Episode 3: First Date
Saturday, May 10, 2008

The other side of Episode 2: To rescue Mal from the Alliance, Zoe must remember a lesson from the man she loved.


Episode 3: First Date


I'm loyal to my Captain. Since the war, I learned to rely on him, trust him. Back then, you had to. A single misplaced step, a moment's hesitation, would mean a quick end to the things we treasure most.

Things like freedom.

Things like breathin'.

In the medical room of Southdown Abbey, a Shepherd did his best to make sure Simon would keep doin' just that. He stuck a needle into Simon's arm, pumped him full of drugs. The worst of the work was over. He would be okay.

In the corner of the room, Jonas, our guard of sorts, whispered to another Shepherd. The other Shepherd nodded, took up the post while Jonas disappeared.

"Somethin' ain't right," I whispered to Jayne.

"Yeah, we figured that part out," Jayne said.

River pressed her face against the glass separating us from the medical room. "It's very soft," she said. She slid down, crouched against her knees. One moment she seemed happy her brother would be all right. Next tears spilled down her face. "They won't let him go," she said.

"They'll let him go, sweetie," Kaylee told River. She kneeled next to her. "Soon as they say he's fine. Right, Zoe? We pay'em, that'll be that."


A faint gunshot echoed. North-east. Outside, in some enclosed space. Too broad a sound for a shot inside the Abbey.

Which meant somehow the Captain had ignored my warning, and because I'd said to hell with my doubts, he's the Captain, TRUST HIM, we were in for trouble.

A quick glance at Jayne confirmed he'd heard it,too. I whispered, "You thinkin' what I'm thinkin?"

"Thinkin' Mal's as good at negotiatin' as he ever was."

"That bad?"

Jayne patted his back pocket, inside of his thigh, under his arm. Knowin' Jayne he had small but lethal weapons hidden in all of those spots. "Good thing we came prepared then."

Kaylee stood up, looked back and forth at us. "Something goin' on?"

"Just stay with Simon and River," I said.

The guard turned to us, held out his hand. "Orders are to keep you here."

"We just want to check on our Captain."

"I'm afraid that won't be possible."

"We heard gunfire," I said.

"A mistake, I assure you. There are no weapons in Southdown." He gestured back to our seats outside the medical room. "Now, please--"

Jayne grabbed the Shepherd's hand and twisted. The Shepherd fell to his knees and cried out. Jayne wrapped his hand around the Shepherd's mouth. "Gonna have to ask your forgiveness later, Shepherd. We ain't got time for this." With his other hand he took a small pistol from his leg pocket, and smashed the butt into the Shepherd's head, knocking him unconscious.

Jayne took out a second pistol and threw it to me.

I cocked the trigger. "Here's hopin' for a little less thrillin' heroics this time."

"That's what we're all hoping for," came a voice from behind us. It was Jonas, hand outstretched. He let his sleeve fall away. In the heat of the moment, he'd forsaken the Bible as his weapon of choice. Instead, he pointed a small pistol at us. "Sit back down," he said. "You aren't going anywhere."


I threw him a hard look. "You got two seconds to explain yourself."

"You've never been asked out on a date before?"

Wash infuriated me more than any man I'd ever met. If it wasn't the bright flowery shirts, it was the orange soup catcher he kept on his face. "Keep your ear for the Captain's wave. Should be any second."

Wash leaned back in his chair. "So that's not a no." He looked away from me, rested his hands behind his head.

"Could use some speed, now, Wash. Captain's waiting."

"Well, maybe if you hired a mechanic to fix the engine, we wouldn't have to fly so ruttin' slow."

"Maybe if you helped us finish the ruttin' job, we could afford one."

"Aye-aye, almost-captain." Wash pushed the throttle up.

We jerked with a sudden burst of speed. I almost fell out of the doorway. I grabbed the edge, regained my balance, and went for him.

It wouldn't take much to unseat Wash. Despite being what he liked to call a "large, semi-muscular man," all it would take was a quick jerk to pull him out, barely a smack against his head to put him to sleep.

I came close behind him, rested my hands an inch above the skin of his neck. From behind, he seemed almost attractive, a gorram shame to have to hurt.

Except the Captain had named him our pilot, and pretty face and irritating smile or no, removing him from our crew would have to wait until we had the Captain back, safe and sound.

'Course, until we'd hired Wash, crew had consisted of just the Captain and me. Would seem a waste to get rid of him when we were just about to get our smuggling operation off the ground. And, as Wash never failed to remind us, we needed a pilot to get off the ground in the first place.

Not for the first time, I wondered if bringing Wash in had caused more problems than it solved. Captain hadn't so much as disagreed, but I got to thinking this job, first of what we hoped would be many among our growing crew, would make or break Wash in the Captain's eyes.

Wash murmured back to me, "You better hold on."

The ship barreled through a canyon, straight for a cliff. At the last minute, Wash nudged the controls. Our nose flipped up. I wrapped my hands around Wash. Otherwise I'd have flipped with the ship.

We rocketed over the cliff and came out on the straight stretch of land. At this speed, we'd reach the city, and Mal, in no time.

Wash noticed my hands on him, looked back at me, smiled.

I almost smiled back, but the sight of that gorram mustache killed the moment. I let go of him.

"Wash, we got a job to do. Think you could focus on flyin' the ship?"

He patted the controls. "Eh, she's like a little puppy," he said. I got the feeling he didn't mean the ship. "Give her some love." He caressed the cool metal. "Treat her well, before you know it all she needs is a little nudge."

The 'com beeped. I switched it on.

"'Bout time, Captain--"

"Yeah, you better make me run," Mal yelled over the 'com. "Hate to see what I'd do if I got in close!"

Someone responded to him with a shotgun blast. Detonation echo put it just by his head.

"Zoe, no time to explain," Mal said. "Just get the hell to the rendezvous fast as you--"

More gunfire eclipsed his voice. A break in fire, then Mal returned shots.

"Gorram Badger," he said. "He said they didn't have no security! Never know I was there!"

"What happened?" Wash asked. "You trip an alarm?"

"Dogs," Mal said. "They had dogs!"

We heard several loud gunshots, which wouldn't have been much cause for alarm. But then we heard several loud dogs, and the comm shut off.

Wash flipped the comm open, tried to reestablish the signal, but Mal had bigger, toothier concerns to deal with.

"So we're going for help?"

I shook my head. "Captain's orders are to come in, rescue him on our own."

"I told him not to trust that guy," Wash said. "You ever know someone trustworthy named Badger?" He shook his head. "We had'em back home. Well, not the real like. They were mutated. Big, buck teeth. Taste for leather. You know they burrowed underneath the city straight into the shoe shop? Put the owner out of business within a month."

"You don't get it," I told him. "We may get our say, but he's the Captain. We follow his lead."

"And a fine adventure he's gotten us into by doing so," Wash said.

"Can't risk complicating the plan bringing in outside hands."

"To hell with the Captain's orders," Wash said. "Call Badger. He got Mal into this mess, least he can do is help get Mal out."

"Aside from being a major point of stupid, that'd be breaking the Captain's orders. And that's not something we will ever do if you want to stay on this boat. Got it?" He didn't respond, so I turned from him, started for the weapons barracks. "Keep us straight for the city. If the Captain's still alive, he'll come out the east end. It's our job to be there."

Wash called out after me, "And if he ain't?"

I didn't answer.

It took me a minute to gather a couple of rifles. A string of grenades lined the walls. Tempting, but I left them where they lay. They couldn't match the steady precision of a rifle.

I pushed a full line of reloads into my belt, then grabbed a rifle, hitched it to my back. The weapon felt good, reliable. No questions. No surprises. Just the will to do what it was made to do, a soldier in every way but a beating heart.

I came back into the cockpit. "Wash, when we get there I want you to stay on the--"

"No, shouldn't take more than three men," Wash said.

I looked over his shoulder, saw him on a wave with Badger.

"Mate, 'elpin's my specialty! 'Course, we'll have to cut it out your share of the profits--"

I reached past Wash and shut off the wave. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Zoe, you can't always do what you're told. We don't find a way to get him out alive, there won't be a Captain to disobey."


"Now just a ruttin' minute!"

Jayne gritted his teeth and came straight at the Shepherd.

Jonas stumbled back a step, reminded himself he had the gun.

The gun didn't bother Jayne none. He stopped, looked Jonas up and down, grunted in annoyance. "You just answer me one gorram question and I'll be satisfied," Jayne said. "This is an Abbey. A place of God. Sacred place where people do and don't do certain things." He gestured to the gun. "What in hell are you doing with a piece like that?"

"At times we have to protect ourselves from unexpected dangers using unexpected means."

A puzzled look came over Jayne's face. "No, I mean where'd you get a piece like that? Thing's new, ain't been on the market long." Jayne looked back at me. "Tried to get me one on our last stop, but the gorram thing cost more'n ten whores and a biscuit."

Jonas glanced at the gun.

Jayne swung around, with one hand knocked the gun hand aside while the other decked Jonas in the jaw. Jonas fell off his feet, dropped the gun.

I picked it up, nodded at Jayne, then knelt next to the Shepherd.

"Ought not let pride get the best of you," I said. "Didn't they teach you that in Sunday school?"

"Zoe," Jayne said.


"The gun."

"I got it, Jayne."

"No," he said. He stepped closer, looked at the gun with the excitement of a kid in a candy store. "I want to hold it."

"Jayne, you can hold it later."

"But I want to hold it--"

"I hate to interrupt," Jonas said, still curled up on the floor and looking at Jayne with all kinds of confusion. "But are you going to kill me or not?"

"Shepherd," I said. I extended my hand. "No need for that."

Jonas hesitated, but he accepted my hand.

"How are you going to help us get the Captain back if you're dead?" I pulled him to his feet and pushed him forward. Heaven or no heaven, I hoped the gun against his head would bring some sense, and some answers, from the man. "Who's out there?"

"Too late," he said. "Alliance has already got them both."

A quick glance at Jayne and I shoved the Shepherd at him.

As I went through the door, an abrupt, solid vibration shook the building. Constant. A hum in the distance. A ship. And by the decreasing vibrations, it was taking off. Leaving.

I ran. Couldn't be sure of the direction, tremors from the ships wake felt more shallow by the second. I turned a corner, hit a dead end, turned around again, saw a shaft of light spear through a door left open. Through the slit, I saw green. Some sort of garden on the other side.

An inviting sight, except the scent of fresh gunfire sat on the air.

A Shepherd stumbled through the door, back into the Abbey. He fell to his knees, shaking.

Quick look at the man, no injuries, just emotional trauma, so I pushed past him--

But behind me, I heard him whisper, "Dead. He's dead."

I turned back around, grabbed him. "Show me."

Outside, the scene looked like the end of one of our jobs, a finale that shouldn't ever have touched this Abbey. Eden lay on the ground, unmoving, a trickle of blood leaking from the hole in his head.

I brought Jonas outside. Kaylee, Jayne, and River followed.

"Wuh de tyen, ah," Kaylee said. "Is he--?"

"This what you wanted, Shepherd? What you worked so hard to hide from us?"

Jonas shook his head. "It wasn't supposed to happen like this."

"Never is with Alliance," I said. "What'd they offer you? Immunity? Independence?"

Jonas murmured something.

"Speak up," Jayne said, nudged him with his foot.

"Money," Jonas spoke up. "They offered us money."

Ch 3

"Tzao gao. How much?"

"I didn't think you'd care much about the price if it meant we got you back," Wash said.

The ship's bay door whirred shut. Mal stumbled in, his arm over my shoulder. He did his best to stand upright, put on a good show for the pilot, but the bullet through Mal's leg complicated matters.

"Assuming life means more to me than it does," Mal said. "Soon as we're city-side, you're off this boat."

Wash looked to me for back-up, but I didn't return his glance. "That's a fine way to say thank you."

"You get your things together," Mal said. "Won't matter one way or the other if you're ready, I'm dumping you."

"You..." Wash fumbled for a way to rescue the situation, but there was none. No one could convince the Captain otherwise once he'd made up his mind. Not a gun. I reckon not even a Companion. Certainly not some rebel pilot with a bushy mustache.

We came to the end of the cargo bay. Mal grabbed the door.

"Mal, don't do this," Wash said.

"Could just let you out here! But considered since you saved my life I'd do you the courtesy of dumping you closer than a day's hike."

"But Mal, that's just it. I saved your life! The kind of thing I thought a pilot did for his Captain."

Mal pulled out of my grasp, turned around and spat, "Not when it means going against my orders it don't. Better or worse, my crew's got to follow my lead. You can't do that, you ain't my crew."

"Don't you think you're over-reacting--"

Mal just left, shouted back at Wash, "Not a discussion!"

I turned to follow the Captain.

"Zoe..." Wash murmured.

I didn't turn back to him. Couldn't stand to look at him. Not now.

"You did this to yourself, Wash," I said.

"You mean you actually agree with him?"

"Don't matter if I agree with him or not," I said. "He's the Captain."

He took a step towards me, but I refused to look at him. He was gone and that was that. Captain had made his decision.

"Well, if I'm going, I want you to answer a question."

I took a step out the door. "Gorramit, Wash, let it go. Who I dated ain't--"

"Don't care about that."

I stopped.

"Why don't you have your own ship?"

The question hit in a place I couldn't bear to look at. "Get your things together, Wash. Captain won't care if you're ready or not when we get there."

"You're the strongest woman I've ever met. Stronger than Mal. You could have your own ship. Be your own Captain. Why are you still playing his second?"

"Way things have always been," I said. "In the war, following the Captain meant the difference between life and death."

Just behind me now, his warm breath across my neck.

"This isn't a war," he said. "It's just us."

"Wash... Wouldn't be right. Captain don't allow anything between crew more than gettin' the job done."

"Ain't crew anymore." He turned me around. He looked into my eyes, his face close to mine. "If you were my Captain," he said, "I'd follow you for the rest of my life."

I started to speak, but I lost the words. My mouth was on his, our tongues touched, our breaths met. The moment seemed to last forever, an eternity getting there and an eternity leaving.

Wash pulled away from me an inch, laughed. "I guess this counts as a first date."

Behind us, I heard Mal. He came into the room backwards, pulling a bag full of Wash's personal effects. He grunted, dropped the bag. As he turned to us, he said, "Changed my mind. Ranch ain't but a mile east--" Caught sight of us. No chance to deny what had happened.

"Had second thoughts," Mal said. "Just gonna dump you right here."


"Ain't gonna happen," I said.

"I insist," Jonas said. "Pride and greed have caused this. Let me help you."

"Don't start thinkin' you can earn any forgiveness from us, preacher," I said. "We need somethin' from you, you'll be paid square. No way this turns into anything more than business."

"I have contacts on the black market. People that could help you sell your stolen goods."

I did a double-take. "You went in the ship."

"A precaution, I assure you. We had no way to know you meant us no harm."

"Uh-oh," Jayne murmured, a bit of a smile in place. "Mal ain't gonna like that."

"Nice of you to pay us the consideration, preacher. We can sell our goods on our own."

"Zoe," Jayne said. "Maybe we ought to listen. If the Shepherd can get a good price--"

"Shepherd can keep his gorram good faith and generosity. First thing we need to find is a ship."

"The Alliance didn't take your friend's ship," Jonas said.

Kaylee shook her head. "They wouldn't just leave it," she said.

"Nor did they. They saw what we wanted them to see." He paused. "If you like, I'll take you to it."

"You do that."

Once back inside, I pointed down the hallway to the medical room. "River, go check on your brother."

Jayne asked, "Think Mal would want her goin' through this place alone?"

"Mal ain't here, Jayne." But I caught myself. He was right. "Kaylee, go with her."

As Jonas led us through the Abbey to where they had hidden the Operative's ship, Jayne piped up, "First thing we need to do is unload that lipstick for some cash. Runnin' thin on contacts here, but I bet I can figure--"

"Already got someone in mind, Jayne."

"Zoe!" He glanced around. Satisfied we had our conspiracy, he whispered, "You been holding out on me? Come on. Who you got?"


Not much shocked Jayne, but he backed up quick, shook his head. "Only reason I'm going near that sack of pus is to practice my quick-draw. 'Sides, didn't Captain order us not to contact him 'less we intended to repay the favor?"

"Well, Captain ain't here now, Jayne. We don't find a way to get him back, won't be a Captain to disobey. Which would you prefer?"


The Captain gulped, afraid of the answer.

Through the trees, Kaylee, a Shepherd, and the man I would marry, Wash, waited for us.

"Sir, you remember what I said about him first time we met?"

"Somethin' about him bothered you."

"Somethin' I didn't think I'd ever be able to look past." Just saying it still made my stomach twitch. "That gorram mustache."

Mal looked at Wash. Though he had his back to us, we could both imagine the big orange bush laying in wait.

"That is one ugly piece of fur," Mal said.

"Some things, a person don't think they can ever look past," I said. "But I love him. Makes all the difference."

Mal rubbed his neck, first time I'd ever seen him nervous with me. "Zoe, figure this is my last chance to put this right." He grabbed my shoulders. "I order you not to marry this man."

I laughed, my eyes welling over, one of the few times I allowed myself to cry in front of him. "Sir, with all due respect, to hell with your orders."

Mal nodded. "Just wanted to be sure." He paused. "You know I'll have to kill him."

"If he ever hurts me," I said.

"If he ever hurts you," Mal said. "Or if he ever--"

Sometimes, all you need is a sign. Something to let you know there's a speck of hope in this bleak, black 'verse we call home. When the cellist began playing our wedding theme, Wash turned to greet me and gave me my sign.

He'd shaved the gorram mustache.

To be continued in Episode 4: First Kiss


Saturday, May 10, 2008 8:16 PM


I tell you what - I love the minimal style in the first section. You capture Zoe and Jayne's attitude toward action coming out of nowhere, and the way you allude to Simon's injury and River's worry just sucks me right in. Kaylee's lines are right in character as well.

However... as soon as you cut to Ch. 1 and it's still minimal dialogue with description slow in coming, I'm lost. I need something more there. I need something to assure me that the time and location has indeed shifted pretty seriously, because I had a moment of WTF? and couldn't ever get back into the flow. Sorry, but I didn't read much of the rest. I was too lost.

I admit, I haven't read your previous chapters, so I don't have any experience as to your style to guide me. But I wager that you'll suck in a late comer like me better if you'll give a bit more description to clarify the *why* of your narrative. ie, (if it is indeed a flashback to Wash/Zoe courtship...) why a flashback right there? What's the connection to the real time plot? Why did Zoe's thoughts shift that way?

(I'm quite opionated, generally speaking. So take this as constructive criticism or ignore it at your leisure. It's all good. :) Either way, you write some very fine FF dialog!)

Sunday, May 11, 2008 8:09 AM


Thanks for the comments and criticism. We changed a bit of Ch1. For better or worse, we don't usually change something once it's submitted, but you made some valid points.

Also, we encourage you to read the preceding episodes! While we think most episodes should make sense on their own, this one is intended as a companion piece to Episode 2 so won't adhere to the same rules.

Sunday, May 11, 2008 4:42 PM


Read other two and am glad to say this is a very cool idea. Can't wait for more.


You must log in to post comments.



Episode 6: R&R
Simon goes on vacation only to find more trouble than he left behind.

Episode 5: The Training Job
The crew may have found Serenity, but the real trouble will be getting it back from the Alliance.

Episode 4: First Kiss
A date with River brings more trouble than Badger asked for.

Episode 3: First Date
The other side of Episode 2:

To rescue Mal from the Alliance, Zoe must remember a lesson from the man she loved.

Episode 2: But Wash... Ain't you dead?
Trying to work together long enough to escape the Alliance, Mal and the Operative are stunned by the appearance of someone they both thought dead.

Episode 1: Crash!
After a botched heist that causes Serenity to crash (again), the crew looks to an unexpected source for help, and finds a few surprises in store.