THE HELLBOUND SERIES: 22. "The Devil You Don't"
Friday, June 1, 2007

"Shepherd Book finds out more than he wanted to know. A simple job becomes all manner of complicated."



SUMMARY: "Shepherd Book finds out more than he wanted to know. A simple job becomes all manner of complicated." 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.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

*Don't speak, don't speak, don't speak*

Book was so surprised he almost looked up.

*Don't look, don't look, don't look*

Unbeknownst to the Shepherd, River Tam was lying face down on the grating above his head. Book was walking towards the infirmary to speak to Inara just as the furious Companion made a rapid exit. Distracted by the sudden intrusion of River's thoughts inside his head, he hesitated and the moment was lost. Inara disappeared into her shuttle. The resounding sound of the door being locked telegraphing her desire to be left alone. Puzzled, Book took a moment to consider what to do. Whether to call in and check on Casey or try to find out what was wrong with Inara. Another notion then niggled at the back of his mind. What was River up to and why was she hiding? And how did she manage to get inside his head?

*Not hiding. See more when out of sight. Hear better too*

The sudden coherence startled him. Book opened his mouth to call out to the girl, find out what was behind her odd behaviour. Before he could do so a tumble of words pressed into his mind and stilled his tongue.

*Don't speak, don't speak, don't speak*

With an effort, Book concentrated on thinking his reply. *River, calm down. I won't say anything, dong ma?*

Relief washed through his mind so profound that it almost overwhelmed him, her emotion leaking through like a mental tsunami. Only an awesome level of instinctive control stopped it from cascading from her saturated brain to Book's startled one. How she managed it he did not know but he was grateful. *Distract, distract, distract, distract* was the new litany chanting in his mind. Book tried not to feel too creeped out. After all, this was River.

*Distract? What does that mean?*

A short silence in his mind becalmed his racing heart. A balm to the worry teetering on the edge of alarm only present when River had one of her more bizarre episodes. This definitely classified as one. An almost impatient amusement tinged her thoughts. *To draw aside, apart, in different directions: to confuse, harrass, render crazy*

He resisted the urge to lose patience with her. *No need to be so literal, River*

*You asked* came her sulky response. River paused before continuing. *She's wary. Needs distracting*

*Who, Inara?*

*Bu qu, Casey*

*And we would be distracting her why?*

*To sift the truth from the lies*

Before he could question her further, Book turned, startled by a voice just behind him. "Are you alright, Shepherd?"

Simon. A sense of reprieve washed though Book's mind before he berated himself for the uncharitable thought that Simon's presence would save him from his sister's madness. It wasn't the girl's fault. "Yes, I was just on my way to the infirmary."

The doctor smiled. "So was I. The increase in contractions means the baby could come any time now."

The Shepherd blinked as he followed him into the infirmary. What he saw stopped him in his tracks. Casey lay back on the infirmary bed with her knees bent and wide apart, her face straining and red. Sweat beading on her skin and panting between pushes. That was when Book realised the woman's waters had broken. "Oh, my!"

Simon ignored him, hurrying by to monitor and assist in the delivery of the baby. Above their heads River lay with her head tilted to one side, eyes closed, a little smile of satisfaction on her face as she felt for the moment when Casey's mind opened. All the woman's thoughts cursing the new life within to the exclusion of everything else. With dizzying speed River's probing mind twisted and turned through the chaotic labyrinth of emotions churning through the pregnant womans' mind, taking advantage of the temporary window of opportunity. It was exhilerating, confusing, and came to sudden stop with a chilling revelation. River's eyes snapped open not sure exactly what it meant only that trouble was on its' way. And the others wouldn't see it coming.

* * * * *

Jayne swore but the Captain did not respond. He was wanting to get back to Serenity as soon as possible and get the ship over to the warehouse *mashang*. Sooner they picked up the cargo the sooner they could drop it off at the other end and pick up the rest of their money. Much as he hated doing jobs for Badger there was no denying they were sorely short of coin and he had no desire to be rationing the last of their supplies while hearing the others' moan about the lack of work. Beggars couldn't be choosers. They detoured briefly on the way to pick up a few supplies to augment their dwindling food stores, the rest of the coin being kept back for fuel.

"One day I'm gonna put a bullet through that *ling ren exin tamade hundan*." The mercenary growled.

"Jayne," Mal murmured mildly "no need to speak so kindly. You'll have folks think you're goin' soft on that greasy little piece of *goushi*."

"Why we have'ta take work from him anyway?"

The Captain looked over his shoulder to where Jayne sat behind him and Zoe. "Were you born this *yuchen* or did you go to night classes?"

Jayne scowled, hardly noticing when the mule hit a bump. Zoe carried on driving and Mal waited for the mercenary's brain to catch up. Course, he reckoned it could be a long wait for a train that didn't come. "Huh?"

Mal sighed and glanced sideways at Zoe. "Born with it then."

Something caught up with the non-moving parts of Jayne's brain which was pretty much all of it. "*Wei*, I ain't a *chunren*, Mal!"

"Jayne, we have to work to get the coin to keep us fed an' Serenity flyin', *dong ma*?"

"*Wo zhidao*."

"We go where the work is, simple as that. Don't have to like Badger to take his coin."

Zoe sped up as they got closer to Serenity, her keen sight spotting Kaylee waiting impatiently at the end of the ramp. As they drove into the cargo bay the Captain's eyes narrowed with concern. "*Shenme shi*, little Kaylee?"

Excitement added to the girl's flushed cheeks, her hands twisting together as if she didn't know what to do with them. "Casey's waters broke."

The Captain jumped off the mule and walked back to close the cargo bay door. Jayne began to lock down the mule. "Somethin' else we don't ruttin' need." The mercenary grumbled.

Kaylee frowned, the happy on her face stalling. "Cap'n?"

Mal patted her shoulder and shot Jayne an irritated look. "It's okay, *mei mei*, don't mind Jayne. Think his mama ran outta milk when she was breast feedin'. Made him all grumpy an' ornery."

The mechanic laughed and Jayne turned an angry glare on the Captain. "Don't talk about my ma like that."

"Then stop alarmin' my gorram crew. Just 'cause you ain't happy don't mean we all gotta have long faces to match."

Zoe gave a little smile. "I'll give Wash the location of the warehouse, sir."


Zoe ran up the metal stairs. The Captain gave Kaylee a hug then froze as a cry filled the air. Kaylee looked up into her Captain's face and smiled fit to burst. "Baby's comin!"

"Huh," grunted Jayne pushing passed them "another gorram mouth to feed."

* * * * *

The baby came out in a rush with one final herculean push from Casey. Simon caught the baby in the warmed towel, his face relaxing into a reassuring smile. Shepherd Book tried to make sense of the thoughts pouring into his mind, the words falling over each other as River tried to communicate too much information too fast. It was giving him a headache. "Slow down, I can't understand you."

Simon paused and looked up at the Shepherd. Fortunately, Casey had sunk back onto the bed, her eyes closed with exhaustion. Embarrassed, Book tried to cover for his slip not realising he had spoken out loud. "I've never been present at a birth before." He deflected.

The doctor blinked. Book's words made no sense but then watching a new life come into the world affected people differently. "Oh. Could you pass me the clamps?"


"On the surgical tray. I need two for the umbical chord."

"Yes, *dang ran*." The Shepherd passed the clamps and hovered by the tray, trying to block out the urgency of River's words babbling in his head. None of them made sense and the more she got frustrated the faster they came, a ceaseless garble that was getting higher and higher in pitch. He had to get out of there but first he needed to help Simon.

"Scissors, please."

Book passed the scissors. Simon put a clamp on the bloody umbical chord a few inches from the baby's body, used the scissors to leech the blood from the clamp down the chord then clipped on the second clamp a couple of inches from the first one. He then used the scissors to cut the chord between the two clamps. Book stared at the red faced scrap yelling its' head off. Simon had passed him the child when he took the clamps and scissors off him but the Shepherd could not remember that, his mind numb with a quiet joy, a celebration of life filling his heart and mind with awe. River's thoughts were a rude intrusion, a sudden reminder that he did not have time to enjoy what was surely a gift from God.

*You think me out of control, reckless. The seventh wave of the seventh wave*

He tried to hide his exasperation, not least because Simon was giving him odd looks. *River, do we need to have this conversation now?*

*Not insane*

*I never said you were*

*No, but you thought it*

He had no answer to that. When silence fell in his mind, Book turned his attention back to Simon. Watched as the doctor gently took the baby and washed the blood from him, wrapping a clean towel round the infant and discarding the bloody one before taking him to his mother. Casey opened her eyes and just stared, making no attempt to hold the child. Simon thought she was just tired. "You have a healthy boy, Casey. Congratulations!"

Casey looked at him then took the baby without saying a word. Simon felt a twinge of disappointment. While he had done very little, he had expected some kind of reaction. Joy, tears, gratitude. Instead the blank look on the mother's face unsettled him. He was not sure why. She must be tired, that was it. He turned his head to say something to Book when Kaylee rushed into the infirmary, her face alight with happy excitement. The Shepherd used her entrance to make a quiet exit, his features folding into a frown as River tried to slow down her thoughts. He was so distracted by what she had to say that he almost walked into Zoe as she came from the bridge.

"Shepherd? *Hai hao ma*?"

"Ah yes, *hen hao*. Casey has given birth to a fine healthy boy."

Zoe's sharp eyes watched him closely. "Somethin' else on your mind?"

He almost laughed only it would not have been out of humour. Zoe didn't know how close her casual comment was to the truth. "Where's the Captain?"

The ring of boots on the metal walkway preceded the Captain by seconds. "You turnin' midwife, Shepherd?"

Book stared at him then looked down at his hands, the bloody discarded towel staining his fingers red. For some reason the sight disturbed him.


The Shepherd blinked and looked into the Captain's concerned gaze, wondering when the man had put his hand on his shoulder and why he had not noticed.

"You don't look so shiny."

"I'm... fine Captain."

"This the first time you've helped deliver a baby?" Zoe asked, a smile teasing her lips.

"*Qu*. It's *lingren jinya*."

"That what you wanted to talk to me about? Gonna fill my head with religiosity? Have to tell you if'n that's your mission best take it elsewhere."

The Shepherd managed to shake himself. River sing songing inside his mind and driving him almost to distraction. "Captain, we need to talk. *You yige wenti*."

The sudden seriousness in Book's voice was not lost on the Captain or Zoe. Mal shared a look with Zoe then nodded. "Best we go somewhere quiet."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *goushi* = crap/dog shit *mashang* = on the double/immediately/at once/right away *ling ren exin* = disgusting *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *yuchun* = stupid *chunren* = fool/jerk *wei* = hey! *wo zhidao* = I know *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *mei mei* = little sister *dang ran* = of course *hai hao ma* = are you okay? *hen hao* = very good *qu* = yes (lit. go) *lingren jinya* = amazing *you yige wenti* = there is a problem


Saturday, June 2, 2007 3:47 PM


Well now....gotta give River some mucho props here (and you as the author, even bigger props;D) for using Casey's pregnancy against there re: finding hidden information. Definitely using her smarts and wiles to maximum effect;)



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