As she stood before her husband's gravestone, Zoe considered her life with Wash. Had they really lived so much, shared so many adventures, in such a short time?
Just before he died, he said those words. The ones that had sent shivers down her spine the first time she heard them. Made her realize that she loved that wonderful, maddening man.
Up until then, her impression of Wash had been somewhat less than flattering. Zoe smiled and remembered.
"So you'll take the job then?" Mal asked, trying not to let his relief show.
"Might do, might do," said Wash. "Think I'm starting to get a feel here."
"Good. Well, take your time, make yourself at home," Mal said. Zoe turned and left the bridge. Following her lead, Mal added, "Just fiddle around with the dials there. We'll be nearby."
"Great, ain't he?" Mal said, his face beaming as he caught up to Zoe.
"I don't like him," said Zoe.
Mal's face fell. "What?"
"Just somethin' 'bout him bothers me," Zoe said.
"What? What about him bothers you?"
"I'm not sure. It's somethin'."
"Well, your somethin' comes up against a list of recommendations as long as my leg. Tanaka raves about this guy. Renshaw's been trying to get him on his crew for a month. And we need us a pilot."
"I understand, sir," Zoe said. "He bothers me."
A few days later, Zoe walked onto the bridge as Wash pulled himself up from underneath the console.
"Looks like we're 'bout ready for our maiden flight," commented Wash, grinning as he settled into the pilot's chair.
Crossing her arms, Zoe eyed him with disapproval. As if the shirt wasn't bad enough. Did he have to chew gum all the time? It was just one more annoyance. And what on Earth…
"What are those things on the console?" Zoe asked.
"You've never heard of dinosaurs?" Wash asked innocently.
Glaring at him for a moment, Zoe rephrased her question. "What are they doing here?"
Wash smiled, then turned his back to her and proceeded with his work.
Zoe, unused to being treated in such an off-hand manner, opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again. In her current frame of mind, she might cause the pilot to think better of his choice to pilot Serenity, and that would displease the Captain.
She left, muttering ancient Chinese curses relating to Wash's recent ancestry.
Once she was gone, Wash allowed himself to relax and laugh out loud. Yes, he was going to enjoy crewing on this ship.
Picking up the Stegosaurus with his left hand, Wash said, "I don't like her. She's mean and angry."
Then he picked up the Tyrannosaurus Rex with his right hand and said, "Don't you worry none, she comes back, I'll eat her up."
Within a week of her maiden flight, Mal had used his contacts from the war to secure their first job, transporting crates from Bellerophon to Dyton, no questions asked. It was the no questions plus Dyton's relative isolation in space that contributed to the fat fee, half on pickup, half on delivery.
Past the halfway point of their journey, Mal and Zoe took a quiet coffee break in the galley.
"It's happening," Mal, said. "We'll make a go of it, Zoe. No question."
"I hope so, sir," Zoe said glumly.
Mal regarded her. "What's got you down? Don't tell me this is still about Wash?"
Zoe raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
"Come on, you have to admit, he's worked out so far," said Mal.
"T'ain't nothin' he's done you or I couldn't have," Zoe replied.
Mal sighed. "Well, let's hope he's not put to the test any too soon. This is our first job. I want it to go without a hitch."
The words were no sooner out of Mal's mouth than the intercom announced, "Captain to the bridge. Looks like we've got company."
"Ai chr jze se duh fohn diang gou!" Mal said as he dashed toward the bridge, followed closely by Zoe.
"There," said Wash pointing through the viewport. It's not gainin' on us, just keepin' pace. Not sure I've seen one like that before."
Mal and Zoe looked at each other.
'"That what I think it is?" Zoe asked.
Mal was silent a moment. "Why do we get all the luck?" he wondered out loud.
"You recognize that ship?" Wash asked. "Is it friendly? Hostile?"
"You could say it's hostile," Zoe said. "It's Reavers."
Wash's eyes popped. "Qing wa kao de liu mang. So what do we do?" he asked, looking at Mal. "Run?"
"No," said Mal, putting a hand on Wash's shoulder to steady him. He didn't seem to need it, though. Wash wasn't panicking, just looking for orders. Good. "We'll just go on nice and easy. With Reavers, they'll just as likely let you go on your way. Attract their attention, you become their next meal."
For a tense hour, the three of them remained on the bridge, keeping an eye on the Reaver ship. Zoe had given Bester a heads up to stay at the ready in the engine room.
"At the risk of stating the obvious," said Wash, "assuming they don't attack us, do we really want to lead a ship full of Reavers to a populated planet?"
"Let's just stay alive a might longer first," Mal said evenly, "then worry about the rest later."
An indicator on the console blinked. "Later just became sooner," Wash said. "They're closing in. Quickly by the looks of it."
"Then we need to lose them," Mal said. "Suggestions?" He wanted to see what Wash came up with on his own.
Wash started turning dials and flipping switches. "I've got an idea. Came up with it while we were waitin' for them to make a move."
Serenity's engines sprang to life as she changed course.
"There's a small asteroid field up ahead. Reaver's aren't exactly known for subtlety, and I'm guessing their flying skills will be lacking as well. We might be able to lose them in there."
"You ever done anything like this before?" Zoe asked.
Wash turned to her and grinned. "First time for everything," he said. "Might want to hold onto something."
"We just got this boat fit for flyin'," Mal said. "Appreciate it if we can keep her that way."
Wash nodded, but was too focussed to answer.
"Reavers are still gaining," Zoe reported. "And them asteroids are gettin' a might close."
"Going to get a whole lot closer, honey. Watch this," Wash said. And with that, Serenity flew between two large asteroids and maneuvered around several small ones. Zoe found herself staring at him in disbelief, then noticed the muscles on his arms and neck as they corded with the strain. Collecting herself, she looked out the viewport again.
The Reaver ship had slowed, but was still in pursuit. Wash reduced Serenity's speed, allowing the Reavers to close in.
"Um, Wash?" Mal said. "You slowin' down on purpose? 'Cause those Reavers are gainin' again."
"Trust me, Cap'n. Now, let's let 'em get a bit closer. A bit closer… There. Now, here we go!"
Serenity veered sharply to port and increased speed, heading directly towards two large meteors that were closing in on each other.
"We're not going to make it," Zoe said. "Pull about."
"Negative," Wash said. "We'll make it."
Zoe glanced at Mal, who shook his head and crossed his fingers. Zoe held her tongue but prepared herself for the end.
And then, Serenity just slipped in between the two meteors and was through. An explosion behind them told them that the Reavers hadn't been as lucky.
A few minutes later, they were out of the meteors and into clear space. Wash, letting go of the controls to wipe his brow, looked back towards Mal and Zoe.
Zoe turned and left the bridge. Mal, finally able to speak, slapped Wash on the back.
"That was some mighty fine flyin'," Mal said. "Mighty fine."
"Thanks, Cap'n," said Wash with a grateful smile. "Let's hope the rest of the trip is a little less exciting."
Mal nodded, then went to catch up with Zoe.
"Well?" Mal asked. "Don't tell me that wasn't amazing."
Zoe regarded him. "He's reckless," she said. "Took an unnecessary risk."
"We're alive, they ain't. I'd say that turned out pretty well."
"I still don't like him," Zoe said, and left, leaving Mal alone in the corridor, shaking his head.