HOPE SERIES: 9. "Clouds"
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Things had been good for so long now the Captain knew it could not last. Yet how was he to interpret River's warning?"


TITLE: "CLOUDS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Simon/Kaylee. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "BLESSINGS". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Things had been good for so long now the Captain knew it could not last. Yet how was he to interpret River's warning?" 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

* * * * *

Leaving Carousel had been hard, not just for Kaylee but for all of Serenity's crew. The Fryes were the kind of people you wanted to hold on to and never let go. The Captain had spun things out as long as he could but after a month they needed to get back into the Black. Not that he thought River and Simon were in any danger of being discovered by the Alliance on Carousel but they needed to find work, keep flying. It was a tearful but happy parting with promises made on both sides to keep in touch and not to leave it so long until their next visit.

Once in the Black a kind of subdued silence engulfed the crew, broken only by the twins exercising their newly formed lungs and running their parents' ragged. River was amused and went to check on them, not stopping long enough to get in the way before gravitating back to the bridge where the Captain sat going through their options. On the screen Monty was shaking his head, he hadn't heard of any work going either. Things were getting tighter every day with the paying jobs being closer to the Core worlds, a fact the Captain was not wanting to explore. It was frustrating that in the months running up to the twins' birth work had been plentiful, a glut even. Now that unusual period of plenty was gone and what passed for Reality had come crashing back in reminding him of how close they lived to the raggedy edge. The endless struggle to not only survive but live to fight another day. It was the one thing that made him worry that bringing children up aboard Serenity was a mistake. The truth though, however hard it might be to swallow, was that nowhere in the 'verse was really safe and that hurt more where tender little lives relied on him to keep them safe.

"Surprises closer to home."

The Captain was only half listening to her. "Mmm? What was that, River?"

"Surprises. Not all of them good but always unexpected."

He spun his chair round and looked at her, all his attention on the waif like creature who had become dear as a daughter to him. "You sayin' we got trouble comin', albatross?"

He hadn't called her that in a long time but River liked it. "The past has a habit of catching up no matter where you go or how fast you travel."

Mal felt his heartbeat falter, his blood going cold. "Alliance?"

She shook her head.

"Blue Sun then? Those *tamade hundan* doggin' our gorram footsteps?"

Another headshake. He was beginning to get a mite frustrated with her for not speaking plain. Well aware of his frustration, River tried to make it clearer. "Someone who was gone only it was an illusion. Like yours but less honest. A gamble that almost paid off. Mustn't make the same mistake twice."

"Darlin', I got no clue what you're talkin' about."

River sighed, being a genius didn't make it any easier to unravel the cascade of images and thoughts running through her head. "Just be ready. Remember: not all that glitters is gold and not all friends are true."

"An' enemies, what about them?"

She dropped into his speech pattern. "We got enemies a-plenty an' this is an old one."

The Captain stared at her, wracking his brain to make sense out of her words. "So. Someone we know?"

Nodding, River stepped closer as if to emphasise what she was about to say, her eyes boring into his. "When you hear the impossible, listen. It will seem too good to be true. It is."

"I hear somethin' like that I gotta turn tail an' run, *dui*?"

"No, just look with your eyes wide open. Don't trust what you see or hear, just family."

"Wouldn't it be safer to keep away?"

River shook her head. "Wouldn't work. The vulture keeps to its' place of power but always comes out to feed."

A horrible thought closed an icy hand around his heart. "You talkin' 'bout Niska?"

"*Bu qu*. More than one vulture, always looking for the next meal."

"Got it. Don't get gobbled up."

For a moment her stern expression eased into a smile of affection then she was serious again. Her eyes fixed on his as if by will power alone she could keep him safe. "*Xiaoxin*."

"I ain't gonna do nothin' risky, River. Least, nothin' riskier than normal." She rolled her eyes. "But I'll be careful, promise."

"Cross your heart and hope to die?"

The Captain swallowed slowly, trying to ignore how much those words troubled him. "Cross my heart an' hope NOT to die."

Her ghost of a smile lingered in his mind long after she had left. Turning back to the ship's control console the Captain sat lost in thought and wondered why, just when life had got so shiny it almost made his heart burst with the joy of it, a gorram cloud had to come on the horizon and block out all the light.

* * * * *

They called her 'little' Hope but Hope wasn't little any more. She was eleven going on twelve but much older in every other way. Hope had inherited her mother's sharp but silent nature, the ability to constantly observe and assess being something so deeply ingrained in her that it must have been written in her DNA. She had learnt that thinking quicker was not always as good as thinking smarter. That she had learnt from Mal. Everyone said the sunny side of her nature was Wash breaking through but unlike her father it was something she could contain deep within her rather than be carried on like a tide. So it was that Hope had the first stir of instinct that something wasn't right long before the Captain told his crew. Hope watched. Listened not only to what was said but all the words and thoughts left hanging in the silences that others missed. Zoe noticed her focus and wondered at it but held her peace, respecting the fact that her little one was growing up. Not even protesting when Hope had come to her wanting to learn how to shoot and throw a knife. The shooting hadn't surprised her, the knife throwing had. Now here she was standing before Jayne Cobb, watching the expression in his eyes turn into slow calculation. "Why ya wanna know about knives, short stuff?"

It was laughable. Really. Hope stood up to his shoulders now which on anyone else made her tall enough to be adult sized yet to Uncle Jayne she would always be that child Zoe had brought kicking and screaming into the 'verse.

"Mama's been teachin' me how to fire a gun. Figure you're the best one to teach me about knives."

"Still ain't answered my question. *Weishenme*?"

He didn't ask the more important question, why *now*. Hope gave a tiny shrug. The girl had always embraced economy of movement in the same way her mother did with words. "I wanna be safe in the Black."

The mercenary blinked. "Ya don't feel safe with all of us?" Her smile was thin, barely there, then the humour vanished and it was like looking at a pint sized Zoe. "Don't take this wrong, Uncle Jayne, but I don't aim to spend the rest of my life standin' behind one of you every time the bullets fly, *dong ma*?"

"Never thought ya would, it's just..."

"I'm nearly twelve."

Jayne nodded. "My point exactly."

"You were younger when you learnt to shoot a gun."

He was frowning now. "That was different."

Before he could put his case she stepped right into his personal space, looking up at him with such serious intent that the height difference made no gorram difference at all. "This life we lead means every one of us needs to be able to pitch in an' that includes me. Might be that if other folk underestimate what I can do it could work in our favour."

She could see him thinking it through, the logic weighing against his instinct to keep the girl safe and away from the ugly things in life. It wasn't going to happen, she was growing up despite the crew's best efforts and Hope saw the exact moment when he realised it too. Jayne nodded slowly, his look sharpening. "You ask your ma?"

Hope said nothing, just stared at him. Jayne sighed.

"Ya realise ya could get us in a hell of a lot of *kunnan*?"

A slow smile enriched the flat planes of her face and put some mischief in those oh so serious eyes. Eyes too old and knowing for a child of her age. "Could get us out of it too, I'm thinkin'."

It was kind'a disturbing the way Hope could sound like different members of the crew to get her point across. Not the voice so much as the words and delivery. Hearing her words channel the Captain made Jayne wonder when he had ever assumed this girl before him was a child. He just hoped that giving in to her wouldn't be the biggest gorram mistake of his life. "Yeah, well, I ain't takin' the blame when Zoe or Mal comes to skin my hide for this. That pile of *goushi* is all yours."

That was as good as a promise set in stone and they both knew it. Feeling some of the tension change into anticipation, Hope waited. Ready to start right away. Jayne liked that about her. Girl never did hang back when there was a thing needed doing and if they were going to do this, best get to it. Quick, before he changed his mind.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*tamade hundan* = fucking bastards *dui* = correct *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *xiaoxin* = be careful *dong ma* = understand? *kunnan* = trouble (lit. difficulties) *goushi* = crap/dog shit


Tuesday, September 15, 2009 10:52 AM


The ending was cute.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 11:33 AM


This isn't over. I can feel it. The clouds are going to get a lot deeper and thicker before the sun shines again. Good stuff.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:13 AM


I am hoping it continues. This is a great little series.

Thursday, September 17, 2009 3:51 AM


Ominous, isn't it? Well done, however, as always!

Thursday, September 17, 2009 3:33 PM


Uh oh. Sounds like it's time for the action to begin.


You must log in to post comments.



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.