Crop Circles -- Two
Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Changing schedules...again.


Mal walked into the ship, dragging a dazed Jayne after him. “Zoë, tell Wash to shut her down and rest a spell. Looks like we’re stayin’ here tonight.”

Zoë asked Mal, “Do you want me to be here when Flaherty comes back?”

“That’s okay, Zoë. I’ll see him.”

Zoë nodded, economical in her movements, and headed up to the bridge and her husband. No one else would have noticed, but Mal could see how much the heat had worn her out, which was worrisome. If 10 minutes outside could make Jayne crazy and wring the life out of Zoë and himself, he wasn’t looking forward to being here long.

On the other hand, it looked like they might have a job.

“Go get some water, Jayne. You’re a mess.” Mal let go of Jayne and headed up to Inara’s shuttle. She wasn’t going to like hearing that they would be staying. She had an appointment to get to and they were too far away for the shuttle to make it on its own. She might have to reschedule. Again.

As Mal approached Inara’s shuttle, Kaylee exited it, tools in hand. She gave Mal a sheepish smile and said, “Got troubles with Inara’s shuttle. Unless there are replacement parts here, I may have to borrow parts from the other shuttle.”

“We’ll be here a bit, Kaylee. I’d rather we try to get parts here than not have the other shuttle working.” Mal squeezed Kaylee’s upper arm as he walked past.

“We got a job, Cap’n?” Kaylee had stopped and was nearly bouncing on her toes. She was always excited about getting work.

“Maybeso.” Mal looked back over his shoulder and saw Kaylee dancing a little jig. He smiled and realized he was very, very lucky to have Miss Frye on his ship. Good mechanics you could get. Great mechanics you could get. Great mechanics that you couldn’t help but love were unique.

Mal tapped on the shuttle door as he entered. It was a small courtesy he’d begun after Inara had announced her plans to leave. While it didn’t really make either of them feel better, it had helped return their relationship to a more professional level. He was the captain. She leased his shuttle. The end.

Inara’s next appointment had been arranged months ago. Someone’s birthday or something, he wasn’t sure. It would be her last appointment using the shuttle and now she would be late.

As Mal walked in, he found Inara straightening items Kaylee had moved when checking the shuttle’s systems. “Hear you’re having shuttle troubles.” He reached out and fingered the rich fringe on one of the drapes. When he saw Inara looking at his hand he stopped.

“Yes, it appears so.” Inara sounded frustrated and tired. “I’ve rescheduled my appointment.”

Mal became more concerned about a delay in schedule than he normally would have been. He’d never heard Inara sound tired before. Frustrated, yes. Tired, no. He stepped further into the shuttle and surprised himself by taking her hand. “Listen. We’re staying here for the night to check out a job. I’ll have Kaylee get the parts out of the other shuttle and get yours fixed. When we leave here, I’ll have Wash push it and we’ll get you there in time.”

Inara looked up into his eyes. “Thanks, Mal,” she sighed. Not only did she sound tired, she looked tired. And sad.

Without knowing he was doing it, Mal reached up with his left hand and caressed her cheek. “Are you alright?” He stepped toward her. He suddenly realized he’d just crossed any and all barriers he’d so carefully constructed over the last few weeks.

Inara closed her eyes and rested her cheek in Mal’s hand. “Yes.” She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. “Yes, Mal. I’m alright.” She reached up and held his hand against her cheek.

Mal blinked and tried to clear his throat. This was not going as he’d expected. She was supposed to say something irritating. He was supposed to say something rough in return. Why weren’t they? When he spoke, only a whisper came out. “You could…” It was almost a question. He couldn’t believe he’d almost said it. He squeezed his lips together before he said another word. His heart was pounding inside him as he reached up with his right hand to brush her hair back from her face. Please stay, he thought. And right behind that: What am I doing?!

Her hand slid from his and she reached out and fingered the buttons on his shirt. A tear slipped from one eye as she stepped closer to him. Mal’s arms gently enfolded her as she rested her forehead on his chest. “You know I can’t,” she said.

Mal held her for a moment and then stepped back, his arms dropping to his sides, all business again. “Right. We’ll get you fixed up and on your way as soon as we can.” He left the shuttle before either could say another word. He was calling for Kaylee before he’d walked down the steps.

Inara stood still, unable to move. His departure left the shuttle feeling empty, desolate.


Tuesday, November 1, 2005 9:11 PM


There are times I want to shake Inara so hard she gives those wobbly headed dolls a run for their money. Wish she would just tell Mal how she really feels and let the future take care of itself. Sigh. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, November 3, 2005 11:01 AM


you only wanna shake inara? how about both of them, and a kick up the ass for good measure


Thursday, November 3, 2005 2:35 PM


^ ditto


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Crop Circles -- Eight
Jayne's fun.

Crop Circles -- Seven
Mal learns more than he really wants.

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Crop Circles -- Six
Wash and Zoe's envelope revealed.

Crop Circles -- Five
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Crop Circles -- Four
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Crop Circles -- Three
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Crop Circles -- Two
Changing schedules...again.

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Sometimes there are honest jobs. Well, almost.