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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE
Kaylee and Inara have a discussion about love, and there are hints of a darker chapter of our fair Companion's life... bonds are forged, and mercs are made uncomfortable...
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1653 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Life’s Too Short- Part Ten
Author’s Note: Sorry it took so long! J
* * * * * “Won’t fail her,” River said with wide eyes. She was standing at the opening that led down to Mal’s bunk, bending almost in half to look down at him. Her legs were completely straight, as was her back, and Mal winced to see her in that position. Must be painful, he thought.
“What?” He rested a hand on the ladder, bracing his right boot on the fourth rung as he prepared to boost himself out of his bunk. River’s big brown eyes studied his face, looking earnest.
“You won’t fail her. Just give in.”
“Now, little Albatross,” Mal said with a forced laugh, “I don’t take to givin’ in. Ain’t in my natu-”
“Sometimes giving in is good.”
“Not this time, darlin’, not this time.” He tried stepping up on the ladder to see if she’d take the hint, and wasn’t surprised when she didn’t. Time was, he’d think that was because she was all twisted in the brainpan. Now, Mal just thought she was being deliberately annoying.
“I’d know better than you, don’t you think?”
“Now see here, River, you-”
“I thought you two were moving along just fine. Do I have to give you another push?” Good grief, Mal thought. That was the most lucid talk he’d heard from her in… well, a long time. He opened his mouth to retort, but she’d straightened and begun wandering away down the hall.
“Sure. Just- Just walk off, then! I’m just the gorram CAPTAIN, after all!!!” He hoisted himself out into the hallway, muttering to himself.
“Captain?” Oh, perfect. He spun around to face Simon, who was looking a little pale. Well, paler.
“There’s a- there’s a wave for you. From the man who’s chasing us.”
“Hotze de fu tsu!” Mal pushed past the doctor and jogged to the bridge. Zoe was standing in front of the wave screen, stone-faced. Mal stopped just out of sight, took a deep breath and relaxed his back. Then, he strolled across the bridge to stand beside and a bit in front of Zoe.
Edward T. Jennings’ face stared back at him.
“Hello, Captain Reynolds,” he said.
* * * * *
“Do you want me to put it up?”
“Sure.” Kaylee was sitting on Inara’s soft bed, wearing a pair of knee-length cargo pants and a lacy white bra. Her expression was pure relaxation and pleasure; hard not to be happy after a massage from Inara. It was warm in the shuttle, and a few drops of sweat beaded between her breasts. Inara’s gentle, long-fingered hands lifted Kaylee’s hair into a pile on top of her head, and pinned it there. Then, she pulled out three thick strands from the far left of Kaylee’s scalp, nearest to her left temple, and began braiding them.
“How are things? We never really got to talk about you when we were on Orion.” Inara’s voice was soft and soothing, and Kaylee closed her eyes. It was so rare that she just got to relax like this.
“Has Simon seen your new dress yet?” Kaylee laughed.
“No. I’m plannin’ a surprise party for his birthday. ‘S in two weeks, ya know. Seein’ as
last year went so… badly.”
“Oh? What do you have planned?”
“Gonna get some fancy chocolate an’ whipping cream, an’ I’m gonna walk in wearing the slinky dress.” Inara grinned.
“That sounds wonderful. I take it things are going well with Simon, then?”
“Mostly. He’s such a silly head sometimes, though.”
“How so?” Kaylee sighed.
“He gets so nervous. I love him anyway, and it can be real funny to watch, but I just wish he could feel more at peace around me. I don’t wanna scare him.”
“I’m sure he does feel at peace around you, mei mei, he just doesn’t know how to show it. He wants to impress you so much, you know.”
“I know that,” Kaylee said, and another time there might have been irritation in her voice. Now, there was simply a little sadness. “It’s so hard sometimes, though.”
“He loves you very, very much, and it’s hard for him, too. He was raised in a world where it would be considered forward to hold a girl’s hand if they were not engaged. You, on the other hand, were raised in a far more open world.”
“Are we too different, then? I never want to think about that, but it sneaks up on me at night.” Yes, Inara thought, I know how that is. “I mean, I’m so happy when I’m with him, and he’s happy, too, but… maybe we are just too different.” Inara finished her second braid and pulled out the next three strands, working her way around Kaylee’s skull.
“No, mei mei, you two are perfect together. You complement each other.”
“What’s that mean?” Kaylee twisted her head to look at Inara, and her eyes were worried. Inara smiled reassuringly.
“He’s stern and solemn, and you’re carefree and filled with joy. He’s a worrywort, and you’re an unfailing optimist.” Kaylee giggled at ‘worrywort’, and her worried frown-lines went away. “You were meant for each other.”
“Does that happen? My ma used to tell me stories about true love, but I never was sure. I love him, and I can’t imagine not lovin’ him, but I’ve thought I loved boys before.” Inara felt her heart seize up. *Oh, Sweet Buddha, not those memories. *
“There’s a difference between boys and men, Kaylee, and I think Simon’s probably the first man you’ve loved.”
“Have you ever been in love, ‘Nara? I mean, before the Cap’n,” Kaylee asked absently. Inara made sure to mask the twitch her fingers wanted to make at the question. She tried to ignore the sudden pain. She’d thought she’d forgotten. She’d thought it was gone forever. She’d talked about love before, but something about Kaylee’s innocent questions and Inara’s own foolish wording in her responses was bringing back… things that shouldn’t be brought.
“No, and I don’t love Mal,” Inara said. She felt bad lying to Kaylee, but there were things no sweet girl should have to hear.
“Yes, you do,” Kaylee said softly, finding Inara’s hand where it was holding a braid steady and giving it a friendly squeeze.
“Companions don’t fall in love.”
“Think how complicated it would be.” Inara flashed on Mal’s face as he threw another insult at her. “Besides, who would fall in love with a whore?” Kaylee caught the bitterness in Inara’s voice and turned her head again.
“He doesn’t think that, ‘Nara, he doesn’t! He loves you as much as Simon loves me, and he’s just too much of an ass to say it!” That made Inara smile.
“Did you just call your Captain an ass? I thought that was against regulations.”
“Only when it isn’t true,” Kaylee burst out. “It’s not fair!”
“What’s not fair,” Inara asked, gently turning Kaylee back around so that she could continue the growing line of braids.
“That I should be so happy with Simon and that everyone else… isn’t. When Wash died, Zoe got hurt so bad inside, but I think she’ll be okay. But you an’ the Cap’n, you got love right in front of you, an’ you won’t take it!”
“I can’t take it,” Inara whispered. “It would never work.”
“Maybe now that your license- Oh, ‘Nara, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound like that!”
“It’s okay, mei mei.”
“I know you love companioning, but maybe you an’ the Cap’n could at least try!”
“We are trying.”
“Kissin’ don’t count.”
“It doesn’t?” Inara was smiling again, and she had never loved Kaylee more than in that moment.
“Not unless you say the words.”
“I can’t say the words, and neither can he. We come from totally different worlds, and neither of us will let those worlds go.”
“So you’re saying you’re too different?”
“’Cause that’s a load of go se. If Simon and I can make it work, so can you ‘n the Cap’n.” Inara was nearly finished with the braids. “I think you two aren’t that different. I think the problem is that you’re way too alike. Too stubborn to give in, too much in love to let go.”
“Now you sound like River.”
“Maybe that’s because she’s right!”
“It’s different with Mal and I.”
“Sure. You love him, right?”
“I told you, I care about him.”
“Why can’t you say you’re in love with him, ‘Nara?” Inara swallowed, running her fingers through the mass of braids.
* “I love you, Sam.” Shadows. Moving in the shadows. The plan would work, it would work and she’d be free with her lover, free to- darkness. Eyes, glinting. Silver. Sharp silver. Steel. “Sam? Sam?” *
“I- I can’t. I just can’t.”
“But you are, aren’t you.” Inara didn’t answer, only began taking out the braids from left to right. They sat in silence as she worked. Finally, Inara pulled the last bit of hair free. Kaylee’s thick mahogany hair hung in long, loopy curls just past her shoulders, now. Inara gathered it into a loose knot at the top of her head and pulled several curling strands down to frame Kaylee’s face. She stuck two Chinese chopsticks into the knot to hold it, and was finished.
* * * * *
“You’ve got one more minute.” If he allowed Jennings to talk for more than two minutes, the Alliance captain would be able to trace them.
“Hey, it’s nothing against you and yours,” Jennings said coldly. “I just want the girl.”
“And the coin you’d make turnin’ us in makes no never mind to you.”
“If I turned you in, you’d be free to tell on my little escapade.”
“An’ don’t you forget it. Was there a reason you waved me, Jennings?”
“Just wanted to see your face, Malcolm Reynolds. I like to see my prey alive at least once before I kill them.”
“Do you. I don’t. I just kill ‘em.” With that parting shot, Mal switched off the wave screen and turned to Zoe. “Ruttin’ bastard.”
“He is that, sir.”
“Yep. Let’s get out of here.”
* * * * *
Zoe knocked on the door to Inara’s shuttle, wishing she didn’t feel so nervous. Damn it, she was a soldier, prepped for shooting, not girl-talk. Well, not like it was really * girl talk *, right? Just talk about men. A man. Okay, that was definitely girl talk.
“Qin jin,” came the soft call from within. Zoe opened the shuttle door to Kaylee, wearing a floaty blouse that Zoe didn’t think was hers, with her hair all curly and done up fancified.
“Oh, hey, Zoe,” Kaylee said brightly.
“Hey there, Kaylee-bird.” Kaylee stepped past Zoe and bounced down the hall towards the infirmary. Zoe shook her head with a small smile, and walked into the shuttle. Inara was sitting on her couch, hands folded in her lap.
“Zoe,” she said, sounding surprised. “Please, sit.” Zoe sat cautiously in a chair across from the Companion. She was very conscious of the differences between her life and that of the other woman, and yet there was a strange kinship between them that had been solidly forged during the Reaver fight on Miranda. Inara had killed her share with that bow of hers, and Zoe respected that.
“I, uh, wanted to talk to you about… well, about Mal.” Nothin’ wrong with straightforward and blunt.
“Mal?” Zoe thought she saw a nervous flicker in Inara’s pretty brown eyes, but then it was gone.
“When you left, it hurt him. A lot. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t figure it to be any of my business.”
“Zoe, I…” Inara trailed off.
“But since I lost my man,” Zoe said, holding up a hand when Inara opened her mouth, “I’ve changed my mind. I ain’t gonna let you hurt Mal.”
“I don’t want to hurt him.”
“But you will. He won’t live through you leavin’ again, and I won’t let that happen. He’s all I’ve got left.” Inara felt her mouth open, but no sound came out.
“Zoe,” she managed. Zoe’s face was like stone.
“So you either swallow your stubbornness or leave him be.” Inara blinked. Her eyes filled with a sudden light, and Zoe felt the satisfaction that came before a fight.
“I’m not the one you should be threatening, Zoe.”
“I’m not threatening you, Inara,” she said. “I’m protecting myself and my best friend.” The dangerous light in Inara’s eyes dimmed.
“I understand how you feel about Mal, Zoe.”
“But he’s not all you have left.” Zoe narrowed her eyes. Inara didn’t drop her gaze, and Zoe was reminded of a leopardess she’d seen once on Persephone. Beautiful, soft, warm, but there was a hidden edge, sharp as a razor.
Zoe gave a grunt that could be considered an encouragement. Inara gestured with her hand at the doorway to the rest of the ship.
“We’re all here, Zoe, and we all love you and Mal and Serenity. We all loved Wash, and we all loved Book.” Zoe sucked in a breath, startled by the other woman’s words.
“I know you don’t want pity or anything like that, and I understand that….” For just a moment, Zoe saw deep into the Companion’s eyes, saw the woman that was guarded the rest of the time, and felt the bond of kinship strengthen. They were peas in a pod, she recognized. Both women in a hard world, both fighting with whatever weapons were available, both hiding their true selves. Both warriors, one of steel, one of silk. Both strong. She saw the same recognition in Inara’s eyes, and there was silence in the shuttle. Then, the moment passed and Inara continued. “But please believe me when I say that I will never willingly hurt Mal, not ever.” She was telling the truth, Zoe guessed. And that would have to be enough. The two women stood, and Inara held out her hand. Slowly, silently, Zoe took it.
* * * * *
“You’ve been avoiding me.” Jayne froze, then rolled his shoulders, jaw clenching. He turned slowly, readying himself. River stood before him, wearing a pair of Inara’s wispy silk trousers and a flowing top that didn’t so much hide her torso as reveal it in tantalizing little glimpses where the cloth clung or fell just so.
“Di’n’t I tell you not ta sneak up on me like that?”
“Yes.” She moved closer. “Every one a match.”
“Well, some matches make fire, an’ then you get burnt.” She smiled.
“What if I want to get burned?” Another step closer.
“Here, now, girl, back off!” He sat down hard on a kitchen chair, trying to get his balance. She sat on his lap, her lithe body softer than he’d expected. “Aw, gorramit! That ain’t fair!” She leaned against his chest, and Jayne tried to quell his reaction. Zoe walked into the kitchen with Mal not far behind her, and both stopped. Mal’s lips quirked.
“Wanna enlighten me as to exactly what is goin’ on, Jayne?” Zoe just smirked.
“Hell, Mal!” Mal raised a brow and cocked his head, crossing his arms.
“Weren’t my fault! She just came over an’ sat down!”
“Going to make me move, Captain Daddy?”
“I’m of a mind to let you do as you please, Albatross, but your brother may not be so obliging.”
“I’m not a child,” River said, completely ignoring Jayne’s half-hearted attempts to get her off his lap and the gruesome expressions he was making behind her back. “Simon’s just a boob.”
“Be that as it may,” Mal said, “might want ta remove your pretty backside from Jayne’s somewhat less pretty lap ‘fore he finds you like this.” River pouted, but stood. Jayne immediately jumped to his feet.
“Be in my bunk,” he called, sprinting out of the kitchen. River gave a slow smile that Mal liked not one bit, and strolled out in the opposite direction. Mal turned to his first mate, and grimaced.
“Not sure I liked that little exchange,” he stated. Zoe raised her brows.
“How come you didn’t yell at ‘em?”
“’Cause I didn’t want to yell at River. Jayne, on the other hand… well, I’ll talk to him later.”
“No need, he has been behaving quite well, considering,” River called in a sing-song voice from somewhere around the corner. Zoe snorted and shook her head. Mal just rolled his eyes at the doorway through which she’d gone.
“So where are we headed, sir?”
“I was thinkin’ we’d fuel up on Diogenes, and then just sail low for a while.”
“Diogenes? Don’t we have enemies on Diogenes?”
“Zoe, we have enemies on every planet in the ‘verse.”
“Diogenes it is, sir.” There was a brief silence.
“Who doesn’t like us on Diogenes?”
“Right. Good. Glad it’s a plan.”
TBC: Next: Fun on Diogenes, plus River’s matchmaking takes a somewhat drastic turn… look out, guys, the next one's gonna have a few dark parts.
Saturday, April 08, 2006 10:04 AM
Saturday, April 08, 2006 10:40 AM
Saturday, April 08, 2006 11:01 AM
Saturday, April 08, 2006 10:42 PM
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