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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Zoe has gone to the ball to find and warn Inara, while other insecurities are pondered upon ... Thanks to everyone who leaves feedback - please keep it up!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1503 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The ball was already in full swing when they arrived, although more people were stepping from a variety of vehicles, some as modern as Dillon’s hover, others more old-fashioned, probably antique, and pulled by horses. Callum stayed with the hover, taking it out of the way to park as Dillon escorted Zoe into the main building. She kept glancing around, trying to see if Inara were in sight, but she couldn’t tell.
“You know,” Dillon said as they waited to be announced, “I wasn’t exaggerating – you outshine all the other women here.”
“You ain’t seen all the other women,” Zoe pointed out, feeling slightly uncomfortable in the company of so many rich people without actually considering robbing them. “And you certainly haven’t seen Inara.”
They reached the front of the queue and the concierge announced them in a loud, clear voice. “Mr Dillon Malfrey and escort.”
“Escort?” Zoe breathed.
“I didn’t have time to let them know who would be accompanying me. But right now I wish I had.” He smiled and called the boy over with a tray of wine flutes.
“I thought Frey said you were sly,” Zoe pointed out, taking one.
Dillon laughed. “As the day is long, my dear. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate beauty when I see it. In fact, perhaps more so, as I don’t want anything from you other to stand and admire you. And make the other men in the room jealous.”
“Look around you, my dear,” he said, using his wine flute to cover his mouth. “They’re all staring.”
Zoe glanced around, and indeed he was right. She seemed to be the centre of attention, and if made her even more uncomfortable. “If ain't me,” she said quietly. “Must be the dress. And I'm not sure the Captain would approve of people looking.” Nor Hank, she added silently, although he might just also have a slight edge of pride to that disapproval.
“What your Captain thinks isn’t exactly relevant, is it?” Dillon said, smiling. “He’s not here. So just enjoy yourself.”
“I'm not here to do that,” Zoe pointed out.
“Then enjoy yourself – as well.” He raised the flute. “And here is to your very good health.”
They toasted each other, and Zoe let the wine slip down her throat. It tasted of honey, and she determined not to drink any more. It would be too easy just to drink way too much. “We still don’t know if Inara’s around or not,” she said, getting back to business. “And that is why we’re here.”
“Then let me check.” Dillon made his way back through the throng to the desk.
Freya was sitting on the bridge, one foot resting on the edge of the console, staring out at the other ships around them, some dwarfing the Firefly. She’d unbuttoned her shirt at the waist, and one hand was inside, just being friendly with her baby.
“You okay?” Kaylee asked, coming up behind.
Freya didn’t answer for a moment, but she was pleased to hear Kaylee’s voice. Sitting on her own, wondering at Mal’s immediate response to a potential threat to Inara, was doing her insecurities no good at all. No matter that he’d have done it for any of the crew – had, on more than one occasion – it still made her feel jealous, then equally guilty at doubting him, and her friend. Eventually she said, “Not sure.”
“You’re feeling as antsy as the Cap?” The young mechanic sat down in the co-pilot’s seat.
“Could be,” Freya agreed.
“Are we gonna have one of those conversations where I get one or two word answers?” Kaylee asked, raising her eyebrows. “Only I sometimes have them with Simon, and, believe me, I’d rather go talk to Bethany.”
“Might do.” Freya smiled a little and turned enough to look at her. “I’m just worried.”
She fudged a little. “About her getting snatched.”
“Ain't gonna happen,” Kaylee said firmly.
“You know that for a fact, do you?”
“Surely do.” Kaylee grinned. “Freya, Inara may not look like she’s got street smarts, but she knows what she’s doing.”
After a pause Kaylee said, “Okay, maybe there’s been once or twice she’s gotten herself into trouble, but that’s all.”
“Bit different here,” Freya pointed out. “This isn’t any of her doing.”
“P’raps,” Kaylee conceded. “But the Cap’s there. He’ll stop anything happening to her.”
“Of course he will,” Freya said softly. “Always does.”
“Ah.” Kaylee sat back in the chair.
“River said you were feeling hormonal.”
“Course not. Not feeling like Mal’s gonna rush into her arms now, not feeling that he was only with you until she wasn’t a Companion no more, not feeling like –“
“All right!” Freya almost shouted, then took a deep breath, jealousy flaring again. “There’s no need to –”
Kaylee picked at a small hole in her coveralls and spoke quietly. “I know what it’s like. When I was carrying Bethany, first of all, I thought you and Simon were …” She smiled. “But I think you remember that.”
“It seems to me I remember you asking me to tell Mal that you were pregnant.”
“And I was grateful. Anyway, I knew you and him were just friends. Growing up in the same circles ‘n’ all, it ain't a wonder you have things you can talk about that I don’t.”
“No, just let me finish.” She sighed. “I know I don’t have the learning he has. Mr Top Three Percent.” There was something in her voice, a touch of sarcasm that made Freya hide a smile. “But I know stuff he doesn’t and never will. And I talk to Hank, the Cap … Jayne, even, and he knows he has nothing to worry about. So I know he can talk to you.” There was a slight pause. “To Inara.” She stopped, looking down at the hole that she’d made bigger.
“He’s her friend,” Freya said gently.
“Yeah, but she ain't in love with him!” Kaylee said crossly, looking up, then covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh, Freya, I'm sorry …”
Freya forced herself to breathe slowly, not letting Kaylee’s words open it all up again. It wasn’t working. “It’s okay, Kaylee. I know she loves Mal, and … well, maybe I do get hormonal once in a while, but I know he loves me. I do,” she insisted.
“It just doesn’t make it any easier, does it?” Kaylee said perceptively. “Even with that little one?” She nodded towards Freya’s stomach.
“Not really.” She sighed and took her hand out from her shirt, doing up the buttons.
“You don’t have to.” Kaylee laughed. “I mean on my account.”
“It’s not,” Freya admitted. “It’s just that I haven’t been properly dressed for a while, and I've got used to communing with him. Or her,” she added hurriedly.
“So it’s a boy?” Kaylee asked excitedly.
“I didn’t say that.”
“Cap’n’s gonna have a son?” Kaylee sat forward on the edge of her seat. “Really?”
“Don’t tell him,” Freya implored. “I'm not supposed to know either.”
“But he’ll be so … oh, Freya!” Kaylee hugged herself with delight.
“Please, Kaylee. Don’t tell anyone else.”
“Why?” The young mechanic was honestly at a loss. “Everyone’s gonna be so happy!”
“Kaylee, promise me.” Freya’s voice and face were stern.
“Oh, all right,” Kaylee said with a touch of bad grace. “I won’t tell anyone.” Then she grinned. “I like knowing things other people don’t. Makes me know how River feels all the time.”
Zoe scanned the crowd, still not seeing Inara, but admiring the variety of costumes the women were wearing, as well as some of the more dandy men. There seemed to be a fashion for lots of lace, and dramatic flowers in piled high hair. Absolutely nothing like she was wearing. Still, they looked like wedding cakes and she was beginning to feel better about herself. She had to smile as she recognised a couple of the men. She and Mal had had dealings with them, although they’d never admit it, of course – not since they all wished to keep their fine reputations. She had the most powerful urge to go up to them and talk in a loud voice about their dishonest activities, but she managed to keep it under control. Not that they’d recognise her … not in this outfit.
Dillon materialised by her side. “Well, she’s here. So it’s just a case of finding her in the assembled high and mighty of Persephone.”
“She’s pretty difficult to miss.”
“At least she wasn't abducted on the way here.” He patted her arm, smiling benevolently. “She’s safe.”
“I don’t know, Mr Malfrey. I just have a really bad feeling about this.”
“Well, there’s little we can do at the moment apart from look for her, and we can’t be too overt about that. We don’t want to create a fuss and be thrown out.” When Zoe looked at him askance, he laughed. “Why don’t we take the opportunity to enjoy ourselves a little? I’d like to introduce you to a few people. Make them jealous. And please call me Dillon. Mr Malfrey makes me feel like an old man. And I haven’t wanted one of those in a long time.”
Zoe couldn’t help it – she laughed. “I think Freya was right. You are incorrigible,” she stated.
“That I am. And one to take advantage of any opportunity that arises.” He nodded over her shoulder. “Him, for instance.” Zoe turned to look, seeing an older man with a small beard, a red sash cross brace over an expanding waistline. “An old friend of mine. Come. I’ll introduce you.”
“How long is this gonna take?” Jayne complained, leaning on the wall.
“As long as it takes,” Mal said, watching the entrance. “You got something you consider better you want to do?”
“No,” Jayne admitted. “I just feel antsy.”
“Well, I suspect we all feel pretty much that way.” Mal glared at the big man. “Why don’t you take a walk around the block, see if you can find anything suspicious?”
“What kind of suspicious?”
“Well, you won’t know until you find it.” He added quickly, “And don’t get sidetracked.”
Jayne muttered to himself and ambled off.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Simon asked. “He’s just as likely to indulge in petty theft from any unattended vehicles.”
“Keeps him quiet.” Mal settled his gunbelt easier, his thumbs tucked under the leather. “As long as he don’t get pinched I don’t have any problem with a little larceny.”
“You’re really worried about Inara, aren’t you?” Hank asked, standing behind Mal and rubbing his hands as if he was cold, when he was actually worrying about Zoe.
“I guess I really am.” Mal glanced over his shoulder and looked at the pair of them. “Maybe I am over-reacting somewhat: I suppose there’s a first time for everything. But there’s something about this that has my hackles risen, and this fahng-tzong fung-kwung duh jen makes me feel all kinds of nervous.”
“Badger could be wrong,” Hank pointed out.
“Yeah, he could. But I ain’t planning on staking Inara’s life on it.”
“Serenity?” Sir Warrick Harrow pursed his lips slightly. “That would be Captain Malcolm Reynolds’ ship?”
Zoe nodded. “We did some work for you, a couple of years ago. Transporting some … goods,” she added circumspectly.
Harrow smiled, admiring her tact. “That was after his little contretemps.”
“Never did see that, myself, only the after effects.”
“Is there something here I don’t know about?” Dillon asked, looking from one to the other.
“Cadrie Pond,” Harrow said.
“Ah. That.” Dillon nodded, knowingly.
Harrow turned back to Zoe, who seemed surprised at the apparent common knowledge. “I have to say, your Captain performed better than I expected. You know, I'm almost surprised every time I hear he’s still alive,” he went on. “I would have thought by now someone would have been goaded into doing something about him.”
“Oh, don’t think they haven’t tried.”
“And didn’t I hear somewhere that he’d got married fairly recently?”
“Does everyone know our business?” Zoe asked in amazement.
“I've kept something of any eye on him,” Harrow admitted. “In case I could put some more perfectly legitimate work his way. I was somewhat impressed by his previous effort.”
“He is married,” Dillon confirmed. “To a friend of mine. Freya Nordstrom.”
“Her name sounds familiar,” Harrow said thoughtfully.
“Freya Reynolds now,” Zoe corrected.
“And from what I could see he’s going to be a father,” Dillon went on.
“You mean there’s going to be two of them?” Harrow looked appalled.
“I’m afraid so.”
“Maybe it’s time to move back to the Core, then,” Harrow joked.
Zoe smiled, then stiffened as she saw a familiar form pass by on the other side of the room, her dark red dress standing out amongst the foofaraw. She looked at the two men. “There’s Inara. I have to speak to her.”
“Of course, of course.” Harrow watched Zoe threading her way through the crowd, his brow pensive. “Dillon, is that the woman you were enquiring about?”
“Inara Serra?” Dillon looked surprised. “It is. Do you know her?”
“Yes. She was involved in that duel we were just talking about. I did wonder at the time of your enquiry. And I’m just wondering about someone else, too.”
Zoe came up behind Inara as she greeted another woman, touching her on the arm. Inara turned, expecting to see an acquaintance, but never Serenity’s first mate. Despite the years of training, her eyes widened in shock. “Zoe?”
“Inara, where the diyu have you been?” Zoe asked quietly, urgently.
“In one of the private rooms.” At Zoe’s appalled look she added quickly, “Not like that. Talking. To an old friend.” She touched the other woman’s arm. “You know, maybe Medori was right. I may not be a Companion anymore, but there are other things I can do with my training. Counselling, perhaps.”
As interesting as that sounded, Zoe didn’t have the time for idle chatter. “Inara –“
“And why are you here in that rather amazing dress? Where did you get it?”
“It’s Freya’s. But it’s your safety I'm worried about, and that won’t wait.”
“My safety? What are you talking about?” Inara stared at her friend.
Zoe went over the bare bones, since that was all she had. “You need to come with me now.”
Inara shook her head. “Zoe, are you sure about this? I mean, this is Badger, after all.”
“I know he ain’t reliable. But Mal’s worried and if he thinks someone’s after you, then you’d better be looking over your shoulder.”
“But here?” Inara surveyed the room. “Amongst all the best of Persephone?”
“Best?” Zoe laughed in spite of herself. “‘Nara, some of these are worse crooks than Mal.”
“Worse as in not very good, or particularly nasty?”
“Oh, nasty, definitely.” She stepped close. “Mal’s waiting outside. Dillon will escort us back to Serenity, and then we’ll get gone from here.”
“Zoe, are you sure? These people are my friends … nothing can happen here.”
Zoe sighed. Inara could be as stubborn as Mal when the mood took her, and it evidently had. “Just let’s get home and we can discuss this there.”
“And who’s Dillon?” Inara asked, still not believing there could be any threat to her.
“Dillon Malfrey. He’s my escort.”
“Oh, I've heard of him. I didn’t know you knew such influential people.”
“I don’t. He’s Freya’s, like the dress.”
Inara studied her friend, noting the seriousness in her dark eyes, the concern under her normally implacable exterior. For Zoe to have come here, like this, there must be something … “Then let me get my coat. Wait for me.”
Zoe nodded, the tension leaving her just a little. “Okay. Just hurry, dong mah?”
“I’ll only be a minute.” She hurried off through the crowd.
“Zoe. Is she all right?” Dillon asked, materialising next to her. “Won’t she go back to your ship?”
“She’s getting her coat.”
Dillon glanced around at the assembled throng. “You think your captain can protect her there?”
“Easier than here.”
“I know I’ve said this before, but are you sure she’s in danger? I find it difficult to believe that I wouldn’t be able to find out something, not with all the people I know.”
“And you know everyone, do you?” Zoe asked, a note of anger in her voice.
“Most people worth knowing,” Dillon replied, not taking offence. “After all, I know you.” He smiled. “I'm going to get another drink. Something more … manly than that wine. Would you like one?”
“No, thanks. And Inara won’t be long.”
“I’ll be quick.”
Simon was taking a turn watching the entrance, while Mal perched on an upturned barrel, leaning back on the wall, his eyes closed. “Do you think something’s happened?” he asked, his eyes glued to the doorway.
“Zoe’d have sent up a flag if it had.” Mal shifted his weight slightly. “I imagine she’s found Inara okay, but she’s having fun persuading her she needs to leave.”
“She could have made her.”
“How?” Mal smiled. “Would you have her drag Inara out kicking and screaming?” He laughed. “Now that I would like to see.”
“Me too,” Jayne agreed, kicking his boots in the dirt, even more bored since he got back. “I’da paid. Beats just hanging around.”
There was a pause, then Simon spoke again. “Mal, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure.” His lips twitched. “Not sure I'm likely to answer it, but you can try if you have the notion.”
Mal stiffened, but stifled his physical response. “That ain't a question.”
“Let’s not play semantics.” Simon turned to look at the captain. “I was just wondering how you can justify chasing after Inara, on Badger’s say so, knowing how Freya feels.”
Hank looked from one to the other, tension in the air.
“How Freya feels ain't exactly anything to do with you, doctor,” Mal replied.
“She’s my friend.”
“And she’s my wife.” Mal opened his eyes and glared at him.
“Kaylee thought –“
“Kaylee?” Mal sat forward. “Kaylee thought? Simon, if you’ve got something you want to say, you come out and say it, not put it into someone else’s mouth.”
“I'm just …” Simon lifted his head, putting on his professional expression. “Freya’s pregnant. Any stress at the moment isn’t good for her. And to see you hurrying to Inara’s rescue, particularly after she’s announced she isn’t going to be a Companion any more …”
“I know Freya’s pregnant, Simon,” Mal said quietly. “And I know how Freya feels. But Inara’s my friend. Our friend.” He pointed towards the ballroom. “You want me to ignore this and just wait and see? What if something happens in there? You want me to have to tell Freya that her friend is dead because I did nothing?”
“I know you can’t do nothing, Mal,” Simon said soothingly. “But Freya –“
Mal took a deep breath and interrupted. “You’re her doctor. You’re gonna make sure she’s okay physically. I'm her husband – let me deal with the rest.”
They stared at each other until Simon broke eye contact first, turning his back on Mal.
Jayne moved his hand away from his gun and went back to being bored.
“What was it like in there?” Hank asked after a while, anxious to dispel the tension. “Before the fight, I mean.” He’d been informed of Mal’s previous experiences by a talkative Kaylee.
Mal glanced at him quickly before closing his eyes again. “Lots of rich folks dancing, all pretending to be what they ain‘t. Not my kind of party. Give me a good, smelly, dishonest bar any day.”
Jayne grunted in agreement.
This was taking too long. Inara had only gone to get her coat, it shouldn’t have taken this long at all, and now Zoe was starting to have the feeling she used to get when a sniper was lining his sights up on her. Then a flash of dark red topped with high hair and something sparkling disappearing around the corner had her pressing through the crowd, following her friend. She rounded a column, and there was a gasp.
Dillon Malfrey, a glass of excellent whisky in his hand, came back to where he’d left Zoe to find no sign of her. Looking around, he stopped a steward. “Have you seen my companion?” he asked. “She’s wearing –“
“Midnight blue, yes, Mr Malfrey, she’s difficult to miss. I believe I saw her going in that direction.” He pointed towards the rear of the ballroom.
Dillon moved through the crowd, exchanging pleasantries somewhat absently with a number of his friends, all the while wondering why Zoe would have gone this way, except to follow Inara, and what she was doing –
He grunted and dropped his glass, ignoring the fact that it shattered into a thousand fragments. He knelt by the still form in the dark corner, recognising with a sinking heart the hem of the dress. “Zoe?” he said quietly, reaching for her, putting his hand on her chest, then pulling it back when he felt something warm and sticky. He lifted his hand into the light – it was red.
Pressing his wrist com he said, “Callum! Bring the hover to the back. And get Captain Reynolds.”
As Callum said, “Yes, sir,” Dillon noticed something on the ground amid the fragments of broken glass. He picked it up. A hair ornament, that trembled in the light.
to be continued
Thursday, January 11, 2007 1:31 AM
Thursday, January 11, 2007 7:08 AM
Thursday, January 11, 2007 10:32 AM
Sunday, January 14, 2007 3:18 PM
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