A.N.: Okay, this is my first jaunt into the fiction that is Firefly. I apologize profusely beforehand if at anytime I totally screw up the characters. I've only seen about half the episodes and as of yet not seen Serenity. So I'm pretty much grasping transcripts, sound clips, and any fanfiction I can get my hands on to figure out how to write this properly. Please, feel free to tell me where I screwed up (gently if you don't mind) and I hope you like it. Oh, and this is between Serenity and OIS, and just crossing the border into AU.

Disclaimer: Joss is boss. I am but a humble worm in comparrison. I'm merely borrowing the characters for my own sick and twisted amusement.

Mal sat staring into the crackling flames of the town bonfire, as its warmth washed against his face. Raising his mug, he took a quick sweep, making sure there were no young women carrying flowery wreaths or "refills" nearby. He really didn't want or need a repeat of the trouble caused by the last town's celebration for the crew's "help".

He heard a snicker come across the table from the direction of Wash and Zoe. Glaring at the obvious choice of the snicker's origin, he said, "And what the hell is so damn funny?"

Wash grinned, unable to keep a straight face.

"You are," he replied, "Your so tense and on alert. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were about to start a bar fight or something. It's funny, don'tcha think, Lambie-toes?"

He looked over at his wife, who had been reclining into his arms. Sitting up slightly, she fixed him with a warning glance.

"Not really," she replied, glancing over at Mal.

"Well, I think it's funny," Wash muttered, taking another sip of his drink.

"As I recall, you weren't the one who got roped into 'wedded bliss'," Mal shot back, annoyed.

Wash grinned again.

"That's only because I protected myself," he said, taking another sip, and looking at Mal as though he were imparting some ancient wisdom, "You see, the trick is to find, woo, and marry a beautiful, wonderful, warrior woman."

He gazed lovingly at Zoe and added, "Especially one who can kill you...with her pinky."

Zoe rolled her eyes, giving him a light slap. Wash mockingly rubbed the spot, then pulled her closer to him.

"And what about those not aimi' for marriage?" Mal demanded.

"Oh, well," Wash seemed to consider, "Well, then, I guess your screwed."

Mal nodded, shooting Wash a see-what-I-mean glare.

"Relax, sir," said Zoe suddenly, "I promise, we'll warn you if we spot any future 'Mrs. Malcolm Reynolds'."

A few minutes later, Mal walked towards the table holding the "bar", and saw something suprising. Standing there, withher back turned to him, was River.

Glancing around, Mal couln't see Simon anywhere around. Gorram doctor! he thought. The boy had one simple job on this planet so far, watching River. Even if the girl had been relatively lucid of late, experience was beginning to tell Mal that it wouldn't last and he'd be damned if that change came now.

Stomping over he called out, "River!"

The girl didn't turn to face him.

"River!" he tried again, "Girl!"

That recieved and immediate reaction. The figue turned and Mal stopped dead in his tracks. He had found River alright. The only problem was, he'd just found another one.