Sweet Sorrow - Part VIII
Saturday, April 14, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and Inara have a talk, and it's been long overdue ... Not finished yet, but please read and enjoy! And rate and feedback, of course ...


Mal climbed the stairs towards the shuttles, and felt Serenity lift off. He wasn’t worried they were likely to get tabbed for the deaths of those two men - the Feds weren’t going to search too far, not with what they were going to find inside that room. There was a small frisson of anxiety for the women, but he had to believe the Alliance’d look after them. And what he’d said to Hank was right - nothing else they could do to help.

More, though, he wanted to get away in case anyone else had seen them. Rumours it might be, but what he’d read suggested this Monster was all too real, and he didn’t want to get involved. That kind of thing could just blow up in their faces.

Outside Inara’s door he paused. She left before, more than once, and if River hadn’t just been blowing smoke, she was planning to leave again. Even Freya thought so, and he’d begun to trust her returning abilities. Good thing to have in a job like theirs. Might actually stop some of the bad stuff happening.

He took a deep breath and stepped over the sill. “Anyone home?” he called.

Bethany rushed towards him. “Uncle Mal!” she called, jumping, waiting to be picked up. He swung her up onto his hip.

“Hey, there, Bethie. You keeping your Auntie Inara company?”

“We’re playing,” Bethany said, putting her arms around his neck.

“Playing what?”

“I’m a Comp … Comp …” She couldn’t quite remember the word, and bit her lip in consternation.

“Companion?” Mal asked.

She smiled at him. “Companion.”

“Is that a good idea?”

“I was showing Bethany how to make tea,” Inara said, sitting on her red satin sofa. “That’s all.”

Mal came further into the shuttle. “Long as you ain’t putting ideas into her head.”

“I’m not going to encourage anyone to go into that profession. Unless they choose to.”

“After what they did?”

“A few, Mal. Only a few.”

“You still left.”

“My choice.”


Bethany looked into his blue eyes. “Uncle Mal cross?” she asked.

He smiled at her. “Nope, not cross. Just sometimes your Auntie ‘Nara and me, we don’t see eye to eye.”

“Need to be friends.”

“You’re right, Bethie. This boat ain’t big enough to argue.” He looked at Inara. “Where’s Ethan, by the way?”

She nodded towards the bed and the little boy curled up with his head on the pillow. Coming up to eight months, and he still had the blue eyes and dark hair like his father.

“He looks tuckered out.”

“He’s been trying to walk.”

“Really?” Mal was surprised. “I didn’t think …”

“Don’t worry. He hasn’t managed it yet. You haven’t missed out.”

“Good.” He looked at Bethany. “You want to look after him for a while? I gotta talk to your Auntie ‘Nara.”

“’Kay.” She let him set her down on the bed and snuggled up next to Ethan.

He looked down at them for a moment and smiled, then turned back. “So.”

“So.” She indicated the seat next to her. “Will you sit?”

He lowered himself gingerly. “Thanks.”

“And to what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?”

“Just thought you’d like to know everyone’s back on board, and we’ve taken off.”

“I know.”

“Good.” He tapped his fingers on his knees.



“Mal, somehow I don’t believe that was the only reason you stopped by.”

“River said something, and I … well, I guess I thought I should ask you directly.”

“And what was that?”

He gazed at her. “That you were planning on leaving.”

“Ah.” She nodded slowly.

He felt his stomach knot. “That sounds like she was right.”

“The Guild have released my accounts, did you know that? I found out a few days ago. It seems that they listened to you. I’m a comparatively wealthy woman.”

“That’s good. But that don’t mean -”

She interrupted, speaking carefully. “Mal, I’ve been speaking to Monty, and he’s agreed to sell me his property on Lazarus.”

“Sell … woman, the state that place is in he should be giving it away!” He glanced at the children, then lowered his voice. “I’ve seen it, remember?”

“There’s nothing wrong with it that some hard work won’t put right.”

He looked her up and down, her fancy clothes, her dark glossy hair … and it occurred to him she was actually no stranger to hard work. Not having lived on Serenity for so long. “That’s crazy,” he said firmly, as if he were closing the discussion.

“Mal, I've outstayed my welcome.”

“Who the hell told you that?” Mal was baffled. “Someone said something to you?”

“No, Mal. I mean I shouldn’t have stayed this long. Not with you and Freya.”

“That don’t make sense, ‘Nara. Frey loves you like a sister.”

“And I love her. But … Mal, my feelings haven’t changed. I still love you.”

She saw the shutters drop down behind his eyes, the way they always did when he didn’t want to hear. “That’s just crazy talk.” Again he looked across at Bethany, but she appeared to have fallen asleep.

“Then let’s talk crazy.” She smiled slightly. “I love you. I think I have from the first moment you showed me around this shuttle, when I said that you wanted me. And I didn’t mean just as a Companion to … grease your way a little. I knew how you felt and I did nothing about it. I’m sorry for that.”

“Inara –”

“If I had then maybe we’d be together, but somehow I doubt it. I’ve always known she came between us, even before I met her. That there was something more than just my career and your sensibilities.” She sighed. “But it doesn’t help. Knowing that. I still love you, and I always will. And I can’t take being around you and knowing you will never be mine.”

“I can’t –”

She put her fingers on his lips. “It’s better this way.”

“So you’re just gonna wander off again?”

“I didn’t wander off before, Mal. I went to look for my son.” There was a trace of anger in her voice. “My son.”

Mal stopped himself, holding his anger back. “‘Nara, that place ain’t livable.”

“I'm a wealthy woman. Certainly wealthy enough to get the house in some sort of order.”

“Really.” Mal’s face hadn’t softened. “So you’re too good to be travelling with the likes of us no more?”

“That’s not it at all, and you know it.” She gazed at him, seeing the anger in his eyes, wishing, just once more, that it could be love there. Love for her. She sighed. “Mal, I need this. I should have left a long time ago, when Freya … when you and she found each other again. But I didn’t. I don’t know what I was waiting for, but I didn’t.”

“You thought maybe I’d come back to you?” He shook his head, getting to his feet. “I was never yours to come back.”

“But you were,” Inara insisted, standing up and crossing the short distance to stand close to him, only a breath between them. “You didn’t know it, but you were. And I tried to tell you, in so many ways, but you were never listening.”

“You left. After Nandi died, I tried to … I tried to tell you. Tell you I didn’t want to play no more, and I know damn well you knew what I was about to say. And you walked away from me. Told me you were leaving.” He shook his head. “How did you think I was gonna take that?”

“You could have stopped me.”

“How? How, Inara? Tied you up in one of the cages in the cargo bay? Gone down on my bended knee and begged you not to leave?”

“You could have tried!”


She looked into his blue eyes, then closed the gap and kissed him. And it was everything she hoped it would be, everything she’d dreamed of ever since she’d put her lips on his after Saffron had drugged him. But this time he was awake, his hands were on her face, and he was kissing her back. She pressed against him, holding him, running her hands through his hair …

They dropped. His hands dropped and he stepped back.

“Mal …” She reached for him.

“No.” He shook his head. “It doesn’t work.”

“Mal, it does. Otherwise you wouldn’t have kissed me like that.” She could still taste him on her lips, in her mouth …

“You shouldn’t have done it.”

“But you let me.”

“I guess I had to see. This one last time. See what it felt like. And it felt like nothing.”

She was shocked and the thrust went through her heart. “Nothing?”

“It was nice. More than nice. But I … it ain't gonna make me leave Freya, ‘Nara. She’s my wife. I love her. More than I ever dreamed I could love anyone.”

“More than you loved me?”

“Yes,” he admitted.

“You did love me?”


“But not enough.”

“You know, Inara, it probably was. If you’d not run from me, we could probably have worked it into something special, maybe made it work. But you didn’t stay.”

“And after Miranda? Why not then?”

Mal sat down on the bare sofa. “Wash died. And Book. I didn’t … I couldn’t cope with that too. I hoped, yes, damn it, I hoped that we’d find a way round it, come to something, but …”

“Then Freya arrived.”

He looked up at her. “I love her, Inara. She’s the reason I wake up in the morning.”

“Would you ever have said that about me?”

He didn’t answer for a moment. “We’ll never know,” he said, somewhat sadly.

“No, we won’t.” She sat down next to him. “And that’s why I have to leave.” She patted his hand. “Monty’s place is ideal. Now the Guild have released my accounts, I can live in some luxury. There’s enough rooms for friends to stay, somewhere Hank can set Serenity once in a while. I can get horses, a boat for the lake …” She looked into his blue eyes, and felt him leave her forever. “It can be my home.”

This is your home, he wanted to say, feeling her words biting deep, but all he said was, “’Nara, it ain’t safe.”

“It would be. For me.” She smoothed her dress, patting her hair back into place. “I can afford to employ people, Mal. Maybe even do the counselling I’ve thought about. A few select clients …”

“’Nara …”

“Not whoring. Just talking. Like you did with that doctor on Ariel. Maybe I can help people that way too.”

“And us?”

“I’ll still be reachable, Mal. Just a wave away.”

He shook his head. “I still say it’s crazy.”

“It’s better for everyone.”

“Uncle Mal?” Bethany said, rolling over and looking at them. “Can I go back now?”

He turned. “Course, pumpkin.” He leaned over and picked her up.

“I’ll take Ethan back to your bunk,” Inara offered.

“No.” He held out his arm. “Could you …”

She nodded and lifted the little boy, placing him in Mal’s embrace. Ethan hooked his arms around his father’s neck, tangling them with Bethany’s, but didn’t wake.

“Mal, I need you to understand,” Inara said softly.

“Oh, I understand.”

“And I need to go back to Lazarus. Not right away, but in a week or two. Monty’s arranging the work on the house, but I’d like to supervise as much as I can.”

Mal looked at her, his blue eyes hooded. “We can talk about it later,” he said, his voice deceptively light, not wanting to upset Bethany. “But not right now.”

He carried the children out of the shuttle, and down towards the lower crew quarters.

to be continued


Saturday, April 14, 2007 12:39 PM


I'm a die hard Mal/Inara shipper but in your 'verse this is the only way Inara can keep her dignity and maybe some day find a bit of happiness. I'm sure she'll cry an ocean of tears alone in her shuttle and so will I.

It was angsty, in a good way and your characterizations of both Mal and Inara are flawless.

I am scared about what the Monster may do. Of course somehow the crew will be involved and it won't be nice.

Saturday, April 14, 2007 1:36 PM


Excellent work once again! "What could have been" has to be one of the saddest phrases in the English language, huh?

Saturday, April 14, 2007 2:21 PM


I think "We'll never know" is one of the saddest phrases in the English language, especially for Mal and Inara. This was great - full of amazing tension and unbelievable emotion. So many things they've left unsaid, but at the same time, they've brought it to a close.

I had a feeling Inara would settle on Lazarus - I think it'll be good for here - a safe haven of sorts. Still, heartbreaking!

Saturday, April 14, 2007 2:55 PM


I'm glad that Mal stayed true to Freya and feel disappointed in Inara for trying to work her wiles on him at this eleventh hour, ignoring the fact that he is a happily married man, in love with his wife and a father to boot. I think Inara is making the right decision in leaving. If she can't accept the way things are then she needs to start again somewhere else. I do, however, worry that the Monster may strike once she is off on her own. It is the sort of curve ball I can imagine you throwing. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 6:34 AM


Ya know...I think you touched on two of the most painful phrases can hear when it comes to relationships here, Jane0904. And funnily enough, I can't even get angry at Inara for trying a last-ditch effort to show Mal she loves him completely....cuz I know I would be doing the same thing were I in Inara's place:(

Still...I am glad you're sorting things out in the Mal-Inara-Freya love triangle once and for all. It's not fair to any one of them to have this pain and frustration floating about. I just hope that even if the Monster - and why do I get the feeling that the crew has already encountered the Monster in the past? - grabs Inara, that everything post-BDR works out for the best.



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