STOLEN MOMENTS: 11. "Healing"
Thursday, April 7, 2005

"River tries to help the Captain. Inara informs the crew that she is leaving. Zoe convinces her to wait until Mal is awake."



SUMMARY: "River tries to help the Captain. Inara informs the crew that she is leaving. Zoe convinces her to wait until Mal is awake." 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

* * * * *

"River!" He begged. Wanting, needing her to stop. The subtle invasion was creepy in the extreme, so much so that he couldn't tell whether he was asleep or awake nor even if he spoke aloud or in his mind. So. This was what it felt like to be totally insane.

"*Wo zhidao*. Each word carries an image, each image more pained than the last." She sang softly. Her words made him feel dizzy but he couldn't let go. "I have seen all your campaigns, Sergeant. Witnessed every sorrow in the mirror of your eyes."

Mal shuddered, eyes closed but seeing more than he could properly take in. "Shouldn't look. Don't need my darkness touchin' you, *dong ma*?"

Her voice was so gentle as if afraid her words might cause him injury if spoken aloud. That was when he realised for sure that she inside his head. Either that or he was in hers. *I'm stronger than you think*. She paused and he felt something touch him inside, fold away the spike of alarm that worried about her. *Don't be afraid. When you can no longer crawl I will carry you*.

Then it was as if he was breaking. A small piece of him all that was left of the fragmenting shards of his soul. River emerging from the waves, a smiling impossible angel, her hands rising from the shining waters and cupping the pieces he had thought were lost. Wonder caught him unawares and cut him deep. Conflicting images which dazzled him so that the understanding escaped him. Was any of it real? Her smile became softer, the light dimming as if the 'verse was falling into Shadow or he was going blind. In his head her words left glittering footprints that glowed yet left him no wiser.

*Let me carry you.* Her thoughts whispered.

It made no sense. How could she know?

*This is still a war*

*No, war's over* His mind mumbled, trying to get past the pain. Trying to remember just why the good gorram it hurt so much. Not wanting his pain to touch her.

*You've done your duty soldier."

The words filled him with emotion. Trapping him. Tying him to an outcome he could not guarantee. Why did they all have to die? Where were his angels when they needed them? 'Lord, Lord, oh why hast thou forsaken me?' The glimmer of silver fell from his hands. His fingers wouldn't work and his faith was gone. Broken. Lost. Abandoned. He was not aware of River leaning forward on the cold chair, a hand drying the tears running down his face. Her look one of sympathy and understanding. Not calling for Simon because his only recourse would be to give the Captain even more drugs and she knew that the last thing he needed in his veins was a poison however benign. She was the proof of that. The guinea pig who sang.

* * * * *

Morning came cold. Inara's words heightening the chill in another way. "I'm leaving."

Kaylee's eyes widened, shocked and upset. Simon was nonplussed, Jayne annoyed thinking she should just pull herself together. Shepherd Book frowned. They were on the walkway, drawn by Inara's heavier than normal clambering on the metal staircase. The fact that it was still early had drawn them to see who was up and about so early. Zoe came to see what was going on. Before she could ask Jayne filled her in. "'Nara's leavin'."

Her eyes went wide then narrowed with suspicion. Wash came up behind her, curious and hoping frantically that nothing else had gone wrong. "What do you mean you're leavin'?"

She shrugged. "Time to go. Move on."

Shepherd Book took a step towards her and for a moment it actually looked like she might retreat. He froze, she held her ground. "Inara, what is going on?"

"I just think it's time I moved on."

"Has this got anythin' to do with the nightmares?" Asked Zoe.

A flicker of something swept across her face, so quickly it defied identification. "It's just time."

"If you're in pain I could give you something." Simon suggested tentatively.

Inara shook her head. "*Bu qu*, thank you."

"If you're determined to go," Said Zoe slowly, trying to sound reasonable while watching her like a hawk, "at least wait until the Cap'n's awake."

There. That flicker. She caught it this time. Inara was afraid. Not of leaving but of the Captain. Zoe frowned and wondered what in the nine hells had happened between them.

"We'll be landing on Levington in another nine hours." Said Wash. "There's not much there Inara so you might wanna wait until our return trip to Persephone."

For a moment no one spoke then Inara nodded. "A good idea. It'll give me time to get my things together."

Everybody was trying to be so reasonable and tactful, Kaylee couldn't understand it. Inara was leaving, why wasn't nobody shouting and a hollering? "Why're goin' 'nara? Did we do somethin' wrong?"

Inara reacted to the small sound of hurt in the mechanic's voice, stepped close and drew Kaylee into a hug. It was the first spontaneous act of affection she had shown since the nightmares had started. "No, *mei mei*, don't ever think that."

"Then why you goin'?" Kaylee's muffled voice came from the folds of her robe.

Inara brushed Kaylee's hair from her eyes, the touch soothing them both. "Nobody can stay in one place forever."

Kaylee pulled out of the embrace to look up at her. "We ain't in one place, 'nara. You know Serenity is always on the move." "Yeah," Said Jayne, genuinely confused. "What ya runnin' from?"

"Who says I'm running from anything?"

"I ain't no ruttin' companion but you got it good here. 'Till them gorram nightmares started you thought so too."

"I don't think you're helping, Jayne." Said the Shepherd slowly.

A stumbling sound made everybody turn to look behind them. Simon's mouth dropped open at the sight of Serenity's Captain making his slow and painful way towards them. Zoe shot a look at Inara's face and saw all the blood drain out of it. Well that answered that. It was definitely something to do with the Captain, but what? Shepherd Book was nearest and quickly put a hand out to steady the Captain. He was not breathing too well but it was good to see the man on his feet even though common sense dictated he should be flat on his back. Mal made no attempt at small talk. Unnoticed, River made her way over to where Wash was standing and watched.

"Now Captain, while it's good to see you up you should be resting." Said Book.

The Captain ignored him, his eyes fastened on Inara. "Goin' to sneak out were you?"

Everybody held their breath. "Mal, it's not like that."

He took a few breaths to steady himself and began to step towards her. Book helped him though he could see the Captain was a hair's breadth from telling him to back off. Man was as *wangu* as *diyu* when it came to doing what was best for himself. "Then what is it like? I know why you're goin', what you're runnin' from but it won't ever end there an' you know it."

Tears glimmered in her eyes. Kaylee was about to berate the Captain for being insensitive then froze. Something in his face making her look more closely at the two of them. It was as if no one else was on the boat but them. How could she have been so rutting blind?

"Mal, I can't..."

The Captain shook free of the Shepherd's helping hand and edged along the walkway, Jayne moving aside and watching cautiously. Not sure what was happening but hoping it would be entertaining. The Captain didn't speak again until he was only a foot or two from where she was standing. Inara could have stepped back, retreated to her shuttle had she really wanted to, but she seemed transfixed by the Captain's determination to reach her. "'Nara, you don't owe me no apology."

Zoe's eyebrows raised in surprise. What did Inara have to apologise to the Captain for? She had been assuming it would be the other way around. It was not as if Malcolm Reynolds was the most tactful man in the 'verse. Hell, she knew he wasn't.

"Yes, I do. I shouldn't have done what I did."

"You couldn't help it."

"You were injured."

Impossibly he chuckled. An oddly warm sound. "An' you were just too gorram stubborn."

She affected a look of shock. "Me, stubborn? Malcolm Reynolds if that isn't a case of the kettle calling the pot black I don't know what is."


She froze. He took the last step separating them and stared defiantly into her eyes.

"You heard. Stay."


"You don't owe Sihnon nothin'." He said softly.

She blinked, moisture pooling in her eyes. "I wasn't goin' back to Sihnon, Mal."

"Not nowhere in the 'verse far enough away to escape the past, Inara. At least here you got folks care about you. A place to call your own an' as much independence as you can stand."

That brought the ghost of a smile to her lips. A replay of the conversation they had shared when she first came to view the shuttle looping over and over in her head until the smile deepened taking the tension with it. "A place of my own?"

He nodded then put a hand on the rail to steady himself. Inara noticed that everyone was looking at them and flushed slightly. The Captain smiled but kept his eyes on her. "They do say that once you been in Serenity you never leave."

She found herself smiling back. Inara sighed softly. The Captain straightened with a bit of an effort and crooked his arm. "Care to accompany me for some breakfast, Miss Serra?"

Then to everyone's surprise and amusement Inara linked her arm in his and they began to slowly walk towards the commons area. Mal paused and looked at his crew. "I ain't payin' you to hang around doin' nothin'. Wash, how long 'til we make Levington?"

Wash couldn't keep the grin off his face. "Just over eight hours, Cap'n."

"How's the engines runnin' Kaylee?"

"Sweet, Cap'n."

Simon took a step towards the Captain but Book gave a gentle shake of his head. Then they were following in the wake of their Captain and the Companion. As Jayne brought up the rear they could easily hear the mercenary grumble. "Huh, wish the ruttin' woman would make up her gorram mind."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wo zhidao* = I know *dong ma* = understand *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *mei mei* = little sister *wangu* = stubborn *diyu* = hell


Thursday, April 7, 2005 4:49 AM


Yet again, I love your Jayne. One of these days, you're going to have to write us a Jayne-centred fic, Ali.

That chapter ended almost happily. Which, I suspect, is A Bad Thing. I can practically hear the torture devices being prepared ... *wink*

Friday, April 8, 2005 10:26 AM


Aww...Ali, this chapter ended so sweetly. It left me with a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Great job!


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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.