Cold Knowledge
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Warning! Here there be Angst! This was written for Goldy over in LJ to distract her from studying. It is not a happy story. Be forewarned.


Written in response to Goldy’s journal prompt: Inara stumbles across the capture-thingy Mal was looking at in the BDM. How did she get it? What happens next? Word Count: 1387 Rating: PG

Cold Knowledge by 2x2

Inara stood at the top of the cold stone steps of the Training House somberly, her hands held numbly at her sides as she watched the woman climb steadily towards her. It had been years since the Companion had laid eyes on this particular woman, and her presence here now, she knew, could mean only one thing.

She fought the panic she felt rising in her, threatening to overwhelm years of honed skill. She wanted to delay this meeting, more than anything, but the hour had come and there was no time left.

All too soon the woman reached the last of the steps and stood before Inara. Holding a small wooden box between her hands, she regarded the Companion with eyes that spoke of a life the other woman could only imagine. The years had added lines of care and worry to her face; to the woman, Inara looked exactly the same as the last time she’d seen her.

“Inara,” she said, her voice rougher than the Companion remembered, edgier.

“Zoe,” she replied, not able to mask the emotion in her voice completely.

“’Spect you know why I’m here,” Zoe said with a nod.

Inara swallowed, blinking at the threat of moisture she felt in her eyes as her chest tightened. “Yes,” she said softly.

Zoe drew in a deep breath and then stepped forward, holding the box out for Inara. “’Some things for you, thought you might like to have…”

Inara took the box from the woman’s outstretched hands, terrified and full of longing at the same time to learn what was inside. It felt heavier than she expected, yet far too light to adequately represent a man’s life. She let her fingers run over the smooth, well-worn edges of the box, worrying a small chip with her thumb. She trembled.

“… Thank-you,” she whispered, unable to lift her eyes from the box for fear of losing control completely. She felt rather than saw the other woman nod.

“He would’ve…” Zoe started, then cleared her throat and drew herself up, fading behind her soldierly exterior in a technique that was all too familiar to Inara. “I can’t stay,” the woman continued. “’Just wanted to drop that off, let you know.”

Inara nodded. “I… I appreciate that. Thank-you.”

Zoe nodded back and turned, but halted, looking back as Inara called after her.

“Zoe—“ the Companion said, her eyes finally lifting to the other woman. “… How…” she asked, not wanting but needing to know.

Zoe’s eyes slanted away then. “It was bad,” she said, rough with emotion. “Real bad. ‘Got ambushed and… I couldn’t get to him. I couldn’t get to him an’ he...” she trailed off, her voice cracking.

Inara took a step forward, tears spilling from her eyes. “Zoe…”

The other woman shook her head, gathering her control again and gave Inara one last, sorrow filled stare, then turned and headed down the stairs briskly without looking back.

Inside her apartments, Inara sat on her bed, the same bed she’d used on Serenity and all these years in between, surrounded by the darkness of the day’s failing light.

The box sat before her, unopened; she didn’t want to say good-bye, but the longer she put it off the harder she knew it would become, until it might very well destroy her, if it hadn’t already.

Pale and trembling, she slowly lifted the lid, swinging it back on its hinges silently. She closed her eyes and inhaled the scent that drifted to her nose from the box’s contents – the deep smoky flavour of the wood itself, the tang of gun oil, bitter taste of gunpowder, the unmistakable aroma of brown leather - the essence of him.

She let out a slow breath and opened her eyes, reaching into the box to pull out his pistol from where it rested on top of everything else. Inara was surprised to see it in the box; of all his things she’d thought perhaps Zoe would want it and she wondered if maybe it had been a last minute addition. She held it gently in both her hands, feeling the weight of it, ran her fingers over the smooth sandlewood grips that had been polished under his hand’s grasp a thousand times. He had killed men with this gun, saved the lives of his crew. Despite it’s age and years of use, it was clean and well oiled, cared for, and she had an inkling of the quiet ritual looking after it would become for her in the time ahead as she placed it next to the box reverently.

She smiled faintly as her fingers encountered the cotton softness of one of his shirts, and she pulled it out, letting it unfold as she held it by the shoulders and brought it to her nose, burying her face in the collar as she smelled him. Oh, years of separation had done nothing to dull the effect his smell had on her, and she drank it in, letting the scent envelope her in the memory of him. After several long moments she laid the shirt beside his gun, smoothing the fabric that once rested against his chest, lingering over the place that had covered the heart she’d never dared allow herself to touch.

Drawing in a deep breath, she wiped at the tears on her cheeks, swallowing back the doubts she had thought long since conquered.

Next she picked out a triangular shaped patch and two silver ident tags. Embroidered with the Independent Army’s flag, the patch was dirty and stained with war, the edges worn and long since tattered. His name, still clearly engraved on the tags, sent a sharp pang piercing through her heart. Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds. Face crumbling, she traced the letters, her tears blurring the words as this, more than anything, made it real, solidified the fact that he was truly gone.

You lost him a long time ago, she tried to tell herself, appalled to discover there was still hope carried within her after all these years, love she’d been unable to eradicate from her soul. She’d left him for fear of never being able to, and fooled herself into thinking she’d gotten away, but he had always been there, deep inside, her secret kept even from herself. Her head told her she’d been right to leave, because here she was, alone, just as she knew she ultimately would be, but her heart cried out for all the years in between she could have been with him.

Weeping, she took the last thing from the box, a slim rectangular capture, the paint around its edges chipped, the characters on the playback button faded away under countless views. Fingers shaking, she activated the stored image, her breath leaving her in stunned anguish as her own image filled the screen.

Her voice echoed around the room, sounding strange and harsh to her ears, a strangled moan escaping her lips as she realized what this was, what this meant.

“That man doesn’t know what he wants.”

“Oh God, Mal,” she cried, the thought that he had kept this capture of her, for years, even after she’d left him a second time… that all she had left him with was an image of her lying to Kaylee… hurting him every time he watched, but still watching, still watching because… oh God, because it was all he had of her… because he loved her, even after all this time, he had still loved her!

Numb with anguish, she slid from the bed, her knees striking the floor as she clutched the capture desperately, shaking as she begged for this all to be a mistake.

“Please. Oh, please, Mal. Please,” she cried, her face pressed into the bed, body wracked with sobs. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry…” Weeping in grief-stricken pain, she pulled the blanket and sheets from her bed, clutching them to her, the capture pressed against her breast, filling the emptiness of her arms, hiding her face in their depths as the box and the contents laid beside it fell to the floor.

“Oh, Mal, “ she wept, “Forgive me. I love you… I love you,” she whispered into the darkness, heart shattered by regret and the cold knowledge that there was no one there anymore who could answer.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006 10:18 AM


Gosh. Golly, and I have but one thing to say, even though this may make me a hypocrite, but this needs to be said: YOU ARE EVIL!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 10:26 AM


That was so sad. :-(

I think of all the things in the box, the pistol touched me the most. The capture was the most angst ridden... but damn, that pistol. It's special. It seems perfect, somehow, though, that he would give it to her.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 10:34 AM


Okay, you made me cry. And I have a cold! You are a very (wonderfully) bad person!

Excellent work, as always.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 10:41 AM


The one thing missing was the coat... I think the coat should have been there.

Still, a heartbreaking fic.

Beautifully written

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 11:29 AM


Thank you everyone...

And yes, I do have to admit to being Evil and Bad and Cruel at times... but I'm glad you liked it and cried and felt something reading it... believe me, I feel the same way as you all do when I write it... it tears me up when I try to imagine all the bad things and what everyone's reactions are.. it's honestly mood altering and I have to be careful sometims...

As to Taya's comment about the browncoat... I had thought about the coat being in there, but in the end, I realized they buried him in it... *SAD* it was too much a part of him not to (in the circumstance I see in my mind)

Thanks again everyone!!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 12:11 PM


OH MY GOD!! I'm crying my poor eyes out. You mean, mean, mean person,
I LOVE YOU!!! This was incredible. The angst and dispare, oh I'm starting to cry all over again.

Truly magnificent my friend.


(Any chance of a feel good fic to counteract my sudden need to massive amounts of chocolate and a new box of kleenex? *g* )

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 12:16 PM


AWWW !!! I am crying like crazy over here that was soo sad ! But I still loved it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 12:30 PM


Count me among the tearful. And while I feel bad for Inara - she made some bad choices and is only realizing it now - The person I feel saddest for is Zoe. If the capture exists, then that means the story is post BDM, which means Zoe lived long enough to watch both Wash AND Mal die terrible deaths. Zoe gave everything she had of Mal's from the war to Inara - I'm afraid that maybe Zoe figured she wouldn't be around long enough after this little errand to need the reminders.

I totally agree with you about burrying Mal in his coat. It's as much a part of Mal - or any Browncoat - as his blood.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 12:46 PM


You're a really talented writer! Specially with the angst!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 2:15 PM


Damn are cruel, evil....and oh so talented, 2x2. This just cuts right at the heart, cuz - as Kaynara said - Inara thought being away from Mal would help ease the pain of his eventual heroic death when it just made it oh so much worse:(

Like Tayeatra, I too wanted Inara to get Mal's leather duster...but I see know that Mal would have been buried in it. His pistol was a rather interesting but powerful addition to make, as it seems a rather odd gift to give Inara until ya realize that gun had been with him since around the time of the War and was in his hand when he died.....

And the final lines, with Inara laying on the floor, in tears....I honestly feel sorry for her. How she had been misled by years of training and service to the Guild, and how all that time and experience just makes knowing Mal died without her having a chance to say goodbye ever the more painful. I wonder how Mal would have reacted if the positions had been reversed, with Inara dying (illness? enemy of the Guild?) and he not having a chance to say goodbye...


Wednesday, April 26, 2006 2:47 PM


Can't say anything because I'm crying. Oh, the perfect angst.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 3:48 PM


not bad. very touching.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 3:56 PM


This is wonderful. Excellent angst!

I loved the details, like the paint missing from the playback button. Wonderful.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 5:10 PM


At least I'm at work, so if I cry in my keyboard and ruin it, my boss has to buy another one.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 5:49 AM


This was very good but oh, so sad. You certainly got this gal sobbin'.

Sunday, May 14, 2006 11:08 AM


Beautiful and sad i loved it.

Sunday, July 2, 2006 3:09 AM


urgh, i am a terrible person: i'm smiling!! but it's a sad smile.


Thursday, August 24, 2006 7:23 AM


*sniffles* that was so sad. See now I'm trying to play catch up. I love the angst. I am an angstoholic. You feed my addiction well.

Sunday, September 10, 2006 5:24 AM


Very touching piece. You have truly captured the essence of Mal and Inara.

Very good!


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History of an Object
There’s no reason to keep it, damaged as it is. Save one. Doesn’t matter that it’s finer than any other cup on the ship, even with the crack. Doesn’t matter that it would never hold liquid again without some of it seeping through. Burning your fingers. Was only one reason he still has the cup.

Five Years' War
The night was warm. Clouds, low on the horizon, blue black in the last light of the setting sun. Nothing but the breeze and the buzz of the cicadas breaking the stillness. A perfect evening.

The Close Shore, At the End, Untenable
“Dead ’re in my head tonight,” he said finally. “Can’t get ‘em out. Don’t got the booze or the bar to distract me. Don’t know why I’m here ‘cept I don’t think I can go through it alone.”

The Slower Path: All the Difference - Part 15 - Sequel to The One Less Traveled By
She let out a breath, saying nothing for a long moment before she raised her eyes again. “There are some things I want you to know,” she said softly. “Things I want you to understand.”

Much as he wished he could ignore it, he could see it was important to her that he know whatever it was she wanted to tell him. He knew he wouldn't have let himself see it in the past, but that weren't where they were anymore, or at least, not where they wanted to be, either of them. Their relationship had changed, was changing, and he weren’t so stupid he didn’t recognize that. He didn't know that he wanted to know it, much less understand it, but she was reluctant enough to talk about any aspect of her life as it was; could be he might ought not stop her when she wanted to.

Unlucky at Cards...
“I… You can’t be that lucky!” Mal moaned as Inara beat him again, laying out her cards with a flourish.

The Slower Path: The One Less Traveled By - Part 14 - Sequel to Regrets
They fell silent again, struggling to find the ease that they had found, before; before the argument that had almost ended things.

"I feel like-," she started.

"This is-," he said at the same time.

They looked at each other. "Awkward," they both said, laughing lightly.

Always Had Faith
Faith in a higher power? That was always Mal's thing, the Captain, back in the war.

Loved and Lost
Love’s the biggest kind of hurt there is.

And I wouldn't trade that love for nothin'.

The Mood That Passes Through
He felt the first trembling shudder go through her, heard her breath hitch and felt her fingers grip his skin; knew it was comin', the wave that was cresting the walls she'd built to hold it back, whatever it was. Knew they were about to come crashing down around her. The first sob still hurt though, still lanced through his heart like a searing hot blade to hear her make that sound.