STOLEN MOMENTS: 36. "Final Assessment"
Wednesday, July 6, 2005

"Gradually everything gets back to normal again with the realisation that nothing will be the same."



SUMMARY: "Gradually everything gets back to normal again with the realisation that nothing will be the same." 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 was an odd sensation for the Companion. She was sitting in the commons area with Kaylee and the whores in the padded armchairs and sofa set aside for relaxing. Carla was cradling baby Zack, Emma holding one of the twins - Christian - while Evie played with Lucy. Anna rocked a quietly sleeping Trisha while Kaylee did everything but salivate at the babes. Had she not thought it would upset the mothers she would have insisted on holding first one then the other but Inara had quietly suggested waking them when they were dropping off to sleep was a recipe for disaster. Plus she privately did not know how it would affect the Captain's mood having four wailing babies on board. Carla watched the way Inara looked at them, as if measuring and weighing them in her mind before speaking. It did not annoy or offend her. She had spent her whole life being looked down upon by better than the Companion but that was not what Inara was intending in her estimation. 'Course it was only a theory.

"Don't know how to thank Mal enough, comin' along when he did." Carla said in seeming innocence.

Kaylee beamed. "Yeah, the Cap'n may act all kinds of grumpy an' stern but he ain't nothin' but a big gorram softie at heart ain't he 'nara?"

For a moment it looked as if Inara would not answer. "I'm not sure I would describe the Captain as a 'softie'."

"Well, not all the time I know that but he's got a sunny side an' he don't hold with no one hurtin' kids or womenfolk."

The whores were amused by Kaylee's ready defence of her hero and Inara's barely concealed irritation at the praise. She wanted to deflect them from Mal's supposedly fine qualities to how the women had come to meet him and end up on Serenity. "I understand you worked for Atherton?"

Evie gave a little smirk, not in the least self conscious. "We're whores Miss Inara. Don't have no expectation of bein' anythin' else. The only shame is bein' one an' not admittin' it."

Inara inwardly flinched. These women were sharper than they looked but their smiles did not look completely fake. Fortunately Kaylee saved Inara from having to beg the information out of them. "So how did the Cap'n come to rescue you? Was it like in the old movies an' such? I bet there was fightin' an'..."

The women laughed and chuckled. Anna was grinning back at the mechanic in open delight. "Not exactly."

"Which means?"

Anna hesitated at Inara's question. Not wanting to get into how they had tormented and seduced the Captain while Atherton looked on. 'Sides, if the Captain wanted the Companion to know he would tell her. No way would she or her sisters tell tales out of school without Mal's say so. But that didn't mean she couldn't at least tell the Companion how they got out. "The crazy girl came an' got us."

Inara frowned. "*Shenme*?"

"I think she means River." Said Kaylee with a smile.

"Didn't know quite what to think when she first appeared at our gorram window." Said a bemused Carla. "Then she told us she came to get Mal out an' of course he wouldn't go without givin' us the chance to escape as well. An' not just us but our babies too." Kaylee beamed happily at them. "So now you're free what you gonna do?" The women looked at each other. Carla spoke for them all. "Well, reckon we'll find somewhere outta Atherton's range of influence an' away from the Alliance. He may not be the smartest man but he carries a grudge a powerful long time. Don't wanna be revisitin' it any time soon. Guess we'll settle down an' raise our families. We'll talk it over with the Cap'n first, see what he thinks is best."

That gave Inara pause. Why should it matter what Malcolm Reynolds had to say about it? And why should five two-bit whores be hanging on the words of Serenity's Captain? They were free and not beholden to any man. If Kaylee thought there was anything odd about the comment it didn't show. Before Inara could speculate further the sound of voices approaching distracted her. They all looked round as Zoe, Wash, Simon, Jayne and the Captain entered the commons area. She could tell at a glance that Simon was not just tense but pissed off, his pinched face a little grey around the edges where worry for his sister was vying with annoyance at the Captain. Jayne thought everything was hi-larious and couldn't wait for the fighting to start, only a cold glare from Zoe keeping his trap shut so he didn't set a match to the mountain of tinder piling up between the ship's Captain and its' medic.

Simon spun round to face the Captain as Mal entered the room behind him. Shepherd Book was down in the cargo bay locking everything down. Normally the Captain saw to that but it had a been a long and wearying few days and Book had urged him to go on ahead. He would join them shortly. Zoe's eyes narrowed on Simon's face but she said nothing, curious her own self about why Mal had not gone after River. "I figured," Said Simon with maddening calm. "That you had a plan. A *reason* for leaving her behind." He paused and snorted, the sound a disapproving punctuation as if underlining how many kinds of wrong it was. "She did after all, go to save you. The least you could have done..."

"An' would'a!" Snapped the Captain. Silence fell, complete and utter. All eyes on the Captain now. He closed his eyes a moment, using the tiny break to marshall what resources he still had. The weariness in him so profound that it was bringing him close to the breaking point. With a sigh he opened his eyes and Simon was startled to see the pain and sorrow staring back at him. "Never would'a left her if I was able."

"What the *diyu* does that mean?"

"Doc... Simon, don't wanna argue with you."

"Then just tell me." Simon flung his arms out dramatically. "Tell us all!"

"If it's any comfort she ain't alone."

Simon stared at him. That was not what he had been expecting to hear. "She's not? *Wo bu dong...*"

The Captain ran a hand through his hair. Inara noticed the hand shook a little and wondered just how much he had slept since he had last been on Serenity. "*Wo zhidao*. Not that I think you're gonna like hearin' who she's with any more than the fact that I couldn't bring her back with me."

"What are you talking about?"

"Simon, that academy your sister was at. The Alliance facility or whatever the gorram it was had other kids there besides River. You know that, *dui*?"

Simon nodded and waited. Shepherd Book walked into the commons area and noticed the tension. He walked over to Zoe and stood at her shoulder, not looking at her, but wanting to be near someone who would at least be able to give him a coherent update on just what in the nine hells was going on. For the moment though his curiosity would have to wait to be sated just like everyone else's.

On the sofa, Emma got up and went over to the Captain, her hand on his arm guiding him to a chair. Wanting him to sit down before he fell down. Zoe frowned but said nothing. The Captain glanced at Emma, "*Xie xie ni*."

She gave him a soft smile and kissed his cheek gently. "*Bu xie*." Then Emma went back to the sofa and resumed her seat next to Carla. Inara blinked. What was that all about?

"Okay, you have my full attention. What does you leaving my sister behind have to do with the academy?"

The Captain watched Simon's furious face, part of him impressed that he was able to control himself this long. "River took us into an underground system..."

"The tunnels and catacombs of St Thomas." Murmured Book softly.

" hide from Atherton and his gorram soldiers. But we found more than we bargained for. You see, we weren't the only ones seekin' a place to hide."

"Sanctuary." Everyone turned in surprise at the clear, calm sound of River Tam's voice. River stood in the doorway, a calm expression on her face. Simon was about to go to her then froze. What the..? "River? Who are all these people?"

Behind River the Lost Ones crowded in eerie silence. It was the Captain who explained. "That there are some of the other children from that place."

"*Wode ma*!" Said Book. Everyone but the Captain, River and the whores looked stunned.

*You worried the diyu outta me, xin gan*

River smiled inside the Captain's mind. *Had some housekeeping to finish*


*He won't be causing anyone any more trouble, Captain*

*You didn't...?*

*Kill him? No, though it's what he deserves* Her smile grew to almost obscene proportions. *He will live to wish I had*

The Captain did not want to go there. Whatever had happened he could live without the knowing of it just so long as his crew were safe. Simon managed to get his feet to move around the same time the others started to speak. Questions filled the air in a barrage totally ignored by the Captain. Simon reached out for his sister. "River, I was so worried."

River placed a hand on his cheek. Her look tender. "Poor Simon, sometimes you forget I'm not a child any more." He wanted to remind her she was still broken, damaged, vulnerable. He was unaware she heard his every thought. Her look sad but filled with love and affection. Simon was the single most important thing in her life but it didn't stop her needing other people. Shepherd Book glanced from River to the pale faced children then looked at the Captain. "What about...?"

River answered before the Captain could say anything. "They're with me."

"I know but..."

"No," Said River more firmly. "They're with *me*."

Kaylee was staring curiously at the new additions. "What happened to 'em? How come they don't speak?"

"Fear used up all the air so they speak without words. Less confusing too."

The Captain got to his feet, knowing this discussion could go on well into the night. "Wash, let's blow the dust of this world off our boots. Zoe can you...?"

"I'll find them somewhere to sleep, Cap'n."

"I'm gonna go get some sleep. Suggest you folks be doin' the same. We can talk this out all we need come mornin', *dong ma*?"

* * * * *

He lay insensate for so long he had no notion of when his world view changed from *goushi* to *shen goushi*. Was oblivious to the regimented hands that lifted him from the cold hard floor, the thrum beneath him as he was taken aboard a ship. No idea of how long he was in transit nor of his arrival. Atherton Wing woke or did the nearest approximation of waking many hours later. Could even have been days. The restriction of his arms did not register. The bland anihilation of all colour meant nothing to him. The soft walls hiding a hard cradle to contain what was once a proud and arrogant man. All that was beyond him now.

Glazed eyes stared at nothing. Numb lips moved as hints of words formed like a jigsaw on the tip of his tongue and fell in a tumble of half remembered dispair. The repetition familiar to him now, the meaning lost in the flat cadence of his whispered voice. "Two by two, hands of blue..."

* * * * *

So gorram tired. Malcolm Reynolds climbed down into his bunk, stood for a moment swaying before stripping down. He barely glanced at the discarded dress, the disguise now sporting more than a few rips in the fabric where his impatience had not allowed for the length of the hem. Stiffling a yawn he sat on the bed, buck naked and almost too weary to get under the covers. A noise by his hatch made him look up, remembering he had forgotten to close it. Pushing himself to his feet he was surprised to see the lush red velvet of Inara's dress as she climbed down into his room. Stunned he stared at her. "Inara, what the good gorram...?"

The Companion's smile was tender and all kinds of confusing to him. Wasn't she mad at him? No. That was Simon. Why was Simon mad at him? River. Yeah. On'y River was back so why was Inara here again? She closed the distance between them with commendable alacrity while still managing to be graceful about it. Made him wonder if she was on castors. Her expression was amused, her eyes warming up on his naked body. "Too much talking."

Mal's mouth dropped open to ask what the *diyu* she meant only to have her spell it out for him. Her mouth devouring his while her hands woke up parts of him that began not to care if they never knew sleep again.

* * * * *

Kaylee and River sat together in the engine room, Kaylee's face bright and all manner of amazed, impressed and stunned by what her friend had to say. "An' you sayin' all them ladies had the Cap'n?"

The little genius nodded, happy and enjoying the tale. "It was supposed to be torture."

The mechanic's eyes widened with alarm then realised River's look was teasing. "Oh you! Nearly had me goin'." She laughed.

"They did. Not once but again and again and again..."

"What? You mean.... with the Cap'n?"

River nodded. "It was Atherton's way of getting even you see."

"*Wo bu dong*. How can havin' sex be a punishment?"

"You've met the Captain?"

"He ain't that bad."

"The Captain took Atherton's whore so..."

"Inara ain't no whore!"

"Semantics." River shrugged and carried on. "So Atherton wanted to turn the Captain into one."

There was definitely not enough oxygen in the engine room. Kaylee stared in stunned silence, mouth hanging open as if the clasp were broken. Her mind having difficulty grasping what her friend was telling her. "No, I don't... the Cap'n wouldn't... not ever."

"He didn't, technically speaking."

For a moment neither of them spoke. Kaylee's amusement turning a mite more serious as she contemplated exactly what River was telling her. "You sayin' they... *raped* him?"

"The plan was to humiliate him."

She thought about that, her mouth forming a slow perfect circle. "What happened?"

"They realised the Captain was an honourable man and Atherton wasn't. Changed sides and decided to help him escape if they could go too."

"Where do you come in?"

River stood up and proudly stretched to her full height. "I showed them how, the rest as they say is history."

"Shiny! You know what that makes you, River?"

River beamed back at her. "A big damn hero!"

* * * * *

"What is it with you and dresses, Mal?"

The Captain was in the throes of passion. Again. Gorrammit, who would have thought a Companion could be so hot or so relentless not to mention the stamina? *Tianna*, wasn't gonna think of the stamina. "You sure you wanna talk about this now?" He asked in a much too highly pitched and strained voice, his control hanging on by its' fingertips as she deliberately orchestrated the timing of his thrusts, drawing them out slower and slower until he was almost ready to cry with the overpowering feelings thundering through his veins like a call to arms. Body a hum of fevered want and need peaking to the brink of downright begging.

Afterwards he lay like a broken doll, his bones all turned to rubber. Eyes closed Mal slept the sleep of the exhausted. Inara drank him in as if her eyes, hands and heart were starved of the sight of him, the feel of him, the taste of him on her lips and in her mind. Inara's hands moving over the naked body beneath her, the covers on the floor where they had tossed them. She was not tired yet. Smiling as she bent to trail warm wet kisses over his chest she thought of all the things she planned to do to him before he woke. He couldn't protest if he didn't know and it would leave her free to adore him at her own pace. Her heart sighed with happy content as she wriggled down and began to lap at him, her hands on separate missions of their own. The sleeping body twitching every now and then as her touch added to the age old chemical cues that brought a heady response. No. Inara wasn't finished with Malcolm Reynolds yet. The House Mistress had been right and she had so much time to make up for.

* * * * *

Shepherd Book had been relieved but sorry to see the whores go. Jayne had been all but pumping himself up in front of them in a bid to get them to notice and take pity on him. That they never did had been making the big man mean and bad tempered. What amused the Shepherd was that the Captain seemed too distracted to notice. Sending a wave to Petaline had been Mal's idea but to his surprise Inara had embraced it. A little smile flickering between the Captain and the Companion as if they knew something the others didn't. Book wanted to laugh out loud but didn't. It was a game as old as time itself and he had been in the world longer than any of them. If they wanted to pretend no one else noticed who was he to spoil their fun?

The Lost Ones though were a more disturbing problem. Zoe handed the Shepherd a coffee, adding sugar to the one she had poured for Wash. There were only the two of them in the commons room this early. Wash was on course for one of the retreats belonging to Book's order. "You sure you're people will accept them?"

"We are *all* God's children, Zoe."

"Even Jayne?"

The Shepherd paused to hide a smile. "Even Jayne."

A week later it was done. Life aboard Serenity was nearly back to normal except for one thing. The dance Inara and the Captain had been doing around each other had now been set to music. Didn't matter a good gorram that the others couldn't hear it, the two of them could and they knew the steps. They didn't miss a beat. It made Kaylee all kinds of happy and that made Simon relaxed and happy too. Zoe was beginning to feel all hormonal again after the exposure to the whores' babies and Wash was starting to weaken in his resolve that the Black was no place to bring up children. River had danced up to them when they had been arguing the pros and cons in undertones. Her index finger poking Wash in the chest and causing them both to fall silent and stare at her. "All we have is now. Don't waste it."

Simon did the fertility tests then Zoe and Wash got to practising in earnest. Jayne complained about the noise keeping him awake at night but the Captain couldn't hear it having moved his own activities to Inara's shuttle and the added attractions of a double bed. Never knew the gorram Companion was double jointed! "They teach you that in whore academy?"

Inara raised heavy languid eyelids to reveal the deep burning passion in her beautiful eyes. The Captain felt all the blood leave his face, his response quickening at her touch, her smile, her oh so dazzling erotic and womanly wiles. "*Bu qu*. Let me show you..."

It was a good long while before the Captain was capable of speech again. River tasted the delirium of joy in the Captain's mind as he and the Companion took their pleasure in one another then stayed a moment or two longer to savour the blissful sleepy rapport that followed. Content. Harmony. Love. Moving on she padded about the Firefly while the crew slept, pausing outside each door. Her mind savouring the thoughts of each and every one of them. Affection tinging her mind in a last fond farewell as she gently and lovingly folded the seal around her mind that let her touch their thoughts, feelings and memories. Savouring these stolen moments for the very last time. They were a gift and Christmas had already come and gone. No peeking! The children had taught her how to shut their thoughts off from herself and she had learnt well. It was not medicine that would heal her but people. These people. This family. The silence that now infused her mind was like a fine wine, the thrum of the ship a reassuring heartbeat. Checking the ship one last time River made her way back to her room and smiled. They really did take so much looking after.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *wo zhidao* = I know *dui* = correct *xie xie ni* = thank you *bu xie* = you're welcome *wode ma* = mother of God *xin gan* = sweetheart *dong ma* = understand *goushi* = crap/dog shit *shen goushi* = deep crap/dogshit *tianna* = oh God! *bu qu* = no (lit. no go)


Wednesday, July 6, 2005 10:21 AM


Very cool, I wait with baited breath for hopefully a epilogue to this story.

Friday, July 8, 2005 6:51 AM


Very sweet ending. Even if the thought of River being able to feel what Mal was feeling with Inara was all manner of creepifyin' but the way you paint River that wasn't voyeurism on her part - more like she's listening to music, appreciating the light cheerful sounds now after so much dark.

Liked snarky Simon and poor old frustrated Jayne. Just as well he wasn't listening to that conversation between Kaylee and River or he might just have killed Mal out of envy!

Friday, July 8, 2005 12:50 PM


A happy ending for Mal and Inara! Thank you Alison :=)

Friday, July 8, 2005 12:52 PM


You're welcome! About time our Cappy had something to smile about. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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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.