BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Respite - REPOST
Sunday, November 18, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Freya is trying to get Inara to talk, and has to use some unorthodox methods.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1651    RATING: 0    SERIES: FIREFLY

The noise of the gunshot made her almost drop the pin she was trying to slide into her hair. Looking irritably into the mirror, Inara wondered idly why Mr Boden would be going after the rats at this time of the morning, although she was later than she normally liked. In the ten days since Serenity left, something about being back in her own bed had started her sleeping late, as if it was safer, more secure …

She tried again with the pin, trying not to see the bandages still wrapping her arms, and almost had it in place when another bang reverberated through the house.

Run tse duh fuo tsoo,” she swore, her fingers trembling, the pin slipping from them to fall to the floor. She reached down to pick it up, then stopped. What if it wasn’t Mr Boden after rats? What if it was rats of a bigger, more terrible kind? Her reflection was pale, shaking.

Standing up she hurried to the window, almost afraid to look but more afraid not to. What she saw made her grip the curtains so tightly she crushed the fabric. Another gunshot rang out.

Ching-wah tsao duh liou,” she breathed, heading for the door, pausing only to grab the scrunchy she used for catching her hair up when she had a bath. Pulling her heavy tresses through it, she ran down the stairs and outside into the frosty morning air.

“Nah, girl, you’re holding it too tight,” came a gravelly voice from the orchard. “You gotta keep it in your palm like it’s your lover. Too soft and she’ll drop, too hard and the recoil’ll break your hand.”

“Like this, Mr Cobb?” A young female voice now.

“That’s better. And you can call me Jayne. Mr Cobb makes me sound too old.”

“It’s what Inara told us to call you.”

“You listen to everything she says?”

“Some.” The girl giggled, joined by others.

“Well, I’m saying you call me Jayne. Most everyone else does.”

“Okay. But why -”

“What the hell is going on?” Inara demanded, striding through the trees, her anger keeping her warm.

Valentia Reilly was standing on her own, her arm outstretched, while the other girls were gathered around a chair, all in thick winter coats, and they moved as she approached so she could see Jayne ensconced, as if on a throne, equally warmly dressed.

“Hey, there, ‘Nara,” the big man grinned. “You finally decided to show your face?”

“It’s not that late.” She wondered why she was suddenly on the defensive.

“Nearly time for lunch.”

She stopped next to him. “Is that all you think about?”

He shrugged, an interesting movement since he had Ethan on his lap. “More or less. Ain’t had nothing to kill for a while, and since River ain’t here I’m not likely to get any …” He glanced at the little boy who was all wide-eyed. “So I figured I’d teach the girls here how to shoot.”

“To shoot.”

“Yeah. Seeing as I got a few of my guns here, and Lana’s just about small enough for ‘em to be able to handle -”

“Teach them to shoot.”

“Sure.” He looked at her in surprise. “Got a problem with that?”

“They’re children,” Inara hissed, watching Valentia put the gun very carefully down onto the small table at Jayne’s side.

“Well, wouldn’t exactly say -”

“And you think it’s right that children learn to handle firearms?”

“You did.”

She stared at him. “What?”

“Frey told me.” He settled Ethan more comfortably. “Companion training, and all that. Showed ya how to use a sword. And other stuff.”

“I’m not a Companion any more.”

“So that means you’ve forgotten?” He grinned at her. “Kinda sure that ain’t how it works.”

“That isn’t the point. I’m a grown woman. These girls are … girls.”

“And out here in the black they need to know how to protect themselves.” Freya peeled herself away from the tree where she’d been leaning, standing so still Inara hadn’t seen her.

Inara stared at her. “You knew about this?”

“I suggested it.”

“You …” Inara couldn’t believe the anger building up inside her. “And you didn’t think to ask my permission?”

“You’d have said no.”

“Damn right I would!” She burned with righteous fury. “I’m trying to teach them how to be ladies, not cowboys!”

“Well, I don’t see ‘em wearing holsters and spurs -” Jayne put in, then stopped at the look Inara gave him.

“Is there anything wrong with that?” Freya asked softly. “I don’t wear spurs, but I wear a holster.” She looked down at her swelling belly. “Admittedly not right now, but are you saying there’s something wrong with me?”

“No, of course not, but you’re not a -”

“Not what, Inara? Because I seem to recall I was going to be.”

Inara stopped. She’d forgotten, as most people did, that Freya was Core-bred. They’d got so used to her in her pants and boots, gun at her hip, that they forgot her blood family was rich, powerful. “I didn’t mean -”

“And even then it’s not exactly mutually exclusive.”

“But if they’re going to behave like ladies -”

“You think they’re going to live on Osiris?” Freya smiled a little. “Amongst the greatest of the Alliance?”

“As much as that would annoy Mal, no, I wasn’t suggesting that. But if they can learn to be more refined at least they can take their place in society elsewhere.”

“And you think not handling guns is going to do that?”

“I’m more worried about what handling guns will do! I’m trying to give them a choice here, Freya, so they can decide where they want to be, who they want to become, and not be forced to live out on the Rim because they can only say ain’t.”

“So am I. And if Hermione had carried a gun when she went out that day they might not have taken her,” Freya added.

Inara felt her blood run cold. She looked around for the young girl, but realised she wasn’t amongst her sisters. “Where is -”

“She wouldn’t come down. She’s still afraid.”

“I’m not surprised with all these guns around!” Inara gestured towards the firearms on the table.

“No. Afraid someone will come along and take her again.” Freya took a step closer. “Like you are.”

“I’m not afraid!”

“Of course you are. Afraid for them, afraid for yourself …”

“Stay out of my mind!”

“I’m not in there. I don’t have to be.” She glanced at the Reilly girls, who had huddled together. “Why don’t we go in the house? Talk? We haven’t done that yet.”

Xiong can wang ba dan de biao zi.”

“Mal really was a bad influence on you, wasn’t he?” Freya said, hearing nervous laughter from someone.

“It’s not Mal. It’s you. I wish I’d never said you could stay! I don’t need you here! I don’t need anyone!” Inara turned furiously on her heel and strode back towards the house, anger radiating off her like heat.

“Frey …” Jayne began, but the other woman stopped him.

“You just carry on,” she said. “I’ll take care of this.” Freya patted him on the shoulder, touched Ethan’s cheek and followed Inara.

“Auntie ‘Nara mad?” Ethan asked, snuggling down into Jayne’s warm lap, watching his mother disappear into the house.

“You know, sometimes I figure your Auntie River’s craziness is catching,” the big man said softly, shaking his head.

“Auntie ‘Nara’s crazy?” Ethan giggled.

“Wouldn’t be at all surprised if she ain‘t gotten a big dose.”

“Mama help her.”

“Yeah. Figure she can.” Jayne looked up at the girls. “Well? What’re you standing around for?”

“Inara didn’t want us to do this,” Letitia said warily.

“Inara around here? Right now?”

“Um … no.”

“Then pick up that gun and try again. And remember, squeeze, don’t pull.”

---

Inara hurried into the dining room, slamming the door closed behind her. She leaned on the table, still set for the breakfast she hadn’t had, and stared into nothing.

Damn that woman! Damn her and all her wiles, her interfering. She didn’t need her, didn’t need any of them. If they’d just leave her alone, she could deal with this in her own way. Do all the things she’d been taught at the Training House, and honed over years of being a Companion - meditate, cleanse, purify … The boom of another gunshot from outside made the fury surge within her and she swept the plates to the floor, hearing them smash.

“Hope that wasn’t a good set,” Freya said, closing the door behind her.

“Go away.”

“No.”

“Go away!”

“Not until we’ve talked.”

“I don’t need to talk. I am dealing with it.”

“Well, you surely don’t seem to be doing too good a job of it.”

“Go away, Freya.”

“I mean, the cuts on your arms are probably almost healed, yet you won’t take the bandages off.”

Inara turned, the truth finally dawning on her. “You orchestrated this, didn’t you?” she demanded to know. “Jayne and the guns, the girls …”

“You won’t talk. You haven’t said a thing about what happened to you. I thought it might be a way of breaking through that famous veneer of yours.”

“What veneer?”

“Oh, come on, Inara. No-one has ever seen the real you. There’s always this armour in place, so no-one gets through. Even Mal never did.”

She flinched at his name. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“No?” Freya picked up a plate, miraculously unbroken. “Here. You missed one.”

Pofu.” She took it, held it tightly.

“You’re angry.”

”Damn right I’m angry!”

“At who?”

“You!” Inara threw the plate with all the force in her, shattering it against the wall.

“And?”

Inara stared. “And what?”

“And who else? Or would you like me to tell you? Angry at Han for what he did to you?”

Her face went white. “Don’t be so -”

“Angry at him for giving you to his man so he could rape you too?”

“Frey -”

“Or angry at yourself because you walked into his house thinking he was a friend? At being so blind? At letting him do those things to you?”

Inara flew at Freya, her hands out, fingers like claws, but the other woman just deflected her, turning her so she could wrap her arms around her, holding her still.

“You didn’t give him permission, Inara. What he did, what he took, was against your will. That’s why they call it rape. It isn’t something you can agree to. And you didn’t. You fought him. You won.”

Inara collapsed in her arms, taking them both to the floor. “I didn’t win. I let him. I tried to save the girls and I lost.”

“Hermione’s upstairs. Trianne is with her parents.” She paused a moment. “And the other girl had died before you even arrived. You couldn’t save her. But you saved the others.”

“No,” Inara whimpered.

“Yes. By giving him something else to do.” Freya held her tightly. “You gave Mal time. Otherwise …” She shuddered, having been unable to block the image her husband had of the body of the girl who’d been killed, what Han had done to her. “You saved them, Inara.”

Inara could feel the swell of the child inside her friend as she leaned, taking comfort from the new life. “I let him do those things to me. I let him.”

“You know, I read somewhere once that only the devil looks on the deeds and not the motives.” Freya began to rock soothingly, just gently.

“That man was the devil.” Inara shivered, feeling someone walking over her grave. “I didn’t know. How could I not know what he was?”

“Are you God?”

“What?”

“Well, it’s the only way you’d know everything. Be omniscient.”

“But I should have been able to see, to at least get some inkling of what he wanted, of what he had become …”

“He was very good at hiding it.”

“But my training, the years I spent learning how to read body language, signals … I still should have -”

“How?” Freya shook her head. “The Alliance were looking for him too, and they never caught up with him. You think a few hours in his company would make you an expert on him?”

Inara shook her head. “When he came with Rosette, we talked. For a long time. About all sorts of things. But I didn’t … I couldn’t tell that was what he was thinking about.”

“Maybe he wasn’t.” Freya sighed. “Inara, in my experience men like that have minds that are pretty much compartmentalised. Work in one, you in another, raping girls in a third … and they never meet. When he was with you he wasn’t thinking about defiling children. Just like when he was hurting you he wasn’t thinking about the beautiful and amazing woman you are.”

“Don’t. Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not.” Freya squeezed a little more. “If I were sly, or even that way inclined, you’d be the woman I’d want to be with.”

Inara laughed. It was shaky, not lasting very long, but it was a laugh all the same. “I’m going to tell Mal that.”

“Fine. He can have more fantasies about us being together.”

“He has fantasies about that?”

“So does Jayne. Well, he did. Now it tends to be you and River.”

“You’re lying.”

“Prove it.”

Inara sat up. “Except that’s so …”

“Jayne.”

“I suppose so.”

“Look, can we at least sit on the sofa? My ass is falling asleep,” Freya complained. “And in my condition …”

Inara immediately got to her feet, holding out her hand. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” She took it, getting up slightly more awkwardly.

“He said … he said it was my fault,” Inara suddenly blurted out, still holding tight. “That when he … when we were contracted together, he was trying to recreate what it felt like. Being my … being my first.”

Freya closed her eyes. This was what Inara had been afraid to say. “So you think all of this was your doing?”

“He said … he said it pained me, and he wanted to recreate that moment.”

“And did it?”

“What?”

“Pain you.”

“No.” Inara shook her head. “Although a Companion-in-waiting doesn’t have sex, there’s still … there was no pain.”

“Then he was lying.” She pulled Inara back into her arms. “Did you think he was going to tell you the truth?”

“I …” Inara stopped, confused beyond measure.

“What is it about Serenity?” Freya laughed, the vibration communicating itself to the woman in her arms. “We all want to take on the guilt for everything. Mal’s only just getting over surviving the war when so many of his men didn’t, Zoe felt guilty for not dying when Wash did, Jayne wanted Simon to kill him because he hadn’t saved Jethro, and River … well, River tends to feel the guilt of everyone else as well as her own. And we won‘t even touch on what I feel guilty about.”

“But it is my fault.”

“No, Inara. If it hadn’t been you, it would have been someone else. I don’t believe a single act makes a man a monster. If that was the case then the ‘verse would be a dark place filled with corruption. Even more than it is now.”

“Sometimes I wonder we can survive at all.”

“That’s why Mal keeps flying.” Freya moved back enough to look into the other woman’s eyes. “Look, how about I get Mrs Boden to bring us some tea, and we can talk some more.”

“Tea would be …” Inara’s face suddenly crumpled, and tears sprang from her eyes. “Oh, God!”

Freya held her friend tightly, letting her cry, feeling the pain that was going to take a long time to go welling up inside her, ready to be there for her as long as it took.

Outside in the hallway Jayne stood, Ethan holding tightly to his hand.

“Auntie ‘Nara gonna be all right?” the little boy asked again, his free fist tangling in his hair.

“Can you feel how she feels?” Jayne asked curiously, but the Freya’s son only shrugged. He didn’t understand about that, not yet. The big man went down onto his heels. “Yeah, she’ll be okay. Might throw some stuff, shout, that kinda thing … but it ain’t aimed at your Ma.”

Ethan nodded. “Mama duck.”

Jayne laughed softly. “Yeah, I reckon your Ma can duck real well. But it’s hard for your Auntie right now, so we have to be good, dong mah?”

“Play with me?” Ethan suggested, tugging on his uncle’s hand.

“Okay. But how about we get something to eat first, eh? I’m starving.”

Ethan giggled. “Uncle Jayne always hungry.”

“Got that right, squirt,” he agreed. “Got that absolutely right.”

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