Mal studied the level of liquid in the bottle, then the level in his glass. "Sad state of affairs," he said pointedly, and
Shepherd Book smiled and poured him some more.
"Thanks kindly," the captain muttered, taking a sip and closing his eyes. "You know, when you came walking in here, I was
expecting a sermon on the evils of drink, not for you to pull up a chair. Didn't think Shepherds were supposed to go looking
inside of bottles."
"If we do not indulge, how can we repent?" Book smiled faintly and topped off his own glass. "I am a bit curious, though...why
tonight? Why alone? And why on the bridge?"
"Shh," Mal cautioned, glancing around with the exaggerated caution of the man who was a few glasses in. "Keep your voice
down now. Don't want Wash or Jayne or- Lord help us- Kaylee walkin' in. We won't get any." He covered the top of the bottle
with the flat of his hand and looked at it possessively.
Book raised an eyebrow. "Wash and Jayne I can understand- but Kaylee?"
"Girl can put it away," Mal muttered darkly. "That shiny surface of hers...contains multitudes..." He took another swallow
and scowled at his glass. "Am I quoting that from somewhere?"
"Yes," Book said, but didn't bother to elaborate. Sure enough, after a moment Mal shook off his quizzical expression and
"You asked what was special about tonight? Well, I'll tell you." Mal leaned forward and blinked solemnly at Book. "Came
up here to have a drink with my girl. It's our anniversary."
Book stared at him for a moment. "Your...girl?"
"On this very day, thus-and-such years back," Mal said, tilting his head back and draining his glass, "I signed my name to
the title of a Firefly-class vessel soon to be named Serenity."
"Ohhh." Book sat back in his chair and thought about that for a moment. "I suppose Serenity is your girl in a way, isn't
"Truer by far than any woman born," Mal said with a nod. "Cannot be tempted by pedigree nor jewels."
"You get a bit poetical when you're in your cups," Book said, hiding his smile behind his own glass. "But wasn't Zoe with
you when you purchased the ship? Shouldn't she be up here with you, raising a toast to the day?"
Mal shrugged, slumping a little lower in his chair. "Wasn't a red-letter day for Zoe like it was for me. Ain't her fault-
I don't remember when she married Wash. Neither one of us expects any different from the other."
Book nodded thoughtfully. "It rather is a marriage of sorts for you as well."
"Wouldn't take it too far, Shepherd. Think of what the children would look like." The captain shook his head as if to clear
it, and refilled both their glasses. "A toast ain't a half-bad idea, though."
"A few words of thanks, perhaps?" Book asked, keeping his voice carefully mild.
"Care to clarify your meaning, Shepherd? My brain ain't moving quite as fast as on its best days right now."
An equally careful, faint smile. "Well, wouldn't you agree, Captain, that the Lord's given you what he wants all of his children
to have- a bit of serenity in their lives?"
Mal stared at him for a long moment. "Thought we agreed the two of us could leave the Lord out of things, Shepherd."
"I had to try." Deftly redirecting the mood before it turned purely ugly, Book raised his glass. "A simple toast, then.
To the day."
"The day," Mal nodded. "And to Serenity."
"Long may she fly," Book added, and they both drank.
After they set their glasses down, Mal glanced around the bridge. "She'll keep flying, all right," he said, his eyes more
at peace than Book recalled seeing them in all of their association. "My girl wouldn't let me down."