THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 67. "Choices"
Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sometimes she forgot the depth and breadth of Malcolm Reynolds paranoia. And sometimes when they were entwined in passion she fancied he forgot it too but this was not that time.


TITLE: "CHOICES" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 67. Sequel to "WILD CARD" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon Mal/Inara RATING: NC-17 SUMMARY: "River has her first conversation with the girl from the escape pod. Badger discovers he can run but he can't hide and the Captain asks Monty for a favour."


A "Firefly" Story Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

It was quiet in the infirmary. Simon had stepped out of the room to speak privately with the Captain leaving his sister with the girl from the escape pod. Serenity's doctor had drawn the line at letting the other children stay as well though they protested. River had looked at them and something unspoken passed between them because a moment later the three children left without a murmur. Simon stared at his sister but River just went back to watching the girl. Rosalie lay on the infirmary bed with her eyes closed, her breathing slow and even as if sleeping. Simon left reluctantly when the Captain indicated he wanted to speak to him, closing the door behind him.

"I can feel you inside my head." The girl whispered.

"*Wo zhidao*. I knew you weren't asleep, Simon knew too but thought it was the sedative."

Rosalie did not open her eyes or ask why they had drugged her. "I sense you looking, watching to see how far you can go."

River did not respond. After all, it had not been a question just an observation. The girl's eyes sprang open as if the silence made her feel uneasy.

"I am the Gatekeeper."

"*Bushi*, you only think you are."

Rosalie tried not to frown, tilted her head instead, her look curious. "*Jieshi*."

"Like mirror images but not reflecting a true face."


"Truths you cannot see."

It was immediately obvious that Rosalie did not like that interpretation. "Because they aren't there."

River laughed then stared at the girl. "They really did a number on you."

"What about you?"

"I'm *huai le*."

The girl forgot to be wary. "Who broke you?"

River didn't answer. Rosalie frowned, sure she had missed a large part of the conversation but not knowing how. She was the latest generation of Reader, the most sophisticated yet so why couldn't she read River Tam?

"I am not your enemy."

River blinked slowly, seeming to return from somewhere far away, then leaned in close. Her voice dropping to barely a whisper, her eyes as wide as saucers as if more light would bring greater illumination. "But are you a friend, Rosalie?"

It was only much later when she was drifting off to sleep that Rosalie realised she had never told River Tam her name. Trembling, it took some time for her to calm the trepidation building inside her. She was the Gatekeeper, the best of the best, so how had this broken girl breached her defences?

* * * * *

Inara was waiting for the Captain when he finished talking to Simon. Although she tried not to make it too obvious Malcolm Reynolds knew what was on her mind. Had learnt to read beneath the subtle structure of her Companion ways. Not that he was an expert on that subject, he wasn't, but he did have a vested interest in Inara. One he could not divorce from the beat of his heart.

"What did Simon say?"

The Captain followed her into the shuttle and closed the hatch behind him. Inara raised a perfect brow, her stunning beauty once more captivating him. It did not however still his ability to speak. "Girl's whole an' healthy. River says she's a Reader."

That surprised the Companion. Another Reader? At this rate they would soon be able to open an Academy of their own. "Do we know why she is here?"

"I'm thinkin' someone is trackin' River, though how is anyone's guess. You got any thoughts on that notion, *bao bei*?"

Her smile was fleeting but it lingered momentarily in her eyes warming his heart. *Bu qu*. I'm more disturbed by the fact that there is no sign of how she got here."

"Another ship, that's *mingxian*." The Captain couldn't help fingering and touching her little ornaments and such. For once Inara didn't tell him off, waiting instead to hear his thoughts in full. Both of them had come so far. Mal looked up and put down the little statue of Kyan Yin. It looked casual but Inara noticed it was gently done and placed exactly where he had picked it up from. She hid another smile. Her rough, handsome, home spun Captain was finally learning. "I'm thinkin' it had to be a fast ship, maybehaps even cloaked."

"The Alliance doesn't have cloaked ships, Mal."

"Blue Sun do, an' those two duplicitous powers have too much in common to not be in this together."

"You can't look for conspiracies everywhere, Mal."

"Inara this is all about the Dust, *dong ma*?"

Inara frowned and for a moment Malcolm Reynolds hated being the one to put it there. "She's just a girl, Mal."

"No, no she ain't. Girl's a Reader, came lookin' for us that much is plain. Not nowhere is this an accident or some coincidence, *dong ma*? An' you know what a carefully laid plan is?"

"Let me guess, not one of yours?"

"*Hen haoxio*, I'm serious. It's a trap."

Inara closed the short distance between them and put a hand on his arm, her eyes locked on his. "Mal, if it's a trap why did the ship that brought her here leave?"

A bleak look settled in the Captain's eyes. "Who said it left?"


"Cloaked, Inara." He stressed. "That puts a whole new interpretation on things. An' think on this. If there's one cloaked ship out there who's to say there ain't more?"

Inara's mouth dropped open but honestly words would not come. Sometimes she forgot the depth and breadth of Malcolm Reynolds paranoia. And sometimes when they were entwined in passion she fancied he forgot it too but this was not that time. Inara watched the Captain leave, too stunned to come up with any response because as *shenjingbing* as it sounded a tiny infinitesimal part of her back brain worried that he might be correct. If he was then Buddha protect them all.

* * * * *

"Ow! Let me ruddy well go you big ruttin' ape!"

Jayne Cobb grinned at Badger. It was fun to see the slimey little King Pin scrabbling to try to break free of his iron grip. "Just 'cause the Cap don't wanna vent ya into the atmo don't mean I won't."

It was hard to tell which group wanted Badger dead more - Jerrod's crew or the Browncoats - but Jayne had long held a festering dislike for the little man. He was a sneaky, back stabbing *shuohuangzhe*. Was all kinds of confusing to him that Mal hadn't ended him long before now. That excuse about not cutting out the middle men was weak tea as far as Jayne was concerned. At first he had thought the Captain was weak too but the longer he was on the man's crew the more he realised just how wrong that assumption was. It left him with a goodly respect for Malcolm Reynolds and a healthy fear for the man's dark side. Not no way did he want to get on Mal's bad side but if anything could push him to take that step it was the pile of *shen goushi* he had caught sneaking around Serenity.

"You could always leave him to us." Said Billy Parker.

Much as Jayne liked the idea of someone else taking the decision and repercussions away from him, he was reluctant to just hand Badger over. Wanted to make the little man squirm, put the kind of fear in Badger that would stop him ever double crossing them again. "Nah, death is too good for him."

That produced low murmurs of discontent from the little crowd gathering around them. "He robbed our dead!" Growled Donnie.

Jayne realised that if he wasn't careful he could end up with a fight on his hands with both Jerrod's men and the Browncoats wanting to be the ones to rip Badger to pieces. Jayne grinned into Badger's face, enjoying the look of panic shining through all the sweat. "Nah, think I'll make it last. Cut on him a bit, maybe take an ear or two. Mind you, all the squealin' he makes might have to remove the tongue first..."

"Now Jayne I don't think we want to do anything too hasty, *dong ma*?"

The mercenary gave a frustrated growl. Why did Book have to turn up and spoil his rutting fun? "Wasn't gonna be hasty Shepherd, was gonna make it last. Let him die real slow."

"How did you plan to explain your actions to the Captain?"

Jayne frowned, could feel the excitement of the moment flat-lining. "Gorramit, he was sneakin' around!"

"Best we let the Captain decide his fate, Jayne."

"Can't I cut him up just a little bit?"

"*Bu qu*, why sully your hands?"

Jayne screwed his face up in a non-comprehending frown. "Huh?"

"We do however need to keep him somewhere 'safe'. I think the airlock would be the best place to keep him out of trouble, *dui*?"

An evil grin slid over Jayne Cobb's face. "Yeah, an' if he don't behave wouldn't take much to 'accidentally' press the same button he used on Jerrod."

Badger was wailing fit to bust but his cries and entreaties fell on deaf ears. As they took him to the airlock Book turned to face everyone. "Before you put him in there, Jayne, I need to make sure you all understand that if anything happens to Badger while he is in the airlock the person responsible will go to a Very Special Hell."

* * * * *

It took longer than usual for the Lady to slip away from the latest 'party'. To an outsider it looked far too grim and formal to be a party in the traditional sense though the guests went to great pains to appear affable and happy to be there. Only a fool would do or say anything to insult or offend her husband. In many ways she was the perfect match for him, a counterbalance that could walk that fine line without fear of violent reprisals but even she walked soft and kept all her wits about her. Even at rest part of her was always on the alert.

In her private rooms one entire wall comprised expensive made to measure shelves and cupboards. Made of the finest Sheesham wood from Earth-that-was. The amount of it lavished on her personal quarters was worth more than many an ancient King's ransom yet it was but a small part of her true wealth. Pressing a small panel disguised as part of the unit's design a section opened up revealing a top of the range cortex screen. The Lady activated a code and listened intently, a slow satisfied smile sliding over her face. As she had expected, Malcolm Reynolds had taken the escape pod aboard his ship. Soon the next phase could begin.

* * * * *

It was what was deemed the night cycle aboard Serenity, a fact Wash was more than happy about. The ship was so full of assorted tensions right now he could not wait to get Zoe to their bunk so they could be alone. That his *qizi* was so distracted was not so good but he had plans. Plots and schemes to change that.

"Think we should drop off Jerrod's men next."

Wash paused as he toed off his shoes then resumed undoing his shirt buttons and hurrying to undress. That his wife made no move to do likewise would be needing some coaxing on his part. "Mal knows what he's doin', *bao bei*."

Her look barely hid the surprise at his rapid endorsement of the Captain. "You've met the Cap'n? Just don't see we need Jerrod's men on Serenity."

"Not to mention that the two additional crews are eatin' through what's left of our supplies." Wash paused to reach out to his wife and start with the coaxing, pleased when she didn't push his hands away as he began with a gentle massage, slowly removing the tension in her neck. "What do you suppose he plans to do?"

"*Chengshi de? Wo bu zhidao* an' that's what troubles me."

Wash was pleased to see that his wife was finally getting undressed, his warm hands making sure she didn't catch cold before they made it to their bed. "Well, whatever he has planned nothin's gonna happen tonight."

Zoe froze and Wash cursed himself. The tension was back but honed by a sharp implacable will. To his consternation Zoe started to quickly dress again. "That's it, *zhangfu*. That's what's *cuode*."

Baffled, the pilot stared at her. "It is?"

A beautiful loving smile bowed her lips briefly as if conferring a reward on him. Zoe kissed him, letting her lips linger before pulling away. "I need to speak to the Cap'n."

"Can't this wait until mornin'?"

"Wash, we're in a spaceship. There is no mornin' in the Black." Zoe paused at the crestfallen look on his face, noticing that Wash was picking up his clothes obviously intending to get dressed again. "No need for both of us to lose sleep, *bao bei*."

"You think I can sleep without you? *Bushi*. Besides, if somethin' bad is goin' on I'd rather be dressed an' ready with the quick get-away."

* * * * *

Monty listened to Malcolm Reynolds in silence, his eyes sharp, his look thoughtful and more than a little wary. That Monty and his ship had stayed close meant a lot to Mal but he now had more help than he would ever need. No need to tie the Kingfisher to his gorram shirt tails.

"What about the kids?"

"Best take them home, *dui*? They don't need to be dragged all around the Black."

"Hmmph. I ain't the one doin' the draggin', Mal."

"An' I'm not sayin' you are just some folk would think that, folk not me." Serenity's Captain paused, looked long and hard at his long time friend and cousin. They seldom touched on the family link but the friendship, that was sacrosanct. Would be carried by both of them to their ruttin' graves. Mal intended for that to be a long time in the future, for Monty if not for his own self. Monty's eyes narrowed.

"What're you worryin' about?"

"Don't want Badger on my boat."

Monty gave a short bark of dark humour. "Nobody wants that back-stabbin', slimey, lyin', cheatin', piece of *shen goushi* on their ship, Mal. Don't know why you fixed him up, took that bomb outta the worthless *tamade hundan* or let him live."

"Wasn't all altruistic, Monty." At Monty's look he explained. "Not nobody more surprised than me when Simon found that bomb. Fact that for once Badger was actually tellin' the truth was somethin' of a shock."

"Didn't tell you all of it though, sir."

The Captain spun round like a guilty schoolboy caught smoking in the school yard. Nobody could sneak up on him like Zoe although he usually sensed her presence. Being distracted by his talk with Monty had given his second in command that opportunity. Monty smirked, eyes twinkling. He had a soft spot for Zoe.

"What the good gorram you doin' here, Zoe? *Wenti*?"

"No sir but we need to decide what to do about the girl."

"An' this couldn't wait?"

"Also need to make a decision about Badger. Seems he was caught sneakin' around, almost got ripped apart by his 'fan club'."

For a moment things seemed to be looking up but then Zoe dashed the Captain's brief surge of hope.

"They put him in the airlock, sir." Zoe deadpanned.


"Could always press the button, sir." At his look she added, "Accidentally."

Monty snorted then clapped a huge hand on Mal's shoulder. "What you gonna do, Mal?"

"Well now, that's where you come in."

Monty's eyes narrowed. "Not gonna like this am I?"

The Captain smiled then told him what he wanted. Monty Reynolds' eyes widened: a war between anger, shock and downright cussedness about to break out when the Captain let his smile settle into something deeper and much more genuine. "Need you to do this for me, Monty. Wouldn't ask otherwise." Mal said quietly.

Zoe watched, had seen the Captain pull this before back in the War when he would ask something he had no right to ask and should have had no expectation of that request being carried out. Yet time and again she had seen his words pull men up by their bootstraps when they were all but ready to give up and then go do the impossible. It was what made them mighty. Now she saw the moment that behemoth of a man who was their closest friend do the same. He might not be happy about it but he would never turn Mal down, not when it counted.

* * * * *

The warm slide of flesh on flesh raised the temperature in the bunk, sounds muffled as the bodies gyrated in the heat, sweat oiling their passion as Kaylee's hands did things that should have been sinful. Simon moaned, the sound swallowed in her eager mouth as she brought him to the brink of dying. He wanted to be inside her, to thrust, to bring them both to the kind of climax that would shatter them both into ecstasy but Kaylee was relentless. Knew what she wanted and had him dancing on the precipice as the sweat poured off him. Bringing him to the brink again and again until he was almost crying with need.

How the good gorram did she do the things she did? Simon did not like to think where she had learned her exquisite mastery of sex but could not deny the results. He could feel her lips smiling against his, then Kaylee lined herself up and came down on him so quickly and hard that he gasped, her thighs quickly gripping him like a vice once he was sheathed inside her. At last, at last, at LAST! Simon thrust for all he was worth with Kaylee egging him on as they rode out their heightening passion together. Their cries, like their pheromones, filling the air.

Shattering into silence, Simon lay like a boneless wreck beneath her. Kaylee gently kissed his face, his neck, then looked at him. All the love in the 'verse laid out just for him. Saw that he didn't even have the strength left to open his eyes and smirked with satisfaction. As she lay her head on his chest she felt him murmur up through his breastbone.

"I think you broke me."

Kaylee lifted her head as he half opened his eyes. "Then I'll just have to fix ya up."

Simon brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes and let his hand fall. "Sleep first, I'm exhausted *xin gan*."

As Kaylee put her head down and closed her eyes to join him in sleep, neither of them noticed River Tam looking down from the ceiling with a look of weary bliss on her glistening face. "Me too." She sighed, then closed her eyes.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin) *wo zhidao* = I know *bushi* = not so *jieshi* = explain *huai le* = broken *bao bei* = precious/treasure *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *mingxian* = obvious *dong ma* = understand? *hen haoxio* = very funny *shenjingbing* = crazy *shouhuangzhe* = liar *shen goushi* = deep crap/dog shit *dui* = correct *qizi* = wife *chengshi de* = honestly *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *zhangfu* = husband *cuode* = wrong *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *wenti* = problem *xin gan* = sweetheart


Thursday, October 23, 2014 6:20 PM


Delitefull! That scarry lady is creepyifyin, and I love it when Badger squirms n whines. thanx

Thursday, October 23, 2014 7:28 PM


You are welcome, Buckshotpilot. And I agree with you, nothing finer than seeing Badger squirm. Thanks for the shiny feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, October 25, 2014 11:14 AM


oh that Mal, he's SO bloody clever...not rightly sure in what manner of clever he is right now but I know it's your tales of our intrepid Captain and crew, AliD, such a welcome escape in the the Black...xie xie :D

Saturday, October 25, 2014 4:14 PM


You can count on our valiant Captain to have something up his gorram sleeve, Malsdoxy. Even when his plans don't pan out as intended it is usually due to unforeseen forces at work. So happy you are enjoying this tale and thanks for the welcome feedback. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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His head still ached from the rutting probe but after the men had satisfied themselves that his story was true a thousand questions peppered the air like machine gun fire.

The vessel was shiny, sleek and black with nowhere near the bulk of an Alliance ship. Something about the way it moved through the Black was more than a little creepifying.

Personally she didn't care if Serenity was towed off to a junk yard and stripped into spare parts. She had promised the ship to Jer and his crew as a bonus but it looked like scavengers had beaten them to it.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 2. "Counting Chickens"
The fact that her eyes were hard and sharp with intelligence kind of chilled him. Smart women always made him uneasy, it just weren't natural.

What in the nine hells were they so afraid of? Then he remembered Tracy. The body mailed to them by their old war buddy and all the trouble that had brought down on them.

If it was too gorram wet to hunt for rabbits what in the nine hells was his son really hunting? And was it something on four legs or two?

The man was in a terrible condition, his pulse weak, and for some reason he was soaking wet which did nothing to staunch the blood soaking through his clothing and seeping from the poorly tended wound where he had been shot.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 9. "All The King's Men"
The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 8. "All The King's Horses"
Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 7. "Friend or Foe"
Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.