Bring on the Banter

Bright Copper Kettles
The West Wing

Finally leaving the store, the Captain and Companion continued their walk past the seemingly never-ending stretch of shops. Since their conversation inside the store, Inara and Mal were now more relaxed in each others presence.

Passing by a rather ill taken care of store, Inara paused grimacing, as Mal squashed his face against the window, ignoring its dirt, to try and determine what was inside.

Laughing lightly, Inara, put her hand on his shoulder. “You know, you could always do something different, and actually go inside.”

Moving back from the window and turning to look at her, Mal squinted slightly from the light of the sun which was now shining almost directly into his eyes. “Go inside? Nah, I was just looking.”

“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”

Inara purses her lips, why did everything with this man prove to be so difficult? Sighing she spoke, “Mal it’s obvious that you want to have a look. Let’s go inside. Really, I don’t mind.”

Off his skeptical look, she continued “Really. I’ll even wait.” she smiled as she repeated his earlier words.

The corners of Mal’s mouth began to turn upwards, against his will. Scratching his head he voiced his concerns. “Yeah, but I got to see you dress up all pretty-like. Doesn’t seem fair…” He trailed off.

Inara tilted her head slightly, considering his response. “Well okay then. If the only reason you won’t go in is because of my feeling uncomfortable or bored, then…” She glanced around looking for inspiration.

The corners of Inara’s lips, turned upwards into a smile as an idea struck her. Gesturing to a sign in the store window, she said “I think, I may have found our solution”

“Target practise” Mal read aloud.

“You can teach me how to use a gun”

“’Nara, I don’t know… giving you a gun probably wouldn’t be a very wise decision on my part” he smirked. Seeing an upcoming argument about to escape her lips, he quickly continued. “Besides, didn’t they teach you all that at the Academy”

Noticing Mal and not mentioned ‘whore’, Inara smiled to herself before replying “We were taught just the basics, for self defense purposes. But a companion holds a respected position, it isn’t expected that she would be in as much danger, as I seem to be everyday on Serenity”

Mal looked down at his shoes, realizing, not for the first time, that Inara deserved much better than the life she was privy to on Serenity. Much of the danger that she was in, was due to him, and the illegal trades the crew took part in.

Seeing Mal’s expression, Inara, reached out her hand to him. “Mal, it was my choice to come onto Serenity, and it is my choice to stay.” She tried to catch his eye, to explain that she wanted to be there, on Serenity, with him. “I’m simply saying, that a little more experience with using a gun, would probably come in useful.”

Looking up at her, Mal smiled, before leading her inside the store.

Glass cabinets filled the walls, filled with guns of all shapes and sizes. Mal’s eyes widened as he took in the many different models, most of which cost more than he made in a year. Leaving Inara standing just inside the doorway, he walked up and spoke to the man behind the store’s counter.

After a short conversation and money changing hands, Mal motioned to a doorway at the back of the store, indicating to Inara to follow him. The set up of the target practice was basic, but Mal assumed it would be fine, considering Inara was just a beginner.

After showing Inara how to load a gun, ignoring her eye rolling, which showed he had underestimated her knowledge already, Mal aimed at the target and shot. Inara clapped lightly, grinning at his proud expression of hitting the centre of the target. She grabbed the gun from him, and took aim.

“Ummmm…’Nara? That’s not how I showed you to hold it.”

Glancing down at her hands, she replied “No. I never could get that right.” Shrugging, she took aim again and fired. Sneaking a glance beside her to see Mal’s expression, she was proud to see it was one of shock.

Gaping at her, Mal began “How…? I mean…”

“I may not hold a gun correctly, but I was first in my class at shooting” She shot him a quick grin.

Mal recovering from his shock, at her perfect shot, retorted “And you didn’t think of mentioning this before….?”

“Well, I’m rather out of practice. The last time I used a gun was… I can’t remember. I thought I’d forgotten how” she shrugged “I guess not”

Mal laughed “I should have known”

Placing the gun down in front of her, Inara put her hands on her hips frowning, “And what, Malcolm Reynolds, is that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, come on ‘Nara. Are you telling me, that you weren’t first in your class in all your studies?”

“No…” blushing Inara faltered “I tied first in one subject”

“See? And what subject was that?”

“Playing the piccolo” she admitted “I didn’t like it, and so hardly ever practiced”

Mal gaped, “And yet you STILL tied top of the class”. Inara shrugged.

“Why’d you do it ‘Nara?” She looked at him questioningly

“Study so much. Have to be the best. Hell, I know you’re ambitious. But you were so young, still are, what did you do it for? Just to become a companion”

Inara knew that Mal genuinely wanted to know the answer, and wasn’t trying to hurt her. But the question was one which she had been asking herself recently, and so put her on the immediate defensive. Looking up though, and seeing the regret in Mal’s eyes, she softened.

She had never spoken to anyone before, and yet somehow this man, made her want to open up to him and tell him all her secrets and fears. Inara opened her mouth and began to speak.

“I guess, it was my mother. She was a companion too, you know. Extremely respected. There was never any other, thought about what I would do; I would of course follow in her footsteps. It gave me a ticket straight into the Guild.” Inara paused talking a deep breathe, continuing under seeing Mal’s attentiveness “At first I was so proud of my mother. But after time, I wanted to prove that I could be good. A better companion. Not just my mother’s daughter. I wanted to be my own person, to show that I could be great as well. But, the whole time, my excellence was simply due to the fact that I was a renowned companion’s daughter. I wasn’t something that I had achieved myself. It was my mother.”

Inara smiled sadly up at Mal, who grabbed her hand, understanding. Both of them realized that there would be no turning back from now on.

They had never really spent time alone together, with each other before. Sure, they would on occasion talk on the walk above the cargo bay at night, discussing their respective days, and swapping stories. But the rest of the crew had always been nearby. A constant reminder of the real world and what they could not, do and feel.

It had taken over a year, but Inara had finally begun to share her past with Mal. The Companion was usually so closed off about it, as was Mal about his, although Inara always picked up tit bits from Zoe. But this day that had learnt more about each other than ever before. And all it did was strengthen the emotions that the two had been trying for so long to suppress.

Giving each other small smiles, they walked outside in silence. Both wondering, what was to become of them now.

Warm Woolen Mittens


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