TRAUMA MEDICINE: Chapter 9. Enough.
Monday, December 6, 2004

Simon decides he's had enough and that River might get better faster if they weren't on Serenity. With "Safe" as the backdrop, that's not likely to happen. And Mal remembers something.


Disclaimer: Firefly and these characters belong to Joss Whedon.

WARNING – In the unlikely event you haven't seen “Safe” be warned this fic contains lines and scenes from the episode.

* * * * * * TRAUMA MEDICINE Chapter 9: Enough. * * * * * *

This is the sixth day in a gorram row that the doc ain't sat down to dinner with the rest of 'em an' it's beginnin' to tick Mal off. He's sick of everyone waitin' politely only for the doctor not to show an' fed up with havin' to watch the hopeful look on li'l Kaylee's face turn to disappointment. Not to mention pissed as hell that Book's been delayin' that silent prayer of his that Kaylee, Inara an' even Jayne close their eyes for. Every ruttin' night since that damn shindig on Persephone it's been the same thing - Simon Tam an' his moonbrain sister don't sit to table an' instead take their meal in their bunk. Delivered by soft-hearted Kaylee.

Boy can lock hisself away all day for all Mal cares, but Serenity's Captain sets a lot of store by his people sharing at least one meal a day. Builds a sense of belonging – team spirit. Learnt that from Momma. She always used to have as many as she could of the senior ranch hands round the dinner table to eat together. Mealtimes at the ranch was always lively occasions. People tellin' stories, jokes. Some of Mal's happiest memories ...

Jayne watches resentfully as Kaylee takes the plate in front of Simon's empty chair and starts piling food onto it. If'n he wa'n't sure the medic won't be with 'em much longer he'd be sayin' somethin' about it. As it is, he contents himself with grindin' his teeth and fantasizin' about the day Mal cashes the Tams in for some hard coin. He's pretty sure Mal ain't got no more time for the doc than he has. Won't be long till he makes his move.

Kaylee reaches across for River's plate and Mal's patience finally snaps. Room service, tha's what that boy's gettin'! Well it's gonna stop. Right now. Mal ain't gonna put up with whatever the hell fei hua Simon Tam is up to not one more day. He ain't ill. Mal's seen him in the infirmary. Even seen him in the cargo bay, makin' a half-assed job of clearin' up after the beasts. “You put those plates back down, mei-mei,” he tells Kaylee gently but firmly.

“Cap'n?” she asks uncertainly, as Mal pushes back his chair with an angry scrape and stands up. She can see he's mad about somethin' but ain't real sure what. “I was jus' ...”

“I know. But it ain't your job,” he replies, a touch more kindly. “Think I'd better go find out wha's ailin' the doc. You all go ahead.” He indicates the meal with a wave of his hand then, as an afterthought, leans across towards Jayne. “I'm comin' back – better be somethin' left when I do.”

Jayne pulls an indignant face at Mal's retreating back. “No call to be takin' it out on me,” he mutters loudly, looking for sympathy from the others.

Zoe and Wash exchange a look, although it's not one of agreement.

* * * * *

This is the sixth day in a row that Simon has avoided eating with the rest of the crew. No – that's not exactly true. It's the sixth day he's avoided sitting down at the same table as Mal. This infatuation he's developed for the Captain is as ridiculous as it is intense. The more time he spends in the man's presence, the more he wants to and the less he thinks about leaving this junker and finding some place safe where River can get better. His stomach twists guiltily at the admission and he looks sadly across at his sister who's sitting cross-legged on his bed, waiting for him to play a card. “Not what you think,” she smiles as his eyes meet hers.

“Stop trying to put me off,” he replies, forcing a grin and telling himself that this is what matters. So long as he and River are together, he doesn't need anything else. Which is just as well. Mal's only interested in Inara. And who can blame him? Even Simon can see she's perfect, with her luxuriant dark hair and flawless skin. Her slim form and graceful movements. The clever things she says. Her sharp intelligence. No wonder Mal wants her. So Simon will stay out of the Captain's way until they land on some out-of-the-way rock far from Alliance control where he and River can make a home, where River can begin to heal.

There's a soft knock at the door. Seven- thirty – right on cue. Dear, sweet Kaylee.

“Come in,” Simon calls out to her. He's trying hard to remember how many queens have been played so far in the game and doesn't immediately look up, doesn't realize ...

“You sick?” Mal demands brusquely, folding his arms across his chest as he leans against the door frame.

“Hurt,” River answers before a surprised and discomfited Simon can say a thing. “Needles everywhere. Fire. Fire and ice.”

“Uh-huh,” Mal grunts, not looking at her. “Asked you a question boy – you sick? Cos to be truthsome, I ain't entirely happy about you usin' Kaylee as your very own personal servant. You ain't on O-sir-is now.” He chews on the planet name like it tastes bad in his mouth and spits it out.

Simon gets to his feet, bristling at the other man's tone despite the lurch of desire the sight of him provokes. “I'm well aware of that, Captain. And in reply to your question – no, I am not sick. In fact, I'm quite well,” he says formally, a little angry himself now. “But thank you for your concern.”

Mal gives him a quick impatient smile and closes the gap between them. “Well Doc,” he says, laying a hand on both of Simon's shoulders, “You ain't sick, you don't get meals in your room, dong ma? You an' li'l sis wanna eat tonight, best you be gettin' up to the mess ma shang.”

For a moment or two they glare at each other, Mal furious at his medic's Core-world better-than assumption that he don't have to live by Mal's rule and Simon seething at Mal's domineering manner. Then Simon pulls back and reaches for River's hand. “Come on, mei-mei. Let's go upstairs to eat. Since the Captain asked us so nicely.”

Mal bows theatrically and indicates the open door. “After you.”

River glances back at him over her shoulder. “It's hard for him,” she says solemnly. “Hard for you.”

“You ain't wrong,” Mal agrees under his breath, misapprehending. “Hard for every damn one of us out here in the Black.”

* * * * *

Simon tugs absent-mindedly at his left lobe as he tries to absorb this new piece of information. In the absence of another doctor from whom to seek a second opinion, he's double-checking his diagnosis by feeding River's symptoms back through the encyclopedia. And now he finds they are not only indicative of post-traumatic stress disorder but also of other conditions, including paranoid schizophrenia. The discovery scares him. Particularly when he spots the footnote: 'Left untreated, patients may fall victim to severe hallucinations and delusions, making them a danger to themselves and others'. It's clear that River may need more than the smoothers and antidepressants he's being giving her so far, but medical supplies on Serenity are limited both in range and quantity.

“Good morning, Simon. I've brought that book you wanted,” Inara says as she enters the infirmary. Then she notices his frown. “Is there a problem?”

He nods, still staring at the screen. “River. She needs better treatment than I can offer her. The infirmary has only the most basic of drugs in stock ...”

Inara smiles kindly. “Perhaps I can be of help. I have some supplies of my own in my shuttle and I may be able to pick up more for you next time we're somewhere civilized. If we're ever anywhere civilized again,” she amends casting an eye in the direction of the cargo bay. “The Captain is somewhat predictably drawn to the more rustic planets ...”

“Gorramit! Zao cao!” The sound of Jayne cursing out in the cargo bay is nothing usual but the heavy thud followed by the alarmed bellowing of the cattle is. “Damn it, Mal!”

There's a slight delay and then the rumble of what sounds like an angry exchange between mercenary and Captain.

“Wonder what he's done this time,” Simon's laughs but the laugh soon dies in his throat as Mal appears in the doorway, propping up a limping and snarling Jayne. The Captain looks from Inara to the doctor and back again. Hah! Might've known these two'd be cosyin' up to each other. Probably swap fashion tips an' do each other's hair every time his back's turned. “What's your business here?” he snaps at the Companion.

She raises her chin a fraction. “None of yours,” she tells him haughtily before turning back to Simon. “I'll see what I can find, Doctor. If you'd like to come to my shuttle later?” Simon nods and she gives him an extra-warm smile, in sharp contrast to the icy glare she shoots Mal before leaving.

“Shou'n't have thought you could afford her rates,” Mal says, treating Simon to the overflow of the bitterness he's feeling towards Inara right now.

“It's not ...” Simon fumbles. “I mean ... I ..”

“Stow it, son. I ain't interested in what you do in your free time. Which, in case you hadn't noticed, ain't now. What you doin' in here? There a medical emergency?” His mouth sets in a tight line and his eyes bore into Simon's. Jayne grins evilly as he pushes himself up onto the exam table.

“No. I - I was studying Riv...”

“Told you he was useless,” Jayne says triumphantly.

“Not so useless I can't step round niu shi rather than in it,” Simon snaps.

Jayne growls and makes a lunge for him but Mal steps in between them. He glares at Simon. “Wanna watch that mouth of yours, boy. Kinda gets a man's dander up. Now, let me make this abundantly clear - I ain't payin' you for studyin'. You can do that later instead of goin' visitin'. Workin' hours, you're on clean-up duty. Which you clearly ain't done. There's so much shi out there, it's like a gorram Alliance news bulletin. As a result of which, Jayne's gone an' fallen an' twisted his ankle.”

“I'm very sorry,” Simon replies in a tone that says he isn't. “I just happen to think keeping my medical skills up to date is more important than house-keeping. I'm a doctor not a cleaner.”

“On this boat, you're both,” Mal tells him flatly. “First you see to Jayne. Then you see to that mess out there, dong ma?”

A 'please' wouldn't go amiss, Simon thinks to himself as he opens a drawer and looks for an ankle support. Why does everything have to be an order with Mal? It's insulting. Simon's not some ruffian who needs to be bullied into submission. He's a professional, used to respect and to making his own decisions, defining his own priorities. He doesn't need Mal telling him what to do and when to do it.

Jayne grumbles as he pulls on the support and complains some more when Simon administers a shot of painkiller, still under Mal's watchful eye. Once he's finished with his patient, Mal holds out the large shovel and bucket which have been Simon's unwanted companions for the past two weeks. The medic yanks them out of Mal's hands and marches out into the cargo bay, swearing to himself he'll stop serving under the twenty-sixth century's answer to Earth-that-was' Captain Bligh the very first opportunity he gets.

* * * * * *

Simon don't know he ain't alone. No need for him to know just yet. Leaves time for watchin'.

“Oh, bother!” he exclaims, bending over to rub at yet another niu shi stain on bottom of his pants. The position shows off his backside. Sure is a sight to see. Don't matter what angle you look at him from, Simon Tam is real shuai.

He looks up and sees Kaylee staring at him, a strange expression in her eyes. She blushes and smiles. “Hey. How ya doin'?”

“Not well. I think the Captain must hate me.”

Kaylee pulls a sympathetic face. “He been yellin' at you again? You don't wanna take that personal. He yells at everyone.”

Simon shakes his head. “No, it's not that. It's this. This endless cleaning up of ... excrement. Three weeks of it. I tell you – he doesn't like me.”

“Wasn't him that gave you the job,” Wash informs him, struggling down the stairs with large pail of water for the cattle. “It was my wife.” He pauses. “And she thinks you're swell. So don't you be worrying about people not liking you.”

“Jayne doesn't like me.”

“I said people.”

* * * * *

“And the beauty of it is – she's just seventeen. Little more than a kid. Who would suspect her?”

“And that face. So innocent. Like a China doll.”

“Absolutely. It's genius – that's what it is. Pure genius. So meek and child-like on the outside, but on the inside ... A wolf in sheep's clothing.”

“Which is why we have to get her back. The search must be extended. Deploy more agents if you have to. Before she becomes contaminated.”

“What do you mean?”

“Before our she-wolf finds herself a cub.”

* * * * *

“Stupid son of a bitch. Dress me up like a gorram doll.”

“No tests, no shots,” Simon bargains. I'm just going to give you a smoother that'll ...” But River will not be appeased. She makes a grab for his medical bag and hurls it and its contents across the room. “River!”

River looks up and sees a man descending the stairs into the infirmary. She freezes. Is it him? The man with the fire and needles? But then she thinks she recognizes him and gives herself up to the tide of warmth flowing through her, a warmth almost maternal in the way it makes her forget herself completely. He needs her. She has to save him ... Then the light shifts and the picture changes. Who is this? An imposter? “You're not him,” she says slowly, anger building at the cruel deception. “Liu kou shui de biaozi he houzi de ben erzi!”

Mal looks unimpressed. “So – she's added cussin' an' hurlin' about of things to her repertoire. She really is a prodigy.”

Simon clenches his jaw. “It's just a bad day.”

And then Captain Malcolm Reynolds, the outlaw prince, starts delivering one of his you-Core-folk-don't-understand-the-realities-of-life lectures, expecting Simon to just stand there and take it. One of these days ... If he didn't have to concentrate on not reaching out for Mal - on not pressing himself up against him and offering to do anything - Simon would be stomping out of here. He drags his eyes away from Mal's and looks at his sister.

“This is paranoid schizophrenia, Captain. Hand-crafted by government scientists who thought my sister's brain was a rutting playground. I have no idea what will set her off. If you have some kind of expertise ...”

Mal blinks, stung by the thinly veiled accusation of ignorance. “I'm not a doctor.” No gorram reason why I should understand any of this. I ain't had your fancy education, boy. Don't mean I ain't as smart as you. In fact – I'm probably smarter. Yup – top two percent, most like. “And I'm not your gorram baby-sitter, either. Gag her if you have to. We got trade to be done.”

He heads back up the stairs, still smarting at the implication of Simon's remark. He don't need tellin' he ain't got much learnin'. Oh sure - he ain't as dumb as Jayne but he don't know all that historical cultural stuff Simon does. Kinda stuff Inara knows. Simon an' Inara. Oh shit.

* * * * *

In the morning sunlight Jiangyin looks fresh and green and pretty. A nice planet to call home. Although Simon wishes River hadn't decided to follow the cattle out here. He can see the tension in Mal's shoulders, the wariness in his eyes and he knows it isn't just the deal that's making him nervous.

“Come on now, let's move you clear of the work,” he hears him saying to River, who's backing away a little fearfully. If Mal would just leave her alone she'd be fine, no trouble to anyone. But no, he's always got to be controlling people, bending them to his will.

“What's going on? What are you doing?” Simon asks sharply.

Mal looks at him like he's an idiot. “I was fixin' to do some business. Buyers'll be along soon. I can't be herding these steers an' your sister too.”

“I'll keep her out of the way,” Simon tells him, although he can't leave it at that. Mal ought to show a little sensitivity. Some of the things he says are so hurtful and River's been hurt enough already. “But you don't need to be saying things like that in front of her.”

Mal glances across at River, who's the picture of unoffended calm. “Yes. I've clearly upset her.”

There's a laugh and Simon notices Jayne, sitting on the fencing and sniggering. He turns back to Mal who's wearing a “What did I do?” expression of innocence. “She understands more than you think. She didn't mean any harm.”

“Never figured she did,” Mal replies delighting in the way he's making Simon uncomfortable. It's all kinds of funny watchin' him tryin' to stand up for his sis without goin' too far. Mal wonders how far the boy might go if he really pushed him. “But when a man's engaged in clandestine dealings, he has this preference for things bein' smooth. She makes things not be smooth.”

“Right,” Simon answers, a note of sarcasm creeping into his voice. “I'm sorry if she tipped off anyone about your carefully concealed herd of cows.”

Mal nearly laughs. The doc's got a dry sense of humour an' no mistake. Ain't much cowed by Mal's usual tricks neither. Boy could prove a mite more difficult to keep in line than Jayne if he took the notion to mutiny. Which is why Mal doesn't laugh. Instead he slips an arm around Simon's shoulders - using the contact to underline his physical advantage in term of weight and height, not to mention meanness - and starts walking him away from the cattle.

The arm around him is warm and heavy, just as Simon imagined it would be. What he hadn't imagined is how natural it would feel nor how easily the two of them would fall into step. Oh, Simon knows perfectly well that Mal's aiming for subtle intimidation but there's something protective about his hold too.

From his position on the fence, Jayne watches, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He scratches his head and reminds himself that Mal's got all manner of ways of keepin' folk compliant. The words “I'm not sure it's such a good suggestion” are carried over to him on the breeze, followed by “Might not wanna mistake it for a suggestion” and he smiles knowingly. Mal ain't gone soft. This is just his way of puttin' a man in his place.

* * * * *

He should never have taken his eyes off her – not even for a second. This is all his fault. Simon castigates himself as he searches the town, wild with panic. River's the most precious thing in his life - how could he just lose her? Selfishness – that's what did it. Thinking about his own needs rather than hers. He stumbles down a dark alleyway, all but sure he'll never see her again and suddenly the sunlight's dazzling. He squints and shields his eyes, realizing he's in an open field and that there's some kind of fair going on. In front of him there's a platform, with a canvas roof, on which people are dancing in time to a folk tune. And there amongst them is River. In her element. Dancing. Still free in her heart. Still River.

She doesn't see him, nor for the moment does he want her to. He wants to simply stand and drink in her beauty. Watch her shine. Then a cloud passes in front of the sun and River's smile dissolves. Her eyes widen and she reels backwards as though in pain. The dance goes on, people milling all around her and Simon loses her again. He rushes forwards through the thickening crowd, feet obstinately heavy and earthbound.

Funny how quickly darkness falls, how soon flying ends in a fall.

* * * * *

“It's going to be OK,” Simon tries to convince River – and himself - as they are half-dragged, half-pushed through the woods. “Once the Captain realizes what happened, they'll come.”

From somewhere ahead comes the sound of engines firing. They look up and are horrified to see Serenity rising above the trees. Simon can hardly believe it. This is his worst nightmare realized. Mal is abandoning them. And not even for money. Simply because it's the easiest thing to do. Simon feels each connection he has made with the Captain and his crew stretch to breaking point and snap painfully like tendons. Somewhere deep inside he's sure he must be bleeding.

“See that? No-one's coming for you.” A hand grips him by the shoulder. “You just keep moving.” Desolate, Simon stumbles forward, not knowing where he's going or why and wishing desperately that River wasn't here.

* * * * *

“Knew it,” Jayne declares. “Probably saw them cops, turned tail.”

For some strange reason Mal feels the need to defend his medic's honour. “Doctor could be called a lot of things,” he tells the mercenary, “Coward wouldn't be one of 'em though.”

Inara's beautiful face looks drawn. “You don't think there were arrested, do you?”

Wash's eyes are bleak. “Worse than that. Looks like maybe they got snatched.”

“Kidnapped?” Inara gasps.

“I went by the Sheriff's office....”

The Sheriff's office? Don't Wash ever think? Wha' d'he do? Report the Tams missin'? 'See here, Officer – those fugitives you lost? Well - we lost 'em too'.

“... Settlers up in the hills take people sometimes. Usually tradesmen and the like.”

Out of the gorram fryin' pan into the ruttin' fire! “And now they got themselves a doctor,” Mal deduces. “And we don't.” Trust that damn yu ben de boy to get hisself snatched at the precise moment Mal needs him. And it's more'n a mite ironical that Mal only realizes how much he's come to rely on havin' a medic aboard the day he loses him. Tamade – he was gonna do it right this time. Save her. Save them both. But there ain't no time for gettin' sentimental and thinkin' about what they don't got. What they do got is a Preacher who's probably already shakin' hands with St Peter an' enquirin' as to the size of his heavenly bunk.

“We're goin'.” Mal punches a button decisively. He's lost men before. Sometimes you gotta think numbers.

Kaylee makes a strangled noise. “What are you doin'? What about Simon and River?”

“Forget them,” he tells her, knowin' he's gonna do enough rememberin' for you the both of them. Expects he'll be seein' the Doc's earnest blue eyes every time he closes his own. Rememberin' the way he tried but never quite managed to trust Mal to take care of him an' his sis. Looks like he wa'n't wrong after all. “We lost two people today. If I can help it, we won't lose a third. Wash – get us in the air.”

* * * * *

“You know where you can find what you need,” Inara points out.

Mal rounds on her angrily. It ain't his fault the doc's gone. He di'n't lose her playmate on purpose.“Don't recall invitin' you onto the bridge.”

“You didn't. Mal,” she softens her tone even as she starts wheedlin' an' resortin' to wiles. “You know where you can find a doctor.” Then that flinty edge is back. “You know exactly.”

“Inara ...” Mal's got enough trouble dealin' with his own conscience here, let alone hers as well. “...He was dumb enough to get himself grabbed in broad daylight. Don't have time to be beating the trees lookin' for him now. No assurance we'd find him or that he wou'n't need a doctor himself.”

She reels a little at that, surprised. “I – I'm not talking about Simon. I'm talking about medical facilities.”

Mal does a double-take. “That's not an option. Nor is it a discussion I much wanna have at the moment.”

“It doesn't matter what you want,” she says, tongue so sharp she could cut out a man's heart with it. “He's dying. We need a doctor now.”

* * * * * *

Mal descends the ladder into his bunk. He needs some time to think this through and come up with a plan, without helpful advice from his crew. All that jabberin' ain't exactly conducive to thinkin' straight. He got Inara fancyin' herself the voice of reason, Kaylee pleadin' with him to go back for the Tams an' Jayne sayin' how this is a good thing. Ruttin' Jayne! He got no comprehension of what they just lost! Thinks the boy weak an' cowardly jus' cos he ain't always spoilin' for a fight. Too dumb to see the steel in the boy's eyes an' too self-servin' to understand the strength that comes from lookin' out for others.

Mal; shrugs off his suspenders and rolls his shoulders. The joints protest against the movement with a loud creak. He sits down on the edge of his bunk, rubbing at tight neck muscles and staring into the distance ... They'll get Book treated first. Ain't no option there. He haunts Mal bad enough in the livin' and breathin' flesh – dead, he'd be downright insufferable. So – save Book's life first, then rescue the Tams. Always assumin' they' ain't dead yet. Or worse. Mal shudders. She was the youngest of the ones who'd survived. Just seventeen. Little more than a kid. But they took her anyway. Took her and he cou'n't do a damn thing about it. Well this time he can. And he will.

* * * * * *

“Place like this might be good for your sister. Quiet, safe,” Doralee suggests. “A place where folks take care of each other.”

Simon gives a short, bitter laugh – as much at his own doomed plans for River as at the teacher's words. “Yes. Seems like a lovely little community of kidnappers.”

“The Lord says 'Judge not',” she replies calmly. He wonders how long she's been here, to have been able to resign herself so totally to her fate.

“They took us off the street.” Simon isn't resigned. He's angry.

There's something wrong about Doralee's smile. It's too still. Blank somehow. “Sometimes life takes you places you weren't expecting to go.”

“Life didn't bring us here – those men did.”

“You were on a transport ship, right? Taking a journey?” Simon nods. “It's the way of life in my findings that journeys end when and where they want to and that's where you make your home.”

Oh, spare me your homespun philosophy, Simon thinks. Facile crap! “This isn't our home.”

“If it isn't here – where is it?”

That takes the wind out of his sails. He could tell her about Osiris and risk getting handed over to the Alliance for the reward. Or he could tell her about Serenity and the way he and River never really belonged. But what would be the point? He's lost two homes in less than a year. How's that for carelessness?

* * * * *

“You go to bed now.” Doralee is saying to Ruby and suddenly Simon realizes he's exhausted. So tired he could curl up under this table and sleep for a month.

“We should probably think about doing the same,” he says to River, who's tilted one ear towards the mute little girl as if trying to catch words she isn't saying. “It's been a big day. What with the abduction and all.”

“Well – y'all don't have to sleep here. There's a house set aside for you. We've been looking for a doctor for a good while. So things are ready.”

A house? They'd have a house? Somewhere River could rest and heal, far from Alliance reach? Simon could be useful here too – help these people in so many ways. It might be just what he was hoping for. A rock on which to build a new life. Renci Fozu be praised!

“Her sister got killed,” River murmurs gazing at Ruby. And the rock begins to crack. No safety here. Just quicksand ...

“Witch! She's witch!”

* * * * * *

One corner of Zoe's mouth curves minutely upwards as she looks across at Mal. Their timing is impeccable. As is their coordination. Wash has Serenity hovering noisily overhead and Jayne is hanging over the hatch like some malevolent fruit ready to burst and scatter its deadly metal seeds over the ground beneath, just as she and Mal stride into the village, leading with their guns.

The crowds parts easily to let them through. That's when they see them. River's tied to that gorram stake but Simon's there of his own accord. Arms wrapped round his sis like his being there could halve the ferocity of the flames. Mal's breath catches in his throat. Now he remembers. Sees what Zoe was tryin' to tell him. Simon does remind him of someone after all. Ha'n't thought about it for years. Had it all locked away somewhere quiet and safe. But now Mal remembers - remembers the last time he shared a bed without it all goin' straight to hell. Remembers someone stupidly devoted - someone who put hisself in so much danger on someone else's account they posted him to another unit. 'Course, the doc's a mite smarter an' a darn sight more sharp-tongued, but the similarity's there all right.

Mal bites his lip, fighting the memories back. Everybody burns alone, in their own way. But not today. He yells at the crowd. “Y'all got somethin' that belongs to us and we'd like it back.”

River smiles at the word, astonished that her brother doesn't hear it. But he's too stunned that Mal came back. At some point he must have let go of his sister because his arms feel empty. He's standing open-mouthed, not yet daring to believe. Mal mounts the platform and turns his gun on the crowd. Feet squarely on the ground, Zoe's in perfect synch with him.

“Gotta say Doc, your talent for alienatin' folk's near miraculous,” Mal says in an aside, because jokin' is easier than anythin' else he might have to say.

Simon is grateful. Joking is just what he needs right now. It lends realism to this skin-of-the-teeth rescue and chases away the nightmare narrowly escaped death. “Yes,” he says slowly. “I'm very proud.”

Always got an answer, that boy. Mal guesses tha's why he likes him. Why he came back.

* * * * *

“You're on my crew.”

“Yes. But why did you come back for us. You don't even like me.”

Mal keeps his face carefully blank. “You're on my crew,” he repeats, trying to stare the medic down. It doesn't work. Simon's eyes are reaching out to him for explanation. Mal pushes him gently away with “Why we still talkin' about this?” and turns his back before the boy sees the echo of somethin' that was once there. “Chow's in ten. No need to dress.”

Simon smiles to himself, happier than he's been in months.

That night, Simon happily takes his place at the dining table with the others. He doesn't have to be special. He's on Mal's crew. It's not a lot, but it's enough.

* * * * *

Chapter Ten


Monday, December 6, 2004 6:59 AM


Yup, I agree. That must have been how it happened, before the script had to be shortened for TV. And now all the motivations are so clear, too. I'm really enjoying this story. Great job!

Monday, December 6, 2004 7:27 AM


Excellent series! Just love this to bits and I love all the little awkward misunderstandings and how they tilt the truth to an angle only someone on the outside can see. Unless of course you are River. Can't wait for the next part, I want to see where you are taking this and hope this isn't the last shiny part. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, December 8, 2004 4:39 AM


No - not the end. Not nearly the end. I even have a plot and a storyline beyond the series!! So - patience, grasshoppers! ;-)

Wednesday, December 8, 2004 3:37 PM


So that's what was really going on during that episode! All immensely logical and perfectly intertwined.

"twenty-sixth century's answer to Earth-that-was' Captain Bligh" Good one.

"Before our she-wolf finds herself a cub." There's an intriguing new add-in to the story. Looking forward to seeing this playout.

"Ain't much cowed" Nice punnish turn of phrase.

Mal's reaction to Wash going to the sheriff, "Officer – those fugitives you lost? Well - we lost 'em too'" was great, and gave me a nice 'oh duh' moment that I hadn't thought of that before.

"dead, he'd be downright insufferable" LOL good assessment of Mal & Book's relationship. And followed by the parallel between River and the girl from Mal's flashback.

Good. All good. And so very much eager for your take on each upcoming episode.

Sunday, December 12, 2004 1:38 PM


Wa-oot!!!! Excelent as ususal!... keep it up!


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HOLDING ON: Ch 2 - Tangential
Much to his annoyance, Sanzo's urgent quest to find Goku gets diverted. Meanwhile Mal meets someone from Inara's past. WARNING - slashy but not graphic

The Wheel Never Stops Turning
Mal meets a blonde in a bar. Violence ensues. And Mal discovers religion has its uses.

This is primariy a <i>Firefly</i> fic, but the character Mal ends up doing a job for is from the manga/anime <i>Saiyuki</i>. It's also <b>PG-13 nothing-explicit SLASH</b>. Because that's who I am!

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 7: 'til the day you die.
Inara leaves Serenity for a new life. Mal gets a job with a couple of new employers, but sinks further into despair.
Slash so lite you'll probably scarcely notice it.

MAKE ME A STONE: Chapter 6: You just learn to live there.
Another job goes less than smoothly. Meanwhile River takes matters into her own hands and Mal has a brainwave.

SLASHFIC. SPOILERS for the comics, novelization and movie.

Make Me A Stone: Chapter 5: Chickens come home to roost.
Mal has to accept Badger's offer of a job. Meanwhile old enemies seek to take advantge.
Spoilers for the comics. Very light slash.

Make Me A Stone: Chapter 4. Some residual heat.
SPOILERS for the comics/BDM. Mal has to accept Badger's job offer. Not much else in his life is going right either.

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 3: It's complicated.
Mal decides to pull a job of his own. Simon offers to help. It doesn't go smooth - but that's not entirely Simon's fault.

Non-graphic SLASH.

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 2: And who exactly could fix you?
Simon'a altruism leads to a job going wrong. Mal's not happy.

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 1: Pray there ain't any more surprises.
Warning: SLASH, but not graphic. Mal and Simon both find that the other has hidden talents. It kinda piques their interest ... *g*

TRAUMA MEDICINE: Chapter 23. Two by two.
Four years have past since Mal was forced to blow up Serenity and Simon disappeared with River and Book. A lot has changed since then. But a lot has stayed the same. The CONCLUSION to this series.