Thursday, January 27, 2005

"Serenity's crew try to come up with a solution without alienating the Captain. In the end the thing they fear most has to be faced, none of them realising how much it will change each and every one of them."



SUMMARY: "Serenity's crew try to come up with a solution without alienating the Captain. In the end the thing they fear most has to be faced, none of them realising how much it will change each and every one of them." 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

* * * * *

"You lost the War," River said gently, a hand trailing down one tear stained cheek. "You don't have to lose the Peace as well."

Words choked him. Emotions too long held in check left him weak. The past rising up like some behemoth, his feet nailed to the gorram deck unable to run away. She gazed deep into his eyes. Saw all the broken pieces littering his soul like debris. Waiting for the wind of change to sweep him clean only she couldn't let him lose the pieces. They were too precious. Even broken it was all that was left of him.

Her soft words fell like a benediction, a wash of forgiveness and understanding that held his future redemption in thrall. Not a promise but an offer. A trade soul for soul, her breath sustaining the fragile beat of his stumbling heart. "Let me be your compass."

He was about to say he didn't need no gorram compass when she vanished. The shock of it woke him up. His heart thundering painfully in his chest until he forced himself to take deep calming breaths and allow the confines of the unfamiliar room to remind him just where he was and what had happened. He lay back with a weary heart-worn sigh as if he had slept not at all. Gorrammit. Why did the crazy girl have to turn up in his dreams as well? And what the good gorram did it mean?

* * * * *

Shepherd Book listened quietly while Zoe explained what was going on. Kaylee looked upset, Simon puzzled but not unsympathetic. Jayne just wanted to get as deep into the black as possible until they could knock some rutting sense into their *shenjingbing* Captain. Even Wash glowered at the mercenary's insensitivity. But it was Monty who stilled the rising clamour of voices vying the one with the other to provide a solution they could all accept.

"*Bizui*! This ain't nothin' to be decided by anyone but Mal."

Protests rose, louder this time. Only the Shepherd remained silent. Zoe caught his eye but the man gave nothing away of what he was thinking. Her eyes narrowed but she did not call him on it. They were all sitting round Mrs Frye's big old table in the kitchen. Kaylee's folks had retreated to leave them free to discuss what they wanted to do but the mechanic felt uneasy. Upset and more than a little tearful as if whatever they decided would solve nothing. Simon caught her hand in his and gave it a little squeeze, River watching with wide solemn eyes. Her tongue for once still, only her eyes speaking volumes but in a language none of them could fathom.

Jayne was getting pretty annoyed at all the tiptoing around. He snorted and leaned forward. "Cap ain't thinkin' straight so I say we just go. Can't do nothin' *chun* if he ain't on Shadow."

Simon gave the mercenary an almost pitying look. "Do you even know how pathetic that sounds? Whatever we decide to do means nothing unless the Captain agrees, and I'm not so sure we should be making decisions for him in the first place."

Something stirred in the Shepherd's eyes but he made no comment. Zoe looked sad and pensive but nodded. "Simon's right. We need to be havin' this discussion when the Captain wakes up."

"*Weishenme*? Ya know he'll just shoot it down in flames." Growled Jayne.

"Flames or not it's not our decision." Zoe stated, her voice calm but hard. A steely look settling in eyes that flattened out all emotion except one. "The Captain's still the Captain Jayne, best you remember it, *dong ma*?" It was enough to stop Jayne arguing further.

They had been up the best part of the night trying to work out what to do. Each of them knew that going anywhere near Shadow was a recipe for disaster but they also realised that until the mystery over the empty graves was solved there would be no peace for the Captain which in turn meant no peace for them. The very notion of heading out into the black and dragging along a reluctant Mal was untenable. A pissed off Captain being a possibility not worth entertaining even in their dreams. While they might moan and complain about the man and his ways each and every one of them was worried about him. Acknowledged or not, Malcolm Reynolds was the glue that held their little 'verse together.

Just when it seemed as if they had talked themselves to a standstill the Preacher stirred. His voice quiet, thoughtful. "What if the Captain insists on returnin' to Shadow anyway?"

Zoe straightened. "We go with him."

The Shepherd was looking at each and every one of them as if weighing something up in his mind. "Perhaps we should give this some thought."

He got a glare for his trouble. "Not lettin' the Captain go back alone, Preacher."

"I wasn't suggestin' we do."

Zoe's eyes narrowed still further. "Then what were you suggestin'?"

"Just the need to be cautious." He paused a beat. "Some of this crew have more reason than others to steer clear of Alliance entanglements." She nodded, realising he was referring to River and Simon.

"Well I ain't goin' nowhere near no ruttin' Alliance hell-hole." Muttered Jayne.

"No one's askin' you to." Said Zoe, her look getting distant. Wash wished he knew what she was thinking. They were all startled when the Captain's voice broke in on their dark thoughts.

"Not nobody goin' to Shadow, *dong ma*?"

Kaylee looked round in surprise. "We're not?"

The Captain stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. "No. You're gonna stay right here, little Kaylee. Finish your Christmas festivities. By New Year I'll be back an' we can head on out again."

Zoe stood up. "Sir..."

"Not gonna talk me outta this, Zoe." "Wasn't tryin' to, sir." That got his attention and good. "Huh?"

"If you're goin' back to Shadow stands to reason for the crew to stay here."

He blinked in confusion. "It does?"

Resisting the urge to smirk at his expression she took a couple of steps towards him then stopped and turned to face the others. It was as if she had drawn a line in the sand. Him and her on one side, the rest of the crew on the other. "Where you go I go, sir."

That was not what Mal had intended. He knew as well as she did that if the Alliance caught either one of them they would spend the last days of their lives in prison. With or without torture he had no intention of sharing whatever fate awaited him with her. "*Bu qu*."

She stared at him. Before she could open her mouth to argue he spoke, his voice calm and deceptively mild. The words lighting flames inside her head that threatened to engulf her in something close to panic. There were times when being the Captain's friend was a lot like letting herself get burnt. On purpose. She fancied she could already feel the flames licking at her skin.

"I'm goin' with Monty."

Zoe glanced at Monty but he kept a very good poker face. Not a flicker of reaction showing, his eyes fastened on the Captain. She had the feeling that they had already had this discussion their own selves and it was all kinds of unnerving that whatever agreement they had reached it was independent of Serenity's crew. "You'll need back-up."

He shook his head. "Planet's dead, Zoe."

Wash did not like the way the conversation was going but was also riven with curiosity. "What do you think happened back there?"

The Captain's voice was bleak. He did not notice the look on Inara Serra's face. Silently she listened and held her peace only too aware that you often learnt more on the periphery than in the centre of a conversation. It also gave her the opportunity to study the crew. But Inara was not the only keen observer. The doctor looked away as their eyes met. The Captain began to explain to the pilot.

"Same as on a hundred Rim worlds, Wash. Alliance destroyed every gorram thing. Not content to burn, rape an' pillage they had to make sure not a ruttin' thing would ever grow there again. Can't accuse them sumbitches of not bein' thorough."

Wash was hoping he was misunderstanding the Captain. "You mean...?"

"Poisoned the gorram ground. Not nothin' livin' nor breathin' can survive there now. Least not for long."

The pilot felt sick. He wanted to ask the Captain why go back there in that case but he couldn't do it, he knew and the knowing of it twisted his gut. Kaylee stood, Simon watching her anxiously. He knew how close she was to the Captain, how much this must be tearing her up inside. But he also knew that once Malcolm Reynolds set his mind on something nothing would shift him. "You mean they...?"

The Captain nodded and bit back a sigh. He hadn't intended to tell them, to share this fun little nightmare with them but they were his crew and had a right to know why this was so important. If that meant being more forthcoming on details than he wanted then so be it. "That's exactly what I mean, little Kaylee, which is why we can't all be goin' there. This is a short trip, a recce to try to piece together what the *diyu* happened."

Simon watched the Captain carefully. "Then there's no reason why we can't..."

"You not listenin' Top Three Per Cent?" The Captain snapped. His eyes flashed then went dull again, the anger as quick and fleeting as the blink of an eye. Simon held his breath while the Captain let his temper dissipate leaving only an echo of pain. He wasn't mad at the doctor just too rutting close to the edge to keep all his emotions in check. "Just 'cause Shadow is dead don't mean the Black is." He paused to let that sink in, his expression grim. "Got no notion why those *tamade hundan* removed the gravestones still less why they dug up the gorram graves but I aim to find out." "Son, this is a fool's errand." Cautioned the Shepherd.

"No," Said the Captain in a tight controlled voice. "It's *my* errand. The last gorram thing I can do for them as can't help themselves." His voice trailed off painfully. For a moment he had to look away, too many faces crowding into his head, too many voices now silent clamouring for justice. Too many memories making his soul weep and his heart falter.

Inara wanted to say something but could not find the words. River sat with her thin arms wrapped around her knees as she took it all in. Her eyes full of sorrow. She knew. Could tell the Captain only it wouldn't make any difference. He would have to find out for himself. Only then would he understand.

* * * * *

The night passed in flashes of bitter cold, the wind picking up and shuddering its' wintery breath right through their gorram bodies. Made them feel as if they had no rutting clothes on and no gorram flesh on their shivering bones. Not nobody should have to live like this still less die.

Johnny was way beyond tears, the sadness in him more of a numbness than actual feeling. You had to be warm to feel and it had been so rutting long since he had been warm. It was Frank shifting and knocking snow off the body that woke him to the remembered pain of the living. There was something familiar about the absurdly gentle touch of Frank's hand on the emaciated body. The snow a temporary shroud he brushed off with the greatest of care as the wind picked up again and howled at them with its' greedy mouth, their clothes like feeble prayer flags frantically trying to keep from being devoured. "You know him?"

An aborted shrug told him more than a dictionary of words. Yes. Frank knew him.

"*Wo bu dong*, Frank. What's he doin' way out here, holed up in that gorram place?"

Frank brushed back the ragged dirty matted fringe of hair and remembered a time when the haggard face had been bright and vibrant with life. When the eyes had sparkled with so much fun and mischief in them it was impossible to be solemn around the man. A rutting good man. One of the best. "He wasn't here on purpose."

That stirred Johnny into looking up, blinking the crystals of falling ice off his lashes in his surprise. "How you know that?"

The big man huffed but it sounded painful like an old worn hinge being forced open when it should have stayed sealed shut. "They bricked him up, John-Jo."

Johnny felt his heart miss a beat, hardly reacting to the lifelong nickname that Frank had not used in a good long while. *Diyu*. Before the War. That alone told him how upset his friend was. "Someone did this to him on purpose?" The hushed horrified words seemed to hang in the air like an accusation. Frank bowed his head and tried to cover the body more amply with his own coat, ignoring how the cold lapped harshly around his own trembling frame. Though the cold he was feeling right now had nothing to do with the gorram weather. "That they did."

"*Weishenme*? What the good gorram did the Alliance do that for?"

"Alliance didn't do this."

A startled look captured Johnny's sorrowing eyes. "Then who?"

Frank took a reluctant step from the recumbent body and pointed back inside the small brick dungeon. At first Johnny did not comprehend. Frank's voice came out rough. "Take a good look."

He blinked. Confused. "What am I looking at?"

"What do you see on that gorram wall?"

Johnny had to squint at first against the swirl of white clouding his vision as the snowfall got thicker. Leaning forward he stuck his head in the opening they had made in response to the wailing cries. Pulling at the fragmenting corners of the structure until frozen and cracked mortar gave a reluctant way into the prison one clawed out brick at a time. Cries that died out a second before the bricks of the makeshift prison gave way to anger and desperation then all out fury. A hole tumbling out of the side of it and giving them a glimpse of the worst kind of *diyu*. It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust then he saw it, his cold face paled even further as the messy red smears came into focus. Smears that could now be seen not to be random after all. They spelt out a word. Or rather a name. He turned to look at Frank, saw the man's sadness and the fire behind that sorrow. A flame kindled in all nine hells could not burn hotter. "Are ya sayin'..."

He nodded. "Yup. That's the name of the man that killed him."

A big hefty breath puffed all the air out of shocked lungs. "But... but..."

Words were superfluous. Pain and shock so deep only actions could speak for either of them yet they still had a duty to perform before they could move on. Johnny wanted to help but before he could offer Frank had picked up the pathetically thin body and came to his feet, a look of grim determination on his face. In silence they trudged back to their cabin. The weight of entire worlds could not be heavier than the knowledge so painfully bequeathed to them.

* * * * *

She did not know where to go but go she must. Selling some of the few things she had taken with her had bought her passage on a transport. Didn't care where it was going just as long as it was away. She knew she should have cared but what did it matter? The thing she most wanted to outpace would be with her for the rest of her days. Distance could never take her out of the clinging orbit of her guilt. Made no difference that she had taken no active part in what happened, her silence made her complicit. Her judgement flawed by infatuation. Her morality buried under the silk lies she had craved so long that it had become an addiction. A sob caught in her throat. One of the crewmen stared at her. Absurdly ashamed for drawing attention to herself she huddled in the hold. Kept herself apart from both passengers and crew.

Jeremiah kept finding his eyes drawn back to the oddly reclusive woman. Barely more than a gorram girl he had thought when she had first taken passage. Then he caught a glimpse of those eyes and centuries untold reflected their passing as if she had lived through each and every one of them. It chilled him but only for a moment. The lure of a lithe warm body where for months he had seen none took some of the creepifying notion out of that first impression. He licked his lips and continued to watch, wary now lest his interest become too apparent and cause her to withdraw completely. Fergus saw him watching the woman and gave a thin bloodless smile. His eyes sparked with a touch of cruelty but he could bide his time. The other passengers were two old men and an old woman. They had a leather bound trunk in the cargo hold and the look of the dispossessed. Fergus knew desperation when it stared him in the face. But the woman now, she was different. Her fear not in the present but the past. Her hope not in the future nor even the here and now.

The old Clarion class transport was larger than a Firefly but better proportioned for ease of eye. Though it lacked the quirky splendour of her less striking cousin the capacious hold enabled her to haul almost three times as much. Becky had pressed herself between tied down cargo, making herself as small and insignificant as possible as if she could escape notice. Jeremiah watched her surreptitiously and waited for the quiet small hours of night when both crew and passengers forgave the confines of their narrow bunks and thin matresses to lose themselves in fitful sleep. Captain Abrams was big, fat and carried an odour of stale sweat and dirt that thickened the air wherever he walked with his clammy stench. The crew were used to it, most of them smelt just as bad. As much strangers to soap and water as the Alliance were to fair mindedness and a just rule.

The woman was tired, he could see that. Sensed her wariness faltering, energy flagging. Eyelids growing heavy against her stumbling will. He crept slowly closer, an eternity of patience crammed into mere moments of time. When he was but feet away he spoke softly. Not to startle her but to calm her. Show himself a friend, no one to be worrying her head about. Just him. Jeremiah. A humble crewman with nothing to show for his years of labour and roaming but a strong back and rags no finer than her own. His nervous smile said they were like family, his eyes though held a calculation that made her breath catch with terror in her throat. No matter how harmless he looked she knew it was all an act but she was tired. Hemmed in by her own foolishness and now trapped between cargo with no clear path to escape him. The flicker of realisation in her eyes excited him. She edged back automatically, cramming herself even tighter in a place she could not afford to be.

"Sssh, ain't gonna hurt ya. Been so long since I seen any pretty, still less touched nor savoured it *dong ma*?"

She did not answer. Couldn't form words, her mind screaming, her tongue paralysed with fear. Oh God, oh God, oh God. Would this gorram nightmare that was her life never end? Then he was there, clammy hands all over her, stinking mouth sucking on her skin, body sliding up against her as she tried feebly to fight him off. When she opened her mouth to scream he brought brutal lips to hers and shoved his tongue down her throat. Gagging on the sight, smell and nature of him it was too late to marshall what wits she had left to resist him. Tears glistened beneath closed lids, a hard sweaty palm slid down her stomach, across the curve of her heaving belly, the other hand in her hair knotting her in place as the kiss deepened, his fingers prodding and probing between her legs. Pain and humiliation, anger suffocated by desperation. Tears now rolling freely down her face as a hard hand rubbed her making way for the fingers. Searching, seeking, taking what would never be given.

Even as her mind cried out in horror and panic at the knowledge that he was going to rape her, a deeper terror rose within her. New tears washed away the old. Fear for the tentative life growing innocent and oblivious within her. The life she had chosen to protect now in jeopardy as all things were by her own stupidity. Let him do what he would with her but please God. Merciful Buddha. May Kuan Yin hear her pleas that the child be spared. Nothing else mattered.

* * * * *

Zoe Warren was livid. Wash was concerned but relieved though he was sensible enough of his wife's mood not to say so out loud. Inara was speaking quietly to Book, Simon trying to reassure Kaylee that nothing bad was going to happen. What trouble could the Captain get into on a dead world anyway? But Kaylee wasn't convinced though she bit her lip and tried to act like she was. Jayne thought they were all mad but for once held his tongue. Happy enough not to be going. He watched the Captain finish talking to Zoe then have a few words with Kaylee's father. His eyes narrowed slowly as he watched, wondering what the good gorram the Captain hoped to achieve with such foolishness. As he turned his head he found River staring straight at him. It took an effort of will not to jump.

"What the *diyu* ya starin' at?" He growled quietly. Annoyed at her but not wanting to draw unnecessary attention to himself. Didn't want Mal changing his mind and taking him with him on this fool's errand.

River cocked her head and considered him. "*Wo bu zhidao*, label fell off."

He frowned. "*Shenme*?"

He was saved any more of her cryptic craziness as Monty strode through the door, a great heavy coat wrapped around him and an uncharacteristically serious look on his normally amiable face. The Captain caught his eye then turned back to his crew and fashioned a smile out of thin air. Had to be thin for there was no substance to it despite all the shiny pretties and the fancy finery draped over every gorram tree branch and little lights twinkling in paper lanterns yet somehow knowing better than to catch fire and spoil the festive celebrations. Kaylee's mother looked upset, a bundle in her arms that she was trying to foist upon the resisting Captain. Annoyed at his reluctance her patience snapped.

"Just take the ruttin' supplies Mal! Maybe you got solid bone for brains but that don't mean them as go with ya have to starve." He blinked, shocked that she would think he would do that but it had the desired effect. He took the wrap of food. "*Duibuqi* ma'am, I just wasn't wantin' to shorten your supplies none. Be back before you know it."

She gave him a sudden shrewd look and his back straightened a touch, edging on the wary now. "There's many a slip a'tween cup an' lip, Mal, so don't ya go tellin' me your timetable *dong ma*? Ya take good care to do what needs doin' an' no more. Got folk here relyin' on ya."

Her words sobered him more than Zoe's ranting had done. It amused Wash to see the Captain somewhat chastened. Then Mal was speaking to Mr Frye before sparing a last word with the crew and leaving with Monty. No one felt much like dancing or making merry as they watched the Kingfisher lift off, leaving a subdued mix of family and crew in its' wake.

Wash tightened his arms around Zoe and murmured softly into her ear. "It'll be alright, *bao bei*, Cap'n knows what he's doin'."

Her look was sharp enough to split atoms. "You've met the Captain?"

He chuckled and kissed her, not put off by her thorny attitude knowing that it was caused by worry. "He's a big boy, he can take care of himself." The look on her face said not a man had been born who could make good on those words. It was Kaylee's mother who shook them out of the sombre mood that had gripped them, nudging Charlie into a merry tune on his fiddle, laughing as River's face lit up and she grabbed her brother to drag him into a swift chaotic dance that had the solemnity of the moment broken into so many shiny pieces that it let the laughter of the day before come shining through. Even Inara had to smile, mesmerised by a happy River. Kaylee was laughing at a flushed and protesting Simon Tam then was startled her own self when Jayne held out a huge paw and asked her if she wanted to dance. The look on Simon's face was one she would long cherish.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenjingbing* = crazy *bizui* = be quiet/shut up *chun* = stupid *diyu* = hell *weishenme* = why *dong ma* = understand *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *duibuqi* = sorry *bao bei* = precious/treaure


Friday, January 28, 2005 7:51 AM


Ooh, all good! I'd love to know just what the name in the well is, as well as how Becky fits in with all this. Wonderful tale. More!

- Soul

Friday, January 28, 2005 8:25 AM


Another wonderful segment. =o)

Keep up the good work!

Friday, January 28, 2005 10:44 AM


>mouth hangs open<

Where we goin' now?? Huh huh huh?

Tuesday, February 1, 2005 12:33 AM


Ooh - I'm getting that familiar feeling of dread .... and loving it! No-one torments Mal quite like you!

Rushing on to read the next chapter ...

Monday, March 28, 2005 8:03 PM


The crew better get smart to this before too long.

Good stuff,

Keep flyin'

Friday, October 28, 2011 1:03 PM


Kaylee was laughing at a flushed and protesting Simon Tam then was startled her own self when Jayne held out a huge paw and asked her if she wanted to dance. The look on Simon's face was one she would long cherish.
Hahahahahahahaha I love thatXD


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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.