He just couldn't break in front of them. Never. Not about death. This was the part they knew him for; "Mal's been through the war; he can do this part, no problem." Inara was something different; Kaylee knew about that, if not everyone else. But Death - He knows Death, and Death knows him. Can't fear it.
Mal goes back to his bunk, quicker than anyone else at the site of the beacon. His world doesn't start literally spinning until he climbs down the hatch and lies down on his bed to calm himself. He doesn't notice himself putting his holster on his chair. He does notice the fact that he has no more of Simon's soothers.
God, was Mal nervous. Lilly. Date. I’m gonna screw something up, please God don’t let me say something stupid.
A quick rap at the wooden plank door reveals a stern older gentleman in a black business suit. Why does he always have to look like he’s going to a funeral?
"Mr. Reynolds," the butler answered the door with a crisp nod of the head. "Miss Lilly is in the parlor awaiting your arrival."
"Xiexi--" Mal corrects himself quickly. "Thank you sir." He'll never figure out what it is with the highbrow folk around here and their distaste for Mandarin. It's more fun than English, to Mal's ears. With a quick straightening of his dress jacket his mother had insisted upon, Mal turns into the parlor.
"Lilly. Wow." To Hell with manners.
Lilly, petite brunette curls resting on top of her shoulders, shifted in her dress, blushing thoroughly under Mal's gaze.
"You look beautiful, baobei," Mal slips into Chinese, "Never seen you in a dress before." Mal does not add that this is because they are normally wrestling or gallavanting on his mother's ranch within earshot of the butler, but the continuous flush of Lilly's cheeks shows him she knows what he's talking about.
Turning to the butler as Mal clutches Lilly's hand, Mal exclaims, "I'll have 'er back, usual time, sir!"
Mal and Lilly changed out of their clothes quickly, into something far more appropriate for the town fair. Just two average eighteen year olds out for a stroll, enjoying life.
The shooter games were what attracted to Lilly first. Because she could make Mal win them. "C'mon, Malcolm, you know you wanna try!" she'd jibed. "You ain't gonna learn nothin' if you don't see it through experience first!" Mal didn't need experience with these games; most of the barkers saw him coming and preemptively gave him a prize for the lady if he tried to play at their table. He was Bad For Business.
Handing a yellow stuffed cat to Lilly with a smile, Mal continued to walk around the annual carnival with a grin.