Thursday, February 14, 2008

"While Zoe, Wash and Book try to find Mal and Jayne, River attempts to make sense of what happened to them. Meanwhile, help of an unexpected variety comes into play."


TITLE: "TANGLED" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Mal. Jayne. Crew. RATING: G. STATUS: Sequel to "BY ALL MY SINS REMEMBERED". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "While Zoe, Wash and Book try to find Mal and Jayne, River attempts to make sense of what happened to them. Meanwhile, help of an unexpected variety comes into play." 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

* * * * *

She couldn't help it. The images behind her eyes kept fracturing over and over into splinters of pain, confusion and disorientation. They were lost and only she could find them. They were family and if she failed it would mean a slow death for them all. Simon thought she was sleeping and in a way she was but not when she closed her eyes. The deepest sleep occurred when they were open.

* * * * *

This was a bad idea. In fact, in the land of Bad Ideas this one was King. Wash gritted his teeth and managed to keep the little shuttle relatively stable while everything around it went to *diyu*. Whose crazy idea was this again? Oh yeah. His. He only knew it was daylight because between the shuddering gusts of wind throwing debris and rain into the brooding sky a little more light would leak through, it's fitful illumination mocking them. The next violent gust would squash it but still. Any port in a storm. Speaking of which... "What's that?"

Zoe leaned forward, one hand on her husband's shoulder, eyes squinting. "Looks to be a tower of some kind."

"It'll be matchwood soon." Wash muttered.

"Uh uh," said Book "if I'm right that structure's made of steel not wood."

Zoe spared a quick look at the Preacher. "Know what it is?"

"Unless I'm much mistaken that's the remains of Head Winding Gear."


"It means there's a mine shaft underneath it. No doubt long fallen into disuse but..."

"Wash, get us down!"

The pilot fought bucking controls. "Are you crazy, *bao bei*? If I..."

"They're down there."

Her tone was clipped, authoritive, certain. No room for doubt. Wash blinked then nodded. He had to admit it was the first structure of any kind they had come across on this crappy planet. The place was called Sentosa, named after some tiny island off Singapore back on Earth-That-Was. Meant Tranquility. That was a joke. This was as far from tranquil as it was possible to imagine but if his beautiful but deadly wife wanted him to land on this pile of *goushi* in the mother of all storms so be it. Didn't mean he had to like it though.


"I heard you, Zo, just have to do this carefully, in increments."

She looked at him then, her face devoid of any expression but determination. "As long as those increments don't take all day."

He bit back the temptation to make a snappy retort. Knew she was worried about their missing crew. He would do nothing to add to that burden. Well. Not if he could help it. "Better hang on to somethin' *bao bei*, this could get a little bumpy."

Given the way they were already being bounced around no one commented. Not a one of them needing a demonstration on just how much worse things could get.

* * * * *

He awoke to humming. At first it was distant enough to seem insect related but as he said hello to his aches and pains, muscles flexing experimentally against the rope that bound him, the humming got louder and he realised it was nothing born of nature after all. Jayne stilled but did not open his one good eye. He was listening, his senses stretched for any information as to where he was and what in the sphincter of hell was happening. The hum was loud enough now that his memory shuddered with knowledge he wished he did not have. After they got the Captain out of that Skyplex Jayne had helped get him to the infirmary. Among all the things Niska had done to Mal there had been this weird mark on his chest, right over his gorram heart. Simon had patiently explained what kind of device had been used, what it did and with a sick feeling Jayne knew he was about to get a first hand demonstration. *Wo cao* he murmured.

The sudden light cheerful cackle in his ear told Jayne he had been heard. The creepy crimelord knew he was awake which meant his latest nightmare was about to begin.

* * * * *

River found it confusing. Going back and forth from one to the other but she wouldn't abandon them. Even though she was under layers and layers of blankets, hers and Simon's, she was still cold. Couldn't stop shivering, her mind touched by ice as she explored the faint clues leaking through her psyche. At first Mal had been the strongest but he was fading now, pain and weariness battling with the cold and something else. Something damp, fetid, slimey even. The very thought was like a stain on her mind making her want to recoil and retch but she couldn't, this was a thread, thin and tenuous but a connection to the Captain. So she hung on, expanded her consciousness to try to make that connection stronger but it was too frail and the man on the other end of it was unable to help her. She found herself oddly disappointed.

Then her mind reeled back a little, something else tugging at her. 'Moonbrain'. She almost smiled. Jayne. The ape-man gone wrong but not. Smarter than he looked. More sensitive than he acted. More afraid than he would admit. As human as any of them and just like them he had become more than crew. Family. Now her family was hurting. Lost to them in some darkness she needed to fathom. They were hurt but she couldn't tell how much was physical and how much caused by the conditions they were being kept in. She was sure they were being held by someone, someone determined that they would never find their way home. In this instance they wouldn't have to. The shape they were likely to be in home would have to find them.

* * * * *

It was an odd almost creepifying feeling. Numb as he was. Cold and pretty much barely conscious still the stealth of it sparked something in his backbrain that had kept him alive through more *goushi* than intellect could allow. Instinct deep and primeval stirred forcing his weary and sluggish mind to fight for comprehension. He couldn't say he actually 'felt' anything but if the image in his brain of his flesh crawling was any indication this wasn't good. Mal tried to lick his lips but there was no sensation. He blinked. At least he thought he did. It was all manner of hard to tell in the perpetual darkness in which he currently dwelt. Then a brush of warm air stirred against his ear and words puffed in little clouds forming a fog against the ear canal. Might have been words but it was hard to tell.

"*Wei*!" She shook him. Hard. The foul water sloshing against his bedraggled body. A weight that was sagging dangerously close to sliding beneath the slowly rising level of liquid filth. "Mal, wake up!"

The rocking motion had no effect. Heavy lids crawling shut he was almost unconscious. Saffron swore like a fishwife then drew back her hand and slapped his face. His head rocked back eliciting the smallest of groans. A look of concern crossed her face. Of all the things that Malcolm Reynolds could be relied upon it was his bloody minded refusal to give up whatever the odds. It unnerved her to see him so vulnerable, not that she would ever admit as much. Taking a breath she clenched her hand into a fist and hit him as hard as she could in the face. What little traction his body had on the uneven wall deserted him, the violence of the blow sending him beneath the water. Alarmed, Saffron tried to drag him up, get his head above the water line, but he was a waterlogged weight and tough as she was there was no leverage to stop him slipping through her fingers.

"Gorramit Malcolm Reynolds," she spat "I am NOT diving down into that muck and filth to drag your sorry ass out of the water,*dong ma*?"

There was no reply and the silence filled her with almost as much dread as the lack of bubbles. Saffron grit her teeth using annoyance to hide the worry.

"*Tian Yesu*, you are gonna owe me big time when we get outta this."

Taking a deep breath the little thief submerged her head before her common sense could talk herself out of it. Typical, there was nothing to see in the fetid murk, she had to feel her way and the things her hands touched made her shiver with more than the cold. It took longer than she hoped before her hands touched cloth, fingers scrambling for a hold while she tried not to lose her footing. With much shifting and effort, two heads finally broke the surface. Only one was breathing. Saffron wanted to shake the Captain but fear stayed her hand, that and the need to keep a firm grip on him to stop him sliding back beneath the water's surface. Turning her head she looked for something, anything that might help. Typically there was nothing. No handy beam to cling to, no length of rope hanging off a hook, no hidden exit suddenly revealed. They were trapped and with the water continuing to rise she was struggling for options. Logic told her to let go of the Captain and save herself. He wasn't going to make it anyway but her plan relied on using Mal and his ship and crew to pull the job off. Saffron snorted then almost choked as some of the foul water trickled back down her nose.

"*Wode ma*, that is disgustin'!" She spat and glared at the Captain then let a slow sigh seep out of her mouth. The anger and annoyance going with it leaving only worry behind. "What am I gonna do with you?"

Saffron felt for a pulse, her own racing when none was detected. With a bit more effort she managed to jam Mal up against the wall and with rapidly numbing hands opened his mouth, her fingers feeling for any muck he had swallowed in a futile attempt to make sure his airway was clear. Who was she kidding thinking she could revive a dead man? Yet for all the trouble they had caused each other she didn't want to see Mal dead. In pain, yes. Irritated to within an inch of his life? Absolutely. But Serenity's benighted Captain had to be alive to give her that much satisfaction and part of her had always been drawn to him. Liked him even. His blend of stupid nobility oddly endearing. Saffron let the body slip just a little, enough to bring their faces level, then took a couple of deep breaths to inflate her lungs and closed her lips over his. If this didn't work she would follow the gorram sumbitch into *diyu* and torment him for all eternity. No one did Saffron out of a million square job. Didn't matter a good gorram if Malcolm Reynolds didn't know a thing about it. It was the principle of the thing. As she had once tried to explain to him it wasn't even about the money.

* * * * *

"What the *cao* do you want with me?"

The weathered smile held no affection just a twisted out of kilter sick humour. Niska tilted his head the better to bring his smug face into Jayne's diminishing world view. "You attack my Skyplex, Mister Cobb. Caused much trouble to my reputation."

Jayne spat out the blood congealing in his mouth. Unfortunately he didn't have enough energy or the right angle to hit Niska in the face but he did have the faint satisfaction of seeing the man take a step back as it dribbled down the mercenary's chin. "If you don't want more trouble than you can handle you'd better let me go, *mashang*!"

The crime lord laughed, his eyes twinkling behind glass. "Ah yes, I see why Malcolm Reynolds keeps this one."

"He keeps me 'cause I'm a bad ass mercenary an' when I get free I'm gonna twist your gorram head off you ruttin' *tamade hundan*!"

Niska tutted congenially and smiled back. "He keeps you for entertainment, yes?"

Jayne so wanted to come back with a smart ass comment but the breath in his body was stolen when the machine was switched on. Pain radiating across his chest in an agony he had never experienced before. He thought he had endured everything the 'verse could throw at him but he was wrong. Again and again the sharp needle hot pain lanced through his body. His last thought before everything faded to blessed black was how much he wanted to turn that gorram device on the old man. *Diyu*, he'd even pay for the gorram privilege.

* * * * *

Wash gritted his teeth. Landing was so much harder than it looked with the fierce winds buffetting them in irregular eddies that were impossible to predict. Luckily the pilot's reflexes were second to none. Zoe squeezed his shoulder, proud of her man, then simply hung on. Book said nothing, his eyes speaking for him as he scanned the rapidly approaching ground beneath them. They were coming in at too sharp an angle, the rate of descent multiplying at an alarming rate. With no thermals to speak of and a hostile storm raging the muscles in Wash's arms were bunched with the effort, fighting for every foot of lift to slow the shuttle's descent. It worked but only barely as in a short fitful lull Wash took the opening it gave and settled them down with a bump before the next gust could dash them against the rocky ground.

For several moments no one spoke, too grateful being safely down to want to jinx it. Wash closed his eyes on a silent prayer of thanks and gripped Zoe's hand which was clamped on his shoulder like a vice. Zoe leaned down to brush her lips against his cheek. "Good work, *zhangfu*."

"I'm a leaf on the wind."

Book smiled. "We were nearly debris. I've seen some fancy flying in my time but I don't know anyone else who could have got us down safely."

Wash appreciated the praise, even happier when Zoe straightened and patted his shoulder. A proud and possessive smile on her lips. "That's my man."

Now that they were on the ground all three stared at the superstructure no more than 200 yards in front of them. The head winding gear appeared to be mainly in one piece, the skeletal structure allowing the storm to rage around and through it without let or hinderance. It was hard to see anything else, dirt and debris making visibility something they could only wish for. Wash looked at the Shepherd. "Are you sure about this?"

"*Bu qu*, but every search has to start somewhere and if the Captain and Jayne aren't on the surface then either they are underground or..."

"They aren't on the planet any more." Zoe finished for him.

* * * * *

It hurt like a bitch. This really was *diyu*. No. Wait. That was the *pofu* fastened to him like a limpet and damn near crushing the air out of his lungs. He felt claustrophobic, light headed and all manner of disorientated. Then her face was out of his and the pressure on his chest lifted, the cooling breeze from her breath unnoticed. His thoughts starting to drift until she slapped him. Not once but over and over again, a litany of curses rolling off her tongue before he could grasp what she was saying. Her dark irritated scowl gave him the gist of it.


The blows halted abruptly and the face leaned in again. Too close for him to focus but the haze of red around her head sparked a memory and not one involving a halo.


She was so relieved to hear him speak that the quality was immaterial. The gorram sumbitch was alive! "Took you long enough."

Puzzlement crowded in, threatening to overwhelm him. "Whuh?"

Her huff was pure frustration. "We have to get out of here. Now, before he discovers you're gone."

The Captain did not have to feign confusion. Not a word made sense. What in the nine hells was she talking about? The tug on his arm merely jostled his balance and nearly tipped him over. Fearing Mal would fall back under the water Saffron relented and held him upright, forced to take more care despite the water now creeping up to their necks and her own growing impatience.

"He'll come lookin' for you an' if he finds you he finds me, *dong ma*?

Mal blinked blankly at her. "*Shei*?"

A horrible thought suddenly occurred to her. "How much do you remember?"

It turned out that he didn't remember much. After being shoved down the shaft and hitting his head things got more than a mite surreal. Saffron quickly brought him up to speed, not encouraged by the way he was staring at her.


"Y'ain't real."

Anger overtook impatience. For two pins she would kill him herself, the job be damned. "Honey, I'm the only real thing about this gorram nightmare."

"If'n Niska's after me what in the nine hells am I doin' up to my gorram neck in water?"

"Tryin' my patience? Look, don't care how it sounds Mal I saved your life an' that means you owe me. Now you have to help us get outta here so we can finish the job." Mal felt like Alice down the rabbit hole except nowhere in his wildest imagination could he mistake Saffron for the White Rabbit. Mayhap the Queen of Tarts but that was it. "*Gongzuo*?"

"Million square." Saffron paused just long enough to shove her face up against his own, her eyes a glitter that was hard as diamonds and many times more deadly. "You mess this up for me sweetie an' I'll stash your body where not even the devil will find it."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *shenme* = what? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *wei* = hey! *goushi* = crap/dog shit *wo cao* = I'm fucked *dong ma* = understand? *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *wode ma* = mother of God *cao* = fuck *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately/quickly *zhangfu* = husband *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *shei* = who? *gongzuo* = job


Friday, February 15, 2008 1:30 AM


glad to have a new tale from you and developing nicely:) mind, i'm a sucker for all things saffron!

Friday, February 15, 2008 2:23 AM


Saffron and Niska in the same story! This one promises to be one interesting ride!

Friday, February 15, 2008 12:40 PM


I know the boys are in a predicament, but I can't help laughing at Saffron.
> "You mess this up for me sweetie an' I'll stash your body where not even the devil will find it."<
Loved Wash with the Zoe pride. And River seeing how Jayne hid his fear. This sounds like we'll see some interesting twists!

Monday, February 18, 2008 8:39 AM


I love the Queen of Tarts line! And this is shaping up really well. Poor Jayne, though, being subjected to that machine. And as for Saffron - don't trust her!


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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.