Thursday, April 8, 2004

"Book makes a decision and while Inara tries to avoid making one. Malcolm and Davy have an intensive heart to heart the outcome of which will have a profound effect on them all."



SUMMARY: "Book makes a decision while Inara tries to avoid one. Malcolm and Davy have an intensive heart to heart the outcome of which will have a profound effect on them all." 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

* * * * *

Inara Serra kept her thoughts shuttered long after Book had gone. Knew her own role in this was far from over and was disturbed by the way in which she had interpreted what should have been a straightforward mission. She could fool the Shepherd but it would be a different thing entirely when the time came to face the Inner Council. Time to send a wave and face the music but first she needed to buy a little time. Diamond Harry kept watch outside her rented rooms while she considered her options. She was strangely fond of the ugly squat man knowing he would die for her and thank her for the privilege. It was an odd relationship. Usually sacrifice did not affect her. Suffering was always someone else's weakness coming back to haunt them. As her guide had once instructed her, 'Compassion is something a Companion must learn to project as naturally as breathing but something they cannot afford to feel." The core of her credo was artifice. The centre of her 'verse the biggest lie of all.

Why now, after all these years did that knowledge affect her? Why had she compromised the tenants of her training? She knew even when she pretended to herself that she did not. Deep in that dark hidden place where the real Inara Serra lurked in the shadows. Afraid of the past but mesmerised by it also. Something clicked into place in her mind as if she had stepped onto the camoflaged plate. Arming the anti-personnel mine that had once kept her so safe. All bets were off now. Funny how dispassionate she could be about life and death when it was her own that hung in the balance. Her mind was a whir. Inara made tea, the familiarity of the ritual stilling her turbulant thoughts and bringing a sense of calm. She needed to think and plan. Once the detail had been worked out she could return to Sihnon. Take up the place prepared for her and try, with every atom of her being, to pretend she could no longer see the blood on her hands.

* * * * *

Simon was amazed. Even though River was his sister he had no idea what the *diyu* had just happened except that his oh-so-near-to-death patient was no longer dying. Not exactly stable but not at death's door neither. River was so intent, her small hands gently cradling the top of Malcolm Reynolds' head while the Captain stood with a hand on her waist and the other hand over his brother's.

River Tam did not open her eyes, did not turn towards the Captain, but she was all aware of him. In a way that made her feel awed and humble. Her mind bathed in gold she did not need air to breathe, nor food to sustain her. Just him. *Why didn't you tell me, ai ren*?

*Not your secret to keep, xin gan*

She loved him so very much. Together their minds fell silent, so closely merged they knew the content of each others' hearts and minds. But some things still needed saying. *Weishenme?*

*Had to protect him, still do*

*Wo zhidao, ai ren, I meant why...*

He did not let her finish. *Hush now, bao bei, time to put the genie back in the bottle dong ma*?

*Wo dong*

Simon watched them, transfixed. Not a clue as to what was happening except that somehow River was healing the Captain's brother. He was not sure but it seemed as if the presence of the Captain was helping or perhaps she just needed his moral support? Whatever it was, a feeling of calm washed over him then shocked surprise as Malcolm Reynolds slowly opened his eyes. One moment he had been but a step away from death, the next he was waking as if from a deep sleep. His eyes were a little glazed and out of focus as he stared up into his brother's dark blue eyes. "What happened, *xiongdi*?"

"Inara tried to kill you."

His eyebrows rose. "*Zenme*?"

It was River who answered. "She probed your mind, a spike so deep and explosive you were sent into shock. Pushed you over the edge."

He was looking now at River, his eyes solemn. "You saved my life."

She was going to tell him but felt the Captain's caution soothe her impulsive mind. Instead she smiled softly. "You should sleep now."

He wanted to get up but the Captain moved a hand to rest on his shoulder and applied just enough pressure to get his message home. "Not goin' nowhere, *dong ma*? You've disrupted my boat enough for one day."

His brother frowned slightly. Puzzled. River stepped away and joined Simon, accepting his hug as he wrapped his arms around her. She knew he would quiz her about what had happened later but some secrets she would never share. Not even with him. "*Shui de hao*," Repeated the Captain. "Once you're all rested we got us some talkin' to do. A few things need to be spoken plain between us."

"I want to talk now."

The Captain nodded slowly, had guessed as much only this was too private for other ears. River picked up his thoughts and pulled out of Simon's arms, catching his hands and giving him a playful tug. "Come on, *wo e le* Simon."

He wanted to resist, to talk to Malcolm Reynolds, check him over one more time but his sister was insistent and the look on the Captain's face said he wanted some time alone with his brother. He gave in with a good grace but also a promise. "Half an hour then I'll be back."

"Make it an hour - Simon."

The doctor's eyes locked with the Captain's. It wasn't quite a plea but it was close enough. A flicker of understanding solidified between them. He found himself nodding as River half coaxed and half dragged him out of the infirmary. River closed the door firmly behind them. The Captain walked over to lock it from the inside. He did not want anyone or anything to interrupt this conversation. His brother watched him closely. "When you gonna tell 'em?"

"What's between you an' me is between you an' me."

Malcolm Reynolds took a second or two before responding. "And River."

The Captain's eyes narrowed slightly.

"Gorrammit, you really love her."

"*Course I love her an' lower your voice. Door may be shut fast but some folks got sharp ears."

His brother looked part horrified and part amused. "You think your crew would eavesdrop on us?"

He had the pleasure of seeing the Captain wince before he could hide it. "Not sayin' they would, not sayin' they wouldn't but this way won't matter." He paused. "What you wantin' to talk about?"

"*Ni Zhidao*."

The Captain nodded. He got a chair and settled in it next to the bed. His brother lay back and looked at him, waiting until he had all of his attention.

"I'm not like you. Not a fighter."

The Captain looked amused but the humour was tinged with a pain that had been costly bought. "That why you followed me into the Valley?"

His brother looked a little abashed. It was a reason but not the only one. "That's what you were supposed to think."


"I had to die so I could be reborn."

"You keep sayin' that," Said the Captain, biting back his irritation. "Why you got to make everythin' so gorram complicated?"

"Want me to tell 'em the truth?"

The Captain swore. "Not sayin' that. But you almost died."

His brother's eyes softened. He was thinking *better me than you* only he did not say that. "That's why you were sent the ring."

"What's all this *goushi* with the gorram ring? I don't got a ring."

"Yes you do an' if I might say it looks mighty fine on your hand."

"Ruttin' *diyu*, forgot I was still wearin' it." The Captain grumbled and cursed. He tried to pull it off but the damn thing was stuck fast as if it had been soldered on.

His brother was watching him carefully. "You can't shirk your responsibilites so easy, *xiongdi*."

The Captain let go of the ring and glared at his brother. If he hadn't been lying in the infirmary bed he would have knocked him off his gorram feet for that remark. "Ain't shirkin' nothin'. You made this mess let's not be forgettin' that. Seems to me you're the one's been shirkin' duty."

"*Duibuqi*, Mal. Didn't mean to be startin' no fightin'. Leastways not now, not like this. I bought you a whole ton of trouble I'll regret until I die."

The Captain hissed at the Freudian slip as if a thin sharp blade had been slid between his ribs. "*Xiaoxin, xiongdi*."

There was no hint of apology on his brother's face. The Captain could not remember the last time he had seen his brother this serious. "I'm thinkin' we should simplify things, just tell 'em the gorram truth." He paused a heartbeat. "Seemingly you trust your crew that much, *dui*?"

"Can't be doin' that. Once the box is opened you can't close it again, *dong ma*? More than our lives at stake here an' I ain't riskin' River for nobody. Not even my own brother."

"*Rongyi, wo zhidao*."

The brothers lapsed into an emotionally charged silence. A truce of sorts. The Captain was mad as hell at him but worried too. That brush with the Companion had been too close for comfort. He had almost lost him. "You have to go back."

His brother sat up and looked at him in horror. "*Bu ke neng*!" He cried. "Ask me anythin' but don't ask me that."

A stubborn look hardened on the Captain's face. He leaned in close to his brother until their faces were only inches apart. "You can an' you *will*."

"Mal I..."

The Captain snapped. "What I gotta do to ram sense into that *chunren* head of yours? If'n you can't watch your ruttin' tongue don't speak, *dong ma*?"

"There's only you an' me here what're you so paranoid about?"

Laboured breaths slowly found their rythym. His chest ached. Why didn't he understand? Had already found two spies on his boat, one he hadn't seen coming. What if there were more? What else had he missed while trying so hard to lay a false trail for those *tamade* Alliance *hundan*? There was a look of deep sorrow on the Captain's face. Pain in his eyes. His brother wanted to hold and hug him close, beg his forgiveness but before he could utter the words the shutter came down and the Captain's mind was hidden from him. "You ain't safe here. Go back. I'll have Pepper an' his boys follow you, make sure you got no gorram Alliance *wangba dan* walkin' in your shadow."

"I don't wanna leave you."

The voice was soft and low. Barely holding back tears. The Captain paused, hesitated. Heart aching fit to crumble. He didn't want to be parted from his brother either but rather that than be parted forever. He strengthened his resolve because it was all he had left. "Folks like us don't have choices, you know that."

Davy put a hand on his brother's shoulder and clasped the back of his neck, drawing the Captain in close so their foreheads almost touched. His voice a low pained whisper, the glitter of tears in his eyes. Every word striking the Captain right through to the core of his heart. "*Bushi*, Mal. What we fightin' for if not our freedom? Is the prison of the mind any different from the one of the body?"

"Ain't what I meant an' you know it. Always have to be twistin' words..."

For a moment his brother could not speak. "I have the strangest feelin' if I leave you now I'll never see your face again."

It took effort for the Captain to hide how much those words affected him. "You're my brother, Davy. I ain't gonna let it happen."

His younger brother sighed and stared sorrowfully into his eyes. "You may not be able to prevent it, *xiongdi*." He took his hand away and straightened a little but still kept eye contact. Slowly he stiffened his spine. Bracing himself for impact. "At least if I'm with you we can go down fightin' together."

"Ain't fixin' on goin' down." But he said nothing about the fighting.

His brother smiled wryly. His look sad but filled with years of affection. "Were you fixin' on fallin' in love?"

The Captain did not smile back. The only thing he knew was that he was not going to lose his brother again. Not now. Not ever. If that meant playing rough and hard with every resource he had to hand he would do it. Ruffled feathers and hurt feelings weren't nothing compared to the cold, empty stillness of the grave. He knew. Had lain in his own a time or two. Had memories that haunted him worse than any man made torture. If he could save his brother a fraction of what he had gone through he would do it. No matter the cost. He was silent for so long that Davy began to worry. He reached out but the Captain rose to his feet, expression set in a tight grim mask that made his heart falter. He knew that look. Hated it more than could be put into gorram words. Heart sinking he knew what it meant but for the life of him he couldn't think of an argument good enough to gainsay the Captain. Decision was already made.

"Best get ready. I'll tell the others." The Captain paused and for a moment the mask slipped. Pain, sorrow, and unspeakable grief were balanced with the relief and joy of knowing his brother lived. That all the sacrifices made to date had not been in vain. In a kind of dazed awe Davy Reynolds watched that mask slip back into place. Slow motion almost, as if his brother wanted him to know so that he would understand. They had placed their feet upon this path and must follow it to the very end.

"Mal, you know I never wanted this to happen? Not any of it."

He nodded. No curt admonishment this time. They were beyond that. "*Wo zhidao.*" He paused as if at war with himself about asking what he needed to ask. If he didn't do it now the opportunity might not come again. "What they do to you, Davy? *Zhen de*."

Davy got off the bed so he could stand eye to eye with the Captain. Hard as he tried to keep control he could not stop trembling. The Captain put a hand on his shoulder to steady him and waited. As Davy stared into those navy blue depths it was as if for that moment in time they had all the time in the 'verse. "They cut me open, Mal." He voice was soft, as light as a faint breath of wind. Was it the calm before the storm? "Kept me conscious, did you know that?"

The Captain shook his head, unable to speak.

"I could feel everything, *da ge*. It hurt but in a way that was disassociated from my body. Never told me the why of it though I asked 'til I was hoarse. While they worked they kept testin' me, prodding, probing inside my brain. Not rightly sure what they were looking for. Images dancin' bright as fireflies inside my gorram brain, pain shivering right through me like I was on fire. Trapped with no way out. Then it was like I was inside their gorram heads, saw things so terrifyin' it's a wonder my mind didn't shatter from the shock of it all." Silent tears spilled down his cheeks, his eyes open so wide, swallowing up Mal's pupils with the need to tell him. To share this glimpse of *diyu* with the only person left in this God-forsaken 'verse that he cared about.

Mal touched his cheek, his fingers gently fanning out to wipe away the tears. His brother seemed oblivious to his touch, his soul looking deep into Mal's. That connection the only thing holding him upright.

"Gotta tell ya Mal, I ain't ever been so scared in my ruttin' life before." He paused to swallow.

"Hush now, you're safe Davy. You're safe."

A small sob bubbled to the surface. "How can you say that? You're runnin' from every gorram *tamade hundan* in the 'verse 'cause of me..."

"Ain't so."

Davy's eyes widened in disbelief. Impossibly Mal chuckled softly.

"*Shenme*? You think I'm not capable of pissin' people off my own self?"

That made his brother laugh. A choked but more wholesome thing that his tears had been. He managed to win back some self control. "I so wanted to find you, Mal. Didn't listen to nobody. Then when I got there, to the valley, it was just in time for the surrender." His voice had turned cold, bitter. Shame etched in every syllable. "Couldn't even fight alongside you, could only fight my dispair. Monty said they'd shipped you off. Went ruttin' crazy tryin' to find details. You and Zoe off to the *tamade* prison. By the time I got there you'd been parted an' they was torturin' you an' I couldn't find you..." His voice trailed off, broken.

Mal hugged him. Felt him shudder as he cried openly now. The sobs a release that had been a long time in the coming. Too gorram dangerous to let anyone see less they discovered the truth. With spies a plenty he could not afford to let down his guard. Davy remembered being caught his own self but instead of torturing him they had something more hateful and insidious in mind. He only escaped by feigning death though the dividing line was too close to call at the time. A desperate act for desperate times. As soon as he recovered he resumed his search for his brother. Finding Zoe had been a start but it had not prepared him for the state of Mal when they finally found him. A year! A whole gorram year it took from setting foot in the valley to freeing his brother from the hands of those *goushi buru*. Leaving behind a unit that was slaughtered to a man. His own death assumed to be among the bloody rags and carnage of another battlefield. Twice now he had 'died'.

"The price was too high." Mal murmured into his shoulder.

He stopped crying and just held on for a moment before pushing back and opening a space between them. He needed to be able to see the Captain's face, look into his eyes. "Don't ever say that to me, Mal."


His brother shook his head, a fierce look in his eyes that stopped the Captain saying more. "The price *you* paid was too high, still is gorrammit. Why does it always have to be you who pays the price? All my life you've been there, protected me, stood by me. *Diyu* you even knocked me flat on my back a time or too when I needed straightenin' out but this?" He shook his head again. "This was too much, Mal." He added softly.

"An' what about you? Takin' my place like that when you came aboard? What the *diyu* was that all about?"

"I figured with what had happened at Serenity Valley an' every other battlefield we fought on it would be child's play to be lost among the dead. Took some time convincin' Zoe I had to die but you know how she is. She didn't wanna leave you but the Alliance were lookin' for you after I broke you out so I needed to deflect them. Give you time to heal an' such. Switchin' places seemed the best option. Far as they were concerned there was only one Reynolds survived the war. Once you were on your feet again we swapped back an' I was free to put the rest of my plan in action. Time for me to disappear for a while. Had no idea you'd go lookin' for a ruttin' ship."

The Captain stared at him for a long time. Deep emotions rising and settling. Calm washing over them both as reason surfaced and made its' peace between them. "On'y one thing wrong with your reckonin'."

"What's that, *da ge*?"

"Now we got us a rebellion an' every gorram Alliance *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo* lookin' for us, *dong ma*? That all part of your brilliant an' shiny plan?"

Davy Reynolds grinned, a sparkle returning to his eyes as if not a single tear had fallen. "Didn't ya know, *xiongdi*? Can't have a war without a Reynolds slap bang in the middle of it."

The Captain raised his eyebrows. "A war? That what you plannin'?"

Davy noticed sadness and disappointment on his brother's face. "We need us an uprisin', Mal. The yoke around our necks is too tight a fit, *dong ma*? Man needs to breathe."

He felt his heart constrict. The agony of presentiment almost too painful for words. "We lost, Davy. War's over."

"*Wo zhidao* but this is another war."

The Captain took a long look at him then raised his right hand. "That what this is about?" He asked quietly.

Davy looked at the ring. His expression oddly solemn. "It's a good fit."

His brother's face clouded over. "Gorrammit, Davy, this ain't no game!"

"Not thinkin' it is but we got a right to fight for what we believe in. It's what you taught me, *jide*?"

"*Tamade diyu*, ain't you learnt nothin'? War ain't noble, honourable, nor some gorram picnic. Folks *die*, Davy. Families are ripped apart sometimes literally, *dong ma*? Brings out all kinds a meaness in folks that never had a cross word between 'em before. War's ugly an' sinful."

"Then why you fight in it?" Davy asked softly.

The Captain's eyes were suspiciously bright. "'Cause sometimes you ain't got no choice. Have to defend your own. Stand up for what's right. Sometimes fightin' is all you got left."

Davy nodded. "That's not the on'y reason I'm doin' this."

His brother's eyes narrowed. "*Weishenme*?"

"What they did to me, to you. That's part of it. Could say the war was a smokescreen."

The Captain frowned, expression darkening. "Damn expensive smokescreen."

His brother was silent a moment, as if weighing up how much to tell him. "I know what they were up to, Mal. That's why we gotta stop 'em."

All the air huffed out of the Captain's lungs. He could not have formed a word if his life had depended on it. Hoping against hope that his brother could not fill in all the blanks. Then Davy told him and his world came crashing in on top of him. *Diyu* he knew. He KNEW. And there was not a gorram thing Mal could do to take that terrible vision away from him.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *ai ren*/*xin gan* = sweetheart *weishenme* = why *xiongdi* = brother *wo zhidao* = I know *wo dong* = I understand *zenme* = how *dong ma* = understand *shui de hao* = sleep well *wo e le* = I am hungry *ni zhidao* = you know *shenme* = what *goushi* = crap/rubbish *duibuqi* = sorry *xiaoxin* = careful *dui* = correct *rongyi* = easy *bu ke neng* = no way *tamade* = fucking *hundan* = bastard *wangba dan* = bastard (lit. bad egg) *bushi* = not so *zhen de* = really *da ge* = big brother *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit *jide* = remember *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo* = animal fucking bastard


Thursday, April 8, 2004 8:23 AM


Must have been some hard times to make the real Davey look older than the Captain. So, Zoe always hung around Mal but had a thing for Davey? Or, what was with the interplay between Zoe and Mal-who's-really-Davey in "Enigma"? I'm confused.

Thursday, April 8, 2004 2:10 PM


This part is necessarily confusing because there are layers emerging which only become clear as they separate further. To say more at this point would be to say too much. Ali D :~) You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, April 8, 2004 7:27 PM


ARGH! I'm so lost, but so loving it! :-)

Thursday, April 8, 2004 11:08 PM


Yeah, I'm lost too but I'm confident Ali has a Hands-of-Blue like ability to screw with our minds and then, with a sudden flick of the table cloth, make all the pieces settle into place.

Thursday, April 8, 2004 11:51 PM


I'm lost in the woods, and seeking that clear path!

"You think I'm not capable of pissin' people off my own self?" --loved that line, had to be our Mal saying that ;-)


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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.