HEAVEN AND HELL: 45. "Cry Baby"
Saturday, July 24, 2004

"Shepherd Book tries to stabilise the Captain so he can help Inara. River orchestrates her plan. Meanwhile Jayne loses himself to his greatest fear."



SUMMARY: "Shepherd Book tries to stabilise the Captain so he can help Inara. River orchestrates her plan. Meanwhile Jayne loses himself to his greatest fear." 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

* * * * *

Shepherd Book looked down at the Captain. Knew that if he delayed it could cost the man his life. He was kneeling beside the prone body, his loyalties stretched, his options choking him like a gorram noose. It was weird how images from the past kept bubbling up in his mind and blurring his vision of the Here and Now. He knew what the Captain would say if he could hear his thoughts. The Captain. Was there ever a more *wangu chunren* in the whole 'verse? Yet he found himself drawn to the man, as he had from that first day on board Serenity. It had made him falter in his resolve knowing he could not afford to become attached to any of them. He had come for River Tam. Not her brother. Not the Companion. Made no difference whether she was guilty or innocent. No other member of Serenity's crew had the hold over him that she did. Even though he had to bolster his mental defences, keep his mind shut tight and sealed around her so the adaptive little genius could not bypass the mental security that kept him sane. One glimpse into his mind and her truth could kill him. Not in the physical sense but worse. Oh yes. Far worse.

He stared down at the man whose life's pulse was throbbing slowly and erratically beneath his thumb and forefinger. Silently he counted off the seconds of his life. Mentally charting the progression of the poison now in his bloodstream. Reluctant still to leave the Mother of Sorrows to her fate. Deserved it most likely was but who was he to speak or condemn? He who had caused whole worlds to turn to dust? All for a dream that was tainted. A glimpse into madness that he had once called a sacred quest. He closed his eyes, his fingers still clasped around the Captain's wrist. The twisted but seductive philosophy of Shan Yu but one temptation in a life riven with the discourse of angels and demons. That the demons had won was no surprise. That the angels forgave him was.

*One day you're gonna have to tell me what you did before you became a Preacher*

Yes, Captain. One day. Perhaps tomorrow only tomorrow never comes, does it? He sighed and felt the sluggish tide of slowing blood between his fingers jolt him to awareness, eyes snapping open with guilty realisation. The Captain was slipping further away. Alarmed he took the phial out of his pocket and gazed at it, trying to fathom whether giving it to him now would buy sufficient time for him to execute the desperate action that could save two errant souls. He rose and quickly hunted for the Companion's first aid box. Once located he rumaged through it until he located a disposable syringe. He ripped the sterilised packaging off with his teeth and filled it from the phial hoping that it was not possible to do more harm than good. Too late to estimate the correct dosage. Hadn't Inara said it would make him sick? Evacuate most of the poison from his failing body? He hoped it would be enough.

* * * * *

Simon Tam watched his sister assemble a chemical cocktail that made his head spin. Her hands almost a constant blur of motion but without the slightest hesitation as she measured and mixed. No one spoke. There was just himself, River, Zoe, Ty and Deputy Andy Crowther. The Sheriff and Yen Mah were in the commons area and the rest of the deputies were busy checking the store of weapons and making sure that all the guns were clean and loaded. What they thought was going to happen was beyond Simon. River said they were going to prevent Armaggedon. Looking at her work he had to wonder whether they were not simply doing the Devil's job for him. Wash had gone back to the bridge to keep an eye on Hera and scan for any possible surprises. The last thing they needed was to come face to face with any Alliance vessels or - God forbid - any Reavers. Not that the latter was likely but it did not hurt to keep a wary eye.

"River, are you sure this is going to work?"

She answered without looking up. "Weather patterns can be created, those that are can be changed."

He nodded, she was right but somehow that was no reassurance to him. Zoe watched the exchange, her expression even more solemn that usual. "What about Jayne?"

River stopped and the sudden cessation of movement felt creepifying to Simon though he was not sure why. Surely he should have been reassured? But then nothing was simple where his sister was concerned. Just look at who she had decided to bond with. Yet he could not deny the genuine love he saw between her and the Captain. He wondered how Mal would react to becoming a father. Hot on the heels of that thought was the sobering hope that they would all survive to find out. "The guns won't be needed."

To give Zoe her due she did not blink. "An' Jayne?"

"Change can be good."

Everyone looked confused. River seemed to feel she had got the mix right, gave a happy little smile then the smile vanished. No clue in her eyes to what she was thinking. Her voice sounded abstract. "It can also be a bad thing."

"River," Zoe began only to be cut off by the genius.

"No time. Actions speak louder than words."

Ty looked nervous. "What are we gonna do?"

She gave him a brilliant smile. "God washed the world clean with a flood but he had Noah make the ark first. Saved the animals two by two, not hands of blue. Each after his kind."

"River, I don't think..."

She shook her head to cut her brother off. "*Ni bu dong* Simon but you will."

Tyrone Garvin licked his lips. "So you're finished now?"

"*Bu qu* but we're ready." River tried to pick up the drum but it was too heavy. Andy Crowther moved over to help. Ty gently pulled River to one side then lifted the drum with Andy. She smiled at them in thanks.

"Where are we takin' this?" Asked Andy.

"Cargo bay. We'll use the crybaby."

"River you can't, it's not made to hold liquids."

"Won't be liquid for long." Said River brightly, skipping out of the infirmary with a baffled group of people slowly following. Zoe looked like she wanted to be anywhere but near the drum and its' contents but knew if it all blew up in their faces there would be nowhere safe to hide.

* * * * *

Sheriff Bowman sat with Yen Mah on the couch in the commons area, his hands holding hers as she seemed to drift in trance. Or maybe she was sleeping? Peter Bailey did not know but one look around the door was enough to send him back out again. It was all too weird for him to process. All he knew was that it looked like they would have some hard fighting ahead of them and he couldn't wait. All this hanging around while the creepy girl just got creepier was not helping. He wanted this done and dusted so they could all go home. Wanted nothing more than to hug his wife and devour every piece of pie that came out of the oven even if it took the roof off his mouth when he did it. Normal was not boring. Normal was the only thing he wanted in this twisted 'verse. Adventures and such only being thrilling and exciting to him in hindsight. He huffed then rejoined the others in the cargo bay, every weapon on the ship a gleaming example of their industry.

So it was he saw Ty and Andy carefully carry the heavy barrel. Full of curiosity he made himself hold back, not wanting to find out the hard way that the volatile contents had somehow splashed on him and made him sterile. He was not a learned man but there had been rumours. Mostly from the pilot warning his wife not to get too close to any of River's experiments. Such comments did not inspire confidence.

At River's direction they carefully manhandled the contents into the crybaby after ripping out the original wiring and contents to make room. It was an ugly marriage but then no one was expecting a virgin bride. Once satisfied that the contents would not spill out prematurely River carefully rigged it with a release mechanism then had it placed it in the airlock and danced off to the bridge to give Wash final instructions on when to jettison it.

* * * * *

Images were bleeding and stretching in his mind, the colours running into each other and making him a mite seasick. Seasick? How the good gorram could he be seasick in the Black? As his mind struggled to hold a coherent thought something touched his mind and began to calm him. Seeping slowly through and filling him with a gentle but fierce notion of being loved. *Gorrammit, that you xin gan?*

The sensation seemed to ripple slightly like laughter only it was not the familiar laughter of the one he loved. Yet it was a familiar touch. *No wode pengyou it is me - Yen Mah*

His surprise rocked him to the core. *Yen Mah? What in the nine hells you doin' in my head?*

Her laughter was more pronounced now as if the connection between them was becoming somewhat clearer. *Keep you stable, not let you go. You drift, we lose you*

*Lose me?* He sounded baffled.

*You not well, weak. We strong. We lifeline*

*Lifeline huh?*


*So tired...*

*Not sleep, not drift*

*Just for a moment, Yen Mah*

*Bu qu, you sleep, not wake up*

*You worry too much, xiao mei mei. Fang xin*

*You not worry enough*

He wanted to laugh, to say something funny and amusing to reassure her but it was getting so hard. Thoughts like treacle, too much effort to wade through.


She sounded close to panic. His natural need to protect and keep her safe shook him from the creeping numbness in his mind. *Huh?*

*Tinglu, you stay. Me not ready say zaijian*

*Not goin' nowhere...*

*Then speak, wode pengyou, tell me what happen. Where are you? What you do*

*Too tired...*

*Better tired than dead. Now. You speak, I listen dong ma?*

There was a pause. *When d'you get so ruttin' bossy?*

*When you get ready give up?*

*Not givin' up* He murmured, bobbing on a sea of rising pain.

*Me not give up either, so talk!*

He wanted to argue, to tell her to leave him be but he couldn't do it. She was relying on him. He could feel and sense her fear. As he began to tell her what was happening the contents of the Preacher's injection hit his gut and he was suddenly wracked with violent spasms. Gently Book eased him into the recovery position, holding his head clear of the vomit as every muscle he possessed flexed and shuddered wringing out the contents of his stomach and making him retch over and over again until he thought the lining of his throat had come up with it. Oblivious to the spots of blood or the Preacher's fussing, he struggled hard to hang on to the threads of Yen Mah's thoughts crying anxiously in his head no longer even pretending to be calm or controlled. He knew only one thing for certain. The girl was in full panic mode.

* * * * *

Jayne Cobb was close to losing what was left of his sense of self. Already the things that had once mattered so much to him no longer even touched his consciousness. The fear had been swallowed up in a kind of patient apathy. As if he were waiting for some outside agency to kickstart his brain and tell him what to do. What to think. The blank slate was becoming his new self. His body now relaxed in its' glass prison, the semi-viscous fluid bobbing him gently so that his head dipped more beneath the surface than above it. The nose plugs stopped him drowning, the attachment to the back of his neck providing everything he needed to hang on to mortal life. Only that part of him that was uniquely Jayne was becoming a stranger to him.

The touches to his brain did not hurt any more. Desensitised he let them do whatever they wanted without any concern or alarm. Detached as if it was someone else's head. Someone else's memories banished to the bargain basement in the ass end of the 'verse. The tickling sensation deepened. Muscles twitched, motor functions artificially tinkered with while dispassionate eyes looked on. Every measured response catalogued while they fiddled and adjusted him into the fighting machine they wanted. He would become the figurehead of their army. Even as they were applying the finishing touches a new ring was being fashioned just for him.

Jayne had struggled so hard for so long to keep them out but he did not have the mental skills to do it. All he knew was that he was losing not only the battle but the whole gorram war. He had been stupid, got careless, and now his failure was complete. Fear had made him panic, his thoughts a tangle of emotional excess. Each prayer that formed in his mind dying before it could make it to his lips. Each attempt to block them was circumvented with increasing ease. *Gorrammit, ain't makin' me no ruttin' zombi!* But yelling and trying to thrash out had no effect. The thoughts not giving birth to the actions. Already divorced from control of his body he could feel them taking his mind. Stripping it away from him and making it into their own creation. Had he the last remnant of control to do so he would have wept while he cursed them. Slowly the light of his consciousness went out, eyes now dull, limbs no longer flailing, a body at rest. Acquiescent to the new demands that would soon be placed upon it. Burdened with new loyalties. Everything he was and all that he had been stolen away from him.

Pepper watched Charlie put the lid back on the top of the tank. "How long to reanimation?"

Charlie smirked. "Couple'a hours."

He nodded, well content. Jayne Cobb might not have been their first choice, nor even their second, but he would do. When they withdrew him from the tank he would be their creature. One of them. And he would lead the army of the dead to its' greatest victory. Pepper was blissfully unaware that everything had been orchestrated by their so-called enemies. Their fates being used to draw in the last of the unsuspecting Browncoats into a War they could never win. When the reanimation was complete the last battle would begin. Unknown to any of them that would be when the full might of the Alliance would finally destroy the last voices of descent in the 'verse.

* * * * *

Sheriff Bowman was anxious. Yen Mah still had her eyes closed but tears were streaming down her face. He wanted to ask her what was wrong, to hug her to him and tell her everything was going to be alright, but he did not dare. Whatever connection she had to Mal might be too tenuous and he would do nothing to endanger the man any further. Holding her small trembling hands in his he bit back his frustration and fear and bowed his head to do the one thing his friend would never ask him to do. He prayed.

* * * * *

Inara was beginning to think she had overplayed her part. The Director was all kinds of suspicious and had all the warmth of an ice cube. Yet she schooled herself into a picture of calm. He stared down at the ring sitting in the centre of her silk handkerchief, the offering gleaming up at him.

"You should not have cleaned it."

She dipped her head slightly as if in contrition. Not wanting the look in her eyes to give her away. Inara was heartened a little to hear the soft rough edge in his normally emotionless voice. It was her only clue that he was pleased. Why the rings were so important she could only guess. The poison she already knew about, the little surprises built into their functioning was no less than she would expect of an organisation with their kind of expertise. Yet she could not quite hide her curiosity.

"You have a question?"

Inara bowed her head a little lower. "*Qu* but I am unworthy, *shifu*."

"Speak and raise your head. I would have you look at me when you ask your question."

"I do not understand why you wanted the rings returned, *shifu*. They have done their job, better they be destroyed along with their victims."

She could see he did not like her referring to Davy and Malcolm Reynolds as victims as it humanised them. They were the enemy. Not people. Not any more. "But they would not have been destroyed, Inara Serra."

The Companion did not have to fake confusion. "*Ni bu dong*."

"You found them."

Inara began to nod then realised what he meant.

"You see now. If you could retrieve them so could others. It would not do for those *goushi buru* Independents to find the rings and discover their secrets."

"Do you really think that would happen?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Just because an enemy is despicable do not make the mistake of underestimating them. Information is power therefore denying details to the enemy is a blow against them however nondescript or passive it may seem."

"You are wise, *shifu*."

He was about to berate her, his brows drawing close with a hint of suspicion. However something in her countenance seemed to reassure him. He had known her from the first day she had come to them. Had overseen her indoctrination. He relaxed just a fraction and reached for the ring. Inara tried not to look at it, keeping her eyes on his over indulged face, trying to project calm and respect. It must have worked because he slipped the ring on the middle finger of his right hand and gave the first real smile she had seen on his face in a long time. "It will be over soon." He said softly. "You have done well."

She bowed her head slightly to acknowledge the hard won praise. The Director stretched out his hand like some ancient Pope from Earth-That-Was. Knowing her cue, Inara leaned forward and kissed the ring, her right hand moving to touch his hand as she did so. Before the surprise could register on his face she quickly triggered the hidden mechanism and poison flowed swift and deadly through the tiny pin-prick that spelt his doom. Eyes widened in shock he stared at her, suddenly knowing exactly what she had done. Why the ring had been cleaned and why she had offered it up to him like a sacrifice on a makeshift altar. It was a sacrifice but not hers, it was his. Inara was oblivious of the two men moving forward in swift strides to close in on her. A look of satisfaction and joy on her face that simply added to the Director's shock. His tongue was already numb, his heart labouring as the swift acting poison outpaced his minders' intentions of offering aid. As one caught his swaying arm and looked him in the eye, a silent conversation seemed to pass to his counterpart. As if to tell him it was already too late to save the Director. But then Inara had already known that. She was not the Mother of Sorrows for nothing.

They did not lower him to the ground but released him and let him fall. All their attention now on the traitor in their midst.

* * * * *

"Cry baby, cry, make your mama sigh!"

Zoe put a hand on Wash's shoulder and leaned down to kiss his cheek, her eyes fastened on the object tumbling slowly out from the Firefly towards the planet below. Kaylee was practically holding her breath, eyes round as saucers as she watched. River was not watching the object but checking the sensors, counting off the distance in her head, waiting for the drum to be at the optimum height from the planet below. Only when it was in position did she speak. "Now!"

Wash hit the switch and the release mechanism spurted the contents into the atmosphere. River looked at them calmly. "Now we wait."

"How long?" Asked Wash.

She tilted her head. "Not long. Already clouds over the continent we're interested in. Look, see what is happening?"

They leaned forward. Wash squinted. Zoe frowned. The others just looked baffled. Simon looked like he wanted to dose his sister up but was afraid to do anything until the plan had run its' course. Kaylee had no idea what she had been expecting. Not explosions exactly but *something*.

"I don't see anything." Said Wash sounding disappointed.

River looked happy. "It worked!"

The pilot turned a puzzled gaze on his wife as River skipped off the bridge. Kaylee followed her and Simon excused himself. Soon there was only Wash and Zoe left. "Did that make sense to you, *bao bei*?"

* * * * *

The stun grenade detonated and discharged thick white smoke in its' wake. In the confusion, Inara felt a strong hand grip her bicep and was pulled out of the room. Only when she found herself running out of one of the emergency underground exits did Inara realise what had happened. She gaped at the Shepherd in distress. "What the *diyu* are you doing?"

"Saving you from yourself."

If looks could have killed he would be dead. To her astonishment he chuckled drily but did not ease up on his pace forcing her to keep running as well.

"You can thank me later." She glared at him. "But Mal..."

"Will probably outlive us both."

Now she did stop. Book sighed and stopped running, walking briskly back to her side. "Inara, ask your questions back at the ship. Within minutes these tunnels will be full of guards not to mention if they find your transport they'll get all three of us."

Her face paled. Curious. A tendril of suspicion stirred but he had no time for the conundrum the Companion represented at this moment. First they must flee to safety. Time enough to quiz each other later. If there was a later. "You left Mal on my ship?"

Book urged her to start moving again. "I had little choice."

She tried to bite back tears. This was not the way it was supposed to be. "He'll die."

"No, I don't think so. I gave him the contents of that phial Inara." Her eyes widened. "You were right, he was very sick. I don't think there is a thimble full of liquid left in his stomach."

Inara took a moment or two to find her voice just as they reached the surface and began to run now to where the ship was camoflaged. "It's not his stomach I'm worried about."

"When I left his heartbeat was strong Inara."

*Just so long as it doesn't stop beating* Inara prayed. She would never tell the Preacher the real reason she had changed her mind. The returning memories were only part of the catalyst and in isolation would not have influenced her. As she ran her breathing began to become laboured but she did not slow her pace. She had to get to him. Reassure herself that the Captain would be alright. In the meantime she would have to be extra careful that no one realised the truth.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wangu chunren* = stubborn fool/jerk *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *xin gan* = sweetheart *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wode pengyou* = my friend *pengyou* = friend *qu* = yes (lit.go) *xiao mei mei* = baby sister (not related) *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *zaijian* = goodbye *tinglu* = stay *dong ma* = understand *shifu* = sir *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit *bao bei* = precious/treasure *diyu* = hell


Saturday, July 24, 2004 4:38 PM


Sometimes this just makes my head hurt... but in a good way!

Sunday, July 25, 2004 12:46 AM


That was a superb chapter. So much going on. Really good pace, great mix of action and character development.

The way you depict what's happening to Jayne is exceptionally good. I can almost feel it myself. But I'm not getting any less worried about him.

Sunday, July 25, 2004 3:09 AM


Inara STILL has secrets? This is riveting. Can't wait to read some more.

Monday, July 26, 2004 7:16 PM


"Saved the animals two by two, not hands of blue."--gotta love that line!

As ever, left wanting 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.