"Gorramit," Mal hissed as he stepped outside of the ship. It was snowing heavily and he did not like the snow. It was too white, too quiet, and way too cold. He pulled his brown coat tighter around his figure, attempting to shrink into the warmth. "We just had to land in snow."
River happily skipped past him in nothing but a sweater and a skirt. He was fairly certain that she was barefoot. When Simon came running after her with her boots, Mal knew that he was right. Instead of taking the boots, she threw a snowball at her brother's head and frolicked into the nearby woods. Simon held the boots to Mal. "Can you catch her, Captain? I have something very important to do."
"Yeah…Kaylee," Mal grumbled as he took them pointedly. Simon blushed and Mal trudged onwards, attempting to chase after his pilot. "River? River!"
He found her in a clearing, dancing wildly in the snowfall. The white flakes were caught in her long locks, and she easily captured one on her tongue. Her little feet were buried in the freezing ground, and it didn't even slow her down. His eyes followed her for a moment and she abruptly stopped.
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music," she said quietly, turning her bright eyes on her captain.
He held up the boots. "Your brother's orders."
"You'll get frost bite."
"River," he huffed. "I'm ordering you to put these on."
She kicked some snow in his direction and laughed at the look on his face. Her feet resumed dancing. "River can't dance effectively in boots. Bird can't fly with clipped wings. Can't sing in a cage. Can't feel the cold."
"No one likes to be cold," Mal challenged. "And no one likes it when they lose a foot. Try dancing after that."
"Calculated the temperatures. Know how long to be barefoot safely."
He couldn't think of a comeback. "Well…that ain't the…just do what I say!"
She grinned slyly. "River will put on the boots if her captain will dance in the snow with her."
"Simon would kill you if she miscalculated and gets hypothermia."
"Captain," she huffed. "River is ordering you to dance."
He looked around, assuring that they were alone. Reluctantly, he set the boots on the ground and awkwardly went over to her. He put a hand on her waist and took her tiny cold fingers in his own. She smiled up at him and he forgot how to breathe. "Follow," she instructed, beginning to move.
"But there's no music for me to go off of, little one."
"There is," she argued. "In here…" she pointed to her head. "And in here," she put her free hand over his heart. "Dance."
Slowly, they danced in the snowfall. Their breath mingled together in the freezing air and he watched her face. Her eyes were closed, but she was beaming. He hated to admit it, but he was enjoying himself and couldn't take his eyes off his little pilot. After a long time, he realized that without a song there was no way to tell when they should stop. Not that he minded.
She eventually stopped them and slid her boots onto her icy feet. "Thank you, Captain."
"If I had a snowflake for every time I thought of you, there would be an innumerable amount of snow on the surface."
He looked at her strangely. "What?"
She rolled her eyes. "River. Thinking of the captain. Frequently. Snowflakes equaling amount of thoughts. Lots of snow."
"You…thinking of…me?" he repeated. She nodded, shaking snow from her eyelashes. "Why?"
She danced over to him and gripped the front of his coat. "Dance partners."
"Dance partners…" he searched her face and it dawned on him. "Oh. Oh. You mean…oh…um…"
Her finger went to his lips and she just smiled. "If you had a snowflake for every time you tried to not think of me, there'd be even more snow."
"Stay out of my head," he warned and she giggled. "Don't do that. Don't laugh."
"You like it."
"Think my laugh is pretty."
"Captain likes his pilot."
"Malcolm Reynolds," she huffed. "Readers know everything."
He gulped nervously. "Everything?"
"You have vivid dreams," she laughed. "One more dance. Please?"
At that point, he couldn't tell her no. They danced for awhile longer until they were both shivering. Then, she took his arm and they walked back to the ship. Her lips grazed his cheek in the cargo bay, and she began to float away. "Listen to the music, Captain."
He grinned and absentmindedly put a hand over his chest. Zoe and Jayne appeared on the catwalk. "We've been lookin' everywhere," Jayne grunted. "Where you been?"
"In the snow," he said elatedly.
Zoe raised an eyebrow. "You hate the snow."
"Maybehaps it's grown on me…" he walked towards his bunk, humming and dancing.