Monday, September 21, 2009

Post-BDM Mal/Inara. From bad to worse and not happily ever after.


Big big thanks to GillianRose for a beaut of a beta; just to show my gratitude I have referenced one of your OMJ chapters - Inara's outfit - and lifted an entire sentence from your notes:)


Zoe heard about the trip to Cornelius at the same time and in the same way as Kaylee had, with Mal’s cold, detached voice waking her towards midnight, telling her what needed to be done and when. She could tell by the comm’s hollow, echoing tone that it was open to more than one person, and this was confirmed by Kaylee’s sleepy reply.

Even on a ship the size of Serenity, you could avoid speaking directly to somebody if you didn’t want to. She didn’t much want to talk to him herself. She regretted the way it had all come out, about Wash’s death, but they were her honest-to-truth feelings, and the Verse was just going to have to live with it, Mal included.

She could hear in his voice how he had dealt with their exchange of the previous day, how all his humanity had fled to some distant and deep-down place. And she was sorry. She knew what that did to him. Used to wonder how he came back from it. But he always did.

And when he did, when the worst had passed, he’d do this – reach out, using the ship’s business as a pretext, reassuring himself and everybody else that the Captain was back in control of Serenity.

So she said she’d be ready, just as she always did. Then she lay awake for some time, not thinking. The loss of Mal after the loss of Wash was unthinkable; and so she refused to engage with how the rift between them might either resolve or harden. In her mind and in her emotions she placed Mal somewhere at a distance from the pain of losing her husband: she couldn’t see his face or hear his voice; she could hardly remember what he had said to her, when she had said the things that she had said to him. And that was the way it had to be.

The bed covers next to her were neatly smoothed and tucked in. She cried quietly for a while and then fell asleep.


When Kaylee returned to Pity she found that Inara was making a space for herself in the back room of the store, where she intended to stay while Serenity was away. Kaylee had pushed the items that Inara had asked for from the ship in a wheelbarrow-like trolley, hoping all the time that Mal would come across her and ask her what was happening. But he hadn’t, and his failure to discover her added to a doomed sense of the inevitability of what was unfolding.

Kaylee had emptied Inara’s trunk – the one she had left behind when she had gone to the Training House. Now she watched Inara as, sitting before the trolley, she lovingly unfolded and re-folded a length of inky purple fabric, fingered the pages of a small, thin, leather-bound book and, with a satisfied sigh, picked up a heavy silk-wrapped object.

“These things are – they are very precious to me,” said Inara, folding back the silk to reveal an almost-black tea pot. “The cups are here somewhere. I’ve still got the whole set. It doesn’t have a single chip in it. I was given it after my first appearance as a fully-fledged Companion. My first client was very carefully chosen by the Companions who trained me. It had to be someone with the most profound appreciation of the Companion’s role. Somebody who actually didn’t need a Companion at all, at that time!” Inara laughed. “I needed him! I needed him to complete my training.” She smiled dreamily, remembering. “And he did. He did. He bought me that shawl. He must have found out what I was wearing that night, because the fabrics matched perfectly. And the book was a memento, something for my friends to sign.” She looked down, reached to touch the book again. “My dear friends. And the tea set. You know what that’s for, don’t you, Kaylee?”

And Kaylee realized immediately that Inara was talking to Mal.

“It was to bind us, but to keep us separate. It was to create a space for and to limit what was going to happen. It was to provide a beginning to proceedings and an end. It was to ease the difficulties of a transaction between two flawed human beings.” Again, Inara turned the pot in her hands.

“And you left it on Serenity, when you went to the training house?” Kaylee asked.

Inara paused. “Yes. I knew that I wouldn’t need it.”

Kaylee’s voice wavered. “And you think you’ll be needing it now?”

“I want to have these things close to me. They remind me of what I am.”

Kaylee could see that Inara was in danger of becoming emotional once again, and chided herself for having even unwittingly done anything, with her comments, to bring her closer to any state that might unbalance the delicate condition of her health. “Nara, I ain’t goin’ on this trip if it means leavin’ you here on your own!”

“You’ll be back in a couple of days,” Inara replied, standing. “I’ll be fine.”

“You don’t know that. What if you take a turn for the worse?”

“There’s a doctor here in the settlement,” Inara said gently, clearing a space for the pot on a busy dresser.

“Not like Simon though. Simon’ll stay with you. I’ll tell him to.”

“Simon should be with River,” Inara replied, turning back to Kaylee. Already she had mastered the emotions that had been threatening to spill over. “And River is Serenity’s pilot now.”

“There ain’t no Serenity without you on board,” said Kaylee.

“And there won’t be any Serenity without work. Cornelius is work.”

With this simultaneous appeal to Kaylee’s work ethic and love for her girl, Inara started to persuade Kaylee to return to the ship. Her next remark made the argument: “This could be regular, safe work for Serenity. This could be a place for Serenity to come back to at the end of every job. A place for River to come back to. A home.”

Kaylee hung her head and sighed. ________________________________________

Returning to the ship, Kaylee met Simon coming down the ramp.

“I was looking for you,” he said. “And Inara. Where is she? Is she all right?”

“She’s” – Kaylee gestured over her shoulder. “She’s stayin’ away from the Captain.”

Simon frowned. “Have they had a fight?”

“And then some,” said Kaylee, nodding sadly. “But she seems okay – you know, not sick.”

“I think I should go and see her, just make sure. That kind of stress and upset isn’t going to do her any good.”

“What kind of stress and upset’s that?” Mal asked, appearing at the top of the ramp with his arms folded across his chest.

Simon and Kaylee looked at him.

“The stress and upset of our new client when we can’t even get the ship off the ground in time?” Mal continued.

“This ain’t got nothin’ to do with the job,” said Kaylee, her voice shaking with suppressed emotion: the anger she felt for her friend, and the dread of challenging her Captain. Her hands were tight at her sides. “You’re just doin’ this to get at Inara!”

Mal looked right past her.

“Been thinkin’, this place’d make a good home for River,” he said to Simon. “We show these people we’re useful we could become part of this community.”

As stunned as Simon had been by Kaylee’s first outburst, and the mortification of Mal’s response, he was unprepared for the outright ferocity of the next.

“Don’t you say that!” she burst out, advancing up the ramp towards Mal. “Don’t you dare!” The way that Mal had just echoed Inara’s recent words, which were inspired by genuine love and concern for River when his own motives appeared so very self-serving, outraged and disgusted her. She addressed Simon, who had anxiously and protectively mirrored her movement towards Mal: “This ain’t about River! It’s about him, and Inara, and how he’s lost Inara, unless he can face what” –

Mal interrupted her, talking loudly and deliberately over her. So utterly empty, so completely desperate did he feel after his confrontation with first Zoe, then Inara and now Kaylee – Kaylee! - that he was not able to draw on his usually-reliable reserves of bull-dozing power.

“Pity is good for River,” he said, taking a step towards Simon so that he was standing right in front of him – and right next to Kaylee, though he ignored her, as though she wasn’t there, “and the people of Pity may offer a way to find a solution for her, and the job to Cornelius is for the people of Pity, and doing the job well will make the people of Pity happy, and doing the job needs a pilot, and River is the pilot, and River needs to get here and start up this ship so that we can get to Cornelius. On. Time.”

Simon was appalled. Something had – something was going terribly wrong. He looked in dismay from Kaylee to Mal.

“What the hell happened? Did he hurt her?” he asked Kaylee with a note of disbelief, looking from her to Mal again with an expression of urgent concern. If Mal had hit Inara, could he trust that ultimately he would treat River any better?

“He sure did!” Kaylee replied fiercely, at the same time as Mal, his face grim and pale, said: “I ain’t gonna answer that.” He took a deep, self-controlling breath. “Ain’t gonna answer that at all. Just make sure River’s here for midday.”

Just then, Zoe’s clear, calm voice broke through the noise.

“Simon. You know what the Captain says makes sense. Go check on Inara. Mal won’t have laid a finger on her. You know that. And then go get River.”

For a moment Simon did nothing: both Kaylee and Mal had fallen silent, waiting to see what he would do.

“Right,” he said. And he turned and walked towards the settlement, with Kaylee following behind. ‘Don’t’ she wanted to say to Mal, even as the distance increased between them. ‘Don’t do this to yourself.’ But she kept on walking.


Before thought returned, and with it the memory of recent events, Mal had an impulse to head towards Inara’s shuttle.

Instead, he turned to Zoe. Only a moment earlier the chasm that had opened up between had seemed agonisingly deep and wide; now, with her few, characteristically well-chosen words of support, he felt that there might be a bridge between them after all.

He nodded. This is where they’d stood, right here, when she’d told him she’d fly true.

“Corporal Alleyn saves the day.” He didn’t dare to smile.

Zoe nodded back.

“Well. You got your pilot, and your mechanic, and whatever happens you got your merc.”

Mal blinked once as he felt the chasm yawn once again like a dream of falling.

Zoe whispered gently. “But I ain’t comin’ with you on this one, Captain.”

Mal swallowed, disbelieving.

“Wash’s folks’ve been wavin’ me. They want to see me. And I can understand that. You can understand that.”

Mal nodded, holding on to the waistband at the back of his pants tightly.

“They hate you,” he said with a smile so wounded that Zoe cringed inside. She smiled too.

“Yeah, well. Got my ticket.”

“You coming back?”


“You know when?”

“Nope.” She continued before a silence developed out of his inability to express his pain, to ask for details that would make sense of her decision for him. “I can’t be around this.” She gestured towards where Simon and Kaylee had been standing; towards the settlement, where Inara was hurting. “But it’s got to happen. After what this crew’s been through, ain’t no way it can’t.” She closed her eyes, determined that Mal would continue to have never seen her cry. But it was no good. Tears fell on to her cheeks as she whispered: “We have lost. We have lost.”

The war, the peace, Book, Wash – Inara? – everything, it was all encompassed in her words.


Monday, September 21, 2009 11:50 AM


I was so tempted to call this War and Peace.

Monday, September 21, 2009 12:17 PM


Everything seems to be falling apart at the seams. Not sure how you are going to put them all back together again. Ali D
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, September 21, 2009 12:46 PM


This series has been a treat. A nihilistic, soul-scorching treat, but a treat nonetheless. One of the few fanfics that I'll reread.

Though I think your Jungian conceit with the Captain/Sergeant is a little awkward, your Mal is what I imagine the charcter was like before he was toned down. You've done a fine job of making him despicable, but compelling. Hopefully you'll remind us why people are willing to put up with his darkness and self pity.

Monday, September 21, 2009 12:50 PM



I liked Inara talking Kaylee into staying on the ship. It's a sign she still wants some people to look after Mal, among... other things.

And Zoe deciding to leave here is also well done. Mal's parting barb for her hurting him again, "They hate you"... Ouch.

And heck, poor clueless Simon, and Kaylee's outrage. That felt right.

Monday, September 21, 2009 1:22 PM


I want to stop and define for a moment- Mal, bad in the Latin.

I enjoy reading Zoe's resolve to go at it alone for a while. I always respect and identify heavily with women characters that aren't afraid to find their own place and space.

Mal and Inara, hurt and stubborn at the same time, only those two could do this to each other.

Write more of War and Peace:)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 8:51 AM


Thanks for the feedback!

Amdobell: I don't want to give anything away about if/when things will get better...:)
mincingbeast: I see that we Mal/Inara shippers have well and truly got you (I remember your memorable feedback to clio - the testosterone comment - which made me wonder if before you were just a beast.) Thanks for the concrit. I agree with you - the longer the conceit is drawn out the more awkward it feels to write, and it's just as well that Mal's development as a character is going to mean less of it. The way I see it, it's Mal who has had the most to bear from his darkness and self-pity, and the people around him who've made it bearable; now that they're not playing that role any more, he has to decide if he can bear it alone.
bytemite: Oh dear, 'they hate you' wasn't supposed to be a parting barb, more of a pained attempt at a shared joke - but I haven't achieved that, so if you can think of a way to make it work the way I intended let me know!
Platonist: Yeah, Zoe's amazing. I'm not like her at all!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 11:15 AM


Oh, I'm so happy (belatedly!) to see that you have posted! I love how you've filled in the colors in this episode, I knew it was going to be great. The backstory part about Inara and her first client was very accurate to me. And oh Mal, with Inara having left *that* outfit behind in her trunk! Heheee!

I continue to adore Mad Kaylee, ready to go bear hunting with a switch. And the upside of arriving late for the new episode is getting to read all of the insightful comments, and your thoughtful responses. I agree, Mal makes life harder on himself than on anyone else, and it will be interesting to see how he changes.

I'm still thinking about the question you sent me, about the worst thing in canon Mal ever said to Inara. One thing I keep coming back to is the remark (was it in Trash) about how it wouldn't hurt her not to spread for a few weeks - something to that effect. As if she's some kind of weak-willed, promiscuous creature making unreasonable demands on his business. When he knows better, on so many levels. I haven't had a chance to go into the scripts and really look, but that scene keeps coming back. So many to choose from, though.

Sunday, September 27, 2009 9:21 AM


Thanks GR! I'm wondering if Mal discovering *that* outfit would be worth a little ficlet. Imagine his face. It would hit him right between the eyes:) And between the elsewheres too...

Like you, I feel I should peruse the scripts before making a judgment about 'the worst thing Mal said ever', because he constantly outdoes himself. I've said this before, but I thought he was pretty harsh when Inara was trying to HELP him the night before the dual. Though, Inara, a hint - cover up!

Monday, September 28, 2009 7:41 PM


Late feedback!

That opening with Zoe is my favorite part of this fic, oddly. It's so terse, like her. She compartmentalizes, makes choices, and then that partling line about crying. So clinical. It's brings out how used she is to her grief by now, how that form of release becomes normal, and how generally miserable she is feeling every single day due to it. It made her parting scene all the more powerful. She's lost as much and more, but she isn't doing what Mal does. She lashd out at him, sure but she has the guts to stand before him, look him in the eye and be honest. Of course it hurts him. But she's going someplace else, has the courage to face something new, and he's.. Mal.

Kaylee? Rocks this chapter. She's never going to have the toughness and authority to call Mal out successfully, or to have any useful impact on a complex situation like this, but the fact that she kept talking even over Mal trying to shout her down... growing up, baby! Simonis just so out of of the loop, in his way. Oy.

You're doing a beautiful job showing Mal disintegrating. What used to work, doesn't work anymore, what was cushioned by the people around him has him hitting the deck plates at full speed now. Go and pity yourself, Mal. It's what you do best.

Nah, I'm being mean. He didn't choose to be a mess. It just hurts to watch him.

Inara is beautifully detached. The contrast to Kaylee's distress was stark. It's almost as cold as Mal is, how easily she can extract herself from all the people on Serenity and block that connection, but on the other hand, what choice does she have? Mal is all over that boat, all over those people, and we're looking at a woman with a complicated life expectation and intense emotions.


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Inara's and Mal's paths converge.

Mal recovers.

Further apart, still together
Mal's journey begins.

Farewell Part II
The 'Verse turns, Serenity's people move off on different paths.

Farewell Part I

No ship to fuel, no crew to feed, no job to chase
Mal gets ready to move on.

Previously on Aliasse's Firefly Fan Fic Series.....
Self-important, moi?

Fight. Flight.
Next in this Mal/Inara saga. Inara breaks away. Follows 'Connection'.

Mal re-enters the human race. Short update.

Mal and Inara talk. Next in series.