Verdict - Chapter Six
Saturday, February 18, 2006

The calm never lasts for long. Mal and Inara fight. Jayne realizes something strange is going on. Almost nothing gets resolved. And it’s another day onboard Serenity. Mal/Inara.


Companions were trained to appear flawless.

As soon as Simon removed her bandage, Inara’s eyes had been drawn to the scar on her stomach. It would fade with time, the doctor said. Inara quickly covered her distress and kissed Simon’s cheek, smiling her thanks.

It was only a scar.

She studied it in the dim-light of her shuttle, using a small hand-mirror. Makeup tricks flashed through her mind. Perhaps, given the right posture, a client would not even notice.

“If I take to the job again,” she whispered, quickly followed by a sharp admonishment. Don’t hope. I can’t ever hope when it comes to Mal. She’d learned that the hard way.

Soft kisses and gentle touches—it belonged to a hazy dream she might have had hundreds of times before. Mal was as ever. Closed off. Cold. A tangle of mixed-signals and hopes that often resulted in harsh words.

When the door to her shuttle banged and Mal barged in, she shut her eyes in annoyance. So like him.

He took one look at her and immediately backed up. “Oh—ah—didn’t meant to interrupt… I… uh…”

Inara looked down at herself and realized she was still studying her scar. Hastily, she tossed the mirror aside and rearranged her shirt.

“I seem to recall making a rule about knocking.”

“Uh… yeah…” Mal said, still looking distinctly uncomfortable. “Good rule, that one. Should heed it.”

“Yes,” she said coldly. “You should.”

They eyed each other wearily.

“Was there something you wanted?” she snapped.

He gave a small start and glanced around. “Heard Simon took off your bandage.”

“Yes, he did.” She folded her arms over her chest and raised her eyebrows. “And…?”

He was embarrassed now and gestured towards the hand-mirror. “Well, just concerned is all, wanted to see how you was handling things. You okay?”

She gave a tight-lipped smile. “Fine.”

He studied her and Inara had the distinct impression she wasn’t fooling him in the slightest. Finally, his hands began fiddling with the top buttons of his shirt.

“Mal… Mal! What are you doing?” Her mouth opened. “Are you undressing?”

“As a matter of fact…” he yanked his shirt down from his shoulder. “See that mark there? First week after I enlisted—bombshell ricocheted in the wrong direction. Belonged to the gorram Independents too.” He unbuttoned his shirt further and gestured to a red gash on his side. “Got that one recently. Operative. Had a big sword. That one—see there? Bit faded. Got it on Whitefall, first meeting with Patience. This one’s from that hwoon dahn of a Captain that tried to make off with Serenity after we lost our catalyzer. That’s—”

“I get the point,” Inara said, amused. “That’s an impressive display, Captain.”

“Been through some tough situations, it’s true,” Mal said, almost proud. He buttoned up his shirt. “But I’m still here, ain’t I?”

“Yes, but…”

“It’s just a scar, Inara,” he said. His voice was firm. “You’re alive and walkin’ and if that ain’t something to be goddam proud of, I don’t know what is.”

“I’m afraid it’s not quite so simple,” she murmured. “Mal… I’m… I’m a companion.”

She met his eyes and watched as his body stiffened.

“Am aware of that situation,” Mal said. “Did know that about you, in fact. What’s your point?”

“My point…” she felt herself faltering. “My point, Mal, is that there are certain expectations that go along with being a companion. Maybe bullets scars give the right impression in the world of crime, but it’s generally frowned upon in my world.”

“Oh, your world? We back there again? Sometimes I have a spot of trouble keeping track.”

“That’s not what I meant,” she snapped. “After what happened on Miranda, it’s going to be difficult as it is to find work—”

“Find work?” Mal repeated, face hardening. “Funny, I seem to remember you mentioning something ‘bout given it up.”

“I hardly…” she narrowed her eyes. “I never said anything of the sort!”

“Well, no,” Mal said. “But I seem to remember a good bit of kissing from the other night. Must’ve thought that might hold some meaning to you.”

“It did,” Inara said. “Mal, please try to understand—”

“Oh, I’m understanding perfectly,” Mal said. “You’re back to playin’ your games so a man can’t ever know where he stands with you!”

“Excuse me?” Inara said. “What about you? Stomping around, barely saying two words to me, how am I supposed to know what you’re feeling?”

“Askin’ tends to work nicely,” Mal said.

“Funny, works both ways.” She paused. “I’m sorry, Mal, but this isn’t about you. I don’t think you can even begin to understand what I’m going through.”

His mouth fell open. “What you’re going through? Hell, Inara, seems gorram clear to me. Either you’re given up your whoring or you’re not. Which is it?”

Frustration tore through her. Without realizing what she was doing, she seized her teapot and hurled.

Mal ducked and swore. The pot smashed into the wall and shattered. Glass rained down onto the floor.

“Did you just throw a teapot at my head?” Mal raised his hand and pointed to the glass dripping down the wall. “You just threw a teapot at my gorram head!”

She ignored him and focused on her pent-up anger. “You’re trying to see this in black and white, Mal, but it’s not that easy!” she said. “I’m a companion, Mal! That’s all I know! You can’t just ask me to give it up, turn it over. What else will I do? Help you with your smuggling? Oh, yes, I’ll be really helpful out there with you and Jayne. It went so well the last time!”

A muscle in Mal’s jaw twitched. “It’s in my estimation that you’re worth more than a night’s pay for your… services. You joining in to fight the Reavers with us proves that.”

She eyed the shattered teapot before glancing down at her hands. “I’m sorry for throwing the pot at you.”

“Yeah, well, you ain’t the only one.”

“I lost control.” Inara swallowed. “It won’t happen again.”

“Hope not,” Mal said. “Not in the habit of letting my crew throw things at me.”

“I’m not a part of your crew,” she said.

“No, but your heart surely is,” Mal said. “And that’ll do.”

Silence wound its way between them. Mal’s anger was gone, replaced by the same weary reservation he usually had around her.

“It ain’t who you are,” he said quietly.

She looked up from her hands. “What?”

“A companion,” he said, shrugging. “S’not who you are. It’s what you do.”

He let that sink in before going to her shuttle door. “I’m getting tired of having to wait for you to make up your mind, Inara.”

“You’re not the only one,” she said.

“Right,” Mal said. “Back here again. Of course.”

There didn’t seem to be anything more to say. The shuttle doors shut behind him, leaving her with silence.


Mal tried to pretend he didn’t feel like a coward, leaving Inara like that. Falling back on old patterns is what it was. He went to her shuttle, they fought, he ran. Most like, they were doomed to keep playing the same scenario out right ‘till the end of time.

The floor creaked and Mal glanced up to find Jayne eyeing him.

“Everythin’ a-okay, Mal?” Jayne said, flexing his muscles as he hefted Vera over his shoulder. “Thought I heard the sounds of a scufflin’.”

Mal wondered just how loud he and Inara had been arguing when Kaylee popped up from behind Jayne’s shoulder, her eyes curious.

“Don’t have another bounty hunter onboard, Cap’n, do we?” she breathed.

“Inara threw a teapot at me,” Mal said.

Jayne and Kaylee stared.

“Well, I ain’t gonna shoot Inara,” Jayne said. He hesitated. “Right?”

Kaylee slapped him on the shoulder. “‘Course we ain’t! You probably deserved it, Cap’n, didn’t you?”

“Yes, Kaylee,” Mal gritted out. “I deserved to have a piece of glass flying at my head.”

Kaylee bit her lip. “I thought things between the two of you was gettin’ better.”

“Now you sure you ain’t wanting me to shoot her?” Jayne asked, fondling his gun in a way that made Mal feel all sorts of creepified.

“Tempting,” Mal said. “But no. She’s been there. Done that.”

Mal pushed by them.

“I’ll be on the bridge.”

Halfway there, Mal realized that Jayne was following him.

“What is it?” he said.

Jayne shifted uncomfortably. “Kaylee went off to find the Doc. Said somethin’ ‘bout needing to be with a man that was decent towards womenfolk.”

Mal accepted the jibe, but failed to see how it was of importance. “So?’

“So?” Jayne said. He narrowed his eyes. “I think there’s something goin’ on between them, if you’re gettin’ my drift.”

Mal shut his eyes and silently counted to ten. “That so?” he managed.

Jayne nodded, full of self-importance. “Think I heard them at it in the mess the other day—would’a spied if Zoe hadn’t caught me.”

Mal’s mind went from too much information to they were having sex near our food? He shook the images out of his head and tried to focus on Jayne.

“Again, I think I’m failing to see the point here, Jayne.”

“How long do you suppose this has been goin’ on?” Jayne said, eyes narrowed. He cast a dangerous look behind him.

“Well, Jayne, that’s a tough question. Let me think.” Mal paused. “Since Miranda, you nitwit. It’s been weeks.”

Weeks?” Jayne echoed, face draining of colour. “Kaylee and the doc’ve been sexin’ each other for weeks?”

Mal really wished someone else was having this conversation.

“Guess so.”

Jayne took the time to consider that, mouth falling open. “Doc better watch out.”

“Uh—yeah,” Mal said. “Look, Jayne, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t kill Simon. This boat’s in need of a doc and I don’t much want to take the time to go searching for a new one.”

Jayne shifted Vera to his other shoulder, still frowning. “Thought you didn’t approve of any of ‘em shipboard romances.”

“Don’t,” Mal said. “Gets messy. Gets teapots thrown at your head. Best to stay clear.”

Feeling like the conservation was over, Mal turned and headed for the bridge. He could hear Jayne cursing behind him.


Mal sat himself down at the helm and switched off auto-pilot. He didn’t like how quiet it had been lately. Unsettled him. No Reavers. No run-ins with the Alliance. They’d been flying under the radar, of course, delivering their cargo to the remotest regions they could find. Far as he was concerned, things had been going a mite too smooth. Made him feel twitchy.

He stared out at the black, skin prickling in that uncomfortable sort of way. He wondered what’d he do if Inara took to the job again. He wasn’t certain he could stand it, now that he’d watched her nearly give her life ‘cause of Niska.

But they were stuck. Fighting when they wanted comfort. Fighting when they wanted to be truthsome. Running when things got too painful.

Mal flicked three switches overhead and leaned forward, rifling in his pocket for the piece of paper Badger had given him when they’d stopped on Persephone. Niska was still on his space station, he’d said. Surrounded by his people.

“Too dangerous, Sir.”

Mal jumped. “Hell, Zoe, don’t go sneakin’ up on people like that. Ain’t nice.”

She raised her eyebrows and leaned over his shoulder to pluck the paper from his hand. “Can’t. Too dangerous. Don’t you think this crew’s been through enough?”

Mal eyed her. “Wasn’t exactly plannin’ on involving the rest of the crew.”

Zoe didn’t look surprised. “Sounds like suicide.”

“Might be,” Mal said, taking back the paper. “But I won’t have that man going around and threatening my crew, Zoe. I should’a ended things a long time ago.”

“No one on Serenity will let you go in there alone, Sir. You and I both know that.” Zoe dropped into the co-pilot’s seat. “Wounds are still too fresh to be taking on something like this.”

“When I go,” Mal said quietly. “I will go alone.”

Zoe gave a small nod of her head. “Thought you might say that.”

“Yeah. Well.” Mal leaned back. “Never was one to sit idly by.”

Zoe coughed loudly into her hands before composing herself and saying, “There is truth in that. Sir.”

Mal tapped the side of his chair. “I’m not having a particularly good day, Zoe. I suggest you don’t push me.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“We’ll be setting down in Silverhold in a few hours. Be good to get that last bit of cargo out of here. Perhaps we could sit for a few days.”

“I think everyone would welcome a rest.”

“Yeah,” Mal said, watching the stars twinkling. “Be nice.”


Mal knocked on Inara’s shuttle, waiting for her soft “come in.” He took a deep breath and entered before stopping short.

“What in the hell is going on?”

She had two bags out on her bed. They were open and Mal could see her clothes lying in neat little piles inside them. Spread out on her bed were various objects—a comb, perfume bottles, makeup, the crossbow she’d used to fight the Reavers.

She followed his gaze and then looked back at him, startled. “Mal—”

“Are you planning on taking off again? Is that what’s going on here?”

“Mal, I—”

“Damnit, Inara! It was one fight. This is just like you, running off when things get a mite too difficult for you to handle!”

Mal!” she said. “I’m not…” she took a deep breath and faced him, gathering her composure. “I’m moving into Shepherd Book’s bunk. I don’t have money to pay rent. I thought it might be best if you could rent the shuttle out to someone else.”

Great, Mal thought. He’d screwed up. Again.

“Oh,” he managed. “Well… that… makes decent sense.”

“Does, doesn’t it?” Inara said, piling more clothes into her suitcases.

“Hey, now, not so fast,” Mal said. “We’re planning on docking on Silverhold for a few days. Could be a chance for you to pick up some business. Get a little money in your pocket.”

Inara froze. “Excuse me?”

“Well, I… I thought… if you were having money troubles—”

Her voice was cool. “I could take on business,” she said. She dropped her clothes and turned around. “Is that how we’re going to play this?”

“I, uh…” Mal shuffled uncomfortably and looked away. What did he always feel the need to push her?

“Fine,” Inara said. “How many days did you say?”

“Two, maybe more.”

“I need to be sure, Mal, if I’m going to be keeping my appointments.”

He pretended not to hear the quiver in her voice.

“Don’t overbook yourself, then,” he suggested.

“Might be nice to be in high society again,” Inara mused, eyes on his face. “Around men who treat you with respect.”

“Respect?” Mal said. “I see, is that what you get when you’ve got men paying for your service?”

Her jaw tightened. “Get out.”

The first waves of guilt began to hit him. “Look, Inara—”

“I don’t want to hear it,” she said. “I don’t want… I don’t want to hear anything you have to say.”

His stomach was twisting itself up into knots. They’d played this game before. And he couldn’t quite remember it ever hurting quite like this.

“Guess that makes two of us, then.”

She gave a little nod of her head and a tight smile. “When I’m out there with a client, Mal, I hope you remember I’m only doing what you told me to. Now get out of my shuttle.”


Saturday, February 18, 2006 4:49 PM


Don't you do it, Mal! Don't you dare walk out of that shuttle!!! For once, just be straight with her, PLEASE!!!! Aaaahhh! The tension! The angst! Ahhhhhhhhh!

Oh, btw, that's me saying, Love This!!! Cannot wait for the next part!! Post soon! Sooner! SOONER!

Saturday, February 18, 2006 4:53 PM


Oh, Mal... sometimes I wonder if the man thinks... Next chapter, please. I'm emjpying this series.

Sunday, February 19, 2006 2:44 AM


“Thought you didn’t approve of any of ‘em shipboard romances.”

“Don’t,” Mal said. “Gets messy. Gets teapots thrown at your head. Best to stay clear.”

Typical Mal. I'm enjoying this dance, please write more.

Sunday, February 19, 2006 4:59 AM


Poor Mal, he only seems to open his mouth to change feet when he's with Inara. Her fiery temper is just too easily invoked around him for either one to talk calmly enough to mend this little rift. I'm thinking a lot more pain and sorrow is going to follow, especially if Mal goes off on his own and tries to take out Niska. This was excellent, can't wait to see what happens next. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 8:45 AM


You write a great Jayne!

Also like Inara throwing the teapot at Mal!


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Goodnight and Goodbye (2/2)
The Second War of Unification has started. Where does the crew of Serenity go next? Darkish. M/I, various other pairings.

Goodnight and Goodbye (1/2)
The Second War of Unification has started. Where does the crew of Serenity go next? Darkish. M/I, various other pairings.

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Little glimpse at Mal and Inara pre-series.

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Mal/Inara. As usual, things are complicated - but this time, there is ice cream.

The crew dresses up as pirates for Halloween. Yes. Really. M/I, S/K.

Finding Precision
"That was the night she told them she was leaving." Post-OiS. Simon/Inara.

Stolen Moments
Mal/Inara. And waking up. And the fluff. Oh, god, the fluff.

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These Are the Maybes
Inara thinks about her future.

Missing Pieces
"Sometime during the last few months, Inara had become well acquainted with sacrifice." Mal/Inara. And trying to make it work.