big_damn_hero: (Mal Pensive)
[personal profile] big_damn_hero
Four days ago, they'd parted ways with the Operative for the last time. They'd buried Wash, Book, and Mr. Universe, and finished fixing all the hurts to SERENITY that was in their power to repair. Four days they'd been flying, and it was three more days to the nearest planet where they could fix that gorram panel done flown right off again...

But that wasn't his biggest concern. No, his biggest go tsao de concern was the new...*old* distraction occupying one of his shuttles again. And after recent events...Mal decided he believed in more than just the exposure of Miranda. And if he was going to be a man to believe in something, by God he was gonna act on it.

So it was that he found himself once again plowing uninvited into Inara's shuttle. "What's your gorram Guild got to say about courting?"

Inara paused in the middle of unfolding some clothing from the trunk she'd left behind in her shuttle, sighed heavily and glanced at him over her shoulder. "Hello, Malcolm," she replied with quiet sarcasm. "Please, come in."

"Thanks, don't mind if I do...what's the Guild got to say about Companions havin' fellas or ladies of their own?"

Inara stared at him for a moment, immediately sensing the dangerous place this conversation could be heading. "That it's a very bad idea," she replied slowly. "And *strongly* discouraged against."

"Discouraged...but it ain't forbidden, is it?" he pressed stubbornly, moving further into the shuttle and closer to her. "I wanna know, it allowed?"

"Some houses are more strict than others," Inara replied vaguely, turning her attention back to the task at hand. "Dating outside of work is...*very* taboo in the Guild, Mal. While it's not *expressly* forbidden, the rules and restrictions placed on an extracurricular relationship are so...unconventional, that most companions don't bother to engage in one."

"But it can be done."

"...Yes. It can be done."

"Good." he replied flatly, moving until he stood right before her. "'Cause you and me got business to settle."

"Mal..." Inara held her hand up and took a step back, her tone carrying a clear warning. She didn't like where this was going, and thought it best to make sure it went elsewhere. "I told you, I'd pay my rent for my time on board, the same as I always have."

"You ain't gonna be able to pay this time." he replied honestly, deep blue eyes hard with something that was still undefinable. "I'm gonna make gorram sure of that."

Inara was taken aback by that comment, and stared at him in surprise and confusion. "Ex--ex*cuse* me?"

"My rates just went up." he replied evenly, an odd sort of calm hanging around him as he gazed down at her. "A *lot.* So I'm here offerin' you a business proposal to settle yer tab with me. You end up decidin' you wanna go? You gotta pay up one of two ways...either you give me what you owe me..." He paused, leaning in a bit so they were nearly nose to nose, "...or you give me everything else."

Inara shook her head slowly, closed her eyes and laughed, softly and mirthlessly. "'re tired. We've all been through a lot, and Wash and Shepherd Book's passing effected you more than you want to admit. Because of that, I'm going to pretend this conversation never took place." She paused, tilting her head to look up at him, her features softening a little. "Don't do this, Mal. Please."

"I have to." he replied quietly, his own expression softening. "Inara...I *have* to. When you believe in gotta be willing to follow it to the bloody end, and don't think I don't know this could get real bloody, figurative-like. I *know*, Inara...but lies don't get us nowhere but full of more lies. Runnin' ain't done us a lick of good so far, what makes you think it's gonna do a lick of good now?"

"I didn't--I never *said* I was planning to leave again, Mal! But you cannot just--you can't *blackmail me* into--" Inara shook her head again and turned away from him, walking back over to her trunk. "This entire conversation is insane."

Mal didn't allow her to distance herself, advancing and reaching out to catch her elbow. "You 'n me...*that's* insane." he shot back bluntly. "What I don't get is how you could stand up to that gorram fong luh Alliance you love so ruttin' much, nearly get yerself killed, then bolt like a scared colt at the idea of layin' a few cards on the table to the man done saved yer neck a time or two!"

"Saved my neck?! Mal, it's usually because of you that my head ever ended up on the cutting block in the first place!!" Biting back the rest of the angry words she *could* say, Inara sighed softly and reached up to lay her hand lightly against his cheek; yet somehow, despite their closeness and the tenderness in the gesture, it didn't feel like the touch of a lover. "You know it wouldn't work, Mal. You and's too complicated."

"I don't *know* a ruttin', mother humpin' thing." he shot back harshly, grabbing her shoulders almost roughly as his eyes narrowed. "But I *believe*...complicated or no, that all the go se just might be worth the trouble."

Then without waiting for an answer, he hauled her against him and kissed her, hard and demanding.

Inara barely managed a squeak of protest before Mal jerked her to him and kissed her hard enough to make her teeth bite into her lip. Her hands fisted in his shirt and shoved him back, lashing out with one hand to slap him across the cheek. She just stood there for a few seconds, staring at him, eyes blazing and chest heaving...then promptly reached up, threaded her fingers through his hair and hauled him down to kiss him again.

Mal wasn't surprised when she shoved him, and even less surprised when she slapped much so that he barely felt the sting, only tasted the lingering sweetness of her lips on his before she was hauling him close again, almost vicious as she fused their mouths together.

And that was the one thing above all else that he *had* been expecting.

Backing her against the wall of the shuttle, Mal gave in for one blessed moment, kissing her with nearly three years worth of pent-up, frustrated passion. Pinning her body to his, he growled at the feel of her soft curves against him, delicate teeth and full lips devouring him the way he'd dreamed about in all his darkest, lust-hazed fantasies.

The noise that she made when he pressed her against the wall could've been taken as approval or protest--at that point, she was have trouble making the distinction herself. His lips were warm and dry, a little rough, but the way he kissed her...she'd never been kissed like that before. In such a raw, passionate, *needful* way...

Gentler this time, but with no less insistance, Inara laid her hands agains this chest and pushed, forcing enough distance between them for her to catch her breath and calm her rapidly beating heart. "We can't," she breathed, closing her eyes against the words but knowing too well that they needed to be said. "I'm sorry. I can't."

His head was spinning, and his world was all fogged up...but his purpose had never been clearer.

"You ain't got a choice." he rasped softly, reaching up to cradle her cheek in his hand, urging her to open her eyes and meet his. "And neither do I...I can't do this neither, Inara, but I got to, don't ya see? We got no place else to go and nowhere else to turn 'cept each other. I fought in the war, and I damn near got myself killed showin' that holo to the whole gorram 'verse, and I will not hesitate to charge you for my time so's you can never pay and send you runnin' like hell for yer life from them that would collect my due *just* to make you admit that when you're bedding the whole ruttin' *verse*, it's ME that you're dreamin' about at night."

"That's...that's astounding arrogance, Mal, even for you," Inara replied evenly, gently moving his hand away from her face and trying to step away. "I'm not going to claim my feelings for you aren't real...but they're also incredibly complicated. You're standing there, telling me there's no choice--you couldn't handle being in a relationship with a working Companion, Mal. It would drive you mad."

"I ain't arguin' with you, Inara. Yer right." he replied honestly, refusing to let her move away with an arm around her waist to hold her to him. "It would drive me fong luh in a heartbeat...but I know it wouldn't last forever." He paused, leaning in to kiss her again, hard but quick, drawing back only enough to speak, his voice harsh with emotion. "That's why you run so gorram hard and fast, 'Nara...'cause the second you admit you want me, that you can't *breathe* without me? You won't be able to work no more, 'cause you won't be able to touch a man without wishin' he were me."

"You're asking me to give up my career," Inara breathed, grasping his arms tightly as though she were preparing to push away, but made no other move to do so. "You're asking me to give up the only...*trade* I know. What then, Mal? I have to earn a living, just like everyone else in the universe."

"I ain't askin' you to do a gorram thing." he growled, shocking the hell out of himself by letting one hand trail up her side, body pushing her back harder against the wall, suddenly and irrationally consumed with the urge to rip the pretty gold dress she was wearing right off her ruttin' body. "I'm tellin' you that you will..and not 'cause I said, you'll do it 'cause you want to...'cause you won't be able to stand letting another man touch you." He paused, leaning in to kiss her again. "I hate what you do...but I know you want me, and with the Shepherd's good Lord as my witness, I'm gonna make you want me so badly that you hate it, too." He paused, then flashed her one of his usual smug, infuriating smirks. "Least, that's if'n you don't already."

Inara tried to wriggle away from him, but with her back against the wall and him so close, she ended up pressing herself against him even harder. "Let go," she half-panted against his lips. "Don't do this. Don't *force* this, Mal. This isn't right and you know it."

"Then stop hiding." he shot back fiercely. "Stop running, stop fighting, and stop turnin' yer back on me and lay it out. You want me or you don't. You love me or you don't. You can live without me or you can't. Tell me you love me, tell me you hate me, but whatever it is, tell me the gorram ruttin' *truth*, Inara. And you tell me right this very second."

"*Stop it*, let *go!*"

"NO!" he snapped. "Not again...not this time!"

"Ta ma de hun dan, Mal, I can't tell you what you want to hear," Inara insisted, her tears of frustration spilling into her eyelashes. "Regardless of how I feel about you...we can't *have* anything. We're not like Zoe and Wash. If I give up my career, I'll resent you for forcing me to. If we tried to have a relationship outside of my work, you'll grow to hate me! It all ends the same way no matter what we do, and I won't make myself that vulnerable! "

"And I won't live another day wondering...aching for the one thing I want, and I *refuse* to give you even a *chance* of leavin' again 'cause yer scared...I'm scared, too, you think I ain't?!" he snapped, on the verge of yelling. "I'm terrified...I hate you for mixin' me up so bad, and I'm gorram scared to death of the things you started mixin' in my gut the second I first laid eyes on you, but the difference between us is that I believe, Inara...I *believe*. You tell me there's nothing for me here and I'll go...if it's the truth. If you really don't want me, if you really couldn't care less if I let you go or tell me and you're free of me for good."

"There *isn't* anything here for you, Mal," Inara replied, somewhat sadly. "I'm sorry, but that's what I've been trying to tell you. Just wanting something isn't enough."

Mal stilled for a moment, gazing down at her relentlessly. "Do you love me?"

Inara opened her mouth, fully intending to lie and tell him no, she didn't love him, she *wasn't* in love with him...but Malcolm Reynolds had the kind of eyes that made it hard to be untruthful, when they got a certain look to them. "I--I care about you more than I should."

"That ain't what I asked."

"That's the only answer I can give you!"

"Woman, you are tryin' my gorram patience." he snarled before leaning in to kiss her fiercely again.

"Mal--mmm!" He cut off her protest quickly with another crushing kiss...and it seemed like with every kiss, her resolved cracked even more. Instead of pushing him away, she reached up and tenderly threaded her fingers through his hair, tempering his hard insistance by returning his kiss softly. She poured everything she felt in her heart into that one embrace, and it *hurt.* And when they finally broke apart, breathless and aroused, she gave into temptation and leaned close, just for a brief moment, to lay her cheek against his chest. His heart was pounding just as hard as hers, but rather than be pleased by it, part of her hated him for it. Hated him for barging in her and making her think about this, making her *feel* this..."I love you," she finally admitted in a soft, defeated tone. "...Now please go."

He didn't expect her head to fall against him, but it felt so perfect that his hand lifted on its own and nested in her dark curls, and right comfortably so.

Least 'til she started talking, saying a whole lot of nothin'...words that didn't matter, 'cause the arrangement was made. His little business proposal was a right crazy success because he knew what was what.

The moment she stopped talking, Mal tipped her head up and kissed her one more time...slow, deep, and just as fierce, but tender as he could make it. Which was hard, because touching her and tasting her made an animal of him...

"I ain't goin' nowhere." he murmured once the kiss broke, even as he released her and stepped back, holding her gaze. "Never again...I don't care where you're at."

Without waiting for an answer, Mal turned on his heel and walked out of her shuttle, never looking back.
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