Disclaimer: Firefly isn't mine. Look upon Whedon's works and despair, yo.

I fear writing Firefly fic, so why I keep doing it escapes me. Also, no Chinese, because I'm lazy and bad.

In other news, Oscar Wilde is yummygaylove.

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A man, Mal thinks, shouldn't ought to get so turned around and dizzy, not on account of a woman. He's been in love a time or two, but this isn't quite love – at least, not any kind that he recognizes. It's more of a – it's more of an intoxication taking him by storm, and damn if he doesn't want to lay down arms and give up the fight.

Intoxication's the right word, he thinks a little bitterly, glowering down at his bottle of whiskey. The kitchen light's dimmed down, but the walls are still incongruously cheerful, souring his mood even further. Kaylee always has to brighten things up a bit; he doubts she'll ever learn that sometimes a man needs shadows to rest in.

Kaylee's sweet and wholesome and a ray of sunlight in a place of darkness, and right around now she makes his eyes hurt and gives him a headache he won't soon be rid of. Kaywinnit Lee Frye is everything bright and good in the world, and it makes Mal feel even worse in contrast – him sulking around his own ship, nursing whiskey and a gorram brainless infatuation for a tiny slip of a crazy girl.

He just isn't supposed to want anyone this bad. Except maybe Inara, but she ain't ever been a real threat. He's known all along that Inara's not one to ever be tied down, nor one to tie anyone else down (at least not anyone who ain't payin' for it). Inara is like wine, maybe – meant to be sipped a little at a time, sophisticated, sweet and a little tart, deceptively pleasant to look at and taste. Wouldn't know you've had too much till you're flat on your back, clutching the floor as the world spins 'round you.

And then there's River.

River, he thinks, is more a whiskey sort of girl. Weren't no pretence about her; whiskey's for getting drunk, and that's that. It's strong and fiery, rich and bitter and dark, and he's a bad, dirty old man for wanting to drink her down till his vision blurs and his limbs betray him.

She's just a girl. Just a gorgeous, broken slip of a girl who can, he reminds himself with a twisted sort of amusement and a smile to match, kill him quicker'n Jayne could offend a preacher. She ain't so crazy anymore, Miranda being out in the open and all, but her brain's still all scrambled around and he conjures she'll never be completely right.

Thing is, wrong's starting to look better and better.

And it isn't like she can't see it, can't feel the intoxication creeping through his mind. Isn't like she hasn't caught his thoughts as he's been having them, these past few weeks. She's been sending him Looks lately, though he can't interpret – isn't sure he wants to interpret – what they mean.

Mal isn't sure what would be worse, rejection or acceptance. He can picture the Special Hell all too clearly, after all. But he's already headed straight for hell, anyway, part of him points out rebelliously. Might as well enjoy the trip.

He won't make a move, though. That's the one thing he knows for certain. He might be gettin' drunk on River already, just from the scent of her, but he'll be damned if he does anything about it. She has to make the first move. He's a bad, mean old man, sure, but there are some things he'd rather shoot himself than do, and taking advantage of a teenaged girl is one of 'em.

She knows what she would be getting into – with anyone else, he would've worried over this, but the girl is a gorram 'reader, after all. She knows precisely what she might be getting into. And if it isn't enough to send her scurrying to the hills, if she decides she'll take what he's wantin' to offer…

Well, then he'll just have to hope the intoxication'll be worth the hangover.

And that the hair o'the dog that bit him'll always be available when he starts to sober up.