THE HELLBOUND SERIES: 19. "When All Else Fails"
Sunday, May 13, 2007

"The Captain finally asks for some help. Badger waves Serenity. River has some advice of her own to impart."



SUMMARY: "The Captain finally asks for some help. Badger waves Serenity. River has some advice of her own to impart." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

When he woke a couple of hours later the woman was gone. A relief so profound it shocked him made the Captain sit up and take stock. He could almost fool himself that it was some erotic dream but her scent still clung in the air, the smell of sex making him nauseous because of what it meant. He rose swiftly and opened the sink unit, the douse of cold water helping him to wake properly and clear his muddled head. This had to stop, *mashang*, before he not only lost the respect of his crew but also his mind. Pausing as he acknowledged what that meant, the Captain dressed and climbed out of his bunk. Man on a mission he didn't see the small slender figure watching with wide knowing eyes. River did not draw attention to herself but had a thoughtful look on her face. Awoken by the images screaming inside the Captain's head she moved quickly and softly towards the guest quarters once she reassured herself that the Captain was not in any danger.

Shepherd Book was not surprised by the knock on his door. Already up and dressed he called for his visitor to enter. "Come in!"

The Captain gave a small nod of thanks, stepped in and closed the door behind him. "Sorry to disturb you so early, Shepherd."

Intrigued, Book waved the apology away. The grim expression on the Captain's face provoking a sombre response. "I take it this isn't a social visit, Captain?"

"No, no it ain't." The Captain paused and ran a hand through his hair. A shaky hand as the Preacher now observed. Seeing the man's eyes follow his movement Mal put his hand behind his back, both hands shoved into his back pockets as if to keep them out of trouble. Pity he couldn't do the same for his own self. "Strange as it may seem, I find myself in need of some advice."

Book's eyebrows rose in a slow arc of surprise but his voice echoed none of it. The grim stern of the Captain's lips said this was serious. "Well then Captain perhaps you'd better tell me what's on your mind?"

* * * * *

River stood for a long time outside Casey's door. Eyes closed and head tilted to the surface of the metal but not actually touching. Her mind following the shape of the pregnant woman's thoughts. Her eyes springing open she felt understanding flood her mind.

* * * * *

On the bridge Wash yawned, Zoe standing right behind him, one hand on his shoulder. He glanced back to catch her eye. "Are you sure you don't want to get the Cap'n first?"

"I want to know who's callin'. Time enough to fetch the Cap'n if need be."

Wash didn't argue but put the wave through. A face they recognised only too well appeared on the screen. The grubby little man made no smarter by the suit and bowler hat he always wore. A black tie around his neck but no shirt. As if wearing it thus was the height of fashion for a business gentleman. It just made Wash want to laugh at him except he knew that Mal was hoping the irritating little middle man would have work for them. Best not to upset a future employer unless bullets started flying. "Badger, what can we do for you?"

"Where is he?"

Zoe leaned over Wash's shoulder, her face expressionless. "If you mean the Cap'n he's sleepin'."

Badger exuded false bon homie, his face breaking out into a wide smile which turned into a somewhat feral grin. Zoe hadn't liked Badger the first time she had met him and each meeting only reinforced further what a loathsome piece of *goushi* he was. But it wasn't her call. They needed work to earn the coin to keep them flying. Captain couldn't pick and choose his contacts. "You have a job for us?"

"That depends on whether you wake 'im, don't it?"

"I'll get him."

The first mate left the bridge, Badger's eyes watching her go. "You do that, love."

Wash just stared at him, reigning in his dislike and anger at the leer on Badger's face.

* * * * *

Book heard the Captain out in silence. The man had refused to sit and was pacing up and down the Shepherd's small room. "If you've taken advantage of her in any way Captain..."

Mal stopped pacing and stared at him open mouthed. It took a moment to form words. "Shepherd, I ain't the one doin' the molestin'."

"Malcolm, she's pregnant."

"I *know* that Shepherd which is why I've come to you."

The Preacher gave him an assessing look. "Why don't you just tell her you don't want that kind of attention?"

"What? You think I haven't tried? You think I want to be standin' here talkin' about this kind of stuff?"

"Oh, I'm fair certain this is the last place you want to be." "See? My point in fact."

The Shepherd watched him in silence for a moment. "You didn't tell her."

The Captain stared at Book's flat assertion, opened his mouth to deny it then shut his trap. What could he say, Preacher was right. He was a gorram coward that's what he was. He sat on the chair and ran a hand through his hair. "How could I?"

The quiet sound of defeat in the Captain's voice made Book curious. "Why not?"

He gave the Preacher an incredulous look. "Ain't you been listenin'? She trusts me Book. Looks to me to keep her safe an' such."

Book nodded, wanting to encourage the Captain to continue the muddle that was neither confession nor explanation. No one could mangle a conversation's meaning as effectively as Serenity's Captain, yet there was a serious point here and he didn't want it to get lost in the frustrated panic coming off the man in waves. "And what is the 'and such'?"


"You said she trusts you, looks to you to keep her safe 'and such'."

"It is what it is only... it ain't."

"Excuse me?"

"It means I think one thing an' she seems to be thinkin' another." Mal swallowed hard and realised that he would have to spell out his meaning if this little exercise in Captainly embarrassment wasn't going to be a complete waste of time. "She comes to me when I'm sleepin'. Don't hear the hatch go nor her climbin' down the gorram ladder, an' if that ain't creepy enough she touches me while I sleep."

"Do you touch her back, Captain?" Asked Book quietly.

"No!" Mal paused to calm himself. "I try to stop her but by the time I wake I...."

"By the time you wake, what?"

He swallowed hard, his face flushing. "I can't stop."


Mal turned a face red with embarrassment and all manner of uncomfortable on Book, anger seeded in with the discomfort. "She's jacking me off, *dong ma*? Her mouth an' hands on me an' all I can do is hang on for the gorram ride, that clear enough for you Shepherd?" While Book had been thinking it must be something along those lines, hearing the Captain blurt it out in anger was something of a shock to the system. One look at the man's face enough to convince the Shepherd that the Captain had not been the one taking advantage but he was still puzzled why Mal had come to him. "I'm not sure what you think I can do, Captain."

"Speak to her. Talk to her about that Special Hell."

Shepherd Book managed to hide his amusement. "She may not listen to me."

"You're a Shepherd, everybody listens to you."

Book blinked and wondered if that included the Captain. Before he could respond the Captain carried on talking, his voice hesitant and not the confident voice of authority that Book had come to know so well.

"I've tried but I can't do it. Ain't got the words to make her listen an' I don't wanna hurt her, *dong ma*. Have to find a way to stop this."

"Captain, you say she woke you, had her hands on you. Don't take this wrong way but did you do anything?"

The Captain blinked, thrown a little off track by the question. "Like what? I was roarin' down her throat, what did you expect me to be doin'?"

Shepherd Book shut his eyes a moment, willing the image from his mind. "She's pregnant."

"Hey now, that wasn't me!"

"*Wo zhidao* Captain, besides she's too far along. Should be ready to have the baby any day now I wouldn't be surprised but that isn't what I meant."

The Captain just stared at him. Book swallowed a sigh.

"Did you have sex with her Captain?"

"I just told you..."

"Not that, I mean penetrative sex."

Mal jumped to his feet, his expression and manner showing he was all kinds of offended. "How could you even think that?"

"Well, I'm sorry if I jumped to any conclusions. I was just asking."

"She's PREGNANT!" The Captain yelled.

"Which is my point, Captain." As quickly as the Captain's anger had errupted it vanished, a confused look now on the man's face. "It is?"

Book nodded. "I didn't want to say anything earlier but has it occurred to you that she may not want this baby?"

Mal sat down. He felt a mite dazed truth be told. "Not want the baby?" It seemed impossible to him. Why wouldn't she want the baby?

"She may have been wanting to have sex with you so she would lose the baby. Naturally, without the need for surgery." Said Book gently.

The Captain stared at him, his mind slowly cycling through the memories of his time in that rutting *jianyu*. Scraping together every moment he could remember with the woman. His eyes widened as he realised something, feeling sick to his heart. "She was raped."

Book nodded. He had expected as much.

"Not once." Mal swallowed. "Way she said it, it was over an' over again. Point of fact she thought the governor was the one who..." He moved his hands vaguely then aborted the gesture. "Thought he might be the father. Said all manner of things about how he would let the other guards have their way but not let any of them go too far, endanger his child."

The Shepherd sighed heavily. To him the woman's motivations seemed all too clear. "You have to speak to her Captain, tell her this has to stop and why. Also tell her that if she is seeking an abortion she really needs to speak to Simon not you." The Captain's expression was apologetic. "She don't trust the doc."

"She doesn't?"

"Point of fact she don't seem to trust most any of the crew."

"Except you?"

"That about sums it up."

There was a stony silence for a moment or two, both men collecting their thoughts. "That being the case, Captain, why do you think she will listen to me?"

"You're a Shepherd. Man of God an' such. Folk always listen to a Man of God."

Book just looked at him. The Captain swallowed hard before his final admission slipped out. Words all quiet and hushed like, as if afraid he would hear them spilling out of his own mouth and try to stop them. "You're my last hope, Book. Just need a little help is all."

* * * * *

Inara opened her hatch, surprised by the tentative knock. Seeing River standing there was not what she expected but then no one could ever claim that River Tam was what they expected. Inara stepped back and pulled her dressing gown closer, it was cold with the door open. Once River was inside the shuttle Inara closed the door and turned to smile at the girl. River did not smile back.

"It isn't what you think."

Inara blinked. "It isn't?"

"No, and you mustn't make it something it isn't."

"River, what are you talking about?"

"Not my secret to tell but when he speaks - listen. When you hear, don't judge." "Can you at least tell me who we're talking about?"

The girl shook her head, expression serious, eyes begging her to take note. "You'll know when the time comes."

Then River was gone and Inara was left wondering if she should speak to Simon about the girl's medication.

* * * * *

Wash was surprised to see his wife looking flustered. "*Bao bei*? Where's the Cap'n?"

"He wasn't in his bunk." She frowned. "I checked the commons room too, he isn't there."

"What about the cargo hold?"

"We don't have any cargo, Wash."

"I know, um, it was just, if he felt the need to stretch his legs - walk about."

Just then they heard a familiar tread. Both turned to the doorway just as the Captain poked his head in. "Heard voices, everythin' alright?"

Zoe nodded, carefully hiding her relief. "Yes sir."

"Any reason you two are up at what should be the crack of Dawn?" "We got a wave," Wash explained "it's Badger."

The Captain's face cleared, a look of interest quickly pushing his troubles to the back of his mind, his long legs closing the distance in a heartbeat. "He got a job for us?"

"Yes sir, but Badger says he'll only speak to you."

Mal grinned at his first mate and best friend in all the 'verse. His day was shaping to look up. He gave Wash a nod, a pleased look settling on his face. "Then best put him through."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately/right now *goushi* = crap/dog shit *dong ma* = understand? *wo zhidao* = I know *jianyu* = prison *bao bei* = precious/treasure


Sunday, May 13, 2007 2:31 AM


Wow. I just skimmed this to see what the series is about and whoa... Mal seriously needs to have his head examined if he thinks he's somehow a passive victim in this. He could have locked his bunk any time and didn't, which means he must be wanting this damaged woman to come on to him.

Which makes me wonder why River's talking to Inara instead of him and why Book hasn't decked him yet.

You certainly know how to pick your dark themes, oy.

Sunday, May 13, 2007 7:45 PM


While I agree with AgentRouka that Mal's anything but a victim here, I do have to say I sympathize with the Captain's dilemma...especially now that he's cognisant of the fact Casey's trying to abort the foetus (seemingly). Yeah, Mal can lock his bunk, but I get the feeling that Casey will just try Jayne or Simon for casual sex (Jayne would be obvious choice, natch)...or she could try and use Simon's gear to get the job done. And I certainly wouldn't know how to tell someone who's mental unstable like Casey that while I am willing to protect her from harm, I am not interested in that kind of contact with her.

Still...brilliant work here, Alison! Definitely was impressed with how you had Mal be all kinds of confused and vulnerable to Book without losing his character, and River's comments to Inara were suitably cryptic;)



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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.