HEAVEN AND HELL: 19. "The Call of Blood"
Monday, April 26, 2004

The Captain goes with Davy leaving the ship and crew in Zoe's capable hands. Inara puts the next stage of her plan into action. Wash wonders why Mal allowed the Shepherd to return."



SUMMARY: "The Captain goes with Davy leaving the ship and crew in Zoe's capable hands. Inara puts the next stage of her plan into action. Wash wonders why Mal allowed the Shepherd to return." 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

* * * * *

It was one of the hardest things he had ever had to do. Turning his back on ship and crew tore a piece out of his heart that was still beating. Hurt him more even than the surrender in the Valley had done not that he would ever admit it. He couldn't do that to his brother or to them. He needed to be strong so they would be able to let him go. Even though only death would loosen his grip on what he must now give up. Dog couldn't serve two masters any more than he could be in two places at once. But it hurt. Gorrammit more than any rutting thing had hurt before. So he set his face in a stone mask and gave his last orders. Told Zoe where to find the papers and somesuch that he had hidden for just such an occasion, hoping it would never be needed. She had looked at him in surprise, hiding the sorrow and pain behind a mask of her own. A mask that didn't quite reach the pain-ridden shadows of her eyes.

"You expected this, sir?"

His mouth tightened a bit. "Not expected exactly, no. Just knew we might need a contigency plan."

"Contingency plan?"

He hated it when she repeated his words back to him like that, like he was doing something incredibly dumb but she was too loyal to say so. "Yeah. You know, have to cover every eventuality."

"And this is it?"

"Seems like."

A pause settled heavy between them. Neither knowing quite how to get passed this point without causing each other more pain. Didn't matter that they were stiff as statues. "What's in those papers, sir?"

A flicker in his eyes told her the question was unexpected. He had expected her just to accept it and leave him be. Let him go with no more fuss. But this was Zoe and he owed her that much at least. Just like he owed his crew. They were all there, still and silent. Mostly disbelieving. Pepper and his men were ready but content to wait on him which was something of an unexpected comfort. Didn't think he could pull this off if they rushed him any. Davy stood a couple of feet behind him, a warm shadow against the darkness wrapping stone cold greedy hands around his gorram heart. "Freedom."

Her eyebrows rose. He swallowed slowly, voice low and quiet but clear in the unnatural silence that bound them.

"Papers in your name so if the Alliance stop you they got no call to question your Captaincy." He saw the shock in her eyes and pressed on, wanting to only have to say this once. Further discussions would have to be after he had gone. Once the dust of her pain and anger had settled some. A one way journey was always a terrible way to go not that either of them would put it into words. It was a soldier's lot though it still hurt. Raw untended wounds always did. "Got some coin put by. It's not much but enough to keep flying if the job don't work out."

She wanted to yell at him not to go. To damn Davy to *diyu* but she couldn't do it. She loved them both, always had, always would. But that didn't mean she had to agree with either of them though she would stand there and defend them to her last breath. And then they were out of time. The sound of Kaylee sobbing shook her out of her reverie, the mechanic hugging the Captain and crying into his shirt while he tried to soothe and reassure her. Then he was shaking hands with Jayne, a look passing between them that Zoe could not read. A nod to Book and a shake of the hand for Wash. River's face was as white as parchment but she was calm and sad, her eyes so solemn and wise and full of love and understanding. Zoe didn't know how she could do it. Even Simon looked upset and stunned. Probably only now realising exactly what they were losing.

Saying goodbye to River broke his heart all over again. She never berated him, didn't beg him to stay, wouldn't place one more tie upon him than he could bear. She saw the cracks, felt the pain radiate from his heart to hers, held herself close in the comfort of his arms one last time. Vowed to be strong for him. To love him so hard fate would be unable to touch him with anything but mercy. Her love would be strong enough to protect them both. Then he was turning, striding away and not looking back. Davy walked beside him, Pepper and his men following like some kind of rutting honour guard, their steps proud, heads held high, every man of them ready for business. It chilled the crew of Serenity to the bone. Simon put an arm around his sister but for once his comfort could not reach her.

"You're doin' the right thing, Mal." Murmured his brother in quiet approval.

Mal could not reply. If he opened his gorram mouth to speak he was sure all the pieces of his heart would tumble out. His hands were knotted fists, the gorram ring biting into his middle finger. He wished he could take it off but the damn thing was stuck fast. Wished he could leave his brother to do whatever fool thing he wanted without dragging him into it. Taking his life apart for a past that could not be rewritten no matter how much they might gorram want it. Sometimes you just had to accept that you couldn't win. Pick your battles. But he couldn't leave Davy. Couldn't let his brother walk into the jaws of death and do nothing to save him. If he couldn't change his mind he would at least stand beside him. Every step of the way right into the jaws of *diyu*. Didn't matter that he didn't approve, that he thought his brother was wrong. This was blood calling him and he was nothing if he was not man enough to answer.

* * * * *

Inara Serra smiled and watched the stocky man begin to relax. He had been surprised to hear from her again so soon. "What do you wish me to do?"

She considered Diamond Harry for a few moments, sifting through her thoughts and judging how much to tell him. "The target is on the move."

"You want me to follow him?"

She shook her head. "You misunderstand."

He waited. Patient. Absorbing the cloak of calm she extended to embrace his curiosity.

"The ship will be leaving soon. When it reaches its' destination not one of them must leave that ship alive, *dong ma*?"

Her instruction was unequivocal. He nodded and wondered what in the 'verse had changed. "Do you want the ship to crash?"

Another shake of the head. He frowned slightly. It would have been an elegant solution which could so easily be fashioned to look accidental. "No. The ship must make its' next planetfall. I want there to be a trail to follow."

Something in the dark glitter of her eyes informed him better than any words could have done. He gave her a small bow. He could no more disobey her than turn back the hands of time.

* * * * *

Jayne frowned as Zoe ordered him to shut the cargo bay door but he obeyed. His silence not born out of respect for her authority but because he was thinking. His look dark and brooding as he watched the Preacher. He wanted to ask her why they weren't throwing him off the boat but the Captain had wanted him to stay. Why, was a gorram mystery to him. Zoe took a slow glance around, her eye settling briefly on each of them. Her tone was quiet and devoid of emotion, the stiffness in her the only indication of just how much she was hurting. "We'll discuss this in the commons room. *Ban xiaoshi, dong ma*?"

They murmured or nodded their assent but she was no longer looking at them. Oblivious to everyone, her steps briskly taking her away and up the staircase before they could blink. Wash hurried to follow in her wake. The others stood for a moment or two in stunned silence. Simon felt as if he were living through some kind of nightmare. "Can someone tell me what just happened?"

No one spoke then River's voice cut through the silence with eerie calm. "Can't protect us all."

Jayne looked confused. "Who? What?"

She did not look at him. She was staring at the closed cargo bay door, feeling her heart drawing further and further away from her and wondering how far it could travel before it stopped beating. Her tone was detached, distant. Her expression infinitely sad. "The Captain." She turned her head and looked at Jayne as if just realising he had spoken. "We have to protect ourselves now."

Jayne grunted. "Huh." The look he gave the Preacher saying who he thought they had to protect themselves from.

The Preacher raised his eyebrows, voice mild. "You have nothing to fear from me."

"Oh yeah? Then why'd ya betray the Cap? An' why in *diyu* did he let ya back on his boat?"

Book had been wondering the same thing himself. Indeed. The Captain was truly a complex man.

* * * * *

Wash was disturbed to find his wife making for the Captain's bunk. She paused at the hatch and turned to face him. "Best take off, *zhangfu*."

He shook his head. "Not until you explain what you're doin', *bao bei*."

She bit back the flinch of pain. "I have to get something."

"What's that?"

Her eyes were bleak now, it hurt him to look at her even as he saw the shutters come down to block out the pain. It spoke volumes that he had been able to see it in the first place. Her control was slipping. "The papers from the Captain's room."

The Captain not Mal. In her eyes there had been no changing of the guard. Serenity would always belong to Malcolm Reynolds no matter what a handful of grubby papers said. He saw all that and more but it didn't change his resolve. He did not want her going down there alone, not while she was this fragile. "Fine, but I'm coming with you."

Surprise flickered over her face briefly easing the austere features. "*Fang xin*."

"I won't providin' I'm with you."

She blinked. "Wash, I..."

He put his arms around her. "Hush, *wo dong*. Let me do this for you."

Zoe did not have the strength to refuse him and truth to tell his presence helped. Unable to form the words she nodded into his shoulder and after a moment he let her go then followed her silently down into the Captain's bunk. She stood for a moment and resisted the urge to cry. Soldiers didn't cry. Friends didn't weaken when they were needed the most. And there was something inherently wrong about grieving for the living. Wash waited patiently, his anxious eyes watching as she gathered her thoughts and resolve then moved unerringly to a small deck plate in the far corner of the Captain's bunk. It was no different from the rest of the deck plates apart from being slightly smaller. Dropping to her knees Zoe patted a pocket and withdrew a small knife. Wash took a step towards her. She looked up and he froze, realising this was something she had to do.

The plate revealed a small hidey hole. Nothing fancy but functional. Wash's eyes widened as her hands disappeared. Moments later she eased back on her heels, a plain wooden box in her hands. It was dusty and looked pretty shabby but she held it like it was a piece of the Ark of the Covenant. He could not quite understand her reverence for it but was willing to not call her on it. She got up and sat on the bed. Wash joined her and sat beside her, his eyes scanning her taut face then dropping to glance down at the box. He was alarmed to see her hands shaking and put his own over hers. A steady warm presence. "Maybe you could do this later, *xin gan*?"

Zoe shook her head. Stubborn as their rutting Captain. He watched as she opened the box. It wasn't even locked. Inside was a battered plain silver cross on a chain. He saw her hesitate then lift it carefully, her eyes suspiciously moist as she gazed at it. He wanted to ask about it but forebore. Obviously it was the Captain's but that didn't make sense. Captain wasn't a religious man. He had allowed Book on board but told him his God wasn't welcome so what was with the cross and chain? Was it something someone had given him? Zoe put it on the bed then took out the rest of the items one by one her hands beginning to tremble again by the time she got to the folded papers. Wash put his arm around her and gave her shoulders a little squeeze. Zoe bit her lip and read the looping scrawl of Mal's handwriting on a ragged piece of paper.

"If you are reading this then this boat has finally come to you. I know you'll take care of her and the crew Zoe. In fact I'm counting on it. *Zhuni haoyun* and remember I love you. Mal."

That was when it was all too real to hold inside. Tears spilled from her eyes. Wash hugged her close and rocked her slowly, whispering words of love into her hair while his heart broke for her. Holding her tight while she shuddered with silent sobs, clinging to him in her moment of weakness. Only when she had composed herself did she pull out of his embrace, wiping her eyes dry with the back of her hands. "He ain't comin' back."

Wash tried to lighten the heaviness in her voice and heart. "*Shenme*, you kiddin' me? This is Mal we're talkin' about. The man Niska couldn't break."

She gazed at him, new tears beginning to well up in her eyes but determined that this time none would fall. "*Bu qu, ni bu dong*. If he was comin' back we wouldn't be doin' this."

He gave her a look of genuine confusion. "Doin' what, *bao bei*?"

Zoe swallowed and got to her feet. "Leavin' him behind."

He had no words for that. For some reason memories of Tracey began scrolling through his mind. What was it he had said? It was something like *when you can no longer run you crawl and when you can't crawl, when you can't do that, you find someone to carry you*. He watched Zoe climb the ladder, the box and contents under one arm. Quiet and thoughtful, Wash followed her. For all the times the Captain had irritated and angered him he would rather have him cursing and yelling at him than not have him there at all. The whole balance of their lives felt wrong without him. Somewhere along the way the man had become a friend and even when Wash disagreed with him he respected the hell out of him. Plus there was another thing that worried him. How would the crew in general and Zoe in particular hold it together now he was gone?

As he exited the hatch, Wash caught up with his wife and touched her elbow. She paused and gave him a questioning look. Clearing his throat he dropped his voice to a gentle whisper. It was time to mention the other thing that was worrying him. The one that was making him all kinds of nervous. "*Wo bu dong*. If Mal could see this far ahead how come he wants us to keep the Shepherd? It doesn't make sense."

She did not even have to give it a second thought. "Another gun."

The answer startled him. "*Jao jile ji aode*! Who's to say his gun won't be aimed at us?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* but for some reason the Captain trusts him."

It took all Wash's restraint not to say what he thought of that. Seeing his disbelieving expression she changed the subject. Not wanting to get into this right now. "Come on, *zhangfu*, time to speak to the rest of the crew then see what job the Captain has lined up for us."

Unable to speak he nodded, his mind wondering how in *diyu* the Captain had figured all this out. Or had the clues been there all the time for those with eyes to see? He didn't think so. Then he thought of River. That strange, delicate, gifted child. The one the Captain thought was a Reader. The crazy girl who had won Mal's heart. Had she warned him? And if she had, why in the nine hells hadn't she warned the rest of them?

* * * * *

She was upset Alex knew. Even though she had believed him, sided with him when push came to shove, it had cost her dear. Rutting hell. It had cost her her brother. Alex Trent was wise enough to at least pretend to be hurt. Gently he cradled his wife in his arms. Doing all the things a loving husband would do.

Becky had been crying. "Why did he do it?"

He kissed her furrowed brow, ignoring the brief and unexpected stab of guilt. A conscience was such an easy thing to over ride when it was used so rarely but at times it still surprised him that he had one. "Who knows, *fengmi*? Guess he never got over losing the war."

Something flickered in her eyes and he rushed on, anxious not to appear to be accusing her brother of anything. Especially now. Questioning Ty's loyalty might bring his own into question and that was something he could not afford at any cost.

"I don't think any of us did."

"But why would he do this? Why betray the cause and risk greater losses when we have so little left? It doesn't sound like him, Alex."

"Maybe he got into bad company? It's hard to tell what secrets lie in a man's heart."

She thought about that and bit back tears. Her voice came out so small, seeking his reassurance the way her body had sought his arms. She could not bear to think about the way the others had reacted when the truth came out. How her brother had gone running back to Alliance hands rather than face them. Only the Alliance had not been so welcoming. They had promptly arrested him. She still wasn't sure what for. Or had he somehow betrayed them too? Right now anything seemed possible. The foundations of her world already falling to pieces beneath her feet. Her head was spinning. Everything hurt. "What will happen to him?"

"I guess he'll spend some time in prison."

Her eyes widened in alarm and pain. Traitor or not he was still her brother. Alex hugged her close.

"Better that than execution, *fengmi*." He added quietly.

The stifled cry turned to sobs. Burying her face in his shoulder she missed the look of satisfaction that slid across his disingenuous face. Already day dreaming about how he would spend the money.

* * * * *

"Where to?"

Davy smiled at Mals' question, his expression more animated than it had been in days. "Pepper has arranged us some transport." He looked at the big man. Pepper grinned back, happy that all the waiting was over. "Once the ring surfaced cells began to activate."

Alarmed, Mal felt a sense of wrongness shivering down his spine. He paused. "What you sayin'?"

Lenny Goss answered, his face shining with expectations held barely in check. It was mildly creepifying to Mal but he didn't let on. "It was the sign we was waitin' for."

Mal looked at the ring firmly ensconced on his finger. Noticed Davy had put his ring on as well. "Ain't my ring." He said numbly.

"I had it made for you." Said Davy softly, eyes shining. So happy to have his brother with him.

They gave Mal tolerant little smiles. Anger rushed through him so fierce and sudden he had to forcibly hold himself in check. It wasn't their fault they thought he was some kind of gorram hero. He wasn't that, not never that. Surviving could be a curse as well as a blessing. Anyone who had been in the Valley should know that. Better men had died that day than Malcolm John Reynolds. Davy noticed his change in mood and frowned slightly. "*Ni hao ma*?"

"*Hen hao* just not sure I'm seein' the whole picture."

Davy nodded, his look thoughtful as they picked up their pace again. They had a lot of ground to cover before daybreak. "You will soon enough, *da ge*." * * * * *

He woke in a miasma of pain but that was good. Pain meant he was still alive and breathing. Still had a chance to make a difference. Didn't matter how bad it was so long as he lived long enough to warn them. It was cold and dank and pretty dark, just glimmers of artificial light leaking through the gaps around the metal doors. The thrum and shudder beneath the deck plates told him they were moving, the prison transport winging its' way across the black. What had that guard said? Oh yeah. They were going to Porchester before heading for the Argent Penal Colony. His heart shuddered at the thought of that place. Argent was the ass end of the 'verse and the Penal Colony was shoved right up the end of it. As far into *diyu* as a man could go before the flames consumed him. Somehow he had to persuade them to let him off at Porchester. Even if it simply meant trading one *zang chou* cell for another.

* * * * *

Diamond Harry didn't like this. There were too many variables. Too many things that could go wrong. Hitting the Firefly while it was airborne would have been a beautiful thing to behold. His preferred option. Plus it would have left little in the way of evidence. Always supposing anyone would bother to look for any. Civilian operations that spent so much of their time beneath Alliance radar were hardly likely to garner their sympathy let alone anything resembling justice in their untimely demise. No. It would be more like having a thorn removed from their side. One less irritation to take care of. It would have been the easy option. The one that guaranteed success. This was much more difficult and thus more intriguing. A balancing act of possibilities. He would need to follow them, watch them, then pick them off one by one. He could have used accomplices but that would just compound the risk. In truth the only one he trusted was himself. He even kept both eyes open when he dealt with his beloved Queen of Assassins. That was why he had lived this long.

She was a perfectionist like him which was part of why he respected her. Plus once, a long time ago, he had dared to ask for another form of payment and she had paused so long he feared the answer would kill him. When she had acquiessed it was the biggest shock to him. From that moment on he was hers in ways that chilled him even while it set him on fire with longing and need for her every time he looked into her eyes. It had never happened again but she had the power. The ability to let him relive it over and over again. Like some insidious drug he was hooked and that had given her a reward in kind. Someone who would never betray her.

His ugly misformed face had not always been so but he had always been squat. Swarthy. His barrel chest and thick muscled arms hers to command. A bright quick intellect stirred in that dark twisted brain of his. Skills tripped from his stubby fingers that glided with expert knowledge over every lethal substance known to man and a few only known to womankind. He didn't care, the deadlier the better. They were his beauties. His angels of death. The dark seductive mistresses that toyed with his soul. Beside them he arrayed a myriad of complex pieces of technology. To call them bombs would be too crude for they were nothing like their ancient predecessors. These were sleek and stealthy confections. Digital and silent. They refined death to a subtle art form and he was their biggest admirer. Able to play a waiting game of which they would never tire. Harry patted them lovingly, his eyes apologetic. Moving on he considered the other objects in his not inconsiderable arsenal. She wanted them dead but had said nothing about how long he could take to kill them. Perhaps he could have a little fun along the way? Not too much now, just enough to hold him until Inara gifted him once again with perfect recall. His body and soul again in thrall to memories that seared their contents on him like fingerprints on his very soul.

He turned back to the acetates of his targets. Slowly thumbing through each one, his mind choosing to devise and fashion something special for them. When he got to the doctor he paused, a slow smile curving the warped bow of his lips. Simon Tam. A doctor and this one MedAcad trained. Shiny. Maybe he would keep this one until last. Hold him and let him watch the drama unfold, in the full and heart rending knowledge of exactly what was happening to each and every one of his friends. Delicious. It was truly entrancing the things that could be accomplished with a tutored mind. How much more refined the confection and anticipation of untimely death. Yes. He wanted the doctor which meant he would have to take him first. All he needed to decide on now was the manner in which he would accomplish it. His beauties winked at him. Silent and patient. Harry winked back and grinned, his gold tooth glinting before he settled down and began to plot and plan in earnest.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell/devil *dong ma* = understand *ban xiaoshi* = half an hour *shenme* = what *zhangfu* = husband *bao bei* = precious/treasure *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *wo dong* = I understand *xin gan* = sweetheart *zhuni haoyun* = good luck *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *fengmi* = honey *jao jili ji aode* = that's great, perfect *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *ni hao ma* = how are you *hen hao* = very good *da ge* = big brother *zang chou* = dirty smelly


Monday, April 26, 2004 7:53 AM


Sure hope this ends better than it's looking to. But, I said the same thing during your last series. Must confess little interest in the revolution, while my heart breaks for River and the crew, and Simon becomes the first victim.

Very good, Alison!

Monday, April 26, 2004 6:22 PM


Another awesome chapter! Thank you, Amdobell. :-)

Monday, April 26, 2004 10:00 PM


The scene with Zoe and Wash in the Captain's quarters made me all misty. Soooo good. And good on Wash for being all supportively husbandly when Zoe's reading Mal telling her he loves her. Shiny!

Really enjoying the series. Thanks!


Tuesday, April 27, 2004 3:00 AM


My heart is breaking for Mal and River and Zoe. But I have to say, that Diamond Harry is a good villain. And a sparkling final paragraph.


You must log in to post comments.



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.