Title: Inara’s Restless
Rating: R just to be safe.
Genre: general musings, some sexual in nature.
Warning(s): No real spoilers, small mentions of Ariel and Out of Gas
Word Count: 2,830
Disclaimer: I own nothing of Firefly or its characters.
Feedback: Always great.
Summary: Inara finds that living on Serenity has changed her and one day she takes stock of her life.
A/N: written for the </a></font></a>5_nevers challenge.
Inara emerged from her shuttle, listening to the noisy playing below. All of the crew was hard at it, intent on that game with the metal hoop that Inara still swore has no rules. ‘I guess it doesn’t matter. They’re having fun.’ She sighed inwardly; her Companion’s training was always with her. It would be ‘undignified’ to play such a game. So much of Inara’s training, focused on restraint and ritual. A Companion’s allure and mystique was built upon it. She hardly remembered playing games as a child, and the few that she had were always with a purpose in mind. To teach one how to interact appropriately and gauge another’s personality and abilities to better please them. Inara had learned any number of games, from professional quality gambling, verbal sparing and puzzles, martial arts, and coquetry. Nothing really meant to fill a growing child with joy. She tried to tell herself that she had all those years of satisfaction of becoming more adept, excelling beyond the other acolytes, but she felt a wave of wistfulness standing on the walkway watching them play. Out of habit, the crew heckled her to join them, but it was only another ritual, everybody knew that she never would. Inara waved their calls away with a smile and headed for the galley to make tea secretly warmed that she was welcome even if the day would never come when she could play. She looked back at them covertly and wondered what it would have been like to have been just an ordinary child and not born in the Great Temple on Sihnon, ‘I’ll never know.’ she thought as little Kaylee pushed Jayne laughing, trying to steal the ball from his impossible reach. Fun, just for the sake of fun, was one lesson Inara had never learned.
Moody, although of course it never showed, Inara sat in the common area and sipped her tea. The crew was in the middle of a long hall through the black. Trips took longer now that Simon and River had joined them, forcing them to circumnavigate Alliance heavy areas when possible. It frustrated Inara, one she couldn’t work, but really it gave her more time on her hands than she had ever been used to. ‘I can always be training, learning never stops for a Companion.’ Duty to her calling satisfied her most days, but increasingly she became absorbed in watching life in all it’s drama among the small crew. Companions usually experienced far greater contact with a larger variety of people for far shorter periods of time, and the year on Serenity had ‘changed her’. It gave Inara a chance to see into the lives of others, to watch how the events between people unfolded slowly or sometimes abruptly.
Simon and River’s arrival was an example of an abrupt change, for all of them. It changed everything, how people interacted, revealed aspects of their personalities, and in general added a great deal of chaos to all of their lives. ‘Including mine.’ Inara smiled inwardly. She found it ironic after telling Mal in no uncertain terms that she was not signing on to ‘service’ the crew, that she had willingly taken on ‘babysitting’ River when Simon was busy or just needed a break. Although there was no doubt that River was less than coherent at best and nearly uncontrollable at her worst, it was still evident to all that she and Simon loved each other dearly. They knew that they were each other’s only family now. Simon had made himself a wanted fugitive to free her. Inara admired him for his sacrifice and River at times, when she was lucid, had admitted to Inara how much she loved her older brother and was saddened by him giving up his entire life for her. Simon was not particularly comfortable in the new world he found himself in, but Inara didn’t believe that he regretted it. He loved River too much to look back, he just dealt with what life and the crew threw at him day by day. They were together and that was all that mattered.
Inara had never known any family, at least not in the sense of a mother, father, or any siblings that she knew of. The temple raised many young girls and boys from infancy, teaching them to consider the Great House Mother as their own and the teachers that raised them as family. Inara glanced at the two as they came trooping in with the rest of the tired and sweaty crew. ‘It’s still not quite the same.’ Children that started so young at the temple were usually children of Companions themselves. It wasn’t unusual for a Companion, who was getting older and perhaps seeking a permanent arrangement or looking to train a new generation, to have a child for the temple. It was quietly encouraged; the women had proven themselves beautiful and talented which made their offspring desirable. But it wasn’t allowed to be personal, since it was viewed in terms of raising the child to their duties. Inara remembered being told she was a blessing of the Buddha when she asked whom her mother was. Although the teacher answered her gentle enough, Inara never asked again. Really she should had no reason to feel cheated; she had been the favorite of most of her teachers, a shining star, and had been popular and admired by other students all her life. Yet…Inara watched as River grabbed away Simon’s cold tea and his half exasperated, half laughing chase after her and strangely felt the sting of tears, that never fell. ‘It’s not the same.’
Lunch was served and everyone sat wherever was closest at the table, except for Mal of course. As always the captain sat at the head of the table, by chance Inara had already been sitting at the end or so she told herself. Inara had, had a hard time not being condescending to Mal when she first joined Serenity. He had seemed so uncouth to her, but she had finally decided to leave Sihnon. After a time, Inara found that she had to be sure not to let her guard down and to maintain her distance through disdain and propriety. Mal…was an enigma to Inara and always would be. She had found so many admirable traits in Mal over time, not that them always won over his pigheaded ones, but still she was drawn to him. That of course was unacceptable, even to think it. Inara warred with herself and hated the fact that Mal could get under her skin and make her lose her cool. ‘He really is maddening, I would reject him out of hand if he were an unknown suitor over the Cortex and not just because of the state of his finances.’ Inara found it strange that a man she ‘knew’ she would never consider as a client attracted her and that increasingly she had to admit that she let herself live in a risky environment, just to be close to him. He was forever calling her ‘whore’ and disparaging her profession, but underneath it was yearning. For just a moment, looking at him at the other end of the table Inara wondered what it would have been like to meet as other people, people not constrained by duty.
Mal was captain and though he would never say it, the people of Serenity were his family, all the rest from his home world, Shadow, had died in the Alliance bombings. On top of that, only Zoe remained of from his days in the war. That thought made her look at Zoe and Wash, such an odd couple in appearance, but obviously in love despite their many disagreements. Watching them work on being a couple, yet still being themselves was enlightening to Inara. With a client, Inara faced no long-term influences, no fundamental changes. She remained herself. ‘I would have to change to be with a man like Mal and he would have to change as well. I guess that is what love is, that willingness to change.’ Inara considered it. A Companion lost their Guild license if they married, if the person was marrying into ‘polite society’ it was simply a past achievement, an adornment so to speak; but to consider a man like Mal would mean to break all ties to all that Inara had ever known. Although she had put distance between herself and the Core, too much of her identity was based on her calling. Inara caught Mal’s eye for a moment, before each of them looked away. ‘I guess he will always be an enigma.’
Later in the afternoon, Inara was still restless despite trying to meditate and once again emerged from her shuttle to prowl the walk. Now the only sounds she heard were grunts, short comments, and the clang of metal on metal. It had surprised everyone how well Shepard Book and Jayne, of all people, got along. They rarely missed their daily workouts if there wasn’t a job to be done. Both men were intent, so neither noticed Inara lurking almost out of sight. A Companion knew how to quietly observe. Now Jayne was a very different man than even Mal, and Inara didn’t kid herself about him. He was opportunistic, unbelievable crude, and enjoyed violence. He wasn’t a monster, much of his bark being the bluff of his trade, and Inara knew that he helped to support his family back on some god forsaken little moon. Yet there was no denying that it was best to watch out for him, he could be very unpredictable or rather all too predictable. ‘He always takes if given the opportunity.’ Inara was aware of his stunt back on Ariel and she had, had to use her verbal skills to make him feel stupid so that he would stop trying to commandeer control of here shuttle when the compression coil broke and everyone had to flee Serenity. Inara was insightful enough to realize that Jayne wasn’t stupid, simply lacking in any form of education that didn’t apply to his trade. Jayne was in his way as demanding of himself in his work as Inara in hers.
He was utterly loathsome, a person Inara simply would never have encountered in the circles she came from. Yet, Inara admitted to herself, ‘He really isn’t that different then many clients that I’ve dealt with, in some ways.’ Jayne just lacked the fake veneer and the ‘social constraints’ of her less likeable clients. If Mal was someone Inara dismissed as a possibility, the thought of Jayne was just plain ludicrous. She giggled a little at all of his lewd remarks and frank leering. Of course Inara had deflected him like the scum he was, yet sometimes…Jayne made her feel incredible ‘normal’ in a way even Mal didn’t. In Jayne’s mine she was just a woman. ‘All fancified and stuff.’ As he would put it, but still as worth the effort of any other. Jayne didn’t see her as set apart as much, having never spent any time on a Core world, he had no real idea of the social pecking order and therefor didn’t put her on a pedestal. He though a ‘witty’ remark or to much rice wine just might do it someday and never stopped hassling her. If Mal had any real idea of how persistent Jayne really was, Mal might just kick him off the ship. Inara simple never complained about it. ‘Which is silly.’ She didn’t need the harassment, but looking down at the heavily muscled mercenary she took a good look at him. Underneath the stubble, tattoos, and attitude was a kind of man Inara had never experienced. He was huge, real, and heavily muscled from a hard life. Jayne exuded sex in the basest way. Inara had, had countless handsome clients, many in peak physical condition, but all were sleek and the muscles came from training, not from living. They were an affectation and not a necessity. Inara didn’t have feelings for Jayne, not like the one’s that she hid from Mal; but she sometimes wondered, after a few glass of rice wine, what it would be like to just touch Jayne. She wanted to reach out and feel those massive arms and chest; running her hands over the muscles, the scars, and the sweat. ‘What would it be like to be with a man who didn’t even grasp what a Companion was, wasn’t even interested in knowing?’ Inara wondered what it would be like to give into the moment and treat what she was raised to believe as sacred as something simple, with no real meaning. To experience lust without art, it was a disquieting thought, because she would have to lay what she knew aside and not control the next moment. ‘I could never…I really couldn’t.’ Inara was strangely regretful, she recognized that Jayne symbolized a natural experience and she didn’t possess the ‘innocence’ to enjoy it, even if she would have ever let it happen. Inara would never know what it was like to be ‘just a woman’. She thought of Kaylee’s exuberant sexuality. Even River, who for all her oddity could be more natural in her responses to sex than Inara. ‘But not me.’ She thought with shocking bitterness.
With that thought, Inara tried to focus on Shepard Book. ‘That man is much more than he lets on.’ Inara had her suspicions that prior to taking vows, that Book had almost certainly been a soldier, or possibly a mercenary or operative. ‘It’s why he and Jayne are so at ease.’ She had regarded him with suspicion for a long time before coming to the conclusion, after many talks that whatever past Book had he was trying to atone for it. Book had real faith, maybe always had, which would explain much about him. He was good with a gun when needed, but it was easy to see that he worried about the crew and the people that they encountered. Even if he wasn’t absolutely sure what he believed, Book clung to walking a life of faith. ‘And not just to redeem himself, he annoys Mal to no end with it.’ Inara thought. She thought about it, she was familiar with the Christian faith, although the Companion school on Sihnon was Buddhist and many of its teachings were based off of Buddhist and Hindu texts, many Companions from other schools were Christians. All students were free to chose as long as they followed their studies. In fact, many of the Christian Companions belong to a sect devoted to Magdalene and were as honored as those that were Buddhists. Inara loved the symbols of her calling and many of the teaching: respect for nature, the holistic approach of mind and body, and the beauty of ritual and peace. She honored all of these things willingly, having enjoyed them in school. But life out here on the rim had shown Inara a different face of faith, passion. Out in the black where life was less certain, far less privileged and often short and harsh, people needed faith to survive. It was far more important, like food and water. ‘Maybe that’s what drew Book out of the abbey, to test the quality of his faith.’ Inara didn’t like to dwell on the thought. For her she found her faith tried and often failed in the face of the poverty, violence, and sheer injustice to the people out here. Inara soon came to understand that the people out here and people like the crew of Serenity didn’t matter to those she was raised with. It was complacency and law and order that they cared about. In the rich worlds of the Core, faith was only a social trapping, although to be fair Inara could only apply that to herself. She remembered the times that the crew had done jobs where people had died or found people murdered and by and large, they took the time if they could, even Mal, to honor them in some way. In a world that was so much more prone to suffering and death, Inara found less and less comfort in the teachings she had learned and came to the conclusion that she had never needed to believe, she had been satisfied with the trappings. Sometimes though, now a glimmer of true prayer came to her, it scared her because the situation was one where fear was called for.
Inara brooded about how much life out in the black had shown her, things she would never have realized about herself, all the things she never had and didn’t or couldn’t possess. Inara thought about Serenity and her crew and admitted she had come to love them, to care. She walked quietly back to her shuttle. ‘Maybe that’s why I stay here…Maybe that’s why I have to leave.’ Inara thought as she closed the door behind her.