A Laser, A Journal, and a Man - Part 1
Friday, February 22, 2008

Mal catches Inara stealing the Lassiter and ends up offering an unthinkable sacrifice.


This is a REPOST.

Word Count: Part 1: 3363 Spoilers: Set during the series, post Trash, but pre Heart of Gold. Characters/Pairings: Mal/Inara/Saffron. Yes, that's what I said ;o) Rating: Part 1: PG-13 for Language and Sexual themes. Overall, NC-17. Sexual situations of a graphic nature, aka Smut. Language. Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, nor am I affiliated with Mutant Enemy, Fox, Universal or anyone else related to the Firefly 'verse. I just like to play with 'em. Author's Note: Written for noneofyours who won my ho!fic writing skillz in the Sweet Charity Ho auction and asked for a Mal/Inara/Saffron threesome. This was also due at the end of May, and I am very late and a bad 2x2, but I hope the story makes up for it, darlin'. I'm giving you Part 1 now cuz I want you to have something to tide you over while I wrestle this fic to its conclusion. Warning: I have to admit, though I tried very hard to make this as plausible as possible, I could not avoid the crackiness entirely, so I hope you forgive me. I've used ***** to denote a switch of POV because I am a bad writer and both Mal and Inara kept talking at me, making me see things from their perspective. Mouseover the chinese for translations. Special thanks to anjulie, agent_rouka, and homespun for all their support, discussion, and advice while I've been working on this!!! Thank you all *SO* much!!! You know I couldn't do this without you!! *Massive Hugs!!* I Love you all!!!!


Title: A Laser, A Journal, and A Man: Part 1/3 Author: 2x2

It was insane.


There was no way she could go through with it; no way in a hundred years that she could ask him to do this.

Inara paced the length of her shuttle, distressed as she tried to formulate a plan. It would have to be the laser, but he'd never give it to her. Besides which, if she asked she'd have to explain why she needed it, and that was the last thing she wanted to do.

Of course, that left only one option.

She would make it up to them, she told herself, rationalizing. It'd been months since they'd even talked about selling the Lassiter, let alone tried to find a buyer. With luck, they wouldn't even miss it until after she could get some money saved. All she had to do was get it from its cleverly concealed hiding place – the one which she had just happened to have seen Mal stash it in – and she could make the trade.

Ai ya, she had to be crazy herself to even be contemplating this, but she had no choice. She needed that book, no matter the cost. And, treacherous vixen that she was, Saffron knew it too. How she had even found it was a mystery, but it really didn’t matter. The fact was, she had it – and knew what it was, too – and no matter the asking price, Inara was going to have to pay it. She could not let the contents of the journal become public knowledge, the dishonour would ruin her family; and after what had happened on Sihnon… she had averted disaster – barely – by leaving, but another blow like this would be all it would take for the Serras to fall into disgrace. She would do anything to protect them from that.

Even betray Mal.

* * * * *
Something was off about her.

He'd known it even before he'd come across her shuttle door, closed and locked – something she had never done before.

He'd bided his time; hadn't pressed her for details or asked questions, just kept an extra eye out for her. But it was pure coincidence really that had him up late, unable to sleep, three days later; dumb luck that he almost walked up on her, crawling on her hands and knees, emerging from one of his more secret hiding places on the ship with the Lassiter cradled against her breasts.

His first impulse had been to challenge her, catch her in the act and demand to know why she was – of all the confounding things in the 'verse – stealing the Lassiter. But a deeper, more instinctive part of him knew it would be better to wait; that something else was going on. She wasn't stealing the laser for herself, of that much he was sure. And when she scurried off back to her shuttle after casting a guilty look around the cargo bay, closing and locking the door securely behind her, he knew he was right. Maybe some kind of blackmail, or maybe she was trying to find a buyer behind his back – even though he'd told her in no uncertain terms she was not to – something was definitely up, and under no other circumstances would he have ever considered what he now deemed a necessity, but in light of the situation he had no choice but to head for the bridge where he could intercept and monitor any incoming or outgoing transmissions from her cortex.

It took no more than a glance as he sat in the pilot's chair to see that Inara's cortex was active and with a half second's hesitation, he flipped a switch, the viewer in front of him flickering to life with the face of the last person in the 'verse he'd expected…

On the screen, Saffron smiled. "So, what's it gonna be?"

* * * * *
Inara drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "I have it."

"The Lassiter?" Saffron asked, her head cocked to the side skeptically, clearly not believing her.

Controlling the urge to roll her eyes in annoyance, Inara held up the Lassiter in front of the vidscreen for the other woman to see.

Saffron's brows raised as her eyes widened slightly in surprise. "I'm impressed," she said. "I wasn't sure you were ruthless enough to so easily stab Mal in the back." She pouted slightly in mock concern. "Trouble in paradise?"

"If Mal knew about this, Saffron, he'd be coming there to kill you, so I'd count yourself lucky," Inara nearly spat.

"Oh? Are you so sure? You didn't ask him if he'd be willing to take me up on my other offer, did you? Why is that, Inara? Afraid he might've said yes? Afraid that I could take what you haven't had the guts to—"

"Just name the rendezvous point," Inara interrupted, "before I change my mind."

Saffron laughed. "Sorry, sweetie; not buying it. You need this journal, and you'll do whatever it takes to get it. So you might want to think about that before I change my mind," she said sweetly, "and every news service in the core is broadcasting the proverbial skeletons in the family closet."

Inara fumed silently. Saffron held all the cards, had all the power, and it infuriated her that she had no choice but to deal with the woman on her terms. "Fine," she bit off, forcing herself to remain outwardly calm as she folded her hands in her lap serenely, the very picture of patience. "Where do you want me to bring it? You're still on Greenleaf?"

The other woman smirked, obviously pleased with the situation. "Greenleaf," Saffron nodded, batting her eyelashes with practiced skill. "I'm sending the coordinates now. No tricks," she warned, "just in case you're thinking of trying something. If anything happens to me, sweetheart, that book will hit the cortex faster than—"

"No tricks," Inara agreed. Truthfully, all she wanted to do was go to Greenleaf, hand over the Lassiter and get the journal, simple and easy so she could put the whole thing behind her. Somehow she knew, however, that things were not destined to go that smooth. "We're still scheduled to make a stop off on Greenleaf tomorrow. I'll meet you then."

"Can't wait!" said Saffron, saccharinely sweet, and Inara disconnected the wave, giving in to her irritation. She pressed her fingers to the bridge of her nose, sighing heavily. This was a nightmare. Keeping this from Mal was going to be difficult, and when he found out… She sighed again. There was no point in worrying about that now, she told herself. She'd deal with it when it happened. In the meantime, she had only a few hours to gather as much intelligence about Saffron's coordinates as possible so she would know exactly what she was walking into.

Rising slowly, she slipped a shawl over her shoulders to fend off Serenity's late night chill and moved to her door, releasing the lock on the hatch. Right now what she wanted was a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit or some crackers to settle her stomach. She slid the door open and stepped through, pulling up short with a gasp of "Mal!" as she nearly ran into him waiting on the other side, his face grim.

* * * * *
He couldn’t remember ever being quite so angry at her. The surprise in her face that quickly gave way to guilt before she'd masked it only served to irk him further. Of all the yúchǔn things she could try to pull, going behind his back, to deal with Saffron of all people, theivin' from them…

"Where is it?" he demanded, his voice low and growling.

Her eyes cut low and away for an instant as her brow furrowed before she straightened her spine and faced him, as defiant as ever. "Where is what?" she replied, an annoyed pull to her mouth. "Don't you think it's a little late to be—"

Mal clenched his teeth, his look darkening and he took a step closer to her, anger radiating off him. "Don't play games with me, Inara," he ground out as she took a step back, a surprised flicker of wariness passing over her face.

"Games?!" she said, her lips pressing together in irritation. She had neither the time nor the energy for this. "I don't know what you're talking about, Captain," she said, trying to brush her way past him, "but I'd appreciate it if you could refrain from barging into my shuttle in the middle of the night, making baseless accusations about whatever it is you're—"

"Baseless," Mal hissed, catching her forearm in an angry grip and walking her back into her shuttle forcefully.

Inara stared at him in indignant shock, stunned that he would dare to lay a hand on her like this. "You have exactly three seconds to let me go, Mal, or so help me—"

"An' you've got exactly two seconds less than that to show me where you stashed the gorram Lassiter!" he all but shouted, mocking her words, letting go of her arm as he pushed her ahead another step.

* * * * *
Inara bit back a gasp – how could he know? – and fought to control her features, eyes darting to the side quickly as she tried to formulate a plan. "The Lassiter?" she said, starting out shakier than she'd like. "Why would I have the—"

"Don't. You. Lie to me," Mal ground out, his finger inches from her face as he pointed at her, teeth clenched.

Tianna, she had seen Mal angry before, but never like this. "Mal. Calm down," she said, holding her hands up in a placating manner. "Just tell me what's going on… Why do you think I have the Lassi---" she trailed off as he held up a wave chip, her voice suddenly filling the air around them.

"I have it."

"The Lassiter?... I'm impressed. I wasn't sure you were ruthless enough to so easily stab Mal in the back. Trouble in—"

He switched it off and glared at her.

"You intercepted my wave? My private communications!?" she asked, outraged. "How dare you go behind my—"

"I saw you take it!" he spat, hands balling into fists as he stared her down.

She glared back at him defiantly, momentarily buoyed by her anger, but she couldn't hold onto it, sagging finally as she let out a frustrated breath. "I was going to pay you back," she said wearily.

"With the million credits you got stashed under your bed?" he asked sarcastically. "Ain't a matter of you payin' it back, 's a matter of you stole it! Ain't no room for a thief on my boat, Inara," he said.

She rolled her eyes. "Oh, for heaven's sake, Mal—"

"Búshì nàozhe wánr de!" he yelled, deathly serious. "Ought to throw you and all your fancy fèipĭn off the ship for this. 'You were anyone else, I'd throw you out the gorram airlock!"

She swallowed, forcing herself to remain calm, knowing there'd be no reasoning with him if she let this deteriorate into any more of an argument than it already was. And, like it or not, she was going to have to reason with him.

"I have some money saved, and I planned to work for more; maybe not a million credits but it'd be more than what you're ever likely to get for it!" she said, pressing on before he could argue. "You have no buyer, Mal. You haven't even looked at the Lassiter in a month! And the longer you keep it on the ship, the greater the risk that you're going to get caught with it and that will put every single member of this crew in prison! You do realize that?"

"You wanna talk to me about risk, let's talk about the danger you're plannin' to put every member of this crew in by dealin' with that bù lǎoshi witch!"

"Don't be ridiculous!" she said, growing frustrated. "No one will be dealing with Saffron but me, Mal. There won't be any risk to the crew becau—"

"There won't be any risk to the crew 'cause you ain't goin'!" he thundered, towering over her.

Her mouth fell open and she stared at him incredulously, unable to believe that he would presume to think he could order her around like she was one of his crew. Eyes blazing, she clenched her jaw in anger, refusing to shrink back from him. "You have no say where I do or do not—"

"'s my laser and my shuttle," he interrupted heatedly. "Conjure you won't be goin' too far without either a' them. Now hand it over."


"Mǎshàng!" he said dangerously.

Inara glared at him, her lips pressed together tightly in a firm line, knowing that if she didn't surrender the Lassiter to him, at this rate he was bound to wake up the whole ship, and explaining the situation to the crew was something she decidedly did not want to have to do.

Damn him for catching her anyway!

With an angry, resigned sigh, she moved to a small stand nestled beneath a flowing swell of fabric and returned a moment later with the Lassiter, handing it to him with a huff.

Mal took the weapon with a disappointed frown, shaking his head as though she had let him down, as though he thought her better than this and Inara had to look away, dismayed to feel a pang of guilt tug at her insides.

With a last shake of his head, he turned and stalked out the door, the Lassiter – and Inara's only hope – tucked under his arm firmly.

"Mal, if you listened in on my wave to Saffron, you know I need that laser!" she called after him, desperate.

"Then you shoulda come to me!" he hissed, whirling to face her as he stormed back to her door.

"How could I ask you?!!" she cried, throwing her hands in the air. "I knew you'd react just like this! All... stubborn and.... mule headed!"

* * * * *
"Well, this way certainly worked out better," he said, turning to leave again.


He stopped and faced her once more, frustrated, trying to understand. "Why in the nine hells would you do this?" he asked earnestly, eyes questioning and vulnerable.

Inara seemed to hover on the verge of speaking, as though searching for the right words. Finally she just sighed, sagging as she brought her fingers to her forehead wearily. "There's a book... a diary...," she started, turning to her couch and sitting, resigned.

"That much I figured," he said, crossing his arms. "What is it?"

"I can't—I don't even know what's really in it, but it has the potential to be extremely damaging to certain individuals - my family - if the information it holds falls into the wrong hands... The allegations alone would be enough to ruin the Serra name… Just... please believe me when I say I need to get that book, Mal. Please," she said, gravely.

Mal shook his head. "I can't give you the Lassiter. Find some other way."

"There is no other way! Mal, trust me—"

"You've plainly shown I can't," he cut her off, growing frustrated. "Saffron said there was another option, something you hadn't asked me—"

"No!" she refused adamantly, rising to pace the length the shuttle in agitation.

Mal shook his head. "Then we ain't got nothin' more to discuss," he said, turning away again.

* * * * *
Inara stepped after him, hands curling into fists as she fought to speak the words she knew she was going to regret. "She wants you to sleep with her!" she forced out at last, desperately.

The words hung in the sudden silence between them, the air in the shuttle growing heavy with tension. "Shēnme?!" he said, turning back slowly, clearly not believing her. "You think this ain't serious, Inara?"

She let out an exasperated breath. "Of course I think it's serious, Mal! That was her offer, you, or the Lassiter. And I couldn't—" She trailed off, hand going to her forehead as she sighed in defeat. "I wasn't going to ask you to do that."

He stared at her silently, half in shock, seemingly unable to comprehend that he could be a part of the deal. Finally he stumbled to her couch and sat, dazed. "That's crazy. It don't make no sense. What's she got to gain from beddin' me?" he said to himself, trying to puzzle out what Saffron could be up to. "You sure that's what's on the table?" he asked eventually.

Inara sat beside him gingerly. "You see why I felt I had no choice," she said softly, staring down at her hands in her lap. "I couldn't ask you to… do something you'd find so objectionable."

"Objectionable…" Mal echoed, still confused.

She shifted uncomfortably. "To ask you to do what would – essentially – amount to you," her gaze flicked up and away a moment and she swallowed, "whoring yourself out for me. So I chose what I thought would be easier for both of us."

* * * * *
He was quiet for a long moment, eyes unfocussed and blank as he digested that. While it irritated him beyond measure that Inara hadn't come to him for help – she had to know he would help her – he couldn't rightly blame her for not. He knew he'd likely sell Serenity before he'd ever ask Inara to sleep with someone for him, not that their reasons were likely the same, mind, but still. Likewise, he was dead set against giving Saffron the Lassiter unless he absolutely had to – if she wanted it, that meant she had a buyer, and if she had a buyer that meant there was still a chance he could sell the damned thing himself. Not to mention the thought of Inara 'working overtime' to pay him for the laser left him with an unpleasant feeling inside.

So, while the idea of sleeping with his 'wife' was actually a lot less pleasant than one might think, it seemed the more inexpensive of the two options. Leastways, he'd be the only one havin' to pay that way.

On top of that, there was the simple fact that Inara needed his help.

Her actions alone had made it more than obvious that this journal was important to her - if she'd go so far as to try and steal from him, from the crew… He knew her well enough to know that she must be desperate to get her hands on it; knew himself well enough to know he'd do whatever it took to get it for her, too.

He sighed.

"You sure that's all she wants? She beds me an'… an' you get the journal?" he clarified, turning to face her.

* * * * *
Inara's head snapped up and she turned to stare at him, horrified that he was considering Saffron's offer. "Mal—" she breathed, shaking her head.

"Is that the deal?"

"Yes, but—"

"Fine," he said, nodding to himself as he stood, heading for the door as though the matter were settled.

"Wait – Mal!" she cried, lurching after him. "You can't seriously be thinking of—doing this?!" she said, stumbling over the words.

"Would'a figured you all manner of accustomed to this sort of thing, Inara," he said dismissively.

She rolled her eyes, pushing aside the annoyance he always managed to bring out in her. "You know this is different. I would never ask you—"

"I know," he said, silencing her with a hand on her shoulder.

Inara stared up at him, mouth half open in an attempt to speak – say anything – but she was speechless.

He broke their gaze finally, hand sliding from her shoulder, and turned to the door, hesitating long enough to throw a fleeting look back at her. "Get some sleep. 'Gonna want to leave early tomorrow," he said, stepping through the hatch, "get this over and done."

Then, without another glance back, he was gone.

Go To Part Two


Saturday, February 23, 2008 2:48 AM


loved this:)

Sunday, February 24, 2008 12:33 AM


MMmm, all Saffron wants is to bed Mal? Somehow I don't think that option is as straight forward as Mal and Inara think. After all, this is Saffron. And what in the nine hells is in that gorram journal that is so explosive Inara would do what she did? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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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.