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”They answer when you hailed them?” Mal asked Zoe.

“No,” she stod behind Wash. Her hand resting on her husband's shoulder.

“Maybe it’s just me,” Wash turned to look at the others “But am I the only one thinking about Reavers here? Big man-eating Reavers,” Wash looked straight at Jayne.

“You wanting a beating little man!”

“Not unless you want to get killed by my beautiful warrior wife,” Wash retorted back. Jayne took a step forward and growled, he was interrupted by Simon entering the bridge.

Mal smiled and said “Well, we’re all here now so let me just hear all your arguments as to why we shouldn’t…”

“Or should,” Kaylee interrupted

“...board that ship,” Mal finished.

Everybody started talking, not really listening to anyone but themselves. Jayne stabbed Wash in the chest with a thick index finger until Zoe grabbed it and Jayne stepped back with a yelp, glaring at a sniggering Wash. Kaylee talked about spare parts. Book about sanctity of the grave. Simon just leant against Mal’s chest enjoying the warmth spreading through his spine.

“Think they’re done?” Mal whispered in Simon’s ear.

“Are they ever?” Simon teased. Mal gently pushed him away and moved to the centre of the bridge.

“Listen up! Kaylee is right. We do need spare parts and maybe there’s some cargo to be had. As to sanctity of graves. Well…we’re talking ’bout Reavers here. Normal standards don’t apply.”

“I ain’t going,” Jayne said.

“Yes you are.”

“No I ain’t.”

“Jayne you’re going.”



“So where do we start looking,“ Jayne asked, eyes darting back and forth. He was so loaded with guns, knives and grenades that he walked funny.

They all started moving cautiously through the ship. The silence was eerie. The life support system still running but the electrical system was damaged causing the lights to flash on and off. Before entering any of the rooms, they paused outside while Zoe and Mal made sure it was safe to proceed.

Simon could feel Jayne’s hot breath ghosting over his neck. At one point River’s hand held his and she whispered “Showing grandmother respect.”

Simon looked at her and silently prayed that she wouldn’t pick this moment to fall apart.

“Grandmother?” Simon looked at her.

“Gentle eyes. Fairytales,” she nodded as if this explained everything.

“Right,” Simon looked confused.

They still hadn’t found any bodies and it worried Mal. He was the first to enter the ship's galley and the way his body tensed, as he stopped in the doorway, told Simon things were bad. He moved to stand next to him and put his hand on the small of Mal’s back in a reassuring gesture.

“Shit,” Mal sighed. “Children,” his voice strained and barely a whisper.

Simon looked back at River and shook his head “Stay there, mei mei!”

She could sense the pain and for once she did as she was told. Mal, Simon and Jayne walked into the dimly lit galley. Zoe stayed in the hallway with River.

Out there the stench of blood wasn’t so bad.


“No more pitter patter,” River’s eyes were big and sad.

Zoe moved uncomfortably. She and Wash had been talking about having kids. Now she was almost glad they didn’t have any.


Simon felt like going back to Serenity, drag Mal with him, go to bed and just stay there hiding under the covers sharing body heat and kisses.

Anything to erase the sight of small bodies ripped apart, a woman draped over a little girl, blond hair stained brown with dried blood, a teddy bear in a pool of blood, a teenage boy propped against the wall, his stomach one big torn wound, a tiny green shoe hanging by its lace from a lamp.

Simon reached out taking Mal’s hand.

Then they all heard it. A small noise coming from the far corner of the galley. Jayne tensed and held Vera closer to his chest. Mal pointed to Jayne telling him with a wave of his hand to cover them, then he looked at Simon’s medbag. Simon nodded, he was ready in case someone needed doctoring.

Mal slowly walked to the corner, gun aimed and ready for use. Jayne right behind him looking nervous and sweating.


The noise came from a large crate. Jayne watched it, as if it might open to reveal an army of miniature Reavers. Simon stopped next to Mal.

The captain nodded and indicated the crate. Simon bend down, turned the lock and stepped back before he had a chance to see the contents.

“Aww hell,” Jayne whispered and took a clumsy step back.

“You better deal with this, bao bei,” Mal calling Simon that anywhere but in private told Simon just how shocked he was.

A little girl, not much more than a toddler, smeared in blood, dark brown curls falling over her green fearful eyes, looked up at them.

“Someone locked her in there,” Jayne mumbled. Mal looked around. A few feet away was the mangled body of a man. Maybe he'd hidden her. Saved at least one of his children


In the end they covered the bodies with blankets. Three men, two women and four children.

They gather what they could use; spare parts and cargo. Then they blew the ship up.

For days the crew went about their business almost in silence.


“Ain’t got no way of finding her kin,” Mal watched Simon stroke the girl’s hair, her big eyes burning right through him.

“What will we do then?” Simon asked.


“She needs a name,” Jayne said watching Simon and River play tag with the little girl.

“Yeah. She wont say it though,” Mal scratched his ear.

“Well hell. Can’t call her lill’on forever.”

Mal nodded. Simon had mentioned it, saying that maybe they should just name her.

“Could call her Vera,” Jayne offered.

“No!” Mal looked sternly at the merc.

“Well, wha’ ‘bout Binky? Tha’s a right girly name if ya ask me.”

“Yeah? Guess we wont be asking you then,” Mal said walking over to join the game.

“Suit ya’r self,” Jayne grumbled.


“What about Rosie?” Kaylee asked.

“No,” Mal said “She don’t rightly look like a Rosie.”

“Mal?” Simon looked at him, remembering what River said when they found the little girl, “Your grandmother…What was her name?”

“Beth” Mal remembered her gentle eyes and fairytales.

“She looks like a Beth,” Simon said, watching the little girl eat her protein mush.

“Beth?” Mal knelt down meeting her green eyes “That’s what you’re wanting to be called?” he asked.

She looked at Mal, scrunched up her face and sneezed, spreading mush all over Mal’s face and shirt.

“Beth it is then,” Jayne boomed with laughter.


Simon sat on the floor looking at Beth sleeping in their bed. She seemed so small and fragile as she lay there sucking on her thumb and snoring lightly. Mal sat at his desk, supposedly doing some paperwork. In reality he watched Simon.

“You know,” Simon said as he yawned and shifted to a more comfortable position, “I sometimes wonder what our children would look like…if…well…if it was possible,” his voice trailed off.

Mal got up and walked over to his lover. They once talked about the things they couldn’t have and Mal had to admit that he had always wanted children. He sat down next to Simon.

“They’d be intelligent most like,” he said, a hand rubbing Simon’s back gently.

“Stubborn,” Simon smiled.

“Well that goes without saying,” Mal chuckled.

“Ornery!” Simon teased and poked Mal in the ribs.

“Intelligent, stubborn and ornery. Maybe it ain’t so bad we can’t have any,” Mal laughed quietly and Simon nodded.

“Would be quite a handful,” Mal kissed Simon’s neck and soon moved for his mouth.

“Mal don’t! (kiss) Not (kiss) in (kiss) front (kiss) of (kiss) mmmmm.”

“She’s sleeping.”

“She could wake up,” it wasn’t really a protest, not anymore.

Mal made Simon lay down on the floor and they started kissing again. Tentatively at first, but then Simon made that noise, something between a sigh and a moan. It always made Mal lose control, made him want to hear it again and again.

The bed creaked. Beth was awake hugging her teddy bear. They immediately pulled apart and Simon moved over to sit with her. He stroked her hair until she fell asleep again.

Beth didn't like to be touched and would only allow Simon and Mal to cuddle her. They talked about it, about how maybe she would never be like other kids, about the fact that she was, very much like River, broken.


Mal walked into the galley. Jayne was sitting at the table tending to Vera. Big hands polishing and cleaning.

“Keeping your favourite lady happy?” Mal asked while filling a mug with coffee.

“Yeah,” Jayne removed a speck of imaginary dust and continued polishing the gun.

Mal sat down opposite the big merc. He felt exhausted. They didn’t get a lot of sleep at night. And regrettably it was not because of fantastic mind-blowing sex.

Nope. Beth would wake up and, despite the fact that they had bought a cot and put it in their room, she always ended up nestled between them. How such a small body could take up so much space was a riddle. Mal always ended up hanging halfway out of the bunk and Simon slept with his back plastered to the wall.

“So?” Jayne said.

“So?” Mal asked looking at the big man.

“Got ya’r self a family!” Jayne pointed to the sofa.

Mal turned in his seat. He hadn’t noticed but Simon was sleeping on the sofa with Beth resting on his chest. The little girl’s small chubby fingers clenching the fabric of Simon’s white shirt and Simon’s arm was tucked protectively around her small frame.

“Yeah,” Mal nodded “seems so.”

“Worth it?” Jayne asked.

“What do you mean?” Mal looked a little puzzled.

“Well…can’t say the doc’s easy to live with even if he's easy to look at…and the girl is kinda…”Jayne was looking for the right word, “broken.”

Mal thought about that for a moment.

“Yep! Worth every damn thing in the Verse.”

“Thought so,” Jayne nodded.

“Yeah?” Mal said wondering when the real Jayne would return.

“Yeah,” the merc said quietly.


“She’s needing new clothes, what with her growing so fast,” Mal said lifting Beth up, wiping sticky caramel ice-cream from her cheeks. Inara nodded and smiled.

“Of cause,” Inara said, looking at the clothes for sale at the market.

The wind was blowing dust everywhere and Beth had been dragging them around for an hour or so excited by all the colours and strange people.

“I would have expected Simon to take care of such things.”

Mal looked puzzled “Why?” he asked.

“Well, he seems to be the primary caretaker and…” she looked as if she couldn’t find the right words.

“Inara,” Mal interrupted her “Simon and me...we’re equals. If I wanted a humble wife who'd serve my every whim I wouldn’t have chosen him. Most of the time he’s stubborn and obstinate as hell. But that’s what I like. He keeps me on my toes and gives as good as he gets.” Inara blushed.

Didn’t know she could do that Mal thought.

“So dresses?” she asked pointing at some frilly dresses.

“No! Pants. Maybe overalls and shoes,” Mal said, soothingly rubbing Beth’s back.


“No no no no,” Beth giggled and shrieked.

“Tickle Monster gonna get you,” Mal laughed tickling her relentlessly.

Beth was almost breathless, wriggling on the floor with Mal kneeling next to her.

Simon stood in the doorway smiling. It wasn’t often he saw Mal like this and he enjoyed hearing Beth laugh. That didn’t happen often enough either.

Beth’s face was red and she held a small hand out to Simon, begging to be saved. Before Mal could react he was tumbled onto his back, Simon straddling him, pinning his arms down. Simon leaned forward and kissed him.

“Kissing Monster’s gonna get you,” Simon whispered and kissed Mal again and again. They didn’t even notice when Beth left to play hide and seek with Jayne.


They were all seated at the table, happily talking about what they had used their cut for. For once they didn’t have to eat protein mush. All the food was fresh.

Beth, used to protein in all shapes and colours, was fascinated by a strawberry Kaylee had given her. Jayne whispered something in her ear and she grinned up at him.

River said “Sweet as a strawberry, twice as pretty.”

“Weren’t no’fin,” Jayne muttered.

They all ate more than their fill and after dinner they stayed to talk and tell stories. Jayne was in the middle of one of his crude ones, when a small voice said “Daddy?”

The conversation and laughter stopped.

When Beth first came to Serenity she often asked about her mother. Simon had every time explained that her mother couldn’t come for her and after a few months the questions had stopped.

Never before had the girl asked about her daddy. River smiled and the little girl looked straight at Simon.

“Daddy Simon ’m sleepy,” she said rubbing her eyes with small chubby fists.

Simon just sat there, mouth open and looking completely surprised. Mal reached out and touched his hand.

“S-sleepy?” Simon managed to ask almost in a whisper.

“Well then,” Mal said wondering why it was suddenly so hard to speak “You just go with Daddy Simon and take a nap.”

They all quietly watched as Simon got up and walked over to Beth. Her small hand disappearing in Simon’s much larger and she continued to rub her eyes. They started walking to the door but she pulled free from Simon’s hand and ran to Mal.

She tugged at his arm and then kissed him on the cheek.

“Night Daddy,” she said as she ran back to Simon.

Mal just sat there and watched the little girl - his little girl - run back to Simon who picked her up and gave her a hug, his eyes never leaving Mal’s.

Slowly the conversation at the table resumed but Mal just sat there surrounded by his family and smiled like an idiot.