HOPE SERIES: "18. "Another Fine Mess"
Sunday, November 1, 2009

"Mal and Zoe finally get to the bottom of Paul and Natalie's call for help. When the rest of the crew find out it leaves no one happy."


TITLE: "ANOTHER FINE MESS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Simon/Kaylee. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "BITING THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Mal and Zoe finally get to the bottom of Paul and Natalie's call for help. When the rest of the crew find out it leaves no one happy." 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

* * * * *

As much as Zoe wanted to tear the ship apart until she found her daughter she couldn't refuse the Captain when he called for her to be present while he spoke to Natalie and Paul. Truth was she was mighty curious her own self. Would be good to hear why the pair had betrayed the Captain to Patience before she shot them. Then she got a good look at Natalie, or more importantly, the tell tale swell of her stomach and felt her righteous anger strangled by frustration. Though none of what she was feeling showed on her face Natalie knew exactly what the first mate was thinking.

They were in one of the spare passenger rooms. It was a mite cramped but at least the rest of the crew wouldn't be watching and listening in. The Captain knew it wouldn't stop River from knowing what was being said but then no one but another mind reader would be able to block her and he couldn't count on Natalie any more. As he was thinking that he caught a flicker of something on the woman's face. Woman not girl. He had to keep reminding himself that she was all grown up. Pity she didn't act like it. The Captain crossed his arms, a stern look on his face. Zoe stood by the door. Not to prevent anyone leaving but because the room really was that small. Paul and Natalie sat on the narrow bed.

"What in the nine hells did you think you were doin'?" Paul opened his mouth to reply but the Captain didn't stop. "I didn't wanna set you down on Whitefall in the first place but figured you had to have some reason. Didn't expect you to stay there still less cosy up to Patience. Sure as *diyu* didn't expect you to be callin' on me to come save you on'y to find you didn't need savin'. It was all a set-up."

The last part came out bitter with just a twist of pain in it. Natalie winced, she knew they had hurt him and almost got him and Jayne killed into the bargain. That certainly wasn't the way things were intended to go.

"*Shenme*? Nothin' to say? You insisted on comin' along, said you could explain everythin'. All but begged. An' now I give you the chance you ain't talkin'?"

Paul whet his lips. "Cap'n. I'm really, REALLY sorry. It wasn't supposed to turn out like this."

"An' how was it supposed to turn out? You sorry me an' Jayne made it outta this mess, that it?"

"No!" The shock in Paul's voice was genuine. The man actually looked apalled. "Cap'n. Mal. I'm sorry I deceived you, it was my idea not Natalie's. Truth to tell she thought it was a bad idea." The Captain snorted but Paul carried on. He had a burden to release and if he didn't do it now he never would. "There was a reason we wanted to be put down on Whitefall when we left Serenity. My father was a good man but he liked to gamble, *dong ma*? Never could stay too long in one place. I think he tried his hand at pretty much every job you can think of at least once. Even took to minin'. Started off in Little Hills, you know? Should'a been copper but it had been emptied long ago. Moved on to a silver mine on Pacquin but barely made enough to keep him an' us fed so he left."

"As interestin' as this is, what's it got to do with..."

"*Qing*, Cap'n. Mal. I need to tell you so you'll understand."

The Captain nodded, not trusting himself to speak without launching into a diatribe. If the boy had an explanation he wanted to hear it, just didn't want to grow old with the waiting. He missed the slight smile that tugged at Natalie's lips. Zoe frowned at her but Natalie didn't look at the first mate.

"It was a long time ago, I was barely ten when he left us for good. It seems he eventually found his way to Whitefall. It was before Patience bought White Sands. My father worked for Patience for a while but couldn't stick to it. Hated the work an' didn't trust his new boss so he went to try his luck on White Sands. At that time no one lived there. Occasionally an industrial ship would set down and scoop up tons of the gritty sand an' take off again. Used it for buildin' off world, he said. Then even the industrial ships stopped comin', found sources for their construction sites nearer that were more profitable to them. My father wanted to leave but somethin' was telling him to take a closer look so that's what he did.

A horrible suspicion was creeping into Mal's brain pan and he didn't like where it was leading him. "You sayin' he found that opal mine of Patience's?"

Paul nodded, his face glum. "*Qu*, on'y he found it first, Mal."

For a moment no one spoke. The Captain staring at Paul as if he had just sipped from a poisoned cup. Not so Zoe.

"You said he left you for good when you were ten years old?" Paul nodded. "Seem to know a lot about his comin's an' goin's for someone abandoned by his father."

He flushed. Whether with anger, indignation or shame she could not tell. "We never saw him again but that didn't mean he didn't keep in touch. He loved us, worshipped my mother, he just couldn't settle. Wrote to her almost weekly, told fabulous stories of his adventures only ma said most of them never happened. He just wanted us to believe he was doin' well, not to worry about him. I didn't care, I hated him, part of me still does. But my mother loved him 'til the day she died an' I'll never forgive him for that."

Zoe frowned. "You can't forgive your mother for lovin' your father?"

"He kept her hangin' on, Zoe. Promises, always lots an' lots of promises. He was gonna come back, make it rich an' give us such as life as we could never dream of! I saw through it after the first few years of seein' her get her hopes up, gettin' us all packed up to join him on'y to find out he'd moved on again. Always somethin' better. A shinier rainbow just over the gorram hill."

"Then why believe him about the mine on White Sands?" Asked the Captain, his stance less rigid now he was getting drawn into the story.

"Said he had proof. Papers. Kept 'em in a safe deposit box on Whitefall."

"Patience owns Whitefall."

He nodded at the Captain's astute observation. "Seems she owns the bank he kept it in too."

Another silence fell, the Captain glanced at Zoe. She raised an eyebrow and he turned back to Paul. "That why you wanted to go there?"

"I know it was stupid, Mal, but I didn't think he was dead. He wrote every week, my mother kept the letters tied in ribbon. Every one, Mal. Every gorram word he wrote to her she kept close to her heart an' him lyin' an' deceivin' her right up to the day she died. She made me promise not to judge him, not 'til I could look him in the eye an' speak face to face. Told me he was a good man."

Paul trailed off, tears in his eyes. Natalie squeezed his hand.

"That's why I had to go, Mal. I wanted to marry Natalie an' if my father - good for nothin' *hundan* that he was - was still alive, I wanted his blessing though God knows why. *Ni dongle ma*? Whatever wrong he's done he was still my father an' it would'a made my mother happy."

Silence. Deep and full of churning thoughts and emotions. The Captain ran a hand through his hair. Zoe looked from face to face but said nothing. Not deciding one way or another what she thought of Paul's story because it could be he was more like his absent father than he let on and this was yet another tall tale. That it had the ring of truth to it could just be the sweetener.

"How'm I gonna trust you, Paul?" The Captain said quietly. "Your little scheme almost got me an' Jayne killed not to mention River, though I'm thinkin' she'd have got an inklin' an' kept Serenity outta Patience's hands."

"I didn't call you to tell you the story of my father."

The Captain blinked. "You didn't?"

"But you need to know the background to understand not on'y why I wanted to take Natalie there in the first place but why I called you years later to come an' get us."

"You said Patience would kill Natalie an' your unborn child if'n I didn't."

That jolted Zoe. She hadn't heard about that fun detail and now she wondered what else her Captain and friend had been keeping back.

"I know it's a mess Mal, an' it's my mess but I found out the truth. My father owned that mine an' though I can't prove it I think Patience killed him for it."

"Took you five years to find that out?"

He shook his head. "No. That was the easy part."

Mal could feel a headache coming on. "Spit it out Paul."

"We need to go to Whitefall."

"Son, if'n you got no evidence the mine is yours or that Patience killed your pa ain't nothin' but grief waitin' for you back there."

"*Bu qu, ni bu dong*. My children are there."

Stunned, the Captain could only stare at him. Paul gently put a hand on his wife's swollen belly, his expression softening though edged with worry. "We already have three children, Mal. Thomas is four, Megan nearly three, an' little Devlin has just turned one."

The Captain was beyond angry now. "An' you couldn't tell me this before?"

"I didn't think things would get this out of hand. Patience realised that you wouldn't be willin' to go back for her, not for any amount of coin, but she figured you would come for us. When I refused to agree she had the children taken, don't know where but figure it's likely to be somewhere on Whitefall. Given what she did to my father I was under no illusions that she wouldn't go through with her threat to kill them if I didn't get you to come."

"*Wode ma*, you are some piece of work. Don't get yourself in little fixes do you?"

A sad smile twisted Paul's lips, eyes wet with unshed tears blinked a sorry back at him. Natalie didn't say anything, her mind sending soothing thoughts to her husband and concentrating on keeping a tenuous link to her little ones so far away.

"What're we gonna do, sir?"

"Nothin' for now, Zoe." When Paul jumped to his feet to protest the Captain raised a hand. "Just... let me think on this a while. Like you said Paul, this is your mess."

Paul's voice was anguished. "You're not gonna help? How can you not help?"

Before the Captain could answer Zoe pushed off from the door frame and got up close and personal, her angry face inches from Paul's. "*Bizui*! You brought this on yourself you *wang en fuyi chunren*. If you had told the Cap'n the truth in the first place maybe none of us would be in this position now."

Reddening, Paul dipped his head then looked the Captain in the eye. All the fight seemed to have been sucked out of him. "*Duibuqi*, Cap'n. I am *bu gaoxing* for puttin' you in this situation. I know it's my fault but I don't have anywhere else to turn an' you've been good to us. I'll understand if you can't help, just set us down at the next planetfall."

"*Wei*! Ain't decided yet an' I ain't throwin' you an' Natalie off my boat 'til we can work a way around this."

Paul's face lit up but Mal explained quickly before the boy could jump to conclusions about decisions not yet made.

"Not sayin' yes an' I'm not sayin' no, *dong ma*? Got me an' mine to worry about. Best you two get some sleep. We'll talk more when I've had time to think this through."

"*Xie xie ni*, Cap'n."

"Don't thank me yet son, we ain't anywhere near outta the woods."

* * * * *

It was late. Serenity's lights were low. After checking on his merc the Captain asked Simon to join the rest of the crew in the commons room. They needed to talk and without Paul and Natalie being in the room. He was the Captain and the final decision would rest with him but it wasn't just them that had to be considered. They had little ones of their own.

On the way, Zoe went back to her bunk to freshen up and was surprised to see Hope sitting large as life on the bed. Intending to tear into her daughter for scaring the life out of her and putting herself in danger, Zoe was startled to see tears running down Hope's face as the girl jumped up. "Im sorry, mama."

Then Hope rushed into her arms, sobbing like her gorram heart would break and Zoe was just so rutting grateful. Minutes ticked by, the tears of the one drawing tears from the other. Whispered admonishments and words of love flowed in a volatile mix of emotions. Zoe and Hope clung like that until the com went, the Captain asking her where she was. Leaning out of the embrace, Zoe gave her daughter a look and Hope flushed. "Don't you ever do that to me again, *bao bei*."

"I won't, mama."

Zoe clicked the com. "On my way, sir."

* * * * *

Jayne missed most of it of course but River snuck away to give him updates.

"They're still hollerin' an' yellin'." The big man observed from his infirmary bed.

"Kaylee wants to help but doesn't want the children in danger. Simon thinks it's too risky and doesn't trust Paul."

"What about Zoe?"

River grinned. "She still wants to skin me alive but can't do that without doing the same to Hope."

The mercenary raised his eyebrows. "You sayin' she's forgiven short stuff?"

"Relieved to get her back."

Jayne nodded then settled his head back on the pillow, annoyed that an itty bitty conversation could wear him out so quick. "Huh, she's goin' soft."

The crazy girl leaned over his bed, her hair a dark waterfall that made the shine in her eyes that much brighter. Eyes like liquid pools that saw far too much. "It's love, Jayne."

"You're *shenjingbing*."

"Saved your life."

"Thought that was Hope?"

Her smile was almost evil. "I flew the ship."

He wanted to find something wrong with her logic, prick the bubble of self satisfaction that was smug as *diyu* and all kinds of annoyafying. But Jayne realised something else and the irritation ebbed away. "Yeah, you did. Reckon the pair o' ya saved my gorram life."

"Captain too."

That made Jayne feel better. Didn't like owing no one. Smiling, River dropped a kiss on his forehead and pulled back. "You're welcome. Love you too."

Before he could respond River was gone. The girl was always disconcerting and gorramit never let him get the last word in. But she was family. Like the rest of Mal's misfits she had found a place for herself on Serenity. Same as him. A deepening lassitude pulled at his body, his eyelids heavy as concrete as they finally closed. His breath evening out while a part of him tried to stay conscious but it was a losing battle. Whatever the doc had pumped into him was winning and as the faint sound of raised voices died away Jayne Cobb smiled. This was his family and it was good to be home.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *shenme* = what *qing* = please *qu* = yes (lit. go) *hundan* = bastard *ni dongle ma* = do you understand? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wode ma* = mother of God *bizui* = shut up/be quiet *wang en fuyi* = ungrateful *chunren* = fool/jerk *duibuqi* = sorry *bu gaoxing* = unhappy *wei* = hey! *dong ma* = understand? *xie xie ni* = thank you *bao bei* = precious/treasure *shenjingbing* = crazy


Sunday, November 1, 2009 4:43 AM


Holy poo! Three kids before the one they already have! Wowsers! Totally did not see that coming. Of course, now Mal and crew have to go back to save the kiddos and maybe find a mine in the process. What makes me think this might not be the easiest thing to do?! Or the smartest?!

Sunday, November 1, 2009 4:48 AM


Hey, never said our Big Damn Heroes were smart, but between them they got cunning a-plenty! Thanks as ever for the shiny feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, November 2, 2009 11:41 AM


Very nice.


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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.

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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.