Pairing: Inara Serra/Mal Reynolds, The Companion and the Captain
My first ever manifesto – and it’s about a ship that I adore!
I will forever be grateful to fanfiction writers for deciding to write about Mal Reynolds and Inara Serra, mainly for the tragic fact that Joss Whedon never got the chance to full explore the complex relationship that we but glimpsed in the one season and one movie of Firefly/Serenity.
From the beginning, I was struck by the chemistry between Mal and Inara. Sure, our first introduction to them onscreen was Mal sarcastically introducing her as “the Ambassador” to the uncomfortable Shepherd but it was the chemistry in the bickering and the looks between them that caught my eye. Throughout the episodes, the differences between what they said and what they did, showed the deep feelings they had for each other.
Mal and Inara are both strong individuals who have learned to hold their true feelings close – I think Mal because he’s been burned from the War and the loss of his home and Inara because of her profession (being a Companion isn’t about her, it’s about the client). Yet they are obviously compassionate and loving individuals. They both found a home on Serenity with the odd jumble of people there whom they obviously care about. This fear of letting go that I both saw in them was fascinating to watch, hoping they would learn to overcome it. They were so used to being alone and relying on themselves that it was taking some work to realize that they could be with the other and not be weak.
Besides the fact of being “too strong”, there was the matter of Inara being a Companion. Throughout the series, Mal threw out “whore” and cutting remarks about Inara’s business. There was one thing that Mal made clear though in “Shindig”: while he routinely degraded Inara’s profession, he never degraded her.
Mal, to me, seemed primarily a “good country boy”, brought up with respect to his mama, raised with good manners and a sense of honor. He can’t see the honor in Inara being basically (in his eyes) high-classed prostitute. (And there’s probably a good dose of jealousy that enters in there as well as time would go on.) But he does respect Inara. He sees the good in her, the compassion and the decency with which she operates in life. But from my understanding, this is what being a Companion is about and so is a basic misunderstanding between the both of them. I don’t know if she would have given up her career for Mal’s wishes, but it’s a constant point of contention that is nicely explored in many fics (which, yes, I am getting to).
In “Heart of Gold” we did get some canon declarations of love (essentially) except it wasn’t by either party to either party – in Mal’s conversation with Nandi and subsequent silence-is-affirmation in response to Nandi’s “I’m not her” and in Inara’s heartbroken sobbing after meeting Mal outside Nandi’s room. And of course, just when Mal decides to bring it all out in the open in the end, Inara feels she needs to leave. She’s getting distracted from her purpose in life with a relationship she feels could never be.
That conversation in the end of “Heart of Gold” and Mal’s obvious hurt in the last episode of Firefly is what defines the Mal/Inara ship for me. It’s these two people who care so deeply about each other yet feel that there are insurmountable barriers to being able to be together. Alone, they are complex and compassionate creatures. But together, I really do think they would be two halves of the same whole. /romantic sap
I have many favorite moments:
There’s Mal telling Inara to stay onboard so she’ll not come across Niska in “The Train Job” and the fact that he seems to be smelling her hair and he’s giving her what is certainly a lingering look
Basically the whole episode of “Shindig” – I think it’s the shippiest one (besides “Heart of Gold” which I’m a bit bleh on because of the whole sex with Inara’s friend bit) but especially the dance and the defending her honor *sigh*
Inara’s face in “Our Mrs. Reynolds” when she finds out that he got himself hitched plus the one and only kiss we ever get between the both of them
Part of what makes me love Mal/Inara is the crew’s reaction to the whole relationship (i.e. this scene in Serenity where they’re watching a wave between Mal and Inara and Mal completely fails on telling Inara he missed her)
In Serenity, when Mal basically tells Inara that she flips his world (personally, it made my heart pitter-patter though his delivery was anything but tender)
And this look that they share just as Mal goes to possible death and leaves Inara with the rest of the crew to defend against the Reavers GAH! They don’t even say anything and it’s one of the most romantic moments I’ve ever seen on screen
Then there’s all the little moments of banter and bickering and how he pops into her shuttle for one reason or another. I really really could go on, but instead, I’ll get onto the recs. I think a few of these have been recced before but I tried to just do the ones not yet recced (but I must say that I am re-reccing some stories because they are just that good). I hope you enjoy these stories just as I did:
Fic Rec #1: The Fish Job
Link: lj also access to the rest of her stories can be found at fireflyfans.net
Rating/Warning(s): gets up to R, some violence present at points
Why This Must Be Read: Now for sure this author's works for the Firefly 'verse have already been recced but I just had to do it. "The Fish Job" is the first in an epic series by mal4prez. She gets into the 'verse like no other and really just expands upon it. She also really shows the complexity that is Mal/Inara to me.
Fic Rec #2: Fade Into Intention
Why This Must Be Read: brynnmck captures the voice of Mal and the push and pull that is Mal and Inara so well.
Fic Rec #3: Collaboration
Rating/Warning(s): PG-13, mild sexual scenes
Why This Must Be Read: It’s a rarity in this ship – fluff! And it’s fluff done so well as it’s still got the banter and not complete sap going on.
Fic Rec #4: Speechless
Why This Must Be Read: Ugh, it’s short but it’s so sweet and poignant. It’s got Mal painted in the light of Inara’s eyes and it’s nicely told.
Fic Rec #5: Two Times
Rating/Warning(s): R, sexual scenes
Why This Must Be Read: I love how it starts out and I love how it ends. It’s real and it’s them and while it isn’t as dark as this ship can get, it’s still got some of that with the levity that also defines Mal.
Fic Rec #6: Every New Leaf
Why This Must Be Read: I love this author. She captures the voices of both Mal and Inara so well. They’re drawn back to Inara’s world to help and the care and affection between them is just made evident.
Fic Rec #7: The More Beautiful Question
Why This Must Be Read: There’s a very real conversation that occurs between these two. It isn’t laced with an overabundance of romance but just what we would expect of two people who’ve had to first be comfortable with themselves before they tackled a relationship.
Fic Rec #8: Restraint/Satisfaction
Author: Not in the face
Why This Must Be Read: These are two short one-shots, each told from a different perspective (i.e. Mal and Inara’s) and it basically breaks down my own thoughts of these two and shows a bit how each views each other.
Fic Rec #9: Fairytale
Why This Must Be Read: Just the way that is told is romantic but also slightly amusing to me because, really, when would Mal every think this way?
Fic Rec #10: Something to Think On
Why This Must Be Read: I don’t have many chaptered fics on here because unfortunately my attention span is pretty limited but this one totally caught my eye. It’s written so well that I literally got lost in the story and have a hard time separating canon from this. It’s just brilliant really and I love love love Mal in this.