HOPE SERIES: 15. "The Nitty Gritty"
Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Zoe gets more and more worried about Hope. Patience shows Mal the cargo she wants hauling and Inara is reunited with an old and dear friend."


TITLE: "THE NITTY GRITTY" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Simon/Kaylee. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Zoe gets more and more worried about Hope. Patience shows Mal the cargo she wants hauling and Inara is reunited with an old and dear friend." 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

* * * * *

Jayne didn't like this. Anything to do with Patience always carried a gorram sting in the tail and his *shenjingbing hundan* of a Captain never seemed to see it until it was too late. Scowling, the mercenary looked at the men now loosely keeping watch on him, calculating how many he could take out before he risked being killed his own self. It was tempting but not yet. He could bide his time a mite longer. Maybe Mal would talk his way out of this fix they were in. If he didn't, Jayne would just have to do it the old fashioned way.

* * * * *

The Captain stared. Those mounds he had taken for sand dunes were no such thing. They were outcroppings of rock, boulders and the entrance to a mine cut deep into the ground. His eyes narrowed as he looked more closely at the stone exposed to the elements, the way it was coloured to match the surrounding sands, even had bits of the gorram stuff blasted onto the gorram rock to trick the eye. He laughed. Really. Patience had outdone herself this time.

"You camoflaged a mine?"

Instead of getting testy Patience grinned, pleased at his stunned reaction. "Fooled you, didn't it?"

He wanted to argue but truth was he was too gorram impressed. "Yeah. You did."

"You gonna stand staring at the entrance all day or you wanna take a look inside? On'y I ain't growin' any younger."

Chuckling softly the Captain entered. As they walked, Mal kept turning his head trying to take in everything at once, his sharp eyes scanning the walls, floor and especially the roof above his head. Noting that every few feet the tunnel was braced with pit props. Where Patience got the expertise from he had no idea but if you had enough money you could buy gorram anything except, it seemed, your own transport ship. It was the little niggle that continued to nag at the base of his brainpan.

"Ain't gonna collapse on you if that's what you're thinkin', Mal."

"Yeah, well, it don't hurt to be careful."

"That your new creed?"

He shot a narrow look at her, knowing she was mocking him. "I'm always careful."

It was on the tip of her tongue to retort that no he was not, but she didn't want to alienate him. At least not until he had seen what she was digging up and agreed to transport it off world. If he backed out on her then, well, it was a deep mine.

* * * * *

Dark was falling and still Zoe hadn't seen hide nor hair of Hope. Where was that girl? If she was hiding as some sort of joke she would tear a strip off her. As she stood staring just outside the open door Mary Frye came up beside her.

"Zoe, your girl won't come to no harm on Carousel. *Diyu*, practically everybody is related to everybody else 'cept them as brought brides an' such home."

"I'm a mother. It's my job to worry."

Mary patted her arm. "Mine too, *fengmi*."

Mary Frye went back inside and Zoe could hear her talking to her husband. Minutes later Martin Frye came up alongside her with Simon in tow. Both were pulling on jackets. Zoe frowned.

"I didn't mean to turn you out of the house..."

Mr Frye waved off her objections and stepped back through the door to pick up a lantern from the row kept ready next to his boots and rifle. He smiled as he lit it. "We got children enough to worry about our own selves so it's no bother. Best you stay here in case she comes back while we're out lookin'."

"I already checked the outhouses an' the barn."

He smiled and nodded. "I'm sure you did but did you check the back hay loft?"

What was a back hay loft? Her confusion made him grin.

"My own design. Keeps some of the hay and animal feed shut away, a loft within a loft you could say. Also means if the barn catches light you got a chance of saving some of it but only if'n your quick."

A smirk tugged at her lip. "An' you're quick?"

The stocky man was half a head shorter than Simon but pulled himself up proudly. "I'm a Frye."

Zoe nodded. "I'm comin' with you."

He opened his mouth to argue, caught a look from Simon and snapped his mouth shut. With a nod he handed Zoe his lantern and reached inside to pick up another one. As soon as it was lit they left the house to go on a child hunt. Mary Frye shut the door slowly behind them, her eyes watching their vanishing forms until the darkness swallowed them up.

* * * * *

"I should be OUT THERE!"

River ignored the histrionics and watched the girl pace. Hope was so frustrated. Why was she here if she wasn't going to do anything? What if Uncle Mal came back all shot up? And here she was doing NOTHING.

"Not nothing." Murmured River.

Hope stopped pacing and glared at her. "That's what you said..."

River raised a hand cutting her off, her lounging body now sitting upright as if listening to something no one else could hear. "Now we get ready."


"Hope, we have to stay calm, *dong ma*? If we go outside and are agitated it will put Patience's men on the alert."

The girl nodded though really she didn't understand. Had no idea there was a bigger picture. For a fraction of a second River wondered whether bringing Hope had been a mistake but then that was the point, wasn't it? If even she was wondering if Hope would be able to give them the advantage they would need then the chances were the hired men they would be up against would discount her too. After all, what was a twelve year old and her aunt going to do against hired killers? Plus, there was Jayne. No. Couldn't worry. This would work. Why? Because it had to.

* * * * *

The Training House on Regina was not as large or grand as the one on Sihnon but it was beautifully appointed and the new House Mistress brought a smile of joy to Inara's face. Indra Seng was a majestically artful mix of Oriental and Asian with the supreme grace and eloquence as befitted the very best Companions. Indra had been a childhood friend and since entering the Guild both had gone their separate ways. Inara had not seen her friend in many years.

"Indy, so good to see you *wode pengyou*."

Indra's eyes lit up with a pleasure that spilled onto her lovely face. "You too, *mei mei*. It has been *too* long*."

They embraced and excused themselves back to Indra's private quarters, the curious and inquisitive gazes of the in-house Companions following them like objects of desire. Once the doors closed they fell about laughing, tears of joy and childish glee that both had made it so far and were fit, hale and hearty. Such was not the lot of many of their childhood friends. It was a hard life and especially for a girl, carving your own way was fraught with perils.

"I am so happy for you Indy. House Mistress!"

Indra laughed. "If my parents could only see me now."

"They don't know?"

Her friend threw a pillow at her forcing Inara to catch it before it hit her in the face. The distraction though only put off her curiosity by a second or two.

"Indy, what happened?"

A pause turned just painful enough to shadow the beauty of that perfect, flawless face. "They died."

All the happiness they had carried into the room with them vanished as if it had been sucked out of a vent. Inara's eyes widened with horror, Indra's with unshed tears. "Oh, Indy. *Duibuqi*."

They hugged, wept softly and said nothing for many minutes. When Indra pulled gently away it was to see Inara's concerned face staring back at her. She patted her friend's hand lightly, as if Inara was the one needing comforting.

"*Wode hao* and it was a long time ago. *Fang xin*."

"What happened?"

Something in Indra's demeanour stiffened. Most would have missed it but Inara noticed and felt something twist inside. Indra rose gracefully, her smile genuine and almost eclipsing the sadness of old pain in her eyes. "Tea? I have White Needles, Genmaicha.." She broke off with a laugh. "Who am I kidding? I have every kind your heart could wish for."

It made Inara's heart break for her friend. To have such a tragedy in her life, so painful it could not be spoken of even to her dearest friend, yet putting on a brave face and wanting only to make Inara happy. Nodding, Inara smiled and did not press her friend for more details. She would tell her when she was ready. "I will let you choose, Indy. You always did have the most exquisite taste."

Indra laughed, a clear bell like sound but it was the gratitude in her eyes that Inara remembered long after the tea had been drunk, the pleasantries and formalities of a visiting Companion over. Alone in her small but oppulent suite, Inara lay awake a long time and wondered what had happened. Why the death of Indra's parents was such an open festering wound if, as she suspected, it had happened so long ago. She had told Mal that she would be away seven to ten days. That estimate might have to be revised for one thing was clear. Inara intended to stay for as long as her friend needed her.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenjingbing* = crazy *hundan* = bastard *diyu* = hell *fengmi* = honey *dong ma* = understand? *wode pengyou* = my friend *mei mei* = little sister *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *duibuqi* = sorry *wode hao* = I'm good


Sunday, October 18, 2009 4:48 AM


Lots of questions in that chapter and I hope the answers will be forthcoming soon.

Sunday, October 18, 2009 7:15 AM


The individual strands are free at the moment, but I just know they're going to be knotted together soon. Looking forward to it!

Sunday, October 18, 2009 11:56 AM


Here, I really feel for Zoe. It's so hard being a mom and actually having to let go. Such a great piece of work! As always, it's wonderful.

Monday, October 19, 2009 3:48 PM


Nice but way to short :)


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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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