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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
Jayne confronts Simon about River's mental state. Simon argues with his sister. Mal demands an explanation. Inara and Kaylee go through counseling. Simon/Kaylee. Mal/Inara. 39th story in a series. PLEASE read the warning at the beginning of this chapter.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1793 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Title: Far and Away
Synopsis: Mal, Simon, Zoe, Jayne and River go after Niska and hit a – snag. Kaylee and Inara are distraught when they cannot reach Serenity.
Timeline: 8 months after wedding, 7 - 8 months after All good things must come to an end
Notes: Next part of a series beginning with : And So It Begins, Kiss Me, Coming Together, Tell Me, What’s Proper?, Tears , Peekaboo, Impatient, Waking Up is Hard to Do, The Talk, I See You, Exhaustion, Moving Day, Celebration, Surprise , Vacation, Reunion, Manipulation, Baby Talk, A First Time for Everything, The Way It Is, A Special Day, Girl Talk, The Gift, Breaking It In, Making Plans, Friends and Enemies, Where I Belong , Private Time , All good things must come to an end, Moving On, Questions and Answers, The Secrets That We Keep, Revelations, All a Flutter, Shattered, Far and Away
Disclaimer: This story is not meant to infringe on the copyright of any person or company related to the trademarked characters and situations depicted in the Serenity movie or Firefly series. I make no money from this. Only done for fun – and a desperate craving to have more stories told about this wonderful ‘verse Joss Whedon created.
The action is coming! I promise. Next chapter! This one needed all of these confrontations in it so they could all move on to the ass kicking.
This one is long. Because of that, you'll have to wait a few days to read the next chapter.
Thanks to TamSibling for content suggestions and for having a huge impact on the Inara scene at the end of this chapter.
WARNING: This story contains mention of violent acts. If such content offends, please skip this story. Don't read it and then get pissed off with me later because you didn't heed the warning.
Kaylee tossed and turned as nightmares plagued her dreams. Scenes flashed through her mind at such a speed that she could barely remember what had happened before another appeared in its place. But while her eyes couldn’t recall what they’d seen, her body knew, her heart knew.
When she bolted upright in bed, hair plastered to her face and her nightclothes drenched with sweat, she didn’t need to remember each and every scene. By her clenched muscles and her rapid heartbeat, and the feeling of utter despair, she knew she had relived it again. Her skin crawled at the feeling left in the wake of her nightmares.
Kaylee rolled onto her side and cradled her belly as tears dripped down her cheeks. Hard, long sobs shook her shoulders and it took every effort she possessed to catch a breath between them. She stared at the wall, trying to concentrate on the good things. But right now, there was nothing good in her life. Her husband was gone. Off on a suicide mission to end the life of the man who had done this to her. And her baby –
Kaylee gasped as the little one placed a sound kick to her side, obviously in retaliation for waking it so suddenly in the middle of the night. If it was even possible, Kaylee cried harder for that little innocent life. Created out of a violent act instead of the incredible love and adoration she always thought would culminate with the birth of her children. She tried so hard not to blame the little one and she knew Simon didn’t place blame on the baby. She’d heard everything he’d said about wanting to raise the child as his own but she could hear the pain in his voice as he said it.
All of their plans, everything they had wanted for this child, for themselves, was gone. And Kaylee didn’t know how they would ever get it back again.
Kaylee lay there for a long while, wishing there was something she could do to get rid of all the pain. If Simon didn’t come back, she knew what she wanted to do. She didn’t want to live without him. She couldn’t live without him. But she couldn’t end the life of her innocent child in the process.
Simon couldn’t sleep. It was really no great surprise. He hadn’t slept through the night since they’d discovered what truly happened the day Niska’s men had overrun the ship. It didn’t matter how many times he went over the events of that day, and every subsequent day thereafter, the guilt and helplessness were overwhelming to the point where sometimes he couldn’t breathe.
He should have known. He had seen enough cases while he worked in the ER. Girls brought in after being brutally raped. Their emotional state either horrifically and creepifyingly quiet or unpredictable and violent.
Mal’s insistence on keeping communication silence until they reached their contact had grated on his nerves. They didn’t want to attract any of Niska’s men. And after the failed attack on them nearly eight months ago, Mal was sure the crime lord had his people looking for them.
Simon pushed a hand through his hair and rubbed his eyes. Every waking and sleeping moment was filled with his wife; the thought of her beautiful body lying beside him, the scent of her that still lingered on the linens. If he concentrated hard enough, he could remember the good times, instead of only the bad. Her laughter, her bright, beautiful eyes and the energetic smile that could light up the darkest room.
Kaylee needed time with the counselors. He knew that. It was something he could not help with. His presence had only brought about even more stress, and that wasn’t good for Kaylee right now, or, the baby.
He stifled a sob when he thought about the innocent little life she would be bringing into the ‘verse in less than two months. Talking about that little one, planning for the baby they had grown to love so deeply, had brought such joy and happiness to their lives and now just thinking about how Kaylee’s pregnancy had come about in the first place only made bile rise in the back of his throat.
He wanted so desperately to talk to her or to Inara, or one of the counselors, anyone, who could give him some news. But he wouldn’t get the chance, not until they returned from their task. Mal expressly forbid use of the Cortex. If this plan was to work, they couldn’t take any chances. If they wanted to live through this, and return to Paquin alive, they would need to maintain communication silence.
Simon stood and walked to the dresser where they’d put all of the baby clothes they’d purchased. He knew living this life was dangerous. He had hesitated in giving into his love and desire for Kaylee for so long because he didn’t want to tie her to him, to a fugitive who could be snatched away from her at any time. He knew it could happen, even expected it one day. Expected to be taken from his family and the woman he loved because he was a wanted man.
They’d decided a long time ago, thanks to something Zoe had said to Wash, that they were not going to be so afraid of losing something that they wouldn’t try to have it in the first place. And life had been good. For a while. Now, their life had come crashing down around their heads and all of their plans had crumbled before their eyes.
Tugging one of the little blankets out of the drawer, Simon brought it to his face and sank to the floor, letting it soak up the hot tears of despair that ran down his cheeks.
“How is she doing?” Inara asked, her body tense and her face twisted in concern.
“Kaylee has a lot of anger and despair to work out. She has a long road ahead of her.” Counselor Wan Ling answered as she closed the door to the suite Kaylee shared with Inara. “But I wanted to talk to you privately. She seems very comfortable talking to you. Not so with me but that is no great surprise.”
Inara nodded, guilt instantly welling in her chest. She knew the counselor had chosen her words carefully. “We’ve been through a lot together over the last few years.”
“You will be instrumental in her recovery. As will everyone who loves her, who she loves.”
Inara swallowed hard. “Tell me what I need to do.”
“It will help her to hear of your experiences. Listening to what happened to you might help her to realize that she is a survivor in all of this. Life will go on if she will but let it.”
Inara nodded. “I can do that.”
“She’s incredibly apathetic about the baby as well. Though I can tell she has a tremendous capacity to love, I think it will just take a bit more time before she can accept that the child was a result of such a violent act. The stress could bring about early labor and I’m working doubly hard to keep her calm so that she is able to carry the baby to full term.“
“I know,” Inara nodded. “I just came from the medical ward and wanted to talk to her about some tests they ran the other day.”
The counselor’s eyes narrowed. “Shouldn’t a doctor be speaking with her?”
A small smile crept into the corner of Inara’s mouth. “She was a bit busy with you.” She moved toward the door. “But now that you’re done, I need to take her for a walk down there anyway.”
“Of course. I will see you for your appointment later.” Ling inclined her head respectfully before making her way down the hallway.
Inara swallowed nervously. She hated these sessions but they were necessary. As necessary for her recovery as Kaylee’s were for hers.
After the third night of being unable to sleep, Simon pushed himself out of bed and wandered into the cargo bay. He didn’t want to drug himself, not to dull the deep, aching pain that permeated his entire body. That medicine would be needed when someone was injured. To dull real, physical, pain.
He flipped on the lights, keeping them as low as he possibly could to be able to see what he was doing, and walked over to Jayne’s weights. Maybe exhausting himself with exercise would force his body to shut down, at least for a little while. Looking down at them, he shook his head and changed his mind, deciding he would feel better pounding his fists into something a bit harder than his bed or his pillow.
He swung wildly at the bag that hung level with his chest, wincing when his fists struck the stuffed material. But a little pain didn’t deter him and soon his knuckles were red and a light sheen of sweat covered his skin from the exertion. So engrossed was he in ending the tortured life of the punching bag, he didn’t see the large shadow appear behind him, looming like a predator ready to pounce on his prey.
After a few moments, Simon whirled on the voyeur, his fist aimed somewhere in the vicinity of the man’s chest.
Jayne caught Simon’s fist and resisted the urge to snap his arm away. Breaking the good doctor’s bones wouldn’t do anyone any good – even if Jayne would delight in the sound of them snapping.
“You’re stronger than you let on, doc.” Jayne released Simon’s hand as Simon turned away and continued to punch the bag.
After a few minutes of silence, Jayne continued. “The moonbrain’s strong too. But she’s hurtin’ somethin’ fierce.”
Simon’s throat constricted at the mention of his sister. He didn’t want to think about her. She’d caused him enough pain. “How nice of her to feel.” He winced at his venomous tone and redoubled his efforts to end the life of the vile punching bag.
“Ain’t no call for that kinda talk.”
Simon whirled on Jayne, his eyes blazing with a furious indigo fire. “No call? Jayne, my sister knew this was going to happen. Somehow she knew. And she chose not to tell us. She just let it happen.”
“Maybe she had a reason.”
“A reason?” Simon couldn’t believe the big ape didn’t understand. His hands shook as he clenched them at his sides. “She let Kaylee and Inara be raped! Violated in the worst possible way!”
Jayne winced at Simon’s disgusted tone, swallowed the rage just putting those thoughts into words made him feel. He didn’t bother to tell the sheltered doctor that there were worse things that could be done to a body. There was no need. Simon was torn up plenty as it was. And as much as he disliked the younger man, they had come to an understanding long ago. But as angry, hurt and heartbroken as Simon was, Jayne didn’t think his sister deserved the kind of rage he had directed at her.
“Maybe you’re needin’ to go talk to her.” Jayne shook his head. “No, strike that. You need ta listen to ‘er. Babblin’ all kinds of things I don’t understand.”
Simon stood there stupefied that the big ape would even dare to tell him what he should or should not be doing with his sister. He clenched his fists and grimaced slightly at the pain. “Thank you for your oh so enlightening suggestion. I will take it under advisement.” He turned around and raised his fist to once again strike out at the helpless bag.
Jayne frowned. He was right. For bein’ top three percent, Simon wasn’t very smart. “You’re hurtin’ her, boy!”
Simon whirled on Jayne one more time, his fist still raised as if he were about to deliver another punch. “She is hurting!? What about Kaylee? Inara! The people she allowed to be hurt by not warning us this was going to happen!”
If he hadn’t been so angry, he knew he would collapse from exhaustion. His body was tense, his skin damp, and his mind was cloudy with heartache and betrayal and a good portion of helplessness thrown in for good measure.
“It would have happened anyway, Simon.” River’s voice floated down to the men from the catwalk above. Her face was streaked with tears and she gave Jayne a grateful glance before turning her full attention to her brother.
Simon shook his head, trying to deny the truth in her words. “No. You can’t believe that. If we had known we could have prevented it. We –“
“No, Simon.” River descended the metal steps with a grace that neither man could ever remember seeing before now. “If it hadn’t happened then. It would have happened another time. Niska would have found us again. But because this happened when it did, we’ve been more cautious, kept on the move. He hasn’t found us.” She turned to Jayne and hugged him tightly.
The shocked look on Simon’s face would have made Jayne laugh at any other time, but now he just looked down at the little waif with concern.
River turned grateful eyes on Jayne. “Please leave us alone now.”
Jayne glanced at Simon and shook his head. “No way, little girl. Boy’s gonna yell at you some more. Ain’t fair.”
A hint of a smile spread across her face. “Better than not talking at all and letting the anger build. Parents were like that. Simon and I always yelled at each other.” She regarded her brother sadly, “Until now.”
Jayne snorted. Huh. Perhaps Core families weren’t all that different from those out on the Rim. Excepting their pretty fits, their money and their fancy speech. Jayne was still skeptical but bit back his retort when River’s slim fingers covered his mouth.
“Fine, but I hear too much yellin’, I’m comin’ back and givin’ that brother of yours a real body to use as a punching bag.” He glanced over her shoulder at Simon, who stood still, his eyes the only clue that he was even trying to comprehend what was going on. “An’ this one hits back.”
When they were alone, River turned to Simon and hesitantly approached him. “Yell at me, Simon. It’s ok. I can take it.”
Carefully to keep his fury in check, he said only one thing. “Why?”
“I told you why.”
“Then tell me again!” Simon snapped. He wanted to understand. He needed to understand why his sister had kept this secret. Had allowed this terrible thing to happen without so much as a warning.
River tried to choose her words carefully. But the anger rolling off her brother buffeted her so strongly that she couldn’t keep her voice low, neutral. “I didn’t tell you because you would have never left her side. Everyone would second guess every job, jump at every little sound. It would have caused distractions when one would have meant the difference between life and death.”
“You didn’t give us the chance to make that decision for ourselves!” Simon hissed, hands clenched into fists at his side. He suddenly wished Jayne were there, so he could slam his fist into some flesh.
River’s bottom lip trembled. “You gave up everything to protect me. To get me out of the Academy. You did what you had to do because you loved me.” She took a step closer, risking everything. If he hit her, she would take it. She would deserve it. “But did you ever stop to think that maybe it was my turn to do everything I could to protect my family?”
“You protected no one!” Simon cried. The personal betrayal was too much. It was overriding his common sense and he simply lashed out at the only person he could find to blame. “Kaylee and Inara were raped! If you call that protection, I’d hate to see how you would defend them again!”
“I love you! All of you! You don’t understand!” River shook her head, tears sliding down her cheeks.
“I’m trying! Perhaps my genius sister can dumb herself down a bit to explain it to her simple brother!”
River’s tone flattened to an almost unemotional coldness. “Pain and heartache is a small price to pay for death, Simon.”
Simon stared at her, his whole body trembling with rage.
“Death is a permanent thing, Simon. Pain and bruises can heal.”
“The choice was not yours to make,“ Simon seethed.
“Sometimes you just have to trust, Simon. Trust me.”
Simon gave a short derisive snort of laughter. “After this? Never again.”
“You’re hurt, you’re angry; at me, at yourself for feeling so helpless. Inara blamed you for not being able to protect them. She lashed out at you because she had no other outlet. You blame yourself for not protecting them. You’re upset that the baby –“
“Not. Another. Word. River.” Simon clenched his hands tighter into fists, his knuckles going white from the strain. She was right. But hearing her vocalize it made the pain even worse – more real, if that was at all possible.
“Hit me if it will make you feel better.”
Simon’s shoulders slumped, as the realization of those simple words finally punched a hole in his anger. He was not a violent man. He was a doctor. He saved people, he didn’t harm them. And he certainly didn’t hit women, much less his own sister.
“It won’t. And we both know it.”
The fire vanished from his eyes and a sob escaped his lips. He took a few steps back and collapsed onto the padded weight bench, emotion overwhelming him to the point where his legs would no longer support his weight. “I feel so helpless,” he whispered, his heart in his throat.
River’s bottom lip trembled and she fell to her knees beside her brother, tears dripping down her cheeks. She slid her hands into his and squeezed them, noticing his wince as she gripped bruised tissue. “I couldn’t see it all. I knew it was going to happen but I didn’t know when.” She could feel him sense so she hurried on, trying to make him understand. “But I know. I know, if we had stopped him this time, next time would have been worse. Please trust me.”
Simon shook his head, trying to deny her words but one look into her eyes and he knew she believed that what she was telling him was the truth.
“You would have died, and Jayne and Captain Daddy and Zoe. Then who would take care of us?”
“The lesser of these evils was to let –“ Simon couldn’t say the words anymore. Tears welled in his eyes and he was powerless to stop them as they rolled down his flushed cheeks.
River nodded and opened her arms as Simon fell into them, sliding off the bench to his knees. They clung to one another as the events of the past few weeks washed over and through them, bringing even more heartache than they thought possible. But out of that pain, a new bond had formed; that of a brother and sister torn apart by secrets and brought together by truth and love. Together they could do anything. Together they would bring down the man who had caused such grief and heartache.
Inara could not still her hands. Even as she watched her fingers intertwine in the fringe of her shawl, she was powerless to stop them from twisting and untwisting around the delicate lace. She hated it. She knew that the movement only belied her nervousness, her fear and she hated it. She hated being that open, that transparent.
She had spent her life learning how to mask her emotions; been trained from a painfully young age to hide any nervous habits, like nail biting, hair twirling or fabric twisting. Instead she had been schooled in the ways to read people, men and women alike – read their emotions by the body language they displayed, taught to study and understand both verbal and nonverbal communication.
It was no secret among the Guild that she was good at her job, every aspect. She had made a very fine living as a Companion and it was not without hard work or sacrifice. Only one man had ever tempted her to give it up, to walk away. And even though Mal had a list of unfavorable traits stacked against him, he had one very important thing in his favor – he could read her like an open book.
If she ever admitted that to him, she knew there would be no living with him. She could just picture him strutting around the shuttle, his chest puffed out like a proud bird that he had managed to master a Companion, so she never admitted the effect he had over her. Although she suspected he already knew.
And now he was half the ‘verse away, or farther, on a suicide mission to kill an evil, evil man. A man who had orchestrated an attack meant to trap him, but instead only resulted in the violation of two of his crew.
And Inara was stuck in a lovely room, playing with the ends of her shawl and being scrutinized by her counselor. She hated each and every tension-filled discussion she had with the woman.
Inara swallowed thickly, trying to push the varied and conflicting emotions out of her mind. If she started talking now, she wasn’t sure she would stop. She would say things she never meant for anyone to hear.
She was unsure of how much time had passed, but it was Wan Ling who finally broke the silence. “It’s quite unusual for a Companion to settle down. Especially one of your caliber and young age.”
Reflexively, Inara’s hands cradled her very swollen belly. It wouldn’t be long now before the little one inside of her came out to meet the ‘verse and Inara prayed with every fiber of her being that the baby’s daddy was there to see it.
Wan Ling studied her patient for a moment more, deciding how far she could push. Inara had been impossibly closed off in their sessions, her concern for Kaylee, her baby, Mal and the rest of the firefly’s crew giving her a wonderful excuse to delay her own healing. But unfortunately Wan Ling had experience with this kind of trauma. She’d read the reports written by Inara’s counselors after she had been raped the first time. She knew that the young woman in front of her now was going to need a great amount of coaxing to get her to speak of her experiences, of her fears.
Taking a deep breath, she decided it was time to push. There was no other way to get Inara to open up. Sometimes the hard road was the better road to travel. “Do you know who the father is?”
Inara’s round, brown eyes shot up at the question, a dull fire and a sharp pain burning in them. “Yes,” she ground out.
Wan Ling moved forward in her chair, leaning her elbows on her knees to get closer to her charge. “Is there a chance,” she asked, again earning a glare from Inara. “– that the baby was conceived during the rape?”
Inara swallowed hard, past the lump in the throat and the bile that was quickly rising to her mouth. She blinked rapidly to clear sudden and unexpected tears and wished she had the strength to yell at the woman for being so insensitive. But she didn’t. She was tired, tired of the whole situation, and all she could do was nod. “There was.”
As silence again settled between them, Ling watched as Inara tried and succeeded in burying her tears. A little frustrated, but too professional to show it, Ling rose and paced away from her patient, standing across the room. There was something else Inara was keeping to herself, something more damaging than her baby’s paternity. Crossing her arms over her chest, she decided she would try another tactic. “Inara, you are a very good Companion, one of the best.”
Confused, Inara had long ago learned to take a compliment. “Thank you,” she responded automatically.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that you are greatly admired among the Guild,” the counselor continued, again studying Inara’s features. “I wonder if even you know why you are held up as a great example among your profession.”
Inara met the woman’s gaze again, confusion still evident in her face. Looking for an answer, she started, “Well, I’m highly trained and always excelled at any of the teachings set before me. I started very young and-“
“No, dear, that’s not it,” Ling told her, again crossing the room, and resuming her seat. “Those are all valid points, but I think it’s because out of all the Companions I have ever met, you have the greatest emotional control.”
Inara would have considered that a compliment coming from anyone else in any other context. But she knew in this case, it was not a positive trait. She’d buried her true emotions deep, so that no one could ever see them.
“There’s nothing wrong with being able to control emotion,” Inara answered coldly, meeting the woman’s gaze. “It is one of the first lessons a Companion learns, to suppress one’s own needs in order to better serve the emotional and physical needs of a client.”
“Yes, that is the Guild’s definition,” Ling agreed. “But what happens when you need those emotions and you can’t get to them anymore because they have been suppressed for the greater good of those for whom you work or – love?”
Inara rose at that remark, realizing that the counselor was getting close to breaking down her resolve. She couldn’t lose it, not now. She was so close, so close to having this baby, Mal’s baby. And Kaylee was getting better. She would heal. They all would heal. She didn’t want to live through this pain, this fear anymore. Soon it would be over. Mal and Simon and the others would be back and they could go on with their lives. “I’ve done this before,” she said softly as she gazed out one of the room’s windows, taking in snow-capped mountains in the distance.
“That’s true, Inara and you did it remarkably well. It took time but once you moved past the rape you became one of the greatest Companions the Guild has ever seen.” She paused and then added, “You more than survived, you thrived.”
Inara turned a cold gaze on the woman. “And I’ll do it again.”
Shaking her head sadly, Ling told her, “No, I don’t think you will. I think you want to, don’t get me wrong, and you are a strong woman, Inara. I have no doubt you couldn’t accomplish anything you set your mind too, but this isn’t just about you anymore.” Giving a pointed look to her large stomach, Ling continued, “you have more to care about now than just yourself. You have this baby and you have Captain Reynolds, and to a lesser extent, the family you have found on board Serenity.”
Inara’s breath caught in her throat at the mention of Mal’s name. She once again pictured him, bloody and beaten as he had looked when they had rescued him from Niska over a year ago. She had never been so scared in all her life – she had of course never told him that, but it was true.
And all of the other people I’ve hurt because of my lies, Inara thought sadly.
If she had just been honest with everyone, Simon and Kaylee especially, and even Mal, she wouldn’t be so afraid. Afraid of what would happen when her best friend found out that she had kept something so terrible from her. The knowledge of what it would do to them made Inara shudder. She was this close to losing everything she had ever wanted because she had been weak and stupid. Since they’d been in the training house, Inara’s thoughts had been much clearer, more focused. And she reflected with large pangs of regret, that if she had been able to do things different, she would have. Shutting her eyes against the memory, she felt her tears leak out and down her cheeks. She swayed slightly from the emotion and sank to the bench beneath the window ledge and leaned against the wall.
When she opened her eyes again, she was not surprised to see Ling regarding her calmly. “I can’t,” she whispered, her voice broken by tears.
Ling rose and came across the room to stand in front of her. Placing a light hand on her shoulder, she asked quietly, “Why?”
“Because if I do, I’ll lose more than I’m willing to risk.”
Kneeling in front of her and placing a hand on her knee, Ling asked, “That may be true, Inara, but can you survive that? Can you survive all these secrets and lies? Can you survive bottling up all this emotion?”
“It’s my fault,” Inara started to murmur, over and over again, as her tears ran dry. “This is all my fault.”
Ling let the woman stew in her own self-pity for just a moment, and then she said, her voice firm, “Inara, you know that is not true. What happened to you was no one’s fault but the man who did it. It was about power, pure and simple. That man believed he had the right to take what he wanted. Did he have that right, Inara?”
Inara didn’t answer. Maybe he did, maybe she had invited this on herself, she was a Companion after all and in some corners of the ‘verse that was just another word for whore. But Kaylee didn’t invite it. She didn’t deserve it. And she certainly didn’t deserve to be lied to. Ling didn’t understand this wasn’t just about her.
“Inara,” Ling said, her voice more firm. Pulling the woman up into a sitting position she held her by the shoulders and repeated, “Did he have that right?”
Inara’s eyes finally met Ling’s determined ones, and as they again pooled with tears, she shook her head. “No,” she whispered, knowing the counselor was right. But that didn’t make her feelings of despair go away.
“No, he didn’t,” Ling confirmed, releasing her hold on Inara’s shoulders. Sitting back on her heels, she asked, “Was it your fault?”
Inara felt more tears fall as she said, “Yes.”
“No,” Ling shook her head. “You know it wasn’t your fault.”
‘The rape was not my fault. My decision to lie to Kaylee about it was.” She’d never said the words aloud and she swallowed back the anger that welled in her heart as she voiced them. “If Mal and the others hadn’t gone on that job. If Simon had been quicker, if I had fought harder, it wouldn’t have happened. And I wouldn’t have had to do this. To lie to my best friend in an effort to protect her.”
Nodding once in satisfaction, Ling knew they had turned a corner. Rising, she sat in a nearby chair and watched Inara try and collect herself.
Inara was not proud of herself, but it astonished her how much better she felt at having spoken aloud her fears and her anger. She knew Ling would never reveal anything said in their sessions. She was only there to help
“What if they won’t forgive us,” she asked quietly, hardly aware that she had voiced the question aloud.
“Who, dear?” Ling asked, her eyes never leaving Inara’s face.
Turning her tear-streaked face towards her, she whispered, “Simon and Kaylee, and even Mal. He knows what I did, and if they turn on him – I deserve their anger, not him. He would stay with me out of some old fashioned sense of duty. But he knows what I did was wrong. He just hasn’t admitted it.”
Mal could hate her forever when Simon and Kaylee found out what she’d done. As much as she tried to deny what their reaction would be, she knew it would be nothing but explosive. Mal would try to hide it, but it would eat away at him.
“I don’t know Captain Reynolds very well, Inara,” Ling began, trying to steady the girl as she noticed her drifting back to a far off place. “But from the way both you and Kaylee have gone on about him, he must be a kind, generous, caring and loving man, with a fierce sense of loyalty and commitment.” She waited a moment before continuing. “Kaylee is getting the help she needs to recover and Simon will understand when you explain to them why you did what you did. You kept this secret out of love. They will understand.”
“Simon will never understand. And Kaylee will never forgive me for lying to her,” Inara proclaimed, sudden anger in her voice. With great difficulty, she rose from her seat on the floor and paced back over to the couch, setting herself down on it gingerly.
Ling followed her and sat on its opposite end. “I don’t think you’re giving the Captain or your friends enough credit,” she told her, not surprised when she received a scathing glare in return. “You’ve been friends for a long time, close as family. Family protects one another. They will understand. But you need to tell her. You need to begin the healing process – for yourself as well for you.”
“I can’t. Not right now. The baby. She’s had enough stress.” Inara knew it was an excuse and by the way Wan was staring at her, so did she.
“The longer you remain silent, the more it will hurt them in the long run.”
“I know.” Inara sighed. She’d played every conceivable resolution in her head more times than she could count. Many of them ended so badly that she would wake up from the nightmare drenched in sweat. From losing Kaylee and Simon as the dear friends they had become to losing Mal and even her baby. She didn’t want to think about this anymore. She just wanted it to be over. They had survived the brutal attacks. Why couldn’t it just end?
But she had to live with the guilt of being the cause of so much pain. Because of her silence, she had caused even more heartache. She had to come to terms with it. Being honest with Kaylee about everything she had done would start her down the road to a complete, guilt-free recovery. But that was one conversation she would have to think long and hard about approaching. Would it be worth the risk of loosing Kaylee’s friendship when she found out how badly she had been betrayed by her best friend? Inara was afraid to think too closely about the subject. Because as much as she wanted Kaylee to forgive her entirely for the decisions she had made in order to protect the young mechanic, Inara knew she didn’t deserve it – and she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, she wouldn’t get it.
Inara sighed heavily as the baby kicked again, disturbing her thoughts. She would deal with it later. When everyone had returned and their babies were safely cradled in their arms.
Inara’s look lost some of its malice as she realized the counselor was right. But if she listened to her heart, and let that small voice push its way to her consciousness, she knew she was tired of the lies. Only fear of irreconcilable betrayal stayed her tongue now.
Reaching out, she grasped Ling’s hand and turned her pained expression to the counselor. “Tell me there’s still hope,” she asked weakly, her voice soon overcome with sobs.
Smiling at her and trying to blink back her own tears, Ling covered their hands with her own and said, “There is always hope, Inara. Even in the darkest corners and the most dire circumstances. Hope finds a way.”
“We need to talk, lil’ Albatross.”
River drew her legs beneath her and leaned back in the pilot’s chair. “Knew you were coming.”
“You know a lotta things you don’t be speakin’ on lately.”
“Had to –“
“No, that’s where you’re wrong.” Mal was grateful for his conversation with Zoe, and – the wall. It had enabled him to release some rage. But he was still mighty upset with River and they needed to set some things straight. Here and now. Before they brought the fight to Niska. “Don’t like secrets on my boat. Like ‘em even less when the result is someone gettin’ hurt.”
She already knew the answer, but she figured she’d ask anyway. “Did you talk to Simon?”
“I’m speakin’ to you.”
River slowly swiveled her head to meet Mal’s gaze. “You want to know why I didn’t tell you.”
Mal swallowed thickly. The calm with which River spoke chilled him to the bone. “Why’d you let it happen, River?”
“It had to be this way.”
“We’re stronger together than we are apart. Now two a my crew have left this boat and the rest of us are just shells filled with so much anger it’s a wonder no one’s exploded yet.”
Mal wondered why he found that funny. He’d been on the receiving end of the normally quiet, docile doctor’s temper. There hadn’t been anything amusing about it.
“So have you.”
Mal squinted at her. Of course she would know about his conversation with Zoe. “An if ya don’t start explainin’, it might happen again.”
“You’re Captain Daddy. You hold us together. If you were gone we would fly apart. You ground us.”
Mal shot her a skeptical look. “We live on a ship in the middle of space, River. No ground to stand on. Try again.”
River sighed and shook her head. “Don’t understand.”
Mal struggled to control the frantic beating of his heart by taking a deep breath and releasing it, then repeating the action. “Then ya better make me.”
“You would have died,” River said simply. “And your baby would have no father, Inara no husband, we would be separated.”
“You lied to me because I could have died?” The incredulous look on Mal’s face would have been funny at any other time.
Mal squinted at her. “We could have taken measures to prevent that rather unpleasant turn of events.”
“No. You couldn’t have. Neither could Simon. You’d all be dead and we would be helpless and lost.”
Mal shook his head, stubbornly not wanting to believe that he wouldn’t have been able to prevent this violation from happening. But River was rarely wrong about these things. When she got something into her head, when she did something, it was usually for a good reason. This time, he just happened to completely disagree with her reasoning.
"I know you don't want to believe that it's true, but is," she continued, rising to stand in front of him. Through the confusion in his eyes, she could see his injured pride. The bruised ego that told her he was refusing to listen, because he'd feel even more like a failure if he believed her words to be true. "Sometimes, no matter how much you love a person, you can't protect them. Inara knows that now."
Mal's eyes snapped up to meet hers, his gaze suddenly clear. River knew what Inara had done. "River," he started, his tone giving her a warning.
"It's all about trust, Captain," she told him, again sitting in her seat to gaze out at the stars. "Sometimes you just have to trust that everything will work out for the best.”
“Trust ain’t somethin’ I got a lot of since the war.”
River’s gaze met his one more time and Mal chilled at the fierce determination he saw reflected in her eyes. "Then you’d better find some. Because you're going to need it."
Let me know what you think. What you liked, didn't, what sounded right, or didn't!
Next Chapter: Inara cannot reach Serenity and Niska has a new victim.
Saturday, May 13, 2006 6:24 AM
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Saturday, May 13, 2006 7:02 AM
Saturday, May 13, 2006 11:25 AM
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Sunday, May 14, 2006 8:31 AM
Wednesday, May 17, 2006 7:13 PM
Wednesday, May 24, 2006 11:34 AM
Saturday, June 3, 2006 3:07 PM
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