Hey, thanks for reading. No, really, it means a lot to me.

Yes, this is just the prolog to a much longer Firefly story, which means you need to review so that I know your reading and I'll put up the next chapter.

Oh, and yeah, characters, setting, overarching plot, not mine . . . as if I needed to tell you.

PROLOG:

"Tell me again," Simon said as he pulled the gauze out of a drawer. "How did you hurt your hand?"

"Well, it all started in bed . . ." Wash said, holding his injured hand in front of him like some sort of peace offering. Perhaps, to Zoe, it was. To Simon, however, it was just a simple problem with a simple solution.

"You can skip that part," Simon said quickly, then glancing up at his patient nervously he asked, "Can't you?"

"I guess," Wash said, clearly enjoying how unnerved the young doctor was at the prospect of a blow by blow account of his nuptial bliss. "Let's just say we got into an argument that could only be solved by hand to hand combat."

"I . . . see," Simon said slowly, not seeing at all.

"So I challenged her to an arm wrestle. Best two out of three."

"Do you solve all your martial problems that way?" Simon asked, taking Wash's hand and prodding the swollen thumb joint very carefully.

Wash winced and kept up with his story, though his voice was thin and tense, "So we go get the Captain to be the ref and we set up in the common room right?"

"I'm starting to think I don't want to know how this story ends," Simon said. "It looks like the thumb is just dislocated. I'm going to have to pop it back into place."

"Well then, pop away," Wash said.

"Who won?"

"Oh, hello Shepherd," Simon said, before he turned back to the counter to prepare the anesthetics.

"Hey Book, what up?"

"I heard you got injured fighting with your wife," Book said in a knowing tone that only a Shepherd could have.

"Fighting isn't quite the word," Wash said, "Epic battle is more along the lines."

"Ok, Wash," Simon said, approaching him with a dope gun. "I'm going to numb your hand, you'll have to . . ."

"Wait, wait, wait," Walsh said. "Numb my hand? I need my hand."

"I know," Simon said. "That's why I'm numbing it."

"Can't you do it with out dope?"

"Well I could," Simon said. "But you don't want me to."

"I think you best listen to the doctor on this point, son," Book said.

"Hey, we're landing at Harpper's Point in thirty minutes. That's some tricky flyin' there and I've got to be all there. That means my hand."

"Can't anyone else fly the ship?" Simon asked. "The Captain and Zoe must . . ."

"Just fix my thumb, ok, kid."

"It'll hurt," Simon said. "You don't understand how much it will hurt. If you understood, you'd want to be doped."

"Come on, Doc, ain't got all day."

Simon looked pleadingly towards Shepherd Book, who only shrugged. "All right," the boy said. "Just so we're all clear that I wanted to dope you."

"What? You think the Captain will throw you out an air lock?" Wash asked with a smile.

Then Simon grabbed his thumb and pulled, popping the thumb back in place. The pilot gasped, and then screamed and then gasped again, and then started chanting, "Ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod,"

"I told you," Simon said. "Do you want to dope now?"

"Yes," Wash said, grabbing Simon's arm and squeezing it. "God, yes!"

"Ok, ok," Simon said, taking the dope gun and injecting its contents into Wash's hand.

Wash screamed again as the needle pushed through his flesh. "It's not working!"

"Just, give it a minute," Simon insisted. "Breathe."

"Right," Wash said, taking a few shaky breaths. Slowly they blossomed into steadier breathes and eventually, normal breathing. "Thanks, Doc."

"Ah, your welcome," Simon said, "You, ah, think you could let go of my arm."

"What?" Wash asked, looking up, clearly confused.

"My arm," Simon said, glancing to where he was held in an iron grip.

"Oh, yeah, sorry about that," the pilot said, letting go. "You know, I think the cure was worse than the disease."

"It often seems that way," Shepherd Book said wisely. "Although, no one debates that being cured is the best thing of all."

"Now, I've got to bind the hand until the tendons can have a chance to heal. Try not to move it."

"Like I could," Wash observed.

"Gentlemen," Inara's clear voice said, quickly drawing the attention of everyone in the room. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."

"Naw," Wash said with a smile. "We're just hangin' out, you know, bonding."

"Get in another fight with Zoe?"

"More of a lover's quarrel."

"Was it about dinosaurs?"

"Not entirely."

Inara smiled and turned her attention to the other men in the room, "And how are you today Shepherd?"

"Just fine, and yourself."

"Well, thank you. Doctor?"

"Inara," Simon said by way of greeting, looking up from his work binding Wash's hand. "Can I help you?"

"Yes," the Companion said, stepping fully into the room. "I was wondering if you men could give me some advice."

"Advice?" Simon asked as he picked up some scissors to cut the gauze.

Inara set her dark, perceptive eyes on him and smiled mysteriously. "Yes Doctor. We're setting into Harpper's Point shortly and I plan to do some shopping. I was just wondering what parts of the female anatomy you gentlemen find most attractive."

Simon dropped his scissors.

Inara smiled, "I have to decide what I should accentuate."

"Legs," Wash said without missing a beat. "I love a good set of legs. Although, what's above the legs is important to, you know that place where the legs and the body kinda . . ."

"I know," Inara said quickly.

"And breasts, you can't go wrong with a nice," he suddenly noticed that everyone was staring at him. "You know, set. Not that I look anymore, cause, you know, Zoe, she's well . . ."

"How about you Shepherd?" Inara said, gracefully relieving Wash. "What do you find attractive in a woman?"

"I chose to focus on a woman's character, not on her outward appearance."

"I should have known," Inara sighed. "But still, such a cultured man must have some appreciation for the purely aesthetic womanly qualities?"

"Well," Book said, "On a purely aesthetic level, I suppose I've always enjoyed a woman's voice."

"Voice, really?"

"My mother had the most beautiful voice and I have to say that I was never attracted to a woman, no matter how lovely her face was, nor perfect her body, unless she had the voice of an angel."

"That's very interesting," Inara said, tilting her head. She seemed to consider the Shepherd's comment for a moment before turning to the Simon. "And what about you, Doctor, what part of the body do you find particularly attractive?"

"Ah," Simon stuttered, trying to appear as if tying the gauze around Wash's hand was an all consuming task. "I, ah, I admire a lady's neck."

"What, like a vampire?" Wash laughed.

"I think the neck is very graceful."

"So," Inara asked, "Does that mean that you prefer women with short hair?"

"Not at all," Simon said quickly. "And what does it matter what I like?"

"I'm just trying to understand the male mind," Inara said. "I have to admit that, for the most part," she glanced at Wash, "I found your answers surprising."

"Geepers Inara," Captain Reynolds said, coming up behind her. Simon thought the infirmary was starting to feel crowded. "I didn't think anything a man did could surprise you."

"Captain," Inara said, smiling despite his cutting remarks. "I was just taking a poll,"

"I don't put much stock in polls."

"What do you find most attractive in a woman?"

"The ability to look a man in the eyes and say 'Money don't matter, the answer's no.'"

There was a very heavy pause. Simon could have cut through the silence with his laser saw; he desperately wished it was at hand.

"I meant," Inara finally said icily. "What physical traits do you find most attractive?"

"Oh," the Captain said, totally unashamed. "Then lips, I guess."

"Lips?"

"I like a woman with a nice set of lips," Reynolds said, somewhat defensively. He looked around the room to see if anyone was going to mock him. No one seemed inclined so he decided to get back to business. "But I didn't come here to get polled. Doctor, you make that list of supplies for the infirmary like I asked?"

"Yes sir," Simon said quickly.

"Good, keep it at hand, we'll try to stock up at Harpper's Point. Speaking of, Ambassador, I need you on the bridge."

"Yes sir," Inara said, pushing her way past Mal. Once she was gone everyone felt they could start breathing again.

"Wash good to go?" the Captain asked.

"He can't use his hand," Simon said. "Is that important?"

"He's a pilot," Reynolds spat. "Of course it's important!"

"Well, you could land the ship, couldn't you sir?" Wash asked.

"I hired a pilot so I wouldn't have to. I could say, 'Pilot, land the ship' and not worry about it while I did other things."

"The dope should wear off in a couple of hours," Simon said apologetically.

"I hope it does," Reynolds said, glaring at the doctor before storming out of the infirmary. "Otherwise you might find your way on the wrong side of an air lock."

There was another chilling silence, filled only by the metallic echoes of Reynolds bounding up the stairs towards the bridge. Then, when he was safely out of hearing distance, Wash burst into laugher. "See," the pilot gasped between hysterics. "That's exactly what I was trying to avoid when I asked you not to dope me."

"This isn't funny!" Simon protested. "He just threatened to kill me."

"I'm sure the Captain would never follow through," Book said. He was trying to keep a straight face for Simon's sake, just not doing a very good job of it.

"You were screaming in pain," Simon said defensively, obviously missing the joke. "You begged for anesthetics."

Wash pushed himself off the diagnostic bed. "Doc, lighten up."

Simon starred at him, mystified.

Wash sighed, "I probably should be on the bridge, you know, just in case."

The pilot turned and jogged up the stairs leading towards the bridge, leaving the Doctor and the Shepherd alone. "They're crazy," Simon said, still staring out the door. "Every last one of them is crazy."

"And we depend on them for protection and support. What does that make us?"

"Very desperate."

To be continued . . .

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