STOLEN MOMENTS: 34. "Resolution"
Thursday, June 30, 2005

"River's plan shocks the Captain. Zoe, Jayne and Book find more than they bargained for and when the crew finally reunites a reckoning is waiting for Badger."



SUMMARY: "River's plan shocks the Captain. Zoe, Jayne and Book find more than they bargained for and when the crew finally reunites a reckoning is waiting for Badger." 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.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Getting to the children was one of the easier parts of the plan. Seeing as how he was making it up as they went along, Mal had no reason to be out of sorts but his gut was churning, the rattlers joining hands and having a gorram party at his expense. Carla called him on it.

"*Shenme shi*, Mal? You're as uptight as an overwound spring."

"*Wo bu xihuan*. How come there're no guards?"

Carla was silent for a moment, all her attention on checking the kids. Hugging little Zack like she was afraid he was going to disappear if she so much as took her eyes off him for a second. Trisha clung to the Captain's neck as he carefully handed over the twins Christian and Lucy, Emma crying with relief and gratitude as she hugged them to her heart. Anna chuckled as she finally managed to take Trisha off the Captain's hands, her eyes twinkling at the ready rapport he seemed to have with the children.

"Anybody ever tell you you'd make a good father, Mal?"

The Captain blinked, his unease mounting at their continued good fortune. Expecting at any moment for Atherton and his men to come rushing into the building and close the trap. Not nothing should be this easy and it unsettled him more than he could say. Not that he intended to tell the women that. It made him more than a mite impatient, his abrupt response bordering on the surly. "*Bu qu*, best not to tarry, *dong ma*?"

River smiled at the Captain. "Daddy's very protective."

He opened his mouth to correct her. Carla nodded to River assuming that she was the Captain's daughter and that was why the two had such a natural connection. Before Mal could set her right he noticed the smile disappear from River's face. Everything else in his head was forgotten. Worry crowding in on him like uninvited guests. *What the good gorram's wrong?*

"Have to go! No more time!"

Mal swore, quickly ushering the women back the way they had come, down through the cellar to the hidden passageway leading back into the underground tunnel system. Hoping the complex corridors and catacombs would not become their premature tombs. Sending the women and their children on ahead he hesitated when he realised River and the Lost Ones were not following him. "River, gorrammit! We ain't got time for this, *dong ma*?"

The girl was all manner of calm which set the Captain's skin crawling with the wrongness of it. "Go! We'll cover you. Protect you for a change, Captain."

Alarmed he wanted to reach out, grab her and force her down into the tunnel and safety but she kept her distance reducing him to pleading. "River, *qing, bao bei*. Ain't gonna leave you, a couple of minutes from now this place is gonna be swarming with Atherton's men. First thing he'll do is hand you and the others over to the Alliance. Hands of Blue, *dong ma*?"

Eerily enough River smiled back at him, her look calm. "We have a surprise for him."

The Captain's heart ached. Why was she doing this and why couldn't he hear her in his gorram head? Or was she blocking her thoughts so he couldn't foil her suicidal plan? She had to come now, they all did, that way he could save them. River shook her head.

"I know what I'm doing, Captain. I'm damaged not stupid."

Her words made him want to cry but he didn't. Had to be strong for all of them. It was all he had to give. "Ain't leavin' you behind, *xin gan*."

"Won't be left behind." She tried to assure him but the Captain didn't understand.

River let enough of her plan leak into his thoughts to make the Captain gasp. Rutting *diyu*. Her smile became almost predatory as she saw the realisation on his face turn to horror. She was the face of vengeance waiting to unleash itself on the target of her wrath. If what he had been allowed to glimpse was even partway true then River was more than his gifted assassin. She was the ultimate weapon - death incarnate. And all the Lost Ones. Those pathetic looking remnants of children-that-were would be a force which would magnify her power a hundred-fold.

"No power in the 'verse!" She cried, her eyes beginning to shine in anticipation of what was to come. "Go! Don't be mistaking this for a suggestion, Captain. Clocks ticking and timing is everything."

Mal moved as if driven, his stunned mind obeying against his will before his body could reclaim use of his motor functions. Stumbling on running feet while inwardly he raged, the whores and their babes a ragged band of innocents attempting to escape a holocaust. Tears of frustration ran silently down his face because there was nothing he could do to stop this, because he could not save them all. He was the Captain, wasn't right to leave the girl in danger. Unprotected. Didn't give a good gorram if she was a killer or some kind of Doomsday machine. River's thoughts drifted back to him, tasting his sorrow and wanting to comfort him. Explain and reassure him that all was not lost. A part of Mal aware that even as she spared a fleeting wash of compassion and affection for him her agile mind was being sharpened for the battle to come. And there was not nothing he could about it.

* * * * *

It was not often that Atherton Wing had the exquisite pleasure of plotting so fitting a revenge. Although the underground system was extensive he knew many of the main arteries and enough of the lesser known paths both to and from the surface to have the advantage. Yet as accomplished as he was he did not know them all. River Tam urged, pushed, and propelled the Captain through a dizzying route of tunnels and corridors that made his head spin. The whores assumed he knew the way but nothing could have been further from the truth and the more distance they covered the less certain he was of any gorram thing except that they were going in the wrong direction. Away from River. Towards safety. The press of her mind on his was causing him to perspire as he struggled to fight against her will, his attempts to turn back thwarted with an ease which was creepifying. His body as well as his mind seemed not his own.

"Where are they?"

Atherton's man, Dibellio, did not hesitate in his response. "In the third section on the first level. Approaching the north-east catacombs."

A nod was his only reward, the spoilt handsome face distorted by dark emotions, eyes glinting with eager anticipation. "You know what to do."

Dibellio left quickly taking some of Atherton's men with him, others were already filtering towards the entrance of the north-east catacombs from within. In seconds there would be nowhere for Captain Reynolds and his rag tag band of whores to run. At least. That was the theory. Atherton adjusted his clothing with care, not needing to look into a mirror to preen himself. Wanting every crease vanquished, his dress suit flawless and cut from the most expensive cloth money could buy. He wanted to be there to gloat but would do it in style. Within minutes Dibellio's voice barely crackled over the com.

"How long?"

The man did not hesitate. "Minutes, *shifu*. We have all the exits to the catacombs covered."

"Be sure you are not seen until I give the command, *dong ma*?"

"Yes, sir!"

"I am on my way."

* * * * *

Zoe was sweating something fierce. The tunnel system had taken not only the best of the air but also her temper with it. Seething while her body overheated she tried to keep some semblance of control over her emotions. Shepherd Book noticed how ansty she was but did not comment on it. Jayne was starting to feel a touch rebellious. This fool's errand was beginning to look like a one-way trip to nowhere and where was the profit in that?

"Anyone know where the gorram we are?" He growled, voice thick with irritation.

"Underground the graveyard." Zoe responded in a clipped cold tone that warned him not to start.

The Shepherd spoke before Jayne could respond. "*Tingzhi*! Did you hear that?"

They stopped. Zoe frowned, stretching her ears to hear whatever it was that was spooking the Preacher. Jayne tilted his head and caught the furtive sound, spinning and clearing his gun from its' holster before the other two realised there were people coming up behind them. Jayne's mouth dropped open in astonishment. The look would have been comical had they not all been so uptight. The tension a tightrope. Zoe's relief at finding the Captain alive and in one piece was muted by the expression on his face, her eyes flicking to take in the womenfolk some with babes in arm. Her frown deepened even as the relief touched something cold inside and lent it a borrowed warmth. Wary and not sure why did nothing to enhance her mood. Jayne on the other hand was close to ecstatic. Finding the Captain meant they could get the *diyu* out of here.

"Cap! Knew we'd find ya, didnt' figure you'd have no harem with ya though." He leered and licked his lips at all the tasty. None of the women took any notice of his obvious interest which he figured just meant they was all scared. Waiting for a good man to set them right. His *lese* day was beginning to look better and better.

Zoe stared hard at Mal not liking the way he was sweating. "Good as it is to see you sir what happened? An' where's River?"

The Captain bent over to catch his breath, the grip on his mind making his head ache. Carla reaching out to rub a hand in a soothing manner over his back. Zoe's eyebrows rose at the intimate little gesture, the more remarkable for seeming so natural. The Captain was not a man overly fond of being touched by strangers. Zoe's lips compressed in a tight seal while her eyes searched for clues as to what in *diyu* it meant. It was disconcerting how at ease the Captain seemed with first Carla then one or two of the other women paying him attention though to be fair he wasn't responding in kind. That he was suffering their attentions without comment or any attempt to brush them off felt all kinds of *cuode*. The touches were light not sexual, more attempts to comfort or reassure - a hand lightly touching his arm, fingers brushing the damp fringe from his eyes but not lingering, shoulders rubbing against his in a familiarity that made her stomach churn. They almost seemed protective of him which was all kinds of disturbing. What was this? And who the rutting *diyu* were these people? Her next uncharitable thought was to wonder how pissed he would be if she just shot them.

Straightening, the Captain looked Zoe dead in the eye. "Zoe, these women have been under Atherton's heel..." *And yours too?* thought Zoe. "They helped me escape an' I offered them a place aboard Serenity."

She was really concerned now. A place not a ride? What was he thinking? Or maybe he wasn't thinking. Her eyes narrowed. Was the Captain letting his hormones do the talking and if so how could she knock some sense into him? With a jolt she realised he was still speaking, her ears lagging several sentences behind his explanation. He was breathing in snatches which aroused her concern for a more mundane reason. There was a look of pain in his eyes that stopped her speculation cold. "Sir? What the good gorram's wrong with you?"

He shook his head, couldn't tell her. *Wode ma* he couldn't tell anyone least of all their shiny doc. One suggestion that he and River were communicating mind to mind and the boy was like to do something terminally stupid. Not to mention painful. He admired Simon, really he did, but recent events had shown him just how far the doc was willing to go for his sister. Didn't need no demonstration to know how unhealthy that could be for a ship's Captain. It would make no never mind that he had given them a place aboard his ship nor that while doing so they were under his protection. Gratitude always wore thin when panic set in. "*Yiwusuoyou* just needed to catch my breath. Don't call to go fussin', Zoe. I want you an' Jayne to take these people back to the ship. Shepherd, I'd like you to come with me."

"Where are we going?" Asked Book, his expression holding a library of questions.

"To get River."

The Captain took no more than a single step back when a deep piercing pain sliced through his head, his balance deserted him as the black crowded in. Zoe darted forward as Mal fell to his knees but not quickly enough to reach him before the women did. She shot them a death glare but they were not paying her any attention. Carla was trying to get the Captain to stay still and breathe deeply. Zoe was way beyond patient. "Somebody better tell me what in the nine hells is goin' on an' what happened to the Captain!" Mal knelt on the floor with his eyes screwed shut until the dizzy spell passed, the pain easing off but only when he stopped trying to retrace his steps. Gorrammit that girl had some explaining to do. He just hoped she'd be alive to feel the lash of his tongue when they eventually found her.

* * * * *

Inara Serra had given up trying to calm Simon down. Truth to tell she was just as worried but better at masking it. A Companion had to be all things to all people but what did that leave for herself? The words of the House Mistress kept haunting her. Time to stop running away. The sense of home she had felt when she stepped back aboard Serenity had been cathartic but there was an odd sense of incompleteness without the Captain. Kaylee had made her feel better, the girl's love and enthusiasm confectious. Even Simon began to relax but when Inara caught his eye she could see it for the pretence it was.

The Companion was on the bridge, Wash monitoring the com in case the others called in. A tight air of tension bound him, the pilot never relaxed when Zoe was off on a job. Simon leaned on a console and resolutely refused to look out into the Black, his look inward, anxiety telegraphed in every line of his body. Kaylee turned a hopeful look on the Companion. Words tumbling from her mouth as she begged for details of why Inara had come back and unspoken reassurances that she would never leave them again. Wash waved her into premature silence as a voice crackled over the com. It was Zoe.

"Serenity, can you hear me?"

Wash huffed out a great lungful of spent air, his face clearing of panic, his nerves frayed. "Zoe! Good to hear your voice, *bao bei*. What happened?"

"We found the Cap'n an' will meet you at the landin' site. Have Simon stand by."

Worried looks crossed four faces. "Is someone... injured?"

Simon hung over the console like a bird of prey. "Is... did something happen to River? Is she alright?"

"River's fine," Said Zoe quickly. "Talk more when we see you."

Then the com went off. Wash smiled at the others as his hands flew over the controls of the Firefly, his heart all manner of happy. He did not like to think of what would happen the day Zoe didn't come back. She was not just his life she was his heart. And everyone knew the body would cease to function if the heart stopped beating. Kaylee sidled next to Simon and took his hand in hers, looking up at him as if he was the shiniest thing in the whole gorram 'verse. He actually managed to smile back at her, the squeeze on his hand telling him she understood. The look in her eyes saying she would always be there for him.

The minutes seemed to drag as the ship lost height, her heading taking her to the meeting point with unerring accuaracy. Wash was still cautious enough to take a good look around before landing. Inara called him on it. "What are you doing?"

"Just checkin'. Can't be too careful, I didn't wanna land only to find the wrong people waitin' for us."

All the happy fled Kaylee's face, her eyes widening with anxiety and worry. "You think this is a trap?"

Wash shook his head, clearly able to see the landing zone. "*Bu qu*. I didn't mean it like that, just being careful *dong ma*?" Besides, now he could make out Zoe and the Captain. But who were those other people with Book and Jayne?

Once on the ground Wash had reason to revisit his earlier thoughts. Zoe was back but things were most definitely *not* okay. For one thing, River was missing. Simon was incandescent with rage, only the need to form actual words making him keep a remnant of control as he stormed up to the Captain. Oblivious of how weary the man was or the eyes tracking his every move. Kaylee had hugged the Captain then begun to make a fuss of the babies but Simon's anger confused and worried her. For once Simon did not give a good gorram. "How could you LEAVE her? She's just a child!"

The Captain was sorry and more than a little pissed himself but ranting and raving would not solve a thing. "Simon, I didn't have any choice..."

That was when something snapped inside Simon Tam. The trajectory of the fist was perfect. Angle, elevation and speed. The upper cut rocked the Captain back on his feet, Carla and Zoe both reaching out a hand to steady him as he stumbled back. Mal made no attempt to retaliate, knowing how it looked from Simon's perspective and hating himself almost as much the doc did. "You *tamade hundan* don't you DARE give me that excuse! You left her behind to save your own sorry worthless ass!"

Carla had been silent up until then, now her face clouded over. She handed Zack to Evie and stepped past the Captain, ignoring his attempt to stop her from getting involved. Chin jutting out she glared into Simon's furious eyes with a determination the equal of his own. "It wasn't like that, you weren't there."

"Get out of my way, this has nothing to do with you." Simon spat.

Carla did not move. Anna looked concerned and worried, Emma stepped back to check on the Captain but he shook her good intentions off. What was another bloody nose between crew? "Not gonna happen you *baichi*." Simon blinked. How could the woman defend Mal? Everybody who knew him even slightly realised the man was a psycho. Only his few redeeming qualities kept the crew loyal though a little voice in the back of his head was telling him he was being unfair but he didn't give a good gorram. The Captain had left River behind and as far as he was concerned didn't deserve to draw breath let alone have anyone's respect. Carla though was not a woman for backing down. "Simon Tam, if you're gonna go makin' snap decisions at least have the decency to hear the gorram facts first."

A silence fell. Simon took a step back but didn't take his angry eyes off the Captain. Emma had taken out her hankie and was trying to staunch the blood. Inara looked a question at Zoe but the second in command didn't understand what was going on either. The twins, Christian and Lucy took advantage of the lull to crawl around the bridge, Christian being brought up short by Wash catching him around the waist and hoisting up on to his lap. Little Lucy looked up with a very unamused look on her face. Laughing, Wash leant down and quietly began to talk to her, the girl relaxing and tugging at his arm until he let her sit beside her brother on his lap in the pilot's chair.

"Okay," Said Simon with exaggerated calm. "What happened?"

Holding the blood stained hankie to his nose the Captain tried his best to explain as best he was able, the whores chipping in with helpful little comments as he did so. When he had finished Simon was scowling. Kaylee looked nonplussed, not sure why the Captain didn't just ignore River's demand and bring her back anyway. Simon obviously had the same thought. With a sigh Mal realised he would have to tell them the truth, or at least a less volatile version of it. No need to tell the boy more than he had to know. One of them with nightmares was already one too many. "River stopped me."

"Stopped you how?"

It was obvious Simon did not believe him. Gorrammit, Mal had a job believing himself and he had been there. "You know about me sayin' River was a Reader?"

Sparks lit Simon's eyes. He was definitely beyond angry now but was trying to at least give the appearance of letting the Captain explain. "She's not a Reader."

"Yes, Simon," Said the Captain quietly. "She is."

"You don't know that!"

"Yes, I do."

The admission silenced everyone. Simon stared at him, not sure what to think. "*Wo bu dong*..."

"That's what I've been trying to tell you." Said the Captain. "Your sister can read any gorram mind she wants to, lucky for us that ain't too many or too often."

"Ignoring for a moment the part where you say she's a Reader, how could my sister stop you doing something you want to do?"

"River may be a girl Simon but she's gifted. Not in the normal way I'll give you but coupled to those smarts of hers is a very agile mind. Powerful you could say. What I'm tellin' you ain't no fancy, no imaginnin' or somesuch. River reached into my mind an' simply stopped me in my ruttin' tracks, don't ask me the mechanics of how it works just believe me when I say I couldn't ignore that block even if I tried, an' I tried Simon. Brought me to the edge of blackin' out every time I did, so you'll understand if I'm a mite shaken my own self."

No one spoke. Zoe thought back to when the Captain had told her and Jayne to bring the whores and their children to Serenity, that he and the Shepherd would go back for River. Remembered how the moment he tried to do so he had collapsed, in agony, unable to take another step and almost unconscious. As impossible as it seemed she knew the truth when she heard it. "It's true Simon."

The doctor turned his head and stared at her, hesitant because he knew she was the Captain's friend. "You a Reader too, Zoe?"

"*Bu qu* but I was there, so were Jayne an' Book. The Cap'n tried to go back but couldn't. I didn't know why at the time, thought there was somethin' the matter with him."

Simon's anger slowly dissipated. Once again he became aware of Kaylee standing near. Close but not touching. He realised his attack on the Captain had upset her. "You'll understand if I have difficulty embracing the concept."

The Captain nodded then closed his eyes, a wave of dizzyness hitting him without warning. A low groan leaked out of his lips, all the colour draining from his face. Carla urged the Captain to sit on the floor. Simon hurriedly knelt beside him just as the Captain's eyes fluttered open. He seemed to be having trouble focusing. The doctor found himself believing the man. "You're hurt."

"Just a crack across the head is all, if you don't count the bloody nose an' lip." He joked half heartedly.

A wry little smile teased the doctor's mouth but vanished before setting up shop. "I should take a look. You could be suffering a concussion."

"I ain't delusional, doc."

Simon raised both brows and just looked at him. In the background Jayne sniggered then cleared his throat when both the Captain and the doctor looked at him. "*Shenme*? I didn't say nothin'."

The Captain struggled to get up but Simon put a hand on his shoulder and kept it there. "Where d'you think you're going?"

"I may not be able to follow River but perhaps I can find out where in the nine hells she went."

"How are you gonna do that?" Asked Wash.

"I'm gonna go straight to the *wangba dan* who set this up."

The crew exchanged looks. Carla was baffled. Anna anxious for the children. Kaylee smiled at them then looked at the Captain's grim expression, wondering what he had in mind. Inara chose that moment to put two and two together. "You're going after Badger?"

With everything that had happened and the people crowding round him Mal had not spotted Inara. His eyes widened even as his heart leapt at the sight of her. "Inara, what you doin' here?"

"Asking a question you haven't answered."

The Captain blinked. Zoe dipped her head to hide an amused smile. It was good to have the Companion back.

"Yeah, I'm goin' after Badger. Your turn."

It was a pity she would have to say her first words to him in the full glare of so many pairs of eyes. "I realised I don't belong at House Arcadia."

His brow furrowed. Sometimes Serenity's Captain could be very slow. "Huh?"

Her smile was sweet, her eyes warm and amused as she dropped her little bombshell. "I belong here."

Zoe would long relish the look on the Captain's face. A few stunned seconds passed then the Captain was being helped to his feet, issuing orders to Wash and getting his crew moving. Finding Badger was all well and good but may every God that ever was forgive him if he didn't know where their little genius had gone. Because Malcolm Reynolds wouldn't. But then maybe it was time Badger learnt that payback was a bitch.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *qing* = please *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dong ma* = understand *bao bei* = precious/treasure *xin gan* = sweetheart *diyu* = hell *shifu* = sir *tingzhi* = stop! *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *lese* = crappy *cuode* = wrong *baichi* = idiot *wode ma* = mother of God *tamade hundan*/*wangba dan* = fucking bastard


Thursday, June 30, 2005 7:46 AM


Another shiny chapter. I love the characterizations, and once again, I could visualize the action quite clearly.

Friday, July 1, 2005 7:50 AM


OMG - scary, scary River. The predatory smile, the way she can control Mal. Yikes.

Zoe's jealousy at the way the whores were fussing over Mal was very believable and touching. And her idea of just shooting them made me laugh.

Simon. Ah. Now if only he'd thrown Mal up against a wall too, I'd have been so very happy. *g*

Sunday, July 3, 2005 12:12 AM


Thanks for the shiny comments Cliomuse and Kispexi2. As for Simon throwing Mal up against a wall I'll leave that to you Kispexi2! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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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.