STOLEN MOMENTS: 28. "Homing Instinct"
Saturday, June 4, 2005

"Inara reflects, Zoes goes in search of Badger and while the Captain and whores are engineering their own escape an unexpected visitor kicks everything into high gear."



SUMMARY: "Inara reflects, Zoe goes in search of Badger and while the Captain and whores are engineering their own escape an unexpected visitor kicks everything into high gear." 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.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

It had been something of an epiphany listening to Mistress Alena telling her all about herself in that low, calm, soothing tone of hers. So much so that Inara had inwardly shivered and felt fragile enough to shatter but the House Mistress knew that. Had depended on her reading of the Companion to use the right words to end this charade. It had hurt. The truth laid bare was like peeling off a skin she was inordinately attached to leaving her tender and exposed and yet something in that denudation also freed her. In ways that both frightened and exhilerated her.

"You're saying I have to go back?"

The House Mistress just stared at her. Waiting. Inara slowly raised her eyebrows.

"You're saying *I* have to decide to go back?"

A smile. Rare, undiluted and without any kind of spin to it briefly illuminated Mistress Alena's features. It was startling and warmed that place of lurking dread in Inara Serra's heart. Maybe things could work out after all. "You cannot outrun your own heart, Inara."

"I don't love him."


"I.. I care for him. I care for them all."

"Do you love the others?"

Less hesitation now. "*Qu, wanquan*."

"Just not him." Stated the House Mistress quietly.

Inara had felt herself flush. Lies might be a Companion's stock in trade but to lie to her House Mistress was anathema. Lies of omission though were something all of them did from time to time. A direct lie like this was a stain that wouldn't wash out not without admitting it so it could be brought into the light. Did she want that? Could she even be that open? "*Hen nan jieshi zhege wenti*."

"Not as hard as you think." Responded Mistress Alena quietly, her eyes never leaving Inara's face. Holding Inara to her purpose. Something in that serene countenance lending Inara the strength to stop hiding behind her profession.

"You are *congming*."

Another silence fell, this one more comfortable. Inara could feel something beginning to heal deep inside her. Something she had blocked for so long now. The release of that inner tension and turmoil pricked her eyes with unexpected tears. She did not, however, let them fall. Inara Serrra was a Companion first and foremost. Then the Mistress of the House was rising gracefully to her feet, a hand reaching out to rest on Inara's shoulder to prevent her from doing likewise. "If I am truly wise and you can now acknowledge it then you know what you must do. There will always be a place for you should the outcome not meet with the needs of mind, body and spirit. Go in peace *yige mei mei*."

Inara bowed her head, eyes closed and accepted both the wisdom and the blessing of House Arcadia. She had not even finished unpacking.

Now, here she was, back on Serenity as if she had never left. There was something very moving about the way in which her soul sighed with deep content when she returned. The looks on the faces of the crew had only partially registered. Not until she had almost finished unpacking had it struck her. Not one of them had been surprised to see her. A certain sadness had been detected, almost a remote kind of affection from Zoe but nothing she had not been prepared for. Kaylee had been weepy but quietly accepting. Simon giving her a long hard considering look before gravely welcoming her back. The Shepherd had openly smiled and beamed his pleasure and Wash had hugged her. Jayne had looked as if she was the last person he wanted to see again - ever - but he could not keep that up for long. After a few minutes he gave her a grudging smile and a nod. The only welcome back she would get from him. But of the Captain she had seen no sign.

Only later, once her things were back in place had Zoe come to her shuttle to fill her in on developments. Not Kaylee, nor even River, but Zoe. Inara had sat quickly, her legs suddenly not trusted to hold her. Sensing that this would be serious. She wondered what *goushi* the Captain had got them into this time. The man certainly had a gift. Heartbeat quickening after almost stopping she schooled herself back into the iron control that had enabled her to carve a life out of other people's expectations. "What happened?"

Zoe did not hold back. By the time she had finished the Companion was as grim faced as the first mate. Now here she was in her shuttle using the cortex to find any information she could about the graveyard. It was an odd thing to search for but given Zoe's tale they needed to glean as much as they could.

* * * * *

Simon was pleased Inara had come back but suspicious. Why? It had hurt when she left, not just him but all of them. He was especially disturbed over the affect her leaving had had on Kaylee. For hours the mechanic had been inconsolable. Only River had not seemed unduly distressed then he realised his sister had probably been the only one who knew the Companion would be coming back. But there was that question again. Why? He carried on towards the engine room, his flurry of thoughts nagging away at his back brain. Wishing he had the innocence that would simply accept everything at face value. Every gift as something that would bring joy not a delayed explosion of hurt feelings and guilt. Why was he so uneasy? Wasn't Inara's return what they all wanted?

Kaylee looked up as he entered, a smile plastered on her mucky face making even the grime and dirt look shiny. The thought startled a smile of pleasure on his face and that made Kaylee laugh. Making her laugh had become one of his favourite past times. "*Wei*, how's it going?"

The mechanic nodded and tilted her head up just as Simon hunkered down to kiss her. Lips the shape of dreams and wishes touched his own and every other consideration fled from his mind. There was only Kaylee. She was his Alpha and Omega, his beginning and end. The suns of countless shiny worlds rose and set in her loving eyes. At times his heart swelled with such love and pride he was sure it would burst. Touching her was like being drawn into a spell, one which he never wanted to break. "Fine, everythin's shiny." Another kiss, this one deeper, lingering on their lips as their tongues caressed. Breaking away was a precious burden, the distance only enough to draw breath but feeling like galaxies spun and danced in the space between. It was odd how lyrical his thoughts became around her, dancing in Kaylee's warmth and feeling impossible bursts of joy that fed him better than any banquet. "*Wei, ni hao ma*?"

He might have known she would notice. Swallowing a sigh he tenderly touched her face, drawing his finger along the curve of her cheek, his eyes begging for understanding while his clumsy words tried to express something he could not explain. "Inara came back."

Kaylee raised her brows, her eyes questioning his. "Yep. Ain't got words to tell ya how happy I am but..." Her words faltered. "What's wrong? I know ya like 'nara same as I do so why ain't ya happy?"

"I am." He stumbled over the half-truth. "At least I want to be."

She smiled. Dear, sweet Simon. May he never change, except to become a little more articulate. It could be as frustrating as *diyu* to wait for him to fumble for the words she could read shining in his hesitant eyes. Only when they made love did all hesitation vanish. The memory was enough to heat her skin and fill her with content and a stir of desire.

"It's just..."

"What Simon?"

He sighed and wrapped his arms around, not pulling her closer because he wanted to be able to look her in the eye. Assure himself that she was going to be alright. "I don't want to see you get hurt again, *xin gan*."

Kaylee looked confused. "Hurt? I ain't been hurt, Simon."

"No, no, that's not what I meant." He paused then rushed on. "I know how much Inara leaving hurt you. I just, I just don't want to see that happen again *bao bei*."

The pieces quickly slotted into place in her mind and Kaylee's look softened. "'Nara won't hurt me, Simon. We're friends an' sometimes friends have to go an' follow their own path, *dong ma*? Just happy as *diyu* 'Nara realised her path is with us." She dropped a playful kiss on the end of his nose. "Now. Ya here to help or hinder?"

Confused, he stared at the engine then back at Kaylee, a bright bubble of laughter spilling from her happy lips. "Not talkin' about the engine." She said huskily, her body leaning into his, all the curves cupping his body in her rising heat and making his cheeks flush. "Engine ain't the on'y thing needs fine tunin' Dr Tam."

* * * * *

Jayne was beyond frustration. Irritated and angry he was ready to rip heads off shoulders and arms out of sockets. Only Zoe kept the man in check. Barely. "Jayne, we don't go rushin' in. You know the plan."

"Yeah, an' the plan sucks!"

The Shepherd looked at him mildly. "You have a better plan?"

Jayne hefted Vera in his arms, a glint of anticipation in his eyes at the deadly mayhem he wanted to unleash. "Yeah, me an' Vera wanna go in an' clear a path. Cut all this pissin' in our pants waitin' for Badger to come crawlin' outta his hole."

So quickly and smoothly that Jayne could only blink at her speed, Zoe stepped right up to him. Eyes locked on his, faces barely an inch apart. Her eyes cold and deadly pools that sent slithers of ice through his veins. Gorrammit, there were times when Zoe was even more terrifying than that *shenjingbing* Captain of theirs. "Jayne, I'm only goin' to say this one more time. We wait for Badger to come out then take him. ALIVE, *dong ma*? Then you can carve whatever the *diyu* you want in his skin just so long as we find out what happened to the Cap'n." She paused just a half of a heartbeat so that her next words would sink in and brand her meaning deep into the trogladite cave that passed as his brain. "You mess this up Jayne an' you'll be gettin' your share of the next life long before death catches you up."

His heart speeding and faltering like some juddering engine with water in the mix, Jayne began to backtrack. Promise to tow the line, back down, whatever the gorram she wanted then frowned. What the rutting *diyu* did she mean about him getting the next life before he died? Then he thought of the ghosts in that gorram graveyard and every cell in his body was chilled with a terrifying premonition of something even worse than dying. Quickly he nodded, shaken but trying not to show it. Seemingly satisfied Zoe stepped back and resumed her position in wait. She let several long minutes spin out before speaking again, her voice deceptively casual but causing a mild little smile to tweak the Shepherd's lips.

"Think it's time to rattle the door of Badger's cage." She turned her head and looked straight at Jayne. "You got any grenades need new homes, Jayne?"

A huge smile broke over the mercenary's face. "Never leave home without 'em."

She nodded then smiled, a grim twist to her lips. "I want you to lob several through the door then take up position out of sight but close to the exit."

The big man started to lope past her when she spoke again.

"An' Jayne?" He looked back, wary and tense. "Don't go shootin' when they come runnin' out. If Badger hears gunfire he'll maybe find another exit an' we don't know them all."

"How'd I know when ya got him?"

"You'll know," Said Book calmly. "Because once we have him you can shoot who you like."

"Preacher!" Exclaimed Zoe, only half mocking. "Didn't see that passage in the Bible."

"Ah, but then Badger isn't in it either."

Jayne and Zoe grinned at the Shepherd then the mercenary was running on surprisingly quiet feet. Zoe settled in to wait for Badger to show her mind already devising ways to make the jumped up little King Pin talk. Oh yes, they had more than a few scores needed settling with Badger. If he didn't give them what they wanted he would be paying them all back at once, with interest.

* * * * *

Atherton Wing was one smug *tamade hundan*. It amused him knowing that his captive had been forced to submit to the kind of attentions that had made Inara Serra such a good Companion. Atherton sipped his fine red wine, made from his own grapes on the Wing Estate. A recipe handed down through generations of his family. He was sipping it slowly, savouring the wine as he did his revenge. Oh, it was priceless! One whore for another made perfect sense and calmed the balance sheet he kept inside his head. Once he had finished toying with the man he would kill him. Slowly.

A knock at the door brought him out of his reverie. Setting his glass on the side table he crossed to the door and paused. "Who is it?"

"Carver, sir."

Carver was one of Lord Harrow's stable hands. One who was also happily in his own employ. Why get your hands dirty when with a little coin you could get others to do so for you? In fact this was the very man who had alerted him to the Captain's presence and enabled him to formulate the perfect plan. "Yes, what is it? I left instructions not to be disturbed."

"*Duibuqi, shifu* but there was that 'other matter' you wished to be kept informed of?"

Atherton Wing's eyes lit up, his mood a swirl of dark passions. "Where?"


"On Persephone?"


"I want you to follow her, find out where she goes. You are to report to me and only me, is that understood?"

Carver nodded, his eyes lingering for a moment too long. Atherton's eyes narrowed on him.

"You will be paid when I have her not before, *dong ma*?"

The man whet his lip, dipped his head quickly then left.

* * * * *

Finding clothes for the Captain had been harder than they imagined. All of Mal's clothing had been taken away. The girls had assumed they would be washed and returned but they never came back. Mal gave them a mock scowl of annoyance. "I suppose you think this is funny?"

Aborted chuckles and laughter made it into coughs and much insincere throat clearing. The knock on the window startled all of them. Quickly the Captain was shoved into a cupboard, Evie affecting to lean against it to stop it popping open prematurely. Taking a steadying breath Carla moved to the window, it was the one furthest from the door. Carefully she peered out. At first Carla saw nothing then something bobbed up and startled her. She jumped before realising she was looking into the face of a young woman. No more than a girl really. The girl was smiling at her as if they were old friends too long parted. Almost before thought could urge caution, Carla opened the casement window and the girl poked her head through it. "Can't use the door." Said River. "You're being watched."

Stunned, Carla just stared at her. The others began to crowd around. Evie stepped away from the cupboard and cranned her neck, trying to see and hear what was happening. "How did you manage to...?" Carla looked left and right through the open window but there was no one there but River. "*Wo bu dong*..."

River grabbed a hand either side of the window frame and drew herself quickly through it. Surprised the women stepped back as she landed on light feet. Calmly River turned and shut the window then looked round at the women. "Don't have much time. He's going to move him soon, we have to move now."


"No time to argue, the pieces are all in place. Have to move the King off the board before the pawns turn. No way out if it goes to Check Mate."

Before any of them could think of a response a clumping sound caused heads to turn. Evie flushed and ran back to urge the Captain back into the cupboard but it was too late. River had seen him. Laughing and clapping her hands in delight River danced past the women and up to the Captain. She dipped her head the better to peer up and under his very flowery hat. Her smile was one of the most beautiful things he had seen. "Hiding?"

"No, I always dress like this." He grumped affectionately. River laughed again then hugged him. Grumbling half under his breath he returned the hug and pushed the hat back off his face before dropping a kiss on the top of her head. The others watched bemused as the Captain eased River back so he could see her face. "Not that I ain't happy to see you but what in *diyu* you doin' here, River?"

Her mood turned serious. "Have to get you out. The hands on the clock are spinning and the spider is returning to his web. Have to go now before they can bind you."

"You mean Atherton?"

She nodded. He wanted to ask her about the thoughts that kept impinging on his consciousness but now was not the time and certainly not the place.

"Where are the others?"

"Diversions. They don't go anywhere but it doesn't matter. They worry less when they have something to do."

He smiled. There were times when River sounded like some little old matriach with all of Serenity's crew the protracted offspring under her care. She tilted her head as she gave the dress a more critical appraisal. "Not your colour, should have gone for the blue."

Carla recovered her voice first. "Mal, who is this?" The Captain quickly introduced them then River grabbed the Captain's hand and tugged. "Time to go home."

Nodding he let her guide him to the window, instructing the girls to leave everything behind and just follow. They did not need to be told twice. Within minutes the room was empty, River pausing to push the casement window to so that a quick glance would make it appear to still be closed. Any seconds they could buy would be well worth the purchase price. Anna leaned in to Mal and tugged his bonnet forward to shade his face. "Try to swing your hips."

He frowned. "*Shenme*? What I wanna do that for?"

"Trust us *qin ai de*, even in a dress you still walk like a man." Chuckled Carla.

"Huh, very funny." But he did try to put a bit of a wiggle in his walk.

Back at the whore house Atherton arrived with some of his men. When he got no reply from the door he kicked it in, his face darkening as he entered all the rooms and found each and every one of them empty. Fury could not describe the anger coursing through his veins. Lips peeled back in a snarl as he spat commands left and right. "I want the house and grounds searched from top to bottom! Do not stop until you either find Reynolds or where he has gone, is that clear?" Nervous nods responded. "One more thing," Said Atherton in a deadly cold voice, his eyes glittering with malice and hard as granite. "Failure is NOT an option."


"Yes, Peters?"

"What about the women?"

An ugly sneer contorted Atherton's handsome features. "Do what you like with them, one at a time or all together, I don't care. After you've had your fun kill them. I have no use for anyone who fails me."

Without another word the men split up and began to search in earnest. The implied warning enough to keep them in line. So angry he could hardly think straight, Atherton glanced once around the obviously empty house and stormed out. His fingers flexed and formed tight fists, his thin lips compressed into a narrow uncompromising line. Just when he was so close to getting his hands on the Companion, Reynolds had to escape and by the look of it he had help. A tirade of curses spilled from his lips. Both of them would rue the day they had ever crossed Atherton Wing.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*qu* = yes (lit. go) *wanquan* = completely *congming* = wise *diyu* = hell *hen nan jieshi zhege wenti* = it's hard to explain this problem *dong ma* = understand *yige mei mei* = younger sister *wei* = hey *ni hao ma* = how are you? *xin gan* sweetheart *bao bei* = precious/treasure *shenjingbing* = crazy *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *duibuqi* = sorry *shenme* = what *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *qin ai de* = dear/darling *shifu* = sir


Saturday, June 4, 2005 12:43 PM


As always the story was great and river was exter cute with her discussion with the captian.

Keep up the good work, look foward to the next chapter.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005 9:30 AM


For some strange reason "The Sound of Music" came into my head at the beginning. Doesn't the Abbess tell Maria she has to go back and not run away from her heart. Whatever. I like this version better.

And then I was off to Toad Hall with Mal as Mr Toad dressed as a washerwoman.

I think it must be something I ate! *g*

Tension building nicely, Zoe on fine form, Jayne as loveable as ever, Mal hilarious again and River in charge.

I'm worried about Simon though.

And look! I'm all caught up. At last.


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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.