Secrets - Part VI
Thursday, May 9, 2013

“’Nara, we danced so long around each other I think we forgot that dancing has to stop sometime. The band plays the last waltz and we have to go on home. Only I left with Frey, and you’ve got Sam. I think I got the best end of the deal, mind.” [Maya. Post-BDM. In which we meet Molly, some hints are given about Inara, and River turns things upside down.]


In Serenity’s cargo bay Kaylee was crawling all over the mule, muttering to herself as she tried to find the tag.

Hank, standing by with her tool box, ready to help if needed, winced at the liberal use of Chinese swear words, and the vehemence behind them. “Sweetie, we’ll find it.”

“Gorramit, I knew he wasn’t to be trusted.”

“Hey, at least that Cobb feller told us it was there. We wouldn’t’a known otherwise.”

Her head popped up from the footwell. “And what’s all that about? A Cobb?”

“We can’t be responsible for what our relatives do. My gran told me we were direct descendants of General Slade, but that don’t mean I’m not still lovable and cuddly.”

She let her jaw drop. “Slaughter Slade? The Kowloon Butcher?”

Hank coloured. “I heard he loved his pets.”

Kaylee laughed. “I’m not judging. I mean, look at us, a bunch of smugglers and thieves. I’m kinda thinking when Bethie’s grandkids are running the empire, they’ll be wanting to disown us.”


“She has plans.” She ducked back down.

Hank smiled. At least she wasn’t cussing anymore. He let his eyes run along the yellow vehicle, planning to look outside and see if the sun was still shining, but … “Uh, Kaylee?”


“I think I found it.”

Kaylee appeared like a jack rabbit from a hat. “Where?”

“There.” He pointed to a small circle that looked like nothing more than a flaw in the metal, but in the shadows there was something about it that wasn’t natural.

Keeping her eyes on it Kaylee climbed down, then ran her gauge across it. “Damn.”

“It is, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Hi-tech. Brand new. It’s got a cloak, too.”

He nodded slowly, understanding exactly what she meant. In the long days out in the black, when they had nothing much to do beyond tinker, he and Kaylee would spend hours poring over the Cortex, looking at all the developments in anything mechanical, and the kind of camouflage this tag was exhibiting had been the talk of various sites a few months back. “It’s pretty expensive for a bounty hunter to use.”

“No wonder he didn’t look pleased when Philo told us about it.” Kaylee reached into the box Hank was holding and took out a wand. She began fiddling with the settings. “If we’re right, this thing could track us through deep space.”

“I’ll ask him when we see him next.”

“Wait ‘til Zoe’s around.”

“I intend to.”

Satisfied with her adjustments, Kaylee touched the wand to the tag, which immediately darkened to an inch-wide circle of navy blue shot through with silver lines. “That’s it. It’s deactivated.”

“I expected sparks.”

“If I’d got it turned up higher it would have. But that would fry its circuits.”

“Wouldn’t that be a good thing?”

“Nope.” She levered the dormant tag from the mule and ran it across her fingers like a gambler with a thousand credit chip. “I might be able to find a use for it.”

He watched her manual dexterity. “Where’d you learn to do that?” he asked in surprised admiration.

“Hey, everyone’s got secrets.” She twinkled at him. “Simon does origami to keep his fingers supple. I do this.”

“Kaylee, with those kind of skills, there’s a few places I used to frequent I’d have loved to take you.”

She laughed, the sound reaching into the crannies of the cargo bay. “I’ve probably been to more of ‘em than you know.”

“That’s not something you should really admit to,” Hank pointed out, then his eyebrows raised as Kaylee carried on running her gauge across the surface of the mule. “What are you doing?”

“Checking to see if there are any more tags.”

“You don’t trust ‘em?”

“I learned from experts.” She flashed a quick smile.

Movement outside caught Hank’s attention. “Looks like Frey’s found her.”

Kaylee followed his line of sight. “She’s awful young.”

“So’re you.”

“You do say the nicest things!” Her grin widened before she went back to checking that the hwoon dahn hadn’t left any other little surprises.


Inara waited ever so slightly impatiently in the yellow drawing room. It was taking Freya some time to bring Molly to the house, and she could only imagine how scared the young girl was.

She had collected some of the boiling water from the kitchen in a small samovar, and now it sat keeping hot with the rest of her Companion bowls and pots, ready to make the tea. Somehow Inara felt the ritual might calm Molly, letting her see that things were perfectly normal before broaching the difficult subject. It might help with Freya too, who gave all the signs of having something on her mind as well.

She knew how she felt. It was hard keeping secrets, especially from those she loved, and who loved her in return. But sometimes it was necessary, for their own good. For everyone’s good.

Inara sighed. She knew she should tell Sam, but for once she wasn’t sure how he would take it. Better to wait until it was inevitable. By then she’d have a baby in her arms, and hopefully it would be a boy.

That was why she didn’t want to know the sex. If it was a boy, well, yes, she could enjoy the rest of the pregnancy, as much as were possible. But if it was a girl … Better not to know, and hope, than know and despair.


She turned to see Mal standing in the doorway. She had been so deep in her thoughts she hadn’t heard him come in. “Are they here?”

“Not yet.” He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. “I think Frey’s having trouble persuading her.”

“What about the others?”

“Well, Zoe’s out keeping watch, and River ‘n’ Jayne are making sure Cobb and his crew don’t double back.”

“Good. Good.”

He peered at her. “You okay? Only you looked miles away when I came in.”

Summoning all of her training she smiled. “I’m fine.”

“’Cause I know you ain’t let Simon examine you, and you’re looking a little pale under all that make-up you’re wearing.”

“You noticed my make-up?”

“I notice everything about you, ‘Nara.” He said it quite matter-of-factly, as if he was discussing course corrections with Hank, or how to get the best use out of a grenade with Jayne.

She felt herself blush. “I don’t think you should be saying things like that, not with Freya coming.”

“Why not? She knows how I felt about you.” He smiled, just a little. “Hell, you were the one told me to go to her that day.”

“I didn’t think you would!”

“Well, then, that makes you something of a tease, don’t it?” He chuckled. “’Nara, we danced so long around each other I think we forgot that dancing has to stop sometime. The band plays the last waltz and we have to go on home. Only I left with Frey, and you’ve got Sam. I think I got the best end of the deal, mind.”

“I would have blown your mind,” Inara said with a flash of spirit.

“Prob’ly. But I think things turned out the way they were meant to, don’t you?” He nodded down towards her belly. “And you’ve got a little one coming to prove it.”

She touched her unborn child, the need to share becoming overwhelming. “Mal, I –”

But something had caught his eye through the open French windows. “Frey’s coming with Molly.”

Inara nodded, swallowing back the confession. “Good. You’d better go and hide.”

He flashed her a grin. “Story of my life,” he said, and vanished into the hall.

She closed her eyes for a moment, marshalling all her strength. No, it was better this way. She had to carry the burden alone.


Outside in the hall Sam had just come out of the green baize door to find Simon lurking.

“How are they?” the younger doctor asked.

“Not particularly happy with Molly being interviewed without them being present, but I explained that Inara was going to be there so I think they’re …”


“That’s not the right word either, but it will have to do.”

Simon glanced towards his bag, sitting ready on the hall table. “I have some smoothers ready if that will help.”

“Thank you, but I don’t think that will be necessary.” Sam sighed. “Oh, by the way, Inara told me why she’d been anxious. She spoke to her mother this morning.”

“And that would be nerve-wracking?”

“Apparently it was the first time in years. They’ve never been close.”

“Then why did she now?”

“The baby.” Sam leaned against the wall. “I … um … told her she had to.”

“And how did her mother take it?”

“Quite well, at least according to Inara. I don’t think there’s likely to be a christening gift, but there might be some reconciliation in the future.”

Simon cracked a smile. “I wouldn’t worry about christening gifts. I remember my parents keeping the ones they got when River and I were born in a special glass-fronted cabinet. Most of them were silver, all of them were hideous, and I have no idea what some of them actually were.”

Sam nodded. “So were some of Dhira’s. I think one was a fish slice. Why give a fish slice as a christening gift?”

They laughed quietly, then Simon said, “Well, I’m glad you know now. I was beginning to think it might be something medical she was keeping secret, especially when she was refusing to let me examine her.”

“You’d noticed?”

“I’m a doctor. Of course.”

“What about when she was on board Serenity?” Sam felt his own unease begin to stir again. “Did she …”

“No. I offered, but she said she was being well-taken care of by the Guild doctors. I don’t think I treated her for anything more serious than a cold. And she certainly had annual check-ups while she was still a Companion.”

“What about when Anthony Han took her?”

Simon thought back. “More the superficial injuries. Her contraception and STD shots were up to date, so it was more a case of sealing the cuts and making sure they didn’t get infected.”

Sam winced internally at the frank way the young man was talking, but understood why. They were both doctors, both more than capable of dealing with the less salubrious side of human failings, but when it was Inara they were discussing he couldn’t help wishing Simon wasn’t quite so specific.

The drawing room door opened and Mal stepped out.

“You’d best be going back to what you were doing,” he said, glancing towards the front door. “Molly’s on her way.”

“I wasn’t doing anything,” Simon pointed out.

“Then go look after the kids. You know that daughter of yours is like to be listening in, and Ethan’s gonna be picking up on the girl’s distress, so I’d take it as a kindness if you’d try and keep ‘em occupied for the duration.”

Simon looked like he was about to argue, then just nodded. “If you need me I’ll be in the nursery.” He headed upstairs, leaving the other two men regarding each other.

“Weren’t you seeing to the Bodens?” Mal asked.

Sam took a deep breath. “I think I should be here. Or rather, with Inara, talking to Molly.”

“Don’t you trust her? ‘Nara?” Amused mischievousness twinkled in Mal’s blue eyes.

“Of course I do!”

“Seems to me like maybe you think you’re better than she is.”

“It’s not that at all.” Even Sam recognised he was blustering, and that just made it worse. “It’s … I’m more used to dealing with … I’ve got more experience than …”

Mal put his hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Dr Nazir, I think you’d best be getting back to the Bodens and seeing if you can’t figure out what it is they ain’t telling us. Before you dig a deep enough hole that you can’t climb out.”

Sam glared at him, understanding completely why Inara said Mal was the one man capable of making her so frustrated she wanted to scream. “I’ll be ready if needed.” He turned on his heel and stalked away, aware the captain was standing grinning behind him.

Mal shook his head. Sometimes folks were too curious for their own good. Excepting ship’s captains, a’course.

Hide. It was Freya’s voice in his head, and at the same moment he heard the front door handle start to turn. Ducking into the dining room he pushed the door almost closed and waited.


Molly sat on the very edge of the couch, her knees pressed together, the delicate china bowl of tea clutched tightly in both hands. The perfume was mild, but her stomach rolled with tension.

Of the two women in the room with her she at least recognised Inara Serra. Her mother’s letters had been full of the ex-Companion, and she obviously adored her mistress. Even her father’s occasional post-scripts had left her in no doubt that they felt they’d found their place at last.

Inara was now sitting in one of the armchairs, close enough to touch if needed but far enough away to respect her personal space. And Inara was beautiful, her long dark hair piled high, the shimmer of gold and mother of pearl peeking from amongst the shining tresses. Her dress of red and orange complemented her colouring, while only the comfy looking slippers on her feet were a little scuffed and worn.

The other woman, Freya, the one who’d come to the boat house to collect her, was a different kettle of fish entirely. She seemed to be made up of shades of brown, from her hair to her shirt and pants, and not beautiful, at least not in the conventional sense, although Molly could see how she might be attractive to a certain type of man. She was sitting at the small desk, studying the jewellery spread out on the wooden surface in front of her, but there was something warm, something safe about her, especially now she’d taken off her gun.

“Your tea will get cold.” Freya said, her eyes still on the gems.

Molly coloured and took a quick mouthful, swallowing painfully as she forced the liquid past the constriction in her throat. She’d told them, stammering and stumbling over the words, what Randall Lecomb had done, her cheeks flaming with betrayal, anger and disgust, mostly at herself.

“I can’t believe I was so stupid,” she said softly, blinking back tears. “I really thought he loved me. He said we would be together.”

“Men’s vows are women’s traitors,” Inara said, and Freya looked around, smiling.


“Of course. I only steal from the best.”

“As does Molly.” Freya gestured to the glitter. “I’m not surprised the man you tried to sell this to wouldn’t touch them. Even I can see there are some unique pieces amongst the merely gaudy – a Heyerdahl, a Pinchon … It’s probably how they tracked you here to Lazarus.” She stood up and joined Molly on the couch, not touching, just sitting back into the corner, her arms spread along the side and back.

“I didn’t think. I don’t know anything about … And I know I shouldn’t have taken them. But I was so mad …” Molly shook her head.

“Hold onto that feeling,” Inara advised. “You didn't give him permission to do what he did.”

“Yes, I did. I encouraged him, even though I was just a servant, and gave him the impression -”

“Molly, stop,” Freya interrupted, then sighed. “I wish I could say that in this day and age things are different, that we’d got beyond status as a bar to a happy relationship, but I can’t. All I can say is that some of us don’t take any notice of it. Besides, you thought he loved you. And like Inara said, we do anything for love.”

“I don’t think I quite put it like that, but Freya’s right.” Inara reached out and gently put her hand on Molly’s knee. “Now, can I ask you a somewhat indelicate question?”

“I … suppose so.”

“Are you pregnant?”

“No!” Molly licked her lips. “I don’t think so. He … Randall … took precautions, at least at first.”

“Do you want our doctor to check? He’s very discreet.”

“I …” She looked down at her hands. “Yes. Please.”

“And if you are?”

“I’m not. I’m sure I’m not.”

“But if you were?”

“I … don’t know.”

Inara nodded. “That’s okay. It’s okay not to know. And none of this is your fault.”

Another girl wandered in through the open window, and Molly looked up – anything to get away from the embarrassing questions. No, this was a young woman, but it was impossible to tell her age. Her feet were bare, her long dark hair floating around her face as her dress did around her knees, although the rifle in her hand seemed oddly at home.

Inara seemed to hold in a sigh, saying, “River. Are you going to join us?”

The young woman didn’t answer, just smiled vaguely and crossed to the desk. She rested her gun against it, then reached out for the largest of the gems, a blood red stone set in a gold filigree pendant. As if in slow motion she closed her fingers around it, lifting it up to the light. Then her entire body stiffened, and she screamed, the sound echoing through the room and out into the sunshine.

to be continued


Sunday, May 12, 2013 5:30 AM


Uh oh, sounds like the gem had a dark nasty secret if it has affected River that way. I am glad that Molly has opened up to Freya and Inara and has agreed to let Simon examine her to see if she is pregnant. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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