Trials and Redemptions: Chapter 3 - Apologies
Monday, April 21, 2008

Tempers flare, and maybe not the ones you'd expect...


Firefly, Serenity, and all related proprietary characters are the intellectual property of Joss Whedon and corporations with whom I have no affiliation. Said property does not belong to me, and the fictional story below is of my own creation. (I don’t own ‘em, just like to play with ‘em!) ********************** Simon’s face registered bewilderment. “Please excuse my ignorance, Inara, but I thought it was nearly impossible for Companions to buy their way out of their contracts before achieving twenty years of service. You aren’t nearly old enough to have completed even fifteen.” Inara’s face was grim. “I knew I shouldn’t have mentioned any of the specifics. You are correct, Simon, I only recently completed my twelfth year. I am fairly sure I know what your next question will be, but go ahead.” Simon started to do just that, but Kaylee interrupted him. “Wait a sec, why’s it matter how many years ‘Nara put in? She wants out, that’s her business, not theirs. Oh, and congrats, ‘Nara, right shiny you can do what you like now.” Simon sighed. So naïve she is… “Kaylee, Guild members are required to serve for at least twenty years before retirement. If they wish to retire before then, they must purchase each un-served year from the Guild. The rule was initially intended to prevent young girls from joining if they were not absolutely certain, but it has become a way for the Guild to obtain additional funds from older Companions who might otherwise be unable to provide their expected percentage in income. Please correct me if I’m wrong, Inara, but I believe the cost to purchase a single year of the contract back from the Guild is somewhere around five hundred thousand credits?” Inara nodded solemnly. “Plus an additional quarter million credits for every year beyond the fifth. But Kaylee is right, I am no longer beholden to the Guild, nor am I subject to the whims of the Alliance. Unfortunately, I no longer have any assets, and I will be leaving when we land on Persephone.” “And go where? You have no job, no money, and no family that you’ve mentioned. You’ve got a perfectly good home right here, and people that’ll look after you.” Mal was almost seething. How dare they? Put her in the poorhouse after she worked so hard for them? “And what the hell is wrong with you? Five million credits? ‘Nara, we could’ve worked something out… not that I ain’t glad you’re done bein’ associated with those people, but why not just cut bait? Ain’t like they’re goin’ to chase you around the ‘verse for years on end.” Exasperation bled into Simon’s voice, despite his best efforts. “Mal, you don’t know these people. To them, Inara is an asset, and a valuable one at that. You think the Operative was a heap of trouble, wait until you have the entire Companion’s Guild raining down on you. If she runs, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill everyone on this ship without asking any questions, if they thought it would get her back.” “Simon is right, Mal. This was the only way. It took every last possession and credit I own, save what’s currently in my shuttle, to scrape together four and a half million. I owe the Guild another quarter of a million credits within six weeks, or I’ll be forced to complete another year of service, and I would still owe them the balance. That’s why I have to leave when we land at Persephone. I need to find some employment, and I’m not permitted to take clients.” Inara’s face was stoic, but by the time she finished speaking, her voice was beginning to crack. No one spoke for a moment. Jayne shoved back his chair, walked over to the case of scopes and opened it. “Mal, you know a good fence we can use?” “Jayne, can you please stop thinking about yourself for one gorram minute? Besides, Albatross was nice enough to steal those and give ‘em to you, why the hell do you want to sell ‘em? Figure they might be the nicest thing anyone’s ever given you, and you can actually use ‘em.” Mal’s irritation was clear and the next words out of Jayne’s mouth were going to be very important. “The girl is not offended, Chuán zhăng. He intends to put the money he obtains to good use. He doesn’t want to sell them all, just the ones he won’t use. She is proud of him.” River was actually on the verge of tears. Jayne’s voice was somber. “She’s right, Mal. Don’t wanna sell ‘em, but ‘Nara’s more important. Figure if we can get street value, we can sell these seven right here, get maybe seven hundred, eight hundred thousand platinum… that’s about a quarter of a million credits, but we can sell some more if we have to. Don’t matter none to me, they ain’t even really mine. If I hadn’t opened my big mouth this afternoon and told her gorram brother to leave her the hell alone for once, she’d still have ‘em under the couch in the lounge. She woulda been right to sell ‘em when we got to Persephone, not never gave ‘em to me at all.” Jayne shut the case and turned around. “So d’you got someone we can talk to? If not, I might be able to find people on Persephone, but nobody there’s gonna have enough cash on ‘em to buy more than one, maybe two. Could go the whole six weeks and not find even that.” Inara was out of her seat and at Jayne’s side in seconds, hugging the mercenary. “Jayne, you’d do that? For me? I don’t know what to say, except thank you. It will take some time, but I promise I will pay back every credit, and I mean it, every credit. It wouldn’t be right to take so much money from you.” Inara was crying openly now, but she didn’t care. “Don’t think on that, ‘Nara. Ain’t me you should be thankin’ anyways. The girl’s the one who got ‘em, ‘spect she’d do the same. You ain’t payin’ nothin’ back, and ‘less anyone objects, think you should be keepin’ whatever we get from sellin’ the scopes that don’t have to go to that greedy Guild. Not right you bein’ broke after all you’ve done to help us.” Jayne carefully peeled Inara off of himself and deposited her in Mal’s lap. “Gotta go find a case for what we’re sellin’, think we oughta keep the big one.” Jayne strolled out of the kitchen, heading for the cargo bay. River was the next to get up. “Jiě jie, please inform Captain Tight-Pants that the girl is not speaking to him until further notice.” Storming out of the kitchen, her face was icy as she headed for her room. “Impressive work, sir. Have to say, I agree with the sentiments of the little one. Jayne hasn’t put so much as a toenail outta line since…” Zoë’s pause was halting, as though she didn’t realize what she was saying until the last moment and stopped herself. Zoë’s swift stride carried her out of the kitchen in an instant, pausing only momentarily in the hall for further comment. “I’ll be on the bridge, need to find us some weapons merchants.” Kaylee got up from her seat and marched over to Mal’s chair, glaring at him over Inara’s shoulder. “That was right shiny of Jayne, volunteerin’ and all. Maybehaps you didn’t notice while you were interrogating River, but Jayne sat there, still as a statue, couldn’t hardly talk none. Must’ve been shocked that someone on this ship besides me was finally bein’ nice to him, after all the good he did back on that moon. Watched after River like he was her own personal bodyguard, keepin’ them purple-bellies away from her. Watched over the rest of us too, when we was too sick to do anything. Not one of us ever said thank you neither, me included, and it makes me feel ashamed o’myself. Not to River neither, come to think of it. The two of ‘em held us together all by themselves, and not so much as a “by your leave” from the rest of us!” Kaylee was probably the angriest Mal had ever seen, and that included some fairly memorable incidents during which Simon put his foot in his mouth. “Kaylee-bear, why don’t we all—” But Kaylee wasn’t going to be interrupted. “I ain’t done yet, Cap’n, and I ain’t gonna stand for it no more. First I’m gonna go apologize to both of ‘em and say thank you, like they deserve. Then I’m gonna try to help Jayne find somethin’ to store the pretty gun-parts in, so we can take ‘em to buyers and they don’t break or nothin’. And I swear on a stack of Bibles, Malcolm Reynolds, if you don’t make nice with everyone on this boat before we hit dirt, Jayne and River especially, I will make you regret it if it’s the last gorram thing I do in the ‘verse. C’mon Simon, you’re coming with me, and you better not whine about it, or so help me, you’ll be joinin’ the Cap’n.” And with that, Kaylee stormed out of the kitchen towards Jayne’s bunk, grabbing Simon’s wrist and dragging him out of his chair on the way past. Inara had finally stopped crying by the time Kaylee finished her tirade, but her voice was only a whisper. “She’s right, you know. We have to fix this. This is my fault too, I shouldn’t have said anything in front of the crew.” Mal stroked Inara’s hair where it cascaded over her back. “Shh, don’t pay them no mind. Not right now anyways. I’m right proud of you, tryin’ to stand on your own two feet, and walkin’ away from the Guild. But it was foolish of you, tryin’ to pay them all that money. Should’ve asked for help, or at least wait some more, save some of yer money.” “Réncí de Fózǔ, Mal, you still don’t get it, do you? I didn’t do this just for me. Thought it was what you wanted… you said you didn’t want me to stay if I was going to still be a Companion because you couldn’t protect me, said I’d be safer at the House on Sihnon. Thought you were trying to avoid the wrath of the Guild.” Inara’s voice was almost exasperated. “Well, I’m no longer a Companion, so I can stay. I have to stay now, for Kaylee and River especially… don’t think they could take it if I had to leave again.” “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, so don’t think on that no more. Now I’m thinking we could both use a drink.” Meanwhile, Kaylee had successfully found Jayne in the cargo bay, with Simon in tow. Jayne had just set the bar back in the rack over his head and was sitting up when they came down the stairs. “Jayne, I’m all kinds of sorry. That was right mean of the Cap’n, makin’ assumptions and all. But I feel worse ‘bout somethin’ else… nobody ever thanked you an’ River after what happened back there… when we were sick an’ all. So I wanted to apologize fer that… not right you two had to do all the work, then get none of the credit.” Jayne grabbed a towel from a nearby crate and wiped himself off a bit. “It’s shiny, Kaylee, don’t need thanks. Things needed gettin’ done, the girl an’ me were only ones not strapped to tables gettin’ better. Just did as needed doin’.” Jayne got up from the bench to add more weight to the bar. It was quiet for a moment until Kaylee jabbed Simon in the ribs, reminding him he also needed to apologize. “Umm, thanks Jayne. You did good work, and you getting along with River was a nice surpri— OWW!” Kaylee’s heavy boot had landed on top of Simon’s foot. “What I meant was, thanks for looking after her.” Jayne shrugged before sitting back down on the bench. “No worries, Doc. Think the days of me and yer sis bein’ mortal enemies are at an end. Kaylee, I found a case we can use to transport the scopes if we only gotta take two or three at a time. Can wrap ‘em in handkerchiefs or some such so it ain’t obvious what they are, but we’ll have to tell buyers to bring somethin’ to put ‘em in. Think ya can tell Zoë for me?” Jayne lay back down on the bench, struggling a bit at first to get the bar over the catches, but settling into a rhythm after a few seconds. Kaylee bit her fingernail nervously. “Jayne, you shouldn’t be liftin’ that much without a spotter. Want I should get Zoë or the Cap’n?” Jayne shook his head. “I’m just shiny. Go on now, sure you and the Doc got better things to do than watch me.” “Alright, but don’t hurt yourself… c’mon Simon, River said she’d be in her room.” Kaylee was halfway up the steps before Simon moved, apparently lost in thought. But he caught up to her as Kaylee knocked on River’s door. “River, sweetie, can I come in?” River slid the door open a few seconds later, stepping back to let Kaylee enter. But when Simon tried to follow, River pushed it shut again, nipping Simon’s fingertips against the frame, and locking it with an audible click. “Gē ge is a boob, he can stay in the hall until he learns not to be mean.” River turned and flounced onto her bed, rolling over on her back, relatively sure Simon heard her through the screen. “I’m mad at him too, but you shouldn’t be so hard on him, only wants what’s best for ya.” Kaylee sat on the edge of bed next to River, stroking her fingers through River’s perpetually tangled hair. “Suppose ya already know why I’m here, huh?” “Wrong to steal, jiě jie, thoughts are no different than jacks.” River lifted her head to allow Kaylee to fan her hair out over the pillow. Can’t never figure out what the gorram she’s talkin’ ‘bout… “Well Simon an’ I came to ‘pologize, on ‘count of us bein’ thankful fer you and Jayne takin’ care of us ‘n’ everyone. Not nobody said anythin’ ‘fore now, an’ I feel rotten ‘bout it. The two of ya saved us, an’ nobody did right by either of ya.” “No need for apologies. All are grateful, can feel it, even when no one says. But she thanks you for saying it.” River suddenly bolted upright, moving to sit next to Kaylee. “Stupid gē ge, thinks too loud! Don’t want a gorram sedative!” “Whoa, calm down, sweetie! What’d ya say I go provide a distraction, get yer brother to leave ya alone, and ya can go off and play for a while?” Kaylee was still unnerved by River’s sudden mood swings, no matter how much time they spent together. River visibly relaxed, turning to Kaylee with a wide smile. “The girl would appreciate uninterrupted free time. She has things to do and people to talk to.” Carefully disentangling her fingers, Kaylee stood and walked to the door. “Gimme about two minutes. Have fun!” With that, Kaylee opened the door and bounced away to find Simon, with one very particular lesson in mind. __________________________________________ gŏu shĭ – shit; Réncí de Fózǔ – Merciful Buddha; mèi mei – sister (younger)

gē ge – brother (older); fēng kuáng dì – crazy; bèn lǘ wú zhī – stupid-ass ignorant

Tā mā dì mĕi gè rén zài yŭ zhòu hè shí bā gè hòu dài, tā men dì zŭ xiān sĭ xíng! – Fuck everyone in the ‘verse and eighteen generations of their ancestors to death!

bǎo bèi – precious; Qĭng jìn lái – Please come in; wŏ de mā! – my god! (lit. my mother!)

Chuán zhăng – Captain; piào liang fū ren – pretty lady; piào liang dì fū ren dì jīng xĭ – pretty lady’s surprise

nī zi – little girl; Shén shèng dì pái xiè wù – Holy excrement

jiě jie – sister (older); nǚ zhàn shì – female warrior

hé huā kāi huā – lotus blossom; xiăo hè – little lotus; xiăo hé huā – little lotus flower



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