Thursday, February 9, 2006

The crew of Serenity help a parted couple reunite under trying circumstances. Oneshot, post-BDM but no spoilers for it.


Author’s Note: Welcome to what happens when I mix up a cocktail of writer’s block, Firefly and a spare afternoon off work with a cold. It struck me on my nth rerun of Trash that though Haymer’s garden had the odd Japanesque touch, the main word to describe it was “English”, and that a couple of people in that episode’s tangle deserved closure. Somehow that turned into a little story that wouldn’t clear out of my head to make way for my original fic till I wrote it down and got rid of it.

This is nowhere near my first fanfic but it’s my first foray into Firefly. Hence, I’m probably doing all sorts of things wrong, most crucially Mal’s idiolect, but as my editor’s too unimpressed to give me improvement tips, I thought I’d try you guys instead. Sorry.

Rating: PG for a couple of Chinese cusses.

Pairing: not for me to mention here, but inconsequential Mal/Inara implied.

Spoilers: major for Trash and Our Mrs Reynolds. None for the BDM, though this is set a month or so after it... well, there’s half a sentence that is kind of one, but it wouldn’t make sense or even shout “Hey! Spoiler!” if you hadn’t seen the BDM already, so I think that means it’s not really a spoiler. Is it?

Disclaimer: the characters are Joss Whedon’s and the copyright belongs to Fox, Mutant Enemy and many other people who aren’t me. This is a non-profit fanfic.

Archive: Want, Ask, Take, Have.



The sky over the ten-thousand-mile sea was dull and streaked with near-navy clouds. Salty drizzle carelessly spattered over the floating estates’ lush gardens. Left to this, leaves would wither and flowers would fade before they could be pollinated. So gardeners would trudge out after the storm had passed and repair the damage with desalinated sprinklers and careful tending. It was what was required.

Everywhere but on one estate, perhaps.

The sculpted paradises were all different, each tailored to its owner’s personality while remaining as beautiful as befitted its owner’s status. One garden was a scrupulous representation of the symmetrical boxed beauty at an ancient king’s palace. Another had an amphitheatrical construction, with the house at its centre where its inhabitants could best appreciate the shelves cut into the artificial hillside and the dainty plants that sheltered there. Another was a riot of strong scents and bright colours among trickling waterfalls, a concoction that exuded sensuality in its every square inch.

Years ago, the owner of the biggest estate of all had studied a seven-hundred-year-old methodology in the writings of Earth-that-was’s greatest garden designer. The man had believed that as a garden was constructed from nature, it should be look natural, a mere improvement upon what could have arisen by chance. Only then would it achieve maximum beauty. The other aristocrats of Bellerophon had raised their eyebrows when they’d seen the shuttles flying in with thousands more tonnes of soil than were necessary, and had hidden smiles when the workers had sculpted streams and lakes into the grounds and planted strategically chosen stately bushes by each corner, but when they’d flown in for the wedding ball and had finally walked along the gently curving paths and seen imported egrets fishing in the sunlight by the lakes’ tiny islands, they had marvelled that such simplicity could produce such glory.

Now, the streams eddied with fallen leaves that had not quite been cleared away. The lawns were mown only once a month instead of twice a week, and the rhododendrons’ wilting blossoms went unnoticed by anyone but the major-domo. Pink fragrant blooms fell into puddles and were crushed into muddy unrecognisability. The peach roses that had been trimmed so assiduously on their trellis for their first seven years were unpruned now, by order, and waved straggly tendrils up into the rain as if they were trying and failing to fly into the black.

Beech and ash trees stood in seemingly random spots on the lawn by the landing platform. The guards’ small metal shack was hidden in a cluster of yew. When the battered offworlder transport ship made its first pass, they laid down their playing cards and watched the tree top cameras’ feeds; when it turned back and came in to land, three of them carefully emerged and skirted round the perimeter to the landing point of the Firefly’s nose and main hatch. The other pressed the alarm button to call the remainder of the personal security force from the house. They’d be hidden by the archaic brick wall until they were right on top of the trespassers.

Almost as an afterthought, the guard rang the intercom. “Yes?” demanded a weary voice.

“Transport ship just landed, Mr Haymer, sir. Firefly class. Called...” and he picked up his field glasses again and looked up at the tiny painted patch of hull fifty feet above him, just before the buggy bulge. “Called Serenity, sir.”


The hatch dropped. The three guards raised their guns. Then they lowered them again.

A single woman stood in the centre of the airlock, as straight and proud as a princess. Her glossy black hair was piled up on top of her head and her toes peeked out from under the hem of her scarlet gown. It was a gown, not a dress; the guards had seen enough of both to know the difference. Gold threads hidden in the weave shimmered when the cold breeze ruffled the air, and the seams around her bejewelled bosom were piped in the same lustrous fabric. The woman’s delicate dangling earrings moved in the wind, but she did not shiver, though her arms were bare. Behind her gaped the cargo bay. A few crates were stacked up to each side but nobody else was visible.

“I’m here to see Durran Haymer,” she announced in a clear, creamy voice. The guards glanced at each other. As the backup came through the gate in the wall on the left, and noticeably slowed their pace as they evaluated the situation, the team leader slowly raised his hand to the intercom at his ear.

“Mr Haymer, sir? It’s a lady here to see you. Miss –” and he looked up at the woman on the ramp.

“Inara Serra.”

“Miss Serra,” he went on. His team-mates holstered their guns; he didn’t. Something still wasn’t right. Such an elegant, graceful, beautiful woman wouldn’t take a ride on a battered transport by choice. “Please come this way, madam,” he addressed her. He felt moved to check, “You are visiting alone?”

“Not quite.” She gestured imperiously.

A man moved out of the shadows on the left of the hatch. His eyes raked the guards as if he were checking for danger – or for weaknesses. The battered brown coat he wore over his rough, working clothes imperfectly disguised the pistol he wore at his hip – and it was an old-fashioned pistol such as poor Rim-folk carried rather than a high-tech sonic rifle meant only to disable. His light brown hair was untouched by grey strands, and he seemed to be maybe ten years older than Miss Serra, though his bleak eyes were those of a man twice the age.

“This is my escort,” the lady announced.


Haymer was aging. He saw it in the mirror every day; more facial lines and silver strands, appeared from week to week and month to month, and he found it increasingly hard to keep up the pretence of interest in the world. His doctor had prescribed mood-altering drugs; he’d thanked the woman distantly, and had ignored her. Such things attacked symptoms but not causes.

Occasionally, he would find a snippet of information on his unrestricted Cortex channel that would prick him as if with a hypodermic full of stimulants and he would feel alive, truly alive, for long enough to ‘wave an old friend or enjoy a fine meal. After a while he’d learnt not to look out of his windows at those moments, though. Whenever he looked at the gardens, he remembered why he’d created them, and the world would go dark again.

She had been just as simple and natural. Nineteen, or so she’d said, and he’d discovered later that she’d been telling the truth. He’d discovered a lot of things that he should have been intelligent enough to check beforehand, when a little girl with eyes like stars and with all the grace of a ballerina had laid her hand on his arm and moved his hand to her leg and told him things he’d waited a lifetime to hear.

He’d discovered why he’d fallen in love.

At some points she’d vanished, fallen off the Alliance’s radar, but he’d always picked up traces of her again through the Cortex. Men, and then more men. He’d been proud, at first, that she’d stayed longer with him than any of the others, but as time went on he’d grown less and less sure that that was beneficial. Less and less sure of anything, in fact, except that a quick, shallow poisoned scratch was just as deadly and life-sapping than the cobra’s deep bite.

The one thing he was certain of was that he knew no Miss Serra.

Anger ripped him from the house and propelled him down the paths with two nameless guards flanking him. He strode through the spring and autumn gardens, paying scant attention to the suffering bushes, and finally reached the understated wall with the roses curling up it as if they were praying. He should have torn them up two years ago, when she’d returned for so short a time and to such devastating effect. The petals were exactly the same colour as her hair. The scent, too, after she’d realised he’d made the connection and decided to use it against him.

The top three quarters of the Firefly was visible over the wall. Battered old thing. Looked like it had taken too many dents too recently. Part of the nose had bent inwards and been straightened out instead of replaced; Haymer could see the stresses in the metal. But as the hull was still intact, it would probably stay that way.

What type of ‘lady’ travelled on a transport? Haymer fought against fatalism, but lost the battle in a heartbeat. If the ‘lady’ wanted to poison him he barely cared. He hoped his guards would shoot this one, though. The gate to the landing platform was standing open. He walked round the corner down the colonnade of guards and stopped, staring at the pair who stood so resolutely in front of their ship.

The woman drew his eye first; she was young, less than thirty, dressed in a noblewoman’s clothes but with the indefinable air of quality that only a trained Companion possessed. Her arm rested on that of a man, though. He looked almost entirely inconsequential at first glance; tall, simply dressed, ordinary face. An automatic second glance revealed more. He loomed protectively over the woman, not as if he were her bodyguard but as if he were her equal. His straight-backed alert stance and the way he summed up the guards in every other breath were marks of the ex-soldier, and his eyes were clear and sharp, those of a man who was used to command.

On the third glance Haymer recognised him.

“You,” he muttered, taking an incautious step beyond his circle of guards. He vaguely felt them clutch their weapons. Neither the man nor ‘Miss Serra’ seemed worried by that. The thought was not reassuring. The last time he’d seen this man, he’d lost his two most precious possessions. He cast an accusing glance at the woman. “Are you here to shield this criminal?”

The lady drew in a breath. “Sorry ‘bout that,” the man interrupted. “Kinda figured a nice respectable lady would soothe everyone down real good here.” He slapped his free hand onto his thigh theatrically; “Where are my manners?”

“You haven’t any,” the dark-haired beauty said, almost without moving her lips.

He went on as if he hadn’t heard, “Inara, this is Durran Haymer.” He gestured to the lady beside him. “This is Inara Serra. Registered Companion, an’ all that.”

Haymer drew himself up and bowed to the lady. “Miss Serra. You may want to excuse us.” He gestured behind him and his guards raised their weapons. “I’ll have the police here in minutes.”

“That wouldn’t be much of an idea,” the man said, shaking his head. “I just come back to drop off something o’ yours, then we’re gone. Won’t be but a minute.”

Haymer stared. “What?” He realised he was gaping, and straightened. “Mr – no, you’re Sergeant Reynolds –”

“Captain,” he interrupted. “Sergeants get thirty men. I got a few less than that nowadays.” He frowned, and Haymer tried to stop his hands from shaking in fury. “Which bit o’ the Cortex you check me out on?”

“The police area,” he snapped.

Reynolds’ brow unfurrowed, and for a second a smile played across his mouth. It made him look twenty years younger. “I got me a record on Bellerophon too. Oh, boy.”

“Mal,” sighed the Companion. Her dress was starting to droop in the drizzle. One curl trailed out of the elaborate bun; it wilted like the rhododendrons.

“Right.” Reynolds cocked his head to one side. Haymer had to look up at him. It shouldn’t have caused him so much brutal delight to see the nascent smile vanish as if it had been sucked inside the man. “You been doing a bit more digging, right? On another topic?”

“I don’t follow.”

“Don’t imagine you do. Know you did it, though. ‘Cause so did I.” Miss Serra’s hand came up with a two-inch-square black transmitter in it; she passed it carefully to Reynolds, who flicked it on. “Simon?” The response was indistinct. “Yeah, already. Get a move on.” He dropped the thing in his pocket. “See,” he continued, “we found this item a week past on Greenleaf, and it looked a mite battered an’ all, so we thought – being nice folks – we’d bring it back where it belonged.”

Now he was getting seriously angry. It struck him that that was better, on some level, than the empty hole that had been growing inside him for the past two years. “Say what you mean before I order them to shoot!”

“That ain’t so bright a plan,” he said soothingly. “Just a second...” He turned his head at a speck of movement behind him, inside the ship. “Right out here,” he called.

Haymer stared past Reynolds at the pair who were walking slowly through the cargo bay. A man and a woman. The man was slender, with dark hair and delicate hands that currently gripped his charge’s wrists with more power than he looked to possess. The woman was tiny. Her thin, tangled, auburn locks hung limply down to the neck of her ragged dress. She was struggling away from the light, staring up at her guide with a kind of primal terror in her eyes.

Yolanda. Looking no older than when he’d last seen her – no older than when they’d married. Haymer took a couple of hasty steps towards her without meaning to. Then the sheer cruel madness of the situation dawned on him, and he rounded on Reynolds.

“What are you doing to me?” he demanded. “Do you intend to gloat? You –” and he stopped when, for the first time, Reynolds lowered his eyes. The Companion looked away too. Reynolds looked up first, and there wasn’t a trace of anything but bleak regret on his face.

“Believe me, ain’t likely I’d have come to you by choice.”

“We did find her on Greenleaf,” Inara Serra said quietly. “Mal did. She’d...” and she looked up at Reynolds. Some tiny crack in her trained composure opened, and it seemed as if her rain-damp face sought comfort in this man of stone.

“She’d lost a fight,” he confirmed. “Got a bullet score ‘cross the back of her head. Didn’t act like she knew where she was.” His eyes drifted backwards again. Haymer looked up too. Yolanda and the stranger were stuck just inside the Firefly’s cargo bay. He was trying to lead her out but she was struggling. That she was clearly losing the fight was significant. She’d disabled him easily enough, once. “And after,” Reynolds said very quietly, “we got her a mite closer. Got the doc to have a look at her. Seems she didn’t know who she was. She still don’t.”

“Cerebral lacerations are very unpredictable,” the black-haired man said absently, still towing Yolanda outside. “Anything could –”

“Don’t give me that gôu pì. She ain’t cracked once. She remembered anything, she’d’ve laughed in my face soon as we hit atmo. Can’t stop playing me, can’t stop telling me she’s playing me.”

Haymer stared at the pathetic little figure. “Why bring her here?” he demanded.

Reynolds caught his eye again. “‘Cause you’re her husband.”

“So are you,” he snapped.

“Yeah, I’m husband number somewhere-over-three-hundred –”

“Five hundred and one,” he interjected. He’d looked very hard at those reports.

“Whatever. You got there first. She ain’t never divorced you. You ain’t never divorced her. Polywhatsit don’t happen here. You’re her husband.”

Something was cracking, deep down inside him. It felt like the anchored island was shaking under his feet. The storm was rising. He could feel the static in the air. Maybe it was the Firefly’s aura. “What do you expect me to do? That – that person removed herself very promptly last time –”

“Yeah, I know. She played me hard as you that day, case it makes you feel better. Point is, I don’t care either way ‘bout her. No more do anyone else. ‘Xcept maybe you.”

Did he care?

Why should he care? She’d first wounded, then destroyed him – but as he stared into her face he realised she’d been destroyed far more completely and by something she couldn’t control. She hated being out of control. And now...

Something was stirring inside him that hadn’t moved in years. He automatically tried to fight it. It had only led to pain before. “She probably isn’t my wife anyway,” he protested. “Marriages under pseudonyms are invalid. Her name isn’t Yolanda Altmer –”

“I heard Shelly Pye.” Reynolds looked the woman up and down like she was a stock animal. The Companion, on his arm, was expressionless. “When she was fourteen.”

That sounded like an armistice. “She was Amanda Mau when she was ten,” he offered.

Reynolds stiffened. For a moment all the guards’ interest in him seemed to double, but all he did was glance up, at the nose of his ship. “But a little bird told me that looking up Cortex records on Neela Carver might be an idea. If you got the time. I don’t.”

Haymer looked at his trembling wife and mentally tried out the name. Neela. It didn’t quite fit. He was too used to her as Yolanda. But... “What name did she give you?” he asked, curiously.


Thinking of her as both Saffron and Yolanda might serve to dislodge the grip that the latter name had on his mental image of her. He shook himself. This served no purpose. “If she doesn’t regain her senses – she isn’t the woman I married. If she does...” God help me, he thought, but he didn’t say it.

“This type of patient normally regains all faculties eventually,” the young doctor gripping Yolanda’s wrists said almost nervously. “Given that the situation has lasted more than a week, with no other ongoing complications, it could be some time. You need to take her to an advanced hospital to discover the extent of the trauma. There’s a possibility that the damage is permanent.”

“So,” Haymer said slowly, “she may never remember anything again?”

“Nothing before this point. She seems to be able to learn new things.” The boy’s face twisted again. “Of course – familiar places, familiar people...” He trailed off.

“Yes,” he breathed.

“And I ain’t taking her any further,” Reynolds put in. “I got nothing to do with her. She’s got nothing to do with me.”

“We can’t help her any more anyway,” added the doctor.

Haymer stared at Yolanda – no, Neela. Now she was outside she wasn’t fighting. She was shivering in one spot as the wind whipped at her thin dress. Her eyelids were pressed together and she looked like she was crying. On impulse he went to her. When he stopped in front of her, she opened her eyes and looked at him, and he saw a world of agony in her face.

For a second he was glad of it, for she’d hurt him so badly in the past. That feeling didn’t last.

“Do you know me?” he said gently. She shook her head. The desperation was fading to a sort of fey terror that he’d previously only seen in whipped slaves and lost children. He’d spent so long dwelling on every aspect of the time she’d spent forcing him to worship her that he was sure she wasn’t lying this time. “My name is Durran Haymer.”

“Durran,” she repeated, but blankly, as if it was meaningless.

Reynolds retreated a pace, leading the Companion. The skittish doctor withdrew right into the spaceship. “Well, I’ll leave you guys right here getting to know each other again,” the man who’d called himself a captain said with what sounded like forced jollity. “Bet you’ll be having bags of fun in no time.”

“Wait.” It was too long since he’d taken a chance but he remembered how it felt. This was just like yesteryear when he’d spent months at a time tracking down precious items just so he could feel they belonged to him, that they were his and not somebody else’s. “I believe someone mentioned eight hundred platinum last time.”

“They did,” he said cautiously.

Haymer nodded to his chief bodyguard. “Fetch it.” The man’s eyes widened. He stared at Reynolds, on the lip of the battered transport’s ramp, then scurried through the gate and towards the house. “You should take your ship to be refitted,” Haymer suggested.

Reynolds’s mouth hardened. “Guess we could do with that, in places.”

The rain was falling harder now. For the first time Miss Serra shivered. Reynolds slid his coat off and draped it over her shoulders, dull leather covering smooth silk. She didn’t react at all, which was the last piece of information that any astute man would have needed. It was incredibly difficult for a Companion to take a lover. It was not altogether suprising that this one had made the effort. Yolanda just stared at the landing concrete, head hanging as if it didn’t matter that she was cold.

Maybe she didn’t remember how to stop being cold.

He slowly removed his jacket and held it out towards her. She stared at it for a moment, almost hypnotised, and slowly raised her arm and slid one sleeve on. After a moment she turned her back to him and he helped her the rest of the way into it.

“I don’t know if this is right,” he said, half to his wife in front of him and half to Reynolds behind him.

“That ain’t the sort of word to use. There’s wrong and there’s wronger. Or right and righter, or a whole lotta nothing.”

He turned and met the taller man’s unrelenting eyes. “You mean abandoning her.”

“I mean she’d be drudging or whoring for slavers right now if I hadn’t picked her up, and she’d not have a clue what was happening. Good ain’t gonna happen. You got to work out what’s best. Dong ma?”

“I think I do.”

The guard returned at a run. Haymer took the heavy bag from him and tossed it to Reynolds without opening it. The sky was darkening but from somewhere he thought he could see a shaft of sunlight. There was a question he should ask at this point but he wasn’t going to ask it. Maybe Reynolds had ruined him again, but it felt so much like he’d done him the opposite service – given him hope. “Safe journey, wherever you go.”

“I don’t know that no more’n you do.” He and Inara moved back into Serenity, and the ramp slowly levered upright. Just before it clanged shut, Reynolds called through the tiny gap, “And next time I’m back this way I’ll tell you what we done with your Lassiter.”

The ship’s thrusters fired and she slowly rose into the Bellerophon sky. The wind of her passage whipped round them and blew fallen leaves across the landing pad. Neela was looking up at the departing Firefly like her whole world was disappearing with it. Maybe it was.

Haymer took her hand. “Durran?” she whispered to him. Open, bright, trusting.

He’d all but bought her last time. This time she was a gift. He didn’t waste gifts.

“This is home,” he said gently to her, and led her slowly through the gate. He looked out over the lake and remembered when he’d shown it to her the first time. She’d been volubly enchanted. Now he saw her eyes widen. He’d let it all run to seed. It needed so much work. But maybe she saw ‘capability’ in his gardens.

She reached back quickly and touched a fading rose on the closest trellis. Its petals were damaged by rain but still she fingered it as if it were a treasure. “Compassion,” she murmured.

Compassion. A flower genus and an emotion.

She turned to him. Raindrops mingled with the tears on her face. “Who am I?” she asked in a whisper.

“You are –” He stopped. Reynolds’s little bird. “You are Neela Haymer. You are my wife. This is where we live. I love you. You love me.”

“Love,” she repeated.



Thursday, February 9, 2006 3:24 PM


I thought this was a very fine and nicely handled. Sad to see Neela in that condition but as much as it may be a gift for Haymer it is also as much of one for the formerly scheming little witch addicted to marrying folk in order to cheat them. A new start for them both and with the coin he tossed the Captain, a new lick of paint for the best lady in the 'verse - Serenity! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, February 9, 2006 6:55 PM


I thought it was really beautiful. Your imagry is fantastic, especially when you describe Inara. At the end when Mal gave is wrong and wronger speech... it was so Mal. Really, good fic. I hope to see more work from you soon.

Friday, February 10, 2006 12:13 AM


WOW this was beautiful and damn it Arcadia said it all, great discription of inara and well every thing and mals wrong and wronger bit was very fitting. all in all it was just so damn pretty. Also i like the way you wrote Durran, it sounds like it would be him. you know kinda romantic, pessamistic, and a bit insane. he would have to be to love saffron, even through all her poison, and cazzyness.

Friday, February 10, 2006 1:54 AM


Ilike this idea. Bringing Saffron back to Durran is so Mal.

Love the depictions of the characters.

Saturday, February 11, 2006 3:47 AM


Thanks, guys! The Japanese sign-off is a relic of too much Weiss and Final Fantasy fic, I think... Arcadia, I'm working on an unconnected Firefly oneshot that I hope to have up here soon, so there is more from me in the 'verse to come. FYI, I also write original SF at

Sunday, February 12, 2006 3:12 AM


Ah, one of those stories you've been waiting for without knowing it!

Wonderful outside POV. You made Haymer come alive in a way that makes me wish we could have seen more of him. Saffron (to keep it short)... amazing idea, amazing treatment. Compassion but no more than she deserves. Such a fine line.

And then the very subtle, very elegant look at Mal and Inara.

What a lovely, quiet, powerful story.

Monday, February 20, 2006 8:05 AM


i never thought i'd be able to say this at a fic involving durran and saffron, but here goes:
awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwhttp://www...i love it!!!


Wednesday, May 31, 2006 8:45 AM


And another jewel I missed when it first posted! So beautifully set, with all the gardens, and you create your own mood.

And I love seeing Mal and Inara in 3rd person. A minimal glimpse of the crew and ship, but with so much behind it.

You write super good! ;)


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