The Fish Job: Chapter 18
Thursday, February 2, 2006

Inara and Jayne put their skills to good use


Chapter 1.

Back to Chapter 17.

* * * * *

Shuttle Two set down at a public landing pad a few blocks up the hill from the fish market in Sydney. Zoe locked up the shuttle and sent Simon and Book off to meet the Prefect, then she followed Jayne downhill.

She was hoping not to need the guns hidden under their clothing, but wasn’t too sure what would be waiting for them at the Delight of the Sea. The Alliance had asked Mal about Ricky, and he’d told all.

When they got to the fish market, Jayne led Zoe through the crowd without pausing. He wasn’t so interested in the seafood displays on this visit; he had business to settle, and he meant to do some talking of his own this time around.

They slowed down as they approached Ricky’s stall, scanning for uniforms or smashed doorways, but nothing appeared to be amiss. Zoe nodded to Jayne and followed him to the counter.

“Jayne Cobb and guest to see Ren-ren Lu,” Jayne told the worker.

“Sorry,” the worker replied. “Ricky very busy. May I ask what matter is?”

The man stepped back in alarm as Jayne pulled up the hinged section of the counter. “Matter is, your boss needs a little educatin’.” Jayne grabbed the worker by the collar and pushed him through the door in the back of the stall. Zoe checked the crowd for any watching eyes, then closed the gate and followed. She found Jayne in a shabby kitchen, tossing aside a large wooden cutting board. The hapless worker was slumped unconscious in a corner.

Ricky was sitting by himself in the small office behind the kitchen. He rose with a startled look when Jayne crashed through the door, but tried to make the best of it. “Mr. Cobb, pleasure to see–” The man found himself lifted off his feet and shoved against the wall. Zoe shut the door and sat down to give Jayne a moment to work the edge off of his bad mood.

* * *

Inara pulled Mal into her shuttle and led him to the sofa. “Have a seat,” she instructed.

Mal looked at the sofa, feeling distinctly uncomfortable. “Can’t we just talk standin’?”

“Why are you being so skittish? Sit!” she insisted.

“Skittish? Me?” Mal made a sound of disbelief, but then he shut his mouth and sat down. He wasn’t about to do any explaining about his uneasiness with the sofa.

Inara perched next to him, her hands folded in her lap and her manner all business. “Simon told me that there’s no sign of those drugs in your blood anymore. The lingering effects you are experiencing are due to trauma and lack of sleep.”

“That’s very interestin’, Inara. Thank you for the update.” He started to stand up.

Inara put her hand on Mal’s elbow to stop him. “Don’t be stubborn. You need to do something about this.”

“Which is why I am tryin’ to get to my bunk to get some rest.”

“You’ve been sleeping well there, have you?”

He pulled his arm away from her, but didn’t stand up. “Sleepin’ like a baby,” he said sullenly.

“A baby insomniac? Sounds about right.” She smiled sweetly.

He exhaled impatiently. “Very funny. Get to the point. What is so gorram important?”

“This.” Inara picked up a plain black box from the table. It fit snugly in the palm of her hand.

* * *

“You set us up,” Jayne growled as he held Ricky against the wall.

“I gave you easy job!”

“You knew the Alliance’d be waitin’ for us.”

“I gave you legal cargo! I paid tariff. I gave you bonus - big bonus! Even free food!”

“And a cavity search of our ship, courtesy of the Alliance. Could’a got us in a whole heap a’ trouble.”

“If you have something to hide, is your problem, not mine.”

“It’s your problem now, ain’t it?” Jayne’s grip tightened on the man’s neck.

“Jayne, sit him down,” Zoe ordered. Jayne gave the man one last look, swung him around, and pushed him into a chair. He towered over Ricky while Zoe sat facing him, her carbine tapping casually against her knee.

“I don’t think you realize the situation,” she told Ricky in a calm, reasonable voice. “Our Captain’s brain got put through a shredder on account of your ‘legal’ cargo, and we’re not real happy ‘bout that.”

“Not my fault!”

“Funny you should say that, ‘cause the Alliance was real interested in you, and in your buddy Kamath. Just why is that?”

“I know nothing.”

“Kamath asked us to carry something hush-hush for him. I got a notion ‘bout what that was, but I’d like to hear what you have to say.”

“I ship food, that’s all.”

“But you’re workin’ with him, and he sure as diyu ain’t shippin’ no fish.”

Ricky glanced nervously up at Jayne, who was cracking his knuckles with a look of anticipation. “Fine – I tell you” he said. “Is not bad thing to do.” He tone became self-righteous and more than a little proud. “I been here long time, know everything happening, know who goes where. Is why Kamath come to me to make deal. I find people who might help and send them to him. If they get through, fine, he offers better job. More risk but more pay.”

“So you know what he wanted to hire us for?”

“He never tell me details. I ship food and he ship what he wants. Not my business.”

“But you get a little kick back.”

“Not easy times, money welcome.”

“You knew the Alliance would be onto us,” Jayne interrupted.

“No!” Ricky replied quickly, a little too quickly. “All secret!”

Zoe tipped her carbine up against her shoulder as she studied Ricky. “Cap’n told the Alliance all ‘bout you,” she said finally.

“Then you lucky I not sending someone after you.”

Zoe smiled at his flimsy threat and continued smoothly. “Which makes me wonder why it’s lookin’ like business as usual ‘round here. You ain’t even got any muscle in the place. I’m thinkin’ that you ain’t real worried ‘bout the Feds.”

“Alliance already knows about me. All I ship is food. My hands clean.”

Jayne wrinkled his nose. “Hardly. So how come you told Mal that they don’t know ‘bout you on account a’ how you’re so careful?”

Ricky shrugged. “I tell little lie. But I am careful. They know about me, they leave me alone. I just sell fish, nothing else.”

Zoe leaned back in her chair. “Does that story seem smelly to you, Jayne?”

“Yep. I’m thinkin’ it’s even a little fishy.” Jayne was obviously pleased at his own wit. Zoe managed not to roll her eyes. “Well then, you got any ideas as to what to do ‘bout it?”

Jayne pulled out his knife. “I think I can come up with a few suggestions.”

* * *

Inara looked down at the small box in her hand. “Companions screen their clients very carefully,” she said, “but it’s unavoidable that some… bad characters get through now and then. Especially out here on the rim where there are so many new clients and the Guild is far away.” She looked up, but not at Mal. “Men can tend toward… violent tastes and may not understand the consequences of mistreating a Companion.”

Mal stared at Inara, confused by her choice of topic.

“When a Companion has a bad encounter, she needs to heal.” Inara held up the box. “This helps.” She opened the lid; the box contained small white pills. “It relieves anxiety, allows one to feel at peace.”

Mal had to chew on this idea for a bit.

“You ever need to take one of those?” he asked.


“Since you’ve been here on Serenity?”


Mal’s face hardened. “Who?”

“It’s been taken care of. The Guild takes abuse very seriously.”

“I see.”

Mal didn’t see, but he couldn’t handle thinking about this. Made him angry. Reminded him of another bad thing that had happened to a woman on his crew. No, that never happened, he reminded himself.

“These provide restful sleep,” Inara continued, “and if you dream, they’re good dreams.” She set the box on the table and rose to her feet, then continued talking over her shoulder as she left the room. “I talked to Simon about this after your… episode in the dining room.”

“Episode. One word for it.” Mal said softly. He rubbed his forehead, trying to shake the image of Kaylee, arms pinned behind her back, being dragged through a dark doorway.

“Simon ran some tests,” Inara continued from the other room. “One can’t just look this up in a medical catalog. It’s not a common medicine, but something designed at the Academy.” Mal wasn’t listening, he was focused on ignoring a voice in his head: Look what we found, Captain Reynolds.

Inara returned with a glass of water. “He says it’s safe, but wanted me to wait until those drugs were out of your system before offering it to you.”

Mal didn’t notice her sitting down next to him. He was staring at the rug next to the table. Wo de ma, he thought. I cannot take seein’ Kaylee like that. Real or not.

“Mal?” Inara noticed his ashen face and followed his gaze. “What do you see?” She touched his shoulder and he started.

“I think it’s ‘bout time I got some sleep,” he said with a nod and a tight smile. He took a pill from the box and washed it down with the glass of water she’d brought him.

* * *

“I no soldier! You can’t cut on me!” Ricky yelled, clearly frightened of the large knife Jayne brandished in his face.

“That just makes the cuttin’ easier,” Jayne said with a grin. “All pudge, no muscle.”

“I do business, get by. Did not want part of this!”

“You got a nice pair a’ears there, Ricky. You really wanna lose one?” Jayne moved the knife toward the body part in question.

Ricky leaned aside as far as he could to keep away from Jayne. “No! Not ear! Okay! I admit, I talk to Alliance. But I tell about Kamath, I say nothing about you!”

“That is interestin’,” Zoe said. “You told them about Kamath, they followed him, and they got our Captain. Did they pay you a lot?”

“I did not do it for pay!”

Jayne didn’t look away from the cowering man as he asked Zoe: “How ‘bout I get us some fillet a’ whiny Alliance stoolie?”

“I’ll stick to the protein,” Zoe replied, “but please yourself.”

Ricky didn’t like Jayne’s idea much. “Yes! Okay - I get pay from Alliance!”

Zoe’s eyes narrowed. “Not a bad deal. You get to sell your fish without worrying about Alliance interference, and they get help flushing out insurgents. Plus, you make money from both sides.”

“I don’t want to work for Alliance. I have no choice. They shut me down if I do not help, and they say they will go after Mokhing!”

“Mokhing?” Zoe asked.

“My son - my only child! Lives on far side of New Melbourne. His mother not like me, take him away when he was very small. I not see him seven years, thought no one knew I have son. But Alliance know and say they will take him and make him work in mines in Georgian System. See, I have to do what they say!”

“Jayne,” Zoe said. Jayne caught her eye and got the message. He curled his lip and reluctantly backed off Ricky a bit. “Ricky, when did the Alliance pull that on you?”

Ricky didn’t seem relieved about Jayne giving him some distance. He continued to eye the knife nervously. “Two weeks ago.”

“You wouldn’t happen to be missin’ a few days right before that?”

“What you mean, missing?”

“Like a few days passed that you can’t remember.”

Ricky looked away from the knife to throw Zoe a suspicious look. “How you know?”

Zoe shook her head. “Huai le. Jayne, sit down.”

“But…” Jayne started to argue but stopped when he saw Zoe’s face.

“Put away the knife.”

Jayne did as he was told, but kept an eye on Ricky. Zoe put her gun away and stood up to pace the room, her head down in thought.

* * *

Inara took the glass of water out of Mal’s hand and set it on the table. “Could you sit tight for a minute?” she asked. “I need to see to a few things.”

He watched her stand up and walk across to her cabinet; apparently she felt it was necessary to light some incense. “So that’s all you wanted to talk ‘bout?” he asked.

“No, there’s a few more things.”

Mal waited, but she didn’t continue. “Well?” he prompted finally.

“Can you just give me a few minutes?”

She sounded suspiciously like she was stalling; he didn’t like that. But he was feeling less inclined to get away from her than he had a few minutes ago. Someone had hurt her. Someone had hurt Inara while she was living on this ship and he hadn’t even known. She had turned to some fancy drug for help instead of talking to the people around her. Mal considered what the preacher would have to say about that.

Inara was still moving about the room, placing candles and lighting them. Mal shrugged to himself and leaned back, waiting for the drug induced peace to come.

This whole idea didn’t sit quite right with him. There certainly were enough feel-good pills to be had in the ‘verse, but the easy way out often took a man a little more ‘out’ than was healthy. He couldn’t argue at this point, though; something had to be done. His stomach felt hollow when he remembered the look on Kaylee’s face when his gun had been aimed between her eyes.

Mal realized his eyes were closed and sat up. The heady scent of incense was spreading through the room, which was now completely lit by candles. The bed covers were folded to one side so that more than half of the bed was bare to the bottom sheet, and Inara was now spreading a thick blanket over that half of the bed. This all made Mal very uneasy.

She noticed he was watching her. “How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Ain’t at peace, if that’s what you’re wonderin’.” But the candlelight felt good on his eyes. Calming. It looked good on Inara, too. Mal shook his head; this was exactly where this shouldn’t be going. It suddenly occurred to him to wonder why he was still there.

“Inara, I ‘preciate this, thanks.” He leaned forward to stand up, but the distance from sitting to standing was a lot further than it should have been.

“What’s wrong?” she asked as she sat down next to him.

“I might be feelin’ a little odd. I’ll just be headin’ to my bunk before I get any odder. I’ll let you know how the sleep goes.” But he still couldn’t get himself to stand up.

“Why don’t you stay here?”

“Cause I got a perfectly good bunk.” He rubbed his eyes. “Very comfy.”

“It’s comfy here too.”

“No it ain’t.” Mal propped his elbows on his knees and let his head fall into his hands. He had to get out of here, but the idea of walking all the way to his bunk was overwhelming.

“Mal, it’s okay. You can relax; you’re safe here.”

He turned his head to look at her. “You promise you won’t start doin’ any… Companiony things?”

“Companiony things?”

He rubbed his hands over his face again. The little pill was getting to him, no doubt about that. “I just need sleep, that’s all.”

“Won’t be a problem.” She gave him a warm smile and took one of his hands in hers.

* * *

Zoe stopped pacing and looked at Ricky. “When did Kamath talk to you? Was it after those missing days?”

“Yes.” The man was clearly perplexed by Zoe’s change of attitude.

“So,” Zoe summarized to herself, “they did the brain fry to you before you started working with Kamath, then they used your son Mokhing to get you to tattle later on.”

Ricky didn’t answer. He was figuring out that he might not be in so much trouble with Zoe after all. He wasn’t so convinced about Jayne.

Zoe sat down and leaned toward him. “Ricky, there’s some people havin’ bad things happen to them because of you. But I’m gonna give you a chance to make up for it.”

Ricky sat up straight. “I listen,” he said.

“We’re gonna take you to meet a friend of ours. Real dandy of a fellow. You and he are gonna make use of these contacts you’ve got.”

“Oh no, if they catch me – ”

“Our friend has some power of his own. And he’s not real happy about the things that you and Kamath have been into. I suggest you play nice.”

“Alliance bullies, dandy friend… either way bad for me!”

“He’s a powerful, rich guy. You make yourself useful to him, I think he may be able to help with your son.”

Ricky frowned as he looked from Zoe to Jayne. “I do not trust you.”

“You got a choice?” Zoe asked.

He threw his hands up. “No, no choice. I will talk to dandy friend.”

Jayne cut Zoe off before she could reply. “That’s a real good decision, Ricky. You’ll go see the man in a few. First, I think you’re owin’ our Captain a little more in the way of a bonus.”

“Jayne – ” Zoe started.

“I kept my cool on the ship Zoe, now you just let me take care a’ this my way.”

Zoe looked doubtful, but nodded to Jayne. She was a little curious to find out what he had in mind.

Ever since Jayne had dropped the word “bonus,” Ricky had been staring at his money on the table with an expression of alarm. Jayne followed his look. “That there ain’t enough. I think you might be needin’ to call some friends to help you pay up.” Ricky’s look changed to a mix of confusion and dread.

* * *

Mal sharply pulled his hand out from Inara’s grasp. “See, that’s what I mean right there,” he told her. “I don’t want any a’ that.” He folded his arms over his stomach and glowered.

“Mal, you can tell me what happened, as much or as little as you want,” she said gently.

“What happened when?”

“You know when. You’re upset with me.” When he didn’t answer, she added, “River said that whatever happened, it hurt you.”

“She told you that? She tell you anythin’ else?”

Inara hesitated. “No, she didn’t… tell me anything.” She started to say more, then stopped. She seemed to be arguing with herself about what to say. Finally she continued awkwardly, “It might… help you if you explained it to me.”

“It’s none a’ your damn business,” he said harshly. Inara smiled gently, but Mal caught the hurt in her eyes. He found himself talking on. “It’s just… I was down. Zoe was leavin’ and everyone was actin’ weird, and the preacher said…” Mal stopped. He was feeling relaxed, he realized, and that included his ability to direct what was coming out of his mouth. Keep it simple, no details, he told himself. “You were nice to me is all. It was just like this, in your shuttle. Little messier though. You were packin’.” He looked around at the artwork and lush draperies, then his gaze settled on Inara. “You helped me.”

“I can help you again.”

“Oooh no,” Mal said, trying not to remember how it had felt to let her help. Reclining on this same gorram sofa, his hand in hers, her thumbs working into his palm. Then she’d pulled him against her…

He redirected his thoughts. “Later. You got mean.” You thought there was something between us? Poor Mal.

“What did I do?”

“You told me it was all Companion stuff. Like you were playin’ me. Like you didn’t…” Goushi, too much detail. “I’m just sayin’, I don’t need any a’ that. Okay? No Companion stuff.” He looked at her. “Just let me get some sleep. Okay?”

“Mal. First of all, I wouldn’t play you. You don’t deserve that; you’re a good man.”

He looked away. The memory that brought back should have made him bitter, but oddly he found himself smiling at it, just a little. “That’s ‘xactly what you said before,” he said, “right after you called me a pain in the ass.”

“Then I was right on both counts.” Mal shared her laugh at that. “But it’s wrong to say that if I employ Companion techniques I must be ‘playing’ you. Especially if, by using them, I can help you.”

Again, Mal suspected that this was dangerous territory, but he couldn’t bring himself to be alarmed. “Help how?” he asked.

“How are you feeling?”

Mal thought about it a bit, then he smiled lazily. “Kinda nice actually.”

“Then I… I have to tell you something.” Inara suddenly sounded a little nervous. “Those pills have some… physical effects.”

Mal needed a few seconds to consider this. He looked at her. “You tellin’ me now?” She nodded, and Mal had to consider it a bit more. “If I didn’t feel so ‘at peace’, ‘nara, I’d be a mite ornery with you.” But he smiled as he said this, and Inara sighed with relief.

“Which is why I waited till now to tell you,” she said. He managed to straighten his face enough to shoot her a dark look. “I’m telling you everything about it,” she stammered, “I just… chose my timing.”

“Physical effects?” he reminded her.

“It heightens sensation.” His continued grumpy stare, though clearly a struggle for him to hold, made her nervously revert to lecture mode. “The idea is to allow a person who’s been through physical or emotional trauma to feel good in his or her body.”

“Huh.” Mal looked away from her. He reclined fully and forgot to scowl as he pondered the meaning of that. Then he looked back at her. “Sensation?”

Inara shifted on the sofa so she faced him. Mal was sprawled, legs stretched out, arms limp at his sides, head tipped back but turned toward her with a slightly groggy look. She touched the wrist cuff of his shirt lightly, then slid her hand up his arm to his shoulder.

Mal felt molten heat radiating from her palm into his muscles, down to the bone. His eyes fell closed as his arm melted. “Ooooh ...”

* * *

Zoe left Jayne with Ricky’s coworkers to finish collecting his bonus. She felt an all new respect for the mercenary; perhaps his motives weren’t purely unselfish in this matter, but it was a damn fine idea. She wasn’t about to argue with him over it.

She pulled Ricky along with her as she followed the directions the Prefect had sent. They passed into an older part of town and found Book making idle conversation with a well-dressed chaffeur outside an abandoned building. Simon was inside, sitting on a rickety stool at a dirty counter next to the Prefect. They both turned to Zoe when she came through the door with a bewildered Ricky in tow.

“My dear Mrs. Washburne,” the Prefect said with flourish. He rose and seemed to want to do something silly like take her hand and kiss it, but he wisely settled on giving her a graceful bow. “I am relieved to see you arrived safely. It all went as planned, then?”

“Smooth as my man’s left cheek. You all done, Simon?”

“Yes. We’ve just been discussing some of the implications – ”

“That’s nice,” she turned back to Marone. “Prefect, I’d like you to meet our good friend Ren-ren.” Zoe pulled Ricky up beside her.

“Call me Ricky,” Ren-ren said distantly, clearly out of habit.

Zoe continued, “Ricky, this is the Honourable Prefect Trevor Marone. He’s all kinds of interested in how things get from here to Oeneus. Prefect, Ricky here happens to be holdin’ the hand of the Alliance. His other hand is holding onto a man named Kamath who likes hirin’ people to run black market guns into your homeworld.”

The Prefect gave Ricky a decidedly hostile look, but Zoe didn’t give him a chance to talk.

“Prefect, I’m tellin’ you now: walk soft around Ricky. He got his brain tore up by the Feds – you get all that stuff Simon’s been tellin’ you?” The Prefect nodded. “Well, they did it to him. And now they’re threatening his little boy. I suggest you two sit down and do some talkin’, and maybe you’ll find a way to help each other out.”

The wealthy politician and the grubby fishmonger studied each other doubtfully, but Zoe nodded with satisfied approval of her own matchmaking skills.

* * *

“nara,” Mal said in a bleary voice, “I’m thinkin’ this might not be a ‘propriate thing to be doin’.” Liquid fire poured from her fingers into his neck and shoulders, and dripped down his spine in thick waves. “What ‘bout my honorable, uh, whatever?”

“Fangxin. This relaxes everything. Your ‘honorable whatever’ is safe whether you want it to be or not.”

“Damn.” The word slipped out before he realized he was thinking it.

“You don’t sound relieved.”

“Don’t I?”

“Come on.”

Inara pulled a pliant Mal to his feet and helped him cross the room, sitting him on the blanket she had spread over the bed earlier. Then she pushed his suspenders off his shoulders and began unbuttoning his shirt.

“Bein’ a Companion’s ‘bout more than sex, ya know,” he told her seriously.

“Is that so?” she asked with some amusement. “And who told you that?”

“You did.” He gave her a lopsided smile. “You think I don’t listen.”

“Uh-huh.” She pulled his shirt off. Mal sighed and closed his eyes as the fabric slid over his skin.

“This is some crazy medicine ‘nara,” he said, head lolling back a bit.

“Yes it is.” She folded his shirt and set it aside. “Mal?”


“Don’t take this the wrong way, but your pants need to come off. Would you prefer to do that yourself?”

Mal opened his eyes again. “Oh. Uhhh … sure.” He grinned proudly. “Ya, I can do that.”

Inara discretely disappeared while Mal fumbled with his belt. It took some doing, especially when he realized a little late that his boots were still on, but he finally managed to get all of his clothes off.

“Lay down on the blanket, on your stomach,” she called through a doorway. He heard running water.

“Don’t know why you’re so worried,” he called back. “You seen me nekked ‘afore.” But he stretched out on the soft blanket with another contented sigh.

“Your being naked doesn’t worry me.” Inara returned to the room with a large bowl of steaming water. She set it on the table next to the bed. “But you’re going to be mad enough at me as it is.”

“I’d never get mad at you,” he mumbled into the blanket.

“Of course not,” she replied doubtfully as she spread a folded blanket over Mal’s bare backside. “I’ll just respect your modesty, Captain, to be on the safe side.”

“That’s ver’ proper of… ” Mal’s voice broke off with a shuddery inhale as a soft cloth full of hot water touched the back of his neck, then slid down his spine to the small of his back.

* * *

The Prefect turned to Zoe. “I regret that I was never able to meet your Captain,” he said.

“I ‘magine you’ll get over it.”

“He must be quite a man, to bring together such a crew.”

“Yes, he is. Quite a man.” Zoe turned toward Simon. “You ready to go?”

“Um, sure. Let me just…” Simon handed the Prefect a data chip filled with notes about the Alliance’s new interrogation method. He looked at Zoe, then turned back and shook hands awkwardly with the Prefect. “It’s been… uh… “ Simon gave up. “Bye, now.” He nodded to Ricky and headed for the door.

“This job’s done.” Zoe said, and she followed Simon out.

* * *

Mal had melted. At some point he was vaguely aware of Inara helping him roll onto his back. He was less aware of having arms or legs or, well, bones. He was a pool of molten metal bliss, stirred to flames where the soft cloth passed over him.

The fire continued to spread over the front of his body for a wonderfully long time, then he felt a blanket pulled over him, trapping in the heat, and a soft body stretched out beside him.



“Would you like to sleep now?”

He didn’t open his eyes. “Ain’t I?”

“No. You should take a second pill to sleep.”

He smiled just a bit. “No need t’ hurry.”

Mal heard a soft laugh, then he felt his head tilted forward and a pill placed in his mouth, followed by the rim of a glass. He sipped obligingly.

“This is nice,” he murmured after she lowered his head back to the pillow.

“I’m glad.”

Inara laid next to him with one arm across his chest, watching him as his breathing slowed and deepened.

* * *

The Prefect stepped out of the empty shop in time to see Zoe, Simon, and Book disappear around a distant corner. He pulled out his comm and gave some instructions to one of his most trusted aids.

“And get it done quickly,” he finished. “I doubt they’ll be staying on-world long.”

He turned back and smiled to see Ren-ren following him out of the shop. This whole bizarre business had worked out quite well in the end, he thought.

* * *

Mal surfaced when he felt his hair brushed back from his forehead, and a gentle kiss pressed to his brow. This happened before, he thought. And then she left. She was lyin’ about everything.

He decided he didn’t care. Without opening his eyes, he turned his face toward Inara and reached across to caress her cheek. He felt her soft lips brush his, her warm breath making his skin tingle. perfect. The word echoed through his mind and that hot fluid metal feeling poured from her lips to his, spreading slowly down through his body. His hand slid into her hair to pull her closer, and the kiss deepened. The silken softness of her hair burned his fingers, and she tasted like spiced wine: hot, heady and just a bit sweet.

An irresistible heaviness was taking over his mind. He couldn’t fight it; he drifted into quiet emptiness.

* * * * *

wo de ma: mother of god diyu: hell huai le: shit on my head giushi: crap fangxin: don't worry.

* * * * *

On to Chapter 19.


Thursday, February 2, 2006 11:49 AM


Came home to chapter 17, and then refreshed when I was done to find 18! Perfect's the word goin' through my mind too!

oooh... nice what Inara's doin' for Mal, but I've a bad feelin' that thing's are gonna take a bad turn when he wakes up again, but I hope not!! And that kissin' that the end, was that real, or a 'memory', and if it's real, just what is Inara doin'?? Wonder who hurt her in the past... hun dan...

and what is that shady Prefect up to?? Not quite so squeaky clean soundin' as we all thought!

great stuff, as usual... can't wait for more!

Thursday, February 2, 2006 11:51 AM


Anxious...relaxed...anxious... relaxed... I was so nervous about him going to her shuttle, but now I'm so happy for him - I think - anxious...relaxed... you've been playing with our brains too much! Waiting for the big finish...but feeling pleasantly...relaxed.

Thursday, February 2, 2006 12:05 PM


It was totally a placebo.

She gave him a placebo first and a sleeping pill later.

"Mal shrugged to himself and leaned back, waiting for the drug induced peace to come."

This line kind of made me think that.

(Don't tell me if I'm wrong, because the sheer brilliance of that is making me grin like a flood light!)

"The wealthy politician and the grubby fishmonger studied each other doubtfully, but Zoe nodded with satisfied approval of her own matchmaking skills."

And I'm nodding along. Wonderful almost-business-as-usual day for Zoe and Jayne.

But to be honest, I was so dazzled by the warm-water-foggy-could prettiness of Mal and Inara that I had to tear myself away to pay attention to the actual, you know, plot.

And now I need to either take a hot bath or a nap. Your powers of description are downright mind-controlling.

Thursday, February 2, 2006 12:27 PM


I always thought the Prefect was accepted just a little too easily. But then, didn't River vet him? Still, one more very shiny chapter - Thanks!

Thursday, February 2, 2006 1:18 PM


Yay! It's odd I had exactly the same thought as 2x2, I woke up, read a chapter, went out, came back, and there's another! Perfect way to start and end a day!

Thursday, February 2, 2006 1:29 PM


Or something like it at least...I'm going weird :( Too many fanfics :(

Thursday, February 2, 2006 1:31 PM


So totally love this, at last Mal is getting help sleeping and it is wonderful to see Zoe and Jayne work together to sort out what really happened and then actually trying to help, Ricky get his son safe. But oh my, I don't like that Prefect. I was suspicious of him in the beginning but now my extra loud sensor alert is blaring danger, danger and making my heart race just a little bit with apprehension. I really hope our shiny crew gets off this gorram rock before the Prefect can spring a trap. I was also interested in Simon's awkwardness around the Prefect as if he suspects the man's motives too. Can't wait to see what happens next. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, February 2, 2006 6:23 PM


Aaagggghhhh! It ended! More, more, hurry!

I sure hope you have your next story lined up after this finishes, or you're going to have some readers in serious withdrawal pains. . . .

Friday, February 3, 2006 7:24 AM


I do not know how you are able to write both psychological stress and the lovely physical relief.

Your ending was so touching and a well-needed bit of rest for the protagonist and the reader.

Thanks so much!

Anxiously....and not too patiently awaiting the conclusion!


Friday, February 3, 2006 7:25 AM


Oh - forgot to mention - I like Jayne in vigilante mode!

Tuesday, February 7, 2006 1:12 AM


Yay. I like melted Mal, but what's the Prefect up to?
Love Jayne...what's the payment?

Thursday, February 9, 2006 6:46 AM


I recognized this scene right off for BSJ. You did wonderful with it! I had a lot of great visuals of a naked Mal in Inara's bed. Very nice.

Thursday, July 13, 2006 1:43 AM


“It’s been taken care of. The Guild takes abuse very seriously.”
-The horrors an antire Guild of Companions could inflict on someone would probably leave even Jayne Cobb wimpering for his ma.

The scenes with Ricky, Jayne, and Zoe were spectacular.

“Those pills have some… physical effects.”
-HAHAHA she gave him ecstasy

Ai-ya tien-ah @ the Companion treatment Mal got from Inara, especially with the 'heightened sensations' (and you describe this feeling almost as if you know about it from some personal experience, I'd know because I have that same experience)

“And get it done quickly,” he finished. “I doubt they’ll be staying on-world long.”
-Ruttin' hwoon dan, I hope he dies slowly.


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Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.

Back Stories III, Chapter 24
Mal returns to a few familiar places.

Back Stories III: Chapter 23
The BDH’s find themselves enmeshed in too damned many OCs. But hey, they’re necessary. Plottiness and all.

Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.

Back Stories III, Chapter 21
The battle with the Reavers continues, and Mal makes a choice. All decisions have consequences.

Back Stories III, Chapter 20
Finally a little Mal POV, but it doesn't last long.

Back Stories III, Chapter 19
The trials and tribulations of an older, wiser River Tam.

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 18
The aftermath of an unexpected encounter. Except—not all of the crew are accounted for…

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 17
A lovely day in the mountains: friendly locals and fresh air under a clear blue sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 16.
Zoë tells of her soiree with terrorists on Oeneus.