BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

DESERTGIRL

Decisions part (2/2)
Friday, August 18, 2006

The last half of the story in which, Mal does many good deeds, expensive sparkly rocks get tossed around the cargo bay, Inara does some soul searching and River forces the issue.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2286    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Part 2 ties up the story, for now. Who knows if these characters will pop back into my head and demand to be let out once again.

Here is the link to Chapter 1: http://www.fireflyfans.net/bluesun.aspx?bid=12485

Since it discusses kidnapping, I would not read this story to young children.. Maybe PG13.

This story is a sequel to “The Additions” which may help you to recognize a few new faces on Serenity.

Thank you - thank you to Phoenix Rose for the Awesome Beta job.

Comments are ultra shiny. Lets me know if you want more, and/or how I can make future stories better.

Most of all ENJOY -

The Decisions – Part 2

“I need all personnel to the common room, Ma-shong.” Mal’s voice rang throughout the ship. Slowly Zoë, Mal and Sara were joined by all of Serenity’s crew and passengers.

“It seems that Jordas here is not the only youngin’ to have been put in danger and be in need of rescue.” Mal walked over to Jordas and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Now son, I promised you I would not take you anywhere you didn’t want to go. But I’m not the type to sit around and watch children get stolen, used and thrown away. I aim to go rescue those youngsters. If you want I’ll take you home first, but I do think it would do those kids a world of good to see a familiar face on this boat when we get ‘em aboard.

“You don’t have to decide now, because either way we need your help with the planning. That brings me to why I called this meeting. I am looking for suggestions as to how to get thirty some-odd kids out of the diamond mines in the Luneas Belt.”

“Is that not an Alliance facility?” Simon asked skeptically.

“Most likely a contract facility… Still plenty dangerous though.” Zoë’s voice focused everyone on the job.

“Won’t them tah mah de be pretty perturbed at us walking in and taking all their workers?” Jayne remarked as he casually cleaned under his nails with a knife.

“Alliance contracts would not allow the exploitation of children. My guess is that the facility managers have the kids all listed under fake documents. They are probably pocketing the pay themselves. We take a bunch of kids, they won’t be able to file a report to anyone.”

“No more than they would be able to complain about the loss of a couple of unregistered loads of diamond ore.” Sara mumbled.

“Cast a line, have to put on the right bait. When the bait is good they bite, hook, line and sinker. Reel em in. Some will fight, but they don’t know what’s happening if you do it right. Then you get to knock ‘em in the head and take home the good ones.” Mal and Kaylee understood River’s fishing analogy and nodded at her.

“Which brings us back to suggestions for a downright tasty plan.”

********

Eighteen hours later Serenity limped haphazardly into the Luneas Belt, ready to execute Kaylee’s contribution towards the plan.

“Mayday, mayday firefly class transport, Serenity, requests the aid of anyone within communication range.” Sara’s voice rang over the com system.

“Serenity transport, this is Luneas Mine. What seems to be your trouble?”

“I am not sure, this morning we were all woken up by a loud bang. I think we hit something. I can’t figure out what’s broken. But the steering is funky and life support keeps turning off and on. My mechanic says we need to set down and go through all our systems one by one.”

“Serenity transport, we are a small mining operation. We only have one docking platform. However next scheduled transport is in thirty six hours. You can have the platform for the next thirty five. I’ll upload the coordinates.”

On the bridge, Mal, Zoe, Sara and Kaylee smiled at each other. It was one of the basic rules in the black. You give aid to those who needed it. No one, no matter how many rules they had to break, would ever turn away a ship with life support problems.

Sara sat down at the controls and proceeded to weave her way toward the landing platform. She missed the mark several times for effect, sending a surprising amount of profanity across the com to the waiting miners.

“Ok, folks were in. The show is on.” Mal went towards the hatch to execute his contribution towards the plan.

****

“Good morning folks.” Mal greeted the two mine workers waiting at the hatch with warm handshakes, guiding them back to their office. “Thank you so much for letting us set down here at your humble establishment. My mechanic, she’s pretty good. She’ll have this all figured out in no time. Pilot says we got hit by an asteroid the size of an apple. Hard to imagine an apple doing that kind of damage to a ship.”

By the time Mal had stopped talking, they were all sitting casually around the mine office. Mal was doing his best to put the men at ease, and he was mostly succeeding. Perhaps some of that had to do with the flask of Kaylee’s hard cider being passed around for the fifth time. “So what you guys mine around here iron, bauxite, copper?”

“Rather not say. It’s valuable though, enough passes through this facility every month to run a ship like yours for a decade.”

“Hmm and let me guess, the company gives you appropriate bonuses for the amount of money you are bringing them?” The two men looked at each other. “The company at least pay you enough so you are not tempted to filch a bit off the top?”

“We do ok, we have our schemes.”

“Good for you my friend, good for you.” Mal pretended to take another sip from the flask. “Now you know that we are a transport ship. And right now we happen to have a fairly empty hold. I’m thinking I’m in the position to make all of us very rich men. Tell me, would the company realize if some ore went missing?”

“No, there’s no way to count the rocks. But they know what capacity is, and they expect us to have those jugs ready every three days when the transports show up.”

“Say your workers put in a few extra hours and filled up some non-company barrels with whatever it is you mine. Then you load it onto some non-affiliated transport and send it off to space. No one is the wiser, then a few weeks later 75% of the sale of that ore appears in your personal accounts.”

The faces of the men lit up. This captain was their kind of individual. With this and the pay of those kids he’d be rich. Even if the captain only put half of the ore’s value in their accounts, it would be enough to disappear onto the outer rim and lead quite a nice life. “Let’s see. There would have to be no record of your presence here. I’ll have to erase the logs.” He mumbled as he began typing on the computer screen on his desk. “Yes, your asteroid collision is turning out to be our lucky day.”

“It’ll be a pleasure doing business with you. What are you mining anyway?”

“Diamonds, first quality pure uncut diamonds” Mal let a long whistle slowly escape his mouth. Any captain, especially one as nasty as the captain he was pretending to be would think he had just hit pay dirt. And truthfully, the real Mal was not unsatisfied with the cargo either.

“I think this is turning out to be our lucky day as well.”

“I’ll just go get some barrels. Maybe a couple of men to fill ‘em up, wouldn’t want your workers to get too far off schedule. We want to be able to leave as soon as the ship is repaired. Don’t want anything to look suspicious.” Mal strode back to his ship like a man who had just scored big, which in fact he had. He had never doubted this part of the plan would work. Any man greedy enough to steal children would take lots of chances if the payoff was big enough.

********** Mal closed the hatch behind him.

“How’s the ship little Kaylee?”

“Just shiny captain, how’s the plan?”

“They liked the bait, now we just have to reel ‘em in.” River smiled at the captain’s remark. It always made her feel good to know someone understood what she was trying to say.

“Jayne, Simon we have about twenty minutes to make it look like we are clearing some cargo crates.” Reality was, the entire crew had unloaded the goods from the trailer attached to Sara’s mule, emptied four round barrels and placed them in the trailer, before they had entered the Luneas Belt.

“Sir, I’m going.” Zoë stood facing him, dressed in coveralls.

“No, we been through this already, you ain’t.”

“Sir, I am not going to sit on this ship like an invalid for the next seven months.”

“Zoë, Wash ‘d haunt me till doomsday if I let something happen to that baby. Tell her doc. Mine’s ain’t no place for a woman in her state.”

“My state? Sir, we’ve been though a lot together. You ever see me not hold my own?” Zoë was fuming. But Mal stood his ground. Luckily, Simon’s response broke the death stares they were giving each other.

“Zoë, it is my professional opinion that the air in any mine could be harmful.”

Zoë cut him off “Tian xiz shou you de ren dou gai si. This time Sir. This one time, I’ll sit out. But when this is over we’re going to talk.” Zoë stormed up the stairs.

“Can’t stop a stream.” River looked him in the eyes. “If you put in a dam it just builds up and goes around. Most often it takes out the river bank and your best fishing hole.”

“You’re telling me I have to let Zoë be who she is, even if that puts her in danger?” River smiled and nodded, then twirled around and danced towards the stairs.

Mal considered this for a minute before it was time to go. “Jayne, Simon load up.”

**********

“Park your mule, we can dig this section here.” Mal parked the mule where he was told and listened while the manager got on his handheld. “Zane, bring a handful of tall ones to section 356 H. I’ve got an extra assignment for you.” Mal figured that was code for not bringing the littlest kids. They might be settling in for a sweetheart deal with these men, but that was no reason for them to trust him with their secrets.

Shortly after the five adults began to fill up the first barrel with the brown crumbly rocks, six boys came walking up the shaft. The oldest were probably fourteen, the youngest ten.

“It’s about time you got here.” The manager stated crossly. “I need these barrels filled up pronto.”

In the process of digging and filling up the barrels, Mal was able to squeeze next to Zane. He whispered “Jordas McNeil sends his regards.” The young man faltered ever so slightly, but recovered quickly.

“Jordas was a good boy.”

“He said you and Cole plan the evacuations.” This time the young man did not say a word. Better to be safe, just in case. So Mal continued in a hushed whisper.

“Have room for forty or so. Have ‘em ready at the triple gates, exactly one hour past chimes.” Mal turned and started digging on another bit of wall. This part of the plan had been Jordas’s. He had said that only the boys new about the triple gate, where the facility managers passed the boys their meals before and after every shift. And only the boys knew about the chimes that signify their six hour sleep shift. Jordas figured with these hints and his name, Zane might trust Mal enough to gather the boys and board Serenity.

Fairly quickly the barrels were filled and the five adults were riding the mule back towards the docking platform. The young mining crew walked quickly back to the three tunnels that was their encampment. Perhaps someone watching particularly closely would have seen the slight lilt in their steps after Zane told them about the whisperings of the brown headed man.

**********

The next step in the plan was contributed by Inara. No one liked it, least of all Mal, although Simon was a close second. But in the end they had all agreed that it was the best way to incapacitate the two facility managers.

Inara, Sara and Kaylee, all dressed in some of Inara’s most alluring gowns, sauntered down the landing platform carrying a pot of noodles and fresh stir-fried vegetables. Laughing and swaying as they walked, it almost appeared as if they were drunk.

“You-hoo, Oh, there you are.” Sara placed the pot of food on the desk next to the dark haired man. “Our captain, he sent us down to express his gratitude for the deal you made today. We brought you dinner and dessert.” After she served him a bowl, she sat in his lap and began to place bites of the fresh food between his lips. With each bite, she leaned a bit closer, so he could almost kiss her but not quite. Sara had to admit that Inara was correct. No man, after being cooped up on an asteroid for who knew how long, would refuse a wonderfully cooked meal and the opportunity to get it on with a beautiful woman.

“The captain did not let on that his ship held the likes of you. What’s your name sweetheart?” Inara was sitting next to the sandy blond man. She had also filled a bowl with food. She picked up the chop sticks and set them gently between his lips. Each bit contained just enough food to make him ache for more. And with each delicate bite, her free hand slowly slid farther up his leg.

“It doesn’t matter, you won’t remember me in the morning liou coe shway duh biao-tze huh hoe-tze fuh ur-tze.” Inara’s sultry voice surrounded him as his head hit the table. He was out cold. Simon’s white powder had done the trick. She looked over her shoulder towards Sara. The dark haired man was also out cold, sprawled out in his chair.

Within seconds Kaylee had the files open and produced a map of the mine. Inara opened the desk drawer and ran her hand underneath the frame. She pulled out a plastic card imprinted with three nine-digit codes. Sara pulled up her skirt and removed the transmitter that was tied around her leg.

“Serenity, good to go.”

“Way to go Ma. I’ll let ‘em know.” Tyson’s voice came back across the transmitter.

Within five minutes they were joined by the rest of Serenity’s crew.

“Zoë, River you’re here. River you tell Zoë if one of them starts to wake up!” The young psychic nodded. Zoë stood with her carbine ready and looked happy to shoot anyone who moved the wrong way.

It turned out they were only three corridors away from the triple gates. Through the glass, they could see several dirty boys gathered at the other side. Inara stepped forward and typed the first code into the pad. The gate slid open to reveal another door with an electronic key pad about five feet away.

“How is it, you always know where a man keeps his valuables?” Inara shot arrows at Mal with her eyes.

“Men are predictable, they all tend to act the same.” It was Mal’s turn to be offended as Inara typed the second code into second pad. The gate opened and the two of them stepped through into yet another small chamber as the first gate closed. “Why can’t anything go as planned,” Mal thought to himself.

“Huh choo-shang tza-jiao duh tzang-huo, that middle door better not close when we open the third gate, or else we’re screwed.” Mal was shocked by Inara’s language. It was not often he saw her lose her cool. She typed the third code into the third pad. And the door slid open. Luckily, the middle gate did not shut.

The couple was greeted by thirty some-odd boys ranging in age from five to fourteen. Zane, obviously the leader, stepped into the gateway. “Your message was cryptic, but did I understand you want to take us off this rock, and you have Jordas McNeil with you.”

“That’s right.” Mal motioned down the corridor. “Jordas got caught stowing away on my boat. He told me about your smuggling ring, Zane. One of these days the corporation that runs this place is going to get suspicious. You don’t want to be here when that happens.”

“Just tell me where you’re goin’ to take these boys. There are worse places to be than this mine. I need to know where they will go next.”

“Son, I will take them wherever they want to go.”

With that Zane gave the boys his ok and they all squeezed into the tiny space created by the gates. When Inara punched the first code into pad and the third gate shut behind them they had all made it.

Thirty minutes later, Serenity was in the air, the cargo bay full of dirty young boys, holding all their worldly possessions. Most had just a blanket and a cup. Jordas stood on the stairs wearing a grin as large as the rings of his home planet.

Mal let Jordas enjoy this moment of glory for a few minutes before he climbed up on the landing of the stairs with him.

“Son, how’s about you introduce me to your friends?” Mal asked as he stepped up next to the boy.

“Hello….Hello.” The young boy’s voice could hardly be heard above all the chatter on the floor of the cargo bay.”

“Hey shut your gorram traps! The captain’s talking.” Silence rang through the cargo bay when Jayne spoke.

“Ahem, welcome to Serenity. These folks are all real nice. There are even kids that live on this ship. So you can do what they say, they won’t hurt ya.” Mal placed his hand on Jordas’ shoulder. Jordas could feel that Mal was proud of him. He liked that feeling. “And this is the Captain.”

Mal took that as his cue. “Like I told Jordas when we discovered him, I ain’t no niao se dub doo gway child snatcher. I ain’t going to take you boys anywheres you don’t want to go. We just have to figure out what to do with you. From looking at you I’m thinking our first order of business needs to be a lake and some soap. You’re all a gorram mess.”

No one laughed at his joke so he went on. “Our first stop is Ganimex. Jordas was the first on board, so he’s the first one to go home. In the meantime, you all have three people to check in with. One is Zoë. She’s the first mate, over there with the curly hair. Zoë wave to the youngins.” Zoë gave an undersized wave. “You all need to tell Zoë where you want to go. If you want to go home, tell her where home is. If you don’t, well, give her your name and we’ll figure something out. Second is Simon.” Simon gave a wave without being asked. “Simon is a doc, and a fairly good one. I want him to check each of you out and make sure your stay on the Luneas belt has not been overly harmful. And third, check in with Sara.” Mal pointed to Sara sitting on the big brown crate. “Sara there has rations for ya’ll. Now I don’t care what order you do all these things in, just get’m done before we land. Oh, and try and stay in the cargo bay.”

With that the captain turned around and walked up the stairs towards the bridge. As he left he heard Zane hop onto the stairs to take his place. “Red squad Zoë, blue squad Doc, yellow squad rations. You mess listen up, when the big guy yells we’ll switch.” The boys were used to listening to Zane and quickly organized themselves into their usual squads.

*********

The large lake on Ganimex that Serenity landed near was a deep green color. River guided the ship down to a smooth landing not fifty feet away from the edge. Within ten minutes she had all engine functions shut down, had dug a fishing pole out of a storage compartment somewhere and was walking off the ship.

“Hold up there little miss.” Jayne was standing at the edge of the loading ramp handing out soap to boys as they ran past him towards the water. “you ain’t goin’ to go casting no fish hooks where them boys are swimmin’.”

“Going over there.” She pointed to a small piece of land jutting out into the water. “Gotta get away. Too many voices. Can’t block it out, bad memories, invading my space. Fish are quite.”

“Uh, yeah, ok. Be back when the shuttle lands” Jayne could understand anyone wanting their own space.

Zoë and Mal stood on the beach watching the boys splash in the water.

“There are three from Ganimex besides Jordas, Sir.”

“Well they’ve been gone for months, another hour won’t hurt. Better to give’em back clean. Parents are more like to recognize them when Jayne and I drop them off.”

“I’m going Sir.”

“Zoë, I told you I don’t want you goin’ on jobs.”

“First of all delivering those kids ain’t really a job. And second I told you that I am not sitting in this ship for nine months.”

“Well, doc says it’s really more like seven at this point.”

“The point is that if I sit here I’ll go crazy.”

“So what are you going to do when some tah mah de sees that you’re pregnant and shoots you in the belly?”

“Sir, I’m not saying I want to go on every job. I just need to be me, and this is what I do…Sir, sometimes you have to compromise your ideal situation with reality. Reality is you need me and my gun there with you, and I need to be there. I know this whole thing is not ideal, but it’s what we got.” They both stared at the boys splashing in the water for a while.

Looking past the flying water he could see a lone slender figure with a fishing pole on the edge of the point. Mal thought about some of River’s comments. “Can’t stop a stream. If you put in a dam it just builds up and goes around.” She wanted him to let people be who they were, and not what he wanted them to be. She had also said he “Can’t just ride in the ruts,” that they’ll “stop ya before you start,” She said it would be hard for him to compromise his needs with his crews needs. But she had said there was milk and honey on the other side. He hoped River was right.

“If the doc says it’s not safe for Wash Jr. there, you’ll stay behind?”

“That’s what I’m sayin, Sir.”

“And when your armor no longer fits, you’ll stay behind”

“Have to be safe, Sir.”

“Well, load up the shuttle. We have four to deliver on this rock.”

Zoë walked off toward the ship, a smile on her face.

******

Jordas was the first to go home. Jordas had insisted that Inara accompany them as well. He had hardly let Inara out of his sight since she had drawn him out of his hiding place between the crates in the cargo bay. Whenever he looked at her, he still saw an angel.

As Jayne, Zoë, Mal, Inara and the three other Ganimex children walked up the street of his town, it struck Inara how peaceful it all seemed. A disappearance like the one Jordas had suffered must have set the town into a frenzy. Yet no one bothered them as they walked up the tree lined street.

“Ok son, we will stand right here across the street. If the folks who answer the door are not your own, or somethin’s wrong, you just run back dong ma?” Mal gave the boy a pat on the back then pushed him towards the house. Jordas was halfway across the street when he turned and ran back into Inara’s arms.

“I’ll miss you.”

“I know, I’ll miss you too, but your Ma has missed you more.” There were a few tears in the corner of Inara’s eyes. It took all her companion training to keep her voice steady and strong. Jordas had gotten under her skin. All he had wanted was someone to hold his hand and help him through the scary times, someone to hold him late at night and tell him stories as he went to sleep. It never had occurred to her before that she would want someone who could love her so completely as a child could. Inara had never wanted to depend on another, to risk needing the love of another, but as she watched Jordas walk across the street, it occurred to her that not ever having that love could be even more painful.

Across the street, a slight woman with deep brown hair opened the door. When she saw Jordas, she screamed, grabbed him and began crying. Inara wondered if Jordas could breathe she was squeezing him so tight. Her hysteria brought three others to the door. It was an elderly man who spotted the pack across the street. He simply nodded to the bunch of outlaws. Mal nodded back as they turned and walked away.

********

Over the next week, the crew settled into a routine. When they arrived at one of the designated planets, Mal, Zoe and Inara would take the children in the shuttle and walk them to their doors. By the tenth delivery, Jayne was no longer going. There had never been a problem. The crew was always able to slip away during the hysteria of the reunions.

Mornings on board Serenity had been filled with schoolwork. Sara had adjusted her boys’ lessons to include all of them. In the afternoons the boys occupied their time sorting the rough diamonds from the barrels of rock and dirt the crew had collected from the mine. After dinner, Inara often told them stories as they fell asleep on the floor of the common room. It was before one of these story sessions was about to begin that Mal walked into the common room and asked the boys to gather round.

“Sorry to interrupt the fun, Inara, but us menfolk have some business to discuss.” Mal had not talked much with Inara since the mine. She was always surrounded by kids. He did not intend to sound demeaning, but that is how it came out. Inara politely excused herself to get some tea. No one could see her once again having to control the bomb about to explode in her brain and heart.

“Scout and Bridger, this does not concern you much because we are taking you home here shortly. But the rest, you four, I understand you don’t really have a home you intend to go to.”

“That’s correct, Sir.” Zane answered for the four boys.

“We need you to decide what you want to do with yourselves. Kaylee’s family runs a repair and refuel yard, if any of you are interested in engines. Jayne’s family has a hunting and guiding business. We have a connection at an Abby on Persephone if you have any religious inclinations. I think we could persuade any of them to take you in as an apprentice. What I won’t do is let you loose in some city to run the streets, although I understand that is where you were before. So you think on it and let me know what you are interested in.”

Mal turned and walked into the kitchen, intending to tell Inara the boys were all hers again. But he could not find her. She had disappeared into her shuttle. It was too hard saying goodbye to all these boys. She did not want to think about where they would be taking the last few. They boys would probably be so busy figuring out their futures, they would not be interested in a bedtime story anyway.

In the end Cole and Nicoli decided to go to the South Town Abby on Persephone, which gave Mal the chance to finally hook up with Badger. Badger had an acquaintance that cut gem stones. He bought a box of uncut sparklies at almost market value. The crew just might stay in the air awhile longer.

Ruanel had been the boy who had always fixed the tools and equipment in the mine. He jumped at the chance to apprentice with Kaylee’s father and learn about fixing spaceship engines. As he left he said one day he was going to be as good a mechanic as Kaylee. Zane chose to learn guiding and hunting from Jayne’s uncle. Jayne escorted him home personally and came back with hand knitted hats and scarves for everyone on board.

*******

Serenity’s shuttle broke atomo from Tritus. It was the last of their deliveries. Scout and Bridger were two brothers that had been abducted while walking to school in the rural farming town of Metzana Springs. Zoë had chosen to sit this one out, pleading nausea, which left Mal and Inara alone in the shuttle on the return trip.

“We are five minutes to Serenity, last chance for a conversation bao bei” Mal leaned back on the sofa while Inara flew the shuttle.

“What would we have to talk about? All we ever do is hurl insults at each other.” When she came onboard she had been all set to talk out her feelings with Mal. But now a little over a week later, she could not bring herself to do it. She had not said a word since they left Tritus.

“I thought we could discuss how nice it’ll be not to have rug-rats jumping off the catwalks, and throwing diamond filled dirt clods at each other.”

“Mal, there’s a problem.”

“We need to figure out a way to have a civil conversation”

“No, I mean yeah, but it’s Serenity, the docking clamps are closed. We can’t connect.”

Mal jumped off the couch and ran over to the cockpit window. Upon seeing that she was telling the truth he let out a long string of Chinese and grabbed the com.

“Serenity, this is your captain. Why in the name of all that is holy are the docking clamps closed?”

“You need to get out of the rut. You can’t keep hurting each other, makes my brain ache.” River’s voice echoed through the shuttle. “You won’t ask for help, but you need it. Can’t say mean things and walk away into the black. There’s milk and honey on the other side of the road, just gotta get there.”

“Mal, what is she talking about?”

“Think she is saying we have stuff to work out, and she won’t let us onboard till we do.”

“Ok, so lets talk.”

“Shall we start with no nyen ching-duh throwing diamonds around the cargo bay.”

“It will be nice to have peace and quite on the ship.”

“Awe come on is that all you are going to say? I saw you cuddling with those boys as they cried on the couch for their Mamas. I saw you telling them stories; and I saw the tears in your eyes when we took them all home. You can’t tell me you did not make a connection with them. Because each and every one wanted you to hold their hand as we walked them up their streets.”

The two just stared at each other for a while, until the tension in the shuttle was so thick you could cut it with a laser saw.

“Inara, why did you come back?”

Inara stood up and made them both tea. Mal could see that she was killing time while she composed her thoughts so he just let her think.

“I have been struggling for months now. I feel like my life is spinning out of control. I… Ai ya” She threw her tea cup at the wall, and walked across the shuttle, reaching the end of the shuttle and finding herself with nowhere to go, she turned and threw herself on the bed and stifled a sob. “Twenty some odd years of training, you would think I would be able to figure out my own emotions.” Mal walked over and sat next to her, placing his hand on her leg.

“Mal, you told me once that I fog things up for you, that, that spin you about. You do the same to me. I left the first time because I felt like I was falling in love with you. And I knew it would never work. You could never accept me as a partner while I was a companion. You are too possessive. I love being a companion. I love being able to comfort people, ease their grief and their fears. I love the respect and the freedom my career gives me. I would not be me if I wasn’t a companion. Yet that night, when you made love with Nandi. All I could think about was that I wanted it to be me.”

“That’s why you left? Because I slept with some whore?”

“Go away! You ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng!” Inara heaved a pillow at him as hard as she could. It hit him square in the stomach.

“Oh sure its ok for you to make a distinction between just having sex and making intimate passionate love.” It was Mal’s turn to get up and storm around the shuttle. “It’s ok for you to make a distinction between someone who has years of training in providing compassion and someone who hasn’t. Well, let me tell you Nandi was no companion, she was a whore. And it was not intimate passionate love, it was sex. And for your information, while we were going at it, I called her Inara.

“But you’re right. I don’t think I could deal having my girl go sleep with other men. It would tear me up inside. Knowing that, why’d you come back?”

Inara sat up on the edge of the bed, but she did not look at Mal, she kept her eyes focused on her toes. “On Miranda, when we were all almost killed by the reavers… All I could think of was that I did not want to die without holding you in my arms, and feeling your hands caress my body.”

Mal sat down next to her. His hand slowly caressed her face, raising it so that she was looking into his eyes. Then he leaned in and gently kissed her on her lips. As his lips brushed hers, Inara felt sparks fly throughout her body. Never before had she felt this way when kissing a man. It was the difference between a child’s painting and one done by a grand master. Nothing compared to being kissed by someone whom you loved with all your soul.

“So bao bei, what are we going to do?”

“I don’t know.” She lay there snuggled in his arms. For this moment there was nothing else she wanted in the ‘verse.

“Is there anything you love as much as being a companion?”

“Is there anything you love as much as Serenity?”

“You were so good with all those boys. They were all so young. You gave them all hope, and taught them that not everything in the world is evil. I think you really made a difference in their heads.”

“Xie-xie Mal. I’ve never been around children. I never knew how they could fill your heart with emotions, they make you laugh, scream, dance for joy and weep in sorrow all at the same time. I think I want children someday. Two weeks ago, I didn’t know that.”

“I watched you. You didn’t know, but I watched you telling them bed time stories. And I watched you helping Sara try and get some schoolin in them. I bet you were a brilliant instructor at that training house.”

“I liked guiding the girls, helping them figure out who they were going to be, and how to become that person.”

Mal was quiet for a while.

“It seems to me we can either go our separate ways, and give up on loving each other. Or, we can both try to figure out a way to change so that we can be together. It’ll be the harder of the two, but I’m thinking that’s River choice for us, milk and honey and all.”

“What are you willing to give up?” Inara asked her question not really expecting an answer

“What are you?” Mal thought about the compromise he had struck with Zoë. He did not like it. But he was willing to live with it because it made the ship run smoothly, and he recognized Zoë would not be happy living he way he wanted him to.

“Inara, companions have to take clients to be companions right?”

“That is generally the idea. When a companion stops taking clients she has to retire. But companions typically do not retire until they have saved enough money to set themselves up for a lifetime of comfort.”

“I’m guessing you don’t have wads of cash floating around this shuttle anywhere.”

“That would be a correct assumption.”

“What about the other instructors at the training house, were they active companions, or were some of them retired?”

“There were some of both. Mal what are you getting at?”

“I am trying to think of a way for us to be together without giving up who we are. I am trying to think of a way I can live with you being a companion.”

“And?”

“It occurred to me that those girls at the Heart of Gold learned a whole lot from Nandi. She taught them a lot about self respect and controlling their own destinies. I thinking there must be other whorehouses around the rim might pay to have girls instructed by a true companion. Seems to me, it would be something a house could really go on about, charge higher fees and all. You could help girls all over the verse be more than just whores.

“But I’m also wondering how many clients a year you would have to take to keep your status with the guild, and if I could live with that.”

“Six.”

“Six?”

“I need to think about it, but while I am thinking, kiss me again.” Mal leaned over and took her into his arms.

**********

“River I am concerned, the captain and Inara should have been back an hour ago. Have you heard from them?”

River pointed out the window to the shuttle floating just of the starboard bow.

“Wu de tyen ah, what is going on here?”

“They needed to be stuck. They needed to be unstuck. Can’t run away, can’t walk out the door. Have to talk. Got to get to the milk and honey. Almost there, not quite.” River was trying so hard to explain why she had not let the captain and Inara dock with Serenity. It almost made sense. Zoë understood, even though she did not agree with River’s methods.

Zoë picked up the com. “Captain it’s Zoë, I am releasing the docking clamps, you can come back whenever you and Inara get this thing worked out. But you should know that love, no matter how hard, is worth the risk. You can’t keep putting it off, because someday that person might not be there. You do not want to go through life wondering what if.”

Zoe picked a small plastic dinosaur off the consol and walked off the bridge.

COMMENTS

Saturday, August 19, 2006 1:21 AM

AMDOBELL


Loved this. For once everything actually went smooth! I am shocked, agasp, stunned even. Might never recover. Shiny. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, November 6, 2006 12:11 PM

KELKHIL


OK so it appeared this time when I opened you story. Just go back to the last Chapter for my review of you work DesertGirl. Hopefully there are plenty more to come!


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