Flirting with Disaster
Sunday, February 12, 2012

Everyone needs a hobby. (Valentine's fic, Mal/Inara, some Zoë/Wash)


Serenity's galley was quiet and empty, with a glow like candlelight, and Captain Reynolds had sat down at the table for a stimulating evening of balancing their budget. Mostly this involved more staring off into space than peering into his hidebound ledgers, with the occasional foray behind the stove top to brew up some more tea or up to the helm to watch the stars inch past. Preoccupying himself doing anything but the numbers, because the numbers always came out into the red, and he had enough to worry about. His mind was working on their next meet when they hit planetside; they'd used the contact before, but he never could tell when greed would get the better of someone, or if angry vicious crimelords had gotten to them and set him up for a nice greet and beat.

He sighed, ran a hand through his brown fringe, and picked up the stylus, intending to get back to work. That is, until the wayward shuttle connected with a far away echo, and he heard his elegantly composed tenant cursing his name, family lineage, and a plethora of barnyard animals that supposedly passed for his ancestry. Before he had time to be concerned for why she was back so soon, Inara strode in on slippered feet, absolutely furious, and planted her hands at her waist.

Even glaring like she was, she was a vision, striking in burgundy and embroidered star-bursts, made up and dressed for show at the regale she'd been to with her client. The dress seemed to float off her bare shoulders, a suggestion of long, sheer sleeves trailing down her arms and flaring at her sides like sparkling fairy wings, a scattering of beads shimmering in the half-light. Her hair was pulled back into a black coil, carefully escaped curls arranged around her face, her eyes edged by some intricate design in henna.

Her appearance, like a flower that by all rights had no business being on his boat, was less disconcerting than having not a clue why Inara was fuming at him this time. Usually he knew full damn well, because he liked to provoke her just to watch the fireworks.

Mal ignored her. This would be good. One of their mock battles was just the kind of distraction from boredom he needed. Finally she moved to the side of his chair, and he could smell her perfume, some subtle transcendent blend that brought him to mind of red roses. He looked up as though surprised to see her. "Inara! That was fast."

She saw right through him, of course, which was the whole point. Her lips thinned at the implication and his barely contained mirth, and she dropped a pad of paper covered in his handwriting down in front of him. "Actually, nothing happened, because Councilor Yin found this."

He leafed through the pages and stopped to skim over one of the more racier passages. His eyebrows rose. Yeah, that would explain the anger. Play it cool, Reynolds. He tried for a confused and carefully innocent act. "You write stories about the 'sun touched glory' of my skin and the 'man-li-tude' of my being?" he asked, skeptically.

Her dark eyes blazed, like sparks from flint and tinder. Sun touched, no, but scorched by her, gladly. "Yes Mal," she bit out, her cultured voice clipped, feisty and dangerous as a hissing cat. "I have fantasies in which you rescue me from an evil nudist colony. In nothing but a loincloth. While I'm naked."

He grinned. "Kind of you to say." The look she gave him could have frozen steel, and his smile grew. "And what else do y'think about me?"

"Nothing that bears repeating," she answered, a vague threat that she might slap him if he kept it up.

It was a trick not to laugh. "Careful now," he deadpanned, "Y'might burn my virgin ears."

She simpered at him, sweetly acidic. "Speaking of virgin," Inara deliberately left the insult unsaid, her tone full of inflection about his backwards inexperienced ideas, "a human sacrifice doesn't normally involve an orgiastic rite."

Mal paused to think that over. "But the woman is sacrificing her virtue," he argued. "What else would it mean?"

Inara rolled her eyes. "And, I know you think you were being very clever with your metaphors, but I don't need to be saved from the machinations of the Guild." That's what she thought, but even though he might not be the best informed in all things carnal, he wasn't blind. He's seen her come back upset from some of her clients, and he knew, from personal experience and the sword he'd taken through his side when he challenged one, that they mistreated her. Even if they didn't bruise her, even if there weren't tears, there were other ways to degrade and devalue a person. She sold herself off and told him off and said this was the only job she could ever work. They didn't see her worth, and sometimes Mal thought, all her prickly defenses aside, that she didn't see her worth either.

He'd been relieved to hear her say her client hadn't even touched her. Though in this case, he couldn't exactly see the connection between a little smut and Inara rushing back to Serenity to confront him over it. Unless, maybe, had she liked it? This evening was getting even more promising. "So what was Yin's objection? Not a fan of erotic prose?"

She gave him an inscrutable look. "He no longer required my services."

He pushed the notebook away quickly, and scrambled up from the table, wiping his hands on his shirt. Oh Lord. That was too much information. Ruined a perfectly good piece of fancy for him. He looked over at her, horrified, to see her hiding a smile of her own. He frowned. "Fine, keep your secrets."

Which raised the question, how had she gotten a hold of that story anyway? He'd left her a love poem once, just to annoy her, but he was sure he'd kept this one to himself. Too revealing, not enough irony. He gave it some thought, and stomped over and keyed the ship's intercom.

"Wash. Inara's got her hands on something obscene. You know anything about this?"

It was Zoë who answered back, wry as ever. "It's been that long for you, sir?" There was something going on in the background, odd noises and such, and his first mate sounded almost breathless, and not a little impatient. Then she giggled. Zoë. The scary spectre of death who'd killed several dozen Alliance soldiers back in the war. That just wasn't right.

Skipping right past what the hell her husband was doing at the moment, this was important. This was thievery, and not the kind they did to everyone else, but on his ship, from his quarters. "Wash, there's a tablet here and I'd really like to know how it got in Inara's shuttle."

There was more rustling and a few murmurs, and his ears really were burning by this point, but he stood his ground. It was the principle of the thing. Finally, Wash answered. "I dunno, Mal," he said, disgruntled, the words laden with sarcasm. "Maybe there's another pilot out there with a penchant for practical jokes, and a captain who pines constantly -"

"All right, all I needed to know," Mal interrupted hurriedly. "Go back to your wife." Mercifully, the connection closed. He glanced at Inara, wondering if she'd heard too much.

She appraised him, choosing her next move in their game of wits. "I'll inform you, the next time I visit a nudist colony." She gathered up the papers and took his dreams in writing with her.


Sunday, February 12, 2012 5:00 PM


Just a silly little thing, not even sure if it makes sense, but hopefully it's fun still.

Sunday, February 12, 2012 5:07 PM


Thanks to EB and Platonist for looking this over.

Monday, February 13, 2012 4:15 PM


I think it makes sense - and I think it's delightful :) Wash is awfully rascally, Mal had better watch out!

Monday, February 13, 2012 5:40 PM


Mal would get poetic when thinking on Inara, sweet fic:) and I'm glad Inara came back early to banter with Mal.

Monday, February 13, 2012 6:59 PM


GR: Huh! I didn't get a notice you'd posted. Good seeing you. Wash is in TROUBLE... Mal has his own scheme in mind now. A prank requires a prank.

Platonist: Despite the plot and kinda trashy content of the story, Mal is a poet at heart, I imagine there was some prettiness in the writing, and as Mal says, his feelings might have been a little too obvious.

After all, Inara does decide to take the story with her in the end... Clearly she doesn't completely dislike it, and might have other motivations for picking a fight with Mal. :)

Monday, February 13, 2012 7:10 PM


I'm thinking Mal first turned to creative writing as a way of escaping from creative bookkeeping. You know he enjoyed writing that little fantasy story. I like how he plays it cool, beginning when Inara relates him to the various barnyard animals, and keeps up the attitude...up to the point where he asks "Wash. Inara's got her hands on something obscene. You know anything about this?" Zoe's response absolutely cracked me up.

Monday, February 13, 2012 7:23 PM


Ha! Clever. But I could imagine some... INTERESTING scribbles written into the margins of his tables. On the other hand, I could also imagine Mal just having a penchant for writing, as a logical offshoot from the reading he seems to do in his spare time.

Oh yeah, he enjoyed writing it as much as one of us enjoy writing stories about him and Inara.

As for Zoe... Mal couldn't be too specific and say outright that Inara found a smutty story he wrote about her. Zoe's comments are, of course, entirely justified. I wouldn't be surprised if underneath her disapproval of Wash messing with Mal and matchmaking a little, if she also thinks maybe Wash has the right idea.

Monday, February 13, 2012 7:37 PM


one of these days I ought to look into some of the other fanfic characters on Serenity might write. They all might write a little. Even Inara, though she might also hide it in poetry, a little less obviously than Mal.

Monday, February 13, 2012 8:35 PM


We've already had an example of Wash's extemporaneous poetry in Shindig...I'm sure Mal would not hesitate for a moment should he happen to come upon one of those odes in written form.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 11:19 AM


Alternatively, Mal finds evidence of Wash's heretofore unknown music career...

Sunday, June 17, 2012 2:41 AM


'Greet and beat' - heh. :)

The idea of Mal indulging some literary talent to make Inara's life more difficult (or simply entertain himself) is adorably absurd, and you take that idea and then spin heaps and heaps of snark around it! Hee! I giggled and giggled, especially when you weaved in Zoe. The dry delivery is just... spot on. Beautiful. :)

I would adore to see the love poem he left as a practical joke. It is sure to be a masterpiece of taking the truth and stretching it to painful hilarity. Mal has a hand for cutting both ways like that... Hee. Thanks for sharing this!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012 2:25 PM


This story is basically the spiritual and kinda-sorta actual sequel to "Prank," in which Mal writes a love poem for Inara intended to completely annoy her. But now Mal's talents have backfired on him...

As fun as it is to just play Inara and Mal off each other, involving the crew adds just that little extra fun, so getting to write Zoe's reactions (and Wash! who I don't get a chance much with all the post-movie stuff) is always a treat.


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