Eidolon (Chapter 21)
Friday, October 21, 2011

Years side to side and back to back, the two of them dragging each other through the trenches. And sometimes there still was nothing they could do or say for each other. Things that just couldn't be made right, wouldn't ever be right. (Parallel)


They ran like the demons and djinn were chasing them; stumbled, but didn't stop, even as an explosion rocked the shaken world of the elite and riches fell to ruin. His friend shouted, defiant, calling for the already lost and gone. Hoping against reason, and running towards gunfire.

None of Shoshenk's guards noticed the two teenagers, and why would they? They were too busy fleeing. The underworld was used to upheavals, even under Niska. Their boss presumed dead, the guards had little reason to linger. A couple of ragged yatim did not warrant much attention, not compared to a regiment of Alliance soldiers that would be looking for convenient scapegoats.

Behind them, party guests still out on the balcony were quickly becoming disorderly and agitated, demanding to know what was going on. They ignored the turmoil, passing suites, fallen masterpieces and shattered ceramics around overturned pedestals. The hallway looked like a war zone, for once resembling the city not three miles distant.

The door had been blown off it's hinges; blackened, pitted with shrapnel, still smoking, not much different from the state of the room it had come from. There actually wasn't much blood; usually, there never was. Burns, mostly, some shrapnel wounds. There was a swirl of it, splattered on the hardwood, that led them to the small huddled shape that was once their scout. The boy laid twisted, bones broken, ribs crushed, one of his arms ending in tattered shreds.

Roach. They thought that he'd live through anything, small enough and young enough that he could hide from this, escape when it was all over. That they could keep him from getting involved.

When they'd found him during their own escape, they released him from the cage where he'd been kept like a mad dog, and, weak from abuse, the boy had tried to attack them. Niska had trained him as a thief and an assassin; it was all he had known. Gavril, messenger of God. It had taken them months to get past the snarling wild child. For him to realize he had a new chance at life and innocence.

In return there was profound gratitude and loyalty for family and home, a fierce protectiveness. But what was done to the boy, the trauma and the violence, had stayed with him. There was no understanding that this life had any worth or meaning beyond the welfare of those around him, a sense that it would be taken away at any time. Terror, that he would lose them, that one day, what he was, what he couldn't change, would be released upon them, and all he could do to stop it was to keep finding other battles.

"Why did you do that?" the older brother asked, dejected. "Why didn't you wait for us?" They had always been closest, always been the most alike. They were both fighters.

The soldiers would come looking for them at any time. Unable to watch any longer, the other boy began searching the other bodies, and came upon Shoshenk. Never a more deserving bastard for the wrath of justice, the slaver boss had earned each of those wounds, and more. With some distaste, and trying to stay his hand from further revenge, he prepared to move on to the hired thugs, then spotted a glint of something in the inside pocket of the suit jacket.

A remote, for the slave microchips.

They told themselves that it wasn't for nothing, that the sacrifice had saved all of them. And as they gathered the body for a proper burial, wrapping it in one of the burnt bed sheets, they tried to find some elusive comfort in their belief, as fleeting as the life that had assured them.

- - - - He was one acquainted with flame. Sure as fire born of starlight gave life, death was marked on and around him like a blazing omen in the sky. He'd seen angels aflame come to scorch and purify, and at some point he had offended God in a night sky over Hera and Shadow, with only the heat of his anger left over from the exchange. Known desire, sometimes all-consuming, elsewise blossoming fancy. Been leaning towards being eaten up by it of late, ashes to ashes and all. Dying in pieces. Or maybe it was hell just couldn't wait for him.

What she was, he didn't fully have words for; a woman who shared their meals, and a spirit who haunted his dreams. The first gleamed sight of her she'd appeared to him looking and smelling like something divine, seemingly just to torture him with some reachy hope and frustration, ifs and maybes wrapped up in silk. She was Keat's Psyche, meant for someone and something higher, the work of an artist. Charcoal outlining soft curves and softer curls, shining in her eyes, until the breath of some sweet wind stirred the embers of her soul and she'd stepped off the page.

"Don't be blown up," he thought, in a way he told himself was entirely unlike a prayer. Not that he had much say; by his rotten luck and cosmic irony she'd be part of that blast, and the woman never did respect his command. He swatted away a palm leaf, growing more irritated every step. Here he was dodging regimentals off the paths of some flowery false paradise, climbing the Hesperides. Even if she were okay, he doubted he'd find her on the empty balcony the near side of the manor, away from the larcenists and debauchers - not all of them being Alliance soldiers or aristocrats.

He stood below that still darkened east veranda, looking up, searching. Damn.


His right hand's voice when he was considering his next move was almost expected it was so familiar, but not so much when she wasn't anywhere nearby. Eventually he remembered his radio and the shared frequency with Serenity and the shuttles. "Zoë," he responded. "They've grounded all craft out here. Have Kaylee check things over, so we can leave soon as we're able."

"No problems here, Cap'n," his mechanic reported, some manner of half-truth, her normal cheerfulness subdued.

Kaylee's trick with the power must have shut down the landlock. He leaned around the corner to confirm the position of the soldiers that had been seated around the makeshift stage. They were backlit only by the colorful stage spotlights from the acting troupe's transport, disorganized, still arguing about whether to evacuate the guests to their vessels or hole up inside. The players were looking apprehensive, probably not too different from the party guests. "Good, make sure it stays that way. We may have company soon."

"Inara?" Zoë sounded even grimmer than usual. On rare occasion he'd like if Zoë wasn't so full of insight, that she didn't know him so well. That he wasn't aware of her disapproval and her anger. They never had any need for minced words between them, and Mal felt a pang for her amid his own concerns, a memory from when he thought they were all heading off to their doom. He ain't coming.

"Don't know," he admitted. He heard and hated the way his throat caught on that, the way the words sank back down, into his chest, his stomach, heavy like leaden bullets.

"We'll be here, sir," was all she could offer, her own losses weighing on her. Then his first mate was gone, off his channel, the click of a gun safety taken off. Years side to side and back to back, the two of them dragging each other through the trenches. And sometimes there still was nothing they could do or say for each other. Things that just couldn't be made right, wouldn't ever be right.

The show had stopped right around the point where the penniless hero finds his lady admirer and helps her escape from her pursuers, hides her in his house. Here he was contemplating how to break in, like the evil duke to confront them. Maybe he could shoot out a window.

Maybe Inara was right about his gorramn plans. Sure hadn't done any of them any favours. Always seemed to end up getting them in deeper. Book hadn't even been with them and was punished anyway, and Wash shouldn't ever have been in that chair up against Reavers and Alliance. He'd taken Inara out of the training house to put her in a near last stand, gotten her shot not a month later, and now that she was back first thing he did was get her involved in whatever this was. Bunch of shēngchùfèn. Was all they could do to keep swimming.

And why did it smell like a barn out here, anyway? No wonder it was the Councilor had no visitors out on this side. Nearby was a wrought lattice outbuilding under the cypress canopy, full of a rainbow of critters could raise a ruckus, some camels, birds, monkeys. And next to the largest stall, there were three white andalusians with braided manes and crimped tails shining in the dark. They were a mite jittery from the noise of the explosion, he could tell. Pale blue eyes watched him warily before each of them, slowly and in order, swung their attention down to their provender with perked up ears at him.

He broke the lock on the gate and went for the tack hung up on the stable posts. An apple brought their heads back up, this time with hungry interest. He bribed the big mare into a halter bridle and led her outside, and swung himself up behind the withers. Stealth never had been his strong point anyway.


Friday, October 21, 2011 3:30 PM


Just *love* the image of Mal on a white horse--can't wait to see what he does. You paint a good picture of the party falling apart into chaos--all the larcenists and debauchers and all. Liked Zoe and Mal's exchange and Mal's thoughts. Only complaint--too short! Gimme more, more, more (*greedy reader noises*)

Friday, October 21, 2011 5:07 PM


This chapter came about as I was working on a longer chapter, and ended up needing to be split off.

Mal simply doesn't give himself any credit. Riding in on a white horse is the sole domain of the *hero*, Mal!

Saturday, October 22, 2011 2:48 AM



Are you channeling Princess Bride?

And oh so sad for poor doomed Gavril. The remote is a good, thoughtful detail.

Great little interchange between Zoe and Mal.

Yes, Mal gives himself no credit :( and I like your "unlike a prayer" phrase, the extent of his bitterness is comical when it's not purely heartbreaking.

Saturday, October 22, 2011 5:52 AM


"Are you channeling Princess Bride?"

Little bit. :) Wait for it...

I really try not to make Mal TOO angsty, but I know I go overboard sometimes. I think he has a tendency to brood, and I think little snippits of stuff I've read from the writers from Mal's point of view suggest that he does kind of dwell on things, and have a dim view of the future.

Gavril's story is meant as a comparison, and the name and the nickname have some literary significance. I'm still trying to decide whether to take the rest of this sidestory to that conclusion.

Saturday, October 22, 2011 11:54 AM


When Mal finds Inara, if he finds Inara, he damn well better kiss her!

Sunday, October 23, 2011 4:52 AM


Good drama in this sequence with the worry of what has happened to Inara? As for Mal on a white horse, nice bit of type casting for our Big Damn Hero. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, October 23, 2011 1:14 PM


The horse, like everything else, is symbolic. Also confused and the guy riding her smells like a stranger.

Kissing? This is no time for kissing! Time for daring rescues, kissing only happens when the story is over.

Monday, October 24, 2011 5:44 AM


"The horse... is symbolic. Also confused and the guy riding her smells like a stranger."

Yes, but she'll do what he asks of her because he sits her like an experienced rider, even if he sits with a Western style instead of the dressage seat she's used to. She's a well-trained symbolic horse. :-)

Bytemite, you know we'd all love to see them kissing, but if what you're going to show us is a daring rescue, I can wait.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 10:43 AM


The different style of riding actually had not occurred to me... Mostly because I actually know close to nothing about horses except that they have thinky-thoughts, reactions, and feelings, and that you have to vary the gait and not ride them more than a few hours at a time or they die.

Er, yes. Very well-trained! Enough so that she can overcome the failings of her writer's limited experience.

Also, all this talk about kissing made Mal and Inara go very red and they walked off in separate directions and locked themselves in their rooms. I can't make them come out now. ._.

Thursday, January 5, 2012 12:37 PM


Mal-on-Horseback swoon!

I really felt the weariness of the Mal and Zoe's bond.

-Loved- angsty-poetic Mal.


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Eidolon (Epilogue)
Someday, she knew they would visit the graves of Serenity Valley and not hear the howl of the ghosts. Someday, they would walk across the green prairie of a restored world and watch the rain. (Glimpses)

Eidolon (Chapter 40)
Clouds were blossoming in the distance, promising rain for the city later. The crew of Serenity and the badlands around Eavesdown Docks to the south would probably see only a harsh windstorm. Two different worlds, she mused, caught between them. (Deliverance)

Eidolon (Chapter 39)
The question seemed to hit her hard. In the mirrors of her eyes, he saw himself, forced to see her lose more ground every day. Hurt more, because of him. Saw her watching him back as she pulled him out of a nightmare. (Try)

The Gift
They don't have much. But they have each other. (Just a little holiday story from the Firefly verse. Belongs to Joss)

Eidolon (Chapter 38)
The girl processed that response. "He brought the medicine? He saved us?" Inara nodded, considering her own inclusion in the question. (Renewed)

Eidolon (Chapter 37)
A wind clear and sweet stirred the air, humming as a shimmering, ever-shifting blaze of color flashed from one horizon to another. The breeze carried with it a distant song, rising over the hills and through the vales like a soulful hymn from his childhood. (Flight)

Eidolon (Chapter 36)
"I cut the strings. They were never yours anyway.”(Liberation)

Eidolon (Chapter 35)
A few twists of a little turnscrew and the mechanic was stripping wires and rerouting circuits in moments. (Break)

Eidolon (Chapter 34)
Stars scattered in the night, coalesced from the stellar dust from a far away sun and others that came before. A spark, scintillating into a network, a stream, like the lights and streets of a city. (Cascade)

Eidolon (Chapter 33)
"Put me back in that place," River said, "Little bluebird singing in a cage, puppet on broken strings." (Capture)