Something of Use

Author: malgalfan

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Just play with 'em for fun.

Summary: Just a little piece of Mal/Inara fluff for the weekend. Inara finds a way to be of use.

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Mal sat at his desk working on Serenity's ledgers, both the real ones and the ones for the occasional Alliance inspection. It was a job he disliked immensely, not because he was not proficient in accounting procedures, but because he found it tediously boring. The long columns of figures did nothing to engage his mind, and he generally put completing the work as far down his list of things to do as possible. Hence, when he did manage to get around to it, there was always enough work to keep him busy for several hours. Rummaging around the desk in search of the receipt for Kaylee's latest parts purchases, he did not hear Inara enter until she rested her hands lightly on his shoulders.

Startled, Mal jerked in the chair. "Ye su, 'Nara, it ain't wise to sneak up on an armed man like that."

Inara laughed lightly. "You're not armed, Mal. Your holster's hanging on the back of the chair. And I wasn't sneaking, just stopping in to say 'hello'." She kissed him softly, just barely pressing her lips against his until she felt a smile replace his scowl. "What're you doing down here?"

Mal sighed. "Just, you know,…Captainy things."

"Such as?" Inara asked, peering over his shoulder at the neat columns of figures in the ledger.

"Seein' to the accounts, such as they are," Mal replied as he turned back to the books. "Been puttin' it off for awhile. Now I gotta play catch-up."

Inara rested her elbows on the desk. "I take it you don't like doing the bookkeeping?"

"Not exactly my idea of a good time," Mal said. Pulling her into his lap, he added, "I can think of more pleasant activities for an afternoon."

Inara wrapped her arms around his neck. "Are you just using me as an excuse not to work?" she said sweetly.

"Maybehaps," he admitted, nuzzling his nose into the heady scent of her hair. "Have to say I'd do most anything not to have to do the books."

"Anything?" Inara whispered against his ear, sending a jolt of pure lust straight to his groin.

Mal moaned with the sensation. "That just ain't in no way fair, darlin'," he drawled.

"Perhaps I can make it up to you," Inara said as she unwrapped her arms from around him. "What about if I help you with the books, or better yet, just do them for you?"

Mal looked at her quizzically. "Got a head for figures, do you?" he asked.

"I do," Inara said, beginning to feel an unaccountable excitement as the idea took shape in her mind. "I'm quite adept, as a matter of fact. I've always managed my own finances with no trouble. How hard can it be?"

"Well, there's a mite more to the job than just writing down figures in columns, 'Nara," Mal began. "There's two sets of books to keep, bein' as how we don't rightly know when the Alliance will call for an audit at one of their checkpoints. And there's the inventory of ship's supplies to see to, and the makin' of the duty roster for the crew, and the…"

Inara shook her head eagerly. "I can learn to do all that, Mal. And it would free you for other things, things that you prefer to do. This is a way I could be of use to you."

Mal smiled. "'Nara, I keep tellin' you that you don't have to be doing ship chores to be of use to me."

"But I want to, Mal. I'd like to try my hand at it." She looked at him with her bewitching eyes. "And if I can handle this for you, then you'll have more free time to pursue other afternoon interests." She licked her lips deliberately.

"The accounts won't be fallin' for your wiles like I do," Mal said mildly, knowing he was caving to her wishes. "Can't make a column of figures add up by battin' those pretty eyes of yours."

"Won't have to, Mal," she said. "Trust me." She slid out of his lap. "Now, let me sit down, and you show me where everything is."

As Mal showed her the general set-up, Inara listened intently to his instructions. When he was done, she nodded. "I think I can manage this. Go ahead and do whatever else you need to do, and I'll work on it." At Mal's dubious expression, she added, "You can always check behind me later, if it will make you feel more comfortable."

Mal nodded, noting with not a little satisfaction how intent she seemed on doing this for him. And it would be a real relief not to have to do it, if she really was willing and able, he thought. "I'll be back in awhile," he said as he climbed the ladder. When she didn't answer, he looked back to see her head already bent over the books in concentration.

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When everyone except Inara had assembled in the galley for the evening meal, Mal went to check on her. Climbing down the ladder of his bunk, he found her asleep, head resting on the top of the closed ledger and a pencil still clasped in her hand.

Cradling her head gently in his hand, Mal whispered in her ear, "Wake up, darlin'. Time for dinner. You can finish this up later."

Inara opened her eyes slowly and yawned widely. "That won't be necessary," she said, with a touch of pride. "It's done. I was just re-checking everything and must have fallen asleep."

Mal looked quickly through the pages of entries made in Inara's graceful handwriting. Scanning through the columns, he was amazed to see how much had been accomplished in such a short time.

"How does it all look?" Inara asked, running her fingers through her hair to comb it into submission.

Mal smiled broadly. "Looks like I got me a new accountant," he said, kissing the tip of her nose. "Thank you, darlin'."

Inara's smile shone like the sun. "You're welcome, Mal. I'm glad to be of use."

"You're more than that, bao bei," he said, pulling her close to him. "Much, much more."

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