TEMPTATION SERIES: 38. "Rhythm of Life"
Wednesday, November 23, 2005

"River and Mal solidify their relationship. Kaylee has a surprise for Simon and the crew begin to adjust to the changing dynamics."



SUMMARY: "River and Mal solidify their relationship. Kaylee has a surprise for Simon and the crew begin to adjust to the changing dynamics." 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

* * * * *

This time it was Mal who took the initiative, his rough calloused hands like warm ghosts across River's skin. So gentle and tender, his touch a deepening thrill which intensified as they kissed. Slowly exploring the inside of her warm mouth with his tongue while mapping every inch of her that he could reach with his hands. It was driving River nuts in the most beautiful, sensual way possible and she loved it. Loved him. River had never dreamt love, for her, could be so perfect. Being a spectator was no comparrison. Trembling, River vibrated with need, taut like a bow, the catgut held in a perfect anchor, the nock of the arrow holding her steady waiting for the release of the master's hand. Her whole body straining in his iron control - ready, waiting, needing, lusting, all but crying out to fly free at his command. River's libedo rampant with muscle memory, her body twitching in anticipation, skin a-glow with perspiration, her breath catching with deep-throated desire.

Everything was so intense. River was lost in the feel of him, his touch, the scent of his arousal merging with her own, a warm explosion of pleasure she wanted to taste, to drown in. On fire she was on the brink of self immolation, feelings and sensations mutable, combustible, a bright conflagration mounting in her belly and her spine as Mal took her higher and higher. The sweat now pouring off her as it did off him, their bodies gliding, every drop from his body touching hers like nitro glicerine. They did not need an accelerant to self ignite. River embraced it all, expanded her senses to capture and miss nothing even as her mind gasped on the brink of shattering, orgasming again and again around those long gifted fingers, swamping his hand with her heat like napalm. She arched up against the rhythm of his hand as he began to bring her back down as gently as he could. But River wanted, needed more. Her desire insatiable.


Her hungry mouth devoured the word and robbed him of others. She wanted, she needed, desire was driving her gorram crazy.

"Perhaps we should..."

No. No, we shouldn't. Couldn't stop, wouldn't stop. She had waited so long and once, twice, three times was never enough. He could sleep well enough when he was dead, wasn't that how the saying went?

Her fingers flexed around him until once again he was hard in her hand, sheathing and unsheathing the foreskin along his adamantine length until the breath caught in his throat, her hand wrapped possessively around him, changing the rhythm and the pressure to bring him dancing to the edge. Smiling, River lifted her head just enough to look Mal in the eye. His pupils so large he looked drugged but the happy coming off him made her heart ache with such love, such intensity of emotion. She wanted to hang him over the edge of the precipice he had brought her to, shatter him inside her until no part of her was left untouched. To consume and be consumed, to crawl so far inside his heart that not even surgery could part them. Dropping her head she kissed his shining chest then lapped at a nipple, tweaking and nipping the nub before moving on to the other, her tongue now washing down his body, her grasp on him almost painful. He could not breathe, talk, move other than in response to her touch.

The shock when her mouth took over was short lived as every circuit in his brain overloaded. With a cry he exploded, drowning in sensation. River drank down what she could, the force of his ejaculation almost too quick for her. Mal closed his eyes as she drained the life out of him, weary beyond imagining but too sated and too lost in her to care. He felt her warm tongue lapping him, scooping up the jism on her tongue, savouring the sour almost bitter taste of him like some acquired addiction. River smiled as he twitched and softened in her mouth but was reluctant to let him go, rolling him around inside her mouth like a sugared confection, her tongue chasing the last drops of him as the Captain fell into the sleep of exhaustion. River continued to love him as he slept. Her touch the merest whisper of skin on skin, eyes tender as her mind reached into the heart of him. The vibrant warmth of her mind nestling inside his a subtle presentiment that he would never be alone again.

* * * * *

The body of the neophyte was not destined for holy ground. He had failed and no one celebrated failure nor accorded any respect to the broken remains. Discarded the body was disposed of efficiently. The man who now stood in his place was calm, quietly confident and serene. No worry or concern marred his perfect ebony features. Still, there had to be checks and balances. A test or two. Another mistake would not be tolerated.

Bowing with deep reverence the man straightened and waited, his poise telling them that he would do so for a minute, an hour, a day, or a lifetime. Ah, this was a much better material to work with. More disciplined and highly schooled. "We need to know that you can do whatever is asked of you."

He nodded once, his big brown eyes like deep pools that had seen and witnessed more than words could allow. "Of course."

One of the men signalled to another. That other going into the adjoining room which had once been occupied by his predecessor. The lid to the trunk was opened, clothes a thoughtless scatter like fallen petals. A fraction of a pause as the long laquered case was revealed. The dragons dancing across the top of it as it was lifted up with reverence and carried next door. With no pomp and little ceremony, the sword was offered out across the palms of the hands in the traditional manner. "This is now yours. Do not fail us."

Again a deep bow, large firm capable hands taking the sword in solemn acceptance. He bowed one last time, his forehead touching the fiery pearl of wisdom inlaid between the two dragons' front paws. His last obeisance before his journey would begin. As he slowly straightened he did not need the evidence of his eyes to tell him what would be the tenor of the life he now led. He was, as he had always been and would ever be, alone. All that lay before him was the Path. But it was not the Tao. For this path would lead to a better world. A new beginning that would wash the 'verse clean and leave only those deserving in its' inexorable wake. A world he knew he would not live to see himself. But that did not matter. He was a believer and they were building a better world. Nothing else mattered.

* * * * *

Normally Wash liked it when he and Zoe were first in the commons area. It meant they could take a leisurely breakfast together rather than a quick snatched frantic one when Mal appeared with his grumpy get-us-into-the-Black-as-quick-as-you-can-without-whiplash order. This morning there had been no bordering on panic orders, no folk jostling for the makings or refilling the coffee pot. No edged or light banter, in fact no nothing. Not even the Preacher had put in an appearance. Wash cut his wife a little baffled look as he gathered their plates and mugs and took them over to the sink. "What's goin' on, *bao bei*?"

Zoe shifted the baby on her hip, kissed him then gave Wash a serious look as if her ears had only just caught up with what he had said. "Why should anythin' be goin' on?"

He shrugged and began washing up. "It's just... where *is* everybody?"

"Maybe they just slept in, honey. It *does* happen now an' again."

"Yeah, but everybody? Mal *never* sleeps in, in fact I don't think he sleeps..."


"An' Kaylee an' Simon... oh wait, maybe I can understand Kaylee an' Simon but that doesn't account for the rest of them."

"The rest of who?"

Wash and Zoe looked round to see a quizzical look on the Preacher's face. Zoe smiled and gave Wash a little triumphant smile. "*Yiwusuoyou* Shepherd, my man here is just wonderin' where the rest of the crew is."

"Who gives a good gorram?" They turned to see Jayne stomp in. "More for us!"

"Jayne," Said Book, thinking of introducing the mercenary to one of the seven deadly sins. They were going through them so fast he didn't want to miss pointing out the one called Gluttony. They had already had more than a passing acquaintence with Greed and look where that had got them. "We each take only our share, *dong ma*?" "Huh, don't know what you're so touchy 'bout don't Preachers live on Milk an' Honey?"

The Shepherd laughed, Zoe and Wash exchanged a tolerant but amused look. "No, Jayne, that only happens when you die an' go to Heaven."

"So you're sayin' you're gonna go to Heaven, that it?"

Book shook his head, watching as the big man filled a bowl to brimming with broken protein cubes and some milk substitute. He had never thought to ask the Captain what the substitute consisted of but it sure left an oily aftertaste in the mouth. Watching how rapidly Jayne shovelled the concoction into his mouth he had the unsettling notion that it was to help the food slide down Jayne Cobb's throat. Maybe the big man did have a point, anything going that fast down your gullet had to side step a man's taste buds. Not that a man like Jayne had many of those anyway.

By the time Kaylee and Simon made it to the commons area the others had finished eating and cleaning up. Book smiled and gave them a polite 'good morning', Jayne scowled at them while Zoe and Wash looked happy to have another married couple in tow, especially when Kaylee took time to coo over baby Jack while Simon smiled so much he looked brain damaged. It was beginning to make Jayne feel sick. He hoped they weren't going to spend all day talking baby stuff, if so he would go to his bunk. Man couldn't listen to that kind of *fei hua* and still call himself a man. Kaylee looked so happy the others could hardly keep the smirks off their faces. Simon looked too distracted to notice. As Inara came in behind them she could not keep the amusement off her face. At least Simon wasn't panicking over River. Speaking of which... Inara paused as she reached for the kettle and turned her head but could see no sign of River. Only then did she notice there was no sign of the Captain either. Flushing slightly she so did not want her thoughts to go there especially as she had been the one to encourage and groom River, not just to help the girl but also to discomfit the Captain. Was it her fault if the plan went a little too well?

Inara poured her tea and smiled at Zoe, Wash putting an arm around his wife's waist as he handed her a bottle. The Companion smiled and watched Zoe feed the baby, marvelling at how naturally it came. The sight charmed and renewed her faith in human nature that someone so immersed in violence could be so tender and so loving. It was a side of Zoe she relished seeing. Grinning, Wash gave his wife a kiss. Jayne pulled a face as if they had just farted in church.

"Gorramit, can't you do that in your bunks?"

"What's the matter, Jayne." Teased Simon. "You feelin' left out?"

Jayne's expression darkened but before he could say or do anything to ruin the peaceable atmosphere Kaylee stepped around Simon and glared at the mercenary, all the happy swept off her face by the promise of a swift and painful end to anyone who so much as hinted at threatening her husband. Had taken long enough to get Simon to notice her and years to get him up the altar, wasn't gonna let Jayne take any of the shine off. "No one's gonna do or say anythin' mean, ya got that Jayne?"

"Hey, I was on'y sayin'...."

"Sayin' what?"

Every head turned as the Captain finally joined them. To say he looked dishevelled and off his game was a kindness. In contrast River practically hummed round him like an overwound clock, his very own bright and shiny firefly. The others just watched with mouths half opened as the Captain seemed to move on autopilot, finding his chair more by memory than sight. River kissed his cheek then went to fix them breakfast. The dazed look on the Captain's face making the rest of his crew stare. Slowly he blinked, realising everyone had stopped talking. "*Shenme*? You never seen a man sit down to breakfast before?"

"Sit, yes." Said Simon slowly, now out of his own happy daze. Not sure whether to be amused or alarmed at the state of the Captain. Still. His sister was happy, deliriously so by the look of it and he would do anything to keep her that way. Even suffer her choice of partner. Didn't mean he could do it without anaesthetic though. "But not while still asleep."

"Ain't asleep." The Captain mumbled then put a hand over his mouth to hide a yawn. His hair was sticking up in unruly spikes and his eyes were not completely focused yet there was a calm about him, a relaxed air that told them he was both happy and content. Two rare feats in one day. Would the 'verse ever recover? Would the crew? For a moment Simon actually wondered if he were dreaming. Then the surreal moment was over and everyone was breaking up, going about their chores leaving River and the Captain alone. The Shepherd hung back as the others left, nodded to River and the Captain then paused on the catwalk when he caught sight of Chung-li standing in the cargo bay alone. Book took a moment or two to watch the man, a look of concern settling on his kindly face before he descended the staircase to join him.

"How you doin', son?"

It had been a long time since anyone had called him 'son'. "*Wode hao*."

Book gave a little shake of his head, allowing a gentle smile to form on his lips. "I asked how you were doin' not how you are."

The Chinaman's look sharpened. Not many would have made such a subtle distinction but then Shepherd Book was no ordinary man. "I was thinking."

"About your sister?" The prompt was kindly meant, not so much prying as offering the man an opening should he need or want to talk about his loss.

"No. Glory."

A look of pained comprehension stole over the Shepherd's face. "Ah!" He paused, waiting for Chung-li to explain but he did not. "Is that why you're still with us?"

Chung-li cut to the words Book would not say. "I do not seek revenge."

"No one would blame you if you did."

"*Ni bu dong*, I want to know who was responsible and why."

"Then what?"

"Then," Said Chung-li in an inordinately calm and controlled voice. "We will see not about revenge but justice."

Book watched the Chinaman closely, his own thoughts hidden. "And if the two are indistinguisable?"

For a long moment there was silence. The response, when it came, was not what the Shepherd expected. "They are not."

* * * * *

In the commons area River carried a makeshift breakfast over to the table, the Captain looking up to gift her with a smile. River placed a bowl before him and set hers down next to it then slipped her arms around his neck. "Mine!"

Her assertion amused him. "You think?"

River nodded and gently kissed his eyes causing him to shut them. "*Wo zhidao*."

"Could be you're just hopin'."

Her chuckle was warm, her lips teased his mouth then she pulled away. Mal opened his eyes and gazed at her, the thoughts on the tip of his tongue blown away by the sight of her. Sighing he pulled her close, wonder trapped in his heart at the thought that of all the people in the 'verse this angel had chosen him. "You got any notion how much I love you, *xin gan*?"

"Doesn't hurt to put thoughts into words." Mal chuckled. "That a fact?"

She nodded sagely and stole a kiss. "Depends on the words."

"Could be you're right," He responded then took the kiss back. "On the other hand you could just be fishin' for compliments."

Her laughter was bright and full of joy, so carefree he wanted to cry. Knowing what he was thinking River brushed his arm aside and sat on his lap. The way she wanted to possess him amused him.

"*Ni shufu*?"

"You didn't eat your breakfast."

"That ain't no answer." Mal replied as she ran her fingers through his hair. Her next words almost ruined the mood.

"Poor Simon!"

He so did not want to be thinking about Simon Tam right now. "River, I don't think..."

River turned her head and smiled, such love in her eyes that he was struck mute.

"Double trouble." She explained.

Baffled, Mal stared at her nonplussed by the non-sequiter. "*Shenme*?"

If anything, River's smile widened until it threatened to swallow her whole. She drew her fingers out of his hair and outlined the planes of his face, gentle questing touches that sent little sparks through him as if he was brushing against a live wire. Her touch was all kinds of hypnotic what with the look in her eye making him feel all kinds of special. Not that he was in any mind to complain. Mal could not get over the way she seemed to carry an inner light that flickered through her like quicksilver and illuminated her with a joy that mesmerised him. It made him so happy he danced on the edge of an exquisite fever bright pain. Her smile softened, she knew him so well but for once this was not about her and the Captain. "Girls."

Mal stared, completely lost for a moment but seeing how River's face glowed with pleasure and content he felt his breath catch, his skin burning with her touch. He waited for her to explain, trusting that she would enlighten him. Didn't matter a good gorram if it took a thousand years. *Wode ma*, he'd wait. River grinned at him, loving him even more if such a thing were possible.


For a moment it looked as if the revelation had passed him by then the dime dropped, a leap of logic that had him rocking in his chair with laughter as images of a totally panic stricken Simon struggling to cope while his little Kaylee serenely went about her business of being a perfect gorram mother to not one but two babies. River hugged him as he laughed, enjoying the rumble vibrating up through his chest and warming her. The Captain would look forward to the look on the doctor's face when his tests showed the result of his very active extra curricula activities. Blinking back the start of tears he smiled at his beloved little albatross. His very own good luck charm. And thanked every power in the 'verse that ever was that she was his. So beautiful, so wonderful and utterly precious to him. For once he was in complete agreement with Simon. River wasn't just gifted. She was a gift.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bao bei* = precious/treasure *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *dong ma* = understand? *fei hua* = garbage talk/rubbish *shenme* = what *wode hao* = I'm good *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *wode ma* = mother of God *wo zhidao* = I know *xin gan* = sweetheart *ni shufu* = you comfortable?


Friday, November 25, 2005 6:50 AM


Hee! I adored the picture you painted of, uh - how to put this delicately? - *tired* Mal. And his wicked amusement at Simon's predicament.

Of course, everyone's so gorram happy at the moment, I just KNOW we got trouble a-comin'.

Saturday, November 26, 2005 4:51 PM


Squeal :) Twins!


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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.