STOLEN MOMENTS: 24. "Wrong Destination"
Saturday, May 28, 2005

"Inara discovers there is nowhere to hide from herself. Serenity's crew try to fathom what Jayne has done and Mal makes a chilling discovery."



SUMMARY: "Inara discovers there is nowhere to hide from herself. Serenity's crew look for the Captain and find something unexpected." 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

* * * * *

"Like the Autumn flower you are always welcome. Inara, why did you come?"

Inara released the sigh slowly, as if hoping the gradual dissipation would pass unnoticed. It didn't. "Your mercy, Mistress."

A single elegant brow arched. "Mercy is but a step away from the furnace of Hell, child, did no one tell you that?"

The soft words were like spun silk. Every thread stronger than steel. "And but a heartbeat from Heaven."

Thin lips smiled in the palest immitation of humour. The eyes glinted black and bright. Shiny objects that could instill fear or hope as easily as passion. Eyes before whom all was revealed. Her insight not her knowledge chilled Inara Serra most. "You have been hurt." Mistress Alena murmured. It was not a question.

A little shudder ran like a tremor through Inara's body. She was kneeling, head bent in supplication, before the Mistress of her fate. The House Mistress lay a hand over the bowed head and closed her eyes. Almost immediately the connection flowed. Mistress Alena slowed the torrent of thoughts, savoured the heady emotions as well as the quiet ebb and flow of loss. So many emotions, so much regret. The men were faceless, their demands falling into categories as ancient as birth and death. Yet few had touched her heart. Her compassion, yes. Her heart? No. Now the safety of that remove was gone. Cracks had not only begun to appear but would soon be the undoing of her. So she had left. Fled. Yet carried her unresolved issues with her like an unmade bed. And Inara Serra had always had such a tidy mind.

"Child, tell me about him."

Everything Inara feared was coming to pass. Holding back the threat of tears she could not look up. Knew that knowing gaze would strip her naked, emotions bleeding raw and painful with no sop for the wounded soul. Yet why was that?


So rarely did the Mistress speak that name that the Companion involuntarily raised her head in surprise. That was when the dark eyes caught her, beheld her in the tender trap and read the letter of her soul secret by secret. Silently tears coursed down Inara Serra's cheeks but the wonder of it all was the release they bought. The lifting of a burden shared. A burden she loved more than the breath in her body and feared more than certain death.

* * * * *

Zoe was so rutting angry and impatient only Shepherd Book's calm voice of reason stayed her hand. Jayne Cobb realised that the Preacher was most likely the only reason he was still alive but it did not stop him staring at Zoe in fear as she spoke. "We're goin' back."

The mercenary was shaking his head now, terrors mounting in his eyes as he imagined all kinds of unnatural things waiting for them. "Ain't goin'. Ya gonna shoot me do it now 'cause no way in *diyu* am I gonna go back in that gorram graveyard."

"Jayne," Said Simon carefully, his voice not judgemental. "It will be different this time. We'll all be there with you."

If anything the big man's eyes seemed to get even wider, the terror obviously spreading. "Ain't gonna work. On'y way not to become one of 'em is not to go near any of 'em." He paused, eyes wide and staring. "They got the Cap, ain't nothin' we can do."

A loud click turned every head. Zoe was pointing her loaded and cocked gun at Jayne Cobb's head. "Even if there's nothin' we can do for the Cap'n there's somethin' we can do about the gorram traitor."

"I ain't no traitor!"

Shepherd Book stepped up and stretched a hand between them, the movement slow and cautious, not wanting to surprise either of them into firing. His deep voice smooth, low and soothing. Every syllable dipped in reasonableness. "We are very close to true stupidity here. Jayne is no more a traitor than any of us standing here."

The first mate's eyes narrowed dangerously as she fastened the full extent of her unamused glare on the Preacher. "You weren't there, Shepherd."

"No, I wasn't. Why don't you tell us what happened?"

Wash saw the war waging behind furious eyes, sparks flying off them every time her eyes flicked back to the mercenary. Simon wanted to close up the ramp but did not dare move, not sure what would set off a chain of events too deadly for his surgeon's skill to heal. River smiled at him. "No one's to blame for the road we travel only where we end up."

They looked at her and blinked. As Jayne took in the crazy girl's words he seemed to shake himself free of something. "Wasn't aimin' at ya."

All heads turned back towards him, varying expressions chasing the words as if rearranging them would disclose a hidden meaning. The big man stirred. Not relaxing but seeming to come a little more to his senses. The Shepherd turned towards him, his expression one of reassurance and acceptance. "What happened?"

"It was that gorram mist. So ruttin' creepifyin'. I heard shadows break away an' walk an' stuff."

Simon frowned at Jayne's eloquence. "Stuff?"

"They wasn't folk like us." Jayne hissed, anxiety in every taut line of his body. "What was they like?" Asked Kaylee, genuinely curious as to what in the nine hells could fill Jayne with enough fear to shoot Zoe *and* abandon the Captain. Neither action seemed like something the man would do but right now he seemed spooked enough for anything.

"They was ghosts!" He muttered fearfully.

River shook her head, her pale face looking oddly happy and serene. "Not ghosts or demons." The man just stared at her. Waiting for something no one else could give. Right now River was the only one who seemed to have any idea what had frightened him so badly. At least he had stopped shaking. "What were it?"

Her head tilted slowly, a thoughtful expression glazing over her eyes for a moment. "Methane gas."

Everybody looked stunned. Simon was about to reach out for his sister but found Kaylee's hand instead. He turned to explain why Kaylee should let go but something in her eyes relaxed him and he smiled. Kaylee smiled back and squeezed his hand, the doctor's anxiety dropping a notch or two for no reason he could quantify.

"Methane gas?" Asked Zoe in an irritable voice.

"Decomposition and elements breaking down in the soil." River paused. "Inclement weather didn't help. In the fog even the lantern bearer can get lost."

"We still have to go back." Zoe stated firmly. Wash was pleased to see her reholster her gun though her eyes were dark and wary when she looked at Jayne. Still not overly inclined to trust him. "An' swamp gas or not you're comin' with me, Jayne."

The mercenary began to shake his head. River stepped around Kaylee and Simon and put a hand on his arm. "It's not being brave that makes us heroes." He stared at the crazy girl, unable to look away. Her smile trapped him like a sickly glue. "It's doing what's right even when every cell in our body screams to run and hide."

* * * * *

Malcolm Reynolds had been in all kinds of *goushi* before and this looked to be no different. It was only the rutting depth that varied. Figured. Even in a gorram churchyard bad things happened. His captors were speaking in low voices but he could still hear them. Just wished to good gorram he could see them, commit their faces to memory for later but once again he was in the dark. More than figuratively speaking. Listening intently the only thing he could be sure of was when the conversation ended. The sudden silence was like a door sealing on a tomb. He waited. Seconds committing suicide in the rush to tumble into feverish minutes of wary expectation. Enlightenment was not always a joyous thing. Seeing the Devil revealed was not an act of faith nor pleasure. It was the culmination of every horror and fear imaginable made flesh.

"Captain Reynolds..."

The sly false bon homie made Mal's skin prickle. He knew that voice. "Atherton?"

Laughter now tinged the sulky voice of privilege. "You may have tricked your way out of an honourable death but you will have no such luxury this time."

The Captain squinted but nothing would alleviate the rutting darkness. He flexed hands going numb as some kind of wire dug into his wrists. The movement drew a hiss of pain before he could stop himself. More annoyed than angry to give Atherton Wing that satisfaction. "Where the gorram are we? An' what's with keeping me in the dark?"

Atherton was grinning then realised something. Stepping closer he stared hard at the bound man, tilting left and right while standing but inches from his prisoner, watching for a reaction. There was a puzzled and annoyed look on the Captain's face and when Atherton snapped his fingers Mal went rigid, trying to home in on the noise. "Captain, what do you see?"

"This a gorram quiz? 'Cause I have to tell you I ain't playin' your game, *dong ma*?"

"I assure you it's no game." Atherton's voice drifted off as if he had turned his head to speak to someone.

The Captain turned his head slowly, trying to pick up detail from muffled sounds. Whispered words rustled like a hush of dry leaves in the background. He was beyond irritated but also beginning to become more than a mite concerned.

"He's blind." An unknown voice murmured quietly.

Shock hit the Captain hard. Blind? How the ruttin' *diyu* could that be? He could not make out Atherton's response, the voice too low. Mal tried to work it out, thought back on the fall into the gorram hole, the injury to his head, the dizziness and the fog deepening into black. A terrible sick realisation swallowed the light of his soul. Blind! What rutting use was a man who couldn't see? How in the nine hells could he run a boat let alone ply his trade in work for hire? It was worse than being crippled. It was a death sentence without the benefit of death.

The hand on his shoulder drew him out of his depressing thoughts. "Mal, you are not in the dark. You are inside a church and the lights are on."

Mal? Atherton never called him that. It was the voice he had failed to recognise and unless he was much mistaken the man sounded more like some neutral observer than an enemy. "I know you?"

The man straightened slightly and smiled. Not that the Captain could see it but he found Atherton's nemesis amusing. The hand withdrew followed by the man. Mal could hear his footsteps retreat a few paces then stop. He must be standing near Atherton now as the conversation was no longer directed at himself. "I fail to see what satisfaction this man's death can avail you, Atherton. Fate has reached him first. The man is blind."

Atherton's words flowed like honey but their content sent a chill through Malcolm Reynolds' veins. "I admit I had intended to kill him but this is better."


"Ah, yes."

Mal heard footsteps move towards him and stop real close. He made no attempt to find out how close.

"How does it feel to be entirely helpless, Captain Reynolds?" He whispered close to Mal's ear.

The Captain did not reply.

"What's wrong, Captain? Cat got your tongue?"

Then hands were on him again, pulling him to his feet and making him stumble. Unable to put his hands out to guide himself he gritted his teeth and resisted the urge to swear uncontrollably. Not nothing in the 'verse would permit him to give his tormenter that much satisfaction. For several minutes no one spoke, Atherton regarding his captive thoughtfully. After several long minutes had passed he leaned in towards the Captain.

"You took something from me. Something I valued. I was going to take your ship, your crew. Leave you alone and defenceless before putting an end to you. But this is better." "*Shenme*? What the good gorram you talkin' about?"

"She was a whore, Captain, but she was MY whore!"

Anger pulsed through the Captain's body. "She was never yours, Ath. Not nobody desperate enough in the 'verse to have you."

"I have no trouble getting what I want, Captain, and I will get what I want now." The man paused as if waiting for the Captain to respond. After a few seconds he seemed to realise that would not happen and continued, his voice lower now, a calculation to it that made the Captain uneasy. "They say you should walk a mile in a man's shoes before you judge him."

"That so? You wanna walk in my shoes?"

Atherton Wing shook his head slowly, a glimmer of foul amusement in his eyes. "No, Captain, but I think a good lesson would be for you to walk in hers."

Her? What in the nine hells was he talking about? Then Atherton called out and Mal heard heavy running steps approach. A door was knocked, banged open, then slammed shut. Then rough hands were pushing him down a long stone corridor. Tired, confused and hungry he lapsed into a heavy silence. Almost asleep on his feet when they got to their destination. Hardly taking in the spring of the carpet beneath his feet nor the bright shiny blade sliding through his bonds as he blacked out. The dark so complete this time that he did not even dream.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *dong ma* = understand *shenme* = what


Saturday, May 28, 2005 12:59 PM


Brilliant as always. I must confess I can't wait to see what Atherton has planned for Mal.


Saturday, May 28, 2005 2:18 PM


Wow. Thank you. On the edge of my seat, as always. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Saturday, May 28, 2005 3:50 PM


Great Fic! I've started to read this from the beginning and I love it!

Tuesday, June 7, 2005 6:42 AM


Eeks!! What in the 'verse is nasty Ath planning? I don't like the sound of it one little bit.


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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.