TRAUMA MEDICINE: Chapter 11. Gave up everything.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005

At last! The next instalment of the fanfic that has more love triangles than you can shake a stick at. Set against "Jaynestown."


Disclaimer: Firely and these characters (and indeed some of the dialogue) belong to Joss Whedon, but the weirdness is all my own!

Warning: Spoilers for “Jaynestown”. And if Mal's not sly, he isn't exactly plain either. PG-13

* * * * *

Trauma Medicine: Chapter 11. Gave up everything.

* * * * *

“Captain ... who's Bain?”

Mal doesn't jump. He's too stunned for that. Instead he just stares blankly at Simon. Where the hell'd the boy get that name from? Zoe? Don't hardly seem likely ... He swallows hard. “Huh? What?”

One corner of Simon's mouth lifts. The Captain seems distinctly uncomfortable. “It's something you said,” he explains. “When you were coming round from the Goodnight Kiss.”

Mal forgets to blink. “I – uh- say anythin' else?”

“Nothin' sensible, Sir,” Zoe states crisply from behind them as she steps down into the galley. Mal glances up and a look passes between them. She's got this one. He nods.

“Cody Bain was from Shadow. Enlisted with the Independent forces same time as the Captain,” Zoe tells the medic, placing the empty mugs she's carrying down on the counter. “The three of us fought together for a couple of years.”

“I see.” Simon stands up. He senses that neither Zoe nor Mal want to talk about this. Then a terrible thought occurs to him. “Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't think. Was ... was he killed?”

Zoe presses her lips together and shakes her head. “No. Nothin' like that. Though not for the want of tryin'.” She really shou'n't elaborate but the whole thing still rankles with her. “Nearly got the Captain killed too.”

“It wa'n't like that Zoe,” Mal can't help but interrupt before clamping his mouth tightly shut again under the fearsome glare she's directing at him.

“Anyhow -” she turns back to Simon. “Bain got posted some place else. An' we got posted to Hera. So it turned out real shiny for all of us.” She folds her arms over her chest, indicating this conversation is At. An. End.

Simon rinses out his glass and leaves.

“Thanks,” Mal says quietly.

“Just doin' my job, Sir.” A beat. “Savin' your ass again.”

“That supposed to be funny?”

“Don't know what you mean, Sir.”

* * * * *

Kaylee is working on the engine. Talking – no, cooing- to it. “That's my good girl. Know it's hard, but you keep turnin' dong ma? Cap'n'll get you a new catalyzer real soon. Maybe even a whole new compression coil if'n this job on Higgins' Moon pays as well as he reckons it should. Then you'll be the prettiest, shiniest engine in the whole gorram 'verse. So you keep ...”


“Hey, River,” Kaylee smiles up at her friend. “Wanna give me a hand?”

“Broken,” River repeats, trailing a hand along the engine casing.

“No it ain't. 's'just a bit old, is all.”

“Just a kid.”

Kaylee rubs her cheek, smearing it with grease and dirt. “I'm older than you, genius!” she laughs but stops abruptly when she sees a tear spill from River's eye. “What is it?”

“Gave up everything.”

“Simon? You talkin' about you an' Simon?” Kaylee wraps an arm around River's shoulders. “Don't cry sweetie. It wa'n't your fault an' he wou'n't've done it if you ha'n't been real special to him.”

River tips her head to one side, her eyes distant. “Gave up everything. Should've fought them, gorramit!” Her hands ball into tight fists. “Damn well let them win. Stupid bitch!”

“River? River, mei-mei – are you up here?” It's Simon, calling from down the hallway.

“In here Simon,” Kaylee shouts to him, mighty relieved he's on his way cos she don't know how to handle this. When River goes all feng le, it scares her.

“She wasn't bothering you, was she?” Simon asks anxiously as Kaylee passes River gently on to him. “I'm sorry ...”

Kaylee tuts. “No, she wa'n't botherin' me. An' it wou'n't've been your fault even so. Shou'n't always be apologizin' to folk, Simon. Gives some men out here in the Black the wrong impression. Makes 'em think you're weak.”

There's a derisive snort from the doorway. Jayne is standing there, all but filling it. “Sounds like the right impression to me,” he sneers.

Kaylee puts her hands on her hips and glares at him. “Think you better leave if you're jus' ...”

“Mal wants you,” Jayne interrupts. Then decidin' he'd better make it clear, he turns to Simon. “Her. Not you. Don't get your hopes up.”


“What? The Doc here's been makin' googly eyes at Mal ever since he came aboard.”

Simon opens and closes his mouth, uncharacteristically at a loss for a reply. Jayne bares his teeth at him before marching back the way he came, grinning with satisfaction.

* * * * *

Inara is looking forward to her time with Fess Higgins. Not because he's rich or handsome or because she expects to derive any physical pleasure from their love-making, but because she knows she can give him something he desperately needs – if the manner of his father's proposal is anything to go by and that is self-respect. Inara likes to think she does that for all her clients. She is never judgmental, no matter how peculiar their appearance or needs. Always accepting, she sees beyond the surface to the person within. To Inara being a Companion is not about sex or status or even money. Mal may assume that she charges exorbitant rates for her services but in truth her fees are very reasonable. Just high enough to ensure the relationship remains a purely business one in her client's mind. She can't work her magic if the client feels he owes her something. His needs must be paramount. They must be the only needs. Inara's satisfaction lies in knowing she has made one person perfectly happy, if only for a little while. She enjoys giving and wants nothing in return. Or at least, she used to. Before she let Malcolm Reynolds get under her skin. But she's afraid of exclusive relationships. A man can feel it his duty to make his partner happy and if he fails can become jealous and possessive, destroying her ability to enhance his life. And a woman can come to resent their partner's inability to be all things to her. Inara reminds herself of these cold hard facts every time the spark between her and Mal threatens to burst into flame. It's better to remain as she is - free.

Kaylee breaks off from the conversation she's having with Simon as the Companion passes by. 'Nara is always so beautiful. “Hey there, 'Nara. Headin' off for a glamourous romance.”

Inara smiles. Kaylee's head is so full of dreams. Glamour and romance are just two of them. “Let's hope so,” she answers, noticing the way Simon's eyes are taking her in, bright with delight in her beauty but clouding over with envy. She knows he's comparing himself with her. Poor, dear boy. The desire to squeeze his hand surprises her. But she won't indulge it. Her pity might make him to lose that fragile shell of control and self-respect is all he has left – that and his sister. It's better to pretend she doesn't know he envies her or why. “Don't let Mal get you into trouble while I'm gone,” she laughs, half in jest, half serious.

Her words trigger an insistent fantasy and a delicious frisson travels the full length of Simon's spine. A spot of pink appears on his cheek but quickly, firmly, he pushes the idea of getting into trouble with Mal to the back of his mind and returns Inara's smile. How does she do it? Sleep with men she has no feeling for? Simon has never been able to do that.

“Bye now,” Kaylee tinkles, all unaware of the undercurrents between the other two. “Have good sex.”

It takes a few seconds for the cheerful exortation to register with Simon. Inara is able to pinpoint the exact moment he processes the sounds into meaning. Have. Good. Sex. . His expression kaleidescopes rapidly through shock to embarrassment to mild distaste and finally to grudging admiration at the mechanic's lack of inhibition. Inara's eyes turn a little sad. Poor Kaylee! Her crush on the young doctor is doomed to end in disappointment. Even if his inclindation didn't lie elsewhere, they really have nothing in common – except perhaps for a gentle disposition and an overwhelming urge to fix things. Inara hopes Simon won't shatter Kaylee's illusions just yet. A girl needs her dreams. Kaylee thought life aboard a spaceship would bring her excitement by taking her to exotic parts of the 'verse. Instead she spends most of her time in the grease and heat of the engine room. Not that she doesn't love this ship – far from it! - but Inara knows she has a deep yearning for something beyond it. And for the time being that yearning has become focussed on the tragi-heroic young man beside her.

* * * * * *

Nine years ago

Cursing Mal for being all manner of stupid, Zoe took a deep breath, glanced swiftly about her – calculating the location of the enemy positions one last time – and then ran at full pelt across the open field. Guns rattled and spat at her from all directions but her assessment held good and she made it to the relative shelter of the rubble surrounding the half-demolished grain store without injury. Picking her way more cautiously now, she advanced over broken planks and shattered stone until at last she found him.

“You ain't dead yet then?” she observed coolly, crouching down on the ground next to where he knelt trying to stem the flow of blood that was turning Cody Bain's jacket dark and sticky.

“Still livin' an breathin',” Mal replied. “What're you doin' here?”

Zoe skewered him with a sharp look. “Savin' your ass, by the looks of it. Sir.” She stared pointedly at the blood dripping from his temple but he dismissed her concern with a little snort. “A graze ain't gonna kill me Zoe.”

“Most like you're right, Sir.” Her gaze dropped to Bain as she unhooked half a dozen grenades and a smoke cannister from her belt. “And him? How bad's he hurt?”

“Clean shot right through his shoulder,” Mal answered briskly. “Nothin' serious.”

Zoe raised a disbelieving eyebrow. The amount of blood stainin' that boy's jacket wa'n't what she'd call nothin' serious, but she caught Mal's meaning and nodded. “You ain't got enough orifices already, Bain, that you need to be gettin' yourself a new one? This one for keepin' your spare hanky in?”

Bain groaned quietly and his blond head lolled back against Mal's arm.

“What the hell's he doin' here anyway?” she hissed. “Di'n't the Captain put you on reconnaissance?”

“It was ... too ... dangerous,” Bain managed to gasp. “I'm smaller ... less ... less likely to be seen.”

“Right,” Zoe agreed sarcastically. “So much safer for you to be out here than the Sarge in his flak jacket. Not dangerous for you at all. Them as is equipped for it do the job. You not got that into that supposedly enormous brain of yours yet?”

“Zoe ...” Mal's tone held a warning but Zoe was too angry to hear it.

She me? If this yu ben de sha gua had followed orders you'da been in an' out of here in thirty minutes. But no, he gotta make a grand gesture for his lo- for you - an' damn near get hisself killed. Only he cou'n't even do that right an' now we gotta rescue him!”

She was glaring at Mal by now and he was glaring right back. “Bizui,” he hissed because – damn it! - she was right again. “This ain't helpin' none. Now – you gonna create a diversion so I can get him out of here?”

“That's the plan, Sir,” she answered through gritted teeth. “Looks like he's gonna need carryin'.”

Mal grinned, hoping to defuse the tension between them. “Well, he sure ain't up to crawlin'. It's all right Zoe, I'll manage. He ain't heavy.”

“Guess you'd know, Sir.”

* * * * *

“Cap'n ... Don't you think Simon should come with us?” Kaylee suggests hopefully.

Jayne glowers. Only good thing about havin' to set foot on this gorram rock again was gettin' a few hours away from Simon ruttin' Tam.

“What?” Simon is horrified. He doesn't want to go. He doesn't want to leave his sister. “Kaylee – I don't think that's such a good idea ...”

Book reads his concern and assures him he will take care of River. The Doctor should have some time to himself. Time to integrate himself into the gang.

But Simon is not convinced he should go. He hesitates, searching River's face for any sign of distress at the prospect of his deserting her. There is none. River can be wilfully unhelpful some days!

“We're not going far, doctor,” Mal says reassuringly. “And you might maybe make yourself useful.”

Jayne reckons the ear flaps on his hat must be too thick cos it sounded like Mal just asked Simon to be a part of the job. “Come again?”

Mal knows he oughta take a firm hand with Jayne on this one, given the ill-feelin' that's brewin' between him an' the Doc, but the sight of him in his hat an' goggles makes him forget to remind the big man who's Captain. Instead he explains. “The management here don't take so kind to sight-seein'. Which is why we'll be posin' as buyers. And there ain't a one of us looks more the part than the good Doctor....”

Mal isn't joking. He really does want him to come and that makes Simon absurdly happy. If Mal wants it, then of course he'll go. If it weren't for River, he thinks he'd go anywhere with Mal. What about into battle? The rational part of his brain scoffs. Would you have done that? Could you have followed him into Serenity Valley? Zoe did. Simon doesn't understand much about Zoe Warren but he does understand her devotion to Mal. He isn't as brave as her, would probably be useless on the battlefield and is almost certainly deluding himself, but yes – had things been different, he thinks he could have endured even that bloodbath if he'd been with Mal. Maybe ...

“The pretty fits,” Mal is saying as Simon's thoughts return to the present. He begins circling the doctor, eyeing him in a way that, whilst not entirely unpleasant, is distinctly unsettling. Unexpectedly he catches hold of Simon's wrist and runs exploratory fingers over his palm. “The soft hands,” he muses. “Definitely a moneyed individual. All rich and fancible. Lily-white and pasty all over.”

There's something about his tone, the rise and fall of his voice ... If Simon has to listen to much more of this, his knees will give way. “Fine,” he says, a little breathlessly and swallowing hard. “I'll go. Just ... stop describing me.”

Describin'? Suddenly Mal's regrettin' startin' off down this road. Cos now he's picturin' Simon naked an' findin' it all manner of pleasin'. In his mind's eye he sees him pale and muscled like a classical statue, the whiteness of his skin underscored by throbbing blue veins and in stark contrast to the darkness of his hair. Mal stiffens, surprised by a hot pulse of blood urgin' him to throw the boy down onto the dirt an' himself on top. What in the name of suo you de dou shidang is this? Mal ain't sly. Otherwise why's he spent most of the past year dreamin' of beddin' Inara? And then, as quickly as it came, the madness passes. Relieved, Mal manages to smile at Simon and pushes him to the front of the group. “You're the boss. Boss.” . * * * * * *

Mal's got no idea what's makin' Jayne so jumpy. Maybe he's overheating. He's surely ain't dressed for the swelterin' weather they get on Higgins' Moon.

“Boy's gonna get us killed,” the mercenary mutters, shooting a black look at Simon. “Let's jus' do the deal an' git.”

Could be he's right. Simon ain't exactly takin' to crime like a duck to water. But then again at least he looks normal. “His disguise ain't half so funny as yours,” Mal points out. “What are you supposed to be, anyway?”

Wash, never one to let a chance to bait Jayne pass him by, laughs. “You haven't been here in years, Jayne. You really think you need that get-up? No-one's gonna remember you ...”

Mal stops dead in his tracks. “Think it's possible they might.”

Simon looks up. “Son of a bitch!” he exclaims.

It's an ugly great lump, rough hewn and massive, which is the only unsurprising thing about it. Why in the name of wo de ma he ta de feng kuang de wai sheng dou is Wash staring at a statue of Jayne? It's not the big man's being famous on the God-forsaken stinking rock part of it that strains the mind – it's the him being well thought of part. Admired enough – loved? no, surely not! - to merit the erection of a statue in his honour. Maybe everybody on this planet is crazy. Some people juggle geese.

If Wash had been asked to lay money on who amongst Serenity's crew had had a statue made of them, he'd've opted for Mal. Born leaders get statues, not followers. Which is why he wouldn't've picked Zoe as a candidate for statuary. His wife isn't a leader any more than he is. She's a second-in-command. A deadly, beautiful, amazing, kill-you-with-her-pinky second-in-command but a second-in-command nonetheless. Jayne – for all his bravado and tough guy antics - is a follower too. Kinda fella whose needs are simple but urgent. Kinda fella who'll fall into line behind anyone smart enough to get the coin to meet them. Jayne's not one for planning or coaxing or playing the diplomat. In fact, he's a lot like Vera – you just crank him up and point him at the bad guy. Just don't expect him to work out which one's the bad guy all by himself. So Wash's first guess to the who's-got-a-statue question would've been Mal. His second guess? Simon. It's that born leader thing. Sure, Simon hasn't had much occasion for revealing that side of his character yet, but it's there. Wash heard it in the way he ordered Mal to run from the Alliance, not once but twice. Even after getting punched in the face. They've got a lot in common, Mal and Simon. Maybe that's what pulls them together. And what pushes them apart.

* * * * *

The pages rustle like dry leaves and meaning bleeds from the vital words they bear. All power lost. Just paper now. River clasps their lifeless forms and hopes for a miracle. “I'm ... I tore these out of your symbol and they turned into paper ... but I want to put them back, so ...”

Her meek apology might have been washed clean away by the sound of running water had Book not had years of practice at listening for things barely there. “Sorry?” he asks, patting his face dry with a towel. “What's that?” He pops his head around the door frame and River screams.

The power hasn't gone away, it's merely been restrained, tied back. The Shepherd doesn't need to lean on his Bible. It's not his support, it's his burden – willingly assumed. Too much power is bad for a man. It destroys him – destroys temples and kings.

Book is bewildered. “River ..? River, come back!” he pleads.

Alerted by the screaming, Zoe comes to investigate but River races past her. “Book? What happened ...?” Zoe asks, turning to look at him. “Aaah!” she gasps, starting despite herself. Regaining her composure, she assumes a serious face. “We'd better find your lost lamb, Preacher, before she does something crazy.”

They eventually track River down to the secret compartment in the cargo bay, where she's crouched in a tight ball, nonsense spilling from her lips.”They say the snow on the roof is too heavy ... they say the ceiling will cave in ... his brains are in terrible danger ...”

“River ...?” Book says softly. “Please, why don't you come on out?”

“No. Can't.” Seen it. Seen you. Samson hasn't been shorn. “ Too much hair.” Too much power.

* * * * *

Long ago and far away you were sunshine in the making. Sunshine, not shadow. But not every egg hatches and not every bud comes into bloom. For you the darkness came quickly. There was a starburst of pain as sharp metal penetrated tender flesh and thoughts. It ripped and tore you, body and soul, leaving you empty and yet too full. Apple bits that won't stay down. Were you standing still whilst everything around you shifted? Or was it you that moved? Were you too weak to withstand the hurricane? Or simply too strong?

Some of it's real and some of it's made up and all of it's painful. No power in the 'verse can change that. All you can do is bind your wounds up tightly and hang on to what's left.

You know they have their scars too. You don't need to see the marks to believe it. You only have to look into their eyes. And you know they see it in you. Often that makes you uneasy, but sometimes – just sometimes – it brings you hope.

* * * * *

Jayne slings an arm around the whore's shoulders. Girl smells real good and the way she smiles – slow an' lazy – is downright dirty. The mercenary glances across to the table where Kaylee is flutterin' her lashes at the Doc and clenches his teeth. Damn it, but he cares for that girl! She must feel his eyes on her cos she looks over, smiles an' then frowns when she sees the company he's keepin'. Tamade! It ain't like he's betrayin' her. She might hold his dumb old heart in the palm of her hand but she ain't put no down payment on his body yet. Which, to his way of thinkin', means he's more than entitled to get sexed up tonight. 'Course what's sauce for the gander ... He snorts a soft hot puff of air down his nostrils, dismissing the notion as soon as it forms. Kaylee ain't gonna get no play of her own. Simon Tam ain't interested in girl folk. Amazes Jaynes that not a one of the others has grasped the fact yet. An' they all think he's dumb!

Mudder's milk – apart from being liquid bread – may very well contain psychoactive compounds, Simon decides, feeling happier and more relaxed that he has in a very long time. Of course, that could also be due to the very pleasant company. Kaylee is always a joy to be with - and from here he has a clear view of Mal as he talks business with their contract. Simon likes that shirt he's wearing. The colour emphasizes the blue of his eyes and the age-worn softness of it begs to be touched.

Mal looks up and Simon hurriedly averts his gaze, turning back to Kaylee, the warmth of whose smile is enough to melt bones let alone his cool veneer of reserved politeness. “You know ...” Simon muses, as if it's only just occurred to him, “You're pretty.” No - not as if – it has only just occurred to him. His attention has been somewhere else entirely. “Pretty.”

Kaylee ain't real sure she heard right. “What? What did you say?” An' it's not that she's fishin' for compliments. She jus' thinks she must've drifted off an' missed the point of what Simon was sayin' entirely.

“Nothing.” The doctor gives her a fuzzy, affectionate smile. River used to be like this – so accustomed to the bantering insults between brother and sister that saying something nice always took her aback. “Just that you're pretty ... Even when you're covered with engine grease, you're ...” He pauses, considering. “Maybe 'specially when you're covered with engine grease, you're ...”

Mal cuts him off mid-sentence. “It's time we got out of this nuthouse,” he announces, leaning over the seat back behind them. Simon smiles, tasting the word still on the tip of his tongue. Pretty.

“Got some plannin' to work out,” Mal continues, scannin' the bar a mite warily. He can turn Jayne's unexpected celebrity to their advantage but it don't come without risks of its own.

Kaylee is crestfallen. “Now, Captain?!” she wails. “But things are goin' so well.”

Not so well Mal can afford to let his guard down. Mobs is volatile. Liable to turn quicker that a fella can draw his gun. “Um. I suppose.” Don't wanna frighten her. “Jayne's certainly feelin' better about life.” On the other hand ... “But we ...” Why's she lookin' at him like that? Like she'd slap him if he weren't the Captain? He turns to Simon wonderin' if the Doc can furnish him with an explanation but the boy's wearin' a drunken sappy smile. Oh! Dang rahn! He grins broadly. Buddha knows, the girl's a trier. Ain't nothin' like to happen between her an' the Doc. Any fool can see that. It ain't that the boy's frightened of incurrin' his displeasure – wou'n't always be answerin' him back were that the case – no, its that the two of 'em's from different worlds. Nothin' in common. Which don't stop it bein' all manner of funny watchin' Simon Tam squirm as he tries to deflect Kaylee's advances ever so politely. Mal's grin turns into a smirk. “Oh. Well.” He leans on the word like its a secret code between him an' Kaylee. Like they're ge-ge an' mei-mei playin' a game. “Well, I tell you what. Jayne's stuck here with his adorin' masses – how about you an' Simon hang around, keep an eye on him for me?”

Simon. Mal used his name. Not Doc, not 'boy' – Simon. He likes the way he says it. Imagines it in his mouth, full and warm on his tongue, the ends neatly trimmed by a sharp, precise bite of teeth. The doctor raises his glass contentedly and his smiles widens.

* * * * *

Kaylee is having the sweetest of sweet dreams. The kind of dream that makes you smile every time it comes back to you, making the day that follows it brighter – warmer- somehow. She's dreaming that last night she went to a bar and sat talking with Simon. He told her about clever stuff, historical stuff, like he knew she'd be interested. She likes that about him – the way he assumes she's just as smart as him. She knows she ain't, but she likes that he imagines she is. He smiled at her suddenly, all shy like and without any promptin at all told her she was pretty. Ha! She knew Jayne was wrong about him. Simon ain't sly – he's jus' educated an' appropriate. She inched closer and somehow she was leaning against him and his arm was round her shoulders. The silk of his vest is cool under her cheek as she lays it on his chest. She can hear his heart beating into her ear. Did they kiss? They must have but she can't remember. It don't matter none. They're curled up together on the brink of a great adventure. On the brink of fallin' in love.

Simon is dreaming too but his dream is a bitter-sweet one. Sweet because it's rich with fantasies come true but bitter because, even in sleep, he knows it can't be real. There's no way Mal would have taken him to a bar and sat talking with him like they were friends. And it's simply not possible that Mal would have taken his hand and remarked on its softness. Nor that he was have thought Simon pretty and said so out loud. No – it's just a silly dream. Wishful thinking. Mal couldn't possibly have looked him up and down as though he were naked. No more than he'd be standing over him, staring at him with such heat it raised goosebumps ...

Meanwhile Mal is havin' a gorram ruttin' nightmare. 'Cept he ain't, cos he's stone cold awake in a crappy bar in a crappy town on one of the crappiest rocks in the 'verse. And Kaylee is lyin' in Simon's arms. Despite his express orders to the contrary – which he's pretty damn certain were clear enough for even folks not in the top three per cent of their class to comprehend – they seem to have embarked on a relationship. His mechanic and his medic. Kaylee and Simon. The realization he's grindin' his teeth comes as a surprise even though he knows why he's doin' it. Mal's felt his throat contract like this before and his stomach sink like he's swallowed lead. It's the certainty that he's too late that does it. The knowing he's lost something precious. It don't feel no better this time round.

He's not laughin' this mornin'. Nor smirkin'. There's nothin' funny about this and no cause for feelin' superior. Things have changed when all he wanted was for them to stay the same. The same he can deal with. And if he don't actively like it, at least it's familiar. The 'verse is full enough of unpleasant surprises at it is, without his crew addin' to them. He took Simon an' River in – no, River and Simon in – because they were fleein' the Alliance. They were victims, bein' hunted down an' in need of protection. Now Simon has shape-shifted into ship's medic and an irritatin', smart-mouthed one at that. His sister – well, Mal has an eerie feelin' she knows him like no-one ever has. Girl's turned into a ruttin' sybil. Just as well she speaks in riddles. Only wishes he wa'n't startin' to understand 'em.

And now there's this. Simon an' Kaylee. These people belong to him, not each other. They're on his crew, essential parts of a whole. They can't go off and form a team of their own. He won't let them. He stares down at them, angry now. Another gorram complication to deal with.

Kaylee stirs under the weight of his disapproval and the rhythm of her breathing changes. Her eyes flutter open and meet his. She smiles dreamily up at him, so pleased to see him he could almost forgive her betrayal. “Hiya, Captain...” She's sinking back down into contented unconsciousness but some part of her brain must be piecing events together, because suddenly her eyes snap open again and she looks aghast. Guilty. “Captain!”

Kaylee's hand pushing into his breast bone as she raises herself into a sitting position awakens the doctor. His head is throbbing and his mouth tastes sour. “Wha'..?” he croaks. “Kay...?” Kaylee? What the ...? The warm comfort of his dream recedes rapidly as his eyes start to focus. He looks up and blinks. Then blinks again. Because Mal's still there. Still looking down at him with the same fiery intensity. “Mal!” Oh shit, he used his name, not his rank. Simon is always so careful to say 'Captain'. “Mal...” Great, he's done it again! “I, uh ...”

Boy's awful flustered for someone who's done nothin' more than drink too much an' fall asleep in a bar, Mal thinks to himself. Never called me by my name before. Wonder what brought that on? Must be hopin' to convince me we're friends an', even if he has humped my mechanic, everythin' between us is peachy. Well, it ain't.

Mal hasn't broken eye contact once but his expression is unreadable. Simon decides to play safe and assume he's mad. He casts a sideways glance at Kaylee whose unease is palpable which means it's up to him to clear up any possible misunderstanding. “Captain..” Good, he remembered - Captain, not Mal. “Nothing happened. There was some drinking but ...” Why the diyu doesn't Mal say something - do something – other than keep looking at him like that. “We certainly didn't ...”

Didn't what, son? Better not have. Possessiveness grabs at Mal's gut and gives it a big old twist. Better not have touched Kaylee in any wrong way. Even the notion of it makes him jealous. Or does he mean envious? Always did mix those two words up.

Simon's voice has taken on a pleading quality. “I mean, I would never – not with Kaylee.”

Never? Or never with Kaylee? Speak plain, boy!

“I... I assure you, nothing inappropriate took place.”

He's spoken plain enough for Kaylee. Spoken downright ugly. She bristles at the slight. “What do you mean, not with me?” She plants her hands down on her hips and looks like she might spit in his face.

Somehow Mal manages not to laugh as the tension eases slowly out of him. “Uh-huh.” He feigns disinterest. “Where's my hero?”

Right on cue, Jayne appears. A word from Mal convinces him that taking his leave of the whore in his arms in order to go play the hero is exactly what he was plannin' to do his own self and he heads resolutely for the exist with Kaylee and Mal in tow. Simon starts to follow but Kaylee rounds on him. “Where you goin'?” she demands.

“With you ...?” Hesitancy turns stating the obvious into a question.

Her mouth is tight and her eyes hard. “I don't think so.” Behind her Mal rolls his eyes and Jayne sneers. “No, maybe you oughta stay here. It's about time for a civilized person to have his breakfast. That's the sorta thing would be appropriate, don't you think?”

Simon's appeal for Mal to over-rule his mechanic dies on his lips as the Captain shrugs. Truth is, boy'd be safer out of the way. And now he knows for certain nothin' happened, with Kaylee Mal wants Simon safe.

“Mal?” There's that use of his name again. Almost makes him weaken. But not quite. No more than allowin' himself to imagine all the ways Simon Tam might say his name does. How he might laugh it or sigh it. Zao cao! Now who's thinkin' about ignorin' his policy against shipboard romances? An' with a boy who'd like as not bust somethin' at the thought of ruttin' with another man! This is all Zoe's fault. The idea wou'n't even have crossed him mind if she hadn't put it there with her 'He remind you of anyone?'

“Guys?” Simon makes a last desperate appeal for inclusion in the group.

Mal turns, feelin' a mite sorry for the boy an' his near miraculous ability for alienatin' folk even as kind-spirited as Kaylee. “See you back on the ship, Doc.”

* * * * *

“Far as I see it,” Jayne is saying, “You people have been given the shortest end of the stick ever offered a human soul in this crap-heel 'verse.” He pauses as much to let the truth of that sink into his own mind as his audience's. “But, you know, you took that end. And you, you know ...” How is them acceptin' their sorry lot a good thing? He looks down at the expectant faces an' realizes he can't criticize 'em. They need him to say somethin' to make it right. “Well, you took it.” His tone firms up, conveying a confidence he don't rightly feel. “And that's ... I guess that's somethin'.”

“Wow! That di'n't sound half bad!” Kaylee exclaims to Mal.

He agrees. Jayne the orator! Who'd've thought it? “I'm shocked my own self.”

Jayne is mighty pleased at the way the crowd bursts into a round of applause. He enjoys admiration an' respect as much as the next man. Maybe more, seein' as how he don't get much of either as a general rule. Unless, of course, he's got a gun in someone's face. He beams down at the mudders, fit to burst with pride.

Suddenly a shot rings out and the crowd parts. The shooter appears – a grisly lookin' individual with one eye, a scraggy beard an' wild hair – draggin' Simon along by the scruff of his neck. Kaylee gasps and Mal's heart stops as the half-conscious medic is flung to the ground. He's bleeding from a wound on his arm and there's the mark of yet another punch on his cheekbone. But worse than that – he has a gun trained on him.

Jayne is staring at the gunman like he's seen a ghost. “Stitch Hessian ...”

“Hey there Jayne,” the other replies with a sneer. “Thought I'd make ya watch while I butcher me one o' your boys.”

Everythin' depends on Jayne now. Not a situation Mal ever likes findin' himself in. But the big man steps up to the plate and makes like he don't care. “He ain't a one of mine,” he declares flatly. Then again, could be he's convincin' cos he really don't care. Mal starts doin' some rapid calculations. How many steps to get into position? How fast can he draw his gun?

Whilst Jayne and Stitch Hessian prowl around each other trading insults, Kaylee stoops down to help Simon to his feet, her earlier indignation totally forgotten. Out of the corner of his eye, Mal sees the tender way she scoops him up, the gratitude in his eyes. Maybe they do have a connection after all. Perhaps they could make it work. If'n he needs anyone at all, the boy needs someone gentle ... an', well ... No. He ain't even gonna think on it no more.

“So what's this 'bout the hero of Canton?” Hessian scoffs. “Was I hearin' that right? Four years' lock-down can play tricks on the ears...”

The game's up an' Jayne knows it. He ain't the man these people think he is. “Ain't no hero, Stitch. Just a workin' stiff like yourself ...”

Hessian bursts into a cackle of bitter laughter and starts relating how Jayne done him wrong. Mal hopes he's so absorbed by his need for revenge he won't notice ... Wrong! Finds himself lookin' down the barrel of a gun.

“Now you let ol' Stitch say his piece.”

Mal raises his hands and backs off. “Well, go on then.”

And he does. Lays into Jayne's character, lashing him with his tongue. Most of the mudders fall silent, not knowing what to think, but one keeps arguing, defending the Hero of Canton. It's all too much for Jayne. “You gonna talk me to death, buddy? That the plan?”

Hessian sneers and takes aim. “This is the plan.” His finger squeezes the trigger an' it looks certain Jayne's on his way to his own special hell when a body flies through the air in front of him. Meadows, his great defender, is dead before he hits the ground.

It's instinct now that makes Jayne hurl his knife with such force an' accuracy into Hessian's chest. It don't kill him but does slow him down some. Takes a lot of batterin' his skull off the foot of the statue to finish him off.

Without so much as a backward glance at his former partner, Jayne stumbles towards Meadows.

“Get up, you stupid piece a ... Get up!” He shakes the inert body like he could shake some sense into it. Mal knows the kinda anguish he's goin' through. Been through it his own self. “What'd you do that for? What's wrong with you? Di'n't you hear a word he said? I'm a mean, dumb sumbitch!” Jayne's anger deserts him as pain and shame flood in to replace it. “You don't take no bullet for a dumb sumbitch – you dumb sumbitch!” An anxious murmur reminds him there wa'n't jus' one yu ben de mudder – there's scores of 'em. “All of you!” he yells. “You think someone's jus' gonna drop money on ya? Money they could use? There ain't people like that!” His body sags a little under the humiliating truth. “There's jus' people like me.”

* * * * *

Back on Serenity, Jayne's still honin' his blade an' starin' into space the second time Mal passes by. If'n Mal di'n't know him better he'd think the big man was about to burst into tears. He ascends the stairs and leans on the railing next to him. He wants to talk 'bout this, he will. If not – well, talkin' won't changed what happened anyhow.

A few long minutes pass in silence before Jayne finally speaks. “Don't make no sense.” He's confused, angry and wretched. “Why the hell'd that mudder go an' do that, Mal? Jumpin' in fronta that shotgun blast? Weren't a one of them understood what happened out there – hell, they're probably stickin' that statue right back up.”

Mal stares bleakly ahead too. Remembering. “Most like,” he agrees.

“Don't know why that eats at me so ...” Guilt, responsibility – they're powerful new emotions to Jayne an' they're hittin' him hard.

Mal'd like to tell him they get easier to deal with over time but he'd be lyin'. “It's my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kinda sumbitch or another.” He takes a deep breath to steady himself and quell the memories. “Ain't about you, Jayne. 'Bout what they need.”

Jayne frowns with the effort of tryin' to understand Mal's words but he jus' can't do it. “Don't make no sense,” he repeats in miserable defeat.

* * * * *

Nine years ago

Mal was pacing back and forth outside the hospital tent when Zoe passed by on her way back to her own quarters. She stepped in front of him, arms folded and blocking his way, forcing him to stand still for a moment.

“He'll be OK, Sir,” she said, briefly resting her hand on his arm. “You got him back before he lost too much blood. He'll be OK.”

Mal stared at her, his eyes bleaker than she'd ever seen them. Puffy, almost. “Doc says he won't be able to handle a rifle for a long while. Maybe not never again.”

Zoe nodded. She'd thought as much. “Least that means he'll get sent back from the front,” she offered by way of consolation. “Probably just as well.”

Mal chewed the inside of his cheek and stared at the canvas tent wall. “Why the hell'd he go an' do that, Zoe? Why'd he go out there? Don't make no sense.”

“You really got no idea?” she asked, amazed. Sometimes Mal could be indescribably dim.


“Because he fell in love, Sir,” she said simply. Then added, with a feeble grin, “With you – if you were goin' to ask.”

Mal rocked back on his heels like a shell had exploded in front of him. For a moment he couldn't think at all, let alone gorram straight, and then his mind started filling up with all the reasons Zoe had to be wrong – they were only foolin' around; they were friends; they were both men for God's sake; it was jus' a distraction from the gorram war; it was only sex – but he knew, deep down, that she was right. How the diyu ha'n't he seen it before? Tamade, what kind of an unfeelin' hun dan was he? “Shit,” he whispered and then asked again, “Why the hell'd he go an' do that? I thought ... I thought he understood ...” He looked down and saw his hands were clutching at the empty air. “I never said nothin' about ...”

Zoe sighed. “Perhaps it wa'n't about you, Sir,” she suggested. “Well, not just about you. Some people got a need to love. 's'more about them than the folk they fall in love with. Maybe he needed to love you..”

Looking back at the tent again in total bewilderment, Mal shook his head. “Don't make no sense...”

* * * * *

Gorram pep talk di'n't do Mal no more good than it did Jayne. It's left him feelin' dog-tired an' cravin' his bunk, but the light's still on in the infirmary an' he won't get no rest till he knows everthin's taken care of.

Zoe is neatly tying off a final suture on Simon's arm as Mal enters. He scrutinizes the patient's face and wishes to diyu it wa'n't always gettin' battered. “Best put a coupla those plastic doodads on this cut too,” he advises, pointing to Simon's cheek.

Simon shakes his head. “It's not necessary, Captain.” He gets to his feet as if to prove the point. “There's no risk of infection and I'd rather not waste our scant medical supplies on trivial injuries. There's no need - .”

Mal cuts him off with a glare and pushes him firmly back down onto the exam table. “Well, I say there is.” Damn – it's the tiredness that makes him over-react. His tones softens. “Don't wanna be uglifyin' that pretty face ...” Simon is no longer resisting but Mal seems to have forgotten to remove his hand from the medic's shoulder.

Zoe coughs and raises an eyebrow.

“Never know when we might have to trade you in,” Mal adds with a sudden wicked grin as he hastily withdraws his hand. “Don't wanna be barterin' with damaged goods.”

A month or two back, Mal's words would have scared Simon, but not now. “Well, I certainly wouldn't want to lose any of my market value,” he smiles, allowing Zoe to apply the stitches. When she's finished, he thanks her sincerely and retires to his bunk.

Mal watches him go without a word. Zoe's seen that expression – pensive, wistful – before and knows beyond any doubt that Wash has been right all along.

“Ain't none of my business, Sir,” she says quietly. “Jus' don't think it'd be a good idea.” Even with his supposedly enormous brain, Simon Tam ain't equipped for this job, Sir. Case like yours needs a professional. Someone who's probably seen a whole lot worse. Someone who knows how to remain emotionally detached. Someone like Inara Serra.

“What? What wou'n't be a good idea?”

“You an' him, Sir.”


“Maybe I spoke out of turn, Sir.”

“Per maybe haps you did, I'm thinkin'.”

“Then I apologize.”

“Good.” But she's still got that look on her face. “What?”

“He's a good doctor, Sir. A very good doctor. Our line of work, that comes in mighty handy. You ... well, could end badly ...” She falls silent, not needing to spell it out. The sorrow behind her eyes says more'n enough.

Ain't a day goes by Mal don't regret what happened between the two of them. He loves Zoe more than anthin' – would never've ... an' yet, he did. Don't understand the why of it, but he remembers it like it happened yesterday ...

She was little more than a kid... took her anyway ... She moved closer and lay her hand on his chest ... her lips on his ... breasts an' slender thighs ... then his hand was on the back of her head, pullin' her down onto his mouth. Teeth, lips and tongues fit together like they'd been made for each other. Every connection felt right .... Mal felt the room spin an' himself with it. It was like he was divin' into a boiling sea ... he felt his teeth sink into skin .... Zoe arched into it, a soft whimper escapin' her lips ... She sobbed ... pleaded ... Damn well let them win, the stupid bitch! ...He holds her down ...the whimperin' ... needed to make it stop. Make her stop. He brought the back of his hand down hard across her mouth to silence her ... His head throbbed an' the room felt unbearably hot ... It was Zoe he had pinned down ... Sweat trickled down his forehead and dripped from his brow... Hurry up ... get it over with ... His gut twisted like somethin' savage was trying to claw it's way out of him. Somethin' savage and ugly that he couldn't fight. Or perhaps it was something he di'n't want to fight. Because it was him. The Real Him ... He knows what lives in the heart of men. Has to live with the knowing. Find a way somehow to bear it.

They say a symptom of madness is doin' the same thing and expectin' different results. If that's so, Mal must be real sane. Cos he expects the pattern to repeat itself over an' over an' over again. Which is why he keeps himself to himself. Can't risk it. Better to be a mean old man an' push folk away rather than end up hurtin' people he cares for.

Which is why he ain't acted on his attraction to Inara before now. An' why he won't act on these feelin's for Simon. He sighs. “Ain't gonna end badly, Zoe. Ain't even gonna start.”

* * * * *

Chapter Twelve


Wednesday, January 12, 2005 5:59 AM


Good gorram, poor Mal. Poor Zoe and poor Simon! Loving this, what a tangle it is and I love the way you flash back and forth between the War-that-was and the present. Shiny, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, January 13, 2005 9:24 AM


“Savin' your ass again.”“That supposed to be funny?” Yup. It was! Loved the way Zoe was played throughout--the dry humor and understated insights. Best part was her explaining to Mal that Bain had fallen in love with him, and Mal being totally oblivious. Very well done.

Interesting take on River, Book, and the hair... I'll be pondering that one.

All the twining of your plot and premise into the existing episode was, again, smooth and convincing.


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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.