BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

"All's Well"
Saturday, December 23, 2006

"Inara stumbles on a seemingly innocuous piece of information that throws the Captain into the kind of quandry his crew cannot help him with. Meanwhile the season of goodwill is getting closer and the crew have plans to make it the shiniest one yet."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2233    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "ALL'S WELL" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: K/S. All the crew plus OC. RATING: G. STATUS: Standalone Christmas story ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://unilelu.net/Alison/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "Inara stumbles on a seemingly innocuous piece of information that throws the Captain into the kind of quandry his crew cannot help him with. Meanwhile the season of goodwill is getting closer and the crew have plans to make it the shiniest one yet." 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.

"ALL'S WELL"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Inara Serra hadn't meant to be nosey but with the Captain so quiet and withdrawn she was unsettled. Perhaps if she had been thinking straight she might have respected his privacy and let it be but the recording was still active, just on pause. The logo flashing reminding her this was not a live feed so no one would know if she actually played it again. Checking to make sure Mal didn't catch her Inara carefully eased the door shut and went back to the console. Telling herself she was simply worried about the Captain, Inara hit the play button and watched as the odd little message played out. Short, succinct and more than a little baffling. Why should a recorded message about 'good news' upset the man so much?

The Companion longed to ask, to pry, to trick it out of Mal but knew it was not her place. If he wanted to tell her he would. Pausing the recording so that the image froze again on the logo Inara went to the door, listened for a moment, then eased it open again. It was late. Two in the am and most of the crew were sleeping. Not feeling up to making tea to settle her sleepiness in case she bumped into the Captain, Inara went back to her shuttle. She had some serious thinking to do.

* * * * *

Morning came to Serenity when the crew stirred, the need for sustenance bringing them from their bunks like a siren call. Wash yawned and smiled at his wife, they shared a brief kiss outside their bunk. "I'm just gonna check our course, *bao bei*. Save me some breakfast?"

"Always, *zhangfu*."

When Wash got to the bridge he wasn't surprised to see the Captain in his chair. The man didn't speak, just gave his pilot a nod and got up. As Wash dropped into his seat he noticed they were no longer heading towards Demeter. He looked up at the Captain in surprise unable to hide his disappointment. "We're not goin' to Demeter?"

Mal shook his head, his look unreadable. "Change of plan."

Wash checked their new course and raised his eyebrows.

"No need to be speakin' on it, Wash. A simple stop-by then we'll be on our merry, *dong ma*?"

The pilot had a million questions but one look at the Captain's closed expression was enough. Discretion being the better part of valour, he just nodded. A slight easing of tension told Wash he had done the right thing. As the Captain left Wash frowned again at their new destination. Why in the nine hells would the Captain be so up-tight about stopping off on Shadow? Sure it was Mal's home world but the war was over and it was, after all, his home. And why in the nine hells did he not want the rest of the crew to know? Wouldn't landing there blow that plan out of the water? Wash sighed then pushed the brief worry out of his mind. If Mal wanted to be all mysterious that was up to him, Wash had bigger things on his mind. Like what to buy Zoe when they reached Demeter. It would be their first Christmas planet-side in a dragon's-age, or as close to a dragon's-age as Wash could determine and he was going to make the most of it.

* * * * *

It was as breakfast came to an end and Simon got up to collect the plates, Kaylee automatically rising to help him even though it wasn't her turn. The Captain cleared his throat softly, the tentativeness of his action making the crew pause. Inara was watching him like a hawk but that was nothing new. Woman was all manner of perceptive, he was just happy she was no mind reader. Speaking of which River was giving him a look too, only this one he could easily discern even if he didn't want her gorram sympathy. Luckily for him she didn't say a word.

"Our arrival at Demeter is gonna be a mite delayed." The Captain took a moment before continuing. "First need a brief stop off then we'll be continuing. Shouldn't be more'n a few hours outta our way."

Kaylee was curious. "Where we stoppin', Cap'n?"

"There is no *we* Kaylee, just got an errand to run is all."

Shepherd Book noticed the Captain seemed ill at ease and a mite pale if he was any judge. "What errand is that, Cap'n?"

"One that don't need to concern this crew."

*Diyu*, Mal, if it delays me getting sexed it concerns this crew plenty." The Captain scowled. "Jayne! I'm sure there's somethin' you should be doin' right now. Best be doin' it."

"Aw but Mal...."

"Don't be mistakin' that for a suggestion, Jayne. Ain't in no mood to argue."

The big man scowled but didn't completely back down. After all he had plans too. "Gorramit Mal, told my ma we was settin' down on Demeter."

Everybody stared at the mercenary. The Captain blinked and recovered first. "An' so we will, just be a few hours out of our way is all. Not nothin' to be fussin' over, *dong ma*?"

The Captain left before anyone could question him further. Watching the Captain's retreating back, Zoe couldn't help feeling a faint sense of foreboding. "Who's fussin'?" She murmured softly to herself.

Kaylee turned to Jayne. "Why you so upset at a few hours delay Jayne? Ya know the whores'll wait."

The big man grinned at her, the thought of getting some trim wiping the not happy off his face. "Ain't that, just my ma'll send somethin'."

That made Wash look up. "Your mother sent you a Christmas present?"

Jayne frowned, his mood darkening. "Least I got a mother. Don't know what itty bit scrap of nothin' spawned you."

"Jayne, I can make this the last Christmas you'll ever know."

He flashed an annoyed look at Zoe, always sticking up for her husband as if the pilot wasn't man enough to fight his own battles. "Then he should stop flappin' his mouth about my ma."

Wash was about to say something in his own defence when he felt the ship slow down. Immediately the dischord vanished, Wash jumped up and went to the bridge with Zoe right behind him. Simon looked puzzled. "What do you suppose has the Captain so wound up?"

"He don't need a reason." Jayne grumbled.

"Ghosts." River murmured, a far off look in her eyes.

"You know, *mei mei*?"

River didn't look at her brother but her tone was sad. "Not what it should be, too much confusion distorted by time."

Simon blinked. The Shepherd looked thoughtful as he rose to his feet. "Well, I'm sure whatever the Captain's business is he'll take care of it." He paused and sized up the lingering crew, already planning ahead. "As for the rest of us I think this delay just bought us a little more time."

"What do mean?" Asked Inara.

The man smiled, his eyes twinkling. "It means we get to finish off those decorations River and Kaylee have been making for Serenity."

"That was supposed to be a surprise!" Cried Kaylee. Simon patted her hand. River just beamed.

"The more hands the merrier. Also, we need the distraction."

Book stared at River. "We do?"

The girl nodded but was not looking at him any more. Her eyes on the empty doorway, her thoughts a world away and counting. Before Simon could ask if she was feeling alright, River turned a bright smile on them. "If it never rained the sun wouldn't bring so much joy." River caught hold of Kaylee's hand. "We don't have umbrellas but we do have tinsel."

* * * * *

Shadow. Zoe stared, the past looking her in the eye and making her breath catch. Wash wasn't sure what was going on with the Captain but anything that had Mal this tense tending to have a knock on effect on his wife. The first mate was brought out of her reverie by the Captain moving away from the console, every line in his body radiating a tightly constrained tension. "Hold her steady 'til I get back, Wash."

"*Shenme*? We aren't landin'?"

"I'm takin' the spare shuttle down. She prepped an' fueled?"

Wash nodded. It was something they always did, more precaution than need. "Would be quicker to take Serenity..."

"*Bu qu*!" The Captain paused and made himself calm down. Hadn't meant to snap at Wash. "No, *xie xie*."

"Cap'n's right." Said Zoe. "I'll come with you, sir."

"Ain't no need..."

She cut him off before the protesting could start in earnest. "*Wo xiangzou, bu xiang dai zai sher*."

That quiet assertion shut him up but good. With a curt nod Mal turned and stomped off the bridge. Zoe lingered only long enough to give Wash a kiss. His worried face scanned hers for clues. "Zoe? What the *diyu* is goin' on with the Cap'n?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* but I aim to find out."

"Just be careful, okay?"

"We'll be back before you know it, *zhangfu*."

Wash didn't say anything, just kept his eyes glued to the console monitoring their progress as the Captain fired up the shuttle then lifted off from Serenity. "Yeah, what could go wrong?" The pilot muttered softly. He hoped those words would not come back to haunt him.

* * * * *

Simon couldn't believe what he was seeing. Every spare inch of his and River's quarters were covered in bits of coloured paper, tin foil and buttons. The paper coloured and folded into shapes that somehow interlocked one with the other into a great long multicoloured chain. In awe the doctor reached out to examine the chain closer and laughed. Not getting the joke Jayne pushed him to one side with his shoulder, trying to see what was so gorram funny. When he did the big man turned to gaze at River as if she was a newly discovered lifeform.

"River, these are beautiful!" Gushed Simon quietly.

"I coloured 'em." Said Kaylee proudly.

"And you did an excellent job."

"*Mei mei*, how did you do this?" Inara asked, noting that each folded figure looked uncannily like a member of Serenity's crew.

"Origami. The ancient art of paper folding."

"I didn't mean the actual figures - though they are perfect - I meant, how did you join them all together to make a chain?"

River grinned at the Companion then leaned close enough to whisper. As River drew back again, her eyes were shining. "Secret, can't tell."

Inara nodded. She wouldn't let on that River had used glue. In the genius girl's eyes that would be cheating but the bond had to be strong enough to allow the chain to be hung around the ship without breaking. Shepherd Book had been looking closely at the figures, identifying them one by one until he came to a figure that made no sense to him. He looked up and found River staring back at him. The others were helping Kaylee gather up the tinsel and foil and other bits of precious ready to start adding the trim to the boat.

"Who is this?"

"Someone who isn't but should be."

"Isn't what?" Book asked.

But River wasn't ready to tell. Contrary to what the others might think she was not omniscient. Always had to be aware of the variables, the chance for some random factor to throw off her calculations. "The future isn't born any more than the past is, there is only now. Everything else is a matter of perspective."

"River, you didn't answer my question."

The girl blinked. "You aren't helping."

The Shepherd began to frown but River shook her head and pointed to the other end of the chain.

"Have to carry it carefully or it will break."

Realising he would not get any more out of her until she was ready the Shepherd admitted defeat by picking up the other end of the chain and helping her to carry it out of her room to decorate the ship.

* * * * *

The descent was pretty much made in silence. The Captain brooding while Zoe was lost in thought. Whatever was wrong she could not figure it. Had hoped Mal would open up once it was just the two of them. If anything the man had become even more closed off than before. They were coming in to land now. The ground still blackened and pretty much desolate though as they got closer she could see some hardy greenery trying to reclaim life from the grave of the dead.

The Captain set the shuttle down and just sat there. Zoe looked over at him. "You gonna tell me now what this is all about?"

Her words seemed to haul him back to the Here and Now. "Got a wave."

If she was surprised, Zoe hid it well. "Who from?"

Mal whet his lips. "Lucius Tanner."

She blinked. That name. This place. Her surprise was amplified with shock. "Tanner sent the wave?" Mal nodded. Her mind was racing, trying to fit in puzzle pieces that had no right being in the same gorram box. "*Weishenme*?"

The Captain was out of his seat and bracing himself. "That's what I'm here to find out." As Zoe started to follow him, the Captain paused and looked at her. "Want you to stay with the ship. This shouldn't take long."

"Don't always get what we want, sir. War taught us that."

Her look told him she wasn't staying behind and in truth he didn't really think he could do this alone. But still. If this all went to *diyu* he didn't want his oldest friend caught up in his mess. "Zoe..."

"Clock's tickin' sir, best we get a move on."

For a long minute neither spoke. Years of knowing each other exchanged in that look. The Captain nodded then turned and opened the door, the wind on the ground flapping his brown coat against his legs and stirring his hair. At first there was little to see, memories flooding his mind and filling in all manner of blanks. The detail crowding in on him and like to smother the beating of his heart with pain and loss and bitter regret.

* * * * *

Back on Serenity, Kaylee decided it was time to spice things up a bit. Folk were too solemn faced and sombre for her liking. Quickly she excused herself, leaving Simon to help Jayne hang the longest section of chain so that it was draped in waves around the railings on the walkway. Shepherd Book was helping River with the tin foil, carefully cutting it as thinly as he could to make into tinsel. Inara had brought out some things from her shuttle, bright coloured throw cloths to drape over the chairs in the commons room. Within minutes Kaylee was back with a tray, Jayne's head jerking up and almost causing Simon to lose his balance on the chair where he was reaching up to tie his end of the streamer. "Jayne, will you watch what you're doing?"

Jayne ignored the doctor. "That alcohol?"

Kaylee nodded, her face flushed and smiling. "Yep, made it up special."

The mugs were passed around and all work stopped as they took a few mouthfuls. Simon's eyes widened and he coughed, his eyes smarting. River helpfully slapped him on his back almost finishing off what the inter-engine brew had started. Jayne grinned and finished his with a smack of his lips, his eyes flicking around looking for more. Kaylee shook her head and laughed.

"Uh uh, you want more ya gotta finish the decoratin'."

Jumping up, the mercenary dragged Simon up as well and pushed him towards the chair he had been standing on earlier. "What are you doing?"

"Ya heard, we don't get another drink 'til we finish."

Simon looked relieved. "Thank God for small mercies." Seeing the look on the Shepherd's face he began to back peddle. "No offence intended..."

"None taken, son." "Ya sayin' ya don't like my brew, Simon?"

The doctor began to splutter, trying to find a way out that wouldn't leave the mechanic mad at him. Fortunately Inara came to his rescue. "I'm sure Simon will enjoy a cup when he doesn't have to rush it down, Kaylee. Something this fine needs to be sipped and savoured."

The mechanic beamed at Inara. "*Zhen de ma*? Ya ain't just sayin' that?"

"*Mei mei*, it's as good as anything made in the Core. It's just a little 'fresh'."

"*Diyu*, he don't want it I'll have it." Offered Jayne.

Kaylee slapped the big man's hand away as he reached for Simon's mug. "*Wei*, that's Simon's!"

Wash didn't say anything. Staring down into his mug he wondered if the loss of voice would be permanent.

* * * * *

The Captain stared open mouthed, his gun forgotten. The past returning with a rush, blood roaring in his ears. Unable to move, to speak, he had difficulty processing the evidence of his eyes. Not so the object of his attention.

Before he could react, she raised her gun and fired in time with the words spat out at him like bullets from a rail gun. "*Wode ma*, I thought you was dead!"

Zoe came running just as Mal's back hit the side of the shuttle, his body slumping as he crumpled, eyes glazing over in pain. He wanted to speak. To ask her how the good gorram this could be happening when a second shot rang out and pinged the side of the ship barely an inch from his head. The woman took a step towards the downed Captain, Mal barely conscious now. Her gun unwavering as she adjusted her aim to finish him off.

"Don't!" Zoe's warning came hard and deadly, her mare's leg cocked to fire. "I'm not averse to puttin' a bullet through what passes as your brain."

The woman laughed, turning her attention from Mal to Zoe, her look hardening. "Zoe! Why am I not surprised?"

The first mate frowned. "Thought you was dead."

"Hoped you mean."

Zoe shook her head, lips compressed into a thin line. "I know what I meant. Was told everybody left on Shadow was dead."

The woman seemed to come out of whatever madness had taken her. Blinking slowly she took in the scene before her and began to lower her gun. "*Tian Yesu*, we was told the same about you an' Mal. Been near crazy with grief."

Both women stared in horror at each other as an unwelcome truth dawned. Dropping her gun, the woman took a step towards the fallen Captain. Only when her hand actually reached out and felt the solid form of the body now slumped unconscious at her feet did reality rock what was left of her sanity close to breaking. Tears glimmered in her eyes, a shaky hand brushing the hair from Malcolm Reynolds face. Recognition was as bitter in her mind as poison on the tongue. Ignoring Zoe, the woman wrapped her arms around the Captain and hugged him to her breast, tears rolling freely down her face as the years rolled back.

Shaken, Zoe took a moment to compose herself before activating the com. "Wash, you there?"

There was no reply. Zoe tried again but silence was all that echoed back. With a frown she put the com in her pocket and knelt on the other side of the Captain. After taking a moment to check he was still breathing, Zoe shook the woman's shoulder. As she raised her head Zoe nodded to the shuttle. "Best we get Mal back to the ship."

"He'll bleed out..."

"No, ma'am, not if we move now. Got a shiny doctor on Serenity." The woman seemed stunned at the name of the ship, her aging face lined with hard living and a terrible loneliness that not even the Black could fill. She swallowed as if razor blades lined her throat. "I thought it was a trick." Somehow she managed to swallow passed the pain in her heart. Her eyes flicking back to the Captain's face, her hand gently cupping the unconscious man's cheek before she bent to kiss his cheek. Her touch gentle, her eyes haunted with guilt. "They told me he was dead." She whispered.

Zoe managed to coax the woman to her feet and between them they manhandled the Captain on to the shuttle. Laying her friend and Captain out on the floor, Zoe quickly secured the door and got ready to lift off. There had been no sign of Lucius Tanner. Eyes narrowing, Zoe vowed to put a bullet between that man's eyes the next time she saw him. A word of warning to Mal and all this could have been avoided but knowing the warped humour of that *tamade hundan* he was probably watching from a safe distance.

* * * * *

Things had merried up something fiercesome after the second or third mug of Kaylee's brew. Even the hangings that weren't quite straight looked real shiny. Only Book and Jayne seeming to hold their liquor. The Preacher because he drank little and sparingly, Jayne because he drank deep and was used to it. Everyone else was the worse for wear. Kaylee giggled and pulled Simon closer. She loved the way he loosened up, his inhibitions melting away under the goodly effects of alcohol. For that alone Kaylee would be forever grateful.

"You're, you're shiny!" Simon managed, words vacating his mind at a shocking rate, leaving him to grope with whatever he could bring to mind.

Kaylee smiled and rubbed up against him, the two of them slumped on the couch oblivious to everything and everyone. "I think you're shiny too."

Simon opened his mouth to say something then froze, slowly he frowned, confused. He was going to say something, wasn't he? Kaylee chuckled and leaned closer, her breath in his face warming him more than the alcohol. Her kiss was sweet, intoxicating. Why had he ever thought this was a bad idea? Simon leaned into it, his arms wrapping round the mechanic. Wash blinked at them and shook his head then groaned and closed his eyes. Bad idea. The sound of approaching footsteps did not stir him. River was in a tangle of drunken limbs at his feet. She had passed out mumbling something about getting ready. Wash had no idea what for but assumed she meant Christmas. Jayne raised his mug and wished her a Merry Christmas then lamented the bottom of his mug as his tongue chased the last sip of brew.

"Shepherd, ya reckon there's another bottle?"

The Shepherd looked around at the ruin that was Serenity's crew and hoped they wouldn't need to do anything in a hurry. He knew he should have said something but they needed this and he didn't think it would do any harm. But more alcohol? No, he didn't think they needed that. Getting to his feet, Book made his way towards the kitchen area. "I think I'll make a nice hot pot of coffee. I'm thinkin' the stronger the better."

As Book filled the kettle and put it on to boil, rapid steps and a sharp angry voice made his head snap round. The unamused expression on Zoe's face would have sobered him had he been drunk, as it was being sober did nothing to mitigate his feelings of guilt at the state of the crew.

"What the good gorram's been goin' on?"

Jayne grinned from the armchair he was settled in. "Just celebratin' while we dressed up the ship. Ya missed a good party."

If anything the first mate looked even more furious than before. Realising something was very wrong Book walked towards Zoe, his expression now serious and concerned. "What happened?"

"I was lookin' for the doc..."

Book caught his breath. "I'm takin' it someone is injured?"

"The Cap'n."

"I thought Shadow was a dead world?"

Grimly Zoe nodded. "It was. The planet didn't do this."

"Let me see what I can do."

Zoe stared at him. "No offence Shepherd but I hope the Cap'n doesn't need your services. Where's Simon?"

"Simon's a little worse for wear. Believe me, mine would be the steadier hand right now."

For a moment neither spoke, Zoe's look as coldly furious as Book had ever seen. Then, like it had never been there, the look vanished and only concern remained. Turning, Zoe hurried to the infirmary. Book hesitated as he entered, wondering who the woman fussing over the Captain was. But there was no time for curiosity, a man's life might hang in the balance and with Simon being too drunk to be of much use it fell to him to do what he could to aid their fallen Captain. Book checked the injury, noting the bullet had missed the Captain's heart by four or five inches. Quickly he scrubbed up and by the time he was ready to get to work Zoe had laid out the instruments for him. Book paused and looked at the woman hanging on to the Captain's hand, the other trembling as she touched his cool cheek. Eyes a-brim with tears, the weather worn face ready to crumple.

"Ma'am, you need to wait outside."

Book was surprised when the grief sticken face hardened, eyes glittering icy blue and with no give in them. "I'm stayin' with my son."

Shocked, Book glanced at Zoe but her face gave nothing away. Instead she merely handed him the first instrument. With a sigh the Shepherd began to clean up the wound so he could ascertain whether the bullet had gone right through or was still lodged in the Captain's body. As he worked the woman seemed to pull herself together.

* * * * *

Kaylee was shocked and beside herself with guilt. Inara handed her the hangover cure and stopped her talking until she had emptied the glass. Simon and River were sleeping it off in their quarters while Wash was throwing up and looking greener every time Inara went to check on him. Only Jayne did not seem worried. When Kaylee asked him if he was concerned about the Captain, the man looked surprised. "*Weishenme*? Ain't like he ain't been shot before."

"Jayne!" Kaylee wailed. "Cap'n almost died!"

"Almost ain't dead."

And that was all the sense she could get out of him. Once the operation was over and Book declared the Captain was poorly but out of the woods, the crew gathered in the commons room. Simon wanted to apologise, to make things right with Zoe but she waved his efforts to one side. "Not your fault Simon though I was mad as *diyu* at you. Didn't help that I couldn't raise Wash on the com..." Her husband hung his head and contemplated ritual suicide. Zoe sighed and touched Wash's hand, the look on his face as he gazed into her eyes melted the last of her anger. She knew it had not been intentional and it was not as if any of them had expected any trouble with the brief stop on Shadow. But Zoe remembered her own misgivings and knew she should have acted on it. Done something to stop Mal from going to that doom laden planet they used to call home. But then the only bit of good to come out of it would have been lost and for that she could not find it in her heart to be sorry. High as the cost had been.

Zoe brought them up to speed, Kaylee gasping when the first mate described how the Captain's mother had shot him. Jayne grinned then frowned when Book shot him a look of censure. "What? I didn't gorram shoot him. Just think it's a mite funny is all."

His words were interrupted by an unfamiliar voice. It cracked through the air, thin as a whip but with strength still behind each word. "Would you still be laughin' Jayne Cobb if my son had died?"

No one knew what to say. How to defuse this. As the silence stretched, Jayne spoke up. Please or offend it wasn't his fault and he wasn't gonna act like a whipped pup not when the person responsible was standing there glowering at him like some *goushi buru* piece of trash. "*Wei*, I ain't the one who shot my own kith an' kin so don't ya be tryin' to blame others for what ya done. Still don't know what ya wanted to kill Mal for."

The stern facade began to crumble, but then the anger just seeped out of her. In that moment she looked every one of her 65 years. "*Duibuqi*, Jayne, you're right. I got no call to be testy with any of you." Shepherd Book pulled a chair out and motioned for her to sit down. "*Xie xie ni*, Shepherd. And thanks also for all you've done for my son." She paused and licked her lips. "I see my boy's surrounded himself with a good crew and for that I'm thankful."

Inara poured a cup of tea and set it before the woman. The only one not in the room was Simon. Even though Book had assured him that the Captain was going to be fine the doctor had insisted on making sure. Book knew that part of it was guilt for not being there when the man needed him, but it was also because Simon was an exceptional doctor. He would not be satisfied unless everything that could be done was being done. Shepherd Book was man enough to admit to himself that he was more than a mite relieved to hand that duty over to one far better qualified than he was. Book decided the time for plain talking had come. "Do you feel up to telling us what happened?"

Mrs Reynolds took a moment to gather her thoughts then told them everything. From the day Mal had signed up with the Independents taking Zoe with him, to the day the terrible news of the surrender at Serenity Valley. The people of Shadow had thought they had seen the worst but they were wrong because the Alliance was as vindictive and petty in victory as they had been at the height of the war itself. Every world that had marshalled support against them was attacked. The major cities reduced to rubble. The fields razed to the ground. Stock slaughtered, people rounded up and put in internment camps off-world. Some taken to Alliance *jianyu* to be shown the error of their ways. A euphemism for torture. The worst of the reprisals happened to only a few worlds one of which was Shadow. Every Independent soldier that hailed from that once green and verdant Rim world had been exiled, warned that any attempt to return would result in warrants for their arrest before summary execution as enemies of the Alliance.

By the time Mrs Reynolds had finished Jayne was burning with anger. Not that he had fought in the war his own self, it was the unfairness of it all that hurt him. Seeing in Mal's mother the kindly face of his own. A woman he would crawl over broken glass for. Heads turned as Simon joined them. He looked weary but content. "He's sleeping."

"My son gonna be alright?"

Simon smiled at the Captain's mother. "*Qu*, all he needs now is rest and to let his body heal."

Inara looked from face to face before speaking. "What happens now?"

Zoe gave a little smile. "Now we get ready for Demeter."

"We still goin'?" Asked Kaylee tentatively. She sounded as if she expected to be punished for getting most of the crew drunk when her Captain needed them.

"Absolutely! Cap'n's orders."

Everyone visibly brightened. Mrs Reynolds watched Zoe's face and knew what the others didn't. That her son had yet to regain consciousness. Seeing the way the others had perked up though she couldn't find fault with the first mate's logic especially when it was later explained to her that this had been the Captain's original plan.

* * * * *

Demeter was not a core planet but it had plenty of trade from other planets so was abustle with busy shops and market stalls. All the pretties Kaylee and River could long for as well as some decent restaurants and book shops for Simon to enjoy. Jayne spent most of his coin working off pent up energy, saving just enough to fill his shopping list. Zoe and Wash convinced Mal's mother to accompany them to the market, convincing her that the best way to make things up to the Captain was for everyone to make this the shiniest Christmas ever.

By the time Christmas Eve came the Captain was conscious, sitting up and well on the way to recovering from the shock of finding his mother still alive. The being shot part was not so shiny. Simon hovered and fussed the moment his eyes opened but Mal forgave him. There was something very reassuring in knowing he was in such good hands. Boy might be as picky as anything but when it came to medicine there wasn't a doctor on any world in the Rim or the Core that he trusted more. Not that Mal intended to tell him. If Top Three Per Cent couldn't figure it out who was he to enlighten the man?

Christmas Day at last dawned, the crew gathering in a highly decorated commons room. Mrs Reynolds and Kaylee weighing the table down with more food than the crew had seen in years. The Captain was sitting in his rightful place, the crew happy to see him where he belonged. It felt right. Like nornal was just around the gorram corner. Mal hated being waited on but the doctor was adamant. If he wanted to join in with everyone else he had to follow doctor's orders, so there he sat like some gorram King being waited on hand and foot. The grumbling faded away though when his mother came and sat beside him, holding his hand and looking at him with so much love and pride that he couldn't speak for emotion. Looking down the table he caught Inara looking at him and smiled.

Then came the gifts. Silly and fun, serious and baffling. Didn't matter, each one was greeted with laughter and applause until the only ones left to be opened were from Jayne. When the Captain hesitated to open his mis-shaped parcel, River tilted her head and gave him a happy little smile. "Won't bite but it'll keep you warm."

Jayne scowled. "Gorramit girl, shut your pie hole an' don't spoil the surprise!"

The others laughed then everyone was tearing their presents open at the same time. Groans, sighs and laughter errupted as they looked at each other. Jayne beamed and put his orange hat on his head, looking proud enough to bust.

"Go on, put 'em on!"

With a sigh Simon stared at the ugly blue and grey knitted hat. Everyone had different colour combinations but Simon thought all of them were ugly but then he looked up and saw how happy Jayne was. How much it meant to him that his mother had wanted to do something shiny for the crew. Kaylee caught his eye and grinned, her own hat pulled on to her head, the yellow and orange suiting her sunny disposition. Laughing Simon shrugged and put his on. Soon everyone was wearing a hat except for the Captain's mother. Frowning Jayne took his off and held it out over the table. "Gotta wear a hat." He mumbled.

Instead of laughing at him, Mrs Reynolds gave him a beautfiul smile. "Be honoured to, Jayne. That's a right gentlemanly thing of you do to, *xie xie ni*."

Jayne beamed, the Captain inwardly groaned, then River clapped her hands and announced there would be dancing. For once Mal was glad to be under doctor's orders. As everyone began to clear things away and get ready to make merry, Mrs Reynolds took the opportunity to spend some time with her son. They talked long into the night, the sounds of merry making becoming more muted as people got too tired to dance and too sleepy to stay awake. At last the ship fell silent, just the low hum of the lights and the engine idling thrumming through the deck plates. Mal looked at his mother for a long time, their eyes locked on one another as if the moment they looked away the other would disappear.

"What I gotta do to convince you to stay?"

His mother laughed lightly and kissed her son's cheek. "Oh Mal, not nothin' gonna make me leave you now."

He raised his eyebrows. "What about Shadow? Your home..."

She placed a gentle hand over his heart, such love in her eyes that he was speechless. "My home is here." She said softly. "Besides, Mal, I hear tell you are in sore need of a cook."

Laughing he kissed her hands, the light from the candles illuminating his face and letting the happy shine through. "Just so long as you're the cook, *dong ma*?"

"*Wo dong*, son. You wanna know somethin' *shenjingbing*?"

Eyes twinkling Mal nodded. "*Shenme*?"

"I think this is my best Christmas ever!"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband *dong ma* = understand? *dui* = correct *mei mei* = little sister *shenme* = what *diyu* = hell *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *xie xie* = thanks *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *wo xiangzou, bu xiang dai zai sher* = I'd rather go than stay here *wei* = hey! *weishenme* = why? *zhen de ma* = really? *wode ma* = mother of God *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit/lowest of the low *duibuqi* = sorry *xie xie ni* = thank you *jianyu* = prison *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wo dong* = I understand *shenjingbing* = crazy

COMMENTS

Saturday, December 23, 2006 2:19 PM

EMPIREX


Awwww... It ended too soon! Is this the start of something longer? I hope so!

Saturday, December 23, 2006 4:43 PM

TAMSIBLING


Sweet! So are we going to get to see a shiny fic with Mal's mama? I think that could be all manner of interesting ... especially if she doesn't like Inara, perhaps?

This was great and very warm and fluffy for the holidays! I loved Simon getting drunk and kissing Kaylee and wondering why he'd considered it a bad idea!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006 2:09 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Hmm...I would lay bets more along the lines of Mrs. Reynolds (is she gonna get a first name, AMDOBELL? -- BEB) liking Inara fine...but not seeing her as the right kind of person for her son;)

Definitely gotta say I loved this fic mighty strongly, AMDOBELL...though Mal getting shot - and by his own mother, natch! - was a tad startling. Guess seeing a tale where Mal's mother is alive and willing to leave her home (Shadow or somewhere else) is a brilliant change of pace;D

BEB

Thursday, November 10, 2011 10:45 PM

SHINYZOEKAYLEE


AWWWWWWWWW this was so sweet and shiny!!!! Makes me want more though;);););)) great job! I loved Mals mamaXDXDXDXD and drunk Simon of course, who doesn't adore drunk Simon?XDXD<3


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