Tea and Sympathy
After the BDM, Kaylee and Simon are lovers.
Her visit to the Madrassa on Boros had upset Inara’s internal clock, and though Serenity had been dark for some hours, she had been unable to settle in for sleep.
She pushed back the silk duvet and, dressed in a light wool kimono and padded slippers against the chill of the cargo bay, headed down to the common room for a book or perhaps some chamomile tea.
Mal was at the table, staring at a glass. A bottle of white whiskey, not Kaylee’s inter-engine potion, but something stronger from that Boros tavern, sat in front of him. It was practically full.
“Trouble sleeping, Mal?” she asked gently.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, Nara. I don’t never sleep good these days.”
“Mmm. Mostly, I guess. Wash. 狗屁 I put us out there where the Reavers…”
“And when you did, you started a revolution. You couldn’t know what it would cost.”
“But it did cost. Wash …. we argued all the time, but he was prolly the closest thing I had to a friend on the ship.”
“We are all friends, Mal. At least, I hope we all are.”
“Yeah, mebbe, but Wash … I was his boss so he did what I said, but he thought about it first and he would tell me if he disagreed. And he had skills I don’t , never will. And he had Zoe…Will Zoe ever forgive me? For the rest… who knows what River is thinkin? Jayne? Keep him fed and he is as happy as he is likely to ever be. Simon and Kaylee….”
“They seem happy to be together, at least.”
Inara considered. Her training had certainly covered this kind of melancholy and how to help her clients out of it.
She had long stood by her decision that she would not service crew, but her fond relationships with the women on the ship has allowed her to counsel her friends without making them clients.
“Put that moonshine away, Mal. Come back to my shuttle with me where we can talk more comfortably.”
Surprisingly, Mal made no argument. He put the bottle away in his private food locker and followed Inara without a word, in a sort of dream.
In the shuttle, Inara boiled water on her little stove for tea. Mint and hibiscus with some orange peel and rosehips, a refreshing brew but not one with stimulants. She served Mal, geisha style, kneeling before him with the cup as he sat on her couch.
He looked irritated, she was happy to see. “Get up and act like a proper woman, not some slave,” he barked.
Inara laughed. “Well I was down here making the tea, it actually seemed easier to give it to you that way. No slavery involved.”
“Sorry, Nara. I’m always sayin the wrong thing around you, ain’t I?”
“As often as not. We’ve both found it difficult to be honest with each other. Unless you count insults as being honest.”
“I thought there was some truthiness behind my insults.”
“Mmmm. Truthiness is not truth. It ‘s just a seeming of truth. It won’t stand up to honest scrutiny.”
“Have I ever not been honest with you, Nara?’
“Oh, often. But I don’t think you knew you were, and I mostly forgave you for being such a proud and stubborn hundan.”
“Sometimes…. sometimes I say stuff because I don’t want to say ….”
“Yes. I think it’s called being human.”
Mal sipped the tea. And burned his tongue.
“Oorgh. Tha’s . Ow.”
Inara giggled. “Here’s some cold water to take the sting away. I should have kept it back for a minute.”
Mal held the cold water in his mouth a moment before swallowing, then he stuck his tongue out and blew over it. “Still hurts.”
“Perhaps I should kiss it better, ” laughed Inara.
Inara was thinking this was one of the stupidest things she had ever done, as she leaned up and kissed Mal’s tongue. Then she opened her lips and pulled it into her own mouth. She gazed into Mal’s shocked eyes and then closed her own and stroked his tongue gently with hers.
Mal took a delayed breath and embraced her, lifting her to his broad chest and leaning back so that she lay on him. He did not close his eyes, but looked at her more closely more intimately than he had ever done in the months they had flown together, sparred together, and yes, longed for each other.
This close he could see the artifice that made her skin appear perfect. Her brows were carefully tweezed, though there were tiny hairs just beneath the skin ready to appear. Her lashes were naturally long and thick, but cosmetic made them a little darker and delicately added liner perfected her eyes.
There was even a white hair among her glossy tresses.
And her mouth was sweet, her lips full and soft. And her tongue caressed his mouth, his lips. He grasped her hair, thick and smooth, and pulled her closer.
“We’ve wasted a lot of time, Nara,” he whispered. She nodded, without breaking their kiss.
For long minutes, they lay together. She could hear his heart beating steadily and his arms held her close without tension or strain. He was entranced by the softness of her curves. Somehow he had always believed that her figure was in part achieved by clever corseting, although the thin silks and fluttering organzas she wore could never have hidden such structures.
He didn’t even think she wore a bra. Or panties. As he recovered from the awe of that first kiss, he tentatively slid his hand down her back. No undergarments. The discovery brought a rush of blood to his cheeks and to his cock.
Inara sighed. “I want to see it.” she said.
“What?” he asked, confused.
“Your penis.” she explained.
“Uh, okay, but… you have. That time on Bellepheron with Saffron….”
“Not like now, though.” She ground her hips against him.”Ready for action.” And she gave him a truly dirty grin. “Tell you what, I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.”
Mal laughed. “You go first.”
Inara usually started with more garments when she stripped for clients. Since she was already in her nightwear, she had little to work with. She pulled her kimono belt out of its loops, and wound it around Mal’s neck, pulling him gently in for a deep kiss. His big hands moved around her tiny waist and she shrugged the coat off her shoulders. Her nightgown, almost transparent gold silk, had thin straps tied at the shoulders. She pulled the bow and the strap fell, pulling her gown almost off her breast. Mal was hypnotized by the slow exposure. She reached for the other bow, but he pulled the end first and the gown slid to her waist. She could feel Mal’s cock stiffen further. That heat on her belly was exciting to her too.
“Your turn.” she whispered, but Mal seemed unable to let go of her waist and his eyes were glued to her breasts. He was also breathing hard.
Inara undid the first button on his red shirt. Then the next , the next, the next. She pushed the shirt open to expose his smooth pecs, then rubbed her naked breasts against them. Mal gasped.
“Suspenders.” she ordered, and Mal rapidly pushed them down and removed his shirt. She ran her hands over his broad shoulders and strong biceps, then straightening up until her chest was level with his face, she pulled on the belt again. Mal found her breast with his mouth and sucked hard on her nipple. Inara shuddered in delight.
Mal pushed her kimono and gown from her waist to the floor, leaving her naked. His hands found her ass. Each perfect buttock just fit his hand.
Inara shook her hair back from her face and arched into his body. “Mal, please, Mal, pants?” she whispered. His tongue was circling her nipple and the tension was rising in her belly. “Please, Mal, please.”
She released the belt and slid her hands between them, working to unbutton his heavy khaki pants. They were army pants, designed for easy repair, but not apparently for quick removal. The fly was on the side and was all buttons. But she succeeded and could feel his cock spring free from its prison.
But he was still holding her so close that she couldn’t see it. And she wanted to look. She pulled back, his mouth making a pop as her breast released. He moaned.
“Come to bed,” she whispered and stood. He sat and stared at her with glazed eyes. Her black hair tumbled down her back, skimming her golden shoulders. Her breasts stood proud and her mons was decorated with only the most delicate strip of black curls. Her hands reached out for him.
Mal felt clumsy and oversized looking at her. She barely reached his shoulder when he stood, his pants bunched around his knees. He tried to step towards her and half tripped on the fabric. He toed off his thin indoor shoes and kicked off the pants. His hand reflexively covered his crotch.
Inara smiled. She saw a tall, broad, well muscled, mature man, with the pale skin that was called “spacer’s tan”. And with a lovely cock. Kaylee had been very detailed one night when they had been testing her Inter-Engine brew. And her description had been very accurate. About 20 centimetres and quite thick, circumcised (which Kaylee thought a pity) and very pink. Inara was delighted. A small cock, well played, could be all a girl needed, but something more substantial was even better.
And Kaylee had also made it clear that Mal knew how to use his equipment. Inara, used to clients who had hired her because they had sexual problems, wanted to test her friend’s opinion. Badly.
Smiling she walked backwards to the bed, holding his hand to guide him. “Please, Mal?”
He was … shy, she realized. He didn’t seem to believe that after all this time, she had dropped the barriers and actually wanted him. His body, his… heart. She wasn’t sure what she wanted tomorrow, but right now, she wanted his arms around her and his cock inside her.
Inara reached out and pulled his hand, bringing him to her as she sat on the bed. She lay back, her hand encouraging him to join her, to lay beside her.
Mal cupped her face in his hand and gently kissed her full lips, drawing the lower into his teeth. His eyes were open, deep blue. Her arms pulled him closer, but he resisted, and they lay side by side, their gaze touching. His hand slipped from her head to caress her neck and she pressed into it. Then he grasped her breast, his thumb circling her brown nipple, hard and sensitive.
His eyes never moved from hers.
His hand slid down her smooth belly and found her navel, which he explored with his thumb. She giggled at the slight tickle and could feel his lips on hers curving in a smile.
They broke their kiss.
‘Nǚshén, wǒ zěnme néng gàosu nǐ,’ he murmured.
‘No, just a woman. And you don’t have to tell me anything now, just be here.’
He kissed her again and his hands resumed their exploration. Inara ran her hands through his hair, thinking how many times over the years she had wanted to do that. Probably even when they were negotiating for the shuttle, just before he called her a whore.
His fingers ran down the thread of white that centred her belly, and twined in the slender line of curls decorating her mons, then touched her clit, making her back arch reflexively. He grinned again and she felt his cock twitch against her leg. She reached for it, but he pulled slightly away. ‘I want to delight you. Qǐng ràng wǒ qǔyuè nǐ.’
She sighed. So rarely in her work did she have a client who wanted to pleasure her, who wanted Inara not just the beautiful courtesan doll. For the moment she contented herself with exploring his back. So many scars, how had he survived? River’s mind was scarred by scalpels, Mal’s, and Zoe’s, by war and loss.
Zoe had Wash to counter her scars, River’s brother was working constantly to fix the damage inflicted on her. But without Kaylee’s indomitable faith and optimism, Mal had been losing himself.
And now his thumb was circling her clit with precision, making it hard to breathe. When he stopped, she moaned. But he pulled her to the edge of the bed and knelt between her legs, replacing hands with mouth. Inara moaned again. He pushed two thick fingers into her wet cunt and found her g-spot immediately, making her back arch again and her hips to buck.
‘Please, Mal, please, I need you to…..’ And her orgasm hit, shaking her body, shaking her soul.
Mal repositioned her limp body, lying beside her, his cock rigid with passion, as he watched the orgasm pulse through her body. He kept a finger inside her, but stroked his cock while he watched, pressing it against her side.
When her breathing steadied, she turned to him and grasped his stiff member, adding her own strokes to his, sliding her slender fingers over the hot tip, lubricated and ready for her.
He smiled and kissed her. “May I?’ he murmured.
“Qǐng. Wǒ xūyào zhège. Qing.’
He moved into her in one firm stroke and she moaned again, wrapping her legs around his waist allowing him even deeper into her. Her kegels tightened and she twisted to take all he had for her.
It was his turn to cry out. ‘Inara. Inara.’ He pulled back and she tightened again trying to prevent him from leaving, but he pushed forward and set a steady pace of movement that filled her exquisitely.
Mal watched her eyes as they fluttered and rolled with his movements. She grasped him so tight, he would not have believed that someone in her profession… then he pushed that thought from his mind. This was Inara, the woman he had desired from the first moment he saw her. Inara, who never gave an inch in their battles. Inara, who now allowed him to hold her, to kiss her, to enter her body and give her the pleasure he needed her to have.
He buried his face in her curls, breathing in rough gasps the delicate scent of roses underlaid with musk and with a clean breath of pine. He tried to slow to make the minutes longer, but he felt the tightening that preceded his orgasm and spent, with joy and despair, his hot seed filling her womb.
‘Xie xie’, they murmured in unison. And laughed softly, in unison.
Inara found herself hugged tightly to Mal’s broad chest. So tightly she had to push away just to breathe. She pulled his head down with a hand on his nape and kissed him. A vulgar, smacking , joyous kiss, with nothing of the gentle carefully designed styling of her workaday services.
Boisterous. She considered the word. The joy that filled her. The heat of her loins and the soaring of her heart.Boisterous. She felt as if she could rise and run a hundred metre race, soar over a high jump bar, and dance a mazurka, but she never wanted to leave this bed and his arms.
Mal was carefully covering her face with kisses. It took ten to cover her forehead, and now he was working his way across her eyes, his tongue licking at her brows and lashes. Each cheek needed a dozen more to be complete, and her chin and jaw needed little nips which then were comforted with satin lips. She opened her mouth and he drowned in it, lips touching delicately, first her upper then her full lower. And then their tongues touched and they were breathing each other’s air, entwined.
But even the sweetest kisses end. They lay side by side, the red silk comforter pulled over their naked bodies, hands still exploring. Inara could not remember being so content.
This was ….good. She felt safe here. Stupid, considering how dangerous life on Serenity had been and probably would remain. But she felt safe with Mal.
His eyes were closed. Although he was as relaxed as she had ever seen him, he was not asleep. And he looked so young. Kaylee said he was just over thirty. On the Rim that was mid-life.
“I’m in love with you, you know, Nara.’
‘I love you too, Mal.’
“Not in love?’
‘I don’t understand what difference you make between them.’
‘Love. I love Zoe and River, and Simon and Kaylee. I’ll always love Kaylee. I guess I even love Jayne a little. I love my mother still. But in love. I’m in love with you because I don’t want … I want….’
‘What do you want from me Mal?’
“I want…I want to be here beside you forever. I want to slide into smooth and deep and you all hot and wet and tight. I want to push and push until I hit that sweet spot over and over and we both come so hard we scream. And I want to put my hand on your belly and feel it grow and round and flutter and our baby kick and slip out into your arms and latch on to your breast and suckle. And I want to hold us all together and close my eyes and sleep.’
Inara’s heart went cold with fear.
‘You want marriage and babies. Family.’
‘Yeah. Yes. Yes. We could work it out. I know you are proud of your… profession, but you could use your training other ways. Be a counsellor… or a con artist. You and Simon could make great crooks, better than me and Zoe. Or we could settle someplace. Hey!’ his eyes were wide and bright,’ Would you like a ranch? We could have a dozen little curly heads runnin us ragged, screaming and cryin and needin their mum every minute…’
He was serious. He wanted a family. He wanted her children. He didn’t understand.
“No, Mal. That’s not possible.’
‘Well, okay, not a ranch. We could live in a city. You could be a counsellor. Your training ain’t all sexin. I know you helped Zoe when she got the blues after Wash died. You did more for her than anyone could.’
‘No Mal. I mean children. That’s not possible.’
‘You’re young and healthy. We got lots of time. Maybe not a dozen kidlets.’
‘None. I won’t ever have children.’
Mal was shocked. ‘Well, you stop the contras, and..’
No, Mal. I… look, part of my profession…. we …. Companions….. Look at my eyes, Mal.’
‘I can see you’re serious. I believe you.’
‘No, I want you to really understand. Look at my eyes. My lashes look darker because my lids are tattooed. See? A thin line so I don’t use eyeliner cosmetic. My lips are tattooed as well, so I need only gloss them.
‘But we have other cosmetic changes. My breasts are firmer and higher than gravity should allow… and they are slightly larger than nature intended. Some surgical enhancement.
‘But more important, a Companion is a working woman. It would be awkward if we had to set our appointments around the moon.”
Mal just looked confused now.
‘Companions don’t use contras. We don’t need them because we can’t ever conceive.’ Inara ran a finger down the thin pale scar on her belly. ‘We have an operation before we graduate. We don’t have menses and we don’t have babies.’
‘And Mal, even if that were not true, I’d be too old to conceive.’
‘You’re not too old. You’re younger than me.’
‘I’m Core born. Core raised. We live longer than Rim folk. On average 120 years to the Rim’s 60. And we are usually healthy and vigourous for all of that time.
“Even so…. Core women are still only fertile between about 10 years and 40, same as Rim dwellers. After that, the chances of conception would be minuscule, of a healthy child even less likely.’
Mal lay still, his breathing shallow.
‘Nandi told you I was being groomed to be Housemistress? You don’t get to that position in your twenties, Mal. I wanted to see more of the Verse before I took that position for perhaps forty years or more. I wanted to understand why the Border and the Rim had rebelled, because I would be sending my sisters out there and I needed to know what they would face.’
‘I am a young woman, Mal, a young Core woman, but I was nearly forty when you were born. I’m more than twice your age, Mal, and while I love you and I would be proud and happy to live with you, I cannot give you a family.’
‘So what was all this. A tumble with some toyboy? A bit of rough to spice up the drudgery of fucking appropriately hygenic, well-bred, rich johns?’
‘You don’t think I don’t love you? You think I should lie to you, make you think I’m something I’m not? I do love you, Mal. I’ve … my heart turns over every time I see you. I’ve wept for you. I’ve fantasized that I was with you when I was with clients. Which is an insane thing to do, and very unprofessional.’
‘Yes. It is important to be professional.’
‘If you take me, you take a woman trained in an important and respected profession. I will never apologize for that.’
His hands were still, grasping her waist and her neck. He had a look she had only seen on him once before, when Kaylee was shot. Scared and angry and horrified and so so sad.
‘But I love you.’