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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE
Set prior to the pilot (but based off Out of Gas). Mal and Inara meet for the first time
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2539 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“I have it in full mind that you cheated,” Mal snapped as he watched Jayne take the pot of bullets to his side of the low table they had set up. Jayne grinned crookedly and shrugged, squinting at the sunlight that was coming through the open cargo hatch.
“Some of us have skill, and some of us don’t. Ain’t nothing special about it,” the mercenary answered.
Mal rolled his eyes and began to shuffle again. “That’s one of the bigger loads of gou pi you’ve given.”
Jayne began to count his bullets again, eyeing Mal’s somewhat larger pile with greed. “Figure Zoë and Wash are having a good time?” The couple had gone into the city core to sell the crew’s recent take and then go to something Wash had been near giddy over. An exhibit of some sort of bones from Earth-That-Was some rich fella had smuggled in.
“Zoë seemed less impressed by Wash’s plans,” Mal commented. He heard the rustle of movement of Persephone’s Albionette port outside and wondered when Kaylee would finally get the parts so they could get gone. They weren’t likely to find any renters here for either passage or for the shuttles.
“Ever gonna tell me what a woman like that sees in that guy?”
“Nope. It would get all-confusin’ for you and I’ve seen your face after I confuse you. It ain’t pretty,” the captain said as he dealt the five cards out.
“My Mama says I’m more of a cunning-looker,” Jayne protested.
“In other words, she didn’t want to hurt you by callin’ you ugly?”
Jayne didn’t answer, his dark head bent as he looked over his cards with a sly grin. Mal kept his eyes on him, not trusting him even when it came to card playing. One thing him and the others were mindful of.
“I’ll bet five,” Jayne said as he put five bullets in the pile. Mal turned his eyes back to his cards uneasily, glancing at the bullets. They were five from one of Jayne’s favourite guns, meaning that the man had a good hand. Or was bluffing a hell lot more than normal. Jayne watched Mal’s face pull into a frown and snorted. “Come on now, I ain’t got all day.”
The look Mal shot him made him smile all the harder and he glanced out the hull at the busy street. Resting his booted feet on the other side of the table, he took a hard swig of his liquor and made a satisfied grunt. He didn’t bother offering any to Mal; an earlier experience had the Captain referring to it as battery acid.
Mal scratched his chin and traded in two cards before putting down five of his own bullets for a gun he didn’t even have anymore. But Jayne didn’t know that.
“Now you see, after months of being on this boat, I would not mind getting me a piece of that,” Jayne suddenly said and Mal looked up at him. The man had a nearly slack-jawed look on his face and Mal followed his gaze out the hull of Serenity. A slim young man was helping a woman out of a low-flying hovercraft and Mal’s eyebrows furrowed again.
“Which one you lookin’ at Jayne?”
Jayne choked on his liquor and shot Mal a dirty look. “Don’t matter how long I’m on this boat and how much time I spend playin' with Lil' Jayne, I ain’t playin with that side o’ the fence, Mal.”
“Just checkin, Jayne,” Mal said before he blinked. "You named your...your...after yourself?"
"Hell, haven't you?
"Not Lil' Malcolm," Mal answered as he watched the woman take off a long cloak and toss it back into the hovercraft. Her waist was exposed as the long veil that covered her neck floated in the breeze and, despite the distance, Mal was nearly riveted on the small of her back, at the slimness of her waist and the flare of her hips under a dark skirt.
He shook himself. Maybe it had been too long a time spent on Serenity if he were enchanted by a woman’s middle.
Mal shifted restlessly. It had been too long entirely, he supposed. Maybe the next time Jayne disappeared into houses of ill repute he should join him…Jayne had wanted to try to get into the Companion temple that was at the heart of the town they were in but Mal had forbidden him. Not only because of the way it could be all sorts of bad for them if Jayne got in trouble, but also because he had little respect for women of that profession. They had illusions of grandeur; something Mal couldn’t abide by overly much. They weren’t anything but common.
The woman turned around and Mal barely remembered to breathe when he saw one of the most beautiful women in the ‘verse looking at Serenity warily. The veil obscured some of her features but Mal saw enough to like what he saw. She was richly dressed for being in this area of town. The man who had helped her down got back into the hovercraft and drove off quickly, leaving the woman staring at Serenity. Mal watched her carefully, waiting for that look of arrogant distaste he was used to getting from all matter of folk when they saw his pride and joy.
Instead, as he saw when she tilted her head upwards, the look was gentle and curious.
Jayne’s feet hit the floor before Mal had a chance to stop him and he stammered, trying to get to the woman first before Jayne could either snap her up or turn her away. Jayne was just a slight bit bigger though and managed to make the door in time ahead of Mal. Mal knew better than to get ahead of Jayne; no use in seeming desperate. Instead, he leaned against the door in the shadows and watched the woman slowly make her way up the ramp.
“Can I help you, xing an?” Jayne asked, at least trying to sound polite. The woman smiled at him and Mal knew that Jayne was just as affected as he was by it all. The woman passed Mal as she walked up to stand in front of Jayne, and he stared at the nape of her neck when her dark hair lifted in the breeze. A very soft looking spot that was just right to nibble on...
Lord, it had definitely been too long.
“I understand that there is a shuttle for rent here. Are you…Captain Reynolds?” Her voice was pitched low as she stared up at Jayne, her petite frame dwarfed not only by the mercenary but by the cargo hold as well.
“Just might be. Sure you ain’t just feeling lonely?” Jayne leered. The woman shook her head and gave an exasperated sigh.
If she lasts five seconds, I’ll be impressed, Mal thought to himself.
“Please don’t feel insulted, sir, but I am in no way lonely for your kinds of company,” she answered.
“Don’t knock it till you try it,” Jayne countered. “Ain’t had a complaint from the legs I been between.”
Yep, Mal thought, give her five seconds to get off the boat.
“Yes, well, long-dead women don’t tell any tales,” she said and Jayne’s mouth worked as he finally caught up to what she was saying.
“You got a big mouth on you, si san ba,” he growled as he stepped towards her. Mal recognised the look in his eyes and stepped forward, subtly brushing the woman’s shoulder with his hand as he stepped around her.
“Jayne, go clean up the game.” The mercenary looked ready to argue before Mal gave him a meaningful look and he stomped off, muttering to himself in Chinese about the kinds of women out in the ‘verse these days. Mal turned to look at the woman, who was now focussed on him with an odd intensity. She didn’t seem to blink until she realised he was staring at her, and then she shook herself. Her dark eyes were guarded but friendly enough, the sparkles of her eye make-up making her eyes the most noticeable feature on her pretty face. “I’m sorry about him.”
“Captain Reynolds, I assume?” At his nod, she gave a half smile before glancing at Jayne’s turned back. “And his trained…watch-dog?”
Mal snorted. “Trained? Jayne’s barely house-broke, Miss…?”
“Serra. Inara Serra. I'm a...” she said as she reached out with her hand. Mal stared at it before taking it in his larger hand, feeling the warmth of her soft skin.
“What brings you to Serenity?” he interrupted, not letting go of her hand. Inara stared down at his hand but didn’t dislodge it. The man obviously has limited manners, she thought to herself.
“I understand that you have a shuttle for rent. I got the wave,” Inara said, still smiling. Mal found himself falling more and more infatuated with her beauty and managed to at least control the more physical reaction to her.
“You got the wave? We didn’t send it out to private homes,” he stated.
“I've been living in Albionette, at a training house there, waiting for a possible chance to find a ship willing to take me on.” Mal drew the conclusion quickly in his head and let her hand go.
“You’re a Companion?”
“Is that a problem?” Inara asked, puzzled by his reaction. She had read his desire easily in his body language, but the minute he spoke of her profession she saw the invasion of cold calculation over-wash it. “Captain?”
Mal knew he was staring at her, couldn’t very well help it. Despite his misgivings about Companions, this was one he was wont to hire for himself if he ever had the coin. His eyes trailed down over the low cut bodice of her top to her middle again.
Damn it. Just looking at her was putting his body into all kinds of uncomfortable.
“Is my being a Companion a problem for you?”
“Not at all. You lookin’ for a tour of Serenity?” he asked gruffly. Inara gave him a full smile this time and nodded. “Well, my normal guide ain’t here right now.”
“I could come back later,” she said, unable to keep the disappointment out of her voice. Mal watched her lower lip stick out in a faint pout, as if he had just run over a favourite puppy.
Damn woman makes me feel like a heel now, he thought to himself.
He noticed Jayne looking over at them and saw the start of a question in the man's eyes.
“No need, I’ll take you myself,” Mal offered hurriedly before Jayne could speak, finally managing a smile. He glanced over at Jayne’s hunched up form and whistled. “Jayne, I’m taking Miss. Serra up to see the shuttle. You clean up and don’t try stealing my take. I counted them.”
“Some men just take all that are mei-li,” the mercenary muttered as they passed him and Mal heard a muffled sound come from the woman just behind him. He glanced down at Inara only to see her eyes kept skilfully ahead. There was a faint twinkle in them though.
Inara wasn’t able to warn the Captain when he accidentally walked into a set of tools that had been left on the floor. His grunt of pain and small hopping dance did make her smile even as she flushed at his colourful use of Chinese curses. She cleared her throat and he righted himself, using the side of his boot and kicking the tools out of the way.
“Sorry about that, Miss. Serra.”
Inara flinched at the use of her last name. “I haven’t been called by my last name in a lifetime, Captain. For now, just settle for calling me Inara.” He blinked at the sudden auto-amity as he stood between the steps and the doorway on the first floor.
“Oh? Huh.” He didn’t like admitting that it pleased him that she wasn’t that stuck up then.
“Would it be possible for me to see all of the ship, Captain?” At his look Inara managed not to blush. She was acting like an untrained girl and she hated it. Yet she couldn’t help but feel excited at the idea of travelling. She needed to. “If I wanted to rent, I would be using this ship as my home, wouldn’t I?”
“She ain’t much to look at, I know,” Mal started but Inara shook her head.
“Aesthetics can be boring. Serenity seems to have some history.”
“So she does,” Mal said, moving ahead of her into the doorway. Inara followed him down the iron steps, staring at what seemed to be a common room adjoined to an infirmary. Mal pointed down the hall.
“If we have passengers that can't afford shuttles, they go to those rooms,” he said quickly. Mal couldn’t help but feel like this Companion was reading him when she turned her eyes on him like this.
“You have a ship doctor?”
“Us? No. It’s hard getting any sort of medics out where we travel,” Mal offered over his shoulder. “It’s well-stocked but no one to run it. Maybe one day we’ll find a way to get a doc.” Yeah right, he thought to himself, and I’m likely to get married.
“Do you often need a medic?” Inara asked, pausing and looking at the infirmary. It was cold and sterile, contrasting the lived-in look of the common room’s couches and scattered books. She turned and bumped into Mal.
“Sometimes,” he said, dodging the question as he shifted around her. “You at all curious to what we do?”
“Your ad claimed that you are transport for hire,” Inara commented as she followed him up a low ramp that was dimly lit. She was slightly off-put by his non-commitment. No man she had known had not answered her questions.
“Well, that’s what we are.”
“Doesn’t mean that it’s legal transport,” Inara continued, watching with some satisfaction as his shoulder muscles tightened.
“Does it bother you?”
“Very little does,” she answered truthfully. Mal cast her a look over his shoulder.
“We’ll put that to the test,” he said as he gestured to the side of the small hallway they had entered. Inara followed his hands, lingering for a moment on them until she saw what he was pointing at. To each side there were ladders leading down and she recognised the genius of it; it kept extra bunks out of the way. She followed Mal up to the cockpit and looked out its windows at the port. Unconsciously she took a few steps forward and noticed several dinosaur toys decorating the consul rim.
“Our pilot has a…a bit of a...” Mal was instantly a tad embarrassed. He himself didn’t know why Wash was so fascinated by the prehistoric creatures.
“No need to be flustered, Captain,” Inara said before she went silent and still. She hadn’t realised how large and diverse the city-core looked.
“My pilot, Wash, would be the one you give schedules to, ‘sides me. He’s a fair decent pilot, could help you learn to fly it.”
“I’ve flown shuttles before, as part of my training.”
“Well, they do train you in more than just the common stuff, huh?” Mal asked, unable to keep the insulting tone from his voice though his eyes were still locked on her body. Inara stiffened a little before she forced her body to relax.
“Indeed. Must be the same as smuggling school,” she responded as she turned to face him. Mal stiffened.
“What are you talkin’ about?”
“I’m not a fool, Captain, I’ve seen the various things just slightly out-of-place and I know that the Firefly was used during the War for that very activity.” Inara shrugged. Mal gaped at her, unable to grasp how this slip of a woman saw through Serenity's false interiors. He had planned them all out very carefully.“Like I said, it hardly concerns me. If we were to enter into this arrangement, I would not want nothing to do with your...," she smiled, "work.”
Mal blinked and moved past her, trying to think of the proper response as he led her back down the hall toward the shuttles.
Nope, he didn't intend on having a whore use his boat as home-base for her practise.
Dedication: This is for Kaynara, who asked for more Mal/Inara fics. I had this one sitting around here, doing nothing, after I wrote it at 3 am. It's been around for a month or so, gathering dust on my computer.
AN: I made up Albionette because when I looked about, I couldn't find where Inara had been picked up exactly. So...I made up a place. safe enough. But if you know, please tell! I've been wracking my brain about this!
Monday, March 20, 2006 1:05 PM
Monday, March 20, 2006 1:32 PM
Monday, March 20, 2006 2:39 PM
Monday, March 20, 2006 2:52 PM
Monday, March 20, 2006 5:35 PM
Monday, March 20, 2006 7:57 PM
Tuesday, March 21, 2006 1:43 AM
Tuesday, March 21, 2006 10:56 AM
Tuesday, March 21, 2006 5:58 PM
Tuesday, March 21, 2006 6:11 PM
Sunday, May 28, 2006 5:48 AM
Wednesday, June 14, 2006 11:40 PM
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