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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
The Alders' Fete. Inara's plans are partially revealed; Simon's Parliamentary run hits a snag.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1766 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, except for Carter Lang and Rosemarie Velaine, and John and Marina Alder, who are mine. Mainly because I haven't the courage to stick in a Mary Sue. Also because Joss is awesome. Will continue to live vicariously through Mal.
EDIT: Changed some stuff so Simon is more hapless. Because apparently I suck at writing unfortunate Simon utterances.
This is Chapter 8 of the story that began here:
and continued here:
and is a continuation of Our Co-Pilot Tam, which can be found here
The dance ended, the final strains wafting from the violin over the room. Kaylee, standing by the wall, looked around for Simon, who was just parting company from one of the Alders' female friends. She waved to him, but he didn't seem to notice, and was swept up by Inara, who drew him over to the other side of the hall.
John Alder stepped up to her left. “I hope I'm not too old to claim a dance with you, Miss Frye,” he asked.
“No,” Kaylee replied. “That is, yes—I would like to dance.” She took John's hand, and let him lead her back toward the center of the floor. Several older couples had taken the floor, along with General Lang and Rosemarie (who had not danced with anyone else, though the General had made the rounds), and, incongruously, so had Mal, leading out the woman in the red dress and silvery veil who had been announced as “Miss Yolanda Haymer.” Kaylee giggled at the juxtaposition, and as Mal passed by her shoulder she leaned back and whispered to him, “Careful with the kissing, Cap'n.”
Mal shook his head, smiling back, and from underneath her veil “Yolanda” shot her a glare.
“What is this dance?” Kaylee asked John.
“It is a swing,” John explained. “A relic of Earth-that-Was. In its own time, it would have been out of place here, but five hundred years buys a great deal of poetic license.”
“I don't know swing,” Kaylee said.
“Oh,” he sniffed in an odd tone. “It's not too hard. Rock back on your right foot, then forward on your left, then three steps in place...” He began dancing, Kaylee struggling to follow. Right, left, right left right...John was keeping up much better than his aged frame ought to have. Kaylee caught a glimpse of Inara, spinning under Simon's outstretched arm, and Mal and “Yolanda,” arms linked in waltz hold, stepping in time across the floor. John raised his arm, pulling her into a spin. Surprised, she twirled for several seconds before losing her balance. She fell backwards, landing with a thump on the cushioned backside of one of the other female guests, then falling to the floor. Her target stumbled, pushing her partner back into a pillar, knocking the vase atop that onto the floor, where it shattered, sending a spray of glass and water across the floor.
The music stopped. “Hou-zi bun,” the woman's voice exclaimed, getting off the floor and brushing glass shards off her skirt. Her partner rose, muttering, and took her hand, glaring down at Kaylee. John backed away as a servant came to help her up, and another arrived with a broom to begin sweeping up the glass. She rose unsteadily, looking at the circle of people watching her. Mal pushed through the circle and came to her side, a step ahead of Simon. “Sorry about that,” she said to no one in particular. Mal took her hand and led her away from the crowd, already breaking up and whispering among itself.
Kaylee's fall made a perfect diversion. No one saw “Yolanda,” deserted by her partner, circle around behind the crowd, find Rosemarie, and deliver a sharp blow to the back of her neck. Nor did they see Inara, standing alone nearby, take one of the dazed woman's shoulders while “Yolanda” took the other, and bear her out through a side door.
“Are you all right?” Mal asked.
Kaylee brushed glass shards from her skirts, trying not to tear the fabric any more than it was. “I tripped,” she said, looking down.
“It's hard to dance swing,” he said. “'Specially in fancy dress getups.”
Simon squeezed her hand. “It'll be all right,” he said. “We can get something to drink and forget dancing for a while.”
“They're laughing at me,” Kaylee said, looking over his shoulder at the guests watching the spill be cleaned.
Simon looked back over his shoulder mournfully. Mal burst in, “Let them laugh. None of them can do what you can do.”
“Mechanic's skills don't seem to be in high demand here,” Kaylee replied, “Seems to be all I'm useful for.” She waited for Simon to say something comforting.
“Anything the matter?” Carter Lang asked, sweeping over to loom behind Simon.
“Ah, we're all right,” Simon told him.
“Good,” Lang continued, taking Simon's shoulder. “I'd like to introduce you to a couple of your potential colleagues.” He began leading Simon away, turning over his shoulder to add, “Won't take long. In the meantime, you might want to give the little lady a dancing lesson or two.” Then he was gone, sweeping Simon into the crowd. Kaylee leaned against the wall and slid to the floor.
As Mal knelt by her, Jayne pushed through the crowd, still looking incongruous in his fine suit. He tapped Mal's shoulder. “Captain, we've got a bit of a situation here, I think it's a bit out of my depth.”
“What is it?” Mal asked, rising.
Jayne looked around the room, then whispered in Mal's ear. “I was just upstairs watching Mr. Tam's back, and I passed 'Nara and that Alexandra jien hwo hauling General Lang's woman along. And I know when someone's going somewhere they don't want to.”
Mal nodded gravely. “Ta ma deh! Three Companions...out of your depth for sure. Where were they taking her?”
“Down the hall,” Jayne said. “Toward the bathroom, or one of the spare bedrooms.” He looked over at Kaylee, and asked her and Mal, “What's wrong?”
Mal gripped Jayne's shoulder. “Just a bit of culture shock. You keep her company 'til I get back.” He knelt again by Kaylee's side and took her hands. “Don't pay attention to these folk,” he said softly. “They're all fake. I'll be right back.” He stood and slipped back into the crowd, toward the stairs to the second floor.
“Out of your depth too?” Jayne asked, sitting beside Kaylee.
“Like to drowning,” she replied.
Inara looked carefully out into the hallway as she closed the door. No one had seen, or at least noticed, their progress. And from the state of the spare bedroom, no one would be coming in here tonight. All of the furniture had dust-covers, and it was devoid of the flowers and perfuming that decorated every other room.
Alexandra had Rose on the bed, a knife pointed at her. She had flipped her veil back, and was glaring down at the shorter woman with an expression half triumphal, half enraged. Inara drew her pistol and strode over to stand beside Alexandra.
“Rose,” Alexandra was saying as Inara arrived. “It has been a long time.”
Rose glared back up, the Companion's aura of impassivity covering what Inara knew to be shock and disbelief. “Colette,” she replied. “What is this about?”
“When did you leave the Guild?” Inara asked.
Rose sneered. “Oh, a Companion,” she said. “Useless, all of you.”
“I'm sorry that you feel that way,” replied Inara. “I had hoped--”
“You had hoped,” Rose spat. “You had hoped I would be glad to see you, that I'd leap into your arms and beg to be rescued from my vile life with the vile General. If you wanted that, why didn't you come fifteen years ago?”
“Fifteen years ago I wasn't a Companion yet,” Inara said. “I was too young. But that didn't stop your tien-sah de e-muo General from having you teach her,” she gestured to Alexandra.
“Believe me,” Alexandra added, “It was all very educational.”
Rose glared back at Inara. “I did what I had to. I made a life, and I came to like it. Your Guild's gilded cage doesn't interest me anymore.”
“At least my cage is gilded,” Inara shot back in fury. “Were you not taught, on Sihnon, the purpose of the Companions? How could you reject it so--”
“What I do,” Rose replied, “Is no business of the Guild's.”
“What you teach others is,” said Inara.
“You taught me real well,” said Alexandra.
“And you haven't been abandoned,” Inara said. You are still part of the Guild. I don't know why nobody was sent for you fifteen years ago—I only learned of your existence last week—but I'm here now, so let's talk.”
“Fe-fe du pee-yen,” Rose replied. “The guild can go gun-ho-tze bi dio-tse. I'm working on my own now, and I need no rescuing, least of all by knife-happy morons like you two.” She rubbed her neck where Alexandra had struck her. “I didn't teach you that.”
Alexandra sighed. “No, I learned that on my own. What a fang-tzong fung-kwong de-je, can we kill her now?”
“No,” Inara replied. “She doth protest too much, I fear.”
“Very well,” said Rose sarcastically. “Take me out of this evil, wretched life which I have been forced into despite ample opportunities to escape, and bring me back to Sihnon where I can be bored, play the harpsichord, and service boring wealthy men with the dullest of tastes.”
“We are giving you the chance for power,” Inara said. “A chance to positively impact the universe, to use the skills we taught you for the purpose they were intended.”
“Power,” replied Rose. “I have power here.”
This drew a laugh from Alexandra. “No you don't,” she said mockingly. “No one respects you here. They have been laughing at you at the wine table all evening.” She shook her head, keeping the knife pointed at the sitting woman. “Sad little queen of a sad little hill,” she continued. “How long will it be before you get too old, and the General promotes one of your underlings? I know you bumped off the one that taught you, and you helped me escape so I couldn't return the favor.”
“I'm glad to see you still have some shred of gratitude,” Rose replied, gazing into Alexandra's eyes. Without warning her foot lashed out, tripping the taller woman, and she was on her, wrestling for the knife. Inara watched for a moment as the two women rolled over, Rose emerging with the knife, then placed the point of her pistol on the back of the former Companion's head.
“I'll not let you leave this room,” she said calmly, “Until we have what we came for.”
“Pull that trigger, you'll never know it,” Rose said, not looking up, knife on Alexandra's neck. “Kill me, and you don't get to pull the daring rescue of my students you had in mind.”
“You wouldn't tell us anyway,” Inara said, cocking the pistol. The sound distracted Rose for a moment and Alexandra had the knife away and was atop her, knife now pointed at her throat.
“You're right, I wouldn't tell you,” Rose said, turning her head away from the blade. “Just because you were drawn a better hand of cards this time, doesn't mean you'll always be on top.”
“Better hand of cards,” sneered Alexandra. “It's not about what hand of cards you're drawn, it's about what you've got up your sleeve. You rely only on yourself, you've got nothing to fall back on. No one to watch your back when the other side cheats.”
“Carter will watch my back,” Rose said, gasping as Alexandra shifted her weight.
“Only because he can't get a date besides you and those you corrupt for him,” Inara replied hotly.
“I'll bet your proud of yourself,” Rose said up to Alexandra. “You've got your own Companion to be a lackey to, you've got a nice big scar--”
Alexandra slapped her. “Proud of myself. Do you think I like myself? Do you think it's fun to see things as you taught me? I have a better idea.” She moved the knife up from Rose's neck to her cheek. “Let's really test the General's devotion to you.”
The door creaked open slowly, admitting Mal, carefully drawing his pistol from inside his waistcoat. Inara and Rose turned their heads to look at him. He took a step forward, assessing the scene, then asked, “Am I interrupting anything?”
It took Simon a good quarter hour to escape from Lang's clutches. The other candidate present was a dull stick, likely if elected to simply be another of Lang's creatures. To the General's credit, he seemed to honestly prefer someone who could speak back to him and have a real discussion, though he nevertheless ended up talking for the large majority of the time. Finally Simon, having finished his drink, held up the empty glass and excused himself. Making his way back to where he'd left Kaylee and the others, he was intercepted by his father.
Gabriel stepped around the dancers and drew Simon aside, to one of the hall's pillars. “How are you finding General Lang?” he asked.
“All right, if a bit verbose,” Simon replied. “I need to check up on--”
“I'm worried about your Kaylee,” Gabriel continued. “The conversation in the second floor is entirely about her.”
“I know,” Simon said. “I want to see if she's all right.”
“You mistake my meaning,” said Gabriel. “They are considering the possibility of having to invite her back to all these functions, because she is the wife of a Member of Parliament.”
“Having to...” Simon began. “These people would vote because of--”
“Unfortunately, yes. And unfortunately, Kaylee is a liability. I'm not saying she can't be trained to fit in, but she has a long way to catch up. She hasn't been mixing enough, and when she has has not made a good impression, even discounting the broken vase.”
“They would really decide how to vote on that basis?” Simon said.
“It's not as if any of these people would be affected by Parliament's decisions,” Gabriel explained. “They only care about what affects them.”
“I guess that makes sense,” replied Simon.
“You play the hand you're dealt, Simon,” said Gabriel.
“What would you have me do?” Simon asked. “I can't stick her in the cargo hold for a month.”
“What?” Gabriel asked. “I'm asking you to reconsider your marriage. To bring someone like that into a situation like this, and expect them to--”
“I've promised,” Simon said.
“This will cost us the chance to rescue River for good,” Gabriel rejoined. Simon fell silent. Gabriel pressed on. “Like a broken sourcebox that will short out at the wrong time, Kaylee is standing in the way of your aspirations.”
“That's--” Simon began. His eye caught a flash of black and gold fabric. “Kaylee!” he called out, turning and dashing in pursuit. Behind him, Gabriel sighed in frustration.
Kaylee dashed through a door, one step ahead of a servant with a platter. Simon, skidding on the floor, nearly collided with him, slamming instead into the doorframe. He got up, dusted himself off, and proceeded through the doorway, but Kaylee was gone. Carefully he looked around. To the left was the kitchens, she wouldn't have gone there. He turned right and made his way down the hall. Here, if he remembered right from youthful visits to the Alders', were the drawing room and the library. He opened the door to the drawing room and poked his head inside. Two older men, guests who he did not recognize, were playing cards at one of the low tables.
“Excuse me,” he asked, “Did a rather upset young woman come through here?”
One of the men looked up. “I can't say she has. What's she look like?”
“Thanks,” Simon said, and was back out the door. The library door was some twenty feet down, ornate, wooden and heavy. It was carved into a replica of one or another famous pre-Migration door—Simon could not recall which. He carefully turned the handle and slipped the door open.
The library was two stories high, with tall arched windows and a walkway around the upper floor. Not unlike Serenity's cargo bay, Simon noticed, as he quietly stepped past the bookshelf lining the entrance. He turned the corner and froze. There, beneath one of the windows, stood Kaylee and Jayne, arms wrapped around one another, looking out the window.
Simon cleared his throat. They turned, backing away from one another. “I'll thank you to not comfort my Intended quite so familiarly, Jayne,” he said after a moment.
“Then don't make her need comforting,” Jayne replied, stepping toward him.
Simon approached Jayne, meeting his glare. “Jayne, gwon nee tze-jee duh shr.”
“Like hell it ain't my ruttin' business,” Jayne swore. The door of the library creaked open again.
“Don't do that again,” Simon said quietly, rage creeping over him. He barely had time to flinch before Jayne's fist met his jaw, sending him reeling back against one of the shelves, books spilling onto the floor.
He looked back up at Jayne, and then another voice spoke. “Are you having trouble with your men?” Carter Lang inquired.
“It ain't funny,” Kaylee said, stepping forward past Jayne to look down at Simon. “Are you going to do it?”
“Do what?” Simon asked, struggling to his feet.
“Give me up,” Kaylee said, “Like a busted sourcebox. I'm dyin' inside. You going to let me die like this?”
“Like you did when you first met her,” Jayne added.
Simon turned to Lang, who was still standing at the end of the shelf. “General, I really think this is something you don't need to watch.”
“I saw you run off,” Lang replied, “And thought you might need my help. I suppose I should go off and look for Rosemarie, I don't know where she's been the last half hour.” With one last amused look at Jayne, he turned and exited the library.
“What is it?” Kaylee asked. “Too afraid to let the big important General see you fight with your girlfriend?”
“It's not that, it's...” Simon lost his train of thought, seeing Jayne breathing steam at him. “You're wonderful, Kaylee. You make me feel alive. I wish I could express how much--”
“I make you feel alive,” Kaylee shot back. “'Cept when I'm down, and then where are you? Trying to get in good with people that hate me. I know they're whispering about me, saying I talk funny and can't dance and ain't suitable to be 'round them. Why do you want to be around these people, Simon?”
“Kaylee, I'm sorry,” Simon began, reaching out to hold her. She pushed him away. “All right,” he said, assuming his calm, directive Doctor Tam voice. “I won't touch you, then. I know what my conversation with my father must have sounded like, but believe me, I don't agree with a thing he said.”
Kaylee crossed her arms. “Then why are you doing everything else he asks?”
“I'm running for Parliament because I have to. For River's sake. It's the only way to destroy the Academy.”
“Even if--” Kaylee began, then paused, taking a deep breath. “Simon, do you expect me to just stand here and eat this la-du-zi raw?”
“Yes,” the word escaped Simon's mouth. “These people don't matter. What they say is just...” he grasped for words, “words, gossip, not solid. What matters is--”
“If they don't matter, then why are you trying to please them?” Kaylee replied.
“Because—all right, they do matter,” Simon amended. “I can't just walk in and ignore my father or Carter Lang—they have the expertise I need to win this. We don't get to choose our allies, Kaylee. We've got to make do with what we have.”
“And you're just making do with me?” Kaylee asked.
“When I asked you to marry me, I had no idea any of this would happen,” Simon said.
“And would you have asked me, knowing all this?”
“I would have—I wouldn't choose to bring you into this kind of situation,” he said, instantly regretting the words. “Even I feel out of place--”
“I can't live like this,” she began again, “In this world where people act so proper all the time. Your father's right. It's all fake, and I'll never fit in. Not on Persephone, not here. I'm never going to be more than a liability...a trained wife without the training.”
“They're not so bad,” said Simon. “They're just bothering you because you're new and don't know the etiquette. It's like when Jayne had me come onto that transport all suited up.” Jayne laughed at the recollection. “Or when Mal told me you were dead, at the very beginning.”
“Those weren't funny either,” Kaylee shot back. “I'm not going to fit with these people, and 'cept that this is where you are, I don't want to. These aren't my people, and if they're yours...” she trailed off.
“I don't understand,” Simon replied. “Kaylee, you're worth more to me than all of this, fancy clothes, fancy drinks, fancy parties. A million platinum a year, the respect of my father. You're worth more than all that.” He paused, looking into her eyes. “But I gave all that up for River once, how can I hold back this time?”
“You've dragged me in here for River,” Kaylee rejoined, “And if that ain't enough? Would you put me aside for her if you had to?”
“'Cause all I know of marriage says you put each other first. And I've put you first this far, but I ain't going to be able to even help you.”
“Kaylee,” Simon pleaded. “This is all extremely complicated.”
“Then let's talk later. I'm going home,” Kaylee said, picking up the skirts of her torn dress and striding out of the library.
Jayne threw up his arms. “Guay, I didn't do anything. Sure would have liked to, but I didn't.”
“You're not helping,” said Simon, rubbing his jaw as he left the library.
Thursday, November 10, 2005 1:56 AM
Thursday, November 10, 2005 2:32 AM
Thursday, November 10, 2005 6:08 AM
Thursday, November 10, 2005 8:26 AM
Thursday, November 10, 2005 1:41 PM
Thursday, November 10, 2005 2:14 PM
Thursday, November 10, 2005 2:26 PM
Friday, November 11, 2005 9:59 AM
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