Steps of the Dance

by Katinka

"This dance I think I actually know…" –Mal Reynolds, "Shindig"

She feigns surprise, but she does not feel it. Of course he would be able to dance, and dance well, because that is the last thing anyone other than her would expect of him.

Join the women, circle around…

She has seen the swift, fluid grace with which he whips a gun from its holster or vaults over the catwalks and stairways of his ship. Translating those movements to a waltz or a minuet is not wholly unthinkable.

Come to him, take his hand…

Although, a woman of her station and breeding should cringe at such a coarse comparison.

Turn together, side by side…

Did his mother teach him the steps, keeping him indoors on Sunday afternoons when he wanted to be riding his horse? Did she deliver a smack when his attention began to wander, or scold him when he uttered some infuriatingly smug remark?

Face one another, curtsy, bow…

She has never heard from his lips of his earlier life on Shadow – that knowledge came secondhand, from Kaylee – but perhaps there were barn dances there. Or harvest festivals, accompanied by the rough scrape of fiddles, not the measured strokes of chamber musicians.

Hands meet, and again, turn, turn…

His dance partners would not have been cultured ladies who ranked tea making among their finer accomplishments.

Come to him, take his hand…

They would have been flush-cheeked girls who allowed their hair to fly wildly behind them as they spun about the room, their feet unhindered by ideas of precision and constraint.

Step back, cross under…

Did he ever take one of those girls by the hand and laughingly lead her to a place where the music was distant and muted, kissing her with as little hesitation as he showed when throwing a punch in a bar fight?

Turn together, side by side…

The thought should hold no appeal for her.

Hands meet, and again, turn, turn…

None at all.

THE END

A/N: This was written for a challenge based on the lovely Mal/Inara tension in "Shindig". Those two need to scamper off together already.