Sometimes she disobeys Captain's orders, goading him on purpose, like when she flies blind through a meteor storm (she can see in the dark), a dance of metal and rock and adrenaline in the bloodstream.
“You got an explanation for that?” he demands once they're clear, white-knuckle grip on the back of her seat finally released, the bridge strung taut with tension.
All her movements are languid, unhurried, like a cat (like a dancer, full of grace) when she turns her chair and stretches, and his eyes are bright with fury, but she doesn't miss the way they trace the lines of her body.
“I knew I could do it,” she says, shrugging. “And you couldn't. Fear clouds the mind, slows reflexes. It's inefficient.”
“Jian gui, woman, are you callin' me a coward?” His eyes are narrowed; anger, yes, she judges, and something else behind it, the beast made up of adrenaline and the relief of living, so she pushes just a bit harder.
“A lack of balls, as Jayne would phrase it,” she says, rising from her chair, and of course he doesn't back down an inch, not him (like iron, like steel), so she finds it easy to reach down, to make the assessment for herself, aided considerably by the tightness of his pants. “Although the evidence is contradictory.”
His hand goes around her wrist so fast she'd have had a hard time avoiding it even if she'd desired (playing right into the snare), and he swears fluently, capturing her other hand for good measure and even managing to teach her a new bit of Mandarin in the process. “River-” he starts.
“Captain,” she challenges in return, moving even closer, pressing one thigh between his legs, feeling a certain delicious hardness come up against her hip.
He takes a sharp breath, his hands on her wrists so tight she wonders if they'll bruise (still couldn't hold her, not without permission), and she watches the thoughts behind his eyes darken, touching off a tight coil of want in her belly.
“You really wanna push me, darlin'?” he asks, deceptively soft, moving forward slowly, pushing her back until her shoulders hit the wall. The cold of the metal makes her shiver, or maybe it's the way his hand leaves her wrist, vanishing under the flowered world of her skirt until she can feel him nudge aside her underwear and slide the tips of his fingers along the wetness there. “This what you wanted? Thought maybe if you got me worked up enough, I'd be willin' to forget all that's right and proper?” He's got a finger poised right at her entrance now, his thumb brushing over her clit, and every muscle in her body's tensed, every breath an effort not to lose herself before it's begun.
He flicks his thumb, and watches her gasp; she knows the look in his eyes (arrogance, well-earned), but he doesn't let her see it for long, leaning in to whisper in her ear instead. “River, darlin', all you had to do was ask.” His fingers push inside her then, just like she wanted, and she arches away from the wall, into his hand; does her best to remain silent, even as he brings her closer and closer to her peak.
He knows her too well though (always has, reads the reader), withdraws his fingers at the inopportune moment and pulls back enough to meet her fevered eyes. “Well, ain't you gonna ask?”
She kisses him, hard and fierce, biting at his lip briefly as punishment. “The Captain is meant to give the orders,” she points out.
The expression on his face is faintly amused now (blending with the dark, making Mal), and he reaches under her skirt again, tugging her underwear down to fall around her ankles.
“That I am,” he says, threading his hand through her hair, pulling her head back just enough to give him access to kiss her throat. “So ask.”
She waits until he's slid the straps of her dress down her shoulders, until he's got one hand back between her legs and one playing with her nipple, before she finally gives in, finally hisses out what he wants to hear. “Fuck me, Mal.”
Her last coherent thought, as she wraps her legs around him, feels him enter into her like coming home, is spent wondering how else she might defy him, and start their game again.