STOLEN MOMENTS: 22. "Bitter Fruit"
Sunday, May 15, 2005

"Mal and Zoe get tired of waiting for Jayne to come and find them. Not wanting to taste the bitter fruit of defeat the Captain tries to come up with a plan."



SUMMARY: "Mal and Zoe get tired of waiting for Jayne to come and find them. Not wanting to taste the bitter fruit of defeat the Captain tries to come up with a plan." 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

* * * * *

The small group of men were bound by a growing tension. The long abandoned church ruins like a broken crown on the head of some fallen king with the deep dark mist all around them like some foul sea. They could not even see the graveyard let alone any detail more than a few yards in front of them. The tall figure turned a handsome face twisted with disfavour in his companion's direction. His whole manner and demeanour suggesting exactly where the blame for this little fiasco lay. "What happened?"

The little man tugged on his lapels, so high and mighty for one so short. "*Wo bu zhidao*, how the gorram would I know? Delivered the message, not my fault if the *wangu shenjingbing baichi* of a Captain didn't fall for it now is it?"

The taller man's eyes narrowed darkly but Badger had been intimidated by far better folk than him. Plus he had his men, armed and watchful dotted about the place. Badger never went anywhere alone. "If Reynolds' suspected..."

"Don't look at me Wing, I done my part. Man's nothin' if not contrary but I'll say this for 'im, Reynolds always shows for a job."

"Except this time."

Badger didn't respond immediately, he had been looking forward to seeing the expression on Malcolm Reynolds' face when the trap fell around him. It was all kinds of annoying to have everything fall through when it was going so smooth. Something must have happened but what? "Somethin's wrong. Didn't go wrong my end, what you do?"

Atherton Wing glared hard at the little man, only just resisting the urge to knock him flat on his back. All too aware of the men Badger had keeping an eye on proceedings. The little kingpin could see the accusation flashing in Wing's flinty eyes.

"*Wei*, don't look at me like that. I wanna see that smug *wangba dan* taken down a peg or two same as you."

There was a flash of white as Atherton grinned disingenuously, his mouth twisting. A glint of steel in his mean and cold eyes. "I doubt that but applaud the sentiment."

"So, what you gonna do? Not that it matters to me if he shows or not you still owe me a tidy sum."

"You'll get paid when I have Captain Reynolds and not before."

That did not please Badger one bit. He took a step towards Atherton, all angry tension. "That wasn't the deal an' you know it. So unless you want more ventilation than you were born with you'll pay for work done an' no more attitude. I didn't 'ave to put myself out for you." For a moment it looked as if Wing was going to refuse which would have been the last thing he did. With bad grace Atherton put his hand slowly in his inside pocket and pulled out a drawstring purse. Badger could almost feel the coin burning in his hand as the bag jingled with an impressive weight. Only when he had the money in his grubby little hands did Badger look happy. The stick up Wing's *pigu* looked to be even bigger than the one Lord Harrow or Malcolm Reynolds had. Maybe it hadn't turned out so bad after all.

"Ta for the business, can't say it's been a pleasure workin' with you but business is business, *dong ma*? Hard times like these, sometimes a man has to shake hands with the devil."

Atherton Wing opened his mouth as if to protest. Badger interrupted before he could get a word out.

"No offence."

The way he said it stressed that the exact opposite was true. Wing's face darkened. "Find out what happened to Reynolds."

"See, this is the part you don't seem to be comprehendin'." Badger looked him up and down slowly to underline his distaste for the man, no longer amused. "I ain't your lackey see? I'm a business man, pillar of the community. An' you? You're old news. Maybe Reynolds got wind of your little scheme or maybe it's just bad luck but whatever it is has nothin' to do with me." He paused then flashed Wing a false grin. "Still, got no time for chattin'. Some of us have work to do."

"You can't leave, what about Reynolds? How am I going to find him?"

The little man's face brightened and he smiled but the smile did not reach his eyes. "You could try lookin' for him but you want my advice? Forget 'im. Get on with your gorram life. Man like Malcolm Reynolds'll fall foul of the Alliance soon enough an' when he does you won't have to worry about him ever again." He paused a beat. "Or, that shot we 'eard could 'ave been someone doin' the job for you. That bein' the case you could always try holdin' a seance."

* * * * *

It was quickly apparent that something had scared the mercenary and scared him bad. Wash was all manner of anxious. Jayne had gone out with the Captain and his wife. Coming back alone, shaken and babbling like the living *goushi* had been kicked out of him filled the pilot with the worst kind of alarm. "Where's Zoe? Did somethin' go wrong with the meet?"

Jayne was close to hyperventilating.

"Calm down Jayne, take deep breaths then tell us what happened."

The control in Simon's voice seemed to cut through the big man's panic and he actually did as instructed. They were all gathered round him now in Serenity's cargo hold, only Inara was missing and that was a hole Kaylee did not think would ever be filled. River looked at Kaylee with kindness and compassion but did not say anything about the Companion. She knew the difference between going and leaving was about more than physical absence or even distance. Before the month was out Kaylee would know it too.

Shepherd Book put a hand on Jayne's shoulder to steady him. "Jayne. We have to know what happened to the Captain and Zoe."

The flash of fear was back in Jayne's eyes but now Wash was not so sure it didn't also hold a look of guilt, shame even. Before he could demand to know what was going on the big man spoke. His words sucking all the air out of the room and leaving each and every one of them stunned. "Weren't no meet, never got that far." He gulped in search of more air. "Had to go through that gorram graveyard..." The man shuddered involuntarily.

"The dead cannot hurt you, Jayne." Said Book softly, his tone reassuring.

The mercenary glared at him. "How d'ya know? I know what I seen an' felt an' I ain't goin' back there!" He paused a beat to calm down. "This gorram mist came outta nowhere, so dark an' thick an' bindin'. Couldn't see a ruttin' thing. Then there was stuff happenin' an' it all got confusin'. Nobody knew what was what. Figured it was an ambush." Wash's eyes narrowed with suspicion. "What did you do?"

Jayne still looked scared and that was creeping them all out. It did not take a genius to realise the big man was not scared of them. "Weren't gonna let 'em get me without a fight."

This time it was Simon's voice asking. "What did you do?"

"On'y thing I could do," He countered with a glare. "Shot my way outta there an' came back for help."

"You - came - back - for help?" Said the doctor slowly as if trying to make sense of the words.

"I ain't lyin'!"

Kaylee was not sure what to make of it but surely it couldn't be as bad as the others were thinking? After all. Jayne had come back, that meant Zoe and Captain could too, didn't it? River turned her head and looked at Kaylee. "Even the walls of the dead wouldn't have made him stay."

"Jayne," Said the Preacher in a calm even tone. "Did you see anyone else? Hear voices, that kind of thing?" "I ain't goin' ruttin' *shenjingbing* if that's what you're sayin'."

"Nobody's saying that but we have to know as much as we can before we go and look for the Captain and Zoe."

The big man's eyes widened in fear. "I ain't goin' back!"

Wash was fast losing the little patience he had with the man. His wife was out there and this big useless hunk had left her to who knows what kind of fate. Morbid and creepifying might be the least of it. "You can't just leave them there! They could be in danger, hurt, *tianna* anythin' could have happened."

It was Book who calmed things down again, smoothly taking control. "Nobody's leaving anyone behind." That was not quite what Wash meant but it was as close as made no difference. Kaylee was looking at Jayne, a slightly puzzled look on her concerned face. "What are you so afraid of, Jayne? It's just a graveyard."

River's clear voice sailed over their heads and pinned the mercenary to his fear as accurately as an arrow from the mouth of hell. "Ghosts. The dead coming to claim the living. Hands of bone, without skin or flesh, throats without voice boxes screaming inside his head, eye sockets empty and accusing. The host of the unquiet dead reaching for the souls of the living."

* * * * *

It was the stench most of all that was getting to him. The Captain tried to tell himself that was all that it was. But being down the hole was getting to him, bringing back memories he would rather have cut out of his head than keep. He shivered, the notion making him think of River and what those twisted *tamade hundan* had done to her. He felt Zoe stir next to him, knew she was hurting. Felt worse than useless because he couldn't do a gorram thing about it. Not being able to see had made his attempts at first aid clumsy but Zoe had borne it with the silent stoicism that had become her trademark. Didn't realise she had learnt it from him.


"Yes, sir?"

"We're gettin' outta here."

"Yes, sir, if you say so."

Her flat tone did not please him. "No, we are. *Zhen de*."

That caught her attention. "How?"

"I'm gonna scramble out then pull you out after me."

"Good plan, sir, but you'll recall how the last dozen times you tried that the earth crumbled away in your hands? Not likely to be no different this time."

"Yes, it will."

She blinked. "Still not seein' it, sir."

"I know my mistake now. I was trying to scramble out and that very action was loosening the earth. Not gonna do that this time."

"Don't see how this is helpin'."

"You will because this time you're climbin' out."

Her amusement was laid thick over dark sarcasm. "You hit your head, sir?"

"Ain't got nothin' to do with it, Zoe. You're goin' but I'm gonna lift you up, *dong ma*? You can climb up my body to get out."

"What if the hole is deeper than the two of us?"

He had thought about that but didn't want to admit as much to Zoe. They were getting out and that was all there was to it. They were too damn stubborn to die. "It ain't."

"But what if it is?"

A moment of silence passed between them. "Then I throw you out."

A much longer silence now. Neither of them moving to act on the plan. "If I get out - an' I'm not sayin' this plan of yours'll work sir - who's gonna get you out?"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wo bu zhidao* = *wangu* = stubborn *shenjingbing* = crazy *baichi* = idiot *wei* = hey *wangba dan*/*tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *pigu* = bottom *dong ma* = understand *goushi* = crap/dogshit *tianna* oh God! *zhen de* = really


Sunday, May 15, 2005 12:29 PM


I love the Atherton/Badger interaction. I could see them quite clearly in my head. This great!

Tuesday, June 7, 2005 6:26 AM


You did a fabulous job with Badger. Nice dialogue what with the casual insults followed up with "No offence." And I always like to see Atherton Wing having a hard time.

Spot on with Zoe and Mal trying to get out of the hole too. Dry wit, gallows humour. All of the good.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 12:05 PM


Ok, I don't often comment on fics other than ScrewtheAlliance's but I have to say:

First off: There are not enough fics out there with Badger. Thank you thank you thank you!

Second: I love Badger's line about "Unless you want more ventilation than you were born with..." SUPER shiny!!!!

Also: Just in general? I love your Kaylee. She's so cute and sweet and...Kaylee!

Friday, January 12, 2007 1:59 PM


Gorrammit! Another story so good that I have to go back to the start and read it.


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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.