Title: A Tale of Two Dinosaurs
Rating: PG-13 to be safe
Spoilers: None, it's pre-series.
Pairings: Mal/Kaylee, Wash/Zoe
Summary: Meet Steg and Rex, two plastic dinosaurs currently residing on Serenity. Favourite pastime: people-watching. Favourite humans to watch: Mal and Kaylee.

Note: My one and only Firefly-fic, so the technical terms and the characteration are probably way off. And yep, I know that 'Captain Tightpants' is episode-specific. But I couldn't resist using it anyway. XD

Steg and Rex had been firm friends since they'd been brought together by a young boy, Marcus, on Whitefall around six years ago. They'd been on Serenity since Hoban 'Wash' Washburne had arrived planetside and fallen in love with them.

While Marcus' father had been out in the town square, held at gunpoint along with a raggedy band of off-worlders, Wash had comforted the terrified boy, sitting at the end of his bed and staging elaborate battles with Steg and Rex. Marcus had rolled his eyes and pointed out that he was almost eleven – too old for toys – but that didn't stop Wash. Grinning to hide his unease, he'd carried right on, and the dinosaurs had played along with silent amusement, wondering why these humans insisted that they had to be enemies.

When the shouts and gunfire started, Marcus had sobbed and Rex had frozen mid-lunge, held motionless in mid-air while Wash listened intently. After that, they'd been dropped into a forgotten heap on the bed, and were unclear what exactly happened next. All they knew was that after a while, Marcus' father had returned, gathering his son into a bear hug, and Wash had waved goodbye to the boy.

He'd given Steg and Rex to Wash, then. And though they sometimes missed Marcus, living on board a Firefly was exciting. They never got to see the planets the ship landed on, which disappointed Steg in particular, but the action on board Serenity more than made up for it. Sometimes gunshots, but more often, just people-watching.

Most often they were in Wash's company, and interactions between the pilot and his tough-yet-playful wife, Zoe, were frequent. Since the dinosaurs lived for the most part in the couple's quarters, they saw a wide range of behaviour; from arguments and the frosty silence of their aftermath to the thawing of that ice and the heated reconciliations, then the contented chatter that came with love and security.

Rex made a game of studying human behaviour and trying to predict what came next, and his favourite humans to analyse were not Wash and Zoe. He lived for the occasions that he and Steg were taken up to the bridge, and Mal and Kaylee dropped in on Wash.

They were both regular visitors. While Zoe and Mal were off the ship with the greedy one, Jayne, Kaylee often sat in the empty co-pilot's chair, kicking out her feet and confessing her worry for their absent ship-mates. During less tense times, they laughed and joked, their conversations ranging from wishing for engine upgrades to discussing the antics of their friends on board.

Rex liked Kaylee, who was easier to read, but Steg, once drawn into his games, was far more captivated by the captain of the ship. Malcom Reynolds, 'Mal' to his friends, was an enigma that the stegosaurus could not fathom. Rex never had much patience with puzzles, preferring to dismiss the man as complicated and secretive.

Steg, on the other hand, looked forward to Mal's visits, especially when Kaylee was also in attendance. The relationship between the pair was one of the most compelling mysteries he'd ever known, and he was determined to solve it.

It wasn't the love expressed between Zoe and Wash, in any of its laughing, bickering, comfortable forms. And it wasn't the slack-jawed desire that Jayne exhibited when Inara, the dignified Companion, appeared in one of her beautiful outfits. Nor was it the awe that Kaylee showed Inara, and the smiling, sisterly affection the older woman responded with was nowhere near the mark, either.

Rex often told Steg to give up, but the herbivore ignored him. It wasn't like there was much else to do on the ship. So when, one quiet afternoon when the ship was berthed on Athens and the crew were scattered taking care of various tasks, Steg was gratified to hear a sudden high-pitched noise emanate from the communications system.

The captain was the first on the scene, striding over to the console and scowling down at the various buttons and levers as if that would help. After a few moments, he picked up the microphone, realised the futility of the movement, and leaned out of the door, bellowing, "Kaylee! Get up here!"

"Comin', Captain!" a voice called faintly, and if the dinosaurs' plastic mouths could have curved into grins, they would have done so. Being in Kaylee's presence was always a delight.

She appeared a minute later, breathless, her hair escaping its tie in mussed tendrils. Shooting a quick smile at Mal, she leaned past him to flick a couple of switches. The noise ceased as abruptly as it had begun.

"What the hell was that?" Mal demanded.

"Nothin' to panic at, Cap'n – everything's shiny. I just wanted to fine-tune the…" She launched into a rapid-fire explanation that neither Mal nor the dinosaurs could understand a word of, which was mercifully brief.

"Huh," Mal said, eyeing his mechanic a little suspiciously. "You're not gonna turn around an' start complaining about needin' engine parts we can ill-afford this time?"

She rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "Would if it'd do me any good, only anytime we seem to get paid the money goes on somethin' else. I can keep Serenity in the sky a while longer, not to fret."

Her smile was sweet enough to provoke an answering smile from him, and he nodded his gratitude. "Mighty glad I hired you, Kaylee."

Her smile widening along with her eyes, she gave a quick, incredulous laugh. "Did you just give me a compliment? As in, a real one?"

"Why's that shock you?" Mal asked, a little defensively. "You think I don't give credit where it's due?"

She fiddled with a lock of her hair, combing it between her fingers and trying to tuck it back into its tie. "Not that… Just never thought you'd be one for complimentin' me, is all. Not like I can shoot straight, or strategise, or go on missions…"

While she fidgeted, avoiding his gaze, silence descended upon the bridge. Steg and Rex waited with bated breath, captivated by the scene.

"You got good skills," Mal told her finally. "That's more'n enough to get you my regard."

Kaylee patted his cheek before turning to double-check the configuration of the lights on the flight console, her skin flushed with the praise. "Even from a country bumpkin such as I am?"

"Raised on a ranch, myself," Mal confided casually, and she spun to face him in open-mouthed disbelief at the tidbit of information.


Amused by her surprise, he nodded. "I strike you as a city boy?"

Without seeming to realise it, he reached out a hand to wipe a smudge of engine grease from Kaylee's cheek. Startled by the unexpected gesture, she gazed up at him. "You never struck me as a 'boy' at all, Cap'n."

"Is that right?" Mal responded softly.

Steg and Rex had to agree. There was nothing childlike about this man, and the way his gaze sharpened at her words, assessing her anew, he didn't seem to view her as a girl. Tomboyish though she could be, Kaylee Frye was a grown woman.

For a time, they just stared at each other, frozen in place. Then the captain muttered a curse, which Steg and Rex were unable to understand, having never picked up the finer points of Mandarin.

They did understand it, however, when Mal pulled Kaylee into his arms and kissed her. And they understood when her arms tightened around his neck and she stood on tiptoe to respond enthusiastically.

While Steg watched gleefully, his mystery solved, Rex regarded the two with amazement. He wouldn't have guessed that the enigmatic captain of Serenity would be Kaylee's type. Then again, he was a child's plastic plaything, and not the brightest of those.

When the two broke off, Kaylee gasped breathlessly, "What about that 'no fraternisin' between crew members' rule?"

"Think that went out the hatch when Zoe disobeyed my orders and married Wash," Mal pointed out wryly, and she laughed in response, relieved.

"Don't tell Jayne. He'll be in Inara's shuttle afore you can blink."

Mal snorted. "Can we not mention Jayne right now? Please?"

"Yessir, Cap'n Tightpants!" Kaylee grinned, slipping her hands under his shirt.

He stopped her. "Kaylee… You sure you wanna do this here? On the bridge?"

Shrugging, she gestured toward the flight console and its occupants. "Why not? Ain't no one here but us an' the dinosaurs..."

And as they lost themselves in one another, Steg and Rex looked on, fascinated by a scene so different from those they'd seen in Wash and Zoe's quarters. Humans were more complex and interesting than even Steg had realised.