Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Captain Reynolds recovers with a little help from his friends. Just as things are looking shiny again the past is about to come back with mixed blessings for them all.



SUMMARY: "Captain Reynolds recovers with a little help from his friends. Just as things are looking shiny again the past comes back with mixed blessings for them all." 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.


A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

It was days. Simon kept the Captain sedated. Resisting any requests from the others to let him wake. Determined that for once he was going to have time to heal. Even if he had to force it on him. In the end they bowed to his expertise. River knew what he was doing and why. She watched the others drift in at odd times then leave when there was no sign of him waking. As the days rolled into each other a pattern formed that they accepted. Life began to increase in volume around them. Hearts lightened because every day the Captain hung on was another rung up the ladder to recovery. But River knew different. They only saw the outside. What they were supposed to see. The reassurances they looked for and accepted without question. But inside the facade was crumbling. Fighting battles they could not see. Cut off from anyone who could help him. The creeping nightmares winning inch by inch. Simon was wrong. Enforced sleep was not the answer. It merely prolonged the nightmares.

"River, why don't you go and get something to eat? You've been sitting there for hours."

She shook her head. Expression sombre. Fretful eyes downward looking. "Can't find his way through the drugs." She knew all about drugs.

His head jerked up. A puppet whose string had been pulled. "What?"

She looked at him. Her eyes slightly glassy. Was she blaming him? "He's lost. Drugs are taking him deeper. Nightmares growing." She shook her head sadly then leant forward and began to shake the Captain. Trying to wake him. To break the cycle that was dragging him down and away from them all.

Simon walked around the operating table. He took her by the shoulders and began to pull her away. "Don't do that River, he has to rest."

She was crying now. Struggling with him but not lashing out. Would never hurt him. Loved Simon even though he would not listen. "Mal has to wake up. You don't understand."

"Sssshhh, he will River, I promise. We have to give the body time to heal. If he wakes he won't rest. You know that. I learnt my lesson last time."

River shook her head. Pushed his hands off her. "No. The body heals but the mind is lost."

"Why do you say that?"

She calmed. A quiet sorrow descending on her. Looking sadly at the Captain she spoke softly to him. "He won't listen." She explained. "Thinks he's helping."


"No." She looked up and fastened her eyes on her brother. "Call him back."

"It's late. You should sleep."

"Can't sleep. Can't stop the pain."

"You're in pain? Where? Where are you in pain River?"

She touched her head with her hands, her face contorting in agony. "So loud it hurts."

Simon put his arms around her. So gentle. So full of concern.


"Yes, mei mei?"

Her voice took on a pleading tone. "No more drugs."

"I think I'm best qualified to look after the Captain." He responded gently.

She shook her head and tilted her face, a look of such love in her eyes for him that he could hardly swallow. The breath caught in his throat and tears pricked his eyes. "No, Simon." She whispered. "Trust me."

Surprised, he stared at her. River raised a hand to gently touch the side of his face.

"Trust me." She whispered even more quietly. Eyes begging for consensus.

He found himself nodding, unable to deny her anything. Perhaps she was right? At least the Captain had slept for almost four days straight which had to be some kind of record. He hoped it was enough. Simon checked the drip feed administering nutrients and fluids to replace what was lost. River then watched him prepare an injection and carefully administer it into a vein. He checked the Captain's vital signs and glanced at his sister. "I hope you're right, mei mei."

She just nodded then gave him a soft smile of reassurance. Slowly the Captain stirred. A low moan of pain squeezed out of him as if forced by some external force stronger than he was. His eyelids fluttered. So heavy. Their soft fading voices a dischordant cacophony like the bright blaze of light that hit his blurred retinas like miniature suns exploding. His eyes snapped shut to block out the light. Now hardly distinguishable from the pain. Simon put a hand on his shoulder. "Easy, Captain."

Something registered. He fought to open cautious eyes. Squinting now. Trying to resolve the blurry image into something he could recognise. His ears recovered first. "Simon?"

"Guilty as charged."

He struggled to add the words labouring in his befuddled mind. Everything uphill. "What happened?"

"You tried to stop a bullet." A second's pause. "Several in fact."

Somehow the words did not compute. "I did?" His voice sounded surprised. Why would he do a stupid thing like that?

"Yes, Captain, you did." He wet his lips slowly so that he could speak more easily His tongue felt numb. He wished the rest of his body did. "Why did I do that?"

"We were double crossed. Made the drop but they didn't want to pay us. You decided to sort it out."

Mal was mumbling now. "Cap'n's gotta do what a Cap'n's gotta do."

"Alone." Added Simon firmly. Emphasising the word and imbuing it with a tone of disapproval.

Captain Reynolds was silent. Digesting this latest bit of information. Simon and River slowly coalescing into faces he knew. The doctor sighed softly with exasperation.

"Why didn't you tell anyone you were injured?"

"Didn't want any fuss. It's just a scratch. Day had gone bad enough. No call to cause more worry."

"It wasn't just a scratch, Mal. You almost died."

Mal shut his eyes. He could feel the room spinning round. He felt dizzy. Disorientated. As if any moment now he would throw up over the doctor's nice fancy waistcoat. Simon's words all jumbled in his head. Pain lancing behind his eyes like forks of lightening. A soft touch on his brow as River gently brushed her hand through his hair. The gesture repeated like beats to the bar. A steady rythym that was all kinds of distracting. Over and over. So soft and gentle. Oddly enough it took his attention away from the pain. Didn't stop the hurt just made it a mite more bearable to endure. The touch of an angel at the gates of Hell. He fancied he could hear a vague hint of music. It soothed his ears and calmed his erratic heartbeat. It seemed to take forever for his brain to fathom that she was humming gently. A song he could not recall but recognised from his youth. It comforted him some. Cleared his mind enough to realise what the doctor had just said. "How did you know?"

"The blood gave you away."


"Oh, you hid it well. For a while. But you were quiet at supper."

"I'm often quiet. I'm a quiet kind of guy. Except when I'm bein' noisy. Quiet is good. Shiny."

"You hardly moved. Kept all your interaction to the bare minimum. When you stood up you seemed to favour your left side."

He held a breath for a moment. River continued to stroke his hair. He was no longer so aware of her touch, his focus on Simon though he kept his voice soft. Tone mild. "You were watching me?"

"Yes. At first I didn't know why, just the sense that something was wrong."

"That why you took a walk?"

Simon nodded. Mal sighed and closed his eyes a moment or two. Sometimes he forgot how sharp Simon Tam was. Not much got by the doc these days.

"Never knew you could be so gorram sneaky."

"Just concerned."

For a few minutes no one spoke. The Captain lay with his eyes closed, his face a pale moon without any glow. River shone briefly luminescent above him. A milky splendour that illumed the pale and drawn planes of his comely face. Her quietly hummed tune drifting through his mind. Lulling him. Simon wondered if he had gone back to sleep when his eyes flickered open again. He was quicker finding his focus this time. "I wasn't intending to die, doc."


"No. I would have come to you in the morning."

"By morning you would have needed the preacher not me."

An awkward silence befell them. River stopped stroking his hair. He flicked his eyes away from Simon and looked at her. Gave her a sweet smile, his voice turned soft and gentle just for her. Simon wondered if he even realised how softly he automatically walked around his sister. How much more care he used in his spoken words. In his actions. Nothing rough or harsh that would alarm or distress her. A burden of care he only saw exhibited in his dealings with Kaylee. Everyone else contended with his quiet abruptness and sometime humour. Laced more often than not with sarcasm or some light barb. A subtle wit. A play on words revealing gentle self mocking as much as any intent to laugh at others. All grist for the Captain's mill. His eyes more like a stormy sea with clouds overcast in silent warning of unsettled times to come rather than the calm blue. Yet they could twinkle also in secret mirth or happy regard. He was not above making mischief when it suited his mood. But above and beyond everything else was his concern for ship and crew. He protected them fiercely with a single minded passion that was often at odds with his spoken words. A man of many angles he did not have a single true face. Yet the honour in him was profound if unconventional. This man confused Simon. So many conflicting sides to him yet all so subtle. So refined an intellect for such a rough grace. His homespun country boy words lulling the unwary into forgetting the sharp mind that raced behind those ever watchful eyes. Would he ever understand this complex man?

* * * * *


For such a large man he moved with uncommon grace. Not so tall as to be exceptional he still stood a little over six foot but he was broad. A behemoth of a man with tawny brown hair and laughing blue eyes that shone mirrored to hide the pain that coiled in the centre of his soul and knew no rest. No respite. A sadness lurked at the core of his being that he sought to bury from prying eyes. He squinted up at the official and kept his manner calm. Mild. Allowed his papers to be checked at leisure. No hurry. He was no one important. Just passing through. That was what his actions said. The officer eyed him up and down. Noted the tidy, clean appearance of his rough clothes. Careful sewing masked the handed down rags that were his King's ransom to decency. They looked well on him and he wore them like a second skin with a natural but understated flourish. A man would need a magnifying glass to spot the joins. The man nodded and returned his papers.

"How long will you be staying on Persephone, Mr Morgan?"

He flashed a brief smile. Enough to show that he was willing to be friendly but not enough to encourage familiarity. "Just long enough to take on provisions and fuel then I'll be returning to Redstar."

The official nodded. Redstar. Mining planet. The fourteenth terraformed version of Mars-that-was. Funny how it was not enough to use up Earth-that-was in wars 500 years gone and counting. They had to do the same to the older terraformed annexes of Earth too. The Moon of Earth-that-was revolved drunkenly like an empty bauble. Craters cracked and delineated a surface that had been mined for the few precious minerals and ores that it had to offer. Only because no one wanted to stay there did it remain. A gravestone for Earth-that-was. A warning to the Mars-that-was first colony that thought themselves beyond the fringes of war and listened not to the cautionary wisdom of history. Now it was their tombstone also. But Redstar, Redstar echoed that place with uncanny accuracy. The fantasies of bygone astronomers echoed in a landscape terraformed to fit an idealised picture of a world that had never been except in the imagination of man. The reality had been harsher. Dreams of civilisation interrupted proved a false hope. Structures that through satelittes looked pyramidal or carved with uncanny likenesses were proven to be angle and shadow. Shadow. Now there was the rub. The big man hid his sigh of pain and moved on. The false documents returned to an inner pocket where they could not be lifted by the light fingered or the law. On some worlds the two were so close as to have no dividing line. These days it paid to walk soft.

He boarded the little transport shuttle and keyed his com with a prearranged burst of static. Enough to let them know it was him and he was not under duress. He kept his tone light and spoke the words that the officials would expect to hear. No suprises now. He was on a mission and he could not fail. "Morgan to Lightstar."

"Lightstar. Go ahead, Cap'n."

"I'm coming back with the provisions. As soon as I'm back on board lay in a course back to Redstar."

"Aye aye Cap'n."

The line went dead. The shuttle rose. Another lead. This one fresher than the last one. His heart raced. His hope held only just in check. So many false leads had preceded this one. He must move swiftly but with care. No mistakes now. To lose this chance was worst than never going home.

* * * * *

It was not that Zoe was not pleased to see him. Ecstatic even. She just wanted to make sure he was healing properly. Not pushing himself like he usually did. A walking advertisement of what *not* to do when you got shot. Mind. It would be better not to get shot in the first place but Book had already read the Captain the riot act on that one. All in his calm preacherly tone that she knew rattled the Captain enough to set his teeth on edge for hours at a time. The memory still made her smile. He was leaning on the console talking to Wash. His frame a little too lean, face pinched and drawn, but the colour slowly coming back into it. He looked rested. Good even. Though the rumour of pain flickering in his eyes told another story. She could not help but worry about him. If only because he refused to worry about himself.

"You should be resting, sir."

He broke from his conversation with Wash to give her a look. "I am resting."

Her eyebrows rose. Mocking him. "I don't see a bed strapped to your back, sir."

Wash smirked. He liked his women smart and fiesty and there was no one who could equal his Zoe. "You tell him, xin gan. He won't listen to me."

"You expect me to listen to a man who talks to plastic dinosaurs? Wu de tyen, I'd get more sense from River."

"Now now, Captain, play nice or my wife might have to hurt you."

Mal smirked. "How about you play nice, dong ma? Or no deep fried curly carrots for you at the next planet-fall."

Wash made a face, putting just enough mock shock and horror in among the pseudo anguish to raise a dry chuckle. "That's playin' dirty, Captain."

"No Wash, that's playing for keeps."

The Captain looked at Zoe. "I'm okay Zoe, no call to fret. The doc does good work even if he did keep me drugged for four days." The thought made him frown for a moment.

"You let him live?" She dead panned.

"What can I say? We need a doc."

She nodded. "Wise choice, sir."

Just then Kaylee stuck her head through the door. All smiles and happy glow. "Shepherd said to tell you food's on the table."

The Captain smiled at her. "We'll be right along."

Zoe watched the Captain as Wash got up. Made no move to follow him but blocked the Captain as he made to claim the pilot's chair. "You heard Kaylee, Captain. Dinner's on the table."

"Ain't nothing wrong with my hearin', Zoe."

"Then maybe it's just your sense of direction."

"What are you meaning by that?" She nodded to the door. "The commons that way, sir."

"I know that." He said, irritation sliding into his voice.

Wash grinned and put an arm around his wife. A brief kiss shared before pulling away and stepping close to the Captain. Head tilted back to make eye contact, a look of studied innocent on his face. "After you, Captain."

He looked from one to the other. "This is a conspiracy."

"Nope," Said Wash happily. "This is a man starving to death because his Captain is too stubborn to get to the table."

"You wouldn't want your crew to starve now would you, sir?" Asked Zoe.

He sighed and turned for the door. "Don't tempt me."

"Wouldn't dream of it, sir."

* * * * *

It was a merry meal. Not rowdy. Not as loud as some meal times they had shared. But happy. A sense of rightness shared by all. Having the Captain back at the table to eat with them made them feel whole. No one spoke of what had happened. Nor asked him how he was feeling. A fact for which he was inordinately grateful seeing as how any such comment would have him closing up again faster than a clam. Right now he was at ease. A smile of content coming often to lips that laughed sparingly in any company but this. He was out of the wilderness now and such restraint as came with danger was behind him. For now. The light banter was food for his ears. The happy faces of his crew. All together. All eating. Laughing, living, filling his ship with their mirthsome presence. Giving him back so much of what he had lost that words would never come easy even to his troubled mind. Family they weren't but the separation had grown closer. The boundary more of a blur. Too close to call or fit a fly paper between. It eased his soul a mite. Eased it still more when they were all together like this and safe. Still flying. Life was shiny.

* * * * *

Days passed, he got stronger. The wound troubled him less but still hurt if he moved unthinking and pulled on the stitches. He had Wash plot a course for a mid-Rim planet. They needed supplies and it would be good for them all to stretch their legs. Walk in a natural atmosphere again. Feel wind and sun on their faces. Just a day now. Nothing fancy. Time enough to get their supplies, look around but not get into any trouble. The others had smiled, nodded and felt their spirits rise. Yes. Life was shiny again.

The days until planet-fall passed pleasant enough. The nights not so pleasant. That was when his soul could find no rest. No matter how weary his body. Exhausted his mind. Some nights were less tormenting than others but all carried the burden of a brutal past. He was not haunted by the torture. The depravity. The casual cruelties of a victorious enemy. He was haunted by the faces and the cries of the underaged dead. Children in fact if not in name. The canon fodder of a lost generation thrown away to the vainglory of war. All looking to him to be the steady hand that would guide them. The one to lead them out of their agony into the arms of a just victory. They bled for him. They died for him. Had faith in him. Yet still they kept coming. His dream of freedom from the yoke of the Alliance had become theirs. While not so many came now they were younger than those that went before. Offering their fragile lives for those already lost not knowing that the same empty reward prepared an open grave for them too. And every time they came and another mouth could not scream for the blood bubbling up out of a shell shocked throat a little more of him died inside. The futility of war. The guilt of surviving where so many were lost. Better men than he despite their tender years. It was the inability to protect those weaker, younger yet no less brave than himself that caused him such deep anguish. Such bitter loss. The ashes in his mouth stained with their blood. It weighed on him. More than the weight of entire planets was the yawning aching sadness of terrible loss.

Some nights were easier than others. This was not one of them.

* * * * *

Zoe stirred in the aftermath of coitus. A lazy sleepy smile of smug content on her lush lips. Her body glistening warmly from their exertion. Wash smiled gently at her, his hands running a slow dance over warm and yielding flesh. He truly eased her in all the ways it was possible to find ease. His tenderness often surprised her. Moved her in ways words could not. He was a good man. *Her* good man. And he had saved her from a life of bitter regret. He trailed a hand over her face pausing only to replace his fingers with his lips. Soft kisses raining down on her. She sighed with deep content and noticed he seemed a little.. distracted.


"Yes, bao bei?"

She ran a hand through his hair. Loved watching how he closed his eyes and lost himself momentarily in her touch. He was so easy to manipulate but she never took advantage of him. His trust was a precious thing to her. As precious as his unconditional love. "What's on your mind?"

His eyes opened. He might look lazy sometimes but behind those gentle eyes was a keen mind. A sharp intellect. "Who says something is on my mind, sweetie?"

She smiled. His heart ached with joy just to look at it. Know that he could do that. "You're distracted."

He chuckled. A warm soft sound that shivered down her spine and warmed her belly. "Who wouldn't be distracted?"

"Don't change the subject."

"Me? Change the subject? You want distracting I'm your man."

"That's not what I meant and you know it."

He paused. His smile saddening just a little. She saw the echo of it in his eyes. Wanting to comfort him but wanting to know the reason for his sadness first.

"Tell me."

He sighed. Felt stupid for bringing it up. It was none of his business and he knew it was better not to pry. But. "It's the Captain."

She stopped caressing his hair to get a closer look at him. Surprised. "The Captain?"

Another sigh. Wash rolled on to his back and looked up at the ceiling before turning on his side to face her. Meeting her eyes again. "I'm worried about him."

She copied his postion and faced him. "He's shiny, Wash. Even Simon's happy and you know how hard it is to please him. Wound's clean, practically all healed up now."

He shook his head. "No, not that."

She propped her head up on her hand. "Then what?"

"He's not sleeping again."

"He'll be okay. Don't worry."

"I never thought I'd say this but sometimes it scares me. At first I wasn't even sure I liked him, especially the way he reacted to - you know - me and you. I was so mad at him much of the time. Now, now I worry that it won't be a bullet that kills him."

She looked alarmed. "What do you mean?"

He reached out a hand and gently outlined the contours of her lovely face. Half lost in her and half sorrowing for something he could see but not mend. "I think his inner demons will get him first."

They locked eyes. Zoe said nothing. He saw the answer in her warm brown depths. Eyes that had seen what Mal had seen. Witnessed horrors no living mortal should have to see. Endured things that would have haunted her too but for Wash. She had her piece of Heaven but Mal had no one. No loving touch to bring him back from the darkness. The hungry mouths drawing on his soul. Using the man's own goodness against him to sequester his conscience and riddle him with nightmare visions without end. "Mal's strong." She conceded at last, trying to keep the emotion out of her voice.

"That's what worries me, xin gan."


He nodded sadly. Sidled up closer to her so their bodies were touching. "It's the difference between a piece of steel and a tree." At her blank look he explained. As gently as he could. "With enough stress even the strongest steel will break." He paused. His arms folding gently around her. Not wanting his words to hurt her. "A tree bends."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin: Pinyin)

mei mei = little sister xin gan = sweetheart wu de tyen = dear God in heaven

dong ma = understand boa bei - baby<9C0FFB><9C0FFB><0362B9><0362B9><772DA1><772DA1>


Wednesday, July 23, 2003 12:05 PM


I loved it! I love anything dark and thought provoking. Too often in fanfic, people see a happy ending without much struggle beforehand, and it's the journey from a messed-up scenerio to a peaceful calm that interests me the most as a reader.
My favorite part is the interaction between Mal and River (in the first part), even if it is only in River's head. Their relationship is oftentimes overlooked in favor of other, romantic ones and I find that a shame. Not too many people like to analyze just why Mal would be willing to take her on board and how her prescence and abilities will affect the dynamic of the ship.
I also like Wash's role as the person who first begins to worry about Mal. It seems fitting that someone who spends so much time worrying about him (and his relationship to Zoe) would be the first to notice something in his demeanor. However, I'd like to see a little more from Mal's perspective, at least in relation to how he sees everyone now as opposed to his past...does he relate the people on Serenity to ghosts in his past? Does he look into the future and wonder what will become of his crew, where they will end up? Don't leave us in anticipation.

Thursday, July 24, 2003 6:04 AM


again very good. same as part one. I loved River in part one and now I loved Wash in part two. Simon sees what's wrong with the body but River and now Wash see whats's wrong with the mind or soul. and they all are atuned to their captain. they watch out for him, as he watches out for them. he needs people watching out for him because he never bothers to do it himself.


Tuesday, July 29, 2003 12:58 PM


Excellent job. I agree with you that Mal just about has to be suffereing from post traumatic stress syndrome. Loved the part where River can tell what Simon cannot about how he is falling into the abyss by being kept under sedation.

Thursday, October 13, 2011 7:26 AM


Just the right balance of light (the part with Mal, Zoe, and Wash on the bridge) and dark (everything else) shiny!^.^


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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.