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Status: Completed 12/25/2007

Spoilers: Serenity

Archive: Ask first.

Disclaimer: Firefly and its characters belong to Joss Whedon, Fox, and whoever else has a claim to 'em. I, sadly, am not one of them.

Word Count: 2,162

The captain is unsteady on his feet, swaying slightly as he waits to see what the soldiers will do. He looks at me. He's not sure what to make of what I've done. He doesn't fear me. For that, I am grateful.

"Do we have a kill order?"

My hand tightens around my blades as I hear the soldier's question. The captain tenses. After a long pause, the operative answers in gasping breaths. "Stand down. Stand down. It's finished. We're finished."

"Not bad, little Albatross." The captain smiles, relief is clear in his face.

I smile at his comparison. I've read the poem as well. I am touched that he thinks of me as his good luck charm. You wouldn't know it from the way he acts and speaks. My smile fades as he sinks slowly, painfully to his knees.

His pain is obvious, even to those who can't read his mind, but there is no one to help him. Inara is with Simon, putting pressure on his wound. Kaylee is still numb from the Reavers' drugs. Jayne and Zoë are also wounded. I don't think any of them realize just how seriously the captain has been injured.

The Alliance don't care. Those who aren't rushing past us to help their leader, are glaring at us with hate filled eyes. Their guns are trained on us, daring us to try to escape. Like any of us, with the exception of myself, are in any condition to do anything more than breathe.

I am the only one who can help the captain now.

He is afraid, but not of his own imminent death. Of ours. His crew.... His family. He will never say it aloud, barely admits it to himself, but that's what we are to him.

Even Simon and I.

Sure now that we won't be shot were we stand, I drop my blades and reach the captain's side just as he lies down. He winces but says nothing as I rip the sleeves from his shirt. I use the knife to rip one in half then use the two pieces to put pressure on his wounds. Sword went right through him. He smiles weakly then closes his eyes. His breathing is slow and even. Though his eyes are shut, I know he is still awake. He will not sleep until he is sure we will all be okay.

Do the others see it, I wonder? Do they see in him what I see? They all care for him deeply, even Jane, though he'll never admit it, but do they see the heart of who he really is? Can they see the real Malcolm Reynolds buried beneath the layers of hurt, heartache, and pain? Beneath the anger, hatred, and self-doubt?

Jane, I know, will never understand the captain. Never see Mal as I see him. He is not the evil man he portrays himself to be, but Jayne is by no means a "good" man either. Jayne glories in the fight, in the rush of thieving and fighting. He likes to hurt people. Not all people. He would never intentionally harm a woman or a child, but neither does he go out of his way to avoid it.

The captain gasps and opens his eyes as I tie of the strip of shirt I am using to hold together my makeshift bandage. "Rest." I whisper. He looks at me a moment longer then his eyes slide closed again. He is lucky. I don't believe any major organs were damaged. Still, the would is serious and he will most likely die if he does not receive proper medical attention soon.

Inara loves him for reasons she cannot grasp. It confuses and angers her. She does not want to love him. To even like him. That is the reason she left us. She says she was fine with the captain sleeping with her friend, but she was not. She was angry and confused and jealous. So very jealous. And then Nandy died. The guilt overwhelmed her. So she ran. Because it was easier than admitting her feelings. Easier than swallowing her pride and admitting she could love a man who didn't fit into her perfect picture of what a civilized man should be. And because it was easier than giving up the life she had become accustomed to. Easier than allowing herself to acknowledge that she knows there is so much more to the captain then what he lets the world see.

They all criticized him when Jayne mentioned maybe havin' to put a bullet to me and the captain said the thought had crossed his mind. I could hear the agony in his thoughts at the prospect of it. Couldn't they hear it in his voice?

When we went on that heist, Simon was mad at the captain. He's such a dork. A cute, over protective dork, but a dork all the same. I still can't believe he said it's okay to leave them to die. "I'm taking your sister under my protection here. If anything happens to her, anything at all, I swear to you I will get very choked up. Honestly, there could be tears." The captain had responded. He's said it like he was teasing, but I think he know it really would have hurt him if I'd have got hurt or killed. And then Simon punches him. He's lucky the captain didn't kill him. Or just toss him out the airlock.

The Captain does not open his eyes as I take a small scrap of cloth and press it to the cut on his head. He allows me to guide his hand to it and holds the cloth himself so I can finish my exam of his physical condition. My thoughts turn to the others as I check the captain over.

Kaylee. Sweet Kaylee, with her child-like innocence. My friend. So naive in so many ways even for someone who has spent so much time in the harshness of space. She can be so kind and caring, and yet so very harsh, to the people she loves. She loves Simon deeply. It is a real love, I can tell, not just a crush. She loves the captain too. It is true, I suppose, that we hurt most often, and severely, hurt the ones we love. While Kaylee is a compassionate and bright person, she lets her heart rule her emotions to the exclusion of her intelligence. To often, she thinks with her heart and not her head. It has gotten her, and the captain, into trouble on more than a few occasions. She was mean to the captain. She hurt him more than he will ever admit. She did apologize to him during the trip here. She should have done it sooner. She has known the captain for a long time. It is enough for him and that is all that matters. I suppose.

I reach the captain's collarbones and begin to press gently and work my way down. As I reach about the mid point of the right side of his chest, a low groan escapes the captain and his hand slaps mine away. Nothing is broken, just very badly bruised. Which, ironically, will hurt more. His eyes open, dulled by the pain, but still alert. We look at each other for a minute. "Sorry." I apologize then his eyes close again.

Simon, my dear, dimwitted (when it comes to women), brother. It took all of this to get him to see that I don't need his undivided attention all day every day. To see how much he loves Kaylee.

Wash. Poor Wash. He really did like the captain. There was a little jealousy on his part over the captain's relationship with his wife. He had a child's heart. Despite their minor squabbles, he didn't hate Captain Reynolds. He actually very much liked and respected the captain. I don't believe he was really capable of actually hating anyone.

Book, he of the scary hair. He didn't really understand the captain either, but he did try. Although, he did know him better than most people, even than some of the crewmembers who have been with the captain longer. Book was a stabilizing force for the captain, someone for him to talk to, his sounding board. Despite his professions of intolerance for God on his ship, the captain very much admired and envied the preacher his faith. He valued their friendship very highly, as did Book. Theirs was the most unlikely friendship I've ever seen.

Zoë, our resident warrior woman. She knows him better than any of us. She and the captain have been through a lot together. They have seen more horrors than the others can even begin to imagine. She may not always agree with the captain, but she will never judge him. Never turn her back on him. Never leave him. Of all of them, she sees into his soul most clearly.

Finally, one of the soldiers kneels beside me. His thoughts are chaotic. They don't know what was in the broadcast. Can't believe the man lying beside me, this insignificant former Browncoat, defeated their almighty Alliance operative. They must know that by now, even if they don't know how. The medic is a young man, barely more than a boy really. Although he is older than me. He is nervous. They all saw what was left of the Reavers.

He is afraid of me. Afraid of what I might do to him.


After a minute, he finds his voice. "I'm a medic, ma'am." He says as he lays a hand on my shoulder. No duh. Even if I couldn't read his mind as clearly as if it was an open book, the red cross on his uniform tells me as much.

"Please, move to the side. I'll take care of him from here." His voice is gentler than I would have expected from a member of the Alliance.

I hesitate for just a moment then move over, but not much. There is no malice in his thoughts. He truly wants to help. I spare a look around and see that the others are finally being attended as well.

The medic undoes my makeshift bandage and grimaces. It's clear he doesn't like what he sees. He pulls a needle and a bottle of clear liquid from his bag then puts the tip of the needle in the bottle and fills it part way. When the needle is half full, he withdraws it and locates a vein in the captain's arm then injects the contents of the needle into it. The captain remains quiet with his eyes closed. The medic turns to me.

"It's just morphine. It will help with the pain."

"I know." I state.

He looks at me oddly for a minute, and then turns back to the captain. I'm not sure what to do know. I kneel next to the captain and take his hand into mine and give it a light squeeze. The captain's eyes flutter open and he looks at me in surprise. A small smile touches his lips. He nods then closes his eyes again. He makes no attempt to remove his hand from mine, nor do I let him go.

When the captain brought me back onto the ship after my little incident in the bar, Jayne asked him why he did it. The captain said he didn't know. He does, sort of. He knows what it's like to be hunted by the Alliance. There is much he won't speak on about what happened during the war, and immediately after it, nor will Zoë. I don't know what much of it is. I don't read people's minds intentionally, unless I sense a threat, and the captain does a very good job of burying the more unpleasant memories of his past. There's more to it than that, but I can't put my finger on it. I know he is not the ruthless, cold-hearted bastard he sometimes tries to make us believe he is, but I don't think it's just that either.

Did they hear the pain in his voice; see it in his eyes, when we saw what happened at Haven? When he sat there and held Book as he died? When he shot that Alliance pilot? He wouldn't have really shot any of them, 'cept maybe Jayne. I don't think he even would have really shot Jayne. Not shot to kill anyway. They all know that. But they helped him regardless. Which, I suppose, answers my question. They helped 'cause, even though they didn't like what he wanted them to do, they believe in him.

I don't know what the future holds for any of us, but I do know this; Malcolm Reynolds is my captain, my friend, and Serenity is my home. He cares about me like a little sister. I am their Albatross.

I will never leave them.