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TWBH: Chapter 15- Moonbrained Star Girl

Title: Tales of a Would-be Hostage
Chapter: 15/16
Author: thefalloficarus @ LJ.com
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters (except Marisol); I just like to play with them. Joss is Boss though, and don't you forget it! ;)
Rating: PG
Pairing: Mal/River, Simon/Kaylee
Spoilers/Warnings: Completely Alternate Universe. River never went to the Academy, certain characters have WAY different backgrounds.
Chapter List:
Prologue: The younger years - Chapter 2: Reunion - Chapter 3: Destiny in the Making - Chapter 4 A Man on the Edge: - Chapter 5: Realizations - Chapter 6: The dangerous one - Chapter 7: Trouble on the Horizon - Chapter 8: The Point of Danger - Chapter 9: Sudden Yet Inevitable Betrayal - Chapter 10: Out of Gas - Chapter 11: 9/10ths of the Law - Chapter 12: A Little Bit of Girl Talk - Chapter 13: Hell Hath no Fury - Chapter 14: Big Damn Chapter - Chapter 15: Moonbrained Star Girl - Epilogue: A Would-be Hostage and a Sometimes Theif

Note: I really have no notes…. Comment if you read please and thank you. Oh and Yay penultimate chapter!


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Mal starred in horror and awe as the ships beyond ignited and fizzled out. He had seen explosions in space before but never something resulting from what looked like lightening in space, all caused from a machine that was built out of spare parts. He turned to look at River and ask her what the hell they'd done, when suddenly Serenity turned in a sickening angle and began to fall. "Wash?" He called out, being pulled back to his senses.

"It was the electric charge." River called out, her voice rising to be heard over the growing noise created by the free fall. "It acted as an EMP, Kaylee and Bester are working on it."

"Shit... shit... shit..." Wash called flipping switches, and bending down pulling wires out from below the dash, "Not good, not good."

River's features scrunched and she put a hand on the wall to steady herself and clutched at her swiftly turning stomach with the other. She felt everything as if it were magnified ten fold and she wondered if she were going to be sick or pass out. She watched as Mal stood back, panicked, and Wash scrambled to repair what damage had been done.

Wash jumped back, yelping in pain and then the lights on the consol flickered to life and suddenly Serenity had power once more. "We've got juice!" Wash cried, taking the controls again. He groaned then. "No.. no... the engine's not turning."

"Kaylee..." River shouted through the open door and turned as Mal came up behind her, flicking a switch, turning on the comm system. "Kaylee!" She said again, this time hearing her voice throughout the ship. "We got power but the engine's not kicking!" She shouted, trying to keep the panic out of her rising tone.

No response came, and River began to feel woozy. She reached both hands out to steady herself. She closed her eyes and realized that in the background she could hear Wash and Mal, their thoughts echoing in her head.

"No, I can't die here, please please start. I can't die here, I need to be with Zoe. I need to see Zoe, I can't die here."

You're a good girl Serenity, I promise I ain't gunna let no one touch ya again. You just need to start. You got a lot more years on you yet. Start bao bai, start. This ain't where we mean to end...."

River felt a stab of resentment at hearing Mal's final thoughts, and the suggestion that they blamed her for the unforeseen development. Before she could do anything about it, there was a bang and she and Mal were thrown against the wall hard, Mal falling into her roughly, and then, before she could figure out what happened her world faded to black.

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River first became aware of the pounding ache in her head, and then realized it spread all the way down to her shoulder. She groaned softly, and her eyelids fluttered open, taking in the ceiling of the infirmary on Serenity. "Not again." She moaned hoarsely.

At that, she heard footsteps and looked up to see Kaylee, Simon and Mal all entering the room. "You're awake!" Kaylee said brightly.

"Am I dead?" River asked glumly, pushing herself to sit up only to be met with sharp pain in her shoulder.

"Easy mei mei." Simon said, rushing to her side, helping her sit up gently. "And, no you're not dead." He said, taking out a light, beginning to check her over. "Although it's not for lack of trying." He turned then and shot a glare at Mal, who raised his hands defensively. When River gave them both a puzzled look, Mal stepped forward.

"When Kaylee here got the engine turning again, it caused quite the jolt. We were tossed into the wall, and for some reason your brother here thinks that was all my doing." Mal said, turning to Simon, showing his displeasure.

Kaylee smiled and laughed, causing the scowl on Mal's face to break into a smile, and Simon to pout further. "Well, you did knock her into the wall, and re-break her collar bone."

"Oh, good... is that all?" River whined sarcastically, keeping still while Simon inspected her.

"And a concussion." Kaylee pipped in cheerfully.

"It was rhetorical Kaylee." Simon said looking at her as if she'd sprouted another head.

"She knows." River said, patting her brother on the back reassuringly, causing Kaylee to laugh and Mal to force down a grin.

Simon frowned for a moment and then smiled despite himself. "Well, physically you're going to be fine... As for the rest, I'm afraid there's no hope."

River rolled her eyes and gave her brother a playful shove. "So I take it we landed safely?"

"That we did." Mal replied.

"And we managed to escape the bad guys?" River asked.

"Yep." Kaylee said smiling.

"While we're on that subject, what in the hell was that that you two did?" Mal asked.

"An electrical explosion." River said.

Kaylee nodded. "Yep, we took electromagnetic currents, juiced 'em real good, fed off Serenity a little and then, crossed the polarities and sent 'em out. They arched and jumped 'tween the ships." Mal stared at her for a moment and she shifted uncomfortable. "I weren't speakin' greek...was I?"

Mal shook his head and ran a hand through his hair sighing. "One day you'll have to explain it to me in Captain dummy talk, but for now I'm just gonna say good job."

River felt herself bristle as she remembered his last thoughts before her black out, but before she could comment Simon cleared his throat. "Okay, I hate to break this up, but River you need to get some rest."

"Isn't that a bad thing to do when you've got a concussion?" Kaylee asked, brow quirked.

"We'll take shifts waking you." Simon said, directing the answer to his sister as he helped her off her bed. "Now come on, let's get you to your bed." He said, and then he gave the others a look that said that was his final answer.

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River felt a hand gently shaking her leg, and she opened her eyes only to be met with more darkness. "Kaylee?" She asked groggily.

"Nope." Came a male voice. "Sorry little Albatross, but I asked her to take the night off."

"Mal?" River asked, pushing herself up gingerly, propping herself up on her pillows.

"The very same." He said, seating himself on the edge of her bed.

"What are you doing here?" She asked, confused still, rubbing sleep from her eyes.

"You have to be woken up every coupl'a hours. Remember?" He paused, and then continued, "That bump on the head must have really been somethin'."

River sighed, rolling her eyes. "That's not what I meant."

"I know."

They sat there silently, and River resisted the urge to read him. Finally unable sit quietly any longer, she broke the silence, "So... I'm awake."

"So you can read minds." Mal said, making it more of a statement than a question.

River hesitated a moment the nodded. "Yes."

"Does anyone else know about this scintillatin' fact?"

"No." She said, shaking her head slowly. "Well... Simon does, deep down, but he won't admit it to himself. Likes to pretend."

Mal nodded though he was sure River couldn't see him in the darkness. "Must be hard." River began to shrug then winced and whimpered in pain. Mal heard her and reached out towards the sound. "I'm sorry about that: Didn't mean to knock ya."

"Wasn't your fault. It was mine." River replied.

"What?" Mal asked, laughing. "I may not be a rocket scientist but I know that neither you nor I could have foreseen that bump."

"I caused it, you thought it yourself." She replied, her tone guarded.

"What?" Mal asked. She felt the bed move as he stood and heard his footfall as he neared the door. A second later, she blinked as the lights came on. "Now, you mind telling me when my mind told you I thought Serenity puttin' out was your fault?"

River sighed. "When she was falling: You thought you'd never let anyone touch her again, and that she wouldn't have broken if he we hadn't touched her."

"What?" Mal asked, genuinely confused. "I didn't think that." He shook his head. "Now I've already told you I want you on my boat."

"You found out I can read minds and accidentally invade your dreams and you didn't even want me to touch you!"

"Well of course! You scared me. Hell it's down right creepifyin' to find out that the woman you..." He paused then continued without missing another beat, "Like... can suddenly hear all your thoughts and secrets. Man was made a mystery for a reason."

River frowned, "It's not like I wouldn't be able to tell you had secrets without freakish powers."

"Yeah, well, you wouldn't be able to figure 'em out so damned quick."

"I don't snoop. I don't mean to. Most of the time I can't, it's just sometimes." River barked back.

"Oh yeah, like when?" Mal asked, his scowl deep on his rough features.

"Like when I'm mad or scared or angry, or when emotions are heightened." She snapped.

"Emotions huh?" Mal said, the fight seeping out of him. He paused for a moment and then a curious look crossed his face. "What kind of emotions?" He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

"In your dreams!" River scoffed.

"So you are reading my mind?" Mal shot back.

"No! Frankly, you don't have to be a genius to find the under tone of your not entirely subtle questions."

"Why won't you stay then?" He asked, completely throwing her for a loop.

"I... I told you Mal."

"We sent out that signal today. Touched near every viewer in the 'verse. The alliance was dealt a heavy blow, they ain't gunna welcome you home."

"Well then, I'll find a new one. But I have to figure this all out."

Mal sighed and shook his head. "I'm not gonna beg. This is as close as I ever come to doin' such, and it ain't right. This is the last time I ask River."

She sat there, watching him, feeling the moment build to a painful crescendo. She could say yes, let herself go to a world that would bring her happiness. She could see a life aboard Serenity, but she wasn't sure it was the life she wanted. After a minute Mal shook his head and turned. "I'll wake you in a few hours." He muttered before turning off the light and leaving her alone in the dark.

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River stepped off onto Haven and took a moment to breath in the sweet earthy aroma of the desertus world. She, Kaylee and Simon had all decided that settling down and laying low would be the best plan, and Wash had suggested the small mining planet as the perfect place to set down. She looked around the night-cloaked world and sighed. She wasn't entirely ready for a life of terra firma, but she was willing to try.

The rest of the crew was already out of the ship greeting locals that they knew in the tiny spec of a town that they'd landed in, and she could see her brother and Kaylee already holding hands by the large bonfire in the center of town. In her hands, River held her only belongings. She had used the excuse of wanting to gather her things, when really she had wanted to say goodbye to the ship. She hadn't realized it, but she had grown more than accustomed to Serenity: she had grown to love it.

"Ain't much." Came a voice, and without turning she knew Mal had been watching her.

River shook her head. "Never said I needed more than a few feet to call my own."

Mal grunted in a sort of chuckle. "Well then, I guess you ain't nothing like an albatross at all."

River could feel the bitterness in his tone and it made her flinch. Before she could think of what to say, she heard the muffled sound of dainty feet approaching. Mal turned his gaze from her and a smiled graced his lips. Whether it was genuine or not River couldn't tell.

"Inara, you look right fine tonight."

"Why thank you Mal." Inara replied coolly, giving a slight curtsey. River watched as Mal extended his arm to the companion, and to her vast horror, the woman took it, smiling beatifically up at him.

"Shall we?" He asked, receiving a nod from Inara, and then the two left, making their way to the gathering beyond, leaving River alone and bewildered.

She starred, mouth agape, trying to understand what was happening. 'Is he trying to make me jealous?' She wondered, finally walking forward, following the pair. 'Does he actually have feelings for her?' She thought, trying to deny the lump that developed in her throat. She hadn't really thought about Mal moving on once they'd parted, and while she admitted it would eventually happen, she hadn't realized eventually would come so quickly.

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River had watched all throughout dinner as the new formed pair had chuckled and cooed, flirted through subtle jokes and jabs. She had tried to focus on anything else, she greeted the town members, laughed and drank with them. She joked with Kaylee, and helped her slip more rice wine into Simon's cup getting his drunker with each glass. Despite her efforts though, as the night went on she felt a great weight on her chest, and finally she excused herself and wandered out into the dark surrounding desert, settling finally in the still warm sand. She laid down and starred up at the stars beyond. They were so beautiful, and magical. "I expected to spend the rest of my life with you." She whispered. She felt something cool hit her ear, and realized had begun to cry slowly and softly.

"Huh," Came a slurred voice. "I thought the same." River sat up and watched as the Captain sauntered drunkly up to her resting spot. "Looks like we were both wrong," He commented harshly.

River glared, sitting up, not even bothering to wipe the moisture from her cheeks. "Shouldn't you be with your shiny new toy?"

"Well, had to say goodbye to the old one before I turn in for the night, this being the last time we'll see each other in all."

Despite her anger, River still felt a surprising pang of ache, and she lost some of the fight inside her. "Goodbye." She whispered, turning away from him, pulling her knees to her chest and wrapping her arm around them.

"Well," Mal said, unprepared for her response. "I guess it's goodbye then." He waited a moment then, instead of going he sat clumsily beside her. Together they sat in silence starring out at the night sky.

"You didn't really expect to spend the rest of your life with me." River said softly, making it more a statement than a question.

Mal squirmed a moment and then sighed. "I don't suppose I thought much on spending my life with anyone... 'cep' muh ship, 'course." He said with a drunken nod. "But I'd hoped ta see a bit more of ya."

River nodded then. "I'm not sure if I'm making the right decision." She said suddenly.

Mal sighed again and put an arm around her shoulders. She resisted a moment and then allowed herself to be pulled in, resting her head on his shoulder. "Well Albatross, the way I see it is, I'm all out a beggin' and in the end you gotta do what makes you happy. That's all life is. It ain't right or wrong, those are just words. In the end, it's what you've done… feelings, emotions, that sort of stuff."

River wiped at her freshly dampened eyes then. "You're really quite poetic when you're drunk." She said laughingly.

"Ain't I?" He smiled at her. He touched her cheek gently, wiping away a stray tear and gazed at her. She felt that same spark that their first kiss had generated, the hidden passion that could be. She knew that if she leaned in she could have that feeling once more, but it would undo the choices and stances she'd already made.

Slowly Mal unwrapped his arm from her shoulder and pushed himself up. "Well. I'd best be headin' back Albatross."

River nodded, feeling breathless and suddenly more ready to cry than she'd been moments before. After a beat she looked up at him, "I thought I couldn't be an albatross anymore."

Mal looked to the ground boyishly and ran a hand through his hair. "Sometimes when people feel an awful hurtin' they say mean things." He said, scuffing his foot in the loose sand.

They were silent a moment and River looked up sheepishly. "Please don't sleep with her tonight. Not while you're here."

"Who said anythin' about sleepin'?" He asked with a cruel laugh, causing River to turn from him. He silenced quickly and shook his head. "I told you bao bai, I'm not a good man."

"You're a good man, sometimes you just say and do bad things."

Mal laughed at that and shook his head, turning back towards the waiting crowd. "Well, I guess I'm okay."

River smiled sadly and rested her head on her knees. After a moment, she heard softly as if carried on the wind. "You'll always be my Albatross." She turned and looked back toward the group, barely making out Mal's figure, starring at her by the fire. She smiled and shook her head, feeling fresh tears spill. "You're a sap Malcolm." She whispered, turning back to the stars.

A Moment of Imaginary Grace

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