Choices - Part 4
Friday, November 25, 2005

Tensions mount, and Inara stops denying the truth of what she wants.


A/N: Ah, I’ve stayed up Waaaay past my bedtime, writing my poor little fingers to the bone for you to get part 4 done and posted before the weekend takes me away. This will have to tide you over until Part 5 is done. Enjoy! And thanks for stayin’ with me on this little side trip! Go back and read the Other Parts: 1 2 3A 3B

Choices - Part 4 by 2x2

They stepped outside into the cool night air to await the carriage, both of them silent. Mal swayed in the wind unsteadily, forcing in deep lung fulls of air, feeling slightly nauseas.

Inara shivered, her bare arms and midriff prickling with gooseflesh at the chill. She rubbed her arms fruitlessly in an effort to get warm and was startled as she felt Mal’s browncoat suddenly draped over her shoulders. She stared at him, surprised that he would let her wear the symbol that was the embodiment of his beliefs, especially when he knew she had not supported the Independents during the war. Touched by his gesture, she drew in a breath to thank him but caught it as her senses were suddenly awash in the heady aroma of the coat – leather; sweat; dust….

And Mal.

So much *Mal.*

Her eyes fell shut as she took his smell inside her, shivering now for an entirely different reason. She let her breath out slowly and opened her eyes to find him gazing back at her, something in his look that told her he was not unpleased with the picture she presented. She pulled the coat close around her, the smile on her lips fading as he reached out to adjust the collar, his fingers brushing the back of her neck as he turned the leather down and then smoothed it out over her shoulders.

“Thank-you,” she managed, her heart pounding madly. He said nothing, giving her the barest of nods as he let his hands fall back to his sides. She swallowed, caught in his stare, unable to look away. He lifted his hand again, tentatively reaching for her cheek.

They started apart at the clatter of hooves and horses that suddenly burst upon them as the carriage drew up in front of The Chapel of Love, the ancient doorman perched in its driver’s chair unhappily.

Mal turned back to Inara but she ducked her head, pulling his coat tight around her and moving to the carriage. He closed his eyes with a sigh and then moved to help her climb into the vehicle, pulling himself up next to her as the little man snapped the reigns impatiently.

The carriage was small and there was little room for space between them. Inara sat stiffly, staring out into the dark streets, trying to ignore the feeling of Mal’s hip pressed against her own. She drew in a shaky breath, trying to calm herself. She had very nearly given in there, the combination of what she’d heard earlier that day, the alcohol, the coat and Mal’s touch testing her control to its limit. Not to mention Mal saving her from… those *men.* She shuddered to think what might have happened, unable to process it.

Mal looked over at her, concern written on his face. “‘You sure you’re okay?” he asked, his eyes guarded. She turned to him, startled from her thoughts. “Y-yes. Yes,” she stammered. “I just… I’ve never, um… I’ve never experience that before, the intent to, uh…” she glanced over her shoulder, back towards the whorehouse. “…to be forced into sexual activity, believe it or not. Most… Usually, Companions are… I mean, no one would…,” she looked back to him, taking a steadying breath. “Assaulting a Companion is very, very rare in my…my world. The Guild reaction…” she shook her head.

“Common enough, that kind of place,” he replied, staring down at his hands. “Sad as it is.” He let out a shame-filled breath. “I… I should’ve never left you alone,” he said, an apology in his voice. He looked over at her, remorse in his eyes.

She stared back at him, feeling the affection and yearning for him swell within her all over again. “Thank-you for coming back,” she answered, truly not knowing what she would have done without him there.

He shrugged self-deprecatingly and looked away. “Weren’t about to let nothin’ happen to you. Besides, it was Gabr’elle who pointed out you were in trouble. I was too busy bein’ a gorram lǘ zi to realize it myself,” he said softly, glancing at her sideways in contrition. She smiled, offering him the forgiveness she felt was un-necessary, but knew he needed.

“But you came back,” she said softly, giving his arm a squeeze. “Thank-you.” He ducked his head and nodded, giving her a small smile. Her smile widened and she let the motion of the carriage rock her against his shoulder.

“You called me a Lady. Back there,” she said conspiratorially.

A grin tugged at the corner of his lips. “Yeah, well… You are,” he acknowledged with a nod. She arched an eyebrow at him in surprise and he shook his head. “Jus’ don’t be tellin’ anyone I told you so. I do have a reputation, you know.”

“I know,” she nodded with a full-fledged smile, squeezing his arm again. “You’re a--”

“Mean old man,” they finished together, both of them smiling.

The carriage lurched to the left suddenly, and Inara’s hand shot out, seeking purchase to steady herself, and landed square on his thigh. Her eyes shot up to his as she jerked her hand away, but Mal was oblivious, too concerned with suddenly having to keep his lunch down. The carriage lurched again and Mal went green as his stomach heaved with the motion.

“Oh. Oh no, no, no, no,” he moaned, swallowing desperately, trying to keep himself from being sick.

“Mal?” said Inara, concerned. “Are you all right?”

He looked her way just as the carriage hit another pothole. She saw his face go white and then he was leaning over the edge of the coach, retching uncontrollably. Wincing, she leaned over, her hands going to his back and side, soothing him as he heaved again, his muscles tight with the strain beneath her palms.

“Hey! No ǒu tù on my cart, you bù láng bù yǒu shǎ zi!” shouted the driver, shaking a fist at them over his shoulder.

“Maybe you could try not hitting every pothole in the street!” Inara snapped back.

The little man glared at her and then deliberately steered the carriage into another dip, looking back in gleeful disdain as Mal groaned pitifully and threw up again.

Bu zhu yi hún dàn!” she cursed at him, then turned back to Mal “Easy, just let it come,” she said softly, smoothing her hand over his back. “Don’t fight it.”

“I’m okay, I’m fine. I --,” he gasped, and then he was retching once more.

At last he stopped, having nothing left to expel, and sat back, breathing heavily, exhausted. Inara brushed his damp locks from his forehead with a sympathetic frown. He lifted himself slightly with a groan and pulled a hip flask from his back pocket, unscrewing the cap and taking a long drink.

“Mal!” she protested and he shook his head.

”’Just water,” he wheezed. “Gotta get that taste outta my mouth.” He took another deep pull from the flask, wiping at his face with his sleeve. Inara frowned and, remembering the scarf she’d seen him stuff into his pocket earlier, patted first the left and then his right hip, and feeling it there, reached her hand in to pull it out. He raised his eyebrows at her and gave her a weak grin despite his current condition.

Bi zui,” she scolded, rolling her eyes, though not unaware of the feeling of his thigh beneath her hand again. As Mal realized what she was taking from his pocket, his face changed, his eyes darting away from hers, ashamed. She caught the look and shook her head. “It’s all right,” she said softly, her voice full of understanding. She folded it up and began to clean his face with it, but he grabbed her wrist, pulling her hand away from him.

“You’ll spoil it,” he protested weakly. She smiled softly at him and took the scarf in her other hand, sliding her fingers against his and squeezing gently.

“I’ll give you another one,” she promised, continuing her ministrations. His eyes closed as the smooth silk whispered across his skin, his fingers tightening around hers. Inara took the rare opportunity to take in his face, memorize the features her scarf swirled around. She watched the flutter of his pulse at his neck, and the rise and fall of his adam’s apple as he swallowed, the way his lashes rested against his cheek, the lines that framed his mouth and eyes… Her fingers moved the silk over his lips, lingering as she felt his hot breath through the wispy fabric.

Shang di, she cursed to herself. How was she going to live without seeing his face everyday? Without hearing his voice, without that grin and his boyishly unkempt hair?

His eyes opened suddenly, startling and blue; caught her gaze and she couldn’t look away. They remained frozen in a tableau of yearning and indecision, their only movement the swaying of the carriage and the rise and fall of their chests with each inhalation. She felt the barest hint of a kiss pressed to her fingers, and she trembled, her breath growing erratic, eyes going wide. She drew her hand away slowly, lowering her gaze, a frown creasing her brow.

“Inara,” he whispered, voice deep and gravelly with emotion. She looked up, her face anguished, and placed her fingers over his lips to silence him. He stared back, confusion and longing written on his face, and such care and worry that it made her chest ache. She swallowed and drew in a breath, her eyes awash in tears. He lifted a hand and cupped her cheek, his thumb catching the first drop of moisture from her eye and wiping it away. And she felt the last vestiges of her control crumble.

It was no use. She couldn’t keep denying it. She wanted… him. All of him. She wanted to forget who and what she was, who and what he was, and just be, here, in this moment, with him.

Her fingers curled against his cheek, her thumb resting against his bottom lip, and slowly, as though it were the most serious thing in the world, she drew his face toward hers, letting her eyes close and her lips part.

Hēi! We here! Fei chuan, you, firefly class!” said the driver suddenly, pulling the carriage to a stop abruptly. Inara started as she remembered they were not alone, and looked away guiltily, shocked by what she had nearly done.

Mal closed his eyes tightly, his jaw clenching in frustration as he cursed. He opened his eyes to see her retreating within herself again, withdrawing from him, letting the Companion out as a buffer between them once more.

“Inara--” he implored, making her name a plea, begging her to come back to him.

“We’d best get on board. The crew will be worried,” she said, her voice full of professional distance, and Mal knew the chance was gone.

* * * * *

Chinese Translations: Bi zui = shut up bù láng bù yǒu = useless Bu zhu yi = thoughtless Fei chuan = airship / spaceship Hēi = hey hún dàn = bastard lǘ zi = ass / donkey shǎ zi = fool Shang di = God

Go to Part 5


Friday, November 25, 2005 9:44 PM


Stupid old carriage driver guys.... seriously we've got to do something about them, they are getting out of control.... bah
PS: Love the story!

Friday, November 25, 2005 11:11 PM


VERY nice, lovely and shiny. But where's the tension release? Dontcha think these two are about to go nuclear with need? Oh wait. I think that's me.

Fave line: "...her senses were suddenly awash in the heady aroma of the coat – leather; sweat; dust….

And Mal.

So much *Mal.*"

Saturday, November 26, 2005 12:33 AM


OH WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME!!! thank you for writing more 'n all but iwas gosh darn so close to throwing my computer out the window when i did not see the release promised in the advertisement! GORRAM CABBY! I was goign to throw my computer at him! Oh i Please hurry! More...please?!

Saturday, November 26, 2005 3:10 AM


ahh.. I knew I would get into trouble for this ;o)

the teaser line said Tensions *mount*, not relase, I'm afraid... and Inara does come to a point where she can no longer deny her need/want for Mal...

I'm not doing this to be mean, I swear! Tht little bastard driving the coach just wouldn't shut up... I had them so, so close!!! I'm nearly as frustrated as you, and believe me, *Mal* is really getting frustrated... if he weren't such an honourable guy, he'dve just grabbed her and kissed her by now, but you know how he is...

But I promise, *promise*, there will be some release, and soon... so please don't abandon me yet... If I have *any* say at all, I'm gonna make these two give in!!

Saturday, November 26, 2005 7:26 AM


Damn that old bastard! gah! Have to love when characters you create take over eh? I have that as well, it's never pleasant

Very nice of the 'giving of brown coat'. Makes him look like a nice old guy instead of...of...;)

But I have to say, nice move for NOT letting them kiss. Personally? I wouldn't kiss a guy that's been retching recently. Just a matter of taste

Oh, I won't abandon, I'm having too much damn fun reading this. gotta love tension :-P

***But I promise, *promise*, there will be some release, and soon... so please don't abandon me yet... If I have *any* say at all, I'm gonna make these two give in!!**


And if Inara does not make her move soon, I'm just going to have to kidnap Mal for myself *grin* Make him brush his teeth after that sickness session

Saturday, November 26, 2005 8:20 AM


Very good but frustrating as *diyu* to have Inara withdraw again just as that crabby old cabby brings them back to Serenity. And poor Mal, all this and a hangover too! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, November 27, 2005 5:30 AM


i'm with anonymous: kill the cabby!!! he's evil, i swear...


Tuesday, November 29, 2005 10:15 AM


more please.

Thursday, December 8, 2005 4:52 PM


EXCELLENT!!! I love this story. The way she describes him, I don't know how I live without seeing him every day. Wait, I don't. He's my wallpaper on my computer at work. Hummm...anyway, I'm gonna read the rest. EXCELLENT!

Friday, December 1, 2006 8:02 PM


EEEEE!!! I love this so much! It's so realistic, the way it's unfolding.


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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.