Not mine, etc. Sort of a coda to "Massage Oil." Obviously post-BDM.

River's steering, and Zoe retired early, and Jayne's cleaning his guns (again) so it's only Simon and Kaylee and Inara and Mal lingering around the kitchen table. Kaylee secretly thinks it feels like a very stilted double date; she knows she and Simon are the obnoxiously shuài couple, all holding hands over top of the table and sneaking kisses not-so-sneakily.

Inara is privately pleased for them; it's been such a long time coming and she's glad there's at least one shipboard romance, it seems more right that way. But given Mal's terse responses and stiff demeanor, it's clear he doesn't feel the same way.

The whole evening stutters to a stop right quick, though. As usual, Simon goes and ruins the fun by opening his gorram mouth. Mal actually loosens up long enough to get to telling about Kaylee's arrival on Serenity, and Simon has to declare how it doesn't seem like that would be a very "auspicious beginning" to her time on board, which she assumes (rightly) to be a jab at her sexual openness.

"Yours wasn't too auspicious either, Doc," Mal chuckles, but Kaylee's already stormed off, and Simon follows after her, apologies abounding.

Inara shakes her head. "Simon can be very mannered, but he's not skilled with tact."

"Which Kaylee oughta just know and take in stride," Mal replies, not moving to help Inara clear dishes from the table. He just kicks back, a show of nonchalance that makes Inara grit her teeth.

"Take being called loose in stride?" Inara says disbelievingly. "I know Kaylee well enough to know that's how his remark sounded to her."

"She's too sensitive to things he don't mean to be hurtful," Mal shrugs.

"You don't know he didn't," Inara retorts. "It's very possible he took offense to hearing about how she'd been with other men and meant it how it sounded."

Mal scoffs. "I'm sure he knows she'd had other fellows before him."

"That doesn't stop most men from not liking to hear about their woman's prior entanglements," Inara says, raising an eyebrow. Why else do you call my job whoring? she thinks. "Despite men being more than candid about it themselves."

"What's that mean?" Mal asks, frowning.

"Don't play the innocent," Inara rolls her eyes. "It means sleeping around is more acceptable amongst men."

"You're a fine one to talk!" Mal exclaims, laughing bitterly. "You sleep around as a profession!"

Inara glares at him furiously. "I won't even bother trying to justify my career to you," she mutters, then before she can stop herself: "I knew it bothered you."

Mal guffaws, finding her accusation a little too true. "'Scuse me?"

"Mal, you're forever disparaging what I do," she points out. Unspoken is the why, that he doesn't like her sleeping with other men because he's jealous, but the stricken look on his face proves it may as well have been said.

"It… ain't honest," he finally fumes.

"Says the common criminal!" Inara exclaims. "You didn't let that apparent distaste stop you from bedding Nandi. And I'd hardly call Saffron honest."

Mal makes a face. "You said Nandi… and Saffron even had you fooled awhile."

Inara looks at him like he can't possibly be that dense. Then she too storms off, brimming with things she can't say out loud.

She's almost to her door when she feels a tap on the shoulder. Mal's there looking sheepish – a rare sight, on him. "You can go on doin' your job, it don't bother me none," he says. "It's your prerogative."

Inara swallows her pride and closes the distance between them, tipping her face towards his. She shuts her eyes as she kisses him, her whole posture relaxing as she does so. When her eyes open, he's staring at her with surprise. She just shakes her head. "No, that wasn't me servicing you," she snaps, misreading his expression. And with that she finishes the walk into her shuttle, still seething.

He's on her heels, though, and there's no hesitance as he spins her round by the shoulders and kisses her roughly. She's taken aback, but it doesn't stop her from enjoying the reciprocation. They kiss hungrily, digging nails into each other's backs, and Mal shifts to pin her against the wall.

Inara lets him take the lead; she's still calculating her next move as their lips lock, tongues battling. He tugs on her dress's zipper, and she slides his suspenders down, unbuttoning his shirt as quickly as she can. Now she can rake nails down his chest, secretly pleased she leaves little red trails on his skin. He groans, instinctively going to grab a handful of her hair, and she moans right back, a bit of her neck appealing altogether too much to him as her head angles back.

They move as one as Inara realizes the door is still open and goes to remedy that. Mal holds her arms out, watching her writhe slightly against the just-closed door with some satisfaction. Neither of them say anything just yet, afraid to break the spell, and Mal finally finishes pulling her dress off. It's a lovely sight, and any hesitation he may have been battling before, he knows he'll see it through now.

Inara undoes his pants, easing them down with a smirk. "Now it's even," she murmurs, her voice low, leaning in to plant kisses down his jaw and throat. Suddenly she makes her play, pushing him towards her bed and straddling his hips.

He just looks up at her, almost pensive all of a sudden. "You sure about this?" he asks, praying her answer is yes.

"No turning back now," she breathes, pressing her lips against his Mal knows he's ready to go, that she's already got him geared up and excited, but he's too afraid to do anything but kiss her, and so that he does.

Once they've both slipped their underwear off, he rolls so they're both on their sides, facing each other – still kissing deeply. Inara reaches a hand down, and not to just let himself be serviced (he knows, at least at the back of his mind, that he'd been afraid of that one-way feeling practically forever) he gently kneads her breast. Both of their rage has melted into what could only be described as long-simmering passion, and where mere moments ago there had been hunger and fury there was now something much harder to quantify.

"Băobèi," Mal mutters, his thought apparently trailing off as she kisses his chest gently. "Inara…"

She's used to hearing men say her name, but it still catches her off-guard. She tries to smile reassuringly as she guides him into her, unable to prolong it another second. They both moan, quickly finding a rhythm they both enjoy, and Mal rolls onto his back again, positioning her atop his hips and watching for her reactions.

For once in her life, Inara's actually in the position to act on her own desires as well as the ones she senses in her partner. And for some reason she wants nothing more in that moment than to run her hands over his chest, which he doesn't argue; he's enjoying just the sight of her, nothing said of how she's touching him. But when he pulls her down to kiss her, their hips still going in that slightly irregular rhythm, it's voracious. Seeing her skin against his, glowing lustrous in the soft lighting, about makes him crazy with desire, and he kisses her again, hungrily.

"Inara, would you pinch me?" he asks.

"I've… heard stranger requests," she admits, almost chuckling. He shakes his head.

"I think I'm dreamin', that's all," he explains.

Inara smiles softly, rolling her eyes. "Mal, you'll be better off… just shutting up," she laughs, leaning in to capture his mouth with hers.

They move as one, both gasping and moaning in turn, and Mal traces his hands over her curves, looking for cues. Her skin is warm, the color rising in her cheeks, and it just makes him smile to take it in. She's definitely taking the lead now, and he'd think to describe it as her riding him if that didn't cast an air of judgment; as it is, he just enjoys the way the whole experience feels. His internal monologue is full of surprise, can't believe this is happening and synonymous phrases, but not wanting to come off a sap he keeps it to himself.

Loving what she does, Mal slips a hand lower, rubbing and pinching her clit gently. It takes her by surprise, and she shivers with delight, making Mal all that much happier he was able to get that reaction out of her. She bites down on her bottom lip coyly, and he watches her writhe with a little smirk. "That work good?" he asks in a whisper. Inara nods, breathless, and kisses him again, deeply.

Her leaning as she is gives him a chance to toy with her nipples, tweaking them and suckling in succession. He bites down just enough to elicit a short, low moan, and both of her hands hold his face on either side as she places kisses on his eyelids and the tip of his nose.

It's not long after that he lets out a moaning sigh, and she climaxes moments after, collapsing on his chest. They breathe heavily for a minute, neither up to ending this moment. Finally, Mal speaks, his eyes fluttering open-closed as he smiles at her.

"I measure up?" he asks, chuckling to himself.

"Tiánxīn, there's only you and I present," she tells him forcing his gaze to meet hers. "It's not any sort of competition." Predicting what his response may be, she continues, almost scoldingly, "Saying otherwise would simply be insulting."

"Guess that means you really don't kiss and tell, huh," he says, bracing himself for the playful shove she gives.

"I don't believe there's anything to tell," she replies airily. "A moment is only relevant to those who share it. And in this case, that's only us." She smiles drowsily at him, placing his arm over her waist as she curls against him.

"We gotta talk this out?" he halfheartedly asks.

"What is there we need to say?" she replies. She can hear him preparing a response, and hastily adds, "I've no regrets, Mal."

He rushes to tell her, "Nor I, not t'all," his voice a whisper in her ear. "Don't see I could."

She laughs softly. "You know you needn't play at flattery."

Mal bites his lip, pressing her closer to him. "T'weren't my intent, měilì."

The term of endearment brings a flush to her cheeks, and she laces her fingers with his. "Xièxiè," she says, thinking his earnestness is far more valuable than silks and gold to her.

"Believe I owe ya somethin'," he breathes. Realizing how it sounds, he kisses the nape of her neck, her earlobe. "Where you keep that oil stuff? Reckon one good backrub deserves another." She visibly relaxes, laughing as she guides him in the direction.

Mal spills the massage oil into his palms, then runs strong hands over her shoulders, mimicking the patterns of touch she'd used. She leans back against him, unable to stop smiling. "Look at you, the gentleman," she teases lightly, and just to show he's not sore he holds her close.

"Awful lucky, we are," he murmurs.

"I suppose we're due a little luck," Inara returns, turning to kiss him again.

shuài; "cute"
băobèi; "darling"
tiánxīn; "sweetheart"
měilì; "beautiful"
xièxiè; "thank you"