BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

ARCADIA

Over the Hills and Far Away - Ch 17
Sunday, July 30, 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...who shot the gun? will the bomb go off? and just what did happen to Abaddon Jiang?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2330    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Ch 17

May 21, 2511. Sihnon. Hotel Niagra at Pāramitā Falls. Sunrise.

The sky was pink when she opened her eyes, its normal blue hue still an imagination, a dream, of the rising sun. Inara smiled into it, smiling the heaviness of sleep away from her body. “I always did love the sunrise,” she said. “When I was little we lived in one of the denser areas of the city. The sky… you couldn’t see it like you can here. My first night in the training house, I risked my entire future by sneaking out of my bedroom before our wake-up call to see the sunrise. It was worth it.”

She closed her eyes, remembering it all. Ten years. Ten years had passed since Layla Serra had walked into Inara’s room and asked, ‘Did I ever tell you the story of how I met your father?’ It had been ten years since she’d decided to become a Companion. Ten years since she’d left home. Ten years since she’d spoken to her father. In ten years she had learned more language, music, art, and history than she’d ever imagined existed as an ‘eleven-but-almost-twelve’ year old, traveled more places then she’d remember.

More importantly, she had known love. She had known love that she never knew existed. She had known the kind of love the crawls inside your veins and changes you from the inside out. She’d found the kind of love that completes you before you even realize you’re incomplete.

Looking back at the sunset of her childhood from the sunrise of the next phase in her life, Inara marveled at how easily it could have gone another way. If she had been less certain, less driven; if her mother had been less set on living out her dream through her only daughter, a bit more self assured and more… mature; if Inara herself had been more childish, less talented…

Inara didn’t think she would have ended up like her parents. She was smart. If she hadn’t become a companion, no doubt she would have gone to a university somewhere, studied, become a professional of a different sort. She liked the stars now that she could see them clearly. Maybe an astronomer. And she definitely had a way with people. Perhaps she would have found herself on the crew of a luxury liner, tending to travelers and living among the stars.

It didn’t matter. She had chosen to go to the training house, chosen to become a companion. So all other possible futures, they didn’t matter. Inara was glad. She was… she was glad to be waking up in Hotel Niagra. She was glad to be right here.

“Aren’t you going to ask me if I got caught?” she said to Abaddon. “I did, for the record. Not by an instructor, though, thank Buddha. Nandi found me. I was trying to get back to my bedroom, but I had gotten lost and Nandi, well, to be honest, I haven’t got a clue why Nandi was up too… She became my best friend.”

With a small sigh, Inara pushed herself up into a sitting position. She found her eyes drawn again to the window, where the sunset was moving from pink to orangey-red.

“You seemed… off last night,” she let herself say. “You seemed… like maybe you were starting to believe that this, what we have, wasn’t enough. Maybe it’s me. Maybe… maybe it’s something you’ve done. I don’t know. I don’t know, Abaddon, but I know we’ll make it through this. I know because I love you.”

She sat. The hues of the sunrise grew more vibrant, like the sky was dancing. “You know,” Inara continued, half-hearted grin on her lips, “this is the part where you tell me you love me, too. It’s not polite to keep a woman waiting.”

Her grin grew into a full smile as she turned to him, looking at him for the first time that morning, his tender formed sprawled out across the bed, half-under the sheets. She looked into his eyes, and she knew.

She knew.

“Abaddon?” The cry has escaped her throat as she threw herself across the sheets, throwing her arms around the body. “Abaddon? Abaddon!” She dug her fingernails into his flesh. She rattled his body as if it would wake him. “Abaddon?” She whispered it like a girl, like a child lost in the darkness, as tears she couldn’t feel started falling down her cheeks in round, oversized drops.

“Abaddon?”

His eyes were open, pupils dilated, making his already over-dark eyes completely black. Desperately, she patted his cheek. She could feel the whimpers continuing to escape from her throat, ripping through it, but she couldn’t hear them. Under her fingers, the body was already cold, as if it had been lying there for hours. She clutched the shoulders, shaking them, and when she let go to run her hand down his cheek she saw that her fingers had speckled him with their white imprints, imprints that wouldn’t fade.

He was dead. Abaddon Jiang was dead.

Abaddon was dead, dead for no… A deep, ragged cry tore through her throat. She screamed, falling off the bed as she backed away from the first freshly dead body she had ever seen. She tried to stand but her legs were shaking. They folded under her, the skin on her knees scraping against the fabric of hotel Niagra’s oriental rugs. She dragged her body backwards until she found her back pressed against the cold, plaster wall, so cold it burned. She immediately recoiled, sprawling forward onto the floor, trying to dig into the carpet with her fingernails but failing completely because her hands were shaking too much to… they were shaking and…

Inara vomited on the carpet, the bile from her stomach pouring out of her, onto her skin, her clothes, in her hair. When it was over she pushed herself away from it, managing to put a foot or so of space between her and her own mess. The smell… it was everywhere, the smell… of sickness… of decay…. She pushed herself onto her knees, started crawling… and then fell down again when she couldn’t… there was nowhere… she… she couldn’t….

She made it to her feet. She wasn’t sure how, but she was on them. She wiped her hands on her night gown. She felt her breath hitch in her chest and stumbled back to the bed, back to the… Abaddon hadn’t moved. He was lying on his back just as he had been before and Inara… Inara could see her finger prints, she… she could see his large, black eyes staring up into nothingness. “Abaddon?” she whispered. She sat down beside his body, combing her fingers through his haphazard hair, she… Abaddon was dead.

She didn’t know why she was caressing him. She didn’t know why she was calling his name, why… she didn’t know why. People don’t just… wake up dead, they don’t… he…. She crawled over him, back to her side of the bed. For several minutes she lay there, still, her eyes closed, marveling at how if she didn’t open them, if she didn’t see she was able to pretend it wasn’t happening, that he wasn’t….

And then, she opened them, her eyes, and the world was just as it was when she closed them. Abaddon’s body lay sprawled across the bed, and Inara….she wished she could stop herself, but she was already… She took the body into her arms and cradled it to her chest, weeping. And suddenly…

She rose from the bed. Mindless. Frantic. She didn’t quite realize she left the room, realize she had taken the elevator downstairs and stumbled out the lobby. She wasn’t aware of herself until she was standing before the falls, a crowd consisting of a half-dozen people surrounding her, asking her if she was all right. Her lips… were heavy. She tried to move them but they were numb. She tried to force air through her throat but it was numb. She…

And then there were screams.

Inara felt a hand on her shoulder, propelling her forward through the crowd. She felt the heat on her skin as the buildings around her collapsed, raining ash and fire down upon Pāramitā Falls. She looked and saw Hotel Niagra, and her sins with it, falling to the ground. A bomb, a terrorist attack. She closed her eyes as ashes and tears burned her cheeks. She was grabbed again, pushed forward, dragged away…

~*~

Inara had expected to fall down. She expected the bullet from Heather Zagorska’s gun to tear through her chest, causing her to fall down, to bleed. Instead, she was standing, and Gilbert Crane’s body lay still at her feet. He’d jumped out in front of her. He’d saved her, he…

“Gil? Gilly? Gil!”

The gun dropped to the floor with a loud clank. Heather rushed forward, dropping to her knees. “Gilbert?” She shook him with one hand, the other pushing down on the hole in his chest trying to stop the bleeding, trying to stop…

“Gil?” The name was a plea, a prayer, something instinctual and desperate, but there was no one to answer it. Inara watched as Heather tried desperately to rouse her lover, shaking him, caressing him, crying and screaming. But the only answer she received was Gilbert’s eyes: open, dilated, dead.

Inara’s heart ached. She knew.

~*~

May 24, 2511. Sihnon. Apartment of Dougray Bonamici.

“…so, it’s my fault,” Inara said, voice cracking as she forced the words out of her mouth. “Abaddon, he… it’s my fault. I killed him.”

“No. No, Inara, you’re an innocent in all this,” Dougray said. His voice had never sounded old to her before, but it did now. Maybe that was because she could barely hear it. Inara… she flinched as he tried to grab hold of her hand, pulling into her chest as if the simple graze of his fingers had burned it. She looked up at him, looked into his eyes.

“I killed him,” she said with detached conviction. “If what you’re saying is correct, then the Guild… It all makes sense. When I was eighteen, not… not six months after I received my registration, I got sick. No one could explain it. I was in bed for days. My mother… but that was it, wasn’t it? It was a primer… Aiko Sato’s always …she spends more time with me than the others. We drink tea together every day.”

Inara couldn’t go on. She couldn’t go on thinking, not after what Dougray had just told her. “That might be how she…” Dougray stopped, cleared his throat. “The She-Mantis Syndrome is very complicated and difficult to control. When you first become infected, it tries to kill you. That’s why you were sick. If you survive the sickness, the Syndrome stays in you blood – but it’s dormant. It needs a trigger. Aiko Sato, no doubt, monitored your schedule closely, guiding you towards clients who she… and then, there is an injection they had to give you, probably when you were asleep, that activates the syndrome for twenty-four hours.”

“And within those twenty-four hours anyone who I sleep with…” Inara couldn’t finish. The words simply could not make it out of her. Anyone who she slept with within twenty-four hours died. Abaddon had died. She’d killed him. She… She turned to Dougray, the tears falling freely from her eyes. “How do you know about all this?”

“About a year and a half ago, another one of ours… an agent of the resistance was killed in this manner, a woman on Osiris. We thought… we assumed the girl knew, that the Companion knew what she was doing. We didn’t know that you were sleepers, we didn’t….” Dougray sighed, an old, weary sigh. “I would have never introduced you to Abaddon if I’d known, Inara. I… it hurts me so, to see you in such pain. Please, forgive me.”

They held each other’s gaze for a long while, each one lost in the misery in the other’s eyes. Eventually, Inara broke the contact. She pushed herself up from the table, hand holding her aching side, and cross the room. She looked out the window, down at the city below, and wiped the tears from her eyes. “I don’t know if I can forgive anyone,” she said, voice barely a whisper. “But I could use a favor.”

~*~

Forgiveness… six hours after Dougray had told her about…about everything, Inara found herself sitting in his living room sipping hot tea and watching the latest briefs over the cortex. Her body ached, so weary from all she had put it through. Dr. Crncevic had prescribed her some painkillers to help with any soreness she might feel after the… ‘incident’ was the word everyone kept using. The Pāramitā Falls Incident. They didn’t know what the word meant, but they used it anyway. Incident.

“Your body has been through a trauma,” she was told. “You’ll experience pain… bleeding, cramping…” So she took the painkillers when it became too much, when the ache became too much, when her body’s expulsion of the only child it had ever created became too much, when the grief and the loss and the memories… The show she was watching had been rather trivial. Something about spring fashions and lowering waistlines… Inara felt herself smiling. At first, she thought it was the drug making her off-kilter. Later, she realized it was because the host of the show had told a joke and Inara had thought it was funny. So she smiled. And in that moment, none of it had happened. There was no death to speak of, no terrorist attack, no guilt, no miscarriage… she was just a girl again, sitting on a couch, warm, relatively comfortable, smiling.

Sometimes she wondered if that was it. Forgiveness. Could it just be a small smile? Inara didn’t know if it truly existed, but she couldn’t imagine it being anything else. A joke. A smile. It seems impossible, after ‘incidents’ occur, that life should ever be casual again. Sometimes, it even seems horrible. Inara…

Inara slowly lowered herself to the ground beside Heather. For a moment she hesitated, unsure of what she was doing, unsure if it was right. Then she put her hand on Heather’s shoulder. The young woman’s flesh crawled under her fingers, but Inara didn’t flinch. She wasn’t afraid anymore, she wasn’t… “We need to go,” she whispered, her voice low, soft, and even. “The bomb is going to go off. We don’t have much time.”

“I… I don’t… I can’t leave him,” Heather whispered through her tears. “I loved him. I really did, I… killed him.”

“I know,” Inara said. “I know.” There was nothing she could say, nothing that would change it or make it easier to understand or make it better. Nothing. She could feel Heather shaking under her touch. The girl’s flesh had grown pale. She was going into shock. Inara wrapped her arms around the young woman, around the girl, and pulled Heather to her chest, pulled her away from the body. “I know,” she whispered. “I know.”

Heather shook. She shook and shook, harder and harder, soundlessly. Inara rubbed her hands on Heather’s exposed back, trying to keep the heat inside her body, but it was futile. Heather was retreating, going somewhere inside herself that Inara couldn’t follow. Inara took a deep breath, then another. They needed to get out. She and Heather needed to get out. There wasn’t much time.

~*~

“What’s going on, Shepherd? What’d that woman say?” Andrea’s hands trembled as she asked the question. Her eyes were larger than they should have been, as if she was anxious and afraid. It was as if she already knew.

“Zoe thinks that something isn’t quite right with the ball tonight,” Book told her simply.

“Somethin’… somethin’, bad?” Andrea asked.

“I never said that,” Book said. “I just said ‘something.’”

“But… if that woman waved you then… then it’s gotta be…?”

Shepherd Book took in a heavy breath. He closed his eyes. There was a twinge in his chest. He felt almost like… like he was inhaling dust, the dust that falls off a manuscript you haven’t moved in years. Andrea was nervous. She had no reason to be. Shepherd Book reopened his eyes, fixing his gaze on River. The prodigy child was sitting at the table, her eyes closed, head bowed. He could see her lips moving, but Book couldn’t make out her words.

Book knelt down beside her, took her hands into his. “River.” He said the name softly, words barely above a whisper, but she responded to them, opened her eyes.

“I try,” she whispered. “I try not to know, but I know.”

“Shh… River, it’s all right. It’s all right,” he told her quietly. “I want you to take Brelin and wait outside. Do you think you can watch her?”

River nodded. “The same man is both the patron of fires and families.”

Book smiled. “Saint, River. St. Francis is a Saint.”

River did not smile back. Instead, she stood up, took Brelin by the hand, and led the girl out of the room. Book took a deep breath, then turned to Andrea. “What do you know?”

Andrea started. “I… I don’t…”

“I repeat,” Book said, his voice growing low and cold, “what do you know?”

She was shaking. “Please…”

“Please?” Book repeated. “You know ‘please’? Are you trying to beg, Andrea? It’s a sweet gesture, you begging, but it isn’t going to help. I know you know something, Andrea, and you’re going to tell me. We can do this the easy way, or… or perhaps we can further explore your incredible ability to say please. So, I repeat. What do you know?”

~*~

Kaylee and Simon held hands the entire way back to Serenity. It was nice. Simon hadn’t realized how much he missed warm, kind, physical contact. Sure, he hugged and held River all the time, but she was his sister and… and it wasn’t the same. Their contact was so often generated out of necessity. River was having an episode and needed to be calmed, so Simon held her through it. This, Kaylee grabbing his hand, it was spontaneous and unnecessary and perfect.

When they arrived back at the ship Kaylee grabbed his arm forcefully with her free hand, but this gesture wasn’t spontaneous. It was cause and effect. “What – Zoe?” Kaylee let go of him entirely and jogged to the open cargo bay doors. Simon followed.

“Zoe?” Kaylee demanded again. “What’s going on? I thought you was stayin’ in. I thought—”

“Just got word from the Shepherd,” Zoe said. Simon could feel his stomach sinking.

“What’s wrong?” Kaylee asked again. It was Wash who answered.

“There’s a bomb,” he said, stepping down the ramp. “Shepherd says there’s two bombs – one in the factory, one in the town hall.”

Kaylee jumped. “But the cap’n an’ Inara are in there!”

“We know,” Zoe said forcefully, loading her gun as Wash fired up the mule. “We’re getting them out.”

Kaylee grabbed his hand again, squeezing hard. Simon squeezed right back. “The Shepherd – my sister—” he managed.

“She’s fine,” Zoe assured him. “They’re stayin’ put ‘til I send word for them to do otherwise. Jayne is in town, workin’ with a local woman to keep all the townsfolk away from the display. Kids got a flyer at the school house today tellin’ ‘em it was fireworks.”

“Oh, God…” Simon silenced Kaylee with a squeeze of her hand. He did this on instinct, no rhyme or reason to it. Something inside him just knew it was the right thing to do. Meanwhile his mind was racing. He felt like the ground was swaying beneath him and…

Simon took a deep breath. “We shouldn’t take the mule,” he blurted out. “If they’re hurt, then we can’t take them back in the mule, not without risking aggravation to the injuries.”

“But they won’t be hurt!” Kaylee exclaimed. “We – we’ll find them!”

“No, he’s right,” Zoe agree. “We take the shuttle.”

“We can take both. Zoe, you go now in the mule. It’s ready to go. You’ll get there faster,” Wash interjected, “I’ll prep the shuttle. We’ll be right behind you. Kaylee? Do you think you can –”

“We both will,” Simon said quickly. “We’ll both help. We can do this.” He squeezed her hand again. Kaylee looked at him, face stricken, and then nodded. Despite his words, she didn’t seem especially convinced.

~*~

“I want you to be careful, Zoe,” Wash said. “If it’s too hard to get to them, or if time’s too tight, I want you to hop right back on the mule and leave.”

She sighed. He wasn’t surprised. In fact, Wash expected it. Zoe was a woman of incredible will. It was one of the reasons he loved her. Usually, her resolve worked in her favor. Other times, this time, it was working against her. Wash still felt so blessed to have found her. The thought of… “Wash,” she said, voice low and quiet.

“I know, I know,” he said quality. “You need to do what it takes. You, you’ve got to find Mal, but – but I don’t want to lose you, baby. I want you to be here next year, and lots of years, and Zoe, I want us to have kids, I… I finally decided maybe I’m not so scared of losing something that I won’t… but if I lose you now, then we’ll never… and…”

“Wash…”

“…Happy birthday,” he finished lamely. “That… it was supposed to be your gift…”

Zoe smiled the blithe, big-lipped smile that made him fall in love with her every time he saw it. It was a smile of pure joy. “I’ll be careful.”

“I know,” Wash admitted. “I know.”

“And when I get back, we’ll have babies.”

Wash couldn’t help but grin. “You mean we’ll do the baby-making thing? ‘Cause if we had one right when you got back that’d be real quick.”

Zoe rolled her eyes and flashed him a small smile. “Take care of them for me, Simon and Kaylee.”

“I will,” Wash promised. He pulled her into his embrace and kissed her firmly on the lips. When she pulled away an icy feeling washed over him, a cold feeling of finality, like this was the last time he’d ever see her.

~*~

Inara wasn’t weak, but she wasn’t exactly Jayne, either. She threw one of Heather’s arms around her shoulders and stood, pulling the unresponsive girl up with her. Inara buckled under the weight. She tried not to, there was no time, but she did. She took a step and found herself toppling. She tried not to stop for a moment, tried not to have to push back her panic, but she had to. It was rising inside her and she couldn’t. She grabbed Heather again and pulled her up…

Inara nearly stopped because of the pain. Her ankle was screaming. She… had she twisted it when she fell? She… it didn’t matter. She didn’t have time to care. There was no time.

It seemed to take forever to pull Heather to the other end of the ball room, to the doors. It seemed to take a heartbeat. Inara’s ankle was screaming. There was sweat pouring down her back. She grabbed the doorframe for support. It was okay. It was going to be okay, just like she’d said. Everyone was outside, and Mal… Inara readjusted her grip on Heather. Mal. She needed to get to Mal, needed to get to him before—

That was her last thought. The bomb went off. The world went black.

. . . . So… that was chapter seventeen. Sorry for yet another long wait. I’m working my *pì gu* off on the next chapter though. I’m moving on August 4th, so my goal is to have everything finished by, you guessed it, August 4th.

Small question: Would it be overly arrogant of me to take a leaf from mal4prez’s book and do a brief comments/questions answered thingie after this is done? I had been thinking of doing one, which is largely why I haven’t addressed some of the questions/comments I’ve gotten in reviews, but lately I’ve been like, “what would I even put in there, anyway?” so I’m thinking of just going through old reviews and PMing people with responses to comments instead. Anyone have a preference? Or do you not mind my relative silence? Just curious. Also, I guess if there is anything you want a response to, just say so in a review or PM me or something, yeah…

Well, I am off. Review!

edit: Grr... I am completely mad at myself for forgetting this, but thanks so much to Tayeatra for fixing all my crazy spelling errors and strange pronoun mix-ups, she is a goddess who should probably kick me in the ass for almost forgetting this. Thanks Taya!

Katie

COMMENTS

Sunday, July 30, 2006 3:19 PM

LEIASKY


Mean, mean, mean to end it there! Am looking forward to some big damn rescuing and lots of action next chapter!

I'd like to see the answers to people's questions posted publicly, since you're asking. Take that leaf, I'm sure there's plenty :)

Sunday, July 30, 2006 5:05 PM

2X2


oh.. Inara...
You make me ache to think that there has been such tragedy and heartache in her life... losing Abaddon that way, 'killing' him without even knowing it, used... so cruel... and losing the child...

And was that really a terrorist act? or was that too orchestrated? Was she meant to die too?

And Gil, saving her... finally stopping Heather, and then Inara offering her compassion, recognizing herself for that moment... the parallels between them in that instant, complete with terrorist bombing... how life repeats itself...

*sigh* oh, how I love your Inara...

Good luck with your schedule to get this finished! I know how difficult it can be *G*

And as to the commentary idea... I'd love to read your comments on writing this, in whatever fashion you choose.

Lovely...

Monday, July 31, 2006 12:14 AM

TAMMYY2J


Loving this can't wait for next installment


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