The Bathing-Houses of Sihnon (Mal/Inara: NC-17)
Thursday, April 27, 2006

In this post-BDM vignette, Mal partakes of a bath at House Madrassa while Inara awaits her fate with the Guild. Soapy fun ensues.


Characters/Pairings: Mal/Inara Rating: NC-17 (for teh sex) Spoilers: BDM Disclaimer: I do not own, nor do I profit. Woe is me! Notes: Set a few days (or weeks) after the BDM. Serenity sets down on Sihnon so Inara can take care of some business.

The Bathing-Houses of Sihnon

Mal relaxed into the steaming water with a grateful sigh. The bathwater tingled his skin, just this side of scalding hot, but he didn’t mind one bit. Baths were hard to come by in the black, hot ones even harder. He’d take his pleasure where he could, and a bathing-house on Sihnon was hardly slumming it.

Steam clouded the large, open room, the only sounds the faint splashes Mal himself made as he sunk deeper into the tub. His side ached like hell, a lingering reminder of his tussle with the Operative. Weren’t the first time he’d been stabbed, but it numbered among the most painful. The hot water and relaxing atmosphere of the Sihnon training house were already working their magic, though, and Mal felt the tense muscles in his back start to loosen. He stretched, wincing only a little, and leaned back. Mal closed his eyes and drifted blissfully, slipping off the marble ledge running the length of the bathing pool and allowing his body to drift into deeper waters.

The sound of bare feet padding across the warm tiled floor made him open his eyes. Mal caught a fleeting glimpse of a female figure through the steam, and she’d already disrobed and made her way to the edge of the large rectangular pool before Mal thought to call attention to himself.

“Inara,” he murmured, his voice rough and loose in the heat. “Pleasant surprise.”

She started a little, pursing her lips in annoyance as she gathered her robe up against her body to cover herself a little. “I thought you’d be in the public baths,” she said coolly. “This space is reserved for Companions.”

Mal smiled a little ruefully. “House mistress gave me leave. Nice of her, don’t ya think?” he smirked, swimming away on his back. He hoped he looked relaxed, pleased with the way he’d managed to charm House Mistress Albia. Serenity had landed on Sihnon at Inara’s request; seems leaving her duties at the training house to go fight off Reavers and half the Alliance fleet at the request of a no-good smuggler had caused a bit of a stir with the Guild. Inara had been called in to explain herself and, Mal guessed, surrender her license as a Companion. He hadn’t expected Inara to pay such a heavy price for helping him, and Mal wondered privately if he’d ever be able to make it up to her.

However, House Mistress Albia had surprised him. The woman had been genteel and not overly-cold, as some high-society types could be. Instead, she’d welcomed the entire crew of Serenity warmly and put them up in the best quarters House Madrassa had to offer, and had even thanked him for helping Inara. Mal had suppressed the urge to ask what, exactly, he’d ever done that was in Inara’s best interests. Albia, a woman of charm and insight into the ways of people, had distracted him and delicately suggested he could use a bath. Not that Inara needed to know that particular part of the story.

She was still standing before him, clutching her robe close and looking unsure of herself. Mal was surprised by her clear indecision; Inara had always seemed to be a woman firmly in possession of her own mind. Water had condensed on her body, making her skin glow. He couldn’t help but watch as a bead of moisture began a slow journey from Inara’s collarbone to the top of her breast.

Inara cleared her throat, and Mal realized he was staring. He kicked his legs, paddling back to the submerged bench, and gazed up at her. His body was already responding to Inara’s presence, much to his own consternation. The woman had always possessed the ability to make him feel like he was a moon-brained teenager who couldn’t yet grow a beard; he’d get all worked up over the sight of her hair, loose and flowing over her shoulders. Or her smile, that rare, shy, half-grin he’d spied sometimes when she thought he wasn’t looking. Anything and everything about her aroused him, but Mal didn’t see a reason to make it completely obvious.

“You planning on standing around all day, or are you gonna get in here before the water gets cold?” he asked her, nervous.

Inara shook her head. “These pools are heated by underground thermal vents. They never get cold,” she explained, stalling. Inspiration hit and she smiled coyly, climbing into the pool. “You could do me a favor and wash my hair, Captain Reynolds.”

Mal hoped his mouth wasn’t hanging open in any obvious way. So she’d called his bluff. Two could play that game.

He watched the heat of the bathwater creep over her skin, turning the parts of her he could see (her shoulders, her neck, the tops of her breasts) a shade of rosy pink. Her hair, loosely piled atop her head, glistened. A few stray tendrils trailed through the water, smelling like jasmine. Mal inhaled deeply, coughing a little as the steam tickled his throat.

“Nice place,” he commented awkwardly. “’Course, I didn’t expect anything less.”

Inara eyed him carefully, waiting for the inevitable insult. When Mal failed to deliver it, she allowed herself to relax minutely. At least he was trying to be civil.

“Sihnon was the first core world to be terraformed. It has had centuries to develop its beauty and culture. Other worlds in the ‘verse may come to resemble it, given time.”

She delivered this statement in the low, coaxing tones of a companion, and she hoped Mal wouldn’t notice. She so rarely employed her professional skills around him, knowing he would take offense and say something they’d both regret. She watched him now, warm and relaxed, and noted how rarely she had seen him so at peace. The old and new battle-scars on his torso had turned an angry red in the bath and she couldn’t help but be reminded of Mal’s capacity for violence, how rarely he permitted himself the time to indulge in more...peaceful pleasures.

“No offense to you or Sihnon, but I like the rim worlds the way they are,” Mal was saying, oblivious to her concentrated study of his body. “Civilization comes by a mighty high price.”

Inara closed her eyes, nodding silently in agreement. The past few weeks had taught them all the cost of civilization.

She shivered slightly, despite her earlier denial of the waters’ ability to chill. They were silent for a moment and Inara felt him move closer through the water. He held a bar of scented soap in his hands, working up a lather. At the question in her eyes, he smiled softly.

“You wanted me to wash your hair,” he reminded her.

Inara forgot to breathe for a moment, her eyes widening in shock. She was suddenly aware of her own nudity and the close proximity of Mal’s muscled, warm body. She was surprised at her sudden arousal, the way her heart began to beat faster, the familiar, throbbing ache already beginning to build between her thighs. It was no surprised that she wanted him, but to want him this much...

“Al-alright,” she stammered, colouring a little. Why did she allow him to affect her so? She was supposed to be a professional, wasn’t she?

Mal settled back on the ledge, resting his back against the side of the pool. He hoped she wouldn’t notice the way his hands were shaking, the excitement and nervousness hard to control. He’d been fantasizing about Inara since the day they’d first met. The notion of Inara so close, so real and so beautiful, was a hard thing for Mal to reconcile. They had never talkedd on their feelings (at times, he was certain she despised him) but she’d agreed to stay on his boat and she hadn’t scurried out of the room the minute she’d realized Mal was in the pool. It was hope, he told himself, that made his hands shake.

At his nodding gesture Inara slid over and, after a breathtaking moment of indecision, settled between his legs. Mal focused his mind on the task before him, carefully removing the pins from her hair until it was down and loose, its ends weighted by the water. He scooped water onto the top of her head, moistening her crown, and then proceeded to work the soap through her hair.

At first, Inara held herself stiffly away from him, but the feel of his fingers massaging her scalp and the hot steam had their inevitable effects. She slowly sunk against him. As the soft skin of her back connected with the much-abused muscles of his chest, Mal let out a low, shuddering breath. She felt even better than he’d imagined she would, all warm, soft skin against his aching body.

Inara closed her eyes, the world narrowing to the heat of the bath, Mal’s hands on her scalp and the feel of him against her back. She allowed her head to fall back and rest against his shoulder as he worked on the ends of her hair, rubbing the locks together and dunking them in the water.

“You’ve done this before,” she noted, marking the surety of his gestures, the confidence with which he moved. The thought of those sure, confident hands on her, inside of her, sent a faint tremble through her shoulders. Inara hoped he could feel it.

“Ain’t such a difficult thing,” Mal noted. “Back on Shadow as a youngster, my ma gave me charge of the washin’. A woman’s hair’s not so very different from a pair of socks,” Mal pointed out, grinning at the look she flashed up at him. “’Course, this here’s a mite more pleasant to wash.”

“I should hope so,” she smiled, closing her eyes. They continued on in quiet camaraderie, the charged atmosphere reverberating with sexual tension, not malice. Mal was relieved not to have to fight with her. Usually he couldn’t resist staying something cruel or mocking but right here, in the bath, so close to a woman he’d desired for so long, the last thing Mal felt like doing was starting up a fight.

“You going to miss this place?” he asked her softly, water trickling down from his fingers through her hair, rinsing the soap away. “The black can’t hardly compete with what you’ve got here.”

He died a little inside, waiting for her response to his softly-worded question. It was the closest he’d ever come to asking if she meant to stay on Serenity or leave, as she had before. Even if she lost her license for helping his crew bring down the Alliance, a woman like Inara had plenty of options in the ‘verse that didn’t require she stay on with a rag-tag group of smugglers. Or their captain.

Inara sensed his uncertainty, hearing the vulnerability in his voice. “There are things about life out there I find difficult,” she said, trying for honesty. “I don’t like seeing people get hurt, which they seem to do with alarming frequency out on the rim. But Mal,” she said, twisting in the water to meet his gaze, “there are other things about life in the black that I love.”

Mal let out a breath he wasn’t aware he’d been holding, her words surprising him. Did she mean-?

Before he could formulate that particular question, Inara surprised him again by kissing him. At the touch of her lips all thoughts fled and he was consumed by a need to touch and feel every part of her, take everything she had to offer and more. He slid his tongue inside her mouth, melding his flesh with hers. Inara responded in kind, and with a passion that caught him off-guard. They clung to each other in the water, their limbs tangling together, warm, soft skin meeting bone and hard muscle.

Inara slid her hand down Mal’s chest, exploring his back and stomach. Her fingers skated over scars old and new, making him tremble against her touch. He caught at her hand, returning it to his face, and Inara threaded her fingers through his hair. She gasped as he began to touch her breast, teasing her nipple to life with his thumb. She pressed against his hand, moaning, and Mal dragged her closer, her legs wrapping instinctively around his torso. He groaned in approval, marveling at her unpracticed, passionate responses. If this was an act, if he really was with Inara the Companion instead of Inara the woman, she was one hell of an actress.

Mal pushed the niggling doubt away, dropping his hand to where their bodies met below the surface of the water. He slipped a finger inside of her and with a low, savage moan Inara threw back her head. Mal eased another finger inside, using his thumb to tease her clitoris. His hand stilled at her soft, pleading use of his name. Without another thought, they rolled together, Mal entering her, Inara clutching desperately at his shoulders. He kept working against her with his thumb, licking at her shoulder, thrusting in a rhythm as old as time. She was incredible, so hot and tight; he nearly lost control before she was ready. He held on and, water surging around them, they found their release together.

Inara slumped against him, lacking the will or energy to move. She’d been with so many people, and yet none of them had ever touched her with an ounce of Mal’s passion. The difference, she supposed lay in the fact that he cared for her. The others cared only for the illusion she offered, if that. The thought made her smile, a soft, satisfied grin.

Mal drank in the sight of her, so blissfully relaxed and sated. His mind was still reeling, his surprise at her response and the fullness of his own release making him feel boneless, weightless, as though he could fly. He hadn’t felt this good in ages, since before the war. She took him back to those good years before the ‘verse had collapsed in on him. She took him back to the man he had been, the man he could never be again.

Mal cupped her chin, raising her lips up to meet his. “You truly are a wonder, Miz Serra,” he drawled lazily, hating the apprehension he saw in her eyes. Did she expect him to say something cruel and cutting, call her a whore, offer a few credits for a job well done? Mal swallowed hard, hating himself for the way he’d treated her. If she could ever forgive him...

“I’m sorry,” she said, making him quirk an eyebrow in surprise. “We should have done this ages ago.”

Mal let out a breath. At least she wasn’t apologizing, backing out of what had happened, explaining it away as a mistake.

“Why didn’t we?” she continued, settling in against his shoulder, kissing an old scar softly.

“’Cause I’m a mean old man who don’t know his own heart,” Mal supplied, eager to shoulder the blame. They were here, now, together. The past didn’t matter, at least not yet.

“And I’m a whore who couldn’t see the percentage in love,” she said cruelly, avoiding his eyes until Mal made her look at him.

“There’s no call to be so hard on yourself,” he told her. “Even if I’ve been,” he acknowledged. “And you’re right – there ain’t much gain in loving a man like me. I can’t offer you the life you’ve had, and I can’t make any promises that the future will be better.”

Inara’s eyes clouded over and she nodded. Feeling her slip away, Mal continued carefully. “But one thing I can promise you: second we get back to the ship, I’m having a bathtub put in.”

Her laugh carried around the room, sounding like bells.



Thursday, April 27, 2006 3:25 AM


Guh, and awwwwww... 'course, I'm a Silee shipper, but this is some gret stuff. And again...GUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, April 27, 2006 4:58 AM


Wonderfully written, and lord knows, it's about time there two woke up and realized that life passes all to quickly and love is a rare prize to be cherished and nurtured. And a good bath doesn't hurt.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 6:01 AM


Great Job! I just loved this passage-

“And I’m a whore who couldn’t see the percentage in love,” she said cruelly, avoiding his eyes until Mal made her look at him.

That just broke my heart! I liked that they both didn't have any definite answers to their relationship, but the ending was very cute. Can't wait to read your next post!

Thursday, April 27, 2006 6:45 AM


Hub...hub..GUH! Damn...this some hot smut right here, if a bit short;)

I really liked how you had both characters have running moments of introspection about things. Totally in-character and realistic for this kind of scenario:)

Oh...and I am glad Mal managed to pull off a joyful laugh from Inara...all that "Can't offer ya..." fei hua was going to put a big ole' damper on the fun had mere lines above it;)


Thursday, April 27, 2006 9:17 AM


....oh, what dreams are made of...! I feel as guilty as if I had eaten double chocolate cheese cake.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 10:53 AM


Very well done, “’Course, this here’s a mite more pleasant to wash.” Yes she is!
A tub full of seriously hot water is a wonderful thing.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 12:15 PM


Oh yeah, that was so wonderful and Mal's comment about having a bath tub put in the moment he got back on board Serenity was priceless. Thanks a million, this was lovely and well worth waiting for. Ali d :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, April 27, 2006 3:48 PM


That was some great Mal/Inara interaction and smut! You must write more of them, you definitely have their voices down pat. Thanks for sharing!

Sunday, July 2, 2006 4:51 AM


mmm, i need a bath. preferably with a certain captain tightpants *wink*


Wednesday, August 9, 2006 11:00 AM


Awesome fic! But I think 3 months is too long to wait for a new story! Time to break out the pointy sticks and demand another fic. Who's with me?!?

POKE! POKE! ===========> POKE!


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The Bathing-Houses of Sihnon (Mal/Inara: NC-17)
In this post-BDM vignette, Mal partakes of a bath at House Madrassa while Inara awaits her fate with the Guild. Soapy fun ensues.

Cantonese Opera
It's late at night and lonely on <i>Serenity</i>, but at least the music's good.