Location on Firefly Universe Timeline: Soon after the events of the BDM; perhaps a day, perhaps a week.
Spoilers: "Serenity" ; "Heart of Gold".
Summary: Mal and Inara apologize for all the times they've hurt each other.
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Length without header: 3 page(s) at 12-point Times New Roman font; 805 words; 4,310 characters including spaces.
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Notes: Inara is wearing the dress from the series' pilot; I think it's one of her best – which is saying something considering her wardrobe – and it deserved another appearance. Mal, on the other hand, is wearing yet another of his seemingly endless reddish-brown shirts.
He touches her arm, and she turns from the doorway; looking into his eyes, she sees grief which doesn't stem from their recent tragedy.
She realizes that it's been there since their gazes met in the Training House.
Forgive me, my love, for the pain that I've caused you,
For all of the times that I've made you cry,
For letting you go when you walked out the door,
For standing in silence as you said goodbye.
Her breath catches in her chest, and for a moment, she sees him once more as he exits the lift; limping, covered in bruises, hand to the wound in his stomach. Her heart had skipped a beat then, and when light from the hallway had played over his face, it had skipped another seeing his piercing blue eyes flooded with crimson.
On impulse, she throws herself at him; it's an act that goes against all her training, but she doesn't care. She needs to hold him, to know that he's real and not a dream her mind has contrived as she lies dying on the floor from a reaver's attack.
She clutches his suspenders with one hand and buries her face in his collar to stifle the sobs; with her other hand she seeks out his heartbeat through the soft burgundy fabric of his shirt.
The steady thump-thump is right where it ought to be, and between her ragged breaths she catches his tantalizingly indefinable scent; his arms enfold her, and for all her fears she has never felt safer.
She goes pale for a moment, and suddenly she's holding onto him for dear life; she weeps quietly into his neck, and he can feel her body shivering through her elegant lavender dress.
On impulse, he wraps his arms around her; it's an act that goes against all his habits, but he doesn't care. She needs to be held, to know that the nightmare is over and she doesn't have to be afraid anymore.
He whispers soft shushes into her silken waterfall of raven hair, trying not to lose himself in its intoxicating fragrance as he gently massages her shoulders. The minutes pass, and gradually her cries cease.
When she is calmer, he reaches a hand to her face and tilts her chin up; looking into her eyes, he sees grief which doesn't stem from their recent tragedy.
He realizes that it's been there since their gazes met in the Training House.
Forgive me, my love, for the pain that I've caused you,
For all of the times that I've shut you out,
For running from you when you offered the truth,
For leaving you drowning in sorrow and doubt.
His breath catches in his chest, and for a moment, he sees her once more as he exits the lift; kneeling on the floor, covered in sweat, hands to the wound in the doctor's stomach. His heart had skipped a beat then, and when light from the hallway had played over her face, it had skipped another seeing her flawless caramel skin marred with crimson.
Forgetting for a moment who she is, he leans down and presses a soft kiss to her forehead.
After what seems an eternity, her tears subside.
She feels him move against her; his rough hand touches her face and tilts her chin up.
I have gone too far, she thinks. I have crossed the lines I drew in myself so long ago.
Then, without warning, he kisses her forehead. Her heart sings, and forgetting for a moment who he is, she twists up to meet his lips with her own.
He feels her move against him, and suddenly she returns his kiss. For an instant, his heart sings, but then it passes and he pulls away, ashamed of what he has done.
I have gone too far, he thinks. I have crossed the lines I promised her I would respect.
He breaks the kiss, and her heart wails in misery; she has ruined him by hoping for more, and he will run away as she ran once, unable to bear the prospect of their intimacy.
They gaze at each other now; he at her, she at him, wondering who will be the first to turn away in their increasingly perilous game of romantic chicken.
Long moments pass; minute eternities punctuated by the now-feverish pulse of something new growing between them. Then, before either knows what has transpired, they drift back together in a mutual kiss which burns with more passion than he has ever felt for another woman, and more love than she has ever felt for another man.
She is wild vanilla and oranges to his lips; he is coffee beans and whiskey to hers; neither of them has ever tasted anything so wonderful.
I forgive you.