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big damn crossover, part five

Title: you can't take the sky from me (5/?)
Rating:  PG
Characters/Pairings:  Ensemble from both Firefly and A:tLA, same pairings as before, though less so in this part.  Also, Sokka --> Inara.
Summary:  The Gaang find themselves in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar technology, and must rely on the only kindness they can find.  Unfortunately, kindness seems to be an endangered creature in this new place.  x-over with Firefly/Serenity, post-movie, Wash lives!
Chapter Summary:  In which they reach Sihnon, meet Inara, and -- of course -- things fail to go smooth.
A/N:  I, um.  Yeah.  Also, I can't decide whether or not to post this to FF (or any other site, for that matter).  I feel like such a dork.

one... three. four. five. six. seven.

episode two:
sihnon shuffle

chapter one:
(an ocean of light)


Sihnon was breathtaking from the air, and mind-boggling from the ground.  Katara could do little besides gape, and even though she had spent the last landing clinging desperately to her brother and trying to block out all stimuli that might possibly tell her that she did, in fact, exist, this time, she was staring in awe from the bridge, still clutching Sokka in terror (and trying to ignore the now-persistent twitch in Mal's forehead) but unable to tear her eyes away from the planet.

From a distance, it was swirling ochre, reflecting glints of white light from the bright, all-too-near sun, like an ocean of ruby.  By the time they passed the three moons (three moons! She wondered how powerful her waterbending would be on this planet!), the entire crew, minus Toph, were gathered on the bridge, just watching.

As they pulled in closer, the clouds parted to reveal a sparkling jewel of a city, a large, bustling metropolis with ships of all shapes and sizes swooping in to land.  On the other side, beyond the city limits, beautiful landscape stretched as far as the eye could see, a series of rivers winding through hills and what might have been temples scattered across the Earth as if tossed carelessly by some bored god.

"Wow," she whispered, and Mal made a strange sound in the back of his throat.

"Yeah," he said shortly, "it's real pretty."  Something in his tone made her turn; it was clear that the captain very much did not like Sihnon, and she wanted to know why.  She glanced to Zuko to see if he might know anything, but he wasn't paying attention.

"We'll be landing in Lu'Wong," Wash told them, without taking his eyes off the onrushing ground.  "It's the capital city.  Inara said she'd meet us here with everything already packed in her shuttle."

"Good," Mal replied.  "I'd like to get out of here without ever setting foot on land."

"What?" Katara squawked, and it came out so shrilly that she winced.  "I mean, why?" she amended.  "It's so beautiful..."

"It's Alliance," Zoe said, like that answered everything.  Katara barely bit back an annoyed retort -- obviously, Alliance planets were prettier, nicer, and bigger than either of the places they'd been so far, so why did Mal and Zoe hate them so much?

"Can't we just...?" Kaylee pleaded, glancing at Mal.  "I've never been to Sihnon.  'Nara says its the most beautiful planet in the 'Verse."

"I don't care," Mal said tightly.  "We're not settin' foot on it, and that's that."

"You don't have to!" Kaylee cried, glancing between Mal and Zoe.  "We could just stop here for a few hours, go explore the shopping district.  'Nara could show us around, and you and Zoe wouldn't have to get off the ship at all!  Please, Cap'n?"

"No," he replied, but Wash raised an eyebrow.

"You know," he started, pulling up and landing easily on one of the docks, then relaxing and turning to his wife, "Sihnon is known for its silk..."

"So we can buy some genuine Sihnon silk somewhere else," Zoe replied, smirking.  "They export."

"Yeah, but there's nothing like seeing it in the real market," Kaylee said, eyes begging.  "We got here a few hours early, anyway, 'Nara might not even be ready yet!  We've got the time."

"Kaylee," Mal started dangerously, but then sighed.  "We've got enough Alliance trouble without runnin' around in their territory.  We stay on the ship."

"Didn't you say that about Ariel?" Wash stage-whispered, earning a cuff on the back of the head from a very amused Zoe.  "What?  We could totally run a heist.  It would be even more impressive than that hospital."

Katara's gut fell straight through the floor.  She was right!  She turned to Zuko to gloat silently, but he was too busy ignoring her.

"I could go for havin' money again," Jayne muttered, and Simon glanced at him.

"Corticol electrodes," he said apparently apropos of nothing, earning a confused look from Jayne (and Katara) and snickers from both Mal and Zoe. 

"What?" Jayne asked, and Simon rolled his eyes.

"That would take a lot of planning, though," Zoe said.  "We're only staying for a few hours."

"What's the rush?" Kaylee asked, looking pointedly at Zoe and ignoring Mal's ever-increasing annoyance.  "We already sold that cargo on Whitefall, and we ain't had another job come up yet.  This could be a good one.  I think we still got most o' the parts from that ambulance cruiser Wash 'n I made.  We could run it again, or somethin' similar... Without, um," she added, glancing at Simon, who shrugged.

"I don't really need to get into another hospital," he started, but Mal cut him off.

"You forgettin' somethin'?" he asked, glaring at Kaylee.  "All our faces've been plastered over the cortex for the past month and a half, and you think we're just gonna be able to waltz into a hospital and steal a buncha meds?"

"We got new faces," Jayne offered, jerking a thumb in the direction of Katara, who blanched.

"Hey, now..." she said, holding up her hands.  "I'm not getting involved in a heist."

"Besides," Aang cut in, looking a little confused, "didn't we plan to get off here?"

Everyone turned to him, as though suddenly remembering that.  Katara wasn't sure how she felt about leaving at Sihnon.  On the one hand, she was quite sure that she was in the hands of bad people who did bad things, but on the other hand, she would much rather be here to try and thwart whatever nefarious plans they were coming up with than dally around on a (really gorgeous) planet and leave them to their own devices.  Besides, neither Suki nor Sokka looked at all prepared to leave, the former glaring at Aang with barely-restrained hostility.

"We still haven't really figured anything out," Sokka said.  "I think it's best we stay with the crew for a while because, um," he looked around, "we should."  It was obvious that he was unwilling to leave before he had at least learned how to pilot a spaceship from Wash, and Suki appeared bound and determined to stay on the ship, even if it meant locking herself in the walls or making a complete ass of herself.

"I wasn't saying we had to," Aang said, raising his hands in supplication, "I was just saying... That was the idea."

"It's up to you," Mal replied evenly, but Kaylee burst into the conversation.

"You payed more 'n enough to stay, though," she said, earning yet another glare.  "All that gold 'n platinum'll cover your passage to just about every planet in the 'Verse."

"Thank you, Kaylee," Mal said sardonically, clearly wishing that she'd kept her mouth shut.  Katara was beginning to suspect that either Kaylee had no sense of self-preservation or she was somehow related to the captain, because those were the only reasons that she would dare be so openly... well, not defiant, but needling.  She had the feeling that if anyone else had tried to beg Mal into letting them do anything like go shopping on an Alliance planet, they would be keel-hauled.

"Well, I think we should stay, then," Sokka declared brightly.  Wash raised a hand, as though sitting in a classroom.

"We still haven't decided about whether or not we can go shopping."

"Yes, we have," Zoe replied, raising an eyebrow.  "The answer's no."

"I'll buy you a really nice silk dress," he offered, and then muttered something under his breath that only Zoe could hear (Katara suspected it had something to do with taking off the really nice silk dress), and she smiled.

"What about me?" Mal asked in the same sardonic tone.  It was obvious that he was both annoyed and kind of amused, which meant -- she had learned -- that he was in a good mood, which was strange, all things considered.  Then again, it was pretty hard to gauge the Captain's moods.  "You gonna buy me a nice silk dress?"

"Yes," Wash replied quickly.  "Red silk.  I'll make sure it's something sexy, too, maybe with a slit up to there..."

"There's an image I didn' need," Jayne grumbled, but Zoe laughed.  And just like that, Katara finally understood Zoe and Wash's relationship -- it was, thus far, the first time she'd seen the woman openly laugh like that, bright and happy.  Usually, she just snickered under her breath or looked sort of amused.

"I've gotta get some parts for the engine," Kaylee said innocently, not looking at Mal.  He closed his eyes, praying for patience, and then threw up his hands.

"If Inara is willing to show you bai chi around the city, then I don't care.  If you get caught by the Feds, though, I ain't springin' you."

Kaylee beamed, and bounced forward, kissing Mal on the cheek.  "Thanks, Cap'n!"

He growled.

--

Sokka gaped.

That was the only possible word for it.

They met Inara right outside Serenity, right after she landed her shuttle.  She had spoken with Wash over the comm-link, and apparently was perfectly happy to show the crew -- and their new charges -- around the city of Lu'Wong, even excited to do so.  But none of that, not even hearing her voice on the other side of the room, had prepared Sokka for actually meeting Inara.  He had been warned, of course, that she was what they called a "Companion," a term which meant nothing to him or anyone else, but which seemed to mean that they should not be surprised at what she looked like.  He had thought that might mean she would look grungy and disgusting, maybe be uncultured or possibly diseased.

She was, without a doubt, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  The only person who had ever come close was Princess Yue, and even she hadn't been this kind of lovely.

She walked with a fluid grace, her red silk dress and knitted shawl fluttering behind her like a breeze.  Her thick, black curls framed her face in just the right way, and when she smiled, it was warm and open and friendly and Sokka lost all coherent thought.

"Hi," he said bluntly.

"Hello," she replied gently, holding out her hand.  "I'm Inara."

He stared.  She had beautiful hands.  He didn't know anyone who had hands that beautiful.

It was about this point that Toph started cackling.

--

"This is the market," Inara said, opening her arms expansively.  Katara stared.  Everything she had seen so far in this place had been unimaginably beautiful: homes draped in silk, breathtaking women wearing kimono of the sort she'd never seen before, lights of all colors glittering off of gorgeous buildings -- but the market was another realm entirely.  The bustle of the city streets reached a fever pitch here, with people spilling out of open doors, huge windows showing some of the most exquisite clothing and furniture and statues Katara had ever seen, lanterns (currently unlit in the light of morning) strung from building to building, restaurants with outdoor seating and the most delicious-smelling food she could imagine... It seemed that everything Sihnon had was gorgeous.

She was beginning to really resent Sokka and Suki for wanting to stay with Serenity, and she honestly couldn't understand why Inara would ever want to leave such a place.

"Oh, wow," Suki breathed, looking into a window and tugging on Kaylee's arm, "look at this."

"Ooh!" Kaylee replied, and they cooed over the stunning dress.  Even Sokka peeled his eyes away from Inara for long enough to look.  It was made of the clearest, deepest blue silk, with a full, layered skirt in two other shades of blue, and the bodice was dusted with small sapphires.  It looked both unbearably gorgeous and obscenely expensive.

As though listening to Katara's thoughts, Inara said, "That's a little out of our price range, I'm afraid," with a small laugh.  Kaylee smiled.

"Oh, I know, but it's amazing."

"Sihnon boasts some of the best clothing in the 'Verse," she replied, smiling broadly.

"So," Katara mused, catching up to Inara.  "Why would you choose to travel around on Serenity rather than stay here?  I mean," she added hastily, even though Inara didn't seem offended, "nothing against Serenity, it's just... This place is amazing."

She smiled enigmatically.  "I've found that, in my line of work, it helps to travel and meet clients where they are rather than ask them to come to me.  It expands my base and gives the crew a sense of respectability that," she laughed lightly, "they sometimes lack."

"You can say that again," she muttered, not realizing that Inara could still hear her.  The other woman laughed outright.

"But they're good people," she said.  "I wouldn't travel with them unless they were."

This brought her up short: Inara was certainly well-to-do, and seemed very smart and very cultured, so if Inara said that Mal and the crew were good people, then she certainly had enough experience to base that judgment on.  But from what Katara had seen, they weren't good people.  Maybe they acted different around Inara?

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed someone following them and grabbed Zuko's arm, jolting him backward and nearly knocking him over.  "What?" he asked sharply, drawing the group's attention.  Katara froze for a second and then steadied herself.

"I think someone's following us," she said in a low voice, and Toph tilted her head, furrowing her brow and trying to feel out the footsteps and heartbeats through the crowd.  When her face relaxed, so did everyone else (except Inara, who didn't know, and Wash and Kaylee, who weren't used to it).

"It's River," she told them, and Inara looked at her strangely.

"How did you know?" she asked, but before Toph could answer, River caught up to them.

"You weren't supposed to leave the ship," Kaylee said, hands on her hips.  River beamed.

"They keep the dragon bound here," she replied, earning the confusion of everyone.

"O... kay," Wash said, and shrugged.  "Just don't run off, all right?"

They wandered through the market for almost an hour, mostly because Wash was apparently completely incapable of choosing women's clothing on his own and had to get everyone's opinion (and the shopkeeper's) about various styles, colors, and fabrics of the dress he had promised Zoe.  While he, Inara, Kaylee, and Suki were poring over the merits of black versus red, and Sokka, Zuko, Aang, and Toph were arguing over whether or not they needed a set of lanterns to hang in the hallway between the passenger dorms and whether or not Mal would let them put them up even if they did decide to buy them, Katara decided that it was her job to watch River.

Luckily, the girl seemed placid enough, inspecting a shelf of trinkets with a look of utmost fascination.

"What are you looking at?" she asked.

River smiled.  "So many stories," she muttered, as though that was a response.  Finally beginning to get used to River's odd way of talking, though, Katara nodded.

"I know.  I wonder what all these are -- ooh!" she gasped, picking up a beautiful little nesting doll.  "I had one of these when I was a little girl!"

River looked over to her and cocked her head.  "Your father made it for you," she said.

"Yeah," she said, nodding and smiling nostalgically.  "He carved it out of bone one winter when my mother was still alive.  He wasn't much for art, but his best friend helped him add a bunch of designs and things.  He even carved my name into the bottom of it, although that was more to keep Sokka from..."  She trailed off, staring blankly at River.  "How did you know?"

But River wasn't looking at the doll anymore.  Her smile had faded, and she seemed even paler and smaller than usual.  Katara looked around, but the group had moved on to somewhere else within the store (she could hear Sokka's vehement exclamations that hanging lanterns were perfectly good investments).  Just as she was about to lead River back to them, however, the girl grabbed her hand in a vice-like grip and began pulling her off to the back of the store.

"Where are we -- "

But now she was muttering to herself, repeating the same sentence over and over -- two by two hands of blue two by two hands of blue -- and wasn't paying attention to Katara.  In a desperate rush, she dragged her out of the back door and through an alleyway that was still more beautiful than anything on either of the planets she'd already been, breaking out into a dead run when they reached the street, still clutching Katara's hand in her powerful grip.

She looked around, trying to find the source of River's terror, or at least maybe see if the others had noticed their absence yet, and caught sight of two pale, tall men in suits with vivid blue gloves.  Something within her went ice-cold -- even though she knew nothing of this place or those men, the blank looks on their faces and River's all-encompassing fear told her that they were bad news.

Katara tried to pull them into a shop, hoping to lose their followers, but River shook her head and dragged her away, keeping to the crowded streets.  They moved slower, but so did the tall men, so it must have been an acceptable trade-off.  But they weren't heading back toward the docks; in fact, it didn't seem like River knew where they were going at all.

"River, we need to get back to -- "

"No," she said fervently, "can't.  They follow, they come and they follow and they -- " she broke off into a desperate whimper.

"What if they have others?" Katara asked, trying to be reasonable through her irrational panic.  "What if they surround us?"

River seemed to be thinking the same thing, and abruptly jerked her through an open door, into a crowded restaurant.  The host bowed when they burst in and started to ask if they wanted a seat, but River refused to stop.  Katara shouted an insincere apology after them as they bolted through the tables, nearly bowling over a waitress who cried out a long string of words in another language, and crashed into a swinging door, straight into the kitchen.

Several people looked up and started to say something, but they continued to rush, and when Katara glanced behind her again, she could see why.  The tall men were gaining on them, already barreling toward the kitchen doors.  River was whimpering, nearly crying by now, and shoved their way through the cooks trying to stop them.

She looked back again.  They were only about ten feet behind them.

She didn't even think, just raised her free hand to one of the boiling pots of water -- which reacted violently, thanks to the planet's three moons -- and sent it, in a roaring, hissing cascade, right into the face of one of the men.

Swallowing her horror at what she had just done, she continued to follow River, thinking that surely that had gotten the two men off their backs, but when she glanced back again, the uninjured one was still following them, with that same blank look on his face.  It was like he hadn't even seen his partner take a pot of boiling water to the face.  This was when her cold dread crystallized into true, unrelenting terror.  She hadn't been this scared since she and Zuko had faced Azula on the day of the comet.

Now, she caught up with River's pace, clutching the other girl's hand with equal force and all-but flying for the back exit.  Into an alley, out into the streets again, not even pausing to glance at all the people they were shoving away and down and aside.  The man was still following, barely ten steps behind them, almost close enough to reach out and grab them, which was what he looked like he was about to do.  At almost the exact moment that Katara realized that they were going to be captured by this impossibly scary man, something flew out of a bar directly behind her and landed on top of him.

It was Zoe Washburne, beating the snot out of a completely random man.

Katara could reasonably say she had never been more surprised in her life.  She barely paused to think, though, because a hand was gripping her arm and pulling her along -- Jayne.

"Gorramit," he growled, "what the hell are you two gettin' up to?"

He didn't let them respond, instead dragging them at top speed back to the docks, leaving Zoe behind -- and then Katara caught on.  Zoe's fight had caused a bottleneck on the sidewalk, which the tall, scary man was caught on the wrong side of.  She had caused a diversion, giving them time to escape.

Unfortunately, this also meant that when the police broke up the fight, they arrested Zoe.

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
colorguard_06
Aug. 27th, 2010 12:44 am (UTC)
More please more! I am hooked and I want to see what happens!
andromeda3116
Aug. 29th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
It's coming! Eventually. <<

I'm glad you like it! And also, icon <3
jdphoenix
Aug. 27th, 2010 12:54 am (UTC)
Oh no! Not that Zoe can't handle herself but I still need to know what happens!

Also, I love Sokka's reaction to meeting Inara. XD
andromeda3116
Aug. 29th, 2010 10:13 pm (UTC)
As far as people on Serenity who can handle prison, Zoe's right up there with Mal in being able take just about anything. But still, you know Wash is freaking out.
colorguard_06
Aug. 30th, 2010 03:49 am (UTC)
Icon <3!
bushtuckerboy
Aug. 27th, 2010 04:16 am (UTC)
I notice that the planet is close to it's sun, ooooooooh boy, overpowered Zuko here we come.
andromeda3116
Aug. 29th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
;D
tinmiss1939
Aug. 29th, 2010 12:49 am (UTC)
This fic is reminding me of all the reasons I loved Firefly. I had completely forgotten about the Blue Hand people--so creepy! And they are used to excellent effect here. Good work!
andromeda3116
Aug. 29th, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC)
Guh. The chase scene in Ariel when Jayne and Simon and River are all trying to escape the hospital and all they hear from behind are just these screams...

Thank you!
redsilverchains
Aug. 29th, 2010 07:01 am (UTC)
All-too-near sun and three moons huh? I sense Zutara super-bending!

Yeahhhh, Toph, we know you can feel every single one of their man-reactions to Inara XD And uh-oh, what’s Katara gonna do when she finds out what Inara’s line of work is??

(BTW, can I friend you? I’ve always loved your HP stories and your writing style :p)
andromeda3116
Aug. 29th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
Zutara Super Bending should be the name of a nerd-rock band. Just sayin'.

I'm going to have waaaaay too much fun with everyone's reactions to Inara's line of work. You know Aang's gonna be scandalized!

(Of course! And thank you! I didn't know you followed me from my HP days!)
redsilverchains
Aug. 30th, 2010 03:23 am (UTC)
Added you! Yeah, I got into Black family fanfic because of your work :p
tinmiss1939
Aug. 29th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
man-reaction
LOL Am I detecting a Dollhouse fan?
redsilverchains
Aug. 30th, 2010 03:24 am (UTC)
Tee-hee, you caught me! XD I love Topher so much.
jade_sabre_301
Aug. 29th, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
INARA IS GOING TO SHOW UUUUUUUUUUP YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

aaaaaaaaaaaaaw Katara! ah-hahahahaha of course she would like the Alliance more. Oh, Katara. Law! And Order! And HOPE!

I am just really, really enjoying Katara's thought processes in this section. They're spot-on. And hilarious.

aaaaaaaaaaw Mal and Kaylee.

AND WASH AND ZOEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE /forgets canon /ignores canon /jettisons canon out the airlock

YES. SOKKA. OMG. I LOVE YOU SO HARD.

oh Inara! And Katara! And omg plz be besties now.

I just love the image of everyone shopping together. Teeheehee.

NO NO NO NO NO NOT THE BLUE HANDS NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

*shudders*

YEAH ZOE GO

oh man

are we going to do a prison break

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS PRISONBREAK

*flails*
andromeda3116
Aug. 29th, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, Katara. :D

I've always loved Mal and Kaylee's relationship. They have this wonderful brother/sister dynamic, and I love that Kaylee can basically get away with anything even having sex in the engine room of a ship that isn't hers! by smiling.

And shyeah, as far as I'm concerned, Wash is alive. That javelin pierced a hologram of Wash. He never died. IT DID NOT HAPPEN.

The image of everyone shopping together was really one of the motivations to write this chapter, because Sokka's such a dork about shopping and you know that Wash and Kaylee (at least!) are too. Plus, I wanted to set up the chase scene. But it was mostly the shopping. *nods*

:D

"YEAH ZOE GO" is like the soundtrack of most of Firefly, as far as I'm concerned. She's so awesome. I want to grow up to be her.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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