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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"While everybody tries to adjust to the idea of River and the Captain being an item, the Shepherd threatens Hellfire and Damnation."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 3656 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "A SPECIAL HELL"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "SO CLOSE TO HEAVEN"
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "While everybody tries to adjust to the idea of
River and the Captain being an item, the Shepherd threatens
Hellfire and Damnation."
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 SPECIAL HELL"
A "Firefly" story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
Zoe cornered him at one end of the cargo bay. They had just finished loading up goods for transport to Deliverance. An apt name for a planet being recolonised after being pulverised into a smoking ruin by the Alliance during the War. Their contact, Alex Trent, had been given Captain Reynold's name by none other than Lord Warwick Harrow. The Captain did not ask how a former Browncoat had come to know a member of Persephone's aristocracy and Trent had not volunteered the information. A small deposit had been handed over in coin, the rest of their payment would come on delivery. Normally Mal would have asked for more up front. The sum was pitiful but the magnitude of what these people were wanting to achieve struck right through to his core and even had no coin passed hands he would have taken the job. Even sight unseen.
Now he was reviewing the assorted crates. Checking them off against the list Trent had given him. Jayne, Book, and Wash had gone up to the commons area to see what Kaylee had rustled up for dinner. Zoe had lingered and the Captain deliberately pretended to be so engrossed in his task that he did not see her. She could be patient. No one knew that better than he did. It was a quality Wash was learning but had yet to know the depth and breadth of. The Captain sighed softly between gritted teeth, his face averted, and steeled himself for her grave displeasure. Her voice, as it always was in such situations, was deceptively mild. Calm and light, a disarming display of reasonableness. Only Mal knew it was no such thing. It was a bear trap and a pit had been dug for him complete with nice long sharp bamboo spikes. He knew when to tread with care.
"You can't do this."
He kept his voice as quiet and mild as hers. Conversational almost. "Can an' am, Zoe."
"She's just a child."
"She's young, I'll give you that." Mal straightened from his task and dropped the pretence of being too busy to have this conversation. At least she was giving him the courtesy of having it in private. "But don't be makin' the mistake of thinkin' River's a child."
Zoe's eyebrows rose into her hairline. Her arms were folded across her chest and he could see the hint of steel in her eyes. Lips set in a firm unforgiving line. She might be his best friend in all the 'verse but Zoe Warren was no pushover. Not then, not now, not ever. He respected that in her but at times it could be a frightening thing to come up against. "She's 18, Mal. You turned 30 last year."
He rested his hands on his hips. "*Dui*. An' don't think I went lookin' for this..."
She shook her head. "I don't think that." It was the one thing she was certain of. A flicker of worry shone in her eyes. "But it's wrong and you know it, sir."
"This ain't your business, Zoe." He said in a tight careful voice. Not wanting to push her, to shove her out, but needing her to know that this was something she did not want to get into with him.
"Your business is my business." She said flatly not raising her voice. All steel now.
He stared at her in silence as memories assailed his senses. Knew the whole gamut of meaning behind those sparse words. The cool certainty of her claim on him unquestioned but that was then and this was now. She would walk through fire and storm with him or for him. Not nobody would touch him or bring him harm without her terrible vengeance ripping the last breath of life from their sorry asses. It had been that way between them since the War. The loyalty, love and devotion went back even further. To pasts that meshed and merged at an early age. To a friendship formed in a single first look and the moment they had reached for each other in the shadow of terrible tragedy and found comfort. That was the moment when everything she had lost was replaced with the one true thing she had found and could never relinquish. He was her touchstone, her rock. The piece of her heart that would never betray her. A friend who would do all the hard things, the things she would never voice or ask of him just as she would for him. As automatic as breathing. It was a bond forged so deep and strong that nothing could shift it.
"This is between me an' River." He said quietly.
"You don't bed crew."
"Then what is she?"
He took a moment to order his thoughts beyond the rush of emotion that made this conversation all kinds of unsettling. He wanted Zoe to be happy for him, for *them*, but knew she was just trying to protect him. Look out for his interests when he was too blinded by lust or passion to see clearly for himself. But how could he explain to her that this felt right? "Not sure I can explain it." He said softly.
Her look did not waver. "Try."
"Ain't going nowhere till we have this out, Mal."
"Not your place, *bao bei*."
She blinked and forced herself not to react to the almost tender nuance in his voice. "Then whose place is it? We've always looked out for each other, Mal, and I'm telling you if you go through with this it will end badly."
She saw the pain in his eyes and almost backed off but her certainty was so strong she couldn't do it. Would not forgive herself if she took the easy way out and left the whole of the burden on him. It might seem no burden at all right now, the flush of lust and the notion of romance being a seductive thing in its' own right. But when the gravity fell back in place the shock and weight of it could crush him and right now he was not seeing all the possibilities. Not seeing anything but the blossoming affections of a not-quite-right child fixed on him with all the intensity and passion of true love. Then there was River herself. Girl was all kinds of crazy. Even her lucid moments could be creepifying. She knew the Captain. How niave and pliable he could be when exposed to a woman's wiles. And she had no doubt that River was using all her considerable skills to get what she wanted. She needed to rip the blinkers off his eyes but not at the cost of his immortal soul.
He took a couple of steps towards her not stopping until they were mere inches apart, his eyes never leaving hers. He was grave and solemn, a wealth of emotion in those soul deep eyes. His voice so quiet and soft that it made her heart ache. "Mayhap I don't always know what I'm doin', Zoe, but this ain't about sex. Not sayin' sex ain't important but.... it's *not* about that. Nor even lust though a goodly lust is a beautiful thing. A man wouldn't be human without it. Not sayin' that."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm sayin' I care about her on all kinds of levels. Some I don't right understand except to say it goes past bein' acquainted. Ain't just a likin' neither, nor the need to look after an' protect her. I know what you're thinkin' an' I can't say as I blame you but it's more than that. Like part of my soul callin' out to me an' it's a voice I can't ignore Zoe." He paused and briefly touched her shoulder with his right hand, not resting it there but reaching out to her in an unconscious gesture for her understanding. "River touches me inside. Like still waters it goes deep, Zoe, an' I'm probably makin' a gorram mess tryin' to explain it to you but I ain't just fixin' to take her to my bed *dong ma*?"
She knew that. That was what frightened her. When the Captain fell he always fell hard. If he was accepting the girl's advances it was already too late but she had to try. Because she loved him too. Not like she loved Wash. Not with a lustful heart or body but with the intensity and devotion of family. Her need to protect him was so strong it over ruled every other imperative she had. Now he was trying so hard to make her understand not knowing that she already did. It was not the understanding that was the problem. It was the fall once he discovered the ground beneath his feet wasn't so solid after all. Gorrammit if it didn't make her want to cry but she could not let down her defences. Not let him see that. She had to be strong. Not for her but for him. And that meant there would be no surrender and no retreat. "Not sayin' I agree with you, Mal, but I'll be watchin'."
He nodded, knew it was the best he could expect for now. "That's all I'm askin'." He gave her a gentle smile, his mind already drifting to the crazy girl who had stolen his gorram heart. "It may all turn to mist by mornin' Zoe but somehow I think this is the real deal. Ain't gonna rush it an' ruin it no matter how fast she wants us to go. 'Sides, we promised Simon."
River was so happy. Calm and bubbling with a brightness that it was impossible not to be drawn to. Kaylee smiled, laughed and tilted her head at her friend. They were in the engine room only Kaylee wasn't getting much work done. She was too filled up with curiosity about how River and the Captain had gotten together. And she wanted *all* the gorram details. "Come on, River, ya have to give me somethin'! Did the Cap'n come a-courtin' ya? All romantic like?"
River smiled. "No, it wasn't like that."
"What was it like?"
She told her. Kaylee's eyes grew round as saucers, her mouth dropped open in shock. Hardly able to believe the words coming out of her friend's mouth. "You climbed into the Cap'n's bunk while he was SLEEPING?"
River nodded her head and tried to smother her laughter at Kaylee's expression. Kaylee quickly went from shock to *need to know*. "What did ya do? Did he wake right up or what?"
"No." Her eyes softened and took on a faraway look. Kaylee clasped her hand and waited. "He was lying on his side." She looked at Kaylee for a moment, her mood sobering a little with memory. "He was dreaming. Not a peaceful sleep. I touched his face. Gently so as not to wake him, wanting to banish the nightmares. Protect him." She smiled. "He sighed in his sleep and rolled on to his back. He's so beautiful, Kaylee, and I'd waited for him for so long but he never saw me as anything other than a child. Didn't see the woman waiting in the wings. The caterpillar breaking free of the chrysalis to become a butterfly. I see inside him, all his shattered dreams. The pain-filled landscape of what-was. The ghosts he carries that weigh him down. I touched him, needed to love him, show him how different things could be."
Kaylee was almost afraid to ask what happened next.
"So I kissed him."
The mechanic could not help but smile back at the mischievous look that had come over River's face. "Then he woke up, right?"
She shook her head. "No. I was careful, gentle. He doesn't sleep well or often, I couldn't bear to wake him yet but I couldn't bear not to touch."
"What did you do, River?"
She grinned. "I touched." Kaylee gasped, eyes locked on River's. "He wasn't wearing much just some sleep pants so I gently kissed him and slid his pants off." She paused, lost in memory. A happy little smile hovering on her lips caught between mischief and high content. Her look tender. "I love the little moans and sighs he makes when he's sleeping. You should have seen his face when he woke up to find me laying there, making his throat catch and his body shudder with my mouth and tongue on him. I think that's the first time I've ever seen the Captain really speechless."
Kaylee could not believe her ears. Blushed for the Captain. *Diyu*, blushed for herself imagining River doing *that* to him. "River..." Her voice trailed off. What could she say? People said she was free with her body but she hadn't ever crept into someone's bed and seduced them WHILE THEY SLEPT. She liked her partners conscious. Or at least she always thought she did.
"He tried to tell me it was wrong, that I shouldn't be there. As if I didn't know what I was doing but I did. I had him so close he could hardly form words."
Kaylee went bright red. She was no prude but River's matter of fact description of how she had seduced the Captain was freaking her out more than a little. River stopped talking and noticed for the first time how shocked her friend was.
"Don't worry, I didn't hurt him. I would never hurt Mal."
"River, I don't know what to say. Cap'n's a good man but ya shouldn't go climbing into other folks' bunks like that. An' ya certainly shouldn't.... ya know... Do *that* to 'em while they're sleepin'."
"I wanted him to know how I felt and I'd waited so long."
"Waited?" She frowned. "What for?"
"To be 18."
Something clicked in Kaylee's mind. "That was what that announcement was at dinner?"
She nodded happily. "It was important."
"I didn't want anyone thinking the Captain was taking advantage of me. I wanted this and they needed to know that. I'm a woman now and a woman has needs." She paused and gave Kaylee a slightly doubtful look. "I thought you would understand."
Kaylee looked stunned. "I can't believe ya did that."
"What's done is done."
"What does Simon think about it?"
River laughed, her eyes happy and shining again. "He was so mad at me but I told him it was what I wanted. Told him he couldn't choose for me."
Seeing her worried look, River raised a hand and touched Kaylee's cheek gently. "You're worried I'll break him but I won't." She said softly, dropping her hand back to rest in her lap. "I love Mal, Kaylee, and I *see* him. I've seen him for so long now. Not just the outside, the part of him he shows the 'verse, but all the shiny pieces inside. I can see where he's been damaged. Hurt. I can fix him and he can fix me."
"I don't understand."
"Like Wash fixes Zoe."
Kaylee's eyebrows rose. "He does?"
Her voice became softer. "Like you were made to fix Simon." She said slowly.
Kaylee's eyes widened again, this time accompanied by another deep red blush. River laughed and hugged her tight. When at last Kaylee joined in, the sound of their laughter rang in the little engine room and echoed back at them like church bells.
Alex Trent met them when they landed on Deliverance. His tanned face breaking out into a slow grin for the first time since the Captain had met him. A little group of men and women stood waiting anxiously behind him. The Captain stepped down off the ramp and smiled, careful not to have his hands anywhere near his gun, his brown coat flapping against his legs. "Could use a hand unloadin' here."
Trent nodded back then it was as if Serenity was engulfed by a small invasion. At the top of the ramp Jayne glowered at them but the Shepherd shook his head gently. "Relax Jayne. Why hump heavy boxes you don't have to?"
Jayne blinked then grinned back. "Yeah. Easy money."
The Preacher nodded then went back to quietly watching. Not taking any notice of the unloading, his measured eye watching the Captain. As if he could feel those eyes boring into his back, Mal turned his head and looked back at the Preacher. He said nothing. Didn't even nod but he knew his time had run out. Trent was pleased, paid the Captain then left. Within minutes of landing the area was empty again. The Captain walked briskly up the ramp and hit the button, closing the cargo bay door shut behind him. Jayne chewed on a half smoked cigar and ambled off to see what he could find to eat. The Shepherd looked Mal in the eye. There was no one else at the top of the ramp. "Time we had that talk, Captain."
For the sake of a little privacy the Captain led the way to his bunk. Not that he wanted this. Had been avoiding it in fact. But if he was being truthsome he was a mite relieved to be getting it over with. The Preacher waited until Mal pulled the hatch shut. "You have to end this, Captain."
"Not sure I can, Preacher."
Book's eyes narrowed in warning. "Wasn't askin', son."
"Just as well 'cause the only ones whose business this is are me an' River. No offence, Shepherd, but I ain't part of your flock an' neither is River."
"Corruption of a minor is a very serious offence, Captain. They have a very special hell for that."
"Maybe but River's no minor. A mite younger than I would choose my own self but she's 18. Old enough to do all manner of things."
"She is damaged, Captain."
The Captain's eyes hardened, sparking like flint. "I gorram know that, Shepherd! I didn't start this she did but now that the first step's been made I have no words for how right it feels."
"Right?" Seethed the Shepherd.
"Yeah, right. *Dui*. It's like a missin' piece of the jigsaw has been suddenly found. Not sayin' I believe in fate nor destiny nor any of that *fei hua* but I believe in River." He paused, feeling all kinds of emotions rising to the surface. Some easier to express than others. "For a long time I kind'a went dead inside." He said softly. "Could say I withdrew from life. Livin' on the sidelines of things not in the centre. That part was all numb and no part of me no more. Then along came River." Another pause. He looked so serious that Book was convinced of the man's sincerity no matter how wrong it might feel. "She makes me feel alive again, Preacher. Not sure how but the why of it makes me all kinds of happy." He paused for longer this time. "I can promise you this. I will love her an' protect her to my very last breath."
"And if she wakes up one morning and decides she doesn't love you, what then?" Asked the Preacher quietly.
The Captain was surprised how much that thought hurt him. "If that should happen I won't try to hold her back nor step in her way. She wants to go, to end this, any time - then that's what'll happen."
"You may be in too deep to let go." Said the Preacher softly.
For a long long time they just stared at each other. *You don't know the half of it* thought the Captain. "I'll take my chances."
"You may be willing to go to that special hell," Said the Shepherd carefully. "But know this: if you continue this with River you'll be taking an innocent with you."
River could tell something was wrong. Even before he turned towards her as she descended the ladder to his bunk she knew he was upset.
"River, we need to talk."
Her eyes searched his keenly. "You think we shouldn't be doing this."
It was a statement not a question. Flat and bald. "I've been speakin' to the Preacher."
She nodded. "He's not what you think. You can listen to him Mal but that doesn't make him right."
He stepped up to her, gently cupped his hands on her upper arms, his look serious and intent. Full of feelings all twisted and locked up inside him with the need to stay in control. To not swamp her with the intensity of his love and need. Stronger for having crept up on him unawares. It was ironic how he was about to lose the one thing that gave his empty life meaning. "Preacher says this ain't right." His said, throat tight.
Tears threatened but she held them back behind those glassy walls that watched him with such heartfelt longing. Pain thickening her senses quicker than lightening. Her feelings trapped behind glass. "Is love so wrong?"
"No, *xin gan*," He said softly, his heart aching. "Just folks don't take kindly to the notion of a girl bein' taken advantage of."
"You didn't take advantage of me, Mal."
"Plenty of folks might not see it that way." He said gently. The Captain raised a hand and tenderly brushed back the strands of hair that fell in front of her face.
She raised her head dislodging a few tears. He watched them roll down her cheeks and tried to keep his own emotions in check. To be strong for her. Gorrammit, this was tearing him apart. He could not bear to hurt her, for this to end. Did not want to be anywhere but in the warm circle of her loving arms. He wanted to love her, protect her, all the days of his life. She felt it too. Shared that sense of completion she had found with him. Knew they were meant be together. It was the only way either of them could be whole. But what if the gorram Preacher was right? What if he wasn't just consigning himself to eternal damnation but River too? He could stand just about anything his own self but he couldn't bear the thought of her suffering one whit for him. Her head tilted to regard him intently, knowing what he was thinking and how he was torturing himself with the need to do right by her. The answers to the crossword clues of their lives scrolling across her brain and drying her tears with a bittersweet understanding of the sheer depth of the man.
"Can't choose for me, Mal." She whispered, her hand gently touching his beloved face.
"Preacher says you'll go to hell." He replied in a voice almost breaking with pain.
"He isn't God and just because he wears the clothes and carries the book doesn't mean he fell from Heaven."
He found himself staring into the beautiful depths of her eyes. Such love and steady regard in them that they seemed to hold all his fears at bay. Her touch on his cheek was like an anchor binding him to her when he might otherwise fall apart. As if only her touch stopped him from being lost. His weakness became her strength. And she would do anything for love of him.
"Perhaps we should wait, *xin gan*." He said softly. "Waited this long."
Her tiny hand tugged him towards the bed. He began to frown but she shook her head gently, the dark strands of hair swaying like a dark curtain before her pale face. River urged him to sit then sat in his lap, her head tilting back so she could look deep into his eyes. "Not going to let you go, Mal."
A small hand fluttered to his lips and stilled his words. "Sssh, no words. We don't have to make love to love each other." She watched his eyebrows raise slightly at that assertion and a little smile tugged at her lips. "If we could never have again what we had last night it wouldn't change a thing. Just don't send me away, Mal. I don't think my heart could take it."
He could not speak. The emotion too much for him. She saw it, wrapped her arms tightly around him and hugged him to her heart. His own arms folded gently round her, holding her safe and warm. She kissed his cheek and smiled when he dried the tracks of her tears with his lips. Murmured words of endearment falling so softly upon her ear and filling her with a quiet joy. She understood him so well and there was a deep abiding passion for him that went beyond all things physical. To be able to hold him this close, to be with him in the Here and Now was heaven enough. Then. Perhaps in time she could dismantle the barriers the Preacher and others like him were trying to place in their way. She was not afraid of anything except losing him. So whatever she could have she would take. And if the Preacher or anyone else persisted in trying to part them not even God would be able to save them from her wrath.
"Maybe you should sleep in your room tonight, *bao bei*?"
River pulled back so she could watch his reaction. "Okay, but if you wake Simon he'll be worse than a bear with a sore head."
He was about to correct her then saw that she was teasing him. He chuckled and lightly kissed the tip of her nose. "What am I gonna do with you?"
"Love me." She said simply.
"Already do, though I don't rightly know how it happened." He paused. "Remember when that hill folk patron called you a witch?" She nodded. "Think maybe the *goushi buru* was right."
"If I'm a witch, I'm your witch."
"That you are." He paused, his look serious again. "What we gonna do about this, River? I don't want you goin' to no Special Hell 'cause of me."
"It wouldn't be Hell if we were together, Mal, but that's not the point. The Preacher is wrong. Don't let him make this into something it isn't."
"What do you mean, *xin gan*?"
"It isn't wrong for a man and a woman to love each other, Mal." She said softly. "Don't think I'm a child who doesn't know what love is all about. The Alliance cut my brain not my heart and I'm smart enough to not only know the difference but know what I want. I want you, *dong ma*?"
He found it difficult to speak. River placed her hand over his heart and looked deep into his eyes. In that instant he knew he could not give this up. Dipping his head he kissed her gently on the lips. She opened her mouth to him, her tongue sliding into his warm mouth, her body pressing him back as the kiss slowly deepened. As the deep folds of night hushed around them all thought of the Preacher's Special Hell fled from his mind. There was only River and a kind of completeness that filled his soul and made his heart soar.
In the Companion's shuttle Shepherd Book was frowning. Inara Serra watched him for a moment, her own thoughts hidden. The Preacher was not best pleased. "We have to stop this, Inara."
"That may be easier said than done." She cautioned quietly.
They were alone but on a ship like Serenity it never paid to assume anything. "What can we do?"
"Nothing for now."
"But this will ruin everything."
Something hardened in the schooled planes of her matchless beauty. "I thought you said you had spoken to the Captain?"
"I did." He sighed. "My influence must be slipping."
"Or River's is growing too strong for even your warnings to have the desired effect."
"The longer they are together the harder it will be."
"I do not need you to remind me." Inara almost snapped back.
The Preacher dipped his head in an automatic act of contrition. He did, after all, know his place.
"Go and get some rest. We'll just have to think of another way."
Only when the Preacher had gone did Inara let her irritation show. She sat at her dressing table and stared at her reflection. Thinking of the reason she had left Sihnon. So much was at stake. It would not do to lose her nerve now. Slowly she picked up her hairbrush and began to draw it through her luxuriant thick dark hair. When she had finished she was calm again but for just a moment she paused and almost failed to recognise the face that stared back at her.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*dui* = correct *bao bei* = precious/treasure *dong ma* = understand *diyu* = hell
*fei hua* = garbage/nonsense *xin gan* = sweetheart *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit
Sunday, February 8, 2004 4:07 PM
Monday, February 9, 2004 2:51 AM
Monday, February 9, 2004 9:44 AM
Monday, February 9, 2004 9:45 AM
Tuesday, February 10, 2004 12:34 AM
Saturday, February 4, 2006 1:14 PM
Saturday, February 4, 2006 4:43 PM
Sunday, February 5, 2006 6:26 AM
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