SETTING: Episode 1- Serenity

I am sitting at the dining table, looking at each of the passengers. Mal is talking and everyone seems to be listening intently. He's always been able to do that. Every time he talks, it's almost like everyone is just forced to listen.

"Meals are taken up here in the dining area," Mal explains, "kitchen's pretty much self-explanatory. You're welcome to eat what there is any time. What there is is pretty standard fare, I guess, protein in all the colors of the rainbow. We do have sit-down meals, next one being at about eighteen-hundred."

"I think Shepherd Book has offered to help Rae and I prepare something," Kaylee says. I see Shepherd Book smile. I can tell that he is going to be my favorite passenger.

"You're a Shepherd," Mal asks.

"I thought the outfit gave it away," Shepherd Book says, "Is it a problem?"

"Of course not," Kaylee exclaims, "it's not a problem, 'cause it's not."

"No," Mal says, "as I said, you're welcome to visit the dining area any time. Apart from that, I have to ask you to stay in the passenger dorm while we're in the air. The Bridge, Engine Room, Cargo Bay, they're all off limits without an escort."

"Some of my personal effects are in the Cargo Bay," Simon says. I shoot a glance at him. He has a strange look on his face. He seems almost, scared.

"I figure you all got luggage you're gonna need to get into," Mal says, "soon as we're done here, we'll be happy to fetch them with you." I see Wash walk into the dining area. "Now, I have to tell you all one other thing, and I apologize in advance for the inconvenience. Unfortunately, we've been ordered by the Alliance to drop some medical supplies off on Whitefall. It's the fourth moon on Athens. It's a little out of our way, but we should have you on Boros no more than a day off schedule."

"What medical supplies," Simon asks. This is not good for him or frankly anyone else. He should not be asking about our personal business.

"I honestly didn't ask," Mal says, annoyed.

"Probably Plasma, Insulin, whatever they ain't got enough of on the border moons," Zoe buts in.

"Alliance says jump..." Mal says. I can tell he doesn't like this.

"Alright," Simon says. He isn't good at hiding his worried look.

Mal claps, "Zoe, you wanna take 'em to the Cargo Bay?"

"Yes, sir," Zoe smiles and starts walking.

"Anything else you need," Mal adds, "just ask. We, uh, live to serve." Mal and Wash walk back over to the Bridge. I follow them.

"Did you send word to Patience," Mal asks Wash.

"Ain't heard back yet," Wash says, "Didn't she shoot the both of you one time?" Wash asks both Mal and I.

"Yep," I say, "An' I still ain't takin' a likin' to Mal's idea of seein' her again."

Wash and I walk off and I hear Mal say from behind us in an incredulous voice, "everybody's makin' a fuss." I walk over to the hallway leading to the Cargo Bay. I have to go see what everyone's doing.

Mal is standing at the top of the first staircase and I can see Shepherd Book walking up to him. I can tell that Mal isn't happy with a shepherd being on board. I like the idea, maybe he'll bring some faith on board to this ship. I just hope that Mal doesn't cause a big deal with Shepherd Book being here. Shepherd Book hands Kaylee a box and a bag. That must be his payment. Inara walks out of her shuttle and I see Mal stare at her. She looks beautiful, wearing a long, flowing red dress.

"Ah," Mal says, "the Ambassador graces us with her presence."

"Hello Mal," Inara says, looking at Shepherd Book, "I see we have some new faces."

"Hey, you," Kaylee giggles and smiles at Inara.

"Hey, you," Inara replies. She looks up at me, "hello to you, too, Rae!" I wave at her, laughing and jumping down the stairs. When I reach her, I greet her with a hug.

"Hi to you," I smile, letting go of the hug, "we missed ya."

"I missed you, too," Inara smiles. She turns her attention back to Shepherd Book and Mal.

"Ambassador," Mal introduces, "this is Shepherd Book."

"I'd have to say," Inara greets Shepherd Book, "this is the first time we've had a Preacher on board."

"Well," Shepherd Book says, "I wasn't expecting to see a state official either. Ambassador." They shake hands. Mal laughs and Inara looks annoyed. If Mal is mean about this, I'm going to punch him right in the jaw. Preacher looks confused, "I'm missing something funny."

"Not so funny," I snarl and glare at Mal.

"'Ambassador' is Mal's way of-" Mal cuts her off.

"She's a whore, Shepherd," Mal states bluntly. Preacher looks shocked and I am fighting off the urge to push Mal off the stairs.

"The term is 'Companion'," Kaylee says, trying to make is better.

"I always get those mixed up," Mal says. I am fuming. If he says another word, I swear, everyone will see steam pouring out of my ears. Mal continues on, "how's business?"

"None of yours," Inara says as calmly as possible.

Mal turns to Preacher after getting slightly annoyed with Inara's comeback, "She is pretty much our Ambassador. There's plenty of planets wouldn't even let you dock without a decent companion on board." Preacher looks uncomfortable and I can see the gears in Mal's head turning, "This- This isn't a problem for you, is it, Shepherd?"

"Well..." Shepherd stammers, "I...I certainly-" Inara cuts him off kindly.

"It's all right," Inara says. I can tell she's hurt but after all these years of Mal being mean to her, she's learned to hide it, "I mostly keep to myself... when I'm not whoring." Inara turns to walk away.

"Don't you wanna meet the rest of the bunch," Mal asks rudely.

"Why don't you make sure they want to meet me first," Inara shoots back. I look from Inara and Kaylee walking off to Mal. These are the times when I absolutely despise Mal. I glare at him and our eyes meet for a split second. I punch his arm as hard as I possibly can and then I stomp off after Inara and Kaylee. I hear him call out "ow!" I can hear Kaylee and Inara talking as I catch up with them.

"So," Kaylee inquires, "how many fell madly in love with you and wanted to take you away from all this?"

"Just the one," Inara laughs lightly, "I think I'm slipping."

"Well," I say, "I don't know about you but I think your doing just fine. I've been on this boat for just as long as Zoe and Mal and I ain't gotten one guy to fall for me."

"That's not true," Kaylee says.

"What do you mean," I ask.

"You got Jayne starin' at ya almost twenty-four/seven," Kaylee giggle and then sighs, "now me on the other hand, I-" I cut her off.

"What do ya mean, I got Jayne," I ask. The butterflies in my stomach return.

"Rae, you can't be serious," Inara laughs, "I am off this ship a lot more often then you and even I've noticed it."

"Well," I try to figure out what to say. I look around for an excuse to get away from this conversation, "Kaylee, c'mon. We gotta start whippin' up some grub."

"Got it," Kaylee says, "sorry Inara. We'll talk to you later." Kaylee and I walk off, Kaylee carrying the box filled up with payments and I'm left to contemplate what we had just talked about. Jayne? Really? I only thought that we were friends. That's what we had to be. That's the only way he seemed to think. Still, what if they were right? What then? I am shaken out of my thought process as Kaylee and I walk into the kitchen. Kaylee opens up a box and pulls out a strawberry. I stare. She looks at me and I smile.

"Kaylee," I say, "if I know anything it's that you have an obsession with strawberries. I ain't gonna ask for it. No chance. You go ahead, have it." She nods at me and then turns back to the strawberry. She smells it and then takes a bite. I can see her savoring every last bit of it. I laugh a bit and then sit down on the edge of the table. Then we start to make dinner.

Everyone is gathered around the table. Zoe is getting up to get some food and I am sitting in between Jayne and Preacher. The table is loaded with so much food. Kaylee and I exchange light smiles. It took a lot of work to prepare all this but it's worth it. I can hear the light chatter of how good the food is or how starving people are. I can hear Jayne complaining about how there's not enough food and how it won't last long. I roll my eyes, scoff, and then get right back to eating or listening to Preacher talk about different things.

"They're not the same when they're frozen," I hear Preacher say to Simon. He's talking about the tomatoes. He was kind enough to bring them from the Abbey garden, "the important thing is the spices. A man can live on packaged food from here till Judgment Day if he's got enough rosemary." I laugh into my food. I know exactly what he's talking about. I can almost feel Jayne staring at me. I turn around.

"Yes, Jayne," I smile at him. I am actually quite curious to see what he says.

"What're you laughing about," Jayne asks. He actually is curious.

I think for a second on how to explain it to him and then decide to not even try, "it's nothin'. Just a cookin' joke."

"Oh, right," Jayne smiles slightly and then goes back to eating. I turn back around to listen to Preacher again.

"Captain," Preacher asks, "do you mind if I say Grace?" My mouth opens in shock partially. Mal won't like this. I just hope he's not too rude about it.

"Only if you say it out loud," Mal says. My eyes close in annoyance. Of course Mal decides to be rude. I look at Preacher. He looks a bit shocked by Mal's answer. It gets quite all of a sudden and I see Preacher close his eyes and clasp his hands together. I am not religious, but Preacher seems so nice, I decide to say do it with him. I can see Jayne and Kaylee close their eyes and do the same things as Preacher. I do so as well. My eyes shut and hands clasped I wait for a few seconds.

"So," Simon asks, breaking the silence. I intake sharply and glare at him. Simon goes on, "does it happen a lot? Government commandeering your ship, telling you where to go?"

"That's what Governments are for, get in a man's way," Mal says. I can tell he doesn't like Simon but right now, I don't care what Mal thinks. I am still angry at him for being mean to Inara and Preacher. Sometimes it's hard to imagine me being related to such a heartless person.

"Well," Dobson says. It's the first time I've ever even heard him speak. He's the only other passenger and not a seemingly smart one at that. He's a bit older then Mal and he's not attractive in the slightest, "it's good if the supplies are needed."

"We're just happy to be doin' good works," Jayne says with a full mouth. He smiles at me and then goes back to eating. I am listening too intently to the conversation to return the smile.

"I hear a lot of the border moons are in bad shape," Dobson says, "plagues and famine."

"Well," Zoe says, sitting in between Mal and Dobson, "some of that's exaggerated, and some of it ain't. All those moon, just like the central planets, they're as close to Earth-that-was as we can make 'em. Gravity, atmosphere and such, but-" Mal cuts her off.

"Once they're terraformed," Mal says, "they'll dump settlers on there with nothin' but blankets, hatchets, maybe a herd. Some of 'em make it. Some of 'em..."

"Then I guess it's good we're helping," Simon says. Apparently, Simon's been listening to this conversation just as much as I have. Mal looks up at him and then back down to his food.

"You're a doctor, right," Kaylee asks. I didn't know he is a doctor.

"Oh, uh..." Simon stutters. He wipes his lips with a napkin and continues, "yes, I was a trauma surgeon on Osiris, the Capital City."

"Long way from here," Mal says. That's exactly what I am thinking.

"You seem so young to be a doctor," Kaylee smiles. I can tell she's doing her best to flirt with him. I can't blame her, either. He is pretty good looking and he seems just about her age.

Simon looks around awkwardly and then smiles at her slightly, "yeah. You're pretty young to be a ship's mechanic." I turn slightly to look at Mal to see his reaction to this small talk but my attention focuses on Jayne. I can tell he's just dying to say something stupid just to embarrass the both of them.

"Don't know how," Kaylee giggles. She is just loving the attention she's getting from this young, attractive man. She looks at me quickly and I give her a quick little wink. She gets braver and starts talking again, "machines just got workin's, and they talk to me."

"That's a rare gift," Preacher says. I smile. Kaylee is one little gift to the world.

"Well," Kaylee smiles, "not like bein' a doctor. Helping fix people, that's important."

"Little Kaylee here just wishes you was a Gynecologist," Jayne chuckles. Simon looks embarrassed, but not even close to as much as Kaylee. Poor Kaylee looks horror-struck. I snarl, turn to Jayne, and then I punch his chest.

"Ow," Jayne exclaims, "Gorram it! Whacha go doin' that for!?"

"Jayne," Mal looks actually angry. Mal loves Kaylee like she's his daughter. I'm glad Mal cuts me off or else I would have said something that should never be said at dinner tables, "you will keep a civil tongue in that mouth, or I will sew it shut. Is there an understanding between us?"

"You don't pay me to talk pretty," Jayne growls. His hand is rubbing his chest. I made sure I punched him hard, "just because Kaylee gets lubed up over some big-city dandy-"

"Walk away from this table right now," Mal says. This isn't a challenge, it's an order. Jayne looks shocked. After a few seconds, Jayne gets up, slams another spoonful of mashed potatoes and then grabs his plate and cup and storms off. I close my eyes, put my arms up on the table and I lay my head in my hands.

"What do you pay him for," Simon asks, breaking the awkward silence. I look up slightly from my hands and I stare at Mal. I am wondering what Mal is going to say and I think everyone else is wondering, too.

"What," Mal asks. He is shocked by this question.

"I was just wondering what his job is... on the ship," Simon questions. My head is raised completely off my hands now and I am staring from Simon to Mal and back to Simon again.

"Public relations," Mal says. I bite my cheek to stop myself from laughing. I push myself out of my spot and I put my plate in the sink, washing it and then putting it away again. I turn around to see Simon and the rest of the crews incredulous faces. I chuckle and then walk off. I go into my bunk and change into a pair of shorts and a tank-top. I lay down on my bed. I quickly fall into a dreamless sleep.

I am rudely awakened by the sounds of people shouting. I jump out of bed and immediately climb up the ladder. I sprint down the halls. The shouting is coming from the Cargo Bay. I hear a gunshot and someone shouts "Kaylee!" I sprint faster then I ever have before and I am literally jumping down whole flights of stairs to get to the people. I see people scattered everywhere. Everyone seems in shock.

I jump off the last flight of stairs and I land on Dobson's back. He falls to the floor and I hear his head slam to the ground. I steady myself and then I grab his arms and pull them behind him. I slam my foot between his shoulder blades and I pull up on his arms. He cries out and I look over to Kaylee. A sound comes out of my mouth that sounds nothing like I've ever heard myself do before. It's a scream. My scream is only loud enough for myself to hear it and Preacher, who is pulling the gun out of Dobson's hands. I am shaking with anger and fear. I promised Kaylee that I would never let anything happen to her and now she's shot. I would have gladly taken that shot for her anytime. My head is spinning and nothing makes any sense. My little Kaylee can't be shot, she just can't be.

Preacher and Jayne are arguing. Simon, Mal, and Inara are gathered around Kaylee. I look to the man laying there underneath me, unconscious. The one person who hurt Kaylee. I let go of Dobson's hands and I walk in between Preacher and Jayne. I walk straight to Kaylee and I stand there. I am speechless. Zoe says something and I think she cocks a gun but none of it matters. I kneel down next to Mal. I am holding Kaylee's head and tears are welling up in my eyes. I blink back my tears but one of them falls right onto Kaylee's cheek. Mal glances at me and then looks right back at Kaylee. I wipe the tear off her cheek.

"Captain," I can hear Wash's voice over the intercom, "we've been hailed by a cruiser, ordered to stay on course and dock for prisoner transfer." Mal looks at Simon and Simon looks worried. We all seem to be worried and confused. Simon stands up.

"Change course," Simon says. He sounds scared, "run."

"Hell with you," Mal snarls, "you brought this down on us. I'm dumping you with the law."

"Mal," Inara warns.

"She's dying," Simon says.

"You're not gonna let her," Mal says. Mal is almost shaking with fury.

"Yes, I am," Simon says. I gasp and for the first time, I fully look up from Kaylee.

"N-no, y-you cant," I shout. Mal stands up angrily.

"No way the Feds'll let us walk," Zoe states.

"Then we dump him in a shuttle and leave him for them," Mal says. He is not going to do this, not while I'm breathing.

"Everybody's so mad," Kaylee says in shock. I am standing up now.

"It's okay, baby," Inara cries.

"Do you know what a stomach wound does to a person," Simon asks. He won't let her die but if Mal gives him up to the Feds, she will die.

"I surely do," Mal says.

"Then you know how crucial the next few minutes are," Simon says.

"You let her die, you'll never make it to the Feds," Zoe snarls.

"She'll still be dead," Simon says. I am getting mad. This arguing isn't getting us anywhere.

"You rich kids," Mal growls. So this is what this is about. This is why Mal hates Simon. I knew there was something there but I haven't been sure what until now. We were never rich as children and we despised all the rich people around us. They always seemed to not care about anything, "you think your lives are the only thing that matters. What'd you do, kill your folks for the family fortune?"

"I don't kill people," Simon shouts.

"The do your job," Mal shouts back.

"Turn the ship around," Simon shouts.

"Enough," I scream, "Mal, just do it! If he can fix her, let him fix her! Let him help her! We'll figure out what to do next after Kaylee's safe!"

Mal glares at me. I glare right back. I can tell he wants to say something considering that he hates to be told what to do on his own ship. I am just about ready to scream. Kaylee cries and I kneel back down, grabbing her hand. There is a moment of silence before I here Mal.

"Zoe, change course," Mal says. I let out a breath of relief.

"Help me get her up," Simon rushes. He kneels down and has Mal help him pick Kaylee up.

"Wash, change course and go for hard burn," Zoe says into the intercom, "we're runnin'." I walk into the infirmary right behind Simon, Mal, and Kaylee. Inara turns on the lights. I was never good at stuff like this. I can kill, easy, but saving people lives, not so easy. I prepare myself to help in whatever way I can. Mal moves the light over Kaylee's fragile little body.

"You have an extractor," Simon asks.

"Got a laser saw," Mal says, looking over Kaylee.

"No, that's not good enough," Simon says. He turns to me, "uh, my room, red bag." I sprint to the room. I can't even tell what I am doing. I just run as fast as I can. I see a red bag in Simon's room and I grab the whole thing. I sprint as fast as I can back. I hand Simon the red bag.

"There's nothing else you can do for right now," Simon says to me, "thank you, though." I sit down and curl up on the counter in the far back of the room. I am not going to leave. I care too much about Kaylee to leave her right now. Simon focuses as he pulls out the bullet. I see the bullet drop to the table and I let out a sigh. I see Mal do the same. Tears well up in my eyes and I look through the window closest to me. Jayne is staring at the operation. I catch his eye and he looks at me. He actually seems worried. He gestures for me to come over to him so I walk out of the infirmary and over to him.

"How's she doin'," Jayne asks.

"I can't rightly tell," I say, sitting down next to Jayne. I am trying to blink away the tears in my eyes but they start to fall, "all I know is that Simon got the bullet out of her."

"Do you really trust-," Jayne starts and then looks at me crying, "hey. It's gonna be okay, Rae. I told you that it would be and I swear that it will be."

"I know," I swallow back a sob, "I just-I-I wish I coulda been there to stop it."

"Doesn't everyone," Jayne says. He puts an arm softly on my shoulder, "it's gonna be okay, Rae." I wipe away the tears and I look at him. For the first time ever, Jayne has a look of actual concern on his face. I nod and wipe away my tears. I lean back and Jayne and I don't say anything at all. The comfort of someone else being next to us is enough to keep us calm.

After about a half an hour, they seem to finish up. Mal says something and walks out, right past us. Simon follows after him and starts shouting. Jayne and I both get up simultaneously and I see Jayne rush after them. Jayne puts an arm around Simon's neck to keep him back and I follow Mal. I can tell where he's going. He's going to do something I've been wanting to do for a while, open the case.

"Where's the Fed," Mal asks.

"Secured," Jayne says. I look back at him and he nods, "the Shepherd's with 'm. He seems to think he's not safe alone with me... or with you, Rae."

"He has a right to think that," I say, "I have a right well urgin' to split the damned Feds head straight open." Mal pulls out the crate and undoes the latches. Air hisses out and some fog flows out.

"No," Simon shouts. No one pays attention to him. We're all just wanting to see what exactly is in the crate. I see Zoe and Wash come over to see this.

"Well," Mal snarls, "let's see what a man like you would kill for." Mal kicks off the cover for the crate. I hear Simon shout but I am in shock. The fog has cleared and what I see is a naked girls body, curled up inside of the crate. Mal and I are standing there in shock. We have no words to say.

Mal looks from the body to Simon and then back to the body and exclaims, "huh." Simon starts to go forward and Jayne grabs him.

"I need to check her vitals," Simon says.

"Oh, is that what they call it," Mal asks. He seems angry. I am still standing there in shock.

"She's not supposed to wake up for another week," Simon shouts, "the shock-" Mal cuts him off. I don't know what to say.

"The shock of what," Mal asks, "waking up? Finding out she's been sold to some border-world baron? Or, I'm sorry. Was this one for you? Is it true love? Because you do seem a little-" The girls screams. Mal jumps back and I utter a stream of swear words and I jump back. The girl is gasping and she seems scared out of her mind. The girl crawls out of the crate, still gasping. She hides from nothing and leans against the crate. I want to go to her but I'm in too much shock. Simon runs to her.

"River," Simon says. He puts his hands on her, "hey. It's okay. It's okay. It's okay. It's okay. I'm here."

The girl, who apparently in named River, stops shivering and looks at him, "Simon?" she barely uttered it. She gets louder as she speaks again, "Simon, they- they talk to me. They want me to' they want me to talk."

"They're gone," Simon says, "they're gone. They're gone. They're gone. We're safe now. We're safe. We're safe. I'm here. Come here." He embraces her. River is crying. Everyone seems shocked.

"What the hell is this," Mal asks.

"This is my sister," Simon says.