HANDFUL OF STARS: 25. "Damage Control"
Thursday, March 31, 2011

"As things start to settle down River has words with Book and Jayne becomes a Big Damn Hero."


TITLE: "DAMAGE CONTROL" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: None. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "PICKING UP THE PIECES". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "As things start to settle down River has words with Book and Jayne becomes a Big Damn Hero." 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

* * * * *

Waking was something of an oddity considering he hadn't rutting closed his eyes. Painkillers, Simon had said. Simon. Malcolm Reynolds blinked slowly, his eyes feeling all manner of dry and disused. Huh. What the good gorram? The infirmary was empty but at least the horrible sea saw inside his brain pan had gone along with the double vision and violent flashing headaches. So where was his shiny doctor? And why did everything that had been feeling so right suddenly feel so wrong?

The noise was small, almost furtive if he was any judge. In the uncanny silence it set off every alarm he had, the hair on the back of his neck rising. It minded him of a quote he had once heard River use, 'by the pricking of my thumbs something evil this way comes'. He wanted to shake the memory out of his mind, didn't need no fanciful imaginings to distract him from keeping things straight in his head only he couldn't seem to stop the sense of wrongness getting stronger. Wasn't gonna panic. Next he'd be jumping at gorram shadows then where would he be?

* * * * *

Monty was grateful but really all he wanted was to board his ship and shake the dust of Cheverell off his boots. Hopefully forever. Old Man Ellis had a way of being insistent without raising his voice.

"Don't mean to be rude, Ellis, but I got places to be an' this ain't one of 'em, *dong ma*?"

The Old Man nodded, his keen eyes making Monty pay closer attention to him. "Won't keep ya long. Been a long time in this god-forsaken place but it's home."

He waited. Ellis took his time before saying anything else, his eyes narrowing as he looked off into the distance. With a chill, Monty realised he was gazing off in the direction of Petrie's destroyed hideout.

"I'm sure Malcolm Reynolds is a good man but that ain't why I'm speakin' up. He's got folk with him who got no place gettin' caught up in violence an' such."

Monty felt himself bristle at the implied criticism but managed to hold his tongue tight. If he spoke up for Mal then Ellis might not get around to telling him whatever was so gorram urgent he had to delay taking off. Ellis turned and looked him straight in the eye.

"Been here so long folk got a tendancy to bend my ear from time to time. To understand how rare that is ya have to appreciate how tight Petrie had this town sewed up. People were afraid to step outta line."

"What about the Sheriff?"

Ellis snorted. "The only thing folks liked about Ritchie was his wife an' now she ain't around no more an' Ritchie's gone too."

Despite himself, Monty's interest piqued. "Gone where?"

The Old Man shrugged. "*Wo bu zhidao*, don't care neither. Good riddance to useless *goushi* though toward the end there he was startin' to straighten into someone could maybe do the job he was hired for." He paused to turn his head to one side and spit out a plug of tobacco. "My point don't concern him but the folk on Serenity."

"Then best speak to Mal not me or is there some other reason you're hangin' around my ship not his?"

"Do ya know a man named Davy Johnson?"

"*Bu qu*. Who's he?"

"He used to work in that underground hideout of Petrie's. Knew him as a young un, was always a good kid. Him an' Hardy was always off gettin' into bits o' mischief, nothin' real bad an' they never hurt no one. When work got real scarce they signed up with Petrie. At that time folk didn't know much about him, thought him some kind'a eccentric but he was rich an' he paid well. The boys had no idea what in *diyu* they were gettin' into or the fact that once they signed on there was no way to leave 'cept in a box." Ellis paused, the serious look on his face now weary. "Seems they tried to get away, sneak off while Petrie had his mercenaries off the leash but somethin' went wrong. Hardy got shot pretty bad, died before Davy could get him to help."

"As interestin' as this is..."

The Old Man raised a hand and Monty stopped mid-sentence. "The point I'm gettin' to is some of the townfolk found 'em. Recognised the boys an' were upset seein' as how Davy was rockin' a dead man in his arms. When they saw it was Hardy they took 'em in an' off the street. Didn't want anyone loyal to Petrie catchin' sight of 'em. When I left Serenity, Millie Richards waved to me from her front window. Was unusual enough that I took a walk over thinkin' she must be needin' some help. While they were comfortin' Davy and cleanin' Hardy up for burial he kept talkin', on an' on like once he started he couldn't stop hisself. Was cryin' an' tellin' 'em all about this man - Jimmy Jones - a man almost as twisted as Petrie."

Monty frowned, wondering what any of this had to do with the crew of Serenity. When he said nothing Ellis continued as if the words coming out of his mouth were poisonous on his tongue.

"They said his face had been ripped off."

Monty's look sharpened. "You talkin' 'bout that messenger fella?"

"*Qu*, on'y he ain't been as truthsome as it seems."

Much as Monty wanted to leave the dust of Cheverell far behind him there was no way he could leave if trouble was in store for his friends. The messenger was on Serenity and as he listened to Ellis his unease grew, worry settling so deep inside him he could barely keep from rushing to warn Mal. Would have anyway if something in Ellis's face hadn't pinned him in place. Monty took a moment to steel himself, sensing there was worse to come.

* * * * *

"You are the only one who blocks me. When I look I see darkness. It crawls, it creeps, seeking and spreading outwards like dark greedy fingers."

Shepherd Book took a step towards the girl, his voice pitched to it's most soothing cadence. "River..."

She cowered away from him, her voice going small as if trying to hide. "Scary."

"*Ni bu dong*."

River's eyes grew wide as saucers in her pale face. "You sold your soul long ago. Was it worth the price? The pain? Now when you look there is nothing there."

"It was the right thing to do."

"No! More lies but they are cold comfort now."

Book sighed. How could he explain to her so that she would understand? "I am here to protect you, child."

River Tam shook her head, her voice going cold. "Believe the lie and you become the lie. No good will come of it."

* * * * *

"Kaylee, I really should get back."

She gave him her sweetest smile, the one that made him go weak at the knees. "Ya said the Cap'n will likely sleep for a few hours."

"Well, yes, but there are some tests I can do in the meantime."

"Simon." She sidled up close, her arms wrapping around him. He was suddenly glad she had followed him into his room. The thought of explaining his current condition to someone like Jayne would have been excruciatingly painful. The way Kaylee's face lit up almost made him groan out loud. Damn his traitorous body! "We can be as long an' slow as ya want."

He closed his eyes as if doing so would help him control his response but it was a lost cause. Kaylee kissed his neck and worked her way up to his ear while gyrating up against him making him gasp. Simon's eyes flew open at the same time a groan of need escaped his lips.

"Knew ya was interested."

Simon wanted to tell her he had always been interested, it just hadn't seemed to be appropriate. At first it was because he expected the Captain to put him and River off the ship at any moment, then the fear of being discovered by the Alliance and having to make a run for it away from Serenity. A thousand possible scenarios, none of which happened. River had known of course but her brother had always been less trusting. Now he couldn't see himself living anywhere else.

* * * * *

He must have been mistaken. That was it. Too weary and fighting to keep his gorram eyes open he almost forgot what had alerted him in the first place when a sound, like a soft hiss of breath, had his eyes snapping open again. What he saw would have frozen him in place even if he could move. The face leaning over his own was one that was already giving him nightmares. Mal tried to still the rapid rise in his heartbeat, idly wondering in the back of his brainpan why the gorram monitor didn't go off. That would have meant turning his head and he was kind'a fixed in place by the contraption Simon had rigged up to keep his head steady during the operation. The frame had been left on so that he wouldn't accidentally undo all the good doctor's fancy work should he toss and turn in his rutting sleep. From this position Mal couldn't see the monitor or any of the other equipment Simon had set up. It also meant he couldn't look away from this waking nightmare. Taking a moment or two to get air circulating back through panicked lungs, the Captain opened his mouth to speak. Ignoring the way all the moisture in it had dried up leaving him almost hoarse.

"Kind as it is of you to look in on me, you ain't said where you wanna be dropped off."

The messenger gave a short harsh bark of what Mal supposed was laughter. Did he say something funny? "This is too *rongyi*."

Mal blinked. "It is?"

"Thought you would fight."

"I did, *jide*?"

"In the Valley, yes. Now your backbone seems to have turned to jelly."

Vaguely it occurred to Mal to wonder where the messenger's Rim accent had suddenly gone. "Why would you be wantin' me to fight just after a gorram operation?"

The man leered as he stretched his mouth in an obscene imitation of a smile. The sight was all manner of disturbing especially when the messenger brought his right hand into view, the wicked looking knife curved at the end reminding the Captain of the time Crow had thrown a similar implement at him and embedded it into his right shoulder. "Makes the 'coup de grace' more fitting."

Malcolm Reynolds wasn't as untutored as folk assumed but being the cautious man he was it didn't hurt not to advertise what he did or did not know. Now he was rapidly reviewing the identity of the man before him. Had pretty much known from the outset that he wasn't a Browncoat but did that make him Alliance or maybe something worse? "What you wantin' with me?"

"An end."

Despite his dire straits the Captain raised an eyebrow. "An' why would you be wantin' that? Already offered to see if my doc could help ya."

A look came into the man's eyes that Mal could not identify. It sent a cold chill down his spine. After a moment the messenger threw back his head and laughed but it wasn't a happy or pleasant sound. Too many dark undertones hinted at things that were best left undisturbed only now, like Pandora's rutting box, there was no putting them back in the pit of *diyu* where they belonged. The messenger waved his curved knife towards his own face, a dark amusement shadowing something less benign. "You think Petrie did this to me?"

Mal didn't know what to think, what to say either. The man was a *fafeng fubai hundan*. The not being able to move part didn't bode well for his continued survival. "You gonna tell me what this's about?"

"I'm going to kill you."

"That would be a waste."

The messenger shrugged. "Landfill is always useful."

"Who's puttin' you up to this? If it's money you're wantin'..."

This time the laughter was dark and cruel, the man leaning close enough for the Captain to see the rotted gaps between his teeth. Gorramit, the man's breath could probably kill Jayne at twenty paces and he wasn't nearly so far away.

"If you're thinking of offering me a deal save your breath. You're going to die Malcolm Reynolds but it's going to be s-l-o-w."

"How'd I get singled out for such an honour? I don't even know you."

Before Mal could hear the man's response his world errupted into a red mist of hell and fiery damnation, his ears aching with the sudden percussive pressure leaving a dull ringing, a slow exploding arc of red droplets raining down on him along with bits and pieces that might have been flesh and bone and tiny shredded bits of ruby rags. He couldn't see anything else, couldn't hear nothing either. His world was shutting down fast, heart tripping so fast he couldn't rutting well keep up. Huh. Of all the ways to die he had expected it to hurt more. His chief regret was leaving his crew. That and leaving this *shenjingbing* madman loose on his boat. And him unable to utter a warning before his whole world turned to black.

* * * * *

Wash was itching to get Serenity in the air but was waiting on word from the Captain. Zoe seemed in no hurry, content to savour a few moments of calm in a 'verse rapidly growing bereft of such things. Inara smiled to herself, a happiness settling deep inside whenever she saw the two together. If ever any two people were made for each other it was Zoe and Wash.

"What's the delay, *bao bei*?"

Zoe had a hand on her husband's shoulder and looked relaxed for the first time in weeks. The look suited her. "We have to drop Monty off first, *zhangfu*."

The pilot nodded. He knew that it was just that Cheverell had rapidly become his least favourite place in the entire 'verse which was pretty much amazing considering all the other contenders. Inara stirred drawing Zoe's eye in her direction.

"I was on my way to the infirmary to check on Mal, do you want me to ask him?"

The first mate nodded. "*Qing*, if he's awake."

Wash looked surprised. "He let Simon dope him?"

Zoe shook her head then leant down to drop a kiss on his lips. The sorrow in his eyes that it was so fleeting making her eyes crinkle at the corners with amusement, "*Bu qu*. With the painkillers and the operation the Cap'n was pretty much worn out anyway. Simon said he should fall into a natural sleep, maybe get an hour or two before he wakes."

Inara was about to excuse herself when a huge bang stunned them for a brief second. Immediately after that they heard the sound of a heavy weapon discharging. Zoe was running through the door before Inara could process what she had heard, Wash swearing and flicking the ship's com not that anyone on the ship could have failed to hear the ruckuss. As Inara ran towards the infirmary she was alarmed to see a cloud of white smoke billowing out of the door of the infirmary. A clatter to her right drew her attention to Simon Tam running towards her, his eyes wide in shock and alarm. Behind him Kaylee wasn't trying to keep up, her face paled and stunned, eyes wide in fear. Zoe hurried after Simon and as they raced through the infirmary door the white smoke was already clearing even if their eyes had begun to smart.

Jayne Cobb was shoving something with his boot, Vera levelled at the remains as if expecting them to rise up and bite him. Bits of crimson rag and lumps that could be chunks of flesh sprayed everywhere and covering the prone form of Serenity's Captain. Simon skidded to a halt in front of the big man, not by choice but because something oily and gelatinous was sticking to the soles of his shoes. He didn't even want to think about what it was. His eyes widened as he took in the carnage.

"What did you do?"

The mercenary straightened and cradled Vera in an upright position, a smug look of satisfaction on his face. "Gorram Reaver tried to kill the Cap'n."

Zoe's eyes widened, her mare's leg already in her hand. "Reavers?"

"Nah, just one. Well, ain't one no more."

It didn't make sense until she got passed the mercenary to see for herself, Simon pushing past her when she stopped to look down at what was left of the messenger's body. Even with her experience in the War, the splatters of blood and gore turned her stomach. Turning her head her heart missed a beat. The Captain was covered in it and he wasn't moving. Seeing her look Jayne wiped the grin off his face to reassure her as best he could. "Ain't his."

The first mate didn't answer, her eyes shifting like lasers to Simon's face but he wasn't paying her any attention. Yet again she was grateful for his fussy careful manner, the precision with which he dealt with all things medical. Zoe watched as Simon reattached the monitors to the Captain and carefully checked his life signs. He took longer than she would have liked but right now she would give him that. At last Simon looked up, his pale pinched face slowly getting colour back into it.

"It's okay, the Captain appears to be fine. He has an elevated heart rate but I think he just passed out."

Jayne guffawed. "Ya mean he fainted?"

The doctor glared at Jayne. "What did you think you were doing? You could have killed him."

Zoe had a different question. "I thought I told you to keep an eye on the messenger?"

"I did but ya know, needed to piss. Didn't expect nothin' to happen while I was gone but when I came out he weren't where I left him. So I went an' got Vera. Got here just in time to see him about to hack Mal to death, only he was too close to the Cap'n to fire Vera so I let off a flash bang. Should'a seen him jump, spun right round an' that's when I let him have it. Kept firin' 'til there was nothin' left to fire at."

By now Inara, Kaylee and a worried Wash were peering through the doorway. Behind them Zoe saw Shepherd Book. There was no sign of River. Kaylee put a hand over her mouth, her eyes wide as saucers and tears gathering as she began to panic. Zoe's eyes narrowed. What was Inara thinking bringing Kaylee in here? But then, no one had been thinking, they had been reacting. "The Cap'n's fine, Jayne just had to take out the messenger. Seems he was plannin' to kill Mal."

"So the Cap'n ain't dead?" Said Kaylee faintly.

Simon didn't smile but his nod and steady eye contact seemed to give the mechanic strength. "No. Jayne just thought he should empty every bullet he had into one man." Simon glanced around at the state of his once pristine infirmary, his expression deadpan. "Can't say I approve of your choice of redecoration, Jayne."

The big man scowled but Zoe stepped up to him before he could take offence. "You did good, Jayne." She looked over his shoulder to catch Inara's eye. "Can you take Kaylee...?"

Inara nodded. "Come on, *mei mei*."

Zoe was about to turn back to Simon when Book stepped forward. "If you need help cleaning up..?"

The first mate nodded, relieved at the offer.

"Best I get some hot water and cleaning cloths."

Jayne was about to leave them to it when Zoe called him back. "Jayne, need your help."

"There was only one of 'em."

"An' now there's dozens of bits of him." Quipped Wash.

Zoe glanced at her husband. "Think we can take off now, Wash."

He nodded and left to hurry back to the bridge.

"What ya want me to do?"

"See if you can find a tarpaulin or somethin' we can put the pieces in."

"Ain't gonna bury him."

"Not what I've got in mind. Get all the bits on the tarpaulin then haul it to the airlock. Once we hit atmo we'll jettison the *hundan*."

"Why'd I have to do it?"

"Your mess, you clean it up. 'Sides, Simon an' Book will take hours gettin' the blood an' bits too small for you to pick up off the walls an' ceilin' an off the Cap'n."

Jayne grinned. "Should'a seen him, think he pissed hisself."

"You don't get a move on Jayne you'll be goin' out the airlock with him."

The mercenary wanted to argue but Zoe had her stone killer face on so he spun round and stomped out, muttering as he went. "Don't see why it's always Jayne's fault."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand? *goushi* = crap/dog shit *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *diyu* = hell *qu* = yes (lit. go) *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *rongyi* = easy *jide* = remember *fafeng* = mad fubai* = corrupt *hundan* = bastard *mei mei* = little sister *qing* = please *shenjingbing* = crazy *bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband


Thursday, March 31, 2011 8:13 AM


Ouch. I know there's no kill like overkill, and it was starting to seem like it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, but ouch.

Also, poor Jayne. Well, at least Monty doesn't have much to worry about.

Thursday, March 31, 2011 11:23 AM


nicely written, am enjoying the storyline very much :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011 2:56 PM


Pretty cool.

Saturday, April 2, 2011 6:18 PM


Ha ha... Loved the last line in this one. Damn, Girl, you sure got rough with this chapter. Not a pleasant way to go for sure... glad you came back and started writing again. MORE... please.

Saturday, April 2, 2011 10:51 PM


So now we need to know why ... Excellent chapter, and I too love the last line. Not sure Mal is going to be too happy with him discharging Vera in an enclosed space, especially with him in it, but as the messenger was about to start cutting, I'm sure he'll forgive Jayne. Eventually.

Sunday, April 3, 2011 12:59 AM


I laughed at you saying there is no kill like overkill, Bytemite and so glad you are enjoying the story too myownknight. Glad you though this was cool Nutluck, and yes Angellemarcs it wasn't a pleasant way to go but the messenger definitely had it coming. As for Jayne, he may be a little surprised by Mal's reaction when he comes to. You hit the nail on the head Jane0904! Thank you one and all for the shiny comments. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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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.