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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal and River have a moment of truth, and Inara meets her new client.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 928 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
"L-3 needs to be adjusted upward." Excruciating pain blinded Mal as BlueSun's probe was ruthlessly re-positioned. Trying to breathe through his rising panic, he opened his eyes to see Niska's malevolent visage smiling coldly down on him.
"I believe I have someone you wish to meet," Niska said, stepping back to reveal a boy of about five strapped to a metal table. Stroking the boy's hair, Niska continued, "Perhaps this is the real you, Mr. Reynolds. No?"
The sandy-haired boy turned hauntingly familiar eyes to Mal. "Daddy," he whimpered as Niska's blade pierced his tender flesh.
"No," Mal screamed, squeezing his eyes shut against the horrifying image. Of their own volition, they opened again, forcing Mal to see River, surrounded by a sea of red, holding the blood-stained child to her breasts. "Don't worry, baby. Daddy will come."
She turned hollow eyes to Mal. "Why didn't you come?"
Mal bolted upright in his bed, heart racing and cold sweat dripping from his hair down his heaving chest. Third time tonight, he thought bitterly, getting up to splash his face once again with cool water. Maybehaps a drink would break the hateful cycle. It certainly wouldn't go amiss at this point. Pulling on his loose sleep pants, he went to the galley.
As Kaylee's engine brew burned down his throat, he came to a decision. A man didn't have to be a gorram genius to suss out at least part of what was triggering his dreams. And he conjured that his treacherous subconscious was just going to continue his punishment until he did what needed doing. What with Inara arriving day after tomorrow, maybehaps the wisest course would be to set his house to rights sooner rather than later. Clueless as to how to proceed, he found himself wishing he could still believe in answers from on high. Instead, he took another large swig from his mug.
Thus fortified, he began to search through the cabinets for the tea he knew River favored. Finding the canister, he quickly prepared a cup and made his way to the bridge.
River turned to greet him with a sad smile. "Heard your nightmares. Wasn't trying to listen, but they were so loud."
"Reckon they were at that," Mal said, handing her the steaming cup. "Sorry ya' had to share 'em."
River shook her head slightly. "Not so different from my own," she admitted. "Same hurt, same sorrow." She gracefully curled herself further into the chair, hugging her knees to her chest.
Mal stroked her hair as she sat in silence. After a short time, Mal asked tentatively, "We gonna be able to get through this, darlin'?"
River leaned back against his soothing hand. She thought carefully about her answer. "I don't know, ai ren," she responded quietly.
The answer shook Mal with its stark honesty. He kept his voice deceptively light. "You mean to say you haven't peeked into the future even a little?"
"Future's not set. Too many variables," River answered seriously.
Mal moved to sit heavily in the co-pilot's chair. "I conjure that's a good thing. Means we can make of it what we will, I'm thinkin'."
River turned inquisitive eyes to him. "What do you want to make of it, Mal?"
It was Mal's turn to consider his words carefully. "I want us to lie with each other at night, peaceful-like. I want us to stop sharin' nightmares and start sharin' soem gorram decent dreams. But I gotta tell ya'," he looked intently at River, "I got no notion as to how to get to there from here."
He detected the faintest smile on River's lips. "But you're the Captain. You have to have a plan."
Mal chuckled. "Maybehaps you're forgettin' how my plans generally play out."
This time River giggled. "Suppose I'll have to help, then," she said, coming to curl into his lap.
"I'd take it as a kindness," Mal said, readjusting her weight more comfortably. They sat in easy silence, some of their earlier tension released in the exchange.
"Mal, if I ask you a question, will you promise to answer honestly?" River said, not meeting his eyes.
"Bein' as you're a reader, I 'spect that'd be best."
"How would you feel if I told you I'm pregnant?"
River felt the sudden fear in the tightening of his arms around her. "You tellin' me that's true?" Mal asked, his mouth suddenly parched dry.
"No," River answered, shifting to look at him directly. "But what if it were?"
"Wouldn't replace the little one we lost," Mal answered.
"That's true," River said. "But it doesn't answer my question."
Mal shifted uncomfortably. "Can't believe Simon would be happy if'n it was to happen."
"Simon said I could conceive safely." River waved her hand dismissively. "I'm asking you what you think."
"That's all he said?" Mal asked incredulously.
"That's all he said that's pertinent to this discussion. Quit stalling. Answer the question...please."
Mal sighed, suddenly too exhausted to even attempt a deception of any sort. "River, bao bei, every man has a breaking point. I've had occasion to wonder, more than once, when I'd run up against mine. Thought maybe in Serenity Valley, or strapped in Niska's playroom, or fighting that hundan operative, or under BlueSun's needles." He paused, a wry smile flickering briefly across his features. "Sounds down right creepifyin' when it's all put together." He continued, smile gone. "But when I watched the lifeblood pumpin' outta you, and knew it meant I'd lost a child and was 'bout to lose you too, I came too gorram close to it. Ain't rightly sure I can do that again, darlin'. Least not now anyways."
"Like fractures not able to stand a strain," River whispered.
"Guess that's near enough to the way of it," Mal acknowledged.
"Fractures heal...in time."
"That they do, bao bei." He drew her closer.
"I suppose it would be the wise course to wait," River said, her tone holding both regret and relief.
"Well now, I conjure that'll be a first," Mal said.
"You and me following the wise course."
River smiled. "Well, change can be good," she said.
"Um humh," Mal agreed, kissing her gently. "It's a pure truth."
Inara reigned in her growing irritation. For a man of such prominent social standing, Andrew Chau was beginning their appointed time poorly. She had not been kept waiting by a client since she was a novice. But since his request for her services had revealed she would be his first contract with a Companion, she was trying to overlook his tardiness. Perhaps he was unaware of the implied insult.
She had to admit, however, that though she was being forced to wait, at least the accomodations were pleasant. She sat in a large, lavishly furnished room, panelled in what appeared to be genuine wood. Large windows overlooked a stunning garden, meticulously maintained. A huge antique clock sat in one corner of the room, the swing of its pendulum a soothing sound.
A servant had already checked twice to see if there was anything she required. When he came a third time, Inara asked if she might avail herself of the facilities. Bowing deferentially, he led her immediately to the most ornate bath she had ever seen. Looking around appreciatively, she sincerely hoped she'd be offered an opportunity in the next two days to bathe in the decadently large tub standing behind sheer silky curtains.
She studied her reflection critically in the gilded mirror covering one wall of the bath. Seeing little that needed adjustment, she stared more closely at the image before her. Why was it, she wondered, that she was not happier in such opulent surroundings? All her life, she'd had a taste for just such things, and yet now, standing amongst them, she felt only emptiness and a vague sense of disquiet. Perhaps it was simply that she had not actually taken a client since Miranda. Nor had she slept with a man since those last few weeks with Mal on Serenity. Impatient with where her mind seemed intent to drift, she carefully re-applied her crimson lip paint, and retouched the kohl around her almond eyes. Thus prepared, she found her way back to the drawing room to await the very late Mr. Chau.
Twenty long minutes later, her client appeared, seemingly unaware of her wait. "I trust your journey from Sihnon was pleasant?" he asked.
Inara smiled her best smile. "Most pleasant," she said, readying her tray for the traditional Guild tea ceremony.
"I sincerely hope you take no offense," Mr. Chau said, interrupting her preparations. "But I'm afraid I'm most particular about my teas. I wonder if I might prevail upon you to use my special blend?"
"Of course," Inara replied graciously. She took the proffered canister and set about to prepare it. Mr. Chau watched her closely, as she stirred the amber liquid. "It has a pleasant aroma," she observed, as he took the cup from her hand.
"Yes, and an even more pleasing taste," Mr. Chau said. "I hope you'll agree."
Obligingly, Inara sipped. "Yes," she said. "Quite pleasant, if somewhat unique."
"You find it not to your liking?" he scowled slightly.
Cursing her rookie mistake, Inara made a show of taking a large sip. "On the contrary, I always enjoy new experiences." She looked at him seductively over the rim of her cup, making a mental note to tread more lightly with the mercurial man.
Seemingly mollified, he relaxed his expression. "I, too, am a connoisseur of new and exciting experiences. It is my hope that we will find many such things to amuse ourselves during your stay here."
"I look forwad to it," Inara said, successfully hiding her distaste. For a man obviously proficient in business matters and given to excellent taste in other areas, he seemed quite boorish in manner. Of course, she'd had worse, she thought ruefully, as he began to prattle on about various entertainment opportunities. Nodding politely and making appropriately interested sounds, she sipped the rest of her tea.
Feeling uncomfortably warm, Inara noticed that Mr. Chau's cup sat untouched on the side table. "May I freshen your cup?" she asked.
"No, I suppose I was not as thirsty as I had thought," he said benignly.
Something about the answer gave Inara pause.
Leaning forward in his chair, Mr. Chau continued, "However, you may of course have as much as you like."
Inara shook her head, suddenly finding it difficult to coordinate speech and movement. "You look as if you're not feeling very well, Miss Serra." Those words were the last Inara heard as she slumped onto the floor.
Moving quickly, Mr. Chau looked at the clock in the corner. He smiled wolfishly. "It looks as if we have some time before your next client arrives."
He ripped Inara's beautiful gown from her unconscious form. Running his hands roughly down the length of her body, he laughed unpleasantly. "Time enough, indeed."
To be continued
Sunday, May 13, 2007 2:30 PM
Sunday, May 13, 2007 2:53 PM
Sunday, May 13, 2007 4:27 PM
Sunday, May 13, 2007 5:58 PM
Sunday, May 13, 2007 8:58 PM
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