Bring on the Banter

Whiskers on Kittens
The West Wing

The sounds of children laughing and people chattering reaching them almost as soon as they exited Serenity. The town was filled with happy citizens and people flocked the streets swapping smiles and enjoying themselves.

Inara and Mal strolled through the town, a comfortable silence between them. Their arms were no longer linked, as both had almost immediately realized the possible implications. Still, the loss of the closeness and Mal’s warmth had left Inara feeling empty and the thoughts running through her mind were making her head spin.

Where were the feelings suddenly coming from? Okay, that wasn’t completely true. This wasn’t exactly a new development. Inara had felt these feelings before but she had thought that she had buried them so deep inside of her that she was free of them. Obviously this was not the case.

Pushing her thoughts aside, Inara began to concentrate on the sights around her. It was rare for her to come into a town such as this one. Usually she would be with a client, and so usually did not visit the worlds which Serenity landed on. This moon a cheerful place, and people happily went about their business.

A few people had stared to see a companion in their midst but most appeared to be taking it in their stride, giving her friendly smiles as she walked past. Inara was glad however that she had decided to dress down a bit today, which helped her to blend in more. She did not want to be “Companion Serra” today; she just wanted to be “Inara”. She had a whole day off, with a Captain, for whom she was having fuzzy feelings towards and she planned to make the most of it, and have some fun.

Pausing outside of a shop filled with beautiful hand-sewn dresses, Inara gazed longingly inside, fingering one of the dresses which were on display outside the store. Sighing she resumed walking, making her way towards the next store. Mal noticing her gazing at the dress spoke up.

“Inara, wait.” She paused mid-step to glance back at him. “What are you doing?” at the furrow of her brows he continued “I mean we have the whole day off. Why don’t you at least go and try the dress on?”

“No, I couldn’t …” Inara stumbled over her words.

Mal gave her a look. “And why not? It’s not like you can’t afford it”. Inara blushed.

“But, you..” she began

“Hell, I don’t mind. It’s not like I haven’t done this before what with Kaylee and Zoe on the ship. Okay I take that back. I don’t remember ever seeing Zoe in a dress…” Realizing he was getting slightly off subject, he quickly assured her “I’ll even wait for you”

Hesitantly, Inara walked inside the store. The shop assistant immediately came over to assist her and the two of them moved behind a curtain into what was obviously the dressing room.

Glancing around Mal noticed a comfortable looking chair just inside the shops door and made his way over to it. Taking a moment to relax, he let his thoughts wander and suddenly recalled Kaylee and her ‘layer cake’ dress. Hell, she would have spent the entire day starring at that if he had allowed it. Frowning, he wondered what he had gotten himself into.

Mal lay his head down, preparing himself for a light snooze, after deciding that Inara would most likely take hours, fashionable lady that she was, to find the perfect dress.

Just as his eyes began to flutter closed, a movement caught his eye. Mal looked up in surprise to see Inara her making her way towards him. Taking in what she was wearing his eyes widened and he was suddenly feeling a might more awake.

Inara was now adorned in the dress she had been admiring from the window. The dress, a deep red which moulded to her body, accentuating her curves showed off just a hint of cleavage. It was much less revealing than many of the garments he had seen her in, but the simplicity of this dress, took Mal’s breath away.

Realizing that he was staring, Mal noticed that Inara was looking at him expectantly, waiting to hear his opinion. Opening his mouth to speak, he was shocked to discover that no words came out.

What the hell was wrong with him?! Gorram it, he had never seen her look so beautiful. But lost for words?? That had never happened to him before.

Inara seeing his gaze of appreciation blushed. “Why Captain,” she smiled shyly “I think that’s the sweetest thing you haven’t said to me”.

Finally discovering his voice, Mal managed to say “You look nice…” before trailing off and staring at his shoes.

A slight giggle escaped from Inara’s throat before she could stop it, and she could feel the heat rushing to her face as once again he locked his gaze onto her.

Mal had seen Inara as a Companion, had heard her laugh at people’s joke’s with a false laughter, that only those who knew her well would be able to tell. She very rarely let her Companion mask slip, to show what she was truly feeling. Hearing her laugh had sent a warm feeling all over his body. This was the true Inara finally showing, no companion mask whatsoever.

Inara turned quickly, feeling the mounting tension in the room. She paused as she felt a touch on her arm.

“You’re not going to get the dress?” Mal’s face was one of confusion.

Shaking her head ruefully, Inara replied “No. I tried to tell you outside.” She paused for a second, choosing her words carefully “I’m on somewhat of a budget at the moment” Inara cringed at the word.

Mal’s face was immediately one of concern and Inara felt a flutter in her stomach over his worry for her. “Are you having money troubles? Do you need help?” His words trailed off, seeing her shaking her head.

“No, it’s nothing like that. I’m just saving my money at the moment.” Seeing Mal wasn’t completely happy with that explanation, she continued. “Not for anything in particular. Honestly? I’m not sure what for. I just felt that I should be watching what I spend for a while. Maybe your thrifty ways are having an effect on me Captain.” She smiled at him to show she was joking.

Grinning in return, Mal motioned towards the dressing room and made his way back to his chair. Mal’s gaze wandered over towards the dressing room, a slight smile escaping his lips as he remembered just how gorgeous Inara had looked in the red dress.

A thoughtful expression crossed his face, as he glanced over towards the shop keeper who was back behind her counter working busily. Mal shook his head.

No, it wouldn’t be right. He thought Just because they had managed to spend one morning together without tearing each others throats out, did not mean anything had changed. Did it?

Bright Copper Kettles


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