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March 16th, 2013

buffyversetop5's Worlds Without Shrimp session will be opening at midnight GMT on April 1 and will run through April 8. This is the time to haul out your recommendations for any fanworks in the Whedonverse (other than the Buffyverse!) So recs for Cabin in the Woods, Avengers, Firefly, Dr. Horrible, Dollhouse, Sugarshock, and all things Whedonian are fair game!

As always, crossover fanworks with any of these fandoms are welcome. Stop by if you have any questions.

Worlds Without Shrimp is open to recs for fan-created works from any time period, and our usual posting guidelines apply. Come celebrate the Whedonverses!

September 30th, 2012

War Wounds

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misc: typewriter
Title:War Wounds
Pairing: Zoe/Wash
Rating:PG
Disclaimer:I don't own FireFly. Sad.
Word Count:249
A/N:This pairing was requested at the dw firefly fic meme
Summery: Zoe picks up some scrapes on a job and Wash is concerned about her.

Life After Love

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Javelin with dress

Title: Life After Love
Rating: PG-13
Characters/pairings: Zoe/Inara, past Zoe/Wash
Warnings (including spoilers): Some spoilers for Serenity. Well, just one, since I haven’t seen it. Also possibly AU, because I haven’t seen it.
Wordcount: 806 words.
Summary: There’s a right way to love, and a right way to grieve, and this is neither.

September 29th, 2012

Title: No Invitations
Author: unwritten_muse
Pairing: Zoe/Wash
Warnings: none
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Not written for profit; I do not own the characters and no disrespect is intended.
Summary: A day that comes but once in a lifetime
Word count: 352

September 22nd, 2012

Warmin' Up

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Firefly
Title: Warmin’ Up
Fandom: Firefly
Rating: G
Characters/pairings: Kaylee/Inara
Warnings (including spoilers): None
Wordcount: 514
Summary: Serenity is very cold, but Inara is warm.

September 18th, 2012

I've been working on a collection of drabbles that are rapidly turning into more of a story with chapters kind of thing and I thought it was about time I got some feedback from the general community. So, what does everyone think? All feedback, especially concrit, especially about the quality of my writing and any ooc or general offness of the fic, is welcome.

Title - The merc and the pilot (really original huh).
Setting - Serenity, these parts are all pre-series but will probably eventually continue beyond the movie. AU.
Author - cloned_fiction
Chapter - 4 drabble like things with an unspecified ammount to follow at some time in the future.
Rating - PG13 for some very tame swearing so far but future mention, and possible light description, of sex planned.
Word Count - Roughly 1500 overall

Summary: Wash/Jayne with Mal/Inara mention. What if Zoe never existed and Wash was pansexual and Jayne totally wasn't sly but deep down kinda was... Spoilers for some really general stuff from the show.



Family.
There was a time when Wash had seriously considered leaving Serenity. When it was just him and the Captain and that idiot Bester alone in the black for months on end. It was a cold, lonely environment between Mal's constant brooding over the war and Bester deciding he didn't like Wash. That was fine, Wash didn't like him either. Him and his body with those... tattoos. Whatever.

In the end he told himself that the Captain had been through a lot in the war. Wash couldn't imagine losing a squad full of people. Friends and allies who the Captain had been through so much with, all ending up dead around him. Having to walk away from something that horrible utterly alone. With no-one to share it with, no-one who could ever understand. Somehow though, the man was still going, still had that desire to survive and keep on. Wash respected that. Plus, to be honest, he couldn't have left Serenity anyway. She was too much a part of him now. So he stayed.

Then they'd taken on Kaylee and dumped Bester. They'd found Inara (or more accurately, the Captain had found her, and Wash was very glad he had) and Jayne had found them. Somehow they'd all become a little family of sorts. Like a real family, there were times they made him wish he had gone after all. Mostly though, they made him glad he'd stayed. Some in an entirely non-familial way...

Author's notes:
Just an introductory kind of drabble to explain most of the changes and new dynamics in this AU. Do you think I made my point clearly enough in paragraph 2 though? The Captain is alone people! ALONE! As for the parentheses in paragraph 3, I'm not suddenly throwing in random Wash/Inara shipping too. All he meant was he was glad that Mal had found someone he could be close to, who could make him a bit happy. I've decided Mal being even more angsty about the war made him somehow less reserved and stubborn with Inara and they got together a bit sooner (not immediately, just sooner than after the movie). Just because I can, because I feel bad about torturing Mal by taking Zoe away from him.






A big dirty merc.
Wash heard about Jayne before he first saw him. Kaylee came bounding onto the bridge to tell him they had a new crew member. A big dirty merc she'd called him.

“Sounds dangerous,” he'd joked. He had no idea how right he was, only in a completely different way.

When Wash finally did meet the merc, he'd evidently had a chance to clean up. He loomed into the kitchen, a solid wall of muscle and attitude. Beads of water still clung to his close-cropped hair and there was a reddish tinge to his knuckles and face where he'd scrubbed particularly hard-caked dirt away. Aiya! Wash thought as he looked him over. He was... Shiny.

“This is our pilot,” Mal said, gesturing towards Wash.

“Hoban Washburne.” Wash stuck his hand out a little too eagerly. “Everyone calls me Wash though.” Wuh de ma! Keep it together man, he scolded himself as he felt the heat of a blush radiate up his neck and over his face. The merc regarded Wash a second, then he turned away, ignoring the outstretched hand.

“Everyone, this here's Jayne,” Mal finished the introduction.

Wash couldn't help a snicker escape his mouth at the name.

Jayne turned back on him in a flash. “You got a problem little man?” he growled.

“No! No problem!” Wash stammered

Jayne glared down at him. “Thought not.” His voice was low and threatening, his muscles tense and ready to defend himself against the perceived insult to his manliness. Yeah, this one is definitely as zhèng as they come, Wash thought, letting his gaze linger over Jayne's muscles where they strained out of his shirt. Too bad.

.....

Aiya! = damn!

Wuh de ma! = mother of god!

zhèng = straight


Author's Notes:
If there's anyone in the audience who knows Chinese, feel free to critique my usage here and in later chapters. Most of the phrases were taken straight from the show, but they may be in the wrong context. Some I just kind of winged it on, such as zheng. I decided that a literal translation of straight could be Firefly!Chinese slang for hetero. I hope I translated it right too. If it doesn't work though, is there anything else Wash might have called him that in essence means very clearly heterosexual?






A knight in reluctant armour.
By his count Jayne had saved Wash's life at least five times in his first year on Serenity, and his pride even more. The man was always getting himself into trouble in some bar or other. Always making moves on the wrong sort of person, or the right sort with the wrong partner. No matter how many times this got him in a bad place the kwong-juh duh little man never seemed to take the hint. He was right back into it at the very next bar, telling dirty jokes and giving knowing looks. Making men around him uncomfortable, or angry, or both.

Jayne didn't really have a problem with the way Wash was, honest. It was none of his business who the man liked to get in bed with. He just wished he had a little more care towards self-preservation in his pursuit of it. Jayne had pointed out to him once that if he found himself a biao-tze he'd be far less likely to cause such violent offence when he propositioned them. Wash shrugged and said he wanted more than a business transaction from his sex. Jayne didn't understand the difference.

Still, whenever Wash got into another punch up Jayne would wade in and drag him out without fail. More times than he liked this involved jumping out of bed and throwing his clothes on hurriedly as Mal bellowed from the bar for his assistance. He weren't exactly sleeping either, but he did it anyway. Wouldn't do if they lost their pilot. Not that Jayne didn't do his fair share of grumbling about how come they couldn't just get a new pilot? One that weren't so prone to gettin' himself beat on. Wasn't anythin' all that special 'bout Wash as far as Jayne could see.

That particular attitude didn't last long.

......

kwong-juh duh = crazy


biao-tze = whore


Author's Note:
I'd like to point out here that the views of the characters don't necessarily reflect the views of the person writing their thoughts. I'm well aware Jayne is participating in some pretty heavy victim blaming on Wash for the hate-crimes he encounters as a result of his sexuality in this particular Serenityverse. Jayne is absolutely wrong in this attitude, but it seemed like the attitude he would have in this situation. He's far from perfect, in these kinds of things especially. So no Jayne, Wash shouldn't have to modify his behaviour to avoid getting into punch ups over closed-minded jerks having a problem with who he is.






Trust
It was a simple transport run on the rim. Legal even, just hauling a bunch of supplies to an isolated colony. 'Course they all knew if it were that simple the colony wouldn't have hired smugglers, nor payed them so high. But they were confident they could handle any complications.

The complication caught up with them just after they cleared atmo. A band of pirates, who'd taken into their minds that this particular patch of sky was theirs to pillage. Jayne was on the bridge when Wash received the wave telling them to be cooperative-like and prepare to be boarded or they'd be blown out of the sky.

“Everyone? We have company. Mal can you get to the bridge? Kaylee, prepare for hard burn on my call.”

Gwai-gwai long duh dong!” Jayne exploded. “What're you doin'? They have a cannon. An' this ship is...” Jayne trailed off as Wash fixed him with the scariest looking glare he had ever seen the pilot give. “Jus' let 'em board an' we'll ambush 'em.” He insisted.

“What, you and Mal against who knows how many?” Wash scoffed. “Don't be yu bun duh. We run and it's just me against their gun. That's better odds, trust me.”

“Yeah, whatever you say.” Jayne replied. The words were casual enough, but inside Jayne was terrified. He wasn't used to putting his life so wholly in someone else's hands, and he didn't like it. Still, Wash was right. With the element of surprise on their side and the right positioning him and Mal might be able to take down 7 or more of them, but there was no way of telling if there would be less than that or twice as many.

“You think you can outrun them?” Mal asked, striding onto the bridge.

“Probably not,” Wash answered and Jayne's heart sank into his stomach. “But that's not the plan.”

~*~*~

For the rest of his life, Jayne swore he would never forget that day. He watched from the back of the bridge, hands clenched in a death grip on the edge of a console, as Wash weaved something like magic, putting the ship through manoeuvres he hadn't thought it possible of to escape the other ship and its gun. When it was over and they were free and clear with both cargo and crew intact Jayne came forward to stand beside Wash. “Not bad little man,” he said, clapping a hand to the pilot's shoulder.

“Told you I could do it,” Wash replied shakily as Jayne turned to leave.

“I never doubted you,” he called over his shoulder before ducking out the door.

~*~*~

From that moment on, coming to Wash's assistance was more than grudgingly retrieving an asset. Wash was his crew, and besides that a man deserving of respect. You had a problem with Wash, then you had a problem with Jayne.

.....

Gwai-gwai long duh dong! = What the hell!


yu bun duh = stupid


Author's notes:
I really really wanted to narrate the whole gripping escape in detail, but after being stuck on this damn bit for a month I realised I'm not a genius space pilot and I just don't have the mental capacity to get that far into the head of one. Or even understand the basics of their job. Plus I'm really bad at action in case you can't tell. So instead all you get is Jayne's angst and feelings over having to trush Wash with his life like this. Which admittedly is the most important part, but it would have been cool if I could pull the other bit off as well.


September 14th, 2012

That's right, isn't it?
Firefly | River, Jayne (slight River/Jayne) | 839 words | Set sometime after the movie.
She's found that most human things are impractical, actions and rules thought up as life goes along. She doesn't understand the lack of planning. Why didn't anyone make diagrams, lay out possible outcomes and calculate the risks? Love, death, friendship and life would all be easier then.

August 30th, 2012

Best Dress

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the sea
Title: Best Dress
Author: unwritten_muse
Pairing: Zoe/Wash (Firefly, Serenity)
Warnings: character death; mourning
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Not written for profit; I do not own the characters and no disrespect is intended.
Summary: Wash sees Zoe in her best dress; inspired by the song Best Dress by Damien Jurado
Word count: 291

May 27th, 2012

THE LAST FIREFLY

BY

CLAUDE L. PARISH

The mountain of loose metal and spaceship parts was eclipsed only by the compacted cubes of metal and spaceship parts. The daylight only lasted nine standard hours on Vega. Like the sun that provided it was in a hurry to reveal it and, once revealed, leave it behind in vain pursuit of something lovely on this small orb.

Shells recognizable as ship hulls were laid out by size and salvage worthiness. No respect was given to color, grace or history. Vega was, after all, the Junk Planet.

There were the few that could be repaired, given time and concern. The most reliable was the Firefly Class transport/cargo ship. Little more than a cruiser, it inspired loyalty in those acquainted with the intricacies and inbuilt redundancies of the bug-like ship. It could pass by a fleet unnoticed, being unarmed. It could also be felled by one loose bolt, as had happened more than once.

It was a target for some with evil ends. Sometimes those without evil ends but not so honorable intent would utilize the versatile ship.

But, they all ended up here.

On Vega.

The Junk Planet.

At least the ones that had quit flying. Rumors abounded of the mythical Firefly darting through the system in the outer rings, leaving a storied wake.

Joshua had taken charge of the scrap yard just over ten standard years before. He made a decent living at his job. He knew a lot about what went where. And most importantly, he hated junk. Hated it with a passion some people reserve for an enemy sporting team.

But, he was his own boss and junk was a going business.

What couldn't be salvaged was scrapped. Metal recycling was as natural as breathing for some folk. Joshua just sat back and watched the commerce.

"Hey, boss! We got a big 'un!!" The foreman, Alex Huang sounded excited. He usually didn't, so Joshua hurried out of his office to see what was on fire.

With no fire in evidence, he looked skyward at the delivery ship set on hover above the central receiving docks.

"Yep. Big 'un, all right." Josh said with his customary hayseed drawl which masked his intellect.

The transport was part of a larger convoy, delivering goods to the outer planets. Other, smaller ships brought food, clothing and medical supplies. This one ferried junk that was cast off of civilization for some last opportunity to be of use. In this case, the biggest chunk of cargo was an almost intact junked ship.

"Is that a Firefly?" Alex asked.

"Yup.." Joshua drawled again, this time smiling. "That's a Firefly." He watched as the ship was lowered to the ground. Nothing else mattered. It was clear to Alex that his boss was off in his own world.

"You a fan?" he asked, knowing his boss was enjoying his stay on Firefly World.

"Not particularly," he said with a growing look of new love on his face. "Been lookin' for this one, though."

"Is it special or somethin'?" The foreman struggled to understand.

"SHE" Josh corrected. "And, oh yeah. She's special or somethin'"

As the dust settled around the Firefly, Josh place his right hand on the hull of the ship and closed his eyes. Walking along, still touching the ship, he smiled as Alex had never seen the boss man smile before.

"She's special, Young Al," he said, lowering his hand and opening his eyes to see a ship that needed a lot of work. "She belonged to my grandpa."

Josh grinned with his mouth closed. He didn't know it, but when he did that he looked exactly like his grandfather.

"Maybe you heard of him. Malcolm Reynolds?" Josh turned to actually address Alex this time." Hero of Serenity Valley?Alliance burned up planets chasing him down."

"What's Alliance?"

"Old government. Gone now." He looked back at the grounded ship and the right corner of his lips turned slightly upward. "Everybody's independent now. Grandpa helped put 'em down permanent."

"Hey," Alex said, as if he was ignoring the history lesson."You gonna restore it?"

"HER!" he said, a little irritated." You bet your last credit, she's getting restored. Won't take much, either."

"That name on the side, there," Alex nodded toward the faded Sino-English name, faded but readable, but once lovingly painted in crimson gold and white. "You gonna keep it?"

"That was a name for blood, death and sorrow," he said, raising his hand to block the name with his left hand." I got no connection to Serenity Valley. Not like he did."

" Got a name all picked out. She gets a lady's name. She'll be beautiful again inside of a month."

Josh turned to face Alex again, this time he put his left hand on the younger man's right shoulder, leading him away from the old lady. "When I'm done, I'm gone."

Alex stopped and jerked his shoulder from Josh's lead. "But, this place is yours! You just gonna leave and let it go to waste?"

"Look around you, young Alex," he said in an ironic tone. "There's nothin' here but waste."

"Besides," he continued, "you can have it, ya like it so much."

"Are you serious?This place is mine?"" Alex was a jovial young man and real happiness was hard for him to hide. He jumped about three feet in the air, which, given the gravity of Vega, wasn't always a good idea. When he hit the ground again, his future former boss was smiling as well.

"I made some good coin here," he gazed around for a speck of loveliness, finding only one."No reason you can't do just as well. All I ask is a safe harbor when I need one."

"Absolutely!" Alex didn't know what else to say, but that never stopped him before."What are you gonna name HER?"

The kid was learning. Josh looked up at the paint stain that still said 'Serenity'.

"I'm naming her for my grandma, " he looked back at Alex and said wistfully, " The finest lady there ever was."

"Inara."

THE END

AL ADJUSTED

by

Claude Parish

You couldn't tell by looking at her, but Zoe was disturbed. The captain had just offered the job of pilot to one Hoban Washburne. "Wash," he had said. "Call me Wash."

He bothered her. His references checked out big time. Not only was the man an ace pilot with a lot of originality, but he had pulled many a ship out of scrapes that would have left scrapings of lesser men.

If Captain Tanaka was to be believed, the man could fly a square ship through a round hole without so much as a nick on the air inside said hole. She would hate to find out that the reputation was false while running in with the Alliance or the Reavers.

Zoe sat across the dinner table from Wash and the ever smiling Bester, the ship's 'genius mechanic'. The two of them would have to go. She couldn't possibly be expected to let them both live. Mal would understand if Zoe tripped and fell forward, accidentally snapping the pilot's neck on her way to the floor. Big universe. Lots of pilots. But any mechanic who could keep their flying death trap of a Firefly in the sky would be hard to replace.

It was decided. Zoe would kill the pilot as a warning to the mechanic. One dead, one warned. Not a bad deal. Core planet style efficiency. The captain would be proud.

"Is that ketchup?" asked a slightly whiny voice.

"Hello?" it whined again. "The red stuff in the red bottle?" He clapped his hands together and flagged them toward himself.

He actually called attention to himself. Not that the shirt of powder blue, fuscia and some other color Zoe had remembered seeing in a nightmare wasn't already handling the job.

Zoe stared directly at Wash, a little less than murder in her eyes. He bothered her.

"Never mind. I'll just...." he had taken the hint and helped himself. It meant reaching across the table, momentarily losing his balance, dropping his elbow on the table and looking up into the eyes of imminent doom. He smiled at death. That would serve him well. "Maybe I should cut down. Bad for the complexion."

Zoe's synth meat was flooded with ketchup.

He continued smiling. What was her problem? All he did was get a job on her ship. Was it her ship? He thought the tallish intense knot of muscle was the captain. Wash really wanted to know where everything landed once it was thrown up in the air, but he could see that she was bothered by something, certainly not him, and that she was going to explode on whatever gave her reason, however slight or undeserved.

He decided to call it a defeat and retire for the evening.

"G'night," he announced, standing erect. "I'll be in my bunk."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Zoe snapped. Her snappage was cool. But it was a snapping, all the same. More than a touch of menace in her voice.

"It means I'm going to sleep. Surrender to the call of Morpheus, the Sandman. I'm going to rest up for a big, big day of ..." he trailed off for no apparent reason, then resumed, " flying through space tomorrow. It's what I do."

Why couldn't he shut up? He worked his way, carefully backward out of the room.

Once out the door, he backed into the captain, Malcolm Reynolds. Reynolds was a browncoat in the war. The big clue was the brown coat that the captain wore everywhere.

"She's going to kill me!" he said, not necessarily to Mal.

"Who? She?" Mal was confused. He shouldn't be. There was only one 'she' on board his ship at the present time and precious few had ever been passengers he could call 'she'. He looked toward the dining area and back at Wash. "Zoe?" he was incredulous. "She ain't gonna kill ya. I think she even likes you."

"That tigress? That Amazon warrior woman? Where did you find her?"

"The war," Mal said, as if it were already a legend.

"On-YOUR-side?" asked Wash.

"Huh?" Mal was confused again.

"Look, Mal..." the pilot began.

"Captain, if you don't mind..and even if you do." Mal was adamant. He did adamant well. It should have been his middle name.

"Look. CAPTAIN!" he emphasized with a tiny salute, "You need a pilot. I need a job. She's your partner, your lieutenant, your wife or whatever..."

"Wife? Now wait a minute Hobart!"

"Ho-BAN! And it's Wash, if you don't mind...." he was looking Mal in the eye "...an' even if ya do!" Mal liked this guy. He wasn't going to tell him, though.

"I'm sure there's a touching story behind that moniker. Have to tell me some day."

"Actually, it's a nick name for Washburne. My sur name. Last name.I thought it was obvious. But can we get back to me for a second?"

" I thought we were....."The rest of the sentence went down the trail. The famous Reynolds trail. Off into the black.

Wash knew that the captain and Zoe had a history. Might even be lovers for all he knew, but business was business.

"You hired a pilot. Not a whipping boy, " he said."I have a problem with hostility in close quarters."

"Look, Wash. Zoe's just......" back to the trail. Mal looking into the ether for a descriptive term, phrase or paragraph. It wasn't easy.

"What? Psychotic? Murderous? Tidy?" Wash had pulled Mal back off the trail." Tidy, I can handle. But, captain, this woman bothers me and I think I need to find another ship to pilot."

Mal was okay with finding a new pilot. But it would take a long time. He would lose money. His ship would be on the dirt when it should be in the air. The wheels in his head started turning. There had to be a way to keep Washburne and Zoe and keep them both alive and doing their jobs. There had to be a contented medium, if not a happy one.

"She's intimidated, " Mal just blurted out the first thing that came to him, "is all."

Wash was shut down so fast, it looked as if someone had shot a poison dart in his neck. The captain had confused him. Wash's unknown consolation was that the captain had confused himself, as well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She was a fighter. She fought. Ground wars spanning continents or hand to hand bar brawls. In her world, anything was a weapon. She preferred a shotgun. When it stops booming, it makes a good truncheon.

At the moment, she was cleaning her truncheon and wondering why the captain hadn't let Renshaw hire the pilot, brushy lip ferret and all.

She had told the captain and kept telling herself, "I just don't like him. Bothers me is all."

She could kill the man or ignore him. He had proven in two weeks of employment to be the best pilot she had ever seen. Still, she was bothered. Kill him and find another pilot. Better safe than sorry. Not that he meant any harm. In fact, he was more of a help to them than she cared to admit. A little man with a big business on Persephone grew annoyed with the captain and anticipating the situation, Washburne had the Firefly fired up and ready to ride as she and the captain came running.

Damn! The man was occupying her thoughts.The killing should come soon so as to save space in her brain.

The preceding thoughts had taken up a space of four seconds. Zoe made a 'face'.

"What's up?" came a way too friendly voice from across the table that she forgot she was sitting next to. Zoe's mind pushed the quandary of the moment aside so as to concentrate all of her attention to Bester, the tattooed wunderkind. "Go," she said ,"Away," she added for effect and resumed her polishing.

"You made a face!" he exclaimed in a happy, 'play with me' voice. "Looked like you had some extra weight on your mind. Best to unload."

"Never say that to a woman holding a shotgun," Zoe advised.

"Not loaded. Who cleans a loaded gun?"

Zoe never really was bothered by Bester. She seldom wasted her time on people she didn't connect with. She felt as if he were just passing through on his way to nowhere in particular.

"You're hot for the pilot dude." he offered, unbidden. "He churns your juices!"

"Churns?" she knew what the border world slang meant, but didn't want to give him the satisfaction."My juices?...." . The man was still the goofy smiler he had been on the day they met. Now, Zoe had two men to kill. Maybe the captain could find a new mech tech as well. Probably a female,so that the home spun psych-eval could be kept to a minimum. Not to mention the 'cheerfulness'.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On the flight deck, Wash was flicking switches and twisting knobs while he pressed buttons that needed pressing. He was arranging his small plastic dinosaurs on the console so that they were accessible but unobtrusive. Zoe appeared over his shoulder, causing the T-Rex to go flying. Not a generally tenable position for a T-Rex. Having a warrior woman over his shoulder was not the most comfy situation for Wash. He knew just how his plastic pal felt.

"Captain wants you to check for Alliance traffic the next two sectors," she announced to the man in the flowery shirt. He must have had twenty of the things. She could have sworn she had never seen this one before. "New shirt?" she asked before she could stop herself.

Wash chose not to answer that question. Instead, he took an advisory tack. "War's over. No more sneaking up on the enemy."

She stared out the forward viewport. "You mean the Alliance?"

"I mean me," he had taken inventory and found that he had the courage to face the author of his future demise.Zoe made a point of not looking at Wash. It made her appear aloof. She probably even believed she was aloof. She should look up the word, 'aloof'.

He still had his mouth open, preparing to speak as she turned to walk away. "That's a nice...uh...vest," he said, stopping her. "Where'd you get it?"

"The war," she said, with the same tone as he had heard earlier from the captain.

"Ah! Same place you got the captain!" He had said it light-heartedly and she knew it. She laughed. The next thing she did was to cover her mouth as if she were embarrassed. " Wow! You can do that?"

"Do what?" she asked, trying unsuccesfully to conceal the bit of a smile that remained.

"Laugh" he said."Or smile. Pretty when you do that!"

"Check the next two sectors, comedian." The ice was fractured. Maybe not broken, but there were definite cracks forming. On her way out of the cockpit, she allowed herself a slight giggle. It became a snort. He was being friendly and she wasn't stopping him. He gets to live another day.

Another thought flickered across her brain. He had shaved off the mustache.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mal was mulling over the pilot's report. No Alliance the next two sectors, but the third, which no one asked him to check, but which he checked anyway, was swarming with Core ships and Alliance fighters and patrol ships. If Mal had taken Serenity to the next job, a less than ethical trade of goods, the law would have reeled him in like a fish. The job wasn't worth the risk, but another one waited down the line. So, no sweat.He allowed himself a smile. He was very smart for hiring this pilot. Smart man. That's why I'm the captain, he thought.

"Hey, Zoe," he greeted her with a small smirk.

"Hey, captain. Somethin' funny?" Zoe liked it when the captain was happy. Made the trips pass easier.

"Wash," he said, still with the smirking.

Zoe sniffed her armpits. "I guess I've been puttin' it off for a while."

Momentarily, the captain was a dummy. But he caught the missed meaning and explained it to Zoe. "No. I mean the pilot. Name's Wash. He just saved us a passle of worry.Good man."

"Yeah. He is kind of jokey, " she said. "And not in an annoying way that gets a fella killed with a shotgun.He doesn't bother me so much today."

"And what about tomorrow?" Mal asked.

"Aren't you the one says 'let tomorrow worry about itself'?"

"I do recall that bit of wisdom." He did his closed mouth grin that he did so well but not so often.

"You like him?" she asked Mal.

"Never said I didn't. You were the one with bother issues."

"So, when's the wedding, sir?" She was allowed the jibe as she had saved his life a time or twelve.

Mal let a dimple crack his cheek. Light moods all around, then. Mal thought it was time to lay the foundation for a good working relationship between Zoe and Wash."I'm pretty sure he doesn't hate you much."

Zoe went blank. She didn't do that often and certainly not without orders to do so. "Has he said something?"

Mal came up with a brilliant thing to say. If he played his cards right, there would be serenity on Serenity. They could all be one big, happy family of smugglers in no time.

"He's just intimidated is all."

Big.

Happy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In his most comfortable seat on Serenity, Wash had his right hand glued to the right fork of the steering yoke and was using his left hand to speak in Wash-ese to an attentive audience of one. Namely, one Zoe Alleyne.

"Well,I knew I couldn't outrun an Alliance fighter looking to score points back home, so I dropped a smoker and let it spew as it trailed behind me for a bit," he was relating his equivalent of a war story, "So, I dive low and it trails off into the black, leading the officer to believe I had gone off into space!"

"But didn't he see you peel off from your smoke trail?" asked a genuinely interested Zoe.

"All he saw was the credits he wasn't going to earn, sailing off into the upper atmo," Wash answered. "He couldn't be bothered to look down to a non smoking ship. Not to say that smoking on the ship was banned. We had a mechanic who puffed out more clouds than a deluxe atmosphere generator on a methane rich globe."

Zoe was smiling at this man who seemed like a mess at first blush, but who was hiding so much more.

Wash was silent for a moment, enjoying the smile that meant approval, friendship and no killing today.

Mal walked onto the flight deck into the middle of this happy family swapping stories. It had been almost two weeks since the captain had put his master plan into motion. Prideful of his work, he grinned with a closed mouth at how well the two were getting along. This was a good thing. Now, we were getting somewhere.

Zoe reached out and held the pilot's free hand. They were getting along, all right. They liked each other. Their body language was screaming it. Then, the nail that shut the coffin for good stared Mal in the face. Zoe was wearing a betrothal necklace!!!

"Overkill," Mal mumbled.

"Sir?" Zoe asked automatically.

"Oh. Nothin'. Just.... Zoe, shouldn't you be securing, " Mal couldn't think of another word that would make sense, "something?"

"Ship's battened down, Cap'n."

"Zoe. Can I see you out here for a minute?" He was going to have to think of a reason why he had to see her out there.

"Sure, Cap," she got up and walked to the doorway. In a second she turned and looked back at Wash. "Be right back."

Mal looked after her as she exited and, then, back at Wash, who was smiling a goofy smile and waving after Zoe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"No!" Mal said, as if she should understand him psychically.

"No, what?" She was genuinely confused.

"You are not to marry that....THAT!" Mal halted and looked up in his mind. Did Wash shave off the lip brow?

"Sir?" she began. "Did you just tell me not to marry Wash?" Her brow was furrowed more from anger than confusion.

Mal took a half a step backward. "Yes," he said. "And that's an order."

Her features softened a bit. "Sorry, sir," she said, sympathetically."This isn't something you can just order away."

"But, he bothered you?"

"Not any more, " she said with a sly smile. "And he shaved off that wire brush."

"Lieutenant. Are you disobeying a direct order?" He was trying to sound official but came off as flustered

She put a hand on Mal's shoulder. "Just this one, sir."

"Um," Mal managed to say. " You sure about this?"

"I am."

Mal looked away from Zoe. He had crawled in the mud and blood of Serenity Valley with her. They had fought side by side until they were among the last few surviving members of their unit. He knew her as well as any man he had ever called brother. They had kept each other alive across a half dozen planets or more. But, somehow, he didn't know she had this in her.

He would be mindful of change in the future. Too much of it was not good. Keep everything simple. Streamlined.

A voice broke Mal out of his self imposed stupor.

"Coming up on what appears to be a prairie planet," came Wash's voice over the P.A. "Bester, you can make those repairs to the engine there or we'll never make it to Pacquin alive."

Mal gave Zoe a manly pat on the shoulder. "Good enough."

They'd spend a few days in the sticks, mingle as little as possible and let Bester get Serenity spaceworthy again. But, no more changes.

Any more changes and Mal was going to have to shoot something.

The End

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