blue flamingos

Irregular (the Dawn to Dusk remix)

Fandom: Firefly

Category/Rated: Gen, PG

Year/Length: 2007 words

Pairing: Inara, Mal, Kaylee

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: 'Bout a month ago we spent a whole week near your sort of planets and your shuttle didn't once leave the ship.

Author's Notes: Original story: Bad Moon Rising by [info]castaliae

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.



Inara went to sleep in space and wakes up on Greenleaf; the light in her shuttle is clean and pale, not like the powered lights on Serenity. She curls deeper into the silk covers on her bed, half caught in dreams still. She's happy to be here, looking forward to getting off Serenity for a few days while Mal frets about being so close to the Alliance; she loves the ship, but it's become claustrophobic lately.

She stretches, shifts and that's when she feels it, the familiar ache in the small of her back. "No," she groans.

There are days when Inara is certain the universe possesses a cruel sense of humour. After a month in the black, this happens now, when she has three clients lined up. It goes against companion etiquette to cancel appointments once made, and it's something Inara's managed to avoid doing before, mainly by making appointments as late as possible. Unfortunately, the pill companions take to regulate themselves stops working after a time, and she stopped taking it after her last medical check.

Inara curses, then gets up, pulls on her wrap and goes to her comm screen to start breaking appointments.


She spends the morning in her shuttle, with a hot water bottle hugged to her stomach. The pain and cramps never last more than a few hours, but they make her miserable while they do. It's one of the few times she misses the Companion House on Sihnon, where the companions in training would come and give backrubs or warm baths to anyone suffering.

The thought of asking Simon, as ship's doctor and thus responsible for their health and well-being, to perform the same service, makes her laugh.

When she leaves her shuttle to make some tea, the ship is quiet. Mal usually enforces his no-one planetside rule without impunity on any planet with an Alliance presence, but maybe he's feeling relaxed this time. Inara can't even convince herself of this: she doesn't know what the job is this time, since she's not supposed to be on the ship during it, but Serenity's been buzzing with it since they got waved.

She makes her tea and walks slowly through the ship. There's no sign of Wash up on the bridge when she looks up, and the engine room's empty. Even the infirmary is unoccupied, no sign of River.

She can't remember the last time she was alone on Serenity, if she ever has been. She trails her free hand along the wall, surprised by just how clean the ship is. She's never seen any of the crew cleaning her, but she supposes they must do.

There are voices in the cargo bay, high pitched and laughing. Inara leans on the rail and looks down at Kaylee and River sitting on the floor with a board between them, scattered with brightly coloured pieces. Kaylee throws the dice and moves her piece, groaning.

River glances up to catch Inara's eye for a moment and Inara slips away again.



No-one leaves the ship on Tuesday: Inara knows this because she's sick of the inside of her shuttle by the afternoon, and ventures out into the ship.

"Hey, Inara," Kaylee says brightly when Inara finds her in the kitchen.

"Hi, Kaylee. Do you want some tea?"

Kaylee bounces to her feet. "I'll make it. You sit down."

"All right." Inara settles into the sofa that she almost never sits in and watches Kaylee putter around in the kitchen. Kaylee's good at taking care of the women on the ship when they need it, though she tends to do it with food, with variously successful results depending on what they have on the ship at the time.

"Here you go." Kaylee hands her a cup of peppermint tea and Inara inhales the steam gratefully. Nothing else helps as much when she's feeling nauseous or gets stomach pains.

Kaylee flops down next to her and rests her head on Inara's shoulder, then shifts a little closer when Inara starts stroking her hair. "You OK there, mei mei?"

"I'm fine," Kaylee says, sounding sleepy. She curls her arm round Inara's waist. "Hey, guess what?"

"What?" Inara sips her tea and relaxes back into the cushions. This is definitely bad timing on her body's part, but it's nice to relax with Kaylee for a while.

"Simon's helping on this job," Kaylee says. When Inara doesn't say anything for a second, Kaylee looks up at her and grins. "He's pretending to be a rich gentleman. Got a fancy suit and everything. The Captain and Jayne are his bodyguards."

Inara raises her eyebrows. "Jayne must be enjoying that."

Kaylee laughs and drops her head back onto Inara's shoulder. "But Simon looks so good in a suit."



Inara stays in her shuttle on Wednesday and re-arranges some things. She hears heavy footsteps go by outside the shuttle door. A lot.

She recognises the rhythm of the steps, not there enough to be pacing, more like someone who is walking in circles around the ship and keeps passing her door.

She contemplates opening the door as the steps pass again: she and Mal still manage whole days when they can be friendly with each other, and she does enjoy his company. What she doesn't enjoy is trying to be sociable when a job is going badly, or is worrying him, because they descend too quickly into snapping.

From Kaylee's words, it seems that this job is going well, but Inara knows Kaylee isn't always aware of everything that's happening, and will take what Mal and Zoƫ say on trust a lot more easily than everyone else does.

Inara trusts Kaylee's judgement, mostly, but she's not eager to argue with Mal again. She leaves the door firmly closed.



"Oh dear," Inara sighs when she, Kaylee and River reach the pharmacy they've walked to the edge of the city to find. Mal's issued another ban on them going into the city, now that the crew are out on their job, and Inara doesn't like the supplies Simon keeps in the infirmary.

"It's not that bad." Kaylee links her arm through River's and pulls her gently towards the rundown building. River's unusually quiet, looking at everything with great concentration, making Inara wonder if it might be familiar to her. She doesn't even know where River and Simon grew up.

"I suppose," she agrees, following the two girls into the pharmacy. The man behind the counter smiles as they walk in, but he doesn't bat an eyelash at Inara's clothes. She's forgotten what it's like to be nothing unusual after so long out on the edge.

"He's wondering why you're with us," River tells her, appearing suddenly to hand Inara a packet of the product she uses.

Inara looks over at the man again, but he's reading a newspaper and not even looking at them. "Maybe he's wondering what you two are doing with me," she suggests, putting her arm round Kaylee.

"He's not," River says confidently, and floats away.



"Inara Serra," Lord Knightley says on Inara's screen,

"Lord Knightley," Inara says, smiling. "How nice to see you."

"And you, my dear. I heard you were in the neighbourhood, but I was beginning to suspect it was rumour."

"I'm afraid it may still be," Inara says apologetically. Lord Knightley is one of her favourite clients, from when he lived on Sihnon and she was in the Companion House, but since he left for Grayon, she hasn't seen him. "I'm hoping to be coming near you some time next month."

Lord Knightley's face falls a little. "I see. Well, I hope you'll contact me if you do pass by."

Inara doesn't let her face change, but she knows what that means. Lord Knightley is looking for other companions, has decided that he has waited long enough for her. "I will," she promises with a smile. "I have to go now."

"Goodbye, my dear." Lord Knightley smiles and taps his screen off.



Inara starts at the knocking, her brush slipping and sending a smudge across the neat lines of her painting.

"Inara?" Mal's voice yells. She waits for him to burst in like usual, but he just knocks again. "Inara, you in there?"

"Yes." She opens the door but he's already striding away.

"Good," he calls over his shoulder. "We're leaving."

Inara's not surprised, that evening, to hear that they're leaving the central planets behind again.

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