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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
Script for a...well, extremely long episode taking place two or so weeks after the end of the movie. More than a few things need fixin' when Serenity's parked, broken, on Persephone. Pathos! Humor! Action! New Moons! Kissin'! Jayne gets naked in public!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2508 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Note: I've never embraced my fanhood this thoroughly before...it's kinda exciting! Anyone who is willing to actually sit through the whole of this thing will be revered; anyone who actually posts a comment will be worshipped and glorified. Serenity for life.
Script for a Firefly episode, taking place about two weeks after the end of the Serenity movie
Simon and Kaylee are lying in Kaylee’s little nook in the engine room together, sort of post- post-coital. Kaylee smiles up at Simon, who’s staring at the ceiling.
Kaylee: What’cha thinkin’?
Simon: (looking down at her) Nothing. I just…I’ve never really had a girlfriend before… (adding hurriedly) If, that is, you are my—
Kaylee gives him an incredulous glance; he smiles at himself and subsides.
Kaylee: Really? Like, never never?
Simon: I, ah, had a wave-friend on Pushkin when I was twelve, but we never met exactly face-to-face.
Kaylee: Was she pretty?
Simon: Well… (he half-smiles, reminiscent) she…ah… (he looks down at Kaylee, who’s giving him a meaningful sort of glance.) Not as pretty as you? (he inflects it slightly as a question.)
Kaylee grins and pats him on the chest.
Kaylee: I think you’re getting the hang of this relationship thing.
Simon: I’m trying. (She’s slightly displeased by his answer; he steps in quickly to fill in the conversational gap.) And you? Who was your first boyfriend?
Kaylee: (teasing) My first? I think it was Toben from next door. He was four and I was three. I dumped his ass but good when he wouldn’t let me play with his model Tessla 60’s, though. He had at least ten of ‘em, wouldn’t let me touch a one. Said machines was for boys.
Simon: I guess you two weren’t soulmates, exactly.
Kaylee: I guess it’s how he was raised. Poor kid.
Simon starts to smile, then a troubled look crosses his face. Kaylee’s off on her own train of thought and so misses the change.
Kaylee: It feels peculiar, don’t it, having nothing to do all day? I could get used to this life of ease (smiling at Simon)…if I wasn’t so busy fretting over money for eating and the like. (Her face goes serious) Serenity’s broke, and I can’t do a thing about it without a brand-new compound foil. Cap’n can’t get one without the money for it, can’t get the money without a job, and ain’t nobody willing to pay up front, nor offer any job at all, comes to that… Simon?
Simon is sitting up, putting on his clothes.
Simon: I’m going to check on River.
Kaylee: I’m sure she’s fine.
Simon: I…know, I just— (he kisses Kaylee on the mouth quickly.) I’ll be back. (He gets up and goes, leaving Kaylee with a bewildered—and slightly irate—look on her face.)
Simon opens the engine room door, slips out, closes it, and leans against the wall, looking down the corridor. Behind his intense expression is an introspective sort of nervousness and pain. Shot follows his gaze to the kitchen, where Inara and Mal are sitting.
Inara and Mal are sitting at opposite sides of the kitchen table, disagreeing as usual, though not arguing exactly. They look mostly comfortable with each other but entirely uncomfortable with the situation.
Mal: I ain’t saying I don’t appreciate the offer, Inara, nor that if circumstances get diresome enough I won’t take you up on it, but you’ve got your own expenses. Temple back on [insert name of autumnal-temple-planet from the Serenity movie here]’s holding you financially responsible for that symbol of religiosity you blowed up in order to keep my skin in one fleshy piece—(she wants to interrupt; he talks over her) the which I do thank you for. Took all kinds of fast thinkin’, but then I’d expected no less. Which when you think on it is practically a compliment.
Inara: Mal, you’re broke. The money from the Lasseter sale's been spent. And I still owe you for the Heart of Gold job and—(this time he wants to interrupt and isn’t allowed to) honestly, what other options do you have? I have the money. You would do the same if it were me. Any one of you would.
Mal: Well, Jayne—
Inara: As always, excepting Jayne.
Mal: I’ve said it before, you ain’t a part of this.
Inara: I know. But…I’m not not a part of it exactly, either.
A pause in which they look at each other. Inara is questioning, nothing like assertive, but it puts Mal on the defensive and he therefore takes a hard sort of tone.
Mal: That’s up to you.
Inara: (dropping her eyes) You don’t make it very easy.
Mal: I ain’t one to play, Inara. I don’t know no fancy rules and suchlike—(she stops him with a glance.)
Inara: I may have companion training, Mal, but I’m…when it comes to being lost in the woods, I’m not a very…accomplished n-navigator.
Pause. Mal acknowledges this.
Mal: (serious) Inara, I ain’t never been lost in woods like these. Maybe we should just…
He trails away slightly helplessly. Inara looks down the corridor to the cockpit, to where she sees Zoe standing, looking in at the navigation controls. Her back towards them is very still.
Inara: (low-voiced) How’s Zoe?
Mal: (pause, and then he speaks in a soft and strained tone) No idea.
Zoe standing at the door of the cockpit. Her face is perfectly still and expressionless, the classic Zoe look; her arms are crossed. What she’s looking at is River, sitting in the pilot’s seat. She has her back toward Zoe and is playing with Wash’s dinosaurs. There’s no soundtrack in the background, first just a moment of intense silence when the camera is focused on Zoe’s face, and then the murmur of Eavesdown docks outside and River’s voice when she begins her speech.
River: (murmuring) Yes, yes, this is a fertile land. We shall rule over all this land and we shall call it…this land. –I think we should call it your grave! -Augh! Curse your sudden yet inevitable betrayal! -Ah-ha-ha, mine is an evil laugh. Now die! -No, god! -Die! -Oh, dear god in—
Mal, Inara, and Simon all cluster into the doorframe behind Zoe at this point, and all freeze for a second in shock: stern shock for Mal, compassionate shock for Inara, and bewildered shock (as per usual in his dealings with River) for Simon.
Mal: (sharply) Put those down.
River looks over at Mal, then at Zoe. Simon squeezes past Zoe and hurries over to River.
Mal: Put ‘em down.
Simon: (admonitory) River—
Zoe: It’s all right, Cap’n.
River: (murmured) Broken.
She puts down the dinosaurs.
Simon: (worried) River—
Zoe: We find a job yet, Cap’n?
Mal hesitates, but backs down at the look—of calm, terrible calm—on Zoe’s face.
Mal: Not as such, no. Though Bernouli hasn’t gotten back yet.
Mal, Zoe, and Inara file into the cockpit. Simon tries to coax River out of the pilot seat, but she won’t go.
Mal: It’s all right, though, we’ll figure something. We can set up a booth for River to tell fortunes from. Or Kaylee’s come up with a notion that Simon could do some fancy dancing at one of them ladies’ clubs.
Simon: (exasperated, as though he is a joke he is uncomfortable with) For the record, I will not be doing that.
Jayne: (entering) I’ll do it. We get a job yet?
Zoe: Depends on where’s the nearest ladies’ club and how desperate they are for dancers.
Jayne: Aw, hell, I’m pretty enough for Persephone.
The call screen comes to life; Bernouli’s on the other end.
Jayne: Hey! Hey, it’s a call!
Mal: Yes, thank you, Jayne.
Mal goes over to the screen.
Mal: Bernouli! Hey! How’s things?
Bernouli: Not too good, Mal, not too good.
Mal: What, your joints actin’ up again?
Bernouli: It’s on your end, Mal, I’m afraid to say. Mal, I hate to say it, but…you’re in trouble. Big trouble.
Mal: Trouble? What shape of trouble?
Bernouli: The bad shape, Mal.
Mal: (slightly impatient) So it’s not the warm, fuzzy sort of trouble.
Bernouli: No. It’s not.
Mal: Bernouli, what is it? Aside from bad. Or not good. Or any type of variation on that theme.
Bernouli: You’ve been blacklisted, Mal.
Mal: (pause) Well, you said true. That ain’t good. Any idea why, or who’s behind it?
Bernouli: Not a clue, but they mean business, Mal, that’s all I know. Bosses are trying to hide it from you, worried about their reputations, but this last time Sung dealt with you she nearly lost her teeth, I heard. We all heard. It’s nice having teeth, Mal. I’ve been attached to mine for a good while now.
Mal: I appreciate your point of view.
Bernouli: Teeth are useful, Mal.
Mal: I get it, Bernouli. Sung get around to tellin’ who it was near-misplaced ‘em for her?
Bernouli: No, and Mal, I don’t think you should go see Sung to ask about it.
Mal: Thanks for the heads-up.
Bernouli: I really don’t recommend visiting her on the subject.
Mal: Okay, Bernouli. Thanks again. I got to get going—
Bernouli: I really don’t think you should—
Mal: (smiling) Now would I do a foolish thing like that?
Mal hangs up. The smile drops from his face.
Zoe: Trap, sir?
Mal: Seems to be getting on the cliché side with us.
Zoe: We walkin’ into it?
Mal: That is our way. Sung’s on Eurydice moon. In range of our shuttles from here, conveniently enough.
Zoe: A little over-conveniently, sir.
Mal’s expression acknowledges this.
Inara: Mal, I could just—
Mal: This here’s a long-range problem needs long-range fixin’, Inara. We want to work again, we better see this through. I’m thinkin’, Zoe stays with the ship, Jayne comes with me. Could be of use to have a third…
Kaylee appears in the cockpit doorway.
Kaylee: What’s going on? We get a job?
Mal: Not precisely.
Simon: I’ll go.
Kaylee gives Simon a look; Simon doesn’t look back. Mal assesses some part of the situation.
Mal: All right.
Inara: I can at least give you a ride. I have an appointment on Eurydice—
Jayne: Ain’t Eurydice a women’s moon, mostly?
Inara pointedly does not respond. Jayne gets that “I’ll be in my bunk” look on his face.
Mal: We may need to make a getaway, and I can’t timetable it exactly.
Inara: I’ll be done by six.
Jayne: A quickie? With a girl? How come I can’t ever manage one of them?
Mal: I’m not saying I like it…but there ain’t much about this business that I do like. Let’s move. Keep the hardware to a minimum, Jayne. You too, Simon. (This is a joke.)
Kaylee gives Simon an angry look and goes. Jayne snorts and leaves, Simon following, head down and assertive. Inara goes to prep the shuttle.
Mal: Zoe? Give us a hail if things get hectic.
Zoe: You imagine it’s Niska?
Mal: Maybe so.
Mal: It’s a long-range problem, like I said. I’ll try and keep Jayne and Simon on the low-profile side in case of complexities.
Zoe: You got any sort of a plan, sir?
Mal: Get the lay of the planet first. We know where Sung operates from, we’ll start there.
Zoe: It don’t make sense, sir, Sung double-crossing us. Unless we offended her in some manner I don’t recall.
Mal: Mayhap we’ll need to do a spot of rescuin’. I ain’t leavin’ her to dangle for our sins.
Zoe gives him a long glance. He turns to River.
She looks around.
Mal: Don’t like asking teenage girls to do such dirty work, but if there’s trouble, will you help see to it?
Mal: You in there?
River nods, staring at him, River-fashion.
River: (solemnly) It’s what I do.
Mal: (businesslike because he’s moved by her tone) Good girl.
He and Zoe exit. Camera refocuses on River. She touches Wash’s stegosaurus on its points.
River: Bring down trouble.
Inara, Mal, Simon, and Jayne are in Inara’s shuttle. She’s piloting their way out of heavy Persephone air traffic, Mal’s standing next to her half-backseat piloting and half-plotting, Simon’s hanging back, Jayne’s outside of the picture in the shuttle proper.
Mal: (shouting slightly above engine noise) We get into town and keep a low profile. Jayne, I want you to—Jayne!
Inara: Tell him that if he touches anything he’s paying for its replacement.
Jayne: (coming into view) I was just lookin’.
Mal: You and I are going to—(Inara flies uncomfortably close to an appendage of a passing ship) Watch out for the—thing—
Inara: (irritated) The Trans-X dorsal thrust?
Mal: (turns back to Jayne)…are going to scope out the bar Sung’s running her world o’ crime from. Don’t make it obvious we’re together, though. Want us to look leery. Don’t want them thinkin’ we’ve oculated their trap, but I do hope they credit us with more brainscope than just to walk into a possible situation without an alternative lurkin’ somewhere.
Mal: (simplifying) Don’t talk to me when we’re in the bar.
Jayne: (grumbling) Just ‘cause I don’t follow all your tricksiness don’t make me stupid.
There are so many ways to respond to this that Mal can’t decide on one. He pauses with a flat look on his face, then turns abruptly to Simon.
Mal: Simon. I want you on the com. You’re our dark horse. Keep yourself informed and inconspicuous. Nis—Sung’s never seen you before, but three male strangers in one bar mid-afternoon on this moon don’t look much like coincidence, unless it happens to be “bring your manfriends to Eurydice” day. You’ll be in the shop across the street—I think it’s a bookstore. I buzz you, you run to the nearest point of safety and call for back-up. Get Zoe in the shuttle and here. (He hands Simon one of two small black devices he’s taking out of his pocket) Put this somewhere inconspicuous.
Simon: (putting the gadget on the inside of his belt) So I’m your “talk on the com and run away” man?
Jayne: Knew you was good for somethin’.
Mal pushes the button on the gadget he’s holding. Simon jumps when his end vibrates.
Mal: Use ‘em on the sheep farms to call the dogs in.
Simon: So I’m your substitute-dog com-talking and running-away man. I see now why everyone was lining up to go on this mission.
Mal: They didn’t have to, you jumped at it so quick. And Simon, don’t go running from Kaylee.
Inara: (low warning) Mal.
Simon: (incredulous and hard-voiced) Excuse me?
Mal: You two got a problem, you talk it through.
Simon: Is that an order, Captain?
Mal: (with a quick meaningless smile) Just a suggestion.
Simon gives Mal a look of extreme antipathy and exits the cockpit.
Jayne: How come he gets to touch stuff?
Inara: Because he’s washed himself sometime this month.
Jayne: Houdon (or the Chinese word he uses that sounds vaguely like this.)
Jayne exits with a scowl.
Inara: Nice advice, by the way.
Mal: Thanks, I made it myself.
Inara: Kaylee won’t be overly pleased with you.
Mal: Well, maybe she doesn’t need to know.
Inara is hesitating on saying something; Mal realizes this and pretends to ignore the fact that he’s waiting. Pause.
Inara: (slightly rushed) You know you can’t run everybody’s life, Mal, even to make it right.
Mal: Thanks for the tip.
Inara: I know that as things stand with Zoe—
Mal: Not everything’s about Zoe, Inara.
Inara: This has nothing to do with Zoe?
Inara: Nor the fact that you feel Wash’s death to be your fault and are trying desperately to atone in some way or another?
Mal: I—Ngh—(pause) –Look out for that—
Inara: Satellite Systems Transit Craft three quarters of a mile away?
Mal: There could be a, uh… Pilot could…
Inara: (after a pause, speaking low and earnestly) Mal—Wash…It wasn’t your—
Mal: I better go see to Jayne.
A crash comes from inside the shuttle, as of, say, a tea set dropping on a metal floor. Mal stops, exchanges a glance with Inara.
Serenity’s engine room. Kaylee is sticking legs-out from under the engine, doing some remedial work and muttering to herself in the manner of “Shindig”. River comes in, holding the stegosaurus.
River: (murmured) Broken.
Kaylee: (from under the engine) River? Pass me that wrench, would you?
River hands it down to her, then sits.
Kaylee: Thanks. …There. She don’t really need it, but I got to find something to do with my hands. That brother of yours can be such a [insert Chinese for “colossal jerk” here, but make it more colorful] sometimes. (She scoots out from under the engine) I mean it’s not like he can’t do it more than twice a—
Kaylee: --He just don’t want to, I guess, which is fine by me, it ain’t like he’s so…(she gets a look like she’s aware she’s lying about her feelings) great or anything… Afraid? Hunh? Simon? Afraid of what?
River: I broke her.
Kaylee: Serenity? The compound foil just wore out is all. That ain’t nothing to do with—
River: Brought down trouble. (She gets teary-eyed) I brought down trouble.
Kaylee: River, sweetie, no, no. What do you mean?
River: Wash. (Crying) Made it so he died.
Kaylee: Wash? River? Honey—
Kaylee holds her.
River: I made him die. I made him die. And now—b-broke. Broke. It’s what I do.
Kaylee: No, sweetie. No. It was just his time, River, (Kaylee chokes up) his time to go. Wasn’t nothin’ you, nor anyone else, could do.
River: Shepherd Book—
Kaylee: No, River. No.
Kaylee: Ssh, sweetie.
River: My fault—
River subsides. Kaylee dries her own eyes, sees the stegosaurus. She indicates it.
Kaylee: It’s okay with Zoe, you handlin’ him?
River looks at the dino.
River: He was funny.
Kaylee: (after a pause, quietly spoken) Yeah. He was a good man. A good, good man.
River: In love.
River: Like the Captain.
River: Like Simon.
Kaylee: Yeah—wait, Simon? What—
River: (solemnly, but with a trace of mischief) Afraid.
Kaylee: Simon? Afraid of what?
But River’s left.
Zoe, standing as before, looking at the empty cockpit. No soundtrack again—one senses that the grief riding Zoe robs her of the connectivity of soundtrack—she is cut off, alone (this conceit borrowed from the Buffy episode in which Joyce dies). There is the distant sound of River walking away from the engine room, and then silence.
The wave screen statics on, and Zoe walks over to investigate. Badger is calling.
Badger: Hallo? Hallo?
Badger: Zoe, my love. Where’s Mal?
Zoe: What do you want?
Badger: Got some goods I’d like to store with you a while—know you’re not going anywhere—maybe I move ‘em down there quiet-like in half an hour or so.
Zoe: We’re blacklisted.
Badger: (craftily) You don’t tell no one, we’ll do the same.
Zoe: How much?
Badger: 25. Only for a day or so, love.
Zoe: No deal.
Badger: 30, and that’s my final offer.
Zoe: …All right.
Badger: See you in a bit, then.
Badger buzzes off. Zoe stares at the screen for a second, thinking. She leaves the cockpit, goes through the kitchen, and comes into the engine room to find Kaylee staring distractedly at the wrench in her hand.
Kaylee: Oh, hey, Zoe. What’s up?
Zoe: I want you and River to go into town. Temple side. Take the shuttle down to the Haven docks.
Kaylee: Temple side? But—
Zoe: Need some incense. The good kind.
Kaylee: Sure, Zoe.
Zoe: And if Cap’n or Jayne or Simon hails you, get yourself and River up to Eurydice. Cap’n’ll want someone staying with the ship.
Zoe: (reaching into her pocket) Here’s the last of the Lasseter money.
Kaylee: O-okay. (She takes it.)
Zoe walks away. Kaylee goes to the shuttle.
River appears inside the window in the door of the shuttle. Kaylee opens the door.
Kaylee: Zoe wants us to go down to Haven docks and puck up some incense—(she’s walking into the shuttle’s cockpit, but River isn’t following.) River?
River: (softly) I’ll stay here.
Kaylee: But Zoe said—
Kaylee bites her lip.
Kaylee: Okay. But stay out of sight, right?
River nods, slips out of the shuttle, closes the door, and climbs up the wall out of sight to the accompaniment of the sound of the shuttle taking off.
Inara’s shuttle is in the process of landing at Eurydice’s main docks.
A bit of a note on the function and philosophy of Eurydice moon: sexual politics in the ‘verse are different, but hardly unrecognizable, from those existing on Earth-that-Was circa 2005. As with most everything on the central planets, male and female roles are pretty well defined, circumscribed, etc. On the border they can be even more so—though they certainly don’t have to be.
Lethe star system, in which Persephone and Eurydice are located, (or so I’m saying,) is a satellite to the central planets, not deep enough in the black to be a frontier, but just out of the Alliance’s most rigid grasp. The people who’ve made a society on Persephone, in short, are semi-social outcasts: they appreciate all that centralized civilization close by, but at the same time they like to live where their idiosyncrasies and personalities have, shall we say, room to breathe.
Eurydice moon is sort of an extension of this, being to Persephone what Persephone is to the central planets. Approximately 75 percent of its population is female. Settled originally almost exclusively by lesbians, it’s come, in thriving, to be more of a haven for women who don’t like living on male-dominated worlds and performing socially defined roles. Its occupants like doing their own dirty work, in short. There is still a highly significant lesbian population, however, and a visiting man wanting to pick up a girl had best watch his step.
Its livelihood is made by providing for the more…colorful—or niche-oriented—markets of the Lethe star system. This includes anything from drops to whores (not companions—it definitely isn’t a House Madrasa kind of world) to an intellectual—and old-fashioned Eurydice lesbian—enclave to a Buddhist nunnery famous throughout the ‘verse for its conversely peaceful atmosphere. Near the docks there’s also a thriving tourist center that supplies the less licit pleasures for more or less coin, depending on which part the tourist happens to be in. Its semi-demimonde boss is a woman named Sung, who lives by a code like Niska, distinguishes between legality and morality like Rance Burgees, and still manages to be a woman of honor—whose instincts are less naïve than her somewhat black-and-white ethics. It’s possible that this conflict between what ought to be done and what seems right to be done is one of the defining struggles of her existence…but one doesn’t really know; her game face is about as rigidly expressionless as Zoe’s. Anyway, more on her later.
For now, the shot is focused on Inara’s shuttle landing at the docks. It cuts to inside, where Mal, Jayne, and Simon are in conference.
Mal: Jayne, follow in about five minutes. Simon, wait five more. The bar’s called [insert Chinese for “Underground”], west end of town.
Simon: Ah…what end are we in now?
Mal: (rolling his eyes) Just go right. And try to be inconspicuous. You got your com?
Jayne: Mal, this plan don’t make no kind of sense. Who’s to say this whole Sung thing ain’t a diversion? No guarantees, we don’t know who’s after us or why.
Mal: If you got a better plan, Jayne, I’d surely like to hear it. No, seriously, I would.
Jayne: I’m just sayin’. I got guns, Mal, for uncertain times like this, if you’d let me bring ‘em fer once. I got big guns, handguns, I got bullets—
Mal looks at him, then opens the shuttle door.
Mal: (to Simon) Make sure he follows me in five.
Simon nods, staring at Jayne, who’s still reciting the list of his artillery, in a disgusted fascination. Inara’s standing in the door of her cockpit.
Mal: (leaving) Thanks for the lift, Inara.
Inara: Try not to be killed.
Mal: I live to…not be killed.
He exits the shuttle, and as he does so Jayne’s voice comes into focus again for a second.
Jayne: I got grenades—
The picture changes focus. Mal, from a distance away, is seen walking by. An inconspicuous dreadlocked woman is the one doing the looking. She sees Jayne follow, then turns on the comlink in her ear.
Dreadlocks: They’re here.
Her Com [it’s Sung talking]: Assume your position. Let's see how he plays it.
The dreadlocked woman disappears behind a building. A small ship takes off from a position sort of kitty-corner to Inara’s shuttle. A minute later, Simon comes out of the shuttle, and for the first time one sees Eurydice docks from an outsider’s perspective: kind of like the Eavesdown docks, except every single person in sight seems to be female, most of whom eye Simon appreciatively, suspiciously, or simply curiously, as he stands there.
Simon: (muttering) Inconspicuous. Right.
Simon, walking through an obviously shady part of town, is sticking out like a sore thumb. He sees the Underground across the street, then in front of him what must be the bookstore, dingy, with a few dusty books in front of a bead curtain. He looks around, then enters—and is shocked into very obvious immobility, because what he’s walked into is not a book but a porn store. The door shuts behind him. Space-smut, toys, discs, and articles of undress line the walls and shelves all around him. As with the docks, this is an obviously overwhelming experience for Simon. A passing older female shopper gives him a look, and he goes to one of the shelves and pulls out a book, which is in Chinese. He flips to the first page, reads a section, and puts it back hastily. Attempting to appear nonchalant, and failing utterly, he goes on to the next shelf. A salesgirl comes up to him, and he’s so busy trying to be inconspicuous that he doesn’t notice her.
Salesgirl: Can I help you?
Simon jumps and grabs a book off of the shelf at random.
Simon: Ah…ah…yes. I’m looking for…prurient literature.
Salesgirl: Up from Persephone?
Salesgirl: Well, you’ve come to the right place. Anything in particular you’re looking for?
Simon: Uh…I…want to buy…smut. Yes. I want…smut.
Salesgirl: (sympathetic and amused) I’ll just let you browse, then.
Simon: Yes. I’ll…browse.
She nods with a smile and leaves him alone. Simon watches her go, then looks down at what he’s holding and puts it back quickly.
The scene pans to the bar across the street. Jayne is sitting sprawled in a corner, semi-inconspicuously, and a surprising number of women, considering the time of day, are in clusters around the tables, some hard-bitten warriors, some Eurydice working girls, and some women who appear to be part of a bachelorette party from Persephone, also a few men interspersed with the ladies. Sitting at a door near the stage is a huge, tough, gorgeous—and really huge—woman with a perfectly expressionless face, obviously a bodyguard. Mal is sitting at the bar, behind which is the dreadlocked woman from the docks, working obviously as the bartender. She pours out a drink and hands it to him.
Mal: (leaning towards her) Mind if I ask you something, friend?
Dreadlocks/Bartender: (smiling jovially) Go right ahead, friend.
Mal: (distracted) Ain’t it kinda crowded for so early?
Bartender: They come for the show, mostly.
Mal: (back on track) Are all the ladies in here…sly?
Bartender: (grinning) You’re in luck, friend. Girlie show don’t start ‘til later. We got the men dancing in their skivvies between four and six, so all the lovelies you see here are lookin’ for that sort of entertainin’…though between you and me, there’s no guaranteein’ they won’t think you are too.
Mal: What? Sly? Do I look sly?
Bartender: (doesn't respond, just grins) Up from Persephone, are you?
Mal: Yep. Having myself a day out.
He has a notion.
Mal: Say, you get fresh dancers in here very often? ‘Cuz I’ve got friends—they may not have rhythm, but they’re flat broke…and awful pretty for menfolk.
Bartender: (grinning)…We may be able to agree on somethin’. Show’s startin’, though. You give them a heads-up.
Space burlesque music starts up. It is thumpy, somewhat like club music. A dancer comes onstage. He’s not ugly—but no Simon or Jayne—and is obviously nervous.
Mal: (to the bartender) That one near the door over there.
He gestures with his head to the guard.
Mal: She don’t prefer women?
Bartender: Her? Depends on the day.
Mal: Well, now, I’ll just give my friends a call…and then maybe go see what sort of day it is.
He winks at the bartender. She grins again and goes to serve some girls at the opposite end of the bar. Mal turns on his transmitter.
Mal: (very quiet) Jayne, go get Simon and meet the bartender around the back entrance. Plan’s changed.
Jayne: (from his corner position) What for?
Mal: I need you two to do a spot of erotic dancing.
Jayne: Simon ain’t gonna do it willing.
Mal: Then maybe you don’t tell him.
Jayne: (snorting) I like this plan.
Mal: Be around the back in five.
Jayne leaves. Bartender comes back to Mal.
Mal: They’ll be at the back entrance shortly.
Bartender: I don’t usually deal like this, but that [Chinese for “ugly shit”] onstage is the best I got for today. Persephone bride-to-be and her posse over there willin’ to pay out the nose for fresh meat.
Mal: My friends are a sight winsomer than him.
Bartender: (grinning yet again) Then this is my lucky day.
Mal grins back.
Simon is in the porn store, standing by the curtain, absorbed in a book he’s found—which turns out to be (though we haven’t seen it yet as such) one of the dusty ones arranged in the window to disguise what the shop actually deals in. Jayne comes in and yanks on him. Simon looks up distractedly.
Jayne: Plan changed.
Simon: Really? I was just—
Jayne grabs the book and looks at it in disgust.
Jayne: A whole store of tasty, and you choose…100 Love Sonnets by—Nerida?
Simon: (exasperated, snatching the book back) Neruda.
Jayne: Whatever. Let’s git. Mal wants us ‘round the back in five.
Simon: (putting the book back in the window) What for?
Jayne: Didn’t ask.
Jayne and Simon go around the street block of strip shops, restaurants, and general holes-in-the-wall, then into a back alley, and meet the bartender who’s waiting at the backdoor of the Underground. She looks them up and down, trying to hide her greed behind a mask of indifference.
Bartender: You’ll do. You’ll get 70 percent of the tips—I’m takin’ 30 off the top—but it ought to do you.
She hustles them inside the back hallway—it’s shadowy, and Simon couldn’t have figured out what it led to even if he did have some clue as to what was going on.
Simon: (bewildered, looking at Jayne) 30—
Bartender: Wait here.
She pushes through a curtain, which is velvet on the other side. The music can be plainly heard, and there’s a glimpse of lights and the stage surface. The picture is focused on the view of Jayne’s back, Simon in semi-profile, and the curtain.
Bartender: (from behind the curtain, announcing) Ladies and ladies! Are you ready for some fresh manly meat?! (cheers from the waiting audience.) Standing behind this curtain, straight from the Mr. Persephone Pageant, I give you…MISter LETHE STAR SYSTEM annnnd…ADONIS!
Simon: (gasped) A-what? Jayne?
Bartender’s Voice: Are you ready to watch them TAKE IT OFF??
Yells, then a chant of women shouting, “Take It Off” repeatedly. The curtain’s machinery begins to hum to life, and just as it’s drawing back, Simon’s profile turns fully toward Jayne, his expression pure, unmitigated horror.
The scene changes abruptly to the Eurydice docks. An older lady, very neatly dressed, is welcomed into Inara’s shuttle. Inside the shuttle, they kiss on the cheek. The visitor is a very handsome older woman of maybe sixty-five.
Inara: (gesturing to her couch) Would you like some tea?
Older Lady: Thank you, my dear.
She has a very gracious voice and very calculating eyes. They both sit, equally graceful, and with the same rigid posture. The older woman looks about her, smiling.
Older Lady: (after a slight pause) And this is where you entertain your…customers?
Inara: (in an equally gracious—and equally meaninglessly gracious—voice) This is where I entertain my clients, Grandmother.
Grandmother: (after a short and eloquent pause) And do you often find yourself on…this sort of world?
Inara: (gracious still) Sometimes, yes. Was your journey tiring, Grandmother? How are my mother and father?
Grandmother: And have you been successful in your…line of work?
She infuses the question with subtle doubt and pity.
Inara: Yes, thank you, Grandmother.
Grandmother: So you have taken to traveling the universe in this…vessel, with this…crew. Very enterprising, my dear. And you have made your…workspace so…cozy.
Grandmother is a master utilitress of meaningful hesitations between words.
Inara: (quietly) Thank you.
Grandmother takes a sip of tea, then looks down at her cup in semi-mock-surprise.
Grandmother: But where is your great-aunt Nanela’s tea set? It was so very valuable—you have not sold it, have you? Or has it broken, what with the…rigors of this sort of…travel?
She smiles mock-worriedly at Inara. Inara looks down, sets her lips into a very professional sort of smile, and looks up wearing it.
The bar again. Simon is standing transfixed with horror on the stage while Jayne is waving his shirt around his over head. They are, however, equally attractive to the mob of ladies—and the token handful of gay gentlemen—crowded around the bottom of the stage platform. The platform reaches about to the waist of the audience members, who are screaming, grabbing, and pushing money at Mr. Lethe Star System and Adonis. Mal, meanwhile, is trying to make small talk with the completely inactive guard by shouting into her ear.
Mal: YOU LIVE AROUND HERE?
The guard gives him a glance without any emotional content behind it.
Mal: CAN I GET YOU A DRINK?
She doesn’t respond at all this time.
Mal: SO DO YOU COME HERE—I guess it just ain’t my day.
He attempts to pull his gun on her, but without looking at him she does some kind of move with one arm where he ends up flat on his back. She picks him up and drags him down a corridor to a back room. This is Sung’s receiving parlor, kind of like Badger’s office except that it is, a. more habitable, and, b. more streamlined-looking. Sung is another gorgeous, tall, muscular, icy-faced woman. Her clothes are plain, but…well, hot; her hair is very long and up in a ponytail; she has, incongruously, Western-film-style wire-rimmed glasses on, like the kind that the archetypal green-visored clerk usually wears. She is Korean. And have I mentioned icy-faced? Not to sound like a Cure song, but her expression is so aloofly still that if it were a touch, it would kill.
Sung: On the floor, Rhodes.
The guard drops Mal, handcuffs him, and relieves him of his gun, which she kicks over to Sung. Sung picks it up.
Sung: You have, as ever, a loyal crew, Reynolds.
Mal: (kneeling up, shaking his head to clear it) They didn’t know how loyal they was—‘til they found themselves onstage.
Sung: You have not gained much by your ruse.
Mal: Maybe not, but it was funny.
Sung: And appears to be profitable as well. Perhaps I should thank you before I kill you.
Mal: Wait a…You’re going to kill me?
Sung: You were expecting someone else, perhaps? Someone you have betrayed in the basest possible manner?
She retains her icy outward calmness, something like Zoe might do were she threatening Mal’s life in elevated diction.
Mal: Well, no. That is, not exactly. That is, I was expecting Niska.
Mal: Adelai Niska? Thick accent? Fan of waistcoats, also torture?
Sung: Oh. I have heard of him.
Mal: But you’re not working for him…you ain’t in any form his hostage? Don’t need rescuin’ or the like?
Sung blinks once or twice, then seems to get herself back on track. Inside of her cold face begins to burn a terrible, banked rage. One can only very barely tell. And that just makes it scarier.
Sung: I am working for love, Reynolds.
Mal: (lost) Love—
Sung: I represent—(she aims Mal’s gun at his head and readies the trigger)—my wife.
There is a longish pause.
Mal: Your whuh?
A somewhat complicated set-up of visual sequence and voice-over. The action taking place is this: first the same ship that we saw taking off from Eurydice docks we see landing at the Eavesdown docks, then cut to Zoe, standing alone in the cargo bay (or is it a loading dock? Serenity’s main entrance, anyway). She sees Badger’s face through the window in the front door, and, still-faced, hammers the button to let him in. The shot changes to one from above, as into the cargo bay come approximately twenty men, all aiming guns at Zoe, then Badger, strolling, and then…well, Yosafbridge, whom for practical purposes we will call Saffron—though it isn’t what she’s calling herself currently. The shot is from above because it’s from River’s viewpoint, who is currently lodged, in some hopefully very cool and not entirely done-before way, on the ceiling.
The line taking place while the action goes on is thus:
Sung: My wife, Reynolds. Ginevra: do you recall her? She who you cheated out of the honor of an action she single-handedly planned, risking her life for the glory of an honorable revenge against her oppressors? She came to yourself and your crew in her hour of need, trusting you to treat her with the respect that she too-generously offered your ignominious self, throwing herself upon your mercy, and you led her to believe that you would behave toward her in a manner concordant with her claim upon your sympathies, your sense of justice. I would not have believed it possible, that you of all men would dishonor and wrong—
At this point (hopefully Sung has been long-winded enough) the invading posse is loaded onto Serenity. Cut down from River’s point of view to Saffron ordering her crew. I want this in sound, but am afraid it’ll be too confusing…or just ugly.
Saffron: Badger’s people see to her (looking scornfully and smugly at Zoe); my people help me search this [Chinese for “shit heap”] from top to bottom.
Scene 12 ½:
The visual cuts quickly back to Eurydice and Mal on Sung's floor.
Mal: Hold up. This…Ginevra—she a…rounded sort of lady with orange hair and a square chin?
Sung: (slightly stiffly) Her hair is golden. And her face is heart-shaped.
Mal: …Right. Sung, I’m afraid you’ve been marked.
Mal: You ain’t Ginevra’s first, uh, significant other. There’s a whole passel of us: Monty, for one, and a fellow called Haymer who owned the Lasseter, to mention a few, not to mention myself. She’s left me to die more than once—
Sung: (losing some part of her cool) In the manner in which you left her? In a dumpster? With her condition?
Mal: Her condition?
Sung: She has an intense fear of dark, enclosed and smelly places. When the emergency help found her she was near-catatonic.
There is a pause.
Mal: I wouldn’t play you, Sung. Not like this.
Sung: (back to her removed expressionlessness) For your life, you mean?
Mal: No. …Well, yeah, I’d play you for my life, but fact is I don’t have to.
Sung: You don’t, as you say, have to, because nothing you can say will make a modicum of difference, Reynolds.
Mal: If you truly thought that was so, I’d be corpsifying on your floor right now.
Sung: That can of course be arranged.
Mal: Give Monty a wave. You know it’ll decompose your peace long after I’m crowmeat if you don’t.
Sung stares at Mal. She is indeed wavering; you can even see some of the internal conflict in parts of her face. She comes to a decision.
Rhodes looks at her.
Sung: If he moves—
Rhodes nods. Sung opens a door in the further wall and goes through it. It shuts, and Mal and Rhodes are left alone together.
Mal: So…that was some move what with the flipping and the unconsciousness.
Rhodes: Stop talking.
Mal does that. Muffled music and ever-enthusiastic screams filter in from the bar. Just after the shot has lingered a moment longer than is necessary to make its point, Sung comes back in. Behind her face she is grim, also somehow pinched.
Sung: (to Rhodes) Uncuff him. Gather the reinforcements. She will not get away with this.
Rhodes obeys orders and leaves. Sung is almost awkward as she hands back Mal’s gun.
Sung: I apologize, Reynolds. I have wronged you.
Mal: (serious, compassionate) Don’t matter.
Sung: (lowers her gaze—she is atoning, and at the same time talking to herself) I thought I was…no longer alone.
Mal: You do right by your crew, Sung. You ain’t alone. And speaking on the subject, I better go rescue my people.
Mal goes down the hall and comes through the doorway into the bar all business.
Mal: (projecting) All right, ladies and gents, show’s over! Thank you for your patronage! Simon, Jayne, let’s—
He pauses and focuses on Simon and Jayne. Simon is fighting like a desperate and caged animal to hold on to his shirt, while Jayne, disappointed all over his face, is standing with nothing but boots and money-stuffed underwear on. Mal looks away hastily.
Mal: [Chinese for something like “By the unholiest of emetics”], Jayne, put your pants on.
Jayne: But Mal—
Bartender: (eyeing all the money) But Mal—is it Mal?
Simon wrests his shirt back from his adoring fan, stuffs himself back into it, and makes a series of impossible noises in his throat, staring wide-eyed about him.
Mal: (to the disappointed crowd) Thanks for coming, you’ve been great—
He herds them toward the door and they reluctantly file out.
Simon: (still onstage) I—I got—I can’t—
Mal points to Simon. Jayne obligingly smacks Simon in the face. Simon snaps out of it and glares.
Jayne begins to gather his money.
Bartender: Hey! What about my 30 percent?
Sung comes out of the back room, two guns on her hips.
Sung: (to the bartender) Leave it, Biss.
Biss: (grinning and capitulating with a bit of a bow) Boss.
Mal: Zoe’s in some peril, Sung—
Sung: We’ll rezendez-vous at Serenity.
Mal: Simon? (then, irritated,) Jayne?
Jayne: All right, gorram it.
Simon is gradually snapping out of it.
Simon: I gotta—gotta make a purchase.
Mal: We got no kind of time—
Simon: (grabbing a handful of bills, making toward the door) I’ll catch up with you.
A shot of Mal and Jayne sprinting through the streets of Eurydice toward the shuttle. Jayne remains shirtless.
Inara’s shuttle, inside. Grandmother is still there, sitting as straight as ever. Inara is putting away her tea service as a not-subtle hint that it is time for the visit to end.
Inara: I’ve enjoyed your visit, Grandmother, but really I must go.
Grandmother: (mid-conversation…well, mid-speech) Eratz is still willing to marry you, provided you have had no…children. You have not had a child, have you, my dear?
Inara: Eratz is out of the question, Grandmother. Please, I really must—
Grandmother: (dropping the act—most of it, anyway) It is time you took on some of the responsibilities of family, Inara. Your duty is to those who raised you, who cared for you; your duty is toward the line of your forefathers and the blood that beats in your veins. Despite everything your family is willing to accept you back—
Inara: (with a totally un-humorous smile, to herself) My family.
Grandmother: --Accept you back, however low you have sunk yourself—
Inara: Grandmother, it is time for you to go. Thank you for your visit.
She opens the door to her shuttle, making her formal gesture that signifies departure—and Mal and Jayne breeze in, out of breath.
Mal: Oh, you still got company? We are a little off our mark—
Jayne: (looking kind of appreciatively at Inara’s grandmother) This your quickie?
Grandmother: (with dignity) These, I assume, are members of this…crew you spoke of?
Inara: Please, we are on a tight schedule.
Grandmother: Is one of you Captain Reynolds?
Mal: (at once courteous and dangerous) I am, ma’am. Now I believe the lady said for you to depart.
Inara: (subtlety abandoned, she is rolling her eyes) Good luck.
Mal looks from Inara to the old lady.
Mal: (responding) So that’s the way of it?
Grandmother: (with a meaningful sort of smile) You share a very…special relationship with Inara?
Jayne: (looking at Mal) You do?
Mal and Inara exchange glances.
Mal: That’s it. Jayne?
He points at Grandmother.
Jayne: Uh? Oh.
Jayne picks Grandmother up by the waist and deposits her outside the shuttle, just as
Simon jumps in the door. Inara quickly closes it and rushes to the cockpit. Mal is about to follow when he catches sight of Simon’s rigidity and thousand-yard stare: he hasn’t moved since he entered the shuttle.
Mal: What’s up?
Simon: Shock. I’m in shock.
Mal turns and goes into the cockpit. Jayne shrugs in disgust.
Zoe’s tied to a chair—or something—in the loading dock, with Saffron striding around in front of her looking slightly crazy. Sung’s men are standing behind her looking businesslike; Badger’s men, and Badger, are silent, alert, but lounging at their ease. Badger in particular is enjoying himself.
Saffron: I’m not tired yet, sweetheart. I can keep this up for hours.
Saffron doesn’t kill people, Zoe knows this, and Zoe knows too that she won’t even hit very hard. River knows what Zoe knows…but why is she avoiding taking everyone down? Oh, mystery unsolved! Zoe in other words is just looking at Saffron.
Saffron: WHERE THE HELL IS MY GODDAMNED LASSETER??
She composes herself with an effort.
Saffron: And speaking of missing, where’s that strapping man of yours?
Zoe’s face doesn’t change—but it doesn’t have to.
Saffron: Did he leave you, sweetheart? Leave you for someone a little more…accomodatin’? Maybe he and that pretty mechanic went off somewheres nice—and—quiet.
She steps forward, pulling a knife from her belt.
Saffron: It’s sweet, really—you’re still wearing that marriage knot around your neck—you real-ly love him, don’t you? Take it from me, honey, as one married gal to another—
She puts the knife between Zoe’s neck and the knot, then runs the blade around.
Saffron: --It is time to move on. ‘Cuz you know he already has.
Zoe: Back away.
River is ready to drop and attack, but of course she can’t what with the knife being at Zoe’s throat and all.
Saffron: This is for your own good, sweetheart. He ain’t worth being broken up about. You just sit still and—
She turns the knife, and the rope of the knot is severed. It drops away from Zoe’s neck and Saffron takes it in her hand.
Saffron: --pouf, he’s gone.
Zoe: Give it back, bitch. GIVE IT BACK.
River jumps down on top of Saffron, floors her, and kicks and punches her way over to the door release, which she pushes. Mal, Inara, Simon, and Jayne stand before a phalanx of Sung’s warrior women, framed in the doorway. Sung walks forward, scarily expressionless. Saffron/Ginevra scrambles up.
He goes and unties her.
Zoe: (automatically) I ain’t hurt, sir.
Sung: (to Saffron) You lied to me. You practically succeeded in it. I should doubtless congratulate you.
Saffron: You believed…him? (her “him” is sneering) When I…I thought our love was stronger than that, baby…I thought you…you loved me like I love you—
A heartbreaking moment. Sung is again wavering, between what, one can’t be sure.
Mal: --But unfortunately that proved not to be the case.
Saffron glares at him.
Mal: Come on, Yosafbridginevra, all of you. Off my ship.
Saffron: (poisonous-sweet) Where’s my Lasseter?
Mal: Why? You want to be buried with it?
Saffron glares at him harder. He stares at her, then Sung, then Zoe, then Inara, then shrugs and pulls a metal disk out of his pocket, tossing it to Saffron.
Mal: I pawned it. Ten days ago. On Remus. Needed the coin for food and...well, other major repairs. Should still be there, you hurry fast enough. We got 200 for it; you probably owe ‘em somewhat more.
Saffron: …What’re you playing at, Malcom Reynolds?
Mal pauses, and looks at Inara.
Mal: I can’t fix much. Can’t fix hardly anything. But I want you off my ship. (His tone lightens) And I’d take it as a kindness if you’d stop marrying my friends.
Sung is all rage on the inside, her feelings all ravaged.
Sung: (steely, icy, and horribly sardonic) Bring my wife.
Her people leave Serenity.
Badger: You and yours never fail to entertain, Sargeant Reynolds.
Mal: You got a job for us? (he glances at Zoe) A real job this time?
Badger: (with an acknowledging grin) Some property needs transportin’. Depends how fast you can get this vessel of yours off the ground.
Mal: You have an advance for us?
Badger: Do I look like I’m made o’ money?
Mal: Not the first substance that springs to mind, I must admit.
Badger: (grinning) I’ll be in touch.
His people leave. River closes the door. Simon goes to check on her, Mal stands next to Zoe, who gets up; Jayne sits down and starts pulling money out of his waistband and counting it, Inara looks at them all. There is a sound of shuttle 2 pulling in; Kaylee opens the door and comes out onto the walkway, holding a package of incense. The crew looks up at her.
Kaylee: What, what’d I miss?
Below her everyone exchanges glances.
Mal knocks on the side of Inara’s shuttle door and comes in.
Inara: (wryly) Come in.
Mal: Thanks. I just wanted to…apologize for bargin’ in on you thing like that—and thanks again and…stuff…You all right?
Inara: I’m fine. Why?
Mal: You’re just…sittin’. You ill?
Inara: (rolling her eyes) No, just thinking.
Her expression sort of half-invites him to sit, so he sits, cautiously.
Inara: Jayne broke my great-aunt’s tea service.
Mal: Leave it to Jayne to destroy something of both monetary and sentimental value.
Inara: No. I’m glad it’s gone. I…don’t want to go back.
Mal: (quietly) All right.
Inara: You probably have to check on Zoe.
Mal: Thanks, too, for what you…said. About Wash.
Inara: Anyone would have said it, Mal.
Mal: Maybe so. But thanks.
He gets up to leave, heads toward the door, and stops. She stands.
Mal: (simultaneously) ‘Nara—
Inara: (breathing rather hard) We could just…you know, try it. For scientific purposes.
Mal: It’s nothin’ but a…I done this before, you know.
Inara: (as she steps toward him) True, but I am the professional; I’m supposed to set the standard—
Mal: (as he steps toward her) I can’t recall what I ate…since I last cleaned my teeth.
Inara: (breathless) I think…you win.
They kiss, kind of slow.
Mal: I think I do too.
Faster kind of kiss. They stare at each other, wrapped together, then spring apart at the same time.
Inara: And I really ought to—
Mal: So I’ll, uh—
He goes. She stares after him, then flops down onto the bed and stares at the ceiling, wide-eyed. He comes in again, and she springs up.
Mal: Sorry, I—
Inara: Oh, no, of course.
Extremely embarrassed, semi-awkward, semi-wonderful pause.
Inara: W-was it—
Inara: I was—
Mal: It was.
Mal: A little too—
Mal: We should—?
Mal: As always.
Inara: (regretfully) Yeah.
Mal: Oh, can I—
Inara: Of course.
Mal: Hold up, you can’t have known what I was about to—
Inara: Was it about the payment?
Mal: The loan.
Pause. Stare. Mal about-faces and leaves. Inara flops back down onto the bed.
Kaylee is lying in the hammock in the engine room. Simon enters.
Kaylee: Right here. Riight where you left me.
Simon: I, um—
He stops. Kaylee looks contemplative and sad.
Kaylee: It ain’t right. She ain’t movin’, nothin’s right. (Softly) It’s like she broke, we’re all…
Simon: I…got you something.
Kaylee: (perking up) You mean like…a present?
Simon: You won’t like it.
Kaylee: Of course I’ll like it. When’d you get it? Where’d you get the coin?
At this Simon freezes a little, as if in a nightmare flashback, but recovers.
Simon: It’s no good—
He hands her her present: the book of Neruda poems from the window of the porn store.
Simon: It’s cheap, and old—
Kaylee: (nonplussed) It’s a …book.
Simon: From back on Earth-that-Was. He was a Spanish poet.
Kaylee: Nobody ever gave me a book before. At least not a boyfriend. 100 Love Poems…(she smiles) Simon! That’s so…
Simon: I just…like you. Really like you. You…always see the best in things. And it…frightens me. Because of Wash, and how Zoe…it’s as though she’s… And more generally, of course, who wouldn’t be petrified of someth—
Kaylee: I like you a lot too. This is just about the nicest thing I’ve ever been given. I wanna sit down and read the whole of it right now.
Simon: You don’t want to…say…
He bites half his lip. Kaylee grins.
Kaylee: Simon! You’re harassing me for sex?
Simon: I’m trying.
Kaylee: (smiling more seriously) Well, (wrapping her arms around him) keep up the good work.
Zoe, soundtrackless, sitting in her room. She is very still, as before. Across from her is a little Buddhist shrine to Wash with the good incense burning before it. There’s a knock from above.
Zoe: Come in.
Mal comes down the ladder, and sits next to, but behind, her on the bed.
Mal: Well, we had us an interesting time and didn’t much profit from it. But Inara’ll give us that loan, and we’ll be flying again. Also made a lot of lonely ladies happy seeing Jayne in next to nothing, though I can’t say I feel the same.
Zoe: Glad to hear it, sir.
Mal pauses, then drops the broken marriage knot over Zoe’s folded hands. She catches it automatically.
Mal: River got it from Saffron, I guess when she jumped her.
Zoe: I guess.
Mal: Can’t go takin’ risks like that, Zoe.
Zoe: No, sir. I’m sorry.
There is a pause as they both sit in the silence. The next thing Mal says is in a slightly cracked voice.
Mal: Can’t say much more than that I’m sorry, Zoe. It was—my fight he—he went in—
Zoe: (she didn’t hear him and so interrupts) Thank River for the thought, sir, but it’s broke.
Zoe: Can’t be fixed, sir.
Mal is very intent, and in much pain.
Zoe: One thing we’ve learned, sir, is that nothing lasts. Remember, sir, how well we learned that?
Her voice is very steady, very calm.
Mal: I do.
Zoe: Nothing bad…nothing good. It’s easy to forget.
Mal: (almost pleading) How much of you’s eaten up in there, Zoe? How much do we still got with us? ‘Cuz we can’t lose it all. Can’t afford it.
Zoe: Might as well not even be here. It’s broken, it can’t—
One realizes that her shoulders are trembling slightly, her voice breaking a little.
Zoe: It—I—He’s dead—
And suddenly she’s crying too hard to breathe or speak, and then Mal’s holding her. Music swells up out of the silence as she cries, swells, and there is a shot from above of her wracked with tears and Mal bent over her.
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