THE REFLECTION SERIES: 10. "The Healing Time"
Friday, September 3, 2004

"Inara's friends make her an offer. Serenity's crew begin to regroup. Then an unexpected visitor changes everything."



SUMMARY: "Inara's friends make her an offer. Serenity's crew begin to regroup. Then an unexpected visitor changes everything." 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

* * * * *

Simon Tam was thrown back into the cell without ceremony, the thick metal door clanging shut behind him. Zoe dropped to her knees and eased him gently on to his back, Wash swearing and humming with barely surpressed rage as Kaylee dabbed a handkerchief at his cut lip, her eyes wide with distress. The Shepherd had a sorrowful look on his face but Jayne looked puzzled. Kaylee was about to take one of Simon's hands in hers when Zoe stopped her. "Best not touch 'til we know how bad it is."

A great lump caught in the mechanic's throat, tears gathering in her eyes, heart faltering. As they fussed over him Simon's eyelids fluttered open.

The Shepherd frowned, his voice filled with concern. "What did they do to your hands, son?"

The doctor opened his mouth to answer then closed it without speaking. He looked as if he would pass out again at any moment. Kaylee leaned over him anxiously, not liking how his pupils had dilated and taken on an unfocused look. "I don't understand why they would do this to you."

"Don't have to have no ruttin' reason." Growled Jayne.

Simon managed to get one word out. It sounded as if it had been torn from his soul. "River."

The others looked shocked. Wash was not quite sure of Simon's meaning. "Are you sayin' they have River?"

The doctor shook his head very slowly. "*Bu qu*. Want her."

Zoe's eyes narrowed. "You mean that *tamade hundan* Badger wants her?"

Simon closed his eyes a moment then gave a single nod. "Yes."

The Shepherd looked from Simon to Zoe. "That man is heading for a very Special Hell."

"The sooner the better." Said Jayne.

"Let's just hope he doesn't take us with him." Zoe chipped in drily.

Book returned his attention to Simon and quickly but carefully checked him over, Kaylee asking him how he was doing every couple of seconds until the Preacher gave a quiet huff of frustration and looked her in the eye. "He's been beaten, Kaylee, and right now is probably feeling as well as he looks."

"But he looks awful!" Kaylee wailed.

The Shepherd nodded and got back to his examination. "Exactly."

Looking at Simon, Wash knew he had got off lightly. It made him feel a little better to have the doctor back with them but he could not help worrying about River and by extension, Inara. He hoped and prayed that the Companion would not pay a terrible price for trying to help them.

* * * * *

"Well if ya aren't about the most *wangu* man I ever did meet, Malcolm Reynolds!"

Mal gave a soft chuckle drawing a smile from his *laoban*. "Ain't got all day to lounge around like I got nothin' to do." He whispered.

His voice was cracked and in places fell so low Rafe found it hard to hear him but not for a thousand pieces of gold would he have said as much. He was too gorram happy to have Mal conscious again though he had no idea how the *diyu* the man had accomplished that little feat. "How're ya hands?"

Mal flexed them experimentally, pleased to have the bandages off. Even he was amazed by how fast the skin was healing in the sub-dermal layers. The top layers of the epidermis had been burnt off and it was only the fact that he had been hanging from the centre of the rutting ceiling by a gorram rope that had stopped his whole body going up in rutting flames. That little backhanded compliment was not lost on him. He wanted to thank the *goushi buru hundans* personally for that kindly gift at the first opportunity. As if he could read Mal's mind Rafe spoke directly to his darkest thoughts.

"Best leave revenge where it'll do ya the most good, Mal." He said quietly.

Mal shot him a stony glare but it cut no ice with Rafe. They were sitting in the lounge of the big house. Chung-li had taken Rose off to the kitchen with him claiming he needed her help with something. Molly and Todd were clearing up the mess in the barn as best they could but it looked like the barn was a lost cause. A whole pile of tack would need replacing but fortunately Rafe had spares which would tide them over. Old worn stock pressed back into service. Rafe took a long sip from his cooling coffee. He looked a question at Mal and was rewarded with a short nod, the ghost of a smile attempting to curve pain-filled lips.

They sat in companionable silence, Mal listening without interrupting while his boss told him exactly what had happened. As his story wound to a close his voice got quieter and quieter until the very hush of it was like to drown out the silence. Incongruous and contradictory as it might seem so it was.

"Don't go blamin' yourself, Rafe." Said Mal softly. "Not nothin' you could'a done."

"*Bushi*! I knowed they was *ben dan* but ignored it 'cause we needed the manpower. Should'a let 'em go once we were back on our feet."

"You couldn't have done that."

Rafe looked at him in surprise. "Why the *diyu* not?"

Mal managed a proper smile this time. "'Cause you're a good man not a mean old self-servin' *hundan* like me."

Rafe shook his head, his look unexpectedly serious. "Who's kiddin' who, Mal? If ya were that kind'a man we wouldn't be sittin' here havin' this conversation."

It was almost comical to see Mal trying to frown with no eyebrows but Rafe surely appreciated the effort. He chuckled.

"Don't go strainin' nothin' to try an' work it out. Told ya I know a good man when I see one."

"Then be sure to introduce me to him."

The rancher noticed that Mal seemed a mite distracted, his earlier good humour seeming to slip away. He took another sip of his coffee and watched him over the rim. "You okay?"

"*Mafan ni le*."

Rafe frowned and put his mug down. "*Fei hua*, no more of such talk. Ya ain't done nothin' *cuode, dong ma*?"

Mal shook his head slowly. "I brought this on you an' that ain't right."

"Only ones who've brought this mess are them as tried to kill ya. There *will* be a reckonin' Mal, I promise ya."

"What d'you mean?"

"*Ni zhen congming*, ya figure it out."

A disturbed look stole over Mal's face as he realised what Rafe was alluding to. "*Tianna*, can't do that Rafe. This ain't your fight."

"It became my fight when those *wangba dans* tried to kill ya an' set light to my barn. Lucky the horses kicked their way out in panic or I'd be short livestock as well. I got no words to tell ya how *shenjingbing fafeng* that makes me feel."

Mal was about to try to talk him out of it when the door opened and Rose held it wide so that Chung-li could carry in a tray. A large bowl of steaming soup was in the centre of the tray along with a spoon and napkin. "What the good gorram you doin'?"

Chung-li stopped in front of Mal and looked at him expectently. Rafe wanted to laugh at Mal's expression.

"I got burnt, Chung-li," Grumbled Mal in exasperation. "Didn't lose my gorram teeth."

That was it, Rafe couldn't surpress his laughter though he did try to mask it with a cough when Mal turned a hard disapproving glare his way. Rose shook her head and smiled happily. Chung-li was not put off by Mal's attitude but nudged him into a better sitting position so he could place the tray on his lap, fussing and placing the spoon just so within easy reach of his hand.

"Huh, gonna feed me too?"

The cook clucked at him then bobbed his head slightly. "Not think of food. Let food be *medicine*."

"Medicine huh?"


"Not babyin' me?"

Chung-li managed to look solemn. "*Bu qu*. Soup made with many ingredients good for health, help body recover, make strong again *dong ma*? Liquid easier for body to digest so get better plenty quick."

"Oh, scientific approach huh?"

Chung- li smiled happily at him. "You have many people worry. Repay best if get well quick."

He sighed at all the fussing but his eyes held a quiet gratitude. Mal was about to pick up the spoon when Chung-li reached for his hand. He gave a puzzled look then watched as the Chinaman turned his hand over, gently proding to see how it was healing. Afterwards he did the same to the other hand then picked up the soup spoon and gave it to Mal.

"Now you eat."

"Yes, mama."

Rose put her hand over her mouth and laughed. Mal could not quite hide his answering smirk.

"Sound like you better already." Said Chung-li.

Mal became serious for a moment. "Thanks to you treatin' me like I was wrapped in ruttin' cotton wool an' everyone else bendin' over backwards to help me."

"You're one of us Mal," Said Rafe with quiet intensity. "An' we take care of our own."

Rose didn't say anything but had wriggled closer until she was able to sit right alongside him. Mal looked down at her happy smiling face. He tried to sound as grumpy as possible but she saw right through him. "You get your voice back only to have nothin' to say?"

She shrugged then just as he thought she was not going to answer she did. "What's the use? You'd only ignore me anyway."

He pretended to be horrified. "Oh good gorram, I can't believe it! Fetch the doctor *mashang*, Rose has gone an' turned into an old nag!"

Rose giggled and punched him in the side, careful even in play not to hit a particularly sore spot. Chung-li frowned at him and tapped a finger against his bowl.

"*Wei*, you not waste good soup, *dong ma*?"

"Wouldn't dream of it Chung-li." Mal dipped his spoon in the soup, the steam still coming off it, delicious smells wafting up to him as he inhaled. It was a clear colour with a hint of beige and lumps of red in it with thin slices of spring onion framing the fresh ginger. As he tasted it his look of apprehension turned to pure ecstasy. He closed his eyes and moaned softly savouring the bite sized pieces of peeled tomatoes and the ginger with a faint hint of chicken and the delicate tang of spring onion. When he opened his eyes Mal was staring at Chung-li as if the man was some kind of reincarnated God. "I ever leave this piece of heaven I'm takin' you with me, even if I have to knock you unconscious an' hog tie you to do it."

Chung-li beamed a huge smile at him and bowed low. "Not have to kidnap Chung-li just ask. Road to friend's house never long." He patted his chest. "Path inside, never get lost. Heart always find you."

Mal had no words to say to that so just nodded. Rose touched his hand and he looked down into her expectent face. "You gonna nag me too?"

She shook her head. "*Bu qu*. You eat."

"What? I gotta eat on my own? Makes me feel like some animal in a gorram zoo."

"Didn't think you'd be so happy eatin' your soup while we tuck into the biggest gorram steaks in the whole 'verse." Said Rafe with a powerful lack of sincerity. "But.. if you insist.."

Mal shook his head. "Never said that, Rafe. Not gotta hit me over the head with it, I'm eatin'. See? This is me eatin'." He put another spoonful in his mouth."

Rafe gave a satisfied grin and watched with pleasure as Malcolm Reynolds made short work of clearing his bowl.

* * * * *

Bill Peary hated the short cut but what in the nine hells could they do? It was either that or sit around and wait for a hangman's noose. He had absolutely no doubt that Rafe Connor's men were already after them. What he did not know was that Hal Larkin had got to know the two of them pretty well in their time at the ranch and right now he was out thinking them step by gorram step.

* * * * *

Shepherd Book smiled for the first time in a long while. He looked at Simon, a kindly expression on his face. Kaylee sat next to Simon one hand on his outstretched leg, so close you couldn't get a flypaper between them. "The good news is that there's nothing broken."

The doctor frowned. "Really? I'm sure I felt some bones break."

"*Zhen de*, you probably heard them crack. Bones can flex a certain amount, not a whole lot but they do have some give in them especially the smaller narrower bones like those in the hand and feet. The blows must have been quick though I don't doubt it was very painful."

"*Qu, hen*."

Simon's hands were puffed out from the fluid that had formed around the internal bruising. It was still painful to open and close his hand. He was inordinately pleased that there were no bones broken. Kaylee gave Simon a sweet smile which he returned then turned to look at the Shepherd. Zoe and Wash were sitting with an arm around each other but with anxious expressions on their faces. They had been talking quietly together but stopped the moment Kaylee asked her question. Jayne frowned as he listened.

"You really think *Nara can do somethin'?"

Book leaned close to her, his quiet words intense. "No names no pack drill, *jide*?"

Kaylee flushed and silently cursed her big mouth. "*Duibuqi*."

"Should never have railroaded the Cap," Grumbled Jayne in a subdued voice.

"We didn't!" Protested Wash. "It was a legitimate vote."

"No, it wasn't." Zoe corrected quietly. Her own feelings of surpressed guilt coming to the fore. She still had not told them about the two sets of books and the note the Captain had left out for her in his bunk. Still made it hard for her to swallow when she thought on it. The Captain had gone and was not coming back. It was the only conclusion she could draw. Made her feel sick inside. An emptiness that without Wash would likely swallow her whole. Not gonna think about how many kinds of wrong it felt to be parted from him, her being married to Wash notwithstanding. She simply could not, would not, imagine her life without Mal in it. Knocked her whole world out of kilter leaving her feeling mostly lost.

Ever since Zoe had known him it had always been the two of them against the 'verse. Not nothing they couldn't face and overcome together. Mal had warned her not to marry Wash. Begged her near as damn it and he was a man as didn't beg. Said it would change everything though she had denied that possibility. Not because the Captain was wrong but because she wanted Wash so much. Truth was she wanted Wash's easy way of loving but needed Mal's strength. Two very different kinds of devotion making her whole. They kept together the pieces of her that had been shattered in the War.

Her history with Mal was a deep and abiding thing full of shared memories. Good times and bad but with that unspoken knowledge that he was her rock. The anchor that kept her from going adrift when the past crowded in and threatened to tear the future from her trembling hands. And she did the same for him. That bond all the stronger for being unspoken. Like looking in a mirror and seeing the reflection of her own soul staring back at her. But with Malcolm Reynold's haunted eyes. No way could she explain all of that to Wash and make him see as they did, feel even a tenth of what they felt, what they shared. Knew, bone deep where truth was a certainty. The two of them had long since gone passed the point of simple myth. The Captain had been right, the truth didn't matter a good gorram. The only ones who understood were them as had lived it. Only thing left to do was make the best of things. Even if it cracked the walls of her heart to do it. Others didn't need to know that but the pain of it was something she would likely carry to her grave.

* * * * *

The ship was smaller than Serenity but everything about it bespoke speed and the very latest technology money could buy. No one could mistake the vessel for anything but Alliance - the wealth needed to hire such a ship was staggering. The cost of owning it in more figures that you could fit on a page. Not the size that made it so rutting expensive but the plethora of exotic little extras she was equipped with. None of them within light years of standard. It was also the only ship Inara had ever set foot on that had full stealth mode. Not no hiding under the radar weak tea *goushi* neither but the full lack of heat and mass signature coupled with a high tech cloaking device. Enough to make it not only invisible to sensors but also to any naked eye observation. As for the ship's own inbuilt sensors they could measure pretty much any gorram thing the pilot wanted. It was also fitted with some pretty impressive counter measures just in case some nosy official got a little too close. The name of the vessel raised an eyebrow. It was the only non professional thing about it. The Crazy Goose. She looked at Tollan and Thomas to see them smiling at her, expectent looks on their amused faces.

"It's beautiful!" Inara did not gush, it was simply not in her vocabulary but this ship stole her breath away and gave it back to her - with interest. The length of her sigh being a clear indication. The Crazy Goose was a ship that simply could not fail to impress.

"Now," said Thomas once they were safely inside. "I want to know everything about this Captain of yours. I want to know him so well Inara that I can second guess him."

That made her blink. Second guess Malcolm Reynolds? Wasn't possible. Then she noticed the calm determined set of Thomas's jaw and reappraised that initial assumption. If anyone could do it Thomas could. But describing the Captain - Mal? How could she do that without making it sound like some mental institution was missing a patient? Inara was silent as the pilot lifted off, as smooth a take off as any she had ever felt and a whole lot quieter than Serenity. But beautiful as the ship undoubtedly was. Sleek and powerful as it could be. As seriously packed with the kind of equipment and payload that men would sell their souls for, it was not home. Only one place had won that place in her heart and right now it was in the hands of the enemy along with people she had come to care about. People who had become the only family Inara Serra had left in the 'verse.

"Perhaps it would help if you told us how you first met the Captain then go from there?"

Inara nodded, whet her lips, then slowly began to tell them what they wanted to know. Even though she was trying to help part of her felt like she was betraying a confidence even if that confidence was only her own.

* * * * *

It was good to be on his feet however unsteady and plagued with dizzy spells he might be. Everyone told him off for trying to do too much too soon but they also seemed to perk up just to see him up and about, a nice easy cameraderie lightening his heart with every bit of banter and every smile that followed. Made him all kinds of happy that his well being should matter to them. He was after all a stranger, a newcomer. Just passing through. Soon it would be time to move on, return to his old way of life, but for the time being he was determined to enjoy the now of it. Savour the little delights of easy friendship and mutual respect that were commodities so rare in the Black. The Black where nothing went smooth. The Black where every day was a fight for survival. Every job riven with risks, each carefully balanced and weighed against necessity.

His face itched something fierce where the skin was slowly healing, charred skin and flesh curling in places as new skin formed beneath. Might look like a gorram nightmare but he was alive and that wasn't nothing. Molly had stopped him trying to pick off and rip away the curling bits of skin and flesh, telling him it would leave him with scars that would never heal. So he had to bear the annoying irritation of it. Chung-li checked on him and when he wasn't making sure he ate properly and looked after himself he would produce an old chess set and they would wile away an hour or two playing out strategy and tactics in two dimensions instead of three. It calmed him and eased his heart. He tired easily and felt more aggrieved than he could put into words that a few hours on his feet would end with a few more flat on his back sleeping. There were times, even in the life of Malcolm Reynolds, when the body just took over and would not be ignored.

He awoke to find a happy little face beaming at him like some upside down lantern. He blinked and sat up, the lantern magically righting itself. Rose looked all excited and flushed like she had a secret that could not be contained but even as he was captivated by that sparkle in her eyes he detected a wariness hovering on the edge of it. Whatever it was came at a price.

"*Shenme* Rosie?"


That raised imaginary eyebrows. "Who would want to come *fangwen* way out here?" He paused and looked sideways at her. "Got some fancy *nan pengyou* you ain't told me about?"

Rose laughed at him and they teased each other for a minute or two then the door opened again and Rafe stuck his head around it. "Best get decent Mal. Got company."

All of a sudden Mal was not sure he was up to seeing anyone but something in the *laoban's* face kept that thought in the dark recess of his suspicious mind. These people had been nothing but good to him since the day Rafe had found him sitting in the grass. Had it really been only couple of weeks ago? Gorrammit, felt like years had passed and still he had seen nothing of Hal Larkin since the fire. He gave Rose a look, pretending to be bad tempered and grumpy but failing miserably to knock that knowing smile off her face or dim the sparkle in her eyes. Rose put her little arms around him and gave him a hug then kissed his cheek. In his mind's eye it was as if he had his Gracie back again. He knew she was all aware of that. Knew she would keep his secret safe. He had told her things about his lost *xiao mei* that nobody else in the 'verse would ever know, Zoe included. Somehow it hadn't seemed right to keep such a thing from her. It made the understanding that lay between them solid. Little Gracie had always been Malcolm Reynold's Archilles Heel. Even after the fever had taken her the memories left him vulnerable.

He muttered as she pulled back. "Don't make me weak, *dong ma*?"

She laughed bright and happy, using their shadow shapes to say what was in her heart. *Love you too*.

As she disappeared out of the door to let him dress he couldn't keep the happy smirk from leaking out. Gorram girl could see right through him. It wasn't fair, right or proper. Lucky for her that he loved her too.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *tamade hundan*/*wangba dan* = fucking bastard *wangu* = stubborn *laoban* = boss *diyu* = hell *hundan* = bastard *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit/lowest of the low *bushi* = not so *mafan ni le* = I've given you so much trouble *fei hua* = garbage talk/nonsense *cuode* = wrong *dong ma* = understand *ni zhen congming* = you're so smart *tianna* = oh God! *shenjingbing* = crazy *fafeng* = mad *qu* = yes (lit. go) *mashang* = on the double/quickly/right away/immediately *wei* = hey *zhen de* = it's true/really *hen* = very *jide* = remember *duibuqi* = sorry *goushi* = crap/dog shit *shenme* = what *fangwen* = visit *nan pengyou* = boyfriend *xiao mei* = baby sister


Friday, September 3, 2004 8:02 AM


Whew! Such a relief things are turning around at least a bit. Kaylee's bit was good. And Zoe.

Sunday, September 5, 2004 9:24 AM


"Truth was she wanted Wash's easy way of loving but needed Mal's strength."

I loved that line. It gave me goosepimples.

And talking of fowl - "The Crazy Goose"! BWAH! Nice.

And every time you mention Gracie, I could cry. Mal's Achilles Heel. Oh no, I just got a dum-dum-DUM! moment. What the diyu you gonna put the poor man through next?

Sunday, September 5, 2004 6:52 PM



Were's the rest of it?


Good stuff, keep it coming.

Keep flyin'


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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.