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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
In which angels fly away, and Mal and Inara have a very serious conversation.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2397 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimer: Here be angst. If it helps any, I refuse to believe anything is really going to happen to Inara, and I refuse to write it, too.
Recently, I was looking over the exact terms of Inara's contract with the guild, as published on the Serenity Blu-Ray Version, and I noticed something missing, a telling omission that prompted this fic.
I actually didn't want to write this conversation, because it's really the kind that's best left to the imagination (or maybe a more skilled author, because this HAS been done before, and while I'm at it, I highly recommend Cliosmuse’s and Aliasse's fics).
Characters and setting copyright Joss Whedon.
The perfect plan. Wasn’t anything could go wrong, because wasn’t any wrong doings. She might even approve, he thought. Couldn’t quite convince himself enough, though, so he kept pacing the scaffolds, boots clanking against the metal, eyeing the shuttle hatch like that bull from his youth that’d taken an irrational dislike to him. Didn’t help his confidence any, how his own cargo bay felt all sharp lines and dinge all a sudden.
He lost his nerve a couple times, but every time he went to the bridge, he saw Zoe sitting in that chair, where she'd retreated after their moment of silence at dinner. One year later. She was mostly back to herself, but tonight she was staring off into the black between the stars, fingers clenched tight around that knot of hers like it was all she had to hang on to. Reminded him of duties he had, the consequences of being remiss in them. So he’d recognized her need to be left alone and returned to the same staring match. It was good practice, matching his will against the unresponsive metal before facing down the steel inside.
They’d stay in orbit, send out the shuttle. No reason to try to pass their resident government-secret-in-hiding through customs that way, and the Feds would have no reason to come aboard for an inspection if they never landed. No drop offs or pick-ups to suspect, except the official one. And River seemed relatively calm about his plan, judging by her recent wall paintings in noodles she’d been so proud off. Good enough for him, disturbing sad looks aside.
Catching a glimpse of some shimmery gauze as he came down the stairs, he made as if heading down below, like it was his original intention, like his heart rate hadn’t just tripled. Like he could ignore her. “Have you decided?” she asked, all patience and dignity with just the right amount of frustrated condescension. He stopped, glanced at her.
Wasn’t fair when she wore white. She seemed to glow more than usual, and it confused him, like he’d just stepped into one of his more embarrassing dreams where apparently he still believed in angels. Or that time they danced together, under that fancy shining chandelier that looked liable to turn back into a pumpkin, and for a moment was convinced she was wearing a wedding dress.
Just to keep his mind from playing any more tricks on him, he gave her a more careful study. Soft-looking, surprisingly simple dress. Nightgown, most like, and considering the scoop neckline and knee-length hem, the kind she wore for sleeping, not for show. Her dark curls were down and she had no makeup on. She looked comfortable, if serenely irritable. “Are you coming in?” she clarified, when his answer wasn’t forthcoming. “If not, you could go be annoying somewhere else.”
He frowned. The mouth he got, just trying to do someone a favour. No reason to act anymore, he supposed. “You were sleeping,” he said, with a pointed look at her attire, “Didn’t want to knock.”
“You never knock.” She glared at him, unconvinced and unimpressed, then disappeared back through the curtain hangings. Well, fine. That was as good as an invitation as he was likely to get, so he followed her into her own little world apart.
The décor was a poor imitation of the ornate luxury she’d cultivated before; only a few trinkets and silks on display, some walls left bare. Unsettling impermanent, yet the exposed grey reminded him of stone churches.
He cleared his throat, uncomfortable, and remained standing, deciding to take the formal Captain’s voice approach. Best to just get it over with. “Had River set a course for Ariel,” he told her. Some of her annoyance cleared as she sat primly on the edge of her unembellished bed, and she regarded him curiously. “For that yearly doctor’s visit of yours,” he explained further.
See, he could be thoughtful sometimes. Not that he was trying to prove anything, of course.
“Oh.” Her eyelashes dipped and her face turned from him, like he was painful to look on. Here was doom. He thought maybe he’d seen that expression before: his imagination, torturing him for long months, pretending that he had seen tears welling up in her eyes after she told him she was leaving. She rubbed her arms and hugged them close, like she was cold. “That won’t be necessary.”
Huh? He blinked at her, pushing the sudden fear aside. “Sure it is. You need it for your work.” Come to think of it, she really hadn’t mentioned her work much at all recently, hadn’t come to him with demands for finding some ‘civilization.’ He hadn’t noticed, or, if he had, he hadn’t questioned it. Didn’t want to jeopardize her choice to stay. “You in trouble with the guild?” The fear came back.
She was hiding behind those black tresses. Ruined her. The hopeless rage welled up, and he felt his hands clench at his sides. Always knew you would. Wasn’t the first time, wouldn’t be the last. But gorrammit he’d tried to keep their business separate. Last thing he’d ever wanted was to damage her reputation with his criminal niú shǐ.
He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself with the familiar incense, the divine perfume. “Was it Miranda?”
“No. Well, yes,” she corrected, trying briefly to hold his gaze before lowering those bottomless eyes back to the shuttle floor. “but…” She trailed off, her thoughts distant with the same melancholy he caught glimpses of now and then in her smiles, or when she thought no one was watching. Her eyelids clenched shut for a moment, fighting something, and then her chin came up, defiant. “The guild never required those annual check-ups, Mal.”
After an eternity, he swallowed hard, and could barely recognize his voice when he spoke, hoarse and quiet. “That makes it more necessary, don’t it?”
She didn’t answer. Couldn’t, he could tell.
'God…' he thought, a familiar plea, always unanswered. God really did hate him. He’d suspected the truth for a while, since before she’d left for the training house. But he’d tried not to think on it, tried to stay normal and mean and bitter as she packed up her things, tried to maintain the illusion for both of them just a bit longer. After Shadow, after the war, after Wash and Book, he wondered when his glass would get too full and spring another leak. Wondered just how much more he could stand to lose.
“Don’t look like that,” she whispered. “I never wanted to hurt you. That’s why I left; I never wanted you to know.”
“I knew,” he admitted.
Her eyes sparked and narrowed, her lips tightly pursed. “So River said. Tell me, was it just Pelorum, or do you spy on me in general?”
No more than can be helped… Damn conscience, she saw that. “That was legitimate!” he blustered defensively. “I got all uglied up on account of that xīn hěn shǒu là kuáng ré client a yours, and” – he realized what she was trying to do – “and don’t you change the subject! How long have you known?”
So much for fighting. He actually commended her for trying to start a quarrel, it probably would have made this easier. “Three years,” she answered, the fire gone out again.
“Since you left Sihnon?” She confirmed it, her head bowing. So tragic. So gorramn strong. He wished he could tell her she wasn’t alone, wouldn’t ever be, take back what he said that once because he couldn’t comprehend any other way to die. He crossed the distance and crouched down before her instead. “Whad’you need?” Her eyes lifted from their joined hands, and he understood. “Anywhere you want,” he promised, thinking at the same time the impossibility of getting through security if she wanted to go back to Sihnon. Back home, he corrected himself, a little miserably.
She extracted her fingers delicately. “Thank you. I’ve yet to decide…”
“No hurry,” he reassured her, standing, taking that for the dismissal it was. “It’s late, no need to settle everything right now.” He paused by the hatchway. “Do you want me to tell them?” Kaylee was going to be devastated, and he had no idea how River and Zoë were going to go on without her calming presence on board. Amazing how much they’d all come to rely on her just being around.
“I’ll tell them, they’ll take it better that way.” Wasn’t that the truth; he didn’t think he could get through that announcement without yelling and making someone start crying. Maybe didn’t think he could get through that, period.
He bid her good night, and stepped outside her chambers. Didn’t get very far, before he had to stop and lean against the railing for a while. A good long while, because that’s where Zoë found him in the morning, neither of them having been able to sleep.
She would go again, he would let her; it had to be that way, ever since she refused to move from the shuttle into one of the passenger dorms. He used to think, angels needed wings to come down to them, to save them. No, angels needed wings so they could fly away and save themselves.
Monday, March 28, 2011 3:54 PM
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 2:26 AM
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 5:04 AM
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 9:30 AM
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 9:52 AM
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 5:00 PM
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 5:26 PM
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 6:30 PM
Wednesday, March 30, 2011 1:39 PM
Wednesday, March 30, 2011 3:59 PM
Wednesday, March 30, 2011 4:10 PM
Friday, December 2, 2011 9:59 AM
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