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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Inara is home, but is she safe? And this is not the end, either ... Thank you for your comments/rating - please keep them coming!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1533 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The mule, an efficient hover that Mal had bought with some of the proceeds from the Lassiter caper, and had improved after Miranda, moved quickly through the wider streets, and it was big enough that people got out of the way fast. Still, as they reached the old town, the streets narrowed, and they couldn’t continue.
“Hank, stay with the mule,” Mal said, jumping down from the vehicle. “We walk the rest of the way, people.”
Although walking wasn't quite what he, Jayne and Simon did. More of a run, actually. It wasn’t very long before they arrived at the street Hank had identified, the rain easing to a drizzle.
“Mal,” Simon said, pointing ahead.
Inara was leaning on the wall, under an awning, her dark red dress stained and scuffed, but as she looked up and saw them her face broke into a wide smile. They ran up to her, Mal taking her by the arms.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“I am now.” Inara leaned into him.
Jayne, his hand resting on his gun, said, “Think they’re still around?”
“I shouldn’t think so, but keep an eye out.”
The big man nodded, scanning the area.
Simon was checking Inara over as much as he could. “Your pulse is rapid, and I'm not too happy with your colour, but I think you’ll live,” was his verdict. “Do you have any injuries at all?”
“No, Simon, just a headache,” she assured him.
“Well, best we get you back to Serenity,” Mal said, his voice gentle now he’d found her. “Freya’ll be wondering where we’ve all gone.”
“Isn’t she here?” Inara asked, looking around in surprise.
“I wouldn’t let her. And she’s all manner of angry with me again,” Mal said, helping Inara to walk as the rain stopped.
“Do you remember what happened?” he asked, skirting the issue somewhat.
“I … not really.” She shook her head. “I was at the ball, Zoe was there …” She looked up at Mal and smiled shakily. “Didn’t she look amazing in that dress?”
“That she did. Don’t change the subject.”
Inara looked around. “Where is she?”
“She had a slight accident. She’s back at Serenity. Go on.”
“I’m trying to remember … Zoe told me about Badger’s message … I went to get my coat, I think … I was heading back …” Her eyes closed. “I don’t remember anything else. Not really. Not until I woke up lying in the street.”
“Not really?” Mal said, picking up on what she’d said. “But you do remember something?”
“Just … a dark room. I was lying down, on something soft. It felt like silk, but I can’t be sure of that. I could hear voices, just beyond my understanding, talking very softly.”
“Did you see who they were?”
“I didn’t see anyone,” Inara said apologetically. “At first I wondered if I was home, but the smell wasn't right.”
“There was no incense,” she explained.
“Now why’d you think of home, I wonder,” Mal said, contemplating this development. “Anyways, carry on.”
“That’s it. I think I felt someone nearby, and there was a sting in my neck, then … that’s it.”
Simon stepped closer and looked at her neck. “Injection marks,” he said, moving Inara’s hair out of the way. “More than one. Probably how they got you out of the ballroom.”
“It’s a little sore,” Inara admitted.
“I’ll give you something when we get back,” Simon promised.
They turned a corner and there was the mule, with Hank leaning on it, waiting impatiently. He grinned at the sight of them. “Hey, ‘Nara – you getting yourself into trouble again?” he asked, straightening up.
“Seems like it, Wash.” Then she realised what she’d said. “Hank. I'm sorry. I don’t know why I called you that …”
“Hey, no problem,” Hank said, waving away her concern. “You can call me whatever you like,” he offered, putting out a hand to help her into the mule. “I even answer to hey you.”
Mal assisted her up the side of the vehicle, then climbed aboard, the others following. “Just get us home, Hank,” he said, for once glad he‘d paid out the cashey money to upgrade the mule‘s engine to carry five.
As the pilot moved the mule smoothly off, Inara looked into Mal’s face. “What accident, Mal?” she asked.
“Zoe. You said she had an accident.”
“Oh. Someone stabbed her.” He spoke in an off-hand manner.
Inara looked shocked, then glanced at Hank. “Stabbed? Is she okay?”
“She’s fine, Inara,” Mal assured her, smiling a little. “The doctor here fixed her up good.”
“Why?” Inara asked. “I mean, if they used something to knock me out, why didn’t they do the same to her?”
“Because she was ready for something to happen to you. She was watching out for you, ‘Nara,” Mal explained. “Doubt they could have gotten close enough to use anything like that on her, not and get away unscathed.”
“So they stabbed her instead?”
“Could have been a panic reaction,” Simon put in. “Or maybe they just didn’t have another dose of tranquilliser.”
“Won’t know until we ask them,” Mal said darkly.
“But I don’t know who they were,” Inara insisted.
“We figured it might be that Atherton Wing feller,” Jayne put in over his shoulder from where he was sitting next to Hank.
“Atherton? But why would he …Oh.” Realisation struck.
“Exactly,” Mal said.
“But it’s been so long … and I … he …” Inara couldn’t finish. She shook her head. “Besides, how would he know I was going to be at the ball?” Then her face paled even more. “Sheydra.”
“The Companion?” Simon asked.
“Someone want to explain?” Mal said, testily.
“She was at the Guild House, when I went for my interview. She said someone was looking for me, told them I’d be at the ball …” She stared into Mal’s baby blues. “But she’d know if it was Atherton. I put a black mark against him …”
“Best you speak to her, get some kind of description when we get back,” Mal said shortly. “And tell her she shouldn’t be telling people that kind of information.”
“But not straight away,” Simon put in. “I want to check you over first.”
“But why Atherton?” Inara went on, hugging herself as the breeze on her wet dress made her shiver.
Mal cursed himself for not realising and stood up, taking off his coat and wrapping it around her. She smiled gratefully at him as he went on, “According to Sir Warwick Harrow, it seems he took it a mite more to heart than could otherwise have been imagined. Still got the scar, too,” he added, touching his own left cheek as he sat down.
“Really? Where you hit him?”
“Hell, tit for tat,” Mal said, a slight smile playing on his lips. “He cut me. Three times, if I recall.”
“No Companion will contract with him ever again, but that wouldn’t … I mean, there are plenty of other women who would sleep with him for money.”
“Not for love?” Hank asked.
“No. Not for that. I found that out,” Inara said ruefully.
“I ain’t so sure it’s the sex part that matters overly to him. It’s more the humiliation. Harrow apparently made sure it got around, what had happened, and he wasn't too pleased about it. Respectability and reputation can be everything to a man like that. They’re still looking into it,” Mal added. “Harrow and that Dillon Malfrey. Hank, you’d better let them know soon as we get back that we’ve found Inara.”
“Will do, Mal,” the pilot said from the front seat.
“I didn’t know Freya knew such influential people,” Inara said mischievously, hiding the exhaustion she felt. “She must have gotten around in high circles a lot more than I ever gave her credit for.”
“Mmn.” Mal’s face was carefully blank.
“I mean, I know the stories about him, Dillon Malfrey, I mean, but there are rumours that it’s all for show, that he’s actually attracted to strong women …”
Inara smiled. She enjoyed winding Mal up, just a little, and she was feeling stronger the closer they got to home. “I’m only joking, Mal,” she said after a long moment. “Everyone knows Dillon Malfrey has a lover, a partner he would never cheat on. A male partner.”
“That’s right. Does Freya know him too?”
“She introduced them.”
“Really? I wonder who else she knows?”
Mal nodded towards Serenity coming up fast. “Well, you can ask her yourself,” he said, not wanting to be drawn.
Hank settled the mule into the cargo bay, then jumped from the vehicle and hurried off towards the bridge to wave Harrow. Simon and Mal helped Inara down as Jayne went to stow his guns.
“’Nara?” Freya said from the entrance to the common area. “You okay?”
Her friend smiled. “I'm shiny, Freya. Are you all right?”
“I just got the impression there was something going on.” She handed Mal back his coat. “Thanks,” she said, smiling at him.
Freya swallowed back the jealousy. “Nothing.”
“Good,” she said, and smiled tiredly at her friend, making Freya feel all kinds of guilty. She turned to Simon then seemed to trip, falling against him.
“’Nara?” Mal asked, moving forward quickly to support her.
“I'm fine,” she protested. “Just tired.” She winced. “And I have a bit of a headache.”
“Then you are definitely come to the infirmary before anything else,” Simon said firmly.
“It’s just the after effects,” Inara maintained, regaining her footing. “A delayed reaction.”
“Just a few minutes, Inara. I just want to make sure you’re okay, then you can go back to your shuttle.” Simon took her arm. “I'm your doctor. You have to do what I say.”
“And I'm the Captain,” Mal added. “And for once I'm agreeing with Simon.”
She rolled her eyes slightly. “Oh, all right. A few minutes.” She allowed the young man to assist her through into the common area.
Freya watched them go then said to Mal, “And what was she doing wearing that?” She tapped the coat hanging over his arm.
“She was cold, Frey. Cold and wet. What else did you expect me to do?” He sighed, shaking his head. “Is it going to be like this?”
“Like what?” she asked, trying to sound innocent.
“Everything I say, or do, concerning Inara making you come over all green-eyed?”
“Are you trying to make me feel guilty?” Not that he had to try that hard, she thought to herself.
“Nope. Oddly enough, that ain't my intention.” He pulled her closer and put his arms around her. “I've been trying to make you realise there’s nothing between us. Inara and me.”
He stopped her with a kiss. “Honestly. Cross my heart. I’ll get down on my knees if that’ll make you believe me.”
She looked into his eyes. “Okay.”
“Well …” She shrugged. “How about mostly okay?”
“Guess that’s as good as I'm gonna get.”
She pushed at the arm that still held the brown coat. “And that’s damp.”
“Sorry.” He dropped it to the cargo bay floor.
“You really think we can find out who did this?” she asked as he pulled her closer.
Mal shrugged. “I don’t know. I can’t even conjure a reason why they took her in the first place, not to just let her go again. No ransom demand, no contact … none of it makes any sense at all.”
“Do you think she was … “ She didn’t finish, but Mal knew what she was thinking.
“Simon’ll check that out,” he said quickly. “It’s got to be top of his agenda, but I don’t think so. Inara’s a woman of the world – she’d know if anything like that happened, and she’d have said. No, this was planned, carefully, just not finished.”
“Perhaps they were scared off. Harrow and Dillon are powerful men. They were doing a lot of asking around – maybe the kidnappers heard and got cold feet.”
“It’s as good an explanation as any other at the moment,” Mal agreed. “Just don’t feel right.”
“Any idea where they held her?” She snuggled closer, just enjoying the feel of his body.
“A ship. Or a shuttle, at least.” Mal tightened his grip. “Inara wondered if she was home, home being her shuttle. So there must have been a reason. I wonder if it was the sound. You forget about the sound a ship makes, but it’s always there.”
“Not that it helps.”
“No.” He sounded so frustrated that she lifted her face and kissed him gently. “What’s that for?” he asked in surprise.
“Thought you didn’t want me to care about Inara?”
“I'm pregnant, Mal. My moods are allowed to fluctuate.”
“That what you call it?”
“Mmn.” He dipped for another kiss as Jayne clattered down the stairs again.
“You want me to close up?” he asked, ignoring the display of affection.
Mal pulled back and let go of his wife as she smiled. “Get the mule stowed first,” he ordered.
“So what do we do now?” the big merc asked, pulling the chains into place.
“What we always do. Keep flying.” Mal took a deep breath. “Got word of a job on New Hall to get to, and they won’t be pleased if we’re late.” He thought for a moment. “No. We do the job.” He glanced at Freya. “Tell Hank to take us out of the world, soon as he’s contacted Harrow.”
“Okay,” she said, hurried up the metal staircase towards the bridge.
Mal stood silently for a moment, looking out into the confusion of Persephone, the wet ground drying rapidly and giving off a thousand unidentifiable odours, then punched the button to close the cargo bay doors. Something was still unsettling, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. An itch he couldn’t scratch, and he knew it was going to plague him for some time. “Huh choo-shung duh tzang-huo,” he finally said.
“Cap?” Jayne asked, pausing in his work.
“Just get everything stowed,” Mal said, stomping up the stairs towards the bridge.
“You have to get over this,” the older man said, pulling on his gloves. “It’s gone on too long.”
“It isn’t anything to do with you, father.”
“It is if you do something stupid because of this obsession!”
“I can handle it.”
“No. You don’t handle anything. Now you just leave it.”
“You leave it! He’s not worth it.” He picked up his coat, shrugging into it. “You’ve had your fun and she will die. But it is over.” He turned a hard eye on his son. “Do you understand?”
“Good.” The man nodded and walked out of the room.
His son stood, staring at the door, stroking the scar on his cheek. “Over? I don’t think so,” he said thoughtfully. “Oh, I really don’t think so.”
to be continued
Sunday, January 14, 2007 5:26 AM
Sunday, January 14, 2007 5:34 AM
Sunday, January 14, 2007 6:19 AM
Sunday, January 14, 2007 7:32 AM
Monday, January 15, 2007 9:06 AM
Tuesday, January 16, 2007 4:24 PM
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