"What you did out there," Mal says, "was reckless and could've brought a whole lot of trouble down on me and mine. You're lucky I'm not gonna dump you and your sister on the next piece of rock we come by."
He fixes Simon with cold blue eyes and buries his hands in his pockets. His lips form a thin line. His jaw clenches.
"Lucky?" Simon protests. "River and I are fugitives, Mal! We're aboard a ship whose captain doesn't much care if we're dead or alive, there's a warrant out on the cortex for our arrest and now this! I didn't ask for this – any of this. I'm just trying to survive and keep River safe. That's all that matters to me. If I have to take risks to do that, that's what I'm going to do."
Mal frowns. "While you're on this ship, it ain't. You do what I tell you to do, just as the rest of the crew do."
"The rest of the crew? Do you even consider River and I crew? I'm not so sure," Simon hurls back. "What I did… I had to do. God knows I can't rely on you to help me help River. Not without a price."
"You…" Mal spits. "The crew…" He pauses to take a deep breath and collects himself. "How many times do I have to tell you you're on my crew?"
Simon begins to pace the stretch of floor parallel to the end of the table in the mess. Beads of sweat line his forehead, emphasising the fine creases there made by his constant worrying over River. He doesn't answer.
"This isn't about you fitting in 'round here, anyhaps. This is about you putting not only the crew in danger but your dear an' crazy sister and yourself as well. I thought you was trying to lay low."
"I was," Simon says quietly. "I am. River's not been taking well to her meds, which you'd have known if you'd just listened to me!"
"That's beside the point. You coulda been killed!" Mal says. "Not nobody could've helped River then."
Simon visibly deflates and shakes his head softly. He rubs his temple with the fingers of his left hand. "I know. I'm sorry. I just… it's hard, you know? She's my sister." He shrugs.
"Best you remember that and try not to get killed," Mal returns. He studies the ground. "We don't need to lose any more crew."
Frowning slightly, Simon stares at Mal. "What?"
"You know what I said." Mal swallows. He nods his head. "We've lost too many already."
He turns and walks out, leaving Simon behind to wonder.
Was it actually concern for Simon's safety that had Mal lecturing him?
Was it all because he cared?