HANDFUL OF STARS: 50. "Yin and Yang"
Sunday, October 16, 2011

"The time comes for the parting of the ways with some things seemingly resolved while others remain a deeper mystery."


TITLE: "YIN AND YANG" CHAPTER: 50. Sequel to "THAT SPECIAL HELL" SERIES: HANDFUL OF STARS Series AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Simon/Kaylee Mal/Inara RATING: PG-13 **SERIES CONCLUSION** SUMMARY: "The time comes for the parting of the ways with some things seemingly resolved while others remain a deeper mystery." 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

* * * * *

They shook hands and said their thanks and goodbyes. The Captain hung back as Monty and his men followed Zoe and Jayne out of the door. The Sheriff hefted the sword for a moment, a thoughtful look on his face then nodded. "It'll be taken care of, Mal."

"Right obliged for your help."

He got a smile at last. "*Zhu ni shunli*!"

Mal indicated for Caleb to follow him out of the door so he could have a word with him. "I'm guessin' that sword cut'll match the one you carry seein' as how the Operative's sword wasn't drawn."

Caleb didn't reply but then the Captain didn't think he would.

"Took a while to figure it out. You got me outta that torture facility an' apart from buryin' me in stinkin' *goushi* I'm obliged for the rescue. What I can't quite figure is, whose side you're on."

"I thought you were smart, Mal."

"Maybe smart but not ominscient."

That produced a thin ghost of a smile. Mal got the notion that inwardly Caleb was laughing his head off at him. That being the case the boy was keeping a mighty impressive poker face. "Wanna take a walk?"

"As long as it ain't a long one off a short pier."

Caleb laughed. It was good to hear the light hearted sound, made something tight inside relax a mite though he didn't let down his guard. There were answers he needed to hear and not just the ones he hoped for. "Don't have a pier, Mal. In fact, don't have a coastline."

They walked in companiable silence for a minute or two before Caleb spoke again.

"Back on Earth-that-was the Chinese had this belief in balance, harmony. Yin an' Yang. Positive, negative, male, female, sweet, sour, light, dark. You get the picture?" "This goin' somewhere?"

"Just sayin' the Operatives of the Parliament are just one side of the coin, Mal." The Captain opened his mouth to ask the obvious question but Caleb put his hand up to stop him, a mild apology in his eyes though he didn't look sorry.

"Best not ask questions I shouldn't be answerin'. Even among friends folk talk. All innocent as it might be, the wrong pair of ears can carry words in directions you can't imagine."

Mal's voice came out low and even. "Even on Paradisio?"

There was a sadness to Caleb's expression that wasn't feigned. "Especially here, Mal. Every world touched by the Alliance carries its' mark. Visible or not it sullies everythin' an' everyone it comes into contact with."

The Captain felt his heart miss a beat. Gorramit, he liked Caleb. Was in the man's debt but he had to know. "Are you sullied?"

"Not in the way you mean." "An' you know what I mean how?"

"Malcolm Reynolds you are a *wangu shenjingbing* man but in the important ways that count most I reckon you're mostly honest. Don't press me into bein' less that truthful with you." "Not pressin', just askin'. Have to know is all."

Caleb rubbed a hand over his face. "*Wo dong* but some things are hidden for a reason an' not always a bad one. Our numbers are small, Mal. We've lost more people through betrayal than in the field so I have one thing to ask you then we'll part."

The Captain waited, not exactly agreeing to the terms but willing to hear his question.

"Your Preacher is very well connected."

"Ain't exactly mine."

"Yet he is on your crew."

Silence. Caleb tilted his head in query.

"He *is* on your crew, *dui*?"

"Not sure what your meanin' is."

Caleb sighed. "You can't kill him, Cap'n."

So, not Mal no more. The Captain feigned shock. "*Shenme*? You think I wanna go to *diyu*, Caleb?"

For a young man, Caleb Bourne at times seemed older than all of them. "We both know you've already been there," he said quietly "an' the *guai* wouldn't have you."

"Ha, ha, on'y that ain't very funny."

Caleb smirked, lightening the sudden gravity of their conversation. "The Devil didn't think so either."

"What makes you think I wanted to rescue Book just to kill him?"

"I wasn't sure which is why I asked."

The Captain frowned wondering at the man's twisted logic. "Why you so interested in the Shepherd?"

"Think that's one question you need to ask him."

"Kind'a gettin' tired of bein' given the run around, Caleb."

"*Wode duibuqi* but some would say I've already told you too much." Mal snorted. "Ain't told me nothin' I hadn't already figured out my own self." An oddly beautific smile spread across Caleb's face and his eyes briefly sparkled. With mischief or pride it was hard to tell. "Then you know you already have the means to acquire any an' all anwers you may need."

The Captain huffed, closed his eyes in exasperation then opened them again, ready to pin the man's ears back and demand he drop all the cloak and dagger but in that brief second Caleb had vanished. Mal spun round but the man was gone. The shock of it jogged something in his memory. Back when he had been incarcerated in that torture chamber and Caleb had pretended to be Dr Mathias in order to get him out. Seemed to remember some nifty vanishing then as well only he hadn't exactly been fully compus mentis at the time. He smiled grimly to himself, the rest of the clues dropping into place. "Keep your secrets for now Caleb." He murmured. "We ever meet again I *will* get my answers, *dong ma*?"

He turned and walked briskly away, not wanting Monty or his crew to get anxious waiting on him. In the seemingly empty air behind him a soft warm whisper drifted on the light breeze. It was the only farewell either man would give the other.

* * * * *

Kaylee wanted Monty to stay a while but the big burly man was anxious to be on his way though he did not look happy about it. "Ya ain't gotta go, ya know."

He smiled at Serenity's mechanic with genuine affection. "Sure I can't steal you away from this bucket of rust?"

As Kaylee started to bristle Monty laughed but it was a brief respite before he grew solemn again.

"*Shenme shi*?"

"I need to tell Portree Nelson an' his men about Marcus."

Seeing the light and sunshine go out of Kaylee Frye was almost a physical pain for Monty but he didn't have it in him to cheer her up, his heart too heavy and touched with a side of guilt at having involved the man in this mess of trouble.

"Isn't your fault."

Though he was getting used to River the girl still had a habit of popping up out of the blue. "Is so. Shouldn't have passed that job on an' got 'em involved."

"You can't know the path evil will take. Avoid it and it'll come at you from another unexpected direction. Maybe cost you more."

"Yeah but Marcus would still be alive."

She shook her head. "False logic, does not compute."

Kaylee touched her friend's hand. "River, I don't think you're helpin' *mei mei*."

"Sometimes the truth is the only help you can give anyone."

Then the girl twirled, her thin dress billowing around her before she danced out of the room. River paused at the doorway as Zoe and Jayne came into the commons room. Kaylee looked behind them, wondering where Simon was. River gave her a smile.

"Taking the rag off the Captain's head."

Kaylee laughed then River was gone. Zoe gave Monty a sad look. "I'm sorry the way things turned out, Monty."

"Me too but at least you got Book back. He is gonna be alright?"


They turned as the Captain entered with Simon, Book and Inara trailing behind like ducklings behind their mama. Kaylee grinned at the Captain, happy to see the bandage gone and him looking more like his own self. She wasn't so sure how Book was doing though. To her eyes he still looked a mite traumatised.

"Want me to go with you?"

Monty shook his head. "*Bu qu*, Mal. Be better comin' from me."

The leave taking was short, Wash leaving River to watch Serenity while he came down to say goodbye along with the rest of them. Once Monty had gone back to his ship they watched until the Kingfisher was out of sight. Wash gave the Captain a look. "Where to, Cap'n?"

"How much fuel we got, Wash?"

"Enough to get to Bridgewater Settlement or Boros if we take it easy."

Bridgewater Settlement was a sparsely populated moon with nutrient poor soil and poorer settlers. "Put in a course for Boros."

Wash gave Zoe a look but she seemed to have something on her mind. With a nod he hurried on back to the bridge. Kaylee caught Simon's hand and half dragged him out of the room. It was on the tip of the Captain's tongue to say something but he changed his mind. *Diyu*. If his mechanic wanted to work on the doc while she tuned up Serenity's engine who was he to spoil her fun? Was about time someone on his boat had something shiny to smile about. He turned to the Shepherd and noted he was moving extra carefully as he took a seat at the table. Inara went to make tea for them all. Jayne dragged out a chair with his foot and got to sharpening his knife.

"How ya doin', Shepherd?"

"Oh, you don't need to worry about me, Captain."

Mal took a seat next to Book. "An' yet I do."

The Shepherd looked surprised for a fleeting moment. "Why would you do that? It's not as if you approve of my religion."

"Got no quarrel with you, Book, just don't need your brand of religiosity *dong ma*? But that ain't what I was meanin'. You've been through a lot lately, was concerned how you were copin'."

Book felt oddly touched. "A little shaken but I'll mend, *xie xie ni*. Simon says there's no lastin' damage."

The Captain nodded, relieved. "Good to know." Inara set mugs of tea before them and Book smiled his thanks. They stayed a good while talking in quiet voices, slowly settling back into their comfortable routine. When the Captain got up to take a look around his boat Zoe dogged his steps. He didn't say anything until they were out of earshot and sight of the others. "There somethin' on your mind, Zoe?"

"Was wonderin' about that sword, sir."

"What about it?"

"You left it with the Sheriff."

"That I did. You know I ain't no good with a sword. Inara can attest to that."

"Not my meanin', sir."

"Then best you speak plain."

"Marcus had his throat cut with a sword, so did the Operative at the railway station. If it wasn't the Operative's sword then whose was it an' where is that sword now?"

"That we may never know." Her eyes narrowed pinning him in place. "Think I deserve the truth, sir."

"Well now, there's the thing, I don't rightly know. Got suspicions a-plenty..."

"Which are?"

He sighed and leant on the railing on the catwalk. Zoe settled in beside him, her eyes not leaving his face. Giving him no room to prevaricate not that with Zoe he wanted to. It was just that talking about it made it more real than he was comfortable with. "Had an interestin' conversation with Caleb 'fore we parted. Suspect the sword was his."

Zoe's breath caught. Part of him took some satisfaction from having surprised her. She recovered too quickly for him to get too much pleasure from it though. "Caleb? He's an Operative?"

"Not as such."

Her look hardened.

"Way he explained it the Operatives of the Parliament are on'y one side of the coin."

When the Captain didn't continue Zoe thought it through her own self. "He sayin' he's an Operative for our side, sir?"

"Didn't say but that's the general impression."

She digested that in silence. "You believe him?"

"That's the strange thing Zoe, I think I do."

He could have told her about the strangeness when he was rescued but with his mind all manner of foggy and his body weak and traitorous at the time he wasn't sure how much he thought he remembered was accurate. How much fancy.

"Back in the day we called the Parliamentary Operatives Black Ghosts, sir."

"Guess that means the other ones are White Ghosts, don't it?"

"There's somethin' else, sir. I got the notion Book knew Caleb before."

That was news to the Captain. Raising his eyebrows his mind was racing a mile a second. Now wasn't that interesting? "Either of 'em say anythin' about that?"

"Not a word, sir."

Long after Zoe had left to check up on her husband the Captain couldn't help mulling over the significance or lack thereof. Part of him didn't want to dig no deeper, wasn't of a mind to press Book to find out what he had been before he had become a Preacher and yet he was Captain of this boat. Was kind'a up to him to know who he carried and what danger if any they might bring to him and his crew. Mind, with a slippery one like Shepherd Book he was like to get no answer at all.

A warm body sidling up alongside him bringing a smile to his lips. Inara Serra was one beautiful woman. Maybehaps he would ask Book about his past some other day.

* * * * *

Mr Brown listened in silence to the full report. By his side his companion remained silent. "The experiment was successful?"

"*Qu, shifu*, an' they are none the wiser."

"The girl?"

"Doesn't suspect."

"What did you do with him?"

"Cremation. It wasn't even my suggestion."

"And the sword?"

"Bein' melted down. There was no way to retrieve it without arousin' suspicion."

"What of our contact?"

"Still in place. The Cap'n is amazingly sentimental."

Long after the call ended Caleb Bourne knew it was time to move on again. He knew his father would beg him to stay but each were stubborn and set in their ways. He knew he was playing a dangerous game but the stakes were too high to leave such things to chance. If he was discovered by either side his life would end but it would be anything but quick or merciful. The information he gleaned would keep them safe but it was up to Serenity's Captain to use his wits to keep his crew out of harm's way. Danger would continue to stalk them and the hunters had River Tam in their sights if not in their hands. Her freedom was a risk but also an opportunity. Taking the neutral net out of his back pack Caleb carefully unfolded it and there, in the shadows of the space port, he used it to disappear. If Malcolm Reynolds were lucky he would never see him again.

* * * * *

Inara Serra was a fine woman. Her skin glowed, freshly washed and warm with sweet oils that made her shine. He thought her the most lovely thing in the 'verse. Course, he was a mite biased but still. Her sweet smile drove the last of his coherent thoughts out of his fool mind.

"Are you going to stand there all day?"

"No, ma'am, not me."

He started to undress, his fingers losing all their dexterity and confounding him in his hurry. Her laughter was like silver bells tinkling on the reins of a horse dressed for Winter Fair. Inara gently brushed his fingers aside making him blush. It amused her beyond words that Serenity's Captain could still blush so easily and yet it made him even more attractive to her. Slowly she disrobed him and washed him down with the natural sponge, her lips on his stealing words yet to be born before his tongue could undo the good he had already done. She knew him so well and before the night was over would know him even better. When he could get a word in it was a long exsanguinated groan dragged out of him by the touch of her gifted hands, the oil working deep into his shining skin and nothing between them but a quickening lust.

"Woman, what're ya doin' to me?"

Inara didn't answer. Like the gifted Companion she was, she showed him.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*zhu ni shunli* = good luck *goushi* = crap/dog shit *wangu* = stubborn *diyu* = hell *shenjingbing* = crazy *dui* = correct *guai* = devil/ghost *wode duibuqi* = I'm sorry *dong ma* = understand? *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *mei mei* = little sister *shifu* = sir *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *xie xie ni* = thank you


Sunday, October 16, 2011 1:28 PM


You will see from the conclusion to this story that some tantalising threads are not all neatly answered and resolved, this is intentional. And Nutluck, I know you keep waiting for River to make a move but this story was never about that. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, October 16, 2011 2:00 PM


Excellent, Ali D. I *loved* the conversation between Caleb and Mal. So many hints, so many answers that were not answers at all. So many more questions, leaving Mal with something to think on. That's good for Mal, he discovers many things by asking the questions of himself and thinking things through. The conversation with Mr Brown leaves so many questions. I look forward to seeing Caleb return in another fic. (hopefully). Liked the moment with Mal and Zoe at the end. And glad that Mal is now restored to health enough for him to enjoy Inara's attentions. Thanks for your epic story!

Sunday, October 16, 2011 2:34 PM


but...but...too many lose threads...ok, i know another series ensues but...but...
i KNEW Caleb wasn't really bad but now it sounds as though he isn't really 'good' either and as ever, love your Mal/Inara bits. great series, as all of yours are, AliD

Sunday, October 16, 2011 2:38 PM


um, i mean 'loose' threads...

Sunday, October 16, 2011 7:58 PM


Very cool and interesting chapter.

Monday, October 17, 2011 12:34 AM


I am glad you liked the conversation between Caleb and Mal, ebfiddler, you hit the nail on the head with Mal learning more by thinking on things himself and working them out. Caleb will be returning in a future fic but not for a while. After all the trials and tribulations I wanted Mal and Inara to have something sweet with the promise of better times to come. You made me chuckle, MalsDoxy. Caleb is simply one thing or the other, I have another story planned for later in which you will find out just what he is up to and why and very happy you think this is a very cool and interesting chapter, Nutluck. Thank you all for the shiny feedback. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, October 17, 2011 12:36 AM


Ooops, my bad. I meant to say 'Caleb is not simply one thing or the other'. Rotten keyboard keeps tripping up my gorram fingers, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, October 17, 2011 4:03 AM


Mmm hmm. I thought so. Playing both sides. To be an Operative for the Independents and STILL around, you'd kind of have to be.

No wonder he and Book maybe do recognize each other. This makes a lot of sense of the new Shepherd's Tale book as well, and also maybe suggests where Brooks came in, nicely done.

Monday, October 17, 2011 4:56 AM


Loved your comments Bytemite. Wheels within wheels as they say. Thanks for the shiny feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, February 11, 2012 6:25 PM


The thing within your writing that I appreciate the most is the degree of which you have depicted the characters uniqueness through the vocabulary and structure of their Dialogue. I have noticed for example that within the lesser educated characters dialogue you have utilized stylized and or colloquial language to enforce their background and personality. This is a common oversight in newer authors, and yet it holds allot of sway in the believability of a story.

Sunday, February 12, 2012 3:35 AM


Thank you for your kind and thoughtful feedback, Penquin11. When I am writing I visualise the characters walking and talking in my mind and flesh out both main and minor characters to breathe life into so that the reader can visualise them too. When it works as it has for you I feel as if I am dancing on sunshine. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Thursday, August 1, 2013 5:24 PM


I have NEVER had any problem visualizing everything that takes place in your fics, AliD, so very easy to see all of it in my mind's eye. It's why I love your writing so very much :D


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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.