The Slower Path: Brown Paper Packages - Part 4 - Sequel to The Basics
Friday, February 29, 2008

Mal delivers Inara her clothes, and some plans change.



Part 1: Favourite Things - Part 2: Long Day - Part 3: The Basics ________________________________________________

The Slower Path: Brown Paper Packages Sequel to The Basics by anjulie and 2x2 Rating: PG Word Count: 1188 Spoilers: Set post BDM Pairing: Mal/Inara Author's Notes: Thank you everyone so much for all your shiny comments on these little stories! We're so glad you are enjoying it so much, we're having fun writing them :o) Can't say how many there'll be or if we'll be able to keep up this pace ;o) but we'll do our best. Thanks again everyone!


By the time they reached the ship, Mal was pinching the bridge of his nose and wondering why he’d ever thought enlisting Zoe's help would be a good idea. She’d ribbed him mercilessly from the time they’d left town until he stepped up the ramp. Part of him was delighted that she’d smiled, that she’d stopped grieving for a few minutes, that she’d actually laughed back at the store, but the rest of him was hoping she’d soon find a new target for her mischief.

Ignoring her last teasing remark about the snow, Mal dropped the boots he was carrying, turned and handed her the paper package holding Inara’s clothing. “If you don’t mind droppin’ those off, I’ll head on up with the rest of the provisions. Might even put on a pot of that coffee we just had to have."

"Is that right?" Zoe said with a raised eyebrow, deftly catching the strap of the rucksack and sliding it off Mal's shoulder and onto her own before he could protest. She pushed the string-tied package back into his hands. "Seem to recall you being the one doin' the favor here, Captain," she said, smiling. "Conjure I'll have that coffee waitin' for you," she added over her shoulder as she started up the stairs for the mess. She threw one last look at him, then disappeared into the kitchen, shaking her head with a smirk.

“Zoe, so help me, you flash that possum grin at me one more time…,” Mal threatened loudly, glaring at her back until she was gone. He stood staring at the brown paper package he held, glancing between it and Inara’s shuttle. Hatch was closed. All he had to do was prop it agin the door. He had a plan. Easy peasy.

Easing quietly up the steps in what he told himself was a casual stride, he quietly placed the package against the wall by her door and quickly turned to leave, intending to be in his bunk long before Inara found her gift.

Naturally, Inara chose that moment to slide the hatch open, the paper package falling to the floor with a crinkling sound as she did so.

"Mal! I thought I heard you back," she called after him, stooping to pick up the rather large parcel. "What's this?" she asked him quizzically.

Mal froze then turned back. “It’s … some things. Clothes. For you to wear,” he muttered, his hands on his hips as he tried to look less nervous than he felt. "Since you uh…didn’t have time to gather anything up at the Training House. Figured you needed some boots and such,” he said, realizing as he spoke he’d left the footwear by the cargo door. “I’ll just grab those," he said, motioning sideways with his head as he scrambled down the metal steps.

"Wha—clothes…? You said gloves and boots!" she protested, stepping to the edge of the railing to watch him, concerned that he'd spent too much money on her.

He looked up from the cargo bay, her new boots in his hand. “Zoe,” he said, shaking his head in exasperation, making the one word say it all. “She figured you might need an everyday outfit. Grabbed you some socks, too. A shirt or two. Nothin’ we can’t afford,” he lied smoothly as he moved up the stairs.

"Mal," she admonished softly, knowing they didn't have any extra money, but also knowing how touchy he was on the subject. "I—" She shook her head, looking down. "You didn't have to do this," she said quietly, lifting her gaze to meet his earnestly.

"No,” Mal answered as he made his way back to the catwalk. “No, I know that. But…you bein’ pulled away from the Training House, that ruckus with the Operative, was brought on by us. Least we can do is outfit you with enough gear to get around in 'til you make up your mind ‘bout where you’re headed,” he said softly, smoothing a hand absently along the rail. “And it ain't fancy – not what you’re used to,” he rushed on, “but it oughta keep you warm and dry. 'Magine you can wear most of it,” he finished, placing the boots near her sandaled feet and straightening self-consciously.

"Bēi bǐ de xiōng shǒu, that wasn’t your fault," she refuted, shaking her head. She looked down at the package, curious now as to what exactly it contained. "I'm sure they'll be fine, Mal. Really, thank-you. I just wish that we were still going to be able to take that walk," she said regretfully.

"Shén me? Why wouldn't we?" Mal asked, a frown of puzzlement on his face.

"Haven't you talked to Kaylee?" she asked, surprised. She'd expected it to be the first thing he'd do once he got back and saw that the engines were cleared. "I thought you knew," she explained, "Kaylee managed to get the engines de-iced, with the help of a few of the more curious local boys," she said, smiling ruefully. "And with the storms they've been calling for, I assumed we'd be taking off as soon as possible... before..." she trailed off at the way his face fell. "I'm sorry," she said, touching his hand softly. "We can always go the next time we're planet side," she offered hopefully.

Mal gave a short sigh and leaned back against the rail, his expression returning to impassive. "Don't plan to touch dirt for a long while, Inara. Still don't know what or who might be out there after Simon and River. And things been done as can't be patched up overnight." He shugged and caught her eye, forcing a smile. "Was just nice havin' that quiet time...with you. But I like your way of thinkin'. Next planet we hit, we'll take that stroll." Mal glanced away from her as other concerns occurred to him. "Best get out there and check those engines. Never hurts to have a second pair of eyes when it comes to makin' sure ice is cleared," he said, backing slowly away. "Let you know when we're ready for take-off," he offered.

She nodded, frowning sadly as he retreated. She tightened her arms around the package, looking down as she realized she was still holding it. "Thank-you, again," she said, looking up and motioning with the bundle, sighing as he nodded and turned to go. "It was nice," she called after him, forcing the words out with a hesitant smile.

Mal made it down the stairs and onto the cargo bay before spinning around and walking backwards as his smiling eyes found her on the catwalk. "It truly was," he agreed softly. "Ever had snow cream?" he called up to her, grinning as he backed toward the ramp.

"Snow cream?" she asked, moving to the railing, her smile growing at his grin as she shook her head. "What is it?"

"Could be I'll surprise you," he promised. "After we lift off," he called over his shoulder, his eagerness to get off the ground evident in his voice as he skipped down the ramp and disappeared around the ship.


Go to Part 5: The Companion's New Clothes ________________________________________________


Friday, February 29, 2008 8:30 AM


So sweet...I am loving this fic. there slow dance about each other..both having been hurt and both wanting to take the risk again...perfect.

Friday, February 29, 2008 8:38 AM


Aw, it's to bad they won't be taking that stroll too soon. But, snow cream? Not a bad substitute.

Friday, February 29, 2008 12:44 PM


What's snow cream? And is it bad that the bit I loved most was mischievous Zoe? So good to see her smirking and setting her Captain up. Wash would be proud! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, February 29, 2008 3:59 PM


Nice to see Zoe getting a laugh at Mal's expense. Of course things couldn't be smooth for them, and the walk will have to wait. Do I sense a theme here? This was great! Looking forward to more.

Friday, February 29, 2008 4:23 PM


You already know how much I love these, and I'll say again that my favorite part is Zoe sliding the pack off Mal's shoulder before he can protest. Heh. And "Clothes. For you to wear." And walking backward in the cargo bay. And...

Friday, February 29, 2008 4:43 PM


These are delightful!

Friday, February 29, 2008 5:38 PM


Gotta see Inara's reaction to the snow creme. Amodobell, I'm hoping Mal has a good recipe.

Saturday, March 1, 2008 12:43 AM


Aww! I'm sorry that they won't be taking the stroll but if I understood Mal correctly, they would be taking it next time they hit dirt-side. I'm looking forward to see the snow cream part :) They're so shy but they're obviously not stupid if they're giving it a try!! Hope to see the next part soon =>

Keep flying ;)

Saturday, March 1, 2008 1:41 AM


very fine!:) this is exactly the kind of thing i've tried to write before and had to leave in the recycled bin. very jealous of you:) keep em coming!:)


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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.