Author's note: I've had this oneshot written up, eagerly awaiting to be posted for oh...about a month or so now. I'd be ready to post it, but then I would find something wrong with it, kept holding it back to change a word here and there. Here it finally is! I hope it passes your inspection!

Music suggestions: 'You get me' by Michelle Branch, 'We belong' by Pat Benatar.

Disclaimer: Still haven't created that universal, all-applicable disclaimer that says I own nothing. Especially not Firefly/Serenity.

The Perfect Woman

What made a woman perfect in the eyes of the opposite sex? She could read the mind of just about everyone in the verse if she came into close enough contact with them. There were some she wished she couldn't. But she wanted to know, on a fundamental level, how women like Inara could radiate perfection. If it were something that could be cultivated even after years of neglect.

There was no way she could compete with the one woman that every man wanted after. She had all the right curves, the perfect blend of woman and Amazonian warrior. She wasn't skilled in every possible fighting technique and weapon known in the verse. She couldn't read minds. She hadn't been carted off to a "special" school to be brainwashed and driven partially insane.

She knew how to dress and had the right combination to bring any man to his knees. And River meant that in a pleasurable manner. Sure, she could do the same thing...hers was just a little more crippling and forceful than persuasive.

Inara didn't have bouts of crazy, confounding everyone around her with her riddles. Inara was the epitome of the woman River never could be.

Most importantly, Inara wasn't only eighteen with a serious crush on the captain. Inara could act on her feelings if she ever wanted to and Mal would be a fool to reject them. River wasn't an idiot, she could see how the captain looked at Inara. Especially before the whole Miranda mess...all the secret glances and hidden thoughts. Inara felt them too. She just didn't know what would happen if she acted on them. So she didn't. And he didn't.

River always used to hear all their thoughts. Everyone's. Even his. But then one day, the captain's thoughts were no longer there. It had puzzled her for days and woken her out of a sound sleep when she realized what had been missing. In a way, his thoughts had always been a comfort to her. Both his and Zoe's, because they reminded her of how much some people had to live with. And survive. It had lulled her to sleep on more than one occasion, their strength. Now all she had was Zoe and the little baby Wash that was days from being born. She would have to let Zoe and Simon know soon so they could make the necessary preparations.

Inara wouldn't have any problem seducing Mal if she really wanted to. She was exactly what he needed. She had all the right experience, skill and beauty–not to mention age difference–to perfectly complement Mal.

It shouldn't hurt as much as it did when she pictured them together. How they would look holding hands and sharing long, meaningful glances. How Mal would try to save Inara from herself and her "questionable profession" as Mal had imagined once. And the way Inara would berate him for trying to control her life and take over her decision making skills while she tried to fight back a grin.

When it came to Inara, the companion had became River's guinea pig when she decided to try and block people's thoughts. She was of half a mind to admit that part of her crush might have originated from imbibing upon Inara's thoughts. Inara had the poise and external calm-collectedness that striving courtisans and expert alike had to admire. But she was still only a woman with dreams and desires. After awhile, all the feelings and stress of denying desires began to make River feel even more hopeless and guilty that somehow she was encroaching on Inara's terrritory. River knew she didn't have any chance at all, but the feelings wouldn't go away. Any of them. Personally, she thought she was doing fairly well thus far. She only got snippets here and there, mostly when she was very tired. She only wished she didn't have to feel or think anymore.

Besides, it's not as if her crush would ever be manifested into reality.

ooooovoooo*oooooozoooo-oooooooomoo*

"Quick! Slam me into the wall and then follow." River commanded succinctly, both of them halting at the brick wall of a dead end.

Mal looked at her flabbergasted, his gaze darting around furtively for any other means of escape. Just his luck, there was none.

"Security." River reminded him urgently, looking over her shoulder quickly before turning her back into the wall and pressing herself against it. The fingers of her hands wound around his coat lapels firmly and hauled him in towards her with a solid yank. "Quick, we don't have much time. Look interested in my body."

"What?!" Mal sputtered indignantly, attempting to unlock himself from the iron grip she had on his coat. He really liked the shiny new tuxedo jacket he'd had to buy for this recent job and didn't want to see any harm coming to it.

As an afterthought, he should probably say that the same could also be said about himself and the girl wrapping herself around him all nice-like.

Not that he was at all interested in how River could be the kind of girl to fit around him all nice-like.

Rolling her eyes, River clutched one hand behind his head and the other inched along underneath his coat onto his back towards the tiny blade he'd hidden there. Just in case.

"Left thigh holder under my dress." River said into his ear, lifting up the aforementioned leg and hooking it around his knee.

Mal's hands flailed around, the indecision in his mind translating to his hands as his hands skimmed along her body indecisively.

"While I may be able to hold this position for hours, it would look more believable if you would just grab me like I instructed you to do!" River hissed irritably.

Her talking about being able to hold positions for hours was something he didn't need to be hearing at the present.

"Whoa there, Albatross. You'd better check that tone with me. I'm the one that orders people around here." Mal returned, looking at her squarely.

"Well then do something in three...two..." River replied, trailing off when one hand sank into her hair and tilted her head further to one side as the other hooked around her knee and began inching upward as three guards charged around the corner.

"Mmm...I love the feel of your body against mine." River moaned out as seductively as possible. 'Just channel your inner Inara.' River thought to herself.

From the vocal silence as well as the lecherous thoughts from the guards, her hastily construed distraction was working perfectly.

She gasped in genuine surprise when Mal bit at her neck, leaving the spot raw and tender as he continued to suck on the area as if he'd never be able to breathe again if he left it. More of the surprise came from the evident pleasure he was receiving from the act. The part of him that was nestled quite nicely in a place she was afraid to admit to imagining him in for too long.

She barely felt the whisper of a caress further above the necessary height to acquire the gun attached to her upper thigh before his hand slid back down to release the catch on the gun.

"Halt your actions and step away from..." one of the guards finally began to manage. The order lodged in his throat when Mal's hand trailed its way down from her hair and onto her breast.

Her eyes shot open and stared up at the sky as he fondled her, the first Mal thought she'd received in months floating on the air like a wisp of smoke yet clearer than any of the others surrounding her.

'It shouldn't have happened like this.'

"Sorry it had to be like this, Albatross." Mal whispered apologetically against her neck, his thumb rubbing gently across the already taut peak. She shivered involuntarily as her gaze returned to his. He then pulled the gun away from her leg, spinning away from her as he shot off three consecutive shots. Each shot hit their target dead on in the left shoulder.

"Time to go, Darlin'." Mal said in a clipped tone, grabbing her forearm and dragging her back the way they had came.

River let him drag her along, dwelling on the thought that had passed from his mind to hers. It was even more world-tilting than the absurd and thrilling situation that had ended with her skin tingling and her brain almost completely frozen in shock.

He'd been thinking about her, too.

oooeoooaooo*oooowoooooo-oooocoooonoo*

(Deep sigh) So...did you like it? I wrote this at work (it may or may not have been at a time when I was supposed to be working...) like I mentioned at the beginning, a few months back. And, as per usual, I left the poor thing without a resolution. So if it feels a little clipped, that's why. I pulled it out of the cloudy, grey sky, lol. I wanted to give them a chance to talk after the..."confrontation" but the words just wouldn't come. I'm telling you, it really frustrates the hell out of me! I hope you still enjoyed it regardless.