BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

New Ties (version 2)
Thursday, September 21, 2006

I wasn't happy with the original story, so here is a rather drastically amended version. The first few screens are the same, but, please, if you've read this before, bear with it! Still the sequel to Old Ties, and Inara confronts Freya over Mal. Feedback, please, good or bad.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2213    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Inara sought out Freya, finding her on the bridge, staring out at the stars.

“Are we going to make it to Highgate?” she asked, stepping over the sill. “I’d hate for us to be drifting.”

Freya turned in her seat and smiled at the Companion. “No, we’ll be shiny. Mal’s arranged to refuel there, so everything’s fine.”

“Fine.” Inara repeated. She moved forward. “Could you bear for some company?”

“Sure,” Freya said, pointing to the co-pilot’s chair. “Take a pew.”

“We’ve never really talked, have we?” Inara asked, sitting down gracefully, her bright brocades in extreme contrast to Freya’s flannel shirt and serviceable trousers.

“Not really,” Freya agreed. “You want to now?”

“Well, I've nothing better to do. Do you?” She smiled kindly at Serenity’s pilot.

“What do you want to talk about?” Freya asked, sitting upright a little more, running her hands through her short dark hair to make it lay flat. She couldn’t help it – this woman always made her feel inferior.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Inara said, looking out at the expanse of space. “How about your ship?”

“My ship?” Freya laughed. “I don’t have one anymore. Not even worth towing to the scrap belt.”

“Do you miss it? Being captain, I mean. It must be difficult taking orders again, even from Mal.”

“He’s okay,” Freya asserted. “Better than some I've known.”

“Worse than others?” Inara suggested.

“No. Not really.” Freya laughed again, a deep throaty chuckle. “There’s a few I would cheerfully have put out the airlock, if you must know. It’s been a while since I felt that way about Mal. Not saying it won’t happen, but not so far.”

“Really?” Inara took a breath, wanting to stay on the subject in hand. “Wouldn’t you like your own ship again?”

“You mean leave Serenity?”

“Start afresh. New horizons.”

Freya looked at her. “You’re not talking about my boat, are you?” she asked.

“I'm just talking, Freya.”

“No, you’re not.” Freya turned the seat so she could look at Inara fully in the face. “You’re suggesting I leave Serenity.”

“I didn’t say that.” Inara coloured.

“Not in so many words, no. But it’s pretty obvious, Inara.” She shook her head, feeling anger building inside her. “What, were you going to offer to buy me a new ship? Pay me off so I’d go?”

“I never –“

“Do you feel that threatened by me?”

The words hung in the air between them, almost visible, raw-edged and sharp.

“I don’t feel threatened at all,” Inara finally replied, her voice low, keeping herself in check.

“No, of course not. You usually have conversations like this with the rest of the crew,” Freya mocked. “Damn it, Inara. If he wants you, that’s his choice.”

“Whose?”

“Mal’s. That’s who we’re talking about, isn’t it?”

“And if it is?” Inara stuck out her chin. “Are you telling me that you’re not staying here on this ship because of him?”

“He asked me, Inara!” Freya shouted, throwing her hands into the air in exasperation. “He asked me!”

“You didn’t have to say yes!” Inara shouted back.

“Gorramit, Inara, he’s my friend! Doesn’t that mean anything?”

“Not if you want more than that! And you damn well couldn’t make it any plainer!”

There was a highly strung, very pregnant pause, then a voice from outside the bridge called, “If you two’re gonna come to blows, can I watch?” It was Jayne, leaning on the handrail at the bottom of the stairs.

The women maintained eye contact a moment longer, then Freya turned to look at the big mercenary. “Not today, Jayne.”

“Shame.” He stood upright. “Best you keep it down, though. Lucky it was just me, not the Cap that heard you. Don’t think he’d take too kindly to you fighting, least of all over him.” He walked back to his bunk, dropping down the ladder. “Less’n I can watch,” he added over his shoulder as he disappeared.

Freya turned back to Inara. “There is no way I am having this conversation with you.” She got up and strode off the bridge.

Inara followed, her heels clattering on the metal stairs. Just outside the dining area she grabbed hold of Freya’s arm. “And I say we are.”

Freya turned slowly, looking down at Inara’s hand. “If you don’t let go you won’t be using it for a while. And how would that please your clients?”

“Are you threatening me?” Inara asked, letting go nevertheless.

“Seems like all I was doing was making a suggestion. Pretty much like you were.” Freya stepped into the kitchen, heading for the counter and picking up a metal cup.

“Don’t you care?” Inara asked, lifting her skirts to step over the sill.

“Care about what?”

“That I … that I love him?” There. She’d said it. Told someone else how she felt about Mal.

“Tzao gao!” Freya said to herself. “You think you’re the only one?”

“He doesn’t want you!” Inara knew her voice sounded shrill, unladylike, but right now she didn’t care.

“I know!” Freya threw the cup across the room, watching it bounce from the bulkhead. She took a deep breath, trying to control herself. “Damn it, Inara. I've known for a long time.”

“Then why are you here?”

Freya glared at her. “Because, despite everything else, I don’t have anywhere else to be,” she said quietly. “I don’t have a home to go back to, a family to take me in … I lost all that a long time ago.” She pointed down towards the cargo bay. “When I told Mal that all I owned was in my bag, I wasn't lying.”

“And this is important … how?”

“I … I need a place to be for a while. Somewhere amongst friends.” She laughed, only there was no humour in it. “Well, mostly friends. To get my bearings again.”

“And that has to be here?” Inara bent down and picked up the cup, noting idly that it was bent somewhat from its contact with the wall. “I have friends: perhaps I could –“

“You really are trying to buy me off, aren’t you?” Freya said, shaking her head in disbelief. “And if I don’t go? You gonna poison me?”

“What?” Now Inara was totally confused.

“I've heard about Companions back in the day. Working as assassins for the men who owned them.”

Even Inara was shocked at this. “That’s just stories from Earth-that-Was. And even if it did happen, it was before the Guild, before the rules …”

“You saying you don’t know how to kill me without anyone finding out?” Freya asked. “That Companion training doesn’t cover that sort of thing?”

“You’re insane.”

“Oh, come off it, Inara. A woman will do anything to get the man she loves.” She came out from behind the counter, moving towards the other woman. “Isn’t that the way of things?”

“And that’s what you’d do? Kill me?” Inara suggested.

“Maybe I was wrong,” Freya said. “Telling Jayne we weren’t going to come to blows. Is that what you want, Inara? You want to fight me for Mal’s affections?” She stepped closer to the Companion, the scent of her in her nostrils. “You think you’d win?”

“Companion training is very thorough,” Inara said succinctly.

“Oh, I know. But I've been through war. Got the scars to prove it. You ever wondered why old soldiers are covered in them? Because they survived. And they survived because they were good. I was good, Inara. Better than I had a right to be. And if you think I couldn’t kill you, think again.”

“Oh, I know you could. But you think Mal would like that?” Inara asked, defiance radiating from every fibre of her being.

Mal, coming up the stairs from the infirmary, heard the tail end. “What in the tyen shiao duh is going on here?” he demanded as he stepped into the galley.

“Nothing,” Freya said, turning away from Inara and going to sit at the table.

“Didn’t sound like nothing.” He crossed his arms. “What’s going on?” he asked again. Neither of the two women answered, but the atmosphere was so thick he could have cut it with a spoon, let alone a knife. “I am the captain, here,” he went on. “When I say I want to know something, then you damn well tell me.”

“I'm not your crew, Mal,” Inara said, moving to walk past him.

“Whoa,” he said, catching her arm. “No-one’s going anywhere until we get this sorted out.” He pushed her towards the table. “Sit down.”

“Mal –“

“You’re on my boat, so you have to obey my orders. Now, sit down.” His tone of voice, his sergeant’s voice, would brook no objection, and Inara, with surprisingly bad grace for a Companion, did as she was told. “Right,” he went on, standing and looking down at the pair of them. “Who’s going to start?”

“It was just a disagreement, Mal,” Inara said, not looking at Freya.

“Really? And do disagreements usually end up with one of you threatening to kill the other?”

“Sometimes. But it was just something and nothing,” Freya put in, wondering exactly how much he’d heard.

His next words made it plain. “Sounded more than that. And I don’t appreciate members of my crew fighting over me. Particularly when there’s nothing to fight over.”

“No?” Inara said, feeling a blush creep up her neck. “You reject me and say there’s nothing to fight over?”

“That’s it? Because I wouldn’t lay with you?” Mal didn’t know whether to laugh or order them both to the brig. He did neither, since he didn’t think they would appreciate him finding it amusing, and he didn’t have a brig to throw them into. Instead he looked from Inara to Freya. “And you? Why were you threatening Inara with physical harm?”

“I wasn't threatening,” Freya pointed out. “Just making a statement.”

“A statement that you could kill her with no problem whatsoever.” Mal shook his head. “You’re my pilot. Relationships complicate things, and … I ain't gonna sleep with you, Frey.”

“I know!” Freya said, anger bubbling up inside her, his contraction of her name hurting more than she would care to admit. “I know it, Mal. I was just trying to tell Inara the same thing when you walked in.”

“By saying you could kill her.”

“Nee ta ma duh tyen-shia suo-yo duh num doh gai si,” Freya muttered, her head down, and when she looked back up her eyes were bright, and two red marks stained her cheeks. “That’s the whole point, Mal. The whole damn point! You won’t sleep with her, so she thinks you have feelings for me!” She stood up, pushing her chair back so hard it squealed. “I tried to tell her, but she wouldn’t listen! Dammit, Mal, you don’t have to rub it in quite so hard! I know I ain't who you want, and I know you want her! I've known it for so long it’s like one of my scars, always there! So go and sleep with her!” She almost ran out of the room, away from his gaze, away from both of them.

Mal watched her go, his mouth open slightly. This wasn’t a joke to her, he realised. No matter that he’d never really taken her infatuation seriously, it was of grave importance to her. And she’d been telling him long enough … His mind skittered away from the possibilities, and his eyes came back to Inara. “I won’t have this on my boat,” he said at last. “We’re cramped enough as it is most days, and I won’t have fighting amongst my crew.” He held up a hand to forestall Inara’s objection. “As long as you rent my shuttle, you’re crew. Thought you’d figured that out by now.” He glanced back the way Freya had gone. “You sort it out. Now. One way or the other. Preferably with not too much bloodshed.” He hitched his thumbs into his belt. “You learn to play nicely, or you’re off my ship. Both of you.” Inara stared at him until he added, “Go.”

Inara nodded and stood up, leaving the dining area with her head high.

Mal watched her go, her grace and beauty, but found his mind going back to Freya, her passion, her … He shook himself. He was captain. He had no right to think like that.

Freya was back on the bridge, the door closed but not locked.

“Can I come in?” Inara asked, sliding the door open a little.

“Free ‘verse.” Freya was staring out at the stars, her booted foot on the edge of the flight console. “This bit of it, anyway.”

Inara stepped inside. “I'm sorry,” she said quietly.

“What for?” Freya still didn’t look at her, her voice flat.

“I should never have … I shouldn’t have accused you of being the reason.”

“The reason for what?”

“For Mal rejecting me.”

“He did what?” Freya said in surprise, her foot sliding from the metal and hitting the floor with a thump as she turned in the seat to stare at her.

“We …” For once Inara felt almost embarrassed. “He wouldn’t sleep with me. Refused to, point blank. Oh, we kissed, but … something’s holding him back.”

“And you think it’s me?”

“I … I didn’t know what to think! You’ve never made a secret of your feelings, and I thought … he might … that he could …”

Freya shook her head. “That’s crazy talk, Inara.”

“Then let’s talk crazy. He and I … we kissed but … why should he pull away?”

Freya stared back out at the stars. “Inara, I don’t know. He cares about you. Yes, I know that, and I'm not stupid. But if you think I’m trying to take him away from you –“

“I don’t have him for you to do that!” Inara said sharply, and instantly regretted it when she saw the look on Freya’s face. “I'm sorry. I didn’t mean … I just …”

Freya looked at her again. “Inara, I've known Mal a long time. What I feel for him is pretty much something I’ve grown to live with.” She sighed. “I told him, Inara, I told him to sort things out with you.”

“You told him?” Now it was Inara’s turn to be astonished.

“I was drunk,” Freya admitted. “I told him to sort things out, then come to my bed. He refused. Said he wasn't going to take advantage of me. Hell, I wanted him to. I wanted him to in the worst possible way. But he said no. You think that doesn’t mean something?” She leaned forward. “He doesn’t want me, Inara. And if he doesn’t want you either, well, we’re pretty much in the same boat.” She smiled slightly at the unintentional pun.

“It seems like we may be.” Inara took a deep breath. “I thought –“

“You thought I’d be willing to kill you to get him.”

“I don’t know,” Inara admitted after a moment, abashed. “But I'm pretty certain if I tried you would have killed me quite easily.”

Freya shook her head, saying, “Oh, never easily, Inara. It’s never that.” She waved her hand around the Firefly’s bridge. “’Sides, if anyone’s stopping Mal from being with either of us it’s Serenity. She means more to him than anything, and he’ll do everything he can to keep her in the sky. Maybe that’s the problem. Not me or you. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s in love with a spaceship.”

Inara pondered for a moment then nodded. “It could be. I wouldn’t put it past that man to be so stupid as to put a heap of metal in front of flesh and blood.”

“Oh, I think there’s more to it than that,” Freya chided. “The crew comes next. Well, maybe Jayne a distant third. But I reckon I come a lot further down the list than that.”

Inara smiled. “You and me both, then,” she said, standing up. “I'm sorry.”

Freya nodded. “Yeah, well, maybe we both need to take a step back from this. Mal’s right – this ain't the place to be fighting.”

“But I am sorry,” Inara insisted. “I should never have tried to warn you off. Not you.” She sighed. “I should have realised you’d know what I was doing. Mal’s talked about your talents before, and I should have … I'm sorry.”

Freya looked up into the Companion’s face. “I don’t know if this is over, Inara. Maybe it won’t be until Mal takes you to his bed. But we can play nicely, like he wants. I’ll even pretend to be your friend. And who knows, maybe it’ll become true. But right now, I have to pretend.”

“Sounds a little like being a Companion,” Inara pointed out. “Pretending to care about the person you’re servicing.”

“Yeah, well, maybe.” Freya turned back to the con, busying herself with the controls.

Inara gazed at her, wondering, then found herself stifling a yawn delicately behind her hand. “Well, I’m going to get some sleep,” she said.

“I’ll be a while yet. Got some course corrections to make.” Freya glanced up at Inara and smiled a little at last.

“Goodnight, then.”

“’Night.”

Inara left the bridge, her mind still full of what had been said.

Freya watched her go, her bright colours glowing as she walked along the corridor past the bunks, and shook her head. Why did people have to get in their own way so much? Why couldn’t they just say what they think, be with the person they wanted to be with? Why hadn’t she just said no when he asked her to stay?

COMMENTS

Thursday, September 21, 2006 6:16 AM

TAMMYY2J


nice i liked it better than previous version please keep writing i want to know what happens with this triangle i know in other stories you mention Freda is Mal's lover and Inara is gone

Friday, September 22, 2006 3:26 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Never read the first version, but I definitely loved this one;)

Honestly good to see Inara actually expressing some honest feelings for Mal, though her attempt to bribe Freya seemed a tad heavy-handed. But that's probably the point. She's used to be able to diplomatically persuade people into doing things. Freya isn't the kind of person she deals with, so her down and dirty is really non-existant. Gotta wonder though when the shoe drops that Mal finally decides Freya's the one and Inara can only be a friend...

BEB

Thursday, September 27, 2007 9:26 AM

LADYSAGE


Good interaction between these two! I'm still trying to get a clear handle on exactly where Freya is coming from, and how her talent will affect relations on the ship.

:-)

Saturday, July 4, 2009 7:47 PM

PIRATENEWS


Gotta learn to share.


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