Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mal/Inara. Post-BDM. Inara goes in search of tea and ends up with a bit more than that. Rated R - for the slight mentions of, well, you know.


Title: Mend (1/1) Disclaimer: Not making any profit, just playing, they belong to Joss and Co. etcetera, etcetera. Spoilers: Series, major mentions of the BDM. Characters/Pairing: Inara, Mal, Mal/Inara. Summary: Inara wants tea and ends up with a little more than that. Inspired by the sheer number of scenes in the BDM dedicated to showing Mal “tortured” and “brooding.” Thank you, Joss Whedon. Rating: We’ll call it R. To be on the super, super, super safe side. (Sex? What? What sex? This rating totally doesn’t give anything away!) Word Count: 3, 274 A/N: Yes. That’s a ‘Heart of Gold’ quote. Because I like it. Leave me alone.

Inara, I ain't looking for anything from you. I'm just feeling kind of truthsome right now. Life is too damn short for ifs and maybes. -Mal, Heart of Gold


Serenity is quieter than Inara remembers. It chills her, and she draws her shawl tighter across her shoulders. She hasn’t been sleeping well lately. Not since—

She closes her eyes and stops, swaying on her feet. She can just barely make out the outline of Zoe’s quarters. Oh, yes, Serenity is quieter than she remembers. Not quite broken, but damaged. Miranda, the Reavers—it brought them closer together, but there’s a danger now. Life has become too fragile.

She moves forward again, hands fiddling restlessly in front of her. At night, it’s the worst. She can still hear the Reavers screaming—sounds no human should make. She can see the look on Simon’s face, his blood all over her hands, and River…

She’d been ready to die for them, in that moment.

Outside the mess, she pauses. It’s Mal, sitting at the table, body hunched over a grimy mug. His chin rests propped on one hand, while the fingers of his other drum over the tabletop.

She hovers indecisively. How long has he been there? She has no wish to interrupt. Brooding is an art form Mal had conquered and perfected long ago.

She watches him slowly reach for the mug and bring it to his lips, his entire body stiffening as he takes a drink. He sets it down and relaxes, going back to his earlier position.

A part of her wants to stay and observe him. How often does she get this chance? To just look at Mal—and not worry about fighting with him. But something about this moment strikes her as too personal. He wouldn’t want her spying.

She takes a tentative step into the mess and clears her throat. He turns around in surprise, but something in his eyes flares up when he sees her. She wills herself to remain graceful as she slides into the seat next to him.

“Mal,” she says, unable to stop the tremor of worry in her voice. “Mal…”

She lets her hand rest on his wrist. A gesture meant to comfort him. Nothing more. Maybe more. She’s never entirely sure when it comes to him.

He looks at her and then looks down at her hand on his arm. “What are you doing up?”

“I couldn’t sleep,” she says honestly. She gives an apologetic smile. “It’s been somewhat of a problem lately.”

He gives a strange sort of jerk of his head and gazes into the mug in front of him. “Nightmares?”

She hesitates. “Yes.”

“I wouldn’t reckon you’d have any sort of experience with that sort of… fight.”

“Do any of us?” she says softly. He still won’t look her in the eyes.

He fiddles with his drink. “Inara…”

His voice is deeper, and she recognizes it—it means he’s about to say something honest, maybe painful. She leans forward.

“Do you…” he trails off and broods for a few more moments. “Never mind.”

“What?” she probes. He finally looks at her, and she can see he’s unfocused. She sighs and slides the drink away to the other end of the table.

“Hey, now…”

“I think you’ve had enough, wouldn’t you say?” Inara says. “What was in—no, wait, I don’t want to know.”

He almost smiles and then stops. Early on in her Companion-training, they were warned against using alcohol with clients. It makes people too unpredictable. Tea soothes the soul, repairs the spirit. That’s why it is custom to begin a session with tea.

She doesn’t think Mal would appreciate that bit of knowledge.

She tightens her hold on his wrist and he frowns. “Mal, tell me…” she drops her voice. “You were going to say something. What is it?”

“Seems to me,” Mal says. “Every time I try’n put myself out there, you end up running off. Not sure I’m willin’ to go and do so again.”

She can’t think of what to say. “Oh.”

“Yeah, mighty stirring,” Mal says. He reaches across the table for his mug. “Now, I’m gonna go and get myself nice and drunk, just so’s I won’t have to be remembering this come morning. I’m getting good and gorram tired of things being so painful all the damn time betwixt you and me.”

“Yes… I… me too…” Inara manages. “I mean, not the drinking part, but….” She grabs the mug back from him, halfway to his mouth. “Stop it.”

“Ain’t exactly your place to be giving orders on my boat, darlin,’” he says.

“Hmm, well, I’ve never been much good at—Mal, honestly, stop it,” she says, distracted by his attempts to get his drink back. “Will you listen for five minutes?”

He sighs and leans back. “Fine.”

She avoids his eyes and draws her hand away. Suddenly, she doesn’t know what to say. So she sits, frozen, hands clenched in front of her.

“Inara?” he says. “Is this some kind of test?”

“No,” she says crossly. “I just… I want…”

He’s trying very hard not to appear too eager. “Yeah? You want…?”

“I want…” Inara says. She can’t go on. “I don’t know.”

There’s a long moment of silence.

“Well,” Mal says, “that was all sorts of illuminating.”

“Would it kill you to be sensitive for once?” she says. “I am trying, Mal.”

He regards her and she doesn’t look away. She hates this way he has—of looking at her like he’s trying to figure her out.

“I…” she licks her lips. “I won’t do this halfway. Not anymore. We almost… Mal, we almost died. And it wasn’t like all those times before… it wasn’t just another close call.”

Mal’s face darkens. “No. Don’t reckon it was.”

Inara folds her arms on the table, chilled. “It makes me feel smaller, somehow. I never thought I would…”

“Folk can be downright surprising, now and again,” Mal said. “It ain’t like I asked for this, Inara. Never wanted to make a stand against the Alliance. Tried that once. Didn’t work.”

Inara grasps the corner of the shawl between her fingers, the soft material soothing. “We have to believe it was the right thing, Mal. It’s the only way to… move on.”

His voice is cool. “S’pose Zoe feels that way?”

“Yes,” she answers.

She waits for more of a fight, but doesn’t get one. Instead, Mal stands up and braces his weight on the table.

“Move on from what?” he asks quietly.


She feels tears burning in the back of her eyes. She tries to compose herself. Clench her jaw. Count to ten. Wait for it to pass.

“Give me something, Inara,” he says. “Not a lot… just… something. I can’t go on hopin’ for a thing that ain’t ever going to be.”

She’s horrified when a single tear slips down her cheek. She straightens in her seat and turns her face up to meet his gaze. “I left, Mal. I walked off this ship and I tried to put it all behind me. And it did not… work.” She breathes deeply, the last words costing her more than he would ever know. “I need you. I need you in my life.”

It takes him a moment to react. A lazy smile spreads across his face. “That so?”

“I knew you couldn’t possibly understand,” she snaps. “Companions aren’t meant to need anyone. It’s not…”

He holds up a hand to stop her. “I’m not accusin’ you of anything, Inara. I’ve seen the way you take to your job. You’re damn good at it, I reckon. Don’t mean I have to like it any. Also don’t mean you ain’t allowed to feel real emotions. Makes you human.”

She narrows her eyes. “You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?”

He shifts closer to her. His voice is soft. “Might come as a surprise to you, but I ain’t exactly keen to see you in any pain.”

“Then a word of advice? Don’t say something stupid and make this painful,” Inara whispers.

His thumb touches her cheek, sliding along the path of her tear. She goes still and concentrates on keeping her breathing steady.

“What do you want to happen here?” Mal says. “You better tell me ‘fore I do something I might go regretting later.”

“All I wanted when I came in here was some tea,” she says.

He gives a bitter chuckle. “Course you did. Seems to be our story, don’t it?”

“How can you even….” She purses her lips and stands so she’s eye-level with him. “Did you hear anything I told you? What else do you want from me, Mal? Do I need to write in big purple paint across Serenity’s bridge? Will that satisfy you?”

He’s taken aback. “Hell—Inara, I didn’t mean…” he sighs. “Close your eyes, will you?”

She stares at him suspiciously. “Why?”

“I’m attempting romantics. Don’t faint.”

She sighs but obeys. “Happy?”

He lets a moment of silence pass. “Don’t go putting purple paint on the bridge. If you do, you’re cleaning it up afterwards.”

“Fine. Anything else?”

“I’m… uh… planning on kissing you sometime around now. If you got any objections, you might want to go about voicing ‘em.”

She shakes her head, not trusting her voice. For one horrible second, she thinks he won’t do it. But then both of his hands frame her face and she leans up to meet him, grasping him closer, suddenly wanting to lose herself in him, in this. Maybe then the memories won’t haunt her as much.

His hands slip down her arms, fingers firm and rough. He’s tugging her closer, mouth leaving hers to kiss her chin, her throat. She gives her approval by moaning softly. Her head feels lighter and her hands quiver. Where’s a Companion’s grace in this? In this—this desperate free-for-all.

She manages to regain herself long enough to ask, “How drunk are you?”

“Just… drunk enough…” Mal murmurs.

His hands, so strong on her back—she’s seen him use those hands to kill. She understands what he’s capable of. He has violence and power all locked up and stored inside him. Someone like Mal would never be a Companion’s client.


He pulls away, startled and worried. “What?” He peers into her face, breathing heightened. “You ain’t backing out are you? ‘Cause if you are…” he has to stop and his mouth clamps shut.

“I’m not,” she says quickly. “I’m… not.”

“Inara, I can’t watch you walk away again,” he says. “I just… can’t.”

Her voice only quivers a little. “I know.”

He’s looking at her again, that same searing look, like he’s trying to suss her out and see if she’s telling the truth.

She presses her hand to the back of his neck and urges him to kiss her again. Softer this time, a little reverent, and—ai ya—she can feel that he loves her. He’s murmuring endearments in Mandarin and, merciful Buddha, it makes her feel like a young schoolgirl with a crush. All that time they spent… so unable to express themselves…

He stills, his lips near her ear. “Inara… this don’t… are you real?”

She has to swallow back a sob. She nods, and he gathers her up close. She presses her forehead to the crook of his neck and he holds her until she thinks she might break. His hands smooth down her neck and shoulders and arms. Taking note. Assuring himself she’s there.

“I never thought…” he stops and tries again. “What about…”

“Stop letting that matter,” she says.

He kisses her temple and then her cheek before he finds her lips again. Their kisses are frantic—like it might help them stave off the complications.

He stops and presses his thumb to her mouth. “Yours or mine?”

She rolls her eyes and almost makes a crack about him pushing his luck. One of their hands link together and he squeezes her fingers.

Her shuttle—too much past, too many difficult memories… too many reminders of the many others she’s slept with.

His thumb slides down her chin and under her throat, fingers curving against her ear.

“Yours,” she whispers.

He looks stunned for a minute but then he grins. “And you’re aware of what’s bound to happen, should we—”

“I’m not an idiot, Mal,” she says.

His jaw tightens. “S’pose not. Sort of thing you’d have all sorts of experience with, I’d wager.”

“Don’t,” she whispers. “Don’t ruin this, Mal, please. I wish you…” understood how different this is. But she doesn’t say that. She fiddles with the top button of his shirt and waits.

“You and me?” Mal says, slowly. “We’re gonna do this as equals, Inara. Both the same.”

She resists the urge to roll her eyes. Wuo duh Ma, I should just be thankful he’s finally gotten it…

She’s still trying to unbutton his shirt, and he’s still mumbling to himself, but she tunes him out. She tilts her head to brush her lips against his jaw and it finally shuts him up. He freezes and she continues her explorations. Her fingers undo his buttons one at a time, letting her lips move to the corner of his mouth, not quite touching his lips.



“Inara, ain’t such a good idea… in the… mmm… mess…”

She widens her eyes a little, trying to look innocent. He grabs her shoulders, bringing his mouth down on hers again.

Somehow, they manage to stumble their way through the ship, falling down on the stairs out of the mess, grabbing on to Serenity’s railings, grabbing each other and laughing. She wonders if she should care about her lack of propriety. The entire crew must know.

Mal goes down into the bunk first, turning to help her down the ladder. Strange, she thinks. He still has an uncanny ability to keep surprising her.

“I’m about to have sexual relations with a man who wears suspenders,” she says. “My life has… changed.”

“Ain’t nothing wrong with suspenders. Practical. ‘Sides, they make a… statement.”

“Good point,” Inara mumbles. Mal frowns.

When he has trouble with her dress, she can’t stop her giggles.

“Tyen-sah, who the hell makes these gorram things? Inara, there ain’t even a damn zipper… anywhere…”

“I told you, just let me do it…”

“Fay hwa, I’m gonna do this right…can’t be that hard. Hell, it’s just a dress… seen one or two of ‘em in my life.”

“Mal, just… yes… no… if you tear this, you’re paying for it.”

He doesn’t tear it. But he doesn’t quite manage it by himself either.

She has trouble remembering after that because he’s sucking on her earlobe and she’s trying to undo his pants. Her elbow slams into the wall when they fall into bed together and she cringes. Mal snickers and she considers suggesting he slam his elbow into the wall to see how he likes it, but his mouth closes around one of her nipples, and she loses her train of thought.

They murmur senselessly after that. Mandarin that doesn’t mean anything. Gasps of a God he stopped believing in long ago.

“Mal, Mal, Mal…” she mouths. He’s inside her and his eyes fasten to hers, and she can’t look away.

They hold onto each other afterwards. No talking. She breathes in deeply and waits for her heartbeat to slow. Mal kisses her cheek, almost halfheartedly, clearly wrung out. He mumbles something indistinct and falls asleep.

She wriggles, a little uncomfortable by his arm resting heavily over her stomach. A sign of possession. She rarely engages in such acts of intimacy with clients. It allows them to feel too much attachment.

She glances around his bunk, almost surprised by the indecency of their strewn clothing. His socks aren’t even resting together. One is by the ladder—the other, by the foot of the bed.

If only his arm wasn’t draped so firmly around her waist. She could get up and fold them. Place them neatly in a pile.

She shifts again, sitting up as best she can. His bed is too small for two people. Impractical. Though, she muses, it wasn’t like Mal ever had much use for a larger bed. Rather—she hopes not, she’d only left Serenity for two months, after all. Hardly enough time for him to move on.

“Inara, what the hell is your problem?”

She jumps. “I thought you were asleep.”

Mal scrubs at his face, eyes bleary. “Would be too, if you weren’t shifting ‘bout.”

“Sorry,” she says, leaning back. “I’ll… stop.”

“Nah,” Mal says, sitting. “I’m up. You gonna tell me what’s on your mind?”

She blinks, trying very hard to not look at him. She keeps her eyes on the ceiling. “What do you mean?”

He fiddles with his ear and then frowns, realizing it’s the one Niska once cut off. “You’re twitchier than Kaylee when she’s got her eye on a new engine part.”

She bows her head. “You’re not going to like what I have to say.”

“Don’t reckon I will, overly much. Inara…” he sighs and reaches for her hand. “No more secrets, dong ma? Tell me what you’re thinking.”

She feels a warm flush at the sight of their fingers laced together. “I, uh…” she falters. “I don’t really know how… this is very new to me.” She stops, breathes in, focusing on calming her nerves. “A Companion… her job… she loves, Mal. She does not fall in love.”

Mal reacts to that, but tries to hide it. “The Guild, it have rules for…uh, dating?”

“It’s complicated. It’s highly… discouraged,” Inara says. “They cannot forbid it outright, but any distraction with a client, any hint of dissatisfaction can tar a Companion’s record. As I’m sure you can imagine, these situations can prove to be quite… messy.”

“Messy,” he repeats. “So, then… what do we…?”

“I don’t know,” she snips, letting go of his hand and folding her arms around her waist. “I told you, this is new to me.”

She can’t look at him. Unshed tears burn in her eyes. She’s not sure what she wants from him.

“Inara…” he tugs on her arms, bringing her close to him. She goes, resting her cheek on his shoulder, and he brushes her hair back. “Companions don’t fall in love, huh?”

She laughs softly and shakes her head. He touches his lips to her throat.

“Lots of things that need doin’ here on Serenity,” he continues. “Okay, we’re not exactly takin’ on a lot of work at the moment, but pay cut ain’t half bad, some of the time.”

“And what if it doesn’t work, Mal?” she says. “What if we fight all the time? What if the Alliance never stops coming after River, and we don’t even have a chance to breathe?”

He hesitates. “Way I see it is, we got a choice in front of us. Now I ain’t saying it’s not a risk, ‘cause it is at that, but I’ve already made mine.”

She smiles. “You’re awfully sure of yourself.”

“Got a reason to be. Don’t figure we would’ve done what we did if you weren’t ready for the risk.” He pauses and tilts her chin up to look at him. “What’s it gonna be, Inara?”

She presses her bottom lip and nods.

He grins. “You know, you got yourself a hickey, right about…” his fingers brush against the side of her neck, “there.”

“I… I do not,” she sputters. Then, “What are you doing?”

“Gonna put one on the other side. Stop fidgeting.”


A/N: To anyone reading ‘Verdict,’ I’m really, really sorry for the wait. My writer’s block is breeding and growing issues at an exponential rate. So I thought I’d offer this up instead. *smiles hopefully*


Wednesday, March 22, 2006 7:36 PM


Fanstastic. One or two little problems, but a fantastic story none the less. I especially love the end. "Gonna put one on the other side" is hilarious. You make it sweet and optimistic without making it unrealistic. Can't wait for more stories from you.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 7:57 PM


Couldda sworn I posted on this earlier... sorry M8, I loved this, sweet and so rutting Mal... Im gunna put one on the other side... so very very shiney *me smiling like a moonbrain*

Thursday, March 23, 2006 12:29 AM


This is awesome.

Some real ROTFL moments and angst'y' too.

Wonderfully well written and scarily... I think i've used the line 'Just drunk enough' before.

Thursday, March 23, 2006 6:27 AM


So sweet. It is so complicated for them and you captured it very well. I can visualize Nathan and Morena doing these scenes, especially the conversation in the mess.

Friday, March 24, 2006 12:25 PM


Oh wow. I love this story! I love how you kept it so real even in the fluffy parts.
*Well. That was all sorts of illuminating.* I can just hear him say that.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 12:34 AM


my favourite line:
“Gonna put one on the other side. Stop fidgeting.” funny



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