Serenity Saved, Chapter 3
Thursday, January 3, 2008

A woman from Mal's past shows up, and she's got a surprise. (M/I,M/OC)


DISCLAIMER: Joss is boss.

NOTE: I've decided I wasn't meant to write anything of a linear and descriptive nature. This was my first attempt at any sort of long narrative that wasn't in script form. But, what the hell, I'm gonna share it anyway. This will be a multi chapter fic. I've taken some, shall we say, artistic liberty with dates and timelines. And I live in a 'verse where Wash never met up with a harpoon. Set post-BDM. (Oh, and leave feedback, lovely people! Tell me it sucks, tell me it's great, whatever.)


The temperature had steadily risen on Serenity. Once they had undocked from the Revenge, Mal had barked at Wash to hard burn them out of sensor range from the Alliance cruiser, and to set a course for Shadow. Mal had gone to his bunk after that. Seven hours later, he still hadn’t come out. Zoë and Wash kept an eye on his door from the bridge. Kaylee came by, thought to bring the captain some food, but Zoë advised her against it. Zoë had to admit to herself, she was surprised at Mal’s reaction to this. Based on what Sloane had said to Mal, Zoë assumed that she was Mal’s childhood sweetheart. He left her to go to war, and then Sloane found out she was pregnant. Things like this happened; a lot of the men she and Mal fought with in the war went through this, wives and girlfriends coming up pregnant after they had left. Which left Zoë thinking: was he more upset about the child existing, or did he doubt whether he had really sired the child? Either way, Mal had about two hours before they reached Shadow to decide what course of action he would take. Inara was restless. She had tried meditating, but found no peace. Her thoughts strayed too often to Mal. After several minutes of aimlessly wandering the ship, she found herself outside of Mal’s bunk. “I wouldn’t,” Zoë called to her, coming down the stairs from the bridge. She stopped just on the other side of Mal’s door. “He ain’t come out of that room since we left the Revenge.” Zoë stepped closer, lowered her voice. Mal had exceptional hearing. “We all want to talk to him, but I don’t think it’s the right time yet.” “I feel like I should be doing something,” Inara said. “Bottling up his feelings isn’t going to help him any.” She looked back to the closed door. She’d made up her mind. Zoë sighed. “Don’t think it’s a good idea. But it’s your funeral.” Zoë walked back to her husband on the bridge. Inara, steel resolve in place, opened up the door to Mal’s bunk. “Mal?” She called to him. When he didn’t respond, she started down the hatch into his room. Mal sat at his desk, his back to Inara. She stepped off the last rung, but didn’t step forward. “Mal?” She said again. He didn’t budge, didn’t acknowledge her presence. She walked into the room and stood behind him. He was holding a capture: a picture of himself, what looked like Sloane, and two other young men. Probably the brothers Sloane spoke of. They all looked very happy in the picture. Inara wondered if all of Mal’s childhood had been happy. She placed a hand on Mal’s shoulder. He jerked away, making Inara jump back a step. He never turned to look at her. “’Nara,” Mal began, very quietly, “I ain’t the best o’ company right now.” “Please, Mal, you have to talk about this . . .” Mal jumped up from his chair then, slammed the capture on the desk, and stalked toward Inara, fire in his eyes, red. He’d been crying. Inara stepped back away from him. She’d seen him near dead, angry and beaten to all hell, but the look in his eyes scared the hell out of her. “Are you givin’ the orders on my boat now?” Inara’s eyes were wide, surprised, more than a little scared. She pulled her robe tighter around her, suddenly feeling very self-conscious. “Don’t you DARE tell me what I should be talking about.” Inara felt the pressure of tears coming on herself, and she looked away. “I’m sorry, Mal. I shouldn’t have come.” She turned away to leave, but Mal grabbed her arm and pulled her to him. His strong hands wrapped around her forearms. Mal closed his eyes, and pressed his cheek into her hair, bending his mouth toward her ear. “How am I supposed to feel, ‘Nara?” She wondered if she was supposed to actually answer that. “My blood, my child has been out there, with this harpy of a woman, without me.” His fingers splayed around her arms, pulling her closer to him, if it was possible. Her brain didn’t know whether to pull him closer or push him away. Her body definitely wanted the former. “But she’s with your mother,” she said breathlessly. “Is that supposed to make it better?” Finally loosening his grip on her arms, he let one of her arms go and ran a hand down her side, then wrapped his arm around her waist, his hand splayed across the small of her back. His hands on her made her breath catch in her throat. The warmth coming from his body was intoxicating. Her hands unconsciously went to his sides, her fingertips barely whispering across his shirt, just imagining what the skin underneath it would feel like. He dipped his head down a little further, and she bent her head to the side slightly, her eyes closing of their own volition. His lips were dangerously close to her neck, she could feel his breath waft against her cheek. He inhaled the scent of her hair, her skin. He wanted nothing more at that moment than to press his lips to her neck, to kiss her, to wrap her around him and devour her whole. He wanted nothing more than this beautiful woman to make him forget the events of the day. “Mal,” Inara whispered. She was losing her self resolve very quickly. “Mal, please, let me help you.” The words made his body stiffen. They sounded so sincere, but he couldn’t trust himself right now. Not with her. With anyone but her. Her eyes flew open at his sudden tense. He lifted his head and stared into her eyes. “I don’t need help. I need to be left alone.” “I just wanted to talk . . .” He released his grip on her quickly, and turned away. “Get out.” Tears welled in her eyes. She stood transfixed there, her feet felt like lead. “I won’t ask you again.” His voice was laden with desperation. Inara ran to the hatch and quickly made her way out of Mal’s bunk. He never turned around. Zoë and Wash sat on the steps in the hallway right outside the bridge. Inara never acknowledged their presence as she ran towards her shuttle. Zoë shook her head. “I told her not to go in there.” “Lambytoes, you know Mal and Inara don’t always make good decisions.” “Ain’t that the truth of it.” “ZOE!!!!!” Zoë and Wash jumped. Mal’s bellowing voice could be heard from inside his bunk, even with the door closed. Zoë shared a quick glance with Wash and sprinted to Mal’s door. She opened the hatch and stuck her head in. “Sir?” “How long til we reach Shadow?” “Couple hours at most.” Zoë glanced at Wash for confirmation, and he nodded. “Get on the cortex, look up the name ‘Sloane McGrady’ in the war registry. I need to know what’s true.” Zoë was about to ask what specifically, but deep down she knew what he wanted to know. “I’ll get right on it, sir.” When no response was forthcoming, she closed the hatch and rejoined her husband on the bridge. ~~~~ Back on the Revenge, Sloane and her first mate Porter sat at their lounge table. Sloane stared at a picture of herself, Malcolm, and her brothers. It was taken at a spring social, the spring before the boys all went off to war. And never returned. She set the capture face down on the table. “They followin’ us?” Sloane asked. Porter nodded and leaned towards her. “Do you really think you can talk him into helping us?” “I have to. We need his help,” Sloane said. “The Independents need a leader. I ain’t it, never will be. Once everyone knows what Malcolm did, they’ll follow him to the ends of the ‘verse.” “And you’re gonna tell him everything, right?” “I’ll tell him everything in due time,” she answered. “The only connection he has is that girl. The fact she got away from the Alliance alive proves she’s special. We’ve seen what the others are capable of, and they will be sent to hunt down each and every one of us.” She stood up and headed for the door. “They will never see the light of day.” ~~~~ Kaylee hoped she’d never have to see the captain like this again. As if he’d lost what he was living for. Like when Shepherd Book died in his arms. She and Simon found him in the dining area, and they watched him, debating whether they should disturb him. Kaylee gave Simon a quick nod and walked into the kitchen. Simon sat down at the table next to Mal. The captain glanced at him briefly, but made no move to talk. Kaylee brewed some water while Mal and Simon sat in silence. She made two cups of tea, handed one to Simon, and placed the other down in front of Mal. She sat next to Simon, and held his hand on the table top. After a moment, Mal noticed the tea sitting in front of him. He eventually picked it up and took a sip. “Thank you, Kaylee,” Mal whispered into the tea. “You’re welcome, Cap’n.” Kaylee smiled, hoping Mal would look up at her. He never did. He simply stared at the table and occasionally took a sip of tea. Zoë entered the dining area. “Sir?” Mal looked up at Zoë. “Report.” “Her story checks out,” Zoë began as she took a seat. “Says she joined the Independents, worked for us as a spy. Year later, she married another soldier named John Faolan. He was killed a year later, and she was injured. The eye. She was removed from duty after her superiors suspected she went out of perimeter for some personal revenge against them that killed her husband, jeopardizing a delicate mission.” “Zoë?” Mal said, a tinge of anger in his voice. She was skirting around what he really wanted to know. “Does it say anything about the child?” “It says she has a child, but the name and the father’s name are blank. The birth date’s 29th of January, 2505.” Seven months after he left for the war. “Captain,” Simon said, tentatively, “there are very simple blood tests that can confirm . . .” “Bie zui,” Mal retorted back “Won’t be needed, Doc.” He stood up and rubbed his hands across his face, through his hair. “Are we nearing Shadow?” “Yes, sir,” Zoë answered, “within the half-hour.” “And Sloane?” “The Revenge is just a bit ahead of us.” “Okay, let’s start planning then.” Mal was in captain mode now. The information Zoë gave must have brought him a little peace of mind. “Kaylee, make a list of any supplies we need. I ain’t intendin’ on staying on Shadow more than we have to. So let’s get what we need first. Zoë, tell Wash there’s an empty field about half a mile west of town.” He paused and thought, “At least, it was empty, when I was last . . . Just find us a quiet spot. Don’t want trouble from anyone while we’re there.” “Yes, sir,” Zoë said as she stood. Mal walked by her, stopped and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Thank you, Zoë,” Mal whispered to her. She smiled and nodded her head. Mal walked out of the dining area, heading back towards his bunk. “Y’all seen Inara?” Zoë asked once she was sure Mal was out of earshot. Kaylee shook her head. “Somethin’ wrong?” Zoë explained what she and Wash witnessed earlier. Kaylee decided to go talk to her, and the three went their separate ways. ~~~~ Inara heard a soft knock on her shuttle door. Mal never knocked. “Qing jin.” The door opened, and Kaylee stepped in. “Okay if I come in?” “Of course, mei-mei.” Inara was sat at her cortex, having confirmed her suspicions that there wasn’t a decent client within 20 click of Shadow. Inara shut the screen off and turned to Kaylee. “Is everything okay, Nara?” Inara motioned Kaylee to the couch, then sat next to her and poured some tea. “Everything’s fine,” Inara said, with a forced smile. After the debacle with Mal, she had bathed, dressed, did her hair and makeup. She once again looked like a true companion. This brought her some measure of satisfaction, but it didn’t make her feel any better. Kaylee didn’t know what to do. Even though she’d been gunning for Inara and Mal to get together, everything was changed now. The captain had a child, a home to go back to, and a woman he loved. “Zoë said you tried to talk to the cap’n.” Inara shook her head and took a sip of tea. “I shouldn’t have tried to make him talk. It wasn’t my place. He’s . . . well, who wouldn’t be upset over this?” “Simon told him he could run some blood tests, but Cap’n said he didn’t want to.” “That’s surprising.” “What do you think he’ll do?” “I don’t know. He’s got a heavy load of decisions to make. All we can do is be there for him. And for his new . . . family.” “Well,” Kaylee said, with a pat on Inara’s hand, “if anyone can get him through this, it’s you.” Inara gave her a small smile. “I wish that were true.”



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