TEMPTATION SERIES: 19. "Not What It Seems"
Monday, August 29, 2005

"Zoe has misgivings. River gives Jayne some sound advice then does the same for the Captain. Book discovers his earlier presentiment of doom was accurate."



SUMMARY: "Zoe has misgivings. River gives Jayne some sound advice then does the same for the Captain. Book discovers his earlier presentiment of doom was accurate." 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

* * * * *

Zoe had been uptight and uncommunicative ever since the two men had come aboard. Only when Armstrong had nodded to the Captain and been welcomed aboard did her tension find a useful direction in which to flow. Instead of being all bottled up it was now aimed in all deadly earnest at her long time friend and Captain. The only courtesy she gave him was to wait until the Shepherd took the men on a tour of the ship to see if it would meet with their requirements. Once they were well out of earshot she didn't hold back. "I don't like it, sir."

Though her voice was not raised and was as even as a gorram spirit level her disapproval hung like a gibbet between them. For a moment Mal looked at her in shock. "*Tianna*, they're friends of Chung-li, Zoe. What's not to like?"

"Never said they were friends, sir. An' that cargo they said we'd be transportin'? What kind of cargo would that be?" Her response was short, bitten off and filled with rancour. Her expression enough to sour new milk. A look with not an inch of give in it.


"We know nothin' about them, got no call to believe a gorram word they say."

"That phrase..."

"Is common, Mal. Don't mean a thing."

The Captain's expression settled into firm grim lines. Every bit as stubborn as his second in command. "They said it was more transportin' than cargo."

Her eyes narrowed. "Not nothin' came aboard save the two of them."

"I can gorram count, Zoe!" The Captain gritted out, liking her opposition only a mite less than the stirring of doubt her words were raising in his gut. He paused and forced himself to calm down. "Not sayin' we don't got some details to work out - not sayin' that - just don't be decidin' against the job 'til you hear what it is, *dong ma*?"

"An' will we?"

He blinked. "Will we what?"

"Hear what it is?"

"Zoe, I ain't no ruttin' mind reader, *dui*? Soon as they've had their tour we'll gather everyone in the commons to hear the full of it. Get all the gorram details up front before any decision's made, that satisfy you?"

Her look was not so angry, leastways not at him any more and his reassurances not to do anything hasty did alleviate some of her concern. Mal knew her ansty behaviour was just a defence mechanism. Always ready to protect him even when there was no danger he could see his own self which was rather the point. He trusted her instincts even when the exercise of them rubbed him up the wrong way. Zoe gave him a look that put him on notice. A whole library of not happy in her eyes condensed into a few terse words that hung between them like an uneasy truce. "Just don't like it is all."

Wisely the Captain made no further comment. Holding back the urge to sigh he headed off in the direction Book had taken the two men and tried not to think of it as anything more than a tactical retreat.

* * * * *

He was sore. His whole gorram body one big pile of agony radiating from his most tender spot. He was going to kill that rutting doctor as soon as his head stopped spinning and his tender parts settled down. At least he could urinate now but the near passing out took the shine off that novelty real quick. Lumbering to his feet Jayne gasped and put a hand out to the wall of his bunk to steady himself, his unhappy musings doubling when the last voice he wanted to hear - ever - sang like some demented canary in his ear.

"Told you to rest. Medicine can't do its' job if you don't do yours."

He spun round meaning to yell in her face but the moment he did so the ground moved with alarming speed until it made full contact with his face. He grunted, eyes closed as the pain stunned then shot through him like some gorram lightening strike. Gasping he got his spike of panic under control and opened rheumy eyes. River Tam was standing not two feet in front of him her head hanging down and eyes watching him as if he was some specimen in a bottle. "Have to rest, lose the nausea, then get ready for some thrilling heroics." He squinted up at the crazy girl, electing to move real slow until he was sure he wouldn't throw up. "Heroics, huh?"

She beamed at him and straightened. Then a faraway look came into her eyes and she tilted her head. He had the uncomfortable feeling bad news was coming his way. Or more accurately, *more* bad news. Could his rutting day get any worse? Then he heard it. The voice of command he was hoping would forget his mother had ever given birth to him. At least until this unpleasantness had passed.


Jayne closed his eyes and groaned. River straightened then leapt up the ladder just in time to come face to face with the Captain at the top of it.

"What you doin' here, River? Jayne in there?"

She smiled. "Had to take his medicine. Can't work on an empty stomach and he can't keep anything down."

His look shifted from one of growing annoyance to the first shadings of concern. "He sick?"

River nodded. "Pain of his own making but it still hurts."

The Captain gave a slow blink. "Huh." Quickly reassessing how soon he would need his mercenary up and about he decided to cut the man a little slack. Not too much now or Jayne would think he was going soft. Like that was going to happen while he lived and breathed. "Okay. Best he rest, recover an' such like."

Although the Captain was mighty curious and kept darting looks down the ladder into Jayne's bunk he was slowly backing away. If Jayne was sick he wanted none of it.

"Best tell the doc he's got a patient."

"Simon knows." River chirped.

Mal paused and looked at her a little harder. "You know what's wrong with him?"

She nodded. "Too much, too often, bound to get sick."

The Captain just stared at her, not sure what he was thinking was what she was saying and more than a little wary about pushing her for clarity but River gave it anyway. She loved Serenity and everyone on it. They were her family.

"Syphillus, venereal desease..."

"Uh, River, *too* much information, *dong ma*?" Said the Captain backing off, all un-Captainly like.

"You asked." She sang, then continued describing Jayne's symptoms in excruciating detail. The Captain flushed, backing off, eyes widening in horror and embarrassment. With a wince he jettisoned his pride and fled. River smiled softly to herself then leaned down and hung her head through Jayne's open hatch. The big man had managed to stumble up off the floor and on to his bunk, his mouth sagging open as he drooled on the blanket. Eyes half shut as if that could halve the pain. River knew it couldn't but then Jayne was never that good at math. "Gone now," She advised gently, her amusement tinged with affection. "He won't come near you for the rest of the day, no one will."

He should have thanked her but right now he didn't want to interact with anybody least of all a crazy girl. Carefully River shut the hatch then danced off to find Kaylee.

* * * * *

The Shepherd could not put his finger on it. Something was wrong. Out of kilter. Was that why the Captain had asked him to show the men around? And why was it if they wanted to see if the ship could handle their business that they asked no questions and appeared to be assessing the ship and its' layout not the vessel's capability for cargo? He stopped and the two men were forced to pull up short behind him. Book turned to guide them back towards the cargo bay. "I think we should head back and..."

He never finished the sentence. Already wired close to snapping, Hobbs' released all that pent up energy in one accurately aimed punch to the jaw. The upper cut snapped Book's head back and the man crumpled, the two men catching him before he could hit the ground.

* * * * *

Wash turned and smiled as his wife's footfalls echoed on the deck plate behind his pilot's chair. "Did we get the job?"

She frowned, her thoughts distracted. Mood darkening. "*Qu*."

Something in her voice alerted him and he spun his chair round to face her. "*Shenme shi, bao bei*?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* an' I don't like it."

"Did you tell Mal?"

She snorted softly. Wash raised an eyebrow. Well, that was new. He was not sure what to make of it but by now knew better than to pick sides before he knew the full story. "What happened?"

"*Yiwusuoyou*, just somethin' seems off an' the Cap'n won't listen."

"*Bao bei*," Said Wash pulling her into the circle of his arms. "The Cap'n doesn't listen to anybody, you should know that."

It was meant to be a light hearted throw away line that would bring a smile to her lips but she just frowned at him and stiffened. Then it hit him what he had said and the pilot tried to amend his slip.

"I mean he doesn't listen to anybody but you, you he listens to."

"Except this time."

Wash sensed fragile ground. The kind that could open up, collapse beneath your feet and swallow you whole. Never to be found again. What had his good and glorious Captain gone and done now and why was he the one who would have to fix it?

* * * * *

Kaylee couldn't remember the last time she had laughed so much. Tears squeezed themselves out of the corners of her eyes as she stared open mouthed at Simon Tam. The shiny young doctor had been so serious, so full of doctorly concern when he confided in her but the description of Simon trying to treat a reluctant Jayne was just too priceless. Simon broke off and stared at her, stunned to realise he had just broken his hypocratic oath. Horror stole over his face. "Oh my God! Kaylee, I didn't mean... that is... I never intended to say anything..."

The mechanic put down her wrench and wriggled out from under Serenity's engine block, one hand wiping away a stray lock of hair, the other rubbing tears from her eyes and smearing grease over her face. "It's okay Simon, I ain't gonna say nothin'."

"It's just," Simon was an inch short of wringing his hands, mortified at his slip. "It was such a shock."

Kaylee chuckled then seeing Simon's look wiped the smile off her face. "*Tianna* I know it ain't funny but he on'y has himself to blame. But seriously, how bad is it?"

He took a moment to consider. "I've managed to give him a shot of antibiotics, that'll help, plus he can't make anything worse now he's back on Serenity..."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Simon decided not to enlighten her but carried on. "If he does as he's told and rests, lets the medicine do its' work, he should be his usual grouchy cave-man self in a few days."

The mechanic frowned at her husband. A few days? She knew a lot could happen in a few days and the thought of the mercenary flat on his back was not good. Suddenly she didn't feel like smiling any more. "You told the Cap'n?"

He shook his head. That was one conversation he was not looking forward to. Kaylee patted his arm and smiled gently at him. "Word of advice, Simon?"

Simon nodded and held his breath.

"Don't. Wait 'till the Cap'n asks, *dong ma*?" Kaylee leant forward and kissed him, the curving smile of her lips on his sharing the grease and grime for a full minute before he realised she was making him dirty and sprang back. The look in her eyes said she knew perfectly well what she had been doing.

"Kaylee, that isn't funny - I'm all covered in grease!"

Kaylee raised her brows and grinned at him. "An' who do you think is gonna come an' wash it off you?" His look changed to one of painful anticipation. Kaylee laughed and shoved him lightly back. "Go! Stop distractin' me while my girl needs me."

"So, later then?" He said hopefully.

She leant in for a longer lingering kiss. By the time she pulled away he had forgotten all about the grease, the dirt and just how unhygenic it was. "Oh yeah, better believe it *xin gan*. Once I finish here an' get cleaned up? I intend to get you mucky all over again. Don't intend to miss a single spot. Then," She paused and watched him hanging on her every word. The power it gave her made her heart swell, the love and lust almost too much to fit in one itty bitty body like hers. But she'd give it a run for its' money. "Then Simon Tam, I intend to lick it off you. S-l-o-w-l-y."

The doctor's mouth formed a perfect circle, his mind filling in the blanks, his body beginning to respond until he had to physically step back to stop himself doing something that would embarrass him for months to come. Their bunk was one thing, the engine room? Entirely too much chance of getting interrupted and knowing his luck it would be by the Captain. That cooled his ardour some. Enough at least for him to get his three percent brain back into gear and out of the gutter. "Okay, I'll go..." He waved vaguely behind him and took another step back. "I have things to do... in the infirmary... tests and..." He broke off, swallowed then gave her the sweetest smile. "See you later, *bao bei*."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*tianna* = Oh God! *dong ma* = understand? *dui* = correct *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *xin gan* = sweetheart


Monday, August 29, 2005 2:43 AM


Apologies for the delay in posting this next section but Real Life came and hit me upside the head. In the meantime I have been trying to keep track of all the shiny baubles everyone else has been posting. Just love how wonderfully inventive and prolific you all are and am proud as *diyu* of this shiniest of sites. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, August 30, 2005 5:37 AM


Lovely interaction between Simon and Kaylee. And between River and Jayne. I like the idea of River looking after him. And of course, her trick for getting rid of Mal was hilarious.

Just wish I didn't have this sense of foreboding ...


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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.