BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

TAMSIBLING

Forward Motion - Part 7
Friday, April 21, 2006

Mal, Zoe and Jayne go on the job and River's mind takes a sickening turn. Simon tries to comfort his sister, but soon discovers he can't.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1501    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Simon rounded the corner back into the infirmary feeling a hundred percent better after having finally managed to choke down some food. Kaylee tried to make their protein supplements as palatable as possible and Simon knew she had tried extra hard today in an effort to entice him to eat. And it had worked.

With one foot over the threshold and the other in mid-stride, Simon froze as he took in the sight before him. River was sitting up on the exam table, her arms crossed over her chest and her thin nightgown stained with blood. She was crying and whimpering all at once and Simon’s heart leapt into his throat at the sound and the sight.

“Mei mei, what have you done,” he asked quietly, moving forward and gently dabbing at her wounded flesh with a piece of gauze.

Her eyes met his, a wild and feral look making them larger than normal. It was the look of fear that Simon had seen in his sister all too often since he’d rescued her from that place. Biting back his anger and replacing it with concern, Simon continued to tend to her wounds. He moved to get more bandages when her hand reached out and grabbed his forearm, holding it firm in an iron grip.

“I didn’t mean to, Simon. I didn’t. Please, believe me,” her voice was a rasp and her eyes pleaded with him to understand.

“Do what, River,” Simon asked, brushing her hair back behind her ears. Taking her cheeks in his hands, he questioned, “What did you do?”

River stared into his face for a moment more and then collapsed into his chest, sobbing. Her body shook with the ferocity of her wailing and Simon wrapped his arms around her. He would give anything to keep her safe, to make it so she would never again feel pain, never again be afraid. He had thought when he broke her out of that prison the real struggle would be over. He’d had no idea it would only be beginning.

“I’m sorry,” she wailed, her hands clutching at his shirt tightly. “I’m sorry,” she murmured over and over again as Simon continued to try and calm her.

“Simon, you forgot to –"

Kaylee stopped, frozen in the door to the infirmary as she took in the sight before her. River’s pained wailing and Simon’s hurt expression stopped her heart in her chest, her smile melting into the floor. River wasn’t getting better, and as Simon’s eyes met Kaylee’s over the top of his sister’s head, she saw that it was slowly killing him to watch her deteriorate.

That made Kaylee’s heart break even more. She loved Simon with every fiber of her being and that meant she loved River just as fiercely as if the girl were her own family. But Kaylee honestly didn’t know how much either Tam could survive. They had both been through so much already and although Kaylee would gladly die to help them, she didn’t think there was a power in the ‘verse that could make River well again.

Kaylee hesitated in the doorway as Simon continued to hold her gaze. Finally, he let his eyes drop back to this sister’s shaking form, and he placed gentle kisses on the top of her head, whispering comforting words to her as he continued to hold her.

Kaylee didn’t know what the right thing to do was, but she knew what she wanted to do. Without waiting a second more, Kaylee walked towards the two of them and wrapped her arms around them both, leaning her head against Simon’s shoulder, while stroking River’s silky hair. Simon’s love for his sister had gotten them this far. Maybe with a little more love and compassion she could help him help River. She had to try.

She felt Simon sigh lightly as she nestled her cheek against his upper arm and then a moment later, heard him whisper, “Thank you.”

She looked up at him then, not surprised to see his bright blue eyes staring at her. Placing a light kiss on his cheek, she resettled herself against him and tightened her hold on both of them.

***

“All right, then. I think we got a deal.” Mal shook Harris’ offered hand firmly and smiled again at the smoothness with which this entire negotiation had gone down.

“We do indeed,” Harris agreed, releasing Mal’s hand and clapping him on the back as he steered him towards the door. “My men’ll bring the cargo by first thing in the morning.”

Mal nodded once and then looked back at his older friend’s weathered face and the scraggly mustache sitting atop his lip. “You know, you really should get rid of that bushy thing,” he teased.

Harris playfully pushed him out the door and yelled, “Flattery will get you no where, Mal Reynolds.”

“See ya, Harris,” Mal waved over his shoulder as he, Zoe and Jayne resituated themselves in the mule.

“See ya, boy,” Harris muttered as he watched the vehicle speed off towards the town’s docks. Turning back into the darkened bar, he motioned for own his man to come forward. “Is it done?”

The other man nodded and said, “They’re in position now and expect to have the boy within the next ten minutes.”

“Good,” Harris nodded, closing his eyes against the headache that had been forming behind them. “The sooner the better.”

***

Inara would never know what made her come out of the shuttle at that exact moment. She had been taking a quick inventory of first shuttle one and then her old shuttle, trying to determine if the crew was really as bad off as they said. After wading through half a dozen empty food crates and supply chests, she had deduced they were.

Maybe it was the thought that Mal would be returning soon, or maybe the notion that she should go and check in on River. Or maybe it was the inkling in the back of her mind that all hell was about to break loose. She would never know.

As she pulled the shuttle’s door back, Inara stopped abruptly as a hand came out and connected with her face. Knocking her out cold, Inara slumped to the cold floor as her assailant again slammed the heavy door closed and stalked off after his intended prey.

***

“Kaylee, you should go do your work,” Simon told her, the girl still leaning against his side. River had finally worn herself out enough to drift back to sleep, but neither he nor Kaylee was ready to let go.

“Yeah, and I’m thinkin’ maybe I should stay right here,” she told him, her fingers still running absentmindedly through River’s hair.

A loud noise from the direction of the cargo bay startled them both. Glancing to Simon, her eyes filled with a glimmer of fear, Kaylee asked, “What’da you suppose that was?”

“I don’t know, bao bei,” he told her, shifting River’s weight so she was leaning back against the bed. “You stay here with River. I’ll go check and make sure everything’s all right.”

“Simon,” Kaylee said, her hand gripping his as an unexpected unease washed over her.

“It’s fine,” he told her, smiling slightly in her direction and brushing a light kiss across her lips. “It’s probably just the captain and everyone getting back. You know Jayne has all the grace of a hippo.”

Kaylee smiled at his comment and nodded once, watching him leave the room. Turning back to River’s sleeping form, Kaylee sat next to the girl’s side and took her hand. “All right now, River. It’s time for us to make you better.”

***

Simon barely had time to register the two burly and unfamiliar men who were working their way towards the infirmary. At the sight of them, his heart immediately starting pounding with an unaccustomed fierceness, his muscles tightening as adrenaline flowed through his system. And if he’d seen the third man, waiting for him to turn his back, he might have had a chance.

“Kay-" His cry was strangled as the unseen attacker clubbed him over the back of the head with something heavy. Simon’s last conscious thought as he fell unceremoniously against the floor was praying that his sister and his girlfriend would not be hurt.

***

Kaylee heard Simon’s stifled voice and immediately tensed at the sound. Something was definitely not right. Bolting from the room, Kaylee sprinted towards the cargo bay, yelling, “Simon!”

She saw the three men as she entered the room and she saw Simon’s crumpled form on the floor at their feet. Stifling a sob, Kaylee reached for him, screaming, “Simon!”

“Well, well,” one of the men said, approaching her with a lewd look in his eyes. “What have we –"

“Monk, we got no time,” one of his partners said, gesturing a hand out the open bay doors. The sight of an approaching dust cloud could be seen and even through eyes blurred with tears, Kaylee knew it was the mule approaching.

“Too bad,” Monk said, and with no warning, he threw a punch at Kaylee’s jaw, connecting squarely with her more delicate features. She dropped like a rock to the decking as the three men gathered their bounty and headed off the ship.

***

“Damn!” Mal saw the other hover craft speed away from his ship as they approached. At such a distance he couldn’t be sure of what, if anything, they had snatched, but he knew he didn’t like the look of the entire situation.

“Zoe,” he called, and heard as she revved the engine, closing the gap between them and Serenity that much quicker. The mule had barely skidded to a halt before both Mal and Jayne were jumping down to the deck, surveying the scene in front of them.

Eyes adjusting to the darker interior, Mal saw a small lump of limbs lying back towards the back of the bay and his heart leapt to his throat. Reaching the form in a few quick strides, Mal leaned down and pressed two fingers against Kaylee’s throat; thank God, she was still breathing and she still had a heart beat. Mal turned her onto her back and saw the start of a nasty bruise along her lower jaw.

Cursing a string of violent Chinese, Mal gestured over his shoulder at Zoe. “Go check on River and the doc,” he ordered and his second in command nodded once, her sawed off shotgun at the ready as she worked her way towards the infirmary.

“Jayne, stay with Kaylee,” Mal ordered, turning on his heel and taking the stairs two at a time. If anything had happened to Inara … he couldn’t even finish the thought.

He didn’t know what made him look in her old shuttle first. Maybe it was just habit, but as he swung the door back and saw her crumpled form against the deck plates, he felt his heart sink like a stone in his chest.

Holstering his gun, he knelt at her side. Her eyelids were fluttering ever so slightly, telling him she was close to waking. Placing strong arms underneath her shoulders, Mal cradled her against his chest as she came too. Like Kaylee, she would also have a particularly violent bruise along one side of her beautiful face.

“Mal,” she whispered, her voice harsh as she came back to consciousness.

“Shh, ‘Nara, it’s all right,” he told her, silently thanking merciful Buddha that she was all right, that he hadn’t been too late. “Do you remember what happened?”

She was about to tell him she couldn’t remember much of anything, when Zoe’s voice in the doorway startled them both.

“We gotta problem, sir,” she told him stoically, her features betraying nothing. “Simon’s missing.”

Before Mal could register the implications behind such a statement, an anguished wail reached them from below. Squinting his eyes against the pain he heard in that sound, his stomach lurched in his gut. If lil’ albatross was hollering like that, then things were indeed grim.

***

Mal helped Inara down the stairs towards the infirmary, Zoe already on the lowest level waiting for them impatiently. Inara had tried to insist he go on without her, but he wouldn’t hear of it. There was no way he was letting go of her that easily, not when something much worse could have happened.

Jayne stormed into the cargo bay as Mal and Inara dropped off the last step. He was seething but whether it was because of River’s screaming or Simon’s ineptitude, Mal couldn’t discern. “Gorramit Mal, how’s that fancy pants always managing to get ‘napped?”

Mal grimaced as he and Zoe supported Inara. “I don’t know, Jayne. How is it you always end up shootin’ at something?”

Jayne didn’t answer, but instead stormed past the trio in a huff. Mal ignored the merc as he rounded the corner into the infirmary.

The sight before his eyes made his heart flutter in his chest. Kaylee was holding River’s shaking form, the younger girl having bolted off the table and wedged herself into a far corner of the room. Still hollering at regular intervals, Kaylee just held her tightly, shutting her eyes against her pain, her own tears spilling down her cheeks.

At Mal’s entrance, Kaylee turned her tear-stained face to him and asked shakily, “What are we gonna do about Simon?”

“I don’t yet, lil’ Kaylee,” Mal told her, making sure Zoe was supporting all of Inara’s weight before he approached his mechanic. Kneeling before her, he rested a gentle hand on her shoulder and River’s as he said, “But I aim to get him back in one piece.”

Kaylee gave him a slight nod and then turned back to River, resting her cheek against the top of her head as they both cried. Mal watched them for a moment more, his concern for them quickly boiling into anger at whoever had taken his medic.

Rising, he headed out of the room, barking orders, “Zoe, get Jayne. I want the two of you to secure the ship and then get us up in the air.”

“Capt’n,” came the cry from Kaylee, a fearful tone in her voice.

Turning back to her, Mal said, “It ain’t safe for us on the ground. In atmo we’ll have a lot more maneuverability.” Mal could tell as her eyes widened that the girl was not convinced. Softening his expression, he told her, “I ain’t leaving with out him, mei mei. I promise.”

Mal caught Inara’s eye and saw that they were swelling with her own tears. Reaching out a hand to her, she took it gently and he squeezed her fingers just a bit. “I’ll stay with them,” she said, making it unnecessary for him to ask. “Go save the day.”

Mal grinned tightly, dropping her hand and heading for the bridge.

He called up the channel quickly and blasted out the wave. Jayne made it onto the bridge just as the signal was connecting with its receiver. “We’re locked up tight, Mal,” he told him, standing slightly behind the pilot’s chair, his arms crossed over his chest and Vera slung over his back.

“Good,” Mal said, turning slightly to meet his eye. Giving him a good look up and down, he said, “Good, now just stand there and look,” Mal stopped uncertain of how to tell the man to look any more frightening than he already did. Shrugging, Mal turned back to the screen as the image flickered to life and instructed, “Just stand there.”

Zoe entered the bridge as Harris’ face resolved onto the screen. Grimacing at the sight of the man who had more than likely betrayed them, she quickly took a seat in the co-pilot’s chair and readied the ship for take-off.

“Mal, I’m surprised to see your ugly mug so soon.” Harris’ tone was jovial, casual even and it made Mal seethe with more anger.

“Not so much when you got somethin’ o’ mine,” Mal retorted, his voice holding a deadly edge. “Where’s my medic?”

Harris knit his eyebrows together and frowned, doing a very good impression of clueless. Mal wasn’t about to tolerate it. “Knock it off, Harris,” he warned, inching closer to the screen so his face would fill the entire frame. “Where. Is. My. Medic,” he bit out again.

Harris shrugged slightly and told him simply, “I don’t know. That wasn’t part of the deal.”

“Gorramit, I thought we were friends,” Mal said angrily, slamming his hand down on the console in front of him.

“Can’t afford friends all the way out here, Malcolm,” Harris chided him, tsking softly. “You know that. The guy next to you’s only as good as what he can get ya. You, you’re pretty much good for nothin’.”

Mal took the man’s insults in stride, not caring so much about his own well-being at the moment; he only cared about getting Simon back so Kaylee, River and Inara would stop crying. “Where is he?”

Harris shrugged again and said, “How should I know? When men in dark suits come knockin’, you’re well advised to do what they say. As you should have,” Harris growled the last bit, turning fiery eyes on Mal. Eyes that held no regret, no remorse. Mal wished he could have learned, years ago, how to harden his heart like that. It would have made his life a hell of a lot simpler, but not nearly as interesting.

Searching for an appropriate retort, Mal flipped off the channel with disgust as none came. There was no point in talking to the man further anyway. He wasn’t going to tell them anymore; chances are he didn’t know anymore. Harris was right about one thing – when the money was good, you didn’t ask questions.

Mal felt the ship rise off the ground slightly and turned to see Zoe coaxing her into the air. “Jayne, stay here with, Zo and stay alert,” Mal instructed, walking off the bridge and back to the infirmary.

Things hadn’t improved much in the time he’d been gone. Kaylee was still holding River’s trembling form and Inara now held Kaylee, the girl’s face still buried in River’s hair, while Inara’s cheek rested on the crown of Kaylee’s honey brown head. And all three of them were crying.

“Ahem.”

At the sound of Mal’s throat clearing, only Inara turned to look at him. Her tears, which had been swimming in her eyes before had started to fall, leaving trails of eye makeup running down her cheeks. The sadness that her face conveyed ripped at his chest and he was glad Kaylee hadn’t turned to look at him as well. He didn’t know if he could take a similar look from his mechanic right now.

Inara quietly extricated herself from Kaylee, whispering a few reassurances to her, before kissing her lightly on top of the head. Meeting Mal in the doorway to the infirmary, he wrapped an arm around her waist and led her out into the common room. Once they were alone, Inara let her head rest against his chest and Mal slid his arms up and around her back, cradling her against him.

“Where is he,” she asked quietly, her voice still ragged from crying.

“I’m not sure, but I’m guessing Alliance,” Mal told her, his chin resting on top of her head. “Prolly the same guys that tried to snatch us at Badger’s a few weeks ago.”

Inara nodded, but didn’t say anything else. After a few moments, she lifted her head to take in the sight of River and Kaylee through the open door. Both girls had stopped crying now and sat, intertwined in a still silence. It was eerie and heartbreaking and fresh tears started down Inara’s face.

“Mal, we have to get him back,” Inara told him earnestly, again turning her tearstained face to him.

Mal reached down and gently wiped her cheeks with his thumb, brushing away the tear and makeup stains. Kissing her gently, he tried to put as much reassurance and care into the gesture as he could. Pulling away, he held her close again and said, “I know, bao bei. I know.”

Inara stayed still against him for a few moments, before straightening up. Throwing back her shoulders and taking a deep breath, when she turned her eyes back on him, they were a hundred percent more alert and sure than they had been only moments before. “I’m going to head back in there,” she told him, gesturing back to the med bay. “I don’t want Kaylee or River to be alone.”

Mal nodded once, marveling at the strength she possessed. Sitting there with both girls in such a state was going to take a horrible toll on her, but she did it with no reservations because Kaylee was her friend and River was in pain and they were both part of her family. This is what she did – she cared for her family.

Mal brushed his lips against her cheek and whispered, “I’m gonna go find the doc. I’ll send Zoe down in a bit to check on you. Do you need anything?”

Inara studied the two girls and then looked back to Mal. “Maybe some food. I don’t think River or Kaylee will eat, but I’m going to have to try, they’ve got to keep their strength up.”

Mal nodded once and said, “I’ll get Jayne to-“ At Inara’s expression, he reconsidered, “I’ll ask Zoe to take care of it for you.”

Inara smiled slightly and the expression brought a lightness to his heart he’d feared he’d never feel again. “Thank you.”

Turning on her heel and taking one more deep breath, Inara strode back into the infirmary, hoping she could be the steady and compassionate friend both girls needed right now.

Mal didn’t like to see any of his people in pain, not even Jayne. But to see Kaylee, Inara and River so wrecked made his gut churn with a sickening force. He’d get Simon back, if only to stop their sadness. If only to get a flash of one of Kaylee’s bright smiles.

COMMENTS

Friday, April 21, 2006 3:27 PM

LEIASKY


Oh GOD, the comment about Jayne having the grace of a hippo! bwahahahaha I half expected Kaylee to go..'a what?'. That was great.

And - GAH, Simon got snatched. And not River! Well, I suppose they didn't have time to grab her.

Ohh, I hope this bodes for lots of angst!

Friday, April 21, 2006 8:29 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Damn...I can't imagine how Mal would have taken a triple threat from Inara, Kaylee and River all looking like beaten puppies at him, let along both Inara and Kaylee:(

And Simon got snatched....bait for River? Something more insidious from the Academy? Can't wait to find out;)

BEB

Friday, April 21, 2006 8:48 PM

AMDOBELL


This was very good but how come River had nothing to say? Not even a word of warning? Feels all manner of wrong especially with Simon being her much adored brother. I'm thinking once they get Simon back they should pay Harris a little visit, just so that worthless piece of *goushi* can get the full meaning of betrayal. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, April 21, 2006 11:24 PM

LEIGHKOHL


This was great! Oh no for Simon, and poor River and Kaylee! I hope the snatchers haven't harmed him yet!:( Can't wait for your next post!

Thursday, June 8, 2006 8:13 AM

RIVERISMYGODDESS


This should have set off warning bells in his head:

*Mal shook Harris’ offered hand firmly and smiled again at the smoothness with which this entire negotiation had gone down.*

Time for someone to get hurt, hittin' girls ain't right.

Very good Jayne description:

*Mal stopped uncertain of how to tell the man to look any more frightening than he already did*


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