In The Ether 8: Lady's Choice
Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Zoe fixes the plan. Kaylee shows Simon how to turn up the heat.


A/N: I don't own them.

I think I like making the ladies the Big Damn Heroes. Now I gotta get Inara and River to save someone's ass.


It can be said with certainty that Wash had exactly one thing in mind when his wife had said "enjoy the day." He was Serenity's resident smartass and not really over-fond of the macho crap that most guys spewed out around women, preferring the laid back 'wacky fun' persona. But he was at heart still male. So could he really be blamed when his thoughts naturally turned to the local hotel, Zoe, and room service? Sure, it was only one night, but the amount of fun that could be had inside of 24 hours was quite impressive if you really put your mind to it. In fact, now that he -

Wash groaned when Zoe marched right past the hotel. "Honey, the hotel's this way! Where are you going?"

"Captain needs help, Wash."

Wash's eyes narrowed. Gorram captain. He knew it was a losing battle, but his ego required that he try to derail her, just for form. "What? How? He didn't say where he was going or what he was doing. For all we know he's browsing for new a new coat."

"Not likely."

"Well, if he is, may I suggest something not brown? Still, I'm pretty sure he can manage that on his own."

"Nope. I bet he went for a meet without sayin' anything."

"Well, OK, maybe, but doesn't the fact that he didn't say anything mean he doesn't need our help? Besides, I thought we were supposed to enjoy the day."

"You'd enjoy the day if the captain is in jail?"

"Only if I get to poke him with a stick through the bars."

"Seriously. When has the captain not needed our help on a plan?"

Wash furrowed his brow, sighed, and hurried after his wife. "Point. But the hotel - "

"Will be there when we get back."

Wash snorted. "Fine. But if we have to leave quickly, I get to say 'I told you so.'"


"I'll be damned! It really is Mal Reynolds!" Mal looked up from his seat to find the unnaturally pale and messily groomed Alan Simmons approaching, hand out. "Front desk told me you were in town, looking to chew my ear."

Mal stood and shook the man's hand. "Alan, how ya doin'? Thanks for seein' me all short notice like this. Didn't expect to be landin' here 'till a few days ago." Mal took his hand back and resisted the urge to shake it out. Simmons always had something...greasy about him. Probably the complete lack of exercise and large amount of time in front of a Cortex screen, but that had been true for as long as Mal had known him.

It was common practice for smuggling crews to try and get in nice with the local authorities if they could. Three years ago, right around the time Mal had acquired Serenity, Simmons was still the newly minted "governor" of the most backwater moon you could lay hands on. Simmons' "small indiscretion", as he called it, took place at the tender age of seventeen, so he had precious little in the way of experience - but quite a lot in the way of a grudge against the Alliance - when Captain Reynolds and the crew of Serenity had come calling. Like most people unfamiliar with the actual life of a pirate, Simmons had considered Mal a dashing hero, thumbing his nose at the government while making a mint. The fact that Serenity had come equipped with a registered Companion and a cute mechanic just added to Simmons' like for the ship. Now Mal was hoping that goodwill would pay off. He was about to ask a huge favor.

"No worries about dropping in, my friend. How's the crew doing? Zoe still married to Wash? Jayne still married to his guns? That sweet engineer of yours ready to settle down and live the good life on Beylix?"

"Yes, yes, and Lord no." Mal smiled disarmingly as Simmons gestured him to the back office. He knew Simmons was nursing a huge crush on Kaylee, probably from the last time they'd visited and Kaylee'd fixed his 3D display with a bobby pin. "Sorry, Al, but I ain't ready to give up the best mechanic flyin'." And it'd take a gorram crowbar to pry her away from that doctor for more than five minutes, he added silently to himself.

"Well, one can always hope. Be sure to pass along my regards. But for now, what can I do for you?"

"I need some security codes. Hush-hush type of stuff."

Simmons grinned. "I'd expect nothing less. Hmmm. Civilian or military?"

"Used by civilians, but most likely has some help from the Feds, if you get my drift."

"I see." Simmons stroked his chin, despite the fact that there was no beard there. "That could be messy. Military upgrades codes fairly quickly. Got a name on the target? Might help me if I can find some sales records or such to see what they've got."

"You can find 'em for me? Don't want to cause you any more trouble. Ain't many moons what need a new governor."

"No promises, but I like a challenge. Besides, I'm the governor of the most remote moon the Alliance could find. We basically just leave each other alone."

"Sounds good, then. Price?"

"Could you manage a night out with your mechanic?"

"Uh...would platinum work instead?"

"I suppose, but to be truthful, the lady makes me feel generous."

Mal closed his eyes briefly. On the one hand, Kaylee was going to kill him. He'd tell her it was for Simon and River, and she might forgive him one day. But on the other hand, it'd be hilarious to watch the Doc pretend to not be jealous as hell. "I'll see what I can do."

"Deal. Who am I looking for?"

"Not sure what name it might be under, but the folks I'm interested go by the name of Tam."

"Tam? As in the Osiris Tams?"

"That would be them."

"Ouch." Simmons dropped his hand and stared hard at Mal. "I mean, it can be done, fairly easily too, since they're so prominent. But Mal, I'm not sure if you know what you got into here Maybe this isn't such a good idea. I hear they've got some fugie children. People like that are dangerous, you know?"

"I do indeed. Already ran into 'em once. Charming folks, a bit fast with the shootin' and such."

"I'm serious here." Simmons widened his eyes, suddenly trying over-hard to look innocent. "Take it as a friendly 'suggestion', see what I'm saying?" He cleared his throat nervously, glancing back at the door as if waiting for it to open.

"You warnin' me off, Al? Somethin' I need to know?" Mal's eyes narrowed as he caught site of Simmons staring at his door. "You sold me out!"

"Now, Mal, I didn't sell anything! I had no choice!"

"The hell you didn't. How long I got?" The door behind Mal opened. He grunted. "Not long, then."

"Malcolm Reynolds! You are bound by law for harborin' known fugies, smugglin', and generally pissin' people off!" The sherriff sounded quite officious, if you could be called 'officious' while sporting the worst cornpone accent Mal had ever heard.

Mal casually looked over his shoulder and appraised the two newcomers before turning back to Simmons. "Quite a way with words for a lawman."

"Should have seen him during elections. Damndest speech I've ever seen." Simmons shrugged. "Sorry, man, but a lady with a lot of mojo landed right behind you, got me by the short and curlies. Made it quite clear that I'd better play ball, you know?"

"Didn't care to hear my side 'fore you tattled?"

"When this woman comes calling? No." Simmons cocked his head. "But now that you mention it, I just have to ask. What'd you do, exactly? I mean, I know what she wants, but how're you involved?"

"If it's the lady I think it is, I stole her kids."

"You've got the fugies on your ship? Damn!" Simmons laughed nervously again. "You really do got big brass ones!"

"Yep. But try not to tell the womenfolk. Intimidates 'em something fierce." Mal turned to the lawmen behind him. "Gentlemen. How we goin' to play this?"

"You're goin' to put your hands up, lose the piece, an' come along quietly 'fore Burt here gets itchy."

"Why? He got a rash?" Burt gave Mal a very dirty look.

"Do as he says, Mal," Al put in. "Don't worry, I can probably get the charges cleared tomorrow, as long as you give up whatever the lady wants."

If it was indeed Regan Tam out there, Mal had no illusions of actually ever being released, so the better bet was to stall for time. Since Al was his friend - after a fashion, anyway - he'd most likely have better luck here than in the jail with Sheriff Cornpone. "Out of passin' curiosity, what exactly does she want from me?"

"Well, mostly she wants the location of her kids, which I guess you have after all." Simmons shrugged. "Sucks to be you."

"Seems so. That all?" When Simmons shrugged again, Mal pressed his question. "C'mon, Al, you at least owe me an explanation."

"Well...I suppose that's true enough. She wanted to know where the girl was, didn't seem so interested in the guy unless he was handy. Oh, and she wanted you, too. Seems you've irked her a bit. So we decided that you'd be arrested long enough to spill the beans, then you would most likely be released by morning to go your way. Best deal I could get from her."

"Can't rightly say I agree to those terms, Al."

"Dammit, Mal! I'm trying to help you here! I don't want to see you in jail. You're a good friend, and you're always reliable."

"Wish I could say the same." Mal shook his head, hands in the air. "Sheriff? I'd prefer if we didn't have to do this with cuffs. Chafes me pretty bad, an' I gotta look good for my crew."

"Can't rightly say you're gettin' a choice, boy." The sheriff produced a set of cuffs, but never managed to move around behind Mal. The click of a rather large weapon being cocked at his head froze him to the floor.

"Or, he could keep the piece, walk out of here nice an' calm, and maybe I don't remove your brain." Zoe's voice was sweet as honey. "I ain't fond of blowin' heads off; tends to be messy, but then, I don't gotta clean it up this time." The sheriff nodded quickly, dropping his gun and his cuffs, the deputy doing likewise. "Good boys."

Mal put his hands down and drew his gun. "Took you long enough, Zoe. Was startin' to think you'd forgot me."

"Sorry, sir. I had a moment of indecision when you didn't tell me what the gorram plan was. Wash reminded me." She looked back over her shoulder. "It's safe to stop cowering, dear."

Wash popped his head around the doorframe. "Hi, Mal. How's the negotiation going?"

"Somewhat hostile."

"Drives a hard bargain, does he?"

"Yeah. I had to pimp out Kaylee."

"The sacrifices you make in the name of duty continue to astound me, Captain."

Mal gave Wash a sour look before turning back to Simmons. "Ya know, Al, I'm findin' this situation all manner of unfriendly. I believe I'm inclined to renegotiate things." Simmons gulped. "Firstly, you ain't goin' nowhere near my mechanic. Secondly, I'll be takin' those codes with me right now. Thirdly, there will be no interference with my crew when we leave. In return, I'll consider not shooting you on the way out. Deal?" Simmons nodded frantically, sitting down and typing quickly.

No one said a word for nearly five minutes, until Simmons finally saved his work to a memory tab and handed it to Mal. "Here it is. This will open any security system you come across, and I threw in some banking information on the Tams. You know. As a gift from me to you?"

Mal pocketed the disk and nodded. "I like your attention to detail, Al. Of course, you do understand I won't be comin' back to avail myself of your fine services again. But, on the other hand, I feel a bit more kindly towards you an' won't shoot you, either. Have a good one." Mal waved absently and motioned to Zoe that it was time to go. Zoe shoved the lawmen forward into the room and slammed the door on them, blocking it with a chair from the outer office. Wash snickered when a thump heralded someone - probably poor Burt - bouncing off the door in an attempt to open it.

"What now, sir?," Zoe asked as they hurried down the street and back towards the docks.

"We're goin' back to the ship. Wash, heat her up. Shore leave is over. Zoe, go into town and find everyone you can, get them back on the boat. If you find Jayne and he's still able to hold a weapon, gear him up an' tell him to watch River. She's gonna be the main target, I think."

"And the Doc?"

"Keep him in a group an' they'll most like leave him alone. He's only on the list if it's easy. Wash, you're with me."

Wash hurried after the captain, but managed a parting scowl at his wife. "I told you so."


"Oooh! Synchronizers!" Kaylee fairly leapt forward and hugged a shelf, climbing up several levels to get to the top and examine her prize. "An' they're near new! Hope they don't want too much for 'em." She looked down at Simon, who was following her along from the floor and looking increasingly worried that she might fall. "How much medicine you needin' to buy, anyway? 'Cause I was thinkin'. If we don't need all that much, we could use the leftovers in here."

"Zoe was fairly clear we were to split it, Kaylee. Now come down from there, would you?"

"I know, hon, but seriously, how much meds you really need? Look! A whole compression coil!" Kaylee pushed herself away from the shelf and landed heavily on the ground, angling herself to crash against Simon, who caught her. "Thanks. Let's find the owner. I got some hagglin' to do."

Simon followed her to the counter, where he spied River looking over the small selection of impulse buys: repair kits for eyeglasses, small socket wrenches, and what appeared to be either a flashlight or small laser weapon. "How're you doing, mei mei?"

River nodded to her brother absently while she continued to stare at the assortment of tools. "Too many choices. Can't make them all fit together." She looked up at Kaylee, who had begun bartering with the shopkeeper. "Kaylee can, though. Right in her head. It's annoying." River heaved a long-suffering sigh. Simon just grinned as his sister tried to deal with the fact that there was something in the 'verse she couldn't immediately figure out.

Simon also looked at the girl in question, and found himself staring as Kaylee turned slightly sideways and arched her back, pushing her chest out to good advantage while giving the man a coy look. Simon gaped, not sure how to process the surge of emotion he was feeling. "Green eyed monster, Simon," River told him, poking him in the back. "Go help." Simon looked back at his sister, nodded, and approached the counter.

"How's it going here?" Simon leaned on the counter - going for 'casual' but ending up looking more along the lines of 'just got electrocuted' - and gently placed a hand on Kaylee's back. "Nearing an agreement?"

"Oh, we're doin' fine, Simon. Ain't we, Mr. Williams?" Kaylee gave Mr. Williams a winning smile, who blushed a bit and eyed Simon's arrival with suspicion.

"We are indeed, Ms. Frye. But I'm afraid I can't quite meet your price."

"Really?" Simon tried to sound shocked. "I've never known Kaylee to be unreasonable at all, sir." He looked over the parts Kaylee wanted and the pile of coin she'd placed on the counter. "Hmm. I know I'd give it to her for that price." Kaylee raised an eyebrow at him but quickly recovered and gave Mr. Williams a small pout.

Between Kaylee's pout and Simon's 'competition' for her good wishes, Williams had no choice but to cave. "Well. I'll be taking a loss, but I could never turn down a lady in need," he said gallantly.

Kaylee's pout blossomed into a full smile. "Shiny! Thank you!" She batter her lashes at the shopkeeper and gathered up her new toys. She managed to turn around before River crashed into the both of them, grabbing their wrists and dragging them towards the back of the store. "River? What - "

"No time. Pricking of thumbs." River hauled Kaylee and Simon into the storage room at the back of the store, leading them inside as several burly and armed men came in the front door.

"You! You seen a girl, black hair, skinny, in here? Or some guy, kinda prissy?" The lead burly man began yelling at poor Mr. Williams as his friends fanned out through the store.

"Uh...well, yeah. They just left."

"River!," Simon hissed. "We need to get out of here!"

"No time. No time." River pushed them back into the storage room, then quickly stepped out and slammed the door, trapping Simon and Kaylee inside. "Sorry, ge ge."

"River!" Simon banged on the door. "Let me out this instant!"

"Just wait, Simon," River's voice floated through the door. "Thumbs are pricking, but MacDuff is down the street." And with that, the near silent patter of River's feet faded into the distance.

Simon huffed. "Kaylee? You OK?"

"Yeah. Why'd your sister just lock us in a closet?"

"If I knew that, I'd feel much better about wanting to wring her neck." Simon looked around at the room. "We need to find a way out of here. River's going to need help." He tried wiggling the door, but it was locked from the outside, and appeared to be extremely solid lead. "What in the world would you store in here with a door this thick?"

"Engine cores. Helps keep a radiation leak from spreadin'." Kaylee was already way ahead of Simon. She quickly surveyed the room. Whatever had been in this storage room, it was long gone. Nothing left but a few aluminum beer cans, a really rusty engine mount, and what appeared to be a few magnesium flares from an emergency kit. Out of pure curiosity, Kaylee took a closer look at the engine. "Huh. Mounting block for an old 142."

"Can it open the door?" Simon was prowling around the room, looking for a way to break the windows mounted high in the ceiling. River was still out there with those men looking for her, and he was starting to get a bit frantic.

"Nope. Just a mount."

"Huh. You think you can fit through that window?"

Kaylee looked up at the window, down at herself, and snorted. "Sorry, hon, but I ain't shaped like them Cortex girls Jayne pins up. I take up space in all three dimensions." She returned her attention to the engine mount. "Reminds me of the old 144 - next model up - that Daddy had out in the barn. Sweetest thing you ever saw. 'Til I melted a hole clean through it."

"How'd you do that?," Simon asked absently, looking for something to maybe pry the door open. He was quickly running out of options.

"Oh, was a thing I saw in Billy Thatcher's chemistry book. See, you throw together aluminum, plain ol' rust, an' - " Kaylee trailed off, suddenly struck by an idea. "Simon, I need ya to start scrapin' rust off of this engine." She fished into her pocket and came up with a small utility knife.

"I don't think you can restore it, Kaylee."

"Ain't gonna restore it. Gonna melt the gorram door down." Kaylee produced a pair of wire cutters from yet another pocket and cut one of the aluminum cans in half. "I want ya to fill this can with bitty pieces of rust. Smaller the better."

"Kaylee, please." Simon looked at her imploringly and nearly broke her heart. "Please help me. I need to find River. I don't see how this - "

"You'll see. Now stop arguin' with me. You can thank me all proper later." Kaylee quickly cut up another aluminum can, depositing the small pieces in the bottom of the can Simon was filling. "Looks good. Keep goin'." She walked over and grabbed two of the flares. With a quick smack against the wall she cracked one in half, sending a small cloud of magnesium powder into the air.

"OK, it's full." Simon hoisted his can of rust. "Now what?"

"Give me the can an' stand back." Kaylee grabbed the can and knife and started stirring, mixing the little pieces of can with the rust. Ten minutes later - as Simon got more and more agitated - she was satisfied she had it right, and heaped a healthy amount on each of the door hinges, topping it off with a sprinkle of magnesium from her flare. "'K. Let's see if this worked."

"What did you do?"

"It's called thermite. Hottest thing you can make short of goin' to full burn. Watch." Kaylee ignited her second flare, and lit each pile of magnesium dust in turn. As she did, the pile of rust started to hiss and smoke, before all three of them erupted into a bright blue light. Kaylee jumped back, grinning madly as the hinges of the door warped and sizzled.

When all the commotion finally died down, Simon regarded the door. "It's still standing." Kaylee just rolled her eyes and walked forward to give the door one solid kick. With a creak and crash, the door pitched outward and thudded against the floor.

"Whoa!" Simon's eyes widened as Kaylee turned and gave him the smuggest grin she could manage. "You"

"After you, Dr. Tam."

"Oh, my God. That was..." Simon headed out the door, but grabbed her along the way and planted a huge kiss directly on her lips. "You are amazing!" He hurried off towards the front of the shop to find River.

Kaylee stood very still for a moment before she finally remembered to follow him, gathering up her bag of parts and holding a complete conversation under her breath. "An' here I was thinkin' he was different, but oh no. Spend damn near a year tryin' to get him to kiss me, an' he won't even look my way. But make somethin' light on fire, an' he's all over me. Hmph." She sighed in frustration. "Men."


Tuesday, May 30, 2006 3:21 PM


Ooh! Another chapter! And so quick, too! *g*

Love it! Love how Zoe caught on and, once again, came to Mal's rescue. Love Wash putting up with her preoccupation, but still telling her "I told you so." Love River's frustration at not understanding the mechanical stuff the way Kaylee does. And especially love the last paragraph! *giggles*

Fantastic story! Looking forward to the next chapter, whenever it may arrive.

"I love my captain."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 3:25 PM



I think I like you having the girls save the day too! Kaylee's comment at the end had me rolling! I hope once the danger is past, she'll demand more repayment for getting him out of that room :)

And - River kind of did save Simon and Kaylee . . .

Poor Mal. Seems like he's always having old friends betray him. Go Zoe!

Looking forward to more.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 4:26 PM


Aww Kaylee is sooo MacGuyver! Love it! And of course Zoe would save Mal's butt! But I think my favorite line of this whole post-

"Yeah. I had to pimp out Kaylee."

LOL! Can't wait for your next post!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 9:28 PM


You rock, MG! Especially Kaylee's MacGyver antics with the storage room door! Who knew you get taught how to make thermite in school in the 26th century?



Tuesday, May 30, 2006 11:18 PM


Girl power rocks! All three women do great here and I can't wait to see what else River might manage and maybe Inara too?

I like that Mal still takes the information he first came for plus banking!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 12:58 AM


I giggled my way through most of this chapter. Inspired writing!

I loved all the snarking with Zoe, Wash and Mal. And Kaylee... genius!

Very nice!

Friday, June 2, 2006 8:59 PM


This was the perfect snarky!Mal, and I love it when the women save the day! And you have one of the best Simon/Kaylee's out there, just the right amount of tension, frustration and bewilderment on their part.

Now, can they get River and the ship and get out of there? Time for some Wash heroics I think!


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In The Ether 13: Secret Agent Man
Simon takes a turn at super spy as the crew tracks him down.

In The Ether 12: Motivations
A brief history of Simon Tam

In The Ether 11: Telling
Simon and Regan tell each other off, Jayne tells Kaylee a little story, and Wash tells everybody about basic chemistry. Bonus: Jayne actually quotes Shakespeare! Kind of.

In The Ether 10: Technical Difficulties
Jayne goes trophy hunting, Kaylee and Wash attempt to explain technical things to Mal, and eventually everyone realizes that they left something at the last stop.

Generic S/K Plot Outline
Inspired by a story posted at, I present the outline of pretty much every S/K fic out there (including my own, so no one take it personal-like).

Dino Tales: Loss
The dino army mourns the loss of one of their own.

The Old Switcheroo
Jayne and Simon wake up with unique perspectives on life.

In The Ether 9: Minor Complications
Jake and Jasper check out Serenity, River secures some backup, Jayne discovers his protective side, Simon gets physical, and Kaylee meets an old flame.

In The Ether 8: Lady's Choice
Zoe fixes the plan. Kaylee shows Simon how to turn up the heat.

In The Ether 7: Shore Leave
Mal gives everyone a day on Belix to calm the nerves. Wash gets suspicious. A plan is hatched.