THE REFLECTION SERIES: 26. "Another Man's Poison"
Sunday, December 19, 2004

"Not everybody finds it easy to accept the return of Chung-li. Inara has to face her own dark night of the soul."



SUMMARY: "Not everybody finds it easy to accept the return of Chung-li. Inara has to face her own dark night of the soul." 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

* * * * *

Inara read the message again. Michael Tollan's Last Will and Testament had a file attached. One with her name on it. She clicked on the file with a shaking hand, relieved to be the only one on the bridge of the Crazy Goose right now. Tears slowly rolled down her face as she read the brief apology, able to imagine all too easily the grief that had driven him to do what he had done. And yet. Even as he must have contemplated death by his own hand he had spared a thought for her. This missive from beyond the grave intended as an absolution for any feelings of guilt she might be harbouring. He knew her so well. Dear Michael, he and Thomas were truly matched in mind, body and soul. No wonder the one could not bear to live without the other. Yet it was the tenderness of the last line that broke through the last of her control. The admonishment not to let another day pass without telling Malcolm Reynolds how she felt about him. A plea not to leave it until it was too late.

"You can't dream his dreams."

River. The last person Inara wanted to see right now. Keeping her back to the girl the Companion wiped the tears from her face and closed the file, encrypting it as she did so. River walked slowly towards her, a mix of sadness, understanding and wisdom on her pale face.

"He's not for you. You'd only ruin him. Wouldn't mean to but it's in your nature."

Inara Serra turned and for a moment a look of barely contained fury flashed in her eyes. Her voice was calm but cold. "I think you'd better go."

Sadness deepened and crowded out the crying tongues of every other emotion in the girl. She shook her head. An apology or just 'no'? "He would never understand how you could leave him to lie with others. In his heart love means one singer, one song. You could never tie yourself to just one man yet would expect him to be faithful."

The Companion's patience ran out. "Get out!"

River took another step towards her then realised it was too much. She had meant to inform not upset her. Tears were now running unchecked down Inara's face. It seemed she did understand after all. Maybe she always had. Inara closed her eyes, fighting to regain control. When she opened them again River Tam was gone. Had she really been there or had Inara's subconscious conjured her up to make her face something she refused to see any other way?

With an exhausted sigh Inara left the bridge to go to her temporary quarters on the Goose. She needed to sleep and if that blessed oblivion was denied her she had something that would accomplish the task.

* * * * *

Rafe Connor was aghast. Around him his men stood in stunned silence, not daring to hope, to draw too near. He stared at the Reaver. Tried to see beneath the blood and gore clinging to his face and clothes. His heart missed a painful beat. *His clothes*. The dirty bloody rags were not Chung'li's and the skin stitched into the shirt front made him want to throw up - right after killing this manipulative *hundan* and sending him to *diyu*. As if he could read Rafe's thoughts the Reaver slowly raised empty hands, paused so that they could clearly see he was unarmed then began to open the shirt. Blade was ready to rip the creature's throat out but there was also something familiar about him. Could it be...? Was it even possible that their friend had survived where so many had perished? The fragmented laughter of the *laoban* unsettled Blade. Then Rafe was brushing by him, his steps becoming firmer as he began to babble through his tears. "*Tian Yesu*!" To everyone's stunned surprise Rafe went right up to the bloody figure and hugged him, crying and laughing shakily, his voice so filled with emotion that those listening could not help but be moved. "Chung-li, I thought I'd lost you *wode pengyou*." Harry Simmons gave Blade a look of confusion. "*Ni bu dong*, how is this possible?"

Blade shrugged, more confused than he could say but he trusted his *laoban*. "*Wo bu zhidao* but I do know this. We been settin' them charges an' if we don't go soon we'll be goin' up with this gorram ship."

It was enough to get everybody moving. The dour faced but easy going Paul Cotton took it upon himself to tell Rafe, also suggesting it might be a good idea for Chung-li to take the shirt of sewn on skin off his back. The big man shook his head, tears in his eyes, and now that he was right up close to him Paul could see it really was their friend Chung-li.

"I cannot do that with honour, my friend."

His words chilled Paul who took a step back. Blade had turned to see what was keeping them and caught Chung-li's words. "*Weishenme*?"

The big man swallowed hard, his eyes so filled with sorrow a man could drown in it. "The skin is all that is left of *Shi*."

The men gasped. Chung-li forced himself to go on. When he had explained no one felt much like talking. Rafe nodded and explained they had best go, *mashang*. They had no more time for delays. Before they had taken another step they heard a loud click behind them. Turning, Rafe was alarmed to see that Jayne Cobb was pointing his weapon at Chung-li. "What the *diyu* d'ya think you're doin'?"

"Gettin' rid of the last of them Reavers."

Rafe stepped in front of Chung-li, all the pain and stress of the last few days finding an outlet in anger. "Pull that trigger and you'll be the one sleepin' with Reavers your own self."

"Gorrammit Rafe, look at him!"

Rafe nodded slowly, knowing how it looked. Understanding only too well the mercenary's reluctance to believe this man was human. "I have an' if you won't believe your eyes believe me." "Cap said he was dead," Ground out the big man, not budging an inch. "Said he saw him die."

Chung-li stepped around his protector and looked calmly at Jayne. "Pull the trigger if you have to, Jayne, but understand that not everything you see is what you think you see."

He frowned. "Huh?"

"Do it!" Chung'li's voice said, much firmer now. More like a command but not quite. The final decision after all would be the mercenary's.

Acting purely on instinct Jayne didn't need telling twice. The retort from the gun shocked Rafe and his men. Drew the Preacher from the corridor behind theirs with a look turning from alarm to sorrow. Jayne fired off a second shot point blank into the Reaver's chest to make sure. In the vague direction of the heart though he was not sure Reaver's had ruttin' hearts. Watched him stagger backward, saw Rafe catch him and Blade, Harry and Ricky Stable rush to break his fall. Couldn't see what all the fuss was about a gorram Reaver. He took a couple of steps towards them to hurry them along so they could all get the *diyu* off that ship of death then stopped rooted to the spot. Finally saw what they saw. And as realisation dawned he almost dropped his gorram gun in shock.

* * * * *

"Put me through."

Wash did as he was asked, vacating his seat for the Captain. The man didn't look so good but he was up, walking and talking, and Wash found that all kinds of reassuring. A second later his head jerked up in surprise when he heard the Captain swear.

"*Taikong suoyou di xingqui dou sai jin wode pigu!*"

Wash stared from the image on the screen to the Captain's taut face.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds looked seriously pissed off. "General Carlin! What in the nine hells are you doin' in my sky?"

Carlin's look of surprise turned to one of smug satisfaction. "This isn't *your* sky Reynolds, it's Alliance."

"The ruttin' *diyu* it is."

"This is GENERAL Carlin?" Said Wash in a shocked voice.

Malcolm Reynolds never took his eyes off the screen. "That he is, most brutal piece of *goushi* in the whole gorram Alliance. Makes Reavers look like lap dogs."

Wash couldn't quite get his brain in gear. "But...but..."

His stuttering began to irritate the Captain. "Spit it out Wash."

Carlin appeared to be enjoying the by-play.

"Cap'n, this is Thomas McCardy's son."

"I know."

Wash stared at him. "*Ni zhidao*?"


"But he... did you know he..."

The Captain's patience snapped. "Not now Wash." He turned his full attention back to Carlin, the man all but salivating as he leaned forward on his knuckles, the hands whitening with the pressure of his body bearing down on the console as he did so. To his annoyance, Carlin appeared to be having a great deal of fun at their expense. "What you wantin' here?"

"My father..."

"Your father is dead." Snapped the Captain. He noted the slight moment of shock then satisfaction slide across the General's face. Never before had he wanted to wring a man's neck so badly.

"How can I believe you?"

Mal blinked. Not the question he was expecting but then this was the Butcher of Beaudeclair, the Monster of Martinsfield. What the good gorram had he expected? Sorrow? Regret? He recalled something Inara had said, something that had sounded so impossible and paranoid at the time that he had thought it was just the grief talking. The need to find someone to blame. "You should know, you killed him."

Carlin blinked. For a moment something slipped but it was too quick for the Captain to be able to tell what. The man was smooth as well as deadly. "How could I kill him? I haven't been on his ship."

Mal tilted his head, his voice going soft and mild - sounding thoughtful - only Wash knew that was an act. "No, you haven't have you?" He paused. "Not to say you didn't get someone else to do your dirty work for you though. Would be your style."

General Carlin Ferris flushed with rage, the implied insult beating a direct path to his sick brain. "Prepare to be boarded! I will have great pleasure in teaching you the error of your ways, Captain."

"Oh, I have a Preacher to do that for me an' I doubt you have his winnin' ways."

But the screen had already gone blank. Carlin had pulled the plug.

"Well," Said Wash in a mild masterpiece of understatement. "That went well."

The Captain looked to be visibly sagging though he did a manful job of trying to hide it. Wash wished Simon were still on board but he was with Inara on the Crazy Goose. Mal noticed his sudden look of concern. "*Shenme shi*?"

"The Goose, we have to warn Inara and the others."

Wash's hands were flying over the controls now. The Captain had a baffled look on his face. "What the good gorram is goin' on Wash?"

The pilot's hands stilled suddenly, a look of horror stealing over his face.

"Wash? Talk to me. You're startin' to worry me an' when I get worried I start shootin'."

The Pilot blinked slowly, swallowed and looked at the Captain. There was no longer a speck of colour in his face. "It's the Crazy Goose. At first I thought there was somethin' wrong with the sensors but I checked an' it's true."

"What's true?"

"Impossible as it seems, the Crazy Goose is being drawn towards the Alliance ship."

"Tractor beam?"

"That would be my guess."

"But they're locked to us and we're locked to the forty-four?"

"Yes, docked an' sealed. We'll be hearing the shiny sounds of Alliance boots any minute now."

The Captain gave Wash a grim little smile. "Well, now, mayhap they've just bitten off more than they can chew."

Wash blinked. "Sir?"

Then the Captain did something that really worried his pilot. He leaned back in the chair and grinned.

* * * * *

The Preacher kept directing odd looks towards Chung-li but the man ignored all subtle attempts to get his attention. Rafe looked grim but happy. Jayne was still confused but very wary around the prodigal. Harry was the last one back aboard Serenity. Closing off and securing the airlock behind them. Everyone turned as Kaylee ran to meet them. Jayne's eyes narrowed in concern, his grip on Vera tightening. Right now he wouldn't be surprised by anything. Zoe gave him a look of warning not to do anything stupid. Didn't want anyone to panic and make a bad situation ten times worse.

"Quick, hide!"

Jayne frowned. "Why should we hide we just got back?" Zoe ignored the mercenary and focused on the ship's mechanic. "Kaylee, I need you to tell us whats' wrong, *dong ma*?"

The girl nodded, her eyes wide with fear. "It's the Alliance, they're here!"

Shepherd Book looked a mite confused. "Kaylee, we just came through the only docking area on the ship." "Ain't got time to explain just sayin' they ain't usin' this entry. Using the portside airlock."

"Then they know we're connected to the forty-four."

"Look," Said Rafe urgently to Zoe. "We set charges that are like to go off any gorram minute now. We don't got time for this."

"Yes, we do."

All heads turned as Malcolm Reynolds made his slow but stubborn way towards them. Kaylee started to go to him but he shook his head. "No, you go on to the engine room little Kaylee and see what miracles you can coax out of her, *dong ma*?"

Kaylee nodded and raced off.

"Preacher, need you to get us detached from the gorram forty-four."

"I don't think that will be possible with the Alliance connected to the portside airlock, Captain."

"You're not thinkin' creatively enough." He paused to get a breath, Zoe gave him an anxious look and took a step towards him. The Captain shook his head slightly. "An airlock seal ain't as strong as being properly docked, *dui*? What d'you think would happen if we seal off that corridor, detach from the forty-four and pull away from that gorram Alliance vessel?"

Rafe's face broke out into a slow smile of understanding but the Preacher still looked worried. Zoe was doing the math. The Captain had not noticed Chung-li standing bloody and silent behind Rafe and his men. Book had just been getting used to some of the Captain's more bizarre plans but this one took the busicuit. "Captain, even if we could do so - which I am not sure we can - there isn't enough time to do it."

The Captain grinned. "Oh, I think we got more time than you realise, Preacher." He paused. "Seems the Alliance are the same greedy *tamade hundan* as ever. They're trying to tractor the Crazy Goose while locking on to us. If we break off they can't come after us quick enough to establish a holding lock while keeping a tractor beam on the Goose. One or both of us is like to get away."

Zoe gave him a nod of approval. "Cap'n's right."

There followed a frantic flurry of activity. Book made the Captain sit down, a fact he was grateful for even while his common sense was at war with his stiff necked pride. The heavy shudder as they detached from the forty-four was sweet music to his ears. He looked up at a distracted Rafe Connor. "How long 'til the charges blow?"

"Any minute now, Mal."

"Then best we all find something to hang on to." Said the Preacher calmly.

Everyone did just that. Wash shouted over the com letting them know they had successfully detatched from the forty-four and that more importantly they had broken the seal the Alliance ship had made to the portside airlock. Right now the air in that corridor was whooshing out into the atmo, anyone in the process of boarding would have been sucked right out along with the air. Just then the ship rocked. Several men lost their footing but quickly got upright again and hung on tight. Several concatanations shook and reverberated throughout the ship.

"Kaylee!" Yelled the Captain. "What's happenin'?"

"A minute Cap'n..." The minute seemed to take forever to pass then they heard Wash's exhuberant voice.

"Woohoo Cap'n! The shock waves from the explosions have broken the tractor beam hold on the Goose."

"Then tell 'em to get the good gorram as far away as they can!"

There was a minute's pause. "No can do, Cap'n." Mal struggled to his feet, ignoring Book's attempt to keep him sitting. Jayne just added his bulk as something for the Captain to lean on and ignored the look of disapproval on the Preacher's face. After all Mal was the Captain not Book. Thought the Preacher would have got that by now. Zoe watched the Captain like a hawk as he queried the pilot. "Why not?"

"Um, they don't have a pilot."

Everyone fell silent. The Captain felt all kinds of fool. Had forgotten momentarily that Thomas and Tollan were dead but then he remembered something. "Wash? Didn't Tollan say they had a skeleton crew? A cook an' sucklike?"

"Yes, a cook an' a..." The com went dead for a second then Wash was babbling happily in the com. "Of course, they got a pilot but he's kept in reserve. Usually helps out with the cookin' an' chores unless he's needed. I'll get on to Inara."

Now the Captain was on his feet, the immediate crisis was over, but there was still a very angry Alliance vessel and crew out for their blood. Hopefully Inara could locate the pilot and get the Goose to safety. Beyond that he couldn't think, so ruttin' tired and the gorram adrenaline was wearing off. It was at that moment that Rafe decided to give the Captain some good news. He gave Blade a nod and he, Harry and the rest took a step back. Captain Reynolds wondered what was going on when he noticed a bloody figure stepping into view beside the rancher. His breath caught. What the *diyu* were they thinking bringing a gorram Reaver on board? But then the Reaver grinned and all the air huffed out of him, glued to those laughing eyes, the size and bulk of the man easily identifiable even if the state of him was not. But it couldn't be. It wasn't possible. He'd seen the man die.

Jayne took the Captain's arm to steady him, Book watching from the other side just in case. The Captain did not seem aware of anyone other than the bloody figure walking towards him. Zoe and Jayne both wary. Chung-li stopped only inches away from him. The Captain could smell the blood, see the gore sticking to his clothes and skin, his red stained face masking features grown familiar to him. Gorrammit, they had turned his friend into a Reaver! Pain squeezed the walls of his heart, the ache too much to ignore he closed his eyes. Chung-li reached out a gentle hand and placed it on his shoulder to steady him. "Your eyes do not deceive you, my friend."

The Captain opened pain filled eyes. "I saw you die." He choked out softly. Zoe watched with concern but did not say anything. This was the Captain's call.

"You saw what you were meant to see."

"*Wo bu dong*."

Then for the second time that day Chung-li undid the shirt sewn with human skin, carefully peeling the bloody trophy back so Mal could see. Watched the Captain's eyes widen in momentary incomprehension then savoured the look of realisation turning the tears of pain to those of joy. The bullet proof vest was much the worst for wear and the big man would be a mass of bruises later it but it had saved his life. Not once but over and over again.

"Chung-li, that really you?"

The Chinaman laughed softly. He took off the grotesque garment and handed it to Rafe who took it with care. Zoe frowned but said nothing. Then Rafe hugged the Captain, careful not to hurt him by being too rough while the man was still recovering. When the two parted Mal could not help cutting a sideways glance to the shirt in Rafe's hands. Made him feel all kinds of unsettled.

"Gotta say I don't much cotton to your dress sense." Chung-li's expression was solemn. "It isn't a garment Mal it's a shroud."

The Captain blinked at him. "*Shenme*?"

"*Shi* came back even knowing what would be waitin' for him on that slave ship." He paused. "He came back for me."

"*Wode ma*!"

The big man nodded sadly. "I couldn't get to him in time to protect him. By the time I did they'd dismembered him and were making a feast of it. I killed them and retrieved all that was left apart from his bones."

Mal felt creepified by the morbid and gory account but couldn't stop looking at the gorram thing. It had the fascination of something evil. "Why in the nine hells did you wear it?"

"There were too many Reavers Mal and I knew I couldn't fight them all so I decided if I looked like them I might be able to get out. It also gave me the chance to bring back what I could of *Shi*."

Mal had no words for the sorrow in his heart. It could not take away his joy at Chung-li's return but the price was so ruttin' high. At that precise moment Wash's voice came over the com. He sounded anxious and more than a little distressed. "Cap'n?"

"What is it, Wash?"

"That *wangba dan* Carlin Ferris has just rammed the Crazy Goose. As we speak it's spinning outta control an' we've lost contact with Inara."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*hundan* = bastard *diyu* = hell *laoban* = boss *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *wode pengyou* = my friend *ni bu dong* = I don't understand *weishenme* = why *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *shi* = ten mashang = on the double/immediately *taikong suoyou di xingqui dou sai jin wode pigu* = stuff all the planets in the universe up my ass *goushi* = crap/dog shit *ni zhidao* = you know? *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wangba dan*/tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *wode ma* = mother of God *dui* = correct


Sunday, December 19, 2004 4:31 PM


Okay... Chung-li's outfit... in unison, now: Eeeewwwww!

And yet, a darned clever notion. Nicely played.

River to Inara... that was fascinating, and on target. And I liked how you muddied Inara's perception of it at the end of the scene.

The captain with the Alliance general... I like it. Taut and intriguing.

Monday, December 20, 2004 5:44 AM


Poor *Shi*, but "Yay" for Chung-li!

Intense story, Ali! I'm still lookin' forward to the next installment!

Thursday, January 13, 2005 8:58 PM



It's easier to get shot than to explain that you have a bullet proof vest on?

That's one tough Chinaman...

Cute space of Chinese for the captain, very... Fireflyish.

That is now officially a word. Fireflyish.... Like it?

Keep flyin'


You must log in to post comments.



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.