Title: "Place in this 'Verse"
Author: Allronix
Rating: G
Characters: Simon, Inara
For Improv #5 (knight, need, aloud, soul)
Spoilers: A minor one for the pilot

Summary: When it comes to our place in the universe, we all need a reminder

Thanks to Goldenthorn74 for the beta

Disclaimer: these characters and their universe belong to Mutant Enemy and
Joss Whedon with other ownership in debate currently. I'm writing between


The oldest definition of "glamour" was that of a magic spell, often a
deceptive or malevolent one. In the ancient stories, supernatural creatures
affected the appearance of lovely and enchanting women to lure peasant and
knight alike to their doom. Remove the glamour, and the often hideous face -
the ugly truth - would be revealed.

Inara remembered the story with a bitter irony.

Another planet, another client, and another bag of gold. She placed the
dress into its storage cube, the modern micro-fibers folding compactly. Down
to a plain shift and robe, she sat in the shuttle's pilot chair and caught a
glimpse of her reflection in the front window.

Why the doubts? Didn't she want this life? Wasn't it the only way she could
see the galaxy, to go where she pleased? As a child, the Academy was the
best place to get an education - in art, dance, music, and ceremony. She'd
only had the faintest idea of what it meant then. Companions were the most
graceful people she had ever seen, and she hoped she would grow up to be
just like them.

She had.

For the past year, however, something ate at her soul. She didn't have a
name for it, but the glamour that had once been as natural as breathing was
getting harder to summon. The more she looked at her reflection, the more
she wondered what would be seen if someone stripped it away. Was there even
a person beneath?

There was a knock at her shuttle door. At least it wasn't Mal. He rarely
bothered to knock. That was his second-most frustrating habit. His
gutter-speak description of her profession was the first.

"Come in."

The door slid open. Ah, it was Simon. The doctor looked hardly older than a
boy. He carried his medical kit as he carefully entered her shuttle. Putting
on her most welcoming smile, she gestured for him to sit. He didn't.

"Inara, are you feeling all right?" He asked with concern. "You didn't come
to dinner."

"I'm fine," she said. "Just not hungry."

She hadn't been as convincing as she'd liked, or maybe the young doctor just
knew her too well. He took the shuttle passenger's seat across from hers,
watching her carefully.

"You've been...well, you've been sad...sadder than normal. Do you need to
talk about it?"

She was about to shake her head and tell another convincing lie, but lies
were her business, and she'd had as much of business as she could stand.

"Am I really that obvious?"

"Only to those who know you," he said with a shrug. "And if you don't want
it leaving the shuttle, it won't. Confidentiality applies to both of us."

A long pause followed before Inara raised her head. "How do you get by,

"What do you mean?"

She leaned back. "You were a doctor - a professional. I know how it is in
our world: duty comes before everything - before love, before friendship,
before even family."

"I know." He looked away, studying his shoes. "I try not to think about it."

"There are times you do, though."

"Yes," he admitted. "Is this what it's about? Is your job bothering you?"

"Before Serenity, I never questioned the need for my profession, and I
thought I was happy. Since coming aboard, though..." Again, a long pause.
Again, a sad smile. "I became a Companion because I wanted to see the
universe. I felt I had more to offer by being out here."

"But what are you, aside from a Companion?"

She sighed and looked back at the distorted reflection in the front window.

"I see," Simon said darkly, finally understanding the root of Inara's

He turned the chair, sitting next to her and studying the stars as they
streaked by.

"I'm not sure if this helps, Inara, but I used to think the hospital was
home. There, I knew my place, knew what I was supposed to be. Here,
I'm...well, you called it 'lost in the woods.'" He chose his words
carefully. "Being out here - on the run like this...it terrifies me, but
it's also caused me to wake up to a few things about our world. The more I'm
here, the gladder I am to have left it behind."

"Do you miss that world?"

"All the time." After a long pause, he touched her hand. "But I have
things here that I never could have if I stayed."

"Your sister."

"My sister, yes, but that's not all." When she didn't respond, he offered an
explanation. "Having lived in both worlds...maybe we're able to see things
as they really are. What's important and what's not."

A long pause as they studied their reflections in the window, ghosts against
the black.

"And what do you see, Simon?"

"A woman with a lot on her mind," he said, adding a bit of self-depreciating
humor. "And a very lost young man."

Inara smiled.

Simon continued to muse aloud. "There are good people here. Yes, this ship
is full of smugglers, thieves...Did you know you're talking to a kidnapper,
armed robber, and terrorist?"

That got a small chuckle out of her. "I never would have guessed." She knew
full well about the charges the Alliance filed against Simon. Frankly, they
were very out of place with the young man who sat across from her.

"The world we come from...position and rank and money are important. It's
'what' you are that matters. Get out here, though, and those things aren't
worth anything. What matters is the 'who' you are, how much you can be

Simon turned to face her. "And I can trust you, Inara. You've saved our
lives - River's and mine. You stuck up for us when no one else would. I've
seen you take care of Kaylee, and despite the way you and the captain can
snipe at each other, he does take you seriously."

"Good to know," she said. "Thank you."

"The people here - they get me by." He stood up, taking another long look
into the blackness. "What do you see, Inara?"

"A woman with a lot on her mind," she said, taking his hand and squeezing
it. "And a very wise young man."

"Thank you." He straightened his starched shirt, a relic from his old life.
However, he now wore it with a couple buttons undone, or the sleeves rolled
up, a bit of both worlds.

"Are you sure you'll be all right?"

"Yes. See you at breakfast?"

"Count on it," he said.