Author's Notes: This one is for my friend Kathy's birthday. Thanks for all the encouragement with my writing, your wonderful stories, and your friendship. This story takes place a month after my story 'The Orange Death', and if you haven't read it yet, you might not get some of the references for this story. For those of you who want to know what the Chinese phrases mean, you can go to this website: Firefly Chinese
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, and I am not making any money from these stories.
Warning: Non consensual disciplinary spanking of adults by an authority figure. Scenes of physical and emotional abuse of an adult and a teen by a parent.

Daddy Will Come For Us

Kaylee wrenched Simon's arm further up his back and said teasingly, "Say it."

Simon sighed, knowing he was beat, and said, "You win."

Kaylee said, "Told ya."

She let go of his arm, and got up from her position of sitting on his back. She held out a hand to help him up, and he refused to take it. He stood up on his own, and Kaylee could tell he was unhappy. She immediately felt bad, and wondered if she should have let him win, but decided that would have been dishonest. So instead she walked to him and put her arms around his neck. She leaned in and whispered, "I could kiss it and make it better."

Simon took a step back as he was still pouting and said, "If I had known you were going to fight dirty, I wouldn't have said I could pin you."

Kaylee said indignantly, "You outweigh me, you're taller, and have more upper body strength. How did you think I was gonna win? Do you think my brothers were fightin' fair when I learned how to wrestle?"

"You pulled my hair!"

Kaylee shrugged unrepentant and said, "And then you let go of my arm."

River had been sitting reading a book on the couch beside them, and she piped up with, "I told you she would win."

Simon said, "No you didn't….."

But then as he thought about it. "…. You mean at breakfast today?"

River looked up at him and said, "Yes."

Simon had to think about that for a few seconds. That morning at breakfast, Kaylee had told a story about her older brother trying to take her father's vehicle out for a joy ride one afternoon, and how she had stopped him from doing it, by wrestling him to the ground. When Kaylee was done talking River had turned to Simon and said quietly, "You won't win."

Simon had said, "What won't I win?"

River had just looked at him with a mischievous smile and then turned to her food. Everyone was used to River's odd comments, and no one thought much of it. Now Simon was blown away that River had known hours ago that he and Kaylee would start arguing about that story.

A few minutes ago Simon had come into the room and found Kaylee and River relaxing in the lounge together. Simon had sat next to Kaylee and whispered in her ear, that maybe they could spend the afternoon in his quarters. Kaylee had smiled at him but said she was spending time with River. Simon had joked that he could pick her up and take her there. Kaylee had also been joking and said if he tried it, he would end up on the floor just like one of her brothers would have if they had tried to make her do something she didn't want to do. Simon had doubted she could take him. It had escalated, and eventually Kaylee had pushed Simon into a friendly wrestling match to prove her point. He had quickly lost.

Now Simon just looked at River and said, "You knew?"

River looked back at her book.

Kaylee went up to Simon again and rubbed her hand on his arm as she said, "Don't be mad. I'm sorry, and I'll make it up to you if you want."

Simon's pride was a little hurt, but he wasn't well known for his physical fighting abilities, so it wasn't too bad. He put his hands around her waist and said, "I don't know… I think you pulled some of my hair out…. It gave me a headache."

Kaylee rolled her eyes and said, "You can even carry me if you like."

Simon smiled and was about to pick her up, when they all heard Mal's voice over the speakers. "Kaylee to the bridge please, some lights just came on, and somthin' might'a broke."

Kaylee gave Simon a quick kiss on the cheek and said, "Tonight." before she ran towards the bridge.

That night Mal left Zoe on the bridge to pilot through the night. He went to Inara's shuttle and knocked on the door. He heard her say, "Come in."

Mal walked in, still amazed each and every time that his relationship with Inara had become what he had always wanted it to be. They had been together for a month now, and Mal was extremely happy about it. He smiled at her and went in for a kiss. She kissed him back, and very soon they had found their way to the bed.

Later that evening they were both lying in bed together, and Mal was almost asleep when he heard Inara ask quietly, "What am I doing?"

Mal was suddenly very awake. He rolled over onto his side and looked at her in the dim light. She was lying on her back and staring up at the ceiling. Mal propped his head up on his hand with his elbow on a pillow. He said, "Having second thoughts 'bout us?"

She looked over at him, and mimicked his position. She leaned in and kissed him once before leaning back. She said, "No."


"I've been thinking about my life in general. Now that I'm not seeing clients anymore, what am I doing?"

Mal smiled and teased, "Makin' me happy?"

Inara glared at him and said, "As much as I love you, and want you to be happy, my sole purpose in life will never be to make you happy. I have to have some kind of vocation, and if I'm not a companion, then what am going to do?"

Mal realized she was serious and said, "You've helped with our jobs before…."

Before he could finish Inara gave him a firm, "No."

Mal just looked at her with a slightly hurt look. Inara said, "I can't be part of the crew Mal. I can't take orders from you while we're together. It won't work. And while I have quite a bit of money set aside, and can pay for this shuttle for many years to come, I can't just sit around with nothing to do."

Mal nodded understanding the truth in what she was saying. He could be okay with her both as a lover and crewmember, but he understood that she couldn't. And he would hate being in her position with too much idle time and no goal or focus. He said, "I'll think on it, and let you what I conjure."

She smiled and said, "Thanks. Now go to sleep. I didn't realize you were still awake when I was mumbling, and I want you to be well rested for your meeting with that pilot tomorrow."

Mal said, "Only if you sleep too." and pulled her towards him so he could hold onto her with her head resting on his shoulder.

The next morning at breakfast Mal said, "We'll be landing on Fansol in about an hour. Jayne and Zoe are with me. We're supposed to meet Belinda Lamb in two hours at her house in the blue zone. We're way too close to the Alliance for my taste, but we've had three bad pilots over the past month, and I aim to get a good one this time. She is highly recommended, so let's hope all goes well. If things go well, she said she could be ready to go with us by this evening."

Inara said, "Since we're at a bigger more civilized moon, I think I'll take my shuttle and do some shopping this morning."

Mal shook his head. "It ain't a good idea to go gallivanting about. We may need to leave fast."

Inara gave him a look and said, "But if things go well, then we'll be just sitting here for hours doing nothing but waiting for you."

Mal clenched his jaw, knowing where this was heading. Sometimes he really did wish she were a part of his crew, so he could just say no and be obeyed. He said, "I would strongly suggest you don't."

Inara said, "Be reasonable Mal. When are we gonna get this close to civilization again? There are things I really want to buy while I'm here."

"You think I'm not being reasonable? What trinkets are you thinking on buyin' here that you can't get somewhere else?"

"None of your business."

"You don't even know do you!? You just want to go lookin' so you don't have to stay here."

Kaylee interrupted whatever Inara might have said back by saying, "Cap'n? I hear tell they have a beauty of a junk yard a few kilometers away from the landing site….."

Mal turned to her and said, "No. You're stayin' on the ship."

Kaylee said, "But we need…"

Mal just gave her a steady look and she trailed off and just accepted that she wasn't going to get to go. She muttered, "Hwoon dahn."

Mal looked over to Simon and said, "You and River stay put as well. There's probably wanted holos all over for the two of you."

Simon just gave him a nod, having no desire to go out.

Jayne said, "Did we get a picture of Belinda? Is she pretty?"

Zoe laughed and said, "Why, is it better to get turned down by pretty women Jayne?"

As the crew was laughing River muttered, "Daddy will come for us."

Simon looked over at her and said, "What River?"

She smiled at him. "What?"

"What did you just say?"

She looked confused for a second and then said, "I said 'what'."

"No before that."

She shrugged and gave him a blank look. Mal finished up eating and looked to Inara. "If you go, be sure you're back in time for us to take off."

She nodded, "I will."

An hour later Inara took her shuttle to the main part of the city to shop. Mal, Zoe, and Jayne took the hovercraft and went to go meet with Belinda. When they got to the correct house they parked the hovercraft by the door. Jayne looked up and said, "Why would a women who lives in a house like that need to work for the likes of us?"

Zoe shrugged, "Who cares, as long as she can do the job."

Mal looked at Jayne and said, "Wait here, and keep an eye out."

Jayne nodded. Mal and Zoe went to the house and Mal knocked on the door. A rough looking woman in her mid fortes answered the door. She had short spiked blond hair, and was wearing clothes that looked like they would be good for working in the fields. She opened the door wider and said, "You must be Captain Reynolds. Come in please. I'm Belinda."

She held out her hand and Mal shook with her. He liked her right away and thought she would work out well with his crew if she really could fly the ship like she said she could. He said, "Pleasure to meet you. This is my second in command Zoe."

Zoe gave Belinda an honest smile and shook hands with her too. Belinda led them into the kitchen and said, "I was just making some lemonade. Would you two like some while we talk?"

Mal and Zoe both agreed. Belinda poured out three glasses and then handed one to each of them. Mal asked, "You said in your note that you've flown a firefly before."

Mal and Zoe both waited until Belinda had a drink of hers before drinking their own lemonade out of habit. She sipped hers, and then they both drank some of theirs while Belinda said, "Yes, for two years I flew for a man named James Blink. I enjoyed the work. He was a smuggler, and I find it exciting to be part of that, especially if it gets under the skin of the Alliance."

Mal smiled and said, "Sounds like you're my kind of woman."

Then Mal frowned. Something was wrong with the way he was talking, but he couldn't quite figure it out for a second. He looked over at Zoe, and could tell she was zoned out. Mal looked at his lemonade and accidentally dropped it when he felt like maybe the room was spinning. He pulled out his gun and pointed it at Belinda, but he seemed to be going in slow motion, and she was beside him before he was able to register the fact his gun was pointed at thin air. Belinda easily took the gun away from him, and helped him sit in a chair before he passed out and fell on the floor. She helped Zoe to lean against the counter so she didn't fall out of her chair as she passed out too. Mal was able to get out, "Why?" before he passed out.

Belinda smiled at him and said, "Nothin' personal sugar. It's just a job for me."

Belinda got another glass of lemonade and took it with her to offer it to the man who was still with the hovercraft.

Kaylee, Simon, and River sat around on the deck of Serenity playing a card game by the bridge. Kaylee heard a noise that indicated there was an incoming message. She walked over and opened a channel. An official looking man said, "I have a classified message for a Dr. Simon Tam."

Kaylee started to panic and said, "I ain't never heard of no one with that name. You got the wrong ship mister."

The man said, "I have no personal interest in Dr. Tam. I just want to pass him a message."

Kaylee said, "Like I said, I don't know no one with that name."

"It's from his father."

Kaylee was about to repeat herself, but Simon was there beside her looking at the screen. He said, "I'm here. What's the message."

Kaylee glared at Simon for being so stupid and slapped his arm. Simon was too concerned with the message to even notice. The man said, "The message is classified. You will need to be alone before I can give it to you Dr. Tam."

Simon looked at Kaylee, who just looked back at him with a glare. He gave a slight nod towards the bridge door to indicate she should leave. She said, "No way I'm leavin'."

Simon leaned down a little and whispered, "Please take River down to kitchen so she can't hear. Our father…..she doesn't know what he's like."

Kaylee could hear the sincerity in Simon's voice, and slowly nodded even though it was against her better judgement. She turned to River and said, "Hey River, I want a snack. Why don't you come to the kitchen with me, and find us somethin' to eat."

River, who hadn't been paying attention until she heard her name. She smiled and took Kaylee's hand as they headed away.

Simon closed the door to the bridge and went back to the screen. He said, "We're alone."

The man nodded and stepped away from the screen. Then Simon's father stepped into view. Simon felt a rush of mixed feelings at seeing him. He felt hate and anger but also hope and longing. He glared and said, "Dad?"

Gabriel Tam said, "Hello son. How have you been this past year and a half?"

"How have I been? I don't even know where to start. How did you find me? What do you want?"

"I'm here in town. I want to meet with you and River. You're mother….. she's not well."

"What's wrong with mom?"

"Since you and River have been on the run…. She's in a serious depression, and she can't seem to cope with it. Will you please meet with me son? It's been too long. I'll bet River looks all grown up now."

Simon looked down for a minute thinking. Mal had told him to stay aboard, but he wouldn't be back for at least an hour and probably two. Simon wasn't sure why he felt compelled to meet with his father, but he did. He wanted a second chance. A chance for his father to see once and for all that Simon had been right about the Academy, and about what they had done to River. He wanted an apology, and for his father to be proud of the things he had done to help his sister. He slowly nodded and said, "Where?"

Gabriel looked like he was about to cry for joy and said, "There is a small restaurant right by the docks where most of the ships land. It's called 'The Shrimp Boat'. Could you and River meet me there in ten minutes?"

Simon said, "Well I can."

Gabriel shook his head and looked at Simon with some of the usual disappointment and a little anger. He said, "I haven't seen my daughter in over three years. You bring her, or at least let her decide for herself if she wants to come."

Simon clenched his jaw and gave one curt nod before cutting off the connection. He stood there breathing hard for a minute thinking about what he was about to do. He knew Kaylee wouldn't agree, especially after Mal had told them not to leave the ship. He thought back to a month ago when he had snuck off the ship in the middle of the night. That had ended badly, and he certainly didn't want a repeat.

But the need to see his father was too strong. He thought, 'Maybe Mal won't be too mad. We aren't going that far away from the ship, and we're going to be right back. Maybe he'll understand that I need to see him. Or maybe, Mal doesn't need to know at all. River and I could be back pretty quick.'

Then another thought hit him. 'What if Dad wants us to come home? Do we want to go home? This could be the end of out stay here. What about Kaylee. Would she want to come live with me? I could be a doctor again.'

Simon shook his head. 'Don't get your hopes up like that. Dad will most likely want to tell me how disappointed he is, and that will be the end of it.'

Simon opened the door to the bridge and walked to the kitchen. He saw Kaylee and River laughing and sharing an orange. He smiled and said, "Um Kaylee?"

She looked up at him. He said, "Can I talk to River alone for a little while? It might take half an hour or more."

Kaylee looked concerned, but nodded and said, "I'll be in the bridge if y'all need me."

She gripped his shoulder for a second before leaving the room, thinking that he must have some kind of bad news to share with River. Once Kaylee was gone, Simon held out his hand to River. She smiled and stood up to go to him. He started to lead her away from the kitchen and towards the main hanger where they usually stored their stolen goods. They walked quietly together. Then when they got to the hanger Simon turned to River and said, "We're going for a walk."

River cocked her head to the side and said, "To a restaurant?"

"That's right."

"But we just ate."

"We're going to meet someone there."

River smiled and said, "It's a surprise!"

Simon nodded in agreement, and pushed the button to open the hatch. On the bridge Kaylee saw the lights that said the hatch was being open. She used the loudspeaker and said, "Simon, what's going on?"

Simon went to the wall and pushed a button to talk back to her. He said, "River and I just need a little fresh air. We'll just be right outside the ship. Don't worry."

Kaylee shook her head and said back, "That's not a good idea Simon. The Captain won't like it."

Simon said, "Trust me Kaylee. River and I need this. We'll be fine, and we'll be back inside before Mal even knows we stepped out. It's not like the docks are very busy or anything."

Kaylee sighed. She often was in the middle between Mal and Simon, and this was no exception. She thought Simon and River would be fine outside, and she thought they should be able to go out. But Mal had said no, and he had meant it. Kaylee said, "Okay, but no more then ten minutes okay?"

Simon said, "Got it. Thanks."

Simon took River's hand and they stepped outside of the ship together. Simon closed the hatch behind them, and started walking at a fast pace towards some buildings he saw in the distance.

Mal shook his head slightly, and then regretted it. He opened his eyes a crack and looked around. He was sitting on the floor and his hands were tied behind his back. His feet were tied together at the ankles, and there was a line of rope that went from his hands to his feet, so he couldn't move his arms without moving his feet too. He looked to his side and saw that Zoe and Jayne were in the same basic position. Jayne was already awake and was struggling with trying to get his hands untied. Mal said, 'What happened?"

Jayne looked guilty, and said, "That bitch spiked my drink…. Then I woke up here."

Mal nodded in understanding. He said, "Us too. How long you been awake?"

"'Bout five minutes."

"Belinda still here?"

"Haven't seen her."

"Havin' any luck with your ropes?"

"Nope. I think they're wire."

Mal sighed and noticed all his weapons were missing. He said with sarcasm, "Well ain't that nice."

Belinda came around the corner holding a gun on him. She said, "I'm glad you think so, since we'll be spending the next few of hours together."

Mal glared and said, "What do you want from us?"

"Nothin'. I'm just getting paid to baby-sit. You'll be free to go in four hours."

Now Mal started to get worried. Belinda saw his look and said, "Don't fret none sugar. No one's stealing your ship, or hurting your crew. People are just talking."

Mal said, "Whatever they are paying you to do this, I'll pay you double to come over to our side."

Belinda nodded and said, "Good offer. Sorry, but I'm loyal once my services have been paid for. When this is over, if you want me for a job, at least you'll know I'll be loyal to you too."

Mal said, "You even a pilot?"

"I'm a damn good pilot."

Zoe groaned and they all watched while she woke up.

Simon and River found the restaurant with no trouble. At the front door River stopped and said, "I don't like this surprise Simon."

Simon was even more determined to see his father now that he had taken the risk of leaving the ship. He said, "It's gonna be a good surprise River. I promise."

River shook her head no. Simon gave her a smile and said, "It's Dad. He came to see us."

River looked at the door to the restaurant, and then looked back at Simon and said, "Do you want to see him Simon? After everything he said to you…. Are you sure?"

Simon lost his smile and nodded. "I need to see him River. And he needs to see you. Do you want to see him?"

River shrugged and said, "Visiting relatives is always necessary."

Simon wasn't quite sure what she meant by that, but pulled her into the restaurant with him. He looked around and saw his father right away. He was sitting at a table by himself. Gabriel stood and smiled at Simon. Simon kept a hold of River's hand and they slowly walked towards the table. As they got close to the table Gabriel walked a couple of steps towards them and pulled River into a big hug. Simon dropped River's hand, and River let her father hold her. When he felt she wasn't hugging back he took a step back and held her at arm's length. He looked at her and said, "River?"

River smiled at him and said, "I met you in a dream before. You were our father."

Gabriel looked hurt and looked over to Simon. Simon took River's hand and said in his patient 'I'm trying to explain something to you' voice, "No River, this is our father. You remember him from real life, not from a dream."

River looked back over at Gabriel, gave him a sly smile and said, "That's sneaky."

Simon looked around him well aware of the fact they were drawing attention, and pulled River to a table to sit. River and Simon sat on one side of the table, and Gabriel sat across from them after a couple of seconds. Simon said, "We're here, so talk."

Gabriel kept looking at River like he couldn't believe his eyes. He said, "Is she always like this?"

Simon gave an irritated, "No, some days are better then others. Now tell me why we're here."

Gabriel tore his eyes away from his daughter and said to Simon, "I've come to take you home."

Simon didn't know what to say. He just sat there with his mouth half open. River looked at him and giggled, "You look like a fish out of water."

Simon ignored her and said, "Why?"

Gabriel sat forward and put a hand over one of Simon's hands. He said, "What do you mean why, son? Because we're family and you should be at home. You've been on the run long enough. River obviously needs medical attention, and she can get the best treatments possible at home. You can start your career again. Your mother will be so happy to see you, I'm sure it will help her pull out of her depression. We want you home because we miss you both."

Simon wanted to believe it. He said, "What about the Alliance. We are wanted fugitives. What about the Academy?"

Gabriel let go of Simon's hand and waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "They won't be a problem. I'll deal with it. Get them to understand. I have friends in high places, and many favors I can call in."

Simon thought that maybe his father was a little egotistical if he thought he could do that, but let it go for the moment. He said with a little bit of hate, "Do you know what they did to her at the Academy Dad? They cut open her head and played with her brain."

Gabriel shook his head no once, and then looked back over at River who was stacking sugar packets into a tower on the table completely ignoring their conversation. He looked back at Simon and said, "Can we not talk about that now?"

Simon gave him a nod and said, "Okay then, let's talk about social embarrassment Dad. You basically told me you were ashamed of my behavior when I was trying to get River out of the Academy. How are you going to feel when we take this River to a dinner party? Because if all you have to offer me at home is a padded room where River can live out her days, I'm not interested."

Gabriel got visibly angry at that statement and said, "Don't you dare talk to me like that Simon. I love River. I want what's best for her, just like you. I would never be ashamed of her."

Simon got the implied message that his father would be and had been ashamed of him. Gabriel said, "We don't have much time here. My ship leaves in half an hour. Please come home where you belong Simon."

Simon sat back for a second, and then looked Gabriel in the eye as he said, "A year ago I would have jumped at the chance to go home. I wanted to go home so many times. But now I…. Well I don't think it would be best for River, and on top of that I don't think I want to. We have found a new home with people we love and who love us. I would like to stay in touch with you though. I'll send you and mom video footage and letters from every moon we stop at. And maybe in the future we will come home. But not right now."

Gabriel stood and said, "You don't get to decide for your sister. She is still seventeen for another month, which means she is legally my responsibility."

Simon stood as well and pulled River up with him. River batted his arm away and took a few steps away from both men. She looked upset and said, "I'm right here you know! I can hear your thoughts, and they're making me crazy. Stop it both of you!"

Simon could tell River was getting worked up, and he put both hands up to try and calm her down. He said, "River, we need to go back to the ship now."

Gabriel looked at River and said, "Sweetheart, I want you to come home with me. Don't you want to see your mom? She wants to see you."

Simon got her attention again by saying, "River."

Once she was looking at him, he gave her his most sincere look and said, "You know I love you, and I'm always watching out for you. I want you to come back to the ship with me, because I think it will be best for both of us."

River gave Simon a tolerant smile and said, "Of course it's best silly, Serenity is home."

Simon felt relief flood through him as he saw River hold out her hand for him. Then Gabriel said, "Eto kuram na smekh."

River fell to the floor hard before Simon could catch her. He got down on the ground next to her and checked her vital signs. But before he could finish his exam of his sleeping sister he felt hands grabbing his arms. He looked around and saw two large men hauling him up to his feet, and making him stand still to face his father. Simon felt sick as he looked at his father. He said, "Why? Why would you do that to her?"

Gabriel had a look of disappointment for Simon. He said, "Are you really so blind Simon? Did you get so lost in your quest to find something wrong with the Academy that you can't see what is really going on with your sister? You made her this way! This is your fault!"

Simon's stomach lurched at that and he just shook his head no. Gabriel waved to two other men, and Simon realized the whole restaurant was full of his men. Gabriel said, "Take her to the ship, and put her in the cell. I don't know how much time will pass before she wakes up."

Simon screamed, "NO! You can't take her! She needs me!"

Gabriel walked over to Simon and slapped his face. Simon was shocked into silence. His father had never raised a hand against him or his sister. Gabriel had tears in his eyes as he said with calm, "You took her from the Academy when they were in the middle of her training. The training was very specialized and required her to stay there until it was complete. If you had left her there she wouldn't be this way. If you had left her there like we told you to, she would be a normal happy seventeen year old girl. By taking her out of there before her training was over, you caused this mental lapse of hers. I will never forgive you if she can't recover from this Simon. How dare you try to ruin her life along with your own. She needs to go back so they can try and fix what you've done."

Simon kept shaking his head no as tears ran down his face. He said, "No. You can't believe that Dad!"

Gabriel turned to leave. Simon yelled out; "Please listen to me Dad. If not for my sake, then at least for hers. They cut her open again and again! They were playing with her mind! You can't just take her; she can be dangerous to herself and others! They'll do it to her again! Dad! DAAAADDD!"

Gabriel continued walking away, and didn't look back.

Simon struggled for a few seconds, but there were three large men holding him, and he had no chance. They let him fall to the floor, and stood back holding their weapons towards him. He got himself off the floor and onto a chair. He wiped at his face and started to think about how to get her back. He didn't have time to dwell on the fact that his father had betrayed them, he only had the energy to focus on getting his sister back. He looked at the men watching him and said, "How long are you keeping me here?"

One of them said, "Until we hear otherwise."

Simon nodded and waited while plotting. Ten minutes into his capture, the three men got a call. The leader told the other two to get out. Then he stood next to Simon and said, "Night."

Simon looked up confused, and soon saw nothing as the base of the man's gun slammed into the side of Simon's head.

Kaylee kept looking at the time, and when it had been eleven minutes, she went to the hatch herself and opened the door. She stepped out and looked around. She was slightly confused and then walked around the ship slowly looking for Simon and River. Not finding them she said, "This ain't good."

She ran back to the ship and went to get the radio to call Mal. She pushed the button and said, "Cap'n."

She waited a few seconds for a response. Then she called again, "Cap'n, we've got a situation here. I need you."

She waited but still got no response. She called again, "Mal? Zoe? Jayne? Any of you out there? We have missing crew members. Anyone?"

She waited again and then said, "Gou shi."

She put her head in her hands and then went back to the bridge. She called Inara, but she didn't answer either. She left Inara a message, and then looked towards the hatch. She shook her head and said, "Damn."

She walked off the ship, closed the hatch, and went looking for River and Simon.

Zoe had woken up and quickly realized the situation. After a few minutes of struggling, she gave up. Belinda had left the room for a few minutes, and Mal filled Zoe in, while Jayne tried to maneuver himself towards the weapons. Belinda came back in before he made it. Mal was about to try and talk Belinda into letting them go again, when he heard his radio come to life. He saw it was sitting next to Belinda along with all their weapons. He listened to Kaylee tell him people were missing. Once it was obvious she wasn't calling back, Mal turned to Belinda and said, "I thought you said they were just talkin'. Don't seem like talkin' if my crew is missin' now does it?"

Belinda looked a little less sure of herself and said, "They just haven't come back yet. The guy was real clear. He isn't going to hurt any of them. He just wants to see them."

Zoe said, "Who?"

"Their father."

Jayne smiled and said, "Good. Maybe he'll take them off our hands. This is turning out to be a good day after all."

Zoe and Mal exchanged a look. Zoe said, "His father never came looking before."

Mal nodded and said, "In fact he was avoidin' them before."

"Think they made him a deal?"

"I reckon they did."

Zoe said, "How'd he get to them though?"

Mal said, "Simon's been known to wander off."

Zoe just shook her head knowing Mal was right. Jayne said, "That boy's gonna get us all killed one of these days Mal."

Jayne looked at Belinda and said, "Hopefully not today though."

Belinda had been listening to all of this and said, "No, you have it all wrong. He just wants to talk to them. He's perfectly nice. They will be back."

Mal said, "Oh, they'll be back alright, no matter how long it takes me to find them this time."

The room was quiet for a few minutes and then Zoe said, "What if they don't want to come home?"

Mal looked over at her and said, "Then we'll wish them the best."

Zoe nodded in agreement.

Mal looked to Belinda and said, "Let me tell you a little story about the nice man who hired you, and what he did to his kids."

Kaylee had looked around the docks a little bit, but headed in the general direction of the buildings. The second building she went into was the restaurant. She immediately noticed that the place was empty except for Simon who was sitting in a chair, but slumped over onto a table. She said, "Simon?!"

She ran over to him, and saw a little bit of blood leaking down onto his face from his hairline. She could tell he was breathing, and looked at his head for a wound. She found the bump, but could tell that it wasn't bleeding very much. She shook his shoulder and said, "Simon?"

He groaned, and soon opened his eyes, and put a hand up to his aching head. He said, "What happened?"

He looked around and then looked at Kaylee. She said, "I was hopin' you could tell me."

Simon said, "River!"

He got up and ran in the direction that they had taken her. But when he got to the door, he could see no sign of them. Kaylee was right behind him and said, "What's goin' on Simon?"

Simon said, "We need to get back to the ship! Hurry!"

He started to run, and she ran with him, both of them saving their breath for running. Once they got to the ship Kaylee punched in a code to open the hatch. Once they were inside and breathing hard Kaylee said, "Explain."

Simon said, "We need Mal. My father was here. He took River, and he's going to take her back to the Academy if we don't stop him."

"How did your daddy know we were gonna be here?"

"I don't know!"

Kaylee glared and said, "Is that what your message was about? You knew he was here and you went to meet him? You lied to me!"

Simon gave her a nod, "You can yell at me later. Right now we need to call the Captain and get River back!"

Kaylee headed to the bridge and said on the way, "I hope he's there. I tried calling when I found out you were gone, but there was no answer."

Simon was feeling more and more desperate. Kaylee got to the radio and called again, "Cap'n are you there?"

After getting no answer, Kaylee said, "If you can hear me, get back to the ship as soon as you can. River has been taken. Her father was here, and he knocked Simon out and took her. He's taking her back to the Academy as we speak."

Still no response and Simon swore, "Ai ya!"

Kaylee said, "I'm sure they'll be back soon."

Simon said, "Do we have any sensors that can tell us if a ship has taken off in the last ten minutes?"

Kaylee nodded and then pushed some buttons. She said, "Yes, about five minutes ago a large ship took off. Left an ion trail a mile wide."

Simon closed his eyes for a second and said, "Can you follow it?"

"Sure, but maybe not by the time Cap'n gets back. We only have about half an hour window before it dissipates."

Simon looked at her and said, "Then let's follow it now."

Kaylee gave him a blank look for a second and then said, "You mean take the ship and follow him? Just you and me?"

Simon gave her a nod.

Kaylee shook her head, "No. Absolutely not! Cap'n would skin us alive if we took his ship."

Simon felt tears in his eyes and said, "I have to find her Kaylee."

Kaylee said, "The captain will go after her. He won't let your father take her back without a fight. You know he'll do everything he can to get her back."

Simon's tears spilled down his face and he fell to both his knees in front of her. He said, "What if he's not in time? I'm begging you Kaylee. Please. I'll give you anything I have; I'll get you anything you want. I have to save her before she gets put back there. I promised her she would never have to go back. You know what they did to her. Please. We have to go after her now before it's too late."

Kaylee looked down at Simon. She had never seen him so broken. Not even when the Reavers were attacking and they all thought they were gonna die. She was torn. She knew Mal would want them to wait, and she was very loyal to him. She also knew that Simon wouldn't want to keep living if he failed his sister by letting her go back. She loved both men in different ways, and didn't want to hurt either of them. She got down on her knees in front of Simon, and grabbed his hands in hers. She couldn't refuse him, and she also wanted River back. She said, "Okay, let's go get her."

Simon gave her a look of gratitude and squeezed her hands. She said, "Now get up, and help me."

They both stood, and Kaylee called on the radio one more time, "Um… Cap'n? Simon and I…. Well… we're gonna……"

Simon leaned down and said it for her. "We're taking the ship to go get River. We'll come back for you as soon as we get her."

Simon turned the radio off, and looked at Kaylee. She looked fairly pale and she muttered, "He ain't gonna be happy."

She pushed some buttons and called for Inara's shuttle. Inara answered this time. Kaylee said, "Inara! We've got a problem."

Inara looked concerned. "What's wrong?"

"Simon's daddy was here. He took River. We can't get a hold of Mal, so we're taking the ship to try and get River back."

Inara yelled, "What? Have you taken leave of your senses Kaylee?"

Kaylee nodded, "Most likely. Please wait here for Mal so you can tell him what's going on. We'll come back as soon as we can."

Before Inara could say anything else Kaylee cut off the communication. Kaylee started the sequence for getting the ship in the air. She looked to Simon and said, "Start prayin'."

At Belinda's house, Mal had finished telling her everything he knew about Gabriel Tam. When he was done, she said, "You three stay right there. I'm gonna make a few calls."

She left the room and Jayne started towards the weapons again. A few minutes later he got to them and a few minutes after that, he got his knife in his hands. He was working on trying to cut the wires around his wrists when Belinda came back. She said, "Drop it big guy."

Jayne snarled at her, but when she cocked her gun he dropped his knife. She looked over at Mal and said, "I've put in a call. If I don't get the answer I want, I'll be letting you go."

Mal gave her a nod and said, "We'd be much obliged."

While they were waiting Mal's radio went off again. Kaylee was talking and then Simon broke in to tell them they were taking his ship. Zoe and Jayne both looked over at Mal, who looked like his head might explode with pent up rage. He yelled at the radio, "My ship!! You're taking my ship! Guai guai long de dong! Ni zhao si ma?"

He glared at Belinda and said, "What happened to no one was gonna get hurt or taken? What happened to no one was gonna steal my ship!"

She yelled back, "It's your own crew taking the ship!"

He glared and said, "We need to go now. We've played nice up to now, but if you don't see reason real soon, things are gonna get ugly."

She stayed in the room, and made another call. She said to the phone, "Well?"

Then she looked more and more upset. She said, "Son of a Bitch! You get in touch with Johansel and tell him I need a favor."

She hung up and picked up a knife. She walked towards Mal and said, "You were right. He double crossed me, and skipped town without paying me the other half of what he owes."

She bent down and cut his bindings. Then she cut Zoe free as well. Last she cut the ropes off Jayne. She still held them at gunpoint, but addressed Mal when she said, "If I help you get your ship and crew back, can we call this even, or are you gonna come looking for revenge?"

Mal thought it over. "We'll call it even."

She nodded and put her gun away. She said, "Get your weapons, and let's go. I've got a friend here in town with a ship. We'll see if we can get a ride."

Mal got his weapons on and nodded. He picked up his radio and called, "Kaylee!"

He got no response. He called, "Simon or Kaylee, if you're listening, it would be best you answer me right now!"

He was almost surprised when he heard the radio come to life. It said, "This is Inara. Kaylee and Simon have taken Serenity to go find River who was taken about twenty minutes ago by her father. I have my shuttle, and I can come get you if you tell me where."

Mal felt relief that at least they had the shuttle. He called her back with instructions of where to pick them up. Belinda said, "Good. Let me make another call, and then we can take your shuttle to the docks where my friends ship is stationed."

River woke up and felt cold metal under her body. She was quickly flooded with other's thoughts, but they were thoughts of people she didn't know, and it scared her. She sat up quickly and looked around. She was in a small cell, with nothing but a toilet and cot that was attached to the wall. She couldn't see anything except her cell. The walls and floor were solid metal. There was a small vent for air, but it was quite small. The ceiling was metal, except for a panel of lights that were behind what looked like bulletproof plastic. River stood up and said quietly, "Simon?"

She looked at the door, of her cell, and inspected the handle and the lock. Then she inspected a fairly large sliding panel that was at eye level. She opened it, and could see through the bars of her cell. She pressed her face against it, to see as much as she could. All she could see was an empty hallway, with two other cells to the right of her. She knew they were empty.

She left the panel open and looked around some more. She noticed another sliding metal panel on the door that was next to the floor. It looked to be the right size for shoving food to her. She opened it, and then closed it again. Then she noticed up in the corner of the room a tiny little spot. She got closer and knew it was a camera. She tore off a little corner of her dress, put some spit on the cloth, and stuck it to the lens. Once that was done, she sat on her cot and waited.

Less then two minutes later her father was on the other side of the cell door. He looked at her through the bars in her door and said, "River, please take the cloth off, or we'll have to put you to sleep again."

River walked over and plucked off the piece of her dress. She used her hand to wipe the spit off the surface of the lens. She turned to her dad and said, "How long was I out."

"About an hour."

"You don't believe Simon, but he's right. The Academy wasn't what they said it would be. They hurt me again and again. Didn't you get my letters? Didn't you understand? Or maybe you just didn't care."

Gabriel looked at his daughter with sadness. He said, "River, I know you believe that, but it's not true. The Academy is a good place. I've been there, and I've seen the things they are doing there. They didn't hurt you, Simon did. When he took you, they were in the middle of some very sensitive training for you, and because he took you in the middle of it, it left you paranoid and it forced your psychic abilities into the mindset of a schizophrenic. Then being aboard that ship with those people only made it worse. I'm taking you back so they can help you River. I'm taking you back because I love you."

River parted her hair to show him some scaring on her head. She said, "Is this scar really here, or is it a manifestation of my paranoia?"

Gabriel looked at the scar and said, "They told me you fell down the stairs, and needed immediate surgery to relieve pressure from swelling in your brain. Simon has talked you into believing the story of them messing with your mind. Him and that Captain Reynolds want to believe the Alliance is evil. They will do anything they can to make you think the Alliance is evil too. Captain Reynolds is a criminal River. The Alliance wants him for smuggling, and for hiding fugitives. He is not a good man, and anything he has told you is a lie. He has used you and Simon to further his own agenda."

She shook her head not quite understanding how this man could be so blind. She walked up to the bars, and saw him take a step back. She reached her arm through and said, "I missed you Daddy."

He gave her a soft smile and walked up to her. As soon as he was in her reach, she grabbed the back of his head, and slammed his face against the bars as hard as she could. He fell to the floor passed out. She quickly got down and lifted the panel that was by the floor. She pulled him towards her, and searched his pockets. She found a set of keys and pulled them in to the cell. She looked through them quickly and found the right one. She grabbed it in her fingers, and stuck her entire arm through the bars of the cell, even though it was a tight fit, and hurt. She wrenched her arm around into a fairly unnatural position and stuck the key in the lock. She unlocked the cell, and felt her shoulder pop out of its socket as the door opened. She yanked her arm back out of the bars, and could tell there would be bruising. She shoved her shoulder back into place with the help of the wall. Thanks to the Academy, her brain worked differently then most people. She could tell her body was hurt, and she could 'feel' the pain, but she could put that pain in a separate place inside her mind so that the pain didn't affect the control she had over her body's movements.

River ran down the hall, getting information from the minds around her as she went, to see where the escape pods were on the ship. She ran directly to one, only encountering three guards on the way. She quickly took care of them with a few well placed kicks and punches. They barely slowed her down. As she was punching in the code to the escape pod door, her father's voice came over the loud speaker with the words, "Eto kuram na smekh!"

River fell to the floor, as a few wary guards surrounded her.

Kaylee concentrated on following the other ship, and tried not to let herself get all worked up thinking about what Mal was going to do when he found them. Simon was pacing around behind her trying to figure out what to do when they caught up with his father. He kept asking Kaylee questions about the capabilities of the ship. How close could they get to the other ship without being detected? Could she tell how big the other ship was? Could the sensors tell how many people were aboard the other ship? Kaylee answered as well as she could while trying to pilot and follow the ion trail from the other ship.

About an hour into their trip, their sensors picked up the much larger ship. It was at least three times bigger then the little firefly. But Kaylee suspected they wouldn't notice Serenity for a while, as long as they stayed far enough back. Simon nodded and said, "Just follow them for a while, while I come up with a plan."

Kaylee said nervously, "We're gettin' closer and closer to Alliance run space. If you're gonna try to get her back, we don't have much time. Two hours at best."

Simon nodded in understanding, and continued to pace and think.

Once Inara landed the shuttle, she was quickly introduced to Belinda, and given instructions for getting them over to Belinda's friend. Belinda had gotten a call from Johansel and they were in agreement to meet at his ship. They parked Inara's shuttle at the dock, and all got on board Johansel's ship. Johansel was able to follow Serenity's ion trail.

Mal spoke with Johansel and Belinda about his plans for when they caught up with his ship, and then his plans for when they caught up with the ship that had taken River.

River woke up in pain. She sat up and saw she was back in her cell. She wasn't in action mode anymore, so her shoulder hurt a lot, and she started to cry as she held it. She muttered to herself, "Daddy will come for us. Daddy will come for us."

Then she yelled out, "Simon!!! I need you, it hurts!"

She glared up at the cell bars on the door, and saw her father standing there. She said, "It hurts."

Gabriel said, "Well then I would suggest you stop hurting yourself by trying to escape."

She stopped crying and tilted her head to the side as she looked at him. She said, "You hate us."

He got defensive; "Of course I don't hate you. You are my daughter, I love you."

"No. You try to, but you don't."

She looked at him with sympathy; "It's okay Gabriel. Simon and I don't need you anymore. You can go back to your own life. We won't shame you anymore. We have a new family now, and they love us. We'll be just fine."

He glared at her and said, "You think those low life, brown coat, uneducated, thieves are your family now? Maybe the Academy messed with your head more then I thought. You're going back, little girl, and no one is going to stop that from happening."

River snapped. She became calm and said; "I'm hungry. I want oatmeal. Go away."

Gabriel was fed up and walked away. He went to one of the guards and told him to take his daughter some oatmeal. Gabriel thought that maybe River would be more reasonable after she had some food in her stomach. And he knew oatmeal was one of her favorite things to eat.

River sat completely still while she waited for her food. Once she knew the guard was brining it to her, she let some tears fall down her face and made herself look scared. The guard soon came into view, and River let out a gasp at seeing him. He looked in at her and felt bad. He said, "Hey now, it's okay. I'm not gonna hurt you. Look…"

He held up a bowl of oatmeal for her to see. "…..I brought you some food."

River tentatively got up and said, "Y….you're not gonna hurt me?"

The man could see the bruises on her upper arm, and wondered just what the people here had done to her to make her so afraid. He looked at her with sympathy and said, "No. Come on over here, and I'll talk to you while you eat."

She walked slowly towards the door, and he encouraged her with a smile. She sniffed loudly and said, "I'm really hungry, and my arm hurts."

He thought that he hadn't signed up with the Alliance to go around hurting teenage girls, and was going to have words with his superiors about this mistreatment, and file a report.

Once she got close to the cell door he pointed down to the bottom and said, "Now I'm gonna push the bowl under the door. Do you see the little panel down there?"

She nodded once and said, "Okay, thank you."

He squatted down and pushed the tray all the way through the panel once he opened it. River grabbed his wrist with both of her hands, and yanked his arm in as far as she could. While he was floundering on the floor she used her foot to stomp down on the panel's door, effectively cutting off circulation to the man's lower arm which she still had a hold of. He screamed in pain. She said, "I'm sorry about this Dale, because you seem like a nice enough man. But I'm going to cut your arm off if you don't get out your keys and unlock my door."

Dale believed her and yelled, "Okay! Okay!"

He got out his keys with his free hand, and was just able to reach the door's lock. River could sense the other guards coming. The second her door was open, she quickly kicked Dale in the head and took him out of the equation. She picked up her bowl of oatmeal, and scooped some up with her hand. It was burning hot, but she ignored that, and shoved a handful in her right ear. It cut off her hearing effectively, even though it burned. She did the same thing with the other ear, and then took the bowl with her as she went to fight the guards.

There were five guards with guns and tazers in the hall when she came out. While holding the bowl of oatmeal in one hand, she jumped into the middle of them, and in ten seconds had them all on the ground groaning. She ran out the door, and to a supply room. She found a roll of packing tape, and shoved more of the oatmeal in her ears before locking the oatmeal in place with some tape over her ears. Once she was effectively deaf, she went into the hall.

She walked towards the bridge, and dispatched two guards on her way. Once there, she saw her father standing near the wall yelling into the loud speaker. She went up to him, and he looked scared. She used her fingers to punch his throat so he could no longer talk. As he was holding his throat and trying to breathe, River took care of the rest of the crew that was on the bridge. Once those twenty men and six women were down, she grabbed her father and pulled him with her back the way she had come. He struggled against her, and she kicked him hard in the shins, and again in the stomach. She then pulled him along the floor until she got to the cell where she had been kept. She put him in the cell and locked him in.

She looked at him in there, and tried to remember when he was her father. She said a little loudly, "Gabriel."

He looked at her. She said, "Simon and I are disappointed in your parenting skills. We don't want you as a father anymore. You will leave us alone."

She turned and ran back to the bridge without encountering any more of the crew. She worked on the panel by the bridge door, and soon it was locked shut and she was alone on the bridge except for the passed out crew around her feet. She walked to the navigation center and turned the ship around.

Simon after pacing and pacing finally said, "Send them a distress call. Tell them something is broken, and we don't think we'll make it planet side without it. Ask them for help."

Kaylee said, "Don't think that will do much good, seein' as how they know who we are, but I'll try. What are we gonna do if they do come to help?"

Simon looked at her and said, "Shoot everyone we see until we get to River."

Kaylee said, "You sure about that?"

"You said we had two hours, and that was over an hour ago. It's now or never, and I don't know what else to do."

Kaylee looked down and said, "Let's wait another half an hour, and try to come up with a better plan."

Simon was thinking about that when they both heard the sound of their ship being hailed. She turned on the audio, and before she could say anything she heard Mal's voice, "What the hell do you think you're doin' with MY Gorram ship!?"

Both Simon and Kaylee jumped at the tone. Kaylee turned on the video feed too and they saw a pissed off Mal looking back at them. Kaylee said, "Cap'n? How…."

Mal said, "We're comin' up on you in a half cruiser. You should be able to see us on the scanner soon."

Kaylee pushed some buttons and said, "I see you."

Mal said, "Do you have the ship that took River on the scanner too?"

"Yes sir. We've been following undetected for two hours now."

Mal nodded once and said, "Good. Land on the moon that's to your left, and once I'm aboard, we'll come up with a plan, and get her back."

Simon yelled, "No! We don't have the time to land just so you can come aboard. We need a plan now. We're going to send the ship a distress call, and try to get it to come to us. At least that way it won't still be headed towards Alliance run space."

Mal looked at Kaylee and said, "Land. Now. That ain't a request."

Kaylee looked back and forth between Simon and Mal. Mal growled, "I'm thinking I'm gonna be using your late night ramblings against you Kaywinnit Lee, now LAND!!"

Kaylee blushed at that thought, but still couldn't choose between Simon and Mal. Then Simon said with disbelief, "The ship is turning."

Kaylee and Mal both said, "What?"

Simon pointed to the scanner and said, "The ship that has River. It's coming this way."

Kaylee said, "We're being hailed."

Mal said, "Patch it through to us too."

Kaylee did, and opened the channel to the big ship. She saw River smiling at her. Kaylee said, "River! What's going on? Are you alright?"

River smiled at her some more and said, "I can't hear you. There's oatmeal in my ears."

Kaylee wasn't sure what that meant and looked to Simon for clarification. He shrugged obviously as confused as she was. River lifted her hair and showed them her taped up ears. Kaylee said, "Oh. I guess it means there really is oatmeal in her ears."

Simon got out a small pad of paper out of his back pocket, and a pen. He scribbled down something and held it up to the screen. River read it and nodded. "Yes I am."

He turned the page on the pad of paper and wrote something else down. He held it to the screen for her to read again.

She said a little loudly, "I'll meet you there."

River turned off the communication. Kaylee brought up Mal again who said, "What was that about?"

Simon said, "She's in control of the ship. She's gonna land on that moon along with us."

Mal just shook his head for a few seconds and said, "Should'a known she could handle herself."

Then Mal looked at Kaylee and said, "I'll talk to the two of you later. Now Land!"

Kaylee gave him a shaky, "Yes sir." and then cut the communication.

Johansel's ship was the closest to the moon, and they landed first. As they were landing Mal turned to Belinda and Johansel and said, "Once River lands, me and my crew are gonna high tail it out of here. I believe the ship she is in control of has quite a large stalk of supplies. If you were to ransack the place, I'm sure it would more then pay for your trip out here. And if you kept the ship busy for say three hours, it would give us time to get away."

Belinda nodded and said, "It's the least we can do."


Mal, Zoe, Jayne, and Inara were all standing outside the ship waiting along with Johansel and his crew when Kaylee landed Serenity.

Simon could tell Kaylee was scared. She was shaking. Once they were on the ground he pulled her up into a hug and said, "Hey, it's gonna be fine. I'll take full blame. I'll tell Mal I forced you to take Serenity against your will. He's not gonna be mad at you."

Kaylee looked at Simon like maybe he had lost his mind. She said, "Even if that were true, aren't you worried about what he's gonna do to you?"

Simon let her go and said, "You and I both have a good idea of what he's gonna do to me, and yes I'm worried. But you know what?"


Simon gave her a smile, "I'm so happy River is safe, I just don't care right now."

"You don't care?" Kaylee said with disbelief.

"River is safe. The ship is safe. You and I are safe along with the rest of the crew. And even if Mal is going to….."

"Whup your behind till you can't sit no more."

Simon got red and said, "Yeah that…. Even if he does, I know this is home."

Kaylee understood what he was saying, but she didn't exactly feel 'happy', because she knew Mal had been serious earlier with his threat.

She said, "Best not keep him waiting."

They walked to the hatch and opened it. They walked out hand in hand to face Mal. Once they were standing a few feet away, Kaylee opened her mouth to say something, but Mal held up a hand to stop her. He said, "You both okay?"

Kaylee nodded. Mal looked at Simon and said, "You've got blood on your face."

Simon reached up to touch the dried blood. He said, "My father's men knocked me out."

Mal frowned at that. Then he said, "We'll talk about taking the ship later. Right now let's focus on River, and make sure she's okay."

While they were waiting Inara went to Kaylee and gave her a hug and whispered, "I'm glad you're okay." and then did the same with Simon.

Ten minutes later River landed. She opened the cargo door and ran out towards her family. The whole crew was standing fairly close together waiting for her. She ran straight to Mal and hugged him tight. Mal was caught off guard and almost stumbled backwards when she threw herself at him. He looked over at Simon for a second, and could tell Simon was surprised and maybe a little jealous that she hadn't come straight to him instead of Mal.

River had her eyes closed and said quietly, "I knew you would come."

Mal looked down at her, and to everyone's surprise, including his own, he hugged her back tight and said, "Of course I came. I'll always come for you."

He waited until she let go, and then he let go of her. He looked at her face and said, "Are you hurt?"

She didn't have to hear him to know what he was saying. She nodded, and her eyes started to fill with tears. She looked for Simon, and when she saw him, she ran to him for a hug too. She started crying and said, "He's awful Simon, he was taking me back there. He hates us."

Simon closed his eyes to everyone else, hugged her tight and said quietly, "I know. I'm sorry."

She said in a pathetic voice full of hurt, "My arm hurts, and I burnt my ears, and the oatmeal makes me dizzy."

Simon looked over at Mal and said, "I'm taking her to the infirmary to check her over."

Mal gave him a nod. Mal shook hands with Johansel and said, "We're gonna be on our way."

Johansel nodded and said, "It's a big ship. I'm sure it will take hours to strip."

Mal nodded once and then turned to his crew. He said, "You heard the man, let's go before we see all the goods we're passin' up."

Jayne said, "We could stay for a few minutes Mal… see if there's anything really good."

Mal shook his head. Jayne got on board grumbling about bad leadership and called out, "I'll be in my quarters!"

Once everyone was aboard Mal looked at Zoe and said, "Get us back to Fansol so we can pick up Inara's shuttle."

Zoe nodded and headed that way. That left Mal, Kaylee and Inara in the bay area. Inara looked back and forth between Kaylee and Mal a couple of times, and said, "I'll go make us all a late lunch." and practically ran to the kitchen.

Kaylee looked down at the floor and said, "I got no excuse that you'd be interested in hearin'."

Mal said, "Oh but you're wrong. I'm lookin' forward to hearin' how you decided to take off with my ship. It should be good. Let's go to your room."

Kaylee sighed, thinking that sarcasm couldn't be a good sign, and headed towards her room with Mal following closely behind. Kaylee went in first, and Mal followed locking the hatch behind him. Kaylee's room was fairly small just like Mal's because it was crew quarters. He sat on her bed, which was the only piece of furniture in the room, and said, "Let's hear it."

Kaylee stood near the ladder that went to her hatch door and told him the story up until the point when she had called him the first time. Then he told her what had happened to him. When he was done she continued with the rest of her story. Mal sighed and said, "I know you love Simon, and I think it's real good for both of you bein' together, but you can't let it affect your judgement on the job. You and I both know he couldn't have flown the ship without you, and you should have stayed strong and told him no. You should have convinced him I would go after River. It's dangerous to fly this ship with only two crew members. What if somethin' had gone wrong with the engine? How can you fly her and fix her at the same time?"

Kaylee looked at the floor and nodded, "I know. I'm sorry."

"That's not gonna be good enough Kaylee."

She nodded again and whispered, "I know."

"Come here."

Kaylee looked up and said, "Cap'n?"

He looked at her expectantly. She said, "I know I deserve it, and you got the right to do it, but you can't tell Simon. He won't understand."

He gave her a glare, "I ain't gonna lie to him."

She started to cry and said, "I'm in between the two of you every day, and it's harder on me then you think. If he finds out that you whupped me, he's gonna either try to kill you, or leave the ship for good. If he leaves what am I supposed to do? Go with him, or stay here? How can I make that choice? Please don't tell him."

Mal thought about that for a few seconds. He knew what she meant by being in between them all the time, and felt bad that it apparently bothered her more then he had realized. He said, "All right. I won't tell him, but if he asks me about it I ain't gonna lie. I'll try to find you first before I answer him though, so we can talk to him together if it comes up."

She nodded and said, "Thank you."

He looked at her expectantly again. She went to him slowly dragging her feet. She had been spanked plenty in her life by her father, and a couple of times by her mom and oldest brother, but never by Mal. And because she herself had given him the idea in the first place, she found it more embarrassing to be caught in a situation where she felt she deserved it. She leaned herself over his lap with a bright red face.

Mal put a hand around her waist and brought his other hand down hard and fast. He knew she had been in this position more then once, and after his experience with both River and Simon last month, he knew how hard to hit to make an impression. Kaylee made a strangled little whimper in the back of her throat with the first smack, and then kept herself quiet with effort.

By the time Mal got to ten swats, Kaylee couldn't hold her breath anymore, and as she let it out, she made involuntary noises with each swat. Mal kept spanking, and soon Kaylee was squirming around on his lap trying to get her behind away from his hand. He pulled her up tight against his stomach, to limit her squirms. She started to cry quietly and she had to grab her left wrist with her right hand to keep herself from trying to reach back and cover her butt.

Mal was kind of surprised at Kaylee's reaction. He had been expecting something more vocal. She never seemed to have a problem giving him her opinions in the past, and he was sure she was in pain by now. He wasn't sure how many swats he had given her, but he knew it was between thirty and forty. He stopped for a second and said, "You plan to take my ship again without askin'?"

She tried to say 'No sir.' But she couldn't quite get it out in between her tears, and ended up shaking her head no. Mal realized she was crying pretty hard when he heard the hitched breath that she took in. He nodded to himself thinking that was enough, and let her go. She didn't get up, so he put both his hands on her waist and lifted her off his lap, and sat her down on the bed next to him. He pulled her into a hug wrapping both his arms around her shoulders. She cried into his shirt for a few minutes glad to have it over and feeling better now that she had paid for having taken the ship.

When her crying had slowed down Mal said, "Listen to me mei mei."

Kaylee wiped her eyes and looked up at Mal with a repentant expression. He said, "I love you, and I won't make you choose between us. If it comes to that, you choose Simon."

She gasped at that, and Mal continued, "Little sisters grow up, and move out of the house. If you love him, and want to be with him, but he can't stand to be with me anymore, then you go with him. I'll still love you, and I'll understand why you left. Dong ma?"

Kaylee's face scrunched up again with tears and said, "I don't wanna leave."

Mal kissed her forehead and said, "And I don't want you to leave. I hope it never comes to that. But I want you to know that if you have trouble decidin', you pick Simon. Believe me when I tell you Zoe would choose Wash over me every time."

Kaylee shook her head with disbelief. Mal nodded yes and said, "You ask her about it sometime if you don't believe me."

Mal continued, "But if the good Doctor has decided to do somethin' stupid like he did today, then kick his ass for me, because I know you could."

Kaylee laughed a little at that one. Mal said, "Get cleaned up, and go help Inara with lunch."

Kaylee wiped at her face one more time and said, "He had to go after her Cap'n. Whuppen him ain't gonna change that next time."

Mall stood up and said, "And did he have to lie to you and sneak off with River to see his pa without telling anyone where he was goin'?"

Kaylee looked down and shook her head no. Mal headed to the ladder and left Kaylee to her thoughts.

Simon took River to the infirmary and gave her a thorough exam. He found multiple abrasions on her fists and upper arms. He found a large purple bruise on her upper right arm, and a scan showed torn muscle in the shoulder. He found burns on the fingers of her left hand, and when he took the tape off her ears and cleaned the bigger chunks of oatmeal out, he found second degree burns in her ear canal too. He tried to give her a local anesthetic before cleaning out her ears, but she grabbed his hand and said, "No needles."

He said, "But it's going to hurt when I clean out the wounds in your ears. This will make it hurt less."

River stated more strongly, "No needles Simon."

He sighed and said, "Okay."

She let his hand go, and he put the needle away. He got out some cotton swabs, dabbed them in some purified water and started to work on getting the oatmeal residue out of her ears a little at a time.

When he was done with the first ear, and had just started on the second, River said, "Gabriel won't come for us again."

Simon stilled in his movements, and then said, "Good."

"He hurt me."

Simon felt rage pumping through him but tried to keep his voice level when he said, "What did he do to you?"

"He didn't believe me, and he made me sleep twice. He tried a third time."

Simon felt the anger go away slightly and said, "But you cleverly put burning hot oatmeal in your ears so he couldn't."

River gave him a smile and said, "I knew you'd understand."

Simon said, "You could have blown on it first."

River laughed and said, "No time silly."

They were quiet for a while Simon finished. Once both ears were clean, he put some cooling antiseptic gel in her ears to help the burns heal and hurt less.

Simon said, "Okay River. All done."

River sat up and said, "I told you Daddy would come for us."

Simon put a hand on her face and smiled at her. "Yes, but you didn't tell me it was going to be scary."

River put both her hands on his face and said, "Not Gabriel. He doesn't get to be our father anymore."

Simon looked confused for a second, and then they heard someone clear their throat in the doorway of the infirmary. Simon looked over and saw Mal standing there. Mal said how's she doin' Doc?"

Simon stepped back from his sister and went through the list of her injuries, and then said, "A little bed rest today, and she should be just fine. She'll be completely healed before the week is out."

River pouted, "Bed rest is boring. I want to help with lunch."

Mal said, "You listen to your brother now, and lay down for a spell."

Simon said, "Why don't you lay on the couch in the lounge so you can see what's going on around you, and I'll bring you a book to look at. Maybe Kaylee can keep you company for a while."

River nodded in acceptance and let Simon help her to the lounge. He saw there was a book on the table and said, "How about this one?"

River said, "Okay."

She took the book and lay down on the couch. Simon pushed the hair back out of her face and then turned to face Mal.

Mal said, "Back to the infirmary."

Simon headed that way. When they got there Mal pointed to the exam table and said, "Sit."

Simon looked confused but sat down. Mal pulled out some gauze pads and got them wet with some purified water. He went up to Simon and put his hands on Simon's head. He tilted Simon's head to the side, and started dabbing at the dried blood on his face and in his hair. Simon realized what Mal was doing and said, "It's not a big deal. I can clean it later."

Mal said, "Hush." and continued cleaning.

Mal had seen enough wounds to know this one didn't need stitches, and should heal up just fine. Once the blood was cleaned up he said, "You take anything for that yet?"

Simon just shook his head no. Mal said, "Don't your head hurt?"

Simon shrugged and said, "Maybe a little."

Mal searched the drawers and got out some pills. He put two in Simon's hand and gave him a glass of water. Simon said, "I think I can diagnose and medicate myself better than you can Captain. I don't need any painkillers."

Mal said, "You're gonna take them, and then you're gonna take the same advice you gave to your sister and lay down for a few hours. Then later tonight, you and I will have a talk about what you did today."

Simon tried to sound sure of himself. "I had to go after her Mal."

Mal said, "Take your pills and go lay down before I bend you over this table and show you how much I enjoy repeatin' myself."

Simon didn't like that idea at all. He put the pills in his mouth and swallowed them down with the water. Mal took the glass away and said, "I'll bring you a tray when lunch is ready."

Simon gave him a nod and walked to his room.

Later that night after they had gotten Inara's shuttle, and headed to a new moon to look for work or a pilot, Mal went to Simon's quarters and knocked on the hatch. He knew River was still in the lounge playing cards with Kaylee, so when he didn't get a response he opened the door and went in. He locked the hatch behind him and went into Simon's room. Simon was asleep on his bed, with his mostly empty lunch tray on the floor beside the bed.

Mal said quietly, "Simon?":

Simon wasn't in a deep sleep and woke up with a start. He looked around and saw Mal standing in his doorway. Mal said, "Wake up and come talk to me."

Mal went into the living area and sat on the couch waiting for Simon to come out. Five minutes later a nervous looking Simon came out of his room fully dressed except for shoes. Mal said, "How's your head?"

Simon put a hand up to his wound and said, "Much better thanks. I guess the pills were a good idea."

"Good. Come sit down."

Simon stood half way across the room, and made no move to get any closer. "I'm fine."

"I wasn't askin'."

Simon sighed and walked over to the couch. He sat as far away from Mal as possible. Mal said, "Tell me 'bout it."

"We had to take the ship Captain. We didn't know what had happened to you, or how long it would be until you got back. What if it had taken you hours, and we lost the ion trail of the ship? We had to leave when we did."

Mal gave him a nod and said, "I understand your panic once River was gone. That's not what I want you to explain."

Simon looked confused. "Then what?"

"What did I tell you before I left this morning?"

Simon thought about it and then as understanding dawned on him he looked somewhat uncomfortable. He mumbled, "To stay on the ship."

"Did you?"

"Not exactly."

"So explain."

Simon keept his eyes on the floor and said, "My father called us here on the ship. He said he wanted to see us. He said he missed us, and that our mother was ill."

Mal nodded and said, "Sounds like a compelling reason to see your pa. What happened next?"

Simon felt a little more confident with Mal's agreement and said, "I took River to the restaurant where my father wanted to meet us, and he….."

Mal interrupted, "No."

Simon looked over at him. Mal said, "What happened next was that you lied to Kaylee about just goin' outside for a spell, and then ran off without tellin' anyone where you were goin'."


"While I think lyin' to Kaylee was yu ben de, that's between you and her. But leaving the ship, taking your sister out in public without some kind of backup, and without tellin' any of the crew where you were headed, is between you and me."

Simon blushed and said, "I needed to see him."

"That's fine, but you had other options available to you."

Simon shook his head no. "If I had told Kaylee, she would have called you right away, and then you would have said I couldn't go, and I'd end up disobeying a direct order which doesn't seem to make you happy."

"You already did disobey a direct order when you left the ship!"

Simon crossed his arms leaned back in the couch and kept his mouth shut, not being able to negate Mal's statement. Mal said, "Why do you assume I would tell ya that you couldn't see your pa?"

Simon looked less defiant, at that statement and said, "You would have let me?"

"'Course I would have. I just would'a made you wait 'till we got back so we could be back up. You could'a seen him, and we would'a been outside so he couldn't have taken River."

Simon looked down for a second as he thought about that, and how much better that would have been. Mal said, "But even if you didn't do that, you should'a at least left Kaylee a note or somethin'! She was probably scared to death the Alliance had got to you."

Simon mumbled, "I guess I can see where that would have been a better plan."

Mal said, "I'm glad you see it my way. You remember what happened a month ago when you left the ship without tellin' no one where you were goin'?

Simon's breathing and heart rate went up. He said with desperation, "It's not the same. We were just going to be gone for a few minutes, and then we were gong to be right back. It's just a misunderstanding."

Mal raised his eyebrows at that. "A misunderstanding? Was I unclear when I told you not to leave the ship this mornin'?"

"No…. but….. I…"

Mal said, "But you don't want me to give you a lickin' even though you know you're in the wrong. Good, then maybe you'll remember this and you won't run off next time. Stand up and drop your pants."

Simon sat there wide-eyed and just shook his head no slightly. Mal said, "It's happenin' and the more you fight me, the worse it's gonna be."

Simon pushed himself up to standing, and managed to get the button and zipper of his slacks undone. Mal scooted himself to the edge of the couch, and snagged Simon's wrist before he had a chance to panic too much. Mal yanked Simon down over his lap, and Simon caught his upper body with his hands on the couch cushions. His legs hung down off the side of Mal's lap.

Mal pushed Simon forward a little over his lap, so that Simon's butt was directly on top of Mal's right leg. Mal lowered his left leg, so that Simon's butt was higher then the rest of his body. Simon's slacks had already fallen to the floor, and now Mal got a hand in the waistband of Simon's boxers and pulled those down as well.

Simon had been expecting this since he had first gotten Kaylee to agree to take the ship, but now that it was happening, the embarrassment of the situation and position made him want to disappear into the floor. The first smack was very painful and his whole body got tense. The second was no better then the first, and as the swats kept coming with unpleasant regularity and force, Simon found it more and more difficult to stay still or be quiet.

By the time Mal had got to twelve swats Simon's legs were kicking slightly, and he was making noises with each swat. When Mal got to twenty Simon could tell that tears were eminent. Simon called out, "I'm sorry! I shouldn't….Ow!….have left…. Ah!….the ship!"

Mal nodded in agreement and kept spanking. He said, "You're right, you shouldn't have."

Simon was desperate to have it stop before he cried. He said, "I won't…. Aaahh!… it again! Mmmff!…..Please stop!"

Mal didn't stop and said, "I'm glad to hear you won't be runnin' off again, but that don't change the fact that you did it today."

Simon felt his throat constricting and his eyes burning, as he fought the tears that were starting whether he wanted them to or not. He made an effort to get up off Mal's lap, but Mal put a hand in the middle of Simon's back and shoved him back down. Mal kept his hand there and spanked Simon with even more force. Simon yelled out and couldn't stop himself from trying to cover his butt with his hand. Mal moved his left hand from the middle of Simon's back and grabbed Simon's hand and moved it out of the way.

Simon got out, "Pleeeease!"

Mal shook his head and gave Simon fifteen more hard swats while Simon cried and jerked around over his lap. Mal stopped, but held Simon in place. Mal waited a few seconds for Simon to calm down enough to listen. Mal said, "That was for leavin' the ship after I told you not to, and for not telling anyone where you were going. This next part is for takin' your sister with you and putting her in danger too."

Simon yelled out, "Nooooo!" as he felt the spanking start up again. Mal gave him ten more and Simon's crying got louder. Mal stopped again and waited for a few seconds. He didn't really want to keep going, but he thought this last part was important. He said, "You listenin' to me Simon?"

Simon nodded rapidly. Mal said, "This last part is for talkin' Kaylee into takin' my ship. It was a bad plan that wasn't gonna work, and could'a got you both killed."

Simon was crying loudly again just from Mal's words. Mal gave him eight more swats as hard as he could, and all concentrated on Simon's sit spot. When Mal was done he let go of Simon's hand and rubbed his back for a few seconds. As soon as Simon realized it was over, he pushed himself to standing. He quickly pulled the boxers back up, but left the pants off as they had fallen all the way to the floor a while ago when he was kicking.

Mal stood up too and pulled Simon into a hug. Simon didn't resist. In fact he hugged Mal back, and felt comforted even though his bottom was throbbing. When Simon's crying was under control Mal said, "Your decision making wasn't at its best today Doc. I hope for both our sakes that it improves."

Simon nodded and mumbled, "I'm sorry."

Mal nodded and said, "I know, and I forgive you."

A few minutes later Simon let go of Mal, so Mal let go of Simon as well. Simon wiped at his face with his sleeves, and sniffed a few times. Mal said, "Go get cleaned up, I want to talk to you 'bout somethin' else before we're done here."

Simon didn't feel like dong much besides crawling in bed on his stomach to pout and feel sorry for himself. He got his pants off the floor, and walked into the bathroom. He put his pants on, blew his nose a few times, and splashed some cold water on his face. He had a drink of water, and then went out to hear what Mal had to say.

Mal was sitting on the couch again but Simon chose to stand over to one side instead of sitting with him. Simon said, "What else did you want to talk about?"

"Kaylee, and maybe River too."


Mal sighed not quite knowing where to start. He finally said, "Kaylee told me she feels like she's in the middle of our arguing all the time, and the more I think on it, the more I understand. I don't like thinkin' that we're hurting her when we disagree. I don't want her thinkin' she has to pick sides."

Simon nodded and said, "I don't like the idea of us hurting her either. But if you think I'm just going to keep quiet when I disagree with you, well, you're wrong."

Mal shook his head. "No, I just want us both to be aware of it, and try our best to keep her out of our squabbles."

"I agree."

Mal wasn't sure he should bring this next part up, but since they were in the middle of a big emotional confrontation anyway, he thought this might be his best opening. He wasn't even sure why he thought he should bring it up but he said, "River came to me first after she got off the ship."

Simon looked away to hide the hurt in his eyes and said, "Yes…She… It appears she is thinking of you as her current father figure. I'm sorry if it bothers you, I'm sure she'll grow out of it with time. This run in with our father has left her…..vulnerable. I'll speak to her about it if it makes you uncomfortable."

Mal shook his head. "No, I don't mind at all. I think it's kind'a nice."

Simon looked over not sure if Mal was telling the truth or not. Mal looked Simon in the eyes and said, "But if it makes you uncomfortable, then I can discourage it. I know that you've kind of been filling that role for her for a while now……"

Simon looked down unsure. He said, "Not really…. I mean I don't think River ever saw me like that. Maybe I saw me like that….I don't know. I…. I won't be upset if you ……you know."

Mal nodded once considering the matter done, and stood up. He said, "Good. Chow's in an hour, I'll expect you there."

Simon said, "Okay."

Mal left, and Simon lay down on his couch thinking about all the things Mal had said and done, and wondered what the future would bring.

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