A Lonely Road
Friday, September 30, 2005

When things go south again, Jayne finds himsmelf an unlikely ally, Mal takes on a job he really doesn't want, a figure fromp the past is on Serenity's trail, and relationships start to form in the most odd and dangerous circumstances...


A lonely road

Rating: PG13 for now, will turn R in the future. Disclaimer: I’m just doing this out of love for the show and that I’m not making any money from this fic. Info: This fic takes place right after the series ends, so spoilers for the movie yet. Warnings: slash. Not in this chapter but there will be in the upcoming chapters. But I’ll post a header in case some of you want to avoid it. Also lots of violence and probably some tragic deaths. I’m evil that way. Pairings: J/R, M/S. Archived: at, and If you want it, go ahead, just let me know so I can rejoice! Feedback: will be printed and nuzzled to death!

Part 1: where the job doesn’t go smooth and Jayne gets some unexpected help

She looked at her hands. They didn’t look like hands at all. Her vision was hindered… the air seemed thick between her fingers, and between her eyes and her hands, as if she was under water.

“Water…” she mumbled softly, still concentrating on her hands. Her eyes drifted to her bare feet, watching her toes as she walked on water.

She smiled as she crouched down, carefully dipping her fingers in the cold liquid, one by one. The small drops clung to her hair and dress as she sprinkled the cold water all over her face.

The girl smiled a little comprehending smile. The water seemed to form a barrier between herself and the world. Translucent and serene… like being inside a dream, she thought.

“River, what are you doing?” a worried voice pierced its way into her brain. Male voice. She knew that voice…

“What’s goin’ on here, gorram it?” a gruff voice said, immediately followed by the sound of feet splashing on a wet floor. “Gos se,” Jayne muttered as he set foot on the soaked galley floor.

“River, sweetie, get up from there,” Simon said in an exasperated voice as he helped her get up from the floor. She shrugged him off and rolled her eyes.

“We got a leak!” Kaylee’s voice came shouting as she ran up the stairs to the galley and skidded into the room.

“Yeah, we got that,” Jayne growled while he joined Kaylee, who immediately started checking the pipes. They found the leak soon enough and began to try and salvage what was left of the water.

“Those were about half our water supplies, far as I can see,” Kaylee informed them as she looked at the flooded floor. “Where are we gonna find us a decent and cheap supplier this corner of the ‘verse?” she added. She took in the scene, her hands on her hips, and sighed.

“What’s all the ruckus?” Mal said briskly as he stepped in. The moment his feet touched the floor, there was a squeaking sound. The captain looked down at his feet and simply said: “Huh.”

River looked at everyone in turn. Mal, as he muttered: “Guess we’ll have to dock someplace to get water.” Simon, giving her a worried look. Dear, sweet Simon still thought she couldn’t take care of herself. Kaylee, giving one of the pipes a hard thump, her jaw set in intense concentration. And Jayne. River cocked her head. She liked Jayne, he was not as complicated as the others. She had no trouble understanding his emotions, since they were all on the surface.

“C’mere sweetie, I’ll take you to your room,” Kaylee’s soft voice sounded next to her, her fingers gently closing around River’s forearm.


“What’s the plan?” Wash asked as everyone say around the dinner table. Everyone except River, who was tucked safely in her quarters. One of the side effects of the medication Simon had been giving her was that she had even more temper tantrums. Today hadn’t been a particularly good day when it came to that, Simon thought as his eyes fell on a couple of glass fragments Kaylee had overlooked. Leftover of the previous hour, when River had stormed out of the passenger dorms, stalked into the kitchen and started to send some of the few glass drinking cups they owned flying into the wall.

“We’re headed for Beaumonde. I sent a wave to Jack and he’s willing to do business,” Mal answered his pilot.

“Rip us off, more like,” Jayne grumbled. He was cleaning his gun and didn’t even look up, but that didn’t stop him from hearing every word that was being said.

“Jayne has got a point, sir. The man isn’t all that trustworthy,” Zoe told Mal.

“May be, but so far he hasn’t done us any harm. He is one of our more reliable contacts and the deal he offered is twice as cheap as the average asking price. I’m not sayin’ it won’t be dodgy but we’ll go in well prepared. Jayne, Zoe, you’re with me. Kaylee, did you find that leak?” he asked.

“Yep," Kaylee said, nodding fervently. "Big gapin’ hole smack in the middle of the central pipeline, might need some serious mending.”

“You do that, then. Everyone else is free to check out the town, though I’d take it as a kindness if you didn’t stray too far. Knowing Jack’s temper, we might have to clear off in a hurry,” Mal said.

“D’you think I could get some medical supplies while we’re there?” Simon wanted to know.

“If I were you, I wouldn’t be leaving the ship at all, doctor. Same for your sister. Alliance moles ain’t all that uncommon on Beaumonde,” Mal said.

“Alright, but the next time someone gets shot and I can’t help out, don’t blame me,” Simon said with a casual shrug and a hint of a smile before he leaned back in his chair.


One floor down, in her room, River couldn’t see what was going on, but she heard and felt everything…


Zoe glanced over her shoulder at the ship as she, Mal and Jayne drove off on the mule.

“I’m still not sure this is such a good idea, sir. Jack’s men could easily go behind our backs and attack the ship,” she said.

“Don’t reckon they will, Jack ain’t got no use for Serenity. ‘Sides, anything happens, Wash’ll get in touch and we’ll come back and save the day, guns a’blazing,” the captain replied with a huge grin as Jayne drove the mule across the prairie and through a canyon.

It took them less than ten minutes to get to the rendezvous point, where they were welcomed by six or seven unfriendly looking goons.

“Well, well, if it ain’t good old Mal Reynolds and his flunkies,” an unpleasant voice said. Mal smirked while Jack lazily strolled their way.

“Jack,” he replied curtly. “Long time.”

“Yeah, not long enough,” Jayne grumbled to Zoe, who didn’t show any reaction besides the gleam in her eyes. Jack on the other hand glared at the mercenary and turned back to Mal.

“He can’t go with us,” he said simply, pointing his thumb at Jayne.

Zoe raised an eyebrow. “Why’s that?” Her hand was starting to twitch, ready to go for her gun.

Jack shrugged casually. “The man who’s got your water supplies won’t be lookin’ to deal with no mercs. And I’m not rubbing him the wrong way, the man owns about half of this moon.”

Mal crossed his arms in front of his chest and frowned. “Let me guess. Fancies himself a big businessman, looks to act virtuous in case the Alliance decide to check him out?”

Jack pointed his finger at Mal and smirked. “Ten points for the captain.”

“Fine, give me a minute,” Mal replied as he beckoned Zoe and Jayne to come closer. “Jayne, go back to the ship-” he said in a low voice.

“What? But Mal-”

“I said, go back to the ship, fetch the doctor and tell him to get over here right away,” Mal went on, ignoring the merc’s protests. “Zoe can drive the mule to Serenity and back. You stay on the ship and ride this one out.”

Jayne was about to argue but the look in his captain’s eyes told him it was useless, so he just rolled his eyes and muttered, “You’ve got to be kiddin’ me…” as he followed Zoe to the mule.


“You’re back soon. Where’s Mal?” Simon asked with a frown when he saw the both of them walk into the cargo bay.

“Change of plans. You’re coming with me,” Zoe said.

“Why, what happened? Is the captain hurt?” The worry in his voice grew more pronounced.

“No, he’s fine. I’ll explain on the way.”

“I’d like to but I really can’t. I have to watch River,” the doctor said to her. “All the others have gone into town. We didn’t go because the captain said that it probably wouldn’t be safe…”

“Don’t worry about it doctor. Jayne’s staying on the ship, he can look out for your sister,” she said. Her tone was dead serious, but there was a definite hint of a smile on her face. Simon just gave her an incredulous look, and Jayne seemed about ready to hurl his knife in her general direction.

Unfortunately for both men, Zoe’s piercing eyes made it quite clear there was no debating this. Simon uttered a deep sigh. As he passed Jayne, he mumbled in an exasperated voice: “Just… try not to sell her. Okay?” He looked less than happy, which made Jayne feel a mite better.

“How ‘bout trading, ‘s that count?” he shot back as Zoe and Simon drove off again and Jayne was left alone in the cargo bay. From the galley, he could the sound of a plate shattering.

“Great. Just great,” he growled.


She was sitting at the dinner table, scribbling on a piece of paper when Jayne stalked in. The broken plate in the middle of the floor was the only proof that she hadn’t been sitting there the whole time.

“We have to go,” she said calmly and without looking up. Jayne blinked.

“We ain’t goin’ anywhere,” he snapped and walked towards the bridge, having no intention of cleaning up the shards on the floor. River sighed, folded the piece of paper and pushed back her chair to follow him.

Jayne sat down in the pilot’s chair and leaned back with his hands folded behind his back. I could captain a ship, he thought to himself.

“We have to go,” River’s voice breathed into his ear. He almost lost his balance and looked angrily over his shoulder at the girl who was standing only inches away.

“Shouldn’t be sneaking up on people like that, girl,” he growled. “’Specially not them that’s carrying guns.”

“Jayne, you there?” Zoe’s voice suddenly sounded through the com. “We’re in a scrap, you better get over here.” Her voice sounded a little less calm than it usually did. The merc looked over his shoulder at River, his eyes narrowed. She was just looking at him expectantly with her arms folded across her chest. “Told you,” she said.

“Zoe, what about the doc’s sister? I can’t leave her here, for all I know she takes off with the boat. She’s capable of it, most like,” Jayne said into the speakers as if the girl wasn’t even there.

“Then take her with you. If she’s really as good a shot as Kaylee said, she might come in useful.” With that, the connection went dead.

Jayne sighed. This day was just getting better by the minute. All of a sudden River leaned over him, her hair brushing his face. She quickly unfolded the scrap of paper she’d been scribbling on earlier, and started fiddling with some dials.

“What the ruttin’ hell are you doing girl?” Jayne said when his eyes fell on the page. It was full of calculations that River was now avidly typing into the engine controls. The next moment, she stood back with a huge grin on her face.

“It’s an encryption that will prevent anyone from taking off with the ship while we’re gone,” she said, actually sounding a bit proud. Jayne just looked at her for a second and blinked. Then he shook his head as if he was trying to wake up from a really strange dream, and got up to get Vera.


They could hear the gunfire from almost a mile away. Jayne sighed. They’d get there so much quicker if they didn’t have to run the whole way, but Zoe and the doctor had taken the mule with them. Still, they were getting closer now; the others were just over the next hill… Jayne glanced quickly at the surroundings but he didn’t see any opportunity to find cover and take them out from a distance.

Suddenly Jayne felt River grabbing his hand and pointing at a low overhanging rock. The two of them quickly took cover. Jayne got Jack’s goons in his sights, and within a minute he had taken out one of them. He was about to aim again when a prickling feeling in the back of his neck made his hairs stand on end. The next moment, he felt the cold metal against his skin as the barrel of a gun was pressed to his neck.

Glancing carefully over his shoulder, Jayne saw that the weapon belonged to one of Jack’s goons, flashing him an ugly grin. River on the other hand was nowhere to be seen. Jayne found himself hoping that she hadn’t been caught, although he wasn’t sure if it was because she was crew, or because he still felt like that reward was rightfully his.

There was a loud pop, and the gun fell limply from the goon’s hand, right before the man himself slumped on top of Jayne. When he looked up, he spotted River standing a couple of feet away with a smoking gun in her hand and another crooked smile on her face.

“Hey, wait a minute…” Jayne mumbled when he recognized the weapon. His hand instinctively flew to his hip, where he normally strapped his gun. The holster was empty. “That’s my gun!” he growled. “How d’you manage that?” he asked while he rolled the dead guy off his legs and got up. She shrugged and handed him back his gun as Jayne brushed the dust from his clothes.

“Wasn’t that hard. Sitting duck in the pond,” she said with a giggle. When she noticed the patented angry look he was giving her, she added gleefully: “And you’re welcome.”

“Um, yeah… Thanks,” Jayne said, feeling a bit thrown. “That was a decent thing to do.” ‘Specially after I tried to sell you out, he added to himself. The young girl smiled and nodded cheerfully, her raven black hair dancing around her head. Jayne had the uncomfortable feeling she was nodding at what he had just thought instead of at what he’d said, and that got him mightily annoyed.

“Even though you coulda missed and shot me instead,” he added with a nasty glint in his eyes.

River however just gave him a blank look. “I don’t miss.”

With that, they started running towards the others. As soon as they were in plain sight, both of them skidded to a halt at the sight in front of them.

Mal was sprawled out on the sand with Simon and Zoe leaning over him. Nobody was paying any attention to the six dead bodies scattered through the valley, instead all four of them had their eyes focused on Mal, who was lying in a small puddle of blood with his eyes closed.

River gasped at the sight, but the shrieks that followed were lost in the sound of Jayne’s boots as he ran to the others. Visions and images started to flood her brain and she cried out. Vaguely, she felt herself hit the ground with a thud, but she hardly noticed it as the horror of what she was seeing and feeling hit her.


"There's nothing more I can do for him. We have to get him back to the ship." Simon watched as Zoe and Jayne carefully loaded Mal's unconscious body onto the mule. “Where’s River?” Simon asked suddenly, looking around. They all looked around for a moment, until they could see her some fifty yards away, sitting in the sand and not moving a muscle at the sight of them. In fact, Simon thought as he signaled Zoe to drive the mule closer to River, he wasn’t sure if she even knew they were there.

When they reached her, she was still sitting on the dusty ground, hugging her knees. Her face was streaked with tears. Immediately, Simon’s head snapped around to face Jayne. “What happened?”

“Gorram it, don’t look at me! She was doin’ just fine a moment ago,” Jayne answered defensively. “Now, just haul her up here so we can get a move on, unless you feel like lettin’ the cap’n die on this craphole moon…”

Simon nodded and helped his sister onto the mule. It wasn’t until they had starting moving that she blinked slowly, as if she was only just waking up. She looked around and when her eyes met her brother’s, there was so much hurt in them that it made his gut roil.

“Mei mei, what happened?” he asked softly, stroking her hair. She shrugged him off violently and shook her head.

“It’s not relevant,” she mumbled, looking at Mal. “You have to take care of him now or he won’t make it.” Her voice was calm and free of all emotion, but there was something hidden underneath it that Simon couldn’t quite capture. His look drifted to Mal. She was right; things weren’t looking too shiny for the captain…


Even though there were only five people in the infirmary, it looked more crowded than it would if all nine of them had been in there. Simon was rushing around while Zoe acted as an impromptu nurse. River was still shaking a bit, but she looked calmer.

“Jayne, could you take River to her quarters? I would, but I’m too busy right now,” Simon asked reluctantly while he removed the splintered bullet carefully from Mal’s abdomen. He was mentally prepared for a whole lot of protesting and complaints on Jayne’s end, but to his surprise he got nothing of the sort. Jayne just took River firmly by her shoulder and led her out of the infirmary.


“Now you stay here, you hear me girl?” Jayne growled when River was propped on her bed. She looked up and gave him a sad smile. “Jayne is a girl’s name,” she stated softly but matter-of-factly.

“I told you before, girl, I ain’t no girl!” His tone was gruff. He seemed angry, but River kept looking at him intently and smiling eerily, as if she’d just decided on an important matter.

“You’re not angry… But you are afraid,” she said in a tone that suggested she was deep in thought. Now this made him angry, she thought. She could feel it stir within him again…

“I ain’t afraid of a gorram thing!” he answered loudly. River didn’t react, instead she ignored him and just stretched out on the bed with her back to him. This infuriated Jayne even more, even if he had no clue why, and he turned to leave.

“You have to stay.”

“What?” He turned on his heel. River was sitting up again and was looking at him with big dark eyes.

“You’re simple,” she said placidly. For a moment Jayne wasn’t sure if he’d heard her right. He couldn’t believe she’d have the guts to say that… His eyes narrowed menacingly and he took one step closer.

“What’d you just say?” he said in a threatening growl, anger rising in his voice again.

“You make it simple. All the others… say things but don’t mean them. See things, feel things…” She shook her head violently as if she was trying to chase away a bad memory. “… Don’t talk about ‘em. There’s double meanings and secrets --” She paused abruptly and looked him in the eyes. “Your feelings are always on the surface. Bubbling, waiting to erupt.” She smiled another eerie little smile.

“It makes things clearer… maybe makes it a little less crowded up here.” Slowly, she touched her temples with her fingertips.

Jayne blinked in confusion, and it sure as hell didn’t get any less confusing when she signalled him to sit down. He obliged and sat down on the corner of the bed. He wasn’t really sure what she wanted from him, but he wasn’t gonna let his guard down. The girl had been of use in a tricky situation, but that didn’t mean that he trusted her any more for it.

River leaned forward. She had a conspiring look on her face, like a normal girl her age who was gossiping, but when she spoke it was dead serious and with a hint of fear in her eyes.

“The jacks and kings always lose to the aces, and there are no queens in the game now…” she whispered. “I can tell you what I felt. You won’t tell them, will you?”

[End of part 1]


Friday, September 30, 2005 8:43 AM


Wow, wow, wow!!! That was outstanding! I swear, you've totally captured the complexities (and sometimes lack-there-of) with River and Jayne's characters. An amazingly insightful story!

And very well written on top of it. Outstanding! Looking forward to the next part!


Friday, October 7, 2005 9:42 AM


Aww thanks,
glad you liked it! River and Jayne are such fun characters to write, haha!

I'm putting up the next chapter tomorrow. Chapter three just needs one last read and chapter four is almost done, so I'll make sure I update regularly :).

Tuesday, November 8, 2005 8:45 AM


Sweet hun :) Looking forward to read more.


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Tumbling -- Act Three
Inara flirts with a stranger in a bar, and then things start to get weird. M/I and some S/K. Act three of three.

Tumbling -- Act Two
Inara flirts with a stranger in a bar, and then things start to get weird. M/I and some S/K. Act two of three.

Tumbling -- Act One
Inara flirts with a stranger in a bar, and then things start to get weird. M/I and some S/K. Act one of three.

A Lonely Road: part 9
The boys blow hot and cold, Kaylee gets all the good gossip, and the crew goes after River.
(M/S slash).

A Lonely Road: part eight
Things heat up, Kaylee hits Jayne, Badger gets a mite tetchy, and the crew prepares for their hardest job ever.

A Lonely Road: part seven
The Companion does what she does best, escape and rescue ops are set in motion, and hiding in a cave during a snow storm is a Great Plan.

A Lonely Road: part six
The crew has trust issues regarding Jayne, Simon and River get into a peck of trouble, and Mal has to get help from the last person he wants to see...

A Lonely Road: part five
Part five: in which River and Jayne face the inevitable, the cargo is, well... different and Simon makes a very stupid decision. Again.

A Lonely Road: part four
After the wave Mal has received, the long journey through the black makes everyone go a little bit stir-crazy, Simon not in the least...

A Lonely Road: part three
Part three: where Inara leaves, the crewmembers drown their sorrows and things somehow get even worse…