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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
After recalling her first journey into space, Inara is surprised by what she finds at Badger’s office.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1339 RATING: 0 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimer: It belongs to Joss and all those business people. I’m just playing.
Rating: PG to NC17. I will not put warnings on each chapter, because I don’t want to give things away. In general, don’t be getting into any of this if you’re not prepared for adult storylines, violence, explicit sexual content, and - oh my - bad words.
Many thanks: fireflyfans.net members: LEEH and LEIASKY for beta.
Links: Prequels: The Fish Job (FFF) (LJ), Easy Tickets (FFF) (LJ), and Book I (FFF) (LJ). Timing, pairings, and canon blurbs are in my FFF blog.
After recalling her first journey into space, Inara is surprised by what she finds at Badger’s office.
Nineteen years ago
Kari talks to her friends in the streets (adults, mostly; she’s always founds grown-ups easier to converse with than children her own age) and she hears enough to suspect that her father was wrong. The beautiful woman at the party was no whore. But Kari has no time to learn more about Companions; her mother announces that she’s pregnant again, and immediately takes to bed. Kari has to stay home and do all the chores.
She’s not surprised; this happens on nearly a yearly basis. Her mother loves babies. She can’t get enough of holding them and cooing at them – as long as they smile and coo back. She doesn’t like it so much when they scream, or their diapers need changing. When it comes to that Kari takes over.
Once those warm, wiggling bundles start walking and talking, when they have wills of their own and opinions expressed with stubborn no’s and stomped feet, their mother loses all interest. At that point, Kari has learned to start watching her mother’s belly and guessing when the next one will arrive. Kari doesn’t question it; she assumes that every family is like this, and she quietly does her part.
But everything changes one Saturday afternoon nearly five months after Kari saw the Companion. A young woman comes to the house; she’s dressed in a gray suit like an office-worker would wear, but the fabric is wrinkled and she looks ragged. She works hard, Kari can see that much easily.
Her parents aren’t glad to see the woman. They talk too fast and laugh nervously as they guide her through the cramped house. She hardly says a word, just takes notes on a battered computer notepad, then the three of them go into the kitchen and sit down. Kari and her siblings are shooed from the house so the grownups can talk in private.
Her parents are different in the days after that. They’re quiet around each other, and her mom seems angry. But they never explain anything, not even a week later when Kari is told to pack a bag.
“You’re going away,” Kari’s mother says as she passes through the kitchen, a hand on her back to support her swelling belly.
Kari doesn’t respond immediately. She finishes wiping down the counter, then asks mildly, “Why?”
“I don’t have time for this,” her mother snaps. “You’re going to live with someone else for a while.”
Kari has an urge to complain, but, to be honest, she doesn’t know how.
The blond lady shows up an hour later wearing the same grey suit as before. This time, she introduces herself to Kari. Her name is Susan, and she’s a social worker.
A half hour later, Kari finds herself waiting at the landing docks with Susan. The woman explains that this is meant to help Kari’s parents, but Kari isn’t sure about that. She’s beginning to understand what’s happening, and she feels insulted and ashamed. It’s none of Susan’s business to tell Kari’s family what to do. They may not have as much money as they used to, they may not have much money at all, but that doesn’t mean they can be told what to do.
“It used to be different,” she tells Susan.
“What did, honey?”
“We had a bigger house, and a lady came in to clean and cook dinner. I had a closet full of dresses, and I was learning to play the saarangi. I had my own tutor.”
Susan looks uncomfortable, like she doesn’t want to say anything offensive. “But it’s not like that now, is it?” she asks gently.
Kari drops her eyes. “No.”
They wait quietly for a few minutes, then Susan crouches down and takes Kari’s hand. “Look,” she says, and she points to a small dark shape high in the blue. “That’s it. That’s the one I was telling you about.”
Kari frowns. “It doesn’t look like a bug,” she says.
“If you saw it in space,” Susan answers, “you’d understand. The back lights up, just like a firefly.”
Kari thinks that’s ridiculous, but she doesn’t say so. She watches the ship grow bigger; it swoops through the air gracefully, riding two long golden jets of flame. She realizes that her mouth is hanging open, and butterflies of excitement are fluttering in her stomach. She hasn’t been on a transport that clears the busy city byways for years; she hardly remembers what the world looks like from high up. And as for the Black… she’s even never seen it.
Suddenly, she very much wants to.
Susan, still kneeling beside her, reads Kari’s expression incorrectly. “I know you don’t like this,” she says, “but give it a chance, all right? The family that lives on that ship has a daughter named Sylvia. She’s about your age. You might be good friends – almost like sisters.”
“I don’t need any more sisters,” Kari says quietly, her eyes still on the sky. “I have plenty of family.”
Susan misunderstands again. “We’re not trying to replace your real family. This is just temporary, so your parents can work a few things out. Once they’ve caught up and found a bigger place to live, you can go back and it’ll be better than before. You won’t work at home. You’ll go to school, every day, and you’ll finally get to learn.”
Kari doesn’t like the suggestion that she’s ignorant. She pulls herself up tall and looks at Susan, enunciating as clearly as she can. “I don’t need school. My mother teaches me at home. She’s very well educated.”
Susan smiles and touches Kari’s curly black hair. “Yes, she’s done well with you. But wouldn’t you like to go to a proper school where you can be around other children your age? You’d be surprised at all the things there are to learn – so many subjects that you’ll need more than one teacher. You’ll have a much better chance finding something that really suits you, something you’ll love to do when you’re grown up.”
Kari doesn’t answer. She has to think about that; could it be that she has so many options? Maybe even things that she hasn’t yet imagined she could do? Could her life someday be very different than it is now?
“The people who will be taking care of you are very kind,” Susan says. “They’ve taken a few foster children before, and the reports were very good. You’re luckier than your brothers and sisters – you get to see the Black.” She smiles; she’s genuinely excited for Kari. “Just think of all the stories you’ll have to tell when you come back.”
Kari doesn’t try to reply; the ship is landing noisily, its boosters throwing a cloud of heat and dust into the air.
As soon as the engines cycle down, Susan forgets about her earlier disclaimer and asks, “Shall we go meet your new family?”
Kari bites back a complaint about Susan again using that word – family – and nods.
Landsdowne Docks, Persephone
Inara turned away from the ship that had just landed. The familiar shape had made her pause, at first hoping that, in a insanely good turn of luck, Serenity was dropping out of the blue right in front of her. But the hull of this ship was a dull matte-black; it was more like the first Firefly she’d ever seen, the one that had taken her away from her home, than it was to Mal’s ship.
She shook her head. Too many memories had arisen this morning, and she couldn’t allow the distractions. She had to focus on selling her fictional job to Badger. Her story and the sample goods she was carrying in a cloth bag would have to be enough to convince the man to contact Mal.
She took a deep breath and continued on; Badger’s building was within sight. To her surprise, there were no guards at the entrance. The outer door was ajar, blocked slightly open by what looked to be steel machine parts lying haphazard in the doorway. She pushed the hood of her cloak back a little so she could see better, then peered inside.
“Hello?” she called into the shadowed hallway. No one answered.
She pushed the door open and stepped through. The hall was cluttered with overturned boxes and their scattered contents, and she had to move slowly until her eyes grew accustomed to the dark. No one came to meet her, but she heard a male voice echoing from the end of the hall. Slowly, she walked toward the sound.
The mess at the entrance of the building was nothing compared to what she found just around a sharp turn to the right, and she paused in the hallway for a moment, squinting as she took in the scene. The room was brightly lit by sunlight streaming in through skylights. Piles of junk lined the walls of the office as if hastily swept out of the center of the room, and on the far side was a large gray desk that sat at an angle, as if it’d been shoved across the floor.
She recognized the man sitting behind it. Badger’s derby cap was tilted back at an odd angle, likely because of a bulky white bandage that covered the left side of his face. The tape that held the gauze in place ran under his chin as well; it didn’t keep him from raising his voice, but he couldn’t move his jaw freely and his words came out muffled.
“No,” he said angrily. “No medic! Ain’ havin’ wor’ a’ this ge’ `roun’!”
There were two more men in the room; one was standing and holding a bloody towel to his bowed head as he took Badger’s lecture, the other was on the floor digging through debris, stacking large books into piles and – oddly – returning a pair of neon wigs to two dummy busts on the shelves behind the desk.
And there was evidence of more violence. Blood pooled on the floor, and streaks ran through a far doorway as if a body had been dragged out. Clearly, this was a bad time to visit, but Inara wasn’t about to give up.
She stepped into the room and cleared her threat.
There was a scramble as guns were found and drawn and aimed, and Inara dropped her bag so she could raise her hands.
“I’m just here for business,” she said quickly, fright making her voice come out too high.
“B’ness closed,” Badger said. “Ge’ ou’.”
“But it’s a lot of money – “
“Don’ care. Ge’ ou’.”
Inara stood frozen, more than a little stunned. She couldn’t leave. She couldn’t possibly leave. She had no where else to go looking for Mal
“But it’s… ” She started to reach toward her bag, but stopped when guns cocked. “It’s just fabric,” she said. “See?” Very carefully, she reached down, just pinching a corner of green silk – the dress she’d been wearing when she left Sihnon – and lifting it for Badger to see. “Very expensive fabric. I can supply –”
“Wha’ par’ of ge’ ou’ d’ya no’ understan’?” Badger said through gritted teeth.
Inara was still working out his words when he nodded to the man who had been doing clean up – a very large man. The guard got up and started toward her, an equally large gun in his hand.
It was suddenly clear to Inara that the “job” she’d spent the morning plotting was no good. The temptation of money wasn’t going to work – she’d have to go with threats, and there was only one way she could threaten Badger. She’d have to take the risk of revealing herself.
She pushed her hood back and stood straight as she looked Badger in the eye. “Do you recognize me?” she asked.
The firmness of her tone made the guard hesitate and look toward his boss. It got Badger’s attention as well; he perked up and squinted at her.
“We know ea’other?”
“Remotely. I used to travel with Malcolm Reynolds.”
The suspicion on Badger’s face turned to disgust. “Cào Re’nolds!” he yelled. “Jiāo zòng zhà ass’ole sai’ he’s free an’ clear, bu’ now I go’ `alf the `verse –” He stopped to clap a hand over his cheek and wince, then looked toward the guard and did some very expressive waving of his free hand, something that may have loosely translated to: drag the bitch out by her hair.
Inara couldn’t allow that. She kept her hands out to her sides so she wouldn’t get shot at, but stepped away from the guard’s reach. “If any of your men lay so much as a fingertip on me, you’ll regret it!” she snapped at Badger. “Or are you so ignorant that you don’t know it means to be a Companion?”
The guard stopped again and looked toward Badger helplessly. Badger leaned back in his chair and studied Inara.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “I `member you. Use’ to dress a ta’ be’er.” Then he frowned (carefully), as if an unpleasant realization was coming to him, and when he spoke again his voice was raised in annoyance.
“Wha’ hell you mean, used to be with Re’olds? You’s suppose’ to be `ere now. Reason I gave `im the job was you!”
“What job?” Inara demanded, taking a few steps further into the room. She noted with some satisfaction that the guard backed out of her way. “Where is Mal? Has he come back here? Are you expecting him?”
Badger glared at her for a few seconds, then stuck his nose in the air and grinned as much as his face could manage. “None a’ your b’ness,” he said. “You ain’ out `elping get a goo’ price on my pro’uct, so I go’ no interes’ in you.”
Inara took a deep breath. “I’d be happy to help with your product,” she said, “if you’d just tell me where –”
“Maybe you ain’ seein’ how i’ is, but you ain’ the firs’ to come lookin’ for him. I’m in no mood, so sorry, love – wai’ – no, I’m no’. Now ge’ out.”
It took Inara a second to understand the meaning of that. Someone else had come here looking for Mal? She had to swallow back a knot of fear that threatened to close her throat – now was the time to take action, not to wallow in worry. She could fret later. Get information now.
She stepped up to the desk, putting a hand on it so she could lean toward Badger. “Don’t play coy with me, little man. I have the power of the Companion’s Guild behind me. Don’t doubt that I could take you and your entire pathetic operation down if I chose to. I will leave this office after you answer my questions, all my questions, and not a second sooner.”
Maybe she exaggerated a bit; the Guild was known to be fiercely protective of its members, but it wasn’t a military force. Add to that the fact that, most likely, the Guild couldn’t be very happy with her at the moment, and what she’d just said was a big bluff. But Inara was good at carrying a bluff, and she didn’t let her eyes waver.
She knew she’d won when Badger’s face went pale. He cursed and waved back the guard. “Righ’, then,” he said. “`ow the `ell I ge’ rid a’ you?”
“Who was here looking for Mal?”
He pressed his hand against the bandage again and pouted. “No idea – but you `ell Reynolds he can forge’ `bout doin’ b’ness with me, after bringin’ the likes a’ them to my `oor. I ever see `im again, he’ll pay – on top a’ what he owes me for the cargo you ain’ `elpin’ `im sell.”
“I’ll be sure to give him the message,” Inara said, “once I find him. But first, tell me who did all this.”
Badger grimaced. He sat still for a moment, his eyes flicking around like he was looking for some way out, but then he shrugged. “Ain’ like I wanna cover for the likes a’them,” he muttered, then he launched into descriptions that made Inara’s fear settle heavily into her stomach.
“Man an’ woman. Man in black.” Despite his limited movement, Badger managed a snort as he held his hands in front of his belly, fingers making as big a square as he could. “Big silver bel’ buckle, looked a gorramn fool. He’s a’ one tore up my place, an’ done this.” He raised a finger to his face, drawing a long vertical line over the bandage.
A knife wound, Inara realized. Not a blow, but a deliberate disfiguration of his face.
That sounded like Will.
“When were they here?”
“Left not `alf `our ago.”
Inara felt blood drain from her face – she had to put a hand on the desk again, this time to help her balance. She’d been so close, without even knowing it. She might have passed them in the crowd of the docks…
“What did you tell them?” she asked. “Where did you send them?”
Badger looked up at her and chewed his lip. At first, she thought it was hostility toward Mal making him hesitate, but then she read the doubt in his eyes. He didn’t like admitting that someone had come into his place and bullied him into spilling the details of his own job. Badger had been shaken by it, Inara realized. He was trying to play tough, but he’d been scared.
She felt a twinge of pity, but didn’t give into it. She was in a race, one that she was already losing, and there was no time to spare. She straightened and fixed Badger with a steady look.
“Tell me exactly where Mal went and why,” she ordered. “Everything you told those two and anything you didn’t. And be quick about it, or so help me I’ll have every officer of the Alliance I ever serviced come to this world and rip your ‘business’ to shreds.”
Again, it was a bluff, but it was effective.
Ginger stood in the small main room of the transport; she wasn’t sure what to do with herself. Her blood was boiling in a way it hadn’t in a long while.
Her right hand groped the gun on her hip – she’d recovered it from Badger’s overturned desk after the action had finished – then rose to touch the smaller piece nestled in the stiff elastic bands of her bra. It wasn’t much more than a capgun, but it had its uses, mostly on account of how easy it was to hide. Badger’s guards, like most men, hadn’t checked between her breasts as close as they checked the breasts themselves, and they’d paid for that.
Damn right, she’d made them pay.
And it’d left her all kinds of amped up. As a sniper, she wasn’t often involved in any kind of close combat, and had no skills for it. So she was having a hard time believing that she’d gotten out of Badger’s office in one piece. It made her feel all funny, recalling how close she’d come to being dead, still feeling the adrenaline-heavy rush of diving into action without a bit of time to consider.
She was distracted from her thoughts by Marone’s voice carrying from the console: “Londinium? Serenity is on Londinium?”
She could see the man’s handsome face on the screen – he was lit up like he’d just been promised a hand job.
Where is your mind? she scolded herself.
“That’s right,” Will replied, and his lips stretched into a wide, complacent smile. “As of a few days ago, at least. And get this – they’ve got some kind of aphrodisiac they’re trying to sell to a Companion House. I talked to the man who hired them to make the delivery.” He laughed dismissively. “You know, the guy named after a rodent.”
A badger isn’t a rodent, you moron, Ginger thought distractedly. But she couldn’t pull her eyes away from Will’s mouth; she was caught up with how the word aphrodisiac had rolled out. Will had been a jībā this morning, no doubt about that. Playing at selling her off as a slave…. Bastard. She couldn’t hate him more.
But the man had fine lips. The kind you could chew on. The kind that –
She squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head; she wasn’t going to that place with Will. Never again. No matter how a bit of action might get her roiled.
Oh, but this one had done a number on her. There’d been a few seconds that she was sure she was dead. She’d rolled across the floor, hearing bullets flying above her and Badger yelling at his men to get out of the way so he could have a clear shot and hard, fleshy thumps as Will and the gunmen fought. She’d managed to shelter against the desk, then, on a whim, grabbed hold of the underside of it and pulled up hard, dumping the whole damned thing on Badger.
Got no use for me, do you? she’d thought with more a little satisfaction.
She’d turned to find Will in a knot with two guards – the third was on the floor in the back of the room with a bloody head. Will’d disarmed the two still standing, but he was half pinned and about to get a beating.
As Ginger thought back on it now, she realized that she might have let it happen. She might have slipped out the door and let Will get what was due him. But, at the time, it hadn’t even occurred to her. They were partners doing a job, same as always, and she hadn’t hesitated to yank the little gun out of her shirt and put a few little stinging little bullets in the side of the man holding Will.
It’d ended soon after that. Well, the fighting part had ended.
“Thank you,” Marone said. “This news is helpful. It’s very helpful. But I hope you were discreet – if this man contacts Reynolds with a warning, we’ll never find him.”
“No worries,” Will replied lightly. “The rat guy’s only concern was his own neck, and he showed no liking for Reynolds. I think he was happy to help us out.”
Happy to stop getting cut on, Ginger thought. Happy to have us leave so he could get that desk off him. Funny, though, these thoughts didn’t shame her. Those men had been out to kill her, and would have done it if she hadn’t stood guard while Will did his questioning. And Badger… Badger’d said a gorramn sheep was sexier than she was, then threatened to steal her handgun.
No, she couldn’t regret the way it’d gone down. She couldn’t regret being alive, and couldn’t deny the rush it’d been to win – just her and Will against four armed men. The only thing she truly regretted was that the only body available to her at the moment was Will’s.
Not that there was anything wrong with the body. No, the body was actually a damned fine one.
“There’s nothing more to be done out there for now,” Marone said. “Come directly to Sihnon; I’ll be there by the end of today; I’ll start questioning the Companions.”
“Yes, sir,” Will said. He smirked and gave a sharp salute, which Marone answered with a confused look just before the connection shut off with a short blip of static.
Will, you’re a sarcastic wise-ass son of a bitch, Ginger thought. But she stayed where she was, frozen as he turned his chair toward her. She expected him to say some sleek words of congratulations, to butter her up and flatter her. He had that look on his face, the one that went with his Best Friend and Good Boss act. But his eyes narrowed as he looked her up and down.
“Well,” he said. “I might have known. Shooting people always did get you in a… mood.”
Ginger felt her face coloring, but her eyes followed his hand as it slid across his stomach. A very nice stomach, she knew. Dark golden skin and firm ripples of muscle, and just a light scattering of black hair that led down to...
“What say we care take of that?” he asked.
Ginger turned her head away. Her body’d always had its own appetite, but she’d never been weak. She could control herself, and give in only when she chose to.
And – damnit – she had standards.
“You’re disgusting,” she said.
She wasn’t fooling Will; his grin got wider. “And isn’t it more fun with someone you don’t like?” he asked. “You can be as rough as you want, call me names, slap me around. I know you like it that way.”
She turned her back on him. “Stay away from me. I want nothin’ to do with you.”
“Suit yourself,” he said. “Go on and deal with it on your own. That’s a shame though. You heard Badger – you might not be getting offers from anyone else.”
His laughter chased her back into her small bunk.
mal4prez Wednesday, September 05, 2007 - 03:30
Thanks for the shiny feedback all! I’ve had the U-Day chapter written since last winter and it’s been a long wait to get it posted! (Though, a few chapters still to come have been waiting nearly a year. Gah!)
OK, the wigs in Badger’s office – seriously, watch the pilot. I didn’t make it up! They’re on the set – pink and yellow, I think.
nbz - I wallow in the hate like a pig in shit LOL!
Platonist – How bout this twist to Inara’s background? So much more domestic than what Joss intended, I’m sure. But what the heck.
NSS – embarassing? Nah. All a’flutter with happy squees? Oh yeah! I love your feedback – yay! :) Oh, and the toast - I agree, it’s so perfectly applicable to the Alliance. I ran across that saying on my favorite Chinese dictionary site and knew it would find a prominent place… I’ve got a really good insult waiting too LOL!
LadySage Wednesday, September 05, 2007 - 06:09
I've been following along and figure it's about time I comment! This is a fun story with lots of angst, pain, violence and that touch of humor that just screams Firefly to me. Keep up the good work.
Thanks for sharing with us all,
nbz Wednesday, September 05, 2007 - 11:37
Really enjoying this.
Inara's back story is totally different from anything I ever expected, but also fits nicely.
And Will. Will Will Will. Question is who do we want to kill him? The three contenders so farseem to be Ginger, Inara and Mal.
wytchcroft Wednesday, September 05, 2007 - 11:48
what an inspired - and clearly thought about piece! Your work gets, as usual, a big rave from here!
Leiasky Wednesday, September 05, 2007 - 12:09
Oh, I love tough Inara. Even if she is blowing smoke up Badger's arse with her threats. Well done on the Badger speak. It made my eyeballs cross! LOL!
And Ginger, the little sexpot. I hope she has a hand in Will's very messy, prolonged death . . .
Katesfriend Wednesday, September 05, 2007 - 15:11
You could start a lottery as to who gets to kill Will. Could you ever come up with a more deserving of a slimy death villain?
Beautifully done and a very interesting and fitting view of Inara. Her nurturing side is so well developed and her guarded side is so very out front. From that kind of background, it would be so easy to fall in love with Mal.
Desertgirl Wednesday, September 05, 2007 - 17:54
I know it is many chapters away but I am ready or Will to bite the big one. And I think Ginger should do it. She needs to get out from under his control.
I love your Inara, she is strong and down to earth. I bet she ends up saving the day.
Platonist Wednesday, September 05, 2007 - 21:07
I hate Will and Ginger. (I'm suppose to , right?) Ginger is pathetic and Will is a slimeball.
Your Badger was great. Was that Cockney and Mandarin blended?
Inara's backstory is unfolding nicely.
And a companion for Sylvia. So sweet and interesting... is Inara like the Heidi of space? Does she rise from personal adversity by the nurturing of others? I think we saw some of that on the show with her interactions with the Tams, the birthing mom, and Book.
Anyway, there is no need to answer my rhetorical questions. waiting for the next chapter.
Chazzer Thursday, September 06, 2007 - 04:53
Each update from you is like a slice of heaven. It's like chocolate fudge cake... with cream. Hot chocolate fudge cake. And lemon chicken with fried rice and prawn crackers....
Okay, now I'm getting hungry.
Point is, this fic is really filling. Each chapter is full to the brim with little details and images and feelings... it's just so rich. And I may hesitantly say... even though you have some strong competition on this site... that you may just be the strongest fanfic writer I have ever read.
My only problem at the moment is that I'm missing seeing Kaylee and Simon etc. But I totally get that alternating between lots of people throughout this fic and the next would make things a little less cohesive. It's probably a trap I'd fall into, but you haven't and I have no doubts it will pay off.
But maybe a lil mention now and then wouldn't hurt. I do so love me some S/K.
Anyway, in summation ... this is pretty damn good.
Can't wait for more :D
(If this comment gets deleted I will eat my own arm in a brief moment of insanity.)
nosadseven Thursday, September 06, 2007 - 22:10
Interesting... I get the sense that Kari's 'nurturing' of her siblings is much the same as Inara's companioning - that is, the actions of love but not out of love. She seems more insulted than heartbroken about being taken from the home, as though family really is just a job (which would have some serious implications for her decisions and relationships aboard Serenity). And the whole CPS thing... how quintessentially alliance-y is that? Meddlesome and purportedly enlightening all at once.
I find Will's doings disturbingly entertaining, especially in how others deal with the sicko. I loved Badger's trying to keep the assault quiet, and Ginger's inner conflict and building independence. I can take your word that Will is a fine looking man, though I just can't ever picture him that way in my mind!
From a reader's perspective I would've rathered Badger pull a piece of gauze out of his mouth or something so I didn't have to work quite as hard to figure out what he was saying for the entire conversation. Realism schmealism - I'm lazy!
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