Sheep or Wolf? Part 1
Saturday, May 1, 2004

Mal is ambushed.


Disclaimer: None of the characters from Firefly belong to me. If you wish to use my OC's, ask.

A/N: Thanks go out to Neroli for her beta help. Feedback welcome.

Sheep or Wolf?

Chinese glossary Made- fuck Ni mei shi ba – are you okay Weishenme – why Diyu – hell/devil Zhangfu – husband


Mal cursed to himself as he forcefully ordered Zoe and Jayne to stay away from his position. Somehow, the deal had rapidly gone from smooth to royally humped in a matter of seconds. Fortunately, Zoe had left, but she was less than happy to be ordered to return to Serenity. Her reply burned in his ears as bullets ricocheted off of his cover of metal crates. Turning his attention back to the firefight, he noticed that ammo was running low. One of the Preacher's miracles would be nice right about now, he thought desperately. Mal rolled to return fire when he heard gunfire from behind him. He let out a string of colorful Chinese curses until he saw the face of from his past crouching a few feet away. "Jing-mae, you are a sight for sore eyes even if your aim was off," Mal told the woman. With her help, he might survive long enough to be chewed out by his second in command. Jing-mae just gave him an odd smile and a wink as she rose to fire another shot at his attackers. Secure in the hope that his old friend would turn the tide of battle, Mal resumed firing to prevent his foes from further encroaching on his position. He never saw his bullet hit its target though; Jing-mae stealthily approached his unprotected back and used her rifle butt to knock him out.


Hearing her Captain state that Jing-mae had appeared from nowhere briefly gave Zoe hope that Mal would survive. The sound of Mal's communicator being destroyed rudely extinguished her new found optimism.

"What happened?" Jayne asked. The entire situation had him almost scared – he didn't think he'd ever seen Mal lose control of a situation so thoroughly since that fiasco with Niska. Zoe picked up the goods and her weapons. "Captain trusted the wrong person," she stated flatly as she started walking back to the ship and her only chance to save her friend.

Jayne shook his head. "I figured that, I ain't brain damaged," he muttered softly so that Zoe couldn't hear his remark.


Mal woke to a painful headache, exacerbated by the bright surroundings. His attempt to block the offending stimuli was aborted by a cold tightness around his wrists. Squinting against the light, he saw that his hands were shackled to the wall next to him by sturdy metal manacles. He forced off memories of being Niska's captive as he struggled to remember what had happened. "Made, Jing-mae!" he swore as the last moments of the recent firefight returned with painful clarity. Wincing as the yell induced a fresh burst of pain, he shook his head gingerly. "Never smooth," he groaned.


Wash was waiting in the cargo bay when Jayne and Zoe returned. He knew that something was wrong because the ship's communications system had alerted him to the destruction of Mal's transmitter. His nervous pacing stopped when he saw his wife. "Ni mei shi ba?"

Zoe nodded. "Did you say anything to the others?"

"No, I didn't have anything to tell them," he replied annoyed. He'd repeatedly asked Zoe during her return what had happened, but each time she'd refused to answer.

Zoe gave Wash a one-armed embrace. "Soon, husband. Right now, get the rest of the crew in the kitchen while Jayne and I stow the cargo." Wash frowned, still unhappy with her lack of explanation, but left the cargo bay anyway.

Jayne opened one of the hidey holes and moved to place the cargo inside. "And what are you going to tell them?" he asked.

Zoe ignored the question as she left the cargo bay floor and entered the spare shuttle. Inside, she locked the door before sitting down in front of the cortex screen. She stared at the cortex controls for a time while letting rarely visited memories replay in her mind's eye. Shaking her head to clear it of the reverie, Zoe entered a number in the cortex and greeted the face that appeared. "There's been a problem. I need all the info you can get me on Jing-mae Zheng by yesterday."


Mal sat up quickly when the door opened. Surprisingly, Jing-mae stood in front of him once again. He suppressed the urge to vent his anger at his former friend. He still didn't know what in the nine hells was going on and didn't want to get sidetracked by arguing over the few facts he did understand.

Jing-mae deposited a bottle of water and foil wrapped meal ration within his reach. Mal finally broke his silence when he saw she was going to leave without a word. "Weishenme?" he asked. Jing-mae didn't even turn at his question as she exited the room. "Gorramit, you people are supposed to gloat over your plans," Mal yelled in frustration.


Several hours later, Zoe walked slowly towards the dining area of Serenity. Her information gathering had taken longer than she had expected and as a result she dreaded what was to come. The crew would be upset at being left in the dark for so long, but it couldn't be helped. She dropped onto the couch outside of the infirmary, putting off the inevitable for a little longer. The entire situation had her all kinds of confused, angry and scared. She had followed Mal's leadership for a little over a decade now. Zoe might question his plans and choices at times, but in the end he was her superior. She wasn't averse to leading when needed, but their partnership worked. Zoe was more comfortable reacting to a situation rather than planning strategy for the next move. Despite his cavalier attitude and tactics in the midst of battle, Mal had more patience at waiting for the perfect opportunity. He was also better at leading and inspiring trust, she thought sadly. She couldn't even do that with her own husband, how in the hell was she supposed to accomplish it with the crew and manage to save the Captain? Raised voices roused her from her ruminations. She couldn't put it off any longer. Zoe stood and entered the dining room as if she were facing a firing squad. The argument ceased as soon as the others saw her. In order to avoid the glares and accusations on their faces, she locked eyes with her husband while she explained their current predicament.

"The job went sour. My best guess is that someone found out that Mal had been hired and laid a trap. I've contacted some people to find out who's behind it, but so far all I can tell you is that either an old friend of Mal's was involved or the people behind it found someone who gave a good impression of her." Everyone started asking questions at once, but Zoe just held up her hands until the noise stopped. "I've told you what I know, for the Captain's sake you just have to trust me and do what I say. Wash, see if you can find a way to determine if any ships have left planet since the meet. Hack into the satellites if you have too. Kaylee, make sure Serenity's ready to go fast and hard if need-be. Preacher, you're with me." With that, she left the rest of the crew still confused behind her.


Mal winced as he struggled to pull the food and water into arm's reach. Whatever the hell was going on, at least his captors weren't intent on starving him. He briefly considered that the supplies might be drugged in some way before starting to eat. Due to a grazed shoulder and concussion, he needed sustenance regardless of the possible consequences. Gagging on the protein bar, he reconsidered. Whatever these blocks were, the person who made them was a worse cook than Zoe. Setting the nearly inedible block aside, he drank the water as he stared off into space remembering the last time he'd seen Jing-mae.

"Ai ren! What are you doing here babe?" Malcolm Reynolds demanded as he swept the slightly shorter Asian woman into his arms. He had convinced himself that the only way he would be able to see the girl again was after winning the gorram war, but he was damn glad he had been wrong.

Jing-mae laughed as the man she loved began spinning the both of them in a drunken circle. "Zoe, get the chunren to stop before we both end up broken on leave!" As soon as Mal settled down, she answered his question while hugging him tightly. "Vanmali mentioned that your platoon was getting some well deserved rest as you waited for the new recruits. I managed to convince him that I might fight better after a little rest myself."

Zoe snorted. "More like you reminded him how much more enjoyable one's time-off on the battlefield would be when not worrying about anti-personnel mines being planted in his quarters."

"Could be that something like that figured into the discussion, but I think he also didn't want me to have too much time to corrupt our own replacements before the next battle," Jing-mae replied.

Mal stared at Zoe as he relished the feel of the beautiful woman in his arms. They had planned on spending their leave getting drunk together while trying to forget the pain of battle for a few blessed days. His best friend smiled comfortingly at him. "Go on and get your room before y'all make me sick," she told him mockingly. He picked Jing-mae up easily and tossed her over his shoulder as she protested his treatment. Giving Zoe a quick hug, he told her that they would meet her for dinner later before leaving.

Mal threw the empty water bottle against the door on the far wall. He'd finally given up Jing-mae for dead a few years back. To have her returned to him now, like this, it almost felt like he was watching the end of Serenity Valley all over again.


Defeated, Zoe put her head in her hands as hot tears leaked down her face. Almost a day later and she was still clueless as to why the Captain had been taken and by whom. Hearing the shuttle door open, she turned to see her husband closing it again. He smiled innocently at her questioning glare. "You know, I think we need to take River on the jobs more often. That girl is scary good at picking locks and rewiring access codes."

Zoe just turned away from him. She was at as much of a loss as to what to say as she was at what to do. Wash approached her and gave her as much of a hug as was possible given their positions. "Talk to me bao-bei. Sometimes a different perspective can help," he suggested.

She shook her head as she struggled against the tears that were already flowing. "There isn't any other perspective – our employer denies everything and is just grateful we saved the shipment. No one knows what to think about Jing-mae, she's been dead for six years or more as far as anyone knows. And now she's taken the Captain into whatever black hole she's been hiding in."

Wash sat down in the co-pilot's chair beside her. Rubbing her hand affectionately, he asks the question that the rest of the crew has been wondering about for the past day. "Who is she?"

Zoe stared out at the black as she answers. "I think she was the last woman that Mal ever completely gave his heart to," she answered as the memories put a sad smile on her face. "It was pretty early in the war still and the first real mission that Mal and I went on. Our unit was to provide protection and assistance to a small team of demolitions for a sabotage operation, unfortunately we ran into a little more resistance than was expected. An Alliance guard got off one lucky shot and most of the demolitions team and supplies went up in a large blast while the rest of us were running for our lives. Mal and I found two others of our unit and Jing-mae hiding on the grounds. Since we were on radio silence, Mal decided we should still try to finish the job, but the compound was on alert. So we spent another few days roughing it while staying ahead of the patrols before managing to steal some explosives and finish the mission." Wash stayed silent as he absorbed this new war story. After a few minutes of quiet, Zoe continued. "I told him it was a dumb thing to do, going and falling in love during a war. He agreed, but said it was too late. He was still so young and full of hope back then. I wish you could have known him. During the war, he always said that because of Jing-mea, there would always be one thing he was thankful to the Alliance for."

"What happened to them afterward?" Wash asked curious. It must have been a sight to see the Captain in love. Oh, sure, the man loved his crew and his ship, but he held all of them, even Zoe, at a bit of a distance.

Zoe shrugged. "Don't know. Few months before Hera, we saw her on our last leave. After Unification, Mal checked the lists at the camps almost every day. We never found her name on a list for one of the other camps or on the list of the dead. Mal held out hope for a while, but after a couple of years we all assumed that Jing-mae had been killed during on the battles."

Wash didn't know what to say. He could only imagine how he would feel if Zoe disappeared without a trace. Shaking his head sadly, he returned to the more pressing matter at hand. "So we're fairly certain that the known list of people upset with Mal isn't behind this?" Zoe nodded. Wash racked his brain trying to think of an avenue of investigation that his brilliant and beautiful wife might not have thought of or been willing to pursue. "Just a thought, but what about Methos? From what he revealed to you and Mal, seems like he knows his way around computer systems and the like. He might be able to shake loose a lead or two."

Zoe turned and met his eyes. "I doubt he has access to the Cortex and I'm not even sure where he ended up at after the Captain left him waiting for Monty."

Wash raised his eyebrows. He was still amused at the picture of the immortal waiting impatiently for a ride only to be greeted by the large and imposing former Browncoat. He'd have to try to get the Captain to meet up with the other ship sometime, he'd bet that there were some interesting stories to be heard about that trip. "Well, if Monty doesn't know for certain where he ended up, I bet the diyu let his girlfriend on Boros know where he was," Wash suggested. "And, luck would have it that I saved her cortex address."

Zoe smiled, her depression somewhat alleviated. "Zhangfu, have I told you lately how brilliant and sexy you are?"

*** TBC


Saturday, May 1, 2004 4:54 PM


Very interesting start here, can't wait to see where this one is going....and Mal and Methos's next meeting...hehehehe

Monday, May 3, 2004 12:17 PM


OOoh, *damn your inevitable betrayal*. I sure hope they don't plan to harm our shiny Captain. Can't wait for the next part, this is rivetting. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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