Back Stories III: Chapter 6
Thursday, May 7, 2009

The crew returns to where their unfortunate adventures began: a fish market on New Melbourne.


Back Stories Book 3

Chapter 6.

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Disclaimer: It belongs to Joss and all those business people. I'm just playing.

Links: The Fish Job, Easy Tickets, BS Book I, BS Book II, BS Book III, Chapter 1. Timing, pairings, and canon blurbs are in my FFF blog.

You may have noticed that I'm returning to territory and plot from The Fish Job.
I will try to rehash a bit since it's been a damned long time, but I don't want
to bog things down. Maybe I'll put notes at the end of these chapters about the FJ
chapters I refer to, so if you want a refresher you know where to go. It might help!

Also, I apologize for not being responsive to feedback. It's very busy times!
I'm burning my free time just keeping up with the posting. Hopefully that'll change soon.




Simon’s voice rambled up through his chest to pass directly into Kaylee’s ear. “So,” he asked in a trying-to-be-casual voice that was just a note too high to fool her, “what exactly… are we?”

Kaylee didn’t open her eyes, but smiled. No way would she be answering this kind of question seriously. “I’d a’ thought that’d be obvious,” she replied cryptically.

She felt Simon’s effort at response build in his lungs only to be caught, held, then blown out in thoughtful silence. After a few more of these aborted attempts to speak, Kaylee decided to have a look at him, see what the holdup was. Her half-awake gaze wandered lazily over the floor of his cabin (which had tended to be rather cluttered lately, a side effect of her regular presence) before settling on his face.

His eyes were fixed on the ceiling as if the light fixture could fill him in on this “obvious” thing he’d missed. Kaylee saved the ceiling some trouble by explaining it herself.

“Me: woman. You: man. Plumbing’s all different.”

Simon’s furrowed brow smoothed into a smile. “Yes, I have managed to figure out that much.”

“Can’t hide such a thing from a trained doctor.”

“My education: worth every credit.”

“Every thousand bazillion credits, more like.”

He ran a hand up her bare back. “But that’s not what I was asking.”

Kaylee set her chin against his shoulder and tilted her head to study him.

Simon went on. “I meant, what are we? We. You and me.”

She laid her cheek against his chest again and stretched, savoring the long contact of skin on skin, stomachs and hips and ribs and muscles of leg, all sliding and rippling against each other, before she answered in something near a purr, “Hot sex firebomb is what.”

She could hear an answering smile in Simon’s voice. “And that bomb has… certainly blown.” He paused, then sighed. “But I can see that I’m not being clear.”

“Do you hafta?”

“Do I have to what?”

She rolled onto her side, reluctantly putting some distance between them, and propped up on an elbow so she could look him in the eye. “Be clear? Do you hafta?”

He opened his mouth, then his brow furrowed right up again and he slapped his lips closed. The sight distracted Kaylee for a moment, but then, with an effort, she called her attention back to the conversation. The man obviously had things on his mind, and she liked him enough to keep her attention on whatever had him so worried, even if all she could manage was something of a lecture.

“Simon, do you really got to be so defined and all? With every single thing you do? Ain’t like life fits into neat little boxes all the time.”

He took in a deep breath, and Kaylee waited while the air slowly leaked out. She did her best to allow him time, but it went on so long that she ran out of patience.

“Ye gods, you think a lot!” she muttered with a playful slap to his ribs.

“Kaylee, you have to understand. The women I’ve known always had certain—” he paused, searching for the right word, “expectations.”

“Such as?”

“Such as… gods, I don’t know.” He wiped a hand over his face. “It’s always been so obvious, but with you it’s just not. Nothing is.”

She made a dismissive pshaw sound. “Some smart doctor.”

He smiled. “Being a smart doctor doesn’t mean I’m smart about everything.” Then he looked away, as if he felt the truth in his own words more than he wanted to. That got to her, and she fastened herself up close to him. Again she savored the feeling of a warm, naked body next to hers, all solid and strong, but soft and tender and human too.

“I got an idea,” she said. “How about, instead of explainin’ in words…” Her shoulder rolled forward over his chest as she reached down under the blanket.

Simon sucked in a sharp breath, then he grinned in just the sort of way Kaylee liked best: shiny white teeth and mussed hair hanging over his forehead. “I’ll explain that way all you want,” he said. “But maybe not right now.”

“I worn you out, huh?”

It was clear that it took some effort, but he managed to focus on her. “Nowhere close. Well, the male anatomy does, from time to time, require pacing… but if there’s anything I can do for you…”

Kaylee bit her lip at the invitation—what a gentleman Simon was.

* * *

“Not again!” River murmured with a groan. She squirmed in her chair and shot a dark look over her shoulder toward the dorm rooms. Warm sensations had begun to emanate from Simon’s bunk: heady waves, fuzzy and soft like a velvet blanket the golden-brown color of Kaylee’s hair. It threatened to pull River completely out of her senses.

“Really is becoming inconvenient,” she added, a pointed accusation. Indeed, this thing between her brother and Kaylee was a burden. Simon needed his privacy and River needed her sanity, so she had to keep her distance. She shuddered her shoulders, hoping the small movement would free her from the sticky web Simon and Kaylee were casting, then rose and jogged up the stairs behind the infirmary.

On the first step down into the dining room, she froze, her eyes fixed on the galley. Tendrils of Kaylee’s pleasure followed after her, licking at her back as she watched the man in the galley. Though he was halfway across the large room, she felt stuck to him, pinned like a captured butterfly, pierced by dully pleasant sensations that affixed her body to his thick arms and solid chest, to the way his weight shifted smoothly as he turned and replaced the kettle on the stove, to the turn of his wrist as he stirred tea leaves in his large mug.

Malcolm caught sight of her as he rounded the galley island. “You want?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied earnestly, looking past the pointedly raised mug to feast on the blue of his eyes. “Yes. I do want.”

She allowed him to misunderstand, to fetch another mug and fill it with steaming water and tea leaves. It allowed her more time to stare, to ride the waves of Kaylee’s slow rise, imagining it as something created by herself and the captain, just the two of them, alone. Imagining touching him, kissing him, feeling his hair and his skin and….

“Here ya are,” Malcolm said. He didn’t bring the cup to her in the hatchway, but set it on the end of the table. River saw his true purpose clearly: he meant to draw her in, force her to sit down with him and chat. He took the seat next to her mug and waited.

“It’s not fair,” River whispered breathlessly to herself. “Not fair.”

After her encounter with Malcolm and Kaylee yesterday, after Kaylee’s rebuke, River had made a promise to herself: she wasn’t going to play games with sick Malcolm, nor was she going to hate Inara. She was going to be good. Nice. She’d spent all last night recalling every kind thing Inara had said to her, the times the Companion had called her “sweetie” and treated her like a beloved little sister, or even a daughter. River was set on recapturing the warmth she’d once felt for the Companion. She wasn’t going to let this thing she felt for Malcolm destroy a friendship.

But it was so hard. It was so hard to be good when the webs of Kaylee and Simon’s activities continued to thicken around her, making Malcolm’s proximity something close to agony. It didn’t feel good to want like this. It didn’t feel good at all.

“And people say love is grand,” River muttered as she finally stumbled toward the table and sat down.

Malcolm leaned toward her and stuck out one ear, as if to hear better. “What was that?”

The sight of his bared neck, the skin silky smooth from a morning shave, made River set her knuckles against her cheeks and press the ends of her thumbs against her canines, as if some inner vampire was in danger of breaking free and damaging him.

“People are stupid,” she mumbled through her thumbs.

Malcolm made some reply, but she didn’t hear it. She forced her eyes away from him. To remove herself from the whirlpool that was sucking her down, she focused all her attention on the captain’s mind—not his body, no more thinking about his body!—and tried to see herself through his eyes. Maybe the pathetic sight of her, a useless, out-of-control, nonsensical teenager, would serve as a much needed bucket of icy water.

Oddly, all she saw in Malcolm was honest concern, a kind attempt to befriend a somewhat strange but not disagreeable girl. For all that she could sense, he genuinely hoped to put her at her ease and see what lay beyond her peculiarity. River saw the hand of Kaylee; the mechanic had said nice things about her, nice enough to set Malcolm on the path toward building a friendship. If only Kaylee had known of the agony this would lead to!

“Not fair…” River repeated in a whisper, her words lost behind whatever chatter Malcolm had continued while she sat and fought her inner demons.

To her relief, her moment in the crucible was interrupted by voices approaching from the fore corridor. “There’s time to grab a snack,” Wash claimed. “We won’t hit New Melbourne’s scanners for at least half an hour.”

Zoë’s reply was dark with caution. “They’ll know us,”

Wash came down the stairs, then half turned back to address to his wife. “Can’t help it. If we disconnect the pulse beacon, we won’t be allowed to use the public docks.”

“Let’s just hope we ain’t there long enough for anyone to ID…” Zoë cut herself off when she saw Malcolm at the table. “I mean, for anyone to… to…”

“… to interrupt our very legal business of shipping healthy and delicious fish products to those who need them,” Wash finished with a bright, plastic smile. The pilot glanced at Malcolm, then back at Zoë to give her a hopeful thumbs up.

River rolled her eyes—they weren’t fooling anyone, certainly not Malcolm. He broke into a knowing smile and clued the couple in on his own clued-in state. “Gotta say, Wash, that was some fine flyin’ you did gettin’ away from that fueling platform. Ain’t no way anybody followed. Who is it you all are runnin’ from anyhow?”

“We are not, uh, running,” Wash replied lamely. This drew a snort from Malcolm, as well as from Jayne, who came stomping down the corridor behind Wash and Zoë.

“Right,” the mercenary said as he passed the Washburns. “Ain’t no one in the ‘verse ever after the likes of us. ‘Specially not the law.”

“Jayne!” Zoë snapped.

Malcolm’s smile only broadened. “Oh come on,” he said. “The way you lit out of there, that path you took, following that big cluster of ships, then round that moon and through them asteroids—Nice flyin, by the way.” He said this last to Wash, who accepted the compliment with surprise followed by a falsely modest shrug.

“Didn’t know you were paying attention,” Zoë told Malcolm.

“And I didn’t know we was makin’ such a fuss,” Jayne said, his focus fixed on Zoë with an intensity that drew River’s eye. “Y’all really so worried `bout a tail?” River felt a trickle of something she couldn’t quite define stirring under Jayne’s words, a kind of dull ache tinged with bitterness. Dark olive green and sour. She studied him, trying to make it out.

“Seems pretty clear she is worried,” Malcolm told Jayne, “if’n she went to all that trouble to get away untracked.” He looked toward Zoë. “Ain’t real bright, is he?”

Jayne’s face pinched up in anger, but not before the trickle of bitter became a big enough wave for River to identify it: guilt. Jayne was feeling guilty. Worried and guilty in a cloudy and unclear way. He didn’t even know he felt it, which only added to his anger. “What’d you do?” River asked in Jayne’s general direction, but her voice was small and nobody heard.

“Least I’m bright enough to know my own proper name and age!” Jayne snapped.

“Jayne!” Zoë admonished. “You pay him no mind, Malcolm.”

“Too late for that,” Malcolm said. “I ain’t a fool. Who are you people really? Spies? Rebels? Or just plain ol’ smugglers?”

“There’s nothing wrong with being a plain old smuggler,” River stated, but again nobody paid attention to her.

Zoë sat down at the table with a sigh. “We do business,” she explained to Malcolm. “All kinds of business.”

“Smuggling?” Malcolm asked.



Zoë shrugged. “Been known to happen.”


Zoë’s eyes hardened. “Not by choice.”

“Well,” Jayne said as he filled his own mug. “Except for that one guy in the engine, and the time—”

Zoë’s glare cut him off.

Malcolm studied them all thoughtfully. “Hunh,” he grunted, then he leaned back in his chair and sipped his tea.

This mild reaction drew a curious stare from Wash. “Wait,” he said, “you’re not worried about traveling with ruffians like us? Weren’t you the small-town wholesome rancher type? I mean… are. Aren’t you the small-town wholesome rancher type?”

This drew a thoughtful frown from Malcolm. “I don’t know, I guess being with criminal types ought to bug me. But it just…” He looked around the dining room, then shrugged and clucked his tongue. “I don’t know. It just don’t feel like it’s wrong. It feels natural somehow, bein’ here.”

River felt a wave of cautious hope spread around the room as all eyes fixed on Malcolm. He didn’t seem to notice, but calmly sipped his tea.

“Feels natural?” Zoë asked.

“Yeah.” He set his mug on the table, then stared down into it as he swirled the liquid inside. “Didn’t think I’d take to traveling so easy, but this ship almost feels more home than home. Does this morning anyhow.”

The casual way he spoke seemed to flummox everyone in the room. River watched them glance about, almost as if they were daring each other—or asking permission, if the look was toward Zoë—to question him more directly. River could think of a few things she’d like to know. She fixed her eyes on the man who slouched over his mug, still completely ignorant of the way he was being studied. He’d made tea for himself; had he searched the galley for what he needed, or might he have reached for the right cabinets automatically? Could his memories be coming back without him even knowing it?

A buzzer from the cockpit interrupted the thick silence.

“Thought we had a half hour to go,” Zoë said to her husband.

Wash jumped up from the table. “Apparently not. I better check to see if there’s any reaction to us showing up.” He disappeared toward the bridge.

Zoë stood to follow. “Jayne,” she ordered. “Get the doc. I want him along in the market, case we find this Ricky character. I’ll meet you two down in the cargo bay, soon as we’re landed.”

Jayne headed belowdecks with an obvious lack of enthusiasm, and just like that, River found herself again alone with the captain.

She sucked her breath in and kept her eyes fixed on the far bulkhead. Simon and Kaylee had finished their business and her mind was her own, the needy voice of her body silenced by all the distractions of the conversation. She wanted to keep it that way. But she couldn’t quite talk herself into leaving; the torture of being near Malcolm was preferable to the pain of separation.

She sighed. Her situation was so romantic.

“What’s your role in all this then?” Malcolm asked.

“I have no role,” she replied simply.

Malcolm went on; apparently he’d been storing a few questions of his own. “And what’s the Companion got to do with things hereabouts?”

Despite her good intentions, River felt herself tense. “Why do you care?”

He turned away quickly. “I don’t care. Just curious. I just…” He paused thoughtfully, then turned back and leaned toward River with the air of a man taking a plunge. “All right, this might sound crazy, but I had this dream last night. I think. I don’t really quite recall. But I woke up thinking… I feel like there’s something important, something I ought to know. About her.” He laughed uncomfortably, his eyes on his hands so he didn’t see River’s dark glare. “I got no idea why. Maybe it’s just having that odd cap on my head. That dream though, it must’ve been…. Āi yā, I wish I could remember!”

“I know about dreams,” River said softly. “I have lots of them. I’ve shared dreams too. Shared them with… with the captain.”

“The captain?”


“Kaylee talked about him. Likes him a lot, I guess. So where is he, this wonderful captain of yours?”

River had to chew her tongue a second before she could answer. “He’s coming back,” she finally said.

Malcolm only smiled. “That don’t answer my question.”

“He’s on his way back. I know it. I can feel it.”

Malcolm looked away with a shake of his head and a soft laugh. “You sure are a strange bunch. A very strange bunch.” After a thoughtful moment he turned back and smiled at River. He looked right at her and smiled as if she was the root of a happiness deep enough to bring warmth to his soul. “But I like gettin’ to know you. There’s something good here. There’s something that makes me feel like…”

“Like what?” she asked eagerly, and she leaned in closer to him.

“Like I done right. Like I….”

He stopped talking, his attention pulled aside, and River saw why. Inara had appeared in the aft hatch to stand, staring at Malcolm, looking uncharacteristically unsure of herself. River shifted her glance from one to the other, feeling suddenly forgotten. She really did intend to be good, but the interruption was so poorly timed, and so very unwelcome, that she couldn’t help finally settling her gaze on Inara and announcing: “Not supposed to be out and about.”

Inara’s eyes stayed on Mal as she explained. “It was just so quiet in the shuttle, and I have nothing to occupy myself. Not even a book or a quill. And I wanted to find out—”

“I’m going to tell Zoë,” River interrupted. Mal grimaced at her, his opinion of a tattle-tale showing plainly, but she didn’t back down. “I am! And then maybe she’ll lock the shuttle’s hatch so you can’t come out and do harm!”

Inara stepped down into the dining room with a hand against her chest, the perfect picture of virtue wrongly accused. River would have hated the woman for it, if she hadn’t sensed that the pose wasn’t consciously taken.

“River, have I done something to offend you?”

Malcolm’s warm smile was gone, replaced by an disapproving frown. “Yeah,” he told River, “you’re steppin’ over the edge toward harsh with that.”

River held her hands up to her head. It was too much. She couldn’t decide what she was supposed to feel, because everything she did feel was wrong. She didn’t want to be here, pulled in too many directions to follow, nor did she want to leave, not when she could sense the draw between Malcolm and Inara. She could feel the way their eyes kept finding the line connecting them like an invisible tether through space. Questions were piling up in their minds, a sense of eagerness to explore the mystery binding them, free of distractions.

The present conversation might seem to be about River, but neither Malcolm nor Inara were focused on her at all. Both of them were thinking of nothing but each other. She might as well not be here.

“I give up,” River whispered, and with slumped shoulders she left the room.

* * *

Jayne stood aside while Zoë turned in the center of the aisle, her stance betraying her impatience as she looked over the fish stalls. It was evening local time and the crowd was as thick as it’d been when Jayne visited the market with the captain months ago.

“Are you sure this is the place?” Simon asked. Jayne had an urge to give the doctor a sharp smack to the back of the head. “Yeah, I’m sure,” he replied tensely. “That’s the spot, but it ain’t the same.”

Zoë stopped and studied the stall Jayne pointed to. “What’s different?” she asked.

“Used to have Ricky Lu’s name on it. ‘Ricky Lu’s Delight of the Sea’ it said. And it was a different color. All yellow and white.”

The booth was now blue, the lettering in bright green. LĪNG HǍI XIĀN the banner spelled out. The worker behind the counter could have been the same as the one Mal’d introduced himself to months ago, but that much detail Jayne didn’t recall.

“Enough of this,” Jayne said decidedly. He stepped up to the counter and reached across to grab the worker by his green and blue jumpsuit. “Where’s Ricky Lu?”

“Who?” the worker asked, his formerly pleasant expression replaced by a grimace of fear. “Who do you want?”

Zoë stepped up beside Jayne. “Ricky Lu used to run this stall,” she said. “Where is he?”

“Don’t know!”

“How about Kamath?” she asked. “You ever hear of a man by that name?”

“No! No! I sell fish only!”

Simon reached out one hand as if to pry Jayne’s grip on the worker’s shirt loose. “Maybe you’ve got the wrong place,” he suggested.

Jayne glared at the doctor. “It ain’t the wrong stall, I told you! Look.” He pushed the worker back and lifted the gate in the counter and strode right through. The worker cowered back and Zoë and Simon followed.

The back rooms were exactly as Jayne recalled: a kitchen area, not too neat and not too clean, then a business office with a scarred wooden table. The room was currently empty, but a back door stood slightly ajar. Jayne looked through; the hall outside was empty. He turned back to Zoë with folded arms.

“This is the place we did the deal,” he said. “Ricky was sittin’ right at the end of the table here.”

“You’re sure?” Simon asked from behind Zoë.

“Yes, he’s sure,” Zoë replied.

Jayne nodded to himself, pleased that Zoë trusted his instincts.

Zoë went back out to the kitchen, where two workers were watching the goings on. “How long have you been here?” she demanded of them.

The bewildered men shrugged.

“A different group rented this stall a few months ago. Where did they go?”

“Don’t know!” one man replied. “Stall was empty, we rent. That is all!”

Zoë swore. “You got any idea how we can reach the folks who used to be here?”

The men shook their heads.

“Should I make `em talk?” Jayne asked with a hint of eagerness.

Zoë shook her head. “No. We got us a dead end here. Come on.”

* * *

Wash was the only one who knew River’s secret, the only one who could understand her pain and provide the comfort she needed. She slid into the dark bridge; the small space looked grim and dull in the gray light of the rainy day outside, but the pilot’s presence eased the drear.

He was humming to himself. River recognized the song, a child’s ditty about cookies, sung by a monster who craves them. She quietly stepped up to the co-pilot’s chair, then in a soft voice picked up the words to the repetitive chorus. Wash started when he noticed her there, but kept on his humming to accompany her.

He hummed out of tune.

“Wish we had cookies,” she said into the quiet that followed.

Wash sighed. “I’d take a plateful of the chocolate crinkles my dad used to make for the holidays,” he agreed.

“I know where there’s a chocolate store on Oeneus,” River said. “They have turtles.”


“Caramel and nuts with chocolate. Prefect Marone bought me chocolate. Simon carried the bag, because I was a doll and he was my servant.” She closed her eyes and sighed. “So much hadn’t happened then. Life was easier. I didn’t even know.”

Wash gave her a long look. “Hard day?”

She kept her eyes closed. “He’s talking to Inara. Right now.”

River felt Wash’s alarm. She could almost see him in her mind’s eye, looking over his shoulder, considering taking action. In her mind she urged him, hoped he would go and put an end to whatever connection the severed lovers were forming. But after a short time she heard a sigh and a creak of the pilot’s chair as Wash settled back in it.

“I guess it’s pretty much unavoidable,” he said.

“Zoë’ll be mad.”

“Zoë’s mad about a lot of things. She’ll get over it. And really, I’m not so convinced that this is a bad thing. Inara might actually be good for Mal. She understands what’s happened; she’ll be careful.”

River opened her eyes and watched the rain fall on the window, followed the little streams of water that joined and broke apart as they ran down the glass. She didn’t want to consider what Wash was suggesting. It felt like it was the worst thing that could happen.

The captain better: good.

The captain better because of Inara: bad. Very bad.

“I don’t like being in love,” she said. She felt Wash watching her closely. “Confusing. Hurts. He was talking to me, but as soon as she came in, he was talking to her. It was like I wasn’t there. It was like I didn’t exist.”

I knew this would happen, Wash didn’t say, but River heard the words anyway.

“Maybe,” she replied. “But what could I do? Can’t just turn it off. Can’t just make myself not feel.”

“You more than most,” Wash said softly. She glanced at him; his eyes were sad. River understood. This hurt her more than it would a normal person. She was strange that way.

She curled up on herself, around the horrible ache in her chest. “This is why he broke,” she said. “His mind broke itself so he wouldn’t have to feel hurt like this. Wish I could break too, so I wouldn’t have to think about them, together.” She lowered her voice, half hoping Wash wouldn’t hear her. “Him, happy, without me.”

Wash rose from his chair and came to crouch beside her. River didn’t have to look; she felt his offered hand next to her, and without lifting her head she reached her own hand out to grasp it.

“She doesn’t deserve him,” she said softly.

“Maybe,” Wash said, “but that’s not how it works.”

“What if she makes him worse?”

Wash just squeezed her hand.

* * *

Zoë’s eyes were down as she walked out of the stall, her mind busy calculating what to do next. The absence of Ricky Lu did not bode well. Just a few months ago, Zoë’d left the man with Prefect Marone, working to fight the Alliance’s overbearing presence on the planet Oeneus. Now, according to Inara, the Prefect was working with the Alliance. So where was Ricky, and why the act from Marone? Why had he helped them all back then, when he so easily could have done differently?

“It makes no sense,” Zoë mumbled to herself. “Not a damned bit a’ sense.”

Neither did the hard hand on her back, the sudden push that knocked her to the ground. She rolled to her side, gun quickly in hand, to find her pusher was her hired mercenary and he was dragging Simon down beside her. She didn’t have to ask why; the glass of the stall next to them exploded in that particular way glass does when hit with a sonic rifle pulse.

“Where?” Zoë demanded.

“Up ahead to the left!” Jayne replied. He had his gun out—not one of his bigger ones, rather a handgun that concealed well and held many shots. He sent a few flying above the heads of the crowd. “Can’t get a clean line!” he yelled.

“Then they ain’t got one on us.” Zoë grabbed the back of the doctor’s shirt and hauled him to his feet, making sure he stayed in a low crouch. She heard Jayne laying cover fire behind her as she pushed Simon back the way they’d come, both of them stumbling as they went looking for a safe exit.

* * *


Āi yā Damn! LĪNG HǍI XIĀN Sunshine Seafood

* * *

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River's chocolate turtles refer to the The Fish Job, Chapter 4.


Thursday, May 7, 2009 3:05 PM


Loved Wash's lines in this. The sympathy he has for River at the end of this story is sooo sweet. I feel like I understand River's emotions so much better now and how she can't help but feel.

“She doesn’t deserve him,” she said softly.

“Maybe,” Wash said, “but that’s not how it works.”

Is Wash speaking from first hand experience with himself and Zoe?

Loved how Mal is healing - glad Simon is a miracle worker And thanks for ending on a cliffhanger!

Thursday, May 7, 2009 6:28 PM


I do feel sorry for River... Her first time jilted. In her fragile state, so sensitive to both the crush and the defeat.

I wonder if Wash agrees with River? She'd pick up on it if he didn't... Curious.

Mal's having dreams about Inara while wearing a cap on his head that stimulates pleasure centers? Whatever could that mean? *Guileless blank look*

Yeee, next chapter is the talk, the one I think all of us are waiting for with baited breath!

Thursday, May 7, 2009 9:41 PM


Ah, River. You break my heart. It's really wonderful reading this. River on the show is this uncontrolled but at the same time ethereal and angelic creature, and here her more normal, teenaged side is coming out full force, with all its endearing and irritating aspects. You'd want to shake her for being delusional, for being petty, except this is something NO one can help, and it really does hurt and I love that you're giving her Wash as a comfort. These two barely connected on the show and this is such a lovely ground for them to meet.

Your Kaylee also keeps tickling me. Rarely have I seen her adorably evil side done so well, when she's the one teasing Simon, and at the same time it allows the question why she needs to tease him and avoid the conversation. You're really making me ship these two in this fic. :)

Jayne = extremely useful. I love that you let him be the hero in that last scene. Now I'm really looking forward to just exactly how Zoe's investigation will proceed. I love the thought of these three as a team. SUCH contrasts!

As for Mal and Inara's conversation, I'm bracing myself for Inara's sake... Squee!

Thursday, May 7, 2009 11:27 PM


Great job showing Mal's gradual return to himself. (But you have to ask, how will it change him, having returned to what he was before the war? I followed the PTSD thread and I'm wondering how you're going to show how this kind of intervention would affect the PTSD.) It creates a different kind of suspense to the action suspense while at the same time they complement each other.

I'm kind of sorry to see River not hating Inara so much. I was really enjoying that. Not because I don't love Inara, just because it was such fun. I love the way you show all the angles of the teenage crush, so very grounded in the physical. True, that she is deluded of course, but also so aware because of her abilities. Horrible combination.

I too am eagerly awaiting the Conversation!

Friday, May 8, 2009 2:32 AM


I have mixed feelings about Inara. If she really is not intending to hurt Mal and can do some good then that is shiny but if not then she ought to keep clear of the Captain until he gets his head straight. And poor River, feeling so much and unable to have anyone yet to share it with. I loved it that Wash understands and feel a bit sad that Kaylee is so caught up in having sex with Simon that she has no time for River. I liked Jayne, he was very in character and it was good seeing him try to keep Zoe and Simon safe when the gunfire started. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, May 8, 2009 3:44 AM


Great job with showing the pain of teenage heart break (I think we can all relate to that), usually River triumphs in these competitive love triangles with Mal and Inara, and Mal and River fly off into the sunset together, but you've crafted a much more likely scenario, Whedon style.

Jayne was wonderful as others, things are developing:)


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Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.

Back Stories III, Chapter 24
Mal returns to a few familiar places.

Back Stories III: Chapter 23
The BDH’s find themselves enmeshed in too damned many OCs. But hey, they’re necessary. Plottiness and all.

Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.

Back Stories III, Chapter 21
The battle with the Reavers continues, and Mal makes a choice. All decisions have consequences.

Back Stories III, Chapter 20
Finally a little Mal POV, but it doesn't last long.

Back Stories III, Chapter 19
The trials and tribulations of an older, wiser River Tam.

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 18
The aftermath of an unexpected encounter. Except—not all of the crew are accounted for…

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 17
A lovely day in the mountains: friendly locals and fresh air under a clear blue sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 16.
Zoë tells of her soiree with terrorists on Oeneus.