TEMPTATION SERIES: 17. "Decisions and Explanations"
Friday, August 5, 2005

"Everybody has an opinion."



SUMMARY: "Everybody has an opinion." 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

* * * * *

He was beautiful. Not in the vacuous depths of shallow mortality but in the shining essence of the soul. There was a resonance between them that was as automatic as breathing. An energy that shimmered in silent synchrony like the merging of souls. Souls that were meant to travel together. Attuned to him she could not help but see what others missed. Understated yet permeating their every interaction whether he knew it or not. It was enough that River knew. He sang to her in ways beyond description just as her every atom was heightened in awareness whenever he was near. Didn't have to see him, hear him or even smell him. The sense of him was imprinted right through her body and soul like the lettering on a stick of rock from Earth-that-was. On some subconscious level he knew. Sensed. Recognised her as a fate he could not avoid. Yet the conventions of his upbringing would not allow him accept that knowledge.

River watched him sleep. Made no move to reach out and touch, not wanting to disturb him but feeling her tides rise and fall to the beat of his heart. The breath in his body like an irresistable current controlling her inland sea. It was comforting, hypnotic and alluring all in one. Simon did not understand, believed only in what he could see and touch but for River the prejudices of others could not hold sway over the kingdom of the heart. All she had to do was persuade Mal that there was nothing unnatural or sinful about them being together and therein lay the nub of her dilemna for despite any indications to the contrary the Captain was an honourable man. A mite tweaked and haunted by demons but at heart a good and noble man. Anything which he conceived to be below that benchmark he would resist with the full power of his mind and soul. Ah, but the heart was another matter and not bound by the strictures of other people's expectations nor the arbitrary boundaries of outmoded thought. It was not much but it gave her a little room to manouevre. And desperate as only the love-lorn could be, River would take any advantage she could get.

Having appealed to Simon to help, the anticipated response had both depressed and angered her though not for the reasons her brother might expect. Depressed because Simon had finally found love and peace and contentment in Kaylee's arms. A girl so diametrically opposed to his own privileged upbringing yet so right for him. So full of love and goodness that the joy of life shone right through her and illuminated and uplifted every gorram soul she touched. Simon had not realised nor recognised the rightness of it until he had almost let it go. River had hoped he would have been wiser thereafter but being smart was not the full coin that purchased understanding. Intelligence was a tool, a resource, an ability, that needed many subtle arts to wield with precision. And River knew all about subtle arts.

"And some fell on stony ground." She murmured, angry and heartsore that her brother would deny her the bliss he had found with Kaylee. But because Simon was Simon she could not stay mad at him though he continually frustrated her. He was her brother and she loved him but that didn't mean there wasn't room in her heart for anyone else.

River's eyes drank in the object of her desire, her body moving slowly towards the sleeping man until she folded herself on the floor next to the head of the bed. His head was turned towards her, eyes closed, the long dark lashes laying against his cheek and fascinating her. She should go. Leave him. Let him rest. But River did not move. As if some tie bound them. His lips were slightly parted. Leaning close River dipped her head slowly until her lips hovered a hair's breadth from his own, her breath puffing into his partly open mouth as she drew in his scent. It would take hardly anything at all to close the gap and kiss him but she wanted him awake. Walking and talking. Needed him to see how their puzzle pieces fit together. How inevitable the desire to be one could be. Trembling with the effort to be patient River was about to leave when she heard a light knocking on the hatch. She froze. Eyes widenening just a fraction as she reached out with her mind to identify the caller.

The hesitation at the hatch was all the confirmation she needed. Shiny shoes preceded her brother's descent, the words forming on his lips frozen by the sight of his sister sitting cross legged on the floor beside the sleeping Captain's bed. Shock then alarm flashed through him.

"Not what you think."

"River, what the *diyu* are you doing in the Captain's bunk?"

"I needed to see him."

Simon glanced at the Captain. "He's asleep."

She frowned at him, annoyed. What did he think she was, a dummy? "*Wo zhidao*. 'See' him not talk to him. But you aren't here for that are you?"

"River, what you said earlier... it alarmed me."

"It's not for you to order other people's lives, Simon. Make decisions you won't have to live with. It isn't right and it isn't fair."

Simon opened his mouth to argue when he heard movement above him at the hatch moments before Zoe Warren came down the ladder. Zoe looked at them in surprise, then stared hard at Simon. "What the good gorram is goin' on an' what are you doin' in the Cap'n's bunk? I'm takin' it you are uninvited given he's sleepin', *dui*?"

The doctor flushed but River simply raised her head a little higher and looked Zoe in the eye as if she had every right to be there. Zoe crossed her arms, her face as expressionless as a piece of granite. All kinds of unamused.

"Well? I'm waitin' for your explanation."

Simon decided attack was the best form of defence. "What are you doing here?"

Her eyebrows rose even higher at the hint of challenge in the doctor's voice. "We're coming up on New Dunsmere. Need to know about the job, who the contact is. Your turn."

"I... um..."

"Was just leaving." Finished River for him.

He turned his head to glare at her. For a moment it was as if the siblings had forgotten anyone else was in the room. "River. I don't need you to speak for me."

"And I don't need you speaking for me either." Retorted his sister in that maddeningly sing-song tone she used when she was mocking something he had said.

A clatter made all three of them look up towards the hatch. The Preacher's mouth dropped open as he got to the bottom of the ladder and found the bunk already full. "Has something happened I should be aware of?"

River picked up on the underlying tension and worry hidden in the Shepherd's tone but knew his concern was not rooted in the Here and Now. "You hurt him."

Zoe sucked in a startled breath then glanced from River to Book. "Hurt him how?"

There was a sad look on River's face as if the Preacher had disappointed her. "He trusted you."

Simon was beginning to feel like a non-swimmer plunged into the deep end of the pool without a lifebelt. He just hoped there weren't any sharks. "What are you talking about, *mei mei*?"

"It's nothing." Said Book a mite too quickly to be entirely convincing.

"What ain't nothin'?" Three pairs of guilty eyes turned towards the bed. A sleepy eyed Captain was rapidly becoming fully awake. Sitting on the floor next to the bed River gave Mal a radiant smile. Still feeling more than a mite fragile he rolled carefully onto his side so he could see them all, the look on River's face touching him and eliciting a muted twinkle in his eyes before the humour faded and he turned to the serious business of working out just what the good gorram was going on. "An' why are you in my bunk? I suddenly become irresistable?"

Simon shook his head firmly feeling uncomfortably tongue tied. Zoe looked amused and the Shepherd wished he had waited for the Captain to surface under his own steam. What he had to say was not anything he wanted aired in front of the others. River seemed to pick his last thought clean out of his head, prompting the Shepherd to slam down the shutters so hard it gave him a headache. "Speak the truth and shame the Devil."

Shepherd Book paled at her words. Zoe frowned and wondered what the Preacher had to look so guilty about. Come to that, what the *diyu* was Simon doing here not to mention River? Whatever it was she was determined to get to the bottom of it. "What do you mean?"

* * * * *

Kaylee stepped on to the bridge to see Wash in his customary place in the pilot's chair. Apart from him the bridge was empty. She looked around with an abstracted air. "Wash, where is everyone?"

"I don't know about everyone but Zoe's gone to speak to the Cap'n. Jayne went to his bunk to clean his guns an' Inara's in her shuttle finalisin' details with her next client before we reach New Dunsmere."

Kaylee seemed a little tense. "I've looked everywhere but can't find Simon."

An amused look came into Wash's eye. That explained the anxiety he could sense coming off Serenity's mechanic. "Have you tried the infirmary? Simon's probably making out a list of supplies to pick up."

She shook her head. Kaylee was frowning now. "First place I looked." "River's room?"

"Uh huh, he ain't there. Neither is River. An' 'fore you ask I already checked the commons an' the cargo bay."

Kaylee realised she must sound pretty pathetic, getting all anxious and crochety because she couldn't find the doctor. After all, the Firefly wasn't that big and they were in Space. Not like anywhere they could go but Serenity. She gave Wash a sheepish look. "Guess I'm bein' foolish, *dui*?"

The pilot smiled comfortingly at her. "Bu qu*, you're bein' a wife."

That made her smile, the smile widening still further as the mechanic thought of something else. Something other than her oddly absent husband. "So, you an' Zoe, pregnant?"

Now it was Wash's turn to beam from ear to ear, at least until the happiness on his face faltered.

"*Shenme shi*?"

The pilot blinked, feeling something of a *baichi*. "*Yiwusuoyou*, it's just I don't think this is the best place to bring a little person into the 'verse."

Kaylee looked puzzled. "*Weishenme bu*? There ain't nothin' wrong with Serenity."

That was not what Wash had meant. "I don't mean the ship Kaylee I mean *here*." He spread his arms out. "Space. The 'verse. The Black."

"But where else would you bring up a child? You an' Zoe are here, on'y makes sense the baby would be here as well."

"I think what I'm sayin' is," Wash paused, his voice getting quieter. "Maybe we need to settle down first."

The mechanic was frowning now, all kinds of confused. "You an' Zoe been together two years longer than me an' Simon. You seem settled enough."

Wash pulled a face. "I meant - on the ground."

As his full meaning sank in Kaylee's mouth formed a startled circle. "Oh."

He could not bear the sound of her disappointment and sorrow. Knew his wife would be even more vehemently opposed to his need to settle down - 'nest build' as his mama would have said.

"I thought you liked it here?" Kaylee asked in a small hurt voice. "That you thought of Serenity as home?"

"It is, it *is* home Kaylee, it's just - not on the ground, *dong ma*?"

The mechanic looked at him really hard trying to fathom out what he was really saying. After all Wash was a pilot, loved nothing more than flying. Couldn't properly see him settling on solid ground still less wanting to raise a family there. "What're you afraid of?"

Wash blinked. "*Shenme*?"

"You heard me, Wash. What are you afraid of?"

For one surreal moment Wash wondered if it were a multiple choice question. Was Kaylee joking? No. One look at the mechanic's face said she was completely serious. Did he really have to remind her of all the times things hadn't worked out? The plans that backfired? Not to mention the risks they ran with trying to stay under the Alliance radar, steer clear of untrustworthy folk like Saffron and the crew that had shot and tried to take Serenity from Mal when the catalyser blew. And that was not even mentioning their run in with Reavers. But he could see from Kaylee's face that she was not thinking of that. The risk meant nothing to her as long as she could stay on her beloved ship. The only place in the 'verse she would call home.

Locking away his worries and insecurities the pilot gave Kaylee a friendly smile. "Then again why would anyone want to be anywhere else?"

Kaylee's worry instantly evaporated then she laughed brightly. "You had me goin' there for a moment, thought you meant to leave, take Zoe an' the baby. Break up the family." That made Wash blink. This. Them. They were Family? Looking at Kaylee's happy smiling face he had his answer right there. Yep. Family.

* * * * *

Oddly enough it was the Captain who saved the Shepherd from the awkwardness of the moment. "As important as what you all have to say must be I'm thinkin' it's time I was up an' dressed. We got work waitin' for us on New Dunsmere. So if no one objects best you go up to the commons an' I'll see you there, *dong ma*?"

They all knew it was not a request but a politely worded order. He watched them all file out, River lingering. He raised his eyebrows and stared at her. "You too, River."

"*Jide*," Said River as she leaned forward, eyes fastened on his. "Not all explanations are answers."

Confused he simply stared at her. River's expression softened, a hand reaching out to brush her fingers lightly down the side of his face making him shiver unexpectedly inside. Eyes locked on hers he froze. The girl's beauty was breath catching in a creepifying ghostly kind of way and yet something compelled him to be extra patient with her and not let his impatience lash out at the innocent. She was broken and he didn't have it in him to add to that hurt if he could help it. River shook her head, her hand now stilling to rest gently against his cheek.

"Not broken." She whispered. Then to the Captain's surprise she kissed him. Warm lips caressing his own so fleetingly yet promising so much. A riot of feelings cascading from that touch and filling him with conflicting emotions struggling to make sense of a new 'verse of possibilities. Stunned he did not react as she went up the ladder and closed the hatch behind her. Two words rang inside his head not in a child's but a woman's voice. *Love you*. No wonder he had not recognised it. Now he put two and two together and silently groaned. What the good gorram was he going to do about this? Suddenly the painful weals across his back felt not so much like a perverted form of torment but the price paid for sins yet to come.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *wo zhidao* = I know *dui* = correct *mei mei* = little sister *dong ma* = understand? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *baichi* = idiot *yiwusouyou* = nothing *weishenme bu* = why not? *shenme* = what *jide* = remember


Friday, August 5, 2005 10:58 AM


One of your best chapters. Good metaphores, action, and dialog, in an engaging plot. Thank you!

Saturday, August 6, 2005 4:53 AM


" Simon was beginning to feel like a non-swimmer plunged into the deep end of the pool without a lifebelt."

I love that sentence!

Hope Wash is going to be less anxious about bringing up a baby in space soon. Poor chap would die of boredom planetside.

As for Mal - well, I think he's in for a rather nice time of it. Eventually. *g*

Friday, January 12, 2007 5:42 AM


Mal's lines here were particularly good.

> "An' why are you in my bunk? I suddenly become irresistable?"

> Suddenly the painful weals across his back felt not so much like a perverted form of torment but the price paid for sins yet to come.


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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.