HEAVEN AND HELL: 3. "A Different Eden"
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

"River and Mal get closer while others plot to part them."



SUMMARY: "River and Mal get closer while others plot to part them." 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

* * * * *

Her mind awoke seconds before her body. She loved this. Lying sated and content in the warmth of his arms, so happy just to be this close. He was still sleeping though he had woken once or twice in the night she had eased him back into a trouble free sleep that made her heart lighter than air. He was so gentle, his passion deep but not overpowering. A tenderness to him that strangers never saw and friends only rarely. Every journey into the heart of him was a voyage of discovery into herself. A smile graced River's lips before her eyes opened to gaze on the object of her affection. As if she was the alarm that woke him he stirred from his sleep and smiled back. "*Ni hao ma, bao bei*?"

"*Hen hao, ni ne?*"

"Like a baby."

That made her laugh quietly and her humour was another gift to him that he was so glad he had opened. He felt as if every moment spent with her was something so precious and wondrous he could not bear to squander it with anything less than happy thoughts. His smile widened as he realised he was delirious with joy. She knew, even if she could not see it in his face nor read it in his eyes it was in his heart. His mind. He really was hers and nothing in the 'verse could make her happier. Except the one tiny problem of his idea of being honorable and such like. At times the Captain had an almost archaic sense of chivalry. One that usually got him in all kinds of trouble. It was her solemn bounden duty to save him from himself.

"What you thinkin' 'bout, *xin gan*?"

She lay back in his arms, one of his hands gently brushing back the hair from her face. Watching the light in her eyes and marvelling at how someone so fragile could be so gorram strong. A lesson in life, that was River. A gift beyond price. His warm lips gently kissed her neck. She stretched her head back to encourage him to keep going, feeling the subdued laughter bubbling up in him as he obeyed the unspoken wish. "You. Us."

He felt her mood become more serious. "That a bad thing?"

River turned her head so he could see her face clearly. "No, *ai ren*, but it takes some thought."

That amused him. He raised his eyebrows, now gently settling baby kisses across her cheek to the happy curve of her waiting mouth. She wanted to draw him into a deeper kiss but he held back enough to speak a question. "As long as they're happy thoughts, River. Don't want you messin' up that pretty face frownin' and worryin' an' such like. That's what your Cap'n's for, *dong ma*?"

Her eyes sparkled and she turned fully in his arms, splaying across his chest, her hair draping over him, her mouth coming down to meet his and take the kiss he should have given up already. The kiss deepened, both lost in the utter bliss of it. River let her mind go free, exploring him inside while her body explored outside. Loving how responsive he now was to her slightest touch, her change in mood, her darkening passion. They were a match for each other in ways that were so wonderful and unexpected that it moved her beyond tears. Made her heart drunk with his deep wine and longing to drink forever from that wellspring. But she was no thief, she would pay him back in kind all the hours, days and seconds of her life. They made love slowly, each touch flowing into the next. Each heartbeat a shared experience. Each look a library of tender emotions they willingly gave to one another. Building an encyclopedia between them that would leave no part of the other unknown, unexplored or languishing for want of a word, a touch, a brush of understanding.

Each exploration revealed new truths to add to their lexicon. The memories of war and loss still pained him but River soothed the harsh mental images that brought back the scents and sounds of the dead and the dying. Each one a neighbour, each neighbour a friend. She was like a balm blessing him, catching the tears trapped inside his heart before they could fall. Replacing the images that haunted him with ones of happier times so that the trick of memory would not surrender him to his demons. She loved him so much and sensed the height and breadth of his love for her was beyond measure. Never had she expected to love this deep, this rare, this completely. Heart to heart, mind to mind, and soul to soul. She swallowed the sigh of unutterable ecstasy from his lips as he came, her own warm sea washing round him in completion. Their little gasps of joy swallowed in a last tender kiss before he got his breath back.

"River, what you do to me." He murmured softly, his eyes shining on her full of love. His heart so open it made her want to weep.

"It will get better each day." She promised.

He chuckled, amused, thinking she was talking about the sex. "That so?"

River nodded. "*Zhen de*. Each day a little more of what was broken will heal." She said quietly.

His heart caught making his ribs ache. "Heal?"

She gently stroked his face, tilted her head to enjoy how his warm skin shone in the aftermath of their exertions. He looked so very shiny in the afterglow of sex. Did she look like that to him? What did he see when he saw her? "You carry so much pain. Memories that won't let go. Decisions made and others forced on you. Loyalty and betrayal share the same coin."

The light in his eyes flattened with pain. Her eyes never left his, her touch so gentle framed his cheek. "I got a darkness in me, *bao bei*, you don't ever want to touch."

A shake of the head. Determination staring back at him with an intensity he could not always equate with the fragile girl draped over him. "I have touched it," She confessed softly. "And I can help, ease your pain."


The hand moved to still his lips.

"Can't stop me."

"You shouldn't have to..."

"Hush, want to. Too late now."

He froze. "Too late?"

Her smile calmed the sudden spike of panic inching towards his heart. He could not bear it if anything should happen to her. "I can mend you."

"River, you can't mend me." He said gently. "That darkness you mention? It's there for a reason."

"*Wo zhidao*, but that's in the past now Mal. Don't carry it into the future with you. It will only weigh you down. I can help."

"You can't know that River, gifted though you might be."

"*Wo yiding*." She paused. Her smile so gentle he found himself holding his breath. "You help me too." She took his hand and placed it over her heart. "When Simon found me I was broken. Still damaged, but healing now." He could not speak for the emotion welling up in him. She knew. Understood. "Healing." She repeated softly to get the message through. They seemed to connect on a level commensurate with their DNA. Such a beautiful thing. A treasurehouse they had found in their own private Garden of Eden.

They were silent for long minutes, gazing deep into each others eyes. A conversation so deep it was spoken in every cell of their bodies and every thought assailing their minds. A kind of tranquility stole over them like a cloak. A pause in the chaotic 'verse in which they lived. A little sanctuary of calm where no outsider could touch or intrude on them. Together they were complete. Inviolate. River smiled slowly at him, watching the reflection in his eyes grow into an echo on his lips. She had once echoed Kaylee's words back to her, *No power in the 'verse can stop me*. Kaylee had been joking. River had been half-joking when she said it back to her friend. Now. Joining heart, body and soul with Mal it no longer felt like a joke. A new truth solidifed in her mind and she realised that it was now a certainty. This joining made it so.

"Much as I'm likin' this, River, I got me some crime to arrange."

"We got paid didn't we?"

He dropped a little kiss on the end of her nose. "That we did, *xin gan*, but Trent didn't pay well an' I wasn't much for askin' for more."

She nodded. Understood that the people on Deliverance were having a hard time making ends meet without having to find more funds to satisfy their transport needs. She knew too that he had cut the amount down to the bone so as to take as little as he could for the job. He would have done it for free had it come to it but Alex Trent insisted they be paid so paid they were. Now that left a hole that needed filling in their finances. Ship needed fuel, crew needed food and even the illusion of coin jingling in their pockets was better than no illusion at all. She knew how it was but letting the Captain get up would leave her with empty arms.

* * * * *

Inara Serra gave the matter some heavy thought. Going about her mundane morning tasks helped her to think. Being a registered Companion she would never tackle a problem of this magnitude head on. Besides, River was beyond intuitive. It took care and preparation to keep her thoughts a calm pool beneath which her mind would be impenetrable to the young genius. She had not anticipated this turn of events and part of her was angry for not considering the possibility. But who would have thought the chivalrous Captain of this *lese* piece of *fei hua* would fall for the brain damaged girl? Of course, the Captain was more than a little damaged himself though that was through the trauma of war rather a genius protegy's rite of passage.

She pursed her lips thoughtfully as she finished applying her make-up. Her orders were clear and unequivocal as were Book's. That their separate missions had brought them both to this ship had seemed an odd but useful coincidence. Now she wondered if it were anything of the sort. The girl was obviously more than she seemed but that was no more than they had expected. It was the *baichi* Captain that had surprised her. Had her handlers been right? Could he be one of the ones they were looking for? And if he was, how could they use that information to find the others?

* * * * *

Wash turned his head at the measured footfall, knowing the Captain's tread but wanting to see his mood. He was pleasantly surprised to see that the man was smiling. Not a big, all-out razzle-dazzle smile, but the little tender one that sneaked out when a heart was all kinds of happy. It spoke of a deep contentment that no amount of frowning could belie. He found himself grinning back. Happy for the Captain and happy for River, though how that pairing would turn out was anyone's guess. He knew he was just a romantic fool at heart but he couldn't help it. Seeing people happy filled him with joy. Zoe, not so much. For now it was just him and the Captain and a view of the Black.

"How we doin' for fuel, Wash?"

"We're good, Captain. Good but not great."


"We need to refuel but have enough to make any of a dozen planets ahead of us."

"Let me see."

Wash turned in his seat and pulled up the details. For a couple of minutes they reviewed each planet in turn. Discussing the pros and cons and the likelihood of finding suitable work. Neither heard Zoe enter the bridge until she spoke. The Captain all but jumped. He shot her a look of annoyance, the frown deepening as she smiled pleasantly back at him. "You enjoyed that far too much." He accused.

Zoe stepped passed him and gave Wash a kiss, her hand coming to rest on his shoulder, his laughing eyes looking up at her with happy devotion. She repeated her question. "Where are we goin', sir?"

"Not sure yet but Lauren looks good."


He was pleased by her slight frown as she tried to place the planet and couldn't. Anything that knocked that smug look off her face was fine by him right now. He knew it was petty but he *was* the Captain. "Small no-count world. Don't got much but a few minerals an' some mighty fine ore so they trade for all their needs. Too minor to even blip the Alliance radar so they're as good as beyond the Rim."

"We're gonna *trade* with them?"

He shook his head. "*Bu qu*. Got nothin' to trade in kind. No. We're gonna offer ourselves up as transport so *they* can trade."


Wash pointed out another planet. "This is Rainbow. Only a couple of hours out from Lauren. It's a pretty wild and wet world from what I can gather. Most are farmers."

"Each got somethin' the other wants." Mused the Captain. "'Cept niether got a transport ship, *dong ma*? We go down, fix a fee, play shuttle for a time then move on to Richmond to refuel an' resupply."

Zoe gave it a thought then nodded. "Sounds good, sir."

"Wash? Set a course for Lauren. When we're in com range open a channel. Might be best to send a wave ahead to be sure of our welcome before we land."

* * * * *

Shepherd Book found Simon in the commons area. Breakfast was long over and it was hours too early for the mid-day meal. He was fixing a mug of tea. No one else was about. Simon picked his mug up and took a slow sip of the hot liquid, using the motion to observe the Preacher without it being too obvious. The man had a tension about him that was rare. His control was better than this which meant something had stirred the man up and he had a pretty good idea what that something was. Not that he intended to make this easy for him. The Shepherd poured himself a mug of tea. The silence stretching between them until to leave it any longer would be uncomfortable.

"Simon, I was hoping to have a word with you."

The doctor raised an eyebrow and took another sip of his tea. His look telling the Preacher to go on though no words passing his lips.

"I'm concerned about River. This relationship with the Captain is wrong."

Even though Simon had been expecting this conversation he did not think the Preacher would come right out and say it. That he did made him wonder. He kept his voice mild, watching Book surreptitiously while affecting a calm that was fleeing from him with every moment in the Preacher's company. "She seems happy."

There. A flash of anger on the Preacher's face. Simon did not react. He was accruing information. "It isn't right."

Simon shrugged. "I can't say I was happy when I found out."

"You should talk to her. Explain why this is a bad idea."

His suggestion surprised the doctor. "Why me? If you're so concerned why don't you talk to River?"

"Because she's avoiding me. She knows I disapprove."

"Shepherd, I don't doubt you think you have my sister's well being at heart but as she announced at dinner she isn't a child any longer. I can't tell her what she must and must not do, what she can or cannot have. River is 18. I know she's been damaged, hurt, and I will do anything to prevent that happening again but - to my amazement - I don't see the Captain doing anything to harm her. I know I don't always approve of him or what he does but he is a good man. I know that now. And if anyone can see the good in someone my sister can. I think it's a little late to try to stop this if this is what she wants."

"That's what worries me." Said the Preacher in a heavy solemn voice. It was time to take a chance. "I don't think she knows what she wants."

Simon stared at him. Tempted to do just what the Preacher said but then an image of a happy, smiling River filled his mind and he couldn't do it. The other thing was that she had been doing so much better since being with the Captain. Why that should be he had no idea but he wanted to find out. It had been River's insistance that he stopped medicating her. For the time being. Reluctantly he had agreed but the effects so far had both astounded and delighted him. Mind you. Every step forward he celebrated quietly, not knowing when there would be a relapse or how bad it would be. He should warn the Captain what to expect but had the feeling the man would cope. How, he did not know. Now here was the Preacher wanting to bring River back to square one. Never mind the fact that in doing so he would almost certainly break her heart. "Enough people have been telling my sister what to do." He said quietly. "I'm not going to add to that list. This is her life, Shepherd. I'll be here if she needs me, that will never change whether she stays with the Captain or moves on. If you still have a problem with that then I suggest you take it up with her."

The Preacher just looked at him then allowed a drift of sadness to clothe his features. He gave a solemn nod. "Very well. I had hoped to avoid anything confrontational but I will speak to her."

The Shepherd moved towards the door and was surprised when Simon walked passed him and blocked his passage. "Speak to her all you want, Shepherd, but I have to tell you this. I may not be over the moon about this relationship but I won't let anyone force River to do something she doesn't want to, *dong ma*?

* * * * *

Jayne Cobb was grumbling. Not as loudly or as cussedly as Kaylee expected but grumbling all the same. She did not bother to hide her smile as he held the engine block in his strong muscled arms. "That's it, Jayne, just lift it a little higher will ya?"

"Don't see why ya couldn't use the ruttin' winch."

She half shrugged, knowing the complaint was not really meant. He just didn't want her to think he was soft or at anyone's beck and call least of all hers. "Ya know why, ain't got room. 'Sides, you're better'n any winch, Jayne."

He hid the flush of pleasure at the unexpected praise. This time when she asked him to lift one end a little higher to bring the whole thing level there was not a murmur from him. Kaylee's smile broadened. At heart Jayne Cobb was just a pussycat. Not that she would tell him. Even pussycat's had claws if they were a mind to use them.

* * * * *

The Shepherd came across River exiting the Captain's bunk. His brows drew together in disapproval. She frowned back.


"Got nothing to say to you."

"You may have nothing to say to me but I have a lot to say to you."

She paused and changed her mind about walking away. "It's not your place to tell me who I can or cannot love."

"I'm just trying to protect you."

"No. You're trying to control me."

He carefully hid how much her words disturbed him. "The bible says..."

"Let my people go!"

The Shepherd's eyes narrowed slightly. "This isn't Egypt on Earth-that-was."

"No, this is what happened to the Garden of Eden."

The Shepherd gave her a baffled look. "River?"

"And you are the serpent."

He looked shocked. Grave. Offended almost. "That's not very funny, River."

She gave him a long sober look. Her expression sombre as if she were weighing his soul in a set of scales and found him wanting. "No, it is not."

* * * * *

Lauren was an education. Not the shiny Core type neither. This was grit and grime and lots of elbow grease and sweat. A mining colony but thankfully not one afflicted with terminal maladys. The people looked fit and healthy even though their lives were rough. At least no Alliance boot was jammed down on their necks making it hard for them to breathe. Freedom had a price and none knew that better than Malcolm Reynolds. The undulating landscape told the story of the old open cast mines that had long since been abandoned after being stripped of their treasures. Every year they had to sink deeper into the planet's mantle to extract the minerals and ores that had once lain so close to the surface you could almost reach out and gorram touch them. Hardly no effort involved. Times change but needs don't. They still needed to live and eat. Still needed to trade in order to do so.

Pepper Rawlings was a huge barrel chested giant of a man. The leader of the miners he took it upon himself to question Serenity's Captain. Mal was glad. Once he had assured Zoe and Jayne that no one was going to murder him if he stepped three feet from them the tension level lowered considerably. River and Simon were ordered to stay hidden aboard the ship. The Captain did not want anyone planetside that didn't need to be. Zoe shot him a look which said 'are you sure you know what you're doing?' The grin he flashed back at her was more irritating than comfort but Jayne seemed happy enough to take the Captain's reassurance. He leaned back on a fence post and waited, eyes watchful, one hand hovering almost casually within reach of his gun.

Pepper walked away from the ship and over to some wooden tables and chairs outside a big dusty hut which the Captain rightly took to be a saloon bar that had seen better days. *Diyu*. The whole of Lauren had seen better days and that included the people that lived there. Mal was getting mighty weary of seeing good folks forced to scrape a living from the back end of the 'verse just to be safe from Alliance hands. Made his blood boil more with each minute. They took a seat outside, the miners seemingly as addicted to daylight as most folks on Shadow were to a bright sunny day. Mal supposed if he were forced to spend most of his life underground he would be passionate about every second he could spend under the clean open sky. No doubt about it, confinement of any kind made a man almost poetic about freedom.

* * * * *

The Shepherd did not like this. "Are you sure there's no other way, Inara?"

"Just do it. I'll keep a look-out."

"Why me? Why don't you do the search and I'll keep watch?"

She looked at him in frustration. "Because I'm wearing perfume."

The Preacher frowned. "I don't understand..."

"The Captain doesn't wear perfume." The dime dropped. "Oh, *perfume*. Of course."

Inara watched him push open the hatch to the Captain's bunk. He still looked a little nervous but not enough to challenge Inara. He knew his duty even if he did not always like or understand it. He paused just before his head was due to disappear. "What am I looking for exactly?"

She leaned down so she could speak softly, her tone urgent. "Any connection to the Phoenix."

"As in the mythical bird?"

Inara nodded.

"This would be documents I take it?"

She resisted the urge to hit him. "Anything means *anything*."

The Preacher asked no more questions and quickly disappeared down the ladder closing the hatch behind him. The latter had been Inara's idea, the better to muffle any sound the Shepherd might make while he was rumaging. If they got caught there was no way they would be able to explain what they were doing. Bad enough to catch one of them but both of them? How would they be able to explain why they were searching the Captain's quarters? No. This was their best chance yet and Inara was not going to let it slip through their fingers for want of the nerve to do it.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*ni hao ma?* = how are you? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *hen hao* = very good *ni ne* = and you? *xin gan*/*ai ren* = sweetheart *dong ma* = understand *diyu* = hell *zhen de* = it's true/really *wo zhidao* = I know *wo yiding* = I'm sure *lese* = crappy *fei hua* = rubbish/nonsense *baichi* = idiot *bu qu* = no (lit. no go)


Tuesday, February 10, 2004 6:28 AM


Another gripping installment Alison, thank you.

Once again the mannerisms, the speech, everything, is absolutely spot on. It is so easy to read the words yet see this in my mind's eye being played out by Nathan, Summer etc.

Just so I can pace myself, are we looking at a short series or a long series?

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 8:46 AM


"Phoenix?" Ooo, a juicy mystery! I hope the conspirators turn out to be more misguided than evil, just so I can keep liking them, you know? And thank you for keeping Mal and the Tams doubt-free. You're so much better than the melodrama of lovers separated by misunderstandings.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 10:38 AM


Thank you for the kind comments. As for how long this story will be, that would be telling. I have the whole tale mapped out in my head but the telling of it covers the kind of canvas that can't be restricted to lines drawn on a page and measured. Just enjoy the journey and my heart will be glad. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, February 11, 2004 12:38 AM


Oooh! Hopping about with excitement. Want to say stuff about the plot, and earlier comments, but don't want to be spoilery. Not that I *know* ofcourse, but there are a lot of bells ringing in my head. Neat. If we can't have Whedon, let's be grateful we've got Ali.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004 3:46 AM


Wow. Just wow.

Thursday, February 19, 2004 11:28 AM



Where's the next installment??? It's been days and days and days... I need my Firefly fix!

Sunday, February 22, 2004 8:29 AM


Apologies for the delay in getting the next part written but my father was rushed into hospital with a heart attack and there have been complications. We still don't know if he will pull through so there will be less puntual postings for the time being. I am hoping to have the next part up later tonight. Many thanks for your kindness and patience folks, Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, February 8, 2006 5:45 AM


Another wonderful addition...ohhh! The plot thickens...So, Shepard is a serpent and Inara is a bitch...oh, wait we knew that already.

Can't wait to find out what the gorram heck is goin' on here.

Hopefully I get to read more!



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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.