Finding Common Ground....Ch.2
Wednesday, March 22, 2006

We continue on with the tension and drama of being Mal and Inara....with the crew and a job thrown in just for fun.


So I decided that the fic needed a good action-driven plot. Yay for Jobs!!

Finding Common Ground

Chapter 2: Just for Kicks

Zoë was the first to notice something different. When she had come up for a bit of the tasteless protein Kaylee called breakfast, she had seen Mal sitting by himself. Not unusual for him. Lately he spent much of the time wandering the ship, and the promise of a job meant that he would spend more time planning.

Planning and scheming. She did like that about her friend.

What made her look at him twice was the smile.

It wasn't the sad smile he was wont to get around her or around River. The sad smile that only went to his mouth to quirk it just slightly to one side as he looked at them with a measure of guilt and sadness. The smile that desperately made her want to give him a hearty punch to tell him that she was doing fine.

Even when she wasn't.

Still wondering what the smile meant, she moved over to the kitchenette and spooned some protein out of the container Mal had already dug into. The sloppy mess, runny and smelling faintly of rubber, made her stomach queasy and she pressed her hand to her mouth to keep the sickness down. When she regained control of her stomach, Zoë grabbed a spoon and began to head towards the table, all the while staring at Mal and wondering.

No, this smile was something she hadn't seen in many months. Typical of the man, she supposed, after so many years of knowing him he would still like to throw her off. She had almost become used to the melancholy and the sullen nature he had had more of in the past six months. Now, he had to simply change just to keep from being any sort of ordinary.

This was the boyish, smug grin that lit up his eyes and made them wistful. The same smile that eased the lines of tension on his face and made him look years younger. He was drumming his fingers on his cup and even Mal's way of drumming his fingers made Zoë instantly suspicious.

Mal's head jerked suddenly, as if he had only just realised that Zoë was standing before him at the other end of table.

"Zoë!" He cleared his throat. "I reckoned I had a few more hours before I was gettin' joined for breakfast."

Zoë shrugged, her curly dark hair getting in her eyes as she set herself downa few seats away from him. "Couldn't sleep much longer, sir. It was cold in bunk."

If Mal noticed the slip of the tongue, he didn't give any sign.

"I'll get Kaylee to check the heating ducts then," Mal offered, knowing full well why Zoë was finding it so cold.

She ran her spoon about the edge of the bowl slowly, playing with the sloppy food. Mal merely resumed his smiling and his tea drinking.


"So. You and Inara came to terms?"

Zoë was never one for tact when it came to Malcolm Reynolds.

He blinked. "River's witchery rubbing off on you?"

"I just assumed, Mal. Being as you had that expression only a few times before and it was whenever you and Inara tried not to argue. When you actually got along," Zoë commented as she shrugged and lifted her spoon to her mouth. Her large eyes stayed on Mal even as she let the protein make its way past the lump in her throat.

"I...maybe I'm just happy to have the crew safe and sound...maybe I'm happy that there's a job our way. I'm a happy man most of the time. Look at this happy happy man face."

Zoë's arched eyebrow told him that that ship wasn't going to float with her. She wasn't letting on how irritating she found his stupidity sometimes, no matter how much she loved the man as her friend and captain. Ai ya, she wondered how in the 'verse's name she was going to deal with him if this job went sour.

"Sir, what I am about to say might injure your pride," Zoë began.

"Since when has that stopped you, Zoë?" Mal ground out.

"But you are not a happy person. You're cynical, a pessimist, and you make Jayne look like a go-lucky guy."

Her honesty had Mal gaping. "Shumma?"

"But that's my opinion," Zoë finished with a shrug. She began to spoon more of the protein up, grimacing at the texture on her tongue but unable to explain the hunger suddenly in her body. A choice between no food and this junk was no choice at all.

If only air were edible, she thought even as she sucked on her spoon and stood up from the table. She didn't notice Mal still gaping at her.

Simon and Kaylee came in at separate times, as they had been for a month now. The healthy flush on Kaylee's cheeks and the somewhat glazed look in Simon's eyes had Mal frowning already and Zoë sighed. So much for a happy captain. Simon and Kaylee had tried to keep their budding romance under the radar with Mal, but the more they tried to prevent him from knowing it the more obvious it became.

As if River's help wasn't enough. River took some great delight in embarrassing Simon at the most inopportune moments, showing just how much of a little sister she could be.

The girl slipped into the room as quietly as possible, while behind River Jayne stomped about. He grumbled a terse greeting and went slamming about the kitchen in search of food. Mal, still drinking his tea, met Zoë's eyes over the rim and she saw his annoyed look back again.

Somehow when things were normal like this she could relax far more.

Jayne slumped into a chair on the opposite end of Mal and glared at Simon.

"I ever...ever see that again," he started. Mal perked up and looked over at Simon.

Simon's cool eyes had a glimmer of satisfaction. "Don't look so hard then."

"Do you know what I saw last night as I was walking from the showers?" Jayne asked.

Mal shot Kaylee a look and noticed that she was shifting in her seat. Jayne's sudden grunt of pain meant that Kaylee's aim at his leg under the table had been true.

"What, Jayne?" Mal asked, humouring the mercenary. If he didn't, then there was little chance of him getting any peace until Jayne spoke his piece. Not that Jayne had any qualms about giving his opinion.

"I saw..." Jayne paused dramatically and pointed a finger at Simon. "This one's skinny butt..."

"There goes my name again," Simon muttered. "I wondered when I'd lose it."

"...moving away on Kaylee in the common room."

Zoë smiled. The common room had some good memories of her and Wash just as they themselves were starting out.

"On the couch where I nap!" Jayne cried. "How am I supposed ta sleep with that image stuck in my head!"

"Dreaming about someone else," River murmured just loud enough for Zoë to hear. "Big bear needing a mate. Everyone else is going to be paired off...two by two into the ark to get ready for the flood."

Zoë shot the girl a look and River met her eyes. Then her mouth slid up at the corners to watch the show before her eyes.

Mal had turned a suitable shade of red while Simon had a proud grin on his face. Mal effectively kicked the doctor under the table and saw the boy jump in reaction before wiping the grin from his mouth.

Kaylee was shaking with laughter though, and Mal knew that the chance of him stopping her was slim to none.

Just as he was ready to give the pair a proper scolding, he caught a glimpse of Inara coming through the door. She had changed into a slim fitting brown dress and robe and her face, as perfectly put together as possible, showed no signs of the long hours they had spent in one another's company.

"Hey, Inara," Kaylee managed between her giggle fits as Inara passed her seat. Inara smiled graciously and squeezed Kaylee's shoulder.

"Hey you," she answered but her eyes were on Mal's blue ones. Mal managed not to follow her too far with his eyes as she went behind him to get her tea and breakfast. He felt the hair on the back of his neck tingle when he felt her silk robe brush against his arm and he tried to discreetly rub at his arm. When he looked forward again, Zoë was staring at him with that half-grin of hers.

Big trouble.

"Aren't you going to...throw Simon in the airlock or somethin'?" Jayne demanded.

"Why? The boy only scarred you for life," Mal answered as he took a sip of tea.

"Yeah, am I ever supposed to get it up for the next woman I meet?"

"Do you fantasize about Simon that often when you are trying to have 'get it up''?" Inara suddenly asked as she sat down next to Mal. "Or are you having penile envy? It's quite common among men. "

Her comments, made with incredibly dry wit and excellent timing, had them all, save River, choking on their breakfast. Inara took in the anarchy with a grin, seeing Simon and Jayne both go equal shades of crimson as they began to stutter in Chinese. Zoë and Kaylee were both staring into their bowls and smothering laughter while River was shaking her head. Mal was staring at Inara with a mixture of awe and appreciation for taking the attention away from him, a slight bit of tea having missed his mouth and dribbled onto his hands and chin.

Inara gave a contented grin and swirled her tea in her cup before sipping at it to hide her grin.

Mal cleared his throat noisily as the rest of the crew regained their control. "So when we land on Persephone, we got a potential job lined up for us."

"A job?" Simon asked.

"You goin' deaf, doc?" Mal asked in return, well aware that Kaylee and Jayne looked just as surprised. "J-o-b."

Simon gave him a look that told him just where he could shove his spelling ability. "I can spell job, Mal. I was just...surprised. I had thought that after Miranda we were less likely to be hired."

"Can never tell with people," Mal said, keeping his voice casual and confident. Inside though, he knew that Simon had voiced his own concerns. Who would hire them now? Weren't they a risk?

"What do we know about them?" Zoë asked as she set her spoon down.

"We're meeting in an open area, that much I know. Less likely chance of them gettin' a drop on us. It has to do with carrying some cargo," Mal said. Zoë met his eyes and he knew that she had figured out that he didn't want to mention to the crew what this could be about.

She had a sinking feeling about it all the same.

"Good pay?" Jayne asked bluntly.

"Sounds like."

"That's all I care about then."

"Oh no, because any of us getting killed wouldn't be a worry," Simon muttered loud enough for all of them to hear. Kaylee gave him a hard kick under the table and glared at him. "What?"

Zoë was all business still. "Whose going to stay with the ship?"

"Whoever wants to," Mal offered as he looked around the table. When there were no volunteers, he began to look at each occupant. Zoë was a given in for going with him he figured. He looked at River and she gave a slight nod.


Jayne stared at him. "Ah hell, this will be too good an opportunity. I'm sure you'll need me."

"You what?" Mal asked incredulously. Sometimes Jayne was least likely to help out. The mercenary had the decency to look down at his bowl.

"I...uh...well, you'll need me." Jayne swirled his spoon in his bowl, looking like a kicked dog. Mal shrugged and looked at Kaylee and Simon.

"Well, I would like to go out and check out some convertor parts. Never hurts to get a feel for the market," Kaylee said. Simon glanced at her.

"I'll stay behind." His eyes stayed on Kaylee's face when she stared at him. It was clear that she had expected him to tag along with her. "Not often I have the ship to myself. I can get things done in this big...empty..." His eyes locked with Kaylee's. "Ship."

"I'll stay too," Kaylee piped up immediately. Mal groaned and shook his head.

"I want to go out," River said from where she sat next to Zoë, her large eyes serious.

"Mei-mei..." Simon started. She frowned at him.

"I need open spaces and a place to run, not a drawn fence."

"She'll come with us if she wants," Mal offered to Simon. The doc made the effort to argue when he suddenly grimaced and reached under the table to rub at his leg. Mal scowled at his crew. Sure was a lot of kicking going on under the table. Wasn't proper-like, to be hitting each other like children.

He supposed it was better than the other options that could be going on underneath the table. The instant that thought entered his head, he decided that he needed to never think of that ever again.

Inara crossed her arms over her chest and sighed. "I'd like to go in to the stores. I need to get some things."

"Some things?" Mal asked, frowning. He didn't like the idea of her going on her own anywhere. Inara frowned back, her eyes cool.

"Some things."

"Like sex things?" Jayne asked, leaning forward expectantly. His eyes were riveted on Inara and Mal half-expected drool to start to come dripping out of his slack mouth.

"Yes, Jayne, sex things," Inara said, her tone exasperated. "As I fully intend on using you for sex some time soon."

Jayne gulped, his leering grin appearing on his face.

"Oh hell, Jayne, you do realize that she ain't bein' serious?" Mal demanded. He froze and suddenly looked at Inara." aren't bein' serious? Are you?"


"May..." His mouth worked before he could get a suitable, captainy frown on his face. "I want to know where you're going before you leave."

"Do I have to run by everything with you now?" Inara asked. Mal recognized that tone of voice and saw the rest of the crew watching with amused expressions.

"I just..." Mal stood up, holding his cup in his free hand. "I'm the captain. I don't explain myself. You explain yourself!" So he wasn't making a whole lot of sense, maybe confusing Inara would keep this argument from going over the top. "Get me a gorram schedule."

"Schedule!" Inara snapped under her breath. "What you need"

Mal stared at her expectantly, watching as Inara slowly took several deep breaths and then painted a winning smile on her face. She ran her nails over the back of her hand and looked at him underneath her eyelashes. Mal, ignoring the look of the others, managed a half-smile to cover the sudden wariness he felt around Inara.

Oh lord, he prayed in his head as he headed back to the kitchenette. I'm in trouble.

From across the table, River merely shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Men," she whispered as she stared at the ceiling.


Ai ya: damn shumma:what? mei-mei: little sister TBC...

Yes, TBC. I mean, excitement, this is getting a plot *hoo ha*. First experiment in writing the rest of the crew. I hope I did a plausible job...hope...


Wednesday, March 22, 2006 5:58 PM


Nicely done. I'm a S/K fan so their interactions with everyone else, and the annoyed Mal and Jayne were just great. And the big - empty - ship comment made me laugh out loud.

Looking forward to the next chapter.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 6:03 PM


He supposed it was better than the other options that could be going on underneath the table. The instant that thought entered his head, he decided that he needed to never think of that ever again.

"Yes, Jayne, sex things," Inara said, her tone exasperated. "As I fully intend on using you for sex some time soon."

"I'm the captain. I don't explain myself. You explain yourself!"

Seriously, Syzg, this keeps getting better and better. I like Inara being all snarky and in control. Always fun to see Mal squirm! ;)


Thursday, March 23, 2006 12:19 AM



A 'Mal/Inara full crew snarky plot fic'... they're my favorites!

Thursday, March 23, 2006 12:22 AM


Hilarious continuation of the more somber first part, I'm very pleased!

So you can do funny along with the seriously touching, squee!

The subtle touch you gave the hints about Zoe were especially nice. Not telling, just describing that she might be... Sweet.

"I'm the captain. I don't explain myself. You explain yourself!"

Great line. *G*

More soon?

Thursday, March 23, 2006 5:28 AM


Much fun around the table! Can't wait to see Mal be in trouble ;)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 4:16 AM


"Oh lord, he prayed in his head as he headed back to the kitchenette. I'm in trouble."
are you ever, mal.


Thursday, June 8, 2006 12:11 PM


Oh...ya gotta love annoyed Mal! So freaking hilarious when he's stepped into a trap laid by someone, even unintentionally:)

Reading the rest of this story is next on my agenda;)


Monday, June 12, 2006 9:26 AM


A round of applause for this line...

"He supposed it was better than the other options that could be going on underneath the table. The instant that thought entered his head, he decided that he needed to never think of that ever again."

Well done!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 6:31 AM


I really like Inara expressing herself confidently (and with the attitude to boot) and you are writing her just as I picture Morena playing her on the show. Nice job!

Friday, August 3, 2007 6:25 PM


I'm just now reading this, and I must say that my femme Spidy-senses went crazy when Zoe's nausea was triggered by the smell of rubber! ;) Can't wait to read the rest!


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Finding Common Ground. Ch 6
Mal let's the crew in on the basic plan. least the way it is supposed to go. River's dreams take a turn for the pretty, shiny things...

Finding Common Ground. Ch 6
Mal let's the crew in on the basic plan. least the way it is supposed to go. River's dreams take a turn for the pretty, shiny things...

Finding Common Ground Ch.5
Inara reveals her ability to act but the results are awkward and painful

Nickname of Contention
Mal has a bone to pick with Inara

Finding Common Ground. Ch. 4
Bookstores and memories abound...get a glimpse into the humourous side of shopping. Just a continuation to a leap into plot.

Finding Common Ground...Ch.3
The story continues as Mal learns about his new job and the Mule gets its revenge. (still M/I but we need the job, people)

Finding Common Ground....Ch.2
We continue on with the tension and drama of being Mal and Inara....with the crew and a job thrown in just for fun.

Finding Common Ground
Mal and Inara share the late night vigil of flying Serenity a month after the events on Miranda, opening up a well of emotion.

A Start of Things
Set prior to the pilot (but based off Out of Gas). Mal and Inara meet for the first time