Life's Too Short- Part Fourteen
Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mal and Inara have a bonding moment, but good things never last with our heros...


Life’s Too Short- Part Fourteen

Disclaimer: not mine, don’t fine!

Author’s Note: Coming up in the next additions are torture scenes which are pretty graphic, if that bothers you.

“So,” Mal said. “That went well.” He was sitting at a table in a large ballroom, his legs stretched out languorously. Inara sat beside him with her chin resting on her hand, an indulgent smile on her face. “Yes, I must admit you showed a surprising amount of charm.” “Hey, I can be plenty charming,” Mal retorted, but there was no bite in his words. He was too pleased with himself. They had ten minutes more before they could leave and return to the ship without appearing too hasty, something that would draw unwanted attention. “Still,” he added with a wink, “I think it was more * your * charms than mine.” Inara laughed. “Perhaps. Are you finally going to admit that it’s useful to have me aboard?” “Never said it wasn’t.” “Hmm.” Just then, Hugh Walter appeared at their table. “Well, Reynolds, now that I’ve forgiven you, aren’t you and the little lady gonna have a dance?” “Oh, I-” Inara said, just as Mal spoke up. “Well, we’ve-” “Nonsense! If you don’t, I might have to reconsider my decision to let you refuel on my moon.” Mal swallowed, stood, and offered Inara his arm. She stared at it for a moment before laying her hand lightly on his elbow and rising to follow him towards the dance floor. As they walked, Mal leaned close to her and whispered, “Seems to me that last time we danced, I ended up stabbed.” “It must be you,” Inara whispered back, a deliberately looking elsewhere and smiling that warm, gorgeous, utterly fake smile that it seemed only he could see through. Mal rolled his eyes. Truth was, he was nervous. Hadn’t danced with ‘Nara since that one shindig, an’ he wasn’t sure he knew this one. The orchestra was playing a fast tune, but the dancers had that slow, careful way of movin’ that Mal associated with drunk cats. Or drunk Jaynes, before they met walls or people. Just as they stepped onto the floor, the music ended. Mal stood there facing Inara, eyeing the exits. The music started again, this time a slow waltz. Gorrammit, Mal thought irritably. I hate waltzes. He realized that Inara was giving him the evil eye, and grabbed her, maybe a mite fast. She stepped forward to catch herself as he pulled her off-balance, and they were suddenly thigh-to-thigh, chest-to-chest. There was a split second of frozen shock, bodies touching in a way they had never touched, unless you counted the kiss, and then they hadn’t been plastered together completely like this. Then, Inara stepped gracefully backwards and laid her hand on Mal’s shoulder. He took her left hand in his right, his big fingers calloused against her delicate strength. Mal had an instant to decide, and thought ‘the hell with it’. He moved his own left hand to her right shoulder and let it slide down her side to rest on her waist, brushing her breast and ribs. Inara tried to hide the shiver that ran through her, and they danced. “So alls you do is spin? Like this?” “Yes, Mal. Like this.” “No fancy steps?” “No fancy steps.” “Huh.” “You’re actually not supposed to hold me that tightly.” “What?” “Look around, Mal. This is a waltz, not a mamba.” “You think I know what a mamba is?” “Good point.” “I could know what a mamba is.” “You just said you didn’t!” “No, I said did you think I-” “You’re still not supposed to hold me that tightly!” “Don’t see you pullin’ away, sweetheart!” “Mal, why do you have to turn every single thing into a fight?” Before he could find a retort, Walter was there. Damn it, Mal was remembering why he’d stolen the beer and run. Gorram man was everywhere at once! “No fights on my dance floor,” he said with a slight bow. “And by the way, it’s nine o’clock.” “What?” Inara blanched, but Mal didn’t get it. “We celebrate Lover’s Day on Diogenes.” “What day?” “At nine o’clock on the anniversary of the deaths of Aiden Morgan and Latelle Annenci, all lovers share a kiss.” Mal had a sudden memory of his mother telling him tales when he was a boy, and one about two lovers who killed themselves to be together. Aiden and Latelle. Walter melted into the crowd, and Mal saw that every couple was embracing. He looked and his lady. “Uh, I suppose we should…” “It’s a worldwide holiday, Mal, it can’t exactly be ignored here.” A faint grin lit up Mal’s face. “Ain’t that convenient.” He tilted up her chin with his hand, and pressed a kiss to her nose. “Mal!” He chuckled, and kissed her again, this time on the lips. It was quick and chaste, but somehow that made it even more special. He kissed my nose, Inara was thinking. That little thing he’d done, like so many other times when he’d swung Kaylee into a hug or grabbed River’s head and pressed a kiss there, made her feel warm and loved inside. Even when they were leaving, even when they were saying goodbye and she was air-kissing the cheeks of the women she’d met, that one thought was running through her mind. He kissed my nose. * * * * Kev was hungry. ‘Course, he was always hungry. Especially on a job. But the job would be over soon, and then he could get some grub. He clenched and unclenched the muscles of his legs to keep them from cramping from the long period of crouching, and eyed Rennie. “They comin’ yet?” Kev drew a finger across his throat and cut his eyes to the street that lay in the shadows beyond the alleyway. Rennie nodded. Kev jerked his head towards the street and held up two fingers as a reminder. Rennie nodded again, remaining silent. There came the sound of heels on pavement, and leather swishing. Low voices. A female laugh. “No! I know he didn’t say that!” “Well, he was powerful drunk,” came an easy male voice. “But Simon?!” “Well, I’ve always said that boy needed nothin’ more’n a few drinks-” “Thank God Kaylee was out.” “Yeah, who knows what he’d have said if she was there. Or done!” Another laugh, from both people this time. Kev held up three fingers. One. Two. Three. The two mercenaries moved to the edges of the alleyway and, making nary a sound, climbed up the jagged stone wall that made up the side of the alley. They used precarved footholds, and found it easy. As the two people, one man and one woman, passed underneath, Kev and Rennie dropped. Kev landed on the man’s back, and Rennie came down just behind the woman. In an instant, the two people were on the ground. Kev knelt beside the man, wiping blood off the long syringe he’d just injected into the man’s throat. As he moved to stand, a hand shot out and slashed at him. The hand was aiming for his belly, but pain and a very powerful sedative made the switchblade that the man had pulled from nowhere slice through the meat of Kev’s calf. He cursed beneath his breath, forcing back the pain, and kicked the man in the head. The hand holding the bloody knife fell to the ground, and the man was still. “She out?” Kev asked, toeing the man onto his back. “Like a rock. Pretty rock.” “Yeah, I think she’s some kinda whore.” “Huh. When did you say we had to deliver them?” “One hour. You got exactly no time for fun, Rennie. Let’s move.” “You sure he’s out, too?” Rennie was looking at the man’s face, which somehow managed to look dangerous even when he was unconscious. “Yeah. If the drug didn’t do it, the kick sure did.” “Gotta admire a man who’d fight that drug enough to slash ya.” “Yeah,” Kev said on an exhale, wincing as he dragged the man’s prone body across his shoulders. They only had a few hundred yards to go, but his leg was really hurting. Gorram mark and his gorram switchblade. After they’d dropped the two marks at the shuttle and received their pay, Kev and Rennie headed off to get Kev’s leg looked at. And dinner. Dinner would be good. He was still hungry, ren zi fou zu. As Kev fantasized about food, the thought of the man once again entered his mind. It was weird that he’d been able to fight, even for a second. Hell of a disciplined hun dan. Kev was placing his bets on soldier, probably Independent judging by the coat. What had his name been? Something like Rennie’s. Renford? Renner? Oh, well. Not like he’d be needing his name anymore. * * * * * “They’re late.” “Care to tell me how that’s a surprise?” Zoe turned a cool look on Simon, and the doctor fell silent. “Shouldn’t be late. I’ll wave Walter.” The crew was assembled on the bridge, clustered around Zoe. Kaylee wrung her hands. “Ain’t like it could be that bad, right? I mean, Cap’n can handle himself, right?” “I’m sure the Captain and Inara are fine,” Simon reassured her. Zoe was flicking switches on the wave screen, and Jayne was leaning against the bulkhead. River sat with her knees pulled up on the pilot’s chair, her hair down again. It was eerily reminiscent of the time before Miranda, when her sanity had been pretty much all gone. “Sleeping,” she said softly. Zoe glanced at her. “What?” But she didn’t speak again. Zoe turned to look at the wave screen, and the others hushed. Hugh Walter’s face filled the screen. “Zoe? Why didn’t you come with Captain Reynolds?” “So he did reach the party?” “Yes, him and a gorgeous dark-haired lady. A Miss Serra, if I’m not mistaken. Is something wrong?” “You tell us. I take it you two smoothed things over?” “Mm-hmm, the past is past.” “Is he still there? Can I talk to him?” Walter looked surprised. “Still here? Why, no, he left an hour ago.” “Kaylee, you and Simon stay here. Me, Jayne ‘n River are going out.” “You’re gonna find ‘em, right?” Kaylee was clinging to Simon’s hand, her doe-eyes wide and worried. Zoe slung a holster over her shoulder, and nodded. “Gonna find ‘em, Kayleebird. Don’t worry.” Jayne grunted in the affirmative; at least, everyone assumed it was in the affirmative. River buckled her slender and relatively new gunbelt around her waist and said nothing. Serenity had landed, and was currently guzzling fuel. It had been twenty minutes since their talk with Walter, and there was no time to spare. As the three would-be rescuers climbed aboard the mule, River paused and ran back to Kaylee. She threw her arms around the older woman, one arm stretching to pull Simon into her sudden and fierce embrace. Before either could regain their balance and hug River back, the teenager had disengaged. As she turned to hurry towards the mule, River murmured four words: “Won’t let them win.” Then, they were gone. * * * * Sleepy. Like leaves falling in springtime, falling on soft grass. No sound. Bruises cushioned by dirt and grass and air. No! Keep it back. Make it fit. Mold the thoughts, the crazy, the madness, mold it into something real and solid. Something they’ll understand. River wouldn’t speak, knowing that if she did the painful truth-words would spill out from between her human lips and somehow turn into random things. Helpless. It was like being in a jar, seeing everything from the inside of her own prison. Thoughts warped by old glass. Scatters of dead fireflies crumbling at your feet. No! River stroked her gun, the cold metal soothing her. She knew what would happen, what must happen. That was her gift, knowing. That was her curse, knowing. It hurt, but her heart was barely able to understand pain. Emotions were something that was only just returning to her. Emotions other than fear, that was. Pain, heartache, pity, love, pleasure, friendship. Broken shards, crudely fitting together. Like my thoughts, River heard herself say in her mind. Why do they fit inside my head, but not out in the air? Is there a chemical? An explanation? A reaction between my breath, the sounds my voice makes, and the oxygen I breathe? He called her Crazy Girl when he thought about her. Or Moonbrain. Sometimes, deep under it all, he called her Beautiful. It didn’t matter that much, really. What was coming would steal that from her, like everything else had been stolen. River shook her head ruefully, ignoring the curious glance Jayne sent her. Not everything. She had Serenity. She had Kaylee, and Simon, and Inara. She had Jayne and Captain Daddy Malcolm Reynolds. And, River thought with a frightening intensity, they would never be stolen from her. Ever. She would not allow it. Some sacrifices, River knew, were worth the result. Although the Captain didn’t know it, and would never admit it, River had taken Serenity into herself. She had imprinted the ship onto her soul, and it was her home. You don’t let your home go without a hell of a fight, River heard a voice say in her heart. In that moment, she was perfectly sane.

TBC: Next: Mal and Inara do their rendition of the Torture Chamber Rhumba. Zoe, River and Jayne look for leads, and Simon and Kaylee have panic attacks.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006 5:23 PM


Oh Crap! Can there never be a time when Mal and Inara can go to a party without violence and wounds?! Simon and Kaylee are goign to have panic attacks? Can't wait to see how you write that! Great post!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006 8:36 PM


Now this a cliffhanger, wingedraksha, I have to admit;)

Love Mal & Inara's dancefloor conversationa and their individual reactions to finding out it's Lovers' Day:)


Friday, April 28, 2006 5:34 PM


Let me get this straight. You went through a war, run from the government, and deal with the lowest filth of society. And you still see no problem in going down a dark, silent empty street with a gentle beacon of sexiness. Yeah okay.

P.S: aside from that, still love it.

Saturday, May 6, 2006 3:11 AM


BCC- in my defense, they weren't exactly walking down a dark alley. The street was not completely dark and their shuttle was about another block away. Also, Mal had just smoothed things over with the big cheese of the planet, and had no reason to expect anything happing to him and 'Nara- if anything, the ship itself was what they were expecting to be attacked.


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