COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS: 9. "Friends and Enemies"
Tuesday, February 1, 2005

"The Captain wants to go after Ty's killer but first he has to do right by his friend."



SUMMARY: "The Captain wants to go after Ty's killer but first he has to do right by his friend." 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

* * * * *

"So let me get this straight: you're goin' after Mal to haul his ass outta the fire?"

Zoe glared at Jayne. "*Bu qu*. I'm goin' in case he does somethin' stupid."

The mercenary's scowl wrinkled up even tighter. "Huh, thought ya were the Cap's friend." Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "I am. That makes me loyal not blind."

"You sayin' the Cap ain't perfect?"

"Nobody's perfect Jayne." She paused a half-beat. "Except me."

Even Jayne wasn't *chun* enough to argue with that.

Then Zoe was striding away from the mercenary across the grass towards Serenity. Wash had already gone on ahead to get the ship refueled and go through the pre-flight checks. Shepherd Book fell into step beside her without a word, the expression on Jayne's face saying they were as *shenjingbing* as the Captain. Kaylee was upset not to be going with them but Simon was relieved. Somehow the Captain always managed to get himself into trouble of the near terminal kind and he didn't want Kaylee to get caught up in any backlash. River had watched the verbal table tennis but kept her own counsel. The Companion was also silent, a small frown of concern marring her perfect features then smoothing out again. Zoe urged the others to stay with Kaylee's folks and not go wandering off. They would be back when they got back.

* * * * *

It was a pitiful bundle. Mal barely registered Monty's voice bellowing out to Zack to take off and head back to Carousel. All his attention was on his fallen comrade. A friend. A fellow Browncoat in a war the good and the just could never win. Outnumbered by the legions of infamy it was doomed from the start but how could they bow to the yoke of tyranny and let the festering evil pay false homage in their own hearts and minds? Not a one of them as loved freedom could do it. But the cost. The terrible heart-wrenching cost had been so very high. Was it worth it? For all that they had lost, was it worth the cost just to hold their heads high? Was the dream of being proud and free so sacred that everything was expendable upon the altar of their hopes and dreams?

The boy had lost more than half of his body weight, the sunken hollow of his fevered cheeks, the painfully thin emasculated form showing each and every bone protruding beneath a parchment of skin that pained his eyes. Not nobody should suffer a fate like that. He just stared at the body, his mind filling in how it must have been. Tyrone Garvin manhandled and shoved into the small hastily built *jianyu*. No door or window just one side left open until he was placed inside, then being bricked in alive. No food, no water, only the air as was in his lungs and in the small space he shared with his impending death. Wouldn't be a quick one neither.

He didn't cry. Not got no tears left for the dead. Had cried himself dry more times than he could count for his own folks though in his heart he still wept for each and every one of them as had died. Feeding his hatred of the Alliance into an unholy flame of eternal vengeance. Yet he had a puzzle on his hands. Why would the all powerful Alliance return to the ruined world of Shadow? A world so poisoned not nothing could live or grow there ever again? Why scour the graves of the dead and remove both coffins and gravestones when all that would be left within would be bones turning to dust and handfuls of blackened ashes? Then there was Ty. Mal placed a gentle hand on the boy's shoulder and grimaced at the feeling and shape of sharp bone beneath his fingers. What the good gorram had brought him here? His expression shifted from sorrow to a slow smouldering rage. It grew and grew, his expression tightening, lips flattening in a thin unforgiving line that brooked no compromise. He could not do anything to bring back the dead but he would move every Heaven and every Earth to find those responsible.

Something in his uncle's voice penetrated the dark fuge of his hostile thoughts. Mal raised his head and blinked. He had forgotten his uncle was sitting in the other chair, right arm in a make-shift sling to take the weight off his injured shoulder. Johnny Carr stood silently next to Frank Reynolds and watched Mal with quiet intensity. "*Shenme shi*?"

"Wasn't your fault, son."

Mal frowned. Not because he disagreed with his uncle but because Frank Reynolds would assume he was blaming himself. What was he not telling him? Before Mal could ask Monty joined them. "Mal, I thought ya told your crew to wait on Carousel?"

The Captain glanced at his uncle then got up and followed Monty to the bridge, surprised at the wave from Wash asking if everything was alright. His throat tightened. Mad at them for following but also oddly comforted to have them there. Not that he had any intention of saying so. The emotion caught in his throat and for a moment he could not speak. They had visual and Wash looked worried. It took a moment for the Captain to find his voice. He could not see Zoe but knew she would be standing close watching the screen like a gorram hawk. "We're headed back to Carousel, *dong ma*?" Wash noted the tension in the Captain, the deep circles under his haunted eyes and gave a grim nod. Knowing now was not the moment to question him. "See you in a few, Cap'n." The transmission was cut and Mal leaned on the console. Concerned, Monty touched his shoulder. "Come on Mal, got a few hours 'til we get there. Try to rest a mite."

The Captain raised his head and snorted softly. As if he could sleep now. Monty seemed to read his mind, his expression grim but his eyes kindly.

"Even if you don't close your gorram eyes Mal, take the weight off that body of yours before it falls down."

Mal raised an eyebrow. "You givin' me a gorram order?"

A ghost of a smile peeked through Monty's bushy whiskers. "I *am* the Cap'n of this boat, Mal, best you remember that."

He laughed, surprised into it. Mal blinked as the brief humour drained away leaving him even emptier. "Am a mite weary come to think on it though not the kind sleep can cure."

Monty nodded. He knew. Understood. Had been in too many battles not to recognise the fatigue of the mind and soul dragging the body down. The problem with Malcolm Reynolds was he carried all of his ghosts with him, a practice which while morbidly noble in one creepifying sense merely meant neither the living nor the dead got any gorram rest. Not that his friend would agree to such a notion but no one had ever said Malcolm Reynolds was anything but stubborn. It was part of the reason Monty respected him so much. Wouldn't have made it out of the Valley if he hadn't been. Mal wanted to speak to his uncle. Ask him what in the nine hells was going on. Why he had been on Shadow his own self. He had the gloomy anticipation building in his gut that he wasn't going to like the answer. Tired and soul weary as he was he decided to do as Monty suggested and rest up a mite. Had a feeling he was going to need to conserve what energy he had left.

* * * * *

Mrs Frye hovered and fussed while trying to act like she wasn't. It was beginning to drive Simon mad though he knew he should not complain. It was every mother's right to worry about her children but it also sent slithers of pain needling their way like daggers into his own heart. Memories of his own parents now seeming so cold and detached. Uncaring even. Had they ever loved him? Looking back he recalled the time he had begged his father for a dedicated source box. His father had been stuffy and unimpressed declaring he wouldn't have one in his house then had told him that since his mother had already bought him one the matter was out of his hands. But Gabriel Tam had wanted to exact a price. A trade. "Dedicated source box, brilliant doctor!" Simon had been only too eager to agree. Only later had he recalled River beginning to ask for something only to be waved off with a dismissive "Many many years..."

Now he realised that had been the norm. All his parents' attention had been focused on himself not River. No wonder when they lost contact with her at the school they had done nothing about it. Content with bizarre letters that simply assuaged what little conscience they might have possessed over the welfare of their only daughter. He was the only one who seemed to consider River not simply gifted but a gift. They tolerated her while lavishing what passed for love on their son. It was unfair but as a child caught up in his own studies and ambition he had not seen it except in hindsight. Now he was living a much different life. A fugitive from Alliance justice along with the sister he adored. Yet he had not saved her, had he? Yes, she was out of that 'school', the Alliance facility that had been experimenting on her brain for reasons that both chilled and escaped him. Yet she was not safe. Not safe from the madness eating her up a few thousand brilliant brain cells at a time. He could fill her with drugs, wrap her in love and caring but he could not undo what had been done to her. Now here he was with Kaylee, her tears abating in fitful bursts of anxiety that again he could do nothing to stop.

Mrs Frye's kindly face loomed down in front of his. He realised with a jolt that he had been woolgathering and had no clue as to what she had asked him. "*Duibuqi*, what did you say Mrs Frye?"

She smiled. Simon noticed that Kaylee had wiped her eyes and a watery smile washed over him like liquid sunshine. How did she do that? Then Mrs Frye was speaking. "I said a rider's come over from the Peters' ranch. They're comin' back, should be here any minute."

Simon sprang to his feet then paused cautiously, his eyes searching the matriach's face. "Are they...? Is everything... alright?"

"Your pilot - Wash? Said the Cap'n an' Monty were followin' 'em back."

That only partly reassured him knowing why they had gone back to Shadow in the first place. He shot a sideways glance at Kaylee who was now clutching at his hand, then looked around for River but there was no sign of her.

"River's with 'Nara." He smiled at Kaylee and wondered if the whole gorram 'verse could read what he was thinking from his face. The sound of ship's engines throbbing overheard drove every other thought out of his mind. Kaylee's tug on his hand became more insistant. They hurried across the front meadow as Serenity broke through the lowering cloudbase overhead. Monty's Kingfisher already touching down some yards away as Serenity landed.

* * * * *

The face twisted into a sour expression. All wrapped up like a gorram mummy against the cold, hard eyes narrowed as he gazed out through the frosting faceplate and turned in accusation to the man standing next to him. His voice, though muffled, came through loud and clear. "I thought you said no one could get out?"

The wind was whipping a swirl of icy crystals across the freezing tableau. The brick *jianyu* was again filled with snow this time obliterating the tracks Mal and Monty had made and forming drifts against the broken structure. The object of his scrutiny shivered. "Must'a had help."

A heavy grunt was the only response he got then then both men turned and trudged away, the suits a necessary encumberance that strangely enough did nothing to impede the reach of the cold. Or maybe it was the prick of conscience sending icy fingers of accusation through them, stealing their body warmth with the knowledge of what they had done. The second figure paused and looked back, a strange expression on his face. The man had been an experiment but their lab rat was gone. While it was possible he could have kicked out a wall Tyrone Garvin had been left so weak and emaciated it was unlikely. But if someone had freed him was he dead or recovering somewhere? An urgent need to find him drove every other thought from his head. He was not worried about whether Ty lived or died, only if he managed to speak before death claimed him. Biting down hard on his bottom lip he turned and lengthened his snowbound strides as much as he was able. He wanted off this gorram planet but before they could leave they needed to check the wasteland one more time. If even the smallest of clues had been left behind they had to find it.

* * * * *

Zoe and Shepherd Book stepped down from Serenity and watched as Monty's ship settled. Moments later Wash joined them. He turned to look back towards the house and smiled at the sight of Kaylee and Simon walking hand in hand. Behind them Mr and Mrs Frye walked more sedately with Inara and River. He frowned when he could not see Jayne. The clang of another ramp dropping snapped his head back to the front in time to see Monty appear at the top of it. The big man seemed to hesitate, then the Captain walked passed him and made his way slowly towards his crew. Zoe was staring hard at the Captain, the Shepherd about to ask how everything had gone when she walked passed him and stopped Mal in his tracks.

He saw the livid scar of her fury a second before her fist connected with his face snapping his head back. Shocked, Wash's jaw dropped in surprise. What the *diyu* was going on? He heard Kaylee gasp behind him and sensed that Simon had stopped and was holding her back. The Captain rocked back on his feet but didn't hit back. *Diyu*, he didn't even ask Zoe why she had hit him. Then Zoe's anger turned into something else, something fleeting and edged with pain. Before anyone could react she wrapped fierce arms around the Captain and just held on tight.

Shepherd Book raised an eyebrow and looked at Wash. "Well, that was... unexpected."

Mal could feel how hard Zoe was trembling. His shock gave way to understanding and he hugged her back, a hand awkwardly patting her back in silent comfort. It only lasted a minute then she pulled back, her face stern again but with little worry lines crowding her face. "Thought you knew better than to leave me behind?"

The words were softly spoken, for his ear only. He acknowledged the wealth of meaning that encompassed with a tiny nod, ignoring the thin trickle of blood running down from his nose where she had hit him. "Just somethin' I had to do."

"Next time you do somethin' *chun* you take me with you, *dong ma*?"

He raised his eyebrows in mild amusement. "You wanna be stupid too?"

Her eyes narrowed in warning then the flash of anger passed. She began to smile then realised he was bleeding. At her frown Mal raised a tentative hand to his face. "Glad to see you didn't forget everythin' I taught you."

"Wish I could say the same for you, sir."

Then Wash was there beside her, the question on his face so comical it almost made the Captain laugh only his heart wasn't in it. He sighed. Zoe called him on it.

"*Shenme shi*?"

"We brought Ty back with us."

Her look saddened into a bleak landscape that matched his own. Then the Captain turned and began to walk over to the Kingfisher, Monty nodding to Zoe before following him. As they reached the ramp Johnny Carr looked down from the top of it and Mal lengthened his stride to join him. They disappeared inside the ship and Monty waited. Seconds later Mal and Johnny reappeared with a stretcher, Frank Reynolds walking slowly behind it. Head bowed.

Zoe was surprised. The Captain had said nothing about meeting up with his uncle. Mr Frye looked at them with growing concern. "We got no doctor to speak of here but in a few hours we can get one over from Dagbert's place."

Kaylee smiled at her father and looked up through her lashes at Simon. "Simon's a doctor *ba ba*. Best in the 'verse."

Her father's expression made her want to chuckle but one glance at the Captain's sorrowful face made her bite her bottom lip. Simon squeezed her hand then let go, deciding the sooner they got back on Serenity the sooner he could see to the Captain's uncle and find out just what the gorram had happened. He was also feeling more than a little ashamed at not accompanying the Captain in the first place, especially as it now appeared his skills had been needed.

Mrs Frye was alarmed and confused. "Kaylee *fengmi*, what's happenin'?"

"Not sure yet, mama, but don't ya go worryin'. Cap'n'll sort everythin' out, you'll see."

Her mother put an arm around her and began to steer her back towards the house. Kaylee started to resist. "No, mama, I should..."

"You should come on home an' let your doctor friend do his job, Kaylee-girl." Said her father.

Inara had been silent so long Kaylee had almost forgotten about the Companion but she spoke up now, her beautiful face glowing softly as if it held an inner light. A candle to the soul. "Your parents are right Kaylee, why don't we go back to the house and help prepare something for everyone to eat?"

Mrs Frye beamed at the Companion. She just wanted to get her girl as far away from death and violence as was possible. Kaylee felt torn, her eyes drifting over to where Shepherd Book was kneeling beside the stretcher giving Ty Garvin the last rites. Wash and Zoe waited until the Preacher had finished then walked up Serenity's ramp with him. It was odd but much as she had missed Carousel and her family, Serenity was Kaylee's home. She looked at her parents, saw the silent plea in Inara's eye and began to weaken. Her eyes darted back to the now deserted ramp of the Firefly. "What if the Cap'n needs..."

"Serenity's not going anywhere, Kaylee." Said Inara in a comforting tone. "They've only gone on board because that's where the infirmary is. Come on, let's go back to the house and do something useful, *dui*?"

Kaylee nodded then let her mother lead her back towards the house. Inara Serra only hesitated a fraction before following, finding Mr Frye's gaze on her. A knowing look in his eyes that made her turn her face away.

* * * * *

Simon Tam became immediately business-like once he was in the infirmary. A few barked out orders had Frank Reynolds sitting on one of the narrow infirmary beds. Johnny Carr did not bother to hide his curiosity as he looked around the room but was careful not to touch anything after a warning glare from Simon. Monty put a brief comforting hand on Mal's shoulder then left to go and check on his own crew. The doctor washed his hands before removing the sling to examine Frank's shoulder. He looked up in surprise. "What *tamade hundan* shot you?"

"I did."

Simon was stunned and shocked by the Captain's admission. "You shot your own uncle?" He sounded horrified.

"Wasn't like it was on purpose, Simon." Said the Captain with a sigh.

"Yeah, it was."

They both looked at Frank Reynolds in surrpise and caught a hint of mischief in the man's eyes as he stared back at them.

"Ya had that gun out ready to blast to *diyu* whatever poor *wangba dan* happened in your sights."

Mal was about to protest then realised his uncle was right. He chuckled softly then became serious as a thought occurred to him. He gave his uncle a look of such intensity Frank wished he had kept his gorram mouth shut. "Which reminds me *shushu*, what the good gorram were you and John-Jo doin' on Shadow?"

* * * * *

Nothing. Everywhere they looked a sea of white looked back at them. Blank and silent, a world under wraps keeping all its' secrets locked inside. Impatience and irritation ended the fruitless search. Alex Trent was relieved though careful not to show it. His *friend* had even less tolerance for his warped humour than he did for any kind of distraction that did not involve the movements of large sums of cash into his own private account. There was something satisfying and reassuring about friends who could be bought and Alex could afford the very best.

They waited for the decontamination chamber to cycle through its' preset clensing routine. Neither man making pointless conversation, each lost in his own thoughts until with a chime and a loud metallic click the door released and a hiss of air equalised the pressure before they stepped out. Vincent Colray glanced across at Trent as he got changed. Trent gave him a sardonic smile that twisted his lip just a little too far to be attractive. "*Shenme*? Got somethin' to say best spit it out. I don't pay you for the gap between words."

Colray dressed slowly, deliberation in every movement he made. Alex imagined his thoughts must be equally as measured - and slow. "Somethin's been puzzlin' me truth to tell."

"Oh?" Alex slid on a fresh pair of pants. Was sliding on a shirt and snapping the buttons shut. "Only *one* thing?"

He ignored the subtle jibe. "Why the suits? Shadow is a dead world, you said so yourself."

Trent chuckled. It was not a pleasant sound. "Dead yes, dangerous? Still. I'm a man who likes to take no chances."

"Is that why Reynolds is still alive?"

An angry hiss warned Colray that he was pushing too hard. Rather than back off he simply fell silent and left Trent to answer or ignore him as he saw fit. After all, he was just curious. Alex finished putting on his boots then stood up and stamped his feet. He gave Colray a long thoughtful look, head on one side as if making some kind of decision. "Askin' questions is the dumbest thing to do in the 'verse, Vince. Thought I'd hired me a smart man."

"That you did. *Fang xin*, won't be askin' no more questions *dong ma*?"

Trent nodded but said nothing. No, Colray would not be asking any more questions. If he did he would earn himself a one way trip to Reaver country. But Colray had made a valid point. Shadow *was* a dead world just not in the way the Alliance had planned. With the War-that-was raging on dozens of worlds, the mighty Alliance of Planets had spread itself a mite thin in places and nowhere more so than on the Rim worlds. Some bred more of the troublesome Browncoats than others. Places like Shadow where resistance could not only fester but gather pace had to be cut down hard before they could become a threat. Alliance had sent him and his team to do the job, soften it up some. Afterwards the purplebellies had flooded the place with elite corps troops, scorched earth policy they called it. Not a thing that could burn was left standing and that included every last soul on Shadow.

Not even the faintest twinge of regret remained in Alex Trent's heart. He had picked up a bonus payday for that little job. Even settled a few scores but Reynolds had left a bitter taste in his mouth. Managing to somehow raise him a rival army years after Wars' End. Enough to call down the attention of some very high powered and unamused folk intent on making his own life hell until it was sorted out. Only afterwards, when the threat had been anihilated by some unknown means and force, did he find out the truth and that little bit of knowledge had sickened him more than anything else in the 'verse. Using others any and all ways he saw fit was nothing more than common sense, practical applications to solve life's little problems while letting someone else pick up the tab. Getting used himself was a different thing entirely. Made him feel a fool and worse than that there was no profit in it.

That *tamade hundan* Malcolm Reynolds had made him look like a gorram *yeyu aihaozhe* and though he had not been able to catch him he had found a way to exact a most perfect revenge. Venting his spleen in a manner that would cause the most pain and heartache with the least expenditure of effort on his part had a kind of poetry to it. He liked it. He liked it a whole gorram lot.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenjingbing* = crazy *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *chun* = stupid *jianyu* = prison *dong ma* = understand *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *duibuqi* = sorry *diyu* = hell *ba ba* = daddy *fengmi* = honey *dui* = correct *shushu* = uncle *tamade hundan*/*wangba dan* = fucking bastard *sheme* = what *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *yeyu aihaozhe* = amateur


Wednesday, February 2, 2005 6:24 AM


Oh, the tangled web you weave, Ali. Great stuff, especially with Zoe and Mal. I find myself curious as well as to why Frank and Jonny were on Shadow, as well as just what Alex Trent has planned...more!

- Soul

Wednesday, February 2, 2005 7:27 AM


Man, seems like Mal better watch his back.


Please. =o)

Wednesday, February 2, 2005 7:49 AM


Zoe with Mal... ;-) Yup. So good.

Thursday, February 3, 2005 1:02 AM


Oh my - that initial exchange between Zoe and Jayne - perfect! I really liked Monty's insights into Mal's sadness too. And the way you compared Kaylee's family with the Tams.

High point for me - Zoe's punch and the love behind it. And the drily humourous remarks about remembering what she and Mal had taught each other.

Thursday, February 3, 2005 2:35 PM


Monty is getting more and more like an old pal of mine, as well as Mal & Zoe's. Edging on towards 40,000 words and I am waiting eagerly for more.

Sunday, October 30, 2011 7:27 PM


"Nobody's perfect Jayne." She paused a half-beat. "Except me."

Kaylee was upset not to be going with them but Simon was relieved. Somehow the Captain always managed to get himself into trouble of the near terminal kind and he didn't want Kaylee to get caught up in any backlash.

Awwww that was so perfect!!!^^^ I love how Simon was all worried about Kaylee<3 I kinda have a Simon/Kaylee obsession. And a Zoe/Wash obsession.... Ok, I just have a Firefly obsession in general.XD Anywhooo, SHINY story AMDOBELL!!!!! totally love it!!!XDXDXD

Sunday, October 30, 2011 7:27 PM


"Nobody's perfect Jayne." She paused a half-beat. "Except me."

Kaylee was upset not to be going with them but Simon was relieved. Somehow the Captain always managed to get himself into trouble of the near terminal kind and he didn't want Kaylee to get caught up in any backlash.

Awwww that was so perfect!!!^^^ I love how Simon was all worried about Kaylee<3 I kinda have a Simon/Kaylee obsession. And a Zoe/Wash obsession.... Ok, I just have a Firefly obsession in general.XD Anywhooo, SHINY story AMDOBELL!!!!! totally love it!!!XDXDXD


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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.