In the Dark (Confessions)
a Firefly story
Mal/Simon, Simon/Jayne, Mal/Inara
by dirty diana

Sequel to "Apologies", which is a sequel to "Conversations". Thanks to sffan for the beta, and the reassurance.

You're not drunk.

At least, you're fairly certain that you're not drunk. The party that Kaylee had thrown herself for her twenty-first birthday had been fun. But it was over now, most of the crew disappeared off to bed. Except for Zoe, who seems to be sitting on your lap.

Maybe she's drunk. 


"Yes, sir?"

"How come you're not in bed? All the rest of the folk seem to have gone off to bed."

"I'm goin', sir." And she is going, but very slowly, as if movement possessed some particular challenge for her. She makes it as far as the next chair over, and collapses there. Concerned hazel eyes raise themselves to stare at you. "Maybe you should try and get some sleep tonight, sir."

"Maybe." You throw that out to avoid an argument. She worries too much. "How do you do it?"

That stops her a moment, though she knows what you mean. "Well, I couldn't, sir, for a long time...after. But then I figured out how. Just had to learn again. Start from the beginning. An' I've got a good man sleepin' next to me, and that helps." Pause. "Maybe that's somethin' you should try."

"I don't think that Wash would enjoy sleepin' next to me."

She makes a low noise in the back of her throat. "That might be just as well, sir."

"Might be," you agree.

And then there's silence for moments, long moments, and the only noise is the hum of Serenity's engine, in the walls and underneath your feet. Zoe understands. About not talking sometimes. 

"Inara asked me today what our next stop was. Says she plans to get off there."

You close your eyes, to block her stare. "I know."

"She's leavin' for good."

"I know."

"Maybe you should ask her to st..."

"She's leavin', Zoe." And you try, but you can't keep the sharp edges out of your voice. "Everybody's leavin'."

Zoe speaks slowly, her voice controlled, trying hard not to say something particular. "Well, maybe they wouldn't, sir. If you asked 'em to stay."

A headache's creeping on, dull and low at the base of your skull. Maybe you are drunk, after all. "Why do you stay, Zoe?"

"Ain't got no place to go, sir."

No place to go. That was the difference. Inara has other places, other places to go, other places that she belongs. So does...

Simon is kissing Jayne in the hallway. Kissing is a polite word. They are devouring each other, like two lovers who have been strangers forever, like two strangers desperate not to disappear.

Simon has never kissed you like that.

He knows better than to try.

Jayne has one hand gripping the doorway to his bunk, the other touching the edge of Simon's mouth. Whispering something that makes Simon laugh. Simon kisses him again, kisses him hard, and pushes the big man inside his bunk. The door clangs shut behind them.

"Everybody's drunk," you mutter to yourself, and you keep walking.

Inara lets you in when you knock, and you can't remember ever doing this, ever knocking at her door. You can't remember how you got here.

She was getting ready for bed, wearing one of her flowered robes, with her dark hair brushed loose around her shoulders. Her face has been scrubbed free of makeup, flawless skin pale and honest. "It's late, Mal. Perhaps whatever it is can wait till morning."

Putting things off is what's gotten you here. She shrugs gracefully and gestures towards a seat, but you shake your head. "Zoe says you want off at the next port."

She breathes out, sharply, like someone punched in the chest. "I do."

"You sure? You're paid up another month an' a half."

"I'm sure."

" might want to consider staying a mite longer'n that." Your voice bounces across the candlelit room and makes its way back to you, sounding deep and calm. "Next stop's Athens. Not really a great place for a respectable Companion such as yourself to be wandering around alone. You should maybe stick around another couple weeks. We head back to Persephone. Might be easier for you to catch a ride back to the Core from there."

The silk of Inara's robes rustles, as she folds her arms tightly across her chest. "Why do you assume I'm going back to the Core?"

Where else would she go? "Figured that was the point of your leavin'. So you could spend more time with your own kind."

"My own kind?" she repeats, voice high-pitched, like a warning bell going off.

"You know. Folk who ain't theives. Folk who ain't petty."

She sighs loudly, drawing a hand through black curls. "Mal..."

"I'd like you to stay."

They're simple enough words. 

But the blood draws in Inara's face, dark eyes on fire with anger. "Of all the go-se...why? So that you can ignore me and then insult me and then ignore me some more? So that I can spend the nights alone in my shuttle, while you have your fun with Simon?" Abruptly she closes her mouth, the flush disappearing from her skin, as quickly as it came. "I can't believe I just said that."

"No. Don't be sorry. It's what you were thinkin'." You don't quite know what to say. "I didn't reckon you knew about that."

"I'd be a pretty poor Companion, if I didn't notice the chemistry in the room every time the two of you are close to one another. Did you..." She stops, and begins to blush again.

"You might as well say it."

"Did you know that he's sleeping with Jayne?"

You don't say anything.

"Oh my God." She watches the mask that has frozen your expression in place. "You did know."

"I did. It don't change much. I'd still like you..."

"To stay." She finishes your sentence.

"Yes. If you think you could. I know I ain't' I know we ain't really the type of folk you're used to. Maybe you'd be better off somewhere else. But if you think you could. Then I'd like you to."

The room is quiet for a moment, so quiet that you can hear her breathing. She pulls her lips together, tight, and nods. "I'll think about it."

You think for a moment that you've misheard. "You'll..."

"Think about it." And she opens the door to her shuttle. Showing you the way out. "Goodnight, Captain."