Disclaimer: I don't own it. Everything you recognise belongs to Joss. No infringement is intended
and I'm certainly not making any money from this story.
Summary: River is determined to win her captain over. Told in eleven short scenes.
Author's note: Set some time after the movie. In this scenario Inara has left again, a good while
before this takes place.
She sits on the bench at the entrance to the store, while Mal and Zoe are inside getting some supplies, and the
Wooing Mr. Reynolds
owner's black-spotted dog trots up and stands expectantly at her feet. River casts a quick glance behind her,
through the windows, at the captain, then sighs, returning her attention to the dog.
"Might have ruined it," she says, stroking its head, and the dog cocks its ears at the sound of her voice, stumpy
tail wagging. "He won't speak to me." Her brows pinch. "I haven't been alone with him, since it happened."
Since she kissed him. Though she continues patting the dog, her mind goes astray. Serenity had been
night-hushed, they had talked like that a thousand times, but his smile had been—crinkling his eyes and—his
hand had brushed her knee, and it had seemed a logical thing, as natural as breathing, more, to close the space
between and press her lips to his. And he had stilled, so stunned, but then, an instant before he pulled free,
kissed her back. At the memory, heat rushes up her body and into her face. He had. For real, and not imagined.
But not mentioned it again.
"What should I do?"
The dog licks her fingers, and it's a small comfort, but no answer.
xxShe stalks him through the passage and onto the catwalk, a shadow at his back. "You're avoiding me," she
accuses. "Do you think you can make it go away, if you pretend it never was?"
He halts and she has to do the same or bump into him, but regrets not colliding, unbalancing him, when he turns,
his expression set, his shoulders squared against her. "That ain't the—"
"I was nineteen last month," she interrupts, pushing him with words instead. "Nineteen candles on the cake. Blew
them all out and wished you'd notice me."
He swallows, his adam's apple moving. "Don't I always?"
"As crew. Or a friend," she agrees. "Not as a woman."
"River," he says, cautioning her, but he won't look at her full on. "We ain't having this discussion, and that's that."
"Is it?" She pauses, pondering. "I'm not inexperienced, or a virgin." There. He gazes at her with sharp inquiry,
and she adds, "A boy on Persephone."
He frowns. "The one you waved to a while?"
She nods, and means to elaborate, but Zoe emerges below and catches sight of them. "Sir? Do you have
Grasping the opportunity, he calls out, "I'll come down."
"We kissed, you and I," River says, low. "It wasn't nothing. It matters."
The spark of emotion is unwitting, and she soaks it up like the sun, as he escapes from her, taking the stairs by
two's, his hand trailing along the railing. What she needs, she decides, is a different approach.
xxWhen next they are planetside, she buys flowers, five roses, not quite in bloom, their petals a dark red. She
sneaks them aboard the ship and hides them in her room, trimming the stems to within a few inches of the bud,
not intending to bring them to him bunched together, but rather one by one, for a spread-out effect.
Slipping into his quarters undetected is problematic, a feat of stealth, and though she's curious, she doesn't stay
to explore. It would be like picking his brain too deep, not fair and he wouldn't like it. But she bends briefly over
his pillow, before she places the rose upon it, drawing in the scent of him.
He eyes her oddly, the following morning, and with a certain wariness, the second. The third evening, as she's
heading to accomplish her mission, he appears from the direction of the bridge, and it doesn't surprise her, she
slows to wait for him.
"Roses?" he says, gesturing at the flower sticking out from under her sleeve.
She lifts her chin up at his tone. "It's customary, isn't it?"
Confusion flits across his features. "Customary?"
"When you woo someone," she clarifies. "You give them flowers."
"I don't—you're wooing me?" he asks, sounding incredulous.
"Yes," she says. "To win you over."
He runs a hand through his hair. "Are you serious?"
"Completely." She holds out the rose to him, wondering, with a flutter of nerves, if he'll reject it. "Wouldn't do it
if I weren't. You should know that."
He hesitates, then takes the flower gingerly, with his fingertips, as if he's afraid that it, or she, might bite or sting him.
"We'll be off in a day or so," he says, his voice strained. "Ain't no roses to be had in the black."
"Don't worry," she replies, her lips twitching. "I have it figured out."
And he mutters, scarcely audible, "Oh, God."
xxWith Serenity in flight, River resorts to notes: scissor-cut strips of paper, on which she pens down little messages
and snatches of verse. Since he's begun locking her out—stubborn man—she has to be inventive, and after some
deliberation, settles on putting the notes, neatly rolled up, in the mug he uses for morning coffee, counting on the fact
that he's usually the first to rise.
He keeps his temper in check longer than she anticipated, it's nearly a week before he snaps and confronts her on
the bridge, brandishing one of the notes in the air. "This here's plain crazy. It's gotta stop!"
He's angry, huffing and puffing, but that's not all he is, all she senses, and she says, "Methinks you protest too much."
He blinks, losing the thread of his argument. "Shénme?"
"If you didn't care, would you mind the notes?" she asks. "You're not at gunpoint. You don't have to read them."
"Can't gorram well ignore them, can I, when you're writin' fancy poetry and the like?" he retorts, and waves the note
at her. "You dreamed of me last night?"
She tilts her head, boldly sweeping her gaze over him, up and down. "You had less clothes on. But I might not have
got the details right. If you show me, I can compare."
"You—" He struggles with it, his cheeks tinged with colour, then blurts out a frustrated, "What the guĭ am I to do
It's a perfect opening to strike, she can't hope to resist, and her suggestion is light, but her heart is treacherous and
pounding. "Love me?"
His eyes widen, at that, a startled, brilliant blue. He crumples the note in his fist, and strides away.
xxDiscovering that he's on his own in the galley, in the midst of polishing his boots, she hops up to sit on the table,
arranging her skirt at mid-thigh, her bare feet on the seat of a chair. "Hi."
"Hey you." He glances at her, and does a double take, fumbling with the brush. "Tiān xiăodé, could you hitch that
higher if you tried?" Before she can reply, he says, "Don't answer that. And I'd be obliged if you didn't attempt it."
She studies him, fiddling with the hem of the skirt. "Does it bother you?"
Her breath catches. "Yes?"
"No," he amends.
"Can't be both," she replies. "Has to be one or the other." She stretches her left leg, flexing at the ankle and toes.
"Is it that my legs are ugly? The wrong shape?"
"They're damn fine, that's the—" He clamps his mouth shut, clipping the sentence, and scowls. "You're baiting
me on purpose."
"It's so easy," she says, with affection, setting her foot down. "I suppose touching is out of the question?"
"Touching?" he hedges, a muscle ticking at his temple.
"You," she explains. "Touching me. Me touching you. It would be shiny, wouldn't it? Much better than doing it
He makes a choked noise, and oh, he pictures it, she can see the tremble in him, he might—but voices echo from
the passage, this is no hour for privacy. She slides to the floor in haste, letting her skirt drop to its normal position,
a modest level, just before Zoe and Kaylee arrive.
xxShe gambles, to gauge his reaction, not leaving him notes two days in a row. He puzzles over it, that's obvious,
but she's resolved not to bring up the subject unless he asks, even though she's on pins, on needles. Maybe he
won't. It's possible. Not probable, but possible. She has her fingers crossed, in case.
She's browsing a book, ensconced on the couch outside the infirmary, when he descends the stairs, and she tenses,
but doesn't acknowledge his presence. Makes a point not to, turning the pages like she's reading. He wavers, the
silence between them grows grating and deafening loud, then finally says her name.
She looks at him. "Do you need me?"
It's innocent—almost—her inflection is even, but he flinches and folds his arms over his chest. "You given up on it,
He shifts, shuffling in discomfort. "That whole wooing nonsense."
"You told me to stop," she reminds him, and closes the book, putting it aside. "So I did. Thought you'd be pleased."
His jaw tightens, and his hands, gripping above his elbows. "Yeah, right," he says. "Course I am."
It rings false, she can hear it, she can feel it, and as soon as he's gone, continuing to the cargo bay, she flops back
on the couch, head tipped towards the ceiling, grinning from ear to ear.
She resumes the note writing that evening.
xxIt can't last, and it doesn't. She enters the galley, one morning, and Simon smiles at her in greeting, then says, not
to her, but to Jayne, who's over in the kitchen area, "Really? What kind of paper?"
A chill goes through her, and the sinking realisation that Mal isn't up, he's late, while Jayne has rummaged around
in the cupboards, and this isn't how she intended for Simon to find out.
"Hang on," says Jayne, approaching them. "There's somethin' writ on it." His forehead creases. "Huh. That don't
make no sense. Who'd be after kissing Mal now that 'Nara ain't here?"
She fleetingly considers tackling him. She could grab the note, tear it up and gulp it down, but that would still betray
her, like her handwriting will, once Simon glimpses it, and she makes the choice in a heartbeat, a painful thud. "Me.
The note is mine."
"You?" Jayne gapes. "And Mal? No ruttin' way!"
But she pays little heed to his outburst, and more to her brother, whose features cloud over as he demands the note
from Jayne and skims it. "Mèimei?" he questions, fixing her with a narrowed stare. "How long has this been going on?"
"It hasn't," she replies, defensive. "Not like you believe, at least. He—"
At that moment, Mal bursts into the room, his pace hurried. He's pale at the edges and disarrayed, like he's slept
in his clothes, and when he takes in the scene, the three of them clustered near the table, he curses.
"Apparently, according to this," Simon says, advancing on Mal and shoving the note into his hands, "my sister thinks
you're wonderful, Captain Reynolds. Is it true that you've kissed her?"
Mal gives a wry quirk of lips. "Fact is she did the—"
Which is as far as he gets, before Simon punches him out.
xx"I'm sorry," she says, leaning on tiptoe over the railing of the catwalk, her hair falling down a curtain. "Does it hurt
"Only when I laugh," Mal replies, from where he stands beside her, "so don't you go making me."
"I won't." She straightens, regarding him. He could have used the tumult of events as an excuse not to be with her,
but he hasn't, he's willingly in her company. "It had to come out. And it went okay. Except for Simon."
"Like as not he's plannin' to kill me in some gruesome manner as we speak," he says, with grim humour. "Because
"Wouldn't let him," she assures, at which his mouth curves ever so slightly. "He stomps up a storm, but he'll have
to accept it. He usually does, in the end, when I want something badly enough."
His gaze searches hers. "It being me you're wanting that bad?"
"Didn't the notes convince you?" she chides. "You should re-read them."
"Well," he replies, and rests his arms on the railing. "I did. And spent most the night pacing a hole in the gorram carpet."
"Oh," she says, pieces connecting. "That's why you overslept."
He nods, and contemplates the empty vastness of the cargo bay in pensive quiet, then asks, "Wonderful?"
She smiles. "Wonderful."
xx"No," she flares out, her patience fast dwindling to non-existence. "You promised, both of you, to sit down and talk."
"Weren't we?" Mal replies.
Simon, on a chair opposite, the table a line marked in sand, do not cross, throws up his hands. "River. Surely you
"Don't do that," she counters. "You're bickering. Like children." She glares at each of them, the men in her life,
consequential, important, and exasperating, then flings, "It isn't attractive," at Mal, and, "You couldn't even
make me change my mind when I was three," at Simon. It gives them awkward pause, and she forges ahead,
"You care about me, don't you?"
"Mèimei," says her brother.
"Darlin'," says the captain.
"Good," she states. "Then solve this. For me. Dŏng ma?"
She abandons them to deal with it, those words resounding, and wanders a restless path around the ship, while Kaylee
seeks to encourage, Jayne rolls his eyes, and Zoe says, "Neither of 'em's stupid. Give them an hour. That should do it."
On River's return to the galley, the two are worse for wear, wrung out but calmed, and they confirm there's been an
agreement. She hugs her brother first, then Mal, then Simon again, until he, chuckling, begs for mercy.
xxHer dress is blue pattern printed, and Kaylee's helped put up her hair. She hunts down the captain, twirling on one
boot in front of him, and he clears his throat, asking, "What's the occasion?"
She seizes his hand, brooking no refusal. "I'm taking you out."
He looks blank. "Out?"
"For dinner," she says. "In the town. Zoe will keep everything under control."
"She will? Conspiring against me, are you?" he grumbles, but lets himself be dragged along.
It's a tiny, tucked-in-a-corner restaurant, with candles flickering. Her legs are practically grazing his, under the table,
and it burns in her, the proximity, stronger than the drink, she barely remembers to eat for staring at him.
"You'll turn my head like this," he remarks, at dessert.
"That's the idea," she replies, and reaches to steal a slice of fruit from his plate. He arches his brows, but doesn't
comment, merely pushes the remaining slice to that side for her, and she beams at him.
When they get back to Serenity, Jayne and Zoe are in the cargo bay, and while Mal converses with Zoe, River
peeks into the infirmary, where her brother claims he's taking stock. "No, you're not," she says, gently. "You can
go to bed now. Shouldn't let Kaylee lie waiting."
He harrumphs, but she kisses his cheek, then shoos at him and with a laugh, he complies. Shortly after Simon has
retired, Mal joins her, and she informs him, "I'll walk you home."
"Through the ship?"
"There might be dangers lurking," she says, aiming for gravity and succeeding. Mostly. "Things that go bump. I can
"No doubt," he replies. "Lead on, then."
She does, up and past and to his quarters. Once outside, he faces her and he won't act, she can tell by signs and
readings, so she does, hand on his shoulder, hand at his nape, meeting him mouth to mouth. He groans and responds,
palms tracing, fingers over her spine, so warm, flush against her—yes—and she breaks it, with a whispered,
Aware that he's watching, she half dances, humming, down below.
xxHe comes knocking at her door, and she allows him across the threshold. "It's messy," she says, because it is,
clothes are strewn and her bed is unmade. "I've been distracted."
She removes some of the clutter from the chair so that he can take a seat, then perches on the bed. He's in her
room. He has seen it before, but not had cause to linger, and he seems out of place and yet like he fits.
"I expect you've a notion what it's about," he says, cutting precise to the issue. "If we do this, make a go of it—it
ain't gonna be all roses and candlelight. It mightn't work."
"Can't rule it out until we've tried," she reasons. "Besides, you know me—odd habits and bad—and I know you.
That isn't a poor start, is it?"
"No," he concedes, smiling.
She continues, a tug in her chest, "Are we? Making a go of it? Like a proper relationship?"
"One step at a time," he replies. "Hăo ma?"
"As long as it's forward, not back. And there's kissing." She flashes him a grin. "I couldn't do without."
"That so?" His eyes glint. "Don't reckon I could, either."
The outright admission, the ease of it, is a sheer, giddy thrill. "Would have saved us a lot of trouble," she teases,
"if you had said so weeks ago."
He snorts in amusement. "Never had a fightin' chance, did I, with you that hell-bent on it?"
She shakes her head, and says, brightly, "I won you over."
He sobers, and his expression is—becomes—she's breathless, even before he replies, "Yes, you did."