Friday, May 5, 2006

Summery: Angsty death fic. After a job-gone-wrong on the desert moon of Ezra, Inara is sentenced to die by sun. She is lowered onto a lonely ledge on a plateau in the desert and waits to die. Will she, or has Mal come to save her? Or is that only an illusion she has as the heat begins to claim her…


A/N: Finals suck. In order to avoid them studying for them (because I am smart that way), I decided to write an angsty death dic (or is it – the ending it yours to interpret). Somewhat inspired by the most recent Choices chapter (thanks 2x2!). It made me want to write a scene someday where characters were threatened by heat. I wrote this pile of angst instead. Hope you like it, though. Enjoy.


Inara knew much about Ezra. The name was of Hebrew origin meaning “help”. Ezra was fabled to be a prophet in the bible. In the twentieth century on Earth-that-Was, Ezra had been a famous, influential American poet who turned to fascism, living out the last years of his life in Italy after having written Axis Propaganda for Mussolini in World War II. Ezra was also a planet, a desert planet. Inara closed her eyes, overwhelmed by the heat as it assaulted her skin.

Heat. At first, it had assaulted her from the outside, beating down on her from the sun as she stood, still as she could manage. After several hours, it was not inside her too. She was being attacked on both fronts. For all her skill and sophistication, she was still only one woman, singular. This attack, inside and out, was too much to combat. She was going to lose. In many ways, she had lost already. Now, it was only a matter of time until she fell, until heat claimed her.

She thought of Mal. He was her hope, if she had any. They had met eyes as she was taken away. There weren’t words to describe what had passed between them. Part of her wanted to die if only to preserve the purity of that moment, the despair, the defeat, the anguish, the perfect love that had been inside her heart and reflected in his eyes. Their love was heat, warming her heart that she had thought for a time was dormant and cold. It exploded in her. She was unprepared, but grateful.

Taking a deep breath, Inara chanced a look over the edge once more. The fall was roughly one hundred feet. Her body would land on rock and sand, maybe a cactus. The fall would disfigure her. Closed casket. She hoped Mal had the good sense not to let Kaylee see. Inara could imagine Kaylee’s whimper. She closed her eyes, trying to block out the image of Kaylee’s anguish, but the image was instead became more vivid. Inara recoiled, the heat surging inside her again. She truly was going to die.

Not for the first time, Inara thought about sitting down, about letting her legs dangle over the ledge, about letting her back rest comfortably against the rock until it was over. She would die quicker that way, sitting down. Standing was more strenuous, but it required more concentration. It cooled her thoughts somehow. If she sat down, surely the relief would be overwhelming. It would end her. Heat would swell within her brain. She wouldn’t think.

She didn’t have much to think about, which was surprising, really. For the first hour or so she’d thought about the future she’d never had, the future she would have never had. She thought about Mal and the passion of their love making, if they ever made love. She thought vague thoughts about children, though she’d never planned on having any, and grand children, though part of her had never intended to live long enough to have grand children. After that, fantasy ceased. She waited for her life to flash before her eyes. It didn’t. She was left with the desert below her and the heat attacking her from above. She wondered if Mal would cry and whether his tears would be hot or cold.

It was funny, how heat was associated with passion. Passion, as she understood it, was created by interaction, be it the interaction of an artist and her idea, of two lovers in the night, of the lover and the universe she loved fiercely, or anyone to anything at all. Inara never felt more alone.

It was then that everything erupted. She was hotter than she could comprehend, and alone, and dying. Her stomach began to cramp and she was retching. It spewed out of her, falling down her lips, covering her clothes. The smell of it burned her nostrils. It begged her to fall. Tears were streaming down her face now. She couldn’t live, but she couldn’t let herself fall. She let herself, finally, leaning against the rock behind her, lower herself to the ground. Her legs dangled over the edge. She closed her eyes.

“Inara,” a voice called her.

“Mal,” she answered back. She knew it was a phantom, an illusion, but she was dying, so there was no reason not to answer.

“Sunburn’s not too bad for your complexion,” phantom-Mal said. “Kinda makes you look like a gem. How ‘bout that?”

Inara smiled at the strange imagined compliment. The image of Mal’s face, his eyes looking into her, as she was led away flashed before her again, but only for a moment. It was so pleasant, out here. She was so warm, and he was nice to her. It was nice to have a friend, to have Mal. She frowned slightly. It wasn’t warm, no. It was hot, burning. Inara opened her eyes, surprised for a moment to find herself sitting on the ledge above a desert. She forgot, for a moment, that she had been put on trial, found guilty. She forgot that this was her punishment, that she’d been lowered onto the ledge to die, unless they saved her. She knew they couldn’t. She couldn’t forget that.

“Mal?” she called again, closing her eyes. “Mal?” Her illusion wouldn’t answer. Inara smirked, barely. Even her hallucinatory Mal was temperamental. It was satisfying, because it meant she knew him. She started shaking. She couldn’t breath, couldn’t take in air. It was too hot. She couldn’t force it inside her. It hurt. She was so alone up here, so desperately alone. Her throat scratched as she whimpered, desperate, strangled sheiks escaping her again and again and again.

She snapped her eyes open when she noticed silence, and immediately began to squint as the light and the heat assaulted her again. She remembered vaguely that she’d been crying, though she couldn’t remember why. Where was Mal? He’d just been here, beside her. Did he leave something on board the ship? Perhaps he would be back when he found it. She wondered if he was giving her a present. He had never given her a present before. She smiled as best she could. Her mouth felt funny. It wouldn’t work like she wanted it to. Still, she smiled. Mal had never given her a present. She was filled with excitement, for she couldn’t imagine what it would be. She knew, though, that it would be wonderful, the best present she’d ever receive. She let herself close her eyes.

The sun kept the world from going black. The world was yellow and orange instead. Inara tried to think about why, but she couldn’t because she really didn’t care. She remembered again that she was dying. She didn’t know how she’d forgotten, but now she remembered again. Mal wasn’t here. He was far away.

If he was smart, he and Serenity had already sailed away – which of course meant he was dirtside, still on the planet, still figuring out a way to rescue her. She hoped he had the good sense to give up before he thought of anything. If he did manage to formulate a plan, chances are it would be flawed. It wouldn’t go smooth. He could get himself into a lot of trouble. She really didn’t think the body was worth that much. The Buddha taught that your body was not your body; it was only the interaction of sense and stimuli at the point of contact. Funny, Inara though, that until now she hadn’t started to pray. She thought about all the chants she learned at temple. None of them seemed very important. It would be an interesting this to talk with Mal about, later. She knew he believed in God once, but didn’t now. She prayed every day, but now that she was dying… oh yes, she was dying. The conversation would never happen.

“Mal…” Inara called again. She knew he wasn’t there, but part of her… he would be coming, wouldn’t he? Eventually, he would come up with some hair-brained plan and it would work despite a few unforeseen complications. He could come to her. He could hold her as she was dying. He’d never held her. Once or twice she had dreamed about it, but in actuality it had never happened. He’d touched her shoulder, now and then, and she’d kissed him once when she was glad he wasn’t dead, but that aside they never touched. Mal could hold her. It was fell good, Mal holding her. It was easy to imagine with her eyes closed as they were. Mal’s arms were around her, her head pillowed on his chest. She smiled. It was nice.

“Comfy?” He asked her.

“Very,” she answered back.

“Good,” he responded. She could feel his breath on her neck.

“This is how it should be,” she whispered, not sure if he could hear her.

“This is how it’ll always be,” he replied. Inara opened her eyes again and stared down at the desert below. She didn’t think she could last much longer. It didn’t make much sense. Her body had been exposed to far more heat than it should be allowed to take. Mal and the crew were in one of the tents, being guarded. It was for the best, really. If they went out, they would die, too. Ezra heat was a killer. Inara laughed. It was killing her. She laughed again.

“That ain’t funny, ‘Nara,” Kaylee said, her face in a pout. “Ain’t nothing funny ‘bout you dyin’.”

Inara smiled at her, “’Course there is…” she had meant to say ‘of course’, but her tongue wasn’t working right. He mouth was very dry and she couldn’t fix it. “You just need to… lighten up. You’re sunshine.”

“Well, I ain’t sunshine now,” Kaylee retorted, hurt and anger in her tone, “I… I’m shade, ‘Nara. Gonna protect you, ya’ hear?”

Inara smiled again, focusing her gaze on the desert. When she turned her eyes back towards Kaylee the delusion had faded, only rock remaining in its place. She wondered, suddenly, if this is what it was like to be River, but dismissed the thought quickly. This was humiliating, this death. River was graceful and wouldn’t be part of it. That was good, Inara though, good. She wouldn’t wish this on River. She had never been one for wishing, though. Even when they were leading her away, she didn’t wish it otherwise, though she didn’t want to go.

She wondered, suddenly, if she would make it to sunset. It would be beautiful, she imagined. She hoped to see it, though she knew it could be a problem because of her eyes. Her eyes, they were fighting hard now not to stay open. Her body didn’t feel like hers anymore. It hurt. Skin was uncomfortable. Her head was spinning. Oh, her Head Mistress would be scolding if she knew. Inara did not feel in control at all right now. It was very uncompanion-like. Mal would appreciate it. He wasn’t a big fan of her job.

“Does it make you made at ‘im?” Kaylee asked.

“I… I don’t know,” Inara admitted. She realized for the first time that she didn’t blame Mal for it, not really. She understood all too well. Their perceptions were different. One of them was the unstoppable wind and the other the immovable rock… was that the right metaphor? She couldn’t remember the philosophy of it; she just knew that they would always be different from each other. That didn’t stop her from loving him anyway. In same ways, it was all the more romantic, in some ways.

“Mal?” she called again. “Mal?” She hoped Mal brought Simon when he came. Simon didn’t flinch. She supposed it was all the medical training. She remembered when Zoë came back to the ship with Mal’s ear. Simon put it on ice right away. He didn’t flinch, didn’t shake like she did. Mal would have a hard time looking at her body. How couldn’t he? He loved her as much as she loved him. Simon, if he was there, wouldn’t flinch. He wouldn’t be paralyzed by it. He and Zoë, she imagined, would cover her body and bring her back to the ship.

No, Simon and Jayne would bring her back to the ship. “We’ll be careful with you,” Simon said. “After brain death, the body can feel no sensation. There have been cases of reflexes produced in brain dead coma patients, but… We’ll be careful with you, just the same.” Zoë would need to lead Mal back to the ship. He was strong, but he couldn’t take this. And then Zoë would stop Kaylee from pulling back the sheet and looking at the body as she cried. Shepherd Book would say a somber prayer for her while Wash looked on, humorless, and River tried to climb inside of her death in order to feel it, only to discover that death felt like nothing.

“Nothing?” River questioned. “Absence of everything.” She tilted her head, puzzled. “Doesn’t compute. Death can’t be nothing. The body gets left behind. A thing. Tangible. Feels cold, tastes rotten, smells like decay, looks pale… doesn’t make a sound.” Inara combed her hand through River’s hair. River had such beautiful, beautiful hair. She let Inara comb through it sometimes when Inara was watching her for Simon. She was grateful now to be able to comb through it one last time.

“A body isn’t a person, River,” she said, quietly. She doubted River could hear her. She could barely hear herself. Her voice was strange. It sounded like it was wilting. She wondered if before all this her voice had been a flower. She felt very hot suddenly, and then cold. River looked down at her, puzzled, perhaps worried. Inara tried to smile, to show her everything was all right. River smiled back, and poked Inara’s nose. Inara began to laugh. She closed her eyes. When she opened them, River was gone, and Inara remembered she’d never been there at all.

Still, it was pleasant, seeing River, even if it wasn’t real. This death was undignified, but she couldn’t deny that it was pleasant. I didn’t seem like it should be, when she thought about it. She was sitting on a ledge in the desert skin burnt to a crisp, covered in her own vomit, and her mind, her most precious possession, was slowly ceasing to function. She didn’t notice her body so much anymore, though, and her hallucinations were… they were pleasant. There was so much pain on Serenity. She was glad of something pleasant.

“Pleasant like shitting monkeys,” Jayne said beside her. Of course, he was crude, of course. He ruined everything by being crude, but now Inara was glad of this, too. It was his way. It was familiar to her, and in a strange way that made it pleasant. “No, it ain’t. ‘Nara, this death ain’t pleasant. It’s plain bad.”

Yes, there was that, too. Death was bad. Inara had always thought so, even when she had been a little girl. It was a little too late to change things now, though. Unless Mal came…. but he couldn’t, because he was being held by the locals. He was in a tent, away from the sun. He would live. Thank Buddha for that. Mal would live. This job wouldn’t kill them all, only her. That was good. Death was bad, but it was good that only she was dying. Just her. Singular. Everyone else would be just fine. She was glad. Inara didn’t want anyone to die. It would make her sad.

Inara closed her eyes again. She realized, with some degree of surprise, that they had been open for a long while. She was proud. She didn’t quite understand why she was proud. She was going to die. Whether she kept her eyes open or closed the, it didn’t matter at all. Nothing mattered. But still, she felt proud. She was proud that she was still alive, still breathing. She was proud of the crew for not going down with her. She was grateful for her time on Serenity and… she was feeling an awful lot of things. It was good. It was pleasant. It was, in its own way, serene. Too bad she couldn’t tell Mal. He would be jealous of her serenity.

“I ain’t jealous,” he said, indignant.

Inara chuckled at him. “Yes, Mal, you are.”

“I surely am not,” he reiterated.

Inara rolled her eyes. “Can’t we just be honest, you and I, Mal?” she pleaded. She heard duel voices, one that was hers and clear and strong, another that was weak and slurred and a whisper. “Just this once, can we say what we mean to one another?” She opened her eyes again, eager to see his eyes and his honesty, but only the desert was there. It was disappointing. Finally, they were going to make some progress, but now nothing would come of it because it wasn’t real. It had felt real though. Inara sighed as best she could. This was all rather unfair. It had felt real.

She let her eyes close again. What was the point of keeping them open anymore? Things seemed to be better when she kept them closed. She couldn’t really call things pleasant anymore. Everything was becoming rather tiring, especially opening her eyes. She was glad to be done with it. Things would be simpler, now that she didn’t have to keep trying so hard.

“That’s what caused all the trouble,” Zoë said, her voice sturdy as it ever was. “Job shoulda stayed simple, but it didn’t.”

“Nothing’s ever… simple,” Inara answered. She wanted to smile at Zoe, to show her that everything was all right, but Inara found that she simply couldn’t. It wouldn’t be right. Zoe was a powerful woman. She didn’t need Inara to lie to her in any fashion. Zoe could accept the truth.

“Mighty sorry ‘bout all this,” Zoe said. “Never had the right to ask you to come on this job in the first place.”

“You didn’t,” Inara reminded her. “I volunteered.” Mainly, she had done it to get a rise out of Mal. They’d been arguing about her rent. Mal said he owed her for the month. Inara said no, he was supposed to have dropped her off on New Melbourne weeks ago, but he hadn’t. Somehow, this led her to volunteer. She would be part of the Ezra job, but things went wrong. They always did.

Not always, though, not really. Sihnon. She had lived a charmed life there. It was so long ago she could barely remember, and what she could remember didn’t feel much like life, much less her life. It was a different existence entirely. Her life, she had lived it here, on Serenity. In some way, she was glad to die her, still a part of it. She was afraid of going back to the companion world, afraid of what she would become.

“Image you’d grow more beautiful,” Mal whispered. Inara didn’t response. She couldn’t speak. Even if she could have, words failed her. Oh Buddha, how could she leave him? Didn’t he understand that she’d only grow cold without him? That was why she had to go, so that he wouldn’t make her heart beat this way. She had to leave before he became too much a part of her, had to leave because she couldn’t, before the love was too much to bear.

“It’d be crazy to stay,” Wash agreed. “I know I am… crazy, that is, to stick around here with all the shooting and the killing and the dying… not that you’re umm…”

“Dying?” Inara supplied.

“Yeah, that,” Wash mumbled. “I understand why you’re going. It’s crazy to stay. But you understand, of course, why I could never leave?” She could. Wash loved Zoe. It was beautiful. Inara couldn’t imagine a love more beautiful. There was such a dignity in Wash and Zoe’s love. It was so rare. Inara had born witness to hundred of lovers in her lifetime, but very few ever had that dignity, the dignity that came when your heart didn’t question, when you were sure, at last, that the one who loved you would never, ever go away.

Inara sighed. She would regret having never known that. She’d felt love, yes, but for her it always came quickly, sharply, and then was lost in a whirlwind. Inara’s relationships had never lasted long, and usually they hurt, deeply. No one hurt her like Mal, though. She wondered if that meant it would true love. She reflected with a measure of shock and indifference that it didn’t matter now. Nothing mattered.

“Would you like me to pray for you now?” Book asked her. Inara nodded, unable to speak anymore. “Lord, I am walking your way. Let me in for my feet are sore, my clothes are ragged…” they were ragged, soiled, and her feet were quiet sore from all the standing. She was aware, quite suddenly, of how much she hurt. She hurt. She was burning. Every inch of her, burning from the outside in, burning from the inside out…

“Just breathe through it,” Mal told her. “Breathe through it. Remember, ‘Nara, this is just a moment in time.”

“Mal…” she called. “Mal…”

“Shh,” he whispered. “You don’t need to speak no more. Just take a breath in, take a breath out. Do it again, now, ‘Nara, that’s it. In, out. In out.” In, she breathed. Out, she let it go. In, she breathed. Out, she let it go. She let it all go. There was no shame anymore, or pride. She exhaled all her discomfort, all her fears, and all her cares. She exhaled her hope, let it fly away to the edges of the universe where it could be part of everything. She exhaled her dreams, letting them come to life somewhere where she couldn’t follow it. She smiled. She breathed it.

“Mal,” she whispered, “will you hold my hand?” His fingers curled around hers, his strong hand embracing her weak hand. She would have smiled if she could. It was the most perfect moment she had ever experienced. They were together, part of each other, one, and they would always be, fore eternity. There would be no more doubt of whirlwind romance, only he and she, together, comfortable and free. It was all she could ask for. Inara opened her eyes, wanting to see him. He stood before her, real and whole, one hand holding hers, the other combing though her hair. She blinked. She didn’t understand. “Mal?” she asked.

“Shh,” he said. “It’s okay. I’m here now.” There seemed to be tears in the corners of his eyes. Inara didn’t understand. She watched as Mal reached into his pocket and produced a handkerchief. He wiped it tenderly over her mouth and her chin, cleaning the mess she had made on herself. She didn’t understand. He couldn’t be there. He was safe, being held in the tent out of the sun. He couldn’t be standing before her. He just… he couldn’t. It didn’t make any sense.

“Mal…” she cried, his name escaping her lips like a day sob.

“Shh,” he said, “Inara, it’s okay. It’s okay, dong ma? I’m here. Gonna get you down. Everything’s shiny.” She nodded had him. She didn’t know if he was real or his words were true, be she nodded. Mal smiled at her. “Good girl,” he said. His voice was nervous. “Just gotta wait a little longer, got that darlin’? Just stay with me a lil’ while, an’ then we’ll get you back to the ship, doc’ll fix you up real pretty.”

He let go of her hand for a moment. She mourned its absence bitterly. Mal quieted her cries. He reached into his coat, producing an unused cloth and a canteen. He wet the cloth, and then put it on her neck. Inara cried out. It hurt. It was hurting her. She wanted him to take it off. It hurt. The cloth was mean and it hurt her. She didn’t like it. She didn’t want it to be there when she died. She didn’t want to die hurting. “No, no, it’s good, it’s good,” Mal said. “We gotta cool you off, ‘Nara. Doc said if you were sick you can’t drink nothin’, so we gotta get your skin moist again. Gotta get you sweating. Got that? Understand, Inara? You understand?”

She didn’t, not really. She closed her eyes. She heard Mal yelling at her to open them, but she didn’t oblige him. Opening her eyes was hard, tiring, and she already hurt so much. Everything was in agony. She was so hot. After a time, he stopped calling, and then she felt his fingers wrap around her own once more. What a strange illusion, this one. She was glad of it, though, glad that he could hold her hand. Yes, she was glad. It hurt, but she was very, very glad. Everything was pleasant. He squeezed her hand, and Inara smiled. This was good, as good as it would ever be.

. . . . review!


Friday, May 5, 2006 5:06 AM


Holy crap... that was so sad! :(

I love it, but wow... amazingly gut wrenching. Great job.

You may want to get someone to beta read your fic next time, because there are small gramatical errors, but other than that, it's fantastically good.

Keep up the good work.

Friday, May 5, 2006 5:35 AM


I agree on the beta-reader, since you use this gorgeous writing that has every word counting to carry the rhythm. The little misspellings and word mix-up's end up being very distracting because they disrupt that intense mood.

And whoa, is it intense! Absolutlely lovely, dark and perfectly paced. The repetitions, the visitations, the babble-style of her thoughts.. all that wavering in and out of reality and the ending, caught between peace and petulant sadness... I actually felt that oppressive heat while reading.

Aaaah, I love it!

You painted such a lovely picture of Inara here. All that kindness and questioning and sardonic wit, all slowly fading into twilight.

So... whee! A wonderful read!

Friday, May 5, 2006 5:47 AM


Wow. That was incredibly powerful writing.

I just walked 4miles in the hottest weather we've had all year and I got in sweltering. Then I logged on here and what was the first thing I saw!!!

I feel pathetic for whining now!

Great fic.

Friday, May 5, 2006 7:07 AM


God that was gorgeous writing... I simply loved it, gut wrenching, shure, but still very well done!

Friday, May 5, 2006 10:43 AM


It was this : “Mal,” she whispered, “will you hold my hand?”

THAT's when it got me, hit that 'wibble' spot in my chest, and made everything go tight... it all came crashing down then, the finality, the inevitability, the oppressivness, and the ultimate end...

What a horrible way to face death... I'm glad that Inara was able to retreat from her body's pain alot, so that her suffering was not as great as it could have been, and it was so nice that all her friends, and especailly Mal, were 'there' at the end...
Oh yes, I choose the sad ending, because I do so love the angst :o)

Friday, May 5, 2006 11:02 AM


eek! beautiful! im not a HUGE 'nara fan but i just absolutely adore this. totally feelin it!

Friday, May 5, 2006 11:02 AM


eek! beautiful! im not a HUGE 'nara fan but i just absolutely adore this. totally feelin it!

Friday, May 5, 2006 11:02 AM


eek! beautiful! im not a HUGE 'nara fan but i just absolutely adore this. totally feelin it!

Friday, May 5, 2006 11:02 AM


eek! beautiful! im not a HUGE 'nara fan but i just absolutely adore this. totally feelin it!

Friday, May 5, 2006 11:02 AM


eek! beautiful! im not a HUGE 'nara fan but i just absolutely adore this. totally feelin it!

Friday, May 5, 2006 11:02 AM


eek! beautiful! im not a HUGE 'nara fan but i just absolutely adore this. totally feelin it!

Friday, May 5, 2006 12:52 PM


Okay, I'm needing the next part where Inara wakes up back on Serenity with Mal holding her hand while Simon fixes her. Can't leave the poor lady like that and us to guess whether it was real Mal or imagined Mal with her at the end. Very well written, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, May 5, 2006 7:21 PM


My ending? Mal was real, his unlikely plan worked, but she was already too far gone. She died with her hand in his, a smile on her face. Angst much?

I thought her in-and-out-ness was well done. And the character voices were spot on. Thanks for sharing.

Sunday, May 7, 2006 8:03 PM


Wow....this is some beautiful angst here, Arcadia. The lyrical nature of your writing and the imagery you harnessed definitely made me think of a lost Firefly episode (though I woulda put it after BDM to make it a tad more in line with canon, but that's just me):D

I wanna believe that Inara will be saved, though this event will change her deeply. However, death would seem the logical conclusion because of the condition she was in when Mal got to her....oh how the decisions pain me! Want one but also seek the other:(



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