BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

HEAVEN AND HELL: 5. "Ashes"
Saturday, February 28, 2004

"River calms Mal, Simon finds himself helplessly falling and the Preacher does some soul searching."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3282    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "ASHES" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: RIVER/MAL. RATING: NC-17. STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "MIXED SIGNALS" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://carlajane.50megs.com/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "River calms Mal, Simon finds himself helplessly falling and the Preacher does some soul searching." 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.

"ASHES"

A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

He was tired but in a good way. All that humping and loading had helped to ease the tension in him while making him a comfortable weary. It was good to have cargo. A smile bowed his lips as he watched Jayne tie off the crates so that they would remain in place for the journey and not shift. They were the only ones down in the cargo bay. The Captain jerked his head towards Jayne as the big man straightened. "Best clean up then see what there is to eat."

"Who's turn is it?"

Mal tried to hide the scowl as he remembered. "Zoe."

Jayne swore half under his breath. "Ruttin' hell, who told her she could gorram cook?"

"You can tell her your own self if you feel brave enough."

"Huh."

The Captain felt a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. "I'll take that as a no then."

The mercenary said something unintelligible then went to his bunk to clean up. Mal didn't move. He felt a strange reluctance to give up the moment of peace he had found. Didn't want to run the gauntlet of hard uncompromsing stares from his second in command. It irked him but more than that it hurt. Why couldn't she just be happy for him? A touch on his waist made him fair jump out of his skin. He turned quickly but she was quicker, her arms encircling his waist as she wrapped herself round him like a candy wrapper.

"River! *Ni zai zuo shen me*? You near gave me a gorram heart attack."

She laughed lightly and kissed his shirt front, her lips unerringly settling their brief touch over his heart. His mouth went dry, his eyes softening as he gazed on her. Trapped by her inate beauty, a quality of soul that engraced him simply by being in her orbit. It was dizzying how the girl took his world and refashioned it into something he no longer recognised as dull or mundane. Every gorram thing she touched shone. Just like the joy in his heart each time he beheld the smile on her lips that was just for him. Feeling it draw all the tension from him as it set up a faithful echo deep inside that sent him all kinds of crazy. A tumult of delicious emotions in waters so deep he would drown but for love of her. He shook his head. Since when did he get so rutting fanciful? And why did it make him so light headed he felt permanently drunk? Her smile grew as if reading his thoughts, a bundle of happiness he would treasure for as long as he lived.

"Long as I live Long as I breathe With every heartbeat I'll need you near me I won't leave you behind 'Til the Lord says it's time to go with him I'm yours Long as I live..."

'Long As I Live' sung by John Michael Montgomery

"She doesn't mean to hurt you."

Her softly spoken words settled in his ears like snowflakes. He resisted the urge to shudder at their touch. He did not ask who she was talking about. Gently he leaned down to kiss the top of her head. River looked up at him and raised her arms so that she could slide them up around his neck and coax him down into a deep kiss. But it was awkward and he was a mite too tall for it to be comfortable. Mal slid his hands down to frame her waist then lifted her up to eye level. Grinning with pleasure River approved the new position and wrapped herself tightly around him. When he opened his mouth to speak she closed her lips over his and slid her tongue into his warm mouth, enjoying the chuckle that bubbled up from his chest and gently rocked her against him as she slowly devoured him. She loved him so much. How much joy could a heart hold before it all leaked out into the void? She didn't know but aimed not to lose a single atom of the pleasure he gave her. The pleasure she *knew* she could give him. It was almost sinful how happy he made her feel. How right this was.

When he pulled his lips gently from hers she leaned in to reclaim them but he tilted his head back and made eye contact. "You should go and get somethin' to eat before Jayne eats it all."

She laughed brightly and planted little kisses on his face, purposely missing his mouth so she could tease him. "I'm hungry but not for food."

His eyes laughed at the glitter in her eyes. "*Xin gan*, there's more to love than sex."

"I know but sex is shiny too, especially if you have the right partner."

He raised his eyebrows, and fixed her with an amused and affectionate look. "Reckon you have the right partner, huh?"

She nodded, an equal measure of smug and wise as she leaned in to reclaim those mocking lips. "Know so."

* * * * *

It was a fairly solemn meal taking. River and the Captain were the only ones absent but Zoe was a brooding presence that set them all a little on edge. Simon glanced across the table at Wash. The pilot looked more sad than unhappy. The only ray of sunshine at the table was Kaylee. Simon was distracted by the warm calloused hand reaching for his under the table. He turned his head and smiled at her. The flood of happiness that flashed back at him burned every doubt and uncertainty from him. He smiled back and gave her hand a squeeze. Neither of them tasted the mushy slop that was Zoe's contribution to *how to ruin protein blocks without even trying*. Jayne looked down at his plate for a moment then dived in, devouring every mouthful as if this was his last meal. The others watched with varying degrees of amusement or disgust.

Inara looked at the Preacher, careful not to rest her gaze longer on him than anyone else. Natually she noticed the two absentees and that did not go down well with her though she hid it. Shepherd Book knew she was displeased. Her look suggesting he do something about it but he was not about to do that. Not unless it was an out and out order and he knew she would not do that. Not yet. His job was to watch. To monitor. And occasionally to steer the girl on the course they wanted set without impinging on her choices or method of getting there. This thing with the Captain had actually lightened his heart for a moment for the girl looked truly and gloriously happy. At least. Until Inara had made her pronouncement. Now he felt confused and conflicted. The first he was used to. The latter was somewhat of a surprise to him. Couldn't remember the last time that had happened and things had not ended badly. He frowned, head slightly bowed and heavy with his thoughts.

"Never said I could cook." Zoe almost growled. Voice dark and sullen.

Wash patted her hand, steeled himself and put a spoonful of the discoloured mush in his mouth. He wrapped a smile around it as if that would make it taste better but the smile got kidnapped and whisked away before it could reach his eyes. Gorrammit he felt like spewing it up but the look on Zoe's face was more sobering than a firing squad. With an effort he tried to mask he forced it down and gave her a smile. "See? *Fang xin, bao bei*."

"Must be love." Muttered Jayne looking down at his now empty plate.

It was said so quietly that they were not sure if he meant Wash and Zoe or if he was referring to Mal and River. Kaylee leaned in to Simon who obediently dipped his head so she could whisper in his ear. "Where's River an' the Cap'n?"

A little smile teased his lips. "Where do you think?"

Her eyes widened as the realisation hit her. "But... it's the middle of the day!"

Her quiet whispered words echoed in the silent room bringing a blush to her face. Simon did not look at anyone. Zoe's face was set like concrete. A fury boiling behind it that no one was brave enough to venture. Inara gave Zoe a thoughtful look. The Preacher kept his face a blank mask and longed for the meal to end, a silent prayer of apology tagged on the end of that ungracious thought.

* * * * *

She was laughing, tugging his hands and leading him to her quarters. Not that he was trying very hard to avoid the inevitable. All his dwindling protests were verbal. She knew he was as fired up with passion as she was. "River, I got captainy things to do."

Her smile was sweet. The Devil in Angel's clothing could not hold more appeal right now. "You've already loaded the cargo, *ai ren*, and Wash won't take off until after everybody's eaten. Rainbow is only a couple of hours away so we don't have much time, *dong ma*?"

That amused him. They were now outside her door. He watched as she slid it open with one hand, the other tugging him in after her. "How much time you wantin'?"

Her laugh was low and a little throaty sending tingling spirals down his spine. "All of it." His lips quirked. He closed the door behind him, River snaking a hand passed him to lock it then she slid his suspenders off his shoulders, her face angled and laughing up at him. Her fingers slowly unbuttoning his shirt while she undressed him with her eyes. For a moment he held his breath. Unable to believe that this amazing woman was his. That someone so beautiful could want him this much. She made him feel alive again. Every gorram cell in his body attuned to her in a way that took him beyond the simple paradise of joy. This was something else. Something finer, far shinier than any love he could have imagined. Made him feel like he was walking on sacred ground. The hush it brought to his soul was painfully sweet, made him ache with all kinds of happiness. His needs squashed into the simple desire to be here with her for as long as he lived. And if the Preacher was right and there *was* a special hell waiting for him then one taste of this was worth an eternity of agonies that might follow. It was worth it because *she* was worth it. Gorrammit, he really was in love with the girl. So which one of them was crazy now?

"Not crazy." Her words echoed his thoughts.

Uncanny. Creepifying. But so River that he absorbed it into his soul as he leaned down to capture those warm inviting lips. Her fingers were flying now, desperate to open him up to her, hands now dropping to his belt. The loud thunk and clatter of his gunbelt hitting the floor did not even penetrate. Without breaking off the kiss he wrapped his arms around her and carried her to the bed. By the time he got there he was half undressed and chuckling in her mouth at her impatience. Her small hands sliding up his chest through the open shirt brushing across his nipples. A little pressure coaxed him obediently onto his back, her hair trailing across his chest. Lost in the kiss, mind over run with feelings unlocked in a passion that was soaring as her hands teased him. She broke off the kiss and pulled back, his eyes hungry and burning with a gentle heat that would warm her body and soul but never burn her. "Too many clothes." She murmured.

He smiled and began to undo her floaty dress as she turned and lifted the hair up off her neck to give him access. He was vulnerable to her now, his thoughts an open book, his heart beating to her rythym in a way which was intoxicating. It was as if she had been waiting for him all her life. Had he been waiting for her? She pushed back the slither of sorrow that pierced her like an arrow. Her mind gently exploring the architecture of his thoughts, the depths of his emotional pain now blanketed in her love giving his heart ease. As the dress fell in soft drapes she turned to kiss him briefly then dropped to her knees to undo his boots. He wanted to lift her up, for her not to be the servant to his needs but River was obstinate and when she looked at him like that he could deny her nothing. Only when both of them were blessedly naked did she go to him, his arms opening in mute welcome, their eyes meeting in mutual accord. Words a heavy wax of sound they avoided as if to speak would rob this moment of magic. So they spoke in looks too intimate for words, touches so gentle their grace defied description. His lips on hers was a symphony, his calloused hands gliding in a hush of skin that carried the depth of what he was feeling in every whorl and bifurcation. Mapping her body to the pleasure of his touch.

Her body sang in response, her mind on fire with her need for him to fill her. To complete the circuit that made her whole. To heal her as she healed him. Love was the only medicine they needed. Each other the only cure for what ailed them. She wanted to impale herself on him, to feel him move deep inside her body, to hug him within walls of flesh that wept for his essence. He stilled her demands with a gentle touch, adorning her body with gentle kisses and touching her in a way that made her flesh sear with want and need.

"Sssh, *xin gan*. Let me pleasure you, *bao bei*."

"Want you inside me, Mal."

"No place else I want to be, *xin gan*, but first let me do this for you."

She acquiessed because whatever he wanted she wanted. Whatever he desired was her desire. Her eyes were wide liquid pools that carried his reflection to her heart. He rolled carefully so that she was now on her back, he lay on his side, his right hand sweeping over her breasts in a caress that had her arching into his touch. He smiled, rolled a nipple into a hard pert pebble of desire then let his hand drop and draw warmth down to her belly as he began to lathe her nipple with his warm tongue. His eyes smiled gently at her, hers aborbed him into her, his mouth now closing over the breast while he suckled drawing little moans of pleasure from her as his hand dipped lower. The caress now parting her folds and sliding into that moisture that was pooling with desire for him. It was slow, beautiful and erotic and full of sensations that drove her mad in a way so beyond giddy it was hard to think of anything in the 'verse but him. He plied his fingers in a rythym that excited and titilated her bundle of nerves until she was rocking her hips up into the movement of his hand, her breath coming in quickening gasps as she drew closer and closer to orgasm. The flood of her juices swamping his fingers brought a smile to his lips that made her want to cry with joy.

He papered her face with kisses then slid slowly down her body, paying attention to every inch of skin on his way down. He kissed her belly and teased the perspiring skin down to the dark forest of fragrant hair that bounded her sex. River was looking down at him now, holding her breath as he paused to look up at her. A wicked little grin teased his lips. Her eyes widened momentarily then he was moving through that forest, parting the dark curly strands of pubic hair with his questing tongue. Her body moving pliant and needy beneath his touch, her hips rising to urge him to go faster but he would not be rushed. His tongue eased between her fleshy folds, tasting her like a connoisseur, savouring the flavour of her fluids on his tongue. River moaned louder now, eyes closed in the agony of bliss as he sucked and licked and played her so expertly until he brought her panting and out of control to a shuddering release.

Mal drank it down, lapping at her until her oversensitised bundle of nerves could not stop jerking at his every touch. Her hands tugged on his hair, the words in her mouth a tumble of mixed sounds that made no coherent sense yet he understood. He went to lay on his back, to let her rest but her hands stopped him, her eyes begging and pleading. "What you want, *xin gan*?" He whispered softly, one hand raised to brush back her hair so he could see her face more clearly.

"You inside me."

"Think you might be needing to get your breath back first."

She smiled and kissed him, her hands reaching down for him and finding him hard and straining to her touch. A wicked gleam came to her eye that he just knew he was going to pay for. She pulled back barely an inch, just enough to compress the only warning he would get from her mischievous lips as her hand on him tightened. "My turn now."

* * * * *

The Shepherd had a pretty good idea what River and the Captain were doing and though part of him applauded the coupling the part of him with presentiment did not. It troubled him. Not *what* they were doing exactly but the fact that the two of them were getting closer with every passing day. It was becoming hard to see the barely surpressed happiness emanating so quietly from the Captain's contained nature without wincing, knowing the road that lay ahead of them. Well now. River was an interesting project and this development was all kinds of fascinating. It had impressed him that her bond with the Captain was actually seeming to cure her craziness. The damage the biotechs had purposely done to her gifted brain seemed to be under control in some indefinable way that he needed to understand better. He could not make an incomplete report nor would he try. Time was no constraint for of hours and days he had a-plenty. More troublesome would be if the Companion acted before he had finished his appointed task. No matter that Inara had promised the one would not impinge on the other. An unsettling thought stirred in his back brain. Something he had not expected touched him with a growing sense of alarm. He realised he had no notion of what the Companion intended to do and that unsettled him on more than a professional level.

He looked up from his empty plate. Startled to see that the commons area was now empty of everyone but himself and one other. As his eyes met hers, Inara softly smiled. A fleeting curve of the lips as her eyes studied him. Every nerve in his body jarred as if a current had just passed through him. He kept his expression blank, hiding the wariness in his eyes and projecting an air of calm tinged with curiosity. He could not tell whether she knew it was faked or not but as he waited another more knowing smile slowly blossomed on her full lips. Then, without a word, she gathered herself up and left on silent feet like some elaborately painted shadow. Somehow that discomfitted him more than anything she might have said.

* * * * *

Rainbow was seemingly a more lively place by far than Lauren, which wasn't saying much. Simon wanted to go planet-side with Kaylee. Mal's contact had told them of the lakes, an area of Rainbow that he described as a place of heavenly beauty. The images the man painted filled them all with various visions of something too good to be missed. Wash was as excited as a child on Christmas Eve and gave Zoe a meaningful look which the Captain caught as he turned. He gave a mock scowl. "No nude swimmin'."

"But Captain..."

"Wash, these are decent folk."

"I can be decent."

"Clothed is decent. A swim suit gorrammit is decent, but nude bathin'? Don't think this end of the 'verse is ready for that."

Kaylee joined them, bouncing on the balls of her feet with excitement. Simon could not quite hide a smile. The Captain, Wash and Zoe exchanged looks. Kaylee hooked one arm through the Captain's and smiled so brightly up at him that he was momentarily dazzled. "Please, Cap'n. You said it was safe here an' this ain't no Alliance friendly world so what would be the harm?"

He frowned slightly, wanting to agree to let Simon off the ship with her. *Diyu* he wanted to let River go too only not without him. Not ever again. But something nagged at him, took the shine off the notion for no reason he could rightly fathom. He decided when in doubt, stall. "Me an' Jayne'll go ahead. Make sure of our drop then pick up the return cargo. Take a look-see. If everythin' looks shiny then everyone as wants to stretch their legs can do so, *dong ma*?"

"Aw, Cap'n..." Complained Kaylee.

His look tightened slightly. "*Dong ma*?"

Realising an invisible line had been drawn Kaylee knew when to back down. "*Wo dong*, Cap'n, just seems a ruttin' shame to miss the best of the daylight on board ship when we could be swimmin' in the lake."

"Swimming," Murmured Wash dreamily.

"But not nude." Added Mal just loud enough for the hazy look on Wash's face to cloud over. He didn't exactly pout but it was close enough. Zoe said not a word. The Captain took that as a good sign and started to walk off the bridge. "Best collect Jayne an' get goin'."

Still Zoe said nothing. The Captain did not look back at her knowing that her eyes would speak a language he could not ignore. Right now his world was too new and shiny to want to risk getting it all scratched and dented for want of a kind word. Time enough for passion to lose its' lustre but somehow he did not think anything that passed between him and River would be that one dimensional. He knew River was at least a Reader. Probably Psychic as well. If that were true then wanting this relationship with him had to be a good thing, right? Surely it meant everything would work out? Even Simon seemed to be coming around. Yet something cast an awkward shadow on his happiness as if regret and ruination waited in the wings which was rutting foolish. Wasn't it? So he kept his eyes forward and made sure he did not catch Zoe's eye. If everything was about to crash down on his gorram head he saw no sense in hastening it. Time enough for regrets a plenty afterwards only as he thought of River he could not imagine him regretting a single glorious minute.

* * * * *

People were always underestimating Jayne. Even the Captain had initially fallen into that trap, only he had amended his first impression sharply enough to show he had been paying attention. Jayne asked no questions when the Captain found him coming out of his bunk with Vera. A short nod was enough between them, Jayne falling into step behind the Captain. Being behind Mal he was able to see something that gave him mental pause, subtle though it was. Shepherd Book had now joined the others waiting in the cargo bay. He stood on the periphery and partly in shadow, something in the man's face alerting Jayne to look more closely. He slowed down and let the Captain get several feet ahead of him, pretending to check his gun. Book barely glanced at him.

The Shepherd was staring first at the Captain then at the diminutive figure that joined them. River. Jayne frowned slightly. The Captain turned his head to see where Jayne had got to, saw him checking the gun's chamber and turned back to say something to River as she eased towards him on lightly dancing feet. He smiled down at the girl, everyone talking. Wash laughing at something the mercenary didn't catch. Only Zoe seemed unamused or maybe she was still pissed off at the Captain. Jayne wasn't sure what was going on there but that was not what rivetted his attention. Book was more in shadow now but his face caught the light throwing his expression into sharp relief. His eyes fixed on the Captain then shifting to River and back again. Jayne's frown deepened as he puzzled over the Shepherd's demeanour. Carefully and patiently waiting for the pieces to fall into place rather than hammering the angles off them until they fit.

The bay door opened. Most of the crew were excited, scarce able to wait for their first view of Rainbow only the Preacher wasn't looking. He was still watching the Captain with a look of sombre speculation. His eyes flicking to River's moonglow face as she stared at Mal with rapt attention. The softening of the Captain's eyes brought a beautiful smile to the crazy girl's lips and made Jayne feel protective of them both. His eyes narrowed slightly. Why that should be he did not question. Simply was. The Preacher became aware that he in turn was being observed. As his focus shifted he turned his head, Jayne moved his hands over his weapon and joined the little group. He pushed back the nagging sense that something was wrong. Let the Preacher think whatever he wanted. Jayne was on the alert now. He just wished the rutting *diyu* he knew what for. * * * * *

Lord Warwick Harrow did not like the man but it behoved him not to say so in polite company. Besides. He was a powerful man among the monied classes and it did not pay to antagonise such men without just cause. Handsome, charming and urbane there was something artificial about him that irked the Lord. As he tried to hide his scowl the man turned and flashed him a disarming smile. "I apologise for arriving unannounced, Lord Harrow, but these are trying times are they not?"

Lord Harrow frowned. "In what way?"

The man raised his brows slowly, his look implying that his words were confidential and for the Lord's ears only. "Uprisings bring such distasteful surprises in their wake."

The frown deepened. "What are you suggesting, Lord Scott?"

"Suggesting? I suggest nothing, what I speak of is plain fact."

"Then pray, speak more plainly if you will."

Lord Scott seemed to gather his thoughts more tightly before speaking again. "This Independent nonsense. We must put it down with ruthless efficiency. Give no quarter. Only then can the peace the Alliance have fought so hard to create be assured."

Lord Warwick realised what it was he disliked about the man but hid his distaste behind a politely bland exterior. "Uprising? I know of no such uprising."

The man actually smirked before schooling his features into a more proper expression of honest but muted outrage. "It is said that their leaders have gone underground where even as we speak they sow the seeds of rebellion. Bitter deluded men without the soul or wit to realise they have lost. And who will pay the price, Lord Harrow? We will, that's who. And we will also be the ones to whom the others turn when the mess has to be cleaned up and the status quo reinstated. You should be worried."

He took a long sip from his wine glass. A cold humour hidden behind his sharp eyes. "I take it you fought in the War, Lord Scott?"

"Please, call me August."

It was a mark of his upbringing that Lord Harrow did not burst out laughing then and there but diplomacy could be a very interesting weapon to add to any man's arsenal. "August. You fought in the War?"

"I did my duty, Lord Harrow."

Lord Harrow did not offer him the intimacy of first name terms in response. After all, he had not even answered the question. Instead he nodded soberly back at him over the top of his wine glass. "Quite."

Before Lord Scott could pursue the subject further Lord Harrow excused himself and circulated in search of his host. Inwardly he was furious at the upstart of a popinjay for presuming to pass judgement on valiant men who had fought and died for what they believed in. It mattered not that some were Alliance born and bred and some Independent. It was a matter of honour. A thing he sensed that Lord August Scott would not recognise if it were carved in a slab of rock and dropped on top of his head from a hideous height. No. You could dress a clown in the finest weaves and silks. Give him more money than God and he would still be a clown. What made Scott worst than most was that all his considerable wealth had come from gun running. Selling to both sides in the War and profiting handsomely from the tide of human misery that followed.

* * * * *

Jayne thought it was rutting hi-larious. The Captain's contact on Rainbow was a man called Josiah Stillwell. Stupid name for a grown man but who was he to talk with a name like Jayne? Not that he would admit as much to another living and breathing soul. Stillwell was a sturdy sort. Short and blocky with a shock of tow coloured hair and eyes so green that he had to look twice. The man smiled with his whole face not just his mouth and his eyes had a careful sparkle to them as if he was a lot brighter than he first appeared. Right now he and the Captain were laughing over a smokey amber liquid that was supposed to be whiskey but tasted anything but. What the *diyu* it was he did not know except that it burned in a most satisfactory manner as it slid down his throat. Even if it didn't taste quite right.

"Pleasant as this is Josiah, me an' mine were hopin' to take a look around while we're here an' we can't do that 'till the cargo's loaded an' delivered, *dong ma*?"

"Why in such a hurry, Captain? You got no call to rush, Rainbow's a mighty fine place and we got many fancy's to please the eye."

"That as may be," Said Mal slowly. "But we work before we play." Stillwell glanced at Jayne. "That right?"

"Yep. Crew wouldn't have it any other way." Said the mercenary in a calm flat voice.

The Captain hid his surprise at this ringing endorsement. Wouldn't do for Stillwell to realise it wasn't true. They *did* work before they played but the crew did not want it that way. It was just the way he ran his boat. Saw no reason to change it now. Sloppy habits cost lives. Didn't need to be a gorram Captain to know that. War had taught him many a lesson about the way of things. Stillwell nodded, downed the rest of his drink then stood up. Jayne and the Captain did likewise only Jayne found himself gripping the edge of the table for a moment to get his balance, suddenly more than a little queasy. "What the ruttin' *diyu* was in that glass?"

Stillwell smiled. "A little thing called 'Southern Comfort'."

"Southern what?"

"A drink from the Old South on Earth-that-was." Said the Captain.

"Huh," Jayne responded, far from impressed. "Tastes more llike gorram ashes."

"Nope." Said the Captain falling into step beside Jayne, his voice so soft it was doubtful if any but the two of them heard him. "Ain't ashes. Know what they taste like an' this ain't it."

Only once they had exited the door did a figure watching from the shadows move into the light. Inara Serra looked thoughtful. Knew the clock was ticking. She turned to a dark swarthy man and said something to him. He nodded briefly. Money changed hands then Inara slipped back into shadow. The man finished his drink then casually walked out of the door. Inara waited another ten minutes before leaving by a different exit.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*ni zai zuo shen me* = what are you doing? *xin gan*/*ai ren* = sweetheart *diyu* = hell *dong ma* = understand *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *wo dong* = I understand *bao bei* = precious/treasure

COMMENTS

Saturday, February 28, 2004 3:42 PM

MALSDOXY


While I don't mind getting lubed-up every time I read an installment, the pace is killing me...Always happy to see a new one, though...Please tell me that Mal's fragile heart isn't broken into tiny shards....

Sunday, February 29, 2004 1:02 AM

KISPEXI2


Gorram beautiful. Again. Love what you're doing with Jayne. And that there River's a lucky girl!!

"Ain't ashes. Know what they taste like an' this ain't it." - You're going to break my heart, aren't you?

Counting the days to the next instalment.



Sunday, February 29, 2004 4:46 AM

ARTSHIPS


Nice reading how Mal and River are becoming chemically bonded. Hope it's strong enough for the rest of the story. Nice Inara-plotting, too. Both make it hard to wait for the next installment. Thank you!


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