GENIUS SERIES: 7 "Homing Instinct"
Monday, January 16, 2006

"While Regan Tam discovers some disturbing news, Kaylee and Wash fret. Gabriel Tam runs out of patience and River forces Simon into making an unhappy decision."



SUMMARY: "While Regan Tam discovers some disturbing news, Kaylee and Wash fret. Gabriel Tam runs out of patience and River forces Simon into making an unhappy decision." 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

* * * * *

Regan Tam was still a handsome woman. Regal in a kind of old fashioned Imperial way that spoke of inherited money and good genes not piracy and political finagaling. No, she was bred for this. Serenity's crew were not. Yet even through the stunned shock upon her face, Zoe could see the calculation set in. Jayne wanted to barge in guns blazing but Zoe and the Shepherd kept his enthusiasm in check. Both knowing that it was best to walk soft until you got the lay of the land before wasting your fire. Mrs Tam blinked slowly, an action that Inara admired knowing that its' purpose was two-fold. Firstly it was intended to project an air of calm and control, secondly to allow her time to organise her thoughts. "*Shenme*? My husband isn't here."

Before Zoe could push passed her Book intervened. Trying to keep things civilised. "Forgive our unseemly impatience, Mrs Tam, but we believe time is of the essence."

She frowned not noticing how her bruised face caught the light as she turned away from Zoe to look at the Preacher. "Perhaps you should explain yourselves before I summon the authorities."

Oh, she was good, thought Inara. Poise as well as control. Shepherd Book folded his hands in front of him. "It concerns your children, Simon and River."

A stricken look cracked the polite facade for just a second before Mrs Tam could replace the mask. Not answering she took a step back and allowed them to enter into the cool shadows of her mansion house. Zoe did not notice the finery, the exquisite taste, the many objects d'art and the fine rare antiques. The contents of the hall alone would buy and fuel Serenity for several lifetimes. They were led in silence into the drawing room. Zoe frowned and wondered where the servants were. As if reading her mind their reluctant host explained. "We had to let the servants go."

Shepherd Book raised an eyebrow but made no comment. Inara was watching their host avidly, noting all the small signs of nerves and stress. Something was wrong. Perhaps the bruise upon Regan Tam's face was symptomatic of some deeper underlying malaise?

"Don't have time to be polite so you'll pardon my bluntness, ma'am." Said Zoe.

Mrs Tam inclined her head and waited.

"Your son Simon went looking for his sister, found her in some Alliance sponsored acadamy that was anythin' but." Mrs Tam frowned but did not interrupt. Her long sensitive fingers laced together in a tight knot that turned her knuckles white. "Don't know how he did it but Simon got her outta there - have to give the boy credit for his courage. River was damaged, somethin' they'd been doin' to her brain he said..."

Zoe trailed off as Regan Tam's face drained of colour. Shooting Zoe a little frown, the Shepherd guided her to a chair and waited until she was seated before nodding to Zoe to continue, the look in his eyes telling her not to go into so much detail.

"What I'm gettin' to is your children found a place on our ship, our Cap'n took 'em in and we've been pretty much crew since. That is until Simon decided it was time for him an' River to move on, find some place to settle free of Alliance entanglements. None of us were too happy about it but it was their choice not ours. I have to warn you we had a few scary times while they were with us what with the Alliance tryin' to get River back. They made both of them fugitives an' that made it dangerous for all of us."

Regan Tam took a moment to take that in. "*Wo zhidao*, why would you take in fugitives from the Alliance? Why put your whole crew at risk for my children?"

"It was the Captain." Book explained. "He fought for the Independents in the war that was as did some of our crew. Protecting them from the Alliance seemed to come naturally."

A ghost of a smile touched lips that looked as if they had long forgotten how to laugh. Inara got a glimpse of the woman Regan Tam had been, the warning of what River could become if the joy of life was allowed to be squashed out of her. It made her sad but also gave her sympathy for the woman no matter what things she had been party to since. At her core she sensed the siblings' mother was not an evil woman. "You were talking about my children." A spark of life reanimated the expressionless face. "Where are they?"

Zoe and Book exchanged a glance. Jayne stayed silent by the door to the hall. Listening as intently as those inside the room but wanting to be able to hear any other sounds in the big old house. Didn't want no one sneaking up on them. Zoe exhanged a look with Inara, wondering how best to continue. Inara gave a lift of her beautifully sculpted brow in query. Hiding a sigh Zoe nodded and let the Companion take up the story. Quietly and calmly Inara brought Regan Tam up to date, the others silent and grim beside her. At first the woman looked as if she would argue but then her shoulders sagged and she seemed to crumple in on herself. The Shepherd dropped to one knee and peered at her anxiously.

"Mrs Tam? Are you alright? Shall I get you some water?" A look silenced him. Then Regan Tam was rising to her feet, an imperious expression on her face chasing away the shadows of sorrow and dispair. The light sparking in her eyes as if she was gearing up for a fight, one she was determined not to lose. "I have listened politely, if incredulously, to the most colourful confabulation I have ever heard come out of any mouth apart from that of a politician!" She paused only to fix them one by one with the kind of steely glare that nailed hearts to the wall until the blood drained out of them. "Give me one good reason why I should believe a single word you say?"

* * * * *

Kaylee could not settle. The worry and anxiety putting her so on edge that it was beginning to drive Wash nuts. "Kaylee, *fang xin*. Zoe won't let anythin' bad happen."

The mechanic twisted her hands and looked ready to cry again. "But it already has!" She wailed. "First we lost Simon an' River, now we lost the Cap'n. What if we all get took, one by one?"

"That isn't gonna happen, Kaylee."

"You don't know that!"

"No, but we have to stay positive. Look, everybody's doin' everythin' they can to find the Cap'n." "Yeah, but if Zoe an' Jayne kill Simon an' River's parents...."

"Woah!" Said Wash alarmed. "Who said anythin' about anybody killin' anyone?"

"You saw Zoe. Ain't seen her that mad since Niska."

"Well alright but that... that wasn't a regular thing an' this, this isn't either. What I'm tryin' to say is we don't know if the Cap'n's there an' if he is maybe we can talk some sense into them an' get him back."

"An' if he ain't?"

"They may be able to tell us where to find him."

Kaylee flopped down into the co-pilot's chair and wished she had gone with Inara. Anything was better than waiting. She looked so down hearted that Wash wanted to say or do something to cheer her up but there wasn't anything. Before she had gone with Zoe, Jayne and the Shepherd, Inara had done some checking to see if they could find a fuel store on the Tam Estate but they had not been able to find one. The best Wash had been able to do was set the ship down in some wooded land on the edge of the estate. In sight of the house and the main gates but hopefully masked enough by the trees to hide the distinctive outline of a Firefly mid-bulk transport ship. It worried Wash more than he could say that if Zoe's plan went to *diyu* they wouldn't have enough fuel for Serenity to take off again. The pilot had no words for how nervous that made him feel.

* * * * *

Simon hated this. It made his skin crawl with apprehension but his sister was adamant that they had to go and gave him no peace until he had reluctantly agreed. They left in the early hours leaving behind a note to the people who had taken them in along with some of the money and food they had been given by way of compensation. Simon had wanted to take it all with them but River had insisted. Said the people needed it more than they did. All they needed was enough to barter passage. Tired and dispirited Simon found a ship and booked passage. Oddly enough, the crammed smelly over crowded cargo hauler made him think fondly of Serenity. River tilted her pale face up at him, an almost ethereal glow beneath her skin as she smiled. "Home."

He knew she was talking about Serenity and for the first time since this whole insane adventure had begun Simon felt inclined to agree with her.

* * * * *

The blow rocked the Captain back in the chair. Barely stirring except to groan, Purdy drew back his fist and hit Mal again in the gut. Gabriel Tam stopped pacing to watch in a kind of morbid fascination. Only when he realised the Captain really was out for the count did Gabriel call a halt. Irritated almost too much to speak his words were rapped out in a brisk staccato like bursts of gunfire. "*Tingzhi*! He's no good to me dead, *dong ma*?"

Just then the com sounded and Gabriel Tam frowned as his pilot informed him they were approaching the estate. Something in the pilot's voice sounded strained.

"*Shenme shi*?"

"Seems we got visitors, *shifu*."

Suspicion flared in the darkly demented mind. Gabriel paused only to snap out a few instructions. "Untie him and get him ready."

Then Gabriel Tam was walking briskly to the bridge. Leaning on the pilot's console he stared down at what had caught Martin Cole's sharp eyes. "*Wode ma*! Is that what I think it is?"

Martin nodded and trimmed their speed and angle of descent for landing. "*Qu*, it's a Firefly. Looks like it's seen better days."

"Hmmph. *All* Fireflys have seen better days." He sneered.

The pilot paused the final approach. "What you wanna do, *laoban*?"

"Land. If that's Reynolds' ship we may get the answers we've been looking for after all." His sudden grin was mean and nasty. It distorted the planes of his face into something almost unrecognisable.

* * * * *

They had been talking. Or rather, Wash had been talking and Kaylee had been pretending to listen. Mid-sentence Wash stopped talking and suddenly sat up, craning his neck as he looked out of the bridge window. Kaylee looked up. "Wash?" The pilot raised a hand to silence her. There was a moment's heavy pause then he swore. "Oh no, *qingwa cao de liumang*!"

"*Shenme shi*?"

"We're humped!"

* * * * *

Jayne ran to the front window and leaned flat against the wall beside it, Vera held against his chest, his head turning so he could squint sideways through the glass and see who the good gorram had just arrived. The figures were running low in a kind of blur but Jayne got enough of a look to notice they were half carrying and half dragging something between them. Zoe leaned through the drawing room door and looked anxiously at him. "*Na shi shenme*, Jayne?"

"We got comp'ny."

Zoe glanced at the others in the room. "Best take what cover you can."

Mrs Tam did not move. "I suggest you go while you can."

Zoe's look hardened. "Not goin' nowhere."

It was the sudden sound of wood splintering then gunfire that ended any further niceties. Zoe turned and brought her sawn off shotgun up to aim as several mean kicked in the front door and rushed inside. Jayne's gun was already tearing into bodies and wall plaster alike. Two big men fell but Gabriel Tam had been protected and made it to the side of the hallway unharmed. Before Jayne could fill him with bullets Zoe shouted. "Jayne, don't shoot!"


"They've got the Cap'n!"

With a sinking feeling Jayne Cobb froze and realised she was right. The Captain hung sagging between two ugly brutes with faces only a mother could love. As soon as the brief but fierce exchange of fire stopped, Gabriel Tam raised his voice. "Put down your weapons - now! If you want Captain Reynolds to live you will lay down your guns and step out into the open where I can see you."

From the drawing room Zoe's voice came back cold and deadly. "Not gonna happen! We got your wife here. Don't wanna firefight but if you start one we'll finish it."

"Big words for kidnappers."

Zoe blinked and glanced at Mrs Tam. Her lips were pressed close together forming a thin line. Zoe could not decipher the look in her eyes. Okay. So no help there. "We're not kidnappers."

"This little demonstration says otherwise."

"Mr Tam, there doesn't have to be any more bloodshed, *dong ma*?"

"*Wo dong*, just hand my children back and you can go. I'll even release your Captain."

"We don't have them."

"Oh?" Said Gabriel Tam in an odd almost detached voice. "That's a shame. For your Captain."

Zoe couldn't get a clear view of Mr Tam or Mal and only fleeting edges in her sights of Gabriel's bully boys. Before she could shift position and try to get a better view Zoe heard several guns cock and knew they were not theirs. *Goushi*, seemed like everything was turning to rat shit. A second later and a sustained burst of heavy fire told her that Jayne was unleashing Vera. Zoe closed her eyes just a fraction of a second and prayed the mercenary knew what the good gorram he was doing, then on a count of three spun round the door jamb and unleashed her own tidal wave of gunpower at the last of Gabriel Tam's men. Purdy had a hand around the Captain's throat, holding the unconscious body against him as a kind of human body shield. Jayne's eyes narrowed, not liking the look of the Captain and angry as *diyu* at what was happening. Not giving it another moment's thought he took careful aim and shot Purdy between the eyes, a beautiful round hole appearing in the man's forehead a split second before the back of Purdy's head blew off spitting out blood, bits of bone and brain matter. Jayne took pleasure in watching the way the crimson remains sprayed into Gabriel Tam's shocked face. Had a kind of poetry to it.

Rushing forward Jayne caught the Captain as he fell, his big hands surprisingly gentle. Trusting to Zoe to cover Gabriel while he took care of Mal. None of Gabriel Tam's hired thugs had been left standing. Zoe noticed almost as an afterthought that the redecoration of the Tams' plush hallway almost made Reavers look civilised.

The stunned silence was broken slowly as if everyone was in too much of a shock to move for a moment. Shepherd Book watched Regan Tam's face as she realised what had happened. The look was not what he would have expected. No shock. No surprise. Just wary. That was when Book knew for certain that the lady was no stranger to sudden violence. Gabriel Tam opened his mouth but Zoe spoke before he could say anything. Her shotgun aimed at him point blank, the mute warning self explanatory. "Best not move a muscle, *dong ma*?"

Shepherd Book moved to kneel beside Jayne and the Captain, amazed when Mal's eyes flickered open. All muzzy and glazed but able to recognise his friends though he seemed more than a little confused. "Jayne? What the good gorram you doin'?"

"Saving your life, Captain." Said Book gently.

Mal blinked. Dizzy and in pain but somehow making sense of the words. "That a fact?"

"Yes, Captain. It is."

The Captain's eyes were heavy, the lids sliding shut as darkness took him. The murmur of words so low Jayne had to lean real close to hear them. A slow satisfied smile eased over his lips. Three little words. Words he had been wanting to hear for so long. Ever since Ariel truth be told. As he stood up he gave the unconscious man a little nod then fixed a cold angry glare on Gabriel Tam leaving Book to see to the Captain. Zoe was curious as to what the Captain had said but Jayne wasn't sharing. Hiding a pleased smile Shepherd Book did not let on that he had been the only other person to hear the quiet pained words from Captain to mercenary.

"Okay," Said Zoe moving into the hallway, deftly stepping over bodies to get closer to Gabriel Tam. "Keep your hands where I can see them."

Regan Tam was about to intervene when they heard a sound at the door. Turning to see who it was she froze, her eyes widened in shock then joy. A few feet behind her, Gabriel Tam's harsh features softened and folded like a crumpled sheet of paper. Simon and River Tam looked at the bloody tableau before them as they picked their way through what remained of the front door. Inara moved towards them, trying to spare River the sight of so much blood but the girl easily dodged the Companion's good intentions. Her expression accusatory as she glared at her father and mother. "Look what you've done!" River then turned to Simon. "You have to fix daddy. You broke him, you fix him."

Her father began to protest, his voice all but cracking with emotion. "River, *xin gan*, Simon didn't break me."

River shook her head, her eyes cold. "Not talking to you."

Gabriel Tam blinked and looked at his son but Simon was so angry he could not speak. Instead he followed his sister to check on the Captain, Book's gentle eyes meeting his while River placed a hand on the Captain's chest. She angled her head as if listening to the beat of his heart, smiling when she found it was steady and strong then looked up at Simon. "Time to go home." River dropped a gentle kiss on the Captain's cheek and moved away to give her place up to Inara. A satisfied look on her face when she saw the Companion cradle one of the Captain's hands in hers while tenderly brushing the fringe from Mal's face.

A little cry made River spin round then stop. Regan Tam stared at her daughter with tears in her eyes. River gave a watery smile then started to cry herself and ran into her mother's arms. Gabriel Tam just stood and gazed at the debris that was all that was left of his life. Simon would not talk to him, River would barely acknowledge him and every time his wife caught his eye there was anger and censure staring back at him. Confused and hurt he just stood there, wondering what in the nine hells he had done to deserve any of this.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme* = what *wo zhidao* = I know *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *diyu* = hell *tingzhi* = stop *dong ma* = understand? *shifu* = sir *wode ma* = mother of God *qu* = yes (lit. go) *laoban* = boss *qingwa cao de liumang* = frog-humping sumbitch *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *na shi shenme* = what's that? *goushi* = crap/dog shit *xin gan* = sweetheart


Monday, January 16, 2006 3:50 PM


Shiny. Jayne's redeemed finally. About gorram time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 12:42 AM


Great, I really liked this! The crew are reunited! Yay! Super super great :D More soon please!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 2:08 AM


Loved the reunited crew, Jayne's actions and River's reference to the captain as daddy. All wonderful.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 5:27 AM


Awesome, please continue.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 12:36 PM


Another great installment ALison. You write so well, really capture the characters...everytime I read your work I can picture our BDHs actually playing the scenes.

Can't wait to hear what Mal said to Jayne.. and where this is going. Why did the Tams have to let the servants go? Why did Gabriel assume Mal had kidnapped his kids?

Write faster, faster!


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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.