The Worst Medicine
Monday, March 19, 2007

Inara comes to check on a sick Mal.


Word Count: 2213 Pairing: Mal/Inara Spoilers: None Rating: PG A/N: Originally written for Agent Rouka, I just discovered I never actually posted this here, so, here it is. Nothing overly serious, tried to be fluff, but nothing ever comes out quite that way with me ;o)

The Worst Medicine by 2x2

“Mal?” said Inara, standing outside his bunk, staring down into the murky depths. A nasal groan answered her from the darkness and she frowned, stepping onto the rungs and descending the ladder.

“Oh,” Mal groaned again. “You don’t want to come down here.”

She peered through the barely lit room as she reached the bottom, blinking in minor distaste at the heavy oppressiveness of the air in the bunk, that distinct unmistakable aura of ‘sick’. She tsked in sympathy and made her way to his bedside where he stared up at her with red, glassy eyes. His hair stuck to his forehead, dampened by sweat and she put her hand against his heated skin, frowning compassionately as she brushed it aside, freer with her touch in this circumstance than she normally would have been.

“Still sick, hmmm,” she said softly, watching his eyes drift closed as she continued her caress. He swallowed and nodded, reaching up to place her palm against his cheek, savoring the coolness against his skin.

“What’re you doin’ down here?” he asked after a while, eyes still closed as she allowed him to move her hand around his face, unaware of the affectionate smile she wore as he did so.

“I wanted to check on you, see if you need anything. Something to eat or drink?” she asked, taking control of her hand to smooth his hair back again. He made a whimpering sound in his throat that could have been a protest, an acknowledgement, or merely a response to her touch, and she sat beside him, brushing the backs of her fingers over his cheek.

Mal opened his eyes and stared at her through the cotton-headed haze that hung over him. “Aren’t we bein’ awful friendly-like,” he said, his voice hoarse and rumbling and she sucked in a hurt breath, snatching her hand away and standing abruptly. She cursed herself for letting her guard down when she knew better.

“Aw, hey! Wait.” Mal pushed himself up and reached for her hand, tugging her back to his side. “I wasn’t… ’Jus’ meant it was nice, ‘s all,” he said when she was seated again. “’Sides, I’m too sick ta fight,” he added, giving her a weak grin. He let himself fall back onto his pillow with a sigh when she didn’t say anything, closing his eyes again. He lifted his hand, pointing weakly towards the table beside his bed. “’Think you could help me with some a’ that camphor?” he asked wearily, letting his arm drop. Inara looked over at the topical medicine, considering as she drew in a steadying breath.

“All right,” she said stiffly and Mal opened his eyes, laying his hand over hers beside him.

“’Nara,” he said softly. Her eyes met his reluctantly, saw the sincerity in them, and she sighed, relaxing.

“Can you sit up?” she asked, turning away from him to retrieve the camphor. He nodded and eased himself up, shuddering as the blanket fell away from his chest, his skin pebbling with goose flesh. Inara turned back with the jar of ointment, her lips parting in surprise, eyes blinking rapidly as she was suddenly confronted with a half-naked Mal, momentarily thrown by the realization that she was going to have to spread the stuff over his bare chest and back. She sent a quite prayer of thanks to Buddha that the man was too sick to notice her slip, schooling her features again as she scooped a large glob of the camphor onto her fingers. “Head back,” she said as she scooted closer and he tilted his chin up expectantly. Inara hesitated, wary of the intimacy of the moment. Don’t be ridiculous, she told herself. You’re a Companion. That didn’t mean she was above temptation, however. Steeling herself, she brought her hand to his neck, her eyes flicking to Mal’s lips when he let out a surprised breath at the touch of the cool ointment to his skin. She bit her lip unconsciously, swallowing as she smoothed the substance over his throat, fingers trailing over his adam’s apple and dipping into the hollow beneath it, rubbing gently in soothing circles, working it into his skin. He hummed in approval, the vibration flowing from her fingertips right through her and she held her breath, shocked by the shivers that raced along her body in response.

Mal kept his eyes closed, absorbed in the feel of her fingers on him. He only wished he was half as sick as he was so he could enjoy it more, but then, if he hadn’t been so ill, he knew she never would have touched him in the first place. He sighed, not for the first time wishing there could be something between them, before stomping those thoughts down viciously. In his current state, he was liable to say something stupid that he’d regret if he let his mind take that path too far.

Inara let out a slow, controlled breath as she gathered more ointment began spreading it across his chest, determined to ignore the firmness and toned definition of the muscles beneath her fingers. She’d felt the chests of hundred’s of men before, this was nothing new. Except that none of those chests had belonged to this man, and none of them had ever made her wish she could be something she wasn’t.

Mal leaned back, supporting himself on his hands as Inara’s fingers trailed their cool-burning touch over his skin, a small grunt of surprise breaking free she inadvertently skimmed his nipple. He held his breath as her fingers brushed him again, feeling a sudden, tight rush of need in his groin and knew he had to stop this before he embarrassed the both of them.

“That’s, uh… that’s…ohhh,” he groaned as she did it again, her eyes flicking up to his as he breathed her name and she jumped, springing away from the bed with a guilty pant.

“Oh, God! I’m…. Mal, I’m sorry, I… Tian a, I… I didn’t mean to… I’m sorry, I…” she stammered, screwing the cap on the camphor jar with shaky fingers, looking around desperately for something to wipe them on. Stupid, stupid, stupid! she cursed herself.

“Wha’? Inara—” Mal said, blinking at her in confusion, wondering why she was apologizing when he felt he was the one who’d reacted inappropriately to the situation. He sat up again, bending his knees to hide his erection as she grabbed some toilet paper and cleaned the ointment from her fingers. Then she was heading for the ladder out of his bunk and he lurched out of his bed on unsteady feet to stop her. “Inara,” he called as she began climbing, reaching the ladder as she passed the half-way mark. “Wait,” he pleaded, catching her eyes as she halted and looked down at him. “I’m sorry,” he said, looking away and closing his eyes as he sagged against the ladder, his head coming to rest on her leg. She swallowed.

“Mal, get back in bed,” she said. He shook his head, the motion brushing the silk of her gown over her calf.

“Don’t see that happenin’ ‘less you come back down here,” he said wearily.

“I don’t respond to extortion, Mal,” she replied sternly but he shook his head again, leaning heavier against her and the ladder.

“I ain’t extortin’ ya… jus’ ain’t gonna make it back without help.”

She stared down at him, hesitating. If he was playing her… She sighed, and started back down the ladder, wincing as his head cracked against the rungs as she moved her leg. He blinked, sliding to the floor as he held his hand to his forehead.

“Ow…,” he moaned, landing hard.

“Mal…” He stared up at her through his fingers and she shook her head wearily. “Come on, let’s get you in bed,” she said, helping him stand, expecting some kind of comment, surprised when it didn’t come. She helped to his bed, doing her best to ignore the fact that he was clad in nothing but his boxer briefs, evidence of his arousal still prominently visible. She tucked him in, avoiding both physical and eye contact as much as possible.

“I’m sorry,” he said again, and she peered at him curiously. That was the second time he’d said that…

“Get some rest, Mal,” she said softly.

“My back,” he said in a quiet, whining voice. “’Still need to do my back…”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Mal,” she said uncomfortably, looking away. She heard him swallow audibly and he reached for her hand.

“Inara, I’m sorry. I… I’m sick. I wouldn’t have let…It just felt nice an’…I never would’ve… but I’m sick an’… I won’t let it happen again, I promise,” he stammered, trying to meet her gaze.

She blinked, realizing that he thought she was upset about his arousal and was apologizing for it. She stared at him in amazement. “You’re apologizing because you reacted when I touched you inappropriately? Ren ci de fo zu, Mal, you didn’t do anything wrong.”

He was quiet for a long moment, thumb running over her fingers. “You touched me inappropriately?” he mumbled at last, rolling it over in his fogged mind. “Then, you didn’t do that by accident?”

She swallowed hard, avoiding his eyes guiltily. “I—It was inappropriate, and… uh, unprofessional. I’m sorry, Mal.” It had been an unprofessional moment, but not in the way it sounded. Oh no, there’d been nothing professional about her thoughts and actions at all.

His face clouded with sudden anger. “Unprofessional. Huh. So, you’re just here as a professional courtesy, then,” he said darkly.

“No. Mal—” she started, eyes coming back up at the anger she heard in his voice as he interrupted her.

“Just what the hell were you doin’, Inara? Playin’? You think you can just toy with me, amuse yourself at my expense? You don’t think I got feelin’s, here?”

She dropped her gaze awkwardly, clasping her hands in her lap, seeming to shrink in on herself. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, swallowing hard. “You’re right, Mal. That was… unfair of me. I shouldn’t have… taken advantage… I think it might be best if we don’t… if we avoid being alone together, from now on.”

Mal stared at her, his breath catching in his throat suddenly, anger fading, replaced by something akin to hope. Something was happening here, he realized, something was being said, acknowledged. He stared at her, at the way she kept her head bowed, avoided his eyes, and he caught his breath. “Why?” he asked softly, not daring to hope.

“Because... because, if I can’t control—if I can’t…” she trailed off, at a loss. Mal sat up, his heart pounding.

“Inara,” he said, barely a whisper, praying that, through all the haze in his mind, he was right. He lifted a hand to her to her cheek, raising her eyes to his, and then drew her towards him.

She grabbed his wrist, breathing hard. “No. I can’t do this, Mal,” she said, her other hand going to his chest, holding him at arms length.

“Why not?” he said quietly, staring out at her from under half-lidded eyes.

She drew in a deep breath. “Because, I don’t service crew,” she said firmly. It was calculated to hurt, to provide her with some kind of defense against him, but he shook his head and smirked, as if expecting her answer.

“I ain’t interested in a Companion,” he persisted, his free hand sliding down her arm to the crook of her elbow, urging her to unlock it and let him closer. “’S you I want.”

She shook her head as he bent her elbow. “There is no me, Mal,” she whispered as he drew closer.

“I don’t believe you,” he disputed, sliding his hand behind her ear, so close she could feel his breath.

“Mal, don’—” she tried but he silenced her, his lips pressing against hers smoothly, cutting off her protest. He slid his hand up her arm to her face, cupping her jaw tenderly as his mouth moved over hers, groaning as he felt the last of her resistance end and she leaned into him, responding, meeting his tongue with her own.

Inara’s heart pounded furiously, her chest tightening as they kissed, emotions roiling inside her. Want, fear, lust, confusion, anger, hurt, need - all mixed together brutally. She wasn’t supposed to let this happen, couldn’t do this with him. It went against everything she knew…Oh, God, what was she doing, what was she doing, what was she doing?

It was so, so good, but, oh, so wrong.

She had to stop it.

“Mal,” she said against his lips as he drew in a ragged breath. “Mal, stop,” she breathed, pushing against him as he sought out her lips again. “Stop!” she cried, shoving him hard.

He pulled back, staring at her in wary confusion, blinking at the hurt and fear he saw in her eyes. She was trembling. “Inara—”

She got up, wrapping her arms around herself protectively, stepping away from him. “I can’t, Mal,” she said, breathing erratically. “… I can’t.”

Dumbfounded, Mal watched as she hurried up the ladder and disappeared from his bunk, wondering what the hell had just happened.


Monday, March 19, 2007 5:36 PM


This was so beautiful angsty ... I loved it! The two of them don't know what they have and just keep pushing each other away - it's heart-breaking!

Monday, March 19, 2007 7:02 PM


i loved it. this is just...greatness. angst and sick snifflies and mal all adorable and yummy with the massaging...ive got a bulletproof 'mal's shirtless scene in serenity' kink and this made me think "mmmm." love it. :)

Monday, March 19, 2007 11:32 PM


Wonderful, I definitely should have read this one first. And that was so typical of Inara to try to back out of getting closer just because it was what she secretly wanted. Now, we definitely need more! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 2:11 AM


loved this

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 5:41 AM


Honestly? I think having this come second works better...'least in my mind. are the Creator and you get to say what comes when;)

This was utterly beautiful work, 2x2! Mal and Inara were definitely at their finest, even if one of them was weakened by illness. I just hope there's more to these tales;D



You must log in to post comments.



History of an Object
There’s no reason to keep it, damaged as it is. Save one. Doesn’t matter that it’s finer than any other cup on the ship, even with the crack. Doesn’t matter that it would never hold liquid again without some of it seeping through. Burning your fingers. Was only one reason he still has the cup.

Five Years' War
The night was warm. Clouds, low on the horizon, blue black in the last light of the setting sun. Nothing but the breeze and the buzz of the cicadas breaking the stillness. A perfect evening.

The Close Shore, At the End, Untenable
“Dead ’re in my head tonight,” he said finally. “Can’t get ‘em out. Don’t got the booze or the bar to distract me. Don’t know why I’m here ‘cept I don’t think I can go through it alone.”

The Slower Path: All the Difference - Part 15 - Sequel to The One Less Traveled By
She let out a breath, saying nothing for a long moment before she raised her eyes again. “There are some things I want you to know,” she said softly. “Things I want you to understand.”

Much as he wished he could ignore it, he could see it was important to her that he know whatever it was she wanted to tell him. He knew he wouldn't have let himself see it in the past, but that weren't where they were anymore, or at least, not where they wanted to be, either of them. Their relationship had changed, was changing, and he weren’t so stupid he didn’t recognize that. He didn't know that he wanted to know it, much less understand it, but she was reluctant enough to talk about any aspect of her life as it was; could be he might ought not stop her when she wanted to.

Unlucky at Cards...
“I… You can’t be that lucky!” Mal moaned as Inara beat him again, laying out her cards with a flourish.

The Slower Path: The One Less Traveled By - Part 14 - Sequel to Regrets
They fell silent again, struggling to find the ease that they had found, before; before the argument that had almost ended things.

"I feel like-," she started.

"This is-," he said at the same time.

They looked at each other. "Awkward," they both said, laughing lightly.

Always Had Faith
Faith in a higher power? That was always Mal's thing, the Captain, back in the war.

Loved and Lost
Love’s the biggest kind of hurt there is.

And I wouldn't trade that love for nothin'.

The Mood That Passes Through
He felt the first trembling shudder go through her, heard her breath hitch and felt her fingers grip his skin; knew it was comin', the wave that was cresting the walls she'd built to hold it back, whatever it was. Knew they were about to come crashing down around her. The first sob still hurt though, still lanced through his heart like a searing hot blade to hear her make that sound.