Killer Woman - Chapter 3
Thursday, August 17, 2006

River's descent into madness causes Mal to make a decision that will affect his crew for a long time to come. *post movie* implied S/K.


Yet another idea that came to me in the middle of the night and refused to let me sleep.

This was originally supposed to be a nice little oneshot with an ambiguous ending. But as you can see, I decided to continue it.

The title, while not one of my favorites, was appropriate. It is derived from one of Jayne's lines in the film. 'Now that she's a killer woman we ought be bringing her tea and dumplings.'

Thanks to Tamsibling for the beta.


Click here for the Prologue.

Click here for Chapter 1.

Click here for Chapter 2.


Chapter 3


“Gorramn crazy broke Vera!” Jayne whined as he laid the precious gun on the counter and began examining it.

Zoe rolled the stool over to Jayne. “Sit down before you fall down.”

Kaylee went to Simon’s side and clutched desperately at his hand while Mal picked River up and marched her back to lockup. Inara, who had missed most of the excitement, stood beside Kaylee, lending whatever support she could to the distraught young woman.

Jayne ignored Zoe, as well as the pain in his side, as he examined his most favorite gun, trying to figure out why it wouldn’t fire.

“Gorramit, Jayne, sit the hell down!”

Jayne growled at Zoe but winced as he looked down at his injuries. “Vera’s broke for good an’ I’ll end that little brat’s life.”

“You’ve got other guns, Jayne,” Zoe said with a roll of the eyes as she began to clean his wound. She worked in silence while Jayne muttered uselessly. “So what happened?” Mal asked as he walked back in to the room, staring at Kaylee.

“She let crazy out.” Jayne nodded toward Kaylee before wincing as Zoe tugged the first stitch through his skin.

“He didn’t ask you, Jayne,” Zoe said, her tone leaving no room for further comment.

“She said she could help Simon.” Kaylee said, her voice soft. Her eyes lingered on her beloved’s face while trembling fingers brushed across his cheek.

“An’ so you let her out?” The incredulous look on Mal’s face would have been funny at any other time.

“Mal –“ Inara exchanged a look with the man that implored him to tone down the accusatory glare.

“She did help him,” Kaylee said softly, her eyes unwavering from Simon’s face.

“Yeah, an’ then she attacked me – an’ you! Ow!” Jayne glowered at Zoe as she tugged needlessly hard on the next stitch.

“One more word Jayne.” Zoe stared at the man, her body already tense at having to stitch up yet another member of the crew.

Mal looked over Simon’s unconscious form. “He doin’ better?”

“It looks like he’s more stable, yes,” Inara answered, glancing at the bag of fluid that hung beside the chair and the IV that now rested in Simon’s arm.

“We ain’t but a few hours out from Verbana,” Mal offered.

“Yeah, an’ we’re gonna walk the doc into the closest hospital with all them feds stationed there?” Jayne didn’t look up from where he tinkered with his gun, but his annoyance was palpable.

“There’s just a small security detail there now,” Zoe said as she set aside the needle and scissors. “Hopefully, they’ve got more important places to be patrolling than the local emergency room.”

“He’s tagged. They’ll do a scan an’ that’ll be that.”

“Well, he ain’t got a chance if we don’t get him to a hospital. We’ll have to risk it.”

“I say we dump ‘em both. Ain’t worth gettin’ arrested ‘cause a –“

Kaylee glanced up, horrified, but Inara rested a comforting hand on the younger woman’s arm.

“We ain’t discussin’ this in committee. My ship, my decision. We’re goin’.” Mal stared at Jayne. “You might want to be lookin’ to that attitude. Simon’s patched you up more’n a few times.”

Jayne scowled. “Yeah, an’ more’n a few of ‘em I got on account he an’ the moonbrain were here in the first place.”

“I’ll take him to the hospital when we land an’ you can go,” Kaylee said, her voice soft but determined.

Mal pursed his lips. “Man’s a part of this crew, lil’ Kaylee. I don’t leave crew behind.”

Zoe glanced at Jayne. “You could maybe make an exception just this once, Sir.”

Jayne simply made a face, remembering the last time Zoe’d made a comment about his worth to the ship.


The crowd cheered as a thirteen year old River bowed with the rest of her troupe. River accepted the congratulations with the grace and manner befitting someone of her station but as her eyes scanned the throngs of well-wishers, there was really only one person she wanted to see – her brother.

Since he’d started medical school, she’d hardly seen him. She missed him so badly; the house was empty without him and River had grown desperate for an escape. She'd even gone so far as to investigate boarding schools, each more challenging than the last, in an effort to make her forget about the life her brother was making without her.

The ache in her heart grew, yet the fake smile remained on her face as her parents hugged and congratulated her on another superb performance.

“Simon?” River asked hopefully.

“He had to work, River, you know that,” her mother said, trying to offer comfort to her disappointed daughter. “He’s been very busy with –“

Her mother’s words trailed off into the rest of the voices surrounding her. She didn’t need to hear the woman make excuses for Simon. She knew he was busy. But he’d missed her last three recitals and she’d hoped he would at least make it to the last one of the season.

As she left for the dressing rooms, River’s eyes widened and she hurried around the other performers toward the well-dressed young man waiting in front of her chair. With an excited cry, she launched herself into her waiting brother’s arms.

“Simon! I thought you didn’t come!”

“I didn’t see it all, mei mei, but I got away as quick as I could.”

River could see the disappointment in his features but she didn’t care. He was here now and that was all that mattered.

River whimpered as old childhood memories played through her mind, unending streams of information that she had never forgotten, but long ago buried. Untold hours passed as her conscious mind became lost in the joy that was her brother’s presence in her life.

River’s eyes widened as she watched the awkward teenagers kiss. “You’re doing it wrong, Simon,” River shook her head disapprovingly. “Too sloppy.” She wrinkled her nose in disgust but she watched with a child’s curiosity as her brother and his girlfriend sat in the gazebo on the Tam Estate, learning how to kiss for the first time.

River had been disgusted, and tattled, getting her brother into trouble. He had been angry with her then, but it hadn’t lasted. It never did. He loved her and she loved him. It didn’t matter how annoying she was, he couldn’t stay mad at her for long.

The next time she’d caught Simon with a girl, it was different, still awkward, but there was an intensity to the motions after being put off for so long. And as she watched while he kissed Kaylee, River knew, deep in her heart and soul that this was right for him. Despite his reservations, his hesitation to give into base urges and desires, despite their seemingly unending hurdle of differences, would make it - together.

Tears leaked out of the corner of her eyes as River kept them clamped shut, trying to desperately hold onto those good memories. But as her breathing escalated and her heart rate rose, she couldn’t keep the bad memories, the painful ones at bay.

The most horrifying memory reverberated through her entire body as she remembered, as she felt, that blade sink into her brother’s body over and over and over again. His blood covered her hands, her arms, her face, as she unemotionally carried out the task they had long ago conditioned into her.

Suddenly, she bolted upright, her body trembling so hard the restraints rattled against the floor’s grating. She couldn’t let him die. She loved him. He was her brother and she had tried to kill him. She doubled over and retched, her chest heaving in an effort to dislodge the small pin she had swallowed when fighting with Jayne in the infirmary.

After a few moments the piece shot into her cupped hands and she smiled. Curling her hands so that she could reach the lock on the handcuffs, she expertly shoved the pin into them and sighed satisfactorily when she heard the answering click.

Hiding a smile she called for Jayne, who she knew was waiting and pacing outside the locked door. He would come. He wanted her dead and she would give him one last opportunity.


“He’s got that fake ident card,” Kaylee offered with a hopeful look in her eyes.

“It’ll have to be enough,” Mal grunted as he lifted the stretcher.

“Not if they do a blood scan.”

“Alliance is crawlin’ all over this planet.”

“We gotta get him there or he ain’t gonna make it.”

“We know, Kaylee.” Mal and Zoe carefully maneuvered Simon’s unconscious form onto the stretcher.

“I’ll stay and clean up.” Inara said, pressing a kiss to Kaylee’s cheek. “You go with Mal and Zoe.”

Mal regarded Inara. “Jayne’s watchin’ River, make sure he don’t do anything stupid.”

“Jayne, Sir?” Zoe rolled her eyes. “Do something stupid?”

Mal scowled at her rather accurate non-verbal assessment. “Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of.”

“I’ll check on him when I’m finished.” Inara bustled around the room as Mal and Zoe carried Simon out.


Jayne glared at the door as he listened to River’s sing songy voice call to him, taunting him. He took a swig of sake and slammed the bottle back onto the table.

“Fine. Little moonbrain wants play, we’ll play,” Jayne scowled and clutched the now-working Vera tightly as he went to the door. He glanced in through the peep hole and noticed her still cuffed to the grate, looking up at him like an innocent little child who had been needlessly punished.

He quickly unlocked the door and went in, grinning knowingly at the girl.

“All chained up like a little animal, huh, crazy?”


He ignored her and continued with his taunting. “We all thought you was gettin’ better. But no, you had to go on a murderin’ rampage so’s now we got to –“

Before Jayne knew what was happening, River was upright, her fists and her feet connecting with various parts of his anatomy and dropping him, moments later, unconscious to the ground. Blood spread across his side where she’d stabbed him earlier, opening Zoe’s carefully constructed stitches. Her hands clenched and unclenched at her sides as she resisted the carefully programmed commands that had risen to the forefront of her mind. They demanded she end the lives of anyone in her path. But her nails dug deep into her palms, drawing thin lines of blood in the skin. She didn’t want to kill Jayne, she couldn’t. She only wanted to see Simon, to tell him she loved him, to tell him that she didn’t mean to do what she did.

“Can’t control it, Simon.” River shook her head, tears slipping down her round cheeks. “It controls me. Have to stop it. Don’t know how!” She shrieked and ran out of the room. Someone was coming and they mustn’t see her.

River crept along the walkways, her hands brushing the walls, feeling the cold metal against her fingertips. It doused the rage and the heat burning through her veins and she walked with a determined step, head cocked to the side as if listening for anyone who might come upon her.

She walked noiselessly on bare feet to the infirmary, where her breath caught in her throat when she saw the diagnostic bed was empty. He wasn’t dead. The ship had landed and they were just getting him help.


Something that wasn’t possible for her.

She was broken, damaged, dangerous, and always would be.

River stepped soundlessly into the room and eyed the tools sitting on the metal table beside the chair.

A startled gasp filled the air and River’s head swiveled to take in Inara’s surprised face, her hands clutching bloody materials she had just cleaned off the counter.

“River, what are you –“

“I have to –” She swiped a sharp implement off the table, her hand shaking as the sharp edge at once pointed toward her own body and then away from it. She took a hesitant step toward Inara, who instinctively backed against the farthest wall.

“No, River, you don’t.” Inara’s eyes were calm as she struggled to speak to the girl. Her body thrummed as River felt the strong, anxious thud of the woman’s fear.

“Can’t live like this. Have no control.” River’s hand shook, followed by her entire slight frame as she advanced on the former Companion. Tears leaked down her cheeks and Inara could see the hesitant conflict flicker in her eyes. “Hurt Simon. My brother. And I love him! Can’t trust me. Can’t heal me. I’m lost.”

“We can help you – “Inara began but River’s quick reflexes swung the scalpel along her closest arm, drawing blood. Inara’s hand immediately covered the cut as it began to throb painfully. But as she opened her mouth to put River to sleep, the back of the girl’s hand struck her across the face, momentarily knocking the safe words out of her lungs.

“No one can help me!” River cried as her eyes filled with tears. She raised the scalpel but hesitated, memories rushing through her mind so fast she didn’t know whether they were true, or false, planted there, or gleaned from her unconscious plundering of other’s thoughts.

A scientist shoving needles into her skin over and over as she screamed for the brother who didn’t come.

Her father ordering her to her room without dinner.

Her brother’s angry thoughts as she interrupted him with Ella Gray.

A student launching himself at her, his hand positioned in just the right way to snap her neck.

Images of other planets, people affected by the Pax. Miranda wasn’t the only blemish on the Alliance’s façade of a record.

Experiments conducted on the young and old to find the best method of creating a human weapon.

“No!” River screamed and fell to her knees, the images and the emotions they evoked within her overwhelming the diminutive girl.

Inara took a step forward, wanting to comfort her. But Mal’s demand to keep still, as he stood in the entrance to the infirmary, gun drawn, halted her forward motion.

River quieted at the sound of his voice and swiveled her head toward him. Her gaze was once again cold and calculated, as if his voice, and that tone, had brought about another unwanted memory. As a rabid animal knowing its end was near, she launched herself to her feet and charged toward Inara, shocking the Companion into crying out the words that would put the girl to sleep.

But River’s mind had retreated into a place she had constructed during her time at the Academy. A place where she could not hear or feel what was being done to her. Instinct alone drove her actions, and no one would ever know why the word had worked once and had never worked again.

Just as River reached the Companion, a single gun shot echoed in the small room and the younger girl’s brown eyes widened for a brief moment before a hint of a smile played across her face.

“River?” Inara breathed, her arms outstretched to block the oncoming attack that had been halted mere inches from its destination.

The scalpel hit the floor with an unusually loud clang in the suddenly silent room, but before Inara could blink, Mal had caught the broken girl and hugged her to his chest, anguish the likes of which she’d never seen, nor wanted to see again, written in his weathered features.

“Wanted to help me,” River’s voice was a pained whisper as she stared unblinking into Mal’s face.

Mal swallowed thickly and nodded as Inara fell to her knees, tears welling in her eyes.

“Tell him I’m – sorry,” River whispered, her voice growing more faint with each word, each labored breath.

“River –“ Mal wanted to speak but the lump in his throat and the look in River’s eyes told him she wasn’t finished.

River heaved a huge, shaky breath and Mal knew she didn’t have much time left. He wanted to apologize, but she lifted her hand and trailed light fingers over his cheek. “Thank you – for carrying the bullet for me.”

Mal’s jaw set as River’s big brown eyes cleared for a moment and a small smile spread across her face. She’d made peace with her life, and with her Captain’s role in ending it.

Mal only wished he could understand why things had happened the way they did.

Watching the broken girl’s smile fade and her body fall limp against him made Mal fleetingly wish he could join her. Cast aside all mortal responsibility and end the pain this innocent child’s death would cause for him and his.

But instead he closed his rapidly misting eyes and dropped his face into her dark hair, wishing to every God in the ‘verse that he had the power to turn back time – even if it meant the girl and her brother never set foot on his boat.

He held her for a long time, his heart heavy. “It didn’t have to end like this,” he said to no one in particular, though Inara was the only one in the room.

“I knew the safe word. I knew it.” Mal’s voice was broken with emotion and Inara didn’t know what to do to comfort him. “But she was too close. I couldn’t’ve said it in time.”

“It didn’t work, Mal,” Inara’s soft voice tried to comfort where she knew there would be none to find. “I said it, but it didn’t put her to sleep. If you hadn’t shot, I’d –“

“You’d be dead and so would she.” He simply stated matter-of-factly.

Silence fell and he only looked up when Zoe stopped in the doorway, unable to completely mask the shocked look on her face.

The warrior woman’s eyes quickly scanned the surroundings before returning to her friend and Captain. “Sir?”

“She thanked me, Zo.” Mal’s voice was hoarse with rarely displayed emotion.

Zoe remained silent and a small shiver raced down her spine when she noticed the hollow look in his eyes.

“Thanked me for carryin’ the bullet.”

In that moment, Zoe knew what she’d already guessed. Mal had been the one to end the troubled genius’ life. After everything that had happened, it needed to be done, Zoe understood that. But saying it now would do no one any good, least of all to the man sitting at her feet.

“Simon?” Inara finally asked, her voice a bit more steady than Mal’s. She wasn’t sure any of them could take more bad news.

“In surgery. They seemed optimistic.”

“Just give him a gun, Zo,” Mal said, his voice barely a whisper.

“Boy’s got more of a level head than that, Sir.” Zoe understood that he’d meant Simon would want to kill him for ending his sister’s life, but she tended to give credit where she felt it was due. Simon would have to understand even if he didn’t want to.

“Not when it comes – came,” his voice hitched ever so lightly in his throat, “to his sister.”

Zoe pursed her lips. Captain had a point.



End Notes: I'm sure the content of this chapter has upset a great many people. Sorry there was no warning, but, the story was more effective if the reader was not warned it was going to happen.

The point of this story, if it was missed in all the drama, is that sometimes people are put in this world simply for the effect they will have on the lives around them.

Thanks for reading.

If you didn't like it, or even if you did, leave a review and let me know.


Thursday, August 17, 2006 6:01 AM


I LOVED IT! Which I believe you already know.

Mal acted as only he could to save his crew, and in the end, save River from herself. I still think the reactions of everyone, including Simon and Kaylee would be immensely telling ... but I understand that this story was about River and her effect on those around her.

It is hugely sad to think of her gone, but you're right - the impact she had on all of them, both positive and negative will go on and make a huge difference in their lives forever.

Keep writing awesome angst like this and I'll keep reading (and beta-ing!) Thanks for sharing with all of us!

Thursday, August 17, 2006 6:14 AM


“Gorramn crazy broke Vera!”
~Good for River (and for you)

“You’ve got other guns, Jayne,”
“He didn’t ask you, Jayne,” Zoe said, her tone leaving no room for further comment.
~I love how Zoe is just putting Jayne in his place.

Zoe glanced at Jayne. “You could maybe make an exception just this once, Sir.”

She doubled over and retched, her chest heaving in an effort to dislodge the small pin she had swallowed when fighting with Jayne in the infirmary.
~Good gorram, is she efficient

He wanted her dead and she would give him one last opportunity.
~In some sense, you might even call her a tease.

“Thank you – for carrying the bullet for me.”

Watching the broken girl’s smile fade and her body fall limp against him made Mal fleetingly wish he could join her.
~Yeah, I can totally sympathize with that feeling.

“Not when it comes – came,” his voice hitched ever so lightly in his throat, “to his sister.”
Zoe pursed her lips. Captain had a point.

Mal wanting her to give SImon the gun is most certainly the most painless way for the inevitable to happen.

You know, I really don't mind when people kill off characters, even my favorite one, so long as it is done well, which you have. Then again, I never get sad or anxious when things happen to any of the characters. Very good story doll.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 6:21 AM


Damn. I said Jayne was right, but I didn't think you'd actually do it! Fitting that Mal was the one, though.

Poor, poor Simon. He's had a REALLY bad day.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 6:29 AM


OK, fine, not in PM.

Jayne's out cold, and Inara, Mal, and Zoe seem resigned to let Simon try and kill him. Kaylee, on the other hand, wouldn't go for that, and she'd try to stop him. So let's see how far Simon would go. Would he really shoot Mal (yes, I think he would)? Would he smack, hit, shoot, or otherwise injure Kaylee to get her out of the way (maybe)?

Let's see how much damage the prissy Doc could do vs. the trained weapon. Maybe they shot the wrong Tam....

Thursday, August 17, 2006 6:39 AM


A good story here. It should prove interesting on how Mal will deal with the after effects of killing River. I also wonder how deep Simon will go in his mourning. His sister was his life on Serenity and now he needs to fill the void.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 7:27 AM


"She was broken, damaged, dangerous, and always would be."

ooh, i like that line. i knew what was gonna happen, and still it was hard to read. i guess mal fulfilled the poem--mariner slays the albatross. hopefully things go better for serenity's crew than the one in the poem. love mal telling zoe to give simon a gun. this might just be that long-awaited showdown hinted at in the pilot--"if i ever kill you...". i have faith in simon to come through, though. he knows the person mal is, and i dont think he'll want this story ending with yet more blood! would def love to see them have it out though. mal and simon have one of the more interesting dynamics on serenity....

Thursday, August 17, 2006 7:44 AM


Great series, I enjoyed it start to finish and I'm so glad you chose take your little one shot, give it wings and let it soar.

It did!

Jayne ignored Zoe, as well as the pain in his side, as he examined his most favorite gun, trying to figure out why it wouldn’t fire. *Ah...Jayne and his "Most favorite gun", poor fellow, I'm wondering if he would actually be able to fix it?

Jayne simply made a face, remembering the last time Zoe’d made a comment about his worth to the ship. *and again, the poor bloke, he can't catch a break in this.

Hiding a smile she called for Jayne, who she knew was waiting and pacing outside the locked door. He would come. He wanted her dead and she would give him one last opportunity. *and again, he is really, really, really not that smart to do this, but really would and really would get his butt kicked again.

She was broken, damaged, dangerous, and always would be. *Perfect description of River as a whole.

“Just give him a gun, Zo,” Mal said, his voice barely a whisper. *I have to say, I'm glad you ended this the way you did. Jayne killing River at some point would have just been violence, while Mal putting her down was nearly an act of love...knowing that she was exactly what you descibe above. I know the act wasn't deliberate, but the way you wove this story led to the perfection of the ending.

Great Job

Thursday, August 17, 2006 8:19 AM


Vow. Sad but excellent. And plausible.

As for Simon and a gun - I think he won't be trying to kill more people for his sister, he would shoot himself instead.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 8:36 AM


Well written story. I enjoyed it. I would be interested to see the Mal-Simon dynamic (if there *is* a sequeal I mean) Poor River adn well...everyone. Very emotional.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 10:00 AM


Strangely - it didn't shock me. OK - you'd warned me that there was a character death coming on. But it made perfect sense the way it happened. Completely plausible.

Except - you'd think Jayne would learn. I mean - he's a bit of a dodo, but he's a decent fighter and tracker, right? He'd know better than go against River when he's all injured already and he's seen her take down a crowd of Reavers.

That's a little thing though... I do enjoy the ending. Mal's understated grief at what he had to do.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 11:21 AM


>Except - you'd think Jayne would learn. I mean - he's a bit of a dodo, but he's a decent fighter and tracker, right?

He thinks she's cuffed to the grating.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 3:02 PM



Saturday, August 19, 2006 3:28 AM



Friday, October 13, 2006 6:27 PM


Okay, so reviewing late I noticed that everyone has already commented on my fav lines in this piece! Let me then just comment on how well you have captured Zoe and Jayne in this piece! They were spot on perfect! Their reactions were in character, their speech patterns impecible and they never strayed from who they were intended to be as characters! Lovely job! Now onto the Killing of River....though she is definitely a driving force in the stories of Firefly, I do like her end in this piece because it is perfectly plausable! A nice companion piece would maybe be the reaction of Simon to such sad news and how the rest of the crew pick up the pieces after. What an awesome story!

Saturday, October 21, 2006 12:35 PM


The right ending...and the only one, I'm afraid...Incredible......I'm wiping away tears right now, for all of them, especially Simon.


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Simon and Kaylee discuss other - avenues, as they lay in bed. Oddly, this is a pretty PG story.

Simon and kaylee disturb the ship with their nocturnal activities. Post BDM. Part of a challenge table. Rated NC-17 for adult content.

Broken Wings: Conclusion (Repost)
The crew take Kaylee home to be buried and the reason for Simon's secrecy is discovered. Sequel to 'On the Edge'. Cannon pairings.

Broken Wings: Chapter 18 (Repost)
Simon, Mal and Jayne have a moment with Kaylee. Inara and River are reunited with the rest of the crew. Sequel to 'On the Edge'. Cannon pairings.

Broken Wings: Chapter 17 (Repost)
Simon has a conversation with Zoe, Mal and Jayne - separately. Sequel to 'On the Edge.' Cannon pairings.

Broken Wings: Chapter 16 (Repost)
The crew is reunited - mostly, as Simon arrives to treat the wounded. River rushes to Inara's aid before her deception is discovered. Sequel to 'On the Edge'. Cannon pairings.

Broken Wings: Chapter 15 (Repost)
Simon's escape is halted by his father. But River comes to the rescue. Jayne - sees the light - far too up close and personal for his safety. Sequel to 'On the Edge'. Cannon pairings.

Broken Wings: Chapter 14 (Repost)
Simon and Inara's deception is discovered. Mal, Jayne and Zoe continue to fight what looks to be a losing battle. Sequel to 'On the Edge'. Cannon pairings.

Broken Wings: Chapter 13 (Repost)
Simon has some unexpected help with his fussy son and River receives another assignment. Sequel to 'On the Edge'. Cannon pairings.

Broken Wings: Chapter 12 (Repost)
Inara and Simon continue their work while a message gets out to those on the front lines. Sequel to 'On the Edge'. Cannon pairings.