COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS: 17. "Blood Of Innocents"
Sunday, March 6, 2005

"The Captain falls into a coma. Simon is torn between shock and horror when he realises the truth. Before he has the opportunity to warn the others things get even worse."



SUMMARY: "The Captain falls into a coma. Simon is torn between shock and horror when he realises the truth. Before he has an opportunity to warn the others things get even worse." 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

* * * * *

At first Simon thought it must be his imagination but once he had started to watch Frank Reynolds he began to suspect all was not as it should be. Kaylee noticed he was distracted and called him on it. "Simon? *Shenme shi*?"

He tore his gaze away from the man leaning against the woodpile, not sure exactly what it was about him that rang alarm bells. "*Wo bu zhidao."

Kaylee noticed where he was looking and began to frown. "I can tell when somethin's wrong, Simon."

He gave her a little smile and dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose. "It's probably nothin', *bao bei*."

"Instinct has more roots in truth than the mask we wear for appearances."

Both of them turned to look at River, neither having heard her approach on her bare feet. Still cool at least it was warmer than it had been. No snow, ice or frost just a lingering coolness to the air as if turning from Winter to Spring. They could almost smell the new season turning, her sombre colours lifting the stringy clouds of grey. A watery sun shining through.

"Pain is more than skin deep, Simon."

Simon blinked at his sister. "What do you mean, *mei mei*?"

She tilted her head at him as if he were a specimen under glass. But one who should have sufficient sentience to know what she was alluding to. "The one mirrors the other." She paused and looked at him expectently. When he showed no sign of comprehending she spoke again. "It's symptomatic, Simon." Then River danced back into the house on feet light as air, a murmur about beating Alfred to the cakes that made no sense whatever to Simon or to Kaylee. Kaylee looked amused. "What do ya think she meant?"

He frowned and began to shrug then found his eye drawn back to Frank Reynolds. The man seemed to be not so much leaning on the woodpile but using it to hold him upright. Simon strode over the yard to see if he was alright. "Mr Reynolds? *Shenme shi*?"

By the time Kaylee caught up Frank managed to lift his head. His eyes looked somewhat glazed, his whole demeanour dragging down as if his body was weighted. Simon paused, noted the palor of his skin, the heavy sheen of sweat. Frank was about to speak then coughed, his throat dry and rasping. As he pulled his hand away Simon was alarmed to see flecks of blood on his lips and knuckle.

"Come on, Mr Reynolds, let's get you inside the house."

Frank straightened with an obvious effort and began to back away but he was unsteady and the movement pained him. Simon had no difficulty getting to him and turning an anxious eye on him. "*Wode ma*, you're burnin' up."

"Ain't nothin'." Kaylee looked worried. The Captain's uncle did not look good. Refusing to be put off Simon guided him over to the house, Kaylee darting round them to open the front door. As they stumbled inside Frank's legs gave way taking Simon with him to the floor. Mrs Frye came running, eyes round with worry and concern. "What the *diyu*...?"

Looking up from the floor, Simon put a hand to Frank's forehead. Noted his laboured breathing and the fact that he seemed to be having trouble staying conscious. "Frank's sick, Mrs Frye."

Mrs Frye sent Kaylee to fetch her father then got a back room ready. Once Frank Reynolds had been ensconced inside she gave Kaylee's doctor a steady even look, noting how quickly he assumed a role he was surely born to. "He's got a fever ain't he?"


As soon as he joined them Mr Frye opened the windows heedless of the chill air outside. Kaylee wanted to shut them to keep the warmth inside but knew the sickness was better out than in. Simon looked at Mrs Frye. "I'm going to need hot water Mrs Frye, and Kaylee? Can you get my med kit, please?"

Kaylee nodded and hurried out the door just as River peered round it. She hardly glanced at her brother or the other occupants, her eye skimming over the bed and looking at the rest of the furnishings before looking at Simon. "Room's too small."

"Um, don't mind my sister she didn't mean to be rude..."

A flash of irritation lit her eyes. "Not rude, practical. You don't listen Simon!"

Mr Frye broke in gently before the siblings could fall out. "What's practical, River?"

Her expression cleared, relieved to find someone willing to give their whole attention to what she had to say. "Only one bed."

He raised his eyebrows. Simon shrugged apologetically but Mrs Frye was regarding River intently. "What do you mean, River?"

"Only one bed," She repeated, this time pinning her hopes on Kaylee's mother. "Need two. Three would be better." Then she was gone. The Fryes looked at each other then at Simon. He took Frank's pulse, getting more concerned by the minute. The sudden pounding on the front door seemed to echo the one inside his chest. Mr Frye excused himself then returned moments later, his face pale, his expression one of shock. "Seems Frank Reynolds ain't the only one sick."

Simon felt his heart sink. "Do you know...?"

He nodded and glanced down at the man Simon was tending. "Clem just got a wave, rode over here as fast as that old mare could bring him." He paused and looked at Simon. "Seems your Cap'n got took sick. Never even made it to Shadow. Monty's docked with Serenity an' they're bringin' him back just as quick as that bird'll fly."

Simon hardly noticed as Kaylee come hurrying back into the room, her eyes wide with worry. Sarah came in behind her. The doctor's eyes were fixed like limpets on Martin Frye's face. "Did Monty say what was wrong?"

"All he would say was Mal's temperature is hotter'n hell an' he's lost consciousness. Not nothin' he can do will rouse him."

Sarah gasped and put a shaky hand over her mouth, eyes wide. Mrs Frye put an arm around her and Kaylee just stared in panic at Simon, willing him to say things weren't as bad as they sounded but Simon did not say a word. Unwilling to voice what he was thinking as he watched shuddering breaths reduce to painful sighs as Frank Reynolds slipped into a coma.

* * * * *

"What the *diyu* happened?"

Monty shook his head. They were on Serenity. As soon as Zoe and Book had come aboard Monty's ship they had taken one look at Mal and whisked him on to the Firefly class transport. Monty ordered Zack to follow them back to Carousel, his face creased with worry. "Where's your doc?"

"On Carousel with Kaylee and the others. It's just me, Wash an' the Shepherd."

Monty raised his brows but said nothing. He had assumed when Serenity hailed them that the whole gorram crew would be aboard. Had Zoe anticipated trouble? But if that was so where was Jayne? Man was a walking army, it didn't sit right that he wouldn't want to be in on any of the action. But he didn't say what he was thinking nor did he ask. Too worried about Mal to wonder at the crew dynamics.

The Shepherd was carefully checking the Captain over, noting that he appeared to have abdominal pain and that the fever was not abating but getting worse. Zoe looked grim and worried. Book glanced up at Monty. "How long has he been like this?"

"Not long. Less'n a hour. Came on him kind'a sudden." He paused. "What in the nine hells is wrong with him? An' why the good gorram is he so weak?"

Shepherd Book's lips tightened but when he spoke his voice sounded even and calm. "The Captain is a very sick man, Monty. I'm no expert but he seems to be deteriorating rapidly."

Zoe's eyes narrowed. Concern and anxiety fragmenting her cast iron self control. Nothing about this made sense but she was determined to get to the truth. In the meantime they needed to get Mal back to Carousel as soon as humanly possible. Her troubled eye came to rest on Book. "Stay with him."

The Shepherd nodded. As soon as Zoe had left the infirmary he walked over to the sink and filled a bowl with cold water. Monty watched as he soaked a cloth then began to wash the sweat off the Captain's face and neck, hoping the cool water would also help to bring the man's temperature down while being careful to put no pressure on him. Aware that for some reason even the slightest touch hurt him. Monty's expression was grim.

Up on Serenity's bridge Wash closed off the cortex link and looked over his shoulder at Zoe as she joined him, her face pale as she placed a hand on her *zhangfu's* shoulder. He got the impression the contact was to comfort herself more than him. "I've sent a wave to the Peters ranch, they're gonna let Mr Frye know to have Simon on hand *mashang*."

Zoe nodded, too upset and numb to speak.

Wash put a hand briefly over his wife's as he caught the look on her face. Wished he could offer some kind of reassurance but unable to do more than squeeze her hand. Then he flicked a couple of swiches and did the only thing he could do. "Hang on *bao bei*, we're goin' for a hard burn!"

* * * * *


The drawn leathery face turned to the speaker. "*Qu*?"

"That Kingfisher vessel I was talkin' about?"

Niska waited.

"It's just met up with a Firefly transport, *shifu*."

A glitter of interest sparked in those dark beady eyes, the malice reflecting off the wire rim glasses with dark joy. "What is happening?"

The pilot took a moment to watch his sensors closely before confirming anything. "The two vessels docked briefly then parted but now they're movin' again."

Adelei Niska moved swiftly for a man of his age. Eager anticipation lending a false illusion of health to aged limbs. "Follow but not so closely they will detect that they are being followed, yes?"

A nod was the only response he got, his pilot too immersed in ensuring he did just that. Mr Niska did not tolerate failure of any kind.

* * * * *

Jayne Cobb was enjoying himself not that he would ever admit it. The children were sitting round him inside the barn, faces rapt with joy as he regaled them with stories of derring do. Didn't matter a good gorram that he exaggerated a bit, nor that he was always the most heroic and noble figure in every tale. Kids liked thrilling heroics, who was he to deny them that pleasure?

"What happened then, Jayne? Did the Reavers get ya?"

Jayne leaned forward, hands on his knees, the bale of hay making a good impromptu seat. The children in a thick clump around him, each one trying to sit as close as he or she could. "Na, nothin' alive faster than me an' Vera. We just pumped 'em so full of lead undone all the stitchin' on their ugly gorram faces."

"Ew," Said Tommy. Five years old and already able to reduce any sentence to single syllables that actually made sense.

"So are ya sayin'," Said little Kirsty slowly. "That ya ain't scared of nothin'?"

The mercenary puffed out his chest while trying and failing to look humble and sincere. Neither quality at home on his face. "Ain't the Hero of Canton for nothin'."

"Wow!" Oozed Tommy, mightily impressed.

"Tell us again how ya saved those mudders, Jayne?" "Yeah, an how ya killed them *wangba dans* that tried to steal Serenity off ya." The clammour of voices rose in competition until Jayne laughed and threw up both hands. Just as they began to quiet a voice drifted clear and even across the dusty barn. "Have to hide the pigeons before the vulture strikes."

A scowl wiped the happy off Jayne's face. "Gorrammit River, why'd'ya have to spoil everythin'? Was just gettin' to the good part."

River stepped into view, nearer than Jayne liked but at least he could see her now and that was better than trying to guess where she was. Girl was all kinds of creepifying.

"No time. He's come for his pound of flesh."

All of sudden all the bluster huffed out of him, a horrible fear settling in his gut. "Who ya talkin' about?"

"First hide the pigeons," She said carefully, her eyes fastened to his like magnets. Jayne could not look away, could scarce feel his own breath. "Don't want to scare the birds, just get the vulture excited. Make him swoop too soon, before we're ready." Jayne jumped up, heart thundering like a train out of control. He didn't want to alarm the children, not sure that what River was saying was what he was thinking but suddenly he was all kinds of fearful for the children in his care. Then he had an idea. River's eyes narrowed as she watched him hunker down, then deciding to play along she crouched down with the children to listen as well.

"Okay now, ya wanna play Heroes an' Reavers?"

Excited little faces broke into smiles and a chorus of voices vied with each other for the mercenary's attention. Each little raised hand begging to be chosen. Jayne painted a smile on his face, determined that whatever else went wrong in this ass-end neck of the 'verse these children wouldn't be the ones paying for it.

"Okay, now who can tell me the best place to hide?"

* * * * *

Monty couldn't help it, he was worried about Mal. More worried than if his friend had been shot, stabbed or blown up. A physical wound was something he could see and understand but disease, infection, things that could strike a man down out of a clear blue sky frightened the *diyu* out of him. How could you fight an enemy you could not see? He looked up at Ricky as he poked his head through the door realising there was one face he hadn't seen in some time. "Where's Johnny?"


"John-Jo. Where is he?"

The man shrugged. "*Wo bu zhidao*, boss. Ain't seen him in a while."

"Well go check on him, *dong ma*? Tell him I wanna see him, *mashang*."

Ricky nodded and left. With a sigh the big man looked down at his friend, an ache in his heart, trying to fathom what the *diyu* had happened. He was startled when a short time later Ricky ran into the room, eyes wide with alarm.

"*Shenme shi*, Ricky?"

"It's John-Jo. Best come quickly *laoban*, he don't look so good."

* * * * *

Zoe Warren had a tight feeling in her gut. It twisted up her insides into the kind of knots that fair wrung the breath out of her. It seemed most everyone was waiting when they landed, Wash's deft flying kissing the earth with hardly a bump. As much to cause the least trauma to their Captain as anything else. The ramp had barely lowered when Simon walked briskly on to the ship, his eyes going from Zoe's grim look to the Shepherd's calmer but no less reassuring gaze. It seemed everyone wanted to pile on board. Zoe frowned, on the verge of telling them to wait but she couldn't do it. Her own concern reflected on the faces of Serenity's crew. Her friends. Pretty much all the family Mal had not counting his Uncle Frank. As Kaylee and Inara stopped in front of her Zoe's frown deepened. Not wanting to talk about it and not knowing a way to avoid it.

"What happened to the Cap'n?"

She looked at Kaylee and tried to ignore the question in Inara's eyes. "Don't know but the Shepherd kept him *shufu* 'till we could get him back to Carousel. It's up to the doc now."

Inara's eyebrows rose. "You said he was *shengjing*?"

Zoe nodded, now noticing how Mrs Frye was talking quietly to Sarah, stopping the woman following Simon and the Shepherd up to the infirmary. Part of her was glad. Hard on the heels of that uncharitable thought came a prick of shame. Woman had been good for Mal in the short time they had been together and she could tell it went both ways. A minor miracle in itself. Zoe could count on her closed fist the number of people Mal had let get that close to him in recent years. Usually he shut them out, found ways to drive them away before his own darkness had a chance to rise up and touch them. Yet Sarah had slipped through his defences and Zoe had to admit the woman had a calming effect on the Captain that both terrified her and lit a spark of hope. Not that she would ever confess to such even under torture. Inara's voice brought her attention back to the Companion.

"Zoe? How sick is Mal?"

A shrug. Eyes that did not want to meet Inara's hesitated before bracing for contact. "Pretty sick. Shepherd says he's in a coma, been coughin' up blood this last hour."

"Merciful Buddha!" Sighed Inara.

A little choked gasp made Zoe remember too late that Kaylee was still standing there, her eyes now wide as saucers and choked with tears. "*Duibuqi*, Kaylee, it's not as bad as that. Simon's gifted, best gorram doc I ever seen. He'll have the Cap'n up an' about before you know it."


"But what?"

Kaylee swallowed, glanced back at the house then continued. Her voice trembling with an unspoken fear. "Cap'n's uncle ain't so good either." Zoe looked from Kaylee to Inara. "You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?" Asked Zoe softly before Kaylee's parents and Sarah were within earshot.

The Companion kept her voice smooth and even but the look in her eyes said 'yes'. "Frank's got a fever, Zoe, and he's slipped into a coma. We can't wake him."

For a moment the whole 'verse stopped in its' tracks. Zoe closed her eyes, her heart contracting in pain. A hesitant touch on her arm reminded her she had no time for this. Her eyes sprung open to find Sarah staring at her almost beside herself with worry. "I have to see him," She whispered urgently.

A very soft hiss escaped between Zoe's tight lips but it was the only sign of what she was thinking. Her face was a blank canvas, devoid of emotion. Yet how could she deny Sarah when the Captain had chosen her? Didn't matter a good gorram what she or the others thought. It was his business not hers. The notion hurt. She had always been his shield and he her light. Felt all kinds of wrong to hand the reins to someone else, even if only for a little while. But if Sarah's presence could give her friend even a modicum of comfort she could not deny him that. A curt nod then Zoe turned and took Sarah into the ship. Inara Serra stood rooted to the spot, not a trace of what she was thinking or feeling on her carefully schooled face. Mrs Frye hugged Kaylee and felt her daughter sob quietly into her shoulder. Mr Frye putting a comforting hand on Kaylee's shoulder while he considered just how quickly things were going to *diyu*.

Slowly Inara turned to look at the Frye's. "I think it might be best if we bring Frank Reynolds on to Serenity. Simon has his infirmary here and it will be easier to have them both where the doctor can keep a close eye on them."

Mr Frye nodded, dropped a kiss on his wife's cheek and gave Kaylee a one armed hug. The gesture so reminiscent of the Captain that she buried her face deeper into her mother's shoulder and cried even harder. Mrs Frye gently shushed her, whispering love and comfort into her daughter's hair while hoping and praying the young doctor could pull a miracle out of his hat. The Kingfisher landed not quite so neatly twenty yards away. As Mr Frye hurried off to the house Monty and Ricky came slowly out of the ship carrying a stretcher. Inara's mouth dropped open. Mrs Frye turned her head to see what she was looking at and felt her heart lurch. Sensing some new drama Kaylee raised her tear stained face and stared at first uncomprehending. Mrs Frye looked more than anxious, not liking the thoughts joining up inside her head. "What happened?"

The big man huffed quietly, the body on the stretcher hardly moving at all. "We got us another one."

The Companion felt a mounting horror seep through her body and soul. *Wode ma*! Frantically she hoped and prayed that this was just some kind of infection the men had picked up. Perhaps a bit of mild food poisoning and not what she was now beginning to fear. She did not want to see Carousel ravaged by an epidemic. "Mrs Frye?"

"Yes, Miss 'nara?"

"I'd like you to take Kaylee back to the house." Kaylee flushed and wiped the back of her hand across her face. "Ain't leavin'..."

Inara gave her a level look. "Kaylee, do you trust me?"

The mechanic swallowed, feeling her throat close up with a nameless fear, and nodded.

"Then trust me now."

They all watched in silence as Mr Frye returned with Kaylee's older brother, Frank Reynolds on a stretcher between them. The man looked almost as bad as Johnny Carr had done. All of a sudden Inara was not so sure she wanted to see Mal. The thought of the normally vibrant and intense Captain so still and sickly was almost too much to countenance. The fire of his spirit burning up in another kind of flame. One that could take him away from her before she had a chance to confess her true feelings. Not that she would tell him everything, just enough to let him know she cared. More than that would be to give the man false hope in a situation she could never let escalate beyond the affection of friends. She had her boundaries and he had his. Life was safer for both of them when those boundaries remained intact.

* * * * *

It was something of a shock for Simon when he got his first good look at the Captain. He and the man did not always see eye to eye and there were times when he was sure he didn't even like him. Yet Malcolm Reynolds was complicated in ways that kept the doctor on his toes, the shifting sands of his flexible morality in stark contrast to his almost unbending loyalty to both friends and crew. It was a conundrum and just part of what both fascinated and repelled him about the man. Yet Mal had taken them in. Given sanctuary to him and his sister even after he had threatened to let Kaylee die after smuggling his sister on board the Captain's ship. He knew they had complicated the man's life immeasurably and yet Mal would not abandon them to their fate nor let the Alliance have them. He had no words for how that made him feel. A joy that was edged in a pain so deep he thought he would never recover from the wound. For his own parents had turned their backs on him. Him and River. But this noble rogue, this oddly moral thief, had done more for them than his own family ever had.

It was hard to judge a man you did not understand. Yet there were moments. Little islands of consensus between them when the veil that parted them became so thin he felt a kind of rapport. The next instant would come a wind of change and he would be as lost to the Captain's thoughts and motivations as ever. It was that changability that kept his guard up. Half expecting to discover his tentative faith in the man to be misplaced. But it never had been, even when he had believed the worst. Now here he was in an all too familiar situation trying to save the life of this confusing man. He sighed, his concern deepening the more tests he made. Simon frowned and noted the Captain's basal temperature, his lack of reaction to stimulus, the way he was burning up yet the skin shivering as if cold. He did not like it one iota. Liked it even less when they brought Johnny Carr then Frank Reynolds into the infirmary.

Simon found the same results in each of the stricken men. When he finally forced himself to admit the truth it shook him to the core. Wearily he rubbed his eyes and got to his feet only to be knocked off them as something shook Serenity. For a moment he was numb, his weary brain failing to grasp what was happening, then something rocked the ship for a second time and horror hit him hard and deep. Good gorram. They were under attack!

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *diyu* = hell *bao bei* = precious/treasure *mei mei* = little sister *wode ma* = mother of God *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wangba dan* = fucking bastard *shei* = who? *dong ma* = understand *mashang* = right away/quickly/immediately/on the double *laoban* = boss *shufu* = comfortable *shengjing* = sick *duibuqi* = sorry *zhangfu* = husband *shifu* = sir


Monday, March 7, 2005 12:34 AM


ALI! Holy cow girl, this was amazing!!!! How do you do it?

I know I've said it before, but this chapter really takes the cake. Absolutely beautiful. Every character perfectly matched.

More please.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005 2:18 AM


Woo - tension upon tension!

Loved this "She had always been his shield and he her light" on Mal and Zoe. Sweet and neatly phrased.

Good on the relationship between Mal and Simon too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005 8:20 AM


Good stuff!!

I have to admit, I have no theories as to what exactly is wrong with Mal, Frank and Johnny. Nice build up, though, and is Niska attacking them?


- Soul

Thursday, March 10, 2005 12:06 PM


Absolutely Fabulous!

I can't wait to find out what happens next!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 9:05 PM


Lovelove*LOVE*!!!!!!!!! Poor Reynolds boys... And John-Jo... Is it something on Shadow? O.o I'm gonna go read the next chapterXDXDXD


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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.