Broken Wings: Chapter 16 (Repost)
Monday, November 19, 2007

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.


Chapter 16

“It’s gettin’ worse, sir,” Zoe noted as she fired on the approaching soldiers. Her aim was impeccable and she wasted not a shot.

“Can’t get much worse, Zoe.” Mal followed suit and together they dropped the few men advancing on their position.

“They just took out another turret. Those things are the only heavy artillery we have left to defend this position.”

Suddenly, far above them, several large cruisers broke atmo and hurled downward with increasing speed.

“That doesn’t look good,” Mal said, cocking his head as if it would give him a better idea of where the ships would crash.

“We move, we’re gonna be picked off by those purplebellies!” one soldier cried as he glanced upward at the shadows rapidly descending over them.

“And we’re sitting ducks here!” another man called, panic clearly evident in his voice.

“They’ll destroy it,” Mal said with a confidence Zoe didn’t in any way feel. “That’s one of our ships in pursuit. They’ll get it.”

Zoe raised an eyebrow.

Mal shrugged at her. “Either we sit or we run and take our chances.”

Zoe’s sharp gaze rested the landscape in front of them – and on the soldiers approaching their flank.

Explosions rocked the ground beneath them as the ship hurtling downward let off its ordinance in a last ditch effort to do as much damage as it could before it was blown out of the sky. Zoe ducked when the Independent cruiser’s missiles struck home and the Alliance ship exploded far too close for comfort. Debris rained down on them from above, which sent everyone scrambling for a safer position – including the Alliance troops advancing on them. [Cool! This makes sense]

“Rather take that chance, sir!” Zoe grabbed a fistful of Mal’s jacket and pulled him toward the nearest mineshaft.

If they didn’t move, the ships would hit them, or the large debris breaking away from the larger whole would. They’d need to take their chances inside. If the mine collapsed…. So many scenarios and possibilities barreled through Zoe’s mind. But it only took a split second to make the decision she thought best.

As they ran, men beside them fell at their feet, picked off by the Alliance troops now carelessly chasing behind. They wove around the fallen and Zoe set her jaw. She couldn’t turn around and fire, as much as she really wanted to take as many of them with her as she could.

‘Ain’t many left, sir.” Zoe’s eyes darted around the small camp. The men who rested there, small spoons in their hands as they shoveled possibly their last meal into their mouths, could barely have been of age. Children. Fighting a war they couldn’t win.

Mal’s voice was determined, his eyes focused. “We’ll fight to the last man.”

Zoe nodded. “Won’t be much longer then.”

She saw the hopelessness in his gaze when he turned his eyes to her. He didn’t think they would survive this fight either. No one had come for them. No reinforcements. Nothing. They were running out of food, water and ammo.

An armored vehicle crashed through the camp and behind it several Alliance soldiers came out firing. Men fell like leaves in the harshest wind, dead with spoons in their mouths or crushed beneath the might of the Alliance’ war machine.

Mal grabbed her then, pulled until she stood upright enough to follow. They wove between fallen concrete, over and around the bodies of their friends. Bullets ricocheted off the stone, off the ground, kicking up the dirt at their feet. Once they reached a mostly solid wall, she turned and fired into the crowd of approaching soldiers. She took several of them down before light ordinance exploded nearby and shattered the wall they’d taken refuge behind.

They landed on their backsides as the tanks rolled forward. The foot soldiers had taken cover behind the advancing vehicles, used them as protection.

“Lets go!” Mal dragged her to her feet and they ran. What was left of their men followed, but they were all cut down when they stopped to return fire.

Radio’s crackled and another explosion to their right signaled the destruction of another turret that had been protecting their position. Over the sound of pained screams, debris raining down from above, and ships soaring overhead, she could barely hear the voice saying that help was on the way.

She glanced up as they ran, at the dark trail of smoke that soared quickly toward them. They were almost at the shaft entrance, but Zoe knew they wouldn’t make it. She pushed Mal ahead of her just as a missile impacted the already blackened ground beside them. The explosion pushed the friends apart, and the last thing Zoe saw before falling unconscious was her friend lying face first in the sand too far away for her to reach.


“So what are we walking into?” Simon asked a med tech as they waited to board one of the shuttles.

“Right now, it’s safe down there. We’ve dispatched all of the hostiles in the area. But more could arrive at any time so you docs need to –“

“– triage and get the wounded back up here as soon as possible.” Another doctor stopped beside Simon and finished for the soldier.

Simon glanced around the landing bay, at the soldiers all boarding their own shuttles.” Looks like we’ll be well protected.” He swallowed thickly, thinking about how he would be leaving Madeline and his son. “This ship. It will be – safe enough?”

“We’ve got plenty of firepower in the area, and more are arriving all the time,” the solder beside him answered. “Think the brass is gonna use this planet as some big staging point to launch an attack closer to the Core.” The man smiled happily. “We got some really big guns recently.”

Simon opened his mouth to comment but was drowned out by the PA system informing everyone waiting for departure to board their assigned craft. He moved in with the other doctors, clutching his bag. At least he could be some use here. He was trained for this.

They strapped in and the pilot wasted no time after authorization was given for take off. Simon clutched his bag and closed his eyes. The time for action would come soon enough. For the few minutes it would take to get to the surface, he needed to relax, to prepare himself for the carnage he would undoubtedly see once they landed.


Under guise as a Companion, River entered the House. She walked determinedly across the marbled floors and stopped only when she reached the large, ornate door that led to Inara’s chamber. It was night, and so few people were milling about, but River was still cautious. Looking each way down the hall, she waited until there would be no one to see, then slipped into the room.

She stood for a moment, waiting for her eyes to get used to the darkness that filled the room. In the hallways, there was still a bit of lamplight, inside the room, only the moonlight lit the room as it spilled in through the parted balcony curtains. Scented candles burned at their bases, nearly extinguished, and gave the room an earthy, yet relaxing feel.

Once River’s eyes acclimated to the room she padded forward on silent feet. Her body was tense as her gaze fell on the naked man lying beside Inara, his arm draped possessively around her waist.

River knew Inara was suspect and this man had been gathering evidence of her activities. River wrinkled her nose at the thought of this man using Inara for physical pleasure for as long as he could before he had enough proof to arrest her.

She crouched low on Inara’s side of the bed and waited. She didn’t need to speak. Like someone who knew they were being watched, Inara woke, her hand sliding into a hidden compartment beside the bed to wrap around a slim bladed dagger hidden there.

“You must come. Now,” River whispered. Her eyes shifted to the man still lying quietly behind Inara and then back again. “He will arrest you.”

Inara’s eyes widened and she slid carefully and silently from beneath the man’s arm. She left the small dagger on a nearby nightstand and slipped into the nightclothes she had worn prior to her client removing them.

But her movements woke her bedmate; River blended into the shadows as the man approached Inara from behind. He hadn’t realized that there was an intruder. Not yet.

“Where are you going, my dear? As I recall, our arrangement doesn’t end before dawn.” He dropped his lips to her neck and River held back a groan of disgust.

“A woman must be allowed to freshen herself before her client wakes, should she not?”

River could hear the slight waver in Inara’s normally very confident voice.

“Oh, you’re quite fresh enough for me, my dear.” He reached up to squeeze a silk-clad breast but Inara whirled out of his arms with a fake smile.

“Oh, please, I must prepare for –“

He moved forward again. “You need do no such thing.”

“Raymond, I really must insist –“

River could feel the man’s temper begin to boil beneath his lust. He wouldn’t let Inara leave. He would need to be eliminated.

“I own you until dawn.” He pulled her back into his arms and backed her against the closest wall. “I think the time has passed for idle pleasantries.”

River waited in the shadows. The time to strike would come soon enough.

“Raymond, you’re hurting me.” Inara kept up the pretense.

He tore the silk dressing gown and pressed his aroused body against her. But this time, her legs did not part freely. Inara tensed and pushed with all of the strength in her small frame. He stumbled backward toward the bed and Inara swept the dagger off the nightstand.

“Get out,” she seethed. “We are not to be treated as common whores. There is protocol –“

“You are a common whore, woman!” Raymond Yang spat as he advanced. He eyed the dagger, and River moved forward. She would stop him before he laid a hand on her friend again. “And – an Independent sympathizer!” He held himself tall, and despite his naked condition, took the bearing of an Alliance official. “Under the authority given to me by the Union of Allied Worlds, you are hereby bound by law.”

“Your Alliance will fail,” River whispered as she stepped out of the shadows behind him. “The atrocities they’ve committed will come to light. All of them.”

“What?” Yang was confused, and surprised, to discover someone else in the room. This broke his concentration and while he lunged for River, Inara launched herself at him from the front. Her dagger sank deeply into his shoulder and he cried out in pain. As he yanked the dagger out of his shoulder, he backhanded Inara and beckoned to River who stood before him. Very close.

“Come here, little waif.”

“You have only to reach out and touch me,” River said, her entire bearing showing her confidence.

“I think I’ll have my way with you before I turn you both over to the authorities!” He reached for River, but she sidestepped his advance and kicked his legs out from beneath him in a move faster than the eyes of a normal person could see. Inara’s little dagger fell from his hand and skittered into the darkness.

River looked back at Inara, who had pulled herself off the bed and was advancing on them. “Go get dressed. We need to leave. Now.”

“River –“

Yang’s hand wrapped around River’s ankle and he turned, taking her down to the floor as he rolled to his feet.

“No!” Inara bent down to retrieve the dagger that had so conveniently fell near her feet. It took her a moment to find it in the darkness, and when she finally looked up again, River was on her feet, facing her opponent.

“I’m fine, Inara,” River called as Yang rushed her. She sidestepped him and his naked body collided with a nearby table. He groaned as the wood hit sensitive, unprotected areas of his body, but that only infuriated him more.

“I’m going to snap your neck, little girl!” he seethed.

“Many have tried. All have failed.” River sidestepped his swing and dropped him to his knees with a few well placed punches to his abdomen as well as knee to the groin.

“You cannot win.”

Yang stared up at her, mouth gaping open. “What are you?”

“What your government made me,” River answered.

A large vase cracked over his head and River lifted her eyes to Inara, who stood behind the now unconscious man.

“You didn’t need to do that,” River said, a small smile spreading across her face.

“Oh, no, River,” Inara exhaled deeply. “I really needed to.”

River nodded, understanding. This man had used Inara’s body. It was only fitting that she be the one to deal the final blow. River glanced down once again before meeting Inara’s eyes. “We have to go. Now.”

Inara slipped into a dress suitable for making a convincing, but quick exit. It was soft and delicate. It would give the impression she’d been called to a late night appointment. Hopefully no one they met in the hallways would know she’d already had a client for the night. She packed a small bag and slung it over her shoulder.

River held out a voluminous velvet cloak. Inara snatched it out of her hands and in one swift, elegant movement, fastened it around her neck, deftly hiding the bag she’d just packed.

River moved toward the door and Inara followed wordlessly. The Reader could feel the other woman’s anxiety and desire to ask questions, but River knew the Companion would hold her tongue until it was safe.

They moved out of the room and down the hallway swiftly. Not thirty minutes later, River’s shuttle departed Sihnon airspace, heading for a rendezvous that was nearly a year in the making.


The first thing Mal noticed when he regained consciousness was the familiar face leaning over him. The second was the immense pain that flooded through his chest.

“Zoe?” He couldn’t even feel his lips move.

“Right here, sir.”

He groaned a response that was muffled even to his own ears.

“Don’t try and talk. Rescue’s on the way. Shuttles landing all the time.” She smiled, and Mal couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen that. Something good must have happened. “We held out. We won. Got help coming.”

“’S good.” His voice sounded distant, and the pounding in his ears wasn’t enough to drown out the pain.

“Stay with me now.”

He could hear the desperation in her voice and squinted up at her. His head throbbed and her features were blurry. If he crossed his eyes just right, he could even see two of her. And that frightened him deeply. One Zoe was plenty. He couldn’t handle more than one. Heck, he couldn’t even handle one most of the time.

His mind wandered as consciousness came and went. But then he grunted when he felt something press against his chest. He tried to look down but it hurt too much.

“Ain’t no need to see it. Sure you can feel it plain enough.”

So it was Zoe then, holding something to his chest to stem the bleeding, or keep his insides in, one or the other. Mal wasn’t quite lucid enough to care.

“We made it,” he said, a small smile quirking the corner of his lips.

“That we did.” Her eyes were so very dark, and after a very long moment he realized it was because the edges of his vision had clouded over.

He dimly heard her call for aid. The med teams must have arrived. But he couldn’t move his head. He couldn’t move anything. The longer he lay there, the harder it became to breathe, and he finally let his eyes slip shut.

“You stay with me, sir. I ain’t leavin’ this battlefield without you!”

The anger in her voice forced him to find the strength to pry open his eyes. “Might not have a choice, there, Zoe,” he whispered, his voice failing. It was increasingly difficult to keep his eyes open, and when they fell shut again, his world turned black.

He stared up as the Alliance warships sailed overhead. The battle was long since over. They’d lost. They waited for troops to come take them away to prison, to war camps, to an interrogation worse than death, but no one came.

It was weeks before a ship landed close enough for them to even possibly reach. But by then they were so hungry and thirsty, there was no way they could walk five feet, much less five miles.

The Alliance had left them. Their own people had left them. They were trapped until someone came for them, or they all died of starvation. It left a lot of time for thought, reflection, regret.

He touched his neck where the pendant once lay. After a week of little to no food, his mind began to play tricks on him. He could feel the weight of the cross on his neck, but when he reached up to rip it away yet again, there was nothing there.

So much for faith; it hadn’t served him when he’d needed it. He closed his eyes to get some uneasy sleep, and wished the cross still hung there so he could rip it away again. He wished he could do it over and over, tear the thing off him and throw it into the mud.

“Step back. Please.”

Zoe’s angry response, coupled with someone’s poking and prodding, brought Mal back to consciousness. His head lolled to one side and he came face to face with someone he never thought he’d see again.

“Just like old times, isn’t it, Captain?”

In the back of his mind, Mal heard someone correct the doctor kneeling beside him. That wasn’t his rank. Mal would have chuckled if he’d had the energy.

Mal blinked dumbly a few times before the name fell from his lips. “Simon?”

“In the flesh.”

“He’s gonna be ok, right?” Mal heard Zoe ask. He didn’t have the strength to turn his head to see where she stood.

“Step back and let us take care of him,” came the doctor’s short reply. Just like old times. He felt relief to know that Simon was there to take care of him. He trusted Simon, probably nearly as much as he trusted Zoe. He may not have liked Simon so much, but the man was competent and trustworthy. Mal’d seen evidence of it far too often for him to dismiss his former medic and the aid that he offered.

In his foggy mind, he recalled all the arguments he’d had with Simon over the past year, all of the vitriolic words voiced in anger and frustration. Mal was surprised now to find that he felt safe now, comforted that his friends were there for him.

Friends. In his fragmented mind, he didn’t need to put faces with names. There weren’t many in the ‘verse he could call a friend. The woman standing at his side annoying his former medic could be considered one, though they had never really used the words. It was always ‘sir’, or ‘captain’. But she was his friend. And if he lived through this, he would be certain to tell her so. Might shock her to hear those words out of his mouth, but – in his mind Mal smiled. Didn’t know if it transferred to his lips – anything that came as a shock to the warrior queen would be good for a few laughs.

Zoe kept asking questions. Her voice was getting clearer and Simon’s responses more curt. The medicine had begun to work, to take his mind off the pain so he could concentrate on his surroundings, on understanding his memories of the past and how they connected with his present.

Simon didn’t let anyone give him grief when he was working. Not even Zoe. Mal would have laughed if hands weren’t keeping him immobile. Simon had a team to help him now, he didn’t need her to act as his assistant like he had on Serenity. But she kept asking. And Simon’s answers continued to get shorter and more snarky.

Mal winced when cold liquid touched his skin, likewise when anyone touched him with more than – well, anything. Every portion of his body hurt, though it was beginning to dull into a constant ache. He wanted to curse, but he didn’t have the strength. He simply lay there and closed his eyes. When his body relaxed and the pain suddenly vanished, he thought fleetingly that death felt good – until more pain shot down his weakened limbs, reminding him that he was very much alive.

But he couldn’t keep his eyes open. He remembered Simon was fond of those painkillers that made one sleepy. He was sure that if Simon had it on hand, he’d administered it already. Mal exhaled slowly. Most of the pain was gone now, and he could sleep.

Maybe he’d wake up, maybe he wouldn’t. But he had faith now that he knew Simon was here to care for him. He’d ask how and why later. The last thought Mal had before he fell unconscious again was that maybe there was hope for him after all. Maybe faith wasn’t exactly a misplaced thing.

Though it really did have an odd way of showing that it was still there.


Zoe stood outside the medical area, her body tense. Having been treated for her comparably minor wounds, she’d been released to worry and fret over Mal. She watched as he lay on the table, as Simon and other doctors bent over him, battling to save his life.

She stood out of the way, but the large glass window afforded her every view she could possibly want, short of being in there and hearing the doctors herself. But – really, that’s what she wanted. And it took every ounce of control she possessed not to slip into the room to hear what they were saying.

Injured on gurneys were wheeled in all around her, but she barely paid them any notice. Doctors swarmed out of the emergency bays to triage the incoming wounded, but her gaze never left Mal. She moved out of the way, allowed herself to be pushed, so long as she didn’t loose sight of him.

The only thing that caused her eyes to waver even an inch from that room was the loud, bloodcurdling scream of a man lying on an approaching gurney.

“That hurts gorramit!”

Zoe’s head swiveled to her right to regard the blood-covered man. “Jayne?”

She heard the doctors mention a need for immediate assistance, and as she drew closer, she could see why. Blood covered her former shipmate and she could see portions of his body that were not supposed to be visible on the outside.

She stepped back as they were waved into the bay where Simon worked. He whirled away from Mal after speaking to a nurse; presumably, she would finish with his patient.

Zoe could see recognition flash in his eyes but it hindered him not a bit as he got to work. He listened intently to the emergency personnel and then spoke as he began working quickly. He was handed all kinds of instruments Zoe couldn’t even begin to identify. But even as she watched Simon work, she glanced back at Mal, at the few people who now surrounded him. She wanted to yell at everyone inside the room to get back to working on him, but she could tell they were done. Many had already moved to Simon’s side, some were pushing aside the bloodied rags and aprons, and yet another began to wheel Mal out of the room – via a way Zoe did not have access to.

She fought down the rising panic and rather than disturb Simon by knocking on the glass until he looked up, she decided to follow the long, horizontal window until it took her where she wanted to be or she ran into someone who told her where they were taking her captain.

TBC ---------------- Reviews before the hack ----------------

kittykat26 Monday, October 15, 2007 - 06:39

Liked it? Hated it? I alsolutely LOVED it! Can't wait for the next chapter. ----------------

Hoperules Monday, October 15, 2007 - 06:50

You do like to build the suspense, don't you? ----------------

Jane0904 Monday, October 15, 2007 - 07:25

Excellent Zoe/Mal pairing - their dialogue was spot on. And Jayne as well being treated by Simon. Lots of tension. ----------------

KiMbEr Monday, October 15, 2007 - 08:52

The River scene was genius! I'm worried for Mal though...Can't wait for the next =)

Keep flying ;) ----------------

wytchcroft Monday, October 15, 2007 - 09:27

confident work - your characters really have life in them:) missed a couple of chapters earlier, will go and catch up on the strength of this. ----------------

mal4prez Monday, October 15, 2007 - 10:25

Oh, I do love it! And I love that I got to beta it and see all the complications that you worked out so well. I agree - Mal/Zoe are spot on. Bits of fun in all the badness.

And yay for River and Inara making the getaway! ----------------

Megg Monday, October 15, 2007 - 10:52

I have to say loved it! No hate here, no sir! ----------------

AMDOBELL Monday, October 15, 2007 - 13:23

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! I just love the way you write Zoe and Mal going through another war zone, fighting side by side, together - like always. It was very moving how anxious Zoe got for her Captain and friend while Simon was working to save his life and I could so imagine her touch of panic when they wheeled him off down an area she could not follow. Loved Mal feeling safe as soon as he realised Simon was the one working on him. Despite how they clash they do have a mutual respect for each other. And Jayne, getting his own self patched up too. Great to see the gang started to get back together even if they are only being held together by oversized plasters. And River, helping get Inara free of that sleezy *tamade hundan* was the icing on the gorram cake! Well done, can't wait for more. Ali D :~) You can't take the sky from me ----------------

MerryK Monday, October 15, 2007 - 14:51

Hmm, very good. I was having some problems with River as killer woman, but I could definitely see her using her skills to help friends like in this chapter. Nice! And Simon the snarky doctor was great, especially how professional he kept it even though it was someone he cared about. ----------------

BigBadJayne Monday, October 15, 2007 - 16:17

Dammit this was awesome! No heat here either! And zero probs about "killer woman" other ficers have done this, but not quite as well....everything spot on! three more and I can't wait! ----------------

BigBadJayne Monday, October 15, 2007 - 16:18

crap! good.. meant to say no hate here.....dumbass..... ----------------

Desertgirl Monday, October 15, 2007 - 19:35

wonderful! wonderful! I don't want this to end. Except of course I want them all to live happily ever after. ----------------

Jaynesgirl212 Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - 00:01

I almost choked on my muffin half a dozen times! Great job!



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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.