STOLEN MOMENTS: 23. "Out Of The Frying Pan"
Friday, May 20, 2005

"Jayne is determined to get ship and crew into the Black as soon as possible. No one is very happy with the mercenary's explanation."



SUMMARY: "Jayne is determined to get ship and crew into the Black as soon as possible. No one is very happy with the mercenary's explanation." 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

* * * * *

"Are you sure you want to do this,*mei mei*?"

Inara gave Lacey a nod. "Not want. Need."

Her friend nodded back. It had to be bad for Inara to actually request this kind of help but it made sense of why she had chosen House Arcadia. Inara's determination not to return to Sihnon - and in particular House Madrassa - spoke volumes. Especially as she had begged Mistress Alena not to notify anyone that she had taken refuge here.

Refuge. A word Inara would not have imagined thinking let alone seeking until this day. It had been the unspoken last resort no Companion would willingly countenance for with it came a stigma. The inference of some indefinable fall from grace. A blot against the soul. Inara had not expected to make this decision even as she was preparing to leave the one home that meant anything of worth to her. Serenity. No. She was not leaving Serenity. Not deserting her friends. She was leaving *him*.

"Where do you think you are going? You, with your hand on the door? Just where do you think you are going, my friend? My fine feathered friend. How could you leave me knowing You're my world alone? You're leaving your heart behind you Don't you know that you will be lonely..."

- "Where Do You Think You Are Going" sung by Johnny Mathis

Even in her mind his name was hard to utter for it drew that face to mind all too clearly. The look in his eyes forever burned upon her soul. The touch of him, the feel of him, forever engraved within the walls of her heart where no one else could see. And there was the irony. Inara could admit it now. She was leaving because he made her weak, opened the floodgates to a past she could scarcely endure. Sin enough to have broken the Cardinal Rule. A greater sin to have used him to assuage her own pain and grief only to leave and break his heart. A bitter laugh rose in her throat but the last vestiges of her formidable control killed it at birth. Not a sound passed her lips.

Mistress Alena gave a discreet sign for Lacey to leave. With a respectful bow she did so. As the House Mistress contemplated the Companion and all aspects of her bleak revelation the weight of that confession was almost enough to extinguish the stars.

* * * * *

Jayne couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. He had told them about the graveyard, the creepifying fog, mist or whatever the *diyu* it was. As well as the gorram ghosts, spirits of the dead, whatever. His eyes were wide, still scared, his heartbeat hardly slowing its' eratic pace. The need to be in the Black growing more critical to his notion of self preservation. He sensed time was running out. Even so he knew Serenity's crew would not be happy with his solution. He sucked in an impatient breath as they glared at him. Wasting time. What if the rutting undead had followed him? "*Hao le ma*? We gotta *gun ququ, mashang*!"

"We are NOT goin' anywhere without my wife!" Said Wash firmly.

The Shepherd tried to temper Jayne's anxiety. The last thing they needed was for the mercenary to turn from fear and anger to violence. "The logical thing would be to retrace their steps. I'm sure we'll find a perfectly natural explanation for what you saw."

Jayne cut him off in disbelief. "*Ziran de*? There ain't nothin' natural nor *zhengchang* back there, Shepherd. We have to take off now!"

The mercenary was close to hyperventilating. The veins in his forehead and neck like thick chord. Simon watched him curiously, part of him able to stand outside his concern for their missing crewmates and clinically observe the big man. "What are you so afraid of?"

"Sees the demons in his own soul. Thinks they came back for him." River paused, her pale face tilting as if she was listening to something beyond the normal range of hearing. "The one that got away."

If anything her words just made him madder, so tense and anxious he might do anything. "Shut your gorram moon-brained mouth or I'll shut it for you, *dong ma*?

The doctor stepped in front of his sister, Kaylee staring at Jayne's distorted face as if she had never seen him before. Something like naked hatred spun dark secrets in the mercenary's glittering eyes. Secrets that were spilling out one sticky thread at a time. It made ugly if compulsive viewing. The man too wound up to guard his tongue or his attitude, one imperative alone driving him. The gun in his hand before the others could react.

"*Xianzai* this is how it is," Said Jayne in a slow deadly voice. "Wash, get this gorram boat in the air! Kaylee, you're gonna do whatever ya gotta do to keep us flyin'. The rest of ya are just ballast so unless ya wanna leave via an airlock when we hit atmo you'll shut your yap or..."

His little diatribe was abruptly truncated by a voice as dark and deadly as any they had ever heard. Everyone turned to look back towards the open cargo bay door and froze. Zoe Warren stepped up from the top of the ramp and stared at them with stone cold eyes. She was covered in blood and dirt, one arm hanging limp and useless at her side, the other hand holding a gun. They had been so busy arguing they had not heard her come aboard. River blinded Zoe with a smile as if she had been expecting Serenity's second in command.

"And the Angel of Death came and stood amongst them. Eyes of fire promising eternal retribution."

Jayne Cobb's mouth hung open in horror, shock momentarily robbing him of the power of speech. His mind reeling but too numb to make sense of what he was seeing. Slowly instinct kicked in, a sluggish impetus to put as much distance between himself and the gorram apparition as he could manage. He stumbled backward but Zoe matched him step for step, her eyes like permafrost freezing the blood in his veins. "You're dead!" He managed to choke out.

"That what you intended when you shot me, Jayne?"

The others gasped. Zoe's voice sounded almost normal, perhaps too much so. Wash shook himself out of his shock, concern and anger flooding him and overpowering his initial relief at seeing his wife. He turned to glare at the mercenary. "You SHOT my wife?"

Jayne ignored him, eyes fastened on Zoe as if mesmerised. The Shepherd was frowning, more alarmed by what the mercenary had done than the fact that Zoe was standing there bleeding from a gunshot wound. Simon wanted to go to her but some instinct made him wait. Or maybe he just wanted to be sure of the final tally before he put his trauma skills to good use.

"Why don't you tell us what happened, Jayne?" Asked the Preacher slowly.

Jayne and Zoe just stared at each other, ignoring the rest of the crew. The tension palpable and making them all more than a little jumpy. Kaylee looked alarmed, frightened and anxious. She hated how angry they were. "Everyone's so mad!"

"Where's the Captain?" Said Book.

Zoe did not even blink. "Ask Jayne. He's the one who left us for dead."

Kaylee put her hand over her mouth, eyes widening and glistening with unshed tears. *Wode ma* what had Jayne done? "C.. Cap'n's dead?"

"Not yet." Zoe responded.

"Then where is he?" Asked Simon in a puzzled voice. He glanced down the ramp as if expecting the Captain to suddenly materialise and snap them all back into action. But he never came and that was all kinds of unsettling.

"I couldn't get him out." At last Zoe broke eye contact with Jayne and flicked a look of concern at the others as if to draw them into her plan. "We have to go back an' get him."

"Out?" Book was not sure he heard her correctly. "Are you saying the Captain got captured?"

A flash of alarm spread over Simon's face. Kaylee noticed and reached out for him, their hands clasping in mutual comfort. River spoke before Zoe could answer. "Like a well without water. A cell without a door." She paused. "Not a tunnel or a hole." River tilted her head as if considering something, her gaze not shifting from Zoe's face. "Maybe a doorway after all."

* * * * *

In the weird befogged darkness Malcolm Reynolds lost all notion of time. He was cold, shivering hard unable to get warm, something beyond the damp seeping into flesh and bone with an insidious and creepifying quality. It went beyond chilling just as his alarm went beyond fear. Not sure what it was but it wasn't natural. Still. At least Zoe had got out and that was all kinds of comforting. Wouldn't have forgiven himself if whatever *goushi* fate facing him became hers' too. And mayhap she could get back to the others. Bring help. *Diyu* a week from now they would all be laughing their fool heads off. Telling the why of it like some gorram ghost story from Earth-that-Was. The notion brought a wry smile to pained lips. His head aching something fiercesome making him all manner of dizzy. He felt drunk but without the benefit of the warm comforting burn of alcohol sliding down his throat.

Mal was sitting on the damp fetid earth, back to a wall, shivering less violently now as the icy tendrils of exposure began to shut off his autonomic response to the cold. Body slowly shutting down while his mind struggled and stumbled to form thoughts, string them together in some semblance of coherence. He made the mistake of leaning back, his head exploding in sharp jagged spikes of pain at the contact. Groaning he leaned forward, head sagging, chin on his chest, breath panting and eyes closing. A thread of reason impinged upon his flagging consciousness urging him to stay awake but he could not remember why it mattered. The tingle of phantom warmth licked at his body, sleep dragging him towards seductive oblivion like some gorram drug addict.

*Don't sleep! Concentrate.*

His head jerked, setting off a concatanation of little explosions in his head. "What the..."

Realising he was speaking out loud the Captain felt a flicker of irritation then black humour. *Huh. Ruttin' well talkin' to myself now. So this is what goin' mad feels like*

*No, you're not but your brain is tired. Body too. That's why it's grasping at straws*

His heart missed a beat. Breath ragged in cold burning lungs. How was it that lungs so rutting cold could burn? He closed his eyes even though he could see nothing with them wide open. Somehow it helped him to concentrate his dwindling mental resources through the sharp pain dancing inside his head, a suspicion forming. *River, that you?*

*Fang xin, we're coming*

*How you get inside my gorram head?*

Malcolm Reynolds could swear he felt laughter in the words that came back to him. *Never left*

A moment or two later he heard the distinct sound of people moving above him. Smiling the Captain forced himself painfully to his feet, stumbling and unsteady he used the earthen wall to stay upright, his face lifting towards the surface somewhere above him. "Zoe? What the good gorram took you so long?" He half-teased.

The tail end of a rope dropped down and swung within a foot of the Captain but he did not see it. Did not see other ropes join the first nor the faces of his rescuers. The smile of relief and welcome split into a grimace of blood a fraction of a second before he realised his error. As hard hands grabbed him and began to bind him he had time for one last thought before passing out. *Why couldn't anythin' ever go smooth?*

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*mei mei* = little sister *diyu* = hell *hao le ma* = that's enough, okay? *gun ququ* = get the hell out of here *mashang* = on the double/at once/immediately *ziran de* = natural zhengchang* = normal *dong ma* = understand *xianzai* = now *wode ma* = mother of God *goushi* = crap/dogshit *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart)


Friday, May 20, 2005 12:37 PM


Evil. Nasty.

He's gotta go through so much pain. Yet we endure it with him, cuz we know you'll pull him through, somehow, despite the costs.

Damnit, Ali, you weave an enthralling web.

Other than that, y'know, great story!

Saturday, May 21, 2005 6:05 AM


Okay, now I'm having an anxiety attack! I love (or rather feel sorry for) terrified, mutinous Jayne. That was fabulous. More please!

Tuesday, June 7, 2005 6:34 AM


Go Zoe! Go River!

> *How you get inside my gorram head?*

Malcolm Reynolds could swear he felt laughter in the words that came back to him. *Never left*<



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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.