Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Saturday, March 26, 2011

Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.


Back Stories Book 3 Chapter 22.

Disclaimer: It belongs to Joss and all those business people. I'm just playing.

Links: The Fish Job, Easy Tickets, BS Book I, BS Book II, BS Book III, Chapter 1. Timing, pairings, and canon blurbs are in my FFF blog.

Many thanks to desertgirl for the beta read.

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Zoë straightened stiffly, stepped back from the dining room table, and propped her right hand on her hip. Her fingers touched leather and cold steel; she was still armed, and meant to remain that way for the foreseeable future. She hadn’t even let her gun leave her reach while Wash bandaged her injuries, which were bloody but would heal. The cuts stung, especially the bite wound in her right palm, but she hadn’t let her husband give her any numbing medication. She needed her senses sharp.

Despite the quiet hour that had passed since they escaped the Reaver attack on Oeneus, the few who remained of Serenity’s crew felt no where near safe and secure in their home. They couldn’t be sure that no Reavers lurked in the dark crevices of the Firefly, even following a thorough search of the ship and a full venting to the Black of the cargo bay, lower deck, and engine room.

Few things irked Zoë more than fearing shadows while having nothing to actually strike out against. She itched to let those creatures know exactly what she thought of them and the plans they harbored for her and hers. It would almost be a relief to find one of the monsters still lurking about so she could practice some free self-expression, but the violence of her inner frustrations had to settle on the only target she had at the moment: herself.

She shook her head as she stared down at the silent man sitting at the dining room table. “No, it’s clear enough,” she said to the two people awaiting her opinion. “I pushed him too hard.”

Inara’s response was adamant. “Zoë, if you hadn’t pushed him, we’d all be dead.”

“Might be,” Zoë admitted, “but don’t get all comforting with me. I ain’t taking it back, just saying it’s a fact. I pushed him, and I pushed him too far. He broke.”

“Shattered to bits,” Wash added.

No one argued with the obvious. Mal’s eyes were empty. The captain sat in his accustomed seat at the head of the table, but he had none of his usual ownership of the spot. Inara and Wash sat at his right and left, both studying him closely, but Mal only sat in a blank slouch. Inara leaned toward him and took his limp hand in hers, but she didn’t speak. They’d all tried every plea they could think of already; the captain’s ears seemed to be taking in as little as his eyes.

“So what do we do now?” Wash asked. He glanced up through the windows above the dining room table at the unfamiliar configuration of stars outside. They hadn’t been in their usual regions of space for some time now.

“Where are we headed?” Zoë asked.

Wash tilted his head thoughtfully, then shrugged. “I guess we could pass by Prometheus in a few days, if I divert a bit. Maybe. I’d have to check.” Zoë frowned at him, and he burst out, “Hey, I got us out of there as fast as I could. I didn’t have much chance for thinking ahead, what with dodging Reavers and mountains and orbital Alliance ships and all.”

Zoë nodded, acknowledging the difficulty he’d faced on Oeneus. “Prometheus. We’ll make do.”

“And when we reach there?” Inara asked. “What then?”

“We’ll have a nice dinner, take in the sights, shop for shoes,” Zoë snapped. “What do you think?”

Inara’s reply was patient and gentle. “I only meant—”

“I don’t know what we’ll do, all right? I got no idea. We have to go back to Oeneus eventually is all I know right now. We can’t leave the rest of them. But we can’t go back until we can get in and out without arrests or massacres or gods know what else.”

“I’ll stay on the line, listen for news,” Wash suggested. “I might find out how the clean up from the Reaver attack is going, maybe get word when the survivors are rescued from the caves.”

Zoë nodded, but Wash didn’t leave. He stayed in his seat, his eyes on his folded hands for a few seconds before they flicked toward the head of the table. The most important bit of business hadn’t yet been settled.

“And what about Mal?” Inara asked, forcing the issue.

Zoë turned her back to the table. She had an urge to walk right out the hatch so she wouldn’t have to look at the captain’s blank face again, but she made herself turn into the alcove and fall into one of the large chairs. She slumped there, her head back and eyes on the ceiling. Despite her proud words about not taking anything back, she did wonder if she could have handled things differently. She did wish, very badly, that she could start all this over again.


Inara had risen from the table and come toward into the alcove. The Companion stood with her head bowed and hands clasped in front of her, as if she understood and respected the depth of Zoë’s remorse. “I’ll see to him,” Inara told the floor.

The gentleness of Inara’s words, her subtle air of generosity, sent a wave of bitterness through Zoë. She couldn’t stand the idea that Inara would sooth the damage that she herself had caused.

“Because you have such a good history with Mal?” Zoë asked pointedly.

Inara only smiled, a small, forlorn expression. “It’s what I do. I care for people.”

“It’s what you used to do, and you did it so well you got the captain started on this thing.”

Wash spoke up from the table. “Honey, that’s not fair. Inara isn’t to blame. Those butchers on Oeneus did this to him.”

Though she knew in her gut that her husband was right, Zoe was in no mood to be logical, nor forgiving. She ignored him and dug a little deeper into the Companion. “Mal got sick after you used him and left him behind. Maybe I had the right idea when you showed up on New Melbourne. Maybe I ought to stick with what I said back then, and keep you far away from him.”

Inara raised her eyes, then took a step forward and knelt beside Zoë. If the woman felt any sting from the accusations thrown her way, she didn’t show it. “You can trust me about this. Truly, it’s what I do—I take care of people. Mal will be safe with me.”

Such determined patience and goodwill, such a direct and earnest gaze, made Zoë’s hostility collapse. She dropped her eyes.

Inara read permission in the action; she returned to Mal. The captain stood easily in response to a pull at his elbow, then he followed Inara out the fore hatch. The Companion left the captain standing in the hall while she climbed down into his cabin, then returned quickly to guide him toward the stairs, heading for the shuttle that had once been her home.

“Uh, Zoe?” Wash said hesitantly into the empty quiet that followed.

Zoë lifted her head. “What?”

“We got a good fill-up back there, but taking off with the tanks open cost us. I’m not saying we’re out, but we shouldn’t burn too hard.”

She sighed. “Any more good news to add?”

Wash rose from the dining room table. “Yes, and I mean for real good news. I’m absolutely one hundred percent sure the others made it to those caves, and I’m even more sure that Jayne and Book will take care of the Tams. They’ll hold out as long as they need to.”

He settled next to her and Zoë leaned into his outstretched arm. “And the agent?” she asked. “What do you suppose happened to that woman we had on board?”

Wash blinked. “I’d forgotten about her.”

“Not everybody did. I found her cut bonds in the dorm room. They freed her and took her along.”

“Let’s hope she returns the gesture of good will.”

“Yeah, well, there’s not much we can do about it if she doesn’t.” Zoë shook her head. “Shèng mǔ niú tiān a! Reavers and Alliance. I don’t know how we’ll manage to get back there anytime soon. Someone’s going to get to those caves before us, and it won’t work out so well for River and Simon.”

Wash tightened his hold on her shoulders. “Hey! Don’t lose faith in Jayne. OK, lose faith in Jayne, but Book’s there too. He’ll take care of everyone.”

“He better.”

Wash set his cheek against hers and wrapped both arms around her, as if she was a little girl who’d spilled milk. “You did the best you could, honey.”

“Wasn’t good enough,” she replied. “I lost him.”

* * *

Inara led Mal through the shuttle’s hatch, then paused to set down a bag holding the basic supplies she’d gathered from Mal’s cabin. She powered on the lights, and what she saw made her freeze in amazement.

She hadn’t set foot in the shuttle since she’d left to catch the ferry on New Melbourne, and in that handful of days a transformation had taken place. The shuttle wasn’t as elegant as it’d been when her own ornaments adorned it, but neither was it the dark empty she’d been confined to since her return to Serenity.

For inventiveness and creativity, the new décor was a perfect ten. The metal walls were softened by some kind of dark fabric: tarps, Inara guessed, with random patterns that at first looked whimsically artistic in the low light. On closer examination (she saw as she crossed the room), the patterns proved to be faded stains of grease and engine fuel in scattered drops and pools and partial handprints.

On low tables scattered about the shuttle, dim work lamps were carefully placed behind blocks of metal, aimed into corners to make the space look bigger but not too bright. Larger blocks were set against the walls to provide seating, and a few had been pushed together to recreate the couch that Inara had once used for her tea ceremony, though now the material that covered it was beige rather than red. In front of the “couch” was a low table constructed from four short, curving chunks of metal topped by a sheet of matte silver. A sculptural amalgamation of gears and rods provided an artistic centerpiece.

Since her return to Serenity, Inara had been sleeping on a mat on the deck, but a full bed had now appeared. Thick blankets hid the structure beneath, but Inara soon saw what it was made of: mattresses taken from the dorms, stacked atop a large flat panel supported by whatever materials Kaylee had pulled from the many storerooms she’d stocked religiously since the ship’s deep space encounter with death–by-lack-of-spare-parts.

For Kaylee was surely the person who’d done this; only one member of the crew would care so much, and would know how to bring it all together in such a short time. Inara’s vision blurred with tears. This shuttle’s transformation touched her more than the most expensive and carefully planned of her quarters at the Companion House on Sihnon. She only hoped that she’d have a chance to express her gratitude to the young engineer who’d wrought the change.

Sadness returned as Inara recalled how far away Kaylee was at the moment. Then she turned back to the shuttle’s entrance and felt a deeper grief: Mal was here with her, standing only a few meters away, but he was also far, far out of her reach.

That didn’t mean she could do nothing for him. Inara returned to his side and took his hand. He read the directions from her touch easily and she led him to the makeshift sofa and sat him down. She stood before him for a long, silent moment, then reached out and laid her hand against his hair. Her touch was light, as if he was a child that she didn’t want to frighten. He didn’t respond. It was almost beyond her to understand this absence in him, after all the volatility she’d seen in his face during the two years that she’d known him. His features could convey such passion. They had just a few hours ago, when she’d walked with him in the clean sunshine of a small mountain town.

I ain’t never met anyone like you, he’d said, and his thumb had brushed her cheek. To think of all a lady like you must have had, but here you are with this gang of ruffians, fightin’ to survive in the heathen wilds of the `verse...

He’d laughed after he’d said that, as if “heathen wilds” was an exaggeration rather than a vastly mild term for what was about to befall the quaint village. And then, during those last moments they’d had together, he’d asked her a question. It was one he’d asked once before, on the day they’d first met.

Why’d you take this path?

Inara dropped her hand from his face and took a deep breath. “I want to tell you a story,” she said to the silent cabin, her voice soft. She dropped her eyes and focused on Mal’s empty face.

“I probably shouldn’t. It’s not a happy tale. It might make you worse to hear unhappy things.” She smiled to herself. “But then, one never knows with you, Malcolm Reynolds. Maybe such a tale will send into a jealous rage. Maybe it’ll force you out of wherever it is you’ve gone. Maybe you’ll start stomping around and calling me names.”

She reached out again, less tentatively. Her fingers caught in his matted hair, making his head tip back slightly. She wiped a thumb over a dirty smear on his forehead, though she didn’t want to think about the source of the mess she was touching.

“If you want to do that,” she added softly, “if you want to call me names, I wouldn’t mind.”

His eyes didn’t shift. He wasn’t present enough to know what he saw or to fix his focus on any one object. Inara had to turn away. She couldn’t heal what was broken in him, but had it in her power to give him one thing he obviously needed.

“It’s a story about me,” she continued as she began preparations. The shuttle’s original head, a tiny closet, wasn’t meant for the type of bathing a Registered Companion often required. Several improvements had been needed to make the head useful to those of her clients with a preference for certain comforts. Then as now, Kaylee had been the force behind the updates. “It’s also a tale about a client I once serviced. I had been out of the Academy for several years when I met him, and was well established on Sihnon. I was successful, as I had long known I would be.”

Inara pulled open the hatch on a large storage bin and smiled at the metal bathing tub hanging inside; Kaylee had missed few details as far as returning the shuttle to its former state. Inara hadn’t been able to use the tub often, given the limited supply of water on Serenity, but it had proven invaluable during planetary visits and on rare occasions when the ship’s water tanks were well stocked.

“I had many clients,” Inara want on, “some who engaged me on rare occasions, some who took long contracts when my calendar was free. Sometimes I stayed on Sihnon, other times I traveled to distant worlds. It was an enjoyable time.”

She set the tub in the shuttle’s main room and pulled the water supply hose from a panel in the bulkhead. Few of the crew had been on board lately, so the hot water was readily available. Inara watched steam rise from the deep tub as it began to fill.

“This particular client wasn’t out of the ordinary. He was newly turned to politics, after a short but successful career in business. He’d won a position on the City Council, but being young and new to the public spotlight, he had need of the status that a regular contract with a Companion would bring. It wasn’t a rare thing for a client to seek more than the obvious enrichment from his relationship with a Companion, and I was happy to help him. I found him passionate and genuine, and my time with him was pleasant.

“He’d been contracting with me regularly for over a year when something unusual happened.”

She turned back to the far side of the shuttle to find Mal sitting exactly as she’d left him, staring into empty space with his hands lying limp in his lap. She returned to stand before him, but hesitated before reaching out to release the top button of his shirt. She suddenly felt that she was invading his privacy—not only by undressing him, but by seeing him like this. Mal must have felt helpless now and then, given the life he’d led, but she couldn’t imagine that he’d ever let his helplessness show as it did now.

She’d just have to endeavor to be worthy of his trust, she decided. Gently, she slid her fingertips against the side of his neck and pushed the stained and stiffened fabric off his bare shoulders. As she removed his shirt, she continued her tale.

“Mal, even as provincial as you can be, you must know that birth control for Companions is . The statistical probability of an accident is… well, it doesn’t happen. It’s absolutely unheard of. But I managed to beat the odds.”

His pants would be more of a challenge, she thought, but Mal stood readily when she pulled up on his arm.

“The medics were able to track the timing and determine the day and approximate time of conception. I knew the father, beyond a doubt. The young politician with the charming smile and easy laugh. He’d contracted with me over multiple days. It could be no one else.”

She had to pause in her recital as she unfastened Mal’s pants and pushed them down over his hips. The coincidence of her words and her actions were too ironic, the invasion of Mal’s privacy too troubling, for her to continue speaking. But Mal complied with her gentle touches, leaning from side to side to step out his pants and underdrawers. Inara smiled to herself as she folded the garments and set them aside; like after he was once abandoned in a desert, Mal had no problem with being naked.

She took his hand and guided him toward the tub.

“The strangest thing was, I didn’t terminate the pregnancy immediately.” She had to shake her head at that—some women might place the strangeness differently. Some women would question her assumption that having a child would be an unmitigated disaster. Certainly, Mal would never understand. She had to explain, whether he could hear her or not.

“You see, nearly all my life, I only wanted to be a Companion. I worked very hard for it. I may have started with schemes for escape from a life I didn’t like, but over years I formed an honorable goal, something I wanted to have, rather than something I wanted to get away from.”

She checked the water. The tap was running cool, the store of hot water drained, but the tub was the perfect temperature of almost too hot. She tapped the back of Mal’s knee and he lifted his leg to step in. She watched his face, looking for any reaction, but he remained completely blank. She placed a hand on his shoulder and he sank into the steaming tub. He didn’t close his eyes as she scooped water over his head, so she tipped his chin up, then spread a healthy dollop of shampoo from her own toiletry bag through his hair.

“I know you don’t think it possible,” she continued as she massaged his scalp, “but I could spend months telling you about my training. It was that complicated. And it wasn’t easy—not like textbook classes with answers that can be checked right or wrong. The subtleties of human behavior are unbelievably complex. Being able to read and understand a wide range of people, knowing myself well enough to be open to them in an infinite number of different situations… it took a great deal of time and effort to master.

“I entered the training house later than most, and maybe that’s why I worked so hard. I didn’t want to be behind the other Novices. I feared that my instructors would make me leave the House because of my background. It was such a beautiful dream. The frightened little girl in me was sure it would end, simply because I wanted it so badly.”

She scooped up water and rinsed Mal’s hair, being careful not to irritate his open eyes. When she finished, she tipped his head forward again and picked up a sponge to wipe his skin clean.

“After a few years, I began to stand out. The classes—languages and music and culture and politics—took many hours of study, and some didn’t come naturally to me. But I was always good at interacting with instructors and classmates. I was a natural with people. I always had been.

“So I began to feel secure. I truly became Inara Serra, and left the poor, lonely child I’d once been behind. I even began to believe that I could someday be House Mistress. Me! Leader of the greatest House on Sihnon!”

She shook her head as she again felt the disbelief that had filled her once, long ago. The feeling had gradually faded until she nearly forgot that she’d ever doubted her place in the exotic world of the Guild. As the years passed, little Karida, the waif who’d spent half a year in foster care and loved it more than she ever had loved her own family, wasn’t real. Kari was a book that Inara had read once, and only vague scenes were left to gather dust in the back of her mind.

“When I achieved full Companion status, I was quite sure of the life I had ahead of me. I would care for people, but people of my own choosing. I would have a positive effect on them, make them grow, make them feel better about themselves and be braver in their lives. And there would be sex: beautiful, lovely sex. The chance to be touched and moved, and for my body to be given to those who treasured the gift. And though the connections I would form with my clients wouldn’t be the unique kind of bond shared by people who join for a lifetime, nor would I be weighed down by the burdens of a lifelong relationship. Nothing would grow stale. No dirty secrets need be known.

“And children… I never wanted children.”

Inara heard her own voice turn hard with those last words. If Mal could hear her now, he’d think her heartless. But she didn’t try to hide it, she let her bitterness come out. “I’d had enough of those when I was growing up. The last thing I wanted was another round of diapers and bottles and screams to keep me awake all night.”

She was lost for a time in the long ago years of her childhood, of being the oldest of a brood who took and took from her without any recognition of what their endless demands cost her. When her mind returned to the present, she found herself kneeling beside the bottom of the tub, holding Mal’s considerable foot over the rim and running a cool sponge along his arch. She couldn’t help but smile.

“Look, Mal—I’m washing your feet.”

Her own amusement had to satisfy her, because he didn’t stir.

She stood up; a light pull on Mal’s arm brought him up as well. She scooped water in her hands and rinsed the soap suds off his body, then tugged gently on his calf to make him step out of the tub. The shuttle’s soft lights shone on the water on Mal’s naked skin, catching his many scars. Inara dried him slowly, and thought about the last night she’d had with him before she left Serenity all those long weeks ago. That was the only time she’d been able to be free with his body, as a lover. The memory was tainted by the sorrow that had hung over her then, the pain of knowing that she couldn’t stay with him, that she couldn’t let herself love him.

“No, I didn’t want children. I wanted to give my care to those who’d already grown to adulthood. Adults need nurturing as much as the young. Sometimes, even more.”

She noticed gooseflesh on his shoulders, though he didn’t shiver or move to warm himself. She smiled mischievously as she threw a large, soft towel over his shoulders. “Usually, the nurturing I provide is not limited to a cleaning. Usually I’m a little less nurse and a little more…” She’d been about to say whore, but she couldn’t quite make herself do it. Her play at light-heartedness couldn’t go that far.

She stretched up on her toes to dry Mal’s hair. It would have been easier if he’d have stooped to help her reach.

“When a Companion tires of servicing clients, she can use her skills in other ways. Governments, corporations, and political organizations are always eager to employ retired Companions. I always pictured myself going into politics. I could bring about new social programs, improve the living conditions of the poor.”

She threw aside the towel and led Mal out into the shuttle’s small open space to dress him. “You see, I had plans. I’d found a way to enjoy my life on my own terms, to use my skills and earn some bit of luxury. I even achieved a minor level of celebrity.”

It was tricky, getting Mal into his briefs and the soft cotton pants she’d brought from his cabin. He wouldn’t take the hint to step into his pants. She had to sit him down on the edge of the bed and pull the clothing up his legs.

“I had my career planned. A baby was not part of it. I know what you’d be suggesting, Mal, if you could, but I didn’t want surprises. I never saw myself as a mother. There was no room for a child in my life.”

With a little maneuvering, she finally finished dressing him for sleep. She remained sitting beside him on the bed, took his hand in her own, and sighed. “But the million-to-one accident happened, and once that little thing was inside me…

“It was a girl, Mal. The doctors said so. Against my own will, I begin to picture her. I was fond of her father, and he was an impressive man. Attractive, bright, and athletic. Small framed, but tall with good coloring. Dark hair, hazel eyes. All our encounters showed him to be good natured and kind. Our child would have been interesting indeed.

“And so I began to see her, with me, in the future. I pictured her asking me questions, being precocious. Black curls and hazel eyes, maybe. I realized that I wanted to meet her. I very much wanted to meet this girl.”

Inara dropped Mal’s hand and smoothed her water-spattered skirt over her knees, then realized that the mess of the Reaver battle needed to be rinsed from her own skin. She returned to the tub, opened the drain tube, then filled a small bowl with fresh water and pulled off her dress.

“Of course, there were practical considerations,” she went on as she bathed, “but they weren’t insurmountable. There are ways I could have been a mother and continued my career with the Guild, though I wouldn’t have had the same freedoms to accept long-term contracts or travel with clients. Certainly, I would have a more difficult time earning the title of House Mistress. But as I imagined my little girl, I realized that I didn’t want my attention divided. I didn’t want to be a mother who isn’t there, or one who’s too busy, too taken with her own concerns, to spare every minute a child might need. I wanted to be the mother that I didn’t have.

“Once I realized my intentions, I met with the father, my client. He had a right to know, and to have a voice in the matter. He surprised me; he said that he loved me, and that nothing would make him happier than to be my husband for life, the father of my little girl.”

She shook her head, remembering her surprise at his offer, as she set aside her towel and reached for the soft dress she’d brought from Sihnon for sleeping. “Honestly, I was taken aback. I’d always been fond of this man, as I am of all my clients, but I would never have called it love. I continued to meet with him, not as a client but as a friend. I tried to cool our relationship into something that could last, a partnership for the benefit of our daughter, so she could have a father to dote on her. And he would have doted on her. He was so gentle, so kind. I can’t imagine…” Inara felt sudden tears in her eyes, but blinked them back and smiled, as if Mal might see her near loss of control.

She finished changing and threw the blankets of the bed aside. Mal needed barely a hint to make him settle onto his back, just a touch to his shoulder. He stretched out, staring blindly upwards. She crawled in beside him, enjoying the softness of the bed Kaylee had constructed, and pulled the blankets over them both. Then she took his hand again, holding it over her breastbone as she laid on her back and stared at the shadowed ceiling, her eyes nearly as blind as Mal’s.

“After a few months, I found myself feeling differently. I don’t know how it happened. This man worked his way into my heart, and my time with my other clients was less satisfying than it had been. I looked forward to seeing him, to talking to him. He made me feel very safe, and more important than even a House Mistress could be.

“We made love. Sex can be a different thing when you’re in love. I had been taught as much, but I never really understood until it became that with him. I realized that I loved him.”

Inara turned toward Mal and snuggled beneath his arm, feeling an urge to comfort him.

“Please don’t be hurt when I tell you about this, Mal. It was like that with you. I knew it would be. That’s why I avoided it for so long. I knew it would be wonderful. And I knew it would be awful, because I would still have to find a way to leave you. I didn’t want to be trapped by such a terrible, wonderful thing.”

She let her head rest on his shoulder and reached out to stroke his cheek. His eyes were still open.

“I decided to marry him, to leave the only way of life I had ever wanted. At the time, it wasn’t as big a change as it might seem. Really, I was only moving on to the next stage of my life several years earlier than I had planned.

“After all, he was a politician, and was quite successful, though still young and early in his career. There were murmurs that he might run for the Sihnon Senate, which is often a stepping stone for those in Parliament. I would have had a fascinating life, the wife of a high ranking politician. I might have run for office myself. Certainly, the opportunity would have been open if I chose to follow that path. I could have done things, important things that touched people’s lives. I was frightened about my decision, but more than that, I was exhilarated. I would miss being a Companion, but there would so many new challenges awaiting me, so many new opportunities and experiences.”

She was quiet for a spell, watching Mal’s lids get heavy and finally fall closed. She continued to watch him, unwilling to let herself sleep. Sleep would only bring the morning, and she’d have to take this empty shell of a human back out into the rest of the world. She found herself resenting the idea that she’d have to share him.

But the dangers of the past few days were beginning to weigh on her, and she realized that she had no idea how many hours it’d been since she last slept. Too many, she began to suspect as a creeping heaviness descended on her.

“As I’m sure you can guess,” she went on, her voice softer as sleep began to take her, “none of that happened. I lost it all, and that’s why I came to Serenity. I needed a safe place. I needed to go home.” She closed her eyes. “It was horrible, Mal. But now I wonder if it was fated, the terrible things that drove me to find you. Because I love you so much more than I ever loved him. If only I hadn’t lost…” She dropped a hand to her abdomen, then sighed.

“Do you mind if I finish telling you about it later?” her words slow and heavy. “It makes me too sad. I’d prefer not to think about the rest of it right now.”

She wrapped her arm around his chest and held him. For a moment her senses sharpened and tightly tuned to him, alert for any tiny twinge of muscles that might suggest he was returning her embrace. Her tears fell onto his chest when she felt nothing.

“Thank you for listening,” she said softly.

* * *

Translations Shèng mǔ niú tiān a: holy cow god in heaven

* * *

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Saturday, March 26, 2011 4:23 PM


I guess the links don't work so good on the new fireflyfans site. Anyone know how to fix that?

The time between my postings is awful. Especially when I'm so very close to finishing this fic! Sorry about that. I'm afraid the next chapter is pretty incomplete, so it won't be soon. I'll do what I can to move it along!

And yes, Inara's story will be finished. Mal's too. The flashbacks from book 2 needed one more "episode" each: Inara's ending, Mal's beginning. (His story went backward in time, right?) I once meant to put all of Inara's conclusion here, but I think it works better to make you wait for the second half. I think you'll understand why when we get there.

Oh - and as for how a large bathing tub got on her shuttle, and why we never saw it before... I've been pondering that for a while, and just decided to hell with it. The props department brought it in and built a new storage closet onthe set, and they did such a good job that it looks like it's been there all the time and no one should even notice that it hasn't. All right? :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011 4:59 PM


Somehow, I imagined this. You've had a theme, that was in the last two stories, and I expected to see it here, somehow, when one of them was vulnerable. I expected Mal.

And it was very good. :)

I'm just glad to see you posting, don't worry about the frequency of it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011 5:32 PM


Almost forgot about this fic, glad you are back to posting it again.

Sunday, March 27, 2011 4:41 AM


De-lurking for the first time to leave a comment.

I'm so glad to see another installment of Back Stories, m4p! This is my favorite ongoing work of fiction in BSR, and I hope that whatever is going on in your real life allows you to write and post more soon. I've read everything from Fish Job to the current posting several times, and this one is right up there with Guildsister's Blue Sun Job. So thank you, thank you, for continuing the good work.

At last, we find out more of Inara's backstory.

“We’ll have a nice dinner, take in the sights, shop for shoes" --great line for Zoe. Of course, your characterizations are so spot on!


Sunday, March 27, 2011 1:51 PM


I like your backstory for Inara. I can see how she would resist having children, but knowing that she was carrying a girl, it was a way to nurture and mother herself, something she never got as a child. Being a loving person, and a damaged person, of course she would run away from that kind of pain when she was faced with loss and failure and never want to go thru it again. Very well designed and detailed story and looking forward (sadly) to the conclusion.

Monday, March 28, 2011 3:57 PM


Gods, this brought me to tears, not only her story, but the way she tells it to Mal.

Thursday, March 31, 2011 4:10 AM


Alright, I've got an idea about the bathtub. It's like those tupperware bowls that collapse into flat disks for easy storage. You pull them out of your limited storage space, pop them up into shape, and put your leftovers or whatever in them. The 26th-century high tech version of this works much better than these things do now, and the flat tub, when popped into shape, becomes a nice, rigid, full-size tub, that stays up and holds its shape. When she's done, it folds down to something that lies flat against a wall panel. :-)
I'm using this in one of my fics (when I get around to posting them) but you can borrow the idea if you like it.


Thursday, March 31, 2011 9:58 AM


I actually pondered that exact thing, eb. But one thing I like about Firefly is the mix of old Wild West and spacey sci-fi. I really like the image of an old metal tub on a space ship. Something dull and plastic and "modern" just didn't make such a nice picture in my mind, and the creases in the side where it unfolds would bother me. (See, I really thought about it!) I just wanted a big, unwieldy brass tub.

As far as space limitations - my rationality is that this ship isn't like a submarine. It's not super tight on space. Look how big the bridge and the dining room are! OK, maybe that's just necessary for the camera crew to fit, but it could also be explained in fannon. In this future, ships are homes and are made to be comfortable, and the way the fuel/artificial gravity works, a little extra mass isn't such a big big deal.

Is my theory, anyway. :)

Monday, October 3, 2011 4:56 PM


Loving your story!!!! So shiny that you're ignoring the BDM!!! XD Can't wait for more!


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Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.

Back Stories III, Chapter 24
Mal returns to a few familiar places.

Back Stories III: Chapter 23
The BDH’s find themselves enmeshed in too damned many OCs. But hey, they’re necessary. Plottiness and all.

Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.

Back Stories III, Chapter 21
The battle with the Reavers continues, and Mal makes a choice. All decisions have consequences.

Back Stories III, Chapter 20
Finally a little Mal POV, but it doesn't last long.

Back Stories III, Chapter 19
The trials and tribulations of an older, wiser River Tam.

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 18
The aftermath of an unexpected encounter. Except—not all of the crew are accounted for…

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 17
A lovely day in the mountains: friendly locals and fresh air under a clear blue sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 16.
Zoë tells of her soiree with terrorists on Oeneus.