STOLEN MOMENTS: 16. "Weakness"
Sunday, April 24, 2005

"Inara makes a decision she has been trying to avoid. River wants to help but Simon isn't listening. Kaylee feels her world coming apart as everything begins to unravel."



SUMMARY: "Inara makes a decision she has been trying to avoid. River wants to help but Simon isn't listening. Kaylee feels her world coming apart as everything begins to unravel." 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

* * * * *

Inara couldn't help it. Their brief sojourn on Baltimore a week ago had shaken her badly. The nightmares brought ever more vivid re-enactments and since turning to the Captain for comfort the one thing she had been trying to avoid above all else was upon her. She closed her eyes and blocked out the sounds of the crew settling their valuable but noisy cargo in the hold. It helped to have her shuttle, a place where she could retreat and lock out the well meaning but mostly bumbling interruptions of Serenity's Captain. How naive she had been to think she could remain apart yet share this reckless life they led. Forming ties that would become harder to break the longer she left it yet it was agonising and so very hard. Knowing that once she had done so there would be nothing to embrace but her own self-imposed exile.

Yes, she was still a Companion. What the others did not know was that she could not resume her career while she remained aboard Serenity. Not while the memories that held sway were like a vivid scar that bled and would not heal. Not while the only one that could banish them and give her ease was this ship's Captain. He made her weak, dependent, and she hated him for it. Hated the loss of control, the desire to succumb to his will not her own. If she stayed she would lose her identity, become absorbed into a world that was not and never could be her own. And everything she had suffered and given up to achieve her ambition would have been in vain. To give that much power to one man was as frightening as it was unthinkable. Especially as the little voice of want and need that craved his presence was steadily growing.

Leaving would break her heart but staying would tear her apart both mentally and emotionally. Bind her to another when she must be free. Ironic that the source of her dilemna had spent his whole adult life fighting to uphold that dream of freedom. That erstwhile right that should be the legacy of every man, woman and child. She needed something the Captain and her well meaning friends were powerless to give her. Distance. Time. But before she left there was one last thing she had to do.

* * * * *

Kaylee's eyes were round as saucers, her face alight with such joy and excitement that it was affecting the crew. Zoe couldn't help smiling, her sombre mien melting into a playground of amusement as she watched first Kaylee's reaction then how that in turn had a knock-on effect on the rest of the crew. Simon almost made her laugh out loud, his expression changing from one of horror and distain as he viewed the livestock with a wary eye to one of wonder approaching awe as his attention shifted from the stamping sweaty beasts to the mechanic's happy shining face. In that moment when his eyes held hers the rest of Serenity vanished. The 'verse became invisible along with everything in it. Wash was happy, all smiles and pleasure as he hugged his wife. They had a job, a cargo, coin in the offing and no danger waiting to entrap them the moment they let down their guard. The Captain loved smooth and it didn't get much smoother than this.

The Shepherd stood beside Jayne in relaxed companionship. Not that Jayne would ever admit to enjoying Book's company. So often the important things in life were left unsaid. Friendship being such a tricky thing to a man who counted his guns closer than lovers and the bright shiny ring of coins a-jingling as the measure of a man's worth. Not nothing wrong with being poor so long as it didn't happen to him. Book gave a him a look of query when he saw the frown form on the mercenary's face.

"Wouldn't let me smack 'em." Jayne grumbled in an aggrieved tone of voice.

Book laughed then sealed the cargo bay door. Jayne's head swivelling round as River's voice echoed so close he thought at first it was in his gorram head.

"Inflicting pain for pleasure is a sin."

His eyes went wide almost fearful before he got control of himself and scowled at her. "Didn't hit 'em."

She smiled at him. "No but you wanted to. Want and desire don't have to be the same thing."

Then she was gone. Silent as a wisp on her bare feet, hair trailing out behind her like ribbons of silk in a light breeze. Instead of relaxing Jayne's scowl darkened. Now what in *diyu* did she mean by that?

* * * * *

It was late. Several hours after the last meal of the day and most of the crew had sloped off to their quarters to rest. The Captain lingered. Part of him wanted to go and talk to the Companion but another part was trying to piece together odd impressions and the ghosts of memory that kept haunting him. It was driving him *shenjingbing*. He needed some quiet time to work it out but oddly enough didn't feel inclined to go to his bunk. The size of the room too confining, too much like being in a gorram prison cell for his comfort. Now why the *diyu* did he think that? He had caught a strange expression on Simon Tam's face as the doctor had left the commons with River. Kaylee about to follow until snagged by Inara, the Companion whispering something to his mechanic that had her smiling and going along with her. What it was he had no idea and right now no time to give a mind to it.

Zoe was the last to leave, a nod to Wash prompting him to go on ahead. The Captain resisted the urge to shut his eyes. He did not want this, not now and not from Zoe. Not nobody less likely to let go of a notion once it occurred to her. Her soft lowered tone made him wary. "*Shenme shi*?"

"Who says anythin's *cuode*?"

Her gaze rested on him calmly as if she could see right through the flimsy veil he tried to hide behind. "You." She paused a beat. "You hardly touched your food..." He tried to brush it off. "Never said Jayne could cook."

"Shepherd helped him." She countered, not accepting that excuse. "You been like a bear with a sore head on'y quieter."

"That don't make sense." Mal joked.

"Exactly. You gonna tell me what's wrong or have I gotta beat it outta you?" He almost smiled. Knew she'd do it too if the situation warranted it but they both knew this time it was an idle threat. Zoe was putting him on notice and he got the message loud and clear. "*Fang xin*, just thinkin' is all. You go on an' keep that *zhangfu* of yours happy *dong ma*?"

Her eyes were bright, keen, missing nothing. Nobody knew him better. She eyed him in silence for a moment or two longer knowing he was not going to say anything. "Always do." Zoe said smoothly, cutting him some slack. He almost sighed with relief but didn't dare relax. Wasn't out of the woods yet. "You gonna be alright?"

The Captain nodded. "Shiny. Got a job, still flyin'."

Zoe gave a nod then left. Alone with his thoughts the Captain stared down at the table top and let his mind drift, his thoughts slowly sifting through his mind. Memories sliding in and out of context along with something that had disturbed him in such a casual way that it had left him shaken. When Hatcher had slid the bag of coin across the table to him the man's hand had brushed the back of his and startled a memory. Buried deep until then. He had been in Inara's bed, in her shuttle. Doc had come to check on him, dress his wound. Or so he had thought. Then Simon had put a hand over his, a small unusual gesture that was foreign to the man. Had only lasted a moment but the hand had slid over his and shortly after that he had felt light headed, everything distorting and wavering around him.

Slowing his breathing into regular deep inhalations the Captain deliberately followed the instructions River had been giving him. Said he was a Reader. Told him that practising meditation was the best way to open that channel inside him, let that inner eye see what he was missing. Marry to an instinct that could be honed to razor sharpness. He didn't know the full of it, hadn't had more than a session or two but he had an idea of where she had been going with this. Now. If his suspicions were right this should help him recover the memory of what had happened. The Captain was completely unprepared for what he found.

* * * * *

They were in the infirmary. River had been acquiescent right up until Simon began to prepare the injection, then her head had snapped up and her eyes come to rest on his. Suddenly totally cognisant. He froze, the needle momentarily forgotten. Eyes fastened on his sister's face, the clear focused look in her eyes like an answer to a prayer. River did not waste words. "He knows."

Baffled Simon stared at her wondering what the good gorram she was talking about. "*Shei*?"

"The Captain. Mal."

Simon blinked.

"He knows what you did to him, Simon."

Simon's jaw dropped. "But, he can't..."

Her voice went quieter, stunned as if she was learning the truth for herself as she spoke the words. "You drugged him." Her eyes widened as she looked at him in alarm. "To question him." Simon opened and closed his mouth but nothing came out. "Why Simon?"

"I had to keep you safe."

The words sounded so pathetic now. So weak. Lame. What in the nine hells had he been thinking? He was a doctor not a member of the Inquisition. First the Shepherd had wrung a confession out of him now his sister. Would it never end?


"Yes, *mei mei*?"

"You hurt him." She whispered.

"I... I didn't mean to."

For several moments neither spoke then Simon remembered where they were and the needle in his hand. He took a step towards River but she shook her head slowly, one hand raised in a stalling gesture. "No more drugs, Simon."

Although he did not reply she saw the defeat in his eyes.

* * * * *

Kaylee was crying. She couldn't help it, Inara was her friend. "You can't leave!"

"I have to, *mei mei*."

"Is it because of what happened to you?"

It was easy to nod and let Kaylee think that was the whole of it. But Kaylee wasn't done yet.

"It'll be okay 'nara," She said gently, sliding nearer to her friend and wanting to comfort and reassure her. "Simon'll fix ya up."

Inara felt true regret as she shook her head. Really. She had not meant to hurt anyone but that hurt was nothing compared to the pain she would inflict if she gave in to her weakness and stayed. "No, Kaylee, I have to go."

Tears brimmed in Kaylee's eyes. "But ya'll be back? I mean, this ain't permanent, *dui*?"

The Companion could not form words around the lump in her throat. How could she return? Her only solution was to go, leave, to never come back. To no more look into the fathomless depths of those dark haunting eyes that could devour her very soul. To leave the addictive magnetic presence that drew her into the Captain's orbit as surely as gravity. She needed to rediscover who she was, reconnect with everything that made her Inara Serra. Getting lost in an all consuming passion was not the answer though something deep inside her admitted it might be the cure. Inara wasn't there yet and all she could see were the side affects, the pieces of her self control that would be whittled away. The passion would trap her, render her powerless in a way that not even being raped over and over again had done. Because if she gave into this she would never escape from it. Never be free.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *shenjingbing* = crazy *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *cuode* = wrong *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *zhangfu* = husband *dong ma* = understand *shei* = who? *dui* = correct *mei mei* = little sister


Monday, April 25, 2005 5:06 AM


Another great installment. I really hope someone will change Inara's mind about her wanting to leave. Maybe a certain captain can handle the task.

I can't wait to read more! Keep up the good work!

Monday, April 25, 2005 5:58 AM


A convincing job of explaining why Inara must leave. I suspect you'll present a loophole anon. As always, the Mal-River dynamic is fascinating.

Monday, April 25, 2005 8:26 AM


I agree with artships. Totally convincing on Inara - although I'm still not quite sure about the root of her nightmares. I expect you'll sort out my confusion eventually ... you usually do.

And Yay! Seeing Captain next weekend! and Wash and the girls.

Monday, April 25, 2005 8:28 AM


Beautiful as always, I can't wait to see how this develops.


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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.

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Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

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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.