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Ships that Pass in the Black

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Summary: New Melbourne has a bit more than fish and fish-related activities.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Firefly > Xander-Centered > Pairing: Inara(Past Donor)SnagFR18810,603159235,17320 Oct 0927 Feb 10No

Distracted With Pretty Things

Onward and upward. Review, recommend, recycle. Or something like that.


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The hiss of escaping air pressure sounded as Inara opened the hatch. She could see Xander's hesitant approach from the shuttle's external monitors and patiently waited. She knew that not everyone was as self-assured as her more well-to-do clients. And really, there was no hurry here. As much as it could be, the things that Companions did could be considered an art form, and art took as long as it wanted to take. There was no rushing art.

As the hatch opened to reveal her client, Inara's posture and expression automatically slid into the welcoming yet mysterious aura she liked to project to customers. She liked for the people who came to her to feel at their ease, but still be uncertain of precisely what they could expect from her.

"Xander Harris?" she greeted with a hint of question, yet still conveying the sentiment that she knew exactly who he was. When the man nodded, his eye wide at his first look upon her, she smiled. "I'm Inara Serra. I've been expecting you. Please, come in. We have plenty of time, but not so much that we can afford to waste it." She gave him an inviting smile, calculated to be alluring and welcoming all at once.

Inara had the uncanny ability to actually remain unobtrusive until she wanted attention to return to her again. She used this, letting Xander find his own nerve as his heavy boots clumped softly on the rugs she set out when expecting customers. The sort of decor that she liked to surround herself with was occasionally a little intimidating, especially to people that were either disinclined toward such luxury, or simply could not afford it.

She gave Xander several moments to look over her personal space before gently reminding him that she was there too. "Do you like it? We try to keep our living area as comfortable as we can, given what we have to work with," she explained.

"It's beautiful," he agreed softly. "Although if you find something that can support the curtain-thing in that corner about halfway up the wall, it won't hang quite as low." He pointed to indicate the area in question.

Inara blinked. "I can try that and see how it looks, but I have it that way to make the room a bit more cozy," she noted.

"Oh, it's cozy alright," Xander replied, before giving her a sheepish smile. "Sorry. I was a carpenter for a long time, and it's kind of an occupational hazard."

"You have an eye for design. It's nothing to be ashamed of," Inara reassured him kindly, only a slight twinkle in her eyes betraying her amusement. Privately, she was a little amazed that he'd have such an eye for such things. He must have spent some time among decorators.

Sensing that he was still uncomfortable with having been caught designing, she gestured to the couch next to her. "Will you sit?" she asked.

Xander looked at her for a long moment before the invitation registered. "Huh? Oh, yeah, right! But before I do, I brought something. It, y'know, seemed appropriate." A package that was clearly a hastily wrapped affair emerged from under his arm as he offered it to Inara, shrugging his shoulders self-consciously.

Inara tilted her head with a gracious smile. This was not the first time a client had brought her a gift, although she hadn't expected it from a maintenance supervisor. "Thank you. That's very thoughtful of you," she replied in gratitude as she accepted the wrapped box. Her slender fingers nimbly solved the mystery of the wrapping paper. In short order, surrounded in a cushion of wrapping, was a beautifully carved and assembled box, sized about a foot by a foot and a half around and perhaps six inches deep.

Inara's mouth opened in a small 'o' of surprise; she certainly hadn't expected anything like this. "Oh, Xander. This is absolutely lovely," she breathed. The exterior wood was carved with rambling vines all around the edges, and on each corner of the lid were little designs. After a moment, Inara identified them as a book, a key, a little tree that she recognized but couldn't quite put a name to, and what appeared to be a pointed stick. She gently unfastened the latch on the front and lifted the lid. Inside was a series of velvet covered dividers, clearly intended for housing jewelery and other precious breakables.

"It's not much, just something I've been plinking away at in my free time. Which, well, I have a lot of free time here." Xander's mouth quirked up in a half grin. "I don't know anyone here that I'd want to give it to, so, here we are."

"You didn't have to do this," Inara gently informed him, though she made no effort to give the box back. "Your reservation was already confirmed." It was as close as a Companion would come to stating that a commercial transaction was taking place.

"No, it's not that." Xander shook his head. "I just - I wanted someone to have this. Someone that I figured would appreciate it."

"Well, I appreciate it very much. Thank you." Inara neatly folded up the wrapping paper before standing to press a grateful kiss to Xander's cheek, causing him to flare red in embarrassment. She drifted to an opulently designed chest of drawers at the corner of her bed and set the jewelery box atop the furniture piece. Once it was settled just so, she returned to the couch and Xander.

"Well! As I was saying before I was distracted with pretty things, will you sit?" Inara smiled at Xander's flustered 'aw shucks' expression as he eased himself gingerly onto the edge of the couch. She settled beside him, giving him a little space at first so he didn't feel overwhelmed.

"If you have any questions along the way, please feel free to ask. What you're about to take part in, is called the Companion Greeting Ceremony...."
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