Monday, May 22, 2006

"Badger has a job for Serenity and her crew on New Bedford. Only River seems to apprehend their danger."


TITLE: "PROTECTOR" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: G. STATUS: Standalone ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE:

SUMMARY: "Badger has a job for Serenity and her crew on New Bedford. Only River seems to apprehend their danger." 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.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

The crossfire caught them unawares. Another job gone South. Another order ignored. The first bullet hit his sternum, the second his right shoulder. Firing without let he could have been bulletproof though she knew he wasn't. Oblivious of the bright hot trails burrowing through skin and bone as adrenalin inured him to the pain. Tried so hard to keep them safe no matter the cost.

"Should'a stayed on the ship." He gasped, wondering why with everything going to *diyu* she had disobeyed him. Wasn't right. He was slipping. Had to hang on, be strong, body slick with blood of its' own making. Leaky vessel sucking air that didn't go all the way down.

River took the last few down, not even pausing to consider incapicitation instead of death. Broke the first one's neck, drove the second one's nose clear through the back of his skull and showed the mercy of a bullet to the third. Not that she was getting soft, it was just more efficient.

The Captain sagged under his own weight. River moving with timeless grace even among the carnage as the lull in the fighting became a surreal backdrop. She did not try to break his fall but knelt as he crumpled, everything in slow motion. His ears too slow to catch the words stretching to infinity as sound warped and vision blurred. Eyes blinking dull in apology. Always the protector as if his litany of sacrifices could buy back his soul. Mal was hurting, strength flagging, blood ebbing on a endless crimson tide.

"Hush now." The angel coaxed, a small cool hand cradling his fevered cheek.

His mama's words, her voice. Not none of it making a lick of sense but oddly perfect. An absolution for events he could not change. Loss he could not counter.

"I won't let anyone hurt you." She said. Voice hushed, tears held hostage to the muted cadence of his faltering heart. Her words a last gift. Jayne and Zoe scrambling over blood slicked cobbles, guns blazing a trail of death to reach him. Zoe seeing lips move but hearing no words. River smiling gently down at the benighted Captain repeating her words for his ears alone. "No one will hurt you, ever again." It was a whisper. A promise. A blessing.

Jayne swore as tears he didn't know he was crying stung his eyes. Didn't make his aim any less deadly or slow the pounding of his boots as he ran, but not a man been born that could outrun 'too late' though the stubborn hearted hung on 'til the very last breath. Zoe bit back the rising panic. Wasn't gonna even contemplate that her long time friend and Captain wouldn't make it. Mal did not see them. His focus haemorraged on a too pale face calling him home.

"Time to go." She hushed.

Yes. Time to go. He stared, unseeing. His fevered skin cooling too fast as his friends drew near. Too late. River leant over him and kissed his brow in benediction, her white hand gently closing his eyes as Simon skidded into the alley, his medical case clutched like a cure-all in his hands, legs and heart pumping for a train he would never catch. His sister looked up as he came to a stunned halt beside them.

"Orphans now."

Simon blinked, taking in the soft sadness in her voice. Eyes luminous with quiet sorrow. Throat catching in emotion. "No... I mean, he can't. He's the Captain."

Malcolm Reynolds was dead and not nothing in the 'verse could bring back the souls of the departed. Nothing could mend the damaged hearts that he had made whole along with his own. Dying as he had lived, protecting those he counted as his own. Fittingly then, it was his own who would forever mourn him. The makeshift family carved out of hardship, pain and shared moments too precious to deny the fleeting immortality of memory. River was the only one to hear the Captain's last words, taking each one to heart as he knew she would. "They really do... take so much... lookin' after."

* * * * *

New Bedford wasn't too far from Richmond. Kaylee was pestering for much needed repairs despite knowing that coin was short and the Captain's temper growing shorter. Zoe watched in silence, her sombre eyes taking in everything and mindful of the pressure they were all under. Simon tried to look on the bright side. "We've taken jobs from Badger before."

Zoe gave him a look. "You've met Badger?"

"Yes, what I meant was..."

"*Fang xin*, Simon, beggars can't be choosers an' we're too low on coin to blow him off, *dong ma*?"

Jayne couldn't see what all the fuss was about. "Long as we get paid." The Captain was about to answer the wave. Keeping Badger on hold would likely only result in the jumped up little crimelord chiseling their cut even thinner. Turning from where she sat in the pilot's chair, River added her two credits worth. "Don't take it."

Everyone blinked. Jayne was about to cuss her out but the Captain spoke before he could say anything. "Got no choice, little albatross."

"Yes, you have. Head of the family has duties at home."

The Captain stared, not sure whether to be amused or query the doc's current medication. "We need this job."

"Yeah, 'cause starvin' to death in the Black is hi-larious fun."

Zoe shot Jayne a death glare. Kaylee tried not to giggle despite how desperate things were getting.

"Ain't helpin', Jayne." Said the Captain.

"But Mal..."

The timing was so critical but River had done the math. A little nudge here and there and the fabric of the 'verse would bend and bow just enough to allow a different set of variables to gain an edge. "We have to pick up Inara."

"We can do that after..."

River shook her head. "No, now."

Whatever the Captain was going to say was cut off by Simon. His eyes had met his sister's and something in them stirred him to support her. "Maybe we should listen to River."

Picking up on the odd change in mood and feeling responsible for putting them in this fix Kaylee put on her brightest smile. "Reckon we can hang on a week or so longer, Cap'n. Ain't nothin' gonna bust short term."

The Captain looked from face to face, wondering at his crew's reticence then suddenly flashed a wide smile. Zoe's eyes narrowed, wary about what kind of crazy notion might be going through what passed as her friend's brain. Flipping on the com to Badger, the Captain grinned as the greasy little kingpin came up on the screen. Looking more than a mite pissed off Badger was about to get ansty when the Captain cut him off. "Badger! Much as I'm tempted by your shiny offer I'll have to pass."

The look on Badger's face was all kinds of comical. His mouth dropped open in something approaching shock. "*Shenme*? What ya playin' at? I know ya need the work, thinkin' to make a better deal?"

Mal shook his head, enjoying confusing the man. "No. Got other fish to fry."

"Huh, ya turn your gorram nose up at this job, Reynolds, an' it'll be the last bit o' work I put your way."

The grin on Mal's face got wider. "Is that a fact? Well maybe I don't wanna take work from you no more, you ever think on that?"

The man looked as if he was going to burst a blood vessel. Mal cut the connection and leaned back a mite smug. It took a second for it to sink it what he had done. With a groan he met Zoe's eye. "Think I might'a made a mistake."

Impossibly she actually looked pleased, a cocky little smirk lightening the mood. "Never did like that slippery *wangba dan*, sir. We'll find somethin' else, always do."

The Captain nodded, trying to cover up his own concern on that issue. Seconds later Inara waved, Mal tried to sound cheerful. No point in worrying the only paying bit of income coming into the boat's coffers.

* * * * *

Back on Persephone, Badger waved his boys waiting on New Bedford. Thieves and cutpurses every one. "Think he got wind?"

Badger didn't know and not knowing made him all kinds of snappy and bad tempered. "Don't matter, he ain't takin' the bait."

Pearly glanced at Dunn and the rest of the boys before giving Badger his attention again. "What we gonna do now, boss?"

"Looks like we'll have to find another sucker." Badger paused and then gave a slow grin, the humour not reaching his eyes. "Y'know what they say? One born every minute."

* * * * *

When Inara's shuttle docked back on Serenity it seemed a sense of calm returned with it. The last few hours to Richmond were spent in sombre mood while Kaylee served up the last of the protein in a heated grey semi-edible mush. Inara looked long and hard at the congealing unedifying little mess then looked up and fixed the Captain with a sudden bright smile. "I think I know someone who may have a job for us, Captain."

The mood around the table instantly perked up. Mal raised his eyebrows, everyone praying he wouldn't say or do anything to ruin the prospect of earning some coin. "A job, you say?"

Inara nodded and rose gracefully to her feet. "I just need to send a wave."

Minutes later the Companion returned to confirm that they had a job ferrying some dignitaries from House Marchesa to House Nemeen. After the meal everyone scattered, the Captain heading up to the bridge. River Tam lingered until she was the only one left at the table, a little secretive smile tugging at her lips, her eyes bright and happy knowing they had dodged a pretty big bullet this time. The Captain's voice bellowed down from the bridge. "River! Get your shiny butt up here *mashang*, ship don't fly itself!"

Shaking her head River jumped to her feet then paused to take a last loving look around the commons room. A soft smile settling on her lips. "They take so much looking after!"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *dong ma* = understand? *shenme* = what *mashang* = on the double/quickly/at once/immediately *wangba dan* = fucking bastard


Monday, May 22, 2006 7:03 PM


I like it. The beginning was very well put together. I don't think River's abilities work that way, but it was an excellent read nonetheless. :-)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 12:02 AM


Awesome! I was scared there at the beginning, but I loved how you did this.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 1:02 AM


That was great Alison. I was really shocked to read the first part, and really relieved when I relised the way the second part was going.

Of course I don't want Mal to die, but you wrote his death beautifully.

Thanks, as always, for sharing.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 5:32 AM


You are an amazing writer. I quit reading twice when you killed Mal, but then I had to finish it. I loved it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 2:24 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER came this close (holds out hands an imperceptable distance apart) from giving me a freaking heart attack! But you managed to pull off saving the Captain without messing with things. Really liked how ya had no real thoughts from River...about presumably what was a premention about Mal's death. Just straightforward River-style honesty and perception that would not get everyone all kinds of nutty with worry:D



You must log in to post comments.



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.