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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1001 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal didn’t want to hear any more about the Law Rater; and Simon, knowing how Mal had to be feeling, would have gladly moved on from the subject. Kaylee, however, said gently: “So Nara, tell us 'bout your Law Rater.”
It occurred to Simon that Kaylee had just come the closest that she ever had to being punched by her Captain. If not physically, then verbally: one of those brutal put-downs designed to make the recipient think really hard before replying. But with one quick glance Simon took in a Mal that he had never seen before: one trying very hard to be good, and without ostentation or calculation. It made him feel – almost sorry for the man, the touching effort of it, and he smiled to himself for a moment.
When she started to speak, Inara looked at Kaylee. She was talking to Mal, but she was looking at Kaylee. And then Simon started to understand what Kaylee's question had done. She had made herself a conduit, a means of communication between the Verse’s two (when it came to each other, and in Mal’s case, with everyone else) worst communicators. Oh, how they’d all had enough of Mal and Inara failing to act on their feelings, even before Inara had left Serenity for the Training House. And how very pleased they had all been when they’d finally, finally, come together. Trust Kaylee to softly, wisely, sense the looming of a possible obstruction to the development of Mal and Inara’s still-fragile relationship. It had been a long contract. Twelve months. None of them had known until now that Inara had ever contracted with anyone for that long. And when Mal had asked her if she could have married him, she hadn’t denied it outright.
Kaylee had understood, and put herself in the way of her dear Captain’s wrath, for his sake and the sake of the woman he couldn’t bear ever again to lose. They had to talk about it now – Kaylee had seen that – lest the Law Rater add to the heavy weight of hurts and misunderstandings still to be healed.
How clever she was, thought Simon, gazing at Kaylee with a new sense of appreciation. How clever, and how very good.
Inara was describing the Law Rater’s estate, which couldn’t have been the most important detail about him. As though with a gentle nudge, Kaylee asked her: “What was his name, Nara?”
Inara’s throat filled with the fear of hurting Mal. She swallowed. “Michel Chamillart,” she said.
“Shammy who, honey?” Kaylee giggled, which allowed Inara to giggle too. Simon joined in with a smile, but none of them dared to look at Mal, who somehow they sensed wasn’t enjoying the joke.
“He’s descended from one of Sihnon’s founding families. And on Sihnon, that means something. That someone can get appointed as Law Rater over a candidate of equal merit. Not that he didn’t deserve his position. He used to talk about his work and I took an interest. He’d been widowed two years earlier, he wanted someone to do that. And he did good work.” She looked down. “Well, I thought he did. I’ve some reason to question my judgment now. But he seemed honest. Impartial. Just as Law Raters are supposed to be.”
“So – you were contracted to – listen?” Kaylee asked as lightly as she could.
“Yes. And to accompany him in the evenings. He was up for re-appointment after seven years, so it was impossible for him to avoid showing his face in society, and he found that hard to do on his own. He’d been married for forty years.”
“Gosh!” said Kaylee, reaching for an even lighter tone. “So he was” – she nodded encouragingly at Inara, “old?”
“He was sixty-two.”
Kaylee wanted very much to forget her self-appointed role and ask Inara what it was like sexin’ a guy of that age. He’d of been downright keen, she thought to herself, after a long stretch a marriage to someone as aged as himself…
Mal’s voice interrupted Kaylee’s imaginings. “Did he want to marry you?” There was a silence while Inara returned his gaze. “And ‘not really’ ain’t gonna cut it.”
“No. No. I had agreed to contract with him. For twelve months. He understood that.”
“Must’ve recognized your name. Your old man bein’ a Law Rater ‘n all.”
“I have my mother’s name.”
Mal nodded and, to Simon’s infinite relief, fell silent again. He tried to think of a question – a useful one – quickly. “So, was there any particular area of legislation that he was expert in? Anything that would bring him to the attention of the Guild?”
“Nothing that would be of interest to the Guild. But to whoever was controlling the Guild…If it was the Tangs, it could have been anything. Because there isn’t anything they aren’t involved in. One of them has a seat in Parliament, you know.”
“And Betta Korski?” Simon asked.
Simon scratched his head. “So. Whoever it is who is behind all of this. They killed the High Priestess of House Madrassa. Thinking that you would succeed her. And that they could bring you round to acting in their interests. Meaning that House Madrassa and all of its Companions would be at their disposal. Then they changed tactics. They poisoned you. They created symptoms and then a treatment for those symptoms. But, after the initial poisoning, it was that treatment that maintained the illusion that you were suffering from a life-threatening illness. At the same time they manipulated you into contracting with Chamillart. They did what they could to encourage an – attachment forming. But once the contract expired you left for the border worlds. So they changed tactics again. They tolerated your departure, drawing you in at regular intervals for treatment. They prescribed drugs to alleviate the symptoms they were creating” –
“Hold on!” said Mal. “Just back up a bit. Treatment at regular intervals? How regular?”
“Quarterly,” Simon replied.
Mal frowned, pained. “Where? How?”
“Whenever it was possible,” Inara replied. She sighed deeply. “Whenever we were – in the right place.”
Mal folded his arms tightly, seething. Not at anyone else. At himself. “You mean, whenever I allowed you to keep an appointment,” he growled.
Inara, wanting to reach out to Mal, hesitated to reply. “We’ll talk about it later,” she said softly.
If someone had told Mal five minutes earlier that it was possible for him to think less of himself than he already did, he would not have believed them. But – it was possible after all. Would it make it better to give it a name? But what name could do justice to his self-centred, ridiculous, jealous, self-pitying, obstructive, bullying, pitiful, nasty, calculating, bastard-like behavior? Time was when Inara could’ve helped him with that. Inara. When she was probably in pain. In pain from the needles they stuck in her and injected her with. By that doctor. Listening to her. Speaking gently to her. Drying her tears. Hurting her. And still, she’d fought back. Had always fought back.
He wanted to leave the room. With every fibre of his being he wanted to leave the room. Snarl a comment, bark an order, clomp away in his big, heavy boots. But he wasn’t going to do that. Not if it killed him, not if those boots tried to turn and walk out their own selves, leaving him torn at the middle. Weren’t no way he was going to walk out on this one.
Simon and Kaylee felt the intensity of the emotions in Mal and Inara’s exchange. They looked at each other.
“Come on, baby,” said Kaylee. “Let’s see about you gettin’ some a that rest.”
Simon rose and took Kaylee’s hand. Quietly they left the room.
Monday, July 6, 2009 11:11 AM
Monday, July 6, 2009 2:11 PM
Monday, July 6, 2009 5:01 PM
Monday, July 6, 2009 6:32 PM
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