Title:: A Simple Twist of Fate, chapter twelve
Date Posted: 16 July 2007
Author: srichard and van
Rating: This chapter: NC-17
Characters: River, Wash, crew
Word count: 5,668
Warnings: Begins pre-TV series, completely AU, will invovle underage romance.
Summary: Blue Sun's Academy brings two unlikely people together.
Disclaimer: Co-written. We are not affliated with Mutant Enemy, Joss, Firefly/Serenity, Unversal, Fox or anyone. If we were, we'd be making money off this. We mean no harm. Title from the Bob Dylan song. Crossposted to ff_fanfic.
Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.
The jobs came and went quickly, as Wash and the Tams settled in. Wash flew, Simon healed and River slowly got better. For the most part, Wash didn’t enjoy the work. It reminded him of being fresh out of flight school and running jobs for smugglers because he couldn’t find something better. Sometimes though, it was worth it.
The settlers on Triumph were homely people, with almost no Alliance presence. It meant they weren’t well policed, so they needed to hire the occasional gun hand. It also meant that, when the job was through and the celebration was on, that Wash, River and Simon could join in. There was music, dancing and good food. Wash couldn’t help but love it because it was rare they were let off the ship.
River's face was intent as she stared at Mal, who was growing drunker by the minute. "Captain's getting befuddled. Losing his wits." She turned to look at Wash anxiously. "He shouldn't. Not safe."
Wash had drank a little himself--not as much as Mal, but enough to feel good and to make the firelight brighter and the music more jocular. He glanced over to Mal, who was busy getting drunk with Jayne, and grinned. “He is a big man, capable of taking care of himself,” he said easily. “Isn’t he?”
River shook her head soberly. Simon didn't let her drink, and that was all right. The world blurred enough on its own sometimes. "No. He's not safe. He'll be trapped." She looked around, trying to match a face with the thoughts that perturbed her.
Wash straightened. If there was one thing he had learned during the past few months, it was that you didn’t ignore River. “Trapped?” he echoed, then looked around at the sea of unfamiliar faces. “Should we go tell him?” He didn’t want to get up and leave his comfortable spot beside River in front of the fire, but he was willing to.
River bit her lip. "But he won't listen. Angry. He doesn't like me." She looked at Wash nervously, tacitly begging him to make the decision.
He kissed her brow. “Just tell me what to say.”
"Tell him the women here are...marriage hungry. That should work, shouldn't it?" She looked deeply worried. "It's bad. Something bad. Have to stop it..."
“Are they?” Wash mused, and wondered if he shouldn’t warn Jayne, too, since he seemed more the type to make off with one of the locals. Grunting, he got to his feet. “I’ll be right back,” he said, dusting off. Then he headed over to Mal. “Hey!” he called cheerfully.
"Hey," Mal said, equally cheerful. He leaned forward, handing Wash a bowl of wine. "Good times, huh? Look--they gave Jayne his very own stick!" Mal gestured expansively towards the mercenary.
Wash, for a moment, felt like one of the guys. The other two were drunk enough that they willingly accepted Wash as a drinking buddy. So he took the wine, and watched Jayne as he rattled the stick and gestured obscenely with it. “Wow . . . that’s, uh, that’s really great!” he said.
Sidling closer to Mal, Wash continued, “So, the women here are really something else, aren’t they? Pretty, but they sure seem like the marriage hungry types, if you know what I mean.”
"What?" Mal gazed around, his eyes particularly lingering on the face of a young ginger haired woman. "Nice girls. Seem all...friendly-like. Ain't no shame in that."
Wash shrugged, watching the girls. He drank his wine. “Just saying, they seem a little overly friendly. I’d want to get off this rock too, if I could. Especially if I could get myself married to some shiny hero.”
Jayne grinned, staggered forward. “Wouldn’t mind takin’ one of ‘em with me,” he leered.
"Ain't takin' no women-folk with us, Jayne," Mal warned. "You get your happies in tonight, cause we leave in the mornin', same number of crew we come in with." He was distracted from Wash entirely when the young woman he'd been eying moved forward, a wreath of flowers in her hands. She laid it on Mal's head, and he laughed. "My hat," he mouthed at Wash.
Wash watched Jayne lumber away, and turned back in time to see Mal get crowned. He was given a bowl of wine, and then dragged off to dance. Wash’s brows furrowed. It seemed harmless. Mal was dancing with the girl now, near where Zoe and Kaylee were slow dancing together. It was happy and it was innocent. Mal needed to get laid, and maybe being as drunk as he was, it’d happen.
Finding River again, he settled down beside her. “Well, I told him. Not sure he listened though. And Jayne’s a lost cause.”
River gave a heavy sigh. "It's all a lost cause." She leaned her head against him. "At least we tried." She winced. "Going to be bad, though."
Wash shrugged. “Well, at least we’ll be able to say ‘we told you’ so later.” He kissed her brow, then got back to his feet. “We’ve got a bit before the ‘verse implodes, right? Might as well enjoy the music while we still can.” He reached out to tug River to her feet. He couldn’t dance, but he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to try.
River shrugged off the heavy thoughts--nothing to be done just then--and moved into the dancing area with him, light on her feet as always. She gave Wash a coy smile before dancing away, into the circle.
Wash grinned, watching her dance off. She had all the dancing talent he didn’t have, and more. He dove after her, eager to keep up. What he lacked in skill and form, he made up for with enthusiasm and joy. He found her, linked hands, and together they danced the night away.
When morning came, River was up and prowling while Wash still lay in bed. Her face was perturbed. "Intrusions. Bad intentions have arrived." She paced back and forth in their little bunk, now one of the crew bunks rather than passenger quarters. "Isn't safe. Have to fix it, purge her, throw her off." Her voice rose.
Wash stirred at her rising tone. He blinked, just a bit hung over from the night before, and opened his eyes. “Morning,” he said, yawning. He sat up, aware there was a problem, but forced himself not to panic. “The bad happening now?”
"Beginning. Have to stop it." She tugged the sheet off of him. "Come on."
“All right.” He got out of bed obligingly, squeezing past her in the small cabin to pull pants and a shirt on. He rubbed his eyes. “Lead the way.”
River led him to the cockpit first. "More dangers than one. Have to find out, see snare the first, then loose snare the second."
Wash slid into the cockpit obediently, scanning over the coordinates and controls. “What exactly am I looking for, honey?”
"Alerts. The perils of recklessness. You'll see." She smiled briefly at his endearment, then leaned down to kiss the top of his head.
Wash grinned, which helped wake him up, though he still longed for coffee and an aspirin. He checked the alerts and was more surprised than he ought to have been when there was one waiting for him. He scanned it and groaned. “Looks like we knocked off someone’s important nephew last night,” he mused. “Alliance important.” He began powering up the ship. Glancing at her, he grinned, because if she hadn’t said something, they might have just slept until the Alliance were on them.
River nodded. "Use the intercom. Have to tell him. Or I should...wait. Wait now."
She turned, running from the cockpit down to the cargo bay, catching at Mal's hand as he dawdled, speaking with the Elder. "Mal. Mal, need to talk to you. Please."
Mal grinned at the Elder, promising to return, as he stepped back toward River. He eyed the ship, as she powered up around them. “We got trouble?”
River ran over to the cart loaded with cargo, shoving it out of the way, revealing the woman from the night before. "Stowaway. Have to throw her off. Now!" she said frantically.
"I'm-I'm not a stowaway," the girl said anxiously, twisting her hands in her skirt. "I'm Captain Reynolds' wife." She lowered her eyes demurely.
Mal’s eyes widened at the girl, and River’s quick discovery of her. “My what?” he cried. “Since when do I have a wife?” His eyes found River again, noting her franticness. His tone turned hard as he addressed the girl from the previous night. “And since when do wives hide on ships?”
"Well...I'm to cleave to you, sir," Saffron said nervously.
"She's a thief," River snapped. "Gorram thief, going to kill us all. Throw her off," River insisted. "Alliance cruiser is coming. Killed a prefect's nephew yesterday. Mal, please..."
Wash’s voice came staticy over the intercom. “Hope everyone’s tucked in all safe and sound. We got a hornet about to fly up our butts. We are in the air in three minutes! Repeat, in the air in three minutes!”
Mal looked from River to the girl. “Ain’t no one cleaved to me.” He grabbed her by the arm and forcibly dragged her down the ramp. “Hey! Elder Gommen!” The old man looked back, surprised. Mal thrust the girl into his arms. “’Ppreciate the gift, I really do, but I just can’t accept at this time.” He hustled back onto the ship, dusting his hands off, nodding to River to bring up the ramp.
River pushed the button hurriedly, calling to Wash over the intercom. "Up, now." She glared at Mal. "Should have listened last night," she said, sounding just a tiny bit scolding. "But it's all right. Real marriages involve two, not...many," she said, giving a little giggle.
Mal stepped back, out of the airlock, as River closed the ship up. Wash had Serenity in the air seconds later, flying hard and fast to hit atmosphere. Mal fixed his eyes on River. “Was a bit drunk last night,” he admitted. “Could be maybe I wasn’t at my finest.” He scratched beneath his eye absently. “You sayin’ that girl thought she’d married me?”
Zoe approached, from the stairs. “You gettin’ married, sir?”
"He already did," River said scornfully. "But not really. She's the trickster. Used the simple marriage rites, dance, wine and roses. But she's not free. Can't marry you." She poked Mal in the chest. "You were supposed to listen."
Zoe crossed her arms. “He’s got a real problem with that,” she noted. Then her tone turned more serious. “Took off pretty fast. Problem?”
Mal grinned. “Shouldn’t be. Wash got us off the ground, and River saved us a heap of trouble ridding us of that girl before we even noticed her.” He studied River. “You tell Wash to be more specific next time he knows there are weird marriage rituals.”
River bit her lip. "He didn't know. Just told him to say that. Thought you'd be angry since you don't..." She avoided his gaze.
Mal exchanged glances with Zoe. He crossed his arms too. “You sayin’ you knew she was gonna try to hitch herself to me last night, before she did?”
River shrank back slightly. "Just knew it was wrong. Not safe. You're angry anyway?" she said, rather dismally.
Mal looked away from her, and when he did, the ship past out of the atmosphere and into the black. The shuddering stopped, and a calm washed over them. He took a deep breath. “Ain’t angry. Just get a mite tetchy ‘round things I don’t understand. Saved us some grief, getting rid of that girl, and I don’t grudge you that.”
"But there are more things in heaven and earth. Neither of us dream too big. Isn't safe." It was the one thing she'd learned about Mal that reconciled her to his hard nature. He didn't linger in the past or look to the future either, just went on, day by day. He knew that other times, even past ones, could be far too dangerous.
“No, ain’t much safe in this ‘verse. Leastways, not things that ain’t already on this ship.” He uncrossed his arms, walking toward the stairs. “But next time you got something like that to say, you say it to me. Don’t got to make Wash your go between.”
“Yes, sir," River said seriously, and there was some relief to that. He would listen--at least a little. Perhaps it wouldn't take as long as she'd thought.
Mal had given Wash a little talking to, after the events of the day, but for the most part, things went well. They’d avoided a potentially dangerous stowaway, and out run an Alliance cruiser. All things said, it had been a very good day and that wasn’t counting the bounty from the night before. Wash was in good spirits when he slipped down the rungs of the ladder, into the bunk that he shared with River.
His smile faded a little as he pulled the door shut, seeing River curled on the bed, clearly in pain. “Baby?” he asked, approaching quickly. “River?”
River looked up, giving a little, weak smile. "Breaking. She's breaking inside."
“Breaking?” he echoed, confused. Breaking didn’t sound good, so he couldn’t place River’s smile. “Should I go get Simon?”
"He knows," she whispered, shivering. "Cold. Come lie with me?" Everything in her body seemed to be going to pieces all at once, and even if she knew why, that didn't make it feel any better.
Wash nodded, shifting onto the narrow bed so he could spoon River from behind, wrapping his arms around her. “You should have gotten me sooner.”
"You were busy..." River's voice was weak and soft. "Hurts so much, Wash...Nothing to be done, though. Natural."
Wash’s brow furrowed. “Natural?” he echoed. The idea of natural pain offended him. All he could think of were headaches, and those were easily treatable with drugs. They weren’t really natural, either. “River, you’re . . .” It seemed to dawn over him then, and his hand flattened on her abdomen. “Breaking.” His eyebrows went up in the middle, surprised.
She nodded miserably. "Never hurt so much before. Wish I could just die..." She covered his hand with hers, gripping it tightly.
Wash felt a shiver run through him. He buried his face against her neck, and kissed her there. “It’s only for a little while,” he said, reassuring. “Would something hot help? I could make you soup . . .”
She shook her head. "Stomach's all...horrid." She turned her head more towards him. "You could touch me. Try to force contractions to relax spasming. If you wanted."
Wash lifted his head a little, so he could look down at her. She was beautiful, even in pain; perhaps even more so. “Would that work?” he asked, even though he knew it must be true, if she said it.
"A little. For a little. If I can..." She looked worried about the whole thing. "Maybe not. Maybe you should wait. Don't want to disappoint you again..." He'd tried so hard to give her this, but it had been...merely pleasant, nothing more.
Wash smiled at her, then shifted so he could kiss her. “You’re not going to disappoint me, River. Only, I might disappoint you.” His smile was warm and real though. “I want to try, if you think it might help. If not, then nothing lost. Maybe it will distract you, a bit. I can be a rather distracting fellow, right?”
She nodded, making herself smile again. "I love you. Love you so much." She rubbed her hands over his shoulders, gazing up at him with warm, affectionate eyes.
Wash grinned. “Not as much as I love you,” he teased softly, bending to kiss her again. He let his hand on her stomach rub just a bit. “You let me know if I make it hurt more. It might.”
River looked a little nervous at that. "All right," she whispered, biting at her lip. She began pulling off the thick, old, heavy shirt she wore under the covers. It was actually one of Jayne's castoffs. "Hate feeling like this," she said, a little petulant.
Wash helped, as best he could. “You shouldn’t. It’s a good thing, remember? Another one of the Alliance’s shackles on you is coming free.” He pulled the shirt off her, letting it drop to the floor. “You’re becoming you, again. That’s important.”
She glared at him a little. "What do you know? You don't have a uterus."
That made Wash grin even more. “Fair enough. But, I still contend that it’s good. Maybe not right now, but soon.” He laughed at her expression. “I should shut up now, huh?”
"Yes. Just touch." She caught at his hand, moving it to her breast.
Wash did, letting his attention focus instead on her, and how he could try to give her pleasure to override her pain. He wondered if it would even work, if it could. It had been so long already that she hadn’t responded to his attempts that he almost believed she never would; they’d killed that part of her. Still, he put his hands on her breasts and gently rolled her nipples between his fingers, watching her reaction.
River winced even as her nipples hardened. "I...gentler, please?" she begged miserably. Her breasts had been sore all day.
“That was gentle,” he replied apologetically, bending to kiss them. At least soreness was a sign of rightness: of feeling. He kissed instead, gentle as possible, trusting that this would yield better results.
River gave a little sigh of contentment at that. "Sorry," she whispered sweetly, stroking his hair with a languid hand, trying to ignore the constant tightness of her insides, cramping and aching without cease.
Wash made a faint murmur in the back of his throat, but as his mouth was otherwise occupied, he didn’t reply. Instead, he let his lips moisten them before swiping his tongue across them. One hand stayed, to assist a little, but the other he let trail down her side.
River gave a little simultaneous shiver and gasp. "Wash..." Her voice was high and thin, but pain wasn't the only thing driving it this time.
Wash smiled around her breast, letting the sound of her voice go right through him, down to his cock. He lifted his head, to kiss her, before lowering his mouth to attend to her other breast in the same way. His hand rubbed along her side, before he trailed it over her thigh and up to the thatch of hair there that had filled out more in the recent months.
River spread her legs automatically, but her face was a little worried, as she broke herself free of the pleasure of his mouth on her breasts. "Might...still need the lubricant," she whispered. "Still not...not quite yet."
Wash nodded, bringing his head up. “All right.” He stretched his full length, and in the tiny cabin, was able to retrieve the tube of lubricant from the drawer. He smiled at her as he unscrewed the cap and set it aside, then kissed her. “I love you.” He applied it generously to his hand before setting it aside and touching her again.
River gave a little moan at that, the slickness slide of fingers over her flesh making her feel...through the pain, she smiled, for she felt again. She pushed up against his hand, trying to make him touch more firmly. "Feels good. Helps."
“Thought it might,” Wash said cheerfully. Her reactions were rewarding in of themselves. Too often her responses weren’t what he expected or hoped, but for once she wasn’t acting to please him. He moved between her legs, nudging her open a bit more with his knee. He traced her with his fingers, starting at the bottom and ending at the top, watching her, and waiting before he found the nub of her clit and gently nudged it.
"Harder," River pleaded, pushing up more. "Feels better when you touch harder, Wash, please..." When he pressed harder, it sent a warmth through her that seemed to displace the agony of the cramps.
Harder was easier for him than gentle, though he had to chuckle at her conflicting orders. He continued, rolling her between his fingers and wondering if he ought to do more. He kept his eyes on her face, watching and loving her reactions. “Better?” he asked after awhile.
"Getting," River panted. "Don't stop. Please..." One arm came up to hook around his neck, drawing him closer, and her thighs drew together again, trying to push his hand harder against her tight, needy cunt.
Wash groaned as she responded, because it was almost as good as working inside her. At least, compared to the rest of how she had reacted, it was. He kissed her hungrily, needing some sort of outlet for himself, as he rubbed her harder, and faster.
River kissed back passionately, her hips working as she drew closer and closer, then tightened for a long moment before giving a little sigh. It was hardly a shattering, soul-destroying orgasm, but it was her first in perhaps three years. "Mmm...thank you," she whispered, nuzzling at him softly.
Wash choked a little at her thanks, and bowed his head heavily, to force himself to stop. She was done; he had finally brought her over. Never mind that his body was still in the process of getting off. He kissed her neck, then looked down at her, unable to mask his own grin. “You’re welcome,” he breathed, removing his hand. Without looking at it, he said, “I should . . . wash up.”
"You can rub against me if you want," River said, tired but still considerate.
Wash grinned. “Like we’re high school teens,” he teased. He sobered almost immediately, realizing that was, more or less, exactly what she was. He rolled off her first, wetting a rag and wiping his hands clean. He left it in the sink, and pinched his thigh so he could walk back to the bed, greeting her with a kiss. “Feeling better?”
"Little bit. Won't need...smoother. Should I suck you off?" she said suddenly, trying to rouse herself from her sleepy stupor.
“Mmm,” he mused, settling beside her. “Maybe in the morning?” He thought it seemed appropriate that the first time she got to enjoy herself, he had to settle for something second rate. There would be time for more equality, later, he was sure of it. “I can take care of this in a second, though. You look pretty beat.”
"All right." River snuggled against his chest quietly. "Love you so much."
Wash stroked her hair softly. “Love you too.” He eased out of his clothes and quickly finished himself off. When he was done and cleaned, he turned on his side and snuggled up beside her. “Well, that was fun.”
"Mmm," River said, hoping to fall asleep before the pain came back. She petted his chest hair gently. "Hush. Sleep."
“Yes, dear,” he said. Wash liked to chat before, during and after sex. He was a chatty sort of guy. But she was tired, and had a right to be, so he just pulled the sheets up around them, draped an arm over, her, and settled in to sleep.
As Mal gradually took to trusting River’s innate ability to predict trouble before they landed in it, their jobs continued along smoothly. She wasn’t always right, and didn’t always know when something bad would happen, but it was enough that it kept them in money fairly good. As a result, they shopped more freely, and when they were on less Alliance-patrolled posts, even Wash, Simon and River got to wander about a bit freely from time to time.
Mal was strict though, only allowing anyone a few hours off the boat at any one time. He tried to keep the people in pairs, but no one wanted to accompany Jayne, and Inara had her own business to attend to, so his pairs weren’t always an option. Kaylee went out with Zoe, seeking a bit of shore leave, and the chance to pick up some engine supplies.
They were gone five hours, two longer than allotted, and Mal was on his feet as soon as he heard Zoe’s voice broadcast through the ship, over the intercom in the cargo bay. She was panting, her voice strained, which was rare for Zoe. “He took her. Kaylee. Gorram bastard took her.”
"What?" Mal hit the intercom. "Someone--who took Kaylee?" His mind instantly sought people he knew on that rock, people who might want to harm him or his crew. For the life of him, though, he couldn't think of anyone.
River stood on the catwalk, her face ashen. She hadn't heard...but now she could feel it, Zoe's distress pounding at her as though it would shatter her skull. She cast her mind about, listened, and Kaylee's fear came too, bringing tears to her eyes. But those tears were frozen in fear when she realized who had the mechanic.
“Wasn’t really askin’ names when he was knockin’ me about, sir.” Zoe wrenched her shoulder, trying to relocate it. “Got a good look at him though, and his ship ‘fore he took off.”
Wash, listening in, didn’t reply, just powered the ship up.
Zoe groaned. She’d put up quite the resistance before Kaylee had been snatched. “Think it's ransom, sir.”
"Yes," River said clearly, so that Mal could hear her. "Ransom for me." She turned and moved towards the cockpit. She stood behind Wash, not speaking a word for a long time. "Should have paid attention," she whispered, finally. "But sometimes I can't bear..."
“Not your fault,” Wash said in his steady voice, which meant he was concentrating on piloting. He reached up, switching on the cabin commlink. “Hope everyone’s on board, we are lifting off.”
Mal said, “Simon, meet me in the cargo bay.” Before letting go of the comm. in his room, he said, “We’re gonna get her back, Zoe.” Then he was out, running down the corridors to Zoe, to get to the bottom of this.
"I'd give directions if it mattered," River said, still looking pale and sounding miserable. "But it doesn't matter. They'll come soon enough." She moved to sit in the co-pilot's seat. "Wash, should I tell? The truth and all the truth? Would it make him do anything more than hate me?"
Wash glanced to her as he took Serenity up. His eyes were kind and concerned. He never liked when River felt responsible for something, even if sometimes it was her fault. “If the truth’ll get Kaylee back, then I would.” He began flipping switches. “Do you have a location we should head for?”
"It won't," she sighed, then began rattling off coordinates and trajectory. "That way. Haven't stopped yet. We'll know when they do."
Wash guided Serenity to where River told him, but kept his eyes fixed on her. “Are you all right?”
"No...been lying, letting them all be deceived. Hoped, though, hoped no one would think of it. But they know, and now they'll never let me go, never." She hid her face in her hands.
Wash double checked their flight path, then put the ship on autopilot, eased out of the chair and went to stand by her. He put his hand on her shoulder, squeezing it lovingly. Whatever she was talking about sounded bad. “We’re not gonna let that happen. I’m not.”
"He will," she whispered. "When he sees. Sees that they'll all die one by one and then me, and they'll take me back and use me for evil." Her eyes were closed, and she was rocking back and forth slightly.
Wash drew in his breath. He glanced over his shoulder, feeling like someone was watching them, but no one was there. “Then we’ll leave, before he can.” He swallowed hard. “It’ll be easier, just the three of us …”
She opened her eyes and gave Wash a look. "We'd be dead in a week. Need them."
Wash managed a little smile. “Okay, then, we stay. And what, let them all die for us? That’s hardly fair.”
"No...keep them safe, I don't know..." If it came to it, to the end, then she'd leave. She could go, shoot herself, it could be done, was always possible... But River didn't want to die. "Have to get Kaylee first. The rest will follow."
Wash nodded, squeezing her shoulder. “Kaylee first.”
The sound of boots on steel announced Mal’s arrival. He appeared in the cabin, his face set and grim. He glanced to the two at the co-pilot console. “You’d better have some answers for me.”
"Yes, sir," River said, in a high, tense voice. She hadn't said those words in quite that way since the Academy. She stood up, nudging Wash aside, standing straight and tall before Mal. "I want to talk to you alone."
Wash opened his mouth, to protest, but then just stepped aside.
Mal didn’t look anywhere but at River. His eyes were hard and dark. “Wash,” he said in an even tone, “think you’d best wait in the galley.”
Wash hesitated several moments, before slipping out.
River stared at Mal, fathomless fear and sorrow in her eyes. "I can get her back. I can go in, and then she'll come out. Then it will be better." In that moment, at least, she wanted to do that. It would be easiest.
Mal stared at her for several long seconds. He knew, without liking it, that she was capable of it, or at least thought she was. “And you got a Plan B incase that fails?” he asked. “’Cause Zoe ain’t a push over, and she’s laid up real good down there.”
"He doesn't want Kaylee." River said tersely. "If I walk in, she walks out. That's all."
Mal crossed his arms. “You ain’t plannin’ on walking back out, are you?”
River was quiet, avoiding his eyes. "You all love her. You need her. And it's my fault," she said, with ineffable weariness.
“Gorram right, it’s your fault. But I ain’t in the trade of givin’ up one crew member for the other, so you best knock that notion from your head.” Mal fixed her with a hard stare, even if she kept her eyes averted. “So now you tell me another way to go ‘bout this.”
"You have to...he'll have the environment controlled. Expect you, expect your gun. I don't know..." At his confirmation that it was her fault, what little energy and strength she'd had seemed to disappear. "I'm not crew. I just came. Have to go now, please..."
“You been on my boat three months now. Treat you like crew, pay you like crew, even have you sleeping in crew quarters. Think that’s crew. I ain’t gonna let you walk over there and not have a way to get you back.” He pointed to the door. “You sent Wash out of here ‘cause you know he ain’t going to hold with this plan. How do you think he’ll react when I tell him you ain’t comin’ back, and I knew it? What about Simon? You go in there, then I go in with you. And we both come out.”
"I can't be trusted. Unless..." A sort of haziness came to her eyes as a plan formed. "If...if I could be Odysseus and Polyphemus all at once..." She winced. "But you don't know. He's ruthless. Kill them while we're in there, he'd do anything."
“Now how’s about you back up a bit, and explain to me who this guy is, and how you know so much about him? Fellow must have some weakness.”
River hesitated. "Don't know. I can feel. He's worse than them, won't make you bleed at the eyes, just make you disappear, and everything you love...and he's got her."
“Then we get her back.” Mal crossed his arms again, his tone serious. “Now you can either help me devise a way to do this, where we all come back, on I’ll call your boyfriend back and you can tell him your plan for self sacrifice. See how he likes that.”
"I could just hit him on the head. But...all right. Can't plan this, it's insane. Can't control for madness, limitations gone." River sat down, fingers to her temples. "You have to make me deaf and blind so I can hear only you."
“Ain’t got time for you to go all crazy-like,” he warned.
"I will if you don't listen," she snapped. "It's the only way. Bind my eyes, stop my ears, but...transmitter. So I can hear only you. And then you tell me where they are. Otherwise, they can discharge, I can hurt, kill everyone, it'll be wrong, wrong..." She was beginning to shiver.
Mal realized, slowly, that she was devising a plan, and it was just so crazy that he mistook it for a lapse of sanity. He stepped toward her. “You sayin’ they got a way to make you turn against us?” It was solidifying in his head, now, this crazy plan.
"Turn against the world. Against myself. They could make me fall to the floor, could make me sleep until you're all dead..." River looked up at him slowly, meeting his eyes.
Mal met her gaze, unflinching. “Go then, tell your brother. Blind and deaf you’ll go in, if that’s how you want it.” He nodded to the controls. “Where’s he got us headed?”
"Following," River said simply. "Has to be close to invisible...look like you're handing me over..." River bit her lip. "All right. I'll tell Simon."
Mal nodded. “And you both come back. You don’t, we’re gonna come in after you, dong le ma?”
River lowered her head. "All right," she whispered. "But then...then I have to tell you."
“Tell me what?”
"Everything," River said quietly, then stood and left the cockpit.