originally posted aug.31.2008
when love was your great disappointmentindesolution (au) | hero brown/malcolm reynolds, malcolm reynolds/inara serra | 637 words
notes written for a sort of 'pairings that never were' meme. in other words, not game canon.
Hero keeps going to that bar in favor of Swayze's, and she tells Victoria that it's not for him because sometimes it's easier to lie to Victoria instead of herself. Mostly he doesn't seem too interested; sure, she's caught him looking at her chest a couple times, but she catches everyone looking at her chest and the quick glances away from it, because you're not supposed to notice when a person isn't whole.
He's lonely though, in that well-versed way that's more about resignation than filling the void. Hero thinks that must be harder to break through, but she's only guessing; she hasn't gotten quite that far yet. So she keeps coming to the bar.
He seems grateful for the conversation, at least, and she tries not to read into it when he keeps a clean glass under the bar for her. (She laughs when he does it the first time. He looks a little wounded, just around the eyes, and she explains. "Chivalry's pretty dead where I come from."
"If you call that chivalry you must be scrapin' the bottom of the barrel of expectations, darlin'."
She doesn't seem to be able to tell him she thinks he might be a good man.)
She likes listening to him talk. He's not much for stories, everything he tells her with a beginning, middle and end abridged to the point of scribbles in the margins. But he'll talk about Serenity for as long as she'll listen, and she does. She doesn't know, maybe she's even heard it before; space and shit, Yorick would've loved it. She'd always just tuned him out. None of it was real, and she's been chasing that dragon all her life. Joe was the one she couldn't quit, soon the only thing that was real, and by the time he'd finished bleeding out on her shirt she'd no longer known who she was. She thinks she understands better now.
But this is Mal's life. A girl named Kaylee comes up a lot, but Hero doesn't get the sense she's the one to be jealous of. Hero doesn't know the name of the one she should be jealous of, though she's there in the sharp edges of his words and eyes.
She comes into the bar, turns every head and stands several feet away. Mal turns too, and they stare at each other like they wish it was easier to be this happy.
She sits a few seats down from Hero with a discreet grimace of distaste. She murmurs at Mal in between his customers — he doesn't pay Hero any mind at all, won't even look at her. She doesn't understand it, but that doesn't stop Victoria from saying I told you so. Hero listens because sometimes it's easier than telling herself the truth. It hurts in her throat.
He says the name more than once, so Hero knows what it is by the time Inara glances at her, once, then again, and says, "Oh." Hero's eyes skitter away and her face burns when she leaves, forgetting her cowboy hat.
She knew how to be a girl once. Sugar and spice. Then she became something much more terrifying, which she thinks is herself. Hero sits on the edge of her bed, a yellow dress smooth against her skin. All of the bloody scrapes on her legs have healed, the bruises faded. Her hair falls in soft curls around her face, and gloss makes her lips slide easily when she presses them together, looking down at the hat in her hands. He'd left it in front of her door without a note.
She loves this goddamn hat. She isn't sure if she knows how to be a girl again.
Hero isn't listening to Victoria when she decides not to go to the bar today.