Inara smiles back gracefully, accepting the tea. "They're very sweet. But they're not Companions."
A playful scoff from the older woman, offering, "You've no hope for them? Junk the lot, start anew?"
In return, Inara glares a wee bit before continuing, "On Sihnon we started training at twelve. Years of dicipline and preparation before the physical act of pleasure was even mentioned. Most of these girls--"
"They're all of good family, the highest academic standards---"
"Control," Inara interrupted. "Control was the first lesson. And the last and these worlds are not like the Central Planets. There is barbarism dressed up in the most civil weeds. Men of the highest rank who don't know the difference between a Companion and a common whore. It's unsafe."
"All the more reason the girls look to you," Sheydra says again, finishing her tea. Putting her cup down alongside the pot, she continues, "You came out here alone, before the Alliance ever thought to establish a House this remote. You've seen so much. You're a figure of great romance to them."
"Great romance has nothing to do with being a Companion, Sheydra," Inara curtly replies. "You should know better."
"Well, I'm not the one who had a torrid affair with a pirate." A not-so-small grin.
Inara uses all of her training to not sputter her tea out over Sheydra. "A who? With a what?"
Sheydra grins widely. "It's the talk of the House. The girls all trade stories in the dorms at night."
"I didn't...have a pirate..." Really? Inara forces an image out of her brain of Mal on a ship of the oceans of Earth-that-Was, all...oooh, stop doing that.
"In one of the stories you make love in a burning temple. I think that's my favorite."
Inara sighs loudly. If only. "This is unbearable. Captain Reynolds is no pirate; he's a petty thief. And he...told me to leave didn't want me there in the first place." Inara now is attempting very hard to avoid eye contact with Sheydra.
"A year on his shuttle and he never wanted you there. I somehow doubt that." She's still smiling, gorram her...did I just think gorram?
Inara regains some fraction of her composure and waves her hand dismissively. "Go away. We're no longer friends. You're a stranger to me now."
Sheydra does nothing except laugh aloud and rub a hand amiably across Inara's shoulder. "I do love to watch you boil. Don't worry; the stories will fade. And your Captain Reynolds has probably gotten himself blown up by this time."
Sheydra, seeing one of the students in the classroom behind Inara wave to her for assistance, smiles in passing to Inara before leaving.
Inara, looking out over the mountain landscape of such a beautiful training house, ponders Sheydra's last words. "Yes," she says to herself with a wistful voice, "That would be just like him."