The Rules Of Attraction
by dafnap

Inara brushes her hair, afterwards, after she let the Governor of The Cea-Atole bed her. He was heavy, with strong hands and a tawny voice. His hair was springy, coarse, and it had scratched her palms as she moaned into his stomach.

She grabbed a chyn-shen pin, pulling strands of hair into the clip. She twisted the pin until her hair was shiny smooth, holding it to her temple as she examined her pores for inconsistencies.

Rule Number One: A Companion must always be presentable.

Inara sucked in a breath, as the hot metal burned into her cheek. The chyn-shen hummed as she pulled it through a lock of hair; it seared her skin and she closed her eyes.

Rule Number Two: No complaints.

He liked to pull her hair; liked to twist his fingers into her strands and pull and pull and pull her head back. Her neck burned and she let the pain flow into a moan, a low throaty moan that pushed out from her nerves and into her teeth. He laughed and pressed against her a little harder, a little faster, a little more in succession again and again and again.

All Inara could do, all that she would have let herself do, was crane her neck back and around, lower her eyelids and smile.

Rule Number Three: Deal with it...

He thought that she was a bit dumb, a bit stupid, a bit slow. He would repeat things, repeat little phrases and words, as if she couldn't understand anything above a moan. Apparently, for her, anything above two syllables was worth enunciating. When she wouldn't answer a rhetorical question, he would repeat it anyway, a small grin touching his lips, his finger trailing down her cheek.

Rule Number Four: ...No matter how stupid.

When he had first entered her shuttle he had ran his fingers across the wall, bringing them up to check for dust. He rubbed his forefinger and his thumb together, watching her as she shrugged on her robe and made her way through the foyer.

"Why do you bother?" He asked her, and she wanted to slap him, or rake her fingers across his chest. She's better than him, worth far more than she was forced to take. Serenity needed passage; she needed to do her job. She did what she always did; smile serenely, and drew her arms to her sides.

"Like what you see?" She asked him, and when he nodded, she knew he wasn't looking at her. His gaze followed the curves of the bed, the depths of the pillow, the inevitable softness of the sheets.

Rule Number Five: Don't answer stupid questions.

"Why are you still dressed?" Is always the next question, always the next inquiry at the state of her clothing. Why is the whore dressed? Why does she even bother with the three layers of skirts and blouses, and the little sheath of silk? Why does she bother to lace up the shoes, with the thousands of little clasps and knots that need to be tied? They'll only come off within the first five minutes; within the first half hour. They'll be slipped off with adoring, gentle hands; they'll be torn and twisted with impatient fingers and teeth that still smell of cider and beer. Most cases, because she is who she is, they'll be left on, left tied and clasped and knotted and hitched, because it's easier that way.

Rule Number Six: Take your time.

She let's him set the pace, let's him push her against the wall, then against the sheets, then again against the table in the little kitchenette that Mal helped her build. Mal had built it all, in fact, had chosen the wood and the lattice that he burned into the grain. He had spread the sealant that hardened into the glass enamel that she gripped with her fingers when she bends over it. When the Governor flipped her over and pressed his palms into her hips, she traced the lattice with her thumb, following the curves and twists and bumps of the burned wood. She remembers Mal spilling coffee all over this table once; remembers him cursing and shaking his hand everywhere, splashing her shoes and her hair and dress with hot drink. She had told him to stop acting like such a child; told him to calm down and she could bandage the burn for him.

Rule Number Seven: Focus only on him.

She remembers when he flinched. It had been when she was taping down the cloth, pulling the bandage until it was taunt against his skin. He had sucked in air through his teeth, and pulled his lips tight. "Tshoveneh, karish shanal good lord that fucking hurts!"

"Mal, for a rebel space pirate, you are quite the child," Inara had chided, letting her fingers run across the seams of her work, "It's just a silly little burn-" Her fingers had overestimated and they fell across his skin, just at the edge of the bandage. Both of them seemed to have stopped breathing.

For a brief moment, she felt the warmth of his wrist, felt the light bones that pressed against his skin. Warm. Warm. Warm. Mal whispered something unintelligible under his breath, something foreign, something soft, and when she looked up, his lips were moving but nothing was coming out.

Rules Number Eight: Get it over with.

The governor never had any patience with her; never cared for the silly traditions that encompassed the Companionship. He had paid good money and goddamnit if he was going to spend half his time drinking tea and letting her massage his temples. She had been his companion three times before, and when he called on her again, he never bothered with pleasantries and traditions and rules. He didn't bother with her stupid incense that never masked the scent of sex anyway.

Mal always seemed scarce the weeks after a commission; he would always have something better to do then to fix her broken spec-link, or her jittery trycle unit. When she would ask when he would finish with the table, he would scratch his hair and sigh and tell her he had better things to do then to fix a table that no one would use. Why would her customers care if it wobbled? Unless there were special care packages, and then he would waggle his eyebrows and leave her with an innuendo and laugh.

Rule Number Nine: Never mix business with pleasure

Inara wonders when she'll have to move again; when Mal becomes too much that she'll have to pack her shuttle and find another captain with too much room and not enough paying customers. Mal had socked a client once, when he had come in unexpected, to find her doing her job; giving the customer what he paid for; letting him hit and choke and cover her mouth with his hand until she couldn't breathe without heavy gasps. Mal had wailed on the guy, letting his fists fall indiscriminately, until Inara was able to pull him off and shove him out of the room. He had banged on the door, telling her she didn't have to do this, didn't have to do any of this anymore, telling her that the bruises weren't worth the safe passage through Durian territory; telling her that they could find another way.

She was too busy sucking off her client to listen to him; too busy making sure that Mal hadn't ruined their only chance of getting through Federation territory intact.

He didn't speak to her for a month, didn't say one word about her wobbly table, or if her pillows needed fluffing.

When she asked him when her comm station would be back up, he only looked at her, answered only with the look that told her that he had changed his mind about everything she might have been..

Rule Number Ten: Don't let it get to you.

These are the Rules of Attraction, and she's got them down like the back of her hand. She pulls another clip through her fail, and lets the curls rest against her shoulders.


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