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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. First in a multi-part story following CHRISTMAS and TRANSIT. Inara and Simon head off for the interview, and Mal learns something to his advantage ... Please leave comments/ratings, even if you didn't like this piece!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1747 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“He did what?” Freya sat with her mouth open.
“He fought a duel over me. Didn’t he tell you?” Inara handed her friend a bowl of tea, careful not to spill any onto the bedclothes or Mal’s shirt she was wearing to preserve a little modesty.
“No he didn’t.”
“A sword fight, here on Persephone.”
“Mal? With swords?” Freya shook her head. “Oh, I wish I’d seen that.”
“He was defending my honour, apparently. A certain gentleman had insulted me, according to Mal, and he hit him.”
“And that led to …”
“A duel, at Cadrie Pond.”
“With swords,” Inara confirmed.
Freya took a long look at the Companion – correction, at the soon to be ex-Companion, at the somewhat smug look on her face, and smiled. “Mal got stabbed, huh?”
Freya laughed and sipped her tea.
“Is this a private conversation or can anyone join?” Zoe asked, looking down the ladder.
Inara smiled. “Zoe. Come on in. This is a man-free zone.” She indicated the bed next to Freya. “I thought Freya would like a break from the Cortex so I brought tea.“
“And you should have seen her get it down the ladder,” the woman in question said, shaking her head. “It was like watching an accident waiting to happen.”
“Please,” Inara said, reprovingly. “I never spill good jasmine tea.” She smiled at looked at Zoe. “Would you like some?”
“No thank, you, but a few moments would be good. We’ll be landing at the Eavesdown Docks in about half an hour.”
Both Freya and Zoe noticed the strained look cross Inara’s face, but neither commented. She hadn’t said what the interview was going to be like, but it wasn't likely to be pleasant.
Instead Freya most deliberately looked back at Zoe. “Hank making a nuisance of himself again?”
“He‘s going to wear himself out.” Zoe looked at her. “And some of that’s your fault.”
“Well, he’s in love.” Freya shrugged, smiling.
“Not sure why.” Not that she really looked that worried. More … serene.
“Have you looked in a mirror lately?”
“You know, if you’d really wanted to put him off you could always have said you were sly,” Inara suggested.
Zoe’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Hey, good idea,” Freya agreed enthusiastically. “That you were working on it with Wash, but with two fine examples of female-type womanhood on board …”
They all burst out laughing, then Zoe said, “Actually, knowing Hank, he’d probably just have asked to watch.”
“Now you’re confusing him with Jayne.”
Wiping her eyes, Inara pointed out, “You know, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
The other women stared at her. “What, watching?” Zoe asked.
Inara hit her lightly. “Liking women,” she explained witheringly.
Freya shook her head. “I couldn’t. Which leads me to think I’d never have made a Companion. I favour men too much.”
“Man. Singular.” She rubbed her belly.
“I’d say it’s mutual.”
Freya smiled. “I should hope so. You know, we outnumber the men on this boat quite dramatically – seven to four.”
“Five,” Zoe corrected. “There’s five of us.”
“Bethany’s a girl. And Serenity’s female. Boats always are.”
Inara put her bowl down. “And you know, proper Companion training starts early: before your tastes are properly formed.” She straightened the tunic she wore over her soft trousers and contemplated the future.
“So I’d have had no choice?” Freya said quickly, bringing her back.
“None at all.”
“You know, I'm rather glad I went to war instead.”
Inara took her empty bowl and placed it on the tray. “What was it really like? War, I mean. I was on Sihnon whilst it all … It always seemed so far away.”
Freya’s eyebrows raised, and she exchanged a glance with Zoe. “It’s not … really … describable. Mostly not knowing what we were doing, where we were going, or why. Just … holding places, waiting for orders. That and hoping you were going to live to see the next morning.”
“I'm sorry. It was insensitive of me to ask.”
“That’s okay. It’s just … not easy sometimes. But I don’t mind you asking.”
“What was the worst part?”
“Seriously?” Freya laughed, to Inara‘s surprise. “Not being clean. I couldn’t bathe for … well, on New Casmir it was about three months. Luckily it was winter: if it had been high summer …”
“High would have been the right word?“
“Pretty much the same. Although as we were all in the same boat, no-one really noticed.”
“It’s funny, I’d have thought you’d have said something else.”
“What, killing people?” Freya sighed. “Yes, that was bad. Especially at first. But in war, that’s what happens. You show me a war without casualties, and I’ll show you a mild disagreement. We had a cause, and we stuck to it.”
“But why did you fight at all?” Inara had supported Unification; not that any one of them held it against her.
“Seemed like the right thing to do,” Freya said.
“Can we change the subject?” Zoe asked, a little uncomfortable. “War’s long over.”
“Well, we could talk about men,” Freya suggested. She looked at the other women. “Or, more specifically, Inara can. I understand you have some very funny stories you’ve never shared. Funny and sexy.”
“Would you? With Jayne on board?”
“Ah, no. But he’s improving.”
“I think River’s having some kind of influence on him,” Zoe agreed. “Just not sure what kind.”
“Don’t,” Inara said, shuddering dramatically. “But I do have a few I could …” She smiled. “There was one time …”
Simon was waiting at the entrance to the cargo bay, looking out into the crowd. It always amazed him when they came to any large port just how much of a diverse group would be passing by, and Persephone’s Eavesdown Docks was bigger than most, rivalling several of the Core planets. Different races, different faces passed by, and more than one he’d be hard pressed to say was male or female. Possibly both. He’d heard there was a fad for –
“Are you ready?” Inara asked, coming up behind him.
“Of course.” Simon smiled at her. “Where is this interview?”
“At the Guild House. We’ll have to catch a public shuttle.”
“A private hover would be quicker.”
“And more expensive.”
Simon couldn’t help it. “You’re beginning to sound like Mal.”
She hit him lightly on the arm. “Don’t even joke about things like that,” she admonished as they walked out into the dull sunshine.
Mal stepped out of the common area and caught sight of them walking away from Serenity. He rolled his eyes.
“Don’t make faces,” River said behind him, coming close like a ghost.
“How d’you know what I’m doing, albatross?” he asked, not turning.
“I always know.” She sighed. “You’re almost as bad as Simon and Kaylee.”
“You saying we’re loud?”
“Good.” Mal smiled slightly.
“She’s going to the interview.” River moved past him and walked the length of the cargo bay to lean her arm against the EVA suit locker.
“I kinda figured that. Not quite so sure why Simon’s tagging along.”
“He’s going as her advocate.”
“Advocate?” Mal repeated.
“It means –“
“I know what it means, darlin’,” Mal said, a trifle testily, and it was River’s turn to smile. “Just don’t see why she’d ask the doc.”
“Because he doesn’t judge her.” She turned to gaze at him, her dark hair blowing slightly in the breeze from the open doors.
“And I do?” She just stared at him until he looked away, more than a little uncomfortable. “Well, maybe I do, a bit, but that’s changing.”
“There are things she doesn’t want you to know.”
“And what might they be?”
“I can’t say.”
“Won’t.” She leaned back against the locker, staring into the Firefly’s superstructure. “If I did I’d be breaking a confidence.”
He crossed the floor to join her. “Ain't you doing that in telling me, little one?” he asked gently.
“Not telling you everything.” She flashed him a smile. “I don’t tell secrets. I didn’t tell everyone about your little … baby.”
Mal started. “You knew?”
“And you didn’t say.”
“Of course not.” She laughed. “I keep secrets. Lots of secrets. Everybody’s secrets.”
“Do you … do you know the sex?” Mal glanced guiltily up towards the crew’s quarters. “My baby … Freya’s … you know if it’s a boy or girl?”
“I can’t tell you, Freya wouldn’t like it.”
“Does she know?”
River gazed at him, her dark eyes seeming to swallow him whole. Then she put her head onto one side. “Handsome,” she finally said.
Mal’s eyebrows threatened to disappear into his hair. “You saying it’s … you telling me I'm gonna have a … a son?”
“I didn’t say that,” River pointed out, then ran away from him towards her bunk. “I never said!” she shouted, her voice reverberating through Serenity.
Mal stood, his mouth open, staring at nothing, his mind picturing a baby boy at Freya’s breast …
“Sir?” Zoe called from the catwalk above. “Did I hear River screaming?” Mal looked up, his mouth working to speak, but no words would come out. “Sir?” she repeated.
Mal shook himself. He was Captain, gorramit, and he should be able to control himself better. “Uh, yeah, you did. River was being … River.”
“If you say so, sir,” Zoe said, shaking her head slightly before heading back to the bridge.
Inara and Simon stepped inside the cool atrium of the Guild House, the silks hanging from the walls wafting in the breeze. Delicate sounds came from intricate mobiles hung in the high ceiling, and the scent of mimosa and jasmine tickled their nostrils. A small fountain played in the centre of the room, and the overall impression was of peace and harmony.
“Are you okay?” Simon asked, feeling Inara’s hand tighten on his arm.
“If I said I was shiny would you believe me?”
She smiled quickly. “Then I won’t lie to you.” She took a deep breath. “I'm not looking forward to this.”
“Has to be done.”
“Miss Serra?” They turned and saw a man in saffron robes standing in a doorway.
“I am,” Inara said, holding herself poised.
“This way.” He turned and led them through into an antechamber.
Simon had only been in a Guild House on one occasion, when he was in his final year at MedAcad. His friend, Orlando, had set up a card game and conned enough money out of his dorm mates to pay for a session with a Companion, and Simon had been coerced into coming along as a chaperone. Or to bear witness to Orlando’s wild night, he’d never been quite clear on that. As it happened, none of the Companions had wanted to take on this youth, who swaggered into the House and acted as if he owned the place. One young woman, probably no older than either of them, had said she’d take Simon on as a client, but he’d blushed and made his apologies. The girl had been resigned, but handed him her mark in case he ever changed his mind.
Now here he was, deeper inside a Guild House than he had ever been.
“Please wait here,” the man said, bowing low.
Inara elegantly returned the gesture, then turned to Simon. “Are you all right?” she asked, noting the slight pinkness of his face.
“I don’t think I'm the man of the world I thought I was,” he admitted with a rueful smile.
“You’ve never been with a Companion?”
“No,” he said, dropping his head, and Inara wondered what had happened.
“Well, now’s your chance,” she said seriously. “Possibly your last.”
His head snapped up and he stared at her. “Inara!” He was appalled. “I'm a married man!”
She smiled. “That doesn’t mean anything, Simon. Nearly half the men on the Guild books are married.”
“That doesn’t mean that I –“
She laughed and put her hand on his shoulder. “I know. I’m joking.”
“It’s no joke,” Simon said fervently. “If you even suggest that to Kaylee, that I might have considered … even for a moment …”
“I won’t,” she assured him.
A door opened on the other side of the room, and an elegant but demure woman stood in the opening. “Inara?” she said.
Inara couldn’t help it. She almost ran across the room and put her arms around the new arrival. “Sheydra!”
Sheydra smiled, returning the embrace. “It’s so good to see you,” she said. “You don’t know how hard I had to work to get her to let me come.”
“Her?” Inara looked at her friend.
Inara’s face fell. “Oh no.”
“It’s all right. She’s mellowed. A little,” Sheydra said quickly. “And you knew this was never going to be easy.” She smiled. “But I had to see you.”
“I'm so glad you did,” Inara said, hugging her friend.
“Mainly it was because I wanted to know what the gos se you thought you were doing.”
Inara stepped back, surprised at her tone, while even at the same time being faintly amused by her friend’s inability to swear properly. “What?”
“I knew it,” Sheydra said, shaking her head. “You’d never have said ‘what’ before. It would always have been ‘excuse me’.”
“I don’t understand.” Inara was truly confused.
“Those people on that ship … they’ve been a bad influence on you, and now making you resign –“
“They didn’t make me do anything!” Inara said indignantly.
“Then why are you?” Sheydra seemed to be truly baffled.
“I … there are lots of reasons …” Inara began, but a voice from inside the other room made her stop.
“Sheydra.” It was a commanding voice, brooking no more waiting.
“Yes, Mistress,” Sheydra called. She looked, for the first time, at Simon, and asked, “Is this your advocate?”
Inara nodded, feeling a slight trembling beginning in her hands, which she clasped tightly in front of her. “This is Simon.”
“Welcome,” Sheydra said, bowing. “If you would follow me …” She led the way into the inner sanctum.
Inara, taking a deep breath then glancing at Simon, stepped inside.
“I don’t know why that works, it just does.” Kaylee shrugged, putting the drawings she’d made of Serenity’s inner workings down.
Freya paused a moment in her tickling of Bethany, who was wriggling on her lap, to smile. “I know this was Mal’s idea, to keep me occupied as well as making sure you’ve got some back-up when you get pregnant again … but it’s not working.”
“I understand,” River said, staring at the plans. Her dark hair hung forward over her face. “But it shouldn’t work.”
“I know,” Kaylee agreed. “But I just knew it would.”
“But that should make the manifold pressure build to an intolerable degree, then the port pin should go and –“
“I know.” Kaylee grinned. “I wish I could explain it. But it all fits.”
“Unless it’s because you’ve anticipated the maximum demands by building in an alternative …” She stopped, then nodded. “Very clever.”
“Serenity talks to me,” Kaylee said. “Machines always have. Mostly I know why things work they way they do, but sometimes you just gotta go on faith.”
“And I don’t have that,” River said sadly.
“Well, we can’t all be mechanical geniuses,” Freya pointed out.
Kaylee sighed happily. “Ain't that the truth.” She stood up. “And this mechanical genius needs to get back to fixing the stove before Jayne starts complaining.”
“It was his fault,” River put in. “He leaned on the door.”
“Then maybe I’ll get him to fix it.” She grinned and headed up the ladder. “See y’all later!”
Freya waited until the hatch had closed. “Do you know why Inara’s resigning?” she asked, idly playing with Bethany’s hair.
“Why shouldn’t it be for the reasons she gave?” River was still studying the plans.
“Because I know there’s more.”
River looked up, her eyes dark. “Then you don’t need me to tell you.”
“It isn’t like that, River. I don’t have my abilities back, whatever you think.” She looked frustrated. “These … they’re flashes, mostly. Just images of things.”
“Like him.” River gently touched Freya’s stomach.
“Like him.” Freya looked down and stroked her belly.
The older woman looked up. “You think I can read him?”
“No. But I know you’re in his mind when you’re making love.”
Freya smiled. “I always have been.” Then she became serious again. “But you’re not going to change the subject.” She leaned forward. “I know there’s more to it. I can tell.”
“Then ask Inara.” River gathered up the drawings and folded them carefully. “You’re trying to teach me about control. Perhaps you should show some yourself.”
Freya was shocked. “River …”
“She’ll tell us, that’s all I meant,” the girl said, standing up. “And you shouldn’t worry about her and Mal. You know he will only ever be with you now.”
“Did you … last night … were you listening in on …” There was guilt in her voice.
“He wanted you to understand, and he can’t keep telling you. He thought it might be something for you to hold onto. But it’s not the real reason, you know that.”
Freya nodded slowly. “I know. He doesn’t care how many clients she’s taken. That was never the problem.”
“And it isn’t always sex.”
“I know.” Freya sighed. “She’s my friend, River. But whether it’s the hormones or something else, but sometimes I can’t help wondering –“
“Don’t. He loves you. He married you. He is the father of your child.” The psychic shook her head. “There will never be anyone else for him. There can’t.”
“You’re particularly sane today, aren’t you?”
“I think I've passed the madness on to you.” River grinned and headed for the ladder.
“Wait a minute,” Freya called. “What about Bethany?” She looked down at the baby sitting on the bed between her knees.
“Good practice for you.” River tapped the bag at the bottom of the bed. “And she needs changing.”
Inara stepped back into the ante-chamber and released a breath she felt like she’d been holding for days. She glanced at the elaborate water clock standing on the table, and was surprised to see that only two hours had passed. It had seemed like an eternity.
Sheydra followed Simon out and closed the door. “Well, that went better than I expected.”
“You think?” Inara shook her hands out. She’d been holding them so tight that her fingers had gone numb.
“Is it always like this?” Simon asked.
“I don’t know. Hardly anyone ever resigns.” Sheydra shrugged. “And it’s still not too late, Inara.”
“Yes it is.” She smiled. “It was too late when I walked in there, they just won’t accept that.”
“But all those things they said, about the baby, your … the man you were going to leave the Guild once before over …” She shook her head. “How could you even contemplate it?”
“Sheydra,” Inara said sincerely, “I hope you never find out.”
“I won’t,” the other woman said. “I know where my loyalty lies.”
“And so do I.” Inara smiled. “And I have to be getting back to them.”
“Will you be at the ball tonight?” Sheydra asked unexpectedly.
“Everyone will be there. And I know they’d be pleased to see you.”
Simon looked at Inara. “Is that … it wouldn’t be the same ball …”
Inara couldn’t help a little laugh escaping her lips. “It is.”
Simon grinned. “And they’d let you back in?”
“She has an open invitation,” Sheydra explained. “All Companions do. And no matter what she says, she’s still a member of the Guild for a while yet.” She looked at her friend. “So? Will you?”
“I don’t know,” Inara said thoughtfully. “I so used to enjoy myself, but …”
“Well, you don’t have to make up your mind yet.” Sheydra led the way back into the atrium. “Oh, and someone was asking about you,” she added in passing.
“Oh?” Inara couldn’t help but be curious. “Who?”
“A man, of course, silly. He wanted to contract with you, but when I told him you were contemplating giving up being Companion, he was most amused.”
“Sheydra, I'm not just contemplating. I am giving it up.”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” Sheydra said, almost in contempt. “Just what do you think you’ll do otherwise?” She sighed. “Anyway, I told him you were likely to be at the ball, so he said he might see you there.”
“Who was it?”
Sheydra opened the outer door, letting the smell of Persephone back inside. “He didn’t say. Just that he’d met you once.”
to be continued
Tuesday, January 9, 2007 3:16 AM
Tuesday, January 9, 2007 7:04 AM
Tuesday, January 9, 2007 7:50 AM
Tuesday, January 9, 2007 8:19 AM
Tuesday, January 9, 2007 10:37 AM
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