"Think about it, Wash." Mal certainly wasn't helping to ease Wash's confusion with this subject at all, and before Wash can ask again why a heavy metal crate was thrown onto the rear of their mule at the last minute, the precious coin inside the large lined container, a man exited the door of his office -- Trading Post And General Supply -- and waved while leaning on his cane.
"Collins!" Mal greets warmly. "How's the wife?"
"Don't get me started, Reynolds," Collins growls, pushing up the glasses from the tip of his nose almost violently, but reaching forward to shake Mal's hand anyway. A nod and smile to Wash in passing, and a 'Nice cane' gets a grin from the pilot in passing before a younger man exits the trading station to haul off the crate from the mule.
"Brought those supplies you ordered," Mal starts, counting off the seconds it takes for Collins' assistant to return to his line of sight out of habit and hard experience. "Suppose you've got my order ready?"
"As ordered indeed." Apparently the assistant had a friend; the pair were now struggling with a large, less sophisticated wooden plank box and finally manage to hoist up the heavy load onto the back of the mule.
Wash stared a little too long as the meter by half-meter box labeled "Blue Sun Engineering Corp - Restoration Kit", and Mal nudged him in the side.
"Looks like our business is done here, then," Mal offers to Collins, almost jovially. "...Maybe we'll be back on by when we get the chance."
"Hope so, hope so - you can take my wife with you, get 'er off my case. Besides," Collins shoves his glasses upward again, clicking his cane toward Mal a few steps. "Ain't too many people that can get me what you can that would get those kind of orders in return," gesturing to the 'Restoration Kit'. "That makes you...special."
Mal's smile ghosts faintly, but still keeps up the business appearance. "Glad to hear it."
Wash and Mal retreated to their seats on the mule, and Wash drove as calmly as possible back toward Serenity.
"Mal," he starts in an awed sort of tone. "Traders here don't deal in coin, so we needed to give him a box with the bit of Earth-that-Was, so...so he could...give us a huge rutting box of money."
Mal couldn't suppress his grin if he wanted to. "What was that you were saying about Naomi and flight school?"
The plain-looking newscaster Serenity is picking up from god only knows which moon they're passing is relaying some drivel or other before Mal tunes in on the words political candidacy and press conference recorded live today.
Mal sure as ruttin' hell hopes they're not asleep at their chairs at the moment, because finally - finally - there is something on worth watching.
"Doc? Anybody?" Mal calls down the main corridor leading from the bridge. "Gabriel's about to start talkin' front of a lot o' folk, and he looks business."
This may be why he absconded with a cup of tea into the gardens behind one of the main buildings of the abbey, propping his feet up on a stone lining one side of a walkway and occupying a bench for no particular reason at all.
His attention seems divided between the leather-bound book on his lap and the gold hoop he keeps fidgeting with.
It's so pretty, all inscribed with random patterns - intricate ones - of dents and scrapes, scuff marks and chips. And reflecting under the scant light of the stable lamps, the discolored silver throws of interesting oil-slick patterns.
For such things are interesting when it's your second flask full. And there's a bottle by your side you haven't touched yet.
Mal is grouchy.
This is why Mal feels comfortable enough saying this out loud as he pours tea with an unsteady hand.
"Why is it that me sayin' I can't say 'never again' is getting automatically translated as 'We Will Do This Again'? Ain't like I'm not gonna try to avoid it 'fore goin' anywhere near that again, Wash..."
Several lumps of sugar into the teacup.
"'Tween the hallucinations you had no clue I was havin' and the Alliance just beggin' for a chance to catch hold of all of us, I did what I had to."
"...And I'm sorry."
Mal moves with his teacup toward one of his favorite chairs in the kitchen. "Now all I got to do is figure out how to say that in front o' you."
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.
[ooc: Text from the FF episode "The Message".]
Womack has just left, allowing Mal to kneel at Tracey's side. Tracey coughs, not bringing up any blood yet, and starts, "I'm feelin'... kinda stupid right about now."
"Only cause you are," Mal offers back, quietly.
Tracey looks to Kaylee, then to all gathered there. "Kaylee. I'm sorry... Every--Everyone... Wasn't never no good at life, anyhow... Couldn't seem to make sense of it... Always running scared..." Another cough, a little blood.
"'When you can't run anymore, you crawl... and when you can't do that--'
The first conscious thought that occurs to Captain Reynolds is that he is very cold, and that this condition might be due to the fact he has no shirt on and is lying facedown on an examination table.
Mal quickly attempts getting up - too quickly - and immediately falls back down on the table, pain zipping through his right side.
Once it passes through Mal's head that he should look around this room he's in, he might see Simon's meticulously-ordered medical supplies throughout this sterile room.
And the person about to enter into it.