Family (Part 11/14)
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mal does the Highland Fling, and then things go way south.


Simon had begun to wonder when they were going to leave.

Normally the captain would have been what Wash called 'land crazy' by now; itchy, tense and eager to head back into the Black and away from the civilization he so obviously shunned and despised. And yet this time he seemed to be in no hurry. He hadn't even looked for work, like he said he would, and even now when they, despite that fact, had filled up the treasury, there was no indication that an imminent departure was in the cards.

It was on one hand not that uncommon for Mal to give the crew some time off after a successful job, but those 'vacations' were usually cut short on account of his restlessness, and Simon couldn't help but keep pondering the question as to why that was not the case now.

And then he began to wonder why it bothered him.

The answer was quite obvious – and yet very hard to admit to: He was the one who wanted to leave. And aside from the fact that they had provoked the self-proclaimed lord of this backwater town and thus probably put themselves in some kind of danger, there really was no reason for wanting that.

This was a nice place. The Cobbs were good people, and a whole lot more normal than Simon had expected them to be. (Looking back, he wasn't really sure what he'd imagined they'd be like – more like Jayne perhaps? But, then again, were they really all that different from him? He didn't really want to think about it.)

The captain was happy here. Relaxed, and in exceptionally good mood. Simon had caught him humming and whistling merry tunes on several occasions since they'd landed, something that otherwise happened so rarely that it was actually a little bit unsettling when it did happen.

Jayne was with his family, and every man deserved to be now and then. The initial awkwardness had passed and he seemed to be enjoying particularly his sister Jo's company. Which meant there was less time for him to annoy Simon or be annoyed by River.

Though Zoë was still a lot more on the alert than the captain, she too had loosened up considerably. Simon had heard her come home that night after the hunting trip with Jo, dead drunk and giggling like a schoolgirl. He'd never thought it possible for her to lose herself in the moment like that, and even though he'd been a little ambivalent about the experience, he knew it had been good for her.

Wash and Kaylee was having a good time as well, though that was less surprising as those two seemed to make friends wherever they went.

And most importantly, this place had done wonders to his sister. Radiant had shown she was capable of seeing past the craziness and treated River like the person she really was. She spoke kindly to her, gave her little chores to do, and even a dress that Jude had outgrown. (Not something Simon would have picked if they'd still lived back on Osiris, but it was a nice gesture nevertheless). The rest of the family didn't pay that much attention to her, but when they did interact with her they were respectful and non-condescending.

And then there was Mattie.

And therein lay the problem.

And it really shouldn't be a problem.

The man was decent and polite, and he handled her somewhat strange behavior more smoothly and patiently than Simon had ever seen anyone do, himself included. He was, as Kaylee had pointed out, not Jayne. And so Simon knew he wasn't being fair for wanting to keep the two of them apart.

He had no idea how River was going to handle a loss in her fragile state, and in one way or the other she was going to lose Mattie. Anson's Syndrome would surely kill him, he would probably be dead by spring. Simon had tried to explain it to her, but she'd just watched him quietly and nodded, and then afterwards gone back to talk to Mattie again, as if she hadn't heard or understood him at all.

And that was why he wanted to leave. He wanted the painful parting to be over with. He wanted her away from this place before she grew too attached. So that she could forget how Fate wouldn't let her keep the one good thing that had come her way in the last five years. And so that he wouldn't have to be constantly reminded of how he wasn't able to help keep that thing around.

And so, when he spotted them in the garden that afternoon, through the windows of the living room, he went outside to call her back inside. On the porch he ran into Jayne who was standing there, also observing the two, and as he rounded him to venture on out into the garden, the big man grabbed his shoulder and held him back. "Where d'ya think you're headed?" he asked him. "Don't bother 'em."

"I wasn't going to…," Simon began. For some reason he found it necessary to lie through his teeth.

"Yes, you was," Jayne protested. "And I ain't gonna let ya."

Simon fought the urge to take a step back. Jayne still scared him. "Are you?"

"You bet." The mercenary narrowed his eyes. "Listen here, my brother will be dead soon. I think he deserves to be happy the time he's got left. And she makes him happy, though I've got no ruttin' idea why, girl's a gorram nutcake. Hell, she'll probably slice 'im up when he least expects it."

Simon's eyes flashed back to River and Mattie. They were sitting on the lawn now. Mattie was having one of his coughing fits, and River was gently stroking his back. None of them appeared to have noticed that they were being watched.

"Don't see why you'd wanna break 'em up anyhow," Jayne continued. "She's less crazy than usual around him. Thought that'd make you happy."

Simon still didn't say anything.

"Hey, I know how you feel." Jayne's voice actually softened a little. Not much though. "You wanna protect her, I get it, I got baby sisters too. But Mattie's a good kid, he won't do anythin' inappropriate or nothin'. So you just leave 'em alone, dong ma?"

Yes, Simon understood, and when Jayne released his grip, he only threw him one short look and then headed back inside the house, a little wiser and whole lot more ashamed.

He was the one who wanted to leave.

And he was the one being selfish for wanting it.


Mal knew he was feeling a little too confident, but it was hard not to. He hadn't been happier since… well, he wasn't even sure, and he'd felt compelled to give something back to these good people, felt this desperate need to solve their problems, protect them. And maybe that desperation had pushed him just a little too far. It was possible. But right now he didn't care.

The sun was setting, outside the skies were all ablaze, and everyone was gathered in the living room, having a good time. Jo had broken out the potato wine and was pouring him his third – or was it fourth? – cup.

"A toast," she said, grinning broadly and lifting her own cup, "for the man who finally brought Carl I. MacHaig to his knees."

"Jo," Radiant muttered, though it was still audible. She'd been acting a little skittish in the hours that had passed since MacHaig's last visit, nervous and uncomfortable, like a mother hen sensing a fox closing in on her chicks, and maybe that was why she'd insisted that her youngest daughter and her family should stay the night.

Jude was in the sofa next to her, her baby asleep in her arms. The older child was still awake; he was snuggled in between the two women, looking at the scenes unfolding in front of him with large and curious eyes.

"No, Ma," Jo said, clearly a little annoyed with her mother's lack of enthusiasm. "This is a momentous day. That was the first time ever I saw the marshal refuse to do MacHaig's bidding. And once the word gets out, more people will." She looked at Mal again and saluted him, then drained her glass. He did the same.

"It won't be that easy," Zoë warned. She was by the door, leaning against the wall, very much like the way she had done the first time she'd stepped into this room.

Jo ignored her. "And, by the way, it's high time people in this town learned to stand up for themselves," she continued, refilling the glasses. "That money Captain Reynolds stole from him the factory workers helped him make. He's rich 'cause of the work they put down every day. And yet he treats 'em like cattle." She looked around, eyeing each of Serenity's crewmembers. "Won't even let 'em form a union. That's what Pop tried to do, you know." She turned towards her mother. "It's probably what got 'im killed."

"Jo, the kids," Radiant scolded, discreetly gesturing to the little boy next to her.

Jo glanced at her nephew, but then gave her mother a defiant glare. "Well, he was on his knees today. Ridiculed. And that makes me wanna party!"

Jayne was in the corner picking the strings of the guitar she'd played on before, so she grabbed the banjo instead. Fergus had pulled out a fiddle from somewhere, and he flashed a grin at his brother-in-law. "C'mon, Jayne, give us a bass line," he said.

Jayne didn't return the smile, but he did provide the bass line, and soon the room was filled with music, and the three of them played together as if it was all they'd ever done. It was a jig or some such, and it was fast and loud. Amazingly, it didn't wake the baby. But it did stir River – who'd been sitting on the footstool next to Mattie, lost in her thoughts (or possibly in his) – to life, and as a big smile slowly spread across her face, she got to her feet and entered the floor and then danced as if that was all she had ever done.

That girl sure could dance, no doubt about it. Mal had seen her do it before, in Serenity's cargo bay, to music only she could hear, but she still kept surprising him. She raised her arms above her head, and jumped on the spot, on one leg, then on the other, her combat boots thumped loudly against the wooden floor, the skirts of her dress bounced around her skinny legs – and the grin on her face grew bigger and bigger.

It made Simon smile too. And it made Simon relax enough to put an arm around a beaming Kaylee.

It even brought back Radiant's smile.

This was the Highland Fling, Mal realized. He knew this dance… or he'd known it once, at least. And Jo's potato wine had gotten him just drunk enough to join the girl on the floor. That earned him a lot of hooting and applause from his audience and, when he lost his balance and bumped into her a little, the not-too-familiar sound of River's laughter.

And then it all ended.

First River abruptly stopped dancing in the middle of a step, as if frozen in horror. Her eyes widened and then she screamed, "No!"

Next, one of the windows shattered, pieces of glass shingled across the floor, and Uncle Obadiah, who'd been standing by that particular window, slumped to the ground, with a surprised look on his face and blood sprouting from his chest.

A long second went by.

And then Mal's battle instincts kicked in and he heard himself yell, "Down!" He grabbed River and pulled her to the floor alongside him, and then looked around the room, pleased to see that everybody else had reacted just as fast.

Then more windows shattered, and bullets whizzed through the air above their heads. Little Finnegan screamed, the baby wailed, and the only sound that came from Obadiah was a few whimpered gasps. Mal was about to yell for the doctor when he realized that Simon had already crawled across the floor and reached the downed man.

"Get the kids outta here!" Mal shouted instead, and again people were ahead of him. Fergus was already pulling at a trap door by the eating table.

"The cellar!" he instructed, and Wash stooped in to aid him. They managed to pry it open and then pulled the children and Jude across the floor and lowered them down the ladder into the dark room below.

Mal tried to get River to follow them, but she downright refused to go along with it. She stayed flat on the floor where she was, though, so he let her be. His eyes flashed across the room again; he needed to get atop of things, needed to give some orders. Zoë and Jo were hunched down by the windows, frantically loading their guns; Jayne had finished loading his and already started shooting back at their unseen attackers. Radiant and Mattie was by the table, staring wide-eyed at Obadiah and Simon in the corner.

Ta ma de. Mal cursed on the inside.

"Jayne!" he yelled. "We need to get our situation mapped out!"

Jayne, bless him, was not an idiot when it came to battle orders. "Jo!" he relayed. "First floor! I'll join you."

She obeyed and immediately headed for the stairs. Jayne followed her, but stopped next to Mattie and, after making sure it was loaded, handed him his handgun. "Here," he instructed him. "They get in, you shoot! You shoot 'til you run out or you get killed, get it?"

Mattie nodded and Jayne went on his way, running to join his sister upstairs, two stairs at the time.

"Wash! Kaylee!" Mal yelled. "Get the water pumpin'! If they try and burn us out, you put out those flames!" He looked at Fergus, who was readying a rifle. "I do hope you shoot as good as you fiddle."

"My wife and kids are in the basement," Fergus replied, without looking up from the task he was performing. "If that don't make me shoot straight, then I don't know what will."

"Good point," Mal mumbled and switched his attention to Radiant. He found her loading a weapon as well. Anger, hatred and stone cold determination was etched into her face. It was quite a frightening sight.

"Ay, ay, MacHaig," Mal added to himself as he turned back towards the windows. "You certainly picked the wrong family to mess with."




Tuesday, March 6, 2012 9:41 AM


God I love this story so much!!! You do such a good job of giving us the happy with the angst. Hope uncle Odadiah is ok, though not sure how that will be possible...

Can't wait for more:)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:14 AM


Well, since there's a doctor there, and he wasn't dead where he fell, there's still a chance. Though unless Simon has his instruments with him, maybe not much of one.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 9:00 PM


Uh oh, just knew they would pay for all that happy. Really love this, nothing like a good Firefly story to warm the heart! Now let our BDHs and the Cobbs give the slimey McHaig and his thugs hell. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 5:21 AM


I knew there would be a reckoning, all that happy-and-relaxed couldn't last. Let's hope they didn't drink too much of that potato wine to be able to fight back effectively.

And Mal doing the Highland Fling! You get extra points with me for including that. :-)


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Angels We Have Heard (Part 5/5)
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 4/5)
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 3/5)
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 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.

Book of Secrets (Part 7)
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.