HANDFUL OF STARS: 6. "Games People Play"
Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Having taken the job, the Captain and crew discover that nothing is going to be that straight forward."


TITLE: "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: None. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "HIDE AND SEEK". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Having taken the job, the Captain and crew discover that nothing is going to be that straight forward." 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

* * * * *

He watched long enough to reassure himself that everything was going to be fine. His stiff necked friend had accepted the Sheriff's job and from the little Monty knew it was a simple if uninspiring one. One which, in his opinion, any Sheriff worth his salt would already have sorted out but then this was Ritchie and he never messed up by halves. With a smile Monty turned back and returned to the Kingfisher, happy that he was able to do something for Mal. It had just been fortunate that Ritchie had contacted him first otherwise Mal would probably have cut the transmission and never set foot on Cheverell. With a chuckle, he ordered Denny to take off. Time for them to be getting back to their own business.

* * * * *

By the time Kaylee found and struck another match the messenger had gone. All of them were a mite shaken. Even though there was nothing now to see, Jayne did not holster his gun. He half turned to scowl at Mal. "Next time you piss off a homocidal maniac leave me out of it."

"*Wei*, you're all heart, Jayne."

The big man snorted, unamused. "No, I ain't."

"That was kind'a my point."

Once satisfied as they could be that the man had gone, Kaylee hurried past Jayne to get into the power relay station, a string of not so pleasant Mandarin bringing them in on her heels as she struck another match. Kaylee peered, crestfallen, at what was left of the place. "*Jao jile ji aode*!"

Jayne didn't see the problem. "Had to make sure no one was gonna try to take us out."

"As opposed to you finishin' the job this town's enemies was doin'?"

The big man stared at the Captain. "Ain't nothin' wrong with bein' *xiaoxin*."

Seeing the frustration building on Mal's face, Zoe stepped in. "We were supposd to be mendin' it, Jayne."

"Yeah well, now Kaylee knows no one's hidin' in here."

"You took out all the electrics."

"Silly place to put 'em, you ask me."

Mal and Zoe exchanged a look over Kaylee's head, the poor girl was close to tears at the mess. She looked up at the Captain. "*Duibuqi*, Cap'n. Ain't nothin' to be done. It's all ruined."

A deathly silence fell. After a minute or two Jayne spoke up, not understanding all the unhappy faces. "But we still get paid, *dui*?"

Mal sighed. "An' what about compensation, Jayne?"

"Huh? We don't need no compensation, Mal."

The Captain waved a hand at the mess. "Not us, them. I'm guessin' it'll take all of our downpayment to put this right."

Mal really didn't want a falling out with Jayne, he was just too tired and soul weary to enjoy it right now. And honestly, times like this the man tried his patience too much to be funny.

Kaylee looked from one to the other, the worry clearly etched on her face. "What we gonna do, Cap'n?"

"*Yiqe shen huxi*. I'm guessin' all the wirin' an' such is fried?"

"More like melted, Cap'n." Kaylee wrung her hands.

"Think if we got more wirin' you could replace it?"

Her eyes widened so much it was almost comical. "We'd have to rip everythin' out an' start again. Ain't a five minute job."

"But you could do it?"

Kaylee huffed, clearly not happy but reluctant to refuse to try despite how bad things looked. "If we could get the replacement parts an' time were no object but it ain't gonna be cheap, Cap'n."

The last match died out leaving them in darkness. The Captain's heavy sigh pretty much summed out how they all felt. "Best we head back to Serenity. Come daylight we'll go see what we can find in the way of wirin' an' such. See if'n we can salvage somethin' outta this mess."

Piling back on to the street they walked back to the ship in silence.

* * * * *

Ritchie Thomas was tired but lighter of heart than he had been in more than a week. With all the things going wrong in the town he had been beginning to think there was no light at the end of the gorram tunnel. With Malcolm Reynolds and his crew agreeing to sort out the lighting issue he was sure he could get them to look into the rest of the weird goings on that had yet to make it into his regular report. The Alliance rarely came to Cheverell but that didn't mean no one kept a distant eye. Sheriff or not, Ritchie knew he ran the town under orders from afar and that suited him just fine. It took the thinking and planning out of his working day. All he had to do was as he was told and file his weekly reports. In return he got free housing and a regular shiny wage. Didn't hurt none that folks kind'a looked up to him. A Sheriff was an important man and his word carried weight in town. Not as much as he sometimes wished but more than he had ever had before and that was a good start.

* * * * *

When Mal, Zoe, Jayne and Kaylee got back to the ship the Captain called a meeting. Zoe went to get Wash. Shepherd Book watched their faces as the crew assembled in the commons area. Inara gave Kaylee a hug as she entered then paused, picking up on the somewhat strained atmosphere and not happy looks on their faces. "How did it go?"

The Captain hated admitting defeat before they even started. Hopefully Kaylee would be able to prevent this turning out a complete unmitigated disaster. "*Bu tai shuali*."

Shepherd Book handed Mal a mug of hot tea, the others taking their seats around the big oak table. "*Fasheng le shenme shir la*?"

"Got half the money up front from Ritchie. Seems the lights goin' out all over the town is just part of his problems. Agreed to take a look."

"That's good isn't it?" Asked Simon, not quite understanding how getting a paying job could be a bad thing.

"Would be if Jayne hadn't thrown a gorram grenade into the town's power relay station." Said Kaylee.

"It was a ruttin' shed an' dark as a grave in there!"

Simon's eyes widened. Everybody stared at Jayne. Simon took two goes to get the words out. "Why would you do that?"

"Was makin' sure no one was hidin' inside."

For a moment no one spoke. Shepherd Book finished handing hot drinks to everyone then filled the last mug for himself before coming back to the table. "Why would anyone be hidin' in the relay station, Jayne?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* but with crazy folk with half their faces missin' makin' death threats I weren't takin' no chances."

Into the stunned silence that followed that comment, River sidled passed her brother and stopped beside the Captain's chair. Her head tilted towards him but she seemed to be far away. As if she could see and hear things they couldn't. It was kind of creepifying if Mal was truthsome but her words and pronoucements were always hideously compelling. Never knew when something he needed to be knowing would slip from those child-like lips. "He isn't the danger just the messenger."

"Said I'd be dead by midnight, little one, but I ain't."

"Didn't say which day." She answered softly, her words a quiet hush to his disbelieving ears.

Mal felt his mouth go dry. "That's what he said."

Alarmed, the Shepherd leaned forward. "You saw him again?"

"*Qu*. Gave us somethin' of a fright truth be told, steppin' outta the darkness then vanishin' again."

"If he's the messenger," Simon asked slowly "who is the message from?"

The Captain was unable to hide the discomfort that thought gave him. "Didn't say."

"Behind the scenes, always watching. Waiting."

Inara felt a cold touch of dread. "Waiting for what?"

River glanced at the Companion then looked at the Captain. "He won't be rushed. Has waited so long."

"You know who this *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo* is?"

The girl shook her head. "The waiting excites him."

"I'll excite him when I shove my knife up his..."


The bark of command shut the big man up but Mal wasn't angry with him. He flicked his eyes towards River then back to Jayne.

"Don't be needin' such talk, *dong ma*?"

Jayne straightened and put his hand lovingly on his holstered gun. "*Diyu* Mal, I'd rather be doin' than talkin' anyway."

"Which once we know what we're up against we'll be doin' in spades. As it is we got threats a-plenty but nothin' specific. Could be someone's just havin' crazy fun at our expense."

River shook her head. "It's a game but he's not playing. There's method in the madness."

Simon moved closer to his sister. "River, you're not helping."

"The application of terror."

The Captain stared at her. "You sayin' all this *fei hua* is to scare us?"

"Not us, you."

"What makes me so gorram special?"

"You didn't break."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wei* = hey! *jao jile ji aode* = that's great, perfect *xiaoxin* = careful *duibuqi* = sorry *dui* = correct *yiqi shen huxi* = let's take a deep breath *bu tai shuali* = not too smooth *fasheng le shenme shir la*? = what has happened? *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *qu* = yes (lit. go) *chuseng xai-jiao de xiang huo* = animal fucking bastard *diyu* = hell *dong ma* = understand? *fei hua* = rubbish/garbage talk


Monday, November 1, 2010 2:58 AM


WOW, them are some powerful words. So much said in a single sentence. "You didn't break." I love it. Also loved Jayne's line about doin'. Definitely a Jayne thing. Wonderful as always!!

Monday, November 1, 2010 3:25 AM


Holy Smokes Alison!

Maybe Captain Mal should be a little more worried ( focusing on what River’s been saying) then what he’s been let’n on. Of course, maybe deep down inside he is. One thing’s for sure, methinks the whole crew of Serenity will be sleeping with one eye open now.

Poor Jayne…..Bull in a china shop! ….at least his intensions were in the right place.

Great story….BPZ

Monday, November 22, 2010 11:04 AM


I simply love Jayne! He always blunders in where angels fear to tread.

River's words are perfect -- comprehendible without illuminating anything. Excellent!


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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.

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