Another Girl Another Planet Ch 11
Monday, May 15, 2006

Angst, snark and other good stuff


11.Ship of Fools

Mal steps back up onto the bridge, which seems oddly full of crew. River swings the screen to show him their route. It don’t look like the one he’s expecting.

“Fly this, just a quick stop on the way. Won’t use more fuel, calculated the burn.”

“Now, look.” Mal takes a stand. “We are not takin’ a detour cross the quadrant just so as Jayne can get himself laid again.”

All three women give him disgusted looks.

“You are a heartless mean old man.” Kaylee.

“He’s a mess, sir.” Zoe. “His mind ain’t on the job and that’s like to get us killed.”

“Projecting intimacy issues.” River sighs, spins the co-pilot’s chair. Shakes her head. “Dog in the manger.”

Mal blinks.

“I ain’t the bad guy here.” he says irritably. “I’m the gorram Captain.” Turns his head, as Jayne stumbles up the step. "This more of your gorram foolin'?"

Jayne don’t like everyone looking at him, but he wants to say this.

“Once in his life, mebbe, a man’s gonna meet a woman turns his ‘verse around. May not be what he was expectin’, but he lets her slip through his fingers, then he ain’t got no-one to blame but his own dumb self. I need to go back an’ see her.”

Both Mal and Simon flinch inwardly. Mal attacks.

“So, you want to go back, and then what? I think she’d take it amiss, you went robbin’ her friends and neighbours.”

“I ain’t...I can do more’n that, Mal. I can...” swallows hard, “get me a proper job, I need to. Shipyards can always use a man can weld.”

Mal sniggers.

“You? Turn respectable? No power in the ‘verse is ever gonna make you respectable.”

Simon sniggers, too.

“I can just see him settling down. Little cottage, white picket fence.” Thumbs make a frame. “Little shingle - ‘Dunkillin’.”

Makes everyone ‘cept Jayne smile. Mal, buoyed up by the humour, carries on.

“So, you don’t think she was just slummin’?”

Jayne’s eyes narrow.

“She knows what I am, an’ she didn’t turn away. I ain’t the smartest, ain’t the handsomest, and I ain’t got no kinda class, but me an’ Larji had something.”

“You had a few days screwing around. How’s that make her different from any of your other...”

All the time on Serenity, and Jayne’s never hit him before, even when they’ve been up in each other’s faces. Both of ‘em are real surprised. Jayne uncurls his fists.

“I ain’t got nothin’ against working girls, an’ you know it, Cap’n, but I done told you before, you mind your mouth ‘bout Larji.”

He’s stomped away before Mal can scramble to his feet.

“That was downright mean.” Kaylee slaps Simon’s hand away.

Mal scoffs, covers up the fact he feels small.

“We know he’s got himself lashed - but what did she think? I mean, she’s respectable, educated, Central Planets, an’ he’s...not. Reckon he was a bit of fun for her, is all.”

“’Cos no-one from the Core ever wanted to be around us folk, you mean? Sometimes, Captain, I think them tight pants of your’n done cut off the air to your brain.”

Mal’s mind finally catches up with his mouth. Kaylee has already run from the room.

Simon gives Mal a glare, goes after her.

“You do realize Jayne’s likely to jump ship?” Zoe says quietly.

“Thought had crossed my mind.” Mal wipes his lip, stares at his hand. “Can’t say as I’m over troubled. He hit me in the mouth, Zoe.”

“You implied that Ilargia was a whore, Captain. You think he wouldn’t?”

“Ain’t never seen him so...messed in the head. Maybe it’s ‘cos he didn’t have to pay.”

“Another crack like that, an’ I might hit you in the mouth. Sir. She was a real nice woman.”

“I know it. An’ I’m sorry.”

“You might tell him that.” She turns to go. Behind her, Mal throws a cheery thought in.

“Just a blessing he can’t fly this ship himself, ain’t it?”

“Don’t even joke.”


River says quietly,

“Shouldn‘t have laughed at him.”

Her big dark eyes reproach him. Mal shrugs it off with a smile.

“Jayne in love? Can’t nobody take that seriously.”

River glares at him, and Mal feels his smile freeze.

“You want everybody to stay cold in their boxes. Then you never have to leave the dead. Coward.”

Ain’t nobody uses that word to him. It’s the last straw.

“You and your brother are gettin’ mighty free with your opinions, little girl...”

There is a short, and not terribly coherent row, involving the words ‘selfish’, ‘childish’, ‘heartless’ and ‘crazy’, that ends with River fleeing down the corridor in tears, and Mal shouting after her,

“... then I can go get a grown-up to fly my gorram boat.”

Stops. ‘Cos that was real adult. Making a little girl cry.


Simon catches up with Kaylee halfway down the stairs to the engine-room.

“He’s just mean.” Isn’t often she’ll criticise Mal. “Laughing at Jayne like that. An’ you did, too.”

Simon’s getting smarter.

“I was...taken by surprise.”

“Just ‘cos it took you forever to get a clue...” Sighs. “Why shouldn’t Jayne want the same things as other folk?”

“Can you really see him settling down?”

“Why not? You saw them together. She didn’t care that he wasn’t all polished and fine.”

“He only knew her a few days...”

“Out here, it might be all you ever have.” Kaylee snaps at him. “He ain’t afraid to take a chance and grab at some happiness.”

Sound of flying footsteps, and a weeping River dashes past. Kaylee pushes him away.

“Go on. You got other things to be doing.” You always got other things to be doing.

Simon standing in the corridor, torn. Wants to be with Kaylee, knows he needs to be with River. Wants to punch Mal for hurting the two women in his life, and conscious that whatever he does, he’s going to hurt them, too.


Stupid, blind man.

“It was never her fault.” River wipes her eyes. “She just made everyone see that some of us are more than weapons.”

“River, none of us...”

“Not me. Him.” She draws her knees up. “Jayne is more than guns - he has a heart. Now, nothing is stable any more, because a constant has turned out to be a variable, and the equation must be rebalanced.”

Nothing is safe. That’s how it feels. The ‘verse has spun out of true.

“Captain doesn’t want me, Simon. Wants a proper co-pilot.” He doesn’t understand. Perhaps this is a good thing. Snuffles piteously. “I am no longer of use.”

All Simon knows is that his baby sister is hurting.

“Mei-mei, he’s not going to turn you off the ship.” But the fear is there. Where will they go? And can he leave Kaylee? Because she wouldn’t leave Serenity.

“All I am is a crazy little girl who can kill people.” Sobbing herself into hiccups.

“You’re still my sister.”

All they have is each other. And at this moment, both of them feel that that isn’t enough.


Zoe and Jayne don’t have much to say to each other in the normal way of things. Though it’s hidden deep in his mind, he’s jealous of her - not just as First Mate, but that whole camaraderie she has with Mal, the history on Serenity that always puts him outside. And she’s never been impressed with him, met too many like him, up through the ranks and over the years.

But now, he stands in the half-dark of the kitchen, shoulders braced, head bowed. Something he can’t see, can’t fight, riding him.

“You come to laugh at me, too?”


“Where’s it written, huh? Tell me that. Where’s it written down that Jayne Cobb can’t...ah, gou huang tang.” Slams a fist down.

Zoe waits. She’s never seen him like this. He’s cold sober. Glimpse of that edge that makes him so useful, and so dangerous.

“You an’ the little man, Zoe - when did you know?”

Emotion rocks her. Rage, pain. Tide of fury rises...crashes back. He ain’t aiming to hurt.

Ren ci de Tien ah.

“I...just knew one day, is all.” She ain’t laying her feelings bare - never has, never will.

Seen Jayne in a lot of moods, most of them ugly, but she’s never seen him hurting before.

“Ah, crazy talk is all. I...” Stops. “What’m I gonna do, Zoe?”

She’s got no answer for him. Mal shouldn’t have laughed.


Mal, sitting on his lonesome on the bridge, is all prepared to rile up and snarl at the doctor, but it’s Zoe.

“You come to snark at me, too?”

“No.” Zoe puts the coffee down with slightly more force than might be necessary. “Brought you this. ‘Cos it’s gonna be a long watch without a co-pilot.”

“She still weepy?”

“Doc gave her a jab, calm her down.”

Guilt is written all over Mal’s face. Zoe hardens her heart.

“Seen you deal smarter with folk than that before, Captain. What you got eating you?”

Envy, shame, indecision, all boiling away into a mess of temper.

“What I got - is a boat full of folk seem to think that they get to say what goes on. Ever since we had that damn woman on board, everyone’s like to have gone crazy as River. Got a bunch of girls bleating at me that Jayne’s in love an’ I gotta be nice to him, turn my boat around and take him back to where he can play house. Well, this is my boat, and I give the orders, and I say we go forward. An’ if he wants to jump off some place and take his gorram appetites with him, I don’t give a cuss. Ain’t no-one in the ‘verse ever gonna be happy to see that gun-toting space trash at their door. Her sort and our sort don‘t never mix.”

Ah. She hadn’t put the coffee down, Captain might be wearing it, ‘stead of drinking it. This is spectacular, even by his standards.

“Well, that could explain why Kaylee is cryin’ her eyes out in the engine room, I suppose.”

That pushes another button.

“I’ve had my fill of her wasting time runnin’ about with the Doc. Ain’t what I pay her for. Never been in favour of relationships on board - want my crew focused, ‘stead of thinking with their...”

Zoe is Looking at him. Take a man braver and dumber than even Mal to keep hang-gliding over that particular hell. He shuts up.

“I only ever disobeyed one order of yours, Sir. You might want to think on the why of that.”

She leaves him alone on the bridge.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006 10:54 AM


Gawd, Mal is being an ass. Like it, like it, like it! Got any more? :)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 10:17 AM


Some folk are just rude and tactless. It's every writer's privilage to express their vision in whatever tense they will. I love how your work puts me right in the midst, just like Joss's camera style did. Gives your story a compelling sense of immediacy.

“’Cos no-one from the Core ever wanted to be around us folk, you mean? Sometimes, Captain, I think them tight pants of your’n done cut off the air to your brain.”

Maybe some folk who respond so snarkily have the same problem.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 7:39 PM


Seems to me you write Mal as quite the genuine asshole. I'm having trouble with this realy. He does have intimacy issues, but I don't see him getting repeatedly at odd with his crew over them. I think he is more adept at handling people than that, and his backstory tends to back that up.

Just dropping by my humble two cents

Sunday, September 16, 2007 11:18 PM


My 2 cents on the way Mal is portrayed here: yes, it's unusual for him to be so tactless and clueless, but I think the author makes it clear that this is as much a crisis for Mal as it is for Jayne. Sure, he and Inara don't make much sense together, but that doesn't mean he can't be hurting and missing her more than he can stand.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 11:09 AM


The angst has gotten tome. I'm ready to curl up in a ball and cry for the bleeding hearts on Serenity. You write it well. I'm off to have my heart broken some more.



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