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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Inara spends some time with her brother and is put on the spot. Suspicious of the timing of the Alliance Ship's arrival, Badger knows he has to act quickly to convince the Captain that he isn't setting them up."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1620 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "SAINTS AND SINNERS"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara.
STATUS: Sequel to "THE DEVIL YOU KNOW".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net
SUMMARY: "Inara spends time with her brother and is put
on the spot. Suspicious of the timing of the Alliance ship's
arrival, Badger knows he has to act quickly to convince the
Captain that he isn't setting them up."
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.
"SAINTS AND SINNERS"
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
"You love him."
Inara was shocked. Stunned to her core. This was her brother, her dearly loved and once thought lost brother. Mainstay of her childhood, confidant and dearest of friends. "*Shei*?"
His smile was gentle, tender, though his eyes held a small mischievous twinkle. "That starship Captain."
The Companion almost choked. "Mal?" Inara paused to gather her fragmenting composure. As for Serenity being a starship she couldn't help thinking her brother would be massively disappointed to see the little Firefly transport in the flesh though truth to tell no other place had ever felt so much like home. "Sendhil, Malcolm Reynolds is hardly my idea of a romantic partner."
Raising an eyebrow, Sendhil's look turned to one of open amusement. "Partner?"
She flushed. "You know what I mean, don't try to twist my words."
His laugh was merry and light, a soft hush of humour that delighted her ear even as she reddened further. What was the matter with her? "Inara, sister mine, forgive me for stating the obvious. I didn't mean to make you so defensive."
"You are not stating the obvious, Sendhil, because there is nothing to state and I am not being defensive. Horrified, yes. Disconcerted, definitely. And now I am wondering about your own state of mind. Perhaps you are the one who needs their head examined?"
An expansive smile turned the planes of his face into a happy paradise. "Touche, even though you know that I am right."
Inara narrowed her eyes. "Isn't smugness against the spirit of your Order?"
"Ah, my sharp witted sister has spotted one of my many well hidden flaws! And to think, dear sister, that I thought I was without peer."
She laughed and hugged him, her eyes shining bright. "You are to me Sendhil and always will be."
It was a simple ceremony but very moving. Mary Shair could hardly see through the tears but there was a part of her that was so grateful to have her husband's body returned to her. That he had been imprisoned and tortured by those he had faithfully served was an agony it was hard to bear, anger burning so deep and all consuming that it threatened to overshadow everything else and he would not have wanted that. *Diyu* it was hard, so hard, not to focus only on revenge.
Captain John Foster was the only outsider permitted to attend the burial. In the gathering darkness a few lights were dotted about the family plot and the children, subdued and well behaved to the point of seeming almost unnatural, moved around like shadows gathering from time to time to converge around their mother as if needing to touch base every now and then. The eldest, Charlotte, had red rimmed eyes and a haunted face but the others were merely tearful, upset and uncomprehending of anything other than the fact that their father was dead. Once the body had been lowered into the depths of the open grave Mary stepped forward to throw a handful of earth and a single red rose down onto the sealed lid. The children dutifully copied her actions, Charlotte pausing as she looked down. Then cousin Paul's coffin was replaced on top and the earth filled in.
Foster watched in silence, noted the children being gently but firmly guided back into the house by an uncle. Niyan had four brothers and they completed the undertaker's task without a word, carefully pressing down the earth and replacing the headstone. Once done to their satisfaction the youngest brother, Morgan, walked away to return moments later with a bucket of topsoil. Each brother took handfuls and scattered it over the grave to take the newness off the turned earth. A few weeds were even loosened from other ground and set on the earth to add to the effect. John Foster had to admit it left the appearance of an undisturbed grave among the rest in the family graveyard.
Silently the Captain waited until the brothers took the tools away and left, each giving him a solemn nod in passing. Once alone he approached the grave, bowing his head in prayer while he struggled to contain stronger emotions. This should not have happened and yet the ease with which Minister Rosenbaum could ride roughshod over every aspect of common decency without facing the consequences of his unlawful actions was chilling. Truly the man was unstoppable. And worst still he knew Parliament would believe and support Rosenbaum long before any cries of foul play could be aired. The Alliance. That all-powerful supposed upholder of democracy and freedom in the 'verse had become a tyrant, a dictatorship in all but name. How had the shining hope of so many been twisted into something so despicable and so ugly?
Malcolm Reynolds stared, his heart rate tripping while he tried to affect an air of calm. The Alliance ship wasn't a cruiser but a sleek pursuit vessel, fast and not as heavily armed but still capable of blowing the Firefly transport out of the Black. Not for the first time, Captain Reynolds lamented the fact that his boat had no means of defence.
"Prepare to be boarded or be destroyed!"
"*Wei*, what's this all about?"
There was no answer, the screen going blank.
"Huh. Guess he ain't in the mood for explainin'."
Wash flicked a switch and swivelled in his chair to face the Captain. "Mal, they're moving into position to attach."
Zoe was about to say something when Badger pushed passed her. She stared for a moment in shock but then the little man was speaking, his words like rapid gunfire in the Captain's ear. Everyone stared at the little king-pin. The Captain recovered first.
"You sayin' your shiny new ship is armed?"
"Not with conventional weapons, no."
"*Ni zhide shi shenme*?" Jayne growled.
Wash interrupted. "Mal, we've got about seven minutes."
The little man looked tense, excited and terrified all at the same time. "Just trust me. Cut all power, *meijian shir*."
Kaylee paled. "*Shenme*, even life support?"
The Captain's eyes narrowed. "How's our suffocatin' to death gonna save us?"
"You won't. You got suits, *dui*?"
"Not enough for the whole crew." Said Zoe.
"Yeah, well, get those that need to stay on board in them suits *mashang*."
Mal's eyes narrowed. "What you plannin'?"
"No time to explain, not if you wanna get outta this alive an' with your crew an' ship intact."
"Five minutes, Mal!"
"I hear you Wash."
Wash's hand was poised. "What do you want me to do?"
The Captain was staring at Badger. "Jayne? Prep the suits then give one to Wash, Kaylee an' me. Soon as we're suited up cut the power, Wash. The rest of you follow Badger."
Zoe's face darkened but the Captain cut her off before the words could leave her mouth.
"Not got time to argue, *dong ma*?"
Then time seemed to speed up, everyone hurrying to do as they were told before the Alliance boarded Serenity. With seconds to spare Wash, Kaylee and Mal got into their suits, Jayne pausing to give Mal a look that said clear as day that he would personally kill Badger himself if this was a set up. The Captain almost smiled, knowing that no matter how fast Jayne was he wouldn't be able to get to Badger before Zoe. But it was a nice notion all the same.
The clang of the Alliance pursuit ship lining up to attach was a dull echo as the remainder of the crew slipped onto Badger's ship. Badger broke into a run, yelling for Liam to throw the switch. Zoe and Jayne exchanged looks. River was smiling but Simon was worried. Kaylee was still on Serenity and he didn't trust Badger not to turn them all in for a profit. Paul and Natalie looked up as the lights flickered then dimmed, switching to emergency lighting. Her heart constricting, Zoe frowned. "What the *guai* is goin' on?"
"Emergency lighting." Said River.
Just then something hit them. Not metal on metal or anything solid like a meteorite but something powerful enough to make the ship shudder and the metal around them groan. Now Zoe knew why Badger had yelled for Liam to cut them loose, whatever plan the little weasel had must be pretty desperate.
"*Fang xin*." River crooned, her voice soft and calm.
Shepherd Book was glancing up and let his eyes roam all around him. "Is that what I think it is?"
Zoe speared him with a look. "Depends on what you're thinkin'."
Natalie explained before Book could answer. "EMP."
"*Shenme*?" Zoe looked shocked. "The Alliance are usin' EMP 'gainst Serenity?"
A slow smile crept over Book's face as the dime dropped. "*Bushi*, unless I'm much mistaken Badger's ship has just used it - presumably to knock out the Alliance vessel."
They stared at each other, momentarily stunned then Jayne whooped and punched a fist in the air. Simon still looked worried.
"But if they're attached to Serenity won't that mean..."
River shook her head. "They didn't have time to complete the seal, now every control on the Alliance ship is fried. Nothing. No engine turning, no lights, no controls, no..."
Zoe grinned. "Well, I'll be. He did it!"
They were now at the bridge of Badger's shiny new ship. Badger turned his head when he heard them coming. "Can you talk to Reynolds while they're in those gorram suits?"
She nodded. "*Qu, weishenme*?"
He beamed back. "Time they turned everythin' back on, need to back away from that Alliance ship quick as they can."
It was on the tip of her tongue to ask why the hurry when Book gave her look and she activated her com instead. "Cap'n, Badger says you can switch everythin' back on. Soon as you have power you have to back away from the Alliance ship."
Then she was listening to Mal giving Kaylee instructions, heard Wash's voice as he iniated start up and then Kaylee laughing, her happy voice announcing that Serenity was undamaged and they were now putting distance between them and the Alliance vessel.
Just as Zoe was about to congratulate Badger the ship rocked. Sound concussed her eardrums as the Alliance vessel fired on them. Confused, Zoe stared at a frantic Badger. Liam's hands flying over the controls of their ship to put some distance between them and the Alliance vessel but also to turn the ship around. The two actions seemed contrary to each other.
"Thought you knocked them out?"
"Knocked their controls out." Liam explained.
"Then how come they're firin' on us, dumbass?" Growled Jayne.
"Different system an' power source."
Jayne looked at Book. "That mean what I think it means?"
There was only the one barrage of fire then the enemy ship's guns went silent. Zoe frowned. "*Zenme hui shir*?"
Smug as a bug in a rug, Badger grinned at them. "Can't go for long without breathin'."
Horrified, Simon put two and two together. "The oxygen.."
"Life support went down along with engine power, lights an' such." Liam explained. "Even with some of their weapons on independent systems they still need air to breathe."
Stunned, Zoe wasn't sure what to say. The Captain's voice floated over the airwaves to her, anxious and strained. They had obviously witnessed the salvo from Serenity. "Zoe, what the good gorram happened?"
"The Alliance just got a shot off, sir. Everyone's fine. On our way back to you now."
She turned to grin at the others when Natalie cried out in anguish, "Oh no!"
Alarmed, Paul put his arm around her but she wasn't taking any notice of him. Her eyes wide and frightened, hovering on the verge of out and out panic. "*Shenme shi, bao bei*?"
It was River who answered, her voice trembling and oddly hollow. "Two by two, hands of blue. Two by two, hands of blue..."
Gabriel Tam was filthy. Crawling through the sewers was necessity not choice. He was sorry about Regan but she would simply slow him down and he couldn't stand the thought of the kind of questions she would ask. Ones he in no way was ready to answer. She wouldn't understand but he loved her enough to want to keep her safe. It was the least he could do after the monumental way he had ruined everything. Raised to believe that ambition was a good thing, that power was an essential tool on the path to accomplishment, that only the chosen few could hold in their hands the knowledge that would free or enslave a universe. All for the greater good of course, and if that vision also enhanced his own position then it was to be applauded. Now though he could see just how wrong he had been. How twisted his justifications had become, the cost both moral and emotional had a physical backlash as well.
His family torn apart, his home and medical facility in ruins, the Alliance hunting them down. It was all like some bad nightmare except it was real. The monsters were not fabrications of a mind in turmoil but of things created that should never have been imagined still less released on the 'verse and he had helped. His own children drawn into the horror that his life had become. Gabriel Tam couldn't bring down Parliament and in truth there were still good men in the Alliance who thought they were doing what was best for the people of the Unified Planets. People whose own inate goodness failed to recognise the rot corrupting the heart of government, the excesses bred by power unchecked and an authority so powerful that few were able to stand up to it let alone mitigate the severity of its' wide reaching aspects.
The funding for his research had drawn him in. A carrot he could not resist, not seeing the extent of the strings attached or the way he was gradually coaxed and drawn into the nightmare until he could not extricate himself. But now. Now he was alone. His children somewhere in the far flung reaches of the Black hiding out with criminals and thieves while he and his wife lived in fear of their own government. It was madness. Insanity. And yet those very same criminals and thieves had shown more compassion, more humanity than he had. It turned his world inside out, his mistakes coming back to haunt him as the body count rose. He might not know the faces or recognise the names but he knew he would always feel complicit in what was happening. At least now he could do something to redress the balance. Just one small thing to remove part of the canker at the heart of everything he had once loved. A rot whose stench could only be cauterised by the one who had helped create it. He did not expect to survive but if he succeeded then those he loved would and that was all that mattered. Finally, Gabriel Tam could freely admit that he had been wrong. He had just been too blinded by obssession to see it until now.
Kaylee wanted to argue, she really did, but the Captain was obdurate. Looking to Wash for support was pretty much a lost cause. They had all caught the tail end of the conversation from the others on Badger's ship.
"But Cap'n, we have power back up..."
He tapped her helmet to make sure she looked him right in the eye and paid attention. Suit or no suit he was still the Captain and sometimes he had to underline that he made the decisions on his boat not her. "Might be havin' company, little Kaylee."
She swallowed around the lump forming in her throat, her eyes going wide and beginning to roll around as if trying to see everything at once. Another tap on her helmet brought Kaylee's eyes back to her Captain.
"Kaylee, need to know you're with me on this, *dong ma*?"
Kaylee nodded, not yet trusting her voice. The idea of venting the atmo brought up too many bad memories but if the Captain said she had to then that's what she would do. The Captain turned to his pilot. "Go with Kaylee, Wash." But the look in his eyes said 'watch her back'. Both men knew how distracted the young mechanic became when dealing with Serenity. Wash hesitated before following the Captain's order.
"What about you, Mal? What're you gonna do?"
The slow grin was wicked as the Captain checked Wash had enough air. The pilot had already checked Kaylee's suit and ran his eye over the Captain's at the same time. Providing this didn't get dragged out more than forty five minutes they were good. "Let's just say I plan a little surprise."
Wash's eyes widened then a look of consternation had him shaking his head. "No, the ship is pressurised, if you..."
The Captain tapped his helmet and Wash instantly shut up. Why did that small act make him feel like a five year old being told to pay attention in class? "Kaylee's ventin' the atmo."
Wash stared through his face plate. The Captain just looking back at him waiting for the dime to drop then Wash's eyes widened and a look of understanding dawned like a light bulb going on inside his gorram head. "Oh, the atmo! Why didn't you say?"
A gentle shove was enough to get Wash turned around and hurrying best he could in the bulky suit. The sooner he and Kaylee got everything shut down again the better. Already Wash fancied he could hear something locking on to the side of the ship. Funny, it didn't seem as big or heavy as the Alliance ship but who was he to judge with his head stuck in a fishbowl?
Not waiting until Wash was out of sight Mal made for the armoury and briefly lamented the fact that Jayne had taken Vera with him. Mind, he didn't need the biggest gun just the most accurate and the sniper rifle would fit the bill perfectly.
"I can't go back."
Sendhil smiled gently at her but said nothing. Inara looked at him, mild frustration frosting her lips with a ghosting of disapproval. If she was waiting for him to agree with her it was going to be a very long wait indeed.
"We can't exchange more than a handful of words without the insults flying. The man is impossible."
Her brother's lips twitched but the smile got no wider.
"If you knew him you would be amazed I lasted this long."
Still no reaction. Huffing, Inara spun round to face him, planting herself in her brother's path. They were in the cloisters. There were other monks around but they were busy and no one was taking any notice of them.
"Why don't you say something?"
A slow elegant eyebrow rose and mocked her. "Would you listen, *bao bei*?"
"I always listen to you, Sendhil."
His laugh was like musical bells and for a moment she was torn between indignation and joining in. "Inara, Inara! Priceless sister mine, you have never listened to me all the days of our lives."
"That's not true!"
He paused and cocked his head to one side. Sendhil was not smiling now but neither was he mocking her. "Did you listen to me when you decided to join the Companion House?" He asked softly.
Inara flushed. "That's different, it was something I always wanted to do."
The eyebrow rose higher. Inara felt her frustration grow.
"What do you want me to say?"
"The truth. That you were seduced by the glamour and riches, the rarified atmosphere of Sihnon's elite. You wanted to breathe that air, walk in their shoes, wear their clothes."
Her voice came out smaller than she expected. "Is that so wrong?"
Sendhil touched her cheek, his hand barely brushing her beautifully made up face. "You deserve beautiful things Inara but you know it is all artifice, *dui*?"
Frustration turned to hurt and irritation. "Now you sound like Mal!" She paused to huff, trying to calm herself down. The last thing she wanted to do was argue with her brother, especially about Malcolm Reynolds. "Why can't you just be happy for me, Sendhil?"
His smile was tender, his look gentle but not apologetic. "If it was what you really wanted I would be. You would drown in my ecstasy."
Inara's eyes narrowed slightly, her frustration and irritation forgotten. "What do you mean?"
Sendhil sighed. "We should be going inside, the mid-day meal will start soon."
"I am not going anywhere until you explain."
"I can be every bit as wangu* as you Sendhil."
"Very well but remember I speak as one who loves you. This life you have embraced is born of desire, ambition. A wish to remake yourself in other's images." He raised a hand to prevent the protest gathering on her lips. "Hear me out and if I am wrong I will apologise."
He waited for her to nod for him to continue and guided them to the nearest stone seat.
"You were perfect before you left us, Inara. Being a Companion has become more than a job to you, more than a calling. It has become the mask you wear night and day, the clothes that cover you head to toe hiding what you are and showing only what you want them to see. The parts of you that you reveal are structured, a careful mummury to fulfill your client's needs never your own. Even this," his hand waved slowly down her face to indicate the flawless make up "is another means to hide your true self. It is not who you are."
Stung, Inara launched into a diatribe about how he didn't know what he was talking about, that he didn't appreciate what she had gone through to get where she was. All the reasons she had so often flung at Mal.
"Inara," Sendhil said softly as his sister wound down, her face heated and her eyes looking betrayed "do you ever take your make up off?"
"*Dang ran*. Every night before I go to bed."
He nodded. "And who sees you?"
"No one, that is the point."
A look of sadness settled in eyes so much the mirror of her own that Inara felt bad for putting that look upon her dear brother's face. "It is also mine."
The faintest hint of moisture gathered in her eyes. "Are you saying you disapprove of my choice, Sendhil?"
He shook his head. "No. I am saying you do."
For a long moment she just stared at him as if he was speaking in tongues and she knew none of the dialects. "That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard you say."
"Why did you leave House Madrassa?"
The air in her lungs felt thick and heavy, her solar plexus like a lump of lead. "Why do you ask?"
"You would have been House Mistress by now, sister mine."
Her eyes widened in surprise. How did he know that?
"I have always followed your career."
Now she blushed, a faint dusting of rose red seeping through the make up. He thought it made her more beautiful and exotic by far but now was not the time for compliments however true. She had been hiding for too long. He wanted, no - longed - for her to show her true face.
"Why did you choose Serenity, Inara?"
She blinked, a thousand possible answers dying unsaid upon her tongue. Inara had told Mal she was a spy and in certain circumstances the Guild used her that way but that was not why she had chosen Serenity. "I can't go back." She whispered, more a plea intended to convince herself than him. Sendhil brushed his hand along her cheek then tilted her face so that she would look him once again in the eye.
"I love you beyond the breath in my body, sister mine. I would fight to protect you and your virtue against all comers but I will not defend a lie than undervalues who you are."
Tears were in her eyes. "You always hated the Guild."
"*Bushi*, only the artifice Inara. I was overjoyed to see you happy but not to see the beautiful, kind, loving, mischievous sister of my youth disappear. Yes, you have become flawless, your Companion arts no doubt unmatched in Guild history - and I do not use these words to mock you or your craft, dear heart. But the Inara I love the most, the one who lives inside my heart and quickens both temper and joy, is the one who needs no cloth of gold, no diamonds or pearls or blusher, no years of study in body language and subtle manipulation. The Inara I love is the one who is not afraid to be loud or feisty, the one who rivals me in wit and intelligence yet loves me still. The one not too proud to cry in front of me or too haughty to say when she needs me. The Guild has been good to you, Inara."
She blinked, a single tear dropping from her lashes, her ears caught on his last sentence confusing her.
"You have been good to the Guild in return Inara: tenfold, twenty fold and more. Who can say how much you have repaid that investment."
"I am not an investment."
His smile touched his eyes this time. "Only to them, Inara."
Some hours later when they had eaten and thrown themselves into talk of other things a healing silence fell between them. Still as companionable and content as ever but with a tinge of sadness, perhaps even regret. "You want me to leave the Guild, don't you Sendhil?"
"No, Inara." Gently he took her hands in his, nothing but love shining in his eyes and willing her his strength. "I want you to be honest about why you stay."
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*shei* = who? *diyu* = hell *ni zhide shi shenme* = what do you mean?
*wei* = hey! *meijian shir* = everything *shenme* = what *dui* = correct
*mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *dong ma* = understand?
*guai* = devil/ghost *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *bushi* = not so
*qu* = yes (lit. go) *weishenme* = why? *zenme hui shir* = what's happening?
*shenme shi* = what's the matter? *bao bei* = precious/treasure
*wangu* = stubborn *dang ran* = of course
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 5:01 AM
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