BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

ARCADIA

Over The Hills and Far Away - Ch 13
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Set after OIS. Much to Inara’s chagrin, Mal accepts a job offer that takes Serenity far away from New Melbourne and to an unremarkable moon called Three Hills... Inara spends some time with the ladies, Mal with the gentlemen. Book gets an invitation. Wash feels like a criminal, baby...


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2119    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

First, I want to apologize for the long wait for a new chapter. Second, I want to thank Tayeatra for being my beta. Thirdly, I just wanted to say that, yes, this chapter did end up running long. Hope you like it. Now, onto the chapter…

Ch 13

“We could go to lunch,” Kaylee suggested. “I gots the day off, and Book gave you the day off. We should go to lunch.” They were sitting on the couch outside the infirmary, Kaylee sprawled across Simon’s lap. They’d been sitting this way for nearly forty minutes. Simon didn’t mean to count the time, but he couldn’t help it. Zoe had taken River out ‘to train’, whatever that meant, and he wasn’t… thrilled would not be the word to describe his attitude. Kaylee called him silly for worrying. He had to admit, she was probably right.

Kaylee smiled up at him, her finger tips playing with a small patch of looked-over stubble on his chin. Simon smiled back down at her, biting the corner of his lip. “I…”

“It’ll be fun,” Kaylee insisted. “It’ll probably be less crowded than durin’ the night, more intimate-like.”

“But…” Simon looked away, unable to hide a slight blush. “Dinnerismoreromanticthanlunch,” he rushed.

“’Scuse me?”

“Dinner is more romantic than lunch,” Simon said properly, still unable to quite meet her eyes. It was embarrassing to admit that he could be, romantic. Romance and chivalry hadn’t exactly been popular on Osiris. Buying roses and waiting until the sun went down were considered impractical. Holding open doors for a woman was considered anti-feminist. Simon could see why. Buying flowers was a waste of money, as they only faded. Waiting until sunset to say what you feel is impractical when you could just say what you feel anytime. Yet, Simon couldn’t help being attracted to these gestures.

“Romantic?” Kaylee repeated. When she said the word, it didn’t seem like a bad thing. It seemed like the best thing, the sweetest thing, the prettiest thing, the sexiest thing… there was this quality in her voice that Simon couldn’t quite describe that made everything she said sweet and sexy and wonderful. Or maybe it was the sparkle in her eyes that did it. Simon couldn’t tell. , what had he done to deserve her?

“Romantic,” Simon repeated. “I think sunsets are romantic.”

“Well,” Kaylee said playfully, sitting up, “I don’t wanna be the girl stops Simon Tam from bein’ romantic. We’ll wait for dinner to go out. For now…” She began to kiss him again.

~*~

Heather Zagorska cupped her breasts, trying to get a feel for how they looked in Inara’s dress. Inara was torn between giggling and sighing. She hadn’t seen such behavior since her days at the Academy, twelve year old girls trying to make like they were ladies… if it was anyone else in her shuttle, wearing her clothing, this strange ritual would cause her nothing but laughter. Only, it was Heather Zagorska wearing her lavender kimono, and she was wearing it because they were about to attend Ladies’ Tea while Mal went off to play Croquet with the gentlemen.

“It makes me look flat,” Heather complained. “I… think the color makes my skin look washed out, too. You’re – you’re just giving me the bad ones!”

Now, Inara did sigh. “I assure you, Miss Zagorska, that I am allowing you full use of my wardrobe. If I wanted to withhold any outfit in particular from you, I would have worn it myself. However,” she continued, gesturing to her own apparel, a pink nightdress and a robe, “as you can see, I am doing nothing of the sort.” Heather pouted but didn’t retort. Inara smiled a gracefully as she could manage and stood up. “Why don’t I step outside for a moment, give you some time to change.”

“Yeah,” Heather said starkly. “You should.”

Inara bowed gracefully and stepped out of her shuttle. The thought of the wretched teenaged girl sitting alone in her shuttle gave Inara no comfort, but… well, it was nice to be away from the girl. She was… Inara had rarely encountered girls like Heather in her youth, nineteen year olds with an inflated sense of entitlement. The girls at the training house were disciplined. They were focused. Any delusions they’d had as children concerning a Companion’s ease of living had long faded.

Zagorska, however, seemed to think the world was hers. In many ways, Inara pitied her for this belief. Heather would be in for a sad day when she realized that the universe is more likely to chew you up and spit you out than to offer you a life on a silver platter. It was a lesson, Inara believed, best learned sooner rather than later. She’d learnt it herself when she was young, very young.

With a final sigh, Inara crossed the catwalk and sat down, letting her legs dangle over the cargo bay. She knew that she shouldn’t be sitting there. It was their spot, and with the situation as it was… but she didn’t feel like standing idly in front of her shuttle. She didn’t feel like roaming the ship. It was comfortable, in this spot. It was familiar. Her training told her that familiar was a bad word. To be familiar was to be out of control, to be dependent upon your surroundings. Inara decided to indulge just the same. She had days left on Serenity. It couldn’t hurt to be dependent, just this once.

“Ah-hem.” Inara indulged in a cringe before turning around. Here he was, exactly when she didn’t want to see him. Malcolm Reynolds. “You’re… you ain’t dressed,” he said bluntly, almost mechanically. There was no warmth in his voice. He wouldn’t look at her, at least not in the eyes.

“Miss Zagorska is feeling a little indecisive this morning,” Inara said. “I’ll dress when she’s finished. Don’t worry, Mal, it won’t take long.”

“Won’t it?” he asked. “Thought that’s what made you a ‘Lady’ – dragging out three minute affairs over, oh, how long was that boy in your shuttle? Maybe, six, eight hours–”

Inara shook her head, climbing to her feet. “So that’s how long you last, Captain Reynolds? Three minutes?” She smirked. Fighting with Mal, at times, was like dancing, a two step. Insult, witty remark, and repeat, back and forth, left and right, until she wasn’t sure whether the room was moving or she was. It was dizzying, in its own way exhilarating. “If I had known that three minutes is all it takes to satisfy you, I might have paid for my passage in trade.”

“You really should have,” Mal countered. “Then you coulda had a lot more of the thing you care ‘bout so much.”

“Oh, and what would that be?” Inara asked.

“Money,” Mal spat. “Ain’t that what it’s all about, bein’ a Companion? Maximum funds for minimal effort. All you gotta do is buy a few fancy dresses, convince some rich dandy that you’re a Lady and you’re so knowledgeable and carin’ and the like. After that, all you gotta do it lay there on your back an’ let ‘em thrust. Pretty simple, ain’t it?”

She rolled her eyes. “If that’s all you think sex is,” Inara countered, “then I pity you.”

It was then that she noticed his tie. Mal didn’t often play at being a gentlemen. When he did, he could play the part. It was eerie how well he could play the part when he tried. Yet, there was always something, one small detail that let Inara and everyone in the room know that he didn’t quite belong. On that day, it was his tie. Croquet was not a formal occasion, but it did require Mal to dress a bit above his par. He was wearing gray britches, a white shirt that looked like something from Simon’s wardrobe, a gray formal blazer complete with coattails, and a gray tie, a crooked, gray tie.

“Hé shì nǐ – Inara?” he exclaimed. She was moving without thinking.

“It’s crooked. Just hold still,” she said quickly. “We wouldn’t want the good people of Three Hills discovering that you’re a thief in sheep’s clothing.” She didn’t react when his witty retort didn’t come. She was surprised, but she didn’t show it. Instead, Inara finished her work, eyeing it carefully to make sure it was the right length, before letting the tie slip between her fingers. “See, all done. Was it good for you, too?”

“Very funny,” Mal said. His voice was deflated. He was looking at her now, bathing her in a powerful and familiar look of care and reverence and… Inara looked away, unable to take it, unable to look back at him when she knew that he loved her and she loved him, too. That, more than anything, made it hard not to tremble when she was near him. Inara and Mal were not Kaylee and Simon, desperate to find security within their own feelings. They just wanted their feelings to go away.

“I should probably go check on our employer,” Inara said awkwardly, stepping away.

“Yeah, reckon so,” said Mal, clearing his throat and sounding again like his normal self. “Protect ‘er from… dangerous brooches and the like.”

“Yes…” Inara managed, “from brooches.”

She knocked once before entering her shuttle. Heather was standing, wearing a lacy, yellow dress, much lower cut than the lavender one. “Do you have any necklaces for this one?” Heather asked, not looking at Inara, instead regarding herself in the mirror. “I think this one will do, it’s just… you know, too much fleshy showing on top. Looks kinda whory. Guess that would be the kind of thing you need, though.”

Inara knew better than to respond. She stood for a moment, undecided. There was only one necklace that truly matched the dress Heather was wearing, but Inara was hesitant. The necklace had been a gift from Abaddon and she didn’t want to risk… but then she thought about Mal, who loved her, who needed her to do her job. If the job went sour and he was captured… Inara didn’t want to think of that. She could handle the thought of being away from Mal forever as long as he was all right, but if he wasn’t all right… “Here,” she said, fetching a necklace with dainty, peridot stones. “This was given to me for my birthday some time ago. Yellow Topaz is said to be the birthstone for the month of November, which isn’t my birth month, but…” She nearly lost focus, but recovered quickly. “I won’t bore you with the story. This is very valuable to me.”

Heather lifted her hair while Inara clasped Abaddon’s necklace. “Eh… I don’t like the yellow stones, much. The diamonds are much better. Guess it’ll do, though,” she said upon inspection. “Well, guess I’m ready to go.” With that, the young blond stood up and exited the room. Inara watched her leave, arms folded across her chest. She indulged herself in a roughly ninety second crying session before grabbing a dress from her closet and pinning up her hair. It took less than ten minutes to get ready, but she was flawless. On a whim, she grabbed a brooch before she left, and pinned it onto her breast, over her heart.

~*~

It was harder to resist the urge to throw off his shàng dì bèi pàn huī coat and roll up his sleeves than Mal had anticipated. He never much liked the company of prissy boys. They were never willing to get their hands dirty. He didn’t understand at all why Croquet was a sport held in such high esteem. All you had to do was tap a ball with a stick. It wasn’t anymore sophisticated than throwing horse shoes and yet… Mal bit back a curse as his ball missed its target. Again. He stepped back, away from the other “gentlemen” as Gilbert Crane stepped forward to make his next shot. Mal sighed. This was not his best and shiniest day ever.

“No worries, Reynolds,” Kentdale said good-naturedly. “I do believe you said this is your first time playing Croquet?”

“You hit the ball with a stick,” Mal said, exasperated. “Since when is it so hard to hit a ball with a stick?”

“It’s an ancient game,” Kentdale said. “It was created over eight hundred years before the end of Earth that Was.”

“Well that’s… historical,” Mal replied, hoping he sounded polite.

“Yes, I suppose it is,” Kentdale conceded. “Senator Woo was telling me the history of croquet this morning over breakfast. She was quite knowledgeable about this subject. It was… well, I guess it was informative. A bit on the dry side, though.”

“I can imagine,” Mal said.

“She’s a good woman, has a golden heart,” Kentdale said immediately. “Unfortunately, that often gets overshadowed by her… ambition, I guess would be the word.”

“I see,” Mal said, suddenly very interested. “I know a thing or two myself ‘bout ambitious women. They can be a world of trouble,” and usually were, Mal thought. Inara certainly was. His hand was at his neck, fiddling with his tie before he realized he’d moved it. Self-consciously, he lowered it back to his side. She wasn’t even here, and she was still managing to make him feel like a lowly fool. Didn’t surprise him too much, of course. If anyone in the ‘verse could do such a thing to him, it would be her. It was probably a good thing that all that would soon pass. Mal could do with less confusion in his life. Confusion was a complication and complications were… troublesome.

“Trouble, yes,” chimed Kentdale, “but incredibly valuable.” Mal suddenly wondered if Inara had any idea how much she was worth to him. “We would have never gotten a factory built here on Three Hills if it weren’t for Senator Woo.”

“Yeah,” Mal agreed. “You’ve a… takes a powerful creature to overcome all the… obstacles you got against you.” In just a few minutes, Mal would be creating another one.

“Yes,” Kentdale admitted, “the public opinion of the project isn’t quite unified, but it is for the best.”

Mal smiled falsely and politely while he waited. ~*~

Generally, Wash was not a fan of Zoe going off on dangerous jobs. When he stopped to think about it, he wasn’t too keen about the idea of her bringing River along, either. Psychotic seventeen year old girls could be perfectly charming, but sometimes they were a bit deadly. Wash wasn’t a fan of deadly. Or dead wives. Or dead anything, except for possibly Jayne. However, all that took a backseat to the fact that he still had no clue what to buy Zoe for her birthday.

Wash hovered outside the door of her artillery shop, if it could be called that. Wash suspected that all it held was some rifles and a bit of ammo, nothing more. Why would farmers need more? Things were really getting desperate. He would not have considered entering this store Monday. Of course, Monday he had had a perfectly nice, blue-colored gift. Except, really that had been crap, too. Safe, non-spinning and smoking crap, but crap. Wash sighed as he entered. He really had no clue where he would go if he didn’t find something here.

“Howdy, partner,” said a semi-familiar voice as Wash walked in. Rye. Wash was surprised he remembered the man’s name. Of course, the whole speech about how the boy had gotten himself arrested from two nights ago did wonders to jog Wash’s memories.

“Rye, old buddy, old pal. Long time, no see,” Wash said. “What are you doing here? Don’t tell me that they’ve set up prison in a gun shop? I though you were arrested, down and out.”

“Nope, got off,” Rye said, smiling. “Heather takes care of me, like she always has. Thank you,” Rye nodded as a clerk handed him a wrapped, paper bag. “This is my sign to exit,” Rye said quickly, “but it was nice runnin’ into a Serenity crewman. Be sure to thank your captain for me, for all he’s done.”

Wash couldn’t shake the feeling that he was in the middle of a crime. Of course, considering what Mal and Zoe had been hired for, he probably was.

~*~

Inara fingered her brooch as she took a sip of her tea. It was a pearl brooch, one of the few that she’d bought and purchased for herself. She’d gotten it in New Dunsmuir shortly after she’d arrived in the city. Inara remembered her arrival so clearly. She truly would have loved the lights had Abaddon been by her side.

The day before she was to see her first client within the city, she was wandering through the stores, trying to feel… connection, sunlight, anything at all. The brooch she bought hadn’t been displayed in the windows. It was too simple for windows, two silver branches with pearl leaves that, to Inara, looked like teardrops. She couldn’t cry. It had been too long. She wasn’t allowed to cry anymore, so she pinned the teardrops to her chest instead. Now, they were pinned there again, simple and anguished as they ever were.

“Does the tea suit your fancy, Miss Serra?” asked a rosy cheeked woman. Inara smiled graciously.

“It’s absolutely delightful,” Inara said earnestly. It was very good tea, from the Thai tradition. It had a smoky quality to it that pleased Inara. It made her feel rather like she’d spent the day at temple. What she didn’t like, of course, was what Heather had slipped into the brew.

Inara hadn’t been listening very carefully when Heather had told them the name of the compound. It was a mild poison of some sort. Within the hour the ladies of Three Hills, Inara, and Heather herself would be stricken with headaches, nausea, and other more unseemly side effects. They would recover, Heather assured her, by nightfall. She was only going to use enough to make an impact on the women, to get their attention. She didn’t actually want to hurt anyone permanently. As stupid and juvenile as Inara found the attack, Inara had to admit, it was a good plan. Heather’s three previous sabotages had consisted of grafitti and scar tactics. There was something quite different, Inara knew all too well, about having an attack made upon one’s body.

“Tell us somethin’ about Sihnon, Miss Serra,” sweetly said a woman in a blue dress. “I ain’t never been there my own self, but my boy’s lookin’ at headin’ there for schoolin’ in a couple years, God grace us. Makes me a mite curious what it’s like.”

“Yes,” Senator Woo, “please, Lady Serra. Enlighten us.”

“Well,” Inara began. At times, she felt like a drone, giving the speech over and over again. “Sihnon is very different from this planet. It’s… much more crowded, for one thing. More Complicated. There’s much more glass than grass on the surface. And the great city. It's like an ocean of light. The captures, they can’t…”

“Can’t what?” Heather injected. “Let me guess, ‘it’s just too complicated to be captured’, unlike here, I’m sure?”

“No,” Inara answered, keeping her voice calm, “not exactly…”

“You know,” Heather said, “just 'cause a place ain’t crowded doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own complexities. Just because you were so… what word would you use – lucky? – not to be born here doesn’t mean you can judge it.”

“I apologize, Ms. Zagorska,” Inara said, perhaps more hastily than she should have. “I was referring to the government in respects to population. As I said, Sihnon is very crowded. When you’re dealing with such a numerous population, elected positions are plentiful, and at times a bit benign. It can become hard for people to sort out what jurisdiction is in charge of this service or that. Everything becomes a bit… complicated.”

Heather Zagorska set her poison-laced tea cup down sharply. “It’s like I said, then,” Heather spat. “You’re calling us simplistic. I don’t appreciate that.” Inara could have groaned if she could have. Heather Zagorska had no great love for her, or even the appreciation Inara imagined she deserved, but Inara had not anticipated that the young girl would starting arguing with her just for the sport of it. Well, if that was what Heather wanted, Inara certainly would not deprive her. It was then that Inara began to feel a throbbing ache in her stomach.

~*~

Jayne combed his hair through Adelina’s sandy curls. The woman was having a strange gentle moment, and he didn’t want to miss it. Adelina rested naked beside him on the bed, her head pillowed against his chest, eyes closed. She kept blowing on his chest as she was breathing. It was nice, having her lay still, feeling her breath. They didn’t do very much of that during his first stay with her. In fact, Jayne didn’t do that much generally. Some folks, he guessed, would consider just lying naked together to be romantic. Jayne wasn’t a romantic, and he didn’t need to be to appreciate that he was having a mighty fine day off.

“Like you, Jayne,” Adelina said quietly. “Boys like you, too, or they’d grow to. Wouldn’t mind havin’ you ‘round these hills.”

“Ain’t no place for me here,” Jayne answered.

“Might be,” Adelina said. “Factory’s openin’ soon. Could get a job there. Wouldn’t be too excitin’, but it would get you coin.”

Jayne’s hair combing ceased. He’d had his fair share of women. Almost all of them had been glad to see him go, either because he was a client, or he was a fling, or because they thought he was a brute and a criminal, which wasn’t necessarily untrue. Adelina was asking him to stay. He wouldn’t stay, and when he was gone, she would miss him. “Would stay if I could,” he said slowly. “I tried… back when I was a youngin’, I worked dirtside. Didn’t like the life. Didn’t like the pay. I would stay if I could…”

“But it ain’t your life,” Adelina finished. “It ain’t in your heart.”

“I… I’m sorry,” Jayne said. “I do care ‘bout you, mighty fierce.”

“I like that ‘bout you, Jayne Cobb,” Adelina said. “You’re fierce.” She pulled his lips to hers, ending their conversation with the intensity that made him wild for her.

~*~

Mal smiled as he, yet again, failed to hit the ball through the hoop. They clapped politely for him, but Mal could tell that most were wearied by his lack of talent, especially the members of his team. Kentdale alone seemed to regard him with genuine warmth. “At least you got the ball going west this time,” Kentdale offered helpfully.

“Yep,” Mal replied. “I imagine by this time next week, I’m gonna be the Croquet King.”

Any moment now, he thought to himself. Truth be told, Mal was getting mighty impatient. Playing nice with Kentdale was wearing on his nerves. “We’ll get you a hat,” Kentdale said. “Don’t think that would sit too well with the folk ‘round here, though. When I was a boy grownin’ up, we had a problem or two with corrupt leaders, mayors tryin’ to take advantage of the common folk. Wasn’t pleasant, but it filled me up with a good sense of democracy. It filled everyone with that sense, the need for control over their own destinies. These people value their freedom. But, of course,” Kentdale continued with a pointed glance, “I’m yet to meet a sailor who doesn’t love his freedom. Is that why you call your ship Serenity?”

“Umm… no, it ain’t,” Mal responded quickly. Mal’d met folk too young to understand what his ship’s name meant. Kentdale was older than Mal was. He didn’t have that excuse. Mal… he could barely comprehend the question. Did he call his ship Serenity because he valued his freedom? He called his ship Serenity because he had no freedom left.

“Ah,” Kentdale said. “So, you mourn it. My mistake, Malcolm. I… I had just hoped for better for you. You’re a good man. Mourning your freedom must be a big weight to bear.”

“I ain’t…” Mal began.

“No need to explain yourself,” Kentdale said, cutting Mal off before he could say something foolish. That was probably a blessing. Mal… the words at the tip of his tongue could easily lose him his job. Heather might demand that he give her the money she’d already paid if it was incomplete. He could be stuck on Three Hills moon with no income and a Companion who would no doubt have his head. But it was worth it. It would be worth it if he could just make Kentdale understand, make the bastard… Without flinching, he reached into his pocket and pushed the button.

At his slight touch, the arches exploded, each one propelled several feet into the air by the blast. The men looked around, stunned. Mal could see one had been whacked by debris. There was blood streaming down his forehead. A few others had their hands over their ears. Kentdale had already sprung into action, abandoning Mal to tend to his citizens. Mal smiled slightly to himself.

~*~

Shepherd Book was surprised to see Andrea approach. He remembered her from his first day on Three Hills. She’d brought her charge, a mentally handicapped woman with a heart condition, to see Simon. She wanted to know when her friend would die. It was an unsetting circumstance. Book was keeping both their names, Andrea and Brelin, in his prayers.

“Afternoon, Shepherd,” she greeted.

“The same to you,” he said kindly. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Actually, I was here to see if there’s anything I can do for you,” Andrea said. “I understand tomorrow’s your last night here, and you and the doctor have been mighty kind to me an’ Bree. Thought I’d thank you with a meal, if you’d like to come.”

Book smiled. “That sounds lovely, Andrea. But really, you don’t…”

“I want to,” Andrea said. “I always invite friends for Friday supper, and you, you’re a friend. ‘Sides, everyone will be really excited to have a true man of the cloth ‘round for prayers.”

“Thank you,” Book said. “I’ll see you then.”

~*~

“Oh my god!” One of the women screamed, taking a dangerous step out of her chair. “Did you hear that?” Yes, Inara thought, thank god. That sound meant that Mal had put the croquet game to a close. If that game was over, then the tea party would be over soon as well. Inara was grateful. She didn’t know how much more she could take.

“Is that your defense?” Heather probed. There was a thin layer of sweat coating the girl’s forehead. There was a thin layer of sweat coating everyone’s forehead, Inara’s included. Heather’s tea had done its job. Everyone was miserable, though a good half of them were too proud to admit it, Inara included.

“I don’t need to defend myself to you, Miss Zagorska,” Inara said more forcefully than she’d intended. “If you wish to persist in the groundless belief that I look down on you, then feel free, but I have nothing left to say.” Heather’s belief wasn’t groundless. Inara was growing to dislike her more and more every moment. “Excuse me.”

Inara tried not to rush to the bathroom. It was hard, but she managed. She was on her knees the moment she shut the door. After she was finished expelling, Inara lowered herself completely to the floor, unexpected tears welling in her eyes. She hadn’t thrown up in such a long time. She wasn’t sick often. She… the last time she had thrown up, it had had nothing to do with illness. The tears were falling down her cheeks now. Inara weakly wiped them away and pushed herself off the floor. Flushing, the turned her attention to the sink and began washing her hands.

She never meant to look herself in the mirror, but she caught a glimpse of herself just the same. She looked worse than she thought. She was sweaty and pale, effects of the tea, but it was more than that. There were rings under her eyes that clearly indicated how little she’d been sleeping the past week or so. In truth, she hadn’t been sleeping well for a long time, not since she’d told Mal she was leaving at least, maybe even before that. Her arms were shaky as she dried her hands and tried to fix her hair. It was flat and lifeless. Inara was miserable.

When she reentered the room Mal was there. Gilbert too, with Heather at his side. Mal didn’t tell her they were going back to the ship, now. He cocked his head towards the exit without looking at her. Rye was waiting outside with his superior-seating mule. It would be a long ride back to Serenity. “Still got nothing to say?” Heather taunted as Inara sat down. Inara did not manage to restrain herself from rolling her eyes. “Hmm. That’s mature, Lady,” Heather continued.

“You ladies have a fun time at the tea party?” Mal asked, as if he hadn’t heard Heather talking. Inara glared at him.

“Oh, it was more fun than sheep sheerin’,” Heather said with a small laugh. “Miss High-and-Might here was a real riot.”

“High-and-might? Yeah, guess she can be,” Mal responded with a smirk. Inara began reciting the old prayers in her head. She didn’t pray now as much as she used to, but she still remembered all the chants from temple so well. “Hope ‘Nara here hasn’t been too hard on you, Miss Zagorska.”

“Oh, she’s no one I can’t handle,” Heather replied. Enough was enough.

“No one you can’t handle?” Inara repeated. “If you honestly believe you could handle me, you’re… well, let’s just say I never mistook you for a smart woman, Miss Zagorska, but I certainly thought you were smarter than that.”

Heather laughed. The girl’s strawberry blond hair was blowing in the wind. “You’ve clearly been missing all the fine work I’ve been doin’ this week.”

It was Inara’s turn to laugh. “Fine work?” she repeated. “Can you even imagine what it would be like to have the Companion Guild’s wrath breathing down your back? Let me assure of one thing, the Guild would not waste its time with childish pranks. They would hit you places that would actually sting.”

“Childish pranks?” Heather repeated.

“Childish pranks?” Mal repeated. “Inara, if I was you, I would really hold your tongue.”

“Hold my tongue? This coming from Malcolm Impulsive Reynolds?” Inara blasted back. “And they are childish pranks. Destroying croquet courts, graffiti, scaring people with dead animals, shooting at people with paint-balls… these plans weren’t exactly made by a criminal mastermind. They’re simple. They’re childish. They won’t cause nearly enough trouble to get you what you want.”

“Oh, and you would know all ‘bout getting what you want, wouldn’t you?” Heather scoffed. “Maybe that’s what I should do, huh? Become a whore, and then sleep my decision into public policy. That how it’s done on Sihnon?”

“Oh Sihnon, decision are made with ballots,” Inara countered. “We don’t tolerate vigilantes who want to impose their minority viewpoint onto a content majority.”

“Vigil-what?” Heather gasped.

“Inara.” Mal’s voice was dark and warning. Inara didn’t care.

“You’re plan is going to fail,” Inara said coldly. “These stunts are nothing but a waste of time.”

“Huh,” Heather said. Rye pulled the mule in front of Serenity. Mal quickly jumped off. Inara was in no such hurry. She could see Gilbert breathing heavily in front of her. He shot her a fear-filled glance and then turned away. “Well,” Heather continued, “guess you’re right then. Mal,” she continued, “thanks for helpin’ out. I’ll still need you to take me to escort me tomorrow, but ‘side from that, the job’s over.”

. . . . Hé shì nǐ – … What are you – shàng dì bèi pàn huī… god forsaken gray

For anyone interested, this is what I imagined Inara’s brooch looking like: http://www.jeffreydesign.com/cart/jdbr005_small.jpg

And, because I am a complete and hopeless nerd, her necklace, too: http://www.2die4jewels.com/images/pendants/harry/peardrop%20(26).JPG

This chapter took much longer to write than I thought. I put it off for a few weeks because they were the last weeks of school, and with finals and everything happening, I didn’t want to worry about this. So, my plan was to start it promptly when I got home. Unfortunately, things just didn’t work out that way. But, it is finally finished now, hopefully to your satisfaction.

Taya, thanks again.

Peace!

Katie

COMMENTS

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 5:23 PM

LEIASKY


This is a lovely chapter. And aww, for Simon wanting to be romantic.

Heather is such a inconsiderate bitch. I dislike her immensely. :)

I like the long chapter. Keep them coming! Definitely looking forward to more.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 6:45 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Ooh....Heather needs a good asskicking from Inara (and maybe River, in secret) for her bitchiness! You must smite to make right!

;)

Loved this chapter, Arcadia, and I can't wait for more:)

BEB

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 11:47 PM

TAYEATRA


I really dislike Heather's childish arrogance but it is well written and highly believable. Any chance Mal has a slap coming for not sticking up for Inara?

Looking forward to the next instalment.
Taya

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 11:51 PM

2X2


Oh.. that Heather... grrrr....

Poor Inara... the tumult of emotions she's bowing under and having to deal with that *less than charitable name* Heather... and worst of all is the feeling that, though Inara may have not realized it yet, she's probably never going to get Abbadon's neckclace back in one piece...

And now she's going to have to face Mal's reaction... Ai ya....

I'm all torn up inside, feeling for Inara... understanding Mal, but hating the chasm between them just the same...

You make me hurt... and I love it!

Thursday, June 1, 2006 12:47 AM

AMDOBELL


I just hope that Inara letting rip at the odious Heather at the end hasn't caused even more trouble for our valiant but money-strapped crew. While it was great to hear her lash into the spoilt twisted brat, it would have been better after the job had been completed. Maybe Heather will fall over something very high up and have nothing but her ego to cushion the fall? That would be all kinds of poetical. And please don't let Inara really leave Mal. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, June 3, 2006 9:58 PM

AGENTROUKA


Ah, 13 is my favorite number and this chapter definitely fits that well. One of your best yet!

Heather is almost unbearable but at the same time, I can't help but have a shred of sympathy because she's also so damn clueless and just what kind of chilhood makes a person so eager to constantly push herself over others?

She thinks she's so smart and superior, but her boyfriend betrayed her and she doesn't even know, she looks pathetic without even realizing and her plan is a wonky little affair that Inara has little trouble cutting down once sufficiently provoked.

I think she has a long way to fall, and for that I can't help but pity Heather and I love your writing for making me do that. *G*

And Inara... oh, delicious. All this tension and the pull between justified anger and patience, the mounting anger and the way she finally lets loose, precise and merciless and just plain *right*, too. I had a wonderful sense of release, reading that, having her cut down - how ever temporarily it may be - Mal's and Heather's arrogance. And not really caring. Because patience is not working with them.

And hmm, interesting hint at the past, there...

I'm bouncing on my toes, waiting for the next part!


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