Disclaimer: Serenity and her crew are the sole and rightful property of ME, Joss Whedon and Tim Minear. No disrespect is intended from my borrowing them; no financial gain is garnered by me from their use in this story.
Notes: This story takes place during Heart of Gold. All spoiler warnings apply.
Silence but for their breathing.
Mal sensed her gaze and turned his head toward her, eyes still closed. When he opened them her eyes were the first thing he saw, the only thing he could see, drawn as he was to their steady contemplation of him. She lay still, breathing softly, stirring the hairs on his arm where she rested her head. Her hair was wild, damp from the sweat of the two of them, tousled from his hands where he'd buried them as he'd pulsed inside of her.
She was on her stomach, her right hand lay lightly on his chest. Dark eyes, swollen lips, the curves and hollows of her pale skin glowing in the low light, a thin film of perspiration covered her. She was lush. It was the only word that would do. Lush like the valley in spring when just the seeing of it made you want to shout with the joy of being alive.
"Regrets?" Nandi's voice was steady, soft. Her eyes never left his as she waited for his answer.
"Regrets?" he echoed in a whisper. In the silence of the old house it sounded loud as a trumpet call to his ears. "Got a few".
He gently moved aside the locks of hair that had fallen across her cheek, then he stroked the skin with the back of his fingers.
"This ain't one of 'em."
She smiled then and slowly traced a random pattern on his skin with the tip of one enameled nail.
"You seemed to have no problem remembering what went where," she said with a satisfied smile.
"It did all come floodin' back, didn't it?" he ginned just shy of a smirk. He grew more serious and lifted her palm to his lips for a lingering kiss. " It's been longer than I care to say, but . . . when everything is right . . . time disappears."
Mal saw her draw her breath sharply, whether from the kiss or the sudden sentiment, he couldn't say. Truth was, he'd surprised himself as well. She looked at him through narrowed eyes.
"You're a dangerous man, Malcolm Reynolds."
"Well, yes, I am, Miss Nandi." He brought his face closer to hers. "But not to you. Never to you."
"Especially to me."
He pulled back to see her better. "How do you mean?" he asked, genuinely puzzled.
"You're a rare breed. You don't even know it, do you?" She searched his face intently. "No, you don't know it." She propped herself up on her elbows. "You're a warrior poet, Mal. Ain't too much more romantic than that. And that's dangerous to any woman."
He laughed disbelievingly.
"Poet," he scoffed. "I can't string but a half dozen words together in any kind a proper way. I ain't read but one poem in my life. Somethin' about a raven. Can't say that I liked it."
"Don't play the simpleton with me," she chided him smilingly. "I don't mean a poet of words. I mean you have a way about you, for all your scoundrel swagger, that beckons to a woman to break down the walls. But then you beat her to it, and lay bare a part of your heart - only for her to see."
"No, I don't. Not every woman," he replied, both embarrassed and defensive. She was making him sound like, like . . . a fancy man. "You dissect every man you bed?"
She didn't even raise an eyebrow at that last part, just ignored it as if it had never been said.
"No. Not every woman. Just a fortunate one. Maybe a few. Maybe. And that's what makes you so dangerous."
He must have looked as confused as he felt, because she laughed and pushed herself up so she could kiss him full and long on the lips. He was losing himself in that kiss, and he couldn't bring himself to mind at all.
She broke it first, slowly, with a gentle pull on his bottom lip with her teeth. She nestled into him, her head on his shoulder, one arm draped across him. He enjoyed the weight of her against him, the feel of her skin on his. He drew his fingers lazily up and down her arm, relaxed and at ease for the first time in longer than he could rightly recall.
He hadn't planned for this to happen. Now that it had, he felt content. Why was that? Well, besides the obvious - Nandi was beautiful and strong and a skilled lover. A man would have to be mostly dead not to be glowing after the pleasure. But still, he figured that right about now he should be feeling uneasy about the consequences, already planning on how to pull himself out with the smallest amount of hurt feelings. Instead he lay here with her in his arms . . . content.
It wasn't love. He remembered love, and he knew this wasn't it. But still, there was a rightness to this, to the easy way they were together. They fit in the ways that a man and a woman were meant to. Not just their bodies, although there was a glory to the way they moved each other that was beyond his words to tell - no, they had an understanding of each other. There were others that knew him and knew him well, but Nandi had the full measure of him almost from their first words. No judgments, no dances around her wants nor his. No complications.
"No complications, Mal. This can be real simple." She ran her nails very lightly over the skin on his rib cage and he shivered - whether from the sensation or her words, he couldn't tell.
"You can be gorram spooky, you know that?"
Her laugh rumbled through her body and he felt the vibration roll from her skin into his.
"Nothin' spooky about it. It's what we'd both be thinking right about now."
"And so we are," he agreed.
"I like this. It feels right. It felt better than right a little while ago with you movin' inside of me." She nipped him lightly on the chest and gave a low laugh when he gasped.
He looked down at her and she met his eyes, and what he saw there made him laugh out loud and stirred his desire for her at one and the same time.
"You're the rare one, Nandi."
"Why? Because I know what I want, and I'm not afraid to have it? We're two of a kind, Mal. We know the 'verse is hard and our time is short. What kind of fool would I be to pass on what the both of us were wanting?"
"You're nobody's fool, for a fact. Never could be."
"This can be simple," she repeated. "Only complications are the ones we choose to bring. I ain't plannin' on bringing any. You?"
He could read her eyes, knew that Inara was on her mind. They'd already had this conversation, but he couldn't blame her for wanting to be dead clear on the subject. Inara. Unattainable Inara who saw him as a petty thief, who played at flirtation but skittered away from anything more. Hell, she wasn't the only skittish one, and she'd made it more than plain that nothing would happen between them. Ever. So what kind of fool did that make him?
"No. Nothin' to bring but me."
"That's all we need, bao-be" She kissed him softly then settled back in his arms. "It's not like we're gonna set up housekeeping," she smiled. "I'm not leaving Heart of Gold, and it would take more than any woman could offer for you to forsake Serenity." She slapped him playfully on the stomach. "Hell, we both know that we're destined to die with our only true loves."
He laughed with her, because it wasn't a lie.
"We're a sad, sad pair. No wonder no one will have us."
"Be honest now," she shook his arm in mock frustration. "It ain't like either of us is out beatin' the bushes looking for that perfect someone. People like us, we ain't made for the traditional life, the little house, the little family. It would kill us after a time."
"A slow death at that." She was right; it would do no good denying it.
"You and me both know that we don't need no more than we got already. My house, your ship. We each have our people around us. It's enough." She ran her fingertip over his left nipple. "This? This is just the icing." And she licked his right nipple, sending sparks through him.
"I always did have a sweet tooth," he muttered, gripping her more tightly to him.
"Tonight is for us, Malcolm. Just us." She was moving slowly down his torso, lips and tongue and teeth, each advance a small glorious torture. "Tomorrow . . . "
He halted her progress by taking her chin in his hand and turning her face to look at him full on.
"Tomorrow we do the job needs bein' done. We'll smile at each other and say 'Good morning' and we'll send Rance Burgess to his hell. Then I'll go. And you'll stay."
"Yes. That's the way it is between us." Her dark eyes were even darker now. "One day you'll be back. I won't be lookin' for you. Nor even expecting you. But you'll be there."
"One day. Yes." His breath was coming faster from smelling the scent of her wanting him.
"It's enough," she husked; her hand slid down to hold him, stroke him back to steel.
He moved her body so that she straddled him; he could feel her hot and wet against him. He was hard again with the need for her.
"It's enough," he growled as he gripped her hips and made her ready for him.
He blinked awake, listening to catch the dull thrum of Serenity's engines. Sunlight in his eyes. He remembered where he was and lifted his head to find Nandi sprawled on the other side of the bed. They had rolled away from each other during the short night left after their love making. He smiled at the memory, feeling alive in every nerve. He might die this morning, but he'd be taking last night with him when he went.
He could hear stirrings around the house. Time to get to it. He slipped out of the bed, careful to leave Nandi to what little sleep was still left to her before the fight. He'd worry the details enough for the both of them.
Dressing silently, he went over the plans in his head, playing out the different scenarios in his imagination. There were too many ways for all of them to end this day dead. He shrugged inwardly. Nothing new about that. He crept toward the door, putting on his shirt as he walked. As he reached for the door handle he turned to look at her again, her body sensuous even in sleep. Take this memory, he told himself. For whatever time is left to you. He couldn't help but smile as he opened the door and walked out into the hall to face what the day would bring. He couldn't help but smile.