I wanted to try something a bit different with Firefly and since I often have a lot of different plot ideas, I thought a series of oneshots with shifting perspectives would work well. However, some of my onsets have lengthened into three and four shots (turns out some of my plot ideas are rather lengthy), so if you see multiple chapters with the same date in the title, that's why. I will also call this out at the beginning of the chapter. You'll also notice that the oneshots aren't in order, and some of them reference other events that happened earlier in the timeline but don't have a story yet. Generally, I will go back to fill in those gaps but if there's one that you don't see and are particularly interested in, let me know and I can write it.
Each onset is written in third person limited, but I do switch the perspective from chapter to chapter since I find that more interesting. I've tried to keep the characters in character though with certain changes that I have added due to their changing circumstances.
Now, without further ado, the first oneshot.
Unexpected (November 2518)
Inara Serra had always preferred things ordered. Even as a child, she would meticulously choose her outfit for school each evening and iron it, laying it neatly over the chest at the end of the bed so she would not have to think about what to wear in the morning. By the time she was in grade school, she had already come up with a plan for her life. She wanted to be a companion, to gain a prestigious position in a top House which could allow her to escape from her rather dreary home planet. Career path decided, she began to work meticulously toward her goal, completing her training quickly and efficiently before moving to one of the top Houses on Sinhon. Within six years of her certification, she had already worked her way up the ranks, and there were rumblings that she would be the next Priestess, the youngest Companion to ever achieve such a rank.
Despite Inara's planning, however, life seemed to have different ideas. A series of events left her reeling, and the Mother of her House forced her to take a leave of absence to clear her head. Unable to completely give up the lifestyle, Inara sought a spot on a ship where she could continue her work while exploring new lands. She thought it would be a temporary thing, a way to spend a pleasant year or two before returning to the House to assume the position she had been waiting to achieve her entire life. However, life seemed determined to intervene in her plans.
When she first met Malcolm Reynolds, he was not what she would expect. He tried to portray himself as a petty criminal, an uneducated man who cared about little else except the loot he received from a job. However, Inara quickly realized that he was simply putting on an act. He was actually quite intelligent, and his rough speech would sometimes slip into a far more refined cadence that indicated a high level of education. He was fiercely loyal to anyone he considered part of his crew which, much to Inara's surprise, included her nearly from the beginning. He lived by a timeless code of values not based on any law but by the clear delineation of right from wrong. Despite Inara's initial disdain for the man, she found herself unwittingly learning to respect him.
Mal was not only unexpected himself but tended to cause unexpected occurrences around him. He was a master at wreaking havoc on Inara's carefully constructed plans, often unintentionally. Inara wanted to hate him for that, but she found herself unable to do so. In fact, she found herself drawn to Mal in a way she had never been drawn to anyone else before. And so she stayed on the ship long past the year she had originally intended. She tried to tell herself that she simply needed more time to heal, more time to enjoy the relative freedom outside the confines of the House, but as she neared the end of her second year on Serenity, she realized that her reason for staying was simple. She was in love with Malcolm Reynolds.
Of course, Inara did not want to be in love with that infuriating man. She was a Companion; she had clients to see, and wooing became quite difficult when one was constantly thinking of another man. So she tried to hide it, but that, too, soon became impossible. With no other options, Inara left. She fled Serenity and the man who had made her life so confusing and disordered.
Mal's influence, however, continued. His penchant for bringing the unexpected into her life seemed to know no bounds. First, the Operative coerced her into sending him a wave to convince him to come to the planet, a wave in which she tried to signal as best as she could that it was a trap. She thought he understood, but he came nevertheless, and she soon found herself back on Serenity, now bound for a planet called Miranda.
At the end of their adventure, Inara thought about returning to the training school, but she simply could not bring herself to do so. She was not even sure why she was holding back. After all, there was nothing tying her to the ship. In fact, remaining on board was likely to uproot her life even further, to simply increase the number of unplanned events in her life. But perhaps that was a good thing. Perhaps she needed a bit of spontaneity, a way to keep things interesting.
Mal certainly provided plenty of spontaneity. She had always assumed that she would need to make the first move if anything was going to happen between the two of them, for Mal, despite his talk, always struck her as the type to shy away from romantic entanglements for fear of rejection. Therefore, she was quite surprised when, after a few glasses of wine and an interesting conversation about poetry one night, he leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to her lips. As soon as he pulled away, he stood, gave her a small smile, and said goodnight, leaving her to simply press her hand to her lips in shock.
He continued to kiss her surreptitiously at least once a day after that, always when they were alone and always only briefly. After a few such occurrences, she began to make a game out of it, trying to guess where the kisses would occur. She did not guess correctly once.
Though he made the first move, she was the one to take the next step, an action that seemed to surprise both of them. Afterwards, as they lay together, he finally admitted aloud the feelings she had known for quite some time. She returned the sentiment, and they fell asleep in one another's arms. By the time she awoke the next day, however, he was gone, but the small smile he sent her way over breakfast told her he had not regretted the previous night.
They remained discreet, neither wishing to make a fuss over their new relationship. Mal had an unspoken but deep-seated fear that if they let anyone else into the little bubble they had built around themselves, it would all come crashing down. Inara shared it to a lesser extent, certainly enough to agree to his plea for discretion. He was so accustomed to bad things happening that it felt like nothing good ever could. So they held onto their secret, protected it. Of course, that did not mean the others failed to notice that something was different. Kaylee remarked one day that it seemed Inara had not had a client in a couple months, and though Inara laughed it off with a comment about the lack of options on the small moons Serenity had been frequenting, she later realized she was purposefully not looking for clients. There would have been plenty of suitable candidates at a number of their stops, but she had never even considered taking one. Somehow, with her newfound relationship with Mal, it simply seemed wrong.
Of course, stopping only on the outer rim planets did have other consequences, consequences which Inara had not even fully considered at first. After two mornings spent kneeling over the toilet, however, she had to acknowledge them. A simple test, one which every Companion kept near her just in case, confirmed her suspicions and sent her mind reeling. She needed to talk to Mal.
He sought her out in the cargo bay after dinner, a cup of cocoa in his hands. It had become a nightly ritual for them; they would spend some time swapping stories while they sat on the bridge overlooking the cargo bay, their legs dangling between the railings. Sometimes, Mal brought cocoa; other times, Inara made tea. Somehow, they always ended up with a beverage but never with two; Inara had not even really considered just how unlikely that was before, but now she found herself pondering the probability, trying to keep her mind off the more pressing matters at hand. "What's wrong, 'Nara?" Mal questioned, his forehead furrowed. She had forgotten just how proficient he was at determining her moods.
"What are your plans for the future?" she questioned, sipping her cocoa. The hot beverage singed her tongue, but she welcomed the sting. It focused her mind.
He shrugged. "Reckon I'll keep flying Serenity as long as I can, go where the wind blows me and where the money is. She still has a good many years left in her."
"And what about Toby and Rose?"
Mal's eyes shifted in the direction of the crew bunk they had outfitted as a nursery. It was directly across from Zoe's bunk which let the new mother easily take care of the twins at night when they needed her. In fact, all of the crew members had chipped in to help in some way, even Jayne. "They'll stay with us as long as Zoe wants them to. She has no family to speak of and Wash's don't much like her, so there ain't nowhere else for her to go."
"Is that really a good way to raise a child? What about school?"
"Plenty of kids these days are raised on ships. Zoe herself was born vesselside. They have school over the waves, and I imagine we could teach them plenty. Why the questions? Did Zoe say something to you?" A look of concern spread over his face, and Inara could not help but to smile. He tried to act tough, but it was clear he cared deeply about all his crew members, even the barely-two-month-old infants of whom they were speaking.
"No, Zoe did not say anything. I just wanted to know your thoughts."
"My thoughts are that it's Zoe's decision. They're her kids. Not up to me to tell her how to raise her own kids."
"What if it was up to you?" He squinted at her in confusion, and she took a deep breath, bracing herself for the news she was about to deliver. "What if it was your child?"
He shook his head quickly. "Look, 'Nara, I don't know what you think, but Zoe and my relationship is purely friendly. Ain't no way those are my kids. 'Sides, Toby looks so much like Wash it's crazy."
"I'm not talking about Toby and Rose," Inara said. Their eyes met, and she looked at him meaningfully, willing him to read the truth in her eyes. She simply could not bring herself to say the words out loud.
After a few seconds, his eyes widened, and she nodded encouragingly, hoping he was catching on. "You mean. . ." He trailed off, obviously unable to say the words as well. "When?"
"In about seven and a half months." He nodded without speaking, doing the math.
"I always thought. . . I mean, I didn't use anything. Was I s'posed to? I thought as a Companion, you had to have some sort of. . . thing to stop this."
Inara sighed. "Companions do use a medication designed to prevent pregnancy. We have to take it daily. But you can usually only get it on Core planets, and it's cost prohibitive unless you go through the Guild. Since we haven't stopped on any Core planets recently and my status with the Guild is currently. . . shaky, I have not had a chance to restock."
"So all this time we've been. . . you've been unprotected?"
Under other circumstances, Inara might have found his inability to say the word "sex" despite the fact that they'd been intimate for nearly four months endearing. However, under the current circumstances, she could not help but hear the underlying accusation in his tone. "You're upset."
"Damn right, I'm upset. Gorram it, Inara, why didn't you tell me? Don't you think this is a decision we should've made together?"
Inara knew he felt justified in his anger, and he probably was somewhat justified, but she could not help but snap back at him. "You never asked either. This isn't solely my responsibility." He looked chastised by her outburst, and his next words were softer.
"Gorram it, 'Nara, what are we going to do? Our lifestyle ain't exactly conducive to raisin' a child."
Inara could not help but give him a slightly wobbly smile. It seemed that no matter how upset he was, the thought of not raising his child never entered his mind. "You just said you'd let Toby and Rose stay on the ship as long as Zoe wanted. They would probably enjoy a playmate."
"No way. It's too dangerous."
"Toby and Rose would be in just as much danger."
"But they're Zoe's children. This is my baby."
"No, Mal, it's our baby. And this ship is our home. There would be no more danger in keeping a baby here than there would be in trying to settle down on some Outer Rim planet somewhere. The Alliance is never going to completely stop looking for you. At least this way, we can stay one step ahead of them instead of waiting around like sitting ducks."
"You know I'm right, Mal. Look me in the eye and tell me that I'm not."
Their eyes met, and their gazes held. Finally, he sighed and reached out, cupping her cheek gently in his calloused palm. "You're going to be the death of me, Mei ran," he said, pulling her forward for a passionate kiss. After a few seconds, he pulled back, resting his forehead on hers. She could tell he was thinking hard, and she smiled as she watched him favor his lower lip in thought. "I think I could have Kaylee help me build a wall in your shuttle and create a small nursery. That is, if you're willing to give up your tea room and have tea in the mess area with the rest of us plebians."
Inara laughed. "I think I can handle that."
"Does that mean you'll give up the Companion stuff for good? Can't be good for business to have a baby next door."
"Mal, I gave it us as soon as we entered a relationship and I stopped taking clients."
"Well, I'll make it official tomorrow." He nodded, satisfied. "You know, this means we're going to have to tell everyone else about us."
Mal shrugged. "They were bound to find out eventually anyway." With that, he leaned forward and captured her lips once more. Inara smiled into the kiss. Yes, Malcolm Reynolds certainly had a way of attracting the unexpected, but she would not have it any other way.