THE REFLECTION SERIES: 13. "Friends in Need"
Friday, September 24, 2004

"River amends her plan. Mal convinces Rafe to fight for what was lost. Then Inara lands on Glory."



SUMMARY: "River amends her plan. Mal convinces Rafe to fight for what was lost. Then Inara lands on Glory." 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

* * * * *

The sobbing cut through Simon Tam like butter through a knife. Bad enough to be trapped in this stinking hell-hole without being tormented by the sounds of the innocent crying for help that never came. It made him feel all manner of guilty, hiding away in the ceiling space like some common criminal trying to outrun the law. Only he was no criminal, just another victim in a 'verse adept at churning them out. Where were the Big Damn Heroes when you needed them? Not on this mining platform that was for sure. He had paused in his tracks and was now holding everyone up. River had insisted they keep phyiscal contact with the person just in front. It was a slow laborious way to move but kept them all together and made sure no one went the wrong way. Simon would have thought the sounds of so many people moving around and breathing heavily might have been a clue but who was he to talk?

River touched his face gently to draw his attention. He could just make out her features in the dim light. "Can't stop now, *ge ge*."

"But those people..." She shook her head sadly, face filled with compassion but with an odd kind of strength. "No time. Later."

"What if later is too late, River? What if those people die and we could have saved them?"

It took her a moment to respond, aware that the others were getting impatient behind them. "We have to survive Simon before we can help anyone else, *dong ma*?"

"I know River," He could feel the tears trapped in his throat, eyes pricking, heart heavy. "It just feels so *cuode*."

She tugged a lock of his hair. "Have to go now, change direction."

He tilted his head, all his concentration now on his sister. "*Shenme shi*?"

"They know we're heading for the ship."

Panic assailed him. "*Shenme?*"

River blinked and focused on him again, voice calm once more. "We can't go to the ship, Simon. It isn't safe."

"Why not?"

"*Tamen zhidao*."

"Who knows, *mei mei*?"

But she was already turning away from him, head swaying a moment from side to side as if unsure which way to go then she stopped and froze. Simon's heart missed a beat. He could hear the Preacher's deep steady voice quietly trying to calm the others down. Then River was moving again, turning left. Simon gripped her ankles, the sobbing sound now blessedly absent. Without another word he followed her and they followed him. Guilt ravaging his soul because he did so with relief, hoping they could get to another part of the complex before the pitiful sobbing and wailing recommenced. Hoping that when it did he would be far enough away not to hear it.

* * * * *

He was so tired his eyes were closing on their own no matter how hard he tried to keep them open. As he sagged in his chair, Chung-li gently took his mug and put it aside then leaned him back in the chair. Everyone was quiet until Todd spoke. "Did you have to drug him?"

Chung-li shook his head, a hand remaining on Mal's shoulder to stop him slipping further down the chair. "He is not drugged but *leihuai le*."

Mark frowned but noticed Mal seemed to be breathing deeply, soundly asleep. Rose slipped off her father's lap and made her way to his chair, her small hand reaching out to hold Mal's. Chung-li smiled down at her and she smiled back.

"What do you think?" Asked Rafe.

All eyes turned to the head of the table. Ben nodded slowly. "It sounds workable but we'd have to have someone on the inside."

"Or maybe," Said his brother thoughtfully. "We could *put* someone on the inside."

Molly shook her head. "It's too risky."

"But Mal said..."

"Mal isn't family." She asserted quietly but firmly.

No one could argue with that.

"Maybe we can adapt his plan?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*," Said Todd. "Sounded like Mal has contacts who could help us." "You mean like 'sleeping partners'?" Quipped Mark.

Everyone smiled or chuckled then slowly they grew grave again. Rafe sighed. "All I know is we don't have a lot of time. Cyrus wants us off his land by the end of the month."

"What about moving elsewhere on Glory, pa?" Asked Ben. "You said yourself Cyrus don't own all of Glory."

"That's because the part he don't own is all quicksand an' swamp son."

They fell silent again. A deep depression settling over them. For a moment Mal had given them hope. Todd took Molly's hand and squeezed it gently, she squeezed back and gave him a smile. "Don't take this wrong, *shifu*, but I don't think you should walk away."

"What else can I do? Don't wanna go an' start no war. Mal had a good idea but I don't know a lick about politics an' such an' the land ain't mine when all's said an' done."

Chung-li frowned slightly. "You only have White's word for that. A word you've believed for fourteen years, *shifu*."

"Chung-li, I know ya mean well - you all do - but I know what I signed an' now I've shown you the papers."

All heads turned at a sound from the other end of the table. Mal straightened, blinked and gave them a sheepish look. Molly chuckled at his look of discomfort. "You fell asleep, Mal."

"Huh?" They laughed and began to get up to leave. Mal rubbed a hand over his face. Rose leaned in and whispered something in his ear. He gave her a sharp look, she nodded back.

"Rafe. You think about my plan?" Everyone paused wanting to hear what the boss had to say. "Mal, it ain't that it's a bad plan but fact is I'm tied nice an' legal. Don't see no way out of it."


Rafe Connor blinked in surprise. "*Shenme*?"

"Legal knots need legal means to undo 'em, *dong ma*?" Intrigued the others gravitated back towards the table and began to sit down again. Chung-li smiled and put the kettle back on the big old range. "Son," Said Rafe. "Are ya tellin' me ya got someone on the inside as can help us?"

He shook his head. "Nope but we do what the fancy folks do." "We do?"

Mal stiffled a yawn. "We buy us someone who can."

Todd frowned at him, a glint of suspicion in his eyes. "Thought ya said we needed a gorram army?"

He nodded. "That I did."

"You sayin'," Said Mark slowly. "That we BUY us an army of folk?"

To their surprise Mal laughed but the laughter caught in his throat which was still more than a mite painful and made swallowing uncomfortable, as if a pile of wood chippings were in the back of his throat. He looked up at Chung-li when his cold coffee was pushed towards him. They waited until he finished it and could clear his throat. "Not sayin' you buy an army of folk, we need but one good man to set the ball rollin'." He paused and looked from face to face letting his eyes settle on Rafe Connor's. "I'm willin' to bet Cyrus White didn't get more money than God by bein' a good banker." Mark, Ben and Todd snickered at the way he said 'banker' knowing he meant something less complimentary. "I think he made his money twistin' folks outta their inheritence - not so much grabbin' their land as drawin' it out from under 'em. All nice an' legal like they did with you Rafe. Correct me if I'm *cuode* but when you first came to Glory you bought your first piece of land, *dui*?"

"Couple'a acres."

Mal nodded. "Acres that ain't yours no more, *shi ma*?"

"*Qu*. It was *yi huir qian* Mal. What does that have to do with now?"

"I think you were robbed an' that *wangba dan* White is nothing but a gorram *zei*."

"No Mal. I don't like him, never have. Don't trust him further than I can ruttin' well throw him but I got into financial difficulties. Affordin' the land took all I had, left me no coin for the cattle an' ranch an' such. That was when Cyrus drew up the rescue package. Gave me the money to get up an' runnin', buy the cattle an' build the ranch. Hire hands to help run it an' such. Got no one to blame for this mess but my ownself."

Mal shook his head. "I think you made a *chengshi cuowu*. Trusted White to loan you the money against the value of the land, on'y instead of you payin' off the loan to keep your land you ended up rentin' it."

"*Diyu* Mal, I got no head for that kind of business. I know but three things..."

"*My stock, my business an' a good man when I see one*." They chorused, quoting him word for word.

He blinked in surprise then gave in with a good grace feeling somewhat sheepish but happy despite the fix they were in. "Seems ya know me a mite too well."

"An' I'm bettin' Cyrus White is expectin' you to do just what you're thinkin' of doin'. He knows a good man when he sees one too Rafe but unlike you he don't honour an' respect you. If he did he never would'a twisted you outta your land in the first place."

For several minutes no one spoke. Each one digesting what had been said and wondering how in the nine hells they could turn their fortunes around.

"They do say you set a thief to catch a thief so I'm thinkin' we hire the sharpest mind we can find for the legal speak then we do some diggin' our own selves."

"Diggin'?" Said Rafe slowly. "We on'y got nine days Mal."

Mal nodded and looked at each and every one of them, measuring in his mind's eye how firm they would stand in the days ahead. "Nine days is nine days more than nothin'."

"What we gonna be diggin' for?" Asked Ben.

A slow sneaky smile stole across Mal's face. Weary as he was his pulse had begun to quicken at the prospect of the fight ahead. Didn't matter if there was no gunplay, in fact it would be better without it. No chance of them he was minded to help getting gut shot. If they lost it would only be what they were already thinking was gone but if they won the whole gorram world would be their oyster. "We're gonna delve into Cyrus White's past. Be interestin' to see how many other folk have fallen on hard times like you Rafe. How many so-called friends have been dug out of the mire on'y to find their benefactor growin' fat on the sweat of their brows."

Molly Connor liked the notion of fighting but wasn't sure Malcolm Reynolds could pull it off. "How the good gorram is that gonna help us?"

A truly beautiful smile slid over Mal's burnt and charred face and settled in as if it was there for the duration. Made him look more than a touch on the sunny side of smug. "That army I was tellin' you about? That's where we're gonna get it."

They exchanged doubtful looks but Mal noticed a spark of interest glitter deep in Rafe Connor's eyes and knew he had at last managed to hook him. Could see the man slowly gearing up for the fight. Not nobody gonna wipe their feet on him nor take what was his. Not never no more.

"After all," He whispered in a hoarse but tempting voice, light and coaxing like he was gentling a wild stallion to take his weight upon its' back. "What you gotta lose?"

Rafe's eyes met Mal's in perfect understanding. "Not a gorram thing."

* * * * *

Wailing. Thin and pitiful. Kaylee was crying, Wash trying to comfort her and hush her at the same time. Simon could feel his throat closing up. He stopped again. "We can't do this!" He protested in an urgent hiss. "These people need help."

"Huh," Came Jayne's dark muffled voice from some area way behind. "Ya ask me we all need help."

Zoe's quiet but curt voice snapped through them. She had been unnaturally quiet the whole time they had been shuffling through the ceiling space. "Help we're not gonna get or be able to give if we let sentiment divert us."

Simon could not see her, could not turn that much but he knew she was several feet behind him. "Isn't that a little cold? I would expect that kind of rationale from the Captain but..."

Her voice hardened, cutting him off quickly. "Not havin' this discussion now, *dong ma*? We got no food, no water, no safety 'till we get out of here an' maybe not even then."

"Is that supposed to be comforting?" The doctor quipped.

River sighed. "Short tempers won't help anyone, Simon."

"How much further?" Asked Kaylee in a small voice.

"Have to go the long way," Said River. "But I know where we can get some food."

Wash's voice sounded cautious. "Won't it be dangerous exposing ourselves to get food?"

Zoe patted his arm and tried to keep her own worry from showing. "We have to eat, *zhangfu*, but more importantly we have to get the *diyu* out of here. River? What the good gorram is takin' so long?"

"Men, bad men, waiting, watching, looking for us. Every door is covered, every exit watched."

"If that's the case how are we supposed to get any food?" Asked Wash.

Although they couldn't see the smile on her face they could hear it in her voice. "Every ship has mice."

Simon blinked in the dark. "Mice?"

"Mice, rats," River chatted happily. "Rodents. We're just bigger, hungrier than most."

* * * * *

Inara was relieved to finally land on Glory, the sun bright and strong through the remnant of the watery curtain of early rain. She could not remember the last time she had been on such a verdant world. Even the smell of the place was green. A little smile touched her lips then she remembered why they were here. Tollan watched her face, his eyes flicking passed her to take in their surroundings. She had no idea how far out the nearest ranch would be. "I take it you have a map of Glory?"

Tollan was about to go and bring up the map up on his screen when he froze, his mouth dropping open in surprise at another image. "This is reminiscent of Mohammed and the Mountain."

The Companion frowned and glanced at Thomas for enlightenment but he didn't have any idea what Tollan was talking about either. She walked over to him. "Mohammed?"

Michael Tollan nodded but he was not looking at her or Thomas. His eyes were glued to the screen. "If the mountain won't come to Mohammed..." His voice trailed off as he turned the screen so she could see the images playing across it. Her mouth fell open in surprise as she watched dozens of men riding into view and converging on their landing site. She shot Tollan an anxious look. Not sure what it meant. "I don't understand."

"We have company, Inara. It seems the mountain is coming to us."

* * * * *

Rafe Connor stared at the ship hogging the landing platform. Sleek and shinier than anything he had seen before it shouted Alliance. His pulse quickened, palms glistening with a touch of nerves. Hoping it was not Cyrus White upstaging their plan. Beside him his sons had already drawn their sidearms, not prepared to take any chances. Rafe wished his foreman Hal were with them but didn't have time for further introspection as the ramp lowered with a slow hydraulic hiss that made it sound like the metal door was kissing the verdant soil.

Counsellor Tollan walked cautiously down the ramp. He was unarmed and insisted Inara stay back until he could assure her it was safe. Thomas called out to her and Inara went to see what he needed. His request drew an automatic protest. "You need to rest, Thomas."

"No, Inara. I need you to help me get up."


"You want me to die of frustration for want of the aid of a friend?"

That ended her protests in double quick time as he had intended. Why was she doomed to be surrounded by stubborn men? He asked for his prosthetics and Inara fitted the limbs with hands that trembled only a little. He watched her closely and did not speak again until she had finished fastening them and helped him dress.

"*Xie xie ni* Inara. Now, help me to my feet. *Qing*."

She nodded and got him upright then walked beside him as he rocked his body to get into the rythym for walking. Inara felt uneasy at the thought of descending the ramp, afraid that he would lose his footing on the tilted surface. "Thomas, this is a bad idea."

Impossibly he gave her an impish grin. "You can remind me of my folly afterwards."

Inara was about to come back at him with a quip when a voice she recognised floated up the ramp. She forgot everything she had been about to say. Thomas watched as she turned, her head snapping round as if it had been jerked on a rope. He followed in her wake, catching up with Tollan at the foot of the ramp. Most of the men had dismounted and one was speaking quite animatedly to the Counsellor but it was not him that Inara was staring at. Thomas craned his neck to see better.

Mal did not see her at first, his attention on the *laoban* and the man descending the ship's ramp to meet them. When they had seen the ship coming in to land Rafe had feared it was Cyrus and every hand who could be spared had grabbed a horse and rode down with them to see what the good gorram was going on. What they found was not what they had expected. Mal had insisted on going with them and stood just behind Mark, his keen eyes following everything. He was somewhat reassured when only one man came down the ramp. Could see at a glance that the man was unarmed. He holstered his gun and took a step forward, *Shi* coming up behind him to ask a question. Mal turned his head to reply. "Don't know, *Shi*, but it don't look like Cyrus. Reckon we got us a false alarm."

Then he turned to face front again and froze in his tracks. A woman had emerged with another man walking awkwardly a few steps behind her. All the breath in Mals' lungs huffed out of him. Alarmed, *Shi* touched his arm. "Mal? *Shenme shi*?"

Mal ignored him, began to weave through the others to get a closer look. Sure his gorram eyes must be deceiving him. Then Inara spotted him. That beautiful head snapping round to stare in his direction until her eyes found his, her face going from shocked recognition to something approaching horror and alarm. He opened his mouth but nothing came out, his brain gone all sluggish on him just as Chung-li had warned. If you don't rest your body it will fail you the moment you need it to respond the most. Huh. Even God was a gorram joker it seemed.

They never noticed the talking had stopped around them, heads turning in curiosity to watch. Inara Serra was stunned, her heart missing several beats. It was Malcolm Reynolds but not as she remembered him. Still the tall lean Captain of Serenity even though his Independent clothes were gone and in their place homespun cloth bound him. It was his face that made her gasp, the charred flesh and skin marking him, blackened hands hanging loosely at his sides, mouth open but soundless. For a moment Inara wondered if she had lost her hearing. Silence yawed at her and time stood still. The whole 'verse hanging in abeyance. Then her feet were moving, words tumbling from her lips and making not a lick of sense. He never moved, not daring to believe his eyes and having no clue what in *diyu* she could be doing on Glory. That she had come looking for him did not even occur to him.

"Inara? What the good gorram you doin' here?" His words were whispered, crackling slightly as if still burning in the aftermath of the fire that had scorched him so badly. Tears pricked her eyes, a hesitant hand rising as if to touch the ruin of his face. She paused and lowered her hand without touching, not wanting to add to his injuries which to her eye looked extensive. "Mal? What happened to you?"

He snorted softly. "Some folks forgot the gorram war was over."

She frowned. "Someone did this to you on purpose?"

Her shocked disbelief amused him. "It's a long story. Now what in the nine hells are you doin' here with that fancy vessel? Don't tell me you wanna replace your shuttle for some ruttin' piece of Alliance finery? Don't think a Cap'n's wage can stretch to that."

To his surprise his words produced a sound like a muffled sob then she was wrapping her arms around him and hugging him as if afraid to let him go. Mal was surprised and a little shocked at the unexpected display of emotion. Awkwardly he patted her shoulder, all too aware of the speculative looks they were drawing but concerned also that something terrible must have happened. He felt the moisture trickle down his neck and realised Inara was crying. For a moment he hugged her back, sensing she needed that connection, then gently eased back to get a good look at her face. "Inara, what happened? What're you doin' here?"

Her voice was muffled but he ignored the fact that she had been shamelessly crying in his arms just a second before. As she spoke her control began to reassert itself though the worry in her eyes remained. "We've got trouble, Mal. Zoe took a job from Badger and now the crew and Serenity are in the hands of slavers..."

She never got another word out, a tirade of colourful swearwords spilling from Malcolm Reynolds' lips with anger. Incensed he described in graphic and violent detail exactly what he intended to do to that worthless *tamade hundan* when he got his hands on him. As his words began to trail off Inara laid a gentle hand against his right cheek, her eyes searching his for the answers he had yet to give. "What happened Mal? Who did this to you?"

Someone touched Mal's shoulder and he half turned, a little smile hovering like a shadow on his cracked lips. "Inara, this is Rafe Connor. He's the owner of the Wellspring Ranch, finest spread on all of Glory."

Rafe raised his eyebrows at that.

"Rafe, I'd like you to meet Inara Serra. Inara is a Registered Companion and has the hire of a shuttle on my boat."

Rafe took her hand and grinned at her. "Any friend of Mal's is a friend of mine, ma'am. Welcome to Glory."

Mal at last seemed cognisant of the attention they were drawing. "What say we take this back to the ranch, Rafe?"

"First there are a couple of people I'd like you to meet Mal." Said Inara.

"Come one come all Miss Serra," Said Rafe with a smile. "We got plenty room up at the house an' my cook is about the best in the whole gorram 'verse."

Inara looked genuinely sorry to have to turn him down. "I'm afraid that won't be possible Mr Connor we have to stay with the ship."

Mal looked a little confused. "Ship?"

She smiled at Mal, something he realised he could easily become used to. "The Crazy Goose. And no," She cut Mal off before he could make some sarcastic comment. "Wash didn't name her. She belongs to some friends of mine."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*ge ge* = big brother (familiar) *dong ma* = understand *cuode* = wrong *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *shenme* = what *tamen zhidao* = they know *mei mei* = little sister *leihaui le* = exhausted *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *shifu* = sir *dui* = correct *shi ma* = is that so/oh really? *qu* = yes (lit. go) *yi huir qian* = a while ago *wangba dan*/*tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *zei* = thief *chengshi cuowu* = honest mistake *diyu* = hell *zhangfu* = husband *xie xie ni* = thank you *qing* = please *shi* = ten


Friday, September 24, 2004 10:51 PM


I really love this series Ali. And finally it appears a rescue is underway? Please post more soon.

Saturday, September 25, 2004 3:25 AM


Hurrah! Not only are the rescuers getting back together, but just who Rafe needs has arrived, too. But, as is with all your stories, the best part is when Inara lost her composure and showed Mal how much she cares. Thanks!

Sunday, September 26, 2004 1:42 AM


Lovely reunion scene between Mal and Inara. Liked his voice crackling like it was still burning.

Sunday, September 26, 2004 1:53 PM


Great scene between Mal & Inara. Loved the change in perspective Inara brought to the setting and the situation.

Liking this story more with every chapter!

Monday, October 24, 2011 12:45 PM


He whispered in a hoarse but tempting voice, light and coaxing like he was gentling a wild stallion to take his weight upon its' back.
As someone that trains horses, I find this to be a particularly beautifully discriptive line:D and VERY Mal, well done!

"The Crazy Goose. And no," She cut Mal off before he could make some sarcastic comment. "Wash didn't name her. She belongs to some friends of mine."
Hahahahaha sounds like a Wash nameXD
totally loving this shiny story! :D your writing style is awesome:D


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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.