Do Me Wrong
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Mal/River. Mal's having some revelations about his youngest crew member.


There isn’t wasn’t much to Haven. A simple mining colony on a newly terraformed moon, orbiting LeHart, it has the most meager of basics. Mal can understand why Shepherd Book has chosen it to settle. There are good, hard working people here. Men, women and children living simple and free. The production of driesian ore is small, but steady, and the Alliance won’t bother sticking their noses in unless the export comes to a stand still.

Makes for an excellent layover point when Serenity needs to lay low for a spell. Just fly right into one of the old mines. Weren’t a machine yet that could see through that much rock.

This time around, they’re not laying low so much as waiting for Kaylee to make some repairs that she insists are long over due. After the last time he hadn’t listened to her about the engine, he’s not about to go taking chances.

Did them all some good, to get off that boat. People stay too long a spell in space, looking at the same eight faces morning, noon, and night; things start to get a bit hairy. He knew the crew had reached that point when Jayne started sharpening the same five knives over and over again; and Zoë was threatening to shoot Wash at the dinner table.

If that hadn’t been indication enough, River’s antics three nights ago would have clued him in.

He’d woken up in the morning to find a blanket with silk embroidery draped over him. Sleepily, he’d thrown it off and risen to get dressed, only to find starched white shirts and vests filling his trunk instead of his customary earth-tone cotton. Splashing, water on his face, he examined his room (or what had been his room when he went to sleep in it the night before) and found every last one of his possessions replaced with something of Simon’s.

With further investigation (via Jayne’s furious bellowing about fans and flowers and ruffles), he’d discovered River had gone though the ship while everyone slept and switched rooms. Simon’s stuff was now in Mal’s bunk, Kaylee’s things were exchanged with Jayne’s. The only people she hadn’t displaced were herself and Wash and Zoë.

Suppressing any and all desires to throttle her, he’d asked why Wash and Zoë were spared, and she’d smiled in that sweet-as-honey way of hers: “They are where they ought to be.”

If that weren’t odd enough, even for River, she’d taken to shadowing him through the ship. Not that there was anything wrong with that; in fact, passed as normal as far as she was concerned. The odd thing of it was he didn’t mind. Not a lick.

Sorta got to enjoying her company.

On all the ship, she’s the only one who doesn’t look to him for something. He’s learned a long while ago that being Captain made him a lot of other things too; father-figure, friend, comrade. But when he looks to River, with her big, hopeful eyes and shy smile, there’s no hint that she wants him to be anything more than who he is.

The thing of it is, he doesn’t exactly know who that might be once he sheds the cloaks of Captain, Friend, and Comrade.

Now River doesn’t seem to care much.

After disembarking Serenity, she flies straight into the arms of Shepherd Book with Kaylee close on her heels. A few hours pass as they get settled, blending in with the residents of Haven like they‘d always belonged there; Simon and the resident medic putting their heads together over the meal, Kaylee and Jayne setting up a camp fire so she can roast the marshmallows she’d been saving for the last three months, Wash and Zoë make a break for Serenity, hoping to take advantage of having the ship all to themselves.

Taking stock of the crew, a few moments pass where he looks for Inara before he reminds himself she’s no longer with them. Hasn’t been for some months. His eyes slip back to River, finds her without even having to look. She sits at the edge of the fire, near enough to Jayne and Kaylee that they can intercept her if things go a little…well, crazy.

Which is all well and good until the boy beside her, a dark skin fellow, who looks to be five years her senior; takes her hand. There’s a terrifying moment when he fears she’ll up and start screaming bloody murder.

She doesn’t.

In fact, what she does is a few thousand times worse.

She giggles.

Now, Mal’s been privy to all manner of moods from River in the seven or so months she’s been aboard. He can catalogue each and every laugh from her lips. And this is one he hasn’t heard from her yet. It’s bright and giddy; and has nothing at all to do with amusement.

And then…then she lays her head on his shoulder.

Instinctively, he searches out Simon, thinking he has to hold back the doctor to prevent a scene. The feng le man smiles at his sister, and goes straight back to talking with Haven’s medic.

The low murmur of River’s voice floats over to him, and he watches as the boy reaches up to brush a lock of her hair behind her ear. Mal’s suddenly hit with a solid punch of envy. He hasn’t ever had the kind of nerve to do it himself.

Hasn’t realized until this moment that he’s wanted to.

Resolutely, he walks down to the campfire to join them, his hand resting purposefully on his weapon as he takes a seat directly across from River and the boy. Makes sure the kid gets a good look at his weapon.

“There are no holes in the net you wove. Too tight. Gonna get caught,” River says.

Mal figures that doesn’t bode well for him.


They spend six days on Haven, all told. Six days well spent. The crew’s in high spirits as they load Serenity with fresh water and real food. Everyone that is, but the Captain. Mal stays at the edge of the loading ramp once everything’s packed away, watching the others make their goodbyes. Makes a few of his own, but had anyone asked, he couldn’t have recalled who the hands he shook belonged to. His eyes skim over the people surrounding the boat, keen on picking out a pair of big doe eyes and fluttery brown hair.

The crowd begins to thin and Jayne leaves his girl of the night with a kiss on the cheek and a pinch on the ass before joining Mal at the ramp. “Figured you’d be glad to be gettin’ off this rock, Cap’n.”

He spares a glance for the mercenary, “I am.”

“They why’re ya glarin’ like you’s aimin’ to kill the next body steppin’ close enough to shootin’ range.”

“You’re well within that range, Jayne.”

He shrugs. “I’m a better draw’n you.”

Mal decides he’s above a pissing contest with Jayne. Even if he is the better draw. The other man doesn’t move, just hangs back a little, and watches Kaylee make her goodbyes to the dozen or so kids gathered around her.

Simon climbs the ramp warily, his med bag in hand and his eyes fixed on both the Captain and Jayne. He opens his mouth to ask, and then thinks better of it; instead, simply comes to stand with the two of them, watching the others. Kaylee can’t seem to tear herself away from the children, doling out hugs and kisses as though they’re the ones starved of affection instead of her. Wash and Zoe stand with Shepherd Book, trading last minute jokes and stories, trying to squeeze another year of friendship into the dwindling minutes before take off.

River is nowhere in sight.

Mal shifts his weight agitatedly.

Leaving Zoe to talk with Book, Wash bounds up the ramp with an easy grin, eager to get back into the pilot’s seat after near a week grounded. Coming face to face with the three other men aboard Serenity, he turns to see what they were all looking at. Confused, he turns back after seeing nothing out of the ordinary.

He shrugs and moves to stand between Jayne and Simon, folding his arms over his chest in an echo of Mal’s stance.

Silence reigns for all of a minute before he opens his mouth, “So…are we winning?”

Mal shifts his weight. “Winning what?”

“The staring contest.”

“Dumbass, there ain’t no--” Jayne pauses, and glances at Mal. “Is there a starin’ contest?”

Releasing a long suffering sigh, Mal ignores them, “Waitin’ on your sister, Doc. Ain’t seen hide nor hair o’ her since breakfast.”

“Ahh, she’s with Koi, I expect,” Simon responds.

“Yeah, those two’ve been attached at the hip almost since we landed,” Wash smiles.

“Attached somewhere a little south o’ that, most like,” Jayne grins wolfishly.

“Jayne!” All three men turn to glare at the mercenary.

“What? I’m just sayin’ what you all are thinkin’. Not that there’s nothin’ wrong with it. That boy kept her outta my hair for near a week. He’s my new best friend.”

Mal’s fingers flex menacingly over the hilt of his gun.

Wash squints against the sun, “I think it’s cute, our little River of raging hormones. It’s almost normal.”

Mal can’t seem to keep silent, “Ya really think it was wise, lettin’ her get attached to a complete stranger, doc? Girl’s still young. Impressionable.”

Simon smirks faintly, “Have you ever tried to stand between River and something she wanted, Captain? I kept an eye on them. Building an interpersonal relationship with someone outside of the ship seems to be good for her.”

“Na mei guanxi,” he spits under his breath.



“There she is now,” Wash nods as River and Koi appear hand and hand down the road. “Ahh, puppy love. How sweet it is. I remember when I met my first love. Wendy Evenstad. She let me kiss her behind the--”

“Bizui,” Mal turns away and heads determinedly into Serenity. “You get this boat ready to take off. Jayne, round up Zoe and Kaylee. Throw her over your shoulder if you have to. Simon, see to your sister. We’re in the air in no more’n five minutes. Dong ma?”

Simon, Wash and Jayne exchange baffled looks and then set about their orders. Jayne steps back into the sunshine shakes his head and mutters to himself, “Don’t think Zoe’ll much like bein’ thrown over my shoulder…”


They’re in the black near six hours before he sees her. Almost misses seeing her completely, the way she’s nestled in the little cove beside the stairs leading down from the cock pit. The girl seems too small all of a sudden, her eyes big and shining as she looks up at him.

He lingers on the step, telling himself to keep walking, but he can’t seem to make himself walk away from her wounded gaze. Swallowing back his unease he sinks down onto the steps, the railing acts as a pseudo barrier between them. Not that he would ever acknowledge needing something to keep them apart.

“Can’t erase the sin,” she whispers, the words watery and childlike. “Can’t be a sin if I didn’t know. I didn’t know.”

“There now, little one,” his voice comes thick. “Weren’t nothing to know.”

“Liar.” She shakes her head, a dark tangle of hair falling across her face. “There was a dress in the wind and fingers itching and a boy and a girl who didn’t know. She didn’t know. Too far to feel and--and…”

“Shhh,” Mal reaches through the railing to smooth back her hair, not finding it within him to stop. “You get yourself all worked up, that brother of yours’ll have me out the airlock.”

“Die first.”

“Ain’t no one dyin’ on this boat, dong ma?” He says gently, “So get that idea outta your head right now. Not no sins neither.”


“Yeah, sure,” he nods, the urge to leave with his skin in tact made him rise to his feet. “You’re absolved, but I ain’t sure what I’m absolving ya of.”

She rises from her crouched position gracefully, facing him fair on without even the illusion of a barrier between them. “Cut. Stabbed and twisted with a knife you gave me. Didn’t know I had it until I was close enough to see the blood on my hands.” Her brow furrows, uncomprehendingly, “Sticky and slick.”

“Didn’t ever give you a knife,” he answers warily, rather than acknowledge that she made sense. Too much sense.

“Traded. Hearts and daggers and we never knew.” She shakes her head adamantly, “She knows now. She knows. Won’t sin again. She’s not scared anymore.”

“Scared?” His brow furrows, “Ain’t got no cause to be scared of me, River. Couldn’t do you harm to save my own life. Ya know everthin’ else, you oughtta know that too.”

“Not you,” she rushes to say, stepping closer to him, her eyes pleading that he understand. “Never you.”

Stepping closer, his fingers rise of their own accord and brush through her hair, moving it out of her face. Might be able to lie to himself, bury the truth under bluster and anger, but there was no use in denying her. Not now.

“Scared to know. Scared to feel,” she admits softly, angling her head into the cradle of his palm, her damp lashes lifting up to his face. “What if she does it wrong?”

“Ahh, darlin’,” he lowers his head, whispers against her lips, “You couldn’t ever do me wrong.”


Tuesday, February 14, 2006 1:55 PM


Wow, loved this! Hope it is the first part in a series (nudge, nudge). Very well written. Loved how you showed Mal trying to hide his jealously while the feelings creep up on him and River's dialogue back on the ship was all kinds of illuminating. Seems like two folk trying to pretend they haven't been feeling what they've been feeling. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 1:47 AM


Excellent. Love how Mal can't lie to her.

"Stepping closer, his fingers rise of their own accord and brush through her hair, moving it out of her face. Might be able to lie to himself, bury the truth under bluster and anger, but there was no use in denying her. Not now"

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 8:41 AM


“Dumbass, there ain’t no--” Jayne pauses, and glances at Mal. “Is there a starin’ contest?”
ahh, the intellectual wonder that is jayne...


Friday, May 19, 2006 12:59 AM


well, Im still not sure im comfortable with the whole Mal River thing, but wow, you have the voices down pat. And to make River's ramblings make so much sense like they do - it was perfect. And I literally laughed out loud at a couple of Jayne moments. Very well written.


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