Wash sat in the pilot's chair, a book held open in his left hand, scissors in his right, comb on the control panel in front of himself. He was snipping the air experimentally, snaking his right wrist around and screwing up his face as though he were trying to imagine something.
When Zoë walked up behind him on cat's feet, the way she always did, he yelled and raised up out of his seat, flailing around with the scissors and putting his wife in danger of losing an eye.
"Whoa, husband," she said forcefully, "calm down. Need that peeper for shootin'!"
Wash put the book and scissors down on the ship's console as he stood, coming out from in front of the chair and grasping Zoë's upper arms, a look of concern on his face.
"You know better than to sneak up on an armed man, honey," he said, apparently seriously.
Zoë snorted a bit before replying, "Armed? With scissors? What were you doing, anyway?"
The pilot stood up straighter and thrust out his chest, smiling proudly.
"Thought I'd learn to do something around here besides just the flying. Like cutting hair."
"Oh, I see," Zoë said, trying to keep a straight face in light of his obvious excitement. "And just whose hair you gonna cut, husband?"
"Everybody's," Wash replied, kissing his wife firmly on the lips and then releasing her to turn back and pick up his book and scissors. "And just as soon as I land this bucket of bolts, I intend to set up shop and get started."
"I heard that!" Mal exclaimed as he stepped into the cockpit just in the nick of time, giving Zoë a good cover for her sputtering laughter.
When the ship had settled to the ground and Wash had double-checked that everything was in order, he tucked his book, comb and scissors under his arm and strode out of the cockpit, jauntily whistling Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits as he made his way down the stairway to the cargo bay ramp controls. He punched the button sequence to open the doors and lower the ramp, turning to grab one of the lawn chairs and folding occasional tables stacked up against the ship's hull before going down the ramp and into the sunshine where he set the chair and table up, placed his implements and book on said table, and stood beside his makeshift salon, waiting for the rest of the crew to disembark.
Jayne and Zoë were the first ones out of the ship. Wash could have sworn that Zoë was laughing a bit as she followed behind Jayne, but she could have just been coughing from the dust the ship's landing had thrown up, and he changed his facial expression from half-closed, suspicious eyes to a bright smile as Jayne approached the chair.
"Haircut?" he inquired, showing the big man his scissors with one hand and indicating the chair with the other.
"Why not?" replied Jayne, sitting down and shifting around to get comfortable before hiking one booted foot up into the air and resting it on the other thigh.
Wash came around to stand behind his first customer, trying to ignore his wife – who still appeared to be choking – and took a good look at the mercenary's head.
Jayne's hair was about one quarter of an inch long all over his head, and when Wash tried to catch some of it up to start cutting, the hairs slipped out from between the blades of the scissors, rendering their first loud snick completely impotent.
Pausing for a moment and unsure of what to do next, Wash hurriedly grabbed his book, flipping through the pages until he reached the end. He shot Zoë a look of desperation and put the book back on the table, deciding to try the comb and see if that helped.
Nope, didn't. The comb was no better at capturing Jayne's short hair than the scissors alone had been, but Wash figured that he should just carry on full steam ahead as if he actually knew what he was doing.
Scraping the comb all over Jayne's head, Wash moved the scissors near it, snipping into the air as he went. When he figured he had done this for as long as an actual hair cut might take, he took a pace backwards and declared, "There! All done!" with a decisive tone of finality.
Jayne brushed his hand over the top of his head, a speculative look on his face and, apparently satisfied, stood up and turned towards the pilot, saying, "You did a good job there, Wash. Much obliged," and he turned and sauntered away from the chair, not seeing the look of relief on Wash's face.
Next out of the ship was Shepherd Book, and when Wash offered him a cut, he declined, saying something about his order and their centuries-old custom of not cutting their hair before he excused himself to walk to the town, trailing a couple of hundred feet behind Jayne.
Kaylee, seeing the chair and scissors, didn't wait for an invitation.
"Oooh, a haircut!" she squealed, plopping down in the chair and running her fingers through her thick brown tresses. "I like it long, though, Wash, so just a bit off the ends, okay?" and she turned and fixed him with a stern stare for a moment before turning back to the front.
This made Wash so nervous he didn't even ask how much was "just a bit" so he decided to err on the side of caution, gently combing to straighten Kaylee's hair out and snipping an infinitesimal amount off all around the bottom edge.
When Wash had finished and stepped back again, telling Kaylee he was done, she exclaimed, "Already? That was quick!" and dropped her eyes to inspect the ground around the chair to see how much the pilot had chopped off.
"Ain't nothin' there," she said, the frown back in place.
Wash, dragging one toe through the dirt and turning his eyes down and away from Kaylee's face, muttered, "Wind blew it away," and was again relieved when the mechanic accepted this explanation and called out her thanks as she ran to catch up with the preacher.
Inara was the one who looked nervous this time as she exited Serenity and approached the chair, biting her lip when Wash offered her a cut and blurting out that her house had strict rules about how a Companion's hair was to be tended. She flashed both Wash and Zoë a guiltily apologetic look before spinning around and fleeing after Kaylee as quickly as was dignified.
Mal, smiling, thumbs in his waistband, came down the ramp and asked, "What's up?" immediately sitting when he understood that he could get a free haircut.
Wash smiled when he saw the length of the captain's hair in contrast to Jayne's and thought he might finally have a head he could do something with. He attacked Mal's shock of wild growth with the comb, but no matter how he tried to hold it in place so he could cut with the scissors, it seemed to either evade capture by flopping to one side or the other, escape the comb's teeth, or wiggle out from between the scissors' blades like a greased pig at a Founder's Day picnic and slither away.
Once again, Wash resorted to a fake trim, making lots of snipping noises and at least giving Mal a good comb-through before releasing him. The captain assessed the result by running his fingers through it, quickly returning the brown locks to their usual disarray, and commented that Wash had done the cut just the way he liked it.
Zoë wasn't even trying to hide her laughter by this time, and when River – accompanied by Simon – came out and sat down, patiently awaiting her cut, Wash was feeling frustrated and a little out of sorts. He pulled the comb roughly through River's long, tangled hair and finally gave up after he couldn't stand to hear her sharp cries of "Ow!" any longer. She got up and started walking to the town, holding on to Simon's arm with one hand and the back of her head with the other, turning her eyes back to glare over her shoulder at Wash once or twice, leaving Zoë as the only remaining customer.
She dutifully sat down and waited for her haircut, willing to live with whatever her husband managed to do, good or bad, since she could see how disheartened he was.
He picked up some strands of her long corkscrew hair with the comb and pulled them straight, by this time not at all surprised that they should immediately jump free and spring back into place.
Giving up, Wash put the comb and scissors back on the table and leaned down a bit to lay the side of his head on Zoë's breasts when she stood and embraced him, stroking his hair and murmuring conciliatory phrases while he pouted his disappointment in the failed enterprise.
Wash waited a few minutes longer than was probably necessary to repair his ego so he could enjoy his wife's ministrations. Finally raising his head, he kissed her tenderly, then exclaimed, "Hey, I can always learn how to cook!"