BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE

GOLDY

Catharsis
Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mal/Inara. Compromise and understanding really isn’t their strong suit.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2293    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Title: Catharsis Author: Goldy Disclaimer: Joss owns Firefly. As in, not me. Pairing: Mal/Inara Summary: Compromise and understanding really isn’t their strong suit. Rating: PG-13 A/N: Written for browncoat_2x2 , over on livejournal. Word Count: 2, 497

***

Inara rubbed her hands together, her fingers clammy and cold. The only noise was the dripping of the rain and the punctuated rumble of thunder in the distance.

“How long?”

“Don’t know. Hard to pilot in a storm like this.”

Quiet descended between them again.

***

“Captain, storm is approaching. Serenity wants to leave. She doesn’t like lightening.”

“How in the good gorram does she know what Serenity needs?”

“Jayne.”

“Just sayin’. ‘Less she’s communin’ with the ship again—and that t’weren’t a fun day—”

“Thank you. River, has Inara checked in yet?”

“No, Captain.”

“River… you can’t, you know… sense if she’s on her way or anything, can you, darlin’?”

“I’m not dignifying that with an answer, Captain.”

“Girl can feel the Alliance comin’ but can’t tell us if ‘Nara’s finished her whorin’ or not—what kind of usefulness is that?”

“I know where you sleep, Jayne.”

“You don’t scare me none, girl.”

“Sir?”

“Can’t sit around and wait for the Alliance to come across us, that’s for damn sure. But I don’t like it. Inara was supposed to check in two hours ago.”

***

“Mal… it’s not like I meantfor this to happen.”

He didn’t answer.

Inara nodded to herself. The wind picked up, showering them with rain, despite the relative shelter of the tree they’d found. She rubbed her bare arms and shivered.

She tried again. “I’m sorry.”

Mal looked down, toed at the ground, and then back at her. “Not your fault.”

His tone was clipped with anger.

Inara swallowed and backed away. Goosebumps broke out the back of her neck and her arms. Her shirt and skirt were soaked through, her feet muddy and wet—her light shoes did nothing to protect her.

“Thank you,” she said, finally.

“Yeah? What for?”

“For… for coming for me,” she stuttered. “I don’t know what I would—”

He abruptly turned and stalked out from under the tree. She watched him pace back and forth in the rain, completely exposed. He kicked at the ground, avoiding her eyes.

Against her better judgment, she followed him.

***

“Thought you weren’t going to be taking on anymore clients”

Her shuttle suddenly felt much smaller.

It took her a moment to find her voice. “Whatever would give you that impression?”

Mal almost looked like he might laugh. Not a pleasant laugh—the bitter kind. “Might be I’m a bit fuzzy on the details and all, but I’m near certain we… last night we…”

He trailed off, but his meaning was clear and his posture told her he was braced for a fight.

Inara sighed, and flipped a switch on her dashboard. “I never said anything about giving up my life, Mal.”

This time he did laugh. “Oh, yeah, that so? What, you thought I’d be okay with… with you still sleeping around while we—”

She turned to face him. “While we what?”

His expression changed, growing harder. “You got no right to sit there and tell me it was just sex, Inara. Ain’t no power in the ‘verse gonna get me to believe that, so I damn well hope you have something more than that to be offering.”

She accepted his harsh words and inclined her head. “Mal, last night… it was very special.” She swung back to the console. “But I knew it wouldn’t go further than that.”

“And why in the hell not?”

“Mal…”

He came closer to her, and she resisted the urge to shrink back.

“What about this always has you running away?”

She took a deep breath. “My independence is very important to me.”

He waited a moment. She did not add more. “And whoring makes you independent, that it?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, it does,” she said.

“Inara…”

“Please, Mal… I don’t want to hear it.”

“I don’t… I didn’t…” he swallowed, and thought for a moment. “Gotta be other ways for you to keep your independence.”

“Maybe so, but this is who I am.”

“So that’s it? You’re gonna throw this away, this thing we have… ‘cause you want to keep your day job?”

***

“Mal!”

She slogged after him, picking up her skirt as she ran. “Mal, please…”

He spun around to face her. “Don’t much want to talk to you at the moment, Inara.”

“Look, I was tired… I haven’t slept in…” she stopped, her mouth thinning. “I didn’t crash my shuttle on purpose.”

“Really?” he had to yell to be heard over the pounding of the rain. “‘Cause here I thought it was an elaborate plot to take a shower.”

“Mal!”

She grabbed his arm. He pulled away.

“I’m trying really hard to avoid you here, so it might be easier if you stopped followin’ me.”

She took a step back, stung. “Why are you being like this? So… hurtful.”

It seemed to trigger something in him. He moved forward, jaw tightening. “Because I hate it,” he spat. “Because you’d choose going to a man like—like that… over someone who loves you! He threatened you, Inara…”

“I’m trained to deal with… and, anyway, that was because he recognized… we’re all more vulnerable after the Miranda mission, you know that.”

“That’s a load of gou shi. Don’t change a damn thing. If I hadn’t come looking—”

“I can handle myself!”

You crashed my shuttle into this piece of nowhere.

She flinched, and then gathered herself, beginning to feel anger to match his. “I told you, that was an accident! I haven’t slept in—”

“I don’t give a good gorram, Inara. My shuttle. In a rainstorm.”

“You think I wanted to be trapped out here, with you?”

It was a cheap shot, but it managed to piss Mal off further.

“And just what the hell have I done to you, Inara?”

“Everything!!!” she shrieked. “You came in, and you just expected me to throw it all in for you, Mal. Well, that’s not the way it works.”

“Why the hell not?”

“I’m a Companion.”

“It ain’t a tyen-sah lifeline. And you’re making it out to be so.”

“It isa lifeline… it’s…. you can’t possibly understand.”

“What don’t I understand? That I’m offerin’ you something more? That I’m the one man who actually knowsyou? That actually cares for you? Hell, I’m a real bastard alright.”

She wanted to hit him. She wanted to throw things, and not be stuck in the middle of nowhere, completely incapable of running from him.

Mal stopped yelling, but his voice was deadly. “Fine. Soon as we get back, you’re gone.”

Inara’s jaw dropped. “What?”

“You heard me,” Mal said steadily. “You’re off my boat. ‘Fraid our business arrangement ain’t working out no more. Besides, it’ll be safest for you. Won’t have to worry about bein’ recognized as one of ‘em Miranda brigands no longer.”

It was like being hit with a 100-pound weight. She staggered backwards a few steps. “You’re… you’re kicking me off Serenity?”

“That’s right.” He didn’t even flinch. “Might kill each other, you stay on the ship much longer.”

She wanted to be furious. She wanted to tell him she didn’t care, that this was for the best, anyway, if he couldn’t accept who she was.

She didn’t want to start crying.

She hoped the rain would hide her tears, because she couldn’t seem to stop now that she’d started. Her tears reminded her of how cold she was—and how her wet clothes clung to her skin, her makeup running, and her hair hanging limply along her shoulders. She rubbed at her face and wished for a place to hide. Regain strength. Peace.

***

“I’m going after her.”

Zoe and Jayne stared at him like he’d lost all common sense.

It was possible he had.

Zoe recovered first. “Sir?”

“Inara,” he explained—stupid, of course, they knew full well what he was talking about. “You take the cargo, and you go back to the ship. We’ll meet you in the air.”

“Uh, Mal… what if...” Jayne looked hesitant. Which was rare. For Jayne. “What if she’s just, you know… havin’ a real good time of it?”

“She ain’t,” Mal said. “It’s been two hours. Inara has always been prompt. Something’s happened.”

“Think you’re the best person to be going after her, Sir?” Zoe said. “Ship needs her Captain.”

“Don’t disagree,” Mal said. He shrugged. “Still going after her, though.”

***

She sobbed, broken sorts of sobs that tore at her throat. She rubbed at her arms and shivered. When she spoke, her words were scratchy, “I hope you’re happy.”

Mal looked horrified. Inara was glad of it.

“Inara—”

“Don’t come near me.”

“Inara…”

She lifted her head. “What, Mal? What else could you possiblysay? I’m certain I can take it.”

Cao, I didn’t want…” he hung his head. “I never wanted this.”

She wished she could stop trembling. “And you think I did?”

He shook his head. And, then, movements slow and deliberate, he took off his jacket and moved forward. “Can I…?”

She nodded, speechless.

He helped her into it, pulling it tight along her chest and stomach, smiling a little when it covered nearly her whole form. It was just as wet as the rest of her clothes, but it smelled like him, and the thick leather covered nearly all her exposed skin.

“That a mite warmer?”

“Yes,” she whispered, still teary-eyed.

“Inara… I swear to you, I never…”

“I know.”

“I can’t watch you keep taking on clients. You’re gonna have to do it someplace else, if you… if you keep on...”

She bit her lip. “That’s quite the ultimatum.”

“Yeah… it is… a bit.” Mal brooded for a moment, before stepping closer, and pulling her forward, tugging her against him. “It’s… cold,” he explained.

“Yes.”

“Warmer like this, with the body heat.”

Inara closed her eyes. She didn’t care if he was making excuses. “Much warmer.”

“And you smell nice.”

“I’m soaked with rainwater, Mal.”

“Still. You smell nice.”

She laughed. A tiny bit.

***

When Mal knocked on her shuttle door, it never occurred to Inara not to let him in. When he gave her that look, that look that told her he wanted her—it never occurred to Inara to push him away. Instead, she felt relief, that this thing they’d been pushing away for so long could finally—

That’s when he kissed her, and he tasted faintly like Kaylee’s inter-engine brew.

“Needed some courage,” he’d admitted, a smile tugging at his mouth. “I’m all here, don’t you worry none.”

She wasn’t really thinking much of anything, except that his hands were all over her body, and she felt warm, warm for someone like she hadn’t in a very long time.

He was whispering. “Can’t hardly pass a minute without thinkin’ about it.”

“Miranda?”

“All those people,” he said. “All those others that died when we…”

“I know.”

“Don’t seem fair that our little ship’s gotta carry such a burden.”

She touched his chin and mouth and nose, and admitted to herself (for the first time, really) how very much she loved him.

“Something tells me this isn’t the first burden Serenity’s carried.”

Mal nodded and leaned into her hand, his eyes studying her face. “Inara… I know you got your rules about not servicing crew. They’re fine rules and all, but I gotta say, a mite bit inconvenient—”

She pressed her fingers to his lips to stop his babbling, giving assent with her eyes.

***

She remembered the way he held her, later on. His fingers combed through her hair and his other arm rested heavily along her back. For once, they simply enjoyed each other’s company in complete silence.

Four hours later, Inara was booking clients.

Justin Wong. Long-time Alliance supporter. It horrified Inara to know she’d become so… careless. She almost didn’t care who she booked as a client. As long as she did.

And 24 hours later, Mal was coming to her rescue again. This time, he was furious about it, and it was sometime during their yelling in the shuttle that she lost control. Conditions were far from ideal. They were lucky the fire started only after they’d vacated—that it didn’t spread quickly. Because of the rain.

She sighed as she entered the galley. She’d dried her hair and put on warm clothes, but she still felt chilled inside. It was the kind of chill that would come back to haunt her in future years, just by remembering…

“I made soup.”

She started, surprised to find Mal already there, holding out a bowl.

“I… thank you.”

She took it, cradling the warm bowl between both her hands. Steam rose up into her face. It was mostly protein, she knew—bland protein, but it was warm.

“I don’t think Serenity’s ever been a more welcome sight,” Inara said, taking her first spoonful of soup. It slid down her throat, pooling in a warm heat in her stomach. She couldn’t help the next words from leaving her lips, “Of course, it might also be my last time coming onboard.”

It hurt him, because he took a step back and braced his forearms on the counter. He opened his mouth, hesitated, and said, “What did it mean to you, Inara? That… night?”

That was a loaded question. She set her soup bowl down on the table.

“Being with you…” she trailed off. “I wish I could remember every second of it, but I don’t. It’s… feelings, mostly. Powerful feelings. It was… very intense.” She paused and added, “It doesn’t have to be a one-time thing, Mal.”

He gave a derisive snort. “I just gotta accept that you’re out having a whole manner of ‘powerful and intense’ encounters with other men? Don’t reckon so.”

She lacked the strength for this fight. “It’s not like that. Being a Companion… it’s a job. That’s all.”

Mal gave an absent-minded nod, and Inara could tell he’d lost much of his self-righteous fury as well. “And… I’d be… what?”

“The person I’d be coming home to.”

He looked ill. He pressed his fingers to his eyes. “I don’t much know what to make of that.”

“Mal…”

“Alright.” He finally said, looking anything but happy about it. “I mean… I’ll try.”

She released a breath. She was raw—her body had been stretched by too much emotion in one day.

He gestured her closer and she went, closing the gap between them. He held her like he had earlier in the rain, waiting for Serenity to come pick them up. She could still feel the sweet relief of his warmth then, the safety she’d felt in his arms.

“This won’t work forever,” he said. Not a warning. A fact.

“I know.”

“I guess that’s the sorta question for another day, ain’t it?”

She could only nod.

When the time came, they’d have to find some other way to carry on.

COMMENTS

Saturday, July 29, 2006 5:38 PM

TAMSIBLING


Oh, very interesting take on what could be the start of their relationship. You have both of their voices down so incredibly well ... and I love the switch from past to present, that was great!

And I'm glad he finally gave her his coat - making her stand out there, shivering in the rain ... You're going to continue this, right? Because I'm thinking Inara coming home to Mal the first time has gotta be downright hi-larious - and heartbreaking. Excellent, please post more!

Saturday, July 29, 2006 8:16 PM

ARCADIA


I liked it. Talk about a catharsis? Crashing a shuttle...

Most of all, though, I liked the resolution.

"“This won’t work forever,” he said. Not a warning. A fact.

“I know.”

“I guess that’s the sorta question for another day, ain’t it?”"

It's such an honest moment between them. The story was already great but, this moment... this was the moment.

Saturday, July 29, 2006 9:03 PM

ECAMBER


I really liked this. The emotional tone for the whole thing seemed to really fit what would be the most probable post-Miranda M/I outcome. Very realistic and true to the characters.

My only beef with this is not getting a bit more insight to the situation with Inara and Justin Wong... and what part Mal played in the whole scene.

That and I would (strangely) really like to know what happened to the shuttle. Firefly with only one shuttle seems a bit off balance, if only metaphorically. Not to mention without it how would Inara even continue being a Companion WITH clients if she had no way to get to them aside of Mal just dropping Serenity in the middle of a garden? Would she have the funds to have it repaired? Would Kaylee even be able to put it back together again (with River's help I would imagine)? Would she just rent the other shuttle? Obviously that little plot twist has really gotten under my skin, in a good engaging/interesting way.

Anyway, as I said, really loved the characterization and the emotions seemed spot on to me.

Sunday, July 30, 2006 12:21 AM

AMDOBELL


I could see this kind of painful emotional tug of war between them, neither able to change their ways or who they are but each wanting the other to be part of them. Painful and beautiful in turns, hope there is a sequel in which they find a middle way. Very much loving this, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, July 30, 2006 2:35 AM

AGENTROUKA


You know I love this and why. :)


Mal's relenting hits me by surprise, any time I read this, even knowing it's coming and I love that feeling of relief. Exactly how I imagine Mal, once he's made up his mind. Struggling and vulnerable, almost a little helpless, but determined and willing to make sacrifices in a way that allows Inara to not feel trapped, and might allow her to make sacrifices along the way, as well.

So beautiful.

Sunday, July 30, 2006 5:26 AM

LEIGHKOHL


I just love this! I love that Mal finally relents and Inara and he have the chance to have a relationship without either one having to sacrifice who they are to have it(at least for a little while). I too am interested to see how you write their burgeoning relationship and the bumps they most certainly will encounter! Great Job!

Monday, July 31, 2006 4:11 AM

TAMMYY2J


Brillant Brillant Brillant oh did i mention Brillant

Tuesday, August 1, 2006 1:01 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


You know...sheer brilliance like this doesn't come along very often, Goldy:D

Definitely found this to be highly realistic and in-character for Mal and Inara...the pain, the desire, the frustration...definitely could see Joss & co. pulling this just to keep everything from going David and Maddy;)

Gotta agree with ECAmber though...would really like to see more about the situation with Justin Wong, the events leading up the crash and the aftermath of this tenuous deal. So much needs looking at, you know;)

BEB


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