Tumbling -- Act One
Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Inara flirts with a stranger in a bar, and then things start to get weird. M/I and some S/K. Act one of three.


Disclaimer: Joss, I broke your toys... All characters (except for Elliot, who is mine. Mine, I tell you!) are products of Joss Whedon’s brilliant mind. Damn him! Also, one of the lines belongs to Guinnie; I stole it shamelessly. I’m a bad person. Feedback: is better than sex and chocolate combined! Well, maybe not chocolate. Anyway. Feed me! Archive: want, take, have. Just let me know so I can rejoice! Info: CCke and I had a bet going. I lost. So, here’s my end of the deal: a Mal/Inara fic with ‘adult situations’ and the line ‘I’d like to tap that’ in it. Hey, blame her brain, not mine. A/N: A million smoochies for Guinevere, officially the Best Beta Ever. No kidding. She should get an award.

Act One ------- -------

“I promise, you guys haven’t lived until you’ve tried these,” Wash stated as the waitress put a pitcher and nine glasses down on their table.

Book and Inara nodded with equally polite smiles while Zoe and Mal exchanged skeptical glances. Jayne on the other hand immediately reached for the pitcher and poured himself a full glass.

“Explain to me again why we all had to come here?” Simon asked, looking at the people sitting by the bar as if they could attack him any second. “These kinds of bars aren’t exactly friendly.” He picked up a glass and scrunched up his nose in disgust. “Or hygienic.”

“C’mon, we don’t ever go out together. ‘Sides, it’s fun!” Kaylee stated cheerfully from right beside him. She leaned across the table to fill two glasses for herself and Simon and sat back down, a little closer to Simon than before.

Simon however was probably the only one who hadn’t noticed that – or heard anything she’d said, for that matter – since he was busy wrestling one of the empty glasses from River’s hands. “Old enough to drink,” the young woman complained through gritted teeth as she pried the glass from him.

“Not with the medication you’re taking,” he admonished. River rolled her eyes and let go of the glass abruptly, causing Simon to fly back against Kaylee’s shoulder. River started giggling.

“Right. Glad that’s been sorted out,” Mal said briskly. “Now, we ain’t had work for days. Let’s discuss job options before we’re down to dishwashing to pay for these fine drinks, shall we?” He started looking around, his eyes locking on purses that were in clear view. Kaylee’s face fell. She had obviously counted on a nice, crime-free night out.

“Mal,” Inara said with a smile, putting a glass down in front of him, “don’t you think you’re exaggerating? We can get by for at least another few weeks, there is no reason to spoil a relaxing evening with petty theft.”

“Don’t hurt to have some extra coin in advance, ‘Nara,” he said grimly. “’Sides, time is money. I’d think a businesswoman such as yourself would get that.” Inara didn’t grace him with a reply, she knew better than to rile him when he was in one of his moods. He was trying to provoke her, and the more she ignored him, the quicker it would pass. She hoped.

Mal took a big swig of his glass, his face immediately contorting into a disgusted grimace. “Zhe shi shen-me lan dong-xi!? Gorram it, Wash, you tryin’ to kill us?”

Zoe chuckled in amusement when Simon sniffed his glass carefully and then jerked his head back as if the liquid had bit him. Kaylee and River didn’t so much chuckle as burst into fits of giggles.

“Why, what’s wrong?” Jayne asked in between gulps. He slammed the empty glass down and refilled it right away.

Inara wisely kept from filling her glass. Glancing around the room, her gaze lingered for just a moment on a handsome young man who was looking in her direction from his spot by the bar. He had perfectly chiseled features and dark hair that was almost fully covered by an old Stetson. He tipped his hat when their eyes locked, a smile tugging at his lips.

Inara returned his gesture with a warm smile before turning her attention back to the table. No one had even noticed the distraction except for Zoe, who raised her eyebrows at Inara, suppressing a smile.

Inara wasn’t in the least bit embarrassed. The mere fact that she didn’t date, did not mean that she couldn’t take time to appreciate the finer things in life. And that man… was definitely fine.

The others, meanwhile, were still discussing Wash’s awful taste in liquor. Book sniffed thoughtfully at his glass. “It reminds me of something we had at the abbey.”

Simon quirked an eyebrow. “Manure?”


Everyone looked up simultaneously – except for River, who was slowly edging her fingers towards Jayne’s refilled glass – to see the bartender put a single drink down on their table.

Mal frowned. “That’s mighty kind but we ain’t ordered anything,” he said, eyeing the man suspiciously.

“I know, sir. It’s for the lady.” The bartender stared at Inara in awe. He did a sort of curtsey, which would have been funny even if he hadn’t been wearing an apron and a flannel shirt, before hurrying back to the bar. Inara’s eyes followed him until she saw the handsome stranger. He smiled at her, raising his glass in a toast.

“Friend o’ yours?” Mal’s voice sounded in her ear. She could almost hear him clench his jaw. “Don’t look like the type that can afford your rates.”

Inara’s eyebrows soared but she remained dead calm. “He’s not a client, Mal. In fact, I’ve never seen him before; but he seems very kind,” she said coolly.

Mal barked a laugh. “Right. I bet he thinks maybe he can get a free go if he buys you ‘nough drinks.”

“Cap’n!” Kaylee scowled.

“Ow!” Mal yelped. Off Zoe’s look, he reached down for his shin and rubbed it. “She kicked me!” he protested, glowering at Kaylee.

“And rightfully so, sir. Mighta done the same if I’d been on that end of the table,” Zoe replied dryly.

Inara looked at the tabletop. She’d known full well that Mal was in one of his foul moods, but his words still stung her. It always stung when he insulted her. She knew that going into a battle of wits with him right now would only make his temper worse, and she didn’t want to ruin the crew’s night out. Besides, she welcomed the escape that presented itself.

“It’s fine, really,” she said with an elegant smile. “Will you excuse me?” Picking up her glass, she rose to her feet and made her way over to the man by the bar.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to take you away from your friends’ company,” the man said. He gave up his seat and slid an extra barstool next to it. Inara smiled and put her glass down on the bar before sitting down carefully.

“Oh, that’s quite alright. My friends are lovely, but they can be a little much sometimes.” Inara frowned slightly. Why did she say that? And why was she saying it to a stranger? She quickly recovered and gave him a dazzling smile. “If nothing else, I enjoy meeting new people wherever I go.”

The man gave her an equally dazzling smile that took Inara a little off-guard. “In that case,” he said as he held out his hand, “my name is Elliot Rand – but Elliot’s fine. It’s a right pleasure to meet you, miss…?”

“Serra. But please call me Inara.” She offered her hand and he placed a soft kiss on top of it. Inara’s eyes flickered over Elliot’s shoulder and past him for just a second, to see Mal staring right at them. Despite the solemn promise she’d made to herself not to let Mal affect her, Inara couldn’t help feeling gleeful.

She pointedly ignored Mal and focused her attention back on Elliot. “So, tell me,” she said, placing a soft hand on his forearm as she looked up at him with kind, dark eyes. “What brings you to Eavesdown?”

To Inara’s surprise, Elliot didn’t seem instantly mesmerized. On the contrary, he leaned in with a conspiring smirk on his features. “Trying to make someone jealous, are you? The fellow sitting in the back there grinding his teeth at us, perhaps?”

Inara blinked in surprise and recoiled slightly. “Am I that transparent ?” she asked after a short pause. She glanced at Mal again and prayed to the gods that he couldn’t overhear them.

Elliot just chuckled. “Not at all, don’t worry. I just read people rather well.”

Inara stared back at him, feeling a little puzzled. “So do I. Usually.” She couldn’t help but feel slightly nervous and worried. She wasn’t easily caught off-guard, and this conversation wasn’t at all going the way she had intended.

“Oh, not to worry,” he replied laughingly when he noticed the look on her face. “Apparently, I can’t be figured out. Or so the women I know keep telling me.” He grinned and Inara instantly felt more at ease. She was relieved that things hadn’t gotten awkward.

“You’re not the only one,” she confided with a twinkle in her eyes. “This man I know… he’s completely unreadable. It’s infuriating, really. Half the time I have no idea what he’s thinking. If he even is thinking, which I doubt most of the time.” She rolled her eyes slightly.

“In that case,” Elliot said, leaning in close to her ear and placing his hand in the small of her back, “let’s give him something to mull over, shall we?”

Inara giggled involuntarily. She immediately frowned and glanced at her now empty drink, which was sitting on the bar. “What was in that drink?” She was definitely starting to feel a bit buzzed.

“I’m afraid I don’t know. I just asked the bartender to offer the fanciest drink he had to the fanciest lady in the room. It’s called a Tumbler, apparently.” He raised his shoulders in a non-committal shrug. “Why, too strong?” he asked, a worried frown appearing on his face.

Inara nodded, immediately bringing her hand to her temple when the movement made her dizzy. “I think so,” she frowned. Catching herself, she regained her composure and smiled graciously. “But don’t worry, I’m perfectly fine. I think I better return to my table though. Thank you very much for the drink, and I hope I didn’t give you the wrong impression?”

Elliot waved his hand dismissively. “Please. A registered Companion? As if I ever had a chance. I’m just glad to have had the chance to get to know you.”

Inara smiled broadly, one of her rare unbridled smiles. Before she could stop herself, she said, “Things might have been different if— ”

“Your heart hadn’t already been stolen by someone else?” Elliot finished for her. Inara nodded weakly. She had actually meant to say, if it hadn’t been for her profession, but now that Elliot said it, it sounded strangely true.

“I suppose you’re right,” she said slowly. “Of course, if you’re in the client registry, you…” Okay. Definite buzz.

Elliot cut her off with another soft kiss on her hand. “Thank you, but I’m afraid that that just wouldn’t do. A woman like you deserves to be loved as a person; adored and respected for everything she is; not as a one-night arrangement. I’m sure the gentleman back there would agree,” he said, nudging his head toward Mal.

Inara smiled gratefully and said her goodbyes to Elliot before returning to her table. Shepherd Book and River had already returned to the ship, and Wash and Zoe were getting on their feet, preparing to leave. Inara couldn’t suppress a smile when she noticed Simon whispering into a giggling Kaylee’s ear. Jayne appeared to be passed out on the table and was snoring loudly. Clearly, Wash’s miracle drinks haven’t missed their effect, Inara thought.

Mal narrowed his eyes as Inara took her seat opposed to him. “Made a new friend? Always networking, that Ambassador of ours.” His voice was slightly slurred.

“Somebody on this crew has to make a living,” she retorted calmly as she poured herself a drink.

Leaning across the table in an attempt to look commanding, Mal said, “You ain’t part of this crew, Inara, and as such you don’t got the right to criticize the jobs we take.”

“What jobs?” Inara frowned. “The last four jobs you did either went south or made barely enough profit to keep Serenity in the air!”

Mal leaned back abruptly and took a big swig of his drink, but he stayed suspiciously silent. Okay, that probably wasn’t the smart thing to say, Inara realized. She didn’t even mean half of what she said. He just... brought it out in her.

Finally, Mal looked back up at her. There was a glint in his eyes that she recognized instantly. She often imagined that it must have been the same look he’d had during the war, when his platoon was cornered and had no means of escape. It was the one that indicated that he was going to do or say something incredibly bold or incredibly stupid. Usually both.

He opened his mouth and closed it again, seemingly catching himself before saying anything that would cause irreparable harm. “What?” she asked, sounding a bit more grumpy than she’d intended.

He closed his eyes for a second and opened them again. “Nothin’.”

Inara frowned and rolled her eyes. Mal could be so exhausting sometimes. Most of the time, actually. “Honestly Mal, if we can’t be civilized and talk like—”

“I ain’t lookin’ for a fight,” Mal interrupted her, emptying his drink and slamming it back down onto the table. The thud made Jayne snort a little in his sleep.

“Well, you could’ve fooled me,” Inara replied under her breath. She wouldn’t be this snappish if she hadn’t been so dizzy. On top of that, she was beginning to feel slightly nauseated. Looking back up at Mal suddenly, she added, “I need some fresh air. Will you excuse me for a minute?”

She got up, passed Elliot’s seat which was now empty and quickly made her way to the bathrooms. They turned out to be in the back of the bar, across a small covered passageway. The cold air made Inara shiver and she hugged her shawl more tightly.

Instead of heading for the bathroom, Inara took a moment to lean against one of the walls and close her eyes. She suddenly felt tired, and wanted nothing more than to get to her shuttle and sleep away this whole confusing evening.

The sound of approaching footsteps made her eyes snap open. A second later, Mal came trudging her way, swaying a little on his feet but nonetheless intent on where he was going. He didn’t even slow down until he was inches away from her.

“Mal, what are you—”

“I said I wasn’t lookin’ for a fight.” He stopped her there, leaning in and pressing his lips to hers without hesitation. Inara felt her breath hitch and she closed her eyes involuntarily.

Pressed up against the cold wall, Inara let herself slip for just a moment. She let her shawl slide to the floor and snaked her arms around Mal’s waist as he deepened the kiss. It was very erotic, much more than she would have ever thought to be possible, considering the surroundings. It only took her a couple of moments to regain her composure however.

“Mal. You’re drunk,” she said as she pushed him away, gentle and yet firm at the same time. She sounded much more offended than she felt. Mal slowly took a step back, and to her own surprise Inara instantly felt cold and incomplete.

Mal rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “Reckon that’s so.” Sucking in a breath, he added, “But look, ‘Nara, I didn’t... I mean it wasn’t my...”

Every fiber of her wanted to take him back into her arms, to kiss him fiercely and tell him that he had nothing to feel bad about. Instead, her mouth decided to be treacherous and say, “I think I’d better go back to my shuttle.”

Mal nodded mutely, and Inara felt her stomach plummet at the sight of him. She picked up her shawl and managed to produce a hint of a smile. “Goodnight, Mal,” she said calmly as she walked away.

Inara all but ran out of the bar. It was dark outside and the busy market streets were nearly deserted. It was raining, too, but Inara couldn’t care less. She quickly began walking back to the ship, her skirt trailing through puddles and over the dirty ground, leaving muddy stains on the hem.

The cool night air soothed her skin like a silk cloth. Her cheeks were still burning, but she felt more angry than embarrassed. It took a lot to embarrass her. She was definitely not acting like herself though, Inara thought. She should have stopped Mal – stopped herself – instead of allowing things to become even more complicated between them. It was the drink, she knew it. Anything that made a person this dizzy, nauseated and well-willing after one drink, was not normal.

Inara felt like hitting herself. She’d been a fool for accepting a drink from a total stranger. Lord knows what he slipped into it; what could have happened... It wasn’t like her to be so careless.

Inara realized that she had only been trying to get back at Mal. Still, that didn’t excuse her. Someone with her training, someone who was schooled in reading people’s body language and their intentions, should know better. But Elliot was so... unreadable. Nothing had gone the way she’d expected. She had acted like a schoolgirl and now she was suffering the consequences.

It wouldn’t be so horrible if she hadn’t been feeling so dizzy though, Inara thought, grazing her fingers along the rough walls as she stumbled into the alley that was supposed to lead back to the docks. It didn’t, apparently, because when she looked up, a brick wall towered in front of her.

“Dead end,” a voice announced from behind her.

Inara spun around, grabbing the wall for support again and forcing her eyes to focus. Standing at the entrance to the alley, staring at her intently, was Elliot. She had nowhere to go.

“Everything alright, princess?” he asked.

Inara’s eyes widened.

~ * ~ * ~


Wednesday, June 7, 2006 8:13 AM


Nicely done. The banter between everyone is great, as is River trying to get a drink.

My only concern is that Simon and River are in a bar on the Eavesdown docks. Those are on Persephone and probably not the best place for the ALliance' most wanted to be seen.

I like your OC as well. Looking forward to the next part.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 9:20 AM


Very nicely set up but I am worried about what the good gorram Elliott is up to. He seems too shiny to be someone Inara can trust and just what did he slip in her drink and why? I hope Mal catches up before anything bad can happen. It may be that River was the best one off after all by not getting a drink. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 3:41 PM


This was fantastically written. My eyes didn't leave the screen as they twinkled with joy over seeing their favourite characters come to life.


Wednesday, June 7, 2006 4:18 PM


Eee! I get so excited whenever I see new Mal/Inara on here. And you've definitely got a talent for them. The kiss was... GAH. *fans self* I hope there's more kissing betwixt them in the future. *g*

Can't wait to read the next part, you've definitely got me hooked.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 5:12 PM


Very, very good.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 5:12 PM


Very, very good.

Thursday, June 8, 2006 8:45 PM


Oh sweet Jesus! Does not ever go normally for the BDHs? Not even their private moments?

Not sure how much sympathy I feel for Inara here. Definitely want Mal or River to rescue her from the newly creepy Elliot Rand, but...trying to mess with the Captain's mind is just stupid, IMO. The man fought through some of the most horrific moments of the Unification War (presumably) and came out cracked but unbroken. Jealousy works fine...just Mal can hold off till rather interesting moments to the kiss near the toilets proves;)


Friday, June 9, 2006 7:10 AM


So pretty.

I love the title especially. Characterizations were very good. I love how you picked up that Inara does get childish around Mal. When they're fighting, she totally goes to his level of hairpulling.

Love River trying to get the alcohol. I have a visual picture of that that's just, well...hi-arious.

Well, off to read more.

Monday, June 12, 2006 10:40 AM


Jahzara really sums it up...

"his level of hairpulling"

So true.

Great setup for this fic. I'm off to read the next part!


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Tumbling -- Act Three
Inara flirts with a stranger in a bar, and then things start to get weird. M/I and some S/K. Act three of three.

Tumbling -- Act Two
Inara flirts with a stranger in a bar, and then things start to get weird. M/I and some S/K. Act two of three.

Tumbling -- Act One
Inara flirts with a stranger in a bar, and then things start to get weird. M/I and some S/K. Act one of three.

A Lonely Road: part 9
The boys blow hot and cold, Kaylee gets all the good gossip, and the crew goes after River.
(M/S slash).

A Lonely Road: part eight
Things heat up, Kaylee hits Jayne, Badger gets a mite tetchy, and the crew prepares for their hardest job ever.

A Lonely Road: part seven
The Companion does what she does best, escape and rescue ops are set in motion, and hiding in a cave during a snow storm is a Great Plan.

A Lonely Road: part six
The crew has trust issues regarding Jayne, Simon and River get into a peck of trouble, and Mal has to get help from the last person he wants to see...

A Lonely Road: part five
Part five: in which River and Jayne face the inevitable, the cargo is, well... different and Simon makes a very stupid decision. Again.

A Lonely Road: part four
After the wave Mal has received, the long journey through the black makes everyone go a little bit stir-crazy, Simon not in the least...

A Lonely Road: part three
Part three: where Inara leaves, the crewmembers drown their sorrows and things somehow get even worse…