Understanding the Difference
Friday, May 5, 2006

Mal and Inara just can't make each other understand. Written for the LJ community FF_Friday Challenge #118 – bodies


Word Count: 895 Pairing: Mal/Inara Rating: PG Author's Note: Again, pretty light on the use of 'bodies' but, it's what came out *G*. There's a slight allusion to artemis_prime's story The House Mother Says, because I loved the last lines of that story, and because I've been in the mood lately to do this kind of thing!

Understanding the Difference by 2x2

It never gets any easier.

Every time is just as hard as the time before. Hell, he's starting to think it's getting harder, truth be told.

He leans back in his bunk, throwing an arm over his eyes, trying to shut out the images his brain insists on playing for him. Their hands touching her; their feet tangled with hers; their calves sliding against her calves as their thighs move between hers…

They're just bodies, he tries to tell himself, tries to use her words, her language, to understand, to sooth the ache and anger within him; just bodies coming together in the Black.

Just them, and her, and him.

He lays there for he-doesn't-know-how-long until the hatch to his bunk opens with a hiss and metallic thunk, her voice drifting down to him, calling his name.

She's back.

He rolls on his side, turning his back to the ladder sullenly as she descends, smelling fresh and sweetly of the myriad fragrances that make up her scent. Beneath it all, his mind supplies another odour, one that will take hours to exercise despite the lack of its reality. Fresh and bathed, she always comes to him thus, after her evening's work among the bodies.

Bodies, bodies… just bodies… He repeats the mantra in his head, the whisper swish of her silk finery meeting his ears as she crosses the space between the ladder and his bed. She sits with a sigh, her back against his, wishing he could understand.

"They're just—"

"Bodies," he interrupts. "I know. You've told me. Don't make it none easier, Inara."

"Mal…" she sighs. She won't apologize, can't; not for being who she is, though she knows how it hurts him. Knows that in the end, if they don't come to some kind of common ground about what she does, it will be the thing that tears them apart. Knows too that without her sacrificing her beliefs and her work the chances of reaching that understanding are next to none.

"I don't know how much longer I can keep doin' this," he says honestly, his voice barely more than a whisper.

She ducks her head, throat suddenly tight and stares at her hands, worrying her fingers. "You know I love you," she says, heavy with sorrow.

He does. That's what makes this all the more difficult for him to accept. "I don't think it's unreasonable to expect you to be faithful to me," he says, knowing it's unfair but unable to keep the words inside.

She stands, eyes wide and pained, turning to face him. "I am faithful to you, Mal, that's what you don't understand! My Clients are just that – Clients! There's no attachment involved and—Ren ci de fo zu, why does everything have to come down to sex? It's only one aspect of being a Companion, Mal, one, and not even that important! Why can't you see that?"

He turns over angrily, resentment loosening his tongue as he stands. "Because it is important! Because you're still spreading for any man with the coin to pay, like a—" he cuts himself off, before he can say something he'll really regret, but she already knows, teeth clenching as she takes an angry step toward him.

"Like a what, Mal? Like what?" she demands. "Go ahead, say it! Like a whore!" she shouts, glaring at him. Finally, she sags wearily, letting her voice drop with her gaze. "Well, if you don't see a difference between what I am with my Clients and what I am with you, Mal, than I guess I'm just your whore too, aren't I?"

"That's not what I— that's… it's different," he says, stubbornly. "Inara--"

"Why? Why is it any different, Mal?"

"Because it is!" he yells, frustrated.

"Then explain it to me!" she counters.

"Because you're not… it's not whorin' when you're with me—!" She interrupts, her eyes clashing against his.

"Exactly! Exactly. There's a difference when I'm with you, and when I'm with a Client. If you can see it from one point of view, Mal, you have to see it from the other too. You can't have it both ways. I'm either your whore or I'm not. Which is it?"

"It's not the same," he pleads with her, sitting wearily on his bunk.

"It is," she insists, coming to kneel before him and taking his hands in hers. "Mal, they don't matter. They can never take me away from you, and they will never come between us - unless you choose to put them there. I promise you."

"But they are, Inara," he says and she sighs, closing her eyes.

"I don't know what I can say to you, to make you understand that they aren't," she whispers hoarsely. He's quiet for a long moment, staring down at the top of her head.

"And I can't make you understand that they are," he answers, trailing his fingers in her hair. It is the impasse they always face, one that neither of them will move past tonight. Instead, he pulls her to her feet and tugs her against him, wrapping his arms around her and pressing his face into her middle. Inhaling deep and long he smells only her, feels only her in her touch, sees only her in his mind.

For tonight, for one more night at least, it's enough.


Friday, May 5, 2006 10:57 AM


Fantastic argument. I love Inara's 'Companion Logic' and how Mal just refuses to accept the blind truth of her relationship with her clients.

Friday, May 5, 2006 12:24 PM


I can see both points of view but if I had been Mal I would have asked her if it was so different for her to be with *clients* because she loves Mal, then why did she cry when Mal was with Nandi? Would she be willing to share him with other women as she expects him to share her, or is only her point of view the one that matters? Fair is fair and that point should be part of their meeting of minds or else they will just end up tearing each other apart. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, May 5, 2006 9:44 PM


Sweet. Put a whore and her boyfriend in a room and they could argue about it endlessly. The logic goes both ways.

Although it's obvious Mal and Inara are meant for each other, it shouldn't happen for a very long time. I'm too in love with their shindig as it is, and I simply don't want it to end.

Sunday, May 7, 2006 8:52 PM


Amazing stuff here, 2x2:)

I really like how you have Inara and Mal interact here, and how both seem to want to find middle ground concerning each other's feelings, but can't because of pre-existing beliefs and fears.

And I too would like to see a follow-up where Mal ends up sleeping with someone else while Inara's off Companioning...already have seen with "Heart of Gold" that Mal getting some can really unsettle Inara's calm. I think Inara and Mal need to be on equal emotional footing to be able to find the sought-after compromise;)



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History of an Object
There’s no reason to keep it, damaged as it is. Save one. Doesn’t matter that it’s finer than any other cup on the ship, even with the crack. Doesn’t matter that it would never hold liquid again without some of it seeping through. Burning your fingers. Was only one reason he still has the cup.

Five Years' War
The night was warm. Clouds, low on the horizon, blue black in the last light of the setting sun. Nothing but the breeze and the buzz of the cicadas breaking the stillness. A perfect evening.

The Close Shore, At the End, Untenable
“Dead ’re in my head tonight,” he said finally. “Can’t get ‘em out. Don’t got the booze or the bar to distract me. Don’t know why I’m here ‘cept I don’t think I can go through it alone.”

The Slower Path: All the Difference - Part 15 - Sequel to The One Less Traveled By
She let out a breath, saying nothing for a long moment before she raised her eyes again. “There are some things I want you to know,” she said softly. “Things I want you to understand.”

Much as he wished he could ignore it, he could see it was important to her that he know whatever it was she wanted to tell him. He knew he wouldn't have let himself see it in the past, but that weren't where they were anymore, or at least, not where they wanted to be, either of them. Their relationship had changed, was changing, and he weren’t so stupid he didn’t recognize that. He didn't know that he wanted to know it, much less understand it, but she was reluctant enough to talk about any aspect of her life as it was; could be he might ought not stop her when she wanted to.

Unlucky at Cards...
“I… You can’t be that lucky!” Mal moaned as Inara beat him again, laying out her cards with a flourish.

The Slower Path: The One Less Traveled By - Part 14 - Sequel to Regrets
They fell silent again, struggling to find the ease that they had found, before; before the argument that had almost ended things.

"I feel like-," she started.

"This is-," he said at the same time.

They looked at each other. "Awkward," they both said, laughing lightly.

Always Had Faith
Faith in a higher power? That was always Mal's thing, the Captain, back in the war.

Loved and Lost
Love’s the biggest kind of hurt there is.

And I wouldn't trade that love for nothin'.

The Mood That Passes Through
He felt the first trembling shudder go through her, heard her breath hitch and felt her fingers grip his skin; knew it was comin', the wave that was cresting the walls she'd built to hold it back, whatever it was. Knew they were about to come crashing down around her. The first sob still hurt though, still lanced through his heart like a searing hot blade to hear her make that sound.