HEAVEN AND HELL: 21. "Divided"
Wednesday, May 5, 2004

"River creates a psychic link to the Captain. The crew are far from happy about the way things are going and Jayne is more positive than ever that allowing the Shepherd to return to the ship was a bad thing."



SUMMARY: "River creates a psychic link to the Captain. The crew are far from happy about the way things are going and Jayne is more positive than ever that allowing the Shepherd to return to the ship was a bad thing." 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

* * * * *

Cells. Remnants. Survivors. He blinked back at the emotion of it. No matter how poor and misguided their actions there was a kind of poetry to the notion of the underdog rising up to bite the ass of their oppressors. He huffed, sighed and tried to sleep. The long talk with Davy hadn't exactly comforted him any. Torn by conflicting loyalties his was a heart divided. Pain rose up in him like bubbles from some deep dive into a past that was better left sleeping. Yet he was so rutting tired. Soul weary. A kind of mental exhaustion that seeped into every gorram cell in his body. He wished he could shake the feeling that they were making a mistake of biblical proportions.

The headache that had been building all day had brought a few friends and now pain was dissecting him inside out and driving needles of agony behind his eyes. It reminded him distinctly of that fun little episode with Inara. Blue Sun's whore. He had suspected from the outset that she was an Alliance spy. No surprise there. But not once did he suspect it went far higher than that, right up into the rarified echelons of the Blue Sun corporation itself. It was the only thing that made sense of her abilities. His mind was still raw from her intrusion. He could not even curse the witch. She had after all warned him. Told him right up front that she had supported Unification and he had accepted it calm as you please pointing out only that some on board had fought for the Independents. Didn't take a rutting brain surgeon to know who that someone was.

It made Mal shudder to think how close he had come to losing everything. Again. Rolling on to his side he tried to block out the throbbing pain, body and mind beginning to shut down. He could feel his senses slipping and sliding on that slippery slope into oblivion. The dark of the dream world an exotic balm he wanted to fold around him. A blanket of nothing to retreat if only for a while from the hardship of waking life. If he could just get some sleep perhaps he could figure things out. Find a way to make sure Davy came though this in one rutting piece. He would have to trust to Zoe to make sure his crew did the same. His heart ached. His crew. His extended family. River. The girl was his heart and gorram soul. How typical of his *yunqi* to find her only to have to let her go. As if the thought sparked off a connection something bright and warm filtered through his mind and took the last of his headache away. He sighed, pleasure allowing him to relax for the first time since he had laid down upon the harsh unyielding earth.

The touch was soft, gentle, a weaving brush of mind to mind. Love enveloping his misbegotten heart and cradling him in a well of content that blazed through his mind and heart with instant recognition. *River!*

Her happy thoughts bounced back at him. *Did you think I would leave you, ai ren?*

*Bao bei, how you doin' this? We gotta be miles apart*

*Distance is no obstacle to love*

*So what, you're a gorram fortune cookie now?*

He felt her happiness run rings around the walls of his heart erradicating all the dark places that had once bound him. Leaving him giddy with joy and love of her. *Love you too, ai ren*. She responded sweetly. Her thoughts seeming to sway inside his mind as if they were dancing. If it was possible to be drunk on love then he was paralytic.

*Wasn't bein' a ship enough for you?*

*I love Serenity but I'd rather be held by walls of flesh and blood. Mechanical heart can't love me back*

*Don't you go tellin' Kaylee that, dong ma?*

He wanted so badly to hold and kiss her. To love her until the last star had fallen cold and empty from the sky. The last sun warming them with its' dying rays. The last breath in the whole damn 'verse being the one they shared with each other. All Creation glimpsed in the soul-filled glory of her eyes. Her love would haunt his soul for the rest of eternity. Her thoughts kissed his mind, soothed the ragged and raw edges that Inara had sought to breach. Gave him comfort and ease with a love that made everyone else seem like beggars. Bereft of that most poignant of joys that bore her name. He knew not that he was sleeping, lulled into a healing somnolence where she could watch over and cradle him close to her heart. As his thoughts drifted and sloughed on that ebbing tide he fancied he could feel her lips, longed to feel her touch. To make true every vision of paradise for which she had ever yearned.

"The first time ever I kissed your mouth I felt the earth turn in my hand Like the trembling heart of a captive bird That was there at my command my love That was there at my command..."

- 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' sung by Elvis Presley

* * * * *

Pepper Rawlings watched Davy moving about. Noted how the boy's eyes kept drifting over to where his brother lay. Knew time was marching on and soon so must they. For now they would let the Captain sleep. Feeling eyes on him, Davy turned his head and found himself looking into calm piercing blue eyes. For a big man Pepper was like a wraith on his feet. The merest hint of movement described the arc of his rolling gait. Instinct told Davy that the man wanted to talk and truth to tell he needed to lay some groundwork. Best to do it while his brother slept. No sense in causing more alarm than could be avoided. He had been sitting on the ground and now rose on stiffening legs and moved away from the fire. The shadows beckoned him and Pepper followed. Lenny Goss barely raised his head but Davy knew every pair of open eyes in that camp followed him.

Only when they were standing beneath the trees and somewhat screened from the others did they speak. Pepper giving him a look which silently demanded it was time for him to start sketching in the details. "You said the other cells are risin' up?"

Davy nodded. "*Qu*."

"That mean we're goin' to meet up with 'em?"

He shook his head. "Only the leaders. After that we operate independently."

The big man was frowning but not in a rush to either agree or condemn. He was thinking. Wanting everything straight in his mind. "The way you spoke before it sounded like the whole gorram lot of us was gonna rise up an' kick Alliance butt back into the stone-age-as-was. You tellin' me that's not gonna happen?"

"Not in the way you imagine."

"Speak plain, Reynolds. We're trustin' you here."

"An' it's right that you do but we have to work in concert, each cell springin' into action at the same moment. Dozens an' dozens of worlds risin' up. Reclaimin' what was lost. Defeatin' what should not stand."

Pepper nodded. "So this is war?"

"Yeah but it's a guerilla war, *dong ma*?"

"To my recollection," Said Pepper slowly. "Them wars last a whole pile of years. Nothin' clean or definitive about 'em an' often as not no winner at the end to speak of. We don't want that. We want to end Alliance rule."

"An' that's what you'll get but like all campaigns' the devil's in the detail."

"Or maybe the devil's standin' right in front of us." Growled a new voice.

Both men turned, Davy's heart thudding like a crazy thing in his chest. So worried that his brother would overhear them before he had paved the way. But it was only Charlie. He covered the feeling of relief that swept through him. "I'm no devil."

"Ya are if ya don't deliver."

"Look, we're here aren't we?"

Charlie and Pepper exchanged a long knowing look. Pepper's lips compressed into a tight thin line. "You didn't tell him."

"Mal knows what he needs to know." Davy prevaricated. "You won't be disappointed."

Charlie tilted his head and gave him an assessing look. "You promise a lot."

"An' with my brother's help I'll deliver. You boys just do your part. We clear on this?"

They nodded.

"Oh, an' one last thing."

"What's that?" Asked Pepper cautiously.

"Like I said, representatives from every cell will be at the meet. That will enable us to co-ordinate the rebellion 'cause timin' is everythin'. I tell you this 'cause we can't afford no one to go off half-cocked, *dong ma*? Alliance get wind of this before we're ready it'll ruin everythin'. It'll be the Valley all over again only this time there'll be no survivors."

His words sobered any eager anticipation building in their veins. Both men were serious as a heart attack now.

"How many cells we talkin' about?" Said Charlie.

Davy allowed a slow smile to slide over his face. "Not tens or hundreds." He said watching them closely. "But thousands."

Pepper Rawlings could not hide his shock. He looked stunned. "*Wode ma!* Where the ruttin' hell we get thousands from?"

"You'd be surprised. Just don't lose your nerve now, *dong ma*?"

* * * * *

"So who's this contact on Richmond, *bao bei*?"

Zoe held back a sigh, every eye on her. She was on the bridge feeling a mite tense with the rest of the crew dogging her gorram footsteps as Wash laid in a course. Gave her a notion of what the Captain had to put up with day in and day out. It irked her but she could live with it because she had to. She looked at her husband's quizzical face and thanked every God she had ever heard tell of that she had him. He was her rock. Her little piece of sanity in an insane 'verse. She rested a hand on his shoulder and felt the comfort of his presence. "An old friend of the Captain's."

The look on Simon's face said 'the Captain has an old friend?' but wisely he kept his mouth shut. Zoe was just tense enough to knock his teeth down the back of his throat if he spoke out of turn. Whether he realised that or not she did not know and frankly did not care. She just wanted this over with though she did hesitate to elaborate with the Shepherd lounging in the open doorway calmly listening to every rutting word.

"This fetch an' carry," Said Jayne. "How much it payin'?"

"Enough to refuel and buy a few parts, some supplies too but not much else."

His face collapsed into a scowl. "Huh, that don't sound like much."

"I don't think the Captain had long to put this deal together Jayne but if you've got something better lined up I can't wait to hear it."

"Didn't say that." He groused.

"We'll be pickin' up a mixture. Seeds and compressed protein bars plus several cases of sheet steel."

"Sounds heavy." Said Simon.

"It is which is why we can only shift it with the mule a pallet at a time."

"What they want sheets of steel for?"

"I don't know Jayne and I don't care long as we get paid."

Jayne couldn't argue with that. Bottom line was the money. If it put coin in his pocket he was in.

"Far as I could tell when I sent the wave we may get another job on the back of this one when we make the drop off on Porchester." Zoe paused then looked at Kaylee. "How's the engine?"

Kaylee smiled. "Shiny."

She looked at Simon. "What about medical supplies, Simon?"

"We still have some supplies left from Aerial but we need more of the basic staples like bandages. At least we don't need anything expensive this time."

Zoe looked around at the little group of anxious faces. "Okay, we should make planetfall in another - " She paused and looked to Wash to fill in their ETA.

"Six hours."

"Kaylee, it's your turn to cook."

Then everyone was moving except Wash. Zoe paused to brush his cheek gently with one hand, a look of barely concealed concern on her face. He knew what was worrying her and waited until the others had left before saying anything. "He'll be alright, sweetie. You know the Captain, hard as nails."

"I don't like this, Wash. I don't like it a lot."

He nodded. Felt the same but right now she did not need to hear his own reservations. "Captain knows what he's doing and so do we."

She blinked. A faint smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "We do?" "Yes, so stop worrying."

A frown settled on her face. "I can't help it, *xin gan*. This feels all wrong and even though I know why the Captain wanted Book to stay I can't say I like it."

"You think he'll turn on us?"

She shrugged and glanced away. "Did it once..."

She was about to leave when Wash caught her wrist and gently tugged her back towards him. His voice soft and low, his eyes filled with caution and concern. "Why did Mal let him come back?"

"Statistics, honey."

Her answer surprised the *diyu* out of him. "Statistics? What kind of *fei hua* is that?"

"Not *fei hua*. With the Captain gone we're down a fighting man."

He raised his eyebrows. "Are you saying the Preacher stays because he can shoot?"

Zoe paused for so long that Wash began to think she did not intend to answer him. "Can you think of a better reason?"

Only after she had gone and he had time to roll it around inside his head could he answer that. "How about because we trust him?"

No one but the dinosaurs heard him. And they had stopped listening a long long time ago.

* * * * *

The house was a good step up from a gaol cell and Tyrone Garvin was hard put to understand why the Sheriff of all people should take him in. Not that he was complaining. A man bleeding all over someone else's carpet had no room for such luxuries. Cassie Mary Bowman was a plain faced woman, almost as stocky as her husband but with a good face and gentle eyes. Her hands were efficient and had a calming effect on him as she cleaned and tended his wounds. The doctor attended the house, some kind of locum but well known to the Sheriff and his family. He stayed long enough to check him over then instructed the Bowmans on what kind of care he would need before leaving. Vaguely Ty was aware of three sets of bright eyes peering at him around a door jamb. He closed his eyes as the hand that never slept stitched him. Guessed that the eyes belonged to still more of the Bowman clan.

It was hours later. He had been dozing. The open fire banked up making the room warm and cosy. The smell of fresh bread and baking filled his nostrils and helped him relax for the first time in days. Instinct told him these were good people. Caution reminded him it was the Sheriff's house and he was one as had to tread lightly when it came to the law. As if the thought had conjured him out of thin air the Sheriff stepped into the room and closed the door quietly behind him. Tyrone's eyes sprang open, an automatic reaction left over from the war. The itch in the back of his neck telling him he was no longer alone with his thoughts. For a minute or two the two men just stared at each other. It was the Sheriff who spoke first, his voice pitched low, warm and reassuring. Eyes as bright as a magpie's.

"You were sayin' about needin' my help to stop a blood bath."

Ty blinked. He had said that, hadn't he? It was something of a surprise to realise that the Sheriff had not only been listening to him but was willing to hear him out. Perhaps the merciful Buddha had been watching over him after all. "*Qu, duibuqi*. I thought you'd think I was *shenjingbing*. Appreciate your help, Sheriff."

"Don't thank me too soon, son. Screw this up an' you'll wish I'd sent you on to Argent."

The man's eyes widened. For a moment he just looked stunned. "*Wo buzhidao zuocuo le shi*."

"That why every *jianyu* that ever was is full of innocent men?" The Sheriff waited for an answer but Ty was silent. "Ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the law. Now what's your name, son?"

"Tyrone Garvin. My friends call me Ty."

The Sheriff settled in a chair next to Ty's bed, shuffling it forward so neither man would have to raise his voice to be heard. He was all aware of how little ears liked to stretch themselves at windows and doors. This would be as private as they would get. Best make the most of it before deciding what in the *diyu* to do with his new lodger.

* * * * *

Inara Serra did not have to see her mark to feel him. She could sense the shape of his mind having been in it before. The earlier experience had left an eidetic map in her mind that she could revisit at will. A smile touched her gilded lips making a lie of the professed bon homie that she exuded with such consumate skill. He was the Judas Goat and all unknowing would lead her to her goal. Already she had coaxed changes from him, alterations in his plans that he was unaware of making. Thinking the prompts were some instinct of his own. Her guidance so subtle that they slipped beneath his radar. Davy Reynolds yawned and poured himself a mug of strong black coffee. His brother was already up and had gone to wash the grit of sleep from his eyes in a nearby stream. Hardly a word had passed between them this morning but then it was still early. He shivered slightly in the cold air, the breeze cutting through his clothing as if he were buck naked.

Mal dunked his head beneath the cold water and shook his head vigorously. Water droplets scattered in every direction, his wet face flushed and invigorated by the shock to his system. *Now* he was awake. Memories of River tempered his mood and calmed his soul. He was not looking forward to this but did not trust anyone else to watch out for his brother. Davy was altogether too trusting for his own good. Not that he thought he had anything to worry about from Pepper and his men. Quite the reverse. In fact he himself was being treated with the utmost respect, a goodly thing until you looked into their eyes and realised there would be a price to pay for the gift. They wanted something from him. As did his brother. But was it the same thing?

He settled back on his heels and looked down at the ring on his finger. Twirling it round he realised it was looser than it had been since he first put the rutting thing on. The cold water had taken some of the heat out of his hand and now the ring did not cling so tightly. With very little effort he slid it off his finger and glared at it as it rested in the palm of his hand. The mute phoenix stared back at him, the imperial green jade stone sparking off a distant memory in his back brain. That was it. Jade was for protection. But protection against what? And why the good gorram had his brother made the ring for him?

* * * * *

Richmond was a colourful bustle of activity. Open air markets greeted the crew of Serenity as they landed. They had been here before but not in a long time and there had been no opportunity to have a good look round or explore. They were here for a job and Zoe wanted to make sure they got the layout of the place in their heads just in case something went wrong. Wash watched her covertly and wished she would relax. Not that he blamed her for being on edge but it did make things harder than they needed to be. What the rutting hell was wrong with her and why in the nine hells wouldn't she confide in him? She had done so about Mal and that had both surprised and reassured him. Now this rising tension in her was unsettling him and making him feel snappy. With an effort he kept control of his irritation knowing that it was irrational. His eyes followed Zoe, a silent plea for her to tell him what the rutting *diyu* was wrong.

It was only after they had picked up the cargo and taken off for Porchester that Wash realised he had seen nothing of River all day. There had been sporadic sightings of Simon but none of his sister. He hoped she was alright. Crazy or sane he could not help liking the youngest Tam. In fact there was no one on Serenity he did not like though that did not mean he trusted them all. They would not reach their destination for at least two days. Plenty of time to find out what was wrong with his wife. He picked his timing with care. Immediately after coitus to be exact.

They lay glistening in the afterglow of sex. Wash feeling the familiar euphoria of a satisfied man who knows his partner is equally content, only this night his partner was all kinds of tense. She lay back, head on her pillow, eyelids heavy and drooping over those chocolate brown eyes he would die for. Wash lay on his side and gently ran his right index finger over the contours of her face. He watched that stern mask shift slightly and a smile bow those padded lips. He had to remind himself that this was not about seduction. He was on a fact finding mission. Sex he could indulge in any time but information could slip through his fingers quicker than the finest grains of sand if he wasn't careful.

"What's wrong, *bao bei*?"

The heavy lids rose slowly, those dark hooded eyes looking up at him for a moment in a mixture of disbelief and surprise. "Wrong? Why should anything be wrong *zhangfu*?"

He was massaging her neck now, happy when she sighed and moaned at his touch. "It's just you're so tense."

She sighed. Closed her eyes for a moment then opened them again. His hands slowed but did not stop. "It's the Shepherd."

"What about him?"

"I tried to talk to him."

Wash did stop then. This was news to him. "What did he say?"

"He asked me if I trusted the Captain. I said of course. He just nodded like he knew a secret then turned and walked away. I've never wanted to strangle someone so much as I did right then."

"I take it you controlled the urge?"

"For now but the more I think about it the harder it becomes."

The pilot observed her for a few moments in silence before resuming his massage. "*Bao bei*?"

"Yes, *zhangfu*?"

"Do you think we should have someone keep an eye on Book?"

"Jayne's already on it. I never asked him he just started doing it as soon as the Preacher came back on board."

"I wish I knew what the *diyu* was going on, Zoe."

"Worst case scenario? Another ruttin' war."

"Mal wouldn't..."

"Takes more than one man to start a war, *bao bei*, and the Captain ain't that stupid."

Wash did not say anything. On that particular subject he would beg to differ. But he was not suicidal enough to say so out loud. All he could do was pray that Zoe was right and that their noble and fearless Captain was not about to do something monumentally stupid.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*yunqi* = luck *ai ren*/*xin gan* = sweetheart *bao bei* = precious/treasure *qu* = yes *dong ma* = understand *diyu* = hell *wode ma* = mother of God *duibuqi* = sorry *fei hua* = garbage/nonsense *shenjingbing* = crazy *zhangfu* = husband *wo buzhidao zuocuo le shi* = I didn't realise I was doing anything wrong


Thursday, May 6, 2004 6:55 AM


Ah, arranging the pieces on the board. A bold move soon to follow? You keep us hooked.

Friday, May 7, 2004 9:29 AM


"...their noble and fearless Captain was not about to do something monumentally stupid..." *snarf!* Our captain? What are the odds? ;-)

Another fine part. Thanks!

Sunday, May 9, 2004 6:45 AM


This is so very shiny...I'm on the edge of my seat, waiting anxiously for every chapter...Thank you, Alison ;-)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004 11:25 PM


Speeding on through these chapters to catch up. Very exciting.

And I don't know why, but I loved this line:
" No one but the dinosaurs heard him. And they had stopped listening a long long time ago."
Guess cos it's so very Firefly.


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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.