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STOLEN MOMENTS: 9. "First Step"
Wednesday, April 6, 2005

"Shepherd Book makes an admission to Inara which causes the Companion to make one of her own."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2239    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "FIRST STEP" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Book. Inara. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: SEQUEL to "FRIENDS" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://carlajane.50megs.com/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "Shepherd Book makes an admission to Inara which causes the Companion to make one of her own." 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.

"FIRST STEP"

A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Shepherd Book looked down at his hands. He looked uncomfortable. Guilty even. Whatever reservations Inara had in letting him in, they were pushed to one side by her concern for her friend. "You look troubled, Shepherd. Can I help?"

It made him feel a hundred times unworthy. "I came to apologise."

Her concern turned to confusion. "*Wo bu dong*, what for?"

He raised his head as if weighed almost too much for him to lift. "I may have jumped to a conclusion or two."

Now she was growing wary. "What sort of conclusion?"

"When we found you... distressed... I had the suspicion the Captain might be to blame."

Her eyes widened in surprise then horror. It took a second or two to compose herself again. This time he could not fathom the look in her eyes. "What did you think had happened?"

Now Book felt even more uncomfortable. He felt mean and embarrassed. As if his thoughts left black marks on his soul. "I thought he had taken advantage of you."

Dropping his head to avoid eye contact Book missed the expression on Inara Serra's face. She touched his shoulder, needing to be clear in her understanding of this oddest of confessions. "You think the Captain took advantage of me?"

The Shepherd looked up and nodded in misery.

"Advantage, how?"

He spoke as if he had a bad taste in his mouth. "Sexually."

Now her shock flashed with a spark of something. Could have been anger only it seemed darker than that. All of a sudden the Preacher was not sure that telling Inara had been a good thing. Then the moment was gone. The glimpse into darkness had vanished. Was that what he had seen? Truly? He did not know and was afraid to ask. Too many revelations were *not* good for the soul.

"Mal didn't take advantage of me." Inara said softly, her voice sounding pained. "If anything it was the other way around."

Book was sure he had misheard her. "*Shenme*?"

Then Inara was back, her focus on him again. "I was having a nightmare Shepherd, that's all. Why is everybody making such a big thing of it?" Her attempt at a smile did not fool him but he took it as a peace offering.

"I guess we just over reacted."

She nodded, pleased he was willing to take it as such even if it was clear to them both that he didn't believe it. As the Shepherd turned to go Inara delayed him with a question. "Who else feels this way?"

He paused, hesitant to grasp her meaning. "I beg your pardon?"

"Who else thinks what happened is the Captain's fault?"

"I... um..."

Inara's eyes narrowed. "He didn't do anythin' except try to help me." And now, thought Inara, he's paying for that misplaced chivalry. "It sounds as if the whole ship blames him."

"It's not that but he was in your shuttle last night after the first time. And then..." He couldn't go on. Felt complicit in his own rash assumptions.

"The Captain did not stay the night." But only because I wouldn't let him, Inara admitted to herself. "I suppose this means I'll have to say something to the others."

"I could do that for you, if it would help?"

Inara smiled though it was not a happy smile. She had intended to leave, what Mal would have called running away. Yes. She could admit it now. But it was one thing to leave because you could not face staying, because the presence of friends such as these would bring down her defences and leave her unable to defend herself against a pain that would never die. Another thing entirely to leave the innocent to carry a burden not of his making. It was not fair and it was that which enabled her to turn the most difficile corner of her life.

* * * * *

Jayne was confused. What the good gorram was the point in gathering everyone in the commons room to talk about a rutting nightmare? Gorrammit, he could think of nothing more useless but with everybody looking so uptight yet kind of relieved he kept his mouth shut and wondered what the *diyu* he was missing. The only one not there was the Captain but given that Simon had slipped a hefty sedative in with his painkilling medication that was not surprising. The Shepherd tried to impress on him that this was important. Jayne tilted his head at the Preacher. "Huh, still sounds like *goushi* to me."

Then Inara was walking into the room and everyone felt silent, picking seats or leaning up against work surfaces. Anxious eyes all focused on her. She moved with care but so gracefully that it did not look contrived. Only River knew it was. The steps didn't match the music and her partner was missing. Shepherd Book passed round mugs of tea. No one spoke. Inara nodded her thanks then settled on the settee, Kaylee curling up next to her and holding her hand. Zoe stood stiff backed and edgy, Wash trying to get her to loosen up but knowing it was a futile gesture. He looked across at Simon and noticed the doctor was watching the Companion very closely. He wasn't sure if it was out of medical concern or something else. River looked sad but oddly focused. Fortunately she seemed content to stay silent. He hoped it would stay that way because the last thing this powderkeg needed was for River to light a gorram fuse.

"I think I owe you all an explanation." No one spoke. Every ear straining for her next words. Inara had gone over what she would say time and time again inside her head but now the moment had come she found herself tightening up inside with a fearful intensity. Kaylee squeezed her hand then was aware of Simon sitting on the other side of her. The comfort his presence brought her was beyond words. River moved next to Zoe and Wash.

Inara took a steadying breath and let go of Kaylee's hand. Linking her fingers together she decided the only rightful place to start was the beginning. "What I am about to tell you must never leave this room." Silence. So utter and absolute that it made the ears ache. Inara waited until everyone had nodded or shown some sign that they would comply. Shepherd Book nudged Jayne until the man grunted his reluctant agreement. "It happened a couple of years ago, in Sihnon. I was still at House Madrassa and was one of only two people in line for the post of House Mistress." She paused. "I won't lie to you, it was a position I had long covetted. All my training and efforts had been groomed to this point in my life. There was a ceremony, some of us referred to it as a 'rites of passage', that had to take place first. To understand what happened next you have to realise how the Guild both acquired and kept its' power. The pillars that held our order together."

She gave the Preacher a tight little smile as if their two professions spanned the opposite ends of the same spectrum but were closer than even he could imagine. It was not a notion that comforted him.

"The last House Mistress handed down the 'benevolent pact' between our Guild and the other Guilds and Houses. It is a rarely known fact that those alliances are regularly reinforced through mutual aid, acceptance and reaffirmation. My Guild is very old, ancient it could be said. So are the pillars which underpin it and align it with the other powerful Houses. Houses which govern political, spiritual and economic influence."

"Yeah, well that don't explain why ya woke up screamin' an' rousin' us all from our bunks."

The Shepherd shot Jayne a look of exasperated annoyance. "Jayne!"

Zoe looked as if she was about ready to strangle him. "*Bizui*!"

"*Weishenme*? An' why we havin' this talk without the Cap?" Book tried to silence him but Jayne was on a roll. "An' don't go tellin' me ya doped Mal for his own good 'cause I ain't buyin' it." He shot at Simon, getting some satisfaction from seeing the doctor pale at the accusation. Kaylee squeezed Simon's hand and glared at Jayne. Inara's next words prevented a falling out among the crew.

"You're right Jayne but also wrong. The Captain doesn't need to be here because he already knows."

Zoe's eyes narrowed: she knew it. Could always tell when the Captain was holding out on her. Jayne just looked confused but at least he had fallen silent.

"As I was saying a 'rites of passage' had to be performed once it had been decided by vote that I merited the position of House Mistress. All I had to do was solidify it in the eyes of each House." Now she paused, looking as uncomfortable as she felt. "Hundreds of years ago on Earth-That-Was much of the world was still divided into countries. Many had the sovereignty of their nations established through a monarchy. As time went by that system began to be overtaken by a political structure, only keeping the last of the monarchies in place as figureheads for the elected governments. But there was an old principal that has survived to this day. A method by which countries bound themselves one to the other for their mutual benefit. The royal Houses binding their treaties by marriage. Creating bonds of blood as well as those of politics, commerce and the unifying principal of the church."

Simon looked a bit stunned. "Are you saying..."

"I'm saying that in principal nothing changed."

"But even when Earth-That-Was was used up there weren't any monarchies left." Averred Zoe slowly.

"No, but the idea remained. Was if you like engrained in the human subconscious. They say that Armies win wars but only Ideas that can win the Peace that follows."

"What does ancient history have to do with now?" Asked Wash carefully.

"As the incoming House Mistress I needed to reaffirm my loyalties not just to my House but to the other Houses." It all became horrifically clear to Simon. "Oh my God! You had to...."

"*Qu*. I had to lay with the Head of each of the other Houses."

Jayne's eyes went wide but he looked more in awe than disgusted. That alone made Kaylee feel more a little sick.

Shepherd Book spoke quietly, trying to hold back the images her words conjured up in his mind. "Are you saying you had to sleep with them?"

"Yes. The problem was not the sex but the lack of control of some of the... parties involved."

Looks of horror then outrage flicked from face to face.

"One in particular was particularly aggressive. I resented his *attentions*. Tried to back out of further intimacy but..." She could not go on. Shame and sorrow, anger and humiliation choked the words in her throat.

"*Wode ma*," Said Simon in a hushed pained voice. "He raped you!"

No one spoke. Silence cutting through the murmur of their voices like a guillotine. It was Kaylee who broke the stunned silence. "An' the Cap'n knows?"

Bright transparent tears began to roll down the Companion's cheeks like uncut diamonds. Tears so painful because of the nightmares they carried locked within. She nodded, unable to speak. Neither able or willing to confess that she had not been raped once but many times. Sometimes her aggressor had used implements to drag the cries of pain and anguish from her blood filled throat before following the path forced into her with a hard unyielding body. Yes, the Captain knew, but not everything.

"So that's what the nightmare was?" Said Wash softly.

It was Jayne who put his finger on what was being left unsaid. "Gorrammit 'nara, ya said that was a year or more ago. Why ya havin' the ruttin' nightmares now?"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wo bu dong* = I don't understand *shenme* = what *goushi* = crap/dog shit *bizui* = shut up/be quiet *weishenme* = why *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wode ma* = mother of God

COMMENTS

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 8:58 AM

KAYSKY


Incredible, Ali. Inara's story was so... It's amazing she found the courage to tell the whole crew about it. I am curious to find out the answer to Jayne's question. I can't wait to read more! Well done! =o)

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 10:43 AM

SOULOFSERENITY


Woah, good myth! Poor Inara, having to go through all that. I'm glad she's sailing in the black, then, to get away from all that, but I do want to know the answer to Jayne's question, like KaySky said. More!

- Soul

Thursday, April 7, 2005 4:42 AM

KISPEXI2


Oh good old, dumb old Jayne! Phew. Intense.


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