Title: More Than Words
Date Posted: 10 November 2005
Author: Van Donovan
Rating: PG
Characters: Inara, Jayne
Word Count: 2,168
Warnings: for Out of Gas and previous
Summary: This is a Mal/Jayne (and Mal/Inara, a bit, I guess) fic set at the tail-end of Out of Gas, on Inara's shuttle but Mal isn't in the fic. Maybe next time. :)
Notes: Never written Inara before but I thought it was time I did. Some of you might not like her in this, and I apologize. I'm against villifying nice people, hahaha. Thanks to for the title. :D


The hardest thing Inara had ever done was launching her shuttle and leaving Serenity behind her, dead and dark with Mal still inside. She should have said something to him; tried harder to get him to come with her. Now he was likely suffocated to death on the ship and she and the rest of the crew wouldn’t be too far behind.

Putting a hand to her mouth she stifled the soft sound of a cry in the back of her throat. She was alone in the cockpit of the shuttle but all that separated her from the other three people was a thin curtain of fabric. Yet none of them felt for Mal the way she did. None of them wanted to die, either, but losing Mal first wasn’t as bad for Book. Even for Kaylee it wasn’t as bad as it was to her. It was hardly anything to Jayne.

She heard footsteps behind her and she quickly straightened and wiped her eyes to make sure she had no tears in them. She didn’t want to appear weak, not even at this point though she half hoped it was Kaylee so they could cry together. The curtain lifted letting in the tawny light from her quarters. It was largely blocked though by Jayne’s figure as he stepped into the cockpit. The curtain fell whisperingly silent behind him. For a time he stood there, staring out at the black over Inara’s head, and he said nothing.

“I haven’t picked up anything, if that’s what you were going to ask,” Inara stated quietly. Her shoulders were tensed a bit. She wasn’t really afraid of Jayne but she knew he could get a frightening idea in his mind if the notion struck him. A few scenarios had already played out in her head featuring him and his untoward suggestions in the face of impending death. She didn’t look forward to repelling him.

“I figured not,” he said, his tone rather disgusted. He wasn’t happy, to be sure. “This place gives me the creeps.”

Inara turned in her seat to look at him. He seemed entirely out of place against the soft backdrop of her curtain. “This is my home, you know.”

“Smells funny,” he stated and lowered his eyes to look at her. “All that pretty is making me nervous. Don’t wanna touch none-a it for fear I’d break it, though that don’t make sense ‘cause soon I’ll be floatin’ dead against it, huh?”

Inara wrinkled her nose a little, realizing that Jayne had never been in her shuttle before and that there had been a reason for that. She tried to think of what to say but nothing came to mind. Death or not she had no desire for Jayne to be touching her things.

He spoke again before she could, anyway. “Don’t suppose you mind me being in here?” he asked as he took to leaning against the bulkhead. “Nice and normal in here without all that finery.” He took a deep breath. “Bit easier to handle.”

He wants to small talk, Inara realized with a shock. He wants to get his mind off it. “You’re welcomed to stay, Jayne,” she finally replied, her tone genuine. She discovered, almost immediately, that her defenses had gone down. Jayne was afraid. He wasn’t a monster: he was a scared human being, just like the rest of them. He didn’t show it outwardly but Inara had spent enough time with enough men to be able to pick that up. He was terribly afraid. She found, despite herself, she wanted to offer him hope. “We might make it still,” she offered, encouragingly.

“Yeah,” Jayne almost grunted. “We might.” He looked away from her and back out into the black. “But capt’n ain’t. I figger his air’d run out by now, less he put that suit on I prepped for him.” He tensed; every muscle in his body pulled taunt, got hard and Inara could feel it from across the cabin. It was guilt and grief and fear and remorse all at once. It passed in an instant but it’s lingering effects seemed to fill the air with a tense energy. “Y’think he did?”

Inara found herself at a loss for words. The feelings she had just picked up were thick and heavy and so strong it was hard to make sense of them. It was the last thing she had expected from Jayne. She had supposed he’d come to ask to be serviced just once before death, or to take command or some other crazy notion. She hadn’t prepared for this. “I don’t know,” she answered but her voice sounded weak.

Jayne looked at her and she knew it was because she had never sounded weak before in front of him. “Mal’s strong,” she continued trying to convince herself as much as him. “I’m sure he’s found a way.”

“Yeah, well, he ain’t called us back now, has he?” Jayne asked with a grunt. He moved forward to lean against the console and looked out at the stars. “Y’think he’s dead?”

Inara straightened her spine. She did not want to be having this conversation. “I don’t—” she began and then trailed off and looked away from him. “I don’t want to think about it right now.”

Jayne bowed his head. He was silent for a long time and Inara was half hoping he’d leave. She knew, in her heart, that he wouldn’t but she just wanted to be alone. She just wanted to curl up in her chair and cry. She couldn’t do that with him there. “You love him?” Jayne asked suddenly. The silence that followed seemed rife with anxiety and more of his tension. “The capt’n, I mean.” He didn’t look at her.

Inara’s eyebrows drew together and she struggled for words. “The captain and I,” she began and then floundered. She didn’t know what else to say and she didn’t know why it was hard to say it. But what would it matter if she admitted it? They were all going to be dead in a few hours or days at most, anyway.

Jayne finally looked at her, his eyes startling blue in the cold light of deep space. Inara had never seen him like that before: bare naked and exposed. “Why’s it so hard t’say, ‘Nara?” he asked but the question seemed rhetorical. “Why the hell’s it so gorram hard?”

Inara found her heartbeat rising, pounding inside her chest. He wasn’t accusing her. She could tell. She could look right into his soul through his eyes and read him openly. She was just the platform he was using for his own confession. “Jayne,” she whispered in understanding and almost reached out to him.

“Well,” he straightened, “guess it don’t matter much now, do it?” His eyes were still on her and he seemed to know that she knew now. “Why’d it gotta be like this?”

Inara looked away from him. She couldn’t stare into those eyes any longer. Instead she read the read-outs again. There was nothing—the only signs of life she saw was Serenity broadcasting her beacon and even it was faint, by now. The other shuttle was already long out of her range. Her mind went soft then, thinking about what Jayne had just let her know. She understood it but it was almost too hard to comprehend. “Does he know?” she asked and bowed her head a little.

Jayne crossed his arms. “ ‘Course not,” he grunted. “He’d shoot me or somethin’. Or he’d get Zoe t’do it. Say it was an accident.”

Inara had to smile at that. “He might not. You never know.” She shrugged slightly. “He might just think you were joking and let it slide.”

“Yeah,” Jayne grumbled. “Or he might shoot me.” He turned around and looked behind him at the wall of the cabin. There was enough space there for him to sit and so he did, his knees folded up to his chest. In the shadows he looked almost small and young. “Then he’d probably laugh, make the whole crew laugh, and throw me off the gorram boat.” Jayne pressed the back of his head against the cabin wall. “That’s what I think he’d do.”

Jayne fixed his gaze on her again. “He wouldn’t shoot you, y’know.”

Inara turned away from him, surprised at the conversation turning back to her. She had hardly admitted her feelings even to herself. It was easy to listen to Jayne; it wasn’t easy to evaluate her own emotions, especially not to him. “I don’t service crew,” she finally managed to breath.

“Aw,” Jayne whined. “I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout servicing no body,” he pressed. “I just mean sayin’ it.”

Inara shook her head. “It’s just too complicated. It would never work out.”

Jayne nodded to himself. “Yeah. ‘Cause a Companion and the capt’n of a space vessel is just too weird a combo. Not like, you know, a hired gun prob’ly twice his weight. Match made in heaven, right there.”

Inara managed the ghost of a smile, looking at him once more. She wanted to say more but there was nothing coming to mind beyond the hopelessness of their situation. All she felt was a coldness that seemed to creep inside her no matter how much she turned up the heating. She felt her control slipping. “I don’t want to die,” she whispered and bit her lip as she felt tears starting again. He kept his gaze even on her.

“No, ‘Nara, you start cryin’ I know he’s really dead,” Jayne answered back, his voice a soft hush.

That broke her and her shoulders shook as a sob wracked her. She put her hands to her mouth again to stifle the cries but nothing she did would really hide it from him. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hide it, anymore, anyway. Jayne, for his part, understood.

She watched him, through her tears, as he looked away from her and pressed his thumb and fingers into his eyes, pressing his eyelids down so they wouldn’t leak. It hurt her heart to see him do it; made it ache like it was final and over. Mal was dead.

They both sat there for what seemed like eternity both grieving silently with their tears over the same man, for the same reason. It was like all the previous months of knowledge had been pulled out from beneath them, turned around and scattered back at them. Everything had changed.

She was about to sink to the floor beside him to try to get him to cry in earnest when the recall alarm on the shuttle went off. It blared, loudly and jerked the both of them to their feet. “What the xi niu gui is that?!”

Serenity’s recall!” Inara shouted and reached across the dash to turn it down.

Within seconds both Kaylee and Book were crowded into the cockpit and Inara had the sound down. “He called us back?” Kaylee shouted, overjoyed.

“Hold on!” Inara stated. “Everyone be quiet.” She pressed another button and suddenly Wash’s face appeared on the screen. “Wash!”

“Wash!” Kaylee cheered seeing him. “You’re back on Serenity?”

“How’s Mal?” Jayne asked immediately.

“Look,” Wash said through static. “I can’t talk long. Mal’s been hurt. Simon’s got him in the infirmary and I’m heading there myself but he’s fixed the gorram ship somehow! I’ll tell you about when you get here. So you guys just get your lovely still-breathing asses back here!” He signed off.

Kaylee and Book screamed at each other in cheers of delight and took off dancing together into Inara’s room again. Jayne stood awkwardly in the cockpit looking at Inara as she settled back in her chair and turned the ship around. Inara waited for him to say something.

“So, ‘Nara,” he started, bumbling again like usual.

The feeling was changed. It was back to the way it had been, like nothing had happened and nothing had passed between them. “Forget it, Jayne,” she said, looking over her shoulder at him. He still had tears in his eyes. Her cold retort died on her lips and instead she smiled at him. “I’ll keep your secret, it’s okay.”

Jayne offered her a crooked smile, like perhaps he didn’t trust her so much but he ducked out of the cabin anyway and let the curtain drop shut behind him. Inara sank back in her chair and listened to them in the other room.

“Jayne!” Kaylee cheerfully shouted. “You look like you’ve been crying!” She sounded happy about that. “That’s awful sweet of you!”

Jayne grunted. “Didn’t do no gorram thing. It’s Inara’s shuttle. She did something to it. Made it smell funny. It irritates m’eye.”

Kaylee laughed and Inara smiled as she heard Jayne’s grunt as the young mechanic dragged him into a dance. She closed her eyes, smiling, and listened to Jayne’s heavy dancing footfalls as they rattled through the floor and touched everything in her room.

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