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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
For Bytemite and Platonist.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1312 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Truth was, Mal hadn’t slept well in a long time. Weren’t nothing about sharing a bed with Inara that was going to change that. He didn’t much like people touching him, not even in the fullness of the day, and a hand brushing on his arm when he was sleeping - well, that was only going to bring the fact that he was unarmed right to the front of his mind. Was only going to jerk him out of that place where the dead sometimes came whisperin’ with their long, pointy fingers, rearranging his memories, fear and desires into those kinds of dreams that stayed with you for the whole of the following day, bored so deep into you that it was like they’d really happened. And if they were like that, that kind of dream, then they had, hadn’t they? – they had happened. What difference did it make whether it was night or day, war or peace, real or not real? It was all the same, all the same color, the same taste, the same pain.
So when the hand had touched him his whole body had jolted and seized up and he’d made a sound a cross between a grunt and a cry and damn near fallen out of bed. Which didn’t make for a good start to the sort of conversation Inara seemed to be wanting to have. In the middle of the night. After he’d sexed her, at her instigation, harder than he’d ever sexed anyone in his life. Or ever thought he would. Hadn’t ever imagined he would. Hadn’t ever imagined stuff like that at all. Nor plenty of the other things they’d done. Which, coming to mind now, as a sort of sudden crotch-burning chaser to the nightmare-laden grog that he’d been consuming in his sleep, made it all the harder to listen.
Except – hold on. This was it. This was the explanation. She was telling him why she had left Sihnon. And she was giving it up like it was hurting her to do it. And she needed him. For something. But what? He’d been such an ass in the past, falling over himself to help her even though she didn’t want it. Now she wanted it, only not the kind that he was equipped to give. The thieving, gun-slinging kind. She wanted some of that kind of help that the civilian female looked out for. And well, dealing with the feelings and stuff of the civilian female – he weren’t ashamed to say that that weren’t a strong point with him. The soldierly type – now them he knew about. Weren’t no type of fear of imminent maiming and death that he hadn’t come across in his time, and he’d done a fair job of getting a body past them, he liked to think. And loss. He had an idea how to deal with loss. That you didn’t deal with it. It dealt with you. But anyways, that didn’t seem to be Inara’s problem right now.
Unconsciously, he studied her as he listened. She was describing the Tang woman, how she’d always looked down on her, pitied her: “Because I thought I was the best. I was arrogant. I pretended to be modest. I was trained to do that. But I thought I was the best.”
And it seemed obvious to him that she probably was, so he said so. But she didn’t take any comfort in that. “Don’t say that,” she said in a low voice. “Don’t say that, like you think there’s any kind of achievement in being the best among whores.”
Then, couldn’t say why, but he suddenly felt how bitterly he had hurt her in the past with his relentless, vicious denigration of her profession. “Just sayin’, can’t ever imagine you bein’ arrogant, Nara,” he whispered. He wanted to tell her how gracious she was, how for him her graciousness – her strong, radiant graciousness – was her defining quality, the one that he loved her most for, only he didn’t know it himself.
What he did know was that she didn’t want to hear it. That with every word, every phrase that she used to tell her story, she was driving something deeper into herself. Something with the fatal thrust of a sword. And putting together the tone of her voice, the simultaneous tension and droop in her body, he knew what it was. He knew it very well.
It was shame. But please – please, not because of him. Not because of the way he’d tried to make her feel about herself, for doing the work she did. Please, let it be that she’d withstood that just as he’d always thought she had.
But no. As the story unfolded – the infiltration of House Madrassa by Edward Tang and his brothers, the deterioration and probable assassination of the House Priestess, the invitation by the Tangs for Inara to join them, and the diagnosis of terminal illness – Mal could see that the shame had another cause. He waited, knowing that it would come.
By now she was sighing heavily in the long pauses she left between her sentences. Her hair, hanging down, was almost covering her face. He knew they’d got to it when she said with a quiet gasp: “And Mal” – another long pause – “I left them.”
He knew they’d got to it but he didn’t know what to say. He knew why she felt ashamed but he didn’t know what to say. And he still didn’t know what to say, even though, with every moment that passed without him saying anything, he knew he was letting her down. That they’d got to the part not just where he discovered the reason for her shame but where he was supposed to begin helping her assuage it. But still he didn’t know what to say.
She let out another gasp, this time angrily, and lifted her head to look at him accusingly. “Do you understand? Everyone knew I was going to be House Priestess after Tasmina Sharre. If you’d have asked me, I would have denied it, very modestly, but I knew as well as everybody else. But when she died – I abandoned everybody. All the younger girls. I left them to the Tangs. Do you understand? I ran away!”
“They killed her. Would’ve been you next.”
“I should have stayed! I could have done something. Or I could have tried!”
“You’ve thought about that, huh?” said Mal, and his mind turned inward to the place where he kept all the bad decisions that tortured him. One or two of them not even six months past.
“I accepted an invitation to contract with a client for twelve months. I went to live on his estate on one of Sihnon’s moons. Before I joined Serenity. And I didn’t contact the House. I didn’t want to know what had become of everybody. And I didn’t want to know who’d had to step into my place and what might be happening to them.”
“You thought you were dying.”
Now she was furious. “Why are you making excuses for me? You wouldn’t allow me to make excuses like that for you! You know that there are some things that are – inexcusable.”
After a long silence, Mal said: “Yeah.”
What did she mean? What inexcusable thing that he’d done was she talking about? He’d not told her much about the war. Couldn’t be that she was meaning; could only be times since she’d been on board Serenity. Times like – and a dread gripped his heart, that she was talking about their expedition to Miranda.
But, even though he didn’t know what to say, he knew that it was her story she was telling. Not about him. And that thought allowed him to pull away from a fear that he never, never wanted to return to, that she blamed him for the losses Serenity had borne as much as he blamed himself.
In the end it was that fear, not an understanding of her needs, that propelled him across the space between them to put his arms around her and lean back with her on to the pillows, whispering to her not to think about it, to think about it some other time, when she was feeling stronger.
Thursday, July 2, 2009 1:19 PM
Thursday, July 2, 2009 2:48 PM
Thursday, July 2, 2009 9:06 PM
Sunday, July 5, 2009 1:04 PM
Monday, July 6, 2009 1:25 AM
Monday, July 6, 2009 2:25 PM
Tuesday, July 7, 2009 2:14 AM
Monday, March 29, 2010 9:18 AM
Monday, March 29, 2010 10:31 AM
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