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Back Stories III: Chapter 4
Thursday, April 23, 2009

Finally a new chapter: the finally reunited crew finally leaves Highgate. Finally.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1513    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Back Stories Book 3

Chapter 4.

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Disclaimer: It belongs to Joss and all those business people. I'm just playing.

Links: The Fish Job, Easy Tickets, BS Book I, BS Book II, BS Book III, Chapter 1. Timing, pairings, and canon blurbs are in my FFF blog.


 

 

 

Shepherd Book’s hands fiddled with the burner controls as he tried to focus his attention on the tea kettle, but his eyes kept returning to the man—young man?—sitting at the dining room table.

Since Malcolm came into an amnesiac state of believing himself no more than a score of years in age, he’d been a teenaged mix of playful and cocky. He did have a basic level of respect for his “elders”, but tempered it with a streak of rebellion and cheek that tried one’s patience. None of this was a surprise to Book; he would have expected as much of Mal Reynolds at any age.

But now another facet of young Malcolm’s personality was showing itself, one Book hadn’t quite been expecting. In truth, it was fascinating. The inner contemplation that had so often ruled the grown-up Mal Reynolds, a characteristic Book had always attributed to the unfortunate outcome of the war, now had complete control of the younger man. The mood didn’t carry such gravity in Malcolm, and neither was it concealed by the defensive gruffness or sharp humor that the captain made liberal use of. In young Malcolm’s transparent face, Book could almost follow the path of thoughts, could imagine the twists and turns of logic that made frowns and furrows play across those usually guarded features.

The root of the young man’s mood was easy enough to guess: surely Malcolm was mulling over the hostile meeting between Inara and Zoë at the ship’s cargo bay doors. Malcolm was likely wondering at Zoë’s refusal to let Inara board, and curious as to the past events which had led to such a confrontation. When he sighed heavily and shook his head, he had to be thinking that he’d never see Inara again, never have a chance to hear her tale and understand her strange ways. Then Malcolm’s eyes turned further inward: he was wondering at himself, questioning the urge that had him speaking up to defend a women who, up till that point, had earned nothing but his suspicion and distrust.

Both hope and fear rose in Book at the thought that the encounter with Inara had shaken something loose in the captain, a buried memory too strong to be denied. Would such a shake-up help or harm?

Book soon had a chance to test his theories. Inara had apparently won her way past Zoë, because she appeared in the fore portal and glanced into the dining room. Her eyes met those of the forgetful captain, and in that instant Book felt something, something intangible, like the expectation that thickens the air in the insant between a nearby lightening strike and the sharp peal of thunder that must follow. But the thunder clap never came, and the moment stretched until Inara, without showing visible reaction, turned and disappeared into the shadows of the fore corridor.

Malcolm kept to his seat but his eyes held a line toward the bridge. Even when Book took the steaming kettle and a pair of mugs to the table, the captain’s attention didn’t shift. Book didn’t try to force the conversation. He poured the tea and waited.

“She’s something, huh?” Malcolm said when the mug in front of him finally called his attention back into the room. “Maybe got her strange ways, but still…”

Book watched him closely. “Still—what?”

“I dunno.” Malcolm stared down at his mug and swirled the tea. “I guess it’s just odd how she ain’t real welcome here, `cept with Kaylee. I felt bad for her, this Inara.” He rolled the name on his tongue, like it was an exotic spice he hadn’t quite mad eup his mind about. “Guess that’s why I spoke up when I did. She just didn’t seem to deserve being treated so cold.”

The Shepherd nodded grimly. “Perhaps no one does. But Malcolm, you shouldn’t blame Zoë. There’s more going on here than you know. The crew’s last parting with Inara was… Well, I try my best not to get involved with matters like that, but it wasn’t friendly.”

“She do something?”

“In a way.”

“What?”

Book sighed; he should have known better than to bring this up. “Nothing that’s any of my business.”

Malcolm frowned, unsatisfied with that answer.

Book left his mug on the table and went to the alcove to gather the Tall Card deck; he wanted nothing more to do with this topic. Malcolm, young though he might think he was, got the hint. He let the discussion of Inara’s history lay idle while Book dealt, and they played out a hand until sunlight shifting through the windows above showed that the ship was again on the move. Seconds later, another arrival sounded on the stairs. The Tams, accompanied by Zoë and Kaylee, rushed toward the bridge without a single glance into the dining room.

Malcolm raised an eyebrow at Book. The Shepherd’s only response was to play a card, which Malcolm trumped with a grin.

Book was just beginning to shuffle for another game when soft footsteps pulled his attention aside. River stepped into the large room, her leather boots almost silent against the deck. Her eyes, red and swollen as if they’d been in the company of very strong onions lately, fixed on the captain. She made her way toward the table, taking a slow, indirect approach that made that Book think of a hungry lioness on a wide open savannah, circling her doomed prey. He paused in his shuffling, more than a little curious about the girl’s intent, as well as what could have gotten her face into such a state, but just as she reached the table and began to sink into the chair at the head of the table Kaylee scurried in behind her.

“Do you two know about her?” Malcolm asked, addressing both girls though his focus settled on Kaylee. And no wonder – the mechanic looked much more open to conversation than the intensely brooding River.

“Know what about who?” Kaylee replied as she pulled out a seat between River and Malcolm.

“About what this Inara lady did? Zoë don’t seem fond of her, but it appears the lady got on board the ship anyhow. I just wonder what the fuss was.”

Kaylee’s mouth dropped open but not a sound came out. She was no more up to dealing with this question than Book was.

River, however, had no qualms. “She’s a whore,” the girl said calmly.

Companion,” Kaylee corrected, turning a look of shocked disapproval on River.

“Companion?” Malcolm asked, as his look turned thoughtful. “Yeah, I heard of them. Thought they were all like, like royalty or somethin’. Live in palaces in the Core, with all the best of everything. What’s she doin’ here? No offense and all, but…”

“She’s making trouble,” River said gloomily. “Good at that.”

“River!” Kaylee admonished. “Inara ain’t trouble. She’s trying to help us. What’s gotten into you?”

River glowered at the mechanic. Simon came down from to the bridge just then, looking as green around the edges as his sister. River glanced at him, then pushed her chair back and stood up. “I feel sick,” she announced. She shook her head at Simon, refusing an offer that hadn’t made it past his lips, then focused her swollen eyes on Malcolm one more time.

“Stay away from her. You’ll be happier.”

The girl disappeared out the aft hatch on silent feet as her brother took her place at the table.

“Are you all right, Simon?” Book asked.

“I’m fine,” Simon replied, though he still dabbed at his eyes. “I’ll explain—let’s just wait for Zoë so I can tell the tale once.”

Book nodded and they all sat quietly. Not even Malcolm spoke up against the gentle background hum of the engines as the stars of the Black replaced Highgate’s arid blue sky in the windows above.

* * *

Zoë kept her voice low. With Wash on the bridge to her left and much of the rest of the crew in the dining room on her right, she didn’t want to be overheard.

“I can’t have you wonderin’ the ship,” she told Inara. “You’re here and you can share your fancy bank accounts all you want, but you ain’t crew and you won’t go near him. Got it?”

Inara shifted at that, and her crackling eyes spoke for her.

“In fact, you won’t step foot out a’ that shuttle,” Zoë went on. “Not unless you get permission first. Permission from me. You’ll stay in there till you starve if you don’t hear my voice telling you to open the hatch. You got it?”

Inara’s face held its stubborn stiffness, but she didn’t argue. She only nodded and said in a quiet voice, “I brought some things from my transport. They’re in the bay.”

“Pick ‘em up, then head straight to the shuttle.”

Inara turned and rounded the corner toward the stairs without even a brief glance into the dining room.

Zoë took in a deep breath and decided to take care of another little bit of business before she went to hear the doctor’s tale. She stepped up to Jayne’s bunk and rapped on the hatch. When no reply came, she pushed the door open and called down the ladder: “Jayne, you in there?”

After a few seconds, the mercenary appeared in the well, frowning up at her. “What?”

“I think you know what.”

He huffed and looked away.

“Wasn’t a hard job I set on you, Jayne.”

“Harder ‘n you think,” he mumbled.

“All you had to do was keep him out of trouble, but you left him talking to an Alliance agent. What the hell were you doing?”

Jayne looked up as he protested. “I didn’t know what that guy was! How was I supposed to figure on a Fed coming into that place? Looking for Mal out here?”

“Well, now you know. And now I need to know about you. This ain’t the time for games, Jayne. The water we’re in is the hot kind, and I can’t be worried over whether my hired man is feeling in the mood to do his job. I need to know if you’re solid. I need to know if I can count on you.”

He shuffled his feet, his focus again down at the deck, and shook his head. “You just ain’t no fun anymore,” he mumbled. “Ain’t none of this any fun.”

Zoë had to chew on that for a second; she never would have expected Jayne to be worried about something as monetarily useless as fun, but he did have a point. She surely hadn’t been much fun lately. Not at all. But she couldn’t let herself dwell on that.

“Can I count on you?” she asked again, keeping herself stern.

Jayne looked up. “I’m here, ain’t I?” he snapped, then he reached for the hatch controls.

Zoë stepped back and let the door close in her face. It was all she was going to get from him, and it’d have to be enough.

She looked toward the bridge. Wash had come down the stairs and was standing a few meters away, watching her. She wondered how long he’d been listening in. He’d likely heard her talk with Jayne, but had he heard what she’d said to Inara? How she’d ordered the woman to lock herself away, like some kind of prisoner of war?

Zoë couldn’t meet Wash’s eye. You just ain’t fun anymore. Now why did Jayne’s words bother her so?

“I don’t like being like this,” she admitted, still not looking at Wash.

“So don’t,” he suggested bluntly, as if it was that easy.

She took in a deep breath. “Don’t know how else to be. Not now.”

Wash moved closer to her, putting himself right in front of her so he could wrap an arm around her waist and ask with a heart-warming sincerity, “Can I help?”

She closed her eyes and let her head rest against his. Yes, he could help. He did help, just by being who he was. Just by being here next to her.

“You got a course set?” she asked.

Wash drew back. Her question must not have been a welcome one, because his reply was almost cold. “There’s a midway station over toward Muir. Good for a quick fueling stop.”

She understood; he’d meant to offer his help as a husband, not a pilot, and her question had stung him. But it was where her mind had to go. Business—she had to focus on business. Their survival depended on it. Not just Mal’s, but the entire crew’s. Everything else had to wait.

“Good,” she told him, the word coming out with a blunter edge than she’d meant. “Now I got to deal with Simon, find out what held him up back at that clinic.” She untangled herself from Wash’s loose grip and stepped toward the galley.

“Zoë,” he called after her. “What happened?”

She stopped and looked back to him.

“What happened to you on that moon?”

She looked away again. She hadn’t known that he could see so much.

“Come on, it’s me. I can tell something happened.”

She shook her head and turned away again.

“Not now, husband. Work to be done.”

* * *

Will Cantone took a draw from a large bottle he’d managed to pick up before leaving Highgate’s surface, then mumbled:

“Freedom. It’s all about freedom.”

He was babbling aloud to himself, like a back alley hobo who’d lost his way and quite possibly his mind. But what did it matter? With Ginger still passed out in her bunk, no one was going to hear. No one was even likely to see his ship, floating out here in the void like it was.

No matter how much drink Will’d had, he was still plenty capable of piloting, of keeping a low orbit. He wanted to stay hidden from the Alliance warship sidling up to the far side of Highgate. Whatever their business, it couldn’t be the same as his, and he didn’t want the distraction of explaining himself to a bunch of uniforms. Not that he was upset over it; their arrival might just help him. The proles down planetside were already taking note and fleeing for the sky.

“Pissing their pants,” he muttered. “No backbone, not a solid leg to stand on. Just like some Independent yīn bù in the war. Nothing but worthless garbage like them would live out here.”

He stopped and bit his lip, aware of an uncomfortableness trying to uncurl in his gut, then took another drink. This kind of quiet stakeout wasn’t new to him, but having to steer the course of his own thoughts, as if he feared to see too far into himself, surely was. So he made himself reminisce on a welcome topic: the war.

He missed the war. He wasn’t ashamed to admit that he missed the sense of purpose it once gave him. Back then, he’d never needed avoid the kind of heavy thoughts that were threatening to break loose in his head now. Back then he’d never pondered the safety of his place in the `verse. War made things simple like that. The enemy was Bad and he was Good and his day-to-day life was well-defined by the Mission and anything he needed to do to make it happen was A-OK. Absolutely anything.

Now, that was freedom.

It was harder now. Questions, mission parameters, rules of engagement, reports to be written and explanations to be made… Peacetime brought limits, and limits were no fun.

“I hate bein’ in the Core,” he muttered, surprising himself. But it was true. Sure, he liked some things about the civilized worlds: the food, the good booze that didn’t leave such a headache, the decent bathing facilities and the warm, soft beds. The beautiful women he never had a problem finding, not with his looks and easy charisma and his stories of heroic wartime adventures. He could be living an easy life in the Core right now; he had money enough in hardship pay to support himself in something close to style for the years he had left in him. But there was no freedom in the Core, not like a man could find on the Rim worlds. And, in the end, it was all about freedom.

“I do love it out here,” he said softly, raising his eyes to the dead end planet hanging in the Black above him. It was the first time he’d followed such logic to its end and admitted this to himself, but the revelation made nothing but sense. Of course he loved it out here—why else would he have chosen to keep working these kinds of jobs for so long? Why did he jump at the chance to spend weeks shut in a tiny ship with a prune like Ginger, rather than stationed on a cruiser with soft, nubile recruits and a comfortable bunk? And why didn’t he ever retire to some pleasant and not-too-remote world where the locals paid a proper kind of respect to those who’d served the military might of the Alliance?

“I could be a king in a place like that,” he muttered, “but there’d be no freedom. Here, I’ve got freedom.”

He smiled at the green/gold/aqua world outside the wide windows of his craft. It was ironic, he supposed, that his job was to fight a way of life he himself liked so much. If the goals of his superiors were ever met and these lawless worlds were fully brought to heel, he’d have no place to roam. Only in the chaos between a bloated Alliance and its defeated but untame worlds could a man like William Cantone find his place.

Sure, he might be able to wheedle respect and admiration out of people in the Core, but that’s not what he wanted. What he wanted could only be had in places like this.

He wanted to call the shots. He wanted to rule with an iron hand. He wanted fear. “God, the power of that,” he whispered, letting his eyes fall shut. The power of making a human spirit break was what he craved. The stronger the spirit, the better the rush.

I’m drunker than I thought, he added silently, because he couldn’t stop himself from giving in to his own reaction, mind and body and soul, as he recalled all the times he’d been in charge of another person in such a way. That kind of control, that kind of strength, brought a thrill to him, near to sexual in its power. And, really, it should. It was the deepest kind of lust a man could experience, to seize and occupy a person so fully. It may not be the kind of lust civilized types smiled on, but that only made Will’s situation that much more precious, being that it was so rare. In such a big `verse, where the individuality of a single human being is meaningless, William Cantone had worked long and hard to find his own niche, to eke out a way of life that allowed him to fulfill his own needs. But he’d found it. He’d found it, and he would defend it to his own death if need be.

Will’s heavy thoughts began to sort themselves out, revealing the the root of the discomfort that had been twisting in him, baring it to his inner eye whether he wanted to see it or not. It all came down to a single problem: his Way was in danger. The thread had started unraveling on the day Will’d hijacked the Firefly Serenity on Niflheim. Captain Malcolm Reynolds had been a hostage on his own ship, weaponless and bound, defeated. It should have been a day like many others that Will had passed in the past few decades, but it had gone all wrong. Even in that helpless state, Malcolm Reynolds had laughed at Will. Laughed at him, right in front of Will’s own team.

Disrespect was what it was. Disgusting.

He’d tried to set things straight when he’d had a chance, (He had to pause for a moment to relive the thrill, the rush of those few minutes he’d had alone with the captain on the bridge of the Firefly…) but the victory hadn’t lasted. Will’d been taken down by the captain’s lover only minutes later, and within a day Reynolds and his crew had walked away from the whole thing, free and clear, leaving Will with a humiliating defeat and a suddenly rebellious partner.

Today the insult grew. In a bar on Highgate, Malcolm Reynolds had looked Will in the eye without any hint of fear. Call it insanity, it still couldn’t be allowed to go on. Reynolds’ dogged rebellion couldn’t be allowed to spread any further than it already had. The Companion had grown in strength, besting him for a second time, and the madness had come to full bloom in Will’s own partner, like an infection taking hold.

“Ginger,” he said, spitting out the name in disgust. “Pointed a gorramn gun at me!”

It was an outrage, that a Browncoat who should be without the worth of a dry spit had started this thing, had somehow managed to pose a threat to Will’s power, weakening the things that should have been solid and sure. Malcolm Reynolds should be nothing better than the thousands of grimy, good-for-nothing smugglers who lived in the cracks of the Rim, the kind of people Will could crumble under the hard heels of his black boots any time he chose. But the captain was proving himself to be more than that: an Independent who hadn’t given up when he should have, who lived like he was all middle finger, beaten but never bowed by the defeat he’d suffered. Reynolds was a rebel with his own store of strength and independence. He walked outside the rules with a flair to rival Will’s, carrying an irreverent humor alongside a rough edge of violence. He’d managed to gather from the crumbs of the Rim a talented crew that was fiercely loyal to him, and found nothing less than a Companion to be his lover.

“Malcolm Reynolds,” Will spat. He focused on the Black outside and gritted his teeth. The mission, the Prefect’s orders, could go to hell. William Cantone couldn’t allow such a man as Malcolm Reynolds to live, and that was that.

The discomfort in his belly turned to a much more welcome fire, and he had no problem waiting another ten minutes while every beatup two-penny freighter and transport and gun-runner and god-only-knew-what fled the slow approach of the Alliance warship. He marked the path of Reynolds’ Firefly as it passed, waited just long enough to be sure he’d escape notice, and set a course to follow.

* * *

The sight of Kaylee’s bright face held a power that worked like a balm, and Inara felt her worries fade behind a smile of her own as the mechanic delivered a full update on the doings of Serenity and her crew.

Well, maybe not a full update. The one thing Inara wanted most to hear about went unmentioned while Kaylee focused on particular events that had taken place in Simon’s bunk, the dining room, in Kaylee’s bunk, and then in a small but, according to Kaylee, quite charming pale pink room in a whorehouse on Highgate.

What’s more, Kaylee clearly took Inara’s occupation as permission to speak with absolutely no rein, something no one else on the ship (besides Jayne and, perhaps, River) would have offered. Inara could only smile at the thought, and feel some gratitude and perhaps even a bit of warm-hearted pride that she could provide the ready ear that Kaylee had obviously been craving.

“My good Lord above, Inara, you ought to see!” Kaylee went on. “I mean, you might’a made a guess, given how things are usually in proportion and he ain’t the bulkiest fella in the `verse, but you never could'a imagined the amount o’ pretty. There’s something to be said for contours, too. I mean… you’d think that, bein’ a doctor and all, he wouldn’t be so… but his belly, the way it…”

Kaylee shifted slightly and lifted her hands in front of her. She was sitting on the floor of the nearly empty shuttle, leaning back against the dark bulkhead with her legs stretched out in front of her. The position of her hands and direction of her eyes made it clear that she was positioning her memory of the young doctor’s torso just so, and Inara had to hold back a laugh as she imagined Mal’s reaction if he were here to witness such a vivid retelling.

And that thought, of course, made Inara’s smile fall.

Kaylee didn’t notice. “A good-looking man for sure, I seen that right away. But I never would have imagined the way them muscles would pull at each other in such a pretty way when he really got to…”

Her voice trailed off, and Inara pulled her attention back to find the mechanic watching her closely.

“I’m sorry,” Inara said. “You were saying? Muscles were flexing?”

Kaylee studied her for a few seconds, then dropped her hands. “No, I’m the one that’s sorry, Inara. Here I am all talking about me and Simon, when you just found out about…”

Kaylee stopped when Inara looked away.

“I mean, you and him… you and the captain… just before you left… right?”

Inara nodded.

“And it was… okay?”

Inara couldn’t be sure of her own response; the blood rushing in her ears and cheeks and just about everywhere else was all she could be aware of. But Kaylee clearly saw enough.

“Oh,” the mechanic said simply.

After a spell of quiet that Inara was too flustered to measure, Kaylee added, “I’m sorry. I sure am sorry.”

Inara knew that the girl had nothing she needed to be sorry for, as none of this was in any way her fault, but she didn’t refuse the offered sympathy. Honestly, she needed it.

“Just tell me, Kaylee. Tell me what happened. And don’t lie to me—I’m here now, on board. I’m a part of this, and I need to know what’s really going on.”

“Didn’t nobody tell you nothin’?”

“Wash did, but he was holding back..” Inara leveled her eyes at Kaylee, who looked away again. “What wasn’t he telling me?”

Kaylee shrugged. “Well, captain’s lost his memories.”

“Clearly,” Inara said, more sharply than she’d intended. “But Wash didn’t want to talk about it in any detail. It was almost like… almost like he blamed me.”

Kaylee sat up as she protested. “Oh no! No, I’m sure that ain’t it at all! I’m sure he just thought that if you knew you might think it was your fault, but none of us really thinks that. Simon told us that it’s just about brain chemistry and, and…”

Inara made sure that she had a properly deep frown. Kaylee got the message and stopped abruptly.

“Tell me, Kaylee.”

“All right. Okay. So… it started right after you left.”

“Right after?”

“Not more than a’ hour.” Kaylee’s eyes flicked around the small, barren space of the shuttle, settling everywhere but on Inara. “And… and the first thing he did… the first thing he forgot, was you.”

Inara raised her head, trying to fight back the sting of that. “I see.”

“But that don’t mean it was you. Simon said it—it was all about that crazy stuff on Oeneus. It was all about his brain dealin’ with pain and… and bad feelings and the captain wasn’t able to handle that so he had to just forget stuff, and don’t no one on this ship really think it was about you.”

“So… he forgot me? Completely? Within an hour?”

Kaylee looked completely miserable now. “But it wasn’t your fault. I was there. I was here—Zoë brought him here to this shuttle, and then had me bring a capture of you so it might shake free his memory, and he saw you on the screen and I could tell that he wanted to remember, he wanted to real bad, but it hurt him, like he was broken and couldn’t make the wheels in his brain turn smooth like they ought to—”

Inara dropped her head in her hands. She felt Kaylee move to sit next to her, the girl’s hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t be like that, Inara. It’ll be fine. Captain’s gonna get better now, and he’ll remember you, and he’ll be so happy that you’re here with him and not away in the Core. I think it’ll be good for him that you’re here, cause I think he loves you, Inara. I think so.”

Inara raised her head. Her cheeks were dry; she was overwhelmed, too much so for tears. “Don’t say that.”

“I think he does.”

“He doesn’t even know me.”

“Course he does, in his heart. You got to hold on, Inara. Simon’s doin’ all he can, and that ain’t nothing.”

Inara smiled at her friend gratefully. “No, that’s not nothing.”

“So just keep hoping. We’ll refuel tomorrow, and with you here to help I’m sure things’ll look up. I mean, maybe now that he’s seen you he’ll start thinking…”

Inara shook her head. “Zoë’s not going to let me near him.”

Kaylee took Inara’s hand and squeezed it sympathetically. “You got to understand—she don’t hate you.”

Inara raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

“It’s been hard on her,” Kaylee insisted. “Real hard. Cause it didn’t happen in a day. It’s been going on, so slow, and it’s so hard to watch when you can’t do a thing about it. I think it’s `bout drove Zoë nuts herself, to have him like this.”

Inara nodded. “Yes. I can see that it would.”

“But don’t fret, okay? We’re all together now, and we’ll find a way out of this. I know we can do it. We can make it right again.”

Inara smiled, feeling a genuine glow of gratitude that this crew she’d happened upon by chance included a soul as positive and strong as Kaylee.

It was odd though, Inara didn’t remember sensing such a backbone of strength in the mechanic before. It was a strange realization: they’d always had a friendship, almost from the moment Inara came on board, but Inara had always held the place of the more mature, worldly one. Now Kaylee was offering the strength and comfort. Inara’s own position, the weakness she felt because of her situation with Mal, wasn’t enough to explain the change. Something had shifted in the mechanic.

Inara fixed the girl with a keen look. “Kaylee, how are you, really? When I left, it was right after… right after what happened with Ray.” Inara couldn’t bring herself to say it, because it didn’t seem possible. Kaylee had killed a man. Shot him right through the heart at a distance of no more than a meter.

Kaylee dropped her eyes. “Oh, that. Yeah, I guess that wasn’t easy. Wasn’t easy at all. But I got through it.”

“You’re sure?”

Kaylee smiled. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure. I’m all right.”

Inara returned the smile. “I’m glad to hear it.”

Kaylee’s smile broadened as she stood up and gave the near empty shuttle a look-over. “Now, that’s plenty enough about me. You need to get settled in, and you’re needin’ a place to sleep. Ain’t no furniture left in here, but I’m sure there’s some fixings in storage that I can pull out, and I’ll rig up something properly comfy.” She turned toward the hatch, but paused when Inara called after her:

“Kaylee—thank you.”

Kaylee smiled warmly, then went on her errand.

* * *

Translations

yīn bù: pussy

* * *

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I will follow up with one chapter a week as long as I’ve got them done and ready. Might make it straight through to the end, might need more delays. I’ll try!

COMMENTS

Thursday, April 23, 2009 3:10 PM

GILLIANROSE


Oh, I'm so glad you've updated this wonderful story. Great chapter - I especially liked the little bit between Zoe and Wash, the moment they try for connection and can't quite make it. And I'm glad you've got more chapters in the pipe!

Thursday, April 23, 2009 4:08 PM

KATESFRIEND


Congratulations on getting more of this written while still teaching! Great job of providing summary and new info at the same time. And a nice visit from the angst fairy in the form of Zoe/Wash, Jayne and mutiny, Will and Ginger, and Mal and the earnestness of youth. Poor Inara - I can't imagine how bad she is feeling at this point. Great job at stringing out the angst for her so she gets to feel even guiltier and at fault without anybody saying a word. Looking forward to more!

Thursday, April 23, 2009 5:15 PM

BYTEMITE


No. WAY.

*couple minutes of excited gibbering*

Okay, reading now!

Thursday, April 23, 2009 5:20 PM

YINYANG


Yay, new chapter! I continue to be in awe of how well you write all these characters.

"Finally a new chapter: the finally reunited crew finally leaves Highgate. Finally."

Lol!

Thursday, April 23, 2009 6:08 PM

BYTEMITE


I've said it before, but I think Young Malcolm is going to have plenty of surprises in store for us, and that he's being underestimated in a lot of ways.

And on the positive side of the crew treating his tragic decline, they'll get insights into his character underneath the bitterness and probably understand him better. Not all bad!

*Hugs Kaylee for being the voice of reason and optimism* There's no way Inara could imagine just how much her leaving would affect Mal, or how much Oeneus damaged him. It wasn't the best leave taking she could have done, but she WAS coerced a bit, and Mal didn't fully understand the consequences of that little pill (I don't think he'd have offered if he did!). She hadn't wanted to lead him on, she just wanted to go her way, and she never meant to hurt him the way she did.

But now that Inara's heard it, she probably will feel bad. And that's just fine, cause that just means she'll move mountains to make things right.

Friday, April 24, 2009 3:05 AM

ALIASSE


Just such a great story, and story-telling. Effortless to read because of the way it flows, even though I regularly stop to scan back a few words, just to enjoy how they're put together. I like the way Will continues to develop as a truly melodramatic (and I mean that in the best way) villain, and the contrast and similarities between him and Mal.

Just can't wait for Inara to start redeeming herself and for Mal to start remembering her. And I wonder how mch River is going to put herself in the way of that...

Friday, April 24, 2009 4:16 PM

PLATONIST


Love Zoe confining Inara to the shuttle:) and telling her to stay away from Mal... Like that is ever going to happen. And Jayne not doing what was expected and Zoe just being disgusted with him and his retort of how the ship is no "fun" anymore:)
And of course River's deadpan, "she's a whore" and "makes trouble"... it wouldn't be so funny if it wasn't kinda true.
And Inara for all her good intentions realizing that she hurt Mal real bad thinking she was doing him a favor by leaving, oh Inara.

Looking forward to whatever you can finish during your school year.

Saturday, April 25, 2009 1:03 AM

AMDOBELL


So glad to finally see another part posted up of this story. Kaylee was so very in character and River's pronouncements were spot-on. Inara has a way to go before Zoe will trust her but at least she didn't kick the Companion off Mal's boat. Can't wait to see what happens next. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, April 26, 2009 7:02 PM

NUTLUCK


I had actually forgotten about this it had been so long since you last posted. Glad to see you are back. Hopefully we won't have to wait so long again.


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Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.


Back Stories III, Chapter 24
Mal returns to a few familiar places.

Back Stories III: Chapter 23
The BDH’s find themselves enmeshed in too damned many OCs. But hey, they’re necessary. Plottiness and all.

Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.

Back Stories III, Chapter 21
The battle with the Reavers continues, and Mal makes a choice. All decisions have consequences.

Back Stories III, Chapter 20
Finally a little Mal POV, but it doesn't last long.

Back Stories III, Chapter 19
The trials and tribulations of an older, wiser River Tam.

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 18
The aftermath of an unexpected encounter. Except—not all of the crew are accounted for…

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 17
A lovely day in the mountains: friendly locals and fresh air under a clear blue sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 16.
Zoë tells of her soiree with terrorists on Oeneus.



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