Wednesday, January 4, 2006

"Getting back to Serenity is only half the battle. With the Captain in dire straits no one is prepared for further problems."



SUMMARY "Getting back to Serenity is only half the battle. With the Captain in dire straights no one is prepared for further problems." 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 pretty much crazy on board the Alliance Scout Ship Reknown. Simon Tam stared at the people lying tied up in various parts of the ship. He glanced at Zoe but met a cold blank stare. At times the woman could be truly frightening but he knew he was not the reason for the tension. As soon as he had set eyes on Captain Reynolds, Simon's breath had caught, worry making him oblivious to the press of people boarding the ship. Shepherd Book drew Zoe aside, worried that there would not be enough room for everyone and concerned about Jayne. No one had seen hide nor hair of him since locating the Captain.

Rafe Connor hugged his daughters, thankful to whatever God had spared them while grieving for the loss of his sons and so many good friends back on Glory. Chung-li made sure they were alright and spared a few words with Hilary Johnson and David Hall before going to check on Mal. Despite how crowded the ship was becoming, he knew none of them would feel happy leaving either of them on Hope after what they had been through. Plus they had been helping the Captain and for that act of compassion alone Serenity's crew would make sure they got safety away from Cyrus White's clutches. Zoe got Wash to help her deposit the crew of the Reknown outside. It was heavy work but at last they had every one of the Alliance purplebellies carefully dumped, bound and gagged, among the trees. Wouldn't do for them to be found before they made it back to Serenity. Wash couldn't help feeling a stab of concern as he wiped his hands on his pants and cast a look back at the trees.

"Not to question your tactics *bao bei* but is this wise?"

Before Zoe could answer her *zhangfu* Jayne Cobb joined them. He was a little out of breath but looking all kinds of pleased with himself. The mercenary couldn't wipe the pleasure off his face when he saw what they had done with the *tamade hundans*. "For once I gotta agree with ya, little man. We should just kill 'em an' be done with it."

Wash looked horrified, he had not meant that at all. Zoe gave Jayne a hard look. "Not killin' anyone we don't have to, Jayne, unless you'd like to be the exception that proves the rule?"


She nodded at his scowl. "Exactly. Where have you been? We were about to leave without you."

"Just tidyin' up some loose ends."

Zoe frowned at him but the big man did not elaborate. He wanted out of here in a hurry before every Alliance *hundan* on Hope found out what he had done. Wash looked a question at Zoe but she shook her head. Time enough for questions once they were safely in the Black. Once Jayne was aboard Wash enabled the controls so they could take off. Happy that no one had happened on the ship before they could get back to it and make their Big Damn Escape. In the chaos of ships landing and taking off no one took any notice of yet another Scout Ship. Hardly more than a hundred feet off the ground, the little ship shook as River's delayed charges went off. Rafe looked surprised then smiled when Zoe explained.

Shepherd Book decided to see if he could help Simon, his concern mounting when he caught sight of the condition of the Captain. Malcolm Reynolds lay on the cold metal floor, River holding one of his broken hands cradled in her own, her face tilted towards the wounded man's, her eyes fixed on the Captain as if he held her life in his hands not the other way around. Simon would have asked her to give him room to work but truly there was little he could do but try to stabilise the Captain until they could get him back on Serenity. Chung-li knelt beside River but said nothing, watching with keen attention as Simon carefully checked the man over and did what he could to make Mal comfortable.

"*Wode ma*", Mumurmed the Preacher in a troubled tone. "Is the Captain going to be alright?"

Simon really wished Book had not asked that question in front of his sister. The girl was fragile enough as it was without thinking about losing the Captain. Didn't matter what he thought of that particular relationship it was clear to him now that River's feelings for Mal were every bit as deep and genuine as those he shared with Kaylee. The insight softened his heart towards the Captain, a man he was often at odds with despite how much he actually respected him. It was mostly a clash of personalities and upbringing. Though the gap right now was paper thin, anxiety closing the distance words could never cross. "Once we get him back to Serenity and stop the bleeding he should have a good chance of pulling through but he's going to need a blood transfusion."

Looking up Simon noticed people were beginning to crowd round, anxiously trying to see what was happening. Chung-li's expression was full of sorrow, heart aching for his friend. Jayne had a grim expression on his face. "He don't look so good, doc."

"I can't be sure until I get him to the infirmary but it feels as if every bone in his body has been broken."

Zoe hissed angrily, looks of horror on everyone's faces. River's quiet voice cut through the stunned silence. "They did."

Disconcerted, no one knew quite what to say. River gently brushed the Captain's fringe from his face. "They broke them one by one."

Simon tried to gently hint that her words were not helping. "River..."

"To hear the bones snap." River looked up, her eyes locking on to Simon's. "To hear him scream."

Turning in the pilot's chair, the blood drained from Wash's face. The horror in his eyes mirrored in the little sea of anxious faces. "*Tian Yesu*, he was awake?"

River nodded. Jayne was beyond furious, body humming with rage, his swift act of retribution seeming woefully inadequate now. His muscles bunching as he wished he had taken his time and torn that *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo* to itty bitty pieces. Trouble was if he had he would not have made it back in time to catch up with the others and there was a good chance they would have left without him. Only the tenth son of a idiot would stay a minute longer on this rat infested hell-hole especially as the rats in question were the two legged kind. As the mercenary raised his eyes from the face of his unconscious Captain, Jayne's eyes met Chung-li's and he had the oddest feeling that the Chinaman knew where he had been and what he had done. Not that he gave a good gorram. To his surprise the Chinaman gave a nod of approval and Jayne knew that had their positions been reversed Chung-li would have done the same.

* * * * *

Inara Serra was not a person to panic but this was Kaylee and the sight of blood made her cry out in a mix of anguish and dispair. Little Jack reacted to her distress and began to wail. Tears pricked the Companion's eyes. "Kaylee!"

It took precious seconds for Inara to get enough control of herself to find the crib and put the baby in it, her hands trembling so much she clasped them together then ran back to where Kaylee lay in an odd tangle on the deck. Gently, she eased the mechanic on to her back and noticed the blood was coming from between her legs and seemed watery. Forcing herself to calm down, Inara placed a hand that shook on the distended stomach, holding her breath and praying with every atom of her being. "Merciful Buddha...."

When her hand jerked it set off a short spasm of shock that ended in near hysterical laughter. Tears of relief rolling down her face, Inara lowered her head and rested her forehead against Kaylee's. The unconscious girl unaware she had terrified the life out of her friend. A slow smile spread across Inara's lips as she sat up and fondly brushed the hair from Kaylee's face. With no regard for form, she sat cross legged on the floor and stroked the flushed face. Waiting for her friend to come out of her faint and hoping it would not be long before the others returned. She had no desire to deliver Simon and Kaylee's twins herself. Some things a Companion was not taught in the training house.

* * * * *

It was weird. Kind'a warped and kind'a blurry. Shouldn't he be able to focus about now? He heard a low deep moan. *Tianna*, sounded like some poor soul was in pain. After the third or fourth time he heard it realisation hit that the sound was coming from his own self. Okay, not so shiny.

"I think he's coming round."

"Give him some room. I need to check..."

Voices. The first one, deep. Calm. Authoritive. Took a moment or two to place it. Book. He called himself Book. Appropriate name for a Preacher. The other one, kind'a tentative but assertive in a different kind'a way. Clincal and precise you could say. The name flashed through the debris of his brain. Simon. He could feel himself starting to drift again, other voices vying with each other and making little sense.

"Ya sure he's awake?"

"Yes, Jayne, I saw his eyelids flicker."

"How can ya tell when they's stuck all together?"

The voices faded again. Other sounds impinging on his eratic consciousness. What the gorram was that? Oh. Vibration. Now why...? Serenity. His boat. That was the gentle thrumming he could feel coming up through the deckplates and infirmary bed. Funny how gorram comforting it was. When had walls of steel come to mean home to him? When had his body ceased relaxing without the beat of that metallic heart?

"Sssh, he's wakin' again."

The voice was softer. A gentler soul. Not Zoe, a man's voice. Not the detatched professional that was Dr Tam. Wash. The knowledge would have made him smile but something was wrong with his face. As the spinning, flexing world began to right itself pain reasserted its' dominance of the Here and Now. Swollen, cracked and bloody lips parted a fraction to emit a hiss of pain. Simon was there in a moment, his voice low and soothing. If the Captain didn't know better he'd say the boy was worried. *Wode ma*, not a boy no longer. Kept forgetting that. "Captain? Captain, can you hear me? It's Simon."

He tried to move his lips but they seemed to be weighed down by mountains. His eyelids opened a crack that flooded sharp rays of white light into eyes too sensitive to endure the illumination. As they pierced him they pained him. Mal groaned and let gravity shut them, the swell of his cheeks making the seal tight. Something fluttered against his cheek but didn't settle there. He could not feel his hands, could hardly flex a muscle still less move. Must be the rutting drugs only were that the case shouldn't there be an absence of pain? That couldn't be right. Even if Simon were mad at him there would be no pain. Boy was a doctor and a shiny one at that. He drifted off to the sound of someone saying his name over and over again while another gentler voice was telling him he was safe. A tender voice, a voice filled with more than simple concern or compassion. A voice filled with love.

Simon Tam straightened. "He's unconscious."

"Told ya he was." Said Jayne smugly.

The doctor just gave him a look then finished stabilising the Captain. It had been something of a frenzied dash to the infirmary as soon as they had docked with Serenity. Wash had been troubled to get no response from their hail but Simon had no time to consider what that might mean, all his efforts focused on saving the man in his care. Now, satisfied that the Captain was at least stable he checked his IV line and was about to get washed up before cleaning and stitching up his wounds when Inara ran into the infirmary. Her hair was touselled and half in her eyes, face flushed, her breath coming in irregular pants where she had been running. Zoe moved quickly to intercept her, at first assuming the Companion was panicking about Mal but Inara did not spare a glance in the Captain's direction. Kind'a made her think she hadn't seen him.

"Simon! Hurry, it's Kaylee!"

Suddenly Simon was hyper aware, everything slipping out of his head but one thought. Kaylee! Oh no, please God don't let anything happen to Kaylee! "W.. what happened? Where is she?"

"On the bridge. I think it was the stress of being boarded by the Alliance."

He swore, the others exchanged worried looks. Inara tugged at his arm. Simon Tam had gone quite pale. "Alliance?" He turned his head, eyes wide and fearful. "On Serenity?"

"They're gone now. Come on, we have to get to Kaylee."

He grabbed his bag and ran after Inara. Zoe glanced at the Captain then hurried after them with Wash not a step behind. Chung-li dropped into the seat she had vacated next to Rose at the head of the Captain's bed. River Tam looked calm and composed on Mal's other side, her eyes locking on the Chinaman's. Rafe and Molly Connor stood behind Chung-li, their eyes asking the question no one else had got round to asking. "Waters have broken."

Chung-li smiled at her then his brief humour vanished. His eyes on the Captain's face. River thought of Chung-li as a kind of sentinel, a silent protector. The notion made her happy. Chung-li looked up as she began to hum, River dazzling him with a happy smile. "Twins couldn't wait. Impatient. Too much like Kaylee but they'll look like Simon."

Shepherd Book exchanged a look with Jayne, but the big man just shrugged. "Crazy is as crazy does."

The Preacher frowned in admonishment then excused himself. First he wanted to see how Kaylee was then he needed to speak to Wash. The sooner they got out of Alliance space the better it would be for all of them. He thought about River's words and felt himself relax a mite. Twins! Shaking his head gently he chuckled softly and glanced back at the Captain. Wondering if the man realised just how just how lucky he was to be unconscious.

* * * * *

Commandant Rankin was in a state of shock. His stunned expression summing up a day of impossible events unfolding at dizzying speed. Or maybe it was just his mind frozen while events spun out of control around him. Governor White had been insistent. Drylan had explained in his dry clipped manner that Cyrus White had personally insisted on seeing the devastation for himself. Privately, Rankin suspected the twisted little potentate did not believe the military assessment of just how bad things were. Perhaps he suspected a miliary coup? Whatever the man's reasoning he had it on several men's authority that White did indeed go in a bulletproof skimmer to see the extent of the damage. Like any miser he wanted to see how much wealth he had lost. Greed always claimed its' own in the end.

"And you're sure it's the Governor? The body was identified?"

Drylan nodded, his expression giving away no sign of emotion. "Yes, Commandant."

There was a small calculating pause. "I thought the skimmer was bulletproof?"

"It was. Just not built to withstand an explosion of such magnitude."

Rankin was about to ask if, in his considered opinion, the blast had been natural or not when he aborted the idea. If Governor White had died as a result of being caught up in a natural disaster there would be little in the way of Federal investigation. Their own people could handle things locally. If, however, any hint of terrorist activity were to be mooted the operation would be taken out of their hands and the Feds would move in. That would not only mean usurping Drylan and his own authority it would also mark the end of a very lucrative business arrangement for all and sundry. Besides, he had it on good authority that although the current shafts were pretty much collapsed and buried the explosions had had a nice little side effect. A new and hitherto unreachable seam had been exposed. By all accounts it was the richest one yet.

The Commandant schooled his face into a suitably solemn expression, hiding his inner glee with a carefully controlled expression of sorrow. "Naturally, our hearts must go out to the those killed and their families in this terrible tragic accident." Drylan's eyebrows raised on the last word, then intuiting the meaning behind it, felt his own hopes start to cautiously rise. Losses in the ranks inevitably led to promotions in the field. And as the old Earth-that-was saying went it was the victors who wrote the history. To them would go the spoils. Every last glittering grain of it.

* * * * *

He had no notion of how long he had been drifting. The pain ebbing and flowing like flames licking at his body. Burning. He was on fire. Immolated and withering in a cascade of inwardly consuming flames. Almost he could feel his eyelids melt against his eyes, whole body a scalded playground of hurts, heart stuttering and flaring with the unbearable heat. White hot flashes claiming his sight as inwardly he screamed. Yet in his head death was never the end and waking was no beginning.

To his horror, the nightmare landscape was not his alone to endure. "What you doin' here, *xin gan*? You have to go, get out!"

Her sweet face tilted in a smile of love that blinded him to the pain. For a moment of utter ecstasy all else faded. Then agony assailed his senses and he began to drift again, worried now for her not for himself. "Hush, *ai ren*. This will pass." She crooned.

The Captain could not laugh, could not even snort in derision. His range of responses were minimilised, his movements subdued, truncated. His ability to articulate circumvented by how much everything hurt. And Malcolm Reynolds was a man with a high tolerance for pain. "What in the nine hells happened, little albatross?"

River was beside him now, looking through his eyes at the burnt landscape that he imagined to be the ruin of both body and soul. She touched him gently, his tears falling in molten drops that vaporised with a soft hiss. "You are not on fire, *wode xinzang*."

"Huh, you think?"

She smiled, such a beautiful sight that his heart rejoiced to see it, pain or no pain. Her look was gentle, understanding. Her words a balm to heal his soul. "*Qu*, you have a fever."

"That so? How'd I do that?"

"They tortured you, *bao bei*." He could see tears form in her eyes and that hurt him worst of all. Couldn't bear to be the cause of that. "They beat you, broke your bones, cut you. The wounds became infected, Mal." She paused, voice catching. "You almost died."

"Ssssh, River. *Fengmi*, don't you cry, that's an order gorramit."

He felt her soothing touch, ignoring the pain to absorb her nearness. The love coming off her in waves cooling the sorrow in his heart and helping him ignore his condition. There was only River. Everything else in the gorram 'verse hurt.

"Know how much I love you, little albatross?" "You should rest, *ai ren*."

"More than the breath in my body."

"Ssshhh, go to sleep."

"More than all the stars in the gorram sky."

"You need to rest."

He paused, holding back the wall of pain so nothing but his love would touch her. "You gonna stay?"

A kiss soft as the beat of an angel's wing touched his swollen lips. He couldn't kiss her back. Not yet. But in his mind he was already imagining the day he could. "*zongshi*."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband *hundan* = bastard *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *wode ma* = mother of God *tianna* = oh God! *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo* = animal fucking bastard *xin gan*/*ai ren* = sweetheart *wode xinzang* = my heart *qu* = yes (lit. go) *fengmi* = honey *zongshi* = always/every time


Thursday, March 16, 2006 7:11 AM


OMG - such stress! Poor Simon, first Mal at death's door and then Kaylee going into labour.

Loved Mal's "Don't cry - that's an order" line. Very sweet. Very Mal.

Also much appreciated Jayne's rage - he kind of vented off some of mine.


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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.