BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

DESERTGIRL

Underground - Epilogue (repost)
Monday, November 19, 2007

The aftermath


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2216    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Summary – The aftermath Disclaimer – They all belong to Joss, I just enjoy hanging out in their midst. This story is a hundred times better because of all the wonderful betatype advice given to me by Mal4prez. I throw many thank yous in her direction. If you haven’t read the beginning, I’d suggest starting at the Prologue Thanks so much to all of you who have taken the time to leave me such shiny comments. It just makes my heart go pitter pat when my email downloads notifications from FFN. ********* Underground - Epilogue The Dancing Boar was quiet at two in the afternoon. Not even the usual ‘I know you’re not open yet but can I hang out anyway?’ crowd was there. Mira figured most folks were confused by the Boar having been closed the previous night. In as long as she could remember, the Dancing Boar had never been closed for an entire evening, but Papa Ankerson couldn’t run the Boar by himself anymore, and she’d been stuck in a meadow deep in the Tridenthian Mountains. People would understand, they would return in just a few hours; as soon as she opened the doors and flipped on the lights. For now, Mira was enjoying just sitting at a small table in the corner with her sister Sorla and Papa Ankerson, staring at the cup of tea she held in her hand. Sorla was talking non-stop, relaying the events of the last thirty six hours, but Mira was so lost in her thoughts that she only heard a portion of it. Mira was startled out of her musings by the elderly man laying his hand on hers. “Carli truely gunna be OK?” he asked her. “It certainly appears that way. She’s upstairs asleep. I’m supposed to give her smoothers every few hours for a few days. She probably won’t work for quite awhile, but she’ll recover. I don’t even expect too many scars. That doc Jayne flies with seems to really know his stuff.” She smiled inwardly as she thought of Jayne. He was the reason, more than any other, she hadn’t pushed to return to Lonepine until this morning. “I see that look in your eyes, girl,” Papa Ankerson jested. “Yer not gonna go back on our deal and run off with a spacer are ya?” Mira nudged him and smiled. “Nah, you know screaming pixies couldn’t drag me away from the Boar, you old codger.” She was silent a moment and then said, “Still, Trythes makes a great hidin’ hole, perhaps with the right incentives we could see them again.” “Not Katra though,” Sorla said. “I don’t think we’ll ever see her again. Did you see all the stuff she was loading onto that shuttle? I think the entire farm house is cleared out. They had to make two trips and the shuttle was so full both times, you could hardly steer. And the way Mama was cryin’ you’d think there was a death in the family or somethin’.” “`Tis true I don’t ‘spect Katra to return.” Mira stared at her tea again as she spoke. “She don’t want to face us, not with our knowing she took the gold. She gave the ranch to the Shepherd though.” The old man gave a slight huff. “Church’ll probably reopen the mine. Those clergy on the core all have to have their trinkets, ya know.” “No Papa,” Mira corrected him. “Katra gave the ranch to Stevenson, not the church. He’ll do right with it. Did ya know his friend calls him Wormfood?” All three at the table chuckled wholeheartedly at the nickname, as well as Sorla’s attempts at guessing its origins. Their laughter was broken abruptly by the front door being thrown open. In ran Ashti, her hair falling down in tangles, her dress covered in blood, her face stained from tears. She rushed directly to her elder sister who stood at the site of her. Ashti buried her face in her sister’s arms and again began to sob. “He’s dead, my poor lion. He’s dead.” Mira just held her and let her cry for a while. Sorla joined them in the embrace so that for a few minutes, both sisters were supporting the sobbing mass that was Ashti. “Now, sweetie, tell us what happened.” Mira smoothed her sisters’ hair and directed her to sit. “He didn’t come. He always meets me at the lake. I waited and waited. All I could think about was the last time that I saw him, he ran from me. He was so mad when I told him what Mama said about the fireworks. I didn’t understand, he’s the only man that ever really loved me, I couldn’t loose him. I wanted things to be right again, so when he didn’t come last night, I went to find him.” Ashti’s sobs intensified so that she could barely get the words out. “He’s always told me to stay away from his office, but I was so worried. “The place was deserted, not a soul was there, but there were bodies, lot’s of bodies,” Ashti squeezed out between the tears. “I finally found him.” She paused again. “Someone hacked my lion to bits. He and Datron, they were laying in pieces, their heads hung from the bay doors.” Mira felt her stomach hit the floor. She reached over and gently turned her sister’s face so that she could look into her eyes “Ashti, are you sayin’ the man you’ve been runnin’ with these past months was Vetch Mahogan? And that you told him that there were plans to blow the mine?” Ashti’s sobs intensified, her crying becoming inconsolable as she nodded her head. “Oh, Ashti,” Mira moaned. ************* “Oh – you have got to be kidding me!” Mal heard Kaylee shout from inside the starboard engine following a large string of colorful Chinese. He was standing just inside shuttle two which had been parked next to Serenity’s open cargo bay. They’d spent the entire day loading crates of sundries into the shuttle at the farm house, and then unloading them here. Katra was now repacking each crate to hide her half of the gold before securing them in the cargo bay. ‘Sundries my foot,’ Mal thought to himself. Mal was not quite sure why any woman needed so much stuff. But he had a big cargo hold and although normally he would be chomping at the bit to get off the world after a job this big, they couldn’t leave anyway. Not `till Kaylee fixed the engine. Luckily, no one seemed to care that the Lazy Moon Mine no longer existed. No one seemed to care about the demise of Vetch Mahogan and Datron Howard either. Most importantly, no one seemed to know or care that Serenity were parked here in this valley, a twenty-five minute flight from Lonepine. They were well hidden. The flight over the tall jagged peaks of the Tridenthian Mountains that surrounded them was treacherous at best. Mal took just a moment to observe his surroundings; dark ominous clouds rolled across the sky over the grassy meadow in which Serenity was parked. The wind whipped through the trees which grew several hundred yards from the cargo bay door, causing them to bend and shake in a ferocious dance. His thoughts were again interrupted by another roar from his mechanic: “Every time I think I have her almost back together, something else breaks!” Mal watched Kaylee crawl out of the engine and riffle through a pile of parts laying once again in an orderly fashion on a tarp on the grass. It had taken her most of the afternoon the day before to find and reorder all the bits and pieces of the starboard engine that Wash thrown into a pile in the cargo bay in his rush to take off. Kaylee had cursed so loud when she saw the engine parts piled in a heap that even Jayne had blushed. Once she crawled inside the engine, the curses got worse. “Captain, what ever in the world possessed you to try and fly with one engine down?” Kaylee had barked at him. “You gotta treat her nice! You can’t do things like flying her half broken. She rebels.” “Sorry, little Kaylee. Only did what had to be done. Next time, don’t go getting yourself snatched so as you can keep us straight on her proper care dong ma?” he had replied. “I’ll do my best Cap.” The smile had returned to Kaylee’s face for a few seconds before she had crawled back into the engine. That had been almost 36 hours ago. Without noticing that he was watching her, Kaylee extracted a long cylindrical tube and a bundle of wires from the tarp. Frowning at the pile of parts laying before her, she selected one and crawled back in the engine. “Kaylee,” Mal called after her. “What are we lookin’ like? This pile is lookin’ real small compared to this morning. You think we’ll be able to take off soon?” “Depends how good those parts from Jamison are. They work fine, were out a here around nightfall. They don’t work, I’ll have to go to Tritan City. But you guys really messed her up flyin’ like that. The starboard regulators weren’t turned off proper and blew out the compression coils. I haven’t even looked over at the port workin’s. Who know’s what I’ll find over there” “I’d best leave you to it then,” Mal called into the engine before he walked on into Serinity’s cargo bay. “No!” Katra screamed “you can’t just do that.” Jayne was dumping a box of table cloths and napkins out of a full crate for repacking. She grabbed the napkins that had fallen onto the cargo bay floor and began to refold them. “I have no clue what Mira sees in you, you’re like a bull in a china shop. And don’t you dare even think of goin’ near my mother’s china. You can’t just put stuff in boxes willy-nilly. You have to fold things, and place the rolled up bars in the middle. She demonstrated refolding some of the linins Jayne had dumped out and reboxing them with three of the gold bars. “Hey, captain said help you stash your loot, said nothin’ about how.” “Katra, you almost got them bars stored?” Mal asked, alerting the two of them to his presence. “We really don’t want them layin’ around. You never know who’s gunna show up.” “Almost, I think there’re about ten left.” Katra said, examining the almost empty pallet resting on the floor. Then, noticing something blue being rolled into a ball, she turned to Jayne. “Jayne! Didn’t your mama ever teach you to fold a table cloth?” She ripped the blue cloth out of his hands and began to fold it herself. “Get out of here; you’re doing more harm than good.” “Fine with me, I’ll see to my own stash to be hid.” Jayne ambled up the stairs out of the cargo bay, obviously pleased to be leaving. Mal set down the crate he was carrying and picked up the table cloth which Katra had just liberated from Jayne. Mal had concealed his half of the gold in no less than twenty hidden pockets of the ship. It had been his suggestion that Katra do the same. “Your doin’ a fine job hiding them bars. If any of these crates gets stolen or searched, you’re not out your entire fortune.” he told her, placing the cloth in the crate and adding a gold bar. Mal was placing several loose napkins on top of the golden bar when he felt her hands on him. “Girl, what are you playin’ at?” he whipped around to say. He didn’t get all the words out because before he realized it, she had reached up and begun to kiss him. Her lips lingered on his, and he just could not help but put his arms around her. Her skin was soft against his cheek; her body firm and muscular. Involuntarily, his mind began thinking of what it would be like to lay with her. It had been quite some time since he had gone the distance with any woman. He began to imagine her naked, up against the bulkhead, her dress discarded on the floor. Slowly he slid his hand along her back in the direction of her zipper, and then abruptly he stopped. What in the tian xiaode was he doing? Nothing good would come of this. Katra was not the woman he dreamed of sleeping next to at night. “I thought we agreed to give up that ruse?” Mal declared, pulling away from her as soon as he was able. “Yup we did,” Katra answered. “I just wanted to thank you for everything. You’re a real gentleman, you know that?” She smiled at him. Mal certainly did not feel much like a gentleman at this particular moment. He was about to say so when they heard a clunk from the catwalks. Above their heads and at the far end of the cargo bay something fell down three flights of stairs. Mal looked up to see dark curly hair and red silk disappearing back into shuttle one. “Inara’s back, everyone!” Wash’s voice came over the com unit. ‘A few minutes earlier, with the announcements next time.’ Mal thought to himself staring up at the dark hole into which Inara had vanished. “We’ll continue this conversation about my gentlemenlyness some other time. I, uh, got captainy things to do,” Mal said by way of excusing himself and raced up the metal staircase, picking up a slightly dented lacquered box as he went. He was amazed the thing had not smashed to bits when it fell, but the ivory inlay was completely intact. It only took him a few minutes to climb the stairs to Inara’s shuttle. Sitting at her dressing table, brushing her hair, she turned to look at him as he entered. She seemed to have something of a crushed look on her face, but Mal could not be sure, her companions mask covered it well. “Don’t you ever knock?” “Just wanted to welcome you back,” Mal said ignoring the remark. “Also wanted to tell ya that we’ve got a passenger for the next leg of the journey.” “I saw. You and she should be quite cozy for the trip too…Where is it we’re going again? It’d be nice to know so I can make arrangements.” “Not sure yet.” Mal said “The deal was we’d help her liberate some items and haul her to some new world, she didn’t specify where.” “So, she’s a client. I was under the impression you disapproved of getting paid for sex. Or was what I saw simply a perk of the job?” “Well, we had this ruse goin’ to give her a reason to leave.” He wasn’t sure why he felt he needed to defend himself, but continued anyway. “We just pretended…” “Well go pretend your way out of my shuttle.” Her voice was getting agitated, but Mal didn’t want to leave just yet. He was not in the wrong here, and he didn’t want to end this encounter just because she was in one of her huffy moods. “Didn’t come looking for a fight,” he replied. “I brought you your box.” He held it out awkwardly. “Truthfully I’m amazed it didn’t break when it fell. Just dented a bit, see?” He turned the box over on the back to show her the slight damage. “Give me that,” she said and grabbed it from his hands. “You’re a hypocrite. You know that? You can sleep with clients as a way of doing your thieving, but you give me nothing but flack for honoring age old traditions and earning an honest living. You don’t deserve a gift. Get out. Perhaps your new client can do you something special.” “I never slept with her,” Mal replied incredulously. “Just some kissin’ in public, to give folks the right idea.” “And the cargo bay is a public place? You ought to stop now, before you explain yourself into a hole deeper than your ship.” He stopped. He was not going to win this argument. He turned to leave, and took two steps before something she’d said clicked in his head. He turned back around. “That box, it was a gift?” “Just something I came across, seemed like something a petty thief should own. It looks like a piece of art, but when you do, this, this and this,” She twisted three of the inlaid ivory decorations. Suddenly, a drawer he couldn’t even tell existed popped open. She removed a small velvet bag and tossed him the box. “Here, I thought it would be good for hiding valuables when your ship gets searched.” He examined the box, at a complete loss as to what to say. It was the perfect gift for him. “I…” he started, but she stopped him. “Just take it and go.” She turned around and resumed brushing her hair, laying the small velvet bag on the table in front of her. “Inara, I…” He placed his hand on her shoulder for a minute, contemplating how to continue. Finally he gave into curiosity and asked, “What’s in the bag?” “None of your business,” came the pert reply. “Well, if the box was for me, and it was in the box. I thought it might be for me too.” “If you must know, it’s rent. Six month’s rent, non-traceable, easily hidden, and easily transportable. It occurred to me it would be nice to have a couple months pre-paid so that next time you decide to avoid the civilized ‘verse I wouldn’t have to lose sleep coming up with dignified schemes to pay you. But rent isn’t due for four more days so you can just wait while I decide if I want to give it to you. Maybe I’ll jump ship and find a luxury liner where I could eat good food and spend my nights dancing.” Mal examined Inara’s face, trying to get a feel for just how serious she was about what she was saying. What did she mean by dignified schemes? What had she thought he would do if she couldn’t make rent, try to collect it in her own trade? He knew that the only reason she hadn’t worked was that Serenity’s last few ports had been backwaters. Sure, he’d tease her for a while, but he’d never hold a late rent payment against her. Inara’s face showed nothing but calm practiced composure. She must be really angry, Mal thought to himself; she must think he was slime, especially if she was joking about luxury liners. He could remember at least twelve occasions where she went off on how she hated the idea of them. Mal couldn’t help himself. He reached over her shoulder and grabbed the bag, then poured its contents into his hand. He stared down at it, again not quite sure what to say. In his hand was a rainbow of glistening gemstones; more than he could count. There were rubies and diamonds; sapphires and emeralds; plus an assortment of semiprecious stones he couldn’t name. “They’re not yours, so don’t start drooling.” “Inara, a few days ago you were saying you couldn’t make rent. Where did you get this?” “Mal, with me, there is no pretending. People know when they are getting the real thing.” Inara’s voice was acid; Mal could tell he may have finally pushed her too far. “The men I choose to associate with understand that and they compensate me accordingly. Now get out.” She jostled his hand so that the stones spilled over the bed covers, and pushed him out the door. ******** Katra sat on one of her crates in the cargo bay, staring at a capture of her parents. Tears welled up in her eyes when she saw it laying there in the box. She had been looking for a sweater. Being in space was much colder than she had expected, and not just physically. Without warning, her tears turned into a full-fledged uncontrollable torrent. All she could think was that everything and nothing had gone right, her friends hated her, the captain hated her, now she was alone. Her plan to escape had worked, she should be happy, not feeling this intense pit of emptiness surrounding her. Her tears rolled down her face, smudging the capture. Her sobbing had come so fast and hard that she didn’t hear or see the other woman walk up to her. Only when she felt the arm around her shoulder did she realize that she wasn’t alone. She didn’t even look up, and see who was holding her. Just for a moment she enjoyed feeling as if she was not alone, that there was someone in this verse that cared for her. It was the lavender scent that gave away who has holding her, that and the silk feel of her dress. There was only one person on this ship that dressed in silk, and Katra had never even spoken to her. “It’s hard to give up everything. Even when, in your heart of hearts, you know you’re doing the right thing,” the voice said softly in her ear. “I don’t know why I’m so upset. I got what I wanted. I’m alive and off that awful moon. No one is trying to steal my home and my livelihood. No one is trying to kill me. I should be happy. “It’s just… my family was stolen, and I had to give away my friends to save myself. It just struck me that I’m all alone.” Katra’s tears continued to flow. “Sometimes, everything has to be taken away before you can truly start over.” Inara continued to rub her back as she spoke. “Zoë told me about the mine and your family and Mal told me about your ruse to save face with the locals. They wouldn’t have cared, you know.” “That’s what Sharla said, but they’ll resent me in time. After the shock wears off. I’ll never be able to go back.” “Would you want to?” Katra thought for a long time before replying honestly, “I don’t know.” “Give it time. I’ve found that families and homes spring up when you’re not looking. Sometimes you run away from one thing only to run smack into something else even better.” For the first time during their conversation, Katra turned and looked at the woman sitting next to her on the crate. She was grateful to have someone to talk to. Her tears slowed to a stop as she talked. “I hurt you yesterday. I’m sorry. Mal never told me he was in love with you.” “Mal doesn’t love anyone, I doubt he ever could ever let anyone get that close. The war left some scars to deep to be healed.” Inara picked up the capture laying in Katra’s lap and studied it. “They looked like they loved each other very much.” Katra nodded. Her parents had loved each other. One day, she hoped would find someone to love like that. Inara changed the subject. “Mal said you weren’t sure where you wanted to settle.” “I have enough gold to buy a small ranch somewhere. I like ranching. I understand it. It’s just I have no idea where to go. I had this huge elaborate plan to get the gold and escape and I never thought past getting off Trythes. I was skimming the cortex earlier, trying to decide, but it’s hard. I don’t know anything about anywhere. Mal says he wants a decision by this evening. I think he wants me off his boat. He doesn’t trust me after yesterday.” “I have a client who just recently moved from Persephone to Thoren,” Inara said hesitantly. “He was telling me how the land was beautiful and that he bought a huge ranch for the price of his Persephone town home. I believe it was a bit out of the way though, even for a Rim world, but he went on and on about it for hours. It might be nice to be in a place where everyone is making a fresh start. If you would like, I can send him a wave, see if he would be willing to tell you about it. “I’d like that,” Katra replied. . . . Comments posted before the evil hack …… . Lambytoes Monday, June 25, 2007 - 09:58 . That was a very nice conclusion. It wrapped up the loose ends nicely.

Hope to read more stuff by you soon. :) . …………….. . Leiasky Monday, June 25, 2007 - 11:05

Oh, this was a nice conclusion and I absolutely loved Inara putting Mal in his place.

And Kaylee's tech speak about what was wrong with the engine was well done too. And the cursing that would make even Jayne blush, was a nice touch as well. . ……….. .

BlueEyedBrigadier Saturday, June 30, 2007 - 15:29

Well now...that was certainly quite the ending, I must say. Brilliantly done...but I gotta say I feel more than just a tiny bit torn about how to view Inara's behaviour here.

Inara's point about Mal giving her flack about what she does for a living making him a hypocrite when he remarks about her reaction to Katra kissing him is valid...but the fact she actually reacts harshly and basically teases Mal with the knowledge she can leave at any time without violating her rental agreement via having 6 months' rent on hand indicates she isn't innocent of that charge either. Also interesting to see her comforting Katra after the latter woman's shock has faded and the loneliness has set in; it's mighty nice of Inara...but I gotta wonder if Inara suddenly felt guilty when she found out about the overall story. That or she's making sure Katra gets off of Serenity as soon as friggin' possible. Cuz 'Nara doesn't do competition well, since both Saffron and Nandi provoked some noticeable responses from Inara;)

Still...this was an amazing series, and I can't wait to see what else you got up your sleeve, Desertgirl:D

BEB

COMMENTS

Monday, January 7, 2008 7:58 AM

LADYSAGE


This was a great conclusion. I like how you lead from Katra and Mal, up to Mal and Inara, and then back to Inara comforting Katra. That is a nice little triangle without any of the traditional screw-ups that happen in most "romantic" triangles.

This whole series was fun. Thanks for reposting the comments too. That hack really messed things up around here, but folks are pulling together and recovering nicely.

Again, thanks for sharing and I'll keep reading your work!

:-)


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