What, precisely what did it take to get Malcolm Reynolds to pick up a hint? Smiling sweetly, encouragingly, every single time he crossed her path - yes, it was entertaining to make the big, tough war veteran blush, but come on! Unguarded warmth...he had no idea what she was showing him. So be it. Smiles and comments. "It's been lovely" at the end of an evening talking about the cost efficiency of different brands of fuel cells, for the love of Buddha! "I was hoping for some company" when he wandered into her shuttle for no discernible reason. "Can you help me with this?" As if she couldn't run a simple, but time-consuming, diagnostic on the shuttle's com system by herself; as if she'd ask him, not Kaylee, if she really did need help. She'd started losing to him at cards, and she never lost, but this is what he'd reduced her to. Being obvious.
And the shopping trip. She didn't need to go at all - she ordered most of her things from the tailors she'd patronized for years, master craftswomen who knew her preferences and dislikes as thoroughly as they knew her measurements. But the idea of spending the day together, alone, away from Serenity and their beloved but ever-present...family...Kaylee had been a little disappointed but she understood her sacrifice to be for a good cause. And after Inara discreetly pointed out the advantages of having the Captain off the ship for an entire day, Kaylee couldn't stop giggling her agreement.
It had taken much time and patience to continue hinting until she saw the surprised gleam in Mal's eyes. He offered - she accepted his offer. Without sighing. Without rolling her eyes. Without muttering "finally." She was proud of all three.
More pleasureable than she had imagined, wandering the store with him, having him pat her hand, warm fingertips on warm skin, to get her attention. As if he didn't already have it. As if she weren't painfully attuned to him, every moment. Seeing the ladies they pass look him over, then look again, more than one blushing as they did.
Subtle just didn't work with him. So off she went, fully expecting him to track her down. That's what he did. That's how he retrieved the stolen shuttle from the odious Saffron; that's how he saved River and Simon from the kidnappers. Inara thought about disappearing, but she was certain he was armed. Get him worried, he might start threatening people. So she made it easy for him, waving to him, pointing out where she was going...
So where was he? She had made her purchases an hour ago, had run out of slinky, alluring nightdresses to peruse intently while she waited for his wry, nearly-flirtatious comment at her back. So she could turn to him. And hint again. While holding something lacy, sheer, and outrageously provocative up for him to see. Just short of marching into his bunk, naked, with a sign on her head. A sign with an arrow. An arrow that lit up.
Ai ya, if he was still trying to sneak up on the holo-ads she was going to scream.
There he was - finally! Finally! She found herself blushing, blushing wildly, when she saw what had captured his attention so completely. The little tap pants she'd just bought - she'd been delighted to find them, they were desperately romantic, not the most provocative but by far her favorite piece in the department.
Did he just...blow on them? Mmmm,
that would tickle.
Maybe one more hint. Inara patted her shopping bag and hoped.