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DUPLICITY Series: 3. "Vengeance"
Saturday, May 3, 2008

"Inara renews a vow. Simon decides to tell Kaylee what he overheard. As emotions get heated and the crew take sides Badger calls in a favour."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2172    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "VENGEANCE" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash, Kaylee/Simon. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "APPEARANCES". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net

SUMMARY: "Inara renews a vow. Simon decides to tell Kaylee what he overheard. As emotions get heated and the crew take sides Badger calls in a favour." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.

"VENGEANCE"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Inara was a woman not overly given to sentiment. Emotions could be tricky things, trip you up when you needed to stay calm, send messages you didn't want received. Learning to control them had become a survival instinct honed to razor sharpness. A skill at which she was most adept. The manufacture of the vision of beauty she was to become a goal changing the landscape of her life forever. Being a Companion was more than a job, more even than a vocation. It was her life, her reason for existence. It validated the squallor of her distant past. The fabricated reality where every wish could be fashioned to come true as opposed to a polar opposite so bleak that in a room full of oxygen it would have been airless. Yet one thing she had not jettisoned was her stubborn pride, underpinned by a will of steel. Few people saw the true metal of which she was made.

In the privacy of her shuttle Inara removed the false bottom of her lacquered box. Concealed beneath the ornate chased silver syringe a thin drawer slid open. Inara stared at the small low tech photograph concealed within. It was faded with age but still carried colour to cheeks the mirror of her own. Eyes that would never laugh with her again stared in mute accusation. Her lips moved silently, even now not willing to speak aloud words which might be overheard or betray her. For seven years the truth had been a mystery, the bald facts skimmed over in her mother's letter. The tragedy of loss breaking her mother's heart and sending her to an early grave. Bitterly Inara cursed the good fortune that prevented her from attending the funeral. To admit that lineage would be professional suicide always supposing the Guild would have allowed it in the first place and Inara knew that would never happen. Discreet enquiries had closed that door to her and she had no redress of grievance that could be safely entertained. Not if she wished to keep what she had clawed her way up from the gutter to achieve. Her mother would have been apalled had she thrown it all away to stand beside a grave in some far flung world.

With a small sad sigh, she lifted the photograph and kissed the image. Inara returned it to its' hiding place and slid the narrow drawer closed. Even with her standing within the Guild, her chosen exile had given her something the luxuries of House Madrassa could not provide: the opportunity for revenge. Now, with that goal in sight, Inara hardened her heart and turned her focus to achieving that aim. Blood called out for blood and the debt would be paid in full.

* * * * *

Even if Simon had not known where to find Kaylee he could have done so blind folded. The banging and swearing brought him unerringly to the engine room. For a moment he paused in the doorway, not wanting to have a wrench thrown at his head. Kaylee had her back to the door and was crouching down with the wrench in her right hand. He could not see what she was doing exactly but it seemed to involve staring at the engine with her head tilted to one side then banging it as hard as she could while swearing non stop in Chinese. He was not sure if she was fixing it or trying to break it.

"Kaylee?"

The banging continued along with the swearing. Kaylee's vocabulary becoming more and more colourful. Simon found himself blushing despite knowing that many of the curses were anatomically impossible even if a man was double jointed. And *all* of them were painful.

"Kaylee, *bao bei*, can I talk to you?"

"That *qingwa cao de liumang*! How could he do that to 'Nara?"

Simon tried to answer but the banging just got louder, Kaylee putting all her strength into pounding into the turning heart of the ship she loved every bit as much as her Captain did. It seemed incongruous to Simon for her to take out her anger and frustration on an inamimate object, though he would never be rash enough to describe Serenity as such. To Kaylee the ship was like a living being, her turning metal heart beating in time with the mechanic's own human one. Anyone who dared to say differently risked her not inconsiderable wrath. "Kaylee?"

Whether she paused because she was out of breath or because she finally took notice of his presence, Simon could not be sure. He was just glad the noise had stopped and his ears were no longer ringing. Kaylee turned her head and flushed on seeing him. "Oh, Simon, um I was just tryin' to get a little more outta the engine."

The doctor couldn't help smiling. "By hitting it with a wrench?"

Kaylee looked at the tool in her hand and sheepishly put it back in her toolbox. When she looked back at him he was glad see she had cooled down a little, though the anger was still at war with the hurt in her eyes. It pained Simon to see her so upset. "It ain't fair." She wailed. "'Nara ain't done nothin' wrong. Why's the Cap'n bein' so mean?"

"Kaylee, this isn't what you think."

She blinked at him. Confused. "*Shenme*?"

Awkward now that all her attention was on him, Simon was unsure how to broach a subject that was bound to get her bristling with anger but the part of him that was honest and true did not want to see her labour under a false belief. Even if it meant painting Inara in a less than favourable light, his natural sense of decency cast him now in the unexpected role of Devil's Advocate. Simon Tam had never imagined the day would come when he would willingly be defending Captain Reynolds. Of all the people on Serenity the Companion had always seemed the most cultured, the one he had the most in common with. "I need to talk to you but I don't want to upset you."

A sweet smile teased the frown from her face. "Ain't mad at ya, Simon."

Simon closed the distance between them and gently tucked an errant lock of hair behind her ear. "Can we go somewhere..." He trailed off, not sure how to put it.

The mechanic straightened, her eyes sparkling with anticipation. "We can go to the commons area..."

"No," he rushed "somewhere private."

Kaylee beamed and leaned in to him, looking up at him through her eyelashes. It made Simon feel hot under the collar, his face flushing as he realised the thoughts that must be going through her head.

"I mean, I need to talk to you and..."

"*Fang xin*, ya don't have to explain. We can go to my bunk."

Nodding Simon let Kaylee take his hand and before he could get his brain into gear Kaylee was kicking open her hatch and climbing down the ladder. With a sigh, the doctor followed her down closing the hatch behind him. As he stepped off the ladder it occurred to Simon that maybe this hadn't been his best idea ever. Kaylee watched his fish impressions with a definite shimmer of amusement in her eyes then took pity on him.

"Ain't gonna pounce on ya, Simon." His flush deepened. Kaylee giggled.

"What ya wantin' to talk about?"

Simon did not know how to put it. Life for Simon Tam tended to go pretty much as planned right up until he opened his mouth. It baffled him that he could perform the most intricate and tricky of surgeries yet expressing himself in words seemed an artform he simply could not master. And now here was Kaylee staring at him with wide open eyes as if he was the finest thing she had ever seen, a look of unfettered longing and adoration on her expectant face. Her breath baited waiting for something wonderful to come out of his mouth. Naturally, it didn't quite work out that way. Even as he began to speak Simon could feel the bottom falling out of his world as her eyes turned from warmth to permafrost, the welcoming smile turning sour in a heartbeat. Hands on her hips she glared at him.

"How can ya speak like that about 'Nara? Thought she was your friend?"

"She is, what I mean is, she was." Seeing Kaylee's eyes darken even further along with her mood, Simon hurried to explain himself. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop but I could hear them arguing in Inara's shuttle. The door was open. I'd meant to knock but when I heard what they were saying I was too shocked."

"Must'a made a mistake, Simon. 'Nara would never say or do nothin' like that."

Simon looked miserable. "Normally I would be the first to agree with you but they didn't know I was there. Kaylee, I've never heard Inara so bitter and angry."

"Cap'n has a way of bringin' out the worst in people. Ain't 'Nara's fault."

He took a deep breath, wishing he could cushion the blow but he didn't know how to dress up the words any way other than saying them outright. "She said she still supported Unification, Kaylee."

The mechanic was frowning, not happy to be talking about Inara behind her back. "Lots of people did that, don't make 'em bad people."

"I'm not saying she's bad just that Inara made a point of telling Mal she *still* supported Unification."

Kaylee shrugged. "It's a free 'verse."

"No, Kaylee, *ni bu dong*. Inara said she wouldn't rest until the crew reviled the Captain as much as she did." Kaylee stared at him in disbelief. "She wants to bring him down, Kaylee, and from what I heard Inara's willing to use us to do it."

For a moment there was dead silence then to Simon's sorrow he saw something in Kaylee harden. Her full lips tightened into a thin line of disapproval, disappointment stiffening every line of her body. "I can't believe you're blamin' 'Nara."

"This isn't about blame, Kaylee." "No," she responded, her voice cold "it's about loyalty. 'Nara's my friend an' she would never do a thing like that. Cap'n's been mean to her since she hired the shuttle on'y I never saw it before. Thought they was just teasin' an' such."

"Kaylee, it isn't like that, you have to believe me. Telling you what I overheard is one of the hardest things I've ever done."

Her eyes flashed behind unshed tears. "Don't make it true, Simon."

"No," he said quietly "but it does mean we shouldn't take anything at face value either. Whatever is going on between them I don't think it's anything as simple as we imagine."

"Ya sayin' I'm imaginin' things now, Simon Tam?"

Inwardly the doctor groaned. This whole conversation was going from bad to worse. "That's not what I said or meant."

"So now I'm a liar too?"

"Kaylee, please, listen..."

"Think I've listened enough. Best you go find your sister. Maybe she'll have time for your fairy tales, I ain't in the mood."

"Kaylee, don't be mad at me."

"Too late. Should'a thought of that before ya startin' accusin' 'Nara of things she ain't done."

"You don't know that she hasn't done anything."

"An' what about the Cap'n? How d'ya know it ain't his fault? Ain't like he don't upset her enough callin' 'Nara a whore an' ridiculin' her work an' her such a fine lady an' all."

Simon opened his mouth then closed it, realising that Kaylee was in no mood to listen to a word said against Inara even those words that had first come from the Companion's own mouth. As far as Kaylee was concerned he had misunderstood what he thought he had heard and that was that. Kaylee would not let anyone speak a word against those she loved and in her eyes Inara could do no wrong. The fact that Simon had spoken against her was like a personal betrayal, hurt worse than anything else she could have imagined him doing. Right now the only thing she wanted was for Simon to leave. Feeling utterly dejected he gave her a nod and did just that. As soon as the hatch closed behind him, Kaylee locked it and sat on her bed. The tears spilling from her eyes like shining crystals breaking and scattering down her cheeks. Her heart aching and wounded so deep that it hurt her to breathe through the pain, her hands fisting at her sides. "It ain't true, it ain't!"

* * * * *

Declan Mountjoy heard the little man out in silence. He had worked a time or two for Badger but this was the first time he was being hired for anything unconnected with profit. He hid his surprise not wanting to be added to the list of people on the fickle man's hit list. "You sure you don't just want me to break his legs?"

Badger scowled, unamused. "Break his legs an' he can still crawl - see? I want him in pieces so small he can't never be put back together, *dong ma*?"

"What did he do?"

"Not your concern but no one crosses me an' gets to brag about it."

"That bein' so," the man said slowly, his look thoughtful "I'd'a thought you'd like to take him apart your own self. For the pleasure an' the like."

The little king pin nodded. "Has a kind'a appeal I'll admit but this way, it'll hurt more. He ain't near scared enough of me, see. Have t'teach him the error o' his ways. Ram the lesson home."

"Just so long as he dies?"

"Smart man, knew there was a reason I liked you. Looks down his gorram nose at me. Thinks he's better than on'y he ain't. This time he's gone too far with that stick up his *pigu*. A man has limits to 'is good will."

"How do you know where he's gonna be if he ain't gonna make the drop?"

A sly grin stole across Badger's face. The grin became an oily smirk like scum left behind on the outgoing tide. "Got someone on the inside, see? Thinks he's so high an' mighty, so clever. Been waitin' a long time to see Malcolm Reynolds fall flat on his gorram face."

"An' if the fall don't kill him?"

"I ain't greedy, leastways not all the time. Long as he's crippled for life. In fact," Badger tilted his head as if the idea had only just occurred to him "better crippled than dead I'm thinkin'." His expression grew mean and ugly as he explained why with a disingenuous smile swamping his face. His eyes cold and calculating. "Can't gloat if he's dead now can I an' where would be the use in that?"

* * * * *

Shepherd Book couldn't understand it. Something was definitely off kilter between those two and he didn't mean the arguing, the sniping back and forth and such. In the past as unpleasant as it had sometimes been there was never any real malice. Now, he felt as if the mood had shifted. The gloves were coming off and it wasn't pretty. But what had prompted the change? Jayne huffed in frustration and the Preacher brought himself back to the task at hand. He was supposed to be spotting Jayne not letting himself get distracted.

"*Duibuqi*, Jayne."

The big man lay back on his weight bench and scowled up at his friend as he hefted the bar. "S'alright. What ya thinkin' 'bout?"

"I'm just a mite puzzled."

Jayne counted off a couple of lifts before responding. "What about?"

The Shepherd admired his technique, talking without getting breathless while continuing his workout. "This quarrel between the Captain and Inara. I never thought it would get so..." He seemed to flounder as if looking for the right word.

"Ugly?"

The Preacher stared at him for a moment. "Yes. I could have sworn those two harboured affection for each other. Now I'm not sure what to think."

Jayne grunted and finished his reps, Book leaning forward to help ease the bar onto its' rest then handing the mercenary a towel. "Huh, don't take a genius to see what the gorram went wrong."

Book looked at the big man as Jayne sat up and began wiping the sweat off his face and arms. "*Zhende*?"

The mercenary grinned at his friend. "All that bitchin' before? Was just foreplay." Book closed his eyes and tried not to groan out loud. "Reason it's turnin' nasty is 'cause they ain't doin' each other."

With a shake of his head the Preacher opened his eyes and wished he had not said anything at all. They swapped places on the bench, Book settling himself under the bar before getting ready for his first lift deliberately not changing the weights Jayne had been using. "Jayne, not everything is about sex."

Jayne Cobb huffed, slung the towel over his shoulder and grinned down at Book as he began his first lift. "Nah, it's *always* about sex. It's the reason we're all here, *dui*?"

Book wanted to close his eyes, scrape that image from the back of his eyeballs. It was kind of disturbing the way the birds and the bees were nothing but sex objects to Jayne. Or maybe he was the one who was wrong, assigning higher purpose to the needs of nature simply because the subjects were human beings? No, Jayne was wrong. Whatever was gong on here it wasn't about sex. Maybe that was the problem.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bao bei* = precious/treasure *qingwa cao de liumang* = frog humping sumbitch *shenme* = what *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *pigu* = bottom *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *dong ma* - understand? *duibuqi* = sorry *zhende* = really *dui* = correct

COMMENTS

Saturday, May 3, 2008 2:32 AM

SLUMMING


Excellent chapter. I eagerly await more.

Saturday, May 3, 2008 4:44 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Wow! Simon's in the doghouse and Badger's up to something. This is getting really good. Next chapter please!!! :))


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