big_damn_hero: (Mal Can't Be Good)
[personal profile] big_damn_hero
"A bit uncomfortable with it, Malcolm?"

Mal narrowed his eyes just a bit, moving his gaze towards the pickup to make sure Badger picked up on it. A little menace didn't hurt none, and for the job Badger was asking, Mal figured he was owed a little toying.

"Trip's gonna damn near exhaust my fuel cells on hand...if I'm to refuel for this little journey, I'll need compensation." he bit off tersely, folding his arms.

He watched Badger grin, and in that moment knew that the weasely little son of a bitch had to know about the significance of the job. "Now that won't be a spot of trouble, mate. Just be sure you take good care of my cargo, dong ma?"

Mal simply nodded. "Yeah...I'll contact you after the pickup, and again after the drop. See you in the world." he replied, cutting off the transmission without waiting for Badger's response. For a few long moments, he just stared at the screen, trying to figure out who in the gorram hell Badger could be working with.

Mal knew most of the folks on Shadow like the back of his hand...and wasn't too many men on that moon would deal with Badger's like, and even fewer who would be desperate enough to.

"Yep...this can't be good." he murmured to himself, finally standing from the pilot's chair and wandering off the bridge to head for the mess area, where the crew would likely be gathered.

No one was present but Inara when he arrived, and from the looks of the bits and pieces laying about, chow had just finished. Someone had been courteous enough to cover his plate...he wondered for a moment if Inara had done it.

Walking over to grab his plate, he nodded to Inara cordially. "Hope yer schedule's clear," he drawled, *knowing* for a fact it was, "'cause we got a job's gonna take us a little ways out."

Date: 2007-01-29 07:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Would it matter if it wasn't?"

Inara scarcely looked up from her book when Mal spoke; it was easier to half ignore his presence than the acknowledge all of the things between them. Things that had been unspoken for so long and should've remained so.

But then, Malcolm Reynolds never had known when to close his mouth.

"And do tell," Inara continued pleasantly, cooly, blissfully and convincingly unconcerned, "where would this latest jaunt of illegal activity be taking us? Anywhere I could scan for potential clients?" No sooner had he opened his mouth to answer than she waved a hand dismissively. "Don't bother answering that. I'm already quite certain the answer is 'no.'" Yet even as she spoke, she couldn't resist a glance up at him to make sure he'd found his plate--the very plate she'd covered for him and left on the still warm stove to try and keep it hot. //I certainly talk big for a woman that takes such pains to make sure the good Captain's dinner stays warm, don't I?//

Date: 2007-01-29 04:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Once, Mal might have treaded a bit more carefully...maybe not with tact, but perhaps with a little discretion for her benefit. Those times, however, were gone. Discretion, tact...dancing around her meant distance, and he was done with that. She hadn't chosen to follow her own heart yet...but he could wait.

Didn't mean he was going to make it easy for her, though.

Lifting his plate, he picked up his fork and faced her pointedly, taking a bite of his food with a smug smile, telling her without words that he knew she was the one who had set it aside for him.

"Y'know? Funny that...second leg of the job'll take us into some real nice territory." he replied after swallowing his bite. "Familiar...least I'd think so. So don't ya fret...we'll be on Sihnon 'fore ya can spit." He paused, taking another smug bite of his food.

"Not that you would or nothin'..." he added brightly.

Date: 2007-01-29 05:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Oh dear.

Not good.

"Sihnon?" Inara repeated, even though she was certain she'd heard him perfectly clearly. "What business could you *possibly* have on Sihnon? Malcolm, you never venture that far into Alliance territoy. You don't--you don't even have proper clearance!"

Smooth, very smooth, she thought to herself, but it was too late to stop now. "Is this another one of Badger's...*stupid* jobs? Need I remind you what happened the last time you accepted some of his, dare I dignify it with the word, *work?* His crackpot ambush at the site of the Battle of Sturges?"

Date: 2007-01-29 05:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Mal couldn't resist a look of mock curiosity. "Why 'Nara...if a body didn't know better? I'd say you might just be worried 'bout my own personal welfare there. But, of course, that'd be emotional-like, and unbefittin' a Companion, right? Of course..."

Taking another bite of his food, he leaned back against the counter, getting a bit more serious. "Any rate...Sihnon's just the dropoff. We're pickin' up the cargo from a moon some ways out. Gonna be a couple days flight...we can make it in a day at full burn, but if we can make it without refueling, all the better."

Besides...taking this job meant ferreting out a rat on Shadow. Mal hadn't been back in some years, but knowing someone there was doing dirty work for Badger...and someone doing dirty work in his home. Or at least what used to be his home.

Either way...leaving things as was just didn't set right with him.

Date: 2007-01-29 06:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Inara's cheeks flush a dusky rose color, though not quite for the reason Mal probably took it for; it was guilt more than embarassment. Guilt that she really wasn't looking out for his well being so much as her own.

"I would respectfully advise you not to take the job," she remarked sarcastically, "but you've already taken it, haven't you? Foolish, Captain. How many times is Badger going to have to double cross you before you stop willfully turning your back to him?"

Date: 2007-01-29 06:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For a moment Mal got caught up in watching her blush, hating the fact that she looked so gorram good when her cheeks turned that pretty shade of pink and made him want to reach out and...

Biting back the urge to touch, Mal focused on his food more intensely. "Ain't me he's double crossing...somethin' about this job don't smell right. Cargo's stolen goods, that I know, but the moon we're pickin' up from don't have a whole lotta what you'd call 'illegal activity.' Somewhere in the vicinity of 'none' and 'not at all.''s too good to pass up, and we need a paying job." He paused, finally stealing another look at her, in spite of himself. "Anyway...drop off means payin' clients fer you, right? We all win in the end."

Date: 2007-01-29 07:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Inara rose from the table and crossed her arms, pacing slowly around the kitchen. "Yes," she remarked dully. "I suppose we do." There was no possible way she could contract with anyone on Sihnon...she wasn't even sure she would leave the ship. She fell silent for a moment, lost in her own thoughts before she looked up at him and quirked an eyebrow curiously. "This must be a moon we've never been to before. I don't know if we've ever been to a place that doesn't know any 'illegal activity.'"

Date: 2007-01-29 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Nope, we never have been." he replied simply, tersely, taking another bite of food to keep from elaborating. Fact was, he hadn't been home since a week after the War had really ended for him...and even then, he'd only gone to make sure folks knew he was alive before he'd taken off again.

Staying hadn't been an under the Alliance, living among the murmurings of a strong community that had been defeated, saying to each other that maybe it was 'just better this way.' It just wasn't in him to resign accept, to adjust.

Now he had to go back and face the world he'd left behind...and if this job was any measure, make one mess in order to clean up another.

Date: 2007-01-30 03:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Malcolm was a better actor than most gave him credit for. He played the part of the brigand well. But despite her occasional caustic comment to the contrary, she knew in her heart he was a good man. In fact, she believed she saw through him better than anyone. He couldn't lie as easily to her as he could others, and nor could he hide things as well.

"Mal...what is it you're not telling me?"

Date: 2007-01-30 04:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Mal paused a beat, quirking an eyebrow and shrugging. "That you...look pretty and dignified-like this morning, as any respectable Companion should?" he offered hopefully, knowing he'd get shot down. Give and take wasn't an alien notion to Mal, and he knew that with the taking, he'd given something...and that was a touch of honesty with regards to his own self among other things. It was a difficult thing...but also undeniable.

And the undeniable fact was that, as much as he'd like to blame it on her working her wiles, or all that Companion-ness she tossed about like feed to horses, the fact was that Inara knew him. Maybe better than most. And taking what he wanted from her...that admission that she cared, and that she couldn't leave because of that, meant that he had to give her that concession, along with others.

So when he got the Look from her...the one that said his name in a disdainful-type tone far louder than her voice could, he knew there was no fighting it.

Swallowing his last bite of food, Mal moved to set his plate in the sink, avoiding her gaze. "Moon we're pickin' up from is Shadow."

Date: 2007-01-31 05:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There was a term in theater to describe this type of symetrical irony. There had to be. Inara simply couldn't think of what it was.

Mal didn't like to talk about himself, his past, how he grew up, what brought him to the war...and Inara had always given him that distance because it was something she required herself. The things she knew about him were few, but one of those few facts that she did know was the place where he hailed from.

"...Shadow is your home planet."

Date: 2007-01-31 09:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For a long moment he didn't answer, busying himself with cleaning his dish as he tried to figure out what to say. He could play it with her, make light of it and let it pass as an unremarkable thing, but it wasn't. And again...she knew him better than that.

Wuh duh ma huh tah duh fong kwong duh wai shung, if she ended up leaving his boat and leaving him twisted after all this without so much as a cozy dinner for two, he was going to shoot someone. Not her...but someone. Gorram humped-up *women*...

"Shia." he replied tersely, turning to put his plate away once he'd cleaned it off. "And if I ain't mistaken, Sihnon is yers, ain't that right? Now that we got that all outta the way..."

Date: 2007-02-01 04:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Mal..." Inara felt her body betray her, her legs take her across the kitchen, her arm extend, her hand lay on his forearm. She felt the roughspun material against her fingertips and had to fight hard against the urge to lean in close, touch the tip of her nose to his shoulder and breathe in the scent of flesh warmed cotton. Her body had brought her here without thought, and now she was at a loss as to what to say. "...How long?" she finally asked, quietly. "How long since you've been home?"

Date: 2007-02-01 05:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Mal stilled at the touch of her hand on his arm, his gaze drawn to it for just a moment as he watched it just sit there...pale, flawless skin against his own work-roughened flesh, peppered with the light, innocuous scars of minor injury and darkened just a little...not with sunlight, but with a smudge here and there of dirt from his latest trip to the engine room to check on the heart of his mistress as Kaylee tried to explain to him the latest repairs on Serenity. Her fingers were well-manicured and soft against his own roughspun sleeve, a ghost of that perfect, silken touch that was probably one of the main sources of her income.

"Week or two shy of the War, I reckon." he replied simply, quietly, hoping to dismiss it as quickly as he could. Not that Inara would let him, he was fair certain...but gorramit, at least he tried.

Then his mind started working...lightning-quick flares of want and wishing that led to curiosity of a most insidious sort.

"How 'bout you?" he finally asked, lifting his head to meet her gaze. "When's last time you went home? I ain't been since you rented from me, I'm fair certain..."

Date: 2007-02-02 03:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The subject turned back to her, and Inara immediately lifted her hand from his arm. She didn't want to talk about herself, or Sihnon, or why she left, why she hadn't returned. "No. I'd been...travelling, for several months before I booked passage on board Serenity. I haven't been back since. There...hasn't been any need."

Date: 2007-02-04 12:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Give and take...that's what it was all about. She could read him...and in his own way, Mal had learned to read her right back. He knew an evasion when he heard it.

"Make ya a deal." he offered, turning to face her. "How 'bout nobody asks, nobody tells, dong ma? I figger it's the only way we'll survive the trip, in the end. Y' least with sanity intact, 'cause be a cryin' shame if we all went home and I'd gone and turned into River 'cause you was askin' me a whole buncha questions I didn't wanna answer..."

Date: 2007-02-04 12:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Inara smiled slightly at the offer; don't ask, don't tell. Wasn't that how it usually went for them...for a short time, at least. It never lasted very long, and she doubted it would this time...but still.

"Deal," she replied, gamely sticking out her hand to shake his, sealing the agreement.


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