For joss100 at livejournal. All the stories so far can be found here. They are also listed with links at my livejournal, writwritewrote.

A/N: I'm writing these little ficlets mostly to see if I can – 100 of them, all covering the theme of Mal/River – is a lot to do. The thing I enjoy about Firefly is the complexity of all the characters. I like playing with their minds and trying to figure out what would need to occur or what they would need to think to progress a relationship. I know that this won't be everyone's cup of tea and that's fine. If there's something glaring that you hate, let me know. However, I warn in advance: I'm interested in exploring minds and motivations, which often means things take time with not a lot of plot or action. If you expect instant gratification or anything resembling a story that actually goes somewhere without meandering around a lot first, you're going to be disappointed. grin


Title: Thorns
Prompt: 010– Anger (list 2)
Word Count: 400
Progress: 10/100

Summary: He wants to save the world but he can't even save himself.

THORNS

"I don't appreciate you trying to tell me what to do on my own gorram ship!" Mal's voice is raised and it doesn't take a genius to figure out who he's yelling at.

"Someone needs to tell you what to do," Inara responds. "You've become completely erratic lately. Why are you so angry all the time?"

"Because people keep trying to tell me what to do on My. Own. Gorram. Ship!" he bites back. "My boat; my rules."

"We're back to that again, are we?" From where she's hiding in the shadows of the stairwell, River can practically feel the disdain dripping from the Companion. "I should have known it wouldn't last."

"What?"

"You, acting like a human being for once. Next you'll be telling me that you don't care if I go back to the training house."

Mal pauses, before he states quietly, "I don't care. You do what you want. Your life; you live it. I ain't got no hold on you."

The silence is almost painful.

"Mal…" Inara begins, softly.

"Inara…" he replies.

River doesn't have to see them to know they're standing within inches of each other and the Captain's hands are sitting loosely on Inara's shoulders, thumbs tracing idle circles against the red silk of her dress. She is looking at him from under her lashes; playing the coquette without even realizing she's doing it. She wants Mal to kiss her and he thinks he should want that too because wanting Inara makes more sense to him than wanting an Albatross.

Inara deserves more and so does he. She shouldn't be the cross he carries because she's not the one that can save him – only River can do that. She can save him like he saved her and together they can become whole. But it will never happen unless he wants salvation and right now it's obvious to her he doesn't. He wears his guilt like a crown of thorns and tries to make Inara fit where she can't.

River knows she shouldn't be angry with him. She can feel his confusion and his self-hatred; knows he wrests with her in his dreams every night and flagellates himself with remorse every day because of it. He wants to save the world but he can't even save himself.

He's so noble and broken he makes everyone around him bleed and doesn't even realize he's doing it.


Title: Jealousy
Prompt: 011 – Jealousy (list 2)
Word Count:
Progress: 11/100

Summary: "So, can ya really kill me with your brain, or was ya just funnin' with me when ya said that?" The big Merc is cleaning his guns. Mal tries to ignore the hot stab of irritation that burns through him. Who in their right mind cleans guns at 1:45 in the rutting A.M.?

JEALOUSY

He wondered if she still made him coffee each night, even though he wasn't going to the kitchen anymore. He wanted to, mind. Found he missed their little ritual of silent companionship in the still hours of the night; missed the smell of the coffee and the smell of her hair and the way she would lean against him while he drank.

He even missed the taste of her lips against his, even though he'd only ever kissed her the one time, in a moment of weakness that would never be repeated again. She was too young to know what she wanted and he was old enough to know better.

His nightmares are getting worse again. For a while there, they'd calmed some. Weren't so frantic; hadn't seemed so real. But now – wo de ma – he dreamed on different variations of her dying every night; her and the rest of the crew. Sometimes, it was an ambush that got them on one of their jobs. Sometimes, it was an Alliance operative appearing out of nowhere and cutting them all down.

The dreams all ended the same way – with him telling his crew they couldn't die and his crew ignoring him and doing it anyway.

Tonight's dream had been different, though. She'd been the only one dying – her life's blood seeping outta her body while he held her against his chest and begged her not to leave him. She had blinked at him when he'd said it, before whispering 'I'm not the one who left.' He had woken up in a cold sweat, crying out her name.

The smell of the coffee hits him first, before anything else. He's more than halfway to the kitchen before he even realizes what he's doing. He needs to make sure she's still there, even though reason tells him she is. He don't even realize she's not the only one in the kitchen until he hears Jayne's voice.

"So, can ya really kill me with your brain, or was ya just funnin' with me when ya said that?" The big Merc is cleaning his guns. Mal tries to ignore the hot stab of irritation that burns through him. Who in their right mind cleans guns at 1:45 in the rutting A.M.?

His coffee cup sits in its spot at the end of the table.

River smiles at him wistfully, before answering Jayne's question. "If I could kill you with my brain I would have done it by now."

Jayne looks sorta shocked at that, before he grins and starts chuckling, "Gorram, girl, you're awful mean. Ya know I'd never do anythin' to hurt ya no more." There's a pause as he shoots a sidelong glance at her, "What else can you do with that brain 'a yours?"

Mal wonders how one man can make even his most innocuous mutterings seem so crude.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" River giggles.

"You bet I would, beo-bei," Jayne leers.

Mal scowls into his coffee cup. "You better not be meaning what I think you are," he grits out to the big man. "She's just a little girl, Jayne."

He tries to ignore the way River looks like his words have hurt her, but Jayne notices it too.

"Just ignore him, baby-doll. He just don't want to see you're growing up. Me, on the other hand, I got eyes and I ain't about to try deludin' myself."

"You'll be deluding yourself right outta the airlock, you lay a hand on her," Mal snaps. "She ain't for the likes of you."

"Man's allowed to flirt with an attractive woman if'n he wants," Jayne replies calmly. "'Sides, it get's Doc all riled up when I do which is an added bonus."

Mal scowls and looks around the kitchen pointedly, "Simon ain't here right now, so knock it off."

River glares at him, "Not her father, not her brother…not her anything. Leave Jayne alone. He's the only one looks at the girl and sees the woman inside. He's the only one in this room that doesn't hurt me."

"Wha?" Jayne begins, but River stops him with a kiss on his cheek. "You're a friend," she sighs, before turning and snarling at the Captain. "You're a coward."

Both men watch her as she leaves the kitchen, before Jayne turns to look at Mal appraisingly. Mal's gripping his cup of coffee so tightly the handle snaps off it, causing his drink to spill all over the place as the mug hits the ground and shatters.

"Not her anything? What did moon-brain mean by that?" The big man queries. "You been dippin' your toes in water you ain't s'posed to be?"

"Shut up, Jayne," Mal growls.

"Sure, Cap'n," Jayne replies, shuffling to his feet and gathering his weapons together. "I'll shut up. But next time ya try tellin' me she's not a woman, remember you're the one that made her cry."

Mal doesn't reply, just watches the bigger man leave before sighing and picking up the shards of broken mug from the floor and trying to pretend he ain't jealous that his little Albatross just kissed Jayne.


Title: This is How it Starts
Prompt: 012 – The Start (list 2)
Word Count: 213
Progress: 12/100

Summary: This is how it starts…

THIS IS HOW IT STARTS

This is how it starts.

She decides she wants to stay and he lets her.

He touches her shoulder through a red silk dress and remembers he's always thought she was beautiful.

Her skin is soft, her hair is silky and she smells like lotus flowers.

She smiles when she sees him.

She's a woman, with a woman's wants, needs and experiences. She's not innocent and he doesn't have to worry that she'll let her heart get in the way. He knows he won't, because he doesn't have a heart.

He thinks she's perfect because she's controlled. He thinks he wants her because she's perfect. It's a never-ending circle but none of the bends are right.

They stop arguing so much and he's allowed to enter her shuttle without knocking. Other crew members smile knowingly when Mal whistles during the day.

He kisses her and doesn't feel the need to save her from himself. His hands trace the outline of her form and he doesn't feel like he's using her.

She makes no demands.

He makes no promises.

Her body accepts his eagerly.

She gasps when he slides into her but she never says his name.

He gasps when she rides him but he never spends the night.

This is how it starts.


Title: This is Why it Ends
Prompt: 013 – The End (list 2)
Word Count: 328
Progress: 13/100

Summary: This is why it ends….

THIS IS WHY IT ENDS

This is why it ends.

She calls him a bastard and says she won't be used.

He calls her a whore and sneers a thousand men on a hundred different planets have done just that and why should he be any different?

She cries and packs her bags and tells him she's leaving.

He shrugs and replies that maybe she'll leave for good this time.

She tells him to get out of her shuttle and he does.

Later he comes back and helps her pack.

They don't yell at each other, but she smiles at him sadly and notes they are both fools.

He agrees, but says gallantly that perhaps he is the biggest fool because he's letting her go.

'You never really loved me,' she whispers.

'I don't know how to,' he replies.

She leans into him when he says this and hides her tears against his shirt.

'You do,' she argues. 'Your problem is you're afraid to admit it. It's easy to tell yourself you don't love anyone, because when people let you down you can pretend it doesn't hurt. But you'd be wrong. This hurts. I love you.'

'I'm sorry, Inara,' he whispers.

'Don't be,' she replies. 'It's okay. It's better that I know you don't love me the way I want you too. I don't regret any of the time we've spent together. I don't regret anything about us at all – except the way we ended.'

'Inara,' he tries again.

She looks at him before turning to pick up her bags. 'Find someone, Mal, before it's too late. If it can't be me…find someone else and be happy. Love is painful, but it's worth the risk.'

'Call me if you need me?' he asks.

'Always,' she smiles sadly.

Everyone hugs her when she leaves, but River is the only one who says to her, 'I'll look after him.'

Mal stands beside the girl as Inara walks away from them. This is why it ends.