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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
The crew of Serenity finalise a tricky deal not realising that the Captain will pay for it later.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 4087 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "The crew of Serenity finalise a tricky deal not
realising that the Captain will pay for it later."
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
* * * * *
He was slowly getting used to the manners of the man. The many intonations of that softly spoken voice that could inject calm leadership into the frantic heat of battle. An oddly affecting drift of tenderness in a sentence otherwise devoid of concern and certainly not grammatically correct. The soft play of humour inserted into grim reality like a buffer against the harshness of it all. For their sakes not his. The quiet steel of a man not to be crossed. Or toyed with. A fierce unspoken protectiveness for what was his and that included his crew. Underpinning it all was the man's personal code of honour. Battered, yes. Tarnished, no doubt. Intact? Hell, yes. Mostly. A lot like the man himself except for one thing. He hid his battle scars like the modest man he was at heart. He did not parade them as signs of manhood. Would show no weakness. The war had given him that. And like the rest of his few possessions it was held close to his chest. His crew saw what he thought was best for them to see. Pain was nothing to be shared. Was he afraid it would infect them too? Or concerned that they would get too close? Come to understand the very depths of his being in a way too intimate for his liking? What it was that made their Captain keep flying? So many nuances. Uncharted depths. The pool of this man's eyes was very deep. His soul was deeper. More subtle that his country boy jumble of words.
That was why he was watching him now. Among the banter of table talk he had noticed the Captain was quieter than usual. His movements appeared lazy and comfortable to the casual eye. His slight smile and occasional nod all the interaction his crew required of him. But Simon was on the alert now. Had noticed he was all economy of movement. Everything minimalised like a man saving energy. He tried not to stare. To make his attentiveness as natural and passing as the looks he gave anyone else around the table. But his eye would return to pick up little signs. The way, when he did move, he seemed to favour his left side. The way his smile never quite reached his eyes. The meal was a raucous affair otherwise. The noisy rise and fall of other voices filling in the silences that were the Captain's contribution. Then the meal was over. Jayne and Book had dish duties. It was late. The meal had been a last minute thing after returning from the planet surface. The Captain had instructed Wash to take off and only when they found a piece of sky to his liking did they settle. Serenity now on autopilot while they took the opportunity to take the edge off their appetites. The fight to get clear of the double cross had heightened their senses with the adrenal flow that only now was bleeding out of them. Relief replacing the heady excitement of that last furious exchange of fire. No one hurt. Or so he had thought. They had got their pay. Captain saw to that. Now Simon saw something else. Something he was surely not meant to see. There was always a price. The fighting done it was time to rest from their labours. Another less than smooth job finished. The proceeds would buy much needed supplies and give them coin to jingle in their worn pockets. Not much but enough to keep flying.
The man turned as he was rising from his seat. Zoe pausing mid-step beside him. "Yes, Captain?"
"You go on, get some rest. I'll mind the store."
He flashed a smile and reached for Zoe. "Thanks. See you in the mornin' Captain."
The Captain nodded. Watched the crew drifting off. River and Kaylee talking with their heads together and occasionally giggling. Inara raising a half-amused brow then nodding silently before taking her leave. Jayne grabbing a last roll of heavy bread off the table, shoving God knows what into it, before being chivvied by the Shepherd to help with the dishes. He caught something about greed being one of the seven deadly sins and hid a smile. Trust the preacher to turn everything into a lesson from the Lord. The Captain was the last to stand. Noticed Simon was paused by the doorway. Watching him. He walked with casual care over to him. A naturally graceful man. Simon wondered how he had never noticed before. "Got somethin' on your mind?"
Simon eased upright and fell into step beside the Captain as they left the galley. The Captain's expression darkened a little. "No." Said the doctor quietly. "Not unless you have."
The Captain's eyes narrowed. A warning stood sentry in there but Simon pretended not to see. To not be looking to provoke him. And this time he wasn't. Really. "No, just goin' to the bridge. Captainy things to do. You know how it is."
He did not know how it was and the Captain knew that. It was a light attempt to distance himself from the doctor. Remind him of the roles they played. The doctor ignored it. "Then I'll walk with you."
A suspicious look now. "Why would you be doin' that?"
"Just feel the need to stretch my legs. Or is there a reason I shouldn't?"
Eyes locked for a full half second. "Sleep comes to mind."
Simon nodded. "I will once I've had a walk. Settled myself."
The Captain nodded cautiously. He often felt the need to walk the ship when he could not settle. Perhaps it was as simple as that? They walked the rest of the way in silence. The Captain's normally brisk pace was a mite slower than normal but Simon only noticed because he was monitoring him. Listening to the Captain's breathing, the way his weight fell with each careful step. Not evenly balanced but compensated for by
the man's lithe grace. He still thought he caught a wince or two. *You're slipping, Captain*
Once on the bridge the Captain stilled a moment, all his attention on the Black. Simon watched him. Saw him truly relax for the first time that day. Then it struck him. This was the Captain's quiet place. The place where he healed inside from whatever shrapnel the day had thrown at him. He had sent Wash off to bed not to get much needed sleep but because he wanted the privacy to relax and let down his defences in the one place that gave him peace. And he was intruding. The Captain settled himself in the pilot's seat. Made a perfunctory check of the settings of the controls. His practised eye flicking over the readings on the dials and feeling a deep content fill his weathered soul. He was acutely aware that the doctor was standing just a few feet behind him and it irritated him some. "Won't get much walkin' done in here, doc."
"No." Simon paused. Looked out at the Black trying to see what the Captain saw. To him it was just a big nothing. A place that would terrify him but for the steel walls of the ship cradling them against the cold darkness of space. It was like looking up close and personal at Death. Unlike the Captain, it did not soothe him at all. "But it *is* peaceful."
Without taking his eyes off the Black the Captain murmured his agreement. "That it is."
Then he surprised the Captain. "I think I'll get myself some coffee. Want me to bring you some?"
The startled look was brief but followed by a grateful nod. "Shiny, but only if it's not takin' you out of your way."
Simon allowed a slight smile. Sometimes having a friendly conversation with the Captain was harder than drawing blood from a stone. "It'll give me somewhere to walk."
The Captain nodded then Simon was gone. A thoughtful look settled on his face then he looked down at his injured side. Glad for the thick fold of cloth wrapped around his midrift to staunch the bleeding. It was beginning to soak through the padding and stain his shirt. He knew he should have said something but it had been a hard day. Crew was exhausted and the last thing they needed was to be concerned about him. Plenty of rutting time to heal the scratch in space. Let everybody get a nice calm sleep under their belt. With luck he would maybe catch a little himself before the next day turned beneath his feet. He was glad he had snuck away to bind the wound and change his shirt before anyone noticed. Now all he had to do was make polite to the doctor until he too left then he could get down to embracing the peace and quiet he craved. Plenty of time to have his wound tended come morning. For now he needed the peace and quiet more than anything else.
Book was surprised to see the doctor return to the kitchen. He had finished washing the dishes and Jayne was putting the last of the plates away. "I'm surprised to see you back here, doctor. Is everything alright?"
He smiled. "Yes, thank you Book. I just came to get some coffee. That is, if there's any left?"
The Shepherd returned his smile with a generous one of his own. "There surely is though it's a mite stewed by now."
The doctor was secretly pleased. Perfect. Stewed and bitter would suit his purpose best. The Shepherd was filling a mug.
"Could you make that two, please?"
Jayne's head lifted, his grin turning into a leer. The doctor frowned at him and cut off the quip he knew was coming.
"It's for the Captain. Told him I was going to get a coffee. Said I'd bring him back one."
The disappointment on the big man's face was almost comical. One track mind that man had. The Shepherd nodded happily. No doubt pleased that the two men were at least trying to get along. He filled another mug and handed both to Simon.
Simon did not go straight back to the bridge. Instead he stopped off at the infirmary. There were a few things he needed first including a healthy dose of sleeping draught and his medical bag. He packed swiftly and carefully. Knew he would never be able to convince the Captain to come to the infirmary and let him treat his wound. If the Captain wanted to play dumb so would he. For now. But if the Captain fell into a deep sleep and he just happened to notice he was injured? Well. He was ship's doctor wasn't he? Couldn't let a man bleed to death now could he? The last thing he did was administer the dose. Then he put his bag in a shoulder tote so he could sling the strap over his head and have both hands free for the mugs. He walked with care so as not to spill the coffee then paused just outside the cockpit to put the bag on the floor. Stepping into the cockpit he handed a mug to the Captain.
Captain Reynolds smiled. He was tired, a bit fitful and feeling sore and pained. The coffee was a welcome distraction. He took a sip of the black bitter liquid and let its' scalding heat burn down his throat in a way that was so familiar it was downright comforting. His smile widened a little. This time it reached his eyes. He gave Simon a nod. The doc was a good man. "Thanks."
Simon nodded and sipped his coffee. A comfortable silence fell. Not normally an easy thing between them. Neither man was inclined to talk and that suited the Captain. Simon walked round and took a seat within arm's reach of the Captain, positioning himself casually so he could look out of the window with a clear and unobstructed view as well as watch the Captain surreptitiously without having to turn his head. Would not be smart if the Captain realised what he was doing. The man was sharper than a bag of tacks but this night his concentration was a little off. It was quiet with the background hum of Serenity more soothing that Simon would have thought possible. Keyed in to his Captain he almost fancied the beat of the man's heart was in sychrony with that of his ship. Nonsense of course but for a moment the fancy was a pleasing thought. He noticed the Captain trying to hide a yawn and smiled to himself. Not long now. He made some inane comment about how peaceful it was, his tone deliberately low and coaxing. The Captain beginning to nod back, eyes heavy. Body sagging. Breathing deepening. Simon put his mug down and leaned close, gently relieving Mal of his now empty mug as his fingers slackened. "Here, let me take that for you Captain."
His whispered words did not prompt a response this time. The heavy lids closed like shutters. The body so relaxed as he lost consciousness that only Simon's proximity stopped the Captain taking a dive to the floor. He caught him easily and carefully eased him back into the pilot's chair. Leaning him back he realised his hand was wet and sticky where it brushed along the Captain's left side. Simon froze for a moment then took a closer look. Blood. Seeping quite quickly through the man's shirt. Damn, the movement must have exacerbated the injury. Ten to one the man was riddled in bullets. Gently he tugged the stained shirt free of the Captain's waistband and pulled it up to reveal the padded wound. Only now the padding was soaked crimson. He was tempted to carry him to the infirmary only he did not know how bad the wound was or where the bullet had lodged. He did not want to risk making things worse in his attempt to make him better. Carefully he began to unwind the makeshift bandage, all his attention on the life pulsing red and frothy between his fingers. The ebb of a red tide that was not being renewed. He bowed his head for a moment in angry sorrow. His frustration with Captain Reynolds only outweighed by the depth of his concern. His need to save him. If not from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune then at least from himself. He knew which was the harder task.
"What do you think you're doing?"
The cold voice startled him so much he almost dropped the pad of blood soaked cloth. He had not expected to see Inara Serra standing in the doorway. A look on her face that boded ill for him if he meant harm to the Captain. Something in his expression must have alerted her. Quick steps brought her into his orbit. "Captain's injured. I have to see how bad it is." He explained.
Swift concern flooded formerly suspicious eyes. "How bad is it?"
Simon did not answer her question but jerked his head towards the door. "My bag. Just outside the door on the floor. Quick."
She nodded and hurried back out appearing seconds later with his medical bag. Her eyes on the Captain not the doctor. "Why didn't he say anything?"
Inara sounded exasperated. Simon took the bag and rumaged through it until he located the syringe. He filled it from a rubber stoppered bottle as he talked. "You know how he is. Too stubborn for his own good."
Numbly she watched while the doctor administered the drug. She resisted the urge to brush the fringe from the Captain's face so she could get a good look at him. Her need to make sure he was alright frightened her with its' intensity. She gave the doctor a swift look. Noting his blood greased hands probing an ugly entry wound gently but firmly. The Captain moaned softly in pain but did not regain consciousness. Inara found herself reaching out to pet his hair, an attempt to calm him while the doctor worked. No thought now to how it might look. She was worried about him. Did not want to lose him. Never mind that they always rubbed each other up the wrong way. There were moments of stillness between them that were glorious. A peace that somehow healed the soul. And Serenity would have no serenity without him. Of that she was certain.
The doctor was not reassured by his closer examination. If anything his worry deepened. He looked at Inara. "I can't do this here. Go and fetch Jayne. We need to get him to the infirmary so I can operate."
She blanched slightly.
"I have to get the bullet out before he loses much more blood."
Inara nodded then all but ran out. The doctor gave a little shake of his head as he looked down at the unconscious man he was only just beginning to understand. "In your efforts not to complicate things," He said softly. No anger now, just words of gentle reproach. "You just go and make them worse." He paused then looked at the wound again with a critical eye. Sure that several bullets had found the same spot. It would explain the large entry wound and the ragged state of ruptured flesh now leaking away his life essence as if it were water. He heard a soft slapping sound and dipped his head lower. Saw the watery syrup drip down from under the chair obviously from the bigger exit wound. Simon swore. Why didn't anything ever go smooth?
SHADOW - IN THE BEFORE
"Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand.
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me..."
'The Ballad of Serenity' sung by Sonny Rhodes
Written by Joss Whedon
Explosions. Gunfire. Smoke filled air. Distinct. Pungent. Powdery and stinging to the eye. Muffled cries and occasional dying screams. Shouts more infrequent now. Return fire sporadic. Mud deeper than calf length. Hardly able to see for the blood in his eyes. Wound wasn't deep. A scratch. But any head wound bled like a stuck pig. They looked to him. Those faltering few. Those rare men of courage drowning in a sea of corruption. Standing firm against the tyrrany that now sought to destroy their own. His heart bled for them. His own weaknesses strengthened by their need. Moulded not by what he was but by what they needed him to be. Their youth calling out to him to protect them. To lead them. To bring them safely home. It was the only thing he had to give them and he gave it all.
The Battle of Serenity. The last hurrah for the browncoats. Hopelessly outnumbered but fired with the passion of a cause that was just. The desire to live free. The place where their dream finally died. A sickening lurch in his stomach as the reinforcements they held out for did not come. Sky black with Alliance ships. Air thick with gunsmoke and scented with the blood and vomit of the dead and dying. The stink of rotting corpses holding empty ridges. Bits of limbs scattered. Bloody scraps at an insane altar. The dispair almost undid him but for Zoe. His one constant to ground him in the madness. She crawled through the mud to be beside him. The two of them never more than an arm's length apart. Knowing all his unspoken words as if they read from the same page of life. One look from her filled a thousand volumes from anyone else. They moved as if joined at the hip. He did not flatter her with false smiles or gift her with words to appease her sorrow. A muted grunt, a pained sigh and she understood. Not the essence of it but the meat of it all.
"I can't believe we've been ordered to surrender, sir."
"Believe it." He said flatly. Knowing other ears were stretched wide for the least word to fall from his lips. It pained him that he had no better news for them. No just reward for their labours. As if he, personally, had let them down. Every death took part of him across the dark divide with it. Crying mouths eating away at his soul while the vibrant largesse that was his first nature hardened against the unfeeling cruelty of it all.
"Not your fault, sir. You did all you could."
He turned eyes that were suddenly bleak in her direction. Not quite seeing her. His soft words wounding whether intended or not. "Where is your God now?"
Her whispered reply soothed his pain like a gentle wind brushing the heat of hell from his sweating brow. "Not my God, sir, nor yours. Guess He was busy elsewhere is all."
Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds grunted and spoke no more on it. That tiny sound wrapping the last of his faith and tossing it into hell after him. If God was too busy to aid the just then he wanted no more truck with Him. Simple as that. He had no mind to play faithful servant to a fickle wind.
After that had come the Sundering. Only the Alliance never called it that. In their filth strewn cell he eyed Zoe. Her stoic calm steadied him some and as always her presence anchored him in the here and now. They had lost. No kinder way to put it than that. Been taken prisoner. Were now being exiled from the only home they knew. Shadow. He closed his eyes against the pain of it. Images of his mama teasing him on the porch. His Uncle Frank moving around the hands with one weathered eye on the chores still to be done and another on the weather. Walking in the footsteps of a father already lost to war. Yet always able to tell even blind folded exactly where Mal was. He treated the boy like a son. Loved him like one too. Fierce and proud. A gentle giant. Unrelenting when stirred. When Zoe came to them after her own folks had died she and Mal were instant kin. No dividing line between them and Uncle Frank became her Uncle too. Same as his mama was as good as hers. Family. It was firm. Solid. Something she could trust. To both of them it was precious. When their dreams finally died in Serenity Valley that went too. Gone. Everything but the two of them. And the fact that they were still together was a miracle in itself. Perhaps the most precious one of all.
It was quiet aboard the Firefly class transport ship. Her crew walking softly, talking in murmurs. The soul of the ship seeming to hold its' breath. Kaylee was upset. Trying to hold back her tears but failing. She could not imagine life aboard without the Captain. Inara hugged her. It helped some but not enough. Jayne Cobb was angry but it was tempered with a concern he showed rarely. He liked to keep a beligerent edge. Enough to show the Captain and anyone else who cared to look that he was his own man and had not been tamed. Yet somewhere along the journey he had come to respect this man. In a small quiet part of his soul he even called him friend. But not to his face. Never that. You did not win a poker game by showing your hand. The next few days came close though.
Shepherd Book watched the parade of solemn faces each dealing with the situation in their own way. He was in the kitchen. Wash wandered from the cockpit every now and then to stand next to Zoe as she peered through the glass and watched Simon work on the Captain. She felt his warm breath softly puff against her neck. All his movements gentle. Settling a little of the storm running ragged through her heart. Outwardly calm he knew she was dying a little as she watched. "He'll pull through, Zo. Captain's tough as nails."
"Simon says he lost a lot of blood."
Wash wrapped his arms gently around her. Holding her lightly so she could take his comfort or not as she wished. No pressure. Just unconditional love. "He's lost blood before." He murmured, not wanting to list the litany of near-death experiences their Captain seemed to accrue like some sick kleptomaniac.
Wash watched over her shoulder, his chin resting next to her ear. His breath huffing gently passed her cheek as he spoke. "Why didn't he say anything?"
"We were all on edge, Wash. It was touch and go whether we'd step out of this one alive. He didn't want anyone worrying. Fussing. We needed a victory. He gave us one."
"Yeah but he didn't have to go out on his own and put things right. That's why he has a crew, right?"
She sighed. Knowing he would never really understand. It was inaudible but with his arms cradled around her he felt it and knew she was hurting inside. His hold tightened very slightly. She leaned back into his warmth but did not surrender to it. "No. We're here for Serenity not Mal." Though in a way it was the same thing. Mal *was* Serenity.
Her words surprised him. "I think you're wrong there , *xin gan*."
Zoe did not respond. She would keep Mal's secrets as he kept hers. Wash did not need to know how important it was to him to protect his crew. How much of himself was invested in this ship. The last dream he had. Find a crew. A job. Keep flying. It had been her dream too. Seen through the eyes of a man she loved more than life itself. Her husband notwithstanding there were bonds between her and Mal that went beyond anything the verse could throw at them. She loved Wash. Adored him even. But her love for Mal was something else. More fundamental. Intense. Automatic as breathing. Because of him she was strong. Independent. Free. Because of him she still had faith. Even when he had none.
"Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain't coming back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me..."
River watched her brother work. Silent and forgotten she sat curled in a ball in one corner of the infirmary. Eyes wide and rolling every now and again. Mind adrift with the voices. Hearing the gunfire. The explosions rocking her inner world with the turmoil she sensed in him. His pain, her pain. His nightmares, her dreams. His labouring heart spinning her world into darkness. Beyond the Black. He was dying and he had died so many times before. Her heart went out to him even as she tried to still the voices. Her hands shook as she clapped them over her ears. Shutting her eyes she tried to see beyond the mud. The filth of desease and untreated wounds. The festering scatter of the dead. The rapid fire of approaching Alliance troops. So many of them. Too many. Yet still he held on. Still he had hope. Faith in something greater than himself to step in and save the day. All they had to do was keep the faith. Hold on until reinforcements arrived. River opened tear stained eyes. Knew they would not come. Could feel the break in his heart when the order came to surrender. His emotional pain at having led his people to this. A bloody field of death. A footnote in the Alliance's glorious list of victories.
She stood up and gazed across to where her brother worked in solemn silence. His back to her. So focused on his work. Such gifted hands. She felt a wave of tenderness for him. Simon. She loved Simon. Her brother. Her closest friend. The only thing standing between her and the final grip of madness. The only thing worse than being insane in a sane world was being sane in an insane one. That was why she knew how Mal felt. The torments that turned his every dream to nightmares. Seeing the faces of all the dead. Men and women he knew by name. Not by company and rank. Not by the colours they wore strapped to their backs instead of armour. These people he had grown up with. Worked the fields. Tended the cattle. Had broken bread with them and they with him. Good honest folk. They were friends. Neighbours. Close enough almost to be family. For some reason his quiet authority drew them to him. In the midst of battle it was his face they wanted to see. His voice they followed. His hand that drew them forward through a vision of hell beyond their worst imagining. Yet they believed in him. Trusted him to keep them safe. To lead them true. His friends. His nieghbours. His people. Gone. No wonder in his nightmares he wept.
Simon lifted his head. Surprised to see that River had walked around to the other side of the operating table. Her eyes flicked up to hold his for just a second. Her look so sad. Her face glistening with perspiration though it was not hot. Her eyes slightly fevered and filled with concern. Simon had removed the last bullet now. That made five. The grouping had been tight making the entry wound larger than it would have been but not as large as a wider spread would have done. The worst part was the loss of blood but the others had helped with that. Once again Wash had surprised Simon coming forward to freely give what aid he could. Jayne had hung back until it was obvious Mal needed more blood. He roughly brought a chair close and shoved his arm at the doctor. The glare in his eyes hiding the fact that he was terrified the Captain would die. Simon had taken what was offered before Jayne could reconsider. Wash had watched silently. His eyes on the Captain's still face. A thousand disjointed thoughts drifting through his mind. Uppermost to his concern for the Captain's well being was a deeper worry about Zoe. If Mal died how would she cope? He was no longer jealous of their bond but he still did not understand it. Not fully. Not really. Now seeing the Captain hovering on the brink of death he knew it did not matter. It was a lesson Mal had tried to teach him. Even before Niska had rammed that fact home in the cruellest way possible.
Simon could see that River was upset. His hands were calm as he threaded the needle and began to stitch up the wound. Keeping a careful eye on what he was doing he spoke to her. "River, you shouldn't be here." He said softly. Not wanting to alarm her or add to his sister's distress.
"He needs me."
Her words surprised him enough for him to pause mid-stitch. She was not looking at him. "What do you mean he needs you?"
She still did not look at him. Was watching the Captain's pale face. A hand reaching out to rest on Mal's shoulder. So close now. "He's lost."
Simon resumed his craft. "I've stopped the bleeding and once the wound begins to heal so will he."
"He'll live. Yes." Nodded River sagely. Eyes sad. "Even if he don't want to."
He gave her a sharp look. "Why wouldn't he want to live? Of course the Captain wants to live."
"He's lost you see. Can't see through the dark. The pain."
"River, the Captain took a bad hit but he'll be alright. I promise."
"Not up to you to make promises someone else has to keep. He's lost but then so are you."
He stilled. Hands frozen in time. "What do you mean I'm lost?"
She spoke as if the answer was obvious. "Both lost. Different battlefields."
He felt irritated but tried to hide it. She was ill. River wrapped her hands round one of Mal's. The flesh was cooling but still had fleeting warmth. She drew the hand up to her face and cradled it against her cheek. Fresh tears glided down her pallid face. Sorrowing for him. "Time to come home now." She whispered softly.
Even though River was his sister and he loved her dearly, the way she spoke stirred the hairs on the back of Simon's neck. Hands trembling just a little now he finished stitching the wound in silence.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin: Pinyin)
xin gan = sweetheart
Tuesday, July 22, 2003 8:07 PM
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