Verdict - Chapter One
Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Post-BDM. Mal/Inara. Inara still hasn't made up her mind to stay on Serenity.


River’s landings are smoother than Wash’s. None of them ever say it aloud (not even Jayne—a sort of miracle in itself), but it doesn’t make it any less true. They can’t say she’s a better flyer, not yet. She hasn’t been tested the same way Wash has. Things on Serenity have been calmer than usual these last few weeks.

Inara knows it can’t last. Peace never seems to with Mal. Sometimes she’s sure the man goes looking for trouble. That’s the way of his world.

She swings her legs idly back and forth, resting her chin on her hands and staring down at the cargo bay where her bags rest neatly side by side.

Heavy footsteps fall behind her. She doesn’t turn around.

“They full or empty, Inara?”

“Does it matter?”

She hears Mal heave a sigh from behind her. He settles himself down next to her, throwing his legs over the edge. “You ever gonna give me a straight answer one of these days? ‘Cause I gotta tell you, I’m getting tired of playin’ these same games.”

“Sorry, Mal. I don’t have any better answers for you. I still don’t know.”

He grumbles a few choice words in Chinese. She ignores him.

“Have you talked to Zoe lately?” she asks.


“I’m worried about her,” she says. “But I’m afraid we were never that close. Still, it’s clear that she’s in pain. She loved Wash very much.”

Mal straightens, back going rigid. “We’ve had words.”

“Ahh, words,” Inara says. “How warm and kind of you, Mal. Giving words to the woman who’s lost her husband.”

“Careful,” Mal says quietly; a tone she recognizes. “Zoe and I have a way. You fight in a war with someone long enough; you get to know a whole manner of things about ‘em. Don’t tell me how to talk to her.”

“Fine,” she says stiffly. “I was just concerned, that’s all.”

Mal drums his fingers along the metal railing and doesn’t look at her. “I always said shipboard romances were a bad idea. Never end well, you know. Messy. Get in the way of things.”

“Is that what you think?”

“Know so,” he says. “Seen enough of ‘em in my time to know better. Always ends up being too gorram complicated.”

“Right,” she says. “And that’s all that matters. No room for love in your world.”

“That’s the way it’s gotta be.”

“It’s not a very compelling life,” Inara says honestly.

“Well, then,” Mal says bitterly. “You’ll be pleased to know that it never ends up that simple.”

“Very true,” Inara says. “If it was, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

A muscle in Mal’s jaw clenches. “Zoe’ll pull through,” he finally manages.

Studying him, Inara feels the last of her frostiness melt. It’s easy to forget sometimes with Mal—how he tries so hard to appear uncaring and unaffected. When really, he feels it most of all.

“He did his job, Mal,” she says. “He got us there. I daresay, we would have all been dead long ago if it wasn’t for Wash.”

Mal leans forward and rests his forehead on the railing. “I do believe you’re right.”

They sit in silence for a few moments, staring down at her suitcases. Lined up side by side.

“It’s a dangerous life,” Mal finally says. “Always runnin’ into some kind of trouble. Seems like the whole damn world is out to get us, half the time. You don’t know who’s on your side ‘till it’s too late.”


“I’m just tryin’ to explain, is all. It’s dangerous, this life. We all been shot at, one time or ‘nother.”

“I know, I lived on Serenity for eight months, Mal—”

“Ain’t no place for a lady who don’t like to get her hands dirty.”


“So long as you know that. Before you go makin’ any important decisions. Just so’s you know.”


She turns to face him and he stares at her, face taught.

“Bags empty or not, Inara?”

“Stop it,” she says. “Don’t you think I know all of this? For god’s sakes, Mal, that’s what makes this decision so hard! How long could I last here before getting myself killed? Or worse, you? Did you ever think about that? The liability I could be to you?”

“A liability? Now, hang on, woman… we ain’t talkin’ about—”

Mal!” she hisses, placing a hand on his leg. He closes his mouth, his full attention shifting to her face. “You said you didn’t want any more games.” She takes a deep breath. “I’m not playing anymore games.”

His gaze is unblinking. She sits, frozen, her hand still resting just above his knee.

“You’re smart,” he says. “Smarter than just ‘bout anyone else on this boat. You got a good sense for liars—”

“—anyone with a brain could see Saffron wasn’t right. You were just distracted because she kept throwing herself at—”

But that ain’t enough,” Mal snaps. “Most of us grew up doing this kind of business. Got a sixth sense for it. Even Jayne. And…” he sighs and places his hand over hers, the one resting on his knee. “And… you ain’t… well, you ain’t exactly wrong about bein’ a liability. To me.”

Inara swallows and pulls her hand out of his grasp.

“That’s why I left,” she says. “It made—it makes sense. Good rational sense.”

“Yeah, sense,” Mal says dully. “But it don’t leave me in a good mood, I can tell you that much.”

She glares at him. “Do you want me here or not, Captain? You seem to be having trouble making up your mind.”

“Hey!” he says, holding up his hands. “I’m not pickin’ one side o’er the other. Just tryin’ to help you make your choice. I’m an unbiased bystander.”

She snorts. “You confuse me, Mal. Always have. It seems like the more I think I know of you, the less I really do.”

“I’m a pickle alright.”

“So I’m going to ask,” she says. “Do you want me to stay, Captain?”

“What I want don’t often matter, Inara.”

“It matters to me.”

He nods and stands up. She tilts her chin to look up at him. “Alright, then. Here’s the honest truth, Inara. You ready for it?”

“Do you promise not to turn this into some kind of sarcastic joke?” He gives her a flat stare. She links her fingers together and raises her eyebrows. “Well, go on, then.”

“I don’t want you leavin’ again,” he says, bracing his weight on the railing. “And I want the next job to run smooth so I can quit worrying ‘bout money and the crew and how to keep Serenity flyin’. Most of all, I want us to stop fighting all the gorram time so we can have five seconds to figure out what in the hell this thing is between us. I don’t have much experience with love. Don’t even know if I believe in it. But I ain’t blind, Inara. I’ve got feelings for you that are somethin’ fierce. So don’t you dare go thinkin’ I want you to go off and leave again.” He pauses. “But I ain’t going to go riskin’ your life over it.”

A lump rises in her throat and she swallows past it. Then she pulls herself to her feet. She meets his stare. “I always imagined that I would give up my work for someone terribly charming. Rich. He’d offer me a house on the beach—somewhere warm. Do you know summer is my favourite time of year? I love the way the sun feels after being shut up indoors.”

“Don’t surprise me too much,” he murmurs. His eyes pan back and forth over her face. “All I’ve got is this ship, Inara. And even that don’t seem to last long.”

She shakes her head. “I love Serenity, Mal, but—”

“It’s not a beach house. Hell, what do you want one of those things for, anyway? Alliance would charge too damn much in taxes.”

“Mal, it doesn’t matter,” she whispers. “That’s what I’m trying to say. The ship, the house… that’s not what’s important. It’s…” she bites her lip and presses on. “It’s the people on it that matter.”

“Yeah, I been told I got a fine crew.”

“Mal…” why do you have to make everything so hard all the time? “Mal, I’m not talking about the crew.”

Recognition dawns in his eyes. He starts to smile; stops. He reaches out; pulls back. “Well, that…”

“I know, it’s a lot to take in, it’s—”

“No, don’t, don’t change any of it. I…” he gives a helpless shrug. “Does make this a damn difficult decision, alright.”

Surprising her, he takes two steps forward and cups her cheeks in his palms. Her heart jumps, her breath coming out in a pant. “Mal…?”

His thumbs move back and forth and she almost closes her eyes, her skin tingling from his touch.

“I’ll see you in the morning.”

Letting his eyes linger on hers, he pulls away.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006 6:52 PM


I'm so jealous of people who do dialogue well. And you do.

It's just that after the BDM events, I find it difficult to believe that they are still bickering. Can't wait for you to shut them both up finally.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 7:08 PM


Nicely done--like missmadrassa said, you have a way with dialogue. What I did like about this was that you pulled a few references from the series and the movie, but gave Mal and Inara a chance to say something new while staying completely themselves.

I totally think they would bicker at each other, because that's what they do, whether it's a reaction to the tension between them or something else. And in a way, this could be a couple days after the BDM anyway, so it's their chance to show how they finally shut up and maybe get a little peace.

I'm buying your Mal and Inara more than a lot of others so far. Great job.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 6:53 AM


Very good, I love the UST between Inara and Mal both in the series and the film and this story just epitomises that in spades as well as giving them the chance to break out of that fixed circle of behaviour so they can actually have something special. I cheered when Inara finally admitted that Mal is important to her, even if neither actually said those magic three little words. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, January 12, 2006 10:12 AM


After the first lines I thought "not this again" - but then it grabbed me. Pure perfect timed dialogue.

othromas is absolutely right and I second his opinion.

Sunday, January 15, 2006 6:42 AM


“I’ll see you in the morning.”


Saturday, January 21, 2006 10:52 PM


SUCH ON EVIL MAN! Teasing her so! by the way i have read this a long time ago i just was a royal dummy and forgot to comment.


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