Monday, February 14, 2011

Inara contemplates farewells.



Disclaimer: I don’t know whether the rumours are true (Yes, still. Or maybe I’d rather not believe), but they all belong to Joss regardless. GillianRose, Platonist, everyone this weekend I’ve bothered and brainstormed with: Thank You.

This is a follow-up to one of my other stories, February, which is much more hopeful. Heavy poetics and angst warning here. I really tried to make this a happy Valentine's Day fic; not to be. But, it's not as tragic as it COULD be, so that's saying something! Right?

Remember me when I am gone away, far away into the silent land, no more to hold me by the hand, nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. (Christina Rossetti)


Diamond dust, fine and shimmering and cold, sifted through her numb fingers like sands in an hourglass. The Bodhi Tree carved beside her into the uppermost eave of the pagoda stretched out its branches to catch her as she leaned out over the ornate gilded railing, murmuring words of farewell. May the next life be a painless one, free of the suffering that you have endured.

With all her sisters around her, she never felt so alone, drowning in that ocean of light with no shore. She watched the trail scatter over the gardens, towards the city lights and stars that twinkled like fireflies ready to carry away her spirit.

When the ashes of her own life departed House Madrassa, there was nothing left for her there now, no position in the Guild that could tempt her to stay. Much as she loved Sihnon’s beauty, the rest of the ‘verse was waiting for her, and she had little time to see it all. So in sorrow she left, embarking upon a ship, her own Firefly, to answer that call from the stars. Two years later she was still alive. She could hardly believe it, at times. Especially not with the ever present peril the nán yĭ rěn shóu captain always courted; he seemed determined to die before she could.

Was it karma? What unspeakable crime had she committed in the life before this one? This connection between them, this fire was not a gentle or natural one, a bond that one lifetime could not explain.

He was completely unaware of her annoyed glare as he slept, recovering, on the infirmary table. The cold light cast a ghostly pall over him. Disconcerting, to see him so vulnerable when he was always so guarded. It made her heart ache, had made her reach out to him when earlier he’d woken suddenly and painfully from a nightmare.

So haunting, so broken underneath his armour, that even the most gentle touch or smallest kindness was some terrible danger. In her need to comfort him, to be allowed, she had forgotten herself, her eyes had asked for something she shouldn’t have. Her joy when he had reached out to her as well faded as she listened to his breathing soften and heard only her quickening pulse. When had she gained the power to soothe him, instead of agitate? Please, rén cí de Fózu, let the trust she had seen be the medication he was on.

She’d had to forsake Serenity before. The cruelest reminder, that awkward meeting in the hall; she’d curled up on a dusty floor, alone, and wept over all that she could never have, mourned again later over the grave of her friend.

He had blamed himself with fury and regret, felt that he had once again failed those he vowed to protect. She shuddered to imagine the intensity of that self-loathing if it had been herself, instead. She shivered for an entirely different reason when he raised those blue eyes to her and began to bridge their carefully maintained distance, thinking along the same lines.

“I’m leaving,” she told him, interrupting before he could make her second guess herself. Hope unnamed died, that break in the canopy lost again for the shifting winds and the leaves withering on the branches. His stunned expression, confused and crushed, nearly changed her mind. She couldn’t let him destroy himself. But she didn’t want to go.

He left her in paradise, to luxury and comfort. She approached him as he glowered unseeing out from the cliffs at the perfect verdant wilderness around them, unable to say goodbye and trying to tell himself that it didn’t matter, that she was better off. “You’ll be all right, be safe:” his parting words to her.

Her security was far from her mind. Chase after me, begged her fear, bring me back home. Thankfully, he didn’t. For two blessed months there was no sign of them, and she thought she might never hear from him again. Unlucky irony that the Alliance he despised for meddlesome had finally given him the excuse he required, that brought her back into his life.

More than ever, she heard his own unspoken plea. He’d asked before. Every time he was intentionally difficult about ferrying her to clients. Aloud once, in a quiet room as he prepared to bleed for her at dawn. Now, it was with wordless gratitude for her, everything she was, and her help; with the concern for her that he no longer bothered to conceal. ‘Don’t leave us.’

It was a promise she couldn’t keep, but she had stayed anyway. Because she was needed. Because she loved them.

A comb and hairbrush waved before her eyes, originally hers if the carved ivory was any indication, and she startled out of her reverie, blinking long eyelashes at the uncanny appearance. “River? Why are you up so late?”

The girl’s right hand hovered around her messier than usual strands, fingers fluttering helplessly as though afraid to become lost in the darkness. “Treacherous!” The poor dear sounded upset, her eyes were wide. “Attempted strangulation necessitates retraining!”

“We certainly can’t have that,” she agreed sympathetically, though not without some bemusement, and patted the spot on the infirmary counter beside her. Did she have a nightmare, and that was why she was in this state? Tossing and turning?

Perhaps when the captain was less delirious, she might talk him into letting her take River to a hair stylist, like her own mother used to when she was younger. She remembered the sweet perfume she wore, the shampoo, the feel of gentle fingers massaging her scalp, looking into the mirror and seeing someone more grown up looking back. It would be tricky with the Federal warrants, but she imagined her mèi mèi must have a hard time of it, long as her hair was, and on this ship shorter would be more practical.

River settled into her side, against her silken robe, and she set to brushing, running hands through the thick hair to soothe and smooth. Calm from the repetitious, comforting work settled over the two of them. “Lonely,” the girl commented, lifting the spell of the companionable silence, sounding wistful. “Wants a family.”

“You have one, mèi mèi,” she assured her; not just a brother, but surrounded, all of them on the ship.

River shook her head, nearly undoing their progress. “No one to make a life with,” she lamented. Her brush arm stilled, and the other slid down to the girl’s shoulder and drew her closer. “Damaged,” River managed to choke out, “Handle with care. Too much effort.”

“Oh River, no,” she cried, her own voice unsteady as she pulled the distraught girl, so like her own daughter would be, into a full embrace. “You’re beautiful, mèi mèi, inside and out. Someday you’ll find someone who will see that as much as we do.”

Damaged.” Insistent, bottomless eyes brimming with tears.

“And still beautiful,” she whispered fiercely, no less emphatic. She lifted an instrument she couldn’t name, something shining metallic that their doctor had stored out of the way on the counter for easy access, and captured River’s reflection in it. “There, do you see?”

Sniffling, River took the makeshift mirror into trembling fingers, tilting her head slightly to one side, then the other as she studied this other perception of her. Beautiful. A slow, tremulous smile. “Sufficiently calmer,” the teenager informed her, patting down newly tamed hair. “Xiè xiè.”

She smiled back. “Bù yòng xiè.” River was making no apparent move to head back to bed, perhaps intending to keep her company through her watch. Not so much watching, she realized; shameless observation, perhaps. It occurred to her to wonder if the reader had only been talking about herself.

River spoke again, as if in answer. “Pretended he was jealous of Simon.” The gaze turned on her was all-seeing. “He knows.”

She glanced again at the patient; this time there was no question who was meant. The endless night beyond seemed to encroach within, freezing and bringing its breathless anxiety. “How much?”

“Enough.” Her mèi mèi sounded sad, was undoubtedly as familiar with her troubles as the doctors, foresaw the result of every test. “He’s waiting for you still.” River flowed off their ledge, and she was alone, but with him.

You’ll be all right. He’d left her behind, all but pushed her off his ship with his bitter words, knowing? For her. Because it had been her choice. Because, in his mind, she deserved every comfort, for as long as she had, that he believed he could not provide.

How much time did they have, either of them? Before one of them lay here and the clock struck midnight? She was by his side now, wanted to be in the uncertain future; he would be by hers when her turn came, and her family would be there.

Broken, damaged, imperfect, and beautiful. They could see each other true. Let us find each other yet, she thought, after so long searching; and if we could not this life, or any previous, let us find each other again.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011 6:21 AM


Beautiful. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 7:13 AM


Ah, the Cherry Blossom speaks.

What does Mal know?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 7:18 AM


Wow, so beautifully lyrical. Very much enjoyed this peak inside Inara's head and River helping in her own unique way, as always. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 7:19 AM


Ooops, that should be 'peek' not 'peak'. Ali D :~)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 8:07 AM


Thanks everyone. I do go overboard a little with poetry whenever I write Inara, and continue to do so... But I hope that it suggests some of Inara's elegance and sensitivity to beauty.

Saturday, February 19, 2011 4:49 AM


Beautiful imagery and potent emotions said in so few words - wonderfully done.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 6:31 PM


Love it. The Companion, like the Reader, is a study in contradictions, and seemingly bigger on the inside than on the outside. You've done well.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 7:36 PM


Thanks katesfriend. :) It's kind of a weird style, short AND purple prose.

Thescarrredman! Hope your badger story is stilling coming okay. I love how you've fleshed out the Eavesdown docks and Persephone. :)

Friday, May 6, 2011 4:08 PM


dunno what else to say but beautiful


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Eidolon (Epilogue)
Someday, she knew they would visit the graves of Serenity Valley and not hear the howl of the ghosts. Someday, they would walk across the green prairie of a restored world and watch the rain. (Glimpses)

Eidolon (Chapter 40)
Clouds were blossoming in the distance, promising rain for the city later. The crew of Serenity and the badlands around Eavesdown Docks to the south would probably see only a harsh windstorm. Two different worlds, she mused, caught between them. (Deliverance)

Eidolon (Chapter 39)
The question seemed to hit her hard. In the mirrors of her eyes, he saw himself, forced to see her lose more ground every day. Hurt more, because of him. Saw her watching him back as she pulled him out of a nightmare. (Try)

The Gift
They don't have much. But they have each other. (Just a little holiday story from the Firefly verse. Belongs to Joss)

Eidolon (Chapter 38)
The girl processed that response. "He brought the medicine? He saved us?" Inara nodded, considering her own inclusion in the question. (Renewed)

Eidolon (Chapter 37)
A wind clear and sweet stirred the air, humming as a shimmering, ever-shifting blaze of color flashed from one horizon to another. The breeze carried with it a distant song, rising over the hills and through the vales like a soulful hymn from his childhood. (Flight)

Eidolon (Chapter 36)
"I cut the strings. They were never yours anyway.”(Liberation)

Eidolon (Chapter 35)
A few twists of a little turnscrew and the mechanic was stripping wires and rerouting circuits in moments. (Break)

Eidolon (Chapter 34)
Stars scattered in the night, coalesced from the stellar dust from a far away sun and others that came before. A spark, scintillating into a network, a stream, like the lights and streets of a city. (Cascade)

Eidolon (Chapter 33)
"Put me back in that place," River said, "Little bluebird singing in a cage, puppet on broken strings." (Capture)