Bring on the Banter

Warm Woolen Mittens
The West Wing

Walking aimlessly down the bustling streets, Mal breathed in deeply, savouring the fresh air which surrounded him. With no set plans, he and Inara had decided to wander and see where they ended up. They had not seen the rest of the crew all day, which suited them just fine, as spending time together without the others, was rare.

As they walked on a lively tune, which Mal had previously thought he was imagining, began to get louder and louder. Finally the source of the music came into sight.

Suddenly it was all to clear why the streets had been near empty of residents. It appeared they were all at the fair!

A girlish squeal escaped from Inara, before she could stop herself. Her hands had been to slow to cover her mouth and prevent it from escaping, and she now blushed a deep red.

Looking over at Inara, Mal raised an eyebrow. Shrugging she explained “I haven’t been to a fair since I was a little girl. It’s not really something any of my clientele would participate in…” she trailed off, upon seeing the Captain’s frown.

“But… if we have time…” Inara looked up and was delighted to see a surprised expression on Mal’s face.

The two entered through the large arch at the front, and were rendered speechless by the bright colours and bustling crowds.

Spying a game nearby, Mal grabbed Inara’s wrist and lead her over to the booth.

“What would you like?” Mal asked a playful grin making its way across his usually grave his features.

“What…?” Inara questioned, unsure of what he was implying.

“Which prize would you like?” Mal asked again, gesturing at the large selection on the stand before him.

The usually serene Inara’s face lit up in delight, making her look years younger. Her eyes sparkled as she pointed out the prize of her choice.

It took Mal just four attempts out of his five chances to knock the milk bottles in the booth over. The carnie handed over the prize and then moved onto enticing his next potential customer.

Mal handed the prize over to Inara, who smiled sweetly in thanks at his gesture, and then linking arms with him, began to walk again, taking in all the carnival’s delights.

The hours past by quickly for the two of them, Mal had by then won an assortment of prizes which he planned on presenting to Kaylee and perhaps even Zoe. Inara however was happy with the toy bear he had won for her. It was a cute little thing, dressed up in a sailor suit, and although she didn’t tell him, she had secretly decided to call it “Captain.”

It was about time for the two of them to be heading back to the ship, so that they didn’t miss the meeting time which Mal had enforced so absolutely, earlier that morning.

Deciding there was just time for one more activity, Mal allowed Inara to choose. He smiled as she led him over to the ferris wheel. He had known that this would be her choice; they had already ridden on it twice and Inara never seemed to find the experience any less thrilling.

Taking their seats they sat in silence as the ride began to move, happy to sit in silence, admiring the view before them. They were on their second cycle, when it unexpectedly halted, jolted them both forward. Mal however had grabbed onto the back of his chair and Inara, preventing them both from tumbling off the ride.

Breathing heavily, they watched below as the carnie tried to start the ride again, but to no avail.

“So…” Mal drawled, “We might be up here for a while yet”

Inara didn’t know what came over her at that moment, but she had the sudden urge to kiss him. The day had been wonderful; they had talked, joked and genuinely enjoyed each others presence, something which Inara could not remember having done before, at least not without being paid first.

Mal noticed her staring at his lips and all the emotions he had been trying so hard to suppress all day came flooding back to him.

Mal moved closer to her, closing the gap between them. They were so close Inara could feel Mal’s breath on her cheek and the warmth radiating from his body. She closed her eyes and leaned in, meeting Mal’s lips. She could taste the mingled fear and desire on him. It was a familiar and yet completely new taste.

When they finally pulled apart they were both breathless, and Mal stayed close to Inara, his forehead against hers.

“’Nara, I-,” he began but was cut off by her finger on his lips.

“Don’t say anything, Mal. I’ve wanted to do that for a long time now and judging from your response so have you” She smiled at him, unsure. “Where does this leave us?” Inara asked

Mal had to pause to think for a moment. He was still recovering from the kiss. It took him a while until his brain was able to form the words that would leave his mouth.

“I don’t know, I don’t think there are words in the English language sufficient enough to say what I’m thinking.” He took a deep breath “I’m not good with declarations but…” he stuttered breathlessly.

Inara smiled and kissed him again cutting him off, before he had a chance to say the words she had been longing to hear. It was too soon to know what would happen between, and she knew that if she heard what he had to say, she wouldn’t be able to bring herself to leave.

This kiss was short and loving, not long and needy like the first one. It was gentle and when Mal pulled away, he grabbed one of Inara’s hands and held it in his own. He used his free hand to brush a few stray strands of hair back behind her ear. He couldn’t help but smile when he looked at her. She was beautiful.

Inara closed her eyes in contentment, involuntarily shivering as she felt a cool breeze run over her bare arms. Mal noticed immediately – and moving closer to her put an arm around her waist. Inara automatically turned towards him, snuggling into his embracing warmth. Jack pulled her as close to him as he could so that they were touching at every possible point. He rubbed her arms comfortingly to warm her up as they sat waiting for the ride to be fixed, in silence.

After seemingly ages, the ride started up again, and the two were let off. Once they were back safely on the ground, reality struck Inara. This is why she hadn’t acted before, because nothing could ever really be between them, they were from two different worlds. It wouldn't work out.

She began to walk quickly to the exit, when she felt a tug on her arms. She turned, setting her as a mask, to face him. The hurt was visible in his eyes and she wanted nothing more than to draw him close to her, and kiss it away.

“’Nara…” Mal began, but was cut off by Inara grabbing his arm and dragging him towards the entrance.

“We have to get back.” She stated in a no nonsense tone of voice. Letting go of his arm, she continued walking, although she knew he was not following this time. Ignoring Mal’s stare which she could feel on her back, causing her to shiver, she continued on, knowing that this was the only option.

Brown Paper Packages


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