BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

KAYNARA

Bed and Wine: Part 7
Sunday, January 8, 2006

What in the ‘verse is the Blue Sun Company doing on Shadow? The investigation sheds some light on Inara’s past. Then it’s back to Serenity--gorrammit, I miss my ship! (Serenity and Co. belong to Joss, I know, I know.)


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3834    RATING: 8    SERIES: FIREFLY

Bed and Wine: Part 7 By Kaynara

*** What in the ‘verse is the Blue Sun Company doing on Shadow? The investigation sheds some light on Inara’s past. Then it’s back to Serenity--gorrammit, I miss my ship! (Serenity and Co. belong to Joss, I know, I know.)

*** Notes: 1. Special thanks to Squish for the irresistible idea about Inara’s first driving lesson. Just so fitting for this crew. 2. I appreciate all the feedback about characterization. I’ve heard a lot of different opinions, and I’m sure I’m more on-target with certain characters certain days. But basically, when I started writing, it was under the assumption that the BDM changed our lovable crew. A lot. I don’t think any of the characters came out of that movie just as they were, a fact which opens the door for Kaylee/Simon and, in my opinion, Mal/Inara prettiness. Anyway, this is my take on everything--hope you enjoy! ~Kaynara

*** “It isn’t funny.” “Uh, no, I wasn’t laughin’.” “You have that look on your face.” “Which look is that?” “I’m not sure. Something between bloody murder and psychotic laughter.” “Oh, I ain’t like to bust a gut anytime soon. Might see fit to kill some folk. I’m thinkin’ its a wait-and-see situation.” “I can’t make you understand that world, Mal. It’s...otherworldy, I guess.” “It is that. Gorrammit, Nara. My crew might not be the sanest bunch of travelers. But these loonies? I don’t want you talkin’ to that guy anymore. Not to mention crazy sis.” “Oh of course, Daddy. I won’t see that boy again.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m not a little girl, Mal. Neither am I your wife.” “Okay, let’s make a note for you never to call me ‘Daddy’ again. And you pickin’ up this ironical from the doc? Maybe ‘haps you stay away from him too.” “Why don’t you just lock me in a bunk?” she asked sweetly. “I’m thinkin’ I might just!” He lowered his voice, dragged in a calming breath. “Okay, let’s go over this again, nice and slow.” She sighed, folding her legs beneath her on the bed. “Mal....” She met his eyes helplessly. “I just...this is private. Personal.” “Yeah, I know.” He sat beside her, feet planted firmly on the ground. “And you know I wouldn’t push lest I had to.” She raised a brow. “I never been one to meddle in the lives of my crew, Nara.” “Mal, you’re constantly getting involved! You can’t help yourself.” “Name one time!” “Wash and Zoe. Simon and Kaylee. My ‘whoring.’ That time we--” “I said one,” Mal muttered disagreeably. “I know this ain’t easy for you. But lest I understand the situation a mite better, your personal is like to become our premature deaths.” “I’ve told you everything, Mal.” “And yet I’m still in somethin’ of a fog. Why would little sis push you into big brother’s bed given her own feelings for you?” “Servicing her brother was just a business arrangement, Mal. Companionship. Sex. Nique trained me herself, taught me to separate the physical and the emotional.” “Separate.” He met her eyes. “Right. But our pal Dewei didn’t get the memo.” “Trevor started to visit the Guild house more frequently. He contracted with me exclusively. Mal nodded, wishing he were elsewhere. He didn’t want to hear this any more’n she wanted to tell it. “One night, after Trevor had gone, Nique came to my room. She knew I’d had a long day, offered to rub my shoulders to relax me.” Mal blinked, twitchy now and trying not to show it. “That, uh, that a common enough occurrence at the Guild? Shoulder rubbing and the like?” Inara rolled her eyes. There was a reason she rarely spoke about her Guild residency. That world was so very foreign to outsiders. “Not all touching is sexual, Mal.” She slid a hand around his neck, working her fingers over a knot. “Sometimes people can show one another kindnesses, small comforts.” “Huh.” Her touch was hypnotic. He jerked his head away. “Let’s get back to the story. I’m guessin’ we’re approaching a climax here.” Inara found herself reliving the moment. She’d untied the top of her dress, baring her back and shoulders. She could practically feel the hot oil on her skin, Nique’s firm, probing fingers. “At first, I didn’t suspect anything was amiss. Dominique’s quite skillful with massage; I was dozing when I heard her speak. She complimented me, praised the smoothness of my skin, the luster of my hair. She said a companion’s life could be lonely, pale beneath all the glamor. She suggested that one should reach out and grasp warmth when it was offered.” Inara hesitated, lost in the remembering. “And did you? Reach out and, uh, grasp it?” She smiled, privately amused at his unease. “I wasn’t looking for personal entanglements, Mal. My first priority was to my career. The Guild was such a sizeable part of my life. For many years, it was my life.” “So you told her no thanks. And she flipped her lid.” “She accused me of meeting Trevor in secret, not recording our engagements in the client registry. You see, a portion of a companion’s earnings is transferred directly to her House....” “Coulda been quite the scandal.” “Perhaps, though Trevor would have denied it. Then she brought up the ball, the incident with Deacon Marshall. She threatened me...said she’d tell our house mistress what really happened that night if I contracted with her brother again.” “Real sweet lady. BOO hway-HUN duh PUO-foo....” “I’d worked hard to put that night behind me, Mal. I had no aim to relive it. So I left, made excuses to my house mistress and stole off in the night. I knew it would only arouse questions if I emptied my accounts, questions I didn’t want to answer. So I borrowed credits from Trevor, told him personal matters drew me away. I never told him of Nique’s threats.” “How come you didn’t? ‘Haps he coulda talked some sense into her.” “She wasn’t entirely wrong, Mal. I never saw Trevor secretly, but neither was our relationship wholly on the level.” “He was in love with you.” “Yes. And I...I was confused. I didn’t love him the way he wanted. But I appreciated his kindnesses, all he’d done for me. I didn’t want to hurt him.” She met Mal’s eyes, her own soft, youthful. “If I stayed, things would have been...messy.” “Those pesky complications again.” “At the time, leaving seemed the only reasonable solution.” “You gave up a whole hell of a lot for those folk. Fancy digs and a home don’t float away on ya.” “It’s strange.” She looked away. “Strange how people alter your life’s course in ways they never intended.” Mal cleared his throat. “Yeah, that’s a strangeness. And now we got ourselves something of a situation here.” “Mal.” She touched his arm. “What do you think Blake’s little science project entails?” Mal sighed, rubbed at his temples. “Not rightly sure. Won’t know for certain till we get a look at those files.” “But you have an idea.” “I do. But I’m hopin’ it ain’t bad as all that.” “This isn’t some shiny meet and greet, is it? He’s conducting his research this very weekend.” “Inara.” He reached for her but she shook her head. “I’m fine, Mal.” She turned away. “You don’t have to shelter me.” “No...I know I don’t.” “Just because a psychopath wants to include us in some breeding experiment--” “Actually, think my stock’s been rejected outta hand. And if I had to guess, I’d say no breeding takes place, least not the old fashioned kind. Folks prolly wake up in the hospital with parts missing. Doc says they was in an accident but it’s shiny now. Send ‘em on their merry ways none the wiser.” “For what purpose? What exactly are they trying to create?” “Something new. Something better.” His voice dripped bitterness. “It’s their way.” “What now?” she asked quietly. “Now...now we talk to your friend. And hope like hell he is that.” “If Blake sees you with Trevor...he could start to suspect something, Mal.” “Yeah, you may have a point. Well, we’ll just throw him a curve ball then. How are you at scenes, Missus Parks?” *** Mal slipped into the game room, closing the door behind him. Smoke billowed high and the scent of brandy stung the air. Cards shuffled quickly through nimble fingers; poker chips exchanged hands. No women to speak of--it seemed Blake was a sexist psychopath. Mal stood in the center of the room, affected a drunken sway. “Okay. Which one of you is a Dewei Trevor?” he shouted over the hiss of conversation. For a moment fifty- some-odd men sat in silence. The councilor pushed back his chair, made a move to stand. But Trevor beat him to it, lay down his hand of cards and rose. “I am Dewei Trevor, Sir.” “Are ya now?” Mal strode across the room. “Hiya, Trevor.” He slammed a closed fist into the older man’s face. “Mr. Parks!” The councilor snapped his fingers at two waiters who quickly restrained Mal’s arms. Another went to assist Trevor, who was doubled over. “Have you gone mad, boy?” “Oh, I’m plenty mad. Mad at the SOB who slept with my new bride!” Cue Inara. Mal bit back a grin; girl was born to play this role. He stretched out his knuckles, wincing at the pain. “Dev!” She came into the room running, pink nightgown dancing around her thighs, hair loose and flowing. She’d even streaked eye paint on her cheeks--girl was nothing if not thorough. “Devlin, you’re overreacting. I told you nothing happened, we were just talking!” “Talking? Councilor, you think its acceptable for a man to talk at another man’s wife in a private room withouts any chaperone to speak of? Tah-shr SUO-yo DEE-yure duh biao-tze duh MAH, on our gorram honeymoon, Alicia!” “For Heaven’s sake, Dev. You’re making a scene!” She tried to grab hold of his arm but he whipped it away. “Prolly best you don’t touch me now, darlin’.” “Mr. Parks.” Trevor took a step toward him. “I can assure you that what your wife says is true. Nothing unseemly occurred between us.” “Oh, you can assure me of that? Ta ma de hwoon dan--” “Dewei, Mr. Parks.” The councilman lowered his voice to a death whisper, grabbed both men and escorted them out into the hallway. “This behavior is absolutely unacceptable in my home. I trust you to resolve this matter in a civilized manner befitting of gentlemen. If you wish to duel, one of my servants will provide you with swords. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have guests.” He brushed past Inara, closing the game room door firmly behind him. “Yeah, we’ll just get started with the cuttin’ on each other,” Mal muttered when he was gone. “That’s what civilized folk do, ain’t it? Ai ya, my hand hurts.” “That’s because you hit me, you rutting madman! In-Alicia. What in the name of Buddah is going--” “Mal, you didn’t have to hit him,” she chided. “Trevor, I apologize.” Mal shrugged. “Seemed like the thing to do.” “I think some explanations are in order.” “Yeah, gonna have to agree with you there, Trev.” Mal started toward the door. “Let’s take a walk, shall we?” *** “Malcom Reynolds.” Trevor unfolded a handkerchief from his shirt pocket, dabbed at his lip. “Your reputation precedes you.” “You hear that, darlin’?” He nudged Inara, who sat beside him on the lawn, several meters away from the front door. “I’m a celebrity. That makes you a celebrity by marriage, don’t it?” “Mal and I aren’t married,” Inara explained cooly. “Nope, little lady won’t make an honest man of me,” Mal admitted. “So what exactly is it you heard? Don’t imagine you and I run in the same social circles, Trev.” “I’ve heard Malcom Reynolds is a renegade. First class troublemaker.” “Hey.” He elbowed Inara again. “What’s a renegade?” She rolled her eyes. “Trevor, I’m sorry to involve you in all this.” “Yeah, and I’m sorry ‘bout your face.” Mal grinned. “Almost really. But way I see it, you’re either a party to Blake’s little experiment or a damn sha gua dupe like the rest of us. Inara thinks you’re a decent sorta man, and I’m trusting her judgment. Am I right?” Trevor sighed, eyed Inara with something akin to regret. “I didn’t know, not really. He said they were playing around with DNA, trying to guard against genetic diseases, abnormalities. I admit I’m no man of science. But it seemed noble, a righteous cause.” Trevor’s face changed, his eyes snapping with indignation. “How do you know that isn’t so? Perhaps those captures meant something else entirely!” “Yeah.” Mal nodded sardonically. “ ‘Haps he’s takin’ up scrapbooking. That what lonely old men do, Trev?” “Mal!” Inara glared. “I attended university with Blake, Mr. Reynolds. I’ve known him since you were but a child.” “Then he should be plenty cooperative to an pal. Tell him you want to invest more money but you need details. Get me a copy of his files. If I’m wrong-- well, I’ll feel mighy bad for hittin’ ya so hard.” Trevor stood, brushing grass from his trousers. “I’ll do as you wish, Mr. Reynolds.” He turned his eyes on Inara. “You disappoint me, my dear. I would have given you everything. You deserve more than a petty criminal like him.” Trevor strode across the lawn, leaving them alone with the moonlight. Inara rose slowly, let Mal lead her back to the house. Neither saw the pair of cool, emerald eyes watching intently from the windows. *** Blake’s men intercepted them on the way upstairs. “If you’ll come with us, Mr. Parks.” Mal met the eyes of the man clutching his forearm. Remote eyes with humor glinting just below the surface. Oh, this was about to become all manner of unpleasant. Mal turned to Inara. “Wait for me upstairs,” he commanded, his tone soft yet firm enough to leave no room for debate. “Where are you taking him?” she demanded, trying to grab Mal’s arm. “Don’t worry yourself into a frenzy, Missus Parks. Just go on up to the room like your husband says, and we’ll have him back shortly.” Inara met Mal’s eyes, her own fearful. He shook his head slowly, and she took a step back. “Good girl,” he murmured approvingly. Once upstairs, Inara dressed hurriedly, tried to make herself wait like he’d asked. She sat on the bed, worked to slow her breathing. Did they know? Oh, go suh, if the councilor had learned their true identities, they were humped. The name Malcom Reynolds had many associations, most of which added up to a single word: trouble. To hell with the captain and his orders; she was going after him. Her fingers were curving around the knob when a knock sounded from the other side. Two brisk raps, then the handle was turning in her hands. Two men half dragged Mal inside, deposited him unceremoniously in Inara’s arms. “I suggest you pack quickly, Mr. Parks,” the larger one said. They closed the door, leaving Mal and Inara alone. “Hey, honey.” A smile twisted over his split lips. “Miss me?” She sighed. His right eye was blackened. Through the tears in his shirt, she could see angry red bruises rising on his chest. “Oh, Mal,” she said softly. “Did they say anything?” “Oh, somethin’ bout actin’ civilized in the councilor’s home. Meaning was kinda lost amidst all that punching.” Mal winced, let Inara help him on to the bed. “Seems they want us to take our leave and fast.” “He called you Parks.” She unbuttoned his tattered shirt, ran a gentle hand over his bruised torso. “I don’t think our cover’s blown.” “No, though my kidneys might be.” He groaned, shifting on the bed. “Mal.” She shook her head, eyes full of sympathy. “Life with you is never dull, that’s a certainty.” “Ain’t that why you like me?” “Mm, is that why?” She let him curve a hand around her cheek, draw her face down for a soft kiss. His lips tasted of blood, but she barely noticed. *** She dipped a cloth in cool water, began to cleanse the blood from his chest while he dozed. She’d packed their bags and paid one of the butlers to bring round their automobile. But Mal insisted they give Trevor more time. “I want those files, Inara.” “Mal, they’ll kill you next time.” “You trust him, Nara?” She met his eyes. “Yes. I trust him.” “Then give the man thirty more minutes.” The knock sounded after fifteen. Inara opened the door, but Trevor walked past her as though she were invisible, moved toward the bed. “Mr. Reynolds.” He pressed a narrow slip of metal into Mal’s hand. His face was ashen, his shoulders drooping. Suddenly he looked his age, Inara realized. “My portable drive. Some of the files on there are of a personal nature; perhaps you could send it back to me when you’re through.” “Trevor....” Inara tried to catch the man’s weary gaze. “Is it...is it what we thought?” “All those babies....” He lowered himself to the chaise, ran his fingers through his hair. “There’s vid, both inside the labs and here at the manor. You can see for yourselves.” “How’d you do it?” Mal asked. Grimacing, he sat up, stuck his arms back in his sleeves and tugged the suspenders in place. “Money.” Trevor shrugged, a faint smile playing at his lips. “Platinum is a language Blake always understand. Even at university he had a taste for the finer things in life. Still, I never thought....” His voice trailed off. “I expressed an interest in investing more, said I required additional details about the project, specifics. I had to know where my money was going. You know, I think he genuinely believes this is just.” “What are they doing?” Mal asked quietly. “Genetic engineering.” Trevor wrung his hands in his lap “Some of it is medical, developing exceptionally-healthy fetuses, children who’ll never get ill. But its more than that. They’re seeking out certain traits. Breeding a sinewy man and obedient woman to spawn the perfect soldier. Mingling genes for intelligence with cool headedness in an attempt to create good leaders. There are over fifty children in their little ‘school’, many of them hardly more than babies....” “What about the parents?” Inara asked, disbelieving. “What kind of people would willingly give over their children?” “Mamas and Daddys are none the wiser, ain’t that right, Trev? Blake’s men take what they need, spawn babes in petri dishes like little science experiments.” “Yes,” he admitted. “And surrogates carry them to term. Young girls who could use the coin.” “Ren si de fo zu,” Inara murmured. “Dear God.” “What will you do, Mr. Reynolds?” Trevor asked. “Pass the information on to thems that asked for it. But first I’m getting me and mine the hell off this rock. ” Trevor nodded, eyes on Inara. “I think that’s wise.” ** So near the end now; just a few more meters and they’d be at the door. Inara never imagined she’d be eager to get back in that car. Her dread of Blue Sun must have supplanted fear of dying in some fiery car wreck. She jumped when Mal grabbed her wrist and hauled her behind him. From the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of a woman watching from the stairs. A perfect hour glass figure with long strawberry-blond tresses. The woman took a step out from the shadows. “Nique,” Inara whispered, eyes widening, just as two men appeared from the salon. They wore expensive suits, carried briefcases. One pulled a pair of blue gloves from his pocket, snapped them over his fingers. “Malcom Reynolds,” the other said slowly. “We’ve been looking for you.” Mal shoved Inara at Trevor and darted to the side. He reached for his holster, remembering a second too late that Blake’s men took his gun. He watched a turquoise finger curl around the trigger, felt a searing pain in his side. He didn’t have time to speak, just fell back against the wall. “Mal!” The blue-fingered man raised the gun again but Trevor shouted a command in Mandarin, cloaking the hall in darkness. Trevor pushed them both to the side, grasped blindly where he knew a doorknob to be. He ushered Mal and Inara into the small anteroom, locking the door behind them. “Gun in my boot,” Mal managed. “Help me--” Trevor slid the spare weapon from Mal’s shoe, tucked it in his own waistband. He gestured to the window. “You can get out that way. I’ll try to hold them.” He met Mal’s eyes. ”Keep her safe.” “Trevor,” Inara murmured He touched her face, spreading Mal’s blood on her pale cheek. “Inara. So very exquisite. I love you, mei mei. I have for so many years.” Inara half dragged Mal toward the open window. They climbed through, landing in the shrubbery. She began leading him toward the car. “Two by two. Blue hands.” Mal groaned. “Wo de ma, River....” “Mal!” Inara’s voice shook. “Mal, stay with me.” They reached the car. She hoisted him up against the side, trying to get the back door open. “Guess you’re gettin’ that driving lesson after all, darlin’.” He half climbed, half fell onto the back seat. Inara slid behind the wheel, took a deep breath. “I hope you’re a good teacher, Mal. Mal?” She inserted the key in the proper spot, cringed as the engine choked, roared to life. “Mal, stay with me.” “Not goin’ nowhere,” he said agreeably. “If I can pilot a shuttle, I can drive a car,” Inara reasoned. “Any sha gua can. I just press this pedal here, and--nothing! Why aren’t we moving?” “Gear,” he muttered, teeth set against the pain. “Right. Gear.” She slid the pointer from P to D, hoping D stood for drive. “Here we go--tzao gao.” The car jumped forward. Inara locked her hands on the wheel, trying to hold it steady. Mal rolled his head back, attempted to see out the back window. Best he could tell they weren’t being followed. Yet. “Darlin? You might wanna give her some gas.” “Aren’t we going fast?” she asked shortly. “Well.” Mal eyed the slowly-passing landscape. “This rate, should make it back before the winter sols--ohh!” He moaned as a new wave of pain hit him. “Mal!” She whipped her head around, the car swerving right. “I’m okay, you just focus on the drivin’. You’re doin’ good. Really.” He bit back another groan. “You’ll see, we’ll be back on Serenity in no time flat. No time at--” Mal stopped. The bastard shot him called him by name first. Lao tyen yeh, they knew. Which meant.... ”Carly.” “Mal?” Inara glanced over her shoulder. “What is it?” He dug the ‘com out of his pocket, cringing as fire ripped through his belly. “Jayne! Ai ya, answer me, Jayne!” “I’m here, Cap. What is it?” “They know. Get Caroline outta that house. Hear me? You get her outta that house, Jayne!” “Rutting hell. I’m goin’, Mal. Where should I--?” “Get everybody on Serenity. Inara has the rendezvous coordinates. Once we’re all aboard, you fly us the hell off this rock, hear? I...I think I’m goin’ to sleep now.” The ‘com slid wetly from his fingers, fell dead on the seat.

*** Kaylee helped Jayne ready the mule. Simon paced the cargo bay, edgier than was usual. “Gorrammit, Kaylee. Quit fiddlin’ down there,” Jayne muttered. “Okay!” She rolled out. “Mule’s ready.” Simon put a hand on Jayne’s shoulder, stopping him. Jayne glanced down, raised a brow. “Lest you want me to bite that hand off, Doc....” “I should go with you.” “Simon,” Kaylee murmured. “You might need help.” Jayne snickered. “Or someone could require medical attention,” Simon pressed. “No offense, Doc, but that someone’s gonna be you if you hold me up any longer. Help the womenfolk prep the boat. Mal wants us in the air soon as I’m back.” Jayne propelled them out of the cargo bay, sped over the green Shadow landscape. He recognized the winding drive that led to Caroline’s farm as he was sailing past it, swung around widely and applied the gas. He could smell the smoke now, see glints of orange and black through the trees. He swore ripely in Mandarin, eyes on the pile of wreckage that had been a house. “Aw, ruttin’ son of a--” He didn’t see the big old oak till it was too late. The mule hit the trunk with a stomach-turning thud, and Jayne flew through the air. Then everything went white. *** Jayne woke on a groan, felt every part of his body ache in protest. His first thought was: Hell, maybe I shoulda brought the gorramn doc. He gave a slight guffaw at his own good humor-mistake. His ribs hurt too ruttin’ much for jokes, even at the doctor’s expense. It took him a few minutes to realize his head lay on something soft, not entirely unfamiliar. Slowly, dubiously, he peeled open his eyes. His vision was blurry, his brain all manner of concussed. He saw a swing of dark hair, felt smooth white hands press against his forehead, holding him still. “River?” He blinked rapidly. “That you, girl?” A hesitation, the voice firm when it finally said: “Jayne, it’s Caroline.” Jayne felt something twist inside him, tried to move his head around to see her. “Caroline? You ain’t dead?” “It would seem not,” she said dryly. “I saw them coming, hid in the woods.” “Well, uh, you did good, girl.” Jayne raised his head off her lap, took a few deep breath and hoped fervently not to puke. “Mal gave orders to take you on ship.” He stood, clutching a tree for support. “Seems to think you ain’t safe here no more,” he commented, watching the remains of the farmhouse smolder against the darkening sky. Caroline nodded slowly. “I’ve a rider in the east barn. They didn’t burn it.” She stood, brushing ash and dirt from her hands, eyed her scorched land with resolve. There’d be time enough for tears later. *** He was back in the infirmary. Tyen shiao duh, they’d been lucky. Blue Sun. Wo de ma. He turned to see Kaylee watching him intently from the window. “Good, you’re awake. Cap’n, did you really tell Jayne to fly Serenity outta here?” Kaylee hesitated, patted his head. “Glad you’re feelin’ better, by the way. But did you?” “Fast as her wings could flap,” Mal admitted. “But...the vid, Cap’n. All those people’s just bein’ used back there...all the babies....” Kaylee shook her head sorrowfully. “We ain’t the gorramn cavalry this trip. Strictly recon, in and out, and now that we’re out we surely ain’t goin’ back. We’ll show the truth to them that hired us. Up to those folk to use it as they sees fit.” “Mal, you know those people don’t have the resources to launch a military attack.” Mal glanced around Kaylee to Inara, who stood in the doorway. “You think we got those resources, Nara? Last I checked, my boat weren’t no warship.” “She’s got a point, Sir.” Zoe approached the table, Raven on her shoulder. “Don’t feel right, us just leavin’ ‘em.” “No, that it don’t, Zoe.” He met her eyes cooly, recalling a punch to the jaw. “And if any of you got an idea don’t end with us bein’ all sorts of dead, I’m willin’ to hear it.” “You’re not wrong ‘bout us bein’ ill-equipped, Sir.” “Then why we havin’ this talk?” “I’m sorry, Sir. Thought you had a mind to help those couldn’t speak for themselves.” She stroked a hand down the baby’s back. “That I do,” Mal said quietly, his voice rough. “And just who’s gonna take care of Little Chick once you and me get our heads blown off back on Shadow?” “Mal,” Inara reproved, glancing at Zoe. “Don’t much like what’s goin’ on back there, though can’t say I’m surprised overmuch. Meddling is the Alliance’s way. But sad as I am for those babies, they ain’t my priority.” He met Zoe’s eyes, lowered his gaze to the child sleeping in her arms. “Made a promise to someone awhile back, and I do intend to keep it.” None of them had ever known trouble like Blue Sun. Mal hoped to hell they never would. “Everyone.” Simon appeared in the doorway, eyes taking in the scene. “The captain needs his rest now.” “Think the doc might be right on that account.” Mal lay back on the table, closing his eyes so as not to see the disappointment in Kaylee’s as she backed out of the room. He didn’t protest as the doctor shot his veins full of something that made him drowsy. He welcomed sleep just now. *** Kaylee left Simon to do his doctorin’, wandered upstairs. Wasn’t fair, everyone bein’ on edge this way. She wanted this to be a happy day, wanted to tell everyone the news. Now all she could think of was little babies bein’ born without their mamas and the poor captain, bleeding downstairs on the table. Wasn’t right the way she layed into him. None o’ this was his doing. He didn’t start the wars, just wound up stuck in the crossfire. “Oh, hello,” she said, spotting Caroline at the kitchen table. “You findin’ everything okay, honey?” “It’s a big ship,” Caroline admitted, wrapping her hands around a mug of tea. “I fear I’ll be lost the first couple weeks. It’s strange, thinking Malcom’s spent so much time on Serenity, and I never seen her before this morning. How is he?” “Cap’n? He’s gonna be shiny.” Kaylee frowned, guilt flooding her face. “He’s still hurtin’ some, but Simon’s fixed him up good.” “How many times do you reckon my brother’s been shot?” Caroline mused, looking into her tea cup. “More than a couple,” Kaylee admitted. “Cap’n’s got a way of swimmin’ against the current, ain’t always good for makin’ friends.” “He doesn’t want me here.” She met the younger woman’s eyes, feeling painfully truthsome. “This ship symbolizes freedom for him. He doesn’t want pieces of his past mucking that up by walking its halls.” “Oh, hey, now. Sure that ain’t so.” Kaylee patted Caroline’s hand. “Just ‘cuz Cap’n don’t say stuff don’t mean he ain’t feelin’ it, if that makes any sense.” “The crew--everyone--seems tense, troubled. Is it because of me?” Kaylee smiled widely. “Aw, honey. These people are always tense. Cap and Zoe--hell they could be tense in a bubble bath, not that the cap’n’d ever consent to takin' a bubble bath. And Simon--well, he tends to worry more than’s good for any human person. Jayne--hell, Jayne prolly sleeps with his guns. And poor Inara, she’d be fine if the cap’n would just....” Kaylee trailed off, smiling sheepishly. “That’s just the way they are, honey. Don’t got nothin’ to do with you bein’ crew now.” She squeezed Caroline’s hand reassuringly. Caroline nodded, her mind trying to wrap itself around such a large quantity of information spouted off in such a short time. “Kaylee?” she said finally, her eyes on the younger woman’s hand. “Yeah, sweetie?” “Is that a wedding ring?” *** He sensed her watching him, blinked his eyes open. She stood posed in the doorway, wearing gray gym shorts and one of River’s flowy tops. He nearly grinned. “You come to tell me off too?” She smiled. “Not today.” “That’s somethin’. You able to wave Trevor yet?” “He got away. Nique’s dead.” Mal raised a brow. “He killed one of the blue-handed men. The other tried to shoot him. Dominique jumped in front of the bullet.” Inara lowered her gaze. “She’s the one who sold us out, Mal. She told Blake who I am. Who I was. It didn’t take him long to run a background check, make the connection back to Serenity. To you.” “None of this is your fault, Inara.” He tilted her chin so she’d meet his eyes. “Hey. I’m the captain, and what I say goes. You didn’t cause this, you hear?” “So much suffering,” she said softly. “So many deaths.” “At least today they ain’t ours. They’ll come at us again. BSB.” “I know,” she said softly. Mal sighed. “Think Kaylee’ll ever forgive me for not going back?” “Love precludes grudges, Mal. Not that that girl’s capable of holding a grudge.” “No, don’t ‘spect she is.” Inara spread a hand over Mal’s side, careful not to touch the area beneath the bandage. “Why is it scars make men more attractive instead of less?” she mused. “You, uh, you think I’m attractive?” She smiled. “You have your moments.” He caught her hand. “How long you and me gonna keep dancin’, Inara?” “I don’t think you’re up to dancing, Mal.” She smiled, attempted to withdraw her hand. “You should try to sleep.” “Ain’t feelin’ particularly sleepy, just now.” He held on to her wrist. “Simon says you need your rest.” “Rest?” He snorted a laugh. “Ai ya, it’s like goin’ to bed with a gorram ghost every night. Surely ain’t no rest in that.” “Whose ghost, Mal?” She held her breath. “Mine?” “Not just yours. Ours.” He sighed. “I know I ain’t the easiest man in the ‘verse, Nara.” “Mal--” “Let me speak. I know I can be a stubborn hwoon dan when I set my mind to it.” She waited. “Well, that’s it, I guess.” Inara smiled. “You do have a way of shutting people out, Mal. You’re complicated and complex. You can be ornery and irritating and downright infuriating--” “ ‘Haps you should stop singin’ my praises now, Nara. I’m blushing here.” “But. You can also be kind, caring. I’ve seen you show great compassion.” He was fidgeting on the table, more comfortable with the insults. “I’m a broken old man, Inara.” “Not broken.” She smiled sadly. “Just battered. And age is a state of mind.” “Place me and my mind is at...you might not wanna put too much effort into pullin’ me out.” He stroked a finger down her throat. “Might be beyond even your immense talents of persuasion.” “You aren’t so far gone as you think, Mal. And I have many, many talents.” “Is that so? Hearin’ a lotta talk over there. Maybe you should put your mouth where your...mouth...is....” “Was that supposed to make sense?” she asked innocently. “I’m tryin’ to bare my soul here, and she’s gotta start mouthin’ off. How do you like-” “Bi zui.” She shifted over him on the table. “Kiss me, Mal.” He opened his mouth against hers, for once not caring who might be watching. *** Mal slept in the infirmary, awoke to the unpleasant sensation of Simon unzipping his trousers. “Doc?” He blinked against the harsh white lights. “Mind tellin’ me what you’re doin’ down there?” “Sorry.” Simon murmured, peeling back the bandage that extended beneath Mal’s waistband. “Just checking the wound. It’s healing nicely.” “Good. Then you can never, ever touch me there again.” Mal pushed himself to a sitting position, swung his legs over the table. “My cleared for take off?” “Well, I’d recommend another day’s rest.” He sighed, realizing Mal had no intention of staying grounded. “Just try not to lift anything. Or...move...a whole lot.” “I’ll take that under advisement, Doc.” Mal buttoned up his shirt, strode over to the sink to wash the taste of blood from his mouth. “Come on, son. I’ll buy you breakfast.” Mal wandered into the kitchen, one hand supporting his side. Simon followed, eyeing Mal as though he half expected him to fall on his face. Zoe was already up, trying to interest Raven in a water bottle. Jayne sat across from them, distracting the baby with all manner of bun faces. His jaw went slack when Mal approached. “Hey, Cap’n. How you feelin’?” “Doc tried to molest me in my sleep,” he muttered by way of response. “I was examining him,” Simon protested, rolling his eyes. Mal limped over to Zoe, clapped a hand on her shoulder that they both knew meant she was forgiven. He reached past to smooth Raven’s hair. “Think the Little Chick’s grown past few days.” He took a seat beside them, wincing as the movement jarred his wound. Jayne cleared his throat. “Uh, Mal.” “Uh, Jayne.” “Mal, you and I always been up front with each other.” Mal blinked at him. “We always been up front,” he repeated. “That’s what I said,” Jayne said, a little forcefully. “Oh, I was just checkin’.” He leaned over to his first mate. “Zoe, you figure he’s plannin’ on shooting me?” “So I’m just gonna come right out and say this,” Jayne said loudly. Simon suddenly realized where the big merc was going with this. He had a very clear image of himself removing bullets and applying weaves for the next eight hours. Not exactly how he’d envisioned his honeymoon. “Jayne, perhaps now isn’t the best--” “Mal, I sexed your sister. There it is.” For a moment no one spoke. Mal opened his mouth, closed it again. His fingers were itching for his gun. Before anyone could make a move, Inara stormed into the room, Kaylee close on her heels. “Nara, please. Don’t be mad.” “I’m not angry, Kaylee. Truly, I’m happy for you. I am.” Her lower lip trembled. Kaylee raised an eyebrow. “Don’t look happy,” she ventured. “Oh, but I’m thrilled, mei mei. I wish you fifty golden years and hundreds of fat children.” “Okay, wait just a gorramn minute.” Mal sat up straighter, pounded a fist on the table. “Someone better tell me just what in the nine hells is goin’ on ‘round here. You--you don’t speak,” he said, turning murderous eyes on Jayne. The girls ignored him. “Nara, sweetie, I’m sorry! I wanted you there standin’ up with me. It just--it all happened so fast,” she said helplessly. “Tell her, Simon.” Mal turned to glare at Simon, who edged pointedly away. “Well, I, um. It was sudden,” he admitted. “Kaylee, I am happy for you. I just wish you’d waited.” Inara reached out a hand, stroked it over Kaylee’s unruly waves. “I wanted to help style your hair, pick out a pretty gown.” “Inara.” Kaylee rolled her eyes affectionately. “You did pick out my dress.” Inara blinked, smiled. “I--I’d forgotten.” She laughed, wrapped Kayee in an embrace, kissing her cheeks. “I’m sure it was a beautiful wedding, mei mei.” “Kaylee.” Mal’s voice was low, furious. “Did you go off and do somethin’ I’m gonna have to kill Simon for?” “Thought you were killin’ Jayne, Sir,” Zoe said helpfully. “Captain, can you kill me first? I’d rather not spend all morning stitching you up after you reopen your wound murdering Jayne.” “Simon,” Kaylee chided. “Nobody’s gettin’ shot.” She approached Mal, bent daringly to kiss his cheek. The others took a collective breath. “Not that me and Simon didn’t want you there, Cap’n. We did. ‘Cept it was all kinda spur of the moment. Just real sudden and...romantic.” She hesitated. “Aren’t you gonna say nothin’, Cap’n?” Mal looked at Kaylee, watching him all wide-eyed. His whole crew looked like someone was ‘bout to get their head shot off. Mal started to laugh. He couldn’t help himself, couldn’t stop. He bent forward, rested his head on the table as his whole body shook with it. He laughed until he thought his side would split open, until the others were exchanging awkward glances. Captain’s gone crazy, they must be thinkin’. Finally lost his marbles. When he at last caught his breath, there were tears at the corners of his eyes. He wiped them away with the back of his hand and stood, pushing in his chair. No one said a word, just let him limp across the room. Mal paused in the doorway, turned back to find five sets of eyes on him. “You know, Doc. I’m really startin’ to miss the little albatross. Looks like she was the sane one in this bunch.” He started toward his room, still grinning to himself. ***

TBC in Part 8--hopefully a lighter one! I heart comments.

COMMENTS

Sunday, January 8, 2006 2:58 PM

MISSMADRASSA


Is anyone selling these Kaynara fan club shirts coz I'm buying...purple patches and all.

This got a whole lot better when Mal and Inara got back on the ship. Prettiness indeed! You handle the team dynamics very well- the last part read like an episode of Firefly.

You and Screwthealliance are my favourite Fanfic writers. Your styles and treatment of the characters are very different, but between your lightness and their(his/her) intensity, the verse becomes.

Sunday, January 8, 2006 3:10 PM

GOLDY


[“Uh, Mal.”

“Uh, Jayne.”

“Mal, you and I always been up front with each other.”

Mal blinked at him.

“We always been up front,” he repeated.

“That’s what I said,” Jayne said, a little forcefully.

“Oh, I was just checkin’.” He leaned over to his first mate. “Zoe, you figure he’s plannin’ on shooting me?”]

Buhahaha! I LOVE YOUR DIALOGUE.

Awesome chap. Let's see... character background on Inara? Check. Action? Check. Hot M/I kisses? Check. Mal getting shot? Check.

Seriously. Awesome. I'm so impressed that you manage to update so quickly - I don't know how you do it!

Sunday, January 8, 2006 3:14 PM

AMDOBELL


This was brilliant! Absolutely gorram loved it to itty bitty pieces. Very thrilling with all them shenanigans at the posh house and the frantic attempt to get away with Trevor trying to help them then the really shiny bit back on Serenity with the news of Kaylee and Simon's wedding. Really loved Mal's reaction and his comment about River being the only sane one in the bunch was priceless! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, January 8, 2006 4:53 PM

SQUISH


Loved the driving lesson!!! (I feel like I just got nominated for an academy award. Okay, not an accurate comparison, but I'm happy to have contributed an idea, and see it in print).

I loved the exchange at the end, especially:
“Kaylee.” Mal’s voice was low, furious. “Did you go off and do somethin’ I’m gonna have to kill Simon for?”

“Thought you were killin’ Jayne, Sir,” Zoe said helpfully.

“Captain, can you kill me first? I’d rather not spend all morning stitching you up after you reopen your wound murdering Jayne.”

I really think you have the BDH's voices down really well and this is definitely an option for how I would have imagined them changing after the BDM. This is one of the best fics I've read with all of the characters being represented. Can't wait to see what they'll do next!

Sunday, January 8, 2006 5:57 PM

SHEPARDGHOST


Great job you write these characters so well.

Sunday, January 8, 2006 6:09 PM

RIVERGODDESS


Omg, I laughed so hard at the ending. Your dialogue is genius! I love love love this series! I really want to find out what happens next, and more River, please! You're doing a fantastic job. I think I need a t-shirt, too.

Sunday, January 8, 2006 7:48 PM

OLDSOUL1987


THank you!

Monday, January 9, 2006 1:13 AM

AGENTROUKA


That's what I get for not checking during the weekend. TWO parts, yay!

I love-love-love the twisty plot you introduced here! Everything, the idea of selectively breeding for good behavior, the act Mal put up to get Trevor involved.... Trevor himself is very cool and I adore how you mentioned that family tragedy so very by-the-way, Monique taking sacrificing herself to save him... That was very cool.

Inara's driving lesson, priceless, hehe. I enjoyed the entirety of their pushing-pulling, pet-name calling, irritating, soul-baring, mutually protective, passive-aggressive, agonizedly chipper interactions. And if he calls her cupcake ever again, I imagine there will be blood, bwaha!

Kaylee and Simon... I have no words for the adorable.

Jayne and Caroline, hee!

And then that perfect insanely hilarious ending. Spot on! Perfect anti-climactic resolution to all that piled up news!


Great chapters, both. Highly entertaining!

Now I cannot wait to see how they'll approach this new sinister plan. I hope we'll get to see Trevor again! I really liked him and his relation to Inara.

Summarily: much praise. *g*

Monday, January 9, 2006 9:46 AM

BELLONA


*i heart kaynara*

b

Thursday, January 12, 2006 12:02 AM

SHINYMULELOVER


Man I just love this fic!
From the none-too-sutle ways that Mal and Inara flirt to the Doc groping Mal to him finding out both of his sisters little secrets was just great.
I love that last line. It was perfect


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