Chapter Twenty Eight – Picking up the Pieces

Malcolm Reynolds sat in the co-pilots chair on the Serenity's bridge setting in a course for Greenleaf. He had no particular business there but for now it seemed a good enough place to go. It was far from the Core and the Alliance; it was far from Reaver territory and no one there wanted to kill him, no one that he could remember anyways.

The crew was cleaning up the cargo bay while he charted this course for less excitement. Doc had taken care of Jayne's wounded leg and Zoe's hand. Kaylee, River and Inara were helping put things back into a more normal order. Serenity was fueled up and they were not being chased, followed or shot at. Things were looking up.

Mal flipped on the cortex news and caught the end of the report. Apparently the Loe brothers were wanted for questioning in some high profile murder investigation of several high level officials in the Alliance, among them the Ministers of Security and Health as well as the Vice Admiral of the Sixth fleet. The Minister and his brother had suddenly become hard to locate. Mal didn't like the Alliance much, but the idea of an empire wasn't any better.

Mal sat back in the chair and stared out the windshield at the expanse of stars. A blue streak smeared along the port side. How River had managed it he still hadn't figured. She'd said something about a 'buffer' and 'Trojan code' and 'variable' but honestly he didn't care. They were off the planet in spite of the port lock. She assured him they'd never figure out how she did it and that was good enough for him.

In other news, the Eavesdown spaceport had a massive computer failure yesterday that, the port authority claimed it was a random virus infection and it may require the complete overhaul of the system to fix. The Minister of Commerce pledged funds to fix the problem and institute new security measures in all ports. More news to come…Verbena, bumper crop driving wheat prices down in the market, Parliament to adjusts tax incentives to encourage… He flipped the monitor to off.

Yup, the Alliance was still hanging together, thanks to some anonymous evidence and a grateful witness in the hospital. No fanfare, no fuss. Now he could go about his business. 'Cosmic Justice' he thought, putting his feet up on the console.

Inara quietly stood in the door behind him and smiled.

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River was picking up spent shell casings in the cargo bay and smelling them like flowers while Simon and Kaylee threw trash into the trash bay. There was a sadness in Kaylee's eyes. The two didn't speak.

River touched her brother on the sleeve and showed him a shell casing with a smile. He half smiled back at his sister. Then her expression shifted to a stern and yet still childlike look.

"You know she loves you more than a hospital can? You know that don't you?"

"I do." He answered with a melancholy smile. "The hospital can wait, until she is ready."

Zoe walked down the stairway she and Jayne had just rebuilt, slowly testing each step ensuring they were perfect. The Warrior watched River warily as the girl drifted to the bottom of the steps and looked up into her cautious eyes. Zoe had faced death, war, destruction and hell on earth but she had no doubt, there was something about this girl that scared her. It wasn't just that she was a lethal weapon; it wasn't even her unpredictable nature. It was what River could see. She could see the truth, she could see what was hidden, she could see into your mind, into your heart, right through you to the other side. But right now – the girl looked small, innocent and in need.

River looked down at her hands, full of spent shell casings, suddenly shy of Zoe's gaze, as if she were the one exposed. She wanted to talk to the Warrior Woman, tell her about Wash. Tell Zoe how he was talking to her, helping her and still worrying about them all. But she didn't know where to start. After all, she knew he wasn't real. The mysterious girl hesitated at the bottom step waiting for Zoe to get to the bottom.

River reached out her hand gracefully handing Zoe a small light blue blossom. Zoe turned it in her fingers with wonder in her eyes. Where the girl had gotten it, Zoe didn't even question.

"Forget-me-not." The teen spoke softly, meekly.

The warrior smiled and put her hand on River's shoulder appreciatively.

"Tell him I miss him."

"I will."

Zoe turned and walked back up the stairs and headed to the bridge. She passed Mal and Inara holding hands at the door, smiled sweetly at the two and spoke softly.

"The bridge is mine, sir."

"We should be good for the next few hours." Mal explained. "The course is set, pilot's on…"

Inara hushed him with a hand to his lips and pulled him away.

"I got it sir." Zoe assured as they left.

Zoe tucked the small flower behind her ear, slid into the pilot's chair and curled into a ball. Pressing her face deeply into the soft curls of sheep wool, she breathed in the fragrances that were his, leather, wool and plastic dinosaur. She smiled.

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.-

River sat on top of a crate in the hold cross-legged, feeling the rhythm of Serenity. She closed her eyes, arched her back, and stretched her arms down to her knees, turning her palms up slowly she breathed in. Everyone was part of its flow, its beat, its very life. Zoe on the bridge, Inara leading Mal through the hall, Jayne doing reps on the bench press, Kaylee flushing the contents of the trash bay.

Simon wrapped his arm around Kaylee as they walked off to his cabin. River could feel the smile welling in the engineer. She whispered a silent goodbye to the drifting trash, as Inara lead Mal by the hand to her shuttle. The two entered as quietly as ghosts in a mist. The door closed slowly behind them and locked. River couldn't see the kiss, but she could feel it the air. River smiled.

"You've done a good thing here River." Sheppard Book nodded as he placed a reassuring, albeit cold and ghostly hand on her shoulder. "You should be proud of yourself."

River turned, wide eyed, to see the Sheppard, his knowing smile, kindly eyes and his white hair wildly protruding from his head like some feral bush. She jumped from her crate and ran screaming from the cargo hold and through the hatch that led to her room, leaving the startled ghost behind.

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The End

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Random Chinese words.

Bizui = Shut up

Dan = egg

Mian = inside

Mei mei = sister

Tian = today

Chan = greedy

Ma-ling-shu = potato

Jiang = sauce

Ma Shong = Now

Wa de ma = Mother of God

Jen duo mei = Just our luck

Tyen shiao duh – Name of all that is sacred

Tzao gao – Crap

Fung luh – Loopy in the head (Crazy)

Wuh de tyen ah – Dear god in heaven

Wag – Hey

Bao Bay – Sweet heart

Tee wuh de pee-goo – Kick me in the butt

Wuh gwo pee – smell something bad

Pee-goo = Butt or bottom

Lao pung yo, nee can chi lai hon yo jing shen

You are looking wonderful, old friend

hundan - asshole

Gos se - Crap

Sheh Sheh – Thankyou

Wah – wow

Tsai boo shr – No way

Niru fun = cow poop

Luh-suh = Garbage

Lao tyeh boo – oh God no

Jing tzahng mei yong duh = consistently useless

Boo-tai jung-itzahng duh = not entirely sane

Quing jin = Come in

Shi = Yes

Bao = be full

Wo men de = our

Zuo ke = be invited

Shi chang = market

Shang dian = store

Ka li ji – curry chicken

Tao zi = peach

Zhi sheng fei ji = helicopter

Chi = to eat

Jui = Wine