Saturday, July 25, 2009

This is my first fic on this site. Okay, my first fic ever. Three months after Miranda, Inara makes a major decision about her life. Mal/Inara with a little bit of River. I think it's part one of three, but it stands alone just fine. Please read and review! Would appreciate knowing what y'all think. Props to Aliasse for the wonderful encouragement. Hope you like it!


Three months. Three months she’d been back on his boat. Three months since Miranda.

As Mal sat on the bridge of Serenity, waiting for River to come and take over the evening watch, his mind filled with thoughts of Inara, and her presence on the ship. Thoughts that he’d gone over and over again, until they were as worn and threadbare as the carpet in the common area. Why was she still here? Was she going to stay? What did it mean if she did?

He wanted her to stay. That much he could admit - to himself anyway. He wouldn't drive her away again - at least, he hoped he wouldn't. But here she was. She’d been back on board three months, and given no indication that she was going anywhere. But, then again, she’d given no indication that she was staying, either. She hadn’t gone back to her shuttle (he still thought of it as her shuttle - probably always would, despite what he’d said to her in the past). She was sleeping in the guest quarters, which actually worked out well - with Simon spending most nights in Kaylee’s bunk, Inara was around to keep an eye on River. Their albatross was improving by leaps and bounds - Mal figured once she was relieved of the poisonous secret of Miranda, she was finally able to begin to heal. But she still had nightmares - hell, they all did - and Inara was there to comfort her the nights River needed it.

She hadn’t gone back to the shuttle. Which meant she hadn’t gone back to work, as a Companion. Mal couldn’t say he was sorry about that, but it had to be a temporary thing. The only question was: when was she going back? And would she go back to the shuttle, to the training house, or somewhere else?

She had settled back in with the crew. She and Kaylee were thick as thieves again - Mal was sure he'd seen Inara giving Kaylee advice, of the Companion-y kind, on more than one occaision, and that was not a subject he felt like dwelling on. Hell, he'd even seen her sit with Jayne once or twice, appearing to give the big man comfort, of all things. She'd settled back in with everyone - except him. Oh, they were civil, friendly even - they talked about ship's business (they'd been taking cargo runs, mostly - no one was much in the mood for dangerous work about now, and they didn't much need the coin. Serenity had been fully stocked by the Operative's men and they wouldn't need fuel or supplies for a good while), speculated on how River was doing, even laughed about Simon and Kaylee's lovesick behaviour. But something was missing. He couldn't put his finger on it, but she was... distant.

They weren't fighting.

He suddenly realized that was what was missing - they hadn't fought, argued or bickered since she'd been back. Since they'd exchanged words in the cargo bay. Since before Miranda. He supposed he should be grateful - he'd managed not to call her a whore since she'd been back, though he wondered if that had more to do with her not working than anything else. But he missed their fights, those times he felt the electricity between them. Now, things were just - cordial. Like they were both dancing around something. He was reminded of nothing so much as his wave from Inara, when she was under threat from the Operative at the training house. Something was going unsaid. For his part, he knew what he wasn't saying: Stay. Stay on Serenity, go back to the way things were before. Or something different. Just stay. But he didn't know what it was she wasn't saying. Was she just biding her time, waiting until she felt they were recovered, as much as they could be, from Miranda, and then be gone? What he really wondered was: was she waiting for him to drive her away again? Was she waiting for him to ask her to stay?

Suddenly he was aware of River, standing just beside him. Girl had a way of sneaking up on a person.

"She's ready," River said, in her own cryptic way. She was making more sense lately, but that didn't mean she just came out and said what she was trying to.

"Shen muh?" Mal replied.

"You have questions. She has answers now. She's ready. And she needs you." River said again. In response to a quizzical look from Mal, River gave him one of what he was coming to think of as her "don't be such a boob" looks. He figured it was useless to play dumb with a Reader. He got up and headed for Inara's room.

"Not there," River said behind him. "In her shuttle."

"It's my-" He was cut off by another look from River. He headed for the shuttle. The door was almost closed, but left open a little, and he felt uncertain about what to do. Normally he would have barged in without knocking, knowing it would piss her off, wanting to tussle with her a little. But she didn't live here anymore. What was she doing? Presumably she was here because she wanted some privacy - space to oneself was at a premium on a boat like Serenity. And yet, she had left the door open.

Standing outside the shuttle, Mal could hear Inara's soft voice. She must be on the Cortex, he thought. Who could she be talking to? He could only think of one option: the Guild. She must be making arrangements. He felt his heart drop in his chest. This was it.

He opened the door to the shuttle and stepped in. Inara was speaking with a woman Mal didn't recognize, but he figured her for a fellow Companion. She possessed the same calmness and control, the same easy grace, that he associated with Inara.

"Thank you Sheydra. I'll be in touch soon." Inara signed of the Cortex, but didn't turn around. She must have heard him come in.... Her hands moved up to her face and he realized she was wiping away tears. She turned around, and looked at him with those huge dark eyes, tears still shining in them. He could tell she was struggling to regain her composure, and he said nothing.

"I hope you don`t mind me using the shuttle. I needed to use the Cortex and wanted some privacy," she said.

He nodded, and replied, "Way I figure it, it's your shuttle as long as you're on Serenity. No need to ask my permission. I'll leave you to your business." He turned to leave, thinking to himself, Something`s wrong, alright. She just apologized for using the shuttle, and I just told her it was hers. What have we come to?

"No, it's alright, I'm finished what I needed to do. Stay. We should talk anyway." Inara looked at him hesitantly, like she wasn't sure what to expect. Not that he could blame her - he wasn't sure his own self. He steeled himself for what was coming, and he couldn't help but think back to the last time they had talked in this shuttle. He'd gone there for solace. Hadn't even thought about it. Figured it made sense. Inara had always made him feel quiet and calm and confused and unsure, all at the same time. He missed the smell of her. The shuttle always smelled like her, even after she left - musk and spice and her ever present tea.

She sat on the cot, so he leaned against the wall opposite - they had kept a respectful distance from each other, that was the other thing - they never risked coming into physical contact. He waited for her to start talking.

"I was speaking with Sheydra. She's the House Priestess at the training school. I needed to... finalize some arrangements." She spoke a bit hesitantly, not like the Inara he knew at all - Inara never seemed unsure of herself. Mal wanted to make sure he knew what he was hearing.

"So, you're ready to go back then? The girls missing you too much?" You missing them?

"Back? To the training house? No. I mean, I won't be going back there." Again, she sounded unsure. What wasn't she saying? Where would she be going? He waited.

"I-I was hoping to stay on Serenity a while longer. If you don't mind. I-" She seemed to be gathering herself.

"Of course. You can stay as long as you like. Serenity's your home, I hope you know that." He finally brought himself to meet her eyes, saw them filling with tears again. Aw hell, you made her cry. What to say?

"Training house ain't but a half day's ride from Greenleaf - after we drop the cargo, we can stop by, get your things. I reckon you'll have this shuttle back to its former glory in no time." He hoped this went some way towards making those tears go back where they came from. He surely had no idea what else to say.

"Thank you, that's very kind. But it won't be necessary. I don't have any things to pick up." Her voice was shaky. He waited. He watched as she struggled to compose herself. He'd never seen Inara so undone, not even on Miranda, after they'd seen the recording.

"I sold my things, at auction. Some of my possessions were quite valuable - my tea set is over 100 years old, and has been used by many illustrious Companions."

"I don't-" understand, he was about to say, when she spoke again.

"I-I've resigned from the Guild, Mal. I'm not a Companion anymore. I will never be again. So I don't need those things anymore." She tried to smile, failed, and the tears welled up again. He couldn't help himself, he crossed the room in two long strides and sat beside her on the cot. Close enought to touch her, but he kept to himself. Comforting,...well, anyone, was not exactly his strong suit.

"I have quite a lot of money, from the auction as well as my retirement fund. The Guild sets aside a portion of every Companion's wage, for the time when she eventually retires. Just in case.... Anyway, I can pay for my passage, at least for a while. After that," she hesitated, "well, maybe by then I'll have some sort of useful skill. Besides whoring." Mal started, looked at her. She'd never used that word before, not about herself or other Companions.

"'Nara, this is your home. Will be for as long as you want. Ain't no more need for you to pay for your passage than anybody else. And you got skills aplenty, 'sides-" whoring he almost said, but caught himself. "Anyway, I won't hear about no payment. This ain't a business arrangement no more." He waited, but she didn't speak. He thought again about what River had said, and took a chance.

"What brought this about? Seems a pretty big life decision, givin' up one's livelihood. Bein' a Companion seemed pretty darn important to you. I know we all been re-evaluatin' things after Miranda, but... this seems like a mighty change. 'Course, it ain't none of my business. Reckon you've got Kaylee or the doc to talk to, if'n you need." And yet, River had said Inara wanted to talk to him. That she needed him. He hoped hard that he wasn't tian du wu nahn, that he could be what she needed.

"No, it's okay. You have a right to know, anyway." She paused, seeming to search for words. She started again. "I knew, you know? After Simon and River came aboard, I knew. Saw what the Alliance was capable of. What my world is capable of. What they did to River.... But it was easy to put it aside. To tell myself that it was only a small group of people. That it wasn't as though the whole Alliance was in on it. It was just a few evil people." She was trembling. He reached out and took her hand, squeezed it. She smiled.

"But then, Miranda. I don't know how to - what kind of people do such a thing? What kind of people cause the deaths of millions, creating monsters in the process, and cover it up? What kind of people send a man like that after a teenage girl? What kind of people?" The tears spilled over.

"Inara," Mal said, in a quiet voice. He was determined not to make this any worse. He wondered if he even could. The look in her eyes - well, he figured he'd worn a very similar look when the Alliance ships landed on Hera, when he realized the war was over, and they'd lost. When he realized the God he'd put his faith in all those years didn't exist.

"That ain't you."

"Of course it is, Mal. I was proud to be from a Core planet. I was even prouder to be a Companion. Centuries of tradition - we predated the Alliance. We helped form it. The Guild has always been a powerful, integral part of the Alliance. On Sihnon, my clients were almost all Alliance officials. Who knows? Some of them might even have worked at the Academy." The tears has stopped, and her voice had taken on a distant, haunted quality. She turned and looked him in the eye. "Turns out you were right all along. I am a whore."

And the damn broke. She sobbed, full of pain and he hated himself for his part in it. Without thinking he took her in his arms and held her to him. She cried hard against his chest, her breath hitching. He tried to calm her as best he could, stroking her hair, whispering softly to her that she was wrong, that she was so much more than where she was from or how she had made a living. That he saw her for who she really was: kind, generous, full of grace, intelligent, witty, with a beautiful soul. And that he loved her.

He didn't mean to say it, it just slipped out as he was murmuring to her. Had she even heard it? He didn't know. Did he want her to? He didn't know that either.

Slowly, her sobbing quieted and her breathing slowed. The front of his shirt was damp with her tears. She held her cheek against his chest and her breathing matched his. He tried to remember she needed comfort, that was all - not to dwell on the fact that here she was, in his arms. She was there because she needed to be. He concentrated on trying to be what she needed, and on banishing the selfish thoughts from his head. Here she was, coming apart at the seams, and he was thinking about was how soft her hair was, how good she smelled, and how her body seemed to fit perfectly to his.

After a time, she pulled back just a little, and lifted her head. She looked at him, and managed a small, embarassed smile.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean for you to see that. I've ruined your shirt."

"'Nara, my shirt is about the last thing I'm thinkin' on. Don't pay it no mind. Can't say as I enjoy seein' you cry, but for my part I'm glad you weren't alone just now."

"Thank you, Mal. I didn't realize how much I've been dwelling on all this. I thought I'd be relieved to be rid of the Guild, and the Alliance. I didn't expect.... For my part, I'm glad I wasn't alone either." She thought for a moment. "Why did you come here, anyway? I mean, I'm very grateful you did, but-" She wiped under her eyes. Her face was tearstained, her nose red, her eyes bloodshot and still full of pain. And still, she was beautiful.

"Wish I could take the credit, but 'twas River. Said you needed to talk. Said you needed me." He suddenly realized he was holding his breath.

"I did. I do." She looked at him again. "Mal, would you.... I- I don't want to be alone tonight. Would you - " Her eyes implored him with the unasked question.

"'Course. You be more comfortable in your bunk?" He tried not to show how nervous he was, how scared that he'd do or say the wrong thing, mess it up, make it worse for her again.

"No, here is fine. If it's okay?" She was shy, hesitant. He realized she wasn't used to needing anyone. He knew the feeling.

"Sure. Suits me fine. You let me know...." He didn't know how to finish the sentence.

"Just hold me. Please just hold onto me." She lay down, the tears coming again, and he lay with her, wrapping his arms around her and bringing her close to him. He breathed in the scent of her hair and he stroked her arm, slowly, hoping the repeated movement soothed her, that it might help her sleep.

She cried on and off in the night, sometimes awake, sometimes in her sleep. Each time he soothed her, stroked her hair and whispered to her that everything would be alright, that she was home now, that he knew who she was. And that he loved her.


Saturday, July 25, 2009 10:01 PM


First time ever? Ooh. We'll be gentle. (kidding kidding!)

Poor Inara. What's she going to do now?

Sunday, July 26, 2009 12:23 AM


Damn good first fanfic! Everything Inara was, everything she believed ... shattered in an instant. And I hope Mal stays around long enough to help her pick up the pieces. I think so, he's always been in it for the long haul, and he'll fight for what he wants. That's what Inara needs, in fact. Someone to fight for her, not for the Guild Companion, but for Inara the woman. Maybe she should think about the duel with Atherton Wing ... that was over her, not a whore.

Sunday, July 26, 2009 1:28 AM


I can't believe this is your first fic, it is beautiful and I loved the way you eased us into the story with Inara slowly opening up to Mal and then his reaction. Lovely, thank you! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, July 26, 2009 2:06 AM


Great story, great pacing and wonderful believable dialog. Mal isn't as dense as he could be, and glad River was there to nudge him in the right direction.

Sunday, July 26, 2009 3:47 AM


Are you sure this is your first fic? You really captured both Mal and Inara and believe me Inara is hard to capture.

And I'm glad Mal and Inara didn't just have sex right away. They both have issues to deal with.

Sunday, July 26, 2009 4:39 AM


Is this really your first time? wow... you're really talented, I faind these two tough as nails to right but I guess that's what makes them even more inspiring =) This was lovely I hope you'll write more!


Sunday, July 26, 2009 5:57 AM


Wow, thanks everyone! I really appreciate all the feedback. Glad to hear I captured Inara - she's a tough nut to crack.

Yes, this really is my first fic. The thing is, I know I'm a decent writer, but I don't have much of a muse. I rarely feel like I have anything to say... And I'm a chicken. This was hard to write because I wanted to get it right and didn't know if I could.

I do have plans for these two - but as I learned writing this one, plans can go awry. I was surprised where this one went - not exactly according to plan, which was neat actually. Maybe I have a little muse after all. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009 8:06 AM


Way to post! And thanks for the props. If you're not sure what to say, just try to crystallize what it is about Mal/Inara that gets you wanting to write. And go on from there. You've made a great start with doing that already.

Sunday, July 26, 2009 10:19 AM


What is manhood? Let's have the 14th century weigh in on this:

"Though so illustrious, he was very wise
And bore himself as meekly as a maid.
He never yet had any vileness said,
In all his life, to whatsoever wight.
He was a truly perfect, gentle knight."
The Canteberry Tales, Prolouge.

Even then, they knew.

After Miranda, Reynolds is now longer only an embittered fighter for the lost cause. As illustrated in this story, he has become a perfect, gentle, knight.

I would be curious to see what the author could do with Reynold's protagonist, The Operative, who suffered an even more shattering lost of faith. It would book end this scene nicely.

Sunday, July 26, 2009 12:23 PM


I like fic where Inara resigns and contemplates something new (wish I could)

It sounds like you have plans for her, do share:)


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This is my first fic on this site. Okay, my first fic ever.

Three months after Miranda, Inara makes a major decision about her life. Mal/Inara with a little bit of River. I think it's part one of three, but it stands alone just fine.

Please read and review! Would appreciate knowing what y'all think.

Props to Aliasse for the wonderful encouragement. Hope you like it!