Flight of the Albatross part 3
Saturday, February 4, 2006

Mal/River River and Mal explore their newly discovered feelings and an old threat comes into play. The Plot begins to twist...and I hope I can hold on for the ride.


HUGE HONKIN' SPOILERS FOR THE BDM... Pairing: Mal/River/Serenity (background Simon and Kaylee) Summary: Events leading up to the end of the, ‘Big Damned Movie’ and where I think two certain people might find what they lost. Disclaimer: We all know I am not working for the networks because, like the rest of you I’m not stupid enough to cancel something as fan supported as Firefly. I’m not Joss Whedon either so I am using his creation respectfully and with much praise for the creator. Rating: T Author’s Note: This is going to be a slow build but will be rated adult only. It is going to build the friendship between the two in flashes…the scenes breaks may change the situation. My beta is takin’ a much needed rest for the weekend, but I kept getting e-mails to post more so here it is. Enjoy! Sid

* * * *

It should have unnerved him that upon arriving back at the landing dock he found the children clinging to each other next to the shuttle. No, their beating him to the shuttle didn’t unnerve him.

But River did, she was pacing agitatedly, he could see the fluttery way she moved. Her hands trembled as she alternately rubbed her thighs and her upper arms and then started on her next circuit across the front of the shuttle. Her eyes were wild and she was searching for someone or something in the crowds around the dock. Fear in her eyes like he’d only seen twice before. That unnerved him and he covered the space between them in double time.

“River,” Mal called when he stepped up onto the platform. “Boa bei?”

“Need to leave…38% probability that I have already been detected and 23% that we’ll be taken if we don’t leave in the next ten minutes…odds of capture double with the addition of …” Her head popped up and her eyes glazed as she stared in the direction Kaylee and Jayne had gone earlier. “Jayne…Kaylee they need to hurry. We have to leave.” River clutched at his arms, terrified, and her body trembled unbearably under his hands, her muscles jumping beneath her skin.

Plucking the communicator from his belt Mal barked, “Jayne?!” The comm-link only produced static at first, then Kaylee’s voice was heard.

“Cap’n, we’s just finishin’ up and headin’ back to the shuttle.” Kaylee’s voice was chipper over the tinny device. “We got the stabilizer, but…”

River became more agitated and she twisted under his hands as though trying to escape. “Mal…please… they know I’m here…searching…never give up two by two hands of blue…oh, God!” Her wide terror-filled eyes hollowed out his soul.

Breaking into Kaylee’s chatter Mal ordered, “Kaylee ya’ll need to get back to the shuttle like yesterday.”

“But Mal I was hopin’” Jayne’s voice began to whine over the comm.

“Gorramit Jayne, make like Reavers is on your ass and get back to the shuttle or we’ll be leavin’ your sorry excuse for a hide here, dong ma?!” Shoving the comm back onto his belt, Mal gathered River into his arms and carried her to the door of the shuttle. “Nate you an’ your sister need to get in here and buckle in…” Mal looked down at River. She was petrified and her eyes had that horrible haunted look in them again. The one he hadn’t seen since Miranda. “That is if’n you still plan to come with us. River thinks we’re in a bit o’ danger, so’s you might just wanna take the cashy and find alternate transport.”

“She said hands o’ blue.” Nate said looking nearly as frightened as River. “They’s been men tryin’ to get Willow what wears blue gloves on their hands.”

Mal cursed as he entered the shuttle and turned back to the boy. “Then you’ll be needin’ to get in here quick like and strap you an’ your sis in tight.”

Moving to sit River in the co-pilot seat he knelt in front of her making her meet his eyes. “Listen to me, River…” Grasping her shoulders and leaning in, so that his face was all she could see, as he spoke quietly and firmly. “I know you’re afraid, but we got things to do. We ain’t got time for you to do this.”

River’s eyes slowly began to focus on Mal and the hunted look retreated a bit as she listened to his words. “Things to do.” She said as she nodded her head. “Got to fly.”

“That’s right we gotta fly.” Mal said his eyes holding hers. “You think you can get us out o’ here and back to the ship?”

River closed her eyes and took a deep calming breath, when she opened them Mal could see only calm resolve staring back at him. He smiled and curled his fingers around the nape of her neck tilting her head down and a bit so he could place a gentle kiss on her brow. “Good girl, now get this thing prepped and ready to go, Jayne and Kay…”

“Here we are, Captain,” Kaylee said as she and Jayne ducked into the shuttle.

“What the gorram hell is goin’ on Mal?” Jayne demanded as he shut and latched the shuttle door.

“Watch your mouth Jayne we got young ones aboard.” Mal said as he stood up and placed a reassuring hand on River’s shoulder as she began piloting the shuttle out of the dock.

“Hell, Mal!” Jayne’s annoyed tone was muffled as he was still facing the shuttle’s door. “The crazy girl has heard me say worse.”

“River ain’t crazy!”

Mal was stunned to see little Willow jump from her seat and light into a stunned Jayne, landing a vicious kick to his shin. He did nothing for a moment and then put his hand out to fend her off. Moving quickly Mal grabbed the angry girl by her waist and planted her bottom back in the seat from which she had sprung. “Listen here, Willow, I’m the Captain and that means when I say jump you jump and when I say get in a gorram seat and buckle up I mean buckle up!” He made sure that he met Nate’s eyes before he continued. “We’re about a pretty serious business here and there might come a time I need the two o’ you to do as I say with out a question or a thought, dong ma?”

“Yes, Sir,” Nate said as he re-buckled his sister’s seat belt. “She ain’t crazy, Captain Mal.” Willow said her eyes on River before turning back to him. “They did things to her is all.”

“Mal what in the ruttin’ hell is goin’ on around here?” Jayne demanded but Mal just ignored him for the moment.

Mal couldn’t have been more stunned than had the girl waltzed into the Maidenhead and floored a room full of grown men like she was dancin’ a ballet. “You a reader, too?” he asked.

Her eyes widened and then flew to her brother’s, as though realizing she’d said too much. Her brother patted her hand comfortingly and then met Mal’s gaze. “Willow, can read some, but not all the time.” He sighed. “She can’t read me. I don’t know why.”

“Can’t read you neither.” Willow said her eyes turning fiery as they lit upon Jayne across the way. “But he’s too stupid. He’s like a book with the covers left open and all the words just there to see.”

Mal simply nodded as he stood up. After all, who was he to argue with a reader? “When we get aboard, I’m gonna have to clear out one of the crew compartments for ya’ll. We got us about a weeks ride to Persephone, but we might have to alter our plans a bit what with them blue handed bastards after ya.” He let his eyes travel to the back of River’s head. “You’re right, little one, they did things to her. Things what aught not be done even to an animal. You won’t want to end up…” As much as he hated what was done to River it made her who she was and he loved her all the more for having survived. “…getting’ hurt like that.”

“Captain, we’ll be breaking atmo in five, you should get strapped in.” River’s constrained voice tightened his stomach muscles.

“On my way, boa bei,” He looked at Kaylee he asked, “We get what we came for?”

“Sure did, Captain.” She smiled, “I got a good price, too. They ferried it up as we was leavin’ I told um we’d pay the delivery charge when we got back aboard.” She looked at him sheepishly afraid to ask if they’d gotten paid or not.

“That’s just fine little Kaylee.” He strapped into the seat next to River. “We won’t be makin’ the repairs as quick as we might have done for obvious reasons, but we got what we need and we’ll find us a quiet moon to orbit whilst we make repairs and see to some plannin’. You can get the coin you’ll be needin’ from the bag.”

Mal turned anxious eyes toward River and watched as she expertly piloted the shuttle out of atmo and approached Serenity from her starboard side. He was proud of her, she’d buried her fear and anxiety and was getting the job done.

“Captain, I been thinkin’ that stabilizer is awful big and it won’t fit inside the cargo hold. We’ll have to fix up a tow line and that is gonna take a fair amount of time.”

River’s knuckles whitened and he could almost feel her muscles jump from where he sat. To the others she would seem perfectly normal, but he could see the strain in every line of her face. Mal felt like cursing a blue streak, but he refrained for the kids’ sake. “I’m sorry, darlin’, it can’t be helped.” He spoke softly so that only she could hear him. “You got any probabilities on how much time is too much to spend riggin’ the line?”

She glanced at him and then over her shoulder before replying. “The milk has already been spilled. Nothing left to be done except clean it up and hope it doesn’t sour,” she met his gaze again. “We can talk about this after we dock. I am scattered like husks in the wind. I have to focus now.” Then she turned back to the task of docking with Serenity.

She was out of her seat and out of the shuttle as soon as she’d powered it down. Mal watched her go as he assigned Jayne to helping the delivery men rig a tow line. Jayne left without a word of protest.

“But Captain, what are we gonna do with all that’s in there right now?” Kaylee asked wide-eyed.

“Tuck it away in what ever empty space we got. There’s two empty hidin’ spots in the cargo bay alone that just might do for what little is left in that berth.” Mal turned and to head out of the shuttle. “Nate you an’ your sis come on with me. I’ll get ya somethin’ warm to eat while the others do what needs doin’.” Zoë raised an eyebrow when she saw the two ambling along behind Mal. “Sir, is there something you’d like to tell me?”

“Oh…” Willow cried delightedly. “There’s gonna be a baby, Nate.”

Zoë’s eyes widened as she looked from Mal to the little girl and back again. “There is a lot that needs said, but it’ll have to wait ‘til we’ve got our selves away from Beaumont. I need you to help Kaylee and the Doc clear out the fifth berth. I’ll take care of findin’ the linens an’ things they’ll be needed for tonight.” * * * *

“Over there we got the crew compartments and the bridge. If ya turn left we got the dining room and the kitchen.” He proceeded to lead them into the room and motioned for them to find a seat at the table. Pulling out a pot he filled it with water and emptied dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring packet into it before putting it on the stove. “I’m afraid we don’t have no fancy fare, but we got the makin’s for soup and I’ll cut ya’ll up some fruit.”

“We ain’t ate proper in a while, so whatever you got is gonna be a treat.” Nate said as he watched Mal cut the meat from the apples. “You don’t gotta cut the apples we ain’t babies.”

“Well, I reckon that’s a fact, but I learned a far time ago, that you can’t see what you’re bitin’ into can lead to a whole mess o’ trouble.” He passed the sliced fruit to them and then smiled at River as she wandered into the room and sat next to him. He snaked his arm around her shoulders and pulled her tight to his side. She wrapped her arms around his waist and he brushed a kiss against her temple. “You’re doin’ good, Little Albatross,” he murmured. “Just a bit longer an’ then you can relax. Just gotta get the rest of the crew off to bed.”

She nodded and closed her eyes while he stroked her hair. When it was time to get the soup for the kids he didn’t want to move, but there was things to do and they couldn’t wait. The two had eaten the apples hungrily and he knew that they were probably still hungry. Slowly easing away from River he stood up and ladled bowls of re-hydrated vegetables in a meat-like flavored broth for them. Mal sat the bowls in front of their newest crew and then sat down next to River. He stroked a hand over her hair and asked her if she wanted anything. His fingers tunneled through her hair and grasped the back of her neck massaging it lightly.

“They’re done emptying the berth,” River told him quietly. “I’m going to get sheets but they’ll need an extra bed.”

“That’s something I can handle.” Mal said as he ran his finger over the pulse point at the side of her neck. “I’ll go get a camp bed and meet ya down there.” Withdrawing his hand he stroked her hair behind her ear and ran his thumb over her smooth cheek. When he reached the corner of her mouth she turned her head and placed a tentative kiss against the sensitive pad.

“Go, I’ll be fine.” She said quietly.

“I know you will boa bei.” He leaned foreword and dropped a gentle kiss on the tip of her nose. Lifting his head he was amazed at the twists and turns in life. If you’d have asked him nine months ago if he’d ever be able to care so much for this little slip of a girl he’d have said no. He’d have said he couldn’t love and that he didn’t care for anybody. Caring only got you pain, but that was then and this was now and he loved and he cared and he wouldn’t be whole with out this little slip of a girl in his life.

With a gently reassuring smile he headed for the cargo bay to search out a camp bed. When he reached the door he heard Willow’s voice. “Captain Mal…”

“You need somethin’ little one?”

“I just wanted to say thank you for what you done.”

“It was my pleasure. Now eat up and when you’re done I want you both to get cleaned up. We have passenger bathrooms down by the infirmary, which will be convenient since you both need to have the Doc check you out and give ya your immunity boosters.”

River nodded her agreement and then began clearing the table of the dinner leavings. “I got that Miss River.” Nate said as he stood and took their bowls from her. “Captain Mal hired us on as clean-up so I might as well get the hang of it now.”

River watched quietly as Nate gathered the rest of the dishes and put his hand on his sister’s shoulder to keep her in her seat. “No, mei-mei you rest you was runnin’ ragged today what with the thievin’ and all.”

“Nate,” River spoke softly, “You remind me of my brother, Simon. He always took good care of me.”

“Got you out when they hurt you.” Willow said seriously. “Was like a knight from a story, but he couldn’t slay the dragons for you.”

“No, little reader, Simon couldn’t slay the dragons. I’m glad of that. Simon’s a healer and his hands have been dirtied up enough.” River smiled tremulously at Willow. “I have to slay my dragons. Sometimes there isn’t any other way.”

“Don’t worry River, when the time comes he’ll understand.” Willow rounded the table and placed a gentle hand on River’s arm. “I can’t read Captain Mal but he cares deep. You can see it in the eyes what a person is filled with.”

“Want to help me get the linens for your beds?” River asked the girl who reminded her just a little of a girl that played unification war with her brother and cheated by bringing in dinosaurs.

They went into the lounge and opened a cabinet that contained stacks of white sheets, grey woolen blankets and assorted other linens that had labels on the shelf beneath them. “These are for specific crew,” River told her pointing to one such label. “Never use any of the colored linens only the white at least till ya buy your own.”

River stacked a small pile of white in the girls out stretched arms. He eyes serious as she worked. She was still afraid, but bein’ back aboard Serenity made it almost all better and what Serenity didn’t sooth, Mal would once they had a moment alone. “Have you always been able to see what’s in people’s minds?”

Willow wasn’t thrown off track by the abrupt change of topic. “No, sometimes I don’t see a gorram thing.”

“I heard that an’ what have I told ya about cursin’, Willomina?” Her brother’s bossy tone reached them from the sink area.

“Ya ain’t my daddy, Nathanial!” Willow stomped her foot.

“I know that mei-mei but you should at least try to be lady like, just ‘cause we don’t come from a core planet don’t mean we have to be like heathens.” Nate appeared at the entry to the lounge and spoke solemnly. “Momma would’a tanned your hide if’n she’d ‘ave heard you say that.”

“I’m sorry, Nate.” Willow made a good appearance at bein’ truly sorry, but she was only sayin’ it to appease her brother. He was always watchin’ her so close since their momma died. Always pokin’ his nose in where it don’t belong.

“Its okay mei-mei I know you’re just tired.” He fiddled with the towel before heading back to the dishes.

“Anyways as I was sayin’ before he interrupted, sometimes I don’t see or hear nothin’ from a person.” She shrugged her small shoulders. “I can’t read Nate or the Captain, I don’t know why. I just can’t.” She turned and carried her load of linens to the crew compartments and then waited for River to show her which would be theirs. She laughed happily when River showed her how the door opened and closed.

Dropping her stack of linens she pulled the door closed and then pushed the release and hopped onto the hatch laughing as it swung open on the hydraulics.

“Let that be the last time I see ya playin’ on that door, little Willow. You wouldn’t fancy it breakin’ down especially with ya inside.” Mal’s voice was strong and the command was tempered with a bit of indulgence. Smiling, he propped the camp bed next to the entry and then took the linens from River, the backs of his fingers accidentally stroking her inner arms making her shiver a little. “So, what have ya’ll been doin’ since I left that I almost beat ya to the door?”

“We was talkin’ about me bein’ a reader like River, but not a very good one.” She looked at River as though she were her personal hero. “I wish I could read everyone like you do.”

“No!” River’s eyes looked stricken and she grabbed the girl’s shoulders. “No, you don’t wish that it’s horrible. You never know what you think or what everyone else thinks.”

Dropping to her knees she looked Willow in the eye, seeing everything. Seeing who Willow was and what she wanted and what she thought. “It’s like waves that lull you and underneath there is a current that sucks you under and won’t let you up. They did that to me. Made me broken and can never be fixed. They cut me and hurt me and took all that was me. Cut out what they didn’t need and twisted up the rest. No good from them. Don’t think that again.”

She didn’t realize tears were streaming down her cheeks until she saw the tears on the girl’s face. When she reached up and felt the wetness on her face, she turned and looked at Mal, her eyes tormented. “Two by two with hands of blue she doesn’t see. She can’t understand. I need to leave. I have to get away from here. Oh, God, Mal! I have to go, please; you need to understand I have to go.”

Mal gently lifted her to her feet and pulled her into his arms. Her fragile state was worrisome to him. He’d thought she was on the mend, but with the return of this old enemy she was almost as hysterical as she had been when she woke up in her cryo-bin.

“I’m sorry not whole.” She whispered into his now soggy chest. “Need to fly.”

He bent his head and kissed the crown of hers and slowly, rhythmically caressed her back. “Jayne was comin’ in as I was headin’ up here. How about I let Nate and Willow make their beds and I’ll help get us goin’ again.”

“Frightened, not stupid, Captain!” she said as she pulled away giving him a stern look. Mal had to smile, reader and genius but he could still push her buttons.

“Well, I don’t know nothin’ except I like ya angry more than I like ya fearful.” He set her away and gave her a slight push toward the bridge with a swat on the behind. “You take us out and head a leisurely round about course out to Sihnon.”

He watched her go and then turned to Willow. “Lets get this chore done so we can get ya’ll washed up and have the Doc take a look at ya.”

Mal hefted the camp bed down the steps and set it up in the corner. Willow carried the linens down and started making up the beds.

“Where’s that brother of yours?” Mal asked as he helped her pull the sheet tight and fold it under.

“Cleaning the floor most probably,” Willow answered with a frown.

“Whatever for?” Mal asked, truly confounded by this.

“You said we was gonna work for our transport. Nate’s a bit of a stuffed shirt always workin’ and organizin’ things.” She tossed a pillow at the head of the camp bed. “It was hard for him when momma died and then our dad left and we didn’t have money. He hated livin’ in that ally.”

“I reckon it couldn’t have been too nice for either one o’ you.” Mal said as he smoothed an imaginary wrinkle from the sheets. “I was surprised when your brother said them men was after you.”

He watched as she stilled briefly before turning to him. “Me too,” She whispered. “I can’t read Nate, anymore, I think he can block me out.”

“Weren’t always that way?”

“No, when I was small I could read him and boy did it irk him somethin’ fierce.” She finished the second bed and Mal led the way up the ladder. “It was after momma died and daddy went away when I stopped bein’ able to read him.”

“What happened with your ma? Did she take ill?” Mal led the way down the corridor.

“No, somethin’ bad happened.” Willow’s eyes were huge with her sorrow. “Nate just told me someone hurt her bad. So’s she couldn’t be mended.”

This caused Mal to stop short of the kitchen door. “Did your brother see what happened to your Ma?”

“I think so.” With a sad look toward the bridge she whispered. “River sees everything.”

“That she does, but it weren’t her choice.” Mal said his eyes finding the back of River’s head where she sat at the controls. “What they done to her wasn’t pretty.”

“I made her afraid.” Willow whispered, “I thought about lettin’ them make me like her, so I could see everything like her.”

Mal was shocked as he met the girl’s eyes. “Well, that there helps explain a lot about what happened before she went to fly us away.”

It was a relief that she’d just been reacting to the girls thoughts and not slipping away. Mal had to admit that the thought of losing River to that terrible place inside her was a fear more powerful than any he had ever known before. He relaxed a little, but made a mental note to revisit the whole episode when the others were down for the night.

“Come on,” he called to Nate who indeed was scrubbing the floor. “Ain’t no need for ya to be scrubbin’ the floor tonight. You might want to save a bit o’ work for the trip to Persephone. Right now we got an appointment with the showers and Doc.”

Nate climbed to his feet and put his supplies away. “I just didn’t want ya to think badly about takin’ us on.”

“I’d have brought you aboard without assignin’ ya chores, but I didn’t think a man like yourself would take kindly to charity as it is,” Mal gestured to the clean dishes. “I’d take ya any where in the ‘verse to keep from havin’ to do another load o’ dishes.”

* * * * *

Mal left the kids in Kaylee and Simon’s hands and went to River at the helm. He watched her for a moment taking care to note the tension in her stiff shoulders and the white knuckled grip she had on the controls. He wondered what she was thinking about. Were they her thoughts or someone else’s?

“They paid the dad so they could take the girl. Her brother heard them talking. The mother was angry tried to stop them. They killed her. He saw. He listened. Broke something in him.” River turned her tear stained face toward him. “Broken like us, Mal. Why can’t they leave us whole?”

Mal’s face settled into a grim line and the frustration that had been seeded in him at Serenity Valley began to grow by bounds. Refocusing on the inky blackness he took a deep breath and reigned in his thoughts.

“I don’t know boa bei, but one thing is sure…They might have hurt us deep, but they ain’t made use soulless.” When he had better control of his emotions he leaned over and set the auto-pilot before helping her stand. Scooping River up close to his side, he led her to her bunk. “We ain’t them and one day we’ll send them to the deepest circle o’ hell.”

River nodded and buried her nose in his chest right below his neck. She began to quote to him,

“While yet corruptible, unto the world Immortal went, And was there bodily, But if the adversary of all evil was courteous, Thinking of the high effect that issue would from him, and who, and what, To men of intellect unmeet it seems not for he was of great Rome, and of her empire in the empyreal heaven as father chosen.”

Mal hugged her tighter to his side and then pushing her hatch open for her, guided her with a hand on her back before adding. “Things did he hear, which the occasions were both of his victory and the papal mantle…I, nor others, think me worthy of it.” He murmured as he followed her into her room. “We aren’t ill fated little albatross and they ain’t immortal.”

She moved across the floor and climbed gracefully into her bed before turning to look at him. “Our music isn’t finished yet, Captain.” She told him primly as he sat on the edge of her bunk.

“No, but there’s enough a tune to carry us through the night,” he said as he kicked off his boots and pulled his suspenders off his shoulders. She slid down and lay looking up at him, an inscrutable look in her eyes. “I’m just gonna hold ya while you sleep.” His voice was hushed and reverent as he lay down beside her and drew her toward him.

She lay with her head on his chest listening to the rhythmic thump of his heart as she drifted off. He was right; they had enough music to keep the monsters at bay enough to hold each other safe in the night. She could only hope they had enough music between them to carry them through her betrayal.


Saturday, February 4, 2006 12:59 PM


Very good though it was really disconcerting to see River fall apart like that when Willow innocently said she wished she could read everything. So glad Mal has taken Willow and Nate on to his ship, he sure has a soft spot for the innocent and down trodden. Make a good daddy. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, February 7, 2006 4:16 AM


Dang you Ali!! NOw you've got me thinking about Mal and babies and that is a dangerous combination, lol. Anywho, this was a great chappie, but what else can you expect from the Mal/River goddess ;). Can't wait for more.

Sunday, February 12, 2006 11:09 AM


*big eyes*


Thursday, March 23, 2006 5:10 AM


That's right (gives anonymous guy/gal a high five) we need more! If it takes much longer, I'm going to start ripping my hair out here!


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