The Slower Path: A Measure of Healin' - Part 6 - Sequel to The Companion's New Clothes
Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Snow Cream is made and Inara makes her debut.



Part 1: Favourite Things - Part 2: Long Day - Part 3: The Basics - Part 4: Brown Paper Packages Part 5: The Companion's New Clothes


The Slower Path: A Measure of Healin' Sequel to The Companion's New Clothes by anjulie and 2x2 Rating: PG Word Count: 1532 Spoilers: Set post BDM Pairing: Mal/Inara


“Easy. You wanna go light with that xiāng căo jīng, Mal warned, his hands waving as he mimed the actions of the two girls in front of him. “Too much and it’s got a weird plant taste – aaaand you wanna measure that out somewheres else besides over the bowl,” he instructed calmly, reaching out to guide River’s hands from their place over the galvanized tub on the counter to the sink. “That way, you spill it, whole thing don't get ruined," he told her, returning her grin with a smile of his own. “Shiny," he commented as the younger girl measured the vanilla into a spoon and dropped it into the container. “Kaylee, that is too much sugar by far. Half that,” he ordered.

“But Cap’n!” she argued, “it won’t be sweet if we don’t add more’n that.”

“Be sweet aplenty with that vanilla in there and we got a long ways to run before we find a store again,” he cautioned her, tapping her on the nose to soften his words. “Milk. Who’s got the powdered milk?” he asked searching through the metal cupboard.

River and Kaylee glanced at each other and grinned as they continued stirring the concoction as Mal had ordered, as excited as children about this new treat.

Zoë sat watching them with a semi-smile, the sight of Mal teaching the two girls to make snow cream amusing. He glanced at her from time to time, trying to look put upon as he yelled in fake consternation but she could tell he was having more fun than the young’uns. It was good to see him laugh. The scene reminded her of happier times before Miranda. They'd needed something like this after the gloom of the past few weeks. Wash would have loved it, she thought with a bittersweet pang, would have been right in there stirring and tasting.

“’ppears if we’re to have somethin’ besides ice cream for supper I’m gonna be the one makin’ it,” she commented dryly, checking the clock. Jayne was off in his bunk, Simon was cleaning the infirmary – again – and Inara had been absent most of the afternoon. Itching for something to do to get her mind off Wash, she stood and began to gather the makings for a simple soup.

Kaylee glanced up and grinned as Zoë began tossing ingredients into the huge pot on the table. “Soup! That’s shiny, Zoë. I love soup when it’s cold out, even if we ain’t still where it’s cold out,” she noted. “I’ll make toast – think we got half a loaf of bread left.”

"Someone say soup?" asked Jayne, sniffing the air as he slipped into the kitchen, peering into the pot. "Hey, I got some jerky could add," he said, going to his food locker to fetch it.

Everyone in the kitchen - with the exception of River - glanced up in shock. “Is that Jayne?” Mal asked Zoë.

“Looks to be," she commented, “only Jayne don’t share food.”

"Could eat it myself," Jayne warned, making a face as he tossed the jerky in the pot before sitting at the table.

River smiled. “Times change,” she added simply, sneaking a taste of the snow cream with one long finger.

“Hey! None o’ that!,” Mal scolded, still shaking his head over Jayne’s behavior. “Let’s get this stirred up and into the freezer ‘fore we got nothin’ but a bowl of milk,” he said, making a stirring motion with his index finger.

"Hey, issat gonna be ready for dessert?" the mercenary asked, looking over his shoulder at them.

"Like as not – if we ever get it in there!" Mal added meaningfully, swatting Kaylee on the back of the head lightly as she took her own quick taste and grinned.

"Well, the infirmary is back in some semblance of order," said Simon with a sigh as he entered from the opposite side of the galley. He spied River and Kaylee and made his way over to them, curiously.

"What are we doing here?" he asked, smiling at the two girls.

“Snow cream!” River answered, grinning from ear to ear.

Simon peered into the foot tub, a frown starting between his eyes. “Is it really sanitary to eat snow?” he asked no one in particular.

“Well, ya gotta scoop around the yellow parts,” Kaylee teased him with a grin and a wink, her smiled as big as River’s “It’s good Simon. Sweet. You’ll love it,” she assured him as she and River started toward the freezer with the tub.

Simon’s eyes followed her until he noticed Mal staring at him with raised eyebrows and cut his eyes away uncomfortably. Clearing his throat, he wandered over to Zoe's side. "Anything I can do to help?" he offered.

Zoë tossed him a small onion and pointed to the knife rack with her head. "Kaylee claims you're good with your hands," she said with a straight face but a twinkle in her eye. "Maybe you could dice that for me."

Simon flushed slightly, his eyes flicking back to Kaylee for a brief moment before he nodded and made his way to the knives, sidestepping around the Captain awkwardly when the man refused to move.

Mal smirked as Kaylee shot him a look, mouthing 'don't be mean' at him. He rolled his eyes good humouredly and held up his hands in acquiescence, moving aside so the doctor could pass again. Wasn't his fault the boy was so easy to rile…

The cheerful voices of the crew reached Inara's ears as she made her way up the stairs to the kitchen and she smiled at the sound, even as she marveled at the fact that she could actually hear anything over the heavy thunking of her boots on the gratings beneath her feet. No wonder she could always hear Mal coming, she thought, cringing at how loud her steps sounded.

She rounded the corner and paused at the top of the stairs, absorbing the scene in the mess below her with a smile.

"Holy ruttin' hell," Jayne swore suddenly, staring up at her, his mouth falling open in shock.

"Jayne! Look to that tongue," Mal admonished automatically, wiping down the counter with a damp cloth. He glanced over his shoulder absently, turning back to his cleaning before he froze, his mind taking a moment to register what his eyes had just seen. Placing the dishcloth down slowly, Mal turned to face the Companion, his mouth half open in stunned amazement. Brushing by the Captain on her way to Simon’s side, Kaylee glanced up and gasped, both hands flying to cover her mouth as she spotted the new arrival.

“Inara! Look at you!” she squealed moving over to stand before the Companion. “Spin around! I wanna see the whole outfit. Where did you get those swai things? I love the pants! I don’t think I ever even seen you in nothin’ that wasn’t a skirt or dressy. You look so - wow!” Kaylee continued, Mal's slack-jawed appreciation catching her eye. “Don’t she look fine, Cap’n? “ she asked with a sly smile.

Mal closed his mouth, swallowing thickly. "She does indeed," he answered slowly, his eyes never leaving the Companion.

Inara felt herself flush at his compliment, smoothing her hand down her stomach, slightly self-conscious; she hadn't failed to notice the way his nostrils had flared and his throat had constricted at seeing her – tell tale signs that told her he liked what he saw – and she let a small pleased smile grace her lips as she returned his stare.

Then she pulled her gaze away and smiled brightly at Kaylee. "Thank-you, mei mei," she said, descending into the galley.

"She ain't wearin' a bra!" Jayne exclaimed in a stage whisper.

“Jayne, shut your mouth," Mal said sternly, taking a half-step toward the mercenary before River stood in his path suddenly, handing him the tin of powdered milk with a cautionary look.

Inara rolled her eyes, ignoring the mercenary. Her gaze flicked over to Mal again as he turned to put away the milk and, smiling, she made her way to the table, sitting next to Zoë as the first mate looked up with a grin and nodded favorably.

"Can I help?" she asked and Zoë nodded again.

"Roll up them sleeves," she said, smiling broadly as she made room for the Companion to work.

Tugging at her shirt cuffs awkwardly – and still ignoring Jayne, who had wisely made his staring less conspicuous – Inara gave Simon a rueful smile that he returned with complete understanding. "It gets easier," he said, and she laughed softly, shaking her head as she set to cutting.

Returning to his spot behind the counter, Mal watched his crew interact, a small smile lifting his lips as they laughed together.

"Memories," River said, slipping up onto the counter beside him suddenly.

"What's that, darlin'?" he asked, turning to her.

"Filling up the holes," she said, smiling enigmatically as she jumped down, dancing away to join everyone else at the table.

Mal chuffed softly as he watched her go, eyes lingering on his crew. Good memories, he acknowledged. Smiling as Inara looked up at him, he went and joined them.


Go to Part 7: Snow Cream ________________________________________________


Tuesday, March 4, 2008 3:47 PM


This was lovely. Never heard of snow cream before but sounds like fun. So nice to see everyone in a fine old mood. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 5:39 PM


Loved the graphic touch of the recipe at the beginning. Really enjoyed the personal observations of the crew's interactions throughout. Having Mal stand in Simon's way was so typical Mal and River knowing what games were being played in people's heads was adorable!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 10:44 PM


Very nice. A happy interaction scene, and River's right - filling the holes with new memories.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008 12:08 AM


Damn I am enthralled. It just gets better.A happy time for our BDH's

Wednesday, March 5, 2008 5:52 AM


Really enjoying this series of glimpses of Inara and Mal and the rest of the crew in a sunny mood. Love the idea of Inara getting out of her posh frocks and into something totally different. Simon's reaction to the ice cream making (and Kaylee's retort) is perfect:
'Simon peered into the foot tub, a frown starting between his eyes. “Is it really sanitary to eat snow?” he asked no one in particular.
“Well, ya gotta scoop around the yellow parts,” Kaylee teased him with a grin and a wink.'


Wednesday, March 5, 2008 7:57 AM


Your fault I'm addicted to this guys, not mine! I could picture Mal swollowing when he saw her and I really liked seeing the crew cooking, it just makes them look like family *smiles* Though I can't wait for Mal and Inara to have a moment together, I'm real curious on what Mal will tell her once he could talk to her personally :>

Keep flying ;)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008 9:35 AM


Enthralling... I could picture everything. It all seemed so like everyone too. I was really into the part of Inara wearing different stuff but a little description there would have been nice. Over all a great write.

Friday, March 7, 2008 12:37 AM


this was great!:) Been trying to pick a fave passage but couldn't - i will say though that you judge the dialog very well - the small movements of the talking characters break up the chat nicely. doesn't feel forced (as i said before).


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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.