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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE
Mal and Inara share a Christmas moment.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1456 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
"Ain't that I'm opposed to Christmas. Crew gets a day to laze about. What more do you want?"
"Maybe just a little bit of seasonal cheer? Some frolicking? A smile??!"
“Ain’t Christmas a stretch even for the most casual of Buddhists?” he asked sarcastically.
"It's the spirit of the thing that's important, Mal. Spreading happiness and harmony among the world is very in keeping with the Buddhist philosophy, actually. You might try it."
“I’ve neither the time nor the inclination to spread anything but some of this butter on my bread. Man can’t even get a sandwich on this boat without somethin’ glittery drippin’ from the ceiling,” Mal groused as he opened a locker and took down some protein paste. “You’ll see my cheer when all this frou frou is took down and put away for another year.”
"Spoil sport," she said, ducking around him to scoop up her plate of gingersnaps. "Guess that means no Secret Santa for you, then," she added mischievously, smirking as she popped one of the small treats into her mouth.
“Now that’s somethin’ I just don’t fathom. What’s all that Secret Santa stuff supposed to be about anyhow?” he asked, hooking one of the small cookies off her plate as she brushed by him. To celebrate, all the crew had brought in small favors purchased from the market. Mal had gone straight for the loaf of real bread and the small ball of butter, but he had no intention of missing the sweets as well.
She whisked the plate away from him before he could snatch another. "Gifts, spreading some happiness, doing for others instead of one’s self. Nothing you'd be interested in."
“Wastin’ good money, playin’ like nothin’ bad’s goin’ on in the world, and sneakin’ around bein’ silly-like ,” he mumbled around a bite of bread. “That’s what this day is and I, for one, won’t be part of it. If I buy some food to bring in wont’ be cause it’s a holiday neither. It’ll be cause it’s cheap here and fresh for once,” he stated firmly, licking the last smear of butter off his thumb.
"If you want to be a grouchy old man and miss out on all the joy and love that's around you, Mal, that's your choice," she said, a small disappointed frown tugging at the corner of her mouth. "Just do the rest of the crew a favor and keep it to yourself. If you can't be thankful for what we have here, don't ruin it for the rest of us." Shaking her head at him she glided out of the galley to head to the cargo bay.
Mal waited until her steps faded before he moved to a seldom used locker near the floor. Listening to be sure he was alone, he withdrew a small box of strawberries and a small gold- covered box of chocolates. Adding them to the fare spread out on the counter, he moved to another cabinet and stuck his hand down into a pile of wrinkled potatoes, wiggling his fingers until he pulled out a dusty bottle of amber liquid. Wiping the worst of the dust off on his shirt, Mal sat it with the rest, studying the small pile of sweets and simple food stuffs. He might not be able to bring himself to join in the celebrating but he could add his share. Wiping his hands on his hips, Mal headed to the bridge.
Several hours later, after the laughter and merry-making had died down and most of the crew had either retired for the night or wandered off, Inara put together a small plate of sweet meats, checked her pocket, and made her way to the bridge.
She knew Mal had difficulties relaxing enough to enjoy days like today - he'd lost too much not to be wary of letting his guard down - but she wasn't going to let him completely escape the holiday.
She slipped up the stairs quietly, spying him at his post, his profile silhouetted by the red and green lights of the console; it looked almost festive. "Mind if I join you?" she asked, sliding into the co-pilot's chair.
“Plenty of room,” he said quietly, curious eyes turned her way. Slipping the blanket off his lap, he stood to cover her before flopping back down. “Gets cold up here,” he added gruffly, turning his eyes back to the black. “Everybody get settled in?”
She smiled warmly at his gesture and motioned with her plate for him to take a sweet. "Mostly, yes. Thank-you for your contributions by the way, they were very much appreciated. It was a lovely evening; almost perfect."
“Almost?” he asked, choosing a small tidbit and nodding his thanks.
She looked up, meeting his eyes, and gave him a small, almost sad smile, shrugging one shoulder slightly as she dropped her gaze back to the plate of treats.
"Zoe seemed to be doing well," she said, changing the subject. The first mate had enjoyed herself, laughing along with the rest of them, smiling real smiles. Inara was grateful that days like today provided an opportunity for the other women to let herself begin to heal.
“Zoe loves Christmas,” Mal said softly, almost to himself. “Always has. Wouldn’t know it here as Kaylee does most of the decoratin’ but she’s like a kid this time of year. Back when the war first started she used to get everyone to kick in a thing or two out of their kits and she’d manage to make a feast out of nothin’. “ Mal swallowed against the memories. “Glad to hear that she’s not outgrown that now that Wash’s gone.”
Inara's smile was melancholy as she listened to his tale. No, Zoe hadn't let the weight of her grief steal all the joy from her life. She was learning to live with her husband's loss, just as she had been able to move on after Serenity Valley and the war, something Mal had never managed to do. Sometimes she thought Malcolm Reynolds, the man, really had died in that valley. But then there were other times, and little things - like the strawberries and chocolate and brandy - that spoke to the heart he still carried within. A heart he shielded and guarded so tightly against anything that might hurt him it was almost impossible to detect - almost.
"She's beginning to come back to us, to heal. She knows she's not alone," she couldn't help adding, wishing that the stubborn, noble, beautiful fool-of-a-man before her would recognize that fact too someday.
“It’s good that she decided to stay with us,” he agreed. “Serenity is where she needed to be.” He turned to look at Inara. “Glad you stayed, too. She needs another woman to talk to.”
She cocked her head lightly, arching an eyebrow. "I wouldn't exactly say Zoe and I _talk_ but…" Her smile turned almost shy and she dropped her gaze. "I'm glad I stayed too," she said softly, smiling at herself before looking back up at him again. "Serenity is where I need to be."
“You know how to handle people. When to talk and when not to,” he commented. “I- uh…probably should have come down and mingled. It ain’t the holiday that I mind,” he said, a note of apology in his tone. “Just a lot of memories come back this time of year. I like to think back on them – get somewhere private - might say it's a memorial time."
She nodded. "We missed you, but the crew understands. You, um… didn't get your present," she said casually, her hand tightening around the small package in her pocket anxiously.
“Present?” Mal looked confused. “They bought presents? Did we make money and nobody told me?"
"Well... not everyone, no," she answered, staring back at him. She bit her lip a moment before she stood and pulled the small package from her pocket. "I just… wanted to—" she trailed off, suddenly nervous, and handed the package to him. "Um, I, uh…" she motioned towards the galley. "I'm going to turn in, I think," she said, stepping away hurriedly.
“Hey!”, Mal ordered softly. Turning speculative eyes to her, he smiled slightly. “Didn’t they teach you that it’s rude to throw a gift at someone and run at that fancy academy of yours?” he teased, tracing the edges with the tip of his finger.
She stopped, mouth opening before she let a breath out with a huff and forced herself to walk back to him. "Well?" she said expectantly. "Aren't you going to open it?"
Mal held the box up to his ear with two fingers, shaking it gently. His eyes found hers, a sparkle of amusement lighting them. “Not until I make three guesses,” he chided her. “Old tradition.” He looked surprised even as he said the words, then shrugged slightly. “Is it a key?” he asked.
She smiled, his amusement a relief from the tension she felt a moment before and she took a step closer, cocking her head to the side. "In a way, I suppose, but not really."
“No fair bein’ mysterious like. It’s either a key or it ain’t,” he grumbled, holding the box up to stare intently at it. “Is it...a lucky coin? Cause I can hear something rattlin’ around in there.”
"Careful!" she exclaimed, reaching a hand out to stop him from shaking it too violently, her hand lingering on his just a moment. "It's delicate," she said as she let go. "No, it's not a key. And it's not a coin, either. Now stop complaining and guess again!" she said, grinning.
Mal caught her hand and casually pulled her closer, still examining the box. “Hmmm. Delicate. Not a key but it might be in a way. Those are really bad clues,” he pondered. “Mayhap it’s a shot glass?” he hazarded one final guess.
"Now, how would a shot glass rattle?" she teased as she allowed him to pull her nearer, her chest tightening now that he'd used up his third guess. She swallowed and gave him a shaky smile. "Just open it," she said softly.
Mal studied her face, then began picking at the wrapping with suddenly nervous fingers. He slipped the box from its shiny paper and opened it, swallowing hard as her gift was revealed. “Well, now,” he said softly, his eyes meeting hers. “Reckon I ain’t seen one of those in a long while.”
"It's engraved," Inara said, the words coming out in a rush as she lifted the antique compass from the box and turned it over gently so he could read: 'To find your way in the woods – Love, Inara.'
"I found it at that trading post on Muir, and I… It's platinum," she babbled, nervously awaiting his reaction.
“It’s perfect,” Mal said simply, placing the box on the console with one hand even as he pulled her gently down to sit on his lap. “I’ll keep it with me forever. There’s another old tradition I just remembered as well. If you give a gift you have to kiss the giftee. Wouldn’t stress this myself, but I find it’s best not to tinker with these old customs,” he said, extra solemnly.
Inara smiled. “Well then,” she said and leaned in to kiss his cheek softly, her lips lingering a moment where they just barely grazed the corner of his mouth.
“Merry Christmas, Mal.”
Tuesday, December 29, 2009 6:19 PM
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009 2:15 AM
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 7:59 AM
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Thursday, December 31, 2009 3:25 PM
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