TEMPTATION SERIES: 37. "A Better World"
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Inara and Jayne drop Milo off on Dresden, solving one problem while creating another. River steps up her campaign, amusing Kaylee but horrifying Simon."



SUMMARY: "Inara and Jayne drop Milo off on Dresden, solving one problem while creating another. River steps up her campaign, amusing Kaylee but horrifying Simon." 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

* * * * *

At first she thought he was nervous though what Jayne Cobb had to be nervous about Inara could not fathom. Gritting her teeth she tried to block out the mercenary's words.

"Really 'Nara, you're so gorram *meili*. Could make a man go blind thinkin' of all the ways you could pleasure him." Jayne sighed, a look of bliss on his face, his imagination obviously working overtime. "Not to mention all the fun sex we could have." He paused to leer at her. "Know a trick or two in that department an' I ain't had no complaints, *dong ma*?"

"Perhaps next time you should try it when they're conscious."

The stinging sarcasm had little effect on Jayne other than to confuse him. To call it thinking would be a step too far in Inara's estimation. Hearing how Jayne really thought of her was more unsettling than flattering and left Inara feeling as if she was in need of a good long bath just to feel clean again. Who knew Jayne could be such a twisted pervert? Not taking the hint to shut the gorram up, Jayne launched into an even more lurid description of exactly what he would like to do to her. Putting her face in her hands Inara bit back a groan of embarrassed exasperation. Nothing she did or said could railroad the man away from his current fixation. When they got back to Serenity she was going to kill Malcolm Reynolds. Right after she introduced the mercenary to the outside of an airlock.

Only Milo remained silent and serene, his eyes flicking from one face to the other. His thoughts as guarded as coin in an Alliance vault. Inara Serra thought nothing could be worse than this but Milo knew different. The Companion should be grateful to all the Gods that ever were that the dose had not been larger, if it had the mercenary would have skipped talking about it and gone straight to doing. To Inara's unending relief they landed without mishap, Milo taking his leave with barely a word spoken. Happy to lose their guest Inara shut up the shuttle and waited for clearance to take off again. Only belatedly realising that she would be making the return trip alone with Jayne. Inwardly she could not help but groan at her misfortune. Yes. Absolutely. She was *definitely* going to kill Malcolm Reynolds.

* * * * *

Wash couldn't remember the last time he had laughed so much. Tears rolled down his cheeks as a poker faced Simon Tam explained to the Captain and crew exactly what Book's little concoction was designed for. The Captain looked horrified. "It does *what*?"

The pilot knew that look and so did Zoe but before either of them could caution Simon volcano Mal began to vent steam, a sure sign he was about to blow. Hastily the good doctor tried to calm the Captain. "It isn't as bad as it sounds. Inara's a Companion and Jayne..."

"Is a sexual time bomb you're sayin'?"

Simon flushed. Kaylee went from an initial cry of concern to trying not to laugh. Not that she thought Inara's predicament was funny but because of the Captain's outraged reaction. River stood calm as a cucumber at the Captain's side, not a word falling from her knowing lips. No clue as to what she was thinking on that pale face. Somehow Kaylee thought that was more creepifying than when she was spouting doom and gloom with a smile on her face.

"It'll wear off, Captain, all we have to do is..."

"Clean up the mess afterwards? That what you're wantin' to say, Simon?"

It didn't register that in his concern the Captain had dropped the formality of Simon's position on his boat. Too upset to keep that space between them. Distance could be all kinds of useful until you wanted to knock someone's gorram teeth down the back of their not-so-shiny throat. Not that any of it was Simon's fault. A large part of the Captain's anger being aimed at himself for putting Inara in that position, albeit unknowingly. A small hand on his arm stalled the man's rising anger.

"*Fang xin*, not helpless."

Mal stared at River. "*Shenme*?"

"Inara isn't helpless but Jayne's hopeless." The Captain blinked. Everyone exchanged baffled glances. Shepherd Book was all for taking Serenity down to find the shuttle. "We could get there before anything happens."

River shook her head, a slow smile washing over her face with something akin to satisfaction as if she had pulled the solution out of the hat her own self. "Too late. On their way back now, Simon gets to clean up."

* * * * *

No one met him at the dock. The small amount of coin he had left was just enough to get a ride to the research institute, not that anyone outside of top secret clearance would have known that was what it was. It looked like part of the industrial section of Dresden. Factories, warehouses and whore houses. Milo thought it an amusing mix. The shinier touristy parts of town were actually in town not here. He waited until he was alone again then dragged his trunk over to a dull grey nondescript building. It was low and square topped, like a large grey brick with all the personality squeezed out of it. Even the windows were shuttered grey but Milo knew they were designed for looking out not in.

Feeling cold eyes watching his progress he went to the appropriate door and placed his palm over a faded section of the door. With a little hiss a small light came on at head height. Milo shifted until his right eye was lined up with it, the little scanner mapping his Iris before computer confirmation cycled the locked door. Milo pushed it lightly and the heavy metal door swung inwards without a sound. Stepping in, he let one of the watchers take his trunk. A stern looking man in a charcoal suit immediately appeared then turned and walked off down a corridor opposite the door, Milo falling into step obediently behind him. Almost he could taste the knife that would clense him of this infirmity, the tender mercies of cosmetic surgery undoing that which he had born so courageously.

The office door opened as they approached, his guide stepping to one side to let him enter then remaining outside as the door closed behind him. Milo continued walking until he stood in front of his *laoban's* desk. The man facing him was tall and lean, his eyes steel orbs reflecting no emotion. Milo knew better than to speak first. Patiently he waited. Seconds later a door opened behind the *laoban* and two men in suits came in and sat down. Now three pairs of eyes silently evaluated him. Milo waited almost ten minutes until the *laoban* spoke. "Are you prepared for what must be done?"


"You must be totally committed. Able to do whatever is asked of you without question."

"*Wo dong*."

"Only then can you be the article of faith that will set men free."

Milo lifted his head a fraction, the light of the fanatic shining with a dull glow in his eyes. "We are building a new tomorrow."


Before the *laoban* could signal for him to be taken for restructuring and healing, words slipped from Milo's warped mouth. Intending to impress, offer information he had gleaned as a gift. "I have had an interesting journey, *shifu*."

Something hard sparked in the *laoban's* eyes. It was not permitted for a novice such as he to speak other than to respond to a question. Yet Milo was respectful. Information being their stock in trade, the *laoban* nodded once. Milo outlined his trip aboard the Firefly then described her crew. All three men stiffened, their looks sharpening with ill concealed interest. One of the others spoke. A rare intrusion. The rarer because the *laoban* allowed it. "You say the girl is psychic?"

Milo nodded. "I felt her try to touch my mind."

There. A spark of something other. Annoyance. Irritation even. The *laoban* looked displeased. "She read your mind?"

A shake of the head. "No, *shifu*."

The third man asked a single question. "Her name?"

"River Tam."

For a several seconds no one spoke. Milo thought they were impressed. Pleased. Knowing they had been searching for her for so long. He did not know that he had just signed his own death warrant.

Afterwards the *laboan* stepped over the neophyte's body, ignoring the diminishing twitches of dying nerves, a last spasm of agonised muscles. The promised elevation would never happen. The reconstructive surgery no longer necessary. No witnesses could be allowed to survive such knowledge. As Milo's brain shut down, blood bleeding through the shattered blood vessels and from his eyes, nose and ears, a last thought evaporated in a sea of red pain. A drowning sorrow at being denied the joy of an honourable death. His blade sheathed in its' trunk and unable to offer this last glorious service to him. Yet even dying he believed he had done well. For his sacrifice was helping to build a better world.

* * * * *

Mal was so anxious he was in danger of wearing a groove in the deck while he waited for the shuttle to dock. Chung-li had watched and listened in silence, his calm serene expression not betraying a single thought. Wash was mightily amused, Zoe wary and flicking a glance periodically in the Captain's direction. Shepherd Book hoped Jayne hadn't done anything stupid. In his current mood the Captain was likely to eject him into the atmo before the big man could explain and, given that this whole circus was his fault, he didn't want his friend to suffer for it. Though inwardly he did concede that if Jayne had touched Inara in any wrong way all bets were off. There was, after all, only so much a Shepherd could do.

Everybody waited as they heard Inara's shuttle dock, the Captain hovering by the door. Just before the shuttle door opened River tugged on Mal's sleeve. "Duck."

Distracted, the Captain turned his head and shot her a quizzical look. "*Shenme*?" At that precise moment the shuttle door opened and hurricane Inara swept out, her furious eyes catching sight of the Captain. The loud crack as the back of her hand connected with his face made even Chung-li wince. Before she could hit him again River shoved her aside and stood between them. Kaylee was shocked but also amused at her friend's attempt to protect the Captain, and from Inara of all people! Stunned the Captain looked at Inara, alarm setting in. "What the good gorram he do?"

Her lips peeled back in undisguised fury. "You KNEW!"

"Inara, ain't what you think. Simon just told us what the Shepherd put in the soup."

It took a moment for his meaning to reach her brain. Anger turned to disbelief. "YOU did this?"

The Shepherd looked more uncomfortable than Mal could ever remember seeing him. It helped ease the sting of his burning cheek. "*Duibuqi*."

Inara looked from face to face, clearly confused and not feeling any more enlightened as the seconds clipped by. Simon fretted from foot to foot waiting to get a word in edgewise but not wanting to get a punch from the Companion or Captain for his trouble. "Um, what happened?"

Then, like air escaping from a balloon, Inara's anger dissipated. "Jayne was being... let's just say he was far too graphic about his sexual appetites..."

"I'll gorram kill that *baichi wangba dan*." Growled the Captain,

The Companion shook her head, her composure returning much to the Shepherd's relief. "It's alright Mal, he didn't do anything."

"I thought you said..."

"Just words."

"Yeah but..."

Inara interrupted Mal by addressing Simon. "I think Jayne might need your help, doctor."

Mal blinked. She hadn't, surely? Had she?

Simon pressed passed the crew blocking the gangway and disappeared inside Inara's shuttle. The others could not follow without physically pushing Inara out of the way, something all were loath to do. Simon's voice came ringing back to them through the open door. "*Wode ma*!" A couple of seconds later Simon stuck his head out of the shuttle and stared at Inara in shocked surprise. "*Diyu* Inara, I think you broke his nose."

Shocked and more than a little impressed, the Captain murmured "That's some Academy."

Inara brushed passed him with her nose in the air, all her fabricated genteel calm back in place as if nothing had disturbed the mirror surface of her self control. "You have no idea nor will you."

The doctor set Jayne's nose and gave him something for the pain. The man was still seeing stars but at least the drug seemed to be out of his system. Knocked out of it by the look of his face. Mal had to smile at the two black eyes forming even as he peered at his hapless mercenary. "Best heal first before goin' on any jobs, Jayne."

Jayne frowned. "*Weishenme*? I'm good to go, Mal."

The Captain smirked. "Not gonna scare nobody looking like a panda."

"A what?"

Simon actually chuckled as he finished putting his things away, getting his infirmary clean and tidy again. "A panda, it's a mammal from Earth-That-Was. Big white and black bear like creature with a white face," The doctor paused and looked at Jayne. "with two BLACK eyes!"

Scowling, Jayne would have shaken him until his teeth rattled but Mal put a placating hand on his shoulder. "Come on Jayne, Shepherd's made a 'sorry stew'."

"A what?"

"A stew, hear tell there's real bits of meat in it an' vegetables, herbs an' such. Not sure what meat it is though..."

The Captain never got to finish his description, Jayne pushing him out of the way as if he hadn't been fed in a month. "Why the *diyu* didn't ya say? Man could starve to death on this boat."

"I just did." But he was talking to empty air now. Jayne had gone and most of Serenity's crew had already headed off to the commons area leaving Simon and Mal to stare at each other for a moment, neither quite knowing what to say. When it became clear that the Captain would not say anything Simon said the one thing that was preying on his mind.

"Whatever's going on between you and my sister, Captain, if you hurt her I will kill you."

Mal raised his eyebrows slowly, not mocking him but acknowledging how serious the man was being. "Ain't gonna harm a hair on her head, Simon, you got my word on it. Fact is, if I do so much as cause her a moment's grief I'll load the gun an' hand it to you my own self."

That made Simon do a double take. Did the Captain just say...? Mal put a hand on his shoulder and leaned in close enough that Simon could feel the warmth of the Captain's breath in his face.

"Truth is Simon I love her. Don't know how, when or why but there it is. Not sayin' it'll work out or that she'll wanna stay with me but I ain't pushin' or hurryin' her no matter what direction she's wantin' to go." He paused and removed his hand. "River's a woman full grown, Simon, an' though I know it's hard to accept what with everythin' that's been done to her an' all, she ain't as innocent or defenceless as you might think."

"She isn't as worldly wise either."

Mal nodded. "I'm all aware of that an' I'm preparin' to take this as slow as needs be."

A thought occurred to Simon that he found all manner of disturbing. "What if my sister doesn't want to take it slow?"

Before the Captain could answer, the subject of their little discussion danced into the infirmary and gifted both men with a smile sweet enough to break hearts. Taking the Captain's hand she began to tug him out of the door, pausing only to look back at Simon. "My choice Simon. Your's is throwing up in the engine room."

Any reply he wanted to make to the first part of her comment was wiped away by concern over the second part. "*Shenme*? What are you talking about, River?"

"Kaylee." River's smile brightened, a flicker of mischief dancing in her eyes that made the Captain chuckle. "I'm not empathic any more. It's the baby's way of bonding with the mother."

Alarm filled the doctor's face with a look close to panic then he was flying out of the door, arms and legs akimbo, eyes wide and filled with concern. All thoughts of Mal dating his sister completely forgotten. Watching his rapidly disappearing doctor Mal drew River into his arms and looked down at her with a smile. "You are a wicked woman, River Tam."

Reaching up on tiptoe she brought her lips up to his and savoured him with the sweetest of kisses. He felt her smile widen as she pulled away. Her eyes laughing up at him so full of happy that his heart swelled with love for her. "*Qu*, but I'm your wicked woman Malcolm Reynolds."

Amused he rested his forehead against hers and looked deep into her eyes. "That a fact, Miss Tam?"

Pulling back River began to tug on his hands. "I think it best I show you."

He tried, really he did, to not rush into anything. "Mayhap we should take this slow, *xin gan*."

River shook her head and tugged harder, the Captain half pulled and half cajoaled into following. "No more waiting. Besides, didn't you know? A picture's worth a thousand words."

Laughing he let her manhandle him to his bunk, just clinging onto enough gorram sense to prevent either of them falling headlong down his rutting ladder. Once in his bunk, River put a hand on Mal's chest and said something so low he could not hear her. Leaning down to catch the mumbled words she wrapped her hands around his neck and kissed him. Unable to hold out any longer he kissed her back, the air evaporating between them. He was hardly aware of her nimble fingers unbuttoning his shirt and slipping the straps of his suspenders off his shoulders. Easing him gently backwards, it was only as the backs of his legs hit the bunk and he tumbled onto the bed with a triumphant River sprawled over the top of him that he realised his promise to Simon was being torn to tatters.

River's warm hands sliding inside his open shirt, her tongue in his mouth, her body squirming on top of his until the breath in his body was so hot it burned, Mal couldn't find it in him to regret the temptation paving his way to *diyu*. He felt River's laughter, her hands now unbuckling his belt and undoing his flies. His breath coming in harsh pants as he tried to slow her down, but River was a runaway train with only one destination in mind. As soon as she locked on the last of his resistance fled. A slow warm moan leaked out of his mouth. River swallowed it greedily, her body humming with pleasure and need, her eyes sparkling. More alive than she had ever been before. Body, heart and soul for once singing the same song. Delighted beyond telling to find that the Captain knew all the words.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*meili* = beautiful/pretty *dong ma* = understand? *laoban* = boss *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *wo dong* = I understand *shifu* = sir *shenme* = what? *duibuqi* = sorry *baichi* = idiot *wangba dan* = fucking bastard *wode ma* = mother of God! *weishenme* = why *diyu* = hell *qu* = yes (lit. go) *xin gan* = sweetheart


Wednesday, November 16, 2005 5:18 AM


Entertaining combination of the crew's comedy, Milo's tragedy, and the sex, all in one chapter.

Friday, November 25, 2005 6:40 AM


Funny chapter. Very funny. I could just picture Inara - and was that a Buffy reference I caught there? ("Duck")

Loved Simon's threat and Mal's reply. Very sweet.


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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.