BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE

GOLDY

Verdict - Chapter Nine
Friday, April 28, 2006

Jayne goes crazy, Mal and Inara attempt their date, and things don’t really go according to plan. There might be lots of snogging in here too, but you didn’t hear it from me. M/I.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1868    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Title: Verdict – Chapter 9 Pairing: Mal/Inara, hints of a developing Simon/Kaylee/Jayne triangle, because that is never not fun. Spoilers: Series through the BDM. Disclaimer: I’m a minion, okay? I’m one of Joss’s minions, attempting to fill in the blanks of What Happens Next. Don’t sue. No profit and blah, blah, blee. Summary: Jayne goes crazy, Mal and Inara attempt their date, and things don’t really go according to plan. There might be lots of snogging in here too, but you didn’t hear it from me. Rating: PG-13 Word Count: 4, 053

***

Inara tried to keep her hands from trembling as she put the wave through to Sihnon. She was still a Companion. Poise, grace, it mattered to them.

“Inara Serra, number 5521,” she murmured.

The computer processed her request, sending her wave through to the Guild. Inara brushed her hair back over her shoulders and straightened her posture.

“Inara Serra, I wasn’t certain I’d ever have the honor of seeing your face again.”

Inara smiled in greeting. The face blinking at her was lined with age, but carried the effortless beauty that came to all Companions.

“Mother,” she said, the respectful greeting rolling off her tongue. “It is wonderful to see you again.”

“Of course, child,” she said serenely. “How can I help you?”

Inara took a breath. Her next few words would be key. “I am afraid that I am unable to continue taking on clients, Mother.”

The stare she received was unblinking, but not surprised. “Is that so. Are you handing over your license?”

Inara bowed her head in a sign of submission. “I’m hoping not. If that’s my only option, I will, of course, concede to the Guild’s demands.” She paused. “I’d like to retire.”

“Retire. For a Companion of your age, that’s a difficult request for the Guild to grant. Barring extenuating circumstances—”

“You saw the broadcast,” Inara interrupted. Stay away from Mal. Steer this away from Mal. “You know I was involved. It is no longer safe for me to take on clients.”

The old woman’s lips curled into a placating smile. “That could be true.”

“Please,” Inara said, trying to keep her voice level. Don’t let them catch weakness. “I know there have been… rumours. I do not know what you have heard, but I assure you that most of it is false. I will, however, remain onboard Serenity, with or without my status.”

“Well,” the House Mother said. “That’s quite the declaration. Are you prepared to stand by that?”

Inara took a breath. “I am.”

“It will take the Guild some time to process the request. I must say, we’ve never had… this sort of issue to contend with before.”

Inara’s lips curved. “I imagine not.”

The wave cut out without reply, bathing her shuttle again in darkness. Inara sighed and leaned back, letting her eyes drop shut.

It seemed so foolish, giving up her livelihood for something that might never be.

A few minutes later and Inara roused herself. She had a date to prepare for.

***

It had been a long time since Mal had gone on anything vaguely resembling the idea of a “date.” Back when he’d been nothing but a boy on Shadow, certainly, but the war mostly put a stop to that.

Date. Conjured up too many expectations. He’d never much liked expectations. Always seemed to let a person down.

Mal was brushing his teeth when Zoe’s voice rang out over the com. “Captain, we have a situation in the cargo bay.”

Mal groaned and slammed the sink back into the wall. He almost slipped climbing the ladder and felt damn ornery by the time he reached the cargo bay.

“Zoe, what in the hell is going on?”

Zoe gestured in front of her. She seemed oddly amused, though her face was set in a serious frown. “Jayne’s attempting to disembowel the doc.”

Mal stared. “Shuh muh?” he finally managed, following her gaze.

Jayne had a kitchen knife in one hand and had cornered Simon near the doors. The grin on Jayne’s face was seriously disturbing.

Mal squinted. “Uh… am I seeing this right?”

“Yes, sir,” Zoe said. “Tried to stop ‘em earlier. Jayne growled at me.”

“He is prone to that. What…” Mal stopped and tried again. “Why… do I even want to know?”

“Don’t reckon so,” Zoe said. “Should really put a stop to it, sir.”

“Should,” Mal agreed.

Neither of them moved. Mal found a sort of morbid fascination in watching Simon unsuccessfully attempt to move out of Jayne’s way.

“Now hold on there,” Jayne said. “I ain’t finished with you yet.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Simon said. “Were you expecting me to act rationally when you’re threatening me with a knife?”

“I’m a thinkin’ you and me got to have ourselves a talk,” Jayne said. “Man to man. Open and honest-like… ‘bout our… feelin’s.”

“Our… what?” Simon said. “I’m sorry, but did you recently go to the crazy-place?”

“Just gotta make sure of some things is all,” Jayne said. “Like why exactly it is that you got Kaylee cryin’ again when you two ain’t been doin’ nothin’ these past few days ‘cept rutting like a bunch o’ horny dogs in heat.”

Jayne!” Zoe said loudly.

Jayne looked up, quirked his knife in her direction, and gave a little grin.

Simon’s mouth opened and closed. He fixed the collar of his shirt and tried to stand up straighter. “Well… that is… a distinctly disturbing image.”

“Ain’t the on’y thing that’s disturbin’ me,” Jayne said. He took a step closer to Simon and gave him a distinctly un-friendly pat on the arm. “We’re gonna spend our time on this heap o’ desert catchin’ up. You got a stomach for drinks, doc?”

Simon matched Jayne’s glare. “You offering to pay?”

“Might be.”

Simon raised his eyebrows. “You’re on.”

“Shiny,” Jayne said. “Word of advice, doc, might want to have yourself a meal ‘fore hand. Good to have somethin’ to coat the stomach first.”

“Oh, it’s not me you have to worry about,” Simon said.

Spine straight, Simon walked past him. Looking smug, Jayne shoved the knife into his gun holster.

Mal watched the doctor go before turning back to Jayne. “Just what in the name of hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Seems to me we were given some downtime to spend however we liked,” Jayne said.

“Fine,” Mal said. “Just don’t get him killed.”

Jayne rolled his eyes. “Won’t go through nothin’ a few days o’ bed rest won’t be able to cure.”

Zoe bit her lip to hide a smile. “Captain, I’m planning on staying with the ship, if you got no other orders.”

Mal glanced over at her. “What… stay with the ship?”

“Yes, sir. Should be someone here to keep an eye on her.”

“Yeah, but—”

“A few hours of peace might be a welcome relief,” Zoe said.

Mal nodded. “Alright, but if anything happens, anything at all—”

“We’re on Silverhold,” she interrupted. “Nothing much in the way of anything ever happens.”

Jayne grunted. “Saw a man piss on the side o’ the road once.”

Mal clenched his jaw. “Jayne… you got a problem with Simon and Kaylee I should maybehaps know something about?”

“Nope,” Jayne said, suddenly tetchy. He backed away, glancing nervously over his shoulder. “Nothin’ at all.” He banged into a box, swore, and kicked it away from him. “Why you askin’?”

Mal sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “No particular reason.”

***

Thirty minutes later, Mal found himself in Inara’s company, treading the path to town. They walked side-by-side, not touching, and hardly speaking. It wasn’t exactly uncomfortable, but Mal found himself scratching at the back of his neck and scowling.

“You’re nervous,” Inara said. She didn’t look at him. Instead, she frowned at the dusty road, as if daring it to mess up her clothing.

“I’m a mite nervous,” Mal finally admitted. “Been a long time since I been out on a date.”

“Shocking,” she said. She sighed and linked her fingers together. “I’m a little nervous as well.”

He craned his neck around to look at her. “Really?”

“Mmm,” Inara said. She made a face as she stepped over a large piece of trash. “Why do you find that so surprising?”

Something told Mal to tread carefully. “Well… I…” he tugged at his collar. “It’s… you….”

“I’m not here as a Companion, Mal,” Inara said softly.

“I know that,” he said.

She stopped walking and gazed up at him. “Do you?”

He opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened it again. Instead of answering, he placed one hand on her shoulder, and titled her chin up with his other hand. “Not neither of us are goin’ into this as anybody but ourselves. Now I’m aware of that, but it don’t mean everything’s gonna fall into place and be shiny.”

“Never seems to with us, does it?” Inara said.

“Never seems to,” he agreed. “But that don’t mean we have to let it mean anything.”

She nodded and grasped the hand on her shoulder. “Kiss me?”

He smoothed his thumb down her chin. A gust of wind kicked up a swirl of dust and her hair blew back and forth over her shoulders. There was a long road sweeping towards town. They could hear the faint noises of trucks and horses in the background. All around them was nothing but empty space, filled with sand and heat.

He kissed her. She tasted like sand and fruit and warmth.

***

He liked that she was a little mussed up. Just a little. Hair not quite as perfectly put together. Makeup a little bit smudged. Dress not quite straight. Liked even more that it was his own fault.

She smiled as they entered town, and he wondered if she was still thinking about their kissing. On the side of the road. Improper. Instinctive.

Silverhold’s town square wasn’t much. Few shops. Lots of dust. A few automobiles lumbered by, but horses provided the main source of transport. There was one small schoolhouse. A main store.

“Grew up in a place just like this, you know,” Mal said, looking around him. “Town like this was the only spot of civilization on the whole of Shadow.”

“Well…” Inara said. “It’s very… charming.”

Mal hid a grin. “I think it suits you.”

Inara frowned. “Really?”

Mal gestured around him. “Represents freedom. Autonomy. Person could be his own self in a place like this. Nothin’ to worry on ‘cept the next meal and the one after that. Not a care in the ‘verse.”

“I thought that’s what Serenity was for.”

“Serenity suits you too,” Mal said honestly. “Always did.”

Inara looked thoughtful. “Do you really believe that?”

“Course,” Mal said. “Let you rent that shuttle from me, didn’t I? Wasn’t exactly a cause of your winning personality.”

Inara rolled her eyes. “When did you become this charming? During the war, or is it a natural gift?”

“I’ll have you know, I can be very smooth when I want to be,” Mal said. “I just… don’t want to overwhelm you, is all.”

“I see,” Inara said. “Strategy.”

“Exactly.”

“And… this strategy… how do you think it’s working for you?”

Mal thought for a moment. “There a right way to answer this question?”

Inara thought for a minute. “Um… no.”

“Didn’t conjure there was,” Mal said.

Inara grinned in that special way she had. The real one that made her eyes dance and her mouth open a bit. He knew her well enough by now to tell the difference between the real one and the Companion one.

“I,” she said, “am going to be over there.” She jerked her head in the direction of the corner store.

“Just what are you hopin’ to find in there?” Mal asked. “A decorative platter?”

“No, actually, I’m not,” Inara said. “I’m going to buy a pair of… pants.”

Mal coughed. “Pants?”

“Problem?”

“Uh…” Mal swallowed, and glanced at the store. “You want I should go with you?”

“As tempting as that is,” Inara said. “I’m sure you have more interesting ways to spend your time. You could go buy bullets. That’s violent and manly.”

“Maybe I’ll go buy lil’ Kaylee a teddy bear,” Mal said. “Just what do you make of that?”

Inara blinked. “Do you have money to spare on a teddy bear?”

No. He didn’t. He didn’t have to tell Inara that, though.

“Just… go buy your gorram pants.”

“Alright. If you think you can amuse yourself…”

“Been able to amuse myself all on my lonesome for a long time now, Inara. Don’t figure I’ll have much trouble.”

She pressed her lips together and raised her eyebrows.

Mal sighed and pulled her close. “Be careful in there, Inara. Ain’t many feds about, it’s true, but that don’t mean there ain’t other worries to be had.”

Her face softened, and she touched his cheek. “I’ll be fine. Meet me back here in an hour?”

He nodded. He kissed her once—easy, like an after-thought. Nothing to it. He watched her enter the main store, taking a moment to wonder on what she would find in a place like that—ain’t no fancy trousers in any main store I ever been in out on the Rim.

He sighed and glanced around him. Great. A whole hour and nothing to do with it. What kind of date is that, I wonder?

A hardware store caught his eye, and he paused. He could go buy… bullets. With the way Jayne went through amo, they were constantly in need of new supplies.

He moved forward.

Stopped.

Turned around.

Three men were standing behind him. They were dressed in suits and ties, their dress wildly out of place in the dusty town square. Mal eyed them. Not feds, not right uniform… to much money to be feds.

“Gentlemen,” Mal said. “Something I can do you for?”

One of them stepped forward and stuck out his hand. “Daniel Brownstein, Captain…?” His accent was refined, almost English. Too proper for Mal’s liking.

“Reynolds,” Mal said, staring at the man’s outstretched hand without taking it. He looked back at his face. “There a problem I should know about?”

Brownstein smoothed down his tie. He looked to be in his mid-sixties, with a lean build and the beginnings of gray speckled throughout his hair and on his moustache. He was taller than Mal by several inches.

“I certainly hope not, Captain Reynolds,” he said. He smiled pleasantly. “The woman you were with, I don’t mean to overstep my bounds… but I’m surprised that a man of your means could… afford someone of her services.”

“That so?” Mal said, moving a few steps closer to the man. “Could be, I might take some offense to that.”

“By all means,” Brownstein said, still smiling. “Just checking up on a lady, you understand.”

Mal clenched his jaw. Took a breath. Smiled. “She ain’t here on business, Mr. Brownstein, surprising as that may seem to you. Now, you gonna let me go about mine?”

“I see,” Mr. Brownstein said. He gave Mal a beady stare. “So you’re a charity case, then?”

“No, sir,” Mal said. “Fact is, woman’s retired. So you’re just going to have to take your very fine… suit… someplace else. We clear?”

“Retired,” Brownstein repeated, voice mildly interested. “Fancy that.”

“I’m shocked my own self,” Mal said. He let his hand stray to the gun strapped to his belt. “It ain’t, however, somethin’ I want to be debating, you understand.”

“Mmm, yes,” Mr. Brownstein said, flashing a smile. He pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket and wiped his fingers. “Not the cleanest of towns, it is, Captain Reynolds?”

“Don’t conjure cleanliness is much of a priority out here,” Mal said. “Folk got other things to be worrying on.”

The two men stared at each other.

“Very true,” Brownstein said, folding his handkerchief into a neat square and placing it back in his pocket. “Beautiful girl you got yourself there. Shame she’s retired.”

“‘Fraid we don’t see exactly eye to eye on that point,” Mal said. “Now, we done here? I got some important business I should be attending to.”

Brownstein eyed the hardware store, a hint of a smirk in his eyes. “I’m sure you do.”

“Seems strange to me,” Mal said. “Man like you, in a place like this. Don’t strike me as your usual spot.”

“Not so odd, Captain. A place like this can become a valuable asset if one takes the time to properly use it.”

“Heard that ‘bout the slave trade,” Mal said. “Sounds like a man could make a pretty profit.”

Brownstein’s tone carried an edge of finality to it. “It is not altogether wise, Captain, to speak on things one knows nothing about.” He gestured to his men and moved on.

When he was out of eyesight, Mal turned and marched straight to the main store. He gave a curt wave to the owner, but continued on to the back. There, he yanked back the dressing room’s curtain, ignoring Inara’s wide-eyed squeak of surprise.

“Hi,” Mal said. “We’re leaving.”

Inara gasped and looked around her. “Are you insane?”

She pulled a pair of trousers up to her chest and glared at him.

Mal blinked. “Are you naked behind there?”

He moved forward and her eyes flashed.

“What are you doing?” she said, voice rising. “You can’t come in here! I’m attempting to try on—Mal!”

He pushed his way into the dressing room with her and closed the curtain behind him. “Look, Inara, we ain’t arguing over this…”

Her jaw dropped and she shoved at his chest. “You’re not… this is highly inappropriate!”

“You are naked,” Mal said, trying to get a look behind the pair of pants she was holding up in front of her.

Mal…”

She looked like she might hit him.

He leaned down, face scant inches from hers. “I’m not meanin’ to be a hwoon dahn here, Inara. There was a… situation. And it requires that we go. Quickly.”

“There’s always a situation,” she said.

She tried to move past him, but he put an arm out to stop her, bracing his hand on the wall. “You ain’t goin’ out there half naked.”

She rolled her eyes. “Fine.”

She dropped the pants on the floor, giving him an eyeful of her underwear. Tiny red frilly thing too. Mal tried not to stare.

“I… uh…” he took a breath and looked her in the eye. “It ain’t a smuggling thing. There were men—well-dressed men, fancy suits and all… kept askin’ after you.”

Inara sighed. She didn’t seem to be in any hurry to dress herself, neither. Mal had a hunch she was doing it purpose-like.

“Yes, Mal, men ask after me,” she said. “A client’s opinion can be very important.”

“Right,” Mal said bitterly. “Sounds like a very nice business transaction.”

“It’s… it’s the way things are done,” Inara said. “There’s no harm in it.”

“You ain’t a business transaction!” he said. He tried hard not to whine “You want I should compare notes or some such thing? Ain’t exactly what I’m aiming to accomplish on our date!”

Inara softened. “Mal… why does it matter? I’m not here on business. I am here with you.”

“Well… yeah, but…”

He moved closer to her. He was beginning to appreciate that she was only wearing her undies.

“Mal…”

“Mmm?” he said, bending down to nuzzle her neck. “Problem?”

One of her arms wound its way around his neck, her body curving into his. “I am trying to buy a pair of pants.”

“Come on, ‘Nara…” he said. “You think it’s sexy when I get protective.”

She snorted. “It’s not sexy, it’s annoying, and misguided, and pigheaded, and self-centered, and—”

He kissed the corner of her mouth, pleased when she drew in a sharp breath of air. “And sexy.”

Her fingers wound their way into his hair, and her other arm was around his backside, and he was kissing her. Her back was braced up against the corner and their legs wound together. She must’ve still been angry with him, because her kisses were none to gentle. All teeth and tongue and demanding.

Just when he was beginning to get really bothered, he pulled away. He let his forehead rest against hers, breathing deeply until the world righted itself again.

“Not exactly the best place for this, Inara,” he said.

She made a sound that sounded like a choked cry. “You were the one who… never mind. Just go,” she said.

“Don’t care what you say, but something don’t sit too right about those fancy men in suits, Inara.” Mal tugged on the bottom of her hair. “All I’m gonna do is wait outside ‘till you’re finished.”

She sighed, resigned. “If you must.”

He kissed the tip of her nose and was rewarded by a small smile. “Fine pair o’ pants you got there.”

She grabbed his arm. “Mal, uh…”

“Mmm?”

She flushed a little and played nervously with her fingers. “I just… I… thank you.” She looked up at him. “For being protective, even if I… don’t always want you to be.”

He touched her cheek. “Can’t seem to stop myself when it comes to you. Inara, I—” She stopped him with another kiss. Gentler this time, sweetened by the hint of apology. He kissed along the corner of her jaw, lips traveling just below her ear. “Was there somethin’ ‘bout a fancy hotel room?”

She trailed her hand down his neck, nails tickling along his skin. “Might be.”

He sucked on her earlobe, and she seemed to like that, because she curved into him, making small little noises. Her voice was breathless, “Just… give me five minutes, will you?”

He pulled back and flashed her a grin. “Be right outside waiting for you, darlin’.”

***

Mal left her flustered.

Inara sighed and tried to fix her makeup, frowning into the tiny and cloudy mirror. Smudged lipstick. Tired eyes. She barely resembled the Companion she once…

She turned away from the mirror and retrieved the pants. They were black, tight fitting, but practical. The pants were suited for a life onboard Serenity, one she wasn’t yet certain she truly wanted.

Mal poked his head through the curtain again and she started.

“Mal, lao tyen yeh! What is it?”

“Where did you get those, anyhows?” he asked. “Ain’t like we’re located on the brink of civilization, love.”

She narrowed her eyes. “I waved ahead and ordered them.”

“That’s…” Mal trailed off. “That’s… well, a good idea.”

“Yes,” Inara said. “I’m surprisingly intelligent.”

Mal blinked. “You’re the one with the Core schoolin’.”

“I am,” Inara said, pulling on her skirt. “But I always suspected you had more schooling than you ever let on, Malcolm Reynolds. Read any good 18th century poetry lately?”

Mal’s mouth quirked. “Maybehaps I have.”

She was moving into him again. His hands were on her shoulders, slipping down her arms and drawing her closer. Her pants wedged between their bodies. She looked up at him and tried to smile.

“Mal?”

He kissed her forehead and it felt nice, easy token bit of affection. To a passerby, they would look… unrestrained. She closed her eyes and breathed him in. Woe de ma, if he didn’t make her feel freer than she ever had in her life…

“Inara?”

She widened her eyes invitingly and tried to smile. “I’m ready to… let’s go.”

He searched her face, looking for something she couldn’t quite name. “You gotta buy your pants first.”

“Right,” she said. “I mean, I know.”

She pulled away from him. He followed close behind her as they left the shop, and she could see how tense he was. Whoever it was he’d met, it had certainly made him jumpy… more than what was normal, at any rate. His eyes scanned their surroundings and his hand hovered over his belt.

Inara felt the first tendrils of uncertainty. With the luck Mal typically had, he was probably right to be cautious.

She touched his arm and he flinched before relaxing and turning his gaze on her. “What?”

“Would you prefer to go back to Serenity?”

She watched him think about it, his eyes squinting in the bright desert sunlight. Finally, he shook his head. “Nah… I’m sure ‘twas nothing. Just gotta… get a move on. Making me twitchy hanging out here.”

She nodded and hooked her arm through his and raised her eyebrows. “That a gun you have your hand on, Captain, or are you just happy to see me?”

Mal blinked. “Uh… that is… I was, uh…”

Inara shook her head and tugged him along, only half listening to him stumble his way through the explanation. Really. The man made a business out of gunfights and thievery, and the slightest mention of sex was enough to reduce him into a bumbling idiot.

COMMENTS

Saturday, April 29, 2006 7:01 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Hmm....should I be glad Mal's little contretemps with the suited gentleman didn't end up a Mal vs. Atherton duel scenario? Cuz I was getting that vibe....

And I love your scene with Mal interrupting Inara's attempt to find a suitable pair of pants for wearing abord ship:P

BEB

Tuesday, May 9, 2006 8:44 PM

REALWORLDDOIHAVETO


I love it keep going

best part

“Hi,” Mal said. “We’re leaving.”

Inara gasped and looked around her. “Are you insane?”

She pulled a pair of trousers up to her chest and glared at him.

Mal blinked. “Are you naked behind there?”



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