1. Hindsight's 20/20
"I just don't like the idea of you fightin', Mal," Kai Reynolds said looking tired. "War changes a body and it'll only turn you bitter and hard."
Mal frowned at his mother. "You're talkin' like we already lost."
"Use your head, son," she said, not unkindly. "They got the numbers, the money, the technology..."
"Ma." Mal reached out and lightly touched her hand. "All empires gotta fall sometime. History's full of stories about the little guys taking out the bigger ones. Just you see, the war will be over quick and there'll be no one tellin' us how to live."
Kai sighed, her expression sad and resigned. "If that's what you think, son."
"Oh, I know it'll be so, Ma." Mal's eyes shone with idealistic determination. "Just you wait and see."
2. Piece of Cake
"Now, you raise up one leg at a time like- Just like that, lambie toes. Mal, you need to move back a bit on your board or you're like to take a header right off the end."
Mal snorted. "I know how to stand up, Wash. Been doin' it most of my life."
Wash raised an eyebrow. "Alright, you're the expert. Let's get on out in the water, then." He led the way and Zoe and Mal hung back a few steps.
"You sure you can do this, sir?" Zoe asked, careful to keep the doubt out of her tone.
"Oh yeah," Mal bluffed. "Surfing should be a cakewalk."
"I told you that when you raise up, you gotta-" Another wave came along and washed over Mal, obliterating the rest of Wash's words.
Mal scrambled back on, scowling at his first mate who was struggling against laughter.
"I think the object is to stay on the board, sir."
"Oh, really? Is that the idea??"
"But what would we know?" Wash asked, sardonically. "This is supposed to be a cakewalk, right?"
Mal grumbled and followed them as they paddled out further. "Knew this was a bad idea..."
3. Law of Averages
"Only last a week, huh?" Kaylee whispered to Mal.
"Will you shut up?" he hissed. "I'm tryin' to appreciate the ceremony here."
"We are gathered here today," the shepherd said, "to bless this union between Jayne Cobb and River Tam."
"I just don't understand it," Mal muttered. "I'm always right about this kind of thing."
"Well, the law of averages says you have to be wrong some time," Simon pointed out.
"Oh, stow it, doc."
4. Just A Little Girl
When he'd first found out Nettie-bird had a crush on him, he'd been flattered. An old man like him made a bitty young girl go all calf-eyed? Did wonders for his ego. And it had been cute, the way she'd blush when he spoke to her, the way she'd look at him like he could do no wrong.
She'd always been just a little girl, Jayne's daughter, the albatross's baby, Jamey's kid sis, one of the band of young rowdies that made life on the ship brighter when all else was so much darker. It had been easy to see her as such and he thought it would always be that way.
But now? After spending months and months away at school, coming home briefly for summer break, and then leaving again, he's seeing her as the woman she's growing into. Beautiful, kind, generous, spunky, funny. And she's still looks at him like he's the one who keeps all the planets turning. Not so cute anymore. It's giving him ideas, ideas he has no business having.
Of course things weren't going to stay the same; he was wrong to think they wouldn't. But he keeps up the pretense that nothing's changed and watches her seduce Wash and Zoe's son and he keeps his mouth shut.
It's the way it has to be.
"Do you ever miss Inara?"
Nettie's softly spoken question drags Mal out of his contented daze and he pauses in the middle of stroking her hair. "Now, what makes you go and ask something like that?"
"I was just wondering." The young woman in his arms rests her chin on his chest, uncertainty in her eyes. "Do you?"
"Why would I when I got me my Nettie-bird?" He smiles, trying to make her shine back at him but the light goes out of those pretty eyes of hers. "Listen, anything I ever felt towards that woman's in the past. You don't need to worry on me going out there looking for her."
"So you do miss her." She breaks their embrace and gets out of bed, starting to sort through the clothes she's left scattered on the floor.
"Not when I'm with you," Mal says, honestly. He watches her dress and he can't help but sense the finality in her gestures, and knows that he's going to lose her forever if he doesn't say the right thing and soon. "Besides, she never had any regard for me anyway, so why don't you-"
Her harsh laugh cuts him off short. "You really are an idiot, Mal." She lets herself out and Mal lowers himself back onto the bed, pondering her words.
Inara never felt the same. She couldn't. Otherwise he would've wasted all those years... He pushes the despair that thought brought away and starts planning on how to get Serenity back. Girl adored him, she was bound to accept him into her good graces again.