- 1 -
"Mal," Jayne says. "You sure you –"
"You go with Inara." He looks up, eyes dark. "Don't be messing with her. You'll regret it if you do."
Jayne snorts, moves closer. It's already starting to get cold, but he ignores the urge to shiver. "Yeah, that's real scary. You gonna come git me after yer dead?"
"I'll haunt your gorram ass, don't think otherwise," he says, giving Jayne his best hard look.
And Jayne, he's never believed in ghosts, but he figures that Mal would do something like that. Just to be difficult. Once he's dead, once the oxygen wears out, once his body's blue and frozen and drifting along in Serenity. But Jayne still ain't going to promise not to mess with Inara, once they're off in the shuttle. Hell, he knows better than her what needs to be done. He should be in charge. So he ain't making promises to a man what's going to be dead soon enough. But –
"Dyin' alone, that ain't kosher."
Mal shrugs, runs his hand along the wall behind him. "Everybody dies alone."
Stupid rutting philosophy junk. "Maybe so. But –"
He wants to say that if Mal's going to be dying alone, at least he should go out with a bang. But he knows better than to bother asking. Mal'll just say what he always says – 'Ain't right, Jayne' – even when he's aching for it. Anyways, it's cold, and a body's got the right to keep warm. So he shoves Mal up against the wall, grins down at him – Mal don't fight it – and gets to work licking at Mal's neck.
The neck – it gets Mal sweaty and grabby every single time. It's only been enough times to count on two hands, but Jayne's always picked up some things real quick. Like the way Mal's real fond of Jayne's hands. Sometimes he sees Mal staring at his hands, and that's always a hint. A hint Jayne always follows up with a visit to Mal's bunk.
But there ain't no time for that now, so he just gets his hand inside Mal's pants – it's getting so he can open those pants up without even a thought – and gets his hand wrapped around Mal's cock. He's hard already – cock's hardwired to his neck, it seems – and Jayne's learned just the right grip to use, just the right way to slide his hand down, twist, and slowly pull back up.
Jayne knows he's doing it just right, because Mal ain't even trying to return the favour. He's just cursing under his breath, biting at Jayne's shoulder, and grunting out, "Yeah."
But if Mal likes Jayne's hands, he's especially fond of Jayne's mouth. "When you ain't talking, that is," he'd said once, just after Jayne had pulled away, still swallowing.
And it just seems right that a dying man should get to have one of his very favourite things before he kicks it.
So Jayne pulls away, drops to his knees, and takes a deep breath, face up close to Mal's crotch. Last time they'll be doing this, and yeah, better enjoy it as best he can. Best take in all the details. Mal, though, he's impatient; he grabs at Jayne's head, says, "Open up," and Jayne's never been so good at taking orders, but he figures — just this once. Ain't going to hurt no one. Maybe he wants to take this a little slow, give Mal a real working over, but Mal's right.
They ain't got the time.
So he opens up, lets Mal slide into his mouth; lets him set the pace. It's a little rough – frantic – but that ain't surprising, and Jayne ain't complaining. His lips are going to be a little swollen after, but hell. It's good; it'll give him something else to be thinking about, besides being stuck on a little bitty shuttle.
Mal's hands are in his hair, fingers gripping tight, just shoving himself past Jayne's mouth, trying to get half-way down his throat, it seems.
Jayne gets one hand on Mal's hip, steadies himself; the other hand works inside his pants, gets a rhythm going that matches Mal's grunts, the thrusts of his hips. And when Mal stills, pressing Jayne's face up tight against him, just holding him there, it somehow knocks everything up a notch. He can't breath, he can't do much of anything, but it's still almost enough to make him come.
When Mal eases up, Jayne pulls away a little, gets back in control. Mal lets him, like maybe he ain't on edge so much, like he's a little more squared away with everything. But Jayne, he's feeling a mite frantic himself; he can't quite believe this is the last time he'll have Mal's cock opening up his mouth. So he can't slow down, but that don't stop him trying to memorize the slide of smooth skin past his lips, the way Mal always twists his hips a little, when he gets as far in as he can get.
Jayne comes first. That ain't normal, because he's so focused on Mal that his hand's hardly moving. But he comes anyway, long and drawn-out, and it makes him groan, even as he slides his mouth back down. Must feel good for Mal, because fingers clench in his hair again, and Jayne slides back up, licks twice around the head, and only gets halfway down again before Mal's hips jerk hard, once. Jayne stays put, swallows and swallows until Mal's finished, until he's pushing Jayne's head back.
He rocks back on his feet and looks up; wipes his hand across his mouth, slow. Mal's eyes darken just a little – maybe. It's hard to see in the half-light. But there's something there. Mal's never been one for talking overly much about his thoughts, least not to Jayne. Not unless those thoughts involve anger, or getting folk killed or some such. It ain't their way. So he don't say nothing as he stands up. Just wipes his hand on his thigh, does his pants up, watches as Mal does the same.
It'd been warm there, just for a few minutes, while he was caught up in Mal. But now it's getting chill again, makes him wish for a decent hat. "I got stuff to get ready." He does. He's going to have to pack up all his gear; he ain't leaving it here for some scum salvage team to find and sell.
Mal nods. "Best get on it."
- 2 -
When she takes a moment to about it, Inara isn't terribly surprised that it's going to end like this. She's just surprised that she's not alone for it.
Mal's head is under the cockpit controls, and he's alternatively quiet and cursing. Finally, he pushes himself forward and sits up. "Comm's fried too."
"Yes. I did notice." As soon as they'd stuttered to a halt, she'd looked everything over. It's been a long time since the workings of her shuttle were a mystery. Kaylee is a patient tutor.
The shuttle is dead. The best she can guess is that there was some kind of electrical surge, overloading everything, including the radio controls. There is the emergency beacon, but it has a limited ranage. They're still many hours from the Training House, but Inara knows this corner of space. It's quiet. The Training House is out here for a reason.
The chance of a rescue is slim.
"Guess the 'verse doesn't want you to leave me after all."
She fights the urge to roll her eyes. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you'd sabotaged the shuttle, just to teach me a lesson."
His face shutters, and inwardly she curses. "How'd you know I didn't?"
"You may be a houzi di pigu Mal, but would you do something like this to your own ship?"
"Ain't my ship. Believe she's yours until your rent runs out." He pretends to look at a watch he doesn't have. "Looks to be that's still two days from now."
Honestly. The man couldn't be any more aggravating. "The shuttle is still part of Serenity." And she turns away and steps out of the cockpit.
She busies herself with the familiar ritual of making tea, and is about to pour herself a cup when he joins her. "Inara –"
"Have some tea," she says, cutting him off. She doesn't want to hear it, not now. "It's warming." The temperature in the shuttle is still comfortable, but she knows that sooner or later, they'll begin to feel the cold seeping in from outside.
Mal shakes his head slightly, but he takes the cup anyway. It looks ridiculous in his hand. She smiles as she takes her first sip.
But she shakes her head, and concentrates on the warmth of the tea. Finally, she says, "I'm not leaving you."
"We were never together Mal. It was never going to happen that way." From the very first day, the day she'd looked over the shuttle, she'd tried to tell him.
She doesn't want to think about all of the months she's spent on Serenity. In some ways, they were the best in her life, the most compelling. In others, they had been aggravating, annoying, and a hindrance to her career. After Miranda, she thought perhaps it would be different.
Perhaps he would be different.
But in the end, people rarely change in substantial ways. If anything, he's changed for the worse, becoming harder, more angry, more resentful.
She can't join him in his crusade.
In the end, she'd decided it would be better to leave it all behind, better to return to the Training House and resume her work there. Remember the crew with fond memories, but that's all.
After he finishes tea, Mal turns his back to her, and returns to the cockpit. She sighs, and wishes that she had something stronger to drink.
She dozes on her bed, unsure how else to pass the time. Mal stays in the cockpit, and she falls asleep to the occasional sounds of cursing, the scrape of metal against metal. When she wakes, it's from a dream of someone calling her name, stroking her hair. Opening her eyes, she finds him sitting on the edge of her bed. "Mal?"
Sitting up, she brushes hair back from her face. "What for?"
He shrugs. "I should have had Kaylee check the shuttle over before we left. This shouldn't have happened."
"She checked it last week. Sometimes, things can't be anticipated."
"Then I should have had her fly you home. Didn't have to be me. Maybe she could figure out how to fix this."
She looks away, in the direction of the cockpit, and says, "Nothing could fix this, Mal." It isn't just the shuttle that is a lost cause. "How long do you think we have?"
"Five or six hours, maybe. Depends how long the reserve oxygen lasts."
Closing her eyes, she nods. When she opens them, he's looking straight at her. "How should we spend the time?"
He laughs, once. It's a hard sound. "You got cards?"
"Oh, Mal. You should know I would never combine gambling with my work." She winks. "It's so tawdry."
Standing, he half bows. "Ah, yes." His expression turns contemplative. "Though I suppose it might work to your advantage. You could sooth the egos of the rich, after they lose their money to the fickle gods of luck. Bet they'd pay extra, 'cause you made 'em feel like they ain't complete morons after all."
She throws the nearest pillow at him, but he dodges. "I don't need those kinds of advantages, thank you."
Raising on eyebrow, he smirks at her. "Oh, yeah?"
Folding her hands primly in her lap, she nods. "I am very well trained."
"Think I've heard something along those lines. Maybe – was it Jayne? Yeah, I think he went and blabbed about something – you can get yourself all twisted up in these fancy –"
"Mal!" She throws another pillow at him, and this time it lands squarely in his face.
"My eye!" he yells, and she can't help it. She starts to laugh. Then they're both laughing, her on the bed, wrapped up in blankets; him standing.
She doesn't remember ever laughing with him. Not once. She remembers the attraction, his allure. She remembers sparring, and fighting and long silences. But she doesn't think he's ever laughed with her. Not like this.
Finally, they both stop. She's gasping a little.
"Seriously," he says. "The corner of the pillow caught my eye." He picks it up, shakes it at her. "There're sharp little beads on this thing. I might go blind!"
"We'll get you a cane to help you feel your way. It will make you look distinguished." She smiles, "Or perhaps an eye patch? I hear it's all the rage among the fashionable criminal element these days. Debonair <i>and</i> dangerous." She pats the bed. "Why don't you sit? I can take a look at it."
Something crosses his face, and his voice is low when he says, "Ain't sure I'm up to playing doctor with you, Inara." But he sits anyway.
Smiling, she reaches out and takes his hand. "Just this once, Mal. Why not?"
"We might get rescued, don't want you to end up –"
She moves her hand to cover his mouth. "There won't be a rescue. You know that."
When he answers, she feels his lips moving against her fingers. "Yeah. Guess I do."
Leaning in towards him, she slides her hand around the back of his neck.
The kiss feels like it's her first. Full of promise, a little clumsy and eager. It changes quickly, though, becoming something more. His hands move to grasp her waist, and then she's pulling him down, letting his weight cover her.
He's warm. He kisses like a revelation.
This is the only way it ever would have worked between us, she thinks, as she pulls his suspenders down, as she unbuttons his shirt. Like this, on the edge of the abyss, with no one left to pull either of them back.
"Inara," he says, voice hoarse.
"Mal," she answers, and doesn't say any of what she's thinking. This is how it should be.
Her dress is simple, today. No complicated fastenings or ties. When he pulls back, the sides of his shirt falling open, she sits, shifts, and pulls the dress over her head. Shaking her head free, she lets a soft smile cross her face. "Hello."
It sounds like farewell. She brushes the thought aside, and lies back, asking in a teasing tone, "Well? Do you need help with your pants?"
He bends down to work on his boots. "Day I need help with my pants, woman, is the day –"
"Yes, yes," she laughs. "You're a man among men."
"Damn straight," he says, kicking his boots off, and stripping down. "'bout time I got you to admit it." Then he falls forward, and she rolls to one side, startled.
"Mal!" He lands with force, bouncing slightly.
"Knew you'd move in time. Always do manage to stay out of the line of fire."
"Enough," she says, and reaches for him, one hand sliding around his hip. "And I'm the one who has been accused of being a tease."
He opens his mouth to say something, but she really has had enough, even if she says so with a smile on her face. So she kisses him, quickly, and traces glyphs on his back. "Now, please," and that's all he needs. He cups her head in his hands – gently, like she's something that might break – and kisses her back.
His hands might hold her carefully, but his kiss isn't gentle. Yes, she thinks. Finally.
Eventually, his mouth moves from hers, travels along her neck, and it's refreshing to let someone else take the lead; to be the one receiving, rather than giving.
He lacks finesse and polish, and it's entirely endearing. It isn't like a client – there are no elaborate games, no well-rehearsed movements and rituals. Mal – he doesn't bother with any of that. He isn't clumsy, or awkward. He's just straight-forward and focused.
He makes her smile. In some ways, he always has.
"What?" he asks, looking up momentarily, just in time to catch her expression.
She unclenches one hand from his hip and reaches up to trace her finger along the bottom edge of his mouth. "Please don't stop," she says.
He grins down at her. "Wasn't planning on it."
- 3 -
"They're still coming," Simon whispers, crouched down by the wall furthest from the door.
"Yep," Jayne says, even though it's real clear that Simon ain't talking to anyone but himself. Never could shut up, but Jayne figures that won't be a problem for much longer. "We're holed up good." They've got Kaylee to thank for that; she'd fitted this section out real well. He helped her out too – holding up metal panels while she welded; holding her up on his shoulders while she worked on stuff along the ceiling.
In the end, Jayne thanked her the only way he could – shot her clean in the forehead as she got dragged away. "It'll take 'em a space to break through, I figure, but –" he gestures at his guns. He's got limited firepower. Should've fitted this place out with backups.
"Never did think we could stop 'em."
Simon looks away, expression hard. "No."
Turns out even crazy Reaver-killing girls ain't enough, eventually. In the end, a body can only kill so many before she goes down and don't get back up again. Least, that's what Jayne figured must've happened, seeing as when he last looked back – quick, not looking too close – he saw her slipping on blood, falling down. Couldn't wait to see if she'd get back up. He was too busy – shooting, running, trying not to trip his own self. Trying not to gag on the stench.
Never did notice it, not until they got holed up in close quarters, but Reavers, they stink. Crazy folk – this kind of crazy – they don't wash, he figures. Too busy with the killing and eating and raping. But Jayne's smelled unwashed bodies before. He's even been up close and personal with a few. This Reaver stink, it ain't the same. It's something acid, something that gets up in his nose, down in his throat, and just won't let up.
Maybe it's part of the chemical that sent 'em crazy in the first place. Or maybe it's just what happens when someone eats too many of his own kind. Jayne don't care about the reason. He just knows it makes his nose burn, makes his tongue feel hot and bad and sick.
Even in here, with Kaylee's independent air circ system, it's almost all he can smell. Smells himself too, the metal scent of blood on his shirt, the sour smell of sweat. Them smells he can deal with. Ain't new; they ain't even unusual. But the Reaver stink. Hell, it's liable to drive him 'round the bend before they even figure out how to break in here.
It's eating at him. "You smell it?" he asks, because maybe Simon's got some thoughts. Maybe talking will make him think of something else.
Simon looks at him, wrinkles his nose up. "Smell what?"
"Reavers. They got that – stench."
He shakes his head, slowly, like he ain't sure what's going on in Jayne's head. "I don't smell anything different. Can you describe it?" Simon's voice is so calm. Maybe he figures that by talking normal, everything will clear itself up. That the Reavers will just disappear, fall back, or fall dead for no reason.
Dreamers, people like Simon. And dreamers never did anyone any good. But still. Least he ain't alone right now. "Acid. Harsh. Maybe 'cause they eat people too much?"
Simon smiles, one of those half-smiles that means he thinks a person's real stupid. "I don't think that would alter body chemistry. At least, not in terms of scent."
Well, he don't care what Simon thinks. Ain't going to matter for much longer anyway, and Jayne knows what he knows. Smells what he smells. He's thinking on it when Simon leans over him, says, "You're hurt."
He is. Blood's congealing at his shoulder; pain throbs with each heartbeat. He's felt worse, though. It ain't hardly a scratch. "Ain't nothin'."
And Simon, he moves back away, shrugging. "I suppose it won't matter, in the scheme of things."
Yeah, Jayne wants to say. Yeah. But instead, he's looking at the way Simon's watching him. Watching him real close, like maybe he's got something on his mind.
Finally, Simon frowns at him and says, "I've never liked you."
Feeling's mutual. "Yer a ruttin' waste of space." Except when he ain't – when he's fixing them up.
Simon nods, like he's worked out a thought. Then, real fast, fluid, he's kneeling up, and over, knocking Jayne down with one smooth shove. Jayne don't do anything, just hits the floor, feels the cold seep up through his shirt. He lifts his head a little as Simon pulls his pants open, tugs them down around Jayne's hips. But soon as those hands – warm hands, and that's good, doctors should have warm hands – get inside, he lets his head fall back.
Jayne's seen Simon's hands work with a scalpel, making precise cuts; he's seen him using tiny little needles, sewing cuts up. So it figures he'd be good at this, wouldn't have no learning curve. Knows to tease Jayne a little, one hand working his cock, rough, hard; the other spreading his legs out, feeling around.
It’s been a while since they made planetfall long enough for Jayne to find a decent whore. Too gorram long since anyone did this for him. He wants to tell Simon to slow down, maybe get his mouth in on the action. But Simon, he's single-minded when he wants to be, and he's working Jayne over good, one hand setting a rhythm that's almost just right; fingers on his other hand are tracing little circles, trying to work themselves into Jayne's ass.
It takes Jayne almost no time to come, Simon's hands moving with him through it. It feels real good, just washes over him, and Jayne wants more.
He sucks in a couple of deep breaths, then levers himself up on his elbows, watches as Simon undoes his own pants with one hand, then sticks his fingers in his mouth. Watches as his other hand slicks up his cock good with Jayne's leavings.
Outside, there're clangs and bangs, and Jayne ignores it, focuses in on Simon's fingers. It's a hell of a show. And when Simon pulls his fingers out of his mouth, he does it slowly. "Pull your legs up."
Jayne does. Ain't no use arguing. No reason to, either.
Simon's fingers slide into him, but he doesn't take his time. "Hurry up," Jayne grunts, and Simon nods, twists his hand, and pulls back. It's seconds only before he's lined up, pushing into Jayne. Slow, steady, and there ain't enough of anything to lube him up good; it feels rough as hell. Jayne ain't loose enough for this. But he wraps his legs around Simon's hips, and pulls him close anyway – leaves them both gasping – and says, "Hard."
For once in his gorram life, Simon don't argue. Just takes a deep breath, braces himself with his arms, focuses in on Jayne's face, and shoves himself deep. Jayne's head tilts back, banging against the wall. "Harder," he gasps, one hand reaching out, perpendicular to his body, and grasping onto the familiar shape of his gun. Simon pulls back, pauses, and then starts up, real fast, real jerky. His head falls forward, bringing his face close to Jayne's. The hot puffs of air against his mouth are almost enough to make him reach up, bring Simon's head down for some kissing.
But Jayne ain't a girl. He don't need that kind of comfort. Instead, he tightens his legs around Simon's hips, and thinks about the weight of his gun in his hand. He focuses on the waves of sensation, and tries to ignore the stench coming in from outside.
- 4 -
Once the bodies are lashed to Serenity, once the paint has been applied (Inara's face had been grim as she splashed it everywhere, as it spattered up to stain her dress), Zoe steps away from it all.
She turns her back on the unfamiliar, clunky shadow the ship casts. She never thought Serenity would even begin show hints of the bloodbath of Serenity Valley. Never thought to see it as a home, much less one more home that got twisted, changed, tossed aside.
Never thought it would be Mal who did it.
"Zoe?" Wash asks, from behind her. She doesn't turn around to face, just keeps looking out at the growing gloom of Haven. "You O.K.?"
She doesn't want to answer, because the question is stupid. But Wash, he's always managed to get her talking. "Yep." Even if it isn't talking much.
"Looks like –" his voice cracks a little, "like we're almost set to go. Kaylee's still working on the engine, but rest is all set up."
"'Bout 20 minutes, I heard."
"From?" She doubts Wash is speaking to Mal. Not yet. He isn't the only one.
"Jayne. Who asked Kaylee."
So. Twenty minutes. She turns to him, and he's so close behind her that she knocks him off balance.
Like he did to her, that once. Knocked her right off balance, and by the time she'd got her feet back on the ground, solid, she found herself a married woman sharing a room and a bed.
He recovers right away, and grins at her. It's almost enough to distract her from the bulk of Serenity behind him. "Twenty minutes, husband?" She grins and reaches out, fisting her hand in his shirt. "That's long enough."
They don't go inside, don't head for their room. Instead, she drags him to the nearest building. It's a burned out husk, but somehow she finds it more welcoming.
It was a storage building – she remembers coming in here once, picking up some flour – and there's nothing resembling their bed. But they've always been good at improvising. She gets his pants open fast, and he's just about as quick with hers, and then he walks her backwards, and wipes the nearest counter clean before he lifts her up to sit on the edge. It's good enough.
Zoe's hands have killed. They've been blood-soaked and covered in cuts. She's used her hands to reach into body cavities and pull out ident-tags. Her hands have fired so many guns she can't even count them.
But when her hands are on Wash, she almost forgets it all. She can pretend that they're the hands of an innocent, of a woman who lives a quiet life and picks up children so she can spin them around in laughing circles. The hands of someone who has never seen carnage. Or contributed to it.
Against Wash, her hands feel soft.
His hands settle on her waist, and he kisses her as though maybe it's the first time – tentative, like he thinks she just might deck him – but when he slides into her, he isn't tentative at all.
Neither is she. She just wraps herself around him, pushes her face against his neck. Bites down, because that always makes him shudder.
She wants more than twenty minutes. Zoe wants to remember that Serenity is her home; that the ship keeps them together, helps them all live.
But time's a luxury, and she takes what she can get. She tries to remember all of the details; Wash's scent, way he holds her, the way he feels against her and under her hands and inside her. She listens to his mutters, the incoherent words he always has for her. The words just roll over her, surround her.
She knows this is probably the last time, because it doesn't feel like they're going to make it out of this particular caper. She wants to go out with the memory of him still fresh in her mind.
It's fast, but it's good, and as always – at least, since the first few fumbling disasters – he leaves her gasping. "You'll do, husband," she says after a few moments, trying to keep her voice steady.
He laughs into her hair. It's so familiar, so warming. "Next time," he says, "Let's do it horizontal-style."
Zoe grins, her lips pressed behind his ear. They stay like that for a minute, and then she pulls herself together, and pushes him away, slightly. "Come on. You've got some flying to do."
Pairings: Mal/Jayne; Jayne/Simon; Zoe/Wash; Mal/Inara
Summary: Four ways to have sex before you die. Apocasmutlets (loose definition of apocalypse, though).
Notes: First one contains spoilers for Out of Gas; second one and fourth have Serenity SPOILERS; the third is on a theme I've used elsewhere. Title from a quote by Robert Herrick.