Slice It Forward
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mal/Inara/Cake fluff. There might be metaphorical meaning hidden inside, but I won't tell if you won't. Rated C for cake, cute and calories.


Mal, Inara, Cake and the slightly nausious feeling that comes from too much of it.

Shippy fluff. Post-movie. Free for all ages.

------------------------ Slice it foward ------------------------

It's one of the more incongruous sights he never expected to see in his galley and enough to slow down his steps to what might be considered stopping short, if one were picky.

It's not so much that she's at the table late at night, dressed in nothing much and a shimmery robe.

Nor, exactly, that there's a shallow, patterned cup of golden liquid sending steam upwards in a lazy slow... well, she's obviously having tea.

The point of contention between reality (What he sees.) and reality (As he would prefer it: predictable.) is the elaborately staged depiction of bloody massacre, artfully done in cake. Cake remains.

He spends a few moments blinking at the tableau, taking advantage of the fact that even a woman as schooled as Inara cannot see with closed eyes, and then elects to speed up his approach once more from not at all to leisurely.

"You decided that twenty-nine would be the right age to take on the shape of a bumblebee?"

It's not a harsh disappointment when she doesn't startle, he has accepted over time his inability of graceful stealth, but the complete lack of implied eyerolls leaves somewhat of a sting.

She just calmly reaches for that mug of hers, and the smell of ginger dances about.

"Bumblebees are useful creatures," she eventually ventures.

His arms cross, the better to project an air of ridicule and judgment. "Also fuzzy and rotund."

And they also sting. "One cake, Mal!"

"One entire cake," he points out helpfully but she only sips and lets an expression of suffering flitter across her face that he simply knows is designed to make him wonder if it's the abnormal expansion of her stomach or... him. He knows it, because it's working.

"S'not like, you know, it weren't your cake to eat."

With some further importance, it wasn't his to steal from late at night, but the lingering craving has him sitting down to her right, index finger collecting surviving crumbs and cream.

The plate is pushed his way with some force, the amount of which suggests that the ginger tea is not helping much yet.

"Have at it."

He does. It's sticky and delicious and is flavored with peach, not to mention, Inara's closed eyes allow him to be nearly as much of a pig about scraping and licking as he feels compulsion to.

"So," he works forth between two chocolate splinters inconveniently stuck under his middle fingernail, "care to elaborate on why you saw need to enjoy little Kaylee's present all in one setting?"

She sips some more and looks miserable, in a passing and harmless way that doesn't make him feel too guilty about grinning.

"I just couldn't stop." Her eyes stay glued to the cup and the tea she's swirling around in it to avoid putting more in her belly. "It was good and I wanted it and I couldn't stop. It's... crazy."

He lets his grin fade a notch or two until his sympathy is less camouflaged by the glee.

"Now, that don't seem all that crazy to me." One more swipe of sponge cake soaked in sweetness makes it past his lips. "This is really good."

Her eyes slide over to watch him clean his fingers, one deliberate laving at a time, before her head sinks to the table in despair, which allows for her pĂ­tiful moan to empower itself in the tiny space of resonance.

"It's not good for me, Mal, when I have it all at once. I practice moderation."

His hand is still sticky, but she doesn't jump and hurry away when it comes to rest on a patch of robe where her hair has vacated her shoulder for reasons of gravity. She doesn't even tense, which is one of the less incongruous sights that he nevertheless never thought he would see in his galley.

"I usually practice moderation," she amends, after a few seconds, and he smiles through the last traces of cake cleaned off the last of his fingers.

"There, there." An unruly thumb starts tracing circles on the exact apex of the curve connecting shoulder and arm. "We've all been there."

"Recently?" Her voice blends scepticism with... in actuality, it is not blended with anything. Her voice is pure scepticism, distilled down to its essence. But pleasing-sounding.

"No, not recently. Been doing without more than with the too much."

She tilts her head, rolls it to the side of her forehead somehow, and ends up looking at him through a gap in that damnable hair, and there is almost a hint of apology in her eyes, which is of course hard to make out, considering the cover and dim night lighting. He might be wrong. But he doesn't think he is.

Not that he wants to be right. After all, it's not exactly her fault they're scraping by at the bottom of the barrel.

Even if she just ate an entire creamy peach layer cake by herself in the middle of the night.

"There's a key to this, woman. You look," he leans back for a show of inspection under her eyes and carefully doesn't let his gaze wander too far beyond the small of her back, which does nothing to help his point, but is the only place on her body he can conjure wouldn't somehow be a breach of a sort, between them.


"You look about sturdy enough for maybe half a cake, yourself."

There is some shifting and her head rises, along with an eyebrow, to come to a rest on her hand, and she settles to inspect him right back. Which he doesn't allow to phase him.

"Appears to me that the obvious approach is to, you know, share the burden. Get someone to help who's also capable of holding half a cake to himself."

She doesn't move and smiles. Sort of, with her eyes.

"Or herself," he compels himself to add, while very casually looking away from the gleaming of her face. "Thataway, neither one has too much to eat and no one gets sick."

Curiously invested in cataloguing every nuance of the empty plate before him, he finds himself clearing his throat. "In case you're not feeling like being moderate. About cake."

And suddenly he's the one looking uncomfortable and it's Inara grinning. Tricks and spells of the 'verse.

"Hmm," she says like she means it.

There's something like a blush creeping up her neck and he wonders how he knows that when he's convinced that he's still staring ahead and not at her.

"Hmm," he agrees.

His tongue is working at a piece of peach nestled between two of his teeth while they endure what he hopes passes for companionable silence. Or comfortable silence, actually. Which it might be for her, because she is quietly smiling into her tea like she's turned herself into a bumblebee-shaped Buddha, after all. All jolly and curved cheeks.

But that dissolves quite instantly when he blurts, "So what are we gonna tell Kaylee about the cake?"

"She'll be so disappointed." Impending mechanic heartbreak finds itself foreshadowed on Inara's face, particularly in the twist of her brows, and as a wee toddler she must have gotten away with a murder or six, he's certain.

"I guess I'll apologize to her in the morning."

He can just picture it, too. Kaylee's wobbling lip and brave face because she can't bring herself to yell at Inara over eating her own cake, Inara stumbling over her apologies... and him watching, about to die in despair.

"Alright," he shuts off the mental images. "How's about you let me do the explaining and apologizing and stay in your shuttle like any person who's eaten herself sick oughta?"

As with any of his attempts at noble sacrifice in her name, she sighs. In exasperation.

"Mal, I can't let you solve my problems."

"This ain't a problem," he points out with perhaps a slice of overt vehemence. "This is a cake. Don't even register on the problem scale."

She blinks and tilts her head just so, needing no words to make him feel silly over trying to help her. It's not fair and calls for a raising of his voice.

"Can I be the gorram hero for once?"

This time, it's him blinking, while she remains unnervingly motionless for far too many seconds. It might be the moderate path between irritation and loud, enduring laughter, he suspects.

One last try. "Happy birthday?"

Something about his crossed-armed delivery has her covering her face with one hand, but a few breaths later she's looking up again, and her face tells him nice things that he doesn't know how to put into words, let alone her kind of words, in particular because she's not attempting to help him.

Instead, she leans forward and steals the rest of his mind.

It's not so much. Just a brush, really, of what happen to be their lips. Warm. Soft. Just like lips are, and his heart doesn't start beating triple time until her fingers brush his cheek.

And then she's already pulling away.

She looks, maybe, a little startled and a little queasy. Like a woman who's eaten too much cake and then kissed a man. As you do.

Judging by the way his face feels, he must be about to start yelling, or perhaps fall to unconsciousness. Or maybe blink and look back to the empty plate to withstand the furious blush without withering, which is what he does end up doing, eventually.

It helps, that she then gets up and floats away.

The "Uh, good night, Mal." works its way through his head with a few minutes delay. Theres... a kind of nebulousness.

She left her tea.

He doesn't quite know how long he spends sitting there and complating the significance of that notion. It's quiet for a long time, inside the fog of his head and out. His eyes close, after a while.

They open again to a loud gasp.

"Cap'n!" It's the very essence of all disbeliefing outrage. "How could you?"

Kaylee's standing next to him, mouth open, face red and eyes glued to the neatly cakeless plate displayed on the table.

"How could you," she repeats, through hands clamped before her mouth.

It's a few moments of blinking at her before he lets himself sink forward, forehead meeting table.

The small cave between the wood and his neck creates a nice space of resonance for his pitiful moan.



Thursday, March 15, 2007 10:42 AM


This made me smile. And what happened to Mal explaining to Kaylee? Well, that went well. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, March 15, 2007 6:18 PM


Ouch. You are so mean to Mal, and yet that was so good. The cake, I mean, of course. ;-)

Thursday, March 15, 2007 7:27 PM


This was...seriously? The way all Mal/Inara should be. Snark/uncertainty/cake. The way you write has a certain lyricalness to it. I loved it. Enjoyed it immensely. Would love to see more. :)

Friday, March 16, 2007 6:07 AM


That was great! Gave me a good giggle. ;D Man, now I wants some cake...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 9:49 AM


I giggled far too much reading this. Your prose by itself is playful and funny, and then you add Mal... "Can I be the gorram hero for once?" made me laugh, but not nearly as hard as Kaylee finding him with the empty cake platter.
Also: "This is not a problem. This is a cake." I don't know why that cracked me up.


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