Angels We Have Heard (Part 2/5)
Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.


Once more Mal found himself standing in the cargo bay doorway musing out into the whiteness, cursing the fact that he had to venture into it. Footsteps and voices coming from the catwalk overhead told him Simon was about to join him, and he turned his head to at least greet him with a glance. He arrived together with Zoë and was giving her his last instructions.

"Keep an eye on his breathing and his temperature," Mal heard him say as they came to a rest next to him. "Now, the fever's there for a reason, it'll help him get better sooner, but you should check it regularly and if it gets much higher, give him this."

He put something small wrapped in white plastic in the palm of Zoë's outstretched hand, and there was pause as she studied the tiny object. She then glanced back up at him, still not revealing any emotion whatsoever. "Does this go where I think it does?" she calmly asked.

Mal shuddered, thinking for a moment that he might have drawn the longest stick after all. Simon looked both embarrassed and apologetic at the same time. "Er, yes," he admitted.

Zoë remained collected as always. "Lovely," she dryly responded and just turned to face Mal instead. "Good huntin', sir, and be careful, both of you."

Mal nodded. "We'll be on radio, if the weather allows it. If you haven't heard from us by tomorrow morning, take the shuttle and do a sweep-over."

"Will do."

"Tomorrow?" Simon repeated, eyes wide with worry.

"Having second thoughts?" Mal asked, then punched him lightly in the back. "We'll be fine. Let's get goin'. We only have a few hours of so-called daylight left."

They stepped out into the snow and as Zoë closed the door behind them, they started trotting their way through it. Mal threw Simon a sideways glance and noticed that the doctor for once had dressed correctly for the occasion. He was wearing his thickest wool coat and moved like he had at least two pairs of pants on. His head and face were almost completely concealed by a knitted cap and a scarf, and he had mittens on his hands. Most importantly, and somewhat surprisingly, his feet were sporting a decent pair of winter boots and not his ridiculously shiny shoes.

"Didn't know you even owned a pair of snow shoes," Mal commented.

"I don't," was Simon's reply. "These belonged to Wash. Zoë lent them to me."

Okay, so much for a nice conversation… Funny how every little exchange of words ended up being awkward these days.

He decided to keep quiet for a while.


Simon was beginning to regret volunteering for this task. The white plain they were in the process of crossing seemed endless in every direction, and he kept glancing over at the captain to see how he studied his map and compass, hoping it didn't just look like the man knew how to navigate in this place.

He tried to retract his head even deeper down into his coat. The wind was freezing cold, it kept finding new ways through all the layers of clothes to nip at his bare skin beneath, and his toes were like ice, despite the good shoes he felt quite honored to wear. He was careful not to complain, though. It was time he did more than just stitch and cauterize around the ship, and what kind of man would he be if he'd let Kaylee out into this frozen hell instead of him? At least the snow was compact and relatively easy to walk on.

None of them had spoken for a long time, but now Mal seemed to finally notice how Simon kept watching him, and eventually he opened his mouth to talk, "Jayne has been coughing for nearly a week, I know, I did notice," he said. "I shouldn't have forced him out into the cold."

Underneath his hat, Simon raised his eyebrows, wondering why on Earth-that-was the captain was bringing this up and if maybe the looks he'd been throwing him had appeared a little more accusing than intended.

"I was under the impression nobody could ever force Jayne to do anything," he simply replied. "This one's not on you. You know what he's like, he never complains about aches and pains."

"Yeah," Mal mumbled, "in his line of work that would be a bad thing. A mercenary can't afford to appear weak."

Simon thought on that for a few moments before agreeing, "I suppose that makes sense. He shouldn't have to keep playing that game around us, though. It makes my job a lot harder than it has to be."

"Mayhaps that's why he does it?"

Simon heard himself chuckle at that remark, and stopped long enough to throw a short glance back over his shoulder. He could no longer see the ship.

"Where exactly are we headed?" he asked.

Mal gestured ahead. "According to the map there's some rocky hills in that direction. Maybe we'll find our caves there."

Simon couldn't help himself. "If we know where we're going, why not take the shuttle?"

"Don't wanna draw too much attention to ourselves," the captain explained. "Not this close to the village."

"What village?"

"It's right here, on our right hand side. 'Bout three hundred yards."

Simon stopped and turned to look, but saw nothing but the white. "I don't see it."

"You don't see the smoke from the chimneys?" Mal pointed, and now he did.

"Where are the houses?" he asked, even though the answer was quite obvious.

Mal offered a reply nonetheless. "Underneath the snow, I suppose."

Simon shook his head in disbelief. "Good God, why would anyone choose to live like this?"

Mal kept his eyes intently on him for a few more seconds, before turning his head away as he continued walking. "They don't," he muttered, and as Simon hurried after him throwing him a puzzled look, he elaborated, "Most people here on St. Albans come from either Hera or Persephone. During the war those were the Independents' most important planets, along with Shadow, and when the war was lost they were taken over by the Alliance, who 'relocated' a lot of families here. And here they're forced to remain until they've paid their war debts, which I guess will take about five or six generations at the current rate."

"I… I didn't know."

"I didn't expect you to."

There it was again, that sting in the captain's voice whenever he, if ever so discreetly, hinted at Simon's Core upbringing. He quelled the urge to bring up that discussion now, though. "Like your friend Tracey?" he asked instead.

"Like him," Mal replied. He walked a few more paces before adding, "And they were the lucky ones. Shadow they just killed."

Simon bit his lip as he quietly kept trotting in his captain's footsteps. There were still days when he longed for that blissful ignorance he'd once lived in.

Suddenly the silence between them was pierced by a voice calling out behind them. They immediately stopped in their tracks to look back towards the village, shielding their eyes against the bright light reflected on the snow, and spotted a lone figure waving his arms at them. When he noticed he had their attention, he came running towards them, and in the corner of his eye, Simon saw the captain draw his gun, but luckily he didn't raise it.

As the stranger approached them, Simon was able to distinguish the words he was shouting, "Friends, friends, where you headed? You shouldn't be out here, there's a blizzard comin'!"

Blizzard? Simon frowned. The world around him was dead quiet. There was not even the slightest hint of an approaching storm.

"You sure?" Mal called back, as the man came to a halt about twenty yards away from them. He was bundled up in thick clothes; Simon couldn't see his face, but he guessed he seemed harmless enough.

"Absolutely," was the answer. "Trust me, you learn to read the signs over the years."

Simon looked at Mal, who had put his gun back inside its holster but still kept his hand resting on the handle. He nodded. "Well, I'd be a fool not to trust the locals," he called back. "Thanks for the warning, my friend. We'll head back to our ship."

"How far?" the stranger asked.

"'Bout three miles east."

The man shook his head. "You won't make it in time. Come on inside, you can wait here until it passes."

Simon heard Mal mutter something behind his scarf before he turned to look at him. "Don't seem like we have much of a choice, Doc. Come on."

They walked up to the man who held out his arm to greet them. "John Hensley," he introduced himself as Mal shook his hand.

"Malcolm Reynolds," Mal replied and pointed with his thumb, "and this here's Simon."

"Welcome. Let's get out of the cold."

That sounded like a really good idea to Simon, and he hurried after Hensley and the captain as they made their way to the supposed village. He could scarcely make out the buildings as they got closer; they were mostly buried by the snow, you didn't see much more than the long, slim chimneys puffing out smoke towards the sky.

Hensley suddenly stopped and bent down to pull open a hatch Simon hadn't even been able to see until now. "Please," he gestured down into the hole that appeared beneath it, and Simon followed his captain down a ladder into a narrow hallway. Hensley came down last, securing the hatch behind him and then led the way to a door. "Jen, I brought guests," he called out as he opened it.

The room they entered was not much bigger than Serenity's galley, but Simon counted at least fourteen people there, some seated by the tables, some on beds and cots along the walls, and a handful of children playing with marbles on the floor in front of the fireplace. A woman in her early thirties came towards them with a welcoming smile on her face and a worried look in her eyes. "Please, please come in," she urged. "It's warmer by the fire. Children, make room for our guests."

Simon didn't even have time to protest or even react before he was ushered towards the fireplace – where the children picked up their toys and scattered to observe him from a distance, wide-eyed and curious – and another, older woman pulled out chairs for him and the captain.

He got a better look at Hensley now as he'd pulled off his hat and scarf; he seemed a lot younger than he'd first appeared as he introduced the rest. "My wife Jennifer," he gestured towards the youngest of the women, then pointed at the older, "Mary, my mother-in-law," to three of the children, "my sons, Tom and Aaron, and my daughter Ellie," and finally at another man sitting on a cot in the corner, "and my brother, Richard. The rest are friends and neighbors. We like to huddle together when the weather's bad; saves us fuel and there's comfort in numbers."

Simon nodded and stiffly sat down on the chair when Mary gently nudged him. He pulled his mittens off and held his frozen fingers up to the fire, glancing up at Mal to see if he was about to join him.

The captain was always wary towards new people, which was perfectly understandable, come to think of it, but he seemed relaxed enough to take his seat and respond to all the greeting nods he received from various people around the room. "I couldn't reach Zoë," he whispered to Simon when everyone else was out of earshot. "Must be the weather."

"We'll be okay," Simon replied, as if the man really needed his reassurance.

"Yeah," the captain mumbled, throwing a discreet glance in Richard Hensley's direction, "we'll be okay."




A/N: This story's turning out a little longer than first intended, but then again, in some cultures Christmas is celebrated in January, so bear over with me ;-)

Love, MK – who had the strangest dream about Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin last night. It involved pancakes, I’ll tell you that much.


Friday, December 28, 2012 3:43 PM


No apology needed over the length of the story, Markomi. Sounds like Mal and Simon are going to be guests for a while and with it not being possible to contact Zoe she will be worrying when time passes and there is no word from them. I hope she doesn't take the shuttle out when the blizzard hits. Ali D

Saturday, December 29, 2012 10:19 AM


Oh, interesting backstory...St Albans inhabited by people who don't have a choice, the losing side having to pay off the Alliance. It will be interesting to see what Mal and Simon do now that they're holed up with the extended Hensley clan for the duration of the blizzard. Just really like the way you depict the environment and local culture and setting -- always a strength in your stories.
I'm gonna lobby for a fic involving Mal, Jayne, and pancakes. ;-)


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Angels We Have Heard (Part 5/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 4/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 3/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 2/5)
Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 1/5)
Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

The Night Before (revised and reposted)
It's the night before Christmas and Jayne is having spiritual problems. Literally.

Book of Secrets (Part 8)
Mal drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly, closing his eyes for a moment. "Gorram preacher," he muttered.

Book of Secrets (Part 7)
Kaylee comes clean and River goes for a swim.

Book of Secrets (Part 6)
The captain dances, Inara's feeling out the new girl and the first secret is revealed.

Book of Secrets (Part 5)
Zoë and Inara have a heart-to-heart, and Mal discovers more shades of grey.