The Four Winds, Chapter 7/28
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Inara buys Mal a gift, although Mal doesn't feel very deserving.


Whether or not Mal kept up his end of their bargain, Inara had business to attend to. And business required her to stay in touch. Which meant a Cortex connection, and a broadwave. She could have found those things in Jerrode's apartments, but a sudden breathtaking claustrophobia, a need for the impersonal noise of other human beings, drove her out into the common areas of the station -- where she could find a connection at a Cortex bar, and other distractions. 'Other distractions' mainly meant shopping. She could do that. Jerrode had paid her in cash, as always, and there were certainly things Serenity lacked. Things she could buy now, while she had the opportunity, and take back to the ship when Mal returned for her. Because he would return; he had always returned. And Jerrode had said only that Mal had left without her, not that Mal was dead, so Mal must not be dead. Jerrode would have good sources. So Inara wandered through the marketplace along Lyford Cay, where the air fresheners, striving vainly for atmosphere, seeped saltwater scent into the ambient, and looked for tea, perfume, scarves, and a Cortex bar. One of Jerrode's bodyguards trailed unobtrusively behind her. She was almost ready to break the invisible wall between them, and ask him if he knew where she could find a Cortex connection, when she saw the rack of belts. Nice belts; genuine cowhide, with a matte finish that was at once elegant and rough-edged. They made her think of Mal, although she couldn't imagine why, except that right now everything made her think of Mal. Mal didn't wear belts. Mal wore those absurd suspenders. Surely he could wear a belt, though. He might even look good in a belt. Or less odd, anyway. It was an act of faith, she told herself as she carried the belt to the sales counter near the door. Mal was still alive; it had to be so, because she was buying him a gift. She would not buy a gift for a dead man. Another omen, as she raised her eyes from the counter and looked out through the windowed storefront: just across the thoroughfare was a Cortex bar. She hadn't seen the sign from the street, but she saw it now clearly. Clutching the bag with the belt rolled up inside, trailed by a bodyguard, Inara crossed the thoroughfare and entered the bar. I won't call Mal, she told herself. I just need to get some work done. But of course, she would call Mal. She knew it already. The only question was how long until her resolve broke. ** Zoe's out there. Jayne's voice played over and over in Mal's head, accusing. Reprimanding. Zoe's out there. And I left her. And Simon. And Inara. And River. Made a man leave his wife behind, under fire; made a girl leave her lover and her two best friends in danger. Thinking of Kaylee's two best friends brought an image of Inara to mind, and Mal pressed his forefinger and thumb into the corners of his eyes, trying to drive it away. It only intensified: Kaylee and Inara, laughing over tea in the kitchen. Making exasperated faces with each other behind his back. Inara, glancing over her shoulder at him as she walked away. How could he have done this to her again? The fingers of his other hand tapped on the instrument panel, nervous energy burning itself off in tiny increments. He was supposed to be up here watching, not brooding. Supposed to be running the bridge while Wash and Kaylee, suited up outside, examined the damage to the ship. He had sent them out to look at the damage firsthand. "Wash? Kaylee? What's it gonna take?" He'd been listening to their gasps of dismay, their imprecise comments to one another that indicated they were pointing out damaged bits he couldn't see. But they weren't talking much to him, yet. He needed their voices to clear his head and restore his focus. Zoe's out there. He heard Wash draw a long breath. "Well, Mal. It's pretty bad." "But we can get on the ground somewhere, right? Fix her up?" There was a pause; he could see them in his mind, glancing at each other through the double barriers of their helmets, neither one wanting to deliver the bad news. But he had to ask. He had to know. He needed them to tell him. "No, Mal," Wash finally said. "No, I can't get on the ground like this. This much hull damage, we'd burn up on reentry for sure." "A station, then --" Mal began. "Not most stations," Wash said. "We couldn't dock with a standard collar. Wouldn't seal, and even if it did, we'd destroy their collar and have to pay for that too." "Well, what then?" Mal said. "Tell me what we can do." There was a long silence. "What about the personnel lock?" Kaylee asked. "Wouldn't somebody have a collar that'd hook up to that?" The comm beeped. "Well . . . there might be somebody out there with a collar that would fit our personnel lock," Wash said. Mal leaned forward to check the comm. Somewhere on Nassau Point. Might be one of his crew. Might not. But it might be. He hit the accept button. "It would have to be an old one," Wash went on, thinking out loud. "The specs for personnel locks changed right after Serenity was built, she won't fit the newer ones." Inara's face appeared on the screen. "Mal!" she said, relief hitting her expression and her posture like a wave. "You're alive!" "Never better," Mal said, with a bitter smile. "Wish I could say the same for the ship." "What?" Wash said. "Uh, it's, hold on," Mal told him, muting the connection to Wash and Kaylee's suits. "You okay?" he asked Inara. "Fine, Mal. I can stay with Jerrode as long as I need to. Or even arrange to meet you somewhere else." Kaylee was talking to Wash. " . . . seals always failed?" "Yeah, that's why they changed 'em," Wash replied. A thought struck Mal. "Inara - could you do me a favor?" "It's what I live for," she said, her smile inscrutable. "Pretty much everybody will have retrofitted by now, won't they?" Kaylee said. "I had to leave Zoe and Simon and River behind, too. Any chance you could round 'em up and keep 'em with you until I can get back?" "Everybody but us," Wash said, and Mal felt a twinge of annoyance. He didn't need the list of his faults and failures lengthened. "River? I thought River stayed with the --" Inara began. "Yeah, well, she left. People are always doing that," Mal groused, and was immediately sorry. Even beyond his personal feelings for Inara, he needed her now; she might be the only person who could keep the rest of his crew safe until he could get back to them. "Anyway," he said, trying for nonchalance,"If you could get everybody together in one spot and sit tight, well, that would be a big help." ". . .A bay, then," Kaylee said finally. "We'll have to have a bay to fix this. Something big enough to put the whole ship in." "That would work," Wash agreed. A repair bay, big enough to hold Serenity? Right after I'm crowned King of all Londinium and get my shiny hat Mal thought viciously, wearily, biting off the venomous retort before it reached his lips. They wouldn't hear him anyway, and he'd have to explain the comment to Inara. A repair bay. Even leaving aside the issue of money, there was the issue of availability. Very few repair facilities had bays of that size. Most of the facilities that did were Alliance military. And Mal couldn't see that lot agreeing to fix up his ship for him, for any money. Dump him and his crew in prison and sell the ship for scrap, was what they'd do. On the screen, Inara was nodding, agreeing to find the others and get them safely together. He thought he could see genuine concern in her dark eyes, in the set of her lips. "We got some repairs we need to make, and, um, some badguys we need to shake loose of, but I'll be back for you and them. I will." "Of course," she said. "How could I doubt it?" Seeing the alarm in his face -- of course it could be doubted -- she backtracked. "I'll do it, Mal. I'll find them. Don't worry." A telltale on the panel lit, and Mal nearly jumped out of his seat. "Great," he said, "Um, you take care. Gotta go now." "Be safe," she said, just as he clicked off. "Wash? Kaylee? Get in here now," Mal ordered. "Got company."


Thursday, May 19, 2011 7:35 AM


Hmmm...Inara's gonna have some fun keeping HER promises at this point, since one of Serenity's lost sheep has decided to hang with another flock as to lure away the wolves. Though I imagine Mal will have the bigger headache, since space-based enclosed shipyards don't seem to exist in this version of the Flanverse, it seems.


Another awesome chapter here, nauticalgal, especially the inner monologue moments from Mal and Inara, as you really got a detailed look at just how much the BDM's events haved weighed down on both of their psyches. I do have to admit though...Inara's monlogue came off as a bit too choppy for what I would have associated with Inara's thought patterns. Then again, I think she's entering a new world of perceiving things after surviving all she did with the rest of the crew ;D

Thursday, May 19, 2011 9:03 AM


What's the Flanverse, BEB? Loving this story nauticalgal but oh the problems do mount, and between Mal's lack of coin for repairs and nowhere safe to take his ship to get them done, things are looking mighty bleak. Hope Zoe, Simon and River get back together and stay safe at least. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Thursday, May 19, 2011 8:15 PM


Oh, I was just trying to be cute, AMDOBELL...spinning off from the term "flanfic" I've seen that's meant to refer to Firefly fanfic.


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The Four Winds, Epilogue
The end...or maybe just another beginning.

The Four Winds, Chapter 25
The rest of the crew return home.

The Four Winds, Chapter 24
Me and Elwood, we're puttin' the band back together.

The Four Winds, Chapter 23
Inara investigates matters; Mal discovers that the impossible has been done in his absence.

The Four Winds, Chapter 22
River needs Mal to solve her problem; Mal is forced to provide information to the Alliance.

The Four Winds, Chapter 21
When Mal tries to recover the cargo, will he lose more than he stands to gain?

The Four Winds, Chapter 20
Mal makes changes to his plan; River puts her plan into action; Inara decides on a plan of her own; Wash finds something he'd lost.

The Four Winds, Chapter 19
Simon gets an alias; Mal gets a look at his client; Wash gets a shock.

The Four Winds, Chapter 18
Our Heroes - and Our Villains - try to figure a way out of the mess they're in.

The Four Winds, Chapter 17
River finds out what's really going on; Simon and Zoe fall into the wrong hands.