Firefly and Serenity are copyrighted materials of Mutant Enemy, Universal Pictures and Twentieth-Century Fox. This is a fan story intended for entertainment purposes only. No monetary payment has been received or will be accepted in connection with this work, and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended or should be implied.
Mal isn't surprised when the old pendant, the one he'd stopped wearing after the war, accidentally falls out of its box into his hands that night. Not after the day he's had.
It started in the morning when they were loading the cargo for their run back out to Boros. It was perishable – medical supplies needing refrigeration – so Simon had been around to make sure it was stored correctly. He'd been careful to make sure that the monitors on each of the boxes were working right, that the temperature settings were appropriate for the particular item inside.
The young doctor had even stepped toward the doors of the cargo bay when their client, Thaddeus Marcone, came by to confirm the load-in and give some last minute instructions. Simon's face had lit up when he saw the client; he was grateful for any opportunity to talk shop. He didn't often have the chance.
Jayne, supervising the loading itself, had scowled and unobtrusively moved toward the door with him. Mal, who'd just happened to be on the catwalk at the time, noticed the odd move. Alerted, he stepped behind one of the stanchions and made sure his weapon was clear.
"Well," said Marcone after a few minutes, "it's been good talking with you, Doctor…Tam, isn't it?"
"Yes," said Simon with a smile, offering his hand.
Marcone shook it. "Your reputation precedes you, you know."
Simon's smile faded slightly. "Really? And…what reputation would that be?"
Until then, Jayne had been hanging back, ostensibly doing something with the cargo bay controls. Now, though, he stepped into the light a few meters behind Simon. His hand moved casually on the butt of his gun, but Mal could see that he'd unsnapped the holster strap.
The gesture wasn't lost on Marcone. "A reputation as…a fine young physician. One of the best to have trained on Osiris."
"You're aware I'm from Osiris? I didn't know that was common knowledge."
"Not all knowledge is common, doctor," said Marcone. "But not all knowledge is secret, either."
Jayne took a single step forward, and an uneasy look flashed briefly across their client's face.
"I really must be going," he said suddenly, turning toward the ramp. "It's good to know my supplies are in such capable hands. Until we meet again, doctor."
"Yes," said Simon. "Of course."
He turned back toward Jayne after Marcone got to the bottom of the ramp. "Do you mind? I'd been enjoying that conversation."
"You'd have enjoyed it a lot less once his men got hold of you," snapped Jayne, who was re-securing his gun.
"Once his men…?"
"Said it yourself, doc. Not too many people know you're from Osiris. The ones who do? Think about what else they might know."
Simon digested that for a minute. "You think they know why I'm not on Osiris anymore."
"Knew your pretty brain was good for something other than medicine, Doc."
The doctor's chin came up. "The warrants were rescinded. I'm not a fugitive anymore."
"No," said Jayne, "not from the Alliance. But there's others might want a piece of you. Ever thought of that?"
From the expression on Simon's face, he apparently hadn't. Mal sighed inwardly. It was easy to forget, sometimes, after Miranda. But the young, Core-bred doctor was still somewhat naïve about the way of things in the outer planets. You never stopped watching your back. Never.
Yet it was Jayne who'd been there as a reminder. Mal remembered Ariel, remembered the arguments after the incident at the Maidenhead. If anyone on their crew would sell Simon and River out, it would be Jayne.
Despite that, Jayne was obviously protecting Simon against something – and Mal would have bet a considerable amount that the merc knew more than he was letting on. There really hadn't been any reason for him to be in the cargo bay in the first place, after all.
He'd left the cargo bay after that, but the scene stayed stuck in his head for the rest of the day. Even now, as he traces a finger around the edge of the small cross in his hands, Mal can't help but to shake his head again. Jayne protecting Simon. Would wonders never cease.
They'd lifted off right before lunch, and once River got them to into cruising mode they gathered in the kitchen for a meal. Inara was cooking, and her dishes were always excellent despite the lack of variety in available ingredients.
Kaylee had grease on her face, as usual, but a smile on her face. She'd launched into a description of the latest replacement part they'd scrounged for Serenity: a newer, lighter and stronger version of the belt that looped around the edge of her beating heart and thus made all of the rest of the pieces move.
"We'll be able to take her up to max speed now," she enthused as they began eating. "River, you don't have to worry about staying 20% below the red line no more. You can go on and take her all the way up, in fact probably a little over if you see the need."
"Not fuel efficient," answered River. "Probably won't."
"Oh, I know. But it's useful to have that if you need it. You know, for an emergency. If we get chased or something."
Zoë's response to that was a wary look. "Kaylee, what if we'd had to get into a chase before now?" The last time that had happened, they'd had a whole pack of Reavers behind them. Wash had been hard-pressed to keep Serenity close enough to keep them interested, yet still far enough ahead to avoid being actually caught.
The mechanic suddenly became very interested in her food. "It's just good we didn't."
Zoë wouldn't let that slide. "Kaylee."
With a sigh, she looked back up. The smile was gone. "The old belt was cracked. I knew that. But it wasn't 'til I took it off that I saw some of the cracks was almost all the way through. It could've broke anytime. It most likely would have broke if River'd taken her up to full power."
Mal couldn't help but to ask the question. "And if that had happened?"
Kaylee shook her head. "That belt drives near about everything in the engine, Cap'n, and if it snapped under pressure it could've cut straight through an awful lot of other important parts. Let's just say it's luck that didn't happen. Someone must've been watching over us."
Yes, thinks Mal now. It was almost as if someone had been watching over them.
He snorts. As if.
He's never quite managed to give up believing in God, but the moment he realized how much the deity did – or rather, didn't – look after His followers is still a raw memory he'll never forget. And Mal has no use for a God that doesn't fly his colors.
You're welcome on my boat, he'd told the dearly departed preacher once. God ain't.
He'd taken off the cross and put it in a cardboard box once they'd been evacuated off Hera. This is the first time since then that he's even looked at it. The metal's not as shiny as he remembers.
He'd noticed, when he came out of the shower room, that the infirmary lights were still at full strength despite the late hour. Simon had apparently forgotten to turn them out again. With a sigh, Mal had headed through the passenger lounge to take care of it, making a mental note to call the doctor out on his lapse at breakfast.
Mal stopped when he heard voices. They were soft, one high, one low. But they were both more musical than the doctor's tenor. Women's voices.
"And you're sure?" asked Inara. "Despite Wash being –"
Zoë's sigh was faintly audible. "It's not like this was an accident. We both wanted this. Be a shame not to go through with it now, especially since it seems the little one's so determined to hang on."
"I got hurt on that moon, too. Not bad, not like the doc, but it…it's been enough before."
"You've had a miscarriage?"
"Yeah." Zoë's voice became lower. "Yeah, I have. Twice. First time, it was the Skyplex. Simon says that the baby probably had something wrong with it the second time, but I couldn't help but notice it happened the day after Early came for River."
"But Simon says the baby's healthy this time?"
It was all Mal could do to keep quiet. Why hadn't Zoë told him? Why hadn't he guessed? He'd known her for years; he should have noticed if something was different.
For that matter, why hadn't either of them told him that they were trying to have a child? He shook his head at the notion. His boat was no doubt first on the list of places a kid didn't belong.
Inara asked one of those questions for him, at least. "When are you going to tell the others?"
"I'm not quite to halfway," answered Zoë. "I figured I'd wait 'til we were sure the baby's actually coming. You know how the Captain will react."
"I can imagine," said Inara, and Mal winced at the tone of her voice. "Why did you ask me to meet you here, then? Since I assume Simon's already aware?"
"He is, but I figured you'd know better than him about what's best for the nausea. Bein' a woman who's been around…I mean, he can give me medicine, but there might be something else better."
This time it was Inara who sighed. "Yes, I guess I have been 'around.' Let me see. Maybe one of the milder antacids, combined with some ginger tea –"
After that, Mal had decided he didn't need to hear anymore and had headed forward, toward his bunk and sleep. His mind was spinning. He should be angry with Zoë, that she hadn't trusted him, that she was being foolish enough to consider bringing a helpless child aboard Serenity, that it meant one more mouth they'd have to feed…
But he had to admit that he was fighting a loopy smile off his face, too. Clearly, she wanted a child badly enough to keep trying after two miscarriages and Wash's death. It had been a long shot, and he wondered how long she had had nothing to hang on to but hope. But Zoë had gotten her miracle, and now she was willing to fight to keep it.
If she was willing to do that, he could be willing to wait until she made the announcement. He'd also be willing to pretend, for her sake, that he didn't already know.
He'd brushed his teeth and reached up to put the toothpaste away, and that was when he'd jostled the box open and the cross had fallen into his hands. It'd been a coincidence, nothing more, that it had happened while he'd been thinking about unexpected protection and near misses and miracles that were worth fighting for.
There'd been a time when Mal didn't believe in coincidences. But not anymore.
He takes the box from the shelf and drops the chain and cross back into it, thinking to head for the recycler. He's already across the room, shucking his boots off before bed, when he realizes that he'd simply tucked it back up onto the shelf instead.
Just habit, he tells himself. That's all that was. Don't go to looking for something's not there.
But as he reaches to turn out the light, he knows that perhaps it was a sign that he's not quite ready to give up on miracles after all. Even if it means also believing in things that he knows, from long experience, won't always go his way.
Author's Note: despite what it might look like, this series isn't back. But if you follow me on Twitter (LFVoy), keep an eye out for an announcement that will likely be of interest.