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Angus: A Firefly FanFic


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So, I found this recently, a story I'd written years ago (I don't have a time stamp on it, but it was at least 5-6 years, probably closer to 10 years) with a Jayne/River relationship. I'm not even rereading this before I post it because I'm curious to see how my writing from then is received. It's obviously unfinished, but I may go back and complete it if people like it. Here goes nothing!

Jayne, wise beyond his years when it came to runnin’ away, told her not to leave a note, or tell anyone.  Jus’ cause trouble later, it would.  Better if they just disappeared.  Better yet if they killed them all ‘fore they left, but even he couldn’t that now, so it was best if they just left, didn’t tell no one where they was goin’.  Moonbrain couldn’t bear to leave her brother to suffer, though, so she’d gone and left a gorram letter.  Fortunately, she didn’t tell ‘em where they was goin, but Jayne knew that letter’d come back to bite ‘em in the pi gu.  Didn’t matter now, though.  They was gone and that was that.  Others decided to come hunt them down, well, they’d face that trouble when it happened.  And Jayne knew it would.  Jus’ have to keep an eye to the black, wait for that shiny little Firefly to come after them, comin’ to reclaim what they thought was theirs.  Only it weren’t anymore, she weren’t anymore.  She’d left all on her own, and she wasn’t lookin’ to go back, so if they came lookin’ for her, they’d have to learn to be disappointed.


The front doors of the bank slammed open hard, the security guards down before they had a chance to draw their weapons.  One, two, three quick shots in succession disabled the security cameras hidden in the vidscreens, and the masked robbers vaulted over the teller’s cages with practiced ease.  Normally the cages would’ve locked down the moment any one of the tellers hit the panic button, or if the power had been cut, but the robbers had chosen a perfect day to strike: the cages were being replaced, and while extra security had been hired to prevent any trouble, they found that they were unable to leave their monitoring room when the feeds were cut, due to mechanical trouble with the lock.  Perhaps the fact that there were shotgun pellets embedded in the lock from the other side had something to do with that fact.

Lowering themselves into the cages with two frightened tellers in the way, they quickly dispatched the unfortunate employees with swift blows to the backs of their heads, and the smaller of the two reached over and punched a code into the keyboard there, almost faster than anyone could have seen.  Behind them, the vault doors swung open, and the bandits quickly pulled bags from under their clothing and set to work filling them.  Working quietly and methodically, they filled both bags and turned to go.  They tossed the bags over the top of the cages, leaped up and over to follow, then dropped down beside them and turned to the door.  A dark shadow filled the doorway, giving both bandits a moment’s pause.  Then, reaching for their weapons, each tried to fire, only to have the weapons ripped from their hands by even quicker shots from the side.  They looked over in horror at the woman staring down the barrel of a smoking pistol, her head cocked sideways at an odd angle as she considered the pair.

“Westin brothers, 22 and 24 years old, each bound by law three times, wanted for crimes on 26 planets and 73 jurisdictions.  Scouted out this bank for three days, set up the perfect heist, and forgot to wear deodorant this morning.”  Her nose wrinkled.  “Considering the circumstances, however, not your biggest mistake."

The man in the doorway grinned big.  “Nope, your biggest mistake was tryin’ to pull off a heist like this in Sheriff Cobb’s town.  Now, how about’s ya’ll just drop them bags and we’ll cart you off to jail without any fuss.  Much as I’d like to use this here big gun,” producing a large caliber pistol with an impressive looking grenade launched hooked to the bottom, “I think the bank’d cause a fuss if we mussed it up any more.”  He winked at the two, a decidedly unnerving gesture, and motioned with his pistol for them to drop the bags.  Glancing at each other, the pair of bandits shrugged, dropped the bags, and whipped out two small pistols each, bringing them to bear on the lawman and the strange woman, whoever she was.  Except she wasn’t there anymore.

River Cobb’s foot whipped into the side of Carl Westin’s head, snapping him out of consciousness as his brother whirled to face his assailant.  Seconds later, Brock Westin joined his brother on the floor, their weapons quickly removed from them and tossed over to the sheriff, who looked them over quickly before deciding they weren’t worth adding to his arsenal.  Shrugging, he dropped them into a bag and produced two pairs of handcuffs from his back pocket, securing the men’s hands behind their backs.  As River searched them for additional weapons, finding two knives and an additional pistol each, Sheriff Jayne Cobb pulled out a small vidscreen and checked on the names River had given to the two men.  Sure ‘nough, there they were: Brock and Carl Westin, wanted dead or alive with a reward of 10,000 platinum each.  He grinned.  “Looks like crime can pay both ways, moonbrain.  Good call on stoppin’ this here robbery.”

River looked up and smiled at him, the look stirring up all kinds of emotions within him.  “I calculated a 73% probability of us catching them without any serious fighting, and 98% probability of avoiding injury for either of us or them.  They managed to sneak into the 2%.  I wonder if they enjoy being lucky?”  Jayne snorted.  She got better all the time, yet sometimes she still came across a bit fong luh.  Not that he minded, really.  Provided all sorts of entertainment for him, and usually managed to be some sort of smart comment anyways, genius that she was.  This time at least he could understand it, and it was all sorts of amusing.

“Let’s jus’ git ‘em down to the station, darlin’, then we can ask ‘em all about it.”  Picking up the pair without any visible effort, he left River to carry the two bags of gold back to the cart.  They’d keep it in the station as evidence for a day or so, then take back to the bank where it’d likely sit in the vault until the next robbery attempt.  Of course, none of those attempts had been successful in the five years that Jayne Cobb had been sheriff, and no one doubted why that was.  Fact of the matter was, nothing got past him in this town, and no one was a faster draw than him, except for Mrs. Cobb.  She was something else too, everyone said, but no one could quite say what it was that made them all move to the other side of the street when she passed by.  There was something unnerving about her, but she’d never hurt anyone in the town except those who tried to get away with some crime, and even then she’d only rarely killed, and only when it was her or them.  The little town of Angus had been a lot more peaceful since Jayne Cobb had come to town, and those who’d known him previously would’ve rolled their eyes in disbelief had they been told, but the townspeople of Angus practically worshipped him.  Of course, he was happy bringin’ in the reward money from the major criminals that had decided knocking over a bank or a casino in his territory would be a crowning jewel for their reputation, so he wasn’t exactly out to right that notion.  Fact of the matter was, Jayne was quite satisfied with settlin’ down the way he had.

Still kept his eye to the black though.  Knew they’d be comin’, jus’ didn’ know when.

Malcolm Reynolds stood at the doorway to the bridge of his ship.  No need to be piloting her right now, didn’t need to do anything but sit and watch the stars in the black, the peaceful display.  Just sit and watch...

Somewhere on one of the planets between the stars, though of course much closer than the pretty little dots against the dark, was his albatross.  Despite the note, no one on board truly believed that she’d left entirely of her own accord.  Everyone, especially her brother, believed that Jayne had either coerced her or force her to go, though they were all a bit fuzzy on how exactly he’d have managed that.

She hadn’t seemed to have any difficulty dispatching him when he tried sneaking her off in a shuttle before.  She’d filled them in on the events that transpired there during one of their reminiscing sessions after leaving Mr. Universe’s Moon, rather gleefully in fact, as Jayne sat and grumbled at them getting a laugh at his expense.  Fortunately for him, they’d not held it against him too much, considering the result.

Right now, however, Mal wasn’t really thinking much about his albatross.  Nor was he thinking overly hard about the stars.  Instead, he was simply listening to Serenity.  Not like Kaylee did, of course; the girl could hear a failing piece of equipment from the opposite side of the ship.  No, he simply heard Serenity’s voice, and right now, she was happy.  A bit incomplete, possibly, as two of her crew that still lived were missing and two others would be sorely missed forever.  Still, Serenity was happy.

Mal was content with that, and the fact that they were on their way to get a little more coin in his pocket had the potential to make him downright happy.  Keeping that at bay was the thought of River taken back to the Alliance, or being kept prisoner by Jayne on some backwater moon.  For some reason, however, Mal could never quite believe that Jayne could or would do that.  The rest of the crew might be convinced, but Mal’d seen the look on Jayne’s face when the blast doors had opened to reveal the deadliest figure any of them had ever seen, even after facing down a room full of Reavers.

Nope, that boy was hooked.  He might not love River, Mal wasn’t even sure the mercenary was capable of it, but he sure did respect her, and a healthy dose of fear likely, considering she knew as well as he did what the big merc had tried to do on Ariel and after his dose of liquid courage onboard Serenity with the Operative after them.

Nope, he reckoned Jayne’d won her fair and square.  Mal just wanted to punch him in the nose for leaving and takin’ her with him.  Then they could sit around and have a few drinks like men, no need for killin’ like Simon or Zoe was wont to do were they to see Jayne again.  He just hoped he could restrain the two of them somewhat if it came down to it.

Nope, no need for killin’ those that didn’t deserve it, or weren’t trying to kill him at least.

Up on the console, a light beeped, indicating an incoming wave.  Calling Zoe and Inara up onto the bridge to observe, Mal leaned over the wave screen and brought up the feed.

“Sir Warrick!  Good to hear from you again.  Got word you might have another job for us?”

Sir Warrick looked as fat and happy as ever, still wearing his sash as he peered intently at the screen.  Mal hadn’t truly expected to get a wave from him, well, ever, considering he hadn’t given him his wave code, but he supposed the man had contacts as all rich men do.  Another job was always a good thing, though he supposed he would prefer smaller cargo this time.

“I certainly do, if you will be traveling to Persephone sometime in the next few weeks.  Although, I regret to inform you that I will not be delivering the message to you at a fancy dress party or a duel this time, exciting as that may be.”

Nodding at the screen, Mal replied quickly.  “We might be passing through your space soon enough, what’re you lookin’ to transfer?  If it’s more bovine, I think we might have to pass this one up.  Running a little lighter crew now, and it took all of us to keep them in line last time.  ‘Side, stunk up my boat somethin’ fierce, which I’d like to avoid for a while longer.”

Sir Warrick didn’t look very amused.  “The cargo is not, in fact, more cattle.  Instead, it is considerably smaller, though no less troublesome to place in the hands of those who could use it.  I doubt you would be much surprised to hear that I deal in more than simply livestock and fertilizer.”   Mal’s eye twitched a bit at the mention of that last item.  Good thing he’d skipped over that job.  “I would prefer to discuss the details with you in person, however.  Perhaps you could come pay a visit to me personally this time, instead of mixing in at the local ball.  Atherton Wing has been disgraced, but since you left him alive, I doubt it would be safe for you to wander in there again.  He may not wait until dawn to kill you this time.”

“Huh, so the old bu hui hen de hun dan (remorseless bastard) is still fixing up all dandy and pickin’ fights?  Suppose I would rather steer clear of a sword fight this time, those pointy ends hurt like niu shi (cow dung).”

Frowning at the Captain’s language a bit, Sir Warrick seemed to accept it and simply sighed a bit.  “Very well, I shall send you the coordinates now.  Please send me a message when you near the planet, and I shall ensure that Mr. Wing is not informed of your arrival.”

Mal cocked an eyebrow at him.  “You can do that?  You need to?  Alright, will do.  We’ll be there in about three day’s time.”  Hesitating, he went on in a bit of a rush.  “By the way, were you to hear any mention of a man named Jayne Cobb or a girl named River, we’d pay you gladly for the information.  At least, if we got coin at the moment.  If not, might have to agree to take it in trade.”

“Might be able to take you up on that offer, Captain.”  Mal stood up a little straighter at that remark.

“You have word?”

“Only a rumor, but the town where these goods are to be delivered is on Jiangyin.  Just on the other side of the desert is a little town called Angus.  Rumor has it they’ve got a new lawman in town, goes by the name of Cobb.  It appears that he has been doing a fine job, as there have been several foiled robbery attempts in the past few years, including the Westin Brothers just a few weeks ago.  Fetched him a substantial reward from what I understand.  If you deliver the goods on time, perhaps you’ll have time to pay him a visit, see if he’s relation of your Mr. Cobb.”  Mal nearly snorted at the idea of referring to Jayne as Mr. Cobb, but refrained to avoid exasperating Sir Harrow.

“Thank you kindly, Sir Warrick.  Now, how much would such a tidbit cost us, and what’s the rest of the story you haven’t told me yet?”

Sir Warrick actually grinned just slightly.  “Perhaps we should discuss that in person as well.  It seems we shall be able to do business yet again.  I shall see you in three days time.  Farewell, Captain.”

Mal raised an eyebrow again.  “Uh, farewell.”  Before he could make a bigger fool of himself, Sir Warrick mercifully cut the feed.  So Jayne and River on Jiangyin?  Nah, no way would Jayne take up a lawman post.  Couldn’t be tied down like that.  Unless River... nah, not possible. Of course, Mal hadn’t survived out here in the Black by not taking chances.  Of course they would have to check it out, assuming that Warrick Harrow didn’t have more information needed adding to the situation.


“Ok folks, listen up.  We’ve got just over a day before we set down on Persephone again, although we won’t be following our usual plans.  Seems Warrick Harrow wants to keep up separate from the other lowlifes, but isn’t quite up to having us land on his property, so he’s arranged for us to set down on a cattle ranch where the first herd originated, and he’ll provide transportation for us to his mansion.  Kaylee, you’ve already met him and got along alright, as well as Inara, so I’d like the two of you to accompany me, along with Zoe.  Since that would mean Simon would have to watch the boat, which I’m not all that confident in his abilities nor interest, that means we’ll all be taking this particular trek.”

The crew sat gathered around the dining room table, a somewhat less cheerful occasion than it had been at times in the past.  They’d left chairs open for those who would not be returning, and for those who would be welcome to return should they choose.  In between the spaced chairs, Zoe sat alone at one end of the table, while Mal took the other, Inara at his left.  On his right sat Simon and Kaylee, though they left an empty space to either side of them, letting Wash’s seat remain empty next to Zoe and a seat for the Shepherd to Mal’s right.  Jayne and River’s seats remained open on the other side of the table, despite the fact that no one had ever really taken assigned seats before the two of them had decided to slip off on their own. 

“Any questions?  Good.  Now, I want you all to wear whatever finery you have, though Kaylee, I think the layer cake might be a bit overkill for this one.  I’m sure Inara’d be happy to find you something appropriate instead.”

“Aww, Cap’n, but it’s so cute!  And the pink frilly-thingies can match some bows in my hair!”  Inara just rolled her eyes a bit at the over-excited mechanic.

“Mal’s right, Kaylee, it’s a bit overkill just to go see the man at his home.  We can go look through my things in a bit, I think I’ve even got a few things I’ve been meaning to give you.” At the mention of gifts, Kaylee perked up again, all murderous thoughts towards the Captain once again forgotten.  Alright, so she’d never contemplated murder, but she’d rigged up a remote control to his temperature control one afternoon when he’d particularly annoyed her, and she had been considering dropping the temperature down a couple notches just before bed.  She’d never gotten up the nerve to do it in the past, however, and she figured she never would.  Maybe she’d show it to Inara for when Mal pissed her off again, though then she figured he’d never get a night’s rest, which was already a rare occurrence for him.

Simon smiled at her exuberance, but held the restrained look that he’d worn ever since River’s disappearance.  Only in the most private of moments had Kaylee been able to get him to let his guard down, and in one of those moments he had explained that he was back in searching mode.  Just like when he was trying to find out how to break River out of the Academy, he was shutting down all non-beneficial thought patterns and contacts in favor of putting all of his resources into the hunt for his sister.  Kaylee had managed to break him out of it somewhat, but he wasn’t letting go of her that easily, and so he kept the stoic look and she knew his mind was constantly running through all of the possibilities that he could perceive, which were abundant.

Zoe also looked as stoic as ever, but it was a different sort.  She wasn’t looking for anyone, nor anything.  She was there for the job and for Mal, nothing else.  If she succeeded, her Captain would get to live another day and they’ve have their coin.  If not, her husband was waiting for her, and while she wasn’t like to run out and try to join him, it didn’t seem so bad of an ending for her.  She merely nodded to the Captain’s instructions and continued eating as Inara and Kaylee made their way to the former Companion’s shuttle.

Inara’s shuttle was used for jobs mostly now, though they also kept some things stored in it that wouldn’t fit into the bunk she now shared with the Captain.  The few belongings she’d left behind when she left Serenity before were been practically all she owned now, except for a few more practical items of clothing and other such sundries she’d picked up after joining the crew as another petty thief.  Several of her dresses were in that box, however, and she and Kaylee now delightedly picked through them, searching for ones that would fit Kaylee’s small form.  

“Ooh, so pretty, ‘Nara.  You think this one’d fit me?”  Kaylee held up a shimmering red gown, which would hug her curves nicely.  Inara bit her lip for a moment before responding; this dress, like the others in this chest, had been left there because of a special significance.  In this case, it was the one she’d been wearing when Nandi had died in her arms, and she’d tucked it away, unwilling to let it go but unable to bring herself to wear it again.  Releasing her lip again, she mentally let go of the association and smiled back at Kaylee.

“Sure, let’s try it on.  Might have to take it in a little in the back, but that’s hardly a few minutes work.”  Inara had forgiven Mal for what he’d done with Nandi, knowing that it was hypocritical of her to hate him for sleeping with a whore when she’d gone and slept with paying customers many times without any regard for his feelings on the matter.  She hadn’t ever quite let go of Nandi’s death, however, since she had been one of the few friends Inara had left out in the Rim worlds.

Picking up the dress again, Inara left the memory in the trunk and began to help Kaylee with the buttons.

Jayne deposited the Westin brothers in the jail’s holding cell as River began filling out forms and punching in the requests for the bounty.  She’d kept a low profile since Miranda, changing her name to Ryla Cobb, though Jayne never did like it.  He still called her River, pretending it was a nickname he’d given her.  She’d been honing her skills, and was now confident that if anyone came for them, she would sense it in enough time for either an escape or an interception.

The same went for Serenity’s crew.  To tell the truth, she missed them.  Simon, her big boob of a brother, who had finally gotten things right with Kaylee, only to nearly lose her because of his unending obsession with helping his sister.  Mal, her captain and kind of foster parent, who believed in her when no one else could.  Kaylee, with her smile made of sunshine and her never-ending cheerfulness, plus of course her ability to fix anything in sight.  Zoë, Mal’s rock and the voice of reason for the crew, who was broken now too, though not like River was broken.  Inara, Mal’s new lover and sometime friend, who spun him about and kept him lost in the woods, just as he liked it.

Then there was  Serenity, who watched over the crew, once nine and now only five, with loving care.  Even though River was no longer on Serenity, she could also feel the ship’s love from where she sat, worlds apart, feeling it pulse through her veins like it was a part of her.  In a way, it was, just like it was a part of Jayne, though he’d never admit it.

She wasn’t ready to go back, but she missed Serenity.  


Kaylee turned and took a last wistful look at Serenity before entering the small transport that Warrick Harrow had sent for the crew.  She knew her girl would be safe, but it always felt wrong to leave her alone, even just for a little while.  She was sure that Serenity missed her too, and it seemed the ship sighed with relief whenever Kaylee stepped back into the engine room.  Kaylee’s eyes almost misted up a bit as she thought of her girl being left for a couple of hours all alone in a field with only the cows to keep her company, but Simon gave a light tug on her sleeve and she turned and leaned into him as they found their way to the seats that were available for them.

Simon had recovered from River’s departure spectacularly, in her opinion.  By that she meant that he no longer raged around uttering curses towards Jayne and vowing that he would rescue River again, spending nearly every other waking moment on the cortex looking for any sign of the pair.  Not that he truly thought of them as a pair, either, instead choosing to assume that somehow the mercenary had kidnapped his genius and deadly sister and dragged her silently, against her will, away from the ship and safety and into the waiting arms of the Alliance or a bounty hunter of some sort.

Not finding a report that she had been captured eased that fear somewhat, but she knew it still ate at him, not knowing if his sister was all right.

Now, he tended to simply mope around the ship, a glazed over look in his eyes most of the time.  She knew that it’d been longer this time than when River’d been sent to the Academy, so it had to be bugging him that he couldn’t find a “man-ape gone wrong thing” when he’d been able to track down a secret government facility and break his sister out of it.

Kaylee couldn’t help but grin just a bit at the thought that Jayne might actually be smarter than the yu bun duh Alliance docs and military types that had set up that Academy.  She knew that he was smarter than he let on, though his apparently lack of social graces was certainly no act.

It was too complete for that.

Still, she knew that Jayne was incredibly resourceful when faced with a challenge for survival.  If he wanted to hide away from everyone, then gorram it that’s what he’d do, and no one’d be able to track him down except those who knew him best.

Simon seemed to have accepted that fact, and she was grateful that he’d been willing to find his solace and relief in her arms, but she wished she could do more for him still.  All he really needed was to know that River was safe and happy, but she doubted he’d even consider that to be possible if she was still with Jayne.

Kaylee had always chosen to believe the best of people until they proved otherwise, and Jayne was no exception.  Even when he’d been constantly pushing to put Simon and River off the boat or even turn them in, she knew it was just out of a desire to protect the crew.  Well, and himself, of course, but who wouldn’t?

Ok, so he was a bit of a stupid hun dan, but she couldn’t help but feel that he meant the best for River.

Looking up into Simon’s perpetually sad face, she again wished she could help him see the same.


Inara was trained not to show her emotions at random, instead displaying them only as needed to put those around her at ease, but she managed a slight gasp at the house as they stepped from the transport.  She’d expected Warrick Harrow to have an extravagant house, and certainly she’d been to more impressive ones, but never had she expected a man who dealt in illegally transported cattle to live in such a mansion.

The house rose above a large grounds area framed by a red brick wall, a cast iron gate providing access for land-bound vehicles, and marble pathways and steps leading up to the inviting front gate.  Marble pillars seemed to flow from the ground, supporting a balcony from which their host watched with pleasure as his guests stepped from the transport.

“Gentlemen and ladies, welcome to my estate.  If you please, my servants will show up upstairs where our meal is waiting.  I have made sure to provide a platter of fresh strawberries, the finest of the season, for my dear Kaywinnet, as well.”  Sir Warrick looked very little like he had at the party, or on the wave, for that matter.  It seemed that he was a man of careful standards when around those who shared them, but even he couldn’t resist letting loose a bit when less dignified circumstances presented themselves.

Kaylee had very nearly run ahead at the mention of strawberries, only Simon’s hand in hers keeping her with the rest of the group.  Inara watched with amusement as Simon smiled at her exuberance, squeezing Mal’s hand as well as the two couple’s walked up to the front door.  Even Zoë, who’d been noticeably reserved so far, couldn’t help but grin a bit as Kaylee’s face practically beamed happiness, spilling over into her companions’ moods. 

Warrick Harrow had outdone himself this time.


River woke up shivering in her bed next to Jayne, who was snoring loudly.  She stared at the ceiling for a moment, then slipped soundlessly from between the sheets and padded over to the closet.  Donning her robe, she slipped out onto the porch to watch the stars for a while.

Somehow, she knew it wouldn’t be much longer.  They weren’t here yet, but something told her they were coming, and she’d learned to trust her ‘somethings’.

Something also told her it might not be a pleasant meeting.

That wasn’t unexpected, however.  Fact of the matter was, she felt bad over the way they had left Serenity, not telling anyone directly. It didn’t matter that she knew they wouldn’t have been willing to let her go anyway.

Mal probably would have shot Jayne outright.

No, she figured, Mal wouldn’t do that, not now.  Despite his justified misgivings about the mercenary at first, Jayne had become family like the rest of the crew, after Miranda or perhaps before.  Even as they’d lost Wash, they had brought Jayne and Inara both into full family membership, not through any formal process, but family nonetheless.  Serenity’s crew was whole again, broken but not crushed.

Then they’d gone and torn it apart once more.

She didn’t disagree with Jayne’s reasoning.  Mal would have taken a lot of convincing, and she doubted Simon would ever accept that she loved the crude mercenary, so it was easier for them to simply leave and beg forgiveness if… when they returned.

Not that it had been Jayne’s plan to return, but she wasn’t going to let him call all the shots.

"Captain Reynolds, I believe we both know your view of the Alliance." 

Warrick Harrow leaned back in his chair at the head of the long table which the crew of Serenity was currently seated around.  The others were paying little attention to the conversation between the Captain and the Persephone nobleman, their attention diverted by the exquisite array of foods displayed before them.  Even Inara, who had lived for many years with such delicacies, couldn't help but be delighted by the meal placed before them.  Strawberries, kiwi, and bananas were piled high, alongside steaks and tempura, with various types of breads and sauces placed all around the table. Kaylee was giddy with delight, which had Simon excited as well, and Zoe had a blissful look on her face as she simply smelled the perfectly aged and grilled salmon. 

Mal hadn't touched the food yet, however.  First, there was business to attend to. 

"I don't know that you do, sir, though I'm willing to accept that perhaps you share some dislike for them.  You are, after, somewhat less than interested in following certain... regulations of theirs." 

Inara had taught him some manners for times like this, so his tact was well-received, despite the previous display. 

"Understood.  You're right, of course, I never served in battle against them, and thus my view is certainly not the same.  However, you are right in suggesting that I have little love for the Alliance.  What you may perhaps not realize, however, is that I am not the only gentleman on Persephone, or in fact within Alliance territory, that would not mind were the current government to be... reorganized.  Perhaps by another Independent Faction." 

Mal started a bit at that.  Independent Faction? 

"War's long done, sir.  Been twelve years since we laid down arms, and I've no interest in picking them back up again." 

Warrick cast a dubious look back at Mal. 

"I find that difficult to believe.  The Hero of Serenity Valley, and more importantly, the Hero of Miranda? Surely you're not just going to give up now.  The Alliance is weakened and confused right now.  They glossed over Miranda only to have the Prime Minister assassinated and Reavers unleashed on Londinium.  They wouldn't stand a chance were an organized force to challenge them right now." 

Mal shuddered at the thought of that particular event.  In one of the most vicious terrorist attacks in the history of mankind, some unknown mercenaries had captured a Reaver ship whole, keeping the airlocks sealed and thus the Reavers trapped inside, and proceeded to dive bomb the ship into one of the busiest areas of Londinium.  The mercenary ship had been blown out of the sky by an Alliance cruiser while trying to escape, but the Reaver ship had crashed into the heart of the city.  Thousands of people were killed in the confusion, by the crash and by the Reavers, but also by others trying to escape in vehicles or on foot.  Practically the entire Alliance Navy had been called back to protect the Core Worlds since that event, meaning a much easier job for smugglers like Malcolm Reynolds, but the competition was hotter now. 

"Could be, sir, but there's no such organized force.  Independent Command was decimated after the war, either in jail or executed, and those that survived could hardly lift a finger to help without the Alliance showing up at their door to put them down again.  You'd never find most of the Browncoats either, we've thrived on lying low and most of us aren't about to give that up for another losing war." 

Sir Warrick just smiled. 

"Would you believe that there are currently three dozen fully stocked outposts which have communications with militia forces on over twenty worlds, just waiting for the signal to start the war?  There's a new Independent Command, and all we have to do is say the word, and the fight will be brought directly to the Alliance's doorstep.  We have charges in place as we speak to destroy fifteen Alliance planetside bases and over half of the crew members on four Alliance cruisers are loyal to the Independent Faction.  All we need is a strong leader, and the right time to strike." 

Mal gawked.  At the other end of the table, Zoe was sitting up straight, having heard every word.  The others were obviously not paying attention, but as Inara glanced at Mal's now unreadable face, she immediately fell silent.  Off her look, Simon and Kaylee noticed the tension as well, and within seconds the room was completely still. 

Years of experience and understanding flashed between Mal and Zoe's silent looks, then another look of understanding between him and Inara.  Mal was done with fighting a war he couldn't win, but this?  If Warrick Harrow was telling the truth, then the Alliance might well be over and done with, which was a cause he could support. 

He looked back out at his crew, and all thoughts of signing up fled from his mind.  Zoe could handle herself, but Kaylee and Simon weren't soldiers, nor Inara, and they couldn't just up and leave them to go fight a war they might not return from.  The first time, he'd had nothing to lose, and he still lost everything.  He couldn't bear that again. 

"Sir Harrow, I wish you the best of luck with your war, but I think we're going to have to stay out of it for now." 

Zoe merely nodded and went back to her food, but Inara couldn't take her eyes off of Mal.  Had he just refused the chance to lead the Independent Army? Was he really no longer interested in taking them down, or did he not believe it could work?  His eyes settled on her, and in an instant she knew.  He had done it for her. 


River shivered in her hiding spot as she waited for the signal from Jayne.  The weather on Jiangyin had turned towards chilly as the fall season rolled around.  Despite everything else she’d changed to protect them from the Alliance, she had failed to convince herself to gain weight, and she had none to lose.  Thus, she was ill-prepared to deal with the cool weather, at least from a comfort level.  Sure, she wouldn’t freeze to death, but she was perfectly capable of getting cold still, regardless of her training.

Training that Jayne had finally helped her learn to accept, despite its horrible origins.  He’d taught her how to use it to protect herself and others, and she’d taught herself how to isolate the triggers in her mind and block them off so the Alliance couldn’t ever get to her again.  She was still cautious around Cortex access, but so long as she was focused, the triggers would no longer affect her any more.  She’d even tested it once, finding a copy of the code that had set her off back in the Maidenhead and watching it while Jayne stood close by, ready to speak the old Russian phrase that would put her to sleep.  She’d had little need of his protection, however, as her self-training had paid off and the hidden message had sparked no more than an anger at those who had attempted to turn her into an unwilling assassin.

“River, go!”  Jayne’s whispered voice in her ear set her in motion instantly.  She’d picked up on his signal psychically, but since he’d yet to get used to that, she’d been forcing herself to wait for the audible signals, so she didn’t get ahead of him and spoil the surprise.

“Surprise!” As the team of slavers flung themselves from their own hiding spots, expecting an easy take, River planted herself between them and the families in the group home that they had come to attack.  Even with a gun in each hand and several knives in her belt, she was apparently not a convincing figure, though her confident stance did give the men pause.  One man, apparently the leader, stepped forward and leered at her, a disturbing look.

“Looks like we got ourselves a pretty one, boys.  Lot’s better take than we was expecting.  Now, girlie, if you’ll just come quietly, we’ll make this a lot easier on you.”

River cocked her head slightly in her trademark gesture.  “Easier?  Yes.  Perhaps there is a chance that I would find it easier to come quietly.  I find it highly unlikely that you would be less harsh with me later, however.  Like to hear the screams, spoils the goods before he delivers them, finds the pleasure more appealing than the take, likes the pain more than the gain.  Yes, it would be best if you came quietly, but not her.  She doesn’t want to go with you, and she tells you now she does not plan to make it easy on those who treat the helpless like you do.”

A shot dropped the most heavily armed man in the group, and River sprang into action, the chaos she had sparked punctuated by accurate and deadly shots from Vera as Jayne watched over her like a guardian angel.  Yes, there was a bounty on these men, but this particular cause was slightly more personal.

Never again would slavers threaten Angus.  Not after the report of how these men died spread to their associates.


“Sir Warrick, you’ve been most helpful to us.  I appreciate the information on our crew members, and the offer.  I wish you the best of luck with your new cause, even though I can’t help you out.”  Mal extended his hand to the nobleman, who had gained new respect from him in the last few hours.  He truly regretted not being able to lend a hand to this new resistance, even though he himself did not wish for any more fighting.  It was hard not to wish that he could stick a thorn in the Alliance’s paw one more time, but the last time he’d gone and done that, two of his crew had died, and none of them had emerged unscathed.  He couldn’t do that to them again.

“Oh, and thanks for still letting us carry that cargo for you.  I hate to be in anyone’s debt, even for such a good reason.  ‘Sides, it’s great to have cargo in the holds again.”

Warrick Harrow smiled, a genuinely pleased gesture.  “You’re more than welcome, Captain.  After all, I am in your debt after you put Wing in his place.  I would have to say that this evens the score, much less places you in my debt.”  Placing a small leather wallet in Mal’s hand, he smiled again.  “Here is at least a small payment to make up for the trouble it caused you, in addition to carrying this cargo for me.”

Mal tossed the wallet in his hand, feeling the weight.  “Thank you, sir.  I’ll make sure the cargo is delivered safe and sound, and hope to do business with you again.”  Stepping into the transport, he waved back at Sir Warrick, a quick motion, but one reminiscent of his military training.  Simon and Kaylee were already on board, and Mal helped Inara onboard before turning back to offer a hand to Zoe.  Instead, she laid a hand on the door handle, and Mal knew instantly that she wasn’t coming with them.


Inara slipped quietly up to the bridge of Serenity, where Mal had been ever since leaving Persephone.  He’d stalked up there without a word after closing the ramp, and had closed the door behind him, which was unusual to say the least.  Everyone had silently agreed to let him sulk, but it had now been just over twelve hours, and Inara was beginning to worry about him.

Actually, that wasn’t quite true.  She’d been worried ever since the door to the shuttle had closed with Mal and Zoe on opposite sides.  Inara had thought Zoe would follow Mal anywhere, after having followed him through most of the war and all the way to Miranda and through the Reaver fleet, but the warrior woman had shocked them all.  The goodbye had been terse, as always.  The only tears had flown from Kaylee and Inara’s eyes, with both Mal and Zoe remaining impressively stoic.  No explanation had been necessary, and none had been given, but Inara could tell that Mal had been conflicted.  She could tell he’d held back from attempting to order Zoe to stay, knowing that it would be futile and would strain the situation even more.

In the end, Mal had finished was with a simple, “Take care of yourself, Zoe.”  It’d been all he could say.

As Inara slid the door open as quietly as it could go, she saw Mal hunched over the console.  At first it seemed he might have been plotting a course, but there was a suspicious lack of movement.  As she moved closer, her breath caught in her throat.  The console in front of Mal was slick, and he was barely breathing.  Moving quickly, she leaned him back in the chair and cradled his head in her hands.  The tears had dried on his face, resulting in a somewhat macabre look, highlighting the wrinkles he usually hid with a smile or an intimidating look.

Shaking her head slightly, Inara carefully cleaned Mal’s face with her sleeve, then pressed the comm button on the console in front of her.

“Simon, could you give me a hand?  I’m on the bridge.”

Simon was on the bridge in an instant, his medical bag in hand and concerned look on his face.  “Kao, that doesn’t look good.”

Inara smiled at his worried face.  “He’s alright, just fell asleep is all.  Help me move him somewhere safer, please?”

Together Inara and Simon carefully lifted the Captain out of his seat and started towards the door, then Simon had a better idea.  “Wait a second, let’s just lay him down here.”  Positioning him carefully along the back of the bridge, Inara cradled Mal’s head while Simon slipped down the hall to grab a cushion.  Settling him down onto it, they shared a knowing look.  The two of them knew better than anyone the Captain hadn’t been sleeping much recently, worried as always about their two missing crew members.  Losing Zoe had simply pushed him over the edge.

“I think we’d better just leave him be, Simon.”  Inara nearly whispered, though their efforts a moment before had convinced them both it would take a Reaver attack to wake Mal.  Simon nodded his agreement, and handed her a hypo from his bag.

“If he wakes up in less than six hours, give him this before he gets a chance to stop you.  He needs to sleep longer, and I don’t want to give him the chance for any disagreement.” 

Inara took the syringe gingerly, aware that she could be the target of a great deal of ire if Mal found out what she was going to do.  She knew Simon was right, however, and she wasn’t going to let him hurt himself even more.


Once again, River lay awake next to Jayne.  She was restless, and hadn’t been able to sort out why.  She did not believe her abilities extended to predicting the future, but she could not shake the feeling of foreboding that lay on her.  As she contemplated the situation, she felt a wave of anguish roll over her that was not her own.  Gasping slightly, she tried to trace the emotion back to it’s origin, but nothing made sense.  It was familiar and yet so far away, she felt as though it may have come from another world altogether.

“Baby girl?”  Jayne was sitting up now, leaned over her with a worried look on his face.  She smiled weakly at him, reassuring him with her eyes.

“I am fine, zhangfu.”  The endearment brightened up Jayne’s expression, though he still worried.  It was clear River wasn’t going to fill him in, so he laid back down and held her close.  She was soon asleep, but the emotions she had picked up floated through her mind all night long.  Something was coming, and she had no idea what it could be.


Inara sighed softly.  Mal was still out on the floor, and it was approaching five hours now.  She hoped he’d simply sleep through the time frame Simon had given, but she knew well how important it was for him to rest.  

Edited by Jondesu
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