STOLEN MOMENTS: 12. "Manipulation"
Thursday, April 7, 2005

"Simon knows something is happening but not what. Mal and Inara get closer while Shepherd Book is content to bide his time."



SUMMARY: "Simon knows something is happening but not what. Mal and Inara get closer while Shepherd Book is content to bide his time." 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

* * * * *

Simon could not explain it even to himself. For the third time in as many minutes he noticed his sister and the Captain exchanging a brief meaningful look across the breakfast table. Nothing long and lingering, just quick almost furtive. As if they were engaging in some non verbal communication that he would never be privy to. That in itself alarmed him more than he could put into words. He took to watching more closely hoping to pick up clues. Noticed River would glance at the Captain a certain way and when she did, no matter what he was doing, who he was talking to, the man would cast a look her way and their eyes would meet for the briefest moment. It made his skin crawl, a deep gutteral fear building inside him that he could not explain. Book noticed the young man was tense but said nothing.

When the meal was over the crew broke up but Simon lingered, wanting to have a word with his sister but thwarted by Kaylee grabbing the girl's hand and tugging her. The loud clatter as they darted out of the commons area left a dull echo inside him. With a start he realised only he and Book were left. Before he could excuse himself and follow the Shepherd spoke. "Couldn't help noticin' you seem a mite jumpy."

"Um, yes, no. I mean..."

"Something on your mind? It often helps to talk about it."

The Shepherd's tone was calm and soothing, already helping to ease the panic in the doctor's chest. Book noticed he was still staring after the Captain, the man being last to leave as he was still moving a mite slow. "I can't help it." Simon muttered as if to himself. "He always brings out the worst in me." "No, he doesn't."

The unexpected contradiction caused Simon to look at the Shepherd, all too aware that he must have spoken out loud. Maybe Book hadn't meant what he thought he had. "*Shenme*?"

"Fear does."

There was a little awkward silence. Simon digested Book's words. "You think I'm afraid of the Captain?"

The Shepherd shook his head slowly. "No. I think you're afraid of what he might do."

There was another pause, this one more painful than the last. Simon looked down at the deck beneath his feet for a moment. Taking the weight of the entire 'verse on his shoulders. "I have to protect River." He raised his head and looked at the Shepherd, his expression hardening. "Nothing else matters."

* * * * *

Inara was laughing. Mal did not think he would ever tire of the sound. It was just a gorram pity his body kept flagging. Wash came down the stairs coming the other way, he wanted to get back to the bridge. Deciding the stairs down to the cargo hold was just a little more exercise than he was up to right now the Captain leaned on the walkway railing. Wash paused and tried not to look concerned. "You're injured."

The Captain could not quite hide his irritation though he tried. It had been a shiny few hours and he didn't want anything to knock the shine off it. "*Shenme*? You think I got shot on purpose?"

Wash stared at him for a moment, the look on his face asking if it was a multiple choice question. "No?"

Mal glared at him. Ooops. Wrong answer. Before the Captain could think of anything suitably ascerbic to retort Inara touched his arm and he turned to look at her. Wash chose that moment to disappear to the safety of his own turf. "Yeah?"

"I was about to have some tea, would you like to join me?"

He paused, still irritated at Wash but looking into those dark velvet eyes made every other thought seep out of his mind as if it had sprung a leak. "*Qu*, that would be shiny."

Smiling at him Inara effortlessly steered him to her shuttle. On the bridge Wash gave a sigh of relief as he dropped into his chair. His relief turning positively giddy when his wife joined him.

* * * * *

Simon stared at the Shepherd. "I can't help it, I just don't trust him." Seeing the look on the Preacher's face he rushed to try to qualify his reservations. "I try, I mean, I'd like to throw all caution to the wind and put my faith in him but something keeps holding me back."

"Simon, the Captain has saved your life and River's more than a dozen times."

"*Wo zhidao* and don't think I'm not grateful, I am, and that's part of what confuses me."

Book frowned. "*Wo bu dong*."

"It was something Jayne said." Book raised his eyebrows at that but made no comment. "It was when the Captain and crew were planning to rob that train. I didn't know the crew dynamics or my place on the ship and was just hanging around the cargo bay trying to get my bearings. Kaylee was checking a hoist and the trap doors when Jayne said the Captain had a move he hadn't made yet." He looked intently at the Shepherd. "He was talking about me and River."

"You shouldn't take too much notice of what Jayne says."

"I told myself that, then and several times since but what if he's right? What if the Captain has an agenda for us?"

"Simon, the Captain isn't going to give you up to the Alliance. You might recall he fought on the other side of that conflict." Simon nodded, aware that his own loyalties until recently had been firmly in the Alliance camp. He still found it hard not to look at the Captain's independent clothing and think of him as the enemy. Oddly enough he didn't have the same inclination when it came to Zoe though he was wary of her. She did after all back the Captain up on every idiotic caper the man came up with. That kind of loyalty was either inbred or the height of blind stupidity and Zoe wasn't stupid.

"What is it you think the Captain is going to do?" Asked Book curiously.

The doctor shrugged. "*Wo bu zhidao*. But he intended to find out.

* * * * *

Jayne couldn't wait to get to Levington. Seeing the Captain and Inara mooning around each other just made him testy and reminded him it had been a long time since he had been with a woman. Made him downright horny just thinking about it and when he got like that he was as ornery as *diyu*. Deciding the next best thing was to clean his guns he hurried off to his bunk hoping he could convince the Captain to let them stop the night when they reached Levington. Just needed enough time to get him some tasty to calm his pecker. Either that or let him get cruel and mean. Killing folks always helped. Wasn't nothing worse than a man with an itch he couldn't scratch.

* * * * *

He was tired and making a poor job of hiding it. Inara watched the dark shadows under his eyes and the way he favoured his left side as he sat. Wished he would own up to needing to rest so his body could have the time to heal. But Serenity's Captain was nothing if not stubborn. Even tired and in pain Malcolm Reynolds was aware of her eyes on him. "*Shenme shi*?"

Inara finished pouring the tea and settled a cup next to his hand on the dresser. "You're tired."

"You go to whore academy to learn that?"

Her lips flattened but she did not rise to the bait. He was immediately sorry but just couldn't seem to stop himself being ansty. Had been shot more times than he could count so what made this time any different? She tried another tack. "You should be in bed."

His eyes sparked, just a little, enough to show the stir of dark amusement. "You offerin' to bed me?"

"To sleep, Mal."

"You wanna sleep with me now? I should get myself shot more often."

"*Qing*, don't."

He was visibly wearing down, she could see it. Knew he wouldn't be able to make the walk to the infirmary. Hadn't even touched his tea. "Come on, let's get you lying down."

He muttered and grumbled but was a lot easier to manipulate than she would have thought. Hiding a frown of concern Inara coaxed him to the bed and sat him down. He stared at her, dark pupils so large they seemed to swallow up the whole gorram room. She touched his cheek, he felt hot.

"You have a temperature."

"Don't fuss, Inara, just a mite warm is all."

It took a few minutes before he realised she was undressing him, her quick nimble fingers making short work of the buttons on his shirt. He frowned. What the good gorram had happened to his rutting suspenders? Seeing his expression Inara could not quite surpress a smile. He frowned.

"What you laughin' at? You got a joke I could use one right now."

It was the closest he came to admitting he was hurting. Inara felt a rush of tenderness and brushed light fingers down the side of his face. The Captain closed his eyes and angled his cheek towards her fleeting palm. Smiling she brought her warm lips to his. Startled eyes sprang open and for a moment they were transfixed the one on the other. "Come on, Mal." She said softly, easing him to his feet and stripping him down while he gently swayed.

"I ain't weak." He mumbled.

Inara was kneeling, undoing his boots and gently tugging his trousers off a leg at a time. One hand keeping him mostly upright. His eyes were half closed now. Inara looked up at him through her lashes and before he could protest began to kiss his left leg from the ankle to his hip, careful of the wound on his side, her lips oh so gentle and her hands all kinds of distracting as she moved to do the same to his right leg. He tried to bite back a groan.

"What you doin' to me, woman?"

The Companion didn't answer. Gently guiding him with feather light touches and barely there caresses until he was by the head of the bed then pausing to throw back the covers and ease him on to the bed. With the weight off his feet he roused, eyes widening as he watched her remove her robe, her smile warm and heating his skin with a deep flush. Inara hushed him with her quiet words, gentle hands and warm lips. Moaning into her mouth he was sure he had died and gone to Shou Shan. Not that he believed in any such thing but with Inara doing what she was doing to him he was too gorram close to argue.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme* = what *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *wo zhidao* = I know *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *diyu* = hell *qing* = please *shenme shi* = what's the matter? Shou Shan = the Taoist Paradise


Friday, April 8, 2005 10:33 AM


Wow, that was incredible Ali. It left me with yet another warm fuzzy feeling as Inara took care of the good old captain. I can't wait to read about Simon's confrontation with Mal. That should definitely be interesting. Very well done!! =o)

Friday, April 8, 2005 2:54 PM


OK--you're freaking me out, Ali! I glance away for a minute and when I look back one novel is finished and twelve chapters of a new one are up. Good heavens but you do write fast!

And well. Lots of lovely moments, scenes, and characterizations in this one. The River/Mal thing is very intriguing.

Thursday, April 21, 2005 9:25 AM


Argh - have been away too long. Much to catch up on.

I'm enjoying the tension between Mal and Simon (no surprise there!) and the Mal/Inara scenes are very beautiful.

Jayne - horny = ornery. Yep, that sounds about right!


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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.