag behind?

Excellent so far, slumming. I look forward to more!

Monday, October 10, 2011 1:57 PM


I am so glad that Anya is alright. She has learnt a valuable lesson which has scared her some, though not as much as it did everyone else both on Serenity and the Hit and Miss. Phew, glad we didn't have to wait over several chapters to find out what happened. And I am glad that Mal stopped being cross with Adam, I got all emotional with him being upset. Very shiny writing slumming, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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'Til Death Parts Us--Part VI
Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. For Marcus and Elizabeth, the moment has arrived, and Mal gives the ceremony his best shot.

'Til Death Parts Us--Part V
Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. The Hit or Miss crew’s plans for Marcus swing into effect.

'Til Death Parts Us--Part IV
Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. The search is on for Anya, and Adam faces the music.

'Til Death Parts Us--Part III
Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. Anya makes an inadvisable deal with Adam, and complications ensue.
Note: Thanks, ebfiddler, for suggesting that we include a small reminder note about the timeline of this story. At this point in this version of the ‘verse, we are about 10 to 11 years past the BDM, for those who keep track of such things. My, how time flies when you’re having fun! :)

'Til Death Parts Us--Part II
Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. Anya asks a favor of Mal, and Marcus plans a job.

'Til Death Parts Us--Part I
Co-written by the ever-talented Midnight Obsidian. Takes place shortly after the events of “Fractured” and “Aftermath” in a continuing Mal/River storyline that began a million years ago with “Voices”.
Summary: Life goes on for the crews of Serenity and the Hit or Miss, as everyone prepares for the long-awaited wedding.

Bad...In the Latin
Set within the timeline of the series. Stream of consciousness study. River contemplates her new environment. I'm kinda' rusty, so here's to hoping I have remembered a little something about writing!

Love Letters
One-shot set anytime within scope of the Mal/River storyline.

Aftermath--Part IV--Mal
Conclusion. Mal deals with the aftereffects of his time spent with the madman.

Aftermath--Part III--Marcus
Follows the events of “Fractured” in a continuing Mal/River storyline. Marcus re-evaluates his choices.