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THE REFLECTION SERIES: 23. "Sleeping Passions"
Sunday, December 5, 2004

"Jaimie Sparks goes back aboard the slaver's ship while Simon tends the Captain and Rafe Connor considers what to do about the ones who never got away."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2466    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "SLEEPING PASSIONS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing RATING: PG-13 STATUS: SEQUEL to "DAMAGED GOODS" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://carlajane.50megs.com/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "Jaimie Sparks goes back aboard the slaver's ship while Simon tends the Captain and Rafe Connor considers what to do about the ones who never got away." 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.

"SLEEPING PASSIONS"

A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

He did not feel exactly nervous, more wired than afraid. His nerves jumping under his skin and making him all kinds of uneasy as if unfriendly eyes were solemnly watching his progress yet *Shi* did not see anyone. Every now and then he would come across the human debris of their firefight, the anxious scramble for freedom carved out through those foolish *tamade hundan* thinking to stop them. Mal and Chung-li had apparently shared a cell, the Captain hanging from a pair of manacles with Chung-li chained to the wall opposite. From what he recalled of River's words the only time he had been attacked was when the Chinaman had broken free to defend Mal. *Shi* swallowed carefully as a lump formed in his throat. So rutting typical of the man. He felt a flush of anger. What the good gorram was a cook doing thinking he could fight? Up to his neck in blood and bullets was no place for him to be.

A small sound made him freeze, ears stretching to try to amplify what he heard into enough detail for recognition but the sound did not repeat and a slither of apprehension crept up his spine stealing the warmth from his body.

* * * * *

Inara was tired but determined to stay awake. Her vigil beside the Captain was little more than stolen moments between tending the traumatised survivors from the forty-four. River watched her from the corner of the infirmary where she sat on the cold floor, her arms wrapped around her knees, her hair hanging in lank clumps as if she had just woken up. Only her eyes never seemed to sleep. Simon had left the Companion sitting by the bedside while he went to take a look at his other patients. Inara's head began to nod again, in the silence her eyelids sliding closed. When River spoke her head jerked up leaving her momentarily disorientated then guilty for falling asleep.

"He knows you're here."

The Companion took a steadying breath so that her voice would remain calm. "Mal's unconscious, River. I doubt he even knows where he is."

River shook her head. "He knows. Always knows." At Inara's look she tried to explain, rising to her feet and coming closer until she stood on the other side of the bed. She looked so small and fragile that Inara felt her heart go out to her. Wished she could do something to help undo whatever it was the Alliance had done to her but in her heart knew only Simon could do that. The girl was too broken for amateurs to meddle with in some misguided notion that they could help. If River was aware of Inara's turn of thought she gave no sign. The girl glanced down at the Captain's face, her tone dropping, gentle, soft. A kindness she gifted him with though he knew it not as her right hand drifted down to touch his cheek. "Can feel her rythym beneath his feet like the warm flow of a beating heart. Lulling him with dreams of home." Inara felt a little shudder go through her. Then River looked up and stared straight at her. Her hand dropping to her side.

"You love him, too much to trust it. Not enough to trust him."

"No, we're friends we..,"

"Lie to each other. Pretend it doesn't hurt but he knows so he doesn't try."

The Companion frowned. "Knows what?"

River shook her head. Not sad just emotionally detached from what she saw. "It wouldn't work. Fish and fowl. Water and air. You can't be the ying to his yang, too much alike and with so little in common."

"River, it's not polite to probe into people's minds."

"Not probing. Hard to miss when your thought's are so noisy. All full of distrust and fear while smiling in your borrowed mask." Her voice took on a tinge of sadness. "He pretends too. Easier that way to not show how much he cares."

She caught her breath but River had not finished.

"It's alright though." The girl said softly, her eyes so very gentle with understanding and wisdom that it was like looking at an old soul staring from a child's eyes. River smiled at her. "Not trapped. My soul, my karma. Like you but not."

Inara had no clue what she was talking about. She was tired and River could be all kinds of disturbing. That she was also unerringly accurate was unsettling. Her eyes drifted down to gaze at the Captain. Wishing he would find some other way to make a living. Something with more profit and less bullets. Somewhere safe far from Alliance rule. Which would mean she would have to find another mode of transport. Staying that far under the radar would be like an enforced retirement for her and the Companion couldn't have him winning his argument by default.

* * * * *

"Why the good gorram didn't ya blow the ship up like the Cap said?"

Jayne was not just angry he was also frustrated. He couldn't stand slavers any more than the Captain and it felt all manner of wrong that the hulk of the forty-four was still in one piece. Rafe Connor inwardly sighed. Harry had come to get him when Jayne had started spouting all kinds of *goushi* about the only way to do a job properly was to do it himself. It didn't help that the man was armed to the teeth. In Rafe's wake a fair number of his men followed. Kaylee and Book had tried to calm the mercenary down but he wasn't listening. Zoe was on the bridge with Wash talking to the Counsellor about she knew not what. Silently Kaylee wished Zoe would come down and sort this out but part of her was also curious to see how a man like this rancher would handle the simmering stupidity of Jayne Cobb.

"I understand how ya feel..."

"Do ya?" Cut off Jayne with a barely held back snarl. Kaylee watched Rafe's men stiffen from relaxed to alert and wary. Shepherd Book moved closer to Jayne. "If ya understand then how come that *lese* piece of junk is still in one piece? Didn't your men take explosives an' such to finish the job?"

Just behind Rafe stood Blade. A quiet self-contained presence, light on his feet as any ghost and as fluid in the martial arts as Book or Chung-li. He was a head shorter than Jayne but powerfully built, his stocky form compressed with muscle like a weight lifter but more limber. His dark skin rippling when he moved. Such grace complimented his intent. Rafe made a discreet motion with his hand. The sign immediately understood and obeyed though Blade did not move back nor relax, his eyes on Jayne. Ready to take him down if the *laoban* said.

Shepherd Book could read the tension and reached out to place a hand on Jayne's shoulder, his deep voice calm and the epitomy of reason in a mad 'verse. "Now Jayne, best not do anything stupid."

Jayne's eyes flashed a warning. Kaylee's anxious voice stepped in next. He could fair hear the worry at war with her anxiety. "Jayne, don't ya remember? *Jide*, it's a slaver's ship, *dong ma*?"

Now he was glaring at her. "*Wo zhidao* which is why I'm scratchin' my head as to why we ain't dealt with it. Can't blame the Cap he's out of it but that was the plan."

"We got the women an' children out," Said Kaylee desperately. "But they wasn't the only ones got took."

The room went completely silent. Jayne stared hard at her for a moment. "What're ya sayin'?"

"She's saying," Book interjected. "That there was no time to get the men off. Men and boys. Prisoners. Slaves."

"So you're sayin' we gotta go back, is that it?"

For a moment no one spoke then firm boots rang across the deck plates as Zoe, Wash and Michael Tollan joined them. Kaylee felt the tension ease out of her. It would be alright now, Zoe was here. Even Jayne wasn't stupid enough to go up against Serenity's First Mate.

"No one's goin' anywhere, *dong ma*?"

Rafe turned his head to look at her. Jayne still didn't look happy but seemed ready to listen now. "So what're we doin'? We just gonna sit scratchin' our asses 'till the *tamade* Alliance turn up?"

Her stony look became a cold glare. "Cap'n ain't awake yet. In the meantime I suggest we get somethin' to eat."

Rafe Connor gave his men a nod and they broke up to do just that. Tollan had asked Tommy Bale to rustle up enough food to feed them all. He was silently hoping their food stores would last until they could replenish their supplies. Feeding a small crew of four was nothing like feeding the five thousand. And they had no loaves and no fish just ship's rations and protein cubes. At least the vegetables would be fresh. Shepherd Book gave the Counsellor a smile. "Would your cook like a hand?"

Tollan raised his brows. This was the first offer of unsolicited help from any of Serenity's crew. He took it as a kindness and an olive branch. "*Duibuqi*, Shepherd Book."

"My pleasure, Counsellor. You have been more than gracious to us and it's the least I can do."

Kaylee was fidgetting now that the situation with Jayne had been defused. Wash noticed and sidled up to her so he could whisper in her ear. "*Shenme shi*?"

"Nothin' just don't seem right to be here not on Serenity."

Zoe walked over to them and gave Wash a kiss on the cheek. "Missin' Serenity or a certain ship's doctor?" Her eyes twinkled knowingly. Simon had gone back to the infirmary to check on the Captain which would relieve Inara to return to the Crazy Goose and look after their traumatised passengers.

The mechanic gave a little smile, watched as Wash slid an arm around his wife's waist. It never ceased to please and amaze Kaylee how easily the two of them fitted together. Like they was made to fit. She hoped her and Simon would be like that some day. "Yeah, she needs me."

"Soon, *bao bei*. First let's do as Michael says and get somethin' to eat. Then we can check on the Cap'n. If he's awake he'll want an update, *dong ma*?"

"An' if he's still sleepin'?"

Zoe's smile slid into a grin changing the whole aspect of her sombre face. "Then you go an' see to Serenity. I'm sure Wash'll want to do the same won't you, *zhangfu*?"

He grinned and leaned in for a kiss. "You know me so well."

Rafe gave Michael Tollan a considering look. "If we can get the rest of those slaves off that ship would you have room for them here?"

"Room or no room we'll fit them on board Mr Connor. You have my word on it."

Then, for the first time since leaving Glory Rafe Connor relaxed. His face split in a happy little smile. "*Xie xie ni*, I'm right obliged."

"Don't thank me too soon," Tollan warned. All of them were now following Jayne and the Preacher to the mess. "We don't know how many men Clements still has aboard that forty-four. And if I remember my history those battlewagons carried more than a few surprises."

The smile on Wash's face flattened out. Zoe leaned in to him. "What is it, *bao bei*?"

"Nothin' I hope, it's just it's comin' back to me."

"What is?"

"Why Mal was so gorram upset to find a forty-five still in service."

As their eyes met Zoe wished they could just board Serenity and get the good gorram away from here. As deep into the Black as they could go. But they couldn't do that. They had ties to the Goose and the people on it now. Simon wouldn't leave until he knew they were out of danger, at least medically, and there was still the question of the slaves they had not been able to free. Plus she couldn't help wondering what had happened to that Alliance ship. By the time they reached the ship's mess Zoe Warren had completely lost her appetite.

* * * * *

It was a lot like walking through some gorram graveyard. The hair on the back of *Shi's* neck pricked and stood on end as he stepped over the scatter of dead bodies and tried not to slip on the greasy deck. He gripped his gun more tightly and realised he should have taken someone with him. Blade came immediately to mind. The man had an uncanny sense of where danger lay and was faster than a freak. Now, he thought only of completing his self imposed mission as quickly as possible and hoped he would live to make it back to the others. The atmosphere on the ship being more than a mite oppressive.

The apprehension of danger grew stronger with every gorram step. His heart beating faster, his breath becoming ragged and disjointed. Twice he stopped, inhaling deeply and forcing calm into knotted muscles and tense tissue. Inflating lungs that gagged on every breath with the sweet sickly stench of death until his heart slowed enough to give him the illusion of control. He slipped again and looked down. Big mistake. A half of a face stared up at him, one eye still in place and staring as if in utter terror. *Shi* quickly turned his head and was violently sick. Slowly he straightened, more shaken than he would have dreamed. Something awful and terrifying hiding in the back of his mind like a frightened child. He forced himself to look again, this time noting the ragged edges of ruptured flesh, then turned his head and followed the bloody trail back to the dismembered body. *Tian Yesu*! That was when *Shi* realised that coming back had been the biggest rutting mistake of his life.

* * * * *

Simon Tam used the time Mal was unconscious to work on his face. As well as cleaning up the mess that had been made of his nose he delicately removed the burnt skin clinging like wafer thin rags to his face. It left him patchy and the skin would be somewhat tender in places but he would heal quicker. He reached for some ointment to apply to the skin when the Captain began to stir. River sat quietly in a chair in the corner, her legs tucked under her. As Simon carefully rubbed the ointment in a low ragged moan slid from the Captain's lips. The doctor did not stop working. "Try not to move, Captain, I'll be finished in a minute."

The Captain failed to hide a wince of pain. "What you doin' to me?"

The doctor worked carefully around the Captain's sore eyes and cracked cheekbone. "This gel will help your skin heal more quickly. Don't be tempted to scratch when it starts to itch, that just means it's working. Your nose should set straight and the shoulder wound will knit and mend if you'll take your doctor's advice for once and rest."

The Captain opened his eyes and took a moment to focus. "What happened?"

The doctor gave him an assessing look. "How much do you remember?"

Mal thought back. Slowly the gaps in his memory filled and he tried to sit up. Simon rested a hand on the Captain's good shoulder, not really needing to apply pressure as the pain of sudden movement caused his patient to sink back with a deep groan. Eyes closed against the pain. Simon pursed his lips as he looked at the Captain. "Could you be any more *wangu*? What did I just tell you, Captain?"

"I can't be lyin' here, Simon."

For a moment silence lay between them as Simon watched the Captain open his eyes. "Gotta get to Chung-li, *dong ma*?"

"I...what do you remember about what happened in that cell?"

The Captain's eyes narrowed. "That *heishoudang liumang* Clements had me hangin' from that ruttin' ceiling. Chained Chung-li to the gorram wall an'..." His voice trailed off, memories coming thick and fast now. Horror creeping into his expression and voice as he recalled everything that had happened. "*Wode ma*!"

"Captain? Mal? *Sheme shi*?"

A world of sorrow crowded into the Captain's eyes. His face had lost what little colour it had. "*Wo jide*, Simon." He whispered.

Simon could hear the pain, see it reflected in his eyes. "*Duibuqi*, Mal."

"You know?"

Simon glanced at his sister but she stayed silent and he doubted Mal was even aware she was in the room. "River said they shot him. That..." Simon's voice trailed off, not wanting to put it into words.

"He died tryin' to save me." The Captain finished for him.

There was nothing the doctor could say to that. It was true, that was what River had told them. Apart from the uncomfortable suspicion that the Captain had been right about his sister being a Reader, Simon found it hard to accept. "There was nothing you could do." He offered quietly. Hoping the Captain would find some small scrap of comfort in those words but typically he could see the man was already blaming himself. Expression grim and unforgiving.

"Where's Rafe?"

"Um, I think he's on the Goose. Do you want me to give them a wave and ask him to come over?"

Not able to say the words Mal nodded. He felt not only tired but heart sick. Simon went to com the other ship from the bridge. The Captain closed his eyes and thought about Chung-li, a man he had known for such a short time but who had fast become a firm and valued friend. He knew Rafe would be upset, the man was good as family to him. It would be like Mal losing one of his crew but worse. The two had near enough grown up together. Why did this have to happen? With all the twisted *tamade hundan* in the 'verse why did someone as good and honourable as Chung-li have to die? It wasn't fair. Just went to prove what he had come to suspect all along. There wasn't any gorram God in the 'verse.

"Sssh, he wouldn't want you to grieve."

Mal opened his eyes surprised to find River leaning over him. Her pale face solemn, her quietly spoken words so full of understanding it damn near broke his heart. She knew. "He's dead because of me."

She touched his face, her hand gently trailing down his cheek as she spoke. Her voice so soft he could have been imagining it only he wasn't. It was all kinds of strange how easily the girl could calm him. Cut through the raging torrent of his excess and bring him to the deep waters that held him in thrall. Her eyes drinking him in while holding him fast. All kinds of creepifying yet she didn't frighten him. The girl more like a ghost than any that had died and stayed rooted to the living. "The dead have no need of sorrow or compassion."

"He shouldn't be dead, River. That's the point."

"It was his choice not yours." He looked stunned. How the good gorram did she know that? "You readin' my mind?"

River shook her head gently, her hand now cupping the side of his burnt, bruised and battered face. Her head tilting as she regarded him. "No. Sometimes I see things, feel the part of the picture others don't see. It can be confusing but I've learnt to read the colours. To count the threads so they don't run."

"An' this colour readin' let's you see what Chung-li was thinkin'?"

Her hand fell away from his face and oddly enough he missed her touch. She gave him a gentle smile, her eyes softening as the hand came to rest over his heart. The Captain held his breath and waited. "No. I was reading his heart."

He thought he had misheard her. "His heart?" He whispered.

River nodded. "*Qu*, just like I can always read yours."

* * * * *

Michael Tollan dearly wanted to speak to Inara. To take her to one side and have a real heart to heart but events seemed to conspire against him. Now it seemed Serenity's gallant if foolish crew were intending to go back to the slaver's ship to rescue the rest of the prisoners. It was a bold and noble plan but he could not help feeling that every step they took in that direction was merely magnifying their folly. But oh what glorious folly!

The Counsellor was not an heroic type. Not a man of action in the physical sense. All his battles he fought with his mind, using his intellect as a swordsman did his blade. His wit firing bullets that no gun could carry. Never before had he envied the politics of violence that were so many people's creed. But looking down at the body of his friend Thomas McCardy he wanted nothing more than to find that worthless *nuofu* of a son of his and rip him to pieces. It didn't matter a good gorram that Carlin Ferris was not there and could not have committed the crime, in Tollan's mind he was guilty from the day he had been born.

Inara had told him that Thomas was murdered. *Wode ma* she had even accused him of the offence! He was over the shock and pain of it now, his sharp mind racing with possibilities. Carefully he had stripped then washed the body. Not simply out of respect and consideration for his friend but to check him for any signs of foul play. But what was he looking for? A needle mark? The narrow incision of a stiletto knife angled up towards his heart? He found nothing. No odd bruising, no marks of violence. Nothing. He gave a heavy sigh and apologised to his friend, tears threatening to break through his resolve as a feeling of helplessness assailed him. Bad enough to lose Thomas but to discover it could have been avoided was too cruel. Biting his bottom lip to stifle a sob he carefully dressed the body then leant forward to place a last tender kiss upon his icy cold lips. The touch was all it took, tears breaking free along with the broken fragments of his heart. Alone in the little surgery he bent his head and gave vent to an all consuming sorrow.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *shi* = ten *goushi* = crap/dog shit *lese* = crappy *laoban* = boss *jide* = remember *wo zhidao* = I know *dong ma* = understand *duibuqi* = sorry *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband *xie xie ni* = thank you *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *wangu* = stubborn *wode ma* = mother of God *heishoudang liumang* = gangster asshole/bastard *wo jide* = I remember *qu* = yes (lit. go) *nuofu* = coward

COMMENTS

Monday, December 6, 2004 4:10 AM

KISPEXI2


Whoa Ali! Another heart-breaking corker of a chapter! I love the way you portray River's spooky connection with the Captain - that scene between her and Inara at the start was so sweetly painful. As was the scene between her and Mal.

And poor, poor Tollan. Deeply worried he's going to do something misguided and stupid in his grief. Roll on the next chapter!

Monday, December 6, 2004 7:44 AM

SOULOFSERENITY


Beautiful as always, Ali! You've reached into the hearts of these characters and into my heart as well. Some stories have a tendency to grow stale after a while, but this one still grips me even after 23 parts.

I'm waitin' for the next installment, and as you say: "I can't wait to see what the gorram happens next!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2004 2:27 PM

POTEMKINVILLAGER


You paint all these characters with vibrant colours. Outstanding story, I'm rivetted to it.

I'm confident there's more great work to follow with this tale. Shiny anticipation!

Wednesday, December 8, 2004 11:42 AM

CASTIRONJACK


That's right, River. Get after those two, they can only be making eyes at each other for so long...

And Simon, for God's sake, take good care of the captain's face. Burned and beaten, man...

What will they find on the forty-five?

Good stuff, Ali D,

Keep flyin'

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 7:04 PM

SHINYZOEKAYLEE


The mechanic gave a little smile, watched as Wash slid an arm around his wife's waist. It never ceased to please and amaze Kaylee how easily the two of them fitted together. Like they was made to fit. She hoped her and Simon would be like that some day.
I really, really, *REALLY* love this part, perfectly written!


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