Say What You Mean

Rated: PG

Category: Gen, Mal/Zoë/Simon/Jayne Friendship.
Spoilers: None.
Summary: Fun With Homophones!

Note: Written in response to the LJ prompt of 'Pie (Or Pi)' on ff_friday.

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Malcolm Reynolds had moved past drunk hours ago, and he wasn't alone. His hired mercenary had given in to his liquor and was asleep at Mal's feet on the floor of the seedy bar that was playing host to their impromptu party, but his first mate was still hanging with him drink for drink.

Mal grinned at Zoë and raised a toast.

"To balls!" yelled Mal, which made Zoë burst into laugher.

"Balls, sir?"

Mal waved a hand in the air. "I meant… bravery and stuff."

Zoë grinned. "And here I thought you meant the shape."

"Well, why not? Shapes deserve recognition, too."

"We're toasting shapes now?"

Mal clapped a hand on the table. "Yeah! To spheres!"

"To circles!" answered Zoë, getting into the spirit of things.

"To everything round!" shouted Mal, tossing back his drink. Zoë did the same and both soldiers collapsed into fits of giggles that most would've thought them incapable of.

Mal kicked his foot in his mirth and jabbed Jayne's side, but the merc merely grunted and rolled over. Mal ignored him. Suddenly, Mal's face grew serious and he turned to Zoë.

"Zo?"

"Yes?"

"You ever do math?"

"Not especially, sir."

"Damn."

"Got a need for somethin?"

"Yeah… Kaylee maybe might know…"

"Know what?" asked Zoë, ordering another round.

"That number."

"What the hell you talkin about?" slurred Zoë.

"You know, that number… it's got a name… deals with round stuff."

Zoë just raised one eyebrow.

Mal started to try to explain himself, but the arrival of their next round stopped him. Zoë grinned at her captain. "You sure you want another?" she asked.

Mal sat up as straight as he could, given the circumstances. "Absolutely," he mumbled. His speech barely resembled the word, but Zoë understood his nod. She picked up her glass and raised it toward Mal.

"What to this time?"

Mal smiled. "To that number!" It was clear that he thought he was exceedingly clever.

"Whatever it is," answered Zoë, raising her glass higher.

They clinked their glasses together and were about to drink when Jayne moaned from under the table.

"Pi," he muttered.

Mal looked at Zoë and leaned his head to one side, clearly confused. He set his glass down and leaned under the table to address Jayne.

"What about your eye?"

"Eye's fine… you want pi."

"I ain't got time for dessert, Jayne! Say what you mean."

"I did," mumbled Jayne. "It's pi."

Zoë leaned her head under the table to get in on the conversation.

"What about the sky?" she asked.

Mal shrugged and waved one finger around his ear in the universal sign for 'crazy'. "I dunno. He ain't makin no sense."

"Actually," said a new voice, "he makes perfect sense."

Mal and Zoë jumped up to see who was talking, but the table, which they'd clearly forgotten about, got in their way. They both bashed their heads on its underside, causing it to jump a few inches into the air.

When they finally managed to extricate themselves from the table, they found a very serious Simon. He was holding their latest round in his hands, which Mal took as a good sign.

"Doc!" he greeted. "Come to join the party?"

Simon sighed. "Not exactly. And somehow I think you've had enough."

Simon emptied the drinks over his shoulder, then set the empty glasses down on the table. The liquor splashed onto the floor and fully woke a very angry Jayne.

"HEY!" shouted Mal, Zoë, and Jayne together.

Jayne staggered to his feet. "What'd'ya think you're doin?"

"Keeping our esteemed officers here from pickling their brains. Come on. I never thought I'd say this, but you're the most qualified person here to help me get them back to the ship. Good thing you're a lightweight."

"I ain't a lightweight!"

"Oh, please, Jayne," said Zoë. "You passed out two hours ago."

"I was tired!"

Mal was silent through all of this, and he seemed deep in thought. Seeing Jayne had reminded him of Simon's words earlier, and he was confused. It must have shown on his face because Simon suddenly looked at him with concern, stopping Zoë's next jab at Jayne.

"Mal? You ok?"

Mal nodded slowly. "Yeah. Just don't know what you meant, is all."

"About what?"

"You said Jayne made sense."

"That's because he did."

"How?"

Simon sighed. "Do we have to do this now?"

"Yes!"

"Fine. He made sense because he answered your question. Your 'round things' number? It's pi."

"I got that pies are round, Doc, but how's numbers figure into it?"

Simon planted one hand on his face. "Not pie, Mal. Pi. 3.14159..."

Simon rambled off some more numbers, but Mal was no longer listening. He was staring at his merc with disbelief.

"Son of a bitch," mumbled Mal.

Jayne beamed, immensely proud of himself.

After a moment, Mal spoke quietly again.

"Zoë?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Did that just happen?"

"I believe it did, sir."

"Huh."

"Indeed."

"Only one thing to do then, eh?"

"I believe so, sir."

"See you in the morning, Zoë."

"Yes, sir."

Mal shook his head and allowed Simon to lead him back to Serenity. Jayne, who was now fully on the doctor's side, did the same for Zoë.

Jayne would thankfully forget the entire incident, thus sparing Mal and Zoë the constant reminder of their defeat, but while Simon held his tongue about it, he couldn't wipe a smug smile off his face for a week.

Two days later, at breakfast, Zoë leaned in close to Mal and whispered in his ear.

"I could shoot him for you, sir."

"Nah," said Mal. "I'll do it myself."

Mal never did shoot Simon, though, and eventually the grin faded, but to this day, when he's feeling especially brave, Simon Tam sometimes asks Malcolm Reynolds a simple question, and the answer never changes.

"So, what's your favorite kind of pie, Captain?"

"I hate pi."

Whenever the crew witnesses this little exchange, they all act confused except Zoë.

Zoë always laughs.