Eagle (Part 7/7)
Friday, December 30, 2011

Mal protects his own.


Kuikui was a den of thieves, murderers, gangsters and general misfits. And the pub The Tainted Heart was precisely what the name suggested, the tainted heart of the whole rotten community. Mal usually steered clear of the place, only the most desperate times would ever force him to this slum. Because the people who lived and traded here weren't just criminals, they were the worst kind of criminals. The petty kind. The lazy kind, who lacked either the ambitions or the brains to ever crawl out of this dirty hole and move ahead in the 'verse.

But now he was a man on a mission, and he must have looked the part too, because nobody tried in any way to stop them as he and Zoë entered the dark and noisy room. He asked for Miller at the bar and they directed him to an alcove in the far-end corner. He cast one last glance at Zoë, making sure she was still with him in this, and of course she was, stoic and determined as always.

They went up to the alcove, and Mal pushed aside a huge Mongol blocking his way. "Move! I have some business with your captain."

There was only one man sitting at the table, enjoying a meal (if it was ever possible to enjoy the food they served in this sewer). He was not especially intimidating, definitively not pretty, and he looked up at Mal with a mixed expression of arrogance and curiosity.

"Rufus Miller," Mal said coolly. "You know who I am?"

The man lifted his shot glass, saluting him. "Malcolm Reynolds," he said. "I know you. This business we're supposed to be havin', on the other hand, I don't recall."

"Well then, allow me to explain. I don't take a particular likin' to people shootin' my men."

The man just chuckled. "Found out about that, huh? Hell, I did you a favor, takin' out Jayne Cobb. That backstabbin' good-for-nuthin' would've sold you out soon as sumthin' better came along. Always did, that boy."

"Didn't sell out to you, though," Zoë pointed out.

The smirk on Rufus' face turned into a frown of dissatisfaction and disappointment, but only for a fraction of a second, and then the smug smile was back in place. "Well, I must a'mit he did show an uncharacteristically loyalty t'ward you," he said, addressing Mal. "You must be a good captain. And a good captain should have a good crew, so like I said, I done you a favor."

"He ain't dead." Mal's voice came out icy cold and restrained.

This time the smile disappeared completely. "What?"

"Jayne is six feet four, about two hundred pounds, and was standing, what, not too far away from you? That's a pretty big target. And still you only winged him."

Rufus looked nervous now. He opened his mouth to speak, but Mal beat him to it. "Boy, you really must be a crappy shot."

Anger flashed across Rufus' face and he jumped to his feet, drawing his gun. But Mal's was in his hand in a blink of an eye and he fired, and Rufus Miller's luck finally abandoned him and he fell to the floor sporting a brand new hole in his head.

"I ain't," Mal said flatly and then scowled fiercely at the other men in the room, daring them to do anything. Zoë had drawn her shotgun, but it didn't look like she would have to use it, as no one seemed to be in the mood for more killing. The men all dropped or holstered their weapons, indicating that if he left now they would let him.


"They just let you walk outta there?" Kaylee asked in amazement as Mal several hours later and back on Serenity relayed the incidents for her. "Just like that?"

"Weren't none of them willing to risk their lives over a captain already dead. 'Sides, they all knew I was there for him and wasn't gonna hurt anyone else. Honor among thieves, Kaylee."

"Still." She rolled her eyes in that cute way of hers.

Mal smiled and finished his coffee. "Now, do you think our girl has enough fuel left in her to get us to Boros?"

"If we don't push too hard we should manage," Kaylee replied. "Better go check up on her."

"You do that."

She left for the machine room, while Mal stood and stretched and walked over to the sink to put away his empty mug. Just then he noticed Shepherd Book in the doorway, observing him.

"You spyin' on me, preacher?" he asked.

"Just trying to see you, is all," Book replied.

"Didn't know I was invisible."

The shepherd smiled a little. "You're still quite a puzzle to me, Captain. One minute you part ways with one of the members of your crew, acting like it don't bother you at all, and the next you spend all your hard-earned money to save his life."

"Only did what had to be done."

Book stepped a little closer. "Oh, I think there's more to it than that, Malcolm. You care about your crew. That's one of the things I've come to appreciate about you. But what I can't understand is why you try to hide it so."

Mal glared at him. It didn't look like the older man actually expected him to give an answer, which was good, because he sure as hell wasn't planning to. "G'night, preacher," he said as he left the kitchen and headed downstairs to the infirmary.

He got there just as Simon came out.

"What's the word, Doc?" Mal asked him.

"Well, it's a little early to know for sure," the doctor replied and glanced back inside at the patient, "but he seems to be responding positively to the treatment. His condition's stabilized and the temperature's gone down a little, so, so far so good, I guess."

"Nice work."

"Thanks. You too."

Simon went on his way and Mal stepped inside the infirmary, eyeing the man on the table. Jayne still looked like a wreck, battered and drawn and feverish, his leg in a cast and IVs plastered to both his hands, and it was to be honest a little unsettling seeing him like that.

Mal leaned against the counter and pulled the eagle-imprinted emblem from his pocket. He absentmindedly started juggling it, throwing it from one hand to the other, while he pondered the shepherd's words.

He did care about his crew. Of course he did. And somehow they had to know. Because why else would they stay with him? He didn't have to tell them how much they meant to him. But then again, he'd never told Inara and…

No, he wasn't going there! Not now. Maybe never.

On the table, Jayne began to stir. His eyes blinked open and searched the room until they finally found Mal. "Cap'n?"

Mal pushed himself away from the counter and stepped up to the bed. "Hey there, how you farin'?"

Jayne just glared at him.

"Sorry," Mal said. "Nage wen ti hen yu chun." He held the emblem up in front of Jayne's eyes. "Got your message. Actually believed it too. For a while."

"Well, that kinda was the idea," Jayne mumbled.


He sighed and winced a little as it apparently caused him some pain. "Thought I could handle it."

"It was stupid." Mal closed his fingers around the emblem, palming it. "Did make things less complicated for the rest of us, though."

"You finish the job?"

"That we did."

"I still get my cut?"

"Well, here's the thing." Mal glanced up at the ceiling, sighing theatrically. "Money's gone."

Jayne raised one of his eyebrows, his expression a mixture of annoyance and confusion. "You lose it?"

"Spent it, actually."

Jayne kept his eyes on him for another couple of seconds, then closed them and took a deep breath, obviously tired. "Better be on sumthin' gorram important."

Mal just smiled. "Yeah."

He turned to leave, then stopped. He had more on his mind but he just couldn't get himself to face the man while he said it. "Jayne… if you ever quit on me, like for real… you better tell it to my face. And you better have a real good reason for leaving. No, the Tams ain't one, and while we're on the subject, don't you ever, ever ask me to choose between you!"

He paused. There was no response, so he continued, "'Cause you belong on this boat, and I need you on my crew… I want you on my crew. Dong ma? "

Still no reply.

"Jayne?" Mal turned back to face him.

And found the man fast asleep.

Gorram it! Here he was pouring his heart out…

He went back to the table and carefully placed the emblem in Jayne's right hand. "Fine," he whispered, smiling a little. "Be like that."

As he exited the infirmary, he almost bumped into River in the lounge area. She looked at him, her face all serious.

"The monsters are gone," she declared.

"Shiny," he smiled.

This made her giggle, and she skipped past him out into the cargo bay. Still smiling he watched her leave and then headed upstairs, hearing the others talk and laugh in the kitchen. "Just shiny."

The End, but the series continues in Lessons ***

A/N: 'nage wen ti hen yu chun' means 'that's a stupid question'.



Friday, December 30, 2011 6:32 AM


Great. Loved this but just wish there was one more chapter with Jayne wide awake and getting all the details of what had happened after he was shot and fell off the cliff. Shiny, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, January 7, 2012 4:52 PM


You know it's a bad place when even Mal finds the sort of criminals who resort there to be too criminal for him. "if it was ever possible to enjoy the food they served in this sewer"--that aside had me snickering! Well, Mal certainly was decisive. I'm a bit surprised Shepherd Book didn't have something to say to him about shooting Rufus Miller. Liked the dialog between Mal and Jayne at the end.

Saturday, January 7, 2012 11:47 PM


Well, Miller DID reach for his gun ;) The shepherd probably has an opinion on it though. I guess he's saving it for another day.

Saturday, January 28, 2012 3:13 PM


Excellent story! I enjoyed the arc, the characterization, the dialogue. And of course, the dichotomies that dwell within the characters.

"Jayne, we're robbing the place, not occupying it!"

Rob O.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 10:08 AM


Mal's aim must be epic! The Alliance Marshal in the first pilot...the Operative...Miller...all got nailed with a Reynolds Special (hip fire or precision target on the move)! And the hundan definitely deserved it!


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Angels We Have Heard (Part 4/5)
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Angels We Have Heard (Part 3/5)
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Angels We Have Heard (Part 2/5)
Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 1/5)
Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

The Night Before (revised and reposted)
It's the night before Christmas and Jayne is having spiritual problems. Literally.

Book of Secrets (Part 8)
Mal drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly, closing his eyes for a moment. "Gorram preacher," he muttered.

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Kaylee comes clean and River goes for a swim.

Book of Secrets (Part 6)
The captain dances, Inara's feeling out the new girl and the first secret is revealed.

Book of Secrets (Part 5)
Zoë and Inara have a heart-to-heart, and Mal discovers more shades of grey.