HEAVEN AND HELL: 13. "Death or Glory"
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

"Zoe explains the facts of life to Wash. Inara bides her time. Malcolm decides to confront her. River tries to warn them but for once no one is listening."



SUMMARY: "Zoe explains the facts of life to Wash. Inara bides her time. Malcolm decides to confront her. River tries to warn them but for once nobody is listening." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.


A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

It was late. Zoe was more than tired, she was bone weary. Worn out. Not only had the past finally caught up with her but it was compressing the present into a box so tiny she could hardly stretch her limbs let alone breathe properly. Then there was Wash. What in the nine hells was she going to say to him? Sighing softly she stepped down into their bunk and turned only to be confronted by his tear stained face. One look told her that he knew. Gorrammit. He *knew*. "Wash? What is it, *bao bei*?"

"Don't you *bao bei* me you harlot!"

Shocked she stood rooted to the spot and stared at him.

"How could you?" He spat at her. Words so filled with pain that she flinched. "I trusted you, loved you more than life itself."

"Wash, it isn't what you think."

"Oh and what is it I think, *qizi*?"

"I should have told you but I didn't know how."

He tried but failed to fight back the tears, so crazy-mad and full of grief that he could hardly function. She touched his arm but he recoiled from her. Eyes flattening with betrayal and disgust. "Don't touch me."

"Listen to me, *xin gan*."

"*Weishenme*? So you can tell me more lies?"

"Not lies just the truth. *Qing*."

"Why? Why should I listen to you now, Zoe? Isn't breaking my heart in two enough for one lifetime?"

Now she was crying as well.

"I saw you, Zoe! Saw you in his arms, kissing him and holding on to him like he was the only thing you wanted in the whole 'verse. I *love* you Zoe but in the end it don't count for a gorram thing. You married me but you love him."

This time she wouldn't be pushed away, wouldn't let his anger and sorrow incapacitate her need to hold him close. To explain. He struggled in her arms but she held on tight. "I don't expect you to forgive me, *bao bei*, but at least listen to me - just this once. And if you decide we're finished after that I... I won't try to stop you leavin', *dong ma*? Even though it'll break my own heart in two."

He couldn't speak but managed to nod against her shoulder. Rocking him gently as she held on to him she took him back in time. Back all those years to the death of her father. Her casual adoption into the Reynolds' clan. As he started to relax in her arms she guided him to the bed until both were sitting, hands clasped together, faces wet with tears and throats choked with emotion. Zoe kept eye contact even though he kept looking down, his muffled sobs like daggers in her heart. "Please understand, *bao bei*. I grew up with Malcolm and Davy. Their mama was like my own, more so since I couldn't really remember mine. She died when I was small, papa didn't fly much after that. Once he sold the ship he bought a small spread. Nothing fancy, *dong ma*? A few head of sleepy cattle, fool chickens and some horses. It was hard at first being tied to one spot, feet stuck in soil rather than my head in the stars. For the longest time I cried myself to sleep at night but come mornin' it was hard to know why. The boys went everywhere I did. Mostly it was me and Malcolm but sometimes Davy came too. Don't know when I fell in love with Malcolm, whether it was the first minute I saw him or whether it crept up on me as I slept but one day I just woke up and I *knew*."

She paused, noticing for the first time that Wash was no longer looking down at his hands. His eyes glassy with tears but fixed on her face. She held her breath a moment and squeezed his hand hard but would not let go. Not now, not when she had so much to lose.

"Thought it would last forever but then came the war. When John Reynolds died it was like the whole ruttin' world was turned upside down, *bao bei*. Uncle Frank returned distraught. Malcolm and Davy's mama cried every day and every night, no one could console her. Then Malcolm up and joined the browncoats, was gonna drive the ruttin' Alliance off of Shadow. No one could talk him out of it, not *shushu* or Cheng or even god-forbid little Davy. On'y he wasn't so little by then. Near as tall as Malcolm and like enough for the two to be mistaken by them as didn't know us well 'ceptin' Davy always had the sweeter temper."

Wash snorted. "The Captain? Sweet tempered?"

She wanted to cry with relief at his half-hearted attempt to lighten the mood some. So rutting grateful for that ability in him to see beyond his own pain to hers. "Should'a seen him back then Wash. Never saw a more even tempered and sentimental man - not that he'd ever admit to any such thing now."

"And Malcolm?"

"Malcolm was always the strong one, the one with the quick wit. Hard, decisive but fair. Davy worshipped the ground he walked on and for a time..." Her voice dropped to just above a whisper. "So did I."

Wash squeezed her hand this time. She took heart from the small gesture and gave him a watery smile. "When Malcolm went off to war I went too. Should'a heard the ruckass mama made. Weren't no place for a girl and so on, only I could always give as good as any man and I wasn't afraid of no rutting purplebelly. Davy wanted to come too but mama drew the line at that and Uncle Frank backed her up so I went and Davy stayed behind to tend the ranch with Cheng. About half the hands came with us. By the time we made our last stand in Serenity Valley it was just me and Malcolm. All our friends and neighbours had been slaughtered round us. When the order came to surrender it damn near broke my heart. It was the first time I ever saw Malcolm cry. Not for himself but for all those who had died. Many of them boys ran off to war because of him, they believed in him, trusted him to keep them safe on'y in the end nothing could do that. Then came the order to surrender."

For several moments silence fell so completely that it was as if even the ship was holding its' breath. Wash was about to speak when Zoe resumed talking, her voice quieter. Sad and filled with long remembered pain. "We were rounded up, all of us that had survived. They took us to Alliance lock-ups and we were interrogated. Seperated for the first time since papa died, I was sure they were gonna kill us. I could hear Malcolm's scream when they tortured him and I'm sure as *diyu* he could hear mine." Her voice trailed off and Wash felt his breath hitch in his throat with emotion. She stumbled on. Zoe, like Malcolm Reynolds, was not someone who gave up easily. "I saw him once or twice, each time he looked worse. So much blood on him the last time that I was sure they wouldn't stop beating on him till the breath in his body was gone. They stopped questioning me, left me in a cell to listen to his screaming then torment myself with the silence when the screaming stopped. For the longest time I thought he was dead."

Her eyes were bleak when she looked at Wash.

"We were there for over six months then they let me go. I was warned not to return to Shadow on pain of death." She shrugged. "As if death held any horrors for me then but I couldn't return anyway. Not till I found out what had happened to Malcolm."

His voice was no more than a whisper. Gentle heart aching for her. "What did you do?"

"I made contact with a few people. We were scattered far and wide by then. I managed to find Monty and Sherman and Dizzy Doyle but a lot of the others never made it out of the valley. Then I began to hear rumours about some high tech Alliance programme and how they were using captured Independent soldiers to test it. No idea what the *diyu* it meant but it sent shivers down my spine and filled us all with dread. It was Monty who alerted me to Davy. Seems he'd finally convinced mama to let him come and join the Independent cause, not that anyone could ever stop a Reynolds once his mind was made up. Whole family is as stubborn as a wooden hen. Seems Davy made it to the valley as the fighting was coming to an end, but by then me and Malcolm were in Alliance hands and being shipped off world. Next thing I knew Davy turned up with a few die hard browncoats. We teamed up and went after Malcolm. Took another six months to find him and when we did he looked more dead than alive. I thought I'd cried buckets during the gorram war, t'wasn't nothing like the tears I cried when we found him. Flesh all hanging off him, bruises so ruttin' deep they went right through his emaciated body. Davy was inconsolable. Near killed himself trying to get revenge but I stopped him, told him we had to put Malcolm first. That was when Monty told us about the programme."

"What programme?"

She seemed to stall as if reluctant even now to cross the final hurdle. Wash's expression flattened out.

"The truth, *jide* Zoe?"

Slowly she nodded. "Seems Malcolm wasn't arrested in no random snatch. We'd already surrendered, all those left standing in the valley but there was a reason they were picking us up. Interrogating and sifting through us one by one. Questions. Torture. Mind games. You name it they used it on us. But it wasn't random, wasn't mindless. They were looking for browncoats to use as guinea pigs, carefully picking out the smarter ones and siphoning them off to their rutting secret facilities. Anything to advance their pet project."

Wash shook his head. "You've lost me, *bao bei*."

"I think it was something similar to what they did to River." She confessed quietly.

"*Wode ma*!"

"Malcolm admitted as much when I spoke to him tonight."

It took several moments for Wash to find his voice. "What did they do to him?"

"Not sure but they opened up his head. Like River. Says they messed with his brain."

"So is he.... do you think he... could he be...."

"He's sane, Wash. Sane as you or I."

"That's not sayin' much, *xin gan*."

"Speak for yourself, *zhangfu*."

"*Tian Yesu*, Zoe. Does the Captain know?"

"I'm guessin' so."

A long silence followed before Wash screwed up the courage to ask the question haunting him most. "You still love him?"

Zoe swallowed carefully. "*Qu*."

Wash started to swear and work himself up again. Zoe put a hand on his arm, her eyes calm pools drinking him in. He caught a painful breath and waited.

"I love him Wash but I'm not *in love* with him, *dong ma?*"

"What the *diyu* does that mean?"

"It means, *zhangfu*, that I love you heart, body and soul. Ain't nothing gonna change that. Not the war, not the Alliance and not Malcolm Reynolds. You're the man I wanna spend the rest of my gorram life with."

"You were kissing him."

She nodded. "I was sayin' goodbye."

His heart was stumbling, faint with relief though he could not quite believe it. "Goodbye?"

"*Qu*. Come morning Malcolm will be leaving."

He was stunned. His mind a whirl. "Leaving?"

"Much as I'll hate to see him go he's not the one I'm worried about."

Wash felt lost. Water too deep now to place his feet on the bottom. He had never much liked treading water. "Not sure I'm followin', Zoe."

Her voice dropped low as she leaned her forehead gently against his. Her sweet warm breath fanning his cheek and steadying the irregular beat of his heart bringing it into rythym with her own. "I'm talking about Davy. This is gonna hit the Captain hard, *bao bei*."

An unwelcome thought suddenly occurred to him. "Zoe?"

"Yes, *bao bei*?"

"You don't think the Captain'll go with him?"

She shook her head firmly. It was the only thing she was sure of. Wash gave her a curious look.

"Why not? You said the Captain worships his brother."

"That's why. He'll carry on, diverting the eyes of the Alliance away from him. He'll do any rutting thing he has to in order to keep him safe."

They were silent a long time. Wash felt sick inside. "This stinks you know that don't you?"

Zoe did not respond. Wash sighed and wrapped his arms around her.

"I'm sorry I doubted you Zoe, I was just so frightened of losing you."

"I should have told you."

"Yeah, should'a, would'a, could'a. It doesn't matter now, *bao bei*."

"You're not mad at me?" He smiled and gently kissed her, reminding her of one of the many reasons why she loved him.

* * * * *

The next morning Malcolm Reynolds' face was tinged grey, not with worry neither. He was facing the grim reality of what to do about the spies. It was a solemn and muted gathering that met in the cargo bay. Malcolm had Inara, Book and Harry brought down from the spare shuttle but insisted they not be untied. The Captain held his breath, heart aching as he looked at the Companion and the Preacher. Even though they had betrayed him he found it hard to hate them. At least until his brother elaborated on what Inara had tried to do to him. His eyes widened as Malcolm described the mind probe. Next to the Captain River put her hands over her mouth in a silent cry of pain and distress. The Captain put an arm around her, Simon moved close enough to reach out and touch her hand. She looked at them both with tear filled eyes.

Zoe looked troubled but didn't want to take her eyes off the prisoners. Simon swore softly under his breath. Jayne looked like he wanted to space everyone. The man was practical to a fault. Pepper Rawlings was getting restless. Too much talk not enough action. The Captain looked up and caught his eye. Pepper stilled and stared at him. When the Captain gave him a stern look, Pepper backed down and prepared to wait for as long as it would take. Malcolm was pacing the cargo bay, his eyes returning to meet the calm gaze of the Companion. He had to admit she was good. Not so sure about the Preacher. Only Diamond Harry was showing his nerves and that comforted him a little. "What the gorram were you tryin' to do to me you witch?"

The Companion raised her eyebrows slowly. "Do to you?"

He seethed, face beginning to redden in anger. "Don't play the innocent with me Inara Serra - it doesn't suit you."

"Nor does playing the intellectual suit you. You are not mentally equipped. I never lied to the Captain, I told him I had supported Unification when I first came to look at the shuttle for hire. He said the war was over. I was happy to leave it there."

Malcolm leaned towards her, sparks in his eyes. "Only you didn't did you? You thought to play him then play me. What was your plan, Inara? What are you up to?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Best drop the act because I ain't buyin' it. Only the truth'll save you now."

She seemed amused. "The truth? You wouldn't know the truth if it hit you on the head on tablets of stone."

He was about to respond when the Shepherd spoke up. "If I might say something?"

Malcolm nodded. The Shepherd turned to look at the Captain. "I apologise Captain for any trouble we have caused you. That was not our intention."

The Captain raised an eyebrow. River straightened but did not say anything. "You speakin' for the Companion as well, Preacher?"

"In a manner of speaking, Captain."

"What manner is that?" Said Malcolm, his voice terse.

"The manner of one gentlemen to another."

Malcolm Reynolds snorted. "Cut the *goushi* Shepherd. That is if you really *are* a shepherd which I highly doubt."

"What do you think I am?" He asked mildly.

Malcolm Reynolds stepped passed Inara and glared at the Shepherd. "I think you're a gorram spy."

To everyone's surprise Book nodded slowly. Not a trace of anger or bluster. "Yes, I am a spy."

The Captain was choking, eyes wide with shock. Suspecting it was one thing, having Book calmly admit it quite another. His reaction amused the Shepherd. The Captain was not sure he had heard him right. "You realise what you're sayin', Preacher?"

"Yes, Captain. I'm saying that I'm a spy for the Alliance."

All the colour left the Captain's face. Jayne gave him a curious look and wondered at his reaction. Why he didn't just shoot the *tamade hundan* dead and have done with it. Kaylee looked upset. Simon tried to reassure her with a smile but she was too fixated on what Book and Inara would say next. She gave no thought to Harry at all. She didn't know him and didn't want to know him, but Inara and Book were different. They were friends even if right now they weren't acting like it. Confused and distressed she longed for some explanation which would show everyone that this had all been some kind of terrible mistake. It was like suddenly finding out that her mother was a notorious ax murderer. While everyone was digesting what Book had said Inara suddenly made her move. River cried out a warning just as the Companion sent a piercing probe deep into Malcolm's brain. Hard enough to make him stagger, a broken cry of agony on his lips.

The Captain let go of River and ran towards his brother then it was as if all hell was let lose. Somehow the Preacher had got himself untied. Diamond Harry got to the door mechanism and punched the button with his bound hands, the lowering of the ramp as the door began to open adding still more confusion to a situation that was rapidly getting out of control. Malcolm Reynolds was kneeling on the floor holding his head, blood trickling down from his eyes and ears. A silent scream etched on his pain-filled face, his brother dropping to his knees beside him with tears in his eyes. The Captain turned and looked at Inara. She had not moved nor made any attempt to get Book to untie her. She waited. Calm. Serene. As patient as death itself. As if the outcome of this little drama was beyond question.

"Stop it, stop it Inara! You're ruttin' well killin' him, gorrammit!"

"Then let me go."

"Inara, please!"

She made no move to comply. He was distraught, his hands on his brother's shoulders trying to keep him upright but there was now no response from Malcolm. His body went limp as he collapsed in the Captain's arms.

"Decide now, Captain. In another minute he will be quite dead I assure you."

Every gun in the cargo bay was loaded and aimed at her head. The Captain raised his head. There were tears in his eyes, his heart flagging on the edge of total panic. He could not lose his brother. Not now. Not after all they had gone through. "Put down your weapons!" He yelled. "Let them go!"

Jayne growled angrily. Pepper and his men looked stunned then disbelieving. Only Zoe did not judge his actions. It was no more and no less than she would expect of the Captain. Didn't make him weak no matter what others may say. As she had confessed to Wash only last night, he had always been the sentimental one of the family. Kaylee ran forward just as Inara turned to leave, the way now clear and unobstructed. The cargo bay door open, the ramp down, Diamond Harry already half way down it. Shepherd Book only holding back to make sure Inara was coming.

"Inara! No, don't do it!"

For a split second Inara hesitated. She saw the raw pain on the Captain's face as he cradled his brother in his arms. The tears on Kaylee's face. Disappointment and sorrow on Simon's. A look she could not fathom on Zoe's, a look of disgust on Wash's. Pepper and his men looked riled up enough to take matters in their own hands but Jayne surprised her most. As she regained her composure and turned to walk away from Kaylee's outstretched hand and entreaty she caught his look. As the ramp and door closed with a firm clang behind her she wondered why in *diyu* the mercenary was smiling.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bao bei* = precious/treasure *qizi* = wife *xin gan* = sweetheart *weishenme* = why *qing* = please *dong ma* = understand *shushu* = uncle *diyu* = hell *qu* = yes *jide* = remember *wode ma* = mother of God *zhangfu* = husband *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *goushi* = crap/dog shit *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard


Tuesday, March 30, 2004 6:30 PM


I hope that smile on Jayne's face means he's planning on ripping her limb from limb...

This story is just so awesome. Please hurry and update soon. :-)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004 11:26 PM


It's funny, how I trusted you to make Wash and Zoe ok, yet still think our heroes made a mistake not to free the 'verse of three Alliance spies. Or even just slap Inara to interrupt her attack on Malcolm. No, a writer who can do all this and make it work is just... Shiny.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004 1:58 AM


Agh! Need oxygen. Or a drink, maybe. Very exciting. Very moving. Loved Zoe and Wash. Perfect interaction between them. Adored the Captain's devotion to his brother. Still don't want to believe Inara and Book are Eeevil! but it's certainly looking that way. But your plots are usually pretty twisty....

Wednesday, March 31, 2004 12:47 PM


yet another great addition to the storyline... and there was something very appealing about the title which I just can't figure out :-p

Wednesday, March 31, 2004 3:14 PM


Cap'n shoulda shot the tamade ho ;-)

Eagerly anticipating Inara getting her comeuppance!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006 5:04 AM


Or as Stewie would say Inara your uppance will come. Wash and Zoe had to get back together this sotry is straining the believeabilty factor.


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His head still ached from the rutting probe but after the men had satisfied themselves that his story was true a thousand questions peppered the air like machine gun fire.

The vessel was shiny, sleek and black with nowhere near the bulk of an Alliance ship. Something about the way it moved through the Black was more than a little creepifying.

Personally she didn't care if Serenity was towed off to a junk yard and stripped into spare parts. She had promised the ship to Jer and his crew as a bonus but it looked like scavengers had beaten them to it.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 2. "Counting Chickens"
The fact that her eyes were hard and sharp with intelligence kind of chilled him. Smart women always made him uneasy, it just weren't natural.

What in the nine hells were they so afraid of? Then he remembered Tracy. The body mailed to them by their old war buddy and all the trouble that had brought down on them.

If it was too gorram wet to hunt for rabbits what in the nine hells was his son really hunting? And was it something on four legs or two?

The man was in a terrible condition, his pulse weak, and for some reason he was soaking wet which did nothing to staunch the blood soaking through his clothing and seeping from the poorly tended wound where he had been shot.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 9. "All The King's Men"
The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 8. "All The King's Horses"
Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 7. "Friend or Foe"
Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.