NOTES: I'm going under the presumption that the poison would have worn off and by the time Mal woke up Inara would not be affected by it.

Inara clutched Mal's jacket, unable to believe he was dead. He couldn't be. He was bigger than life and came out of every situation no matter the odds. Tears formed in her eyes as she placed her cheek against his jaw, kissing him there lightly.

"Come on, Mal," she whispered, grazing his ear with her lips. She was an expert in loving both men and women, yet she felt like a bumbling idiot when it came to this man. She would not let him die. Not like this. He was larger than life, this cowboy of the black. He liked to talk big but he was one of those men who were soft inside when it got down to it.

She had often wondered what he would be like in bed. Those thoughts were quickly pushed aside anytime they wiggled their way into her head. There was no use dwelling on something that would never happen. Mal would never stoop to taking up with a companion. She had sealed her own fate in stating she would not service any of his crew as part of their deal.

But for this moment here and now she could do as she pleased. The others were focused on other things and Mal lay before her unconscious. She trailed a well manicured and perfectly polished fingernail along the edge of his jaw. The idea of his being married to someone had never occurred to her. Her reaction to finding out he had a wife was positively foreign to her. She knew better than to fall in love with anyone yet the jealousy she had felt told her she had failed to protect herself.

She realized she had feelings for the brave captain before now but not how deep those feelings ran. So was it so very strange that she wanted to touch him to her heart's content while she had the chance? She would more than likely never get it again.

She worked the buttons on his shirt with expertise and parted it, exposing his bare chest. Did she love him? She was not sure she even knew what love was. She was so accustomed to men attempting to buy the elusive emotion that the concept of loving just for loving's sake was foreign to her. Foreign but not abhorrent.

She kissed his chest before placing her head over his heart to ensure it was still beating. It was. She let her head remain there, taking in his scent and letting the sound of his heart beating etch itself into her memory. It was the closest she was ever going to get to him so she may as well take advantage of the situation.

"Serenity needs you. I need you," she whispered. She realized she was crying only when she saw the tear drops splatter onto his chest. She wiped the tears away, determined he would not see her looking so worried when he came to. She had no qualms about blaming his little wife for this. She was behind it even if she was not directly responsible.

"I didn't like her from the moment I saw her."

"Well, I wasn't particularly taken with her neither."

She looked up, the idea of hiding her tears from him forgotten at her relief that he was alive and awake. "You're all right," she said and kissed him.

"Well, now, what's this? You weren't fretting over me."

"Not really," she said. She knew her eyes probably betrayed her answer as being a lie. There were so many lies between them already, one more did not seem to matter.

"I can see that," he said cockily, that telling smirk on his face that said he knew she was not being honest. What else was new? At least he could not see into her heart.

A strong hand cupped her cheek and drew her to him again. His hands were rough, chapped and capable of doing horrible things. He had used his hands to fight against the Alliance and to steal things but when his mouth met hers all of that was forgotten. He was always gentle with her. It was his words that usually cut deep not his actions.

All Mal knew was that when he came to Inara was there. He had dreamt about her coming to him many a night alone in his bunk but never believed it would come true. He knew he was at times cruel with his digs but it was the only way he knew to protect himself. He had nothing to offer a girl like Inara, a piece of Serenity which she had without entanglements. So what did she need him for?

He had thought for sure when he dropped to the ground in his barracks that he was dead. He just knew that bitch of a wife had killed him. Oh, she was good at playing the innocent. She had played a good game, getting him to let his guard down and do something he knew was wrong.

Kissing Inara was probably not the smartest thing he had done, but he was in a state at the moment that no man could be blamed for acting upon. Her lips parted invitingly and their tongues met in the warmth of her mouth. He groaned into the kiss. It was better than he had imagined.

If he had a nickel for every time he had been tempted to visit her shuttle and ask her how serious she had been about not servicing any of his crew. For all he knew she might not have included him as a member of his crew since Serenity was his ship.

His hands caressed the curves of her body through the gown she wore. She always wore so many bloody clothes. For a woman who's job required the removal of said clothes he would have thought she would have worn less. Less was apparently not more and it showed what he knew about the life of a companion.

He suspected her body would be as warm and inviting as her mouth was. She kissed him with such emotion that it was startling. Had she really thought he was dead? Was she kissing him now out of relief and nothing more? Damn it all, but he was not going to do something tonight that either one of them would regret later.

He drew away, his hand still cupping her head. "It's nice to be fretted over," he admitted, unable to mask the heat he was feeling. "Especially when the person doing said fretting is as lovely as you are."

"Mal," she said and she blushed. He made a companion blush.

"I'll be damned," he whispered under his breath.


"Nothing. I just never thought you really cared what happened to me."

"How can you say that?" she asked, drawing away.

"I just didn't is all. Nothing to worry your pretty head about, Inara," he replied not knowing what else to say. The moment was gone, ruined. It was his own fault, but he could not take advantage of her. Some might say she could not be taken advantage of, but he believed differently. He always lived by a different set of standards than most people. It was bothersome, especially at times like this but in the end he rarely regretted his decisions.

"You're a mystery."

"It's how I get the women flocking to me in droves," he said with a wink.

"I can see how well it works, too."

"I know, can't you?"

"I hear them. They're in here," Zoe's voice was nearing Mal's room.

"Never enough privacy on my ship," Mal said softly.

"That's what you get for being the captain," she said as he stood. He offered her a hand, assisting her up from the floor. "Thank you," she whispered, her eyes downcast coyly.

He placed one last kiss against her lips, lingering lightly. "Next time I won't stop," he whispered. He was only human after all. He could only take so much temptation and he was curious now what Inara felt like underneath the layers of clothes and propriety she clung to.

"I'll remember that," she said, sounding almost shy as she turned toward the door.

"I'm glad I found you. We've got a situation, Captain."

"When don't we out here, Zoe. It's nothing we can't handle, I'm quite sure of it. But why don't you bring me up to speed."

"Am I interrupting?"

"It's a little late to be asking such a question now, isn't it?" he asked.

"If you'll excuse me," Inara said, her face flushed again. He could not help but smile at that. "I'll leave you two to discuss whatever's happened."

"See you â–’round," he said casually.

"Yeah, around." She did not sound as happy with that idea as he would have liked her to be. Oh well, he did not have time to figure out women right now, particularly that woman. Serenity was under attack. Serenity was always number one. She was a tough act to follow and never let him down, not once.

The End