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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Serenity makes her delivery to Isabel Warrick's ranch, Inara makes her departure.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 701 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
These folks don't belong to me; I'm just entertaining myself, here.
Dinner had been quite pleasant, everyone on their best behavior and eager to please and be pleased. Isabel’s grandmother, Alice Steele, was delighted to have a crowd around her table. River and Inara praised Mal’s handling of the horses while they were stopped on Agamemnon’s moon.
“He made Fat Ninny turn right around on one foot,” River said. “I do not know how you would make a horse do that.” Isabel assured her that if she worked hard for the next week, she would be able to make Fat Ninny do a turn on the forehand, too.
At breakfast the next day Inara announced that the Davidsons would be stopping for her just before lunch. She had said her farewells to Book early that morning, before he left for the Abbey.
“Are you sure you want to leave?” Book had asked.
“No, but I don’t know how to stay. So, leaving is my only choice,” she answered, her voice husky with tears.
“If you believe it is, then it is your only choice. Inara, my child, don’t stop praying for him.”
“As if I ever could.”
“Kaylee, mei-mei, I’ll miss you.”
“Smile, Inara, so’s I got a capture of you.” Kaylee focused the capture on Inara. “I can’t believe you’re really gonna leave us. It won’t feel right to go back to my girl, without you there.”
“There were many times when I wasn’t there, sweet. You’ll be all right. Write to me?”
“’Course I will. You too?” Kaylee asked.
“Certainly I will.”
Inara hugged River and Simon.
“Don’t write – but Kaylee will let me know how you are. I’ll miss you.”
Mal was sitting on the ranchhouse’s front porch when Davidson’s shuttle landed. Inara walked out of the house, carrying a small bag.
“I’ll carry that for you,” Mal said, standing and reaching for the bag. “Let’s go. Rich people waitin’ for you.”
“Mal, I want to say something. I, I – may I call you if I need you?”
“Oh, sure. If you ever need any petty thievin’ or bobble-headed geisha doll smugglin’ you c’n call me right up.”
“Mal, that’s not what I would call you for. I would call you for taking care --“
“ -- I ain’t done such a fine job a’that, neither. Seem’s like most folks that look to me for care end up dead. Let’s go, Inara, I think we’re all done here,” Mal said.
“Mal, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“What’re you sorry for? C’mon, they’re waiting for you.”
“Mal, just a minute. I have to say this. You tried to talk truthfully to me, and I wouldn’t listen. Please be better than I was. I’m sorry for all the terrible things I ever said. And Mal, don’t end up Henry Exline. Don’t let yourself be Henry Exline. Take whatever joy comes to you – don’t push it away.”
Inara reached out and took her bag from Mal’s suddenly nerveless hand, turned and walked toward the shuttle. He stood silently and watched her reach the shuttle and climb in. He was still watching when it disappeared from sight. He turned and walked out to Serenity.
Isabel walked out to Serenity at dusk. Mal was sitting at the top of the ramp in Kaylee’s folding chair, a bottle in his lap, booted feet stretched out in front of him.
She started up the ramp toward Mal.
“Whattaya want, Miss Warrick?” Mal asked.
“I came to let you know dinner would be served in an hour. To see whether you wanted a bath, before.”
“I ain’t wantin’ a bath and I ain’t wantin’ any dinner. Tell your grandmother I thank her kindly but I ain’t comin’ in this evening.” Mal looked away from Isabel and took a drink.
“I’ll let her know, Captain. Do come in if you change your mind. It’s fried chicken and the last of the sweet corn. I believe Ellie has made peach pies, also.”
“Sounds just wonderful, but I’m stayin’ right here. Goodbye, Miss Warrick.”
“Good evening, Captain.”
Mal evidently sat right there on the ramp all night. When Isabel went out to the barn the next morning he was still sitting in the same spot. She walked toward Serenity but before she could reach the ramp Mal called to her.
“I don’t want a cinnamon roll nor a cup of coffee. I don’t want eggs and I don’t want bacon. I don’t even want sausage and biscuits. I don’t want a bath. Goodbye, Miss Warrick.”
“Good day, Captain.”
“Mal, look. Isn’t this a beautiful mare? She’s mine to ride all week – I love her. Her name is Doxy; she’s such a good girl.”
“She’s right beautiful, River.”
“Isabel’s going to take me up the creek to a place that’s deep enough for the horses to swim and we can swim, too. Don’t you want to come? Isabel says she’ll saddle Ninny for you – you know you like riding Ninny.”
“Thank you kindly, but I’m gonna sit right here a while longer. You be on your merry.”
“Cap’n, don’t you think you oughta go to bed, ‘stead a just sittin’ there?” Kaylee asked as she came up Serenity’s ramp to work on the engine.
“I do not. Go on outta here, Kaylee; take the day off. Go have fun. Leave it. Vamoose. Go.” Mal glared at Kaylee. “I mean it. Find something else to do. Get.”
“I think you’ve had enough, sir.” Zoe stood before Mal on the ramp. She held her hand out for the whiskey bottle.
“Wasn’t hardly half a bottle when I started, and there’s more’n half’a what I started with left. Go on back to Wash.”
“Why don’t you come down and sit in the hot springs, sir?” Zoe was the only one on Serenity who knew how much Mal loved stretching out in hot water.
“Leave it, Zoe. I ain’t goin’ nowhere. You go along. Wash’s waitin’ for you.”
“I don’t want lunch, Miss Warrick. Goodbye, Miss Warrick.”
“Zoe, lambytoes, do you think I oughta go tell him a joke?”
“No, husband, I do not.”
“Really? I know a good one about a traveling salesman, a farmer and a pig.”
“You come here and tell it to me.”
At dusk Isabel walked up the ramp, carrying a low stool from the barn.
“Captain, it’s nearly dinner time. Won’t you come in?”
“No, I won’t. Goodbye, Miss Warrick.”
Isabel put her stool down on the ramp next to the folding chair and sat down.
“It’s a beautiful evening, isn’t it, Captain?” Isabel said.
“There are times I wish we had more moisture, for the grass, but this dry air opens up the distances so beautifully. The horizon must be 25 miles away this evening.” Isabel observed.
“The mares are doing wonderfully. They’ve all settled in nicely. Even Birdy. I wondered about sending for Birdy – she’s extremely beautiful and very athletic but, I don’t know, she hasn’t been the same since my sister Eleanor leased her to a friend for two seasons. She hasn’t been reliable. But I think she’s going to be fine, with one consistent rider she can trust,” Isabel said.
“And Fat Ninny, he’s never been better. It was a little bit of an indulgence to send for a gelding, all that way, since I can’t claim he’s here for the breeding program. But he’s such a delight to ride, forward without being pushy, and so comfortable. Such lovely gaits. Did you discover that he will kneel to let you mount from the ground? I taught him that – it seemed very clever to me at the time.” Isabel looked at Mal; he looked at the horizon.
“If I’d realized you were having cocktail hour out here, Captain, I should have brought a drink. And I expect Ellie would have prepared us a tray of befores if I had thought to ask. So silly of me. You must be getting hungry.”
“Captain, here’s a question I’ve always wanted to ask someone in your position. On Earth-that-Was there was an very ancient idea in traditional landowning societies that the lord, the landowner, not only owned the land but in some way owned the workers who lived there. Not as slaves, you understand, but a sort of spiritual bonding that went both ways. Now, one of the ways that this manifested itself, as I understand it, was that since everyone on the estate was part of the lord and he was part of them, that all the women were available to him – droit de seigneur, it was called. Does that kind of relationship exist on board ships? I should think –“
Mal stood up suddenly and loomed over Isabel, hands clenched.
“Miss Warrick, get off my boat. I don’t know what you’re playin’ at here, what you think you’re doin’, but whatever it is you need to stop. I told you once already that I’m not here to provide you with an adventure of any kind. I meant any kind. Now go. Right now.”
“I was merely curious, Captain. Although I will tell you that I think that a person in the kind of misery that you appear to be in ought not to reject any ease that comes their way.”
“Go, Miss Warrick, and don’t come back. I ain’t in need of a mercy fuck.”
“Comfort is comfort, Captain. Good evening.”
Isabel picked up her stool and walked down the ramp.
“Do come in, if you decide you’re hungry after all. It’s roast pork shoulder and braised greens.”
Isabel walked up Serenity’s ramp in the dark, carrying her stool and a bottle.
“If you’re going to drink yourself to death I think you ought to do it with something that won’t blind you first. I brought you a bottle of decent whiskey. It’s not the very best, but it’s reasonably palatable.” She put her stool next the Mal’s folding chair, sat down, opened the pint bottle of Scotch whiskey and took a drink. She passed it to Mal, who absent-mindedly took a drink himself.
“You know, Captain, I would never have guessed that you were such a coward. You, one of the heroes of Serenity Valley – and yes, I do know about that. I know that you were one of the handful that held off the Alliance for two weeks, held them off until you were ordered to lay down arms. You, who survived reconstruction or re-education or whatever prevaricating thing the Alliance called the brutality it issued to former Independents. I suppose, though, that anyone reaches a point where they simply can’t go on. I just wouldn’t have guessed this would be yours. Could I have the bottle, please?” Isabel held out her hand and Mal passed her the bottle.
“Do you think that those men who didn’t survive Serenity Valley would be satisfied to know that you were a walking dead man? I should think the dead would prefer to see us truly alive – otherwise, what is the point of anything?” Isabel took a drink and sat silently for some minutes.
“Kaylee told me what you used to say, you Independents. ‘Walk as far as you can, and when you can’t walk any farther, crawl. And when you can’t crawl, find someone to carry you.’ It does seem to imply that it’s not the dead who need to be carried, doesn’t it? Don’t you think it would be all right with them, to lay them down somewhere? It’s hard work, carrying all those dead men, and women, too. Maybe they’re tired, too, tired of being dragged around the world on your shoulders.” Isabel allowed the silence to stretch long, long enough that the nights birds began to call again.
“Malcolm, I don’t know what you and Inara did to one another, and I don’t want to know, but do not dishonor her by using her departure as another screw in the lid of that coffin you’ve climbed into. You’re quitting, Captain, you’re a dirty little quitter. Do you know what everyone else is doing, with this little respite? Kaylee’s helping my mechanic rebuild and automate the irrigation system, River’s riding every minute, Simon is reading his way through my grandfather’s library and consulting with the local sawbones, Book’s over at the Abbey with his brothers, Zoe and Wash are enjoying each other’s company, and Jayne’s whoring. Do you really want to climb into this coffin? Do you really mean to be like Henry Exline and carry your own corpse around until somebody finally kills you? What was the point of surviving if you’re just a dead man walking?” Isabel paused and looked over at Mal’s profile. His eyes were closed, his breath harsh in the quiet.
“If I had an animal on this place in the kind of pain and misery that you’re in, I’d shoot it. Kaylee told me what you said once, that everybody dies alone. That is without a doubt true, but up until that very second of death you do not have to be alone, Captain, you do not have to be alone. Of course, if you run out every time someone gets close to you, you won’t know when you’re dead, because you’ll always be alone.”
Isabel put the bottle in Mal’s lap; he took it without looking at her. She stood, collected her stool and walked down the ramp.
*End of part 18*
Tuesday, November 06, 2007 3:53 PM
Tuesday, November 06, 2007 5:16 PM
Tuesday, November 06, 2007 5:42 PM
Wednesday, November 07, 2007 7:23 AM
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