STOLEN MOMENTS: 13. "Articulation"
Saturday, April 9, 2005

"Mal gets more confused when he wakes up than he was before he went to sleep. Simon picks his moment not realising what he is getting into."



SUMMARY: "Mal gets more confused when he wakes up than he was before he went to sleep. Simon picks his moment not realising what he is getting into." 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

* * * * *

He woke feeling a deep wash of contentment. More rested than he could remember since the War. The first thing to impinge on his drowsy consciousness was his surroundings. In particular the luxury of the big comfortable double bed and silk sheets. Realisation snapped his eyes open only to find he was alone. Where was she? Had it been nothing but a gorram dream? If so, what the *diyu* was he doing lying in her bed? And naked? As his mind whirred with questions the shuttle door opened and Inara stepped in, closing the door softly behind her before turning to face him. A smile softened plush lips, her eyes seeming to mock the confusion of feelings jockeying for position on his face.

"Did we...?"

Amused she folded away the smile but left the echo dancing in her eyes. "No."

More confusion. "We didn't...?"

"You needed to rest."

"You kissed me."


"All over."

There. Definite mocking now, he was sure of it. She did not answer this time.

"An' the hands..."

"You were tired, I needed to relax you." His eyebrows shot up. "That what they call it now?"

"Mal, you were still on edge."

"Gettin' shot'll do that to a man." He grumbled. "Not that I suggest you try that." He added quickly. "Besides, I thought I was plenty relaxed."

"You were," She whispered warmly, moving closer. Seeming to flow if the Captain was any judge. Then she paused beside the bed, sat on it and gazed down at him. He could not have looked away had his life depended on it. "But not enough." She said softly.

His throat tightened with her nearness. All manner of grateful that he was covered up but wishing she wasn't. "That so?"

By way of answer she leaned in and gently brushed her lips against his. He thought his gorram heart would stop. "W..what was that?"

"A kiss."

"I ruttin' know it was a kiss." He grumbled in irritation before forcing himself to calm down again. "Just, what was it for?"

"Does there have to be a reason?"

He could think of all manner of reasons but was reluctant to say a single one. Not wanting to ruin the intoxicating truce that lay between them with all the comfort and warmth of an umbical chord. "How long I been... sleepin'.?"

"Four hours, give or take a snore or two."

"I don't snore!"

She got up and he wished he had the words to bring her back but that would have just been plain awkward. Then he remembered the job. Levington. Horses. Gorrammit, his head really was full of cotton wool but at least he was not currently in pain and he couldn't bring himself to regret that. This amazing and confusing woman being more than a mite responsible in his estimation. "What happened to my clothes?"

"You don't have to get up yet, Mal. There are still another three or four hours before we get there."

"Got Captainy things to do." He muttered, not able to voice his heartfelt wish that he could remain there. Only thing that would make it better would be if she stayed with him, and not in a passive capacity. The Captain felt all kinds of irked that according to Inara nothing had happened. Sure hadn't felt like nothing to him.

"Of course, how could I forget?" Said Inara drily as she moved to the side of the shuttle and returned moments later with his clothes. Her words bringing him back on track. "Everyone knows the 'verse would collapse if you weren't there to prod it along in the right direction." The Captain frowned at her, not angry just feeling a mite testy at being the subject of her ridicule even if it were heavily disguised as wit. Just then there was a knock at the door, the Captain froze and made no attempt to get out of bed and dress. Wanting to know who the good gorram it could be. Inara opened the door and Mal was surprised to see Simon hovering in the doorway to the shuttle. He had his medical case with him. "Sorry to disturb you Inara but I was looking for the Captain."

To Mal's chagrin Inara smiled at Simon and stood to one side. "Come in, he's awake."

The Companion ignored the brief look of speculation in the doctor's eyes. Then he was walking over to the bed, all business, his attention firmly fixed on the Captain. "I came to see how you were."

"*Hen hao, xie xie*, doc. Just had four hours uninterrupted sleep." If he stressed the uninterrupted slightly no one commented on it. The Captain frowned as Simon opened his medkit.

"What you doin'? You know we're due to land on Levington, *dui*, an' I got a contact to meet?"

"Relax Captain, I just need to do a few tests. Check your wound."

Inara excused herself and was gone before Mal could think of a good reason to ask her to stay. He bit back a sigh and decided the quicker he let the doc do his stuff the sooner he could get himself up and dressed. Simon paused and looked over his shoulder towards the door. The Captain frowned, thinking he had heard something. "*Shenme shi*?"

Simon shook his head and put his professional face on. "*Yiwusuoyou. Gandao tentong ma*?"

The Captain shook his head. "*Bu qu*, feelin' pretty good."

"Mm, let me be the judge of that."

Mal frowned at him but Simon was already peeling the covers back.

"*Wei*, what you doin'?"

Simon paused and sighed in a slow theatrical way as if the Captain was especially dim witted and needed words of one syllable to understand the basics. "I need to check the wound, Captain."

"Oh." He paused a beat not able to find fault with that. "Alright then."

Without any further comment the covers were pulled back and Simon did his exam, gently prodding round the edges of the wound and making sure there was no sign of infection. Mal gritted his teeth and let him get on with it. Simon made a sound that might have been approval then changed the dressing. Just as the Captain thought he was going to escape any further prodding or probing Simon placed his right hand on the back of the Captain's left hand. It was an odd gesture and when the doctor did not immediately let go the Captain frowned at him. "Doc?"

Simon let go, his palm sliding over the back of the Captain's hand in brief contact then he was brusque and business like, pulling the covers back over Mal and giving him instructions on what to do and what not to do. The Captain was starting to feel ansty again, he really hated folk fussing over him and thought the doctor was beyond that kind of foolishness. But as Simon carried on talking he began to feel sleepy. His eyelids getting heavy, Simon's words slurring into each other. Yet he didn't so much fall asleep as lose touch with reality. It was the oddest feeling. He closed his eyes and just lay there, all aware of everything the doctor was saying to him but unable to care one way or another. He felt Simon open his eyes and peer at him, his pupils dilated, his senses sharp but remote. The good thing was that as Simon checked him more thoroughly he felt nothing, just the vague touch of his hand ending with a prick on the back of his hand. The same hand Simon had touched just a moment ago. He was unaware that Simon had slid a transparent patch on the back of his hand. The patch had a single measured dose in it and was designed to disolve on contact with the skin.

For several moments Simon's words made no impact on him, like a background noise you ignore after a while. Then Simon pulled a chair close and leaned towards him until their faces were only inches apart. Something about it struck the Captain as having a wrongness to it but he couldn't fathom out what. "Captain. Mal. Can you hear me?"

Why the good gorram would he ask a fool question like that? The Captain frowned and managed to push a single word past unfeeling lips. "Yeah."

"Good. I want you to listen carefully to what I am about to say to you, can you do that?"


"I've been noticing you and River seem to be getting on very well lately."

Mal just stared at him.

"What is going on with you and my sister?"

He tried to blink but his motor functions did not seem connected to his brain. "Huh?"

"Captain, what are you doing with my sister?"


"I've seen the looks between you, as if you have some kind of secret. Think, now tell me what that is all about."

It took a few moments for the Captain to realise what he meant or at least what he thought he meant. "River's a Reader." He slurred.

Simon winced but the Captain missed it. Taking every effort to form the words that would answer the question. He could no more have ignored Simon than walked on water. Right now walking on water would have seemed the easier option. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Thinks I'm one." He murmured, the words heavy and cumbersome things to articulate.

For a moment Simon was sure the Captain was making fun of him. He couldn't mean...? "Are you saying you can read minds, Captain?"

His tongue felt thick and swollen in his mouth. Dizzyness was crowding the back of his senses but everything played second fiddle to the need to answer whatever question was put to him. "No, but River thinks I can."

Simon rubbed a hand over his face. He didn't have long and did not dare to try to move the Captain and interrogate him in the infirmary. He did not want Inara or anyone else getting suspicious. "Why does she think that?"

"Huh, thinks 'cause I told her she was a gorram Reader that I must be one. Said 'takes one to know one'."

"You're not making any sense. Why would she think that?"

"Says I'm natural but untrained." Simon had to lean closer to hear the words now, the Captain kept fading in and out as if on the verge of drifting off and he couldn't have that. Opening his right hand he lightly slapped the side of the Captain's face, watching the eyes flutter open again. He was not trying to hurt the man just keep him conscious and fixed on the questions he put to him.

"What are you talking about?"

"Reader." Oddly enough the Captain chuckled, a funny slurring sound of half choking humour that Simon found more creepifying than funny. "Says she's gonna teach me."

Alarm shot through Simon. "*Shenme*?"

"Think she might be more damaged than I thought." The Captain mumbled. He actually sounded sad, regretful, but Simon ignored that. It was probably the drugs.

"What are you planning to do with me and my sister?"

The Captain just stared at him, his eyes wide and losing focus. Simon was feeling a mite panicky. He had not thought he had given him that much.

"Captain! What are you planning to do with River and Simon Tam?"

Using their names seemed to penetrate the fog. The Captain frowned and looked confused and a bit disorientated. "Do? Not gonna do nothin'. Gotta keep 'em safe, 'specially the girl." "Why the girl? Why River?"

To Simon's surprise the Captain looked upset. "Just a child. Innocent. So gorram young. Gotta save her."

His voice was trailing off. Knowing he was running out of time Simon shook him, hard. "What do you mean you have to save River? Did someone tell you to look out for River? Who is paying you?"

It was all too confusing for the Captain now. He blinked and stared up at Simon. "No one told me. She's a child, have to protect the children." His eyes closed, he was fading fast.

Frantically Simon shook him again. The Captain briefly roused, eyes opening and widening as if he was fighting to bring his vision in focus but losing the battle. "What about me?" At the Captain's blank look he tried again. "What about Simon Tam?"

"Simon? A boy, brave but don't have a clue about survivin' in the Black."

"Do you have to save him too?" Asked Simon quietly, hardly daring to hear the reply.

For a moment he almost fancied the Captain was becoming lucid. "Simon?"

He nodded.

"Have to save him too."

"Why?" Simon whispered.

"Huh? For River."

"What do you mean you have to save Simon for River?"

"They're brother an' sister. She needs him to fix her, he needs her to make life make sense."

Simon blinked, where had that come from? But the Captain was still talking, mumbling and rambling.

"Too many dead, not gonna see no more innocents die." His eyes closed again. "War's over." He slurred. "Just gotta try an' win the peace..."

The Captain was out cold. Simon sat back and stared at him, stunned. There was no way the Captain could have fought the drug. Its' main property was similar to that of sodium pethenol - truth serum - but this designer drug was even stronger. A small speck of the drug in the bloodstream and the subject would tell you any gorram thing you wanted to know. A couple of specks and the mind itself would begin to unravel. With a numb sense of shock Simon realised the Captain never had any intention of handing him or his sister over to anyone, Alliance or otherwise. He felt a prick of shame for doubting the man but also relief so profound he forgave himself for taking such liberties. Now he just had to make sure the Captain didn't remember any of their conversation before anyone came barging in to see what was going on.

* * * * *

Kaylee and River were playing jacks in the cargo bay. Teasing each other and just enjoying being friends. River took her turn but as the ball was thrown up in the air it was as if her mind got distracted. Her eyes widened in sadness and sorrow.

"Oh, Simon!" She murmured.

Alarmed Kaylee reached for her friend. "River, what is it? What's wrong?"

River looked at her, aware that she was in the cargo bay with Kaylee but also seeing Simon with the Captain. Watching the inside of the Captain's head as overcome by the pathology of the drug he slipped into the deep cold black of enforced sleep. Simon's face filled her mind, sorry and guilty. River put a hand over her mouth, knowing what her brother had done.

"River? Sweetie? C'mon you're beginnin' to scare me."

Then realising that like a player on a stage the show must go on, River gave Kaylee a blinding smile and swooped up jacks and ball. "Fooled you! I get another throw."

Relieved Kaylee laughed then began a tussle for the jacks and ball. River let the struggle go on for a few moments, letting her mind reach out to the Captain but it was like touching something that no longer connected. Not with her, not with Simon, not with the 'verse. Why couldn't Simon trust her and learn to believe? Daddy was sleeping now but he wasn't at peace. Unbeknownst to Simon he had plunged the Captain into nightmares more vivid than the worst ones of the War. The drug heightening everything and leaving him with no protection.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *hen hao* = very good *xie xie* = thanks *dui* = correct *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *bu qu* no (lit. no go) *gandao tentong ma*? = do you feel any pain? *wei* = hey *shenme* = what


Saturday, April 9, 2005 5:34 PM


Wowwy. Yep, better than a wow, it's a wowwy. I loved this chapter. You had a very cute Mal/Inara interaction at the begining. And than of course, the Simon/Mal interaction earned you the wowwy. It was so... I don't know how to describe what it was to give it justice. It was just great. And I'm left with wondering if Mal really will remember their conversation. Once again Ali you have acheived pure excellence!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 4:24 AM


Shiny!! It figures that Simon would be getting tetchy about River's relationships with the crew. "Shush...don't make faces!"

Keep Flyin'


Tuesday, April 12, 2005 2:51 PM


Ok so not that I'm one to demand speed in posting, since I go for months at a time without writing. That having been said, I need part 14 quickly. This series was instantly addictive. Like smack quality addictive and I need a fix soon.


P.s. Since I have failed to write in before. Please allow me to acknowledge the obvious. This is a brilliantly written series.

Thursday, April 21, 2005 9:35 AM


Naughty, inventive Simon.

Reader-y Mal.

Or deeply intuitive?

Nice. As usual.


You must log in to post comments.



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.