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Wolves

Title: Wolves
Author: jaune_chat
Fandom: Firefly
Characters/Pairings: Crew, Tracey
Rating: PG-13
Wordcount: 1,000
Spoilers: The Message
Warnings: Blood
Disclaimer: I don't own a thing.
A/N: Written for the "Alternate season ending" round of jossverse_las.
Summary: Tracey listens, logic ensues, and River knows about wolves.



“No, thank you!” Tracey said forcefully, waving the gun back in Wash’s direction. Zoe shifted her aim slightly, tracking him as he shifted. Book shot Mal a concerned glance as the ship was rocked by another mag drop, closer this time. Tracey was more likely to trust what Mal would say; he’d already said he wasn’t unwilling to shoot a Shepard.

“Son, you think we’re just going to call and hand you over to the law without having a plan?” Mal snapped. “You certain they didn’t take out part of your brain when they were putting new innards in you?”

Tracey paused, mouth opening and closing in astonishment.

“Womack hasn’t called for backup from the Fed station. He’s doing this off the books, mercenary work. If we confront him with that, he’ll back down rather than risk his commission,” Book said.

“What the hell would a Shepard know?” Tracey demanded. His gun was now more in Mal’s direction than Wash’s, but Wash was still wary about making a call with the jumpy ex-soldier less than five feet from him.

“More than you, that’s for damn sure. You get that gun off my pilot and let him make that call, or you’re going to be in more trouble on here than that Fed can pile on you.” Mal had no compromise in his voice, and Zoe was right at his elbow, backing up every word.

Tracey hesitated. Mal nodded at Wash, and he stretched up to grab for the speaker, slowly. Zoe kept her aim steady on Tracey’s chest, no hint of compassion in her stare, and he held his fire, swallowing hard. He could almost feel the bullet that would have gone through him.

“Tracey, let’s go,” Mal said, grabbing him none-too-gently by the elbow. He relieved him of his stolen gun and marched him out of the cockpit. Behind him, they could hear Wash walking to Womack, detailing their coordinates.

“He won’t let me go, Mal. I don’t care if your preacher can shake him, he knows I got his stuff and-.”

“Will you shut your trap for one gorram minute?” Mal snapped, dragging Tracy to infirmary. “Doc! Got need of you!”

“What-?”

The look Mal leveled at Tracey silenced him as the doctor came hurrying through the door.

“Make it look like he’s in a bad way. Alliance don’t care much for tainted goods. Got it? And make it quick.”

The doctor might have been one of the old unit, he hopped to so fast, but it didn’t stop him from throwing quizzical glances back at Mal the entire time.

“The storm is passing us by. It won’t rain today.”

The doctor looked up at the girl in the entryway, who smiled back at him, ignoring Tracey altogether.

“River?”

“It might avalanche though. Digging out would be impossible. You should make him bleed, Simon. The wolves won’t believe the prey is dying if they can’t smell blood.”

Tracey gaped at her as she wandered away, shutting his mouth abruptly as the doc injected him with something that left him feeling vaguely warm and floaty. Sweat beaded on his skin, and Mal had to support him to keep him sitting on the table.

“Doc, what the hell did you give him?” Mal demanded. Tracey couldn’t quite be bothered with words at the moment, but Sarge seemed to be saying all that needing saying.

“River’s right,” Simon said, looking after the girl with an intensely worried expression. The silence around the ship was intense, void of the steady thump of mag drops for the first time in a while, and the doctor’s concern rang all the louder for it.

“About the damn avalanches or the wolves?” Mal asked.

“Wolves,” Simon said shortly. He moved so he was right in Tracey’s field of vision, blurry as it was. “With the organs he has now, he can handle it. Just make sure he gets back to me within fifteen minutes.” Something shiny glinted in Tracey’s eyes, and he vaguely recognized a scalpel blade.

What had brought him out of a death-like sleep a couple hours ago now just prompted a vague grimace as the doctor opened a cut on his chest, over his heart. He felt the blood soak through his shirt, making a convincing-looking stain. But the warmth and numbness kept him from feeling it as Mal hauled him to his feet, half-carrying him.

After that, things got really hazy.

He recalled Mal propping him up on the upper catwalk. Kaylee looking over him, concerned. Zoe standing over him, face expressionless, gun cocked. The preacher talking. Womack threatening. Mal ordering. Womack spitting on the deck. More guns cocking. And finally, Womack leaving.

Womack. Leaving. Alone, without him.

Coherent thought returned along with flaring pain from the fresh, bleeding slice in his skin.

“Sarge? I’m… bleeding.”

Tracey felt Mal heave him off the deck and all but carry him back to the infirmary.

“That’d be because I asked the doc to cut you,” Mal said, lowering him onto the bed.

Tracey hissed as the doctor began to stitch his skin back together, and blinked at Mal with some confusion. Behind him, he could see Zoe in the doorway, hand still on her gun. Kaylee was peering in a window, looking pale and not nearly as almost-maybe-interested as she had been a while before.

“The wolves didn’t want to face a larger pack.” Tracey blinked to see the dark-haired girl, River, perched in one corner of the infirmary, watching him being stitched up with single-minded intensity.

“Tracey, we’ll be setting you down once Womack clears atmo. That’s as far as we carry you. You ever think to bring this kind of trouble down on me and mine again, and it won’t just be a little cut you’ll be receiving, dong ma?” Mal’s stance was just as he remembered it during the war, when he’d watched Tracey’s back for him everyday.

Tracey looked down at the two cuts on his chest.

“Got it, Sarge.”

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