Wednesday, August 4, 2004

"Having made a decision Mal buys passage aboard a ship. Meanwhile the crew have a fine old time on Minerva. Until the money runs out."


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

SUMMARY: "Having made his decision Mal buys passage aboard a ship. Meanwhile the crew have a fine old time on Minerva. Until the money runs out." 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

* * * * *

"Every action has an equal and opposite reaction."

Mal found the ship he wanted after making enquiries. Nothing luxurious, nothing that would draw any Alliance attention or attract raiders after rich and easy pickings. It was mostly a cargo hauler and took the odd passenger as well but most importantly it was going exactly where he wanted to go. If the transport Captain was surprised by his passenger's destination he did not show it. His eyes taking in the brown coat Mal wore and the sidearm that fit with the familiarity of another limb. A grunt and a nod and he was aboard. The smell was something awful which said more about the unsanitary conditions on board than the cargo. He tried to be judicious about his every breath but a man had to breathe gorrammit.

The journey took the best part of two days. One of which Mal was more sick than well. Some kind of bug that got into the digestive tract and seemed intent on making a gorram nest in his belly. He could swear he could feel them crawling about in his insides, gnawing away at his gut with happy disregard for how much he was throwing up. Must have been something he had inhaled as one look at the food stores had sworn him off eating until they made planetfall. Or maybe it had been in the water? He silently cursed himself for not thinking of bringing his own supplies but how was he to know conditions aboard this *lese* piece of *fei hua* would be this bad? He missed his boat but pushed that thought aside. Sentiment had no place in the Here and Now.

Planetfall came in the dead of night. He was not sure whether that was by accident or design but he didn't care. No one else got off though the crew did desposit cargo which was swiftly accepted by waiting hands, dockets exchanged and cargo whisked off before Mal could ask a single question. He sighed, watched the ugly ship take off with good riddance then closed his eyes and inhaled the rich loamy scent that reminded him of home. No telling how long he stood there, ankle deep in mud, hair ruffled by a fitful cool wind that smelt clean and fresh and seemed to scrub his senses with a feeling he had missed for more years than he cared to remember. When he opened his eyes at last it was still dark. He was still standing in mud on a now deserted landing platform but he had something he had not had in two days. A smile on his face.

* * * * *

Wash was so happy, laying on his back on the hot white sands, green water lapping a soothing melody that lulled him to the brink of sleep. Zoe trailed her hands down his chest. Both of them as naked as the day they were born and mercy of mercies with this beach from paradise all to themselves. He opened a languid eye and gave her a smile, eyes twinkling and merry as he gazed at the object of his desire. She chuckled down at him, her body angled to dominate his, her look smug and predatory.

He brushed a lock of hair from her glistening face. Such tenderness and love in his eyes that she felt suddenly weak and paradoxically stronger than she had ever felt in her life. Her chuckle deepened like dark chocolate oozing over his senses, her lips descending to press plush and needy against his own. His moans trapped inside her as she deepened the kiss, her hands exploring, bringing him hard and ready into a little piece of paradise of her own. His eyes rolled in ecstasy, her muscles contracted around him then instinct drove need again and again and again. Above them some bird not unlike a seagull was on the wing crying and keening to its' mate while below them the incoming tide lapped its' green fringe of waving water up against the bodies writhing and rutting to the rythym of the surf.

Thus distracted they neither saw nor sensed the watching eyes. By the time they had finished the water was passed their knees. Laughing they kissed, fondled and helped each other up. Wash tripping Zoe so they could tumble and get tangled up again. Zoe laughing and letting herself relax into the warm loving arms of her husband. It was a long time before either of them regained the strength or the impetus to wend their weary way back to the wooden chalet prepared for them. The view of the ocean was spectacular but before Wash could appreciate it his gorgeous and deadly wife pinned him to the bed and reminded him there were far too few nude beaches in the Black.

* * * * *

Morning found him shivering but content, sitting not five hundred yards from the landing platform. He knew he could strike out in any gorram direction he wanted and eventually find a ranch. He also knew he was not physically up to that much exertion until his body had fully recovered. Still a mite weak he would take it slow. Not that there was any call to rush. The whicker of the horse preceded the homely scent of her but he did not look up, did not turn his head. Horse and rider drew closer. Mal was sitting on the grass, arms around his knees and head down as if contemplating something. He was all aware of the stamp of the horse's hooves as the rider drew his mount to a standstill not a yard away from where he was sitting. In fact the puff of cloudy breath from the horse wafted the sweet sweaty earthy scent of her to his nostrils.

"Who might you be, *moshengren*?"

Mal looked up and squinted, the sun catching him in the eyes though he did not look away. "Name's Malcolm Reynolds."

The man squinted down at him and cocked his head. "I know you?"

"Nope, though you might have seen me."

"*Shenme shihou*?"

Mal told him about the cargo he and his crew had delivered to Glory some months ago and the generous exchange of fruit and vegetables they had been given in return. A quirky smile dusted the rancher's lips. "Well now, seems I do recall you but where's your ship?"

"I'm takin' a vacation. *Jiaqi*."

That amused the man no end. He did not bother to cut off his laughing until a little fit of coughing did it for him. He took a moment to clear his throat. "You get sacked?"

Mal stood up slowly, not wanting to alarm horse or rider but wanting to look at him without the sun in his eyes. "Nope. I was Cap'n of that boat."

The rancher frowned. The question in his eyes taking no time at all to reach his curious lips. "What happened?"

"My crew wanted to rule by committee, I didn't."

His eyebrows shot up. "They dumped you here?"

He sounded incredulous. Now it was Mal's turn to laugh, a bright happy sound that didn't track one bit with the story he had been telling. "*Bu qu*. My decision. Was gettin' a mite too *shufu*, time to move on. When respect wears thin seems to me a man's worn out his welcome, *dong ma*?"

The man nodded then studied him for a few moments in silence. Mal allowed the scrutiny. Welcomed it even. It felt good to have someone looking at him, weighing him up in an honest fashion. Like having all your cards on the table the openness of it appealed to him. Had a belly full of masking his thoughts and actions, always just ahead of some twisted *hundan*. The horse dipped her head and began to nuzzle Mal's shoulder, a small smile of pleasure graced his lips and he murmured low, a hand rubbing down the horse's cheek and neck in an action familiar and soothing to the beast. Her ears flicked forward drawn by his voice, nostrils flaring to take in his scent then she nudged him again, wanting more of his attention.

"You know horses?"

"*Qu*. Grew up on a ranch, tended cattle an' such."

"Where was that?"

He couldn't quite mask the pain. "Shadow."

The man swore under his breath then swung himself down from the saddle. "There's three things I know as well as my own name. My stock, my business an' a good man." He pulled off a glove and extended his right hand. "Name's Rafe Connor, I own the Wellspring Ranch. Got 500 head of cattle, miles of land with broken fencin' an' good neighbours turnin' too much pasture to plough. But I figure as long as it's their land why worry? Know anythin' about fixin' an' mendin' fences?"

Mal accepted the proferred hand, a firm grip returned in full measure like a physical meeting of minds. Mal's father had always said you could tell a lot about the cut of a man by his handshake. Rafe Connor had the feel of an honest man. Hard working, solid, dependable with a level set of morals to guide his inward compass. "Know enough to set 'em right so they don't need fixin'."

Rafe Connor laughed outright. He liked the set of the man. Mal's quietly spoken words carrying a glimpse of his quality that suited the straight talking of the rancher just fine. Course he would have to try him first. Make sure it was a fit the rest of his outfit could take to otherwise as much as he liked the look of Malcolm Reynolds he would cut him loose. Yet there was something capable and reassuring about him that made Connor think that would not be happening any time soon. "You look cold son, how 'bout you come by my ranch an' we'll see what we can rustle up food-wise?"

"That would be right neighbourly of you, sir."

"No call to be formal 'less I take you on."

"You offerin' me a job, Rafe?"

The stocky man gave the ghost of a smile. The more he spoke to Malcolm Reynolds the more he liked him. "You askin'?"

"*Diyu* yes."

"I'm takin' it you have no horse to speak of?"


Rafe nodded, his critical eye taking in more than Mal's clothing and aspect. Man had an odour to him that was far from pleasant as if he had bathed in something that was rotting at the time. He also could not help but notice how he was shivering, the brown coat not seeming to be lending him much heat. "Wait here, I'll be back with a fresh mount an' we can go on up to the house together."

Mal was about to tell him that wasn't necessary he would follow on foot but it was as if Rafe Connor could read his mind. He raised a hand and Mal kept his mouth shut and waited.

"Just rest a-while," He said kindly. "You look all in son an' I need men as can work from sunrise to sunset. Best take the notion without complaint, I'll be back before you know it. Once we reach the house I'd take it as a powerful kindness if you'd have a bath."

Weary as he was he could not help the grin nor the chuckle of humour that accompanied it as he readily agreed. Man had a point. Mal nodded, gave the horse a last pat then watched them turn and ride away. A deep content settled over him. It barely warmed the harsh chill shivering up through his body like a katabatic wind and making his gorram teeth chatter. Took a moment or two to realise that despite how cold he was a bright new stirring of hope had taken root in his heart. If he was not much mistaken age-old layers of ice were slowly beginning to thaw.

* * * * *

Simon could not remember the last time he had seen his sister so carefree. It helped that every time Kaylee turned her head she flashed him the warmest of smiles. At last. They had found a place that was as close to safe as it was possible to get while still being in the 'verse. The Shepherd was watching him keenly. River and Kaylee hopping on something called the 'corkscrew' and filling the air with their squeals of pleasure and mock terror as the little jointed carts rose on serpent tracks and shook and spun then plunged them down and up again, over and over and over.

"Are you happy, Simon?"

The question startled him. "Yes." He was pleased to realise it was true. "Why do you ask?"

"No reason it's just you so rarely relax."

The doctor stiffened slightly. "Your point being?"

Book raised his eyebrows. "Do I have to have a point?"

Simon was tempted to say something bitingly sarcastic but forebore. Sometimes a person just said what they thought. There was not always something dark and sinister lurking beneath the smile, the kindly word or outstretched hand. He mentally shook his head. At this rate he would become as paranoid as their Captain. He frowned slightly. Book noticed.

"I didn't mean to spoil the mood."

"You didn't. I was thinking of the Captain." He paused, grinned suddenly at the peals of laughter from River and Kaylee then glanced at the Shepherd. "Where do you think he went?"

The Shepherd shrugged. "I don't know but Minerva isn't that big. I dare say we'll bump into him before too long though we won't see Jayne for another day or so."

"Oh?" Something in the Shepherd's look made Simon flush as he realised Book meant the mercenary had gone a-whoring.


Book's eyes glittered with amusement. "I wouldn't worry about Jayne, Simon, not unless he comes back with the kind of infection you can't discuss at the table."

Simon mentally winced at the unwelcome image that brought to mind then swiftly turned his attention back to the girls. Happy to see they were finally ready to come off the ride. Soon caught up in the happy and dizzy antics of two very disorientated young ladies. One of whom definitely needed to lean on him.

* * * * *

The man checked the purse. Not overly full but a good day's haul for very little risk. The couple had been too shattered to notice him coming out of the little hut, his clothing almost the colour of the white sand, the hood over his face to mask his features and hide the dark sheen of glossy black hair. He had no curiosity about who they were. Probably newly weds by the way they acted. He was a thief. They were just another mark. It was all that mattered.

* * * * *

Inara Serra was speechless. For one of the few times in her life she had no ready response. Her client base had been quietly expanding and in her years as a Registered Companion few things had ever been asked of her that took her breath away. This was one of them. The gentleman seemed mildly amused to find her nonplussed but was content to wait for her to consider both the request and the financial proposition that went with it. Sipping her wine slowly Inara regained her composure. "Counsellor, that is a great deal of money."

"*Qu* and what is being asked is well within your purview should you choose to grant it. My friend is very shy and his disfigurement makes it difficult for him to seek out the companionship he needs."

Some instinct made her ask something no Companion ever asked. It was considered a breach in the careful protocols they nurtured yet she did not want to accept anything on blind faith. She had thought Counsellor Tollan was her client. Now she knew him for the high powered mediator he really was. It sent prickles of apprehension down her spine. Why this one request should seem so different from any other was a question she could not answer. "May I ask the nature of his disfigurement?"

Counseller Tollan raised his eyebrows slowly, his face giving away none of his emotions. His look keen as any knife edge. "He is a double amputee but you will find he has the sweetest temperament and the most accommodating nature."

She blinked. Accommodating nature? "What exactly would I be asked to do for him?"

A slow smile spread across the Counsellor's face and his eyes softened marginally. "He is still a man and a man has desires does he not?"

Inara raised her eyebrows. "He wishes me to service him?"

The smile took an odd turn but his thoughts were hidden from her. "Would that present a problem to you?"

"No." In truth Inara had serviced a number of clients with limited mobility or other special needs. Some liked to watch while she pleasured herself, others liked to include role playing or exotica. But it was rare for Inara to undertake such a sensitive assignment. It was mentally very draining. The heart could not always be sufficiently objective when immersed in another's pain and every time she agreed to do so it took longer and longer for her to find the emotional distance to leave it all behind. Before she agreed to anything she needed to know exactly how far the Counsellor expected her to go.

"My friend," Tollan paused slightly. Again that slight warmth emanated from his eyes. "Is very dear to me, *dong ma*? Whatever you do for him you do for me."

Inara began to get an odd feeling. "He is your lover?"

Counsellor Tollan shook his head. "No. I do not have that honour. He knows only of my friendship which is lifelong. I have never disclosed my passion to him. I could not bear the thought of his condemnation if I did so. It would be as abhorrent to him as it would be unseemly."

"Counsellor," Said Inara gently. "Forgive me if I offend or overstep my mark, I do not mean to do so."

"You may speak freely, Inara Serra. I am a cautious man. Careful and dangerous when crossed but I would hear your words. The truth never offends me only the vainglorious cloth that would conceal it in the fashion of a lie."

"You should tell him. And if he is willing, should do this intimate service for him. You may find you share a secret passion."

A long moment of silence fell between them. Inara scare dared to breathe unless it shattered something that should not be broken. Not ever. "I love Thomas dearly. He is a man more eloquent in his silence than I could ever be with all the words ever fashioned. I do not need to touch him to love him but he has been too long denied a loving touch."

Inara swallowed slow, long and hard. Some instinct filling in the missing information that would never quite manage to pass the Counsellor's lips. "He is dying, isn't he?"

Tears broke free of wide startled eyes. She saw the glimmer of pain in the handsome face and felt herself weakening as he gave a single nod. "How did you know?" He whispered. Each word wrapped in pain.

The Companion took his long sensitive fingers in hers. "I know what it is to love so deeply, so fiercely that the 'verse can never hold you again except in that cherished image."

"If I would be a reflection I would be his. All the days and nights of my life. If such a thing could be I would never ask another thing of God or man."

"He is fortunate indeed to be so loved." She said softly. A Companion never judged.

It took the Counsellor several moments to find his voice again. "No. I am the one who is fortunate. Your beauty is only exceeded by your wisdom and compassion, Inara Serra."

"He may not be as comtortable with this arrangement as you are, Counsellor."

He smiled to reassure her. "That is why I will be present."

Shock and surprise held sway for a moment. "That is... most *yihuxunchan*." Especially considering what he had confessed to her.

Tollan bent his head and kissed her hands then looked up to meet her eyes. "This may be his last night in the 'verse Inara. There is nothing I would not give him. Will you pleasure him as I cannot? Let the joy you give him ease the sorrow of inevitable parting? It would be a blessing and a source of comfort to us both."

Now she understood. Realised why the payment was so much higher than normal. If she did this, she would be pleasuring not one client but two. Even though she would not touch Counsellor Tollan she knew he would feel her every touch on the other man's body. The intensity of Tollan's unspoken passion would make this the most intimate of acts. But would it be ethical?

"Well?" Asked Tollan gently. "Will you be the angel who will guide us both to Heaven?"

Inara gave the only answer she was equipped to give.

* * * * *

He was a quarter horse. Strong, sturdy and intuitive. All qualities Malcolm Reynolds liked. Rafe Connor watched as Mal familiarised himself with the horse, giving the animal time to adjust to him. Learn his scent and get a feel for his ways. The horse was calm and accepting by the time he swung up into the saddle. Connor said nothing, liking the way man and horse formed an easy natural bond. All the way to the ranch he filled Mal in on the set up, his two sons and two daughters, the boys in the bunkhouse and his ramrod. Mal nodded, his eyes sweeping across the country and liking everything he saw.

When they were within sight of the sprawling ranch house, Rafe slowed his mount and turned to Mal. "My wife died a ways back, Mal. Got two of the finest girls in the 'verse an' two sons no man could be more proud of. I ask only that you respect my word, my family an' the trust I'm showin' you. Have trouble with any of those things an' I ain't promisin' you'll make old bones."

Mal nodded, appreciating the man's directness. "I got no problem with that."

Rafe looked at him long and hard as if searching for something then gave a slow nod and smiled. "Good enough." He pointed to an old lever pump in the back yard. "You go get cleaned up an' I'll get Molly to sort through some old clothes for you."

He shook his head. "Not necessary Rafe. I got a change of clothin' with me."

"You always this independent, Mal?"

Malcolm Reynolds laughed then sobered when he looked down at his clothes. "Once an Independent..."

The rancher smiled at him. "Point taken, even so not all the men share that opinion so..."

"Don't be raisin' the issue?"

He smiled and stopped by the hitching post. They both dismounted. "Glad to see we understand each other Mal. Now you go get that stink off you. If I can still smell you when I open that gorram door again you'll be spending the night out passed the treeline. Do we have an understandin'?"

Mal nodded and grinned back at him. Happier and more relaxed than he had been in a good long while. "That we do."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*lese* = crappy *fei hua* = garbage/nonsense *moshengren* = stranger *jiaqi* = holiday *shenme shihou* = when *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dong ma* = understand *diyu* = hell *hundan* = bastard *qu* = yes (lit. go) *yihuxunchang* = unusual *shufu* = comfortable


Wednesday, August 4, 2004 2:56 PM


You are the best! I look here two or three times a day to see if you've added a new chapter!
Wonderful to see another side of our beloved Captain...he deserves a break, after all!

Wednesday, August 4, 2004 10:45 PM


Hmmm... I'm sensing some hurt/comfort coming on--two ways actually, in Inara's bit, and Mal & the Rancher's Daughter. And maybe just some outright *hurt* when Zoe catches the thief!

Enjoying the story very much thus far. I had a real feel of the planet on which Mal has landed.

Thursday, August 5, 2004 6:46 AM


I just *love* your stories Alison, can't wait for the next installment.

Thursday, August 5, 2004 8:29 PM


Love this story as I do all of them. Very original and its nice to see our favorite characters in a much different setting. Cant' wait to read more.

Saturday, August 7, 2004 3:52 PM


This one made me laugh out loud.

Book's eyes glittered with amusement. "I wouldn't worry about Jayne, Simon, not unless he comes back with the kind of infection you can't discuss at the table."

If you ever need a beta reader, don't hesitate. I'd love to be able to read these before everyone else...I mean for you. Yeah, for you. That's 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.