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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal get's in some trouble when Inara catches him in her shuttle while she was out.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1543 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Word Count: 2435
Pairing/Character: Mal and Inara
Disclaimer: Not mine, just playing, no money.
Author's Note: Written for Agent Rouka for her prompt of 'Mal' and 'scrubbing'. It's only taken about a month to write it, and it's maybe a little less in character than it could be, but… I don't complain when the muse strikes anymore ;o)
Making a Stand
Mal stared down at the carnage at his feet, his heart leaping in his chest as he fell to his knees and frantically scooped up the ink stick, bowl and brushes that had fallen when he'd tripped over Inara's low sitting tea table – why in the good gorram did that thing have to be so low – praying beyond hope that the kimono – the priceless, several hundred year old silk kimono – was unharmed.
Wincing, he pulled the flaps of the tissue wrap aside, a string of Chinese spewing from his mouth as he saw the large black blot square in the middle of the garment. He flipped it over desperately – the stain was mostly on the inside, maybe it wouldn't show through – "Ta ma de!" he yelled as he saw the dark stain had already bled through to the outer side.
She was going to kill him, there was absolutely no doubt in his mind that she would kill him.
And after the argument they'd had earlier, there was no way she was going to believe it had been an accident.
"Gorramit!" he swore again, thinking. There had to be a way to clean it, he thought, hoped, begged. Before the ink set! Hurry up, you damned fool pi gu, and get some water, he told himself, scrambling to the shuttle's head before rushing back out in search of something to hold the water. He spied Inara's washing bowl and grabbed it, too frantic to take the time to contemplate what she used it for, and ran back to the head to fill it, emerging seconds later laden with the bowl, a cloth and a towel that he laid out on her table. He placed the kimono on the towel and dipped the cloth into the water, squeezing the excess out and then was about to start scrubbing when he stopped suddenly, a thought flittering across his mind. What was it his Ma always used to say? 'God's grace, Malcolm, stop rubbing it in! You scrub from the side you stain and you'll only succeed in working it further into the fibers. Now strip them pants off an' turn them inside out, boy!'
He turned the Kimono over and started scrubbing in the middle of the stain as gently as possible so he wouldn't damage the silk further. As the water slowly seeped into the fabric and was drawn outward in an ever-widening circle, it mixed with the ink and began pulling it along, spreading the stain.
"Wo de tian a, no!" breathed Mal as he watched the slow, unstoppable progression in horror.
"What are you doing in my shuttle, Mal?" came Inara's voice, sharp and sudden, and Mal froze, his eyes and mouth opening wide. She was back early.
She stepped into the room, arms crossed, eyes widening as she saw her kimono laid across the table in front of him. "Is that my kimono from Emperor Sato?" she exclaimed. "Mal! What are you doing with—" her voice stopped as she saw the stain, her eyes lifting to his in incredulous disbelief.
Mal leapt to his feet, hands held up in a placating manner. "It ain't what you think—" he started.
"What did you do?" she asked, her voice so small and wounded Mal wished they were in space instead of dockside, so he could throw himself out the airlock.
"It was supposed to be a surprise," he said weakly.
"You… you… What have you done!?" she said, her voice growing more shrill and angry. "You – vandalized – my kimono?"
"It was an accident, Inara, I swear—"
"Are you so low, so petty that you'd destroy something so… so important to me, just to win an argument!"
"Or, was it just for spite, Mal?"
"Inara, it weren't—I swear—I… I'll replace it, I promise. I'll pay you back—" he stammered.
"You'll replace it? You'll replace it? Explain to me, Mal, how you're going to replace a priceless, 348 year old Heian replica, traditional silk Kimono, gifted to me by the Emperor of Sihnon! It's irreplaceable! It's worth ten times the value of this stupid ship! You'll replace it?"
Mal stayed silent, much as it irked him to hear her call Serenity 'stupid'. He'd never seen such anger from Inara before. But there was nothing he could say; he knew she was right. There was nothing he could do could replace it. Ai ya, ten times the price of Serenity, he'd never be able to pay that back!
Inara knelt beside the kimono, running her fingers over the ruined surface sorrowfully, her face sad.
"This 'stupid ship' is my home. 'Been yours more'n a year now too—" he mumbled thickly, but she ignored him and went on as if he hadn't said a word.
"I've asked you a hundred, a thousand, times not to come into my shuttle without my permission. But did you listen? Did you respect my privacy, which I might add you assured me I'd have when I entered into this fei hua arrangement with you. But no, not the great Captain Reynolds, you selfish, pig headed—"
That was it, Mal decided. He knew she was mad, but he wasn't going to let her call him selfish. "Well, if you didn't have this gorram foot stool of a table in the middle of everything I wouldn'ta tripped over it! And it weren't my fault you left all your gorram fancy writing tools all over the place!"
Inara looked up at him, eyes dark and glittering. "What?" she said, her voice low and dangerous. "Don't you dare try to blame this on me!" She stood, anger rising. "What the hell were you doing in my shuttle in the first place, Mal?"
"I… Never mind. It was a mistake," he said, resigned.
"That's a rather obvious understatement."
"Yeah, well, don't worry, I won't be makin' it again!" he said angrily, heading for the door.
"Where do you think you're going? You can't just walk out of here, Mal! I want an answer!"
He stopped, shoulders tense, hands curling into fists at his sides at the command in her words. He turned back, unclenching his fingers with effort, and drew in a deep breath. "It was supposed to be a surprise—"
"Well, I certainly am!"
"Are ya gonna keep yellin' at me, or are you gonna let me explain?" he snapped.
"Fine," she huffed, crossing her arms. "Explain."
He took a step toward her, hands on his hips as he sighed, hanging his head. "Turn around," he said.
"Why?" she asked suspiciously, not moving.
"Just—" he bit off his angry reply and forced himself to calm. "Just look."
Warily, Inara turned, her eyes landing on what she'd failed to see when she'd first found Mal in her shuttle. Standing next to her statue of the Buddha was the most beautifully crafted kimono stand she had ever seen, and her breath caught in awed surprise.
Mal stepped past her, wiping an imaginary speck of dust from a carved cherry blossom. "Started workin' on it right after you brought that piece a' pretty on board," he said softly, running his fingers along the wood. "Figured, you ought a' have a place to display it like, 'stead of keepin' it boxed up all the time. 'Was supposed to be for your birthday, but, well… I had to work on it when you weren't on board, so," he shrugged. "Sorry I missed it."
She stared at him, her lips parting in shock. "You made this?" she breathed. "For me?" Blinking at the sudden moisture in her eyes, she stepped up to stand next to him and ran her hand over the bars, awed by the flawless joint work and intricate carving, her eyes glistening. "It's… Mal, it's beautiful," she said, her voice hushed.
He coughed awkwardly. "Yeah, well. Ain't much use to ya now," he said, shaking his head remorsefully.
Inara closed her eyes and sighed.
"I… ain't no way I can ever get you that much money, Inara," he said quietly. They both knew it, but that didn't make the admission any easier for him. She remained silent, and Mal shifted uncomfortably. "I will find a way to… I'll figure somethin' out," he said, turning and heading to the door when she still said nothing. He stopped just inside the hatch and looked over at her where she stood with her back to him and shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said quietly and left, pausing as he thought he heard her call him back, and then quickening his pace to get out of there.
Hours later, having exhausted every idea and possibility he could come up with, save one, he found himself standing outside her shuttle again, resigned to the only course of action he saw open to him. He knocked sharply – wasn't no way he was walkin' in unasked for right now, even if this was the last opportunity he'd have to do it – and swallowed, lips pressed together to stave off the emotion that roiled within him at what he was about to do.
The door opened in front of him and Inara blinked, the only outward sign of her surprise at his knock, before inviting him in, but he shook his head, preferring to stay in the hall.
"Here," he said, handing her the brown leather wallet that held the deed to Serenity. "'Ship's yours. I know she ain't worth much, comparative-like, but—"
"Mal!" she said, eyes wide in shock, but he barreled on, knowing he'd never get through this without breaking if he didn't do it all in one shot.
"She's a good business, if you want to keep her running. I can't speak for the crew, but I…" he drew in a deep breath. "I'll stay on an' work for you, toward payin' you an—"
"Mal, I’m not taking Serenity!" Inara said, shoving the wallet back into his hands.
Mal grit his teeth, his lips pressing together angrily. It may near be killin' him to do this, but he would not be beholden to her any more than he had to. "Inara—"
"Mal, no! You don't need to—"
"Gorramit, Inara, I do! It may not be much, but I ain't got nothin' else! An' I ain't about to—"
"MAL! Ren ci de fo zu, will you listen? Look, just come into my shuttle and I'll explain why you don't have to do this, Mal. Please." He shook his head and Inara gave an exasperated curse, grabbing his suspenders and yanking him into her shuttle with more force than he thought her capable of. He stumbled, hand reaching out to steady himself on her shoulder and she caught him around the waist instinctively, staggering slightly under his weight. He opened his mouth to thank her, eyes meeting hers, but froze as she looked up at him and they both realized just how close they suddenly were.
Eyes widening, Inara stepped back quickly and Mal coughed, gaze sliding away from her. They stood awkwardly for a moment until Mal raised his eyes again, his mouth dropping open as he saw what she had brought him in here to see.
"Huwha?" he stammered, taking a step toward the kimono stand, now draped in the silk folds of Inara's kimono, pristine and immaculate, no trace of the stain apparent.
"I went back into town after you left earlier," she explained, watching him. "It wasn't cheap," she warned, "but I was able to have it cleaned. You'd never know anything had ever touched it." She smiled and moved next to him at the obvious relief on his face. She took the hand that held the wallet and lifted it to press it against his chest, over his heart, her hands covering it and his and he met her eyes in surprise. "So, you see, there's no need for this," she said softly. "And even if there was, I would never take Serenity from you. Nothing is worth that to me, Mal."
He swallowed thickly, his eyes showing gratitude, and he gave her the barest of nods before clearing his throat. She let her hands fall and stood back, turning her gaze to the kimono and stand.
"That's," he scraped his throat again. "That's real good," he said, stepping closer to the garment. "…That it could be cleaned. It looks real fine."
"You did a beautiful job matching the motif," she said, letting her fingers brush one of the cherry blossoms he'd carved.
He scratched behind one ear, pleased and slightly embarrassed at the same time at her praise. He cleared his throat again, aware he was giving away his discomfort. "Can I… What do I owe you," he asked gruffly. "For the cleaning?"
Inara turned back to him, an undecipherable look in her eye. "It was eight hundred for the cleaning, plus four hundred more to get it done in half a day."
"Twelve hundred?" Mal said, slightly incredulous that it could cost that much to clean anything. She stared at him, a slight look of disapproval on her face and he nodded grudgingly, acknowledging that it could have been a lot worse.
"I'd like six," she said, surprising him.
"Six? But you said—"
"Six because it was careless of me to leave my, how did you put it, 'fancy writin' tools' laying around," she said, a light tease in her voice.
"Mal." She stared hard at him, her eyes telling him she would brook no further argument on this topic, that the lowered amount wasn't charity and didn't insult his honour. He nodded again, acquiescing.
"Six," he agreed, then scratched the back of his head, a slight flush of embarrassment stealing over him. "I, uh… I'll have ta take it outta the next job," he said apologetically.
Inara nodded, obviously biting back a smile. "That will be fine."
"Well, then," he mumbled, heading toward the door. "As soon as possible."
"Mal—" she called as he reached the hatch. He stopped and turned back hesitantly. "Thank-you," she said, and smiled what he thought was the softest, warmest, most beautiful smile he'd ever seen. He felt his breath leave him at the sight, his heart lurching in his chest painfully as he gave her a stiff nod in acknowledgement, his lips pressed tight together to keep from saying anything stupid that might ruin the moment, as he was wont to do.
But, as he left her shuttle, had anyone been there, they would have seen that he was smiling.
Thursday, June 8, 2006 9:38 PM
Thursday, June 8, 2006 11:31 PM
Thursday, June 8, 2006 11:38 PM
Friday, June 9, 2006 3:12 AM
Friday, June 9, 2006 3:39 AM
Friday, June 9, 2006 7:51 PM
Thursday, July 27, 2006 3:25 PM
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