Over The Hills and Far Away - Ch 18
Sunday, September 10, 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... This bomb has gone off! Is Inara okay? Is Mal?


a/n: not betaed, so sorry for the errors

Ch 18

Zoe slowed the mule as she approached town square. It was not a pretty sight.

Not that she’d been expecting one. The tell-tail sound of an explosion of ripped through the night when she was not half-way to town. She was too late. Mal and Inara… if they weren’t dead, they’d been wishing they were dead. Mal…

Smoke was billowing up, covering the orange-blue sunset sky with malicious black clouds. It was a familiar sight for Zoe. She’d seen dozens of buildings fall, maybe hundreds, during the time of war. What she had never quite seen before were a hundred or so ladies and gentlemen dressed in formalwear, crying and screaming, standing around like frightened sheep in the aftermath. They’d gotten out okay. Somehow, they had gotten out okay. Mal was all right.

Zoe jumped out of the mule almost before she had it turned off. “Sir!” she shouted as she approached the crowd. “Malcolm Reynolds! Sir!”

The crowd was a battlefield, a perverted battlefield made not of soldiers but of frightened wives clinging to their husbands, clinging to their friends, all bunched up. Zoe fought her way inside of it. “Mal!” she shouted, though the named seemed strange falling from her lips. “Sir! Mal! Malcolm Reynolds!”

“He’s not here,” someone whispered.

Zoe turned around. At first Zoe didn’t recognize the woman before her. Tear strikes were unbecoming on the majestic face of Senator Woo. “Where is he,” Zoe demanded.

“He, he…”

Zoe took a harsh step toward to trembling woman. “Where is he?”

“He…” she paused, more tears falling from her cheeks. “He’s in the factory. Kentdale took him.”

Zoe didn’t react. She didn’t have time.

“And Inara? Is she with them?”

“I…I don’t know,” Woo managed. “She isn’t with him, but she… she isn’t here. I… I was one of the last ones out of the building but I… I didn’t see her leave.”

Zoe turned around without another word. She pushed her way out of the crowd, fishing for the com link in her pocket. “Wash?” she said. “Wash, what’s you ETA?”

“Shuttle’s prepped and ready to fly,” Wash answered from the other end. “What’s going on baby? We thought we heard a big booming-type noise. Kaylee’s beside herself.”

“Wash,” Zoe said, her voice devoid of all the feelings shuttering through her with each heartbeat, “the bomb went off, both bombs. Far as I can tell, Mal was in one building and Inara was in the other.” She stopped. Just for a second, she stopped. “Make sure Simon has his supplies.”


The sound of the blast shook the sky. Silence followed, broken only by Andrea’s whimpering. They sat in the dining room, all four of them. It was a mockery, their sitting there, a mockery of the meal they were supposed to have had. Book closed his eyes, bowed his head. He was weary, old and weary, and he felt…

“It’s a selfish thing to cry about,” River said, accusation in her voice. Book opened his eyes. River was staring at Andrea, nothing but disdain in her eyes.

“River,” Book said quietly. Even to his old years he sounded old. “Hundred of people might be dead right now. It’s a terrible thing, something to cry over. Even for those that had a hand in causing it, it’s a thing to cry over. Especially of them.”

Andrea’s whimpering turned to sobbing. River shook her head. “That’s not why she’s crying.”


Wash set the shuttle down as close to the wreckage as he could manage – fifty feet away, give or take. He wanted to get closer, probably had room to get closer, but he couldn’t see. The smoke the dust, it made it too hard. Wash cursed under his breath, but really he was glad of it. What he could see, burning shapes, indistinct, was horrific.

“Oh god…” Kaylee said as he was setting down. “There were people in there.”

The Factory had collapsed onto itself, falling into the world, completely swallowed. Only odds and ends, a support structure here, a wall there, remained above the ground, all of it charred or still build.

The town hall was still largely standing. Wherever the bomb has been placed, it wasn’t overly effective. It seemed that only the west side of the building, the back, had been taken down – but the rest would be down soon enough. It was burning. The building was burning.

“Do we…” Simon swallowed. “Do we have a plan?”

For a moment Wash couldn’t answer. He just nodded. “Jayne and Zoe are coming,” Wash said slowly.

“They…” Kaylee sputtered. “How does a person survive that?”

Wash wanted to tell her that they did, that Mal and Inara were fine, giddy even, but… but one building was a hole in the ground and the other was consuming itself in flames. They were alive. They had to be alive. But he couldn’t see how.


She opened her eyes.

She couldn’t see. For a moment, she thought it was because she was blind. Then her eyes began to sting. She closed them. It was smoke. She couldn’t see through it.

Then she realized she was breathing it.

She started to cough.

Inara had never coughed like this, like she was ripping apart from the inside. The coughing wretched through her body and left her gasping. Something wasn’t right. She knew something wasn’t right, but before she could focus her thoughts on her body long enough to realize what it was the coughing would start again, racking through her body. It hurt.

She hurt.

And suddenly, she realized she was trapped. Something was… it was on top of her and she couldn’t… she tried to push, but her arms were jelly. Her head was spinning even though her eyes were closed. Her chest felt so heavy. Her hands wouldn’t move and she tried, but her fingers… she was coughing, gasping and coughing and she couldn’t get out…

“Heather…” she tried to call into the darkness. Where was Heather? Inara opened her eyes again, struggling desperately against whatever it was that pinned her down. Pain flared but she couldn’t… she needed to find Heather. The girl could… Inara cough. She coughed and until she felt her lungs shattering. She… Heather. “Heather…” she whispered. She tried to move her arm, but she couldn’t reach. But she could see. She could see Heather so close, but so…

Her eyes were closed. The skin was half white half red, covered in blood, and… Inara knew she was dead. There was too much blood covering Heather’s head, too much… Inara tried to reach her hand, to reach… and her fingers…

Inara was bleeding. Her fingers were covered in it. Strange, she didn’t feel like she was bleeding, she… she was coughing… then gasping again. She closed her eyes against all of it. Against the pain and… Mal… she didn’t, she failed. She never got to Mal…


Jayne hadn’t had time to kiss Adelina good bye. It was strange, he knew, that at a time like this all he could think was that he didn’t kiss the woman good bye.

“Kaylee, you stay here,” Zoe said over the com, her voice low. It didn’t waver. “Stay with the shuttle. Keep her prepped and ready for take-off. Think you can do that?” Kaylee nodded. “Good. The rest of us divide into teams. Two teams of two. Simon and I will head to the factory, look for Mal. Wash and Jayne will look for Inara.”

“I’ll—I’m alone?” asked Kaylee.

“You need to prep the shuttle, Kaylee,” Zoe said. If they didn’t find Mal, Jayne realized, she would be captain. He wondered if Zoe would have the heart to fly away if they couldn’t find him, or if she would try to keep the boat parked on the back-birth moon ‘until they were sure’ that Mal and Inara were dead. Jayne wouldn’t mind very much. He’d be sad, of course, if the captain and the companion were lost. He liked them both, in his own way, even if they were stupid. He wouldn’t mind, though, staying planet side. He thought about the morning sunlight streaming through the window and making Adelina’s hair shine all pretty.

“Will… I won’t have to fly?” Kaylee asked.

“No,” Wash answered quickly. “Jayne and I will find Inara real quick, and we’ll be right back. I’ll fly. Or Inara will fly. It’ll be a party. A crazy, flying party.”

Kaylee nodded weakly. Wash gave her a pat on the shoulder as Zoe grabbed her gun. “All right,” Zoe said. “No use wasting any more time.”


Simon handed Wash a thin paper mask. “For the smoke,” he explained. “When you find Inara, that will probably be the worst… smoke inhalation. She’s likely to be confused. She’ll have trouble breathing. In some cases, its even been known to cause seizures. So, I want you to take her by stretcher. Even if she insists on walking.”

“But she won’t, will she?” Wash asked. “I mean, what you just said, it sounds… it doesn’t exactly sound like she’ll feel like running marathons.”

Simon shook his head. “No,” he admitted. “It’s likely she’ll be unconscious.” And suddenly he was struck by a memory. He and Inara sitting in the lounge outside the infirmary when Zoe had been hurt and Serenity had been at drift. I don’t require a clinical description at this time, Inara had said, and not for the first time Simon understood exactly why that was. Mal and Inara… they wouldn’t be in good shape when they found them, if they were even… Simon closed his eyes for a moment, trying to stop himself from going through each possibility one by one. Every type of laceration, every type of internal injury…. He didn’t want to know. He didn’t want to see it, but the imaged wouldn’t leave him alone.

He wished River was there. He wished his sister was beside him, that he could see her and know that, despite all of this, she was all right.

Kaylee wasn’t. She was one step away from falling apart completely. Simon couldn’t blame her. He took a step towards her as Wash went to the shuttle controls to start the flight sequence. He wrapped her arms around her. Kaylee easily fell into his embrace. For a moment, they both faltered as the shuttle disengaged from the ship and started speeding through the air, but they managed. They held onto each other, not daring to close their eyes, nor to say a word.

“We’ll touch ground in five minutes,” Wash’s voice floated from the cockpit.

Kaylee’s embraced became fierce, suddenly, desperate. Simon pulled her even closer, pushing her into his body. “It’ll be all right,” he whispered. “It’ll be all right.”

“No… Simon…” she couldn’t make the words come out, couldn’t speak. It was all right. Simon understood.

“Yes, it will be,” he told her. “This is just… its trauma. And you’re looking at one of the best trauma surgeons on Osiris.”

“But what if…” Kaylee swallowed, trying to regain what little composure she had. “What if they’re already dead?”

“They aren’t dead,” Simon said. “Know how I know?” He felt Kaylee shake her head. “Because you’d… you’d know it somehow, Kaylee. You’re the heart of this ship. You’re the one who keeps us all from… from beating on each other like Reavers. You listen to everybody’s problems, sooth everyone’s pain… if, if anything happened to anyone… you… you could feel it, just like River can. But… but Zoe didn’t say anything about River when… when she waved Book, and you… you’re asking questions… so, they’re okay. Everything will be okay.”

In his arms, Kaylee began to cry.


This time, it was sound.

Noises woke Inara from her strange dreamless slumber. The sounds of boots hitting the ground. It sounded oddly like…

“Jayne! Jayne, I’ve found her, she’s right…”

There was the sounds of running. Then hands on her face, frantic voices calling her name.

“Inara? Inara!”

“She’s bleedin’…”

“It’s not that bad. Put preassure on it…”

A tap on her cheek.

“Inara? Inara, are you with me?”

She opened her eyes. Two out of focus features leaned over her, on the undeniable figure of a yellow-haired man whom Inara remembered has a fondness for dinosaurs and plastic figurines. The other was a tall, muscular mercenary. Unlikely partnership. Inara tried to smile at them, but found herself coughing instead.

“Easy, easy,” Wash told her. “Simon said it was smoke inhalation… you just need to… umm… just try to stay calm.”

“Heather’s dead,” Inara whispered, voice hoarse.

“Yeah, she’s umm….”

“I think she…” the coughing resumed, “think she…”

“Quiet, woman,” Jayne rumbled. “Your gonna talk yourself to death, goin’ on like that.”

“Don’t think she suffered,” Inara managed.

“No, no,” Wash assured her. She realizes suddenly that Wash and Jayne had been moving throughout the conversation. Clearing debris, preparing a stretcher. “No… it was quick. It looks like it was… it was very quick.”

She felt hands on her body. They were going to move her.

“Mal?” she managed. “Where’s Mal?”

No one answered. Inara closed her eyes against a wave of dizziness as Wash and Jayne moved her onto the stretcher before losing consciousness entirely.


“Easy… easy…”

Mal put his hand under Kentdale’s shoulders and lifted the older man into a sitting position. He was starting to come to, and as a result his already labored breathing was doing downhill. Mal had never understood how that worked. He always thought that when a man was awake and injured he’d have something to fight for. But, usually he just ended up getting confused, making things worse for himself. It didn’t make sense. It wasn’t right.

Kentdale wheezed.

The explosion was sudden. Explosions were always sudden, death was always… and then Mal opened his eyes, realized that he was still a part of the world, and got to his feet. There was heat coming from the ceiling, but no smoke. The concrete had created a cocoon for them. There was dust and such, which was mighty unpleasant, but no such chemicals that could kill a man with just a lungful. Mal covered his mouth with his sleeve. And then he saw Kentdale on the ground.

The big man had been knocked down by one part or another. Mal hadn’t been paying enough attention to the factory tour to know. There were to major blows. One to the head. One to the chest. Mal quickly got the metal parts off of him. The head wound looks okay. It would hurt like a bitch, Mal was sure, but it would be all right. It was the blow to the chest that was the problem. Mal knew a bit of field medicine, courtesy of the war. He knew how to check for wounds anyway. He took Kentdale’s pulse, then felt his chest. The ribs were like jelly, giving into Mal’s lightest prod. It wasn’t a good sign.

“Easy…easy…” Mal whispered to Kentdale. “You took a bit of a blow, so just breath easy.”

“Is it… bad?” Kentdale forced out.

“Seen worse in the war,” Mal said honestly. He decided not to mention that most of the “worse” he’d seen tended to be fatel.

“The… the party…”

“Everyone’s fine,” Mal lied quickly. “Fellow was here, shoutin’ through the walls just ‘fore you came to. Said everyone’s shocked, but all right. They’re workin’ on getting us out. Just gotta get through the walls, is all. You had ‘em built real proper.”

Kentdale quieted for a moment at Mal’s words. The haggard, harsh sound of his labored breathing filled the room. Mal wanted to running, wanted to run away from the sound of it, but there was no where to go. They were both trapped. It wasn’t that he was uncomfortable with death. Mal had seen many a many dying. It was just…

“It was ‘spose to be… our big chance…”

“Save your breath,” Mal said, trying to be as gentle as he could.

“The factory…” Kentdale continued, not listening to Mal’s words. “It was… our chance…” He turned to Mal, eyes wide opening. “I love… my people, but… they’re starving… This… was our chance…”

“Mal, explain to me why a man who is being paid large sums of money to play at being an eighteen year old girl’s prom date and help her teenage friends play teenage pranks is lecturing me on integrity?”

The words echoed in his ears, clear as the gasps that filled the room. He hadn’t had the right to lecture Inara on integrity. He hadn’t had the right to call her… but he had been right to take on the job in the first place, he knew, and not because of politics, and not because of revenge against the alliance or personal gain. Because it was what his crew needed. It was what his crew needed to survive, to keep from starving.

Mal realized he’d been wrong. Not just about Inara, about everything.

He knelt down at Kentdale, took his hand. “You… you did good,” he whispered quietly. “You did what you could. Factory’s hurt for now, but it’ll get built again. Because it’s right. It was the right thing to do, to take care of your folk. You’re a good man.”

Mal wasn’t sure if Kentdale heard him. The painful breathing only lasted a few minutes longer. Then Kentdale was quiet forever.


Thirty minutes later, Zoe found him. She always found him.

She heard her shouting through the walls and answered her cries. She told him to stand back. He did. She used a sticky to get through the collapsed concrete.

Simon did a brief examination of him, declared him fine. He and Zoe were both covered in ash. Zoe explained that above him, the factory was burning.

“We need to hurry,” Simon said as they left. “Wash and Jayne are looking for Inara, and I doubt that she’s as miraculously all right as you are.”

“Miraculously all right?” Mal repeated. “What are you playing at, doctor?”

“Mal,” Zoe said. Her voice was soft. “There were two bombs.”


Inara never dreamt of Abaddon until after she left Sihnon. The first dream surprised her. She woke up sweating. But after a while, the dreams became common place. Sometimes, she even longed for them, longed for any reminder of what she’d had. She always dreamed of him in the temple. She walked along in the rain, but she didn’t get wet. Nandi, who had always been with her in real life, wasn’t there. She wore a green dress that had belonged to her mother. They would sit across in the garden, under the stars.

“I know all the names,” Inara said. It was what she always said. Abaddon only smiled. It killed her every time. “Ephraim Goassard. George Ivanov. Anwar Patel. Casimir Moldovan. Lorelei Prince. Abaddon Jiang. I know all of your names.”

“Do you remember their hair color?” Abaddon asked.


“The color of their eyes?”


It wasn’t night any longer. Time went backwards. It was sunset. Inara was wearing her red and gold dress. It was covered in blood. “I’m sorry,” she told him. “For all that I’ve done… I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

“I know,” he told her, voice low and soft. He was next to her, then, and his arms were around her. Inara closed her eyes. She breathed in the scent of him, a scent she’d not known for a long time. He kissed her forehead. “I know, Inara. I know.”

She lets him hold her for a long time. The hour doesn’t change. “There are still things,” she said, “that I don’t understand.”

Most of her questions have no words. They are desperate cries inside her heart, wondering how it is she got to this point. Wondering how fate could have consented to make her a killer, wondering why Abaddon had to die. And why was it that in order to find herself, she had to forsake everything she wanted. And why, now that she knew her heart, did she left Malcolm Reynolds tear it apart.

“Because that’s love,” Abaddon told her. “Love it letting yourself fall down when you’re standing. Love is death. You lose yourself.”

“This,” Inara whispered, “coming from the man who was going to leave me.” She only realized in retrospect. At first, there was too much pain mixed with too much love to see anything clearly, and then she knew. She knew what it mean, the destroyed hotel, Abaddon’s distance…. “You were going to leave me.”

“You don’t know for sure,” said her dream.

“Nothing else makes any sense,” Inara answered.

He kissed her on the forehead once more. “My brown-eyed love… I might not have known about the hotel, you know. When you’re a spy, you have to live off the knowledge that is given to you, and the knowledge given to you is only what you need to know. I was never a terrorist, Inara. You know, in your heart, that I was never directly responsible for the end of a human life.”

“But I was…” she whispered.

“Does that need to mean everything?” Abaddon asked her.

“Yes,” Inara answered. “I means everything.”

There was the sunrise.

Abaddon kissed her, their lips meeting with ethereal softness. It was a moment, but it was forever.

When he pulled back, Inara could see through him.

“I’ll never stop dreaming about you,” Inara told him.

“How could you?” he asked. He took her hand. “Please, don’t forget me.”


“She’s sleeping,” Simon said softly. “It’s a good sign.”

Inara lay still in the infirmary. Mal could see her moving under the lids, but aside from that, she didn’t move at all. “Thought you said she was gonna be all right?” Mal said softly.

“She is,” said Simon. “She was lucky. Not quite as lucky as you, but… a twisted ankle, superficial lacerations…”

“Nasty looking,” Mal interjected.

“Yes,” Simon agreed, “but not so bad. They bled a fair bit at first, but… but they’re fine. The head injury is of some concern, but she hasn’t slipped into a coma yet, so…”


“It’s a danger,” Simon acknowledged, “but we’re mostly passed it now. The big problem is the smoke inhalation. But she’s responding well to oxygen and medication. Wash said that she was conscious when they found her. Or, at least, she regained consciousness when they found her, he really wasn’t… I don’t think he’s had much experience with injuries like this. Either way, it’s another very good sign. She was even speaking they said, and fairly coherent, all things considered.”

Mal’s eyes never left her. “What’d she said?”

“She talked about Heather at first,” Simon answered. “Wash said Inara seemed very concerned about… she wanted them to know that it was quick, that Heather didn’t feel any pain.”

Mal nodded. He felt Simon’s eyes on him, looked up. “What else did she say?” Mal asked.

“She wanted to know if you were all right.”

He wasn’t. Not after all that he had been through. Not really. He ran his fingers through her hair. He’d always wanted to before, but he never… Mal turned to Simon. “I got… there are things…” He looked at Inara. “Please. When she wakes up…”

Simon nodded. Mal left the room.

a/n: so sorry for the long delay. As I said in my blog, life was getting in the way... but, all is well now! If I don't have ch 19 posted in a week or so, someone kick me!

Now... review (thus motivating me to finish). :-)


Sunday, September 10, 2006 12:39 PM


I loved this, lots of drama and everyone having a part to play. Glad that Inara isn't seriously hurt and I loved Jayne's thought that if Inara and Mal didn't make it Zoe would be Captain. Hhmm, always watching the odds. I felt sorry that Kentdale died, he really was just trying to care for his people. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, September 11, 2006 6:55 AM


I was very excited to see this new chapter and you didn't disappoint my anticipation at all! Very much packed with action and emotion!

I really loved seeing the crass, terrifying reality of the bomb explosions creating such a contrast to the earlier childish mischief, and how it affected Kaylee and became even clearer in Mal's conversation with Kentdale. I believe Mal's heartbreak there, because... he fucked up. ven if not half of it is his fault, he was part of this, in his arrogance and resentment.

In a completely different way, the conversation between Inara and Abaddon is just as effective. You're putting so many currents into her that make sense and enrich her below the surface without messing with any of the established characterization and that's a SKILL. :D It's a real wringer, reading her say goodbye (and not) to her love, and the sobriety in her dream self, that calm, draining acceptance of letting go of some dreams and some innocence. Within all the politics of it.

This is one hell of a series.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 5:06 PM


Well now...this was definitely one hell of a way to get back in the ole saddle and gallop off towards finishing the story, Arcadia:D

Definitely teared up over Inara's dreams about Abbadon and Mal's heavy guilt over his part in so many deaths. You really do have a skill for fleshing out these characters without having to tap dance around established bits and bobs of information;D



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