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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
Mal and Zoe try to find out what Inara was injected with, Kaylee and Jayne talk about bounty hunters and Kaylee’s fear, Simon apologizes, Inara gets an invitation, and Gabr’elle takes her leave.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1253 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
"Are you seriously trying to kill yourself?" Simon asked wearily. "Because that's what's going to happen if you keep doing these things before your body is ready—"
"It ain't up for discussion, Doc," Mal said, buckling on his holster as he slowly descended the stairs to the cargo bay where Zoe was waiting.
"Nothing ever is with you," the younger man said half to himself, following on the captain’s heels.
Mal paused when he reached the floor, turning to face Simon with an accusing look. "He's the only one's got any idea what it was he stuck Inara with. You say knowin' can help her; I aim to find out. Might have thought of that your own self before now.”
Simon's mouth fell open in incredulous indignation, unable to believe that Mal could say that, after everything he had done to save both his and Inara's lives; the endless hours of surgery without sleep, working blind to fight the unknown agent that was attacking Inara’s heart… Overwhelmed, he had a sudden urge to strike Mal, the feeling so strong that his hands actually curled into fists, his face darkening with a thunderous fury.
Mal blinked and then tensed, readying to defend himself from the deadly intent he saw in the younger man's eyes, but then Simon seemed to catch himself, forcing his fingers to relax with a rough breath and he took a step away, shaking his head.
"One of these days, I'm not going to be able to put you back together," the doctor promised, brushing past the captain with a disgusted sigh.
Mal watched him go, his gaze shifting to Zoe's and then away at what he saw there. "You ready?" he asked gruffly.
"No," she said, staring hard at him, "and neither are you 'till you tell me what's going on."
"Don't know what you mean," he said determinedly, casting a quick glance around the cargo bay as though checking to see that they were alone, and she knew she was right.
She checked too, for his sake, looking up and down the bay, knowing he wouldn’t talk if they weren't alone, then motioned him over by a stack of crates. He followed, clearly aggravated, but she was used to his moods and wouldn't be put off.
"I mean, that boy's spent the last four days doing everything in his power to keep you and Inara alive, and you're about ready to take his head off for it," she accused, her voice hushed. "I ain't sayin' you're ungrateful, but unless he's wronged you in some way I'm unaware, you're takin' it out on the wrong person. So what's going on?"
Mal sighed and sank down onto the edge of a crate, hanging his head, still avoiding her gaze. When he lifted his eyes, the look on his face shocked her and she stepped forward instinctively, her worry plain. "What is it?"
"There’s a problem," he managed roughly.
Zoe nodded, encouraging him to go on. "That much I gathered. What sort?"
“Two of you fightin’ already?” she asked, only half in jest.
Mal smiled faintly but shook his head. He let out a sudden, explosive sigh and pushed himself off the crate to pace, agitated, feeling the urge to hit something. “‘s her heart," he said finally, his head bowing as he kicked at the crate in anger. "She was already in bad shape, ribs broken, her face—well, you seen. The ride across the desert was too much on top of that. The heat…" He shook his head. "When we stopped for water she couldn't even stand. She was shiverin' and feverish; it was killin' her. Was no way she was gonna survive gettin' on that horse again, an' I knew it. Well, so did Whelt, so he stuck her with somethin', some kind of drug cocktail; took care of the pain, perked her up. A little too up," he said meaningfully. "Whatever was in the mix revved up her heart… Doc said it put too much strain on the muscles… like runnin' a motor too hot till she…"
Mal looked up and nodded. "If she does anything too stressful, too physically taxin'…" he said with a meaningful look, "he says it could kill her."
Zoe drew in a slow breath and let it out again, mentally preparing herself in that moment for the eventuality that she might someday soon have to hold him together through the Companion’s death.
"Yeah," Mal sighed, brushing a hand over the stubble on his jaw. "Doc says there may be a better chance for her if he knows what was in the drugs… That's why I have to go. I ain't losin' this one, Zoe."
She nodded, once, firm. "Let's go get us a cocktail.”
Simon sank down onto his bunk, numb beyond the exhaustion and weariness of the past few days. He stared at his hands, his doctor’s hands - hands for helping, hands for healing - wondering what was happening to him out here. He’d almost… he’d wanted to hit Mal, to strike a patient.
Only because he was an ungrateful son-of-a-bitch, he rationalized, but shook his head. It shouldn’t matter. He’d dealt with countless unappreciative people during his time as a trauma surgeon; emotions and tensions ran high in emergency situations, but never once had he actually raised a fist to any of them.
He was tired, exhausted, had been running on adrenaline and willpower for the last four days, he could excuse a lapse in control, couldn’t he?
Two lapses, he corrected himself, recalling with equal dismay his blunder with Inara’s privacy. How could he have made such a stupid mistake? He knew better than to assume, he thought, shaking his head sadly. Of course, he wouldn’t have erupted into that tirade if Mal hadn’t already tested his patience to the limit. The Captain seemed bent on provoking him at every opportunity; the man really was psychotic, and as much as Mal had given them a home, protected them and shielded them from the Alliance, Simon was getting tired of suffering the man’s behavior. But still…
It was changing him, this ship, these people. This life.
But what else could he do? As trying as the Captain and his crew could be, they had sheltered River, saved them both from the Alliance, come back for them… He wasn’t foolish enough to dismiss lightly the fact that fortune had smiled on them the day he’d booked passage on Serenity. Things could be worse, much, much worse. But, Buddha, they could be so much better too.
He sighed, feeling the loss of… everything as keenly as ever. He rarely let himself dwell on it, he couldn’t afford to. His focus was on River now, on keeping her safe and trying to repair as much of the damage that was done to her; that was what was important. But that didn’t mean he didn’t miss it…
River, he thought again, his mind shifting gears as he realized he hadn’t seen his sister in some time. He moved to get up, and at that moment realized she was standing in the doorway, watching him.
“River,” he said, shifting, feeling a flash of guilt over the path his thoughts had taken. “I was just coming to find you.”
“Found you,” she said, slipping into the room.
“You did,” he replied, smiling as she climbed onto the bunk and curled up next to him. “Have you been keeping out of trouble?” he asked, teasing, and she stuck her tongue out at him before they both shared a smile. Simon lived for these quiet moments of brother-sister repartee, when he could almost pretend that River was a normal girl and he truly had his sister back.
“Played dinosaurs with Wash,” she said. “Jurassic versus Cretaceous.”
“Neither. An asteroid travelling at approximately one hundred and fifty thousand miles per hour collided with the planet. At that point, the question seemed irrelevant.”
Simon chuckled, smoothing his hand over River’s shoulder affectionately. “I guess so,” he agreed.
“What’s that one called?” Kaylee asked, pointing to the large semi-automatic rifle on the table.
“Don’t got a name,” Jayne grunted, squinting as he stared down the tube of a barrel and pushed a swatch through to clear out any residue. He’d been working all morning, breaking down and cleaning every single one of his guns that the lawman and his crew had borrowed in the fight to rescue Mal and Inara.
Kaylee was perched on the edge of the table beside him, her feet swinging as she chattered away. It didn’t bother him none; he liked Kaylee, liked having her around. Kinda like a kid sister, only one that weren’t his ‘cause she was still fun to look at. And things had been too quiet on this boat last few days.
“I thought you named ‘em all,” she went on.
“Only the ones‘re my regulars like,” he clarified, fitting the pistol back together.
“Oh.” She was quiet a moment before pointing to the pistol River had used to knock out Whelt on the shuttle. “What about this one?”
Jayne looked up at her then, something about her curiosity and the tone of her voice catching his attention. “Why you so innerested all-a-sudden? You ain’t one for guns, normally,” he said shrewdly.
“Just talkin’s all,” Kaylee defended, sliding off the table hurriedly.
“You wanna shoot it?” he asked casually as she retreated.
Kaylee stopped. “Shen me?” she asked, turning back hesitantly.
“You wanna shoot it, I’ll learn ya,” Jayne said, bending to his task again as though there were nothing out of the ordinary with the idea.
Kaylee inched her way back to the table, her fingers twisting nervously. Jayne kept quiet, intent on his guns, knowing she’d get to it faster if he let her get there in her own time.
“You remember back when that bounty hunter snuck on board Serenity?” she finally asked in a small voice.
Jayne gave a grunt in the affirmative as he nodded, still keeping his eyes on his work but everything else focused on her. He remembered; was only a few weeks back now, and he’d missed all of it. Kaylee on the other hand…
“He tied me up an’ I was so scared,” she said, barely more than a whisper, glancing up and then away again when Jayne stopped to look at her keenly. “I made a promise I wasn’t gonna let that happen again.” She made a frustrated sound. “But in the shuttle, when this other one was pointin’ that gun at me,” she lifted her gaze to Jayne’s, “it felt like bein’ tied up in the engine room all over again. An’ I was so mad! Mad at him and mad at me for bein’ scared. But I was scared a’ him.”
Jayne felt a certain amount of anger toward that bounty hunter his own self. “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with bein’ scared, times like that. You ain’t scared, you’re stupid, and stupid gets dead faster’n scared every time,” he said, moving on to a new pistol.
Kaylee looked at him, surprised. “You get scared, Jayne?”
“Ain’t dead am I?” he said gruffly.
“Here,” Jayne said, picking up a small hand gun from his collection, holding it out to her. “Go on, take it,” he said, putting it into her hand. “There. How’s that feel?”
She held it awkwardly, unsure, her hand unused to the weight. “I don’t know,” she said.
“First thing I’ll learn ya is how it works. Pistol’s a precision machine,” he said, taking the gun back and releasing the slide. “Elegant like. But it’s a machine, just like any other machine. It’s got parts what move and need oilin’ and cleanin’, just like your engines.”
Kaylee sat down beside him, her expression clearing somewhat. “Never thought on it like that before,” she said with a small smile as the first hints of interest crept into her eyes. “Show me.”
Jayne went through the steps to break down the pistol and then reassemble, impressed when Kaylee had it after the first try, understanding in that instinctive way she had just how the mechanism fit together and functioned. He had her do it several more times on principle, though he was pretty certain she wouldn’t ever have trouble with that side arm.
“All right,” he said, declaring her skill sufficient. “Grab up them cans. Time to go shoot somethin’.”
Inara sat unmoving before her mirror, eyes fixed on the bruise between her breasts where the angry purple and red had soured to yellow around the pinprick point in the center. She hadn’t moved in almost an hour, hadn’t shifted that entire time even though her legs were beginning to feel numb. She just stared, not really seeing, her thoughts circling around and around, spiraling--
Inara startled and looked up as Wash's voice came over the comm., relieved to be distracted from her thoughts. “Yes?” she answered.
"Got a wave for you, if you want," the pilot said, ready to defer the message if she wasn't up to talking.
"Thank-you, Wash, I'll take it here," she replied, quickly checking her reflection, realizing it wouldn't make much difference considering her bruised face, but doing her best to put on a presentable appearance. She moved to her cortex carefully and sat, lifting the swag of fabric that covered the screen, surprised by the face that greeted her.
“Dr. Sòng – Emiline…" she said. It had been years since she'd seen the doctor, not since just before she'd left Sihnon; that time. A hundred memories passed through her mind, several she had to push away or be swept under the torrent of emotion they would unleash.
"Inara!" Emiline said, obviously shocked. "Word reached me of your injuries, but I had no idea—"
"I'm fine," Inara assured hurriedly, drawing in a shaky breath as she forced her thoughts back to the present.
"You look far from fine, Inara! Ren ci de Fozu, what you must have been through,” Emiline said, her face softening in sympathy. “How are you, Inara? Really?”
"I… I will heal," Inara said, fighting the tightness she felt in her throat at the other woman’s compassion.
"But will healing be enough?" Emiline asked, echoing her thoughts uncannily.
Inara swallowed, eyes vulnerable. "It has been… a difficult time," she acknowledged, unable to hide the truth from the other woman.
"I can see that much. You must let us help you, mèi mèi. Come to the Bànlǚ yǐnjū chù, Inara. Come home."
She wanted to; it was exactly what she needed, a place to rest and recover, where no demands would be made of her, no duties to fulfill, no worries, no danger... Where she could think and absorb everything that had happened in the past few days… But to leave Mal, now… and to go back…
"Put aside your worries for a time, Inara," the woman said persuasively. "Let us help you carry your burdens."
"Allow me a day to consider your offer?" Inara said, surrendering her protests.
"Of course, mèi mèi, take what time you need. You will be welcome whenever you should choose to accept. And you may feel free to bring your Captain Reynolds along with you."
Inara's head snapped up at that. ”What?"
"His injuries must be quite severe as well, from what Sheydra has said, and the Guild acknowledges that it holds no little responsibility in this business. Our hospitality is the least we can offer. Bring him, and come to us, mèi mèi."
"I… thank-you. Tomorrow, I'll wave you."
The other woman gave a graceful nod and then disconnected the wave.
Inara switched off her cortex, astounded. No one outside of the Guild had ever been allowed to visit the Bànlǚ yǐnjū chù, let alone been invited to stay, and certainly not the lover of a sojourning Companion. Not that the latter was common knowledge of course; they'd technically only been together the once. One time that may prove to be their only time.
She shut her eyes, hand going to her forehead wearily. Everything made her tired now; even the slightest exertion was exhausting.
A cough from just beyond the curtain that shielded her doorway brought her eyes open and she turned. "Mal?" she called, expecting to find him eavesdropping again.
"Ah, no," came Simon's voice as he stepped forward awkwardly. "I'm sorry for intruding, but I've brought your next dose and…" He trailed off, shaking his head, then forced himself to continue. "Inara, please forgive me, I didn't mean to listen in and the last thing I wish to do is impose, but this retreat may be a good idea. In my opinion, it would be in your best interest to accept the invitation. It will give you a chance to rest, let your injuries heal, and you will have greater access to medical equipment that could speed your recovery. There's only so much I can do on Serenity…" he said, lifting his hands helplessly. He hesitated a moment then drew in a fortifying breath and rushed on. “I want to apologize for my lack of discretion yesterday,” he said, obviously tormented. “I in no way meant to disclose that information – your private information – I just… assumed that you’d told the captain and I… It was an inexcusable failure in judgment, and I…You aren't well, you're dealing with very difficult news and you deserved - you deserve better."
Her training insisted she accept his apology gracefully, forgive him and smile in understanding, tell him it was all right. But the truth was she didn’t want to. She was mad as hell at him, because it was an inexcusable failure in judgment. But at the same time she knew she owed him her life, that without his expertise and the endless hours he’d spent at her side, she would not be alive to be angry. And, if she were honest, part of her felt relieved that Mal knew, that she wouldn’t have to spend the extra energy to hide it from him.
It hadn’t been easy, letting herself be that open, that vulnerable with him; she still saw it as a weakness, her loss of control when she’d broken down in his arms. But she hadn’t been prepared for how much the prospect of a future without her work had affected her. She was still frightened, but Mal had been a surprising source of strength for her to draw from, and though it hadn’t been easy, she’d been able to restore her composure and keep the worst of her fears in check, with his support.
So, in all fairness, Inara supposed she couldn’t really continue to be angry with Simon when the truth was she was better off for it. That did not, however, make her feelings easily go away.
The longer she took to answer the greater she could feel his discomfort, until at last she sighed and gave in.
“I understand,” she said, “but in the future I would appreciate that you keep my confidential matters confidential, between us.”
“Of course,” Simon assured quickly. “It will never happen again. I promise.”
He nodded and, after a moment of awkward silence, offered her the smoother he’d brought with him. “How’s your pain?” he asked, his composure returning as he slipped into doctor mode.
“It’s somewhat lessened,” Inara said, sitting so he could administer the shot. "I am taking your advice," she assured him.
“So you’ll be going to the retreat?” he asked, pressing the hypo spray against her neck.
She hesitated a moment, her eyelids fluttering as the painkiller entered her blood stream, then conceded with a nod. “Yes. Yes, I think so.”
“And will you take Mal with you?”
Inara let out a huff. “I think it will be less a question of ‘will I?’ and more a matter of ‘can I convince him to go?’” she said wryly.
“If you can, he might just live long enough to get better. Assuming he lives long enough to get there, that is,” Simon said, unable to prevent the scowl that darkened his features.
"Ai ya,” said Inara wearily. “What has he done now?"
“Captain. Glad to see you on your feet,” Williams said cautiously, reaching out his hand to Mal, settling for a nod when Mal held up his bandaged palms. “Wasn’t sure you’d pulled through.”
“By the skin of, or so the doc says.”
“And your… Companion friend? Miss Inara?”
“Well, that’s a might more complicated, and correlatin’ as to why we’re here, point of fact.”
“Whelt.” Mal said, nodding in the direction of the holding cells at the back of the building. “He stuck Inara with something, had a hypo-spray full of some sort of drug cocktail did some funny things to her heart. Doc says she could never recover we don’t find out what it was. Now, Whelt’s the only link we got to finding that out, and we know you got him in custody. I’m here to ask you to let me talk to him, in the interest of saving a lady’s life."
“That's a big favour. There’s been a hell of a lot of fallout from this whole escapade and I got a hundred questions of my own about it all that ain’t yet been answered. All of which started with you touchin’ down on our moon; you’ve been trouble every moment you been here. Now I appreciate that you didn’t ask to get yourselves kidnapped, but the fact is there’s a lot of folk dead in this town woulda gone on livin’ a long time you hadn’t come here.”
“We didn’t bring that trouble,” Mal said earnestly, “was already here on your moon, waitin’. You know wasn't any of mine what did the killin'. But there will be one more life lost to this matter you don't help us now."
“I got you into that compound,” Zoe interjected. “Outfitted your men.”
“Yes you did. An’ we helped rescue your crew, and gave you the man-power to do it - which was a little dodgy, rules-wise, to begin with,” Williams countered, calling it even. "Fact is, I don't know that I can trust you, captain. It don’t take a genius to know what line of business you’re in—“
“And what kind would that be?” Mal asked, the man's evasions getting on his nerves.
“An’ I turned a blind eye to it, more or less,” Williams continued, ignoring the comment. “Life’s hard and we all got to make do as we can. But maybe I shouldn't've. There's more goin' on with you than you're sayin', and that makes me more'n a might twitchy."
Zoe exchanged a look with Mal. “Supposin’ we could offer somethin’ in trade?” she asked.
Williams sat back, his eyes narrowing. "What kind of trade? I said I turn a blind eye, not—"
“Say we had some intel on your son?” Zoe interrupted, knowing she had him when she saw his reaction.
"What do you know about my son?" he demanded, sitting up quickly, his face going hard but his eyes desperate.
"A pretty good idea of where he might be," Zoe elaborated. "And some details on the part he played in all this."
The lawman stared at them for a long moment, debating. “You say Whelt gave her a hypo?” he asked finally, standing and moving to a storage unit.
Mal shot Zoe a look. “That’s right.”
He scanned through the entries on the unit's display, stopping at one and keying in the code to access it. “Thought so,” Williams said to himself, opening the unit to retrieve something from inside. “Took a set of hypo-sprays off him when he was processed; one discharged, and one still full,” he said turning back to them with a speculative nod, the pair of hypos held up in his hand. “Could be that's your cocktail.”
“Bùjiàn guāncái bù diàolèi!” Mal exclaimed, jumping up as a fierce surge of hope rushed through him, his hand reaching for the vials instinctively.
Williams, however, kept them out of the other's man reach. He sat calmly, his eyes moving from Mal to Zoe with grim determination. “First, tell me where my son is.”
Zoe and Mal sat again slowly, exchanging a quick look, and the captain gave the smallest of nods that his first mate answered before turning back to the lawman.
“You know the opium den called Wo's?”
“Inara?” Gabr’elle called as the Companion made her way across the catwalk toward the galley.
Inara turned, waiting as the madam approached, instantly reading the woman’s intentions. “You’re leaving,” she said and Gabr’elle nodded.
“I’ve taken advantage of your hospitality long enough,” she said with a dry smile.
Inara smiled in return, falling into step with the other woman as they descended the steps to the cargo bay where Book and Simon waited below.
“What will you do now?” she asked as they reached the bottom.
“I’m not sure, really,” Gabr’elle admitted. “Rebuild. Go on,” she said.
“There are three of my girls still alive in that hospital, they’ll need taking care of; they’ll need me. I’ll need them too.”
Inara nodded, hesitating a moment before speaking. “I know a place, if you’re interested,” she offered cautiously; it was something she’d been thinking of suggesting for a while. “It belonged to a friend of mine… I’m sure they would welcome you and your girls, and Mal will take you…”
Gabr’elle shook her head. “I appreciate the offer, my dear, truly. But I am, as they say, too old and too set in my ways to go back to working for someone else.” She smiled. “No, I won’t leave, but thank you.” She squeezed the Companion’s good hand. “It will be difficult, but we’ll be all right. People in this town know us – they will help.” She squeezed Inara’s hand again and leaned in to kiss both her cheeks. “You take care of that ‘friend’ of yours,” she whispered, smiling softly as she pulled away.
“I will,” Inara answered with a smile.
Gabr'elle turned to where the Shepherd stood, waiting to wish her goodbye.
"I haven’t decided yet if I should kiss you or curse you," Gabr'elle said to him.
Book nodded, understanding. "Why don't we settle for something in the middle?" he suggested, offering his hand.
The madam looked at it for a long moment before finally extending her own and shaking. "Good luck with your preaching, Shepherd," she said.
“God go with you,” he replied.
Lastly, she turned to Simon. “I owe you my life,” she said, unable to convey the un-payable nature of the debt in more words. She leaned forward and kissed him on the lips warmly, then once on each cheek before pulling away, leaving him blushing in her wake. “Merci,” she said softly.
"Take care of that arm," he answered.
"Take care," Inara called, raising her hand in a wave as the other woman made her way down the ramp and disappeared into the crowd.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 3:01 PM
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 3:25 PM
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 4:17 PM
Wednesday, September 22, 2010 7:32 AM
Thursday, September 23, 2010 7:19 AM
Thursday, September 23, 2010 12:07 PM
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