TEMPTATION SERIES: 33. "Drawing the Line"
Friday, November 4, 2005

"Wash has some reservations. River decides to tell Simon a few home truths. Chung-li and the crew of Serenity get an unexpected shock on Glory."



SUMMARY: "Wash has some reservations. River decides to tell Simon a few home truths. Chung-li and the crew of Serenity get an unexpected shock on Glory." 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

* * * * *

It was early. They were still a couple of hours from Glory but Wash knew folk would be stirring real soon. He wanted to be up before the Captain came bellowing into their bunk for him, not that he took much notice of the macho posturing or bull frog impressions. Mal would be uptight enough what with the funeral to come and seeing his friends on Glory under such sad circumstances. Mayhap him and Zoe wouldn't take the baby down to the planet with them. After all, someone would have to stay with the ship. As if reading her *zhangfu's* thoughts Zoe spoke and stirred in the same heartbeat. Wash figured it must be some kind of womanly gift.

"It'll be fine, Wash."

He acted as if he didn't know what she was talking about. "*Shenme*?"

Zoe smiled, the curve of those lush lips making him go weak at the knees and just about everywhere else. The kiss eased the tension out of him quite a bit but he still didn't want to chance anything happening even on a peaceable world like Glory. "Cap'n said Rafe an' his people were real excited to meet the crew again especially the newest edition."

"He's not an *addition*," Huffed Wash. "He's our son."

"*Zhenjing xialai, zhangfu*. We'll be among friends, what could go wrong?"

He could not believe what she was saying. Sitting up, Wash looked across at the crib, little Jack sleeping as if he had not a care in the world. "How can you say that? This is Mal, his plans screw up more times than an accident prone circus clown!"

A frown began to form on Zoe's face prompting some pretty nifty back peddling.

"Not that I'm callin' the Cap'n a clown, *bao bei*, but you have to admit things have a habit of goin' all kinds of wrong when we least expect."

"Can't blame that on the Cap'n."

"*Wo zhidao*, Zoe, just don't want to be puttin' our baby in any unnecessary danger."

"Wash, we're goin' down to have a meal with Rafe an' his people. Stand a while 'til the Shepherd says his words over Shen Ling then we're comin' right back."

He nodded, conceding reluctant defeat. Zoe noticed his expression and picked up the baby, settling him in the crook of her arm as Wash leaned towards them, his worried look abating but not vanishing completely. As Zoe brought the waking child up to her breast to feed, Wash watched with a feeling of awe and growing determination. Nothing would be allowed to hurt this precious child. Idly he wondered if he would ever stop worrying and wanting to protect their son from harm. A touch on his arm reminded him that his Zoe could see right through him, one look telling him that she knew and understood. He sighed. He had not wanted to bring a little defenceless person into this violent and often scary 'verse but now that he was here he vowed to do everything in his power to keep him safe.

* * * * *

Sated, Kaylee lay soaking up the heat and enjoying how much Simon's face shone just after orgasm. Delight radiated from her hotter than Serenity's core. It had taken Simon Tam a long time to finally get around to acting on his attraction to the young mechanic, fearing that anything he tried to build would fall apart at the seams and he couldn't afford to do anything that would distract him from looking after his sister. But the 'verse had a wicked sense of humour and an even blacker notion of timing. It occurred to him that love was a lot like gravity. The initial attraction was just the impetus needed to break through the inertia. Bodies in motion. But oh, they were glorious when they collided!

The smile slopped over his face and made Kaylee laugh outright. She loved her Simon freshly sexed, made him all kinds of happy and pliable. All the tense worry and doctory stiffness eased out of him. She propped a hand under her head to watch him, a hand sliding over his cooling body but still feeling that inner heat. The coil of passion like a sleeping beast that would stir at her touch. Kaylee liked that image. She liked it a lot. Bending to kiss him the sound of their door opening made her jerk upright, Simon a second or two slower on the uptake. It was the whisper of cloth across the floor that identified the quiet intruder. Kaylee turned her head, eyes wide in surprise. "River?"

His sister's name made Simon sit up too, alarm causing his body to tense. "River, *shenme shi*?"

Kaylee slapped on the light, the three of them blinking at each other like owls. River recovered first, her eyes glued to Simon. "You want to make me in your own image."

Surprised and puzzled he shook his head. "No, I don't."

"It's an illusion." River paused to see if he understood but the blank expression on Simon's face was all the answer she needed. "Mother and father lavished everything on you, their only son. I was the price of your education."

It wasn't an accusation and she was not blaming him but hard facts left bruises on the mind as painful as any the body could bear. "River, that's not true. You can't believe that."

She sounded sad and that made Simon's heart ache. "I never meant to tell you Simon but you had to push. Deny me the same freedom. The path to happiness." There were tears forming in her eyes and Simon forgot every word that had passed her lips in his concern at her distress.

"*Mei mei*, you're upset."

"You told him. Used his honour against him. You think he's an evil, lecherous hump but you couldn't be more wrong. Not good enough but that's the point, Simon. In your eyes NO ONE IS!"

Her words ended on a thin wail. Kaylee wanted to comfort her and was struggling to understand. "What're ya talkin' about, sweetie?"

"Perhaps you should go and get my bag, Kaylee..."

His words seemed to electrify River, but not in a good way. If anything she was more distressed now than she had been a moment ago. "No! No more drugs! No more shutting River up so the secrets can't get out. No more pretending and no more lies."

Stung, Simon tried to keep his voice calm and reasonable, his tone for River but the words as much for Kaylee's benefit. "She was getting so much better."

"Because of him not you! You have to let me go or I'll never be free. Possession is nine tenths of the law Simon but it isn't love."

Kaylee looked confused and Simon could not blame her. His gifted sister often made him feel that way. "*Shei*? Who're ya talkin' about?"


That was not the answer Kaylee had been expecting. "This is about the Cap'n?"

Rubbing a weary hand over his face Simon tried to explain. "River has an infatuation with him, that's all. It's not healthy."

"LIAR!" River yelled, then turned to Kaylee. Her voice dropping back to a semblance of normal as if her moods had an on/off switch. "When you first came to Serenity you fell in love. Twice."

It was almost comical the way Kaylee's mouth flapped in open mouthed surprise. "What?" Kaylee thought about Bester but that wasn't love. It was just lust, 'sides everyone knew engines made her hot.

But River was shaking her head. "Once with Serenity then with the Captain." Simon's eyes widened at that little tidbit but his sister ignored him. "Mal trusted you, believed in you, set you free. Brother, father, friend - all rolled into one. You knew in the first instant and loved him for it." Now she turned her gaze back to her brother. "Not blind devotion, Simon. Neither is mine but I don't want a brother or a father. I want to go beyond a friend. You see that, are jealous of the freedom love can bring. Terrified to lose me."

Horrified, Simon stared at her. "You've got it all wrong, *mei mei*. I'm trying to protect you."

"*Bu qu*. You can't keep me in the box forever, Simon."

"*Bao bei*, that's not what I'm doing."

He wanted to reach for her, comfort her, but River stayed just out of arm's reach. A distance that hurt Simon more than he could put into words. Didn't matter how much he loved Kaylee, adored her even, River was the piece of him that made his life worthwhile. The part that had defined his existence for so long that it was the umbical chord that had stopped him moving on. He didn't want to see what she saw, didn't want to accept that the time had come to cut the chord. Easier by far to simply remove his still beating heart and expect nothing to change.

"No more lies." In detached fasination Simon watched a single tear roll down River's face. "I love you, Simon."

"I love you too, *mei mei*."

Her voice softened, not wanting to hurt him. "My love isn't an obssession."

Simon stared at her, finally understanding the point she was trying to make. "*Shenme*? You think mine is?"

River nodded. "I know it is but I couldn't tell you. Didn't want to hurt you when you tried so hard." A sob caught in her throat. "You gave up everything you had. You found me broken." Simon was almost in tears. Kaylee held her breath. "I'm not broken any more."

She could see in her brother's eyes that he didn't believe her. In Simon's mind River would be forever broken. Sadly she shook her head, willing him to see what she was showing him. "No, your obssession not mine. Like the medicine, a panacea that doesn't work. It's just a placebo, Simon."

Simon struggled for words. "But you're not..."

"In my right mind?" River paused and watched for his reaction. "Yes, I am. They altered me, changed the wiring. I was damaged, changed, but still River."

Simon felt on safer ground now, helped by Kaylee's hand closing over his. "Thanks to the medication."

Something sparked in her eyes. "No. I lied too. To make you feel better."

He could only stare at her in disbelief. Half afraid to grasp her meaning. "You couldn't have, wouldn't have lied to me."

"You forget Simon, I'm a genius. You needed the medicine to 'cure' me even if it wasn't true. Make me a normal girl. Wanted to go back in time, undo what they did, make me the child you remember not the one who is. I got lost in a shadow I couldn't recreate but I loved you, love you still. Couldn't bear to disappoint you and you'd already lost so much. So I pretended even when I knew the smoothers would only dull the pain, but it wasn't physical pain. All in the mind, Simon, but it's a powerful engine and it was growing too fast and swift for ready comprehension. Everything got garbled. The message drowned out by lack of understanding. The brain adapts like the body to a limp, compensation. I began to understand. To no longer be afraid. You thought it was the medicine but it wasn't. It was me. Stepping out of the shadows. A woman not a little girl but still River." She paused and looked at Simon with such undiluted love and affection that he could not speak. "They rewired my brain, Simon, but my memories and my emotions are still there. I've adjusted, ready to cut the chord. You have to be ready to adapt as well."

* * * * *

Book had not always been a Shepherd. *Diyu*, he hadn't always been Book but that was a story for another day. One he like as not would never tell. Right now he was considering their passenger. The man carrying so many secrets they could not all be unravelled no matter how much time you had. Layer upon layer of lies, subterfuge, misdirection. You name it Milo had probably done it and done it better that anyone else Shepherd Book had ever met. And he had met a lot of folk, some the kind you couldn't mention in polite company. So what did that make Milo? Friend or foe? Oddly enough Book did not feel threatened by the man, it was as if he was just passing through. But those eyes were too bright and alert for comfort. Milo was quiet to the point of being wallpaper, a presence so unobtrusive you simply forgot he was there and that was dangerous.

Tired though he was, the Preacher elected to keep an unofficial watch. If he was wrong it wouldn't make any difference but if he was right it might just give them sufficient forewarning to be able to laugh about it afterwards. The alternative was simply not worth considering.

* * * * *

There was no day or night in space, in fact the concept of time was faintly ridiculous in the wider scheme of things. Only when planet bound did it make a bit of sense. Right now they were coming up on Glory and Wash was trying for the third time to get a response from Rafe. It was Zoe who reminded him of something. "They don't have a cortex link on the Wellspring Ranch, Wash. Had to go to the Peters Ranch if you recall."

Wash nodded more to save an argument than because he remembered. "Wonder why no one's answerin' now, *bao bei*?" He flicked a few switches. Concerned when nothing happened.

Zoe rested her hands on her husband's shoulders. "Most likely explanation is he went back to the Wellspring. Maybe get some of those cakes you were so fond of last time."

"That was Jayne, *fengmi*, an' they were busicuits not cake. Chung-li made them if I recall to stop us poucin' on the Cap'n's soup. In case you hadn't noticed Chung-li's on our boat."

Her smile brushed his lips, her eyes twinkling down at him like guiding stars. "So," Said Zoe in a light teasing voice as she dropped another kiss on Wash's upturned face. "No busicuits, cakes or fancy soup." She paused to kiss him deeply, a flash of devilment stirring in her dark eyes. "Oh, whatever shall we do!"

He knew she was mocking him with her impression of him but Wash didn't mind. "I'm sure we'll think of somethin', *bao bei*."

Before they could come up with an alternative the measured tread of the Captain's boots ended the debate. Not noticing he had interrupted anything Mal ran an eye over the console then looked at Wash. "Best land this bird, *dong ma*? The sooner the past is buried the better."

"How's Chung-li takin' it?"

"About as much as we expected. Self-contained to the point where he don't seem human half the time. Not that I know what the other half might be."

Zoe smirked, Wash smiled brightly. "Are we talkin' *aliens* Cap'n."

"No Wash, YOU'RE talkin' aliens an' might I say that in no way gets you out of landin' this boat."

His pilot sketched a mocking bow. "Your wish is my command, *wode chuanzhang*."

"No, your wish is my boot up your *pigu* if you don't get movin'."

Zoe gave a little frown not fooled by the banter. "What's the hurry, sir?" He couldn't explain the itch to her. During the war it had been his own personal alarm system. Had saved their lives a time or two. If he told her he had it now no way would they land, in fact she was as like to turn the boat round and head deeper into the Black. Mal didn't see the sense in doing that if they had nothing to show for it. 'Sides he had a body he wanted off his boat and he didn't mean Chung-li. Shen Ling's corpse was beginning to smell a bit sweet, musty and corpsified. And another thing. Rotting corpses spread diseases and they had problems enough just ducking Alliance patrols and other *goushi*. Didn't need to borrow trouble. Plus seeing his friend hurting was making him all kinds of cranky.

* * * * *

All things considered the landing was better than the disembarkation. Not nobody was unaffected by what they found when Serenity's ramp opened up and what should have been fresh air doused them all in a wake up call that set the hairs on their necks standing on end. It was Jayne who put it in the vernacular for them. "*Wode ma*, what the ruttin' *diyu* happened here?"

Mal stared, eyes so wide they swallowed up the whole of his face. By his side Chung-li was a silent and comforting presence, albeit he had to be hurting a hundred times worse than the Captain. Kaylee had started running down the ramp in her excitement to see Rafe Connor and all the shiny folk on Glory. It wasn't just the Captain's friends from the Wellspring Ranch that had brought a happy expectant smile to her face but the women and children that had settled in Glory's main town after Serenity's crew had rescued them from the slaver's ship some years before. Her steps skidded to a shocked halt at the foot of the ramp, the crew in a little cluster staring at a vision beyond Dante's Inferno. Even the Shepherd had no words to describe what they were seeing. Crossing himself he bowed his head in prayer. It was only when Milo descended the ramp to see what all the fuss was about that anyone stirred. Turning a puzzled gaze on Serenity's Captain his words jarred them out of their shocked lethargy. "Why would anyone want to come to a dead world?"

The Captain could not speak. Tears in his eyes that instead of running down his face fell deep inside of him where the grief was slowly drowning him. He put a hand on Chung-li's shoulder for the sorrow shared that he could in no way speak on. The utter and total devastation was a blow that stunned. Happy expectation ruined in a heartbeat of knowing. Smoke still rising like funeral pyres where once a green and fertile land had held sway. He knew without having to check that the whole gorram planet would be the same.

Jayne's voice had a dark heavy hitch to it. Thick with emotion turning slowly to a feeling of dread. "What was it Mal? Reavers?"

The Captain shook his head. Inara Serra put her arms around Kaylee and rocked the poor girl as she sobbed. Wash hugged Zoe, the baby gurgling in her arms unaware of the horror before them. Simon wanted to go and check, look for survivors. Mal said nothing. He knew they would find nothing but scorched earth and in the blackened ruins where dreams had once flourished would be nothing but the greasy ashes of bodies burnt beyond all recognition. The ranch and all its' outbuildings, the town and all its' little shops and dwellings nothing but lumpy smudges on a smoking landscape. Without a word he removed his hand from Chung-li's shoulder and turned and walked back aboard his boat. For the longest time no one moved or uttered a word.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*zhangfu* = husband *shenme* = what? *zhengjing xialai* = calm down *bao bei* = precious/treasure *wo zhidao* = I know *mei mei* = little sister *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *shei* = who? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *diyu* = hell *fengmi* = honey *dong ma* = understand? *pigu* = bottom *wode chuanzhang* = my Captain *goushi* = crap/dog shit *wode ma* = mother of God


Friday, November 4, 2005 4:00 PM


I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, Alison, but you're an excellent writer - regardless of subject or genre. You're definitely good enough to make money doing it, if you don't already.

Friday, November 4, 2005 11:56 PM


And yet another nasty turn for the crew. I want to know that happens next and yet I don't. I have to agree with Cub you should defintely write your own book. You have a rare talent for writing these vivid, dramatic stories.

Saturday, November 5, 2005 2:52 PM


Damn. I loved how you wrote "idyllic". And the no-longer-mute girl? Damn.
Been taking 'no character is immune' lessons from Joss, huh?

Sunday, November 6, 2005 12:11 AM


No, I don't write professionally Cub and Mai but I am writing a book - a trilogy. At first draft stage with book one but won't approach a publisher till the whole shebang has been finished, polished and rewritten to a shiny big sparkle. Probably looking at a couple of years till it is all done and dusted. Thanks for all the shiny comments. And artships, I bow before the mighty Joss just remember not everything you see and hear and touch is what you think it is. Keep Flyin- - Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, November 9, 2005 1:51 AM


OMG. What a terrible shock for them all.

Great scene between K/R/S BTW.

And I really liked the pithiness of "the 'verse had a wicked sense of humour and an even blacker notion of timing." How true, how very true!

Thursday, November 3, 2011 7:15 PM


Aaaaaaa no!!! That can't happen to Glory!!! D': what about little Rose(I think that was her name)?... shiny writing!!!


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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.