TITLE: Open the Hatch
AUTHOR: Susan / apckrfan
E-MAIL
DISTRIBUTION: My site, AO3, FanFiction.net, LiveJournal, Yahoo Groups. Anyone else, please just tell me where it's at.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any characters. They are owned by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is made.
RATING: Mature
SPOILERS: None really, but let's just say all of the episodes just to be on the safe side.
SUMMARY: Mal and Inara get stuck together on her shuttle unexpectedly
CHARACTERS/PAIRING: Mal Reynolds & Inara Serra
DATE STARTED: March 2005 (finished February 2006)
STATUS: Complete
WORD COUNT: 3,364
FEEDBACK: Please, I can't write better without it.




Mal always felt he was trespassing when he came into her shuttle. It was fancier than any woman's room he had bedded over the years. He glanced at the generous-sized bed en route to her cockpit. The bright emerald green pillow cases were satin and he imagined the sheets were as well. The deep yellow comforter prevented him from seeing the sheets. He could picture her sprawled out on it easily enough. There was no doubt she was a good looking woman. He had never denied that and knew other men agreed with him.

"Did you need something, Captain?" Her voice exuded sensuality, causing his loins to stir something fierce when he should have other things on his mind.

"No, just come by to let you know we'll be delayed about thirty-six hours."

"Oh," she said, sounding more than a little disappointed.

"Did you have plans?"

"Nothing that I can't change."

"Good," he said. There were times he wondered if what he felt whenever they were about to dock was jealousy. He was not familiar enough with the emotion to know, but it was something that affected him right down to his very soul.

"Was there anything else, Captain?"

"What's with the Captain stuff?"

"What would you have me call you?"

"Mal."

"And undermine your authority? Blur the line of our professional arrangement?"

"Come on now, that's not fair."

"Nothing in life is fair, Captain."

"What's with the negativity, Inara?"

"Even whores have their bad days, Captain." She stood from the pilot's chair to face him. She had probably been entering coordinate information.

"I haven't called you that in quite some time, Inara."

"But you still think it. Don't you? You think I'm nothing more than a common whore."

"Now, I never said that. You're putting words in my mouth." There was nothing common about Inara.

"Oh, I'm sorry. So I'm not common but I'm still a whore," she said, brushing past him. His hand sprung out to capture her forearm and he stopped her from getting by him. With the right amount of pressure he forced her to look at him.

"I thought we had come to some sort of understanding. Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or something?"

She raised her hands over her head, a gesture of frustration he recognized well. "No, Captain. You've delayed my work by almost two days. I'm annoyed."

"Now, that ain't my fault."

"It never is." She jerked her arm from his grasp and walked to the cabin part of her shuttle in a swish of skirts. The scent of her perfume stayed, surrounding him.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, Captain, it means nothing." She was in her galley area now pouring herself a cup of tea. He watched as she transferred the steaming flavored water from the pot to her cup. Everything she did was so damned graceful, even when she was mad.

What she was mad about he had no idea, not even a guess. It was not the delay he was fairly certain of that. They had experienced delays before and she had never reacted in such a fashion. She had been a might moody lately. Women stuff he had chalked it up to, but this was just too much. He strode to her, closing the distance between them in a matter of seconds. Her back stiffened and he hesitated. Had he offended her that badly?

"Whatever I've done, Inara, I can't apologize enough. I thought we could at least be civil to one another."

"Me, too," she whispered and he thought he heard the hint of tears in her voice. Was she on the verge of a crying jag? He had to get out of here if that was the case. He had no idea how to handle a woman in tears. He would send Kaylee or Zoe to see after her, though Zoe probably knew as little about how to handle a woman in tears as he did.

Suddenly the ship jolted and came to a sudden stop, rocking violently back and forth. The jarring was so powerful that Mal was almost knocked off his feet. The power went out and all was eerily quiet on Inara's shuttle. He could hear her breathing as he watched the rise and fall of her chest. He walked to her cockpit and grabbed the radio. "Wash, what the hell is going on?"

His question was met with no response not even static. It was dead. Of course it was. You need power to run a radio. "Just my luck," he murmured as he walked from her cockpit to the door leading to Serenity without as much as a glance in her direction. He tugged on the door, but it would not open. "What the hell," he said, tugging on it again.

"It won't open. Safety device, remember. No one can get in or out of the shuttles during a power failure."

"Thank you for telling me about my own ship." He turned to glare at her and instantly regretted his words. "I'm sorry, Inara, that was uncalled for. I'm a rude and uncouth man. Can you ever forgive me?" She seemed to brighten at this confession and he wondered what that was about.

"You mean since you're stuck here while your crew fixes things you want us to be civil to one another?"

He walked to the table where she sat drinking her tea daintily as if she had no cares in the world. "I have tried to be civil to you, Inara, but for some reason you are not willing to reciprocate."

She raised her eyes coquettishly, looking at him through lowered lashes. This bothered him because he could not see her eyes fully. He liked her eyes. They were like deep pits of passion unlike anything he had ever known before. He thought he could get lost in those eyes. The passion she offered. "While you're stuck here I suppose a truce can be drawn."

***

When almost an hour went by Inara realized she might be stuck with him for a while. She had no idea what to do. She was uncomfortable with him in the same room and now he was in her space. He was lounging on her bed as if he belonged there. In her heart she believed he did but her heart and mind would never agree on that point.

"I don't reckon you've something we can do while we're stuck here?" He was gazing at her with his eyes at half-mast, one arm behind his head looking as if he had no cares in the world. She hated that he looked so at home on her bed.

"I'm sorry being in my company is such a hardship to you, Captain."

"That's not what I said, Inara."

"It's what you meant, isn't it? You can't stand the thought of being around someone like me longer than necessary."

"Not true at all," he said, pursing his lips. It was a habit of his she found particularly endearing. It bothered her to no end he was doing it now. She did not want him to be endearing. "I enjoy the company of a pretty woman like any man. And a woman who poses no threat to emotional entanglements is all the better."

"A different woman in every port?"

"Is that any different than what you do, Inara?"

"Men know what they get with me."

"You think so? You don't think men who have the pleasure of your company wish it would extend."

"No, that's what contracts and regulations are for."

"And you think women don't know smugglers like us aren't constantly on the run?"

"No," she said. She lifted her skirts and walked to the cockpit of her shuttle determined to find out if there had been any progress. They still had no power, but maybe communications had been reestablished. She could hope. She needed the distraction from thinking about Mal with other women. "Damn it," she said when she found there was still nothing. "Come on, Kaylee," she whispered. She slammed the radio down and stood from her seat. This was entirely too frustrating.

"What seems to be the problem?" he asked, meeting her at the threshold to her quarters.

"I'm stuck in here with you is the problem."

"You make it sound like a death sentence."

She looked away quickly, too quickly. He had no idea. Being alone with him for this long left her powerless to prevent her mind from wandering. Being stuck there with him was a death sentence to someone like her. She wanted more of him than he could ever give, certainly to a woman like her. He stalked toward her and she knew she had given herself away. She was frozen in place, unaccustomed to being out of control in a situation.

It was among the first rules of being a companion. Never get emotionally involved or lose control. She had done both with Mal Reynolds. He was not a client, but she knew better than to give a renegade like him her heart. He would tear it to pieces if he knew he had possession of something so precious. She might sell her body and engage in acts that abhorred her but she had retained control over her heart.

He closed the distance between them now, standing inches in front of her. Her back was against the doorframe so she had nowhere else to go unless she was going to run from him. He looked like a jungle cat ready to pounce on his prey. Her. He took hold of her arms and shook her so she had no choice but to look him in the eye.

"Why is that?"

"What was the question?" she asked, sounding more under control of the situation than she truly was.

"You heard me, Inara. Why is it I repulse you so much?"

"Captain."

"It's Mal to you." His eyes narrowed, daring her to call him Captain again.

"I never said you repulse me." He scoffed and increased his hold on her arms.

"You sure as hell act like it."

"When?"

"You go out of your way to avoid or ignore me when you can't avoid me."

She did but not for the reasons he evidently thought. Was he really clueless as to how she felt? Or was he just playing dumb? If he was trying to get her to admit her feelings for him he was playing with the wrong girl. She was not a little girl with a crush or dreams of Prince Charming racing to her rescue on his white steed.

"I do no such thing, Captain."

"Damn it, Inara, I warned you."

"You warned me about what?"

"I am not your superior officer, I am not your boss."

"But we have a business agreement."

He drew her to him. "To hell with business agreements," he murmured as his mouth found hers.

It took her a moment to realize that he was really kissing her. Her hands found the doorframe, confirming this was not a dream or hallucination. She clutched the frame for all she was worth afraid if she touched him she would never let go.

"Don't I do that well enough?"

"What?" She was still stunned that he had kissed her and he expected her to think? And now she was trapped in here with him for who knew how long. As if his ego was not big enough already now he would know how easy he could get to her.

"You didn't kiss me back."

"I don't," she stammered. How to tell him she had never kissed a man simply to kiss him. Kissing was not something someone in her line of work engaged in. It was too personal. She had indulged a time or two, but had never before been kissed by someone who was not a paying client.

His eyes widened as understanding seemed to dawn on him. She closed her eyes waiting for the teasing and ridicule to follow but instead she felt his mouth on hers again. Only this time there was something more possessive in his kiss. She had unwittingly given him knowledge, and he seemed to like what he had learned.

His fingers ran through her hair and his lips parted, coaxing her to respond. She was an expert in sensuality and seduction but at the moment she felt like a clumsy fool on her first date. She did not know what to do. She yearned to respond, to feel a lover's touch just once out of pure desire.

His thumb grazed the length of her jaw to her neck, pausing to stroke her pulse point there. He probably thought she was not responding because she did not want to. He had no idea the war waging in her mind. The professional in her screamed that it was wrong. The other part of her wanted to forget about being stoic and professional even if it was for one kiss.

It was hard to throw her professionalism and training out the window, but he was a talented kisser. He was patient, coaxing her into submission. Her mind shut down and she let her heart and body take over. She released the doorframe and reached for his shirt. It was all or nothing for Inara. If she was throwing caution to the wind and putting her heart on the line she was going to go all out.

She tugged on his shirtfront violently. Their kiss quieted her laugh at the sound of buttons dropping throughout her cockpit. Everything she had learned about her profession and how to seduce or please a man was forgotten it seemed as she tugged his shirt out of pants with eager hands.

His lips kissed a path along her jaw line to her ear and neck. When he found her collarbone, she let her head fall back against the doorframe. Her dress was not inappropriate but the cut of the cleavage was generous and allowed him an incredible amount of access.

Her hands ran a path between the waist of his pants to his neck and back again. There was nothing deliberate or practiced about her movements. She was acting purely on instinct for the first time in her life. His hands dropped to his waist as his mouth placed kisses to the tops of her breasts.

She heard the sound of a zipper being worked and realized there was still time to stop this. Her chest was heaving and she was flushed. If she was this aroused from a simple kiss she could not wait to see what he would do to her with the rest. He stumbled to her pilot's chair dragging her with him as he worked his pants down. She helped him with his shirt by peeling it off his torso and tossing it somewhere near the control panel.

He made it to the pilot's chair and drew her to him lifting her skirts to waist level. He made quick riddance of her undergarments and looked at her for a moment. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but Inara did not want to hear what he had to say. She was not sure she could consummate this if he spoke.

Mal took a deep breath when without further ado Inara straddled him. Her hands sought purchase against the seat back behind him as she sank onto his erection. It had not been that long since he had bedded a woman but at the moment he was harder than he could ever recall being. He wanted this woman something fierce and he got the impression she felt the same way. One could never tell with a woman whose chosen occupation was seduction but she seemed genuine, almost shy. And if what he suspected was true, that she had never been with a man outside of her profession she was taking a huge risk.

He was, too, for that matter. He had denied and stifled his feelings for the companion for a long time. Being stuck in her shuttle had changed something in him, made him curious. She acted as if she could not stand him yet the way she looked at him said different.

She sheathed his erection with her feminine core and their eyes met. They were fully joined now, there was no going back. She began to move, his hands at her hips helped guide her. She made low sounds as she moved herself up and down along his length.

Her head fell back and he kissed her neck, moaning softly at the scent of her. She felt terrific around him, in his lap, in his arms. He slid a hand between their bodies to where they were joined so intimately and touched her. She inhaled sharply as he found her nub and stroked her with the pads of his fingers.

He whispered her name as he nipped the sensitive flesh on the side of her neck just below her ear. She cried out, a sound of pleasure, and he sucked harder. He felt her muscles tighten around him and knew she was close. Anticipation was apparently as powerful an aphrodisiac to her as it was to him.

"Mal," she called out, her arms clutching his head, drawing it to her breasts. The tops of them were being offered to him so prettily. He darted his tongue across the pale flesh there, sliding a seductive path in the valley between the two mounds. She thrust her body harder and faster, sending him deeper and deeper into her. He felt her skin grow warm from the excitement as her climax drew close and finally she was brought over to the other side.

He grasped her legs and carefully stood from the chair. She wrapped her legs around his waist without question, keeping him inside of her. Their mouths met and opened so their tongues could meet and match the intimate dance their lower bodies were conducting. Neither seemed to pay any attention to the fact the shuttle had power again.

"Ouch," she said with a light laugh as her arm grazed the doorframe as he struggled to find her bed.

"I never realized how spacious your shuttle was until this very moment," he said with a slight chuckle. Finally, they were at her bed. He set her down and joined her, not wanting to be out of her for any longer than he had to be. A man not adverse to a quick how do you do it was suddenly very important to him that he join with this woman property. In a bed. Long and slow. He wanted to make love to her. The very thought blew his mind and with that realization things suddenly became clear.

As he thrust inside of her, taking what she was freely and graciously offering him Mal realized he was done for. He pumped into her, his thrusts growing more frenzied as his climax neared. He opened his eyes, met her gaze and saw the answer to his question in her eyes. It had been hovering around him like a shadow for a long time now. He had never denied his attraction to her, but somewhere along the way he had surpassed simple attraction.

"Inara," he whispered in time with his spilling his seed. I love you, he added mentally. And with that confession he was forever a changed man.

~The End~

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