so fragile, a man's psyche - BtVS/Firefly
Mal's voice sucks. I'm sorry.Prompt:
jalbasmg asked for BtVS/Firefly, Buffy/Inara, Buffy is a long time friend and client and helps the gang out.
.so fragile, a man’s psyche
When Inara said, “I have a friend who can help out,” Mal had gritted his teeth and nodded his go-ahead.
He has met Inara’s ‘friends’ before and he knows her well enough by now to know the word is a real pretty way of saying ‘client’. It has been established, repeatedly and without any doubt, that Malcolm Reynolds does not like Inara’s clients. At all.
Jayne shrugged and said they could use some more muscle. Kaylee couldn’t have cared less, Simon only fretted about bringing in an outsider because of River, Zoe glowered as she is wont to do since… since Miranda and River giggled at them all before starting to dance.
So Inara disappeared into her shuttle and came back an hour later with a planet and a bar to meet at.
Off they went and now here they are, Mal, Inara and Jayne, picking up Inara’s ‘friend’. Mal grits his teeth, yet again, and tells himself not to punch the guy in the face just because. It’s bad for business. And Inara will be angry. And they’ll lose the job. And then the crew will be angry, too. He keeps rattling off that list of reasons. Maybe one of them will stick.
Inara lecturing him on how to behave isn’t helping.
“…you will not be rude to my friend, Mal, and you will not make any sort if innuendo, are we clear? I have known this friend for years and it started out as business, but it’s way beyond that now. I care for this person. A lot. You will not try to scare them away by being your usual, uncouth self.”
Better yet. The guy isn’t just a friend, but an actual boyfriend
. He opens his mouth to protest… well, something, when Inara suddenly stands, her smile growing wide and real as she scoots out of the booth and walks a few steps to greet…
Short, blonde, wearing dusty pants and an expensive peach colored tunic on top. She smiles as widely as the Companion and holds out her arms. The women hug and kiss each other on the cheeks. And then the mouth. Smack on the lips. And not the greet-your-aunt-Mildred kind of kiss either. Five seconds. At least.
By the time they part with one last squeeze, Mal still hasn’t managed to pick his jaw up off the floor.
This… that’s… that girl and Inara, doing…, kissing… The mental image of them…
Nope, not even going to finish this thought. He won’t. He forces himself to move, looks over at Jayne and yep, the merc has obviously arrived at the same mental place as the Captain, because his eyes are glazed over and he’s swaying slightly in his seat.
“Wow,” someone says, voice very female and surprisingly smooth, “Your friends look… stumped.”
Inara giggles, seriously giggles
. Not the high-pitched thing she reserves for company, but the kind of giggle that usually only escapes her when she’s a few drinks into the night and in a very, very good mood. “I may have neglected to mention that you are…”
“Female? Young? Pretty? Useful?”
Another giggle. “Yes.”
The blonde rolls her eyes. “Awesome. And they went and broke their brains…”
Mal really ought to protest about the long-suffering tone of voice both women use. Hell, one of them doesn’t even know him! But he’s still not quite sure he’s seeing what he’s seeing because they’re leaning into each other like teenagers and Inara is pushing the blonde’s hair aside and whispering in her ear, still laughing quietly, hand on her arm and…
The Captain is so going to hell.
The blonde, Buffy, plops down on the nearest seat without much fanfare and Inara sits on the arm of her chair like she belongs there.
River, who was nowhere to be found a moment ago suddenly drops out of the nearest vent and walks over to the two women with slow, sliding steps, half dancing as she always does. She comes to a halt in front of Buffy, tilts her head to one side, studies her. Surprisingly, the blonde tolerates the strange behavior with a smile and Mal finds himself grudgingly respecting her a bit for that. He’s one of River’s fiercer protectors these days. Then, after almost a minute of mutual stillness, River blinks out of her trance. “You have an old soul,” she says, curiously.
Buffy smiles. “Thank you. I know.”
The Reader nods and that’s that. Buffy settles back in her chair and River dances out of the room again.
“So, what’s this problem I’m helping with, Captain?”
He shakes his head. “Doesn’t work that way. First I want to know who you are, dong ma? Alliance? Guild? And what could you possibly do to help us?”
Next to the blonde, Inara is actually growling. He ignores her. He has a crew and a ship to protect and this woman shows up out of nowhere, with only a Companion’s word to vouch for her. She’s dressed too well, carries herself too straight. Rich. Powerful. That usually spells trouble for a ship full of crooks.
Buffy doesn’t seem to mind like Inara does, though. She leans back in her seat, crosses her legs comfortably and says, “I have no idea how I could help you, seeing as how I don’t know what your problem is. As for who I am, neither Guild nor Alliance. That’s all you need to know, really, isn’t it, Captain Reynolds?”
Mal really, really hates getting shown up by small women with too much guts. Zoe is bad enough, but Zoe can squash him like a bug and he can respect that. Inara and her friend, however, are tiny balls of female indignation and that just makes him… grrrr!
Stupid Companion. Stupid smug friend of hers. Stupid kiss that they shared in that bar, leaving his brain working with half its usual blood flow. He’s tempted to forget the job, kick both women out and make for the black. For the sake of his own sanity, you understand.
“It’s a job,” Jayne suddenly blurts from behind the Captain, sounding like he developed a serious case of puppy love in the twenty minutes it took them to get from the bar back to the ship.
Buffy smiles in a way that says she knows exactly what she’s done to the mercenary and finds it hilarious. She leans forward a bit, looking wicked. “And what kind of job is that, big boy?”
Jayne’s reduced to blushing and stuttering like a thirteen-year-old on his first date and both women laugh. Buffy looks up at Inara and asks, perfectly at ease, “It was the kissing, wasn’t it?”
Inara, who’s at least polite enough to hide her laughter behind her hand, nods, eyes sparkling.
“Hey now! That’s not…” Mal has never seen the usually badass mercenary turn that particular shade of magenta yet. “You can’t just…”
He huffs mightily, throws a half aborted noise of contempt at the women and then stalks out, muttering under his breath. Buffy bites her lips, eyes bright and, as soon as he’s out of the room, asks, “Who’s Vera and why is he going to go and stroke her?”
This time Companion training or not, Inara is guffawing out loud and nothing’s stopping her. Mal is not laughing. No, really, he’s not. His mercenary’s humiliation is not funny and he’s not happy with this situation and possibly pissed at Inara and so he’s not laughing.
Only, maybe, smiling a bit. A very small bit. And he quite possibly answers Buffy’s question. “She’s his favorite gun and security blanket.”
The blonde nods and then slowly sobers. Her hand lands on Inara’s thigh somewhere along the road and Mal looks really hard at anything but that hand. Buffy notices and raises a single eyebrow in silent challenge for him to do something. He doesn’t. He never does. Not when it comes to Inara, not because she’s a Companion, but because she’s herself and he’s a burnt-out Browncoat crook who never got past the war.
“So,” Buffy says, breaking the silence that has fallen, something strangely sympathetic in her gaze, almost like she knows exactly what he’s thinking. “That job?”