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Title: Never Runs Smooth
Rating: R (for the xes *g*)

Summary: Chapter 8. There's a reason why Mal doesn't believe in luck. Can Inara and the rest of the crew prove the Captain wrong? Or does Fate truly have a thing against him? This is the last installment of my angst contribution to the delightful Sushi-verse, and the epilogue to the Never Runs Smooth series.
Series: Takes place in the Firefly Sushi!verse created by [livejournal.com profile] terimaru. Here is the list of fics in this 'verse so far.
Timeline: set between between Mis-Ceptions and Inara's Gift
Pairing: Mal/Inara
Word Count: 2,549
Disclaimer: Mr. Whedon and posse own all but the fish and all things related to Avery. Those are [livejournal.com profile] terimaru's.
Authors note: Written in response to [livejournal.com profile] terimaru's mention that a little angst might be in order.

Chapters: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8

Chapter 8 – Epilogue

No one had been more surprised than Abel when a long-time customer had waved him, desperate for as much apple pie moonshine as Serenity could carry, and promising three times the normal fees to get it within the week.

Mal’s initial reaction had been a flat refusal, but with half being offered in advance and Serenity’s finances in dire straits, he’d quickly realized that, as much as he hated it, it still had to be done. The contact was an established one, and Abel’s client’s explanation of a wedding party to end all wedding parties checked out in the gossip vids on the Cortex.

Inara had watched him in concern, allowing the decision to be solely his. There was no way she was going to weigh in on whether it was right to send the crew off on their own, even if he’d asked. He hadn’t, though.

Instead, he’d given her a stack of letters and the opportunity to choose whether she wanted to read them or not. Really, there was no choice to make. It was the most forthcoming he’d ever been with her, and she’d seized at the chance to learn more about him.

Then he went about coordinating the job and never said another word about it. Initially, Mal had intended to go with them, but Simon had adamantly been against that idea, bless him, which left them here, gazing out the window as Serenity lifted off and gently arched up into the clouds, her engine sounds fading into the hum of cicadas in the evening summer breeze.

She’d taken to reading the letters while he slept. Reflections of the man that was; the man she still saw in brief flashes, before everything had been burned and turned to ash. She had to struggle not to peek at them while he was awake, fearful at how he’d react to know she was reading them, even though he’d been the one to give them to her.

The love those boys had for him… Both of the brothers, as well as the rest of his platoon… It awed her. She’d known it, intellectually, but to read the deeds themselves – to hear the near reverence in young Andy’s voice as he wrote of Mal’s exploits, and how he kept doing the impossible, again and again... Mal had fought in the Unification War with the same unstoppable will that brought them through Miranda. He gave everything he had, everything he was to his troops unconditionally, and left nothing for himself.

It made her chest constrict, when she snuggled up next to him as he slept, running gentle fingers over his forehead, trying to ease the tension from face and soothe him in his dreams, to think of what he’d gone through.

Does it bother you any more? Giving up Companioning?” Kaylee’s voice echoed in her mind as Inara watched Serenity disappear into the darkening sky, recalling a conversation they’d had only yesterday.

What do you mean, mèimei?” Inara had asked. Kaylee’d looked uncomfortable, but plowed ahead anyway in that sweet, bluntly honest way she had.

“I mean, Simon gave up everything, and me… This is the life I love, you know? You gave up something you trained most of your life to do. Heck, you even gave up your financial independence. Does it eat at you? That the Captain didn’t have to give up ‘nothin?”

Oh, honey, he’s giving up plenty,” Inara had replied with a smile. “And I don’t think Simon’d change a thing, either,” she’d tried to reassure.

What’s the Captain given up?” Kaylee had asked, eyes bright and curiosity piqued.

His protection. His ‘mean old captain’ shell, that kept everyone out and sheltered everything the Alliance tried so hard to squash.

I always figured you two would make something special,” Kaylee’d said with a warm smile and a dreamy look.

She loved it when Inara spoke of Mal’s softer side – something she was careful not to do too much of because Mal was naturally such a private man. Still, it was Kaylee who’d taught Mal how to touch again. He himself had admitted that her willful hugs, no matter how much he’d tensed or complained, had gone a long way toward helping him learn to let people in again. Until then, it’d only ever been Zoë.

Sparks like yours were meant to light up the night sky,” Kaylee had said, then, with misty eyes and a watery smile.

Why Kaylee, does that doctor of yours know you’re a poet, too?” Inara had teased, and they’d both tumbled together into giggles.

“It feels wrong to see her off like this,” Mal said quietly, breaking into her reverie.

His face held an expression she’d only seen a couple of times – wistful and sad, with a whole lot of things unsaid flashing by so fast, if she hadn’t been looking, she would have missed them. Grief, fear, worry, protectiveness… She marveled at how complicated he was. She’d spent her life learning of men, yet with Mal everything remained a mystery. Each new thing she learned about him gave him yet another facet. He was the most glorious, stubborn, noble, beautiful man she’d ever met.

She turned into his arms, snuggling gently against his chest and breathing in the scent of him deeply. He wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on top of her head, still staring at the place where his ship had been.

“Jayne was getting extremely restless. A good paying job will go a long way to keeping his complaints to a minimum,” she soothed.

“Don’t I know it,” Mal agreed and sighed, turning to head over to the chair. Though his energy levels increased daily, he still had a long road to recovery ahead of him. Groaning, he eased himself down tenderly and gave her a devilish smile when she settled on his lap.

“So while the others are off making profits hand over fist, whatever are we to do?” Inara teased and shifted to straddle his legs, not an easy feat in the small chair.

“I reckon you talked to the doctor again, didn’t you?” Mal asked with a rueful expression and turned faintly pink.

“That I did,” Inara confirmed and swiveled her hips in his lap, making him quickly forget his embarrassment.

She reached down and took his hands in hers and was on her feet in an instant, before he could act on the intent she saw in his eyes. His pupils were already dilated as she pulled him up and out of the chair and walked backwards, sliding off articles of clothing as she led him to the bed.

“Consider this physical therapy,” she said as she stood before him in his favorite silk teddy. She gently helped him out of his own clothes and up onto the comforter.

She still marveled that, with all the lingerie she had access to, the ones he invariably loved the most were her own personal items that she’d chosen for herself, not for her job. She had no idea how he knew, and all he’d say when asked was, “’Cause it looks at home on you. Like it loves your body as much as I do.”

“How much exercisin’ do I get to do in this ‘therapy’?” he asked huskily as he leaned back against the pillows, letting his fingers glide up her spine as she sat carefully on his hips and leaned forward to let her breath warm his left ear – the one Niska had given Zoë.

Mal once confessed that ever since Simon had reattached it, it had become ridiculously sensitive, so of course it was her favorite spot to start with. She loved how responsive he was with her. In lovemaking he was the most unguarded, unselfish man she’d ever had. Sex with Mal redefined the term ‘making love’.

He moaned and let his hands slide down her back, then low across her stomach and up, splaying underneath her breasts, his thumbs caressing her. She teased him by taking the tip of her tongue and trailing it along the faint line of scarring she could still feel just above his jaw.

Tianna, you drive me wild, woman,” he said, tilting his head to give her better access.

She’d timed this, their first time together since his injury, carefully, knowing full well how hard it would be for him to let go of his worries for his crew. She loved how gentle Mal’s fingers were as he slid the spaghetti straps off her shoulders and gathered the silk fabric in his still rough, calloused hands, guiding the chemise up and over her head, and then reached up to pull her curls loose from the single pin she’d used to keep them out of her face.

Wo ài ni,” he whispered, his fingers entangled in her hair as she slid her shorts off and pressed her now naked body gently against his, careful of his injuries. She never ceased to marvel at him like this – unrestrained and without all his normal emotional defenses.

“I love you too, Mal,” she said, and kissed gently at his ear, his cheek, then luxuriated in the passionate, sensual kiss he responded with. She reveled in the feel of his tongue caressing hers, and breathed deeply, wanting every part of him as she positioned herself above and gently guided him inside.

Mal growled deep in his throat, his eyes filled with an unbridled passion that thrilled her to the core. She put her hands to his hips, indicating with a look that she was dictating the pace and that he needed to remain still. Frowning briefly, he carefully raised his arms above his head and latched on to the headboard in such a clear gesture of submission to her ministrations that she nearly lost control then and there.

Gasping, she let her hips move slightly, then had to still to regain control against the sensation of him inside her. It was the first time she’d ever made love without the protection of her shots to prevent pregnancy, and while she knew intellectually that there would be a window of time, maybe even years, where she would still not be able to conceive… Just the thought of it made everything new and beautiful.

She loved him so much it overwhelmed her at times. The intimacy of this, their first time together since his being shot, reduced her to tears even as she flexed around him, gently building the sensations up as she took him closer and closer to the brink. His lips parted as he struggled not to pant, his eyes dark with concern as he let go of the headboard with one hand to tenderly swipe the tears from her face with the tip of his thumb.

Ni meí shì bà?” he asked, and she loved how he always seemed to revert to Chinese in these most intimate moments.

“I’m all right. I’m more than all right. I’ve missed this,” she said, and gave a watery smile as her breath caught on the sob she refused to allow to escape.

He seemed to understand what she needed, for he took his hands and placed them on her hips, his eyes locked with hers, and began to set a pace for her to follow. Exhaling, Inara let go of control and let him guide her, deep then shallow, slow enough to allow the emotion and passion to ignite into shocks of pleasure that began to gather deep in her belly and low in her spine as she moved to his rhythm.

Wo huì yong yuan ài ni,” he rasped, and she felt his fingers dig into her skin as he tensed beneath her, thrusting up and shuddering deep inside even as she lost herself in a rush of pleasure and emotion so strong she had to take a few breaths to keep from breaking down and weeping with the sheer intensity of it.

She’d never felt this raw, this primal, and understood why she’d been so afraid to love this man. As he caressed her cheek and softly tucked some of the hair that had stuck to her skin behind her ear, she knew Mal was her everything.

It humbled her, to have found a man like him. She didn’t know what she’d done to deserve such a thing. Certainly, nothing she’d been taught on Sihnon could have prepared her for this.

She smiled wide as Mal’s eyes began to drift shut, then widened as he struggled to stay awake. She leaned forward and kissed each eyelid lightly and stroked her hands against his chest as she lifted herself up and slid down to lie beside him, wrapping a leg over his and draping an arm across him possessively. She eyed his bandage carefully, noting no signs of bleeding, and hummed in contentment.

“I am officially worn out,” he murmured, his voice thick with satisfaction. Inara laughed and placed kisses against his ribs absently, thinking she’d have to work harder at building up his appetite. He’d lost a lot of weight in just a few weeks, and although Abigail was trying hard, she clearly needed some extra help.

“Good night, darlin’,” Inara purred, giving her voice just the faintest hint of a lilt, and looked up to see Mal’s lips curl into a sleepy smile.

“Gotta tell you, I love how you say that,” he said, then sighed deeply. She waited, listening to his heartbeat as his breathing began to deepen and slow.

Kaylee had been far off the mark when she’d thought Inara was the only one giving up anything in this relationship. Serenity embodied the most important things Mal still had – his freedom and his independence - yet instead of insisting on going along no matter how much damage it did to him, he’d elected to remain in Paraiso to continue with his recovery. For her.

Mal Reynolds was not a man to do a thing lightly, and she understood the significance of his choice to stay behind. “Serenity was the most important thing I’ve ever had – until you. Until us. Now, she’s my ship, but you’re my home,” he’d said the night he’d finally decided to stay, and meant every word.

Stretching her legs and curling her toes blissfully, Inara let herself be lulled into a content, meditative state of mind by the buzz of the evening’s insects, profoundly grateful for this time on Avery with Mal. She couldn’t help but think it wasn’t just Mal’s physically injuries that were beginning to heal.

The people of Paraiso had been good for all of them, and she looked forward to spending more time here. Ed, Molly’s husband, had sussed out Mal’s ranching history within their first few days there, and Inara loved to hear him talk of things she knew he’d done on Shadow.

Now that he was finally willing to commit to Abel’s jobs longer term, she knew things were at last starting to ease since Miranda. There’d been enough endings lately, and she relished these new, precious beginnings. It felt right, being here; being with Mal. She hadn’t said it back, but she knew it was true. He was her home, too, and there was nowhere else she’d rather be.

The End

mèimei - little sister (familiar)
Tianna - Oh God (exclamation)
Ni meí shì bà - Are you okay?
Wo huì yong yuan ài ni - I will love you forever


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September 2010


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