A Lonely Road: part eight
Friday, March 24, 2006

Things heat up, Kaylee hits Jayne, Badger gets a mite tetchy, and the crew prepares for their hardest job ever.


Less than an hour after they were off-world again, a short bulletin appeared on the Cortex concerning Simon’s death in captivity. After Mal, Zoe and Wash had read it, Wash looked over his shoulder and shot his wife a relieved look. Mal couldn’t say he disagreed; this was getting close to being a fortunate turn of events. With any luck, it would keep the Feds off their trail until they could get to River. Mal knew that after that, it was a fair bet that all hell was gonna break loose.

Mal glanced at the capture of Simon that was showing in a loop on the screen. “I’monna go check up on the Doc, see how he’s doin’. Let me know if anything else happens,” he said as he turned and headed for the passenger dorms.

Kaylee came walking out of Simon’s room, a worried frown etched on her face, just as Mal was about to enter. She gave her captain a fleeting smile. “Hi Cap’n. He’s still a bit drowsy, what with all the stuff he took. I was gonna look after him, but I really gotta go check the atmo feed, and then fetch Cara. I asked Jayne to keep an eye on her.” Kaylee grimaced to emphasize her point, before returning to her usual cheerful mode. “Take good care of Simon, Cap! Make sure he gets some sleep, okay?” she said before padding back upstairs.

Mal knocked on the door softly before sliding it open. “Hey, how’re you feeling?”

Simon turned his head and a smile appeared on his face. “As well as can be expected, I suppose,” he said, rubbing his eyes to shield them from the light that flooded in. Mal quickly closed the door behind him and moved to stand next to the bed, while Simon screwed his eyes shut and started coughing uncontrollably.

All of a sudden, Mal felt himself getting very angry. “You know, for a smart fella, you can be right stupid sometimes. What if I hadn’t gotten to you in time, huh? You woulda frozen to death, that’s what!” It came out angrier than he had intended, and it seemed like Simon was a bit taken aback as well.

“I couldn’t stay there, Mal. I would have died,” Simon said in a small voice. It almost sounded like an apology, and Mal immediately felt bad for getting all tetchy. He didn’t even want to think about what had happened to Simon, because the possibilities alone made him want to get hold of the first Alliance puppet that crossed his path and beat him to death.

In a feeble attempt to regain his composure and to remain all distant and captain-like, Mal crossed his arms in front of his chest and muttered, “Well, you shoulda known we was comin’ for you.”

“Yes, I know. I’m sorry. Thank you, by the way,” Simon replied with a weak smile. Mal felt his resolve to keep his distance waver. Gorram, why d’he have to go an’ smile like that?

“Yeah, well, don’t mention it,” Mal said, scratching the back of his head awkwardly. “Thing is, I don’t get why you took off in the first place. Was it because of Jayne? ‘Cause if he lays so much as a finger on your sister, I’m tossin’ him out the airlock.”

Simon chuckled, which elicited another coughing fit. Mal flinched. That really doesn’t sound good, he thought. “I don’t know,” Simon said after the coughing had settled down some. “It’s more complicated than that. I took a decision that seemed like the best thing for everyone,” he said softly, turning to face the wall. Mal felt another pang in his chest. And the Doc didn’t think he should mention things like that to him before he just took off? He was the gorram Captain!

It was mostly just his pride that was wounded, Mal realized, so he took in a breath in an effort to stay civil and calm. “Still,” he said. “Ain’t no safer place in the ‘Verse for you than on board this boat. You coulda known you’d go and get yourself snatched, so why’d you put your sister and yourself in that kinda danger?”

Simon whipped his head back around so he could face Mal.

From the icy glare the young doctor gave him, Mal instantly knew he shoulda kept his mouth shut, instead of pointing out that Simon had put River in danger.

“I’ll have you know, Captain, that I was perfectly capable to look after River and keep my family together before you and your ship came into view,” Simon said coldly, his eyes shooting daggers.

“Right,” Mal snarled back. “’Cause you were doin’ such a bang-up job, bringin’ Feds and those eerie-ass Academy folk down on us. If I hadn’t sheltered you two, you’da been caught before River ever even got out of that box!” Somewhere in the back of his mind, a little voice was warning Mal that yelling at the Doc and rattling his chains didn’t constitute ‘making sure Simon got some sleep’. But the rest of him was just mightily pissed – and that definitely had nothing to do with the really cold way Simon had just called him ‘Captain’ when he’d been calling him ‘Mal’ for weeks.

Simon didn’t say anything, but judging from the way he clenched his jaw and turned his face back to the wall, Mal noticed how his brilliant ‘keep your distance’ scheme hadn’t exactly gone the way he planned. Suddenly, he felt a desperate need to get out of the room as soon as possible.

“Well, I got a ship to run,” he said stiffly, heading for the door. Simon didn’t show any sign of having heard him, so Mal quietly slid the door open and shut it again behind him, mumbling “Get some sleep, will ya?” as he did.


“Hey, hey, gimme that!” Jayne growled as he yanked a large screwdriver out of Cara’s hands and waved it in front of her nose. “This ain’t for little girls to be playin’ with, ya hear?”

Cara nodded timidly, but it was clear as day that she wasn’t at all afraid of him. Jayne briefly wondered why the hell not. Probably got somethin’ to do with her bein’ brought up by Badger’s thugs an’ all, he thought.

He felt sort of grateful that Kaylee had left the kid for him and Book to watch over. Not that he was overly fond of the girl, but she did distract him and she managed to keep his mind off River and what she was facing. He hated that they had to just wait for a wave from Inara before they could do somethin’. He’d never been partial to waiting, he much preferred gettin’ his hands dirty.

“Hi Jayne, hi Shepherd,” Kaylee’s voice sounded. A second later, she padded into the cargo bay, picking up Cara and settling the little girl on her arm. “Hi sweetie,” she said, flashing her a wide smile, “you been a good girl?”

“Nothing we couldn’t handle,” Book said, looking up from his Bible. “How is Simon doing?” he asked, concern obvious in his voice.

Another brief flash of worry flashed over Kaylee’s usually cheerful features. “Hard to tell. He ain’t exactly one to overshare how he’s feelin’, you know. Keeps sayin’ he’s fine an’ that we should all stop worryin’.” She shrugged in slight frustration. “I dunno, maybe he’s right. He’s the doctor, after all.”

Seemingly eager to bring up a happier subject, Kaylee smiled at Cara and bounced her up and down. “So, you happy you’re gonna see your Daddy again?” Cara nodded avidly, which made the young mechanic chuckle. “Aw, you probably ain’t seen him in a good long while, huh?”

Care’s bottom lip moved slightly as she nodded, which seemed to change her entire mood from excited to deeply sad. “Mommy took me away ‘cause she said Daddy was a bad example.”

“Well, she weren’t wrong about that,” Jayne snorted. He grinned as he looked up from the toolkit he was cleaning, but Kaylee’s glare shut him up right away.

“So, what made your Mommy change her mind?” Kaylee asked the little girl. Jayne rolled his eyes. Couldn’t they be havin’ this conversation on deck, so he could start polishing his guns without Kaylee an’ the Shepherd giving him appalled looks?

“Mommy didn’t know I was coming to visit Daddy,” Cara replied, her eyes twinkling at the thought of having her very own secret. “Daddy’s friends came and got me while I was taking my nap.” She suddenly frowned as if she was worried Kaylee might spoil everything. “But you can’t tell ‘cause it’s a secret,” she added hastily.

“Your Mommy doesn’t know where you went?” Book asked cautiously, while he glanced at Jayne and Kaylee, who had gone pale. Cara shook her head and giggled.

“Um, sweetie, be a good girl and go and play with the Shepherd for a spell, okay?” Kaylee uttered, ushering Cara in Book’s direction. Book immediately got the hint. He took Cara by the hand and led her into the lounge and out of earshot. Jayne gulped when Kaylee gave him one of her scary glares and stepped dangerously close to him.

“She was kidnapped?” Kaylee said, her voice lowered but only slightly. “You guys kidnapped her?” She punched him on the arm to emphasize the word. “We’re kidnappers now?” she added, her eyes blazing as she punched him again. For a little girl, she was surprisingly strong, Jayne thought.

For his own safety, he took a step back and rubbed his arm. “Hell, that weren’t my fault! I just do the job I’m paid to do. ‘Sides, if Badger didn’t get to see his own kid, how’s that fair to him? She kinda kidnapped the kid first!”

“That ain’t the point, Jayne!” Kaylee exclaimed. “We shouldn’ta gotten in the middle o’this. It’s a family matter and you know it.” She shook her head gravely. “Her mom is gonna be so worried…”

Jayne chuckled as something funny suddenly struck him. Kaylee’s eyes narrowed, as if she was preparing for something really horrible. “What could possibly be funny?” she asked.

“Well,” Jayne said slowly, “since we didn’t get ‘er delivered to the rendezvous point and to Badger, but dragged her with us to the ass-end of the galaxy, we actually kidnapped ‘er twice. Hell, that’s gotta be some kinda record, ain’t it?” He gave her a lopsided grin.

Kaylee opened her mouth to say something and then closed it again like a fish. Then she just threw her hands in the air and turned on her heels, mumbling, “Never mind, I’ll go talk to Zoe,” as she left Jayne in her wake.

Jayne shrugged to himself. “Hell, I thought it was funny.”


After several hours of feverish sleep, constantly interrupted by blinding headaches and coughing fits that felt like they were tearing his lungs into little pieces, Simon woke up feeling pleasantly dazed. His cough was gone and his throat, head and everything else felt comfortably numb. He knew that it would only last until the medication wore off, but it still felt great. There was a lot that could be said about Serenity and its crew, but not that its infirmary wasn’t stocked with everything you could possibly ask for in situations like these, Simon thought with a satisfied smile.

After he had stumbled out of the bed and up to the chair that had his clothes draped over it, he managed to get his pants and shirt back on and cautiously walked into the empty corridor. He slid his hands along the wall to keep everything from spinning while he crossed the small distance to the infirmary. Ow. Maybe not my brightest idea.

Simon hadn’t been in the infirmary for two minutes – well, he thought it had been two minutes, although in all honesty, time had gone a bit loopy – when he heard the sound of familiar footsteps. He didn’t have to look over his shoulder to know Mal was standing in the doorway, looking at him.

“What in the hell are you doin’?” Mal said. He still sounded angry.

Simon didn’t look up and continued looking through all the drawers, mumbling, “I’m going to get my sister out of there, so I’m looking for something to help me focus.” He turned to face Mal, leaning on the counter for support. “I can’t save River while I’m like this.”

Mal nodded calmly. “Right. An’ how exactly are you plannin’ on doin’ just that? We’re in deep space, so unless helping your sister means taking a walk in the black in your PJ’s…” Simon instantly looked down at his pants and shirt with a confused frown. Mal rolled his eyes. “Figure of speech. ‘Sides, why aren’t you in your PJ’s, anyway?”

Why couldn’t Mal just understand? It was so tiresome to have to explain everything, Simon thought, exasperated. Forcing himself to stay cogent, he said, “I have to get her out, Mal. It’s my fault she got taken in the first place.”

Mal groaned as he walked up to Simon. “It ain’t your fault, Simon. It ain’t anybody’s fault, ‘cepting maybe the hwoon dahns that took her.”

“I can’t just do nothing!” Simon cried out. It was bad enough that he felt so rutting guilty; he didn’t think he could stand to be useless as well. “I need --”

“What you need,” Mal interrupted, grabbing him by the shoulders and steering him away from the counter and back to the door, “is rest. And that’s an order.”

Simon chuckled as he shrugged off Mal’s hands and turned around. “You might be captain, but I don’t think you’re in charge of my health, Mal,” he said. “Besides, I need to check my vitals.” Before Mal had a chance to protest, Simon quickly walked back to the counter and grabbed the thermometer.

Mal rolled his eyes and leaned against one of the glass panes, arms crossed. “Your vitals are fine an’ dandy. Ai ya tien ah, they sure as hell weren’t joking when they first said that doctors make for lousy patients,” he said with a crooked little smile that made Simon go slightly weak in the knees. He wished like hell that Mal would just leave the room already.

“The only thing you need is rest,” Mal went on. Wo de ma, the man was unrelenting. He might not be wrong though, Simon thought as he noticed that his vision was becoming more blurred by the minute. He quickly held on to the counter for support, hoping that Mal hadn’t noticed. No such luck, because Mal immediately walked back up to him and grabbed him by the shoulders, ready to steer him back to his room again.

Simon just sighed, admitting defeat, and nodded quietly. He didn’t say a word though, he’d rather die than admit that Mal was right. Even so, he was too tired to argue, and all he wanted to do was crawl into his warm bed and sleep. He felt like he could sleep for days.

“Good man. Now, let’s get you tucked in,” Mal said. Simon nodded again, and felt himself fall forward as his legs decided to stop supporting him altogether. “Whoa. I got ya, Doc,” Mal said quickly, managing to keep Simon upright.

“Thanks,” Simon mumbled, his head coming to rest on Mal’s shoulder. He could feel his eyes drooping shut and tried his very best not to fall asleep on the spot. “And when are you finally going to start calling me Simon?” he added, vaguely aware of the fact that his sentences were starting to sound like one long word. Rutting medication...

After a few seconds, in which Simon was sure he had fallen asleep, Mal softly said, “Simon...” Simon opened his eyes and lifted his head in surprise. He half expected the captain to scold him again for not getting any rest, but instead he saw something else in Mal’s eyes. Simon had no idea what it meant, but he felt a warm glow spreading through his stomach.

“Mal,” Simon murmured, not sure what he should say next. Instead, he simply raised his head and captured Mal’s lips in a kiss. After all the mixed signals he’d already gotten, he was sure that Mal would kick him off the ship for this – either that or shoot him – but to his surprise, Mal responded by deepening their kiss.

The exhaustion Simon was feeling just a moment ago vanished completely as Mal shoved him against the counter, kissing him like there was no tomorrow. Simon could feel the sharp edge of the countertop press into his back, but he couldn’t care less. Instead he let his body mold to Mal’s, his tongue seeking entrance, moaning softly as Mal’s knee forced his legs apart.

Simon felt dizzy, almost as if he was about to faint – it certainly didn’t help that all of his blood was rapidly pooling in his groin. Mal seemed to have noticed that as well, because he pressed himself hard against him, the edge of the counter still cutting into the small of Simon’s back.

“Ow,” Simon smiled against Mal’s lips. “You know, this is really uncomfortable.”

Mal grinned and proceeded to attack his neck while muttering something that sounded suspiciously like ‘I don’t care’. Mal momentarily pulled back and started fumbling with Simon’s vest buttons, saying, “Why you always gotta be wearin’ so many ruttin’ layers?” in obvious frustration.

Simon couldn’t suppress a chuckle. Mal looked up, his eyes narrowing slightly. “Bunk. Now,” he ordered. Something in the way that he said it made Simon both nervous and tingly in anticipation. He just nodded and practically tore out of the infirmary.

“Call yourself sick,” Mal scolded teasingly from behind, as he followed him out of the room.


They weren’t even halfway there when Kaylee came running towards them. “Oh good, I was just comin’ to look for the both o’ you. Inara’s on the Cortex, says she got hold of River’s whereabouts!”

Without ever breaking stride, Simon walked right past the crew quarters and to the bridge. Mal followed suit. He wasn’t sure what would have happened if Kaylee hadn’t come to warn them. Half of him wanted to kick something out of frustration for the interruption, but the other half was grateful for it. Besides, there were more important matters to see to right now.

As he stepped onto the bridge, he noticed that everyone was already there – even Cara. He smiled fleetingly at Inara’s face on the Cortex screen.

“Hi Mal,” she greeted, flashing him a smile that immediately faded and made way for a slightly worried frown. “You look flushed, are you alright?”

“Fine,” Mal said, maybe just a little too quickly. “I’m fine, I just had to cross the whole gorram ship is all. So, what did you find out?”

“From what I’ve gathered, River is being quarantined in a highly guarded secret facility on Londinium. I haven’t been able to discover much more than that, but they apparently didn’t want to risk sending her back to the Academy after Simon’s assisting in her escape.”

Mal glanced at Simon, who was staring at Inara with a mixture of dejection and despair. Mal knew that he had hoped that his knowledge of the Academy’s layout and security systems would be of use. Instead, they’d have to land on the most heavily secured planet in the galaxy, carrying a fugitive and a kidnapped child, and gain access to a secret facility without having any idea what it even looked like.

“Did you find out anything else?” Simon said in a strained voice.

“I’m afraid not. I’ll keep looking though – but I’m sure that River is fine, Simon,” Inara answered with a comforting smile. “They wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of finding and capturing her if they meant to truly harm her.” Simon nodded quietly, but it was clear that he was thinking the same thing Mal was thinking. You mean any more than they already did?

Kaylee was just staring at her friend in awe. “How d’you manage to find this stuff out, ‘Nara?” she asked curiously.

Inara just smiled mysteriously. “I have my sources. Now, I really must be going.” She was all manner of collected and calm, but Mal knew that she simply didn’t think that Kaylee would want to know how she got her intel. Hell, Mal didn’t even want to know. All it would make him do, was that he’d want to kill all those sources she had ‘acquired’.

“You’ll let us know if you find out anything more?” he asked.

“Of course. I’ll be in touch.”

“Stay outta trouble,” Wash grinned at her before closing the connection. Without wasting time, he started pushing buttons and punching in numbers. “We’re pretty far out, still on the Rim. If we set course now and burn hard enough, we can get to the Core in a day or seven. Maybe less, but that could fry us.”

Mal nodded. “Seven will be fine. Should give us time to come up with a plan, such as it may be. Zoe, get in touch with Badger, tell him we’re sorry for kidnapping his offspring, and that we’re all manner of occupied right now; but that we’ll drop her off soon enough as long as he promises not to kill us.” Zoe raised an eyebrow. Mal paused for a moment, then added, “But, you know, politely. Don’t say it like that.”

“Got it, sir,” Zoe said simply, and sat down next to Wash, hoisting Cara on her lap.

Mal turned to his young mechanic. “Kaylee, think you can swing an upgrade so we can shave off some time in gettin’ to Londinium?”

Kaylee furrowed her brow. “Y’know Cap’n, I can’t keep riggin’ up Serenity without any extra parts. I ain’t no magician!” she said, seemingly insulted that Mal was asking Serenity to do even more than she already did. Off Mal’s look, she raised her hands and added, “But, sure, no problem. Consider it done.” She flashed her captain a brilliant smile before skidding to the engine room.

“Right, I want the rest o’you in the common room. We need a plan,” Mal finished briskly, before he stepped off the bridge with Book, Simon and Jayne in his wake.


“Bye now, darling. Be a good girl!” Badger said as Cara waved at her father on the screen and slid off Zoe’s lap. Badger smiled until she had padded out of the room; then his face fell and he glared furiously at Wash and Zoe.

“Where is that no good Captain Reynolds o’ yours?” Badger barked at the both of them. Wash was pretty relieved that they were safely separated from the guy by lots and lots of space, because Badger looked like he was willing to shoot at the Cortex screen in the hopes that the bullets would hit Zoe and him.

Zoe stared at Badger. “He’s busy. We know things haven’t gone as planned, but we’re planning to bring Cara over as soon as we can make it to Persephone,” Zoe said serenely. Wash never ceased to be amazed by his wife’s ability to be a picture of calm while people wanted to riddle her with holes.

Badger’s eyes shot daggers at her. “As soon as you can make it? Do you know who you’re dealing with, lady?” he said through gritted teeth. The sentence was followed by a string of Chinese and English curses that made very clear why Badger had kept his temper in check until his daughter had left the room.

Zoe and Wash waited patiently until Badger had used up all the curse words he knew and had calmed down somewhat. Then Zoe attempted to arrange a rendezvous as soon as they’d dock at Eavesdown, and closed the connection before Badger could go into another temper tantrum.

Wash blew out a breath. “Whew. That man has a awful colorful vocabulary,” he said, leaning back and stretching in his seat.

Zoe smiled at him. “Well, as long as that’s all. Words are something we can handle.”

“Speaking of,” Wash said, punching in some more coordinates, “Our course is all set. We should go to the galley, shouldn’t we? Find out what brilliant scheme Mal’s cooking up to get us all killed?” Zoe grinned and nodded before following her husband to the common room.


“I don’t see what’s wrong with jus’ taking one of them high ranked hwoon dahns hostage an’ shooting everyone we meet until they lead us to River!” Jayne said loudly, banging his fist on the table. Honestly, it didn’t seem like all that bad a plan. He’d even come up with the hostage thing, which sounded right smart if you asked him.

Mal groaned. “Only that you wouldn’t even make it inside the ruttin’ building without being shot to little bitty pieces. These Alliance mongrels would just as soon shoot you as—”

“Badger would?” Zoe finished his sentence, as she and Wash walked into the mess.

Mal turned around. “You talked to Badger? What did he say?”

Wash grimaced. “We didn’t catch all of it, some of it might have been him speaking in tongues,” he said as he grabbed a seat and sat down next to Book.

“I believe it had something to do with feeding our livers to his dogs, Sir.” Zoe smiled as she sat down next to her husband. “I told Badger that we’ll drop off Cara as soon as we have the chance.”

“Great,” Mal sighed. “One more thing to deal with. We’ll be lucky to even land on Persephone without Badger sending every Fed and thug in the ‘Verse after us…”

“Hey, we was talkin ‘bout River, remember? Don’t go changin’ the subject!” Jayne interrupted. Mal glared at him angrily, but he couldn’t care less right now. Mal might be the Captain, but they were all tryin’ to find a plan, weren’t they? They should be focused on that instead of Badger and his lowlife pond scum.

Jayne wasn’t really sure why he cared so much. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the Doc wasn’t saying a gorram thing. She was his ruttin’ sister and he wasn’t sayin’ a word. All he was doin’ was staring at the tabletop like it was the second coming. How was that gonna help his sister?

“We’re getting to that, Jayne,” Mal said calmly, setting his hands on the table and frowning at him.

“Yeah well, someone’s gotta come up with a plan or some such,” Jayne growled, giving the Doc an intent look. Simon looked up, his eyes focusing on Jayne’s. He looked confused, sad and tired all at once, and Jayne almost felt bad for getting testy. Almost.

Simon rubbed his temples with a sigh, and pushed back his chair, ready to leave the room. Jayne noticed how Mal was giving him a glare that made him somewhat grateful that looks couldn’t kill. Jayne sighed and got up before Simon had a chance. “Don’t bother,” he said, and left the room before anyone could stop him.




Friday, March 24, 2006 5:37 AM


This isn't Broke back mountain Buddy. Mal was my chilhood Idle. Way to that 4 me D---wad

Friday, March 24, 2006 5:38 AM


This isn't Broke back mountain Buddy. Mal was my chilhood Idle. Way to ruin that 4 me D---wad

Friday, March 24, 2006 10:44 AM


Poor Jayne getting in quite a state over River. I'm surprised the others aren't firing off plans, even bad ones, and having Simon so silent just doesn't seem like him at all. At the least he should be ranting and raving or spouting some cunningly smart plan that hopefully doesn't involve dying first to pull it off. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, March 24, 2006 12:54 PM


You had me until the whole Simon/Mal thing. Just isn't consistant with the make up of the characters. At least not Mal's


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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…