BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

GOLDY

Goodnight and Goodbye (2/2)
Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Second War of Unification has started. Where does the crew of Serenity go next? Darkish. M/I, various other pairings.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1566    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Title: Goodnight and Goodbye (2/2) Disclaimer: I am not Joss Whedon, and I do not own Firefly. Synopsis: The Second War of Unification has started. Where does the crew of Serenity go next? Darkish. Pairings: Mal/Inara, and hints of Jayne/Kaylee, Simon/Inara, Zoe/Wash, and Simon/Kaylee. A/N: This is not intended to be sequel, but there are several illusions made to Decorum (http://fireflyfans.net/bluesun.aspx?bid=8463), an earlier fic of mine. If you haven’t read it, it shouldn’t make a difference. Words: 2, 815

Chapter Two

*** Mal finds Zoe on the bridge, one of Wash’s plastic dinosaurs sitting in her hand. He doesn’t know what to say. Hasn’t for a long while now.

Lost Zoe for good the day he lost River. She went somewhere inside herself, somewhere she didn’t want him and the rest of them to follow. Aged her, too. Sometimes he can look right at her and barely recognize her.

“Zoe.” He pauses, one of his hands resting on the doorframe. He can feel the smooth hum of the engine under his fingertips. “Know what you’ll do?”

Zoe sets the dinosaur back down on the console. He can see her face reflected in the cockpit windows. She’s almost smiling.

“Thinking about joining up,” she says. “Training and the like.”

“Training,” Mal repeats. “Thought you didn’t care for the war anymore’n I do.”

“What I’m good at, sir,” Zoe says. “Sides, they’ll be needing my help, they all turn out like the doctor.”

Mal’s expression softens. Would never have predicted it, Zoe being the one to follow the doctor—looking out for the boy.

“Boy’s set on enlisting?”

“Don’t seem sure of himself,” Zoe says. “But he don’t think he’s got a choice.”

Ai ya,” Mal says. “Kaylee…?”

“Reckon she’s moved on,” Zoe says. She picks up the dinosaur again. “Didn’t happen overnight, but with some time…” she trails off. “Might even be possible for me, one day.”

It occurs to Mal that maybe selling the ship is good for Zoe—that maybe she ought to have left a long time ago, gone somewhere Wash’s memory isn’t in every corner. He thinks maybe he’s the only reason she’s stayed on, these last few years. Hopes it’s not the truth. She never said anything about blaming him for Wash, but it changed things.

“How’s Inara?”

“Been better,” Mal says. “But she’s… dealing.” He hesitates, and then says, “Two of us are going to stay together. Try’n build a life.”

“Take it you’re not joining up, then,” Zoe says. “That you ain’t going to be part of this war.”

He eyes her reflection in the window—pale face, narrower than it used to be, with lines that have no right being there.

“Can’t, Zoe,” he says. He doesn’t add anything else.

She inclines her head slightly, the only indication she heard him. “Ain’t gonna be an easy war, sir. Might be for the best, you staying clear. Planning to find yourself a scrap of land?”

He ignores her veiled insult. “That’s the notion,” he says. “Imagine it won’t be easy. Been a long time since I been planetside.”

“You’ll find a way, sir. Always do.”

Nine years, they’ve been flying together, him and Zoe, and he never would’ve seen this kind of goodbye for them.

“Always welcome to visit,” he says. “No matter what corner of the ‘verse I end up in.”

She still doesn’t turn to look at him.

“I appreciate that, sir.”

***

Mal steps off the bridge, and almost runs into Jayne. He stops, sighing. Jayne. Probably the only person on his boat he’s not worrying over.

But flying with Jayne’s taught him more than a couple of things. First, he doesn’t have any qualms stealing food when he thinks you’re not looking. Second, if he’s fidgeting, it can’t mean anything good.

“Jayne, what are…” Mal blinks, and points to Kaylee’s hatch. “Did you just come outta Kaylee’s bunk?”

Jayne follows his gaze. “No, Mal.”

“No? ‘Cause it looks that way from where I’m standing.”

“She invited me,” Jayne says. “Didn’t think it would be proper, turnin’ her down.”

“Proper,” Mal mumbles. He rubs at the bridge of his nose. Wuo duh ma, does he ever not want to have to deal with Jayne. “How’s about you tell me what you was up to, and we can be on our merry way?”

Jayne clears his throat. Several times. “Don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”

Mal considers decking him, and can’t quite summon the appropriate energy. Tianna, when did he get so gorram old?

“It’s been a long day,” Mal says. “And I don’t particular want to have to toss you in the airlock. So how about an answer?”

“Hey—now, talkin’ ain’t never been against the rules,” Jayne says.

“You and Kaylee were talking,” Mal says. “Down in her bunk.”

“Yeah.”

Mal lowers his voice. “And what kind of húndàn takes advantage of a girl when she’s feelin’ vulnerable?”

Jayne has the sense to look surprised. “Wasn’t taking advantage. Was like I said, Mal.”

“You were talking.”

“Yeah,” Jayne says. “Got a lot to discuss. What with going off together and all.”

Mal’s eyebrows shoot up. “Excuse me?”

Jayne’s grin is slow. “Me and Kaylee. Gonna try’n build a life. Same as you.”

A vague headache builds up behind Mal’s eyes, and he gestures ineffectively at Kaylee’s bunk. “Ain’t in a mood to be playing games, Jayne.”

“Hell, Mal, weren’t even my idea,” Jayne says, hint of smirk on his lips. “Was Kaylee’s. Wasn’t about to turn her down.”

Gingwa cào de liúmáng,” Mal says, grinding his teeth together. “Fine. But I get wind that you’re putting her in danger, and so help me, I will track you down.”

He pushes passed Jayne, and heads towards the galley.

“You’re one to talk,” Jayne yells after him. “Notice how half your crew ain’t alive no more?”

Mal pauses, but doesn’t turn around. “Have yourself a nice life, Jayne.”

***

Inara sorts through the bits and pieces on her desk, marveling at paperwork they’ve managed to collect over the years. Documents for Serenity. Landing clearances. She lingers on her Companion license, touching it with her fingertips—the expiration date almost two years old.

A knock startles her and she sets down the license. “Come in.”

It’s Simon. He shuts the door behind him, and he leans against it, folding his arms across his chest.

“Simon,” she says. “How are you?”

“I’ve been better,” Simon says, eyes ticking around the shuttle. “I imagine we’ve all been better. Packing?”

“Yes,” Inara says. “Can I help you with something?”

“No—uh, I just wanted to… talk.”

Inara keeps tidying, making a show of looking through a pile of receipts. “Talk?”

“About us.”

Inara drops the receipts, before clearing her throat and bending down to pick them up.

“Here, let me—”

“I’ve got it, I—oh, thank you.”

One of Simon’s hands brushes hers, his fingers trailing along her wrist. She freezes. He’s so close, cheek bent close to hers, eyes intent on picking up the receipts.

She hastily straightens and backs up, bumping into the desk. The lamp wobbles.

Simon watches her. “I’m sorry if I’ve startled you.”

“No, it’s fine,” she says, breathless, one hand bracing her weight on the table behind her. “Simon, what happened between us, it was a long time ago.”

Her memory comes in bits and pieces. She can taste too much wine. Miranda had left them empty, and it had been a natural response, an attempt to feel again.

(Simon, please. Promise me you’ll keep this a secret.)

Simon stands, placing the receipts on the desk, near her hand. She looks at him, close enough to smell him, touch the crispness of his collar.

“I just…” Simon starts. “It… it occurs to me that I might die in a few months.”

Inara has trouble taking her next breath. “The war.”

Of course. Simon hasn’t been the same. Not since River.

“Maybe I’m just feeling… reckless,” Simon whispers, lowering his head. “It’s what attracts you to Mal so much, isn’t it? Danger, uncertainty…”

“Simon, please,” she ducks out from under his arm and out of their close proximity. “There are many things that attract me to Mal. Because I love him.”

Simon grunts in acknowledgement, but it sounds more like a scoff. “I just… I’m remembering a time when he insulted you every chance he got.” Simon sits down on the edge of their bed. Hers and Mal’s. “He still doesn’t respect your work, the life you gave up for him.”

Inara looks down at her hands before carefully folding them in front of her. “It’s not that simple. It hasn’t been easy, certainly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth…”

“What?” Simon asks, lifting his head and looking at her through blurry eyes. “Sometimes I feel like… like it should be easy. That I could—I could go back there, back to the Core, slip into my old life, like River had… like she never existed.”

“Simon…” Inara sits next to him, worried. “Simon, you don’t have to join this war. River wouldn’t hold it against you, you know that.

Simon tries to smile, and looks like he might cry. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. “For what happened to the Gild house, back on Sihnon. I never wanted…”

“It’s alright,” Inara says soothingly.

“Inara—” Simon turns toward her, holding her gaze, eye searching her face. “It’s not—we could, you know. Slip back in—Osiris or Sihnon or any of the Core planets. We could… it would be like things were. Do you remember? Not eating protein packets each day, when it wasn’t a fight to keep… to keep living.” One of Simon’s hands finds her knee, his hand warm through the thin shine of her nightgown. “We could live like real people again. Leave this all behind like it… like it never happened.”

Simon bows his head on the last word, voice breaking. Inara drops her hand to rest on his.

“Simon—”

“I know,” he says, defeated. “You love Mal.”

“I gave up my old life a long time ago,” Inara says. “I’ve come to terms with it.”

Simon lifts his head, his expression changing. “You’ve come to terms with it?”

“I—yes,” Inara says.

“You still have…” he points around him. “There are Sihnon-made dresses in the corner, tea bags littering the galley. You still wear jewelry from clients. And the way you look at Mal sometimes, when you think he’s not looking, like being with him is a punishment.”

Inara swallows with difficulty. “That’s not true.”

“Do you even know what life will be like out on the rim? Do you know what the tyen-sah survival rate is?”

“It’s not easy,” Inara manages, each word heavily enunciated. “But I chose this path, Simon. It’s what I want.”

Simon springs up, wiping his palms on his thighs. “It’s going to be back breaking work, and the only person you’re going to have for company is that tāmāde húndàn of a Captain—”

“Simon—”

“That is, if you two don’t kill each other first. You have—you have so—many—options, and instead you’re throwing the rest of your life away—”

“That’s enough!” Inara says. “Simon, please…” she presses her lips together, and when she speaks again, her voice is solid. “I think maybe you should go.”

“Inara—” He stops, regaining control over his temper. “I didn’t mean to yell.”

She can’t find it in her to blame him. “You’re under a lot of stress.”

“No,” Simon says. “I mean… yes. I just—I look at my life, and I can’t understand it anymore.” He almost laughs, and rubs the bridge of his nose. “Do you even think about it anymore? That night?”

Inara draws in a breath. “I…” Mostly, she can pass it off as a dream, and sometimes she would almost feel normal around Simon. Each time he patched things up with Kaylee. She relaxed. For a time. Hoping for things to settle. “It doesn’t matter, Simon. It was a long time ago.”

“I guess that’s my answer,” Simon says. He moves to the door, his back to her, voice low. “I’m sorry for pushing, for making you regret… I’m sorry. I never thought I was that person.”

“It’s alright,” Inara says gently, and then adds. “You don’t have to go into this war, Simon. You can still have a future.”

Simon shakes his head. “This is my future.”

***

Inara finds Mal in the galley, fingers laced around a mug of brew. He’s not drinking, just… sitting. Brooding.

Her skirt rustles as she moves towards him, and she stops to place a blanket around his shoulders.

He blinks sleepily at her and reaches out to grab her wrist. “Hey, there.”

She rests her hip on the table. “Hey, yourself.”

“It’s been a long day,” Mal mutters, but he musters up the energy to smile for her. “You worryin’ over me?”

She leans forward to brush the bangs off his forehead, her fingers trailing through his hair. “A little.”

He closes his eyes at her touch, emitting a noise that’s half-grunt, half-contented sigh.

“Right thing we’re doing, ain’t it?”

“I think so.”

“Even if…” he sighs. “You hear about little Kaylee and Jayne?”

“Just because they’re going off together doesn’t have to mean…” Inara sighs, smiling at the absurdity of her words. “I want Kaylee to be happy.”

“Don’t like the notion of not being able to look out for her, is all.” His voice quiets, eyes finding hers. “Might be for the best, getting off Serenity.”

She keeps stroking his hair, keeping her voice light. “We’ve had some tough times, Mal. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.”

“Bad times been outweighing the good, of late,” Mal says. “Can’t help wondering if Miranda was worth all that, losing Wash like we did. Doesn’t help that River saw fit to spare the Alliance the trouble by blowin’ out her own brains.”

Inara withdraws her hand, looking away from him. He shifts, his fingers drumming restlessly on the table.

“Maybe it was her gift to us,” Inara says quietly.

Mal jerks his head up to look at her. “Shen me?”

“She was out of control, Mal. I know she still had her good days… but so few of them, by the end.” Inara pauses. “She might have killed us—or others, if she hadn’t done what she did.”

“Guess I wanted it to mean something,” Mal says. “Weren’t true, what Shepherd Book said. Ain’t nothing good comes out of believing.”

“Mal—” she places one hand on top of his, her look questioning. “You know that’s not true.”

He swallows thickly. “That’s different.”

“Maybe.” She doesn’t pull her hand away. “She knew, Mal. She knew we couldn’t control her, that she would only grow worse, more violent… I’m not saying it was right, I just—I want to understand.”

“Hell, Inara, lookit what it did to Simon—to Zoe… ain’t nothing good came of it.”

“It gave her control back, for once in her life. It was a choice, Mal. One she made for herself.”

He doesn’t answer, but Inara knows he’s heard her. He fudges at the corners of his tumbler, lips thinning.

She sighs. “Mal…” she nudges his arm, eyebrows raising slightly. “Up to sharing that blanket?”

His expression softens. “Ain’t gonna say ‘no’ to having a pretty girl on my lap.”

He slides back enough so she can settle on his lap. It takes only seconds to find a comfortable position, ease born out of years of practice.

And it’s better like this, snuggling under the blanket with him. She’s not quite so cold, her ear pressed to his chest, soothed by the steady rhythm of his heartbeat. Always solid, Mal. Quick temper aside, there’s little the ‘verse could do to keep him down.

He was solid, that day. The day River killed herself. Barely blinking at the body—when Simon went to pieces, while she and Kaylee hurled—cleaning it all up, giving Simon a tranquilizer, carrying out each step with a cool efficiency.

Perversely, Inara can’t help but wonder what he’d do if she died. If it would finally break him—if he would take it in stride and carry on. But it’s selfish, and she thinks River would be ashamed at her thoughts, because it simply isn’t true that Mal doesn’t feel it.

“Used to think we could live on Serenity ‘till the end of time,” Mal finally says. “Ain’t easy, tryin’ to think passed that.”

His nose touches her hair, above her ear. His breath is warm.

“Mal?” She slides one hand along his wrist. “If it wasn’t for me, would have you joined back up? With… with the Independents?”

“Inara…”

“I’m just… curious,” she says, choosing her words carefully. “It’s alright, either way.”

He sighs, before resting his chin on her shoulder. “I honestly have no idea. Maybe.” He drops his voice. “Probably.”

She slides off his lap and turns to face him. He watches her warily.

“Inara?”

“No, it’s fine.” She reaches for his hand. “It was just something Simon… it doesn’t matter. Come to bed?”

Mal nods, moving his drink off to his side. He grasps her fingers, his hand warm. He doesn’t glance back at the empty galley behind him.

COMMENTS

Sunday, December 10, 2006 6:59 AM

AMDOBELL


Sombre and melancholy but beautifully written. I keep trying to think where I read this two parter before. Nice to see it posted here. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, December 10, 2006 8:08 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


I'm in the same boat, AMDOBELL...definitely read this before somewhere..."Ifs and Maybes" (the Mal/Inara Shippers' Community) perhaps?

Still...why do I get the feeling that while this mini-arc's done...there is more to this scenario than meets the eye. Inara's question to Mal about whether he would have joined the resurrected Independence movement had she not been in his life and her comment about something Simon said? Definitely doesn't bode well in my mind...

Still...brilliant work here, Goldy! Definitely took Joss' trick of the twisted "everything's golden now" ending scneario and really made it sing:D

BEB

Sunday, December 10, 2006 8:40 AM

GOLDY


Ali D and BEB: I tend to post everything to livejournal before coming over here, so you probably have read it already (on Ifs and Maybes, most likely!). Anyway, thanks so much for the FB!

Sunday, December 10, 2006 9:13 AM

EMPIREX


Amazing, as always, Goldy! I do love fluffy fic, but I also love angst, and this was perfect. I hope that you'll consider turning this into a series because it does feel like there's so much more to be told here.

Monday, December 11, 2006 1:38 AM

TAMMYY2J


Brillant as usual Goldy


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