Keeping On: Part 2 - Needle in the Haystack
Thursday, February 19, 2009

A year after the Miranda broadcast, Mal and Zoe struggle to keep their family together and keep flying as situations begin to build on Serenity. Needle in the Haystack: Inara sets in motion something that will bring change into her life and is filled in on the new pilot situation by Mal.


Keeping On: Part 2 - Needle in the Haystack

Disclaimer: Firefly, Serenity, and all related characters are copyright 2002-2005 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. This is a work of fanfiction. No copyright infringement is intended.


One Month Later

“I thank you for your understanding, Mistress D’Alma. Your graciousness and discretion in this matter has been a comfort to my worried mind.” Inara said.

“All things happen for a reason, Mei mei. I will speak to the Guild council and inform them of your wishes and things will be sorted. After all, every challenge is but an opportunity in disguise.” A kind-faced woman looked back at her.

“I thank you again.”

Zhu fu ni, Mei mei.”

“And to you.”

Inara gave a warm smile as she bid the House Priestess a fond farewell and ended the wave. She re-hung the curtain which concealed her Cortex screen and rose to continue straightening her shuttle up, which she had been doing before the wave interrupted her.

Thank goodness that is done – for the moment, at least. I pray that I am doing the right thing.

“Ah, Inara! Searching for clients after you little sabbatical?”

There stood Mal, smiling widely, thumbs under his suspenders, in her shuttle. He was easily and positively the most infuriating man she had ever met. By his words, he must have entered when she was covering the screen.

“It’s rather nice to hear you knock, Mal, but a shame it only happens in my imagination. What is your business here?” She gave a smile to ease her words.

“Well, if I’m interrupting yours, maybe I’d better go.” Mal said.

“No. Please, stay. I was merely discussing a few matters with one of my superiors back on Sihnon before you entered.” Inara bit back the “unasked.”

Things with Mal had been tense ever since the crew had started to repair Serenity after the events at Mr. Universe’s moon. She had not taken a client since she left Serenity back before all of the trouble with the Operative and Miranda started. What was worrying her was that she had not had the desire to take a client afterward.

When she had told Mal that “she didn’t know,” she had been truthful. Saying that had left her incredibly vulnerable. Inara was uncertain where her life’s path was taking her. She knew that she did not want to leave Serenity. She also knew that she no longer wished to be a Companion, at least in the strictest sense. One of her greatest joys in her work was helping others, in the meeting of minds and spirits as well as bodies. Knowing that she helped to rebalance a client’s mental, emotional, and sometimes physical health, it gave her a sense of purpose. Inara had always defined herself by her profession, but now that seemed…not enough. With the intention of sorting things out, Inara had requested an extended sabbatical from the Guild. It was her hope that time alone to meditate and search herself would reveal a path to whom and what she was really meant to be.

If she was not to be a Companion any longer, than who was she to be? What was she to be? It was a thought that terrified her…she had entered the Guild when she was 12 to begin schooling and she had been a Companion for most of her adult life. It was all she knew.

It did not help that Mal confused her as much as he helped her. She was undeniably attracted to him, and she knew he was attracted to her. It had always existed between them – the attraction. It simmered and burned and filled her with the most spectacular sensations. But to act on it…Inara did not know if she should do such a thing. Mal did not know either, Inara could tell. She didn’t know if he would ever be able to accept that there had been many before him. And she didn’t know if she could accept and give him the complete openness that he would demand from her. She was a very private person in most respects, and Mal didn’t like secrets.

He cared for her, she knew he did. He had come to rescue her, even knowing that it was a trap. His taunts and derision towards her chosen profession…they weren’t barbed anymore. Now they were just there, as if he were no longer meant it, as if he was just trying to tease her and get a rise out of her. He’d even apologized after saying them on certain occasions.

“I just wanted to let you know that we’ll be stopping on Persephone for a few days. We got business to do there. Ship’s gonna need re-fueled and Jayne insists that we need more ammunition and the like. Simon said that he needs to purchase medical supplies and Kaylee’s been harping on me to give her a chance to fix the co-pilot console on the bridge.” Mal hesitated. “And uh…Zoe and I have been talking with Monty and he mentioned that a few pilots he knew would be around. We’re thinkin’ about takin’ one on.”

“I thank you for letting me know of your plans. I believe I can find something to do on Persephone as well.”

“So, your superiors, are they upset you ain’t back to business yet? You have a few regulars on Persephone, doncha?” The smile had left his eyes, though it remained at his mouth.

“Yes, I had- have a couple of regular clients on Persephone. But the Guild is not concerned with my lack of business as of late. It was more of a personal concern than business inquiry. The Guild is very devoted to the well-being of its members.”

“I can see how it might be in their best interests to keep their whores happy.” He shifted guiltily, realizing what he’d just said. “I- I didn’t mean that.”

Inara looked away. “That’s never stopped you before.”

“I shouldn’t have said that. It was uncalled for.”

“Then I thank you for your apology.”

“Well then. I’ll leave you to do…whatever it is that you’re doin’. We’ll be touching down to Persephone within the next day or so. Wash probably would have had us there by now, but River…”

Inara looked up and couldn’t help but give a sad sort of smile, understanding how Mal felt. He wasn’t the only person on board who had noticed their youngest member’s…difficulty in trying to find her place.

“She’s lost, Mal. River is trying her best. All her math and calculations cannot substitute for flight school, or a pilot’s heart. She takes flying very literally and can’t talk to Serenity while flying the way that Wash could.” Inara said kindly.

“She’s a good pilot, Inara, she really is. She’s better than a lot that I’ve known and she gives it her all. But her heart ain’t in it – not like it should be. Hopefully we’ll pick up a real pilot, one meant to be in the air, when we reach Persephone. Monty’s said he would meet with us and he’s never steered us false before.” Mal sighed.

“What about River? What will she do then?”

“I figure that’s something that we all will have to figure out together, Inara. She has a place on this here boat. We have to help her find where it is. Just wish I could do somethin’ to ease her little mind. Girl’s been through so much, hate to see her go through this too.”

“Finding one’s self out in the Black, Mal…it’s soothingly akin to finding a needle in a haystack.” Inara smiled. His folksy way of speech was something that had grown on her a bit.

“Never did get that particular phrase, myself. Never could understand why you couldn’t just use a damn magnet to find it and be done with it.” Mal gave his trademark “I’m lovin’ irritatin’ you” grin.


“Yes, Inara?” He smiled winningly.

“Please leave.”

“Is it time for me to go already?”

“Yes, it is.” Inara smiled.

Mal sketched her one of those ridiculous bows of his, turned, and left.

Inara smiled widely as she started to clean up again. After finishing, she lit a few candles, poured herself a cup of tea and sat down, feeling in better spirits than she had been in for a few days. It was always nice to have the last word with Mal.


I hope you enjoy! Questions, comments, and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated!



Thursday, February 19, 2009 1:22 PM


I like how Mal and the crew are concerned to help River find her own place on Serenity rather than trying to fill Wash's shoes. And I like the little banter between Inara and Mal which hopefully will blossom into something even better. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, February 20, 2009 9:29 PM


Very nice, but I have a request. This is just a personally thing but it helps me get into the story when they are longer. These feel more like single scenes in a chapter than a full chapter. So anyway you could double or triple the size? :)


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Innocence Lost
He thinks he can see a connection. Part two of <i>If's & Maybe's</i>, a series of unrelated pieces dedicated to exploring the characters of Mal and Inara and the relationship between them.

Promises: Bent, Not Broken
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse. Lilah has an emotional breakdown, and gets some insight from the one person she never thought would give it: Mal.

Still Flying - Part VII
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part VII</i>: Mal and Zoe discuss their previous job, Zoe and Lilah come to an understanding, and a handsome man of dubious character receives his birthday gift. Now Complete.

Still Flying - Part VI
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part VI</i>: Mal and Zoe complete the job, with interesting results, while a bored River finds a way to occupy herself.

Still Flying - Part V
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part V</i>: Things are reserved on <i>Serenity</i>, and Mal finds out that his flush new deal is a great deal more trouble than he originally thought.

Still Flying - Part IV
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part IV</i>: Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Lilah, and Monty pay a quiet little visit to an Alliance-friendly bar on Unification Day.

Still Flying - Part III
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part III</i>: The deal with Badger is made, but with a catch. Meanwhile, a spat breaks out between Simon and Kaylee. Reviews would be lovely.

Still Flying - Part II
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part II</i>: The crew makes the drop, a bar fight is had, and things get a little too intense while flying to Persephone.

Still Flying - Part I
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part I</i>: Mal, Zoe, and River meet with their new contact and Lilah learns how Wash died. Reviews would be lovely.

The Serenity Book Club
Simon and Lilah discuss a book they've both recently read. This is just a silly little piece set after <i>Keeping On</i> but before its sequel.