Broken Wings: Chapter 17 (Repost)
Monday, November 19, 2007

Simon has a conversation with Zoe, Mal and Jayne - separately. Sequel to 'On the Edge.' Cannon pairings.


Chapter 17

“You look like how I feel,” Zoe said when Simon walked in the door.

He offered her a wry smile and lifted the chart from the end of the bed.

“Been a while,” Zoe said. She didn’t want to interrupt his reading. “You look well – except for the tired, of course.”

Simon gave her a wry chuckle

She couldn’t stand not knowing. She glanced at Mal lying motionless in the bed and then back to Simon. “He gonna be ok?”

“He’s been hurt pretty badly. But he should recover.”

He continued reading the chart, making notes. It was a side of him, all clinical and precise, that she wouldn’t ever forget, though she was a bit surprised to see it, given what they’d all been through. But then, he and Mal hadn’t parted with friendly words, so she couldn’t really blame Simon if he was a bit cold.

“Thank you.” The words were out of her mouth before she could even contemplate phrasing them differently.

Simon glanced up from the chart, brows knit together, and Zoe arched her neck toward the unconscious Mal. “For saving him.”

“Wasn’t just me.”

“I know but – I could see it in his eyes. He was real grateful it was you tending to him out there.”

Simon shifted his gaze toward Mal to hide the embarrassed flush that crept up his neck. “I’m not the only capable –“

“Just take the damn compliment.”

Simon closed his mouth and looked back at her. He closed the chart slowly and gave her a once over. “How are your injuries?”

Zoe flexed her shoulder and stretched her back. “Not bad.” A silent moment passed before she asked, “Jayne?”

“He’s going to be in rehabilitation for a good few weeks when he wakes up, but he’s stable and breathing on his own.”

“Good to hear.”

Simon opened the chart again. Silence fell for another few moments. The only sounds in the room were the scratch of a pen as Simon made more notes and the steady beep of the machinery which assured her Mal was still alive.

“How’d you come to be out here?” She thought he was headed to the Core.

Simon paused and Zoe could tell he was seriously contemplating an answer. “That’s a long story.”

Zoe glanced back at the sleeping Mal and shrugged. “I got time.”


Simon collapsed into the closest chair and exhaled tiredly. He rubbed his eyes and shook his head in an effort to clear it. There were still so many things that needed to be done. He’d been up for who knows how many hours, performed countless surgeries, had lost more patients than he’d managed to save. He wanted to see his children, but they were safe and happy for the moment. They didn’t need to see him like this. And - there was something else he needed to do first, something that weighed heavily on his shoulders and had from the moment he’d left Osiris.

He leaned forward and keyed in the cortex code for Mai Cheung. He waited as the number flashed across the screen indicating an attempt to connect with that port, but no one answered. With a bit of reluctance, Simon keyed in another number, the Cheung family’s personal number. He waited yet again, but nothing.

He briefly considered contacting the hospital in Capitol City, but he didn’t want to alert anyone as to his whereabouts, nor did he want anyone to suffer the consequences of accepting a call from him. He knew the signals leaving this ship were scrambled, and he held some hope that that was why he could reach no one at the Cheung residence. They wouldn’t accept a call from an unknown source. But Mai would, and that left Simon to imagine the worst. He would ask as soon as he had the opportunity. He had to know what had happened to her, if she’d died to make sure he and his children got away. He wanted, needed, to know.

Simon keyed in another contact, one who he’d been working with for nearly a year, and one who he knew would respond. He needed to make sure everything had been transferred into his off-world holdings. He needed to make sure he had enough to support and protect his family.

Once that was done, he leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. A few minutes of sleep were all he needed. Then he’d go see Maddy and his son. Just a few minutes.

It took less than one for his body to go limp and for his mind to sink into an exhausted sleep.


Hours later, Simon stood in the commander’s office, arms crossed.

“I’m sorry there is no more information available,” the commander answered.

“So she didn’t contact you?” The commander was his last resort. She’d just – disappeared.

“You know I can’t give you that information.”

“She saved my life. Got me out of there before they discovered what I was doing. What do you mean you can’t give me any information?”

The commander appeared to consider his options. “You are not authorized –“

“Then authorize me!” Simon seethed. “I risked my neck for you, so did Mai.” He sobered a bit as Simon realized that loosing his temper would get him nowhere. “I just want to know that she’s all right.”

The commander tapped a few commands into a nearby terminal and then began to read from the screen in front of him. Simon couldn’t see the text and so he waited.

“We did receive a transmission from an operative on the inside just before all communication with our people on the Core worlds went dead.”

“What did it say?”


Simon scowled.

“The stream contained data only, no visual and no verbal.” The commander rested his hands on his desk. “We’ve heard from none of our Core-world operatives since you arrived.”

Simon pursed his lips and then asked quietly. “Will we ever know what happened to her?”

The commander gestured toward a screen mounted on the far wall. Images, video, some with accompanying audio, some not, streamed in an unending loop. Riots, fires, protests had broken out all over the Core. Simon recognized the very Chinese architecture of Shinon, the very British structures of Londinium, the art nouveau of Osiris’ gleaming silver skyscrapers.

“Do you really expect an answer to that question?”

Simon pursed his lips and lowered his gaze. In all the chaos, Simon knew Mai would be lucky to have gotten out alive. And this was a war. The fates of everyone involved were almost never discovered.


“I need you to do me a favor.” Simon stood in the doorway, a determined, yet hesitant look on his face.

Zoe raised a curious eyebrow. It wasn’t often Simon asked anything of anyone. She admired him for that. In that way, he was much like her. Preferred to do what he could on his own without bothering anyone else. She nodded and cast a look at the healing Mal. She’d have done nearly anything for Simon at this moment.

“I’ve had this plan. Ever since everyone – left. I’d – I’d like to put the final touches on it. But I need your help.”

Curiosity piqued even more than she thought possible, she stood and left Mal’s side. She followed Simon to the door and stood just outside it, so that she could see if Mal regained consciousness, so she could hear the beeps on the machines indicating that he still lived.

“What is it?”

“Once Mal wakes up, do you think you could go to Haven and supervise something for me?”

He was being deliberately cryptic and Zoe wasn’t sure she was in the mood for it.

“Tell me what it is and we’ll see.”

Simon slid a data disk out of his lab coat and placed it in her hand. “All of the information you’ll need is there.” He gestured to a terminal in the corner of Mal’s room. “You can load from there.”

“I’ll take a look at it and get back to you.” Simon’s mystery would need to be damn good to be worth leaving her friend’s side.

Simon thanked her with a gratefulness she’d not heard in a long time, and took his leave.

Zoe glanced down at the data stick and shrugged; there was nothing like a good mystery to occupy her alone time. It was better than the alternative – being alone with only her thoughts and memories to occupy her. She moved toward the terminal and sat down.

When the screen indicated that she input a command, she slid the disk into the port and waited. When the data had finished loading, her jaw fell open and her eyes welled with rare tears.

She would do whatever Simon asked after this.


“Where the gorram hell am I?”

Simon glanced down and grinned at his instantly ornery patient. Leave it to Jayne to wake up pissed off about something.

The former mercenary’s eyes widened when they fell on Simon. “I’m in hell.”

Simon chuckled at that. “I certainly hope not. I don’t relish living out eternity in your company.”

Jayne’s eyes skimmed down Simon’s white-clad form. “You’re lookin’ all prissified. What’re you doin’ here – “ his eyes widened and he shifted in the bed, suddenly fearful. “They catch me? Them damn purplebellies – you workin’ for ‘em? What –“

Simon lifted his head from the chart. “Jayne. Shut. Up.”

The bigger man closed his mouth and snarled at Simon, who simply shook his head.

“You’re on the Independent medical cruiser Akori. You were injured. I, along with a multitude of others, have spent considerable time and energy saving your life.” Simon rolled his eyes and tried to look indignant. “Try to be at least a little grateful.”

Jayne’s entire demeanor changed. “We won?”

Simon wasn’t sure if he was asking about the battle or the war. “So it would seem.”

Jayne frowned at the less than enthusiastic response. “Could be a little happier about it.”

Simon carefully closed his chart. “I’ve been a bit busy, what with spending all my time patching up wounds that people should have died from, to think about what caused the injuries in the first place.”

That sobered Jayne a bit, but not much. “Didn’t know you was here.”

“It came as quite a surprise to find you, and Mal and Zoe as well.”

“Zoe‘n Mal are here?”

Simon nodded. “Mal was hurt, he’s recovering a few doors down.”

Jayne looked around as much as he could move. “Where’s the little tyke? You didn’t leave them kids –”

Simon’s eyes narrowed and he fought the ire rising in his chest. His children were not Jayne’s responsibility, and every time the bigger man mentioned them, he felt more than a little defensive. “They’ve got someone to watch Maddy and Billy while I work.”

Anger flashed in Jayne’s eyes again and Simon forced himself to not take that involuntary step back. “You brought ‘em all the way out here?”

“It was either here or a very uncomfortable prison on a penal colony with Buddha knows who raising them,” Simon snapped back quickly. He wasn’t about to defend himself to the giant thug. “Or – maybe they’d have just executed me. Espionage, crimes against the Union, treason. Take your pick.” Simon considered this for a moment. “No, they’d have skipped the prison sentence and executed me instead.”

Jayne’s face sobered. “Sounds like a story I gotta hear.”

Simon dropped the chart at the end of the bed and grinned wryly at Jayne. “Maybe someday.”


Mal had only been awake for less than a day before Zoe announced that she was leaving.

“Where you goin’?” Mal was not at all happy that she was taking her leave. The look on his face made that perfectly clear.

“Got things need done.” Zoe shifted the pack on her shoulder.

Mal squinted. “What things?”

“Military things.” Zoe hoped he wouldn’t question her further. It would be difficult to have this discussion with him, not to mention delay her departure. And this was something she needed to get done.

“They sending you out again?”

Zoe puffed out her chest and forced a smug look to her lips. “My own command even.”

If she didn’t know him better, she’d have thought he looked disappointed. “You don’t say.”

“Couldn’t believe it, myself.” The awe in her face was in no way faked.

“You be careful, Zoe. I can’t be there to pull your pigu –“

“As I recall it was me who last pulled your pigu out of the fire.”

Mal stretched his neck and cleared his throat. “Lucky break.”

Zoe chuckled. “Right.”

Mal’s face sobered. “I mean it, Zoe.”

“I know, sir.” She rested a hand on his arm. ”I’ll be back before you know it.”

“You better be. Jayne and Simon ain’t the best company, you know.” He settled into the mattress.

“Get Simon to tell you his story. It’ll keep you entertained for a good long time.”

Mal’s eyebrows disappeared into his hairline. “Really?”

“Jayne too.”

Mal gawked at that.

“They done us proud, sir. Hear ‘em out.” She squeezed his arm, slung her pack over her shoulder and walked out the door. “I gotta go. Be back before you know it.”


“Ni ta ma de tian xia suo you de ren dou gai si!”

Simon raised an eyebrow as he walked in the door. Mal was working with a physical therapist to help him regain his ability to walk and, clearly, he’d run into some sort of roadblock.

“Your language is challenging even Jayne’s nowadays,” Simon commented with a lopsided grin. He wouldn’t be smiling if he hadn’t already read Mal’s chart and noted the incredible progress he’d made in only a week.

Mal, sweat beading his forehead, glanced up sharply – and lost his balance, barely catching himself with a vice-like grip on the bars that rested on either side of him.

Simon chuckled as another string of curses erupted from Mal’s mouth. The man righted himself and scowled at Simon.

“You here to mock me or you got somethin’ useful to say?”

Simon sobered a bit. “Just checking your progress.”

“I’m fine.”

Simon’s eyes shifted to the bars Mal held and then gave him a quick once-over. “Right. I – see.” He’d made an effort to talk to Mal – despite the harsh words they’d exchanged when they’d parted ways. Apparently, Mal didn’t care to reciprocate in kind. Simon set the chart back on the table and turned to leave.

“Simon – wait.”

Simon hesitated for a moment and then turned. Mal grit his teeth and walked to the end of the bars that would take him closer to Simon.

“Any news about River an’ – ‘Nara?”

Simon shook his head. At least they were talking. “I’ve been asking for days. All they’ll tell me is I’m not cleared for classified information.”

Mal scowled. ‘’Course you aren’t.” He looked around the room before settling his eyes on Simon again. “I’m not either, I suppose.”


“Right,” Mal snorted.

“River and I have a backup plan, though. So as soon as you and Jayne can go, if you – if you want, I’m taking Madeline and Billy and –“


Simon swallowed thickly. He knew the day would come when he had to broach this subject. He’d gone over it in his mind a thousand times. But now that it came to full – or mostly full – disclosure, he found his tongue tied as badly as he’d ever been around Kaylee.

He saw Mal’s eyes narrow, and if Simon had been able to see the little hairs on the back of the older man’s neck, he was certain they would be standing on end.

“Where, Simon?”

Simon squared his shoulders and cleared his throat. Mal had made this promise to him nearly a year ago and hadn’t made good.

“Simon? So help me, you don’t spill your secrets and I’ll wring your scrawny neck –“ he glanced down at his uncooperative feet. “– soon as I can get over there.”

“I’m going to take Kaylee home.”

There. He’d said it. This was something he needed to do. They hadn’t even sent word to her family that she’d died. Or – at least Simon didn’t think anyone had. He owed it to them. These people he’d never met. And they deserved to meet their grandson. Billy deserved to know at least one of his grandparents.

Mal was clearly taken aback by this announcement. Simon could see it the instant his expression fell. “I see.”

Simon swallowed hard around the lump in his throat. “River knew that’s what I wanted to do. She’ll get there.”

“An’ Zoe?”

Simon could tell Mal was worried about her. About her being deployed again – without him.

“I told her before she left. She’ll make it.”

Mal nodded slowly and Simon could see him struggle with something.

“Mal –“

“Look. I’m sorry. I didn’t follow through on my promise to you. I just ––“ Mal shook his head. “I needed to kill something. I needed to hurt them that eclipsed our sunshine.”

Simon raised his hand. The lump in his throat grew and he forced himself to fight back the tears that welled in his eyes. “I know. I know.”

Simon walked closer and reached out a hand; one of friendship, aid, camaraderie, and understanding.

Mal took it and squeezed it tightly, pumped it hard – and then lifted his hand from the bar and took a few short, unsteady steps toward his former medic. “Let’s take her home.”




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