Title: Oops
Pairing/Rating: Mal/Simon, NC-17
Summary: Inara sees something she probably shouldn't have.
Written for the Contrelamontre challenge on surprises.

Inara follows the sound of laughter, wondering who's on board. It's the middle of the afternoon, planet-time, it's a gorgeous day, and she hadn't thought anyone was still around. Her soft shoes make no sound on the metal stairs as she heads for the lounge.

As she draws closer, she's able to make out words. "Mal--stop it, Mal--don't!" Simon is saying, laughing. She stops in the doorway, curious as to what's going on.

Simon stands at the counter, facing away from her. Mal is behind him, body pressed against his, and he's--tickling Simon? Inara hides a smile, glad to hear Simon laughing. He doesn't do it often.

"Don't want to stop," Mal says; Inara hears the laughter in his voice as well.

"Someone's going to walk in on us," Simon protests, but he drops his head back against Mal's shoulder, letting Mal kiss his throat.

"No one's around. They're all off in town--ain't gonna be back til after dinner."

"But--Inara's due back," Simon manages.

"Not for another couple hours." Mal presses closer, bites Simon's earlobe gently.

"Mal--" Simon reaches back, but Mal takes his wrists, putting Simon's hands on the counter. Inara watches, more than a little surprised, as Simon's breath catches in his throat and a shudder runs through his body. She sees Mal tighten his grip on Simon's wrists and hears Simon gasp in response.

Inara has two options. She can leave and give them the privacy they think they have, or she can make noise and enter the room. Only, while she's reluctant to spoil their time together, she can't bring herself to leave. So she stays where she is, rooted to the spot.

She shouldn't be doing this. It goes against all her training, all her beliefs in privacy and intimacy. She's a Companion--no one knows better than Inara what lovemaking means. But as so often happens with Mal, her training fails her. She wants--needs--to see this, although she's not quite sure why. Yet that's not true either. Inara does know why; she just doesn't want to admit it.

Whatever thoughts and dreams she might have harbored once, she knows better now. Mal will never be hers. He'll never come to her bed, never touch her the way she thought he might, never be anything more than the captain and--possibly--her friend. And she's all right with that knowledge. It's better this way, for all of them. Simon deserves some happiness in his life, as does Mal, and Inara truly is glad they've found it with each other.

It doesn't mean she doesn't occasionally wish things were different.

This is a chance to see a side of Mal she'll never experience, now, and Inara can't look away. Won't look away.

"Turn around," Mal tells Simon, releasing his hands. "And keep your hands on the counter."

Simon takes a deep breath, visibly fighting for control, before he does as Mal has told him. His cheeks are flushed and he's biting his lower lip. And then he looks over Mal's shoulder, directly at Inara, and she sees him realize she's there. She freezes, unsure what to do next.

To her surprise--and shameful relief--Simon doesn't say a word. He looks back at Mal, and Inara realizes he's tacitly given her permission to stay. She doesn't know why, but she's not going to question it.

Mal bends his head, kissing Simon, and Inara watches as he forces Simon's head back, drawing a groan out of Simon. "Don't move your hands," Mal snaps; Inara looks down to see Simon grab the counter again, his fingers white-knuckled.

"Tell me," Mal says, his voice softer now. There's a hint of something languid and predatory in it that makes Inara shiver. "Tell me what you want."

"I--" Simon flushes, swallowing.

"Tell me," Mal repeats, tilting Simon's chin up with two fingers.

"Your hands," Simon whispers. "I want your hands on me."

Inara sees Mal drag his hands down Simon's chest, his stomach, unbuttoning his pants. But her eyes return to their faces, fascinated by the need on Simon's face and the intent focus on Mal's.

"Oh, God," Simon manages shakily. Inara glances down, seeing that Mal has unfastened his own pants and is holding both of them in his hand. She swallows, watching Mal's hand begin to move, stroking them both.

Tearing her gaze away, she looks back at their faces. Simon's eyes are half-closed, while Mal is watching him with fierce concentration. "That's it," Mal murmurs. "Just like that."

"Mal--" Simon makes an abortive move to reach for him, but stops himself, gripping the counter so tightly Inara expects he'll have the outline embedded into his palms.

"Leave them there," Mal tells him. "Or I'll stop."

"Bastard," Simon gasps.

Mal laughs, low in his throat. "And you love it."

"That's beside the point--oh--" Simon's head falls back. "Close," he gets out.

"Good," Mal says, leaning down to kiss him, biting at his lips. "Do it, Simon, c'mon--"

Simon groans into Mal's mouth when he comes, shuddering all over. Inara swallows again, watching Mal close his eyes, tensing. He breathes Simon's name, holding still for one long moment before slumping against Simon.

Eventually, Simon moves, reaching behind him for a towel. "I'll need to wash this," he says, using it to clean them both.

"Yeah." Mal kisses him again, his mouth gentle against Simon's. "Later."

"Why later?"

Inara doesn't hear Mal's answer; she turns and leaves, careful not to make a sound. She'll go back to her shuttle and meditate, she thinks. Try and forget what she's seen. And she'll never, under any circumstances, mention it to anyone.

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