In Earnest
Sunday, May 14, 2006

A quick look at Mal's possible feelings for River and his confusion over Inara. Set during the movie.


Feedback is most welcome!

I don't own the characters or the 'verse. We all know this.


In Earnest

“In earnest, Mal, why did you bring her back on?” He couldn’t answer that question. Not because he didn’t have an answer, but because he couldn’t say it. Refused to say it out loud, ever. Refused to even think it. But it slipped into his mind. In the empty places without thought. Sleeping, panicking, the familiar motions of gun-cleaning… all had empty thoughts that she would pounce on. Just for a flash, there would be River. He didn’t understand it because he wouldn’t let himself. It was wrong, it was torture, it was totally unthinkable. Even his roiling emotions when it came to Inara couldn’t compare to anything he felt if he allowed himself to think overlong about River. He had been glad of an excuse to throw her off his boat. He hated complications, and over the past months his emotions had been getting more and more complicated. There was Inara, for starters. He respected her as a person, and she was certainly graceful and beautiful and alluring and all the other things that made her a good Companion. Of course he couldn’t respect the very nature of a Companion. Selling something as priceless as affection… it just didn’t sit well with him, no matter how high-brow it acted. She had pulled at him from the moment they had met, but the constant frustration had worn him down. He had tried to avoid attachment to her, and he had nearly succeeded. Nearly. She was just one hell of a woman. Then she had left. It had been a shock to him, but he had known it was the right thing. If she was growing attached to him, it would damage her career. Couldn’t have that. So she had left. Left him on this boat with River, who had intruded more and more on his thoughts as Inara’s presence faded. I’ve still thought more about Inara than River. Oh, but he hadn’t. And what I feel is utterly different. It was, at that. Inara…she’s a woman. Mature in every respect. And sane. River’s just a kid. And not sane. She just worries me. But River wasn’t just a kid. She had seen things that no one could see and still be considered a ‘kid’. She had been to the closest approximation of Hell that was possible in the entire ‘verse. It had taken a tole on her mind, true, but she could deal with things that others couldn’t. And she saw everything. Knew everything. Felt everything. She was dangerous, dangerous, dangerous. The only fear she had left was being sent back to her personal hell. A woman in a way Inara never could be. Unafraid of anything. She was going to kill me. That didn’t make any difference. Nothing had for awhile. No matter what he thought or said or did, he couldn’t let go of her. He tried to pummel the thought out of his head as he had so many times. It was too strong. Stronger than him. It was as strong as she herself. Malcolm Reynolds was torn between two women he couldn’t have. One was a Companion, who were not for dating but for hiring. One was young enough to be his daughter. What was wrong with him? Inara was starting to have her draw again, now that she was back on the ship. And River had a stronger draw than ever. Even though she was mind-bogglingly dangerous. Even though he was furious that her brother hadn’t bothered to mention she might be a killing machine. Even though she was more than just a few years younger than him. Even when he’d been sure she would kill him, he couldn’t help but admire the grace of her violence. She had the most beautiful movements he’d ever seen. Terrifying and unstoppable grace. But she was brought up short by a phrase. Rendered completely unconscious and vulnerable, lying still as death amidst her havoc. How could he not bring her back on? She’d felt so delicate as he scooped her up, draped lightly over his arms, a mere slip of a girl. Angry and terrified as he was, those empty places in his thoughts had screamed at him to protect her. “And neither is she exactly helpless. So where’s it writ that we gotta lay down our lives for her?” Where indeed?


Sunday, May 14, 2006 8:37 AM


Though I usually can't see Mal *liking* River, this was very believable and an extraordinary piece of writing. You've done a damn good job.

Sunday, May 14, 2006 9:14 AM


Brilliant and really showcases Mal's protective instincts. As confused and conflicted as his thoughts may be about River, he could never leave her behind or fail to protect her. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, May 14, 2006 10:14 AM


Whoa. Big whoa. Very intense, very conflicted, very Mal. Ah, the joys and angst of a good Mal/River story. Great work! We need all of these kinds of stories that we can get.

Monday, May 15, 2006 6:37 PM


That was excellent. I am such a Mal/River shipper and I loved how you portrayed the conflict Mal has about her and Inara.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 7:38 PM


Great stuff here, PhoenixRose! Loved how you had Mal conflicted over his feelings for both River and Inara, and how made things difficult for him for independent reasons;)

Really...I liked how (possibly) subconsciously addressed the major issues of both Mal/Inara & Mal/River shipping without dismissing either and laying out the possible reasons why things could work if the problems were gone or minimized:)


Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:55 PM


:) I'm glad everyone likes it! I'm hoping to write a longer fanfic at some point; it's been great to see possitive reactions to my characterizations!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 8:41 PM


i like the flow of consciousness idea . . . it helps to have it sound like the character's normal speach. Good job - would love to see a longer fic.

Saturday, May 20, 2006 9:47 PM


No, nitpicking is good, thank you! And I'm glad you like it!
You're right that Inara wasn't there when he first brought River back on, but it wasn't too long after that she was and the crew all argued, which is where the second Jayne line comes from. I guess this was kind of Mal reflecting back on the whole thing. Now that you've pointed it out, if I had to pick an exact moment of the movie for this piece, it would probably be shortly after he told Inara that she fogs things up.


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Just Something About Him
Wash. Zoë. Their first several months together and how they fall in love.

In Earnest
A quick look at Mal's possible feelings for River and his confusion over Inara. Set during the movie.

Zoë's Balance
POST BDM - if you haven't seen the movie, you should not read this. Period. I'm betting most people reading fanfic have seen everything, but I have to be careful.
Zoë mourns her loss, and River has some unlooked-for insight. Pretty short. My first attempt at writing in the 'verse!