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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE
"Mal's body is like a map of scars." Post series but written before BDM was released. Mal and Inar get together, Inara's point of view.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1893 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The Art of Scars
There can be beauty without art. I had always thought that the two were inextricably interwoven, like the arms of lovers at the point of climax.
He stood in my room gun ready, eyes darting around searching for the enemy who is not there. I laughed . . . I couldn’t help it, he looked so ridiculous wear that sad excuse for a sari, his face obscured by veils.
Mal struggled out of his headdress, clearly frustrated by my laughter. “I came here to rescue you, woman!”
The mirth died on my lips. This was Ishtar’s amends. This was my one chance to taste happiness.
I walked across the room and pressed him against the door he just burst through. I had to stand on my toes, balancing my hands on his shoulders to reach the mouth I dreamt of. I dragged his face to mine and pressed my lips to his.
At first he kissed me back. Our lips fed on each other, tongues danced. He bent down to balance for our heights. His arms wrapped around my waist. Joy bubbled within me and came out as laughter mixed in with my kiss. He stiffened and roughly pushed me away. “What are you doing?”
Always wrong. Even after years of training and countless clients, I will never know how to handle this man. But I would not be naysayed in this endeavor. I walked back with purpose in my eyes and began to unwrap his sari. “I’m taking what we both want.”
There was no art when we came together. Art requires thought, planning, precision. Love is my art. But the first time, there was only anger, vengeance, passion, need, and so much beauty I thought I would shatter. We attacked more than embraced each other, acting on instinct. Both of us seeking to break the other’s soul . . . searching for that admission: *I was wrong to leave you;* *I was a fool to let you go.* We both wanted capitulation, without having to sacrifice anything of ourselves. Neither compromise nor complication would do. In the end the victory was mutual, our surrender absolute. We lay in each other’s arms drenched in sweat and knew we would never let go.
The second time was gentle. We reclined against the door. Our fingers interlaced. My head rested against his damp chest as his hand lovingly stroked my hair. Time lost meaning. We may have been like that for ten minutes . . . an hour. Maybe we’ve always been there and the rest is just a dream.
Mal lifted my hand to his lips and gently kissed my palm. Slowly he worked his way to my wrist and up my arm. He stopped at the blooming bruise. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“It’s alright,” I soothed. “I’ve always bruised easily.” I reached around caressing his back where my nails scored his flesh. “You didn’t exactly come out . . . unscathed yourself,” I giggled.
He gently lifted my chin forcing me to look into those oh so serious blue eyes. “I don’t mean that. I don’t even mean what just happened. Ah Christ, ‘Nara, I’m so sorry for all the times I hurt you.”
I stroked his face. “It’s our way. We will hurt each other, again and again, before all this is done.” Before he could turn from this truth, I locked him in my embrace. “But we also heal each other as well. Isn’t that what love is?” I kissed him then, in earnest, accepting his apology, taking it in to me, and giving my own. We made love again, only this time it was different. He touched me as if I were made out of the finely wrought silk. He almost seemed scared that his callused hands would ruin the weave of my flesh.
I’ve had superb lovers, some objectively better than Mal. But only one other has ever touched me like that. His tenderness cut me like a knife and tears of excruciating pleasure run down my cheeks. Mal stopped my movements, “What’s wrong?”
I smiled, the laughter spilling forth again. “Nothing,” I said rubbing at my eyes. “I’m just happy.”
Mal’s expression went from perplexed to relieved to slightly annoyed and settled on amused. “You know you’re insane?”
“Only because you make me so.”
Mal used my cortex link to wave to the crew. They all appeared on the screen, with anxious looks written across their faces. “Everything seems to be alright here,” he began. “But I may need a few more days to check out the situation.”
Kaylee could barely hide her smile. Wash was positively pink. Jayne blurted out, “She that good, Mal?!” This earned him a punch on the arm from Simon and a cutting glance from River as she tapped the side of her head. Even the Shepherd looked slightly embarrassed.
Fortunately, Zoe could be relied upon to remain stoic. “Shi shi, sir. Got a job on Greenleaf anyway. We won’t be able to pick you up for at least week. Have fun.” The link went dead.
Mal stared disbelievingly at the screen. “You set this up didn’t you?”
My hands went up in a sign of protest, “I had no hand in bringing you here.”
He stalked me across the room driving me towards the bed where he tackled me. “You had that old dame wave me and tell me you were in trouble,” he demanded tickling me into submission. “Damn it woman, if you wanted me so bad all you had to do was ask.”
“I swear, I had nothing to do with any of this,” I panted out between snorts of laughter.
“Then why did she wave me?” He asked in all seriousness.
“Fate is a fickle mistress, Mal. It’s best not to question her.”
We spent two whole days in my room. Food was discretely left at the door with a light knock. Otherwise, we had all that we needed in each other. I have never seen Mal like this. He seemed so young, so free. We talked most of the time. He told me about growing up on Shadow and the War. Most of the stories were funny. Some were not. I did as my heart, not my training, bid me; I listened drinking it all in, the good with the bad, loosing myself in him.
But he also asked questions. They are dangerous in that they require answers. For a while I silenced by distracting his body, while gratifying my own. But he caught on to my game.
“No, Inara, I want . . . I need to know why you became a companion.”
“I was born here. I didn’t exist before I entered these walls.”
“That ain’t an answer.”
“You have shown me the verse,” I said pulling him up from the bed. “Let me show you my home.”
I took him around House Madrassa. Through it official welcoming suites lined with priceless objet d’art that did not impress him. I tried to describe our ceremonies and rituals, but I could tell that he was uncomfortable and felt out of place within the halls.
I led him to the Maiden House where the children receive their lessons. His scorn was palpable. “All them gonna be companions?”
“No. When they come of age they must choose. Those that do not are sent to different academies where they can receive the training best suited to their gifts.”
He looked at me with distrust, “That the party line?”
“No. The Guild would never admit that anyone does not want to be a companion, but many leave. A companion stands constantly at the crossroads of life. A true companion will choose again and again the way of sacred service.”
He considers for a moment and then asks, “What happens to them that don’t?”
I took him to the Garden of the Lost. I led him to the cherry tree that Nandie and I loved and show him our initials. “No one ever truly leaves the Guild,” I explained. “When Anathema, those who leave, die part their ashes are buried in this garden so they can return to their brothers and sisters.” We sat there a while and mourned for Nandie.
Lastly, I took him to the Treasure Trove. “This is where companions come when we are too old to serve in the traditional manner. This is where we die.”
Until that point, Mal followed where I led, listening as much as his nature would allow. But he froze up at the door to the Trove. “My mama died in a place like that. I don’t need to see it. You ain’t gonna end that way. I won’t let that happen.”
In the short time we had spent together, Mal touched me in so many ways; none were dearer or poignant than this. “It’s not what you think. This is a place where we celebrate life in the midst of death.”
I firmly took his hand and led him in. Music and perfume filled the air. Girls danced. Boys sang. Others sat around the feet of the Xu listening to their tales. An odd client or two sat earnestly talking to the Crones hoping to gain wisdom from their aged voices.
I could tell he’s more stunned than when Atherton challenged him to the sword fight. “Huh,” was all he could say.
“We call this Treasure Trove, because it holds the collective wisdom of the Guild. Companions come here to learn true beauty, the kind that does not fade. Clients pay thousands of credits and wait many months for a single hour of conversation with one of its inhabitants. It is a great honor, that they let me bring you here.” He still looked awe struck and doubtful. “Come, there is someone I want you to meet.”
I led him out of the common room to Ishtar’s receiving chamber. She sat there like a queen as a young novice with the face of a china doll combed her long white hair.
I bowed deeply. “Shen Sheng Wuh de Ma, may I present Captain Reynolds.” I turned to Mal willing him to respect authority for once in his life. “Mal, this is my Mother.”
Ishtar dismissed the novice. “Go back to your lessons Mai.” She then scrutinized him holding up her quizzing glass. I think both Mal and I held our breadth waiting for her pronouncement. She clapped her hands and cackled with glee. “Every inch the pirate prince I imagined. Oh Inara, were I a bit younger I would take this one for myself.”
In spite of my training, I blushed deeply. Mal gave her his best rogue smile and shook her hand heartily, “Pleased to meet you Ma’am.” They spent the next few minutes talking like they’ve known each other forever. Ishtar told shameful stories about how clumsy I used to be as a novice. Mal countered with tales of my penchant for kissing nefarious women. I must tell him the truth about that some day.
The interview ended and the wicked old woman soundly kissed him on both cheeks. “You must take care of my ray of light. Hide her from the Sun as long as you can.”
Mal grinned like a schoolboy as we left the Treasure Trove. “That there was a mighty fine lady! But what she mean with that sun stuff?”
“She’s old,” I snapped. “Ishtar’s given to flights of fancy.”
“’Nara . . .”
I apologized and attempted to brush the episode away with a smile. But Ishtar presumed too much. I cannot go back with Mal and that knowledge is eating me alive.
It is done.
We lay in bed laughing so much it hurt. Tears poured from my eyes, but Mal won’t stop.
“He actually asked my permission to court Kaylee. You should have seen the boy’s face. He looked like I was gonna throw him out the air lock. Let him think that for a few minutes too.”
“Mal!” I knew these stories. Kaylee waived me when Simon first declared his intentions. Since then I received regular updates on every step of their burgeoning romance. Still, it sounded new and different coming from him.
“Now, I don’t approve of ship board romances,” he said in his best captainy voice. “But if the boy didn’t make his move soon, I was gonna to take to trippin’ him in the hope that he would inadvertently fall on top of her.”
“And they’re happy?”
“It’s so sweet I might have to take insulin shots. With that and Zoe pregnant, the boat’s becomin’ downright domesticated.”
I snuggled closer to him. “Oh how you suffer,” I sarcastically crooned.
“Yep, it’s a burden,” he smiled as he tries to catch his breadth from laughing. “Speculate, it won’t be no time ‘fore Jayne and Book are seekin’ my blessin’.”
“That’s not funny,” I snorted clutching at my aching belly.
“Well it’s better that Jayne and River hookin’ up.” We both fell into a new fit of giggles. “That would be truly creepifyin’.”
“Merciful Buddah, I’ve missed you. . . all of you.” I should not have said that. But words, once spoken, cannot be taken back.
A sly smile stole across Mal’s lips. “So, I take that to mean that you’ll be comin’ wit’ me when the boat returns?”
I sat up wrapping my arms around my legs. I could feel the end coming. Best to get it over with quickly. “That depends on you,” I murmured.
Mal failed sense my change in mood. He started nuzzling at my neck, which under normal circumstances would drive me crazy. “All right woman,” he whispered. “I’ll pleasure you again. But I swear you’ll be the death of me.”
I can’t think when he touches me.
I left the bed and stood across the room where he couldn’t reach me. “I would require certain concessions before returning to Serenity.”
He knew I was serious now. This was the conversation we’ve been avoiding since he came for me. “’Nara, I . . . I need you. Serenity ain’t been the same. I guess Kaylee and the others might have waived you about what a ripe bastard I’ve become since you left. But I,” he paused searching for the right words. “I can’t bear the thought of someone else touchin’ you. Don’t make me promise somethin’ I can’t do.”
I felt my anger rising. Good, it will be my one true companion now that he’s gone. “Do you think I can bear your smuggling? The petty risks you take?” I demanded.
“It ain’t the same,” he said rising up to stand his ground. “What I do is honest.”
“No Mal, it is the same. We both fuck people for a living. The only difference is my clients are always satisfied when I’m done.”
“I’m gonna pretend you didn’t say that. You sound like a . . .”
“A what, Mal? A whore? Look around you. This is all I am! This is all I know! What would I be if I’m not Serenity’s ‘Ambassador’?”
“You would be with me. I would take care you.”
I shook my head in disgust. “And you think that would make me happy? I want to be with you more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life. But I won’t give up being a companion to become your private whore.” The words sounded harsh even in my ear. I tried to soften them with the truth. “I won’t leave my life to watch you die.”
He sat back down on the bed in defeat, his head buried in his hands. “What do you want then?”
“I want a relationship of equals. You need me to give up my life. I need you to give me part of yours.”
“I have fifty thousand credits saved. I want to buy a quarter interest in Serenity.”
He stood up and walked past me, scooping his shirt off of the floor. “You gorram core folk think you can buy what ever you want! What comes next Inara, you gonna tell me where to fly, why jobs to take?”
“Yes, I would like to have some say in the way Serenity’s affairs are conducted. We can’t go on the way we used to. With the Alliance still looking for River and Simon and Zoe’s baby on the way; it’s time you grow up and realize there are lives at stake.”
“No whore’s gonna tell me how to run my ruttin’ boat.”
“Well that didn’t take long. I guess I should be grateful that you didn’t call me that in front of my Mother. But this is my world, my rules and that’s the last time you will ever call me a whore. Get out.”
“Fuck you Inara,” he shouted slamming the door on his way out.
“You already did,” I whispered to an empty room. I pulled a bottle of rice wine and started packing.
The sound of someone banging at my door woke me up. “Go away.” I whimpered. I was still too hung over and hurt to face the day. The knocking persisted. “I’m not receiving anyone today!” For two seconds there was blessed silence, then wrapping that threatened to split my head open continued. “Gen houzi bi diou shi,” I cursed wrenching open the door. “What part of go . . .,” Mal stood at my threshold with a sheepish grin, “away did you . . . What are you doing here?”
“Giving us what we both want,” he said seconds before he lifted me up and passionately kissed me.
It took all my strength to push him away. “No. This is not how it happens.”
Mal smile his patented go se eating grin. “You can’t fool me ‘Nara. Well you can . . . you did. But I’m wise to your game. I ain’t gonna let you push me away.”
It was my turn to be dumfounded. “Huh?”
“I’m callin’ your bluff lady. You want part of the ship it’s yours. You want a voice at the table, that’s fine.” He got down on one knee and drew a small velvet pouch out of his pocket. From its depths he produced a simple platinum band, “Miss Serra would you do me the honor of bein’ my partner?”
“Mal, I . . .” I took the ring from him watching the light play off the engraved words, *You and no other.* “If I wear this, it does not mean you own me.”
He knew he had me. “’Course not, consider this in lieu of a contract.” Playing with his suspenders and looking incredibly pleased with himself, he continued, “’Sides I couldn’t afford the payments on your ass anyway.”
I slipped the ring on my finger. “I going to regret this, aren’t I?”
“No you ain’t. Not if I can help it,” he said tenderly. “But I got some conditions of my own.”
“Well number one, Serenity’s barely worth ten thousand credits. I ain’t gonna begin by cheatin’ you outta money you earned honestly. I’ll take five. Gonna use it for repairs mostly and to pay the crew back wages, plus some much needed bonuses. The rest of that money’s yours. I always kinda fancied the idea of bein’ kept by a rich woman.”
“Done. But considering her stated net worth, five thousand seems a bit high.”
“Brings me to condition number two, Zoe. She been wit’ me since the beginin’. Serenity’s as much hers as it is mine. I can’t take you on as a partner without offering her the same deal. She ain’t got the money to buy her way in and won’t take no charity from me. Could be, she’d take a loan from you.”
I had to clamp my hand over my mouth to cover my growing smile. Mal has the most annoying habit of giving me new reasons to love him every day. “Done, anything else, Captain?”
“Yeah, one last thing.” He used his callused fingers to wipe away the makeup my tears washed down my face. “No more pushin’, no more runnin’ from either of us. We do this, it’s for the long haul.”
“It won’t be easy,” I warned. “We’ll fight, we always do.”
“Yep, I hear tell that lots of couples do that.”
I signed, “Most couples aren’t as stubborn as we are. What happens if we can’t work it out?”
“Well then, we’ll have just shoot each other, cause even death ain’t gonna take you from me.”
I could only laugh, because I knew he was dead serious, “You’re psychotic.”
“Yeah, that’s why you love me.” We began kissing, and then we said no more.
Mal’s body is like a map of scars. Only a skilled cartographer can read it. Each line, each welt tells a story of its own. Tales of pain, sacrifice, honor, and love. Enemies, friends, and family permanently etched into the fabric of his skin.
I watched him while he sleeps. The moonlight was harsh making the damaged tissue stand out in bold relief against his blanched skin.
He has keloids around his left ear left from Niska. The others fought to free him. So did I. Battlefields come in all shapes and sizes. There is a small mark on his chest right above his heart. He stabbed himself so Serenity could live. Before that I loved the ship as a home, after that night I hated her as a rival. She almost stole Mal from me.
And then there are the scars on his shoulder and side. These are mine. Blood shed in the name the honor he didn’t believe I had. I kiss these scars because they are precious to me. I nip because I resent them and what they meant.
A bullet wound in his belly where Patience shot him the first time. Small lines around his wrists from Alliance shackles. A long scar running the length of his thigh from a bull that got “uppity” when he was nothing more than a boy. There are others, too many. I don’t know their stories. Maybe I will someday and then he won’t have to bear them alone.
I looked at myself naked pressed against him. My body was smooth. The bruises have faded. Not a single imperfection to distract eye or displease the hand. All my scars are deep within, hidden where no one can ever find them. I could speak; give him the compass, show him the way. But my map leads to the past and therein lies only despair. I should have left him, but in the end I was not that strong. So I closed my eyes and pressed closer to his warmth. I let my fingers run over his body memorizing every line, every fissure, every beautiful flaw that makes him . . . him.
Mal’s body is like a map of scars. And if I read it carefully, closely, then maybe we can both find our way home.
A/N: This is actually part of a larger series I fear I may never complete. This particular segment is also posted on another sight, so if it looks familiar I appoligize. I was inspired to post it after reading a posting for M/I fic in the blue sun room. Please respond to that thread, I need more M/I fic.
Phaedra (a bad luck name)
Tuesday, March 28, 2006 11:08 PM
Wednesday, March 29, 2006 6:42 AM
Wednesday, March 29, 2006 4:50 PM
Thursday, March 30, 2006 3:52 AM
Thursday, March 30, 2006 4:08 AM
Thursday, March 30, 2006 6:03 PM
Saturday, April 29, 2006 7:49 PM
Friday, May 12, 2006 11:14 AM
Friday, June 02, 2006 4:07 AM
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