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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Inara and the Captain finally get to talk. Mistress Barbette reveals her plan and Paul glimpses Hell."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1689 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara.
RATING: R. For violence/adult situation.
STATUS: Sequel to "COME WHAT MAY".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net
SUMMARY: "Inara and the Captain finally get to talk. Mistress
Barbette reveals her plan and Paul glimpses Hell."
The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly'
are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
No infringement of copyright is intended.
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
Captain Afram whet his lips. The sallow faced man staring back at him showed no sign of emotion. "We located the one who calls himself 'Badger'."
When the Captain did not continue, Mr Morgan frowned. Even though he was only communicating via a Cortex screen it made the young officer uncomfortable. Nervous even. "You have him in secure detention?"
"*Bu qu*. We were ordered to release him."
Anger darkened the sharp emaciated features of the man's face. Dark eyes stared with detached malice. "On whose order?"
"Her level of clearance..."
"The name! I want her name *mashang*!" Mr Morgan interrupted, the words spat out like bullets to ricochet between them.
Listening in silence, Mr Morgan seemed to stare right through the young Captain. It chilled Afram's blood. "When did this happen?"
Not fooled by the almost calm words, Captain Afram gave a full but concise report, leaving nothing out but not elaborating either. Silence fell between them like an unwelcome party guest. It stretched into minutes before at last Mr Morgan seemed to realise the channel between them was still open. He blinked slowly, his eyes cold and without emotion. "Did you check her identity?"
On firmer ground the Captain nodded. "Yes, sir. Fingerprint DNA and retinal scan."
"And the prisoner?"
Captain Afram blinked. "*Shifu*?"
"Did you do the same with the prisoner?"
It took a moment or two for the Captain to respond. What in *diyu* did it matter now? They already had a positive ID on the infamous little King pin. "It is regular procedure."
"Then the information is recorded?"
Baffled, Affram nodded. "Yes, sir."
"You will forward it to me."
"Yes, sir. Right away, sir!"
The Captain was about to close the connection when Mr Morgan leaned in close to the cortex screen. "Next time I give you an order Captain you will not allow anyone else to supercede it except on my explicit instruction, is that clear?."
He swallowed slowly but did not dare break eye contact. "Yes, sir."
The screen went black but it took several minutes before Captain Afram moved. While he did not know the full extent of Blue Sun's involvement with the Alliance hierachy it did not take a genius to see who was pulling the strings at every level of power. He hated this but what could he do? Stiffening his spine he adopted the military mantra drummed into him throughout his training - 'always obey the last command'. Except of course, when their political over-masters had not approved the new order. Blue Sun might not technically be in the military chain of command but when they did choose to speak Parliament jumped to accommodate their every whim. Now the military was doing the same and the wrongness of it set a deep unpleasant ache in Afram's gut. Unable to do anything but obey he could only let the burden of conscience lie with those issuing the orders. Yet even as the Alliance Captain saw this as his only viable option, he felt as if the better part of his soul had just made a pact with the devil.
Malcolm Reynolds felt as if he must be dreaming. Some kind of gorram nightmare from which his better angels would not let him wake. The Captain's steady improvement had allowed Simon to pass on Inara's request to see him. To his surprise the Captain had nodded. Bits and pieces floating in his brain pan that needed clarifying to make sense. Simon wanted to stay but the Captain dismissed him with a request to close the door on his way out. It wasn't said unkindly but the doctor knew better than to argue.
"I didn't think you'd see me."
"Wasn't sure my own self."
He watched her dark lashes beat a slow tattoo against her cheeks as she looked down then Inara raised her head, her expression serious and earnest. "*Wode duibuqi*, Mal. I should have told you about the wave when I received it."
"*Qu* but emotions don't obey no rhyme nor reason, we both know that."
Her almost-smile lightened his heart some though that confession would never pass his lips. Before he could enjoy it the smile vanished.
"What's this I hear about that mangy two-timin' back stabber Badger bein' on my boat?"
"It's true. Before you undo all Simon's good work let me explain."
The Captain watched her bring the chair close to his bed and take a seat then listened in dumb-struck silence as Inara brought him up to speed. All the little odd shaped fragments of information floating around like flotsam and jetsom in his head now coalescing into the tale she spun. As unlikely as some parts seemed he had the distinct feeling Inara was telling him the truth. The news that the House Mistress of Madrassa was related to Badger did not elicite the deflamatory response she had expected. "What's the name of the Mistress?"
Puzzled that he would want to know, Inara saw no reason not to tell him. "Cyan Barbette."
For a long moment Malcolm Reynolds just stared at her. Alarmed, Inara was about to call for Simon when the Captain found his voice, trying for jokey calm but still managing to convey a sense of shock. "Next you'll be tellin' me she's his gorram grandma!"
Inara did not smile, her eyes glued to his like a hawk. "It's closer than you think."
The Captain's eyes widened, not sure she was saying what he thought she was saying. "You mean..."
"*Qu*. Badger is her son."
Stunned the Captain had to make a couple of attempts before he could get any words passed his lips. "But she's..."
Inara cut him off again. "A lot older, *wo zhidao*."
"You gonna let me finish a gorram sentence?"
Her smile was pure sweetness and light. "Only when they lock you up."
"*Hen you yisi*. Really. You should be on the stage."
Inara raised a brow. "Was that a compliment Captain?"
He smirked. "Sweepin' it."
She wanted to slap him but not seriously enough to actually do it. The man was just so irritating. Why did he always manage to get under her skin with such effortless ease? Belatedly she realised his mouth was still flapping, actual words coming out of it.
"You serious about Badger?"
Ah, Badger. The fly in any ointment. Almost she missed the previous bantering tone. "Mal, it can be hard to tell the age of a Companion and it happened years ago."
Again she cut him off. "Why are you so surprised?"
"She has to be in her eighties, 'Nara, an' Badger is what? Late twenties, thirties?" Inara frowned but the Captain hadn't finished. "Just never thought of the Guild playin' happy families."
"That's because they don't. Companions are not supposed to get pregnant. In fact great care is taken to see that they don't."
There was a sour twist to the Captain's lips now even though his words were mild. "Can't have anythin' cuttin' into the profits."
"Actually you're right."
He stared at her, momentarily stunned by her response. It wasn't like Inara to be so agreeable. Leastways not with him. Made him all manner of uneasy. "But that ain't what you wanted to see me about is it?"
Inara sighed softly. "*Bu qu*. In fact I think it would be better if I showed you."
The Captain glanced down the bed at his damaged legs. Despite all the operations and Simon's ongoing hard work it would be some time before he would see upright again let alone be able to walk. She shook her head gently and put a hand over his. His eyes locked on hers' now with barely concealed concern. "You in trouble?"
"No, but you may be."
She felt him stiffen, his hand clench around the blanket beneath her own. Gently she squeezed his hand, wanting to reassure him but also keep tangible contact with him. She had promised Simon that she would not upset the Captain but there were things he needed to know and she was the one who had to tell him. "So, back to makin' threats."
"*Bushi*. After leaving Serenity I learnt the truth about that footage, Mal. No, don't speak - *qing* - just listen. Someone had spliced together images to apparently show you executing my brother after the end of the War. When I saw it, it came from a source I considered beyond reproach so I accepted what I saw at face value. That made me react in a way that shames me now. I said things I never should have said and was too angry and upset to verify that information. Only after I had left did that happen and only when I told Mistress Barbette why I had left."
The Captain had been biding his time to break in but now was silent. Inara wasn't sure what that meant but was grateful that at least he was hearing her out. She took a portable capture out of her pocket.
"This was what I wanted to show you, Mal."
It disturbed him to notice her hand was shaking. Gently he took it from her and waited a moment, his eyes asking a question. Did she really want to do this? Because if it was too much he would leave it be, take her word. Anything but cause the kind of anguish he saw flickers of in her eyes. But Inara wasn't weak. Pulling herself together he watched the Companion brace herself and nod. He pressed the button and watched in silence as the images played across the screen, his lips tightening in anger as the scenes appeared to show one Malcolm Reynolds taking a sword to a young man's neck, the man forced to his knees and held in place while the blade swept down and severed the head from the body. Quickly he shut it off and closed his eyes. Gorramit. That was *him* on the screen only those events never happened. When he opened his eyes he saw Inara looking at him with tears in her eyes. Gorramit, he wanted to smash that capture to pieces and take her in his arms. Hold her firm and steady-like until the pain and sorrow had washed over her. Assure her that he held no hard feelings against her for what had been a cruel and deliberate manipulation.
"Have you rented out the shuttle yet?"
His lips twitched despite the serious moment. "*Bu qu*. Was waitin' for someone suitable to rent it to."
Inara stared down at their hands, seemingly fascinated to see that the Captain's hand was now upturned and clasping her own. When she said nothing, Mal gave her hand a little squeeze, waiting until she looked up at him.
"Maybehaps a certain Companion might like to move back in? Strictly on a business arrangement, *ni dong ma*?"
Gratitude flowed swift and humble through her, the tears now dry upon her face, eyes brightening with the first flicker of hope. "The same rent as before?"
His eyes twinkled gently. It lent such warm ambience to the harsh lighting of the infirmary on his face. Softening features that could turn cold and brutal in a fraction of a second should the need arise. For now he looked kinder, gentler, more like the man she suspected he would have been had the War never happened. It made her sad that she would never now get to meet that man. Watching the way she was looking back at him the Captain chuckled, the sound merrier than it had any right to be after the solemnity of their discussion. "Seems you're still paid up for two weeks, you bein' too gorram stubborn to take the money back when you left."
The Captain didn't say 'stormed out' and she refused to let her mind hear it. They were at a quiet place they seldom shared, one or the other of them always out of sorts over some senseless *fei hua* or other. Suddenly the idiocy of it all struck her as completely insane. Her smile was as genuine as it was unexpected, lighting her face and making the breath catch in Mal's chest. "I think I'd like that, Captain."
His eyebrows rose. "Think you can stoop to callin' me by name?"
She laughed but before she could respond the hand clasping her own tightened. Inara's eyes widened a fraction just as the Captain drew her down to eye level. His lips warm and soft against her own. Just a touch. A meeting of lips. Barely a kiss, but still. The hush of his breath against her face a warm unspoken promise. An offer. A flash of understanding eye to eye. Then the moment was gone and he let go. For a moment she couldn't move, sure she must have imagined it but no. He was watching her, eyes steady and unrepentent. If she had expected a mocking look or amusement she was mistaken. He looked deadly serious. A quiet patient look that told her more than any words carved in stone that he wouldn't rush her. Wouldn't take what was not freely offered or given. It shook her to realise just how much it touched her. How much she wanted to return that offer with a passion unbridled and strong enough to take her heart with it. For so long she had been afraid. The rules of the Guild not only her guideline but a saviour. A graceful way to remain involved in the physical union without risking her heart. Now, here was this man, a rogue, a rough but noble man showing her that she could make that step. Take that leap into a future undreamed of if she but had the desire and faith to do so.
As she opened her mouth to speak she saw his eyes flutter closed, his breath quieten, his face lax as sleep stole over him. Smiling, Inara allowed her affection to show and rose to her feet, pausing to lean over the bed and drop a tender kiss upon his brow. She almost fell back when those eyes snapped open, bright and aware and not a bit sleepy. "Think you missed my lips, darlin'."
She wanted to hit him, slap that smug smile off his face but it was habit only and the temptation died on her lips as he drew her down to him. Warm lips cushioning her own, not so much gentle now and not so much a whisper of want. The need, the desire, flowing between them so naturally that she opened up to him and kissed him back. It was the loud somewhat amused cough that broke them apart. Shepherd Book stepped into the infirmary unable to keep the silent laughter off his face, his warm voice happy.
"Sorry to interrupt but it seems the House Mistress has a proposition for you, Captain."
Malcolm Reynolds risked a glance at Inara but could not tell what to think. She had a remarkably closed expression on her face and he had the feeling that something serious was afoot. He felt tired but in a good way. "An' this can't wait?"
The Preacher fought down the smile tugging at his lips. "I don't believe it can."
"Then best send her in."
As Book turned to leave Inara rose to her feet. The Captain caught her hand. "No need for you to go, 'Nara."
She flushed but Book was out of the door and Inara found herself suddenly shy. The Captain was captivated by this new more alluring Inara. Wanted to see that blush go all the down to her gorram toes but this was neither the place nor the time. Inara waved towards the door. "I should..."
"Stay an' make sure your *wangu* Cap'n don't overtire hisself."
Inara blinked. *Her* Captain? Seeing the smile in his eyes she felt something inside her melt. *Wode ma* she was in trouble now. Her head snapped round as noise and movement brought her back to the present, Mistress Barbette entering the infirmary at a crisp pace despite Simon's best effort to slow down the tide of people wanting to cram into the infirmary along with her. Inara retook her seat and pretended not to notice the satisfied look solidify on the Captain's face.
The Operative was thoughtful. Not at all surprised that the plans had gone so far awry, he was after all dealing with people so flawed that it was a wonder they managed to accomplish anything of merit their whole pathetic lives through. Not that he would say as much. The subtlety of his tongue would be lost on them anyway. Pearls before swine. Even if they could talk and walk on their hind legs he was constantly reminded of the slough they made around them. Yet their faults were weaknesses to be exploited. Opportunities to be turned to his advantage, the loss of failure not his to bear but their own. In various painful and unrecorded ways. The people who perished in obvious carnage were the lucky ones. Those who simply vanished endured months, sometimes years, in torture chambers so deep and hidden that not even their Gods could find them. Yet it was a small price to pay to make a Better World.
She fidgetted as he knew she would. No screen between them this time. No distance to mitigate her fear with faint notions of possible escape. The danger too obvious, present and menacing to her mind to allow flight. Frozen in fear she finished her report with trembling lips. Margueritte Santana had not wanted to come but a summons like this could not be ignored and her family would pay the price if she failed to comply.
"How did she find out?" The Minister asked, fingertips arched before him as if in prayer.
Margueritte shook her head. Being called before the Parliamentary Oversight Committee was worry enough without the barrage of questions she would be subjected to and yet it was a relief also as it meant she would not have to be alone with the Operative. "*Wo bu zhidao*. She left the ship in such a tirade, I did not expect she would ever go back let alone forgive him."
"For a crime he did not commit." Said the Operative quietly.
The softness of his tone sent a shiver of fear down her back. Somehow more deadly than the shouts or ravings of other men. Margueritte focused on the Minister, trying in vain to block out the panic building behind her breastbone.
Though weary, the Captain stared at Mistress Barbette not sure whether to laugh or gorram cry. "Call this a plan?"
Inara noticed the words while faintly disbelieving were not curt or insulting. Oddly enough there was a kind of respect in the way he spoke to the House Mother that she could not fathom. Mistress Barbette smiled at him, the affection on her face throwing Inara into freefall.
The whole crew had crammed into the ship's infirmary with the sole exception of Badger. Simon would not allow the man anywhere near his patient for fear it would upset the Captain. When Malcolm Reynolds was well enough he could decide what to do about the unwelcome presence of that slimey little man. River caught her brother's eye and tilted her head at him, voice lowered for his ears only as she leaned closer. "Better than fireworks."
Before he could query what she meant the House Mistress was speaking and every eye and ear tuned in.
"Plans only have to be perfect, Malcolm, if their manner of operation is critical."
"An' this ain't?"
"No, *bao bei*, it isn't."
It seemed that everyone in the room gasped at the endearment tripping off the House Mistress's lips. *Bao bei*? What in the nine hells was going on here? Something clicked in Inara's mind. When she had been telling the Captain about the House Mistress and Badger being related he had mentioned her being in her eighties yet at that time the two had not met. Or so it seemed. Now her eyes narrowed a touch, her focus sharp and intent. Determined to miss nothing. She noted Zoe had stiffened and wondered what was going through the first mate's mind. Wash looked as if he wanted to laugh but his wife was clearly not amused. It comforted her not at all to realise that Zoe was just as unsettled as she was.
He shivered, trying to block the pain of the rough intrusion. Cold and wet but rendered pretty much oblivious to the surface discomfort by what was happening to him now. He had thought they meant to wash him, scour his skin and make sure he had no hidden transmitter or other devices on his person. Once they were satisfied that his naked body, hair and ears were clean he had been roughly manhandled away from the hot tub and across the shiny wet floor to the far wall. That was when the cold had begun to seep in, the hot mist and water becoming a distant memory. They neither dried him off nor gave him the means to do so for himself. He had no idea what they had done with his clothes.
"What are you doin'?"
The first fist was unexpected. Hard and aimed at his solar plexis. Paul doubled up, the breath whooshing out of him like an emptied bellows. As he fought not to throw up he was aware of a bitter draught, the heavy clang of the door opening and closing as someone else entered. He felt the cycle of the lock reverberate through his head and body. This was bad. *Very* bad,
"Where is it?"
He shook his head only to have strong hands the size of meat plates grab his head and bang it against the metal wall. The hands did not let go, pinning his head back while he tried to see past the stars dazzling him through the pain. "*Shenme*? Don't know what you're talkin' about."
His legs were kicked apart, a man he didn't recognise pushing forward, lips peeled back from dirty teeth. A short ragged beard framing an ugly mouth with black beady eyes measuring him in a way that was more than a little disturbing. "Nobody goes to Astra by accident. Do you take us for *tamade baichi*? Gonna peel your skin off your lyin' body inch by ruttin' inch 'til I rip the truth outta you."
Before the ugly man could make good on his threat Paul heard the Captain's voice. He sounded a mite more reasonable, calming even though when his ears caught up with the words a different kind of chill stole through his body. "There's one place we haven't looked."
Paul closed his eyes. This could *not* be happening. He had heard in stories of Earth-that-Was about travellers between Earthbound countries being subject to spot searches. Everything from a visual check, to opening suitcases and such to full cavity searches. Those hands changed position to flip him around and then he was rammed up against the wall, his legs kicked further apart as he tried to protest. Rough fingers shoved up inside him without warning causing a cry to break from his lips but he was held fast. Wimpering now, he felt hot tears sting his eyes as the fingers pressed deeper, not subtle or careful but rude and deliberate in both their search and violation. When the fingers finally retreated the burn and pain did not abate, the trickle of blood down his legs ignored by his captors.
"Ain't nothin' there, Cap'n."
Paul was spun round again, the angry face of the Captain now inches from his own. It took a couple of seconds of blinking the tears from his eyes to realise the man was holding something in his hand. "If you ain't got the rest of it what the *guai* are you doin' with this, you *hundan*?"
He gaped. Staring in numb shock at the device he had intended to use if all else failed. How could he have been so stupid not to hide the beacon when their ship had appeared? But then he had not known they would be looking for it or, for the other part that gave control to whoever had it in their possession as well as information he had pledged to die protecting. Whetting his lips, Paul knew he had to be careful but even above any notion of self preservation he could not let them know the truth. Instead he went with a lie. The simpler the better and let them do whatever they wanted with it because whatever happened he knew he was screwed. "I found it."
The fist to his face cracked his jaw, pain radiating to his ear and down his neck. "*Shuohuangzhe*!"
Captain Franks stepped in again, the first mate moving reluctantly to one side. Close enough to strangle Paul if the need arose but giving ground to his Captain. It was obvious he just wanted to kill the man as slow and painfully as possible but Franks had other ideas.
"Is Tobin even your real name?"
He wanted to spit in the man's face but didn't have the strength or the saliva. Instead he curled his lips as best he could around the pain in his jaw. "*Ri ni*!"
Randall wanted to muscle in and hit him again but the Captain waved off his first mate in a disturbingly calm voice. An outsider hearing that voice for the first time might mistake the tone for one of amusement. Paul wasn't that naive. "*Bu qu*, I have a better idea."
Duncan Randall turned his head and looked a question. The Captain grinned back. On the other side of them the man with the ratty beard and bad teeth sighed in anticipation of pleasure to come and cracked his knuckles. They didn't call Tasker the beast for nothing but he was Franks' beast and Paul had the feeling he would be looking back on the pain he was feeling now with something like affection by the time they got through with him. Franks leant closer, his eyes glittering with a fell promise.
"You'll regret screwin' with us, Tobin. Know more ways to take a man apart than you can possibly imagine, *dong ma*?"
Impossibly, Paul found enough saliva to swallow. "You weren't on Astra by accident either, were you?"
The brittle cackle of laughter did not encourage him. Still chuckling darkly the Captain tilted his head as he considered his prisoner. "Maybe you ain't so *chun* as you look but I can tell you this. By the time you finish screaming under Tasker's knife if you ain't come to your senses an' told me what I wanna know I'm gonna shove this up your ass an' activate the self destruct, *dong ma*?"
Paul couldn't speak. The man was so far beyond stupid that it had to be in another gorram galaxy. But one thing made his heart a little lighter. If that dark promise became reality it wouldn't just take him. It would take his tormenters and their ugly great ship with him. That, at least, would be something worth looking forward to if the torture didn't kill him first.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*baogao* = report *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *shifu* = sir *qu* = yes (lit. go)
*mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *wode duibuqi* = I'm sorry
*diyu* = hell *wo zhidao* = I know *hen you yisi* = very amusing
*bushi* = not so *qing* = please *ni dong ma* = you understand?
*wangu* = stubborn *wode ma* = mother of God *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know
*bao bei* = precious/treasure *shenme* = what *tamade baichi* = fucking idiot
*guai* = devil/ghost *hundan* = bastard *shouhuangzhe* = liar *chun* = stupid
*ri ni* = screw you *dong ma* = understand? *fei hua* = garbage talk/nonsense
Sunday, October 12, 2008 4:24 PM
Monday, October 13, 2008 9:59 PM
Tuesday, October 14, 2008 10:39 AM
Thursday, October 16, 2008 4:47 AM
Friday, October 17, 2008 4:39 PM
Saturday, October 18, 2008 11:23 AM
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