Monday, March 28, 2011

In which angels fly away, and Mal and Inara have a very serious conversation.


Disclaimer: Here be angst. If it helps any, I refuse to believe anything is really going to happen to Inara, and I refuse to write it, too. Recently, I was looking over the exact terms of Inara's contract with the guild, as published on the Serenity Blu-Ray Version, and I noticed something missing, a telling omission that prompted this fic. I actually didn't want to write this conversation, because it's really the kind that's best left to the imagination (or maybe a more skilled author, because this HAS been done before, and while I'm at it, I highly recommend Cliosmuse’s and Aliasse's fics). Characters and setting copyright Joss Whedon.


The perfect plan. Wasn’t anything could go wrong, because wasn’t any wrong doings. She might even approve, he thought. Couldn’t quite convince himself enough, though, so he kept pacing the scaffolds, boots clanking against the metal, eyeing the shuttle hatch like that bull from his youth that’d taken an irrational dislike to him. Didn’t help his confidence any, how his own cargo bay felt all sharp lines and dinge all a sudden.

He lost his nerve a couple times, but every time he went to the bridge, he saw Zoe sitting in that chair, where she'd retreated after their moment of silence at dinner. One year later. She was mostly back to herself, but tonight she was staring off into the black between the stars, fingers clenched tight around that knot of hers like it was all she had to hang on to. Reminded him of duties he had, the consequences of being remiss in them. So he’d recognized her need to be left alone and returned to the same staring match. It was good practice, matching his will against the unresponsive metal before facing down the steel inside.

They’d stay in orbit, send out the shuttle. No reason to try to pass their resident government-secret-in-hiding through customs that way, and the Feds would have no reason to come aboard for an inspection if they never landed. No drop offs or pick-ups to suspect, except the official one. And River seemed relatively calm about his plan, judging by her recent wall paintings in noodles she’d been so proud off. Good enough for him, disturbing sad looks aside.

Catching a glimpse of some shimmery gauze as he came down the stairs, he made as if heading down below, like it was his original intention, like his heart rate hadn’t just tripled. Like he could ignore her. “Have you decided?” she asked, all patience and dignity with just the right amount of frustrated condescension. He stopped, glanced at her.

Wasn’t fair when she wore white. She seemed to glow more than usual, and it confused him, like he’d just stepped into one of his more embarrassing dreams where apparently he still believed in angels. Or that time they danced together, under that fancy shining chandelier that looked liable to turn back into a pumpkin, and for a moment was convinced she was wearing a wedding dress.

Just to keep his mind from playing any more tricks on him, he gave her a more careful study. Soft-looking, surprisingly simple dress. Nightgown, most like, and considering the scoop neckline and knee-length hem, the kind she wore for sleeping, not for show. Her dark curls were down and she had no makeup on. She looked comfortable, if serenely irritable. “Are you coming in?” she clarified, when his answer wasn’t forthcoming. “If not, you could go be annoying somewhere else.”

He frowned. The mouth he got, just trying to do someone a favour. No reason to act anymore, he supposed. “You were sleeping,” he said, with a pointed look at her attire, “Didn’t want to knock.”

“You never knock.” She glared at him, unconvinced and unimpressed, then disappeared back through the curtain hangings. Well, fine. That was as good as an invitation as he was likely to get, so he followed her into her own little world apart.

The décor was a poor imitation of the ornate luxury she’d cultivated before; only a few trinkets and silks on display, some walls left bare. Unsettling impermanent, yet the exposed grey reminded him of stone churches.

He cleared his throat, uncomfortable, and remained standing, deciding to take the formal Captain’s voice approach. Best to just get it over with. “Had River set a course for Ariel,” he told her. Some of her annoyance cleared as she sat primly on the edge of her unembellished bed, and she regarded him curiously. “For that yearly doctor’s visit of yours,” he explained further.

See, he could be thoughtful sometimes. Not that he was trying to prove anything, of course.

“Oh.” Her eyelashes dipped and her face turned from him, like he was painful to look on. Here was doom. He thought maybe he’d seen that expression before: his imagination, torturing him for long months, pretending that he had seen tears welling up in her eyes after she told him she was leaving. She rubbed her arms and hugged them close, like she was cold. “That won’t be necessary.”

Huh? He blinked at her, pushing the sudden fear aside. “Sure it is. You need it for your work.” Come to think of it, she really hadn’t mentioned her work much at all recently, hadn’t come to him with demands for finding some ‘civilization.’ He hadn’t noticed, or, if he had, he hadn’t questioned it. Didn’t want to jeopardize her choice to stay. “You in trouble with the guild?” The fear came back.

She was hiding behind those black tresses. Ruined her. The hopeless rage welled up, and he felt his hands clench at his sides. Always knew you would. Wasn’t the first time, wouldn’t be the last. But gorrammit he’d tried to keep their business separate. Last thing he’d ever wanted was to damage her reputation with his criminal niú shǐ.

He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself with the familiar incense, the divine perfume. “Was it Miranda?”

“No. Well, yes,” she corrected, trying briefly to hold his gaze before lowering those bottomless eyes back to the shuttle floor. “but…” She trailed off, her thoughts distant with the same melancholy he caught glimpses of now and then in her smiles, or when she thought no one was watching. Her eyelids clenched shut for a moment, fighting something, and then her chin came up, defiant. “The guild never required those annual check-ups, Mal.”

After an eternity, he swallowed hard, and could barely recognize his voice when he spoke, hoarse and quiet. “That makes it more necessary, don’t it?”

She didn’t answer. Couldn’t, he could tell.

'God…' he thought, a familiar plea, always unanswered. God really did hate him. He’d suspected the truth for a while, since before she’d left for the training house. But he’d tried not to think on it, tried to stay normal and mean and bitter as she packed up her things, tried to maintain the illusion for both of them just a bit longer. After Shadow, after the war, after Wash and Book, he wondered when his glass would get too full and spring another leak. Wondered just how much more he could stand to lose.

“Don’t look like that,” she whispered. “I never wanted to hurt you. That’s why I left; I never wanted you to know.”

“I knew,” he admitted.

Her eyes sparked and narrowed, her lips tightly pursed. “So River said. Tell me, was it just Pelorum, or do you spy on me in general?”

No more than can be helped… Damn conscience, she saw that. “That was legitimate!” he blustered defensively. “I got all uglied up on account of that xīn hěn shǒu là kuáng ré client a yours, and” – he realized what she was trying to do – “and don’t you change the subject! How long have you known?”

So much for fighting. He actually commended her for trying to start a quarrel, it probably would have made this easier. “Three years,” she answered, the fire gone out again.

“Since you left Sihnon?” She confirmed it, her head bowing. So tragic. So gorramn strong. He wished he could tell her she wasn’t alone, wouldn’t ever be, take back what he said that once because he couldn’t comprehend any other way to die. He crossed the distance and crouched down before her instead. “Whad’you need?” Her eyes lifted from their joined hands, and he understood. “Anywhere you want,” he promised, thinking at the same time the impossibility of getting through security if she wanted to go back to Sihnon. Back home, he corrected himself, a little miserably.

She extracted her fingers delicately. “Thank you. I’ve yet to decide…”

“No hurry,” he reassured her, standing, taking that for the dismissal it was. “It’s late, no need to settle everything right now.” He paused by the hatchway. “Do you want me to tell them?” Kaylee was going to be devastated, and he had no idea how River and Zoë were going to go on without her calming presence on board. Amazing how much they’d all come to rely on her just being around.

“I’ll tell them, they’ll take it better that way.” Wasn’t that the truth; he didn’t think he could get through that announcement without yelling and making someone start crying. Maybe didn’t think he could get through that, period.

He bid her good night, and stepped outside her chambers. Didn’t get very far, before he had to stop and lean against the railing for a while. A good long while, because that’s where Zoë found him in the morning, neither of them having been able to sleep.

She would go again, he would let her; it had to be that way, ever since she refused to move from the shuttle into one of the passenger dorms. He used to think, angels needed wings to come down to them, to save them. No, angels needed wings so they could fly away and save themselves.


Monday, March 28, 2011 3:54 PM


Sorry, another old one. I have one more stand alone that I want to post before I get on reposting Eidolon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 2:26 AM


It may be old, but it sure is a good one. Loved you allusion to angels and wings and shuttles. Thanks for sharing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 5:04 AM


Thanks for reading. :) I've often wondered if Inara is meant to be the resolution of a post-Miranda search for faith on Mal's part. He starts down the path at Book's request, but at the end of the movie I don't think he's quite there yet. It would make for a nice circle in the series, it starts with Mal's loss of faith and ends with him regaining it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 9:30 AM


It may be old but I don't remember reading this before and it is excellent but so sad too. I liked how Mal wanted to do whatever he could for her even though in the end they both knew he could do nothing. Ouch but beautifully written. Ali D
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 9:52 AM


Would he do nothing, though? He fought a war that he must have had an inkling he'd never win, but that didn't stop him. He headed to Miranda, to almost certain death, but still did it. He's a stubborn, stubborn man, and I don't believe he would just let her go without railing against the night. That said ... beautifully written. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 5:00 PM


Well, you know I've always thought Inara to be Mal's angel, with her little tiny winged shuttle perched on the shoulder of Serenity, so this definitely works for me. I’m not so sure Mal would let Inara leave, knowing she was facing an uphill battle of some kind, he’d want to help, him fighting for lost causes and all.

He may follow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 5:26 PM


You all have a point. I mostly wrote this to reflect what I was seeing at the time with Mal not fighting Inara's decision to leave for the Training House. When it's her life, or he's concerned about her maybe getting hurt because of the dangers onboard Serenity and their lifestyle, he'd rather she live and let her go, than keep her only for her to die.

I was on an angst kick when I wrote this, I mean as you can see cliosmuse's fic was running concurrent to it, and I drew some inspiration from it.

But yes, if Mal had an inkling he COULD do something, he'd fight. Maybe some time I'll try an alternate take on this theme. :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 6:30 PM


I think it's quite telling that with Mal, Inara's the only BDH whose life he has meddled/meddles in where he basically just backs off when prompted. And I think I understand why: Inara didn't push back when she gave her speech about learning something from the Heart of Gold fiasco, and declared she was leaving.

She didn't blast him, even in a roundabout way, for getting sucked in by Nandi or for feeling like it was his fault that everything involving Burgess and his actions occurred. She didn't try and make light of what was really a heart-wrenching situation for her. She decided to mosey off into the sunset...and Mal didn't have a single clue about what to do to when faced with that.

Yeah, Mal didn't want Inara getting hurt or killed by one of his plans or deals going wrong, and would use her departure as a failed method of comfort about such a mindset. But I don't Mal knows how to take simple surrender or retreat...his continued need to poke at the Alliance's sleeping giant, Simon being the target of his humour or jokes, getting Inara all fired up and acting off-kilter, the perceived abandonment of Mal by God. Hell, he tells Saffron that she should kill someone right back if they're trying to kill her like it's some piece of homespun wisdom that everyone should know by a certain age!

So yeah...this story? Utter fantastic work and both Mal and Inara were in character...and I can see Mal once again thrashing against a ever-strengthening tide that represents losing Inara because of not fighting.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 1:39 PM


Didn't have a clue what to do, and despite all evidence and statements to the contrary, respected her decision. He wasn't HAPPY about it, very much no (see Those Left Behind for Mal in a snit about Inara leaving), but he did step back and allow her to follow through on her choice.

And I think most of his bad attitude about it was because he took it as a rejection of him, and was not aware of the real reason for her leaving.

I imagine in this case Mal must feel like he's damned if he do, and damned if he don't.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 3:59 PM


You’re right B. What can he do? Inara embodies the freedom and independence he exposes in his personal philosophy, everyday, she’s free to come and go as she chooses, she takes all that ideology he lives by, and turns it back on him, to his dismay. He has to respect her choices whether or not those choices cause him great pain and suffering. Otherwise, she would never chose to come back to him and stay. I do think he would demand more of an explanation, at this point, I mean; they’ve been through a lot together with the Operative and Miranda and crew dying:(

By the way, this is one of my favorites, good writing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 3:59 PM


expose=expouse, long day

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 4:10 PM


She does, and sometimes he really likes that about her. He admires that independence I think, even if he doesn't quite like the how. And he also wants her to CHOSE to stay, and in this case, recognizes when she can't.

You have a point about Inara maybe owing Mal more explanation here, but that's dependent on how much Mal can stand to hear. It would be very hard for him to find this out. I'm sure he'd like to comfort Inara, :) but he has his own pain about this to deal with.

Friday, December 2, 2011 9:59 AM


Got the urge to dip back in after many months (a year? I don't know) away and found this. Lovely work, B. Really, really haunting.


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Eidolon (Epilogue)
Someday, she knew they would visit the graves of Serenity Valley and not hear the howl of the ghosts. Someday, they would walk across the green prairie of a restored world and watch the rain. (Glimpses)

Eidolon (Chapter 40)
Clouds were blossoming in the distance, promising rain for the city later. The crew of Serenity and the badlands around Eavesdown Docks to the south would probably see only a harsh windstorm. Two different worlds, she mused, caught between them. (Deliverance)

Eidolon (Chapter 39)
The question seemed to hit her hard. In the mirrors of her eyes, he saw himself, forced to see her lose more ground every day. Hurt more, because of him. Saw her watching him back as she pulled him out of a nightmare. (Try)

The Gift
They don't have much. But they have each other. (Just a little holiday story from the Firefly verse. Belongs to Joss)

Eidolon (Chapter 38)
The girl processed that response. "He brought the medicine? He saved us?" Inara nodded, considering her own inclusion in the question. (Renewed)

Eidolon (Chapter 37)
A wind clear and sweet stirred the air, humming as a shimmering, ever-shifting blaze of color flashed from one horizon to another. The breeze carried with it a distant song, rising over the hills and through the vales like a soulful hymn from his childhood. (Flight)

Eidolon (Chapter 36)
"I cut the strings. They were never yours anyway.”(Liberation)

Eidolon (Chapter 35)
A few twists of a little turnscrew and the mechanic was stripping wires and rerouting circuits in moments. (Break)

Eidolon (Chapter 34)
Stars scattered in the night, coalesced from the stellar dust from a far away sun and others that came before. A spark, scintillating into a network, a stream, like the lights and streets of a city. (Cascade)

Eidolon (Chapter 33)
"Put me back in that place," River said, "Little bluebird singing in a cage, puppet on broken strings." (Capture)