The Slower Path: Long Day - Part 2 - Sequel to Favourite Things
Monday, February 25, 2008

Inara returns Mal's coat.



Part 1: Favourite Things ________________________________________________

The Slower Path: Long Day Sequel to Favourite Things by anjulie and 2x2 Rating: PG Pairing: Mal/Inara Spoilers: Set post BDM Word Count: 1069 Summary: Inara returns Mal's coat. Author's Note: As requested, a sequel to Favourite Things, the first of hopefully many! We're making this a series now, called The Slower Path. Thanks for reading, and hope you enjoy.


She’d woken late that morning, later than she’d meant to, and the sounds of an active crew could already be heard through out the ship as she exited her shuttle, Mal’s coat folded over her arms neatly. She hesitated on the catwalk, and then took the back stairs up to the front hallway, avoiding the mess. She wasn’t sure she wanted to create a spectacle out of returning the coat, certain that there would be speculation amongst the crew soon enough.

She turned down the hall to the crew quarters, glancing over her shoulder into the mess where she could see Kaylee, River and Simon talking animatedly over breakfast, and she smiled softly, before making her way quietly to Mal’s bunk. The hatch was closed, and she was on the verge of knocking when she heard Zoe and Mal’s voices coming down from the bridge. She turned towards them hesitantly as they came down the stairs into the hall, Zoe’s eyes quickly taking note of what she held, and then the first mate gave a brief nod and continued on to the kitchen, leaving her and Mal alone.

“I, uh,” she started, finding it unnervingly difficult to meet his eyes, but she forced them up into his soft stare. “I wanted to thank-you… for last night. For the coat,” she clarified, holding it out to him, chagrined at her nervousness.

“Couldn’t have you all froze and stiff like,” Mal said with a smile as he accepted it. “Zoe and me was just headed into town. Could come along – find yourself some boots and a pair of warm gloves at the mercantile,” he added as he slipped the coat on. Pausing, Mal sniffed the air, then the lapel of his jacket. “Huh,” he mused, a peculiar smile pulling at one side of his mouth.

“I… what?” she asked, puzzled by his smile.

“Oh, uh...just...this coat's smelled like a lot of things in its day, but flowery’s never been one of 'em," he said with a small smile. "Ain't unpleasant," he assured her.

“Oh! I, uh…” she stammered, feeling suddenly embarrassed and she had an irrational worry that he somehow knew she had slept with his coat beside her last night. “Sorry,” she said anyway. “Well.” She shrugged slightly. “I, um, I promised Kaylee we’d… spend some time together…” she trailed off apologetically, motioning toward the galley with a hand. “But, thank-you,” she added hastily, wanting to assure him that she would have gone otherwise.

“Inara,” he said, catching her hand in his and pulling her around to face him, though he found himself staring at a spot over her ear rather than her eyes. “Was hopin’ that if you had some cold-weather clothes we could take that walk tonight. Won’t be gone but a while–” he said, chancing a glance at her, “and Zoe’ll be along to uh…and Kaylee’s got to get that compression coil cleaned,” he improvised, nodding, not having the slightest idea if you cleaned a compression coil or not, just knowing that he hadn’t slept a wink the night before for thinking of her, of them.

She felt her heart speed up at his reference to their conversation last night and a quick smile flashed across her lips. “Mal, you can’t go giving Kaylee extra work just to… besides, I don’t have anything to wear to get to town right now. And I won’t ask Kaylee to lend me her things and cancel our plans too.” She took a step forward, bringing them closer, her eyes fixed on his chest. “Maybe,” she said, gaze flicking up to his for a moment before dropping again, “maybe you could pick something up for me?” she suggested.

“I wasn’t –“ he started to protest when the rest of her words registered. “Well, I…” he foundered for something to say, ”Wouldn’t know the first thing ‘bout buyin’ women’s things…” Mal frowned, searching for a solution. “Fine. Hold up your hand,” he finally said, holding out his own in front of her, swallowing when she placed her soft palm against his rougher one. “Reckon a small then,” he huffed, making no move to lower his hand. “Color you favor one over t’other?” he asked, heat from her skin running down his arm.

Inara had to press her lips together to fight back a smile at his improvised sizing method, the urge fading as she looked at the contrast of their hands together. Tianna, he had big hands.

“You two gonna hold hands all day, or are ya gonna come down for some ruttin’ breakfast?” Jayne called up suddenly, waiting impatiently for the meal’s leftovers, Kaylee’s admonishing “Jayne!” following. Inara turned, blushing suddenly at their audience as every member of the crew sat staring up at them from the mess below. She let her hand drop and stepped back slightly.

“I’m sure Zoe can help you,” she said nodding, taking another backwards step towards the mess. She paused though, and looked up to meet his eyes, pulling her lower lip between her teeth with an uncharacteristic lack of companion composure. “Brown,” she said softly. “I’m somewhat partial to brown.” She smiled shyly and then turned and headed down into the kitchen, taking a seat next to Zoe where she filled her plate with a glare at Jayne, doing her best to ignore Kaylee’s giant smile and the stares of her friends.

Mal followed, trying to glare sternly at Jayne, but not really following through. He grabbed a protein bar from the table and poured himself a cup of tea, eating as he stood while he looked expectantly at Zoe. “Wastin’ daylight,” he pointed out as he gulped the hot liquid and avoided looking at Inara.

“Yes, sir,” Zoe replied, casting a wry look at Kaylee as she finished her tea as well. Jayne emptied the last of the food onto his plate gleefully and Zoe stood to follow Mal out.

”Have fun, Cap’n,” said Kaylee. “Don’t be gone too long,” she added with a teasing look at Inara.

Inara bit back the smile she felt tugging at her own lips, but she couldn’t resist lifting her eyes to follow him as he walked out, one corner of her lips rising as he looked back at the doorway and met her gaze with his own tentative smile.

Then he was gone and Inara sighed softly. It was going to be a long day.


Go to Part 3: The Basics ________________________________________________


Monday, February 25, 2008 6:25 PM


Glad those two are taking things slow. Maybe it'll mean more fics?

Monday, February 25, 2008 10:37 PM


This is sweet. The dancing about has become a slow waltz, and maybe there'll be a tango to come ...

Monday, February 25, 2008 11:49 PM


You know the pace of their courting is *exactly* how I could see it happening if it ever did in the series. Not only is it more affecting it gives each of them time to acclimatise to one another and be sure that this is the direction they want to take. It feels so very in character for them. And trust Jayne to interrupt the moment (grin). I loved Inara telling Mal she was partial to brown. No, really? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 3:03 AM


Yeah! More 2X2 and anjulie! You two write some fabulous stuff together! Really looking forward to this series - it's what the world needs now, positivity, creativity and more Mal/Inara!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 8:47 AM


I sure hope this means more fics ncbrowncoat, especially from two great writers like 2x2 and anjulie!! I'm really looking forward to the next part 'cause this was brilliant!!! Me want more =>

Keep flying ;)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 7:38 PM


What excitement bubbling! I loved their hands staying together, and Jayne's interruption. And Mal's trying to play it cool back with the others. It's great that everyone is in on it - t'wouldn't be near as much fun without all the blushing!

I'm looking forward to you guys dragging this out for a long time yet to come...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 7:47 AM


This fic made me squee and grin.

A series!?! Woohoo! That's an excellent idea. You two are very smart!


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History of an Object
There’s no reason to keep it, damaged as it is. Save one. Doesn’t matter that it’s finer than any other cup on the ship, even with the crack. Doesn’t matter that it would never hold liquid again without some of it seeping through. Burning your fingers. Was only one reason he still has the cup.

Five Years' War
The night was warm. Clouds, low on the horizon, blue black in the last light of the setting sun. Nothing but the breeze and the buzz of the cicadas breaking the stillness. A perfect evening.

The Close Shore, At the End, Untenable
“Dead ’re in my head tonight,” he said finally. “Can’t get ‘em out. Don’t got the booze or the bar to distract me. Don’t know why I’m here ‘cept I don’t think I can go through it alone.”

The Slower Path: All the Difference - Part 15 - Sequel to The One Less Traveled By
She let out a breath, saying nothing for a long moment before she raised her eyes again. “There are some things I want you to know,” she said softly. “Things I want you to understand.”

Much as he wished he could ignore it, he could see it was important to her that he know whatever it was she wanted to tell him. He knew he wouldn't have let himself see it in the past, but that weren't where they were anymore, or at least, not where they wanted to be, either of them. Their relationship had changed, was changing, and he weren’t so stupid he didn’t recognize that. He didn't know that he wanted to know it, much less understand it, but she was reluctant enough to talk about any aspect of her life as it was; could be he might ought not stop her when she wanted to.

Unlucky at Cards...
“I… You can’t be that lucky!” Mal moaned as Inara beat him again, laying out her cards with a flourish.

The Slower Path: The One Less Traveled By - Part 14 - Sequel to Regrets
They fell silent again, struggling to find the ease that they had found, before; before the argument that had almost ended things.

"I feel like-," she started.

"This is-," he said at the same time.

They looked at each other. "Awkward," they both said, laughing lightly.

Always Had Faith
Faith in a higher power? That was always Mal's thing, the Captain, back in the war.

Loved and Lost
Love’s the biggest kind of hurt there is.

And I wouldn't trade that love for nothin'.

The Mood That Passes Through
He felt the first trembling shudder go through her, heard her breath hitch and felt her fingers grip his skin; knew it was comin', the wave that was cresting the walls she'd built to hold it back, whatever it was. Knew they were about to come crashing down around her. The first sob still hurt though, still lanced through his heart like a searing hot blade to hear her make that sound.