Choices - Part 11 C
Thursday, February 16, 2006

Gabr'elle wakes up, and Mal is reunited with Inara


A/N: A bit of a longer portion to this part, but I had ot cut it off, otherwise it would be at least another week before I finished this bit, so there's going to be a Part 11D coming next... I'll try to get it done sooner than a week from now, but I can't promise...

As always, thank-you for reading!

Go back and read the Other Parts: 1 2 3A 3B 4 5 6 7 8A 8B 8C 9 10 11A 11B

Choices - Part 11C by 2x2

“Do you have them?” asked the voice from out of the blank screen.

“Yeah,” said Whelt, running a hand through his hair. “Got the whore here now, and Reynolds is on his way.”

“Excellent!” exclaimed the voice, pleased. “Very good, Mr. Tomás, very good. I trust I shall have them delivered promptly?”

“Yessir, soon as Reynolds get here, we can start for the rendezvous coordinates.” There was a space of silence that Whelt was sure he could feel smiling and then the faceless voice continued.

“I’m very pleased, Mr. Tomás. I’ve waited a long time for these…’goods’. Please take care with them. I’d prefer that they weren’t… damaged when they arrive, if at all possible,” said the voice and Whelt cringed. There was another silence, this one decidedly not a happy one.

“I trust you’re not delivering me damaged goods, Mr. Tomás?”

Zhou ma, Whelt swore to himself. “There’s, ah… been a bit of damage. Nothing too serious!” he reassured his employer. “Some bruising is inevitable…” he pointed out.

“Indeed,” the voice replied, un-amused. “Let us just take precautions, shall we, to ensure that they—the goods—incur no further damage, then. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yeah... yessir.”

“Very well. Please deliver my goods to me as soon as possible, Mr. Tomás. Have them here by tomorrow evening and you’ll be compensated.”

“They’ll be there,” he said, but the connection was already severed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Simon pulled off his mask and gloves with a sigh, leaning against the counter wearily. After nearly three hours of surgery, he’d finally pulled the last fragments of the bullet out of the woman from the whorehouse and stitched her up. She was very lucky. Had the bullet hit her almost anywhere else in her chest than where it had, she wouldn’t have made it. As it was, there was still a high enough chance that something could go wrong; she was by no means out of the woods yet.

The doctor moved to the sink and turned on the taps, washing his hands with practiced movements. Cupping them together, he caught the water in his palms and splashed it into his face before running his fingers through his hair.

“How is she?” asked Zoe who had been watching silently from the doorway.

“Alive,” replied Simon, wiping the wetness from his face. He turned, the exhaustion plain on his features. “I removed one bullet from her upper left chest and set the arm – a particularly nasty break by the way. She’ll be lucky to get sixty percent of her motion back in it – but she should pull through.”

“When do you expect she’ll wake up?”

“Well, that’s the tricky part. I honestly can’t say for certain. Could be sometime in the next few hours, or it could be days,” said Simon, sighing.

Zoe shook her head, uncrossing her arms. “Captain and Inara may not have days,” she said.

The young doctor drew in a deep breath and nodded. “I know.”

“’There no way you can wake her up sooner?” Zoe asked and Simon shook his head decisively.

“Not without putting her at risk—”

“How much risk?” the first mate interrupted. Simon blinked, somewhat surprised.

“I… understand your desire to find the Captain, I want to find him too, and Inara. But I can’t condone an action that will endanger this woman’s life anymore than it already has been. Her body has been through an incredible trauma. Anything more could seriously jeopardize her chances. I’m sorry. You’ll just have to wait until she comes around on her own,” he said, his tone implying that the topic was closed. He turned, pulling his smock over his head as he went. He stuffed it in the laundry, taking his shirt down from its hanger and shoved his arms through the sleeves, turning back to see Zoe still standing in the doorway, her face grim.

He opened his mouth to speak but hesitated as River slipped into the room from behind Zoe, head cocked as though listening to a sound only she could hear. Distracted, Simon moved toward her but found himself face to face with Zoe instead as she stepped between him and his sister. He stepped back, feeling suddenly threatened by her stance as she stared at him angrily.

“’You cognizant of the risk the Captain has taken, allowin’ you and your sister to stay on this ship?” she asked, her voice low. Simon swallowed, his eyes flicking to River as she explored the room in quizzical fascination and then back to Zoe.

“I am,” he said with a jerky nod that the first mate echoed before stepping even closer to him.

“I’m askin’, d‘you understand how much is at stake here,” at this, she motioned towards the doctor’s sister, “…if the Captain don’t make it back to Serenity?”

Simon stiffened, surprised and saddened by the threat implied in Zoe’s words, and not confident he knew the woman well enough to doubt her resolve to follow through. “I… think I take your meaning,” he said, cornered. Zoe nodded.

“Then may be you’ll be wantin’ to reassess your opinion about wakin’ her up.”

They stared hard at each other, neither wanting to back down, until finally Simon looked away, resigned.

“Awake!” chimed River suddenly, startling them both. They turned to see her standing over Gabr’elle, her fingers resting gently on her forehead as the woman’s eyes opened slowly.

Zoe didn’t waste a second glance at Simon as she moved to the woman’s beside, questions already on her lips. “Ma’am? Can you hear me?”

Gabr’elle blinked, her forehead crinkling in confusion.

“It’s alright. I’m a doctor,” said Simon, pushing his way past Zoe with a disapproving glare. “Here, drink this,” he said, holding a glass of water to her lips. The woman drank appreciatively, savoring the wetness as it passed her dry lips and tongue.

“Thank-you,” she managed, her voice raspy. “Where am I?”

“On board Serenity,” Zoe answered. “Do you remember what happened?”

“Serenity? That’s… Reynold’s ship, ain’t it?... You’re his crew?” Gabr’elle asked the other woman and Zoe nodded.

“Yes. You were on your way here, with a friend of ours, a Companion—”

“Inara!” Gabr’elle gasped, and Simon had to put his hand on her shoulder to restrain her as she tried to sit up.

“Take it easy, you’re in no condition to be going anywhere,” he cautioned. She let her head drop back to the pillow, her face suddenly white.

“They took her,” she said. “Oh, tian a! Juan!” Gabr’elle brought her hand to her face, covering her mouth as tears pooled in her eyes. “Martina! And Aylin?” she asked, looking from Zoe to Simon and back again. The other woman shook her head solemnly and the doctor bowed his head.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“We found ‘em both… shot dead,” said Zoe regretfully. Gabr’elle looked faint, and Simon examined the output on the monitors worriedly.

“I think maybe we should continue this discussion at another time…” he said, meaningfully.

“Shot… I was shot. He shot me!” said Gabr’elle as the memory came flashing back to her.

“Who?” asked Zoe, leaning closer in anticipation. “Do you know who it was? Did you recognize any of them? What about Inara? Do you know who took her?” she pressed.

“Zoe—” cautioned Simon but Gabr’elle interrupted.

“I know him,” she said vehemently. “’Was the… Lawman – Williams - his boy. Little hun dan shot me! … Didn’t… don’t know the others… but I remember him.”

Zoe gave Simon a vindicated stare, fire in her eyes. She had a lead, at last.

“Thank-you,” she said to Gabr’elle, nodding appreciatively as she turned to go. She hesitated at the door. “We’ll get him,” she said solemnly.

It was a promise. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Inara startled awake, gasping as the motion caused a sharp stab of pain in her ribs. She stared around, disoriented, before remembering where she was and in what circumstances, cursing her stupidity as she realized she’d fallen asleep. The sun had long since set and the room was cloaked in darkness, the only light visible through the cracks around the door.

How long had she been out?

She stood with difficulty, her bruised, cramped muscles protesting after having been immobile for so long and she shivered, realizing suddenly how cold the air had become once she was no longer resting against the still warm clay of the walls. The lightweight tunic she’d been given in place of Kaylee’s blood soaked shirt provided little warmth against the chill.

Rubbing her arms in an effort to generate some heat, Inara moved to the door, pressing her ear against the wooden planks. She could hear the low murmur of voices from the other side, but nothing distinct enough to understand. Again she wondered exactly how long she’d been here as she became aware of her body’s growing need for use of a washroom, and contemplated knocking on the door. If she could get them to take her to relieve herself, she might be able to get an idea of the layout of the building and the number of men holding her.

Still, she was hesitant.

They’d left her alone for several hours and as far as she was concerned that was a good thing. On the other hand, Whelt had said he’d expected his men to arrive with Mal within the hour when he’d last talked to her, and it had to have been three or four hours since then. Had something happened - Mal escaped, perhaps? Or was he already here, in another room, having arrived while she was sleeping? Again she cursed herself for falling asleep, hating the unanswered questions she was now presented with as a result.

A sudden shout from outside brought conversation to a halt in the other room, and for a moment all was silent except for the rhythmic beat of hooves on earth that bespoke the approach of riders. Then, just as suddenly, the men spurred into action, the unmistakable sound of chairs and table shoved aside, weapons being loaded and cocked, replacing the muted banter of a moment before.

Could this be Whelt’s men, arriving with Mal at last, she wondered? Or someone else, maybe help? She had to find out what was going on. Turning back from the door, she looked up at the three square windows on the far wall, well out of her reach, then down to the chair and the end table in the corner. At this point, she didn’t have any other options.

She set the wash basin and pitcher of water she’d been given on the floor gently, and then as quietly as possible, tugged the table over until it was centered beneath the middle of the three windows, pushing it flush against the wall. Then she lifted the chair up onto it, turning it so its back was to the wall. She drew in a deep breath, steeling herself against the certain pain that was sure to result, and started climbing her makeshift tower. Her side burned as she lifted her arms to pull herself up and she had to blink back tears, her jaw clenching against the agony in her ribs. She stilled suddenly as the chair wiggled, three of its legs uneven on the tabletop, tensing in sudden fear at the motion and gripping the back and side fiercely to keep her balance. Gritting her teeth, she pushed herself up further, finally managing to get both knees on the chair. She rested a moment, breathing heavily as she willed the pain to subside. Then, slowly, Inara eased herself to her feet, keeping her weight to one side to compensate for the wobbling chair. The middle window was now just low enough that she could look out from her precarious position.

Several horses and a canvass covered wagon began to take shape as they emerged from the darkness into the flaming torchlight around the building. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the lead rider, a giant of a man on an equally huge stallion. He reigned in his mount in the center of the courtyard his horse prancing from side to side, as Whelt and his men emerged from the building amid shouts of greeting.

There were three other horses, in addition to the two pulling the wagon, and Inara’s heart clenched in her chest fearfully as she saw one horse carried not a rider, but a body, bound and slung over the saddle lifelessly, his boots glinting in the torchlight.

“’Was startin’ to worry you weren’t coming,” Whelt said to the giant man as he dismounted.

“We had some difficulties on the way,” the giant replied and motioned for one of the other men to bring the horse and body to him.

“’Hope that ain’t my bounty,” said Whelt as he lifted the dead man’s head by the hair. “Pepper? Kao! Ta ma de!” he swore as he recognized the man. The face was bruised, nose broken, both eyes blackened and a small bullet hole nestled neatly between them.

In the darkness, Inara shut her eyes and pressed her face against the wall, letting out a deep breath in silent relief as the dead man’s face revealed that it wasn’t Mal.

‘Reynold’s kill him?” she heard Whelt ask tetchily as he let the head drop, the mention of Mal’s name drawing Inara’s attention back to the courtyard.

“No,” the giant man said, offering no other explanation. He untied the corpse and let it fall to the earth. Whelt stared down at the body a moment, then looked back up to the bigger man, his eyes narrowing.

“What the gui happened?” he said darkly. The giant merely stared back and said nothing, nor did the two other riders or the man on the wagon when Whelt turned his gaze to them. He shook his head angrily. “Gorramit, Kamau, you hafta stop killin’ my men!”

“I would not need to kill them, if they would not give me reason to,” the giant, Kamau, replied without emotion.

Whelt shook his head again, spitting into the dust. “What was it this time?” he asked, resigned.

“’Weren’t Mr. Kamau’s fault,” said one of the other riders, dismounting. “Pepper got it int’er ‘is head to up and kill the cargo, after Mr. Kamau warned ‘im special not to, on account a’ how the hun dan done broked Pepper’s nose an’ all tryin’ t’a escape. Wouldn’t’a been much worth in bringin’ in dead cargo, an’ Pepper weren’t one to take no f’er an’ answer. Managed to have a go at ‘im a bit afore Mr. Kamau put a stop t’it.”

“Gorramit!” Whelt swore again. “How badly off is he?” Inara held her breath, straining to hear the answer.

“’Roughed up some, but ‘conjure he’ll live,” replied the wagon driver as he jumped down from the driver’s seat. The other two riders moved to the back of the wagon and threw open the canvass flaps, climbing inside. Inara could hear the jangling of chains from within as they were drawn through metal loops and dropped into piles on the wooden planks of the wagon’s base, then heavy footfalls as the men slowly emerged, one under each arm of the prisoner, dragging his feet behind them.

They brought him down to the ground and held him up, his legs unable to support him, head lolling forward on his neck but Inara didn’t need to see his face to know it was Mal. She bit back a cry of anguish as she realized the wood across his shoulders and the shackles that held his wrists was a slaver’s yoke, knowing how much it must be costing him, and not just physically, to be restrained by the tools of the slave trade he so abhorred. She gasped in horrified dismay as Whelt grabbed a handful of Mal’s hair and tugged his head up revealing the landscape of swollen bruises and dried blood that was his face. She saw him struggle with the effort to draw each breath, his body shaking with obvious pain and Inara felt something inside her break at the sight, her eyes filling with tears.

“Roughed up some? He looks half dead!” exclaimed Whelt in alarm.

“Half dead is still half alive,” said Kamau.

“’Better hope that’s enough alive, or we ain’t gonna get paid,” Whelt said, bitterly. He shook his head and sighed. “’Gonna need to be cleaned up. Take him inside with the whore for now.”

Inara swore as two men took hold of Mal and began half-carrying, half-dragging him toward the building. As quickly as she could without falling, she began climbing back down the furniture, her feet touching the ground as she heard the latch on the door being lifted. Hastily, she grabbed the chair and pulled it from the table, holding it before her like some ancient lion-tamer of Earth-That-Was as the door swung inward.

The men carrying Mal spared her barely a glance as they lowered him none too gently to the floor. Then they left without a word, securing the door firmly behind them.

Inara let the chair drop from her fingers as she ran to Mal’s side. His face looked even worse close up, but she forced herself to concentrate on freeing him from the slaver’s yoke first, working the pins that held the shackles on his feet free with her fingers, ignoring the way the rough metal tore at her skin. Once done, she moved to the restraints at his wrists, working them open as quickly as possible. She winced as she saw his skin, chaffed raw and red from the cuffs, slick with his own blood and she pulled his hands from the restraints as gently as she could, careful not to scrape them against the metal. Mal moaned as she lowered his arms off the yoke, his muscles trembling. She made soothing sounds, moving to the collar at his throat, cursing as it stubbornly refused to open. At last she wiggled it loose and was finally able to lift the yoke from his shoulders.

Mal felt the weight lift from his shoulders and he drew in a deep breath, the first he’d been able to take in hours since being locked into the constricting collar of the slaver’s yoke. Weakly, he pushed himself up to all fours, sucking in a sharp breath at the ache in his sides, coughing up blood and phlegm in a sudden, painful spasm. Gentle hands smoothed across his back and neck, the feeling somehow familiar. A damp cloth was suddenly placed against his trembling cheek, and he leaned into it with a moan, savoring the coolness against his feverish skin.

He tried to speak, his throat dry and raspy, and the cloth was taken away suddenly only to be placed back against his lips a moment later, heavy with moisture. He moaned again as the hand squeezed trickles of water from the cloth onto his tongue, and he reached up and pressed the cloth and the hand holding it against his lips, sucking at the liquid gratefully.

Slowly he became aware of a soft voice speaking to him, though he couldn’t make out the words through the pounding in his head. He pulled the hand with the cloth away from his mouth and pressed it against his forehead, shivering. The cloth was drawn across his skin gently, the voice continuing until eventually he was able to pick out some of the sounds as words. One in particular was repeated over and over, and at last he was able to recognize it for what it was. His name.

“Mal, can you hear me? Tian a, Mal, please!” said the voice, and he frowned, knowing who the voice belonged to, but not comprehending how he could be hearing it.

“Inara?” he whispered, his voice rough, and he forced his eyes open, flinching at the pain even that tiny movement caused his face.

“Mal!?” cried Inara. “Ren ci de Fo zu, thank-you!”

“What?” he mumbled in confusion. “Where…?”

“I don’t know,” answered Inara. “Somewhere outside of town. Whelt’s men brought you here.”

Mal shook his head, trying to clear it, and pushed himself up to his knees slowly and then rolled onto his backside, bracing himself with a hand on the floor. “Gorram… ta ma dehun dan,” he cursed between breaths, reaching for her in the darkness. “’He hurt you?” he demanded as she took his outstretched hand in her own.

“I’m alright,” she half-lied, knowing the darkness obscured her injuries but he picked up on it in her voice.

“Inara? What happened? Lao tian ye, did he… did he touch you?” he asked, his voice anguished.

“No,” she assured him, thankful that she didn’t have to lie about that. “They ran us down in the mule. I think I may have some broken ribs, and I have a few cuts and bruises, but I’m okay. Mal, I’m okay,” she promised as his hand tightened around hers.

“I’m sorry,” he croaked, his voice full of torment. “I never should’a let you go back there…”

“Then you’d be here all alone,” she said in a choked whisper. “Mal, this isn’t your fault,” she pressed as he shook his head. Tian a she thought, how was she going to tell him that it wasn’t even Whelt that wanted them, but Niska? There’d be no convincing him he wasn’t responsible once he found that out. But he needed to know the truth about their circumstances. She had to tell him.

“Mal,” she said again, hesitant and her tone made him look at her worriedly. “It’s worse than you think,” she confessed, unable to keep the fear from her voice.

“What is? You said he didn’t touch you—” he started, panic in his voice and she squeezed his hand in reassurance.

“He didn’t. But Mal… This isn’t just Whelt. I talked to him, and he told me… He’s only the middleman, Mal. He’s being paid to bring us to someone else,” she hesitated again, not wanting to say the name. “I think it’s Niska.”

* * * * *

Translations: Kamau: Kikuyu of Kenya name meaning "quiet warrior." Kao = fuck Ren ci de Fo zu = merciful Buddha tian a = God lao tian ye = jesus

Go to Part 11D


Thursday, February 16, 2006 12:37 PM


I especially like the Mal/Inara interaction at the end of the chapter, but I would as I'm a hopeless MxI romantic. This story is my new Firefly crack now that The Fish Job is finished. I trust that Part 11D turns up on time... great stuff, all around.

Friday, February 17, 2006 3:29 AM


I really love this series but I, like Eloisa, am a Mal/Inara shipper through and through.

I still maintain that I don't think it's Niska!

Another great 'part' chapter. Looking forward to 11D.


Friday, February 17, 2006 7:05 AM


Whiiiii :)
I remember starting reading the series before my exams, so had a lot of catching up to do, but *squee*
I really love it.
The Mal/Inara here is just lovely *squee yet again*
Please post more soon!

Sunday, February 19, 2006 7:56 PM


Well, not that you'd care but I think a lot of people are waiting impatiently for the next chap. lol. My first thought when the mysterious bad guy came on the scene was that it's Atherton, but hey I don't really care as long as there's plenty of M/I. Like I said, I'm waiting impatiently for the next chap.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006 1:28 AM


*looks at watch*

*taps foot*

*looks at watch again*


Thursday, June 21, 2007 10:08 PM


Inara is so tender with Mal... like an angel. I love reading this.


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History of an Object
There’s no reason to keep it, damaged as it is. Save one. Doesn’t matter that it’s finer than any other cup on the ship, even with the crack. Doesn’t matter that it would never hold liquid again without some of it seeping through. Burning your fingers. Was only one reason he still has the cup.

Five Years' War
The night was warm. Clouds, low on the horizon, blue black in the last light of the setting sun. Nothing but the breeze and the buzz of the cicadas breaking the stillness. A perfect evening.

The Close Shore, At the End, Untenable
“Dead ’re in my head tonight,” he said finally. “Can’t get ‘em out. Don’t got the booze or the bar to distract me. Don’t know why I’m here ‘cept I don’t think I can go through it alone.”

The Slower Path: All the Difference - Part 15 - Sequel to The One Less Traveled By
She let out a breath, saying nothing for a long moment before she raised her eyes again. “There are some things I want you to know,” she said softly. “Things I want you to understand.”

Much as he wished he could ignore it, he could see it was important to her that he know whatever it was she wanted to tell him. He knew he wouldn't have let himself see it in the past, but that weren't where they were anymore, or at least, not where they wanted to be, either of them. Their relationship had changed, was changing, and he weren’t so stupid he didn’t recognize that. He didn't know that he wanted to know it, much less understand it, but she was reluctant enough to talk about any aspect of her life as it was; could be he might ought not stop her when she wanted to.

Unlucky at Cards...
“I… You can’t be that lucky!” Mal moaned as Inara beat him again, laying out her cards with a flourish.

The Slower Path: The One Less Traveled By - Part 14 - Sequel to Regrets
They fell silent again, struggling to find the ease that they had found, before; before the argument that had almost ended things.

"I feel like-," she started.

"This is-," he said at the same time.

They looked at each other. "Awkward," they both said, laughing lightly.

Always Had Faith
Faith in a higher power? That was always Mal's thing, the Captain, back in the war.

Loved and Lost
Love’s the biggest kind of hurt there is.

And I wouldn't trade that love for nothin'.

The Mood That Passes Through
He felt the first trembling shudder go through her, heard her breath hitch and felt her fingers grip his skin; knew it was comin', the wave that was cresting the walls she'd built to hold it back, whatever it was. Knew they were about to come crashing down around her. The first sob still hurt though, still lanced through his heart like a searing hot blade to hear her make that sound.