BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

CHANNAIN

Heartbroken - Part 9
Friday, February 11, 2005

We're havin' ourselves a wedding, Cajun style...but you can be sure and certain that ain't all that'll happen.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3362    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Following Part 8
Recap: So the bit of hell in Part 8 ended pretty well for a change. Things actually went smooth, which generally means something else is about to happen to cause a pretty drastic change on Mal's personal landscape. Disclaimer: All Firefly characters are the property of someone else. The crew and passengers of the Zirondelle, and all original characters, are copyrighted by yours truly. This is not in any way, means or intention meant to infringe on anybody. A MIGHTY BIG THANK YOU TO lithi a very generous new fan who corrected this poor American girl's pitiful attempt at writing my own Chinese. Author's Notes: This was posted without the usual beta, so I'm reserving the right to edit. If that means I'm getting too cocky, feel free to let me know. For them as might not be so familiar, Book's Words are indeed from 1 Corinthians 13, New Living Translation. It was the version that sounded the most like Book and the Firefly 'verse. The MIGHTY BIG APOLOGY still stands for anyone who can read and speak French, Cajun or Chinese. The translations as I understand them are included. For the French and French-Canadians out there please keep in mind if it isn't spelled right enough to be French, chances are pretty good it's Cajun. Glossary - Cajun and French/and mostly Cajun Femmes, ce qui peut vous faire - Women, what can you do? Pas absolument - absolutely not Je suis content et honoré maintenant pour vous prendre comme ma femme, si vous m'aurez - I am pleased and honored to take you as my wife, if you will have me Boudin Balls - a Cajun delicacy often served at weddings - not all that dissimilar from bao, really. Glossary - Chinese: Shu muh - what? Or Chinese for "huh?" shuai shao yieh - handsome young master Nen don ni deh chi zi shi wo deh shing fu - Able to be your wife is my happiness. ____________________________________________________ Heartbroken - Part 9

Now It started with Book, reciting a bit of the Word. "If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn't love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." Solange Laurent, the fiddle player of her musical family, was providing a sweet accompaniment to the shepherd's recitation. They were using the center platform of the catwalk at the rear of the cargo bay so that everyone could see the ceremony take place. "If I had the gift of prophecy," Book went on, "And if I knew and could fathom all the mysteries of the future, and all knowledge, but didn't love others, what good would I be? Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I am nothing." Mal looked around and saw that everyone had slicked up a bit for the ceremony. Those who had fancy fits were making use of them. Even Jayne had gotten out his dress shirt and buttoned up the collar. At the moment, Mal thought he was either trying to look serious, or was about to asphyxiate. Kaylee had jumped back into her layer cake dress for the occasion, and even had a part to play in the ceremony. Mal figured she might pull something in her face soon if she kept smiling so big. She looked downright angelic, though, no qualms on that score at all. Simon was standing next to her in what was left of his core-world suit, pleased as punch by the look of him with Kaylee's hand hooked into his elbow. "If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever. Love is patient, love is kind..." And that was the cue. Turning toward the other end of the bay, Mal watched with anticipation along with everyone else as Adair stepped through from the Zirondelle, escorted by Jordain. "Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude." The dress she wore was an antique, hauled out from the depths of Siobhan's keepsake trunk. It was ivory and about as simple as it could be, which only served to make it twice as elegant. The short sleeves accommodated long silk gloves and the scoop neckline fell just far enough to be called demure. The short bodice hugged her feminine curves nicely, then the skirt started just under her breasts and ended a scant inch above the floor, brushing the tops of silk shoes that matched. There were a few layers to it, at least two sheers over another that had the rich whisper of silk. Her hair was swept up and secured with what looked like crystal hair sticks--Inara's doing, no doubt. "Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable and self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." Mal had always thought the apostle Paul a long-winded fella with a lot of time on his hands, what with all that time spent in prison. Still, he did have some things fairly straight--the words on love that he sent off to the Corinthians, for instance. Thinking on the conversation with Adair on Serenity's bridge, Mal knew now that what it boiled down to was that she had always cared about him and still did to a degree. She never loved him, though, not in the "death do us part" kind of way that she obviously felt toward Cariveau. It occurred to Mal also that he hadn't truly loved her either. Adair had been a source of comfort in a turbulent time when he wasn't at all certain whether he would survive the war ahead or end up a faceless number on some Alliance casualty list. Adair had gone on to find her own place, and in the end the notion that she was happy gave him a sense of contentment. Of course it also left him with the task of discerning his own path. For the time being at least, Mal knew he had two things he could depend on; a good ship, and a crew who trusted each other and cared about each other's joys and woes. Rather like a family in fact. That notion made Mal smile, figuring that wasn't really too bad, for a start. "Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part." Mal's gaze strayed to where River stood on Simon's other side. She was watching Solange just about as closely as everyone else was watching Adair, observing the movements of the bow and the Acadian girl's nimble fingers. How long would it take her to learn the intricacies of fiddle playing, Mal wondered? Five minutes, maybe ten? A little further down the line on the bride's side, Zoe stood in front of Wash and the two were wrapped up in each other's arms. She had her hair down and wore the flowered blouse with a matching skirt. Wash was the new owner of Mal's old vest and had found a white shirt someplace to wear under it. Mal figured no one in the verse could get him to wear a tie. They looked amazingly happy. "But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears." Adair reached the foot of the steps on the left side. Taking the gown up a bit in one hand, she began climbing, with Jordain still leading the way. The boy was dressed in a little ivory tunic made of the same fabric as the vest Mal had been given for the ceremony.

Eight hours before the wedding "It was Bernardo's, actually," Cariveau had said, with a minor note of apology as he handed it to him. "Maman had it made for him, but I think the last time he wore it was at my baptism. It's a little too short for me, but I thought you might be able to make use of it." The ivory jacquard vest smelled faintly of cedar but was otherwise in pristine condition. Noting the black backing that would match the rest of the Persephone shindig suit, Mal started unbuttoning the red and gold vest he already had on. Meantime, He eyed Cariveau's own white shirt and snug-fitting black pants as he slipped his vest off and tossed it aside. "We all going for some kind of color theme here?" Cariveau's eyes rolled. "Femmes, ce qui peut vous faire, eh?" "Now that you don't have to translate," Mal said. The two men chuckled. "So you don't think Ellis should be wearing it, being best man and all?" "Inara made mention that you might appreciate something that doesn't have bloodstains on it," Cariveau said. "In case you need to take your coat off later." Mal muttered something pithy in her regard as he took the vest and slipped it on. Fastening the silver buttons on the ivory vest, Mal smoothed his palms down the front, appreciating the fabric and the fit. He stood on the balls of his feet, trying to get a good look at it in his woefully adequate mirror. What he could see of himself he liked. "That is a piece of nice, isn't it? You sure you won't miss it?" "Pas absolument, I forgot we still had it until Siobhan made me unearth the sash. It seemed important to her so I decided to indulge..." he stopped talking when he noticed the look Mal was giving him. "Shu muh?" Mal had paused in the act of pulling up his collar and was giving Cariveau a suspicious look out of the corner of his eye. "A sash. You have a sash?" Cariveau looked surprised at first, then somewhat embarrassed. He kept his voice level when he answered. "Yes. I have a sash." "The kind that means you're the lord of someplace?" Rather than render an answer that would only sound ridiculously egotistical, Cariveau gave a small sheepish smile instead. The gleam in his eye said it all.

Now Book's smile as the bride arrived was absolutely brilliant. "It's like this: when I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things." Up on the platform to Book's left, Cariveau stood in a fitted Asian style suit made of the same fabric as Mal's vest and Jordain's tunic. From left to right across his chest, Cariveau wore a gold brocade sash, the ends brought together at his left hip near the hilt of a gleaming sword. Thinking on what Larkin Hague had revealed earlier about Cariveau's lineage, Mal figured maybe the family had taken a large hand in settling the land around and about Sayabec. That would more than explain the people's respect for the man and Cariveau's sense of noblesse oblige, as it were, in seeing to their welfare. It also meant Adair was about to marry into the Acadian genteel. "Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror," Book went on. "But then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now." Just seeing the look on Cariveau's face as he watched his bride approach was enough for Mal to realize these two had something rare binding them together. Rare and precious beyond all reckoning.

Two hours before the Wedding "Companions are not allowed to witness the nuptials of clients, either current or former," she said, looking as apologetic as she could. "It's Guild law." Mal scowled down at her, trapped in a state of shock. She had caught him in the galley, although at the moment, Mal couldn't recall for the life of him what it was he was even there for. "Well it's a crappy law!" Everyone helping Roux in the kitchen stopped what they were doing and stared. Inara awarded them a sheepish smile, but Mal couldn't have cared less who was listening in. "There is no way, no how you are leaving me down here to do this all by my own self," he informed her and started fussing with the tie that was suddenly constricting his oxygen intake. "You know as well as I do, I don't know anything about hosting anything." "I only have to miss the ceremony," Inara said, keeping her voice low. "I can come down once that part is over. The law isn't specific about festivities after the fact." She watched him fiddle with the now destroyed tie and sighed in exasperation. "Wode tìan. Here. Give me that." She finished undoing the sad little knot he'd managed to pulverize, took hold of one end and yanked it off his neck with one swift tug. Once she had his collar lifted straight up again, she produced an ivory scarf that just happened to match the borrowed vest and began expertly tying an Ascot. Mal suddenly remembered that moment outside the infirmary a few weeks back, when he touched the spot on her lower lip that showed Jubal Early's handiwork. He thought about how soft her skin felt, and wondered what she would do this time if he touched her again. Probably run off, like last time--and what had caused her to take that hasty of a retreat anyhow? In the end, he lowered his hands slowly to his side. "So what's the fee for doing a man's tie?" Her mouth curved softly. "I'll send you the bill." Mal stood still, enjoying her little frown of concentration while appreciating the soothing effects of her perfume and listening to the light sounds of her breathing. "They teach you this at that academy?" She didn't look at him, but one eyebrow arched sharply upward, as he expected it would. "No. Actually someone else had that privilege." "Yeah? Client show you how then?" Inara chose not to reply, finished quickly and even produced a black pearl tie tack. Setting it carefully in the center, she tucked the excess into his vest, adjusted something a bit and admired her work before giving a nod of satisfaction. "There. Take a look." He would vastly prefer to stay right where he was, since it wasn't often these days that she allowed him in such close proximity. Mal did as he was told nevertheless and turned to check his reflection in one of the cooking pans. What he saw impressed the hell out of him. "Well now. That's looking right fancy." Mal touched the silk and thought he could detect her scent coming from it. For a second he imagined it in Inara's hand and wondered what sort of pleasures could be wrought with it under her expert skill. It had to be at least as soft as that peach-colored nightgown-like dress of hers. He'd wondered more than once what that would feel like between his hand and her flesh. Turning to her, Mal took her hand before she could skitter away. "Thank you." He kissed it, exactly as he'd seen Cariveau do, and then stood frozen when their eyes finally met and her lips parted with a little exhale of breath. They stood that way, gazes locked, as the sounds from the galley fell away. "I would like to invoke client privilege." Mal straightened with a jolt and Inara took her hand back as gracefully as she could. A becoming blush coloring her cheeks, Inara turned around as Mal looked up at the forward entryway to the Galley. Fully dressed and ready for his wedding, Cariveau stood on the steps, resting one hand on the hilt of the sword. He managed to look regal without looking pompous about it, rather like Atherton Wing had on Persephone, only with a larger share of genuine sincerity. It went along well with that inherent quality that made folks want to heed his word. Inara, naturally, launched a protest. "Oh, Rene, really, you don't--" Cariveau had only to lift a hand to cut her off, same as he had with Ellis back in the infirmary. There was a kind of kingliness to it that Mal even found just a little intimidating. "As you have said yourself, we are friends and as such, I hereby declare that there is no longer a business relationship between us," Cariveau stated. "Therefore, I insist you accept my personal invitation to my wedding." Mal thought she might have protested further. Instead she gave Cariveau the barest nod of concession, and her voice caught when she spoke. "Thank you. I...Since there isn't much time, I had best go prepare." She moved forward and Cariveau stepped aside to allow her to leave. Ignoring the look on the other man's face--a bald revelation on his understanding of Mal's current situation--Mal watched her walk away until she turned a corner and was gone.

Now Rare and precious beyond all reckoning. Mal thought. Angling his gaze to his left, where Inara stood looking resplendent as usual, he studied her profile and the smooth curve of her throat. Just how glorious would that be? Book reached his conclusion with flourish. "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." Solange stopped playing and all eyes were turned to the platform. Book looked out over the crowd as he began. "We are gathered here today to celebrate one of life's greatest moments; to give recognition to the worth and beauty of love, and to add our best wishes to the words which shall unite Adair Quan and Rene Cariveau in marriage. "Should there be anyone who has cause why this couple should not be united in marriage, they must speak now or forever hold their peace." In particular, Book's eyes angled directly down at Mal who returned a wry smile. Looking first to Adair and then Cariveau, Mal gave a significant bow of his head, receiving a wry look from Cariveau. Adair chose to toss him a kiss as Book continued. Book looked down at Jordain to begin the part that the two of them had carefully rehearsed. "Who is it that brings this woman to this man?" Jordain responded with, "Moi," before he drew his mother forward. Still holding on to her hand, he took his father's hand as well, creating a link to each other through him. Rene then reached out for Adair and they joined hands, completing the circle. Book began again. "Adair and Rene, life is given to each of us as individuals, and yet we must learn to live together. Love is given to us by our family or by our friends. We learn to love by being loved. Learning to love and living together is one of the greatest challenges of life, and is the shared goal of a married life. I understand you have both chosen to speak your own vows to each other. Rene, you may begin." Rene took a long breath that was likely meant to be calming and smiled a bit uncertainly. "This was all arranged so quickly, there has been no time to gather words in any way that might be considered poetical. I am struck by the irony that the man I have to thank for bringing you into my life is the same man who caused me no end of strife during his lifetime. I will not lament that, since it would bring too much attention to one who is undeserving, so let me say this. Adair, I have loved you before you knew you could open your heart to me. I have been resigned to the belief that I would receive nothing more from you. I know now that belief was untrue." He smiled down at Jordain who returned a handsome smile and the two looked at her together. "Adair, you have seen me at my worst and at my best. You have been a guiding force for me, a confidante, a friend and a light to a future I once only dreamed of. Je suis content et honoré maintenant pour vous prendre comme ma femme, si vous m'aurez." Book then turned to Adair and gave her a nod. She needed no further coaxing. "Just about everyone here knows by now that all I thought I was doing was answering an ad on the Cortex asking for a pilot experienced in interplanetary flight, with a C-12 rating in long-range sensors and celestial navigation." Adair raised an eyebrow. "What they don't know is that nowhere did it state that I had to have the tolerance to work with a cranky, domineering employer, or the perseverance to deal with his shuai shao yieh who was never afraid to tell me what was in his heart. Rene, I am not nearly as brave as you. I told you once that there was no chance for us because I thought it was safer that way, but by the time I said that, it was already too late. I admired your intelligence, and your painfully dry sense of humor from the start. Later I grew to appreciate your patience and your calm strength and pretty soon I realized my day and my life was not complete unless you were some part of it. The truth is, I loved you almost from the beginning and now I can't imagine a future without you. Nen don ni deh chi zi shi wo deh shing fu."Cariveau lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles. Grinning broadly, Jordain did the same, but then he kissed his father's hand as well. They laughed and turned to Book again. "Adair and Rene as the two of you come into this marriage uniting you as husband and wife, and as you this day affirm your faith and love for one another, I would ask that you always remember to cherish each other as special and unique individuals, that you respect the thoughts, ideas and suggestions of one another. Be able to forgive, do not hold grudges, and live each day that you may share it together--as from this day forward you shall be each other's home, comfort and refuge, your marriage strengthened by your love and respect for each other. Let us pray." The entire population of the cargo bay bowed heads, removed hats and folded hands, while Mal squirmed and even stiffened his spine. He stared up at the ceiling and began mentally reciting the instructions to disassemble a semi-automatic assault rifle with over-under grenade launchers, hoping the shepherd would be quick about it. "Lord, our hearts are filled with great happiness on Adair and Rene's wedding day, as they come before You pledging their hearts and lives to one another. Grant that they may ever be true and loving, living together in such a way as to never bring shame or heartbreak into their marriage. Temper their hearts with kindness and understanding, rid them of all pretense or jealousy." As Book took a moment for a dramatic pause, Mal turned his gaze down again and found himself looking at Inara. With her head primly bowed, eyes closed and standing so still, she seemed frozen in time. "Help them to remember to be each other's sweetheart, helpmate, best friend and guide," Book went on. "So that together they may meet the cares and problems of life more bravely." Book's voice became less than a drone as Mal let his gaze caress the curve of Inara's neck. As if feeling actual contact, Inara turned her face toward him slightly, but didn't open her eyes. He watched her brows draw together slightly, yet she maintained her prayerful pose. If she were to open her eyes and turn to look at him, Mal knew he would have to kiss her. There was no getting around it anymore. When had it gotten so gorram complex? "And with the passage of time, may they find great contentment in the rich joy of senior companionship. May the home they are creating today truly be a place of love and harmony, where Your Spirit is always present. Bless this marriage we pray and walk beside Adair and Rene throughout all of their lives together. We ask these things in Your name; Amen." Mal started when everyone looked up at the same time, feeling like a kid caught contemplating stealing from the candy store. Returning his attention to the platform, his gaze was inexplicably caught by Book's expression. A manner of understanding passed between them, giving Mal the uncomfortable notion that Book had seen right into his very soul. Mal should have been tetched off by that, if he hadn't been struck by the hint of sorrow in the Shepherd's dark eyes. If Mal didn't know better, he'd have said that the Shepherd had loved and lost once upon a time. An interesting point of interest, from Mal's perspective. As hats were being put back in place, Book nodded twice, to each side of the cargo bay. At this cue, Ellis, Doriane and a still-beaming Kaylee approached. Each one carried a slim white tapered candle, and at the base of the steps, a wrought-iron pedestal had been placed with a larger gold candle. Mal recognized the pedestal from Inara's shuttle. Solange began to play again as Book led Adair, Cariveau and Jordain down the stairs to the deck. Upon reaching the pedestal, he struck a match and lit each tapered candle while Cariveau lifted up Jordain in his right arm. "Adair, Rene, and Jordain the separate candles symbolize your separate lives, separate families and separate sets of friends. I ask that each of you take one of the lit candles and that together you light the center candle. The individual candles represent your lives before today. Lighting the center candle represents that your lives are now joined to one light, and represents the joining together of your family and friends in blessed unity." Doriane handed her candle to Cariveau as Adair accepted one candle from Ellis and the other from Kaylee. Adair let Jordain take hold of the bottom of the candle she received from Kaylee, and together, the three lit the larger candle. As the new flame grew and leapt to life before them, Jordain took delight in blowing out the three individual flames. At this point, Book produced two gold bands, and handed the larger one to Jordain. Whispering the instructions, he watched as Jordain carefully slipped the ring onto the third finger of Rene's left hand. Then he took the second ring and slipped it onto the same finger on his mother's left hand. Beaming, Adair leaned up to give her son a kiss on one cheek as Cariveau kissed the other at the same time. Book smiled broadly. "Adair and Rene, in so much as the two of you have agreed to live together in Holy Matrimony, have promised your love for each other by your vows, the joining of your hands and the giving of these rings, I now declare you to be Husband and Wife. Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder. You may kiss your bride." Adair moved first, standing on tiptoe to give her new husband an appropriately thorough kiss. A smattering of applause could already be heard, cuing Book to quickly finish. "It is my privilege to present to you The Family Cariveau." And the cargo bay fairly erupted. * * * It wasn't considered done, however, until the final step--or rather, the final jump, Acadian style. Kaylee produced the broom. She held one end while Ellis held the other. Gripping Cariveau's hand, Adair held her skirts up nearly to her knees. "Ready?" Cariveau asked. She nodded, grinning and the count began. "Un... deux... trios!" They jumped together over the broom, upholding an ancient Cadie tradition accompanied by loud whoops en masse from the Sayabec. Cariveau caught her against him as they landed, holding her tight to him as he kissed her deeply. Adair wound her arms around his neck, content to stay right where she was. They would have if the Laurents hadn't struck into Je Suis Tout Pour Toi. Not wanting to embarrass Rene by stepping on his feet during the Cajun Wedding Song, Adair looked up at him pleadingly, offering a final opportunity to escape bodily harm. She had already told him that ballroom style dancing hadn't exactly been a required course in flight school. He had laughed easily, assuring her she would do just fine. She remained unconvinced and so was incredibly nervous when he put her right hand on his shoulder, his own right hand on her waist, and took her left hand in his. He led her away in a slow sweep that wasn't quite up to tempo at first, then gradually did justice to the Laurents' rendition of the ancient tune. Feeling the gentle pressure of his hands guiding her along, Adair forgot about her feet and just danced. I Am All For You was the literal translation of the title, and when she looked into her new husband's eyes, Adair knew those words were also a promise. As he swung her around the room Adair eventually became aware of other things going on around her. Wash and Mal's paid muscle man--a brute named Jayne?--were both getting shooed out of Roux's way as plates of bao and boudin balls were put out onto the buffet table. Zoe was helping Siobhan by rearranging what few trappings they did have. Adair suspected Inara would have to replenish her candle supply once they made Beaumonde. Since there weren't any fancy dishes or flat ware, a multicolored conglomeration of handmade and embroidered cloth napkins had been collected from the Sayabec to use with the food. The girl, River, was beaming as she took one, and began folding and tucking. In the time it took for Adair and Rene to go around the floor once more, the napkin became a graceful origami swan. The music took a significant pause, and then came the call for the rest of the wedding party and their escorts to join the bride and groom on the floor. Rene just kept going as Doriane was escorted on by Larkin, the two of them beaming at each other as they made their way along. Kaylee looked about as apprehensive as Adair had at first; that is until the young doctor took her in hand much the same way Rene had and they began their first turn. Kaylee was giggling with delight before they were half way around. Ellis, unfortunately, did not fare so well as the rest. Being Rene's best man, he was subjected to an ancient Cajun tradition when Siobhan handed him a broom that was rigged up in one of her old dresses. With an overly somber look, Ellis held out one long sleeve, took hold of the broom at the dress's waistline, and did a fair imitation of Rene's posture as he moved to the center of the dance floor and began spinning almost uncontrollably. All too soon, the entire wedding party had collapsed into a fit of hysterics and the music took a crescendo to end the first dance on a high note. Laughing with her own delight, Adair kissed her husband again before he directed her attention to where Mal and Inara stood. Almost together, but not quite. "What do you think?" Rene asked softly. Adair was nodding. "He has that look." Turning to look up at him, she found herself frowning. "How'd you two end up pals, anyway?" Rene looked appalled. "I would not call us pals," he stated. She lifted an eyebrow at him "Podna isn't exactly cuneiform Cajun, you know. In fact, I don't know that I've heard you use it before." Rene's eyes rolled in frustration. "Bioque--alright, I like him. I don't care for it, but there you are." His lips curved like he had just been forced to taste something sour. "He has an annoying knack for getting under the skin." Adair smiled. "He does, doesn't he?" As they came around again, she took a closer look at Inara. "Seems she's feeling the same way." Rene nodded in agreement. "It isn't unheard of for a Companion to leave the profession for a personal commitment. Of course usually it's for title or money or both." "Which he doesn't have either of," Adair said. "He does have that pesky sense of honor, though. She can't help but perceive that if she's spent any amount of time with him." "She has," Rene said confidently. "There was a moment between them up in the galley earlier. She has cultivated a relationship with him that goes a bit beyond captain and tenant. Friendly at least." Which had Adair frowning again. "Do you think it's too late?" Rene could only shrug. Adair's gaze turned speculative as she watched Mal trying to make small talk with Inara and Inara doing her best to remain aloof. A plan formed and she looked up at Rene with a glint in her eye. "You mind if we change partners?" * * * "They look well together, don't they?" Mal asked. "If you didn't know better, you'd think she's done that kind of dancing all her life." Still standing next to him, Inara smiled softly, if half-heartedly. She didn't turn to make eye contact with him. "Rene is an excellent partner." "Seems so. I reckon it's because he had a pretty good teacher himself." If anything, her shoulders only stiffened. Inara was all but refusing to engage in any manner of conversation, pleasant or otherwiseShe had been pretty resolute about putting some space between them since Nandi was killed, and didn't seem all that interested in explaining why. Mal figured she considered the moment in the galley an unforgivable deviation from her resolve. For the sake of the festivities, Mal decided to give in and let her be. He was about to excuse himself when Del Laurent shouted out, "Bride's choice!" Just like that, Rene and Adair were standing right in front of them and Adair was holding her gloved hand out to Mal. "You must know how to bumble your way through this, right?" Feeling like he'd been rescued again, Mal grinned and rubbed his hands together before he stepped up and took that hand. Reminiscent of the moment her husband took her out onto the floor, Mal took Adair through an easy two-step to get her accustomed to the rhythm, then moved her smoothly back onto the dance floor. When Adair looked up at him in surprise, Mal's grin grew. "Fellas with sashes aren't the only ones whose mothers made them learn how to take a turn around a dance floor," he explained. "I should have known," she replied. "Listen, I didn't get to do this before, so I figure this is my chance to thank you for what you did." Mal frowned. "What did I do?" "What haven't you done?" Adair asked. "There's some folks who are asking your Shepherd how to go about getting you written up for Saint hood." "First, he ain't my shepherd. Second, if he didn't laugh outright at that notion, then I need to have words with him." "I heard he nearly had to be resuscitated, he laughed so hard, but that isn't the point," Adair said. "You helped us out in a grievous time of need." "Well... I did have a tiny little personal motive attached to it," Mal admitted. Adair's smile was somewhat sad. "Yes, I know. Which is why I want to give you this." As they were near the edge of the dance floor, and not likely to knock anyone over, Adair resisted enough to get Mal to pause, then used their joined hands to pull herself closer. Rising up on her tiptoes, she brought her lips to his. The kiss was more involved than Mal had expected, reminding him of times when he tried to drown himself in her. Tasting a familiar hint of honey and licorice as she pulled back, Mal gave her a warm smile, and brought her gloved hand in to kiss the backs of her fingers. Inara, he thought, would taste like cinnamon. "You be happy," he said softly. "One of us ought to be." "So will it be swords or pistols at dawn?" Mal looked up as Cariveau approached, escorting Inara toward them. What he saw in her expression surprised him, and Mal wondered if Companions were prone to covetous dislike. "Swords, I reckon," Mal replied. "You'll probably enjoy it more." Cariveau grinned, just as the call went out. "Switch your partners!" It was seamless, really, the way Adair and Cariveau arranged it. All at once, Cariveau was sweeping his bride away, leaving Mal and Inara standing there, staring at each other in surprise. "Well, as I see it, there's two options," Mal said softly. "You can let me lead you through one dance or you can walk away and single-handedly taint an otherwise glorious occasion." Planets had shifted on their axis easier. Not bothering to conceal her reluctance, Inara moved to him, lifting her hands into position and expertly followed his lead. She didn't look at him the entire time, but she wasn't her usual jovial self with anyone else either. He could have put her on Niska's torture rack and gotten a warmer response. Finally, the frustration proved too much to bear. Discretely, Mal moved her off the dance area and they stepped out together. When she would have left him entirely, he took her firmly by the arm to escort her under the catwalk stairs and behind the unity candle, hopefully quick enough so no one else saw it. Once under cover, Inara snatched her arm back. "What do you want?" "An explanation, for starters," Mal replied. "You've been cold up to now, but at the moment you might as well be made of bedrock. And don't think I haven't noticed it's only me you're that way with." "I'm leaving," Inara said. Mal nodded. "That's been established. It's going on twelve weeks now." "No, I mean I know where I'm going." Oh. She meant leaving as in... "So... when we get to Beaumonde." "The Serene will be in orbit two days after we arrive. I've contracted a position in the Companion House on board. The priestess is an old friend." She was really going to do it. Up until that point, Mal had thought maybe she might change her mind. "All right." Folding his arms, he gave her a direct stare. "We'll set down and when you're ready, we can--" "No. The Zirondelle will have to dock at the Trahan Orbiter. I can move my things over there, so that once you've transferred all the refugees, you can be on your way." Mal's gaze lifted as she outlined her intentions, still stranded in a state of disbelief. "So you'll move out without saying goodbye? Not even to Kaylee?" "Actually, I've asked Kaylee to help me pack. If it's no trouble to you, I'd like to keep in touch with her." "I'm not her daddy," Mal snapped. "Kaylee can be wave pals with whoever she wants." "Fine, then it's settled." Settled? If anything, Mal felt even more unsettled than before. He wanted to rant at her, demand a reason for why she couldn't stand to be around him anymore. Maybe it was pride that kept him from it, or just the simple inconvenience of too many people who could be listening in. Or maybe it was simple cowardice over the notion that the truth wasn't what he hoped it would be. "Hey! What're you two doin' hidin' under here?" Ellis ducked under the platform, took Inara's hand to kiss and gracefully drew her back onto the dance floor. Watching her go--and noting that she didn't look back--Mal stayed where he was, feeling like he'd fallen back into the same black hole he'd had to claw his way out of after the war. Stepping back out into the light, the music seemed oddly hollow now, and the smiling faces around him like grinning ghouls. Inara and Ellis were taking a turn around the floor, but to Mal it seemed like they were moving in slow motion. Adair and Rene were out in the middle while three rings of dancers waltzed around them. Sharing a deep and very thorough kiss, they were oblivious to the giddiness of the people they had saved. Oblivious to the fact that as their life together was beginning, Mal felt like his was crashing to an end. Once there was a choice.

Finis...for now ___________________________________________________________

Author's Note: What? You don't think I'm done, do you? One unfortunate drawback about writing fan fiction is that even when you think you're done, it turns out you're just getting started. So before you start sending me hate e-mail, check out the bit below. To paraphrase Mal - I even got a title all picked out.

HEARTBROKEN: Meili Long Having safely reached Beaumonde, the Zirondelle docks at the Trahan Orbiter. While Serenity is engaged in carrying refugees from the town of Sayabec down to the planet's surface, her captain, Malcolm Reynolds, scouts out a new employment opportunity. He also happens across a remnant of the war that he didn't expect and wasn't entirely sure was real in the first place. Meantime, pool hustler Fa-Zhou Rowan is also on the orbiter, looking for some resolution of her own. A survivor in her own right, she has a score to settle, and a few men to find, but not for the reasons anyone might think.

This is still some assembly required, so check back for updates.

Meantime, keep flying!

COMMENTS

Friday, February 11, 2005 2:37 PM

PHAEDRA


I read part 1-8 in one reading. I've been waiting, heart in mouth, for this installment. It rocked. The wedding ceremony was so beautifully written. The Mal/Inara break up was perfect. But what comes next, and whose this pool hustler. Please don't make us wait long for the new series.

Friday, February 11, 2005 3:19 PM

AMDOBELL


Ouch, poor Mal! As for the smooth attempts at matchmaking what a pity it didn't work out. It has been so long since the last chapter I did a little jig of glee when I saw this one was up. Beautiful description of the wedding and just aching for the next part. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, February 12, 2005 5:58 AM

MALSDOXY


My heart is breaking for our noble but forlorn Captain...Excellent finale, Channain, I wait anxiously for the continuation of the series. Thank you.

Saturday, February 12, 2005 6:00 AM

MALSDOXY


My heart is breaking for our noble but forlorn Captain...Excellent finale, Channain, I wait anxiously for the continuation of the series. I wouldn't change a word.Thank you.

Saturday, February 12, 2005 9:59 PM

CASTIRONJACK


Inara had better not be leaving! Especially not when I'm taking mental notes from you how to write her...

It's been months since I read it, but her line to Mal about his eyes when she was delirious from pain of her wound haunts me still.

CastIronJack bars the door, "Inara... must... not... leave..."

I'm a fairly sturdy fellow, it could almost work...

If reality were to bend at my whimsy, that is...

Keep flyin'

Sunday, February 13, 2005 7:03 PM

JAHZARA


Lovely wedding. I think I want that passage read at mine now. So...pretty.

I'm totally loving this, and the Mal and Inara (I'm completely shameless for them. By any means necessary) which just gets lovelier.

Thanks for the teaser. Can't wait for the next installment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 3:27 AM

CHANNAIN


Well, gosh darn it, I better get myself in gear then, huh?

Just had to work out how I was going to write Meili Long in light of the storyline followed by the movie

Eight months is one heckuva hiatus.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 5:55 AM

VETERAN


I finslly got around to reading this today. Still my favorite Fanfic. I think you have a real feel for the characters especially Mal.


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OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR

Heartbroken: Meili Long - Part 3
Just how much can a captain take before he finally loses his cool? The events of Heartbroken and Melili Long from Rene Cariveau's point of view, and Simon gets a little foretaste of what is to come.

Heartbroken: Meili Long - Part 2
Plenty of loose ends to tie up before Serenity and Zirondelle dock at the Trahan Orbiter. Armand seems to have given himself the run of the ships again--hopefully without sharp objects this time--and Simon steps up... finally.

Heartbroken: Meili Long - Part 1
This takes place just after the events of Heartbroken, which is set between the events of "Objects in Space" and Serenity: The Movie. The intention is to wrap up the current interactions of the Serenity and Zirondelle crews, before careening off with Mal into a patch of darkness not entirely of his own making.

Heartbroken - Part 9
We're havin' ourselves a wedding, Cajun style...but you can be sure and certain that ain't all that'll happen.

Heartbroken - Part 8
One last loose end to tie up...and beat into a bloody pulp.

Heartbroken - Part 7
Mal knows who the trouble maker is on board ship...er, that is, on board ships. He takes care of business, gets an eerie little visit from another Serenity Valley survivor, then he finds out whose heart was broken first.

Heartbroken - Part 6
Where did Mal meet Adair, what is it about Larkin Hague that irritates Mal so much, and just how WELL did Book know Ellis Rhodes' mother?

Heartbroken - Part 5
Who is Jian Wang and what in nine hells has happened to Inara?

Heartbroken - Part 4
The plot's thickening, and so is the jambalaya--plus Inara and Adair get to have a little heart to heart about the men in their lives.

Heartbroken - Part 3
A first officer's stabbed, Zirondelle's pilot is an old girlfriend of Mal's and Mal just hit one of the refugees - have things gotten complicated enough yet? Heck no!