Verdict - Chapter Seven
Monday, February 27, 2006

Is Inara really out taking on clients? Will Mal be able to focus on the job? What time of year is it? Will the two of them ever work things out? Will this chapter any of those questions? Post-BDM. M/I.


Title: Verdict – Chapter Seven Author: Goldy Pairing: Mal/Inara Disclaimer: Not mine. No suing. Blah, blah, blah. Summary: Is Inara really out taking on clients? Will Mal be able to focus on the job? What time of year is it? Will the two of them ever work things out? Spoilers: Series. BDM. Rating: PG13 Word Count: 3, 196 A/N: I think I’ve edited and gone over this chapter more than I have any other chapter of anything I’ve ever written in my life. There’s a lot of dialogue in here, too much dialogue—which ended up being the problem. Anyway, if things are terribly clunky and make no sense, I’ll, uh… be in my bunk.


Focus was the first rule in being out on the job. Things tended to go wrong with more frequency than Mal liked. Without focus, it was too easy to end up on the wrong end of their gun.

With the crew gathered in the cargo bay and Jayne getting the loot together, Mal pulled Zoe off to the side and kept his voice lowered.

“We got a problem.”

Impatient, Zoe fiddled with her gun holster. “And what’s that?”

Mal glanced around. He rubbed at a spot on his chin and couldn’t quite meet her eyes. “I’m… uh… a mite distracted.”

“And why’s that, Sir?”

“Fought with Inara earlier.” Mal paused. “I might have been a bit hasty, said some things I didn’t mean.”

Zoe gave him a flat stare, clearly waiting for him to make his point.

Mal sighed. “I told her to go take on some clients.”

Zoe regarded him silently. Finally, voice exasperated, she said, “You told her to—”

“Don’t make me repeat it.”

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence before Zoe said, “She ain’t out taking on clients.”

“Her shuttle left ten minutes ago.”

If possible, Zoe looked even more exasperated. “Sir, she ain’t out taking on clients.”

“That…” he narrowed his eyes. “How do you know?”

“Even Inara’s got no way to make appointments that quickly. Not to mention, last time she ventured out alone, she got captured by Niska. Makes a person a mite twitchy, wouldn’t you say?”

Mal thought about that. “Then why…?”

“Don’t know, Sir. Could be you might have some better theories than me.”

“Are you implying that I…” Mal folded his arms over his chest. “She was the one who started sprouting all this nonsense ‘bout her scar making it harder to book clients.”

“Sir, has it ever occurred to you to ask the girl to give up her work?”

“Her choice, Zoe, her choice,” Mal said. “I’m not gonna go forcing her to make hasty decisions. Don’t want her resenting me one day. She’s attached to her fancy life.”

“Then how about a little honesty?” Zoe said, voice quiet. “You could come clean about your own feelings.”

“Now, see, that’d just go and unduly complicate things,” Mal said. “I still don’t rightly know if any kind of romance is the best—”

“I don’t mean to interrupt, Sir,” Zoe said flatly. “But we’ve got a job to do.”

“Yeah, got it,” Mal said. “No problem. I am there. I’m all there.”

Jayne clunked over to them. “Hey, Mal, do you think it’s a good idea to be leavin’ Kaylee and the Doc all alone on the ship?”

“Why not?”

“‘Cause,” Jayne said. “They’re gonna go sexin’ each other all over the whole goddam place. Mark my words, we’ll come back and find ‘em goin’ at it on the bridge—”

“Jayne, for the love of…” Mal clenched his jaw. “Do me a favour and don’t talk about Kaylee and the Doc havin’ sex, we clear?”

“I could stay behind,” Jayne said. “Keep my eye on ‘em. If you think that’d help any.”

Mal studied him for a moment. “River’ll stay behind.”

Jayne looked disappointed. “Aww, Mal—”

“River ain’t got no place going out and doing crime anyway,” Mal said. “She’s our pilot. Should rest up some.”

River gave them a solemn thumb’s up from her spot near the doors. “I’ll keep them away from the bridge, Captain. I promise.”

Mal clapped Jayne on the shoulder. “See? It all works itself out in the end.” Suddenly cheerful, Mal picked up their load. “Let’s go do this. Real smooth-like.”


Much later, Mal found himself in a small bar on the outskirts of the planet’s only town. Probably its only bar too.

“Happy Unification Day, Zoe,” Mal said, clunking his shot glass with hers.

There was a large scrape running along her cheek. Blood was congealed on her shoulder from the graze of a bullet. Mal was sporting similar wounds. They’d barely gotten away with the money. Jayne had already gone back to the ship, cursing them under his breath.

“Well,” Mal said. “Inara’s out looking to take up her companioning again, Jayne’s plotting to overthrow me, we barely got enough money for fuel, and, oh, yeah, it’s my very favourite day o’ the year. This is just about the right time for things to go and get worse, what do you think?”

Zoe played with her shot glass. “Wash and I were planning on havin’ a baby.”

Mal knocked back another drink. “Yep. There it is.”

“If we’d had another week...” Zoe shook her head. “Wash set up a calendar. He was gonna put an X in all the right days of the month.”

“I—uh…” Mal gestured at the barman for more drinks. “Ain’t there supposed to be a toast to the Alliance sometime ‘round now? You up for a bar fight?”

“Thought I’d felt everything there was to feel, losing people in the war,” Zoe continued. “Ain’t the same.”

“Seriously, Zoe, I think someone’s ‘bout to do somethin’ that’ll require punching.” Mal nudged a shot glass at her. “Here, have another drink.”

To Mal’s relief, Zoe drank. Meanwhile, at the bar, one of the local town boys finally stood up, hoisting his glass in the air.

“Today…” the boy said. “A day we must preserve in our memories…”

There was a smattering of applause.

“Hear, hear!”

The boy grinned and tottered on his feet. “Today is the day the Independents made their final stand against the Alliance.” There was a pregnant pause. “They held that valley for six weeks! Two o’ ‘em after high command surrendered!”

More applause.

“The Browncoats fought for our way o’ life, our land, our liberty! The Alliance can try an’ take our taxes, but they can’t ever take our freedom!”

The yells grew louder as men stood up, hosting their drinks in the air and slapping each other on the back.

“To the Independents!”

“To the Browncoats!”

Very slowly, Mal turned back around. “Zoe, please tell me we didn’t land ourselves in an Independent-friendly bar on Unification Day.”

“It would appear that way, Sir.”

“How is it we didn’t notice this ‘fore now?”

Zoe tipped her shot glass in his direction. “What was it you was saying ‘bout punching?”

“Uh… any chance we could—”

“We ain’t pretending we supported the Alliance, Sir.”

“What—I… Zoe, I wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort!”

“Then we got no problem,” Zoe said. She downed her final glass.

“Might as well take off ‘fore any of ‘em starts thinking we fought in that final battle,” Mal said. “But I don’t like it—eight years, Zoe. Eight years since the war and every one of ‘em I’ve gone into an Alliance bar.”

“Maybe it’s the ‘verse’s way of telling us to start a new tradition,” Zoe said.

Mal rolled his eyes. “Uh—no, no, I don’t think so. Last thing I need is to go and muck up traditions that have suited me just fine for eight years.”

“How’s about we don’t go into any bar at all on Unification Day?”

“You are seriously missing my point.”

Mal clunked a few credits on the table. He grabbed Zoe’s arm when she wavered standing up.

“Hey, now… mayhaps you need to cut back on the drinkin’ a bit. We ain’t exactly made of money.”

Zoe pulled herself together and marched on ahead of him, her step steady once more. “Of course, Sir. Won’t happen again.”

Mal sighed. “Right.”


There was a headache brewing behind Mal’s eyes as he climbed the ladder down to his bunk. Morning light was beginning to creep over the planet and he found himself missing the perpetual darkness of space. Hard on a man’s eyes, that light was, when he hadn’t had near enough sleep.


Mal jumped, nearly falling down the last two steps. “What in the… Inara.”

She was sitting on his bed, legs folded under her, chin resting on her hand. She sat up straighter when she caught him looking, smoothing out the folds in her dress. “I’ve—uh, I’ve been waiting for you to get back.”

“Have you?”

“Yes, I did… I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, not… I mean, that’s, uh, fine.” Mal wiped his palms on his thighs and tried to smile. “I’m guessing the reason you’re here ain’t ‘cause you had trouble sleeping.”

She shook her head and stared at her lap, lacing her fingers together. “I wanted to talk to you.”

Mal gingerly sat down next to her. “‘Bout what?”

She didn’t answer at first. “How did the… drop… go?”

“Almost fine,” Mal said. “Almost got paid a reasonable amount for it too.”

Inara smiled. “You and Zoe were gone a long time.”

“Yeah, well… we had… stuff.” Mal paused. “Seems odd you would notice, seeing as how you were out with clients and all.”

“Please, we both know I was lying about that.” She hesitated and glanced at him. “You… did… know I was lying about that, didn’t you?”

“Figured it out eventually,” he mumbled. “Wasn’t exactly thinking clearly at the time.”

Inara sighed. “You were the one who made the idiotic suggestion in the first place.”

Mal felt a twinge of annoyance. “Fine. Great. Glad we got that settled.”

Uncomfortable silence fell. Inara went back to smoothing out her dress. She’d barely looked at him since he came down.

“So you’re not gonna be taking on anymore clients, then?” Mal said, trying his best to sound nonchalant.

Inara’s tone cooled. “Is that all that matters to you?”

“Well, I…”

“It’s not like you haven’t always known what I am, Mal. And it has never stopped you—not from renting me that shuttle, not from deriding me, not from—” She stopped herself and pressed shaking fingers to her eyes, drawing in a deep breath. “It’s a part of who I am.”

“I don’t believe that,” Mal said. “It’s only a job.”

“Only a…” her voice rose and she jumped to her feet. “What if I asked you to give up Serenity, Mal? Give up your life of petty thieving and move to a Core planet, huh? How does that sound? Think you could do that? Throw all…” she gestured around her, “of this away?”

He stood, moving closer to her. “You want to know what I think your problem is?”

“My problem?” Inara said. She folded her arms over her chest and raised her eyebrows. “Yes, Mal, what is it? What is my problem?”

“You’re so gorram afraid of letting yourself depend on others, you’re gonna keep on running away from it ‘till the end of time. It ain’t the thieving that keeps me on Serenity, it’s the people I got around me, Inara. Always seems to come back to ‘em at the end of the day, one way or ‘nother. But you…” he studied her face. “Soon as you start to depend on someone else, you gotta back away. Won’t even take a chance.”

Her jaw clenched together, her eyes wide enough to make him forget most of his anger. He softened his voice and reached out to touch her shoulder.

“You been a companion for a long time—training for it even longer, if I could hazard a guess. Been through many a lesson on how to look after other folk. And letting others care ‘bout you can be a damn tricky thing if you ain’t accustomed to it. But…” Mal moved closer until they were breathing into each other’s faces. He kept his voice near a whisper. “I don’t have anything else but that to offer to you, Inara. So it’s either enough… or it ain’t. But I’m tired of doing this dance somewhere in the middle. Life ain’t worth that.”

His hand was hovering on her neck now, his fingers moving just under her chin. Her face tightened and she kept her eyes fixed on the floor.


She shook her head and bit her lip. “I…” her voice caught and she stopped herself.

“Hey now,” Mal said. “No pressure or nothing, okay? We’ll just take things nice and slow, one thing at a time.”

She finally looked at him properly since he’d come down that ladder. Eyes were all wide and vulnerable-like in that way that made him stop being able to think straight.

She reached out, hand sliding along the collar of his shirt before resting on his chest. She moved closer until their noses bumped. He drew in a sharp breath.



“Do you really think we could… we have a chance?”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Nothing,” she said. “I just… I…”

Again, she stopped, her eyes telling him what she couldn’t put into words. His hand crept up her neck, fingers sliding under her ear, thumb moving along her cheek. She closed her eyes and they moved together instinctively.

The kiss started slow. Her arms wound their way around his neck, her body pressing against his. And then it was like they couldn’t get enough—her fingers tightened in his hair and he pulled her closer, their lips crushing more than kissing. Teeth, tongue, hands reaching, fisting, blindly grasping to what they could.

Just as things were beginning to get out of hand, she pulled away, taking in great heaving breaths of air. “I—uh, you’re tired.”

Mal stared. “What?”

She backed away. “You were out all night and, frankly, you look exhausted. You should get some rest.”

“I was… what?” Mal said.

“Out all night,” Inara said, giving him a piercing look. “So I’m just going to go.”

Mal took a moment to gather himself. Inara was nearing the ladder when he sprang after her.

“Alright, I get the hint. You go. Fine, then. But—” Mal frowned at her when she began climbing the ladder. “Will you hang on for one second, woman?”

She paused, feet on the bottom rung. Her eyebrows shot upwards. “Fine. What is it?”

“It’s just that…” he shrugged awkwardly. “You don’t have to… go. I mean, if you wanted to stay—not that there would be sex, ‘cause I ain’t referring to sex. I just…” She climbed back down and looked at him, amusement on her face. “Mal, that’s… almost romantic of you.”

“I am full of surprises.”

She sighed and nudged him backwards, sitting him down on the edge of the mattress. “I’ll stay.”

“Really?” he glanced down at her. She appeared to be fiddling with his boots. “What are you doing?”

“Stop fidgeting.”

“Are you untying my boots?”

“Yes, Mal.”

“And why are you doing that, if you don’t mind me asking?”

She rolled her eyes. “For all your long-winded speeches about caring and dependency, you’ve never been much good at letting others take care of you. It goes both ways, you know.”

“That so? And just why do I need to be takin’ care of?”

“Let’s see, it’s Unification Day, which means you’ve been out all night at some ungodly bar with nothing but your old personal wounds and some alcohol to keep you company.” She frowned as she examined him. “You have a curious lack of bruises, however.”

“Good year for me,” Mal said quickly. “Not much competition to be had. Most of ‘em skiddadled ‘fore I could really make an impression.”

Inara finished with his boots and pried them off. “Take off your shirt.”

“Uh—we ain’t havin’ sex, darlin’.”

“Do you usually sleep fully clothed or are you just being a smart-ass?”

He grinned as he undid his buttons. “You’re a bossy woman, Inara.”

She placed her hands on his knees as she rose to her feet, her smile secretive. “And yet, it’s never gotten me very far with you, has it?”

He couldn’t help the quick flick of his eyes down the length of her form, what with her standing straight in front of him and all. He gazed back into her eyes. “Nobody’s place to tell me what to do on my ship.”

“So I’ve learned.”

She held his eyes for a moment before bending down and sliding his shirt off his shoulders.

“You gonna help me undress every night?”

“Maybe in your fantasies.”

“Careful, Inara, you might make me blush.”

“I doubt that’s possible.”

They were both relaxed as they settled down on the bunk, the small mattress barely accommodating both their bodies.

“How come you get to keep all your clothes on?” Mal said.

“Best to keep that temptation away, don’t you think?” she said.

“Are you saying I can’t control myself?”

“Do you really want me lying here naked?”

There was no good way for Mal to answer. He settled for silence instead.

Inara propped herself on her elbow and stared down at him. Her eyes searched his face in a way that immediately put him on edge.

“What is it?”

“I think…” she looked thoughtful. “Well, we seem wholly unable to deal with intimacy, wouldn’t you say?”

“I can imagine that’d be so, after having to spend so long faking—” Mal stopped at the look on her face. “Uh, faking smiles and the like.”

Inara’s expression darkened. “I don’t know why I even bother.”

“I was listenin’,” Mal said. “We got intimacy issues. I’ll keep it in my mind.”

“Fine,” Inara said. “Sleep well.”

“Sure to be easy, what with you all in a tizzy next to me and all.”

Her voice was quiet. “You were the one who asked me to stay.”

He swore. “What is it you want from me, Inara? It ain’t exactly like I’m following a grand plan here. You come down here, acting like you’re willin’ to work things out, but I can’t help but feel like you’re still running.”

“Maybe running is the smartest thing to do, Mal,” she said. “I can’t say I particularly enjoyed working at the Training House, but it was less—”


“Complicated, I was going to say,” she said. “I think it was painful in an entirely different way.”

Mal took that in. He rolled over and studied her. “So… if I were to do this—” he placed his hand on her side and raised his eyebrows. “You gonna remember we ain’t gonna be having sex?”

“I’ll try and restrain myself,” she said.

He slid his arm around to her back and pulled her closer. She sighed, and let her hand settle on his shoulder. “This okay?”

She took a deep breath and nodded. “It’s…”

“Intimate?” he suggested. “I reckon we’re making fine progress.”

She smelled nice, like some kind of flower that used to grow on Shadow when he was a boy. He blinked a few times, remembering his earlier exhaustion. The headache seemed to come rushing back too.

“You don’t mind if I fall asleep on you, do you?” he mumbled.

“Please do,” Inara said.

He tried to summon up some kind of annoyance and couldn’t quite manage it. In fact, he was near certain he was grinning like an idiot. “You smell real nice, Inara.”

She rolled her eyes. “You smell like beer and smoke.”

“I do appreciate you tellin’ me so.”

“Shush, Mal. Get some rest.”

And he did.


Monday, February 27, 2006 6:18 PM


aw... sigh.... sill so hard for 'em... but nice to see 'em cuddlin' at the end.

Poor Mal, no U-Day brawl!...

Loved this section:

“Well,” Mal said. “Inara’s out looking to take up her companioning again, Jayne’s plotting to overthrow me, we barely got enough money for fuel, and, oh, yeah, it’s my very favourite day o’ the year. This is just about the right time for things to go and get worse, what do you think?”

Zoe played with her shot glass. “Wash and I were planning on havin’ a baby.”

Mal knocked back another drink. “Yep. There it is.”

Great stuff....

Can't wait for more! The morning after!!!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 3:21 AM


I love the bar scene, it worked out great.

It doesn't matter how much dialogue you have if it's well scripted, and this is!

Good chapter,


Friday, March 10, 2006 9:21 AM


Excellent! I thought the scene with Zoe in the bar was priceless and loved the awkward get together between Mal and Inara at the end - nothing between those two is ever easy. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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