DISCLAIMER: Not mine, not making any money. No infringement intended. STORY NOTES: Written for the 'LJ Mood' Challenge. Intended mood at the end.
Light in the galley wasn't the best for fine detail work, but with the hold full of stock the kitchen table was the only flat surface available. Zoe bent over the half-assembled firearm before her and picked up the smaller set of pliers.
Something whispered behind her - like the environmental fan was going in the secondary duct again. Focused on the oiled metal before her, Zoe barely noted the sound. She nearly had the exhaust key reseated in the Lauster-Moore J72 - a tricky bit of weapons maintenance of the sort that always made her swear under her breath. It had taken her half an hour to break the heavy rifle down and forty minutes to clean the major components. And then the goram flutter key refused to mate with the spring again, which always happened when you broke this model down that far, which was why no one liked cleaning the exhaust manifold on the J72s, which was why the 'verse was littered with busted J72 recoil slides and that was why Lauster-Moore had been bought out by Ki Lu-Wesson a decade before the war.
Right now, though, the crescent-shaped bit of cast fiber was nearly lined up properly so she could lock the exhaust bypass into the frame. Another second and she should -
The hands came down on her shoulders out of nowhere. She had half a second's worth of warning as her backbrain felt the body behind her before a firm grip took hold of both sides of her neck and started massaging.
When she stopped moving, the table corner was between her and Wash, her upended chair was still rocking, and her husband had stepped three paces back, offending hands held high.
The neat line of rifle parts was scattered across the stripped cloth. The J72 hung half off the side of the table, slowly bobbing up and down on its balance point.
She had no idea where the exhaust key had gone.
Zoe didn't know what her face looked like, but by the expression on Wash, it had to be pretty bad.
"Honeybee, I'm sorry. I did-"
"I told you last time. Don't do that."
No one else on the ship would do that. No one else could.
The doc walked like a mudsider - feet firm on the deckplates. His sister could show up in the oddest places, but she always seemed to be humming or talking to herself - or the ship - in low, earnest tones.
Kaylee had bounced with every step since the day she had come on board Serenity, it seemed like, and didn't look to be stopping any time soon. A cloud of sweet flower scent preceded Inara into every compartment of the ship, and trailed after her as well. The Shepard walked...deliberate, not Simon's downworlder stomping but like an honest man would. Holy man or not, Book knew not to spook an armed soldier. No surprises there.
Jayne could sneak up on a body slick as hot engine grease, but he wouldn't, not to Zoe. Not again. The first time she had set her pistol between his eyes and leaned into it, until the barrel rim had left a neat, even circle above his nose. As Jayne had been lying on the cargo deck at the time, still gasping for air after the belly blow that had followed the first touch of his hand on her hip, he had only nodded when she asked, "We clear?"
That left Mal, who filled the space at Zoe's back like she filled the space at his, and who had never taken her by surprise, because he was always there.
Except that she had decided that wasn't enough, and now she had another man who could slip in under her radar and felt like he could put his hands on her unasked.
Just now, that man was showing the good sense she had married him for, and not trying to talk his way out of his mis-step. Maybe it was the scowl. Or maybe the firearm.
"Husband." I love you dearly. "Don't you have some pilot things to do?"
"Lamby-kin, I was, actually, just on my way back to the flight deck. I, I have things, pilot things, to do. On the flight deck."
He managed to not trip on the first two steps, missed the third. "I love you, you know that." The steps paused. "You do, don't you?"
"Yes, I do." Of course she did. Anyone else would have been dead.
She pulled the tablecloth straight and started hunting the flutter key.
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