Tuesday's Child
Monday, November 10, 2008

Inara's been moping. Mal figures it's time she snaps out of it.


TUESDAY'S CHILD by 2x2 and Anjulie

Rating: PG Word Count: 2428 Characters/Pairing:Mal, Inara Spoilers: Pre-series-ish. Notes: Just a quiet piece of fluff


“You gonna laze around in here listenin' to that mournful noise all day?" Mal asked, entering the shuttle as the last strains of a song faded and then started up again - the same tune that had been repeating for the last two hours.

"What I do with my time is my business, Captain. And I'll thank you to stay out of both," Inara snapped at him from where she lay on her sofa, a slender arm covering her eyes. She didn't bother to identify her visitor as he barged in, there was no need. None of Serenity's other occupants would ever dream of behaving as rudely as her captain.

"Oh, I got no intention of gettin' into your business, darlin'. But you been mopin' about this shuttle for the past two days, and even Kaylee ain't been able to get you outta this funk you're in. So, that tells me somethin's either wrong, or botherin' you, and seein' as how you got my crew all worried, seems to make it my business."

“You may assure your crew that Companions do not suffer from funks, that if something were bothering me you’d be the last person I would ever tell, and please feel free to close the door on your way out. Oh, and don’t call me 'darlin’'.”

Mal smirked and strolled to her couch where he sat and leaned back comfortably. "Well, now – darlin'," he said, stretching his hands behind his head. "Way I see it, you got two options. Either you tell me what the trouble is, we sort it out together and I go on my merry, or I sit here – an' I got lots of time, darlin' – and make you crazy 'till you give in, tell me what the trouble is, and we sort it out together. So...which is it, Inara?"

Pulling the pillow tighter to her stomach, Inara sighed. “You are quite possibly the most irritating man I have ever met in my life,” she huffed, resting her head against the back of the sofa. She studied her painted toenails resting inches from his thigh, wondering for one insane moment how it would feel to have his hands touching her bare feet. “Don’t you have that pressing engagement with those hoodlums this afternoon? Something about counterfeit plates? Really, don’t let me keep you.”

"Forged, actually," he said leaning his head back in mirror of her own. "An' Zoe and Jayne can handle it. Didn't much feel like goin' out today anyway, truth be told. Nope. I figure I can just spend the rest of the day gettin' comfortable, relaxin', maybe try a cup or two of that tea you're always pullin' out…."

“Oh,” she said in a small voice, her eyes sliding guiltily to the tea table. “I’m sorry. I…um…where are my manners?” she asked in a flippant voice. “What are you in the mood for? Roobios? Black? I have a very good Oolong that I could make.” She sighed again without moving, her eyes meeting his for a long second before they dropped to his chest. “It’s silly and you’ll laugh.”

His smirk faded and he stared back at her, resisting the urge to reach out and stroke her foot or caress her calf where it sat, only inches from his hand. "I'm partial to white, my own self," he said softly, and gave in, unable to stop one finger from skimming the outside edge of her foot once, softly. He cleared his throat and turned his gaze to the tea table. "I won't laugh."

She tingled at his touch, stunned to feel a tendril of desire curling in her belly. "Well, it’s…you can’t tell anyone."

Mal turned to face her again in surprise. He hadn't expected her to tell him at all, let alone so quickly. Swallowing, he nodded his promise solemnly.

“My mother loved this song. She played it over and over at our home…” Inara trailed off, lost in her memories, in the music. Lifting her eyes to meet Mal’s, she continued. “I had nearly forgotten it, then the other day I heard it over the Cortex.” She shrugged delicately. “I suppose it put me in a melancholy mood. She passed away when I was very young. I haven’t really thought about her in a long time. Now I’m nearly as old as she was when she died and I’ve got a - this is so silly,” she finished with a huff, letting the tip of her big toe lightly graze his thigh. “I sound so maudlin.” She traced a small pattern on one silk-clad knee with her fingernail. “Go do your crime, Captain. I’m just being hormonal. And don’t turn that into a bad pun, please. I’m in no mood,” she groused with a small smile.

He opened his mouth as though to comment and then grinned at her, nodding. “No puns,” he agreed, turning sideways to face her, his knee coming to rest against the sole of her foot. Leaning one elbow on the back of the couch, he propped his head up on one hand and watched her finger-tracing. “I ain’t got no where to be but here,” he offered softly.

Her heart stuttered at his quiet words. He had so many facets: just when she was ready to scream with annoyance at his overbearing nosiness, he showed her another.

"Oh, it's nothing. Really," she blustered, thrown by the tenderness in his voice. "It's just a...birthday," she blurted out, blushing as she said it, her eyes on her foot, watching as her toes curled involuntarily into his knee.

“A birthday?” Mal asked, surprised. Of all the things he could have imagined that had her upset, he hadn’t thought it would be something as trivial as a birthday. Without realizing it, his hand unconsciously dropped to her foot, and he ran his thumb over her toes absently as he leaned in a little closer. “So, how old are you?”

"What?" she asked, distracted by the heat from his hand. She knew he was a sensual person, a toucher. She'd watched from a distance as he'd hugged Kaylee or dropped a kiss to her crown, thrown his arm around his friends; but he'd never touched her before. "Oh, I'm...not telling you," she said firmly, nearly moaning with pleasure as he continued to rub her foot. "A lady never discusses her age," she said with a smile, her voice a perfect imitation of one of her instructors.

He made a scoffing sound and smiled, blinking when her toes curled under his fingers and he suddenly realized what his hand was doing, and that Inara didn’t seem to mind. His smile turned softer as he dropped his gaze to her foot and began to work his fingers into her sole with more purpose. “You know I’m just gonna keep guessin’ till you give in, and I think it’s only fair to warn you I’m not so good at the age-guessin’ game. Most like to come up with a figure miles off the mark, an’ one less flatterin’ to you than you deserve.” He smirked at her, pressing his thumb into the ball of her foot expertly as he did so, her skin smooth and as creamy as silk beneath his hand.

"Age itself is nothing to be ashamed of," she told him softly, relaxing back against the sofa as his hands worked magic on her flesh. "Wisdom comes with years. It's just that...I don't know. Thinking of my mother dying so's made me contemplative I suppose..of what I've accomplished - what I want to accomplish... How old do you think I am?" she inquired, suddenly curious to know how he saw her.

Mal chuckled wryly, bringing his other hand down to aid the first in his massage, and shook his head. “Think I’m likely better off not going down that road,” he said. “That’s a game no man can win.” He gave her a wink and turned his concentration to her foot, working the muscles in circles.

”So, what is there left for the renowned Miss Serra to accomplish that you already ain’t?” he asked casually.

That he could be adorable pleasantly surprised her - so much so that she let him continue, fascinated by him. He made her want to flirt, to laugh, and Inara realized with a shock that she felt much better than she had for the past two days. "I haven't done all that much," she answered vaguely, knowing that a mention of her work could end their small truce. "I once had grand ambitions, but now...I'm content to let things take their course for a while. Enjoying the journey you might say." Moving her other foot closer, she teased "If you don't do them both, I'll walk funny all week. What about you? You strike me as more of the 'it's the destination' type."

Mal smiled and moved to her other foot obligingly, shifting to pull them both into his lap, marveling at how small they seemed compared to his enveloping hands. “Destination’s part of our day to day,” he said, considering. “Sides’, ain’t really lookin’ for a journey; I just wanna go my own way, keep the crew paid and fed. That’s about the extent of my grand ambitions.” He gave her a smile as he worked his fingers into her foot, pleasantly surprised with their conversation. There was something almost domestic about their quiet companionship, a feeling Mal was not unappreciative of.

“So, are you?” he said, bringing his concentration back to her words. “Enjoying the journey?” he elaborated off her look, without guile.

"I really am," she said, a little wonderingly. "Of course, some days are more enjoyable than others. Those rare days when you're not injured or wounded - those are quite pleasant," she offered with a grin. "I like everyone on board, I'm seeing the 'verse, and I'm doing it all on my terms. What's not to appreciate about that?"

He felt a strange tingle in his gut to know that she actually thought on his welfare, and something inside him seemed to loosen at the knowledge that she was enjoying her life here, with them. Truthfully, he’d come to take pleasure in her presence on the ship, even their arguments - or maybe because of them. He was glad she was here.

He shook his head in answer to her question, finding no reason he could think of. “It does have its appeal,” he acknowledged. His hands had stilled on her feet, and now he just held them, his thumb offering light caresses to the backs of her toes. “Still haven’t really told me what’s bothering you,” he pointed out, giving her meaningful stare.

Her gaze dropped to his hands, her smile slowly fading. "In my line of work, appearance is everything," she admitted softly. "As shallow as that sounds, I have to be realistic. My time to work as a Companion will be dictated by my age and appearance, then I'll have to consider other alternatives." She forced herself to meet his gaze. "Now you can laugh."

“Can’t,” he said, shaking his head. “Promised I wouldn’t, remember?” He gave her feet a gentle squeeze. “Ain’t that unusual,” he added, shrugging. “'s like any piece of equipment I’d guess, gets worn out—er—depreciates or… That didn’t come out quite right,” he added with a self deprecating grin. “What I mean to say is, it’s something what has bearin’ on your… what you do. Got the same worries my own self, in a manner of speaking. Gets harder to do the things I’m used to doin’ each year; takes longer to heal and it’s easier to get hurt. But, conjure you got plenty of time ‘fore that becomes a worry for you yet,” he said soothingly. “What with you bein’ only… how old did you say?” he asked, biting back a grin.

"Old enough," she answered firmly, but she frowned at worry his words brought her. "You should be more careful, Mal. As you said, people depend on you. One of these days perhaps you should consider other alternatives. There must be something...somewhere..." Inara trailed off, not certain that there really were other options for Mal and his crew - none that his stubborn pride would allow him to explore.

An echo of her frown creased his brow at her non-answer as she evaded his question again, a melancholy smile making its way to his lips instead.

“Ain’t no room left in the verse for them like me,” he said softly, staring past her shoulder at nothing. “Only real choice is to keep flyin’ as long as I’m able, till one day… won’t have to worry ‘bout it no more. Ain’t really the settlin’ type,” he added, leaning his head back against the couch again, her feet forgotten.

A pang of sorrow touched her before she quietly rose and padded barefoot to a small cabinet, ignoring Mal's questioning look. She came back carrying a small pot of hot water and a box of white tea. While Mal looked on, Inara swiftly and compententy made two cups, offering him one with a smile. "One thing that's certain about the 'verse, Captain, is that it's never certain. Until then, I suppose we'll just have to grow old and decrepit together - us and the crew," she added quickly.

She raised her cup for a toast. "To never settling."

The last brought a smile to his lips and he raised his cup appreciatively. “Here, here,” he replied, taking a sip of the tea. It was good, probably better than he could appreciate, but he didn’t comment on it. Instead he drained the cup and then stood, feelin’ an end to their conversation in the air.

"Promise you won't make me guess forever?" he asked her, hands coming to rest on the belt at his hips. He smiled that melancholy smile again and headed toward the door, turning back to face her once more for the last few steps.

"Thanks for the tea," he said to her finally, hovering on the threshold.

"You're welcome," she said.

He nodded again, scratching at his nose and then turned to leave.

"Mal..." she called to his back. "Thank you - for barging into my shuttle and bullying me until I was forced to share my troubles," she said, only half teasing.

He looked back, a tiny smile playing about his lips, and he gave her a barely perceptible nod before turning back and stepping out of the hatch, leaving her to her own company again.


Monday, November 10, 2008 5:32 AM


Just what today needed - a healthy dose of Mal/Inara fluff/angst to show how really unimportant worries are when you can share them with a friend. Glad they could show each other their vulnerable side and realize they are very much the same. Wonderful bit of writing, and the descriptions of the facial expressions and the touching added so much to the story. Thanks for such a thing of beauty!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 2:50 AM


I liked how Mal could still surprise her and how, at the end, they had more in common than they might have thought. Inara's introspection on growing old and the fear that she would no longer be able to be a Companion once her looks left her was brought across beautifully with a light deft hand. Looks like they are going to grown old and comfortable with each other which is definitely better than the alternative. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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.