Summary: A woman from Simon’s past harbors a dangerous secret.
Timeline: Mid-season 1.
Disclaimer: Firefly belongs to Joss Whedon and Co. Made-ups are mine and mine alone.
The sun shone brightly on the homestead, tucked safely away on Gardenier, one of the many border planets. A beautiful young woman looked out of her kitchen window, decisively deciding to spend the day outdoors, enjoying the beautiful day.
“Callie, Mama wants to go for a walk,” Menley Rose said to her young daughter. “Bring Muffin. We could all use the fresh air.”
“Yes ma’am,” she said politely. Securing a yellow bonnet on her young daughter’s flaxen colored hair, Menley put on a straw hat on top of her own raven-haired curls.
“Muffin!” Callie called to their chocolate Labrador Retriever. The full grown dog yipped and came bounding around a corner from the servants’ quarters, seeing that his mistresses were going on an outing and obligingly followed them on one of their favorite things to do: walk.
Menley Rose never left home without a basket, as she enjoyed using the flora and fauna around the farm in her cooking adventures. Suddenly a loud noise roared above head. She couldn’t see where it was coming from though. Menley looked around, her heart already pounding. Callie and Muffin were nowhere to be found.
“Callie!” she called fervently. “Calliope Rose!” she cried, the rock in her throat increasing in size as she frantically searched for her daughter. Instinctively, Menley picked up her skirts and followed the noise. For all she knew, Callie would be there.
Menley looked ahead of her, and saw Callie with a horrified look on her young face, as a Firefly landed between them. Muffin barked angrily, demanding to know who the intruder was.
“Stay there!” she yelled to her daughter. The doors opened and a crew came pouring from its bowels.
“Howdy there ma’am,” a polite young man about her age greeted her.
“Good day sir,” she replied. Callie and Muffin ran at full speed from behind the large ship. Callie held onto her mother’s dress, burying her head briefly, before turning her icy blue eyes towards the Firefly and its crew.
“I’m sorry for the intrusion ma’am,” the man continued. “We’re just passing through, when our ship here decided to have engine troubles. We couldn’t find a suitable enough landing area than this. Your husband wouldn’t mind if we set up camp here, would he?” he asked.
“I would hope not,” she replied stiffly. “My husband passed away in the war.”
The captain sent her a consoling half-smile. “I’m sorry to hear that ma’am,” he said.
“It’s quite all right, Captain…” she trailed off.
He smiled. “Captain Malcolm Reynolds,” he said.
“Menley Rose,” she replied.
“This is Zoe, that’s Jayne, and our mechanic Kaylee,” he introduced the others with them.
“What brings you to Gardenier?” Menley asked.
“We’re looking for our next job Mrs. Rose. That’s what my crew and me were bred to do,” Mal explained.
She nodded while Callie peered interestedly at the ship. “That’s a Firefly,” Callie whispered from behind her mother.
“Yes lovely, I know,” she replied, holding her young daughter back with her free arm.
“Yep, that there’s Serenity. Your daughter seems to know her ships pretty well there, don’t you?” Mal said to the child.
“Yes sir,” Callie replied in a quiet voice.
“My husband was a pilot. He seems to have passed on his flight abilities to her,” Menley offered. Two more people came out from the Firefly.
“Simon Tam!” Menley couldn’t resist blurting out. Simon’s face went through several facial expressions before he came up with a name.
“Rose… Menley Rose!” he replied, stepping forward to shake her hand. Serenity’s crew looked on in surprise.
“Simon, it’s good to see you again!” Menley said.
“You two know each other?” Jayne asked unnecessarily. Zoe glared at him for being dense.
“My husband’s family has been friends with the Tams for years,” Menley replied. “I would’ve thought you would be at hospital, saving lives,” she continued. “Surely you’re done with your schooling already?”
Simon glanced back at River wordlessly.
Menley looked up to see his sister. “River Tam… my, look how you’ve grown,” Menley clucked, not even seeing the strange looked that clouded Simon’s face for a moment.
River walked confidently towards Callie. The younger girl gripped her mother’s hand tightly for a moment. There was something about River that Callie liked, and that was saying a lot. River held her hand out and Callie took it. Muffin sniffed at River and decided she passed the test. The two girls skipped off towards home with Muffin barking all the way.
“I think they’re telling us something,” Kaylee said.
“I think so too. Captain, would you and your crew like to stay at my home?” Menley asked.
“We wouldn’t want to be a burden, Mrs. Rose,” Zoe replied, sharing a glance with Mal.
“Nonsense. If you’re friends of Simon, you’re friends of mine. You don’t want to stay cooped up on your ship, do you? Please, I insist,” Menley said in a stern tone. Mal set his lips into a thin line and thought to himself.
“Cap’n?” Zoe asked. A nice home cooked meal in a real home would be nice, and they could look for a job while they were on Gardenier.
“I think we’ll take you up on that offer,” he replied.
Callie, River and Muffin led the way to the large, rambling mansion fit for a king. Kaylee sucked in her breath and Menley couldn’t resist smiling.
“Breathtaking, isn’t it?” she whispered to the girl.
“Yes ma’am,” she replied politely.
“I felt the same way when I first saw it,” Menley said conspiratorially with a grin. She turned to the ambling crew behind her, holding her arm up in a sweeping motion. “Welcome to Remember House.” She walked forward and continued to speak. “This house has been in the Rose family for many generations. My husband’s great-grandfather William Kelly Rose said so that no one would ever forget who owned this house, he named it ‘Remember,'” Menley explained.
“You have a beautiful house, Mrs. Rose,” Zoe offered, shaking her head in disbelief.
“Thank you Zoe,” Menley replied, her shoes clacking loudly as they hit the wooden stairs as she ascended them.
“Maybe one day we’ll have a house like this,” Wash whispered, which caused his wife to blush and push him away playfully.
“Miss Menley,” Autumn Speirs called from inside the house. “Miss Menley!” Her face registered surprise when she saw that her mistress had brought guests. “Miss Callie ran in here with a girl!”
“Yes Autumn, I know. It’s quite all right. The girl came with my guests,” Menley explained. She turned to them.
“You’ll have to excuse Autumn. We don’t get many guests or any playmates for Callie around these parts.” Menley led the way into the extravagantly outfitted house. Expensive paintings and fancy furniture greeted the intrepid and dusty travelers. Kaylee was having a hell of a time trying not to drool.
“Prepare the east wing. Our visitors will be staying there,” Menley ordered.
“Yes ma’am,” Autumn said. She rushed away towards the east part of the house.
“You’re welcome to do anything you like, so long as you’re here. Lunch will be ready soon. The only thing I ask is that you stay clear of the west wing. It’s off limits to everyone,” Menley explained.
“Do you need any help with preparing the meal?” Kaylee asked.
“Not at all, but I’d love to have some company in the kitchen,” Menley replied. “Shepherd, would you like to join us?”
“Yes ma’am, I would. You know, I noticed that big crucifix on the wall there,” he began, trailing her towards the kitchen.
With a grin, Kaylee followed Menley towards the kitchen. Zoe grabbed Wash’s shirt and also followed Menley. Mal and Jayne decided to explore the homestead. They headed outside.
Simon turned on his heel and went outside. “River!” he called. He looked all over the house, but found no one.
“River!” he called, going outside. He heard girlish giggling. He turned left and followed the sound of laughter, like sleigh bells. “River, are you out here?” Simon pleaded.
He came upon the two young girls and watched with a subdued smile on his face. River was pushing Callie on a wooden swing attached to a tree behind the house. The look of utter bliss on River”s face calmed his heart. Callie was having a ball; she had taken off the bonnet her mother had put on her head and was letting the wind do a number on her blonde sausage curls.
“Whee!” Callie cried with a huge smile on her face. Inara inaudibly ambled up to the enraptured Simon.
“She”s getting better, isn’t she?” Inara said quietly from behind him. Simon nearly jumped out of his skin.
“I”m sorry,” Inara apologized, “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
He shook his head. “Oh my…” Simon said, touching his heart to make sure it was still there. He looked at his sister again, beaming. “She does look better.”
Inara patted his arm. “She will get better, Simon. I believe that. So where are we again?” she looked around.
“On Gardenier. It turns out I know the family,” Simon clarified.
“Really? That’s amazing. Do they know about…” Inara gestured towards the smiling River.
“No, not yet. And it’s just the wife. The husband died in the war and left her with Callie,” he explained, waved towards the young blonde on the swing. “But he also left her with this huge house.”
Inara nodded. “It’s beautiful. We’re going to be here for two weeks as usual?”
Simon shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. I think this is the first time the captain hasn’t made it clear how long we will be here.”
Jayne appeared from inside the house and rang a triangle that was set up on the porch. “All’s eatin’ that is eatin’!” he shouted gruffly.
“This looks really good, Mrs. Rose,” Kaylee said, speaking for everyone who had gathered.
Menley and her house staff had set up the large table in the common room with all the fixings of an excellent home cooked meal. If you can imagine it, it was there. Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie, all sorts of fresh vegetables.
“Yes, well it’s not often that I can prepare such a good meal for guests such as yourselves!” Menley replied. She waved down Autumn. “Go check on Callie, would you?” she asked.
Autumn nodded, and just as she was about to leave, a flustered Callie appeared, along with Simon, River, Jayne, and Inara.
If Menley was surprised by the extra guests, she didn’t show it. “Welcome, please sit. There are enough places for everybody!” Inara shared a smile with the lady of the house before taking a seat beside Kaylee.
Callie sat beside her mother. “Callie, would you please lead us in grace?” Menley asked her daughter.
Jayne had been eyeing the food hungrily for several moments, and was just about to dig in when he grumbled under his breath. Mal kicked him under the table.
Book nodded approvingly. “It’s good to see that some people still say grace before meals,” he said with a smile, as he folded his hands and listened to Callie as she recited her prayer.
Later that night, Mal, Inara, Zoe, Wash, Jayne, Kaylee, Simon, River, Callie, Menley and Book had gathered in Remember House’s parlor room. The fire crackled in the fireplace, making the room warm and inviting, as they enjoyed each other’s company before the night was through. Autumn brought coffee in, and poured cups for everyone.
Menley was knitting a blanket, and Callie and River were playing chess. Inara was supervising the younger girl, teaching her to play the game and trying to get River to stop winning. Book was reading the Good Book and smiling, as he listened in on the conversation. Simon and Menley were having a reminiscing session as Mal, Wash, Zoe, Kaylee, and Jayne (who was cleaning Vera) listened in.
“I don’t remember that!” Menley said shaking her head, crossing over her stitch.
“Let me refresh your memory,” Simon said in a teasing tone. He paused for a moment. “McKinley, Menley’s husband, was my oldest friend. We did everything together, until the day the Seto family moved into town.”
“There I was, this gangly little creature with knobby knees and pigtails. And it was love at first sight. Simon was incredibly jealous, only because McKinley discovered girls before he did,” Menley said with a playful grin. “Another one, Autumn,” she said, signaling to her maid for another round of coffee.
“But who could hate you, Menley?” Kaylee asked, glaring at Simon.
“Me. With the fire of a thousand suns,” Simon explained. As everyone laughed at his joke, a girl ran in and pulled Autumn away. Autumn haphazardly placed the coffee pot on the tray and followed her outside. No one saw when they left.
“So one day, I found a scorpion in my backyard. I got this bright idea to scare Menley with it, because she had an unnatural aversion to insects.”
“I outgrew it!” Menley said defensively, “… eventually.”
“I invited her to my house, and then I dropped it on the chair beside her. She started screaming bloody murder.”
“So McKinley – who lived next door – decides to play the hero, vaults over the fence, picks up a huge rock nearby, and kills it for me,” Menley said, stars in her eyes. “I think that’s when I officially knew it was love.”
“So instead of bringing them apart, I like to think I brought them together,” Simon finished up.
Before another word could be spoken, a young girl burst into the room, clutching a torn dress to her chest. Without seeing the other people in the room, she fell beside Menley”s chair.
“Brandy, what’s wrong?” she asked. Menley ignored the question marks that had popped up around the room.
“I’m so sorry, Miss Menley,” Brandy sobbed. “It’s Mr. Fox and his boys. They came back! I know you told us that they weren’t allowed to set foot in Remember House ever again, but the youngest boy…” Brandy trailed off, as she wiped her tears away furiously.
“Bobby?” Menley prompted her.
“Yes! He was just so nice to me today when the girls and me were in town. And I told him he could come over, but only him, not his brothers, and then his brothers came out of nowhere and shook us up pretty bad. Nobody wanted to tell you, ma’am. They always paid good. I’m sorry! I’m so sorry, Miss Menley,” Brandy cried pathetically.
“Don’t you worry about that now, Brandy,” Menley said, taking her knitting and tucking it away safely.
Autumn appeared again, flustered. “I’m so sorry, Miss Menley. I only heard about this now,” she explained.
“I’ll worry about that later. Autumn, get me Lance. Callie, go to your room,” Menley instructed her daughter.
Callie’s eyes had bugged out of her head, but she did as she was told. “River, come with me please?” Callie asked her friend.
“Yes,” River said simply, nodding her head. Callie nestled her hand into River’s and the girls took off for the younger girl’s room.
“I’ll go with them,” Inara said, rushing away to keep them company.
“Me too,” Kaylee said, running from the room.
“What’s wrong?” Mal asked, after the girls had left.
“Nothing that a little muscle couldn’t fix,” Menley replied simply.
“Who’s Lance?” Jayne inquired.
Autumn appeared with a large, antique-looking shotgun with some modern additions. “Ready and loaded, Miss Menley.”
Menley nodded and held up the shotgun. “I”m afraid it seems I have a prior engagement. If you’ll excuse me.”
Brandy and Autumn silently followed their mistress out of the room. For half a second, the crew of Serenity stayed there unreservedly taken aback. Then they all piled out of the room to see what the fuss was about.
“Where are they now, Brandy?” Menley asked the young girl.
“West wing” was all Brandy could squeak out.
Charging up the stairs, Menley walked briskly to the rooms in the west wing. Mal, Jayne, and Zoe followed, leaving the rest of their crewmates downstairs. Appropriately kicking open a locked door, she found a young girl cowering in a corner.
“Ava!” Menley called. She looked up and saw her mistress with the gun.
“Oh Miss Menley, I’m so sorry!” Alexandria cried. She ran to Menley”s side.
“Who’s left up here?” Menley asked brusquely.
“Bobby, Scott, and Craig. Lewis and Clay are outside, I think,” Alexandria replied.
“Mrs. Rose, what’s going on here?” Mal demanded.
“I run a companion home. That’s why I didn’t want you in the west wing. I try not to combine business with pleasure, and it has been so long since Callie and I have had proper visitors,” Menley explained, brusquely walking to the next room.
She grunted as she lifted her skirts to kick open another door. Mal, Jayne, and Zoe all pulled out their weapons. Autumn was tending to Brandy and Alexandria nearby. Inside, they found a young brunet male straddling a redheaded woman who was fighting him.
“Don’t fight it baby. You know you want it,” his whiskey smelling breath burned into her ears.
“Craig Fox!” Menley cried hotly. She didn’t mind that Mal and his crew was backing her up.
“Hey there, Mrs. Rose. Whoa, hey, you got muscle,” he said drunkenly. “Nice guns.”
“I think you’d better get off that nice lady there,” Mal began.
“And what?” he asked, as he stumbled blindly towards them.
Jayne pointed his gun at the man”s chest. “Or something not so nice will happen to you.”
Menley nodded. “Get the hell out of my house!” she cried.
“Will do,” he replied, holding his hands up before stumbling to gather up his things.
“Zoe, would you escort Craig outside, please?” Menley asked.
Zoe looked at Mal questioningly. He nodded approvingly. “Yes ma’am,” Zoe replied, walking up to Craig.
“Hey, you’re a pretty little thing,” Craig burped, as Zoe used the butt of her gun to push him outside.
“Move along,” Zoe replied.
The next two rooms revealed nothing. They were empty, but it was obvious there had been a struggle. In the last room in the hall, they could hear a lot of muffled voices. Menley tested the doorknob loudly. It was locked, and the voices in the room became louder. Jayne heaved his large frame against the locked door and revealed the last two Fox brothers, Bobby and Scott, holding three of the girls hostage. The loud crash stopped Scott from lunging at the three women.
“Oh-ho, hello Mrs. Rose,” Scott said.
“How nice of you and your new guns to join us!” Bobby peered at them before sucking back another shot of whiskey.
“Yeah, nice,” Scott agreed.
“Didn’t I tell Lewis and the rest of your brothers that you weren’t welcome ’round here no more?” Menley asked.
“Yeah, but that pretty little bit in the corner there… Maggie… I couldn’t get her off my mind. I had to quench my rather impure thoughts with a little playtime,” Scott replied, throwing a drunken glance to the trembling black haired girl nearby.
“You run a good house, Mrs. Rose,” Scott said, walking up to her. She held Lance’s barrel against his chest. “Hey now, no need to get violent!” Scott said, burping rudely in her face. She remained unruffled and glared at him with contempt.
Mal and Jayne eyed the two men. “Shall we take them outside too?” Mal asked.
“Yes, please,” Menley said, bringing Lance down to her side.
“Oh no, I don’t need you to take me downstairs!” Scott argued.
“I think we do, buddy,” Jayne replied, as he was reaching for his arms. It looked as though Scott was going to oblige, before he lurched away. In a drunken stupor, he fell out of a nearby window! The women in the room cried out as they heard Scott’s fall onto a roof and go tumbling towards the ground. Mal and Menley rushed to inspect Scott. He was in the dirt below the roof, groaning.
“He’ll be fine,” Menley replied. Mal took Bobby roughly by the upper arms to guide him downstairs. They passed by Brandy, Autumn, and Alexandria in the hall, where he shared a sad glance with the terrified Brandy. The other Fox men had assembled with their horses in front of the house. Scott and Bobby rushed to join them.
“Damn you Lewis Fox!” Menley cried from the porch. Mal, Jayne and Zoe stood on either side of her. “I told you to stay away!”
Lewis looked at her contemptuously. “Damn you woman! McKinley Rose would never deny me!” he said venomously.
He glanced at the people surrounding her. “Who is that?” he asked. “You hire mercenaries now woman? No mercenary in the universe can keep a Fox away from his prey!” he cackled.
“You just met ’em,” Mal replied, cocking the pistols in his hands. Menley aimed Lance at the ground in front of his horse and fired a round. The horse whinnied in surprised and Lewis had to struggle to settle it down.
“This ain’t the last you’ve heard of the Foxes!” he cried.
“Let’s ride!” Craig called. The five Fox brothers took off into the night enveloped in seconds by the fog that was rolling in.
“Who was that?” Mal asked, after they had left their sight.
Menley’s shoulders sank. “A business deal gone horribly wrong. It’s a long story.”
Jayne settled himself on a rocking chair nearby. “We’ve got all night,” he said.
Menley paused to catch her breath and regain her composure. “The Foxes… they’re acquaintances of my husband’s family. There’s something in our water, our land, I don’t know. We grow the best cotton you will ever see. My husband was afraid of something happening to him in the war and made a deal with them before he left. He didn’t want us to suddenly lose the life we had become accustomed to. The Foxes would sell the cotton we grow and give us the majority of the profits. Unfortunately, I had a feeling they were skimming me. So I asked around and they were overselling the cotton and keeping that extra money, giving us only the price we had agreed on.
“I approached them, they denied it, and there has been bad blood between us ever since. It got continuously worse when the previous owner of the town’s companion house retired, and I agreed to house the companions in the west wing. There hasn’t been a Fox that can turn down a companion,” Menley explained.
Zoe nodded with interest. “One night, Scott got a little tipsy and came over, demanded to enjoy the company of one of my girls. The girls were, are, under strict instructions not to acknowledge the presence of a Fox. He got a little angry, caused quite a scene, and I ran him out all by lonesome. Generally, they don’t come ’round. There are plenty of other licensed, independent companions in town and around Gardnierville, and Sevierville is nearby.”
Mal nodded thoughtfully, putting two and two together. “Until Brandy,” he stated.
Menley nodded. “Yes. Brandy and Bobby Fox are about the same age. Kind of star crossed lovers, as it would seem. He wants her to be bound to him, but she’s a loyal girl. She wouldn’t betray me if her life depended on it. None of my girls would,” Menley said.
“I have an idea,” Simon piped up from inside the house. He opened the screen door and joined the group on the porch. “Why doesn’t Mrs. Rose employ us?”
Menley shook her head. “No, that won’t be necessary. I can handle myself against those boys.”
Mal shook his head. “For as long as we’re here Mrs. Rose, I really think you should.”
Zoe nodded compliantly. “They’ll get what’s coming to them.”
“I wouldn’t mind roughing up a few of those boys myself,” Jayne piped up.
Mal saw that Menley was mentally debating on hiring them. Finally she smiled. “I guess I could use some extra security against the Foxes,” she said nodding.
“We can talk about payment later,” Mal added.
“Yes, of course. I couldn’t hire you and not reimburse you for your services. Thank you, Captain. I appreciate this very much,” Menley said.
Autumn appeared at the door. “Miss Menley, Miss Callie’s calling for you.”
Menley stood up and swung Lance absently in her right hand. “It appears I have a previous engagement. If you’ll excuse me.” Menley went inside and followed Autumn towards Callie”s room.
“‘Talk about payment later?’ Who says that!” Jayne blurted out.
“Calm down, Jayne. Mrs. Rose has enough on her mind,” Zoe replied, standing up and stretching. Mal saw the look on Zoe’s face and followed suit before Jayne realized what was happening.
“Hey! I ain’t stayin’ out here by my ruttin’ self!” he exclaimed.
“Looks like you are,” Mal said, patting his man’s shoulder.
“Good night Jayne.”