A Lonely Road: part five
Saturday, February 18, 2006

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


A/N: Thanks again to my betas Guinevere and Tehomet, who I worship more than they'll ever know. Hope everyone enjoys the update! --------------------------------------

“Son of a bitch!” Before he even knew what he was doing, Simon had grabbed Jayne, pulled him away from River with all of his strength and punched him hard on the nose.

Jayne stumbled and fell off the bed, while Simon gasped in pain and shook his hand. Cao gao, that hurt more than I expected, he thought as he heard River gasp. He hoped with all his heart that she was being compassionate towards him and not Jayne…

“You got a deathwish, little man?” Jayne growled as he pushed himself onto his feet with one hand and tried to stop his nose from bleeding with the other. Simon ignored the throbbing in his hand and shoved Jayne against the wall of the dorm with force that surprised even himself. It was only the adrenaline though, because Jayne pushed Simon back and freed himself within seconds.

“You… you stay away from River,” Simon panted.

Jayne raised his eyebrows. “Hell, it wasn’t like I was trying to sell her out to the Feds!” he said with a provocative glare at Simon.

Simon felt his jaw drop. He didn’t know what to say. He was so furious that he couldn’t even think anymore. He was only vaguely aware that the noise he was making had made Kaylee and Shepherd Book hurry over to them.

Taking two steps closer to Jayne, Simon stared up at him, his jaws clenched in anger. “From now on, you stay away from River,” he said in a low, menacing tone.

“Or what?” Jayne stared back at Simon while still pinching the bridge of his nose to stop the bleeding.

Simon smiled, suddenly feeling very calm. “I’m not a soldier, Jayne. I won’t be able to take you in a fight. But I do know my anaesthetics. Forget everything I told you about feeling safe with me as your medic. If I ever see you near my sister again, you better not go to sleep. Because you won’t wake up anymore.”

In the deafening silence that followed, Book and Kaylee glanced at each other and ushered Jayne out of the room without so much as a word, even though Kaylee was looking a bit shocked at his outburst. Simon didn’t blame her; he couldn’t even remember ever being this angry before.

With a sigh, he sat down on the bed next to River and put his face in his hands.

“Are you alright, mei mei?” he asked her. She was still sitting in the exact same position as she had been when he’d walked in, half upright and looking at her brother with great interest.

“Are you?” she bounced back the question, staring at Simon unblinkingly.

Good question, Simon thought. I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore. Just when I think we’ve found a place on this ship, everything gets complicated again. He sighed. It was bad enough that Mal had decided it would be a fun thing to play games with his head, now he had to keep Jayne away from his sister as well….

He took a deep breath. “I’m fine, River. But…” He paused before he finished his sentence, mainly because he wasn’t sure how he felt about it and wanted to hear himself say it out loud. “But maybe we shouldn’t stay…”

River stared at him with something that seemed like pure terror. “No… No, Simon, we can’t go!” Simon immediately felt bad for even suggesting it, since his sister started sobbing and throwing her pillows against the wall in frustration. “Things’ll get worse! Oedipus alone would understand but not the kings! They wouldn’t, so please don’t make me, please please please…” she ranted as she gave her brother a pleading look.

“No one is making you do anything, mei mei…” he said, taking his sister in his arms. For a while Simon simply held her, stroking her hair and shushing her until she calmed down. He hated seeing her like this, and he hated not being able to do anything about it…

Finally, River’s breathing had gone back to normal and her crying was reduced to some stifled sobs. Simon brushed some strands of hair out of River’s face and gave her his comforting-big-brother smile. “Get some rest, okay River? We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

He looked at her for a spell while she dozed off. I don’t really feel like leaving either, but I don’t think this ship is a safe haven for you anymore, he thought as he walked out and to his own room.

“It never was,” a small voice said behind his back.


Mal looked out into the endless nothing that surrounded them. He loved being on the bridge at night, when everyone was asleep and it was just him, his ship and the black.

Well, usually he loved it, anyway. Tonight he was too troubled to enjoy it much. His mind kept darting back and forth and making crooked turns until he wasn’t even sure what he’d been thinking about in the first place. It all kept coming back to the same thing though…

“Mal, we have to stop this.”

“Stop what?” Mal said casually, continuing to kiss Inara’s neck.

She let out an exasperated sigh and got up from the comfortable chair, facing Mal and attempting to look annoyed but failing hopelessly.

“This.” She made a wide gesture that could easily encompass the shuttle. “Us. All that comes out of it, is that it’s making it that much harder for me to leave!”

Mal got up, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulled her close to him. “Well, no one is forcin’ you to leave…”

She smiled. “Don’t try to make me change my mind, Mal. I’ve been offered a great position at the Chapterhouse; it would be foolish not to take it.”

“Right,” Mal said, letting go of her abruptly, “because walking away now is such a smart thing to do. Let me tell you, Inara. If it’s foolish to choose family, and friends and freedom instead of a career, then you can call me a fool any day!”

“Come on, Mal. You know it wouldn’t be three days before we were at each other’s throats again.” She smiled but her eyes couldn’t hide the sadness she was feeling, not even slightly.

“I can’t believe this,” Mal said, shaking his head as he crossed his arms and looked at her. “You’re actually gonna throw this away, huh? I guess that’s how we’re different, you and I. I don’t let go of these kinds of opportunities.”

“See,” Inara replied, showing him the kindest of smiles, “we can’t even say goodbye without fighting.”

Mal fell silent. “We’re saying goodbye?”

“We are.” She gave him a soft kiss on the lips and turned around, her long skirts floating around her as she walked out of the shuttle.


“Coming up on Paquin.”

“Thank God for that,” Zoe said to her husband while she continued massaging his neck. The Paquin sunrise was already blossoming in front of them, it wouldn’t be long before they broke atmo. Zoe couldn’t say she felt particularly bad about that -- over the past couple of days, there had been so much tension on the ship that at times she felt like she was carrying a hand grenade and had to tread softly or it would set off.

For five days straight, it had been the same tune over and over again. Mal had avoided Simon; River had been ranting incoherently about death, blood and other things that made Kaylee go pale; and Simon had been giving Jayne a death stare as soon as he came within twenty feet of River – which was a mite problematic considering that Serenity wasn’t that big a ship.

Zoe had no idea what was going on, and frankly she didn’t think she needed to know. It was none of her business and if it mattered, the captain would fill her in. That wasn’t what she felt worried about.


“Yes, lambie-toes?” Wash replied, looking at her over his shoulder. He frowned when he saw her staring pensively at the planet in front of them that was quickly becoming larger. “What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know. Just this…feeling I get. Like there’s somethin’ we’re missin’. Somethin’ important.”

Wash raised his eyebrows. “You mean, besides Inara?”

“Besides Inara,” Zoe agreed with a smile. She might not have had a lot in common with the Companion, but Inara was a friend to everyone on the ship, and therefore missed by everyone, too.

“I don’t know,” she continued. “I think that something we did or didn’t do, is gonna turn things to our disadvantage. Can’t put my finger on it though…” She racked her brain but couldn’t come up with anything.

As they broke atmo, Wash gripped the handles of the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles turned white. He gritted his teeth and did his best to keep the rickety boat steady as she trembled all around them.

As always, he breathed a sigh of contentment when they’d passed through the atmosphere and started their final descent. “There, out of harm’s way. Well, until we touch the ground that is, then I’m sure we’ll be in trouble with the law within minutes.” He turned around again and grinned at his wife.

Zoe flashed him a quick smile, still unable to locate the unsettling feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Aww, cheer up, my beautiful bride! It’s probably nothing,” he said brightly.

“You’re right. It’s probably nothing.” Zoe nodded. Thing is, it don’t feel like nothing, she thought…


Simon quietly organized the remaining supplies in the infirmary. They weren’t quite running low on medication yet, but he would feel better if they were able to do some restocking now that they were planetside -- just in case something went wrong. Which it usually did.

Still, that wasn’t the most important matter going through his mind right now. He wasn’t replaying the talk he’d had with River over and over again.

Maybe we shouldn’t stay.

It was just a thought that had hit him in the moment, but the more he thought about it, the more it began to make sense. It would give him the chance to keep Jayne away from River. More importantly, it would keep them out of his their father’s hands. It didn’t matter how noble Gabriel Tam’s intentions always appeared to be; Simon knew that his father always had his own interest and his own image at heart before everything else. He’d learned that the hard way.

He also knew that his father was a very smart man, and that he probably knew that Simon and River were on board Serenity, no matter how evasive Mal thought he could be.

Simon sighed. Mal had seemed determined to come up with a plan to avoid Simon and River’s father. But Mal didn’t know his father like Simon did. He didn’t know what kind of resources the Tams had at their disposal -- and how determined they could be. Just like Simon was determined now to get as far away from his father as he could.

He’d spent too long being pushed around by Gabriel Tam, doing what his father wanted without even realizing it. River probably wouldn’t agree, but she hadn’t seen the side of her father that Simon had gotten to know. His father had made it more than clear that he wouldn’t come for them again; and he was a stubborn man, so this sudden change of heart was more than a little suspicious.

Suddenly, Simon’s mind was made up. He left the infirmary as it was and made his way to his room, hastily throwing his few belongings into the suitcase he’d brought with him when he got on board. That seemed so long ago now…

After he was done, he knocked on the door to River’s room, opening it when he got no answer. She wasn’t around, and for once Simon didn’t really mind. It would give him some time to pack her things before he’d have to talk to her; before he’d have to tell her they were leaving…

It wasn’t like they had much of a choice. If anything, it was clear that he had outstayed his welcome with Mal, he thought bitterly. No one would be particularly sorry to find them gone. Except maybe Kaylee…

Simon felt a pang of regret for not giving Kaylee the attention she so craved and deserved. But she would understand, he knew she would. Plus, he knew his father well enough to know that he stopped at nothing to get what he wanted. This way he would not only keep River safe, he’d also keep the crew of Serenity safe from his father’s Alliance contacts.

So really, he thought, convincing himself one last time, there’s only one thing I can do that will benefit everyone. And that’s leaving the ship…


“Going away.”

“What, now?” Jayne asked. They were sitting in Jayne’s bunk while he picked out the weapons he was going to take with him on the job. River was sitting quietly on his bed, studying the pictures Jayne had on his wall with great interest.

“That’s the wrong place for an earring,” she observed with a frown. Then she turned around so she faced Jayne. “Don’t know. Don’t know when. Don’t know where. But going soon.”

“You don’t seem nearly as panicked about that as you were before. That mean what you saw ain’t gonna happen?” he asked as he carefully placed some guns on the bed, along with an apple for the road, and sat down in between River and the guns. Better safe ‘n sorry, he thought.

She shook her head miserably and stared at the bed cover, tracing patterns on it with her finger. “She knows now. Knows that she can’t stop it. It has to pass, instruct life lessons. Because it’s what the stories mean … Nothing she can do about that…” she said quietly, tears brimming her eyes.

Jayne frowned and put his big hand on her small one to stop her drawing patterns. “Stop that. Keep talking ‘bout yerself as ‘she’ like that, gets me pissed off.” He smirked when she looked at him indignantly. “Sorry princess, if you’re lookin’ for someone to treat ya like a spoiled kid, you’re talkin’ to the wrong person. Got yer brother for that,” he said gruffly.

This, for some reason, earned him a huge grin and a tight hug from River. He just stared at her when she pulled back and gave him an urgent look. “You have to come get me.” She said it calmly and without so much as blinking, as if she was a hundred percent certain that he would. Anyone who would have seen it, would probably have burst out laughing.

Jayne on the other hand just frowned. “Me, I don’t see why you can’t just tell that dumbass brother o’ yours that it ain’t safe! That could stop ya from goin’ in the first place,” he said, wondering why the hell he was sayin’ that when he’d done everything in his power to get the doc and his sister off the boat…

She gave him a smile and rolled her eyes in her patented ‘that’s a really stupid thing to say’ expression. “He won’t believe me. Doesn’t believe anyone anymore. Doesn’t trust anyone.” She fixed her eyes on Jayne’s. “Especially you,” she chirped.

Suddenly her attention seemed to be drawn past his face and to the apple that was lying on the bed. Without notice, she leaned far over Jayne to grab it.

Jayne muttered a faint protest, but at the same time he felt his blood starting to pool low down at the sensation of her warm, fragile body so close to his. He desperately tried to keep his thoughts together, but there was nothing to distract him. All he could see was her slender neck floating in front of his nose.

Gorramit, girl, you’re gonna be the death of me, he thought.

River turned her head and grinned, her face dangerously close to Jayne’s. “Jayne is a girl’s name, but Jayne’s a big man. Strong. Doesn’t get killed that easily.”

Jayne snorted. “Well, I might if Mal finds us like this. He sees you in my bunk, he’ll have me tossed out the airlock ‘fore you can spit,” he said. His voice sounded hoarse so he swallowed loudly. He wasn’t really used to not giving in to his hormones, and it was a lot harder than he’d thought.

River just chuckled and crawled back on the bed till she was leaning against the wall of the bunk, her feet resting in Jayne’s lap. She started munching on the apple she still had clenched in her small hand while she looked at him intently. “He won’t. Got bigger problems his own self, you know. Trying to balance future and past and not getting crushed by the present…”

Jayne blinked. It was always a mite disturbing if River said something cryptic and it sorta made sense to him. On top of that, her feet were casually wriggling in his lap now, which was distracting him something fierce.

In a lame attempt to regain his composure he just said the first thing that came to him. “Hey! That was my last apple!”

River took another demonstrably big bite and held out the apple so he could take a bite too.

“Want?” she mumbled with her mouth full. Jayne barked a laugh but shook his head. River frowned. “You have to eat. Keep your strength. Have to come get me, remember?”

She fell silent as she stared at the piece of fruit. “She’s hasn’t had these since Ariel,” she said thoughtfully.

Jayne swallowed again and shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah, ‘bout that; you gotta --”

“Not upset,” she interrupted him calmly. “Not angry. She understands. It’s not right to be greedy, to want everything for yourself, but sometimes you can’t help yourself.” She paused for a moment, then added, “I always used to steal Simon’s toys, too,” with a reassuring smile.

Jayne couldn’t help but feel relieved, even though he failed to see how that was similar.

“’Sides,” River said brightly, “you won’t do it again.”

Jayne said an eyebrow and smirked. “You’re so sure o’ that, huh?”

She nodded vigorously. “Yup. Stronger now. Clearer in the brainpan. Now, you hurt me, I hurt you back.”

There was something in the way her face didn’t twitch a muscle when she said it, that Jayne found more than a mite unsettling. But before he could come up with a reply, River dropped the apple, leaned forward, took his face in both her hands and planted a long, soft kiss on Jayne’s lips…

Go se, just when his blood had almost reached his brain again…

He put his hand on the back of her head, tangling his fingers in her hair and drawing her closer, but it wasn’t long before she pulled back with remarkable ease.

“Kiss on the lips, no less, no more. Now you’ll have to come get me!” She giggled loudly and jumped off the bed and onto the ladder, disappearing from view the next second.

Jayne barely had time to realize she was gone before Mal’s face appeared at the top of the ladder, looking into the corridor to where he imagined River was skipping away, before peering down into the bunk with an awfully suspicious look on his face.

“Jayne, we’re off to do the job. You ready?” he said in his are-we-gonna-have-a-problem voice.

“Um, yeah Mal. Just… gimme a minute, will ya?”


“Are you sure this is a good idea, sir?”

“Oh, I’m fairly certain it ain’t,” Mal sighed as the three of them made their way down the dusty path. “This more ‘n likely will cause us a lot more trouble than it’s worth, but we can’t hardly turn back now. ‘Sides, Badger’s deal got us a discount to get us an extra month’s worth of food and fuel. That ain’t nothing.”

Zoe nodded, because she followed her captain no matter what, but she didn’t care what he said. Something still felt wrong.

She scanned her surroundings carefully for a possible ambush. She shouldn’t even bother, she thought. Paquin was all grassy slopes and prairie, with nowhere to hide or find shadow. It must be hell in summer, she thought to herself. Luckily fall had come to the planet during this time of year, so the temperature wasn’t unbearable and all that bothered them was a fierce wind that blew clouds of dust in their faces.

Fact of the matter was, there was nothing in sight as far as they could see, except for the carriage that was parked a little further down the path. As they arrived there, the driver just gave them a bored look and jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “In the back.”

Mal frowned at him but walked around the carriage without hesitating, opening the passenger door and peering inside. “Hi there. You coming with us?”

“At least she don’t look like Badger,” Jayne observed grumpily.

Zoe ignored him and reached onto the back seat of the carriage, holding out her hand. “Hi there, sweetie. I’m Zoe.”

The little girl in the carriage flashed her a happy smile and put her small hand in Zoe. “I’m Cara.”


“River?” Simon asked when he heard the door to his room slide open. He shouldn’t have bothered asking, he knew it was her by the way she didn’t make a single sound as she walked into the room. He turned around and gave her a comforting but nervous smile. “River…”

“I know. We have to go.” Her voice was completely neutral and her body language calm as she picked up her small duffel bag.

Simon didn’t know if he should be relieved or really worried. The way she was this… composed, when she’d been so hysterical about leaving just a few hours earlier made him even more nervous, but he decided to make good use of the opportunity. It would be a lot easier to leave the ship if he didn’t have to drag a kicking and screaming River with him -- or worse, drug her so she’d be complacent. He hated doing that…

He picked up the large duffel bag with his clothes and all River’s medication with one arm, and put the other one around River’s shoulders as they quietly started walking. Past the infirmary, through the cargo bay, off the ramp, across the pastures that surrounded the ship…

“No looking back,” River whispered, but it seemed to be more to herself than to him. Simon listened anyway. He didn’t stop to turn around until Serenity was out of sight…



Saturday, February 18, 2006 8:51 AM


Kind of cowardly to slip off the ship and not say goodbye to the crew like that. Simon may think he's doing the right thing but then he can never think straight when it comes to River. I really wish he would learn to trust her instincts. As for Inara, I could shake her. Silly woman. Loved Jayne. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, February 19, 2006 1:00 AM


I hope Simon at least left a note. Wouldn't want the crew thinking that they were abducted again.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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