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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Continuing the Power story, with Passion to come. Everyone feels guilty ... Feedback, please, you know it makes sense!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1813 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Freya was on her feet. Just. Not too steady, and Simon was standing by waiting to catch her if she fell, while Mal was conspicuously leaning against the counter, close but not so close that she could tell he was concerned.
“How is it?” the young doctor asked.
“Simon, I’m upright. I think that’s pretty damn good!” She smiled, then put a hand out quickly onto the medbed to steady herself.
“Okay, now you’ve proved you’re capable of actually using what your feet were meant for, don’t you think you oughta sit down?” Mal asked, concentrating on not showing his anxiety.
She looked over at him, and grinned. He felt himself grow a little warm, and wondered if he were actually blushing. She could make him feel all manner of uncomfortable, just by turning those brown eyes on him …
“The captain’s right, Freya,” Simon agreed. “That’s enough for one day. Lie down.”
“He said sit,” Freya pointed out, not moving.
“And I said lie down. I'm the doctor around here,” Simon said firmly. “And in this infirmary, my word is law, not his.”
Mal lifted an eyebrow at him, but the young man ignored it.
“Hey, Frey!” Jayne called, leaning in through the door. “Looks like you’re gettin’ better.”
“That I am,” she said, smiling at the big man.
“Good. Having everyone mopin’ around here was getting on my –“
“Jayne.” Mal’s voice cut across him. “Go find something to do.”
“Just being friendly,” Jayne grumbled, pushing away from the door frame. “If’n anyone wants me, I’ll be in my bunk.”
“I am constantly surprised that man has any strength to do any work,” Simon muttered. “The amount of time he spends in his bunk.”
“Frey, you gonna do what the doctor ordered you to?” Mal asked, ignoring him, instead watching Freya intently.
“I … um … don’t think I can,” she admitted, giving a shaky smile.
Both Mal and Simon immediately moved forward, each taking an elbow and her weight so she could hitch her buttocks on the bed. Mal lifted her legs up gently, swinging them round so she was lying flat. She grimaced as the wound in her belly pulled.
“Are you okay?” Mal asked.
She forced her face to clear, and she looked into his blue eyes. “Shiny, Mal.”
“That’s enough excitement for one day,” Simon said. “I should never have let you talk me into this.”
“I needed to prove it to myself, doc,” Freya said, laying her head down again, a pounding behind her eyes that she was not going to mention. Simon being angry was not something she particularly wanted to see.
“Well, you won’t be proving anything again. Not for a while.” Simon looked up at Mal. “And you need to get some rest. River tells me you’ve not been sleeping.”
Freya took Mal’s hand. “That true?” she asked.
“I’ve sorta gotten used to you being there,” he admitted, the corners of his mouth lifting.
“I know what you mean.” She smiled at him. “Won’t be long.”
“It won’t be any time soon unless you both get some rest,” Simon put in, his best doctorly manner shining through.
Freya turned the grin on him. “Doc, I’m getting better. Jayne said so.”
Mal didn’t go to his bunk, but up to the bridge, where River was sitting in the pilot’s chair, looking out into the black.
“Hey, little albatross,” Mal said, smiling. “We all smooth up here?”
“Shiny, captain,” River said, flicking a switch idly. “We’ll be on time to make our delivery.”
“Good to know,” Mal said, turning to go back down the stairs.
“She needs to speak to you,” River said suddenly. “Clear the air.”
Mal looked back. “Who?”
“Clear the air over what?”
“Talk to her.” River glanced over her shoulder at him and gave him the look she normally reserved for her brother, the one that said he was a boob.
“Getting ordered around on my own ship,” Mal muttered, walking down the steps. “Sometimes I wonder if I was ever captain of this boat at all.”
Inara hadn’t had a client since Freya got hurt, not because of the bruises on her body from where Simon had hurt her, but because she was trying to come to a decision. Something that could make all the difference to her life.
She was pacing the floor of the shuttle, her hands clasped together in front of her, trying to think, when a knock came at the door. “Ching ging.”
Mal appeared in the doorway. “River said you needed to speak to me.”
“I didn’t ask her to -“
“Well, you know River. Trying her best to make everyone sort themselves out.” Mal smiled.
“Yes, that she does.” Inara didn’t return the smile, and Mal’s faded too.
“What is it?” he asked, stepping into the interior of the shuttle, feeling concern for her.
“All this that’s happened … Freya getting hurt …” Inara shook her head. “It’s all my fault.”
“How do you figure that?” Mal asked. “You didn’t make her go down to that moon. She kinda decided that all by herself.”
“But it was my fault she …” Inara stopped, taking a deep breath. “Mal, what would have happened if I’d stopped being a Companion?”
“What?” He stared at her.
“If I’d come to you, said I wasn’t going to take clients any more?”
Mal couldn’t respond for a moment, then said, “Well, we ain’t gonna find out now.”
“But what would you have said? Before Freya joined Serenity?”
Mal turned from her, taking his time, moving to the sofa so he could sit down. “Inara, we both know what would have happened.” He looked up at her, standing so proud, so beautiful in front of him. “I’d have taken you into my bed.”
“Yes,” she said unhappily. “If we’d been together, she wouldn’t have come on board, would she?” she added, turning from him to go and straighten an already tidy corner table.
“I … I don’t know.” Mal really couldn’t decide. “I’d’a invited her, all situations having been the same. But I don’t know if she’d have said yes.”
“She wouldn’t,” Inara said softly. “To be in the same room as someone you love, who doesn’t love you, who’s with someone else … it’s painful. It’s so hard, Mal.” She sat down on the bed, facing him.
“We ain’t talking about Freya, are we?” he asked.
“Yes, we are, Mal.” She looked into his blue eyes. “But we’re talking about me too.”
“You want to leave, is that it?”
“I don’t know what I want,” she admitted. “That’s what River picked up on, I suppose.”
“I can’t help how I feel,” Inara said. “How I feel about you.”
“I know,” he said quietly, but acknowledging annoyance washing through him. “But I’ve made my choice, Inara. You told me to …to decide … well, I’ve decided. And it ain’t with you.”
“It should have been.” Her voice cut through the air like a knife. “Why her, Mal?” Inara stood up, sweeping across the room in her red dress, blood red. “Why not me?”
“You’re a Companion!” Mal exploded, jumping to his feet. “You’ve had God knows how many men in your bed, in you … and you think I could live with that?”
“It’s what I do, Mal. Not who I am.”
“How can you tell them apart?”
“The people or the job?”
“It ain’t much of a difference!”
They stood staring at each other, anger filling the room like a red cloud.
Kaylee, down in the cargo bay, could hear the raised voices, and a tremor ran through her. She didn’t want this, she wanted everyone to be happy. And before Freya getting injured, they were. The captain had found himself in finding her, and Kaylee had rejoiced. But now … She hurried towards Simon’s room. She needed to be close to someone right now, just to be held.
“Why didn’t you ask me to stop?” Inara cried at last.
“Because it wasn't up to me!” Mal took a step forward, his face so close to hers she could see the pain in his eyes. “You could have stopped, any time. You knew how I felt about it, but that didn’t matter! You still went on taking them into …” He stopped, aware his hands were in fists. He didn’t want to hit her, but all the men she’d been with …
“I’m not a whore!” she shouted, wanting to reach out to him, to shake some sense into him, to make him see she …
“I ain’t said you were!”
“You say it every day!”
Zoe stepped out of the dining area, her gaze meeting River’s where she stood in the doorway to the bridge. The young girl put a finger to her lips and Zoe nodded. This needed to be done, whatever the outcome.
“I needed you!” Inara said, her voice trembling.
“Then why the diyu did you leave?”
“Because it seemed the right thing to do!”
They glared at each other, physically so close but emotionally far apart.
“Why? Why, Inara?” Mal asked finally. “Were you so jealous of the night I spent with Nandi?”
Mal’s mentioning of the green-eyed woman was too much for Inara. She turned away from him, not wanting to be burned by his gaze any longer. “Yes,” she admitted. “If I were honest I’d say that was the moment I realised we weren’t ever going to be together. That you felt that kind of pain every time I took a client.”
He breathed deep, knowing the truth of that statement. “But you came back.”
“Because you came for me.” She faced him again. “Like you always did. Like you did for Kaylee, for Zoe, for Simon … for Freya.”
“When I came home, I thought … I hoped it would change, that you’d want me enough to overlook what I did. Or that I would want you enough to change. But it didn’t happen. I’d lost you before she ever came on board.” She wiped away the tear that had slid down her cheek.
“It wasn’t her fault, Inara,” Mal said.
“No. It was mine.” She shook her head. “And River is right. I wanted to believe that she hated me, when she was goading me into fighting her. I wanted to believe it, because if she lost maybe I’d have you again.”
“It wouldn’t -”
“Damn it, Mal! Don’t you think I know that? Here?” She touched her breast. “In my heart?”
Jayne dropped the weights back into their frame, listening. He couldn’t hear the shouts anymore, but in a way that was worse. Sounded like it was coming to a head, anyway.
“I did this to her,” Inara went on. “What I did … if I had killed her … you’d never have forgiven me.”
Mal stared at her then collapsed onto the sofa, his head in his hands. “It weren’t your fault. I should have stopped her.” His voice was small, totally unlike his normal tone, a man in pain. “I should have ordered her not to be so stupid as to go down to that moon.”
“And Simon? What would have happened to him?” Inara asked, sitting down next to him, close but not touching, her heart still going out to him.
“We could have got him to the Davenport. Kept him under control until they got that thing out of him.”
“Are you sure of that?” Inara shook her head, still feeling the touch of the doctor’s hand on her arm, the power he had exhibited in taking over the shuttle, her inability to do anything but watch. “It might have killed him.”
Mal looked up, and the look in his eyes made her heart stop. “She nearly died, Inara. I know Simon ain't said it, but I can tell. Seen enough battle wounds to know. She was a hair’s-breadth away from leaving me.”
“I know.” Inara shuddered, remembering the feel of the blade going in, the ease with which the steel slid through Freya’s body, then the worse sensation of pulling it back, the tiny nicks in the edge seeming to catch in the muscle, the skin …
“I ain’t had her long enough, Inara. I've known her for years, but I never admitted –“ He shook his head. “I know we had something, you and me. And if we’d done something about it we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
“Do you want me to go?” Inara asked.
“It ain’t up to me.” Mal looked at her, the dark hair loose around her shoulders, the bright brocade of her dress, her pale face … and realised that he would never have her. He had made that choice, and it was one that would bring him pain or pleasure, but it was one he wanted most desperately. “Do you want to?”
“I don’t know if I can stay,” she admitted. “I can’t help how I feel, but I’m not Freya. I don’t know if I can bear to be around you both, knowing that it won’t ever be me.”
“It ain’t my choice, Inara,” Mal said again. “You’ve got to make the decision yourself. But whatever you choose, I’ll stand by it.”
She smiled, a trifle unsteadily. “Thank you.”
Mal got to his feet. “Now, I got captainy things to do, so I think you’d better go have that talk with Freya.”
“What talk?” Inara asked.
“The one you’re going to have right now.” He walked out of the shuttle, leaving her to realise he was, as usual, quite right.
Inara looked into the infirmary, but Freya was laying back, her eyes closed, and she went to leave.
“Inara.” Freya spoke. “I’m not asleep.” She opened her eyes and looked at the Companion.
“How did you know it was me?” Inara asked.
“Smelled your perfume,” Freya said, smiling.
“I wanted to speak to you.”
“Good. ‘Cause I got something I …” She tried to sit higher, but her face contorted in pain. “Something I want to say to you too,” she finished, panting slightly.
“Are you all right? Should I get Simon?”
“No, it’s … I’m shiny.” Freya took a calming breath. “I’m sorry.”
“What?” Inara was taken aback. “What for?”
“Putting you in that position. It was wrong of me, and I’m sorry.”
“Freya, I stabbed you!” She motioned ineffectually towards the other woman’s belly.
“I kinda noticed. But I made you do it. I didn’t give you an alternative.” She shook her head. “For so long I’ve done things my way. In the war, as a Lieutenant -”
“A - you outranked Mal?” Inara interrupted, her eyes wide.
A half-smile lifted Freya’s lips. “Just don’t tell anyone.” Then she was serious again. “Then again, after, as captain of my own ship, it was always what I wanted to do, what I said. I guess … I just didn’t think, Inara.”
Inara put her hand on Freya’s. “It wasn’t your fault. Maice had Simon in his control. You and Mal had to stop him.”
“Yeah, by charging at it like some enraged animal, instead of planning things properly. And people got hurt.”
“Well, it was just lucky it was only me. You, Mal, Simon … people could have died.”
“But we didn’t. And you’re getting better.” Inara squeezed her hand, feeling Freya’s fingers in hers.
“That I am.” She grinned. “’Cept Simon won’t let me go back to my bunk.” She laughed. “Probably knows what Mal and I’d get up to the minute his back’s turned if he did.” She eased her position carefully, then looked up into Inara’s dark eyes. “What is it?” she asked, surprised.
Inara had taken a step back, letting go, not wanting to think of them together. “I … I think I should leave Serenity.”
“Why?” Freya asked, genuinely amazed.
“Because it was my fault.”
Freya shook her head. “How come everyone thinks it’s their fault when it’s clearly my own?” She chuckled, then stopped as it hurt. “Even Simon, and he couldn’t do a damn thing about it.”
“No, I mean it was my fault because of how I felt. About you and Mal.”
“Oh.” Freya looked into the Companion’s face. “Is that what all the shouting was about a while back?” she asked. “It sounded like you and Mal were having a fight.”
“We … were having a disagreement.”
“Well, you have another like that and you wait until I’m back on my feet. This kind of disagreement I want to watch.”
Inara smiled. “I wouldn’t recommend it.”
“Trying to talk him into bed?”
“No, no …” Inara protested, then stopped. “In a way. I just … it hurts, Freya.”
“Yeah, it does.” Freya took a deep breath, well, as deep as she could. “That’s another thing we have in common, Inara. And I’m sorry for that too. It was … well, one of us was going to win, or neither, and it’s the kind of competition shouldn’t have to happen.”
“He chose you.”
“Yeah, he did.” Freya laid her head back, gazing into the infirmary’s ceiling for a moment. “And I wish …”
“That it were different?” Inara prompted.
“That someone didn’t have to get hurt.”
“Someone always does.”
Freya looked into the Companion’s eyes. “Yeah. Guess they do.”
“Why would I -”
“I thought you might.”
Freya smiled a little. “Inara, you’re family. And they’d miss you, the crew. They need you. Hell, I need you. Who else have I got to help keep Mal in line?”
Inara laughed, swallowing, falling back on levity. “True. Zoe does mostly what he tells her, Kaylee can wrap him around her little finger, and River … well, River can make him so uncomfortable he does anything just to get away.”
“That she does.” Freya sighed. “But don’t go. Serenity’s your home.”
“I’ve never felt like that anywhere else,” Inara admitted. “And in reality I don’t want to leave. Even if -”
“It hurts? ‘Nara, that kind of pain at least lets you know you’re alive.” She stifled a yawn.
“You’re tired, and I’m keeping you awake,” Inara said quickly. “I’ll let you get some rest.”
“I am a mite sleepy,” Freya agreed, watching the Companion head towards the door. “But maybe I’m being selfish,” she added suddenly, making Inara turn to look at her.
“If you go, I’ll always be wondering if one day he‘d go to you. If you stay, and he doesn’t, then I’ll know.”
Inara stepped closer to the medbed. “He doesn’t want me, Freya. If he ever really did. If that had been the case I think we’d have worked it out a lot sooner, and with a different outcome. I think maybe it was you all along, and he just got confused.” She shook her head sadly. “I’m not the right woman for him, I’ve had to realise that. You two fit, as if you were made for each other. And maybe you were.”
Freya smiled a little. “Thanks.”
“Being a friend. And I don’t want you to leave Serenity. Not for Mal, or anyone else. But for me.”
“Do you mean that?”
“I do,” Freya said, surprising herself. “I don’t have that many friends I can lose one of them.”
Mal stood in the cargo bay, hidden from general sight by several crates as he moved stuff around, and watched Inara come out of the common area and head back to her shuttle. There was something different about her, more sure of herself, more like the old Inara. She looked beautiful. Suddenly he smiled as he realised it didn’t matter. Oh, he was glad for her, that she seemed at last to be letting go of the past, but the fact that she was more like she used to be didn’t make him want her. That was reserved for the woman in the infirmary.
He turned, about to head to the bridge, when River stepped out in front of him, making him yelp. “What the… do you know how much trouble you can get into jumping out on people like that?” he asked.
“Talk to her,” River said, her dark eyes on her captain.
He glanced up towards the shuttle. “I just –“
“Not her. Her.” River pointed towards the infirmary. “Tell her how you feel. Let her assuage your guilt. Because she feels it too.”
“Frey? Why the hell should she feel guilty?”
“Because it was her choice. She made Inara do that, and she let it happen to save you all. And she knows how you feel.” River tilted her head slightly, looking at him, feeling his confusion. “She knows what this has done to you. What it will do. And you have to be strong.”
“Strong? Mei-mei, I don’t understand.”
River shook her head. “It isn’t time.” She gently put her hands on his shoulders and turned him around to face the entrance to the infirmary. “Talk to her.”
“I think it’s time we had a little chat,” Mal said, stepping into the infirmary.
“Oh?” She felt a wave of dread pass through her, but didn’t let it show on her face.
He still knew. “About how I thought I’d lost you. Seeing you on that sand, hurting, and not being able to do a damn thing about it.”
“I’m not dead, Mal.”
He moved closer to the medbed. “Could have been.”
“There’s so many ‘could have been’s on this boat, I’m surprised we can take off at all.”
Mal gave a half-smile. “That there is.” His face darkened into seriousness again. “I nearly lost you.”
“You keep apologisin’ and I’m gonna end up thinking you mean it.”
“So next time you’re gonna let me be the boss, make the decisions?”
“You gonna throw me off your boat if I argue with you?”
“I might.” He looked at her. “’Course, that would entail hell freezing over.”
“I thought you didn’t believe in that any more,” she pointed out, trying not to smile.
“If what you put me through, thinking I’d lost you, ain’t hell, and there’s something worse, I don’t want to know what it is,” Mal said, taking her hand in his and squeezing it gently.
Saturday, October 7, 2006 4:41 AM
Saturday, October 7, 2006 7:22 AM
Monday, October 9, 2006 12:47 AM
Monday, October 9, 2006 11:02 AM
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