Verdict - Chapter Three
Thursday, January 26, 2006

Mal and Jayne attempt to rescue Inara. And things don't go smooth. 'Cause they never go smooth. Mal/Inara.


Verdict- Chapter Three


“Captain, we’ve landed.”

For the second time that day, Mal met a grim-faced Zoe outside his bunk. What in the hell is it now….


“You know what you’re doing, Sir?”

“Sure,” Mal said easily, trying to duck past her. “Always know what I’m doing, don’t I?”

“I doubt that.”

Mal stopped. “Zoe, we’ve been together a long time, shared a few laughs—a few bullets—but I’m not certain I like this new attitude you’ve been parading about. This is my ship—my ship. Any of this jogging your memory?”

Zoe crossed her arms behind her back and raised her chin. “I’m sorry to hear that, Captain. It’s just that—when a woman loses her husband, it makes her a might twitchy about those she does have left in her life.”

Mal studied her for a moment. “I got a plan.”

“Do you?”

“Well, not a plan—plan… exactly. But it’s a damn good chance.”

“And that is?”

“It sort of hinges on my overwhelming desire to live. And Jayne’s greed.” Mal paused. “Mostly Jayne’s greed.”

“That’s bound to go well.”

“We’ve been in worse situations than this,” Mal said.

“I told you, Sir, I’m not up for losing another one of my crew.”

“Will you stop referring to it as your crew? My ship!”

“Yes, Sir.”

Zoe followed him to the shuttle. Jayne sat in the pilot’s seat, rifling through his pile of guns, strapping some onto his belt, and throwing others into the corner.

“Jun ta ma yao ming. Joo-ee. Be careful,” Zoe said. “Don’t do anything too stupid.”

Jayne rolled his eyes and flipped the switches on the dash. The shuttle shuddered to life. “You two gonna stand around yacking all day?”

Mal ignored him. “Look, Zoe… this ain’t the way…” he sighed and folded his arms over his chest. “It’s Inara.”

“I know. Were I you, I’d do the same.”

They regarded each other for a moment. Finally, Zoe backed out of the shuttle. Mal sighed and dropped into the seat next to Jayne.

“Can’t believe you’re giving away all our gorram money, Mal,” Jayne muttered. “We earned that money fair and square.”

“No, we didn’t.”

Jayne grumbled under his breath and Mal leaned back in his chair, eyes wandering over the approaching planet.

“Why have we always got to do this in the goddam desert?” Jayne muttered.

“Open spaces, hard to create an ambush. If we try anything, they’ll see it from miles away. Ain’t no where to hide. No possible way we can ambush ‘em.”

Jayne hunched down over the wheel. “Gorram it, Mal, are you gonna come up with a plan or what? ‘Cause I don’t fancy gettin' my brains blown out all over this desert floor.”

Mal’s eyes lingered on the box of money in the corner. “Yeah,” he said. “I’ll tell you the plan. The plan is, we give Niska what he wants, rescue Inara, and then you get her the hell off this rock.”

Jayne turned his head to stare at him. His brow furrowed suspiciously.

“You got a problem with any of that?” Mal snapped.

“How much money are we plannin’ on leaving with the hwoon dahn?”

Mal narrowed his eyes. “I mean it, Jayne. I’m trustin’ you with this. I need to know Inara’ll be safe.”

Jayne scowled and jammed a finger at the dashboard.


A small bead of sweat dripped off Jayne’s chin as he hauled the moneybox forward.

“That them?” he muttered.

Mal held his hand to his forehead and squinted. He could see a dozen men clustered together.


“Ain’t we early?”


“Well, that’s—that just ain’t fair, Mal!”

“‘Cause we always do our damnest to play fair in our line o’ work.”

Jayne frowned. “I don’t s’pose a grenade or two might scare ‘em off.”

“Don’t reckon it’ll help overly much, no.”

Mal kept his pace slow, giving himself time to access out the situation. Thirteen against two, counting Niska. Not good odds. Shuttle was at least a quarter mile back. Running wouldn’t do much good either.

His eyes lingered on Inara. There were two men standing watch over her, each of them armed. She ignored them, keeping her face passive and collected. Mal could tell she was busy appraising the situation, same as he was. He felt a momentary flare of pride. She had a good mind for crime, Inara. She was smart, calculating.

He felt that anger again, same as he had when Niska threatened her over the wave. She was already getting kidnapped. Wasn’t right. Inara didn’t deserve that life.

Maybe they hadn’t harmed her—not this time. But what about the next? Or the time after that?

He watched her lips curve into a tiny smile as he approached. Her head tilted towards the side, to Niska. I know, he tried to tell her, but he weren’t sure his eyes were as expressive as hers was.

She still looked beautiful, even covered in dirt and her cheek swollen. The wind tossed her hair this way and that over her shoulders. Dust swirled around the front of her dress. Despite that, despite the men with guns surrounding her, Inara managed to seem wholly graceful.

“Malcolm Reynolds,” Niska said, pronouncing each syllable slowly. “It’s been far too long.”

“Some would say, not long enough,” Mal said. “Jayne, give ‘em the money. I don’t have time for games.”

Jayne gave the box a mournful look.


“Yes, Cap’n.”

Hefting the box, Jayne strode forward and planted it down in front of Niska. His face turned into a sulky frown.

Mal rolled his eyes. “Jayne, quit acting like a gorram twelve-year-old.”

“But—Mal… all our money…”

Jayne shoved his hands in his pockets and took a step backwards, eyes lingering on the money.

“Is that really all I’m worth?” Inara said, glancing at the box. “I’m a bit insulted.”

“Life of petty crime, my dear,” Niska said, moving forward to count the money. “Is not quite as successful as your ventures, I am sure.”

“Not yet,” Mal said, as Niska reached for the lid. “My ambassador, if you’ll be so kind.”

Niska gestured to his henchmen. They pushed Inara forward. Irritation flashed over her face and she held up the hem of her dress, taking each step gingerly.

“Come on, come on,” Mal said. “You don’t want to wait for them to change their minds. Can’t ever be certain with kidnappers.”

Niska gave a small “hmm” and pushed his glasses up his nose. “Mr. Reynolds, if you’d be so kind to drop your weapons…”

Mal gave a tight smile and unhooked several guns from his belt, dropping them on the ground. “Guess I ain’t gonna be putting up much of a fight.”

“What?” Inara said, stopping next to the moneybox. “That’s it? Your entire plan? You’re going to let them take you?”

“Yeah… I… uh…” Mal glanced around. “JAYNE!”

Jayne snapped to attention. “Oh, yeah… right…”

He strode forward and grabbed Inara around the waist, hoisting her over his shoulder. She gave a shriek and kicked Jayne in the stomach.

“Gorram it, woman, I’m tryin’ to help you! What in the hell is wrong with you?”

“Jayne, you let me down this instant! We can’t just leave Mal there!”

“Can and will. Sorry, darlin’. Cap’n’s orders.”

“Captain’s… Wuh de ma, I can’t believe it… Jayne, set me down!”

Jayne gave a small “oof” of pain, but kept going, battling it out with Inara. Mal kept his eyes on Niska. If he turned to look at her, if he gazed a moment too long….

“I hope you have been generous, Captain,” Niska said. A smile crinkled up his lined face as he smoothed a hand down the side of the moneybox.

“Yeah, you might just torture me if I try to swindle you in any way, shape or form.”

Niska unlocked the box and pushed the top off. Inside was everything of value they owned—medicine, money, coins, rations. Mal’s whole crew had given without second thoughts. Even Jayne. Anything at all to get Inara back.

Niska leaned forward and picked up a stack of bills. He held it to his nose and sniffed.

Mal waited.

Niska leaned forward again, rifling through the contents, pressing his face closer to the contents. Mal waited.

Niska’s eyes widened and his head snapped up. He took two steps backwards, “Captain Reynolds—”

That was the only noise he managed before the moneybox exploded. Dust and smoke swirled together forming a thick curtain.

Vision obscured, Mal crouched to pick up as many guns as he could, firing the first as soon as his fingers touched metal. Someone screamed. He’d gotten at least two. Maybe a third.

Didn’t take them long to return fire. Idiots, he thought, already backing away, firing as he went, hoping that Jayne would get the shuttle running. Quarter mile was a mite of a distance, even for Mal. It was going to be a close one.

That’s when he banged into something.

“Tzao gao, what in the hell—”

“Mal, Mal, it’s me—”


“What were you thinking—”

“What are you—where in the hell is Jayne?”

“Kicked him in the balls. I can’t say he didn’t deserve it. You idiot! Letting yourself get cornered like that. What were you thinking?”

“Thinking? I was trying to save you!”

Another shot whizzed by his head.

“Now is not the best time,” Mal muttered. He grabbed her wrist and shoved her behind him, hurrying them backwards. “Here, take this. Shoot at anything that moves—no, not me… not Jayne either. Gorram it, Inara!”

“Fantastic rescue mission, Mal. Why am I not surprised?”

One of Inara’s captors struggled through the burning hunk of desert. Mal narrowed his eyes and shot him in the forehead. He heard Inara give a horrified gasp.

“Keep… movin’…” he hissed. “Jayne, fondle your bits later, get her out of here NOW!” The smoke was already beginning to thin. “Not my best homemade bomb ever,” Mal muttered.

But it had bought them time. Maybe enough.

Simultaneously, he and Jayne fired into the smoke. They heard a few muffled shouts.

Returning fire. Mal kept hurrying backwards. Halfway to the shuttle now. They could make it. They just needed a little more—time.

Niska and five other henchman appeared out of the smoke and fire.

“Damn it all, I was hopin’ that blast might have killed the ruttin’ bastard,” Jayne muttered. “Cap’n?”

“KEEP MOVING!” Mal hollered.

He stopped and shot one of Niska’s men. The man fell face forward into the dirt. Anger twisted up Niska’s face and he met Mal’s eyes. Tension built in Mal’s gut, squeezing until he couldn’t breathe. He hadn’t felt like this since the war, since right before the Alliance was preparing for a fuckin’ ambush…

Niska raised his gun. He fired.

Mal felt the breath go out of him. He looked down, searching for the spot of red on his chest that would mark the bullet. He was still standing—maybe Niska’s shot had done nothing more than graze him. Man probably couldn’t even see straight.


At Inara’s breathy whisper, Mal realized two things. He hadn’t been shot. And Niska’s bullet hadn’t been meant for him.

A haze of panic set in. Tension built and squeezed and he couldn’t breathe. The world shimmered in and out of focus. The desert; with its long reaching plains of sand and loneliness. Smoke pressed against his eyelids, making them water, making him want to cough. His hand tightened on the gun.

He pushed past the fog in his brain. Been through worse, dealt with worse, she still got a chance.

Inara was lying on her back, a hand pressed to her stomach. Gasps rocked her body and thick blood dripped through her fingers.

Jayne,” Mal yelled. “Remember what I said? GET HER THE HELL OUT, GOT THAT?”

Jayne’s head snapped from Mal’s sweating face to Inara lying prone on the ground. He nodded.

Without pausing for breath, Jayne holstered his gun, gathered Inara in his arms and took off for the shuttle.

Mal bit down on his lip until blood splashed down his chin and dripped onto his shirt. He knew it wouldn’t stain. Brown was nearly impenetrable that way.

“You’re gonna be mighty sorry for that one,” Mal said hoarsely. The smoke and ash was doing funny things to his throat.

“I told you, Captain, I am not a stupid man.” Fire danced across Niska’s glasses. “Now we are even perhaps. You take something from me, I take something from you. That is how it works.”

“She ain’t a part of this, Niska,” Mal spat. “I’d never go after an innocent.”

“You call her innocent? Why, Malcolm, getting involved with those of the likes of you… not good for business, I don’t think…”

One of Niska’s henchman cocked his gun, aiming for Mal’s head.

“No, I think not,” Niska said. “I think we let him go. Watch her die.”

Mal didn’t listen to the rest. Gorram idiots always have to get the last fucking word in no one is going to die on my boat going to get her to the doc patched up right away.

He ran after the shuttle, wiping dirt and sweat from his cheeks and hoping Jayne had thought to call Simon and let him know what was coming.

“Status,” Mal barked, climbing into the shuttle. He could hear the engine revving beneath his feet.

Jayne grunted a few words under his breath. One of his hands flicked buttons on the counsel; the other was pressed against Inara’s stomach.

“Things are just shiny, Cap’n,” he said.

A low whine escaped from Inara’s throat and Mal rushed to her side, dropping to his knees. “Get us the fuck off this rock, Jayne. Now.”

Inara’s blood was everywhere. On Mal’s knees. On the steering wheel.

“Mal…?” she whispered. “What’s…”

“Quiet,” he snapped, ripping his shirt off. He bunched it together and pressed it to her abdomen. He pushed both her hands against the shirt and held them there. “Good,” he said. “Real good, Inara. You just hold it there like that. It’ll all be fine.”

The shuttle jerked upward. Inara’s face contorted and she gasped.

“Goddamn it, Jayne!”

“Hands are all slippery…” he mumbled.

Inara’s eyes fluttered shut. She drew in a sharp breath.

“No…” Mal said. He leaned closer to her face. “Inara, open your eyes. OPEN YOUR EYES. That’s an order.”

Her eyes snapped open. Faint irritation sparkled in them. “You… you…”

“Yeah, that’s right,” Mal said. “That was an order. Ain’t going to take it back neither.”

Her breathing sped up, chest hitching. “Mal… Mal… it’s so cold…”

“No, it ain’t,” he said. “We’re in the desert.”

“I don’t…”

“Shhh,” he said. “Jayne’s gonna get us back to Serenity and the Doc’ll mend you up mighty fine.”

Mal grasped both her hands in one of his, keeping them firmly held over her wound. With his free hand, he touched her forehead with his knuckles—the only part of his hand not stained with her blood.

“Mal… you’re so close…”

“I know, darlin’. Keep your eyes open.”

She opened her mouth and struggled.

“It’s alright, Inara, you just lie there quietly. All you need to do is hang tight for a few more moments.”

One of her hands clenched his, her grip surprisingly tight. Her lips mouthed his name.

“When we get back on the ship, you and I are gonna have a chat ‘bout what to do when crazy old men show up. Most of the time, it’s safest to blow their brains out. Saves a whole lot of hassle. Inara… Inara INARA?”

She gave a forced nod to show she was still listening. But she was fading. Fast.

Mal craned his neck around. “Jayne, tell me we’re close.”

In response, the shuttle gave a great shudder. Inara’s body jerked upwards.


“Nearly there, Mal. Don’t you worry none.”

“Ai ya,” Mal said. “Might be havin’ a discussion ‘bout his salary when we get back to Serenity.”

Inara’s mouth moved and he could feel her breath tickling against his chin.

“No talking,” Mal said. “Got no need for it.”

She shook her head, hand tightening on his. She took a breath and gathered her strength. “Mal, I want you to know, we—”

“I ain’t gonna listen to no such a thing, dong ma?” Mal said. “You ain’t giving up on me, Inara. I know you got it in you to do this.”

“Mal, we’re closin’ in on Serenity!”

“Finally,” Mal mumbled. “Hear that, Inara? You better be ready to protect me from Kaylee. She ain’t gonna like that I let this happen.”

Inara was losing focus. Her breath grew shallow, chest hitching.

Inara! Goddamn it!”

Without giving himself time to think, Mal leaned forward to kiss her. His heart hammered with relief when she responded. Her lips moved clumsily against his, her body straining to get closer.

Idiot, he thought. Girl needs to breathe.

Mal felt the shuttle still, followed by a jerk that signaled docking. He ended the kiss and forced himself to smile. Her eyes were focused again. He let his knuckles touch her hair.


“Yeah, I’m not half-bad at that,” he croaked. “Even for a petty thief. Now you know what you’ve been missin’ all this time. What you need to stay alive for, get my drift?”

The shuttle’s doors burst open. Jayne cursed in Chinese. Kaylee started shrieking. Next thing Mal knew, Doc was shoving him aside with a stretcher.

Inara’s eyes blinked and then shut, her body going still.

“She’s in shock,” Simon said, as they hoisted Inara onto the stretcher. “We have to get her to the infirmary. Now.”

Mal ran after them, wiping his bloody hands on his pants. His mouth still tingled from their kiss. A wave of dizziness shot through him and he grabbed the wall to hold himself steady. Simon and Jayne ran on ahead with Inara.

“Cap’n?” It was Kaylee’s voice, filled with hesitancy. “What happened?”

“Niska shot her,” Mal said. His voice sounded far away. He could still be on that shuttle, face pressed next to Inara’s. He could still be holding her hand and urging her to hang on another minute, just another minute…

“Oh, Cap’n,” Kaylee said, eyes sparkling. “That must be hurtin’ you something fierce.”

“Out of my hands now, lil’ Kaylee,” he said. “Your boy’s gonna need all the talent in the world to patch her up.”

“He’ll do it, Cap’n,” Kaylee said. “No one’s better than my Simon. ‘Member how he patched me up, his first day here?”

Mal made the mistake of wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Inara’s blood smeared on his chin.

Fuck,” he yelled.

Kaylee took a step back, wrapping her arms around her middle.

“Sorry,” Mal said. “I just… I gotta….” He stopped. “It happened right in front of me.”

Kaylee’s eyes filled and she moved forward, but Mal ducked out of her way.

“I’m alright,” he said. He breathed in and out. “I’m alright. Check up on her. I… I need… I should wash my hands.”


Thursday, January 26, 2006 6:07 PM


great chapter! can't wait for more! poor Inara!!

Thursday, January 26, 2006 9:35 PM


Really superb but is it bad I keep wanting to shake some sense into Inara? Why didn't she just do as Mal said and let Jayne get her away while the Captain was distracting Niska with the money? If she hadn't struggled and kicked Jayne they would have made it to the safety of the shuttle instead of putting the whole gorram plan in jeopardy. But then this is more like life, people don't always react as you want them to do under stress. Mighty fine story, and boy do I want to see Niska blown away! I also loved Zoe in this. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, January 27, 2006 2:40 AM


Really exciting chapter. Loved the interaction between all the characters.

Sunday, February 12, 2006 6:47 AM


That was awesome! I agree that Inara would never says "balls", but other than that it was amazing!

*goes to read the next chapter*


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