Tumbling -- Act Three
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 three of three.


Act Three

“You know,” Len said, getting onto his feet, “your urge to protect Inara is really quite endearing – something the back of my head can testify to. It warms the heart, and all that.” He began to head for the door, but Mal’s hand gripping his shoulder firmly stopped him dead in his tracks.

“How’s about you answer the question, son?”

Len glared daggers at Mal. “Fine,” he said, relenting. He shrugged off Mal’s hand and sat back down. “It’s nothing, really. I just have this thing where I like to bet on races and the likes –”

“Lemme guess. You’re on the dodge ‘cause you owe some unpleasant folk a lot of petty cash, and you figured a sister who is a bonafide Companion might offer to help you get rid of your debt.”

Len stared at his feet. Scratching his head awkwardly, he mumbled, “Basically, yes.” Suddenly Mal realized how young he looked – and probably still was. He had a big mouth, no doubt about that, but all in all he was just a kid in trouble. Len looked up and added quickly, “But I am real happy to see her. She’s turned into one hell of a woman...”

A smile tugged at Mal’s lips. “Can’t say’s I argue with that.”

A little more comfortable, Len’s eyebrows shot up and his eyes twinkled mischievously. “So... why aren’t you two together, exactly? I mean, all that tiptoeing around one another I just witnessed…” He shrugged casually. “She clearly likes you and you clearly like her. Have at it already!”

Mal closed his eyes and tried to chase away the images that Len’s words provoked. “It’s a mite more complicated than that.”

“Yeah, that’s what she says, too, but I always figure things are only complicated ‘cause people make them complicated.”

Mal sighed. He really hated it when people made a valid point. “It’d never be anything, with her bein’ so gorram perfect all the time, and me bein’ just my own self.” He shook his head. “I can’t see how anyone can be so perfect all the time. I bet she’s awful tired,” he said softly.

“My sister is not perfect, Captain Reynolds. She just hides her imperfections well.” A smile tugged at Len’s lips. “She has her share of flaws and weaknesses, just like everyone else.”

Mal smirked, clearly skeptical. “Really. So what’s Inara’s weakness?”

“If you have to ask, then you’re clearly not the man my sister made you out to be.” With a fiendish grin, Len turned around and trudged out of the room, his hands stuffed in his pockets.

~ * ~ * ~

Jayne stumbled into the mess to find the Shepherd, River, Kaylee, Wash and Zoe having breakfast at the large wooden table. Kaylee looked awful chipper, considering the amount of alcohol she’d been knocking back last night. The Doc was most likely in a less cheerful state, seein’ as he weren’t even up and about yet.

“Morning. Where’s the others?”

Kaylee shrugged and smiled as she set down an extra plate next to River’s and dropped a greyish protein pancake onto it. “Don’t know ‘bout ‘Nara, but the Cap’n is in the infirmary and Simon’s in my bunk, sleepin’.”

Jayne’s eyebrows shot up suggestively. Kaylee crossed her arms defensively. “What?” she said. “We can’t have us a good time, we’s just s’posed to sit on this boat and stare at each other like the Cap’n and ‘Nara till we go bibbledy?”

Jayne frowned as he sat down next to River, who instantly stole the pancake from his plate. “Wasn’t ‘Nara gettin’ friendly with some pretty-boy last night?”

Kaylee giggled. “Oh right, you don’t know what’s been happenin’,” she said, excited about the bit of gossip she was about to divulge. “See, ‘Nara was tryin’ to get into this fella’s pants, but he turned out to be her brother.”

Jayne blinked and stared at everyone in turn for confirmation. Zoe and Book were nodding slightly, Wash and Kaylee were grinning like a couple of crazies, and River was now eating his pancake straight from his plate and ignoring everyone.

“Well, that’s just downright unsettling,” he declared finally. This appeared to be his final conclusion, because he turned to his plate, sliding it further away from a disgruntled River, and began eating his breakfast without another word.

Kaylee didn’t seem bent on giving up the subject just yet though. “I can’t say I blame ‘Nara. She didn’t know who he was, and he’s awful suai.”

Wash chuckled. “Hell, I’m happily married and even I’d like to tap that.”

Everyone fell silent, except for Jayne who snorted loudly and mumbled something that sounded like ‘yeah I bet’. Zoe just closed her eyes and breathed out through her nose.

Just then, Simon walked into the mess. He was still wearing yesterday’s clothes, which were now wrinkled, and looked decidedly hungover. From the look on his face, he had obviously been hoping that there wouldn’t be this many people on his way from Kaylee’s bunk to his own room.

“You look rumpled,” River declared without looking up from her breakfast.

Simon closed his eyes tiredly as he sat down at the table. “Yes, River. I know that, thank you.”

When Kaylee put down a steaming mug of tea and a pancake in front of him, he shifted slightly in his seat and looked up at her. “I, ah, what I mean is, um –” he started.

Kaylee just looked at him blankly. Then she sat down on his lap and kissed him gently. “Before you put your foot in your mouth again,” she said with a soft smile. “Drink your tea; it’ll help.” Simon visibly relaxed and smiled back at her.

“So,” Simon asked as he slowly began to eat his breakfast, “what was the conversation about? The passenger Kaylee informed me about earlier this morning?” Kaylee nodded.

“Talking about me?” Len’s voice sounded as he walked into the room and sat down next to the Shepherd. “Constructive criticism only, please,” he grinned as he poured himself a cup of coffee and leaned back.

Jayne shrugged while chewing on his pancake. “We was just talking about ‘Nara tryin’ to get into your pants yesterday. Now that was funny,” he grinned.

Simon almost turned green. “Jayne, I’m trying very hard to keep my food down as it is. Please don’t mention Inara seducing her brother.” He closed his eyes and put his fork down. “I wish I hadn’t said that.”

~ * ~ * ~

Inara looked at her Cortex screen and sighed. Now that the dizziness had worn off and she was safe in her shuttle, away from the complicated conversations that were heading her way, she felt a little despondent.

The soft rap on the door startled her. “Yes?” Looking over her shoulder, she noticed Mal dawdling by the door.

“’Nara, I’m thinkin’ we should talk. Can I come in?” he asked.

For a moment, Inara felt herself hesitate. Then she realized that she didn’t have a real excuse for not allowing Mal to come in. Instead, she smiled sweetly and said, “Whether or not I give you permission to come in has never stopped you before, so I don’t see why not.” A simple ‘yes, come in’ would’ve sufficed, Inara berated herself inwardly. She gestured to the spot beside her on the sofa. “Would you care to sit?”

“Thanks, I’d rather stand.” Mal smiled wanly. Inara waited quietly while he began to pace around the room, seemingly bracing himself. “Look,” he said finally, stopping brusquely and turning toward her. “I ain’t awful eloquent when it comes to sayin’ how I feel…”

“Please, Mal, you don’t have to say anything,” she said with a calm smile, determined to nip this in the bud.

Mal frowned. “That’s just it. I think I do,” he said, taking a step closer to her. Inara bit her lip and tried her very best not to look the way she felt: mind-numbingly nervous.

“See, at first I was gonna come up here and apologize for kissin’ you, but then I decided not to. ‘Cause I ain’t sorry. Not by a long shot.”

Inara felt her heart skip a beat. Forcing herself to stay calm for the seventeenth time in as many seconds, she asked, “You’re not?” She could feel her voice waver slightly and prayed that Mal hadn’t picked up on it.

“No. See, I mighta been just a mite tipsy, but I knew full well why I kissed you when I did. I was angry at you.”

Inara blinked in confusion. Okay. That was definitely not the explanation I had expected. “You kissed me because you were angry?” she asked, taken aback.

Mal nodded. “Oh hell yeah, furious. See, I don’t much like what you do for a living.” Inara harrumphed. That’s an understatement if I ever heard one.

“But,” he continued, scoffing at her for the interruption, “when you walked up to that fella in the bar, you did that outta your own free will, not ‘cause you had any obligation. You decided to go talk to him ‘steada, well… the rest of us,” he finished lamely.

A small smile tugged at Inara’s lips. “So, when you say that you were ‘angry’, what you really mean is that you were jealous.”

Mal sighed and finally decided to sit down on the sofa beside her. “Inara,” he said in a soft tone, “I was so crazy jealous you’da been well off to send me to the bughouse.”

A shiver ran down Inara’s spine. Perhaps it was because of what he said, perhaps it was because of the way he said it or because of the soft rumble of his voice. She didn’t know and didn’t much care. All of a sudden, she didn’t feel as resilient anymore.

“Mal,” she said weakly, “that’s sweet, but it doesn’t change the fact that this… this is insane.”

Mal frowned and crossed his arms in front of him. “Why is it insane?”

Inara gawked. “Because I’m a Companion, and you are a –”

She hesitated but he stopped her, clasping his fingers over her mouth. Warm fingertips pressed softly against her cool lips. “Lemme just stop you right here and now, before you call me somethin’ we’re both gonna feel bad about later on. Deal?” Mal said.

Inara nodded faintly. She wished she wasn’t so hypnotized and completely thrown by his touch. Mal seemed to have noticed, because he smiled slightly and shifted his hand to caress her cheek lightly. Inara closed her eyes and leaned into his touch involuntarily.

“’Nara,” he said in that low drawl of his. Her eyes were still closed but she could feel his breath right beside her. He was so close. “Truth is, you got my head spinnin’. Always have. An’ maybe you’re right, maybe it’s complicated. But your brother said somethin’ to me earlier. People are the ones that make it complicated. So, why don’t we keep it simple? Jump our hurdles when we get to them ‘steada worrying about all possible problems in advance.”

He paused, and when Inara opened her eyes again, he was smiling at her. “That’s probably not the smart thing to do,” she said, but she knew she was less than convincing, thanks to the smile that was now glued permanently on her face.

Mal shrugged. “I’m done bein’ smart.” Inara snorted, but before she got the chance to utter a witty remark, Mal had taken her face into his hands, his thumbs caressing her cheeks softly. “Let’s keep it simple, ‘Nara.”

With that; he captured Inara’s lips in a searing kiss that took her breath away. Just this once, she didn’t have the urge to pull back slightly and gain control. In one instant, the most important lesson a Companion ever learned, was forgotten: control. Then again, she wasn’t a Companion just now. She was just a woman in love.

Instinctively, Mal deepened the kiss, his tongue seeking entrance. His hands left her cheeks to caress her hair and trail down, along her neck and shoulders, and down her arms while kissing her passionately.

Suddenly, he swooped her up in his arms and easily carried her to the large bed in the middle of the room. Inara’s breath hitched for a second; then she smiled up at Mal, her eyes twinkling.

Mal dropped her onto the bed and lay down too, his lean form stretched taut alongside her as his hands trailed across her stomach, fumbling with the many clasps of her corset-like outfit until he finally groaned in frustration. “Gorram it, Inara, you and those complicated fancy dresses o’yours!”

Inara laughed wholeheartedly when she saw him grimace impatiently. She pushed him away gently and rose from the bed. Quickly, she unclasped the dress until it fell to the floor in one swift movement and she was completely naked in front of him.

All the nervous jitters she’d felt before, melted away in an instant when Mal stared at her and blinked, swallowing nervously.

She climbed back onto the bed, straddled Mal and deftly began to undo his shirt buttons and suspenders before tossing them to the floor. Mal just grinned mischievously. His hands slid down her back until they were resting firmly on her ass. Then he flipped her over and kissed her again; his weight heavy on top of her, but in a wonderful way.

Inara buried her head in his neck, nuzzling the faint pulse she found, while Mal’s hands kneaded her breasts. He rubbed his thumbs across her nipples until she arched her back, raking her nails across his back. She closed her eyes at the warm glow spreading in her abdomen.

Mal moved his mouth to one of her nipples, his fingers teasing her belly button. With every touch, Inara felt the muscles beneath her skin twitch. She could feel his hard length pressing up against her as the tension was gradually building inside of her. This wasn’t enough. She needed to feel more of him; all of him.

Instinctively, Inara’s fingers found their way to his belt, undoing it as fast as she could. Then she undid his pants, which he kicked off all too willingly. As Mal nuzzled her neck, he let out a low moan; a soft rumble in the back of his throat which reverberated through her entire body.

She smiled when he looked down at her, his eyes hazy with lust, and entered her with one swift stroke. Inara gasped, wrapping her legs around him and burying her fingernails in his shoulder blades.

He set up a languorous pace which soon turned more urgent. Inara could hear herself whimper and mumble sweet nothings, but she was too far gone to care. She could already feel her orgasm building inside of her. She was close, and so was Mal, she sensed.

This felt right, she thought.

Stars erupted before Inara’s eyes as she climaxed, sending Mal over the edge with her. Grunting her name, he collapsed on top of her.

Not giving either of them time to catch their breath, Inara captured Mal’s lips in a deep kiss. When she pulled back slightly, she let her forehead rest against his. Silence settled between them, and Inara briefly wished she could think of something to say.

Before she had the chance to worry about that, however, Mal gave her a soft kiss on her forehead and whispered, “Go to sleep.” Overwhelmed by the tender gesture, not to mention everything that came before it, Inara just nodded mutely. With a yawn, she rested her head against Mal’s bare chest, and soon drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

~ * ~ * ~

The crew of Serenity had gathered on the cargo bay’s ramp to say goodbye to Len. The sun was about to set, but the air that came from outside was still hot and circling around them in hot puffs of wind.

Kaylee flung her arms around Len’s neck and gave him a tight hug, before pulling back. “Bye now. Remember you’re more’n welcome to pay us a visit next time we’re around!”

“I will.” Pulling his hat deeper over his eyes, Len smiled at everyone in turn. One by one, the crew said goodbye and returned to the jobs they’d been doing, until Mal and Inara were the only ones left.

“Well, guess it’s time for me to go. Thanks for not shooting me,” he said, glancing at Mal with a crooked grin.

Mal shrugged. “Don’t mention it. Just don’t go gettin’ yourself in a tight spot while we’re not around to get you out of it.”

“Don’t worry, I don’t expect to be shuffled off just yet,” Len replied with a smile.

He turned to Inara, who immediately took a step closer to her brother, enveloping him in a hug. She wished Len didn’t have to go, but they’d promised to keep in touch and visit whenever Serenity was nearby. A lot of old memories had resurfaced now though, and there was a lot she hadn’t had the chance to tell him yet.

“Bye, sis,” he said softly, rubbing her back. “And sorry again for playing jokes on you. Hope I didn’t mess up your life too badly?”

Inara shook her head slowly and hugged him tighter. Her mind drifting momentarily to Mal, she whispered, “Actually, I think you made it simpler. Thank you.”

“Hey, I live to serve. Just send me a wave if I’m gonna be an uncle,” Len said cheerfully. Inara and Mal glanced at each other furtively, then quickly both turned back to Len and scoffed. Len laughed. “Well, that’s my cue,” he said. He said goodbye and tipped his hat; then he turned around and walked down the ramp while Mal and Inara watched him walk away.

Inara slipped her hand into Mal’s and squeezed it softly. For a while, they both looked at Len as he walked down the dusty road that led to the town nearby.

“You gave him the money, didn’t you?” she said finally, breaking the comfortable silence between them.

Mal looked surprised for a second, but then he just smiled. “He’s a good fella. Bit prone to get himself into trouble, maybe, but I can’t really comment on that, seein’ as I’m like to do that my own self. He’s not a bad kid though,” he said thoughtfully.

“You have a wonderful sense of nobility, Captain,” Inara said in a soft voice.

In the distance, they saw Len look over his shoulder and yelling something at them. He was nearly out of earshot, but Inara thought it sounded suspiciously like ‘oh for God’s sake, just kiss her already!’.

Now that sounded like a foolproof plan.

Mal turned to Inara, his hand moving up to cup her cheek. Then he kissed her again, careful at first, as if he was afraid that she might break into a million pieces. He’s not wrong, Inara thought. She did feel just about ready to crumble where she stood.

As the wind picked up and attacked them with small clouds of sand, Inara wrapped her arms around Mal’s neck. His kisses soon turned hungry, and before all rational thoughts left her head, Inara briefly wondered what he was hungry for. She hoped it was her.


~ * ~ * ~

Suai: cute


Wednesday, June 7, 2006 8:25 AM


River stealing the pancakes off Jayne's plate was a hoot!

Simon walking in all rumpled and Kaylee being so chipper. . . bwahahaah, about time she got her some of that cute swai doc! Now, how about a detailed short of what exactly happened in Kaylee's bunk.....? :)

Mal and Inara - well, its about time for them too.

Nicely done story.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 9:04 AM


Man, was there a lot of "bow-chic-a-bow-bow" in there. I think my favorite part was how Mal handed over the money in silence to Len. Says volumes about both of 'em. Cool how you broke it into acts. If you like stories done that way, like seeing how others (especially a BDH) see Inara, and have it topped of with a little story-in-a-story that's not for the kiddies, check out my fic <a href=""here</a>.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 10:02 AM


Loved how you got Inara and Mal together and it was great that Len did not turn out to be a bad guy after all just too much the gambler. Very shiny, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 4:36 PM


Awww, that was the kind of ending that makes me feel all warm and happy. Thank you.

And I adored this:

[Wash chuckled. “Hell, I’m happily married and even I’d like to tap that.”

Everyone fell silent, except for Jayne who snorted loudly and mumbled something that sounded like ‘yeah I bet’. Zoe just closed her eyes and breathed out through her nose.]

Thursday, June 8, 2006 7:12 AM


woo-hoo! Did they ever have it out...

What a lovely tale of Mal/Inara goodness. Thanks for sharing!


Thursday, June 8, 2006 9:19 PM


Well now...this was might "Whoa" and "GUH" here, Tanisfan. Gotta love Mal and Inara agreeing to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) *wink*

And Kaylee's treatment of Simon? Yep...Simon's gotta have moves that blow her mind, cuz normally it seems to take a little while for Kaylee to calm down and forgive Simon for his verbal transgressions;)


Friday, June 9, 2006 9:09 AM


What can I say. I should bet more often. This was brilliant, and you did the 'I'd like to tap that' right :)
Beautifully written. Really should try and write more Mal/Inara :p
Maybe a sequel where the hot brother comes back? :p
Anyways, thanks for this!

Monday, June 12, 2006 10:59 AM


Well, in all honesty, you ended up walking a fine line with Len (you came very close to having him be a Marty Stu type character.) However, he was redeemed simply because of the manner of his arrival.

The breakfast scene was hilarious and Wash's line... ROTFLMAO! That was a genius prompt if ever I heard one!


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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…