Captain Malcolm Reynolds woke up feeling especially upbeat. He stretched lazily and let his hands come to rest at the waistband of his pants, which he always wore just low enough to show off his groin muscles, and looked around his bunk appraisingly. He liked it all right, he supposed, but today it seemed a mite drab. Too much beige, he reckoned. He made a mental note to talk with Kaylee about fixing that, and bounded out of bed, gathering up his things for a shower. On the way, he sniffed at his soap, frowning. Those standard issue rations didn't ever smell like anything. What he'd give for something nice, something floral maybe, right about then.
"You're up early, Mal," Inara greeted him in the corridor after he'd freshened up. She tilted her head at him quizzically. "Did you- what did you do to your hair?"
Mal touched the frosted tips of his hair proudly. "You like it?" he said. "I saw some of Nandi's boys had their hair like this, thought I might try it out. Anyway, I'm up early because I'm in a good mood. Feels like it's gonna be a good day."
"I-- it's--" Inara blinked. "It's fine, Mal. It's... different."
Mal beamed. "Why, thank you, Inara. Hey," he added, suddenly serious. He placed his hands on her shoulders and looked at her intensely. "There's something I really need to ask you."
Only years of Companion training prevented Inara from blushing under the Captain's gaze. "What is it, Mal?" she answered, as Mal leaned in even closer, his eyes lowering, closer, close enough to--
"You smell fabulous," Mal said, inhaling deeply. "D'you think I could borrow one of them special soaps you use sometime?"
Zoe looked over at Mal as he glided into the cargo bay, humming happily to himself. "'Morning, sir," she said, raising an eyebrow.
"'Morning, Zoe," Mal said. "How're you doin' today?"
"...Sir? You never ask me how I'm doing."
"Oh, I know," Mal said, waving his hand. "It's so rude of me, isn't it? I'm gonna make it up to you though. This way, I figure I could ask you how you're doing, and then I could tell you how I'm doing... we could dish. You know. Catch up with each other." He sat down on a crate and crossed his legs expectantly.
"Sure! Oh--" Mal jumped to his feet again. "Did you need any help with that?" he asked.
Zoe had paused with a crate in her hands when Mal entered the cargo bay and hadn't moved since he'd begun talking to her. She blinked and set it down, dusting off her hands. "No, uh. That one, though." She pointed, and Mal grinned and bent to pick up the indicated crate. "Did you do... something... to your hair, sir?"
"Frosted the tips," Mal grunted under the weight of the crate. "All the boys on the border planets are doing it--ow!" He dropped the crate roughly where Zoe had directed him, and stuck a finger in his mouth. "I got a splinter!" he muttered around his finger, clearly affronted.
Zoe stared at him for a moment, her lips pursed, before leaving the cargo bay without another word.
"A splinter?" Simon shook his head. "I would have thought it'd take more than that to get you in my infirmary, Captain."
"But it hurts," Mal said, pouting a little as he let Simon examine his injured finger. "And now I'm gonna need a new manicure and all."
"Yes, I see your nails are quite-- oh my gosh, is that clear polish?" Simon asked, drawing Mal's hand closer.
"Mary Lynn did great work," Mal sighed happily.
"I know, I left her the biggest tip--" Simon cleared his throat and set about removing Mal's splinter. "Well, I'm done here," he announced when he was finished, dabbing the wound with antiseptic. "Um, Mal?" he asked delicately, as Mal buttoned up his shirt - he wasn't sure why the Captain had had to undo his shirt for a finger injury, but he wasn't about to argue - "Mal, are you-- did you-- is this something new for you?"
Mal looked up at Simon, then hopped off of the examination table. "What, the hair? Yeah, I just did that this morning. You like it?"
Simon smiled. "So you are sly, then."
"Of course, girlfriend," Mal rolled his eyes. "Was your sly-dar broken or somethin'?"
"Wash, you notice anything weird about the Cap'n lately?" Kaylee asked, as she made them both cups of coffee in the kitchen.
"Well," Wash began to count off items on one hand, "other than the way he skips from room to room, his frosted tips, his attempt to girl-talk with my wife, and that new shiny manicure he's been going on about... no, nothing's weird at all."
"He just asked to borrow my paint and floral stencils and appliqués," Kaylee said, and handed Wash a mug before sitting down. "I think he means to redecorate his bunk with 'em."
"That just pushed it over into 'creepy' territory for me," Wash admitted.
"Hey, where's Mal at?" Jayne asked, coming into the kitchen at the smell of stale brewed coffee. "I hear he's been up since the peegoo crack of morning."
"He's in his bunk," Kaylee told him, "redecorating."
"With flowers," Wash added.
Jayne frowned. "What's he need flowers for?"
River wandered through the kitchen singing a snippet of a song they recognized from Earth-that-was, something about feeling "pretty and witty."
They watched her go in stunned silence. "What," Jayne said, when she'd left. "Mal gone sly or somethin'?"
Kaylee shrugged. "Looks like," she said, and handed Jayne a mug.
Book, who had just appeared at the kitchen door, turned around and decided he didn't need any coffee after all.
Mal daintily painted through Kaylee's stensils onto the wall above his bed, still humming to himself. If his walls had to be beige, then the rose color of the flower petals would bring just the right sprinkle of contrast to break up the drabness. A border here, a few curlycues there, and he thought his bunk would be just fine after all.
"Hey, Mal? Can I come in?" Jayne's voice called from the top of the ladder.
"Yeah." Mal climbed off his bed to let Jayne in, then took his shirt off as an afterthought. He didn't want to get paint on it after all. Also, he wanted Jayne to see him shirtless.
He got back to the task at hand as Jayne climbed down and stood, awkwardly, by the entrance to his bunk. "So," Jayne said, and nodded thoughtfully. "Sly, huh?"
"Yup," Mal said, still painting.
"I like your hair," Jayne said. "It's, it's real pretty. Weren't some of them boys of Nandi's doing their hair like that?"
Mal turned to Jayne, smiling, and set down his paintbrush at last. "You noticed!"
"Well, I didn't just take to the girls, you know," Jayne told him, coming close enough to run his fingers through the frosted spikes of Mal's hair.