Blue Sun Rising
Zoe tried to stand as casually as she could, a few steps behind Inara, but the armed immigration officer kept darting his eyes at her
“Is there a problem, officer?” Inara prompted gently, as he hummed and hawed over her documentation
“No problem, ma’am,” he said, “Just checking a few things…”
Zoe repressed a sigh, and looked at Caruthers out of the corner of her eye. Dressed as he was, every inch the gentleman, he didn’t look out of place by Inara’s side. She, however, was another matter; the dress Inara had eventually picked out for her to wear made her feel uncomfortable in her own skin. Personally, she preferred a simpler style, but she was supposed to be a companion’s maid, hence the elaborate sleeves and gold embroidery trailing up the high collar.
Why the gorram hell had she agreed to this? Oh yes, because there was no way in hell Mal was going to let Inara go dirtside with only Caruthers at her side.
Eventually, however, the emigration officer handed Inara back her papers, along with Caruthers’s and gave Zoe a long look as he handed over hers. “How long will you be staying?” he asked; his attempt at nonchalance was laughable.
“That depends on whether the Guild has a placement for me here,” Inara said, letting her dimples show as she smiled. “If you’ll excuse us.”
And that was that, they were out of the customs area and walking through the doors. Zoe squinted against the blazing sun as they made their way to the taxi queue and sighed. “I think they recognised me,” she said. “He wasn’t at all fooled by my indenture papers.”
“I got the same feeling,” Inara said. “I’ve no doubt he’s already on a com channel, briefing them on our arrival.”
“Look, don’t touch,” Caruthers said lightly. “Who ever sent your descriptions down the line wanted to make gorram sure that nobody else talked to you first.”
“The Guild house will most probably be their first port of call,” Inara said. “By the time they start looking for other possible locations, we should be long gone.”
“They’ll be watching the shuttle,” Zoe said flatly. “And they’re probably already combing orbit for Serenity.
Inara sighed, as she raised her hand to garner the attention of a skycar cab. “I’m suddenly glad we used the other shuttle, and not mine, to land” she said, as one descended.
“As long as River can keep the other shuttle off the radar, your escape route should hold,” Caruthers muttered.
Inara smiled as the cab driver jumped out and held the door open for them. “”We thought it worth the risk,” she said, throwing a sly look at Caruthers. “Although why you went along with it…?”
Zoe resisted the urge to roll her eyes as Caruthers smiled noncommittally. “Fahng sheen,” he said. “I have my reasons.”
Yes, I’ll just bet you do, Zoe thought glumly as she slid into the seat opposite him, and eyed him suspiciously. She was still having trouble believing what she’d seen on that hilltop on Whitefall. The way he looked at her, when his eyes opened; that curious mixture of weariness and amusement, and the darkness running beneath it….
Caruthers caught her eye and smirked, as if he knew what she was thinking, and Zoe repressed a shudder as she looked straight back. “Something you wanted to say?” she asked, unable to keep the challenge out of her voice.
“Gods forbid,” he drawled, a strange coolness to his voice, and Zoe wondered how could they have been so taken in, how could they have though he was normal?
Inara threw them both calculating look. “Perhaps you two could leave this to another time?” she asked dryly, as the driver got into his seat. “So, where are we going, Mr Caruthers?”
Caruthers reeled out an address the cab driver, and Zoe glanced at Inara as she heard her take a long breath of surprise. “Something wrong?” she asked, under her breath.
“Mr Caruthers’s friend must be very good,” Inara murmured back. “That’s one of the wealthiest districts on the planet.” Caruthers just smiled smugly as he slouched and threw his arm over the back of the empty seat beside him, and Zoe wondered, as the skycar lifted into the air, how much was an act, and who was the real person beneath it.
The skycar flitted over the city, and Zoe couldn’t help but feel the unease rise within her. Trusting Caruthers was an act of desperation, and desperation didn’t sit easily on Zoe’s shoulders. She felt a pang for the old days, before they’d let Simon on board. Wen it had just been six of them, and Wash had been alive and laughing, hugging her fears and doubts away, making her feel human and full of hope. Something she thought she’d never feel again, after the war, and maybe she had been foolish to hope, because he was gone, after all…
“Zoe?” She felt Inara’s hand squeeze hers, and looked up into her concerned eyes.
Zoe smiled wryly. “How much further?” she asked.
A small crease of a frown appeared on Inara’s forehead, but she let it drop. “We’re nearly there,” she said, not letting go of her hand, and Zoe let her, because human contact felt so important at this moment.
“We’re not all going to make it,” Mal had said to her before they’d disembarked. “I’m sorry, Zoe.”
“Nothing to be sorry about, Mal,” she had answered. “It isn’t your fault…none of it was.”
And it wasn’t, but Zoe knew he still blamed himself for Wash’s death. She could see it in his eyes; it was the same look that had been there after Serenity. It was the reason she’d originally agreed to be his first mate; she’d been afraid he’d give into that death wish he nursed so closely. She’d lost too many friends, already, she couldn’t afford to lose Mal. He was her rock, he kept her sane... they kept each other sane.
“We’re here,” Inara said softly, and Zoe looked out.
Methos, kept the smirk on his face, even as he grew grimmer inside. The look on Zoe’s face said it all; much as she tried to hide it, she was expecting to die. He was surprised at the surge of protectiveness he felt. Serenity’s first mate did not need protecting, unless it was from herself…or him, he concluded reluctantly, there was always that.
“Is your friend expecting us?” Inara asked, as the cab driver opened the door.
“Not as such, no,” Methos said lightly. “But don’t worry, she’s always liked surprises.” But only when she’s the one springing them, he added wryly, in his mind, as he looked at the force fence that surrounded the skycar’s landing pad. A servant was already hurrying towards the landing pad’s gates, and Methos smiled slyly up at the security camera. Hello, Amanda, aren’t you pleased to see me at your door?
How long has it been since you’ve last met?” Inara enquired, the curiosity showing in her voice, as the skycar lifted into the sky once more.
“Oh, it just seems like yesterday,” Methos drawled, ignoring Zoe’s snort as he watched the servant touch type a code into the gate.
“I wish someone would tell me what’s going on here,” Inara sighed under her breath.
“That makes two of us,” Zoe said dryly.
“Mr Michaels,” the servant said, smiling widely as the gate slid open. “Ms Darieux is delighted by your impromptu visit!”
I’ll just bet she is, Methos thought, with a flash of humour, as the servant stepped aside to let them through.
“Mr Michaels?” Zoe muttered the question under her breath, as she kept abreast with him.
“It was the name I was using when we last met,” he said softly. “Now, just smile for the cameras, and pretend you don’t have a homicidal bone in your body. Don’t want her getting shy on us, do we?”
“I thought she was a friend of yours,” she said, through gritted teeth, as she plastered a fake smile on her face.
“It’s complicated,” he said. “Bit like her, really.”
Zoe shared a look with Inara, who raised an eyebrow. “An old lover of yours?” the Companion asked.
Methos couldn’t help himself; he let out of bark of laughter. “Well, technically, yes, I suppose, but that’s not why it’s complicated,” he admitted, pausing as he felt the familiar sensation of another Immortal’s presence wash over him.
“Hello, James.” Methos smiled as Amanda stepped onto the path and waved the servant away.
“Its Alex now,” he told her, once the servant was out of earshot. “You’re looking well; wealth agrees with you.”
“Alex,” Amanda mused, looking him up and down. “Doesn’t suit you,” she pronounced as she stepped forwards and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
“Nice to see you too, Amanda,” he murmured into her ear. “It’s still Amanda, isn’t it?”
Amanda smiled and winked, as she sidestepped around him and took Inara’s hand in hers. “Amanda Darieux,” she purred. “I must say, I’m a bit surprised to see Alex travel in such auspicious company.”
Inara laughed lightly, taking the compliment in her stride. “Inara Serra,” she said. “And this is my friend, Zoe Washburne.”
“Ms Washburne,” said Amanda, grasping her hand. “So nice to meet Alex’s friends, they’re always so interesting.”
Methos suppressed a groan. Oh yes, she was irritated… which reminded him. “Why are we meeting in the garden, Amanda?” he asked lightly, but his question was already answered by the sudden sensation of another immortal.
“Duncan, darling, ” Amanda called out as a figure stepped out of the house. “Look who’s come to visit – it’s Alex!”
“And my day is complete,” Methos muttered under his breath, wincing as Amanda poked him sharply in the ribs.
“Another friend?” Zoe murmured as Amanda went to intercept Duncan.
“Strangely enough, yes,” Methos sighed.
“You don’t seem that happy to see him,” Inara observed.
“It’s not that…” Methos paused, as Duncan threw him a half smile over Amanda’s shoulder. “Let’s just say that an extra complication has just been added to the complicated.”
“Indeed,” Inara said archly.
Yes, indeed, thought Methos grimly, as he wondered how on Earth he could convince Amanda to go along with his plan whilst keeping Mac in the dark; because the last thing he needed was the Highlander along for the ride, especially if things went as badly as he suspected…
Admit it, old man; you’re just a tiny bit afraid that Mac, given the choice between keeping you alive and doing the right thing, will leave you out to dry… Methos sighed, as he reluctantly approached the Highlander. Five centuries later and it was still the same old merry-go-round.
“Mac,” he said.
“Alex,” Duncan said, equally brief. “How about we cut to the chase? What the gorram hell have you been up to?”
BACK : MAINPAGE : NEXT
FICTION : BUFFY/ANGEL
FICTION : CROSSOVER
FICTION : E-MAIL ME