Choices - Part 12 B
Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Some answers are learned, some bullets fly, and Mal and Inara are out of time.


Word Count: 5120 Rating: R for violence A/N: Long time coming for this part, and longer than the norm. But we’re into the home stretch now! Thank-you everyone who has continued to read and support this story. Go back and read the Other Parts: 1 2 3A 3B 4 5 6 7 8A 8B 8C 9 10 11A 11B 11C 11D 12A

Choices – Part 12 B by 2x2

Zoë paced the hallway outside the passenger dorm, hands clenching and unclenching in impatient frustration. Their ‘guest’ had awoken from his opiate induced delirium fully an hour ago. She’d agreed to let the Shepherd see to the boy first, without interference, but after sixty minutes without so much as a word from Book, she had begun to get agitated. She did not like waiting; she preferred action, and the Captain was still out there, needing her help. Every moment she spent waiting here was a moment she should be out finding him.

She was on the verge of busting down the door when the Shepherd finally emerged, looking worn and haggard. He drew a weary hand over his face, sliding the door closed behind him to block out the sound of the boy’s pitiful weeping from within.

The First Mate gave the Shepherd a look of understanding at the anguish she saw in his face, knowing it had to have been difficult for him; what he had done may not have been physical, but Zoë knew full well it was still torture, and it couldn’t have been easy. Book sighed and acknowledged the look with a small smile and a nod, appreciating the woman’s sympathy.

Simon chose that moment to step out of the infirmary, hesitating as he saw them, looking back and forth from one to the other. “Well?” he asked cautiously, finally settling on the Shepherd.

“He’s a very foolish young man,” Book said roughly, fingers pinching the bridge of his nose before he shook his head. “Got mixed in with this man Whelt and his gang a few months back, been in trouble ever since. ‘Says they forced him into shooting the women. My guess is they kept him around as a little insurance in case the father caused them any problems, set him up to be the scapegoat and then sent him on his way.”

All business again, Zoë nodded impatiently, not interested in the particulars. “He know where they took ‘Nara and the Captain?” she asked, drawing Book’s attention back to her. It was the only thing that mattered. The Shepherd nodded.

“This Whelt has a place out side of town. ‘Figures it’s where they were taken. I can draw you a map,” he said, retreating to his room for paper.

Zoë reached for the pile of weapons she had assembled on the low table, moving with precision as she squirreled a knife away in her boot and strapped an ammo strip around her leg, her mind clear and focused now that she had purpose.

“Take this,” she said, handing Simon a small pistol. She normally would’ve given it to Wash, but her husband had holed himself up on the bridge and wasn’t like to come out anytime soon. Plus, it couldn’t hurt to have more than one crew member armed while she and Jayne were off ship. “Keep it with you, just in case.” Simon nodded and took the pistol solemnly, cradling it in both hands. “Wash’ll be able to lock in on us if we need you, or if you need us. Don’t let anyone on board, and stay on the ship,” she said as she buckled her gun belt over her hips. Simon nodded again, swallowing. “’Might want to have things ready in case the Captain or Inara needs medical aid."

“’You think that’s… likely,” he said, more a statement than question, finding his voice at last.

“More than not,” she replied grimly. “’Captain’s been held this long, he’s bound to have driven someone to hit him by now.”

Simon met Zoë’s wry smile and answered with one of his own, unable to disagree. “He does have a way with people.”

“Here we are,” said Book, coming out of his room with a roughly drawn map. He laid it out on the table next to Zoë’s remaining gear as the first mate reached for the comm, summoning Jayne down to the infirmary. Book pointed to a mark several inches from the town. “This is it. ‘Boy says it’s one large clay house with two smaller out buildings and a courtyard. It’s in the middle of a plateau, so, could be there won’t be much cover.”

“Damn,” swore Zoë. “’Won’t be easy.”

“Not if they’ve any sort of security or men on watch,” agreed Book.

“We goin’?” asked Jayne as he jogged down the steps, already geared up. The other three turned to him, Zoë nodding.

“Shepherd got us a map,” she said and showed him the rough drawing. “’Kid figures this is where they been taken. You an’ I will go in on the Mule.”

“A frontal assault? Not my preferred method,” the mercenary complained.

“Can’t be helped. House is in the middle of open ground.”

Jayne met Zoë’s unbending stare and he gave a slow shake of his head, pressing his lips together in a silent curse. Personally, he thought Zoë was letting her personal feelings get in the way, and was more than a little worried that her lack of judgment was going to get them both killed. At the same time he knew they wouldn’t be getting off this rock anytime soon unless they found the Captain, so there wasn’t much for it but to go along and trust that his skill and Vera would keep him alive.

“Jus’ ‘cause we’s goin’ to rescue Mal don’t mean we gotta use one a’ his less than genius-like plans,” he groused.

“We ain’t got the time for anything else, Jayne. They’ve been gone too long as it is.”

“I could come along,” offered Book but Zoë shook her head.

“I’d rather have you here on the ship,” she said, making a final adjustment to her belts.

“Yeah,” added Jayne sarcastically. “No point in three of us getting’ killed when two’ll do fine.”

“Exactly,” Zoë countered with a dry look at the Preacher. “Let’s go,” she said to Jayne and they headed up to the cargo bay.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Whelt watched his hired men as they prepared the horses, drawing the attention of his four regular crew and leading them around behind the main building.

“Got us a situation to clean up,” he told them and the tallest of the four, Dusty, grinned.

“I’m thinkin’ you’ve come to a realization that there’s a few too many mouths to feed on this here operation,” he said and Whelt nodded.

“That I have,” he agreed.

“’Bout damn time,” groused Lee, a wire-y fellow of more pronounced Sino descent than the rest. “That Kamau’s really beginnin’ to put a damper on my cheerful outlook.”

“Yeah, well, he was a good contact. I’d have liked to give him the chance to walk away from this one, not that he’d take it, but he’s too gorram dangerous. He’s the first to go down,” said Whelt.

“Aye,” agreed Bane gruffly. The oldest by far, he was twice as tough as any one of them, seen more than the other three put together, and he judged Whelt to be right correct in his assessment of the giant hun dan.

“Five shares goes a lot further’n twelve…,” grinned Butler Bennett, the last of their quintet.

“So when do we do it?” asked Lee.

“Sooner’d be better’n later,” said Dusty and Whelt nodded.

“No time like the present,” he agreed and drew his pistol. His crew did likewise, and with varying expressions from grim to grinning, the five men raised their weapons and rounded the corner.

Inara started at the sudden report of gunfire, her first thought going to Mal, her heart clenching in fear as she prayed to Buddha that Whelt hadn’t just killed him. But the sound of several more gunshots and horses and men screaming followed quickly and were obviously coming from outside. She wondered instead if someone – Zoë and the crew she hoped – had launched an attack against the compound. In a few scant seconds, whatever it was seemed to be over as the screaming voices were cut off abruptly by single, echoing gunshots, bringing silence to her ears.

A moment later, the door to her new room was thrown open and one of Whelt’s men came in and leveled his pistol at her, ordering her to get up and out. She stood slowly and stepped out into the main room and the man shoved her when she apparently moved too slowly for his liking, directing her through the main door and out into the courtyard.

She stared around her at the obvious butchery that had just transpired, blinking in the early morning sunlight, her eyes drawn to the bodies of several men strewn across the dusty courtyard. She saw the ground around them stained with telltale spray patterns of blood and brain tissue - heads blown open by close range gunfire – and she felt bile rise in her throat with the urge to vomit, turning her eyes away to block out the grisly images as she was pushed forward.

Relief flooded her as she saw Mal hauled outside by two other men, and she felt no small measure of control return, reassured to see him still alive. He met her gaze, lifting his chin in a nod towards her, questioning if she was all right. She nodded back, head tilting as she asked him the same in return and he flashed her a half-grimace, half-smile that was intended to ease her worry but really told her he both was and wasn’t and she frowned in concern.

They were led over to where Whelt was crouched down over one of the bodies, hands rifling through pockets before he stood and spat in the bloodied dirt.

“He dead?” asked the short, wire-y fellow holding Mal. Whelt nodded.

“Guess that makes the magic number four,” said the tall man who held Inara with a grin and the other man, older than the rest, glowered back at him.

“Butler was a good ‘un,” he said in a raspy voice and the tall man snorted.

“Not good ‘nough to not get hisself shot up,” he said in unsympathetic scorn.

“’Saved your sorry ass, Dusty,” snapped the short man and Inara’s guard shrugged, clearly unimpressed.

“Better ‘im than me, I always say.”

“Enough,” growled Whelt, putting a halt to the men’s bickering. “Get them up on horses,” he ordered. “Dusty, you take point. Bane, I want you in back. Me an’ Lee’ll keep our guests comp’ny for the ride,” he said sternly. “Let’s move. We got a schedule to keep.”

Without further words, the men moved to comply.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“’Conjure they’s still alive?” asked Jayne around a mouthful of protein bar as they sped towards the spot on the Shepherd’s map.

Zoë’s face didn’t so much as twitch as she piloted the Mule onward. “’Don’t know. No ransom demands or any other kind of word… Have to admit it has me worried,” she said.

“Yeah,” agreed Jayne, drawing out the word unenthusiastically.

“’Ain’t gonna give up hope,” she said, eyes set determinedly ahead.

“’Not expectin’ you was,” he grunted in reply.

Zoë cast a look his way. “’You care to enlighten me on what went on with you back in that Dragon House?”

Jayne folded his arms defensively. “No,” he said, mulishly. “’Weren’t nothin’. Just brought up some memories s’all.”

“You knew someone, had a bad end?” she said, more statement than question. The mercenary remained stubbornly silent as they cruised along, staring out at the expanse of dun coloured nothing that sped by. “Mayhaps you might talk with the Shepherd on it, if it’s troubling you,” Zoë added.

Jayne hawked and spit over the side of the mule. “’Ain’t nothin’ troublin’ me. ‘Sides which, Shepherd was a sight too busy with torture-fyin’ that kid an’ all.”

“’Had to be done,” the First Mate said stoically. Jayne only grunted and turned back to his protein bar, the conversation over as far as he was concerned.

A good hour passed in silence until Zoë suddenly slowed the Mule considerably, nodding ahead. “There it is,” she said, indicating the small whitish-grey buildings on the horizon.

“I wish to gorram it was night time,” cursed Jayne, surveying the area with a keen eye. Zoë couldn’t help but agree. Then something above the buildings caught her attention.

“What’s that?” she said, pointing, her own suspicions forming. Jayne raised Vera and put his eye to the scope.

“Vultures,” he said grimly, both of them knowing what that meant. “Somethin’ dead there,” he added un-necessarily.

Zoë shifted the Mule into high gear and accelerated full speed toward the compound, Jayne crouched and at the ready for any hostile gunfire. At length, as they approached to well within range, the mercenary started to get antsy and he scanned the compound through Vera’s scope; nothing moved save the vultures fighting with each other over the remains of several dead men in the courtyard.

“They ain’t no one there,” said Jayne. “Not livin’ anyways.”

“Any sign of the Captain or Inara?” asked Zoë and the mercenary shook his head.

“Not yet,” he replied grimly.

They drove into the compound, growing more and more sure by the minute that no one alive remained, but still wary just the same, stopping in front of the closest outbuildings. Jayne leapt from the Mule, Vera at the ready as he covered the area, taking in the grisly, scavenger-pecked bodies that littered the ground around them.

Zoë slid her mule’s leg free of its holster as she climbed down from the vehicle and made a sweep of the area, glancing down at each body in turn, verifying that none of them were the Captain or Inara.

“What d’you figure?” she asked Jayne at last.

“My guess is this was a little thinnin’ of the herd,” he said, approaching the first outbuilding as Zoë nodded her agreement.

“’Most’re like to be local. Hired on for more than they bargained for.”

“’Risk you take, you play the game,” said Jayne with a growl as he shoved in the outbuilding’s door and panned Vera over the room, coming up empty. “Clear.”

Zoë moved to the second outbuilding and repeated the mercenary’s actions, finding it too vacant of any sign of life. She gave a nod to Jayne and the two of them moved cautiously to the main building. Jayne took a quick look through one of the windows.

“Looks empty,” he whispered, moving next to the door. Zoë gave him a nod and the big man kicked in the door, both of them with guns leveled.

Silence greeted them, and Zoë moved into the room, alert for danger, Jayne right behind her. They found nothing but some overturned tables and chairs, and a few scattered decks of cards on the floor, but no sign of either Mal or the Companion. Carefully, Zoë moved to the door in the right hand wall while Jayne covered her.

She slid back the bolt with a metallic screech that rivaled the squawks of the bickering vultures outside and pulled the door open. Inside she found some torn strips of fabric that she took to be makeshift bandages next to a bowl of dingy water on the floor. Blood splattered the hard packed ground and Zoë’s attention was drawn to a balled up clump of blood-stained material, the bright, flower-patterned fabric of what she suspected was a sleeve catching her eye. She picked the bundle up and unfolded it to reveal what she’d expected – it was the shirt Inara had borrowed from Kaylee the day before, the front of it darkened and dried stiff with blood. She held it up for Jayne to see. “Looks like the kid was tellin’ the truth. ‘Nara was here,” she said grimly.

Jayne nodded, his own eyes drawn to the restraining apparatus in the corner behind the door. “’You see this?” he said, stepping over to it. He crouched down beside it and picked up one of the shackles, noting the blood encrusted edge of it.

“Slaver’s yoke,” said Zoë with a curse.

“Awful heavy duty for someone small as ‘Nara,” said Jayne and Zoë nodded. It was a good bet the Captain had been restrained in that monstrosity. She hated the thought of it.

“Let’s clear the rest of this place an’ then see if we can’t figure out where they’ve gone to,” she said, cursing herself that they’d come too late, heart sinking with the knowledge that the Captain and Inara were slipping farther away by the minute.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Mal swallowed, his throat dry as he squinted in the glare of the sun, panting through parched lips past a dry tongue that longed for water. The heat shimmered in the air, reflecting off the sandy ground around them and from horse to horse. He could feel the tightness of his skin, especially his cheeks and forehead, and knew he was burning. Ahead, he could see Inara slouched over her mount, face pressed against the animal’s neck as they plodded on through the heat. He knew she was in pain; he’d seen it in her face when she’d climbed onto the horse. She had started out strong, wearing a mask of determination, but every jouncing step of the animal was an agony to her ribs, and it had taken its toll on her.

Trying to get Whelt to stop had been an exercise in futility. The man pushed them on without mercy, ignoring every threat, curse and plea Mal had thrown at him over the last four hours. Now, the sun was almost directly overhead, beating down on them with grueling intensity and he could see Inara shivering, despite the heat, her face pale. He knew that wasn’t good.

He was on the verge of yelling at Whelt to stop and was surprised when the man suddenly reined in his horse and ordered they break and water the animals

The other three men dismounted quickly, and Mal followed suit, hurrying to Inara’s mount on achy legs as she slid from the horse. Feet hitting the ground heavily, she sagged into Mal’s arms as her knees buckled and he lowered her to the ground gently, cradling her head and shoulders in his lap.

“…’m sorry, Mal… No chance…” she said, her voice weak.

“Hush. Don’t you worry none on that,” he said softly, smoothing his uninjured hand over her forehead, feeling the clammy sweat on her brow and frowning.

Whelt came and crouched next to them, handing a water skin to Mal. He took it silently and helped Inara drink it while the other man watched.

“’Need her to ride,” said Whelt and Mal’s good hand tightened on the water skin.

“She’s got ribs broke, from when your men hit the Mule,” Mal ground out, glaring at Whelt.

“Then we got a problem, ‘cause we got a schedule to keep,” said the other man. “Get ‘er up.”

“She can’t…” sputtered Mal, growing frustrated and angry in his worry for her. Whelt stood, drawing and cocking his pistol smoothly.

“Get ‘er up, now,” he said coldly.

Mal cursed and struggled to his own feet, hauling Inara up as gently as he could, wincing as she groaned in his arms with the motion. When they were standing, Whelt motioned to his men and Lee and Dusty grabbed hold of Mal from behind suddenly, dragging him away from where Inara swayed unsteadily on her feet.

“Wang ba dan ta ma de hun dan! Get the kao away from her!” Mal shouted, fear clutching his heart as the oldest of the gang, Bane, wrapped his arms around Inara, securing her from behind as Whelt withdrew a hypo-gun from his pocket. Mal struggled wildly, cursing and screaming, but his captors held him securely and all he could do was watch as Whelt pressed the hypo-gun to Inara’s neck and pulled the trigger.

“Inara!” cried Mal as she collapsed, and the thugs released him finally, stepping back as he fell to his knees at her side. “’Nara?” he whispered, brushing through her hair with shaky fingers as she shuddered on the ground. “What the gui did you give her?” he shouted, glaring up at Whelt.

“Just a little cocktail,” said Whelt pulling his gloves back on and bending to pick up the discarded water skin. “A little adrenaline, few steroids and a smoother for the pain. She’ll be better off ‘n you will for the next twelve hours or so, not to worry.”

Mal stared at him, rage boiling under the surface, and he would have launched himself at Whelt, consequences be damned, if Inara hadn’t caught his wrist at that moment, pulling his gaze back to her suddenly open eyes.

“Mal?” she said somewhat breathlessly.

“Inara,” he gasped, cupping her face with his hand. “Are you all right?” he asked worriedly. She blinked at him and then nodded slowly, taking a deep breath experimentally.

“Yes. I’m… I’m okay now,” she said softly, surprised when there was no pain.

Whelt tossed the water skin at their feet, startling them both. “Drink,” he said impatiently. “Then get back on the horses. I ain’t got all day.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Gabr’elle had waited, listening for the sounds of movement or voices outside the infirmary, at last deeming it safe for her to get up after several prolonged minutes of silence. She pulled the various wires from her skin and lowered herself to the floor slowly, feeling the nauseating tug of oblivion pulling at her, turning the edges of her vision to darkness, and she rested a moment, braced against the recovery bed. A dull ache settled over her chest, stealing her breath, even eased as it was by the young doctor’s pain meds, and she had to wait until she was able to breathe again. Finally, she pushed herself up with her left hand, cradling her plaster-encased right arm against her body to keep from jarring it, and shuffled toward the doorway of the infirmary. She’d seen and overheard enough to get an idea of where they were holding the Lawman’s boy and she aimed to see him.

She glanced outside and saw the doctor sound asleep on the ugly yellow couch, but other than that, there was no sign of the others. Then her eyes fell on the small pistol Zoë had given Simon, sitting on the table beside the sleeping young man, and she froze. Looking around the room again, she took a few hesitant steps toward the table. Her head swam, the drugs still swirling in her system, but she forced herself forward, watching the doctor warily as she inched herself closer to the gun. Delicately, she reached out and took hold of the weapon, ensuring it would make as little noise as possible as she picked it up off the table. Then, as quickly as she could, she backed away and headed toward the passenger dorms, pausing as she reached the stairs that headed up to the mid deck, moving on only when she was sure there was no one there.

Only one of the doors was fully closed, and she went to that one, knowing the boy would be inside.

She slid the door open quietly, and slipped inside, closing it behind without sound, turning to face the boy tied to the chair in the middle of the room. Slowly, he lifted his head, eyes widening as he saw her.

“Help me!” he pleaded, struggling with his bonds imploringly. “You’ve got to help me get out of here, you—You!” he gasped, filling with fear, mouth hanging open as his eyes lit with recognition.

“’Only one way you’re getting' out of here, boy,” she said. “An’ I conjure you want me to help you on that way, I’m more’n happy to oblige you.”

“Help! Somebody!” the boy cried desperately, hoping beyond hope for someone to hear, and Gabr’elle laughed.

“’Not so tough all on your lonesome, are you, boy? Ain’t no one left on this boat to hear you,” she said, shaking her head.

“Wait… you—my Pa, my Pa’ll be comin’ to git me, an’ you know he’s the Lawman a’ this—”

“Your Pa ain’t gonna bail you outta this one. Hell, you ain’t even on your moon no more, xiōng shǒu!”

The boy’s face went pale as he realized that what Gabr’elle said was probably true and that he had no idea where in the ‘verse he was. “Please don’t hurt me. I’m sorry for what I done, I swear I am! It weren’t my… Please…. I’ll do anything!” he begged.

“Ain’t nothin’ you can do in this life to right the wrong you done,” she said coldly as she raised the gun. “You ready to meet your maker?”

Tears streamed down the boy’s face and he hung his head, eyes squeezed shut as he sobbed. “I want my Pa,” he begged. “I wanna go home.” Gabr’elle cocked the pistol and the boy whimpered, ducking his head even lower as he hunched his shoulders in a futile effort to make himself smaller.

“I’d think twice before pulling that trigger,” came a man’s voice suddenly and she turned to see whom she assumed by his dress was the Preacher standing in the door. “Vengeance isn’t the answer,” he continued.

“He killed my girls. Shot ‘em down like they was nothin’,” she objected.

“Yes,” the Shepherd agreed solemnly. “But killing him won’t bring them back, nor will it make you feel any better for having done it. Believe me, I know.”

“’Thinkin’ I could offer a pretty convincing argument to the contrary, Preacher,” Gabr’elle said stubbornly, turning back to the boy.

Book stepped into the room calmly and the former Madam tightened her hold on the pistol as he placed himself between the boy and the gun in her hand. “I can’t let you take his life,” he said.

“Get out of my way, Shepherd,” she warned but the man merely stared back at her, stepping forward until the barrel of the gun pressed against his chest.

“Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things,” he said softly, his eyes full of understanding. He shook his head. “You don’t want to do this.”

“What’s going on?” said Simon from the door suddenly, freezing at the tense tableau before him as he realized his patient was not only up out of bed when she should be lying down, but also had his gun and was currently pointing it at the Shepherd’s chest.

“Gabr’elle was just about to hand over that pistol,” said the other man, holding out his hand. The woman swayed slightly, her strength waning and she lowered the gun finally, sighing as she let the Preacher take it from her fingers. She felt herself falling, but the doctor was there suddenly, his arms supporting her.

“You shouldn’t be up,” Simon said, coaxing her towards the door as she drew her hand over her face shakily. She stopped at the threshold, looking back over her shoulder.

“Be thankful, boy, that fate has been kinder to you than me,” she cautioned. Then she let the doctor lead her from the room, leaning on him heavily as she felt the darkness closing in on her.

The boy sniffed loudly, breathing a sigh of relief and Book turned his stare on him coldly. “Don’t think for a second this means you’re safe, boy. When the time comes to put you down, I’ll be the one to do it, make no mistake,” he said in a harsh voice that set the boy’s eyes full of fear again. The Shepherd left the room, sliding the door shut firmly as the youth whimpered again, fresh tears pooling in his eyes as he cried, “I wanna go home... I wanna go home…” over and over with only the indifferent walls of his prison to hear.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Estate stuck out like a sore thumb, all green and living in the middle of the dusty brown of the desert badlands. Mal wondered if it was a mirage for a good long while before realizing that that was where Whelt was making for, and cold fear slithered into his belly.

Their time was up.

Passing under the archway of the adobe-like walls was like entering a different world. There were trees and shrubbery flourishing inside, and honest to God grass on the ground. Mal wasn’t the only one looking around in wonder.

Inara, on the other hand, took it all in stride, pain and fatigue forgotten thanks to Whelt’s ‘wonderdrug’, sitting her mount like she’d been born to ride. Hell, thought Mal, maybe she had been, ‘all he knew. There was a damn lot he didn’t know about her, he realized. A damn lot he was regretting never having had the time to ask.

They reined up in front of a marble staircase that lead up to the entrance of what Mal could only think of as a Mansion, and several snappy dressed servants in white gloves and ties took the horse’s leads while they all dismounted. A manservant of some sort descended the stairs and spoke to Whelt and the gunmen and their two prisoners, incongruous against the pristine background of the white stone around them, were escorted into the house.

Inside the main foyer Mal gaped at the huge fountain that dominated the centre of the room, the constant bubbling of the falling water even more evidence of wealth in this clime than the splendor of the house itself. This spoke of big money, and cultured taste… He stared at Inara who was looking at the fountain with a puzzled look on her face. Something about this deal wasn’t right, he thought as the unmistakable echo of footsteps on hard stone was suddenly discernable through the unending ripple of water.

“Inara?” he whispered to her and she turned in puzzled confusion, eyes going wide with realization, remembering exactly where she’d seen the fountain before as the voice and face of the last person she’d ever expected to see again emerged from behind it. Tall, slightly wavy hair, and hard eyes over a scar on the left cheek, Atherton Wing stepped forward, his lips twisted in a snarl of triumph.

“Hello, bao bei.

* * * * *

Chinese translations: hun dan=bastard xiōng shǒu=murderer Wang ba dan ta ma de hun dan=Dirty bastard sons of mother fucking sons of bitches kao=fuck gui=hell bao bei=sweetheart Note: Book’s little quotation comes from Romans 2:1-4

Go to Part 13A


Tuesday, May 2, 2006 3:57 PM


I KNEW IT! *dances about* I just knew all along that it was Atherton behind all that. But I didn't want to say in case I was wrong. But I really did know! *please believe me*

Excellent installment, very rich with detail! Your characterizations are spot-on, as always, especially Jayne. Will we learn what's behind his behavior at the Dragon House??

Can't wait for the rest!

Tuesday, May 2, 2006 4:19 PM


Nice twist at the end. Didn't see it coming at all. Looking forward to Mal and Inara's reunion with Wing in the next chapter. He was the last person I expected to be there. Don't leave us waiting too long!

Tuesday, May 2, 2006 4:23 PM


Oh god. The scene with Mal and Inara on the horses... ah... I think I just read it about five times. This is some powerful stuff.

I'm excited, too, about the twist of Atherton Wing being the baddie instead of Niska.

"Don’t think for a second this means you’re safe, boy. When the time comes to put you down, I’ll be the one to do it, make no mistake" -- ah! Jesus Christ, book... ah! Definately a scary (in the awesome way) moment.

Jayne and Zoe talking about if they thought Mal and Inara were alive was rather sweet.

I eagerly await the next chapter. This is getting better and better.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006 5:07 PM


Excellent writing. I loved it. It should be one of the latest if not the very last episode in what would be a seccond season.

By the way, could I get a link to..well..everything you wrote before, 2x2? This is the first bit of writing I've read from you, and I'm dyin to know how they got to this situation and who Gabri'elle is, and I am very impressed with how you portray every character as originally as possible.

Keep up the good work!

Tuesday, May 2, 2006 5:31 PM


HAHAHAHAH I AM A GENIOUS, A FREAKIN' GENEOUS!! I KNEW IT I EVEN SAID IT WAY BACK WHEN THIS SHINEY FIC STARTED OUT... ooops... been shouting again, ain't I?? ummmm... sorry? lol, but yeah, waaaay back in the beggining of this fic I thought it was Ath, turns out I and a few others were right! yippy for us!! Plz continue your amazingly shiney fic 2x2, you are an amazing writer and I wait with baited breath for the next installment!! :P

Tuesday, May 2, 2006 5:34 PM


wow, mass weirdnesses in the cortex tonight.. sorry for the double post, Mr. Anonymous up there was me... which the cortex seemed to think I had loged off... *shrugs*

Wednesday, May 3, 2006 1:06 AM


Yes! I got it! I think I even commented as much in an early chapter! It just didn't feel like Niska... not that it makes this any less dramatic.

Book is getting creepily scary. It's great fun to read.

Methinks it's time for a big damn rescue!

Wednesday, May 3, 2006 3:19 AM


I thought it was Atherton! I'm so happy to be right, as I rarely am about that sort of thing! And so worried for what is about to happen...

I hope you post the next one after a shorter amount of time than it took you to post this, but I know how hard it can be to close out a story, so please take that in a nice, supportive way...

Wednesday, May 3, 2006 5:22 AM


My heart went out to Zoe in this one, doing everything she could to rescue the Captain and Inara only to come too late. Gorrammit, that Atherton Wing is one spiteful piece of *goushi* not that it will do him much good in the long run. Just hope our BDMs can hold on long enough for justice to be done. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, May 3, 2006 10:10 AM


Yay! That was great! I love this series. Yeah, where is River anyways? Cant wait to see more of this story!


Wednesday, May 10, 2006 8:41 PM


I'm giddy it's that good please update soon

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 6:10 AM


good lord, you really know how to make a fan screech!!


Thursday, June 21, 2007 10:58 PM




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History of an Object
There’s no reason to keep it, damaged as it is. Save one. Doesn’t matter that it’s finer than any other cup on the ship, even with the crack. Doesn’t matter that it would never hold liquid again without some of it seeping through. Burning your fingers. Was only one reason he still has the cup.

Five Years' War
The night was warm. Clouds, low on the horizon, blue black in the last light of the setting sun. Nothing but the breeze and the buzz of the cicadas breaking the stillness. A perfect evening.

The Close Shore, At the End, Untenable
“Dead ’re in my head tonight,” he said finally. “Can’t get ‘em out. Don’t got the booze or the bar to distract me. Don’t know why I’m here ‘cept I don’t think I can go through it alone.”

The Slower Path: All the Difference - Part 15 - Sequel to The One Less Traveled By
She let out a breath, saying nothing for a long moment before she raised her eyes again. “There are some things I want you to know,” she said softly. “Things I want you to understand.”

Much as he wished he could ignore it, he could see it was important to her that he know whatever it was she wanted to tell him. He knew he wouldn't have let himself see it in the past, but that weren't where they were anymore, or at least, not where they wanted to be, either of them. Their relationship had changed, was changing, and he weren’t so stupid he didn’t recognize that. He didn't know that he wanted to know it, much less understand it, but she was reluctant enough to talk about any aspect of her life as it was; could be he might ought not stop her when she wanted to.

Unlucky at Cards...
“I… You can’t be that lucky!” Mal moaned as Inara beat him again, laying out her cards with a flourish.

The Slower Path: The One Less Traveled By - Part 14 - Sequel to Regrets
They fell silent again, struggling to find the ease that they had found, before; before the argument that had almost ended things.

"I feel like-," she started.

"This is-," he said at the same time.

They looked at each other. "Awkward," they both said, laughing lightly.

Always Had Faith
Faith in a higher power? That was always Mal's thing, the Captain, back in the war.

Loved and Lost
Love’s the biggest kind of hurt there is.

And I wouldn't trade that love for nothin'.

The Mood That Passes Through
He felt the first trembling shudder go through her, heard her breath hitch and felt her fingers grip his skin; knew it was comin', the wave that was cresting the walls she'd built to hold it back, whatever it was. Knew they were about to come crashing down around her. The first sob still hurt though, still lanced through his heart like a searing hot blade to hear her make that sound.