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Enemy At The Gate and Delicate Beauty

Mal and Inara Series: ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ 1.Shattered, 2.Nothin Left To Lose, 3. Of Companions And Whores, 4. Of Captains and Desires, 5. Heart Bound, 6. Fragrance And Memories, 7. Enemy At The Gate posted with Delicate Beauty, and down the road a bit Walking With The Dead.
Disclaimer: They all belong to Joss, I just want them to be together
Spoiler: Takes place during the movie, but not really a spoiler. I always wondered how the Operative forced Inara to send the signal to Mal so I wrote it. There is a second story that depends on this one, Delicate Beauty, they are posted together.

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Enemy At The Gate

By

Lattelady


Inara stood on the terrace at the top of the long stairs leading from the valley to the Training House. Her hands were gripped tightly in front of her to keep them from shaking. There was no mistaking the tall dark man who climbed the steps with sure determination. Though she didn’t know his name and had never met him, she knew who and what he was, an Operative of Parliament. Her past had caught up with her and she had no place to run.

When she’d first fled Shinon, she’d carried a hypo-jet of morphine on her at all times. Those were the days when any odd noise had sent her into a frenzy, sure that Alliance agents were closing in on her position, revenge for killing of one of their own strong in their hearts. But over the years she’d grown complacent and careless, lulled into a feeling of safety. The last time she’d even checked the cartridge had been on Serenity when a threat of being boarded by Reavers had been eminent.

“Sir,” she nodded her head when the tall back man was on eye level. That he’d come looking for her, was obvious, the question was why. If he’d had proof of her past transgressions she’d never have seen him until the moment he killed her. He was after something and she’d have to be very careful not to give him more information than he already possessed.

“Miss Serra,” the Operative nodded. “I’m glad you could take the time to see me.”

“I serve at the pleasure of the Parliament.” Nara decided her strongest position was to make him aware she knew what he was, but appeared unafraid. “Why don’t we make ourselves more comfortable?” It took everything she possessed to turn and lead him into a gracefully appointed lounge, expecting at any moment to feel a blade plunge deep between her shoulders. To keep her hands busy and to prevent them from giving her away by shaking, she went through the practiced ritual of preparing tea.

“I am told that you are no longer in active service.” He watched her every move, but could find no outward fault.

“Oh, I’m quite active,” she smiled gracefully as she handed him a fine porcelain cup filled with aromatic tea. “I’ve chosen to put my energies to work training the youth of the Rim. It allows me extra time to meditate, something that is needed here in the wilds.”

“Ahhh yes, so I’d been informed,” he murmured as he swept her with his eyes. Inara Serra was the epitome of a Companion, beautiful, graceful, knowledgeable, and no doubt an expert at manipulation. It was hard to believe she had chosen a life for herself so far from the Core worlds, let alone one in teaching. Something didn’t ring true.

“Then you can imagine my surprise when you asked for me by name.” She smiled her perfect Companion smile, and waited in hopes he would tell her why he’d really come. When the Operative refused to be drawn in, she reached for an electronic notebook and appeared to study it. Her stomach was tied in knots, and she had to fight to control her breathing. “If you would like a referral, I know of several ladies…” she left the statement hanging in hopes he’d move on to his real purpose. When he only looked at her, she added, “…or a gentleman?”

“Enough!” he called out. “Enough games.”

“Pardon me?” Inara’s blood froze as his voice lashed quietly out at her, but she refused to let it show.

“I have not come to you for sexual services.” He eyed her appreciatively, but dismissed her. She was a piece in the puzzle, a way to find the missing Tam girl, and nothing more. “But then I think you knew that from the beginning.”

She quirked her brow in a way that she knew was not only becoming, but could be interpreted in numerous ways. If he wanted something from her, he was going to have to ask. She was not about to blurt out facts that would incriminate her.

“I am looking for these two people.” He tossed an image of Simon and River Tam onto the small table between them.

It took Nara a moment to unglue her hands from her notebook so she could reach for the photo. Simon looked stern and serious, wearing an unusual uniform and appeared older than she knew him to be. River was kneeling at his side, almost clear-eyed, with her long brown hair hanging in neat ringlets over one shoulder. If the Companion hadn’t spent so much time with the brother and sister, she doubted she’d have recognized either of them from the video still she’d been handed.

She felt a moment of light-headed relief. The Operative wasn’t after her. He didn’t know what she’d done or why she’d left Shinon! But he was watching her very carefully and what she said next would be vital. It was obvious he knew more than he was letting on and that Mal was in a great deal of danger.

She took another moment to study the image. She could no more betray the crew of Serenity than she could betray herself. ‘Her heart belonged on that ship and with the man… no the people, who lived there,’ she carefully amended her thoughts.

Unbidden Malcolm Reynolds’s face filled her mind and she quickly lowered her eyes as if to study Simon’s likeness. “He looks….” a gentle pucker formed on her full lips, as if she was concentrating very hard. “There’s something about him that looks familiar.” She placed the photo back on the table and smiled. “I’d have to check my client database to be sure.”

“And the girl?” the Operative probed.

“She’s just a child from the looks of her.” Inara sipped her tea dismissing the matter. “Not one of my students and too young to have been…”

“Do not toy with me!” His voice rumbled but was strangely devoid of emotion. “You lived aboard the ship Serenity for almost a year. Simon and River Tam were there for most of that time.”

“I lived aboard the shuttle I rented.” She shuddered delicately. “My interactions with the crew were kept to a minimum.” Inara made a show of inspecting the pictures a second time. “Now that you’ve identified them, I can see the likeness in the man, but the child appears too... sane. I have vague memories of her throwing fits at the most inconvenient times.”
..............


Delicate Beauty

by

Lattelady


“Are you telling me that River Tam is insane?”

“Maybe that would be too strong a word, lets just say unbalanced and leave it at that.” Inara watched the Operative under the sweep of her lashes, but couldn’t read anything from his face and had no idea if she’d just helped or hindered the Tams.

“Insane or merely unbalanced, it is my job to bring her home.” He didn’t care one way or the other, he had been told to either reclaim the missing girl or kill her. If her mental state was as the Companion claimed, then it would be safer if she was as dead as her brother was going to be once he found them.

“I wish you luck in your endeavors.” Nara brushed aside the photos on the table as she reached for the teapot. “May I freshen your tea?”

“I didn’t come here for a tea party.” His hand gripped her wrist and he pulled her to her feet as he stood. With a deft movement, he twisted her to him until one of her arms was caught between their bodies. The grip he maintained on her wrist kept her back pressed against his solid form. “You are a beautiful woman,” he whispered in her ear.

“Please, I told you I am not longer in that branch of the Guild.” She tried to pull away but it was useless. “And even when I was, I always chose my clients, careful to screen for brutish behavior.” Her eyes flashed fire at the indignation. She knew she was safe for the moment, all she had to do was call out and the room would be filled with burly guards. But she didn’t want the Operative taking out his wrath on the Training House or its occupants.

“You needn’t worry. It isn’t your body I’m after. I’m far more interested in your skin. It’s so very lovely.” He ran his free hand over her cheek, down the slope of her neck and across her full firm breasts. One thumb slipped beneath the scooping neckline of her dress and pressed until she gasped. Sure that he had her full attention he continued. “Beautiful skin is the hallmark of a successful companion, and yours is especially fine, like delicate porcelain.”

In one quick movement he was no longer pressing into her breast. Instead, he picked up the antique teapot and smashed it against the marble table. “I’m so sorry, how careless of me.” He smiled and pulled her tighter to him as he showed her what was left of the lovely porcelain pot. Sharp jagged edges surrounded the sturdier handle that was gripped in his fist.

“What…” Inara shivered and licked her suddenly dry lips. “Please let me go,” she whispered.

“Oh, I think not.” The Operative smiled gently. “I need your assistance. You will do exactly what I say, when I say or you will discover exactly what this shard can do.” He ran the back of the broken pot over her skin, careful to leave no marks until he reached the dipping neckline of her dress. With a quick movement the small weapon sliced through an inch of silk at her bodice.

Inara gasped as she felt something cold stop in the hollow of her cleavage.

“Have no doubt, that small as it is, this is a very useful weapon.” He knew she was finally under his control when she went lax in his arms.

“It’s amazing that something so beautiful can become so ugly once it’s broken, only fit for the most barbaric of tasks.” He let go of her and watched as she sank down onto the couch.

“What do you require of me?” Unconsciously she pressed her hand against the tear in her dress, never trying to hide how she shook. Let him see her fear, it was what he wanted. Let him think she was helpless.

“I want you to wave Captain Reynolds and bring him here to me.”

“I…I have no way of reaching him.” It wasn’t the truth. She’d known Serenity’s radio frequency since the beginning, and could have easily waved them anytime she choose, but she knew her heart couldn’t have taken casual conversations with any of them, least of all the Captain.

“How lucky that I have it with me.” The Operative reached into his pocket and brought out his note computer. “I don’t care what excuse you use, bring that ship here!”

“I think you’re over-estimating my powers of persuasion.” Inara wanted desperately to change her dress and burn it. It bore the mark of her submission and she hated it because of that.

“For you’re sake, I hope not.” His words sent a cold chill down her spine. “Let’s get this over with. I’ve wasted enough time.”

“I really should change first.” She looked down at the rip and the darkening thumbprint he’d left behind and shuddered. “It would be out of character of me to appear in a wave looking unkempt. Captain Reynolds is many things, but he is not a fool.”

“Atherton Wing says otherwise.” He arched an ebony brow and tossed Inara a large warm looking shawl that was being used as a throw on a chair. “This should suffice.”

It took fifteen minutes for the Alliance Operative to have the wave put through to Serenity. The thought of seeing Mal again did nothing to help her composure. If the Operative had spoken to Wing, then he knew that the Captain had fought a duel over her. That they were more than…less than…gorramit, she couldn't figure out what they were to eachother. She did know that she had to protect him at any cost, even if her first instinct was to beg him to come to take her back to Serenity, to him.

She remembered what she’d told him after Nandi died. That night on the catwalk she’d been speaking of him, not Nandi. It had been the family he’d created from the strength of his love for them, which she was tied to. It wasn’t until she’d left that she discovered that the tie was binding. She’d lived with that kind of strength for almost a year. It had changed her life. If she ever went back, she knew she’d never be able to leave unless he forced her to go.

Suddenly everything rushed together. She blinked and there he was on her screen, standing naked from the waist up, looking sleepy and very dear. Now she had to think of something that would fool the Operative, but not Mal. He needed to know that she was the bait in a deadly trap and he needed to turn his ship toward the black and run as far and as fast as he could.

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The moving finger writes: and having writ Moves on. nor all your piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancal half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it...The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If I quiet the voices in my head, I would face the day with nothing to write. - Unknown

I must go down to the seas again the lonely sea and sky...J Masefield

Cinderella walked on broken glass,
Sleeping beauty let a whole lifetime pass.
Belle fell in love with a hideous beast,
Jasmine married a common thief.
Ariel walked on land for love and life,
Snow white barely escaped a knife.
It was all about blood, sweat, and tears.
Because love means facing your biggest fears


The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of...French Proverb

I have drempt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after. They've gone through me like wine through water and altered the colour of my mind ...E. Bronte

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage...Lao Tzu

It takes chaos to give birth to a dancing star ..F. Nietzsche

How many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true? But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face...Yeats

Let us go, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky...T. S. Eliot

In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter, that is the day when I first met you, appears the words, "here begins a new life".
La Vita Nuova

Midnight courage of the heart...Jen Kirkwood

The three o-clock in the morning courage which Bonaparte thought was the rarest...Thoreau

Did you say it? I love you; I don't ever want to live without you; you changed my life. Did you say it?
Make a plan, set a goal, work toward it, but every now and then, look around, drink it in, 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow. - Meredith Grey

Shakespeare is easy, life is hard...Wheels

Don't try to be a great man, just be a man. Let history make up its own mind...Z.Cochron

I had a job to do and I was unafraid...Jack to John Creighton

For I dipt into the future, as far as the human eye could see. Saw the vision of the world, and the wonders that can be...RWW Hipwell

Without diviation from the norm, progress is impossible...F. Zappa

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea-green boat: They took some honey and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar...E Lear

Sweet and low, sweet and low, Wind of the western sea, Low, low, breathe and blow, Wind of the western sea! Over the rolling waters go, Come from the dying moon and blow, Blow him again to me;... Tennison

Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn... Keats

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