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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Continuation of Simon-Centric 100 Prompt Story. Mal is frantically searching for Inara and Simon finally gets his chance for revenge. Simon/Kaylee, Mal/Inara. Rated R (just to be safe) for mention of torture.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1648 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
A/N: And here we are with more angst ... I know, it's a little rough, but I promise there is more fluff ... somewhere down the line!
Thanks to Leiasky for the beta and to everyone for all the great comments. I'm so glad you're liking this one, I had a great time exploring all the relationships, especially Mal and Inara.
Please, please keep the comments coming - they mean so much to me.
Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14
Link to prompt table
The Right To Love - Chapter 15 (Prompts 86-90)
“Tell me you know where he is?” Mal spit out, his entire body still heaving, even four hours later, with anger and rage as he searched for Inara and the man who held her.
Avoiding his burning gaze, Kaylee and Zoe both poured over the charts and manifests they had tracked down, looking for that one hidden corner where Niska would be. But there was nothing, and any lead they would have had, which they really didn’t, had cooled hours ago.
With a swift shake of her head, Zoe watched as Mal turned and rammed his booted foot into the lockers at the back of the bridge. Prepared for the sound and the string of cursing that would follow it, she didn’t even flinch, but Kaylee, still more than distraught over the entire situation, had to cover her mouth to stifle a startled gasp.
Whirling around, Mal charged on River’s curled up form. The girl sat in the co-pilot’s seat, her body wrapped into the smallest ball imaginable. Placing his hands on the arms of the chair and leaning over her menacingly, Mal ordered her, “Where is she, River? Tell me where she is!”
“Knew you wouldn’t think,” River murmured, her voice and posture unaffected by his outburst. “Knew you wouldn’t look.”
“Look where, River?” he asked, doing his best to keep his voice from cracking. If they didn’t find her soon, he was going to lose it.
“You lost your faith,” she told him, eyes wide and searching.
Backing away from her slowly, Mal knew that was it; if River could not give him a clue, he knew he had lost Inara for good. He literally could not go scouring the ‘verse for her, or even this planet; by the time he did, she’d be dead. Sitting heavily in the pilot’s seat his head fell into his hands. The rage and anger that burned in him was enough to make another man heave, but he had buried these feelings before and so he did it again.
Zoe’s sure voice rang true to him and he met her confident gaze with his weary one. “What?”
Pulling the map away from Kaylee who was still sitting in a state of shock at River’s words, Zoe held it up in front of him and then pointed again. “There.”
Mal squinted at the image, his eyes taking a minute to focus. As realization dawned, he looked to her and breathed, “You think?”
“You remember losin’ your faith anywhere else?” she asked wryly, folding the map and shoving it into her pants’ pocket.
Rising swiftly, Mal grabbed his brown coat and stormed off the bridge, Zoe on his heels. “River, Kaylee, get her ready to fly!”
Both girls watched them go, Kaylee still frozen. After a few more moments of silence, she asked in a whisper, “Where’re they goin’?”
River swiveled in the chair her eyes following the path they had traveled and whispered back, “In to battle.”
Simon had restocked, straightened and cleaned the infirmary at least five times since Mal and Zoe had taken off in Inara’s shuttle ninety minutes ago. He had tried to keep busy, making sure everything was set for when they returned, knowing that even if they didn’t find Inara, there was a good chance one or both of them would need his services.
Restless now, he went in search of Kaylee, his feet automatically taking him to the engine room. He knew that’s where she’d be; she always retreated to her domain when she was scared or bothered. And right now, she was both.
He watched her work from the doorway for a moment, his arms over his chest. Her back was to him, and she was bent low over some piece of equipment. From what Simon could see it was tarnished almost beyond recognition, but Kaylee was rubbing at it fiercely, trying her best to wipe away years of grime, to bring the metal back to its shimmering silver color.
As he watched, he saw her shoulders shake a bit too much with the effort and heard a stifled sob that brought him across the room and to her side in seconds. As he touched her elbow lightly, she jumped, straightening too quickly, causing her hand to glance along the machine, slicing it open in the process.
“Ow!” She cried, grabbing at the cut with her other hand and trying to stop the flow of blood. It wasn’t deep, but it hurt something fierce.
Feeling awful for causing her to injure herself, Simon took her hands in his immediately and whispered, “Let me see it.”
She let him, wincing as he took her other hand away to reveal the grease and grime she’d pressed into the wound when she’d covered it with her dirty hand. More tears welling in her eyes, she moaned, “Oh, great.”
Reaching into his vest, Simon pulled out a handkerchief and wrapped it around the wound gently. Keeping her hand in his, he pulled her towards the door. “Come on, it’s not deep, but I need to clean it out.”
Shaking her head, Kaylee stopped and told him, “No, you gotta be ready for when ‘Nara gets back. I’ll take care of it.”
Frowning at her, Simon wrapped an arm around her shoulders, this time almost forcing her from the room. “Kaylee, it’ll take me a few minutes, that’s all. We don’t want it to get infected.”
Sighing and still not meeting his gaze, Kaylee sullenly went with him, slightly relieved that the throbbing pain in her hand had taken her mind off of her missing friend; more thoroughly than trying to scrub the engine shiny at any rate.
Mal had known plenty of men, some even friends, who had joined the Independent movement all those years ago to fight the war and become heroes. They didn’t so much care about the killing or the bad food or the politics of it all; they only cared about marching off and marching home amidst scores of cheering folk.
Mal had never had use for heroes; he hadn’t known any growing up, except maybe his ma, who he considered the strongest, bravest, most astute woman he’d ever known. Although now, as he and Zoe sped across Greenleaf’s atmosphere in search of Inara, he thought that just maybe his ma’s hero status might finally have been usurped by another woman.
She wasn’t just brave and strong and absolutely gorgeous, Inara was everything to him. It had taken Mal a long, long time to figure that out. Even Simon, for all the grief Mal and the rest of the crew gave him, had been able to figure out in eight months that he loved lil’ Kaylee. It had taken Mal, the big, bad captain of Serenity the shock of watching Inara walk off his boat and the span of almost two years to wake up and smell the obvious.
Zoe was piloting the shuttle as he had been unable to still his own hands when he’d reached for the controls, so Mal had no choice but to stew over what awaited them when they found Niska … and Inara, Mal’s hero, the love of his life.
Inara had never needed anyone to rescue her. She had always been quite capable of getting herself out of any situation. She’d been faced with some fairly scary ones before as well. But this … this was not something she could make it out of with a bat of her eyelashes or a dab of the right perfume.
And maybe she didn’t want to.
She was in pain, a lot of pain. It had only been hours, maybe a day, and Inara’s body sagged against the metal rack they had her pinned to, her shoulders and back full of cuts and bruises from where she had jerked against her bindings every time they had stuck her with a hot poker or cut on her with a sharp blade. Her eyes were swollen shut, both from her tears and the numerous blows she’d taken. She had lost track of the number of times she had screamed, the number of times she had begged, the number of times she had prayed for deliverance.
Inara was weak, she knew that now. Actually, she had always known it she’d just never wanted to admit it. It was weakness that had caused her to leave Serenity the first time, after Nandi, and weakness that had caused her to come back. It was weakness that had caused her to seek Serenity out in the first place and weakness that had allowed her to love Mal.
Mal … his name was a breathless whisper on her lips. She didn’t want her last thoughts to be of him. If they were, she would die in agony, mourning the loss of the only perfect thing she’d ever had. Inara wanted to think of nothing, wanted her mind to go blank. She wanted to be unconscious, her brain devoid of any coherent thought so she could stop picturing Mal, storming into this small, cold room, waving his gun and carrying her out in his arms.
She didn’t want to picture Mal as her hero, because it also meant picturing his death. Niska would not let him go again and so if Inara prayed for him to come to her rescue, she knew she also prayed for his demise.
Mal killed at least four men on his way into the abandoned army base that Zoe had deemed Niska’s hideout. As he plowed through each lackey, more deadly and sinister than the last, he knew this was the place. A man like Niska, a small man with nothing but his reputation to hide behind, needed to surround himself with big, hulking hun dans like this.
With Zoe at his back, Mal continued to point and shoot, firing at anything that moved, and anything he missed, Zoe fired at in his stead. They had worked in tandem for so long their battles were like choreographed dances, each of them spinning and whirling in perfect unison. It normally would have comforted him, this shorthand, but as Mal kicked in door after door and came up with no Inara, he felt his despair rising and it blocked out all other thought.
Kaylee and Simon were sitting close on the couch opposite the infirmary when they felt the ship shake from take-off. Turning wide-eyed expressions to each other, they simultaneously bolted for the stairs, sprinting to the cockpit. As Simon stepped through the bulkhead, he watched in disbelief as his sister piloted the ship over the treetops.
“Mei mei, what are you doing?” he asked hurriedly, rushing into the room. He would have grabbed her hands had they not currently been controlling the ship.
Her eyes focused forward, River murmured, “Waited long enough. Time to go.”
“We can’t leave the cap’n an’ ‘Nara an’ Zoe,” Kaylee said fearfully, her voice pitched high with fear.
“Not leaving them,” River explained, her tone full of exasperation. “Saving them.”
“River,” Simon intoned low, kneeling beside her. “Mal told us to wait until they got back.”
Pulling her eyes from the cockpit, River rested them on her brother’s concerned face and asked him quietly, “Do you want your chance or not?”
His brow furrowing in momentary confusion, River watched as realization dawned and Simon rose, features grim, mouth pressed into a thin line. Content that he would now leave her in peace, River continued to pilot as Simon brushed past a confused Kaylee.
“Simon? What’s goin’ on?” She hurried after him, down the few steps to the hallway even more bewildered when he stopped in front of Jayne’s bunk and rapped loudly. Her eyes searching his stoic features for an answer, Kaylee asked again, “Simon, what are you doin’?”
Ignoring her, he heard the growl and grumble of Jayne as the man pulled open his hatch. Looking up to see the doc’s prissy face only made him groan louder. “Whatda ya want?”
“I need a gun.”
It was, quite literally, the last door and despite his need to get to her, Mal actually found himself pausing before he kicked it in. As it swung open, the rusted metal nearly fell from its hinges and Mal stopped, paralyzed for a second before he rushed into the room, Zoe at the door still guarding him.
In his urgency to get to Inara he almost embraced her hard, but noting the angry burns and open wounds on her skin, he realized it would only serve to hurt her more, and that was something he could not stomach. Disgust welling in his throat as he took in her injured and half-naked form, Mal quickly undid her bindings before wrapping her in his brown coat. Pulling the soft leather around her, Mal held her as gently as he could to his chest, wishing she would wake up so he could at least see her eyes, just for a moment.
As he heard the scuffle of gun fire and the sound of voices, he turned slightly and the motion jarred Inara awake. Coming to with a scream as he unwittingly pulled at some of her cuts, Mal’s eyes were to her face in an instant.
Her eyes opening to the tiniest of slits as they could not open any further, she rasped, “Mal?”
Smiling at her tightly, he sank to the floor with her, knowing he would have to kill more men before he could carry her out. “Yeah, darlin’, it’s me,” he whispered, his lips brushing against hers.
But at his touch she tried to push him away. “Go. Get out of here, please. He wants to kill you.” As she started to cry and Mal tried to soothe her, she choked out, “I can’t watch you die, Mal. Please.”
“No one’s dyin’ today, ‘Nara, you hear me?” he asked her, raising his voice to reach her through her sobs. “No one. Me an’ Zoe’re gonna get you outta here an’ then the doc’s gonna fix you up good.”
“Oh, God, Kaylee,” Inara breathed, more fear gripping her, her body tensing and causing more pain to ripple through her. “He didn’t take her, did he?”
“No, darlin’, everyone else is safe, all right. Jus’ relax, hold tight for just a few more minutes, ‘kay?” Mal heard the desperation strangling his voice and he wished it would go away, but the longer he held her weak form in his arms, the harder he felt his heart pounding out of his chest.
“Sir?” Zoe’s rough voice pulled him back and he gently lowered Inara to the floor, trying to make her as comfortable as possible, before turning back to Zoe.
Taking up a position next to her in the doorway, he growled, “I wanna get the hell outta here. Whatda we got?”
“A near impossible escape route,” his first mate informed him grimly.
Flashing her one of his famous grins, he holstered his weapon to get Inara. “My favorite kind.”
Kaylee stood frozen with shock and horror as Jayne invited Simon down to his bunk, her fiancé returning a few minutes later with a cold, metal weapon clutched firmly in his hand. Not offering her a second glance, Simon stalked away, knowing that with his sister at the helm, they’d be arriving at any minute. And seeing as Simon had never killed a man before, he wanted a few moments to prepare.
River watched her brother and Kaylee depart, before glancing down into Jayne’s still open bunk and calling, “Jayne! Bring Vera!”
Kaylee chased after him, uncertain what to say, how to stop him, until she watched him enter the infirmary; the one room on the ship where Simon did the most good, where he healed people. And in that instant, it snapped into place for her: Simon wasn’t a killer, he was a healer. She had to make him understand that.
Blocking the door as he turned with his med kit in one hand and the gun in the other, she crossed her arms over her chest and met his cold gaze with one of her own. “Move Kaylee,” he commanded, his tone lower and scarier than she had ever heard.
Refusing to be deterred, Kaylee shook her head resolutely and said, “No. You ain’t doin’ this.”
“Yes, I am,” he told her, moving past her none to gently and stepping out towards the cargo bay. “I have to do this.”
Grabbing for his hand, Kaylee whirled him to face her and begged, “Why?”
His eyes finally softening, Simon looked to her with such conflict she thought her own heart might break for him. “How can you ask me that?” he breathed, taking a step towards her. “He hurt you.”
“Don’t kill for me, Simon,” she said shakily, her voice low as she backed away from him. “Don’t. It ain’t in you. This ain’t you,” she cried, feeling hot tears welling in her eyes. Moving towards him again, she reached for the gun in his hand, but he snatched it back before she could get a grip on it. “You don’t kill people.”
“Well, maybe I should!” His shoulders heaving as his heart pounded and his lungs overexerted themselves, Simon’s eyes blazed with fury as he said, “I have to protect you. And if this is the only way to do it then so be it.”
Shaking her head back and forth, Kaylee mumbled, “No.” As Simon turned from her, trying to collect himself, Kaylee approached him from behind and again reached for the gun. “No,” she told him forcefully, tugging on it. As he again turned to face her, his eyes even angrier than just seconds before she reminded him, “I thought you tol’ me killin’ him wouldn’t help.”
“I said it wouldn’t make me feel better,” Simon growled, stepping back from her. “There’s a difference.”
They stood in silence, holding each other’s gazes, their chests rising and falling rapidly with the intensity of their emotions as the ship softly settled to the ground. River entered the large room moments later, her eyes drifting between her brother and Kaylee with deep sadness.
As Simon turned again to go, Kaylee dropped her voice low, and said only loud enough for him to hear, “I ain’t gonna marry a killer.”
Simon’s shoulders stiffened slightly at the statement, the only indication he’d heard her before he resolutely strode towards the hatch. River went to follow on silent feet. As she passed her friend, River reached for the girl’s hand and squeezed it gently. “Not the villain,” she whispered to her. Looking to her brother for a second, she added, “Wants to be the hero.”
Kaylee watched her go, the tears she’d felt welling in her eyes falling down her face. “He already is.”
With Inara’s small form in his arms, there wasn’t a lot of help Mal could provide to Zoe, so the Amazon woman was doing double duty, acting as scout and first line of defense. They had already made their way through at least a third of Niska’s complex, having only killed two other henchmen when the trap was sprung.
It was a good trap, even Mal would admit that. Niska’s men had managed to imperceptibly work them into a dead end and just as the two ex-soldiers realized their mistake, they heard the most villainous sound in the ‘verse.
“Ah, Mister Reynolds. You come to see me again so soon. I’m flattered.”
Turning slowly, Inara still in his arms, Mal hugged her to his chest even tighter, ignoring the whimper she gave as he pressed too hard on her wounds. “Well, you know, Addy, your hospitality is just plum amazin’,” Mal shot back. Having now seen what they were up against, Niska and four armed and large men who effectively blocked the passageway, Mal knew they were good and humped.
“And you bring me another beauty,” Niska said sickly, moving forward to leer at Zoe’s obstinate face. “Malcolm, you are too good to me. Three of your ladies I have had the pleasure to know. What other frauleines are you hiding on that ship?”
Mal tried to quell the nausea in his gut, actually wishing that River were here; she could no doubt end this hun dan and all his toy soldiers. Sneering at the man, Mal stepped between him and Zoe and bit out, “No one else you need concern yourself with.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Niska sighed, and with a flick of his fingers, the four men came charging forward, two holding back Zoe while one pulled Inara from Mal’s grasp, swinging her injured form up and over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. As another cry left her lips, Mal surged against the brute holding him back, a low growl building in his gut.
“Now, I think we’re all going to meet the real you,” Niska said, his face turning up into a satisfied smirk as he led his newly captured prisoners back the way they’d come.
With River leading they had made it pretty far into the complex undetected. As Simon and Jayne paused behind her, her hand held up as a warning, Simon clutched the gun against his sweaty palm, trying to stop the racing of his own heart, trying to block out Jayne’s skeptical looks. Despite his harsh words to Kaylee and his very real desire to kill Niska for what he’d done, Simon did not want to go through with this.
I ain’t gonna marry a killer. With a shiver, Simon again followed his sister on silent feet, Kaylee’s last words to him a haunting mantra through his brain. How could she deny him when he was only doing this for her? Besides, killing Niska wasn’t murder, it was payback. Deciding that was what he needed to focus on, vengeance, Simon pressed his lips together and felt his heart rate slow. He could do this, he could kill this evil man who had hurt his beautiful bao bei; and Kaylee would just have to understand.
Mal watched expressionless as they stripped Inara out of his coat and flung her hard onto a slab of metal. She howled in pain as the cuts and burns were again aggravated and tried to roll onto her side, but the larger men locked her hands in place, sliding a tray of devices and weapons up next to her.
He was doing his best to keep his face blank, but inside, Mal was screaming, so loud he felt sure that Niska and his goons could hear it. His blue eyes never left Inara’s form as the large men who had dragged him and Zoe into the room trussed them up to the metal cone in the middle, locking their hands behind them with force.
Stepping up to Mal, Niska followed his line of sight, his eyes dancing devilishly as he noted Mal’s rapt attention focused on the woman. “You care for her, I think, yes?”
Mal said nothing, did not even flinch and so Niska continued to taunt. “You wish her not to be harmed?” Again, Mal would not give the man the satisfaction of a response and so, their captor gave a slight nod in the direction of Inara and she screamed again in pain as a large, serrated knife pierced her side, plunging in slowly between her ribs. Her body bucked in pain against the strike and Mal again pulled his bindings taut, the veins in his neck bulging with rage. He needed to get to her; he needed to get her out of here.
“See, now you do care,” Niska said gleefully, clapping his hands together once. “You only needed to say that Mister Reynolds and I would not have had to slice her open.”
Mal’s simmering blue eyes finally alighted on the man and he ground out, “Leave ‘er alone.”
Shaking his head thoughtfully, Niska told him, “No, I think that I don’t. I think that after all the trouble you have caused me, her death with start to pay off your debt.”
Before Mal could say another word, Niska had nodded permission to the lackeys again, and the knife plunged back into Inara’s gut, causing another loud scream to pierce the air. Followed by a loud screech of protesting metal as the door to the room was kicked off its hinges.
All eyes flew to the entry way where River, Simon and Jayne had just charged in. While Simon had lifted the gun and pointed it directly at Niska the minute the monster had come into view, River launched herself at the man, obscuring his line of sight. Frustrated, Simon holstered the gun quickly, moving towards Inara as Jayne cut Mal and Zoe free.
River fell into her attack pattern easily, even as she latched herself to Niska’s back, doing her best to bring him to the ground where she could pummel him to death. Jayne was helping, his own skill at leveling the men coming in handy. As one of his goons attempted to pull her off, River kicked out, using the little man for leverage and swinging all of her weight into the bigger man’s broad chest. With a quick exhalation of air and a startled expression he fell backwards and into the metal rack at the corner of the room, falling unconscious.
Satisfied that he was down, River swung around Niska’s body, shoving the man to the side, while she reached for the instrument tray and grabbed a curved scythe. Swinging in a wide arc with the weapon, she had sliced through one man’s throat and another’s heart, by the time the fourth one pinned her from behind. Struggling against him, River felt the breath being squeezed from her body and she struggled to stay conscious as black spots obscured her vision. In the next second the sound of a gun shot filled the air and the man dropped to the ground, River turning to see Zoe standing with her sidearm back in her hand and tight grin on her features. Looking to the woman, they both turned to Inara, as Mal and Jayne had cornered Niska against the opposite wall, Simon hovering just behind them.
“Where’s all the chatter, lil’ man?” Mal taunted. He was greatly enjoying watching the sadistic twerp scramble back against the unforgiving wall, his eyes full of fear as the captain, his merc and his medic bore down on him. “I’m figurin’ you’ve got some real choice words ‘bout now.”
“You are nothing, Malcolm,” he spat out, his raspy voice losing its edge as fear tainted it. “You are less than nothing. I still beat you.”
“Not likely,” Mal told him, rolling his eyes in disgust. Watching from the corner of his eye as Simon raised a trembling arm up towards the man, Mal wondered if the kid would actually do it. Judging by the way his gun hand was shaking, he didn’t think so.
“You are a murderous, evil monster,” Simon bit out, his eyes small and cold as stone. “You deserve to die.”
Niska’s eyes darted from one man to the other as he caught Simon’s indecision. Pulling the hammer back on the gun, Niska closed his eyes, missing it as Simon passed the gun to Mal, ignoring the smug look in Jayne’s eyes at his perceived weakness. Turning away, he walked towards his sister and Zoe who were supporting Inara’s weak and bleeding form.
“But I will not let you make me a murderer,” Simon murmured under his breath, not flinching, not blinking as one more shot rang through the room.
Everything was a blur to Mal the minute Niska’s dead body sank to the floor leaving a smear of blood on the wall behind him. With hardly any cognizant thought, his body moved of its own accord, his arms wrapping themselves around Inara’s now bleeding form. The doc and his sister had again wrapped her in his soft jacket and Mal hoped fleetingly that maybe the smell or feel of it would comfort his beloved while she suffered so. She had always said she loved that coat.
How they got back to Serenity and the other details were inconsequential to Mal. Charging for the infirmary as Zoe and Jayne went to pilot the shuttle back to the boat, Mal, Simon and River burst into the room, Kaylee following a few minutes later. At the sight of Inara’s injured form a gasp escaped her best friend’s lips and Kaylee sank to the cold floor, her knees pulled into her chest. River cast one glance to the girl and then charged out of the room, heading for the bridge so they could take-off as soon as Zoe was back.
Had Mal’s entire world at that moment not been Inara, he probably would have comforted his mei mei. But there was only one person in the ‘verse right now that he gave a damn about and it was his beautiful ai ren laid out on Simon’s cold examine table, her sides bleeding profusely. Standing resolutely at her side, Mal ran a gentle hand through her soft hair, bending his face close to hers and whispering words of comfort. As Simon rounded the bed, trying to get at Inara’s other side and assess her injuries, Mal was immovable and the doctor pushed him.
“Please, Mal, I need to work.” His tone was tense and Mal backed up immediately, only wanting Inara to be well. He watched Simon work with detached interest, trying not to focus as the man sewed her beautiful skin or pulled away blood-soaked rags.
An hour later, Simon stepped back with a sigh and turned weary eyes to him. “You can sit with her now,” he said quietly, not at all surprised as Mal charged back to the woman’s side, sitting on the stool and holding her hand between his own.
Looking up Mal told him softly, “She’s cold, doc.”
Reaching for a blanket, Simon went to drape it on her unconscious form, but Mal took it instead, and the younger man watched in awe as he carefully tucked Inara in, showing her more care and devotion than Simon had ever seen from him. Finishing his clean up in silence, when he again turned to face his patient and her lover, Simon noticed that Mal’s position had not changed.
Speaking quietly, he told him, “She lost a bit of blood, but the cuts to her abdomen didn’t cause any internal bleeding. The other wounds are superficial for the most part.” As Mal turned a querying gaze to him, Simon said simply, “She should be fine.”
“Why ain’t she awake yet?” Mal’s voice was rough and hoarse and Simon did him the courtesy of not meeting his pained gaze.
“She’s suffering from shock, Mal. It’s very common after the trauma she’s experienced.” Pausing, he took a deep breath and said, “I expect her to wake up in the next eight to twelve hours.”
“Can I take her back to the shuttle?” Mal asked, his eyes back on Inara’s damaged face. He knew she’d be more comfortable there, surrounded by her things, in her own bed. Plus, then he could keep his vigil over her in private.
Shaking his head, Simon said, “No, Mal, not yet. I don’t want to risk moving her until I’m convinced those stab wounds have stopped bleeding. Once she wakes, then we can discuss moving her.”
Mal nodded once, but said nothing else and so Simon took his leave. “Thanks, Simon,” the older man’s broken voice called just as his foot stepped out of the hatch.
Looking back to him, Simon’s eyes alighted to the corner where he could have sworn Kaylee had been sitting when they’d come in. “Wasn’t Kaylee here?” he asked, not expecting an answer and not getting one. Deciding to find her, he left the captain and Inara alone.
Still running a few fingers through her soft curls, Mal pressed her hand to his mouth, and whispered to her, “All righ’, ‘Nara. You made your point. I understand now why you always get so mad at me when I come back with bullet holes and bloody knuckles. So you can wake up now, bao bei, all right?” There was no movement from her and Mal hated it.
Glancing back to her face, he saw how swollen her eyes were and he knew it must be painful. Rising slowly, he reached for a rag, wetting it with the coolest water he could manage. Sitting back at her side, he dabbed at the corners of her eyes, thinking it might help. With a sigh, he remembered those eyes, those big, brown eyes.
He saw everything in Inara’s eyes. Of course, he’d never told her that and probably never would, but it was the truth. Her eyes conveyed more to him than any other expression, body part or the like. He remembered how they’d flashed with anger anytime he’d called her a whore; how they’d flashed with concern when he’d tried to go down with his ship; how they’d flashed with pain when she’d told him she was leaving; how they’d flashed with annoyance when he’d willingly walked into the operative’s trap; how they’d flashed with grief in the wake of Miranda; how they’d flashed with hope when she’d elected to stay on board.
And how they’d flashed with love the second before he’d first kissed her. It wasn’t just emotion that Inara’s eyes conveyed to him, it was her, her deepest thoughts, her deepest feelings, her deepest fears. He could gaze into those liquid brown puddles and see all of her, right down to her soul.
He needed to see that soul again. Inara’s soul was his too; her belief in him, in them, had restored Mal’s faith in goodness, and he feared that if his belief system was shattered again, he would not survive it.
Resting his forehead against her hand, Mal actually bowed his head and called on the Shepherd.
Simon had made his way to the engine room quickly, not bothering to look for his bao bei anywhere else on the ship. He knew she would be here, in this warm room, with the comforting sound of the engine to soothe her.
Stepping into the space, he caught sight of her sitting in her hammock, wrapped up in an old blanket, her eyes staring ahead blankly. Not exactly sure how she would react to him due to their last parting, Simon stood awkwardly on the threshold and called again, “Kaylee?”
“’Nara okay?” she asked, her voice hoarse and as Simon studied her pained face more intently he recognized the remnants of tears staining her cheeks.
Clearing his throat, Simon kept his distance, painfully aware that Kaylee would not even look at him as he answered her. “She should be. There was no internal bleeding. She might have a few scars, but … she should be all right,” he finished quietly, noting the way Kaylee’s hand had flown to her own freshly scarred cheek at the mention of the marks.
“That’s a shame,” she murmured, her hand absentmindedly running over the blemish. “’Nara’s skin’s so beautiful.”
Silence settled between them and Simon didn’t like it. The emotional detachment with which she’d spoken to him made his gut twist with nervousness. He wished Kaylee would just ask him if he’d killed Niska, so he could admit that no, like a coward he had let Mal fire that fateful shot. He refused to just volunteer the information; his bruised ego could not take that insult as well.
“I wonder if’n he used the same knife on her.” Kaylee’s voice was still toneless and only the subject of the question alerted Simon to her distress. Inching towards her, he watched as she continued to rub over the scar on her face. “Can you tell?” she asked quietly, her haunted eyes gazing up at him. “By lookin’? Can you tell if’n it was the same?”
Swallowing thickly, Simon told her softly, “Sometimes.” Taking a deep breath, he asked her quietly, “Is that why you left?”
With a shiver, she curled up into a tighter ball and drew her eyes away from him. “Din’t wanna see. Din’t wanna ‘member,” she whispered hoarsely. Simon wanted desperately to hold her, but he feared that his insistence to kill Niska, regardless of whether or not he’d actually done it, might have pushed her too far. “I don’t think he gave her any o’ them drugs though,” she added thoughtfully. “Did he?” she questioned, looking back to Simon for confirmation.
He shook his head once and Kaylee actually sighed. “That’s good, ‘cause them’s no fun.”
“Kaylee, I …” Simon started and faltered. He wanted to ask her, he wanted to know if he had any chance of making this right, of holding onto her, but he couldn’t do it. He’d left with murder in his heart knowing full well that she didn’t want him to do it, and Simon could easily see how that kind of blatant disregard could be unforgivable.
“Ya think he had a soul?” Kaylee’s voice was still barely a whisper, but Simon would have heard it regardless.
Deciding to risk her reaction, Simon moved to her side and rested a hand over hers. Even as she did not turn to face him, he asked her quietly, “Who?”
“Niska,” she said, her voice rough. “Ya think a man like that had a soul?”
With a heavy sigh, Simon sat gingerly on the edge of the hammock, doing his best not to dislodge her and said, “I don’t know. I guess it depends what you believe.”
“I never thought you couldn’t have one,” she admitted quietly, finally bringing her round green eyes to his face. “I thought everybody had one. Kinda like a heart,” she explained sitting up a bit and grasping his hand. With an almost childlike gaze, she looked to him and whispered, “But I don’ think he did.”
Shaking his head, Simon leaned in and touched his forehead to hers. “I don’t think so either, Kaylee.”
They sat in silence, the only sound their breathing for many moments, before Kaylee finally whispered, “You didn’t kill him.” It was a statement, not a question.
Pulling back from her, Simon cradled her face in both his hands and told her quietly, “I’m sorry I couldn’t, Kaylee.” The look of love in her eyes made his heart lurch as he continued. “I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough.”
Shaking her head and dislodging a few of her tears, Kaylee leaned into him and kissed him gently, her lips softly caressing his, the touch telling him it was all right. When they parted, she rested a light hand to his chest and murmured, “That’s ‘cause you gotta a soul, Simon. An’ it makes you stronger an’ better than a man like that any day.”
With a small sigh, Simon kissed her again, wrapping her tight to his chest and holding her fiercely, “You are the purest soul I know, Kaylee. And it only makes me love you more.”
More tears falling down her smooth cheeks, for all the pain and fear they’d lived through, Kaylee just held him back.
“Time to eat.”
Mal turned his head slowly in the direction of the infirmary’s door, taking in River’s beaming face, and then just as slowly, returned his gaze to Inara’s sleeping form. “No thanks, lil’ one.”
Frowning at him, River stepped into the room, the tray of food easily resting against her. Walking to the counter, she placed it down and then removed the bowl of noodles and chopsticks, presenting them to him. “Here you go.”
With sullen eyes, Mal looked to her and said, “I ain’t hungry.”
A dubious expression on her face, River leaned down and wedged the side of her head against his rib cage. “Yes you are,” she said. Looking back to him and bringing her eyes levels with his, she told him, “It’s growling.”
Fighting back his annoyance, Mal bit out, “River, jus’ leave, dong ma? I ain’t gonna eat.”
Both of them turned at the sound of Zoe’s soft spoken question and with a weary sigh, Mal cocked his head in River’s direction and asked, “Can ya get her outta here, please? An’ take the food with ya.”
Tears welling in her eyes, River bolted from the room, rushing past Zoe. The first mate watched her go, and then turned back to regard her friend whose eyes were again glued to Inara. Heading to collect the tray River had left, Zoe told him quietly, “You know she’s only tryin’ to help.”
“I don’t need no help,” Mal responded, his voice low. “’Nara does.”
“Yeah, an’ when you can explain to me how you suffering from starvation’s helpin’ her, let me know,” Zoe told him pointedly, before leaving the room in search of their wayward pilot.
River was curled up into a ball on the end of her bunk when Zoe found her. Rapping lightly on the open screen, she called, “River? Can I come in, honey?”
The young genius did not answer her, so Zoe entered anyway, sitting lightly on the edge of her bed. When she did lift her head to meet Zoe’s eyes, the older woman told her, “That was a real thoughtful thing you did.”
“He didn’t think so,” she said, her voice thick with tears.
Frowning, Zoe told her, “Well, I wouldn’t exactly say he’s thinkin’ at the moment. More reactin.’ Watching folks he cares ‘bout suffer never set well with him,” she confided, noting the intensity with which River was studying her.
Edging closer to Zoe, River’s wide eyes told her urgently, “He needs to eat. Stay strong.”
Pushing some of River’s hair off her face and tucking it behind her ear, Zoe said softly, “Oh, lil’ one, food ain’t gonna fill the emptiness he’s nursin’.”
The fluff is coming ... I swear!
Tuesday, April 24, 2007 6:38 AM
Tuesday, April 24, 2007 6:46 AM
Tuesday, April 24, 2007 12:09 PM
Tuesday, April 24, 2007 12:50 PM
Tuesday, April 24, 2007 8:02 PM
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 5:59 AM
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