Summary: Post BDM
He couldn't sleep which wasn't unusual but frustrating none the less. Insomnia left him wandering the hallways and rooms of Serenity. He made his way to Inara's shuttle and then stopped. It was the middle of the night. Inara wouldn't be awake to have tea or to irritate or fight with.
That led him to the bridge. It was cloaked in dusky blue light from the instrument panel. It wasn't until he'd sat down in the pilot's chair that he saw her, standing in shadow and half blue light. Her shawl had fallen to the side, exposing the soft curve of her shoulder, the milky white of her skin. His fingers itched to slip along that curve, the silky, scented skin beneath his fingertips.
It wasn't the sight of her that nearly took his breath away. It wasn't, he insisted to himself. It was the shock of finding her there on the bridge that made his voice pitch higher on her name. "Inara?"
She turned, a smile curving her lips at the sight of him. "I couldn't sleep," she half shrugged before turning back to gaze out at the stars beyond. "Sometimes I forget they're out there. Silly I know, considering we're on a space ship. " Her fingertips on the glass, as if she could touch the stars beyond, gave him a flash fantasy of her fingertips on his skin.
The fantasy irritated him, reminding him of things he couldn't have…shouldn't want. "Most the time I forget they're there too. Just stars, Nara. Nothin' special," he half grumbled.
Her face fell at his words and she pulled her mask of formality about her, slipping the shawl back up on her shoulder and clutching it at her chest. "I'm sorry I invaded your space, Mal," she snapped and started out of the bridge. Her voice was cold and carried the slightest tremble as if from the chill rather than any hurt he might have caused her. He knew by the tilt of her chin, the proud set of her head that he'd hurt her and she was drawing her armor about herself.
He'd spent entirely too much time watching her.
The scent of her perfume lingered long after she'd disappeared from sight. As he drifted off to sleep in the pilot's chair, he realized in another life, another universe where he and Inara didn't have to dance around each other, he wouldn't have a problem with insomnia.