Chapter 6.You found me broken.

by Kispexi2

[Story Headers]

Firefly and the characters belong to Joss Whedon.


This fic contains lines from the TV episode "Serenity" and is therefore full of spoilers for it

You found me broken.

Simon would have preferred to eat in his room, but it seemed like he was expected to join the others in the mess and he didn't want to stand out or appear weird in any way. So here he is, fiddling with his food and trying to act relaxed. Being seated across the table from that really big man with the hairy arms and killer's eyes doesn't help ease the tension in his neck and shoulders. Simon takes a sip of water and then another. At least Kaylee is opposite him. Whenever she catches his eye, she gives him a little smile. She passes him dishes, encourages him to try all that's on offer and is generally kind to him. Yes, it could be worse. It could be the Captain opposite him. He's grateful he doesn't have to look up and find those eyes on him. He takes a longer drink from his glass. At least he understands the look the thug's giving him - resentment, prejudice and contempt. And doubtless he's bouncing the same thing right back. Malcolm Reynold's expression is as unreadable as it's intense.

"Once they're terraformed, " the Captain is saying, "they'll dump settlers on there with nothin' but blankets an' hatchets an' maybe a herd. Some of 'em make it. Some of 'em ..."

Simon sees an opportunity to make up for having asked too many question earlier. He'd irritated the man his safety depends on - if only for the next ten days - without meaning to. Asked too many questions about the medical supplies they're taking a detour to deliver. "Then I guess it's good we're helping," he offers.

The Captain gives him a cold, slightly bored look but Kaylee asks "You're a doctor, right?"

Simon is a little thrown. So much of his sense of self comes from his work and he's proud of how good he is at it. Except that now ... "Oh. Uh, yes. Yes, I was a trauma surgeon on Osiris, in Capital City."

The Captain raises his eyebrows a touch. "Long way from here."

Kaylee flutters her eyelashes at Simon, admiring him for having achieved so much at such a young age. He flatters her back. Jayne looks from one to the other, smellin' another fox in the yard. Without thinkin' it through none he wades in. "Little Kaylee here just wishes you was a gynaecologist."

The mechanic gasps and looks appalled. Simon feels embarrassment crawl slowly up his back.

"Jayne, you will keep a civil tongue in that mouth or I will sew it shut. Is there an understandin' between us?" The Captain's tone is even.

"You don't pay me to talk pretty. Jus' 'cos Kaylee gets lubed up ..."

"Walk away from this table right now."

Simon holds his breath, fearing a fight. Long seconds pass as the big man - Jayne - curls his lip back like a dog about to attack. Then he huffs, shovels some extra food onto his plate and gets up. Oozing resentment, he stomps off. The Captain goes calmly back to eating, leaving Simon slightly less intimidated by Jayne and slightly more wary of Malcolm Reynolds.

And when's he's nervous, he always talks too much. "What do you pay him for."

"What?" This time it's Mal who's caught off balance. Gorram rich folk with their need for talkin'. He glares at the boy. Don't like him. Don't matter why. Somethin' about him just bothers Mal.

"I was just wondering," Simon explains, because when you're in a hole if you dig really fast ... "what his job is. On the ship."

Mal's glare darkens. The chopsticks in his hand squeak against each other as his grip tightens. He can feel Zoe shootin' him a warnin'. Think about how much money you got out of this damn fool who thinks he so ruttin' smart, he tells himself. "Public relations," he deadpans finally and bites into a slice of tomato.

The meal ends pretty much in silence and Simon is glad to escape to his room. At least he understands the hierarchy and is certain the Captain will keep Jayne in check. He knows Jayne dislikes him and Jayne reminds him of someone.


It was Christmas Eve. Despite the way she dismissed the holiday's religious significance and the idea of a fat old man in red squeezing his way down their non-existent chimney with equal contempt, River loved Christmas and Simon was determined not to spoil it for her. So on his return home, he smiled and joked and tousled her hair and made for all the 'verse like nothing was wrong. He told her he needed to take a shower and change before dinner and reluctantly she released his hand, watching him go through eyes clouded by incomprehension. Something had happened - something bad had happened - to her beloved ge-ge and he was trying to hide it from her. And he never kept anything from her ...

Simon stood under the hot water for as long as he could bear it, imagining the skin cells lifting and being washed away. The bruises didn't look so bad once his skin had flushed pink with the heat. He dried himself carefully and took out some anaesthetic cream from his bag. Within minutes the sharp pain dulled to an ache and he didn't have to concentrate on walking normally any more.

His discarded clothes lay in a heap on the floor. He bundled them into his bag, planning to dispose of them in the hospital's incinerator next day. Because even if the maid washed them a hundred times they would never be clean.

He dressed and opened his closet door. Inside River's present lay apparently untouched and uninvestigated. It looked like she had kept her word to him. He picked it up and headed downstairs.

River was waiting at the foot of the winding stair case, gazing up at him. He kissed her cheek and put the gift in her hands. "Merry Christmas, mei-mei," he said. "I'm on duty tomorrow so I thought we could have our Christmas tonight." Their hands touched briefly and a jolt went through her. She turned eyes wide with questions on him but he simply smiled. "Aren't you going to open it?"

"Sometimes it's better not to know," she said solemnly, turning the package over in her hands, admiring the gorgeous wrapping paper and the wide silver bow. "Sometimes it's not what you want."

Simon pretended to frown and gave her a playful little shove. "Better had be, brat," he grinned. "You've been dropping hints for weeks about what you wanted."

She tilted her head on one side considering. "Perhaps it's better to get what you need rather than what you want," she mused, ripping off the paper. A second's silence and then she was shrieking with delight. "Oh! Oh, Simon! A pers comm! Daddy said I couldn't ... This is amazing. The latest model. You know this has the very latest in biocircuitry ... oh, Simon! I love you." She flung her arms round him and hugged him tight and he managed not to wince at the pressure on tender flesh. He even managed to push the memory of that brawny, dark-haired arm he thought he wanted wrapped round him holding him still long after he'd thought better of it to the back of his mind.

It had been his own stupid fault after all.

"So," Wash says meaningfully when it's just him, Mal and Zoe in the kitchen, "A doctor, eh? Might come in very handy."

"You reckon?" Mal don't think so.

"If Patience decides to shoot you again," Wash grins. "He could patch you up."

"Unless her aim's improved," Zoe points out. To Mal.

"Unless her aim's improved," Wash agrees. He scratches the back of his head. "Gotta wonder what a doctor's doin' on a boat like this. Hey! Why don't we keep him - you know, refuse to let him get off on Boros? Number of times you and my wife need ..."

Mal slaps a hand down on the table and leans in towards the pilot. "We ain't keepin' him."

By tradition a Companion always bathes after spending time with a client, regardless of how that time may have been spent. On Sihnon Inara always relished the ritual. Baths deep and large enough to swim a few strokes in. Hot, scented water. Things on Serenity are very different. Mal rations water out strictly and she doesn't object because it's a necessity on a ship of this size and type. Rather surprisingly he gallantly allows her a little more than the rest of the crew get, although unsurprisingly he announced his decision in an indelicate manner. Over dinner one night. "Your line of work - figured you get dirtier than the rest of us." She accepted graciously and ignored the way Jayne licked his lips.

Today she is taking longer than usual over the rite. She dips the sponge into the basin and squeezes it out against her body over and over again. The boy questioned her integrity and Mal insulted her. Between them they managed to make her feel dirty. She tries to concentrate on the sensation the cool rivulets make as they trickle down her back but her mind refuses to be schooled. "Dirty whore," it calls her. "Dirty tamade whore!"


She was fourteen and giddy in love. Shui was three years older. Her heart beat faster just thinking about him. She couldn't eat, she couldn't sleep. All she could do was dream about him when he was elsewhere and touch him when he was with her. When they kissed, she thought she might die of happiness.

One night she heard a noise in the courtyard below her window. The silver light from her windows spilled down upon him as she pulled back the drapes. "Inara!" he hissed loudly in the way moonstruck youths do. "I must talk to you."

She nodded, wrapped herself in her heavy silk dressing gown and crept through the house. It was cold outside, but in his arms she was on fire. "What is it? What are you doing here?"

He kissed her and kissed her as if to stopper up the words in his mouth but finally he pulled away and said miserably, "My father - he enrolled me with the military. I have to leave for the training school on Ezra tomorrow."

Inara wilted in his arms. "I ... Why? .. No! I can't bear it!" She began weeping hysterically, her sobs shaking through the still night air. He tried to calm her with a kiss but she clawed at him, pulling him ever closer. And under the shade of her father's favourite cherry tree they made love.

How her mother knew was a mystery to the fourteen year old Inara but know she did and she was furious. Her cheeks went livid and the soft curves of her face took on new, harsh angles. "You dirty whore!" she said coldly. "You dirty tamade whore." She dragged her screaming daughter into the bathroom and forced her into the bath. Scrubbed and scrubbed at her skin until at last her anger subsided. Inara sat mute and uncomprehending in the water as it cooled around her.

Her father's reaction was harder still to bear. She'd always been his special girl, his princess. His heart and his arms were always open to her. But that day he closed himself off from her. Turned a cold back and said, "If her talents lie in this direction, she should at least ensure a decent future for herself. With training, I'm sure she would make a decent" - he stumbled over the word - "Companion."

"We got a mole on board," a horrified Wash tells Mal..

So - he wa'n't wrong about the boy. Shoulda heeded the crampin' in his gut after all. The so-called Doctor's a ruttin' Alliance mole. Spacin' him'll be a gorram pleasure.

"Forget your tooth paste?" Mal snarls when he finally tracks Simon down in the cargo bay.

Nonplussed by the question Simon says nothing. Tries to work what in the 'verse the Cap ... And goes sprawling on the floor as Mal's fist connects with his cheekbone with more force than Mal had been expecting. He's surprised by how much the blow hurts him. Boy's face must be made of rock. Mal shakes his hand to relieve the pain in his knuckles.

Simon presses a hand to his cheek, automatically checking for a fracture. He shouldn't be surprised by this turn of events, given the boorish nature of the Captain and his crew, but somehow he is. He'd hoped ... He looks up. "Are you out of your mind?" he asks, not bothering to hide his contempt.

"Just about," Mal growls back at him, hand moving to his holster. Nice quick endin' to this would suit him fine. "What'd you tell them?"

Simon is back on his feet and there's as much anger in him as there is in Mal. "Tell who?"

"I have exactly no time for games," Mal says, drawing his pistol.

"You're a lunatic," Simon diagnoses with professional certainty.

"And you're a gorram fed," Mal snaps back, cocking the weapon.

Time seems to stop as Simon stares at it. How did he get to a point where death is a muscle contraction away? Then everything starts happening in a rush. Simon hardly has time to process one emotion before another crashes over him. He's vaguely aware of Mal seizing hold of him and trying to make some kind of deal with Dobson. He struggles but can't quite get free of the Captain's grip. Then there are more people, threats, yelling and finally the crack of gunshot.

And Kaylee rocks back against a wall and slides to the floor clutching her belly.

"Who sent the wave?" the tall, gaunt one asks.

"Dobson. Laurence Dobson," the shorter ginger one replies.

"Dobson? Not one of ours then?"

"Not at this stage. Don't want to attract attention. The clean up is always so ..."



Working on Kaylee affords Simon a respite of sanity, even if the Captain insists on scrutinizing his every move. At least Malcolm Reynolds is familiar enough with dealing with people who've been shot to provide some help with the surgery. So he's not actually in the way physically. Mentally, his presence is like a huge black bird of prey sitting on Simon's shoulder. The bullet is easy enough to remove once Simon has his own equipment, and the damage - though serious - is not complicated. The girl should pull through. Simon suspects Jayne will rip him apart if she doesn't. Crouched outside of the infirmary window, the big man continues staring at the unconscious mechanic with a look Simon last saw on a dog..

"Saw that coming," Jayne declares happily as Simon hits the deck for the second time that day. This time the Captain splits his lip. Simon watches him stalk off feeling oddly guilty. He knows he hit a nerve and the punch was almost a reflex beyond the other man's control. He gets to his feet and walks back into the kitchen. Wash gives him a sympathetic, embarrassed smile and the Shepherd pats his shoulder. Jayne smirks. Zoe just looks at him, eyes moving between the darkening skin on his cheek and the cut on his mouth.

"I need to check on my sister," he announces, as if a single one of them were interested, and heads for the passenger dorm.


Zoe woke up feeling like zao cao. She dragged herself over to the wash basin and splashed cold water on her face. The mirror above it confirmed she looked as ghastly as she felt. Her cheek was bruised and slightly swollen and there was congealed blood on her lower lip. Bastard.

She ordered weak tea and dry toast at the bar in the hope of calming the waves of nausea and took a seat near the door. No way was she lettin' him slip out without a gorram explanation. Cold light of mornin' made her see things different. Oh, she was so goin' to kick his ass.

So she sat and waited, waited and sat till damn near mid-day when at last his boots came into view on the landing above. She stiffened in her seat.

He di'n't spot her at first an' when he did he all but jumped. Like he was surprised to see her. Ah - that was his game, was it? Lie low till the coast was clear. Thought she'd just leave, did he? Dumbass. Even so he tried to pretend she wa'n't there. Tried to sidle past, eyes fixed on the floor. She stood up, arms folded, blocking his exit.

"Mornin', Sir," she said, voice even but dangerous.

Never seen more reluctance in makin' eye contact, she thought as Sarge's gaze slowly met hers. He flinched visibly at the connection and looked quickly away but she still saw it. All that pain an' loss an' total ruttin' hopelessness. "You still here?" he muttered.

"Looks like.".

Because when you can't walk, you crawl. And when you can't even do that ... well, you know the rest.

River's eyes fly open as Simon slides the door back. She's sitting cross-legged on the bed and, for a second seems disorientated and fearful, but then her face lights up with recognition. "Simon."

He sits down on the bed facing her. "Yes, mei-mei - it's me."

Her hand flutters round his face, fingers finally alighting on his cut lip. "Hurt," she says sadly, jumping up to dampen a flannel with which she cleans off the blood.

He shakes his head. "Not really," he assures her, taking her hand in his and squeezing it gently. "I'll mend."

She tilts her head to one side, pressing her lips together and gazing at him as if he's speaking another language. "Third not second."

"Right," he nods, uncomprehending. Did he give her too much sedative?

"Are you one of the horses or one of the men?" River asks.

Simon searches her face, hoping against hope that she's teasing him. Riddles were a favourite childhood game. But her expression is deadly serious and it scares him. He sighs. "One of the men."

River shakes her head, almost angrily. "No!"

"One of the horses?" he asks uncertainly, only to be be slapped on the shoulder. "Then why don't you tell me, mei-mei?"

She taps a finger lightly on the end of his nose. "Neither, silly. You underestimate yourself."

Overestimate myself, more like. Otherwise I wouldn't have brought my precious sister aboard this junker where she's caught between a Federal Officer and a crazed Captain. Plain to see I'm not up to the job of protecting her.

"You're wrong. Things ... not plain at all ... What's the word? Shiny? No. But it's like that."

Now he's really alarmed. It isn't just the drugs that's making her talk like this. "River?"

She laughs and is suddenly lucid. "I'm hungry. I want tomatoes. Love apples."

Simon smiles and hugs her. "Well, there were certainly tomatoes for dinner. I'll get you some. Not whether they've got any apples ..."


Pushing aside the calm, matter-of-fact way Zoe just told him she'd kill him on the Captain's say-so, Simon asks her "If that battle was so horrible, why'd he name his ship after it?"

Zoe gives him the tiniest of indulgent smiles. It's clear she thinks him nave beyond words. "Once you've been in Serenity, you never leave there," she explains before leaving him to his thoughts.

Simon considers her words. It makes sense. There are a lot of places he still lives in. Places he can't escape. He can empathize with the Captain in that respect. Although Zoe seems to have escaped the Valley, Simon reminds himself. But then again, she's married. She has family. Simon lies back on his bed and wonders why Captain Reynolds didn't go back to his.

Early 2507

"At ease, Sergeant."

Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds assumed the pose, feeling anything but 'at ease'. The major began pacing the room, looking at the ground and twisting his hands behind his back. Not hardly a reassuring sign.


"Had some bad news, son. About your ...." He tapped three fingers against his lips and continued staring at the floor. "About Shadow. I'm sorry, son."

Mal swallowed hard.

"Fell to the Alliance more than a month ago."

Mal blinked and blinked again but he was still in the major's tent. The ground beneath his feet was still soggy and churned up. He waited.

"There's no-one left, son. They all ... "

He should have been there. Should have known. Should have at least felt something when it happened. Instead he was leading his men triumphantly through territory newly won from the Alliance and feeling like a king. A god. His lips moved to ask the one word question but no sound came out.

"Dead, son," the major said, awkwardly patting him on the arm. "The ones that survived the ground attack they finished off with radiation. Burnt the land and damn near evaporated the sea. Whole planet's a wasteland."

There were crumbs in the major's moustache, Mal noticed. And one of his jacket buttons was undone. The canvas walls of the tent were pressing in on him.

"How ... how long did they hold out?" he asked hoarsely.

"Six weeks, according to despatches," the major replied, his brown eyes soft and sad.

Six weeks. A lifetime. Mal was a soldier. He knew the kind of things that befell a defeated enemy. The kind of things soldiers did when the fear and adrenalin was still pumping through every blood vessel. The delight some of 'em took in it. Men tortured, women an' children ... tian a!

"What ... the civilians ... did they ...?"

The major gestured helplessly with his hands. "We don't know, son. We just don't know."

Mal clicked his heels together and stood to attention once more. "Thank you, Sir. Permission to leave?"

"Get some rest, son. Take some time ..."

"Won't be needin' no time, Sir," Mal replied firmly. Which was all manner of ironic, bein' as from that point time was the only thing left to him. Deserts of vast eternity.

"It's your call."

Simon will shoot Dobson if he has to. The trouble is - how will he know whether he has to? He's never killed anyone - not even when he was a med student - and he doesn't want to start now if he can avoid it. How is it done anyway? Is it just a matter of squeezing the trigger or are there secret catches and buttons to engage? What the hell should he do?

Every muscle in Simon's body is tight. Zygomaticus major and minor, Risorius, Trapezius, Deltoids, Triceps, Biceps - all of them under so much tension he can practically hear the fibres grate against each other. His heart pounds and his breathing has become rapid and shallow. It's a wonder he doesn't pass out.

There's a noise from behind and Simon is distracted. He hears Inara shout his name and the sound of a gun firing. Now - somehow - Dobson has a gun to River's head. Should he shoot now? And assuming he manages to hit the officer before getting shot himself, can he be sure the impact won't cause Dobson's finger to squeeze the trigger?

"I'm not playing anymore," Dobson warns. "Anyone makes so much as a ..."

Simon freezes, teetering on the edge of snapping. Another noise, this time from his left. The tension explodes and a bullet penetrates the centre of Dobson's forehead. He crumples to the ground. Still holding his breath, Simon stares down at the body. A wave of relief crashes over him and he realizes he hasn't felt this sense of physical release in a very long time. He exhales with a shudder, feeling his knees wobble as the tension ebbs away. He's not surprised to find he's trembling. Mal strides past, reholstering his weapon and Simon feels a very strong impulse to hug him. A feeling he is profoundly grateful he's too repressed to act on.

Stowaways, a little more gunplay than he generally likes an' now Reavers. It surely ain't been his day.

That said, the rush of adrenalin is familiar and comforting. Makes things simpler. Only one thing to think about right now: save as many of his people as he can. Kaylee an' Wash - he needs them here, workin' their magic, gettin' more out of Serenity than he's got a right to ask of her. Zoe wou'n't go even if he told her too. Probably punch him if'n he did. An' Jayne - hell, Jayne was born to fight an' leave this 'verse the way he came into it - bloody an' screamin'.

What Mal don't need right now is the rest of 'em. 'Cos they ain't part of this. He can't ask a one of 'em to stay even if the Shepherd's handier to have around than a Bible-thumper oughta be an' the boy's got some spunk in him after all. They have to get the hell off this boat an' soon. They're a compellin' good reason for Inara to go. An' when she does, Mal won't have to wonder why she di'n't stay. Nor why he never asked her to.

He catches up with her in the hallway. "I want you to get in your shuttle. Get the civilians and be ready to go."

She looks at him, eyes full of somethin' he don't wanna be thinkin' on right now. And then -too zai zi - she says just about the worse thing imaginable. "We can't just leave you here."

Shit! Now all he can think about is kissin' her. Letting himself fall onto and into that mouth. Taste her, drown in her - have one good thing before .... No. No. Ain't gonna die. Ain't gonna happen. Pull back, don't let this weakness overtake you. "Thought that was the plan."

It was mean of him to toss that back at her. But meant as a kindness. To them both. An' she knows it, the gorram mind-readin' freak. "Mal, don't ..." Her voice is soft, her eyes gentle. Lookin' into them threatens to dissolve him.

Which is why he needs her to go. "We get boarded, you take off, head for town. We might be able to stop them from followin'."

"They'll kill you," she sighs, irritation at his obstinacy mixed with fear for him.

Somehow his hand is on her shoulder, her skin warm under his hand, hair cool silk threads tangling round his fingers. "Inara ..."

She looks down at the hand and when her eyes meet his again the light in them has changed subtly. Something between them has shifted. Does she know? Companions claim they can see a man's aura - did she see it? The Real Him? The nightmare hasn't faded with time. The colours are still vivid. And each day a new thread is woven into its terrible fabric ... Scarlet for Inara, red as passion and blood ... he takes her and holds her down ... mouth full of ashes and despair. He swallows and the oasis of hope disappears. Only a mirage after all. He can't ever ... not her, not no-one. Never. He can't risk seeking the comfort of skin against skin and flesh in flesh because it turns him into a gorram monster. Those ke wu, qing wa cao de, xi nu, ruttin', tamade hundans screwed him real good. People wonder why he still hates the Alliance so much after all these years? Ha! His reason's right here. They didn't just take away his home, his people and his past - they took away his hope for a future. Took away the core of him and filled him with something ugly and dangerous.

The corners of his mouth tighten. "Go."

Kaylee strokes the wall like Serenity's a livin', breathin' critter. "That's my girl," she coos, "That's my good girl." She looks across at Jayne an' the Preacher and smiles. Gorram eatable, tha's what she is, Jayne thinks givin' her a sappy smile of his own. 's'only the pain from gettin' shot tha's makin' her sweat but a man can dream, can't he? Imagine it was his doin'. Jayne's gonna enjoy carryin' her back down to the infirmary. Although handin' her back over to that there Doctor's gonna be a sore trial.

Book nods with satisfaction. "Praise the Lord."

"Praise the gorram mechanic more like!" Jayne corrects him, making li'l Kaylee blush an' grin with pride.

Book winks at her. "Well, yes. Indeed."

Wash is already in bed when Zoe finally climbs down the ladder. He's wearing a knowing smile and very little else. Better not still have his socks on - she's warned him about that!

"Nice long chat with the Captain?" he asks lightly and she flicks him a defensive look. She knows he's got issues about her an' Mal an' she would dearly love to put his mind truly at rest and tell him why his jealousy's unfounded. But she can't. Would be betrayin' Mal's trust an' she'll never do that.

To her amazement Wash ain't sulkin'. He's grinnin' broadly at her, lookin' so gorram smug ... She pounces on him, pinning him to the bed and demands, "What you got to smile about, husband?"

The grin turns into a gaze of pure adoration. "Well, this to start with .." he says, glancing from side to side to where she has his wrists held firmly down against the pillow.

"Uh-huh," she purrs into his mouth, feeling him melt and harden against her at the same time. "An' what else?" she nips his lower lip gently, planning to tease it out of him.

"I've been trained to withstand this kind of thing," he laughs, wriggling closer. "Did a whole module on it a flight school."

"Really? How about this?"

"That? Oh, that," his pitch goes up a tone or two, "That not so much ... Think that was on the advanced ... Hey! What's with the stopping? I can take it, I tell you. Do your worst!"

Zoe rocks back on her heels and smiles slow and seductive. "Oh, I plan to. But I'm gonna need to concentrate. Can't do that wonderin' why you're lookin' so damn pleased with yourself."

Wash's eyebrows shoot up. Huh? Another thing about her precious Mal she hasn't noticed?

"What?" she asks again, wondering whether to resort to merciless tickling.

"Well - I'm guessing your little chat with Mal concerned a certain young doctor." He pauses and Zoe nods. "And how he's decided to let him stay."

"Let them stay," Zoe corrects him, pursing her lips and frowning slightly. "Him and his sister."

Wash overdoes the wide-eyed innocence and the nodding. "Mm. That's what I said - him and his sister. Now, where were we?"

Mal punches the lock switch with the side of his fist and toes off his boots. He flops down onto the bed without undressing. Too gorram shattered. When he closes his eyes, he sees Simon Tam looking at him, wary but grateful for the offer of a place on Serenity. Somethin' about that boy still unsettles him but Mal ain't too worried about his decision. He's man enough to admit his first impression was wrong. Doctor Tam ain't weak. Prissy an' tight-wound maybe, but not weak. An' you gotta admire his devotion to his sister. Even if you ain't ever gonna say so out loud.

Turned out not so bad in the end. Least they're still flyin'. Simon'll be useful as ship's medic an' - ren ci de Fozu - he ain't half so much of a kuang ren as Wash, though in fairness, his sister has the pilot beat hands down on that score. So, it evens out. Two Tams equal one Wash. Could be worse.

Four and a half years ago

There were tears streaming down Zoe's face and her mouth was doing this thing that made her look like she was in pain. Mighty disturbin' of itself, but she was makin' this noise too - like her airway was blocked. Mal stopped in the doorway, fightin' down the fear that she was dyin'.

"See, the problem was - they used a frozen chicken!" Wash laughed and the terrible noise started up again.

"That's not true!" Zoe manages to gasp. "You are such a liar!" And she dissolved into floods of laughter again.

Mal looks at her, her cheeks pink, eyes sparklin' and curls cascading down onto her shoulders, and not for the first time thinks how much he would have loved her. Does love her. Enough and more to let her float away from him and into the arms of this man who can make her laugh. Despite the ruttin' complications.

He walks away without them even noticing he was ever there.

River is already asleep when Simon looks in on her before retiring to his own room. He's physically and emotionally exhausted but his mind is buzzing. They're safe for now at least. This crew ... well, he misjudged them. Not Jayne, obviously, but the others. They're good people. And the Captain - well, he saved their lives twice today. Three times if you count the offer of a place to stay. And Simon does. Here comes that desire to hug the man again.

Simon wraps his arms tightly around himself and tries to sleep.

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Title:  Chapter 6.You found me broken.
Series Name:  Trauma Medicine
Author:  Kispexi2   [email]
Details:  Series  |  PG-13  |  gen  |  30k  |  11/11/04
Characters:  Malcolm, Zoe, Wash, Kaylee, Inara, Jayne, Simon, River, Book
Pairings:  just hints
Summary:  This story has entered a stage where it follows the TV series quite closely. "Serenity" in the case of this chapter.
Notes:  Spoilers for "Serenity" - the TV episode.

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