Monday, August 2, 2004

"The crew decide they want to make more decisions by committee but none of them have thought through the consequences."


TITLE: "CONSENSUS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: New. Standalone story. ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE:

SUMMARY: "The crew decide they want to make more decisions by committee but none of them have thought through the consequences." 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

* * * * *

"Be careful what you wish for..." - cautionary saying

"You want to what?"

The Captain reacted in a much more controlled manner than she expected and that was all kinds of unsettling. Better had he shouted or screamed at her. Laughed in her face. Had some reaction other than that hint of something in his eyes that went way beyond hurt. Just a glimpse it was but enough to make her heart stall and her resolve weaken. This had been a truly bad idea but before she could open her mouth to engage in damage limitation, tell him it had just been a joke, the others chipped in with their assertions about what a great idea it was and how they were all in agreement with one another that this was the best way to run the ship. What they lacked in subtlety they more than made up for in enthusiasm. Inwardly Zoe groaned, her expression betraying none of the second thoughts she was having about agreeing to this notion in the first place. It had seemed amusing at the time but when she caught the look on Mal's face she wished she could erase the last ten minutes of her life. Airbrush it out of existence and retain the status quo. But it was too late and the idea had not only gripped the imagination of the crew but seemed to have taken on a life of its' own.

The others were acting as if their Captain should celebrate only Zoe felt each uttered word like a nail fixing down a coffin on a corpse that wasn't dead yet. Leastways not while the air still lasted in the long narrow box they were happily constructing around him. She had seldom seen them all so happy and that was the rub.

"Last few jobs went smooth," Said Wash beaming. "We figure we could all use some down time, get in some R and R."

"Got a place all picked out." Added Jayne with a smug grin. "Called Minerva."

"Just a day's full burn, Cap'n." Said Kaylee eagerly as if this would sweeten the deal.

They were all sitting round the big oak table in the commons area waiting for his response. He looked at their shining expectant faces. Grateful that at least they had waited until he had finished eating to spring this fun little surprise on him. "I'm takin' it you're all agreed on this?"

Shepherd Book nodded, the smile on his lips like a concession to soften the blow. "We came to a consensus, Captain."

"Did you now? An' this consensus was arrived at how?"

Simon chipped in. "We took a vote."

The Captain nodded, still calm, voice amazingly reasonable without any trace of anger in it. Inara said nothing but watched him closely knowing how quickly the Captain's mood could change. Trying to judge what he was really thinking though he was giving little away. "An' everybody had a vote, *dui*?"

Jayne grinned not realising the mild question was a trap. "Yep."

"Everybody but your Captain." Mal said quietly and slowly.

You could have heard a pin drop. Zoe caught her breath and felt her face flush, suddenly feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable. As if she had slid a long thin blade between the Captain's ribs. Wash jumped in to try to head off any angry tirade. "You'll like Minerva Mal it's got everything! White beaches, water so clear it's like lookin' through glass."

"An' they got the shiniest shops." Added Kaylee, eyes bright with excitement. "Got all kinds of pretties an' they got theatres an' museums as well as one of them theme park places." Kaylee turned to Inara, her face fair lit up from the inside out. "Ain't that right 'Nara? Least, that's what it says on the Cortex."

The Captain just looked at them. Not so much stunned as disappointed. The crew's decision had obviously been unanimous. That it had been done behind his back hurt more than he could put into words but whether or not he agreed to let this little insurrection continue some things needed to be said. "This boat ain't run by committee you know that."

Wash nodded. Anything to appease the Captain into accepting what he himself thought was inevitable. After all, what could he do? If they all stuck together their stubborn stiff-necked Captain would have to give in, wouldn't he? "We know but it's our home too, Mal."

The Captain actually felt his breath freeze in his lungs but managed to not let anything show on his face. "Your home?"

"Yeah, sure it is Mal. Serenity's our home and it's not like we haven't deserved a break."

Zoe was about to say something when Mal answered Wash. "Let me think on it a while?"

Wash almost tripped over his words in his rush to agree. The Captain was being a lot more reasonable than he had expected and it was hard to hide his sense of relief. "Sure thing, Captain."

"You say a day at full burn, Kaylee?"

She was smiling at him. So full of happiness that it made his heart ache. "Yeah, though we don't have to rush there Cap'n. Could do it over a couple of days."

"You looked this place up on the Cortex, Inara?"

The Companion nodded. "Yes."

"Any Alliance presence?"

She shook her head. "Not to speak of."

The Captain's eyebrows rose a little. "Which means there is *some* Alliance presence?"

"Not permanently. It's used sometimes as a drop off point but it's too far out from the Core planets to post a permanent garrison."

"Not on their trade routes either I'm thinkin'?"

Zoe was watching him like a hawk as Inara replied. "No, it's too far out."

"Sounds to me as if you might be considering this idea, Captain." Said Book.

"Seems like the thing to do." Mal paused. "What else this planet got?"

By the time the Captain had gleaned everything he could about the planet and why they wanted to go there, Zoe was beginning to feel better about their decision though the way they had foisted it upon the Captain still made her feel uneasy and a little guilty. But as Wash said, what did it matter as long as the Captain agreed in the end? It was not as if he could sack them all.

It was a couple of hours later. The Captain called everyone back into the commons area for his decision. He did not drag it out. "Okay, seems you've already decided. Wash, lay in a course for Minerva."

Wash actually hesitated. "Um, how long we gonna stay there, Captain?"

The Captain stared at him. Wash wasn't sure how to interpret his silence.


His voice was subdued when he answered. "Suggest you take a vote on it."

Then before anyone could add anything he walked out of the room and left eight puzzled pairs of eyes staring at each other. Jayne grunted then huffed. "What the gorram was that about?"

Simon gave the mercenary a look which said it should be obvious. "We usurped the Captain's authority Jayne."


"So asking him how long we intend to stay on Minerva is a moot point."

Seeing Jayne's brow furrow Simon was tempted to explain what the word meant then decided to leave it. If the big ape couldn't work it out that was his fault. He found himself looking at the empty doorway and wondering just how much they were going to end up regretting this decision. After a pause everyone started talking again and soon the room was abuzz with plans of what they would do once they reached the pleasure planet. Simon laughed at something Kaylee said then noticed his sister was not smiling. River had her head tilted to one side, only half listening to the conversations going on around her. Inara found herself being caught up in the excitement as Kaylee eagerly pressed her for every last bit of information she knew about the planet. Simon felt his brief twinge of concern dissipate like mist in the sun when his eyes met the Shepherd's. Book nodded and smiled back, his calm air reassuring the doctor.

Wash spun Zoe around in his arms making her laugh out loud. "We should celebrate, *bao bei*!"

"Yeah, we could use some of Kaylee's home brew." Said Jayne cutting a sly look at the mechanic.

"Who says I got any left?"

Jayne grinned. "Not for long ya don't."

Everybody laughed then Kaylee relented. It was a merry gathering. After a while Zoe managed to slip away and went to look for the Captain. She found him sitting in the pilot's chair staring out at the Black. He swung the chair round enough to see who was disturbing his quiet time though truth to tell he had recognised her step. A step as familiar to him as his own. Zoe approached him as carefully as she chose her words. "Kaylee's homebrew is pretty strong stuff."

He ignored the words knowing that was not what she was wanting to say. "*Shenme shi*?"

She stopped a foot away from him, her weight on her left hip, her eyes not leaving his. Not fooled by his apparent nonchalence. "That was gonna be my line."

He feigned surprise. "Oh?"

"You're takin' this better than I expected."

"An' how should I be takin' this little mutiny?"

"I wouldn't exactly call it a mutiny, sir."



"Mal. It's my name."

"I know that, sir."

"There'll be no more sir or Captain, *dong ma*?"

A troubled look crept into her dark eyes. "What do you mean?"

"Seein's as how this boat is now bein' run by committee you got no call to answer to a redundant rank."

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

He lifted a hand and her words stilled, trapped in a throat gone dry. She realised she had been dreading something like this. Zoe was just a touch removed from panic. He nodded to the doorway behind her. "Best you go join the others before Wash thinks you've deserted him."


"Go. Go on." He shooed her quietly with a wave of his hand and not knowing what to say to fix this she did as she was bidden. When she was gone Mal swung the chair round again and stared out into the Black. He had some thinking to do and less than a day to get it all straight in his mind. The Black soothed him, a great dark yawning abyss of nothing reflecting the emptiness within him. For a time this boat had kept the darkness at bay. His crew helping to light his way and keep him rooted in the land of the living. Now the dark was invading his soul again. The emptiness gnawing away inside him like a canker. An old pain reawakened. He blinked and stared at nothing. Flexing his closed fists on the arms of the chair he opened them and looked down at the now upturned palms. Like everything else in his life they were empty.

* * * * *

Minerva was a shiny planet. All a-bustle and rich with colourful life. There was an enthusiastic bizarre, folks playing and miming in the streets, shops selling all manner of things both useful and ornamental and quite a few things of no use or ornament to anyone. But they were pretty. Shiny. And Kaylee couldn't wait to explore them all. Mal smiled slightly, taking in the crew's reaction to this sudden furlough. Everyone it seemed had something lined up they wanted to do but he wanted to say a few words before his crew disappeared into the fantasy land of the pleasure planet. No ground rules as those had been jettisoned along with their common sense he was thinking. Just an understanding. He could see Jayne almost chomping at the bit over the delay, Kaylee's eyes drifting off his face as she struggled to seem interested in what he had to say. No one giving him their full attention. But some things needed saying and now that he had made up his mind it was best to say it and be done with it.

"I know you're all anxious to go an' explore this planet an' it has a lot to offer I'll not deny but one thing I wanna mention then we can go on our way." He paused.

All eyes turned to him when he did not immediately continue. For a moment it looked as if he had trouble finding the words he wanted. Zoe gave a little frown but Wash squeezed her waist and kissed her cheek. The frown vanished swallowed up by a slow lazy smile.

"Now that we have a boat run by committee it'll be up to each an' every one of you to vote on the why an' wherefore from here on in, *dong ma*?"

Jayne was fidgetting. He gave Mal a glare. "We know that already."

"You all wanna be able to vote on what you do, where you go an' suchlike?"

"We've already discussed this," Said Zoe, her eyes asking a different question. *What's wrong, Mal?*

He nodded, not meeting her eyes. "Each an' every one of you is free to do whatever the gorram you want. I'm takin' it that applies to me too, *dui*?"

Zoe blinked. Shepherd Book frowned slightly. "Is that a problem, Captain?"


Book began to open his mouth, saw the look in the Captain's eyes and changed tack. "Mal."

Mal nodded and waited until the Preacher answered his question. "Yes, everybody is free to come or go as they please."

"Okay then."

Inara was giving him a curious look. So far everybody had talked excitedly about what they were going to do on Minerva. Everybody except the Captain. "What are you goin' to do?"

"Take a holiday."

The crew blinked. All conversation stopped. Simon looked stunned. "A holiday?"

"Yep. Holiday, vacation. A break."

"From what?" Asked the ever tactful Jayne.

Mal felt like saying *the lot of you* but he couldn't do that to his crew no matter how much their actions pained him. If this was good enough for them then it was good enough for him. "Just think a change might be a goodly thing."

His crew were smiling now. Everyone beginning to break away and move off the open ramp.

"Not sure how long I'll be gone so if you decide to move on or pick up a job best you do that."

Zoe Warren stopped in her tracks. Simon was staring back at the Captain as if unsure he had heard him right. "You're not coming with us?"

"Nope, 'sides everybody's goin' somewhere different."

"Where are you going?" Asked Wash in a voice filled with curiosity.

"Just wanna look around. Relax some. Think I'll take a few days or so, maybe longer."

"Mal, what are you doin'?" Whispered Inara as she sidled close to him.

"What? I can't do what I want?" He affected a shocked look.

Deciding he was messing about the crew laughed and joshed each other then began to wander off to see the sights and unwind. Mal waited until they had all gone then took a slow leisurely walk through his boat, his right hand outstreched to touch her metallic skin as if reading her by braille. His mind recalling the comforting throb of her engines and the many times they had gathered round the table to eat and discuss their day. Just like a proper family. And just like a family they would outgrow some things and cling to others. Seemed like they had outgrown their Captain.

* * * * *

It was a stunning sight. Wash could hardly breathe for awe and excitement. A beach! A real, rutting, honest to goodness BEACH. It had sand and everything! He turned to stare wide eyed at his best beloved. "Zoe, do you see what I see *bao bei*?"

"A man with a ridiculous shirt trying to take his foot from his mouth?"

Some of the shine dulled in his eyes but it soon sparked back. He was too happy and hyper to stay down for long. The concessionaire was smiling at them as if his greasy palms could already feel their coin in his hands. "Our twin suns mean the beach is always bathed in sun and the water is warm. No predators and no undertows to be wary off. As safe as dry land."

Wash was grinning now. "And the bathing thing? NUDE bathing?"

The man nodded. "There are no restrictions on this beach, sir. You can stay for as long as you can afford."

Wash looked lovingly and longingly at his wife. "How much can we afford, lambie toes?"

The price was discussed and they decided on three days. Zoe handed over their coin then stopped the man before he could leave. "What about accommodation? I assume there's an apartment or something for us to stay in while we're here?"

The man, Poloni Fox, actually widened his smile. It reminded her of nothing so much as a friendly shark. Not that she'd ever seen one but there had been images of such from Earth-that-was. Oh, he *loved* the tourist industry. "Yes, ma'am, but that'll be extra..."

* * * * *

Simon was not sure this was a good idea but River, Kaylee and Inara assured him the interactive ground fair was safe. Shepherd Book had been unable to find any kind of monastary or secular retreat and had found himself tagging along. Kaylee was practically bouncing up and down on her feet. Such boundless enthusiasm made Inara smile. "Look, look, they got little cars that fly on wires an' what's that?"

"It looks like a carousel." Said Simon slowly.

River grinned. "Goes round and round and round and round..."

"Yes, I'm sure we all know what a carousel is, River." Said Book mildly.

"Round and round she goes, where she stops nobody knows." She chanted, turning herself in synchrony with the bright and shiny carousel only going in the opposite direction.

Kaylee caught hold of River's hand and she swayed to a stop. "Come on, River, come on with me?"

She nodded then Kaylee reached for Simon and before long had badgered them all into climbing on the spinning merry-go-round. The fantastically coloured creatures all fashioned from the myths of Earth-that-was. For Kaylee it was exciting, the ride exhilerating, the notion of all those mythical beasts riding out of the Black too seductive to be denied. Like a kid in a candy store she was having the gorram time of her life.

As Inara looked at their happy shining faces she allowed herself to relax for the first time since Serenity had landed. Reassured by the fact that there was not a single Alliance friendly bar on Minerva. Even the Captain would have difficulty getting into trouble here.

* * * * *

Jayne fell in love with Minerva the moment he heard she was a pleasure planet. First he got himself a few drinks then went cruising, his eye drawn to a luridly coloured and bawdy establishment calling itself the Happy Whore. He laughed with pleasure pure and simple when the women in the windows showed him their wares, each one striking a different but equally erotic pose. Gorrammit, he might never wanna leave this planet. Leastways. Not till long after his man parts dropped off.

* * * * *

Yep. He'd thought long and hard about it and now that his decision was made he felt a great weight lift off him. Once he'd finished his tour of the ship he gravitated back to his bunk and began to go through his things. Rooting out his ship's logs - both the official and unofficial ones - and his book of accounts. Best leave them where Zoe could find them without too much hide and seek. He thought of hiding the unofficial book but if he did that she wouldn't see how he reasoned things through, cut and rearranged their cloth to fit enough to clothe them all in the Black. It wasn't brain surgery but it did need careful figuring to balance the books and keep them flying. Settling down at his desk he drew out a clean sheet of his small supply of paper then in a careful looping hand wrote down a list of safe contacts and how best to find them.

A last look, time to collect a change of clothing and the little coin he had saved for emergencies and he was on his way. Not that any of the temptations of Minerva drew him from his boat. No. He had a different destination in mind. The leaving was the hard part but like all things in life it was but the first step to a new adventure on the road of life. He paused to take a last lungful of recycled air into his body, to savour and feel the metallic taste of her in every cell of his gorram body. Memorising the taste and smell of her as he had the feel of her walls and the thrum of her engine. Maybe he would come back. Some day. And maybe he would find a place where he could truly belong. Where his word was something more than the bark of command. His presence more than one to be tolerated as they lurched from one crisis to the next. Maybe he was the storm crow, the albatross around their necks, or mayhap they were his. Either way the choice had been made for him and he suddenly knew exactly where he wanted to go.

A slow smile slipped free of tight lips. As he walked his stride grew steadily more confident and relaxed. Slipping away through crowds of strangers. Swallowed up by other people's dreams it was time to fashion a new one of his own. He had stayed too long. Got comfortable. Now it was time to move on.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dui* = correct *bao bei* = precious/treasure *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *dong ma* = understand


Monday, August 2, 2004 10:23 AM


Talk about opening a whole new chapter in the 'Verse!

Can't wait to see where this is going to end up :-)

Monday, August 2, 2004 11:26 AM


yah give us more

Monday, August 2, 2004 1:03 PM


What a neat idea on which to hang a story! Can't wait to see how you play this out.

Monday, August 2, 2004 6:21 PM


I *really* like this beginning--very low-key play on the actions that works quite strongly. Sooo... Mal's running away from home--bet he runs into problems ;-)

Saturday, August 7, 2004 2:49 PM


Sweet shininess galore! Your descriptions as he's leaving is brilliant!

"He paused to take a last lungful of recycled air into his body, to savour and feel the metallic taste of her in every cell of his gorram body. Memorising the taste and smell of her as he had the feel of her walls and the thrum of her engine. Maybe he would come back. Some day."

Friday, August 13, 2004 1:13 AM


You are phenomenal! Your output, your imagination, your style - everything! I have so much to catch up on after just a week away, but it doesn't look like much of a chore from where I'm sitting. If only I didn't have so much actual work to do ...

Totally believe Mal taking off. Hope he's not going where I suspect. Feeling a lot of dread and trepidation here...

Jayne. Your Jayne is chewable! " Jayne fell in love with Minerva the moment he heard she was a pleasure planet. ,,, Gorrammit, he might never wanna leave this planet. Leastways. Not till long after his man parts dropped off." Now {i]that 's what I call in character!

Friday, August 13, 2004 1:14 AM


You are phenomenal! Your output, your imagination, your style - everything! I have so much to catch up on after just a week away, but it doesn't look like much of a chore from where I'm sitting. If only I didn't have so much actual work to do ...

Totally believe Mal taking off. Hope he's not going where I suspect. Feeling a lot of dread and trepidation here...

Jayne. Your Jayne is chewable! " Jayne fell in love with Minerva the moment he heard she was a pleasure planet. ,,, Gorrammit, he might never wanna leave this planet. Leastways. Not till long after his man parts dropped off." Now that's what I call in character!

Friday, August 13, 2004 1:14 AM


Gorram double post. But hell, the chapter was double-good!

Thursday, March 16, 2006 2:59 AM


Just started this one and am enjoying it already. Except for the poor Captain's hurt and nobody gets it!


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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.