Thursday, August 14, 2003

"The crews of Serenity and Lightstar successfully put pay to Anderson. Simon gets the antidote to Mal. But even after it's all over, Mal has one more thing yet to do."



SUMMARY: "The crews of Serenity and Lightstar successfully put pay to Anderson. Simon gets the antidote to Mal. But even after it is all over, Mal has one more thing yet to do." 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

* * * * *

He could not get over the pain. Waves of it crashing through him. Breaking him down in ways that the vagaries of life had never done. Physically deconstructing him from the inside out. The poison working its' insidious way up through the gut, into his bloodstream. Body on fire, soul in torment. Yet into his blazing hell a cool presence calmed him. A ghost of something touched him deep and stirred his rebellious spirit. A voice in his soul calling him back from the darkness, leading him through the tightening walls of pain. Refusing to let him go. His heart constricting, loath to leave her. Struggling still though mindful of his weakness. The tremor of failing muscles. The murmur of sluggish fluid in slowing veins. Heart racing to falter again and again like a horse halting at each and every hurdle before the whip hand raised reluctant haunches to propel passed fear and soar on to the next obstacle. He knew he was flagging. Did not want to let her down. His world narrowed to that soft inner voice. That hand in his as he lay dying. Her heart somehow synchronising with his erratic beat, slowing him down to her steady august rythym. But it was the love that surprised him. Simple. Not a complex thing as he had once thought. Given freely and without conditions. Her presence was poetry to him. Thus she fed his spirit a whisper of hope at a time. And for a while. He hovered. While she kept the darkness at bay.

"Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightening they Do not go gentle into that good night..."

'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' - Poem by Dylan Thomas

The Preacher stood at the foot of the bed and watched River. She reminded him of the tales from Earth-That-Was of the fairy folk, the angels who lived at the bottom of the garden, wood and water nymphs playing with gleeful symetry to sparkle in the light of day. His musings surprised his dark nature. He watched but did not pray though the Good Book rested open in his hands it had the appearance of a prop. The others might suspect but would never question him on it. He thought the Captain might but each time the question was in his eyes and deferred to another day. *One day you will tell me what you did before you were a Preacher*. Inwardly his lips had quirked in humour. No. I won't tell you Captain and those that suspect will remain silent. I know my strengths and I know 'all' your weaknesses.

River lay with her head on the Captain's chest listening to and tuning in to his heartbeat. Eyes open and staring at his pale face. One hand touching a warm cheek, the other holding his hand. Still half sitting on the chair she was half on and half off the bed. The Preacher was not sure who she was comforting. The departing Captain or herself. He could wait a little longer. River pretended he was not there and focused her will, eyes turning inward, lids closing. The hand on his cheek growing still.

"Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage aginst the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night..."

'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' - Poem by Dylan Thomas

He trembled. Body aching. Burning now behind his closed lids. Everything hurting yet with that cool hand guiding him the pain could not touch him. How crazy was that? He wondered if he would see his life pass before his eyes. Had heard some folks say that was how the end took them. A tunnel, a bright light, loved ones waiting. He felt his heart lurch with an old desire, a hope pushed to the back of his dreaming mind now coming to the fore. Longed to see his mother again. See Davey young and vibrant, his laughing eyes and joyful smile. That look between brothers that no other connection could rival. Perhaps even see his father again. That dim and distant rock upon which all their foundations had once stood so proud and strong. He thought of friends and neighbours he had known on Shadow. Those he had hugged and those he had kissed. Those he had fought with and those he had forgiven. Then the tender ones who had forgiven him. Tears in his heart that only they could dry for him. And they did. Yet though he ached to see them, reach out beyond the falling gloom of fading vision, something anchored him. Something fragile yet strong. A spider's web of fine silk. Stronger than steel. He wanted to tell her she could let go now but could not bring himself to impart such meanness. He would wait until she was ready. His final gift to her. He wished it could be more.

"Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears I pray. Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' - Poem by Dylan Thomas

The Shepherd felt the tremor in the deck plates minutes before the heavy vibration of many feet hurrying. They were back and he bit back the tide of frustration that almost overwhelmed him. Set his face in an unreadable expression while radiating a solemn calm. Be what he was expected to be and no one would look any closer. He was a chameleon. Dr Simon Tam ran into the infirmary, hair askew, eyes wide and fearful that for all they had done, all they had accomplished, they might yet have come too late. For a moment it seemed as though his fear had taken root in reality. He stopped suddenly, frozen in his tracks. Cast an almost unseeing glance at Book who simply bowed his head slightly and dropped his eyes. Oh God, did we come too late?

Then River raised her head and turned her face slightly. Looking at him. He walked towards her with a faltering step, his eyes trying to fathom what she was telling him without words. When he reached her she gave him a soft smile. "Hurry Simon, daddy's waiting but he's almost gone. Trying so hard to wait."

He gave her a gentle smile, touched her shoulder briefly then took a small box from his pocket. River sat up but kept hold of the Captain's hand. His skin was grey and clammy. Simon took his pulse, it was thready and weak. Hardly there at all. He gave River a look, wondering how the Captain had hung on this long. Not sure he wanted to ask. Then his fingers were flying, the box open, the syringe removed. The antidote drawn into the syringe through the rubber stopper of the phial. Carefully he judged the dose then eased the needle into a vein. River watched the Captain's face, her voice a murmur among the shadows that flowed in his darkening veins. He heard her, or thought he did. Now the sluggish tide was thinning out. Able to flow a little more easily. Breath became less of a luxury to flagging lungs. Simon put a hand on his forehead then gazed at his sister.

Without looking up at him she spoke. "Almost at the gate. Shadows parting. So many waiting but the clock is still ticking. Time has no hands but a steady beat." She looked up at Simon then and gave him a dazzling smile. He smiled back. There was something very special, very beautiful about River. It was impossible for him not to love her.

Crowding round them came the rest of the crew. An anxious sea of quiet faces, held silent in their strain. Zoe frowning, her grip on Wash almost cutting off his circulation but he would have given his right arm before he would have said anything. They parted to let Frank Reynolds through. He looked so anxious. Frightened even that Simon's heart went out to him. Frank looked at the doctor, his eyes searching, beseeching.

"I think we got back in time." Said Simon softly. Not wanting to give him false hope but oddly certain that it was true.

He nodded, spilling tears trapped by a firm will. Simon backed away to let him take the seat opposite River. He reached out and gently put his hand over River's and Mal's. Three hands laid over each other like a trinity. River met his eyes and smiled. "Daddy came home."

The words pierced him. Oh God. Did she know? Could she, would she? Her smile gentled. A look of such knowing and compassion that all his questions were answered. And finally it was alright. He smiled back then leant forward and gently kissed her forehead. Behind him Simon raised his eyebrows in surprise. River was beaming at Frank Reynolds. She looked down at the Captain then stood up and placed the Mal's hand in his uncle's. Without a word she turned and started to walk out of the infirmary, Kaylee clutching her hand and searching her face so that she was forced to pause. River's radiant smile was all Kaylee needed. She turned, eyes blurred with tears and a smile breaking out on her face to encompass the others. "Cap'n's gonna be fine. Just fine."

It was funny how the air in the room seemed to collapse. As if they had been frozen in time people started to move. An air of normalacy returning to the charged atmosphere of moments ago. They filed politely passed the Captain's bed, made sure for themselves that he was still breathing. Some exchanged a few brief words with Frank Reynolds or nodded at the doctor. Zoe felt a great weight lift off her heart and her shoulders. She looked at Simon. "You did a good job, doc."

He shook his head. "You got the antidote."

"Wouldn't have know what the gorram to look for without you." Grumbled Jayne. But Simon could tell that under that gruff exterior he was pleased. It was the closest Jayne could get to saying thank you.

It was another nine hours before the antidote fully counteracted the poison and the Captain was properly conscious again. He still looked a mite too pale for Inara's liking but he was alive and that gave his boat a definite festive air. Kaylee sat on the Captain's bed fussing over him, puffing his pillows and trying to be stern with him when he told her to cut it out. Zoe hid a smile - badly - and Wash made so many bad jokes that for a moment Mal wished he were still unconscious. But only for a moment. He thanked them, the look in his eyes speaking of his pride in them. A quiet unspoken thing that each recognised for what it was. Simon stood to one side with his arm around River watching. Frank Reynolds was regaling them with stories about Mal and Zoe when they were growing up on Shadow. Zoe rolled her eyes at Mal and he just smiled. Wash beamed and took mental notes of things he could tease her about later.

When finally there came a flag in the conversation Simon decided it was time to throw everybody out so the Captain could get some rest. He noticed Jayne was fidgetting and had a heavy bag in his hand. It was some thick industrial waxed webbing bag, the kind they used to store building materials in on some of the poorer worlds. What in the hell was he doing with it and why did he suddenly look a mite uncomfortable? Instead of leaving, Serenity's crew hung back as if waiting for something. Frank Reynolds smiled, a look of deep content on his face. Mal squinted up at his uncle. "What're you up to, *shushu*?"

He raised his brows innocently. "Me? Not a gorram thing, son."

Jayne lumbered forward and Frank moved to one side to give him more room. "I'm just sorry you couldn't'a been with us when we got Anderson."

Mal nodded. He was sorry about that too. "He is dead though, isn't he?"

"Oh yeah," Grinned Jayne evilly. "He's dead alright."

Mal looked at the bag. "So what you got there? More food from the table?"

Jayne shook his head. A grim little smile of satisfaction on his face. "Nope, this is for you."

"Me? You got me a present?"

Jayne looked at Frank, Frank moved to get a small table and dragged it close to the bed. Mystified, Mal sat a little straighter and watched in silence as Jayne carefully upended the bag on the table. When he pulled the bag away the Captain almost lost all the breath in his lungs. His voice came out in a shocked whisper. "*Wu de ma*, Jayne! You really did get that *qingwa cao de liumang* and no mistake."

The mercenary could not wipe the grin off his face. The others had all crowded in to see, wanting to catch the Captain's reaction. There, dripping blood and right side up, was the severed head of John Michael Anderson. His white painted face contorted with the shock and agony of a violent death. The wig was gone but the messy lump was more than recognisable. Mal smiled up at Jayne, his heart ligher than it had been in a good long while. "Thanks, Jayne. I'm just sorry I didn't get you anything."

"I'm sure I'll think of something."

The Captain laughed. Frank leant forward and put the bag back over the head then passed it to Zoe who took it away. Simon went and got a cleaning cloth to wipe the table down and noticed Mal looked tired. "Okay everyone, that's it. You have to leave now and let the Captain rest."

Mal was about to tell the doc not to fuss when he felt a small cool hand slid into his. Turning his head he saw River looking at him and gave her a smile. "I never thanked you, *bao bei*, for saving my life."

The words were murmured for her ears only but Simon heard them. His head jerked up but neither the Captain nor his sister were looking at him. He would have to ask about that later. For now he contented himself with shooing everyone else out of the room. Book was the last to leave. After everyone had gone, Mal called the doctor over. Simon took the seat his sister had been sitting in. He looked at Mal for a moment then cocked his head thoughtfully to one side. "Do you want to tell me what that was all about?"

The Captain smiled at him. A gentle fey thing. "I don't think so, doc. Maybe later."

Simon paused. "Should I be worried?"

He chuckled softly. "No, and you shouldn't worry so much about her either. There are times when I think River's the only sane one on this boat." That surprised Simon so much that the Captain laughed. When the laughter died down Simon asked a question. "So what did you want to say to me?"

"Just that you did a good job, Simon. I don't always take the time to thank you for everything you do for us. For *me*. Think you deserve a thank you in there somewhere."

The doctor gave a small teasing smile. Amused and oddly flattered. "You're welcome but I really did very little."

"Don't put yourself down doc, there's plenty of other folk who'll do it for you."

He nodded accepting the truce. "Now get some sleep, *dong ma*?"

"Are all doctors this bossy?"

Simon smiled. "Only the good ones."

* * * * *

Just a week later the Captain was up and about as good as new. Simon had established to the surprise of everyone that Jayne had not been injected with the poison. It seemed that Anderson liked to mess with people's heads as well as their bodies. It was enough for Anderson to let Jayne *think* he had been poisoned. Apparently the syringe had nothing harmful in it. The Captain wanted to go back to the restaurant and nothing the others said could disuade him. Only when they got there did they begin to see what was in his mind. Jayne grinned as the Captain asked for his help to start boxing up and loading the stock pile of foodstuffs. Zoe, Wash, Uncle Frank and his men, all pitched in once they realised what he had in mind.

Jayne looked sideways at his Captain. "This going where I think it's going?"

The Captain grinned, helping his uncle fill another box which Wash then loaded onto the mule to take back to the ship. "Destiny."

In the end they filled almost forty boxes with food. Mal also had the blankets and any useful medicines he could find loaded up as well. He was careful to have all the medicines checked first by Simon. No rutting way was he going to saddle those poor people with anything that might be harmful to them. They found a chest of money buried under the kitchen floor which the Captain had taken on board as well. The Preacher frowned but said nothing. Mal ignored his disapproving look and once they had stripped everything useful out of the place he turned to Jayne and nodded. "Okay, Jayne, let's burn this gorram place to the ground."

It made a satisfying fire but no one came out from town to see what was burning. Mal figured they would see the greasy black smoke and offer up prayers of gratitude and relief. Time enough for folks to stick their heads out of their doors and have a look-see once he and his people were safely gone. Before they took off Mal took Simon to one side. "How's the refridgeration unit holding up?"

"It'll do, Captain. Not saying it will be durable just that it should be efficient enough for the trip to Destiny."

"Good enough, *xiexie*."

They went for a fast burn. The Captain wanted it over and done with. Plus his uncle seemed to have something on his mind. An itch that needed scratching. River watched Frank Reynolds warily but said nothing. If the Captain noticed he never said. When they got to Destiny Frank gasped at the sight of the emaciated figures that crowded warily at the landing site. The Captain had all the boxes unloaded then he and Jayne carried the money box out and gave it to them. One of the people, an old skeletal looking man with haunted eyes fixed a stare on the Captain. "No one gives anything for nothing." He said warily.

"I ain't exactly givin' this to you. I figure it's the least of what is owed to you people."

The man frowned. A younger woman with similar features stepped up beside him. A daughter perhaps. "Speak plain."

Mal nodded and looked at Simon. Simon went back up the ramp and returned within moments with the same waxed bag Jayne had produced to the Captain. He passed the cold package to the Captain and he paused, his eyes roaming over the faces of the poor people standing with such uncertainty in the clearing. "I'm not gonna begin to try to understand what you people have been put through. Not the horrors or the torture or the starvation and such but I can promise you this. The man responsible won't be hurtin' you folk no more." With that Mal tipped the bag upside down and Anderson's head rolled out. The old man and his daughter jumped back but when they saw what it was they looked up with grins on their faces and tears of gratitude in their eyes. Then everyone was crowding round them. Voices too long held silent in dread began to speak, telling them tales of the terrible things Anderson had done to them. Not for weeks or months but for YEARS. It choked the Captain up inside. Twisted his gut with anger that anyone could treat folk so inhumanely.

It was a happy but tearful leave taking. As Serenity headed back out into the Black Frank Reynolds put an arm around Mal's shoulders. "I'm proud of you, son. Proud of you all."

He smiled back allowing a deep content to settle on him. The Lightstar matching their speed like a comfortable shadow.

The meal that evening was a happy one. Light banter flowed like wine. Everyone in the best of spirits. Shepherd Book watched the exchanges going back and forth but said little. Kaylee was full of happy excitement, bouncing in her seat next to River. The Captain smiled at her then turned his head at a touch on his shoulder. He looked back and saw Inara smile down on him. In that moment life was pretty much perfect for him. Why couldn't every day be like this one? Once they had finished eating people lingered at the table as if unwilling to break the mood enchanting them. Inara made some of her tea and poured cups for whoever wanted it. Jayne had refused but everyone else accepted the offering. Mal sipped his tea slowly, liking the way Inara had settled in the seat to his left, her hand on the table not so far from his own. His Uncle was watching him surreptitiously. Pretending not to while he sipped his tea but Mal was sharp. Missed hardly a thing.

"So, *shushu*." He said easily. "What's on your mind?"

His head came up. "Who says something's on my mind?"

"A lifetime of knowing you."

A little silence fell between them. Around them Mal was aware of murmuring conversations and happy talk between friends. He loved it when it was like this. Almost a memory of home-that-was on Shadow. It settled like a quiet place in his heart and gave him peace. Inara laid her right hand on his left forearm. Neither looked at each other. As if they were bodies in motion that unerringly were drawn into each other's gravity. Settled together felt right. Frank Reynolds took a moment to sort through his thoughts.

"It'll soon be time for me and my men to head back, Mal."

The Captain felt his heart restrict. Inara's hand was a comforting presence. He watched his uncle carefully and waited.

"We're going back to Shadow."

The breath caught painfully in his lungs. For a moment he could not breathe and his vision dimmed. Cannons roared in his ears, he could smell the discharge of explosives, the concussive wave of rapid fire machine guns too close to his ears. The screams of the wounded and dying. The crying and prayers of the living as the Alliance steadily over ran and decimated every Independent position. The valley filling up with the dead quicker than a lime pit in a rainstorm. At last he managed one tiny little word. He kind of choked it out. "Why?"

Mr Reynolds set his cup down and looked at him. "We're gonna rebuild it. Not much of the ranch is still standing only the bunkhouse but it's time we reclaimed what was ours."

All conversation round the table stilled. Mal was oblivious. His heart aching. The breath a painful staccato that hardly inflated his lungs at all. "I can't go back, you know that." He said quietly.

"*Bushi*, Mal. Alliance don't care about the war any more. They won. Who cares who lives where?"

"We were exiled, *shushu*. Me and Zoe both."

He nodded. His eyes said sorry but Mal knew that deep down he wasn't. "When I said I spent six months looking for you it was the truth, Mal. Just not all of it."

A heavy silence fell like a curtain. Inara moved her hand along Mal's forearm until she could clasp her hand in his, fingers intertwining. His fingers gripped hers with an almost brutal intensity. She hardly noticed. Knew this was hurting him.

"I want you to come back with me." Frank paused and watched the colour slowly drain from Mal's face. "It's time for you to come home, son."

Control was slipping. Memories shut away in boxes were opening one after another. Nothing in order. Not in sequence. He could see his mother smiling at him, such love in her eyes. His father laughing gently at something Davey had said. His kid sister Gracie stealing the peas off his plate when he wasn't looking. He knew she was doing it but he didn't mind. He made a game of not knowing so as not to spoil her fun. Gracie. Died of consumption at the age of seven. She would be River's age now had she lived. And Davey. Oh God, Davey. How could he settle among the ashes of so many ghosts? How could his uncle even ask it of him?

It was Zoe who spoke up, her voice sounding odd to his ears. It took a moment for him to realise she was upset too. "*Shushu* Mal can't go back, neither can I. It doesn't serve any purpose to speak on it. We've made our choices same as you have."

He nodded. "I know, *nu haizi*, but this is a new beginning." He looked at Mal, his eyes boring into him. "Do this for me, son. I can't stand us spending the rest of our lives apart, never knowing if the other one is whole and alive. I don't want that and I don't think you do either. Besides, we gathered all the ashes and when I get back we're gonna have a proper burial and lay our folks to rest." He paused, sorrow finally showing through the determined mask of his face. "You should be there if only to say goodbye to them." He said softly.

Mal bowed his head in grief. Inara was furious with Frank Reynolds. Hated him for forcing this on Mal. He did not deserve it. Hadn't the Captain suffered enough? Was Frank really begging him to return to rebuild what was left of their family or was it the selfish wish to not spend his remaining years alone? Mal had built a new life here with them on Serenity. Couldn't he see that? Didn't he care? Frank Reynolds got to his feet and paused by the Captain's chair. "Sleep on it, son. Don't leave until tomorrow."

Then suddenly River was there. Mal had not seen her get up. Frank Reynolds actually took a step back, an odd look on his face. She looked cross, turned to face Mr Reynolds and pointed to his chair. "No one told you that you could leave the table."

No humour on his face he silently resumed his seat. Everyone round the table was staring at her. River looked at the Captain. "Remember."

He gave her a quizzical look. She poked him gently in the chest.

"I warned you."

His look cleared. "So you did." He paused. "This was what you meant?"

River nodded. Frank Reynolds frowned. "Look Mal, no call for you to be listenin' to a crazy girl..."

Something in the Captain snapped. He glared at his uncle in something approaching a cold fury. "Don't you dare speak to her like that! Crazy or sane ain't your call to say, *shushu*."

"This isn't like you, lettin' others make your decisions for you Mal."

He cocked his head. Suddenly calm. His voice that dead quiet quality his crew had come to know so well. "Is that so? Ain't that what you're tryin' to do? Make my decisions for me?"

The silence was painful. River looked at Frank Reynolds then at the Captain. "He never told you."

Frank held his breath. Was tempted to close his eyes and wish for the ground to open up under him. He prayed she would not say what he feared she would say. River stepped close to the Captain, leaned on his shoulder and shot a cautious look back across the table at his uncle. Inara's frown deepened. Something was definitely not right. What did River know about Frank Reynolds that Mal didn't?

"You were fed lies." She said softly, not wanting to hurt him but seeing that not knowing would blind him. Make him vulnerable when he had to be strong. "Two brothers both in love. Same woman." Everyone held their breath. Frank Reynolds put his hands over his face. Oh Lord. Not now. Not when he was so close. River touched a hand to the Captain's chest. "Your mother." She watched his face pale. Inara squeezed his hand but he said nothing. Eyes glued to River. "But your mother loved the other one, John, not him. They got married, had a son. You. Frank loved his brother, loved you, so he never told. Locked it all away in a box. Buried deep. John never knew. In his eyes you were always his son. His firstborn."

A soft cry almost choked him. What did she mean? What was she saying?

"Your mama knew but then it was too late to tell John and Frank begged her not to. They had a chance to make a good family. To be happy. To have all the happiness he could no longer claim for his own. So Frank went to war and so did John. But sniper fire killed him and Frank was afraid. Afraid to come home without him. Didn't want anyone to think he hadn't done his best to keep him alive. Carried him on his back for three days. Dead weight. But the guilt was heavier."

A solitary tear rolled down Mal's face. River reached out a small hand and cupped his cheek gently. Her voice soft, a caress to his ears to dull the pain in his heart.

"That's why he stayed. Took his brother's place. Vowed to raise his son and keep the lie hidden. But your mama never loved him like John. Would never take him to her bed or to her heart. She loves you still and you don't need to gather ashes to make it real. No grave can hold her when she lives in your heart."

* * * * *

It was a sad and subdued farewell. Only Zoe stood with Mal when Frank Reynolds left. Mal could not believe this this man was his real father. It hurt to think of all the lies. The years that had been wasted. Then another thought hit him like an arrow flying far more true. John Reynolds might not have been his biological father but he was his father in every way that mattered to him. Thinking about the past, the memories that he cherished in his heart, he realised he needed no other legacy. He still loved his Uncle Frank, just was not sure how long it would take him to forgive him. He had tried to manipulate Mal and it was that which had hurt him the most. Had he sat him down and explained what had happened things might have worked out differently.

They hugged and wished each other well then Zoe stood next to Mal and put an arm around him. They did not show affection to each other often. It was always an unspoken understated thing but both of them felt the need to be close just then. They watched the Lightstar until it was out of sight. Mal turned his head to look at Zoe. "Best go find that husband of yours, Zoe."

"Are you going to be alright, sir?"

He nodded and kissed her forehead gently, then stepped back. "No need to worry about me, Zoe. I got family right here and where would I be but Serenity? It's my home. Could say it's my destiny."

She smiled at him and left him to go and find Wash. Without turning his head he spoke to the shadows. "Guess you heard all that, Preacher?"

Shepherd Book stepped out and stood beside him. A foot of space between them. Both men staring out, not looking at each other. "I thought you were going to go with him?"

"Nearly did."

The Preacher made no comment.

"Would that have upset your plans so much?"

Book took a moment to reply. He was fast learning that Malcolm Reynolds was not the backwoods boy some people assumed. Inside that head of his a sharp mind turned. What he missed wasn't worth seeing. And he seemed to have formed some kind of connection to the girl. That was unexpected. His head turned towards Mal slowly, his expression unreadable. It did not pay to underestimate Malcolm Reynolds. "Some but I'm adaptable."

Mal grunted. "And if I had gone?"

"Well now," The Preacher smiled slowly but the smile never quite reached his eyes. "That would be telling."

Mal stood there for a long time after the Preacher left just thinking. Some day he really would have to ask Book what he had done before becoming a Shepherd. Just not now. Right now he had all the revelations he could handle. He thought about Destiny. At last a smile of satisfaction coming to his lips. The thought of those poor people feasting on Anderson's ill gotten gains made up for some of the strain of the last few weeks. He turned and began to walk up the steps not realising Inara was waiting for him until he got to the catwalk. "Been standing there long?"


"Want company?"

She considered him for a moment then took his arm in hers. "I was beginning to think you'd never ask."

Mal chuckled softly. Took a last look back then allowed Inara to lead him to her shuttle.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shushu* = uncle *wu de ma* = mother of God *qingwa cao de liumang* = frog humping sumbitch *bao bei* = baby/treasure/darling *dong ma* = understand *xeixei* = thanks *bushi* = not so *nu haizi* = girl


Friday, August 15, 2003 11:38 AM


Wow! Excellent! Loved this story from the beginning, Might there be another chapter perhaps? Would love to hear where you take Shepherd and what he really is. Great job!

Friday, October 14, 2011 10:12 AM


"Just that you did a good job, Simon. I don't always take the time to thank you for everything you do for us. For *me*. Think you deserve a thank you in there somewhere."

"Are all doctors this bossy?"

Simon smiled. "Only the good ones."

She considered him for a moment then took his arm in hers. "I was beginning to think you'd never ask."

Mal chuckled softly. Took a last look back then allowed Inara to lead him to her shuttle.

Oww this whole story was so beautifully written!!!!! Great job!!!!


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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.