Funny How Things Wind Up Sometimes
Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mal and Inara spend New Year's Eve together.


Funny How Things Wind Up Sometimes by: 2x2 Word Count: Approx. 3473 words Rating: PG Spoilers: Set Mid-Series Pairing/Characters: Mal/Inara Author’s Note: Another one that’s been sitting on my hard drive forever. I think I started this one back in 2006. Finally took the time to finish it. Many thanks go to gillianrose for holding me to my sentence-a-day pact, and reading and encouraging me along the way as I finished this up! And to charlieBZ for the read through and fix suggestions!

Inara had always preferred Sihnoese New Year, with it's lanterns and dragons and fireworks, to Londinum's New Year's Eve, but business was always more lucrative on the Anglo holiday; more parties and receptions, affairs suitable for accompaniment by a Companion. It was part of why she loved Sihnon's celebration more; she never worked the Sihnoese New Year. It was a day she kept to her self.

But on this night, like so many New Year's Eves of the past, she was arrayed in her finest, attending yet another Ball, full of strangers and people she knew only by reputation.

So it was that she felt little real regret when her Client was called away suddenly and their evening brought to an abrupt close. She didn't even half-consider staying until midnight, preferring instead to have the driver take her back to the docks where Serenity was berthed.

The ship was silent and locked up, but her pass-code gained her entrance, and it was with a melancholy air that she boarded and climbed the stairs to take her to her shuttle. The crew was obviously off ship, celebrating somewhere, together perhaps. She couldn't deny that part of her was saddened by the fact that they weren't there, that she couldn't join in their festivities.

Her mind was drawn again to the argument with Mal before she'd left. He'd come to ask her to go with him, she was almost certain of it; his belligerence and hostility emerging only as he'd discovered that she'd already had plans. She felt a twinge of annoyance at him again, wondering how he could have possibly expected her not to have a client on the highest paying night of the year; wondering why he waited so long to ask her, until there'd been no chance she could accept; wondered what she'd have done had he asked her sooner, or had they been far from any world civilized enough to sport her clientele.

Shaking herself from her thoughts, she paused at the top of the catwalk, surprised to see Mal sitting with his back against her door, half-asleep or half-drunk, and she wondered why he was there instead of out with the crew, tonight of all nights. She moved toward him softly, the gentle swish of silk on steel the only sound as she walked, but enough to alert him to her presence. He looked up at her and she could see the flash of embarrassment cross his face, understood that she wasn't meant to find him there.

"Mal?" she asked softly, letting him interpret the question as he liked.

"Is it midnight?" he asked, rubbing his eyes with a thumb and forefinger.

"No, not yet."

"You're back early…"

"Yes. My client was called away on business. I can't say I'm sorry. It wasn't a very exciting party."

"Ah," he nodded. "No swordfights?" he asked, grinning slightly as she smiled at the shared joke.

"Not tonight."

Mal nodded. "'s probably just as well," he said, releasing a sigh.

She frowned, something in his melancholy tone worrisome. "Why are you here by yourself?" she asked softly.

His eyes moved away from hers evasively and he shrugged. "Didn't feel right, not bein' here. Guess I didn't want to see in the New Year without her."

"What about the crew? I'm sure they would have—"

He shook his head no. "Nah. Wasn't 'bout to spoil their fun. 'Sides, weren't much good for company this evenin' anyhow."

She arched a brow. "Are you ever?" she asked, her lips quirking in a grin as her eyes flashed at him teasingly.

He let out a brief, self-deprecating chuckle. "Truer words…" he said, trailing off as he ran a hand over his face wearily. "Yesu, I'm drunk," he laughed.

Inara stared down at him, pondering, then made a decision. "Come on," she said, reaching down to help him to his feet. "Let's not spend the rest of the night on the floor. It's getting late and I've no intention of ringing in the New Year out here."

Mal laughed again. "Funny how things wind up sometimes," he said, more to himself than her, before pulling himself up with the careful, drunken awkwardness. He leaned on her heavily, and for a moment she thought he might drag her down, but he gained his equilibrium quickly enough. He didn't let go of her, though, one arm slung over her shoulders, the other across his body so his hand rested against her midsection – a sensation she didn't altogether mind.

They staggered their way up the stairs together, a maneuver that was more difficult than she'd anticipated thanks to Mal's state of inebriation, arriving at the top breathless and relieved.

Mal pressed his head into the curve of Inara's neck as he caught his breath, clinging to her for support. She froze, startled to feel his mouth against her skin as he panted, and would have pulled herself away if it weren't for the fact that she knew he was likely to fall face first onto the floor if she did.

"Mal...?" she said, lifting her shoulder in an attempt to move him.

He looked up at her, his face soft and open, eyes startlingly clear and blue. "'m glad you're here," he said, smiling at her with such affection she felt her heart catch, a warmth that had nothing to do with temperature spreading through her. She smiled back at him, more open than she would have been had he been sober.

“You could have asked me sooner, you know,” she chastised.

“I know," he said, nodding. "Meant to."

“Why didn’t you?” she prompted when he said nothing more. “Afraid I’d say no, so you left it until I had no other choice but to?” she guessed, keeping her tone light.

“Afraid you might not,” he corrected softly and she stared at him, startled.

"You didn't want me to come?"

"'Course I did," he said, meeting her eyes with a truthful look.

"Ah," she said softly, understanding. She cleared her throat as she dropped her gaze, finding it hard to meet his eyes suddenly. "I, uh… I think we should get you to your bunk," she said, urging him toward the crew deck in an attempt to navigate them back into safer territory.

"My bunk?" he said, wide eyed at her suggestion.

"So you can sleep this off," she clarified quickly, giving him an incredulous look as he winked at her.

"Ain't ready for bed; 's not the New Year yet," he protested, steering her toward the galley, his drunken persistence impossible to refuse. "Ya can't go to bed before midnight on New Year's Eve, 'Nara. 's tradition."

She rolled her eyes indulgently. "Tradition, hmm?" she said, letting him lead her to the table, helping him to sit when the task proved too difficult for him to manage on his own. She took the seat beside him, amused. "Tell me more, then. What sorts of New Year's traditions did you uphold on Shadow?" she asked, pleased when he smiled again, showing no sign of his usual reluctance to speak on the past.

"Well," he said, smiling conspiratorially as he leaned toward her. "There'd be a dance, was always a dance, an' food like you wouldn't believe; tables an' tables, everybody's specialties from miles around. An' there was usually some music of sorts, for dancin' and the like," he said, smirking.

She let the smile that wanted to break free spread across her lips, his grin infectious. "And the like," she echoed teasingly, finding herself entranced by this carefree, unguarded version of Mal that she so rarely had opportunity to see. "And…?" she prompted, knowing there was more to the tale to tell, rewarded when he grinned widely and continued.

"And… the entire night was spent workin' toward the real reason we were all there, which was maneuverin' so as to be able to ask the girl you wanted to kiss to dance with you just before the stroke of twelve, so you'd have her all to yourself!" He chuckled ruefully. "'Course, all the girls was doin' the same thing, so usually you ended up kissin' who ever they wanted you to, but that weren’t all bad neither," he said, winking, and Inara actually laughed.

Dangerous, her mind whispered, this talk of dancing and kissing when they were alone together and he was all smiles and laughter, soft and charming. Dangerous.

She pushed the thought away. This was how she’d wanted to spend New Year’s Eve; half her annoyance with him earlier had stemmed from the fact that he’d waited so long she’d finally gone ahead and taken a client, when she would have jumped at the opportunity to spend a night with her ‘family’ (him) that involved celebration instead of blood and gun shots and all-night bedside vigils. It wasn’t her fault they were the only two on the ship – if he hadn’t waited till the last minute, the whole crew might be here and there’d be no (danger) awkwardness at all; if he hadn’t stayed behind she’d probably be in bed already, sleeping in the new year. This was certainly preferable.

“What about you?” Mal prompted, watching her, still smiling.

“Me?” she said, not sure what he was asking, her mind still on dancing and kisses.

“Got any New Year’s traditions?” he asked, motioning at her with a nod.

“Oh! No. No, not really. I usually, um, work. It’s generally the highest paying night of…” she trailed off. “I tend to celebrate Sihnoese New Year more often,” she said, changing the subject. “Lanterns, fireworks…”

"But no midnight kisses," he said thoughtfully, more to himself than to her.

She caught her breath silently. Oh, she'd had plenty in the years since she'd been working, but she knew he wasn't talking about clients. And the thought of kissing them had never made her stomach do flip-flops the way hers was now. Dangerous…

"I think I need some tea. Would you like some tea?" Inara stammered, jumping up and hurrying to the food lockers before he could answer; something to steady her nerves and sober him up.

Why did he rattle her so? Of course, she knew the answer to that perfectly well. Would it be so bad, she wondered as she prepared the tea, to actually let herself kiss him? It was safe, a New Year's kiss; there needn't be any hidden meaning or motive behind it, she told herself. As if she could believe that. So what if it wasn’t so safe? Would that be so terrible? It wasn’t like she didn't want to kiss him, after all.

Ai ya, she exclaimed silently; she must be drunk herself to even be thinking on it.

Dismissing the thoughts with a shake of her head, she carried the tea to the table, setting one cup in front of him and one for herself.

"It's Sihnoese sencha," she said as she sat. "I hope that's okay?"

"Sure." Mal nodded his thanks with an enigmatic smile as he reached for her cup.

"Wei, what are you—?" she started as he dragged the mug over, suddenly producing a flask from out of nowhere and pouring a generous amount of liquid from it into the cup. “Mal!” she exclaimed, reaching for it too late, her mouth open in an incredulous stare.

Mal grinned. "Just adding a little fortification," he said with a wink, sliding it back.

"The point was to clear your head, not waste perfectly good tea!" she protested with some exasperation.

"There such a thing as good tea?" he asked, full of mischief.

She frowned at him in mock sternness to keep the smile from her face. "There was,” she said after swallowing a mouthful with a shudder, “before you poured rum into it. Honestly, Mal, who puts rum in tea?"

“You don't like it?"

She tried another sip and winced. "I really don't."

He gave her a quizzical grin. "Then why're you drinkin' it?" he asked, reaching for the cup again, but she pulled it out of his grasp.

"I don't want to waste the tea!" she exclaimed as though it were obvious, steadfastly holding the mug out of his reach. Or the rum, she added silently, knowing it had probably cost him a fair bit. She took another drink and shook her head with a grimace. Ai ya. "Although that may not be the most sensible reasoning… Truly, this is awful."

Mal laughed. "New Year's ain't about bein' sensible," he said, continuing when she raised an eyebrow at him. "'s about sharin' a drink and toastin' friendships; reminiscin' over the year gone and makin' your resolutions for the year to come. Friends. Family.”

Inara smiled at him softly, a feeling of warmth encircling her at the thought that he included her in that definition.

"An' gettin' fèn miàn duì," he deadpanned, eyes gleaming.

Inara couldn't help herself; she snorted, laughing softly into her cup, her eyes dancing with mirth.

"All right then," she said. "What are your resolutions for the new year?"

"Don't got none," he said, shaking his head.

"None?!" she asked, brow creasing in surprise. "Why not?"

He lifted his shoulders in a shrug, his gaze falling away. "Life's a might unpredictable out here. Easier not to make promises I don't know I'll be able to keep," he explained.

"Surely there must be something?" she pressed, but he remained reticent. "All right, what about this year?" she asked, letting it go. "What are you thankful for this past year?"

"What are you?"

"Serenity," she said without hesitation. She glanced away shyly at his surprised look, giving a slight shrug. "I came looking for a safe transport…" she met his stare again, "but I found so much more."

Something in his eyes changed, softening even more than they'd already been. A warm silence that neither of them seemed to want to break hung between them, and they shared the moment companionably, drinking their teas.

“Must be nearly midnight,” Mal said at last, still gazing at her with those soft eyes.

Inara swallowed. “Must be,” she agreed, her heart suddenly pounding beneath her breast.

“Well then,” he drawled to break the tension, getting to his feet carefully. “Best be gettin' to that dance!" He held his hand out for her, grinning like a mischievous schoolboy as she gave him a look that said she knew exactly what he was thinking.

"Mal, you can barely stand," she protested, biting back a jittery laugh. Even so, she found herself rising as he tugged, a nervous shiver going through her as he placed one hand on her waist and took her hand in his other.

He grinned again, leaning in close. "Ain't aimin' to be standing," he said.

Inara blinked, staring hard at him, her heart resuming its staccato beat. She wondered if he'd meant to be as suggestive as that sounded, her hand tightening on his shoulder apprehensively as he began to move them. Gradually she relaxed as his swaying became the familiar movements of a dance, an old one she remembered from her training days that was slightly out of style now, but still perfectly acceptable.

"I'm impressed," she said after he led her through an exceptionally difficult variation without missing a step.

"Ma taught me that one," he said, drawing her closer.

“Danced with your mother a lot did you?” she teased.

"'Course," he said, pretending at being affronted as he pulled her into his body, turning her so that her back was to him, arms crossed in front of her, held in his embrace. "I was a good son.”

"I'm sure that you were,” she said after a quiet moment, her eyelids half-closing as he continued, breath hot on her ear.

"She never felt it was right she should dance with the hands, them bein' in her employ."

Inara nodded as he spun her out again. "She sounds like a wise woman."

"Yeah," he said softly, his eyes lost in the past a moment before lifting to meet hers. "Maybe. Can be lonely…”

She stared back, wondering if it was still his mother he was talking about.

Before she could ask he dipped her suddenly, chuckling when she let out a small squeak of surprise. She tightened her hold on him reflexively, and he used it to pull her in close, his hand moving from her waist to her back.

"You're full of surprises," she said, a little breathless, and he smiled, leading them into a more intimate dance.

“This one I didn’t learn from my Ma,” Mal said, lips brushing tantalizingly close to her ear and she had to suppress a shiver.

“I should hope not,” she teased as they swayed, “I expect it would have been considered a tad inappropriate.”

He laughed softly and pulled her even closer. “Conjure it would at that.”

This time she couldn’t stop the shiver that ran through her. “Then I guess it’s a good thing I’m not your mother,” she said, eyes closing as she laid her cheek against his chest, feeling it rise beneath her as he drew in a deep breath.

“It surely is,” he agreed softly.

They danced like that quietly, the hum of Serenity’s systems their only music, their footsteps on the metal floor their only accompaniment aside from the soft and steady beat of Mal’s heart beneath Inara’s ear.

Eventually she felt a shift in their rhythm, something in the change bringing a charge to the air between them.

His lips brushed her hair. “Almost time,” he whispered.

The muscles in her abdomen tightened. “How will we know?” she breathed.

“You don’t know?” he asked, uncertainty creeping into his voice, and Inara understood they weren’t talking about the hour anymore.

“I know,” she affirmed softly, nodding once as she pulled back to meet his gaze, fingers playing through the hair at his nape in soft caresses.

“Conjure we ought to count it down?” he asked, smiling slightly, his eyes never leaving hers as he squeezed the hand he held against his heart.

“It is tradition,” she replied, her lips lifting in echo of his smile.

“Well, never let it be said that I ain’t a man what holds to tradition,” he said.

They stared at each other a long moment, each of them seeming to be waiting for the other to call a halt to what was happening, give voice to some excuse or other that would propel them back across the lines of safety they had long ago forged and abided by; but neither of them were moving.

Finally, Mal spoke, clearing his throat roughly.

“Ten…” he started, his gaze never wavering from hers.

She swallowed, another shiver going through her. All night they’d been ‘dancing’ toward this, from the moment she found him outside her shuttle; maybe even before that, she considered, remembering her anxiousness to get away from the party and back to Serenity before midnight.

“Nine…” she took up the count, feeling her heart skip at the grin that flashed over his lips and the way his eyes seemed to darken.

“Eight…” he said back, pulling her to him just a little bit tighter. She slipped her hand from his and drew it up over his shoulder to join the other behind his neck.

“Seven...” she whispered, leaning closer.

“Six…” came his reply, low and primal, and she caught her breath at the sudden rush of heat that spread through her. She licked her lips, feeling a stab of arousal as his eyes dipped down to watch and fixed there for a long, burning moment.

“Five…” they both said together, their eyes meeting again as their swaying slowed and finally stopped.

“Four…” Her lashes fluttered as she pressed against him, drawing him closer.

“Three…” His hand slid up her back, fingers splaying across her bare skin in five searing points of heat that had her clutching at his shoulders, heart pounding in her breast, every muscle tensing with anticipation.

“Two…” she whispered, the faintest brush of air from lips to lips…

There was no time for ‘one’.

He lifted her onto her toes, pulling her up as she pulled his head down, dragging his mouth to hers... Kissing. They were kissing; mouths open, hot and wet and just a little bit sloppy; raw and honest. One of them moaned and the kiss grew deeper, lips meeting again and again in breathless exhilaration. Finally, finally, kissing.

She had no idea how long it was before they finally pulled apart, both breathing heavily, dragging in air; startled, and yet not, by the intensity between them.

"Huh. Seems maybe I do have one New Year's resolution," Mal said, gazing into her eyes.

"Oh?" Inara replied, smiling softly. “And what would that be?”

He kissed her. And, making her own resolution, she kissed him back.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009 1:07 PM


And in the cold light of morning, they were astonished to find their resolutions hadn't changed ... Lovely - thank you!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 2:02 PM


Oh, I'm so excited that you got this posted. It's gorgeous, romantic, sexy, funny, sweet...perfect! I love that "one of them moaned" line, so confused and lusty :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 6:15 PM


Wow, what a great way to get the two of them together. Loved how you let Mal be happy in the past and at peace and then bring it forward to the future. Loved Mal's reason for not asking Inara sooner. And your count down - anticipation is everything.....thanks for sharing and Happy New Year to you too.

Thursday, December 31, 2009 1:46 AM


Wow, wow, wow. This has got to be my favourite fic for a long time.

I love the way you have Mal slipping into this act (which you often do) of being this super-relaxed, debonair charmer - all his anxiety and darkness hidden. What you have him say sounds so much like him, same with Inara - their verbal interaction is just spot-on: smart, funny, in love.

He looked up at her, his face soft and open, eyes startlingly clear and blue. "'m glad you're here," he said, smiling at her with such affection she felt her heart catch, a warmth that had nothing to do with temperature spreading through her. She smiled back at him, more open than she would have been had he been sober.

I love that paragraph.

And so many others. And the countdown especially...Sigh.

I'll be re-reading this lots. Thanks so much.

Thursday, December 31, 2009 7:39 AM


Aliasse: and while drunk! Actually, maybe one is the result of the other.

2x2: So this is what you've been working on, well I can safely say it was worth it. :) So many little things here that are just perfectly in character, such as Mal not asking to celebrate together until the last minute so she'd turn him down.

I think Inara might like regular New Years better after this. :) Lets just hope Mal remembers this in the morning.

Thursday, December 31, 2009 3:42 PM


A pity we never got to see a moment like this. Very tender, I liked how this dance played out. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 7:33 AM


Thank you all for your comments, so sorry I haven't said so before now!! I'm so glad you all enjoyed it! It was a long time getting this one done, I'm glad it was worth it!


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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.