BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE

GWENFREWI

Code of Honor (1/?)
Friday, February 10, 2006

Started out as a little challenge piece and then it took on a life of it's own. Post BDM. Several pairings. Angst, Hawt moments, etc.)


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2931    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Series: Code of Honor (1/?) Feedback: is shiny and always encouraged, both the good and the bad. Copyright (c) February 2005 Patricia Flynn

Wo xi wang ni man man si, dan kuai dian xia di yu! = I wish you a slow death, but a quick ride to hell!

* * * * * *

Mal really didn’t know how that first kiss happened, well that wasn’t exactly true, he knew how it happened but it was the why that had him stumped. One minute he was walking into the cockpit minding his own gorram business and the next he had an armload of River with her lips pressing fiercely against his, so hard in fact that he could feel his lips mashing against his teeth.

Shocked, he stood there a few moments before putting his hands on her shoulders and then gently pushed her away.

“Gorram it girl, what do you think you’re doing?” Mal asked as he ran an agitated hand through his hair. Running his tongue over his bloody lip to access the damage, he realized he had the fresh taste of her on his lips. Oh yes, he was going to go to the special hell for this for sure.

“Hear you thinking about it all the time, but you never do it. Thought I’d try it, but it doesn’t seem to be that thrilling. I can’t see what Kaylee gets so excited about but she does. Must be something to it, just not sure what.” She frowns as though in deep thought.

Mal could feel his mouth drop open when his mind finally grasped what she was saying. He hadn’t been meaning to think about her in that way, but after the Maidenhead, Miranda and the Reavers, well, he’d gotten to thinking about her in a new light. Noticed she wasn’t a little girl, but a young woman.

“River just because I was thinking it, doesn’t mean I need to be doin’ it.”

“Wanted it, too. Never been kissed. Thought it would feel like water washing over me, tides of the oceans, like Wash and Zoe, Kaylee and Simon. Was like bare feet on hard stones…didn’t like it…wasn’t good.” Mal’s eyebrows rose at this, the look on his face showing that his ego was clearly damaged.

Without thinking about what he was doing, and thus not giving her any warning, he took a step toward her and placed a hand at the back of her neck. Finding no resistance, he pulled her body flush with his and bent his head down and captured her lips with his. His lips moved gently and coaxingly against her mouth until she opened to him and he could taste her and she could taste him, sighing, she melted into him.

The sensations were so different than before. Her arms found their way around his neck and she clung to him seeking more. She could feel her knees giving out beneath her as the intoxicating feelings washed through her. Mal’s arms wrapped around her waist and he held her tightly to his chest, as if never wanting to let go.

She was awestruck at the silence within. It was the first time in a long time that there was nothing in her head but her. Then suddenly she could feel what he was feeling. The longing, the desire, the earth shaking realization that he’d found home in a seventeen year old girl. Then the shock of that realization paralyzed his mind, she felt every muscle tense and his arms tighten as the implications of his actions settled into his brain and then Mal’s lips were gone. His hands gently cradling her until the dazed look had cleared and she was standing firmly on her own feet, then he turned abruptly and was gone, leaving her with a glazed look and a trembling hand at her lips.

She slowly smiled and her eyes glittered with the understanding of what it was to be a woman desired by a man. Softly she began to hum, her heart happy, with visions of what would come next flitting through her mind, as she danced through Serenity’s corridors.

* * * * * *

River danced happily around the cargo bay as she sang.

“Tonight another tryst, to get a second kiss.”

Simon sat watching her from the catwalk and wondered what she was talking about as usual. He wasn’t aware that his sister had ever been kissed.

Just then Mal walked in looking for Simon. He paused mid-stride when he heard River’s chant.

Simon had heard his footsteps and turned to look at him. Seeing Mal holding an oily and bloody rag on his left hand, he quickly rushed to him. Lifting the rag, he quickly stated, “That’s going to require stitches Captain.”

At Simon’s voice, River stopped her song and dance and turned to look up at the duo. Smiling broadly, she began a new chant.

“Knight in tarnished armor, Found a princess in an unlikely form. And now is her calm and joy At the center of her storm.”

Simon shot a baffled look at his sister before shooing the Captain toward the infirmary. Mal’s eyes had gotten wider and a guilty look flashed over his face. Luckily for him, Simon was more concerned with the current medical emergency of his hand than any nonsense his sister was chanting.

As the left the cargo bay, River went back to her original song but with a variation. Mal’s head dropped his head at the words.

“Tonight another tryst, for more than just a kiss.”

* * * * * *

When Mal came into the dining room and saw River and Inara sitting at the table for dinner, he realized he could easily exercise this infatuation he had with River with the love he had for Inara.

The more he studied Inara and thought about her, the more he realized his heart’s true desire. Inara was uncommonly still most of the time and yet gracefully fluid in her practiced elegance when she moved.

Inara’s looks were undeniably stunning, but he knew they were enhanced by the cosmetics she wore and the artful perfection of her hair. Even when it was mussed in that just out of bed look, it always appeared contrived. Her eyes were always guarded, never showing what she truly felt or thought. Hell, she’d even coordinated her outfit with her fancy bow and arrow when they were preparing for battle on Mr. Universes moon.

Talking to her wasn’t an easy chore either, usually she shut him down and they ended up arguing. There relationship was a complex one. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that she represented everything that he thought he wanted in a woman. The beauty, intelligence and grace she had, but she was lacking in something so vitally important to him, that they were destined to fail even before they began. She lacked strength of character.

She cared too much for appearances and status. That was one thing Mal would never allow to dictate his dealings in life. Her self worth came from her profession and Mal had problems aplenty with that.

She ran away when he was trying to confess his true feelings for her. In fact, she closed up when ever he approached her in any but impersonal means. She was afraid to fight for something she wanted or even needed. She was not someone he could trust to support him when he was down. After her ‘rescue’ from the whorin’ academy, she’d proven that fact by disparaging his motives in goin’ there in the first place. He would always be the one to reassure her, bolster her up when the chips were down and gather them up to make it better. He’d always be waitin’ for the next time when she would kick him down.

They’d burn beautifully for a while but then it would flicker and die. Desire would turn to hate and they would reach the point where they wouldn’t be able to stand the sight of the other. That was something Mal didn’t want, something that he wouldn’t be able to live with, Kaylee would see to that.

Even as he realized this, the way he saw her changed. His eyes reflected this change in perception as they went from yearning to contemplative. She was no longer his heart’s desire. She was someone he loved but was not in love with. She was just Inara. In his mind’s eye he saw River’s clean face and luminescent chocolate eyes glowing with the vibrancy of her intelligence and the wonder and joy with which she saw the ‘verse. Her hair was always disheveled and he yearned to be the one to have mussed that brown hair. She was always slightly moving like a hummingbird, fast, delicate, graceful and beautiful simultaneously.

‘She’s so gorram beautiful just as she is, needing nothin’ to enhance her natural beauty.’

Her strength was not to be denied either. She’d withstood untold atrocities at the hands of the Alliance. Been tortured with nightmare images, needles poked into her on a daily basis, had her mind cut into and her brilliant thought process changed to their will and whim, and still she managed to claw and fight her way back so she could carve a life for herself that was not of their design. To come out of it that was impressive as hell. He wasn’t sure he could have done the same.

He put the fate of all he loved and held dear in River’s hands when he followed her to Miranda. Yeah, there might have been casualties. Book and Wash, the most painful of the losses, but none of that was her doing in that mess and his crew still ached at the holes they left behind, but he’d found something he thought he’d lost. Something he never expected to find again, something that he hadn’t had in years. His faith.

His faith was River and River was his faith. He believed in her in ways he never believed in himself or anyone. Zoe he trusted with his back, but River he trusted with his heart.

‘What was I thinking? How could I possibly think that Inara could ever take the place of River?’

Like a bolt from the blue or a Reaver attack, Mal realized he loved River. An eighteen year-old girl held his heart in the palms of her hands.

His eyes moved to River, only to see the top of her head, her face and eyes were intent on her plate of food. He felt bereft when she didn’t meet his eye, but he also felt hopeful.

River was not amused as she sat at Mal’s side at dinner that night. His entire focus was on Inara. He remained silent as the rest of the crew chattered around him.

She was having a hard time hearing his thoughts over Jayne’s loud, obnoxious ones, Simon and Kaylee’s lascivious mental images and Zoë’s pain. What pieces she did hear were not comforting. They all were obviously about Inara. Things like ‘She’s so gorram beautiful…’ and ‘what was I thinking?’ quickly burst her happy bubble. The joy and euphoria which had her dancing around the cargo bay earlier was now gone. She quickly stopped trying to listen in on Mal after that.

River kept her eyes on her plate as she ate. She knew she was not beautiful and could never compete with Inara. She’d already been scalded just seeing his eyes go all yearning when he looked upon Inara. After what they’d shared, to watch him gaze longingly at her was more than she could bear. It was pure torture, the likes of which even the hands of blue hadn’t committed to her. At this point, their methods would have been easier to bear.

Her heart ached in her chest and she didn’t know why. ‘It was just a kiss.’ She thought, ‘Why do I feel like this?’ She quickly became lost in her own anguished thoughts.

Zoe noticed that the Captain and River were uncommonly silent but the look in Mal’s eyes showed that he was doing a fierce amount of thinking, so she let it slide. River was usually quiet but would listen avidly to the general conversation. Tonight she just stared at her plate. ‘Maybe it was just a bad day for River.’

It was River’s turn to do dishes. Which she efficiently cleared from the table after everyone finished eating. Silently and quickly, she started in on them. Her haste to get the job done broke the companionable atmosphere so Jayne meandered off to his bunk. Zoe went up to the cockpit to check on the course, and Simon and Kaylee had wandered off together. Mal and Inara sat at the table sharing some tea as River worked.

“Inara if you have a moment, I’d like to talk with you in your shuttle.”

“Why not now, Mal?”

Mal’s eyes flickered over to where River stood at the sink. Her focus intent on the task at hand, but he knew that with River one could never tell.

“It’s of a private nature and I don’t want to be interrupted.”

Inara nodded but her eyes reflected a hope that this was the conversation she’d been waiting for. He’d started to make the confession months ago, but she’d been too hurt to allow him in and ever since deciding to stay on Serenity after Miranda, she was hoping and waiting for the opportunity. Now was her chance to express how she felt to Mal and she was positive that that they would be reciprocated.

“Well, if you’re finished, how about we head that way.” Mal rose and held Inara’s chair for her to rise. Taking her cup from her, he indicated that he would be there shortly.

As Inara left the room, Mal walked over to the sink and went to place the cups in the sink. River flinched when his hand brushed against her arm.

“River?” Confusion flooded Mal’s face.

“Don’t keep her waiting. She won’t wait forever.” River replied, her voice thick with emotion.

“I’ll be wantin’ to talk with you soon, lil’ albatross.” Mal stroked her hair gently before walking away.

River’s eyes had closed in anguish at his touch. Tears seeped from her eyes and mingled with the soapy water as she finished the washing.

* * * * *

Inara had arranged herself in an appealing fashion as she sat on the couch in the shuttle waiting for Mal to arrive.

Her heart beat faster in anticipation. She glanced about the room double-checking that the incense was still burning and the lights were low but not too low. All the components for the Welcoming Tea Ceremony where laid out on the table before her. If all went as planned, she would be spending a passionate night in Mal’s arms.

She realized that her breath was coming quickly so she began to meditate in order to bring it under control. Her body was quivering with anticipation like never before. Tonight would be a night of passion that would surpass all the others and it was just because her heart was engaged in the act.

Mal paused in the doorway as he took in the sight of Inara. Her body arrangement was clearly something she’d learned as a Companion to emphasis all her best assets. Now Mal enjoyed the view, he was after all a man with a fine eye, but it seemed so ridiculous to him at that point. Then the incense and the lighting registered in his brain. Gorram woman was implementing wiles.

“Inara.”

“Mal.”

“May I join you?” Mal intended to play this out very calmly.

“Please do.” Inara patted a spot right next to her.

Mal sauntered over and sat several feet further away then she had indicated.

“Inara don’t be trying to use your womanly wiles on me. This is important and somethin’ that needs to be said.”

Inara’s eyes sharpened at his tone and she sat up, dismissing her alluring posture for a more prim and proper one and looked at Mal with an elegantly arched brow.

“I’m sure that you’re aware that I’ve held you in special regard for a long while now.”

Mal paused and looked down at his hands, wondering how he should continue. Inara just smiled briefly with triumph. That pivotal moment with Mal was finally at hand.

“All the fighting and insults have been my way of hidin’ from the fact that I had feelings for ya. You’re a Companion. You’re used to the finer things in life and there was no way I could provide those things for you. And as for you staying a Companion, well, I ain’t a man that likes to share what’s his.”

“For a long time you fogged things up for me. My feelings for you caused me to question everything about myself and that kind of self-doubt can cause people in positions of authority, like myself, to lack the necessary conviction in their decisions. Your doubt in who I was and what I was doing was robbing me of my ability to lead this crew at times. Regardless of that, I still longed to be with you.”

Mal paused again and decided it was better to do the job swift like and not prolong the inevitable.

“But, certain things have come to pass of late and I’ve realized that you and I ain’t meant to be.” Inara’s body and face stiffened at these words. Anguish ran through her soul.

“I’m not saying I don’t have feelings for ya. It’s just that they’ve changed recently. I see you as family, someone I care about and protect.”

“Wo xi wang ni man man si, dan kuai dian xia di yu! I love you and was willing to quit the Guild for you! I stayed on this ship after Miranda in the hopes that something was going to happened between us and this is what I get? I was willing to give up everything that ever meant anything to me to be with you and you come in here and tell me you don’t feel about me that way anymore! You blow hot and cold on me for two years and when I finally think that the situation is going to be resolved the way it should be and… YOU’RE FEELINGS HAVE CHANGED!” Inara had jumped to feet and was screeching like a fishwife selling her wares in the marketplace. Most of the boat could probably hear her.

“Inara listen. This wasn’t how I ever imagine this conversation going. Hell, I never imagined…Hold it. Wait a minute. I blow hot and cold on you. Gorrammit woman, anytime I tried to touch you or tried to tell you how I felt, even after Nandi died and you left. You left. Not me, I was always here.” Mal stood and started yelling himself.

“Did you once ask me to stay? Did you try and stop me from leaving?”

“Oh, it’s always up to me to take definitive action and when that isn’t to your liking, you’re leaving. If I kick Simon and River off the boat, you’re leaving. Hell, I could quote chapter and verse of the number of times that you’ve threatened me with that.”

“That’s why we can’t work. You’re gorram selfish. Anytime I did something that you didn’t see the point in, you’d just threaten me with leaving. I need someone who understands me, understands that sometimes I have to make the choice between the lesser of two evils because that’s the only choices available to us.”

“But no, Miss Inara Serra, Companion and whore knows better than I what needs to be done. She’s never known what it’s like to have to choose between who lives and who dies because she lives in her pampered little world and doesn’t need to worry about major decisions like how she’s going to keep the crew fed and the ship running.”

“Woman if you got stuck between a rock and a hard place, you’d die there. You don’t comprehend that sometimes you have to act and even though that decision and what you have to do might cost you a piece of your soul, it means your life and those you care for will go on for another day.”

“I…” Inara’s eyes were filled with tears and they glided silently down her face.

She realized she really didn’t know Malcolm Reynolds. He intrigued her for that reason and that reason alone. She had no knowledge of the kinds of things that he had to do and the motivations behind them. She had led a pampered life. Yeah, she’d seen a glimpse of those things riding on his ship and those horrors she had seen frightened her to death. But here stood a man who saw those things over and over again and in new and ghastly ways each time, and he never flinched from those horrors. He faced the ugliness stoically and unflinchingly, in his desire to keep those near and dear to him safe.

Mal saw the tears falling from her face and he walked up her. With delicate movements, he wiped them from her face.

“I didn’t want to hurt you. I just wanted to break it, whatever it was between us, off before I moved forward.”

“Mal, I’m sorry. You’re right. We were both enamored with the glamour of the other.”

“I’ll always be there for you, you know that don’t you. You’re part of my crew and I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you.” Mal smiled down at her as he brushed the last remnants of the tears away.

Smiling softly, Inara nodded her head.

Mal leaned down and deliberately kissed her. A final goodbye to what they had shared. Inara didn’t push him away. She savored the moment for what it was, a farewell to their past.

“You will always have a place on Serenity but I understand if you think you need to move on. Go back to the Training House or even Sihnon itself. You let me know what you want to do and I’ll make it happen. And this time, I won’t be trying to hold up your leaving unnecessarily.”

Inara grinned. “I always suspected that was a delaying tactic of yours.”

“It was.”

“I’ll let you know soon.” Inara moved out from his arms and seated herself again.

“You do that.”

“Would you care for some tea?” She gestured at the assembled items before her.

“No. I’ve got Captainy things to do.” Mal smiled and nodded before striding out. He shut the door behind him, suspecting that Inara needed to be alone.

As the door closed, tears began to rain copiously down her face. The hopes of love that she’d harbored for so long with Mal were not so easy to let go of. She let the pain of knowing she was alone wash over her. Mal grinned as he exited Inara’s shuttle. That part was over. Now he needed to see River. He’d missed her presence.

He first checked the cockpit but she wasn’t there, which was odd because she was usually there when everyone went to bed. He double-checked the sensors and the course while he was there.

Then he wandered thru the kitchen and engine room, said a brief hello to Kaylee as she worked before wandering to the cargo bay. Finding the bay empty, he wandered over to the common room and the infirmary and noticed that Simon was straightening up as usual.

“You seen River?”

“Not since dinner. She’s usually up in the cock pit at this time.”

“Checked. She’s not there.”

“Well, try her room.”

“I will.” Mal nodded at Simon before wandering to the passenger dorms.

River’s room was empty. Neat and tidy with minimal personal affects, it was a sad reflection of how little River had to call her own. Need to see about changin’ that next time we’re in the world.

Realizing that River was probably hiding in any one of the many hiding spaces on Firefly that she’d learned, he decided to go to the cockpit and wait for her to show.

As he walked back, he kept thinking to himself. River, sweetheart, I want to talk with you. I’ll be in the cockpit waiting for you.

Mal settled himself into the pilot’s chair and stared at Wash’s dinosaurs. Even now he could hear Wash’s voice talking to them as he sent them on another of his grand, crazy adventures through This Land. Smiling to himself, Mal gave thought to the pain in his ass that had been Wash and how he missed his antics.

Zoe was getting better day-by-day, but the loss of Wash was a sore spot on her soul that Mal had no notion of how to fix. Mealtime had lost some of its laughter since Wash wasn’t there to taunt Jayne’s stupidity. Even Kaylee lost a bit of sunshine when she was working on Serenity. Her and Wash would wax poetic about the ship and shared a love of her that even he hadn’t understood.

Lost as he was in memories of Wash, Mal hadn’t noticed that River had curled up into the co-pilot’s chair. Her eyes were red with tears that still seeped from her eyes. She tried to hide her face beneath her hair. “Captain.” River’s voice cracked a little as she spoke.

Mal sat up with a jolt and looked over at River. He took in the sight of her red-rimmed eyes and the tears falling and quickly rose from his seat to kneel beside her.

“Bao bei, what’s wrong? Why ’re you cryin’?” Mal’s hands began to stroke the hair away from her face. He gently wiped the tears away, which only seemed to make them to fall faster.

“Sees the woman and doesn’t want the girl. But girl isn’t a girl; she’s a woman too. And it hurts.”

Mal’s brow furled for a moment in confusion and then his face lit with a smile that would have rivaled Kaylee’s sunniest.

“River sweetheart, you’re only seventeen. You’re still a girl, but I do see that you’re almost a woman.”

“But you don’t want the girl that’s almost a woman. You want the woman. Heard and saw you at dinner. Eyes all yearning like Simon’s use to be and you think she’s beautiful and you was wonderin’ what you’d been thinkin’ when you’d entertained the notion of kissin’ me again.” River closed her anguished eyes and clutched her knees tighter to her chest.

“Inara is beautiful but in an artificial way. You’re beautiful just as you are.” Mal’s fingers continued to stroke her cheeks even as the waterfall of tears trickled to a stop.

River’s eyes opened to look into Mal’s. She opened her mind up to hear him and was overwhelmed by the rush of emotion coming from him. Tenderness, awe, concern, ardor and a deep affection overlapped and jumbled in a happy mix in her head.

River beamed. She shined so bright with happiness that it took Mal’s breath away. He leaned in and gently kissed her on the lips. Savoring the taste, smell and feel of her. Knowing that there was nothing in the ‘verse he wouldn’t do everyday for the rest of his life to put that look on her face.

Pulling back even though it was the last thing in the ‘verse he wanted to do, he mirrored her happiness with his own.

“Darlin’, we need to come to an understandin’. Most ain’t gonna understand about a mean, old man like me with a young girl like you. We need to take things slow and deal with Simon.”

“Don’t care what others think. Want what I want.” River stretched a hand forward to brush her fingertips lovingly across his face.

“Don’t care much either but don’t want the crew to think I’m an evil, lecherous hump again.”

“Not evil. Lecherous maybe but definitely not evil.” Her eyes twinkled mischievously as she spoke.

“Nice of you to say so. But that don’t change matters none. To the ‘verse you’re still a child and anythin’ between us will be considered wrong.”

“Be eighteen in a month.”

“A month ain’t so long. ‘Sides, we need to get the crew use to the idea. Simon’s gonna be none too pleased by this.”

“Not his decision. Mine.”

“I know that but he won’t see it that way. You’re his mei-mei and ain’t nothin’ in the ‘verse that’ll change that.”

“Love Simon. Don’t want to hurt him but it will.” River’s brow furrowed as she contemplated the issue of Simon.

“Ai ren, we’ll take care it. Let me explain this too ya. I have feelin’s for ya and I wanna find out where that’ll lead us. You’re young and still recoverin’ from what them hun dai Alliance did to ya. We’re gonna take things nice and slow, dong ma?” Mal stroked her face as he spoke.

“āi.” River nuzzled his hand.

“Now it’d be best if you went to bed. Seems ya had a rough day of it. I’ll take watch tonight.”

Mal stood and held his hand out to help her up. Taking his hand, River rose gracefully from her seat. Mal pulled her in and held her for a few moments, savoring the peace and calm of holding one so dear to him. Placing a kiss on her forehead, he relinquished his hold on her and stepped away.

River grinned and hummed as she left the bridge. Mal’s mien was contemplative as he took the pilot’s chair.

Mal turned his gaze out to the black.

He walked down the hall of memories he kept of himself, stopping along the way to remember the idealistic, innocent boy he once was. Then he turned to study the arrogant Sergeant of the Independent army that would finally become the bitter, old Captain of a ship named Serenity.

He’d been bathed repeatedly in the blood of the innocent and guilty alike. He was no longer that innocent boy not with all he had seen. Not having done the things he’d done.

River had bathed in blood also, but she retained an emotional innocence regardless of what those Alliance bastards had done to her. She deserved so much more than him. She deserved someone good and whole. Not tainted and broken like hisself.

But she’d made it quite clear that he was what she wanted. He didn’t understand the reason why she wanted him but by golly he wanted her and twern’t nothin’ in the ‘verse that would stop him from havin’ her.

If’n he had to court her like they did on the Core planets, well, he’d court her. First, he needed to declare his intentions to her family. Simon looking kindly on him was not likely, but the way Mal figured it, if he told Simon what he was doing, the Doc would have less to get all het up about.

Mal’s thoughts continued along this line and he started planning everything he was going to do in the next month until her 18th birthday. To court River he’d be needin’ all the plannin’ he could get done. Just cause he’d set himself a nigh unto impossible task, didn’t mean he weren’t up to it.

River only deserved the shiniest things in this ‘verse and he was gonna see to it that she only got the best that this sorry old space Captain could give her.

* * *

Come morning, River sought out Simon in Kaylee’s room before breakfast.

She walked in without knocking, surprising Simon who was in the process of doing every manner of naughty things to Kaylee. Flustered at his sister’s rude behavior Simon jerked away from Kaylee and hastily covered them both. Hoping that River hadn’t gotten a look at all that had been going on. Blindly searching one handed for his pants on the floor, “River?”

When he found them he struggled to put them on while hiding underneath the sheets. He was totally embarrassed that his mei-mei found him en flagrante with Kaylee.

River just smiled at Kaylee, who beamed right back, as they watched the man they loved blush and stammer.

“Skin we all have Simon. No different than any others.”

“River, it’s polite to knock before entering someone’s room.”

“Checked. No moans or giggles. Just lustful thoughts.” She grinned at Kaylee.

“Are you okay? Did you need me?” Simon’s face first went red and then changed to concern when he realized she’d sought him out.

“Need you to understand. Not a girl anymore.”

Simon just stared at her with a bemused look on his face. Not entirely sure what she was trying to say.

“Not a girl, a woman. Need a mate, an equal. Chose one. Need your approval.”

Kaylee beamed when she realized what River was saying. Simon just shook his head in confusion.

“River, you’re only seventeen. Besides there’s no one on the ship that’s your equal.”

River’s face showed her frustration and her eyes narrowed.

“Captain’s my equal and my mate. Need you to approve.”

Simon’s face darkened with fury. “What has that huài dàn done to you? If he’s laid one finger on you, I’m going to carve him up into tiny pieces.”

“Not done anything untoward. Wants to court me,” she smiled dreamily for a moment before a frown marred her brow. “Worried about what you and the rest of the crew will think of him. Won’t let me do anything with him until I’m eighteen.”

“He won’t be doing anything with you at all.” Simon stated vehemently.

Kaylee saw River’s frustration and quickly spoke in the hopes of intervening before something bad happened.

“Simon it sounds to me like River’s chosen for herself.”

“She’s underage and he’s old enough to be her father. I won’t allow it. She’s still broken and may never get better.”

“Not broken, just different. No longer the fourteen year old girl that went to the Academy, that you waved goodbye to and blew kisses at.”

“I forbid it.” Simon folded his arms, sure in the knowledge that he was right.

River’s face crumpled and she began to cry. Kaylee rose and tossed some clothes on before going to the sobbing girl. She held River and shot daggers at Simon over River’s head.

“Mal’s…my… Serenity.” River choked out these words between the hiccups.

That cinched it for Kaylee. Mal obviously meant the world to River and Kaylee loved her and the Captain enough to want them both happy.

“Simon, think about it first. Don’t dismiss her request out of hand. Wait to see what the Captain has to say about it too.”

“No. She’s not well. She’s just a girl.” Simon insisted as he threw on a shirt.

“Fine. Obviously you need to focus more attention on River. So you can just sleep back in your room and take care of her.” Kaylee had risen and placed her hands on her hips as she glared at him.

“I, uh. . .” Simon was confused. He was just protecting River and now Kaylee was unhappy. He knew he hadn’t insulted her, so why was she so mad?

“Simon just go.” Kaylee knelt back down to River. Simon hesitated a moment, unsure what he should do before he climbed dejectedly out of the bunk.

* * *

At breakfast, Mal was lost in his own thoughts and was unaware of the undercurrents that were going on.

Simon kept trying to talk to River or Kaylee, neither of which would speak to him. Zoë watched the goings on with amusement. Jayne was too focused on shoveling food into his mouth to notice much else. Inara was still in her shuttle sulking.

Finally, Mal broke the uncomfortable silence.

“Doc, I need to be talking to you after breakfast.”

Simon’s face turned stony. “If it’s regarding you and River, I can already tell you the answer is no.”

Kaylee’s eyes narrowed and a very displeased look came over her normally sunny face. Zoë watched the conversation with interest, curious to see where it was all heading. Jayne raised his head to stare with his mouth open.

River’s face crumbled. Fat tears rolled down her cheeks as she gazed at Mal with hopeful eyes. If anyone could fix it, he could.

Mal took in the fact that River’s eyes were red rimmed and there were tear streaks on her face. Then he realized that her eyes were awash in new tears that were falling quickly. Her eyes shone hopefully up at him. Made him feel like a big damn hero. He stood so swiftly that his chair fell over. He loomed over the table and got in Simon’s face.

“You make your sister cry again and you’re gonna take a nice trip outta the airlock, dong ma?” Mal’s eyes burned furiously into Simon’s.

Simon shrank back against his chair in fear for his life. Mal was a menacing figure when he was angry. Maybe I’m wrong. No, can’t be. He’s too old for her. Simon nodded his head in acquiescence.

“We’ll talk more about this later.” Mal said standing upright again. He righted his chair and resumed his seat.

Kaylee glared at Simon before proceeding with her meal. Zoë watched with her normal stoic face but she’d been ready to act if the need arouse. Jayne’s head was bouncin’ back and forth between Mal and Simon as he tried to figure out what was going on.

River looked distraught for a moment and then felt Mal’s conviction to be with her. Her face visibly brightened and the tears came to a halt. Kaylee noticed River’s ecstatic expression and her face broke out into one of her trademark sunny smiles.

Simon sat watching Kaylee. His heart thumped painfully in his chest as he watched her face illuminate.

Kaylee caught Simon starin’ and her frown quickly returned. She was not happy with him. He was so ignorant of what was important in life. Family and love headed her list and when she could see the two combined, then nothin’ in her ‘verse was shinier than that, not even Serenity.

Seeing Kaylee frowning again, Simon turned his attention back to his place. He WAS right. River was too young, too broken to even think about being in a relationship. A small part of his ego tried to point out that he couldn’t be everything to River, but he squashed that thought and focused on how right he was instead.

Simon was confused with how this was going. He was in the right and Kaylee was mad at him. The Captain just threatened to put him out of an airlock for making “his” sister cry. It made no sense and he’d always thought of himself as very logical.

“Can’t see the stars for the black.” River murmured next to him.

Zoë leaned back in her chair and watched Mal’s body language carefully. Then she caught it, that small, happy grin. Mal hadn’t smiled like that since before the Battle of Serenity Valley.

It was directed at River, who was looking just as happy. In fact, the two of them had the most besotted looks on their faces. Their bodies were unconsciously leaning toward each other. They were wrapped up in looking at each other, lost to everything and everyone else. It reminder her of the way her and Wash use to be. Now this was an interesting development.

Jayne realized somethin’ was up between Mal and Simon and somehow that gorram crazy girl was a part of it, but hell, if he weren’t in any trouble then he didn’t give a gorram. He resumed eatin’ with his normal gusto.

Mal looked over at River and was all manner of happy. He wasn’t aware that he had a small grin on his face as he looked over at River. Blue eyes met brown and the affection and love shining at him eased the jagged edges of his soul that he wasn’t even aware of.

Mal was ignorant to the fact that his entire body language changed in that moment. His shoulders lifted as if relieved of some unspoken burden. The tension in his face relaxed and he looked years younger. He was slowly becoming the man he would have been if it hadn’t been for the war.

River glowed with happiness when she noticed these changes. She felt the crashing waves of anger, frustration, guilt and all manner of things start to calm within him. They were a long way from completely still but it was a beginning.

“To have and to hold, from this day forward.” River softly breathed the words. Mal nodded his concurrence as he felt the words wash thru and over him.

Their interlude was disrupted when Jayne rose noisily from the table and left. Zoë and Kaylee quickly followed.

Simon sat waiting for the Captain. He knew they had to have this talk and he was positive the Captain wasn’t going to be happy about his decision but he knew what was best for River.

Mal looked at Simon’s body language and he knew this wasn’t a battle he could win but the war was an entirely different matter. Sometimes you have to yield some ground to gain the tactical advantage.

Mal’s eyes shifted to River again. “River, we need to be headin’ to Persephone. Badger has got a job for us. Go plot a course.”

River clearly wanted to stay but read that Mal wanted her gone for this confrontation. Nodding, she rose gracefully on her chair. Her hand briefly rested on Mal’s shoulder before she left the room.

“Doc.” Mal wasn’t cognizant of the fact that he always referred to Simon this way when he wasn’t happy with him.

“Captain. You can’t be entertainin’ the notion that you and my sister enter a …” Simon’s mind raced for a suitable word and found none.

“What I’m entertainin’ is getting to know your sister better. Court her, if ya like. Realized I got feelin’s for the girl and she’s informed me she has the same. Thought we’d see where it led us.”

“She’s seventeen years old and mentally broken. Beside the fact that you’re old enough to be her father.”

“Technically speakin’ yeah, I could’ve fathered her but I didn’t.”

“Regardless, she is underage and I will not give my consent as her guardian.” Simon had reverted to his previously stuffy behavior and Mal wanted to put a bullet in him, but knew that it wouldn’t get him anywhere.

“Well now, that’s just it. Until she’s eighteen you’re still her guardian and her birthday ain’t but a month away.”

“Captain, I will have you arrested if you do not comply with my wishes on this.” Simon threw out the bluff. He wasn’t going anywhere near the Feds and they both knew it.

Mal decided to humor the boy.

“Well then, I see that I have no choice. Until her eighteenth birthday I will treat her the same way I do all the woman on my ship. Is that to your satisfaction?” Mal’s eyes were sharp with intent.

Simon sat back for a moment. This was too easy. The Captain was more stubborn and belligerent than that, but he couldn’t for the life of him see what the Captain had planned, what angle his was working.

“Fine. I will be watching very closely to see that you do just that.”

“I will however not be held responsible for anything your sister does. You can’t expect me to control her when you have a hard time doing that.” Mal smiled benignly at him.

“Agreed.”

Mal smiled his normal unholy grin that he used when he planned on misbehavin’ and it made Simon all kinds of uneasy. For the life of him, Simon knew he was going to regret agreeing to this he just didn’t know how and why.

Mal reached over and shook Simon’s hand before striding away to the bridge.

Kaylee stood near the door, eavesdropping. She knew Simon was confused but he was bein’ such an idiot. She knew her Captain had a plan and she couldn’t wait to see it in action.

* * * *

Everyone else was seated at the dinner that night, when Mal walked in with Zoë on his arm. He escorted her to the seat to his left at the table, held her chair for her to be seated before seating himself.

Simon was amused by this but didn’t think much of it. He’d been trying all day to get Kaylee to talk to him with no success.

After dinner, Mal once again rose, helped Zoë from her chair and escorted her from the room.

* * * *

The next morning, Mal escorted Inara to and from breakfast. At lunch it was Kaylee. Each time the woman was seated to his left. They would enjoy a pleasant conversation amongst themselves.

Simon fumed as he watched Kaylee flirt outrageously with Mal all thru lunch. They kept touching each other in that affectionate way of theirs and he was jealous. She was still ignoring him and when she did speak she just suggested he go check on River.

At dinner that night, Mal escorted River into dinner. He was being all manner of solicitous of her and Simon’s eyes narrowed.

Mal looked smugly at him and said. “I believe that’s anger on your face Doc. You have no reason to be upset, I’m just treating her the same as all the other woman on my ship.”

Simon’s mouth opened and closed like a fish gasping for air. He’d been outmaneuvered and he knew it.

Kaylee giggled and Zoë smiled. Simon realized that they’d been in on it and were amused at his expense.

Inara was frowning. She’d thought Mal had decided he was mistaken about caring for River when he’d arrived at her shuttle that morning, offering to escort her to breakfast. He’d been all manner of courteous and she’d been enamored by the mirage. She was not amused and did not like that he’d manipulated her to get what he wanted.

Jayne looked confused and decide it might be a good idea to pay more ‘ttention to what were going on. Anytime Simon got all het up, he enjoyed it.

Dinner was a lively affair that night. Mal was in a magnanimous mood and was regaling them with amusing stories from the war.

Simon sat and fumed. Mal had outmaneuvered him and Kaylee was still rejecting his every attempt to speak to her.

Jayne had noticed that Kaylee was not speaking to Simon and decided to have a bit of fun.

“Kaylee, you look right pretty tonight.” Jayne’s comment brought the conversation to a standstill.

Kaylee detected that Simon, who’d been preoccupied all evening, was suddenly interested in the conversation.

“Thank you Jayne. You’re lookin’…” Kaylee fumbled for a moment, “mighty handsome yourself.” Then gave Jayne her third best smiles.

Mal’s eyebrows rose at this and he glanced at Simon. Simon’s face turned rigid.

“Ifn it’ll please ya, I’d like to escort ya to the engine room.” Jayne smiled as he rose and extended his hand to her.

Kaylee upped the wattage on her smile a notch as she took his hand and rose. “Why that’d be nice Jayne. Would you care to join me for a drink? I just got a new batch of brew out of the engine.”

Kaylee wound her arm through Jayne’s when he nodded and they exited the room.

Simon started to rise but Mal’s voice interrupted him.

“Doc, seems to me it’s your turn to be doin’ the dishes.” Mal knew Simon had been about to follow them and he took great delight in delayin’ that.

Simon nodded dejectedly. His eyes kept flickering toward the doorway that led to the engine room every time Kaylee’s happy laugh filtered into the room.

Mal just smiled and escorted River back up to the bridge.

* * * * * It took them a week to get to Persephone. During which Inara announced she’d be leaving to return to the Training House. This time when she packed she made sure to gather all her belongings. Nothing was going to be casually ‘forgotten’.

Her leaving this time was brief and final. None of the crew expected to see her on the ship again. Kaylee knew she’d wave Inara from time to time but it wasn’t the same as bein’ able to stop by and visit. Nope this time it truly was goodbye.

Mal continued his practice of escorting Zoë to breakfast, Kaylee to lunch and River to dinner. Inara had been taking all her meals in her shuttle.

Kaylee flirted outrageously with the Captain at lunch, but dinner was true torture for Simon. Kaylee spend the entire meal flirting with Jayne. They usually retired somewhere afterwards together.

Simon had tried everything he could think of to get Kaylee to speak to him but nothing worked. She pointedly ignored him. Even going so far as to enlist Zoë’s help when she’d cut her hand the other day.

Simon’s disposition became more and more sour. No one talked much with him since he was more likely to bite your head off than speak civilly. He’d even takin’ to taunting Jayne at every opportunity.

* * * * *

Simon was straightening the infirmary for what seemed the hundredth time that day in an attempt to not think about Kaylee and Jayne when he heard River’s voice.

“Loves you. Loves Mal, Zoë, and even loves Jayne. Loves us all. Wants everyone happy.”

“I know bao-bei.” Simon sat down. Crossing his arms on the exam table, he rested his head on them. He hadn’t been getting much sleep without Kaylee snuggled next to him. He hadn’t realized how quickly he’d gotten use to her being there.

“Not sleeping with him.”

Simon’s body tensed as images of Kaylee and Jayne in numerous sexual positions ran across his brain. Jayne doing things to Kaylee that he’d done. Making her all manner of happy in bed.

“Misses you.”

“I doubt that. She’s got Jayne and Mal to make her feel beautiful and wanted.” Simon spoke so dejectedly that tears formed in River’s eyes.

“Can’t see the stars for the black.” River mumbled before fleeing the room, overcome with Simon’s sorrow.

* * * * *

Mal, Zoë and Jayne had just arrived in the cargo bay when River came running up to Mal and buried her face in his chest. Handing the small, precious box in his hand to Zoë, Mal then wrapped his arms around River and walked her over to the side.

“Get the cargo loaded up.” Mal said as he sat her down on a crate.

“Hurts. Won’t stop. Tiny shards of love and trust falling away.”

“I know darlin’. Simon’s made a bed of his own chosin’. Not sayin’ that Kaylee’s right cause she ain’t. No right in denying love but that’s what she’s doin’. I appreciate that she’s tryin’ to help but it ain’t right. Guess I need to talk with my mechanic.”

River rested her head on his shoulder.

“Knew you’d make it better.”

“Don’t know about that lil’ albatross, but I’ll try. Now get a course set to Greenleaf. We got a delivery to make.”

River leaned up and kissed him on the check before flitting away. Mal watched with a smile and then a frown when he realized he’d have to involve hisself with Kaylee and Simon’s love life.

* * * * *

Mal once again escorted River to dinner. They were enjoying simply being together. Being able to touch each other in those small yet infinitely intimate ways that lovers do.

River had taken to holding Mal’s left hand under the table. She was able to eat with her left hand just as well as her right, so no one really noticed.

After dinner Mal rose from his chair to get everyone’s attention.

“Kaylee got you a present. Had to get somethin’ for the best mechanic in the ‘verse.” Mal walked over to his locker and opened it. Inside was a small box. Picking it up he went and placed it in front of Kaylee.

Kaylee kissed his check as he set the box before her. “I love my Captain.”

Mal smiled and resumed his seat.

Kaylee looked at the box for a moment and then a sweet, familiar odor wafted up to her. Her eyes widened with excitement and she gently lifted the lid. Inside sat a dozen luscious red strawberries.

Kaylee squealed with joy. Jumping up she ran and gave Mal another hug. “I REALLY love my Captain.”

Simon watched all this and mentally kicked himself. He’d forgotten Kaylee’s love of strawberries. If he’d gotten them for her she’d probably be talking to him now.

Practically dancing, Kaylee resumed her seat. She generously offered to share them with everyone. Everyone was waiting for Kaylee to take the first bite.

Simon’s eyes were focused intently on Kaylee. The look of rapture on her face reminded him of how she looked when she had her orgasm. He felt his pants tighten uncomfortably as Kaylee’s eyes closed and she wrapped her lips around that first juicy bite.

Kaylee was so lost in the ecstasy of her strawberry she wasn’t aware of everyone’s eyes on her.

River blushed while Mal and Zoë chuckled.

Jayne’s mouth dropped open and he hastily stood up. “I’ll be in my bunk.” He hastily exited the room.

Simon just stared. His eyes glazed over as memories of him and Kaylee ran like a movie in his head.

Kaylee finished eating her strawberry and opened her eyes. Simon’s eyes met hers and his lust filled gaze burned her. Feeling ashamed, she lowered her eyes to the table.

“If you’ll excuse me.” Simon rose and left.

Mal, Zoë and River exchanged concerned glances.

Kaylee ate a second strawberry with none of her previous fervor and then began to clear the table to do the dishes.

Zoë wandered off and Mal escorted River back up to the bridge. He spent some time there just savoring River’s presence before going to the engine room to talk with Kaylee.

Mal found her in her hammock crying.

“Bao bei.” Mal sat next to her and pulled her into his arms. Kaylee only cried harder.

Mal sat and held her until her tears stopped. Placing a finger under her chin, he raised it until she looked at him.

“Kaylee you got to stop this nonsense. You ain’t gonna change the Doc’s mind by not being with him. ‘Sides, I’ve already got a plan in mind to get what River and I want. I need the Doc in a more agreeable mood and that’s where you come in on this plan. You need to have him all manner of happy.”

“Aww Captain.” Kaylee’s eyes filled with tears again.

“Enough of this. You need to go make it right with your man. And stop flirtin’ with Jayne. That’s all manner of unsettlin’.” Mal teased.

Kaylee hugged Mal tightly before jumping up.

“Be seein’ ya Captain.” Kaylee hurried to her bunk. Inside she found the box that Inara’d given to her before leavin’.

Inside was a silk nightgown. Kaylee quickly washed her face and stripped. Pulling the nightgown on, she shivered at the feel of the silk against her bare skin. It reminded her of Simon’s gentle hands.

It clung to all the right places. Plunged low in the front and the back and had a slit running up one side to reveal one shapely leg.

Wrapping a robe over the revealing nightie, Kaylee made her way to Simon’s room. She’d checked the infirmary and he wasn’t there.

Knocking softly on the wood frame door, she then slide the door open not waiting for a response.

Simon lay on his back, hands behind his head staring at the ceiling. He was bare-chested and just in his sleeping pants. Kaylee’s eyes ate up the sight of him. It never ceased to amaze her how muscular Simon was.

“Simon.”

Simon’s head turned at the sound of her voice.

“What are you doing here?” Simon’s voice was rather harsh.

“I…I came to apologize.” Kaylee bowed her head and mumbled.

“Apologize then.”

“I’m sorry. What I did was wrong. I was mad at you because you wouldn’t give Mal and River a chance to be happy together.”

Simon sighed. He’d been pondering the wisdom of his decision. He’d been thinking hard about it. Especially since he’d gotten the bitter taste of what is was like to be kept away from the one person you loved. Kept away from the one person who made you the happiest in the ‘verse.

He still didn’t think he was wrong but then again maybe he wasn’t entirely right either. It’d taken almost dying to figure out how important Kaylee was to him. Who was he to decide that for River?

He still feared for her but when he thought about it, other than himself, there was no other person who protected his sister as fiercely as the Captain. Mal believed in River when even he hadn’t. Understood her in ways he never could.

River was still underage, but that didn’t mean much out here. Maybe he needed to have another talk with the Captain about his courtship.

“Simon.” Kaylee was impatient. Simon had been quiet so long she feared she’d lost him.

Simon sat up and really looked at her. She was standing in her favorite ratty robe, her bare toes peeking at him from beneath the helm.

“Come sit with me.” Simon padded a spot next to him, as a smile lighted his face.

Kaylee smiled coyly. She walked forward until she was right in front of him and then removed her robe.

Simon’s eyes widened when he saw what she was wearing. His hands reached out to her waist and pulled her down on top of himself.

Kaylee went down with a happy giggle and proceeded to kiss him voraciously. She’d denied herself of him for days and she meaned to make up for it.

Simon delighted in the kisses. His hands roamed hungrily over her silk covered flesh, taking gratification in feeling her supple body again.

Outside Simon’s room, River had just come up to her door when she felt Simon’s and Kaylee’s desire wash over her. She felt every touch, every kiss. It was creepy to feel her brother making love to Kaylee/her. She shivered where she stood.

River swiftly turned and ran back toward the bridge, hoping that the distance would alleviate the sensations and impressions.

As she drew next to Mal’s bunk she sensed that he was still up. She opened the hatch and hurried down the steps.

Mal was sitting at his desk bare-chested, ready for bed. He turned when he heard the door open. He watched with a very satisfied masculine smile as River’s gorgeous legs came into view. Long, sleek legs had always been a weakness of his and she had one of the finest pairs in the ‘verse.

He’d been afeard for his life in the Maidenhead and focused on getting’ to his gun but even during those dire moments he couldn’t help but admire and lust after her dancers legs as she wove and spun a path of destruction. Hell that kick to that poor fool behind the pole had been an image he’d fantasized about a lot.

When River’s face came into view Mal realized that she was upset.

“Ai ren, what happened?” Mal rose quickly and enveloped her in a hug.

River snuggled her face in Mal’s chest. Breathing in the heady smell of musk that was his alone. She smiled briefly because he’d called her sweetheart.

“Simon and Kaylee making up. Didn’t know. Was part of it.” River started trembling.

Mal mentally cringed. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to sense someone else, especially a family member, making love. It’d be like sensing Zoë when she’d been with Wash. His mind quickly leapt away from that painful image.

Mal walked her over to the bed and sat down. He pulled her into his lap and she rested her head on his shoulder. He gently stroked her back until the shuddering ceased and she was calm again.

“Better?”

River nodded, wrapped her arms around and snuggled closer. Savoring the warmth coming from him. Relishing the feeling of security he always gave her but being held in his arms took it to another realm. It was magical. Being held by someone else besides Simon was something new for her.

Mal had touched her before but this was different. Sitting with him like this he was surrounding her with his protection. She felt like she was encircled by silk that was impenetrable. Even the usually cacophony of voices in her head had silenced until it was just her.

Mal savored the feeling of holding River in his arms. How many times had he scene Simon hold her and was consumed with envy and jealousy? Hell the first time she’d come out of that box and Simon had rushed to her side, he’d wanted to shove Simon away from her and sooth her himself. “Huh.” Now that was a revelation. He weren’t aware that he’d been thinking about her in that way as long back as that until just now.

Mal continued to caress River as his mind wandered

River luxuriated in the feel of him. The curious part of her had been dying to know what it would be like to kiss him again. The first one had been too brief and unpleasant. The second had thrown her for a loop and he hadn’t had feelings for her then either. The next one would be sure to be amazing.

She knew Mal wanted to wait until he had Simon’s permission before kissing her again but she couldn’t wait that long. So, she kissed him.

Mal was startled out of his reverie by the feel of River’s lips on his.

River was a genius after all and was a quick study. She used her lips to coax his mouth open and then tasted him. Reveling as new and more powerful sensations than before washed over her.

Mal’s hand went moved to cradle her head. He tilted her head to give him better access. His tongue plundered her mouth and then retreated to cajole hers to follow.

Their tongues parlayed as their desire rose.

River’s hands stroked his chest before moving up and around his neck. Her fingers wound themselves into his hair. Clutching tightly as if to never let go.

Mal’s other hand rubbed her him and then slid upward to fondle her breast. When he palmed her hardened nipple, River drew back with a gasp with wide, frightened eyes.

“Wo de ma.” Mal lifted River out of his lap and set her next to him.

Running an agitated hand thru his hair, he focused on the floor as he worked on getting his control back. He’d almost taken advantage her there for a second. His sweet, innocent albatross.

River hadn’t meant to make him stop. She could feel Mal’s anger at himself. Thinking he’d taken advantage of her. Frightened her with his desire.

“I started the kiss, Mal.”

Mal turned his head and looked at her, a wry grin on his face.

“I know darlin’. I…”

“Didn’t scare me. Just surprised me. Felt so good. It was mine and no one else’s. Never felt that for myself, by myself before.”

River reached out and stroked his cheek. Her eyes burning with the intensity of her love for him.

“Want to do more.”

“River, sweetheart, tain’t right. Simon needs to be okay with us and you need to be a bit older. I feel like a huài dàn for what just happened here.”

“Eighty-seven percent chance that Simon will approve tomorrow. He’s been rethinking his position while Kaylee’s been snubbing him.”

“Even so. You ain’t exactly of an age, dong ma?”

“Girls been doin’ it before they’re ‘legal’ since Earth-that-was. What makes me so different? Am I not pretty enough?”

“That ain’t it and you know it. I want you plenty. You’ve had so much gorram go-se happen in your life that I don’t want to be another thing that hurts you.”

“Ninety-nine percent probability that you will hurt me the first time.”

Mal’s eyes widened. He knew she was a virgin but to have it spelled out so bluntly was rather disturbing. Some small part of him roared with joy. She would be his and his alone and he relished the thought of when he could claim her for his own.

“Not physically, emotionally. I wanna know that it’s right for you. I know you think you’re ready now but humor your Captain and let’s wait until after your birthday.”

“Yes sir.” River mimicked Zoë.

“Enough of that. Come here.” Mal sat back against the wall and pulled her up against his side.

They sat there for several hours just savoring the feeling of being together. Eventually the both drifted off to peaceful nights sleep, arms holding each other against the horrors that the night usually brought them.

* * * * *

Simon woke to the feeling of Kaylee snuggled against his side. He smiled contently and stretched.

Thinking about how happy he was to be with Kaylee again reminded him of the issue of his sister and Mal. As long as the Captain agreed to a few rather strict conditions, he’d agree to let him court River.

River had been in a snit with him since he denied Mal’s request and he figured he owed it to her to let her know he’d changed his mind as soon as possible. Being careful not to disturb Kaylee, Simon rose from the bed and quietly got dressed.

Crossing the narrow hall between their rooms, he knocked gently on River’s door. When he got no response he figured she was sleeping and opened the door carefully. He slammed it all the way open when he realized his sister wasn’t in her bed.

He knew. He KNEW that son of a whore had lied to him. He knew exactly where his sister was and he was going to catch that bastard red-handed.

Simon stormed up to the crew quarters, opened Mal’s bunk and crawled down inside.

Sure enough, there was his sister and Mal in bed. A blanket was pulled up over them but Mal’s naked back and River’s bare shoulders were all he could and needed to see. The two of them were spooned up against each other facing the wall. If he didn’t miss his guess, Mal had his arm wrapped around his sister’s waist and the probable placement of Mal’s hand sent blood throbbing fiercely through Simon’s head.

“Captain.” Simon’s strident voice echoed thru the small room.

Mal awoke in an instant and was on his feet.

Simon failed to notice that Mal was wearing pants because he’d punched Mal as soon as he stood up.

Mal fell back against the wall.

"Nee TZAO ss-MA? Nee-YOW wuh-KAI CHANG?" Mal spat as he started to get up again.

Simon moved to go at him again but was stopped when River leaped from the bed in front of him.

“Don’t you take another step!” River’s eyes blazed in fury.

“This bastard has taken advantage of you.” Simon was so righteous in his fury and moved to go around River.

River moved swiftly and efficiently and had her brother pinned to the floor, his arms twisted behind his back as she sat on him.

“Simon you will listen very carefully to what I am about to say. Nothing. I repeat nothing happened here.

“Look with your eyes. Mal has pants on and I have the dress I was wearing yesterday on. We were sitting together talking and fell asleep. Nothing more and nothing less.”

Simon struggled briefly against her hold, only to discover she was exerting a subtle pressure that made any move extremely painful. He stopped struggling and looked over at Mal and then at River.

“Fine. What were you doing here then? Captain, I thought we had an understanding about how you would treat River the same as the other ladies on your crew. I wasn’t aware that they visit you in your bunk at night.”

Mal was furious and was seriously tempted to put a bullet through the Doc’s brain pan. Standing up he allowed himself the satisfaction of waiting to answer the Doc’s question. Let him stew for a few minutes.

Mal looked at River and he saw the anguish in her eyes. She was torn between the two of them and hating every minute of it.

“River let him up.” River cautiously released Simon and stepped back next to Mal.

Simon cautiously moved his body, assessing the damage before rising to his feet. He noticed immediately that River had placed herself firmly at Mal’s side. Sighing, he sat in Mal’s chair.

“River do you want to tell him what drove you here or shall I?”

River blushed and Mal took it as a sign for him to continue.

“Well Doc, your sister was on her way to HER bed last night when she was overcome by some rather powerful feelin’s. Feelin’s of a rather lascivious nature that involved yourself and Kaylee. Bein’ all distraught about what she was feelin’, she fled the scene and came to see me.”

Mal smiled smugly as he watched a blush now creep up Simon’s face as the impact of this story registered.

“Mei-mei, you mean to say…” Simon stumbled to a halt when River nodded.

His face registered revulsion when he realized that his sister had been an unwilling observer of his and Kaylee’s sexual escapades.

“Not just an observer, I feel what you feel. Each touch, each caress echoes through your minds.”

“Oh god.” Simon’s face registered the shock of what that meant.

“That’s why I left. The Captain was up and I wanted company to distract me.”

Simon didn’t register what she was saying. He was lost in the abject horror of the image of his sister experiencing him making love.

“Simon.” Mal’s sharp command broke through.

“River, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.” Simon got up to hug and comfort his sister but she shrank back against Mal. Simon froze, a pained look on his face.

“Captain?” Simon raised confused eyes to Mal’s.

“Simon trust me when I say the images in your head right now are not pleasant for River to be experiencing. Why don’t you go wake Kaylee up and get breakfast started? I’ll take care of River.”

Mal placed a protective arm around River and she turned into it, wrapping her arms around his middle, pressing her face against his chest. She stroked her cheek against the light dusting of hair before settling her ear over his heart and let the steady rhythm of Mal’s heart sooth her frayed nerves.

Simon stared in abject horror. River had shied away from him and turned to the Captain instead. This must be what going crazy feels like.

Simon nodded and made his way over to the ladder. Pausing he spoke. “I planned on telling you that you have my permission to court my sister, but I think my consent is rather pointless, she’s obviously made this decision herself.”

Simon stared hard at Mal who returned the gaze just as steadily. By unspoken agreement Simon had placed his sisters happiness in Mal’s hands and promised dire retribution if Mal failed to keep her happy. Simon broke the silent communication with a small nod and left them alone.

Hearing the door close, Mal turned and gathered River into his arms again. Stroking her hair as she cried into his chest.

When the torrent had stopped, he looked down at her.

“You okay darlin’?”

“I hurt Simon.”

“He’ll be okay. I’m worried about you.” Mal smoothed her hair away from her face.

“I’ve been better.” River smiled wanly.

“Yeah, but did you hear. I got his permission to court ya.” Mal grinned.

“You do. No more takin’ Zoë or Kaylee to meals. Only me and no flirting with Kaylee.” River spoke seriously, a petulant look on her face.

“Jealous, lil albatross?” Mal smirked.

“Mine. Not gonna share. Well, maybe with Zoë. She’s still broke and needs her Captain.” River conceded graciously.

“Oh bao bei, let’s go get some food. I’m starved.” Mal chuckled as he leaned down and kissed her forehead before taking her hand and leading her out of his bunk.

COMMENTS

Friday, February 10, 2006 2:54 PM

BURNANDBOIL


Wow I started off feeling really upset about poor Inara but now I'm so glad for River and Mal! Really really well written, Kaylee's thing with Jayne made me giggle :P

Friday, February 10, 2006 3:00 PM

AMDOBELL


Loved this. Silly Simon but then he has protected and watched out for River for so long I could really see him reacting in this way. Loved Kaylee's reaction and her need to try to make things right then the Captain having to set her straight so as not to ruin things between Simon and Kaylee. I thought the insight into Inara was pretty accurate and Zoe's amusement as she realised what was going on was precious. Yup, this was wonderful! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, February 10, 2006 3:14 PM

UNKNOWN1000U1


Fantastic! Love your Mel/River stories. Keep it up.

Saturday, February 11, 2006 1:49 AM

BOOKADDICT


Great story. I like that Simon realises what it was like to not be with the one he loves.

Sunday, February 12, 2006 3:02 AM

AGENTROUKA


You know what would be really, really lovely?

Giving a warning about which pairings, exactly. Because, some people would rather avoid running into Mal/River unexpectedly... :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 10:41 AM

BELLONA


yay!!! another mal/river pairing!!! i love those two...
"Mal smiled his normal unholy grin that he used when he planned on misbehavin’"
ooh, getting shivers up my spine just thinking about it.

b


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YOUR OPTIONS

OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR

Who Woulda Thought?
A spider is found on Serenity and hilarity ensues.

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Mal dreams about getting a very special ticket to a very special place. Mal/River.

Memories that Haunt
Another atrocity that was committed by the Alliance is brought to light.

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Mal is trapped!

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A little snippet of a scene that is just funny.


The Truth of Things
Set during the BDM, Mal had just given the order to decorate their ship like a Reavers, shot the Alliance shuttle man and then stomped back to Serenity to find something to use as red paint. Zoe comes in to talk to him. She gets a big surprise as does River.

Mal Love Bots for Sale! (6/6)
Mal and Simon talk yet again. Mal and River have a moment on the bridge.

Mal Love Bots for Sale! (5/6)
Mal chases River down. They have a long conversation and things are discovered.

Mal Love Bots for Sale! (4/?)
Mal & Simon have another discussion. Kaylee discovers something she shares with the crew. River is upset by her sharing. Eventually Mal/River