Title: Companion Training
Disclaimer: I own neither of Joss Whedon’s babies.
Characters: Inara Serra mostly…
Pairing: Mal/Inara with B/A mentions and J/R undertones…
Timeline: AU Futuristic.
Summary: Vertigo: another type of Companion training. A blonde green-eyed woman and a dark mysterious man are here to help a certain boat with their problem. Vague vignette.
Inara Serra is a dark-haired girl with blue eyes and a perfected face. She is nine now sits with a group of other girls ranging from seven years old to fifteen. Separated, they kneel on the ground, their dresses flowing around them. Incense makes the room smell of rosemary and something undetectable, something of secrets and primal feeling.
The door in the back opens and the Head Companion of the facility enters. They are trained not to look back. They are trained to feel it. Inara Serra can feel that Head Companion Kincaid is not alone. The other woman looks young but isn’t. Age reeks in her, they can tell. She moves flawlessly, wholly aware of every thought and feeling and being in the room.
Inara is smart, and she knows to fear her. Head bowed, the many young Companions-in-training do not look up until Head Companion Kincaid reaches the slightly-risen wood podium. She talks and all of the kneeling girls listen respectively. Inara doesn’t hear her though. Instead she stares at the woman standing proud at the front. This is her rebellion.
She is blonde and tanned skin-something not looked at with approval in Companions- and something in her tells that she is something not at all human. But there is a lot of that. Inara herself is becoming a robot, something her parents gave her up for so long ago. She cannot hate them for it but hates this… this duty she is being molded for.
The blonde’s eyes twitch before her and Inara Serra is immediately unnerved. Green eyes that are so dark and old stair at her, matching her emptiness and then some. It’s as if the woman can read her mind, as if she knows everything that she is thinking. The young Companion-in-Training tries to be brave, but with her brains she knows to fear.
Inara Serra is eleven now, and Buffy is taking her into the world. The Elder Companions believe that it is to get a look at the world, and that is true enough. “But in order to understand anything, you need to experience the world and feel what it is you are supposed to help. You cannot heal anyone if you do not know what it is that makes you feel.”
The woman who is beyond age takes her to something that is called a carnival on a planet on the outside of the Alliance but not one of the outside planets the Alliance is trying to change. “It’s… colorful…” is all she can see when she spots the dirty sidewalks and food laid out. The woman beside her, Inara’s mentoress laughs lightly.
“Of course it is. It’s a carnival after all.” Looking around, she scents the air invisibly. “Now then, have you ever been on a roller coaster?” she asks though the answer is obvious.
“I don’t believe so.” She replies quietly with no real feeling in her voice. The emotion, the excitement, the dread is all wrapped up underneath like a sponge in a bathtub.
For a while, Buffy rides with her. Inara fears the vertigo that almost makes her want to throw up, but keeps it up. When Buffy sits her on the swings yet does not follow, she looks down and sees a tall dark man walk in the light towards the blonde petite ageless woman. She sees them act with touch and feel and emotion in just a few minutes.
When the swings stop and she stands up to follow for more, the tall mysterious man is gone and neither speak of him. Neither says anything about him, just talking of the vertigo and the pleasantly odd feelings everything gives her.
Buffy treats Inara to some of the food as she herself gobbles up much, though her arms are too skinny to be healthy. She gains nothing but food in her belly. The fat does not make it to her arms. But there is one point where Buffy has looked past her. Following the gaze Inara sees the man pay some credit for a blob of pink… stuff. Inara does not know what it is. She licks her lips just as if she can taste it.
The man looks towards her, past her, and within a few seconds, he is giving some of the pink blobby stuff to Inara’s blonde mentoress. Buffy tears some and pops it gently into her mouth. The man is already going away and Buffy does not bother following him with eyes. Inara knows that she is sensing him.
Tearing a piece of her own from the offering, Inara settle it onto her tongue and it begins to disintegrate before it turns hard in her mouth and she frowns at the unpleasantness of it. Buffy laughs from beside her, noticing this, and takes another piece. Inara watches her mouth now, how it curves and slides, her pink tongue sticking the cotton thing everywhere at once. She takes another piece and this time it is a treat, a pleasant sugar to her taste buds.
By the time they finish off the next few rides they have already finished the pink offering. Before they go, Buffy has her buy another. She chooses a soft blue and cherishes it. It is gone before they reach the end of the docking port. As they fly away, Inara watching all of the little buttons and gizmos go off; she remembers the man and the pink fluff and wonders at the offering.
Inara Serra does not even realize that it is really the man and the woman she thinks of. That is something she can not understand.
“Do you think she could help me?” River asks her one blue day settled on a planet not quite near the Core of the Alliance. They’ve been on Dalcross with the Iscariot and Judice moons for almost ten hours and Inara has been left with only Jayne and River. The merc is out cold from one of River’s kicks as she nearly flew down from the boxes stacked high in the loading dock.
“Maybe,” she tells the girl gently, her own movements fluid and striking as she sticks some hair behind the girl’s ears. She needs to say nothing else.
River goes back to her wonderful dancing within the holding chains and metal space that is Serenity, a rain of fluid movement upon her senses. She can see many of the secrets River holds. She does not have to read her mind. She knows the battle scars that no longer show on her skin but now show in her stride and in her leather sway.
Inara thinks of cotton candy when she thinks of River, all pink and sugary, something soft like cotton. But it is poked full of holes and turns nasty at a certain point. But mostly, River reminds her of cotton candy because of something else.
Captain Reynolds does not appreciate her calling people to his ‘boat’ but she does it enough just to infuriate him. Those reactions confuse her but she ignores them and concentrates anyways. “When is your client gonna be here?” he asks in a drawl that can only come from the further planets in the Black. Those from Earth-That-Was would call it a southern drawl, but that explanation would be lost on them now.
She doesn’t speak.
“Darkness comes to triumph over all of the little ants.” River speaks for her. Soon.
The com unit comes on and a woman asks for her. Mal just opens the bay door and they all walk over the greet her. Inara does so, but she does not do the kiss and hug as usual. Instead she bows to the woman shorter than herself as the male crew checks her out without realizing it. Her body guard, Mal assumes, stands beside her, half indifferent with what is going on.
And suddenly the belly of Serenity is a place of violence. Inara stands down and though Zoe and Jayne try to shoot, there is no reaction. Their guns are not in their hands any longer. A six inch knife goes speeding towards the hidden young genius of eighteen. The genius falls. Mal is a professional soldier and living in battles that are still in his head. He knows nothing about what is really going on.
But Jayne does. Maybe he isn’t a gorram genius like the girl or her weakling brother. But he is a mercenary and nearly thirty years old. He knows that the knife would not have hit Crazy-would only have knocked her from her perch. His beloved guns-Vera!- and his knives are no longer near his person (a super magnet?) and he cannot move. So he watches.
There is a fight below. It isn’t some little tussle either, but a genuine life-or-death fight. There’s two hot chicks (yes one is Crazy and the other is some rich client of Inara’s) below him dueling it out and he’s an honest man really. He can tell by her stance that the blonde is going to win. Something in him shivers though, and not just for the petite blonde who was attacking them but the tall body guard.
The man is still as death and so angelic looking.
She is toying with her. Buffy knows this, accepts this. It is a planned strategy and she knows what she is doing. A few hundred years at her duty and Buffy is pretty sure everything is going okay, really. She winces when she thinks of the Alliance though. If it wasn’t for those assholes on Cougra that had stolen their ship then she and Angel would have been there to beat back some of those murdering assholes.
Brown really wasn’t her shirt color but covered in blood… well, blood had become one of them.
River was losing badly but the moves and agility she was pulling off were absolutely shocking those around her-her brother especially. Inara had been the only one who had thought about the things River had been used for. Subject Tam had been trained as an assassin though the brain waves the blue hands had subjected to had damaged much of her core attempt.
In beating her, Buffy would beat the training. In beating the training Buffy would free River Tam from her mental asylum of ludicrous and crazy mumblings. However, Buffy momentarily did wonder about all that. It was creepily similar to how Drusilla had been once upon a time. … though even with a soul Dru was still certifiably insane- still insisted on calling Buffy “Mommy” too.
When Buffy fights, she wins. When Buffy wins, Angel kisses her. When Buffy imagines Angel kissing her, she licks her lips. Many times in her relative beating of a young woman, Buffy licks her lips. She wins when River’s faculties give up and she is gored onto a large pipe of the mess on deck.
River will wake up a mostly-sane genius with control over her faculties in a few hours.
Inara watches from the side, still but under her own control. She recognized in many of those moves, having been trained from her mentoress herself. She’s doing this because she likes Kaylee and Serenity and wants the crew to be okay. She hasn’t yet realized how a part of the crew she really is-how her arguments with Malcolm over various things being part of the environment.
When Buffy leaves with Angel behind her, she smiles. Yes, Most of the crew had been paired up already. It was just a little more time and some little pushes to get it all set up. River would be free and would sway Jayne her way soon enough. And now, Inara’s training was finished. She would grasp the vertigo in her hands and take it all into her when she was ready.