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Malfunction -- Firefly 'AU'

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  • Malfunction -- Firefly 'AU'

    As she walks, all hearts do duty
    Unto her beauty.
    And enamored do wish
    That they might but enjoy
    Such a sight.
    - Shakespeare


    Ill Travels

    "Inara, you are ready for take-off," Wash noted, as I started onto the bridge.

    "Thanks, Wash," Inara's lovely voice sounded, as the sounds of her shuttle taking off could be heard. Another mission for us, another day's work whoring for Inara. Her whole career? I'd been raised against it, and it was even worse when it was Inara.

    But it was still her whole being now. All of it shaped her as the woman I? feel for, the woman that I just want to take away from her life's trade, rescue her from those men. She doesn't want rescuing.

    Her being on, and loving Serenity, gave me this hope, this dream that I had the key to taking her away, that she wanted it from me. But always? fighting.

    "Hold on," Wash said, worry entering his voice. God, there had to be worry in his voice every time anything happened, goddamn what was happening now?

    "What is it, Wash?" I asked, trying to mask my anxiety. Not Inara. Problems and Inara shouldn't be mixing.

    "Wash?" Inara asked, continuing to disengage her shuttle.

    The sound of Wash swearing grated in my mind. It never meant a good thing.

    "Wash?!" I pressed warningly.

    "Inara, there's a problem in your shuttle disconnection," Wash explained, worry still in his voice, "do not disconnect, Inara. Stop."

    "Affirmative, Wash," Inara said, not even showing a strain of panic in her voice.

    I breathed a sigh of relief. Not Inara. This was a little problem, it-

    "Wait!" Inara cried out, and this time the fear was plain to read in her tone, "there's something wrong with the shuttle sequencing."

    "What?!" I yelled out. No, no, no. These things?

    "What exactly is wrong with it?" Wash panicked.

    "I- I don't?" Inara trailed off. The sounds of increasing whirring could be heard faintly, and I knew they were from the shuttle.

    "Inara, you have to tell us what it is so we can fix it!" I called out.

    "Mal, it's spinning," Wash warned.

    "Mal?" Inara said softly, starting to cry, "I don't want to die?"

    "Inara?" I muttered, a catch entering my throat.

    "Mal, I?" Inara trailed off as the connection fizzled. I stared at it in shock.

    "Wash? Wash, what's happening?!" I yelled, my voice breaking.

    "Mal?" Wash said softly, his eyes wide, "Mal, the shuttle's crashed. It's gone."


    "What do you mean?!" Mal yelled out. Oh God.

    "Gone, Mal," I said, trying to placate him. Always what I do. Make jokes and try to make people feel better. Fly the ship, keep it on course? "I mean that she crashed."

    "Well what went wrong?!" he nearly screamed, swiping my dinosaurs off the bulkhead.

    "Wash, honey?" Zoe called, coming onto the bridge, "what's the yelling about?"

    "Oh, God, I?"I began, muttering softly. Mal interrupted me by swinging around to face Zoe.

    "Inara? Inara just?" he spluttered.

    "Wash?" Zoe asked quietly, her eyes widening, "what happened to Inara?"

    "Her shuttle? her shuttle's disconnection malfunctioned. She crashed," I explained. Tried to explain. I couldn't even think straight, none of this was working.

    "She's dead?" Zoe asked.

    "No!" Mal yelled out, "you and your husband, and Jayne! Get us on the surface and start us a search party."

    "Mal, I?" I began, trying to calm him down to a clearer head.

    "No, it's a good idea," Zoe said, "it's the right thing to do, sir." My Zoe. Always supporting her captain, but here, I suppose it could only be the smart thing to do.

    "Alright," I sighed.


    We were on the planets surface, my wife and Jayne and I, searching for her. Inara. I couldn't even believe that she was dead, sincerely hoping that we'd find her alive, surviving that impossible crash.

    Mal hadn't come down, even though he so desperately wanted to. To his rage, Zoe had overruled him, and the Shepherd had tried to calm him with platonic religious words. It certainly didn't work, but we had sneaked out through the yelling.

    It hit him pretty well hard, harder then the rest of us. We all ? well, Zoe and I anyway ? had thought about his feelings, but now they were painfully obvious. Book had shut his eyes and whispered a prayer, which looked more like he was comforting himself. Kaylee nearly broke down, shocked beside herself. We hadn't disturbed Simon and River yet to break the news, and I surely didn't want to. Jayne seemed an enigma.

    "Here," Zoe called, leading Jayne and I over a hill to find the wreckage. It was scattered everywhere, some parts still burning. I stepped through, feeling a sinking pit in my stomach as I did.

    "It's Inara's shuttle," I asserted pointlessly, because there was no doubt. Picking up a torn and charred piece of beautiful silk fabric, I felt like I wanted to throw up. Zoe and Jayne continued to pick through the rubble, although Inara was nowhere in sight. Maybe she had got out? somehow?

    "She's not here," I said, almost indulging myself, "there's nothing here." I turned away, hoping to God I was right, when Jayne's voice made me close my eyes.

    "She's here," he called out softly, "I found her." Turning, I saw Jayne lifting Inara's lifeless body by the shoulders. "She's? she's?" Jayne began, and I could see that even in Jayne there was emotion. "There's nothing there. There's nothing in her eyes? I've seen dead people. I've killed people before."

    "We know," said Zoe softly, seeing to look understandingly at Jayne, "it's not like this."

    "I always thought? I always thought she was a good woman," said Jayne, looking confused, "nothing against her. I never thought she? she didn't deserve to die."

    Air She Breathed

    She was gone. Oh my God, she was gone. She was? she was? this was worse then any goodbye I'd ever said, because I couldn't even say a goodbye. She was gone.

    "Inara," came out like a choked sob. Shepherd Book glanced at me as he heard it. He walked over to me, and I looked up to acknowledge him, even though the tears were streaking down my face.

    "You know, child, she may not be dead," Book comforted, his voice sounding cool and calm, but the words rang dead in my mind.

    "You don't believe it, Shepherd," I cried, "you know you don't believe that."

    "I've seen a lot of miracles in my time," he smiled. I knew it was forced. He had to be forcing that smile, how could anyone smile now? "You have to have faith."

    "I've said that? I've said that to people?" I whispered, "it doesn't work now. Why won't it work with Inara?"

    The Shepherd opened his mouth to speak again, and I wished that he just wouldn't, and then for once something went my way. Something, the most stupidest thing, in all the damn ?verse, was that the Shepherd wouldn't keep talking after Inara had died.

    The hangar doors got opened and Zoe came back, Wash holding on to her. Their expressions told me, I could tell with them, and I wished that I couldn't, and I wished that Inara was back, and I wished that I never had to feel like this. But I guess my wish got used up, and there she was?

    I felt like throwing up.

    Jayne came in, Inara in his arms. Her body was all? twisted, and I couldn't stand it.

    "No, no?" I cried, looking away.

    Inara in Jayne's arms? it was like irony. I couldn't? I couldn't take it.

    "Kaylee?" Shepherd Book started, looking extremely grave, but I started away.

    "Tell? someone should get the captain," I stuttered, "I need to tell Simon and River." I started to walk away, wiping my eyes as the tears kept on coming.

    "You don't have to do that, Kaylee," Zoe said comfortingly, coming up behind me. I pulled away from her, letting out the slightest whimper.

    "I'll tell them," I whispered, continuing to walk. I had to be away. I couldn't stand it.


    I was back in my little room, my safe little abode where I could let the tears flow out. Simon had gasped, his face that I still found so desirable had choked up and simply been shocked beyond anything. River was just? confused. Confused, and she said something about the improbability of survival from such a crash, why it definitely happened. And she started to cry, and I had to hug her, and run.

    And now Mal was screaming. I could hear him, yelling at the crew. At Wash, and Jayne. And the Shepherd.

    None of this was okay? I let myself cry, gasping for breaths as I thought of her softness, her grace and her assuredness, how much I really loved her. How she was so safe.

    Grabbing at my usual comfort and stroking up and down the ruffle, I wiped my eyes to realise the meaning of the dress. Inara. Her beauty and mystique, that was my dress. It was Inara, why I wanted it, why it was beautiful.

    I breathed in the scent of the dress, thinking of Inara, and of the captain ? the obvious, grieving captain ? and of River and of the Shepherd's face when he realised that there hadn't been any miracles.

    Inara had been on this ship. A beautiful, wonderful, loving Companion, an even better woman. She was here. All this oxygen, all the oxygen that my ship regulated for us? she had breathed it, she had shared it with us.

    "I always thought I needed you here, Inara," I whispered, holding onto the dress, "maybe, it don't mean so much, but maybe you still kinda are. You know, with the dress and all."

    Maybe if I just kept clutching onto the dress I could shut out the yelling and just think of Inara.


    I swear she was there. I know there was that light there, made of pretty porcelain. So? perfect. She felt symmetrical. Of course not symmetrical, no human could be symmetrical. Or perfect. Not perfectly symmetrical.

    No, why was I crying? Why am I still crying, why is Simon looking like he's crying? Simon, brother, and I'm meimei. River. Sister. Simon has let a tear fall, so why am I crying?

    "River, it'll be all right," Simon said, putting his hands around my back to hug me. I stiffened. No, it was brother. Hug, that's what it is. Just a comforting gesture induced by physical contact, usually only practised by those close or related. Simon was related. Brother means related, it means we have the same mother and father, those people I left behind, those people who abandoned me.

    Simon stays with me. She might not have, but Simon will.

    "Why am I crying?" I whisper. There. I voiced what I was wondering, I'm making sense, please let the words be making sense. Please help me stop crying, because she can't have been symmetrical, not perfectly, but I could stop crying if she had been. It would have made it better, it would have made it even. Both sides.

    "Because we've lost someone," Simon tried to comfort me. Oh, he was so bad, just like a stupid big brother. My stupid big brother. "It'll be fine, we're still here, meimei."

    They're all crying. Even Simon. I can feel them and their crying, their wet, horrible tears. The grief is crowding into my brain, it's not letting me go anywhere. It's not right, it's not right.

    "It's not right!!" I yelled out, startling Simon away from me. He calmed himself visibly as I started to cry more.

    "I know, I know she shouldn't have died, I know?" he murmured over and over, his hand on my shoulder.

    "No, n-no," I muttered, "they shouldn't be in my mind, they shouldn't be drowning my thoughts. With their? tears."

    "River?" Simon began, hugging my close. Go on. Go on, brother. Talk so I can't hear it in my mind. "They miss her. I miss her too. Because she had something about her that was special."

    "She was a harlot," I retorted, knowing that it was just a feeling my brain. It wasn't mine, it wasn't mine.

    "River, don't say that," Simon snapped. He snapped at me. He ? no no no? I don't want it in my mind. I missed her, I missed her, she made you feel like she was symmetrical and all beautiful, but they didn't have to go crowding me.

    "I don't want them in my mind," I complained to Simon, letting tears fall, "they call me? they say I'm different, but it's? they're making me miss her!"

    Simon engulfed me again in a hug.

    "It's all you know how to do?" I whispered, "you just try to make things better. Trying to heal some wounds."

    "No?" he said, his voice sounding funny. Not like my brother, it was out of resonance. But it was just one syllable, maybe if he kept talking, it would fix? "that was what she did?"

    No. It was all wrong. His voice was off, and she was gone, and everybody was in my head. It was all crowding me like darkness, there was no more light to keep them happy. All shouting in my head.

    All of Us Are Lost

    It was all over. She was dead. I'd lived a long life before I met her, I lived on a farm and I fought in a war, and it all felt like it was over. Just over a woman, it was just one woman?

    "Why is this burnin' a hole through me?" I asked plaintively, far more to myself. But the Shepherd was there. Damn Shepherd, always looking to give a man a sermon.

    "I see you've calmed down a bit," he observed. I don't have to respond to that. I'd only speak with more screaming, I'd only see her all burned and broken?

    "Why is it, er, burning a hole through you?" Book repeated my question.

    "It was a rhetorical question, preacher," I headed off, "no need to worry." I turned away, staring off at the metallic floor of Serenity. My Serenity. My faithful girl, the girl who I could really come home to.

    "But now I feel obliged to answer," the Shepherd said, "and I think you already know it anyway."

    "Which is why it was rhetorical," I answered, "so I guess you just wasted a sentence."

    "You were in love with her," he spoke. I flinched at it because it was so correct. And it was so real, that even though I'd lost people, I didn't think I could lose Inara. And now too late.

    "What- hell, I won't deny it," I sighed. I didn't care anymore. There was no face in front of her, no pride. No more wondering whether she thought about me while she was with one of those men, whether she wished it was me.

    "Inara died through a terrible accident, Mal," Book continued, "a malfunction." I snorted at the irony. "What's so funny?" he asked.

    "Nothing, preacher, tell your story," I said, resigned to barely listen and wallow in memories of Inara. It couldn't be the best way to deal with things. Which is surely why I didn't care.

    "It hurts when people die, Mal. And it hurts more when you love them," Shepherd Book went on, "I've seen a lot of people die. I've? I've killed a few people at that."

    I glanced at him. I wasn't remotely interested in whatever he'd been hiding right now, but at least I'd know it if he shared.

    "No?" he held out his hand, almost seeming to read my mind, "today is about Inara. Today I pray for Inara."

    "Pray all you like, Shepherd," I said, a twist in my mouth, "she's?"

    "Dead." I flinched again as he said it. "I saw her body too. But it was her body. A beautiful body, but just her body."

    "You know, I used to be a shepherd, like you," I snapped, "but I dealt with animals. I dealt with physical. I have no stomach for a herdsman of the mind."

    "Then you won't find much peace over Inara," the Shepherd mused, "because her body is still there. But only God can tell you where her mind went."

    I got up and took a step. I wanted to walk away, and Shepherd Book knew it, I wanted to be angry at everyone, especially Inara, because I just wanted to love her. I wanted to be a nice man, a decent man, not the brigand made of stone. I didn't want to stay lost in the woods, like Inara always thought of me.

    "I'm lost?" I stated, quietly as the mouse, but I know he heard me.

    "All of us are lost, Mal," smiled the Shepherd, hoping to lead his flock in for the night, I was sure, "but eventually we are found."

    "Sure," I replied, not sure that I would accept anything this time, "just like Inara." Looking to the ground, I walked away.