Choices - Part 3 B
Thursday, November 24, 2005

Things are never easy for Inara and Mal. A last drink and some complications round out their stay at The Chapel of Love.


A/N here's the rest of Part 3... Part 4 is in the works. As always, all belongs to Joss, I'm just borrowing them!

Go back and read the Other Parts: 1 2 3A

Choices – Part 3 B by 2x2

“Hey, easy,” said Mal, scooching his chair around the table to smooth his hand across Inara’s back. He gave her a couple of gentle pats as she fought to clear her airway.

Lao tian ye,” she sputtered, wiping the tears from her eyes, very aware of Mal’s proximity. He leaned closer, rubbing her back, his fingers hot against the thin silk of her dress. She shuddered and closed her eyes.

“Ain’t much of a drinker are you?” he chided.

“I drink enough,” protested Inara, sitting up carefully and turning her head towards him. He let his hand trail down her back to rest on the chair behind her. “…Wine, and other cultured spirits. Not this, this le se you’re trying to poison me with!”

He chuckled, grinning. “Ah, come on. It’ll put hair on your chest!”

She glared at him in mock seriousness, secretly enjoying their banter. “I hardly think that’s something I want to encourage, considering my line of work--” she trailed off, regretting the words the moment they were out of her mouth. Oh, you sha gua! she cursed herself as she saw his smile falter.

He looked away, swallowing. “No. I guess not,” he said hollowly, leaning back in his chair, away from her.

She sighed inwardly and cursed, mourning the easy flow they’d for once managed to nurture. Desperate to get it back, she glanced at the table and, as much as her stomach protested, she picked up the bottle and poured half of the remaining liquid into the glass.

“Looks like we’ve reached the bottom of the bottle,” she said with false cheeriness, trying her best to draw him back to her. She held out the bottle, hopeful. “What should we drink to?”

He stared back at her a moment and then leaned forward and took the bottle, grasping it by the neck with two fingers. She lifted her glass and cocked her head, waiting. When he looked away and said nothing, she forced a fake smile and raised her glass. “To Serenity,” she started and he interrupted her with bitter laughter.

“To pain,” he said roughly, turning back to face her, daring her to contradict. “Misery. Sorrow. Emptiness…” He lifted his eyes to hers. “Hate.”

Her chest went tight and she felt herself tremble, blinking at the sudden moisture in her eyes. Resigned that this was the way it was always going to be between them, she nodded. “Sorrow and pain,” she echoed. “Fear… Love.”

They stared at each other for a long moment, everything held in their breaths, motionless and silent.

“Why are you leavin’?” he whispered at last, his voice roughened by anguish and pain, struggling with the wetness in his own eyes. She swallowed coarsely and squeezed her eyes shut, a tear escaping to run down her cheek as she fought the overwhelming ache in her heart.

“Mal, don’t--” she implored.

Qu ni de!” Mal spat, slamming the bottle on the table and staggering to his feet with a glower. He shoved his chair away and stumbled toward the door angrily.

Inara jumped up to follow but had to steady herself with a hand on the table as her head swam, her stomach lurching violently with her quick movement. She put a hand to her mouth and groaned. The alcohol was affecting her faster than she’d expected and she knew it hadn’t hit her half as hard as it yet would.

Go se, Mal, wait!” she called after him as he disappeared out the door. She strode forward but was forced to stop suddenly as two men stood and blocked her path, one large and the other short, neither of them pretty. Inara blinked at them in confusion.

“Well now,” said the first man, grinning unpleasantly. “Where are you runnin’ off to so soon? We ain’t got a chance to get to know each other yet!” He reached out and ran a hand over her bare arm suggestively. She tried to step away, only to be forced back against the table by the second man as he crowded her.

“Yeah,” he said, his voice slippery and distasteful. “You don’t need no bu zhong yong chan like him,” he motioned the way Mal had gone with his head. “Why don’t you let some real men take care of you, eh?”

“I’m sorry, I’m not a—I don’t work here,” explained Inara through the haze in her mind, growing extremely uncomfortable. She tried to pull away from the first man’s touch again but his fingers curled around her bicep tightly, keeping hold of her.

He grinned lecherously. “That don’t matter none. We don’t mind,” he laughed. The other man inched forward, rubbing his fingers together in anticipation of touching the silky material that clothed her.

“Let go of me,” demanded Inara, infusing her voice with as much authority and haughtiness she could manage to mask her growing fear.

“We just want a little fun,” said the second man, taking hold of her other arm. Beginning to panic, she tried to twist away but they used her motion to pull her closer to them. She was on the verge of a scream when she suddenly heard the high-pitched whine and serious click of a pistol being cocked and everyone froze.

“Conjure you’d best be doin’ as the Lady asked,” came Mal’s voice, cold and deadly as the barrel of his pistol came to rest against the back of the first man’s skull. The second man released Inara’s arm and went for a gun. “I wouldn’t,” warned Mal at the same time as Gabr’elle’s voice rang out.

“Do as he says, Whelt,” she said, stepping through the curtains, a large rifle pointed at the man. “You know I won’t stand for that sort of conduct in my place, and I undeniably will not tolerate you drawin’ that pistol, you hear me?”

Whelt hesitated, looking from Gabr’elle to Mal and back again.

“Ain’t no harm done,” said the first man, lifting his hands in the air. “Obviously our mistake. Ain’t that right Whelt?… Whelt! Ain’t that right?”

Whelt glared at him but finally relaxed, his hands lifting slowly in placation. “Yeah,” he said at last, cold rage in his voice. “Reckon that’s so.”

“Inara,” said Mal, motioning for her to get behind him. She squeezed past the two men, doing her best to avoid touching them, and stood behind Mal.

“Now,” said Mal, taking a step backwards to put more distance between them and the two men. “We gonna have a problem with this, or are we all done here? ‘Cause I can end it right now,” he told them, his eyes never leaving Whelt.

“Yeah, yeah, we’re done,” said the first man hastily. “Right Whelt?” Whelt stared back at Mal with deadly gravity.

“Oh, we’re done awright,” he said, leaving Mal far from convinced.

“Then get your pei gou’s outside!” ordered Gabr’elle, marching toward them with her rifle still leveled at them. “Now. Take yourselves home and cool off.”

Whelt turned his dark stare on Gabr’elle, unmoving.

“C’mon Whelt,” the other man said at last, giving his friend a nudge. Whelt smiled a mirthless smile and then turned away, leaving the saloon without a backward glance, the other man on his tail.

Tension eased out of the room and Mal holstered his pistol. He turned to Inara, touching her arm gently to get her attention.

“You okay?”

She drew in a shaky breath and nodded, hugging her arms around herself. Mal held her gaze for a beat before turning to Gabr’elle.

“Reckon we’ve brought some trouble on you,” he said.

Gabr’elle waved it off. “Whelt and his lot have been gettin' up to no good round these parts for months. Nothin’ new in that, though I wouldn’t leave here on foot for anywhere tonight, if I was you. I can have my man drive you where you need to go if you aren’t for stayin’, though there’s risk enough in that too.”

Mal glanced at Inara, looking unsure. She knew he would prefer to be back on Serenity, but she could see that he could barely stand, and though he had put up a good front, things probably would’ve gotten nasty if Gabr’elle hadn’t decided to help them out. She didn’t know if he’d be able to defend them out there if the need arose. But at the same time, she wasn’t about to try and tell him what to do, considering he had far more experience with these sorts of situations than she did.

“It’s up to you,” she said. “Whatever you think is best.”

He nodded. “Then I’m for gettin' us back on Serenity. If you can have your man take us, we’d be mighty appreciative.”

Gabr’elle smiled dryly. “No trouble. I’ll just add it to the bill.”

* * * * *

Lao tian ye = jesus le se = garbage sha gua = idiot Qu ni de = go to hell chan = coward / weak bu zhong yong = unfit for anything/no good/useless/

Go to Part 4


Thursday, November 24, 2005 4:00 AM


I totally love Gab'relle!!! Love love love!

"No trouble. I’ll just add it to the bill." Hehehehe!

Love the non-conversation between Mal and Inara. He's pushing so hard for something, anything, while at the same time pushing her away with his harsh defensiveness. And Inara keeps working toward a conciliatory mood up until she would actually have to committ to some kind of truth.

So beautifully screwed up.

More, please, soon!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2005 11:42 AM



I love the way you so articulately summed up what I was attempting to do in my story! Amazing, and it tells me that I at least got some of it right.
Thanks so much!!

So glad you're liking it... I'm writing as fast as I can, and you're great inspiration to keep it up!

Thanks bunches!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2005 12:03 PM


Loved this to itty bitty pieces it is so accurate of their prickly relationship, neither one of them quite able to bridge the gap between wanting and having because to take what they need they have to let go of their pasts. Beautiful, can't wait for the next gorram part though something tells me we ain't seen the end of that *baichi* Whelt. Reckon the man can carry a grudge and then some. - Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, November 24, 2005 4:22 PM


thank you so much for your continuing comments and support! Whelt does seem like quite a shady character, dont' he? I don't know much about him yet, honestly.. I didn't know he was gonna show up until he did, so I'm not sure what he might do in the future!

And to the anonymous poster, thank you! I live for comments like that... that you find my characterization to be accurate is the most flattering thing I can imagine! Thank you so much!

You guys are all so great! I've never in my life written so quickly.. seriously, usually there would be weeks (yes, plural weeks) between each part, but I'm writing these in *days*! That's really amazing for me, and I owe it all to your great support and comments! Cant' think of a lovelier place on the 'net!

Thursday, November 24, 2005 6:39 PM


This is so well written! If not at the same time frustrating that it's still taking them forever to say THREE SIMPLE WORDS! Sometimes, you just want to slam their two heads together! Very happy you got part B up, can't wait for chapter 4 :)

Friday, November 25, 2005 8:20 AM


GUH!!!! think we should just lock those two in a room and not let them out til they get it together...


Friday, November 25, 2005 9:26 AM


I'm loving the tension, beautifully portrayed. Write faster :D

Friday, November 25, 2005 11:07 PM


I'm with Bellona, but if you knew me that wouldn't suprise you none.

Love the characterization. Love the name "Whelt." Keep writing.


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History of an Object
There’s no reason to keep it, damaged as it is. Save one. Doesn’t matter that it’s finer than any other cup on the ship, even with the crack. Doesn’t matter that it would never hold liquid again without some of it seeping through. Burning your fingers. Was only one reason he still has the cup.

Five Years' War
The night was warm. Clouds, low on the horizon, blue black in the last light of the setting sun. Nothing but the breeze and the buzz of the cicadas breaking the stillness. A perfect evening.

The Close Shore, At the End, Untenable
“Dead ’re in my head tonight,” he said finally. “Can’t get ‘em out. Don’t got the booze or the bar to distract me. Don’t know why I’m here ‘cept I don’t think I can go through it alone.”

The Slower Path: All the Difference - Part 15 - Sequel to The One Less Traveled By
She let out a breath, saying nothing for a long moment before she raised her eyes again. “There are some things I want you to know,” she said softly. “Things I want you to understand.”

Much as he wished he could ignore it, he could see it was important to her that he know whatever it was she wanted to tell him. He knew he wouldn't have let himself see it in the past, but that weren't where they were anymore, or at least, not where they wanted to be, either of them. Their relationship had changed, was changing, and he weren’t so stupid he didn’t recognize that. He didn't know that he wanted to know it, much less understand it, but she was reluctant enough to talk about any aspect of her life as it was; could be he might ought not stop her when she wanted to.

Unlucky at Cards...
“I… You can’t be that lucky!” Mal moaned as Inara beat him again, laying out her cards with a flourish.

The Slower Path: The One Less Traveled By - Part 14 - Sequel to Regrets
They fell silent again, struggling to find the ease that they had found, before; before the argument that had almost ended things.

"I feel like-," she started.

"This is-," he said at the same time.

They looked at each other. "Awkward," they both said, laughing lightly.

Always Had Faith
Faith in a higher power? That was always Mal's thing, the Captain, back in the war.

Loved and Lost
Love’s the biggest kind of hurt there is.

And I wouldn't trade that love for nothin'.

The Mood That Passes Through
He felt the first trembling shudder go through her, heard her breath hitch and felt her fingers grip his skin; knew it was comin', the wave that was cresting the walls she'd built to hold it back, whatever it was. Knew they were about to come crashing down around her. The first sob still hurt though, still lanced through his heart like a searing hot blade to hear her make that sound.