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Not Afraid of Having; Mal and Inara, post "Serenity"
Topic Started: Mar 5 2009, 07:18 PM (313 Views)
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Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns all. I am a mere object in his space.
Ratings & Warnings: PG - nothing untoward or unwarranted.
Summary: Inara and Mal try to come to an understanding. Based on something Zoe said in "Heart of Gold".


Not Afraid of Having

Inara sat on the side cot in her barren shuttle. She'd escaped the temple with nearly nothing, the clothes on her back and not much else. She'd asked to have her things sent on to Persephone, and ordered a few new things to have waiting for her there as well, but until they made landfall in a week or so, her home was a rather cold and barren place.

Kaylee had loaned her a few clothes and Zoe had offered some warm blankets that had belonged to Wash. Inara liked sleeping in them, feeling close to his warmth and humor. It soothed her.

Now, cuddled in one of them, she was already decorating the shuttle in her mind. Brighter colors than last time, but still warm reds and blues. Perhaps she could use the corner where her clothing chest had been for a meditation corner. There was a knock on her door and she tilted her head, waiting a moment before answering.

Not Kaylee's hesitant tapping, or Zoe's closed-fisted rap followed by her brisk hollor,"Inara? You up?". It certainly wasn't Jayne's raucous pounding. It was a man's knock, firm but considerate. It could almost have been Shepherd Book, knocking with a supper tray in his hand.

At the thought, she bit back the tears that threatened. Book would never visit her shuttle again. More than just the decor of Serenity had changed. "Cheeng jeen!"

"Am I interrupting?" Mal tucked his head in and Inara stared at him in surprise.

"Since when do you knock?" She masked her joy at seeing him with a bruskness designed to put him on the defensive. It was easier to fight with Mal than to do...well...than it was to do anything else.

"Since I was hopin' we might have a talk instead of a shouting match." Mal answered, tucking his hands into his belt as he looked around the shuttle, taking in the barren view. He'd stripped away every hint of her when she'd left the last time. Now he regretted it. "Doesn't seem the same."

Inara avoided his gaze. "No. It doesn't. But change is what life is all about."

"I suppose so." Mal came over and gestured to the spot next to her. "Mind if I sit?"

Inara scooted over some and tossed her hair back over her shoulders. "What did you want to talk about?"

"Well. Huh..." Mal paused a long moment and Inara looked at him closely, her dismay growing.

Her thoughts chased each other. He'd changed his mind. He was going to ask her to leave again. He had the crew and the ship to think about, and couldn't have her tagging along. He wanted her gone.

He sat beside her, leaning on his elbows, not looking at her.

"I ain't like Zoe." Mal's voice was calm, like he was explaining something that should be obvious.

Inara couldn't help herself. She chuckled. "No. You aren't. Did you think I would confuse the two of you?"

Mal held up one hand to silence her. "Just...let me say this. Then you can make all the fun you want."

Inara fell silent and turned so that she could face him more clearly. "Mal?"

"I ain't like Zoe." He said again, still not looking at her. "I... When she and Wash got together..." Inara winced at the hint of pain that tightened the corners of his eyes, "I fought it. I told her he wasn't good enough. That he'd leave her the second he got a better job on a better ship. That he was worshipin' her and that soon as he realized she was a living breathing woman, he'd be gone."

Inara had figured it out. Mal just wanted to talk about his grief, his own guilt for wronging Wash so long ago. If Book were here, it would be him that Mal was pouring his heart out to. A tiny part of her was selfishly glad that Book wasn't there. An even smaller part of her knew Book wouldn't mind that she'd thought that.

Mal was rubbing his palms on his thighs now, as though he was trying brush off something from his trousers. He raised his head and glanced at Inara. "You know what Zoe said?"

He didn't expect an answer and Inara didn't give him one. "She said... She looked me in the eye bold as brass, and said, 'I ain't so afraid of losing something that I won't try to have it.'"

Now Mal looked up, his grey eyes brimmed with tears, but there was a slight smile on his face. "I ain't like Zoe, Inara."

"I...don't..." Inara was speechless. Was Mal saying what she thought he was saying? Now he turned and grabbed her by both shoulders, and she could feel the heat of his palms through her thin gown.

He gave her a tiny shake. "I am afraid of losin. I'll always be afraid of losin. Everytime you fly off to be with a client. Everytime we get in a peck of trouble. I'd be afraid."

"Mal, I..." Inara wanted to reach for him, to pull him into her arms and tell him it would be okay, but he gave her another small shake.

"Gorram it, girl. You're so far under my skin that it makes me crazy. I can hardly bear your bein' here so close, but I couldn't bear it at all when you were away." Mal stopped, took a deep breath and let go of her shoulders, standing up and moving abruptly away from her. "And don't you pretend you'll give it up for me. This is your life. It's who you are. You give up this, and I'll still lose you. This is impossible."

"Mal," Inara dove from the couch, tried to catch his shoulder but he turned at the last second, leaving her reeling for balance. "Mal, Don't go."

Mal stopped and turned all the way around to look at her.

"I can't have you, Inara. Because I'll always be afraid of losin' you. I ain't like Zoe."

"Give us a chance." Inara whispered across the shuttle.

Now Mal stood and stared at her, his thumbs hooked back into his belt, his fingers laced over the buckle. It was a stance Inara had come to know well. It said he'd made up his mind, said his piece and was waiting for her to challenge him.

"Mal." She choked, then swallowed, then shook her head slightly. "I've never known you to walk away from anything. You are the strongest man I've ever met."

He still stood, his eyes focused somewhere near her feet.

"If you tell me right now to walk away from this, I will." Inara tried ignore the trembling that rose in her throat and carried into her voice. "But I am like Zoe. I don't want to walk away from something without ever knowing what that might have been."

Mal just looked at her, his fingers tightening on his belt

She slipped closer, her hands coming up to his shoulders and then she saw it, that expression that she was never sure of. Was it anger? Repulsion? Resignation? But now, as she slid her fingers to the collar of his shirt, looking up into his eyes as they stared down at her in flickering shades of blue and grey, she realized what it was. Vulnerable.

The tears she'd choked back too many times rolled over her eyelashes, and she blinked them away, letting them fall unashamed. A gasp escaped her lips along with her words, "Oh, Mal."

She suddenly hated that look, never wanted to see it on his face again and she leaned up on tiptoe, her lips almost touching his as he jerked his head back a tiny shade. He muttered out, "You best stop this now."

"No." Inara replied simply, her gaze flickering from the depths of his gaze to the sensuous curve of his mouth. Then, before he could draw back further, before he could stop her, or ruin the moment, she tugged the collar of his shirt, pulling his head to hers for the kiss she'd wanted almost from the day they'd met. To her surprise, he didn't hesitate, or try to stop her. Instead, his arms came around her waist, pulling her to him as his mouth plunged over hers.

When they drew back, she moved her fingers to his cheek, smoothing the worry she saw building there, but was greeted with a faint, almost embarrassed smile. He hadn't released her waist and now pulled her close again. "This is gonna get complicated."

"So, what's new?" She murmured back, tipping her face towards his once more.

His soft chuckle was muffled against her mouth as he shifted both his arms and lifted her into his embrace. They were still afraid of losing, but at long last, not afraid of having.
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