Temptation Waits
by Victoria P.

"That girl ain't right."

"Yes, Jayne, we know."

"Alls I'm sayin' is, that girl ain't right. She knows things she ain't supposed to know."

"Downright chilling," Mal agreed absently, wondering why they were having this conversation yet again.

Much, much later, when he woke to her sitting on the foot of his bed, staring at him, her face a pale blur in the darkness of his room, Mal realized how appropriate his choice of words had been. He shivered at the knowing way she watched him.

"Go back to your room, River."


He sat up, thankful he'd fallen asleep half-dressed.

"Clothes can't protect you," she said, and he started. "It's too cold out there. But I wish I could float in space without a suit. Dance like a star."

"You'd make a pretty star," he replied, surprised at how easily the words slipped off his tongue. "Now go on back to your room. It's time for sleeping."

"Serenity never sleeps."

"Well, no, no she don't. But you ain't Serenity, River. That was just a ploy, remember?"

"I can't. Simon and Kaylee-- I can hear them."

Oh. "Oh."

"Serenity feels them. I feel them. I want--" She leaned forward and he figured out just in time what she was going to do, and turned his head, her lips landing on his jaw instead of his mouth.

He scrambled off the bed. "River, that's just a bad idea."

"I'm not her," River said, nodding. "I know. But I can be Serenity. And you could--" She crawled toward him, pale, toned legs and dainty feet exposed by the short nightshirt she wore. "I can feel them," she repeated, frustration apparent in her voice, tension and lust written in the lines of her body.

He leaned back against the wall, cornered. Think. Think real hard, Malcolm Reynolds, because she's a lot smarter than you'll ever be.

She rose off the bed, pressed her soft, curved body against him, and he remembered the last time a woman tried to seduce him in here, and the shepherd's warning of a special hell.

He really didn't want to think about what Book would say if he could see them now.


"Shh, it's all right." She put a finger to his lips to silence him, and followed it with her mouth, tasting of apples, lust, fear.

He remained still, unresponsive for a moment, though it would be so gorram easy to just lean in and--

He cut off that line of thought and grabbed her shoulders, pushing her away. She stumbled back and sprawled onto the bed, legs parted, giving him a view only a doctor or a lover should have.

"Go back to your room," he snapped, using the tone even the rawest, most frightened recruits responded to.

She pouted but got up and walked to the steps. Just before she disappeared, she turned back to him, eyes like stars in that pale face, hair like the sea of night, and said, "I know you wanted to, just for a second. I'll be back."

And then she was gone.

Mal slumped down onto the bed, rubbing his forehead. He didn't sleep, and when he found his hand wandering beneath the waistband of his pants, River's face behind his eyelids, he went up to the bridge and spent the night there, watching the sky.


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