Tracing Scars
Monday, April 10, 2006

Mal/ Inara. Set ten years post-Serenity. Mal realizes something about him and Inara’s relationship that he should have realized a long time ago. One shot.


A small story I was inspired to write while working on chapter eleven of "Over the Hills...". It's a standalone, set ten years post-Serenity. I'm thinking of rewriting it later to play with the style of it a bit, but... well, if it happens at all, it won't be 'til "Over the Hills..." is done, and that will be a while. I hope you enjoy it! ~ Arcadia

Tracing Scars

Mal idly traced the scars on Inara’s body with his fingers as they lay in bed after their lovemaking. When he first met her, imagining a scar on her immaculate body had been impossible. Now, the scars were as part of Inara as anything else. The scar on her shoulder was from a bullet hole she’d received when she and River were on the run after a job-gone-wrong seven years ago. It had been her first real injury. Mal had been out of his mind when she came back, bleeding profusely. Inara had handled things far more gracefully. She told Simon to give her a band aid with a half-smile and a nod towards Zoe, who nodded back, before letting the doctor do his work.

The jagged, three inch scar two inches inward from her left hipbone had caused far more trauma. That had been received five years ago now on a job on Athens. They’d been stealing some coin from a museum there. Fanty and Mingo had given them the job. They hadn’t mentioned that they’d given it to another crew of no-good lowlifes, too. The job had been a bust. Inara had been stabbed. Mal had carried her through the town, which was covered in thick snow, back to Serenity. The depth of the cut, the angle of the knife… the first thing Inara did when she woke up was cry over the fact that she couldn’t have any children. Simon told her that wasn’t true. She still had one ovary left. It would just be harder. But as things turned out, Inara’s tears were justified. Though she and Mal had tried for a while, Inara had never gotten pregnant. She told Mal that it was all right. She was content to look after Kaylee’s critters. But Mal knew that she was lying to him. He never quite knew what to say.

Other scars had been less traumatic to acquire. There was one on her right knee that had been caused by a scrape she received when she was running around, playing with Kaylee’s daughter in the cargo hold. Another had been received when she and Mal had been making love in a cheap hotel on Beaumont. Six years ago that was now. They’d finished making love in the bedroom and were about to start up again in the bathroom on the morning they were due to return to Serenity when Mal accidentally pushed her into some hair manipulating device of some sort. He couldn’t remember now if it was a curling iron or a dryer or whatnot. Inara scream and jumped away as it burned her, a small, triangular scar on the small of her back.

“Stop that,” Inara muttered sleepily as Mal kissed the scar just by her hip. “I’m trying to sleeping.”

“And I’m tryin’ to wake you up,” Mal said with a smirk. She groaned half-heartedly as he grabbed her by the shoulders and gathered her into his arms. “Come on,” he said, planting sloppy kisses on her neck. “It’s much more fun when you at least try an’ fight me off.”

“I think I’d rather just sleep,” Inara said, her eyes closed.

Mal sighed, adjusting Inara in his arms so that her head was resting on his shoulder. Mal noticed not for the first time that there were lines under her eyes now, formed over years of worrying on one thing or another. There were lines, too, around her lips, and though Mal could not say with certainty that they were not caused by frowns he liked to believe that they were due to smiles. As he ran his fingers idly through her hair, which she so rarely let hang down nowadays as wearing it up was much more practical, and he thought about her smile, everything it had meant before and what it meant now.

“Was being a companion like this?” he asked quietly. Inara’s eyes opened instantly. She looked up at him with hurt and anxiety and gentleness and affection. Mal had accused her more than once in the past of making him feel all mixed up inside. He realized, now and perhaps a bit too late that he made her mixed up, too.

“Mal,” she said softly, “we said we wouldn’t talk about this.”

“Yes… I… I know,” Mal said. “But, I wondered is all.”

Inara sat up with a weary sigh and turned out of his arms so that she was facing him. “What did you wonder?”

“I…” Mal wasn’t sure just how to describe it. “I wondered if bein’ a companion, if it was like this.”

She regarded him thoughtfully as she took his hand. “You’re the only man I love Mal,” she said softly.

“Yeah,” he said with a half-smile, “I know that, I just…” She waited while he took some time to collect his thoughts. Inara had always been patient that way. She always knew when his silence meant it was time for her to speak and when it meant it was time for her to listen. “I was just thinkin’, is all. Bein’ a companion… that was it, wasn’t it? Tracin’ your hands over somebody else’s scars an’ just… an’ bein’ there. That was it, wasn’t it? Just bein’ there….”

“That was a large part of it,” she said slowly. “My job was to gift intimacy to those who lacked it.”

“Intimacy’s important,” Mal said. “Imagine quite a few folk thought it was quite a service.”

“Yes,” Inara answered, “they did.” She hesitated then said, “Why are you bringing this up now?”

Mal was quite sure he knew why he was brining this up now. Years ago, he and Inara had agreed not to talk about her past. It had, on far too many occasions, created a rift between them, a rift Mal had once been certain could never be mended. So they pretended it had never happened. Mal lay in bed at night with his arms around her imagining that his arms had always been around her. She was with him and had never been any place else. But that wasn’t the truth, romantic as it was. Inara had been a companion once, and a queen in her own right because of it. Mal, once, he had hated it about her.

“You let me believe you were dishonest,” Mal said. “I called you a whore time an’ time again, an’ I said everythin’ you did was a lie an… It isn’t, ain’t it? Or, it wasn’t?” She turned her head away. Her silence was all the confirmation he would ever need. “Inara…” He put his hand on her shoulder. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You didn’t understand.” Her voice sounded like a shadow, an echo of a memory, a woman long gone, a time long past. She turned to him again. Her eyes were filled with shadows. “You didn’t understand, Mal, and I knew that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how deeply I wanted you to, you never would. You were quite a stubborn bèn dàn.” They smiled over her mild insult. Mal leaned forward, ready to kiss her when he saw Inara’s eyes grow dim. “I made a choice, Mal.” Her fingers were entwined with his; she lightly squeezed his hand. Her voice was low, soft. “I chose you.”

“Inara…” He didn’t know what to say.

Inara rescued him, as she had a thousand times before. She stretched out her body over the dark sheets of the bed they’d shared for years and drew the covers to her pale chin. “I’d like to sleep now, Mal,” she whispered, closing her eyes. He lay down beside her, two emotions wrestling fiercely inside him: his gratitude and his grief.



Monday, April 10, 2006 1:58 PM


I agree with Kaynara. This is a real shiny story. But...I thought that Mal would have had the scars...y'know, whatwith gettin' shot an' all

Monday, April 10, 2006 2:47 PM


That is such a wonderful moment of intimacy. Scars, love, understanding, and rifts.

Monday, April 10, 2006 3:59 PM


Wow. That was beautiful. A little bit haunting, a little bit bittersweet, but it rang very true. Intimate, but still frought with some insecurities and problems.

I loved this:

[“I made a choice, Mal.” Her fingers were entwined with his; she lightly squeezed his hand. Her voice was low, soft. “I chose you.”]

Beautiful. Thank you.

Monday, April 10, 2006 5:00 PM


<i>He lay down beside her, two emotions wrestling fiercely inside him: his gratitude and his grief.</i>

Wow... what a powerful parting sentence!

I loved the idea of Mal tracing Inara's scars, remembering their origins... we've seen Inara do that in many stories, but this is the first I've seen of Mal returning the favour... I could very much believe that they would choose to ignore Inara's past, the elephant in the room nobody talks about...

Very nice!

Monday, April 10, 2006 8:10 PM


Damn it....I'm getting all teary here.....but I'm glad:)

This is some definitely powerful stuff here, true to the characters portrayed here and so painful too:( You want to happy that Mal and Inara finally decided to get together, but knowing that Inara's past had to be ignored and her beauty marred by scarring just hits you below the belt. The joy coming at the expense of Inara herself in several ways. I am just glad Mal finally came to realize the truth in the end:)


Tuesday, April 11, 2006 2:51 AM


Elegant, poigniant(some day I'll learn how to spell that word), touching, and remarkable hot while maintaining no higher than a PG-13, even a PG rating.

I comment generously but I tend to Rate harshly. I don't give 10s often. Your's is the third piece I've given a 10 to on this site.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 3:39 AM


I followed Goldy's rec here and I must say that it was extremely justified -- this is just so beautiful, hauntingly so and a little sad but I love how Mal and Inara have made it work. Despite all the hardships and stubborness and all the scars (*wink*) they're still together. Gives me fuzzy feelings and hope. Well done!

Sunday, April 30, 2006 5:21 PM


I liked it, hell... I LOVED it so sweet yet bittersweet at the same time... lol, confusing, no? One personal thing is I think your Mal is a bit too... something... can't quite place it but it doesn't quite sound like Mal when I was reading it... sorry I can't be more helpful... and this is just my personal feelings but it just seemed kinda off... Still a damn good piece of work though =)

Sunday, April 30, 2006 5:25 PM


Went back and re-read... finally put my finger on it, mal is a bit too understanding in this... he's always so bull-headed and stubborn, so it kinda threw me when I saw that he finally figured out that he confused Inara too... so yes, I take back my "something about Mal seemed off" comment, I'm just not used to him being understanding and not fighting with 'Nara

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 8:26 AM


as i was reading this, oasis' wonderwall came on the radio and with the combination of the beautiful words you and liam gallacher were pouring out, i couldn't help it, i just burst into tears like a big blubbering baby.



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