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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
Simon has enough of his patients ignoring his advice, Inara worries there's a conspiracy afoot, and Mal finds out the truth about Inara's health.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1627 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal huffed from where he sat on the kitchen table, flinching as Simon drew another suture through his skin.
"Hold still," the doctor commanded, frowning at him.
"Be easier to do if you weren't so gleeful 'bout stickin' me with that thing," Mal groused, shivering in the open air of the galley.
"And I wouldn't need to – again," Simon punctuated, "if you weren't so cursed stubborn. I told you not to climb down into your bunk yet!" he chastised, angry with Mal and himself both.
After leaving Inara in the infirmary, Simon had retreated to his bunk and had collapsed on his mattress, asleep within seconds of his head touching the pillow. He awoke several hours later, only realizing after he'd gone to check on Inara in her shuttle that Mal had missed his last meds. It wasn’t until he'd searched the rest of the ship that he decided to check the Captain's bunk and found the man running a fever with several stitches popped and bleeding through their bandages from his ill treatment of himself. It had taken Jayne's help just to get him back up out of his bunk.
"I didn't put you back together so you could undo all my work by being a jué jiàng de dāi zi," Simon continued in annoyance.
Mal rolled his eyes, biting back a curse as Simon's needle pierced his skin again. "Yeah? So then why did you?" he snapped.
"I'm beginning to wonder that myself," the doctor replied with equal acidity, tying off the last stitch. He wound a new bandage around the Captain's torso and taped it off irritably. "See if you can avoid climbing any ladders in the near future, would you? And no heavy lifting, either. You need to rest," he reiterated, fully aware by the set of Mal's jaw that his words were falling on deaf ears.
Sighing, he gathered up his medical supplies. "I'll be downstairs until the next time he does something life threatening and stupid," he said to Zoe, casting one last reproachful look at Mal before stalking off, shaking his head as he went.
"I don't think that ever gets tired," Mal said, flashing a grin at his first mate as she handed him his shirt, but the woman wasn't smiling. Nor was Kaylee as she gave him a look that was half-worry, half-disappointment before following Simon down to the infirmary. He found it hard to smile himself suddenly, feeling stung.
"Went to a fair bit of trouble savin' your pigu, Sir. Appreciate it if you wouldn't make it all for nothing," Zoe said, giving him a pointed look before leaving him to the galley, alone.
Mal watched her go, sighing at himself. The pain had cleared his mind of his unwanted feelings for a time, and riling the doctor helped keep them at bay, but now, alone with only his thoughts for company, he couldn't help but return to the memory of Inara's rejection, and how much it had already begun to hurt to think on her leaving, all over again.
Frowning, he slid off the table, wincing with the action. Idly, he considered climbing down into the spare bunk, the one they'd been using for storage since he'd tossed Bester several months back, just to piss the doc off again, but then thought better of it. Despite the smoother Simon had given him, there was a lingering uncomfortableness in his middle that he didn't think needed any further encouragement. He might be stubborn, but he weren't completely stupid.
What he wanted, he knew, was to talk to Inara, but she'd made it more than clear that she had no desire to see him. Of course, that had never stopped him before, and damned if he was gonna let her go easily...
* * *
Inara sat before her cortex, her features schooled into the calm mask of her training as she waited for her wave to Sheydra to connect. The coming conversation would be difficult to get through, she knew, if she didn't keep a tight rein on her emotions. She would have preferred to postpone the call but she was expected within the week; Sheydra would be making the necessary arrangements, anticipating her arrival. She had little choice but to wave and she didn't look forward to it.
Her hand lifted to her chest absently, fingers ghosting over the purple bruise there. She didn’t want Sheydra to know. She didn't want anyone to know. And Mal she wondered, does he know? His reluctance before, to discuss what had happened to her, suggested that he knew something, but—
She was forced to put aside the thought as her cortex beeped suddenly, announcing the wave's connection as Sheydra's face appeared the screen.
"Inara, it's so wonderful to—Renci de Fozu! Inara, what's happened?!!" Sheydra gasped, her face clouding with worry as she moved closer to the screen.
Inara took a deep breath. "There's been an incident," she said gravely, cringing inwardly at the wince on her Sister's face in reaction to the condition of her own, but she kept her emotions under tight control as she continued, "with a black-listed former client of mine, an Atherton Wing. Captain Reynolds and myself were both abducted and very nearly killed."
"My Gods!" Sheydra's face went even paler if it were possible. “Are you all right? How badly are you hurt?”
“I’m fine,” Inara assured, “or I will be, in time.” She drew a deep breath, holding it for a moment, and then continued. “Needless to say, there will be a delay in my arrival," she said, feeling a nearly overwhelming urge to check over her shoulder to make sure said Captain wasn't eavesdropping.
“Of course, Inara, don’t concern yourself!”
"Sheydra," she said, lowering her voice grimly, "the Guild didn't warn me. No one informed me that Atherton left Persephone…"
Sheydra drew in a breath, her mind making all the connections Inara had herself. "That’s… This could be very bad," she said, worrying her lip. "I don’t mean to belittle what’s happened to you, Inara, but… There are those who will use this as further proof that the border worlds are not ready for the Guild's presence—"
Inara nodded. "The thought had occurred to me," she said. “I'm sorry."
"Don’t be ridiculous, of course this isn't your fault," Sheydra said, sighing as she rubbed at her forehead.
Inara inclined her head graciously. "Forgive me if I say that I hope that is the extent of the intention behind this. But I fear there are deeper machinations at work."
The House Mistress said nothing for a long moment, considering that. "Have you told the Guild yet?"
Inara shook her head. "I'm not sure who to trust..."
"You think this is someone inside."
"I think it must be," Inara reasoned. "It still remains to be seen if I was targeted specifically, or if I just happened to present the first opportunity."
"A schism," Sheydra said, worriedly. “It may be closer than we thought.”
"Then surely Mayuri is the safest choice?" the other woman said, naming their former House Mother from Madrassa.
"I have been reluctant to—" Inara began uncomfortably, but the other woman pressed on despite her protest.
"She has a voice on the Council, and looks favorably on expansion," Sheydra argued. "And you know you can trust her to put the Guild's best interests first."
Inara nodded in resignation. Mayuri had also been her first thought when she'd considered whom she could or should tell; unfortunately, her mother presented her own set of – more personal – problems.
"I—Sheydra…I hate to put you in this position, but… for me to contact her directly…" she trailed off awkwardly, hoping the other woman would agree to her less than subtle request.
Sheydra acquiesced with a sympathetic look. "I will wave her on your behalf."
Inara nodded gratefully, relieved. "Thank you, Sheydra."
"Are you all right, Inara? Truly?"
"I'll be fine, Shey, don't worry," Inara promised. "Thank you again."
Sheydra inclined her head graciously. "Take care, Inara. Xiǎo xīn."
"Nǐyĕ," Inara replied solemnly. Ending the transmission, she sat back with a sigh, pressing her hand to her forehead. She could feel a spectacular headache building and already the dull edge of pain was growing sharper. And she still had another hour yet before she could take her next smoother. Sighing again she draped her curtain over her screen and stood slowly, swearing silently as she turned to find Mal standing in the doorway, arms crossed, watching her.
"Trouble with the Guild?" he asked, walking into the shuttle.
"What?" She cleared her throat. "No. No," she deflected, "I was just waving a friend to let her know why—what's happened." She did not want to discuss this with him.
Mal shook his head. He'd heard enough to know there was more to it than that. "You think someone did this on purpose, set Wing on to you."
Inara sighed in resignation, knowing he wouldn't let it go. She pressed her fingers to the growing pulse of pain at her temple wearily. "I don't know. Maybe not directly, but I wasn't told when Atherton left Persephone and I should have been." She met his gaze gravely. "The Guild takes a black mark very seriously, Mal, and keeps close watch of all potentially dangerous clients."
"An' yet, somehow, nobody bothered to tell you," he said, unimpressed.
She paced restlessly, shaking her head. "It could be that it was just an oversight, in which case the Guild needs to re-examine its security procedures before other Companions are put at risk… but I find that highly suspect," she said, stopping, her eyes flicking to his in acknowledgement. "The Guild has been in existence for a very long time, they know what they're doing. So, yes," she said, drawing in a deep breath and nodding. "Yes, I think someone made sure I wasn't informed. What I'm not certain of is whether or not I was targeted specifically, or if it could have been any Companion." She shook her head again, resuming her pacing. "What truly frightens me is that there could be any number of us at risk at this moment."
Mal was more concerned with Inara being at risk. "You don't think it was just luck Wing chose now to come after us."
Stopping again, she opened her mouth to speak, pausing as she considered just how much she could tell him. "There are… certain factions, within the Guild," she said at last, "who are not in favour of the Guild's presence this far out from the Core. It's all very political," she added, waving her hand, her brow furrowing. "That they would ever endanger the life of a Companion is unthinkable, and yet…"
"You think they're behind it."
Inara met his gaze with a sigh. "I don't know, Mal. I just don't know. But I'm going to find out," she said, determined.
Mal took a step toward her, an uncomfortable feeling in his gut that had nothing to do with the pain. "These people already shown they got no qualms about puttin' you at risk," he said grimly. "You start diggin' into this, like as not they'll come at you again."
Inara straightened, lifting her chin defiantly. "I won't hide from them. If I run, if I let them get away with this, it's tacit agreement with their actions, and every Companion that is put at risk or subsequently harmed will be on my conscience. I can't do nothing."
"Gettin' yourself killed for your trouble ain't gonna help none of 'em neither," he said darkly.
"They're my Sisters, Mal. My friends." She pressed on as he looked away with a curse. "I have a duty to them, just like you have to the crew," she emphasized, forcing him to look at her.
"You can't be responsible for every gorram Companion in the 'Verse!" he protested fiercely.
"Of course not. But if I ignore this, I will be responsible for every Companion that gets hurt because of it. You'd ask me to live with that?"
He looked away, unable to hold her gaze. "'f it keeps you safe," he said.
She sighed. "You know I can't. No more than you could."
He let out a resigned breath, turning back to her. "You gonna let me help you?" he asked quietly, his eyes searching hers for an honest answer.
Inara had known the question would be coming. "So much of this is within the Guild itself…I really don't know what you can do, Mal," she said, shaking her head apologetically.
"Got people I can talk to on Persephone,” he pressed. “Not the Guild sort," he added, flashing a quick grin. "Put the word out, might shed some light on who tipped Wing, who mighta helped him off world and such," he suggested.
Inara considered his offer and finally nodded, perfectly aware that if she didn't agree he'd likely do it anyway. "All right. But please do it quietly, and carefully…” she said, impressing upon him how serious she was. She looked down, her gaze flicking away before she brought it back to his face, concerned. “I don't want them going after you.”
“That’s two of us,” he concurred. “I’ll be discreet – I can be discreet!” he asserted at her look of skepticism and they both grinned softy. "So, what now?" he asked, peering at her intently.
"We wait," Inara said with a sigh. "I have to hear back from Sheydra before I can do much else."
"Good." He nodded. "Lie down."
"You're hurtin'," he said, brushing a tentative finger over her cheek. She swallowed, throat tightening at the tenderness in his voice, started to shake her head to deny but he cut her off. "I can see it all over your face, Inara."
Closing her eyes, she sighed and nodded, relieved truthfully to dispense with the façade. "My head is pounding," she admitted, pressing her fingers to her temples as pain creased her brow. "And I can feel the rest of it coming back, like everything's waking up to remind me of just how much I can hurt."
He nodded again in perfect understanding. "When's your next smoother?"
Inara shook her head. "Another forty-five minutes at least…"
"This the topical Simon gave you?" he asked, picking up the small container of cream.
"Yes," she said, nodding wearily.
"Then lie down," he said again, motioning to the bed. "Inara," he said when she made no move to follow his suggestion, "you made it plain last night you don't need me takin' care a' you. But I—"
She leaned in on her tiptoes and kissed him suddenly, effectively silencing his tirade with her lips against his, thankful that she'd healed enough in the past few days that the contact no longer caused much discomfort.
Mal's eyes fluttered closed as she drew him into the kiss softly, her hands warm on his skin where she held his forearms. Blinking as their lips parted he stared at her, dazed, and she gave him an apologetic smile.
"That wasn’t it at all, Mal," she said, sorry that her need to be alone had hurt him. "I needed time alone, to absorb everything that's happened, everything that Simon told me; to deal with it in my own way. But even though I may not need you to take care of me, it can be nice from time to time," she added, her lips curving in a smile.
Mal drew in a deep breath, feeling as though a weight of impending doom had suddenly lifted from his chest and he closed his eyes gratefully, slipping his arms around her to hold her to him. "So, you're okay? Simon weren't exactly forthcomin' with the details," he asked her, pulling back when he felt her minute hesitation, his eyes searching hers. "Inara?"
"I am – I will be. It will just… take some time…" She considered not telling him the rest for a moment, but dismissed the thought; he deserved to know, at least part of it. "But I can't… Mal, I can't be with you, until then," she said regretfully, but didn't say more; that she might not ever be able to take to bed with him again wasn't something she was ready to tell him.
"Don't worry 'bout that," he whispered, pulling her against him, just happy to have her alive and not pushing him away. Having her in his arms made him mighty aware of all the things he'd like to do with her, but if he were honest with himself, he doubted he was up to the demands of making love with her right yet anyhow. On the other hand…
He leaned back to look down at her suddenly, his eyes mischievous. "What about kissin'? Found I'm awfully fond of kissin' you," he said, grinning as he bent to catch her lips softly.
She smiled wryly as they parted. "I'm not supposed to do anything too exciting," she chastised lightly, her smile broadening as he pulled her more snugly to him.
"You sayin' I excite you?" His voice rumbled in her ear, deep and seductive and she felt a shiver race through her.
"Daily," she purred then smirked. "Though not always in so positive a manner."
"Conjure that's somethin' I could work on," he murmured, catching her mouth again, their kisses turning from playful to something more as relief, after so many days of worry for both of them, finally spilled free.
"Stop, stop," Inara said finally, pulling away, her hand on his chest to push him back slightly. "It was one thing to resist temptation when we weren't doing this, but quite another when you kiss me like that," she whispered breathlessly, a rosy flush on her cheeks.
Mal groaned, a sudden rush of arousal, a swell of chest-tightening emotion, sweeping through him at her admission; overwhelmed to know that he – he – could make her feel that way… Closing his eyes, he took a step back, physically putting some distance between them.
“Think you’re gonna have to get Simon’s help with that topical after all, darlin’,” he said roughly, opening his eyes to meet hers with a rueful smile.
She bit her lip with a soft chuckle and nodded, feeling a shiver go through her at what his words implied. But her smile faded as Simon’s words came back to her and—
“I trust I’m not interrupting anything?”
Inara gave a little gasp, turning in surprise when Simon's real-life voice – distinctly accusing and not at all pleased – supplanted the one in her memory as he stepped into the shuttle, frowning at the both of them.
She stepped away from Mal quickly, trying not to look guilty. "Simon. I—Hello," she said, regaining her composure.
"Inara. I was serious about what I said," Simon said with barely contained frustration. After his earlier difficulties with Mal – he shot the Captain an irritated stare – he had just about lost all the patience he had with his instructions being disregarded.
"I know. We were just—" Inara tried to explain.
“I honestly don’t know what to do with either of you,” he interrupted angrily. “Do you think that what I do to put you back together is easy? That I enjoy spending hours over you on the operating table, going for days without sleep to be on hand in case anything goes wrong? Does that mean nothing to either of you?”
Inara blinked, surprised by his sudden anger. “Of course, Simon, we—“
“Expect you do to your job,” Mal cut in, crossing his arms, his stare hard, protective instincts kicking-in in response to the young man's anger.
“My job,” Simon said, turning to face the other man incredulously. “And how do you expect me to do my job, Mal, when you ignore everything I say?!”
"I ignore what I have to," Mal snapped back, his own anger rising. "Things need doin', I need to do them. That's the way it is, and it ain't gonna change anytime soon."
"Like going down into your bunk?" Simon challenged. "You tore out half your stitches climbing down there when any one of us could have gone for you if there was something you needed. Do you have any idea how easily you could have bled to death if I hadn't found you?"
"What? Mal," Inara admonished.
"He's exaggeratin'," Mal scoffed.
"Exagger--!" Simon cut himself off, closing his eyes as he curled his hands into fists to keep from exploding. “I will say this once more, since common sense seems to constantly elude both of you: You need to rest. That means no lifting, no climbing, no fighting, no strenuous activity that will result in torn stitches," he said, glaring first at Mal, then turning to Inara. "And it means no sexual intercourse. No kissing, no petting, no touching in any way that could result in an elevated heart rate. I would think you would want do to everything you could to ensure the best recovery possible, considering your chances of ever working again – or sleeping with anyone - are so tenuous!"
“Simon!” breathed Inara, closing her eyes. “Ai ya!”
” Woah—what?" Mal said, stunned.
“Well, I’m sorry,” Simon said, realizing he'd obviously revealed more than Inara had wanted Mal to know, but too angry to care much. If she had just followed his instructions! Shaking his head he pressed on. “But if you don’t take this seriously, you may never be healthy enough to be cleared for Guild work. You may never be healthy enough for sex at all--!"
"Simon! Renci de Fozu, bi zui!"
“Wait. Wait!” Mal bellowed, bringing the room to silence. He looked back and forth between the two of them, his eyes settling on Inara. “Inara…? What’s goin’ on?"
Inara pursed her lips with an angry sigh, shooting a cutting glare at the doctor.
“The compound that Inara was given damaged the muscles of her heart,” Simon stated.
“That much I figured. What’s the rest?”
“The rest, Mal…" Inara paused, drawing in a deep breath to steady herself. "The rest is there's a good chance I may never be able to see Clients again. Or—“ her gaze dropped to the floor. “Or be with you again.”
He stared at her, willing himself to not comprehend what he was hearing, looking back at Simon to refute her words.
“She should not engage in any physically stimulating activity at all until she has had a chance to heal and strengthen her heart's muscles," the doctor said on quietly. "That will involve a great deal of rest, physio-therapy, and, if at all possible an elimination of all sources of stress. Then, maybe, if she’s lucky, she’ll be able to resume physical and sexual activities."
"Jī dū quán néng zhī shén," Mal said, turning away. She was going to have to give up her career, the job she loved; he may not have cared for it, but he knew she did, knew it was important to her… They were never going to be able to be together again…
Inara closed her eyes and shook her head. "Simon," she said his name for the third time, abruptly, demanding with a look that he give them some privacy.
He nodded. "I know a doctor on Osiris, a heart specialist," Simon clarified. "That's initially why I came. I can't make any promises, but she's one of the best in the field…"
Inara said nothing, continuing to stare at him, too angry to acknowledge his peace offering.
He sighed wearily. "I'm sorry, I didn’t mean to lose my temper; I shouldn't have said… anything," he apologized, growing more uncomfortable as he realized what he'd done. At last he let his gaze fall away. "I just… I'll have your next smoother ready when you need it," he said quietly, and withdrew.
Inara drew in a deep, steadying breath once he was gone and turned to face Mal.
"I should've killed that wang ba dan when I had the chance," he growled, his teeth clenched, hands tight fists.
"Don't," she said, the word sounding harsh to her ears as she fought to keep her emotions under control. "Please, just… don't."
He looked up at her, anger and torment in his face.
"It's pointless to wonder about the what-ifs, Mal," she said, imploring him not to. What if Whelt hadn't given me whatever he had and we'd died? What if I hadn't gone after you that night? What if I'd never danced with you? – She cut off her thoughts ruthlessly, desperately trying to hold on to her control. "We could play that game for hours and drive ourselves mad. But it still won't change the fact that…" she trailed off, the words catching in her throat as her eyes stung. What if I can never make love with you again?
"Why didn't you tell me?" The words were out before he realized it and he winced inwardly.
She looked away. "I didn't want to," she admitted, her voice growing thick with emotion. "I had hoped – I hope –," she reinforced to herself, "that I'll recover, fully. And then I'd never have to."
"An' if…." he said, swallowing thickly, "If you don't? Would you have told me?"
She closed her eyes, silent for a long moment. "I don't know what I would have done. I don’t know how to – " She drew in a shuddery breath, biting back a sob as she lifted her terrified gaze to his, "how to live with it, let alone say it."
"Tianna, Inara," Mal breathed, realizing then how truly afraid she was. Somehow, he was moving toward her before he even realized it, crossing the space between them to pull her into his embrace; to do anything he could to keep out the pain and the despair he'd seen in her eyes.
The moment she felt his arms around her, she broke, all the panic, emotion and tears finally spilling free. "I didn't want to," she said, her voice a tearful whisper. "I didn't want it to be true." She'd pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind, avoided having to face them by focusing on the trouble within the Guild, worrying about those implications instead of her own. Knowing avoidance was not a solution, but unable to do differently. But now… now… No more dancing. No more horse back riding. No swimming, no hiking, no exercise; nothing. I'll never share Union with a client again… never share joy and health and healing through touch. Never again make love with Mal… A sob broke free, and she clung to him tighter, burying her face against his neck. I can't lose you too. I love you so much!
Mal let his eyes close, holding her close, recognizing that she needed the release, had been holding it inside since Simon had told her the devastating prognosis. Felt his own chest grow tight, his heart aching for her, for them.
"We don't know for sure," he said softly, stroking her hair, trying to hold on to something positive. "Doc said there's a chance," he continued stubbornly. "We'll take you to Osiris, see that specialist he knows…"
"Oh Mal," Inara said, shaking her head.
"Don't give up!" Mal whispered fiercely, squeezing her to him tightly.
His words sent a fresh flood of tears to her eyes and she squeezed him back, drawing in a ragged lungful of air as her hands clutched at his back. "Thank you," she said through shuddery breaths as she wrestled her emotions under control. "You're right, I know you're right. I'm young, I'm…healthy. That has to count for something." She turned her head, cheek resting over his heart. "It's not the worst thing in the 'verse," she said quietly, the words muffled against his shirt, trying to convince her self as much as him. "I could teach. I could transfer to the Guild's administrative branch. Or go into asset management or the Law division... I have options."
All of which would take her off his ship, Mal thought but didn't say.
"We'll figure somethin' out," he promised.
Thursday, July 30, 2009 1:27 PM
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