In Sunshine and in Shadow Part 3
Thursday, April 27, 2006

A nice dinner and a little gun fight.


All reviews welcome.


There were good smells coming from the Galley that Mal and Jayne just had to go investigate. They found some kind of spicy meat dish with vegetables, a pile of dumplings fragrant with herbs keeping warm and what looked remarkably like fruit salad in the refrigeration unit.

“Hot damn!” Jayne went for a bowl only to receive a slap over the knuckles from a wooden spoon wielded by Kaylee, clumps of dumpling mix in her hair and a smut of sauce on her nose.

“You just go polish Vera now, or even better change your shirt. This is a proper sit down meal and we’re gonna eat it together.”

“We gotta dress all spiffy just to eat?”

“You heard the lady.” Mal gave a significant nod toward the crew quarters. Jayne stumped of grumbling meanly under his breath.

Mal gave Kaylee a thoughtful look, “On that subject Darling you might wanna take a look in a mirror. Kaylee checked her reflection in a saucepan lid and with a squeal of horror disappeared in the same direction as Jayne calling “Don’t let anybody start on the food till we’re all here!” Over her shoulder.

Mal waited until the mechanic was out of sight then dunked his pinkie in the sauce.

“Hè!, zhòu mà hè!” He automatically stuck his finger in his mouth to cool the burning and the happy look of a man tasting real food after living on too much reconstituted protein spread across his face.

“Malcolm Reynolds shame on you.”

He jumped like a guilty child and with a shamefaced grin turned to face Inara. There had been a laugh in her voice, a tone that was becoming more and more common with her and that did him all kinds of good to hear.

It was no surprise that Inara as ever looked like heaven on two legs, what was a little more surprising was the vengeful killer that Mal had met that afternoon standing a little behind her.

Mal realised that he hadn’t looked at her proper. She’d been covered in dirt and wearing hardwearing, dull clothes and a ridiculous hat. Now she glittered like jade.

She wasn’t really pretty and definitely not beautiful but in that dress she caught the eye. Chestnut hair in a chignon with jade sticks holding it in place, unremarkable features other than a fine pair of green eyes, good skin enhanced by a little makeup and a tall wiry figure made quietly feminine by the cut of the dress. It was all very subtle and understated and confusing to the male mind. Would she welcome a compliment or take offence?

She was considering him, head on one side like a bird.

“This is my celebration, of sorts. Johnny Diamond brought me this dress.”

“And he would be the fella that…Ok I understand you look very fine.” He said gravely.

She gave him a small nod and Mal felt like he’s passed some kind of test.

A buzz came over the intercom, it was Zoe.

“Owen just arrived Captain.”

Mal pressed the button which allowed him to be heard all over the ship.

“Dinner is on the table people, if eating is in your plans this evening get yourself to the Galley. There will not be leftovers; I repeat there will not be leftovers.”

Harry Bigelow’s two pals Jeremiah Scott and Rueben Leech were having a wake. Left to their own devices they had gravitated back to the bar.

They’d had Bigelow’s funeral, almost before he’d got cold. There had been enough in his pockets to pay for a gravedigger and a wooden cross, but not to pay a Shepard to say the right and proper words or to buy a coffin. Harry Bigelow had returned to the earth wrapped in a bed sheet that Jeremiah had stolen off a washing line.

The last of the coin in Harry’s pockets had gone towards sending his personal effects back to his family. They were poor folks who would be grateful for the guns, boots and cheap pocket watch as things that could be used, worn or sold. There were also a few letters and pictures that went into the package. Jeremiah and Rueben had made up the cost out of their own pockets and now they were sullen, their vengeful thoughts building with every beer.

Dinner was going well, real food made a party atmosphere and Kaylee had broken out the hooch. The regular crew were laughing a lot, people were getting teased and tall tales were being told. Owen was right in the thick of things, flirting with Kaylee which Simon was taking surprisingly well and shooting admiring glances at Inara, even Zoë was more like her old self.

Two people were a little aloof, River seemed off in a world of her own, she kept frowning as if there was a thought she couldn’t quite get a hold of and Al smiled and laughed but as an outsider, not encouraging the sprightly talk or coming up with any tales of her own.

Now the last of the fruit salad had gone down and Mal had even undone the top button of his pants.

“Pant’s too tight for you Captain?” Inquired Kaylee, with a wicked grin. Mal threw a stray dumpling at her.

“I hate to bring the party down but we need to sort out our plans for the morning. Zoe, I want you to take the Doctor and Kaylee into town to get whatever supplies were short of, first priority fuel and essentials for the smooth running of my ship, second priority stock up on food, third priority medical supplies.” Mal threw a bag of coin over to Zoë, “That’s what we can spare, use it wisely. Whitefall is about two weeks out from here. Our passenger,” Mal gave a nod to Al, “Has improved our finances some but it’ll be nice to take on some more paying guests, while you’re in town put the word out and let’s see what we can drum up. Jayne and I will stay with the ship, see who comes knocking. “Now our good friend Owen has assured me that we will see no trouble as a result of Al’s doings here but I want to be in the air before noonday so y’all get some sleep and show me your bright and eager faces in the morning.”

There was a clatter of plates and eating implements onto the counter, people stretching, Jayne disappearing at speed to his bunk, Simon with an arm round Kaylee, her head on his shoulder, Inara and Al, their heads together talking quietly all drifting away, except River. She stood in the doorway, looked at Mal, that intent frown still on her face, opened her mouth, closed it, made a small noise of frustration then disappeared out of sight in a whirl of skirts her bare feet making no sound.

Owen pointed a lazy finger after her.

“Who did you say she was now?”

“That my friend is River Tam, the Doc’s sister, pretty much our pilot now and a whole bundle of strange talents and… well she’s just plain strange.”

“Is she as pretty as I think she might be, when she ain’t scowling.”

“That she is; she is also barely eighteen, has an overprotective brother and I have a Fatherly eye to her, so don’t you go getting any idea’s. “So what’s this job that takes you to Whitefall?”

“Well now, there’s something of a range war going on that I’ve bin asked to take a hand in.”

“You surprise me, I thought Patience had got that place all buttoned up.”

“She did, but being dead these last five months she kinda let things go.”

“Patience is dead! When did that happen, I thought the old buzzard was near ‘nough immortal?” “Well she weren’t, new fella landed on Whitefall next to seven months ago, calls himself Samson, looks around him, gets himself some followers and next you know Patience and her son Louis are filling up holes in the dirt. I’m told this Samson fella married Louis’ widow with a gun to her head and the local Shepard just about pissing in the dirt as he said the words. “The only one left of Patience’s blood is her Grandson and he’s hiding out somewhere with a few folks that won’t bow to this Samson, mostly folks who ain’t got families for him to threaten.”

“Zhòu mà! I had a lurking kindness for Patience, even after she shot me. She was twisty and crocked but just business like is all. “Whose side are you shooting for?”

Owen pulled a wry face, “The side that can pay me, Mal you know I ain’t no angel and I ain’t got a moral bone in my body. Samson wants Patience’s grandson dead at his feet and he’s willing to pay big to get it.”

Mal looked at Owen steady and expressionless. “We all gotta eat Owen, word to the wise, Patience had herself a Sheriff, a man to keep order when she moved into the big house out of town, fast with a gun, Jacob Pepper, everyone calls him Chilli. I knew him back before he settled on Whitefall, was one of us.”

“I’ve heard of him Mal, but whatever he was he ain’t that now, word is he’s totally strung out on booze and drops.” Owen stood up shrugging on his long black coat. “War’s long over Mal, you know I threw my brown coat away ‘long with my crucifix before we did our first job together.”

“Uh-yeah,” said Mal, looking away, “I’d forgotten.”

Mal, being a good host chose to walk his guest off his ship, he’d just slapped the button to open the cargo bay door when River came hurtling into sight screaming like a banshee.


Strange thing Mal had noticed, sometimes in a fire fight everything gets real fast, other times everything slows down like syrup pouring out of a jar. This time it all… got… real… slow…

Instinct made him twist and bend, he saw the bullet that surely would have hit him square between the eyes pass over his face and hit Owen in the shoulder, throwing him up and back like he had slow motion springs in his boots, he landed on the deck plates with a long whoosh of expelled air, his coat flying and billowing around him.

A second bullet hit the pneumatics that controlled the cargo bay door, fluid pumped from the severed pipe out into the night like a lazy heartbeat.

Things started to speed up again, River didn’t stop running, in one graceful movement without slowing down she scooped up one of Owen’s guns and fired into the night. There was a yelp and a curse.

“Didn’t hit him, stone chip nicked his face.”

Mal flattened himself against the wall and saw Zoë and Jayne almost slide down the cargo bay stairs, Zoë with her rifle, Jayne with Vera and one of his special multiple choice weapons belts.

Jayne took up station behind Mal, Zoë hunkered down behind a crate that gave her enough cover to reach out and grab Owen by the collar and drag him out of the line of fire.

There was more noise from above, Simon and Kaylee looking over the rail, Al still in the green dress but minus the shoes jumping over the rail, hanging for a second and dropping onto a crate seemingly unhurt.

“Need a gun.” She shouted. Jayne threw her his smallest pistol. She caught it one handed, looked at it, looked at Jayne and said “Chee, thanks!”

Mal had a truly hysterical desire to laugh. “Where are they at?” he called to River.

River who was standing mirror image to Mal her eyes closed called, “They got cover, rocks on either side.”

Simon had reached Owen and was putting pressure on the wound. Owen weren’t dead; he was grunting and swearing in Welsh and Chinese.

Al started to run back into the hold, straight at the Mule. She half jumped, half fell into the driving seat her skirts getting in the way, fired up the Mule and shot out of the Cargo bay, at the last moment River joined her, jumping onto the Mule as it passed as though it were still as a rock.

Simon started up shouting “River NO!” A bullet tore past him grazing his chin; he fell back pressing his fingers to the wound, looking in surprise at the blood.

“SIMON!” Shrieked Kaylee.

“Look for them to break cover people!” Yelled Mal

The Mule had shot out of the ship at full speed and was now banking hard. Al was driving; River now had both guns, one in each hand firing constantly. One man shot into sight and she cut him down without even looking at him, the other tried to run, cutting across the rear of the ship, so terrified of the girl riding the Mule like a chariot that he ran straight into another line of fire.

He was illuminated briefly in the cargo bay lights, his face like a rabbit that hadn’t seen the juggernaut coming.

He got five bullets from four different directions.

The Mule came to a bumpy halt several yards back from the cargo bay. In the lights they could see Al wiping frantically at the fine silk of her dress, pulling at the fabric, trying to get it away from her belly as a dark stain spread and spread. She was screaming.

“There’s blood on my dress, there’s blood on my dress! Oh God NO! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!”


Chinese Translations Hè!, zhòu mà hè - Hot! Damn hot!


Thursday, April 27, 2006 11:21 AM


Well now..that was a mighty interesting gunfight. Would have loved to see River doing this kind of stuff during the series or another movie;)


Wednesday, May 3, 2006 3:33 AM


Just loved that action sequence! I got a clear mental picture of River riding the mule! Great characterisation too!
I agree with a previous comment that lines or stars or something between scene breaks would clear things up some.

Sunday, July 2, 2006 5:22 AM


*cheerleading squad* TWO-GUN! TAM! TWO-GUN! TAM!


Thursday, June 5, 2008 1:33 PM


I thought from reading the narrative tag in the Blue Sun Room that I'd like your story. Having finished it:

I love your narrative style. Really fits the style of the wild west both with the dialogue and prose.

I love this line: "It was no surprise that Inara as ever looked like heaven on two legs..."


“You surprise me, I thought Patience had got that place all buttoned up.”

“She did, but being dead these last five months she kinda let things go.”


The prose could use a little polish, but otherwise the story and the characters are sharp. Going to look for more of your stuff right now!


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In sunshine and in Shadow Part Nine
The finale.

In Sunshine and in Shadow Part 8
Samson's going to jail, Jayne gets a sandwich.

In Sunshine and in Shadow Part 7
A trail leads to a Rat's nest and Chilli finds his guts again.

In Sunshine and in Shadow Part Six
Chilli is mostly upright, Samson get's madder by the minute.

In Sunshine and in Shadow Part Five
There's a drunk to sort out, River has fun with Jayne (Not the rude kind)and Lizzie Appleby's Auntie turns out to be a right little Madam.

In Sunshine and in Shadow Part Four
Mal brings his people to Whitefall, into a situation which looks darker and nastier than before.

In Sunshine and in Shadow Part 3
A nice dinner and a little gun fight.

In Sunshine and in Shadow Pt 2
A new passenger has come aboard, Jayne's had one of his itches scratched, a dangerous gunman is due for dinner and something nasty is brewing ready for the crew....

In Sunshine and in Shadow
Plot partially stolen from the favorite Western of my childhood. Please review but be a little gentle, it was written during a bout of insomnia last night.