BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

THE REFLECTION SERIES: 17. "Priceless"
Wednesday, October 20, 2004

"River acts on her own initiative. The Crazy Goose comes under fire. Simon's need to do something plunges him and his friends in a whole world of trouble."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2832    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "PRICELESS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: NC-17. STATUS: SEQUEL to "CRADLE TO GRAVE" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://carlajane.50megs.com/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "River acts on her own initiative. The Crazy Goose comes under fire. Simon's need to do something plunges him and his friends in a whole world of trouble." 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.

"PRICELESS"

A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

He never knew her name. Didn't give a good gorram who she was or what her story was. She was there for his pleasure and amusement nothing more. Badger grinned at her. The girl closed her eyes to try to block out his gloating leer, eyes only snapping open as he pawed her. Unable to mask her panic. He rubbed his hands all over her as he peeled the clothes off her trembling body. Fifteen years old and still a virgin. Old enough to be married and carrying a child on some worlds but still a child her ownself on others.

"Now, now, no cryin' see? Get all sniffy an' I might not be so pleased with you. Might get a little rough, *dong ma*?"

Her throat had closed up so she couldn't speak. Part terror, part revulsion and a hundred percent dispairing sorrow. Yet somehow she managed to give a jerky nod. Badger hardly noticed, eyes undressing her quicker than his hands. Liked to paw her, feel the curves and shivering heat of her as he stripped her bare. Nubile body and pert breasts, no ugly hanging skin or wrinkled flesh. Age had yet to touch and fade the lustre of the girl before him. He didn't undress himself. Being naked was like being powerless and he clung to every artifice of control he had at his disposal. Now others, they were a different matter. He liked to wrong foot them, put them on the defensive. Show them who was boss. But the girl didn't matter. Lowest rung in the food chain she knew she was doomed to the worst of all fates. No family, no friends, no one to care whether she lived or died. Not a single voice in the 'verse that would speak up for her.

Badger could feel himself getting excited. Not too much now. He wanted to make this last. Never did know how much of a dry spell he might be facing before he could do this again and he was choosy in as much as the girls he took had to be clean. Didn't want no desease or infestation from bedding them as had bedded too many before him. So a virgin was a double treat. Had to savour it slowly. He would have her doing for him every which way by the time he finished with her. He was already drawing pictures inside his head, so rutting shiny. He paused and stared at her downturned face, raising her head with a hand placed under her chin. "Now, now, have t'look up. Like to see who's payin' the piper."

She didn't understand the words but got the gist of his meaning. He was idly playing with her nipples, the fingers of his left hand rolling and squeezing while the right hand kneaded the other breast and pinched her nipple hard enough to make her jerk and squirm from the pain. Oh yeah, that was more like it. It took her all her effort not to spit in his face but what would be the use? He would probably kill her then ram into her cooling body. She had heard stories like that but never thought they were true. Being here with Badger made her realise that nightmares weren't bad because they were invented forms of horror. They were bad because they were real. Much worse than make believe and a million times more ugly.

The room was dingy with threadbare furnishings but it had a couch, a few shabbby miss-matched armchairs, a table and a bed shoved in a corner. It looked beyond grubby but the glint in Badger's eye confirmed her worse fear. To her surprise he did not push her over to the bed. Seeing her look he grinned and a deeper fear settled in her gut. He tilted his head.

"Before we get to the main event, have to see what your range is."

His grin grew broader as her confusion showed on her face. He was enjoying himself, one hand now dropping down to rub her stomach before sliding down between her legs. She gasped in horror, tried to draw back but he was pinching and twisting a breast with the other hand hard enough to make her flinch and cry out. That shocked pause was long enough for his fingers to worm their way through the thick thatch of hair, fingertips rubbing and probing until they breached her making the girl jump.

"Easy now, told you I'd look after you, *dong ma*? Don't move away. Make this good for you. Teach you things you never dreamt about, little girl. When I've finished you'll be a woman an' no mistake."

Bethany Ann Temple wanted to be sick then Badger leaned in close and kissed her. As her mouth opened in protest he pushed a finger inside her and began to rub and explore while he thrust his tongue into her mouth and matched the rythym of his fingers, enjoying how she shuddered and whimpered. He sucked on her tongue slowly walking her backwards until she came up against the table. He slid one arm around her tiny waist and lifted her on to the end of the table and grinned into her face. Blinking back the threat of tears no sound escaped her mouth. He broke the kiss and began to talk to her in a hoarse voice, his hand slowly speeding up as he stroked his fingers in and out of her now moistening heat. She wriggled as if the hard intrusion pained her, then dropping to his knees he replaced his fingers with his mouth. As his tongue thrust inside she jerked and gasped, his hands grabbing hold of her waist to hold her still, tears streaming down her face. The silent anguish of her heart drowning out every part-formed prayer. When he had her good and wet from his tongue and mouth he lifted his head and got to his feet, sidled closer and fiddled with his flies. At first the girl was confused then she whimpered in pain and shock as he thrust deep inside her. Her scream took its' time errupting from her shocked mouth. Badger grunted with effort and ecstasy, rolling his hips and thrusting deep to reach her hymen. Before he could hit the spot a racket drew him out of his lust laden exertions.

Puzzled he froze with both his pants and mouth open, the girl partly spread eagled on the end of the table stark naked, his hands bruising her hips where he gripped her tightly in place. Dust and debris rained down on them and a sound like some demented banshee made him look up just as a small diminutive shape hit him straight in the face. The small foot angled just right to catch his jaw with a loud satisfying crack as River landed in the middle of the room like some avenging angel. He had no time to contemplate the hole in the ceiling or the fact that the girl he was originally seeking had come looking for him rather than the other way around. His head snapped back as he was sent flying. River landed in a neat roll, keeping her body between the foul little kingpin and the girl. Bethany stared wide eyed, sure this could not be happening. Miracles happened to other people not her.

Blinking she could only stare in stunned silence at the welcome but unlikeliest of saviours as River Tam broke into a big happy grin.

* * * * *

Inara was stunned. The concussive blast of the full battery of weapons fire hit them fair and square causing the Crazy Goose to shudder and dip before stabilising. Rafe was telling Tollan to fire back but the Counsellor hesitated not wanting to be the one to cause harm to Thomas McCardy's son. Made no difference that Carlin Ferris would be bringing it down upon his own head. Thomas looked slowly round at the small circle of people on the bridge, knowing Rafe Connor's men would be getting mighty restless, itching to conjoin in battle any way they could to even the score of whatever fire they now took. Mal was worried that in escalating from trading verbal insults to exchanging fire his mission to reach his lost crew and bring them back safe from harm would be thwarted. Sacrificed to the distraction of another man's war. Thomas's war, not his.

"Mal?"

His head jerked round at Inara's soft but distinct voice. She saw the pain in his eyes, the longing to be gone and doing not waiting on some family feud to be played out and for the dust to settle. "We gotta stop this, Inara."

Her eyes widened. "I'm not sure we can."

"Not sure ain't no."

"It's not yes either," Said Rafe quietly.

Mal glanced quickly at him then dismissed the comment. He closed the gap between himself and their hosts. "You'll pardon me for bein' a mite anxious, Thomas, but I gotta get to me an' mine an' this little war ain't helpin'."

To his surprise Thomas smiled. Thomas gave Tollan a nod to let him know he could open fire. Tollan frowned slightly but did as instructed. The ship bucked a little as their port cannon strafed the Alliance ship. Not enough to do great damage just stitch a line along one side of it as if to say *cut here*. "This may be just what you need, Malcolm."

Serenity's Captain blinked, nonplussed. "How so?"

"We got a small runabout, Malcolm. Use it when it isn't practical to set the Goose down. Comes in mighty handy on some of the less friendly planets."

Mal's eyebrows rose, the heat of frustration burning through him now simmering just a little as his mind raced through the possibilities. "You mean like a shuttle?"

Thomas grinned gently back. He signalled for Tollan to fire again letting the punctuation of tit for tat fighting degenerate into an angry squabble that made the deck sway and tilt beneath them. See-sawing through the air they baited the bigger Alliance vessel then shot across the nose of the ship to give it the finger, turning and burning hot for a couple of seconds without forward momentum. The result was the Alliance taking in their burn and for a few minutes the enemy guns stuttered to a confused halt and the big warship was flying blind. "Yes and no. Like a shuttle in the use we make of it but for one thing." His grin actually grew making his whole face look like a piece of elastic as he watched Mal closely to catch his reaction. "The runabout has weapons."

A smile flashed across Mal's burnt face. A twinge of pain at the movement reminded him he was not yet fully healed, pulling and tearing at still sore healing flesh stuck to the crispy black fragments of peeling and cracking skin. So brittle in places it split and pricked his face with specks of crimson. Although he spoke in whispers his voice grew stronger day by day. Malcolm Reynolds ignored the momentary discomfort. A brief look of concern skated over Inara's perfect features but vanished behind her Companion's mask before he could catch it. She was becoming used to seeing him in this battered and scorched condition but that didn't mean she had to like it. She did not notice Chung-li watching her.

Mal paced back and forth for a moment then turned to face Thomas. "How big is this gorram runabout?"

Tollan hid a little smile. Thomas was feeling weary but valiantly hiding how much this was taking out of him. The last thing he wanted was anyone's sympathy. "Big enough to take a good half dozen men."

Mal frowned. Not thinking of who he could take but who would have to stay behind. As if reading his mind Tollan interrupted the dark descent of his sombre thoughts. "We can take out the refinements Mal, get close to ten or twelve people aboard."

It was still too few but better than six. Chung-li watched Mal quietly. "Your crew are on Delios?" He asked.

Mal shook his head. Another salvo from the Alliance ship rocked them, quickly answered by weapons fire from the Goose. "*Bu qu* they're on the slaver's ship, why?" Inara saw Thomas's face tighten, rage kept firmly in check. Mal did not notice, all his focus on Chung-li. Waiting for his response. "It looks formidable, Mal." Said the Chinaman carefully.

"That it is."

"How you propose to board and not be seen, *wode pengyou*?"

Thomas straightened carefully, biting back a wave of agony and nausea. He felt as if his body was on fire and it was getting more and more dificile to pretend everything was normal. Tollan gave him an anxious look when no one else was paying attention. He would not divulge Thomas's worsening condition unless his dearest of friends gave him leave to do so. The Counsellor loved and respected him too much for that. Even with his heart slowly breaking he would hold fast to the unspoken promise that lay between them.

"There is no need," Said Thomas using every ounce of self control not to pant. To keep his voice normal. Steady. Confidence would have to carry him across the gap of his failing strength. No energy left to replenish what his body was losing. All at once he realised he was out of time. But determination he still had plenty of. He prayed it would be enough for him to give aid to their newfound friends.

Mal narrowed his eyes slightly sensing something else behind those words.

"She has a cloaking device."

The words shook him. Cloaking device? He had not known such a thing was possible. Heard gorram fairy tales but nothing solid. If Thomas really did have that kind of technology on the runabout it could give him the edge he needed to pull this off. Chung-li gave Thomas a look of approval. Mal cut a glance at Rafe and the two men grinned reminding Inara of mischievous children. Only these kids were armed. "What the good gorram we waitin' for?"

* * * * *

Simon was frantic. "Let go of me! I have to find her, I have to find River!"

Zoe did not let go, her grip on his arms almost painful. The Preacher moved to block his way, Jayne just a foot or so behind him though from the look on the mercenary's face he would have been just as happy to let him go. "We can't rush into this, Simon." Zoe hissed.

"But she could be hurt, in danger..." He swallowed with difficulty, on the verge of tears. Kaylee squeezed his hand and wormed her way closer to him. He was grateful for her support and unconsciously leaned towards the heat of her body. "I have to find her."

"We will," Said Book calmly.

Zoe looked at Jayne. "You sure she went that way?"

The big man nodded. Zoe released her grip on Simon and they began to crawl along after the mercenary, hands on the heels of the person in front.

"It's alright, Simon." Said Kaylee quietly. "We'll find her. Ain't nobody better at trackin' than Jayne."

*Except he doesn't like us* thought Simon miserably. The mercenary had never hidden the fact that he thought the Tams were a liability. Like to bring the Alliance down on their heads and land them in a whole 'verse of trouble. The Captain was the one who kept the big man's excesses in check but with no one holding his leash there was no telling what Jayne might do. It was something of a shock for the doctor to realise that he not only depended upon Serenity and her crew but specifically the presence of the Captain to keep himself and River safe. How was it that the destiny of one man could touch so many lives?

He was brought out of his reverie by Kaylee's touch on his hand. The swelling had gone down and the bruises were fading but the memory of what they had done lingered on. Badger knew he was a doctor, knew how important his hands were to him, which added another level to the callous intent of his actions. He did not even want to contemplate what Badger might do to his sister. It made him sick to his stomach with fear for her, anxiety robbing him of his usual coherence. Kaylee seemed to sense the direction of his thoughts and wriggled forward so that she was crawling beside him rather than in the crocodile fashion they had adopted. This close she didn't need to see him to know what was tormenting him. Kaylee leaned in, her warm breath fanning his ear. "*Fang xin*, Simon, River's smart. Just gotta have a little faith." He swallowed slowly wishing he could do just that. Buoyed up by her warmth and confidence, the absolute conviction she held that everything would turn out right. When had he lost his own faith? Or was the last vestiges of it wrapped up in the thin diminutive presence of his gifted but damaged sister? His view of the 'verse narrowed until she was the compass of his entire belief system. The only thing that mattered to him. He realised his father had killed the last of his faith. A man who had told him he would not come for him again. A man who cared more for the appearance of his social standing that the lives of his children. When the mask had dropped and he had seen Gabriel Tam for what he was the bottom of his world had dropped away. The only person he had any faith in now was River. Then he felt Kaylee so warm and reassuring beside him, her hand in his, her smile even in the dim light bathing him in joy and hope and giving him something to hang on to that was not born of bitterness or blind desperation. Kaylee. If ever an angel had come down from Heaven she was it.

Ahead Jayne huffed and puffed, his bigger body sounding heavy and cumbersome in the dusty crawlspace.

Simon was frustrated they could not go any faster. "How much further?"

The mercenary stopped and everybody bunched up with assorted muted swearing and complaints. "How the *diyu* do I know? Your *shenjingbing* sister didn't exactly leave a gorram map."

Simon opened his mouth to defend River but Wash's voice gave him pause.

"Can we save the fightin' an' snipin' until we're all safe an' sound? Entertainin' an' shiny as it may be we don't want those slavers discoverin' us."

Simon snapped his mouth shut and nodded. Wash was right. Then came a sound Simon would have known anywhere. The scream had him reacting on instinct, letting go of Kaylee's hand he shuffled round and scurried off in a completely different direction. Kaylee tried to grab him as he brushed passed but he was already out of reach. Jayne swore, "Where in the nine hells does he think he's going?"

"He's goin' after River." Said Zoe in a quiet clipped voice. Her voice hardened. "An' so are we."

Jayne gave a little puzzled frown. "What we wanna do that for?"

But no one was listening to him, too intent on turning and hurrying off in the direction the doctor had gone. Up ahead they heard Simon scrabbling and increased their pace. Jayne shut his mouth and scowled bringing up the rear. They had not gone more than a dozen feet when Simon stopped so abruptly that Wash bumped into him, then Kaylee. Zoe tried to inch forward to see what the hold up was. Jayne complaining but being ignored behind them. Shepherd Book gave the mercenary a stern look and Jayne mumbled something incoherent beneath his breath and shut up. They heard Zoe curse quietly up ahead and pushed forward to see what had happened. As everyone crowded closer to Simon it became apparent he was looking down. Down? Just as the Shepherd contemplated that unexpected notion he heard a loud creaking sound but before he could warn anyone the ceiling beneath them gave way. A frantic scramble of flailing arms and legs, loud cussing and cries of surprise filled the dust laden air as they fell.

Shepherd Book pretty much landed on the top of the heap, the groans and moans beneath him telling him his friends had not fared so well. He got up quickly and began to straighten, lifting his head as a familiar metallic click echoed in the air inches from his face. He froze half upright, the others coming to their feet a mite slower. John Porter Clements stared at the Shepherd over the barrel of a sawn off shotgun. Around him his men had swiftly moved to surround Serenity's crew. Hearing a little gasp from Simon, the Preacher turned his head and saw Badger slumped in a corner, a dirty rag shoved in his mouth and tied up. The man looked to be unconscious. Impossibly, as Simon Tam raised his head and caught the Preacher's eye he was smiling. For as dire as their situation was, River was nowhere in sight.

* * * * *

The hardest part was not leaving the Crazy Goose but not taking all of Rafe's men with him. Those left behind were loyal enough to keep their mouths and comments to themselves but the disappointment shone in their eyes. Inara began to offer her services but Mal cut her off.

"Best you stay here, Inara."

"But I can fly the runabout."

He gave a little nod but not of consent, just acknowledging the truth of her words. "Not sayin' you can't Inara but we got limited space, *dong ma*? Every seat will be taken by an armed man. Not sayin' I don't appreciate the offer though."

Rafe glanced around at his crew. Experienced ranch hands every one. "Who is gonna fly that bird, Mal?"

He got a slow mishievous smile back. "Reckon I'll fly it my own self."

Rafe Connor's eyebrows rose. *Shi* grinned at the boss's expression.

"Who's goin', boss?" Asked *Shi*.

Mal and Rafe exchanged a look but Mal left it to the Rancher to make the choices. He rattled off names in a calm deliberate fashion that brooked no arguing. "You, Paul, Blade, Ricky..." None of the names came as any surprise until he got to the last one. "...and Chung-li."

Paul Cotton blinked in surprise. "Chung-li?"

The Chinaman showed no expression but his bright eyes missed nothing. Rafe nodded. "Yep."

"Uh, boss?"

"Yeah? What is it Paul?"

"No offence Chung-li but you ain't no fighter, you're our gorram cook."

Mal wanted to laugh but managed to hold his tongue. He had a feeling that if the big man put his mind to it he could out-fight any one of them his own self included. Chung-li caught his eye and Mal had the oddest feeling that he was the reason the Chinaman was coming along. But couldn't that be said for all of Rafe's men? Or were the others simply coming because the boss was? Rafe's words brought him out of his reverie. "Chung-li may surprise you, Paul. Besides, if an army fights on its' gorram stomach then best we be well fed."

No one had an answer to that though at that precise moment none of them were thinking of food. Mal waited to make sure there were no other issues then turned to Tollan. "I'd be obliged if you'd show me this boat so I can run over the controls with you."

The Counsellor nodded. Mal looked at Thomas, noticed how weary he seemed. Pale and a mite sweaty if he was any judge. Man didn't look right and that was all kinds of wrong. He opened his mouth to ask if he was feeling alright but Thomas forestalled him.

"You'd better go now, Malcolm. My son won't wait long before he attacks again and it would be prudent for you and Rafe to use every second you have."

Mal took a moment to reply, giving the man a close look. After a minute he nodded then extended his hand. "Then best I thank you now. Without your help my people would be destined to a life of slavery if not worse. Not got enough words to thank you properly."

The man smiled with genuine warmth. "My pleasure, Malcolm. *Zhuni haoyun*!"

"*Ni ne*." He paused as he began to turn away, wanting to know they would be alright while he was gone.

Thomas McCardy had been reading people all his gorram life and Malcolm Reyonds was no exception. He gave him a gentle look, understanding how the Captain was feeling torn by conflicting loyalties. "Your people need you, Malcolm." He said quietly.

"What about...?"

"My son is making a point, no more."

Mal frowned. "Then he ain't gonna...?"

He shook his head. "Carlin won't kill me but his pride won't let him turn away. Not without making a show of force. A stand if you will."

For a long moment Mal just stared at him. Michael Tollan moved beside him, ready to lead Mal onto the runabout. "Not sure how long we'll be." Mal paused and flicked a look at the men that would be staying behind on the Crazy Goose.

Rafe picked up on what Mal would not say. His words addressed to Thomas but for the benefit of all those who would be left behind. "Mayhap my men can help you? If you have need of their help you got it. Not a poor shot among 'em."

Thomas nodded, appreciating the gesture though he knew it was one he would not be taking him up on. The guns of the Crazy Goose were all the help he needed though he was too polite to say so. Better to accept the offer which was sincerely given. Then Tollan was hurrying off to the runabout explaining as he went, Mal easily keeping pace and storing away every little tidbit of information that fell from the Counsellor's lips. Inara watched them go, stepping closer to Thomas, her right hand coming up to rest on the man's shoulder. Not just a show of strength, of solidarity, but also affection. His time was close and they both knew it. Chances were he would no longer be with them when Mal returned. Inara said a silent prayer. Hoping Serenity's Captain *would* return and that he would not be coming back alone.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand *bu qu* = no (Lit. no go) *wode pengyou* = my friend *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *diyu* = hell *shenjingbing* = crazy *shi* = ten *zhuni haoyun* = good luck *ni ne* = you too

COMMENTS

Wednesday, October 20, 2004 2:54 PM

GUILDSISTER


Badger is a bad, bad man. Hope he gets well and thoroughly punished before this story concludes. And good on River!

Chung-li growing in interesing ways--intrigued to find out how he develops and plays out as the story progresses.

Good read, thanks.

Thursday, October 21, 2004 12:38 AM

KISPEXI2


Horrifying, gripping - how utterly repulsive is Badger. (Although I had to laugh at the idea of him stocking up on sex in case he hit a "dry spell". What a choice of words!!) I was so pleased when River appeared - it was like I could hear triumphant music playing. Go River!

Thursday, October 21, 2004 3:48 AM

SOULOFSERENITY


Awesome chapter! I loved River swooping in to save the day. This story just keeps getting better and better. I love it!

Friday, November 26, 2004 8:03 PM

CASTIRONJACK


You know its funny imagining the whole crew stacked on one another like some kind of sports heap. Course it was good enough imagining them rattling around in the air duct.

River's gonna have to illustrate the whole 'mouse' thing, they aint pulling it off well.

Keep flyin'


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