Back Stories II: Chapter 5 (repost)
Monday, November 12, 2007

Zoë recounts Mal's re-entry to life after the war; it’s a tale of sadness and woe.


Disclaimer: It belongs to Joss and all those business people. I’m just playing.

Rating: PG to NC17. I will not put warnings on each chapter, because I don’t want to give things away. In general, don’t be getting into any of this if you’re not prepared for adult storylines, violence, explicit sexual content, and - oh my - bad words.

Many thanks: members: LEEH and LEIASKY for beta.

Links: Prequels: The Fish Job (FFF) (LJ), Easy Tickets (FFF) (LJ), and Book I (FFF) (LJ). Timing, pairings, and canon blurbs are in my FFF blog.

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Back Stories, Book II

by Mal4Prez

Chapter 5

Zoë recounts Mal's re-entry to life after the war;
it’s a tale of sadness and woe.



Highland’s Second Moon

Book woke to full daylight. It confused him, because he didn’t feel like he’d had a full sleep, but then he recalled the situation. Time didn’t ever advance in this place. Well, it moved slow enough that he wouldn’t be seeing a change in the short time he’d be here.

He worked a hand out of his blankets to check the watch he'd left beside his sleeping pad. Indeed, he hadn’t slept all that long, just over half of a usual night. It hadn’t even been a full half day since Serenity had dropped them off on this moon. But the crew should be getting to business now, and if things went exceptionally well they could be returning in only a handful of hours.

But of course, things never went well.

Book looked out from the cover of tarps toward the rocks of the hill; it appeared to be a bit darker now then it had been. Thick clouds, he realized. The rain had picked up, and it made a lively patter on the thick plastic above him. The gloom had brought chillier air with it, and Book wasn’t looking forward to leaving his warm cocoon. His body was stiff and sore from his labors, and movement wasn’t going to be easy.

Two things finally got him moving: the sound of protein sizzling in a pan and the smell of coffee freshly brewed. He pushed his blanket down enough to see that Zoë was the one doing the cooking. She had a full blaze going, and Mal sat next to it with a blanket tightly wrapped around him. Book wasn’t at an angle where he could see the captain’s face and judge his mood, so he sat up quietly and looked to Zoë for some hint on how to proceed.

Once she noticed him, she gave a small head shake. Book kept to his place.

“Ain’t stayin’ long,” the captain said, and his voice shook with cold. “May not got anywhere to go, but I sure as hell ain’t stayin’ here.”

Zoë didn’t reply, though Book could see in the set of her face that it was a struggle for her to hold her tongue. She used a towel to lift the coffeepot off the edges of the fire’s embers and filled a mug for Mal; he took it awkwardly in his left hand.

She filled another mug and stepped away from the fire to hand it to Book. Apparently, Mal was in no place to notice. Whatever he was thinking about, it took his full attention.

“Gettin’ off this world,” he muttered. “Ain’t ever lookin’ back.”

Zoë returned to the frying pan without comment.

“Goramnit, Zoë,” Mal said after a minute, “why won’t you talk to me?”

Zoë sighed. “How’s the hand?” she asked.

Mal looked down at his right hand, which he was holding against his chest under the blanket. “Broken to bits,” he replied. “You know that. Funny, though, it ain’t hurtin’ much.”

“We got good medics, sarge. You got to stay on for a time so they can take care of you, see that you shake the fever.”

As soon as she said that, Mal pulled the blanket tighter around him and shivered, like he'd just remembered that he was sick. Zoë moved his sleeping pad closer to the fire; Mal didn't complain when she urged him to move to it and stretch out.

A short time after that, Zoë waved Book over to the fire and poured him some fresh coffee.

"I talked to Wash," she said.

Book looked up at her, but his questions didn’t make it past his lips. He didn't want to second-guess any action of Zoë's, even if it'd been her own orders to keep radio silence. The three of them were nearly defenseless on this empty moon; they couldn't be drawing attention to themselves.

Zoë seemed to read his thoughts; she dropped her eyes away from him like she knew she’d broke the rules. "Didn't swap but a few words, just checked in. Jayne's doin' his sellin', and Kaylee's at that med clinic, seein' to what Mal needs. The rest are on the ship, waitin' for her to get back."

Book nodded. Truthfully, it was good to hear about the crew, to know that somewhere out there life was going on and time was moving forward as it should. He glanced toward Mal.

"Is the captain sick?" he asked.

Zoë followed his gaze. "He was," she said.

* * *

Six years ago: just outside Èrshuǐ Village, Du-Khang

Zoë takes her meal in a room apart from the main dining hall, which is crowded tonight. The house is full; there’s been a horde of detainees released in the past week. The work camp is nearly finished shutting down, so the rumors say.

She’s been out of the camp for more than two months, but she hasn’t made it far. The rambling farmhouse she’s staying at is only a half dozen klicks from the camp, and a constant trickle of Independents come through as they’re released. They show up with nothing but the handful of Alliance bank notes that the Treaty says is all a soul needs to set him- or herself up in life. Of course, it isn’t near enough, which us why Jeffreys and his crew is needed. These folks need a hand to get them off-world, set them up with a job and a place to live. Zoë sees that as a worthy enough cause.

If she’s hoping that one of these stragglers will be a familiar face, she keeps that to herself.

She’s in the middle of meeting with the owner of a transport who might do them a service and get a crowd of these folks off this world. Only, he isn’t being real generous about the price. It’s looking like it might come to personal insults and move on into threats, but then the parley is interrupted.

The door guard (they need one – this village doesn’t like Independents) brings in Cottin, a soft old ex-farmer who lives between the village and the internment camp. Cottin never had the steel to be a soldier, but word has it that he tried to help out some during the war anyway, moving supplies along to the Browncoats and providing a shelter for troops who needed it. He got burned when the Independents lost. The Alliance took most of his land, robbing him of his livelihood. That’s made him understandably shy of the Cause.

He keeps to his own now, and doesn’t offer any help to the survivors of the war. Zoë’s always been fine to let folks like him be, as is the rest of the newly forming Underground. So Cottin’s appearance here, and the words he spits out, come as a surprise.

“Don’t you be gettin’ me caught up in this!” he says, wiping rain off his face with a ratty old kerchief. “I don’t want nothin’ to do with no Browncoat business. Not no more.”

Zoë looks at him levelly. “Ain’t no Browncoats here, Cottin. War’s over.”

“Y’all may not be wearin’ `em, but I know what you’re up to.” He looks around the shadowed room with blame in his eyes. “You get this straight – I ain’t got no part of it. Keep yourself and yours off the land I got left.”

“We ain’t on your land,” Zoë says calmly.

Bù jīng zhī tán! Try tellin’ that to the fella in my barn.”

Zoë glances at her colleagues, then back at Cottin. “You got a Browncoat in your barn?”

“S’what I said!”

Zoë pushes out of her chair and grabs her coat off a hook on the wall – it’s a tattered black thing; her uniform is put away.

“How long’s he been there?” she asks as she pushes her arms into her sleeves.

“Couple a’hours.”

Zoë pauses. “How come you waited so long to come tell?”

His face pinches up in a pout, then he shoves a hand in his pocket and pulls out a wad of cash. “He gave me pay. I could use it, but not if it means the Alliance’ll come looking for him and drag me into it.”

“You got some reason to think they’ll be lookin’?”

Cottin shifts his feet as his eyes slide side to side nervously. “Why else’d this guy be wantin’ to sleep in my barn, `stead of comin’ straight to town?”

Zoë knows he isn’t telling all, but she’s sure the truth’ll come out in time. She leaves the transport business to Jeffreys and she’s out the door, taking a second to fold the collar of her coat up against the rain.

Once they get onto the rough road leading from the village to the camp, she pulls Cottin up alongside her. “Tell me everything,” she orders as she strides through the mud.

Cottin has to jog to keep up, but her tight grip on his arm gives him no choice. “Ain’t much to tell. He showed just when I finished supper, sayin’ he wanted a place to get out a’the rain.”

She glares at him. “And you kindly offered up your barn.”

“Hell, no! I don’t want him there, but he shoved the money at me and went on in.”

“He say why he wasn’t comin’ in to town?”

Cottin screws his face up. “Wasn’t up to walkin’, I guess.”

Zoë looks him sharply. “He hurt?”

“Ain’t none of my business,” he says stubbornly, then snaps his mouth shut like it won’t be opening ever again.

“Mm-hmm,” Zoë replies, but she doesn’t push him. She’ll see how things are soon enough.

They’re quiet the rest of the way, sloshing through the mess of the road. The thing isn’t kept up; most traffic goes the other way out of the camp, toward the shiny new town that Zoë and her fellow Browncoats have spent the past several months helping to build. (Not that they did a lot, given the shape they’d been in at the time.) She hates this place, hopes to turn her back on this world and not lay eyes on it again. But she can’t do that quite yet.

Just over halfway to the camp, they turn toward Cottin’s place. He stops by the house to light a gas lantern, then leads the way to the barn, where he slides open one side of the main door and stands aside.

“You just get him out and be on you way,” he says. “I want nothin’ to do with the lot of ya.”

Zoë has no reply for him. She takes the lantern and moves toward the door, intent on doing just as he asks. She pulls out her carbine before she steps in – not that things come to gunfights often around here, but she’s learned caution the hard way.

“Hello?” she says into the door, then she jumps aside when something heavy hits the ground just in front of her. She holds the lamp out over it – a shovel. What’s more, the shadowy figure of a man is standing just inside the door to her right. She guesses that he’d been about to clock her with the thing.

“Zoë?” a familiar voice says.

She holds up the light. The face on the man is hard to recognize; it’s half hidden by a scruffy beard and shaggy hair that hasn’t been cut in a good long time. But the uniform she knows – it’s the same thing Mal was wearing when they were taken out of Serenity Valley.

“Sarge?” she asks. “That you?”

He’s standing a little hunched, his right hand hidden inside the flap of his coat. “Hunh, imagine that,” he says lightly, like they’ve just run into each other outside a general store on a Sunday afternoon.

“What the hell’re you doin’ in a barn?” she asks.

“Given the options…” Mal says, and he laughs, but it’s quickly broken by coughs. Then he lets out a heavy sigh and slides to the ground, his back still up against the wooden wall.

Zoë steps closer. “You injured, sir?” she asks, though that much is clear.

“Guess… you could call it that,” he says, and she finally takes in the weakness of his voice. She finds a nail to hang the lantern on, then crouches down to check the damage. She’s used to seeing the overgrown hair and the beard; he’d had those growing the whole time they were in the camp. But the face showing behind the bushy growths doesn’t look quite like Mal.

“Yesu, Sarge. Who’d you piss off this time?”

“You ‘member Fischer?” he asks.

Hěn yí hàn, I do,” she says. None of the Browncoats who spent time in the camp are likely to forget Fischer.

“I guess… he didn’t think my attitude was… properly adjusted.” Mal’s barely visible mouth stretches into a smile for a second, then he doubles up, coughing like he’s got a lung he means to be rid of.

“That the case?” Zoë asks.

Mal finishes his fit and nods. “Couldn’t stop `em from lettin’ me walk when my time came, but he and his buddies saw fit to be waitin’ outside the gate.”

“Gave you a goodbye party?”

Mal gives another short, pained laugh. “Bubbly wine and dancin’ women. You should’a seen…”

She puts a finger under his chin and tips his head back to get a better look at him, just to make sure it’s not shadows from the hair that are making his face look wrong. “You sure that’s you in there?”

She can just make out his grin. “Alliance makeover. Look nice?”

Zoë fights off an urge to hug him, and a more absurd urge to slap him for showing up looking like this. “It’s just blood and swelling, sir,” she says with more confidence than she feels. “It’ll heal up fine. They did break up your nose real good.”

“Gunhand, too. Crime prevention. They had to give me back my gun – but didn’t want me usin’ it.”

She looks down at the hand he’s cradling inside his coat, and also takes in the way he’s sitting stiff against the wall. It makes her think that the body beneath the coat isn’t much better off than his face.

“You walked all the way here from the base?” she asks.

Mal nods. “Sorry `bout the shovel. Though you might’ve been one of `em. Followin’ me.”

He slumps forward a bit, and she realizes that he’s fading; probably be passed out soon. He certainly won’t be walking. She gets to her feet and steps out the door. Cottin is still standing in the rain, like he’d rather be wet than in the company of a couple of ex-Browncoats. She doesn’t plan it, but the sight of his sullen face sets her fist to flying.

He squeals in pain as he staggers away from her.

“You have a man at your door lookin’ like that,” she says, “and you take his money, throw him in a barn, then sit and think on it for a few hours?”

Cottin holds his nose and keeps backing away. “I did come to get you!”

“And didn’t even tell me he was beat to hell. I could’a brought a medic along!”

“How’s I to know? Man walkin’ around like that could be startin’ trouble again. Maybe he earned what he got – ”

Zoë raises her fist and the man shuts his mouth.

“Here’s what you’re gonna do, Cottin,” she says. “You’re gonna get back to the house, double-time. That means you go at a run. You find Jeffreys and tell him to bring a wagon and a doctor out here. You got it?”

“I ain’t part of –”

“You are now! Get!” She takes a threatening step toward him and the man turns tail. “They ain’t back in fifteen,” she yells after him, “I’ll set fire to this trash-heap myself!”

As the man’s wet footsteps disappear in the distance, she returns to the barn to hear a soft laugh coming up from the shadows.

“Always did have a way with folks,” Mal says faintly. He must be wet, she realizes. She takes off her coat to lay over him.

“Maybe you ought’a not talk so much right now, Sarge.”

Not surprisingly, he ignores her advice. “Bastard Fischer. Said if I stayed… near the base… he’d arrest me. Loiterin’.”

His words are getting hard to make out; seems that putting the coat over him is making him realize how cold he is, and shivers set in. She settles down next to him and pulls his body sideways into her lap, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. He doesn’t resist. Much.

“Said that after they beat you till you could barely walk, huh?”

“Least… didn’t break my legs.”

“How thoughtful,” she says dryly. She gently lifts his coat to pull his right arm out and have a look at his hand; one glance is enough to convince her that she can’t do a thing about it. It’s quite a send off they gave him – they’ve done their best to see that he never holds a gun properly again. His fingers are bent in all kinds of wrong directions.

“This is… first place I got to,” he mumbles.

Zoë looks around the dank barn. “You never were any good at scoutin’ locations.”

Mal might be trying to look offended, but it’s hard to tell. “You know… better place?”

“In all honesty, sir, nothing `round here is a whole lot better than this.”

“Then you just… keep your criticism…”

His voice trails off. Zoë holds onto him until she hears horses approaching.

* * *

“Lady Fortune was smiling on Mal that day,” Zoë said.

Book frowned at her. “How exactly is that?”

“The crowd of Browncoats waiting for transport included two medics,” she replied. “One of `em knew his craft well. We didn’t have much in the way of medicine or med tech in the village, but I saw to it that the transport ship we had on hand opened its infirmary. They spent a whole day working on Mal’s hand, keeping him drugged up so he wouldn’t move. They fixed it right in the end. I made sure of that.”

Zoë said that last part with a hard set to her jaw; Book didn’t ask what she’d done to be sure of it, or what threats she’d used to get into that infirmary. He could imagine.

“If Jeffreys hadn’t had his group set up there,” Zoë said, “Mal’d be crippled today. Wouldn’t be much of a shot, not with his right hand. And he’d have had to hear some bad news a different way.”

“Bad news?”

She nodded. “The worst kind. It’d been waiting for a while, but things were a mess back then and certain kinds of news didn’t travel to the public, `specially the stories that showed the ugliest side of the war.”

* * *

It’s a few days before Mal shakes his fever enough to make conversation. Zoë’s finishing her arrangements with the carrier’s owner when she gets the word that the sarge wants to see her. It’ll be the first time she gets to really talk to him, since the time in the barn doesn’t count for much.

Jeffreys has cleared out a small upstairs room for Mal to lay up in till he heals. He’s lying on his back with his hand in a bulky cast and his sloppily shaven face a swollen mess, the bruises darkened to angry purples and greens. But he’s awake and aware, and looks up as soon as Zoë comes in.

“Zoë – why you’re still mopin’ around on this world?” he demands, his voice weak but somehow managing to carry plenty of disapproval. It brings her up short, though she should know by now that the sarge isn’t one for huggy reunions.

“Savin’ your ass, sir,” she says.

“Ain’t no excuse. You been out more than two months and I told you to get off this rock –”

“War’s over and you ain’t in charge,” she says stiffly.

He fixes her with a hurt expression. “Now, what is this ‘verse coming to,” he says, “if disrespect like that is goin’ on. Just `cause you got out of the joint so quick don’t mean you can talk sass. I am a sergeant, if you’ll recall. Corporal.”

He talks tough, but she knows he’d never seriously lecture her about rank, not after the way he got his. This is just his way of feeling in charge. “Of course, sir,” she replies, still just a little pert. “No disrespect meant.”

“None taken. Now – why ain’t you moved on to greener pastures?”

She shrugs. He should know that she’s been waiting for him, but if he’s not up to admitting it, she doesn’t want to either. “Nowhere much to go,” she says. She doesn’t need to explain that all her family is gone – Mal knows it already. “Besides, there’re things that need doing here.”

“That so?” He looks around the empty room. It’s small, but quaint and homey with country patterns on the wall and wide planks making up the floor. It doesn’t look like a place to hold the remains of an army.

She realizes that Mal probably has little idea of where he’s at.

“Guess you might call this the last bit of the Independents,” she says, explaining without waiting for him to ask. “We ain’t fightin’ nothing, just trying to help folks get on. It might turn into something more, in time. The fella runnin’ it has got some ideas.”

Through the bruises, Zoë can see Mal’s frown. “War is over,” he says.

“Fight won’t ever end,” she replies, her voice soft. She doesn’t mean that she’ll be fighting it, just that it’ll be there. She’s not sure what fight she has left in her.

Mal, on the other hand, has no doubts.

“It’s done for me,” he says. “Whatever it is you got yourself into, don’t sign me up. I just want to get back home and stick to what I know. I couldn’t beat the Alliance, I guess I’ll have to make a living selling `em sides of beef, no matter what crazy rules I gotta follow to do it.”

Zoë takes a deep breath. There isn’t a way to make this easy. “You can’t,” she says.

Mal laughs. “Zoë, I may not be much as a soldier, but as a rancher I know what I’m – ”

“You can’t go home.”

“Why not? That against the gorramn Alliance laws, too?”

Zoë sits down next to the bed and looks at the floor. It wouldn’t be right to look him in the eye when she tells what needs telling. He should have family with him now, loved ones, but he doesn’t have that anymore. Like it or not, the only family Mal has left is a military that exists only in homeless, wandering splinters.

“Sir, you can’t go home `cause it ain’t there.”

He’s quiet a few seconds, and when he speaks his voice is low and measured, that of a man who’s lost near everything, but now finding that he can lose a bit more.

“What’s that mean, Zoë?”

“I… I tried to contact your mother when I got out, to let her know where you were. It took some time, but I finally reached one of the ranch hands. Got real lucky, that he picked up the message at the post over on, uh…”

Quit stalling and get it over with, she tells herself.

“It’s gone, Mal. Torched. No one’s sayin’ whose ships did it, but someone fired the wrong kind of engine where they shouldn’t’a. It had to have been something big – bigger than anything we had. The going theory is that an Alliance convoy came under attack, and some idiot at the helm of a freighter went into hard burn in atmo. The whole fleet had to follow to get out of the backburn, and that just made it worse.

“It took out half the continent, and that messed with the system. Somethin’ with the terraform – the climate’s gone to hell. There were three hands away from your Ma’s ranch at the time, and they’re the only ones that lived.”

Tell him all of it. He needs to know.

“Your land was right under the main fire,” she says, not letting herself pause. “It’s burnt to nothin’. Gorramn rocks melted. Even if the atmo and climate get back under control, ain’t much gonna grow for a long, long time. Not as long as me and you are livin’.”

She sits still, waiting. Three weeks she’s known about this, and she’s spent a lot of time thinking on how to tell him. The direct way has always been the best with Mal, but she hasn’t been able to even guess as to how he’ll react. Maybe she should have waited until he was healed and stronger, but, honestly, she feels safer with him confined to bed. He’s less likely to get himself or anyone else hurt if he can’t move much.

But he doesn’t rage. The silence stretches, and still he doesn’t stir. She can’t even hear him breathe.

“Sir?” she prompts, still with her eyes on the floor. She doesn’t want to see his face.

“Get out, Zoë.”

“Mal, you know you got a place here – ”

“Get out.”

Zoë nods and leaves him to work it out on his own.

* * *

“He had no place to go,” Zoë said, her words coming out with a tired sigh, “and wasn’t in shape to travel anyhow. Jeffreys offered him a role in the Undergound. At first, I was sure Mal’d take it. I thought that once he got past his grief he’d be ready to raise hell, pay somebody back for what they did. He had plenty of reason for it.

“I guess vengeance just ain’t Mal’s way. He’s done what he can to stay clear of it, though maybe he does slip from time to time.”

She looked toward Mal’s bedroll and Book followed her gaze; the captain was stirring. Storytime was over then.

But Zoë had another thing to add. “No matter how bad it gets for him,” she said softly. “I think he knows that revenge is a downhill road. It gets steeper that longer you stay on it. I have to think his momma taught him that. Wish I could’a met her. I bet she was a hell of a woman.”

* * *


Bù jīng zhī tán:   bullshit
Hěn yí hàn: Regrettably
* * *

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Pre-hack comments:

mal4prez       Saturday, September 08, 2007 - 07:02 Will's fate? I know I know!! But I ain't tellin'. :p

Chazzer - re the rest of the crew... I've known for a long time that this section was going to be one long spell of not seeing a bunch of BDH's. In fact, the whole deal of having chapters from each person's POV in Book I was really to give everyone their screentime, so to speak. I was trying to make up for their absence in advance LOL! I will get back to them in time, of course, and catch you up on the S/K-ness.

It has been an issue for me, how to tell all these gazillion separate stories. I thought the rest of the crew should be left out of this part because the Zoë/Book and Inara/OC experiences need to be very isolated. The past is feeling more alive for them than the present, and they don't know what's going on with the crew. I want to stick you poor readers in the same situation.

NSS - I must admit that I hate when writers get so into chopping up someone's speech that I can't hardly tell what the hell they're saying. And I knew I was doing just that LOL! Hey - it doesn't bug in this because *I* know what Badger's saying. It isn't hard for me to work out at all!

I'm such a stinker LOL!

So, my workplace is being torn to shreds and I have no home internet and my laptop is misbehaving, all of which means my online time will be spotty for the next week or two. I’ll try to post if I can, but there may be a short break.

Katesfriend       Saturday, September 08, 2007 - 07:38 Wow, another fabulous installment. Your characters are so spot on it's beautiful - and painful - in an empathic way.

So looking forward to more of this fic.

"I guess vengeance just ain't Mal's way. He's done what he can to stay clear of it, though maybe he does slip from time to time." What a perfect character study of the person we saw on screen.

You managed to be graphic without being horrifying, and understated the brutality that makes it clearer somehow to my mind's eye and my imagination. Very artistic and very skillfully done.

Platonist       Saturday, September 08, 2007 - 14:46 Gripping, sad, and very believable

And makes a valid juxtaposition with Inara's sad back story

Loneliness and self-imposed alienation are companion to both Mal and Inara. That's playing out well here.

I, for one, am OK with your character focus (Mal, Zoe, and Inara). We got a heavy dose of River and Simon in the series and movie (not that I don't love them dearly), but we really didn't get a chance to have Inara, especially, fleshed out for us. Maybe that is why she is usually portrayed poorly in fics and as viewers we all have different interpretations of her motives.

As usual, looking forward to more.

wytchcroft       Sunday, September 09, 2007 - 04:48 jeez! I coud talk about your way with mood, charater dialog, plot - but, M4P? You take a man, a tarp and some rain - and I am THERE!

Keep up the good good work.

yinyang       Sunday, September 09, 2007 - 19:04 Well, I finally caught up, and I am loving it. I could go on and on about how awesome all this Zoe narration with Mal is, or how much I love to hate Will, but I'll just say damn fine story you have here. I'm already antsy for the next chapter!

chazzer       Sunday, September 09, 2007 - 23:26 Lovin' all this back story on Mal. It's been done so many times before but this feels authentic. And I love that it's all from Zoe's point of view. Makes it all the more moving.

I really loved that she was waiting for him but neither of them would admit it. Classic.

Can't wait for more :D xx

nbz       Monday, September 10, 2007 - 04:46 A very interesting take on what happened to Shadow. (it also asks questions about Whitefall and the pilot episode... did our heroes unwittingly commit a massacre in their escape?)

"Get out." Powerful words.

Leiasky       Monday, September 10, 2007 - 05:35 A very realistic look at pow camps and was just brutal enough to get the point across without being to graphic. I still like Zoe's telling Book of the past.

I am missing the rest of the crew, though. When will we get to see what they're up to? Hmmmm? :P

nosadseven       Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 12:30 Well, I've had a lot of time to anticipate this chapter, and it did not disappoint!

As has been the case throughout this story, the interactions between Zoe and Book, and Mal, have been beautifully and delicately written, nicely incorporating moods and setting, and the emotional toil from all of this.


"What's that mean, Zoë?">>> Oh man, that got to me.

I like how you brought in the tough place people like Cottin get into after the war, too. Though, I have to admit Zoe seemed to be a bit hard on him about the 2hrs thing - the guy's got a lot to consider! But I get where she's coming from, and he's not all *that* sympathetic.

Your explanation of shadow's demise was terrific - drawing from so much established material of the 'verse. I have always wondered what the effects of Serenity's hard burn over Whitefall was on the surface, and imagining a fleet of far more powerful ships forced into the maneuver by carelessness is plausible not only in a technobabbly way, but also rings true with the not overtly evil character of unwieldy Alliance bureaucracy, and uninteded tragedies of war.

I love how you use Mal's humor - as demonstration of who he is, and how he deals with and is able to relate some pretty dark stuff. It makes his reaction to Zoe's news about shadow that much more significant. Mal can generally take a certain amount of pride in the degree of abuse he receives, since it is usually a sign of how much he has gotten under the skin of his enemy. I imagine it gives him a certain kind of ownership - an amount of paradoxical control, that the worse it gets, the more he has succeeded. The devastation of Shadow, however, grants him no such solace. It wasn't done purposely because of the actions of the planet or the Independents, so there is nothing at all Mal can claim but abject loss. No wonder he is without much of his humor in the months that follow. (Not that he wasn't funny, but it was a bitter and violent humor.)

And of course, Zoe's observations about Mal's character and upbringing at the end - right on. Wish I could'a met Mal's momma, too.

So anyway, thanks for another great installment! I'm looking forward to following up on all the hints dropped in this chapter - particularly the story of just how Mal got his rank...

Katesfriend       Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - 16:12 Nosadseven, thank you once again for your amazing insights into these characters. This analysis, especially, was very illuminating:

Mal can generally take a certain amount of pride in the degree of abuse he receives, since it is usually a sign of how much he has gotten under the skin of his enemy. I imagine it gives him a certain kind of ownership - an amount of paradoxical control, that the worse it gets, the more he has succeeded. The devastation of Shadow, however, grants him no such solace.

I think I enjoy your comments as much as I enjoy the fic, because I understand the characterization so much better, and the fic becomes more meaningful. Thank you.



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Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.

Back Stories III, Chapter 24
Mal returns to a few familiar places.

Back Stories III: Chapter 23
The BDH’s find themselves enmeshed in too damned many OCs. But hey, they’re necessary. Plottiness and all.

Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.

Back Stories III, Chapter 21
The battle with the Reavers continues, and Mal makes a choice. All decisions have consequences.

Back Stories III, Chapter 20
Finally a little Mal POV, but it doesn't last long.

Back Stories III, Chapter 19
The trials and tribulations of an older, wiser River Tam.

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 18
The aftermath of an unexpected encounter. Except—not all of the crew are accounted for…

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 17
A lovely day in the mountains: friendly locals and fresh air under a clear blue sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 16.
Zoë tells of her soiree with terrorists on Oeneus.