GENIUS SERIES: 28. "Gods and Monsters"
Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"Serenity and her crew take a well earned break as they lay low. Meanwhile an increasingly malevolent Gabriel Tam becomes more and more unglued."



SUMMARY: "Serenity and her crew take a well earned break as they lay low. Meanwhile an increasingly malevolent Gabriel Tam becomes more and more unglued." 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

* * * * *

Groggy and all manner of pained, it took him a long time to realise just where he was and what the good gorram had happened. Memories fractured from the bits of his mind trying so chaotically to make sense of the fireworks going off behind his rutting eyes and the little sparks of agony playing chicken with his synapses. Gorrammit, what in the nine hells had happened? Had he hugged a landmine or what? Drifting off he was unaware of River Tam leaning over him looking intently into his battered and bruised face. Simon was scrubbing his hands clean, his instruments carefully put in the drum for cleaning and sterilisation. The surgery had gone well and the round of transfusions were finally stabilising his most frequent customer.

"Harsh and bitter on the outside. Sweet and full of care on the inside."

Simon frowned, finished drying off his hands and stepped up beside his sister. A frown forming on his face as he noticed her comments appeared to be aimed at the unconscious Captain. "Are you sure you're talking about the Captain? Because I'm pretty sure he's harsh and bitter all the way through."

His sister did not look at him but her thoughtful expression appeared to sadden. "He was a Prince among men now he's a foundling. Hiding behind the rough cloth that soothes his soul."

"A Prince?" Simon almost choked on the word. "River, this isn't a fairytale."

She looked up and their eyes locked. "No, it's a nightmare."

As his look turned to one of concern River dazzled him with her brightest smile. "But sometimes a dream is just a dream."

With a bemused shake of his head he watched her go then looked down at the Captain, amazed to see the man slowly beginning to stir. He had given him enough drugs to drop a horse, typical that even now when his body needed it most he would not rest. Simon watched the heavy lidded eyes blink in slow motion then crack open, the pupils widening to catch the light then contracting when they found it too bright. "Could you be more stubborn?" He sighed softly.

"Huh?" Mal made a herculean effort to focus on the doctor's face. "What happened?"

"You passed out."

A blank look stared up at him, totally confused. Feeling a prick of guilt Simon explained. "You lost too much blood when the wound re-opened, Captain. Why do you always think you have to do everything on your own?"

"No... no time. Not safe."

For a moment the man sounded as if he was channeling River. Simon shook the thought off. It was just the drugs addling the man's mind. Well. More than usual. Softening his stance a little he tilted his head to one side. He wasn't really angry with the Captain just frustrated. "You should have woken us before you decided on your Big Plan."


"Couldn't or wouldn't? Anyone ever tell you that you're a *wangu hundan*?"

"*Bu qu*."

A thin smile tugged at Simon's lips. "Well they have now."

Before the Captain could think of a response the rest of the crew started to crowd in to the infirmary, a smiling River watching from the doorway. Simon gave her a look but she just smiled at him and he couldn't be cross. Besides, it was not as if this crew actually listened to him. Except perhaps Inara and then only when it suited her. Kaylee managed to wriggle her way to the front and beamed down on the dazed Captain. "Good to see ya awake, Cap'n."

Behind Kaylee, Zoe was giving him one of her best stone wall impressions but he could tell from her eyes that she was pleased. Not too sure about what else she might be holding back. "Seems your plan worked, sir."

He frowned. Now what in *diyu* was behind them words? Felt like censure of some kind though he had no clue why. Best to take the compliment at face value and be ready to duck at the missile it might be hiding. When Zoe said nothing else he began to relax, managing a smile when Kaylee bent down to kiss his cheek. "I love my Cap'n even when he's the most stubborn man in the 'verse."

"Huh, I ain't stubborn."

But Kaylee had stepped back and Inara had taken her place. "Yes, you are."

He wanted to ask what she meant. Ask Zoe where they were and if everyone was okay. Far as he could see everybody seemed to be there including Thadius and the other Readers. Jayne looked mighty pleased with himself over something and that made Mal frown, sure he must have forgotten something. Inara's hand touching his sent an electric shock through his system. His breathing sped up a mite and realising he could be giving too much away he made a manly effort to hide it. He wanted her close but not all brittle and mad at him. Mal had no idea what he had done to cause her to be so cool towards him after they'd made such great progress but who knew what the *guai* went on in a woman's mind? He sure as *diyu* didn't.

"What happens now?"

Mal blinked and turned his head until he got a clear view of Jayne. It took him a moment or two to work out what the mercenary meant. Zoe was trying to warn Jayne to back off. "I don't think now's a good time, Jayne."

"Don't fuss, now's good." Said the Captain. He paused then looked at Zoe, managing to let his left hand slide down an inch or so until he could touch Inara's hand. Hiding a smile she let her fingers curl around his and for a moment he could feel his heart soaring. But then his ears began to work again and he got distracted. "Good how, Mal? Ya got us hidin' so far out we'll starve before them as are huntin' us move on. How's that a shiny plan?"

"Jayne, they can't catch us if they can't find us, *dong ma*? If they catch us this is gonna be the shortest conversation in history."

"Yeah, but we need coin Mal."

The Captain frowned, annoyed at Jayne for pressing the point. "I gorram KNOW we need coin but gotta be alive to get paid. Ain't no sense gettin' us all shot up or in *jianyu* just so you can jiggle some flash in your pocket."

"Don't wanna jiggle it, just wanna get to a planet an' get me some..."

"Jayne!" Zoe's voice snapped like the crack of a whip. Stunned into silence Zoe made use of the opportunity to set him straight. "We're stayin' until it's safe to come out. Plenty of time to fix up a job once we got us some breathin' room."


"Cap'n'll think of somethin'."

The big man snapped his mouth shut and shot a look at the Captain, noting the IV line of saline solution on one side of the Captain's bed and the crimson transfusion line topping up the last of the blood the man had lost on the other. The donor this time was Helen. She sat quiet and attentive beside the head of the bed and made no attempt to join in the conversation. In fact the Readers seemed to be expert at melting into the background like gorram furniture. Half the time he even forgot they were there and that frightened the mercenary more than was good. Jayne's thoughts shifted again as he brought himself back on track, thinking about how Mal had the siblings in suits tethered to the outside of the boat with Jayne watching over them while the gorram purplebellies had gone through the rutting ship. At the time he had thought the man was *shenjingbing* but he wasn't. Simon might be top three per cent but there were times when the Captain was smarter. Not often maybe, but it did happen. Might be wise to give him a chance to prove it weren't no flash in the pan.

* * * * *

Gabriel Tam was furious. His companions showed no emotion at all. "What do you mean there's nothing here? That ship didn't vanish into thin air!" The navigator hid his concern, unable to do more than report what they had found. Scrolling through the sensor readings his eyes narrowed slightly. Gabriel Tam pounced on the young man's reaction.

"*Shenme*? What have you found?"

The boy swallowed and brought up a visual. As Gabriel leaned in closer to the screen he realised what he was seeing. Debris. Not a few little rocks or bits of space junk either. There was a substantial amount of metal fragments, sections of twisted hull plating and girders to tell their own story. But he already knew none of it was from Serenity. He was looking at all that remained of the IAV Rosencruz. Somewhere in the cold vault of space were the remains of his wife along with his agent. Gabriel did not consider it a waste of an operative but he was furious that his daughter had once again slipped through the net. After all, he had carefully arranged their escape in order to be able to swoop in and pick up the prize. Only to find his expectations had been cheated and River was gone.

Gabriel turned to Mr Smith and Mr Brown, the two men standing stiff like mannequins. "River Tam, can you sense her?"

The two men just stared at Gabriel and for a moment it looked as if they were ignoring him then slowly Mr Brown blinked then shook his head. "No."

Gabriel turned to the navigator. "Very well, follow the trail of the Firefly."

The young man seemed to find it painful to swallow. "*Duibuqi, shifu* but the trail is gone. The spread of debris has destroyed any chance of knowing which way they went."

Spinning in a sudden fit of rage, Gabriel slammed his right fist down on the console in front of the navigator causing the poor man to almost jump out of his skin. His lips peeled back and his eyes flashed with malevolence. "You will find that ship or you will discover the joys of swimming through vacuum without an EVA suit, *dong ma*?"

The man nodded, too stunned and frightened to speak. Mr Smith stirred slightly and Gabriel looked at him. "There is perhaps another way." He said softly.

If anything, that sibilant voice frightened the navigator more than Gabriel's ranting.

* * * * *

Simon was so very tired. Not so much physically as mentally. The effort of trying to keep some remnant of his shields in place after the intrusion by so many was draining. River had tried to tell him it was unnecessary. He would be able to detect the touch of another mind in time to slam the shield down and block the violation but it did not reassure him at all. After all, if any of the Readers plied his mind in concert he would be helpless as a new born. He had felt that terrible vulnerability once and it had scared the *goushi* out of him. Part of him still could not believe his sister had allowed that to happen even though her reasons had made sense and they had helped him in the end.

Now all he wanted was to go to his bunk and crash out. Hopefully cram in enough sleep to be able to function without falling flat on his face before the next crisis came. It was therefore something of a shock to enter his quarters and find he was not alone. Simon tried to swallow but his mouth had suddenly gone dry. "Kaylee, what are you doing here?"

Simon winced at the sound of his own words. Was there anything more stupid he could have said? Kaylee looked at him for a long moment before speaking. "Ya did a good job with the Cap'n. He really gonna be okay?"

He nodded, relaxing just a touch. So. This was just about the Captain. He could handle that. "*Qu*. I'm beginning to think that man is indistructable."

That brought the bright bloom of a smile to her full lips and Simon felt the pull of gravity that always drew him into her orbit. But he couldn't, mustn't, wouldn't allow this to happen. He had to think of River and the fact that as soon as he found somewhere safe they would be gone. He could not bring his father's wrath down upon their heads. Especially when one of them was Kaylee Frye. A quote threaded its' way through his thoughts, *oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive*. But he wasn't deceiving anyone was he? All he wanted to do was keep his sister safe and not bring death and destruction on those who had tried to help them. Yet another part of his mind was yelling *liar, liar!* Simon found it disconcerting to realise he wanted desperately to cry.

As if sensing his emotional turmoil, Kaylee closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around him. Not nothing keeping her from Simon when he was so obviously hurting. She didn't understand what was going on with him but her innate goodness could not stand by while he was in pain. "Simon? *Shenme shi, bao bei*?"

Simon closed his eyes and tried so hard to be strong. So much had happened and it wasn't over yet. If they ever found out all the things he had done, been a party to, they would shove him out of an airlock before he could form a single word of protest. And River. Where would that leave his poor, beautiful, gifted sister? Kaylee's grip on him tightened, her voice lowered in a soothing hush. It took a moment for his three per cent brain to realise that for the first time in a long, long time he had given in to nature's release and was crying. His silent tears easing for a little while the pain and the angst of a lifetime of playing parts leaving him so empty he thought he would never be whole again. A hideous game of truth or dare, a balancing act of normal and diabolical. Kaylee did not deserve to be touched by his darkness, his guilt, but he couldn't bear to let go. To abandon himself to a life without hope.

Slowly Kaylee soothed him, her head tilting so she could watch his face, her hands gentling the tremors of aftershock as he fought to regain control of his emotions. Silently she wiped his tears from his face, encouraging him to look at her, her warm lush lips trailing down his cheek, her body cradling his as if afraid too much movement would break him. Simon sighed, long and low and painfully as if the air he breathed was redundant without Kaylee's ability to infuse it with life for him. Without her grace and forgiveness he was nothing. He did not deserve Kaylee but she wanted him. Loved him with every atom of her being. He could see it now and in that flash of insight he knew that as much as he did not deserve this Kaylee did and he had no right to deny her what she craved the most. That it was his wish too was of no consequence providing he could keep to the one promise that still meant a damn to him. Do no harm.

* * * * *

Zoe was frowning. She wanted to talk to Mal, thrash out a plan of action that would satisfy her need for structure and ease some pretty dark reservations. Knowing some of the most twisted minds in the 'verse were after them was no consolation. That they were hiding from River and Simon's parents simply raised the level of angst she was feeling making her all manner of unsettled. How the good gorram could she defend against that? And what would she do if called upon to kill their parents? How in the nine hells could she let anyone else do it? Would the Captain, even if he were hale and hearty, pull the trigger? And if he didn't would that consign the gorram lot of them to the kind of gallows that would have them begging for death? Zoe needed her friend's input but could not get near the man. At least, not without a pile of folk listening to every word. It was weird and all kinds of irritating. Inara she expected, but even the Companion had a tendancy to blow hot and cold and lately Zoe had felt the woman retreating from the Captain with no clue as to the why. Now Inara seemed to be sending a different message and it was as confusing as *diyu*. Not that the Captain was any more sensible in that regard. Then there were the Readers. Zoe sighed, not realising Jayne Cobb was sitting at the table in the commons room watching her as he cleaned Vera. The man didn't have to look for his hands to caress that ugly hunk of metal, every inch of the weapon cleaned and polished until it shone. Pity it was made for killing, bringing mechanised death with brutal dispassionate efficiency. For the millionth time she wished Wash were still here, his soothing loving presence a balm for body and soul. Yet there were times when she felt as if he was close, an almost physical sensation that both rewarded and grieved her. Yet Zoe would take the fancy rather than feel nothing at all.

After another dark scowl from Jayne she called him on it. "*Shenme shi*?"


"You're starin', Jayne."

"So? You're sighin'. I ain't makin' a horse's ass outta myself sayin' so though."

"What did you say?" Zoe blinked and re-ran that sentence through her mind, eyes narrowing. Huh. Made even less sense the second time.

"Just sayin' as I should be the one ask you what's wrong, *dong ma*?" "I'm thinkin' we should have a better plan than just hidin' out."

Jayne nodded. "Already said as much to Mal."

"*Ni bu dong*, I ain't wantin' a *new* plan just some meat on the bones of the old one. Cap'n's got somethin' in mind but he ain't sharin'." Zoe fell silent. Not sure why she had said so much to Jayne except that she was feeling restless and frustrated. If they didn't do something soon she might shoot one of the Readers just to break the monotony.

* * * * *

While Zoe was wishing Inara and the Readers would leave the infirmary, Inara was wishing pretty much the same. The Companion wanted to talk to Mal and she didn't want an audience. Merciful Buddha it would be hard enough with the Captain hearing what she had to say. But Thadius Clay and the other Readers seemed to have gotten themselves settled for the long term. Inara glanced at Thadius, her look just short of a glare. Mal realised she was tense about something and had the odd feeling it wasn't because of him. Well now. That was a novelty at least.

"Inara, wanna tell me what's *cuode*?"


"If that's the shiniest lie you can come up with best not play poker."

Inara turned her dark eyes on him and Mal felt a flash of vertigo. He could so easily lose himself in those big brown orbs. Gorrammit, beauty like that should be on prescription. Everybody knew self medication could lead to an overdose and he was light headed enough. Inara squeezed the Captain's hand and for a moment he just enjoyed the moment, staring up at the ceiling while his thoughts drifted like candy floss and had about as much substance. When Inara squeezed his hand again he was surprised the grip was almost painful. Now she had his attention, Inara angled her body so she wouldn't have to look at any of the Readers and gave Mal her full attention. "Mal, I owe you an apology."

He was stumped. What the good gorram was this? If anybody was going to do a deathbed confession it should be him but as much as he felt like *goushi* he wasn't about to give up this mortal coil without a fight. "*Weishenme*?"

The Companion dipped her head a moment then made herself look up again. "I was frightened. The closer we got the harder I tried to run from it."

Now he was confused. He could think of many names to call Inara Serra, coward wasn't one of them. "*Wo bu dong*, what you sayin'?"

She whet her lips. "I have feelings for you. Wholly and totally wonderful and inappropriate feelings."

A smile began to light up the Captain's face then he registered the rest of what she was saying and the smile dimmed. "Inappropriate?"

"Not appropriate, not suitable..."

"I know what the gorram word means!" Mal snapped.

Inara froze. Behind her Thadius stiffened slightly, ready to intervene if the Companion upset the Captain. As if sensing what the man was thinking the Captain gave him a look and Thadius settled back, eyes ever watchful in that silent but sensitive face.

"*Duibuqi*, Mal, I didn't come here to argue with you."

"Then why did you come? Holdin' my hand like it means somethin'. What you up to, 'nara?" His voice softened and almost broke. Inara swallowed slowly, holding tightly to what was left of her composure. Mal watched her beautiful face and wondered whether he was seeing beneath the mask or just another clever manipulation of it. He wondered with a shadow over his heart whether he would even recognise her true face. Some of his sadness must have filtered through because Inara leaned closer, her eyes glued to his, concern at war with other emotions in her eyes.

"Are you alright, Mal? Should I get Simon?"

He shook his head wearily. So gorram tired, yet he wanted an end to this. One way or another he wanted the mask off. Hers and his. "*Bu qu*, what I want is for you to speak plain, *dong ma*? You say you got feelin's for me?" Inara nodded. "Well, I got feelin' for you too, a mite twisted an' complicated what with never knowin' how you feel. Never knowin' if a word I say will come out wrong or if you'll leave for good someday an' me none the wiser as to the why of it. I guess what I'm sayin' is that I care 'bout you Inara, more than a man in my position has any right to. I know I ain't got no hold on you but it's past time for bein' truthsome."

A light flush of red tinged the Companion's cheeks and to Mal she had never looked more lovely. "I care about you too, Mal, even though you are the most stubborn, pig-headed, honourable and exasperating man it has ever been my good fortune to know!"

Mal stared, then blinked, somewhat dazed. Was that a compliment or a litany of complaints? Seeing his confusion Inara smiled. She couldn't help it, the Captain looked adorable when he was confused and vulnerable. She shouldn't take advantage but then what were a woman's wiles for if she didn't? Following yet another of the Captain's crazy plans they might not come out of this one. Before Mal realised what her intentions were, Inara leant down and kissed him, her soft lush lips cushioning his and coaxing him into kissing her back. Soft and slow, the pressure growing gently until his lips parted in sweet surprise, her tongue sliding in and drawing a breathless moan from deep inside him. In that moment, no one else in the 'verse existed.

It was with a sense of delayed shock that the two parted, taking a moment to realise that the ship's proxity alert was blaring and people were running and shouting, the noise slowly impinging upon their consciousness. Inara jumped up and dropped the Captain's hand. Thadius nodded to the other Readers and they ran towards the bridge. Inara stared at Thadius as if he had set the alarm off himself. "What's going on?"

"The others will take care of it."

Mal frowned. "That's the proximity alert."

Thadius nodded then stepped passed Inara and put a hand on the Captain's shoulder. He needed that connection and needed it fast. If the Companion didn't like it, tough. They had minutes at best and the Captain was in no condition to do much about it but he was still the Captain and Thadius and his people would obey him to the last breath in their bodies. But he was just as happy if that could be avoided. *What should we do, Mal?*

The Captain stared at him. *Do? Who the good gorram could find us down here?*

*I could tell you but you won't like it*

*Like not knowin' even less*

So Thadius told him. Mind to mind. Inara Serra was beyond frustration. She wanted to run to the bridge like the others and see what was happening but she didn't want to leave the Captain, especially with Thadius hovering so close. As if she was afraid the man would find a way to drive a wedge between them. It was stupid. Foolish. But she couldn't help the way her heart missed a beat at the thought that she could lose him. The Captain searched Thadius's eyes for the truth of it. "You sure, Thad?"

The man nodded. Patience snapping, Inara pushed her way between them. "Sure about what?" Mal's eyes moved from Thadius to Inara, not realising he had spoken that last thought out loud. She saw the flicker of hesitation in his eyes. "You can tell me Mal, I'm a big girl."

Being a pragmatic man he took her at her word. "Reavers."

Shocked, Inara's mouth opened and closed but no sound came out. A split second later they heard Jayne's voice bellow from the bridge, the panic and distress in it was unmistakable. "Gorrammit, we got Reavers! They ain't takin' me alive!"

It was only after Inara turned and ran to the bridge to find out for herself that it occurred to her that while the sounds of alarm and panic were rising all around them, Thadius and the Captain seemed oddly calm. Skidding to a halt and looking out of the wide front viewscreen, Inara's heart caught in her mouth. Strangely enough as terrifying a sight as the Reaver ship was the praeternatural calm she had left behind in the infirmary scared her more. Stunned, she could only stare as the ugly ship came in to land. Even before the ship had touched down the hatch was thrown open, ropes came flying out of the opening and dark screaming bodies came rapelling down into their not-so-safe hideaway. As Kaylee and Simon came to a stumbling halt behind her, Inara did not even bother to try to reassure them. Her heart hammering in her breast as she watched, Inara knew only one thing with certainty. They were well and truly screwed.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wangu* = stubborn *hundan* = bastard *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *diyu* = hell *guai* = devil/ghost *dong ma* = understand? *jianyu* = prison *shenme* = what *shenjingbing* = crazy *duibuqi* = sorry *shifu* = sir *goushi* = crap/dog shit *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *cuode* = wrong *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *weishenme* = why *wo bu dong* = I don't understand


Wednesday, April 12, 2006 12:38 PM


Ohhh! Can I tell you I was grinning like a fool with Kaylee comforting Simon?
And then they were interrupted by damn Reavers?!

Why do I get the feeling Simon will leave Serenity and his love for Kaylee behind before he will let any harm come to her. . .

Don't let him leave again.


And M/I kissin'! THEY were interrupted too! Oy!

Excellent chapter and I look forward to more!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 1:02 PM


This was just great! Totally agree with Leiasky above and all her comments! Simon's sense of duty is just so true to character. The Mal and Inara was excelelnt, till the stupid Reavers came and ruined everything! Looking forward to your next post!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 1:25 PM


Damn it...Reavers just suck for ruining shiny emotional moments for the crew:(

And I have back up my commentary predacessors here: Simon's gonna try and leave to "protect" Serenity, but the doorknob just keeps missing the point that the crew is screwed either way! Gabriel is not gonna just let everyone go if River and Simon were no longer on board....not in his developed nature;)


Wednesday, April 12, 2006 2:07 PM


Gorram Reavers!!!

there was talkin', an' hand holdin', and admition of feelins!!!! And KISSIN!!! GOR-RAM REAVERS!!!! *G*

Wow, I'm so scared of what's going to happen!!! Your description of the Reavers swarming out of their ship, even before it touched down... scary and very vivid! Gah!!

Thursday, April 13, 2006 7:23 AM


Well and truly screwed?! NooOoOo!

Thursday, April 13, 2006 9:58 AM


aagh! don't let our BDHs get eaten!


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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.