Conflicts of Interest-Inara’s Tale
Thursday, March 2, 2006

Inara takes her career as a companion very, very seriously. She has her own set of ethics when servicing a client, and those ethics are not negotiable.


Spoiler warning: I'm operating under the assumption that the refit Serenity undergoes at the end of the BDM takes, at minimum, one month. This story takes place immediately after that layover, simultaneously with "The Visit-Zoë's Tale", on this very site. This is the seventh story in the Tales series. The rest can be found here: River, Wash, Mal, Kaylee, Zoë, Simon, Jayne, Book Rated PG for some mild language and sexuality. Thanks go out to my much appreciated beta-ers. Dohn-ma=Understand Jien Huo=Cheap floozy How Shi Sung Chung=Happy development Buhn Dahn=Idiot ***** Inara Serra was serene. To someone who didn’t know her well, Inara probably seemed to be always serene. Obviously, no woman could ever be calm at all times, and she became angry and depressed as much as anyone. Inara had simply learned to hide those emotions behind a veil of placidity that she could draw down when she felt the need. That serenity was a valued trait for a companion, because it was the best way to ensure that the client was not put off by her manner. She had serviced a great number of both men and women, and as individuals did, they all responded differently. Some people simply didn’t respond well to excessive passion, and a calm, gentle demeanor helped to put them at ease. Some needed her to be calm, due to their own nervousness. Inara had never experienced it, but she understood that the first time one met a companion could be daunting. Others viewed time with a companion as a right of privilege, one that they had earned by simple dint of being able to afford it. To them, a companion who was too forward would be seen as a waste of funds and unworthy of their time. For the rest, who simply wished to spend some enjoyable time with a learned woman, all that was necessary was to put forward a pleasant demeanor. In any case, being calm and placid was the easiest way to put a client at ease. As she began to prepare her shuttle for the tea ceremony, her thoughts went to the day’s activities. She had been docked in New Dunsmuir for over an hour, and her client, a man named Lamont Windsor, would be arriving shortly. His family was not especially well known throughout the ‘verse, but the shipping business he had inherited from his mother was one of the better respected on Beaumonde. His wealth could never compete with that of a man such as Atherton, but he was still a fairly prominent figure on the world. She had a certain nervousness about meeting him for the first time. She hadn’t seen a client in several months, and while she didn’t doubt her own abilities, her tension was unavoidable. This was the first client she had seen since Serenity had been to Miranda, and Beaumonde had been the first world they had visited since repairs had been completed. Inara knew that Zoë was the reason for Mal’s decision to come here. He hadn’t openly announced the exact purpose of their visit, but the pointed glance he had given Zoë as he announced their destination to the crew spoke volumes. During the repairs, she had approached Zoë to try and help her in any way she could. Zoë had seemed abnormally tense, as though she was expecting an attack from any direction at any time. The conversation had been remarkably short, even by Zoë’s usual standards. Inara had simply told her, “If you ever need anyone to speak to, or to just cry to someone, come into my shuttle at any time.” Zoë hadn’t even looked up from her work. “Don’t have time for cryin’. The captain needs this ship flying again as soon as she can.” Inara had considered asking her what she needed, but Inara suspected that Zoë didn’t have an answer to that question. Inara decided not to push her to get one. Either she wasn’t ready to talk about Wash yet, or Inara simply wasn’t the one she would talk to. In either case, as long as Zoë eventually did talk, she would be alright. That was the important thing. Inara herself had already come to terms with the loss of both Wash and Shepherd Book. She was richer for having known both of them, for they had both been her friends. Wash’s humor and kindness would always follow her in her memories, and Book’s unobtrusive wisdom would do the same. They were two radically different men, but that didn’t change the impact they had on those that they had loved. While Inara would miss their ongoing presence aboard Serenity, she appreciated the fact that their impact didn’t fade just because they were gone. Impermanence was a truth of existence, and Inara no longer let that affect her. She had seen many friends and loved ones die, and she missed them all. But they had moved on, and would not return. Pretending that they would was pointless, and lingering on the past would only cheapen their memories. They had come into her life, touched her, and then left. That was the way of the ‘verse. Inara put the thoughts of her friends, both departed and living, from her mind. She needed to focus her energies solely on her client now. He would arrive at any moment. She set the kettle she had been adjusting down on the tray and stood up straight. She took several deep breaths, concentrating on the task at hand, regaining the calm and clarity of purpose that was required to properly service a client. She had done this so many times that it had become nearly second nature to her. She had to remove herself from the ‘verse in order to work, exclusively, for her client. Outside influences would only confuse the issue. She continued to breathe until she was again serene. She crouched and finished aligning the cups for the tea ceremony, then turned and lit an incense stick near the aft of the shuttle. She was ready, both materially and internally. As if summoned, there was a light rapping at the hatch. Lamont had arrived. Inara opened the hatch and smiled her most calming smile. Lamont was a tall man, thin, but well dressed. He possessed an impressive shock of straw blond hair. He seemed slightly nervous, as though he expected to be caught doing something wrong. Inara was tempted to accredit it to simple nerves at visiting a companion, as so many of her other clients had shown, but she wasn’t quite sure. For some reason, Lamont looked as though there were something more substantial bothering him. For the time being, she decided to not mention anything. If he wished to talk, she was sure that he would. “Hello, Lamont. I hope that you’re well?” “I’m fine, thank you.” He was reluctant to meet her eyes. She moved out of the hatchway and gestured for him to enter the shuttle. He did so without a word, and still would not make eye contact. Inara began inspecting the man for any obvious concealed weaponry. Companions were trained at an early age to be wary of a suspicious client. She began, silently, to plan ways to eliminate him as a threat if he were to become one. “Please, sit.” Lamont did so, taking the seat closest to the hatch. He continued to look around the shuttle, keeping his eyes anywhere except locked with hers. Inara reached down to pour them each a cup of tea. He finally looked at her, and he appeared surprised. Inara assumed that he didn’t know how a companion practiced her craft. He spoke with a slight hint of irritation in his voice. “I’m sorry, what are you doing?” “This is the companion tea ceremony. It is an important part of the bonding between us. Before we can join in a meaningful way, we need to know a bit about each other. Don’t you agree?” He began drumming his fingers on his thigh. “No, actually I don’t. This can’t be necessary.” She suspected that he might get out of his chair at any moment and leave the shuttle in a huff. His manner was becoming like that of a spoiled child who wasn’t getting what he wanted quickly enough. “I’m afraid that it is. My task is to offer you what you need, whatever that might be.” “What I 'need,' Miss Serra, is sex. And quick.” So, that was it. Inara was fairly certain of how this meeting would end, but she continued speaking to him in the hopes that she could somehow salvage the situation. “I am fully prepared to give that to you. However, do you really want today to be nothing more than sex? Sex is more than simply a physical pleasure. It can be, but it is so much more fulfilling when it’s shared by two people with mutual respect and understanding.” Lamont snorted. Any vestiges of etiquette left him. “My wife doesn’t seem to think so, lady. Apparently, she’s willing to give it out to just about anybody that asks.” Inara was surprised, but didn’t let it show. It was standard practice for companions to check the cortex when they accepted a client to make sure that he or she wasn’t misrepresenting. She hadn’t been able to find any record of Lamont being married. She didn’t accept married clients unless both partners were present when she arrived, and they both agreed to the arrangement. Her business was a serious one, and she would never try and cheapen it by removing all of the important facets in favor of the sex. “I didn’t know that you were married, Lamont.” “I bribed a clerk at the city offices to delete my record from the cortex. I assumed that you wouldn’t service me if you thought I was cheating on my wife.” “And you were correct. How did you know to do that?” He shrugged his shoulders. “I was just being safe. I know companions are thorough about that kind of thing.” Inara’s voice didn’t rise as she spoke. “So you came to me to get revenge on your wife for cheating on you.” It wasn’t a question, and she didn’t phrase it as such. “Why not? Companions spend their whole lives training to be good at sex. And if I pay for something, I only accept the best.” “As I said, there is far more to the union between a companion and her client than simply sex. It’s a bonding experience between two human beings. It’s an expression of….” He cut her off with a wave of his hand. “Look, I’ll double your rate if you just shut up and get to it.” The meeting was over. “I’m sorry Lamont, but I will not have sex with you so that you can get even with your wife. It isn’t fair to either of you, and I will not compromise my professional ethics in that way. Obviously, your credit balance will be refunded.” Lamont’s mouth actually fell. “‘Professional ethics?’” He got up from his chair. “You know, I’m just going to put out another message for another companion. I’ll probably be in the arms of someone else before you leave the world.” Of course, that was impossible. As soon as Lamont left the shuttle, she would put a black mark on his name in the Guild Registry. His motivations would be put on display for any companion to see. Inara highly doubted that anyone would touch him as a client. However, she decided not to mention that to him yet. Given the petulant attitude that he had shown from the moment she’d met him, it was unlikely that she would be able to change his mind about this course of action. Still, she had to try. “Lamont, have you considered talking to your wife? This might be a symptom of a problem that the two of you together can mend.” “I don’t want to mend anything with her. She’s disgraced me in front of everyone in the city. I’m being laughed at by the whole of society. Do you have the slightest idea what that feels like?” Inara thought back to her time at the training house and the rumors of her “torrid affair with a pirate.” It was good natured ribbing back then, but still, she could empathize with the man. “I do.” “How the hell could you possibly understand how I feel? You don’t have to worry about maintaining status in the community. If I’m a laughingstock, then I won’t be able to get any new contracts. No one is going to deal with a man who can’t even keep his wife under control.” The more he spoke, the more Inara found herself siding with his wife. Still, she couldn’t afford to be prejudiced now, if for no other reason than that she was not seeing her client at his emotional best. Lamont was determined to throw his marriage away, and she was probably the only one who could stop him. It might already be doomed, but she couldn’t use that as justification to let him make a mistake of his own. “I doubt you’d be willing to see a counselor to try and resolve this?” “You’re damned right I’m not willing to see a counselor. Why don’t I just hang a sign outside my door for those few who don’t already know about this?” “Do you have any children, Lamont?” His expression softened, just a bit. “Michelle’s pregnant, yes.” Inara thought that she might finally have found something she could use. Then, he suddenly clenched his fists. “The bitch has been doing this for five months now. I don’t even know if the little brat is even mine! Why the hell should I care what happens to it?” With that proclamation, and the inflection behind it, Inara had learned all that she needed to about Lamont Windsor’s state of mind. He had been charming, if awkward, in his message requesting her services. She had noticed his discomfort, but she had assumed it was simple tension at dealing with a companion for the first time. She hadn’t expected him to be able to dismiss a child so casually. He hadn’t called the child “it” because he didn’t know the child’s gender. That usage was fairly common. Lamont had called the child “it” because he had become so angry with his wife’s indiscretions that the child had become an extension of them. He couldn’t see the baby as a point of bonding between him and his wife, but only as a possible lasting reminder of what she had done to him. He gathered himself. “Look, it’s obvious that we aren’t going to be able to do any business here today. I think that I should leave.” He walked towards the hatch, and Inara didn’t stop him. She wanted to give him a chance to collect himself further before she spoke again. She finally addressed him as he put his hand on the controls to open the hatch. “Do you really think that having sex with some other woman will make this situation better?” “Define better, Miss Serra.” “Will this make you happy?” He showed her a grin that had no joy in it at all. “If by ‘happy’ you mean that I’ll get some revenge on her for turning on me like this, then oh yes. It will make me very, very happy.” “But will it help you recover the feelings you had for Michelle?” Lamont’s face fell. He slumped forward, his hand still on the hatch. “Those feelings must not have been worth much, wouldn’t you say? She was willing to throw them all away, and I have no idea why.” He stayed there, hunched against the bulkhead, for several minutes. Inara didn’t speak. Lamont needed this time to take inventory of his own feelings. He’d been so focused on his anger that he hadn’t stopped to think about anything else. He’d probably been thinking of nothing but his wife in another man’s arms since he set out to meet her. He turned around again. He was crying. “I love her. I’ve always loved her. Why did she do this to me?” Inara stood up and moved toward him. “I can’t answer that question, because only she can. Go and ask her what you need to do to repair whatever is broken in your marriage.” Inara Serra rarely misspoke. She was a precise, articulate woman, even for a companion. However, at this moment, she chose her worlds poorly. Lamont’s eyes flashed with anger. “So you’re saying that this is my fault? You think that I’m the one who drove her away, don’t you?” “I never said that, Lamont. I meant that the two of you together have to work this situation out if you want the marriage to succeed!” “I know what you meant! You meant that I must have deserved this!” Inara was having some difficulties keeping her voice under control. “That isn’t what I meant at all, Lamont….” “SHUT UP!” He lunged at her, suddenly, with his right arm raised to strike her in the face. Inara spun away from him, grabbing his arm as she passed and pulling it up between his shoulder blades in an aikido hold. She kept him immobile and began to maneuver him towards the hatch. She expected him to say something, but instead he simply fumed silently. She positioned him in front of the hatch. “Lamont, I’m going to give you a chance to save face now. If you promise to me that you won’t do anything foolish, I’ll release your arm and you can walk out of here on your own. However, if you continue to be violent, I will hold you in this position until I throw you bodily from my shuttle. Dohn-ma?” Lamont simply nodded. Inara slowly released the pressure on his right arm. He didn’t turn around after she released him. He simply said, “You’re still just a jien huo, just like Michelle. If you won’t give me what I need, somebody else will. All you’ve done is lose a chance at some easy money.” With that, Lamont Windsor opened the hatch and walked out of Inara’s life without another word. However, much like Wash and the Shepherd, Lamont’s impact on her life would remain. There was a common misconception that a companion was nothing more than a glorified prostitute, and this hadn’t been the first time that someone had tried to use her in that way. She could remember many other clients who had tried to make being with a companion into nothing better than simple intercourse. In fact the third client she had ever seen, a man from Sihnon named Alistair Lucien, had practically entered her chambers boasting of “getting himself a registered companion.” Since then, she had done her best to keep such people out of her clientele, but still, Lamont and those like him occasionally managed to find their way to her. She had turned all of them away as well. Still, each of them had shown her a darker side of human nature. They had shown her that some people would always be more interested in revenge and lust than love or enlightenment. And, in this case, Lamont had also demonstrated that Inara herself was far from perfect. She had tried her best to help a man recover the pieces of his marriage, and failed. All of her training in helping a client overcome his or her personal problems and hopefully grow as a person, or at least simply enjoy the moment, had done nothing for Lamont. He might be a good man at heart, and he might have made a good father to his unborn child. She would never know the fates of anyone in the Windsor family unless it became breaking news on the cortex. She was certain that she would never see Lamont again. He would go out and find himself some other woman and fulfill his personal revenge quest. Inara was powerless to stop him. This was one of the rare occasions when she actually did feel like a jien huo. She had always been looked upon by men with a certain degree of lust. That was part of being a companion. However, she had always tried to associate with clientele that appreciated her for her other talents more than simply her body. She knew that many women, particularly in the rougher parts of the ‘verse, were routinely looked at as little more than breeding stock. Those women were not paid for services that included sex, however. Inara didn’t view sex as some inherently immoral thing to be shunned, but it could still be cheapened to merely a physical sensation akin to eating or drinking. She doubted anyone enjoyed having their totality neglected in favor of only one facet of their being, no matter what that facet might be. And having a man offer her twice her rate to “Shut up and get to it,” made her feel extremely dirty. She had chosen a career that, at its best, could allow her to make a positive impact in the lives of her clients. Unfortunately, at its worst, it also allowed her to meet up with those who saw her only as an instrument for their own pleasures. Lamont had made her into such an instrument in his mind. It was time for Inara to go home. She walked into the cockpit and sat down in the pilot’s seat. She dialed up Serenity’s frequency, hoping that Mal wouldn’t answer. She was relieved when she heard River’s voice over the shuttle’s speakers. “You’re ready to come home?” “Yes River, I’m about ready to lift off. Is there anything I should know before I arrive?” There was a slight pause. “No, I think you’ve already learned enough for one day.” Inara had long since stopped being surprised when River spoke like that. ***** Shuttle One docked with Serenity a little over an hour later. Inara left the shuttle and moved towards the galley. A cup of tea would greatly help her to regain her composure. She walked as silently as possible; she had little interest in speaking to the crew at this moment. With a bit of luck, she would be able to brew a cup and return to her shuttle without anyone being the wiser. Unfortunately, Mal was sitting at the table, cleaning his weaponry. She stopped in the doorway, silently cursing him simply for being there. Inara was about to turn back when he noticed her. Another how shi sung chung to end a wonderful day. He shot her his most insufferable smirk. “Well ambassador, how did the whoring go?” Inara wanted to strike him and collapse into his arms in equal measure. A companion was just that, a companion, someone who offered union, comfort, and pleasure. Whenever she came into contact with someone who tried to turn her profession into sex without commitment, it made her feel….unclean. There was so much more that she offered her clients than mere sex. She didn’t question her career choice, but this had been the type of day that left her in need of a sympathetic ear. If the ‘verse were perfect, then Mal would be that ear. Since the ‘verse wasn’t perfect, and Mal was a buhn dahn, she wouldn’t find any sympathy with him. She felt far too weary to accept his challenge to another verbal sparring match, so she decided to end the discussion. “Mal, I’m very tired. While I’d love to discuss the growing disparity in our incomes, I would like to get some sleep.” “Well, I do conjure that you’ve exerted yourself mightily on the job.” “Good night, Mal.” She turned and left the galley without another word. Just as she had turned, she’d noticed the expression on his face. It had betrayed a bit of his surprise. Apparently, he had honestly expected the conversation to continue from this point. Under normal conditions, she would indulge him in some byplay. Tonight was not the sort of night that Inara felt like being playful with him. She needed Mal to be understanding and compassionate now, and that was something he simply was not prepared to offer. Witty banter would do nothing to improve her mood. She had been keenly aware of his attraction to her for months. She had tried to discourage it to the best of her ability. They were both too different to become one. He would never be able to accept her work, and she could not abandon it. She had invested years of effort into her companion training, and she would not stop on the word of any one but herself. As passionately as she was sure of her career, he was unable to stop his life of constant motion. He lived in Serenity Valley, to this day, and the only way he was able to handle the pain was to stay in the sky. They were both too headstrong to change, and any relationship would never succeed. Inara had long since made peace with the fact that she would have to be the strong one. Mal would gladly throw himself into a doomed affair if she would give him permission. Inara opened the hatch to Shuttle One and walked in. After the hatch closed behind her, she leaned her back against it and slowly slid to the deck. He was so infuriating, especially when he had a grain of truth in his position. Tonight, she had nearly given Lamont nothing more than sexual pleasure in the name of revenge. If she was only able to give that to a client, then she was, by definition, a whore. She hadn’t intended to offer only sex without connection, but she would never be able to convince Mal of that. Mal had always looked down on her position. He thought that she was selling herself, body and soul, to whoever would pay. Generally, that was far from the truth. She was able to offer comfort to those who needed a sympathetic ear and company to those who wanted it. Sex was only a portion of what her profession entailed. It was an important part, but far from the only one. She had spent several evenings discussing the finer points of opera with multiple clients on multiple worlds. There might have been sex before, during a lull in, or after those discussions, but it had been the music that had dominated the night. Still, there would always be those who would insist on seeing nothing but the sex in the Companions’ Guild, and they were more concentrated the farther she ventured from the core. As long as some of those people were able to gain the services of registered companions, or were willing to claim they had, then the misconception that she was a highly paid whore would continue. Mal should have come to know better by now, but he still found her profession distasteful. He could never understand another person being willing to be open, in all areas, with another, especially for pay. It was an alien concept to him, and he couldn’t believe that companions actually did so. His distrust of openness had made him totally recast her career in his mind, and he had equated it to only slightly better than slavery. He was wrong about her work, and she knew that. She was much, much more than a common whore. Still, every client that saw her in that light only furthered his misconception of her. As long as there were people who only wanted her services for sex, she would have to endure Mal’s barbs. It was unlikely that he would ever understand that his words were hurtful. He had made a distinction between Inara the woman and Inara the companion. He didn’t see that the woman had to deal with the aftereffects of the companion’s day. On a day when she had been treated like little better than a Love-Bot, it did her no good to come home to a man who mocked her for how others saw her. Mal had used much the same terms as Lamont, but had used them on her career as opposed to her. Once she had time to calm herself, that fact might make her dislike Mal a bit less than she did right now. However, for the time being she wanted to put as much distance between the two of them as possible. Right now, she didn’t want him to be the man righteously protecting her virtue because of his view of her profession. She needed him to be the man who would listen to her problems and, without judging, simply say “It’ll be alright.” Inara sighed. She needed a bath. She walked to her trunk and found the basin and sponge. As she poured the water from the pitcher by her bed, she sighed again. Why, out of every man in the ‘verse, did she have to love Malcolm Reynolds?


Friday, March 3, 2006 2:43 AM


Great illustration of the hardships of Inara's career choice.

I think the last line is wonderful.

Sunday, March 5, 2006 7:04 PM


I like it. Nice work.

Monday, March 6, 2006 9:53 AM


Love the take on Inara. I have some Mal/Inara fic I'm working on, and she's a hard character to pin down. You did great - thought provoking!

I love that she can open a can of whoop-ass when a client misbehaves.

And, of coutse, I love the last line. Be nice to have more expansion on her take on that...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 3:10 AM


Great subject and a lovely take on Inara. It's very refreshing to see someone honestly deal with her profession and what it means to her. I very much enjoyed reading this.

Not quite as much as I wanted to, because it seemed that Inara placed a litle TOO much emphasis on basically telling the client to go salvage the relationship while completely ignoring even the option of divorce or such. It seemed strange that this one was completely ignored. I could understand the client's anger, it didn't seem unjustified and so Inara's professional disappointment seemed a little hollow.

But still, huge compliments for the entire rest of it! Especially Inara's musings on Mal and his issues. :)

Saturday, April 15, 2006 6:46 AM


lamont is the jien huo, not inara!!! *hates lamont* and good for her, kickin' his sorry ass like that!!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007 6:31 AM


This was lovely, I quite enjoyed it! I especially liked the last line, like everyone :o)

It always pays to refresh the Blue Sun Room, so I can find these gems that I missed the first time through :o)


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