BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

GOLDY

Verdict - Chapter Five
Saturday, February 11, 2006

Inara’s in pain. Mal tries to help. Sometimes he even does it well. M/I. Post-BDM.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2205    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Title: Verdict – Chapter Five Characters/Pairings: Mal/Inara Spoilers: Series, Big Damn Movie. Summary: Inara’s in pain. Mal tries to help. Sometimes he even does it well. Disclaimer: Not mine. Don’t sue. The usual. Word Count: 2, 538

***

Inara’s shuttle was not what it had once been. When she first moved onboard Serenity, it had taken her days to set up the lavish red drapes and curtains. She’d conducted her work slowly, lovingly, with care to make others feel at ease. Her shuttle was to be a sanctuary.

Now there was a single trunk. Clothes hung out of it, unfolded and strewn about. The shuttle was colder, darker, much like it was when Mal first rented it to her.

In her empty shuttle, Inara rested on the bed, feeling her body ache.

She shifted, trying to find a comfortable position. No luck. She shifted again. Her eyes drifted over the ceiling. Her neck hurt. Her back hurt. Her muscles felt wound tight.

She had another hour to bear until her next round of meds.

She contended herself by remembering she’d been in worse positions than this. Clients whom she couldn’t stand—whom she had to spent the night lying beside, their hands on her skin, their chins on her shoulder. And she would smile and reassure them with her eyes. She could push her own feelings back into a corner of her mind until they became meaningless. Only small irrelevant parts.

She took a deep breath. She imagined the oxygen passing through her body, flowing through each important organ, to the tips of her toes and fingers. She pursed her lips and released the breath slowly.

There was a knock at the door and she sat up, wincing as pain shot up through her torso. She knew she had been waiting for that knock. Ever since Simon released her from the infirmary. Ever since Kaylee frowned and told her they’d be making a hasty departure from Persephone.

Things never seemed to go right, not when it came to Mal. It didn’t seem to matter who he was dealing with. The man was incapable of playing it nice.

And it never stopped her from worrying.

“Come in!”

Mal ducked into the shuttle. As usual, it looked like things had taken a turn for the rough. Clothing torn in several places. A bandage haphazardly tied around his upper-arm. Bleeding cut on his chin.

She let her eyes travel the length of his form, taking note of the new injuries, and determining that he was relatively unscathed.

“Doc told me you were awake,” Mal said without preamble. “Came as soon as I heard.”

Judging by his torn and bloodied clothing, Inara suspected that was true. She couldn’t stop her smile.

“Another successful job, then?”

“As a matter of fact, we’re carrying bona fide cargo at the moment.”

“Legal?”

“Not so much, no,” Mal admitted. “But it should fetch us some money on the black market. And right now? That’s just ‘bout the best we can hope for.”

“I heard,” Inara said. She cleared her throat. “I’ve got some money stored away. Really—it belongs to you and Serenity anyway. You had to give so much up to rescue me—”

“Whoa, now,” Mal said. “That ain’t what we were discussin’. I never said a damn thing ‘bout wanting your money.”

“Yes, but—”

“I came to make sure you were in better health,” Mal said. “So? Doc do his job?”

“I can’t say I’m ready to do backflips, but, yes, I feel fine.” She pressed her lips together. “Or I will feel fine as soon as I take my next dose of painkillers.”

“Good,” Mal said. He hovered awkwardly for a moment, clearly unsure of whether to stay or make an excuse and leave.

Inara kept her face impassive, determined to control her own tumultuous feelings. “I appreciate you taking the time to check up on me.”

“Of course,” he said quietly. “Anything I can do? Need another pillow? Another blanket? I don’t want you to be gettin’ cold.”

Inara considered him, wondering how far his generosity would go.

“Well, there is one thing that might help with the pain…” Inara said. “But I wouldn’t want to trouble you. It might make you uncomfortable.”

Mal took a step closer, eyes fastened to her face. “And what’s that?”

Inara gestured to her trunk. “There’s some incense over there. Would you mind lighting it?”

Mal blinked. “Incense? You askin’ me to light some incense?”

“I’m sorry, is that not manly enough for you?”

He scowled at her before stomping over to her trunk. “My goodwill only goes so far, you know. You better not go tellin’ anyone ‘bout this.”

Mal grumbled as he bent down, his face wearing such intense disgust that Inara had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. She watched in amusement as he fumbled to light the incense stick.

“Are you certain you’ve never done this before?” she asked. “You’re almost a natural.”

“Don’t make fun,” Mal said. “This is costing me a lot.”

“Mmm,” Inara said. “When you’re done, could you brew a pot of tea?”

He shot her a horrified look. “Are you takin’ advantage of my generosity?”

She shook her head and tried to look serious. “Absolutely not. I find tea very soothing.”

“Fine,” Mal snapped as he finally succeeding in lighting the incense. “Why, will you look at that! Managed to light the damn suipian shi all myself.”

“I’m very proud,” Inara said. She breathed in deeply. “Incense releases the body’s tension. Most consider it an excellent way to soothe the spirit.”

“That true?” Mal said. “Well, my spirit ain’t in need of any calming.”

Inara pointed to the dresser and smiled sweetly. “Teapot’s over there. Top shelf.”

Mal stomped over to the dresser. “This is only ‘cause you got shot,” he said, opening the top of the teapot and sniffing. “Ain’t gonna be a daily routine, dong ma?”

“Don’t set anything on fire,” Inara said, yawning.

The scent of fresh incense began to fill the shuttle and Mal frowned. “My spirit’s gonna be all sorts of soothed after this.”

“I doubt that’s possible,” Inara said. She leaned back and closed her eyes, the pain nearly overwhelming.

She listened to Mal brew tea; his cursing and banging. She let it wash over her. The easy camaraderie. The light teasing.

“Thank you, Mal.”

He didn’t respond. She opened her eyes to find him staring at her. It was a softened look and marked by longing he couldn’t quite hide. The moment stretched out before them, their eyes saying more than words.

The teapot shrieked and Mal turned away. His back was to her when he said, “Do you want me to leave?”

She cleared her throat and stared at her hands. “The tea’s brewed, isn’t it?”

“That it surely is,” Mal said. “And you got your incense, all lit and soul-soothing.”

Mal handed her a mug of tea and she cupped it in her hands, letting it warm her palms. She blew on the surface and then raised her eyes. He was staring at her again.

He sat next to her and swallowed. He raised his arm and reached out, seeking silent permission with his eyes. His fingers brushed her cheek. His fingertips were rough, so unlike the refined noblemen she often took on as clients.

“Inara…”

She stayed still as his fingers traced a path over her face, smoothing over her cheek and sliding under her chin.

“I should go,” he said.

He didn’t move.

“You must be busy,” she said. “New cargo—”

“Yeah,” he said, letting his arm drop down to his side. Disappointment flashed in his eyes, but he tried his best to hide it. He stood.

“Take care of yourself,” he said. “Last thing we need is for you to start bleedin’ all over the place again.”

“Mal—”

“Almost time for your next round of meds,” he said. “Should help you sleep.”

“Mal!” she said sharply. She winced in pain, but pushed onward. “Mal, if you’re not terribly busy… well, I would rather not be left alone right now.”

She avoided his eyes.

“You askin’ me to stay, Inara?”

She took a sip of tea to avoid answering. It scalded her tongue, but left her body tingling with warmth.

Mal hovered indecisively for another moment before sitting back down on the edge of her bed.

“You sure you’re wantin’ to stay aboard this ship, Inara?” he said softly. “Might be best for you to be someplace else. Can’t help thinkin’ that you ended up like this on account of me.”

She took another sip of tea. She couldn’t answer. What to say? He was right. Rationality dictated that she leave. Companions could not afford to become attached. Companions lived to serve others. If she decided to stay on Serenity, if she pursued things with Mal, it would be in violation of everything she knew.

He gestured to her stomach and moved closer. “Can I?”

She nodded. He lifted the bottom of her shirt, rolling it up just under her breasts. The bandage was wrapped around her abdomen. Underneath it, Inara knew, was a scar. It was hidden now, but when the bandage came off, it would mark her once perfect skin.

Mal touched her bandage with one hand and the other hovered over her wound. She could almost feel the heat from his palm.

His concentration was almost eerie. “Mal?”

“Nothing,” he said quickly, fixing her shirt back down and smiling at her. “Amazing, ain’t it? Bullet goes in, making a hole in your body ‘til the doc comes ‘round and patches it up.”

“Was that supposed to be comforting?”

“I don’t really know what that was,” he said. “Only—I keep seein’ it, you on the ground, Niska’s face as he raised his gun. I should’ve known better.”

“Oh, Mal…” she said. She wanted to tell him it wasn’t his fault, but it would be hollow. He had no use for her pity. Instead, she reached out and rubbed her thumb along his chin. “Is that a present from today’s hi-jinks?”

“I always get something,” he admitted, catching hold of her hand with one of his.

“I worry about you, Mal,” she whispered, vaguely aware that she was crossing the line. The line had been essential to their relationship. Things had to remain strictly business. That’s how it worked. That was the only thing that made it work.

“I been doing this a long time,” Mal said. “There’s a freedom to a life like this—”

“Taking jobs as they come, going where you please,” Inara finished. “I know.”

“‘Till the Tams came aboard and mucked everythin’ right up,” Mal grumbled. “Wish I never found out ‘bout what happened to those people on Miranda.”

“That’s not true,” Inara said.

“Might be.”

She wanted to push him further. But didn’t.

Instead, she pulled him closer, until she could feel his breath on her face. “Mal…”

“Inara, we do this and there’s gonna be some serious repercussions, it’ll change things—”

“Things changed a long time ago,” she interrupted. “It was only our own inability to face the truth that mucked things up.”

“That ain’t what I’m talking about. If you leave Serenity again…”

“For god’s sake, Mal! Are you incapable of making up your mind? One minute you’re pushing me away, the next you’re threatening—”

He kissed her.

She froze and then relaxed. It had been what she was waiting for, after all. From the moment he pounded on her shuttle door, she knew they would inevitably end up here.

“We ain’t finished with this discussion,” Mal mumbled. “Just a pause for a bit…”

“Oh, Mal. Bee-jway. Please.”

He responded by deepening their kiss. He was gentler with her than she would have expected and she was thankful. She was too sore to be doing this, but she welcomed the distraction. She focused on how his mouth felt on hers, his tongue lazily sweeping across her bottom lip.

His hands wound their way into her hair and he nudged her down against her pillows. She leaned back gratefully, pulling him with her. She liked how it felt with him, fitting so perfectly above her. Protective almost.

He kissed her and touched her, softly. Gently. No pressure. No pushing. He kissed the corner of her mouth and then moved to her cheeks, nuzzling the side of her neck until she squirmed and he smiled.

She wondered. When did a kiss become more than a kiss? Had she ever done this before—kiss for the sake of kissing, with no pressure for more, no expectations? With Mal—these kisses were bestowed freely, because she wanted him to know how badly she—

Cared.

She couldn’t allow herself to indulge in more than that.

She didn’t know how long they stayed there. Kissing. Only kissing. They kissed until the pain in her lower belly cut through the fog in her mind. She placed a hand on his cheek to stop him and he curved his head to kiss her wrist before nodding.

“Meds?”

“Please,” she said.

He jumped up and came back with two pills and a glass of water. She took it gratefully, marveling at how he could continue to surprise her after all this time. His gentleness, his caring, it all came back down to the mystery that was this man.

She ignored the niggling voice that told her she knew him better than she thought.

“Stay with me for a while?” she asked.

He surveyed her for a moment. Perhaps he was thinking about how vulnerable she was all doped up with her face betraying her sudden fear.

“Mal?” she said, heart thumping. If he leaves me now, I don’t know what I’ll do

“Under the covers,” he finally managed. She obeyed and was touched when he pulled them up to her chin, smoothing down the sheet before smiling crookedly.

“Why, Mal…” she said. “I do believe you’re taking good care of me.”

“Don’t sound so shocked,” he said. “I’m a great humanitarian, you know.”

“A humanitarian of what?” she yawned. “Captain Malcolm Reynolds… sticking up for petty thieves the world over…”

He frowned at her use of the word “petty.”

“I stick up for lots of folk,” Mal said. “Just ask that Alliance of yours.”

“It’s not mine,” Inara said, suddenly awake. “I may have supported Unification, but that was a long time ago. Mal… Mal… I was there, I saw what they did to those people…”

“I know,” Mal said. “I’m just runnin’ my mouth, as usual. Can’t seem to help myself from being stupid when it comes to you.”

He sighed and brushed her hair back.

“Inara, I… I want you to stay onboard Serenity.”

“Yes, Captain,” she said, closing her eyes. She reached for his hand. “Will you stay until I fall asleep?”

“In my plans all along,” he said. “All along.”

He kissed her forehead and she couldn’t help her smile. He never used to do that. She watched, first with Kaylee, then with River, as he bestowed small, easy touches on them. Tugging their hair. Quick hugs. Kisses on the cheek.

“Sleep tight, Inara.” He squeezed her hand. “You look beautiful, you know, even with a bandage wrapped ‘round your waist.”

Her eyes were closed. He was certain she hadn’t heard him.

Didn’t matter. Wasn’t any less the truth.

A/N: No, it’s not finished yet. And it’s not going to be quite that easy for them, either. Thanks to everyone who’s left me a little comment or feedback—it always fills me with those mushy warm feelings. *g*

COMMENTS

Saturday, February 11, 2006 9:38 PM

AMDOBELL


Loved this! Ah, Mal looking after Inara is so wonderful and such a joy that Inara is letting him, wanting it even just as much as he does. Isn't love a grand thing? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, February 12, 2006 2:55 AM

ELOISA


This is going really well. I like the way you're treating their relationship - going neither too fast nor too slow. The odds of something going wrong on the job and Mal getting seriously shot this time, though, would seem quite high...

Sunday, February 12, 2006 4:39 AM

TAYEATRA


I love the comment about lighting incense not being 'manly' enough. It just seemed so in-character!

Taya

Sunday, February 12, 2006 4:42 AM

JENNS


I love this series!!!!!!! You write Mal and Inara so very well. I know there will be bumps, but I'm hoping for a Happily-ever-after-as-we-can-get for my favorite couple.

More soon please???!!! :)

Sunday, February 12, 2006 5:36 AM

2X2


Beautiful! I love watching Mal take good care of Inara... and kissing for kissin's sake... <sighs with pleasure> So nice....

Hopefully they'll be able to hold on to this moment in their memories for when the times get rough... I know I will!

2x2

Sunday, February 12, 2006 10:00 AM

CCKE


*squee*
I love it!
They're so cute together!
I'd love to see more :)


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