THE FORGOTTEN REALM: 2. "Waking Dreams"
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

"Captain Reynolds wakes to a new world and a whole lot of unanswered questions."



SUMMARY: "Captain Reynolds wakes to a new world and a whole lot of unanswered questions." 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

* * * * *

He woke dizzy and in pain in the early morning light, the cold making him shiver so hard his teeth ached. It was a small movement against his side that urged him to open his eyes. Almond shaped eyes stared at him, the deep brown pupils focused on him to the exclusion of all else. He was so surprised he just stared back. Who was she? What was going on? Where the hell was he? She gave him a tremulous smile balanced between wanting to reassure him and tears. Instinctively he reacted to her vulnerablity, his own confusion pushed momentarily to one side not wanting to frighten her away. He needed answers. "Hey. *Ni hao ma*?"

She nodded that she was okay then pointed at him with a jerk of her chin. "*Ni*?"

He tried to hide another shiver but failed. He was so gorram cold. "*Wo touteng* but apart from that I seem to be in one piece. What in the nine hells happened?"

She shrugged, her expression sad but her eyes alive with interest. He thought she looked half starved. "You unconscious, bleeding. I thought you die."

Mal sat up, groaned and put a hand to the back of his head. It took him a moment to bring the world back into focus. His hand came away bloody. He searched his pockets for a handkerchief, folded it into a wad and carefully pressed it to the back of his head. The girl was watching him warily. "Look, I got no idea what happened or how I got here so you're gonna have to help me out. Think you can do that, *nu haizi*?"


"Okay, then we should start with some introductions. *Wo mingzi jiao* Malcolm Reynolds but you can call me Mal. *Nin gui xing*?"

She gave her first real smile. A smile that transformed the solemn tear-stained planes of her face. "Yen Mah."

"Your name is Yen Mah?"

"*Qu* but *ye ye* calls me Blossom."

"Blossom?" At her nod Mal smiled. "I like that but Yen Mah suits you."

Yen Mah nodded. Her dark brown eyes taking the measure of him. "It is my name."

"Okay, think we're gettin' somewhere here. Where is your *ye ye*?"

Her eyes filled with tears. "He grew sick and died. They took me from my brothers but I run away. Every time they find me and beat me but I never give up, I keep running away 'til they stop looking."

"*Duibuqi*" He felt something inside harden. "Who took you away?"

She shook her head. "Bad men."

"Who were they? Can you tell me? *Qing*."

For a moment she did not speak, her eyes glued to his. Then she shook her head firmly. "*Bu*"


"Because you want to look for them. Bad, bad men."

"No one should do to anyone what they did to you, Yen Mah. It ain't right. In fact it's all kinds of wrong."

"*Ye ye* says *Ji suo bu yu, wu shi yu ren* - do not do to others what you do not wish others to do to you. If you do, you become bad men too."

Mal bit his bottom lip and nodded. How could one so tiny be so wise? And yet he had seen courage in the strangest places not just on the ranch. "Okay, no seeking revenge then. *Gaoxing*, Yen Mah?"

Yen Mah nodded then pointed to his feet. Mal looked down and wiggled his toes, a scowl appearing on his face. "*Tamen touzou le wode xuezi!*"

He sounded so grumpy she laughed. "Be grateful Mal," She cautioned. "They left your feet."

He gave her a surprised look then found himself laughing. Oddly enough the girl made him feel better. He got to his feet and shivered. It sure was cold. "Where are we, Yen Mah?"



Yen Mah nodded. He frowned. What was he doing on Porchester? He had to get home, folks would be worrying about him. Had he been kidnapped? Had the same people who had taken Yen Mah also taken him? If so what about the others? Were they safe? Well? A sudden urgency shook every other thought from his head. Yen Mah made no move to get up. "Yen Mah, how long have I been here?"

She shrugged. "*Wo bu zhidao*. Find you yesterday. You not wake up. I was afraid."

"Did you see who jumped me?"

She shook her head. "*Bu*."

"Okay, first things first. Where is your home?"

"Long long way."

"Here? On Porchester?"

A nod, solemn eyes downcast. He was going to send her away, she just knew it. Mal hunkered down and tilted her face up so that he could look her in the eye. Something here wasn't right. "Yen Mah, what are you afraid of?" He asked softly. "Don't you wanna go home?"

She shook her head and bit back the tears. Determined not to cry.

"*Weishenme*? Why are you afraid to go home?"

Shame clouded her face but he had asked her a question and she must answer truthfully or not at all. You did not lie to your *pengyou*. "We are poor people, Mal."

"Not nothin' wrong with bein' poor, Yen Mah."

She refused to look at him. "They sold me."

Horror gripped him in a soundless fury. "Sold you?" A string of virulent curses poured from his mouth as he struggled to stay calm. Yen Mah looked up and touched his arm drawing his eyes to meet hers.

"I was too small to work. Ate too much food. It was only thing to do."

He wanted to cry. To rant and rail. To find her no-good brothers and beat them to within an inch of their lives. Anyone could see the girl was little more than rag and bones but she had spirt. A goodness in her that he had seen in many people of Chinese descent. The calm that flowed from following the Tao. He tried to unclench his fists, to rid himself of the anger that was clouding his reason. "*Duibuqi* Yen Mah, I can't be so calm as you about this. Just hope and pray I never meet your brothers, *dong ma*?"

She nodded, gave him a tentative smile then scrambled upright to stand beside him.

"I'm gonna make you a promise, Yen Mah. One way or another we're gonna get off this gorram rock. I'll take you home with me if you're willin' to trust a man with no boots and a temper to shame the devil."

Yen Mah laughed and wiped the remnants of tears from her face. "You good man, I chose good."

That amused him. "You chose me? *Zenme*? You don't even know me."

For some reason that made the girl disolve into a fit of giggles. Once she had composed herself again she gave him a shy look. "You funny man, good friend. When I find you I look at face. In sleep devil not hide so I see your spirit. Not like bad men."

"Yen Mah, that was a dangerous thing for you to do. You can't just decide who to trust by the look of their face. Some people are right pretty on the outside and fiercesome ugly on the inside."

She nodded solemnly. Serious now because he was. "That why I very careful. You my *pengyou*. We look after each other, *qu*?"

Mal was not sure what he was getting himself into but he could not leave her alone out here. Besides his mama would box his ears from New Year to Christmas if he did. "*Qu*. We look after each other."

* * * * *

Zoe was driving Wash insane, not that he blamed her. After they had eaten she had persuaded everyone to go out in pairs looking for the Captain but despite the deserted streets and market they could not find him. Jayne was getting jumpy. Inara was still not back and Simon looked anxious, as if expecting Alliance troops to materialise out of thin air and snatch River from him. Shepherd Book looked concerned but calm. Urged them all to try to get some sleep. "We'll do a thorough search in the morning. Ask if anyone's seen him."

They knew it made sense but it left all of them on edge. Kaylee was biting back tears. River took her hand and smiled at her. "Not lost, not found."

Kaylee sniffed. "What? You know where the Cap'n is?"

She shook her head then tugged Kaylee's hand. "Sleep now, look tomorrow." "What if somethin's happened to him? He could need us."

"Cap's tougher than he looks." Said Jayne.

She frowned at that, not sure that it was any kind of comfort.

* * * * *

Inara Serra was not impressed by wealth alone but she appreciated comfort. The finer things of life that money could bring. The cushion it provided from the harsh realities of life. The greased palms that would look the other way when dubious things were happening. The many lies fashioned out of cloth too rich for casual wear. Everything was plush. Oppulent. His eyes watched her like a hawk. The semblance of anything that was soft, yielding, caring, gentle was but another sleight of hand paid for in another man's coin. Knowing it did not make the luxury any less but it did make it harder to accept. She had to keep reminding herself why she was doing this. Willingly walking into the lion's den. The spider's web. But she was hardly innocent and this was no bed of thieves. Just a spoilt spiteful rich kid who had taken what he could not buy then bought everything he could get his hands on once he had acquired the coin to do so. He thought wealth made him strong. Virile. Successful. Envied. He thought it made him right.

"I admit Inarra, I am surprised you came. Surprised but pleased."

She watched him watching her. Carefully she kept her thoughts from showing on her face. Calm. She would be the essence of equanimity. "So am I."

His eyes narrowed just a fraction. "Why did you?"

Inara considered her next words with care. Paul Santo was a sharp observer of life despite his many other failings. "Everyone should try to face their demons, Paul."

Darkness gathered like storm clouds in his soul. The threat of it shone in his eyes. The dark mirrored depths reaching for her with vaporous fingers of doom. She did not move. Did not flutter a single eyelash. Her control gave him pause. "You think to toy with me?" He paused a second, his laughing eyes cold as permafrost. "You play a dangerous game, companion."

For long moments neither spoke. Santo broke the silence first. Another black mark he would count against her.

"I ask again." He said. Voice hard. "Why did you come?"

Inara steeled herself and offered a prayer to the merciful Buddha. "Once you took something from me." She said in a quiet but clear voice. Only just managing to hide how much she inwardly shook. "I want it back."

* * * * *

The first glimmer of daybreak and Serenity stirred. Only Jayne had enjoyed an untroubled sleep. Zoe looked as if she had not slept at all. Kaylee looked as if she had cried herself to sleep. Wash looked rumpled but troubled. Simon was more concerned about River's odd distraction than the missing Captain, though his mind would wander back to the puzzle and worry at it as if the clues were sitting in front of him and he were merely overlooking something a child of three could fathom. The Shepherd was rested but concerned. Not yet worried he was interested in observing the reactions of the crew. Silently taking note and sifting the information he gleaned from their responses. He was sure there must be a perfectly logical explanation for the Captain's absence but when the night passed with no sign of his returning a vague unease began to grow inside.

Breakfast was an aborted affair. No one could settle to eat and it looked as if Zoe would not have let them had they wanted to. Book knew they would not be able to move on until this situation was resolved. Zoe stood with her hands on her hips, her eyes flashing like pieces of flint striking against each other lacking only for tinder. No one spoke. All eyes on her.

"We hit the market and hit it fast, while few people are about so we can cover more ground. Simon and River you stay on Serenity. Kaylee stay with them and make sure no one gets nosey while we're gone. You don't open the ramp for anyone, *dong ma*? When we get back we'll enter the access code and let ourselves in after identifying ourselves. Clear?"

Everyone but River nodded. She shook her head. "I want to look."

Simon put his arm around her shoulder. "No, *mei mei*. Zoe's right. We're safer here."

Not waiting for her acquiessence Zoe checked her weapon before nodding to Jayne. "You're with the Shepherd. Wash - you're with me."

In short order they were on the ramp, Kaylee watching with wide troubled eyes. As they stepped out onto the dusty ground Zoe turned to look back and indicated for Kaylee to lock down. She nodded without speaking and raised the ramp. Once it was shut Zoe took a deep steadying breath then turned to Book. "You and Jayne check all the bars and any other likely places you can think of, me and Wash'll check the market and make a few discreet enquiries."

The Preacher nodded and whispered something to Jayne. They moved off quickly. Wash turned his head first one way then another. The whole damn place was filled with row upon row of almost identical stalls. Only the tablecloths were different, their dyed squares fluttering in the bright sunshine like moths around a flame. Wash yawned and put a hand over his mouth, his look sobering instantly at the undisguised worry he caught in Zoe's eyes before she could mask it.

"We'll find him, *bao bei*. How hard can it be? You know the Captain, probably got in a card game, had a few too many to drink and is sleeping it off under some table."

She did not respond. The scowl deepening on her face. They both knew the Captain had not got into a card game or gone whoring or done any of the dozen or so things anyone else might have done. He had told them all to be back at the ship in a couple of hours. Three or four at the most. He was a stickler for punctuality, his own as well as theirs. Late he might be if something or someone delayed him but out all night? Never. Not without contacting his ship and letting them know first. Wash was really beginning to worry now. In silence they checked the stalls, asking here and there if anyone had seen a man of Mal's description but they drew a blank. It was as they came to the end of the market area and were considering what to do next that something made Zoe look off down a narrow side street. The area was filling up with people, streets much busier than they had been even an hour ago. The sun rising higher in the sky and taking the temperature with it. In places shallow puddles of water hung on to last night's rain as if reluctant to release the moisture. Wash was talking, or at least his mouth was moving. Funny. Zoe could not hear a word he said.

A figure stood down the narrow street with his back to her, a smaller figure at his side and leaning close as if telling him something. She tried to shrug and turn away, get back to the task they had set themselves, but something kept drawing her eye. Wash noticed and stopped talking, his head turning to see what she was looking at. At that precise moment the figure turned and Zoe felt her heart lurch with relief and recognition. "Captain!"

There was no reaction. The man was talking animatedly to a young Chinese girl. She was maybe ten or eleven years old. Grubby and painfully thin but with an animated face. They were too far away to hear the conversation. All Zoe felt was a tremendous relief as if a great weight had been taken off her heart and soul. Wash beamed at her. "See, *xin gan*? Nothing to worry about at all."

Zoe did not say anything, breaking into a sudden brisk stride that had him hurrying just to keep up with her. He activated his transmitter as he walked telling the others they could go back to the ship. The Captain had been found. Jayne wanted details but Wash cut him off. "Tell you later. See you in a few."

It was not until they were just a few yards from the Captain that Zoe hesitated. She was sure he had seen them. Pretty hard to miss two people walking down a narrow alley towards you. Not as if there was much in the way of distraction unless you counted the girl. The girl. Zoe froze and paid her more attention. The girl had been smiling, laughing up into the Captain's face as he said something teasing to her. They had a relaxed manner with one another which made her feel vaguely uneasy. Who was she? How did the Captain know her? She shortened the distance to a couple of feet and at last the Captain straightened and turned his head, freezing in surprise at the sight of her. His mouth dropped open and for a moment the world seemed to stop turning in its' orbit. His eyes widened with recognition, warmth chasing the brief wariness from his eyes.

"Zoe? *Tianna*! Is that really you?"

Joy spread openly across his face. Quickly he closed the distance between them and put his hands on her shoulders, staring intently into her face as if to reassure himself that his eyes were not deceiving him. It had been many years since she had last seen him look so happy.

"*Tian Yehsoo* it is you!" He braced his arms so he could hold her at arm's length and get a good look at her, completely oblivious of the presence of Wash. "Let me get a good look at you." He gave an awe-struck whistle then picked her up in his arms and spun her round and round in an expression of almost giddy delight. "*Wu de ma*, I never would have believed it! Little Zoe, all growed up and pretty as a picture I do declare."

Zoe flushed, even her ears going red. What the gorram was wrong with him? Had he been drinking? Mal laughed at her dumbfounded expression enjoying the look on her face then carefully set her down with a soft chuckle. He smiled and tried to calm down. "Are you ever a sight for sore eyes, *bao bei*. Wait 'till mama sees you."

Her eyes narrowed as her heart constricted with pain. Suddenly her mouth had gone dry. "Mama?"

He nodded happily. "Uh huh." Mal was looking round, craning his neck but still not noticing Wash. "Where are the others, Zo?"

She felt a trickle of relief. "I sent them back to the ship."

His head snapped round to focus on her face. "Ship? What ship?"

Zoe felt her heart turn over. "Serenity."

The name did not spark any recognition on his face. He frowned. "What they doin' on a gorram boat?"

Wash took a step towards Zoe and slid an arm around her waist. He looked at the Captain. "You don't know how glad we are to see you! Had us all in a panic for a while, Captain."

Mal stared at Wash, eyes narrowing at the arm placed possessively around Zoe's waist, his eyes flicking back up to Wash's face. Zoe's heart had turned to lead. "Mal?"

He did not take his eyes off Wash. "Yeah?"

"What happened?"

The Captain glanced at her then flushed. "*You ren tou le wo de dongxi*."

The pilot's eyes widened in alarm at his words. "Robbed?"

Mal frowned slightly at Wash but addressed himself to Zoe. "*Tamen touzou le wode xuezi*."

Zoe looked down at his stocking feet and had to fight the urge to smile. "Did you see who they were?"

He shook his head and winced at being bested. "No, they must have jumped me from behind." Mal closed his eyes for a moment, suddenly feeling a wave of nausea accompanied by dizziness. The inside of his head was ringing like a bell at matins. The painful throbbing making it hard to think.

A hand reached out to steady him as Zoe peered anxiously into his face. "*Ni hao ma*?

"*Wo touyun*."

Worried about him, she did not let go of his arm. "Come on, you should sit down. *Gandao tengtong ma*?"

"*Wode tou teng*. Just give me a minute, Zoe."

Beside her Wash was frowning, hovering anxiously. "We need to get you back to the ship, Captain. Let Simon take a look at you."

With an effort, the Captain opened his eyes and stared at Wash. "Who are you?"

Zoe felt her world lurch beneath her feet. Her face draining of all colour. "Mal, this is Wash. My husband."

Under any other circumstances it might have been funny but all Zoe wanted to do was cry. It was obvious the Captain did not know who Wash was. He recognised Zoe but from years ago. Before the War most like judging from his comments about how she had grown. She had forgotten how carefree and happy the Captain had once been. It hurt to see the innocence he had lost staring her in the face and rolling back the years like some cruel vision of the past.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*ni hao ma* = how are you? *ni* = you *wo touteng* = I have a headache *nu haizi* = girl *qu* = yes *wo mingzi jiao* = my name is... *nin gui xing* = may I ask your name? *ye ye* = grandfather *qing* = please *duibuqi* = sorry *bu* = no *weishenme* = why? *ji suo bu yu, wu shi yu ren* = do not do to others what you do not wish others to do to you *gaoxing* = happy *tamen touzou le wode xuezi* = they took my boots! *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *pengyou* = friend *dong ma* = understand *zenme* = how *mei mei* = little sister *bao bei* = baby/darling/precious *xin gan* = sweetheart *tianna* = Oh God *tian Yehsoo* = sweet Jesus *wu de ma* = mother of God *wo touyun* = I feel dizzy *you ren tou le wo de dongxi* = I've been robbed *gandao tengtong ma* = do you feel any pain? *wode tou teng* = my head hurts


Tuesday, September 23, 2003 2:57 PM


well i am intrigued please keep writing

Wednesday, January 14, 2004 11:43 AM


Hmmm... Very interesting... Can't wait to see where your going with this...


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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.