THE MERCY TRILOGY: 3. "The Right Thing To Do"
Saturday, January 31, 2004

Simon discovers what the Captain has done. Down on the planet surface things go from bad to worse."


TITLE: "THE RIGHT THING TO DO" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: The whole rutting crew. RATING: PG-13. 3/3 STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "DO NO HARM" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE:

SUMMARY: "Simon discovers what the Captain has done. Down on the planet surface things go from bad to worse." 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.


A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Jayne found just what they were searching for. A big old fuel drum it stood half a foot taller than the mercenary and was wider than the spread of his two arms. He grinned at Kaylee as if he had just solved all the secrets of the 'verse. Despite how worried she was it made her smile.

"How we gonna carry it?"

"Who says it's gotta go anywhere?"

She lifted her eyebrows. "Jayne! We gotta get it near the shuttle. No tellin' what condition they'll come back in. Can't drag 'em down into the bowels of the ship, *dong ma*? They'll be infected."

All the colour fled from the mercenary's face. "I'd forgotten."

The way his voice dropped into a sorrowful pit of gloom told Kaylee that despite his attempts to appear unaffected he was just as concerned as the rest of them. He gave Kaylee a serious look. "Ya know I told the Cap no way was I gonna go down there."

Kaylee nodded, not sure what he was telling her that for. She understood, really she did.

He looked away before continuing. "Feel kind'a ashamed now."

She put a hand on his forearm. "It's okay Jayne, Cap'n understands. Simon too."

"Not the point. I ain't never been afraid of anythin' 'cept Reavers before now." His eyes were bleak and troubled when he looked at her. "If they die..."

Kaylee swallowed hard, biting back tears. "Not gonna die, Cap'n won't let 'em and ya know how ornery he gets? An' don't count Simon out, never seen anyone as smart as the doc when it comes to things medical."

He nodded. Sorry for worrying her but there was a part of him that was feeling unexpectedly lost. A creeping fear settling in his gut. As if he was not sure how he would fit in any more if they didn't come back. He had the feeling he could only be whole if the crew was. Didn't make sense but didn't change how he felt. The sudden call from Zoe was almost a welcome relief. A distraction from his dark thoughts. Quickly they went to see what the *diyu* was wrong now.

* * * * *

Simon Tam was furious. Not in the normal way a person gets when somebody does something really stupid but in the intense ire fueled by having been manipulated and out manouevred. Everyone stared at him in stunned silence as he recounted what had happened. Wash and Zoe exchanged worried looks. Kaylee and Jayne got to the commons room just a step behind Book. Alarmed to find themselves facing a very pissed off doctor. Kaylee looked at him in confusion having missed the beginning of the conversation. "Simon? Ya back already?"

"Yeah an' why ain't ya in your suit so we can hose ya down?" Said Jayne.

The doctor flushed with anger, hands balled into fists at his sides. "I'm not in my EVA suit because I never went anywhere, *dong ma*? Our *wangu chunrun* of a Captain jumped me and put me to sleep then took off to go down to the rutting planet on his own! I'm the doctor, this was *my* responsibility not his. What the *diyu* does he think he's doing?"

"He's just trying to protect his crew." Said Inara gently, her eyes misting slightly.

The Shepherd looked troubled. "Does he know what to do?"

Simon nodded, starting to calm down a little as he realised this must have been in the Captain's mind all along. It would explain why he wanted to know how to administer the vaccine, to get the dosage right. He had never intended to let the doctor go down to the surface. Anger was quickly replaced by sorrow. He closed his eyes and realised that the Captain had not wanted to leave River without her brother. He was her best hope of being cured. Being healed. And now he was thanking the man by running off at the mouth and cursing him. He bit back tears and opened his eyes. "*Duibuqi*, I didn't really mean any of that. Yes, I'm mad at him but I know why he did it. It's stupid, brave and heroic and exactly the idiotic thing he would do. I should have known."

The Preacher smiled gently at him. "You can tell him off yourself when he gets back."

Any humour the moment had conjured vanished with those words. Simon did not dare say anything out loud. Everybody else was hanging their hope on a successful outcome only he knew it was a one way trip. Catching Inara's eye he realised she knew it too.

* * * * *

"What's your name?"

The haunted eyes did not blink. Large and ghosting with a thin milky film they stared out of her gaunt face. He wondered just how much sight was left then considered it might be a kindness if God left her blind. The better not to see the ruin of those she had loved and lost that now littered the plain around them. "*Wo mingzi jiao* Cara."


The overlarge head wobbled on the thin emaciated neck. He wondered that it did not snap. "*Qu*."

"Pretty name."


"Malcolm Reynolds." He paused. "*Ni ele ma?*"

How could she tell him her throat was so constricted now that the only food she could take was in fluid form? She did not want his pity. "*Bu qu, xie xie ni*. Not hungry."

He knew it was lie but let her keep what dignity was left to her. "*Kouke*?"

For a moment she wondered if he could read her mind. "*Qu, qing*.

Pleased to be able to do something for her he handed her his pouch of water, gently guiding her hands so she could bring it to her lips without wasting any. The smile of relief on her face made him want to cry. To be so pathetically grateful for so little took him back to the worst moments of the war. When she went to hand the water back he would not take it. He made to move on and she got to her feet to go with him. The Captain paused and put a gentle hand on her arm. "*Qing deng zai sher*."

She shook her head. Stubborn. "*Bu qu*. These are my people, Malcolm, I want to help *dong ma*?"

Yes, he understood. None better. Her courage and fortitude touched him. In silence they moved among the survivors, the Captain innoculating them while Cara offered them a mouthful of water. Mal knew which they appreciated more. It took hours to administer all the doses and when the four crates were empty he looked out with a pain-filled heart at all those he could not help. It felt like a drop in the ocean. A mockery of the need that gaped at him with hungry mouths devouring his soul with their need. Cara touched his hand gently, knowing instinctively that he was upset.


"*Ni cong nar lai?*"

"I have a boat, Serenity."


"*Qu, chuan*. A ship." Impossibly a smile touched her cracked lips. A long ago echo of a beauty long faded into dust and decay. She was not old but the plague had taken centuries out of her. He felt as if he stood among ghosts. "You are a good man but you cannot save us."

Her words hurt him. "*Zhe bing bu hai*. You just gotta have faith."

"Do you have faith, Malcolm?"

The words stuck in his throat. Memories cutting him like sharp knives. Pain driving through to his heart where hope had once lived as bright and shiny as new coin. "We're gonna do all we can, Cara."


The confusion in her voice made him want to kick himself. "I mean me and my crew."

Her head turned slowly as if trying to locate the others. He spoke gently.

"They're back on my boat, *dong ma*? Didn't want to risk no more folk if it could be helped."

She stared at him for a long time before speaking. "Most people would not have come."

"I ain't most people."

She smiled again, a little sadly. "You will leave now?"

"Have to but not for a little while."

Silence fell like a warm blanket between them then she spoke haltingly of her family and friends. The life they had once led in what was now a wasteland of lost dreams. He wanted to go but did not want to leave her. It felt ungallant to hear her story then walk away. He remembered what the doc had said. Whoever came down could never return. He didn't believe that. At last she talked herself to a standstill. He stayed a little longer, told her about his home on Shadow. His family and friends. The call to fight for independence and the young eager faces that answered the call to stand up to the bullying might of the Alliance. Back then it had seemed so simple and the truth was something that no right man could ignore and still call himself a man. Yet many did and those that rose against them were enough to bereave every home on Shadow. The walls of their honoured dead could not keep out the howling wind of change that heralded their passing.

When he finished silent tears were running down his face. He was glad of the helmet but somehow she knew anyway, her bony hand finding his gloved one. Her grip finding strength to give him a tiny piece of comfort to take back with him. "*Xie Xie ni*, Malcolm Reynolds."

He stumbled back to the shuttle, not turning his head. Not willing to see her standing there among the ruins of her people while he left to return to a life among the living. It choked him, made him feel like a rutting coward and filled his heart with anger at those that had done this to them. He was almost at the shuttle when a hand rose up from the bodies he picked his way through. Surprisingly strong fingers grabbed at him as if they could pull the life from his vibrant body to animate one so close to death it would do anything to hang on to that last breath. The Captain slowed his step to turn and see who it was. Offer what comfort he may. That was his mistake. In slowing down and turning the hand took firmer hold on his pant leg, another hand joining it to tug him back. He stumbled and other hands reached out in a clamour. A sudden panic drove him back to his feet as something gave. He paused and looked down in horror at the tear in the fabric. As he lifted his eyes he met those of a young boy. More flesh covered than Cara but somehow more pathetic for his remaining flesh was weeping sores.

The boy saw what he had done. Realised his error and tried to apologise through lips that stuck together every time he formed a word making his speech halting and like a staggering staccato of machine gun fire. "*Duibuqi*, I only wanted to talk to you."

He could not bring himself to be angry. Well. That solved that problem. Doc was right after all. He would not be going back. He sat down next to the boy with a sigh, seeing his distress he tried to ameliorate it. "It's okay. Let's sit awhile."

The boy nodded and sat next to him. As the last of the fading sun threw anxious shadows over the horrific landscape, it was like a blanket clothing the horror with a semblance of decency. The boy tugged on Mal's sleeve gently then wrapped his bony hands around one of Mal's gloved ones. All of a sudden it seemed stupid to keep the suit on. The seal was broken now, he was as good as doomed to share their fate. Might as well give the boy what comfort he could. He raised his hands and unsealed his helmet. The boy stared. Mouth dropping open to gaze upon one who was not infected. He understood then that Mal was not leaving. His clumsy attempt at seeking a kind word and a little comfort had claimed this man to share his torment.

"You should leave."

Mal shook his head gently and calmly pulled off his gloves until he could hold the boy's bony hand in his own. The gesture brought tears to the boy's eyes. "What's your name, *erzi*?"


"My name's Malcolm Reynolds but you can call me Mal."

The boy smiled at the gift. Watched the last of the light vanish and suddenly dying didn't seem so bad. He relished the warmth in the stranger's hand, the compassion in those soulful eyes. The non judgemental way he shared a doom that should never have been his. If the boy could have he would have saved Malcolm Reynolds but in lieu of that he was happy to share the last moments of his *goushi* life with him.

* * * * *

Zoe Warren was frantic. They should have heard something by now. Simon said nothing, he had no hope to give them and lying to them would not make this any easier. Guilt gnawed at his soul though he knew it was not his fault. Jayne looked at the huge tank, watched Kaylee still persist with filling it laboriously a canful of disinfectant at a time. He knew they did not have enough to fill it but they only needed enough to cover the Captain and his clothing when he got back. *If* he got back. Zoe's pacing suddenly stopped and they looked up. Her face was a stern mask holding back her grief.

"Something must have gone wrong."

Simon did not state the obvious. Now was not the time. Shepherd Book opened his mouth to say something but a slight nod from Inara made him close it without saying a word. Wash checked the channel again but there was no traffic. He tried calling the Captain but there was not even a burst of static in reply. Kaylee began to cry. The Companion went to her and put her arms around her. No one made a move to leave the bridge. There was comfort in all being together. Zoe looked at Inara.

"I need to borrow your shuttle, Inara."

She opened her mouth to tell her it would not do any good but the look in Zoe's eyes she knew too well. Instead she nodded. "I'll go with you."

Zoe shook her head. "No. If this is a fool's errand the fewer fools that go on it the better."

Simon interrupted the needless heroics. "I'll go with you but first let's give him another hour."

She wanted to argue. He could see that, understood. But she nodded, too worn to fight. She could wait one more hour but when it was up there was not a power in the 'verse that would stop her going in seach of the Captain. If he was dead she would bury him. If he was alive she would tear a strip off him for frightening the *diyu* out of her. It was the least she could do for her dearest friend.

* * * * *

He was lying cold and stiff on the broken ground. The decomposing bodies tainting him with the sickly sweet odour of death. He knew it not. Too out of it to notice much until a warm hand touched his. Vaguely he wondered how the boy had warmed his hands. Was unable to force his eyes open to see, or his tongue to speak. Even his limbs refused to co-operate. He thought he heard fragmented words but the rising wind whipped them away from him. Stolen. Even his last breath was being taken from him. Ah. Now there was symetry.

The journey back to the shuttle was not long but it was torturous. Dragging a body that was a dead weight over uneven body littered ground was no joke and she had to stop many times, her gloved hands slipping on his exposed ones. At last she reached the shuttle and entered the code, dragging him inside as soon as the door swished open. Carefully she pulled him clear of obstacles and rolled him on to his back. A brief touch of her hand to his cold cheek then she was gone closing the door after her. By the time she returned a little colour had come back into his still face. River Tam put his helmet and gloves on the floor and shut the door locking it behind her. Quickly she knelt beside the Captain, longing to rub life into his cold hands and face but knowing it would be foolish to compromise her own suit's integrity to do so. She could not help him if she became infected and unlike the Captain and Simon she had not been innoculated.

So she warmed him in increments, using the shuttle's heat to defrost his partly frozen body all the while worrying that she had come too late. Carefully she wrapped a blanket around him, whispered words to him that he could not hear. Her clumsy hands touching him gently, her pale face shining down on him from the faceplate of her EVA suit. When she could do no more she got up and went to the pilot's chair, taking a few moments to familiarise herself with the controls and recalling how Wash handled Serenity. This was not Serenity but controls were controls, how hard could it be? Remembering the start up sequence she got the shuttle running, then with only a little trial and error she got the shuttle into the air.

* * * * *

Zoe strode purposely in the direction of Inara's shuttle. Simon tried to reason with her, Kaylee wanted to go with her. Jayne thought she was stupid but for once kept his mouth shut. Wash followed his wife with sad eyes and was about to say something when a flashing light caught his eye. Shepherd Book frowned. "Is that what I think it is?"

Wash tried to batten down his excitement. "Zoe? You may want to get back here, looks like we're getting a signal from shuttle 2."

He had never seen so many people run so fast in his life. Zoe's dark eyes were wide, Inara holding her breath behind her. "Is it him? Is it the Captain?"

Wash fiddled with the communications for a moment then the last voice they had expected flooded the bridge. "Serenity this is River, can you hear me? Serenity this is River."

Stunned faces stared at the control panel. Wash hit the reply-send key. "We hear you River, where's the Captain?"

"He's with me, we're coming back but we need Simon. He doesn't look too good and he took his helmet and gloves off."

They could all hear how distressed she was. Simon spoke into the com. "River, this is Simon. Try to stay calm, *mei mei*, and tell us what happened."

Haltingly she told them and they listened in heart stopping silence. When she had finished Wash announced the shuttle was closing in for docking. Carefully he talked River though the procedure. Simon stopped anyone from hurrying to the shuttle. "I suggest we all put on EVAs."

"Simon that's hardly practical." Began Inara.

"Nevertheless the Captain will be contaminated. We do him no favours if in trying to save him we kill ourselves. I know he's good but even Malcolm Reynolds cannot fly and run this ship alone."

Having made his point they hurried to comply then watched impatiently as Zoe cracked the seal and opened the door. Simon hugged River to him then stepped into the shuttle past her to kneel beside the fallen Captain. All his earlier rage had evaporated. He saw the grey tinged skin of his face, the almost lifeless hue interrupting the beat of his heart. That could have been him. Should have been him. It was Jayne's impatient nudge that brought him out of his reverie. Between them they carried the Captain out then carefully lifted him up to the top of the vat. Jayne brought rope and they made a sling for him. Simon looked worried, afraid River had saved the Captain only for his friends and crew to drown him. River smiled through her face plate at him.

"Won't drown."

"How can you be so sure, *mei mei*?"

She hopped up on to the edge of the vat as they began to lower the Captain down on a rope. "Because I'm going to be in there with him." Before he could reach out to stop her River let herself drop and Simon heard the splash echo as she landed inside the vat. Almost frantic with worry it took the strong grip of both Jayne and Shepherd Book to stop him following her.

"Don't you think one crazy Tam is enough?" Said Book mildly.

* * * * *

It was three days later. The brightness of the lighting told him instantly where he was. A low groan squeezed out of cracked lips. A small gentle hand touched his face, the fingers delicately stroking his cheek. He opened his eyes to find River smiling gently down on him. "You nearly died." She stated happily.

Well. That told him he wasn't dead. He tried to speak but his vocal chords did not seem to want to co-operate. Then Simon was leaning over him, a look of barely concealed joy on his face. Joy? Simon? No, he must have been wrong. He really *was* dead. Then the doctor's unguarded pleasure was swallowed up in a more expected scowl. "What the ruttin' *diyu* did you think you were doing, Captain? Oh, I forgot, you weren't thinking were you?"

He scowled back but was too pleased to be breathing in air that didn't strangle his lungs or compress his diaphram so painfully that he thought he would have a heart attack. No. This air was sweet even if it was filled with Tams. He drifted off. Faces slipping in and out of his field of vision. Faces that could have been dreams or real. The difference escaped him. He saw the boy again. Ryan, wasn't that his name? Yeah, Ryan. He looked hale and healthy, a big smile opening up on his face. No weeping sores. No bony hands and body with ribs sticking out. No sickness clinging to him with the scent of death. He saw Clara too, her body replenished with healthy flesh, her skin glowing. Not so old. She was what? Twenty? Twenty-five? Not a day over twenty-five. He started to smile through cracked and bleeding lips then her face began to decompose, her skin hanging off sallow cheeks, her eyes becoming sunken, her aspect taking on the greyness of a life passing before his eyes. Tears pricked him. Ryan turned and he saw the same horror visited on the boy and could not contain the agony of his heart at such cruelty.

Slowly he regained consciousness. River gently rocking him as he wept in her arms. Simon watching silent and worried but unwilling to stop his sister. She seemed to know how best to comfort the Captain and that was something of a mystery to him. She dried his tears and spoke softly to him, a hand brushing through his hair. The music of her voice lulled him and brought him back from the field of the dead. On the fourth day he opened his eyes and spoke. Inara bit back tears. Even Jayne could not hide his relief. It took a combination of threats for the doctor to finally get everyone to leave so the Captain could get some rest. Finally it was just the two of them alone in the infirmary.

"So," Said the Captain slowly, his throat still sore. His voice box rusty. "This is where I get the lecture, *dui*?"

That was what Simon had intended but he could not bring himself to berate the Captain. The man had been through enough and truth to tell he was just happy to see him back. "No, though I did have a speech all planned out for you if you must know."

Mal raised a curious eyebrow. Sleep could wait a moment longer. "You did? What happened?"

"I forgave you."

The Captain was tempted to laugh but he was too close to tears to pull it off. Alarmed the doctor moved closer to his patient, realising he was emotionally very fragile right now and wondering at it. "Was it very bad?" He asked quietly.

The Captain nodded. "Worst I ever seen, Simon, an' I've seen horrors you could hardly imagine."

He could believe him. Had heard stories about the war that made him go cold. What the Captain and Zoe had been through in the war he could not imagine but Shepherd Book had once spoken about the Battle of Serenity in the kind of graphic detail that beggared belief and both the Captain and Zoe had been there. That they had survived it was a kind of miracle. But one that carried nightmares in its' wake.

"Best you sleep now, Captain." He said softly, one hand resting on his shoulder. "You've earned it."

The Captain nodded, his eyes heavy, unable to hold back the drag on his consciousness. "Just think I need a few..." He mumbled.

Once he was asleep the doctor fussed over him a little, making sure he was properly covered and that the lights were dimmed so he could get a decent night's sleep. He was over the worst. Tommorow he could go back to sleeping in his own bunk. He would be bossing them around again before they knew it. A little smile quirked his lips. For all his stubborn ways the Captain was the glue that held their little 'verse together.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Manadarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand *diyu* = hell *duibuqi* = sorry *wo mingzi jiao* = my name is *qu* = yes *ni* = you *ni ele ma* = are you hungry? *bu qu* = no (lit. not yes) *xie xie ni* = thank you *kouke* = thirsty *qing* = please *chuan* = boat *qing deng zai sher* = please wait here *ni cong nar lai?* = where have you come from? *zhe bing bu hai* = it's not that bad *erzi* = son *goushi* = crap *mei mei* = little sister *dui* = correct *wangu chunrun* = stubborn idiot


Monday, February 2, 2004 9:11 AM


As emotionally engaging as always, Alison. Good job! I think it needs another epilogue, though, so we know who paid Badger and provided the serum. Or is that the subject of another shiny story?

Monday, February 2, 2004 3:22 PM


Badger, as ever, is a middle man. He deliberately took the nasty little job because it gave him a chance to mess with the Captain, hoping it would also cause him a whole 'verse of trouble. It isn't necessary for us to know who provided the serum or the story behind that world's problems for this little trilogy. As for whether more will come out later you never do know. Thanks for the shiny feedback, I was beginning to think no one would actually post a comment. You made my gorram day!
Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, February 2, 2004 5:51 PM


I really enjoyed your fic. I generally lurk around here, but I felt I should comment on this since I liked it so much. I have always thought that Mal and River would make an interesting pair - romantic or not - just interesting to interact, and I believe that you captured why. They simply get along because they understand eachother when no one else can. I hope that in the future, you further explore their relationship in whatever form you decide on (especially since it felt like any romantic sentiment in the first two simmered down to practically nothing in the last one).
On another note, the story felt well written and true to the episodes we've seen so far. However, as a cohesive work, the ending felt rushed (as did several other areas). I felt that there were some areas that could have been explored further - like when Mal finally broke down. FOr his character that would be such a monumental event, to finally let go - especially before someone like Simon, and especially considering he is getting comfort from River and not Kaylee or Inara who would be more likely choices for him, given the crew (and Simon) did not know of his bonding with River over the course of the story.
Also, while the interaction between charaters was understandable and believable, there was much interaction that I felt was missing. I think Wash might have been more prevelant than Simon in talking with Zoe, and Kaylee may have more to do with Simon given the fact that he probably was (or should have been) worried about his sister's state of being when she jumped into the vat (after stowing away on the shuttle) and when she was holding Mal. I felt that Simon not noticing River missing would be more probable if he was somehow preoccupied with more than Mal's safety and his own anger - if he was doing more, like comforting Kaylee or preparing for the worst it would seem more likely that is missing sister would go unnoticed.
All in all, I really loved your story. You tackled a tough subject and focused on a coupling of two characters not often grouped together as anything other than a father/daughter dynamic, and came out with a fantastic story that kept me interested. I would love to read more in the future, especially anything that ran along this type of story.

Friday, February 6, 2004 2:19 AM


Phew! Torture me, why don't you? You ain't called Niska in real life, are you?

Talking of names, I'm thinking yours are significant. Am I right?


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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.