TEMPTATION SERIES: 29. "Moments of Grace"
Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"Simon has a unique way of showing he really is a Big Damn Hero. The crew head for Pacquin and River unveils a surprise."



SUMMARY: "Simon has a unique way of showing he really is a Big Damn Hero. The crew head for Pacquin and River unveils a surprise." 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

* * * * *

The ship was all kinds of subdued and hushed but not in a good way. The crew felt like mourners at a funeral, the pain keener than any knife for the tiny soul snatched out of their grasp before it could take its' first breath of life among them. And yet the baby had lived in vitro, had pulsed in time with Zoe's heartbeat and cradled every secret hope Wash ever had. The child in him died in that moment of lost forgiveness for not having the faith to reach for something so beautiful and divine. A future he had not been able to embrace until now for fear of losing it. The hope in Zoe crushed and warped into something not even God would recognise. Simon did not weep. Did not rail against an unforgiving 'verse. He was too busy doing the very best he could for the distraught but sedated mother. His heart wrenching every time he glanced into Wash's tear filled eyes. Only his professionalism allowed him to keep it all together. They needed him and he would not fail.

Inara was crying in silence. Every one of them on the catwalk outside, some leaning against the railing, others propped up against the glass looking in on a scene that would be etched on the inside of their minds for the rest of their lives. The Captain's eyes were bleak, his hold on his mechanic grounding him to his duty while inwardly everything was flying apart at the seams. Not that the others would ever guess nor would it do to tell them. They relied on his strength and that was one thing he could give them. Jayne Cobb looked angry, frustrated that he could only stand helplessly by and watch. He hated not being able to do anything. It felt wrong. Jayne glanced at the Shepherd but though the man's head was bowed he didn't seem to be praying. Straightening up, the mercenary walked over to the Preacher. At first no one took any notice, not until Jayne's words rasped out of a throat closing up on him even as he spoke.

"Ya ain't prayin'."

Shepherd Book lifted his head at the accusation in Jayne's voice and gave the mercenary a compassionate look. "Not every prayer is said aloud."

"Only ya ain't, are ya?"

"Jayne." The Captain's low warning tone was ignored.

"Why ain't ya prayin'? What did a little gorram baby ever do to ya?"

Before Book could say anything or the others intervene, River stood up from where she had been sitting by the railing, her slender figure moving slowly until she was standing between the two of them. Her face was sad but not sorrowful. There was an odd light in her eyes. "Not dead. Dreaming."

Mal frowned. Kaylee lifted her head from the Captain's chest and looked at her friend. Staring in confusion with no idea what in the nine hells River was talking about but wanting so desperately for something to believe in. It had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with faith. It was Inara who asked what the others were thinking. "River, what do you mean?"

The girl looked at the Companion for a moment then glanced back through the plate glass, her attention on her brother. Watching his skilled surgeon's hands open up the womb in a Cesarean section. The metallic red shine as blood oozed up through his fingers before he could staunch the loss. Wash white faced and fragile in the glaring harsh light of the infirmary now doubling as an operating theatre. When River turned back to Inara the sadness was gone, another milestone had been passed without their knowing. A tentative smile hovered on her lips making the crew uneasy with the wrongness of it. They did not understand. "You have to have faith."

"Didn't know ya were gorram religious bein' a witch an' all." Grumbled Jayne.

River shook her head slowly, her mood a mite distracted though she was aware of each and every one of them and where on the chessboard of life they each stood. Whatever else she was, River was nobody's pawn. "Had to get out. Walls too confining."

Something leapt in Mal's chest. A thread of possible sense that made his heart miss a beat. "River? You sayin' what I think you're sayin'?" They stared at him like he had taken leave of his senses but River turned a radiant smile on the Captain, her face seeming oddly illuminated in the ambient light reflected through the infirmary glass. And that was *so* not a halo forming over her head. "Go to the top of the class." Then she looked at the Shepherd, her voice turning soft and impossibly gentle as if a harsh word would break him which was all manner of disturbing. Since when was the Preacher fragile? "You should have prayed."

Book opened his mouth then froze. He had been looking at River who was standing in front of the infirmary window with her back momentarily to the drama happening inside but it was Wash's face that transfixed him. The Captain straightened and took a step away from Kaylee, eyes widening in disbelief. Jayne swore and crossed himself, Inara thanked the merciful Buddha and Kuan Yin and hoped with all her heart that her eyes were not playing tricks on her. Had the gorram pilot finally cracked? Wash was on his feet now, the tears on his face glittering and sparkling off his cheeks like wet diamonds, his face now wreathed in smiles, mouth dropping open in laughter as more tears fell. River looked through the glass at him and nodded, Wash nodded back then turned and knelt at his wife's side obscuring everybody's view. River looked at the others, her own face wet with tears but a smile forming its' own rainbow across her pale face. "All better now."

* * * * *

Simon had only ever been the primary at a birth once and that was when they had gone to help Inara's friend Nandi at the Heart of Gold. This time was different in every way possible. At the Heart of Gold, Petaline should have been enjoying the proudest, most special moment of her life but it had been soured and marred by the selfish cruelty of Rance Burgess. This time the sight that met his eyes was not the one he expected as he cut through the proud and taut belly of the ship's second in command. Using clamps to part the flesh and being careful how he reached for the deceased child, Simon was shocked and surprised to see the umbical chord wrapped around the baby's throat. Sucking in a quick breath he unwound the chord and very gently began to massage the little baby's chest. Wash wanted to drag Simon's hands off the child but could not move, his eyes glued to what was happening as the doctor massaged life back into the stalled heart. A look of wonder and awe stealing across the pilot's face. Little by little the baby responded. Fitful, pathetic gasps from newly formed lungs pumped tiny puffs of oxygen into a body too frail to count the beats of the struggling heart. But Simon tenderly supported the premature baby until like a miracle the infant was able to take its' first breath alone.

"Gorrammit," Murmured an awed and thunderstruck Malcolm Reynolds. "If your God did that Shepherd, mayhap you'll make a believer out of me again."

* * * * *

Only one person was absent when the miracle happened. In the cargo hold of the ship Chung-li stood watch over his sister's coffin. It was a heavy crude affair but served the purpose for which it was made. Unlike River and Simon, Chung-li and Shen Ling had never been close. Even as children the girl had a sharpness to her that prevented any deep bonds of affection forming and yet they were kin and in their different ways cared for one another. Now he would be unable to care for her ever again. The wheel had turned and it was his karma to travel on alone.

* * * * *

It was hours later before Simon emerged from the infirmary to speak to the rest of the crew. He left Wash with his wife and baby, a crude but effective incubator rigged up with Kaylee's help now keeping the baby warm and ensuring the proper fluids fed the body. As Simon stepped out onto the catwalk Inara hugged him and kissed his cheek, tears on her face and pride in her eyes. Book shook his hand, Jayne slapped him on the back, River smiled at him as if he had walked on water but was the only one who knew he would not sink. Kaylee was laughing, smiling and crying all at once. Simon dropped a kiss on her brow and wrapping his exhausted arms around her, reaction only just beginning to set in. Looking over Kaylee's shoulder as they hugged he met the Captain's eye.

"What the *diyu* was that?" Said the Captain in a hushed voice. "Never thought I'd live to see a gorram miracle on my own boat."

Simon was not sure how to react. He was tired and in no mood to disseminate the Captain's meaning to check he was not being mocked. Right now he didn't care but there was something in Mal's eyes that held him for a moment or two. Something unexpected. The Captain blinked, unaware a tear had strayed from the corner of his eye and rolled slowly down an eyelash. He placed a hand on Simon's shoulder.

"That was amazin', doc. Ain't got words to say how much I admire what you just done for Zoe an' Wash not to mention the little bit of life brought back from the dead."

If he had not felt so tired Simon would have been uncomfortable at the unexpected praise which for the Captain was the equivalent of gushing. Kaylee hugged her husband and kissed his neck, so happy and proud she thought her gorram heart would burst. Everyone seemed reluctant to move as if the spell would be broken and the miracle vanish like mist.

"Anythin' you want Simon," Said Mal unexpectedly. "You just ask. Even if I have to sell my gorram boat to give it you, you'll have it."

Simon stared at him in shock, nonplussed, convinced his brain had just shorted out. Had their tight fisted, mean old Captain just offered him a golden ticket? As if realising just how much he had given away the Captain mumbled something unintelligible and after a last look through the infirmary window walked away. Inara thought he murmured something about Captainly duties but couldn't be sure. After all she was more than a mite stunned with joy her own self.

* * * * *

Dinner was all kinds of revealing though it started out on the boring side of normal like always. Shepherd Book and Jayne entered the commons area together, laughing and joking about something to do with weights, cowboys in leather and a vicar. Inara smiled to herself and kept secret the fact that she knew the punchline. Simon sat next to Kaylee, the both of them exchanging smiles. Chung-li had elected to cook the meal and once Jayne had hit the punchline of his joke, Book laughed then excused himself and went to see if he could be of any help. His smile widened fit to burst when he looked inside the pot, not sure how the others would feel about having soup for their main meal. Chung-li smiled gently which made the Shepherd look again. This time his eyebrows rose in surprise. Looked like everything barring Serenity's thrusters was in that pot. As long as it was edible the crew would be impressed.

Inara followed Wash and Zoe, her eyes hardly leaving the little bundle in Zoe's arms. A small makeshift cot being pulled up to one of the chairs then Zoe carefully settled the baby in it for the duration, smiling softly when Wash leaned in to hand their son one of his favourite dinosaurs. The baby smiled at his papa and reached for the toy, man and boy tangling digits while they smiled at each other over the down of baby blankets. Zoe wasn't right sure at times which one needed the crib more. The Captain stepped in and paused just inside the threshold, his eye roaming over his people, happy because they were. More content than he could put into words to find them hale, hearty and for once all in one gorram piece. Did a body good to know all was right with his world even if it was more than a mite cockeyed and like to bite him in the ass at the least provocation. As Mal's eye lit upon the baby his gaze softened then he hid his moment of weakness and settled into a seat at the head of the table.

Just as Chung-li brought the pot to the table and began ladling the soup into waiting bowls Jayne leaned forward and sniffed, which meant everybody else leaned back. "*Wei*, more stew?"

Chung-li shook his head. "*Bu qu*, soup."

Jayne scowled. "I don't want soup, I want somethin' I can sink my teeth into an' chew. Ain't right to feed a growin' man baby food."

The Captain scowled at him but Wash piped up before he could put the big man in his place. "Good, more for us!"

"Huh, never said ya could have my share."

"Hey," Protested Wash. "You said you didn't want any."

"I said I wanted somethin' to sink my teeth into. Maybe I'll take a bite outta you instead."

"Might want to rethink that strategy, Jayne." Said Zoe in a calm but cool voice.

Jayne seemed to change his mind and grabbed for his bowl just as Chung-li finished filling it, letting the Shepherd keep it steady until his big maw of a hand closed around it. Not taking any chances that Wash wouldn't make a grab for it after all. As Book passed the bowls of food round the table Simon turned his head, looking for his sister. He was about to ask if anyone had seen her when River swept in as graceful as you please. All conversation stopped. The Captain looked up to see what had caught everyone's attention and froze. Gone was the shy crazy girl with the moon adled expression but innocent air and in her place walked a woman of poise and extraordinary beauty. River had always had an ethereal kind of beauty and grace, now she had a maturity that deepened and made richer the pallet of colours that defined who she was. The self imagined ugly duckling had truly become a swan.

"Good gorram..." Murmured the stunned Captain.

Even Simon seemed taken aback. River looked pleased but was careful not to gloat openly and spoil the effect. Inara had been giving her lessons, refining the unschooled clay with a woman's wiles. The deft touch of make up and colour to her cheeks underscoring something they all had a tendancy to forget. River wasn't a child any more. Not even a girl. She was a woman and the look in her eye dared any of them to forget it ever again. Simon frowned as River smiled at everyone then met the Captain's eye. For a long moment neither of them could look away. Simon was distracted by Kaylee squeezing his hand and turned to see what she wanted, taking the bowl from her with a distracted smile. Conversations started up again, banter flowing back and forth along with compliments to River on her appearance and the pretty seersucker dress none of them had ever seen her wear before. With her hair all swept up and held in place with gold and silver hair clips so elaborate they were artforms all on their own none of them needed to guess whose hand lay behind the transformation.

After that mighty fine meal the Captain kept finding his eyes drawn to River, in equal parts irritated and proud to find the woman the centre of attention. Kaylee gushing over the dress and the fancy hairstyle, Zoe wanting to know how she mixed those colours to highlight her cheekbones just so and Simon staring in a mix of horror and panic. Chung-li watched and took in everyone's reaction, his smile gentle and knowing. The shine flattening into a dull sheen as he caught the doctor's less than enamoured reaction. Instinct told him that all would not be well in paradise. For once the Captain was blithely unaware, waiting his chance for the fuss to die down and folks to start drifting off so he could speak to River his own self but he didn't get the chance. It seemed every member of his crew wanted to speak to the little genius and he couldn't blame them. Holding in a sigh of disappointment he contented himself with giving her a warm smile when their eyes met one last time before leaving with Wash to lay in a course for Pacquin. There was so much he wanted to say to her. Needed to know. Mayhap time to think it all through would help him find the words to untangle the myriad of emotions locked deep inside his heart.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *wei* = hey *bu qu* = no (lit. no go)


Wednesday, October 26, 2005 6:45 AM


Well-executed plot element with the baby. Loved everybody's reactions! And a welcome transformation with River. Thanks!

Thursday, October 27, 2005 1:33 AM


good the baby didnt die...

Thursday, October 27, 2005 8:20 AM


Phew. What a turnaround from the last chapter. And go, Simon! Mal's reaction to the miracle was just so sweet. But his promise of anything Simon wanted ... that had a kinda of eerie to it.

Meanwhile Bewitching!River enchants the Captain. That man is done for. ;-)

Monday, November 20, 2006 8:02 AM


Yay, the baby lived! Didn't expect that. Beautifully done. And River's triumphant entrance couldn't have been better. Mal stands no chance. Resistance is futile. :)

Friday, January 12, 2007 6:52 AM


I love you, Simon.

Your writing is lovely, Amdobell.

Thursday, November 3, 2011 4:39 PM


Yay!!! Simon really is a Big Damn Hero!!!!!<3


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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.

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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.

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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.

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Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

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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.