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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Standing Outside the Fire
By Angie


A knock at the door of her shuttle drew Inara's attention away from the book she was reading.

"Come in."

The door opened and Mal stepped around the curtain. Inara closed her book and set it down. She stood and smiled, cautiously.

"Well Captain, I must say I do enjoy this newfound respect for my privacy you seem to have developed of late."

"Glad it pleases you. But it's as much for my own sake as yours. I sure as hell don't need to be walkin' in here to find you doin' all sortsa things to my mechanic that would make it a mite awkward for me to be lookin' at either a you over dinner."

Inara flushed at his words. She turned away and picked up the teapot and cups that were on her table and moved them to the counter.

"You just can't help yourself can you? You have to insult me one way or another."

"Insultin'? I wasn't insultin' you! I was just statin' a fact. Or am I mistaken? Beggin' your pardon, in that case. I guess you spend all your time in here jus' paintin' each others toenails and brushin' each others hair."

She turned back to face him, eyes blazing.

"What I do is absolutely none of your business. How dare you come here and cast aspersions on my life!"

"Oh, your sex-life is in the public domain, darlin', just like any other workin' stiff. I can have my opinion on it like I can anythin' else."

"This isn't work, Mal, and you know it."

He sighed and held his hands up.

"Look, I didn't come in here looking for a fight."

"Really? Well you did a fine job of finding one."

She could see from looking at him that all the fight had gone out of him. He looked, deflated.

"So what did you come in here looking for, if not a fight?"

He shrugged.

"I…I don't rightly know."

She rolled her eyes. Moving forward, she grabbed his arm and pulled him over to a couch and pushed him down. She sat opposite him, pulling her legs up under her arranging her skirts neatly over them. He inspected his hands intently.

"Have you suddenly become shy?"

He looked up and smiled.

"Not likely."

"I didn't think so. So tell me what's on your mind. Providing that it's relatively clean and doesn't insult me in anyway."

He looked at her for a long moment before speaking.

"You should know, that if you was the Doc I'd be dishin' out advice 'bout now of the kind that ends in 'or I'll put a bullet in you'."

She took a minute to process his words.

"Yes, I'd imagine you would. And in your misguided but well-meant version of chivalry, I would know that it came from the deep affection you have for Kaylee."

"It truly would. And here's the confusion of it…I feel like I oughta be goin' to visit Kaylee with the same intent."

She smiled, oddly touched by the sentiment behind the words.

"Thank you."

He nodded briskly and stood.

"Yeah, well. Oh, another thing, I'm still not in favour of shipboard romances."

"Thanks for the reminder, I'll be sure to pass it on to Zoe and Wash."

He frowned in an exaggerated manner.

"Hmph. Don't mind me, I'm only the Captain is all."

He headed to the door of the shuttle, she stood to follow him. He stopped before he reached the door and turned to face her.

"You treat her right."

"I will."

He paused.

"I know."

He reached out and opened the door, finding a surprised Kaylee at the other side of it. She smiled uncertainly.

"Oh, hey there Cap'n."


"Engine's runnin' like a dream."

"I never thought otherwise, not when I got me the best mechanic in the 'verse."

Kaylee beamed and blushed and it warmed Inara's heart to see it.

"Ladies, I trust I'll see you at dinner?"

He levelled the question at Inara, a slight twinkle in his eye.

"We'll be there, Captain."

He nodded at both of them and went on his way.

Kaylee followed Inara into the shuttle, warily.

"You two been fightin?"

Inara put a hand over her heart in mock surprise.

"Fighting? Mal and I? Why would you ask such a thing?"

Kaylee giggled and threw herself down on one of the plump couches.

"I dunno, maybe cuz the two a you can't be in the same room for five minutes without one a you sayin' somethin' that gets the other one all het up."

Inara smiled and sat down beside Kaylee, she started to unbutton Kaylee's overalls.

"Actually, we didn't fight this time. Well, not much anyway. He didn't even call me a whore."

"No? So, what were you doin'?"

Inara pushed the overalls off Kaylee's shoulders and down her arms.

"Talking. In his own way I think Mal was giving us his blessing. It was quite sweet really."

"His blessin'? Good Lord 'Nara, he ain't my daddy!"

"No, but he thinks very highly of you, I'm a bit relieved if I'm honest."

Kaylee's hands were hard at work undoing Inara's shawl.

"Relieved? You weren't scared of him were ya?"

Kaylee lifted her arms so that Inara could pull her top over her head.

"Not scared. But he is the Captain of this ship and would have been within his rights to throw me off at any time for interfering with his crew and breaking his rules."

Inara's dress fell away and pooled around her waist.

"I kinda like you interferin' with me. 'Sides, Cap'n's a big pussycat, you jus' gotta rub his belly right and he'll roll over."

"You have experience of rubbing his belly do you?"

Kaylee's splayed her fingers across Inara's abdomen.

"Like this ya mean?"

Inara's breath hitched and she barely managed a nod as Kaylee's hand moved lower.

"Nope, think I'll stick to rubbin' yours."

Inara reached out and wrapped an arm around Kaylee's neck, their lips coming together as Kaylee's movements became more urgent. Kaylee swallowed Inara's whimper when she came, stiffening and shuddering. Still kissing, they lay back against the cushions, Inara pulling Kaylee down on top of her. Kaylee drew the kiss to an end and pulled back to look down at Inara. Inara wore a satisfied smile and could think of only one word to say.


The End

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