Between the Stars II - Some Days
Tuesday, January 29, 2013

She looks up, into my eyes, and I can see my future written there, larger than on a Cortex screen. Truth is, I can see the couch in the next few days, but beyond that there’s being married to a woman who’d tear pieces out of a gang determined to do me harm. Maya. Post-BDM. Mal's POV, shortly after Between the Stars - Part I.


Some days the ship just ain’t big enough. Eight adults, seven kids, a dog, a cat and – at least from the shredded t-shirt Kaylee dragged outta the heating duct – a family of mice. Or maybe rats. That’d be about right. One way or the other, that number of folks all walking, talking, breathing at the same time, and just occasionally the thought crosses my mind to take the shuttle and find a moon where there’s no terraforming, and just sit.

A’course, today I can’t exactly do that. Not since I’m lying in my temporary lodging because of a little altercation with someone else’s bullet (again, as Simon seems to take delight in telling me), not being able to do much except stare at the ceiling.

And listen.

All the kids are in the cargo bay, and whatever they’re playing they’re making enough noise to wake the dead. They woke me, anyway.

“Gorramit. Can’t they play quieter?” I mutter to myself, since nobody else seems to be caring enough to listen.

“Don’t be such a grouch.”

Lifting my head, I’m not surprised to see Frey standing in the doorway. “Not a grouch.”



“Oh. My mistake.” She starts to go.

“Hey, wait up.” I struggle up a little higher, and Simon’s good work pulls in my hip. “I thought you were come visiting.”

She smiles, just a bit. “Well, I thought I was going to have to cheer you up, but since you’re not a grouch then you don’t need my help.”

“Hey, I'm the injured party here.” I can get a lot of pout in my voice when I try. “Got shot.”

“That’s not why you’re lying here.”

“Thought it was.”

“And that was your own fault.”

“My fault?” Okay, maybe I hadn't quite envisaged my voice going quite so high, so I cover it with a cough, and a grimace. “My fault?” That’s better.

A flash of concern colours her face for a moment before she relaxes again. “What is it Zoe tells you?”

“Not sure. Not to piss off Badger?”

Her lips twitch. “I don't think that’s possible.”

“Then maybe it’s not to open a window when we’re out in the Black.”

“That’s just being sensible. Something you don’t seem to have too much experience with.”


She pushes off from the wall and steps inside. “And while sensible, it’s not what I was thinking of.”

“Can't think of anything else.”


Now she’s standing next to me I can lay back, not having to strain to see her face. “Nothing springs to mind, no.”

“How about ... duck?”

“You mean one o’them birds that lives on the water?”

Her fingers touch the scar running down the centre of my chest, barely fluttering over my skin. “Not at all.”

“Didn't kill me, Frey.”

“Not for lack of trying.”

“You don’t seem too concerned about my well-being,” I point out.

Her hand stops, barely a breath above me. “You didn’t see me before. When I was threatening Simon. Until he told me you were lucky.”

“Better to be lucky than rich, I guess.”

“Better to duck than have to be lucky in the first place.” Her fingertips graze my waist, the bandages covering the wound on my hip just showing above the blanket.



“No, Frey, I am. And you know I ain't wanting to put you through any pain if I can help it.”

She looks up, into my eyes, and I can see my future written there, larger than on a Cortex screen. Truth is, I can see the couch in the next few days, but beyond that there’s being married to a woman who’d tear pieces out of a gang determined to do me harm.

“It wasn’t just me,” she murmured. “River did her share of tearing.”

“I reckon she did.” Never did think much of slavers, and those in Cason’s Point were mostly pushing daisies now anyway.

“And Jayne. And Zoe.”

“Hey, Hank was hurt worse’n me!”

“And that’s an excuse?”

“No, but –”

“And then you go and insist on talking to the people on Jubilee in person!” She’s keeping it inside but I can see the exasperation on her face, and I can tell we’ve got to the root of the problem.

“They took on Indigo, didn’t they? Gave him a job, and a place for him and his young’un.”


“And … what?”

“And the next day you think you’re well, and try and get up those fong luh stairs!”

“Frey, honey, I didn’t plan on falling.”

“Except you did. And made it ten times worse. Simon despairs of you, you know.”

“If’n you’d just helped me then –”

“So it’s my fault now?”

Luckily she don’t really think that, ‘cause I’ve been married long enough that I know even Frey can just make an argument up outta nowhere when she’s a mind. “Don’t recall saying that.”

“Mal ...”

Okay, maybe the couch is gonna figure more than I anticipated. “Yeah, well, I ain't exactly well known for my intelligence.”

“Simon told you to stay in bed. And don’t think I’ve forgiven Jayne yet, either, for letting you. And after he agreed it was a bad idea.”

“That’s it. Rub it in.”

She leans forward, and I can feel her breath on my cheek. “It happens too much, Mal. You should have learned by now.”

“I know.”

“You have to learn.”

“I know.”

“Do you have any idea how thick your medical notes are?”

“I know.” I do know, too, and more’n anything I know how much she loves me, and how much it hurts her to see me lying here like this. And maybe I will learn.

She sighs, and it’s obvious she’s peeked, and doesn’t believe a word. “Mal ...”

Ai ren, I’ll try. It ain’t like I want to leave you, or Ethan, or Jesse ... But I’m a man, and we’re just on occasion stubborn.”

“Stubborn can take you away.”

I can feel a sigh lifting from my chest, and it erupts from my lips before I can stop it. “I’ll try.”

“That’s all I’m asking.”

“I love you, Frey.”

“That’s not the answer to everything.” Still, she touches my lips with hers, just a softness that’s so light I ain’t even sure it happened. “I love you too, Mal.”

“Daddy!” Jesse runs in. “You’re awake!”

“Hey there, JJ.” I smile at my daughter, my own special nickname for her slipping out without me even thinking about it.

She climbs up onto the bed, and I can see Frey ready to grab her if she jostles my hip, but my little girl is far too much like her mother, and is very careful. “Play with us.”

“Sounded like you were having fun without me.”

She pouts, shaking her head so hard her hair flies around her face. “Stopped.”

“What, playing or having fun?”

“Both.” She gives a sigh far heavier than any I’ve managed, and I can’t help smiling.

Ethan tumbles up behind her. “Daddy!”

I wonder vaguely how long it’ll be before he wants to call me Dad, and hope it’ll be a while yet. “Hey, son.” My son. My daughter. I feel my chest wanting to expand a bit. “Where’re the others?”

“Auntie Kaylee said it was time for baths,” Ethan explained. “I think Bethie’s hiding.”

I have to chuckle. That little girl surely hates getting wet all over. If we weren’t sure she was Simon’s, I’d be looking at Jayne to be responsible.

“Mal,” Frey says, shaking her head in mock resignation.

“What?” I ask, grinning. “Anyway, what about Ben and Cal?”

“Auntie River.” Jesse is sucking on a strand of hair which Frey gently pulls out of her mouth. “In the shuttle.”

“Giving us some family time,” Frey explains.

“Nice of her.”

“I don't know about that. Zoe’s not going to be happy when she finds out the stories River’s been telling her son.”

“That bad, huh?”

“With sound effects.”

“I remember some my Ma used to tell me, from Earth-that-was ... they could be pretty blood-curdling.”


Jesse’s tugging on my hand. “Play with us, Daddy?”

“Well, I can’t exactly run around at the moment.”

She looks at me, the expression on her face pure Frey. “Daddy was silly.”

“You too?”

She gives me a huge grin, totally unrepentant. “Play?”

“I don’t know ...” I glance up at Frey, who thinks for a moment.

“I suppose it won’t hurt,” she says slowly. “Something quiet.”

“Cards?” I ask, remembering the last time we played, just the two of us, and I ended up stripped buck naked and owing her most of Serenity. Not that I minded, since she’d already lost all her clothing and was down to her necklace and a smile.

Frey’s cheeks pink up, just a touch. “I’m not playing Tall Card with you.”

“Afraid you’re gonna lose?” I tease.

She ignores me and says instead, “I suppose we don't have to bet.”

“Then it ain’t playing Tall Card.”

“Daddy ...” Ethan says, wheedling.

I can’t keep the stern look on my face. “Okay. How about I teach you all a game we used to play on Shadow?”

Ethan’s eyes are shining. “With Grandma?”

“That’s right. She taught me when I was about your age.”

“Is it hard?” Jesse asks, biting her lip.

I reach up and ruffle her hair, wondering every single time at how she looks just like her mother. “Nope, JJ. You’ll pick it up quick.” I look at my son. “Go get the cards.”

“Yes sir!” He bounds out of the room, and I can’t help wishing I still had his energy.

“And the counters!” I add, but I’m not sure he hears. “JJ, go tell him, will you?”

“Yes, Daddy.” She blows me a kiss and runs out.

Freya is shaking her head, just a little. “If it’s not gambling why do we need counters?”

“For counting.”

She raises her eyebrows at me, but her lips are twitching. “Are you rolling your eyes at me, Mal?”

“Wouldn’t dare, Frey.”


“Momma!” It’s Ethan, yelling down the stairs. “Ben wants to join in!”

I look at Frey, who laughs. “Zoe’s found out.”

“River’s stories?”

“She’s put her foot down.”

I laugh too, and only grimace a little. “Considering some of the things we got up to –” I stop, on account of the look on her face. “I know. It ain’t the same thing.”

“They’re still so young.”

I know what she means. ‘Verse we live in, there’s no way those kids won’t find out there seems to be more bad guys than good, although most of ‘em have a fair inkling of it already, but we still don’t have to make it plain. Not yet.

Frey reaches out and smoothes my forehead. I can’t help leaning into her touch a little, knowing she’s seen my thoughts clear as if I’d spoken ‘em aloud.

“Momma?” Ethan again.

She smiles. “Okay,” she calls, far too lady-like for my boat.

A clattering down the stairs signals at least three pairs of small feet heading back.

“You know if Ben comes so will Hope,” I point out.

“You were the one who suggested it.”

“I was bored.”

“No chance of that now.”

“Guess not.” I reach out and take her hand, feeling her pulse beating strongly, surely, under my fingertips. I rub her palm with my thumb.

“And there’ll be none of that for a while,” she murmurs.

The night before my precipitative fall down the stairs comes to mind, and I lick my lips. “Not even if you drive?”



The kids clatter in, Hope following Ben as we knew she would, and the mattress shifts under me as they all clamber up. Frey grabs Jesse and sits her on her lap, close enough to see but giving me just the breathing space I need.

Ethan holds out the pack of cards. “How come Grandma taught you?” he asks, eager to learn anything new.

“I’d told her Kyle’d said his uncle was teaching him Tall Card, and she ... well, I think she told Kyle’s Ma to tell his Pa to tell his uncle not to.”

Frey hides a smile, seeing the picture of my Ma’s face as it pops into my head. For now she’s keeping an eye on me, her mind open, least ‘til I’m back on my feet. And I don’t mind, not really. Shows just how much she loves me.

“So what’s this called, Uncle Mal?” Ben asks, his coffee face shining.

“Not sure if it has a proper name, but we always just called it Shadow.” I start to shuffle the cards, but my fingers are like thumbs today and Frey takes the stack off me, doing it far more professional than she has a right to know how.

“What are the rules, Daddy?” Ethan wants to know.

“Well, you have to make runs of cards from what’re dealt to you and the throwaways, and if’n you do then you can claim a counter. A’course, the other players can challenge you at any time, if they think you’re lying.”

“So if you –” Ethan stops and looks guiltily towards the doorway.

I follow his gaze. “Ah.”

Bethie is standing there, radiating annoyance, her little hands in fists on her hips. “What are you doing?” she demands.

“Playing cards,” Ethan says.

“Without me?” That little girl can manage to put a hell of a lot of upset into a lip tremble, while still being angry.

Ethan sighs, just quietly, but I know his mother’s heard ‘cause she’s smiling in that way she’s got.

“You still hiding from your Ma?” I ask.

Bethie rolls her foot. “Don’t need a bath.”

“Kaylee’s given up,” Frey whispers loud enough for everyone to hear. “But you’ll be having a bath tomorrow, young lady.”

Bethie doesn’t exactly look displeased. “So I’ve got time to play.” She glares at the others. “If I’m invited.”

“You can join in,” Frey says. “But you’ll need to get a chair – there’s not enough room on the bed.”

Bethie turns the thousand-watt stare on Ethan, who sighs again – louder this time – and climbs down, giving up his space. “I’ll get one.” He slouches out and Bethie scrabbles into the probably still warm spot.

I glance at Frey, but she’s not worried. He always gonna be a gentleman? I think towards her.

Like his daddy.

I’m pretty sure that’s one thing I’m not.

You’re always a gentleman towards women. Even Saffron.

I snort, and the others look at me, but I wipe the end of my nose like I’m coming down with a cold.

A screeching noise outside suggests Ethan is dragging a chair somewhat despondently across the deck, and I can’t help the grin.

Like I said, some days the ship just ain’t big enough. Then there’s others, like today, that might be tinged with hurt, but it don’t matter, because ... well, just because.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013 5:06 AM


Wow, so so good, I've missed these.

Really excellent job with the POV, I can so hear Mal thinking all of that. This really is an amazing story line thats been built here.

Mal thinking and her responding and him thinking some more, just too much fun! Can I rate it more than just a single ten?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 1:07 PM


Love Mal/Freya and it seems a Dragon's Age since Part 1 so I devoured this whole, Jane0904. Could so easily imagine the scene and everyone's reactions, just perfect. The love between Mal and Frey and the children is palpable, simply lovely. Can't wait for MORE! Ali D :-)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 6:32 PM


So glad to see more of these - and just as delightful as ever. Been a long time but you have only gotten better as a writer. Loved the imagery and the ordinary day feel that made this so rich to the senses. And you managed to include all the characters without them having to be there. Looking forward to more.


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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!]