The Art of Stealing: Act I
Sunday, April 23, 2006

the crew prepare for their new job: stealing a painting from an infamous art dealer. zoë and wash "need a talk" and can mal and inara finally be honest with each other?


note: before you read this it would be good for you to have read the teaser, it'd probably make more sense! (


“Right, everyone,” Mal said, once they had gathered around the kitchen table, “As you have probably heard, we have some issues concernin’ our next job, gonna be a bit more interesting than expected. Does anyone have any brilliant suggestions as to how we pull it off?”

Wash and Zoë shared a smile, but Mal ignored them. Glad someone finds this funny…

“Am I correct in saying only the frame of this painting will be alarmed?” Book asked, pensively looking at the documents Mal had presented. He had heard of Layla. She was renowned for her collection of Art from Earth-that-was and her ruthlessness when it came to buying and selling.

“Yes, Layla wouldn’t dream of compromising the painting itself with technology,” Inara answered.

“Great!” Jayne grinned. “Just go grab the picture from its frame! Sounds easy.”

“But it’s not as simple as it sounds,” Inara continued, slightly exasperated, “This place is probably the most secure Art Gallery in the Universe. It has cameras in each corner, guards at each door. There is no way you could just waltz in and snatch it. I mean, this woman is a merciless collector and has gone to all lengths to protect -”

“No need to labour the point…” Mal grimaced.

Inara sighed. “All I’m saying, is if we’re going to do this…”

Mal looked incredulously at Inara. “We’re?

Inara met Mal’s gaze defiantly. She was fed up of him acting like she was an outsider, not part of the crew. She had insisted on being completely independent when she first rented the shuttle, but it was impossible to be on a ship and not rely on each other as she had come to rely on the crew of Serenity.

“I may be able to bypass the cameras,” Kaylee said slowly, looking at the plans, “but it wouldn’t be more than a couple of seconds. These things are very high-tech, Alliance standard.”

“Whatever time you could give us, Little Kaylee, would be appreciated,” Mal said, determinedly ignoring Inara. “But we’ll need some kind of distraction for the security guards.”

A dirty grin spread across Jayne’s face.

“I vote we don’t do what Jayne’s thinking,” Wash said quickly.

“Even without the camera’s or security guards, this is going to be a risky operation, as I see it,” the Shepard said musingly.

Simon stood a bit off from the group, wishing he could contribute in some way.

“There’s a tenth onboard,” River suddenly whispered in his ear.

Simon turned to her. “River, what -?”

“Sh!” she hissed. “She doesn’t know. She’s just sitting and waiting quietly. No one knows. It’s a secret.”


“She is no one, but someone, a new passenger. Travelling with us, but doesn’t know, no one does. It’s a secret.” River was smiling as if she was really whispering secret truths to him.

Simon sighed. He hated it when she was like this, nonsensical. Sometimes she could be so normal, just as she had been, just like she’d been before. But when she acted like this it was hard to remember the girl she had been.

“River, there’s no one else…”

“Yes there is!” River said, smiling knowingly. “But no one knows yet. She doesn't know yet.”

Zoë stood at River’s side and glanced curiously up at the Doctor as she spoke. Simon just shrugged.

“What’s this?” Wash asked, picking up one of the sheets on the table.

“That’s a picture of th painting,” Mal said. “It’s by a guy called Habib Zen”

“I don’t get it…” Wash said, squinting at the picture.

“It’s the other way up,” Zoë said, turning it around.

“Ah…” Wash said, “Wait, I still don’t get it.”

“It’s abstract,” Inara explained, “It’s not supposed to represent tangible objects, more thoughts, emotions or time.”

“I see…” Wash said, clearly not seeing. He’d never really understood art. It just wasn’t something that interested him.

“Just looks like… a load of lines and dots,” Jayne said, peering over Wash’s shoulder.

“Yeah, that’s generally what paintings are,” Wash said dryly.

“But why would anyone want this?”

“Most the time collectors aren’t looking at the painting, just who did it. This painting is very valuable.” Inara didn’t totally agree with this, how most these hoarding collectors were so rich, they didn't see anything for what they were; only how much they were worth. It brought to mind some of her clients, parading her around as though she was a reflection of their own wealth, not even seeing her. There was only one reason she hated that, as it contrasted so much with the way Mal looked at her.

“So we gonna be rich when we get this?” Kaylee asked, excitedly. “Afford a holiday?”

“Holiday? Yeah, holiday!” Wash started, “I like the holiday idea.”

“We need to get it first,” Mal reminded them. “An it ain’t lookin’ to be so easy.”

Zoë smiled. “Surprise, surprise.”

“We can do it though, right?” Kaylee looked at everyone expectantly. “I mean, we always do it in the end, don’t we?”


“We need to talk,” Zoë said, stepping onto the bridge.

“Hu?” Wash froze. That phrase sounded so ominous. What had he done? He must have done something… He anxiously tried to think of something he may have done to upset Zoë, but nothing came to mind.

“I need to talk to you about something,” she repeated, looking deadly serious.

“Right… well, I’m kind of busy right now. Can we talk later?” Wash desperately tried to look busy. This could not be good, whatever it was. He was going to do the usual; flee.

“What are you doing?” Zoë asked, suspiciously.

“I urm… need to go… ask Kaylee about… something.” He jumped out of his seat and rushed past Zoë in the doorway.

She sighed. This was not going to be easy…


“So what do you think of the plan?” Simon asked casually, watching Kaylee work beneath the engine.

She poked her head out. “Cap’ain knows what he’s doin’. May not go swimmingly, but sure it’ll be shiny in the end! No matter what.”

“Yes, they’re certainly used to getting out of scrapes…”

“Uhu! Zoë and the Cap’ain have lots of practice,” Kaylee stuck her head back beneath the throbbing heart of Serenity. “Bein’ in the war an’ all.”

“Will you really be able to bypass the security cameras? I mean, how do you know what to do?” It really amazed Simon, what Kaylee could do with mechanical things. She didn’t seem to need to be taught, she just did them naturally, as though she’d been doing it all her life.

“It’s really not that hard, if you’ve got the right equipment… ‘Sides, don’t know if it’ll work yet.” Kaylee scrambled up, smiling widely at the Doctor.

“You are really talented, Kaylee,” he said, awkwardly.

Kaylee grinned up at him. “Not like you, not like you with your Doctoring. That’s real talent.”

“Yeah, but you’re so…” Simon struggled, smiling affectionately at her.

“Hey, guys!” Wash burst in, causing Simon to jump away from Kaylee.

“Hey Wash, what’s up?” Kaylee asked, a tinge of bitterness in her voice.


“Hey, so do you know the schedule?” Mal poked his head into the shuttle just in time to see a flurry as Inara flung her dressing gown on top of her nightwear.

“Damn it, Mal! Can’t you knock?” Inara cried, rounding on him angrily.

“Yes, because you must be terribly modest in your line of work…”

Inara rolled her eyes exasperatedly. He always tried to make her guilty of it, always picking at it, trying to make it hurt. “Why must my profession be at the root of your every insult?” she exclaimed, though truthfully she knew. “There is no way you can make me ashamed of what I do.” Maybe she was just tired, but she was fed up of this day, fed up of being made to feel like she was worthless, first her client, she really didn’t need it now from Mal.

Mal looked shocked at this outburst, but understood something must be bothering her. She wasn’t one to easily loose her cool. “Hey! Just be proud I haven’t got anything else to insult you about.”

Inara was silent.

With a sigh Mal stepped backwards. “Well, night then.” He turned to leave, but Inara’s voice stopped him.

“Why don’t you let me help with the job?”

“No sense in you risking your career just to -”

Inara cut him off. “But you have shown that you have no regard to my career at all. It doesn’t make sense.”

Mal stepped forwards, too close, but neither of them moved. “I may not have regard for your career, but you have shown that you regard your career higher than anything else.” The resentment was evident in his voice. “So I have no right to ask you to give that up.”

They gazed at each other, both understood, both knew but there was nothing either could do.

“Goodnight,” Mal said simply. He turned and left Inara staring vacantly at the space he had occupied a moment ago, tears stinging in her eyes.


“Wash,” Zoë whispered.

He ignored her, hoping she’d think he was asleep.

“Wash, I know you’re not asleep.”


He rolled over, smiling best he could. “You coming to bed, Baby?”

“I need to tell you something first,” she said, sitting slowly next to him, taking a deep breath.

“Look, whatever it is, I swear I didn’t do it. Or not intentionally at least,” he said quickly, sitting up.

Zoë smiled slightly. “No, it’s not your fault, I mean, it is, but…” She trailed off.

Wash stared at her. This was really starting to freak him out. What was so bad that Zoë couldn’t tell him. “What is it?” he asked, taking her hand.

Zoë looked up slowly into his kind eyes. Taking a deep breath, she said it. “Wash, I think I might be pregnant.”


Sunday, April 23, 2006 6:28 AM


Hey, a baby Washburne on the way! I liked Jayne cutting through to the chase about the painting being just dots and lines. Reminded me of the Emperor's New clothes where all the hangers on kept telling the Emperor how wonderful his new clothes were until one honest man in the crowd shouted out that he was naked! Oh sorry, was that Jayne too? Can't wait for the next part, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, April 23, 2006 8:44 AM


Wow...have to admire Mal's rhetoric, even if it's a might blunt. Inara does value her work higher than everything else...or seems to do anyway. Besides, one point I have wanted to play up in a fic is the fact that Inara's income is the only steady one the crew can count on...though one has to wonder just why Mal would jeopardize that with puttering around the Core soley;)

Still...I am really liking this story so far, Sofi:)


Sunday, April 23, 2006 8:45 AM


Crap....meant puttering around the Rim solely

(embarassed blush)


Monday, April 24, 2006 12:37 AM


Love Wash fleeing and the crew interaction while discussing the heist.

I like Jayne's remark about lines & dots...just what I think sometimes about Abstracts!

Looking forward to the next installment.

Monday, April 24, 2006 3:20 AM


Yay another caper! I'm sure that some wacky fun is going to ensue and Zoe pregers...waiting for the rest.

Saturday, July 1, 2006 2:17 AM


aww, baby washburne!!!



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