Chapter 12: Wash - Perils

Beta'd by KrisEleven. Many thanks!

Translations: Are here:

Ai ya. Women wanle: We're in big trouble

Gao yang zhong de gu yang: Motherless goats of all motherless goats

Bizui: Shut up

Wo de tian, a: Dear God in heaven

March 2517, Beylix

Wash steered Serenity towards the coordinates on Beylix with care, all while contemplating the benefits of being cheerful. These were many, and worth recording in times of hardship when his fellow crewmates insisted on being all warrior-like and stoic.

Firstly, being cheerful allowed him to weather such phrases as: "Wash! The gorram landing equipment broke, and we're two minutes from being out of fuel!" "Wash! The planet where we stocked up on water had a cholera outbreak!" "Fly faster, Wash! They're Reavers, not ruttin' glass dolls!" "Wash, if you bring up the sheep incident one more time..."

Secondly, being cheerful made Zoe smile. As the one who woke her up from dreams of Serenity Valley, Wash knew how precious those smiles were. He'd promised himself not to take even one of them for granted, not with her always going out on risky deals she might not come back from. He didn't care who called him a clown, if it made his wife happy.

Thirdly, cheerfulness irritated Jayne to no end. Unfortunately, the gun-happy man was not there to be annoyed. He was plastering himself with weapons in the cargo bay, ready for their meeting with the employer-neutralizer who was to buy the silk they'd found in their crates. Inara had taken herself off to service a prominent citizen - or at least Wash assumed he was prominent from the level of incense he'd sniffed on passing the shuttle. If the day went as days on Serenity usually did, cheerfulness would be called for.

"Wash, watch out for the ice when you land," Mal cautioned for the third time. "And be ready to fire us up soon as you see these folk hand over the coin."

"And, ladies and gentlemen, another trusting soul stripped of its innocence." Wash angled the ship to the left. "I don't know if you've ever heard this, but crime corrupts."

"Thought it was power that corrupted," the Captain retorted.

"Then we ought to be pure as angels. Might want to tell Jayne that he's fit all the guns he can onto the human body."

"Could be that's the proper notion." Mal went to go down the stairs.

"We'll be alright," Zoe said, reading Wash's mind. "Ain't likely to have nothing we can't deal with. And we're here before them, so there won't be no nasty traps."

Wash began bringing the ship in for landing. "I'm still going to sit here in suspense and wait for the lovely sound of your clomping boots in the cargo bay."

"Do that." Zoe kissed him and followed Mal off.

Kaylee wandered in just minutes after Wash had brought Serenity down. "You reckon they gonna be fine?" she asked anxiously. "Woulda been safer to take the cloth to Inara's people."

"You know Mal. He doesn't worry about whether trouble's going to find him so long as he can yell loud enough to scare it off."

Kaylee giggled. "Well, it'd be real nice to have some extra coin for a change. I hear Beylix grows fresh raspberries! And I know 'Nara has a little extra cream - maybe she'd be willin' to share."

"Zoe's and my anniversary is in three days," Wash said dreamily. "Not that I'm not ingenious enough to conjure a gourmet dinner out of thin air. But money does tend to help."

"You already know what you're gettin' her?"

Wash winked. "I've been planning and plotting and possibly scheming."

Kaylee leaned against the console. "Always did wonder what it'd be like to be married. My folks loved each other, right enough. But ya don't watch your parents too close when you're a kid, 'cause you're thinkin' everyone's like them."

Wash nodded. "Makes sense to me. But at least you have the stellar if often shouting example of Zoe and I before you."

"Couldn't think of a better. Can't be easy, bein' married shipside." Kaylee paused. "Sorry, don't mean to pry. Just always been curious."

"No, I get it. Not a whole lot of people around here you can ask."

"Yeah. Jayne and 'Nara ain't exactly the committed types." For a moment, Kaylee looked wistful, then it passed.

"Call the presses," Wash joked. "Jayne and Inara have something in common. You could ask Zoe too, if you want. Just no Mal, please." The last thing he wanted was for anyone else on Serenity to adapt Mal's views on matrimony.

"What's the Captain got against romancing, do ya think?"

"I don't know." Wash found himself curious. Perhaps he'd ask Zoe about it later.

The com mounted on the console crackled into life, and Inara's voice flared out of it. "Serenity, this is shuttle one, we have a problem."

Wash whirled around. "What is it?"

"It's Mahidol. He's gotten word of your pickup point and he's-"

"Wait, who?"

"Mahidol Angchuan, my client! He's with the law here in the city. Someone told him where you'd be to make the exchange, and he's sending a patrol out!"

"Ai ya! Women wanle." Wash grabbed the handheld com. "Mal! Zoe! Law's got wind of this!"

It was his wife who answered. "How long 'til they're on us?"

Wash turned toward the mounted com. "How long, Inara?"

"I would say less than a minute, if-"

"We see them, Wash," Zoe interrupted, her voice calm. "Some problems on this end. The employer got un-neutralized. He's trying to use his amateur psychology on us again. Only this time with a gun."

"I'm firing it up." Wash handed the com to Kaylee and reached for the controls.

Thirty nerve-wracking seconds later, Mal's voice buzzed through the com. "We're in! Go!"

Wash lifted off smoothly. "Kaylee, I need you in the engine room. We'll have to go for hard burn."

"But we've been going hard burn for days, we'll run down the-"

Time for the trademark cheerfulness. "Now, genius mechanic, do you think I believe you can't make it work?"

"Okay, emergency. Got it." Kaylee ran out of the room, almost bumping into Zoe, Mal, and Jayne as they dashed up to the bridge.

"Them neutralizers took off opposite direction than we did," Jayne claimed. "Law can't follow both of us."

Wash would have exclaimed over the fact that Jayne could pronounce the word neutralizer, but decided to save that for later. "Looks like they chose us."

"Gao yang zhong de gu yang!"Mal leaned forward. "Hurry, Wash, hurry!"

"If we had a credit for every time you told me to hurry, you'd be saying it a lot more often," Wash said, unfazed. "I'm going to take us out of atmo. We'll come back for Inara. Kaylee, you ready to hit that hard burn?"

"Got it all set up," came Kaylee's voice. "Won't last long, though."

Wash pushed the controls, blasting them out of atmo, and grinned at what he saw ahead. "We won't need long."

"What do ya - hey, watch it!" Jayne grabbed the back of Wash's chair as they narrowly missed an asteroid. "Ya gone off your head?" Wash ignored this, too busy steering through the group of orbiting rocks they'd encountered. "Listen! Listen, you'll get us killed, you'll-"

"Bizui," Mal ordered, tense.

Wash whipped around another asteroid, everything concentrated on guiding Serenity through the perilous route he'd deliberately dived into. The ship dove over and under the rocks, hurtling towards the center.

"They're following us, sir," Zoe said to Mal. "Ain't scared off."

Serenity spun, the gravity kicking in just a second on time. All the same, everyone felt the ship jerk and bounce. "Are we hit?" the Captain demanded.

"No," Kaylee's voice called through the com. "My girl's all good."

They were nearly through now, Wash estimated as he jerked at the controls. Serenity swerved and bucked, a rain of gravel rattling against the hull. Now, if no ship parts broke, and they didn't hit anything he couldn't see, and Jayne didn't distract him with his antics, they ought to be just fine. Easy.

"That Fed ship's still behind us," Jayne gritted out, knocking off item number one in Wash's favor. "They're gonna - oh."

"What?" Wash didn't take his eyes from his piloting.

"They're hit," Zoe told him. "I don't know if they can-"

Serenity burst out of the asteroid group and shot towards the black. Jayne cheered, and Wash heard his wife let out the breath she'd been holding. Mal clapped Wash on the back. "Those Feds can't follow us, and that's truth. Reckon they'll limp on home alright, but they'll never stay on our trail."

Kaylee's voice sounded through the com. "We gonna go back for 'Nara now?"

"We'll turn around soon," Wash promised. "Just going to take the long way so she doesn't get confused with us disreputable folk."

OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

"How long do you think we'll stay on Beylix?"

Zoe turned back from the teapot. "We got to drop off Devi's engine parts. Funny to think that's all we were hired to do in the first place. And since the employer got un-neutralized, we ain't gotten paid for the silk, so I reckon we'll be taking it to the Companion house."

Wash frowned. "So we'll be spending our anniversary here. And it's still cold."

"No naked beaches?" Zoe teased.

"A pity, yes, but I was more thinking along the lines of you not liking snow."

Zoe reached for the box of tea bags. "Won't keep me from enjoying the day."

"But perfection is so common in our lives," Wash explained earnestly. "I fear if I cannot deliver it, you will cast your eyes from me."

"Eyes ain't going nowhere," Zoe reassured him, placing tea bags into the cups and pouring hot water on top of them.

Wash tilted his head to one side. "Mal doesn't like snow either. Is it a war thing? You don't have to talk about it," he added hastily. "Just wondering."

Zoe placed the cups of tea on the table and sat down. "We spent a winter once - we got cold every year, 'course. You'd get a lot of folk with frostbite, some freezing to death." She paused a moment.

"Frostbite and freezing to death sound pretty nasty to me," Wash observed.

"Not saying they weren't. But they don't stand out to me as much as - one time, we touched down in late fall, planning to be out by the time winter rolled around. Locals didn't tell us that there was whiteouts on the way, and that year, they came early. Snow blown so hard and thick you couldn't see your hand before your face."

Wash winced. "I'm guessing with that much ice it was hard to land evacuation vessels?"

"They didn't send any. Were needed elsewhere. Reckon the Captain wouldn't of gone, in any case. Would've sent others first."

"And you'd have stayed with him." Wash tamped down hard on the small flicker of jealousy.

"'Course. Anyway, it got so the standard winter issue wasn't enough. Some of us were lucky and got extra clothes from home - me and the Captain included. But whenever someone'd freeze to death, the others would strip their gear off, use it to keep themselves warm. Couldn't grudge 'em that, but I guess that was what gave Jienson the idea..."

"To do what?" Wash prompted when Zoe didn't go on.

"We woke up one morning to find she'd slit Arden's throat and stolen his clothes. Captain was mad enough to shoot her right there, but we needed every soldier we could spare. Would've been better if he had, though, 'cause then everyone started doing it, killing each other - not just for their gear, for their rations too."

Wash stared. "Wo de tian, a.How'd it end?"

"They finally evacuated us, after maybe a third were down, from killing or just plain freezing."

"No wonder you don't like snow."

Zoe shrugged. "I can manage, if I have to."

Wash covered her hand with his. "You don't have to right now. We'll find a nice, warm, inside place to be on our anniversary."

"Like our bunk, husband?"

"Like our bunk."