Friday, December 24, 2004

"The Captain decides his loyal crew deserve to celebrate the festive season in style even if he himself has other plans."



SUMMARY: "The Captain decides his loyal crew deserve to celebrate the festive season in style even if he himself has other plans." 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

* * * * *

Not nothing in the 'verse should be this hard and yet it was. He stared out at the Black, let it swallow him up until he lost all notion of self. It soothed and emptied him all in one. Made him feel so rutting small yet also oddly complete. As if the 'verse had absorbed him and made him one with something a whole lot bigger than he was. Kind'a took the weight off his shoulders in a way he had no words to explain. He was sure Simon would have all kind of fancy notions about that. The Shepherd would no doubt reckon it was all filled with religiosity. Wash would simply think him a morbid sumbitch, Jayne wouldn't trouble to think on it at all. Kaylee would reckon he was taking some quiet time and Zoe would accept it as his way of finding a rest from all the thinking and plotting and scheming. Inara would feel sorry for him without the slightest idea of what was really going on in his gorram brain. And River. Well now, River would outsmart them all with the knowing of it. Yet he felt she would keep his secret anyway. As if she instinctively knew how fragile he was at times like this. The fear and temptation the Black represented. The constant reminder that the dark side of his nature was just a breath away from unravelling everything he fought so hard to hold together.

Like looking in the face of your own destruction and not being destroyed by it but grounded. He knew how tweaked that was but that didn't mean his crew had to know. Didn't want no one worrying on his account especially over something none of them had any control over. When the hurting and the memories got too much he just gazed out into that Big Nothing until all his worries and concerns got squashed into an insignificant pile of *goushi*. So small even a psychotic and edgy Captain could cope with it.

The Captain couldn't relax, even sitting on the bridge in the dead of night with his crew all safely abed in their quarters. His sleepiness not abating none nor his mood improving. Didn't need the Preacher to tell him what date was fast approaching nor the subdued excitement from certain members of his crew determined to find a cause for celebration however bleak their lives might be. He owed it to them not to rain on their parade and he had figured a way to do it and survive the goodwill of the season his own self. If things worked out they would all get what they wanted but it would take some juggling. And not with goslings neither.

* * * * *

"What do you suppose he's up to?"

Zoe frowned at her husband. They appeared to be the first ones up and were enjoying the luxury of being alone in the commons area. Zoe passing ingredients to Wash which he joyfully threw into a bowl until he had mixed the contents into a greyish paste. Zoe looked at the mess warily but said nothing. She couldn't cook worth a damn but Wash wasn't even trying. Yet somehow his disasters had a habit of coming out like successes compared to her own efforts. So she held her tongue about his culinary skills and tried to reassure him. "What makes you think he's up to somethin'?"

He gave her a disbelieving look. "Because it's Mal that's why. He's not actin' natural, *bao bei*. All that quiet then the sudden smiles for no gorram reason. It's all kinds of creepifyin'."

"Have you ever thought that maybe the Cap'n's just happy?"

Wash pretended to give the notion a moment's thought. "Psychotic yes, happy - no." He paused before continuing, now dividing the unedifying mess into two bowls. "It's been THREE days Zoe!"

"Best leave him be Wash, you know how he gets."

"Yeah but three days with the smilin' an' everythin'? An' it's not like a happy smile."

Zoe huffed, getting heartily sick of hearing this. "Then what is it like? Because right now the one who's worryin' me ain't the Cap'n."

"It's like he's pretendin' to smile but not quite pullin' it off."

That was it, she had had enough. "Wash, either go ask Mal what the matter is or shut the *diyu* up about it."

He opened his mouth, saw the unamused look in her eye and wisely closed it again. Maybe she was right and he was over reacting? But as they took their seats and began to eat he found he couldn't quite bring himself to believe it.

* * * * *

Martin Frye stared at the screen. He could not believe what he was seeing or hearing and wanted to make sure he understood the man right. Being woken at three in the am was unusual enough. Being dragged halfway across town to the nearest cortex link to take the call had been something else. Convinced that something awful and messy had happened to his most trusting and gifted daughter had added another edge to his already frayed nerves. Made his temper all kinds of volatile. "You dragged me outta a sound sleep for WHAT?"

Malcolm Reynolds knew how it sounded. *Diyu*, even he couldn't believe he was doing this yet the more he thought about it the more right it felt. "Christmas. I've a notion you've heard of it?"

Mr Frye nodded and tried to control his temper. "You in trouble?"

The Captain shook his head. "No, sir."

"My girl been hurt?"

"Absolutely not."

The man's eyes narrowed. "You best not be lyin' to me, Cap'n or no Cap'n. I can still box your gorram ears."

Mal fought the urge to smile and made himself as stern as he could manage so the man would take notice of what he had to say. He leaned closer to the cortex screen in shuttle 2. No way did he want anyone overhearing this little conversation. "Mr Frye, I just want Kaylee to have a real mirthsome Christmas, *dong ma*? She's the best mechanic I ever had an' she don't complain none which is more'n I can say for the rest of my crew but I know she misses her folks. This time of year more than any other time."

There was a noise at the other end. Mal watched Mr Frye look over his shoulder then Kaylee's mother came into view. "What's goin' on?"

"That Cap'n Kaylee run off with wants to bring her back for Christmas."

The Captain grit his teeth but held his tongue. Was comfitted by the squeal of pleasure from Kaylee's ma. A homely looking woman with a smile the size of Persephone came into view of the screen and smiled at him. "You really bringin' our Kaylee back for the holidays?"

"That I am, ma'am."

Her smile actually got bigger, so wide it even rivalled the ones Kaylee beamed when she wheedled parts for Serenity out of him. Even when the coin was low she had a way of squeezing more mileage out of it than a pocketful of misers. But it was all done for love of his boat and he didn't have the heart to begrudge it to her even when he moaned and dragged his feet like it was the very last thing he was wanting to do. Couldn't let the girl think he was going soft.

"When you landin', Cap'n?"

"Well now, that's a subject needs discussin'."

Mr Frye's eyes narrowed again. "How so?"

"I'm needin' a favour or two my own self."

For a long minute no one spoke then Mr Frye cleared his throat real slow. "Best you give me the whole of it, Cap'n, an' don't be thinkin' of leavin' anythin' out." The Captain nodded then told them exactly what it was he wanted them to do. Mr Frye listened in silence while his wife nodded happily as if assuring Serenity's Captain that it was all doable. Then Mal asked his favour and noticed they seemed surprised how small a request it was and more than a mite intrigued as to what was behind it. Mr Frye tilted his head in a manner that was so reminiscent of Kaylee that the Captain could scarce surpress a smile. Seeing Mal's grim expression soften relieved Mrs Frye and gave her a glimpse of the man her daughter saw.

"Very well, Cap'n Reynolds, we'll do as you ask an' gladly. Anythin' for our girl an' there'll be a warm welcome for all your crew, *dong ma*?"

For the first time since contacting them he relaxed. His face easing into a smile that reached up to his tired eyes changing the austere aspect of his face. "I'm obliged to you."

Mr Frye gave Mal a long considering look. "We'll do everythin' just the way you want it, Cap'n, but now you're gonna explain the why of it - an' I mean the whole of it. Won't go no further than our own selves if thats' what you're wantin' but on that I must insist."

The Captain bit back a sigh and tried to hide the flash of pain in his eyes. He had hoped to skate over this part but Kaylee's parents were nothing if not shrewd. Reminded him of his own folks somewhat. He let his breath out slowly and didn't breathe properly again until it was all out. He was after all, feeling more than a mite truthsome.

* * * * *

Zoe was careful how she approached the subject, the Captain seeming more than a little distracted. As his second it had fallen to her to raise the issue although Shepherd Book had been almost eager to be allowed to do it. She knew issuing those words from his mouth would kill whatever little bit of peace the Captain was carrying around inside him and no way did she want that. Not for him or the crew. He sensed her before he heard her and looked up from the kitchen table where he was cleaning his gun. They were the only two in the commons area it being long passed breakfast and the others purposely leaving this task to Zoe. "Sir, we have to talk."

He gave a cautious nod to show he was listening and carried on cleaning. His silence made her bold.

"By the Preacher's reckonin' the week after tomorrow will be Christmas. Been a while since any of us celebrated anythin' in style if at all, just wantin' to know if we're gonna be touchin' down anywhere an' what plans you may have."


His hands stopped moving and all his focus was on her. At that precise moment she could not tell what he was thinking and that disturbed her. "Yes, sir."

"Well, maybe we'll stop off someplace, maybe not." He saw her mouth grow stern and ready to protest but continued mildly before she could voice her discontent. "Either way seems to be the ship could do with a spruce up, *dui*? Think the crew're up to a little bit of festive trim?" That surprised her so much that she was struck dumb. Eyebrows raised, face reflecting shock before she could mask it. The Captain was doing a poor job now of hiding his amusement. His quiet voice became softer, the tone neutral.

"You were thinkin' I'd stop them celebratin'?"

She flushed slightly. "It had crossed my mind, sir."

"'Cause I'm a miserable *meiyou muqin de xiao gou*?"

"Never said you were miserable, least not all the time." Zoe deadpanned.

Mal flashed her a smile. A genuine one. Made her heart turn over to see it without any bitterness attached. It disappeared all too quickly but she cherished its' brief appearance and began to think this would go well after all. "I ain't about to stop my crew havin' their fun just so long as they don't try to drag me into any of their foolishness, *dong ma*? They want free choice, well so do I. Ain't nothin' wrong with that."

Zoe hesitated.

"There was somethin' else?"

"I was thinkin'... Christmas carols, sir."

His expression closed up. "Not on my boat."

"But sir..."

His look sharpened and she stopped speaking, eyes glued to his.

"War's over, Mal." She whispered as if the saying of it could somehow ease his pain. All hidden and buried it might be but she could feel it stirring inside him, making the joy of him dark and dangerous. A bright shiny thing spoilt, ruined the day his hope had died. Zoe remembered how he used to be and how he had taken his heart and soul into battle along with his unwavering faith. Seen how he had come out of the end of it without them. Made her all kinds of protective of him even when she wanted nothing more than to hit him upside the head and tell him he was nothing but a damn fool. Only it wasn't fair to kick a man when he was down. Not when he was using every ounce of what strength and will he had left to get up from his knees.

He finished reassembling the cleaned gun and reholstered it. Methodically folding away the soft cleaning cloth and clearing the table, not another word said between them. Any tension eased into the familiar rythym of unspoken things. They understood each other and the knowing of it was a thing of comfort, a thing to cherish. One of the defining lines of their friendship. A friendship that went soul deep. Zoe fell into step when he left the commons area and followed him to the bridge. Wash had his back to them playing with his dinosaurs and re-enacting some bizarre tale he was inventing as he went along. The Captain paused then cleared his throat. Wash jumped and turned his head, relaxing when Zoe smiled and took her place next to him. She resisted the urge to place a comforting hand on his shoulder. The Captain put his hands on the console next to his pilot and leaned forward.

"Wash, where are we?" At his look the Captain decided to be a mite more specific. "What planets we got within a week's flyin'?"

Surprise then barely surpressed excitement flitted across the pilot's face. Mal resisted the temptation to smile back. Wash rattled off the names of the planets along with the journey times to each and every one of them. Mal pretended to listen and act as if he were doing the math. Something about his manner made Zoe suspicious but she held her tongue. The Captain looked back over his shoulder at the open door then stepped back and closed it. Wash and Zoe exchanged a look. A light underlying tension crowding the air.

"Notice we're not five days out from Carousel." The Captain said as lightly as he was able. Zoe held her breath.

"We could make landfall a couple of days before the festivities I'm thinkin'."

Wash nodded trying to match the Captain's casual tone. "No problem Cap'n but we would need to find some place to refuel."

The Captain did not say that had already been arranged. Zoe was watching him closely, like a hawk in fact. He noticed and called her on it. "Somethin' you wanna be sayin'?"

She shook her head. "No, sir."

That was good. Real good. But there were still things needed saying out of the earshot of the others. "Don't want no one guessin' our destination, *dong ma*? What other planets we got on this trajectory Wash?"

The pilot reeled off a couple. The Captain thought for a moment, Zoe silent as the grave but more watchful than a sky full of stars. "Anyone asks you where we're headed pick one near but not too close. A day away'll do but nothin' closer."

Wash gave him a puzzled look. "*Weishenme*?"

"A surprise ain't a surprise if everyone knows about it, Wash. Didn't you learn nothin' at your mama's knee?"

The man was grinning like a fool now and Zoe couldn't keep the happy off her face either. Mal looked at them both and felt the heaviness he carried like a gorram cross nailed across his heart like some universal 'no entry' sign lighten just a little. Enough to get a good clean breath of unsullied if recycled air into his lungs. It felt good.

"Now," He gave Zoe his full attention. Back in Captain mode. "I'm thinkin' we got us a powerful scruffy if not dirty ship. I want this boat cleaned from stem to stern, top to bottom, side to side if not inside out. I want this crew so busy their fingernails'll fall asleep before they get a notion of what's doin'."



"Mite wanna rethink your strategy, sir." He blinked at Zoe, tried to avoid the thousand megawatt smile on the pilot's happy face beside her. "Why would I do that?"

"All that busy work, sir? Folks're gonna get more than a mite suspicious. Be wonderin' what the good gorram you're up to." He gave a look of mock offence and startled surprise. "Zoe, I'm shocked! Can't a Cap'n have a clean boat?"

"That he can, sir, just sayin' the timin' won't go unnoticed."

"I'm all aware of that, Zoe, which is why I said they could put up some trimmin's an' such like. If they think we're stayin' in the Black over the festivities it'll make sense won't it?"

Wash wanted to ask why the Captain wouldn't tell the rest of the crew. Knew he wanted to surprise them but also knew how shiny it would be if they could enjoy the whole build up and excitement of knowing they would be planet bound for Christmas. And not just any planet but - unless he was much mistaken - the very planet their gifted little mechanic was from. No way in *diyu* was that accidental. Which made him wonder what else Mal had planned. As Wash watched him open the door and stomp away on his captainly duties Zoe stood behind the pilot's chair and put her arms around him. He took a moment or two to absorb the heady essence that was Zoe and reflected that much as their prickly Captain liked to project an air of uncaring detatchment underneath it all he was more like the rest of them than he knew. Just a big gorram softie. All you had to know was how to crack that gorram shell.

* * * * *

Simon Tam agreed that Serenity needed a good clean but why oh why did it have to be him scrubbing out the waste system? Why not Jayne? Most of the filth was likely his anyway. He knew he was being uncharitable and unfair but he didn't care. He was doing the job he hated the most in all the 'verse and all he could think was how much that *wangu shenjingbing shishengzi* of a Captain must be laughing at him. He was a doctor gorrammit not some rutting slave being told to swab the gorram deck. He had often suspected that the Captain belonged somewhere back in the Dark Ages of the history of Earth-That-Was. This fun little assignment seemed to support that view.

His grouchy mood had no effect on River. Although the Captain had not assigned her to this mucky task she had tagged along and was chatting merrily as she came behind him mopping up the overabundance of dirty water sloshing over his pail as he grumbled through the smelly distasteful chore. Stabbing at the caked on excrement with the scrubbing brush as if it were someone's face.

"If you keep scowling you'll stay like that when the wind changes."

"We're on a ship, River. There is no wind."

"Yes there is, but the colours match our moods so you don't see it."

He sighed. Great. Just when he needed sympathy he got his sister's cryptic musings.

"He's doing it for you."

The doctor paused. Sure he must have misheard her. "What was that, *mei mei*?"

She smiled gently at him, leaning over to rub a spot he had missed. The awful stench not seeming to affect her at all until her nose wrinkled then smoothed out again as if she had a way of telling her brain not to notice. He wished he could do that and not just about the smell but a lot of things. "For you. It's a gift."

Simon snorted. He never could understand how forgiving River could be when it came to their *wangu* Captain but then he also had to admit to often reading the man wrong and inheriting a world of guilt about it afterwards. Only this time he wasn't wrong. He was up to his eyes in *goushi* and he knew just where to lay the blame. "Trust me River, this is *not* a gift. It's humiliation."

"No," Said the one voice in all the 'verse that Simon Tam did not want to hear right now. "Humiliation would be doin' this for fun an' much as I might like to laugh at your expense that's not why you got this job."

"Then why am I doin' this? It's not even my turn."

The Captain hunkered down, what River might call 'upwind' of him. Simon noticed he kept a good few feet away. Probably a good thing given his mood, the pail of mucky water just too tempting to throw over that mildly smirking face. "You got this chore 'cause you're the best."

Simon blinked, his mouth dropped open. What? River nodded.

"Told you it was a gift." She said in a whisper.

He looked from one to the other as if they were both mad. No. He was the one going mad. "How do you come to that dazzling conclusion?"

The Captain's smirk became a smile. Almost affectionate in the dim lighting or maybe that was just Simon hoping his place on board Serenity was more than the convenience of a willing slave who could sew up and heal this dysfunctional crew. "Noticed how you scrubbed the infirmary until every gorram inch of it shined when you first came aboard. Not a lick of dust on a gorram thing an' that's a mighty fine skill on board a boat like this. I swear I got no idea where all the gorram dust comes from but it impressed me even if I never said so."

*No, you didn't* thought Simon. But, a gift? He shot his sister a sideways look, she was carefully wringing out the cloth in the bucket. Her calm acceptance made him feel guilty and more than a mite ungrateful but this was a job he hated with passion. "So my reward for being efficient and thorough," He said slowly easing from anger to sarcasm. "Is this?"

The smile vanished from the Captain's face but the echo of it lingered in his eyes. "It is what it is. Truth be told we gotta clean up this boat. Can't have Kaylee an' River put up their bits of flash with grease an' dirt an' dust lyin' in wait with their germs can we? Don't you want a shiny Christmas, Simon Tam?"

Simon stared at him. Couldn't speak for emotion. The past too painful to contemplate and the present becoming more and more confusing. Taking that as a yes the Captain stood up, gave River a smile which she returned, and left. The fading echo of his footsteps seeming to drum home to the young doctor that maybe this wasn't so much a gift as a lesson in life. If so, then best he learn it well.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*goushi* = crap/dog shit *bao bei* = precious/treasure *dong ma* = understand *meiyou muqin de xiao gou* = motherless fucker *diyu* = hell *dui* = correct *weishenme* = why *wangu* = stubborn *shishengzi* = bastard (affectionate) *shenjinbing* = crazy *mei mei* = little sister


Monday, December 27, 2004 9:50 PM


What an wonderful take on Chirstmas, Mal as instigator as opposed to grinch. That having been said, based on a passing familarity with your work. This ain't gonna go smooth, is it?

Monday, January 17, 2005 12:32 AM


An absolutely fabulous start, Ali. I loved, loved, loved the opening. This fic has such powerful emotional truth in it already - I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops.

LOL at Simon's 'gift'. And more than a mite intrigued by River's insight.

Some lovely images too - "more watchful than a sky full of starts", " a smile the size of Persephone" to name but too.

Three more chapters to read to catch up with you (how *do* you manage to be so productive?) - but let's jus' say, I plan to take it real slow. ;-)

Sunday, October 31, 2010 7:00 AM


If I'm not careful, this might make me want to believe in christmas again.
Full 10 Shinies. :D

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 7:56 PM


"That Cap'n Kaylee run off with wants to bring her back for Christmas."
LOL!!! awwww cap'n's Justa big softie!!!! XD loving this so far!:D how can one person write so much shiny? It's amazing! XD


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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.