BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

KAYNARA

Bed and Wine: Part 29
Sunday, June 4, 2006

Of Pulpits and Principles. NC-15


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3118    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Bed and Wine: Part 29 By Kaynara *** Of Pulpits and Principles. NC-15 *** AN: I’m sorry this is so late! Wrapping up 800+ pages is *slightly* more involved than I thought. Thanks for your patience--and your support! ~April AN2: Thanks goes to Grimlock, who always tells me when something is go suh. It’s Joss’s ‘verse, I just borrow it. *** LILAC, PRESENT DAY: “Jesus.” Jayne burst into the tent, shaking water droplets like a dog. “It’s wetter than a whore’s--ow!” Beside him, Zoe withdrew her elbow from his ribs and unzipped her rain slicker. “Well, it’s wet out there.” Jayne shrugged at Inara by way of apology and took a seat between River and Gideon at the makeshift table. “Good sized crowd,” Zoe remarked mildly. She sat beside Inara, carefully avoiding Gideon’s gaze. “They came out in the rain.” Through the Cortex feed, Kane offered Mal a satisfied smile. “You’ve got them, boy.” “I hope I do at that, Mr. Kane.” “Mal, you’ll forgive me, I have to dash. I wish I could be on Lilac for your big day. But we’ll see each other soon enough. Good luck out there, and good luck in the Capital. You and Zoe are prepped for the mission?” “We are, sir.” “And Gideon? You understand your role in this?” “I do, Mr. Kane.” Kane’s eyes crinkled, his gaze settling on Mal once again. “I know you won’t let me down, son.” The screen went dark, and Mal pushed back his chair. He walked to and fro, his fingers looped through his suspender straps. “Sir, the floor’s dirt. Probably best you don’t pace.” With his eyes, Mal gave her his best withering ‘Please, Zoe.’ *Please, Zoe. I’m the captain. The captain don’t pace.* “You talk to the Doctor?” he asked. “Trevor’s ship sent a wave. Be touchin’ down after sunset.” “Good...The others?” “--stayin’ with Serenity, sir. Simon’s tending to your stepmother, and Carly’s with the kids.” He was quiet a moment. “And Kaylee?” he asked after a pause. “Reckon she’s helping your sister, sir.” “So I’m the only one in this dysfunctional family she ain’t talkin’ to, huh?” Mal looked away. “ ‘Magine you all got jobs. We’re liftin’ off this rock at oh-six hundred tomorrow. Gotta haul some serious ass to make it to the Core.” He squeezed his hand into a fist, hoping the others wouldn’t notice the shaking that way. “Captain’s right.” Zoe rose, adjusting her rain coat. “Gideon, Jayne--you’re on crowd control. River, why don’t you head back to Serenity, see if Kaylee can use a hand.” The others adjusted their rain gear, except for River who seemed to like the wet. “Inara, why don’t you help the captain prep,” Zoe added mildly. “You’re very tense,” she said when they were alone. She worked her fingers over his shoulders. “Hmm,” he murmured, noncommittal. Inara smiled, standing on tiptoe to brush his lips. “You know, we could do something about that.” “I--ohhh.” They made hushed, frantic love, shedding only the necessary garments in their rush to feel flesh. His hands roamed her body, wide palms spreading to cup her breasts. Through the silk of her blouse, he teased her nipples to points. “I got me a powerful need for you, darlin’.” “Then take me,” she entreated, straining against his erection. “Well, I would, ‘cept...” His breath puffed heavy and hot against her cheek. She wove her fingers in his hair and kissed him, tasting stale coffee and the savory flavor of desire. “Kinda havin’ a bed shortage here.” “The great Captain Reynolds.” She sucked at the skin of his neck. “Beat by a lack of bed?” He pulled away long enough to raise a brow. She rolled her eyes and laughed, the laugh dying in her throat when he ground against her. “Mal.” “Can’t exactly do this ‘gainst the wall.” He eyed the canvas distastefully. She murmured nonsense into his ear--praise and pleas and promises--while he opened his trousers. His hands reached around her to cup her bottom, kneading the firm flesh through the fabric of her skirt. He cast wild eyes around the tent, glanced thoughtfully at the table and then back at Inara. She gave a little mewl of frustration and propelled him toward the table. Together, they raised her skirt up over her hips, pinned it there to allow him access. He thrust a hand down the front of her panties and wiggled the satin over her ankles. Gentle now, he eased over her on the table, fingers dipping between her thighs to stroke and glide. “Mal. Please.” He slid into her slowly, watching her eyes. “Perfect. It’s perfect,” she assured. “It is that.” Embedded in her, he let go some of the tension. His facial muscles slackened, his eyelids fluttering closed as he groaned deeply into her neck. She kissed his eyelids, felt the tickle of his lashes under her lips. She whimpered against his mouth, the pleasure agonizing, the emotion so intense that tears pearled in the corners of her eyes. She blinked them away, and when she came, her lashes were still wet. *** “Still storming.” He squinted into the rain. “Guess I best be gettin’ out there.” He took a hesitant step into the downpour. “Mal!”  “Huh?”  “Coat.”    Inara held up the length of brown leather.  “Right.  Coat.”    He slipped his hands through the arm holes, let her turn him around for inspection.  She tugged on the lapels and brushed some imaginary lint from his pants.  “Good?”  “Very handsome,” she assured.  “Shiny.  Inara?”  “Yes, Mal?”  “Be bad for me to pass out, huh?”  She looked concerned.  “Are you nervous about speaking in public?”  “Me?  No.”  He fiddled with the collar of his shirt, finding it hard to breathe of a sudden.  “Probably won’t faint.”  “Of course you won’t faint.”  She bit her lip.  He ran a hand over his belly.  “Lunch ain’t sitting so well,” he admitted.  “Shhh.”  She took his face in her hands and kissed him gently.  “You’ll be fine, Mal. This is who you are.”  “I’m just a man, Nara.”     “You’re a leader.”  He looked away.  “Wish you were goin’ up there with me.”  “Kane feels my presence would divert your purpose in this—send the wrong message.”    He smirked.  “You do tend to stand out.  Still, ain’t this your particular skill set?  Decoratin’ the arm of some fancy politician?”  She smiled, knowing the remark was meant to mock himself more than her.  “You’re not exactly fancy,” she assured, and he laughed.    “Prolly for the best, though…you not standin’ beside me.”  He shrugged.  “Safer.”  He trailed a hand over her hair.  “You should go,” she murmured.  He let his hand fall away and half-smiled at her before exiting the tent.  On his way out, he passed Zoe, and the two exchanged  nods.  Together, the women watched him ascend the steps to the stage.  “He’s going to be wonderful,” Inara said.  “Yep,” Zoe agreed.  “As long as he doesn’t faint.”  “Yep.”  *** He didn’t know what he’d expected: angry mobs maybehaps. Soldiers. Rebels. Not this, though. Not families: men and women and children. Old people and young.... “Ya'll know 'bout Reavers, right? Maybe they hit your friend’s village. Or your mama’s. Maybe they landed in this very township. I been places after a Reaver attack. Was hardly anything left.” A teenage girl shivered beneath the shelter of a pale pink parasol. An older gentleman, maybehaps her granddaddy, wrapped a protective arm round her shoulders. Across the aisle, under the cover of an oak tree, a mother held her baby boy on her hip. She was youngish--Kaylee’s age or lesser--and the boy looked to be three or four. Mal saw it in the way she held him, his small, sturdy body hugged tight to her breast. Reavers weren’t just stories to these folks. These people had seen the horror firsthand. “Reavers--they’ll rape, maim and murder every soul unlucky enough to cross their paths. They’re animals, worse than ‘cuz once they were men. Little over a year ago, I learned the truth. Reavers weren’t just men gone wrong. They weren’t men what lost their way in the big bad Black. Reckon by now most of y’all seen the recording for yourselves. You’ve seen into the truth of it, that Reavers are nothin’ but a gorramn science project. Typical Alliance muck-up. They’re so damn determined to make people better. In the end, all they make is a mess. And who’s gotta clean up that mess? Innocents.” An old woman with one eye missing and ribbons in her hair. A couple of lovers cuddling in the grass, the pair of ‘em impervious to the rain. A teenage boy with spindly arms and a determined jaw. A pregnant woman who held her big belly with one hand. “You wanna know how the mighty Alliance proposes to deal with the problem of the Reavers? Wanna hear their grand solution? Government took teenagers, kids no older than yours. They lie to these kids and take ‘em away from their families to be tortured. Cut their brains to pieces, program 'em like they're gorramn robots. Yup, that’s civilization for you, folks. Turn your children into killing machines, and send them off to hunt and fight and kill and die! Old men sendin’ babes to fight their battles. And if’n the warrior-kids perform real shiny, they’ll make more of ‘em. Breed ‘em like rutting animals. Like a prize horse. They’ll find a man with the right mix o’ genes, and they’ll put his seed in innocent girls. Daughters. Sisters. Anyone’s fair sacrifice when we’re building a better world.” He let his gaze linger on a family with two daughters. A girl six or seven, who didn’t yet have her grown-up teeth. The other one was tall and thin, River’s age maybe. There was an innocence to her, though: one he’d never seen in River’s Tam big brown eyes. An innocence that told of shopping for dresses and sneaking out to meet boys--experiences River was denied. Under his gaze, the elder girl shivered, tugged her sister almost imperceptively closer. “Well, folks, I don’t hold to that. I don’t hold to the notion that we’re all of us Alliance plunder. I’ve had enough of the secrets and enough of the lies. For too many years now, I let the ‘Liance govern my life. Time was, they just ran amok of the Core, but they’re pushing out, more so every year. Burned the land and boiled the sea on all of thirty worlds. For awhile, I was naive enough to think the sky mine. But I know better now. I know we can’t any of us hide forever. And as of today, I’m done hidin’. I want the same things as you folks. I wanna settle down on a plot of land, raise my family without worryin’ about some government takin’ what ain’t theirs. I don’t wanna worry ‘bout Reavers hitting my kids’ schoolhouse.” Heads shook in agreement. Even under his coat, he felt the chill in the air. He watched a woman nod heartily, her sodden ponytail whirling around to smack her in the face as she gestured. “Don’t wanna worry ‘bout my niece bein’ deprived her meds‘cuz they ain’t available but on the Core.” A wave of accord rode the crowd. “Yeah,” shouted a man. “Damn right,” intoned another. “I’ve been running for a long time now. Wherever the ‘Liance went, I tried to stay one step ahead. Well, I ain’t runnin’ no more. I aim to put down anchor. Somethin’ the Alliance needs to learn, and they best be learnin’ it here and now. This ‘verse ain’t the property of the rich and powerful. ‘Verse belongs to whoever’s brave enough to fight for what they believe. So I stand here today, askin’ you to be brave.” His ears were pounding something fierce, or maybehaps it was the applause. Over the roar, he murmured ‘thank you’, gave a few awkward waves before allowing Vespucci to usher him off the stage. Inara was waiting at the entrance to the tent. “Mal!” She grabbed him and kissed him. “Mal, that was amazing.” He nodded, blinking. “Mal? Are you alright?” “Inara, why--why you all blurry?” “Pardon?” “I think--think I’m gonna faint.” She caught him as he slumped forward. *** Kaylee crossed her arms over her chest, watching as each of the men hefted an infant carrier.  The captain stood to the side, eyeing the scene coolly.  “Ain’t he gonna look at ‘em even?”  Kaylee whispered.  Beside her, Zoe shrugged.  She held onto Raven with one arm, the hand of the other rubbing small circles over the girl’s pale pink tee shirt.  “Sometimes it’s hard to see why the captain does what he does, Kaylee.  Without seein’ where he’s been.”    “Hey!  Hold up, fellas.”  “Captain Reynolds, sir.”  The black man, who seemed to be in charge, hesitated for a moment.  “Mr. Trevor gave orders that we leave Lilac immediately upon retrieving the package.”  “He’s right on that note.  Just…give me two minutes, shi?”  The auburn-haired man looked to his superior, who furrowed his brow in silent contemplation before nodding.  “Take a whole five, Captain.”  “Thank you.  Both of you.”    With a beneficent nod, the darker man lowered his parcel to the dirt, motioned for his associate to do the same.  Mal dropped down to his haunches between the carriers, looking on the two little lives what moved him to fight a war.  Kaylee started to step forward, but Zoe shook her head.  After a time, he began to talk.  “Figure none of this makes much sense to you.  Hell, I’m a good bit older, and it don’t make sense to me either sometimes.  In earnest, you’ve had a rough first month.  Been shuffled from one end o’ the galaxy to the next and not had much in the way of consistency. “Now, I ain’t gonna lie to you and say it’s smooth sailin’ here on out.  In fact, I’m not gonna make any promises of the kind.  This war—no tellin’ how it’ll end, or when.  Might be a few years ‘fore we see each other again.  Or, fair chance we won’t.  So if this is the last time, you should know that you’re loved somethin’ fierce.  Whole bunch of folk wantin’ you in their lives.  Won’t make a big tale of it ‘cuz you guys look mighty tired, and to be truthsome, we don’t got long. But I will say this. Long as I’m breathin, little ones, I will do my damnedest to protect you, even if...even if I ain’t the one to do it in the day to day.” Kaylee watched him trail a finger along Epiphany’s cheek, brush a kiss over Devon’s temple. He stood, blinking something furious. “Alright,” he called. “Alright, take ‘em.” *** SERENITY, TWO WEEKS AGO: In the passenger dorm designated as the twins’, Caroline lowered her face to one baby’s bare belly, attacked it with an onslaught of kisses “What will you do with them?” she asked, laying the boy in the cradle with his sister. “In earnest, Carly, I ain’t done much of anything.”  Mal looked past her, abashed.  “Been lettin’ Kaylee and the doc carry that load.”  “I meant—”  “I know what you meant.”  “And?”  “And I ain’t rightly sure.” He raked a hand through his hair. “You’ve a war to fight.  Surely you don’t intend to bring babies onto a battlefield.”  “No, course not.  I thought….”  He cleared his throat.  “Thought Inara might tend to ‘em.  I got a friend, old war pal with a township out on Silverhold.  Could call in a favor, maybe—have a house set up for her and the babes.  Somethin’ nice-like, with a garden maybehaps. I’d take my ease there, when I was able—”  “Malcom.”  “Hmm?”  He scowled at her expression.  “You thinkin’ that’s a bad notion?  Cuz, honestly, Carly, I ain’t seein’ a better.”  She blew out a breath.    “Truly, Mal.  A belt to your backside would work wonders.”  He smirked.  “Ain’t I a little old for that?”  “Aren’t you a little old to be so rutting stupid?”  “Hey, now.” He folded his arms.  “I’m just looking to protect what’s mine as best I’m able.”  “And what about her, Mal?  Hmm?  I know what it is to see your husband off to war, watch him walk away and wonder every day if he’ll come back to you, what parts will come back.  I don’t wish that on the girl, lying alone in a big bed every night, missing you, worrying for you.  Worrying whether your children will know their daddy, or only captures and stories—”  “Enough.”  But his tone was mild, more exhausted than angry.  “Could give her the choice….”  “Malcom.”  Her eyes held a plea.  “Don’t make her choose.  Don’t ask her to choose between protecting your children and standing by your side.  It isn’t fair to either of you.”  He snorted a laugh.  “Tell me, Carly: just when has this ever been about fair?”  “Let me take them.”  “Shuh muh?”  “Raven, too.  I’ll take all three someplace where the Alliance can’t hurt them.”  “Truly, Carly.  I ain’t sure such a spot exists.”  “We’ll find one.  Someplace they won’t think to look. And when you win this, when it’s all over, you’ll come back for them and be a wonderful daddy.”  “I don’t know if I can do that, Carly.”  There it was.  The truth he couldn’t ever say aloud, not to Kaylee or River or even Inara.  “What if…what if it ain’t in me?”  “Malcom.”  She cradled his chin lovingly.  “You really are dense.” He left her making doe eyes over the infants. “I’ve got things, Carly, but you go ‘head and gush to your heart’s content.” Truth was, he didn’t wanna be in the room with them. The longer he looked on ‘em, the more something inside him cracked. Still, it was preferable to his second errand that morning. He rapped at the infirmary window with something akin to dread. Point of fact, dread sounded about accurate. No other way to describe the brand of guilt wrapped around nausea encircling remorse that lingered in his gut. “Captain.” “Doctor.” With one last glance at his patient, Simon led Mal to the sofa what functioned as a waiting room of sorts. “Do you want to sit?” “Not especially,” Mal admitted. He folded his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall. “Why don’t you tell me what’s what?” he asked quietly. “Alright. The physical damage appears minimal. She sustained two broken ribs.” “They...beat her?” “With a baton, I’d guess. She has some bruising on her belly and on the backs of her thighs.” He nodded. It was a few seconds before he could speak again. “What else?” “Dehydration, malnutrition, exhaustion. Mentally, she’s disoriented, maybe a little confused. Modern interrogation methods attack the mind as much as the body. Without conducting extensive testing, I’d wager she’s somewhat depressed. About what you’d expect from a torture victim, really.” Mal raised a brow. “You okay, Doctor?” Simon angled his head. Mal traced the boy’s line of sight to his sleeping patient. “These are the people that want my sister’s children.” Mal watched Emmy stir in her sleep. Beneath the gray wool blanket, he glimpsed a crown of dark hair She coulda been anyone under there. Any smallish woman with jet black hair. “Some valuable genes you got.” “Mmm, yes,” Simon agreed. “Valuable enough to justify torture and murder and...carving a girl’s head like a gorramn turkey. Ta ma duh!” “Simon--” “I didn’t care about anything else. For so long, all I cared about was her.” “Y-your sister?” “But now, seeing them, holding them in my arms...I have to protect them, Mal. They’re a part of her, and I have to keep them safe.” Mal lifted a hand to the boy’s shoulder, gave a firm squeeze. “Go grab a shower, Doctor. You’re startin’ to smell like you belong here.” Simon snorted a laugh. “Well, we wouldn’t want that...It’s, uh, it’s alright for you to sit with her, Captain.” He started down the hall, turned back to meet Mal’s gaze. “It might help.” Alone, Mal lowered himself into the chair by the bed, brought his elbows up to rest on his knees. He was well and wearied with seein’ his crew on this table. But then she weren’t exactly crew. “Malcom?” She stirred and the blanket shifted. Carefully, he tucked it around her shoulders. “Hey, now. It’s cold out here; gotta keep you warm.” Her eyes traveled the white infirmary walls, the doctor’s tidily-stored supplies, before falling again to her lap. “You must....” The words were eaten up in a yawn, and she had to start again. “You must not have many guests.” He chuckled. “I’ll speak to Simon ‘bout havin’ you moved. Could be, you’ll find the passenger dorms more to your liking. Although, reckon it ain’t what you’re used to.” She smiled then, and for a moment he saw the beauty what captivated his father. “I’m teasing you, Malcom. Your ship seems very...fit.” He cracked a smile. “Well, thanks. And, you know, Mal’s fine.” With a slender hand, she brushed back the hair from his forehead. “Darling, it’s a wonder I don’t call you Quentin.” “I’m not him, Emmy.” “You’re just like him.” “I’m--” His voice broke. He had to take a breath before proceeding. “Hell, Emmy. I ain’t never been so lost.” “Mal.” Her fingers traced his features. He knew it wasn’t him she was touching. Still, her touch felt nice, how a mother might touch you, or someone trained in soothing. “Mal, you’re not lost. You’re just like Quentin. You see the path through the woods where others see only darkness. The only difference between you and your father is these people. If he’d had friends like yours, he’d still be alive.” Mal was silent for several moments. “Got me a good crew,” he said at last. He took her delicate hand in his, careful to avoid the place where the IV poked through skin. “Damn good crew.” She smiled again, her lashes fluttering shut. “Malcom?” “Esmerelda?” “Destroy them.” *** TEN DAYS AGO: “No.” “No?” Mal lifted a brow. “You sure of that fact?” She nodded, brown eyes big and solemn. “So you don’t gotta go to bed? That was just crazy talk?” “Cap kiss.” She puckered tiny lips, and he sighed. “Oh, Lil’ Chick. You are gonna break hearts, aren’t ya?” He planted a smacking kiss on her cheek, pleased when she giggled, hid her face in his neck. “C’mon, darlin’. Whadda ya say we find your mama?” He came around the corner and stopped short, catching sight of the scene outside her bunk. Casually, he turned himself and Raven around, feigning interest in the peeling paint while the argument petered out. It didn’t take but a minute before Gideon was moving past them in the direction of the galley and Zoe setting her face in a smile, one hand curving up to adjust her hair. “Zoe.” She reached for her daughter, who despite her best efforts was beginning to nod. “Everything okay?” he asked, settling the drowsy chick in her mama’s arms. “Everything’s fine.” No eye contact, no ‘sir.’ She was lying of course, but he was only half capable of caring just then. “Zoe, can we have words up on the bridge? When you’re settled here....” “I’ll meet you on the bridge,” she called over her shoulder, already headed for her bunk. Twenty minutes later, she met him in the cockpit. Etiquette had him standing, offering her his chair even though past experience said she wouldn’t accept. Tonight was no exception; she leaned against the console, folding her arms over her chest. “Problem, sir?” “You, uh, you okay?” “Already asked me that, sir.” “You were lying back there.” “If you know that, sir, then why are you asking?” He just smirked. She raised a brow. He shuffled his feet a little. “Ain’t my business who you let in your bed, Zoe.” “Not for some time, sir.” For a moment, neither spoke. Finally, Mal sat beside her on the console, folded his arms to mirror her stance. “Carly says she’ll take them: Little Chick and the twins. Take ‘em away someplace safe.” Zoe drew breath as though to speak, closed her mouth and had to start again. When she looked at him her eyes were wet, though both pretended otherwise. “That’s probably for the best. Any idea as to where?” He offered her a lopsided smile. “We ain’t exactly drownin’ in friends these days.” “We’ll find a place.” “Mmm. Zoe?” “Sir?” “I hate this.” He stared out into the Black. “With every fiber of my being, I loathe and revile it.” “Don’t reckon there are many who like war, sir.” “You think I’m selfish, Zoe?” “Sometimes.” He snorted. “I meant, is starting this war up--” “I know what you meant. And you aren’t, Mal. Aren’t selfish, and you aren’t starting it.” “Yeah, well. I’m sure as hell not stopping it.” “Long as the Alliance stands, they’ll never stop coming for us. You didn’t have a choice, sir.” “I had a choice,” he growled. Then, more quietly: “There’s always a choice....Could give ‘em what they want.” “Really think you could live with that, sir?” He blew out a breath. “Really think we’re gonna live anyway, Zoe?” Something flashed in her eyes. “What?” “I won’t do this, sir.” “Do what?” “Be the strap you use to flog yourself. Could be you’re right--could be we don’t come back from this. And if that’s the way of it--no offense, sir, but I’d rather spend the time with my baby girl. Prefer that to watching you hang yourself.” Mal stared her down, eyes flashing with rage and pain and just plain annoyance. He was on the verge of losing it, had to drag in several, slow breaths to get a’hold. “Go watch your chick roost,” he said finally, all the anger vanished. She nodded, turned at the last minute and laid a hand on his biceps. “Sir. People are gonna die in this. Don’t reckon any of us think that’s okay. But the people on this ship--Kaylee and the doc and Nara, heck even Jayne--those people need a leader, Captain. And maybe it ain’t fair for that man to be you. Don’t suppose it’s fair at all. But that’s the way of it. From now to the end, you lead ‘em. No matter how dark the path.” He met her steady gaze. “I don’t wanna go back to that place, Zoe.” *I don’t wanna go back to that man.* “You can’t go back there, sir. To much is changed.” “Yeah.” He stared out into the Black. “Now we got more to lose.” *** ONE WEEK AGO: Kaylee gaped at him, her hazel eyes brimming with disapproval. Inara just looked at her lap.  He wondered what stung more—Kaylee still expecting him to make things right or Nara not expecting anything of the sort.  Maybe the worst was how River smiled, soft and sad and so perfectly certain.  As though none of it meant a damn.  As though he hadn’t any choice.  “You’re gonna send the babies away?” Kaylee’s words pierced the silence of the galley.  From the corner of Mal’s eye, he saw Zoe, face bereft of all feeling.    “Way it’s gotta be,” he said quietly.  “How’s that, Cap’n?  Hmm?  Gettin' too hard to ignore ‘em on the boat?”  He could feel Inara’s eyes glance over his face. When he spoke, his tone was mild but firm. “That’s enough, Kaylee. No use arguin’ what’s been decided.”  “Mmm, I don’t think it is, actually: enough.  I ain’t a little girl no more, Cap’n.  Been tendin’ to what’s yours for goin’ on a month now; figure that gives me some rights where they’s concerned.” “Kaylee--” Simon tried. “Bi zui.” He was losing his temper but quick. “Kaylee, we’re ‘bout to fight a war here. What part of that ain’t connectin’ for you?” “They’re family now! You can’t just send away family--” “Everyone, please.” Inara started to rise. “Let’s all just take a few calming breaths and--” “No. You wanna talk on this, Kaylee? You wanna know what war is? Cuz I could tell ya, darlin’. Could tell ya in bright and shiny descriptives why I refuse to raise those kids in the midst of one.” “That so.” She shook her head, biting her lip so it wouldn’t tremble. “And where’s the war right now, Cap’n? Huh? Where’s the war betwixt here and those babies’ bedroom?” Before he could compose an answer, she was flinging back her chair and sprinting from the galley. Simon shot him a look that wasn’t so much damning as conflicted before following in her wake. “Kaylee?” he called softly, disappearing around the bend. For several moments, no one spoke. “Has to be done,” Mal said finally. When he spoke, his words were weary, his voice that of a much older man. “Ain’t like I want to....” “Sir?” Zoe’s address did it: brought him back to himself. “Any luck so far finding safe harbor?” “Not as such, no. Seems our cup o’ friends don’t exactly runneth over these days, so if anyone else has a suggestion, I’m more ‘n willing to--” “Mal.” Inara lifted a hand. “I may have an appropriate port.” “I’m listening.” “There’s a saying...that the best place to conceal something is in plain sight. The Alliance would expect you to hide the twins on a border moon, some backalley rim world.” She lifted a single shoulder. “They’d never think of looking on the Core.” Mal chewed this over, nodded slowly. “Ain’t a bad notion. Still, I ain’t exactly the picture of popularity on most Core worlds.” “No,” Zoe agreed. “But Nara’s pretty well-favored.” “It’s true I have fewer friends on the Core these days, fewer still I’d entrust with Raven and...and Devon and Epiphany.” It felt strange uttering their names aloud. They weren’t any part of her, yet in a very real way she already cared for them, worried for them and for what losing them could do to Mal. It wouldn’t destroy him--very little could. But he’d retreat into himself again, shutting out anything that could compel him to feel. She didn’t think he would come back from that. Enduring his hurt and anger now seemed a small sacrifice, one she was willing to make. “A few days ago...I waved Trevor, Mal.” She met his eyes when she said it, hoping he’d recognize her desire to discuss this openly. “I think he’d be willing to shelter Caroline and the children.” “Trevor from Shadow?” “He’s from Sihnon. But yes, he’s the same.” “Inara...you didn’t know ‘bout this plan a few days ago. Hell, I didn’t even know, and it’s my plan.” “I--I know, Mal. I waved Trevor for other reasons.” “What reasons would those be?” She glanced around the table, more humiliated by his line of questioning than her own answers should she choose to give them. She tried to keep her tone neutral. “It’s personal, Mal.” “Ohh. Personal. Welll.” “Oh, am I not allowed male friends, Mal? Or is it Trevor in particular that offends you?” “Sir, maybe we should--” “Well, can you see why he might!?” She laughed shortly. “Oh, forgive me, Mal. Shall I avoid every man with whom I’ve been intimate?” From the corners of her eyes, she saw the remaining crew slink away from the table. She vaguely wondered whether their squabble shouldn’t be moved to the shuttle. She wasn’t of a mind to think rationally. Mal didn’t look particularly rational himself. “Tall order,” he snorted. Her eyes went wide, and he realized immediately his error. “Inara. Ai ya, I didn’t mean--” He didn’t mean it. He never meant it. If she wanted him, she’d have to accept that fact--the fact that he often failed to think before he spoke. She stormed from the galley against the sounds of his swearing. *** SIX DAYS AGO: He was trembling in his sleep. She crawled across the bed to get to him. They’d gone to sleep on opposite ends that night. Typically, she slept in his arms. Squinting in the darkened room, she hovered over him, saw his face twitch in the throes of the nightmare. “Mal.” She caught hold of his shoulder and shook. “Mal, wake up.” He did on a gasp, sat forward straining for air. “Shh, it’s alright,” she soothed. “It’s fine, it was just a dream.” He blinked, glanced around the room as though to establish his place in it. “Inara?” “I’m right here.” With the speed of a gunfighter, his arms came around her, and she tumbled against his torso. He brushed his lips over her hair. “I love you.” “I--I love you too, Mal. You’re not angry anymore?” “Well, not after we talked and such.” She crinkled her nose, bemused. “We talked?” “We didn’t?” He made a face. “Oh, Hell. I must be goin’ crazy.” She smiled, stroked his hair. “Was that part of your dream?” He nodded. “Do you want to tell me the other part?” He shrugged, curled her tighter against his chest. His skin was warm from sleep, clammy from the dream. “Just a nightmare.” Now it was her turn to nod. She wouldn’t push him. By now she knew better than to push. “So, what did I say that was so persuasive? Perhaps I should write it down.” “Well, pretty much that it was all your fault.” He smirked. “That’s the jist of it.” “I said that? Hmm.” “What?” “Well, you were definitely dreaming.” He smirked, then sobered. “Can I ask you somethin’?” “Alright.” “Why *did* you wave him, Nara? Truthsome.” She blinked, not expecting him to ask. “Trevor? I--I don’t know. It’s not that I miss him. I certainly don’t love him.” “Yeah, I know. But--and I ain’t judgin’ here, just askin’--you waved him when you were hurtin’ somethin’ fierce. You went to him ‘stead o’ comin’ to me. I just wanna know why, Nara.” She was quiet a moment. When she spoke, her voice held firm, the words unwavering. “Trevor came to the private clinic...the one I stayed in after losing Marina. Aside from Nique and the doctors, of course, he was the only one who came. The only one who knew it happened. And now Dominique’s dead--not that I’d look to her for anything. But Trevor--he’s the only one left, Mal. He saw me fall all those years ago, and he saw me stand up again. I suppose I needed to hear I would survive this from someone who watched me do it once before.” She’d needed to bask in that certainty, wrap it around herself like a blanket. He nodded, one hand stroking her hair. “And that’s the all of it?” She paused, pressing her face into the curve of his neck. She breathed in his hair soap and his aftershave and the scent that was specifically *Mal.* “It wasn’t fair asking you to mourn for her, Mal. Not when she was gone. Not when you had two living children to protect, babies right here on Serenity.” “That’s...that isn’t--” “They’re tiny, and they’re helpless, and they need you.” “Inara.” He cleared his throat. “Lil’ Kaylee weren’t exactly wrong. I’ve done my level best to avoid those babes.” She worked her fingertips over the planes of his face. “Because you’re scared? It’s okay to admit that, Mal.” “I guess that’s part of it. But, Inara. Ai ya, listen to me, now. They ain’t a replacement for what was lost. I still think about her, see her in my head sometimes.” She was quiet a long moment, and when she spoke, her voice was quiet too. “How does she look?” “Oh, like you, mostly. Dark hair, soft like yours. It hangs all down her back--messy-like if one of us don’t comb it. I got this image in my head--can see it clear as the stars. Guess she’s about four. Couldn’t be more ‘n four.... “You’re carryin’ her up to the bridge, and her face is all flushed from just havin’ a bath. She’s wearin’ one o’ them white nightgown thingies, the sort with the ruffles at the neck, and her feet are bare. When you set her down, she scampers over and climbs in my lap. “ ‘Wanna fly Daddy’s spaceship?’ I say. Then you come over and perch on the arm of the chair, and I’m holdin’ onto Hope with one arm, and the other goes around your waist, and the both of us just watch her. She’s so damn cute, Nara.” With the tip of his finger, he wiped the tears from her nose. “Thank you, Mal.” “What for?” “For not asking me to go.” He felt his ears redden, hoped she wouldn’t notice. “Give me a little credit, Nara.” She burrowed into him, lips curving against his shirt. “You’ve come a long way, Mal.” “Well...I’m trying.” *** LILAC, PRESENT DAY: “Gonna go with your Aunt Carly, dong ma? Aunt Carly’s gonna take good care of you, Little Chick.  Emmy, too.  She’s your step-nana and also, point of interest, pals with your cousins’ birth—you know, maybehaps we stick to ‘Nana Emmy.’ ”  With his big hand, he smoothed the small back.  “Hush, now.  Don’t cry no more.  Be brave for your momma and Uncle Mal.”  He turned to Zoe, but she was backing away.    “Captain?”  The redheaded man jerked his head toward the ship.  “We’re cleared for up-thrust, sir.”  “Right.”  “Malcom.”    Caroline extended her arms for the baby, who was shrieking in earnest now.    “Take care of—”  “I will.”    She leaned in to kiss his cheek, and Raven made a grab for his shirt.  “No.”  He forced open the tiny fingers and stepped back. “Go.”   Zoe was nowhere to be seen by the time the ship lifted off.  He watched them break atmo before going back inside. On the way up the ramp, he met Kaylee, watching him with big puppy-dog eyes. “Cap’n.” “Let’s not make a big thing of it, Kaylee.” “Okay if I give you a hug, Cap’n? Just a little one?” He sighed and uncrossed his arms. “You gotta? Absolutely no way around it?” She bit her lip, hesitating. “I don’t hafta, Cap’n.” He sighed again and hauled her into his arms. He held her tight to his chest, arms locked around her waist. “Just can’t help yourself,” he murmured, and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. *** CAPITAL CITY, OSIRIS, ALLIANCE COMPOUND, PRESENT DAY: He hadn’t seen bright like this since he was a boy back on Shadow.  Was like someone coated the whole world in white and garnished it with lemons. The colors.  He couldn’t get over the colors. In the distance, the flat green of the land met up with the blue arch of the sky.  Not the dull gray-blue of gunmetal but a bright, morning blue for which he didn’t have a word.  And the buildings—he hadn’t never seen buildings so, well, clean.    “I won’t lead from the rear.” Mal had watched the look pass between Kane and Vespucci when he said it. “This ain’t up for discussion. I don’t send boys to fight my battles. If I fight a war, I fight it from the front.” “Mal, no one’s questioning your honor here.” Kane had reached across the kitchen table to pat his hand. “Aiming to fight alongside your troops--that’s very noble. But you have to consider the overall wisdom of that plan. If we were to lose you, Malcom, we wouldn’t just be losing an able body...or a savvy brain. You’re a symbol to these people. A man to follow. And they will follow you, Mal.” “Well, that may be so, Mr. Kane. But when this goes down, I want a role in it. Would you feel confident with Serenity retrieving the surrender flag?” Kane had hesitated, hand hovering over his tea cup. “Malcom, I--” “Reckon if I’m gonna carry the thing, I oughta be the one to thieve it.” “But...breaking and entering? Isn’t that a little...well, petty?” “Mr. Kane, thieving was the only life left us when we couldn’t be soldiers anymore.” Zoe smiled then, and Mal had smiled with her. “Seems only right that we get to be soldiers again by thieving.” “And today we thieve back what’s ours,” Mal murmured, a wry smile twisting his lips. He and Zoe crossed the sun-drenched courtyard in companionable silence. None o’ the rest o’ the crew questioned them bein’ the ones to do this job. It was theirs, as in belonging to. Even Jayne seemed to feel that his presence weren’t needed and remained on the boat without a fuss. The Unification Museum was tall and tooth-white, with big green-glass doors to show you your reflection, tell you that you didn’t quite belong. Good thing they were goin’ in by wiring tunnel. They posed as workers, in boxy white uniforms and matching white caps. Zoe preceded Mal through the passage. “I know you’re not starin’ at my ass, sir.” “What? Zoe, how can you even--?” “Teasing, sir. Just tryin’ to lighten the mood.” “Oh. That’s funny, Zoe.” “I’m a comedienne, sir.” “I always thought that about you.” Inside, the air was cool, likely climate-controlled to a lower setting for the sleep cycle.  Still, it was a welcome contrast to the tight, hot air in the tunnels, and they took a moment to breathe deep, straighten their uniforms some. It didn’t take them long to locate the flag--flying green and weepy in the aritficial breeze, over an animatronic re-envisioning of the Battle of Serenity Valley, 2511--and take out the pair of guards patrolling the galley.  The scene showed the bloodless Independent surrender.  Mal snorted.  Anyone who made it outta that Valley alive—and granted there was precious few—knew there weren’t no bloodless surrender.  The Independent troops held out two more weeks after the call to lay down arms—two long weeks in which the dead came to outnumber the living.  While starvation and infection ravaged the Valley, fine men in suits met to decide fates. None of it mattered worth a damn.  By the time help came, those fates had been long-since decided.  “Sir?” He glanced at Zoe, awaiting his orders like always, and had the sudden urge to destroy the lot of it.  With cool clarity, he could envision himself tearing the robotic troops—Browncoat and Purple Belly alike—to tatters, rendering them as ruined as they lived in his memory. But that wasn’t his purpose today. He held the banner in his hands, running his fingers over the coarse hunter green fabric. “Huh.” “Sir?” “Thought I’d feel somethin’.” “Shuh muh?” “Holdin’ it in my hands. Thought I’d feel...” “Vindicated, sir?” “Somethin’ like that.” “Think the vindicating bit comes later, sir.” Zoe tucked the banner down her coveralls. “Let’s go.” They made their way toward the entrance, intent on walking right out the front door. He heard them first, voices where there should have been silence: “Bang, bang! Die Indy scum!” “Ahhhh. You got me!” Mal turned slowly, ice water sluicing his spine. Children. Kids no higher than his hip, bouncing about as though someone spiced their morning milk with a good dose of speed. A harried-looking schoolteacher, hair escaping her straight braid, tried futilely to keep them in line. “Boys and girls! Girls and boys, please!” Two of the self-appointed Browncoats barrelled past them. A little girl with dark-brown pigtails tripped over his boot, fell to her hands at his feet. Wordless, Mal dropped to his haunches to help her up. He set her straight, replacing the bright-pink knapsack on her arm. “Xie xie, sir,” she said, the picture of politeness. She offered a shy grin before bolting off to rejoin her peers. “You’re welcome,” Mal whispered. He moved at a leisurely pace across the crowded lobby, pushed open the green glass door and held it for Zoe to precede him. On the other side, he took three more steps before starting to run. Back on Serenity, Mal dropped into the co-pilot’s chair opposite River. He radioed the waiting Champion, Zoe poised at his side. “Shiva, Robin Hood, do you copy?” “Robin Hood, Shiva, say status,” Gideon requested. “We got the package, and we're making ourselves real scarce,” Mal reported. “No tangos in sight.” “Roger that, Robin. Requesting 'Weapons Free' when you are clear.” “Negative on strike, Shiva.” “Say again, Robin?” Gideon reuqested. “Shiva, Robin, Abort, Abort, Abort. Do you read?” Mal asked. “Robin, Shiva, Abort, Abort, Abort, roger. Bugging out. Request update, Robin. Why the abort?” “Target ain't empty. U museum musta opened early or some such--there's a gorram school trip!” “Sir, he’s changing heading.” Zoe pointed at the screen. “He's vectoring back on the target.” “Shiva, what the hell are you doing?” Mal demanded. “This needs to be done, now clear the channel, Mal.” “What you're aimin' to do ain't war, son. It's murder! Mass-murder!” “Target acquired. Into attack.” “Dammit, Gideon! You're killing scores o' kids who ain't even seen their tenth birthdays! Its a ruttin' school field trip or sumsuch!” “Master Arm; on. Doors open. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the greater good. Safties are off. GBU is armed.Weapons hot.” “We don’t sacrifice children!” “You said it yourself, Mal. Sometimes you have to stand up and be brave. If you believe in something, you have to be brave. Good-bye, Mal.” “Gideon, no!” Zoe cried, all propriety abandoned in a last ditch effort to stop him. Later, Mal would forget the details of the radio exchange but not Zoe’s cry. “I have tone. Weapon's away!” *** NEO-INDEPENDENT BASE, OSIRIS, PRESENT DAY: He crossed the room in three strides, lifted the boy up by the shirtfront and slammed his fist into Gideon’s face. Conversation ceased as a hall’s full of celebratory Independents turned to gape. “Son of a bitch.”  Gideon didn’t fight back or even struggle to break free. With the back of his hand, he wiped the blood from his mouth, leaving a bright red smear over his cheek.  “I’m sorry you feel that way.”  “Sorry?”  Mal hauled back as though to hit him again.  From the corner of his eye, he saw Inara watching, her dark eyes huge and fearful.  Slowly, he let his hand fall away, gave the boy a shove to send him stumbling to the floor.  “I was the commanding officer, and I gave the abort.  You got no call second guessing my orders, you smug little—”  “I made a decision.”  “ ‘Scuze me?”  “You weren’t thinking like a commanding officer, Captain.  You let your emotions cloud your judgment, and I made a decision to override the abort.”    “Uh huh.”  Mal nodded.  “Well, son.  I’m guessing that’s the last decision you make on my watch.  Once Kane learns what you did—”  “What’s going on here?”  Kaylee jumped back to allow Kane to pass.  Even at five foot seven, Amos Kane made an imposing figure.    “Gentlemen, why are you fighting?  This is a day of celebration.  The attack was a success.  We took out the Capital building, Blue Sun’s militia headquarters and--”  “—children.”  Mal cleared his throat.  “A whole school’s worth.  Murdered ‘em like they were nothing.  Like they were martyrs.”  “I don’t—” Kane blinked, looking to Mal for explanation.  “I don’t understand.”  “Museum weren’t closed today.  Renovations got through early in a couple wings, to celebrate, local school sent a passel of kids hardly outta short pants.”  “Oh, Merciful God.”  “Not today, surely.  You see, we didn’t just destroy buildings today, didn’t just hit high military and government men.”  Mal turned hot eyes on Gideon.  “Were close to thirty kids on that compound when he blew it to bits.”    “Malcom.”  Kane draped an arm over his shoulders.  “I don’t know what to say.  I’m so sorry.  My intel indicated the Unification Museum would be closed for another—”  He trailed off, shaking his head.  “It’s truly a tragedy, Mal.  But you mustn’t blame yourself.  You had no way of knowing—”  “I knew.  Saw the truth of it when I was inside.  Coulda called it off, too. Point of fact, I did.”  Mal felt his hands tighten to fists at his side.  “Boy disregarded my abort order.”  “He…oh.”  “I want him out.  Off the campaign as of five minutes ago.”  “Malcom.”  Kane lifted his head, the gentleness of his speaking voice belying the importance of the words.  “I believe Gideon acted rightly.”  “Shuh muh?”  “Disobeying a superior’s order was unprofessional, and the boy deserves a reprimand.  But as to the nature of his actions—Mal, he did what had to be done.”  Mal shook his head slowly. “Son of a bitch.  Son of a bitch, you knew.”  Kaylee drew in a breath, felt Simon’s arm tighten protectively around her shoulders.  Beside her, Inara stiffened.  “Captain Reynolds, I suggest you watch your tone.”  Vespucci stepped between Mal and Kane, weight on the balls of his feet, hands loose at his sides.  “You’ve no call speaking to Mr. Kane in that—”  “Cameron.”  Kane held up a hand.  “Thank you, but I’ll handle this. Yes, Mal, I knew.  I learned about the museum’s early reopening late last night.  I was unaware of the school trip, but had I known, I’m afraid my decision would have been the same.  This attack has been in the planning stages for months.  It was critical that the strike go off as planned.  I’ll mourn for those children—innocent sacrifices to a greater cause—but I won’t lose sleep over their deaths.  They died in the name of something higher.”  “You’re insane.”  “I’m not insane, Mal.”  “Then you’re a cold-blooded murderer.  And I won’t be a party to your lies.”  “He shouldn’t be permitted to leave.”  Gideon caught Zoe’s gaze, looked quickly away.  “He’s a threat.  They’re all threats.”  From the corner of his eye, Mal saw Jayne inch a hand toward his holster. He didn’t have to see Zoe to know she was doing the same.  “He can’t be made to stay.”  Kane rested a hand on Gideon’s forearm.  “Captain Reynolds is a hero, you see.  And we don’t hang our heroes…do we, Malcom?”  For a long moment, Mal was silent.  Then he shook his head, a murderous fury lighting his blue eyes.  “No,” he said, his tone deathly quiet.  “Bumping your hero off his pedestal tends to hurt morale.”  “Smart boy,” Kane said softly.  “So he’s free to go?” Gideon asked.  “He is, Gideon. Captain Reynolds will walk off this base on his own two legs.  And I hope, someday, he’ll walk back on again.” “That won’t never be happening.”  Kane shook his head, his thick eyebrows coming to a white peak over a delicate patrician nose.     “Your father would be so disappointed, Malcom.”  “My father weren’t a murderer, Amos.”  He turned to Zoe.  “We’re leaving, let’s go. *** It’s not over yet, folks! TBC in Bed and Wine: The Finale. Author pleads for feedback~

COMMENTS

Sunday, June 4, 2006 8:13 AM

LEIASKY


Wow. Wow. and good god in the heavens wow. That just rocked all the way around.

I had a hard time following when you mixed up the timeline but it ended up working REAL well.

Kaylee's reaction to Mal wanting to send the babies away and her calling him on her (and Simon by default) right because she's been taking care of them while he ignored them was so excellently done.

The confrontation at the end was so spectacular.

And Mal saying goodbye to the babies was just excellent.

I can't believe its almost over! Say it isn't so!

Sunday, June 4, 2006 8:16 AM

SYZG


...finale? you mean its gonna be over

*gets misty-eyed*

we're gonna have to be gettin' some cake and alcohol. what a fic...

*Sigh*

Sunday, June 4, 2006 8:26 AM

TAYEATRA


You had me on the first line and kept me hooked right the way through.

There will definitely be tears from me at the finale of this excellent series.

The time-line was a little confusing but when you reach the end it all comes together and makes perfect sense. Almost in the style of 'Out of Gas'.

I'm still upset about Hope and the line from an earlier chapter about 'Inara lost Hope' reverberates in my head and will always make me think of this fic.

Worth the wait, although I'll be on the edge of my seat until the final part is posted.

Sunday, June 4, 2006 12:00 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


What? This is the penultimate chapter? Nooo....we need more! Please...a sequel has to be in the works! You can't just leave things anything like this, unless finale is mighty long:(

Still...you are a ruttin' genius, Kay! This whole series has been amazing - maybe even worthy of being something from the head of Joss himself ;) - and this chapter was just so wonderful. The angst and the pain shown by our heroes just tore at my heart, especially Mal's pain over giving up his kids and telling Inara about his dreams about Hope...you have mighty powerful skills, my dear.

BlueEyedBrigadier

Sunday, June 4, 2006 12:28 PM

AMDOBELL


I am so pleased that Mal would have nothing to do with those child-murdering *tamade hundan*. I just hope Kane isn't planning a sneaky way to bump them off and then blame the Alliance. That seems to be his mark. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, June 4, 2006 4:34 PM

LEIGHKOHL


What a great chapter! I was reading through it so fast I had to re-read before I commented, in book terms it was definitely a page turner!! The confrontation at the end was excellent, I wanted to beat the crap out of Gideon myself! The babies leaving was heartbreaking and Mal's description of his and Inara's baby was just beautifully sad and poignant! Can't wait for the finale (but sad that it will be over).

Sunday, June 4, 2006 4:53 PM

SQUISH


Okay so first, I missed you SOOOO much last week!

Now: this was absolutely, completely, amazing. Every single word was perfection! If I had any way of making Joss aware of this story I would, you write this just as well as he does! I really mean that!

I loved the scenes with Mal and Kaylee (from her standing up to him, to the hugging scene). The scene with Simon rang so true as well. I was moved to tears several times during this.

The ending was something I never expected. Gideon going against orders and the new Independents doing to children just what they were fighting against the Alliance for doing. Absolutely a brilliant bit of storytelling! And now I'm really wondering about the finale, because that event has Mal's name all over it! The Alliance will be searching for him even more.

Okay, now that I've basically worshipped at your feet, I hope that there is another sequel in the works (although how you do it is beyond me!), or a new series, or something!

Waiting on pins and needles for the last chapter.

Saturday, June 10, 2006 8:10 AM

SIMONSGIRL87


Wow... I really liked the timeline. I thought that it flowed very well. Nice little touches in it! Love that Mal saw his and Inara's daughter Hope in his dream. *tear*! Can't wait for more. Does it really have to end??

Tuesday, June 13, 2006 11:50 PM

JYNNANTONNYX


... I just spent close to 2 days reading this story, and *flails* has to be one of the best fics I've ever read - and I've read a lot :)

I normally don't read outside Jayne/River fics but someone recced me this and I'm so glad they did. Everything is in character and the storyline is amazing.

Oh I don't want this to end! *sobs* Will there be a sequel?

Friday, June 23, 2006 2:57 PM

WEREALLJUSTFLOATING


Loved it!!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 2:38 PM

TAMSIBLING


Okay, and I should have commented on this as well - absolutely amazing - from Mal and Inara's hurried sex in the tent to Mal's goodbye to his two children, to Kaylee's indignation at his behavior, it's just perfect.

I really loved when Kaylee asked to give him a hug and Mal teased her about it. So right for their relationship!


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