BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

THE FORGOTTEN REALM: 15. "One For All"
Friday, November 21, 2003

An unexpected act cheats destiny. The Captain tries to explain himself to his crew not realising they are as stubborn as he is."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2657    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "ONE FOR ALL" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "ALL FOR ONE" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://carlajane.50megs.com/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "An unexpected act cheats destiny. The Captain tries to explain himself to his crew not realising they are as stubborn as he is." 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.

"ONE FOR ALL"

A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

She could not help it, her skin was itching so bad her body was trying to crawl out of it. For the umpteenth time Wash tried to calm her down. Fortunately they were alone on the bridge of Serenity. "Relax, *bao bei*. You know what they say, 'no news is good news'."

Zoe paused, her lips pressed so tight they were almost bloodless. A strained expression on her face. She had a hollow look in her eyes that made him feel cold right through to the marrow in his bones. If she was this bad now what the *diyu* would she be like if they lost the Captain? He did not want to think about it. Would not, could not, go there. He glanced at his instruments to check all was well then tried again. "The Captain knows what he's doing."

Her eyes widened. Something akin to lightening flashed in them only it was a lot more deadly. "*Gos se*, he hasn't a clue what he's up against. This is all kinds of wrong."

"What do you mean he hasn't got a clue? This is Mal we're talking about, *jide*?"

Zoe put her hands on the arms of Wash's pilot's chair and leaned in close. He had to resist the urge to openly squirm at the look in her eyes. "*Bushi*, Wash. This is the Captain without all the memories, the experiences that give him the edge. Without that knowledge to guide him he's like a lamb to the slaughter. Too ruttin' niave and trusting to be doing this on his own."

"He's not alone, sweetie. He has Jayne with him."

She snorted and stood up, her reaction telling him in no uncertain terms what she thought of that. "Great. The niave leading the stupid."

"That's a bit harsh."

"No it isn't. Just bein' honest." Zoe paused, about to launch into a blistering diatribe only the words never left her mouth. Wash noticed her sudden distraction, the colour draining from her face. "Zoe? *xin gan, shenme shi*?"

He turned his head to see what she was looking at just as the proximity alert sounded. The flashing light that had caught her eye now sent the closest thing to a heart attack rushing through his veins and sending his hands flying over the console. An impossibly huge structure dwarfed their field of vision as Wash fought to pull out of the approaching gravity well of the blocky Alliance vessel. "*Taikong suoyou di xingqui dou sai jin wo de pigu! Zhen daomei* Where the *diyu* did that come from?"

As his voice trailed off the vessel hailed them in crisp clipped tones, slowing down its' approach only to bring it into alignment with the Firefly prior to docking. "Crew of the Firefly transport Serenity, prepare to be boarded!"

Wash felt his mouth go very dry. *Tianna*, this was worse than he thought. Bad enough to run into a rutting Alliance ship, worst yet for it to be one that knew who they were. Wash tried not to think how they would know that. Feeling faint and more than a little sick at heart he forced words out of his mouth knowing they had minutes at most. "*Xin gan*, go and warn the others. Best if Simon, River and Yen Mah hide with Inara. There may be some small chance they won't search a Companion's shuttle."

* * * * *

Mal rolled quickly, his arm clamped tight around the Sheriff's waist, the motion flipping them over to swap places so that the lawman was now lying face down in the dirt with the Captain's body a protective shield over the top of him. Jayne was swearing and trying to pull Mal away. "Leave him, Cap, we gotta get outta here *dong ma*?"

"Not without the Sheriff."

His eyes widened to saucer width, disbelief overtaking his shock. "Are you brain damaged, Cap? That *wangba dan* set you up and ya wanna take him with us?"

"Didn't set anyone up, Jayne."

"Ain't the way I see it."

"Then best you go."

Another barrage of shots made them flatten themselves still further. Jayne glared at the Captain, confusion and anger making a volatile mix. "You're comin' even if I have to knock ya out and drag you."

Something indefinable hardened in the Captain's eyes. "Then best you hope I don't wake up."

A slither of fear touched the mercenary. Not fear for himself neither. What the rutting hell was going on? "Cap, this is *fei hua*. We got seconds, minute or so if we're lucky, then those *liumang*'ll have us in the darkest most remote Alliance prison imaginable. I ain't fixin' to spend the last of my days there."

"Not askin' ya to but I ain't leavin' him. Man saved my life, Jayne."

The mercenary gave him a closer look. He had assumed the blood was Mal's. He watched the Captain ease back off the Sheriff and turn him on to his back. For the first time Jayne noticed the jagged hole in the lawman's chest, blood soaking his shirt and the Captain's. He was not sure what to make of it. This was all kinds of confusing. His frown deepened. "Why'd he do that?"

"Same reason he warned me not to come to Shadow, I'm thinkin'."

Jayne shook his head, swung Vera round and sent the welcome party that was trying to sneak up on them scurrying for cover again. In the small lull he spoke again. "Don't make ruttin' sense."

"I think maybe our lawman was tellin' the truth." He paused, his mind racing trying to plot a feasible way of extracting them out of their current predicament. "Help me get him back to the shuttle."

Before Jayne could protest the Sheriff stirred. His eyes opened and took a moment or two to find their focus but it seemed his ears worked fine. "No, Mal. Leave me." His voice sounded dry as if from lack of use.

"Ain't gonna happen, Martin."

"Take me with ya and we're *all* dead, *dong ma*? Ya gotta keep that girl safe. If I go with ya they'll know I must'a been on to 'em. Not only will I be top of the list to *not* make Christmas but my family would be left unprotected. All the might available to them would then be used to hunt you and Yen Mah down. They'd take everyone on your ship, Mal. It'd be worse than Reavers."

The Captain swallowed slowly vaguely aware of Jayne squeezing off shots. All other noises fading into a background blur with his whole concentration narrowing to focus on the lawman who would call him friend. "Can't leave ya."

"Ya have to. Want me to beg, Mal, I'll ruttin' well beg. Leave me and they'll make sure I get the doctorin' I need to fix me up. Good as new. It'll also keep my cover intact, they'll be even more like to trust me. Ya know I'm makin' sense an' I gotta say ya don't have much time for this. If you're gonna trust me it has to be now or not at all."

Mal felt physical pain at the notion of leaving him behind but the man was right. He put a hand on Martin's shoulder and nodded. Hating what he was about to do but forced to bow to the inevitable. The Sheriff felt a sense of relief. It kind of made the pain a mite more bearable. The Captain hesitated as he prepared to go. "Will I see ya again?"

As dizzy and pained as the Sheriff was the uncertainty in the Captain's voice brought a fleeting smile to his lips. His voice was quiet, gruff but certain. "Count on it."

Then in a flurry of gunfire the Captain and Jayne split up and took the first opportunity that presented itself to make a run for it. Managing to meet up again back at the shuttle. As Mal boarded Jayne gave him a satisfied nod. The Captain did not speak, he was still thinking about the lawman lying in a pool of blood as his hands moved over the controls to get them into the air. A man who had knowingly stepped into the line of fire and taken a bullet meant for him. Whether he was brave or stupid Mal did not know but the sacrifice had a profound effect on him. Left him with a hollow feeling in his gut and a bad taste in his mouth. Like he was all kinds of *nuofu* for walking away. As if he had just condemned a brave man to die. Might as well have pulled the gorram trigger himself. Made no difference that he had begged Mal to leave him. The shame of it stuck in his craw. As they rose off the ground Jayne gave him a big happy grin. "Any one ya walk away from." He said, the words a mite too smug for the Captain's comfort.

It sparked a half-memory in Mal's head but when he tried to reach out and retrieve it the remnant vanished like water vapour. The Sheriff said they would meet again. He intended to hold him to that promise.

* * * * *

Simon felt his heart quail in his breast. His breath catching like hiccoughs in his chest, eyes wide and full of alarm. "Alliance?"

"A cruiser looks like." Added the Shepherd calmly.

"You have to hide now." Urged Wash anxiously.

Simon had an arm around River. She looked as if her mind was far far away. For once Simon was grateful for her distraction. "Where's Zoe?"

"You let me worry about my wife, you worry about your sister."

Simon nodded, not asking the other question hovering like a storm crow in the back of his mind. What about the Captain and Jayne? Had Wash had a chance to warn them? His attention was diverted by River shaking her head, a kind of manic focus returning to those distant eyes and worrying him still further. If she got lucid now it could prove impossible to keep her quiet no matter how well they hid. He looked at the Shepherd and realised the man had read his mind. "See to River, Simon. I'll bring what you need."

He nodded. "*Xie xie*."

Wash left and hurried back to the bridge. The Shepherd went to the infirmary and filled a syringe. The contents would keep River sedated for at least four hours. As a precaution he made up another one and hurried to Inara's shuttle. There were few places to hide on a shuttle of this size but there was a piece of removable casing at the back of the pilot's console. You would not find it unless you knew it was there. There were no hinges, no obvious locking mechanism or key holes. The panel was operated by pressure. If you did not know exactly where to place your hands the panel would not open for love or money. A bit like a dead whore. Book tried not to think how that analogy unsettled him. He offered up a short prayer in recompense.

It was amazing how such a small space could accommodate both the doctor and his sister. The Shepherd resisted the urge to shake his head. Inara was fussing, anxious to make sure Simon and River were as comfortable as they could be in such a cramped space. River smiled brightly at the Companion. "Safe and sound. No crying."

Inara smiled at her. "Go to sleep, River. When you wake all will be well again."

Her eyes were already closing, the sedative taking effect. "Daddy knows best."

Inara frowned slightly. Daddy? Simon was shushing his sister gently. Such love and care in every movement that it fascinated and moved Inara. The bond between the siblings was a beautiful thing to see. She turned away before the sudden prick of tears in her eyes drew notice from the Shepherd. The Preacher moved up beside her and Inara stepped back to let him get access to the panel. Before fastening it back in place Inara handed him some bottled water which he passed through to Simon. The doctor gave them a grateful smile, River completely out of it by now, her head cradled in the crook of his arm. Inara wondered where Yen Mah was hiding and offered up a silent prayer. They put the panel back in place just as the ship was boarded.

* * * * *

"Ruttin' hell, where are they?"

Jayne's eyes were big wide saucers. As if whatever the answer was it would be one they would not like hearing. "Something must'a happened."

The Captain shot him a dirty look for stating the obvious. Jayne frowned not understanding why he was pissed off at him.

"*Wei*, I didn't do nothin'."

Mal forced himself to calm down at least outwardly. Inside he was all kinds of unhappy. Nervous energy jumping back and forth across the synaptic gap like a madman tossing a bomb back and forth and waiting to see which side it would explode on. This felt wrong. First he had left an injured man behind, didn't matter that he was not a member of his crew there was a kind of bond between them. A trust he could not explain but valued nevertheless. Now the ship was gone along with Yen Mah and the rest of the crew. Suddenly his whole ruttin' world was turning to *gos se*. He had never felt so powerless. It left him wanting to smash the life out of anything still living around him. He tried not to turn that unreasoning aggression against Jayne. The man was right after all, he hadn't done anything.

* * * * *

Everyone was tense. Nervous. Anxious. Frightened even. Kaylee could not dry her palms no matter how hard she rubbed them against her overalls. Fear literally leaked out of every gorram pore of her skin. They all got a start when they saw the Alliance Commander. Strutting ramrod straight as he boarded with his men, his eyes narrowing as he mentally ticked them off in his head one by one. His bright eyes flicking suspiciously over each of them in turn. "Where are the others?"

They had all been rounded up and assembled in Serenity's cargo bay. Commandant Harkan was not amused when Wash feigned ignorance. "Others? What others?"

"Do not play dumb with me. I know you, *dong ma*? And what's more I know your Captain. Where is he and where's the mercenary?"

The Preacher decided some creative rearrangement of the truth was in order. "They left."

The Commandant glared at him. "I can see that! Where did they go?" He snapped.

"I honestly couldn't say."

"There's only one planet in this vicinity. If they were fool enough to go down to Shadow they'll be kicking their heels in an Alliance prison before they can shout 'surrender'." He paused and his eyes narrowed further. Inara thought he looked a bit like a bloodhound, not in his features so much as his manner. "I did some checking up on your Captain Reynolds after our last meeting." He waited for a reaction. When he got none he continued. Zoe watched him as he paced slowly back and forth in front of them, a desire rising within her to tear the *wangba dan* limb from limb but that would only buy them even more trouble. "I see you are not surprised to discover that I know his real name." Still no response. "I also know he was exiled from Shadow so why did he come back and what is he doing here?"

No one spoke. You could have heard a pin drop. It seemed that while Harkan had checked up on the Captain he had not been so thorough with the crew or he would have known that Zoe had been with him at the Battle of Serenity. Kaylee was trembling so hard she thought she would faint. Inara moved a little closer to her until their shoulders touched. The contact steadied the mechanic a little but it could not calm the frantic racing of her heart. The Commandant stopped and turned to face them again. Whatever goodwill they had garnered from their last meeting it was all blown to fragments now as Harkan's temper began to rise.

"Your silence protects no one! In fact it puts everyone aboard this ship in increasing danger."

Wash felt worry skitter through his guts churning him up inside. Zoe would have reassured him if she could but that was impossible for now. The Commandant gave a nod to one of his men and they watched the Major make his way up the stairs to the catwalk with half a dozen men in toe. The Commandant now actually began to look a mite smug.

"However, if they are hiding aboard this ship I *will* find them."

Wash felt frustrated. Why was Harkan doing this? After all the Captain had saved his ungrateful life. "I don't understand what this is all about."

The Commandant looked at Wash in mock surprise. "Don't you?"

The pilot frowned letting some of his worry and anxiety show. "No. If you must know the Captain went down to the planet surface to visit his folks' grave. We advised against it but you probably have an idea how stubborn he can be." He ignored the glower from Zoe for giving up information. Worried as he was about the Captain and Jayne he was also concerned about Simon, River and Yen Mah. If Harkan knew the Captain and Jayne were not on the ship maybe the search would be aborted or at least not as thorough as it should be.

"And the mercenary?"

"Jayne went with him just in case they ran into trouble."

Harkan laughed. "You must think me weak in the head to believe that pile of *gos se*."

"It's the truth." Averred the Preacher in a quiet solemn tone.

Commandant Harkan turned his head and gave the Shepherd a level look. No sign of amusement on his face now. Eyes turning decidedly frosty. "And this from a man of God who is not supposed to lie?"

Book managed to keep himself from flushing. "I did not lie."

"You said you did not know where they went."

"No," Said the Preacher mildly, careful to keep eye contact with the Commandant and not appearing to threaten or undermine his authority while he corrected him. "I said I honestly could not say which I could not have done having given my word to the Captain."

"But you'll break it now?" The Commandant challenged without raising his voice.

For a moment there was silence. The Shepherd gave a look that implied grave disappointment in him. Something in the Preacher's eyes burning him almost down to the bone. Could it be fire and brimstone? He liked to think not. At that moment his men returned. A shake of the head and the Commandant was frustrated again. He resumed his pacing, more agitated this time. Inara Serra began to watch the Commandant more carefully. The man was obviously on edge but why? What was so important he had come all the way out here in the hopes of running into the Captain? Was it Mal he wanted or something he thought the Captain knew? Or had? She determined not to take her eyes off him, wanting to pick up the slightest clue that might indicate the real reason this vessel was out here because so far she had not smelt anything that carried the odour of truth.

* * * * *

They watched from a distance. The eyeglass proving its' worth as it had once done in the heat of battle. Hal fidgetted but did not interrupt his friend. Long moments stretched. They were lying flat on their stomachs, not enough vegetation to provide cover they were forced to stay at a distance and observe the odd goings on through the eyeglass. At last Frank lowered the glass and pursed his lips before handing it to Hal. "They look like lawmen which is an oddness on its' own account."

Hal nodded, adjusting the glass and feeling more and more uncomfortable. "I don't like this, Frank. What they doin' on Shadow?"

"No tellin' but seems there was some kind of gunfight. One looks pretty shot up."

"Who they fightin'?"

Frank shook his head. Puzzled. "Don't know but whoever it was they're gone now." He paused and looked at Hal. "Did you see or hear anythin' in the night?"

"What? With that wind howlin' an' you a-snorin'?"

He smiled briefly then wriggled back. Hal copied him. Only as the ground sloped behind them did they ease themselves into a crouch knowing the land would mask them from view provided they kept low. "We best get back to the house. Lay low and see what happens. Maybe they'll move on an' if so that's shiny."

"An if they don't?"

"They we need to think to our own safety, Hal. I've already lost everythin' once, don't plan on lettin' it happen a second time, *dong ma*?"

Hal Price nodded. Gorrammit he knew all the words to the song Frank was singing, Devil take him if he didn't.

* * * * *

Sheriff Martin Bowman gritted his teeth as they lifted him. He knew the *laoban* was pissed off having come this close. He did not have to ask whether an Alliance vessel was in orbit, one look at the setup told him all he needed to know. He hoped and prayed that the Captain and Jayne had made good use of their time to get away then feared for them anyway. If the Alliance cruiser found Serenity then all was lost. He closed his eyes and thinking he was in pain the men paused and laid him almost gently back on the ground. Kevin Hooper leaned over the makeshift stretcher. "Sheriff, you okay?"

He groaned softly and let his eyes flutter open again. "*Hen teng*."

Kevin looked worried. "*Nar teng?*"

Stephen Platt scowled. "Where the *diyu* do you think it hurts, *chunren*? He's been shot."

"Yeah," Said Kevin tartly. "By one of our bullets."

"Not our fault he got in the ruttin' way." Said Johnny Tong.

"Best get him back to the transport. Can't doctor him here and the longer we take the more blood he loses."

The men nodded in agreement and lifted the stretcher. The Sheriff closed his eyes and let himself drift off, his thoughts a mire of roads not yet travelled. All his hopes and fears at war with possibilities as unpalatable to him as the taste of the burnt ground forming ashes in his mouth. He knew Mal was smart but would he be smart enough?

* * * * *

Inara felt faint. Whether through fear or something else was not immediately apparent. Zoe cast a glance her way once or twice but always when Harkan's eyes were averted. The man seemed permanently tense and edgy. Wouldn't do to give him any cause to start taking it out on them. Abruptly she sat down. The movement drew the Commandant's eye. "What's the matter with you?"

There was not even a pretence of courtesy in his voice. Shepherd Book's eyes narrowed at the lack of respect being shown to a Registered Companion but he did not say anything. "*Mei shi*, Commandant."

"It matters if I say it matters."

She gave him a hard closed look. If the Shepherd did not know better he would have thought she was warning him off. Kaylee quickly sat next to Inara and took her hand, concern on her face for Inara and for Simon and River. But she was also anxious about Yen Mah. Maybe the girl had gone into hiding before they realised the threat? It just unsettled her more than she could say that she had not seen hide nor hair of the girl since the Captain left. Was the girl really able to see into the future like Simon had suggested? She knew River could see things but it was all messed up in her head with the past and with things that might never happen. It was always hard to be sure exactly what reality River was living in at any given moment. She had her lucid times but they were even more unpredictable than she was. Kaylee bit down on her lip and gave Inara a look of concern. The Companion had lost much of the colour from her face and did not look too good. "I'm fine." Said Inara, carefully schooling her features into an expressionless mask but not before Kaylee had seen the pain in her eyes. What the *diyu* was wrong? And why wouldn't 'Nara tell her?

"If you spent more time on your feet than on your back you wouldn't be feeling so *lei*."

Shepherd Book's brows drew into a deep unforgiving frown. Wash looked shocked but Zoe did not seem surprised by the spiteful little outburst. She had already taken the measure of this man and found him wanting. The Shepherd opened his mouth to admonish the Commandant but Inara pre-empted him. Well meaning or not his defence of her good name would only raise tensions still further and they had too much at stake to dare pushing the Alliance officer. "You are right, Commandant. If you will kindly allow me to rest I would appreciate it."

His eyes narrowed. Harkan walked over to her and spent a few moments observing Inara. After a minute or two he gave a tiny nod. Could see that the Companion really was not well. He was so infuriated, mad as all *diyu* with his orders as much as what he had not been able to find. Damn Captain Reynolds and damn the insane loyalty of his *lese* crew. "Very well, but one of my men will need to accompany you."

Kaylee tightened her grip on Inara's hand suddenly fearful for the Companion's safety. Harkan noticed the girl's protective stance and gave a wry smile. "Don't worry child, no one is going to rape her."

If anything Inara paled still further but only Kaylee noticed. All other eyes being on the Commandant as if hardly able to believe the words coming out of his mouth. As if tiring of the game the Commandant waved her on her way. A soldier came up and whispered in his ear. The Commandant straightened then looked at Wash. "One of your shuttles is missing."

"I told you, the Captain went down to Shadow."

He nodded slowly, his mind whirring. "It seems you were telling the truth. We will be leaving shortly but you will not move on until given clearance to do so, *dong ma*? Fail to observe this simple stricture and I will have this vessel blown from the sky."

"Commandant, what exactly is it you are looking for? If we knew perhaps we could help you." Said the Preacher in his most reasonable tone.

For a split second it looked as if Harkan would tell him then the man's face closed up again. *You wouldn't help me if you knew*. His dark thoughts collided with his conscience. He did not like the empty feeling it left gnawing at his gut. Instead he responded more sharply than he intended, his voice cutting through the thickening atmosphere like Reavers' knives through living flesh. "That is a matter for myself and the Captain."

They watched him stalk off the ship as soon as the soldier who had accompanied Inara to her shuttle returned. Wash could not hide his look of distaste even as the relief flooded through him. "What the gorram is wrong with that *liumang* Commandant and why is he so all-fire set on finding the Captain?"

"And why," Added Shepherd Book in a soft thoughtful voice as he stared at the closed bay door. "Didn't he leave any soldiers on Serenity to make sure we didn't make a run for it?"

"It doesn't make sense." Muttered Wash quietly.

Zoe was staring, eyes hard, mind working overtime. None of her thoughts pleasant. "At least we know why he left no troops on board."

"Yeah?" Said Wash, hoping for enlightenment. "Why's that? 'Cause he trusts us?"

She gave him an almost pitying look, the effect softened by her love for him. "No, *bao bei*. Because if we step out of line he won't lose any of his men when he blasts us out of the sky."

Wash's mouth formed a little shocked circle as understanding dawned. Suddenly their new-found freedom didn't feel so free after all.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bao bei* = precious *diyu* = hell *gos se* = crap *jide* = remember *bushi* = not so *xin gan* = sweetheart *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *dong ma* = understand *taikong suoyou di xingqui dou sai jin wo de pigu = stuff all the planets in the universe into my ass *zhen daomei* = just our luck *tianna* = oh God *wangba dan* = bastard *wei* = hey *fei hua* = garbage (nonsense) *liumang* = bastard/asshole/criminal/gangster *laoban* = boss *nuofu* = coward *xie xie* = thanks *hen teng* = painful *nar teng* = where does it hurt? *chunren* = fool/jerk *mei shi* = it doesn't matter *lese* = garbage *lei* = tired

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