BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

KAYNARA

Bed and Wine: Part 19
Friday, March 17, 2006

Mr. Reynold’s Penguins. Mal/Inara NC-17.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 4240    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Bed and Wine: Part 19 By Kaynara *** Mr. Reynold’s Penguins. NC-17. *** AN: Can I make a request? More Mal/Inara on ff.net! Not that I don’t love me some Silee, but what about the Companion and Captain Tightpants? Humor a fan girl. Please? ;) *** Some would be surprised to hear that Malcom Reynolds still believed in love. He did, though; a few times he’d even borne witness to its casualties. In Zoe and Wash, he’d observed the inexplicable, the sweet and the hot and the unnaturally tragic. In Simon and Lil’ Kaylee--well, nausea. Rabbit-like mating rituals. But beneath it all there was a deep caring that might’ve been love. He thought it was love. Yes, Mal believed in love; he just didn’t get it. Up until now. Weren’t no mystery, just a moment. A moment of you thinkin’ you might not be wholly alone in the world. One perfect instant of intimacy. A heartbeat of connection. Was almost ironical, or maybe it was natural as the Black and the cosmos. He’d finally found companionship, or maybe it was the Companion found him. She walked right onto his boat. What seemed like ages ago, she’d baited him into renting her that shuttle and unknowingly crewed herself up for one hell of a wild ride. Was the trip coming to a close? Sometimes he hoped against hope there was an end in sight. Sometimes he feared that end. In any case, seemed prudent to make a present of some protection. “Mal...this is a lovely gesture. I think. But don’t you think it’s a little...well, large? “I thought you could stow it away in your cleavage....” He hesitated, reconsidering. “Huh.” “What?” He studied her chest, eyes narrowed. “Just that they looked bigger in my head.” He ducked just in time to avoid the hand flying at his head, caught her around the waist and hauled her down on the bed. She dug her nails into his underarms, retaliating with well-aimed tickling. “Hey, hey. You--you are not playin’ fair, darlin’.” He kissed her till both were breathless, till she was warm and responsive in his arms. They were fast approachin’ the point of no return. Any minute now, they’d fly on past. He hoisted himself up by the arms, administered one final kiss to the tip of her nose. “Come on, get your wrappy thing.” “Where are we going?” she asked warily. “Gonna go buy you a girly gun, cupcake.” “Every woman’s fantasy.” She rolled her eyes but let him clasp her hand, lead her out the door. *** Two words. Two, simple words. How had they the power to alter everything? When they’d first learned of the pregnancy, her immediate impulse was to shop. Nesting, Rex termed it, kissing her cheek, lips, belly. He laughed, told her to buy out the Core with his blessing. She took her mother, who’d longed for this almost as long and hard as Rebecca herself. Together, they filled boxes and satchels, selecting the most state-of-the-art in cradles and carriages, the most supple-to-touch in baby blankets and sleeper suits. They bought everything in duplicate. “I have a hunch, Becca.” Matty’s face, grinning over the Cortex. “Don’t tell Rex till we’re sure.” Two plush comforters the color of mustard seed. Matching robin’s-egg teddy's “to hug on when Mummy was too busy.” She purchased them because they pleased her, but the elderly salesman was mistaken. She’d never be too busy. She picked out a half dozen maternity dresses and a normal-sized one that happened to catch her eye. She paid for her purchases and changed in the dressing room, wanting to wear the new outfit home to surprise her husband. Seeing her mother off, she took a hover-cab back to the house. On her way to his study, she tried not to let the floorboards creak beneath her feet. She crept to the door in just her stockings, put her ear against the wood. Matty’s voice. She smiled, started to twist the knob. Some instinct had her hesitating, cocking her head to hear more. They were talking about vitamins, she supposed. Something important, that she need take every day. She rolled her eyes. As if she wouldn’t follow all of Matty’s advice regardless.... The two words rolled off Rex’s tongue so easily she thought she’d imagined them. But there was no mistaking that name, nor it’s implications. “Malcom Reynolds.” She tried it out later, alone in her room, naked save the towel she’d donned after her bath. She sat at her dressing table, studying her own image in the mirror. Her hair was wet. Water droplets slid down her neck, disappearing over bare shoulders. She felt a chill and shivered. Rex entered then, bent down for a kiss. “So did you empty our savings? You just missed Matty by the way.” Malcom Reynolds. Malcom Reynolds. “I was feeling a little worn.” She compelled her mouth to relax. “It must be the excitement.” “Don’t overdo it, Beck.” He unbuttoned his shirt, folded it neatly over the back of a chair. “If you’re spent, we can skip the Cabot’s soiree tonight. Please, please tell me you’re spent.” Malcom Reynolds. Malcom Reynolds. She felt her heart beat in accompaniment.  A rhythm of sickening thuds.  Could he hear them?  She put a hand to her chest, wondered if she’d be ill. “Rex, we must go.  I wanna share our good fortune with our friends.” Smile, Becca; really, you should smile. “Oh, if you insist.”  He drew her up in a light hug, and she squeezed back, desperately clinging to something already lost.  “Try and get in a nap while I shower.  Claudia Cabot.”  He mocked a shudder.  “Have I pledged my undying love today, Beck?” “Not today.”  It was an old joke of theirs, a line repeated over and often. This time the words stuck in her throat.  “My mistake.”  That was his line.  He hesitated at the bathroom door, towel folded over his arm, eyes narrowed with that which came just before concern.  “Hey, you.  Are you feeling alright?” She turned slowly, and when she met his gaze her countenance reflected the easy warmth befitting an expectant mother. “I’m just exquisite.” “Hell, Beck, that’s the truth.” “Language, Rex.”  Slowly, she began to roll her hair in curlers, as was the fashion now in Core society.   Sweet Ye su, she wanted a drink.  Instead she stepped into a simple silver gown—the new dress was banished to the back of her closet—and added a strand of black pearls and a spray of perfume.  She’d send the wave this evening. Claudia and Esmerelda served on some of the same committees; a wave originating from the Cabot house would arouse few suspicions on the Cortex log.  All waves sent from her own address must henceforth be strictly censored.  One wrong word and…stop.  Don’t think about it now.  Finish dressing.  Put on your face.  Smile for Rex, for nosy Core wives and the men who decided.  For such a progressive, technologically-advanced society, the world her husband inhabited was still largely a men’s one. Women bore the babies and men stole the embryos. Easy, Becca.  Perhaps all this was product of a wild and undisciplined imagination. Perhaps Rex and Matty brought up that name—Malcom Reynolds, Malcom Reynolds—in some other context.  She knew only two details regarding the man who may have supplied half the genetic material for the prizes she carried inside her.  First, that he was the reputed rebel behind the Miranda broadcast.  Second, that he was the unknowing illegitimate stepson of her friend, Esmerelda Fitzgerald.  The former was hardly privileged information, the latter hardly public.  Somehow, when combined, they made a complete picture.  She’d have relinquished all her worldly possessions to avoid seeing that image. *** They stayed long enough for the ladies—save Zoe at her own insistence and River at Simon’s—to sample Sweet Leaf Spa’s pain-free Brazilian bikini wax.  If the grumbling to follow was any indicator, the experience didn’t quite live up to its promise.  “Hey.” Mal nudged Inara when the pair was alone in her bunk. “Can I see?”  She gave him a look, which said in no uncertain terms that he could not. Kaylee was more direct. “Nuh uh.  Don’t touch me till tomorrow at least,” she told her husband when his fingers encroached upon forbidden territory under the dinner table. Red-faced, Simon returned his hand to his lap.   “Christ on a crucifix, you girls been moanin’ the whole damn day.”  Jayne reclined against the back of his chair, stacking his boots on the table top.   “Hell, couldn’t o’ hurt that bad.”  Mal lowered his voice, leaned conspiratorially over the table. “You know you should stop him—“ “And yet part of you *really* wants to see what happens?” Simon smiled.  The girls had half-convinced the merc to have his back done before Mal somewhat reluctantly intervened.  In truth, he’d used up all Mayella’s spa credits on the ladies, and the cost of waxing Jayne’s back could prove astronomical. “You’re no fun,” Kaylee complained.  “Now is that any way to talk?  Specially when I done invited Monty over tonight….”  He went to the stove to refill his coffee mug.  “Monty?”  She brightened.  “Aw, we love Monty.” “May an’ a couple others as well.” “We’re having company?”  Inara strolled up beside him, her gaze one of amusement.  “Just a small gatherin’ of sorts.” “Hosted by you…?” “Didn’t I say as much?” “You. Malcom Reynolds?”  Her smile was skeptical, her eyes indulgent. “That name givin’ you trouble?  Seemed to recall it well enough last night.  In fact, I specifically remember you shoutin’ it out a time or two whilst I was—“ “You’re incorrigible.”  But she laughed, let him kiss her against the counter. *** Mayn’t have been a fancy shindig, but there was engine wine and friends and a few good laughs, all of which had been in short supply of late.  “Malcom! Send that purty girl to me.” Mal glanced sideways. Blinking, Inara looked up from her conversation with Kaylee. “Well, Monty, she don’t much like when I send her.” “Hell, Mal, you done married my lady.” He boomed out a laugh, tugging at his newly restored whiskers. “I’m at least owed a dance with yours.” “It’s alright.” Inara smiled. “Let’s refill our glasses, Monty. Perhaps then you’ll entertain me with wicked tales from Mal’s youth.” Mal shrugged, gave her backside a gentle slap. “Keep your hands where I can see ‘em, Monty.” He smirked when Inara rolled her eyes. Moments later he heard the light sound of her laughter, wondered just what in the name of decency Monty was tellin’ her. Ai ya, she was learnin’ an awful lot this trip. First May, now Monty. Together those two could write the book of Malcom. Hundreds o’ pages and not a one of ‘em pretty. Slipping between the handful of folk occupyin’ his cargo bay, Mal plucked Raven out from her mama’s arms, motioned Zoe off with a slight nod. He strolled about, bouncing the chick on his hip. Crew seemed to be havin’ a good time, ‘cept of course for the albatross who steadfastly declined to attend through all of Simon’s encouraging, Kaylee’s lamenting. Now that he thought on it, Jayne wasn’t here neither. Prolly tryin’ his luck with one o’ May’s pretty spa maids. Speakin o’ May, now was as good a time as any to grill her on that Kane fella. What kinda man hired a cargo ship captained by a well-known smuggler—and at a damn fair price to boot—for transporting a flock o’ sea birds?  He racked his brain but best he could figure, penguin wasn’t term for some hot new hallucinogen.  So, birds.  Huh.  Maybehaps he was just feeling dubious these days.  Past year hadn’t exactly been an exercise in trust.  Still, Amos appeared in every way the real deal, coming highly recommended by them Mal considered friends.  Hell, not everyone was a crook.  Some folk was just on-the-level creepy.  An old man with a few too many questions weren’t good reason for turning down gainful works.  He’d leave Bellerophon the following morning with his suspicions mainly soothed and his cargo holds stocked high with frozen fish. *** She was having the warm, fuzzy sort of dream.  Cap’n decided they was done with this life of crime, and the whole crew moved in with Simon and River’s parents in Capital City. (This weren’t a big deal, seein’ as the Dream Tams had a mansion with at least a dozen bedrooms and twice as many baths.)  Dream Gabriel and Regan was nicer too.  Simon’s mama complimented her skill with fixin’ stuff ‘round the house and admired her fine taste in eveningwear.  Mr. Tam helped the cap’n get hisself established in the Core-Businessman business, and Simon went back to bein’ a brilliant surgeon at the hospital.  Inara opened up her own dance studio and, in her spare time, sexed the cap’n and went lingerie shopping with Kaylee.  River helped out at the dance studio when she weren’t writin’ books about geniusy stuff and dated nice boys and smiled and was mostly normal.  In an unforeseen twist, Zoe married Gideon, whose dream self was a whole bunch less mysterious and didn’t sell them all down the river no more.  Raven got big, and all her aunts and uncles loved her to death and spoiled her rotten, though somehow she stayed sweet and reminded them all of her daddy.  Jayne—well, Jayne still killed folk for hire, but mostly life was shiny.  They had real food to eat, and hardly anyone got bullet wounds to his belly.  They was all just setting down to a game of Charades—hilarity ensued as the cap’n acted out ‘Companion’—when she heard shouting.  That weren’t right.  Nobody shouted in her Dream ‘Verse.  Pouting, Kaylee rolled over, squinted open an eye.  Beside her , Simon slept face-down in the pillow.  He didn’t stir as another burst of profanity pierced the walls o’ their bunk.  Kaylee relaxed a little and rubbed at her eyes.  Was just the cap’n yellin’ ‘bout somethin’ out in the bay.  She burrowed deeper under the blankets and snuggled into Simon, wrapping her arms around his sleep-warmed torso.  Shifting on to his side, he tugged her against his chest, murmuring incoherently into her hair.  In Kaylee’s Dream ‘Verse, now was about when the butler would be comin’ in with warm buttered rolls and strawberry jam.  Instead another stream of Chinese curse words exploded from the hall. “Ye su ta ma de…is that a pool?  Is that a gorramn swimming pool?  You’re putting a pool in my ruttin’ cargo bay?  Ai ya….” Sighing, Kaylee pressed a kiss to her husband’s hair and slipped out of bed. Shivering, she tugged one of Simon’s sweaters over her head, padded barefoot down the hall. “ ‘Smatter, Cap’n?” she asked around a yawn. “Oh, God!” She clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle the laughter but was seconds too late. Almost shaking in her frenzy to squelch the giggles, she watched wide-eyed as three pens o’ penguins was unloaded onto the floor of Serenity’s cargo bay. They stumbled out from their crates like drunk wedding guests, dipping and swayin’ in their neat little tuxes. Kaylee couldn’t help it; she grinned. Mal graced her with a death glare before stomping across the room. “What is that, Monty!? What the hell is that?” “Well, they gotta have toys, Mal....” From the opposite wall, Inara was watching the scene with a mixture of anxiety and amusement. She used one hand to hold the front of her robe closed, the other to balance against a stack of crates. When she saw Kaylee, she gave a small wave and beckoned her closer. “G’mornin’.” Kaylee leaned back against the wall, crossing her arms. “I think you’re mistaken, sweetie. Good mornings involve cuddling and coffee.” “Mm, got a point.” Kaylee yawned again. “That vein in his head’s gonna pop.” “That doesn’t sound very attractive.” “Nope. Wanna hear ‘bout my dream, Nara?” “Yes.” They settled back to watch the captain load his cargo. *** Son of a ho zui, if those birds weren’t the topic of every dinner dialogue since their induction as crew: “Hey, Cap’n? What’s their purpose?” “Penguins? Oh, ‘spect they’re meant to squawk about and be useless.” “Rather like Jayne,” Simon reflected. Mouth full of soup, Jayne just flipped him off. “I mean to say, what’s the buyer want ‘em for?” Kaylee pressed. “Honestly, Lil’ Kaylee, I didn’t ask.” “Well ain’t that sorta careless, Cap’n? Not checkin’ into the dest. o’ your own cargo?” “They’re penguins, not nuclear warheads, Kaylee.” “Ain’t we Persephone-bound, Mal?” “I hope to hell we are, Jayne, seein’ as that’s where the cargo’s headed.” “Eavesdown folk got all manner o’ strange tastes.” Kaylee gasped. Simon and Inara looked visibly paler. Zoe kept right on spooning her soup, not sparing any of the lot a glance. “Folk gonna cook Donna and Brandon?” Kaylee pushed aside her bowl. “I feel all squicky inside.” “It’s okay, sweetheart.” Simon patted her back soothingly. “I can’t believe you agreed to this, Captain.” Mal looked up, amazed at the turn this conversation had took in a few short seconds. “I didn’t agree to nothin’--” “Mal, I don’t wanna turn over the cargo. Hell, I like the penguins.” “Jayne.” Mal shook his head. “All the men I’ve had you take out, you ain’t but batted an eyelash. Not one whisper o’ protest for *men*. And here you are throwin’ a hissy fit over some gorramn waddlin’ birds.” “After all this time, they seem sorta like family. You wouldn’t feed your family to the Eavesdown vendors, would you, Cap’n?” “I might,” he said, eyes narrowed. “And all this time?--Kaylee, ruttin’ bird been in the bay not two weeks!” “They do kinda cheer this place up,” Gideon offered. Mal’s glare was painfully blatant: you don’t speak. “It does seem rather cruel, Mal,” Inara murmured, trying for diplomacy. “Oh, not you too. Okay, crazy folk what was my crew? Listen up: I don’t know what’s to become of our flipper-footed friends. Got no notion whether we’re shippin’ ‘em to be dinner or eccentric pets or a gorramn penguin army. In earnest, I didn’t ask. Mostly ‘cuz I don’t much care. So you can all gripe and whine till judgment day, but we are handin’ over this flock to the good folk what hired us, dong ma? Ai ya, don’t recall hearin’ nearly this fuss over the cows. You think they was meant as pets? Wodema....” *** She looked better.  Not a hundred percent, but then she’d never been that, least not when he’d known her. One thing to be said for the doc: he knew his stuff. The blue-black moons faded from under her eyes, leaving only a vague yellow pallor in their wake.  Her nose shrank back to girl-size and the angry red cuts paled to pink.  Thanks to that progressive Alliance science, her limbs would mend faster than was typical.  Discounting the emotional torture, she was almost back to normal. Physically, the albatross was healing.  Psychologically speaking…well, Mal didn’t, as a rule, speak psychologically.  He tended to get twitchy ‘bout that which wasn’t tangible, what couldn’t be stolen or killed or caressed.  Over the years, he’d gleaned enough about psychotherapy and the like to realize he hadn’t the faintest notion what was goin’ on behind River Tam’s pretty brown eyes.   She was a mystery, sure as Kaylee’s indefatigable cheeriness, the doctor’s brains, Shepherd Book’s…Hell, even River hadn’t as many mysteries in her as the gorramn preacher.  Though some days it seemed like she too had every intention o’ takin’ hers to the grave. She was watching the penguins at…whatever the hell it was penguins did.  Play?  Birds sure as hell weren’t workin’.  He was the one stuck moppin’ up after ‘em, changin’ the water in their swimming pools, filling their bellies with vaccu-sealed frozen fish.  The others refused to help as some sorta political protest, leavin’ Mal to handle penguin care wholly on his lonesome. “Would hurt too much, Cap’n,” Kaylee sniffled. “Knowing what was meant for ‘em....” Twice a day he bundled up in his coat and gloves to combat the arctic climate setting in the bay. As a group, the penguin community seemed to sense his aversion. Mostly they just waddled around ignoring him, rockin’ and swayin’ like Jayne after a bender. Made a powerful fuss too, braying and cackling at one another.  They seemed particularly fond o’ stagin’ these displays in the middle o’ the night.  Last night, he’d been naïve enough to grumble over the noise at dinner.  The others just glared, or gazed pointedly at something elsewhere.  Inara was polite enough to keep her eyes on her plate.  Kaylee, who’d done most of the naming and bracelet coding in the birds’ early days, seemed to be taking things a bit more personal.  When he requested that she pass the bread, she muttered something that sounded suspiciously like ‘callous bastard.’  He pretended not to hear.  Hell, wasn’t his fault if some Eavesdown natives intended to turn the poor birds into brunch.  Life was three sorts of sumbitch; why should penguins get a free ride?  Point of fact, they didn’t.  Transporting ‘em paid good coin, coin Serenity needed to keep running.  And Malcom Reynolds had every intention of running. “No external genitalia.” Mal blinked, having forgotten River’s presence for a few seconds.  “Shuh muh?”  “The penguins.”  She looked bored, but then she always looked bored when his utter stupidity required additional explanation on her part.  Girl likely spent a good deal of time bored outta her skull. “Chromosomal testing is necessary to determine a penguin’s sex,” she continued. “Well, see, hadn’t really planned on mating ‘em.” “Already past breeding season.  Look.”  She pointed to a miniature version of the others, covered in a soft gray down.  “When separated, the mother penguin can distinguish her chick by voice and appearance.” “Is that so?  Think Zoe could find her little chick in a passel?” “High mortality rate.  Forty to eighty percent.  Brenda lost her chick.” Mal followed her line of sight to the stout one (hell, they were all sorta stout) wearing a pale blue ankle bracelet. He was starting to get that sinking sensation, the twisting in the gut what warned of trouble brewing.  “Can’t she, uh, hatch another?” “She’s grieving.  Half-crazed.  Needs to fill the empty space.” “How’s a penguin gonna manage that?”  he asked quietly.  Ye su knew human people couldn’t even… “Tried to steal a substitute.” “She’s…penguin-napping?” “Last night.  Kelly left her chick alone.  Pink bracelet,” she added before he could ask.  “Went to get fish.  Brenda snatched Kelly’s chick right outta the nest.” “But it’s back now.  Kelly—“  Ai ya, he was startin’ to call the rats by name.  “She’s got her own chick back, right?” “Yes.  Other mothers got mad.  Helped Kelly steal back her chick, defend her nest.” “Huh.”  He wondered whether she’d been expecting more in the way of response.  She’d have to deal; he couldn’t come up with anything more profound. “They’re brave.  No fears.  Come right up to my hand and eat the fish from my fingers.”   Mal rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand.  Ai ya, it was starting to throb. “I…River--” “Telling her tonight?”  River looked up, bright-eyed suddenly.  “Took you long enough.” “Not rightly sure what you’re….”  He trailed off, too tired to pretend.  “Why don’t you head on to bed now, darlin’?  Ai ya, it’s a gorram freezer in here. Ain’t you cold, Albatross?” Weren’t it a little late for psychoanalyzing the aged mariner? “Not tired…I’m studying the penguins.” “Well...that’s shiny, then.”  He gave her good shoulder a gentle squeeze.  “You just stay up and study long as you like.” “Penguins often mate for life.  Cooperate in raising chicks….” He was half-glad for the throbbing behind his eyelids now.  He could scarcely hear her over the dull roar of the headache.  He climbed the stairs slowly, leaving her to her ramblings. *** He knocked at her door. “Come in. Hey, you.” She smiled warmly. It was the way her and Kaylee had o’ greetin’ each another. Easy affection and genuine pleasure at the other’s company. “Inara, there’s somethin’ I been wantin’ to say.” Her expression altered to one of worry. “Is this about the penguins?” Mal rolled his eyes, determined not to lose it. He was tryin’ for a moment here. “Ain’t about the penguins,” he assured. She released a breath, shrugged a single shoulder and smiled. “I understand you took them on as cargo. It’s just...you don’t really think they’re intended for someone’s supper, Mal?” “I’ll tell you one thing: not never carryin’ puppies. Holy Hell, what a fuss.” He fisted his fingers through his hair, sat beside her on the bed. “Inara.” “Hmm?” “Gimme your hands a sec. Somethin’ I been meanin’ to tell ya. Been meanin’ for awhile now, just that the timing was never right.” “Is something wrong, Mal?” “No.” He wet his lips, took a breath. “You look awfully pale.” She slipped her fingers free, pressed the back of her hand to his temple. “Mm, you don’t feel warm.” “Can you just...be quiet a second?” “I’m sorry.” She smiled encouragingly. “You wanted to say something?” “I did. I mean, I do. Ai ya, ‘spect it’d ruin the moment if I asked you to face the wall.” “Shuh muh?” “Nothin’. C’mere a minute; sit with me.” He patted his thigh, assuming that she’d slide into his lap all ladylike. Instead, she straddled his hips, the fabric of her dress fluting out to allow her lower body unhindered contact with the crotch of his trousers. He could feel himself stir beneath her. She skimmed a finger over his lips. “You were saying, Captain?” In earnest, he could scarcely recall, what with her breasts pressed firm to the front of his chest that way. He reached up to tuck a silken black curl behind her ear, let his hand linger on the side of her face. With his thumb, he smoothed her cheekbone. Tilting her face, he met her eyes. Her expression was soft and warm and just slightly baffled. “Had a whole speech prepared and now it’s seepin’ out my ears. Started off with how I wanted to say this today, just an ordinary day, one when nobody was bleedin’ or dyin’ or gettin’ hisself electrocuted by crazy little men with grudges. I didn’t want you thinkin’ it was said outta urgency...or fear. Ain’t a whim or a moment’s passion, though there’s surely that. Wode ma, there’s passion. But those times, intimate ones, ain’t the only ones if that makes a bit o’ sense. See, there’s others, a ‘verseful. Just to see you smile at somethin’, play with Kaylee, cook dinner. You wearin’ one o’ my raggedy tee shirts but with diamonds in your ears and sapphires at your throat. Hell, even watchin’ you laugh at those gorramn penguins I all but clench up inside...but the very best, Nara, the shiniest bit, is when I can be the one makes you smile. And after all those times I made you cry...hey, now. Don’t.” Tears pearled at the corners of her eyes. He raised a hand to brush them away, changed his mind and used his lips. “I love you. Don’t worry ‘bout sayin’ it back if--” “I love you, Mal.” She cupped his cheek, kissing his temple, his cheek, the underside of his jaw and then his mouth. “I love how you adore Zoe’s daughter when you think no one’s watching. I love that you’re protective with Kaylee and River, that you care so much about every member of this crew but would never admit it. I love how you kiss me and touch me and the way we make love. I love how you’re cuddly the next morning. I love how you pretend not to like the penguins.” Here her voice broke; she struggled to regain control. “I love that you call me cupcake...and kitten and a thousand other obnoxious epithets. I even love those idiotic suspenders. Mal.” She touched the smooth planes of his face. “I never thought I’d know love, Mal. Before you, I never thought....” “Guess that’s a fair trade then.” He smoothed his hands over her hair, drying her cheeks with his thumbs. “ ‘Cuz before you I felt like one dead.” She kissed him slowly, sinking into the softness of his lips, feeling the bite of teeth, the tickling caress of his tongue. She opened her mouth, allowing him access. “I want you this instant.” She laughed, though her tone was still teary. “God help anyone who interrupts.” “Well, see that’s why I got you the gun.” He kissed the tip of her nose. “Anyone comes down, you just go ahead an’ shoot ‘em.” She smiled, started unbuttoning his shirt at the collar. Hastily, she tugged down his suspenders, spread the halves of his shirt to reveal hard, sculpted flesh. She lowered her mouth to his chest while he dug through her hair, pulling out pins. She kissed up and down his belly, flicking her tongue over hard pink nipples, dipping it down into the swirl of his naval. With her lips, she encircled the scar on his lower abdomen, let her mind travel back to a morning of mist and chivalry. She inhaled the scent of his soap, simple and masculine and Mal. With an increasing urgency, he pushed her down into the bed cushions, sliding astride her. Clumsily--ai ya, his hands were shaking--he wrenched open her robe, put his mouth on her through the rich lace of her lingerie. He suckled her nipple till his patience waned, reached behind her neck to unclasp the buttons of her bodice. He peeled the fabric to her waist before molding her breasts to his palms. She made a little sound like a gasp, sighed as his thumbs played over the hardened nipples, slid down to caress the smooth undersides. He lowered his face to her skin, drinking in the heady scent of lilacs and arousal, using his mouth to make her writhe. Overwhelming. She couldn’t fashion a better term. His fingers were greedy in their exploration, intent on summoning every ounce of pleasure, dragging it from new spots like the curve of her elbow, the inside of her wrist. Pulling him down, she savored the feel of his firm chest against the softness of her breasts. He made love to her mouth while her fingers worked his belt buckle. Those bitches who measured the fates seemed finally to have found a fair ruler. Everything good in the ‘verse he had wrapped up in his arms. Under her robe, she wore boy shorts in an ivory lace that cut high on her thighs. He dragged them down to her knees while she fought off his trousers. He wanted to kiss his way up her legs and keep going, make her wet with his mouth, feel her shudder at his tongue’s invasion and use his lips to suck at her sweetness. But she was faster, climbing on top to nibble his jaw, his collarbone, down and around his ribcage. She put her mouth on him through his undershorts, teasing till he was hard--well, harder--and aching for her with a fierceness he couldn’t name. Meeting his eyes with a soft desire that touched him to the core, she freed him from his shorts, brushing her lips and tongue over bare skin. He groaned long and low. “Inara. Tyen shiao duh.” She stroked with her fingers, pressing light, airy kisses to the insides of his thighs. Then she took him in her mouth, and he could only clutch at her hair. Oh, but God, she was sweet. She lifted her head from his lap, caught the few pearly drops of his moisture on her finger. She traced her own lips so they were wet with him. The punch of lust hit him straight in the belly, knocking out his air supply. When he could breathe again, he grabbed her by the arms, yanking her up to his face. He kissed her furiously, hard enough to bruise. Nowhere near sated, he flipped her on her back. Burying his face in her neck, he cupped her with his palm. “Rock against my hand,” he murmured near her ear. He let her ride till his fingers were slippery with her desire. Holding her gaze, he brought himself to her entrance, played the head of him over the nerve bundle there. “Mal.” He’d caught her off guard; this new pleasure left her wrecked, helpless. She and Mal, together like this, naked in every way that counted, clutching each other in the lamplight. She grasped at his hips, her body throbbing for him. He swelled with the wanting of her. Relentless, he persisted until she was near thrashing, so close she fairly vibrated beneath him. He pushed inside with a long, smooth stroke and felt her shatter around him. “I love you.” He brushed her lips and thrust in again, holding her damp, quivering form to his chest. “Tired o’ hearin’ it yet?” “Not unless you’re tired of saying it.” Her words were breathy, breathless. “Not tired, nope. Feelin’ all manner o’ energetic, in fact.” “Mm, I hope I can keep up.” He felt her stretch around him, languorous as a cat, playful as a kitten. With her heels, she motioned him deeper. “I love you.” He nuzzled into her neck. “Did I mention?” “Sounds vaguely familiar. Maybe you should tell me again.” *** He watched her watching him, wide-eyed and silent and spooky as a specter. “You really oughta be somewhere that's elsewhere.” She managed to sound amused without smiling. “No where else to be.” He ignored her, got back to his cleaning. “Jayne?” “Gorrammit, you see all these guns? Think now’s a wise time to be ridin’ me?” She leaned across the table, stretching her arms toward him. “Am I desirable?” Oh, mother of a son of a.... “Why you gotta ask?” He made his eyes icy. “Can’t you already see the answer, witch? Now she smiled, clearly uninsulted. “Wanna hear you say it.” “And what if I did?” With speed enough to make her start, he grabbed her good wrist, encircled the slender bone in his big hand. “You don’t really want down that road.” He meant to sound menacing. He knew it came off desperate. “Why me, girl? Don’t you know I’m no good?” She lay her cheek on the table, stared straight into the mouth of a pistol. “You’re the one can make me feel, Jayne Cobb.” Stricken, he went back to his weapons. *** TBC in Part 20

COMMENTS

Friday, March 17, 2006 3:12 PM

JUGGLESGEESE


As always... love your stuff. I also love the request. I couldn't agree with you more.... more Mal/Inara fics please!

Friday, March 17, 2006 3:12 PM

JUGGLESGEESE


As always... love your stuff. I also love the request. I couldn't agree with you more.... more Mal/Inara fics please!

Friday, March 17, 2006 3:53 PM

SYZG


Gonna go buy you a girly gun, cupcake.

Now thats a statement any girl would love to hear lol

*gasp*

We had a wrapup of emotions here! *GASP* lol. Aw, the declaration turned out so well!

but...penguins??

man, the cargo one gets.

Friday, March 17, 2006 3:54 PM

SHINYGEEKET


Good gracious Kaynara you have made me cry, once again. I do believe that the Mal/Inara "I love you" is the best moment between these two yet. I was so happy to see a new chapter up, it was a piece of fun and calm in the midst of my finals frenzy. Can't wait for part 20 :-)

Friday, March 17, 2006 4:02 PM

LEIASKY


OMG! Penguins. "Squack around and be useless, rather like Jayne...' BWAHAHAHA. God that was great.

It was hysterical. I love the little S/K moments just 'cause I'm a sucker for them. Write more, K? :)

Like M/I too but they don't speak to me as much as S/K. Looking forward to the next chapter. Very well done!

Friday, March 17, 2006 6:36 PM

BLACKBEANIE


Aww

Friday, March 17, 2006 7:29 PM

GOLDY


Oh, my... guuuuhhhhhhhh. *scoops self up from the pile of mush on the floor*

[“I never thought I’d know love, Mal. Before you, I never thought....”

“Guess that’s a fair trade then.” He smoothed his hands over her hair, drying her cheeks with his thumbs. “ ‘Cuz before you I felt like one dead.”]

No, seriously... I really want to give good feedback, but I'm still stuck on guuuuuhhhhhhhhhhh. And a little bit of GAH.

I love them too. And I love you. Seriously.

Other things I loved:

Penguins! Kaylee's dream! River creeping Mal out with her Penguin/Self-Analysis! Jayne and back waxing!

And, btw, I don't know if you ever frequent livejournal, but the Mal/Inara community is quite active, and should help a little with the fic craving:

http://community.livejournal.com/mal_inara/

Saturday, March 18, 2006 1:26 AM

TAYEATRA


Love it as ever!

A great balance of humour/angst/mush etc in this chapter. So much fun!

You've made my day!

Saturday, March 18, 2006 3:04 AM

CCKE


Gniiii

*giggle*
Love it!
Mal/Inara are just soo cute. And I'm right there with you with the plea for more M/I on ff.net!!!

Can't wait to read ch20!

Saturday, March 18, 2006 5:01 AM

WEREALLJUSTFLOATING


Loved it! Especially the penguins. Whaen's the next installment?

Saturday, March 18, 2006 5:23 AM

2X2


I have not the words to express my love for this story... What a glorious part... So many parts I loved... Mal's speech to the 'crazy folk what was my crew' was great!! And the declaration, sooo nice. I loved Inara gettin' all teary as she realized what he was saying, so perfect...

I agree wholeheartedly with you regarding more Mal/Inara fic... I feel like I've scoured the net and read everthing M/I out there, and I hunger for more!!!! Thankyou for some of the best here!

Saturday, March 18, 2006 10:34 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


kaynara,

Let me just say the following:

1) The M/I loving was seriously hot and so in character (I think at least). Glad to see some non-angsty, full-bore Captain-Companion loving without the dance...just for once;

2) The crew's reactions to the penguins was too much! I have to admit the whole idea of the crew giving Mal the silent treatment for upholding the shipping agreement this one time was hilarious....and I get the feeling that River's monologue on Brenda the Penguin's depression and baby-napping has some parallels to the scenes with Becca and Rex;

3) More Rayne angst! This is quality material that needs to be shared!

BEB

Sunday, March 19, 2006 5:30 AM

AMDOBELL


Loved the Mal and Inara goodness but oh my, the Penquins! I'm thinking they stole the whole gorram story. Loved the notion of them waddling like a load of drunk Jaynes and the idea of someone penquin-napping? Is that even a proper phrase and does it matter? Very shiny, funny and highly entertaining. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, May 26, 2006 1:40 AM

BELLONA


*pulls off shirt to reveal kaynara fan club t-shirt* all hail the queen of mal/inara!!!

b


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