Wash has been sitting in his chair for a few minutes when he realizes something isn't quite right on the bridge. He checks the panel readings, and Serenity is flying smooth, no problems. But he can't shake it – something is off.
He's about to comm Kaylee, ask her to come up and poke around the controls, when Zoe walks into the room. She isn't smiling. She never is.
"Hey, Zoe," he says, giving her his most charming grin, but, as usual, it doesn't work. So he switches to business. "I've got the feeling something isn't right up here. You?" It's unusual for her to be up here alone with him, so maybe she's feeling it too.
But she shakes her head, and says, "We need to talk."
So. He's been half-expecting a warning to back off for weeks now. He just can't help himself, though. He's drawn to Zoe. He doesn't want to hear what she's about to say – although he supposes he's lucky she isn't saying it with a gun in her hand.
Wash isn't stupid. He might be smitten by Zoe, but he knows she could kill him with her pinky, if that was what she wanted. He doesn't argue with her now, doesn't try to deflect what's coming.
"Come on." She gestures out of the room, so he sets Serenity on autopilot, and follows her. Down the hall. To her bunk. Down the ladder. And maybe she is going to threaten him violently, and she doesn't want the others to see.
It isn't until after, when Wash is naked, happy, sweaty, sated, but mostly still surprised, that he realizes what was wrong on the bridge. He looks down at Zoe, her head on his chest, her grin wide and genuine, and asks, "Isn't that my Tyrannosaurus on your shelf?"
She just laughs.
As the Captain (Mal Reynolds, he'd said) shows her around the ship, Kaylee can't believe her luck. She's so big! And maybe she's a little banged up here and there, but that ain't nothing Kaylee can't fix, given a few days. Weeks, at most.
The kitchen is decent, and she likes the way the table looks, like it's well used, like they all sit 'round it and eat together. Captain tells her dinner tonight is gonna be cooked by their pilot, Wash, which means it won't be half bad. Edible at least. She grins.
It's nice to get the tour, but Kaylee wants to get back to the engine. Eventually, the Captain lets her, and she spends a good few hours fiddling. She can't help swearing now and then at the way the engine ain't been looked after right. Bester maybe talked a good line, but it looks he didn't know Serenity's ass end from her engine.
By the end of it, she's got a list of good and bad, and things she'd like to have, just in case. Compression coil is gonna need to be replaced by the end of the year, for one thing.
After she's made her list, a guy comes in, says he's Wash (she likes his face, all friendly and sweet), tells her dinner's soon.
She figures maybe she'd best change clothes and wash up, so she heads to her new bunk, already cleaned out from when Bester used it. It's small, but it's her bunk, and she's got ideas for how to pretty it up.
Maybe she should feel bad, taking Serenity away from Bester like that. But then, no one gets to keep what they don't look after.
Jayne means to put all Simon's things back in his bunk. Really. And he does.
Except, days later, searching for Vera's backup ammo case, he finds something he'd forgotten. He's surprised the doc ain't been whining about missing it. Can't be that he didn't notice.
Then again, Simon's been dressing different last little while. Not so many shiny vests, fancy clothes. Just sweaters, plain things. Not that Jayne's been looking.
The fabric of the shirt is slick, and it catches on the calluses of Jayne's hand. Threads pull out a little, and the shirt, already wrinkled, looks even more mussed. The shine is a little tarnished. Like when Vera ain't been cleaned proper for a long time. Or when she's covered in mud, after a messy job.
But Vera, she ain't this colour, this purple. That colour would draw the eye in a firefight, and that would be just downright idiotic.
Jayne snorts, tosses the shirt into a corner, and gets back to looking for that ammo case.
Mal figures the Companion be an asset, just like she says. Maybe give them enough cover to slide past the Feds, maybe just give them the chance to get jobs. But he don't like what having her around might do to his crew.
Namely, he don't trust Jayne around her. It don't help that she looks real fragile, all dolled up like that. The veil covers her face a little, like she isn't quite sure she wants to see the shuttle, the ship, him.
But then she bargains him down a quarter of his original asking price. After, he smiles a little to himself. It was theft, all right, and she had wiles.
Looks like she'll do just fine.
Simon watches, grinning, as River runs across the cargo bay, up the stairs, and down the hall, all the while laughing as Kaylee tries to catch her.
He wonders if River had ever been able to run like this, so carefree (although he isn't fooled; she'll probably be having a fit soon, something brought on by some unknown anxiety), at the Academy, before the worst of the experiments began. He doubts it.
When River was small, there were days when she wouldn't sit still. It had driven his parents to distraction. She'd annoyed him too, back then, until the day he realized that that River was just happy.
Dancing lessons had helped to focus her energy. Now, she lacks any kind of focus most days.
But some days, Simon doesn't see that. He just sees how she runs, laughing.
|Characters: Wash, Kaylee, Jayne,