BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

KAYNARA

Bed and Wine: Part 11
Saturday, January 28, 2006

Our heroes arrive on Bellerophon in time for a Reaver attack. R-ish--this one’s dark, kids. Serenity *spoilers.*


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3710    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Bed and Wine: Part 11 By Kaynara

*** Our heroes arrive on Bellerophon in time for a Reaver attack. R-ish--this one’s dark, kids. Serenity *spoilers.* *** Kaylee sat back against the concrete, hugging her knees to her chest. “Sheriff ain’t come back yet,” she said quietly. “Been gone an awful long time.” “That don’t mean nothin',” Mal assured. “Don’t you think too hard on him.” “They’re all through with the cantina. Looks like they arrived in time for the lunch crowd.” Jayne released the bars, dropped down from the narrow box window. “Common’s awful quiet now.” Mal paced back and forth behind the sheet of glass separating them from imminent death. He pressed a hand to the wall, imagining how the polycarbonate would stretch and flex, protecting them when the bullets started to fly. They’d try with guns first, then hack at the glass with their axes. He was putting a lot of faith on their preference for raw meat; if they got fed up and torched the place, it was all over. “Serenity.” He held the transmitter below his mouth. “This is your gorramn captain callin’, somebody pick the hell up.” “Captain?” Simon’s voice, surprise edging toward concern. But the two syllables made it clear. Mal knew they hadn’t seen the Reaver ship break atmo. They were still alive. That was something. Kaylee heard the doctor as well. “Simon,” she said softly. He held up a finger, motioning for her to wait. “Doc, I need you to get Zoe. Then I wanna talk to the both of you.” “What’s wrong?” he demanded. “Zoe first. That’s an order, Doctor.” “Dammit, Mal.” He heard the ‘com clatter to the console followed by the sound of footsteps on metal. The next voice to ring through was Zoe’s, clear and calm and ready for instruction. “Sir?” “Zoe, I need you to do something for me. You lock down Serenity and stay hid. No one leaves that boat.” He heard Kaylee gasp, compelled his tone to be steely, unwavering. “You hear me, Zoe?” Silence. Then: “Reavers, Sir?” “Small raiding party from the looks of it. Can’t be sure.” “Where are you?” “This ain’t a discussion, Zoe. You’re gonna keep outta sight, keep my niece and my crew safe. Dong ma?” Jayne met Mal’s eyes, his own approving. “We’re just gonna leave you, Sir?” “I’m not abandoning Kaylee. There’s no way in the ‘verse.” “Simon,” Kaylee whispered. “Oh, God.” “You’re gonna do just what I said, Doctor. I’ll take care of your wife.” “Like you did my sister?” Mal drew in a slow, deliberate breath, lifted the ‘com to his lips. “I gave you an order, son. Lest you wanna test those newfound fightin’ skills, I do suggest you obey it. “ “Everyone’s so mad,” Kaylee whispered. Jayne patted her shoulder awkwardly. “What’s going on?” Inara’s voice, confused. “You’ll wake the baby with all this shouting.” Mal heard Zoe murmur something to Inara, who gasped. He forced himself not to imagine the look of fear in those wide brown eyes. If he died today, he preferred to remember those eyes warm with affection, lit with only half-affected frustration, slitted with desire. “Zoe, you power her down, even the lights. Doc, I need you to lock up the cargo bay and--” “He’s gone, Mal,” Inara said softly. Mal hesitated, glanced at Kaylee. He cursed silently. “Where’d he go?” “Dunno, Sir.” “You find him,” Mal said fiercely. “Then you stay hid till you hear from me. That’s an order.” He pressed the button to kill the connection, returned the ‘com to his pocket and set back to wait. *** Inara found him in the infirmary, bent over his desk. “Simon?” He jumped, nearly smacked his head on the lamp. “Inara. You startled me.” “Shuh muh. I--” It was then she noticed the guns, two she recognized as Jayne’s and one she didn’t, strapped to the doctor’s hip. “What are you doing?” He glanced anxiously at the door, led Inara by the wrist. He had a rainbow of pills spread over the surface of the desk. “These are very good. They’ll work in under ten minutes, and...well, it’s fairly pleasant. Like floating. You won’t feel....” His voice trailed off at the end, his eyes sad. “Two should do it, but take three if you can’t wait. I’ve laid out enough for you, Zoe and Caroline.” Inara stared dully at the capsules. She wasn’t afraid of death, but that didn’t mean she welcomed it. She hadn’t awoke this morning expecting to die, alone on Bellerophon. She hadn’t even said goodbye. Suddenly she blinked, awareness dawning. He was going ride into town. He’d save Kaylee or die trying. And the dark place in Inara’s heart knew it would be the latter. “Mal will kill you. If there’s anything left to kill. If the Reavers don’t eat you alive.” “She needs me. Mal needs help too, even if he’d never admit it.” “And you think you can help him?” She grabbed his wrist, tried to make him look at her. “Simon, there could be a dozen Reavers in that town. Do you think your wife wants to watch you die? Do you think Kaylee could bear that?” “She’ll see me fighting for her. Even if it’s the last thing she sees.” The last he said quietly, brokenly. “This is a dangerous path. You’re changing, Simon, forever and irrevocably.” “I’m not letting another person I love slip through my fingers. Mal can go to hell if he doesn’t like it.” He saw the fear in her eyes, something like understanding, something like pity. “Inara, I’m sorry.” He placed an awkward hand on her waist, leaned in and kissed her temple. “I hate to leave you like this. You shouldn’t have to....” He sighed, lifted a narrow box from the tabletop and pressed it into her hand. “What’s this?” She removed the lid, stared down at the syringe of silvery liquid. “For Raven. She’s too little to swallow pills.” He thought of the sweet little girl he’d become so fond of these past months. “I’m not sure that Zoe could...I know you’ll take care of it, Inara.” Inara brought a hand to her lips as though she might be sick. He ushered her over to the sink, held back her hair as she retched into the basin. “I’m sorry,” he said helplessly when she was through. He handed her a paper cup of water. “When I entered the med academy, I thought it was so I could spend my life helping people, making them better. I never imagined my life would be this.” “If you see Mal,” she managed, face damp, eyes glassy. “Tell him I...that I....” “Even the captain’s not that blind, Inara.” Simon patted one clammy hand. “But I’ll tell him.” He left her alone in the infirmary, which was where Zoe found her twenty minutes later. *** The sheriff was back. Parts of him were back. Two held him on the cold stone floor, doing things. Mal didn’t have words for such things. Two more paced before the small cell, growling, groaning. One flung himself against the glass, mouth foaming, teeth grinding and gnashing. Kaylee shrieked then, stumbled back into Jayne and screamed again when he caught her. Jayne shrugged helplessly at Mal, squeezed Kaylee in what passed for a backwards hug. The sheriff made a sound like a whimper, and Mal moaned silently. He’d hoped the poor hwoon dan dead by now. Every time he cried out, Mal had to watch Kaylee’s face contort. He didn’t think he could bare that much longer. Still, selfishly, he knew that the Reavers would try even harder to bust out the rest of them when they no longer had the lawman to occupy their attentions. The sheriff didn’t know it, but he was buying them precious time. “You think the others is okay?” Jayne asked, eyes on the atrocity occurring outside their cell. He thought of Caroline, the last time she’d visited his bed. Yards of soft brown hair, surrounding him like she did as they coupled. She deserved a better death. Hell, she deserved a better man. He thought of Raven too. Little one hadn’t even got to see life hardly. Babe shouldn’t have to look on this part of it so soon. What kinda God would let innocent folk suffer this way? That’s what he’d have asked Shepherd Book. If God hadn’t gone and took the Shepherd. “They’re fine, Jayne,” Mal said shortly. “Gorrrammit, Kaylee. Turn away.” “Won’t help, Cap’n.” She looked like River than, privy to far more than was just and proper. “Can still hear ‘em.” Mal glanced at Jayne who nodded slowly. “C’mere, Lil’ Kaylee,” he said softly. He opened his arms, tugged her against his chest. “Ain’t your fault I’m seein’ this, Cap’n,” she said softly, rubbing his back through his shirt. “You don’t gotta be protectin’ me always.” “Can’t help but try,” he murmured. He ran his hand up her back, found a spot near her neck and pressed firmly. He felt her small figure go slack against his chest, lowered her gently to the cold floor. “You just sleep now, sweetheart,” he said quietly. “If there’s a god, he won’t let you dream on this.” He watched with surprise as Jayne slipped off his coat, lay it over her torso before moving toward the glass. “I do wish we could put that poor sumbitch outta his misery.” “That’d be a bit o’ mercy,” Mal agreed. “You know they’ll come after us next.” “Expect that’s so.” “Maybe I don’t love her. But I do respect her, Mal. Don’t treat her like no ruttin’ whore.” Mal stared at Jayne a moment, shook his head disbelieving. “You and Wash got a thing for deathbed confessions, don’t ya now.” “Well, we might be dead later. Figured I best get this out now.” “Hence the deathbed confession,” Mal said dryly. “Look, Cap. I’d feel better ‘bout us goin’ to eternal unrest if I knew things was right betwixt you and me.” “Well, that’s settled then. We’re gonna live, Jayne. We’re gonna live, ‘cuz no way in hell ‘m I spendin’ eternity with the likes of you.” *** A single name slipped from River’s lips, hung in the air of the helm like black smoke. “Simon.” Gideon came up behind her, rested his hands on the back of her chair. “How much longer till we land?” “Couple hours.” If she could just concentrate hard enough on her brother--maybe she could protect him, keep him safe until she could save him. “The rest of the crew?” “Alive.” “Will they stay that way?” “Decomposing flesh.” She looked at Gideon, saw him wince. “Human bodies are vulnerable to attack, old age. Easy to bruise and bleed and break.” “That’s what Gray would do to us. If he knew we were helping the crew of Serenity.” “Can’t take them all down this way.” She stared out into the Black, brow furrowed. “Did the math.” “No, not all. But each means something, River.” Each one they slew meant that someone, somewhere got to live. “There’s another way. Better way.” She looked up at him sadly. “Hate seeing it so early.” Gideon tore his pale eyes away from her darker ones. She made him dizzy with that stare, that hypnotic, intoxicating way she had of disabling a man. He’d seen her turn those eyes on Captain Reynolds, wondered if Mal could feel her now, so far away. Had she tried to reach him, slip inside his head? “Won’t help,” she said softly, eyes stinging with wet. “Trapped like animals. Lambs for the slaughter.” “We’ll make it, River.” She looked so very young, so innocent and yet not innocent at all. He’d have promised her anything in that moment. “Ai ya, River. I swear to you, we’ll make it.” *** The Sheriff was dead. The Reavers pressed his broken body against the glass as evidence. Jayne looked one in the eye, let his gaze linger there till Mal murmured his name, shook his head fiercely. “I need you, Jayne. Need you to stay sane, or what passes for such.” “Hell, Mal, I’ve looked into the eyes o’ the beast before. Promise I won’t lose my good and sweet nature o’er it.” “Won’t find any answers there, Jayne.” Mal traced the lines of the cell door with his eyes, searching for weak spots. “Man could go mad looking.” “I don’t know ‘bout you, Mal. But when I done and killed a man, I think, ‘hell, it was him or me.’ Don’t go around weepin’ after, but don’t take much pleasure in it neither. Well, lest he was pissin’ me off first. Mostly it’s just the job--ain’t more or less.” Outside the Reavers conversed briefly, turned and fired a rain of bullets at the glass. Both men jumped back, as though expecting to feel bits of metal bite into their flesh. “ ‘Haps you could write all this down, Jayne. I’ll be sure to read it when I ain’t so distracted by pesky matters like our imminent deaths.” “You know what really twists in my gut, Cap’n? Don’t even think they’s enjoyin’ themselves.” Mal glanced at Jayne sideways. “That’s a cryin’ shame. Truly, I’m real broken up ‘bout it.” “I’m serious, Mal. That big one--way he looks at me ain’t the way I’d look at a steak dinner, if’n I was ever to see steak again. He’s all muddled up inside, and you can tell it hurts him some.” Mal was thinkin’ on that last remark when a hand slipped through the narrow barred window of the outer wall. He felt something tear through his arm before he dove on Kaylee, covered her with his body as bullets fell like hail. *** Zoe smoothed a hand over Inara’s hair, trying to comfort the captain’s lover. “I’m fine.” Inara brushed at the corners of her eyes, ashamed by her own vulnerability. For a woman trained in masking her emotions, she was certainly betraying a great deal. “Truly, Zoe, I’m alright.” “You’re thinkin’ on goin’ after him.” In truth, she was thinking about slapping him. And then she wanted him to hold her, feel his strong, calloused fingers lace through her more slender ones. When he held her, she felt at once sheltered and exposed. What kind of comfort could she find with a man like that? There’d never be much in the way of calm, just sharp, exhilarating edge. But wasn’t that what drew her to him? When the barest brush of his fingers over her belly sent shockwaves through her system...wasn’t that the miracle? She wanted to press her lips against his throat, feel the life pulsing there. She wanted him to live to come back to her. Her eyes flickered over the carefully-laid-out pills, the loaded gun Simon left beside them. “You can’t save him, honey.” Zoe tilted the younger woman’s chin until their eyes met. She studied the girl, for she was hardly more than that, who’d compelled the captain to feel again. For her, Mal let himself want. “If you try, you’ll lose him anyway.” “He’s so gorramn stubborn.” Zoe raised a brow, lips curving. “You been on this boat a couple years now, Nara. You really just figurin’ that out?” Inara smiled faintly. “You’ve been together so long. How do you keep from throttling him?” Zoe shrugged. “I’ve come close a time or two. Always sort of a letdown since he ain’t much for hittin’ girls. Been awhile since I got a good fight out of him.” “And yet you’ve stayed on with him, all these years.” “I accept him for the man he is.” “I’ve seen too many versions of Mal to be sure.” “Oh, ain’t so complicated. There’s the man he thinks he is, the man he really is, and the one you want him to be. He ain’t ever so bad as the first, and you’ll likely never know the third. But that middle one ain’t all that bad. And if anyone can draw the humanity from the cap’n, it’s you. He cares with you, Inara. That’s not nothin'’.” “He thinks he’s broken.” “And if you ask me, he’s healing. But he needs to know he can trust you, that you’ll obey.” “I never swore to obey him, Zoe.” She never swore to obey anyone. “And in the day to day, you don’t have to obey. But on day’s like today...he’ll push you away before he watches you die, Inara. He knows that’d be more than he could bear” “And what about me? I just have to wait for word?” Wait while Mal could be hurting, dying.... “Yes.” Zoe slipped the gun in her holster. “If you wanna keep him.” Inara frowned, watched Zoe shove a canister of liquid bandage in her trouser pocket, a roll of gauze in the other. Her eyes widened. “Zoe...Zoe, no.” “You’re gonna stay here till I get back, dong ma? Take care of my baby girl for me?” “You’re her mother. She needs you, Zoe.” “Needs love. If I don’t make it back, I know you can give her that.” “Ren ci de fo zu.” “I’m gonna bring him back to you, Nara. Gonna bring back Kaylee and the liou mahng doctor. Hell, I might even bring back Jayne.” *** The plexiglass buckled and bent, refusing to break under the Reaver assault. Kaylee was awake again, unpleasantly roused from sleep by Mal’s shoving her beneath the wooden bench. She lay shivering on the cold stone floor, watching Mal and Jayne fire through the bars at long-nailed Reaver hands. Jayne shot off three fingers on one wild-eyed male before the Reaver dropped his ax. They wanted in, wanted meat. They wouldn’t stop till they tasted the blood. “Uh, Cap’n?” Jayne aimed through the window, clipping a female on the head before ducking down again. “Gettin’ a little low on ammo here.” “Got a knife, don’t ya.” “Well, yeah, but it’s just a bitty thing. And they got axes!” “Ain’t that always the way,” Mal said wryly. Jayne shook his head. “Okay, here goes the last round.” He raised his hand to fire, felt Mal lower the pistol by the nose. He met Mal’s eyes, saw the pointed look and handed over the gun. “You hang on to this, Lil’ Kaylee,” Mal murmured, pressing the weapon into her hands, trying hard to ignore the way she whimpered. “That’s my good girl.” “Well, now.” Jayne slipped his knife from his boot, unsheathed its shiny length. “Let’s see how these fellas fare without thumbs.” *** Simon located the town common without much trouble, flew the shuttle in for landing on the quiet green. A small raiding party, the captain had said. Simon hoped they’d opted to divide and conquer. He strapped two of Jayne’s more business-y guns over his shoulder, slid his own pistol--a new purchase--into the waistband of her pants. He started to reach for his med bag, changed his mind and left it. If Simon the Warrior had learned well enough, he could spare Dr. Tam the trouble. He wanted to save Kaylee before the damage was inflicted, before she once again lay bleeding on his table. He started across the square in the direction of the gunplay. Outside the ladies’ dress shop, two Reavers held a screaming shopgirl by the arms. Simon aimed the gun, shot them both dead. He raised his sunglasses to assess the girl’s condition. Her neck was torn open, and she’d lost a lot of blood. He didn’t need his med kit to know nothing could be done for her. He knelt on the porch and squeezed her hand. “Shh, it’s okay,” he said, though he knew she couldn’t hear him over her moaning. He took the small pistol from his waist band, pressed it against her temple and pulled the trigger. After, he dragged in long, slow breaths, forced himself to keep moving. “I’m coming, Kaylee,” he murmured. “Wait for me.” *** “Ta ma de hwoon dan!” Jayne screamed. The gorramn Reaver tried to bite his finger off. Through the bars, Mal punched the Reaver’s desecrated face until the creature released its hold, fell down to the sandy ground outside the cell. He pulled Jayne to the floor, used his teeth to rip a slice from his sleeve. He motioned for Kaylee to tie up Jayne’s hand before climbing back on the bench. Reavers already managed to hack away one bar. If they removed one more, they’d stretch more than a gun through the gap. They weren’t tryin’ too hard with the guns, mostly just seeking to scare their caged captives. They didn’t want them dead, at least not yet. Mal struck out with his switchblade, felt one of the Reavers twist his hand back, rip open the knuckles on the brick. He bit down on his lip to keep from crying out, tried to wrench his wrist free. He closed his eyes, anticipating the feel of teeth ripping sensitive flesh. The gunshot surprised both Mal and the Reaver trying to gnaw on his arm. As the Reaver fell forward, Mal found himself staring into the slightly-glazed eyes of one Dr. Simon Tam. “You better make it, Doctor.” Mal shook his head slowly, watching the other Reavers turn in surprised, frenzied desire at the new arrival. “ ‘Cuz I’m lookin’ forward to beatin’ the go suh outta you once we’re back on ship.” *** He came into the Sheriff’s office shooting, easily taking out the two working their axes over the plexiglass. After, he pushed the door closed, used the dead man’s desk as a barricade against the Reavers outside. He rushed over to the cell. Kaylee pressed up against the glass, as though she could touch him through its scarred surface if she just tried hard enough. “Simon,” she murmured sadly. He lay his hand opposite hers. “Is anyone hurt?” “I’m feelin’ a little woozy,” Jayne admitted, eyeing the red-soaked bandage on his index finger. “What part of ‘stay on the gorramn ship’ don’t you understand?” Mal shouted. “I came here to help, Captain. Not that I expect you to be grateful; honestly, I doubt you’re capable of gratitude, but--” “You think this is over?” Mal demanded, voice low and furious. “You took out a few, Jayne and me mighta snagged a couple more between us. Reaver ship could easily hold fifteen, even if its just the one raiding party. This is gonna get a hell of a lot worse ‘fore it gets better, Doctor.” As though the punctuate his claim, the Reaver axes began hacking through the outside door. “Hell, might just get worse,” Jayne said dryly. “I have to get you out of here,” Simon murmured, eyes on Kaylee. “What’s the code to open the cell?” “Ain’t no use, Simon.” She met his gaze mournfully. “Reavers smashed up the sourcebox. Only way to open her now is to hack in manually. Could take hours. Please go, bao bei. Please.” “Kaylee I’m not leaving you.” “Then she’ll watch you die, Doctor,” Mal said viciously. “Hell of a honeymoon.” His eyes softened as he saw the desperation on the younger man’s face. “Go on out the back way, son. You might just make it.” “I’m not going anywhere, Captain.” He met Kaylee’s eyes, a look of serene resolution in his stare. “I love you, sweetheart. Remember that.” “Simon!” She cried his name as the dart ripped through his back, had him collapsing forward against the glass as his legs went slowly numb. The Reavers were on him in seconds, lifting him to his feet, slamming his head back against the plexiglass. Kaylee shrieked and shrieked, struck out at Mal when he tried to turn her away, press her face into his chest. “Dear God, no,” Mal murmured, his voice husky. “Look away, honey. Please.” Then there was a flash of movement. The doctor slid to the floor, forgotten, his head rolling sleepily to the side. Kaylee fell to her knees, fists pounding on the glass to wake him. Mal watched the beautiful dance, transfixed. She moved like a cat, a fierce and graceful tigress, cunning and quick, sleek and serene. The boy danced beside her, his paleness playing off her dark beauty as they fought in tandem, taking down one after another. From the corner of his eyes, he snuck a glance at Jayne, saw that the merc was equally entranced. His breath caught when two grabbed her arms. But she was unstoppable, a force of nature or all that was unnatural. Mal couldn’t take his eyes off her, which was why he didn’t see Gideon fall. River knew a moment before it happened, her dark locks whipping around her face as she whirled, silently screamed out his name. She leapt over broken chairs in her hurry, collapsed at his side and gathered his bleeding head in her lap. She didn’t see the one surviving Reaver raise the ax over her head, start a downward arc that had Mal shouting out her name in helpless panic. Someone shot a fist-sized hole through the Reaver’s heart before it could complete the swing. Mal turned to see Zoe standing in the doorway, clad in full body armor, a gun in each hand. If River were a tigress, than Zoe was the mama lion, her sinewy figure poised for battle despite a few more curves in a few new places. “One Reaver?” She lowered her hands and appraised the massacre on the floor. “You drag me off ship for this, Captain?” “I’m gonna tan you is what,” Mal told his first mate, though honestly he felt more like kissing the woman. “Next time you disobey one of my orders, you won’t sit down for a week. Now, wake up the doc; the boy there needs medical attention. Then you get me the hell outta this box so I can yell at you some more.” *** While Zoe and Kaylee worked from their respective sides at getting the cell door open and Jayne whined for them to go faster, River slipped around back, wandered along the wall by the window. She balanced on an empty wine barrel, stretched her fingers through the bars. “Captain,” she whispered. “Wake up, Daddy.” Mal had been dozing. “Hey, there.” He stood and stretched a hand up to the window, compelled to touch her, prove she was real. She pressed her face to the bars so he could stroke her cheek. “Did Daddy Malcom miss his little girl?” she teased. “When I get outta this cell, you and me gonna have a personal chat, Little One.” “ ‘Bout what?” she said, too lazy and content to find out for herself. “You shot me!” “Saved you. Twice now.” “Yeah, well you do anything that ruttin’ dumb again, I swear I’ll put you over my knee.” She smiled. “Kinky, Captain.” He laughed, unable to help himself. “Well, ‘haps you’re a little old for that.” “Old.” She met his eyes. “Girl went away, woman came back.” “A mighty pretty young woman.” He cleared his throat. “You, uh, you okay, Lil’ Albatross? They treat you alright?” “She’s shiny. I’m shiny,” she corrected. “Yeah. You sound shiny,” Mal agreed. “Seein’ a lot now, aren’t ya? Gave us all a bit of a scare before.” “Still learning,” she admitted with a smile. “I’ll get better.” “Oh, I’ve no doubt. You, uh, you’ll keep me posted, right? Give me a heads up when you see trouble comin’?” “I’m your albatross.” “Damn right. And now my ship’s got her good luck back.” “Mmm, missed her. Missed Serenity.” “Yeah. Yeah, think she missed you too, Little One.” She held his hand through the bars, a little remorseful. She hadn’t exactly been honest with him. She promised to alert him of danger. She meant the kind he could prevent. She didn’t have the heart to tell him the rest.

** The storm came at last, drenching Mal and crew as they flew back to Serenity in the mule. He let Zoe drive, enjoying the feel of the cleansing rain on his skin, the sight of the green fields soaking up nourishment. Renewal, he thought, half-asleep. He lay his arm across the back seat and felt River sink against him, close her eyes trustingly against his chest. “They’ll come for me,” she whispered. “You just let me worry on that, Little One.” From a distance, he saw Inara waiting under the awning, Raven snuggled up to her breast. Zoe left the mule idling outside Serenity, ran through the rain to her daughter. Mal helped River down, watched her skip inside, probably seeking out her brother for some teary-eyed family reunion. Mal approached Inara slowly. She came out into the open so the water soaked her hair, plastered the dark silk to her forehead. Her eyes were dry--probably the only part of her could make that claim. In his mind she was beautiful. He opened his arms and she ran into them. *** It was awhile before Simon got to him; Mal insisted he minister to the others first, and he was occupied with Gideon most of the night. Boy hit his head pretty hard when he fell. The belly wound wasn’t helpin’ none either. He’d lost a good deal of blood in the time it took Simon to get him back to Serenity. The doc warned River it could be touch and go for a few days. She just stroked Gideon’s arm, murmured something beneath her breath. Then she turned, flung herself at Simon and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Shh, it’s okay, mei mei. You’re home now.” From his seat on the spare bed, Mal watched Simon press a kiss to his sister’s temple, push damp tendrils of hair back from her face. “Everything’s okay, River.” River curled her hands around the back of his neck, buried her face in the curve of his throat. “Are you?” she whispered. *** After his arm was stitched, he went looking for her. He found her in her old shuttle, of all places. “Mal. How’s Gideon?” He shrugged. “Breathing, which is prolly more than he deserves. Still, he did keep River safe. That says something in the boy’s favor. Guess I won’t toss him out the airlock just yet.” “That’s very generous.” She raised a hand towards his bandaged arm, was surprised when he caught it. “Whoa, now. No feelin’ me up till I buy you dinner. What kinda girl you think I am?” She made a sound halfway between laughter and sobbing. “Mal--” He shook his head, scuffed his feet over the floor. “You scare me, Inara.” She blinked, lashing pressing once in silent exasperation. “I scare you?” she repeated dully. “Damn right you do.” She shook her head, disbelieving. “This from the man standing before me with yet another bullet hole.” He appraised the arm clip, just a glancing blow, really, and grinned. “Thought you found my battle wounds sexy, darlin’.” “Sexy?” She pronounced the word as though she’d never encountered its equal. “Actually, Mal, they call to mind a pathetic young woman standing over a foolish man’s new grave in her veil and tears.” “I’d be killed for you.” He took a step forward, grazed her cheek with the pad of his thumb. “I’d kill for you or be killed, if need be. And it scares the ever-lovin’ Hell outta me.” “I know you would, Mal.” She looked at once tormented and soothed. “It scares me as well.” He tore his eyes away, stretched his arms up over his head to lighten things. “Ai ya, if I ain’t all manner o’ achy.” He figured it came from sleeping on concrete the past couple hours. “I’m guessin’ an educated woman like yourself can make with the sponge-bathin’ somethin’ special.” “Sponge bath.” She said the words slowly, deliberately. “I...just an idea.” “This isn’t a game, Mal. How can you make these little quips as though nothing happened?” As though none of it mattered, as though the blood wouldn’t run just as red. “Someone’s got to, I suspect.” ‘Cuz if he thought on any of this too hard, he’d go mad. “Do you know what was going through my head, sitting here, waiting?” Anticipating how he’d look dead. But even that was preferable to him not coming back at all. Always wondering, never knowing.... “Wish I didn’t,” he admitted. “You could have been killed,” she said softly. “If I promise not to get myself in any more dicey spots, can we get back to the not-so-friendly touchin’? And to you ministerin’ to my wounds? ‘Cuz that part was good.” “You’re a criminal, Mal.” “But...not petty, right?” “Oh, no. You have unsavory contacts in all walks of life. People willing to slit your throat in every social caste.” “I am something of a Renaissance man. Inara.” He lifted her chin to meet his gaze. “I got a rule. I never come back dead.” “Mal....” “No, wait: I’m serious. In all the time you’ve known me, I ever come back from a job dead?” “Near to.” “You just gotta trust me, Nara. You ain’t gettin’ rid of me this easy.” “That’s good.” She forced her lips into a smile. “Because you owe me a date.” *** Simon left River in Caroline’s care, trusting Mal’s sister to help his bathe and get dressed for bed. Silly, really. River had been taking care of herself some time now. “I’ll be right down the hall, mei mei. If you--” “I’ll always need you, Simon.” She smiled up at him. He found Kaylee in his bunk--theirs now. She sat on the edge of the bed, back straight and tense. She had a large violet-yellow bruise on her forehead. “Hey.” He knelt on the floor, brushed back her hair with gentle fingers. “You should have come by the infirmary, let me look at this.” “Daddy always said I got a hard skull.” She smiled but her eyes were teary. “Head ain’t the part that hurts, Simon.” He looked concerned. “Do you want me to examine you?” She would have laughed, ‘cept none of this was funny. She leaned forward, resting her face on his shoulder. Automatically, his arms went around her waist, held her tight. “Kaylee. I love you so much.” “I love you too, Simon. More than you know.” She pulled away. “But I can’t be a part of this.” “Kaylee, I don’t--” “Understand? No, I don’t ‘spect you do. What you did today, what you chanced comin’ for me--don’t you know it ain’t just yours to risk?” “You’re my wife.” He felt the frustration build in his chest. “What did you expect me to do?” “Be the Simon I fell for all those months ago. The one full of goodness. I got enough dark in my life. Livin’ out here, livin’ like this. It’s death ‘round every bend, human beings who’s barely that. When I saw you on Persephone...I knew you were better ‘n folk like the ones out in the Black, different. They way you treated me--all proper and gentlemanly--that’s the Simon Tam drove me wild. This new Simon, the one who carries guns, courts death--hell, I don’t even know that person. But one thing’s for certain: he ain’t the sweet and gentle man I fell for. No, you surely ain’t him.” She closed the door, leaving him alone with his uncertainty. *** In the morning, her lips were plump and pink, swollen from his mouth’s fervent abuse. Mal felt a little guilt-ridden, leaving his mark on her that way. He felt guilty for the arousal that curled in his belly when he saw his stamp on her. It made him want to drag her under him and take her again, make love to that pretty, swollen mouth and that exquisite, goddess-body until both were sated. But he couldn’t quite summon the want to wake her. He liked her this way, asleep in his bed, safe and dreaming, those haunting, haunted eyes at rest. With her in his arms, his albatross at the helm, everything had a kind of rightness. One benefit of residing in Hell: you did come to appreciate the calm. *** TBC in Part 12. Sorry for all the dark--next one’s sweeter, I promise. Leave loving feedback ;)!

COMMENTS

Saturday, January 28, 2006 6:36 PM

MISSKITTEN


*sob* you got me all tearfull, first on almost loosing Simon and second with that last bit with him and Kaylee...

Saturday, January 28, 2006 7:01 PM

SYZG


gah, nearly had a heart attack when simon got snatched.

*whew*

We're getting closer and closer to somethin 'tween Mal and Inara. At least I hope we are

fantastiko as usual :-P

Saturday, January 28, 2006 7:15 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


Quite a rollercoaster ride!

I'm really enjoying the series. You have each character down perfectly.

Saturday, January 28, 2006 7:27 PM

FRELLINGBLONDE


Another excellent chapter. But omg, Kaylee and Simon...*sobs*

Saturday, January 28, 2006 7:30 PM

SEARINGFLESH55


This was so great! Its just like the show! Everything isn't all shiny between everybody and that's how life is out in the black. I don't mind the dark stuff, cause it can't always be sunny happy times .

If everything was bright and happy, it wouldn't be real.

Love your fic and I am ravenous for more!

Saturday, January 28, 2006 7:31 PM

ANNABELLEOFGEORGIA


This may be the best story I've ever read on this site. Each character's voice is distinct, yet you don't clog things up with dumb pseudo-Western spelling. And the Chinese isn't enough to be distracting.

Each chapter truly makes me feel as if I were watching an episode. The fascinating plot twists have me holding my breath for updates, even when I don't like what happens. I was furious and horrified when River left with Gideon.

Even more satisfying is the way your characterizations are so true to the series. I love these people, they aren't just characters to me. The words and actions you write for them are completely believable. You have really made them come alive for me.

Although this story is primarily MalNara-centric, each of the Seven are fully developed. Bravo for keeping each one busy with exciting action and inner conflict. Special praise for this chapter. Your explanation of why Kaylee fell in love with Simon makes more sense to me than anything I've yet read. {Bows reverently}

Now that I've given you a Companion-quality ego massage, may I make a request? More Jayne, please?!! He hasn't had as much to do as Simon or Mal. Jayne's insight about Reavers as he watched them devour the poor Sheriff was magnificent. I adore a thoughtful Jayne.

I hope I detected some hints of Jayne's attraction to River. I badly missed reading his reaction to her return. Next chapter, I hope. I was annoyed that she gave all her attention to Mal & Gideon. Future Rayne romance, Maestro? Just for me (and the myriad Rayne-shippers out there)?? Pretty please?

Saturday, January 28, 2006 8:49 PM

LEIASKY


Wow, very nice. I gawked when Simon got hit..hoping he wouldn't die!

Then kaylee not liking this new Simon....ohh, don't break them up!

Well done. Anxiously awaiting the next part!

Sunday, January 29, 2006 1:22 AM

TAYEATRA


Another excellent chapter in one of the best series' on this site.

Particularly loved this line...

"You’re thinkin’ on goin’ after him.”
In truth, she was thinking about slapping him."

Brilliant!

Taya

Sunday, January 29, 2006 1:55 AM

AMDOBELL


Oh wow, this is all kinds of fabulous, so gorram exciting with lots of emotional content interwoven between the action as well. Loved everybody in this but so sad at Kaylee's comment to Simon at the end. Did she really think Simon could live in the Black, the life they lead, and NOT change? Very unrealistic of her and uncharacteristicaly shallow. I just don't see her treating him that way, Kaylee LOVES Simon. It isn't his shiny image she fell in love with but the man. Adored the way you wrote River but uh oh, didn't like the fact she hadn't told Mal everything. Now I'll be waiting and biting my nails until the other shoe drops. Fantastic writing, kudos to you! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, January 29, 2006 2:49 AM

MPHILLIPS


Zoe's comment about the man Mal is dead on and accurate very well done...

Sunday, January 29, 2006 9:06 AM

SQUISH


Great chapter! Loved the way you described River's attack on the reavers, without going into specifics, just describing the dance and seeing it through Mal's eyes was perfect.

Loved philosopher Jayne, how is he going to react to River and Gideon (and with Caroline on board). Can't wait to read that!

For some reason I loved this line from Zoe: “I’m gonna bring him back to you, Nara. Gonna bring back Kaylee and the liou mahng doctor. Hell, I might even bring back Jayne.”

Oh, and I think Kaylee's reaction to the changed Simon is right on the mark for this series. They've all changed and she's just not adjusted to it yet. Also, it's more realistic that their relationship is going to have problems (beyond that of Simon putting his foot in his mouth). They've taken on the role that Zoe/Wash had. Did that make sense?

good work, hurry with the next one!

Sunday, January 29, 2006 9:22 AM

BROWNCOATGAL


"In all the time you’ve known me, I ever come back from a job dead?"

Woulda died of laughter if the situation wasn't so dang sad!!

Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful!!!!
Keep it up!!
I can't wait for the next bit!!

Sunday, January 29, 2006 9:35 AM

MANICGIRAFFE


Hmm....still collatin' data with the new Simon. First impression-wise, it seems unrealistic of Kaylee to not expect Simon to go after her, but I'll think about it some more. This could be interesting.

I love Zoe's insights into Mal. She never says much, but when she does it's always so insightful.

Sunday, January 29, 2006 2:43 PM

GRIMLOCK


Like Manic Giraffe, I'm still thinking about the Simon-Kaylee thing, but I'll say this, that was actually very IN character for Simon. Remember, little sister is being tortured, and Simon gives up EVERYTHING to rescue her. Furthermore, Mal's promise of protection is of questionable value in Simon's eyes. What did she expect him to do?

That said, what he did was very brave, and cosmicly stupid!!!!!

Maybe I'm being narrow-minded because I've never been been in love, nor have I ever spent the day surrounded by cannibals, but he still attempted a rescue. That combined with getting his sister back should buy him at least a 24 hour grace period!


Speaking of River... Her removal from the ship was superbly handled, from a plot, pacing, and writing perspective. It was one of the best written sacrifice moves I've ever read. There are few things in fiction more powerful than a character surrendering themself to that which they fear most. Her's was a sacrifice driven by love crew, but what made it ever so pongiant was quasi-innocence. On the one hand, here is a young adult, reduced to the level of a high-functioning child through the actions of a government supposedly actiong to protect the innocent. On the other hand, here is this girl-child who has fathomed the concept of self-sacrifice. This situation can also be compared with River's battle in Mr. Univrse's bunker, but the writers distinguish the two acts of sacrifice. Through foreshadowing, Wheadon had suggested that River had at the very least a slim chance of survival, if help could get there in time. Kaynara, by contrast made it clear that there was NO escape, no plan B, no cavalry, only River.

I HATED it. Let me qualify that. You wrote a story where the only way for characters which I as a reader have grown attached to, to survive was to do something I didn't like, and I was actually geting worked up about it.

I'm looking at a rather large collection of fiction that I've actually paid for that didn't get such a reaction out of me.

Sorry, my inner Lit major needed to stretch his legs.

Sunday, January 29, 2006 4:55 PM

WEREALLJUSTFLOATING


Kaynara, that was a great chapter and a surprisingly dark one. I know you warned us in the description but I was still impressed at how far you went (with the siege scene in particular), my favourite part being when Mal takes Jayne's gun off him to give to Kaylee, and how the he and Jayne never gave in to their terror - it seemed very in character for them to keep fighting against all odds of survival. I also loved how Zoe didn;t think twice about following Simon into town, even if it meant risking her own life. Even as a new mother, Zoe is still the couragious warrior woman we know and love. Her asking Inara to take care of Raven was heartbreaking.

As for Simon and Kaylee, you caught me off guard as I didn't expect Kaylee to react that way, but having read the scene where she walks out, I could totally buy it. No matter how many horrific things she witnesses, Kaylee always holds onto her innocence, so it makes sense to me that this new side of Simon would disturb her..

Can I make a request for the next chapter? I'd love a scene between River and Kaylee once River finds out about the marriage - that is if she doesn't already know!! I expect that to be complicated at best, seeing as River's leaving had driven Simon to this darker place. Now she's back, can he accept how this more mature, independant River? And will Kaylee be able to accept this darker, less 'civilised' Simon as her husband? I can't wait to find out!

Sunday, January 29, 2006 4:59 PM

WEREALLJUSTFLOATING


I just re-read my post and noticed some typing mistakes, but it won't let me edit it!!! Why? Oh well, I'll have to be more carefull next time..

Saturday, February 11, 2006 6:09 AM

BELLONA


"We’re gonna live, ‘cuz no way in hell ‘m I spendin’ eternity with the likes of you.”
i wouldn't mind...*wink*
all the dark made me all teary-eyed, but i loved it 'cause i'm just a sucker for emotional punishment

b


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