Bed and Wine: Part 16
Saturday, February 25, 2006

“We’re going for a ride.” NC 17


Bed and Wine: Part 16 By Kaynara

*** “We’re going for a ride.” *** AN: Thanks to Grimlock for the consult. It’s Joss’s ‘verse; I just borrow it. *** Her hand stroked over his lips, slid up his face to brush his temple like a priest offering benediction. A child’s hand, soft and slender, rounded nails still shimmery-pink with Nara’s paints. From this child, they deemed it just to create another. Deadly weapon with its mama’s smile. And him? Dear God and Satan, what would the miserable babe take from him? “Captain?” He couldn’t speak just then, couldn’t even open his eyes beneath her probing fingertips. Ai ya, was she tryin’ to see into his soul? “ gotta rest now, Little One. Gotta get well, dong ma?” “Don’t go back.” She locked his eyes firmly in her gaze. “Promise.” He gave a jerky nod before stumbling away from the table, through the infirmary doors and into the hall where he could breathe. Conversation ground to a hush when he reappeared. Impervious to their stares or at least choosing to ignore them, Mal leaned his head against the wall, fighting for control. Simon threw him a single, searching glance before returning to his sister’s side. “Sir?” Zoe ventured after several moments silence. “I--What’s everyone standin’ around for? Don’t y’all got works needs doin’? Or better yet, get to your bunks already. It’s late enough, and I can’t abide a useless crew come mornin’. Well? Get outta here!” The others dispersed quickly, Kaylee to Simon’s side, Inara with a searing glance that made blatant her hurt. Mal just groaned, brushed past Zoe whose penetrating gaze followed him down the corridor. Inara lingered at the end of the hall, waiting for him. “Mal.” She touched a hand to his shoulder. “You don’t have to tell me what was said in there. Just know that I’m here, when you want to talk....” He walked away before he could say something he’d regret come morning. In his bunk, he looked longingly for something to break. Gorrammit, if everything on this boat weren’t nailed down to the floorboards. He settled on his boots, hopping comically to yank them off before hurling them one after the other at the looking glass. In just his tube socks, he kicked at the wall, hollered when a particularly sure shot had his toes cramping. In a rage, he swept a pile of books off his desk, lifted a bronze paperweight--a model of Earth-that-Was gifted by Kaylee for his last birthday--and pitched it into the mirror. The glass shattered, raining down in his sink with a pleasing clamor. As if the gods of fortune hadn’t already cursed him and his whole gorramn ship. Well, screw ‘em. Screw the gods and the Alliance and BSB. Screw the Reavers and Miranda and all the poor bastards what fought for Independence. Screw the whole of this miserable, meddlin’ ‘verse. Where was God in this world, in all these wretched worlds? From where did he watch as adults compelled children to fight their wars? God weren’t nowhere, and one o’ these days Malcom Reynolds was gonna quit lookin’ for the bastard. For now, he just lowered his tired body to the floor, rested his back against the wall and closed his weary eyes. *** When he awoke it was to the feel of a slobbery thing against his cheek. Squinting into the light, he could just discern the fuzzy image of his first mate dangling her daughter before his face. Raven gave Mal a sunny smile along with a second openmouthed kiss to the nose before he took her from her mama, settled her squirming body against his chest. “What time is is?” Mal muttered, throat rough from sleep. “Dammit, Zoe, I can clean my own mess.” She ignored both remarks, continued straightening the small space. “Foot’s bleedin’, Sir. Step in some glass?” “Kicked the wall.” He wiggled his toes, decided they’d escaped permanent damage and stood gingerly. “Ain’t really up for company just now.” “Sir, I’ve changed your catheter. Think we’re past the company stage.” “When did I have a catheter?” He sat down on the bed, little chick in his lap. “Sir.” “That happen on the third tour?” “Sir.” He met her gaze, and she saw pure blue wrath reflected back at her. Sensing the tension, Raven started to whimper, held out her arms for her mama. *Your Uncle Mal’s sorry, Little Chick.* He pressed a kiss to her chubby shoulder before Zoe took her. *Ai ya, he’s sorry.* “Sir, what happened in that infirmary last night?” She knelt by his knees, balancing the baby on one hip. “Sir?” *** He took a long, lingering shower, letting the hot spray pour over his head, beat into battered flesh. Feeling all manner of unclean, he rubbed the soap over his skin till it shone pink and raw beneath the flourescents. When the water ran cold, he dried himself briskly, tugged on some trousers and a shirt without worrying overmuch about matching. He found the crew waiting at the table. He glanced at his wristwatch, assuming he was late. But no, they’d all arrived a whole half hour early. It was a little past breakfast, but somebody--probably Kaylee--set out a few things, including coffee and tea. Not even Jayne was eating. “Captain,” Zoe acknowledged cooly when he took his seat. “I, uh....Figure I owe y’all an apology for snappin’ at ya way I did.” “ ‘Sokay, Cap’n.” Kaylee smiled innocently, leaned over to pat his hand. “We’re used to you.” “Thanks, Kaylee; that there’s a comfort.” “Coffee, Mal?” Inara appeared at his elbow, gentle tone and soft eyes conveying her forgiveness. “Wouldn’t turn down a cup.” She squeezed his shoulder in passing, the barest of touches but oh, how it soothed. He wanted to lay down with her in the dark, bury his face in the vee between her breasts, close his eyes against the silk of her dress while those delicate fingers stroked through his hair. His eyes locked on her belly, flat beneath the gold and scarlet of her gown. How would it feel learnin’ his baby grew in there? A hybrid of him and her, sleeping safe in its mother’s warmth. He imagined her telling him, pictured the rosy flush on her cheeks, the way she’d wait, likely a mite nervy, for his reaction. He’d hold her in his lap, kiss her lips, kiss her belly and press his ear there. Well, first he’d likely faint, but after...after, there’d be celebratin’. Typical of him, not realizin’ what he wanted till it was already lost. “Sir?” “Right.” Mal glanced around the table, noted the six sets of eyes glued to his head. “Well, imagine all y’all realize we got some matters need discussin’. Figure it’s best to get everythin’ out in the open ‘fore...before....” Mal shook his head. “Son of a bitch.” “Cap’n,” Kaylee murmured. Mal shoved back his chair, strode over to Gideon’s place and pulled the boy bodily from his seat. “You knew. Didn’t ya? You knew where they’d take us and that after they’d let us go. You knew all o’ that ‘cuz you knew what they wanted with her.” “Captain,” Zoe tried. “You best be straight with me, son.” Inara rose. “Mal, please--” “I didn’t know for certain,” Gideon said quietly. “I’d heard rumors.” “You’d heard--” Mal hauled back and hit the boy in the jaw, sending him sprawling back over the table top. “Jesus!” Simon thrust his body in between them before Mal could inflict more damage. “What the hell’s the matter with you?” “The matter with me is the tyen suh traitor sittin’ at my breakfast table steada out in the airlock where he belongs.” “Someone gettin’ thrown out the airlock?” “Bi zui,” Mal growled without sparing Jayne a glance. “Pack your things, son. Only reason I let you stay this long was your bringin’ the albatross back safe an’ sound. And now she surely ain’t that, which means you get out next stop. Best stay outta my sight twixt now and then, lest you feel like gettin’ out a mite sooner.” “Mal!” Inara’s voice snapped like a belt, had him turning. “For Heaven’s sake, what happened in that hospital?” He couldn’t look her in the eye and say it. He’d been to war but this just wasn’t in him. “Mal....” Inara glanced at Simon, the fear she’d felt since last night flooding her face with heat. Bile threatened to fill her throat. “Was she raped?” “Wuh de tyen, ah,” Simon murmured, lowering himself to his chair. “Weren’t that kind o’ violation.” Or was it? Either way a trespass, an indignity. “Just what kind of violation did my sister endure?” Mal met the doctor’s gaze. “Seems ‘Liance decided of late that your sister ain’t much use to ‘em. Unreliable as weapons go. But someone over at BSB Headquarters didn’t feel much like givin’ up. Someone got it in his head to try again. Guess River’s genius-genes proved too great a temptation.” “They...then she’s...but no, they’d never have let her leave if....” Mal let that top-three-percent brain figure its own conclusions. “They’d use a surrogate,” Simon realized. “It would be too dangerous to allow her to carry the child to term.” “Oh my God.” Kaylee pressed a hand to her chest. “You mean to say they took parts o’ her, mixed it up with some fella’s juices and--” “Not some fella.” “Shah muh, Cap’n?” “Baby’s mine, Kaylee.” For several seconds, there was absolute silence. In an instant that seemed to linger, he caught Inara’s gaze, watched those sultry dark eyes widen with shock and something else, something heartbreaking. A single shaking hand flew up to cover her lips before she turned and fled. “Inara.” But it was a whisper, one she surely couldn’t hear over the pounding in her chest. “Dear God.” Simon stared at his hands. “She’s just a kid.” Kaylee looked close to tears her own self. “Cap’n...y-you and River...?” “Wasn’t like that, Lil’ Kaylee. Woke up tied to a hospital bed. Nurse came in, gave me some drug, and...don’t really remember much past that point.” “She likely injected you with Eros 5,” Gideon supplied. “It tends to produce sexually-explicit dreams. It would be a simple matter of ah...proper stimulation to produce um...response of sufficient yield.” “Well, that’s a mite creepifying.” “Tact, Jayne!” Kaylee punched him in the arm. “You might wanna try it sometime. Doubt the cap’n feels much like talkin’ ‘bout some freaky nurse manipulatin’ his nethers.” “He doesn’t.” Mal stared pointedly at his hands. “He really, really doesn’t.” “I should go see to River. She must be....” Simon let the sentence trail to silence. In fact, he had no notion of how River must be feeling. This was simply beyond his conception. “Yeah.” Mal raked a hand through his hair. “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea, Doctor.” “Why you?” “Shah muh?” “They could have used anyone’s genetic material to father her child. What in the whole of this ‘verse would make them think of you?” Mal met Simon’s eyes cooly. “Fairly certain I ain’t the one to ask.” *** Some instinct had her returning to the shuttle. Perhaps she longed for the familiar just then or maybe, in her present state, the scene of so much pain had a certain appeal. How many times had Mal barged in here uninvited? How many times had she spurred him to the point of insult, applied pressure in spots she knew to be sore? A barrage of knives, carefully aimed. He’d never intended to say that word, whore, and yet it had always sprung from his lips at the worst-possible time. Somehow the long-gone Cora escaped such labeling. Perhaps he found it unfitting to disparage somebody’s mother: Cora with the baby he’d never see growing beneath the gentle curve of her belly. Cora left the Guild when she learned she was carrying life. A companion couldn’t be a mother, she’d said; she was right. Inara pulled open the doors, dragged them closed behind her. She barely recognized this space anymore, free from her plush couches and smoldering incense, bright wall hangings and soft lighting. It was cold and dim now, the floor coated in a thick sheen of dust. One of Kaylee’s hammocks hung suspended from a couple rafters, a remnant from her reparations. Inara ignored it, slid soundlessly to the floor. She drew her knees up to her chest, lowered her face as she began to cry. Her shoulders shook as she sobbed, heaved in her struggle to regain control. The sound of the shuttle door sliding open startled her. She pressed her lips to her arm to stifle the noise. Quickly, she brushed the wet from her cheeks. She held her breath as footsteps padded around the corner. *Mal.* “Nara?” Kaylee peeked her head into view, offered up a soft smile. “Hey, you.” “Hey, you,” Inara managed hoarsely. Kaylee sat beside her, slung an arm around the elder girl’s shoulders. “Oh, honey.” Inara lay her head in Kaylee’s lap and cried silently into her coveralls. *** Mal settled in the pilot’s chair, watching the ‘verse fly by in calming contemplation. On ever side, the Black enclosed them as a womb, offering concealment, offering protection. It felt good to be back at his helm, soothing as a shot of whiskey to the belly and twice as warm. He fiddled with three switches on the console, punched in some coordinates. A fizzle, white snow. Then a woman’s face filled the screen, dark skin, braids down to her shoulders. “Good afternoon.” She smiled at him, voice smooth like lotion. “Thank you for waving us at Mayella’s Sweet Leaf Spa, located in the Sweet Leaf township here on Bellerophon.” It was a recording, he realized, no less hypnotized by those eyes. Mayella sure knew somethin’ bout staffing. “We offer a wide variety of services including old-fashioned Earth-that-was massage therapy and facials with the finest in Canton-imported mud. Be sure to try our new pain-free back or bikini wax.” “Oh, but don’t that sound tempting.” Mal rolled his eyes, amused, and waited for her to finish. “Please leave your words and contact coordinates after the signal. We eagerly await your arrival and look forward to pampering you in every way imaginable.” “Uh, hi.” Mal cleared his throat, mouth suddenly all manner o’ dry. “Mayella. Malcom Reynolds. How’s things in your world? Was real glad to get your message....real glad. Heard you may have a job for all honesty, Mayella, I’d be mighty appreciative. Could use some good work nowbouts. Anyhow, you just wave me back when you get a minute. Oh yeah--sign me up for one o’ them bikini waxes.” He signed off, lay his head back against the seat with a grin. He felt a powerful need to be workin’. The thought of helpin’ friends sat right with him just now. He needed to get his head in order; best place to do that was with them he could trust. A few days of rest and relaxation wouldn’t do his crew any harm neither. “Cap’n?” He glanced up to find Kaylee lingering in the doorway, face pressed to the frame. “Okay for me to board the bridge, Sir?” she asked, all formal-like. He hid a smile. “Get on in here.” He motioned to the spare seat. “Brat.” She sat instead on the edge of the console, reached out to lay a hand on his knee. She met his eyes, her own thoughtful. “How you farin’, Cap’n?” she asked seriously. “Oh, ‘spect I’m farin’ alright. How you doin’, Lil’ Kaylee?” “I mean, in earnest, Cap’n. You need a hug?” “Kaylee. Please don’t feel like you hafta hug me.” Taking that as an invitation, she slid her arms around his neck, pressed her lips to his cheek. He rolled his eyes but didn’t stop her. “I love my cap’n. And I know he loves all o’ us, even if sometimes he don’t say it and acts like a beast and sends us all to our beds without supper.” “I ain’t your daddy, darlin’. Ain’t your big brother nor even your grumpy uncle. My function on this ship is to lead, dong ma?” Uncomfortable, he stood, wandered toward the window. “Don’t matter much if you like me for it.” “And how ‘bout Nara? You just gonna boss her like the rest of us? Keep her at arm’s length?” “Inara’s crew, same as you.” She made a sound of exasperation, halfway between a sigh and a shriek. “Sometimes I just wanna--” She broke off, took a step forward and smacked him, right on the seat of his tight-pants. “Ow!” Mal whirled, shocked his own self. “I’m sorry, did you just--?” “You deserved a lot worse.” She grabbed his face in both hands, forced him to meet her gaze. “You are bein’ a mule. I know you’re hurtin’--ain’t exactly undue, seein’ what was done to you. But Inara’s hurtin’ too, and way I see it, ain’t no sense in you both bein’ hurt all by your lonesomes.” “Girl, I’ve got a good mind to--” The cortex beeped, announcing an incoming wave. Mal fairly growled at Kaylee, baring his teeth in a way that reminded her of the wounded puppy her daddy brought home when she was eight. She rolled her eyes and stalked off, leaving him to his wave. “Malcom Ruttin’ Reynolds. How are ya, handsome?” “Good to see you, Mayella.” He forced a smile. “How your people?” “We was lucky for the most, out of town when those gorramn cannibals set down. My cousin Misty, though...she was shoppin’ for the noon meal, and...well....” Mal nodded, averting his gaze. “So I hear right? You think me and mine can be of use out your way?” “Some friends of mine got cargo needs haulin’. Asked if I knew anyone fit the bill. I said not no one hauls quicker or slicker than Malcom Reynolds.” “Mighty good of you, honey.” “That’s me.” She flashed her coy grin, twisting a strand of blonde between her fingers. “Gorramn saint.” “Well, Saint May, should be planetside early next week. I’ll wave you when we break atmo.” “I’m looking forward to it, Mal. I may have a surprise for you, too.” Mal winced. “Ain’t really one for surprises, honey. Especially these days.” She glanced away, speaking to a person off screen. “Mal? I have to run, Mrs. Blakery don't exactly love her new dye job.” She turned away again. “She asked for red, that’s red. Oh, and Malcom? I’ll book you for that bikini wax.” He was grateful the screen went gray before she could see him blush. *** Three quick raps.  Then: “Nara?  Can I come in?” She was tempted to tell him no.  He’d only keep at her if she refused. “Just a moment,” she called out.  She appraised her reflection in the glass, used her pinkie finger to dab concealer under her eyes.  She pulled her hair loose, fluffed it around her face.  “Qing jin.” He climbed down the ladder, reached out for her.  She took a step back. “Sit down.”  She made her mouth a smile.  “Can I get you something?  Tea?” “Gorrammit, Nara.  We back to that?” “Back to what?” she asked, compelling her tone toward amusement.  “I offered you tea, Mal.” “Exactly my point.”  He exhaled sharply, raked a hand through his hair.  “ ‘Spose I don’t gotta tell you that me and her…that we didn’t…?” She graced him with her patented, ‘how dense do I look’ look. “Right.  I figured you already—” “I apologize for my reaction earlier.  Leaving that way was childish and…petty.” “Tearin’ my bunk to bits weren’t exactly the picture of maturity.” “You just learned you’re to be a father, Mal.  You were understandably perturbed.” “More like petrified.”  More like rabid.  “This don’t gotta change nothin’.” She smiled sadly. “It changes everything.”  “Well, yeah, but I meant between you and me.” She looked away.  “So did I.” “Inara, are you….”  He felt his breath hitch, had to fight to keep his tone level.  “Are you breakin’ up with me?” Her eyes widened. “No, I didn’t mean…that’s not what I—“ She felt herself dragged against his chest. His head dipped down into the curve of her neck. “Good.”  He stroked a hand roughly over her hair.  “That’s good.” *** Jayne scurried past the infirmary for the second time that day.  Gorrammit, brother-doctor was glued to her side like a ruttin’ parasite.  Not that he cared especially.  Not that he actually gave three damns how the little witch was farin’.  Weren’t his sister nor his ward nor his lover….Hell, he wasn’t even humpin’ her.  So what if she made a pretty picture, all small and slim and shapely.  So what if a twist of those pert pink lips made him wanna get down on his knees and grovel, promise all sorts of wicked things and even follow through on a few?  So what if he had an itch to sex the crazy girl?  She was cute; weren’t no shame in admitting as much.  Course now her face was banged up, both eyes blackened, nose broke.  It’d be weeks till she was walkin’ proper, longer before she could fight.  He had an odd yearnin’ to treat her as one of his guns, polish her till she gleamed, flesh taut and lethal betwixt his fingers.  Dangerous things deserved respect.  Little River Tam struck him as one of the more menacing things in this ‘verse.  Weren’t right how they was all treatin’ her, as one broken. “Hi, Jayne.” “Uh, hey…was just come to get me some…tape.  Yep, here it is…so I’ll just be—” “Came to see me.”  She fixed him with a look.  “Lying to a psychic is dumb.” “Well, not all of us got your brother’s fancy Core schoolin’.  Thank the Almighty.” “Education’s a great privilege.  Learn to kill.  Learn to let go—family, friends, sanity.”   “Little girl, I got me a list o’ vices longer ‘n my...anyhow, self-pity ain’t one of ‘em.” Her eyes flashed briefly at the indignation.  “More lies. What about Vera?” “What about my gun?” “Wasn’t talking about the gun.” “That ain’t right….”  He shook his head.  “Ain’t proper crawlin’ through a man’s memory like that. Just ‘cuz you’re all crazified, don’t give you the right.”  He stood up, started for the door. “Wait.”  With her good hand, she grabbed hold of his arm.  Lean, little-girl fingers dug into his flesh, burned through the hair on his arm and seared the skin beneath. “Don’t go.” “Sure you can find better company. Nara, maybehaps? Or Lil’ Kaylee’d sit with you...want I should find her?” “Look at her funny. Hurt them to see what’s been done to her.” “What ‘bout that no-good brother?” “Simon needs time. Can’t feel anything yet. Numb. Look at me.” Jayne felt his eyes lock on hers, couldn’t quite muster the will to pull away. “Bad?” He shrugged. “Bruises heal; had plenty my own self.” “Truth.” “ ain’t gonna win the Miss Persephone pageant anytime soon.” Her lips twitched. “Thanks. You can go now, Jayne.” “Right.” He scurried away before the witch changed her mind. *** His room was empty when he returned from dinner. He couldn’t say he’d expected to find it otherwise. Zoe had cleaned up most of his mess from the night before. He owed her one, was sure she’d take it out in baby-sitting for the little chick. Well, he supposed men suffered worse fates. He sat on the bed, slung his suspenders down his arms and started in on the buttons. Ai ya, did he ever not feel like sleepin’ alone. Maybe his meddlin’ mechanic had a point, just this once of course. He’d never thought all that much of Kaylee’s smile-and-hug school of therapy. Still, a hug didn’t sound half bad. Mood he was in, it wouldn’t even have to be the naked kind. In just his trousers, he wandered across the floor, pressed the ‘com button to sound in her room. “Miz Serra? This is the captain speaking. I’m gonna need to see you in my private quarters.” He closed the connection before she could bite back with a witty retort. She took her damn time; it was several minutes before she descended. She wore white, silk-soft pants that rode low on her hips, a matching camisole that ended a few inches above her belly button. A gold hoop with some shiny blue beads dangled down from her navel. “You wanted to see me, Captain?” She’d changed her hair; straight, it fell nearly to the waist. “Took ya long enough.” He sat up on the bed, patted the space next to him. He wanted her in his lap but was hesitant to push. “Now imagine I’d needed you for some urgent captainy business?” “So you called me here under false pretenses? Isn’t that an abuse of power, Captain?” “Well, what’s the sense in havin’ power if you can’t abuse it now and then? Ain’t that what the Alliance would say?” He looked away, the easy smirk fading as his jaw tightened. “Mal.” She pressed a hand to his cheek. “None of this is your doing.” “Hmm,” he murmured noncommittally. “Anyways, I got ya here now. Up for a slumber party of sorts?” “You’re not painting my toenails. Last time was a disaster.” “Whine, whine.” “Half my foot was violet.” “That is an exaggeration.” He stood to peel down his trousers, tossed them over a chair. “Need some help with those?” he offered, playing with her drawstring. “I think I can manage,” she said lightly. He held up the blanket for her to slide under. She shivered a little as she lay back against the pillows. Why? This was hardly the first time she’d been in Mal’s bed. Perhaps it was just the sheets, cold against the bare skin of her back. When she was settled, he reached over to switch off the lights, slipped beneath the covers with her. “You feelin’ especially sleepy, Miz Serra?” Her body responded as it always did in Mal’s presence: it ached for him. “Not especially.” Facing her, he settled a hand on her waist, leaned in to nuzzle her neck. He liked kissing first, the melding of mouths for its own sake. She pressed against him, lost in the way his tongue swept over her lower lip, slipped inside to skate along hers. Her breath quickened as he slid a hand under her camisole, reached up to cup her breast in his palm. She moaned softly as he teased and tormented her with calloused fingers, drawing her nipple to a pleasantly-painful point under his ministrations. She trailed a hand down his bare chest, enjoying the way the abdominal muscles contracted beneath her touch. He rolled atop her then, employing his knee to nudge apart hers. He settled in the space between, their lower bodies nestling close. He was very aroused now; she could feel him through his undershorts, the thin fabric of her pajama pants. “Lift your legs,” he instructed. She did, tightening them around his waist. Feeling decidedly whimsical, he pressed against her through their clothes. Hell, he hadn’t done this since he was a kid. He braced himself with one arm, used his free hand to raise her camisole. He lowered his lips to one hardened pink nipple, rolled it around in his mouth until she was writhing. “Ye su, you’re beautiful.” He ground gently against her, making sure to brush the spot where she was most sensitive. “This feel good?” he asked roughly, unused to such directness. She nodded. It did feel good. All of it. Why then did her hand shake when she stroked his hair? What made the panic bubble madly in the back of her throat? This was absurd, silly. She wanted this, him, their bodies joined in heated pleasure. She fought to steady her hand as it journeyed down his body, slipped through the slit in his shorts. With just her fingertips, she stroked the head of him, squeezed skillfully with her fist until he was groaning against her throat. “Oh, God, Inara.” He sat up, dragging her pants down to her ankles and her underwear with them. He tugged the silky camisole over her head, allowing himself rampant access to her glowy-gold skin. “You destroy me.” She kissed him with her eyes closed, willing herself to relax, to enjoy him and this, what they were about to do. Beneath his fingers, her heart beat rapidly in her chest. A fine sheen of sweat coated her face. She’d had these attacks before, learned the hard way how to control them. *Breathe, Inara. You’re safe and sheltered, you’re with Mal....* Always careful with her, he slipped two fingers between her thighs. “I’m ready,” she assured, stroking his cheek. “I ain’t one to be rushed,” he responded. He slid down her belly, soft hair tickling the skin of her inner thighs. Sensation poured through her, overtaking and overwhelming, as he slid his tongue between her folds. She couldn’t think; she couldn’t not. He sucked lightly, holding her hips with his hands to keep her from thrashing. She felt the orgasm building inside her, felt the panic coil in her belly. She employed all her companion training to drive the dread from her, bury it down in the dark place. He hovered over her then, eager to be submerged in her, held to that gorgeous, goddess chest where all was right. She couldn’t quite stifle the whimper when he buried himself, hoped he’d mistake it for something else. He was a sweet lover, really. Sweet: an odd term to describe Mal, and yet it applied here. He noticed all her sighs and shudders, paid careful heed to her comfort. She caught her breath, tried to focus on him. This was Mal inside her, Mal’s thumb rubbing the nerve bundle at her center. Mal. She gazed into those beautiful blue eyes of his, tried to school all her concentration there. Helpless, she felt the panic rise in her lungs once again, fear creeping and crawling like leeches, sucking everything out of her until all that remained was more fear. She went still in his arms. “Inara?” He froze, wondering for an anxious moment whether he’d literally put her to sleep. But no, her figure was stiff, face pale despite their rather heated embrace. “Hey...” He touched her cheek softly. “What’s wrong?” “I--nothing.” But her throat caught on a sob. By now, he was working himself into a damn good frenzy. Worry washed over his face like frigid water. “Nara...I do somethin’ to--? Oh, don’t cry; please don’t cry.” He withdrew and tried to gather her against him, but she was shaking, wrapping herself in the topsheet, half-tumbling off the bed. “I’m sorry, I can’t.” She backed away, clearly of a mind to bolt. “I’m sorry.” She closed herself in the shower stall, the door banging closed behind her. Seconds later he heard sobbing. If the preacher were around, he’d surely be hearin’ a special hell lecture nowbouts. And damn, if he didn’t deserve one. Feeling like three kinds of sumbitch, he tugged on his pants, approached the door hesitant-like. “Inara?”  He reached for the door handle, changed his mind and let his hand fall to his side.  He surely wasn’t openin’ that door.  “Darlin’, you gots to tell me what’s wrong?  Did I hurt you?”  He hesitated, hearing her muffled cries.  “Inara…please.” “I—I’m fine, Mal.”  She gasped in air, released her breath on a long shuddery sigh.  “Really, you didn’t do anything….” “That’d be a tad more convincing if you weren’t hid away in my washroom.”  More convincing if she hadn’t up and left in the middle of…best not to continue down that line of thinking, if the throbbing in his nethers was any indicator. “Nara?” Silence. “You ain’t hurt.  Are you sick?  You want I should get the doc?” “I’m not sick, Mal.  Please, just let me….” On the other side of the door, she curled herself in a ball, letting the warm tears flow unfettered over her cheeks.  The panic was subsiding, trickling out her pores as she sobbed.  In its wake, she was exhausted, flesh cold and clammy to the touch.  She wrapped her arms around her torso and willed him away. “Inara.”  He spread his fingers over the door, imagining hers pressed similar on the other side.  “Maybe you’ve noticed I ain’t the most perceptive of men.  Ain’t usually one for meddlin’ in the business of others, my crew I mean.  But, well, you ain’t exactly that anymore, at least not just that, crew, that is.  And when you start cryin’ whilst we’re having…intimacy…well, tends to hit a nerve, dong ma?  Certainly ain’t no expert in these matters—womanly sentiments and such—but if I had to hazard a hunch, I’d say this is tied to what was learned earlier.  My right?” His only answer was the soft sound of her weeping.  It smarted the soul like a bee sting, vinegar in an open wound.  “Okay.  Since I ain’t always one for sharin’ my own self, I ain’t gonna make you.  You just stay in there long as you need, and I’ll be upstairs if you feel like talkin’.  I’m gonna leave those pretty pajamas of yours right by the door…so they’ll be there…if you want ‘em.”  He collected the pile of white silk from the foot of the bed, made a valiant attempt at folding it for her.  “Right, so I’m gonna go now…I-I’m sorry, bao bei.” Drained, he climbed the ladder, walked the quiet catwalks while Serenity and her crew slept peaceful.  Some pull had him wandering down to the infirmary.  He paused outside the windows, leaned against the glass.  His albatross lay curled to the right, left leg lifted in some sling of the doctor’s doing.  As though sensing his presence, she raised her head slightly off her pillow.  Her hair was growin’ out again; the tangled locks flowing over her shoulders. “Hey, Little One.  What’s the news?”  He took a seat by her bed, lifted her tiny hand.  “Doc fix you up good?  My payin’ him too much?” “Tries to help.  Tries to put the pieces together.  But there are too many.  The vase shattered, leaving a thousand grains of sand.” “That’s good.  You just lie there and be poetical.  Your brother’s got quite the way with words his own self.  You ever hear the boy sing?” A ghost of a smile played over her lips. “Was he naked?” “Thankfully not.”  He let his eyes wander the walls, glide over the ceiling.  “Still, that’s one multi-talented family tree.  I do posit this kid’ll be quite the handful.  You, uh, you know if it’s a boy or girl…?” “It doesn’t matter.”  She closed her eyes, water collecting at the corners.  Shiny, he’d made two women cry tonight—had to be some sorta record.  “Well, no, ‘spect I’ll be havin’ regular heart attacks either way.” “You’ll never see it.  They’ll make sure.”  Her voice rose slightly at the end. “River.”  He caught her gaze.  “As your captain, I’m makin’ you this promise.  Sure as I’m breathin’, that babe will call you momma.” She met his gaze, and he saw a hopelessness he hadn’t known since the war. “I don’t wanna be a mama, Captain.”  She shut her eyes then, shutting him firmly out. Upstairs, Mal settled on the couch in the dining common.  His legs were too long; his feet dangled off the sofa arm.  Groaning, he flipped onto his side, tried to find a comfortable position to pass the night.  An unpleasant thought occurred to him, and he sprung up, rummaged through some kitchen cabinets till he found what he wanted. With a thick felt pen, he scrawled “Not a rutting word” on a scrap of parchment.  He slapped the note down on the coffee table before returning to his spot on the sofa.  Ai ya, it was gonna be a long damn night. He woke to the aroma of coffee:  Zoe’s brew, powerful strong.  From the kitchen, he heard the muffled sounds of the breakfast dialogue.  Mouth watering, he squinted his eyes open.  Somebody had stuck a post-it note to his forehead.  He peeled off the paper, held it up to the light so he could make out the letters. “Pussy whipped,” it read in large, childlike print. Jayne Cobb was a dead man. *** Inara woke at six, face pressed to the bathroom tile, damp hair plastered to her cheeks.  She cracked the door, peered out into Mal’s bunk.  True to his word, he’d slept elsewhere, the couch in the common room most-like.  Embarrassed, she dressed in the dark, crept up the ladder. In her own room, she showered, bathing away the cold sheen of hysteria with warm cloths.  After, she willed herself to dress, knowing it would be unwise to remain in bed.  Sleeping away the day would prove imprudent as well as cowardly. She needed to walk about the ship, force down breakfast, live.    At eight, she wandered down to the galley.  From the doorway, she observed the scene, typical save the absence of Simon and Kaylee, apparently sleeping in.  Zoe fed Raven some sweet-smelling cereal, most of which now lay in clumps on the table, the floor, in Zoe’s hair.  Mal and Jayne sat across from each other, glowering like weary dogs.  Jayne’s nose was bloodied; Mal’s lip looked suspiciously fat.  Catching Zoe’s eye, Inara curved her lips in greeting, compelled herself to cross the room. “Good morning, everyone.” She took a mug from the collection on the table, stopped to squeeze Mal’s shoulder in greeting before strolling toward the stove for hot water.  He followed her to the counter; she’d known he would. “Dawn brawl?” she teased, touching a finger to his swollen lip. He winced, caught her wrist. “Hey…you, are you?” “Mal, I want to apologize for last night.  I’m sure my behavior was upsetting, not to mention frustrating.  I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”  She flashed him one of her patented smiles, a sheepish grin intended to wreak havoc on the loins, and pressed a firm kiss to the corner of his mouth. ”Tonight if you like.” “Inara….”  He lowered his voice, leaned in so she caught a whiff of him: spearmint and black coffee.  “I seem to recall you goin’ ballistic when last we was havin’...intimacies.  You think that maybe merits a few minutes discussion?” “I suffer from panic attacks, Mal.”  She poured steaming water, struggling to keep a steady hand.  “It’s a condition I’ve had since I was a teenager; last night’s was hardly the first.” It was the first he’d heard of it. “You usually suffer these attacks whilst we’re makin’ love?” he asked quietly. “I—I’m never really sure what spurs one on,” she lied guiltily.  “It’s nothing to worry about though.”  She cupped his cheek, brushed another kiss over his bruised lip.  “And I meant it when I said I’d make it up to you.” He caught her by the arm when she tried to slip away. “Inara—”  “Please, Mal.”  Big wounded eyes.  Gorrammit, she was good. “Imagine it was stomach cramp.  A one time occurrence.” She wouldn’t let it be more. Hell of a stomach cramp.  But he let her slide through his hands. *** TBC in Part 17. Feedback?


Saturday, February 25, 2006 11:14 AM


Oh. My. God.

Christ. When I think you can't get any better, or can't hit another emotional spot, there you go again.

Ow. Pain. Pain. Pain.

Mal destroying his room - telling the crew - Inara completely losing it. *sniffs*

That was really fantastic. One of your best chapters yet, I'd say. The pain is so real and so *there* and it never stops for them.

Saturday, February 25, 2006 11:18 AM


Another great installment! Poor Mal, poor Inara, and Poor River.

“I don’t wanna be a mama, Captain.”

Maybe Inara does and that's what triggered the panic attack?

Loving this! More soon please?

Saturday, February 25, 2006 12:52 PM


*sigh* Poor, poor River. You have a certain way with words that just makes your heart break for these characters! I'm glued waiting for the next installment!

Saturday, February 25, 2006 1:20 PM



Let me say this: I'M NOT WORTHY!!!! (bows a la Mike Myers-as-Wayne Campbell)

This is some dangerously good fic....sometimes I wonder if you're not Joss in disguise;) Plus I am jealous you used some ideas I was percolating for a fic series of my own, but I am just you stole them and used them so well ;)

Keep this up and I think you should getting a lovely call from the Joss-man himself asking for tips :)


Saturday, February 25, 2006 2:00 PM


I have some specific comments such as... 'That's more than a mite unsettling'. And also this was great... 'She graced him with her patented, ‘how dense do I look’ look.'

I love your mastery of angst and your deliciously complex plot.

Another great/heartbreaking/hilarious/highlight of my day, chapter!


Saturday, February 25, 2006 2:03 PM


Gods... you had me bawling right along with Inara... I'm full of so much ache right now (but, in a good way)... You've just made me feel so... MUCH.... pain and love and heartache...

So lovely... and I really really loved seein' Inara get some comfort from Kaylee... so sweet.

Ah, I am beyond words..

Saturday, February 25, 2006 5:00 PM


“You’re not painting my toenails. Last time was a disaster.”

heh, thats true regardin' most men painting nails *rolls eyes*

oh the mixture of angst and...and...lighter angst...and humour. Love Mal's note and Jayne's response ;)

Poor 'Nara and poor River. Ay-yi-yi what indeed do you have in store for us??

Saturday, February 25, 2006 5:34 PM


So both Mal and Inara wants to have a baby together... how long until they actually have one? I'm eagerly antisipating the next installment. Aww on River's line "I don't wanna be a mam, captain"

Saturday, February 25, 2006 6:08 PM


Now that I've been throughly traumatized (something I've missed as none of the shows that are on anymore invite the emotional investment that I was used to from watching any of Joss's shows) and have stopped sniffling (okay, bawlin') I just have to say a couple of things.
1.) You're Joss-level evil.
2.) How soon before the next chapter?

In the mean time, I'll cheer myself up with thoughts of Simon singing naked. *giggle*

Monday, February 27, 2006 5:07 AM


God, my heart was breaking when Inara took off upon learning that Mal was gonna be a daddy. Had to go and get a tissue, lol.
Really love the fic, more please!

Monday, February 27, 2006 5:23 AM


Beautiful Mal/Inara!

Very curious abou the reasons behind Inara's panic, hope you'll tell eventually! I get the feeling it's something about Mal that set it off, since I have assume she doesn't get these often, not in her line of work.

River/Mal baby. So interesting!

Wednesday, March 1, 2006 1:26 AM


I have no idea what will happen next, it's awesome!

Friday, March 3, 2006 8:49 AM


Loved it! Never would have seen the Mal/River/Baby thing coming! Nevermind the fact that Inara suffers from panic attacks - it's such an unexpected plot point - but I can totally sympathise with her. And poor Mal, like he doesn't have enough to worry about now.

This story takes so many twist and turns and I can't wait to see where you're gonna bring us next!! Keep it coming Kaynara.

Sunday, April 9, 2006 6:46 AM


okay, i'm just gonna ride right past the part with the owwy-hurtiness 'cause it's, y'know, painful, and carry on with the laughing at jayne's note and mal's bikini wax.



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Water, Water Everywhere
This is a sort of companion piece to the first section of Two Times They Were Wet and Cold. It's also sort of crack!fic. While Mal and Inara were having a pleasant dialogue in the cargo hold, Kaylee and Simon spent some time getting to know each other in a broom closet. Takes place during the series. PG-13.

Stumbling Along
Post-BDM. Mal makes a delivery on a familiar moon. Inara reflects. M/I. PG-13

Two Times They Were Wet and Cold
Two things that never happened to Mal and Inara. X-posted to LJ for the Truthsome Ficathon.

Shore Leave or That Youthful Feeling
Post-BDM. The crew visits a drinking establishment on Beaumonde—no, not that one. Shameless Mal/Inara fluff ensues.

One-shot set after OIS. Kaylee/Simon. Response to the prompt: “Simon bent Kaylee over....”

Past and Present
Fluff-angsty little standalone. Post-BDM. Mal/Inara. PG-13.

This is a standalone set preseries (no Simon, sorry, Leiasky). I have no idea what kind of introduction to slap on this thing, so I'll just say, enjoy! Special thanks to Ann for curtailing the worst of my rambles. NC-17. Comments are love!

Just Another Day
Just another day on Serenity. Preseries. PG-13. Happy September 30th.

Standalone. Prompt: Leather. Simon, Mal/Inara. PG-13.

Bed and Wine: The Epilogue
Huh. That went well....