HEAVEN AND HELL: 16. "Trust"
Friday, April 9, 2004

"The Captain decides to take his brother's advice knowing the fallout could make or break them. Meanwhile a prodigal is about to return."



SUMMARY: "The Captain decides to take his brother's advice knowing the fallout could make or break them. Meanwhile a prodigal is about to return." 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

* * * * *

Simon was feeling a mite frustrated but River insisted so he stayed put even though his whole body was itching to be in motion. It had been well over an hour and he wanted to check on his patient. They were in the commons area sitting on the couch. River sat with her legs folded under her. When she looked at him her eyes were large and almost luminious. Pepper and his men had thankfully gone with Jayne down to the cargo bay taking it in turn to lift weights and get better acquainted. More at ease with the mercenary than the rest of Serenity's diverse crew. "Need more time."


She shook her head, cutting him off. Not joy, not sorrow, but something else in the depths of those eyes. "Too long apart, Simon."

He swallowed slowly, forced himself not to be impatient. She gave him a gloriously sweet smile by way of recompense and he relaxed. "I still can't quite believe it."

"Not what it seems but better."

He blinked. Not understanding either her words or the look on her face. "*Shenme*?"

Her smile was sad. Whether for his lack of intuition or something else he could not tell. "Come on Simon," She unfolded herself with grace and reached for his hand. "Ready now."

When they reached the infirmary the door was open. The Captain looked round and gave Simon a nod, stepping back a pace or two from his brother. Arms folded across his chest, his look unreadable. River went to him, knew he was upset though he contained it well. The touch of her hand on his arm easing him in ways that could not be put into words. She looked at his brother sitting on the infirmary bed and sensed they had been quarrelling. Not good but necessary. Simon began to check his patient over. Surprised to find he was doing better than expected. The neat stitches in his head would heal with a minimum of scarring and when he looked into his eyes they were clear and focused. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I need to be movin'."

Simon thought he meant stretch his legs, get out of the infirmary, but that was not it at all. "Well, I don't see why you can't do that just take it easy to start with. You've had quite a traumatic experience and while you may be feeling impatient your body stills needs time to recover." He paused. "As for what they did to you..." He trailed off, searching for the words he wanted. Not wanting to alarm him.

"Tell me, I won't break doc."

He paused. So like his brother and yet so unalike. Facially, grammatically, like peas in a pod. He was a couple of inches taller than the Captain. Same lean build and blue eyes but there was a kind of recklessness about him that he didn't sense in the Captain. Oh the Captain could be reckless but it wasn't his natural state of being. It unsettled him somehow. Was it part of what they had done to him? He thought not. "The trauma is likely to linger and you may experience headaches, migraines, dizziness and a lack of equilibrium. Dreams, nightmares, flashbacks, feelings of insecurity, paranoia..."

His patient laughed. A dry humourless confection. Simon glanced at the Captain, saw how tense he was now, eyes rivetted on his brother. He could not understand the odd tension between them. A tension now widening to encompass himself. He looked at River but she was like a center of calm and that was creepy. As if he stood on the borders of other mens' insanity yet she saw stability in it. The Captain broke his reverie.

"I'm obliged to you, Simon. We both are."

The doctor started to wave his thanks off. Wondering what was troubling him. Really. Then to his surprise the Captain walked over to the door, shut and calmly locked it. Simon's eyes widened in alarm. What the good gorram was going on? "Need to be clearing a few things up," He explained walking back to them. "An' as you're the one I trust most to follow what I'm sayin' best start with you I'm thinkin'."

He should have been relieved. Flattered even but all Simon felt was apprehension. "Me?"

For the first time since entering the infirmary he saw the Captain smile. A dark humour glinting in his eye that somehow eased the rattlers beginning to churn in his stomach. Although he was looking at Simon he was actually speaking to his brother. The amusement clearly colouring his voice, "Top *san baifenzhi*," He murmured in something close to affection. "Relax Simon, not facin' a firin' squad just need to clear the air."

He felt lost. The Captain got a chair and placed it for him to sit on. Gingerly he sat, perched on the edge as if ready for flight. Feeling more nervous now than he had in a long time. Simon heard him out in stunned silence. His eyes wide and staring, his voice betraying his disbelief even though he did not doubt a word the Captain said. There was just something in his look and tone that told him he was listening to the plain unvarnished truth. "*Wo bu dong*." No one spoke. "Why did you lie to us?"

The Captain flinched at the slightly hurt note in Simon's voice. "Automatic reaction, Simon."

He blinked. Stared hard at the Captain for the meaning behind his words then glanced at his brother and back again. "Automatic?" He paused, his voice taking on a harder less forgiving edge as he sifted through what he had been told. "What's so automatic about lying to your crew? Oh, I forget, you're the only one whose allowed not to trust anyone."


Anger flared. He jumped to his feet. Not even sure exactly what he was angry at. It should have been the deception only it wasn't that. A part of him understood only too well the need to protect. Something else was bothering him. "How much more of this story is a lie?"

"Not a lie, wish it was."

Something in the Captain's quiet words broke through his rising wall of anger. The tide turned, the ire drained out of him leaving him feeling oddly empty. "What's the true story?" His voice sounded faint even to his own ears.

"Best let Davy tell you."

Simon blinked. Took a steadying breath and turned to face the figure sitting on the infirmary bed. Davy Reynolds had told his brother he should level with his crew. Trust them. Now he was having to put his money where his mouth was and it was much harder than he thought to take that final step.

* * * * *

Part of him was surprised to find it so easily. Logic told him the Firefly class transport should have taken off for the Black the minute it had been divested of his and Inara's unwelcome presence. But although it had taken off it had not gone far. Harper's Moon was little more than a fueling stop. No trade to be had here just supplies and maybe a chance to stretch the legs. He had expected his information to be incorrect, not trusting that it would be this simple to find them. Stunned he just stood rooted to the spot looking at her. It was an old transport ship but the make and design were classic. A workhorse that still had a trick or too left in her. As he gazed at the ship it was like a metaphor for the Captain.

* * * * *

Wash eased back in his chair, the warm shape of his wife a constant source of comfort and amazement. He knew he was a lucky, lucky man. Zoe stirred and kissed his glistening skin. Still breathless after their exertions he gave her a lazy kiss back, his lips smiling against hers, his teasing voice sliding like milk and honey down her ear canal and making her body buzz with the nearness of him. Warmth. Need. Love.

"Um, *bao bei*?"

She eased back enough to look him in the eye. He gave her an apologetic look.

"I need to um, I need to..."

She smiled sinfully at him, a hand sliding down between them to touch him. He gasped and tried to wriggle away, a look of anxious alarm flickering over his face. Just an inch away from panic.

"No, Zoe, I mean I need to... you know... um *go*."

Her movements stopped. She stared at him. "Go?"

He nodded, eyes not leaving hers. "I have to go, take a leak. I'm bursting here, *bao bei*."

She laughed deep and throatily, so sexy he could come just from the sound of her voice. Zoe dipped her head, kissed him then eased back off the pilot's chair amused at his look of relief mingled with loss. He really was so easy to tease, manipulate. To love. Everything he gave her was unconditional. Uncomplicated. The one constant in a 'verse full of change.

* * * * *

Kaylee wandered into the commons area feeling more than a little lost. Her eyes red rimmed and puffy from crying. She was missing Inara, her mind unable to accept that her friend had lied and manipulated them. That all this time she had been working for the Alliance. It couldn't be true but it was. And not only Inara neither but the Shepherd too. It broke her heart to see her family fragment like this. Inara had always been there for her. Understood her better than anyone else, even River. How could she do that to them? To the Captain? To *her*? She could feel the tears welling up again and went to make a drink. Anything to keep her busy enough to provide some distraction however small. After the Companion had left, Kaylee hid herself away in the engine room. Spent hours going over and over the love of her life, checking she was okay and nothing needed fixing. Making sure that no one had been tampering with her workings. Worried in case the Shepherd had done something. After all he knew Fireflies. Fact was he knew a whole lot of things a Preacher hadn't ought to know.

She paused, adding hot water to her mug. Stirred the tea and took a sip, hardly aware of the hot liquid until it scalded the back of her throat. She put the mug down on the counter, eyes filling again with tears. *Oh Inara, how could you?*

* * * * *

The subject of Kaylee's sorrow was thinking the same thing but for a different reason. Facing the House Priestess was one thing, facing the Inner Council quite another. Inara Serra stood before the ebony mirrored desk on Sihnon oblivious to the rich and lush furnishings. The costly embroidered hangings, plush velvets and gold worked trappings raised no interest in her and comforted her not one whit. The cold eyes silently dissected her. A pale hard face, strong boned and even stronger willed. Haughty and proud with an air about her that mastered all authority and power within the compass of her two hands. Either side of her two even paler faces looked on. As like to copies of each other as clones would be but living, breathing caricatures of a new and disturbing faith. One she followed without question because all her training. All her loyalty. Had been honed to this point.

"You failed."

The cold clipped voice was dispassionate. Carried a wealth of accusation and disappointment in it. "I neutralised the threat."

Anger flashed peremptorily in those cold eyes. Incensed that she should speak in the midst of these deliberations. "Your tongue is as lose as your adherance to our protocols."

Inara went white. Things were not going well. The Council did not understand and she was not being given a chance to explain. The Superior Elect watched and waited a moment, making sure there would be no further interruptions.

"You say you *neutralised* the threat but you did not kill him."

She caught the vinegar look twisting that once beautiful mouth and held her tongue.

"Just as bad you left the rest of them alive."

Inara felt the beat of her heart stumble in her breast. No amount of effort could infuse calm back into her body and mind. This was not going to end well.

The Superior Elect leaned forward just a fraction, her eyes narrowing as she looked right into Inara Serra's thrice damned soul. "*Weishenme*?"

"The others... they were no threat." She felt the heat of their glares. Behind the Superior Elect were her immediate hierachy including the Master Technician. It was rumoured he never spoke. Once he had touched your innermost mind he did not have to. Your thoughts would never be your own again. That one chilling figure terrified her more than all the demons in the nine hells put together.

"You left the Captain alive."

She nodded. "Yes. It was the other one we wanted."


Inara dared to look at the Superior Elect, desperately trying to understand the deeper meaning behind that word. She knew she should explain. Defend herself but the words would not come. The magnitude of her failure allowed to seep through her frantic brain and still the protests she would have framed to excuse her actions. There could be no excuses. No mitigation.

"The cost of failure," Said the imperious head of her order in a doom laden voice. "Is death."

No sound echoed in the vaulted chamber. Inara hardly dared to draw breath.

"It is only fitting therefore that you, Inara Serra, should be the executioner."

* * * * *

Having broken the news to Simon the Captain decided it was time to tell the others. His brother agreed with him but was not looking forward to it. A thought occurred to Davy. "What about Pepper and his men?"

"What about 'em?"

Davy frowned. "How well you know them?"

The Captain shrugged. "Not well, why?"

"Maybe we should leave them outta this equation Mal."

"*Weishenme*? Way I'm thinkin' you brought them into it, *dui*?"

He stared at the Captain. Could feel the crunch coming.

"So," Said Mal softly. "The question really is, how much do you trust them, *xiongdi*?"

* * * * *

Stunned. That was the best description for the crew's reaction. Pepper and his men were more contained, taking in what was said with the kind of calm that made the Captain think they had inside information the rest of them lacked. Jayne was frowning but did not look that surprised. Wash though was furious. Funnily enough his anger was aimed not at him but at Zoe. Ah. He could understand that. After all she was his wife, it would stand to reason he would expect her to tell him everything. Only no one kept Mal's secrets better than Zoe. Not even his gorram brother. Now there was an unsettling thought. The Captain decided to forestall any further speculation.

"Just so's you know none of this was planned, leastways not with any of you in mind."

Jayne straightened a bit at that, his focus on Mal so intent the rest of them could have been invisible. Davy filed that bit of information away in his back brain. "What you sayin', Cap?"

"I'm sayin' when Davy turned up all unexpected I had to do some quick thinkin'. Inara an' Book were still on the boat an' I knew they were Alliance. At least I knew the Companion was, the Preacher - not so much."

"Yeah, but pretending to be your own brother? Isn't that too twisted even for you?"

He stared at Wash then smiled slightly. River squeezed his hand, knowing there was pain behind it. A subtle mask growing thinner by the day. Shouldn't have let these people get so close to him. Impossible to maintain proper ship's discipline when every hand on board was a friend. Well. Most every hand. It had made him weak. Sloppy. "Like I said it wasn't planned."

"Improvisation." Said Simon. All heads turned to look at him and he immediately felt flustered. It was Jayne who deflected the pressure off him.

"If you knew they was Alliance why you let 'em stay aboard?"

They had all been thinking about that, he could see it in their faces. The Captain looked at them one by one, each face sparking memories that bound him to them and vice versa. It made things complicated but in a way that soothed the soul. Dangerous. A little distance protected them all. Only that maxim held little warmth for him now. "Knew a man once found a scorpion in his house." Blank stares looked back at him. He almost smiled. "He knew it was poisonous, one of them virulent an' spiteful varieties. The kind that sting you to death in your sleep for the sheer pleasure of it."

Their eyes widened, wondering where he was going with this. No one spoke or stirred.

"Most folk would have killed it or tossed it out."

"Why didn't he do that?" Asked Kaylee.

This time Mal did smile. "Seemed like the thing to do, it being the female of the species."

Jayne frowned. Not getting it. "So? A good boot'll squash 'em just the same."

"What I'm sayin' Jayne is it was a female. Didn't know where she'd laid her nest, *dong ma*? How many of that devil's brood was takin' shelter in his house." Jayne swore. Mal ignored him and continued. "So he let it be, even took to feedin' it an' such like. All the while the scorpion was within his walls he knew where it was, took the time to study its' ways, get familiar with it an' find out as much as he could about it."

"Then he killed it?" Said Jayne hopefully.

The Captain laughed. "Nope." They stared at him. "Once the scorpion knew it was being watched it drew in its' sting. Man never did sleep soundly again but at least he did sleep."

They all got to thinking about the Captain roaming his ship at night. Wondering if the story was real or just a metaphor. Whether he really was protecting them from scorpions.

"Huh," Said Jayne disgusted. "I'd'a killed it. Gorram vermin."

"Yeah but then how would you know what the scorpion wanted? What it was really doin' there?"

It took a moment to sink in then Jayne got it. Wash didn't look convinced but Zoe nodded as if it all made perfect sense. Simon shook his head slightly, "You are psychotic, you know that?"

The Captain smiled. Davy looked at his brother and did a quick reassessment. His brain was beginning to itch and the feel that time was running through his fingers faster than the grains in a gorram egg timer did little to reassure him. He needed his brother. The rebellion was a sleeping dragon. He could wake it but not control it. And the man who could was not taking him up on the offer. What was that saying from Earth-that-was? *If at first you don't succeed try, try, and try again*.

Questions flew back and forth, the Captain answering them as fully as was prudent with Davy joining in though he left the bulk of the exposition to his older brother. Mal judging how much they needed to know and how much it was safe to keep back. Mindful that he had a crew to protect as well as the life of his brother. Made him all kinds of careful how to proceed. River turned her head slowly, the babble of voices fading out as another's thoughts brushed the periphery of a mind that never slept. She caught Davy Reynold's eye briefly and just for a moment her heart stalled. Something alerting her before he turned his head away to answer a query from Wash. River Tam felt the space in the very centre of her heart go cold. Ice forming slowly over it. Suspecting now what had happened to the rest of the devil's brood.

* * * * *

It was late. The ship was sleeping, at least most of its' crew was. Wash lay back, his hand brushing over Zoe's warm skin, enjoying the feel of her beneath his fingertips, the moisture of their intimacy a slick bond between them that he could not get enough of. She was sleepy but he was wide awake now. Brows furrowing in mild puzzlement. She closed her eyes and sighed. "Go to sleep, *zhangfu*."

"Can't sleep."

The unexpected response made her eyes spring open again. Wide awake now. Alert for trouble. "Why not, *bao bei*?"

He was still stroking her, his gentle fingers caressing an ample breast, his eyes thoughtful now turning to meet her questioning gaze. "I was thinking about the Captain's brother."

She looked surprised. "Davy?"

He nodded. "Yeah. If that's his name."

Zoe frowned, not wanting this conversation. Not now if ever. "Wash, I told you about that."

"*Wo zhidao*," His fingertips skimmed up to the peak and teased a nipple. Part of him watching it pucker up and harden into a little peak while he mused and teased the thoughts inside his head into some semblance of understanding. "I saw you kiss him."

"We've been over this."

"*Bu qu*, we haven't been over this. I saw you, you explained only you called him Malcolm."

"So? Captain explained all that."

"I'm all aware what the Captain said but you and him were alone, *bao bei*. Why'd you call him Malcolm when you were alone?"

She sat up, not quite believing what she was hearing but knowing she had to reassure him. Put a stop to his speculation before it became an obstacle in their marriage. "Captain said we had spies, no lettin' up our guard no matter what. Didn't know who might watchin', what ears might be listenin', *dong ma*? You think I like sneakin' around Wash? You think I like the danger stalkin' this ship? The notion any one of us could fall prey to an enemy wearin' the smile of a friend?"

He thought about that and slowly shook his head. "No. I guess I just had to hear it from your lips."

"I love you, Wash, an' that's not gonna change, *dong ma*?"

He smiled up at her. Feeling foolish. "There is one way you could convince me."

Zoe slid her body over the top of his, loving the sparkle in his eyes and the way his body was so responsive to her every touch. "Hmm, let me see if you can find a way to jog my memory..."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme* = what *san baifenzhi* = three percent *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *bao bei* = precious/treasure *weishenme* = why *dui* = correct *dong ma* = understand *zhangfu* = husband *wo zhidao* = I know *bu qu* = no (lit. not go


Saturday, April 10, 2004 8:41 AM


Ah, that's better. Had me going for a while, you did. So now what's awakened in Davey?

Saturday, April 10, 2004 6:51 PM


What a tangled web you weave. :-)

It's never a good sign when River goes cold. Please, please...pwetty please, update soon!

Monday, April 12, 2004 1:08 AM


Another fascinating, intriguing instalment. Still very confused, but loving it!


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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.