STOLEN MOMENTS: 25. "What Matters"
Sunday, May 29, 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 try to fathom what Jaynne has done and Mal makes a chilling discovery." 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

* * * * *

Funny how the walk to the graveyard seemed way shorter than first time round. Zoe frowned, unsettled in some nameless fashion that set her nerves on edge. Wash had wanted to go with her but she managed to persuade him to stay with the ship. If they needed a fast exit it was best her gifted husband have Serenity ready to lift off at a moment's notice. Simon had been concerned at how tense she was, his confidence ebbing at the barely concealed worry setting into the grim lines of her exotic face. Zoe had refused his attempts to see to her injured shoulder, not even able to put on a rudimentary dressing to staunch the blood loss. Even Wash had given up pleading with her, knowing from the look in her eyes that persisting would only make her crazier and achieve nothing. There were times when his *wangu* wife was every bit as stubborn as their Captain. The Shepherd took the tension in his stride but was armed when he joined Zoe in the cargo hold. Kaylee looked worried. "I thought we were all gonna go get the Cap'n?"

Zoe's expression did not crack. Granite had more give in it. "Just don't think it's a good idea. Need Wash to have Serenity ready an' you to keep the engine tickin' over, *dong ma*?"

"You think the Captain's in trouble?" Simon asked.

Her cool stare was answer enough. "Even without Jayne firin' on us," Her iron gaze flicked to the mercenary for a second before going back to Simon. "Someone didn't seem happy to see us. Just don't wanna be takin' chances we don't have to is all."

"I thought there'd be safety in numbers." The doctor offered trying to hide his unease.

"Huh," Grunted the mercenary. "Just more ruttin' targets if ya ask me."

"No one was askin'." Said Zoe, her voice hard. "Time to go. You comin' Jayne or do we leave you here when we get back?"

He blinked. "*Shenme*?" Then his brain caught up with her meaning and he began to pale. "Ya can't leave me behind."

Her eyebrows rose in cold deliberation. Shepherd Book watched and listened with interest. He did not think Zoe would really go through with the threat but if anything happened to the Captain because of Jayne's actions all bets were off. One thing was certain, Jayne Cobb would not make old bones. Odd in a way that the man's assault on Zoe would be forgiven if not forgotten but an attack on the Captain would reduce his stake in the Here and Now to ashes. All that and more seemed to flash through the mercenary's brain. It actually cut through the fear that had gripped him.

"I'm comin' just don't blame me if the gorram spooks get us."

Simon raised a hand to his face to hide a smile. Kaylee just flashed a grin and gave Jayne a nod of approval as if she had always known he would go help bring the Captain back. A thought occurred to Book as Zoe started off down the ramp to the planet surface. "You said you and the Captain fell down a hole?"

She paused and looked back at him. "Yeah, *weishenme*?"

"It might be a good idea to take some rope with us."

"What ya plan on doin', Shepherd? Hang him?"

Shepherd Book gave the mercenary a disapproving look. "This is a rescue not a burial Jayne. You might want to remember that." "Sure hope he don't need rescuin'." The mercenary mumbled, unrepentent.

Zoe frowned at Jayne's comment. The Shepherd hurried back into the ship and returned moments later with a thick coil of rope. A nod from Zoe and they were off. Kaylee hesitated at the top of the ramp until Simon urged her to close the door. Wash and Kaylee exchanged worried glances. "Ya think Cap'n's alright?"

"*Fang xin*, he fell down a hole Kaylee. How much trouble could the Cap'n be in?" Wash responded with a smile.

"*Wo bu dong*," Said Simon slowly. "This is the Captain we're talking about."

"Cap'n's shiny," Kaylee defended.

Smiling, Simon caught her hand and gave it a squeeze. Her loyalty was one of the many things he admired about her. Wash got the feeling he was intruding on a 'moment'. When Simon looked at him he frowned at the knowing look on the pilot's face. "*Shenme*?"

"Nothin', I'm just gonna go an'.." He pointed back into the ship. "Have to get ready."

Simon nodded, felt his heartbeat quicken as Kaylee moved closer. Her body heat having an interesting effect on his own metabolism. His breath a heated sigh fanning her glowing face just as their lips brushed. Tingles of electicity sparked between them surprising a happy laugh from Kaylee and a bemused and sheepish smile from Simon. River's voice seemed to take the long scenic route from her mouth to their distracted ears.

"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

Simon blinked. Kaylee turned to stare at River, wondering what she was talking about and not liking the mention of hell one bit. "What do ya mean, sweetie?"

River stared at the closed cargo bay door as if through sheer force of will she could see through the thick metal skin. Suddenly the ship seemed to echo with every word they uttered as if it was an empty husk not a steel lined heart made of steel and powered by the dreams of those who loved her best. The emptiness set something of a chill inside them. "Wrong door."

Silence greeted her words then Kaylee left to go to the engine room and Simon tried to coax his sister away from the metal door. River would not budge. Slowly she turned sad eyes on her brother and he froze. She tried one last time to get her meaning across.

"You can't line your coffers with lies. Won't buy a single smile or a dreamless night, Simon. Nightmares always know all your secrets even when they aren't real."

It was all too much for him. "Come on, River, let's get something to eat."

She shook her head, visions of apple pips spraying out of Simon's head and showering her in crimson. The air thick with smoke disguised as fog, her lungs void of air and choking on other people's dreams and expectations. Twisted, burnt and empty the world crumbled around her while the rest of the 'verse spun on not knowing it was just a little bit emptier than it had been before. "Can't go, have to keep a vigil."

"It's alright River, before you know it they'll be back."

The look in River's eyes almost stopped his heart. She looked so distant and sad. "Not everyone."

* * * * *

Inara Serra was more than a little disgusted at herself for breaking down. The House Mistress did not seem surprised. Her calm melodious voice held no hint of censure but neither did it brook any argument.

"I think, child, it is time you told me the real reason you left Sihnon."

The Companion's eyebrows rose in a mix of surprise and alarm. Had Lacey said anything? But no, her friend would not do that. It was the only thing she was certain of. Shaken and trying not to show it she hesitated just a moment too long.

"After you do that, Inara, you can tell me why you have fled your new life."

* * * * *

Blind? How the good gorram had that happened? No. Wait. He *knew* how it had happened just hadn't wanted to be accepting it. Had to be a rutting mistake only he couldn't see and that was the rub. Truth never did match the wanting in his life. Always left that harsh little echo where might have been lingered on.

Rough hands halted him, the brush through a doorway telling him they had reached journey's end. It felt like a room of some sort. Obviously the inhabited kind from the muffle of his booted feet on thick carpet. Thick carpet? *Wode ma*, where in the nine hells was he? A faint rumour of incense stirred the air as he breathed, a cascade of competing thoughts and memories assailed him but nothing made sense. "What is this?"

He could hear the smirk in Atherton Wing's voice. "Where do you think you are?"

"If you're here it has to be *diyu*."

Atherton laughed but there was no humour in it just a smug satisfaction. "Hell for you maybe."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

He got no answer. A hand shoved him in the back, propelling him further into the room. Atherton reached out and caught the Captain's shoulder, manhandling him none too gently until Mal felt his knee knock against something. Another shove and he tumbled down onto a bed. His heartbeat raced. "Ath?"

"Patience, Captain. Your first client will show you what to do."

He blinked, breath forced slowly through ragged lungs. Client? Not sure he was hearing what he was hearing or that it meant what he thought. "What you sayin'?"

"They say fair exchange is no robbery."


Mal could hear the smile in Atherton's voice. "Ah, eloquent to the last!"

For several minutes an uneasy silence fell. Then the door opened and he heard quiet hushed undertones in a rapid exchange of information. What did it mean and why had his enemy brought him here, wherever *here* was? The answer when it finally came did not arrive in words. In fact no one spoke again to him for a very long time but neither was he left alone. Lighter steps came into the room and paused, then resumed and did not stop until weight sagged upon the bed where he was sprawled. He did not like this. "Who's there an' what the gorram you doin'?"

No answer. A hand touched his face and he jerked back. As if excited by his reaction the hand followed his retreat, reconnected and began to draw warm trails down his skin. Light touches at first as if to get used to him, then becoming bolder and more certain. He could feel hands rubbing down his chest and pausing only for clever fingers to undo the buttons of his shirt. Scent wafted around him as the figure moved, the touches and the scent telling him it was a woman. Then another set of hands removed his suspenders and began to tug his shirt out of his pants. He squirmed but they had him on his back, his hands trapped and tied under him as they began to undo his belt. Cursing and writhing in a vain struggle to evade them he could clearly hear Atherton's delighted laughter ringing in his ears.

As the first set of lips closed over his own cutting off the curses and the barage of questions he wanted to demand answers to, something cold and icy slid down his chest and cut through the buttons, the knife working its' way down through the rest of his clothing. Oh good gorram, there were more of them! Hands, lips, tongues, teeth - the play of enticing touches skimmed across his body as his clothes were cut and peeled off him. The shame and anger ran a ragged race through body and mind, his struggles ineffectual and serving only to excite his silent tormentors. Even though he could not see, Mal squeezed his eyes shut as tight as he could and vowed eternal vengeance. Completely naked now they arranged him to suit their appetites then warm gifted lips drew wet trails down his body while a variety of hands explored and made play of every intimate place. He wanted to weep, to rant, to curse Atherton Wing and his perverted sense of payback.

The man's words now made chilling and sickening sense to him. He had taken Inara from Atherton. Robbed him of his *whore*. Now that *tamade hundan* had devised a way to pay him in kind by having women take his body. The Captain's thoughts jerked back to what was happening to him - a hungry mouth licking, sucking and biting its' way down his chest before closing on him, engulfing him in hot wet warmth and bringing him hard and straining in that gifted mouth yet riding his involuntary responses in an endless tease that brought him dancing again and again to the edge as his hips jerked in aborted thrusts as they held him down. Each of them finding new and gifted ways to push and coax him to the edge of control without letting him come.

Unable to cry out for the mouth covering his and swallowing each curse and strangled cry as they bit, scratched and drew out every sensation until he wanted to weep. Determined it seemed to have their way with him in every manner imaginable. A hot tongue slid into his ear canal, teeth nipping at his chest, hands tugging, stroking and plying him with all manner of unspoken promises until he was trembling and shaking with the need for relief. White tears disappearing in mouths that sucked and devoured every drop but would not let him come. Pain and pleasure. Pleasure and pain. But all of it wrapped him in a shame and self loathing that etched every violation into his fevered brain with the longing for vengeance. God help Atherton Wing if he ever got free. God help him because not nothing in the 'verse would stand between Malcolm Reynolds and that man's date with a justice so absolute and primal that none could survive it. It was all that mattered.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wangu* = stubborn *sheme* = what *weishenme* = why *dong ma* = understand *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *ni bu dong* = I don't understand *wode ma* = mother of God *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard


Monday, May 30, 2005 4:27 AM


Now that's a twisted notion of "torture" that would get a standing ovation from Shan-Yu himself.

Very creative!

Monday, May 30, 2005 6:09 AM


Excellent installment. I thought the final scene was particularly good. Its a common misconception that a man cannot be sexually abused or that if he is that abuse must come from another man. That scene proved those theories wrong and because of the gender dynamics played as being all the more invasive and humiliating. Great but disturbing work. I can't see what's coming next. River said that they're not all coming back. Creepifyin'. Not Jayne, please don't kill Jayne. He may be a self centered lug, but he's a humerous self centered lug.

Phaedra (of the infrequent postings)

Tuesday, May 31, 2005 5:40 AM


Whoa! Purely creepifying and intense. Quite the lesson Mal is being taught.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005 6:51 AM


Yep. That was what I was afraid of. (Although gotta say if Atherton's renting the boy out .. *g*)

But even more creepifyin' than Whore!Mal is River. She said something a couple of chapters back about Kaylee understanding something about leaving and now she's saying not everyone will be coming back.

I'm worried now.


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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.