A/N: An idea born out of boredom and an overactive imagination. Perhaps a dirty one.

Aphrodisiac

Summary: Inara is forced to put theory to the test when Kaylee requests a visual demonstration of her lessons on seduction. Unfortunately for the companion, her subject just happens to be an irate captain. Mal/Inara, Kaylee/Simon. Post BDM. Rated M for sexual content.

"If you could only see the beast you've made of me,
I held it in but now it seems you've set it running free,
Screaming in the dark, I howl when we're apart,
drag my teeth across your chest to taste your beating heart..."

-florence + the machine, howl

If one thing was certain, it was that things never did go according to plan on Serenity.

Had Inara remembered that, then maybe she wouldn't have been pulling the delicate and thin spaghetti straps of her night dress up her shoulders. She wouldn't have been pushing the lace fabric of it down past her waist where it had been scrunched up. She wouldn't be completely aware of the fresh, warm and sticky mess in between her thighs, or fixing the riot that her thick mane of black curls had become. She wouldn't have felt so utterly bare, so flushed when she recalled the way every part of her body had been kissed and caressed. She wouldn't touch her lips and think on how swollen they were from all the biting and the suckling. She wouldn't have walked on bare feet towards her satin robe lying on the floor with wobbly, uncertain legs.

Most importantly, she wouldn't have had to turn around and face Kaylee, her unsuspecting voyeur, while bearing all the evidence of arousal and the shame that came with it. Looking at the young mechanic, standing still, awestruck, her eyes wide open and her dainty lips parted in silence, Inara couldn't help but think she mirrored her own look right then. But she couldn't hold her gaze for long and it wasn't because of the chill in the air raising goose bumps on her skin, or because of her erect nipples rubbing beneath the soft material of her night gown, entirely visible beneath the sheerness. No, it was nothing to do with how naked and exposed Inara was because she was never ashamed of her body.

It was the symbolism.

There she stood, wearing the visible evidence of his love like a stain on her skin and it covered every inch of her, coated her in the thin film of sweat. It was there in the obvious moisture sliding down the inside of her smooth thigh, in the soft bruising around her areola and on her neck. She couldn't mask it, couldn't cleanse him off of her and the scariest part was that she didn't want to. He was there in her half lidded dark eyes, in the faded echo of his name on her lips, in the sweat of her brow and the warmth in her loins.

That was why she had to turn away, had to look at the floor rather than seeing that knowledge in the young mechanic's hazel eyes.

Inara was able to prove that a plan gone wrong was not necessarily always a plan gone sour.

Still, had things gone the way she'd intended, then captain Malcolm Reynolds would not have had her on the dining table, and if he weren't to have done that, then there also wouldn't have been a thing for Kaylee to have seen from her little hiding spot just outside the kitchen.

But alas, it seemed a rule that nothing would ever go as pleasant and expected aboard Serenity. Not this time and most likely, not ever again.

-.-

"Got time to talk, 'Nara?"

Kaylee shyly poked her head into the Companion's lavish little shuttle. Inara had turned around and smiled. She'd been sitting at her vanity set, combing through her long, black curls when she'd heard the quiet knock on her door. She ushered Kaylee in and turned in her seat so that she was facing her.

"Sit down, mei-mei," Inara instructed affectionately.

It was pretty late into the night but Inara figured the little mechanic had been busy in the engine room, tinkering away at the ship she loved so much. It was evident in the black engine soot smeared onto her heart shaped face and on her clothes. She'd tied her light brown hair up into a messy ponytail and she'd wiped the palms of her hands on her army green cargo pants when she'd come in. There was a touch of nervousness in her wide eyes and Inara sensed apprehension. After all, it had been quite some time since Kaylee had ventured into the companion's shuttle for advice regarding a certain doctor aboard Serenity.

Ever since the events of Miranda, Inara suspected the couple was off to a happy and healthy start, good sex included. She'd been excited for Kaylee and treasured the conversations they had in regards to other things. They'd always been close and finding things to talk about, besides Simon, was certainly an easy thing to do.

"What's on your mind, Kaylee?" Inara asked once the young engineer was seated on the edge of the companion's bed.

After dinner that evening, Kaylee had approached Inara while the others were distracted and whispered that she wanted to talk about a personal matter with her. She'd blushed like a school girl on her first date and Inara wasn't sure of how serious the situation was. Either way, she'd been more than happy to help.

"Oh. Well, it really ain't much. Silly things, mostly," Kaylee explained bashfully.

Inara looked at her in a way that told her it was okay to continue and she rested her hand over one of hers as a symbol of this.

"Nothin' gets by you, does it 'Nara?" Kaylee smiled.

"Not quite, mei-mei," Inara admitted.

After a moment, Kaylee took in a deep breath and looked up at the colourful drapes decorating the ceiling. She exhaled and then averted her gaze to her lap where Inara's hand remained over hers.

"It's just...things have been a l'il strange these past couple of weeks," Kaylee started.

Inara remained silent, waiting for her to finish.

"I mean, things were great for some time! He's so good and his hands, they're really soft and gentle...He works hard at tryin' to please me and you can tell that he's so sincere about it. Never had a man make me feel quite the way he does. Oh, 'Nara, it's like bein' on a cloud and floatin' away from everythin'!" Kaylee gushed.

She turned to the companion wearing a blush on her cheeks, eyes bright and grinning excitedly. Inara returned the smile and as Kaylee described it, she envisioned the feeling herself. She could almost experience all the emotions and she thought that if she let them, they could all burst inside of her, devouring her, drowning her.

"I'm happy for you, Kaylee. But I'm assuming there's a problem somewhere here?" Inara probed.

Kaylee's face fell at the mention of an issue and she went back to staring at her lap. Inara moved her hand and Kaylee twiddled her fingers, unsure of how to go forward.

"See the thing is...as amazin' as it all was, it didn't last. He barely has any time for me these days. And I'm not tryin' to be mean or anythin'! I get that he has River and the poor thing still needs his attention, especially now that she's been doin' so well. But I can't help it. I feel like...we've gone back to how it was before Miranda," Kaylee whispered.

"When was the last time you two had sex?" Inara asked.

Kaylee's head shot up and she stared at the companion wide-eyed and tight lipped. She hadn't been expecting her friend to be so blunt and to the point but, Inara knew what questions to ask. She always did.

Kaylee sighed and barely breathed out her response, "Two weeks ago...And it was real quick and messy, too. He was...in a rush..."

Inara leaned forward so that her hair fell by her face in a thick, black curtain, "Mei-mei, have you talked to him about it? Simon is naive but he can be understanding. I'm sure that if you told him-..."

"I have," Kaylee cut her off.

"I brought it up once, real nice and all. It didn't go so well. Sorta became a fight and he wouldn't talk to me for the rest of the day," Kaylee stated.

Inara didn't say anything for some time. She gave Kaylee her space, her moment of silence to adjust. She knew if she pushed too much, she'd break down. Kaylee was sitting on a very fragile ledge and Inara knew she'd waited a long time before coming to her with the problem.

"What else have you tried?" Inara asked when she figured Kaylee was ready to go on.

A ghost of a smile passed on Kaylee's lips when she said, "You'll laugh at me if I told you."

"Mei-mei, you know I wouldn't," Inara said, confirming what they both already knew.

A moment of pause and then, "I tried seducin' him. You know, usin' feminine wiles and the like. Not that it did me any good."

Inara couldn't mask the look of surprise on her face at the mention of little Kaylee trying to bring the doctor into her bed using seduction. She probably shouldn't have been surprised. In the end, it did seem like something the young girl would try and it certainly made perfect sense. Inara remained silent, though. She wasn't entirely sure on how to proceed. Kaylee took it as an opportunity to look at her, to see if she was judging.

"Good on you for not laughin' at me 'Nara. Especially since seducin' is your trade and all. I feel kinda foolish," Kaylee said with a hint of sadness in her eyes.

Inara took hold of her hand again and said, "Oh, Kaylee. There isn't any shame in what you did. You clearly care for him and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be with him, physical or other."

Kaylee tried to smile but the sadness lingered in her voice when she spoke, "Thanks, 'Nara. But I really did make a fool of myself. I followed Saffron's example and waited in his bed wearin' nothin' but my birthday clothes."

Inara hid the tiny bit of anger that boiled beneath her skin at the mention of the redheaded vixen that had hurt her crew and successfully fooled her captain. Kaylee didn't pick up on the way the companion might have tensed up and even if she did, she made no mention of it.

"Was the good doctor pleasantly surprised?" Inara asked, focusing on the subject at hand.

Kaylee let out a laugh and said, "Oh, he was surprised, alright. But we didn't do nothin' that night, either. Turns out, he'd been workin' late and just came in to his room to get some supplies from his personal med kit. He appreciated the view, 'Nara, but he was gone right after, babblin' about a rain check followed by medical jargon."

Inara squeezed Kaylee's hand and said, "You should keep trying, mei-mei. He'll come around, you'll see."

That's when Kaylee looked at Inara with a hint of mischief, all sadness temporarily forgotten. Inara couldn't figure out what was on her mind and so she stared back at her, curious.

"That's the thing! I got to thinkin' about what I did wrong and how I could do better. I shouldn't have followed Saffron's example. I shoulda been askin' you! I mean, this is the sorta thing you do, ain't it? How do you work with a client if he's been all...distant?" Kaylee asked nervously.

Inara blinked a few times and then shook her head, "Kaylee, I don't know how I could help."

The younger woman clasped both of Inara's hands in her own and grinned, "Course you do, 'Nara! All I'm askin' for are a few pointers. Nothin' fancy."

Advice. Kaylee wanted advice from a companion about the art of seduction. She wanted to use them on Simon who, being so naive around women, would surely fall for a companion's allure. Then again, Saffron had been successful on Malcolm Reynolds, a feat Inara didn't think was possible. But recalling that memory only made her angry again and she turned her thoughts elsewhere.

"Pointers? You want pointers on how to seduce Simon?" Inara asked, as if voicing the question would somehow reiterate its realism.

Kaylee nodded, still smiling.

Inara took in a deep breath, exhaled and said very calmly, "I suppose no harm could come of giving away some...tips."

Kaylee made a little, high pitched sound with her voice and she embraced Inara tightly, taking the companion off guard. The hug was still very much welcomed, though.

That was how it had started. Had Inara known it would end with her legs around Malcolm Reynolds' waist, toes curling as he thrust mercilessly into her, she'd have second guessed her decision. But it had started off as something so harmless and Inara felt more than happy to be lending a helping hand to one of her dearest friends. She offered her tips, advice and methods on what she could do to get Simon's attention. One of the scenarios they had both worked on included Kaylee playing out the role of a very sexually aroused patient. It had enticed Simon but Jayne had stormed in, demanding he get the doctor alone because it was a 'man to man' problem, as he had put it.

The next thing Inara suggested included clothing options. She had laid out some of her more exotic wardrobe and Kaylee looked at each item with admiration and longing. Her fingers fell across the soft satins, the delicate lace and the fine cashmere.

"Wow, 'Nara. So many pretties!" Kaylee cried.

She then picked up a very revealing soft pink dress with long slits that would end at her thighs. The top part was made of lace and was clearly constricting enough to make anyone's bosom look full. The bottom half was all a peach sheer.

"This'd knock him right out," Kaylee stated.

Inara couldn't help but grin and took the gown out of the mechanic's hands, "It isn't always about being the most scandalous or revealing, mei-mei."

Inara then proceeded to pick out a deep red dress. It was simple in design and the fabric would shine beneath the dim lighting of the companion's room. The straps were thin and short so that they would wound up closer to the shoulders. The sweetheart cut was deep and the body sat tight so that it would hug all curves. It was short but a thin layer of sheer frill decorated the ends, giving it a more feminine touch.

Inara held it up for Kaylee to see and said, "It's about what you think he'd like to see you in. From what I know of the doctor, I'd say he's easy to please and simple is enough for him. But more importantly, you need to consider what he likes best about you and showcase that."

Kaylee nodded her head and listened, her eyes never wandering from the dress, clearly trying to picture herself in it.

Inara continued, "For example, Simon likes your flare for life, your energy, your femininity. That's why something red, simple and cute works well for you."

And so she had worn it. However, Inara did add a few finishing touches. She instructed Kaylee to leave her hair down because she really did have great hair and it was hard to notice when she always had it up. The older woman didn't bother with any makeup, stating again that looking natural and like her everyday self would be something Simon would find more appealing. Kaylee wasn't entirely sure about that one, but she heeded her friend's words regardless.

In the end, none of it mattered. Kaylee still returned unsuccessful, despite her best efforts. She'd come close, though. He had definitely gotten aroused and, according to Kaylee, there was kissing, but River seemed to have had a small relapse on deck and Mal had come rushing into the infirmary. Kaylee had said it was hilarious when he'd caught her dressed like that and with Simon's hands all over her. If he hadn't needed the man so badly in that moment, Kaylee was sure he was going to shoot the doctor. The look on Mal's face had almost made everything worth it but, at the end of it, Kaylee was still a touch disappointed.

This pattern seemed to continue throughout another week, regardless of what Inara told her. It was either interruptions by other crew members or Simon truly being way too busy working in the infirmary. The timing was always off. If he wasn't tending to his sister and running tests, he was busy patching up wounds that the crew had garnered from dangerous jobs. He'd give Kaylee a tender kiss, apologize and then be on his way, with a promise of soon. Eventually, it was all the girl could take.

"'Nara, ain't none of it workin'. I'm beginnin' to think I'm doin' somethin' wrong here," Kaylee admitted as she paced Inara's shuttle.

"Perhaps the timing is wrong. A little patience and things will start to look up," Inara said, trying to be optimistic.

Kaylee shook her head, "Been patient for a month now. What is it I'm missin'?"

Inara chewed on her bottom lip before saying, "I don't think you've done anything wrong, mei-mei. I've told you everything I can."

"But you never fail at this sort of thing! How would you go about it, 'Nara? I mean, hypothetically, of course," Kaylee asked.

Inara sighed, "I really don't know. Each person is different and they have their own unique needs and requirements."

"So what you're sayin' is if you were in a situation exactly like mine, you'd know?" Kaylee went on, stopping her pacing and staring at Inara with a strange glint in her eyes.

"I...suppose?" Inara treaded carefully.

Kaylee came up closer to where the companion was seated and asked, "In other words, if you had to, let's say, seduce a man you knew would be a l'il hesitant, you'd be able to figure it out?"

Inara nodded again but recognized the look on Kaylee's face to suggest she had a risky idea, "Yes, I probably would. Kaylee, what does this have to do with anything? What are you scheming?"

"That maybe I'm in need of a visual lesson instead of somethin' verbal?" Kaylee smiled prettily, playing up her charm.

Inara's eyes widened, "You want a visual? Kaylee, you know I can't do that. What I do with my clients is highly confidential. The lawsuits I could face if I were to even consider-"

Kaylee shook her head and interrupted Inara, "Not with a client, of course!"

"If not with a client, then whom?" Inara questioned, an eyebrow quirked up in response.

Kaylee kept smiling and the mischief snuck into her expression as she talked, "Well, let's see. We're lookin' for someone headstrong and difficult. That means it can't be Jayne seein' as how he'd jump your bones soon as he gets you alone in a room. It can't be Simon because well...that would be a bit strange. I guess that sorta leaves you with only one other option."

Inara nearly jumped out of her skin. She shot up off her seat, eyes wide and the colour drained from her face and said, "No way. There is no way that I'm seducing Mal. Kaylee, you've had some crazy ideas before but that is complete and utter madness!"

Kaylee kept up her charm and gave Inara a pouty look, "Aw, come on, 'Nara! Ain't you up for a bit of a challenge? If Saffron could do it, I'm sure you could! Besides, you wouldn't have to go all the way. Just enough to help me catch the swing o' things."

Inara bristled again at the mention of the female thief, and said, "Do you realize what you are asking me to do? You want me to seduce Malcolm Reynolds, the captain of this ship. You are aware how much pride that man has, right?"

"No one's askin' you to make any love confessions or the like. Just, you know, some feminine wiles," Kaylee pleaded, convincingly.

Inara took in a deep breath and calmed her nerves before replying, "The captain is very wary of any type of wiles, especially after...after being duped by Saffron."

Kaylee wasn't swayed and argued back, "But you ain't Saffron. You two've quite a history and you've known each other for a significant time. Capt'n knows you'd be sincere with him. An' seein' as how he's sweet on you, he's the perfect candidate!"

Inara's expression softened at the mention of Mal's affection for her. Everyone on the ship seemed to know about it, even Kaylee. Mal had always been a private man so it was interesting to note how his crew had come to realize what she had only realized before leaving Serenity. Perhaps they simply knew him that well. They were his crew, after all. Or had he actually made it obvious? That was a question Inara could never ask and was therefore, an answer she would never know. Either way, she found it hard to meet Kaylee's gaze after the accusation, knowing she couldn't really deny the truth there was to it.

"There wouldn't even have to be any kissin'. Just show me how you'd start it is all," Kaylee persuaded.

Inara wasn't sure it was a good idea. As a matter of fact, it was an extremely dangerous idea. If Mal so much as caught on to her true intentions, he'd never forgive her for toying with him. If he ever found out Kaylee was watching, he'd kick her off of his ship for good. But, if Inara played her cards right, if she used all of her knowledge in reading people and appealing to them using words and body language, then she knew she could fool even the captain himself. It certainly was possible. Besides, it more than rustled her feathers knowing Saffron could do it so easily. And maybe it was also because it wouldn't have been solely an act. Her strange attraction to Mal, as well as some deeper feelings she'd been denying for the longest time, would certainly benefit her.

She ran a hand through her hair and spoke, "I don't know, Kaylee. If things go south, it could get very ugly very quickly."

Kaylee held Inara by her shoulders and looked her in the eyes when she said, "But it won't on account of you bein' real good. Think of the capt'n as a client, if that helps any."

It didn't help. In fact it made things worse. Inara's mind had ventured there plenty of times before. Imagining what he'd have felt like moving inside of her was something that had her writhing in sweat ridden sheets plenty of nights, whether she was on her own or beneath a client.

"Kaylee," Inara started, looking her back in the eyes and having made her final decision, "You better pick a very good hiding spot otherwise we'll both meet our end at the hands of a very angry captain."

Kaylee's grin could have torn her face in half, she was smiling so hard. She squeezed Inara's shoulders and all her features seemed to light up as she realized she had won. By some miracle of it, she had convinced Inara to do something she was terrified of trying. The companion kept reminding herself it was for a good cause, that it would help mend the rift between Simon and Kaylee and that was enough to justify it. Nevermind the nagging voice in the back of her head telling her otherwise.

Kaylee had picked out the night for it to happen. It would have to have been after hours, with all of the crew tucked away in bed. Mal had a habit of always being the last one to hit his bunk anyways but Kaylee noted how on a particular night of the week, he'd sit up late, cleaning out and fixing his guns. It wasn't a super lengthy process but it did keep him a little longer than the usual night.

So Inara busied herself around her shuttle, mentally preparing herself for the evening while Kaylee sat back and watched her work. She'd had her doubts, even started second guessing herself. But all it took was that happy look on Kaylee's face to remind her it was too late to back out. Disappointment in the mechanic's expression was something that was never easy to handle. Not even Mal could bear it when she'd pull it.

"Whatcha gonna wear, 'Nara? What's the capt'n real fond of about you?" Kaylee asked, barely containing her excitement.

Inara stared into her wardrobe, her mind torn as thoughts scrambled about, leaving it impossible for her to think straight. Her heart was going a mile a minute inside of her chest. Was she really going through with this? And what should she wear? What did Mal like about her? That thought caused her to gulp. The idea of his eyes roaming her body, dark and lusting, made her skin break out into goose flesh.

Inara's voice was shaky when she spoke, "He likes the fight. Everything with him is either black or white and he refuses to see the grey. So maybe, something dark."

"Mhm," Kaylee nodded as her eyes followed Inara's hand hovering over the black dresses in her wardrobe.

Inara continued while eyeing what was in front of her, "Then there's the softness and the honesty...He may not always agree with me, but he appreciates the kinder side of everyone."

Her hand came across a faint black satin, tight and thin and a touch see-through if you looked hard enough. She pulled out the small dress and looked at it. It had an oriental flare to it. The slit left one entire side of the dress open up until her breasts, tied only by a few small golden ribbons and lace and, even then, was still open enough to tease with the skin of her torso and upper leg. Length-wise, it would come to hover a bit over mid thigh. The neckline was a very deep sweetheart and the material covering her breasts would be a sheer black.

"Wow," Kaylee breathed as she stood up to examine the outfit with wide eyes.

"Just barely enough left for the imagination," She continued, feeling the fabric between her fingers.

"Mal never has been one with much imagination. He likes it straight to the point, no tricks or hidden meanings," Inara commented.

"Sounds like the capt'n, alright," Kaylee agreed.

Inara had decided on the outfit. When she put it on, Kaylee stared at her, awestruck. She blushed at seeing so much of the older woman's golden skin. Inara was always extremely comfortable with her body and she had every right to be; she was strikingly beautiful. An exotic, unforgettable kind of beauty. No one could ever forget her distinct features or the curves of her body. Kaylee could see the lace underwear from beneath the slit of the dress, as well as the dark circles of her nipples against the sheer fabric. She couldn't look for long, feeling uncomfortable to be taking in the companion's striking figure.

"Capt'n's one lucky guy," Kaylee whispered.

Inara found herself blushing at the comment, even though she was accustomed not to when flattered. It was mostly unexpected and when it came from Kaylee, it was sincere and honest. Perhaps that was why it affected her more than it should have.

Still, she played it off coolly by saying, "Oh, please. It won't even get that far."

She then put up her fray of black curls, only allowing a few loose strands to fall down the smooth curve of the back of her neck. As for makeup, she kept it light to give the illusion that she was indeed getting ready for bed. Mal was a perceptive man. He'd know something was up if she wasn't careful. When she was done, she grabbed one of her silk robes and put it on, leaving it open to expose what she was wearing beneath.

With one deep inhale of air and a steady exhale, Inara Serra was ready.

She found him in the dining area, just like Kaylee had said. He was hunched over in his chair, fiddling with the guns and a wipe cloth. Everyone else had gone to bed long ago but he still worked diligently beneath some dim lighting. Inara looked about the room, knowing Kaylee would be hidden somewhere. For safety purposes, the mechanic had refused to tell Inara where she'd be. In case things did go wrong, it was best if she didn't know. She'd smiled though, clearly believing this was a clever idea and certain no one would ever find her.

Inara could hear the little clinking noises Mal was making as he worked with the guns laid out in front of him. She stepped inside gingerly with bare feet, holding her breath without even realizing it. Inara Serra was unaccustomed to being nervous around men. But Mal was never an ordinary man.

"You're up late, captain," She started, breaking the odd silence and letting him know of her presence.

But he didn't turn to acknowledge her, almost as if he had known she was already there.

"I could say the same of you, 'Nara," He stated, saying her name in his typical southern drawl.

She walked closer, taking a spot standing beside him as his hands worked with the multiple pieces on the wooden table.

"Ain't like you to be wanderin' the ship at this time," he continued, his eyes still downcast and focused on the gun in his hands.

"Yes well, it isn't entirely customary for any sane man to be doing such a menial task at this hour, either," She bit back.

A smile tugged at a single corner of his mouth, "Sane man, you say? Perhaps I ain't as well put together as you may like to think."

She couldn't help the smile that betrayed her and she stretched out a hand to touch one of the guns on the table, "You've done this before at an earlier time in the day, if I recall correctly."

He nodded once, "You mean the time you tried to school me on how to clean my own weapons? I remember that, but vaguely. 'Sides, what's your problem with me bein' up? Thought you'd have the place all to your lonesome?"

Inara fought the urge to roll her eyes, "I don't take up any issue with it, I just...simply wasn't expecting any company."

With that she moved and took a seat next to him. The chair was cool where it met the bareness of her warm skin.

He finally took the opportunity to look at her, his eyes focused on her face when he asked in a serious tone, "Is it good company?"

The intensity of his gaze had her look down at the table when she replied, pushing a loose black curl behind her ear, "I wouldn't say it is entirely bad company."

"Huh," Mal went back to the task at hand.

"Been a while since we've had a moment to ourselves since Miranda, besides. Gotta say, I was expectin' a more sarcastic remark from you," He added.

She smiled charmingly at him and questioned, "Pleasantly surprised, captain?"

He looked up and met her smile with a hard to read expression, "I am. Too tired to be pickin' a fight tonight, 'Nara."

"I didn't come here looking to argue, Mal," Inara stated.

He stared at her, put his weapon down and asked, "Then, what did you come here for?"

She had a strange feeling he wasn't only asking the question in regards to the night. He was asking her why she was staying on Serenity.

She tried to come up with a clever answer but words seemed to have abandoned her. Instead, her mouth remained open as she tried real hard to figure out what to say. Maybe the truth would work best tonight.

Her voice was a soft whisper when she replied, "I...I guess I just miss the company of friends."

"Friends? Or business partners?" Mal's voice was cold and when she looked up at him, he looked a touch angry.

She stood up then and said quite heatedly, "I thought you didn't want to argue."

Mal stood up to his full height, too. He stepped closer to her smaller frame and said, "I wasn't arguin'. But 'Nara, I ain't no fool. There're things need to be said that haven't been said, questions to ask that need be asked. Gorram it, you can't just come back and expect it all to be rainbows and sunshine!"

Inara gulped but didn't look away from him when she asked, in an unsteady voice, "Would you rather I left?"

She nearly choked on the words as she said them. His expression softened from the look on her face and he rolled his eyes, running a hand through his dark honey coloured hair and giving her his back.

"Never said I wanted you to leave in the first place," He confessed, loud enough for her to hear.

Her hand came up to his back, lingered in the air as she debated whether or not to touch him. Her fingers finally fell onto the fabric of his dress shirt and she said, "I know."

He stiffened under her touch. But he turned to face her; this time there wasn't any anger, only that deep and lonely look he tried so hard to mask. It was in this moment that he finally took in what she was wearing. His eyes widened and almost as soon as he noticed her, he forced himself to look away, taking in a deep and shaky breath.

"Mal," Inara started, moving so that her hand found his.

She forced him to look at her, stepped close enough to him so that their bodies were only a hairs breadth away from touching. He allowed her to do this but didn't make any sudden movements, didn't push forward like she had been expecting him to do. Every other man would have been on her in mere moments, but not Mal. It was this difference that fascinated her, made her want him all the more. Because she did want him. Her body reacted to him in ways she rarely experienced voluntarily. She was already aware of the heady wetness between her thighs. She wanted nothing more than to reach up and kiss him, wound her fingers in his hair and feel his slick tongue against her own.

When he spoke, his voice was only audible to her ears, "Never wanted you to leave. Never stopped you 'cause I ain't got no say in what you wanna do, never have."

When she didn't say anything, he breathed out, "But, wǒde tiān, 'Nara I missed you and I'd be a bèndàn if I denied that."

"Duìbùqǐ..." And she meant it when she said it.

Her hand travelled up his arm, stroking the fine blonde hair as she moved over his skin. She tilted her head up, so close she could feel his steady and warm breathing against her face. Her nose brushed against his, her mouth hovering over his parted lips. Her heart beat maddeningly against her ribcage and she had all but forgotten about Kaylee and their plan. She'd forgotten about the rule where she wasn't supposed to let it go too far, that she wasn't supposed to kiss him. But she wanted to, so badly. She slipped off her robe, let it fall to the floor, pooling around her bare feet. Then, she held his arms by his wrists and brought them to encircle her waist, calloused fingers on his right hand brushing some of the exposed skin by her stomach. She bit back a moan when he reacted by rubbing the delicate material of her flimsy dress. He pushed her body forward, towards him, eliminating that small bit of space between them.

Both of their breathing had escalated and Inara could feel the beginnings of Mal's evident erection pressing up against her abdomen. Her loins contracted in response and she was overcome with want. His lips brushed hers and her arms snaked their way around his neck, pressing her sensitive breasts against his chest. His hands roamed her back, slowly wrinkling up the material of the night dress, revealing the flimsy underwear she had on. His rough hands were scratchy against the satin but Inara couldn't bring herself to care. He rubbed his face against her cheek, nuzzled his nose against her, smelling her, relishing in the way she felt in his arms. She breathed softly against the nape of his neck when his mouth brushed against the tender spot by her jaw.

She tried to find his mouth with her own and when she did, she kissed him hard and rough. She moaned into his mouth when his one hand held her night gown at her waist while the other cupped and squeezed her butt cheek. She drove her hips against his, wanting to feel his hard on against her, to know what she was doing to him. His tongue invaded her mouth and she welcomed it. The straps of her dress were already sliding down her bare arms and her nipples were hard against him. His fingers came to rub the delicate curve of her breast at her side, raising goose flesh on her skin. They parted for air in a moment, panting and not wanting to stop. He attacked her mouth again, fiercely. His tongue clashed with hers, his teeth grazed her bottom lip, sucking on it. Small mewling noises escaped her throat and it seemed to spur him on.

His knees drove her legs apart and his hands supported her just below her buttocks, lifting her up and pushing her back so that she was seated on the table. All of his weapons, loose ammo and cleaning supplies fell to the floor. His stiff cock pressed up against the inside of her thigh, the dress now scrunched up and sitting at an indecent spot just at her stomach. Her long legs wrapped around his waist, trying to bring him as close to her as possible. His hands pulled at the clip holding her hair, bringing it loose so that it fell down her back in a thick, black curtain. He grabbed a handful of it as he kissed her deeply. She sucked at his mouth, bit down softly on his lips to illicit a low groan from him. Her fingers found the buttons to his shirt and she sloppily undid them. She slid his suspenders over his broad shoulders and pulled his shirt out from inside his pants in haste. He rocked his hips against her, feeling the heat from her aching core.

He traveled down her neck, kissing every bit of her as he went. She bucked her hips against his in response and he groaned into the nape of her neck. He stayed there, sucking on the flesh just where her pulse bounded, flicking his tongue against it. She grabbed fistfuls of his hair and closed her eyes, dizzy with the emotions building up inside of her. She moaned softly while tilting her head towards the ceiling, giving his mouth more room to work. One of the straps of her dress had slid to her elbow and the sheer material covering her left breast slipped off and over the hard bud of her nipple. Mal's hand cupped it, squeezing gently and rolling her nipple with his thumb.

"Mal," Inara whimpered.

She'd managed to get all the buttons of his shirt undone and it sat at his shoulders. Her nails dug into his bare flesh and then moved to caress the skin of his strong back. His left hand slid down to her wet panties and he stroked her, causing Inara to take in a sharp breath. He rubbed her swollen bud until she was panting in his ear and driving her hips against him. She whimpered when he moved faster, bringing her closer to the edge. He was still kissing her neck, nibbling at her ear, pulling at the lobe with his teeth. She let out a sharp cry when she came, completely breathless as she was hit with wave after wave of pleasure. She grasped his chin with her hand and brought his lips to hers in another passionate kiss.

And then she pushed the shirt over his shoulders and let it fall to the floor, much like her robe. His arms wrapped around her and caressed her back, bringing his body as close to hers as possible. Her nails trailed a path down his chest, over the scars and towards the muscles of his abdomen. They passed the soft trail of golden hair below his belly button and landed on his belt. She undid the buckle and the zipper, slipping her hand inside where his cock was hard and eager for attention. It pressed painfully against the constriction of his clothes and she grabbed it by the shaft. Mal hissed in her ear and ran his hands through her long, soft curls. He drove his hips forward as she worked her hand up and down the shaft, squeezing a little when she reached the head.

"'Nara," he whispered her name when she pumped faster.

She felt him twitch in her hand and he knocked her arm away, causing her to look at him strangely. He stared back with longing and then pushed her so that she was lying on her back on the table. Before she could stop him, he slipped her panties down past her knees and opened her legs. Inara arched forward when Mal's tongue met her clit. She writhed and moaned when he sucked on the tender flesh, flicking his tongue out at the swollen bud. Inara felt her toes curl as she brought her hips forward. She grabbed both of her breasts with her hands, one still clothed and the other exposed, and squeezed while Mal continued to please her. Her eyes were shut as she mewled his name in the dimly lit kitchen. Her breathing grew shallow and frequent when he drove his tongue inside of her and with one final buck and a sharp cry from her lips, she came a second time. Mal then traced kisses up the smooth curve of her stomach and her hands tangled themselves in his hair again. He reached her exposed breast and lingered there, teasing her with gentle kisses around the dark areola.

"Mal, please," she begged.

He took her breast in his mouth and sucked, teasing the hard nipple with both his tongue and teeth. His other hand wound its way to her right breast where he caressed her. The material slipped off of her and he kissed the spot in between her breasts, worked his way up towards her collarbone, the palm of his hand rubbing the soft skin of her stomach. For how long had Inara wondered at how the roughness of those hands would have felt against her hot skin? How many clients had she pretended were him? She'd eventually lost count.

His mouth crushed hers in a kiss, slipping his tongue inside almost instantly, leaving her dizzy. She sat up, wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her soft breasts against his hard chest, deepening the kiss. Her dress sat at her waist, scrunched up and forgotten. He groaned into her mouth as her hands massaged his tanned skin, nails raking down his chest and his nipples, only coming to stop at the dimples of his lower back. When she reached the hem of his pants, she pushed them down along with his underwear. He was still holding her in his arms, fingers slipping the thin straps of her dress off completely. His hard cock moved between her thighs, hot where it touched her skin. She sat forward so that the head tickled her entrance.

They stopped kissing for a moment, with her hands memorizing the curve of every muscle in his arms. He nuzzled his nose with hers and their breathing softened. Inara licked her lips, relishing in his taste on her mouth.

And then, he hoisted her up and forward, sliding inside of her. Inara breathed in sharply at the way he felt, nails digging into the skin of his back. He thrusted forward, in a slow rhythm at first. Her wetness coated every inch of his cock and he let out a low hum from his throat as her muscles tightened around him. He moved faster inside of her and Inara moaned, throwing her head back and meeting each of his thrusts with an equal frequency. She could hear the sound of flesh hitting flesh when he pounded into her. She gripped his arms tightly while he held on to the edge of the table, his knuckles whitening from the exertion. He went harder, faster, until her breasts moved with the force, as well as the table she was on. It never was extremely sturdy.

Sweat beaded on Mal's brow and coated his skin. It glistened under the soft light and highlighted every movement of each muscle. Inara brought his head into her neck and stroked his hair lovingly, biting her lip as he slowed down again. He breathed heavily into her hair and then picked up his pace again, this time with more force and urgency. Her chest heaved from breathing in harder and she mewled louder as he drove her closer to another orgasm. The muscles of his face twitched and she snaked a hand down to grab the flesh of his buttocks, past the tattoo decorating most of his right thigh and hip.

Her voice grew more high pitched the more pleasure she felt until it culminated into one final wave. Her body arched towards him and she screamed out his name. Her inner muscles contracted and squeezed his cock, making him growl with male satisfaction. He continued to thrust into her, gritting his teeth while his fingers were still gripping the table's ledge, his short nails digging into the wood. She felt the muscles of his buttocks twitch and, with one more thrust, he spilled his hot seed inside of her in waves. He let out a low groan, her name a whisper on his lips as he moved inside her much more slowly now, finishing off whatever was left of his orgasm.

He slipped out of her wetness, breathing hard and slamming the palms of his hand on the table top. Inara leaned forward for a kiss and he met her mouth with his own.

"Mmmm," she hummed.

Mal moved so that he was looking at her, his hand cupping her cheek. She covered his hand with her own and leaned into his caress. He brushed the soft skin with the pad of his thumb. Some dark strands of her hair were sticking to the sweat on her face and he brushed them behind her ear. She smiled at him sweetly.

"Well," he started, breaking the silence, "wasn't that somethin'?"

Inara giggled and teased, "Are you bragging, Mal?"

He shook his head and put his hands up defensively, "Not at all. It's just...that was somethin', wasn't it?"

He scratched the back of his head and looked around the room while Inara swung her legs and said, "So, you're fishing for a compliment?"

Mal bent down to pick up his clothes, suddenly extremely aware of how exposed he was. He started pulling his underwear back on, followed by his pants, the belt swinging as he moved them over his slim hips.

"Never said I was fishin' for nothin'. Only tryin' to get you to admit that you liked it as much as I did," Mal stated factually as he did up his zipper and his belt.

He looked up and grinned at her, his usual victory grin. Inara hated it. Mostly because she knew it should have infuriated her but it made him look so handsome, too. Mal then went to pick up his shirt and put his arms through the sleeves, beginning to button it up from the bottom first. His suspenders still sat loose at his sides and Inara couldn't help but recall the last time she'd seen him so indecent. The memory certainly wasn't a pleasant one, having caught him leaving Nandi's bedroom and realizing that he may have developed feelings for another woman. It had hurt her more than she'd have liked, more than she'd have ever admitted to and Inara wasn't the type to cry over something she had thought shouldn't have bothered her. Which led to another question; where would they go from here?

"What's with the pout, 'Nara? You don't have to say you liked it if you didn't. I'd appreciate it if you did but, if you didn't that's okay, too. I mean, it ain't okay, but I would understand. I ain't makin' any ruttin' sense right now, am I?" Mal babbled, taking note of her downcast eyes and frown.

He ran a hand through his fringe, keeping it there so that he revealed his forehead, and he peered at Inara, who had suddenly gone quiet.

"It doesn't change anything, does it?" She asked, her voice low.

"Change what? What are you talkin' about?" Mal probed.

She met his eyes and said, "Whatever it is between us. Nothing has changed."

Mal's eyes widened and his tone was a lot more serious when he spoke up, "'Nara, if you think it's customary for me to simply bed a woman and not have it mean anythin', then you haven't the slightest clue about me."

"They all meant something to you, then," Inara stated.

"Yes," Mal nodded.

Inara hugged herself, covering her exposed breasts, and looked away.

"What's it all mean?" Was the question that lingered on her lips.

Mal laughed sarcastically, "Are you really askin' me that question? What did you think it meant? That you could skip out on a month's rent? I think I should make it real clear right now that I ain't a tāmāde hùndàn client of yours."

Inara's face shot up and her eyes darkened, "You know very well that isn't what I was implying, Malcolm Reynolds."

"Good. 'Cause it sure as hell ain't what I want from you," Mal said coolly.

"And what is it that you want from me, exactly, captain?" Inara dared to ask.

Mal placed his hands on either side of her against the table and he leaned down to her level so that his face was inches away from hers.

He looked her dead in the eye and said, "I ain't entitled to nothin' from you. But what I would like is to maybe do this again with you. Perhaps in an actual bed or a shower or whatever tickles your fancy, sweetheart. And it would be somethin' if we could do the simple things, too. Like talk and keep each other's company because, contrary to popular belief, I do enjoy it. And who knows? Maybe if we land planet side every now and then, I could show you somethin' a little prettier than the inside of a bar. Might be there's good food you should try and the like."

He cocked his head to the side and, when she remained speechless, he added, "Dǒngma?"

Inara couldn't do anything else but nod. She didn't know what to say, didn't think opening her mouth at that time would be a good idea because she was scared of what would come out. She was scared of letting him know how he made her feel, how she wanted him all to herself so selfishly. But most importantly, she was scared of letting herself confirm it in words. Womanly wants were something else she had also put aside and locked away in a box when she'd become a companion. The feeling was so alien to her now. This must have been how Kaylee felt about Simon.

That was when Inara remembered the entire thing with Kaylee. Her eyes widened and her heart sank but Mal only smiled at her, leaning in for a quick kiss on her lips before collecting his stuff from the floor and making to leave. But before he hit the exit, he turned and looked down at the ground, scratching the back of his head nervously. His shirt was still thrown on messily, half tucked in, and his bare chest remained exposed where the buttons were left untended. The things gathered in his arm looked like they were about to drop again.

"It's best if you went to sleep now. Of course, you are certainly welcome in my bunk. If you like, I mean. To sleep. Not anythin' else. Unless you wanted to do somethin' else. I guess I'll leave it up to you," Mal stumbled over his words.

Inara just looked at him, not really listening as her ears buzzed from the realization of Kaylee seeing absolutely everything that had just happened. This wasn't supposed to have gone this way. She hadn't even put up the show that her friend had hassled her into playing. Instead, she had let the matter become personal.

Mal had taken her silence as a cue to leave, probably assuming that what he had said had put her off. She wanted nothing more than to be wrapped in his sheets with him sleeping soundly next to her. But there were other, more pressing matters to attend to first. Specifically, the unsuspecting mechanic who had observed the entire exchange.

-.-

"You said you wanted to seduce Simon, right?" Inara asked Kaylee inside the private confines of her shuttle.

Kaylee nodded but said nothing. She was still having a hard time facing the companion after everything that had happened the night before. But Inara had called her to her shuttle to talk and Kaylee had been expecting an ambush. Something along the lines of the woman defending herself and passing the entire fiasco off as a mistake. Instead, Inara was back on track with their original planning and it was even more worrisome.

"I realized I have been going about it entirely the wrong way," Inara confessed.

"You were?" Kaylee sounded skeptical.

"Yes." Inara answered.

Kaylee quirked up an eyebrow, "And how's that?"

"Did you just come out of the engine room, mei-mei?" Inara asked.

The mechanic looked around, feeling awkward, and said, "Yeah..."

"And were you playing with the compression coil again?" Inara continued.

"Uhm, yeah. 'Nara, what's this got to do with seducin'?"

"That thing is still giving you heaps of trouble, right?" Inara continued, ignoring Kaylee's question.

"The capt'n did promise me a new one a while back and hasn't delivered," she explained.

Inara went to fixing Kaylee's long, soft brown hair and said, "I'm thinking maybe you could use some help in there."

"Help?"

"Yes. But Mal is always too busy and Jayne would be more hassle than help. Zoe's busy trying to keep the rest of the ship operating so it wouldn't be fair to add to her burden. River is needed on deck and I have an agenda to keep," Inara explained.

"So that leaves Simon," she deduced.

Kaylee stood still, taken aback by this, "Yeah but, what makes you think he'd help? He ain't ever been too fond of machinery. Always did prefer his needles."

"I can ask him to swing by and lend you a helping hand. Whether he likes it or not, he still has a part to play as a crew member on the ship. Helping the mechanic seems like a position he can fill."

"He won't like that much."

"What is it that Mal always says? Something about this being his ship and not taking orders from his guests? Anyways, didn't you two first have sex in the engine room?" Inara asked calmly.

Kaylee sputtered, "Yeah, actually. We did."

Inara simply smiled and said, "I'll tell him to get on his way. Now, you should go and attend to Serenity."

Kaylee was smiling as she realized what Inara was doing. She practically bounded out of the shuttle, but stopped halfway out the door and turned back with a look of concern.

"Like this?" She asked, staring down at her dirty overalls.

Inara went up to her and placed a kiss on her forehead, "Yes. Exactly like this, mei-mei. And don't you dare take no for an answer."

Kaylee smiled at her friend, "Thanks, 'Nara."

Inara shrugged, "I don't believe I've done a thing."

The young woman giggled and bounced off, humming a tune to herself as she went.

This time around, it was real easy to keep Mal away from the engine room to give the couple the privacy they deserved.

Inara slept in the captain's bunk that night and she realized that maybe plans went wrong because Serenity had a plan of her own.

-fin

A/N: Smutty goodness with a plot. Well, romance. And a small plot. I did my best trying to keep everyone in character. Worked on this thing for over a week so I'm hoping I was successful. Quite possibly the longest one-shot with smut I have ever done. Feedback, as usual, is welcomed. Thanks for the read and keep flyin'! :)

dongma: understand?

tamade hundan: fucking asshole

bendan: idiot

duibuqi: i'm sorry

mei-mei: little sister