Planetfall (with DVD commentary)
a Firefly story
by dirty diana

Written for Inalasahl for Yuletide Secret Santa 2003. Beta by sffan.

Translations: Wo tingshuo = okay, hao ba = okay.

[When I got Liss' pairings, I was kind of intrigued and kind of terrified. Firstly because I think writing a secret santa story for someone you know is more stressful than writing for someone you don't know. What if she hated it and never wanted to talk to me again? This story is actually an amalgamation of about three different stories that wouldn't cooperate. I'll point them out.]

The moment that Serenity makes planetfall, Wash longs to be in the air again. You can tell by the way that his restless hands won't stop moving, flexing around imaginary controls. Zoe catches him doing it, underneath the table at breakfast, and smiles indulgently. The black is her home too. For all of them, it is the place that they belong.

You love planetfall, the very moment of touching down, the spinning earth that rocks Serenity as the ship makes contact with the ground.

[What was the rationalisation behind the second person pov? Oh, there wasn't one. That's just how Inara talks to me for some reason.]

The sunshine this morning is beautiful, rays of light and hope that stroke your restless skin. The sky is a perfect, flawless blue. Yet you know that you are the only one who cares, or even notices.

Almost the only one.

You lean into the strong, warm body that has snuck up behind you as you stand at the mouth of the cargo bay, your dark hair spilling over the white cotton shirt.

"It's a beautiful day," Simon's voice whispers into your ear.

[Liss' other pairings were Zoe/Wash, which I like but couldn't see myself doing because canon pairings don't really ignite my imagination, and Jayne/River and Mal/River. River belongs with Kaylee, fullstop.]

"It is." You close your eyes, letting the light sweep warmly across your body. "How long has it been since our last planetfall, do you think?"

He inhales warm salt air, thinking about it. "Well, we stopped on New Amsterdam to drop off cargo. That was fifteen days ago."

"That doesn't count," you tell him. "It was raining."

Mouth buried in your hair, you can feel him smiling. "Planetfall doesn't count if it was raining?"

"It shouldn't."

"Wo tingshuo," he says, as you turn to face him. "It's been at least a month, then. Whitefall."

"Of course." You lean your head against his shoulder, your arms circling around him. "How could I have forgotten the trip to Whitefall?"

"I don't know. It was rather memorable."

"Well," you say, "I suppose we're all just used to Patience shooting Mal by now."

You kiss him, wanting to taste the smile on his lips. His mouth opens for you instinctively, gentle and welcoming, and then he freezes.

"Inara," he whispers, a blush rising over his face. He glances around the dockyard, crowded in the bustles of midmorning business. "Not here."

You smile, because despite the time that has scarred and weathered the outside, Simon has not changed on the inside.

It is possible, then. The thought comforts you, and you wrap it around you like a blanket.

"I'll see you inside, then," you say.

[Right up to here is a ficlet I wrote a few months ago for ff_friday and never posted. The topic was sunshine. I meant to turn it into a pwp at some later date.]

He made you breakfast this morning. He knows how to cook now, no matter how spare the ingredients. He knows how to do a lot of things that he never used to.

So do you.

He made you breakfast this morning, he said it was your anniversary. Three years. You would lose count, except that he won't let you. He keeps track of a lot of things, and it reassures you.

Three years. That's what he said. It was a day just like this one, sunny and certain, on a planet just like this one, with a name that you have almost forgotten.

A good day for crime. Mal still says that, sometimes. You think that he does it to make you nervous. You think that he hasn't really forgiven you, but then you shouldn't be surprised. Mal still wears every scar that has ever been inflicted upon him, he carries them in his hands like trophies. [I kind of like that sentence. I think I stole it from a song I wrote once.]

"You planning to stand here all day?" The captain's voice is harsh and sudden, beside you.

"I might," you say diffidently.

"That's alright. Some of us got work to do," he says, and takes off, down the gangplank and through the crowded shipdocks, one hand on his pistol out of habit.

A good day for crime.

You remember the creaking, grinding sound of Mal closing the door behind you. River huddled immediately at the back of the room, a room that was only crawl space really, a bundle of terrified arms and hands and legs.

[Okay, this entire scene is what Liss' story was originally going to be, a bit of clichefic, Simon and Inara snarking and bonding while trapped together in a small space. But when I sat down to try and write it, I really only had this part. The tenses in this bit kind of fought with me, because the instinct is to do a flashback in past perfect. But the main story is in present tense, so I felt like that didn't make any sense. Like it was flashing back too far.]

"I think he's finally gone and done it," you said aloud, mostly to yourself.

Simon had looked up at you with the faintest trace of a smile on his face. "I always thought it would happen long before now."

Then there was silence, the two of you joking about your certain death without blinking, cool eyes and tight smiles.

"Why don't you leave?"

You shrugged, for lack of a real answer. "Once you've been in Serenity," you began wistfully.

"You never leave," he whispered. "You just learn to live there. Zoe told me that, the first day I was aboard."

"She wasn't wrong."

"I don't know. I always thought that I would leave, eventually. That I should find a place that didn't...move about."

"Yet," you smiled gently, "here you are."

"Yes." He glanced back at River, eyes bright and talking to herself, then his gaze returned to you. "Here I am." He breathed in, watching you. At the time you thought you knew why, but you didn't really. "I thought it was the captain," he said.

You thought so too, for a long time. It was the captain, except for when Mal was standing in front of you, and then it was anything else, everything else, ghosts and shadows that refused to stay still. Nobody's fault. Just the way that things were.

[And I actually like Mal/Inara. But they can both be so freaking stupid about each other.]

"No," you told him.

You kissed him first, because you knew that you would have to. That was okay. In the corner, River giggled, the sound breaking the two of you apart with smiles.

When Mal opened the door, not wounded except for a scratch on his arm, the room was filled with convulsive laughter. He glared.

"Had a good time, did you?"

Three years, and that was the beginning for him. Not for you. For you the beginning came later, in a quiet room, dark except for candlelight, and a man with skin so soft that you were scared to mark him. A man with words and breaths so fragile, you thought that he might shatter underneath your fingers. And shatter he did, inside you, falling as if you might not catch him.

You never knew that anyone could give away so much. That was the beginning for you. 

[I like the Simon/Inara because I think they have a lot in common. Well, that, and the pretty. But I think one major difference is, Inara is cold and hesitant because she's a cynic. Same reason as Mal. Simon is cold and hesitant because he isn't a cynic at all.]

When you retreat from the sun, you find him in your room, pen scratching at a sheet of paper. You don't need to ask him what the notes are about.

[Third story.]

River. Since the day that you met her, she has been both much worse and much better. This week has mostly been worse, and Simon will never be used to it. She is a woman now, with shy eyes and a strong mouth, too beautiful to be so wrecked.

You were jealous at first, despite yourself. He loves her.

"You need a haircut."

[Credit where credit is due. This was sf's idea. It was supposed to be haircutting porn, but I was coming off a whole lot of smutty stories in a row, and I was all porned out. Anyway I think it works better in the end.]

Your voice breaks his concentration. He looks up at you with distracted blue eyes, through strands of dark hair. "I don't."

"You need a haircut," you repeat. You stand behind him, running your fingers across his head, through his hair. He sighs, leaning involuntarily into your hands.

He worries. He worries all the time, and he won't let go. He carries the tension in his body, across his shoulders, thick taut muscle. Gently you knead the muscle, through the fabric of his shirt.

"I'll do it," you say to him, as you watch both of your reflections in the mirror. "Later. I'd like to be able to see your eyes."

He smiles indulgently, the way that he smiles when you say things like that. He would let you talk forever about things that make no difference to him, the shapes and colours of things. [The fun thing about writing stories that are essentially plot-free is that you have lots of room to make random character observations. You can tell from Inara's room and clothes that aesthetics are important to her. I don't think Simon notices how things look at all, beyond a slight case of OCD.] "Hao ba," he agrees.

You sweep your skirts underneath you, as you move to sit in his lap. Your fingers gently stroke his face, and then you lean forward, your mouth melting against his. Strong arms pull you towards him. The shyness is gone now, his tongue hungry as it finds yours, making wet, restless promises. He is solid, warm, and you feel warm, inside his hands.

You are breathless when you break away, his eyes shimmering with want as he looks at you. "Could you take me for a walk?" you ask him. [She phrases it that way on purpose. Simon is the kind of man who would take his girlfriend for walks, not the other way around. I would so be Simon's girlfriend. Even if he might get me killed.]

His hands slide down your waist, cupping you gently. He smiles at you, and his smile is better than planetfall, better than sunshine. "It is a beautiful day," he says.