BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

KAYNARA

Bed and Wine: Part 22
Sunday, April 9, 2006

Christianity and Cortex sex. Bunch of other stuff, too. This is 22 of 30, kids!


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Bed and Wine: Part 22 By Kaynara *** Christianity and Cortex sex. Bunch of other stuff, too. This is 22 of 30, kids!

As always, thanks go to Grimlock. *** May 20. To Malcom: I’d wish for any son of mine the incomparable experience of loving a trained companion, including all its heady and sometimes less-heady pleasures, its lusts, its lows.   I would not, however, advise my son to wed one.  The women of Sihnon reflect the best and worst elements of their ancient world, embodying the land’s terrible beauty, her immense material worth, her long and vivid memory.  A companion’s craft is old; some say the art dates back to Earth-that-Was.  When unfettered, such a creature shines like the twinkling lights of the Great City itself.  Captured, though:  captured she does not dim like light does when bound in paper lanterns, one of which adorns the doorway of every saloon and tavern and tea room in Sihnon City.  Instead her soul flames, as though the paper itself catches spark from the inner candle, ignites and consumes itself until all that remains is ash. Esmerelda, when first I encountered her, was a gift in every sense of the word.  But first she was quite literally a present, bought and paid for by Aston who suggested none-too-subtly that I find a manner of alleviating my “distressing disquietude.” Derry was less diplomatic. “Son, you got a problem in your pants. Best you see to that.”      I came to her that first time in a foul mood. I’d been docked on Sihnon eight straight weeks and hadn’t seen Mary in twelve. I balked when Aston first informed me of the appointment. Now I’d nothing against sex as a rule, but I’d never stooped to paying for it. Emmy would teach me that Companions were so much more than common whores. I tried to beg off; Aston insisted it was out of the question. Unification between Sihnon and the Allied Core could well depend on Guild support. The Five Houses and their heads held great sway over the Sihonese people; Emperor Kai himself was said to visit House Madrassa or Saraswati when the mood struck, and upper-level Companions often attended military balls and banquets. Hence, maintaining cordial ties with the Companions was most imperative. I’d keep my assignation with Esmerelda and bloody-well enjoy myself. Understand, Malcom, when I met with Emmy that first night I was still very much enamored with your mother. I love her even now, scribbling like mad on these pages, watching Derry toss back shots of whiskey while the sun pushes higher over the horizon. If you were fortunate enough to grow to manhood under her care, you know as well as I that Mary Reynolds is an extraordinary woman. Quite often, she’s also demanding and intractable. She fought like hell to stop me from coming here; a faded half moon over my brow bears testament to her candlestick-slinging rage. I wonder sometimes where we all might be if I’d listened. Alas, I did go to Sihnon, which is how I wound up in the scarlet-shaded bedroom suite of nineteen-year-old Esmerelda Slate, House Vidya. Have you ever been in love, kid? It feels somehow sinful wishing such suffering on a baby who can’t quite hold his head up. And make no mistake, Malcom: loving a woman is the most exquisite pain in the ‘verse. (Your godfather who sits beside me insists a bullet to the kneecaps is worse. I’ve never been shot, so what do I know?) I’m rambling now and really haven’t the time--don’t make that face, Derry; it *is* funny. Ai ya, so, Emmy.... She poured tea for us first. The brew was strong, the taste bitter on my tongue, but I drank it all down, perhaps just for something to do with my hands. Maybe she sensed my turmoil; we spoke very little while we sipped her hot, pungent tea. After, she led me by the hand into her bedroom, which was really too basic a name for the lush, extravagant space with its palm fronds, its mirrors. Boudoir, ‘sulking place’ in the French, might have been more fitting. Later, she’d spend hours in ours, doing just that. But that’s all of it much later. She bid me sit down on the bed, invited me to undress and lay forward on wine-colored satin. “You’re very tense,” she noted, kneading my shoulders. “Do all from your world carry such burdens? Or are you put upon more than others?” I hardly knew how to answer that. I murmured something nondescript into the mattress, my words blurring into moan as her skillful fingers slid lower down my back. I felt dizzy and giddy, loose as my muscles under her slippery-oil strokes. Just what was in that tea? Maybe she drugged me. Maybe I didn’t care. By now her hands were in my hair. I don’t know how to describe her touch but to say it offered everything and implied nothing. “You’re very pretty, Esmerelda of Vidya,” I said after, as we lay naked on the bed, a cool sea breeze wafting in through the windows to dry our skin. “And you’re very sweet, Senator Webb.” “But not pretty?” In earnest, kid, I can’t fathom what boost of ego had me joking with her. She smiled, those red-painted lips curving in surprise. “Pretty is not for men.” “Ah.” I stroked her hair, the blackest I’d ever seen. “What do you think of Sihnon?” she asked suddenly. It was her first impulsive act of the entire evening. “Sihnon is...well, it isn’t Londi. That’s where I’m from, Londinium.” “That’s not an answer, Quentin Webb.” Her smile was playful. I wondered if she was playing *me.* “Sihnon is...beautiful.” I hesitated, feeling oddly truthful. “And...tragic.” She nodded slowly. “It wasn’t always.” “Can I see you again, Esmerelda?” I murmured, not quite meeting her eyes. “Call me Emmy,” she whispered and mounted my hips. Once again, Derry makes faces. “Really, Quentin. Perhaps your boy would rather not read of his father’s dalliances.” “Emmy was hardly a ‘dalliance,’ “ I protest. “Then what was she?” Derry seems keen on asking the easy questions tonight. Well, kid, you have to learn sometime. I didn’t know my father--he was killed in a terra forming accident before my first birthday. But had he anticipated his own death (as I now anticipate mine) and written letters of this nature, I would have devoured the damn things, smutty bits and all. After all, he’s more character to me than father, a constant source of speculation and fascination as I both hope and fear I’ll be to you. Never knowing you, what harm can I do describing my lust for this girl--a Companion--with her heavy blue-black hair, kohl-lined gray eyes like Shadow after a storm and skin so pale it bruises under my hands’ fervent assault? I do wish you a Companion, son *** She let Mal and Zoe converse first, though the anticipation had her chewing her hair. It was a childhood habit and a repulsive one. She forced herself to pose calmly on the edge of his bed while she waited for Zoe to send down the ‘wave. Discipline, Inara. No, she would not change her dress for the fourth time, nor would she check her lipstick again. This was Mal. Malcom Reynolds, who wouldn’t care if she wore the tablecloth as long as it showed some cleavage...if they had a tablecloth...which of course they did not. She gave a rather undisciplined shriek and threw herself back on his bed, kicking up her legs in frustration. Not even two months apart and already she was developing a nice little insecurity complex. Ren si de fo-- “Inara?” “Mal!” She sat up rapidly, color flooding her cheeks. “Hi.” “So now I know what you do when I ain’t there.” “Hmm? I just...I was only....” She sighed, shrugged a single shoulder. “Perhaps I’m not at my most graceful tonight.” “I knew that whole elegant thing was an act to get me in bed.” He squinted, eyed her long enough to be unnerving. “Huh.” “Is something wrong?” “No. No, just that you don’t look any different.” She blinked, baffled. “Should I?” “Zoe said to say stuff ‘bout you lookin’ good.” He gave her another once-over. “I ain’t noticin’ nothing changed....” Inara raised a brow, watched him backtrack with amusement. “Not that you don’t always look... good. Better than good, even! What’s better ‘n good? Damn good? And I’m starting to think I shoulda just listened to Zoe on this one ‘cuz now I’m ramblin’ and likely lookin’ the fool whilst you’re prolly--” “Mal?” “Yeah?” “Stop talking.” “That may be for the best.” “How soon till you reach Persephone?” “ ‘Nother few days. You know, I ain’t never realized just how big the ‘verse is. Or guess I did, only I liked it that way. Now...now I feel like she might just swallow me whole. You ever feel like that?” “I-I have.” Now her world seemed cramped. Metal walls caving in to crush her, the unyielding black on all sides. Abruptly, she flashed back to a conversation she’d once had overlooking a herd of cows. She’d stared into a pair of blue eyes and sipped wine the same shade as their owner’s blood. Blood that seeped through the bandage on his side, a proud testament to his bizarre brand of chivalry. Why would I want to leave Serenity? she’d asked and meant it. Despite the high-handed and largely unsolicited attempt to defend her honor--ai ya, perhaps in part because of it--she’d felt rooted to this ship. With Mal, the sky seemed open; without him, isolating. The past few weeks Serenity felt like her prison. “And Gideon?” she asked. “How is he?” “Oh, he’s pretty much Gideon. You know, I get the feelin’ boy don’t like me much.” “You did hit him that once.” “Well, yeah. But just the once. Hey, tell me somethin’, truthsome. You, uh, you miss me any?” “I miss you.” Her eyes darkened. “I miss you more every day, Mal.” “That’s good, Nara. That’s real good ‘cuz I’m goin’ outta my head with all the missing you.” He shook his head, offered her that crooked smile. “You ain’t fallin’ for any other stick-up-his-ass ship captains, are ya? My still your one and only?” “I’ll probably take up with the next grouchy, gorgeous ex-Browncoat who crosses my path.” “Gorgeous? Think the sexual deprivation’s gone to your brain, baby-doll.” There it was: her opening. She’d meant to have this conversation last week but he seemed so tired during their ‘wave. Not just physically weary but emotionally ragged. She’d spent most of the twenty-minute dialogue trying fiercely not to cry. Mal had enough with which to cope; watching her sob seemed unnecessarily cruel. And the week before that was Christmas. She knew it hurt him, missing Raven’s first official one; in truth his absence hurt them all. The previous year’s holiday still hung heavy in her memory, and Christmas Eve night she dreamt of blood and betrayal. Still, lovemaking had a healing quality. Also, sex tended to render them wordless, an added benefit when it came to her and Mal. Perhaps she could soothe him, soothe them both, with a little creative imagining. “Mm, about that: deprivation. I’ve a proposal for your consideration.” “Proposal? You tryin’ to make an honest man outta me?” “Perhaps ‘proposition’ is the better word....” “Is that so? Well? Let’s hear it.” She hesitated, decided the straightforward approach was the best one here. “Mal, have you ever...engaged in sexual relations by unconventional means?” Sometimes directness was overrated. Sometimes you had to...nudge. “What do you mean, like backdoor stuff?” She sighed. “No, Mal, I wasn’t referring to ‘backdoor’ stuff.” She hesitated, raised a brow. “Wait a minute, have you--?” “I--well, no. Why, have you--? Nope!” His hands flew to cover his ears, eyes squeezing shut in mock-panic. “Never mind. I ain’t askin’ questions when I don’t want the answers.” He risked a quick glance. “What are we talkin’ ‘bout again?” “I’m never entirely sure.” Frustrated, she raked a hand through her curls, took a slow breath. “What I meant before...I was referring to...partaking in sexual interplay over the medium of the Cortex connection.” “Inara.” His mouth curved in a half-smirk. “You’re talkin’ ‘bout Cortex sex.” “That’s a slang term,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I’m talking about connecting in a meaningful way while we can’t be physically intimate.” “So you wanna...? Huh.” His eyes took on a look of faraway enthrall. “How do you feel about that, Mal?” she prompted. “Ain’t rightly sure yet. Do girls actually...with the pleasure giving...to the self?” “Some women are comfortable enough with their bodies and their sexuality to pleasure themselves physically.” “And are you...comfy?” “Do you want to or not, Mal?” Her patience was waning. “Honey, it’s just that I ain’t--well, I ain’t exactly done that before. I mean--of course I’ve done it--just not, you know, in front of people--” “Mal.” She smiled, softening. “We’re lovers. I think it would be...sexy.” “I gotta wear something special?” “Just your gorgeous smile.” He just shook his head. “Frisky little kitten.” *** It was raining cats and dogs when they arrived at a modest structure about half a day’s ride from Eavesdown. A young man, face full of baby fat and figure clad in robes, answered the door when they rang. “Welcome to Southdown Abbey. How may I serve you?” Mal raised a brow, shot Gideon a sidelong glance through the drizzle. “Honestly, son, I ain’t rightly sure.” The boy nodded gravely. “Will you tell me your name?” Mal told him, not entirely sure the admission wouldn’t be met with bullets. This whole ‘reputation-preceding-you’ business was way overrated. “Mr. Reynolds! We’re so glad you’ve come.” “Ain’t it a mite early for declarations of gladness?” The boy smiled quizzically. “Please, sir. Come inside out of the rain.” “Uh huh. Do me a favor? A few minutes notice if there’s to be shooting? I wouldn’t ask, ‘cept I’m running outta shirts don’t have holes and the little lady’s a mite fussy over wardrobe.” The remark earned him another funny smile. Clearly his special brand o’ humor was wasted on this crowd. Or maybehaps he weren’t so comical as he thought. The boy led them into a largish reception room, sparse and tasteful save a rather imposing wooden crucifix. Through a set of double doors, Mal could just make out the alter by candlelight. The entire space smelled of cedar. “Make yourself at home, Mr. Reynolds. Mr. Reynolds’ friend.” He smiled at Gideon. “I’ll locate the shepherd.” “Not half so snazzy as Bathgate,” Mal said to Gideon when they were alone. “Hell, that place was a resort in contrast.” For all the kid’s responsiveness, he mighta been talkin’ to the air. In another part of the abbey, he heard chanting. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners....” The shepherd didn’t look how Mal pictured him, though to be truthsome he was picturing Book. This guy was younger, thirty-five or forty maybe, with a balding head and tufts of auburn over the ears. He was tall and just this side of gawky, with round eyeglasses over warm hazel eyes. “Captain Reynolds. I wondered when we’d meet.” “Did you now?” Mal raised a brow. “I wonder at you wonderin’ that, seein’ as I’m standin’ here wonderin’ who you are.” “Shepherd Martin O’Riley.” He smiled sheepishly. “You can call me Shepherd Marty.” “Uh huh. Listen, buddy...uh, Shepherd. I’ve come a long way to be here.” “Yes.” Shepherd Marty nodded, squinting through his spectacles. “I think you have, Malcom. May I call you that, Captain? Malcom?” “Well, most everyone just says Mal, but do as you please, Shepherd. Listen, can I get a cuppa coffee if it ain’t a hassle?” “Not at all. You must be exhausted, Mal. Should I have a room made up?” “Why don’t we just talk for now and see where things go?” Mal quipped. He plodded ahead at the shepherd’s slightly-baffled frown. “Got some questions for you, Preacher. Maybehaps you already know what about. There a place we can converse in private?” “My office, if you don’t mind a bit of clutter.” “Shepherd, I got me a ship full o’ people makin’ clutter, one o’ which is a nine-moth-old with more toys than her aunts and uncles got the good sense to quit buyin’ ‘em. I ain’t no stranger to clutter.” “Children are true blessings, Mal. Do you have just the one daughter?” “I--” He didn’t stutter over the words. He simply had none. “Well, she ain’t specifically mine, see. Belongs to my first mate.” “Ah. Well, friends are a blessing too. Speaking of which, will yours be alright while we chat?” Shepherd Marty gestured through the doors leading into the Nave. Gideon walked there among the pews, one slender hand smoothing over the wood. “Him?” Mal gave a dismissive motion before following the preacher into his office. “He’ll be fine.” *** He could hear them reciting Vespers now. “Deus, in adiutorium meum intende. Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina.” O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me. He wondered if the captain would find the help he sought. Mal wanted answers. Gideon had stopped looking. When he was a boy, his mother took him to services every Sunday. She carried him on her hip, held him on her lap for the mass. Gideon loved to watch her eyes light during the sermon. He’d wrap a tiny fist around a handful of her hair, rest his head on her shoulder and let the priest’s gentle tones lull him into sleepiness. He didn’t care much for the words; it was the mood that seduced. They took him to his mother’s church after the attack. His arms and legs hurt from hiding, waiting curled like an animal in that box. He caught sight of himself in a mirror. Dust from the old trunk coated his hair, dulling the flaxen locks. He thought of his mother’s hair, the silky golden length of it, and started to sob. The parish priest lived next door with his maiden sister. They made up a room for him in the attic, washed his dirty hair and tucked the small boy into bed. He didn’t sleep that night. He saw blood and teeth on his eyelids, his mother’s blond head bleeding red, cracking against the floorboards with each successive thrust. He saw it all, one trickling eye pressed against the keyhole: a small boy hidden away in a trunk while Reavers ate his parents. When it was light, he’d slipped out of bed, tugged on the dirty clothes by his bedside. Barefoot, he padded next door to the church. He made his way down the aisle and took a seat in the first pew facing the windows. The sun gleamed through the colored glass, but Gideon knew the light was deceptive. His feet throbbed from walking in the snow. He folded them under his bottom and waited. And waited. “Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Hevae.” To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. He waited for two hours until the priest’s sister awoke and found him, wrapped him in a blanket and carried him back to the house for breakfast. In the afternoon, they shipped him away to the orphanage. Gideon was glad to be leaving. He didn’t want to stay at the church. He felt betrayed. When he was ten, he stopped blaming God, opting to blame himself for awhile. He couldn’t understand why he was hurting so badly, began to wonder if he didn’t in fact deserve it. He begged for forgiveness, mercy that never came. After awhile, he stopped craving it. It wasn’t his fault. He’d been just a little boy, one small enough to fit in a trunk. He tried to blame his father for hiding him, saving him only to damn him, but couldn’t quite summon the contempt. In the end, there was no one to blame. In the end, there was no one at all. Waiting for Mal, Gideon lit a candle for his mother and another for his father. He blew out both flames. If God wasn't answering, Gideon wouldn’t waste any more time asking. *** One thing was for certain: men of God did make folk a mite twitchy. “Where exactly did you come to know Shepherd Book?” Mal took a swig of coffee, tried to sit up straight. “Uh, well, met him here in fact. Persephone,” he clarified. “I got me a transport ship, see.” “Serenity.” Shepherd Marty smiled. “What a nice-sounding name.” “Now see how is it you know that? Name o’ my boat. How is it you know all these details ‘bout me when I ain’t recallin’ nothin’ of you?” “Would you like a refill, Mal?” “No, I think we should....well, yeah. Yeah, okay. This is damn good coffee, Preacher.” He hesitated, rethinking the cussing bit. “Sorry.” Marty just smiled and poured him another mug. “I know you have questions, Mal.” Questions? More like huge gaping holes in understanding. “You came to know Derrial when he booked--pardon the pun--passage on your transport ship?” “That’s how we met, yeah. I wouldn’t say I know the man. Book’s got somethin’ of a cryptic streak. I--can I ask you somethin’, Shepherd?” “Well--well, sure, Mal.” “Was the shepherd, well...always a shepherd?” Marty’s lips twitched, amused. “No one is born into this life.” “Well, yeah, but...was he somethin’ else before? Something knows ‘bout Operatives and Alliances and..bein’ ironical?” “Let us go for a walk, son. I’ve something to show you.” *** One thing about Ezra: sure weren’t much to see. Jayne loaded the last of the cargo crates into the hold. Bullets and bandage spray this run. Ruttin’ stupid is what it was. “I ain’t no pacifist, Zoe,” he remarked earlier. “Might not know much. Still, didn’t take a mind-readin’ genius to know folk wouldn’t be needin’ all that bandage spray if they quit orderin’ the bullets. Those Greenleaf clans been scufflin’ for years now. Ask me, someone oughta just lay down arms. Hell, all that warin’ is a waste of good coin.” Kaylee gave him her patented nudge--the one meant ‘sensitive topic, shut your hole ‘fore you wind up out the airlock.’ Was her nature, he figured, looking out for everyone. But Zoe just shrugged. “Might be a waste o’ their coin, Jayne. But that’s coin we need.” Much as he didn’t like to admit it, woman was right. Food stuffs they bought with the penguin job was near spent. When that Kane fellow floated another delivery gig there way, Zoe took it, which is how they was here on Ezra, pickin’ up guns and med supplies for a band of Greenleaf Browncoats didn’t know the war was over. Course for some like the captain, war weren’t never really over. But delusions aside, Mal wouldn’t want ‘em running guns in his absence. Was too risky, too high-profile. Also paid near double their transport fee. Jayne figured it was a combination o’ these factors kept Zoe from telling the captain ‘bout the Greenleaf job. She had balls, that one. A bit prickly for his taste, but gorrammit she had ‘em. Finished stocking, Jayne rose, raising his t-shirt to mop the sweat from his face. They’d landed smack in the middle o’ the summer season, and today was hot as the guns burnin’ a hole in their hold. A little siesta out in the air was sounding all manner of appealing ‘bout now. Kaylee and Nara was gone to town for supplies, and Jayne wasn’t of a mind to rush ‘em. Hell, Greenleaf folk could wait a few more days ‘fore blowin’ eachother to Judgement Day. Jayne strolled down the ramp, ambled around Serenity till he found a patch of grass would suit his purposes. He sprawled out on a nice stretch of green, tilting his hat to shade his eyes. Aw, hell, that was sweet. He dozed as the sun warmed the aches from his shoulders, let his mind wander where it chose. He could recall somethin’ his old man used to say, bit ‘bout guns not killin’ folk, folk doin’ that bit all on their own. Jayne reckoned there was some truth to that. Weren’t always guns. Personally, he’d ended men with instruments rangin’ from knives and bare fists to a Grape-Fizzy Blue Sun soda bottle once. Didn’t always have to be guns, but gorram if they didn’t make it easier. Anyway, Jayne’s old man was a drunk. Snickering at a memory of the old bastard slipping down some stairs, Jayne didn’t hear her approach. “Jayne.” He jumped, lot like Lil’ Kaylee when they’d watch a scary movie. Him and Mal used to tease her merciless, grabbin’ her shoulders at the creepy bits, delighting in her screams. Inara would roll her eyes, question their maturity in her fancy, Core-bred way. “You feelin’ left out, Nara?” Cap had asked once, eyes all wide with innocence. When the slithery things appeared next act, Mal tossed a rubber snake in her lap. Jayne never did know where Mal got the damn thing. Hell, he never knew Inara could shriek that way neither. She started right in slappin’ him, which was funny as all diyu as the cap’n weren’t expecting it. It went on a few moments, till Mal managed to grab her wrists. For a second or two, they looked at each other, all deep and serious. Then Inara rolled her eyes, murmured, “Very funny, Mal,” and turned back to the screen. Kaylee and Jayne grinned at each other like loonies. Course that was all of it years ago, ‘fore Miranda, ‘fore Feds and Reavers. ‘Fore they opened a box and found a naked girl the government broke. Sometimes Jayne sure did miss all that before. And sometimes...well, sometimes he wasn’t so sure. He held out an arm, giving her the choice. If’n she weren’t so inclined.... She settled in the crook of his shoulder, laying her head on the Blue Sun above his heart. She smelled nice, like something powdery and clean. He rubbed her back through the fabric of her jersey. He could feel the clasp of her bra beneath his fingertips. Girl was so little she hardly needed one. Oops. He felt her lips curve against his chest. “Sorry,” he muttered. “ ‘Sokay. You like them.” “Men like tits. Ain’t hardly an Earth-that-was-shattering revelation.” “Men like breasts. You like mine.” “Hmm. Where’s that brother of yours got off to?” She lifted her face, graced him with a wide grin. “Weird turn of topic.” “It’s natural as hell.” He cupped her breast in his big palm, used his thumb pad to raise the nipple to a pebbly point. Greedily, he watched for the moment when her eyes went dark. “These sweet little girls’ll be the death of me.” Putting her weight on her good arm, she hovered over him. She skimmed his lips just soft enough to arouse, opened her mouth to stroke his tongue. She tasted like cherry chapstick. He wondered at her other flavors. “Gettin’ good at that,” he said roughly. “I wanna do more. Wanna feel more.” “Yeah. Yeah, know you do.” Planting his hands on her waist, he flipped her over onto the grass. He hesitated, eyeing her from above. In a swift motion, he tugged the Blue Sun shirt over his head, pressed it into her hand. “Bite this if you’re like to scream.” He bent her legs at the knee, began trailing his mouth up the sides. “What happens now?” she whispered. “Psychic genius and she can’t figure what I’m doin’ under her skirt.” “Girls like this, though? Receiving oral pleasure?” “Never heard no complaints. Course I ain’t ever heard this much chatter ‘fore.” “Simon and Kaylee. Do they...?” “Yep.” “Do the captain and Inara...?” “On the rare occasion Mal’s head leaves his ass.” She was silent a moment. “Did Wash and Zoe--?” “Wash did it more ‘n anyone.” “How come--?” “Are you gonna shut the rut up anytime soon?” Ai ya, kid actually had him nervous. “Sorry.” “Now you tell me when something feels good, dong ma?” “Thought I couldn’t talk.” He took her hand, fisted the small fingers in his hair. “Give this a good tug.” He drew his lips over her inner thighs, feeling the baby-soft skin quiver with each shuddery breath. He opened his mouth against the crotch of her panties, kissed her through the soft cotton and realized he was the first one to do so. She gasped. He sighed. He raised his head, resting his chin between the vee of her legs. “You want me to stop, girl?” “Jayne.” A smile played at the edges of her lips. “Don’t you know we’re just starting?” *** “The rain’s starting up again.” Rex pulled the curtains closed, climbed in bed beside his wife. “How about Astrid and Cathan? For my Grandparents Grey.” “I like Duncan for a boy.” Duncan: brown solider. She’d found it in the book of names he brought home last week, circled it with black pen and trembling hand. She pressed white knuckles to her lips, trying to curb the stream of hysterical giggles. She was glad for the darkness, glad it hid her shaking shoulders. “Duncan’s nice,” he said, always the diplomat. “How about for the little lady?” “Indra. Do you know what that means?” A whisper in the quiet of their bedroom. “Can’t say I do, Beck.” “Laden with rain.” “That’s pretty I guess. A little maudlin maybe.” “Rain means renewal. Water washing away the filth. Like a river.” Again she felt a flutter in her belly, a sudden urge to laugh until she wept. She was going mad. The pictures sealed it. They were hardly flattering; Reynolds was bound by law in his capture, those angry blue eyes staring out at her. And the mother, the fugitive Tam girl: dear God, she was only a child herself. “Since you’re the one getting fat, I guess you deserve final verdict.” He snuggled up to her from behind, cupped his hand over the barely present bump at her middle. “Charlotte?” Rebecca closed her eyes, feeling his lips nuzzle the nape of her neck. She wanted to turn in his arms, bury her face in the soft, familiar flannel of his night shirt. She also wanted to leave him, go away one day without warning and not ever come back. “How do you think they’ll look?” she asked boldly. “I bet the girl will be dark, brown hair and eyes.” “And the boy?” She choked back a sob. “Maybe he’ll have blue.” *** He saw them strewn out in the sunshine. They were lying in the grass, his big, hurtful hands holding her head, her pretty hair tumbling over his arms. She sat facing him, her long dancer’s legs wrapped around his waist. Huaide son of a bitch. Selfish son of a-- “Simon.” Beside him, Inara touched a cool hand to his forearm. He blinked at her through the blinding glare of the sunset. In her free arm, she carried a paper bag of groceries. Automatically, he hefted the heavy bundle from her arms, balanced it against his chest. In spite of it all, Inara smiled. If the entire ‘verse went mad, Simon would remain, as ever, a gentleman. “Simon, come inside with me.” “I’m fine, Inara.” “Yes.” She watched him watch his sister--his baby sister, for she knew he still thought of River as such--sit sprawled across the lap of a man more than twice her age, press kisses to the rough skin of his cheeks, her face flushed with sunburn and something more. “Yes, Simon. I see now that you’re perfectly fine.” The sarcasm seemed to draw him from his reverie. “You know, Inara, you can be snarky with the best of them.” “I don’t know how anyone survives this ship otherwise. Let’s have some tea, Simon.” “I’ll bet she’s not even wearing sun block. Her skin--she’s so fair. She’s always burned easily. She hated me for tanning when she always....” He sighed, raked a hand through his hair. “I’m not even sure she knows enough to...protect herself.” “Jayne won’t let her get...sunburnt.” Together, they watched him straighten the bodice of her blouse, incline his head to kiss the hollow of her throat. “Come inside, Simon.” Inara threaded their fingers, began tugging him toward the ship. Moral ambiguity aside, River’s choices were her own. This moment was clearly a private one, something personal and particular, not anything a brother should be viewing. Simon seemed in agreement on that point at least. He let her lead him up the ramp and across the bay. At the stairs he hesitated, blue eyes so wounded it hurt to meet their gaze. “Inara...Inara, she’s suffered so much. I know she’s not a little girl anymore.” “She isn’t. She’s a young woman, Simon.” “She’s just young. And he’s...he’s....” “Id with pants?” Simon smiled. “Don’t take this the wrong way...But in another ‘verse, a ‘verse without Mal and Kaylee....I think you and I could have been very content together, Nara.” She graced him with a soft smile. “I’ll take that exactly as it was intended.” Grateful, he nodded and started up the stairs, one hand holding his head where the temple pounded. “Simon?” she called after him. “Yes?” “Perhaps you could wait to murder Jayne. It’s just that I know Mal would want to be there.” The doctor grinned, shook his aching head. “Very, very snarky, Inara.” “I try.” *** “Hurry up, though. Tryin’ to clean my guns here.” “This won’t take long.” In the dim quiet of the galley, Simon sat opposite Jayne at the table. He folded his hands on the scarred surface of the wood, met the older man’s eyes. “I know you’re sleeping with my sister, Jayne.” Jayne’s hand twitched but didn’t reach for any of the armory spread before him. He gave no other sign he’d even heard the accusation. “I’m not going to kill you.” Jayne sniffed. “You couldn’t.” “Maybe not. I think the attempt would be, shall we say, interesting.” “That it would, Doc. That it would. Know what’s most freaksome ‘bout the two of you?” “Oh, do tell me, Jayne.” “Ain’t that you both know so much ‘bout the other gettin’ sexed. Ain’t that you’re all proper and your sister’s crazy. Hell, ain’t even knowin’ she can kick all our asses from here to Capital City. The part gets me, the real kicker in this, is how you both love eachother to pieces without understanding a damn thing.” “What don’t we understand?” “Who you both are. And, more to the point, who you ain’t.” Simon shook his head. “I’ve known River my whole life.” His voice rose. “Just because you may have carnal knowledge--” “Don’t at that. Not the way you’re thinkin’.” Simon nodded, lowered his head to his hands. Jayne sighed heavily. “You feel like hatin’ me awhile, I ain’t gonna hold it against you. Well, no more ‘n before I reckon.” “I don’t hate you. You can’t hate someone you don’t respect.” Jayne lowered his gaze. “Well, you’re honest, Doc. Gotta give ya that.” “And I hope you’ll be honest with my sister. Make sure she knows this is just...just--” “She knows.” He met Simon’s eyes levelly. His mouth was dry. He really wanted the doc to go so he could chug a glass of water. “Good.” Simon stood. “I think we’re done here.” “Glad we got that settled.” “Oh, and Jayne?” Simon hesitated in the doorway. His eyes trained on the lantern in the center of the table. “The bones in her face are still fragile. Try...try to kiss her gently.” *** He read the letters by candlelight, his butt going numb on the hardwood floor, his head hazy from exhaustion and that ceaseless chanting. “Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae, vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra....” “Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,” he murmured in a voice rough with emotion. Shepherd Marty had left him alone hours ago. He’d seemed a decent sorta fellow, as preachers went. Tried his damnedest to explain things in a manner wouldn’t prove overly jarring. Course messages from dead men often had that effect. “Your Book was my mentor when I first arrived at Southdown. He taught me everything he knew.” “Everything? That so?” Mal bit back a chuckle. “Then, rather suddenly, he expressed a desire to go out into the world. ‘I have matters too-long avoided,’ he explained. Within a month, he was gone. For nearly a year, we received only the occasional wave assuring us of his continued health and well-being. Then, one day, a parcel arrived. The contents of that package were several letters, all addressed to a Captain Malcom Reynolds, and a single letter addressed to me.” “I ain’t followin’. If’n the preacher was with me all that time, why not just give me the messages his own self?” “The letter bearing my name sheds some light there, Mal. It would seem that Derrial deemed you...unready to receive the other letters.” “Unready,” Mal repeated dully. “He didn’t want you privy to the contents of the letters until you could fully appreciate their import. He wrote--forgive me, this is somewhat awkward: “The war of Independence shaped Captain Reynolds into a bitter, angry young man. He is not an evil man, not nearly so hopeless as he believes himself to be. But neither is he a truly good one. He offers love without accepting it in kind. He is incapable of accepting it. He isn’t ready to receive the message I have to deliver.” Marty shrugged, clearly embarrassed. “I actually think he liked you a great deal.” “Yep. That’s a gushing review of a man, if ever I heard one.” “In truth, Mal. He found you quite...comical.” “I do try to keep the troops entertained.” “He said you saved his life.” “Only the first time.” Marty flinched. “May he rest in peace.” “Someone oughta. The other letters...who wrote ‘em?” “Mal. They were written by your father....” *** August 9. To Malcom: Sometimes she was so heartbreakingly sad. I imagine watching your world altered can have that effect. A week ago bloody skirmishes over the ownership of gold claims resulted in the destruction of a statue of Saraswati. Though the Independents actually overturned the goddess, most everyone blamed the Core soldiers for forcing their hand. To be fair, we don’t steal gold claims from the Sihonese. We simply arrange for the claims to be lost. Sometimes I have to reassure myself I’m a good man, that I’m fighting for the right side. I go to Aston, and he tells me stories of the lawlessness and disease afflicting the rim. Backwards, violent civilizations, if you can call them that, where the women are sexual servants, the men solve problems with shooting. I hear these things, and my faith is restored. Emmy didn’t care a whit for the gold but the loss of the statue disheartened her. Her mother was of House Saraswati, and Emmy considered the goddess her protector. She showed me pictures from a book of rich illustrations and told me the tale of the Vritra, a demon of darkness. Her hand guiding mine, we together traced the pale, beautiful goddess crediting with slaying this evil. The ruination of her countenance suggested a bad omen in Emmy’s mind. “See the white lotus? That indicates her acceptance of the Absolute Truth,” Emmy taught. “She is the goddess of all things good and beautiful.” “This?” I stroked a finger down her face, continued the path along her neck and shoulders, over the naked mounds of her chest. “Fertility,” Emmy admitted, her soft smile poking dimples in her cheeks. “But also art, literature, music. Intelligence and awareness. Prosperity.” The smile left her lips. “Do you really believe all that?” I hovered over her. “All those stories and rituals?” “Of course I do.” “How, Emmy? How can you possibly?” She looks surprised. “How can you not?” I just shook my head, rolled back off of her. “And aren’t I party to all that rashness and destruction? How can you stand to make love to me, Em?” “It’s my job.“ “Oh, *well,* then.” I threw up my hands in disgust. “Hush. You’re taking it all wrong. A Companion chooses her own clients, not once but twice. The initial decision is often something of a gamble; after all, how much can I really know of a man from a few moments conversation? A lot, in fact; I’m very good at my job. But not everything. The first choice is all about impressions.” “And yet that first impression decides whether or not you let a man into your bed, allow him between your....” I trailed off, repulsed by us both then. She didn’t rebuke me with words; her eyes were warning enough. “That second choice though....there I must decide whether to see a man again, whether the arrangement benefits us both as any good Client-Companion relationship must. I knew I’d see you again, Quentin. Not because of your faith, not because of your politics. I chose you because we needed eachother. I can fill your wants, and you mine. Serving you serves me.” “What’s the hardest part?” “Shuh muh?” “Your job: Companion. What’s the hardest part?” “Smiling,” she answered without hesitation. She must have read the hurt in my eyes; I hardly bothered to disguise it. “I didn’t realize I was such a chore. Dear God, is it all a lie? Do you paint on that coy simper with your lipstick?” “Not with you.” “What a rousing denial. I hope you deliver that line with more oomph for your other clients.” “Companions aren’t performers, Quentin. Yes, I try to please you. Yes, I try to comfort you and ease your pain. But I do not act. I believe in what I do with my clients, the words we say, the physical exchange of comfort and pleasure. I believe in it, but I don’t always enjoy it. With you, I enjoy it.” I didn’t say anything. This would be as close as Emmy ever came to saying she loved me. “Quentin?” I traced her lips, not trusting my voice just then. “The smile isn’t fake. Neither is the rest.” I caught her up in my arms, pressing kisses to her eyelids, the tip of her nose. “I believe in this, Emmy: what my government is doing here. I think it will make things better. I think it will make the ‘verse better.” The kohl made her eyes look huge. “I know you do,” she said, stroking my face. Would I feel such sorrow if Londi were to crumble? Hardly. But then slums rarely inspire the same loyalty. Already I loved Sihnon above my homeland, maybe even more than Shadow, site of my ambassadorship: fertile land with its clean lines and honest integrity. Sihnon was all blurred edges. *** TBC in Part 23. Give a girl reviews. :)

Okay, just had to add a little anecdote here: My friend and I went to see the Chippendales Friday night, and I actually got to use the line, "Look, they got boy whores!" Which, okay, they aren't really. But, still, it was fun to say. And my friend, who I've recently converted, totally got it and said: "Isn't that thoughtful?" Just thought I'd mention....

COMMENTS

Sunday, April 9, 2006 3:47 PM

LEIASKY


Oh this is so excellent. The Simon /Jayne conversation was just great as was the Inara/Simon one.

Snarky Inara is almost as good as snarky Simon.

Sunday, April 9, 2006 4:00 PM

GRIMLOCK


12+ hours of studying and the boy-whores thing has me roling on the floor!

Sunday, April 9, 2006 4:51 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh....this was Grade A, Joss-level shizzney, Kaynara! I loved the various dialouges between Mal and Inara, Inara and Simon, Simon and Jayne, and the stuff on Mal's father.

can't wait for part 23;)

BEB

Sunday, April 9, 2006 7:28 PM

ARCADIA


Amazing letters. Simply amazing.

Interesting how Mal's fate was so similiar to his fathers.

Excellent installment. Can't wait for me.

Sunday, April 9, 2006 8:14 PM

SHINYGEEKET


This was a very interesting chapter, I especially liked the letters from Mal's dad. Thank you for contributing to my negligent study habits :-)

Monday, April 10, 2006 4:00 AM

GOLDY


More Bed and Wine!!!!

Yay! *sings*

*bounces*

Oh - man, I am just so, so, SO in love with everything you do. Never stop writing M/I, okay?

[“Ain’t rightly sure yet. Do girls actually...with the pleasure giving...to the self?”

“Some women are comfortable enough with their bodies and their sexuality to pleasure themselves physically.”

“And are you...comfy?”]

LOL.

That was so perfect. And how much do I love that Mal is *still* uncomfortable and jumpy when it comes to sex?

River/Jayne - hot.

Simon/Inara moment - loveliness.

Simon/Jayne moment - heh!

I love you, I love this fic, and I can't believe it's ending on chapter 30. *clings to it*

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 4:05 AM

BROWNCOAT2006


Mmmmm haven't been on in a while... Still gotta say this is one of the most well written and my personal favorite fic. I love your writing. :)

Monday, June 12, 2006 8:35 AM

BELLONA


i love jayne and mal acting like children when watching scary movies with the girls, makes me grin like the moonbrain that i am.

b


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