TITLE: Core Girls

DISCLAIMER: Not mine.

A/N: Bloody hell I need to stop writing fanfic and do some real work…but they just seem to pop up and I can't control myself! Please review.

CORE GIRLS

Malcolm Reynolds had never required the finer things in life. He had little use of or respect for anything from the Core. Antique china and mahogany tables never seemed much use to a body when gunfire was all around and meals were taken on frozen ground in sheets of rain. Beds made of silk sheets weren't particularly useful when your back was used to hard ground and flak jackets. Operas and art galleries seemed fairly boring compared to a bottle of cheap whiskey and a deck of cards. None of that stuff made any sense to him, and the life he chose reflected that. A nice hard bunk, easy food that was only required to keep up energy levels, the occasional game of pool and a good tussle. Yessir, a body certainly didn't need any of that crap those Core folk seemed to value so highly when there was fun and action to be had.

Except there was one area of his world that seemed to breed a little inconsistency into his simple life theory. He'd started thinking on it the other night, watching Inara and Kaylee work in the kitchen, watching River and Zoe sit at the table, one drawing, the other working on her monthly ammunition checks, pouring over a long chart and writing lists of requirements. Seemed he had an affinity for one aspect of the Core.

The women.

Now don't get him wrong, there ain't nothin' wrong with a girl from the Rim. Harsh environments had bred straightforward, refreshingly honest personalities. Warmly tanned skin, deceptively innocent smatterings of freckles, and sensual curves had all ensnared him at one time or another. They didn't need china plates or orchestral music to enjoy themselves, and he often found the lack of make-up, the permission of beauty to be natural and unrefined, highly alluring. He was the first to admit that a relaxed attitude and ribald joke was a vast improvement on the stuffy, snobbish sensibilities of a regular Core woman.

'Cept his women weren't regular Core women.

Inara was the prime example, the reason he'd started contemplating this in the first place. All grace and composure, retained from her years as a Companion (which he was overly pleased to note had ended after the terror of Miranda) spoke volumes about her origins. But even without her behaviour a body could easily see she was Core born. The fine, high cheekbones, sensuous lips, thick hair and catlike eyes all spoke of exotic origin. A richly cultured voice that he was man enough to admit occasionally sent tingles down his spine, elusive and dangerous and superior. It confused, enraged and aroused him simultaneously.

River was another example. The Rim planets just didn't breed girls like that, with the challenges of hard labour and multiple child births creating strong, heavy bones and wide hips. There was little time for ballet or academics when a body had to look after their property, had to work for a living. The girl was all slender arms and dancers legs, her wide brown eyes with their long darks lashes and porcelain skin meaning she didn't require a lick of make up to capture the attention of every man in the room (a fact that her "Daddy" was not entirely comfortable with). Her movements were always gracefully, unconsciously delicate, and even with wild eyes and tangled hair, even covered in Reaver blood and moving like a fighting cat she had a certain inner control that was hard to find on the Rim.

Kaylee was another example, one a body had to think long and hard about to really see. The dirt smudges and boyish overalls hid it well, but the underlying bone structure, the fine brown hair with its natural curl, the heart shaped face. He had asked her once about her parents, and hadn't been surprised to hear her grandmother had been Core born. The woman had defied her father to marry the man who captured her heart, and Kaylee spoke happily of her grandparents and their love for one another. The personality underneath was all earthy warmth and strong work ethic straight from the Rim, but the face and the eyes gave her away. Even covered in grease she was still a delicate beauty, and he'd had more than a few run-ins with Rim boys who wanted a bit of her pretty. Her self-consciousness and Rim accent meant she didn't really see it herself, but Mal knew the doc saw, and liked very much.

Zoe, well there was a tough one. He knew for a fact that her family had been ship dwellers, that never had an Alleyne set foot on a Core planet unless necessary, that they lacked any of the Core belief in status and the importance of class. And yet, by the grace of genetics, there she was. All regal stature, long of limb and queenly of posture meant she stood out in a room full of Rim workers even if she fit in every other way. By some strange form of biology the features of her ancestors had combined into something stunning and terrifying, and even the military lifestyle had failed to destroy that inner fire. Four months pregnant, a final gift from her dearly departed husband, she was a strange mix of glowing anticipation and still-fresh grief.

Now he was the first to admit it wasn't a deliberate decision to have himself surrounded by beautiful women. Many a happy accident had led to the current mix of females on his ship. A Companion seeking transport, seeking change. A pair of siblings on the run, a mechanic in the right place at the right time, a friend and confidant from many years gone by. But he sure as hell had nothing to complain about. And he was fairly sure the other males on the ship would agree with him.

Simon, Core born himself, still couldn't resist the draw of warmth and understated beauty that Kaylee provided. The mix of fine Core features in someone so down to earth and open must be intoxicating for the doc. Finally able to keep his foot out of his mouth long enough to express himself; he would now watch her as if the stars had dropped onto her shoulders. And little Kaylee, bless her, still couldn't understand why he was with her. Luckily she didn't need to understand to feel happy.

Wash had known, had been unable to keep his eyes off his stunning wife even after years of marriage and countless fights, liberally interspersed with many an opportunity to see her naked. Still the funny man had never seemed to grow tired or indifferent to the full lips and rare smiles his wife would give him, and even Mal had to concede that he was missing the little pilot's adoration of his first mate.

Mal himself was regularly driven crazier than River by the ship's former Companion. Something about all that honey skin, perfect posture and beautiful face on someone whose tongue could be acidic to the point of pain had him completely fixated. Uncomfortable though he was with the idea he was in love with her, he knew his hidden joy at her decision to leave the Guild and stay on Serenity wasn't solely due to the retention of some truly spectacular eye candy. From the way she would occasionally smirk at him or arch a perfect brow in his direction he had an inkling that the feeling might be mutual.

Jayne was a strange one. Rim bred and proud of it, the hard muscles and massive frame complimented by his battle skills and rowdy behaviour, the big man lacked any of the finesse or delicacy of Core folk. Nowhere in his background or bloodline was there a hidden element of class, of Core breeding or desire for it. Like Mal, his enjoyment of the finer things involved food, a new firearm, a good brawl and an easy woman, the latter preferably with plenty of curves and sauce. On the Inner Planets Jayne tended to grow antsy, uncomfortable with the pomposity and pretentiousness of the people there, male and female. He would relax only when they reached a planet where the women were unrestricted and as rowdy as the men. However in these last few months Mal had noticed a change, a hint of appreciation for something more delicate. His eyes would follow the young Reader around the room, now without the wariness of before, clearly enjoying sight of all that porcelain skin and balletic, deadly grace. Mal wondered if he even knew he was falling for the girl, but found it funnier not to mention anything.

So here he was, surrounded by his crew around their ancient kitchen table, eating another meal of protein, with a bottle of whisky and a deck of cards at the ready as after dinner entertainment.

Yessir, Malcolm Reynolds had no use for the finer things in life, no respect for anything that came from the Core.

'Cepting of course, the women.

The End