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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE
Miss Inara Serra and Captain Malcolm Reynolds attend a Ball together.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1676 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Title: A Smuggler & a Gentleman
Disclaimer: I Own Nothing
Author's Notes: Due to my work schedule, I can honestly only ever work on this on Sat evenings and Sundays, so I probably won't be posting at all during the week. I figured I'd post what I have so far so you guys get a general idea of where I might take this story.
“Where is he?” Inara asked Zoe as the rest of the crew gathered around the cargo bay waiting to see her and the Captain off on their first non-related criminal outing together.
Kaylee was ecstatic to finally see the two people she admired so much finally making a go of it even though Inara knew Mal and Zoe were the only ones that knew he was doing it strictly as a favor to her.
Although, the word strictly could be used loosely since they are talking about the Captain and Inara.
Zoe simply smiled that enigmatic smile like she knew something nobody else did while her husband Wash stood beside her with a grin and a waiting joke if the crew needed one.
Simon, Jayne and Book on the other hand stood by quietly making chore bets to see how long the Captain would last and River, for the most part, looked particularly calm throughout the whole situation. That shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone considering her growing control of her reading abilities.
“Ooh, here he comes!” Kaylee jumped excitedly while everyone waited in rapt attention. They could hear the light sounds of Mal’s footsteps, and when he finally appeared, no one was prepared for the sight they saw.
The men’s jaws dropped. Kaylee ogled. Zoe looked smug. River smiled proudly and Inara stood—transfixed at the transformation of the man she had always thought to be a rugged, uncivilized and totally not a part of her world. In just seconds, everything she thought she knew about Malcolm Reynolds blew up in flames, and from its ashes rose a man she didn’t quite expect to come out of it.
Dressed in a black tailored 2-button notch tux that fit his frame perfectly, he wore a blue vest underneath and black shoes that shined with every step he took walking down the stairs to the cargo floor as well as a barely seen white collared shirt covered with a dark blue cravat that matched his vest. He looked like a man straight out of a 21st Century Men’s catalogue.
His hair also was looking like it was recently trimmed to compliment his face and it belatedly occurred to Inara that he could remarkably pass as a high-class gentleman.
Meanwhile, Mal approached his crew worriedly and totally ignorant of their astounded expressions. To his point-of-view, they looked at him as if they’ve never seen him before which was ridiculous because they lived in such close quarters and they saw each other all the gorram time.
“What?” he asked them all feeling intensely scrutinized. He knew this was a mistake. “Did I spill something on me?” he panicked, his eyes widened towards his mechanic. “Is there blubber?”
“You look so handsome, Captain!” Kaylee squealed, and that made him relax slightly.
“But I look okay, right?”
“You clean up nice, sir,” Zoe answered.
The rest of the crew lifted their jaws off the floor and began complimenting him on how a simple change of clothes could change a person.
Mal restrained himself from giving them all a verbal lashing. “Yeah,” he swallowed uneasily then turning to Inara who still looked at him as if he grew two heads or something. He gave her outfit a quick look before giving her a wary smile. “Inara,” he acknowledged.
Inara looked absolutely beautiful and figured that saying it aloud or not made no difference. He held out his arm.
“You ready to do this?”
They were picked up right outside the cargo bay doors. The limo-craft were compliments for all Companions arriving for the Sherborne Ball, a tradition that dated back from the earlier years of the Guild’s conception. It was part to honor them for their accomplishments and the traditions they uphold and the other part, naturally, was for the sheer luxury of it.
Inara, for the most part, could not stop taking quick glances at Mal. An annoying habit she couldn’t break since he had appeared in the cargo bay earlier. She was still having a hard time reconciling the Mal she knew and the man that sat beside her.
Also, to her immense relief, it appears she wasn’t the only one growing increasingly uncomfortable. Mal’s hands wouldn’t stop moving on his lap and his eyes never drifted anywhere but straight. He hadn’t even bothered to look out of the limo’s window to see all the beautiful sights they were passing in the city.
“So what’s the plan tonight?” he asked suddenly, eyes still straight.
After ten minutes of excruciating silence, his question had taken her off guard.
“Yeah,” he said and his face finally turned to her. “Or are we planning on ignorin’ each other the rest of the night?” Then he quipped, “This is the best date ever, by the way.”
Inara ignored the last part. “Of course not!”
“Okay, then.” He relaxed a little more but not enough to relieve the anxiety building in his gut and in his mind. “Well then, what’s the plan?”
“This isn’t a reconnaissance mission, Mal. We’re not here to work,” she reminded him. It was hard to focus when she couldn’t keep her eyes off him. “We’re guests, and as much as it pains you, we’re obligated to actually enjoy ourselves.”
“Oh,” he nodded, letting out a deep breath.
“I—” she tried to find the words but nearly failed miserably. “Kaylee was right. You look rather handsome tonight.”
“Yeah?” he said, looking rather unconvinced. “Thanks. It was all I had.”
Inara was surprised. “You mean to tell me you actually own this?” She thought it was a rental. Albeit, a very expensive one.
Mal shrugged. “Hadn’t worn it in years. To be honest, I’m a bit surprised that I still fit in it. Figured it needed, I don’t know, alternations and the like, but Zoe said it was fine.”
“Why haven’t you worn it before?”
“No reason I had to,” he replied simply.
Inara inhaled deeply, the temperature in the limo seemingly skyrocketed to heated proportions. She should never have asked him to come, but it was too late to turn back now. She felt this night was going to be full of surprises, and she was ridiculously afraid and excited to discover just what they were.
When they finally arrived at their destination, the palatial ballroom of Sherborne Hall made the ballroom in Persephone look out-of-date and miniscule by comparison. Inara was greeted by colleagues from all over the Core, sharing brief yet discreet stories of their experiences while still managing to keep pretenses of professionalism that were drilled into them since they began training at a young age.
Mal held himself together as best he could under the circumstances. Too many Guild Companions in one place was making him more than a little ornery but he restrained from making any crude remarks or opinions in regards to their line of work for Inara’s sake if not only his own.
Trying to let go some of his prejudice against a society he had grown to dislike and be ashamed of, he dug deep inside himself, finding his past, the knowledge and the skills bred into him since birth that he had thought had long been forgotten and slowly brought it forth.
As the ball commenced, to Inara’s continued surprise, Mal had greeted each and every one of them, Companions and guests alike, with cool civility that actually bordered on charming.
Apparently, when he actually put in the effort, he had a knack for saying the right words, at the right time, and barely failed to make an impression whenever they left the company of a person or a group of people. Even the subtle insults that only Inara understood flew over the heads of their listeners. She even wondered if this was the person Zoe often described Mal before the battle in Serenity Valley changed him completely.
A couple of hours into the party, she even started to relax, oddly feeling a little lighter knowing that the night may not actually end in disaster.
At some point before dinner was served, Senator Marcelli and Daniel Gabriel requested Mal to join them for some brandy leaving Inara with their Companions; ladies she had actually went to school with before graduating from the Guild.
“Can you imagine that, Inara?” Ebony said with a grin. “This is what happens when we bring friends instead of clients. They end up gravitating away from us and into the Billiards room.”
Inara laughed softly, enjoying reconnecting with old friends and classmates and having the thought of Malcolm Reynolds far from her mind until the subject of their dates became the center of discussion.
“Speaking of men.” Ebony, along with Catalina, turned to Inara with avid curiosity. “Your Malcolm Reynolds is quite the catch.”
“You’re mistaken,” Inara returned politely. “He’s a difficult man to catch even if I was interested in him.” She knew this game well. It was the sort where one Companion would test the limit of what they can learn about another and the activities that occur outside the laws of the Guild.
“Your reputation precedes you then. You should hear the gossip that surrounds you back on Sihnon, Inara,” added Catalina.
“You know better than to rely on gossip for information,” said Inara.
“Yes, but now that we’ve seen your Captain, I can certainly understand the allure.” Ebony’s smile slowly became sensuous and Inara was forced to use her Companion training and not react to it. “He is not what I expected to grace your arms tonight, my dear. The man looks absolutely mysterious that I am close to begging you for a trade of partners.”
“And handsome, too,” another old friend jumped into the conversation. Kathryn LeClair joined them with an additional opinion. “I met him just a moment ago. He has the deepest shade of blue eyes I’ve ever seen on a man. I should know because his eyes never left mine while we spoke. A magnificent feat for the opposite sex. For a moment, I thought he was sly but now I’m not quite sure.”
“I am sorry to disappoint you all.” Inara turned to face Ebony and Catalina again. “I will refrain from saying I told you so.”
The ladies laughed but Inara’s own laughter didn’t quite reach her eyes.
Across the room, Mal would regularly gaze back to Inara, relieved that she was enjoying herself. He felt the tension of the evening earlier evaporate slowly while trying to maintain some semblance of pride when speaking with the Senator and his friend.
Daniel Gabriel is vice president and chief-executive-officer of Extract Inc. He seemed nice enough, out-going but spoke very little of anything that didn’t involve money and the current stock market. It made him want to laugh at the absurdity of the night where Companions were encouraged to act like themselves while the guests were inadvertently forced to wear the mask.
The Senator was a different kind of man altogether. Marcus Marcelli, a third generation son from a line of politicians. He had a sharp mind, very intelligent, his conversations far more worthwhile to listen to than even he ever expected. He even found himself contributing to the discussions that didn’t always involve politics and money.
“Family obligations can be tenuous at best, but if you enjoy the challenge, and the social stigma that comes with it, it can be quite satisfying,” admits the Senator.
“You’re a braver man than I,” said Daniel with a laugh and a toast of his wine glass to his. “I’ve become… what do they call it? Right, that’s it. Black sheep. I’m the black sheep of the family after I joyfully refused to do their bidding. Now I have my own company, money earned by hard work and perseverance, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.” He turned to Mal. “And you, Reynolds, what made you choose transportation of goods as your line of work?”
Mal forced himself to smile. “When I’m out in space, gents, there’s a freedom you get that can’t easily be found on solid ground.”
“But surely you miss us poor terrans some of the time?”
“That depends…” began Mal with a smirk, “on what planet you set your foot on.”
“Well, I certainly hope you stay a little longer here in Beaumont, a week at least,” said the Senator in earnest. “It’s nice to meet an interesting fellow around here every once in a while.”
“And what am I, charred fish?” Daniel asked comically.
“Food for fodder,” the Senator exclaimed with an exaggerated wave of his hand. “I’ve known you too long, you don’t count.”
“You see that, Reynolds. My place on the food chain has dramatically dwindled. My money be damned.”
He actually chuckled at that when the Senator spoke.
“We should return to our dates, my friends. I believe they’re feeling a little left out.”
“I doubt they would ever feel that way, but go on and lead the way while I follow.”
The Senator patted him on the back of his shoulder and laughed.
“Sorry to keep you ladies waiting, I hope the evening has been as enjoyable for you as it is for us,” the Senator said, linking his arms with Ebony. Daniel went over to Catalina and Mal gave Inara a rather shy smile before he gave her his arm.
“Would you do me the honor of favoring me a dance, Miss Serra?” he asked with a formal curtsey when the familiar notes of a classical waltz began to play from the orchestra.
Inara curtseyed in return, hiding her shock by both his request for a dance and the formal way he asked for it. She had danced with him before, so she wasn’t entirely taken aback that he knew how to waltz.
When they reached the dance floor, they began to dance to a slow-harmonic pace of the extremely romantic Viennese Waltz.
“How’s your evening?”
“I should ask the same for you.”
Mal smiled. “It’s not so bad. Good food. Unlimited drinking. Tolerable company.” Then boldly, he adds, “You in my arms. If I wasn’t so cynical, I might actually enjoy living this life.”
His words struck a cord with Inara, not just by the truth of his cynicism, but in the way he said it. Watching him all night, it was clear to her that she didn’t know him half as well as she thought, and she began to wonder if… no, it was too fantastical to even consider.
“I am afraid you have me at a disadvantage, Captain,” she said coolly, letting him lead her into a rotating spin, their bodies in closed frame and their faces practically inches from touching one another. Goodness, he was a good dancer.
“Is that so?”
“Fortunately, I don’t mind it with you.”
“Hmm, I should be grateful then.”
“And I haven’t even challenged anyone to a duel yet.”
“Don’t you dare!” she laughed.
“No,” he shook his head agreeably. “I wouldn’t. Not tonight anyway.”
Inara had to look away when their eyes met. Something deep was displayed in his gaze that she didn’t want to enumerate on. Not now. Not when there were so many peers and colleagues, friends and acquaintances around who would probably see through the façade of friendship. That something more existed between them that neither has felt strong enough to touch.
Just as dinner was being served, Mal tried not to let the table settings ruin his carefully designed plan of not messing up Inara’s night. He tried to remember what utensil was used where, but it only reminded him why he hated upper-class etiquette so gorram much. They make things so damn complicated.
“Mal?” Inara whispered to his ear.
“Aren’t you going to eat?”
Mal stared at his salad plate very seriously. “Just trying to remember, is all.”
“Which utensil to use,” he answered as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Inara raised an amused brow. “The salad fork, Mal.”
“I know that,” he said trying to remain calm. “But in case you’ve gone blind, there’s several.”
“You’re exaggerating, there’s only a couple.”
Mal just stared at his plate when Inara took pity on him.
“Just start from the outside and work your way in.”
“Ah,” he nodded. “I knew there was a shortcut.”
Inara tried not to chuckle, but she’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that it relieved her that Mal hadn’t completely transformed to a different person tonight. Actually, it made him more attractive. It was another admittance that was proving to be awfully inconvenient for her.
As the night went on, Mal finally managed to escape the formality of the evening and disappear into an alcove that led to an outdoor balcony. Releasing a sigh of relief, he felt compelled to remove the stupid cravat that only seemed to have tightened around his neck every hour since he put it on. He even let out a mumble Chinese curse or two for good measure.
But looking out over the balcony, on the third floor, he could see why Sherborne Hall was considered a landmark of significance and majesty. The grounds outside looked just as amazing as it was inside; he even liked the massive hedge maze below, it added a cultural diversity and historical style that completed Sherborne’s uniqueness.
“Mal, are you all right?”
He turned to find Inara approaching him.
“I just needed some air.”
“Yes, I know what you mean.”
“Care to join me?”
“Only if you don’t mind. I know how much you value your privacy.”
“I know how much you value yours, but that don’t keep me from barging into your shuttle unannounced,” he said with a grin.
Inara tried to hold back her own smile but failed.
“You’re stubborn and annoying that way.”
Mal leaned against the railing, facing her, his arms crossed across his chest.
“Some of them ain’t half bad, and that’s the truth.”
Inara’s eyes widened at the admission. “I never thought you had it in you to ever admit to that.”
“It’s just tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll be back to my grumpy-pompous-self ordering people about and regularly making a mess of things.” He turned to face the gardens, a memory from his childhood appeared, the ghostly apparition of a young boy playing hide and seek in his mother’s botanical garden.
“What’s happened to you, Mal?”
“Nothing,” he said automatically. “It’s been a long night.”
“I’ve never seen you like this.”
“You’ve never seen me be a lot of things.”
“That’s true.” And it bothered her.
“We should head back, the hour is almost over and this is the last dance of the night.” He smiled, and for a moment, Inara saw his face look so youthful and full of hope but then it was gone as fast as it came, and it made her wonder if she saw it at all.
Then something else occurred to her. “Mal?”
“How did you know this was the last dance?”
Mal shrugged. “Lucky guess.”
Inara was trained too well to fall for that lie, but she didn’t pursue it any further. Tonight will either be a revelation or the greatest mistake of her life.
To be continued...
Sunday, January 13, 2008 4:27 PM
Sunday, January 13, 2008 5:40 PM
Sunday, January 13, 2008 8:37 PM
Monday, January 14, 2008 1:06 AM
Monday, January 14, 2008 11:51 AM
Tuesday, January 15, 2008 7:43 AM
Sunday, January 27, 2008 2:33 AM
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