"The beast surveyed the land, noticing the deep emerald green of the trees, the sky-blue blue of the, um, sky . . . and he turned to his fellow beasts and said, 'This world is good and pure and honest and wholesome and a good place to raise two-point-five children.' And his fellow beasts all nodded and agreed and some hummed but there was one—a heckler.
"This heckler was bitter and cruel and faithless and liked to pretend that he ruled over everything. He was a bastard—that's right, I said bastard—and he liked to decide what the other beasts should do and when they should do things and for how long. And sometimes he paid the other beasts, but mostly they worked for nothing because there was never enough money to pay for the fuel and parts to keep their ship in the air.
"Don't make that face—I am not going off track."
"Honey, the beasts have a ship," Zoe pointed out.
"No." Wash gestured with the tyrannosaurus rex. "Only the bastard has a ship. The rest of the beasts just have to do his bidding. They don't get a ship, they just fly around on it and go where he wants to go." He zoomed the tyrannosaur around and then plopped him back on the console.
"Was there someplace in particular you wanted to stay?" Zoe leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms.
"That's not the point." Wash flicked one of the palm trees. "This isn't an allegory."
Zoe hummed, a quiet smirk on her face.
"Do you know how long it's been since we've been on a planet?" Wash snapped.
"Six weeks, three days, four hours" she replied off-handedly.
Wash did a double take. "Yeah." He blinked; he hadn't actually known the exact figure.
"Sometimes that happens." Zoe shrugged.
"Six weeks of recycled air, Zoe. Six weeks." He nearly whimpered. "I know we go where the money takes us, but . . ."
"Something will come up," Zoe insisted. She walked to her husband and put her arms around his neck.
"Why can't something come up while we're sitting on a planet? Breathing natural air that hasn't been circulating around Jayne?" He leaned into her space, towards her warmth.
"Because the Captain says—"
"Oh, the Captain." Wash rolled his eyes and turned away from her, checking Serenity's blinking read-outs that all reported black, space, boring.
Zoe sighed. "Are you doing that jealous thing again?"
"No," Wash grunted. "I'm doing that stir-crazy cabin-fever thing again."
"We'll have to stop for supplies again soon." Zoe nodded, gazing out at the black. "Maybe it'll be a planet instead of a space station."
"Oh, will Mal let me off the ship this time?"
She cocked one eyebrow and starred down at her man. "Last time I believe it was your choice that kept you on the ship."
Wash's mouth sagged. "You cannot blame that on me."
Zoe turned, her hips swaying, swinging her holstered pistol.
"You were all naked!" Wash shouted pathetically.
She called over her shoulder. "You weren't complaining."
Wash muttered under his breath and turned back to his dinosaurs. He nudged the tyrannosaurus rex out of the oasis and picked up his stegosaurus. He stroked the little dinosaur's head with his finger.
"No one blames you for being horny," he whispered.
He knocked the tyrannosaurus off the console with the back of his hand. The plastic toy spun, bounced, and landed right next to Wash's socked feet. He peered down, grimacing at it, and then smothered it with his foot.
"Yeah, how's the air down there, buddy?"
Wash slumped back in his chair, clutching the stegosaurus to his chest. He mentally plotted a route to Persephone and closed his eyes. He could hear the thrum of the crowd, the barkers shouting the price of their dogs, feel the heat of the sun pressing in on his neck . . . and could almost smell the fresh air.
His foot slipped off the little tyrannosaurus.
"Wash!" Mal's voice buzzed in over the intercom.
He bungled the stegosaurus out of his hand and smacked the intercom. "Yeah, Mal?"
"Got a bite on Greenleaf." Static. "Get there in a hurry?"
"Sure thing," Wash buzzed back. "Will we be there long?" He closed his eyes and crossed his fingers. The intercom was silent for stretching seconds.
"Few days, like."
Wash jumped up, wiggled his hips, and punched the air. He checked the navigation, plotted the course, and leaned back, folding his hands behind his head. Six weeks, three days, and nine hours without touching planet . . . he could live with that (just not again any time soon).