The Fish Job: Chapter 6
Thursday, January 19, 2006

Inara’s last night on Serenity – and that’s right, it’s rated R.


Chapter 1.

Back to Chapter 1.

* * * * *

Inara was plainly surprised at the knock. “Mal.”

“Just wanted to tell you. We’re dockin’ at the refuelin’ station tomorrow, 9 AM ship time. Early afternoon local.”

“Oh - thank you.” When he just stood there, she smiled and stepped back. “Would you like to come in?”

He shrugged. “Sure.”

He stopped just inside the hatch. The sofa was piled with clothes in various states of folding and the table was stacked with candles and knick-knacks. Inara cleared half of the sofa.

“Please, have a seat,” she invited with a gesture.

“Need help with the packin’?” he asked as he sat down.

“No thanks, it’s really not that much. I’ll have it all cleaned out for whoever comes in next.”

“Don’t have a new renter lined up. Not many would want to take up with us right now, seein’ as how things are.”

“It can be difficult running a business from this ship.” She smiled, but at this point Mal wasn’t seeing the humor in that. He found himself studying the pattern on the rug under the table, not sure how to break the silence that followed.

Finally Inara sighed. “Mal – I’m sorry about Zoe and Wash leaving.” Mal looked up at her, then he leaned forward and picked up an hourglass from the table, turning it in his hands. “That can’t be easy for you,” she continued. “Losing Zoe.”

“No. No it’s not.”

Inara seemed to have decided it was his turn to carry on the conversation, but he still didn’t know where to start. She gave up the wait pretty quickly, walking to a cabinet and returning with half full bottle and two small glasses. “I happen to have an open bottle of whiskey. It’s not Kaylee’s engine brew, but it does need to be finished off.”

“A little drink would be welcome.”

Inara filled the glasses. “There’s no cattle to toast this time.”

Mal smiled at the memory. They tapped their glasses together, and Inara sipped while Mal tossed his drink back.

“That bad?”

“Not my best day.” He refilled his glass.

“Take it easy, Mal.”

“What’s the point?”

“Point is, there’s a lot to be done. Getting drunk doesn’t solve anything.”

He drained his glass again. “You didn’t say the drink would come with a lecture.”

“Nor did I invite you in just so you could get inebriated.”

“I ain’t inebriated.” Mal filled his glass again.

“Yet. I have a lot to do before morning, it’ll be difficult to finish if I have to pamper a moody drunk.”

“Ain’t that what you do, pretty much?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I do. Or I would if I had a little free time in between the insults said moody drunk is constantly flinging at me.”

Mal started to reply, then sighed and set his full glass back on the table. “It’s been a very… trying day.”

“I understand. But I’m not here for you to vent your frustrations on. Even if you were a client I wouldn’t accept that.”

“Agreed. You shouldn’t allow it.” They sat silently again. Mal felt his head begin to swim as the whiskey worked in him. “Inara, have you noticed anything weird lately?”

“Besides you?”

“I seem weird?”

“You seem angry. And paranoid.”

“How ‘bout everybody else?”

“What do you mean?”

Mal didn’t know how to explain. “Never mind.” It was better he left it alone anyhow. Wouldn’t want to sound paranoid. He picked up his glass and sipped it. “So how about that new situation of yours?” The question came out sounding more like an accusation than he had intended.

“What about it?”

“Well, what kind of situation is it?”

“Do we really need to talk about this?”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t much like your mood.”

“What, you scared of me?” He smiled a challenge, expecting her to snap back at him. She didn’t.

“Sometimes I am.”

Mal rubbed his hands together, touching the fading bruises on his right knuckles. “You shouldn’t be.”

“Why are you so angry?” she asked.

“You been payin’ attention lately?”

“Mal, Zoe’s not leaving forever.”

“You think not?”

“Of course. They told you they’d be back.” Her face relaxed into a smile. “With an addition.”

“Inara, this boat ain’t no place for a babe. Ain’t no place for a couple startin’ out, really. Not if they aim to have a life.”

“Being on Serenity is a life.”

“You’re leavin’.” Mal sipped his drink again. “No, this ain’t a life. Serenity. Still Serenity. Zoe’s getting’ out. She’s got Wash and he’s pullin’ her out. It’s good for her to go. Move on.”

“But you’ll miss her.”

Mal took a breath to speak, then stopped. He sat still for a spell, nursing his drink.

“Don’t know how I’ll do anything, without Zoe at my back.” He finally said. “I’ve had her with me since the beginning of the war, and I was a different person back then. It’s like I never was without her.”

“Mal, maybe this is a chance for you to get out too.”

He frowned at her. “Do me a favor and don’t be blowin’ any sunshine my way.”

“Maybe it’s time for you to build your own life. When you and Zoe are together, all those memories, all those horrible things that happened in the war, you can’t escape them. I can see it, like a weight hanging on both of you.”

He finished his third drink and leaned forward to refill his glass, but she took it from him, set it down, and held his hand in both of hers. “You can’t stay in this place forever Mal. You have to move forward too.”

“Like you are?” She didn’t answer him. “What do you care?”

It was Inara’s turn to hesitate. She looked down at his hand. “Mal, you can be… exasperating.” She smiled, then laughed. “OK, you can be a pain the ass, you know that.” She took a breath and looked him in the eye. “But you’re a good man.” She looked down again and began working her thumbs into his palm. Knots in his hand let go, and the warmth of her fingers spread up into his arm. He let his head fall back on the sofa, closed his eyes, and felt the liquor swirl through him.

“I wish you would stop punishing yourself,” she told him. “You don’t deserve it.”

“How d’ya know wha’ I deserve?”

“I’m a trained Companion, remember. I read people.”

“You readin’ me?”

“Yes. You care very much about your crew. We care about you too.”

“We?” Mal opened his eyes to look at her.

“Of course.”

“This here a Companion thing?” He glanced down at his hand in hers.

“Well, yes.” She grinned at him. Mal had never seen Inara grin like that before. It was infectious. He returned her smile.

“I’m in a state to be easily taken ‘vantage of, ya know.”

“I would never do such a thing. There are rules.”

“Wha’? A Companion can’t take ‘vantage of a shi’-faced, petty, thievin’…”

“Now cut it out. That’s my captain you’re talking about.”

Mal laughed at this and closed his eyes again. He was feeling more than a little blurry. Inara massaged his hand silently for a while, then set it down gently and reached for his other hand. Barely above a whisper, he asked her, “How’m I gonna get by without Zoe?”

Inara paused, then set down his hand. She slid closer to him and pulled his head onto her shoulder. Mal’s arms wrapped around her waist, and he felt her warm body mold comfortingly to his, one arm across his shoulders behind him, the other stroking his hair and neck.

“Do you have to leave now?” he asked her, so quietly he thought she might not hear him. Inara didn’t respond at first, but then she gently brushed his hair back from his forehead and planted a kiss there.

“You’re going be just fine, Malcolm Reynolds,” he heard her say. He looked up at her, and threaded his fingers into her hair. Without planning it, he pulled her to him and his mouth closed on hers.

The reaction was immediate. Inara returned his kiss eagerly and her body moved to fit tighter against his. A rush of pent up lust went to his head with the drink, and he reached past her to shove her piled belongings onto the floor. He pushed her onto her back across the sofa so he could stretch out over her. The soft curves of her body pressed against him, releasing a wave of heat that seared him, took his breath away. He felt her fingers twisting in his hair, her mouth opening to his.

He slid one hand to her breast, and she arched against him. His other hand cupped the back of her neck and he kissed her hard, almost desperately. She pushed his suspenders over his shoulders, then pulled open his shirt and wrapped her arms around his chest, fingers dancing on the scars she found on his torso. He moved to her neck, finally, after nearly a year, tasting the smooth skin there. He heard her breath catch as he pushed the shoulder of her robe aside and his mouth traveled along her collarbone.

“Mal,” she gasped. He cut her off with another deep kiss, but she used both hands to push his face away from hers. “The bed…” she told him.

“No. Right here.” Too many had had her in that bed, he didn’t want to be one of those. She was still holding his jaw, looking up at him with dark eyes, lips swollen from kissing. He took her hands away from his face and pinned them together above her head, both of her wrists in one of his hands. With his other hand he lifted her chin and his mouth closed on hers again. She moaned into his mouth as he reached down, pulled up her skirt, and briefly stroked his thumb between her legs. The heat in him was unbearable, uncontrollable. He was kissing her so hard he tasted blood, and wasn’t sure if it was his or hers. She lifted her legs to help him pull her silk panties off, then he opened his pants.

His knees pushed hers apart and his hips slid between her thighs. He pulled his mouth away from hers and laid his cheek against the side of her forehead. “Oh god, Mal,” she panted in his ear. He pressed against her, then he was inside her.

Her body lifted to his, tilting up against him, and her legs folded around his hips. He let go of her wrists and wrapped one arm around her waist, his other hand in her hair holding her forehead against his cheek. He began to move inside her, slowly. She moved with him, her hands finding their way down his back. He heard himself saying, “Inara, please…” but he wasn’t sure what he was asking for. More than this. He wanted more of her than this.

Her lips tickled his throat, whispering his name over and over against his skin as he sped up. He felt her hands slide inside the back of his pants, pressing him into her. “Now, Mal, now…” A few more strokes and Mal groaned and poured himself into her.

* * *

Mal was seated in a comfortable chair in an office. His gun was gone and he felt groggy, but his hands weren’t bound, and no one was threatening him. There was a Fed sitting behind the desk; Mal couldn’t make out his face. Everything looked fuzzy in the dusty blue light that streamed in through the windows.

Mal knew the Fed in the office was a dream. He was still half awake and could feel Inara laying beneath him, softly kissing his neck.

“You met with a man on the station. What did you discuss?” the Fed asked.

“You worried about me gettin’ hired to move some seafood? It’s good to know the Alliance is on top of all this awful crime.”

Mal dimly felt his clothes sliding off of his body; she was undressing him. He felt a rush of shame. This amazing women - he had taken her on a sofa without bothering to undress either of them fully, like a rutting animal. He’d treated her like a whore.

“It’s not your place to ask, but to answer. What did you discuss with him?”

“Maybe it’d help if you explained.” Mal said. “I’m a little curious -”

“Sergeant Reynolds. I are not interested in your curiosity. The organization that hired you is involved in more than food. And if you’re not aware of that than you’re a bigger idiot than we thought.”

“A possibility you should consider.”

“What did you talk to him about?”

“He paid me for my cargo.”

“And the cargo was food.”


“That’s all?”

“That’s all.”

“Who gave you the job?”

“There was nothin’ illegal. A man named Ricky hired me to ship some Seafood Delights. On my honor,” Mal raised his right hand, “that’s all there is to it.”

Mal felt Inara take his raised hand and he opened his eyes. Her soft eyes met his with a smile and his shame melted away. It was all okay. The shuttle’s warm lighting and the heady scent of incense embraced him, and the harsh blueness of the dream faded away. She pulled him to his feet and guided him across the shuttle to her bed, pulling him down into her arms. He worked a hand into her hair and tried to lift his mouth to hers. Do it right this time, he thought. But his head was too heavy. He let his cheek rest on her shoulder as his eyes fell shut.

“Sergeant, I know that isn’t all. Our records show a few encounters with you and your ship: firefly class transport Serenity. You are clearly nothing more than a gnat on the ass of the Alliance, but I doubt you’re really that stupid.”

“You’d be surprised.” Mal rubbed his upper left arm with his right hand. The muscle was sore there.

“Let me be clear.” The man leaned forward and the fuzzy blue light fell across one side of his face. “We will find out what you’re up to. But you can save us time and expense as well as avoiding discomfort for yourself by telling me now.”

“Gonna beat it out’a me? Like after the war?” Mal glanced at his sleeve; there was a small blood stain, looking black in the blue light. In the middle of it, a little hole in the fabric, about the size of a tranq gun dart.

The Fed settled back into the shadows. “Many regrettable things happened during and after the war which were beyond our control. The Alliance would never resort to torture; that would be against the Peacetime Accords. But we will find out what you know.”

“How’s that?”

“Telling the truth is the right thing to do. You are a righteous man, are you not?”

“Uh… sure. But I don’t know anythin’.”

“We’ll see about that.”

* * *

Mal woke with a dull ache in his head, which pulsed through his skull before focusing on the tender spot at the top of his spine. The dream faded away before he could place it, leaving only a faint high-pitched buzzing in his ears. Must remember to talk to Kaylee about that, he thought. Could be something odd with the engine. He put a hand to his forehead, rolled onto his side and felt silky sheets under his cheek. Wait … silky?

He opened his eyes. Dark curtains, warm soft lighting. “Huh.”

“Good morning Captain.” Inara said brightly. She was sitting on the sofa, wrapping up her tea set and packing it in a dark wooden box.

“Is it mornin’ already?” he asked, feeling more than a bit awkward.

“Yes, we’ll be reaching Barnard’s World in two hours. I have a lot of packing to do.”

“You’re leavin’?”

“Yes.” She gave him a confused look. “You knew that.”

Mal forced himself to sit up, squinting as his headache pulsed a few more times, then thankfully settled into the background. He saw his clothes folded neatly next to the bed

“Did you sleep well?” Inara asked.

Blue, he could remember something blue, but he couldn’t get a hold of it. “I believe I did.”

There was a long silence. Inara was quite focused on her packing. Finally Mal swung his legs over the side of the bed and began to dress. She didn’t look up at him.

“Are you mad at me?” he asked as he buttoned his shirt.

She still didn’t look away from her packing. “Not at all.”

Mal tucked in his shirt and pulled his boots on, then sat for a second, at a loss. “I guess I should get ready for landing.” He finally said. “Captainy things to do, you know.”

“Of course.” She was intent on closing up the wooden box.

Mal stood and walked to the door, but he paused there. “Look, uh … about last night.”

“Yes?” she prompted.

“I, um… I was in a bad place. You helped. A lot.”

“I’m glad. It’s so nice to part on friendly terms, don’t you think?” She finally looked at him, favoring him with a lovely smile, then began to pack the collection of candles on the table into another box, and didn’t seem to notice his puzzled expression.

Mal looked at the door for a second, then back at Inara. “It was more than friendly terms Inara.”

“Yes Mal,” she admonished, that smile so warm and distant, “it was sex.”

“But…” Mal tucked his thumbs in his belt, leaned against the wall beside him, and continued sheepishly. “It wasn’t just that. Talkin’ to you, and... well, last night you seemed, I dunno, so real.”

She paused and looked him full in the eye, “Meaning I usually don’t?”

“I don’t mean that. Look, I just mean…”

“It’s alright, Mal, you don’t need to thank me. It’s what I do. I’m very good at it.”

“Very good at what?”

She looked up again with that damned smile. “Mal, you’ve never understood. Being a Campanion is about more than the physical act of sex.”


“That’s the difference between a Campanion and a whore.” She said the last word archly. “A Companion knows how to be emotionally comforting.”

“So you’re sayin’ last night, all that… those were your fancy… Companion wiles?” Mal started to look angry but then snorted. “The ones that earn you the big bucks?”

“Mm-hmm,” she laughed coyly. “Of course. What else would it be?” The last candle packed, she closed the box and set it down on the floor.

“Well then. How much do I owe ya?” Mal folded his arms in front of him, not sure whether he ought to take offense at her attitude or feel embarrassed at his own.

“Oh, it’s on me,” Inara’s laugh positively tinkled, but she managed to stifle it as Mal scowled. She continued more seriously, “Mal, I’m glad to help you out. It’s the least I can do.” She stood up and started pulling down fabric from the wall behind the sofa. “This past year I’ve expanded my client base extensively. And not just the clients I’ve serviced,” she paused and threw a sweeping glance over her shoulder at him, eyes flicking up and down, then she went on, “but also those I’ve screened. Military and business contacts within the Alliance who travel, and come to Patton often. I’ll be able to set up my own place there and enough clients will pass through to support me quite well.” She gathered the fabric in her arms, folding it loosely. “I could never have had this kind of job security without you. All for the very affordable monthly rent on this shuttle.” She glanced fondly about, then added in a conspiratorial whisper, “and even a few odd petty thieving adventures thrown in.” Her smile turned just a little smug as she watched his reaction to that. “So you see, I really felt I owed you.”

Mal chewed his tongue for a few seconds. “And now we’re all square.”

“Yes.” Her gracious smile returned, and she placed the folded curtain in a large black container. “It’s so satisfying when I can put my training to good use, to bring peace of mind to those in need.”

Mal flashed a tight smile. “Must be.” She turned her back to him, but he didn’t leave yet. He watched her unpin the next curtain. When she finished taking it down she glanced up as if she didn’t expect him to still be there.

“Was there anything else you wanted to talk about? Book? I noticed you two seem a bit at odds lately. I’d be glad to help you sort through it.” Her smile took on a challenging edge.

Mal clenched his jaw. “No thanks, I think I can handle it.” He looked around the shuttle. All the candles and artwork were packed. The grated metal walls of the shuttle were half bared, and harsh white light poured out from the cockpit as Inara removed the curtain from the doorway.

“I guess I won’t ever be calling you whore again.” He said softly.

“No, you won’t.” She answered with her back to him.

* * * * *

On to Chapter 7.


Thursday, January 19, 2006 3:54 AM


Because you’ve all been so good leaving comments, Chapter 7 to follow this very afternoon!

Thursday, January 19, 2006 4:33 AM


I love it, but I get the feeling Inara didn't mean a word she said. It just sounds so unlike her, and I'm sad about Zoe and Wash up and leaving Mal, he can't take care of himself- he's liable to get more trouble than what he's got now.
This is really great Mal, I love it

Thursday, January 19, 2006 4:46 AM


No, I didn't skip down to the R bit first...*cough*

I was actually still shocked when it happened despite the fact I knew it was going to happen, how silly is that! Really good again!

Thursday, January 19, 2006 5:13 AM


I do not know what you've got up your sleeve, but I am anxious to find out. I think I said poor Mal yesterday, but, poor Mal! What are you *doing* to him with your evil psychological torture? The updates are shiny!

Thursday, January 19, 2006 5:41 AM


Oh. My. God.

Killed dead, I am. Brilliant doesn't even begin to describe it. It's like a daytrip through Mal's mental house of horrors.

1) You write a very beautiful sex scene. The choice of words, the way you let actions and words speak in equal parts, sensual and subtle and dense with the implied... It was very, very well written.

2) The scene in the shuttle was already bitter-sweet but then you made it heartbreaking by overlapping it with the chilling interrogation, and a)confirming that it's all a hallucination and b) highlighting just how brittle and lonely Mal is that he would fantasize about Inara telling him he's not a bad person, catching him like this and caring for him. So very telling.

3) OMG, high-pitched whiny noise!!!! Ack! ACK!

4) I love the way the fantasy crumbled into the exact opposite, a detached kind of nightmare playing out the thing he's afraid of and negating everything that was good about the fantasy before, and Mal still pretending it doesn't faze him. Makes me hurt for him because he won't let himself.

5) You managed to write all this entirely from Mal's POV and still made clear to the reader everything that Mal is missing. Whoa!

Now I'm freaked out about just what they are doing to Mal and I can't wait to see what else his brain will come up with to while away the time.


Thursday, January 19, 2006 6:14 AM


I meant to post this thought yesterday but I'll add it to today: I can't help but think of Terry Gilliam's movie "Brazil" as I am reading. And that's creepy.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 8:11 AM


Oooh, very excellent and creepifying. The scenes between Mal and Inara were so bittersweet and it felt like she was hitting him deliberately when he was most vulnerable only it doesn't feel like it is happening anywhere but inside his head and I can't wait for the crew to come blow those *tamade hundan* responsible to *diyu* if that is the case. Wow, can't wait for the next part. Hope you don't break my gorram heart. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, January 19, 2006 9:13 AM


I am really enjoying this one but you are messing with Mal's mind....I wait with "baited breath" for the next installment. Great job!

Thursday, January 19, 2006 10:41 AM


Can't wait for the next. :D

Thursday, January 19, 2006 10:42 AM



Tuesday, January 31, 2006 7:49 PM


Whoa. Good sex scene.

Seriously--that stuff is hard to write well. Most people are either crass or sentimental; you avoided both, and wrote something steamy instead.

This is going in very interesting directions.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 4:11 AM


The entire piece being about Mal and Inara was great, and the visions/remembering where he was was good too, makes me think the baby and the Inara sex and all are a hallucination, like someone else has already stated.


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Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.

Back Stories III, Chapter 24
Mal returns to a few familiar places.

Back Stories III: Chapter 23
The BDH’s find themselves enmeshed in too damned many OCs. But hey, they’re necessary. Plottiness and all.

Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.

Back Stories III, Chapter 21
The battle with the Reavers continues, and Mal makes a choice. All decisions have consequences.

Back Stories III, Chapter 20
Finally a little Mal POV, but it doesn't last long.

Back Stories III, Chapter 19
The trials and tribulations of an older, wiser River Tam.

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 18
The aftermath of an unexpected encounter. Except—not all of the crew are accounted for…

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 17
A lovely day in the mountains: friendly locals and fresh air under a clear blue sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 16.
Zoë tells of her soiree with terrorists on Oeneus.