Summary: Mal's shoes walk away! This is why captains don't take naps.

Disclaimer: Firefly? Not mine.

Author's Note: I wrote this as part of my Creative Writing class' fanfiction unit, which is why it's full of mini-character bios and isn't terribly complicated. When I turned it in, I put a note on it explaining where it was from and that yes, the characters did speak this way. To my delight, not only had my teacher seen Firefly, she'd gone to Serenity in theaters!


It was a captain's right, Mal figured, to take a nap if he wanted to, given that nothing else was goin' on and nothin' was gonna explode any time soon. So he had, and would have felt very self-righteous about it if not for the fact that he was so darn tired.

He woke up an hour and a half later with the feeling that he hadn't gotten enough sleep, like he could remember what 'enough sleep' felt like. Swearing grumpily and tugging on the ragged cuffs of his pants—sleeping in your clothes was uncomfortable—he swung his bare feet over the side of his bunk for his comfortable, durable boots.

They weren't there.

"Where're my gorram shoes?" Malcolm Reynolds asked his small cabin. It didn't answer. Scowling, he glared around at the walls and floor. There was little enough in the room for said shoes to hide under, but he got up and crawled around looking under his bunk and heaps of stuff he hadn't done anything about.

No boots.

Grumbling, Mal shuffled over to the hatchway and pulled down the ladder that connected his cabin to the rest of his spaceship, Serenity. "Oi!" he shouted up the ladder, hoping to attract the attention of one of his crew.

There was a second's pause before he heard "Cap'n?" coming from the direction of the bridge.

"Wash!" Mal hailed the ship's pilot. "Get over here!"

Blond, pale, and skinny, Wash walked down the short flight of stairs and peered curiously down at his captain. "O-kay…" he drawled. "What is it, Mal?"

"You seen my boots?"

Boots? wrote itself all over Wash's guileless face. "Uh…no?" he said hopefully.

Mal cursed in Chinese and hauled himself up the ladder, feet covered only in socks that had been washed and worn so often they were a nasty shade of grey, and torn and mended into knobby messes. "Someone has taken my boots," he informed Wash, "and I intend to find out who, and I aim to be a whole passel of irritated at them."

The pilot shrugged. "Wasn't me, Mal," he repeated, and headed back off to the bridge. Zoë, the ship's first mate, had followed him down. She took the time to give the captain a sardonic look. "How'd you lose your boots, sir?"

"I have no earthly idea," he told her. She smirked at him and followed her husband back to the bridge.

Irritated, Mal stopped to think about who might have taken his shoes. Why would anyone want his shoes? The answer wasn't long in coming—whenever anything went missing aboard Serenity, everyone always looked at River first.

"Doc!" the captain hollered a minute later, tromping down to Serenity's lowest deck, where the infirmary was located. "Where's that crazy sister of yourn?"

Simon Tam, the well-bred, brilliant doctor, who also happened to be a fugitive from justice, looked up from reorganizing his medical supplies, irritation creasing his young features. "River," he emphasized, "is with Inara, last I saw her. Why are you walking around in your socks?"

Mal shook a finger in his face. "Someone has stolen my boots, and the only person on this boat nutty enough to want them is your sister."

The doctor refrained from arguing with Mal's characterization of River. It was fruitless. He'd tried in the past, and it only led to a bigger argument. "Well," he eventually said placidly, sorting hypodermics filled with liquid adrenaline into a drawer, "I haven't seen your shoes, and I don't think River has them either. She doesn't wear shoes half the time anyway."

Refusing to admit that the doc had a point, Mal stomped off across the cargo hold in search of his missing shoes. He was really glad that the herd of cows they'd once transported to Jen-Jiang was far in the past. Damn, but they'd stunk. And cleaning up the mess they left had not been a lot of fun.

At the top of the stairs, he remembered to knock on the door to Shuttle 1, where Inara lived, instead of barging straight in. He then barged right in anyway, but at least he'd knocked first.

His eyes took a second to adjust from the clearly lit, utilitarian metal-spit-and-prayers environment of Serenity to the soft, rich, boudoir atmosphere of Inara's shuttle.

"Out, Mal," the lovely Companion ordered him sternly from the couch, where she was brushing River's long dark hair.

"I—" said Mal. He blew a breath out between his teeth and started over. "I'm just looking for River."

"Why?" From Inara's lap, River opened her deep brown eyes and silently stared at him. Or through him. At least, in his general direction. "And why are you wearing those horrible socks?" Her nose wrinkled in polite disgust.

"Because somebody stole my boots!" Mal complained, put on edge, as always, by the luxurious environment and a sneaking sense that he really wasn't good enough to be talking to Inara. He overcompensated, turning confrontational. "And whenever something goes missing, there's a really good chance that little sister here's the one responsible."

"But the cows are gone," said River, high priestess of the non sequitur.

Mal heaved another sigh and threw up his hands in surrender. "All right, all right, fine. Whatever." He retreated from the shuttle in a hurry.

He marched through the galley looking neither left nor right, endeavoring to ignore the restrained amusement of Shepherd Book and the open guffaws of Jayne, the resident thug, who was probably filing the Incident of Mal's Awful Socks and Missing Shoes in some mysterious Jayne database full of embarrassing anecdotes. The way things were going, he half expected to see his boots tenderizing in a saucepan for dinner.

But maybe that was because he was hungry. They really needed to pick up some kind of job soon, or they really would be eating his boots. Assuming he ever found them.

Very annoyed at being laughed at ever since he woke up, Mal stormed into the engine room, which was its usual tangle of wires, chunks of metal, and mysterious devices all oriented around the steadily spinning engine. Sensibly, he stopped in the doorway. It probably wasn't safe to step inside.

"Kaylee!" he yelled over the noise of the engine and a series of clatters and crashes coming from beneath it.

A few seconds went by, and the crashes got louder. They stopped abruptly as Kaylee, a young woman in dirty overalls with a smile and engine grease all over her face, emerged from beneath the engine. "What is it, Cap'n?" she inquired, turning that smile on him.

"You seen my boots, meimei?" he asked her.

"Boots?" Kaylee's face went blank.

"The things that go on my feet, Kaylee."

"Oh!" said Kaylee, light dawning. "Those boots. Is that why you're wearing those, um…"

"Yes, Kaylee," Mal said, patience dripping off his voice like water from an icicle about to fall, "that is why I am wearing these socks. Where are my boots, Kaylee?"

Everything Kaylee felt went straight across her face at high speed. "Um, there, I think," she admitted, craning one arm at a truly awful angle to point at a densely cluttered corner.

Mal sighed. "Why are my boots there, Kaylee?"

"'Cause they make good wrench holders?"

The captain bit back the nasty phrase he really wanted to say. "Kaylee," he said instead, "get your gorram tools out of my boots. Now."

"Sorry, Cap'n," the little mechanic said despondently as she clambered out of the well beneath the engine. "They're just such great wrench holders."

They were apparently also great screwdriver holders, and great hammer holders, and great holders for other things Mal couldn't have put a name to in several years. He accepted them back from her and immediately shook them out upside down just in case. Two bolts and a nut dropped out of one. They bounced away across the floor, vanishing into the rubble.

"Not OK, Kaylee," he told her, pulling them on over the awful socks.

"Sorry, Cap'n," she repeated, visibly drowning in misery.

"How'd you get them, anyway?" he asked her hurriedly before she could sink too deep. "They were there earlier."

"Oh!" The mechanic brightened up. "There's a sort of secret passage. Probably for maintenance. Comes out right under your bunk—among other places."

Mal instantly resolved to shove a very heavy sea chest under said bunk as quickly as possible.