Drop Dead Gorgeous

Author: just-slummin

Disclaimer: I own none of these characters.

Rating: NC17

Summary: This is an AU story written for the Mal/River ficathon on LiveJournal. Mal has an interesting encounter in a bar.

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Malcolm Reynolds was bone tired and more than a little drunk. He watched the human detritus of the little border moon float by the window of the bar where he sat drinking steadily, trying to dull his senses enough to block out the absolute emptiness he felt inside. Once upon a time, when this mood struck him, Zoe would sit and drink with him until it passed, saying nothing, but looking at him steadily until he pulled himself together.

But as it was, Zoe and Wash, still newlyweds and more than a little obnoxious in their affections, had slunk off into some flea-bitten hotel room to do whatever ridiculously twisted things they couldn't get up to on the ship, and Mal winced to imagine what exactly that might be. He'd known Zoe forever, it seemed, but this new side of her was just downright disturbing on all sorts of levels. If Wash weren't the best pilot flying, Mal would have long since booted his scrawny pi gu out the airlock, and dealt with Zoe's anger in some way he couldn't right now fathom.

Little Kaylee had been consigned to stay on the ship, being as how Mal didn't want her to be exposed to the seedier side of the little moon. Also, truth be told, he was in no mood for her generally cheery disposition. Made it all manner of hard for a man to sulk proper when she smiled that smile that lit up the 'verse like one of them little sparklers his Mama used to save for special picnics out by the creek on Shadow.

As for Jayne, he was upstairs with some whore, or maybe it was two. Mal had lost count about the same time he lost interest in the proceedings of his mercenary. Almost wishing he could so easily scratch the itch of his sexual desire with just any whore on a border moon, he took another drink.

He closed his eyes to enjoy the slow burn of the cheap whiskey, and so did not actually see the woman enter the bar. But the air stirred around her, and though she walked slowly into the dimly lit room, it seemed that a hot wind blew in with her, making the light sprinkling of hair on the back of Mal's hand stand up with electricity. He opened his eyes slowly and watched her walk, leaving a trail of wide-eyed drunks in her wake.

She slid onto a stool at the bar, crossing long, dancer's legs at the knee. The delicate turn of her ankle made Mal ache to trail his lips along it, tasting the smooth silk of it on his hungry tongue. He took another sip of whiskey.

The bartender, tongue-tied in her presence, produced a clean glass as if it were a treasure, and set it in front of her. She smiled, her red lips curving just slightly in acknowledgment of the gift, and took a tiny sip of the amber liquid swirling in the glass. Before she could swallow, a man staggered to the bar to capture her attention. She leaned close in, whispering something in his ear, and he moved away, crestfallen.

Mal watched, mesmerized as half the men in the bar were thus rebuffed. Finally, with a grace that stole his breath, she slid off the stool and walked to his table, pulling out a chair without so much as a word and causing a general discontented murmur to arise in the captive audience. "Is this seat taken?" she asked.

Mal was not exactly sure what it was about her voice, but something in the way she spoke sent tendrils of desire curling deep in his belly, and he found it hard to form an answer. After what seemed to him an eternity, but was only a moment, he answered, "It is now."

She smiled a slow, soft smile, and pulled the chair close to him, her thigh brushing against his as she sat. Nothing else was said for the length of time it took Mal to finish his whiskey, and instead of finding it passing strange, he was unaccountably warmed by it. Perhaps it was the whiskey, he thought, as he followed her up the stairs of the tavern to a room on the second floor, or perhaps it was some sort of witchery that had led him here. Whatever it was, he had no desire to be elsewhere, as she took his hand and led him to the bed.

She pushed him down gently, and he watched her slowly peel her dress from her shoulders, stopping just short of revealing her breasts. "Don't stop on my account," he said, his voice unnaturally deep with desire. She climbed onto the bed, straddling his pants and leaned forward, presenting herself like a present for unwrapping.

"Wo de ma," he growled, as he breathed in the scent of her and flicked his tongue out to taste the skin above the line of her dress. Easing the fabric further down her arms, he suckled the exposed skin, and the woman arched her back with a little breathless cry, inciting his growing passion. Impatient now to see all of her, he gathered the fabric of her dress in his hands and pulled it away from her body as she rose to accommodate him.

The knife strapped on her thigh gave him a moment's pause. Fingering it speculatively, he asked, his words slurring a bit around the edges, "Wha's the knife for, darlin'?"

"To kill you," she answered simply. When his eyes widened, she smiled, unstrapping the scabbard in one swift motion and laying the knife on the bedside table. "But I've decided to kill someone else instead."

Unstrapping his gunbelt, she laid it on the table as well. "Now we're even," she whispered, her clever hands removing the rest of his clothing in short order. Trailing her long, slender fingers along his chest and abdomen, she straddled his hips once again, positioning herself maddeningly close to his hard length and rolling her hips slowly.

Unable to endure the sweet torment a moment longer, Mal grasped her arms, flipping her onto her back in one smooth motion. Sliding between her creamy thighs with hungry intent, he thrust into her warm, wet heat, causing them both to gasp with the sheer pleasure of the fit. Moving in a steady rhythm, he watched the color rise in her cheeks and the pulse race at her neck as she unraveled beneath him in waves of exquisite sensation. Over and over he buried himself in her, awakening a part of himself he had thought dead in Serenity Valley and since. Finally, losing the rhythm and thrusting deeply into the core of her, he found his release as well.

When ability to move returned, he pulled away from her, sliding his sweat-soaked skin along the length of her body, reveling still in the feel of skin on skin. "I don't even know your name," he said, a pleasant lassitude overtaking his limbs.

"River," she whispered, running her hands lightly along his chest. "My name is River."

"Well, I'm more than pleased to meet you," Mal murmured, pulling her close to him as he slipped into a remarkably restful sleep.

The next morning, sunlight streaming through the window of the room awoke the Captain. He looked around, eager to see the woman in the light of day. But the room was empty. Had it not been for the lingering scent of her on the sheets and the pleasant heaviness in his groin, he would have thought that the woman had been nothing more than an alcohol-induced dream.

Quickly dressing and strapping his gun back on, he hurried down the stairs to see if she was anywhere close by. But she was nowhere to be found, and he found himself oddly disappointed that she had left without so much as a word. He ordered a coffee, and sat down at the same table where he'd sipped whiskey with her the night before.

Zoe strode into the tavern in scant minutes, looking a little more animated than usual. "Sir, we need to leave now," she said calmly, though he could tell from long association something had her concerned.

"What's the matter?" he asked in low voice, as he got up to follow her out of the tavern.

"There's been a murder there in the alleyway," she said, indicating the small, dark street beside the tavern. "Man's been stabbed with a small knife of some sort. Figure they'll be questioning the folks at the tavern soon enough. Best we be gettin' gone before the law arrives."

"Man a local?" Mal asked.

Zoe shook her head. "Folks around say nobody knows him. Fancy suit, looks to be from out of town. Didn't carry any ident card. All's they found in his pocket was a pair of bright blue gloves."

Mal nodded, thinking that was a strange thing indeed. It wasn't until Serenity was in the air and Mal was staring into the Black that he remembered the woman's words as she'd unstrapped her knife from her silky thigh.

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