This is a story celebrating the birthday of Morena Baccarin, best known for playing Inara Serra on Firefly. Well, and celebrating my birthday too, but mainly hers.
I do not own Firefly or Angel. Please don't sue me for their use.
When Inara met Lindsey McDonald, she was still working as a Companion at House Madrassa on Sihnon.
He was hiring her. Not for himself, but for a client he represented.
This was unusual. It was Companion policy that a potential client must talk directly to a Companion, either face-to-face or via a wave on the Cortex. But, as a representative of the powerful Blue Sun Corporation, certain exceptions could be made for Lindsey.
Inara wasn't flattered when Lindsey chose her from a selection of Companions selected by the High Priestess herself, although she was slightly gratified at the speed with which he made the decision. As a Companion, Inara had to be immune to flattery, or else she would never get anything done.
Inara did note that Lindsey was handsome, however. This wasn't as unusual as one might expect for visitors to a Companion House. But Inara didn't find anything noteworthy about him beyond that.
Not at first, anyway.
When Lindsey lead Inara away to tell her details of the client that she would be servicing (if she chose to accept) Inara noticed two things about him.
The second of these was his awkwardness. It was rare for someone to feel embarrassed about contracting a Companion - Inara had only seen it in the more adolescent of her clients - and Lindsey was certainly no adolescent.
Inara found it rather endearing. She found herself thinking that she would rather Lindsey contracted her personally, rather than on behalf of someone else.
But the first thing Inara noticed was his eyes.
People shouldn't have eyes like that. Inara had met numerous soldiers who had served in the War of Unification, both for the Alliance and the Independents. They tended to have haunted eyes, shadowed by the things they'd seen, the things they'd done.
They didn't have a tenth of the darkness that Inara saw in Lindsey's. His eyes were old, so old they didn't fit with his youthful face, and Inara had no doubt that he'd seen things, terrible things, things no man should see.
Perhaps, if Inara had been a little older, a little more experienced, she would've stayed away from a man with eyes like that. Then again, perhaps not. Inara had always been attracted to men with an air of darkness to them.
(But then, you knew that already, didn't you?
So Inara sat and listened as Lindsey told her the details about the man he represented, sat and listened and stared into those incongruously old eyes.
As it turned out, the man that Lindsey represented was beautiful. Not handsome - you couldn't call him that, it didn't seem to apply somehow. But he was beautiful. Inhumanly so. He moved with such grace, such poise, such elegance.
Inara had thought she was above such things, but she couldn't help but look forward to the night ahead.
His name was Taur Gwaloth, and his voice was like music.
It was after Inara's first climax that things began going wrong.
Inara began to feel tired. This was normal, after - well, just after - but Inara had never felt tired like this before. She just wanted to curl up and fall asleep for a month.
But she was a Companion. That's not how things work.
But she was so tired...
A gunshot shook Inara out of her - trance? Sleep? Daze? She didn't really know what had happened to her.
But there was blood. Or, at least, Inara assumed it was blood. There really wasn't much of it, and it was an eerie, shimmering, unnatural silver.
Lindsey was framed in the doorway, gun in hand.
Gwaloth growled and rose (No, not like that. What? I know what you were thinking. He just got off the bed. No, of course he didn't have any clothes on. You do know how sex works, don't you?
) and strode calmly towards Lindsey.
Gwaloth jerked as Lindsey shot him again and again. Silver blood trickled slowly down his bare chest, but other than that, Gwaloth didn't look like he - or it, Inara supposed, as nothing human had blood like that - was harmed at all. The bullets barely even slowed it down.
Fortunately, Inara found that Lindsey chopping its head off with a sword was rather more effective. So much so, in fact, that it disintegrated, leaving behind nothing more than a small silver square embossed with some kind of symbol - Inara didn't have time to see what it was before Lindsey scooped it up and put it in his pocket.
"Ms Serra" said Lindsey in a low, urgent, grating voice, looking around to see if anyone was coming to investigate the gunshots. "we need to get out of here. Now."
Inara didn't need to be told twice. She got up, and was too shocked to even feel amused when Lindsey blushed a deep tomato red and spun around, muttering something about "I'll wait outside until you're dressed."
It was several minutes later when Inara left the bedroom, fully dressed. Normally, she would've done it faster, but shock and horror at recent events was enough to make even a Companion, trained to be calm in every situation (What? Some of the things that a Companion hears during pillow talk are gorram disturbing, dong ma?
), slow down just a little.
"We've got to go, now!" said Lindsey, grabbing Inara's hand and pulling her along. All in all, she found she didn't mind. She as though Lindsey was the single stable point in a shifting universe, and as long as he held onto to her, as long as he never let her go, Inara would be alright. His hand would be her anchor.
They ran (well, Lindsey ran, and he pulled Inara along with him) to a dockyard. At that point, Inara began to wonder whether she should question what they were doing. Surely they should be heading back to House Madrassa?
But then Inara remembered the fell beauty of Taur Gwaloth, shuddered and ran onwards. There was simply no way that anyone at the House would believe her about what she had seen - she still wasn't entirely sure that she believed it herself - and even if they did, they wouldn't be able to deal with it if more of them came.
Lindsey finally stopped in front of a shuttle.
Inara could only describe it as nondescript. There was nothing distinguishing about it. It was a shuttle, a fairly large one, and that was pretty much all you could say about it.
"Where are we going?" Inara asked, speaking for the first time. Not that she minded running off with Lindsey - it was better than staying on a planet where things of evil roamed - but she would like to know where she was running off to.
Lindsey cursed briefly in a language Inara didn't recognize (although she could still tell he was swearing, because swearing is recognizable in any language). "We're going to Persephone. Now, please, just get in the shuttle, I'll explain more once we are on our way."
Ordinarily, Inara wouldn't have accepted that. She would've demanded an explanation, at least enough of one to satisfy her, right there and then. But, at the time, Inara was in shock, and (although she'd never admit it) inexperienced in the ways of the world outside House Madrassa. So she merely followed Lindsey's lead and got in the shuttle.
Lindsey piloted the shuttle manually, Inara noticed, which was unusual. Most shuttles had an autopilot function for taking off and landing. Also, the sound shuttle's engines belied the craft's small size, they were evidently more powerful than one would normally find in a craft that size.
(No, size isn't everything.
Clearly, the shuttle wasn't as nondescript as its exterior would suggest. It wasn't what it seemed. But then, right at that moment, Inara thought that nothing was as it seemed.
Inara waited until Lindsey had broken atmo and set a course for Persephone before she asked the question that was uppermost on her mind.
"What in tyen shiao duh
was that thing?"
"That" said Lindsey, evidently choosing his words carefully "was an incubus."
"An incubus? What's an incubus?" Inara questioned.
Lindsey sighed and muttered to himself. "Ah, people these days. They don't know a thing." Then he collected himself and answered the question. "An incubus is a kind of demon that is known for seducing women, and killing them during..."
"Sex?" Inara finished helpfully.
"Yes, thank you, sex." Lindsey said, blushing faintly.
"So it was a demon."
"Yes. And before you accuse me of being crazy, think, really think, about what you saw."
Inara hadn't been about to call Lindsey crazy. She was rather more inclined to believe that she was. After all, things like that just didn't happen. She must be going losing her mind.
"And you're not crazy, either." said Lindsey as though he had just read her thoughts.
Oh, but that put all kind of notions into Inara's head. "Are you a Reader?"
"A what?" asked Lindsey, puzzled.
"A Reader. You know, like a psychic? I always thought they were just legends, but maybe if you can have demons then you can have Readers too." Inara explained.
"No, I can't read minds. I can just about remember what it was like when I first found out about demons and the like, so I know how it feels." Lindsey said.
you find out about them? Were you attacked by a - what was it - an incubus too?" Inara asked.
"Not an incubus, no. I don't swing that way." Lindsey said with a faint smile. "But you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"We've got days until we reach Persephone. You'll tell me sooner or later." Inara asserted.
"Alright. You know, you're a remarkably determined woman." Lindsey said.
(Yes, I know. You're hardly the first person to notice that about me.
"I was a lawyer, back on Earth-" Lindsey began.
"Okay. Demons, I can believe. But you being from Earth-that-Was? That's a little bit farfetched." Inara said incredulously.
"See! I told you that you wouldn't believe me!" Lindsey exclaimed.
Inara smiled faintly. "I suppose that does make me a bit of an arbitrary skeptic, doesn't it? After all, if there's demons, why not a five-hundred-year-old-man?"
"So can I go ahead without any interruptions?"
"You can continue, but I can't guarantee I won't interrupt." Inara warned.
"Fine. I can live with that." Lindsey grumbled.
"So, I was a lawyer, back on Earth. I was headhunted by this big firm, Wolfram & Hart. Well, not exactly headhunted - they did want me to work for them, but not as a lawyer, at least not straight away. And they made it pretty damned clear that they weren't going to let me work anywhere else. So I thought, hey, what the hell, why not take the job? It would certainly be better than not working anywhere else ever again.
So I started working in - well, you probably don't have mail anymore, you with your high-tech spaceships - and worked my way up until they actually let me be a lawyer. Somewhere along the line - it was a long time ago, I don't exactly remember when or how - I found out that there were things in the world that weren't what you might call natural. I even worked for them." Lindsey finished.
"Uhuh. So you worked for a demonic law firm." Inara mused. "That would explain why you had an incubus for a boss, but still, Earth-that-Was was evacuated about 500 years ago. If you're human, how can you possibly still be alive?"
"Oh, I'm not alive." Lindsey said with a smirk as he watched the look if horror spread across Inara's face. "When I was going to be a lawyer, they made me sign a contract. With a perpetuity clause. Essentially, I'll work for then forever. Even though I died long ago."
"Like that old legend. Fust." Inara exclaimed.
"Faust. It's Faust. And yes, just like that." Lindsey replied.
"I guess the language has changed a lot since you were..." Inara trailed off, not wanting to be insensitive.
"Since I was alive. It definitely has. People didn't speak Chinese - at least not where I came from - and we didn't say things like shiny or gorram." Lindsey said.
"Okay." said Inara, struggling to take all of this in. "But if you're obligated to work for your firm, then how come you killed your boss and rescued me?"
"That's why we're going to Persephone." Lindsey answered. "There's a place there, a temple of sorts. If we can get there, then Wolfram & Hart won't be able to do anything to either of us ever again."
"Is that some kind of loophole clause or something?" Inara queried.
Lindsey nodded, but didn't expand on it. But that was okay. Inara didn't really want to know. She trusted Lindsey, and she wanted as little as possible to do with the supernatural world that she had stumbled into.
It was a journey of a little over a week from Sihnon to Persephone. During that time, there wasn't much to do but talk. So talk they did.
Lindsey told her tales of his work as a lawyer and of life on Earth-that-Was, which Inara found endlessly fascinating. They talked about Inara's training as a Companion, and she was unfailingly amused by the way Lindsey blushed whenever she talked about the more intimate areas of her craft.
One day, Inara asked him why that was. And, to her great astonishment, she found that Lindsey has spent the last few hundred years filing incessantly. He hadn't done anything else, didn't stop to eat or sleep. And there hadn't been any people with him. He'd been all alone, just filing things away in cabinets.
Of course, after a few hundred years of that, it was only natural that Lindsey would feel somewhat uncomfortable around people, particularly when intimate topics came up.
Well, Lindsey had saved Inara's life. And was now heading to Persephone in order to save her life again. And he was, as Inara had noted upon first seeing him, rather handsome. So, all in all, Inara didn't see any reason why she shouldn't familiarize him (or re-familiarize, as Lindsey so strenuously pointed out) with the joys of sex.
(No, I'm not going to go into more detail. But then, you don't really want me to, do you? No, I thought not. Let's just say that the journey went by much, much faster after that.
When they finally arrived at Persephone, Lindsey didn't dock at the Eavesdown Docks which was technically illegal. The authorities generally assumed that anyone who landed elsewhere were smugglers of one sort or another. But then, they were flying a shuttle, so it was unlikely that anyone would notice them, let alone care. This wasn't exactly a core planet, after all.
No, Lindsey landed out in the desert, in the middle of nowhere, far from anything.
Except, apparently, a monstrosity of a temple. It was a massive, sprawling, half-ruined edifice which was nothing like Inara had ever seen.
where we've got to go?" Inara exclaimed incredulously. She was beginning to think that just maybe it would have been a good idea if she had questioned Lindsey's motive for bringing her here just a little bit more. It was all very well to not want to know more about the occult than was strictly necessary, but when it involved going to some derelict temple in the middle of nowhere? Inara wanted to know why.
"Yup." said Lindsey simply. "Come inside, we've got things to do."
"You know, I'm thinking that I should've asked what we were going to do here earlier." Inara muttered, although she still followed Lindsey inside, all the while hoping that the ceiling wouldn't collapse on her. It looked like it just might.
"Trust me, you don't want to know." Lindsey replied almost inaubibly.
They stopped before an enormous altar that dominated the room. It was carved with symbols that Inara simply couldn't focus on, and it hurt her eyes to try.
Lindsey pulled out a silver square from his pocket - the same silver square that Taur Gwaloth had morphed into after Lindsey had decapitated it - and Lindsey spoke a few words that hurt Inara's ears.
The square vanished, but Inara didn't really care about that. What she did care about was the fact that Taur Gwaloth had reappeared, and was blocking the only exit to the room. "Lindsey..." said Inara, urgently "What's going on?"
"Do you know the myth of Persephone, Inara? That she has to spend half the year in hell?" Lindsey said, conversationally.
"Now's really not the time to be giving a history lesson." Inara said impatiently. "We need to get out of here!"
"I can't go back to hell, Inara. I broke free, but it's only a matter of time before the Senior Partners find me and drag me back. But I can send someone in my place." Lindsey said somberly.
Inara suddenly felt sick, like a hole had opened up in her heart and her stomach had dropped away. "Me." she said in a small voice.
"You." Lindsey agreed. "It's nothing personal. You were just born at the right place at the right time. Taur, hold her down."
Gwaloth blurred briefly, and then suddenly he was holding Inara tightly by the arms. Inara didn't scream, although it cost her a significant effort not to do so. Instead, she merely said in as calm a voice as she could manage "So, he's yours, then."
"Oh, no. I just borrowed him when I was breaking out of hell. He belongs to - well, an author that you've probably never heard of." Lindsey answered, before turning back to the altar.
"Was... was any of it real?" Inara said quietly, not entirely sure that she really wanted to know the answer.
Lindsey strolled over to her and cupped her face in his hands. A shiver ran through Inara involuntarily at the touch. "Not a thing."
He began changing rhythmically in a language that made goosebumps erupt on Inara's skin and set her teeth on edge. She tried to struggle, but Gwaloth responded by tightening his grip until it became painful. Oh, but that was going to bruise.
Not that wouldn't matter if Inara ended up being sent to hell.
Some time later - Inara didn't know how long, exactly, because something about the chanting and the probability if going to hell (and being sent there by a man who she may it may not have developed feelings for, what's more) had contrived to send Inara into a trance of some kind - Lindsey stopped chanting.
A wizened old man, barely 4 feet tall, matierialized in front of Lindsey. "I have brought her, Master. The one who will take my place." said Lindsey respectfully.
The old man looked at Inara. Inara couldn't help but wonder who this man might be - surely the devil would be more impressive?- and then he said to Lindsey. "No, she won't."
"But Master, I have done everything I was supposed to do! Surely now, after all these years, I can have my freedom." Lindsey shouted indignantly.
"No. We lied about that, Lindsey. You'll never get your freedom. It was fun to watch to run, and even we Senior Partners need our fun sometimes. But you're going right back to hell, my boy." the old man said.
"But-" Lindsey began.
The old man clicked his fingers, and Lindsey vanished. "I'm sorry about Lindsey, my dear." the old man said. "The Blue Sun Corporation will provide you with free passage wherever you want to go as compensation."
Then he vanished, and Taur Gwaloth with him.
Inara was alone in the temple, and she knew one thing.
After that, she sure as whatever hell (whichever one Lindsey had been sent to) wasn't going to go back to Sihnon, not after all that.
"... and that's why I left Sihnon." Inara finished.
"Well, that's a mighty powerful tale." Mal said.
"It would've been even more so if you hadn't interrupted it every few minutes." Inara admonished, prodding him in the side.
"C'mon, it gave the story flavor!" Mal protested with a wince.
"I'm surprised you didn't interrupt to protest about the demons and all that." Inara said "All you did was tease me."
"Yeah, well, I've seen some things too." said Mal. As Inara looked at him questioningly, he shook his head and said "But that's a story for another day. Let's just say, before I joined up, I never really believed that song about having a devil for my sergeant."
Then he smiled, and ran his fingers through Inara's hair. "I'm glad you left. And that you came back, and stayed after Miranda, and after Wash..."
Inara closed her eyes, enjoying the sensation of his fingers twining in her hair. She would've said "I'm glad I stayed too." but then Mal kissed her, and suddenly there were better things to do than to talk.