BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

ARCADIA

Over The Hills and Far Away - Ch 7
Monday, March 20, 2006

Set after OIS. Much to Inara’s chagrin, Mal accepts a job offer that takes Serenity far away from New Melbourne and to an unremarkable moon called Three Hills... The crew of Serenity has a fun artistic excursion, Book contemplates his life, Wash still doesn't know what to do about Zoe's birthday, and Inara finds that the line between her preasent and her past is blurrier than ever. And then there's Jayne.... (plus, really long author's note -- this chapter is not so monsterously long as it seems, I swear)


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2579    RATING: 8    SERIES: FIREFLY

Ch 7

Early to sleep, early to rise. It was a lesson that Book has learned from both of his Fathers. He blinked groggily, pushing the crust out of the corner of his eyes. Serenity didn’t sound right. She was relatively silent when he woke on most days, though he had been known to here the echoes of the captain’s footfalls now and again. Book sat up, trying to distinguish all the voices floating into the room. There was Simon, Zoe, Mal. He could hear the gruff drawl that was Jayne, the sing-song timbre that was Kaylee.

Book consulted a clock. Sighing, he rose to his feet, quickly pulling his hair back as her opened the cabin door. All six members of Serenity’s crew were gathered in the cargo bay, all wearing thick boots and thick jackets, save Simon, who stood before them with his arms crossed over his chest. River was there too, also dressed to face the cold, sitting on a crate several feet away.

“May I ask what you’re doing up at this hour?” he said, making his presence known. “It’s only three hours into the day.”

“See? It’s three,” Mal echoed, taking an aggressive step towards Simon. “You delay us any longer with your yòu zhì mán bù ‘bout River getting caught, then she surely will be.”

Raising her eyebrow, Zoe turned to Mal. “We’re ‘bout to leave for a job, Shepard. Should be back by ‘bout sunrise.”

“’Cept me,” Jayne threw in quickly. A smug grim spread across his face. “I’m stayin’ in town an gettin’ me some whores.”

Wash let out an exasperated sigh. “You really think that there are whores here?”

Jayne reached inside his coat pocket and pulled out his orange and yellow knitted hat. “Where there’s dirt,” he said, putting on his head with pride, “there’s whores.”

Book stood quietly, watching as they resumed their quarrel. Mal and Simon spat words at each other. Kaylee tried her best by interjecting small chides at each of them, but she couldn’t make them stop. Wash made a snide remark about Jayne, tossing it right over the taller man’s head. Zoe stepped in, chastising Wash for his undo rudeness. Book found himself shaking his head back and forth in his silence. How was it that he came to be here? His first boarding seemed to be so long ago, a distant memory floating towards him from across reason and time.

River sat away from it all, he dark eyes focused on the closed airlock door. Somehow, Book knew she was going to speak. Somehow, he knew that her words would be for him.

“You can see the sunrise through the glass,” she whispered once he was in ear shot. Book looked towards the small airlock window. There was no sunrise, only the blackness of prolonged midnight. Book stood beside her, waiting. The crew continued their argument in the background, but Book had no interest in listening any longer. His sole attention was on River. He waited for her too speak.

She turned her head towards him, smiled, and then stood up, her body slow and graceful. She walked to Simon, walking toes first. Each step was so light, yet full of gravity. Paradoxical steps. They bound her with Serenity. River whispered in the brother’s ear. Silence. The argument had ceased. “You stay in the bridge, by the com,” Mal said, looking Simon straight in the eye. “You stay ‘til I get back.”

Simon scowled. “I don’t understand why Inara can’t…”

“Inara ain’t one of my crew. You’re one of my crew,” Mal spat, cutting the younger man off mid-sentence. “So you go get to that bridge, and you do your gorram job, you understand me?”

“Perfectly,” Simon sat back. Book watched as he knelt down before his sister, speaking to her in the low voice Book couldn’t hear. He then stood up, turned around, and left them.

Mal walked towards River, putting his arm around her back as if she were his girl, leading her towards the mule. “Sorry to wake you, Shepard,” he said, leftover anger still trilling in his voice. “Best you go back to your bunk and get some shut eye. No need for you to get caught up in this.”

Book watched as they left. Wash driving, the other five sitting on a rigidity platform attached to the back holding their supplies. The old machine spluttered as Wash turned it on. Book knew it wasn’t supposed to run with so many… but it did, and they were on their way. Book stepped forward and closed the airlock, filled with un-fulfillment. He had been sure that River was supposed to tell him something, that there was something he had missed about all this, something he needed to know. But her words made no sense to him. The more he tried to turn them over in his mind, the more clearly Book saw them for what they were: nonsense. The girl was spewing nonsense.

Book walked back to his cabin with heavy feet. Were he a better man, perhaps he would have gone to Simon to offer the boy comfort; but he wasn’t a better man, at least, not that night. That night, Book felt the full weight of his circumstances upon him. Little thoughts betrayed him. The smallest actions, actions only he could value property, kept him from being able to hide from himself. He was slipping away, away from the path of the Carpenter. The longer he stayed aboard Serenity, the worse these betrayals became. All logic told him that it was time to go, but something in his heart said otherwise. It told him to stay.

Closing the cabin door, Book took a moment to order his thoughts. There was no use thinking on such things now, when he was in no position to change his fate. Best take Mal’s advice and rest. He could sort out his thoughts in the morning.

~*~

“Well, at least this job don’t involve any dead animals,” Kaylee said, putting her now empty can of spray paint down and fishing for a new one. “I’m so glad Zoe didn’t ask me to go with her an’ Jayne inside the kitchen. Don’t think the sight of all those precious lil’ lambies would have sat well with my stomach.”

“I don’t think it would sit well with anyone’s stomach,” Wash agreed, finishing another letter. He paused, holding the spray can dramatically before him as if in deep thought. “Except Jayne.”

“Wash!” Kaylee said, a wide smile spread across her face. “Even Jayne got some heart.”

“Well, he did volunteer to carry the lambs,” Wash pointed out, beginning the next word.

“Oh, I reckon he was just tryin’ to be nice,” Kaylee said, applying the purple spray paint liberally to the wall in front of her. “You know, doin’ the unpleasant job so Zoe don’t have to.”

“That is one theory,” Wash conceded. “Jayne might have been trying to be nice… or, he might be drawn to the scent of freshly slain animals. Are most apes drawn to the scent of freshly slain animals? Maybe I’m thinking about vultures…”

Wash was rewarded with a slightly laugh from Kaylee. He was glad Mal assigned them to graffiti the same hallway. If he got his first pick, of course, he’d be working with Zoe, but she was standing in the main corridor with River, keeping watch to make sure the feds didn’t make any surprise visits. Mal and River were in the next hall. Wash liked to think that Mal was still trying to explain to Jayne just what Heather Zagorska wanted them to paint. Logic dictated that even an ape would probably have gotten the message by now, and hour into their labor. On this other hand, it was Jayne that Mal was talking ever-so-patiently to….

“Hey Wash?” Wash ceased his spray-painting fun and turned towards Kaylee. Her face was serious, eyes just a bit wider than they normally were, voice just a bit soft. “Zoe ain’t mad at you any more, is she?”

Wash smiled. One of the reasons he enjoyed having Kaylee on the ship was that she was such a feeling person. Every single emotion she had, she felt with her whole heart. When she’d came to him the day before, crying about Zoe’s broken gift, it would have taken a blind man to see that she was guilt-sick and heartbroken over what happened. It made Wash feel… safer, some how, knowing he had friends like that. “No, Zoe’s not mad. You wouldn’t think it, but she generally gets over things pretty quickly. Holding grudges, that’s Mal’s job,” Wash said. Instantly, he could see Kaylee’s face lifting.

“I’m glad,” Kaylee said. Her voice was her own again. “I never like it when you and Zoe are mad at each other for a long time. Just don’t seem right.”

“Well then, rest assured. There was no lasting damage done,” Wash said with a smile of his own. “Well, except to Zoe’s gift,” he added, returning to his work, “but that was a pretty bad gift anyway.”

“Well, at least it wouldn’t a smoked or nothin’ like last year,” Kaylee said, resuming her vandalism as well.

“Yeah…” Wash trailed off. He didn’t look forward to going back to the market place. River’s flight had interrupted his gift shopping before it had even begun. In a strange way, he was glad of it. Each day, his brain felt more and more like a big pile of mashed protein. The night that Zoe’s gift had been broken, Wash had made a small list of things other things he could get her, things that were cheap and generally available on planets that were less than fancy. The next morning when he looked at it again the list just seemed pretty pathetic. “I have no idea what to get her,” Wash admitted.

“You should get her something pretty,” Kaylee suggested. “Girls always like it when things are pretty.”

“Yeah, but, Zoe isn’t most girls.” Which is why Wash loved her so, but also what made this so hard. Wash really, really did want his gift for her to be perfect, and not just because he was supposed to want it to be perfect, or because he wanted to make up for his screw up last year… Wash wanted to honor. He wanted her to know more truly and deeply than she’d ever known that he appreciated her valor and her strength, her loyalty – however inconvenient he felt it could be sometimes – her intelligence, her perfect dry sense of humor, the way she didn’t care about the conventions of what a girl should be or any conventions, really, her courage. Wash had found himself a Woman with a capital W and he wanted her to know that there was no better kind.

The problem was, the ‘verse didn’t really acknowledge women like Zoe. It catered more to women like Kaylee and Inara, women who appreciated a nice dress or who could easily be pleased by a beautiful bouquet of flowers. That was all well and good, but it wasn’t Zoe. Wash sighed. This who business of finding a present for Zoe was getting far more complicated than he ever imagined it would. It was all so ridiculous. Zoe wasn’t a hard woman to please. Give her a warm, safe place to sleep, enough food to keep her full, and some kisses in just the right spots and she was as content as a kitten.

But Wash wanted more for her than to feel satisfied. He wanted her to feel incredible. She was incredible.

“Well, doesn’t do no good, sighing and frownin’ and the like. It’ll only makes everything seem real hard, when really it ain’t,” Kaylee said, offering him a smile. “You’ll find somethin’ for her, Wash. I know you will.”

At least Kaylee was certain. Wash had serious doubts.

~*~

Inara hadn’t set foot in a factory in a very, very long time. Her mother had never wanted Inara to see one from the inside, but given Layla Serra’s profession this was unavoidable. However, it had been a long time since Inara had entered school and become independent of her parents, sixteen years to be exact. In that time, she had never gone back to her mother’s factory, or any factory. Sometimes, she had wanted to. Sometimes, she had thought her life would be better if she had left the guild and followed her mother’s path.

However, she didn’t. She couldn’t help from feeling nervous about going back to a place like that. She was afraid that she could be overcome, though Inara wasn’t entirely sure what she would be overcome with. Her mother had made many mistakes, but none of them had contributed to Inara’s fall from grace, not really, not unless Inara chose to blame her mother for introducing her to the world of Companions in the first place.

Inara didn’t. What Inara blamed her mother for was driving her father away so brutally that he wouldn’t even seek Inara out, for exploiting Inara’s higher social status once she had become a companion, for ceasing to see her daughter as a person and instead as a social symbol, for yelling at Inara as she packed her bags to leave Sihnon forever without once stopping to think that there had to be something wrong, that Inara wouldn’t be doing this if something wasn’t horribly, terribly wrong. Those were her mother’s sins. Inara had gotten over them a long time ago. She’d even forgiven them. After all, Layla Serra was human. Even worse, she was stuck in mentality of a seventeen year old child who had never gotten what she wanted. On her better days Inara pitied her, but she never hated her.

So, it wasn’t anger. Inara was in no danger of being overcome by anger. She thought briefly that perhaps she would be overcome with grief, but she dismissed that quickly as well. True, it sometimes pained Inara that mother preferred not to speak to her, but she couldn’t say that she was particularly sad about it anymore. She didn’t need to be; even though Inara still felt lonely out in the black, she was no longer alone. She had Kaylee, and Zoe and Wash, and Simon, River. She had Shepard Book. In a strange way, she even had Jayne….

At least, she had them all for now.

Aside from Mal, none of them had talked with her about her plans to depart Serenity when the job was through. Even saying that Mal had talked about it with her was a stretch – becoming testy and throwing sharp-edge, witty one-liners across the room every time she said the word “leaving” wasn’t exactly the same as sitting down in her shuttle and conversing over a cup of tea. But it was something. In some ways, it was easier to deal with. Inara was good with departures whether they be silent, angry, long-overdue, or completely unexpected. She never did so well with good byes.

“Do… do you think it will be boring?” Gilbert Crane asked her lamely, attempting to start a conversation with her. Inara smiled graciously, pulling away from thoughts of the past and future and focusing again on the present. She was standing in the factory lobby with Gilbert. Heather and a tired, grumpy, sleep deprived Mal were standing several feet away from them, looking away.

“I suppose that depends on who’s giving the tour,” Inara said conversationally. “It’s been my experience that whether or not events like these are successful or not has more to do with the tour guide’s speaking talent and audience adaptation skills than anything else. I expect that if we were reading about a factory like this in a book or on the cortex it would quite a dry read, but it could be a very enjoyable tour.”

“Oh,” said Gilbert in response. He looked away from her for a moment, scratching his nose with his left hand. “Aurelia Woo’s giving it,” he said, turning towards her again, “it’s going to be boring.”

“You think so?” Inara asked. A Companion is trained to ask for her client’s opinion at every opportunity. One of her wisest instructors had once told Inara that most clients really only wanted to hear themselves talk and to have their opinions taken seriously, even valued. When giving one’s own opinion, a companion’s goal is to be brief and informative. Present and aura of intellect so that later when you are telling them what they want to hear, they trust you.

Gilbert didn’t answer right away. Inara sense immediately that he was embarrassed about what he had to say. “I… I kept zoning out when we were talking to her yesterday,” Gilbert admitted rather sheepishly. “Heather… she’s always been the one who paid attention to… to business things, technical terms. I…” he laughed. The sound quivered with sadness. “Sometimes, I think she’s only with me for the money.”

“I’m certain that isn’t so,” Inara said, using her soft, reaffirming tone, the one that suggested both intimacy and rationality at once. “You have much to offer a woman, Gilbert. Your loyalty and your kindness. To me, it seems far more likely that she was attracted to you because you’re a beautiful person, and not because of your pocketbook.”

Gilbert smiled. Before he could respond to her, Morris Kentdale and Aurelia Woo walked into the room.

“Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, and thank you for coming to the first public display of Three Hills’ new and first textile factory,” Kentdale greeted in a booming, cheerful voice. Inara Serra knew that Mal, Gilbert, and Heather disliked the man, but she could not help feeling quite contrary. Kentdale had warm eyes and a friendly disposition. She could tell that he had been in the world of politics long enough that he couldn’t be quite trusted, but that he had entered them in the first place not because he craved power, but he wanted to do good.

Inara had met few people in her life whom had shared that philosophy. On Sihnon, noble politicians were few and far between. Immediately, her thoughts lingered to Dougray. True, the man had never been a politician. Also true, he had entered the world of big business with the sole intention of making money. But… but he had been good to Inara, and that was enough.

“If everyone could please follow me,” Aurelia Woo said, her voice cool, thin, but demanding, “We can begin the tour of the facilities. First, let us enter the upper-level. This floor will contain….”

Inara never heard the rest of her sentence. She never expected to. At three in the morning, Mal and his crew had broke into the factory and painted the walls. Inara knew this, though she was too far away from the alcove of the doors to see it. People were crowding around, gasping, trying to read the hateful message written on the wall. Inara did not need to crowd; she already knew just what it said. Written in white letters over the image of bleeding, gray and purple lambs….

Little Lamb, Little Lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? Gave thee life, and bid thee feed, So that thee may be made meat So that thee be shaved and eat’ So that rich folk may delight In wool coats made from thee fur bright Alliance Bless thee, little lamb! Alliance Bless thee, little lamb!

And, of course, the much more direct message of, “The Alliance makes us Lambs for the Slaughter; Now the Lamb must rise and Slaughter the Alliance” was written next to it in letters big, bold, and black.

Inara was forced to admit to herself that she was surprised when she’s read Heather’s variation on William Blake’s famous poem two days ago when she had been sitting at the table, listening to Heather and Mal weave their plans. Bit by bit as she traveled through the Blake, Inara learned that things were not as backwards as people in the core generally thought. However, even on Sihnon, most people didn’t know who William Blake was. And if they did, they were much more libel to know “The Tyger” not “The Lamb.” What prompted Heather to use this poem, and how Heather had stumbled across it through her education were both great mysterious to Inara. Mysterious, she suspected, that would not be solved.

Beside her, Gilbert flashed Inara a grin. She nodded politely to acknowledge it before going back to looking at the crowd, the appropriate curious/afraid/anxious look painted on her face. Alliance officials were beginning to have success pushing back the crowd. In a matter of moments the doors leading to the interior of the factory were closed. “I’m afraid that our tour will be… delayed, until further notice,” Aurelia Woo said, her thin voice now dangerously sharper. Two points, Mal and Heather, Inara thought to herself, Zero points, Woo and Kentdale. Inara took hold of Gilbert’s arm and let herself be directed away from the crowd. As she walked she caught Mal’s gaze.

~*~

“Can I get me anymore?” Jayne Cobb asked, raising his glass. He had intended to go scouting for hookers the moment the job ended just before dawn, but Kaylee, of all people, had told him not to. At first, he was going to argue with her about whether or not seeing a whore was dirty or what not, because he figured that’s what she’d be on about. Turns out, she just thought it might be wise for Jayne to come back to Serenity and sponge off so that he didn’t smell like paint when he went to solicit a woman.

For his own part, Jayne didn’t think this was necessary. Wasn’t supposed to matter to a whore what he smelt like, so long as she was getting paid. When Zoe added that most whores really didn’t start working until a bit later in the morning, Jayne conceded that perhaps looking for a whore at sunrise was not his best plan ever. So, he took little Kaylee’s advice.

“Here you go, sugar,” said the barmaid, who walked over with a bottle of whisky and filled his glass. She was a good looking one. She had little waist, big tits, and lots and lots of sandy brown hair that twisted every which way. It flowed down her back. She smiled at him with crimson lips. “Tell you, what?” she said, voice low and smoky, “this one’s on the house.”

Jayne grinned. He had a feeling that his search was just about over. And it was only three in the afternoon. “Why, that’s mighty generous of you…”

“Adelina,” she said with a wink.

“Adelina,” Jayne repeated, downing a sip of whisky. “Mighty fine name, Adelina.”

“Thanks. And what’s yours?” She asked him.

“Jayne,” he offered, taking another sip.

“Jayne?” Adelina said, giggling just a little. “But Jayne’s a girl’s name, sugar.”

“Yeah well,” Jayne told her, grinning, “Jayne ain’t no girl. I can show ya all my man parts, if you got any doubts.”

“Oh, really?” Adelina said. “Is that a promise?”

Jayne was sure of it. His search was over.

~*~

Inara was sitting in the kitchen eating some soup when Mal walked in. He looked tired and annoyed. Inara couldn’t blame him. She knew that jobs – even jobs are easy and childish as the one he’d pulled today – put him ill at ease. He didn’t speak to her as he ambled to the cabinets and withdrew a protein bar before proceeding to sit down next to her at the table.

They ate in silence. It wasn’t a comfortable silence, either. Inara spent several minutes trying to think of something to say, trying to initiate a conversation. But every subject she could think of to bring up lead easily to subjects that Inara knew Mal wouldn’t talk about with her, at least not rationally. So, she took a deep breath, made her peace with the silence, and continued eating. She was nearly finished when Kaylee walked into the room.

“Hey you,” Kaylee said, smiling brightly and sitting in the chair across from Inara.

“Hey, you,” Inara answered. “You look far too cheerful for someone who was forced to wake up before two in the morning.”

“Yeah well, I… I went back to bed when we got back,” Kaylee said quietly, throwing a nervous glance at Mal. “Anyway, I’m up now. Sponged off and everything. I was just going to grab so food here before lookin’ for Simon. Have you seen him.”

Inara had. “He’s in the infirmary,” she said softly. What she didn’t want to tell Kaylee was that Simon had looked absolutely livid when she had talked with him briefly upon coming back. He’d told her able how Mal and Zoe insisted on taking River with them that morning on to the job, how stupid and dangerous that was, how Mal just wouldn’t listen. Inara had tried to comfort him the best she could, telling him that Mal was a good man and that he could care for River. Inara sincerely believed this. She believed that Mal would even be willing to die for the raven-haired teenager, but… but Simon would hear none of it.

Judging by the way Kaylee’s nervousness lingered over her features, Inara supposed that she really didn’t need to tell the mechanic any of this. She already knew, or guessed, anyway. “Well… he is the doctor,” Kaylee said, closing the topic. “How did the factory tour go? Or rather… did it go?”

“You did good work, Kaylee,” Mal said, speaking for the first time. “Not one folk was let in, the Mayor and the Senator were so embarrassed at such a sight.”

“Ah, well ain’t that a thing to be glad of? It’s about time we had a job went well,” she said, beaming at Mal. She turned to Inara. “And your job, its… everything is going well?”

“As well as it can, with a client like Gilbert,” Inara said, taking her final sip of soup. “He’s starting to get more comfortable around me. Today, he even started a conversation.”

“Aw, that’s….”

“It’s an improvement over having him shake in nervousness while he holds my arm,” Inara said conversationally. “But there really isn’t much more to say about it. Gilbert… I think he’ll be glad to be rid of me, when this is over.”

“Oh, now that don’t seem right. Whatever happened to all those boys who wanted to marry you?”

Inara flashed Kaylee an ironic smile. “Well, I think most of them are married.”

For a moment, all three of them sat in silence. Inara watched as Kaylee’s face changed. The smile that was always behind her lips if not on it faded just a little, and her eyes grew just a little bit darker. Marriage. Inara knew that it was on Kaylee’s mind. She had known for a while, actually. She and Inara had talked of it once, a long time ago. Inara had told Kaylee about all the fancy weddings she’d attended on Sihnon over the years, both as a Companion and as a guest herself.

Kaylee’d asked Inara if Companions ever got married. Inara told her that it wasn’t uncommon. People fell in love sometimes, even Companions. Withdrawing one’s guild registration was a process that took one year to complete. By that time, most Companions knew whether or not this was that they really wanted. If her mother had been only a year older when she met her father, she would have had to wait a year to marry him, instead of rushing into it after two months of courtship. Layla might have realized by then that she didn’t crave married life. She might have decided to stay registered, as roughly half of the Companions applying for marriage licenses did, and Inara might not exist.

Kaylee looked Inara straight in the eyes. Inara knew instantly that this time their talk about marriage would far exceed talk of flower arrangements and seating charts. This time, the question was personal. “Have you ever thought of getting married Inara?” Kaylee asked. “And I don’t mean, have you ever thought of it, ‘cause everyone thinks on it… I mean, did you ever really… almost do it?”

For a moment, Inara remained silence. Mal was sitting next to her, so close, yet his silence made him feel so far from her. She’d never wanted him to know about any of her past, but especially this part. But Kaylee was looking at her so intently, so earnestly. Inara couldn’t lie. “About five years ago,” she said. She didn’t acknowledge that Mal had dropped his food and started staring at her. She tried to ignore the tears she felt welling in the corner of her eyes.

“Five years?” Kaylee asked. She smiled the smile of someone who knew a secret. “Was it the guy who made ya’ his personal companion for a whole year?” Kaylee was grinning. She thought this was romantic, exciting. Mal, though still silent, looked as though he was beside himself. He hand was shaking, his mouth ever so slightly open. This was the horror of horrors.

In between both of them, Inara had gone still. Never talking about Abaddon... if she ever needed to, Inara knew that she could tell Kaylee about Abaddon. She could probably even tell Mal about Abaddon, if the time ever came when she had no choice, but… but the year that followed, the year after Abaddon… She took a large, deep breath, pushing it all back. She saw Kaylee’s eyebrows begin to furrow at Inara’s slight breech of character. She felt Mal, infinitely more astute than he ever admitted, stop looking at her with horror. She felt his blue eyes shift from a gaze of betrayal and judgment to a gaze of concern.

Inara threw on a false smile. “No,” she said, and she saw Kaylee’s face fall, and she saw Mal raise his eyebrow in confusion, “that was someone else.”

“Oh,” Kaylee said, looking away, awkward. “I should… I should be finding Simon.” Kaylee stood up, quickly retrieved some protein bars from the cabinets, and headed out the door towards the infirmary. Inara turned to Mal.

He was looking at her, his food left forgotten on the plate in front of him. The look in his eyes… for once, he wasn’t going to use her words as an excuse to be angry, as an excuse to scream and shout and make her feel like she was breaking. He was frowning, his eyes heavy as if he already knew about her pain. “Inara…” he said, reaching his hand towards her, covering her own hand with it.

For a moment, only for a moment, Inara considered telling him everything.

But the moment passed. Everything was… it was too much. The over-bright lights of the kitchen were assaulting her eyes. The hum of Serenity’s engine was grating at her eardrums. She felt herself trembling. She couldn’t tell whether she was hot or cold. She couldn’t tell whether she was smiling or frowning or crying. Mal’s eyes grew more concerned. His fingers began to curl around hers… Inara stood up abruptly, her hand jerking away from his grip as if his hand were toxic. She tried to throw him a small smile. “I… I should be getting back to my shuttle.”

She could hear him calling her name as she rushed through the hallway to the cargo hold, but she didn’t stop. She kept going, almost to the point of running. When she closed the bulkhead of her shuttle she realized that the tears had fallen. They were streaming down her face, falling off her cheeks and landing on her naked arms like bullets. Tears… so different from the silent tears she’d cried the night before. Sobs wretched her body as she fell to the ground, weeping.

. . . . . . Translation yòu zhì mán bù… childish ramblings

LONG Author’s Note:

For those of you not familiar with the poem (I don’t mean to insult your intelligence if you are; I don’t know how old everyone who reads this fic, and since personally, I never read “The Lamb” until I was almost done with high school….), here is a link to William Blake’s “The Lamb”: http://quotations.about.com/cs/poemlyrics/a/The_Lamb.htm. And its companion poem, “The Tyger” (commonly, the spelling of modernized to Tiger): http://quotations.about.com/cs/poemlyrics/a/The_Tiger.htm. They come from his book Songs of Innocence and Experience (which were published as two separate volumes, but are now almost always published together, as they are companions). “The Lamb” comes from “Songs of Innocence” and is Blake’s exploration of God through a child’s eyes. “The Tyger” is his exploration of God through “experienced” eyes, or the eyes on an adult.

So yeah… I found time to write. Turns out my family does this strange thing that my school friends and I never do. They go to bed before midnight. Who’d a thunk it? So, I had much more time to write than I thought. But, don’t expect chapter eight until around March 30.

Oh, I so liked this chapter. It was a chance to get back to characters who haven’t done much since chapter five – namely Book, Wash, and Jayne. Also, it featured my actual favorite firefly couple (sorry, Mal and Inara, you really as just second place) – Jayne and a Whore! Okay, well it didn’t so much feature Jayne and a whore as set up the groundwork for Jayne sleeping with a whore, and, okay, Mal and Inara really are my ship of choice, but… Jayne and a Whore! What is more fun than Jayne and a whore?

Also, I realize now that Layla Serra will not be appearing in any more flashbacks, so I hope that this chapter resolved any questions you might have had about her and her role in Inara’s adult life. I’ve also realized that while I love Mal and Inara interacting, it was time to let her play nice with others. The silly conversation with Gilbert was especially fun to write. You can expect more of her chillin’ with other crew members in subsequent chapters, especially Kaylee (because they make such cute friends).

One last thing (and I apologize in advance for being emo): Only two people reviewed chapter six! :-( I don’t know if it just moved off the front page too fast and nobody saw it, or if that means it generally wasn’t like?... feel free to review whether you have something positive or negative to say. I admit, when I read negative reviews, it hurts my feelings because I care about what people think of my writing – but that is why I would rather have people say something negative than nothing. The aim of writing, for me, is to keep improving, to become a better storyteller. So, please review, and say whatever you want. I’ll get over it if its bad, and it would probably help me a lot as a writer.

Along those lines, I would like to give a long overdue thank all those people who have reviewed so far, especially my consistent reviews, because not only do you guys keep reviewing over and over again, your reviews are also tend to be very thoughtful. I’ve read many of your fics, and I’ve liked them, so it’s really cool for me to hear from people whose work I appreciate. Special thanks to AgentRouka – you’ve reviewed every chapter. I swear, you are like my saint. I’m always excited to see what you have to say.

Next chapter… Simon and Kaylee: Will Kaylee really march down to the infirmary to try to tell the doctor how he really feels? I would bank on this, but I’m just the author… bigger question: Will Simon reciprocate, or will he pull a Simon and screw it up? Also, another Inara flashback. Will we learn more about Abaddon Jiang? Or perhaps House Mistress Aiko Sato? Maybe one, maybe both. Of course, more Mal and Inara angst (no crying next chapter, though). Some River if there is room for her. And more of Jayne and Adelina.

COMMENTS

Monday, March 20, 2006 12:21 PM

LEIASKY


>Simon and Kaylee: Will Kaylee really march down to the infirmary to try to tell the doctor how she really feels?

I certainly hope so :)

>Will Simon reciprocate, or will he pull a Simon and screw it up?

He'll probably screw it up. He never got it right until the movie...unless this story completely discounts it...then, well. . . naw, he's too mad. Though, when people are mad they tend to say things they wouldn't normally have said to begin with...maybe I'll hold out hope that he doesn't screw it up....

Am looking forward to the next chapter.

Monday, March 20, 2006 2:25 PM

AMDOBELL


I enjoyed this, especially the last part with Inara almost revealing too much at Kaylee's innocent question. It certainly was one of the oddest jobs the crew has ever been paid for though. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, March 20, 2006 2:28 PM

JENNS


Ohhhhhhhhhhh the angst!! love love love it!!

This part made my heart ache, and brought leeeetle tiny tears to my eyes:

In between both of them, Inara had gone still. Never talking about Abaddon... if she ever needed to, Inara knew that she could tell Kaylee about Abaddon. She could probably even tell Mal about Abaddon, if the time ever came when she had no choice, but… but the year that followed, the year after Abaddon… She took a large, deep breath, pushing it all back. She saw Kaylee’s eyebrows begin to furrow at Inara’s slight breech of character. She felt Mal, infinitely more astute than he ever admitted, stop looking at her with horror. She felt his blue eyes shift from a gaze of betrayal and judgment to a gaze of concern.

Have I mentioned how much I love this story?? Can't wait for the next part. ;)

Jenn

Tuesday, March 21, 2006 1:30 AM

TAYEATRA


This chapter worked really well with all the varied character interactions. It also had just the right mix of current events and memories with the odd hint of many unanswered questions. I am very much looking forward to reading the next part.

You write a beautiful Inara.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006 2:51 AM

AGENTROUKA


I'm very glad that my hapless comments are appreciated. *g*

Wonderful job, again, on the original characters. From Gilbert slowly warming up to Adelina... (And yes, Jayne/Whore is a great pairing. Not greater, though, than Mal/Inara, hehe.) I adore Gilbert about as much as I despise Heather and this little petty job of theirs. Such a great way of showing the conflicts of philosophy both in and between the people on board. Are childish pranks the right way to defend one's believe system? Or is it kind of pathetic? I love that aspect of the story.

And oh. The. Heartbreak. I have a huge crush on the Abbadon storyline. I want to know more. Every hint so far points to delicious tragedy.

And Mal's reaction, so well described with just a few visuals.

And what's up with Woo? And Aiko Sato? And everything? What do you MEAN no new part until the 30th? *g*

Tuesday, March 21, 2006 8:27 AM

LEIGHKOHL


Jayne reached inside his coat pocket and pulled out his orange and yellow knitted hat. “Where there’s dirt,” he said, putting on his head with pride, “there’s whores.”- This line is so Jayne, I laughed out right at it! And yes, I too enjoy Jayne and a whore!

Innocent questions always stir up the most trouble. I can't wait to read Inara's heartache and oh Simon and Kaylee! I know he's mad, and a fool, but for the love of god, give him one moment of clarity, please!

Can't wait to read your next post, and take your time writing, we'll wait patiently!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006 6:36 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Arcadia,

Another wonderful chapter full of on-character dialogue and interpersonal angst!

However....I think that the thoughts by Inara on Companions and marriage when asked about it by Kaylee (especially how things could have gone differently for Inara's mom) could have been stretched a little more. More character-defining tension;)

But still....I am seriously awaiting some more of this fic. The 30th cannot come soon enough.

BEB


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