Leaning back against the thick trunk of the tree, Mal rested his wrists on his knees while he listened to the roaring rush of water cascading down from the cliff above into the rippling black surface of the pond below. The girls were all laughing as Wash showed off his muscles before doing a cannonball into the pond that sent a splash of water over Jayne until he was sputtering. Mal chuckled as Jayne climbed up the rough black lava rocks to return the favor.
“Why aren’t you playing Mal?” Inara’s shultry voice asked as she stepped from between a pair of trees choked with vines of flowers. She’d plucked one of the bright red blossoms that was nearly as big as his hand, and tucked it behind one ear. He thought about how nice it would be to pluck that flower free, and cup her face in his hands before sending the thought away.
“Because it’s pretty out here,” he said trying to pull off a smooth enough lie. He pointed towards a swarm of dancing fireflies. “They’re havin’ a nice soirée, and I’m enjoyin’ the music a bit.”
Inara grinned as she settled down next to him, breathing in the exotic scents of the jungle moon there were hiding on. “I think this is one of the most beautiful places you’ve ever brought me to, Mal.”
“Well, I do try,” he teased back knowing full well that they had landed there only to avoid an Alliance cruiser that had been sniffing too close. Hiding in the thick jungle had been a better choice than dumping their cargo. “Thought I should show y’all that the ‘Verse ain’t just made of dust balls and gamblin’ hells.”
“Well, I thank you for that,” she said as she glided back up onto her feet. They were bare except for a pair of twinkling toe rings that had Mal wondering if they’d come off if he sucked on her toes. She tugged at his arm, trying to pull him up besides her. “Come one, Mal. It’s hot. Let’s go play with the others.”
“But what about the fireflies?” he protested.
“You can’t swim can you?”
“Not a stroke,” he said ducking his face and wishing he still have the long hair he’d had before the war to hide under since her wide ebony eyes always seemed to see right through him. “Sink like a gorram stone.”
“Well, then I’ll just have to take you to the shallow end and teach you.” She gave him a secret smile as she lead him towards the pond, thinking of all the things she really wanted to teach Malcolm Reynolds.
Chapter 2: 2
Her hands were so unbelievably soft, like soft velvet and silk all rolled into one. Mal gazed down at her long graceful fingers wrapped around his rough hands, and hoped that his calluses weren’t scratching the delicate flesh from her hands. She lead him towards the pond, her feet finding the clear path through the overgrown jungle vines that were laying in wait to trip him while the man eating plants sucked out the juices in his body, so that he only stubbed his toe once or twice along the way. She was like following an earth goddess. “This place suits you,” he murmured as they stopped at the edge of the pond far from where the others were splashing loud as a pod of whales. “You belong here.” He felt his cheeks grow warm as the compliment slipped from between his lips. He didn’t compliment her often enough.
“Thank you Mal,” Inara said with a shocked look in her wide brown eyes. It made butterflies flutter in her stomach when he said something nice to her like that instead of the usual flash of sudden anger that he caused her with his insults. Sometimes she really did wonder why she put with his abuse. She wasn’t sure if it was her love for this man who had no use for her, or part of her penance for deeds done wrong. “And you look like a fish out of water.”
“Thought that was the point, Darlin’?” he scoffed as she pulled her harder towards the edge of the water. Beneath the clear surface he could see brightly colored fish and plants dart and dash between the rocks as they went about their normal lives. “Maybe we should go fishin’ instead? Think those little blue ones are kind of tasty.”
“Not on your life,” she laughed, a sound like tinkling temple bells. She swatted at her hair as a dragonfly the size of her hand flew into her face to shoo it away. “You’re going to learn how to swim. What would happen in Serenity crash into the ocean or something like that?”
“I’d die. Hell we’d probably all die. Pretty sure she’d sink faster than I would.”
“Nice,” she just shook her head as she tugged him deeper into the water. She could see his eyes watching at the cool water moved up to lap at her waist, soaking the fabric of the shorts she was wearing and leaving very little to his imagination. She caught herself doing the same with him, noting the way his shorts outlined every muscle in his powerful thighs, not that his regular pants left much to the imagination. He wasn’t known as Captain Tightpants for no reason. “But I’m pretty sure that Kaylee would be insulted if she heard you say that. Now come on, just relax. Let me have your other hand too.”
He reached out, wrapping the fingers of his other hand in hers turning to face her fully while she continued stepping backwards deeper into the water. It was pleasantly warm after the initial shock, and tasted cleaner than any water he’d had in a very long time. It reminded him of the water on Shadow when he’d been a kid before the gorram Alliance had destroyed his home world as a lesson to the Independents. “How deep are we goin’ to go,” he said feeling more than a little nervous. It would be so very easy to pull her against his chest, to press his lips over hers and plunder her ripe mouth with his tongue. He wished the water was murkier to hide just how much he wanted her. He was sure that she could see everything, not just his flesh but into his soul. The sound of his heartbeat was drowning out any noise the others were making across the pond.
“We’ll go as deep as you like Mal.” Inara said purring out the innuendo wishing that he would just let her inside as much as she wanted him inside of her. “I won’t force you to do anything you won’t like.”
“As if you could,” he chuckled as his foot slipped on a rock, and he ended up falling backwards into the water pulling her down on top of him. There was moment of scrambling to let his feet find the bottom again, while he clung to her like dear life. “You could never do anythin’ I don’t like.”
Chapter 3: 3
Mal caught his breath as she touched him, skin on skin and flesh on flesh. It wasn’t as if he’d never been next to a nearly naked woman before, but it had been such a very long time since he’d been so close to one that he wanted so very, very badly. His fingers nearly shook as he held onto her arms. Her ebony hair was soaking wet now, and it framed her face like a tangled veil. “You can let go now,” he told her. His heart was pounding, and he had to take a deep breath to try to calm it down. It wasn’t the fall into the water that had done it to him. He’d been in plenty of watering holes, swum with plenty of naked girls while trying to cool off in the hot Shadow summer sun.
“I don’t want you to drown Mal,” Inara said her voice catching in her throat. She knew very well why he did this to her, made her heart race and her legs weak. She knew that she was in love with him, but she knew that he could never accept her for being what she was. All the training she’d had in on Shinon meant nothing to her, because she could not share it with him.
It wasn’t until he let her go that she realized that he was treading water, his knees pulled up to keep his feet from the slippery bottom of the lake. “You lied to me,” she pulled away from him and splashed an armful of water into his face. “You can swim!”
“Well yes,” he laughed ducking as she sent more water his way. She was so much more beautiful when she was mad at him. It was the biggest reason he picked a fight with her every chance he got. It wasn’t to drive her away because he wasn’t good enough for her. It was because she just made his heart soar like Serenity when she was running for the stars. “You believed me? How the hell do you think a boy like me grew up in the country without bein’ able to swim. There was a big damned lake on our ranch. My granddaddy taught me how to swim by throwin’ me off a fishin’ boat soon as I was two years old.”
Mal ducked under the water, and swam with strong strokes beneath the surface until he came up behind her. He wanted so much to wrap his arms around her, and drag her beneath the waterfall. But he couldn’t bring himself to sully her.
“I should drown you,” Inara laughed and then dove into the water to chase him across the lake. She swam like a mermaid, and Mal had no doubt that a entire crew of sailors on the earth that was would have gone to their watery deaths to be near her, but he wasn’t going to let her catch him.
“MAL!” Jayne bellowed from the shore, he was pointing towards the depths of the jungle. “River says we’ve got company. We’ve got to go now.”
“Get Serenity ready to break atmo,” Mal said as he shook the water from his hair. He reached for Inara but she was already nearly to shore stepping out onto the beach like a goddess. Serenity’s captain lunged across the surface of the lake, making barely a splash as he cut through the water, and ran with Inara and Jayne as his side to the safety of their home.