Title: Redux

Author: Kara B.

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Life redone.

Author's Notes: Written for the Wash/Zoe ficathon. My challenge was to write a story including the pairings of Wash/Kaylee and Mal/Zoe as well as to include a jealous Mal; goofily romantic Wash; and Wash/Kaylee UST that goes somewhere.

Written for: sarahetc

Wash stared down at his friends surrounding his grave, wondering what it would have been like if he'd chosen a different path… What if he'd given up on his rebuffed advances toward Zoe? She wouldn't carry the burden of pain that she does now. What if the ship had never taken in the fugitives? He wouldn't have died, at least not in that confrontation and he could have easily seen that they arrived a day later to Persephone. It would irritate the Captain to no end but it would solve most of their problems, wouldn't it? Let someone else deal with Simon and his crazy sister…

Mentally, he sighed, wishing but also having no hope that such a change could or would happen. What had he done to deserve a second chance?

Without warning, a wave of white light engulfed him and he knew nothing more.

"Wash I told you to get the gorram ship moving. We need to be at Persephone earlier rather than later."

"I'm doing my best Captain," Wash snarked in reply. "Ship doesn't fly faster than it physically can. Besides, it still needs some replacement parts. Ship also doesn't fly without necessary pieces."

"I can't buy pieces without money. And I can't get money till we get a good job and we can't get that without a gorram ship. Do what you have to, but keep her flying. And shave off that gorram mustache."

"It's on my face," Wash replied.

"Which is on my ship. And it looks…"

"Kinda cute," Kaylee interrupted. "Dontcha think Captain?"

"Stop flirting and get back to work Kaylee," Mal input.

Zoe raised an eyebrow. "Yes, please, don't encourage him. It's the last thing he needs." This very odd man had spent his time on board split between his job piloting and his off time, devoted to pursuing her. She then turned and left the bridge.

"That's just how they are," Kaylee added helpfully, giving Wash a small smile. "Don't mean nothing by it."

"I know. I just… she fascinates me," Wash replied. "But she and Mal seem kinda tight."

"Oh they went through the war together and everything." Kaylee's smile was innocent. "And she's not the only woman on the ship y'know." Yes, her smile was innocent, but her intentions were anything but.

He started to say something to her, to object, but stopped. Why should he ridicule her for pursuing him when he was doing the same to Zoe? He shrugged it off instead, concentrating on his flying.

Kaylee left a short time later, not particularly discouraged or bothered by Wash's lack of response. She was content with the flirting and she really did just like being around the pilot. Somehow she also exuded a strange confidence that the universe would take care of itself and what was meant to be would happen, regardless of or perhaps despite her efforts.

Wash was left, still a bit puzzled, at his pilot's seat on the bridge but sat in silence until Mal came back. "You really ought to leave Zoe alone," he said out of the blue, an undertone of… something in his voice. "She doesn't appreciate your advances."

"Or she doesn't give me a chance. Wonder why that is?" Wash asked.

"The cheesy mustache might be a start," Mal retorted.

"Or maybe it's because you're jealous and you don't want me and her to have a chance. I have eyes captain. I see how you look at her, and how she respects and obeys your wishes."

"It ain't like that at all. Shipboard romances complicate matters. Always have, always do."

"Well why aren't you telling me to stay away from Kaylee then?" Wash challenged.

"Maybe because you ain't shown no interest in her, might be why."

Wash gave Mal a look that said that he didn't buy that excuse for one moment, but he didn't say one word at all.

In response, Mal glared at the pilot's back and turned to stalk off the bridge, leaving Wash time to think. Was Zoe the type of woman he really wanted? And what about Kaylee? She seemed to have an interest in him. Zoe sure didn't.

"He's just upset that he don't have no prospects," commented Jayne, whose mind only ever went to two subjects – guns and women. "You ask me, either one of them's a good looking woman. Kaylee has taken a shine to you though. And the women that's interested in you is always easier to pursue."

"Heaven forbid you actually have to work for something. Thank you for your unwanted diatribe,"

"Whatever," was Jayne's simple and somewhat usual response. "I'm just sayin'."

That night, Wash lay in his bunk, wide awake and thinking. Everything happens for a reason. This he understood. And given the peace he felt about the decision, he felt that Serenity was the place he was meant to be at this point in his life. But he didn't want to be alone forever either.

A soft knock resounded on his door and he got up and opened it to find Kaylee standing there, smiling. "Thought you might want some company," she said softly. "Nobody likes bein' alone, specially out in the black."

Wash paused a moment, almost torn. He wanted company, but he also wanted it to be Zoe. However, things do happen for a reason. Would he be turning away his one true soulmate if he sent Kaylee away? He almost told her he was busy, ready to sleep, or something. But instead, he found himself inviting her inside.

And he was surprised. Nothing happened but conversation. Kaylee was more fascinating than he'd realized she was, despite her sheltered life. In some ways he envied her innocence, envied the childhood she'd had because his own life, while pretty good compared to some, hadn't been near as calm or pleasant as hers. They talked into the wee hours of the morning when she fell asleep, curled up on his bed. Instead of waking her, he covered her up, wrapped an arm around her and let himself drift off to sleep.

A few years down the road:

"Wash, when the hell are we due at Persephone? I'd like to get there before I have Inara complaining about meeting her deadlines again."

"Come on captain, be nice. You know Wash is doing everything he can," she smiled sweetly, and though neither could see it over the com, they could sense it.

A few minutes later, she came up to the bridge and wrapped her arms around Wash. "We takin' on passengers captain?"

"I reckon we might if we get someone seeking a voyage on the way and something approximating a good fare. I don't want to be loaded down with a bunch of useless baggage," Mal replied. "I got no use for anyone who can't pull his own weight." He paused a moment. "On second thought, not many folk's going to be headed out near Whitefall. We'll take on passengers next trip."

"I thought we needed the money?"

"It's not enough money to make a difference and I certainly don't need the trouble associated with passengers. And that's that."