Sometimes he thinks she's like smoke, way she slips in and out of his bed and don't leave a trace of it behind in the morning but her scent in the blankets and on his fingers.
Ain't nothing ephemeral about the way she is in the darkness though, the way she presses him down into the mattress and rocks her hips against his, the gasps that rise up when he buries his fingers inside her, the breathy little sounds she makes when she comes, the slick heat of her body around his. That's all pretty gorram solid in Mal's mind, even if he can hardly remember how it started and doesn't have the least interest in predicting how it'll end.
Maybe a better man would've sent her away first night she crawled into his bunk, trembling like a leaf, pressing herself up against him in the bed like he was the only sure and certain thing in her world. A better man definitely would've stopped her when she kissed him, not light and sweet like the innocent little thing he knew she had to be, but hard and urgent, moaning into his mouth when his fumbling hands brushed up against her breasts. Wasn't till then that his thick head realized it wasn't fear that had her shivering against him, but desire, a theory confirmed when she took hold of his hands and showed him exactly where she wanted them.
Still surprises him somehow, the way she always comes back for more, and yet it don't at the same time; he's no stranger to wanting things he ain't supposed to have, nor to knowing what it's like to be so far gone there doesn't seem much point in wanting anything at all, when there's nothing more than a raggedy bit of hope standing between you and oblivion.
Maybe that's why they fit together so well, why the little hollows alongside her hipbones are perfectly filled by his thumbs, why his fingers curled up inside her and his tongue between her legs makes her cry out, why her rhythm always keeps perfect pace with his. They always understood each other's heads full well, two broken people somehow giving one another enough faith to get by on, something worth believing in and struggling for out here in the cold black. And if they've got their heads aligned, why not their bodies too?
He actually goes and thinks it one night, a stray bit of thought flying out as she lowers herself onto him, feeling better than anything in the 'verse has a right to, thinks, 'this is how we're meant to be, darlin',' and he'd never be fool enough to say it out loud, but times like this it's easy to forget she don't need her ears to hear.
“It's a good theory,” she says, rolling her hips quick and sharp, making him groan. “But confirmation will require more testing.”
Still, she smiles, and bends down to kiss him, her hair falling like a shadow all around them. Must not have been that bad of a thought after all, cause next morning she's still there when he wakes up, which is a thing that's never happened before.
Not like smoke at all, he decides, looking at her there all solid and real and twisted up in his sheets. More like her namesake, like water, rising up all around him and washing over him bit by bit, like a tide coming in to pull him out to sea.
When her eyes open, she smiles, looking at him like he's the only star in her sky, and when she reaches for him, he lets himself be taken in, thinking that here, it's no bad thing to drown.