STOLEN MOMENTS: 18. "Respite"
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

"Having made her decision Inara needs to find a way to live with it. Mal, Zoe and Jayne deliver the horses."



SUMMARY: "Having made her decision Inara needs to find a way to live with it. Mal, Zoe and Jayne deliver the horses." 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

* * * * *

All the way from Eavesdown Docks to the Guild House Inara and the two Companions kept up a light meaningless babble of polite enquiry and small talk. Inara was glad, not sure she could have stood any kind of in depth discussion as to why she was leaving the life she had chosen for the one she had fled. True, she was not returning to House Madrassa but the significance was not lost on any of them. At least she was saved that trauma for now but she knew the respite would be all too brief. The House Mistress, Alena, would want nothing but the truth. How much or how little she should divulge was the crux of her dilemna. Sufficient to satisfy the head of the household but not enough to leave her vulnerable to the emotions currently wrecking devastation upon her psyche. Being a Companion meant she was an expert at reading people both through the verbal and non verbal signs that gave away a person's deepest thoughts and fears. But now she would be back among others of her kind, a place of unique danger to her fragile heart. A place where hiding would be as forlorn as lying. So she would give to all a grain of truth and hope to save herself the ignominy of complete revelation. For she had broken the Cardinal Rule.

It was something of a shock to stop walking. Her head lifting in surprise at the entrance to the House. Servitors came out to relieve the Shepherd of Inara's possessions. Inara found it harder than she would have expected to say goodbye to him. The irony of a Shepherd accompanying a Companion to her Guild House was not lost on her but she did not find it amusing. Rather it set another ache in a heart already bruised with inward relevation.

"*Xie xie ni*, Shepherd. I appreciate you bringing my things."

Shepherd Book smiled kindly at her but his eyes were sad. "It was the least I could do for a friend."

Her eyes blinked but she held her emotions in check. Took a moment before allowing a warm smile to grace her beautiful lips. Dark eyes drinking him in as if this was the last oasis before entering a desert. He wished he could reassure her. Tell her that fear was the enemy not them but she was already saying goodbye and he was too much the gentleman to take that composure away from her. "*Zai-jian* Inara. Come back and see us some time."

Inara nodded and placed a chaste kiss upon his cheek. "Look after them."

His eyes twinkled and he managed a smile for her. A last gift. "I will."

Then the Shepherd remounted the mule and without looking back drove off back towards the docks. Inara watched him go for a moment, her sisters content to wait until she was ready. By the time she turned to face them she was smiling, her manner serene and content. As if this was the one place in the 'verse she most longed to be.

* * * * *

The ride to Lord Warwick's estate helped to soothe Serenity's Captain. Several times Jayne had attempted to open up a conversation with him but the odd grunt had quickly ended any hope of getting the man to talk to him. Zoe did not even try, her eyes squinting into strong sunlight that struck hard planes of light across her retinas. Used to the more subdued lighting aboard ship it sometimes hurt to be out in the world with no shade for her too sensitive eyes.

The horses were a very fine example of their breed, the flowing lines of rippling muscles at play beneath shining coats. The Captain had insisted on curry combing the horses while they were in transit, something that had at first baffled Jayne. But then he had seen how the harsh brush through their dusty coats had helped calm both horse and man. It was like getting a little glimpse through a chink in the Captain's armour. Not even knowing why he did so, Jayne had grabbed a brush and copied him. Surprised by the end of the nightly ritual to find he looked forward to letting his hands work on the horses and let his mind drift. Was that what Mal did?

Zoe kept her frustration well in check, able to compartmentalise her feelings and reactions so well that they did not interfere with the needs of the moment. Right now they had a job to finish. Her eyes flicked over to the back of her Captain, her closest friend. He had relaxed a little and that was good to see but she knew that was only the body. Inside he would be as uptight and tense as a body could be, his mind a mess of emotional debris no one was ever allowed to touch. Inara. The woman did that to him. Zoe thought on the moment of her parting, able to sense and feel the Captain's pain and sorrow. All wrapped and hidden behind a harsh almost detached facade only he couldn't fool her, never had been able to do that. It had reassured her somewhat to glimpse the Companion's distress. It was in that flash of insight that all the pieces came together. Inara wasn't leaving them. Wasn't leaving Serenity. She was leaving the Captain. The knowing of it gave her no ease just more frustration. The desire to shake some sense into Inara only tempered by how much she longed to do the same to her friend.

Coming up on Lord Warwick's estate ended her reverie. The Captain turned his head and spoke for the first time in over an hour. "Well, here we are."

People were now opening the huge ornamental gates, men in livery so stiff and proper that Mal wanted to laugh. Jayne sneered down at them but none made eye contact with him which he found more than a mite disappointing. Couldn't cow nobody if they didn't look him in the gorram eye. He glanced at the Captain and saw him smirk, knew Mal caught on to his intention and grinned back. His hat shading his eyes, the thought of new coin making his hands itch in anticipation.

* * * * *

Back on Serenity the mood was subdued. Simon sat on the couch in the commons area with Kaylee in his lap, her head resting on his shoulder. Two cups of tea growing cold and forgotten on the low table in front of them. Wash was feeling jumpy. He hated it when his wife was not with him, out on a job, though technically they had already done the job, it was just delivering the cargo and getting paid. How dangerous could that be? Simon turned his head slightly, careful not to dislodge Kaylee who had finally calmed down in his arms. The closeness comforted them both. "Wash, *fang xin*."

Wash nodded then began to pace again, not even fully aware he was doing it. All nervous energy and worry. "I can't help it, I always worry when Zoe's out on a job."

"They're just droppin' the horses off Wash," Said Kaylee, her own sadness pushed aside to reassure him. "An' she's with the Cap'n."

He made no comment on that, not wanting to point out that the worst things always happened when she was *with* the Captain. He was the husband, it was his job to worry. None of them heard River come into the room, her bare feet cushioning her weight and wrapping her form in silence. Her hair hung straggly and lank, it needed washing and combing but she paid it no heed. Her eyes staring out between the dark silk railings of her subtle prison. "You have to tell him before the future is set."

They all turned to stare at her. Wash forgot he was supposed to be worrying about Zoe. "Tell who what?"

She shook her head at him and looked at Simon. He blinked, an uncomfortable feeling stirring in his gut. "River..."

"Excuses never get the job done Simon and if you don't speak up you'll never be able to change what will be to what should have been."

Simon frowned but made no comment, instinctively knowing exactly what she was referring to and wishing he didn't, not wanting Kaylee or Wash to know. Kaylee sat up, eyes bright and curious as she looked at her friend. "The future?"

River gave her a sweet smile. "Always in motion, like waves, only no one reads them which is why it's so easy to get lost."

"Huh? We ain't gonna get lost, River."

But River was no longer looking at Kaylee, all her focus now on her brother. Simon nodded and as if rewarding him for making the right decision she twirled and danced around them then paused to grab Kaylee's hands startling the mechanic into laughing as she dragged the girl to her feet.

"We can't dance, there's no music."

River took no notice of the obvious. "I can hear the music and you have to learn the steps."

A baffled look came over Kaylee's face while River made herself busy making sure Kaylee was standing correctly with her hands positioned just so before moving off on the first step. When the mechanic just stared at her River leaned towards her and explained. "Don't you want to dance at your wedding?"

The surprised look on Kaylee's face made River laugh. Wash enjoyed the lighthearted moment and the flush of red creeping up Simon's neck and colouring his cheeks. Maybe he would stop worrying about Zoe for a while, this looked to be getting interesting.

* * * * *

The horses took to the huge coral like children let out of school early, heads flung back, hooves stamping and legs pawing the ground then the air before their tails were up and they were running and bucking with the thrill of freedom. Malcolm Reynolds relaxed properly for the first time in days. Lord Warwick Harrow watched him surreptitiously from the corner of his eye as Serenity's Captain leaned against the top rail and watched the movement of very fine horse flesh. Lord Harrow's eyes flicked back to the horses, noting how well groomed they seemed to be. Each one a shining example of health and vitality. When he turned to face the Captain he looked impressed. "I will need to have them checked but from what I can see you have done a good job, Captain. I can see my faith in you was not misplaced." Mal looked pleased. Would have been happier still if Lord Harrow had just trusted him without the need for a second opinion. But this was business and he was here to do business. "Just doin' my job but they are mighty fine pieces of horseflesh, *shifu*."

"The very best." Said Lord Harrow straightening his back with something akin to a spark of pride. "Breeding stock, Captain. You are looking at the best of the best." He paused and became the genial and gentlemanly host. "Now, while we wait for that final confirmation why don't we go inside and have something to eat?"

"An' get paid?" Put in Jayne eagerly before the Captain could stop him.

Fortunately Lord Harrow smiled missing the glare Mal gave his mercenary behind his back as the Lord turned to Jayne. "And get paid."

Jayne grinned, as happy as Mal had ever seen him. The Captain looked at Zoe and they exchanged tolerant smiles like parents with a wayward son. None of them noticed they were being observed as they followed Lord Harrow into the house. The liveried man watched until the door closed behind them then waited for his moment to slip away to the servants' quarters. Fortunately at this time of day no one else was in the dormitary he shared with the other stable hands. Sliding the case out from under his bed he quickly located the portable cortex link and sent a wave. Tight beam transmission triple encrypted. Not even the might of the gorram Alliance would be able to track that signal and even if they could, not a man in ten thousand would have the skill to read it.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*xie xie ni* = thank you *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *shifu* = sir *zai-jian* = goodbye


Wednesday, May 4, 2005 7:20 PM


Wow. A new chapter so soon!! Yay!

I can't believe 'Nara left! Zoe should shake them both, stupid people. tsk tsk

continue plz

Thursday, May 5, 2005 8:07 AM


I've been avoiding the temptation of reading any fanfic on this site because I knew it would be good, I'd get attached to it and start wasting a bunch of time reading it.

I'm gonna get fired ...

Great chapter. I'm going back to read your others.

Sunday, May 8, 2005 12:44 PM


This story is coming along ever so nicely. I love it!

My favorite part of this installment had to be River getting Kaylee to dance. Oh and Simon's embarassment...too cute!

Keep up the great work!

Thursday, May 19, 2005 1:33 AM


What KaySky said.

And an ominous ending ... oh dear!


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.