HEAVEN AND HELL: 24. "Nightmares Out Of Dreams"
Thursday, May 20, 2004

"Simon is thrown into the kind of nightmare from which there is no waking. Meanwhile Mal has troubles of his own as the net begins to tighten."



SUMMARY: "Simon is thrown into the kind of nightmare from which there is no waking. Meanwhile Mal has troubles of his own as the net begins to tighten." 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 incensed but powerless to do anything. The twine cut deep into his wrists as Diamond Harry secured his hands behind his back. Once he was done he half dragged and half pushed the doctor away from his fallen charge. "*Qing*, she's just a child!"

The man smirked further distorting his squat features. "She'll survive an' if you're good I'll give ya a ringside seat."

"*Weishenme*? Why are you doing this?"

Harry gave a little grunt then fiddled with something out of sight. Simon heard a tearing sound then a wide swathe of sticky tape was pressed unceremoniously across his mouth. He tried to struggle then froze, the laughing gleeful face of Diamond Harry peering down at him as if this was his best day ever. "Oh you are goin' to see it all, *dong ma*? Every one I take will see your face as they lay dyin'."

* * * * *

Inara Serra was pleased. Her confidence a professional aspect of her consumate range of skills. The tracker was efficient. Her own vessel had followed the Dragonfly with ease. Great hulking flying monolith that it was it made her job so much easier but the destination had surprised her. A gift that was unexpected. So little surprised her jaded senses any more. Even less touched her emotional centre. Everything that had ever been worth a damn had been sucked out of her at an early age. Her training had been extensive and ruthless. The rewards while incalculable had been a cold pleasure. This though was piquing her interest. A growing anticipation eagerly savoured as the huge transport vessel closed in on the planet's surface.

* * * * *

They landed with all the subtlety of a brick. Davy grinned at his brother and stuck to him like glue. Mal noticed the men were solemn but had an air of barely contained excitement about them. It reminded him of the buzz that often preceded battle. Once or twice he had caught Pepper looking at him, then when he noticed the ring on his finger the big man had looked up and smiled. Now if that didn't creep him out even more than this joy ride he didn't know what would. He was about to have that notion turned on its' head in very short order.

"Come on, Mal, we're here."

"An' where exactly is here?"

Davy gave him a crooked grin. "You'll see, *da ge*."

Unable to crowbar another word out of him Mal allowed himself to be cajoled into following them out, amused by his brother's excitement. Only as they emerged down the heavy metal ramp and out into the harsh fitful sunlight did the full realisation hit him. His mouth dropped open in shock, eyes wide and beginning to lose focus. Heart thundering loud and painful in a suddenly constricted chest. "*Tian Yesu*! Davy, what you gorram done?"

As if oblivious of his brother's pain, Davy wrapped him in a hug and whispered in his ear, hanging on to him so tight that Mal's sluggish brain was able to slowly disemble the words and recover his lost equilibrium. "*Jia*, Mal. We've come home."

Mal pulled out of his brother's embrace, unshed tears pricking his eyes. Heart breaking. "Gorrammit Davy, what in the nine hells did you think you were doin'?" The quiet intensity of his words carried the pain in his heart so clearly that it caught Davy unawares.

Blinking back tears of his own Davy rushed to try to reassure him. "It's not like that, Mal."

"Then what is it like, *xiongdi*?" Mal's tone had turned hard with a bitter edge. "Think comin' back to Shadow would solve the war?"

"Mal, listen. I knew if I'd told you, you would never have come..."

"You got that right." Mal snapped. "Ain't we lost enough to the gorram Alliance? Wasn't losin' our family an' home enough?"

"Hush Mal, I know what I'm doin' an' when you meet the others so will you."

It took several deep breaths for Mal to control the urge to strangle him. Damn rutting idealistic *chunren*. "Others?"

"Yeah, I told you. We got men from all over convergin' here, Mal. Wait 'till you see!"

A look of abject horror stole over Malcolm Reynolds' face. "Are you *dai ruo mu ji*? What were you thinkin'? Oh wait, *duibuqi*, you WEREN'T thinkin' were you?"


His brother got right in Davy's face. "Me an' Zoe we're exiled from here, Davy. You ever think on that? What it means?"

Davy nodded. "*Yiding*, I ain't stupid Mal."

"*Haoxiao* 'cause right now 'stupid' is wearin' your face."

* * * * *

It was more than a mite amusing Jayne reflected. The warehouse was on the edge of the industrial district though it was a joke to call it that. A few ruined buildings, some ubiquitous sheds and outbuildings. A few newer structures then this. Zoe gazed up at it and blinked. Wash could feel his heart sinking. *This* was where they were supposed to come? Drop off the cargo and collect their pay off? Zoe looked at Jayne.

"I don't like this."

He shrugged. He had seen better but then he'd also seen a lot worse.

"Don't judge the inside by the outside."

They both looked at Wash. He blinked back, feeling suddenly awkward at having their attention focused on him. "Hey, I was just sayin'. Maybe things aren't as bad as they look."

Zoe's eyes narrowed slightly but she did not berate him. Compressing the sigh that was about to huff out of her she gave a tight nod and they resumed their journey up to the huge bleak looking warehouse. She fully expected it to be empty, to be as deserted as the whole gorram complex looked. To her surprise as they neared the huge closed double doors a smaller door opened in the side and a man stepped out. He was slim with a whip like strength to him, his long lean face supporting sharp inquisitive eyes. The bushy moustache looked as if it had been glued on at the last moment but when he rotated his mouth, leant forward and spat, she could tell it was real. Pity the reek coming from him was real too.

"Who might you folks be?"

Zoe stepped off the mule, sensing more than seeing Jayne ease Vera into position in his hands. It felt good to have his firepower at her back. "We got cargo."

"Ain't expectin' none."

"Captain Reynolds' instructions were very precise."

The man straightened, eyes bright and sharp as tacks as if he could home in on a lie at a thousand paces and nail it dead. "Malcolm Reynolds?"

Zoe nodded. The others did not move a muscle. Tense and wary. The man stuck a plug of something in his mouth and began to chew slowly.

"Well now, an' who might you be?"

"My name's Zoe Warren and this here's my *zhangfu* Wash and Jayne."

The man allowed just a brief flick of his eyes to take in her two companions then zeroed back in on her face. He still had not told them who he was or if they were in the right place. "What's his middle name?"

She thought she had misheard. "*Shenme*?"

"Malcolm Reynolds. What's his middle name?"

Zoe frowned slightly. "John. What's that..."

Before she could finish the sentence a big smile broke over the lean man's face and he spat the second plug of tobacco out of the corner of his mouth so as not to impede what he wanted to say. "Can't be too *xiaoxin, dong ma*?"

Jayne opened his mouth to say something but a look from Zoe made him snap it shut again. The man looked amused. "Guess I should introduce myself. Name's Clem Pearson. *Loaban* is due back any minute, best come inside."

Clem opened one side of the double doors so Wash could drive the mule right in. As they entered he pulled the door closed behind them. The inside was like a veritable Aladdin's cave. Wash sat with his mouth open and eyes so wide you could terraform the space between them. Jayne didn't know what to look at first, his face aglow, his palms itching with the need to touch and reassure himself that all this rutting wealth was real. Zoe turned slowly, her expression calm but eyes troubled. Suspicions lurking behind those dark windows of the soul. "What is this, Clem?"


Her look sharpened, her wariness toned up a notch. "Against what?" A new voice cut in on their conversation startling them into looking up where a catwalk framed the upper deck of the warehouse. "Whatever the *goushi* Alliance try an' throw at us." The man paused, grinned, then began to descend a flight of metal steps. Eyes glued to the first mate. "Good gorram, that you Zoe?"

Zoe's eyes narrowed on the vaguely familiar face then her heart missed a beat. "Max?"

Max laughed and jogged over to her and only when he drew closer did Wash realise he reminded him of someone. Jayne put the pieces together. "You're Tracey's brother?"

"Yeah," Max broke off and collected himself. Trying to shut the sadness out though it was obviously still eating him up inside. When he spoke again his voice was a mite choked. Zoe didn't blame him, it had come as quite a shock seeing him here herself. "Take it Mal's in all kinds of trouble?"

"The worst."

Max blinked, no smile now. "I owe him, Zoe, we all do. Owe you too. Best tell me what happened an' what he wants me to do. Family have no way to thank you for bringin' Tracey back to us."

She could not find her voice so nodded. It had not been the way they would have wanted but bringing Tracey's body home had meant a lot to his family. For all his foolishness Tracey had been their friend. His family would do anything they could to help in return. The contents of the warehouse though still staggered her sensibilities. She pushed back the temptation to judge just what in the good gorram it was doing there or where Max and his people had acquired such wealth. He knew what she was thinking but was not ready just yet to explain the full of it. First he wanted to know just what kind of trouble their old friend had got himself into. Only later would Zoe wonder why Max had not asked what the cargo was.

* * * * *

Kaylee was distressed. So much rutting blood and she couldn't find Simon. Although Yen Mah was only small for her age she was still a little too heavy for Kaylee to carry on her own so she did what she could for the twelve year old with hands that shook and cloths turned red the moment they touched the girl. Soaking up the blood like gorram blotting paper. It was with relief when a steady voice came up from behind. "Here, let's get her to the infirmary shall we?"

She almost wept as Shepherd Book came into view, his face solemn and sad but exuding such an air of authorative calm that Kaylee could only be thankful he was there. Gently he cradled the girl in his arms and Kaylee followed on numb feet, her hands twisting together with anxiety. As they stepped into the infirmary Kaylee almost fainted. There sat Simon Tam tied to a chair, his mouth taped, and a gun to the side of his head. She did not notice that the Shepherd did not look surprise. Holding the gun was the grinning squat man known as Diamond Harry. Inara's familiar. Kaylee went cold, a shiver of dread sliding down her spine. If Harry was here then Inara could not be far away could she? Feeling a terrible sense of dread building in her veins Kaylee knew with fell conviction that it could not be a good thing.

"I'm happy you could join us."

The Shepherd said nothing. Did not ask what Harry was doing there or where Inara was. Kaylee felt like shaking him but was too terrified to move. Worried that if she said or did the wrong thing Harry would pull the gorram trigger and kill Simon. She wished the Captain were there. Or Zoe. Or Jayne. Or Wash. Or even... Her eyes widened a little at her next thought. River. Where in *diyu* was she? Alarm multiplied the beat of her heart into a pained staccato. Oh no! Had Harry already found her friend? Was River even now lying in a pool of blood? Alone, in pain and dying? She blinked hard. Not gonna cry. Not gonna cry. Not gonna cry...

Just as she thought she had steeled herself for any eventuality she noticed Simon stiffen and Harry's finger twitch on the trigger. When the shot rang out Kaylee screamed. The bright flash of crimson spraying in a painted arc more vibrant than any rainbow. Tears falling tinged with red. Lungs gagging on the scream until fractured sobs took her to the edge of all sense. Everything suddenly a mindless blur of overwhelming emotion, a pitch in reality that left her reeling.

* * * * *

It was hard to put into words how he felt. The ashes in his mouth filled him with the scent and taste of death. Time was something that had no meaning to him. The past alive and haunting each breath he took. Davy was talking, his hand on his shoulder, his head close to Mal's ear but the words bypassed his conscious thought. Numb. So rutting numb only pain could get through. "Look, look Mal!"

As if from very far away, Mal raised his head and looked out across a ruined and scarred landscape. Once grasses had waved in thick swathes of green, tall majestic trees bowing in the fitful breeze while fragrant flowers nodded their colourful blooms and tricked the eye into a painting that moved and lived and breathed as they adorned the shifting seasons in their coat of many colours. He knew only too well where he was, where they were standing. Tried not to fixate on the charred outline where buildings had once stood. Swallowed back the tears and the bile grown bitter with sorrow. Memories crowding in with no particular order to them, non sequential glimpses to animate the dead. Scenes from home. His mama laughing and hugging him, his father teaching him to ride for the first time, his little sister Gracie smiling so sweetly it damn near broke his heart in early adoration. His pride in brother Davy when he roped his first calf and helped with the branding. Cheng's beautiful but rare nut-brown smile. Uncle Frank's rich baritone and warm humour. The boys around the night fire singing. All interspersed with the sounds of battle raging. The sons of the sage striding out with him under an Independent banner that knew no flag and no surrender. Bodies in motion as heavy fire cut them down, bits of bodies shattering in the unequal battle between flesh and metal.

His mouth was dry, his heart drowning in renewed grief, but no more tears fell. All cried out. Ghosts stepped up to him and asked him what the good gorram he thought he was doing. He wanted to tell them, reassure them this wasn't happening but it was. It hurt more than all the words that ever were could say that it was his own brother, Davy, who had brought this new tragedy to visit the old. Everywhere he looked Browncoats stood. Row upon row of shining eager faces, eyes almost dead in their wish for vengeance yet animated in this moment of madness by the reawakening of a fevered hope. A cherished dream. A hope they had mistakenly placed in the hands of a living man. He could not believe that they thought he was that man.

Pepper Rawlings shot Davy an anxious look. This was not exactly going as planned. What the *diyu* was wrong with Malcolm Reynolds? Man needed a good talking to. Didn't he know they had a war to fight, a 'verse to win? So many years they had been waiting, biding their time, amassing and masking their numbers on numerous backwater worlds far from the prying sententious eyes of the rutting Alliance. Those vainglorious dogs of war were about to get their come uppance and what was their Hero doing? Not a gorram thing. Pepper stepped in close to Davy the better to whisper urgently in his ear. "What the *diyu's* wrong with him?"

Annoyed, Davy wished they were somewhere more private but Pepper had a point and that was what worried him. He had been so sure that once his brother saw the strength of manpower waiting to go into battle he would automatically fulfill the role prepared for him. "Nothin's wrong, just a mite stunned is all." Said Davy quietly. "We did kind'a spring it on him."

"You said he'd be ready." Pepper accused darkly.

Davy frowned at the hint of warning underlying the words. "An' he will be."

"Ya know what they say?"

Davy held his breath. Mal still seemed out of it, simply staring at the people waiting patiently for the first words to tumble from his stunned lips.

"Them as ain't with us is against us." Pepper growled.

Before Davy could make an angry retort Mal turned his head. Everyone fell silent. His eyes looked bleakly from Pepper to Davy. Such a world of pain in them that neither man could have spoken had they wanted to. "What have you done, Davy?" He asked softly.

"You know, *xiongdi*. This is our chance to take back everythin' we lost, *dong ma*?"

Mal shook his head slowly. "All you done is gathered us all together in a mass grave."

Davy was sure he had misheard him. "*Shenme*? What the *diyu* you talkin' about?"

"I can't believe you let 'em manipulate you."

"Nobody manipulated me."

For a long moment Mal said nothing. Using every bit of control to steady himself he tried to think of a way passed this point. A way for them all to come to their senses without bloodshed. Davy had been in the war but only the tail end of it. Hadn't seen nearly as much of it as he and Zoe had. The Alliance hadn't just won because of superior numbers though that alone would have swayed the odds. No. The Alliance had more of every gorram thing from ordnance to ships to supplies. Anything you needed they had a-plenty while the Independents had a lack in every department except courage. If hopes and dreams could stop machine gun fire they would all have been bullet proof but they weren't and the dream had died, washed by the blood of brave impassioned men and women infused with a stubborn pride that didn't know when to quit. Even when the order had come to surrender many lives had been lost unable to take it in and lay down their arms. Such waste. The flower of the 'verse laid in over-ripened graves. More gorram bones per square inch than grass or trees. Every flower that now bloomed was fed upon that skeletal dust. If this was karma it was gorram over rated.

"What do you mean a mass grave? Look around you Mal, this is the future!"

Mal blinked. Knew it was too late to turn back the tide. He could see it in every eye now fastened on him, straining for his every word. Poised to obey his slightest command. Davy turned to face them, smiling and happy. Excitement lifting his voice to carry across the multitude in their faded ragged uniforms of brown. "The day for which we have long awaited has arrived!" A cheer went up. Mal swallowed hard and tried not to look as if he wanted to be anywhere but here. Davy waited until the noise abated enough to be heard again. "I give you my brother, Malcolm Reynolds. Hero of the Battle of Serenity. The man who will lead us to our final victory over the Alliance!"

The men went wild. Mal lost the last bit of colour in his face. Pepper pounded him on the back and yelled something that was supposedly encouraging but he never heard a word. Mal shot his jubilant brother a look and hissed. "What happened to all the gorram officers?"

"Dead, tortured until their minds broke or still in *jianyu*."

"Not believin' that."

"Believe it, *xiongdi*." Davy leaned so close that his breath puffed hot in Mal's ear. "You're all we got left Mal, but you know what Uncle Frank always used to say? Can't have a battle less'n a Reynolds is up to his gorram neck in the middle of it."

Mal sighed and turned to face the cheering and whistling men. Started to open his mouth to speak when someone began to sing in a steady rich tenor. The words were an old browncoat call to arms, the tune as old as memory served from Earth-that-was had once been known as Gary Owen. Every man took up the song creating a swell of pride and emotion that damn near swept him along with it. His eyes pricked with emotion, his heart rose with old remembered pride and sentiments buried along with so many of the honoured dead. He had sung this self-same song marching with his friends into battle. In those days there was no questioning the why of it. They were young, they were proud, and too gorram pretty to die.

"I left my home and left my hearth When friends they came to find me Ten thousand could not hold me back For freedom's call had bound me. With friends and lovers all beside My rifle, guns exploding We'll fight them till they rise no more To rid them from our homeland.

O n'er shall I forget the night With sky and land both burning My friends and I will do or die Till victory returning. My mother blessed me with her tears My sweet love's lips they guide me How can I not have courage then In those that fight beside me?"

- 'Browncoats Arise' sung to the tune of Gary Owen (in the tradition of the songs of the 7th Cavalry from Earth-that-was)

Mal did not realise that he had started singing along with the rest. Lost to his memories. Reliving every battle, Zoe at his side, his numb lips framing the words of a song that was imprinted on every cell in his body. The voice of his heart. He sang with the same fierce pride that had once fired him up with all the zeal of religious conviction. The belief that God was on their side. Not knowing that as he did so he wept.

"My love she walks within this heart So firm and valiant beating The purplebellies we'll defeat For us there's no retreating. We fight for freedom and our kin And all that we hold precious How can I not have courage too When God himself does bless us?

Though I should fight ten thousand wars And every battle raging Not once shall I in jest turn back Alliance dogs engaging. Like rabid beasts we'll shoot them down And clense the 'verse forever For we are Browncoats free and proud And we will rise together!"

- 'Browncoats Arise' sung to the tune of Gary Owen (in the tradition of the songs of the 7th Cavalry from Earth-that-was)

* * * * *

GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*qing* = please *weishenme* = why *dong ma* = understand *da ge* = big brother *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *jia* = home *xiongdi* = brother *chunren* = fool/jerk *dai ruo mu ji* = dumb as a wooden chicken *duibuqi* = sorry *yiding* = sure *haoxioa* = funny *zhangfu* = husband *shenme* = what *xiaoxin* = careful *laoban* = boss *diyu* hell *goushi* = crap/dog shit *jianyu* = prison


Thursday, May 20, 2004 2:57 PM


Okay, so Davey's big plan is to reenact Gallipoli. ;-)

Totally engrossed and eager for the next part!

Thursday, May 20, 2004 10:06 PM


Oh Alison, this is torture. So many twists and turns Is Book going to save the crew? Does Mal know that Inara/Alliance is manipulating Davy?

Where's River? WHo got shot? Was it Kaylee? Or did River or Book shoot Harry?

Please hurry with the next installment :)

Friday, May 21, 2004 3:04 AM


Oh poor, poor Mal. Can't imagine how this is going to end without a lot of people ending up dead. Hopefully that idiot brother of his will be amongst them!

To my amazement I find myself feeling a bit sorry for your Inara too. How empty she is.

Liked this sentence about Clem very much " The man straightened, eyes bright and sharp as tacks as if he could home in on a lie at a thousand paces and nail it dead." Very direct, lots of impact.

Marvellous stuff. Keep it coming!

Friday, May 21, 2004 4:10 AM


Jus' finished readin' muh'way through this series and gorram if it ain't one diyu of a read! Can't wait for the next installment.

Saturday, May 22, 2004 6:20 AM


Not fair ---- you leave us thinking that Kaylee might be dead. i have to say, you must be related to those evil evil story writers Joss and Tim;P:P:P

Accckkk. This chapter was one of the best but now I have all these things floating around in my head. Hurrrrrrrrryyyy, I need more.


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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.