HEAVEN AND HELL: 32. "The World Between"
Saturday, June 12, 2004

Simon pulls out all the stops to stablise the Captain's condition but has the sinking feeling that it is not enough. River refuses to leave him and the Shepherd plays his trump card."



SUMMARY: "Simon pulls out all the stops to stabilise the Captain's condition but has the sinking feeling that it is not enough. River refuses to leave him and the Shepherd plays his trump card." 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 gentle. His movements tentative, tone quiet and reassuring. "River. You need to rest."

She sat next to the Captain's bed in the infirmary, her eyes gazing like distant orbs as yet another donor settled on the other side and was hooked up to the Captain. There seemed to be an unending procession of them, each quietly taking the place of the one before. All bound by the same sense of urgency. The same need to do something to help. Each one a very visible lifeline. On an emotional level it touched her but her concern was so deep and pervasive that her mind and soul could know no calm, no relief, until the Captain was out of danger. She did not sense any certainty in her brother's sharp and orderly mind. It made her retreat deeper into herself, more determined than ever not to leave Mal for a second.


"She hears, she comprehends, but cannot comply."

He blinked. The man now in the chair on the opposite side of the Captain's bed, Lenny Goss, looked a bit uncomfortable watching the odd parade of expressions flicker across the crazy girl's face like an old movie reel from Earth-that-was. Simon placed a short fat bar in his right hand, the line attached to a needle in the crook of his right arm. Straight into a vein. "I want you to squeeze the bar and then release it, slow and regularly. It will improve the blood flow, *dong ma*?"

Lenny nodded but his eyes kept flicking over to River. Hoping the doctor knew what he was doing having the girl so close to the Captain. He noticed her right hand lay over the man's heart, the frail wraith like creature seemed hardly aware of them except for brief snatches of coherence when she spoke to her brother. It was almost as if she was deliberately tuning out everyone except the Captain. Lenny blinked and mentally shook himself. Gorrammit, if he stayed on this ship much longer he would be as crazy as the rest of them. Then his gaze shifted to the Captain. Malcolm Reynolds. A man they had manouevred into leading their ill-timed venture. A man now paying the price. It behoved him not to think ill of the man's crew. They might not be soldiers like him and Pepper and the rest but they were loyal and from what he could see of them they weren't weak.

Simon nodded to Lenny to confirm he was doing it right then turned to his sister. "*Mei mei*, why don't you go and lie down? You need to rest. The Captain will still be here when you get back."

She shook her head, her focus surfacing briefly to lock on him. "No. Body might be here but he will be gone, too risky."

He bit his lip and wished they were not having this conversation in front of a virtual stranger. "What do you mean?"

"He's fading, Simon," She said sadly. "And he fought so hard."

He did not know what to say. His heart and soul aching at the sorrow in his sister's voice.

"I want to stay, have to stay, *dong ma*? It's what Mal would want."

Then she promptly closed her eyes and seemed to drift into some kind of meditation, blocking him out and not responding to any more questions. Simon felt frustrated but also worried. It was not good for her to be here right now. He didn't want his sister to be present if the Captain died yet why was that? To spare her feelings or to spare himself? River had already shown she could endure much more than her fragile personna suggested. Certainly she was much stronger than she looked and where the Captain was concerned seemed to have adopted some of his stubborn ways. Not that she needed any more of them, he reflected. With a little sigh he accepted that she had the right to be exactly where she was. None more so given the love they had declared for each other before the rest of the crew. It would have been the height of cruelty to separate them now.

River could pinpoint the exact moment when Simon's opposition melted into sad acceptance. It freed something inside her that enabled her to drift deeper, her mind opening like a lotus blossom deeper and deeper, layer on layer, level after level. Her heart reaching out for the man she loved with every atom of her being. Her soul crying out knowing she could never be whole again without him. A vague ghost beckoned on distant wings, his soul in freefall. River sent her love after it to catch and stall and embrace the fleeting presence before it was lost. He was so very weak. Hardly able to form thoughts at all. So she lent him her strength, her presence and as he stirred from the terrible malaise that bound him his thoughts seemed to revive, sparkle and briefly touch hers with the shifting humour that bathed her mind with love. Undiluted. Rare. And so very precious. Malcolm Reynolds was not a man who loved lightly.

*Ai ren, you are on Serenity*

*Am I dreamin', bao bei?*

*We all are* Her thoughts brushed his tenderly.

She felt something that on his face would be mirrored as a smirk, but it was a goodly wholesome expression. She had amused him. *Said that once before, jide?*

*Qu. True then, true now*

*Am I dyin'?*

*Not if we can help it. You are being given blood, Mal. You lost so much.*

*That why I'm so weak?*

He felt the mental equivalent of touch sailing the curves of his mind so beautifully his heart could do naught but follow. The way every part of him resonated with her name and trembled at her contact made him shiver with joy despite the dire circumstances. *You ain't weak* She mimicked his inflection to prompt a laugh.

Another smile in his mind bathed her in a glorious glow of love unfettered. As tears fell like sparkling liquid gemstones her mind kissed his and for a second. A tiny infinitessimal speck of time. It was Heaven. His sigh of awe captured her soul like loving arms, her mind touched his and memories surfaced that fired a need time could not assuage. River deliberately relived their every shared touch, the power of her mind intensifying each one until he felt the memory of physical sensations in a body no longer aware. She cried as she loved him. And he could deny her nothing. The ghosting of her lips over his body stirring him anew if only in his dreams. *What you doin' to me, *nu haizi?*

*Loving you*

His thoughts caught, her lips a slick slide over the memory of heated flesh. In his mind's eye they were naked. Him on his back in his bunk, her draped across him like every sailor's favourite wet dream. Her gentle but firm hands knowing every inch of him and using that knowledge to devastating effect to rule and orchestrate his responses. Her lips mocked his while her hands took him higher, her body cradling and rocking his while he strained to chase her touch. She varied the pressure of her hand, brought him to the brink then kept the movements slow enough to hang him over the edge, his passion ignited, his control in tatters, his mind afire with need. His body would be begging by now, the fevered heat in his loins leaking slowly between the glistening fingers of her coaxing hand. The head full and hot, pumping blood through inflated tissues to engorge the muscle sliding in her palm to an increasingly frantic beat.

She caught his barely uttered words on lips that slowly devoured him, stealing his air so sweetly as her tongue caressed the inside of his mouth in a maddening rythym that mimicked the actions of her gifted hand. The flavour of him savoured slowly as she intensified everything he was feeling, his hips rising only to find her touch retreating until he lay back and acquiessed. Aching with the agony of being brought again and again to the very edge, his jism leaking more rapidly from the salty slit while her eyes laughed deep into his own making him so horny he could hardly hang on. But River knew everything he knew. Plucked the knowledge from his sleeping brain. Teased him in waking and comforted him in his dreams. The way she was playing him now he was not sure he would survive the waking. River knew how to keep him from coming, to draw out the ectasy and the agony while his body, mind and soul cried out for her. She gloried in him until he was so taut and trembling with need that she took pity on his extremis and with a sudden unexpected movement of her hips impaled herself down upon him and bit down on his nipple. He exploded like a volcano errupting filling her with his fecund seed, his spine snapping with liquid fire, hips rocking erratically as her muscles gripped hard and slid up and down the length of him as he braced his hands on her hips and brought her to orgasm with him.

They lay in a sweaty exhaustion of limbs, wrapped and twined around one another like one body. Sated, complete, and utterly content. His mind reeled at the sheer vividness of their coupling. A merging of memories had built the fabrication so keenly into his mind and soul that he almost fancied the tremor of a body he could no longer feel. His tears, her tears. Neither knew any more where the one started and the other ended. She folded her arms around him, possessive and loving. Fiercely protective of him. He marvelled that she could love him so much. She celebrated that love knowing it was returned measure for measure to infinity and beyond. He was hers and she was his. Nothing. Not in life or death would ever change that.

When Simon next looked over at River he smiled. Her hand still over the Captain's heart, her head on her hand. Her face turned towards his as she slept. Her deep even breathing matching the shallower breaths of the injured man. If there really was a God in Heaven Simon prayed he was listening right now and moving every power in the 'verse to make sure the Captain did not die. If he did he was not sure his sister would survive it.

* * * * *

"You would not kill me."

The eyes that stared back at her were dispassionate. Vacant almost. The House Mother had left her to their tender mercies. Inara tried not to give in to a sense of panic. Studiously she schooled her thoughts and calmed herself knowing if she failed to gain control her feelings would betray her. Patiently she waited.

"What happened to those who escaped?"

The question surprised her. It took a moment to consider how best to reply knowing they must surely be aware as keenly as she was of the sequence of events. "*Wo bu zhidao*. The Independent ships took off and scattered. Most were caught."

"But not all." Came a much softer, silkier and oddly deadlier voice than any that had preceded it.

Inara turned her head and saw herself looking into the cold eyes of the Director. She had not seen him enter. Was alarmed that he would trouble himself to come in person. The Director had no other name. No other title. But his power was absolute and his thirst for invention unquenchable. Thoughts of anything Niska could conjure up faded into amusing children's tales in comparrison to the abject cruelty of this man. He made an artform out of removing fingernails. His use of drugs and poisons to heighten and vary specific effects in the human body was the stuff of nightmares. Diamond Harry had been a pupil on the lowest echelon of the ladder. A mere neophyte and yet his knowledge was far superior to Inara's own. It was what made him such a valuable Assassin's familiar. Now he was missing presumed dead and she was left to face his master. A man for whom horror was a thing of beauty. Death by any other hand would have been welcome. Quailing in her heart and soul Inara Serra could only stand and stare transfixed at him.

* * * * *

Morning came with a sense of wary anticipation. Simon had finished the transfusions late into the night and ordered everyone to have a small light supper then retire and get some rest. Zoe had tossed and turned, her mind racing back and forth with unwelcome thoughts and nameless fears. Wash stirred and she froze in place, feeling guilty for waking him but inordinately relieved to have the company. A warm arm slid around her waist as he turned towards her, his lips stealing a gentle kiss as his eyes opened blearily.

"*Shenme shi, bao bei*?"

She sighed and stroked a hand down his arm. "I couldn't sleep."

"So I see." He kissed her nose and gently ran his hands over her skin to calm her. "You're worried about him, me too. We all are. I know Mal's been in some bad scrapes before but..." He trailed off, realising he did not want to finish that sentence. The Captain couldn't die, he just couldn't. "Let's not jump to any conclusions, okay? Simon knows what he's doing. Captain couldn't be in better hands."

"*Wo zhidao*."

He was surprised to see her eyes bright with unshed tears. Worry and concern drove the last vestiges of sleep from his eyes. "*Wei, bao bei* it's gonna be alright. Hush now, Zoe, Captain's strong. He'll pull through."

Zoe could not speak. Instead she buried herself into Wash's warm embrace and let him hold her while she silently cried. It was not often she lost control. They lay quietly for several more minutes, Wash talking softly to her, his gentle voice lulling her away from her dark unholy fears until she had regained her composure. At last she pulled back from him and looked him in the eye. He braced himself, knew that look. "I'm gonna go see how he is."

"Want company?"

She nodded. They dressed in silence and made their way to the infirmary. The Captain was still unconscious, River sitting in the chair next to the bed, her head on his chest fast asleep. For a moment it just looked like they were sleeping but the grey tinge to the Captain's face told a different story. As they stepped through the door they heard a sound and turned in time to see Simon get to his feet and rub his face with his hands. He had been sitting on a chair in the corner dozing. Zoe raised her brows in query. "You been here all night, doctor?"

"Um no, not all night. I got a few hours sleep but kept waking."

They lapsed into silence, none of them wanting to disturb the Captain or River. Zoe looked across the room to where Yen Mah lay. "How is she?" She whispered.

Simon trapped a sigh of sadness tinged with exasperation. "Medically there's no reason why she shouldn't wake up."

"Then why doesn't she?" Asked Wash.

"Could be any number of reasons."

"Pretend I'm a mushroom and feed me."

A little smile quirked the corner of Simon's lips. Wash always did have a knack for lightening an atmosphere. "You want me to feed you *goushi*?"

Wash laughed lightly, his gentle eyes becoming sombre as he thought about why he was there. Why they were *all* there. "No, just in Captain-dummy-talk."

Simon paused to sort out his thoughts, walking slowly over to where Yen Mah lay. Zoe had not moved, letting them talk among themselves, her eyes fastened on Mal's still face. Clinging to the tiny motions that showed he was still breathing. A quiet sound from the doorway behind her made her turn, Simon and Wash stopping their conversation in its' tracks. All eyes now on the doorway. Sheriff Martin Bowman looked rough, hair sticking out in all directions and his clothing dishevelled. Seems they weren't the only ones having trouble sleeping. Simon stepped away from the far bed and came back towards the doorway stopping just feet away and close to River and the Captain. Neither had stirred. The Sheriff's eyes were shadowed, his pock marked face looked bruised from lack of sleep. He could not hide the worried look in his eyes. "How's he doin'?"

This was a conversation Simon did not want to have. He was about to suggest they talk outside when Jayne, Pepper and Kaylee came up behind the Sheriff with the Shepherd in tow. He could now hear the sounds of other people moving about on the catwalk. Seemed the whole gorram ship was awake. No sense in putting it off any longer. "The transfusion enabled me to stabilise the Captain's condition but it's only really postponing the inevitable."

The Sheriff had gone white. Zoe gripped the bottom of the infirmary bed, her legs suddenly turning to jelly. "What you mean the inevitable, doctor?" Said the Sheriff. "He ain't gonna die, gorrammit."

Simon could feel the distress coming off the man in waves. Was oblivious to the sound of Kaylee crying softly or the appearance of the Sheriff's Deputies and Lenny Goss. More people were crowding in behind the Sheriff. The weight of their expectations was a heavy burden for Simon but as the ship's doctor it was his to bear. "I don't have the facilities. We need to get him to a hospital, Sheriff."

"But the transfusion..."

He nodded. "Was successful this time, but remember the Captain had already lost a lot of blood. Shock had set in and his leg doesn't look good. He would have to be a lot stronger before I could even think of operating. To do so now would be to hasten what that bullet started."

"Then we find a hospital, *dong ma*?" Ground out the Sheriff. Simon noticed he was swaying slightly.

Everyone exchanged mute looks. The only hospitals they would find out here would be Alliance ones. Simon's head turned at the unexpected sound of River's voice. She had not raised her head but was now awake, her eyes open but unfocused. Staring across Mal's chest at a blank wall. "Poison."

Simon thought he had misheard her. Everyone held their breath as he gave her an intent look. "River?"

At that exact moment the Sheriff collapsed, his eyes rolling up into the back of his head. Jayne swore. Deputy Andy Crowther ran towards him, an anxious look on his face. Simon knelt beside him and began to take the Sheriff's pulse. River turned her head and looked at them. No expression on her face. "Poison."

Zoe closed her eyes. Wash looked shocked. Little Kaylee put a hand over her mouth, her wide tear stained eyes unable to take it all in. Jayne peered over her shoulder and stared down at the Sheriff's inert form. "*Wode ma*, how'd the Sheriff get poisoned?"

It was River who answered. Her words matter of fact. "Such a small prick. He didn't notice."

Simon stared at her. "You know how this happened, *mei mei*?"

She nodded. Often his sister's abilities baffled him but he had learnt not to ignore them. This pronouncement though was more than a little creepifying. River blinked and the focus came slowly back into her eyes. "The ring. He was worried. Thought Mal would die when they were on the other ship. Squeezed his hand. To offer comfort. Reassurance." She looked sad and mildly amazed, her gaze drifting down to rest on the fallen Sheriff. "He thinks of him as another son. Friend too."

The doctor rose slowly and took a step towards her. "Are you saying the Sheriff was poisoned by Mal's ring?" River looked up and nodded. "It was an accident Simon but don't worry."

He looked exasperated. Had to resist the urge to yell at her. He was tired, worried and had not eaten properly in days. The combination of pressures mounting on him did not help. After all, he had only one pair of hands yet his patients were mounting. It would not be so bad if he did not feel so helpless about his ability to help them. Now this. "How can you tell me not to worry?"

Her smile unnerved him, seemed so gorram inappropriate until his ears caught up with what she was saying. "We have the antidote."

He stared at her completely nonplussed. "We do?"

His sister nodded. Simon thought about that. He did not like the look of the Sheriff. His skin was greying and clammy. Then he remembered the box they had found on Diamond Harry. As enlightenment dawned River nodded. "Not much time to choose, Simon. Pick the right one and he will live."

Simon did not need to ask her what she meant. An image of the little glass bottles a vivid picture in his mind. Deputy Crowther looked up at him, his face wreathed in near panic. Of all the Deputies he had been with the Sheriff the longest. Man was like a second father to them. *Diyu*, he seemed to pick up the lost, the abandoned and the dispossessed as if it was as natural as taking another breath. He was a good man and something inside Andy Crowther formed a hairline crack at the thought of losing him. "What did she mean?"

The doctor moved briskly to his small cold store which looked like nothing so much as a three foot high built in fridge. It matched the other units and looked like just another cupboard but was an important part of his infirmary. His hand shook a little as he took out the oblong box. As he turned he suddenly seemed to realise how crowded the place had become. He halted and stared at all the people. "I can't work with everyone in here."

Zoe took control and with Jayne's help ushered everybody out except the injured and those needed to tend them. It was surprisingly difficult to get rid of the Preacher. He still had his hands tied behind his back. Now she thought about it that was kind of a foolish precaution. Knowing what he now was should be censure enough only instinct warned her not to underestimate a man who could so casually betray them then expect to walk right back into their good graces. Her eyes narrowed as she beheld him, his look mild and calm. Far too controlled for her comfort but that was the Preacher. Always did have more control than was natural for a man.

"Let me stay. I can help."

"You've helped enough."

He shook his head. "*Ni bu dong*."

"Then why don't you help me understand? The truth would be a good place to start."

He gave a slow sad shake of his head. "We don't have time for this, or rather the Captain doesn't."

At mention of the Captain she bristled. Just outside the infirmary doorway Wash was hesitating. He knew he should get back to the bridge but wanted to make sure Zoe didn't need him for anything first. He did not like the way Zoe was squaring up to the Preacher, her body taut as a bow. The Preacher however looked as if they were doing nothing other than pleasantly passing the time. That was until a look of anguish crossed his face. It was brief but if they had been playing poker Wash would have said Book had just upped the stakes.

"You got somethin' to say best you just spit it out before I have your mouth taped shut."

While they spoke Simon knelt beside the Sheriff and opened the box then stared at the little row of five glass bottles, each with a rubber cap. The silver syringe was rather ornate for his tastes and was a slimline version of the disposable kind he favoured. The inference was that this was Diamond Harry's own personal supply. He had probably had the syringe made for him. Something he carried with him always. The reason why made Simon shudder with revulsion. His hand hovered over the box then suddenly River was beside him, calm and reassuring. She put her small hand over his and guided it to the bottle he needed. Second from the left. "The dosage is the syringe."


"The syringe, Simon. That's why it only has a short narrow body. It is made to carry the exact dose for the antidote. It has no other purpose."

"Are you saying Harry would not have used the syringe to inject poison in anyone?"

"He had no need."

He opened his mouth to ask her what she meant but River shook her head.

"No time, Simon. You have to help the Sheriff. Throat closing up, breathing laboured, heart will fail shortly."

He asked no more questions and did not hesitate again. She watched him insert the needle through the rubber cap then fill it with one complete measure of the anti-toxin. Carefully he injected the antidote directly into a vein. River smiled at him then went back to sit with the Captain. Simon looked up and caught Jayne's eye, the big man interrupted Zoe who went to the doorway and called for a couple of the Deputies hanging about outside to help carry the Sheriff to the spare passenger room. Andy Crowther looked concerned. "Are you sure it's okay to move him?"

Simon smiled gently. "Yes, he's been given the antidote. I suggest someone stay with him. He's likely to feel groggy and disorientated when he first wakes up."

The Deputy looked so grateful that Simon wanted to add an addedum that he didn't know if it would work but stopped himself. There was enough sorrow aboard this ship right now without borrowing more. Time to worry about it if that happened. In the meantime he had two other patients, neither one he could immediately do anything to help. He put the assassin's kit back in the cold store and turned, surprised to find himself facing Shepherd Book. Zoe stood next to him, an unreadable look on her face. Simon noticed the Shepherd's hands were now untied but he held them clasped before him, his body relaxed but his expression tense. If he had not known the recent history between them he would have said the Preacher looked concerned.

"The Captain isn't getting any better is he, doctor?"

Simon frowned. Annoyed and worried in equal measure. "Whose fault is that?"

"I didn't shoot him, doctor."

"You didn't help either."

"I am not here to argue."

"Then why are you here? Come to gloat?"

A flicker of surprise and hurt flashed across the Preacher's face then vanished. "I know you feel you have no reason to trust me but I do not want any harm to come to the Captain. In fact, I do not want harm to come to any of you. It would be counter productive."

"You have a funny way of showing your concern." Said Simon with a bite of sarcasm.

To his chargrin the Preacher responded with a smile and a brief light chuckle then became serious again. "You need the facilities of a hospital, not just any hospital but a military one with a good trauma unit."

The doctor's eyes narrowed but he was listening now. Hanging on to every word the Preacher said though he still did not trust him. "What do you have in mind?"

"I can provide access to both."

"Let me guess," Said Simon slowly, his mouth tight lipped, his eyes wary as if the Preacher was a snake and any sudden movement would cause him to strike. "All we have to do is hand overselves over to the Alliance?"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand *mei mei* = little sister *ai ren* = sweetheart *qu* = yes (lit. go) *bao bei* = precious/treasure *jide* = remember *nu haizi* = girl *wo zhidao* = I know *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wei* = hey *diyu* = hell *goushi* = crap/dogshit *wode ma* = mother of God *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *shenme* = what


Saturday, June 12, 2004 3:01 AM


Oh Alison, this is so great and so painful!

Each time I hope it's the "final installment", and each time I'm so glad it isn't.

Thank you so much for sharing this story with us :)

Saturday, June 12, 2004 7:30 AM


Oh my... the imagery, the sensations, the emotions slammed around and yet also caressed and guided... amazing and powerful. Soooo looking forward to more! Thanks!!

Sunday, June 13, 2004 1:52 PM


Oh Ali...this is torture and pleasure at once...your stories are so engrossing and beautiful...can't wait for next installment...

Monday, June 14, 2004 1:40 AM


Well, that's a whole handful of nails chewed off! I feel totally wrung out. One minute we're in the steamy, hot dreams - the next Mal's nearly dead, Bowman's poisoned and ... argh! Brain's shorted.

That was great!


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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.