The sun pelts down and sweat rolls down his back to soak his shirt. All life is somehow more dull than usual, deflated. The heat has taken its toll even on the birds, whose songs are weak imitations of how they usually are. Red paints the horizon, dissolving into the watercolour blue of a fading sky. Sand stretches on as far as they eye can see.
He is already weary of the conditions and it shows in his voice. "This is the last time."
"Mal?" Inara looks unaffected by the humidity. How that can be, he cannot fathom. Something must be physically wrong with her, something with genes or receptors of heat or some such. Maybe they gave her an injection or special training to look amazing no matter the climate, in the Guild. She cannot look so damn good otherwise and still be human.
He grunts and nods towards the sun, a movement that takes more energy than he expects it to. "The sun," he mutters. "Too hot. Can't function proper-like when it's like this."
"What does that even mean? 'Mmm'. What is that?"
"Anyway," he covers. "I'd sooner be outta here and nearabouts the Core if it meant gettin' away from this heat." He takes a moment to squint out into the desert, where two shapes have just appeared from around a sand dune.
Inara follows his gaze. "Well, it looks like you're about to get your wish, Captain."
Nodding, he continues to watch the approaching figures. He can soon make out enough features to confirm that it's Zoe and Jayne. He turns back to Inara, opening his mouth to speak and closing it again.
She's walking towards Serenity and he can make out a damp patch on the back of her top. "Guess she's human after all," he muses and then he sighs as he waits for the others.
The sun beats down fiercely and the quiet is emphasised again without Inara by his side. He waits.