The Scent of a Man and his Gun

The day has barely begun. Outside the skies are white, with clouds near to bursting and ready to let rain fall. The air is still, as if holding its breath, in wait for the rain. Despite the cloud layer, the sunlight is fierce and pushes through, highlighting the whiteness of the clouds.

Serenity lies in the lowlands. As per usual, she's waiting calmly for her next flight. Her view of the sky is magnificent. Straight up, there are no trees to obscure their view. They have a clear view of the entire sky, a view that isn't blocked by high-risers or anything else manmade. It's one of few places they've been where the pollution isn't too bad to see the sky. The entire crew has been out at least once to stare up at it in awe.

Currently, there is just Mal and Inara in the smallish area outside the ship. They remain in the valley, between two of the more non-descript mountains on the planet. The main town is a good hour or two away by foot. Between the foot of each mountain there is not much space, just enough for Serenity to hide in and for a casual stroll outside to get some fresh air. It's quiet.

"How is it that you always smell like gunpowder?" Inara asks softly. Her tone and the gentle smile on her face suggest there is no more to the question than simple curiosity - but Mal gives her a confused look regardless.


"Gunpowder," she says. "Whenever you walk by, the scent of it follows you. But you don't use your weapon every heist you go on."

"The thing about gunpowder is when you get it in something good enough and strong enough, it won't come out. This here coat has seen a good many days where a gun was fired." He lifts a shoulder in a half shrug.

"That would certainly do it," Inara agrees. Her lips curve up slightly more and she tilts her head back again to stare up at the sky. Even after all the times she has spent on core planets where pollution is minimal, she is struck by the beauty of the sky, so open and wild. The previous day it had shone ocean blue.

"Why?" Mal says.


"Why are you asking me? Is this your way of tellin' me I smell bad or somethin'?"

Inara shakes her head. "It's nothing like that."

Mal waits for her to continue.

She sighs and for a change, looks at the trees around them. There are few of them, and most have been burned to nearly nothing. They're eucalypts, which means that the fire that had raged through the area will in fact impact positively on them and help them grow. The resulting look of the fire for now though is a barren wasteland filled with dead or dying trees; of course, that is not at all the case.

In death there is life and vice versa. Nature is a fascinating thing.

Inara finally turns back to Mal to explain. "You still smell like gunpowder even now," she admits.

"That a good thing?"

She smiles and looks away. "Maybe the rain will wash it away," she suggests as the first drops fall.

Mal removes his coat and drapes it over her shoulders. "Doubtful. Gets under your skin, it does."

They spend the next while in silence until they're ready to head inside.

Later that evening, when his coat is draped over a chair to dry, they sit together at the table, nursing mugs of tea. She breathes in deeply to enjoy the aromas of her tea. In doing so, she smells the faint scent of gunpowder and she wonders again how much of it Mal must have been around in his time for him to smell so strongly of it.

It worries her because it reminds her he is only human and his risky heists might one day end with him smelling like bullets too. Somehow it is also a comfort.