BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

GUILDSISTER

Blue Sun Job, Part 2: Into the Lion's Den
Monday, May 3, 2004

Inara is drawn into the plans, as is Monty.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3892    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Blue Sun Job: Part 2 Into the Lion’s Den


The Blue Sun Job series is a sequel to the Truthsome series (link is to Part I).
Blue Sun Job, Part 1: Plans and Schemes (link to Part 1).


Chinese:
No critical dialog using actual Chinese characters.
哎呀! = Ai ya! = damn!
鬼 = guay = hell
反义词 = mugou = bitch this one’s a mite dubious for accuracy of the characters--researched it off several different translation sites that didn’t entirely agree)
糟糕= tzao gao = oh sh*t


Blue Sun Job: Into the Lion’s Den
靑日 Job: Into the Lion’s Den

Inara exited from the dining area as gracefully, and quickly, as she could. 哎呀 Mal all to 鬼 for telling them she planned to leave Serenity. He could have at least warned her that he intended to, let her prepare. Poor dear Kaylee had been so broken-hearted. And she’d felt--Inara had to admit it--betrayed. Only Zoe hadn’t seemed surprised. Had Mal told her...? No. Their communication on such matters scarcely achieved the verbal level, yet Zoe must have read the tension between Inara and Mal since leaving the Heart of Gold and Nandi behind.

Soon she’d have to smooth things with Kaylee. The girl was so dear, so unlike Inara in every possible way, yet so accepting of her. Such a treasure Kaylee was. Would Simon ever realize that, Inara wondered. And would Kaylee ever realize that she and Simon, and their lives and backgrounds, were as different as, well... Inara’s and Mal’s.

Sweeping down the catwalk to her shuttle, Inara reflected on all the times and adventures she’d had on this strange little ship. From blood and gunfights to the smell of cattle that no amount of incense could eliminate. A luxury liner, Serenity was not, but boring, stuffy, pretentious... never. Serenity had been a window into an entirely new ‘verse to her, one never dreamt of on Sihnon. What would her House think of the life she’d led, and the things she’d seen and done, since leaving there? Inara’s reflective smile faded.

“What are you running from?” Mal had asked her the first day she set foot on this ship. Now, as she sought to flee from Serenity, Inara realized the question was still perfectly valid. What was she running from now? Was her freedom so important that she’d cast aside happiness and the bonds of love to have it? Hmmm... ask Mal about freedom, and its price.

“What the hell are you doing in my shuttle?!” Inara stopped in the doorway, glaring at Mal who was sprawled on her curved couch.

He smiled at her. It wasn’t one of his boyish, endearing smiles, more one of his callous, challenging ones. “I figured you’d want to be yelling at me.” He shrugged. “Thought I’d make it easy for you. So, go ahead.”

That stopped her. Oh, she was furious with him, to be sure. But his obnoxious bring-it-on smirk and that insolent spark in his eyes told her he knew gorram well he’d succeeded in tweaking her. There was no one--no one--who could make her so angry so fast. Well... if that’s what he expected, and wanted, she damned well wasn’t going to give it to him.

Letting her stance wilt into an air of hurt fragility, Inara crossed the shuttle in a calculatedly sensuous glide to sink down on the couch near him. Covering her face with her hands, she used the moment of feigned emotion to school her features into a vulnerable, but poutingly sexual, look. Wiles. That’s what he’d called it. She was using her wiles on him. With unshed tears glistening in her eyes, Inara gazed up at him through lowered lashes.

The smirk had broadened to a grin. He wasn’t buying it. Not even a little. With an exaggerated sigh, Inara dropped the pretense and glared at him.

“I just wish you had warned me,” she snapped. “Kaylee was very hurt that I hadn’t told her.”

Leaning forward, Mal said, “See, now, there’s the thing... you coulda told her many a time and gentled it all out for her so you two could have had a good sisterly cry together, but you pushed it off and pushed it off ‘cause you wanted me to do it.” He leaned back and made a sweeping gesture with his hand. “You wanted me to bail you out of a fix and I did. You should be thanking me.”

With a very unlady-like snort that would have shocked her house mistress, Inara said, “Well, that almost evens the score.”

“Huh?”

“For the times I’ve rescued you.”

“And when, exactly would that be?” Mal paused and appeared to consider. “Okay, when you got Zoe and me out of that mess in Paradiso, but that’s the only...”

“And at Canton,” Inara interrupted. She’d never mentioned that one before, but--damn him--she wanted to get a few smacks in.

“Canton? What did you do at Canton?”

With an arrogant toss of her head, she said, “The magistrate had put a landlock on your ship. I got it removed.”

“You... a landlock...” he sputtered. “Damn.” He gave her a long up and down look. “Whored yourself to the magistrate to do it?”

Inara clenched her fist to keep from slapping him, then considered slugging him instead. “I most certainly did not,” she hissed, then swallowed hard. “My client was his son,” she added, low.

Surprisingly, his expression softened. She’d been ready--eager even--for the fight to escalate into one of their shouting matches. Instead, he was studying her with a very serious expression, looking, as she recalled, what he called “truthsome.”

“Well, I’m grateful for that,” he said quietly. “They were damned harsh to smugglers there. But I don’t want you selling yourself on my account. I just don’t want to be beholden in that way.”

“I didn’t ‘sell’ myself for you. And you aren’t beholden to me.”

“Umm…” He didn’t seem to be buying that completely. She shouldn’t have mentioned Canton and the landlock. Mal couldn’t let things like that just go with a ‘thank you.’ Maybe he wasn’t the only one who couldn’t let things go.

“So,” he said, looking slowly away from her to scan her shuttle. Was he already planning on how to redecorate for the next renter, seeing it with her gone? “Figured where you’re gonna be goin’?”

“I haven’t decided. Probably home to Sihnon, to my House, at least for a while” she said.

“You can’t go home again,” he said softly. That took her aback. Odd that he’d say that, considering that for him it was literally true. Seeing her reaction, Mal seemed to click onto where her thoughts had gone. “Yeah,” he said, looking away from her. “I mean, it don’t matter if nothing there’s changed. You have, and that makes home not home anymore.

“I can’t but guess,” he went on, “and probably be guessing all kinds of wrong, about what your life was like there, or why it was you left. But I know you ain’t the same person you were then as now, whether you want to admit it to yourself or not.”

Inara looked inward at herself. Three years ago if anyone had told her she’d be roaming the fringes of the galaxy in a tramp cargo ship run by criminals who’d been on the wrong side of Unification, she’d have thought them mad. Moreso, it was mad to suggest she’d actually like such people and regard them as friends; that she’d willingly participate in their illegal activities; that she could watch, without a twitch, as people were shot dead in front of her and not necessarily think it a bad thing; that she’d even consider standing against the Alliance itself--people who had been clients and friends, or so she had regarded them--in favor of these renegade outlaws with whom she’d learned to share loyalty and trust.

Suddenly she laughed aloud. “What’s funny?” Mal asked.

Inara waved her hand in a sweeping gesture. “This. You. All of it.” She turned to him with a bemused smile. “Everything I was raised to believe of myself and the kind of life I would lead--should lead--has been turned upsidedown and twisted all around.” Meeting his eyes, she looked into them probingly. “Surely this isn’t the life you expected to be leading when you were young and looking forward into the future.”

He laughed lightly and completely without humor. “Can’t say I ever did have particular expectations. I was just a kid, just… livin’. Then the Alliance swept over us so sudden and all that home wasn’t really home anymore even before I left it.” An introspective shadow passed over his eyes, and Inara recognized that for all he’d told, and let Zoe tell, the other night, there were a galaxy’s worth of mysteries he yet withheld from her, and possibly even from himself.

“And what are we now?” Inara whispered, more to herself than to Mal. The sharp look he shot at her surprised her.

“You said it yourself, a petty criminal…”

“…and a whore,” Inara finished, letting a genuine smile of amusement soften the intended insults.

Mal smiled back. “And both more than half a bubble off plumb, I’m thinking.”

Inara pasted a trained smile on her face while thinking she’d have to get Zoe to translate that one for her.

* * *

“Oh!” Zoe jumped a touch as Mal stepped out of Inara’s shuttle and nearly ran into her.

He jumped too. “Zoe! What are you doing here?”

“I want to talk with Inara,” she answered looking him over carefully. It was hard to keep an amused look off her face. Ah, heck, why even try? “Have a good fight, sir?”

Mal scratched his nose and glanced back into the shuttle. “Not so much.” He sounded puzzled. “Kind of unsatisfying, truth to tell. Still, that’s one lion’s den down… if the rest go as easy…” He shook his head in a ‘never mind’ way as Zoe stared a question mark at him. “What you wantin’ to talk to Inara about?” Mal asked.

None of your business. “Woman talk,” she answered tersely. And, yes, I am a woman just like Inara, she thought in response to his quick double-take up and down her. Well, maybe not just like Inara. But… Just get going, sir.

“Yeah, um… okay.” Mal turned abruptly and strode off down the catwalk. Zoe shook her head, watching him. The captain could be fairly daft about some things. And more than fairly stubborn about others. That’s why she had to watch his back even if he might disapprove of the way she was doing it. She couldn’t ask him about this, about why she was going to Inara, because he’d order her not to, and she didn’t like to disobey orders. But she would. If it was important enough, and Mal was wrong enough, she would. She surely would.

Turning, Zoe knocked on the shuttle door. “Inara? Can I come in.”

“Zoe? Yes, please do,” Inara met her in the entry. “I was about to come and find you, myself.”

Interesting. What track was Inara on? Zoe entered and closed both sets of doors behind her. She’d sometimes wondered if Inara and Mal realized how well their voices carried when they were having one of their shouting matches.

“Please sit,” Inara gestured to the couch. “Would you like some tea? I just put the water on.”

“Yes, thank you.” Zoe sat, glancing around at the shuttle, noticing the hourglass with ‘short interval’ written on it. Must be what timed Inara’s appointments. Did the clock run out on her fight with Mal, leaving them both unsatisfied. Zoe’s lips twitched in a smile. “Don’t think I could do that,” Zoe commented.

“What?”

“Set a timer for the man to get it done by.” Zoe looked up at her curiously. “I expect him to keep going until he gets it done for me. Do you actually enjoy yourself while you’re, you know, in the midst of it, or are you just counting off the minutes?”

Inara chuckled, not seeming offended by Zoe’s blunt question. “I honestly don’t know any more. Many of my clients are rather inexperienced, so the their technique is lacking, but the experienced ones… well, let’s just say that practice and ego don’t necessarily result in quality.”

“Nope. Takes real loving and hot, sweaty passion for each other to make it work. And no faking the results.”

Inara studied Zoe a moment. “Like you and Wash?” Zoe grinned. Inara asked, “How is it that you’re so… forthright, I guess would be the word, about sex and Mal’s so… not?

Well, well… maybe she’d be learning a thing or two here about how the Companion regarded the captain, Zoe thought, still grinning at Inara. “Just raised different, I guess, even though our folks got on together pretty well.”

“Your families knew each other? I just assumed you’d met in the war…”

Seeing the questions on Inara’s face, Zoe realized there’d been a lot of gaps left in the storytelling the other night. She guessed it would be easy for the others to mistake some things. “No. We go back a mite further than that, me and Mal. I’m not from Shadow, but I was there a few times,” she said. “I grew up on a trade ship. We hauled their cattle off world. Until the Alliance smacked us all down for our free-trading ways.” What an understatement that was. “Met up again in the war.”

Inara nodded. “And you’ve been together ever since?”

Zoe shrugged. “Give or take. We parted company a few times. He went off once with some… I guess you’d have to call them pirates. Never would talk much about it. I think they crossed paths with Reavers. That boat came back pretty battered, but Cap’n had enough coin to buy Serenity.”

“Hmmm…” Inara looked thoughtful. Zoe observed her carefully. Her Companion shields were down and Zoe could read everything on her face. Inara was thirsty to know every fragment of information she could about Mal because she really did care for him, and damned if that wasn’t why she was leaving. Every bit of it showed so clear. Zoe was as fond of Inara as she could be, but a more hopelessly miss-matched pair she’d seldom ever seen. Nothing but hurting was in store for the two of them if they tried to have a go at it together. They were a bit alike, Zoe suddenly realized, but they and their worlds clashed in every possible way. At least Inara realized it and was getting out before either one got too hurt. But maybe she cared enough, and was loyal enough, to help save Mal from his own folly one more time.

Zoe leaned forward, with her hands on her knees. “Inara. I know you’re figuring on leaving us, and I got a hunch as to why and I agree with your reasons…”

“And what is it you think my reasons are?” Inara cut in.

“You’re a loner. Separate from the rest of us since the beginning, here in your own shuttle, flying off to do your own business. But you’ve been getting drawn in closer and closer, ain’t you? Helping out on the Lassiter job, and at the Heart of Gold… folks on this boat are kind of like a family, aren’t we? And you don’t want to get pulled into that family. It’s on account of the rest of us, a bit, isn’t it? Kaylee, and River, and all. But mostly it’s Mal. You were getting too close and you don’t want to. Makes things too complicated. Ain’t that right?”

Inara poured the tea into tiny cups so fine and delicate that Zoe couldn’t imagine them being in any part of the ship outside this upholstered bordello. This shuttle was an odd bubble of an entirely different ‘verse within Serenity. How many Alliance officers had been in here, Zoe wondered, watching the hour glass pour out time as they grunted and sweated? And had Mal ever thought on that fact, or just Zoe? A cold core of self-interest held Zoe’s revulsion at bay at the thought of Feds getting pleasured in this niche of Serenity. As Inara poured, Zoe noticed a faint tremor in her hands. Not as detached and controlled as she tried to appear.

“It’s…” Inara started, then stopped, staring down into her cup. She looked kind of teary-eyed, Zoe noticed. “It is complicated. And that’s exactly what I didn’t want when I first came here.”

“Cap’n said you’d been planning to leave for some time. But don’t seem like you’re rushing into it.”

“It’s hard to let go.” Inara looked at Zoe. “I’m sure you understand that. You’ve got a life with Wash. You could settle down somewhere with him in peace. Start a family. Not roam the galaxy on the wrong side of the law getting shot at all the time. Not having to constantly choose between your husband and the captain.”

Zoe smiled softly, deceptively. “I ain’t trying to ‘let go’ of anything. Hell, I’m holding on tight with both hands. Inara… we haven’t spent a lot of time together. And you’ve only seen me since I’ve been with Wash. You think Mal has some hard edges? You didn’t see me in the war, or after. Wash is the reason I can laugh, and smile, and love… but Mal’s the reason I’m alive, and whole, and sane enough to have what I got with Wash.”

“Then why did you and Mal never… I mean… you fought together and lived together and… are so tied to each other. Why…?”

The Companion academy may have taught Inara control, but it was nothing on control the Alliance had beat into Zoe. She knew what Inara was asking, and it had many layers--sex, love, a husband/wife relationship--why didn’t she have those things with Mal? Zoe could have laughed, had not Inara been so serious, and vulnerable. It was almost funny--almost--that even drunk and spilling deeply personal things he’d never talked on before, how carefully and thoroughly Mal had played the misdirections and omissions. Only Mal and Zoe knew their whole history... And, lord willing, only ever would. Wash, too, bless his beautiful heart, had latched onto the word “never.” Never was a strong word. And the Cap’n had only said it was the only time they’d ever “slept together that way.” True enough… as far as it went. Well, true enough was good enough.

“Inara,” Zoe said carefully, “there’s no easy answer I can give to someone who ain’t lived what we’ve lived.” She paused, then met Inara’s eyes, holding them. “Inara... I understand you want to get away from us, not be drawn in any deeper, and I respect your reasons. But, are you willing to help out one more time?” Zoe asked.

“On this job?” Inara barely whispered. “It’s so ridiculously dangerous. Mal is mad to try it.”

Zoe half-smiled. “He’s not exactly dragging me along kicking and screaming. The captain’s not the only one with old scores to settle. I like the notion of taking this place more than a little. But I wouldn’t be in on doing it if I didn’t think we could pull it off. We can. And will.” She hesitated. “But, yes, it’s dangerous, and I’d like some more insurance in place.”

“Me?”

“Yes. You. And not part of the plans we’ve already gone over. Are you willing to lie to Mal? Keep things from him? Deceive him?” Zoe already knew the answer to that. The notion was just part of the bait.

“What is it you want me to do?” Inara asked cautiously.

Zoe leaned back and contemplated the draperies on the ceiling. Maybe if Inara left some of this stuff behind, she and Wash could sneak in here for a little fantasy romp. “I can’t say exactly. That’s the thing with a plan this complex. You can cover every possibility you can think of but it’s the one you don’t think of that will come up and bite you in the ass. I’m certain Mal’s working on covering things he hasn’t even told me about. Now I’m doing the same. I mostly need you flying high cover, seeing what you can see, and ready to jump in and act in the way you think best, if mission goes way south on us.”

Inara played her Companion-trained ability to read people over Zoe. Zoe just sat still and let her do so. No guile. No deception. Zoe was asking for straight-up, undefined cover, and there was no little danger in it for Inara, which was a primary reason Mal would never ask her to help. Well, a close second after mulish stubbornness, at least.

“What does ‘half a bubble off plumb’ mean?” Inara asked.

Chuckling, Zoe said, “It means ‘crazy’. Mal said that?”

With a nod, Inara said, “It seems to be contagious.” She paused a long, thoughtful moment. “All right. I’m in. Talk to me about some of these possibilities you want me to cover.”

* * *

“Monty.”

“Malcolm.”

The greetings were substantially more subdued than the last time they had met. The beard was back, Mal saw, scruffy but resolute. Flanked by Zoe and Jayne, all well-armed, Mal scanned the bar as they crossed toward Monty. Mixed crowd in various degrees of unsavory but, from the dominate colors, definitely not Alliance-friendly. Not necessarily a good thing--the kind of place the Feds liked to watch. Infiltrate.

Mal tagged two of Monty’s crew, flicking quick glances at them to acknowledge he’d spotted them. Jayne took up a position half-way across the room with a good view of the doors. Zoe slid into a chair at Monty’s table facing one direction while Mal took one facing the other. Watching each other’s backs. Monty sat, unsmiling, with his arms folded across his chest.

“So...” Monty rumbled, looking and sounding wretched. “Did you lift my wife off that rock?”

Keeping his expression bland, Mal said, “She stowed away on my boat. We left her off some place... secure.”

Monty blinked and sighed, stroking his beard. “Well, I suppose that’s for the best. I guess I’m glad you didn’t kill her.”

“Forget her, Monty. 反义词 played us both, but we’re both still alive and kickin’, and that’s more’n a lot of her marks can say.”

“Yeah... yeah.” Monty snuffled, took a gulp of his beer, wiping the foam off his whiskers with his coat sleeve. Mal watched him with half his attention while checking out the place. Anyone paying too much attention to them? Or paying pointedly too little attention? The bartender had his eye on them.

Was Monty over it yet? The big guy really had fallen for Saffron/Bridget. Who’d’a thought it?

“So, you got a job going?” Monty asked, too loud for Mal’s comfort, signaling the bartender as he did.

“Could we keep this kinda down low?” Mal said. He scowled at the lamp hanging low over the table. Microphones, cameras.... Zoe looked uneasy too. “You sure this place is okay to talk?”

“What? Huh?” Monty turned to the bartender as he got to the table. “A round for my mates, here,” Monty said jovially, reaching a hand with some money up to the bartender. Mal caught a subtle twisting of Monty’s fingers against the bartender’s as the money changed hands. He glanced at Zoe. She’d seen it too. Being in an underground drop site didn’t exactly comfort him.

As the bartender headed back to the bar, Monty leaned forward. Low, he said, “He’ll cover us. Sweeps the place every day.” Mal glanced at the crunchy floor. “For bugs,” Monty added. “We’re safe to talk. So you’re setting up a job. A big one.” Monty smiled beneath the bushy whiskers. “Alliance money?” he asked sweetly.

Mal nodded, controlling a smile. Monty could appear a bit thick at times, but he was as tough and sharp an old campaigner as ever lived.

“Near enough,” Mal answered. “How’d you feel about snatching some Blue Sun payroll?”

“糟糕,” he breathed. Monty looked sharply at Zoe. “This on the square?”

Zoe wore the fixed expression Mal recalled so well from the war--dead serious... deadly serious. “We got a solid plan. We will pull it off.”

“Where’s the job? And how you figure to get in?” Monty asked.

“Remember where Zoe and me were sent? After Hera?” Mal said.

Monty nodded. “You know, boy, I’d march shoulder-to-shoulder into hell with you, but 哎呀!, I’m glad I missed out on that.”

“Yeah,” Mal looked down. “We got a way in. Or so we think. We need someone on the inside. Someone to scout.” Mal studied Monty closely. “Someone Alliance.”

Next: Blue Sun Job: Going Smooth

COMMENTS

Monday, May 3, 2004 1:16 PM

AMDOBELL


Ooooh, good gorram story. Love how Zoe has roped Inara in as well. I love Monty, just hope our heroes haven't bitten off a mite too much to chew. Can't wait for the next shiny part! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, May 3, 2004 1:31 PM

JEBBYPAL


Loved your zoe/inara interplay. Always a bit disappointed that we never saw more interaction between them during the show. Can't wait to see everyone's plans come to fruition

Tuesday, May 4, 2004 10:48 PM

NEROLI


Oh, this is getting goooood!!!

Great charaters and the plot is moving along smoothly. :-)

Monday, May 10, 2004 7:54 AM

DELIA


I'm really enjoying this. Part 3, please!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004 10:08 PM

CASTIRONJACK


Brilliant. Part one got me here so its just as good.

Keep flyin'
CastIronJack

Sunday, October 3, 2004 1:10 AM

MAI


Yay! Firefly isn't "dead" after all! You do a wonderful job of bringing back our beloved show. Thanks for sharing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011 6:03 PM

SHINYZOEKAYLEE


So very, very good! It just keeps getting shinier! XD


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