Word Count: 532
Prompt: Mal is staring morosely at an empty, and cracked, tea cup. The cup is finer than their usual ware. It's late in the black
Pairing: Mal/Inara, but of course ;)
Author’s Note: Written for my dearest charlie_bz, who is laid up sick over the holidays and so, of course, deserves fic written for her!
The ship is quiet. Light levels low, operating in ‘sleep mode’ for the night. Mal sits at the head of the table in the mess. Sleepless. Turns the teacup in his fingers again. Thumb brushing the uneven, raised edge of the crack that runs from lip to base in a jagged, unyielding line. Useless now. There’s no reason to keep it, damaged as it is. Save one. Doesn’t matter that it’s finer than any other cup on the ship, even with the crack. Doesn’t matter that it would never hold liquid again without some of it seeping through. Burning your fingers. Was only one reason he still has the cup.
He’d been furious with himself when he’d knocked it accidentally. Felt almost like crying when he’d seen the ugly break in the otherwise smooth perfection. Hit a little too close, how perfectly it mirrored reality - what he was in her life, her world. Not to mention that it was a perfect metaphor for his heart. Broken and empty.
He sighs. Turns the cup. Thumbs the crack. Curses himself for keeping it. Unable to let go this piece of her. Alone in the dark. Night after night after night.
He doesn’t know what to do, having her here. So close, again. It muddles him up, and it’s not something he can afford to let himself think on. Not now. Not yet.
He can’t go back to her shuttle, not with her there now. Can’t lose his thoughts in the scents and secrets her trunk holds. The way he’d taken to in the months between. There’s the capture, still sitting on his desk where he left it after the last time he couldn’t go another minute without hearing her voice. But that’s not what he needs or wants tonight.
So it’s the cup that finds its way into his hands. The broken one he took from her set (wasn’t broken then) just like he’s taken her from where she belongs. Out of place amongst all his things. Still so fine and so beautiful it hurts to look at it (her).
If they live through this, he thinks, he just might give it back to her. And everything that implies.
She finds it one morning. Sitting amongst the clutter of his things. Remembers wondering where it could have possibly gone to. She had her suspicions. Never confirmed, until now. She sits on his bunk while he’s out on another job. Turns it in her fingers, brushing the crack that his thumb had brushed a thousand times. She smiles and dresses to go into town.
It’s sometime later before he notices it. They haven’t returned to her Training House (yet) so he knows it’s the same teacup that she’s raising to her lips. Steaming and full of the last of her expensive teas. Fingers delicately holding the smooth surface, shot through with a lightning bolt of gold where the crack has been repaired. His eyes meet hers, wonderingly, as she sips.
“I thought I’d ruined it,” he says. Pained at the memory.
She sets the cup between them. Puts her hand on his. “No,” she replies, smile warm. “You made it more beautiful.”