Tumbling -- Act Two
Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Inara flirts with a stranger in a bar, and then things start to get weird. M/I and some S/K. Act two of three.


Act Two -------

Inara stood there frozen for what seemed like an eternity. When Elliot walked up to her, she cursed every god she’d ever heard of that she was too dizzy to even construct a single thought.

Suddenly, a movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention. Mal was silently coming up behind Elliot, ready to take him out. Before Inara had the time, let alone the common sense to react, Mal had tapped Elliot on the shoulder.

“Hi there,” Mal said cheerfully when Elliot spun around, before sending his knuckles on a collision course with Elliot’s nose. The young man stumbled back and immediately slumped down onto the muddy ground, unconscious.

“Mal!” was all Inara managed to say. She quickly ran up to Mal, standing next to him as they both looked down at the limp form that was lying completely still in the middle of the deserted alley.

“Well. That was bracing,” Mal muttered. “I got half a mind to riddle him with holes right now. Wouldn’t be fair though, him bein’ knocked out an’ all. Better wait till he wakes up.” His hand was twitching impatiently on his gun holster, so Inara quickly put a soft hand on his forearm to stop him from doing anything he might regret later.

Not taking her eyes off Elliott, she said, “Will you help me bring him on board?”

Mal looked at her as if she’d gone all kinds of crazy. “’Nara, I ain’t bringin’ a guy like this on board of Serenity.”

“Please Mal, trust me on this. I know what I’m doing,” she replied, her eyes wide and pleading. She could almost see Mal’s resolve begin to waver.

“Fine,” he said after a beat, putting his hands up in surrender. “But I ain’t takin’ my eyes off this hwoon dahn for one second.”

~ * ~ * ~

It took them a considerable amount of time and effort to drag an unconscious Elliot all the way back to the ship and into the infirmary. As Inara had expected, everyone on board was fast asleep, something she was more than grateful for.

“You alright?” Mal inquired, eyeing her. She looked pale and unsettled. “You ain’t said a word in over 45 minutes.”

Inara shot him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, I was just thinking. I’m absolutely fine, don’t worry.” It wasn’t a lie, per se. She had been thinking. That and thanking the gods that things hadn’t turned into a gunfight. What if he had been killed? I would have never gotten the chance to… She didn’t even have the strength to finish that thought.

“You don’t have to do that, you know?” Mal said as they heaved Elliot onto the stretcher.

Inara gave him a questioning look. “Do what?”

“Pretend everything is fine all the time, even when it isn’t.” Unsure how to reply to that, Inara stared at the floor and remained silent. Meanwhile, Mal grunted with relief when Elliot landed on the stretcher and the weight was out of his hands. Rubbing a crick in the back of his neck, he mumbled, “Enough exercise for me. There’s some jobs an old man just ain’t fit to do no more.” Inara smiled weakly.

Mal looked around with a frown. “Now where’s that no good doctor of ours? Never around when you need him, that one.”

Inara’s brow creased. “Why do you need Simon?”

On the stretcher, the young man’s eyes were beginning to flutter, a sure sign he was about to wake up. Mal glared down at him. “To make damn sure he don’t wake up before we suss out what to do with him.”

“Mal, I—” Inara began, but Mal had already stormed out. He stormed back in about sixty seconds later.

“Gorram kid ain’t even on the ship,” he griped. Inara sighed as Mal walked by her, uttering a string of curses and complaining about how his crew were never around when he needed them.

Mal strode past her as well as the stretcher and headed straight for the counter, grabbing the inoculation gun that was lying on top of it.

“What the hell are you doing?” Inara stared at him in surprise. “You can’t just drug him. You’re not even a doctor!”

“Ain’t a lawman neither, but that ain’t never stopped me from shooting people.” Grabbing Elliot’s arm forcefully, he injected him with the gun. The young man’s eyelids drooped instantly and his head lolled back.

Checking his pulse to verify that Mal hadn’t poisoned Elliot, Inara let out a relieved breath. “Mal, you could have killed him,” she admonished. Mal just shot her a ‘watch me not care’ look. Inara couldn’t help feeling strangely flattered by his desire to protect her.

“And a great loss it woulda been, I’m sure. Listen Inara, you want him on board, so be it. But I’m responsible for this crew and I ain’t running any risks. Dong ma?”

“The crew may be your responsibility, but this man is my responsibility.” Anger flared in Inara’s eyes. “And do you really think I would do anything that would put the people on board in danger? They might be your crew, but they’re my friends! Besides, you put them in danger all the time!”

Mal’s eyes narrowed. “You know, I’m gettin’ real tired of this. You wanna be all flustered and upset about what happened between you an’ me, go right ahead. I apologized once already. So you can feel free to hold a grudge, but don’t you question the decisions I make on my own gorram ship!”

“I wasn’t trying to…” Inara fell silent. Is that it? Does he think I’m upset because he kissed me?

“Mal, that wasn’t why I was upset,” she said softly, taking a step closer to him. She put her hand on the back of Mal’s shoulder and lifted her head to look into his eyes. “I think we need to talk…” When Mal nodded, she quickly added, “Because I need to explain something. Something I should have told you earlier; but I was still trying to wrap my mind around it.”

It hadn’t even occurred to Inara that Mal might be thinking that this was all his fault, because it really wasn’t. I should have guessed as much though, she thought with a weak smile. He always takes the weight of the worlds on his shoulders.

“What’s the ruckus?” a voice sounded behind them. Looking over her shoulder, Inara saw Book heading their way, with Zoe following suit.

“Apparently, no amount of yelling can wake up my husband after four of those drinks,” Zoe said, giving Mal and Inara a telling look. “What’s going on, sir? We kidnap someone?” she asked, raising an eyebrow when she saw Elliot lying unconscious on the stretcher.

Mal crossed his arms and looked at Inara. “Not rightly sure about that. Inara, care to enlighten us?”

At that moment, the sound of giggles erupted from the cargo bay. “Now what?” Mal muttered as he walked up the stairs and through the door, followed by Zoe, Book and Inara.

Pinned flush against the side of the airlock was Simon, his lips nuzzling Kaylee’s neck while Kaylee was clumsily undoing the buttons of his shirt and giggling like a loon.

Mal dared a furtive glance at Zoe, Inara and Book, and rolled his eyes grumpily at the sight of them. “There any particular reason you’re smirking like a buncha moonbrains?” he said under his breath. Then he cleared his throat with a loud cough.

Simon’s head snapped up instantly, and Kaylee followed his example. A bright smile immediately lit up her face. “Oh hi Cap’n, guys,” she said, waving at them and swaying slightly where she stood.

Meanwhile, Simon was frantically trying to fasten his shirt buttons as quickly as his fingers would allow. “I, ah, Captain. I wasn’t – I mean I didn’t...” he stuttered, his voice sounding slightly slurred. He scrambled backwards to free himself Kaylee’s grip, but was stopped by the wall. Sucking in a nervous breath, he rambled on. “I, ah, I wasn’t taking advantage of Kaylee, if that’s what you were thinking.”

“Looked more like it was the other way ‘round,” Zoe said softly, eliciting a smile from Inara. Mal on the other hand did not seem amused.

“Look, if you two can’t be civilized and make it to your bunk, at least try an’ be a bit more quiet-like,” he said sternly.

“Oh no, Captain, don’t worry,” Simon said, tripping over the words in his hurry to get them out. “Nothing’s going to happen.”

Now it was Kaylee’s turn to wheel around and face the young doctor. “You gotta be joking. What d’you mean ‘nothin’s gonna happen’?” The look on her face seemed to be battling between disappointed and angry, but right now angry was clearly winning. When Simon just looked at her awkwardly, his gaze flickering at the crew standing in the doorway, but didn’t say anything, Kaylee threw up her hands with a frustrated groan and stormed off.

“Kaylee, wait!” Simon quickly picked up his vest, which had been tossed carelessly on the floor, and hurried after her.

Mal, Inara, Zoe and Book could just hear Kaylee mutter ‘that she’d been listenin’ to his fuhn pi’ for long enough’, before they were both out of view and out of earshot.

“Poor Doc,” Zoe said, but there was an amused twinkle in her eyes.

Inara smiled. “Poor Kaylee.”

Mal rolled his eyes again. “Yeah, a right tale o’ tragedy, those two. Now, where were we?” he said while he glanced through the infirmary window.

Zoe followed his gaze. “You were about to tell us what happened tonight, sir.”

Mal nodded. “That I did. This here fella wanted to attack Inara, so I knocked him out. Then ‘Nara insisted we bring him on board, I’ll be goddamned if I know why. No offense, Shepherd.”

“None taken.” Shepherd Book smiled tersely and waved it off with a brush of his hand, before turning his attention back to Inara.

Right. Now’s as good a time as any. This whole thing has gone on long enough. Inara took in a deep breath.

“He didn’t try to attack me.”

“What? ‘Nara I saw you. He was advancing on you in a dark alley an’ you were all wide-eyed and shocked-lookin’, and I ain’t ever seen you like that before. Not unless things were dire.” Mal stared her as if to say ‘try and deny that’.

Inara cast her eyes downward. “I was shocked because I had recognized him.” Suddenly, she wished that she wasn’t feeling so self-conscious. The shock she’d had earlier had sobered her up in an instant, but the dizzying haze that drink had put her into sounded more than welcome right about now.

“Recognized?” Mal’s expression was becoming increasingly puzzled and she could see it annoyed him not to know what was going on. Inara nodded mutely.

“He’s my brother.”

Complete silence fell. Mal just blinked and stared at her. “Shuh-muh?” he uttered after an agonizing pause.

Inara gave him an apologetic look. “I’m sorry I caused this much confusion. When I recognized him, I was too shocked to do anything, and then everything happened so fast...” She paused and a flush of embarrassment appeared on her cheeks. “And I wanted to make sure he was on board before I spoke up.”

Mal scrubbed his fingertips across his scalp, leaving his hair in even more disarray than usual. “I’m sorry. Go back to the bit about him bein’ your brother?”

Inara sighed as she sat down in one of the lounge chairs outside the infirmary. “I left for the Companion Training House when I was only eleven. Len – my brother – was seven at the time. I haven’t seen him since, so I didn’t recognize him when he adressed me in the bar.”

The others were still looking at her as if she’d just said that she liked to take long walks in the black without a suit. She wished they would stop already; this was hard enough to explain as it was.

After what felt like an eternity, Book finally spoke up. “Well, in light of this, I suggest we all give Inara a little space and time to catch up with her kin.”

Zoe nodded pensively and followed him to the door. Before she reached it, she turned around and looked at Mal. “Sir? You coming?” She raised an admonishing eyebrow that clearly stated that she wasn’t asking a question.

Mal just nodded, but his eyes were still trained on Inara. “You shoulda said something, ‘Nara. I coulda shot him right then and there.”

Inara nodded. “I know. But, in all fairness, I never asked you to come rescue me. Again,” she said. She swallowed when Mal gave her a hurt look, and quickly smiled to indicate that she wasn’t being serious.

This seemed to calm Mal, and his gaze shifted to the young man lying in the infirmary. “So. Your brother?” To Inara’s surprise, Mal looked relieved.

Inara nodded, grateful that his bad temper seemed to have evaporated. That figures. If there’s one thing that always cheers Mal up, it’s knocking people unconscious.

“Huh. How ‘bout that.” Mal smiled, then turned around and left the room, leaving a baffled Inara in his wake.

~ * ~ * ~


“Ow?” The young man rubbed his forehead as he slowly regained consciousness. Looking up at Inara through still-bleary eyes, he forced a weak smile onto his face. “Hi sis.”

Inara gazed at him sternly. If he thought he could get away with making a fool of her and giving her such a fright, he had another thing coming.

“Don’t ‘hi sis’ me,” she scoffed. “You scared me half to death. What were you thinking? Mal could have killed you.” Inara honestly didn’t know which feelings prevailed at the moment. Part of her was annoyed at her brother’s behavior, another part was mostly embarrassed about her own behavior, and a third part felt oddly happy that Mal would do most anything to defend her. On top of all of that, the kiss she and Mal had shared was still swirling around in her head.

Len just snorted. “Please. I saw him coming a mile away.”

“Yes, obviously. Getting hit on the head was sufficient proof of that,” Inara huffed, rolling her eyes. “How could you play such a cruel trick? You had me thinking – I don’t even want to think about it.” Inara shuddered.

“Oh come on, it was funny,” Len said, flashing Inara the boyish grin she remembered from long ago. Upon seeing the look in her eyes, he shrugged. “Well, I thought it was funny, anyway. You really didn’t know it was me?”

Inara shook her head as she sat down next to the stretcher. “Not until you called me ‘princess’,” she said, smiling ruefully. “I haven’t seen you for years, but the way you said it... It made everything fall into place. Including your penchant for immature jokes,” she added as she gave him the big sister look she hadn’t used for fifteen years.

Len propped himself up on his elbows and frowned. “Yeah, about that. I should’ve asked what was in that drink, I’m sorry. Are you feeling better?” When she nodded, he went on, raising his eyebrows in mock-disapproval. “Oh, and about that ‘haven’t seen me for years’ thing. You’d think Companions would be taught to use the Cortex. Any particular reason you haven’t sent us a single wave in nearly ten years? When I heard you were in town, I couldn’t resist. Why did you leave House Madrassa?”

Inara’s eyes automatically shifted to a spot on the floor. “It’s complicated.”

“Ain’t it always?” Len said with a little smile.

Inara raised an eyebrow. “Speaking of which... What are you doing all the way out here on the Border?” she asked.

Len just shrugged non-committally. “That’s complicated too, I guess.”

Both Serra children might have been blessed with great looks and the ability to use them, but Inara was professionally trained in reading people’s body language. It didn’t matter how hard it had been to read him back at the bar, it was clear as day that he was very different from the boy she’d known on Sihnon. He was less like the well-bred schoolboy she remembered – except for the inappropriate jokes, perhaps. The way he talked, dressed and acted, clearly suggested he’d been living on the Rim for a while now. He was still as carefree as he’d ever been, though.

Inara smiled gently and looked at her younger brother. “I guess we do have a lot to talk about.”

Len perked up right away. “Damn straight. I’m not going anywhere. So start talking – how about that guy you were trying to make jealous?” He gave her a dubious look. “I mean, a spaceship captain? Seriously?”

Soon, they were lost in conversation. Inara was just about to point out that it was almost morning and that they should join the rest of the crew, when there was a sharp knock on the infirmary window and Mal walked in. “Speak of the devil,” Len said under his breath, since they had mostly been discussing her intentions towards Mal – something Inara wished Len would stop bringing up.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt. ‘Nara, you mind if we have us a talk?” Mal asked, visibly nervous.

“Ah. Yes, we should.” Inara’s eyes searched the floor frantically for an excuse not to do just that. She had a pretty good idea what Mal wanted to talk about, and this was one conversation she wasn’t ready for. No matter how great that kiss was.

For a moment, the tension in the room seemed to simmer. Inara could feel it, it was almost palpable.

“I really should go respond to some waves right now, though. People will start to get worried if I don’t keep in touch. And with the way your business is going, I can’t afford to lose any of my clients. Lord knows you need the rent.”

A nerve twitched in Mal’s jaw as he conjured a smile. “Right. Of course.” The look he was giving her, did not bode well. “Wouldn’t want to keep the respectable folk waitin’. Business before pleasure – or would that be the other way ‘round?” he said sweetly.

Inara felt her temper begin to rise, but she honestly didn’t know if she was angry with Mal, or with herself. Why did he always bring out the worst in her? Outwardly calm and collected, she rose to her feet, gave them both a quick smile and walked out of the room.

Both men stared after her until she was out of sight. “Are you guys always like that?”

Mal frowned at the young man. “Like what?”

Len rolled his eyes. “Never mind. Anyway, guess you’re stuck with me, huh?”

Mal nodded, still staring at the empty doorway. “You know, I’m not rightly sure, but if I didn’t know better, I’d say she’s avoidin’ me.”

“Wow, nothing gets past you, does it?” Len said dryly. He smiled while he propped himself up on his elbows, resting languidly on the stretcher. “You know, captain Reynolds, you’re not nearly as dimwitted as I imagined.”

Mal smiled grimly. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Len flashed him a congenial smile. “Please do, it was meant as one. But then, I never imagined my sister would be attracted to anyone who wasn’t as clever as she is.”

This earned Len a frown, albeit a fleeting one. Mal took a step closer to the young man and gave him a piercing look. “Smart as I am, I recognize an ass-kissing lil’ chuen when I see me one. And you’re more’n a mite obvious.”

Len turned until he sat sideways on the stretcher, his feet dangling inches above the floor. He chuckled nervously. “What does that mean?”

“It means,” said Mal, his voice dangerously low, “that I don’t believe in coincidences. This ain’t the first time we’ve been here, so why’d you gone and show up now? What d’you really want from Inara?”

~ * ~ * ~


Zhe shi shen-me lan dong-xi (in Act 1): what the hell is this crap? Hwoon dahn: bastard Dong ma?: understand? Fuhn Pi: talking out of your ass Shuh-muh: excuse me? Chuen: dumbass


Wednesday, June 7, 2006 8:18 AM


Ohh, nice twist having Len be Inara's brother.

Kaylee and Simon. . . bwahahaa! he'd better go apologize and kiss that frown right off her face!

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 8:48 AM


Yes! Now I know how to say "talking out of your ass" in Chinese. Score! And of course who can forget "Real tragedy those two." So what is our new Mr. Serra up to?

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 9:35 AM


Oooh, I love Mal cutting right to the chase. What *does* little brother Len want from Inara? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 4:27 PM


Oooh! I don't usually like "long-lost family members show up on Serenity" fics, but this one is really good. I adore the banter, and the Simon/Kaylee moment was fantastic.

Thursday, June 8, 2006 5:27 AM


Gah! Didn't see that coming!

Sweet twist, and I'm liking the little brother, even if it turns out he's up to no good.

Man, I hope Inara and Mal have it out in part 3!!

Thursday, June 8, 2006 9:06 PM


Well now....almost had a Luke/Leia style of flirting going on, didn't ya Tanisfan?


Honestly thought this chapter was wonderful...but the revelation to Inara seemed a bit too vague. Didn't seem like the fact had even had a chance to register in her mind before Mal gave Elliot/Len a love tap with his gun:P


Monday, June 12, 2006 10:48 AM


I don't think I've seen an 'Inara's brother' fic before. It'll be interesting to see where this is going!


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Tumbling -- Act Three
Inara flirts with a stranger in a bar, and then things start to get weird. M/I and some S/K. Act three of three.

Tumbling -- Act Two
Inara flirts with a stranger in a bar, and then things start to get weird. M/I and some S/K. Act two of three.

Tumbling -- Act One
Inara flirts with a stranger in a bar, and then things start to get weird. M/I and some S/K. Act one of three.

A Lonely Road: part 9
The boys blow hot and cold, Kaylee gets all the good gossip, and the crew goes after River.
(M/S slash).

A Lonely Road: part eight
Things heat up, Kaylee hits Jayne, Badger gets a mite tetchy, and the crew prepares for their hardest job ever.

A Lonely Road: part seven
The Companion does what she does best, escape and rescue ops are set in motion, and hiding in a cave during a snow storm is a Great Plan.

A Lonely Road: part six
The crew has trust issues regarding Jayne, Simon and River get into a peck of trouble, and Mal has to get help from the last person he wants to see...

A Lonely Road: part five
Part five: in which River and Jayne face the inevitable, the cargo is, well... different and Simon makes a very stupid decision. Again.

A Lonely Road: part four
After the wave Mal has received, the long journey through the black makes everyone go a little bit stir-crazy, Simon not in the least...

A Lonely Road: part three
Part three: where Inara leaves, the crewmembers drown their sorrows and things somehow get even worse…