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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
We find out what’s been bothering Inara. Inara and Kaylee encourage each other. Mal says the wrong thing. Part 4 of the ‘Working out the Grief’ series.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 885 RATING: 0 SERIES: FIREFLY
Inara sat on the bed and Kaylee knelt behind her, brushing her hair. The gentle rhythm soothed and relaxed her, though she knew it was reducing her well-defined waves to fluff and frizz. Every now and then, she heard Kaylee sniffle and felt a warm tear splash onto her scalp. It was all Inara could do not to burst into tears herself, and she was glad Kaylee was absorbed enough in her own sorrow not to notice.
They were three days out from Beaumonde and Mal had made no mention of her breaking down and crying on his shoulder. He’d also stopped mentioning the stalking ships, since they’d slunk off after the second day. Their conversations didn’t stray far from small talk and the occasional worried note on Kaylee. Though still grieving, the young mechanic had finally taken an interest in her own healing. When they’d sat down to supper last night, she’d not only cleaned her plate, but went back for seconds. She and Inara had spent the night reminiscing about Simon and River and Inara was grateful for the excuse to shed a few tears.
There was no clock in the passenger dorm where Inara was staying. The drab, yellow room made her feel sterile and aged. The feeling permeated from the inside out. Her entire Companion life had been drab walls concealed by ornate tapestries and ruled by a clock. She had a specific set of hours in which to greet, seduce, sex and dismiss a client. Methodic grace and allure perfected to the minute so she could receive maximum payment and ensure maximum satisfaction. Repeat customers (or repeated solicitations) reflected well on her standing in the Guild. And she was once admired for her skill.
She hadn’t told anyone on Serenity yet, but she wasn’t a Companion any more. Not since the day she’d set off that flash bomb in the Training House. Despite all her explanations, the Alliance had branded her a terrorist, the Guild had questioned her social standing, and that was the end of it. She’d given up her life and livelihood to protect two friends – two friends who had died.
Inara had spent the last year and a half on Beaumonde, orchestrating appeals, but to no avail. What’s worse, she’d been too embarrassed to tell Mal that that was why she had to leave Serenity, even after she’d promised to stay. She’d funded her legal battle with unlicensed Companion work, but couldn’t escape the brand swimming in her mind like a scarlet letter. Whore. That’s all she was now and it’s all she would ever be. She could still attract the high-end clients and charge exorbitant rates. It was riskier now without access to Guild screening, but the rituals and methods were the same. Rich men and poor men were the same. They bought her for the night, paraded her around like they’d won her. Only now, she was a whore.
“’Nara, do you think it’ll help?” Kaylee asked.
Inara blinked, not sure how much of the conversation she’d missed. Kaylee had dropped the brush and was leaning against the wall, so Inara scooted back and leaned next to her.
Kaylee didn’t look surprised by the question. It was possible the girl had spoken in response to her own internal dialog and Inara had missed nothing.
“Jotham always said … just a hot rough and tumble, no strings attached … do you think it’ll help?”
“Sex?” Inara laughed, cutting to the chase. Kaylee had never looked so uncomfortable about the topic.
“I just … always felt so alive … and now I don’t.”
Inara wrapped and arm around her friend, leaning her cheek against the top of Kaylee’s head. She considered the question and then considered the long string of lies that was her own history. Kaylee had always felt so alive … Inara didn’t know that she ever had.
“No,” Inara decided quickly. “I don’t think it’ll help.”
Kaylee pulled away, a hint of betrayal behind her confusion. “You don’t? You always go on about spirit and connection and such, and you’re sayin’ no!”
Inara’s eyes widened, shocked to see anger in Kaylee’s glare.
“I want that, ‘Nara!” Kaylee cried. “I want what you always said was there! I want to be alive again!”
“Kaylee,” Inara interrupted, searching for explanation. “I know you want to feel that connection … but have you considered what it might do to you?”
“I’m hangin’ on by a thread as it is, Inara. I’m just hopin’ for a little more.”
“Do you know how many men have propositioned me with permanent positions?”
“More than a few, I know. Hoardin’ them all to yourself?!”
“Kaylee, no,” Inara said, trying to infuse reason into the situation. “I don’t want you to be the one begging someone to stay. You connect to people, Kaylee. You love. A Companion loves by the clock. I think it would hurt you more to let go when your hour is up.”
“What kind of cruel game do you play, ‘Nara! Abandoning folk to hurt like that!”
“Kaylee,” Inara whimpered, crushed at the thought of causing pain to so many. She took a few deep breaths to regain her composure, then pulled Kaylee into a hug.
“You asked if it would help,” Inara whispered. “I don’t think it will. But if you want, I’ll help you. I know … many people. I can help you connect to someone wonderful.”
Kaylee struggled against the embrace a few moments but finally settled against Inara, biting at her fingernails.
“I miss him so much,” Kaylee cried, hot tears streaming down her cheeks. Inara rocked softly, murmuring a prayer, and before she knew it, she was crying too. After a timeless eternity, Kaylee’s tears subsided, she found the brush again, and sat up. Inara took her wrist.
“Why don’t I brush your hair for awhile,” Inara offered. She hadn’t quite regained her composure and hoped she could hide it just a little longer. Kaylee smiled meekly and settled on the edge of the bed.
“Can you do them fancy braids?”
“I can.” Inara smiled without having to force it, and she was thankful. She’d need some pins and rubber bands to keep the braids in, but figured she’d just fiddle for now. Every now and then, Kaylee would sigh or sniffle or examine her finger tips.
“’Nara, how come you’re so sad?” Kaylee asked innocently. Inara swallowed quickly, wiping her cheeks even though she hadn’t been crying.
“I just missed you, mei mei,” Inara lied, leaning across Kaylee’s shoulders to hug her. “I’m sorry I haven’t been here for you.”
Kaylee squeezed her forearm, returning the embrace. “I missed you, too. I’m glad you’re here. I’m really gonna need you in the months ahead.”
Inara smiled gratefully, glad to feel wanted as a friend – not just as a whore. Kaylee released her arm and she finished braiding quickly, kissing the top of Kaylee’s head when she was done. Kaylee looked back at her with a soft smile.
“You’ll tell me the truth later, right?”
Inara was startled that Kaylee had called her out, but any response she had was cut off by a knock on the door.
“Qing Jin,” Inara said quickly and Mal peeked his head in.
“Don’t you ladies ever sleep?” he teased.
Kaylee stood and stretched, working out the kinks in her neck. “Is it morning already?”
“Near about,” Mal nodded. “Thought you should know that Jayne’s fixin’ to steal your blueberries for waffles.”
“Jian ta de gua!” Kayle cried, brushing past him and darting up the stairs barefoot, hollering Jayne’s name. Both Mal and Inara laughed as she went.
“Chow’s in ten,” Mal informed, though he didn’t leave. Inara stood, smoothing the covers of the bed. The awkward silence was interrupted by a loud clattering from upstairs and muffled laughter.
“Maybe twenty minutes,” Mal amended, stepping fully into the room now.
“Was there something else?” Inara braced herself, worried that another soliciting ship was stalking Serenity.
“No. Just thought you’d be more settled by now,” Mal answered looking around. “Fact is, I thought you’d brought more. I told you we weren’t getting back to Beaumonde for a long while.”
Inara looked at the single, small trunk she’d brought along, shoved into the corner, still mostly packed. The dorm hardly looked lived in at all.
“I’ve sold some things,” Inara explained curtly. In truth, she’d sold most everything to cover her legal appeals. This bed was the first one she’d had in almost four months.
“Don’t have your fineries set up,” Mal observed. “Didn’t bring ‘em along? Guess you don’t have much plan to entertain your fancy men. But I suppose whoring don’t require much clothes.”
Inara flinched and backed away. Mal had called her a whore even before she was one. And a part of her ached with the fear that he was right. That it was all she’d ever been. Resisting the urge to slap him, Inara squared her shoulders and stared him down. No matter what the Captain or the Guild said, she was a core-bred, refined woman of good standing! She did not have to take this.
“I’m not paying fare, Captain. Nor rent. I would never conduct business in this pitiful hole of a room.”
“You want the shuttle?” he challenged. “I got some applications out, but you’re free to toss yours into the stack. Though no more discount. Respectability ain’t quite what it used to be.”
His words were biting and harsh, making her bleed inside. As if he knew just how to hurt her! Would he say this if he knew? Was he angry enough at her for leaving to do this intentionally?
“It’s hard to bring respectability to a petty crook. Even your brown coat was stolen from a thrift store.”
Mal bristled. “At least I fought for independence. You only ever fought to be a slave. Supporting Unification. Even your work – selling yourself to the highest bidder!”
“How many people die so you can cower in this rust heap, eat molded protein, and pretend you have any control over your life. You don’t walk free. Any independence you have is a lie!”
She couldn’t believe she’d pulled out the big guns. But her heart was bleeding and she was fighting for her life. Their voices escalated to near screaming. Inara felt so torn up inside her skin burned. Mal’s face was red, his eyes flashing anger and disdain.
“Bi zui!” Zoë shouted, barging through the open door, slamming her hand against the wall for emphasis. Mal radiated angry heat, glaring brokenly at her before backing out of the room and stalking off. Inara bristled stiffly, not wanting to break down with Zoë watching.
Inara shook her head. “I thought I’d be safe here.”
“He’ll come around,” Zoë assured. “Losin’ you was harder on him than any of the rest of them. He’s worried you ain’t really back.”
Inara nodded tearfully, and wrapped her arms protectively across her chest. Zoë closed the door as she left, leaving Inara to cry in peace. Mal was right to worry. She wasn’t back. She never could be. She was nothing now. Nothing but a whore.
Post-A.N. I know, still too angsty. But this fight was necessary to facilitate the really sweet resolution I have planned for Mal and Inara… stay tuned, because in the next part, Kaylee takes her healing into her own hands.
Trying Something New
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