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EBFIDDLER

WHAT BEGINS WITH AN APPLE (11) Part (07)
Sunday, June 10, 2012

Saffron messes with Mal. Saffron messes with Inara. Saffron messes with Zoe, and isn’t that just playing with fire?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2962    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

WHAT BEGINS WITH AN APPLE (11)

Part (07)

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Follows TWO BY TWO BY TWO (10). Precedes ENDS WITH A HORSE (12).

The series so far:
A LION’S MOUTH (01)
ADVENTURES IN SITTING (02)
SPARKS FLY (03)
EXPECTATIONS (04)
BREAK OUT (05)
THE TRIAL (06)
SHADOW (07)
ONE MAN’S TRASH (08)
BANDIAGARA (09)
TWO BY TWO BY TWO (10)

Saffron messes with Mal. Saffron messes with Inara. Saffron messes with Zoe, and isn’t that just playing with fire?

* * *

She knew the Captain would be her first escort. All according to plan. She could play him as easily as a Companion plays a 揚琴yángqín. And speaking of Companions—with a surreptitious glance to make sure her audience was in place, Saffron let him lead her towards the dining room for the evening meal.

“You’re quite a man, Malcolm Reynolds,” she began, employing her most suggestive body language. “Most men, I have them doing my bidding inside of ten minutes.”

“Don’t count your chickens afore they’re hatched, Saffron. The time for that is past, air through the engine. I ain’t never doin’ your bidding,” he said dangerously.

“You’ve gotten the better of me more than once now, Mal. I told you the first time I met you: I’ve been waiting for someone good enough to take me down.” She moved suggestively.

He recoiled. She could see the flush begin to climb up his neck towards his cheeks. And she was watching. Good.

“Ain’t interested in takin’ you down, Saffron. And that kind a’ flattery will get you nowhere. Just like to keep you boxed up, out of trouble.”

“Why, what kind of trouble you think I might get into?” she asked suggestively.

The flush had risen right into his face and overspread his cheeks as he looked away, refusing to answer. Good.

“Don’t worry,” she promised. “I’ll be good. Very, very good. But when I’m bad—” she let her voice hit a sultry note “—I’m even better.” She wiggled her hips slightly, and was delighted to see how he forced himself not to react. He was having difficulty. His face was shade of strawberry that nicely complimented his tightly controlled posture and constricted arm motions. She kept her delight carefully hidden.

“You’ll be wantin’ to hold that tongue of yours.” He spoke stiffly.

“Where would you like me to hold it, 宝贝 bǎobèi? My tongue is at your service, 爱人 àiren.” She spoke suggestively, and looked him up and down as she walked by his side, undressing him with her eyes as she looked into his flushed face and slowly brought her gaze down to rest on the front of his pants. Her peripheral vision showed her that her audience was still in place. Inara, her face set in a careful mask, was watching the entire journey from the catwalk near her shuttle, as they made their way from the passenger dorm, through the cargo bay, and up the stairs. Oh, and speaking of stiff…

She managed to move so as to brush his backside with her hand.

That broke him. He’d been doing his gorrammedest to ignore her flirtations, but his body had been responding despite his setting his will against it. He couldn’t help his flushed face or the swelling in his trousers, and when she transformed her light brush into a gentle squeeze, he couldn’t keep up the unbelievable act of non-responsiveness. He jumped away from her touch. “Keep your hands to yourself,” he growled dangerously, “or I’ll—”

“Oh, can you think of a better use for my hands?” she rejoined, reaching towards the front of his trousers.

“So help me, woman, I will do you a violence if you so much as—”

“You like to play rough, then?” she responded, her voice a sexy purr. “I like it rough.”

“Keep walkin’.”

* * *

It was simply beyond belief. No sooner had she begun to reconcile herself to the idea that Mal had betrayed her with his first mate, than who should appear but Mal’s “wife” Saffron. Who was clearly eager to resume marital relations, ready to stroke his ego—and other parts. Inara felt renewed jealousy, watching this woman flirt outrageously with her—well, what was Mal, to her, anyway? Her boyfriend? Her ex-boyfriend? He was the man who asked her to marry him—and then betrayed her less than two weeks later. She didn’t know what to think, but one thing was clear: Mal betraying her with Zoe was heartbreaking. Mal betraying her with the likes of Saffron was intolerable, and there was no way in hell that she would put up with it. It was a level of lowness to which she absolutely would not permit him to descend. She would confront him about it directly.

* * *

Inara declined to join the crew for dinner, which was perhaps just as well, since he had his hands full dealing with Saffron. Mal seated her as far away from himself as he could, sandwiched between Zoe and Jayne. He had asked them to bring their sidearms to the table—a most unusual situation. “Keep your hands on the table,” he barked at Saffron, “in plain sight, at all times, throughout this meal. And don’t go openin’ your mouth, ’cept to put food in it.” He set to eating his dinner, refusing to address another word to the evil snake. Unfortunately, that also meant that he barely addressed a word to anyone else, and the entire crew followed his cue. Dinner was a cheerless affair, and the crew hastened to finish and leave the table.

The journey back down to Saffron’s room was nearly as bad as the journey to dinner. That gorram snake was usin’ every wile in the book to get him flustered and sweaty. He wouldn’t have nothin’ to do with it, even ordered her to keep silent, but she turned everything he said and everything he didn’t say into something to further her game. Clearly she had some kind of bodily witchcraft goin’ on because despite his will and against all common sense he found himself—or parts of himself rather—responding to her shameless attempts at seduction. It was the like the first time she came aboard, when he’d found her in his bunk, all naked and articulate, and against all reason, against his better judgment, he’d kissed her and gone straight to the special hell of ship-in-deadly-peril.

At last he got the evil snake locked in her room, and with a sigh of relief he took a turn through the cargo bay to feed and water the gorram chickens. Then he climbed the stairs to the upper level. Where Inara awaited him.

“I should have expected this,” Inara spat at him. She’d seen enough to infuriate her. Gone was that famous Companion control. Her emotions, at a near boil ever since she’d seen Mal kiss Zoe on the way to Beaumonde, needed only the slightest caloric input to erupt.

“Expected what?” Mal demanded.

She didn’t answer his question, but raged on. “Faithless, weak-minded, 薄情 bóqíng, 花心 huāxīn, 外心 wàixīn—”

“I will not put up with this name-callin’,” Mal interrupted. “I had my fill of it, this last week and more. I asked you a question. Shoulda expected what?”

“I should have expected you to succumb to that woman’s charms.”

“Succumb to what charms?” he exclaimed.

Inara rolled her eyes, and made a gesture, quite an unexpected one for a lady to make, clearly depicting what sort of charms she thought a man would find in Saffron.

“I expected that Saffron—” he spat out her name “—would take the first opportunity she could to try to make a fool of me, and sow discord, and—”

“That you would fall for it, revel in her attentions—”

“Revel in her—Inara, what the 地狱 dìyù are you talkin’ about? Didn’t you hear what I said to her?”

In fact, she hadn’t heard. She’d read the body language. And Mal’s body had clearly been saying that it wanted to be in bed with Saffron.

“I didn’t need to hear,” she replied. “I saw you—your blushing confusion, stammering like a teenager on his first date, hoping to get lucky—”

“Like hell!” he exclaimed indignantly. “I ain’t no teenager. And I ain’t lucky. Ain’t never been lucky,” he added as an afterthought, “case you hadn’t noticed.”

“You know what I mean,” Inara retorted, refusing to pity Mal’s lucklessness. When she was this upset, she covered it with a caustic manner. “I saw how your body responded to her advances.”

“Well, that’s just—.” He stopped, unable to deny the tightness in his trousers. “Inara, my body’s an idiot.”

“Agreed,” she responded acidly.

“But I ain’t,” he added in his own defense. “I don’t think with my—you know. Stupid piece of meat wouldn’t think twice about hookin’ up with an evil snake like her. But I would.”

Inara face expressed her complete lack of faith in him.

“Look, what you saw is Saffron tryin’ to play me, and me not playin’ along. You got a problem believin’ me, then you come along next time, see for yourself.”

“You mean, escort her with you?”

“That is exactly what I mean.”

“Well, maybe I should do that, then!” she exclaimed hotly.

“Maybe you should!” he snapped back.

“I will!”

“Good!”

“Fine!”

“Hey!” Jayne exclaimed, coming upon them standing head to head like two fighting cocks, perched on the catwalk. “What is this? Some kinda rooster game? Don’t you two got nothin’ better to do?”

* * *

Later, back in her shuttle, Inara felt she’d made herself a bit ridiculous. She knew perfectly well, at a rational level, that Saffron had some kind of Companion-like training, whether at a proper Companion Academy or not Inara couldn’t say, although she’d be astonished if Saffron were a member of the Guild. Saffron had demonstrated before that she was masterful at playing her marks. Saffron was skilled, and she was playing Mal. In fact, if Mal hadn’t already betrayed her with Zoe, she wouldn’t have entertained the notion of him and Saffron for a second. But she didn’t feel she could trust his denials—not anymore. He had demonstrated that he was not to be trusted. Even though her heart told her to trust his sincerity, she steeled herself to be strong. Giving in to her feelings was not going to help. She needed to determine if she could bear to do her job from Serenity, now that she and Mal were no longer together—and if not, she had to brace herself, leave Serenity, and find somewhere else to live out the rest of her days.

* * *

Zoe’s knee was in no way fit for combat operations, but with the aid of the brace she was able to walk, and the rest of her felt fit enough for duty. Zoe had seen how spun about and exasperated Mal had been by that 疯子 fēngzi Saffron, so when the Captain suggested that she take the next turn at escorting the evil snake, she was not averse to it. Although at first she had been unable to resist having some fun at Mal’s expense, Zoe was well aware of what a danger Saffron posed to the ship. Just let the 贱货泼妇 jiàn huò pōfù try that 狗屎 gǒushǐ on her. She would not be played.

“Out,” Zoe ordered, unlocking Saffron’s door.

“Yes, ma’am,” Saffron snapped to attention with a mock-salute.

“Cut the crap, and get moving,” Zoe said.

Saffron obeyed. “You really are as tough as he said.”

“I am.”

Saffron was momentarily thrown off course. She had expected Zoe to ask what she meant. “Don’t you want to know what he told me about you?” Saffron asked, trying a different angle.

“No.”

“Aren’t you the least bit curious? He told me a lot, when we were alone together.”

Zoe was silent.

Saffron wasn’t about to give up. “He was afraid of you. Afraid you would kill him.” Saffron gave a frightened glance at Zoe, who did, in fact, look rather fierce. “I—I understand the feeling. I’m afraid, too,” she said, timidly. She rubbed her mouth. “Afraid you’ll hit me, like you did last time.”

Zoe did not respond.

“He said you didn’t respect him.” Again with the silence from Zoe. “I could tell, I could see that you didn’t respect him. I knew, when you refused to cook him dinner, and threatened never to have sex with him again if he asked you for food. What kind of woman refuses…food…to her husband?” Saffron asked, making it perfectly clear that by ‘food’ she meant something else entirely. Saffron paused to rub it in. “But maybe I’m being too judgmental. Perhaps it was only that you don’t know how to cook.”

Zoe was angry. That 贱货泼妇 jiàn huò pōfù was pushing her buttons. She understood the insinuation, well enough. “Everyone assumes that because I didn’t wait on my husband at table, that I wouldn’t or couldn’t cook. I’ll have you know I’m a damn good cook, and my husband knew it plenty well.” She glared at Saffron. Saffron quailed.

“Sorry. I just assumed…”

“Don’t.”

Saffron was quiet for a while. “Of course you can cook,” she said at last. “It’s just that you chose not to.” She paused before adding, innocently, as if they had not just had a conversation where ‘food’ meant something else entirely, “Otherwise, why would he have leapt at the fresh 包 bāo I made for my husband?”

Zoe refused to dignify this little speech with a response.

“He told me I was a master chef, when we were alone together.” Zoe gave Saffron a hard look. Saffron saw she was on the right tack, and continued. “We got right comfortable together. He told me all about flight school—how he left his home world to escape the polluted atmosphere, to see the stars. Told me he just wanted to see what the hell everyone was talking about.”

This sounded too much like Wash himself for Zoe to ignore. Despite her determination not to listen to a word the 贱货泼妇 jiàn huò pōfù said, she began to pay attention.

“He showed me the stars. Said they were his very first charts. Then he told me the myth about Earth-that-was.” She paused, with a dramatic sigh that held hints of further reminiscences.

“The myth,” prompted Zoe.

“He was quite a story-teller, that man was,” Saffron remarked, as if Wash had told her hundreds of stories. “You’d like to hear what he said about the Myth of Earth-that-was? Okay. It was…kinda wacky, to tell the truth. In a kinky kind of way.” She stopped abruptly, as if suddenly noticing Zoe’s glare. “Right,” she said, nervously. “The myth. Well, this land—Earth-that-was—when she was born, she had no sky. She was…oh, I’m not telling it right. He had a way…” She glanced at Zoe, with a nervous giggle. Zoe was glaring daggers. “Ah, now how did he say it? It was almost like poetry, and it was so sexy. Ah, I remember. He said, ‘She had no sky, she was open and inviting. The stars would rush into her, making the oceans boil with sensation,’” Saffron intoned in a voice reminiscent of Wash’s. She paused for a moment then continued in her own voice. “It was at that point that I noticed how hot it had become on the bridge.” She registered Zoe’s concealed discomfiture, and went on. “Then he said, ‘When she could endure no more ecstasy, she blew out the sky—’” She broke off, and looked Zoe in the eye. “At that point, I realized he wasn’t sitting in the pilot’s chair anymore. He was right next to me, with a—” she swallowed the word “—the size of the New Florida Peninsula. That’s when he offered to show me the stars.”

Never, Zoe thought. Wash would never…

“Oh, he did, hon,” Saffron responded, as if she could read Zoe’s mind. “Showed me the stars right there on the bridge.”

“My man would never fall for your 该死的 屁話 gāisǐ de pìhuà,” Zoe retorted.

“Oh, he brought himself to his fall, sister. I didn’t hardly have to move.”

Zoe hauled off and slugged Saffron in the jaw, knocking her on her 屁股 pìgu. They had by now reached the dining room, where conversation stopped abruptly as everyone paused to look at Saffron decked out on the floor and Zoe breathing fire as sparks flew from her eyes.

“Get up,” Zoe ordered. “Get your ass in the chair, and don’t say another gorram word.”

* * *

“I’m sorry, sir,” Zoe told Mal after Saffron was securely locked back in her room. “But I’d best not be escorting that 他妈的 不要脸 说谎者 tāmādē bùyàoliǎn shuōhuǎngzhě again.”

Mal looked at her questioningly.

“Made me so angry I was ready to end the 扯谎的 chěhuǎngde 贱货泼妇 jiàn huò pōfù, right then and there, only it woulda spoiled everyone else’s dinner.”

Just recalling the event made Zoe’s blood seethe, Mal could see. She was deadly serious, and in Zoe, that was scary. Saffron had surely damaged Zoe’s calm something terrible. Had they been dealing with anybody but Saffron, Mal would have told Zoe to let the words roll off her back, and not let it bother her, but he had experienced for himself just how dangerously effective Saffron was at using words for her weapon. Zoe was vulnerable, from her loss of Wash, from the recent attack that left her limping, and doubly so with the baby on the way. He needed to protect Zoe. If he didn’t, he would have a dysfunctional first officer and wounded friend.

“I have to escort her again, sir, I can’t be answerable for the consequences,” Zoe stated, looking him in the eye.

“Perhaps it’s best then, if you just keep away from the evil snake. There’s plenty of other work needs to be done on this boat.” Mal didn’t doubt that Zoe was ready to kill Saffron if provoked.

* * *

*

*

*

glossary

揚琴 yángqín [dulcimer]

宝贝 bǎobèi [sweetheart]

爱人 àiren [spouse, lover]

薄情 bóqíng [inconstant]

花心 huāxīn [fickle]

外心 wàixīn [unfaithful]

地狱 dìyù [hell]

疯子 fēngzi [madwoman]

贱货泼妇 jiàn huò pōfù [cheap floozy]

狗屎 gǒushǐ [crap]

贱货泼妇 jiàn huò pōfù [cheap floozy]

包 bāo [steamed buns, dumplings]

贱货泼妇 jiàn huò pōfù [cheap floozy]

该死的 屁話 gāisǐ de pìhuà (废话 fèihuà) [damned nonsense]

屁股 pìgu [butt]

他妈的 不要脸 说谎者 tāmādē bùyàoliǎn shuōhuǎngzhě [gorram shameless liar]

扯谎的 chěhuǎngde [lying]

贱货 泼妇 jiàn huò pōfù [cheap floozy]

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COMMENTS

Sunday, June 10, 2012 3:56 AM

EBFIDDLER


Haven't added in the links yet, as I'm in a hurry this morning. Apologies, and I'll come back and put them in later today. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, June 10, 2012 5:59 AM

AMDOBELL


You really have characterised Saffron to perfection, and I just LOVED Zoe knocking her flat on her backside when the irritation got too much. Inara felt out of character somewhat but maybe that is just me, I didn't expect her to be so easily manipulated into believing what Saffron wanted her to believe. Made me want to shake some sense into her. So good to see another chapter, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, June 10, 2012 9:51 AM

EBFIDDLER


Put the links in. Ali, thanks, glad you liked Zoe's reaction to Saffron's provocation. Yes, Inara is *definitely* not acting like herself here. She's a bit more hysterical than usual, and less in control of herself. I'm glad you want to shake some sense into her, that's the reaction I'm hoping to provoke. We will eventually find out why.

Sunday, June 10, 2012 12:45 PM

NUTLUCK


They should let River escort her, i doubt YoSafBridge would enjoy that experience in the least. :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012 1:26 PM

BYTEMITE


It is in this chapter that you so clearly illustrate what we know and what sets the tone for the rest of the story - saffron is the worst person ever. The very worst.

Monday, June 11, 2012 8:54 AM

BYTEMITE


Pretty much. She thinks unraveling people psychologically is a game, and that everyone she meets is just a tool for her to use, and she also thinks that everyone else in the world operates under the same principle. Coupled with the megalomania, the antisocial behaviour, and the disdain for social mores, it's just about textbook.

Monday, June 11, 2012 7:59 PM

PLATONIST


Saffron’s a psychopath, she displays no remorse for her actions, and has a complete lack of compassion for others, plus she’s a compulsive liar, agree with Nutluck, River should be escorting her.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 3:03 AM

M52NICKERSON


River is still being sought after. If Saffron figures this out she will have one more thing to use against the crew.

Anyways, good chapter!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 4:48 AM

EBFIDDLER


Saffron is unconcerned with the feelings of others, prone to lying, deception, and conning others, has no problem initiating violence, and feels no remorse -- yes indeedy, sociopath is the word I'd use. Amoral, too. In Trash, she makes it pretty clear that she thinks it's all a game, telling Mal, "You just had a better hand of cards this time," prompting him to respond with one of the few overt acknowledgements he makes that his life is not the worst it could possibly be: "It ain't a hand of cards. It's called a life. I've got a better life than you." M52, you're right, there's a risk as to what Saffron might do with knowledge that River (and Simon) is still being sought after. Platonist and Nutluck, you're also right, that River stands the best chance of being able to deal with Saffron effectively. To all of you I answer: wait and see.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 4:25 PM

ZZETTA13


eb,

So Saffron takes a turn at Mal, Inara & Zoe again! The talent that woman has at making folk feel miserable is remarkable! I’m wondering what will happen if Mal allows Jayne to escort her to the facilities, know what I mean?

Anyhoo, another fine chapter from you. Sorry it took so long for me to respond. Put in sixty hours at work this past weekend. It really took the wind from my sails. Keep them stories coming, and I’ll keep reading. Saffron is a favorite of mine. I really do enjoy that space witch…. :)

Yee ya, Z

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 4:19 AM

EBFIDDLER


ZZ, sounds like you're having quite a busy season at work, so thanks for reading and writing in. You'll see what happens when Jayne takes his turn at Saffron-watch.


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