During yet another botched "job," the entire Firefly crew find themselves forced to hole up in an old abandoned mansion until Mal can come up with yet another idiotic plan to save them all by the skin of their teeth.
They soon discover a library filled with seemingly thousands upon thousands of books from Earth That Was. Jayne wants nothing more than to make a fire with them. Kaylee becomes entranced by the children's picture books. River devours text upon text, occasionally making corrections in the margins with her strange not-quite sensical English.
Inara runs her long fingers across the dusty spine of the collections, eventually stopping on one that catches her eye. The title is marred from water damage, but she is attracted to the silhouette of the fairy on the spine. She cracks open the ancient books and begins reading "Peter Pan."
Inara is not a woman prone to sentimentality. But there is something about the idea of being able to fly with a thought, something about the fairy dust she can imagine gathering on her fingers instead of real dust, something about the idea of a world where you can always be a child that attracts her. She reads of Peter, she reads of Wendy and Tinkerbell, and she reads of his callous, youthful ignorance to them both, and her throat tightens.
A hand falls on her shoulder.
Inara turns to see Mal standing there, a copy of Lyrical Ballads balanced on his palm. His eyebrow is arched, but the acidic sarcasm she associates with him has vanished. The knot in her stomach loosens as the heat from his fingers warms her shoulder.
"You all right there, Inara?"
She revels in the sound of his voice saying her name. He doesn't say it often.
"I'm fine," she insists, gracefully closing the book.
"Good," he says, his face at once changing into something that she imagines Zoe got very familiar with during the war. "Ready to bust out of here?"
Inara sighs, but nods. She is not a sentimental woman, and it does not do to dwell on the dreams of childhood. There is no planet Neverland - no place where she can go and be perfectly at ease.
And even if there were such a place, she knows that one man would never consent to such leisure.