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This story is No. 3 in the series "Lost in Serenity". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: While the crew pulls a job in Canton a recovering Xander is forced to confront his growing feelings for River. Lost in Serenity Episode 3.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Firefly > Xander-Centered > Pairing: RiverMidknightJFR15514,92343519,4187 Jan 0915 Oct 09Yes

A Lack of Understanding


Disclaimer: I'm poor. I own nothing

Wash frantically flipped a pair of switches on the far side of the console, when that did nothing he flipped them a few more times for good measure. They had absolutely nothing to do with his current problem, but he’d tried pretty much everything else at this point so he figure what the heck, it’s worth a shot.

Still nothing. He glared down at a small screen trying to will the obnoxious red ‘land-lock engaged’ away.

“Wash, we're in,” Mal’s voice crackled through the intercom, making Wash jump at the sudden noise. “Get us the hell offa this mud-ball.”

“Uh… Yeah... I'm… umm… workin' on that,” Wash awkwardly sent back. At a loss, he figured he’d give the universal fix-it method a try. He started smacking the side of the console, praying Kaylee never found out he was abusing her baby. “Gao yang jong duh goo yang.”

With only a sore hand for his efforts Wash lent back in his chair and sent the screen another dirty look.

“Hello, Wash. Has there been any problem with take-off?” For the second time in as many minutes Wash jumped at the unexpected sound of a person’s voice. He hadn’t realized Inara had landed already, even though he had cleared her moments before the land-lock problem sidetracked him, let alone heard her enter the bridge.

“Is there a problem?” Wash exclaimed and started throwing more switches and pressing random buttons. “Is there a problem?!” Suddenly the red lettering was gone, replaced by a calming green that red ‘land-lock released’.

Wash sat up straight and blinked owlishly at the screen. “Uh, no. We're fine,” he finished coolly.

“You did What!?” Magristrate Higgins growled. His son sat at the table with a relaxed posture he had never seen in the boy. He paced behind him, glaring at the back his head before making his way around and looming over him and holding his gaze. Fess stared back at him with a casual confidence, a defiance that hadn’t been there before. He blamed the girl for this! He never should have brought her here.

“I sent an override to Port Control,” Fess told him calmly. “Lifted the land-lock on Serenity.”

Higgins’ face flushed red with rage and his glare intensified. “I ought to tear that smile off your head! How dare you defy me! You… You…” he sputtered.

“You wanted to make a man of me, Dad.” Fess leaned back in his chair and rested his hands on the back of his head with a smirk. “I guess it worked.”

Simon sat on his bed, his arm freshly bandaged. The gash stung like hell, but it wasn’t deep enough to need stitches. Right now he was more concerned with keeping the blush off his face as Kaylee leaned in close and gently cleaned out and applied a bandage to a small cut over his eye. His gaze was locked firmly on her nose. Noses were safe. You couldn’t get lost in them like eyes or get caught staring at less appropriate places.

They hadn’t spoken since coming back to the ship, but that didn’t matter to Simon. He was only too glad to stay silent. It seemed like he always said the wrong thing the more he spoke with Kaylee, and he had already upset her enough for one day.

The silence couldn’t last though, and eventually Kaylee finished, smoothing the bandage before running her hand through his hair and cupping his cheek. “Can't be letting men stomp on you so much.”

Simon felt his cheeks burn as he lost the battle not to blush. “It wasn't exactly the plan.”

“You ain't weak. You couldn't beat him back? Or would that not be appropriate?” Simon cringed at the emphasis on the last word.

“You're never letting go of that, are you?”

“Well you confound me some, is all,” Kaylee said and raised his chin so she could meet his eyes. “You like me well enough, we get along, and then you go all stiff.”

“I'm not– I didn't–”

“See?” she exclaimed and dropped her hand. “You're doing it right now. What's so damn important about bein' proper? Don't mean nothin' out here in the black.”

“It means more out here,” Simon told her, unsure how to explain exactly what he meant but just letting the words come. Maybe not thinking so much about what he wanted to say could get him out of trouble for a change. “It's all I have. My way of being, polite or however, it's the only way I have of showing you that I like you. Of showing respect.”

Kaylee looked down shyly and grabbed both his hands in hers. “So when we made love last night…”

“When we what?” Simon sputtered.

Kaylee laughed and looked back up, her eyes alight with mischief. “You really are such an easy mark.” She grinned at him and Simon found himself smiling back. Looks like he was able to say the right thing after all.

Mal shook his head as he left the bridge. Something didn’t seem right there. Wash just seemed… shifty for some reason. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it though.

He made his way towards the cargo bay and pushed the thought out of his mind. They were still flying and, more importantly, heading away from anyone who likely wanted to put some new holes in them. At least the ones who wanted to at this moment anyways.

Jayne was still were he left him; leaning on the railing on the catwalk overlooking the cargo bay. He was staring blankly at the airlock doors across from him, his features set in a grim line. Jayne had never been a great conversationalist, but he had been particularly quite since they made it back on Serenity, even for him.

For a moment Mal considered just bypassing the man and checking on their cargo like he had planned. Instead he walked over beside Jayne and rested his forearms casually on the railing. He didn’t say anything though, or even look over at him. Neither of them were exactly the sharing type. If Jayne felt like talking about it he would. If he didn’t, well, that was his business.

Several long minutes went by in silence, and Mal was just about to leave when Jayne spoke. “Don't make no sense,” he told him. “Why the hell'd that Mudder go an do that, Mal? Jumpin' in front a' that shotgun blast. Weren't a one of them understood what happened out there. Hell, they're probably stickin' that statue right back up.”

Mal didn’t know what to tell him. He knew that when you believed in something, or someone, that you did things that didn’t otherwise make sense. During the war he had been a believer in the cause and did more than a few crazy things fighting for independence. Things that, looking back, seemed foolish. Still he didn’t know how to explain it to Jayne, at least, not in a way that would make sense.

Instead he just nodded and said, “Most like,” because that was probably exactly what the Mudders were doing.

“Don't know why that eats at me so.”

Finally Mal felt like he had found the right words. Or, at least, close enough. “It's my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of sommbitch or another,” he told Jayne and turned to face him, the first either had looked at the other since they started talking. “Ain't about you, Jayne. 'Bout what they need.

“Don't make no sense,” Jayne said after a moment and Mal had to agree. In his experience people rarely did. The ones who seemed to were the ones you really had to worry about.

They stood there silently for a few more minutes before Jayne turned to him and gave a curt nod before heading in the direction of his bunk. He figure that was the closest he’d get to a ‘thanks’ from Jayne.

Mal didn’t turn to watch him go though. Instead he watched as his latest passenger crawled out of one of the ships hide holes. As soon as he was all the way out Xander bent down and offered his hand to someone inside. Then River was on her feet and Mal’s eyebrows nearly shot up when he saw the two teenagers smile at each other and walk towards the common area, still hand in hand.

They didn’t get very far before Xander lost his balance and would have fallen over if not for River taking more of the young man’s weight than Mal had thought she was capable of. Standing back up, though still leaning heavily on River, Xander glanced upward and noticed his audience.

Mal saw the boy’s eyes turn serious as their gazes met and after a moment Xander simply nodded. He took it as both an acknowledgement of his presence and an answer to his question. He nodded back and the boy limped off with River towards the med bay.

“Things certainly seem to be progressing there,” Inara noted as she came to stand beside him.

“It’s a development.”

Normally when Inara came back from Companioning he would make a crass comment about how her ‘whoring’ went, if for no other reason than to get a rise out of her. He wasn’t feeling up to it right now. Instead he continued to stare at the spot the two kids had been.

“What is it about him that fascinates you so much?” Inara asked.

Mal knew what she was talking about, but he played dumb anyways. “Who fascinates who now?”

“Mal,” she said patiently. “You’re not as bad a man as you like to think, so I know you would have saved him on Beaumonde regardless, but why did you take Xander on at Triumph to begin with? Aren’t you the one who said passengers had become too much trouble to bother with?”

He didn’t meet her searching gaze, just continued to stare ahead. Mal didn’t interrupt her either, so Inara went on. “Then you offer him a place on the crew, not once, but twice. That’s twice more than most people and one more than anyone else on Serenity. What is it about him, Mal?”

Mal stayed silent and couldn’t help but think how it had been Jayne here like this not long ago. Inara was a bit more to the point than he had been with the bigger man though.

“Do you know him from somewhere?” she pressed on. “Or is it just that he holds himself a lot like you do? A kindred spirit of sorts?”

“Just seemed like he’d be a good fit, is all,” he told her. “If nothing else, he’s good for the little one.”

It was true enough, even if there was more too it than that. Then he heard her sigh and the rustle of fabric as she turned away.

“Alright,” she said simply as she walked away. Obviously she knew that was only a half-truth, but how could he explain to her something he wasn’t sure about himself?

He didn’t know what had possessed him to offer the kid a place on his crew. Mal had just followed his instincts. He just knew that this was where the kid was supposed to be, even if he couldn’t put his finger on exactly why. From the few interactions he’d had with the crew so far, it really did seemed like Xander fit well though.

And maybe there was some truth in what Inara had said. The truth was that he did see some of himself in Xander. Whether that was a good thing or not he wasn’t sure, but he did.

Whatever the reason, he had made the offer and apparently Xander had taken it. His gut told him things were going to get very interesting on Serenity in the near future.


Well, there it is. The third episode is done. Admittedly, mostly my interpretation of Jaynestown with Xander scenes added, but I did do it this way for a reason. It won't be as apparent in the next episode, but starting the one after that this contributes to a running Jayne subplot, and to a few other planned subplots later on.

Coming soon

Lost in Serenity
Episode 4
Balancing Act

A supernatural being on Persephone is countering every good deed by a local
priest with an act of evil. Meanwhile, Xander comes face to face with a figure
from his past. His distant past.

The End

You have reached the end of "Big Talks, Small Spaces". This story is complete.

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