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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Set after OIS. Much to Inara’s chagrin, Mal accepts a job offer that takes Serenity far away from New Melbourne and to an unremarkable moon called Three Hills...Everyone finds so peace. Inara recovers.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2228 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The first time Inara woke she was completely disoriented. Simon had prepared Mal for this possibility, but it was still difficult to see. She was muttering, words muffled by the oxygen mask, lost completely. Mal tried to hold her hand, but it didn’t much clam her down. Simon didn’t let her surface for more than ten minutes before he deemed that she was doing herself more harm than good, and sedated her. He ordered Mal to go to bed.
When Mal woke, they were in the air. Zoe had made the executive decision to start sailing. There was no point in staying, she said, when their employers were dead. Mal was inclined to agree. He then headed towards the infirmary. Simon said Inara was doing much better than the night before, but still asleep. Mal busied himself for hours going from crew member to crew member assigning tasks and demanding status reports.
He found Shepherd Book in his room, praying. Mal tried to back away from the door quietly, not feeling his usual urge to disturb the man’s worship, when Book spoke. “It wasn’t Gilbert Crane’s money,” Book said quietly. Mal found himself frozen. “Gilbert Crane was the son of his father’s second wife. The money belonged to his first wife’s family. Its rightful heir was Gilbert’s older sister – Brelin Crane.”
Mal took several moments to order his thoughts before he spoke. “That’s a very saddening tale, preacher,” he said. “But we took that money with no knowledge that it was anything but honest. Got no obligation to give it back.”
“It wouldn’t matter much if you did,” the Shepherd replied. “Brelin is a simple girl. Can’t be any smarter than your average eight year old. She’s got a congenital heart defect, Mal. She’ll be gone within a month.”
Mal felt his stomach go hallow. “How… how do you know this?”
Shepherd Book bowed his head.
Inara woke next that afternoon. She was tired, ill and injured, but also very much herself. She asked Simon is she could go back to her shuttle. Simon told her that she was in no shape to walk, so Mal offered to carry her. She fell asleep, her head resting on his shoulder, before they made it even halfway up the stairs. When they got to the shuttle Simon pulled the sheets back and Mal laid her upon the bed. Simon took her pulse, attached a portable monitor to her body, and then announced he’d be back in two hours time to give her the next round of medication.
Kaylee found Simon sitting on his bed. She knocked on the door lightly, then entered the room. “Kaylee…” he greeted. A yawn kept him from going any further. Kaylee smiled.
“Afternoon, sleepy,” she teased gently. “When’s the last time you went to bed?”
“I… I’ve been getting cat naps,” he told her. “Inara… she’s going to be okay, its just… she needs lots of care to get there. And when I’m worrying about a patient, I… its hard to…” he yawned again, “sleep.”
“I’ll help,” Kaylee said.
“I need to be awake in two hours,” he said.
Kaylee nodded. “Okay. I’ll wake you.” She turned off the lights, kicked off her boots, and laid in the bed with him, stoking his hair as he drifted off.
In their bunk, Wash and Zoe made love with abandon, pouring their hopes and dreams and love into every movement, every touch.
Jayne Cobb sat at the kitchen table, writing a letter. “Dear Adelina,” it began.
River sat in the cargo bay, knees drawn to her chest. She listened the waves as they traveled through the tide of the black. She wondered if she was delusional, or if she really could walk on water. Silly teenaged girl – but she wasn’t. But she was, before anything. But she was sure that if she saw it swimming in the River, she could reach down and catch the fish with her bare hand.
Part Two: Four Days Later
They lay, facing each other, on opposite side of her bed. Inara had the sheets draw to her chest. Mal wasn’t covered in the sheets at all. He just lay there, watching her. For a moment, she regretted inviting him there, regretted telling him it was all right to lay there on her bed. But he had looked tired. She was still healing – not as quickly as Simon had initially hoped. Breathing was harder than it should be. Inara was doing it on her own, without aid, but her inhalations were shallow and heavy. Each provoked a pinch of pain inside her lungs. Still, she was healing, and it left her tired, worn down, like him. It was an impulse, telling him to lie down too, but it seemed to fit.
If worse came to worse, she could blame Simon’s drugs later. She hoped she wouldn’t have to.
Part of Inara chastised herself. She’d seen a lot of Mal over the past few days during the times she’d been awake. He was always there, checking on her, asking her how she was, tucking her in when she was just more than half asleep and he didn’t think she knew, but Inara knew. So, really, she shouldn’t have felt apprehension. She shouldn’t have been planning excuses for her behavior in advance. She should have trusted him, trusted him to cherish the moment just as much as she did. She should trust him to be warm and kind.
But there was a lot between them. Things that might never go away.
But things could go away, if they worked at it. Maybe.
“I’m going to stay,” she told him, “for a while. Until I’m healed, at least.”
“That’s a good notion,” Mal said. “Waiting ‘til you get back on your feet. It’s… ‘verse can be cold at times. Wouldn’t want you to face it ‘less you're at your full strength.”
She knew… she knew that it could be cold. She’d been alone before she’d found Serenity. After Abaddon had died, Inara lived for a year with Dougray Bonamici. Officially, she was contracted as his personal companion. Unofficially, she was grieving. There was a hole in the world. She’d felt as if things would never be set right.
When the contract neared its end, Dougray offered to renew it. He felt responsible. He wanted to make it up to her. He just wanted to know that she was all right. But Inara wasn’t like that. Even under his contract, she’d began to take clients again. One or two here and there, a job on the side of the job she pretending to have. She wasn’t going to wallow in grief forever. She wasn’t made that way.
So she returned to the houses, but found life empty there. The things she’d wanted before Abaddon… the power the thought she’d wanted… she didn’t want it now. So she left. First, on the luxury liner. Then, Beaumont.
When she first walked in, she’d felt something. Looking back, she realized it was the feeling of coming home.
“Mal…” She was going to say it, but stopped herself. She took a moment to breath. Her chest was hurting, the constant ache. She couldn’t say it. Instead, “I’m surprised you haven’t made one of your trademark comments yet. About the bed.”
He smiled. “’Bout how comfy and soft it is?” Mal joked. It made Inara smile too.
“About what I do here."
Mal’s grin faded. “It didn’t seem the time,” he said, voice low. “Do you think it’s the time, Inara? Really?”
She looked away.
“Hey, now,” he stammered, “I didn’t… don’t want to upset you, ‘Nara. Simon would throw a fit ‘bout me stressing his patient, for one thing. And, for another, I… I don’t want to upset you.”
“You didn’t, Mal,” she said. She looked back to him. Their eyes met. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” she told him.
His hand closed he gap between them, his fingers caressing her cheek with such tenderness that all Inara could do in response was close her eyes and enjoy the sensation. “I know,” he said. She opened her eyes. He was staring back at her, honestly. “You could tell me.”
She could tell him. She took her hand into hers, holding it, letting her stroke the skin of his fingers, letting his flesh get to know her flesh. “Forgive me for saying so,” she said, “but I don’t know if I can. And I know you couldn’t.”
Inara released his hand. “You don’t trust me,” she said. “If you did, you wouldn’t call me a whore.”
“Don’t recall calling you a whore since I came in,” Mal said.
“No,” Inara said. It was nice to be able to say so. “You haven’t. But how long will that last? There’s a lot going on here besides us being honest, Mal… There’s me almost dying, and both of us being grateful for… grateful for that that… and then there’s Gilbert and Heather… the lies they told us. The way Gilbert died, and how it… how it made me feel. Kentdale’s death, and what it… did to you. You think I don’t know about that, but when you told me that you were with him, I… I don’t know what happened, Mal, but I could see that it meant something….” She stopped, breathing threw the memory as well as she could manage. It had been in the way his voice had faltered for a moment, and the slight wrinkle in his brow when he told her.
“So what, Inara?” Mal asked. It wasn’t a harsh question. Not reactionary, like Mal’s questions often were. Instead, it was slow and unsure and honest, the way he spoke to her in her fantasies. Only it was laced with a sadness she didn’t like to think about if she didn’t have to. Mal was always so sad. Inara wished she could kiss it away. “Doesn’t matter how we got here? Just matters that we’re here now.”
She shook your head. “Six months on a boat with Shepherd Book…” she said, her voice not unkind, laced with warmth, smiling though she was feeling winded, “and you still don’t understand that how you get there is the… worthier part?”
“What I understand,” Mal said, “is that life can be snatched away from you at any minute. So, if you have something good, you gotta to hold onto it.”
She shook her head. She couldn’t help it. “Someone told me that loving… was dying.”
“Huh?” Mal was suddenly uncomfortable. “And… I never did say a word about love, ‘Nara.”
She sighed, frustrated to the point of gasping. “I thought we weren’t… kidding… ourselves for once?”
She thought suddenly, that this was the joke.
The honesty. It was a joke, just temporary. She knew it was a result of all the things they’d been through, but she still thought that it meant something. Maybe that made her fool, thinking that it meant something. Maybe they would wake up tomorrow and Inara would be able to walk more than ten feet without feeling like her lungs were burning and Mal would stop remembering whatever it was that happened with Kentdale that he couldn’t stop himself from remembering. He’d call her a whore. She’d roll her eyes and tell him, in one way or another, that he was too far beneath her for her to take him seriously, regardless of whether she meant it or not.
Then this, the moment they were having right now, would mean nothing. It was a joke, and all remnants of it would melt away.
But it couldn’t mean nothing, could it? All that they’d been through, everything that happened on Three Hills, everything before… it couldn’t just mean…. Nothing?
Inara needed it to mean something.
She was sitting up. She hadn’t realized – Mal’s hands were on her back, rubbing gentle, but frantic circles. She could hear his voice buzzing in her ear, but she hadn’t realized – what happened? When did she start hyperventilating?
Her chest hurt. Her lungs hurt. It hurt.
“Just… I’m gonna get the doc,” Mal rushed. “Just wait right here, I’m getting the doc.”
“Mal…” she managed. He turned around, having dashed half way across the room. “Stay with me…” she managed. “This… will pass…”
He came back. He sat next to her on the bed, put his arm around her shoulders. She closed her eyes, took as deep breaths as she could manage, letting her body relax. Slowly, her breathing calmed. Her lungs were aching, but it didn’t frighten her. She felt her body sinking backward, held firmly in Mal’s arms. He led her down, helping her settle on the bed. The movement taxed her, and her breathing quickened. She could feel Mal’s hands on her shoulders instantly, ready to pull her up again. Simon told them it was easier to breath sitting up, but… Inara held up her hand, stopping him. She just needed a moment to calm down, to adjust…
When she opened her eyes, he was leaning over her, face grim, sad. “I thought you’d fallen asleep,” he said, voice low.
“I… I didn’t,” she managed.
“Shh,” he whispered. “You shouldn’t talk like that. I shouldn’t have let you go on before … you’re not up to it yet, ‘Nara.” He looked at the monitor Simon has set up beside her bed. “I really should get the doc,” he said, turning back to her. “Your heart’s racing, and… Inara, you’re still gasping.”
He was right. Her breathing wasn’t just shallow now, it was laborious. And the more she tried to fight it, the more it seemed to hurt. “The nebulizer…” she whispered. Mal hesitated a moment, probably thinking about getting Simon all the same, and then complied with her wishes. It had happened before, these strange attacks. The first time, when she had still been confused. She had upset herself. Simon and Mal had been there… they held the mask to her lips and told her to breath, and Inara complied because she didn’t know what else to do. Once, it was because she talked too much. (and yet, barely at all, not like this). Another time, it just happened. No reason.
Mal had been there every time. He knew what to do. Inara watched him mix the medicine the way Simon showed him – showed both of them – how to do, just in case this happened again. He turned to machine on, and then helped her sit up so that she could breath deeper. He put the mask over her face (Inara tried to help, but he pushed away her useless and trembling hand), adjusting it so that it rest over her nose and mouth. He was supporting her weight, letting her lean her head back on his shoulder, supporting the rest of her with his chest. She breathed. The oxygen and medication hit her lungs, so cold… she tried to cry out but she didn’t have the air. She could barely breath it hurt… it hurt so much…
She was trembling. It always left her trembling, though she was only barely aware of it. Her attention was too focused on the other things, one taking in one breath, exhaling, and then taking in another. Doing it over and over again, not matter how much it hurt, stabbing her each time. Tears in the corners of her eyes. Mal pulled the blankets to her chest, tucking them behind her shoulders, then wrapped her arms around her, holding her as she breathed, breathed through it all, waiting for it to start not hurting.
“You all right?” he asked her five minutes into the treatment. Inara nodded the best she could. She had closed her eyes.
Five more minutes past. Then ten. Inara didn’t fight it as he guided the mask off away from her face and turned the machine off. She blinked as he helped her down again, setting her head gently on the pillow. She tried to help, but she had nothing. No strength. No energy. He looked down at her, somber, scared. “Do you feel better?”
She nodded, taking an experimental deep breath. It hurt… but she managed. Still, it wasn’t as deep as she would have liked. She tried again, but the results were the same. She saw him look down at her, so worried, and tried to smile. “Not as better as last time, but… better,” she responded.
He nodded, but the look in his eyes…. “I should have got the doc that time,” he said. “You should have… you turned pale really sudden, Inara, and you couldn’t hear me. The veins on your neck were starting to stand out and your lips… You’re still really pale…”
It took all the strength she hand to lift her arm. She was aiming for his cheek. She didn’t make it, and instead his hands found hers half the way there. His grip was firm, but a bit shaky. “I’m okay,” she told him, not entirely convinced that she was. But she was going to be.
With her free hand, she patted the bed next to her. “Take your shoes off this time,” she said, voice a hoarse whisper. He complied, kicking them off as the climbed over her, lying down beside her. She smiled, turned onto her side and pulling one of his arms around her. She was surprised when he pulled her closer, her arms wrapped around her, his chin resting on the top of her head. She took as deep breath, deep as she could managed, taking it all in, the scent of him. It made her sputter, but it was worth it. She closed her eyes.
They lay like that, together, for a long time.
“Mal…” Inara said at last, breaking the silence between them. She waited for him to respond, but he didn’t. He had fallen asleep.
Inara smiled faintly to herself. She felt a bit better now. Physically, it was easier to breath. It didn’t ache so badly. And inside her, now, there was hope. She hoped that when she was feeling up to it, she would have the strength to tell Mal her stories, and she hoped that, when she did, he would reciprocate in kind.
It wouldn’t work just like that. It never did between them. It was always hard. Joy… joy they could give to each other effortlessly. But openness, honesty… those, they had to earn, over and over and over again.
But, if he could fall asleep with his arms wrapped around her, how could it be so bad?
She wasn’t sure. Inara didn’t know what the next step was. She closed her eyes, letting her mind wander, letting her body fade, feeling light and heavy all at once as she drifted into sleep.
Well… there you have it. That’s the end.
Thanks so much, especially to those of you who read through it all the way, every chapter. Leiasky, TamSibling, and LeighKohl, and to Tammy2j, Szyg, Broancoat2006, JennS, McK, Ianthe, oddbean, Wingdraksha, Beatlejessie, IntoPaper, Mal4prez, bookaddict, JessClifton, jetflair, Burnandboil, maria, shinytalent, and all my anonymous-es. A specially thanks to AgentRouka, 2x2 Amdobell, and BlueEyedBrigadier, who reviewed almost every chapter, and in such amazing and encouraging detail! Thanks so much. And a very special thanks to Teyatrea, who beta read several of the chapters. You were amazing and excellent, and ridiculously prompt. Thanks!
“Over the Hills and Far Away” started because I wanted to see if I could write something novel length. I chose Three Hills after seeing it listed as a boarder planet on a fan map in the blue sun room. I’d just read “Broakback Mountain” and I’d seen the movie a few months before. Between that and vague memories of seeing one of the “Lassie” movies as a child, it seemed like a good idea to me that this hilly moon be a shepherding community.
Originally, I planned to explore both Mal and Inara’s back stories, but as Inara’s became so developed and Mal’s so… not… I decided to just concentrate on Inara. Senator Woo and Mayor Kentdale were designed to be Mal and Inara’s foils. Kentdale I always had a clear intention for – he was going to make Mal realize that sometimes, making a deal with the devil was the right thing to do, if that was what you needed to do to keep your people alive and healthy. He was always going to die. Woo, on the other hand, I didn’t have such a clear plan for. I knew that, in chapter five, she was going to make Inara play piano, but beyond that, I had no real plans… and sadly, I never really thought of one. Overall, I don’t think it hurt the story so much.
Heather and Gilbert… wow. In my notes, they were so much different then they ended up on paper. Especially Heather. Gilbert was never supposed to have much of a character, so I was really surprised when people took to him. It worked out, because it made his betrayel and chapter ten all the less expected.
Heather was supposed to be much more sympathetic. The original idea was for her and Mal to get along real well. But, when people disliked her so much in the chapter three reviews, I decided to abandon that all together and just show her for what she was, basically: a spoiled brat. She was always a bit troubled, the mastermind behind both the pranks and the bombing, however, she wasn’t quite as crazy as she ended up, especially the bits about ordering Gilbert to sleep with Inara. That was mad up completely on the fly.
Originally, Rye was going to try to pursue a romance with Kaylee, and Simon was going to have to stand up for himself, but when I started writing it, I didn’t like it, so it was dropped. Adelina was supposed to get more screen time, but her and Jayne’s subplot was cut down. Originally, I had also planned on having Wash, in an act of desperation, take Jayne gift shopping. However, it took them both too far away from where I needed them to be during the finale, so I dropped it.
Book was also supposed to spend much more time with Andrea and Brelin, because I was going to make a bigger deal of the fact that Gilbert's money is actually Brelin's. However, I changed the ending a little bit from what it was originally. Inara was going to get much more hurt, and Mal was going to have to make the executive decision to leave Three Hills, despite Book's protests, that, no, they'd stollen from the poor, retarded girl, which is morally, pretty low. However, I realized I didn't want Inara so hurt. So, that was downplayed.
I was really worried that the pranks weren’t effective, but it seems that they did their job. I wanted them to be silly, almost absurd, so that Inara had a reason to tell Mal he was stupid, taking this job. And then I wanted to juxtapose them against what they were hiding, Heather’s true plan, the bomb. It worked at lot better then I though it would.
And… that’s all. Thanks for listening to my ramblings. I hope you enjoyed the last chapter.
Monday, September 18, 2006 4:08 AM
Monday, September 18, 2006 4:25 AM
Monday, September 18, 2006 5:01 AM
Monday, September 18, 2006 10:23 AM
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006 5:17 AM
Wednesday, September 20, 2006 5:22 AM
Wednesday, September 20, 2006 1:21 PM
Thursday, September 21, 2006 7:04 AM
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Friday, January 12, 2007 7:04 PM
Sunday, July 01, 2007 5:57 PM
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