Happily Ever After
Thursday, October 28, 2004

Why Inara is leaving. Why Mal will let her go.


Happily Ever After

Happiness is hard to write. Arguments. . . Betrayal. . . Loss. . . Longing. . . Passion . . . All easy to describe, detailed in flashing eyes, raised voices, turned backs, touching mouths, groping hands. But real happiness is elusive, it doesn’t tend to lend itself to fiction. It’s comprised of daily chores and mundane conversations. Happiness is safety and stability, punctuated by fear of loss wondering how all this will end. It kills desire, and wanting is what keeps us alive.

“We all die alone. . .”

That’s why they can’t have eachother. It’s not his loathing for her career. It’s not her fear of surrendering control. It’s the knowledge that after that one bright moment, it will all fade into banality.

It’s why fairytales end with happily ever after. Nothing left to say. No one wants to know that Cinderella got fat. That Prince Charming had a roving eye. It’s why, ironically, the Little Mermaid was the luckiest out of all of them. Better to be foam upon the waves, better to fade to nothing, than to watch that happen to love.

They may not know these stories. Maybe they got lost over the course of the wars, the melding of nations, forgotten in the annals of time. But true meta-narratives are never truly gone (the stories change shape . . . the characters get new names), the unspoken truths remain the same. After the story ends and the child puts down the book, the hero wonders if he should have gone to the next tower, kissed a different girl as she slumbered. The heroine absently watches as the wet nurse feeds her brat and dreams of escape.

“It takes one pound of pressure to pierce human flesh. . . We’re just that fragile.”

They don’t want that. They’re creatures of the world, far wiser than the rest of the crew. Zoe deludes herself thinking a baby might make him grow up. Wash plays with his plastic dinosaurs and jokes, while doubt and jealousy consume him inside. Kaylee dreams of her city prince, while throwing herself at rim toads, dreaming that a kiss might transform them. Simon understands, its not fear or refinement that keeps him from the mechanic. Maybe he has a bit of River’s intuition, seeing the long future wading through the black. But he’s young and while his mind pulls him in one direction, hope (the cruelest curse of the Gods, the last evil gift dwelling at the bottom of Pandora’s box) pulls him towards her.

Mal and Inara are smarter than that. They know what lies on the darkside of happily ever after.

Deep underneath it all the lies, desire, and pain, Mal’s glad that she’s just a fancified slut. As he snarls, he watches the way other men look at her. He knows that never having had her, he possesses far more than they can ever buy. He can covet her . . . yes love her even (because he does . . . more than he’ll ever say). As the years pass, he can lie in his bunk and dream of her. She will always be young, beautiful, strong, and proud. He’ll never have to see her eyes dim, her flesh sag. He’ll never have to watch as her fine silks turn to rags. He’ll never have to admit what he’s known all along, that he’s not good enough for her. He’ll never fail her. In letting her go, he keeps her forever, encased in glass . . . frozen in time. She will always be as perfect as the day she waltzed on his boat and he called her a whore.

Inara’s mind is clear, but her heart. . . Well that’s what hearts do they break then they mend. She’s tasted the fire, danced around it, warmed herself on the flames. Better to go now before the smoke suffocates her. If she stayed, they’d come together. And every day it gets a little harder to stay away. What if they did, if they finally gave into their heart’s desire? What then? Passion, followed by awkwardness, which fades to regularity . . . happiness. He won’t stop, there will always be another planet, another job, another woman. How long could it last before the wonder lust took him. Before she came to resent him. Mal is himself. He would have her give up everything, leave her identity behind to become his. And then he’d hate her for it, more than he claims to now. Never change your life for another person. That’s what the fairy tales always forget to say.

So they stand at the end of Serenity’s deck, looking into eachother’s eyes one last time. Last chance to turn back, to play the game everyone’s destined to lose. They smile sadly staring into eachother’s eyes one last time (maybe their lips barely touch). They embrace and hold on just a fraction too long. The release is mutual. She turns and walks away.

And (in eachother’s minds) they lived happily ever after. . .

This is my first fanfic ever! Please comment, rip me apart, I swear I'll like it.


Thursday, October 28, 2004 5:45 PM


I have a niece named Phaedra! Freaked me out to see the name here.

Your fic is okay. "Each other" is two words, though.

Thursday, October 28, 2004 6:03 PM


You have a lovely sense of poetic flow. And some nice insights.

I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

Thursday, October 28, 2004 7:08 PM


Oh, good grief, that's so very, very sad. My throat is all tight and I'm crying. Ouch. Painful. Very, very well written, though.

Friday, October 29, 2004 1:44 AM


This was beautifully written though I don't happen to agree with your glass half full view of the 'verse you tap into the insecurities of each character while giving a realistic introspection for both Inara and Mal. I completely agree that the two do *love* each other and that both frightens and draws them together - because of the sheer strength of that desire and how easily it could destroy them. What makes it so poignant is knowing neither one can change, can compromise who they are for who they would have to be to make that joining work. I can't believe this accomplished piece is your first, well done and much kudos to you. Hope to read more of your excellent writing in the "Firefly" 'verse. *Xie xie ni*, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, October 29, 2004 3:43 AM


Beautiful piece of work. Great insight into the dance that Mal and Inara do. I hope you keep writing!

Friday, October 29, 2004 11:12 AM


I really like the tone you've set here. Trite as it may sound, "If you love someone, set them free" is sometimes (often?) the correct decision.

Of course, no end of dramatic possibilities in having Inara turn up every now and again, just when most needed, eh?


Sunday, October 31, 2004 8:04 AM


A well written piece. Really insightful stuff too. I liked it a lot. Keep up the shiny work!

Friday, November 5, 2004 10:16 AM


Thank you all for your comments. I appologize for the spelling and grammer mistakes, but alas I am beta less, and those fields were never my strong suit to begin with. I freely admitt the story is a dark and rather (ok very) depressing take on the Inara/Mal coupling (which happens to be my favorite on the show). While the hopeful romantic in me would love to see those two crazy kids come together and heal eachother, the hopeless realist romantic doesn't see much of a future there. I worte the story not only with fairytales in mind, but the other relationships found in Joss's various universes, which all seem to end tragiclly. In a way, I saw splitting them up before it could go any further and lead them to more pain and frustration as being one of the kindess things I could do for my two favorite characters. I'm working on a new piece that assumes the relationship continues, hopefully it will be a little happier.

Thank you again
Phaedra (a bad luck name)

Sunday, January 16, 2005 10:33 AM


I have no idea, Phaedra, if you're still following the comments here, but I have just worked my way back to this piece from "Pillow Book" and I think it makes the setting of "Pillow Book" so much more poignant to imagine it following "Ever After!" What a wonderful story: Lovers separate, sure that no happiness awaits them together; come back together (the Second Independence War, maybe?) and can't resist their love; etc. etc.

You are a star, Phaedra, thanks for lighting us all up!

Saturday, April 29, 2006 8:27 PM


Never change your life for another person. That’s what the fairy tales always forget to say.

Awesome words!!

Reminds me of the words in a book by Tom Robbins: "She named her toad after Prince Charming. That bastard that never showed up."

And forget what anon above said. Sometimes love isn't enough, it's not eternal and no one deserves to be shot for surviving THAT realization. Hell, you might WANT to be shot after surviving, but not because you believe... after all, experience is a lot more telling than aphorisms of the idealist.


You must log in to post comments.



The Pillowbook of Inara Serra: Part VI Book of Surrender
Many months later, a new chapter

The Pillowbook of Inara Serra: Part V Book of Waking Dreams
It's time to open your eyes and see what's really in the verse.

The Art of Scars
"Mal's body is like a map of scars." Post series but written before BDM was released. Mal and Inar get together, Inara's point of view.

Interlude: Dreams in Three Tenses
Now I lay me down to sleep. . .

The Pillow Book of Inara Serra, Part IV: Book of Gifts
The Alliance invasion of Shadow begins. What would you sacrifice to protect what you loved?

The Pillow Book of Inara Serra, Part III: Book of Games
Part 2 of 2

Hell hath no fury, like a companion with a cause

The Pillow Book of Inara Serra, Part III: Book of Games
Section 1 of 2
Let the games begin . . .

Valentines from Villains: The Passionate Reaver to his Meat
The Reavers want you . . .

Valentines from Villains 2: To River from Your Secret Admirers
River gets a special letter on the 14th

Valentines from Villains 1- Saffron to Mal
It is that time of year when Hallmark and their corporate constituents force us to think of love and material ways to demonstrate it. While I’m sure that a flurry of holiday centered fic will begin to emerge as Valentine’s day grows closer, we should not forget those who make the Firefly universe so rich and exciting, namely the villains. If the Whedon universe has taught us anything, its that bad guys/gals need love too: Spike/Drusilla, Darla/Angelos, Mayor Wilkins/Faith (paternal love counts too). Though Firefly did not last long enough for us to see the softer side of its villains, I still write in honor of their passions.

Since I lack both imagination and poetic talent, the entries in this series are based on some of my favorite love poems. The first is in honor of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s, Thursday, one of the greatest breakup poems ever written.