Five Things That Never Happened When Inara Serra Left Serenity
Saturday, November 12, 2005

The longest title ever should explain it all.


Author's Note: After a two months of leaving anonymous comments, I have finally decided to sign up here. Nice place. :)

This isn't as poignantly contrasted as most "Five Things..." stories. I just liked the format and the option of many in one.

Now with better editing.

---------------------------------------------------------------- Five Things That Never Happened When Inara Serra Left Serenity ----------------------------------------------------------------

- - -

I. Right. ----------

The bed is warm, toasty even, and her gentle ministrations have soothed its occupant into peaceful slumber.

Her head is resting on the pillow next to his and as her eyes wander over his face she feels nothing but the overwhelming perfection of the moment.

"I love you very much." A tired finger trails over unruly hair. "You rascal."

"Spoken like poetry by my wild rebel bride."

Inara doesn't startle, not outwardly, even though she never heard the soft-footed approach. Instead she sits up, turns her head to the doorway and arches one perfect eyebrow.

"Rebel? What brings on this harsh judgment?"

Green eyes sparkle back at her. "Always breaking the rules, baobei. You're trying to fall asleep in the wrong bed."

He's all mirth, walking closer. Freckles and red hair and dimples, and that small permanent crease between his eyebrows from frowning over blueprints all day.

"I can't help it", she purrs at his approaching form. "It's the untamed bandit in me. No laws can govern my sleeping patt--"

The rest drowned in a muffled squeal when Yuri dives in and picks her off the bed, throws her over his shoulder with a grunt and a guffaw. Kicking legs can't stop him, so she finds herself lifted and clutches his shirtback and bites her lips against the giggles.

"You make handsome bounty." Strained whispers as he turns and rushes out of their son's bedroom toward their own.

Wriggling, shaking, gasping bounty, too. She's trying to be quiet and hold it all in until he closes the door and unloads her on the bed, but then she lets it burst free, loud and in torrents.

He laughs with her, sprawled over her, red-faced and feeling hilarious. They laugh and hold each other until they kiss and do more than that.

When she happens to think of Serenity, she knows leaving was the right thing.

It led her here.

- - - - ----------- II. Wrong. -----------

She knows leaving was the wrong thing.

Not right away, not for two months, settling into life at the Guild House.

She knows when she sees their gloved hands, taking seat in a small interrogation cell. The police escort leaves, releasing her of their shadow into the bright light of certain realisation.

How short-sighted of her, not to expect this.

When they take her with them, Inara clings to two truths that they cannot unmake.

She plays for time. Ignorance, falsehoods, silence. Inara knows how to spin a story, but they are very good at what they do. Passage of time is marked in screams and periods of darkness. In the end, she gives them all she has.

"I don't know where they are."

"They won't come, they will know it's a trap."

She knows they believe her when they enter without needles, without touching her.

A small device is raised, extending two rods, and emits a high-pitched whine. Inara feels a small measure of satisfaction before she dissolves into frantic, blood-boiling agony.

- - - - ------------ III. River. ------------

Thirty-six hours after Inara left Serenity, she was back on board.

Life's funny like that.

There had been handshakes and hugs and indifferent grunts that Mal had watched, hidden and face drawn.

There had been a sweeping look back to the ship that Mal had watched, hidden and greedy in his bitterness.

There had been tears and tension and walking on eggshells after Serenity lifted off Persephone again, and they hadn't even noticed River's absence until Inara's wave came in.

That had been an awkward ride back.

They never found out what River said to her, if she said anything at all, but when they arrived to pick her up, the two of them were sitting on Inara's packaged belongings, hair in braids, holding hands.

The girl jumped up, looked into the round of exasperated faces and curtsied with perfect poise before smiling like it was Christmas and dancing up the ramp into the cargo bay.

"She's coming with us."

The words trailed confusion and grins and Simon's open-mouthed stare in her wake.

Inara stood, too, less smiley but with equal grace, to face the general disbelief and stepped to the Captain who wore a face made of angry, scared stone.

As is usual for occasions like these, everyone else just sort of disappeared, leaving the even voices and burning eyes to their fate.

"I hear there's a shuttle free to rent."

"Best not make a habit of this."

There was perfume and shiny glossy hope and sweat on the back of the Captain's neck and a big stack of crates and bundles that had somewhere to go.

"Jayne, get moving."

Muttered curses in the foreground and engine grease wrapping itself around silk in the background, a layer of ataraxis hung over it all.

Wash looked at his wife with questioning eyes and Zoe said "Huh."

It was that kind of day.

- - - - --------------- IV. Serenity. ---------------

She's made a good life for herself.

Batches of new companions grow under her care every year, her skills keen and honed by many years of devoted practice.

She remains a beauty, a goddess of etheral pleasures, even as she fades in age.

Influence and tranquility, she wants for nothing. Hasn't in a long time. There are no regrets.

But every once in a while she finds herself wandering the docks, scanning rows of metal for a dusty Firefly. Scanning the crowd for a rainbow umbrella, a loud shirt, brown coat tails fluttering over dirty boots.

All she finds is a sea of travelling strangers, coming and going, a flurry of opportunity. She wonders at their stories, searches for that spark that will prompt her to step closer and reach out for a chance at adventure.

She walks home at sunset, trailing dust and nostalgia into the polished gloss of the House.

Her dreams are always sweet on those nights.

- - - - --------------- V. The Caper. ---------------

Zoe knows the deal is sealed when their contact runs a series of surveillance pictures over a grainy monitor - the mark, his house, his people, security uniforms, the loot - before switching over to blueprints and codes.

It's only a flash, but if she saw it, the Captain saw it and no matter what he may have said about caution and options, they will take this job. She sighs in resignation and wonders whether this complication will help or hurt.

At least there's the promise of a large stack of money.


Mal agrees to a price and braces himself for Zoe's questions on the way back to the ship. They don't come and he's left to stew in his own juices, no defensive denial to override the hot burn of something in his gut that shouldn't guide his decisions. Shouldn't hold more sway than a boatload of cash, not after over a year, not because of dark curls and a hand around her waist where it has no right to be.

He smiles a mean smile and hums with angry energy. He'll do this job, he'd do this job for free.


The Magistrate feels her stiffen and Inara knows she's doomed. Knows with perfect clarity that whatever it is that "Mr. and Mrs. Hayden" have planned, it will cost her this client and possibly more.

Alarms will ring and things will be missing and Alliance will escort her off to be questioned because Magistrate Barnet will remember how she stiffened in his arms when they introduced the guilty parties. It's filed away in his mind, even if he can't make the connections yet.

All because she couldn't hide her surprise.

Inara wishes for a shovel. If she's going to be ruined for the sake of Mal Reynolds, it might as well be because she beat him to death.


Zoe admires Inara's self-control and practices some of her own by not shifting around in her dress. "Pleased to meet you, Miss Serra."

"The pleasure is all mine." There is a world of welcome in the Companion's smile and murder in her eyes.

Zoe daintily shakes the proffered hand and scans the entrance hall for the route to the study, translating two-dimensional plans to three-dimensional pathways to wealth.

"Oh no, not at all. The pleasure is all ours." The Captain draws it out, kisses Inara's hand and doesn't take his eyes off her face for a moment. There's an edge in his voice that makes her wonder if Wash still remembers that poem for her funeral.

While the Captain starts talking about fictional estate and mutual business ventures, Zoe wears her most harmless smile and calculates distances, time requirements, holes in security.


She looks exactly the same, except it's been a while and she practically slaps him with the perfection.

It's an odd kind of burn to wonder how long she is going to abet their ruse, how far they can go without endangering her cover of innocence and he's just enough of a bastard to wonder why he should care at all. Except he knows she's the one doing him a favor, and that is another kind of burn.

They torture each other through business and dinner and at night, personally mapping out the place with Zoe, he carefully blocks out what Inara's probably doing right then, with a guy who could be her father and has a fondness for storing precious artifacts in his very expensive house.

After a second day of fake chatter, they run out of veiled barbs and the too-bright smiles don't stay on without effort. He can't look at her and he can't not and what kind of backbirth is he, to do this to himself?

He wants to get it over with. Be wealthy and smug and gone from here.


Inara does her very best to tire out the Magistrate, early and thoroughly, and when she slips from his bed she curses herself in silence. No light is necessary to lead her through the maze of corridors, she's been here often, and there is no surprise when she sees Zoe, back in pants and armed, pointing a flashlight at a small code box outside the study's back entrance, busy with some sort of tool.

There is no need to guess what is going on inside and she has no desire to watch the details, so she stays with Zoe, watching her work.

"Problems?" The conversational tone is deliberate and she congratulates herself for making it sound so genuine. If they do it right, she won't have to worry too deeply. Maybe.

Zoe flashes her a smile, never taking her eyes off the task. "Nope."

Inara nods, inclines her head and smiles. "How is everyone?"


"Can't complain." Zoe feels relieved at Inara's nonchalance. Much better than the outrage she had half-expected the Companion to profess. Certainly better than being disrupted while she's keeping up a continuous override of the alarm sensors.

She wishes the Captain would get done with the safe a lot quicker. But so far, it's going surprisingly well.

Zoe curses herself for the thought even before they hear the bump inside the study.

Next to her, Inara sighs. "How many guards did you disable?"

Zoe fights against the urge to close her eyes and keeps busy with the alarm codes. "Three." She sees Inara nodding and knows they must have missed a number four. The one not mentioned in any of their preliminary information. The one they didn't notice during recon the previous night. The one who checked out the study's front entrance.

Inara sends her a tired smile. "He's new. If you'll excuse me now, I'll leave you to your business."

The Companion slips away and Zoe clenches her jaw, listening hard for the Captain's voice, cold and focused.


Mal knows what a laser pistol can do to a body, so when he hears one come to life he raises his hands automatically. For one crazed moment he wonders if it's Inara aiming soulless death at him, but a nervous grunt dispells that notion right quick.

"Drop the jewelry!"

The shiny piece of precious gives a dull thud when it collides with the hardwood floors. The kind of thud that carries. Except Zoe can't come get him out of this unless she leaves the alarm which will have the feds raining down on them in a matter of ten minutes.

He hopes that when she realizes he's not coming, it's the other direction she'll run.

Turning around, he sees the guard pressing buttons on his belt, getting more nervous by the second when none of his buddies answer him. Man in a mood like that is more likely to shoot than arrest him and Mal hates this stupid plan more and more.

He's three seconds away from using calm and soothing words to keep the guard from riddling him with deadly burns when a bust, the heavy marble kind, saves him the trouble. The man drops, out cold, and reveals the decoratively armed shape of Inara, dressed in nothing much, glaring like an angry dog.


She drops the bust on the prone man's shoulders and takes a deep breath. There's something not right with this picture. He should probably not be staring at her bare legs or maybe he should thank her for preventing his untimely end, but both of these things he has a whole world of trouble wrapping his mind around just then.

She starts hissing at him about bad planning and using his brain and it would remind him of Zoe if he was hearing her, really.

"What the hell are you doing?"

Wrong thing to say. Right thing to say, because, dammit, she's just turned all kinds of stupid, getting involved in their job, but wrong time to say it, because her eyes grow wide with some kind of fury.

"What does it look like I'm doing, you thick-headed, self-centered, arrogant son of a dirty pig. I'm throwing my entire life away!"

She continues on muttering colorful Chinese while he stands dumb-founded, watching her drag the guard into a corner. Or trying. He's still not quite comprehending.

"Such language."

The expression on her face would have sent smarter men crumbling to dust. He just keeps staring like cattle.

"Would you move!"

Mal complies. Two seconds later he has her pressed up against the wall, kissing her like he's trying to eat her alive.


Zoe tries to keep her right leg from twitching and she's failing. She knows something is going on in there but she can't be sure what and she's not taking her hands off that alarm code box until she has to draw her gun.

Two minutes after Inara left she heard another louder bump from the study. Man hitting floor, unmistakable, but she doesn't have so good a hearing to tell if it was the Captain going down or that guard. No sounds of struggle, but muffled voices and she knew it was Inara in there.

An interesting twist to contemplate later, for sure, but right now she wants them to move it the hell along.

Another bump of body into hard surface, shortly followed by some kind of moan and she swears to herself that she's going to kill them both once they're back on the ship. Put them out of their misery. Inherit herself a nice boat.

Then there's a slap and more hissing and a moment later they are both rushing out of the study, loot in Inara's hand, and Mal closes the door, reengaging the extra secure automated lock. Finally, she can draw away from the code box.

Picking up her tool kit, she shoots the Captain a glare, and Inara, too, for good measure. "I reckon she's coming with us, sir?"


Inara exchanges a quick glance with Mal and if she wasn't so furious she'd be terrified, but her voice comes out calm and steady.

"Yes. I expect my shuttle is still free?"

Zoe turns, running, and they both follow her. Mal next to her is silent and wide-eyed. Good for him. She congratulates herself for making him that way and mentally bids goodbye to all her beautiful possessions that she'll never see again.

She can't really believe what possessed her. She could have stayed behind, tried to slither her way out of this situation. Had intended to, sometime between leaving Zoe and knocking out the guard. She's not quite sure what happened to that plan, but she'll gladly blame Mal while she contemplates herself back on Serenity.

She's not sorry. It was an easy choice, really. Oh, she's going to throw up before the night is over. But for now she'll pretend the giddy feeling in her stomach is pure anticipation.

Mal grabs her arm to keep her from lagging behind, holds on hard and looks back at her once.

The bastard is smiling. And so is she. Running barefoot and smiling and muttering curses.

- - - - END.


Saturday, November 12, 2005 3:31 AM


Interessting, haven't before read a five things story, but I found it to be very interessting. Looking forward to seeing whatever it is you'll come up with next

Saturday, November 12, 2005 4:28 AM



Fantastic job!

You nailed the characterizations so beautifully, I can see every single one of those situations happening.
I particularly like the one with the older Inara, having reached a regal age in her companion life, keeps going back to the docks, looking for that rag-tag crew and just one more adventure. Very nice. :)

Saturday, November 12, 2005 5:48 AM


Very nice. I've never seen this format. I can see why you like it. Hope to see more of your work.

Saturday, November 12, 2005 6:42 AM


"What does it look like I'm doing, you thick-headed, self-centered, arrogant son of a dirty pig. I'm throwing my entire life away!"

Yep, that's the Inara we know and love.

Saturday, November 12, 2005 7:33 AM


Even cursing and berating him, Inara loves her Captain... Shiny, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, November 13, 2005 12:38 AM


Thank you, everyone, for your very nice feedback! I'm glad you enjoyed my little offering. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2005 8:53 AM


love the image of inara standing on the docks looking for serenity and her crew...especially this line:

Scanning the crowd for a rainbow umbrella, a loud shirt, brown coat tails fluttering over dirty boots.

brilliant imagery


Friday, December 9, 2005 5:39 AM


That was fantastic! I liked them all, but definately loved the last one... cool format!

Friday, March 10, 2006 10:11 PM


God, you know... I just have to comment again... I needed something good to read, to pick me up, and I just love this... makes me feel all sorts of good stuff... I await the day you'll grace us with more of your splendid writiing... I read this and know I could learn so much from you! I really do idolize your work! Love it...

Friday, March 24, 2006 6:33 AM


As others have said the last one is particularly good. Probably because I could actually see it happening on the show.
"The bastard is smiling. And so is she. Running barefoot and smiling and muttering curses."

The one where she's old makes me sad in that melancholy way. At that point the crew is probably scattered or dead, but in her mind they're just who they were all those years ago.

The very first one kind of made me a little mad because I expected it to be Mal and then it wasn't. *sigh*

Just an overall good story. It would be kind of fun if maybe you expanded on that last one. Made it a series or somesuch.


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