STOLEN MOMENTS: 8. "Friends"
Wednesday, April 6, 2005

"Simon tries to get Inara to tell him what happened. Zoe has the same agenda but tries to get it out of a weakened and recovering Captain."



SUMMARY: "Simon tries to get Inara to tell him what happened. Zoe has the same agenda but tries to get it out of a weakened and recovering Captain." 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.


A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

"I can't help you if you won't tell me what happened."

"It was a nightmare, Simon, nothing more."

The doctor gave her a long steady look, not believing it was anything so simple. They were in the Companion's shuttle, alone. Inara having refused point blank to go to the infirmary. "I'm not ill or injured, Simon." She said in a softer more concilliatory tone.

"You've had them before haven't you?"

It wasn't really a question even though he had couched it as one to make it an easier pill to swallow. Inara's composure never faltered. "We all have nightmares."

"But not always the same one." He said softly.

Inara shuddered despite herself but Simon did not comment on it. It just reinforced his own suspicion. Sighing he relaxed slightly which for him was more a sign of resignation than ease. "I really do want to help you but if you are determined to pretend nothing is wrong my hands are tied." He paused. "If you won't talk to me at least talk to someone."

The Companion remained silent and stoic.

"Anyone," Said Simon, clutching now at straws. "Perhaps the Shepherd could..."


The unexpected vehemence surprised him. Inara coloured slightly at the lack of control and tried to recover her composure as she smoothed out the rich fabric of her robe.

"I will be fine, Simon. Thank you for your concern."

"Inara, please listen to me. I know you don't want to have this discussion and I don't want to pry..."

"Then don't."

"...but if you ignore this it will not go away. And you can't heal, can't get past this - whatever this is - unless you do."

Long after Simon had left Inara stared, seeing nothing but images hovering on the edge of her sanity. She knew he was right but following his advice was one step currently beyond her. She could not, would not, allow any of them to know the truth. Bad enough that the Captain had seen a glimpse, was now an unwitting party to a painful past that was slowly, inexorably, tearing her to pieces. She should leave. No should. Had to. It was the only way. A small anguished sigh escaped from her lips. She had stayed too long. Got comfortable and had forgotten the cardinal rule. The next suitable habitable world she would tell the Captain she was leaving. It was the only thing left that would allow her to cling to the last tattered remnants of her sanity even if it would mean leaving her heart behind her.

* * * * *

Zoe was pacing up and down the infirmary and it was driving him *shenjingbing*.

"Will you stop doin' that!"

She turned and paused, looked to where he lay on the infirmary bed, her brows drawn down like angry storm clouds, her stony expression set into interrogation mode. The Captain closed his eyes and resisted the urge to groan out loud. "You know, don't you?"

He sighed at the accusation, getting mighty tired of being the punchbag. "Know what? I know I'm sick of this, Zoe."

"You know what's wrong with Inara."

Breath huffed out of him. He just stared at her. The painkillers Simon had giving him were wearing off and he felt more than mite tender. And not just where the bullet had found him. She couldn't have hit closer to his heart if she had aimed for it. Not that he had any notion of telling her such. "What makes you say that?"

"You." She paused. "Her."

Mal frowned, all kinds of irritated now. He hated it when Zoe played twenty questions. Mostly because she had a sneaky way of trapping him into giving answers he didn't want to give. "I ain't a mind reader, Zoe, so just spit it out."

Zoe looked at him for a moment then sat in the chair by his bed. Inwardly Mal sighed knowing it meant she was in for the long haul. No sending her on her way with a curt word of command or a refusal to talk. Not no one he could think of more obdurate or stubborn than Zoe Warren when she thought she was on the track of something important. Made no never mind that he was her Captain, her greatest friend, closest thing either one had left to family.

"The first time Inara had that nightmare you got there first."

"So? She was screamin' like a banshee. What? You don't think a man could sleep through all that?"

"You sent us away, said it was just a nightmare."

He frowned, not seeing her point. "Yeah an' so it was."

Zoe allowed herself to soften just a bit. It made the Captain even warier, his nerves all taut and on edge knowing that his beautiful and deadly second in command was preparing a bear trap for him. "What was the nightmare?"

He blinked. Stunned. "*Shenme*?"

"You heard me. Said it was a nightmare. Okay, what was it?"

A frown descended over his confusion, his mind racing. How much did she know? Guess? "None of my business." His voice hardened just a touch. Defensive now. "An' none of yours!"

"Sir, I've known you too long to be put off by such *fei hua*. I know an' you know something serious went down."

"Zoe, this is no way concerns either me or you but if you're so gorram determined to know why the *diyu* ain't you askin' Inara?"


That made him raise his eyebrows in surprise. "Can't?"



A very tiny tinge of humour made a hairline crack in her armour. "You won't deflect me that way, sir. Plenty have tried. All of 'em failed." Mal knew, he didn't press the point. Just waited for her to go on. Zoe leaned forward, resting her hands on her knees, eyes locked on his. "I'm worried about Inara. Whatever that nightmare was has shook her up worse than anythin' we've been through so far an' we've had some tough times."

"Had some good ones too. Don't forget that. Not all been bad."

"Not sayin' that, sir, an' you're tryin' to divert me again."

"No, no I'm not, just sayin'..."

"I think you know what's wrong."

He looked shocked. "Huh? Where in the nine hells did that come from?"

"Inara had that same dream the next day."

"How you figure that? She tell you that?"

Zoe shook her head. "*Bu qu* but it was the same reaction."

Mal was thoughtful now, trying to block out the painful throbbing in his side. He didn't feel too shiny but this thing with Inara hurt more. "What reaction might that be?"


Stunned he just looked at her. Zoe nodded slowly to herself. "I knew you knew."

Confused he just stared.

"Best you tell me, sir, be a lot less bloody than me beatin' it outta you."

"I'm the Cap'n."

Zoe nodded. "Yes, but nobody hides bodies better than me."

He stared then something inside locked even tighter than before. He let himself sag, let the pain take a hold of him. "Go ahead," Suddenly too weary to care. "Take your best shot."

She watched his eyes close, noticed he was sweating and seemed in pain. A flicker of alarm and guilt almost made her back off then she remembered Inara and a look in the Companion's eyes that near stopped her heart. Had only seen that look once or twice before and if she was right in what it meant Inara needed help. The kind she wouldn't want to accept from anyone. The first step would be finding out if her suspicions were right. No way would Inara be telling her or anyone else the truth but she had a feeling Mal knew. His evasion made her suspect something else. Whatever Inara had told him or he had guessed she had obviously sworn him to secrecy and that being the case even holding a gun to his stubborn head would not make Malcolm Reynolds betray a confidence. It was one of the things she admired about him though right now she hated him for it. Because now that left her only one choice. She would have to go to Inara and demand the truth. And if she did that, the Companion might never forgive her for it.

Damn noble rutting friends and pig-headed Companions. But that was what friends were for. To do the really hard things that nobody else would touch even if their lives depended on it. She just hoped one day they would forgive her for it.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenjingbing* = crazy *shenme* = what *fei hua* = nonsense/garbage talk *diyu* = hell *bu qu* = no (lit. no go)


Wednesday, April 6, 2005 5:55 AM


Talk about a soap opera! It seems like the only way that either Mal or Inara are going to get rid of their demons is if they just confront each other. More!

- Soul

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 7:46 AM


Everyone is just so gorram stubborn on Serenity. Hopefully, Zoe's stubborness and determination will lead to Mal and Inara confronting their issues.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 7:50 AM


A bit of a departure from your previous style. I like it a lot. "Nobody hides bodies..." is a great line, too.

Thursday, April 7, 2005 4:36 AM


Fantastic exchange between Mal and Zoe. Laughed at "I ain't a mind reader" - given River's revelation. And I liked the "hiding bodies" line too.


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His head still ached from the rutting probe but after the men had satisfied themselves that his story was true a thousand questions peppered the air like machine gun fire.

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.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 2. "Counting Chickens"
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.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 9. "All The King's Men"
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.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 8. "All The King's Horses"
Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 7. "Friend or Foe"
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.