Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters.
Summary: Unmitigated fluff for a Wednesday. May promote tooth decay. Mal and Inara enjoy a morning away from Serenity.
Mal dressed with extra care, making sure his shirt had no bullet holes and his pants were neatly pressed. He was almost embarrassed by how eager he was to escort Inara into the small town on Highgate. There wasn't much to recommend the little settlement, but the day was fine and Mal had an unusual desire to see Inara in the light of a bright sun.
Inara, for her part, was looking at herself critically in the full length mirror of her shuttle, having chosen to spend the night away from Mal's bunk so that she could genuinely rest up for the day he had planned for them. The rest of the crew had already left for their various destinations, relieved to be dirtside again after a long stint in the Black. So, Inara had no one to ask about the change of attire she was wearing. She wished for a moment that she had talked to Kaylee before she left.
Biting her lip nervously, she smoothed the fabric of her new pants, wondering what Mal would think of them. Since she was no longer a Companion, she had sold most of her finer clothes, having no use for them on Serenity. But pants were still a novelty to her and she wasn't quite sure if she liked the look of them on her hips.
Mal's knock on her shuttle door made her smile. She found it more than a little strange that he should have learned to knock only now, when they were sharing a bed almost every night, but she certainly had no intention to stop him from doing so. "Ching jin," she called out in musical tones.
Mal entered, and she was struck by how swai he looked, his boots polished to a fine sheen and his clothes pressed so neatly. "Why, Captain Reynolds," she said, lowering her lashes seductively, "Don't you look handsome this morning?"
Mal bowed gracefully, not at all in the mocking way he used to do. "Why, thank you, Miss Serra," he replied formally. Eyeing her shape in the form-fitting pants she wore, he whistled softly. "You're quite a picture yourself."
Inara ran her hand along the side of the pants, smoothing out a small wrinkle. "You think so?" she asked almost hesitantly.
"I most surely do," Mal said, closing the distance between them and pulling her into his arms. "Missed you last night, darlin'," he murmured, as he nibbled at the soft skin below her ear.
Inara shivered, the pleasure of his touch setting a small fire ablaze in her belly. "I thought we were going out today," she sighed against his neck, breathing in the scent of him.
"And so we are," he said, pulling away from her reluctantly. "Just got a little carried away with your charms there for a minute." He smiled the slow, lazy smile that made Inara's knees go just a little weak. Holding out his arm, he continued. "Shall we?"
Threading her arm through his, she walked beside him out into the bright light of early morning on Highgate. As they walked through the town, idly looking in the shop windows at the same things that seemed to be for sale in every Rim world settlement, Mal could not help but notice the appreciative stares of the men milling about on the street, and he was filled with pride, and a little wonder, that Inara should be on his arm on such a fine day.
"We're apparently making quite a spectacle," Inara murmured, feeling the gaze of the townspeople like a physical weight on her skin.
"You do tend to stand out," Mal said, tightening his hold on her just a little.
"Even in these plain clothes?" she said, looking down at her white cotton shirt and black pants objectively.
"It's got nothin' to do with the clothes, bao bei," Mal said, a wicked gleam in his eye. "And everything to do with how you fill 'em out."
Inara squeezed his arm, pleased inordinately by the compliment and wondering at what point such a simple statement acquired the power to make her blush. Temporarily bemused, she was surprised when Mal stopped walking. Turning her attention back to her external surroundings, she saw that he was looking intently at the window of a bookstore.
"Wanna go inside?" he asked.
She nodded, and they stepped into the small, cluttered store, the sudden change from bright light to dim shadow disconcerting them both for a minute. When his eyes adjusted to the change, Mal led her forward, moving among the dusty old books with the excitement of a small boy.
"What are you looking for?" Inara asked curiously, as his eyes roved around eagerly.
"Never do know," Mal said. "But every once in a great while, you can find a real treasure in a place like this." He trailed his hands gently along the spines of the old books, reading the titles with relish.
Inara watched him with pleasure, thinking what a strange contradiction Mal could be. By turns hard and cold as the worst of gunmen, and then a tender and gentle lover with a penchant for reading in bed, he was an enigma to her, as he had always been. She wondered briefly if she would ever truly discover all the facets of the man.
He glanced up at her to see if she was bored with his slow progress among the shelves. "What were you thinking just then?" he asked curiously.
"Nothing," she replied, shrugging her shoulders nonchalantly. "See any that you like?"
Mal returned to his perusal of the shelves. "Maybehaps this one," he said, pulling out a well-worn leather-bound book. "Looks to be interestin'."
Inara examined it, running her fingers along the creamy pages of some of the most beautifully erotic poetry ever written. "So it does," she agreed softly, imagining long Serenity nights curled by his side as he read them to her. She shivered pleasantly at the thought.
"You cold, darlin'?" he asked, unaware of her train of thought.
"No," she said smiled. "Not at all."
Not sure he believed her, he hurried to purchase the book and walked back out into the late morning sun. "Should warm up quick enough now," he said, taking her hand as they continued down the street. "See anything you'd like to look at?" he asked, indicating the few remaining shops.
Turning her face up to the sun with her fingers entwined with his, she sighed contentedly. "No, I think I've got everything I need right here."
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