HANDFUL OF STARS: 26. "Shiny Side Up"
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"With the messenger gone and the Captain recovering everything begins to get back to normal."


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

SUMMARY: "With the messenger gone and the Captain recovering everything begins to get back to normal." 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

* * * * *

It took hours to clean up the mess in the infirmary. While Simon finished cleaning up the Captain, Book removed the debris to add to what Jayne had taken to the airlock. He was not surprised to see the big man standing by the pressurised door, though the look on his face gave the Preacher pause.


Jayne Cobb gave himself a mental shake and glanced at the Shepherd. "Yeah?"

"*Shenme shi*?"

"*Wode hao*. Just thinkin' about that gorram Reaver."

"You do realise he wasn't actually a Reaver, don't you?"

The mercenary scowled darkly. "If it looks like a Reaver, acts like a Reaver, it's a gorram Reaver!"

Knowing nothing he said would convince Jayne otherwise, Book nodded towards the door. "Can you open the door for me?"

Jayne noticed the bloodied sheet that had covered the Captain was now filled with the smaller unidentified bits of flesh and bone. Rather than being disgusted at the sight, it drew a nasty satisfied grin. "Yeah, whatever. Never thought throwin' out the trash would feel so good."

Book said nothing as they put the sheet in with the tarpaulin. As soon as they had the airlock door shut again, Jayne keyed the com to let Wash know he could open the outer airlock door any time he wanted. The Preacher started to walk away then noticed Jayne hadn't moved, the big man just staring through the small viewing window.

"Jayne, what are you doin'?"

"Gonna watch him get vented into the atmo." Jayne turned his head to look at the Shepherd. "Gotta make sure all of him's gone."

"The messenger is dead, Jayne."

"Yeah well, don't hurt to make sure, *dong ma*?"

Unable to come up with an answer to that Book gave a nod and left him to it. Some things he really did not need to witness.

* * * * *

Up on the bridge Wash and Zoe were enjoying some quiet time. With the current excitement over they were relaxing while they had the chance. Life they led the only time they had was now. Naturally, one thing was leading to another, the kiss deepening as Wash forgot all about losing the feeling in his legs as his beautiful but deadly wife shifted her weight on him to lean into the kiss. The passage of time lost all meaning and it took a while before it penetrated that someone was trying to hail them. Zoe eased back, a frown deepening on her face.

Wash sighed at the loss of her lips but quickly scanned the incoming signal, his look brightening instantly. "It's Monty."

The first mate got up and moved so she could see the monitor then nodded to Wash to put the call through. "Monty, is everythin' alright?"

The big man nodded but he wasn't smiling. That automatically put Zoe on the alert, her back stiffening and her right hand unconsciously dropping to rest on the butt of her mare's leg. "Yeah, it's about that messenger. Found out his name's Jimmy Jones. You gotta get him off Serenity, Zoe. He can't be trusted."

Her smile was grim and so thin it was barely there. "No problem, Monty." Zoe turned her head slightly to look at Wash, her right hand moving from her gun to rest on his left shoulder. "We far enough out, *zhangfu*?"

Wash nodded.

"Do it!"

On the monitor Monty opened his mouth to say something but Zoe held up a hand and he snapped his mouth shut. Wash opened the outer airlock door and the remains of the messenger were sucked out into the atmo. Only when the door resealed and was repressurised did Zoe return her attention to Monty. Relaxing into a tight smile she gave him the news. "Figured as much when he tried to kill the Cap'n. He won't be tryin' that again."

"Ya mean...?"

Zoe nodded. "Jayne killed him, course he might'a gone a little overboard but we just jettisoned what was left of him into the atmo."

Monty laughed but there was a serious shadow in his eyes. "Best I not get on the wrong side of ya, Zoe."

"You look like that ain't all that's on your mind."

"You still on the lookout for a job?"

"Are the purplebellies *goushi buru*?" Quipped Wash.

They ignored him. "*Dang ran*. You hear of somethin'?"

"*Qu*. There's a job on Juliet, importin' seeds an' such. Have to fly below Alliance radar but you're used to that."

"How come you ain't doin' it yourself?"

Monty wasn't offended, it was the same question he'd be asking were their roles reversed. He leaned towards the monitor before answering all the humour gone from his face. "Was my fault you and Mal got caught up in this mess Zoe, should'a known better than to pass on a job from Ritchie."

"Not your fault."

The man shrugged. "*Mei shi*, just wanna make it right."

It was on the tip of her tongue to say there was no need but Zoe thought better of it. They were running low on fuel, food and just about everything else. A job was just what they needed. "*Duibuqi*, I'll ask the Cap'n when he wakes up."

Monty's eyebrows rose. "How's he doin'?"

"*Hen hao*. Simon does good work."

Monty waved a hand at his head and Zoe couldn't help but smile. Knowing Monty didn't want to say out loud what he was thinking.

"No more damage than before." The big man laughed, a hearty sound that lightened the weight Zoe hadn't realised she was carrying.

"This job on Juliet, who's the contact Monty?"

"Man named Marcus Bole. I've done work for him before."

"Can we trust him?"

"Wouldn't pass the job if we couldn't. An' I can tell ya he's got no love for the Alliance."

Zoe nodded, a finger hovering to cut off the connection. "I'll pass it on to the Cap'n, let him decide."

"Good enough. Take care Zoe an' give my thanks again to Kaylee for fixin' my engine."

As the connection was severed Wash looked at his beautiful but deadly wife. "Do you want me to set a course for Juliet, *bao bei*?"

She shook her head. "Not yet, *zhangfu*. Don't wanna waste fuel if Cap'n decides not to go for it."

His eyebrows rose. "Did I tell you how low we are on food?"

"*Wo zhidao* an' Mal knows too. Just don't wanna be jumpin' into anythin' without lettin' him take a look at it first."

Wash didn't argue. They had all come close this time and he understood why she was being cautious. Remembering as he did that the last job had come from Monty as well. Not that Monty would ever set them up but Mal was a lot more reticent about dealing with middlemen they didn't know and Monty was sometimes too trusting of those he did business with his own self. Not that Mal couldn't get them into trouble on his own, he did that a-plenty, just no sense in tipping the scales in the wrong rutting direction. They needed safe more than a tempting cashy risk.

* * * * *

The infirmary was almost back to pristine condition. Simon had been grateful for the help and after Book left him he got down to the more critical work of sterilising everything again. Not just the work surfaces and his medical equipment but the floor, walls, ceiling and even the unconscious Captain. Inara poked her head through the door as he was finishing up, scrubbing his hands and drying them before dropping the last cloth into the medical waste bin.

"How is he?"

Simon glanced at the still sleeping Captain and for a moment envied him. "The operation went well, I don't expect there to be any complications so long as he does as his doctor says and takes things easy for the next few weeks."

The Companion gave a rueful smile. "I think you expect too much from Malcolm Reynolds."

He laughed lightly. "*Dui*, but I live in hope."

"Long as you don't die in despair."

Inara and Simon turned to the prone figure on the infirmary bed. The one who should have been sleeping. Simon gave the Captain a dirty look. "How long have you been awake?"

The Captain yawned then winced as the movement pulled on stitches yet to heal. "Just woke an' is that any way to greet your Cap'n? Shouldn't you, you know, be happy or somesuch?"

"I'm ecstatic. In fact I am so happy I may have to put up bunting and hang signs all over the ship then throw a party."

Mal frowned. "Huh. Anybody ever tell you sarcasm ain't a pretty quality in a doctor?"

Inara cut in before Simon could reply. "Do you really want Simon to be pretty, Mal?"

The Captain's mouth flapped a couple of times as his brain struggled to remember exactly what he had said. "I meant petty."

Now Simon was amused. "A 'petty' quality?"

"You're twistin' my words but what I wanted to say was, what in the sphincter of *diyu* happened?"

"Jayne saved your life."

He blinked and looked passed Inara and Simon to Zoe as she stepped through the infirmary door towards them. "You been drinkin' Kaylee's brew? 'Cause I gotta say it'll rot the brain."

"Explains so much." Muttered Simon half under his breath.

"The messenger came into the infirmary while you were alone. He was goin' to kill you, sir. Luckily Jayne came in behind him an' shot him before he got the chance."

"He dead?"

Simon's lips twisted. "We just finished cleanin' up the bits."

Now Mal was confused. Bits, what bits? Zoe was quick to explain before the Captain's blood pressure went up. "Jayne opened up with Vera. In such close quarters it was a mite on the messy side, sir."

The Captain's eyes flicked around the gleaming white infirmary.

"It took hours to clean everything up but it's sterile again, or as sterile as it can be with people walking in and out at all hours."

Zoe gave Simon a look. "You tellin' me I shouldn't be here, Simon?"

The doctor was quick to take his foot out of his mouth, determined not to replace it with his other one. Lying back in the bed, Mal couldn't quite hide his amusement. His eyes met Inara's and for once the two were in perfect synch.

"No, no, that came out wrong, what I meant was..." Simon trailed off then shut his mouth. Actually that was what he meant, he just hadn't meant to voice it.

"Bein' honest is a bitch, ain't it?"

Simon glowered at his patient. "That's not very helpful, Captain."

"I do my best."

Inara wanted to laugh at the smug look on the Captain's face. It was good to have him awake and bantering with the crew. She had not realised how much she missed it, not that Inara would ever confess as much. Even under torture. There was only so much smugness she could handle from Malcolm Reynolds. Zoe cleared her throat to get the Captain's attention.

"Sir, we've received a wave from Monty. Seems he knows of a job on Juliet."

The Captain perked up as if he'd had a shot of adrenalin. Simon and Inara helped him sit, Inara plumping up a pillow behind him. For once he didn't complain about the fuss, all his attention on his second in command and the lifeline she was dangling in front of him. "What's the job, Zoe?"

"The delivery of seeds an' such. As you know, Juliet is a small Outer Rim planet. The Alliance has blocked regular shipments of food an' aid so they pretty much try to be as self sufficient as possible. Did some research on the cortex an' this last year Juliet's been plagued with storms, ruined a lot of the renewables. They need someone to pick up new seed crops an' transport them under the Alliance radar."

Malcolm Reynolds nodded. "Haven't dealt with them before, what did Monty have to say?"

"He's worked for them before, through a man named Marcus Bole. Says he's trustworthy."

The Captain raised his eyebrows but didn't comment on that. Something unspoken passed between them. "Zoe? Tell Jayne I wanna see him."

She gave a nod then was gone.

* * * * *

Book was pleased to see things aboard Serenity getting back to normal. Passing a cheery Kaylee he was smiling as he stepped into his room. The smile vanished when he saw who was waiting for him.

* * * * *

Wash could hardly wait for Zoe to get back to the bridge. "Tell me we're takin' the job?"

"Cap'n wants to make a few calls first."

"Who to? We're in the middle of No an' Where an' did I mention the not eatin' an' starvin' to death?"

Zoe settled in the co-pilot's chair. "Cap'n's just bein' careful, Wash."

"Yeah but Monty trusts him."

"He trusted Ritchie Thomas too."

They lapsed into silence, Wash turning over recent events in his mind. "Maybe it won't hurt to take the cautious approach this once, *bao bei*."

Zoe gave him a full flown smile then got up and went over to him. "I married me a smart man."

Before he could respond, her lush lips closed on his and suddenly talking was the last thing on his mind.

* * * * *

"What are you doing here, River?"

"Watching. Waiting."

"I am not the enemy."

"Then who are you?" River cocked her head to one side as if it would somehow help to tell her what she needed to know. "Do you even remember any more?"

The last sentence was barely more than a whisper but it chilled Book though he tried to hide it. He was very good at hiding things. "You aren't safe here, River."

She shook her head. "Not safe anywhere."

"I can help you but you have to trust me."

They were circling slowly round each other, River careful to keep them equidistant, her eyes not leaving his. "*Weishenme*?"

When he did not answer River regarded him for a moment before continuing, her voice quiet, calm and a little sad.

"You block me. At first I was too muddled, thought it was me but it isn't, it's you. No one else can do that, not without training."

He tried to hide how her words unsettled him.

"Two by two, hands of blue."

"I have nothing to do with Blue Sun, River."

"But you are government. You work in the shadows."

"That was in the past, before I took holy orders."

"*Shouhuangzhe*! You wear the collar but it's just another lie. Who are you or should I ask 'what' are you?"

"You know who I am, I'm Book. Shepherd Book."

River shook her head. "Three times the cock crowed."

Book did not like the way this conversation was going. Normally he could soothe with his words, the pitch of his voice. Make even the unreasonable seem like the thing to do. River did not listen just to the words or how he said them, she looked for something in him that others could not see. A truth he could not afford to unveil. "River, you are the reason I chose Serenity, do you know that?"

"Suspected but I wasn't sure. You want to take me back."

For the first time since she had begun to challenge him, Book felt alarm. "No, no, child! That is the last thing I am going to do."

River was confused. "*Wo bu dong*. Why would the Alliance set me free?"

He wanted to tell her, he really did, but there were times when the truth was more dangerous than a lie. So he gave her a half-truth and let her see just a glimmer of the reality behind it. Just enough to tempt her to trust him. He did not need absolute trust just a first step. "They are afraid of you that is why you are pursued River. And if they cannot recapture you then they will kill you."

"How are you different?"

Book realised he would have to give her more if he wanted to make any headway even though it was a risk. "I was like them once. For years I worked my way up the ranks of the Alliance towards the inner circle. I believed the doctrine, wanted to build a better world. But then I saw the cost, River. The terrible price humanity would have to pay for dreams that had become nightmares. And I was a part of that. My hands covered in the blood of innocents until even my own blind obedience was sickened into a rude awakening."

No longer moving, River stared at him, transfixed. Her eyes wide, her pale face even whiter than normal. Caught up in his words she had forgotten to fear him. She knew the man called Book was dangerous but was now confused whether that was then or now or could it be both? Was she seeing the real man or the artifice he had built around him?

"River, I know you are confused and part of that is my fault. *Duibuqi*." Book then surprised her by calmly sitting on the floor, making no further move towards her. Somewhere in the back of her brain she registered that he was blocking her route to the door but he seemed so much less frightening now, less of a threat. "You are right, I can block you but if you want proof that I mean you no harm I will let you in. Let you see what has been hidden from you until now then you will understand."

She was trembling now, a response that was automatic and threatening to make her legs do what her mind was screaming to accomplish and yet she wanted to know. To be sure. Because along the journey Book had become someone familiar, a member of the crew, like family. River needed to know what he was now before making her decision. "Can I trust you?"

"Look into my eyes and see for yourself, River. I won't move or try to stop you." Limbs feeling like lead, River crept closer but not too close. If he tried to grab her she could run away but Book didn't move. Patience flowed from him and slowly she felt her temptation to panic fade. Curiosity took her the last few steps, her eyes widening as she gazed into his own. At first she saw only darkness, a depth of nothing that she almost recoiled from but then it grew lighter. Shades within shades drawing her in: gently, slowly, the fabric of his mind a landscape she could not wait to explore. Caution crowded into the back of her mind but was relegated to a background hush, her focus totally on what she was being shown. As River opened her mind to him she missed the faint ghost of smile dying on his lips as he welcomed her in.

* * * * *

Inara was less comfortable now that the Captain was awake. It was so much easier to come and sit with him while he slept. To watch over him and reassure herself that Malcolm Reynolds really would make a full recovery. But now that he was conscious she was all too aware of those eyes that saw too much, that looked too deeply and left her soul feeling raw and vulnerable. "I should go. Kaylee will be making the evening meal and I promised to help her."

"What're you afraid of, 'Nara?"


"I'm sure Kaylee can manage an' don't forget she's got Simon with her."

He was pleased to startle a laugh out of her. "Have you tasted Simon's cooking? Don't take this the wrong way, Simon's an excellent doctor Mal but he can't cook to save his life."

"Don't let Kaylee hear you talk like that. If Simon Tam said he could fly Kaylee would convince herself he had wings."

Inara smiled and re-took her seat next to his bed. "I'm happy to see them getting along so well. For a while I didn't think Simon was going to make a move and even Kaylee wouldn't wait forever."

"Way I remember it he didn't."

"I don't think you're being quite fair to Simon, Mal."

Before she realised what he was doing, the Captain laid a hand over hers. Inara caught her breath and looked up, her eyes trapped in those cloudy blue pools. Never had she looked into such expressive eyes before, their colour as changing and mercurial as his moods. Every emotion mirrored in their depths. Looking into them was like stepping onto quicksand.


"Think we should quit dancin' around, 'Nara."

His voice was low, soft and captivating in ways that shouted 'danger, danger'. Inara always listened to that inner voice but right now the pounding of her heart was drowning it out. "I don't know what you mean."

"Yes, you do an' I ain't blind. We been playin' our parts an' ignorin' what's right in front of us."

"It wouldn't work between us Mal, we're too different. You know that."

"An' we got a lot in common, 'Nara. Both stubborn an' wantin' our own way."

"I'm a Companion, Mal. I could never give that up and you could never accept it."

The Captain sighed softly. "Why deny we got feelin's for each other, 'Nara?"

She pulled her hand away and started to rise to her feet. Leaning forward he caught her hand, startling her into pausing. For all their dancing around Serenity's Captain rarely touched her. The nearest he came was picking up her things when he visited her shuttle, barging in like he was not only entitled but welcome to do so. It was both irritating and oddly endearing. So many times Inara was torn between wanting to box the man's ears and kiss him. Not that she would ever confess the latter knowing she would never hear the end of it. As she stared into Malcolm Reynolds' eyes she was both exhilerated and terrified by how serious and open he was. His eyes flicked to her lips and Inara felt herself flush, half wanting him to kiss her and half needing to flee. Once again he managed to surprise her with his insight.

"Ain't gonna force myself on you, 'Nara. I'll be here if you want me, *dong ma*?" The Captain lifted her hand and gently brushed it with his lips, his eyes never leaving hers. Inara could not still the fluttering of her heart or form words to save her life.

When he lowered her hand Inara thought her frustration with the man would drive her mad. Having anticipated a kiss she was now left feeling oddly cheated and bereft. Annoyed, Inara leant forward and closed her lips over his startled ones, his eyes widening in surprise as her lips curved in a smile of triumph just before he kissed her back. Inara Serra, Registered Companion, had made it her life's work to appear to give men what they wanted. To bring comfort and surcease to their wounded or benighted hearts, to offer a hint of romance along with companionship and physical release in a way both pleasing and without awkwardness. Yet never had her heart reacted as it did now. As they parted Inara and Mal stared at each other and she saw something in the Captain that made her heart miss a beat. A tenderness that touched her deep though she tried to hide it.

"I should go now." Inara whispered, mainly because her heart so wanted to stay. "Kaylee will wonder where I am."

He nodded, reluctantly releasing her hand. The spell however was suddenly broken when a blood curdling scream rent the air.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wode hao* = I'm good *dong ma* = understand? *diyu* = hell *zhangfu* = husband *qu* = yes (lit. go) *dang ran* = of course *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit/lowest of the low* mei shi* = it doesn't matter *duibuqi* = sorry *hen hao* = very good *bao bei* = precious/treasure *wo zhidao* = I know *weishenme* = why? *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *shouhuangzhe* = liar *yiwusouyou* = nothing *dui* = correct


Tuesday, April 5, 2011 9:42 AM


Hey hey hey... what a place to stop... and it was just getting interesting. I'm liking it. River is written especially well here. I could see her every move as she circled Book. And I could feel the emotions and tension between Inara and the captain. Wonderfully done indeed... now, who's screamin?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 9:51 AM


So happy you are enjoying the story, Angellemarcs. As for who is screaming you will soon find out not only the who but the why. Hang on to your popcorn! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 8:46 AM


At last ... Mal at least has put his heart out there, to be mended or broken, as Inara choses. As for River and Book ... no matter how much he insists he's on her side, somehow I doubt it! Update soon, please!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 9:15 AM


Inara and Mal are coming to a very cool place for them both though it might not turn out to be what either of them intended. As for Book, lots of layers to come Jane0904. Thanks for the shiny comments, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Thursday, April 7, 2011 3:41 AM


very well written, I've found I'm looking forward to new chapters :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011 3:21 PM


Pretty cool.


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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.