She was visibly trembling as he took her roughly in his arms.

"What do you want?" he demanded of her, his eyes frantically searching hers.

"I want it all. I want everything," she sobbed, overcome with passion.

"You're not going to get it," he cried, shaking her. "Leave me some shred of my soul, temptress!" But his hands now clawed through her hair as he held her head still so he could ravage her mouth with his.

"Now see, that's where she went wrong. Right there," Kaylee exclaimed to Simon who was seated next to her.

"Shhh!" Jayne turned around to glare at her. On the screen the couple moaned and mauled at each other some more.

"You don't ask for everything. Only a fool wants everything," she continued, more quietly. "Simon?"

"Yes," Simon agreed in a strangled voice. "Only a fool."

"That's right. Nobody gets everything. It just ain't the way of it." Kaylee put her arm through his and rested her head on his shoulder as they sat.

"I cannot believe that I am sittin' here watchin' this yuchun . . ." Mal was silenced by Inara's hand on his arm.

"She'll hear you."

"I mean to be heard," growled Mal, but he'd lowered his voice as he said it.

"It's her birthday. You promised," Inara whispered.

"See? This is what happens when I get all sentimental like," he muttered. Up on the screen the two lovers were artfully naked now, moaning of their love for each other. Mal squirmed in his seat. "I shoulda figured that she'd steer us to some huangse love story." A particularly loud moan emitted from the hero. "Ain't no man makes sounds like that. Sounds like he's being murdered. What?"

Inara was looking at him with an unreadable expression on her face.

"Shhhhhh!" Jayne turned and hissed at Mal.

Mal leaned forward in his chair.

"You got something you want to tell me, Jayne?"

"You're making me miss the good parts," he rumbled, then turned back in his seat.

"Mal, relax," Inara soothed. "It's almost over." She leaned in closer and whispered softly. "If it's any comfort, I think Simon is even more embarrassed than you are."

Mal inched forward and looked past Inara to see Simon sitting rigidly upright in the theater chair. He stared straight ahead, expressionless, while Kaylee leaned easily against him, engrossed in the love scene.

"He does look like he's about ready to take off at a run, don't he?" Mal smirked. "And just so you won't be living with the burden of all them wrong impressions, Miss Sera, I am not embarrassed. Nor am I a prude." Inara laughed at that.

"Hey, you! Shut up!" The voice came from the back of the sparsely populated theater.

"That's what I been tryin' to tell 'em!" hollered Jayne in agreement.

"Was that Wash?" Mal turned around in his seat, trying to get a bead on the owner of the disembodied voice.

"Mal!" Inara tugged on his arm. "Stop fussing."

The music swelled and Mal warily turned his attention back to the screen. The heroine stood alone on a mistly hill and watched her lover leave her without a backward glance. The screen went black and the house lights came up.

Mal pried himself from the cramped chair and stamped his feet to get the circulation going. "These right here? These chairs? One of the reasons I fought the Alliance."

"It was wonderful! So romantic and sad." Kaylee was standing and stretching herself. "Thank you, Cap'n, for my present." She beamed at Mal.

"Yeah, well. Don't expect it to be a tradition or anything." A slight smile lightened the cranky tone.

Jayne had managed to work himself free of his chair and stood facing the rest of the crew. "Wait'll you see where we're going for my birthday," he said smugly.

"I said we ain't starting no tradition," Mal warned him.

"Well that don't seem fair," Jayne responded, hurt.

"Doctor, you doing all right?" Mal ignored the merc and looked over at Simon who was standing and rubbing his arms.

"Y. . ." he cleared his throat and continued. "Yes. I should go meet River. The Shepherd said they'd be waiting outside for us."

"I still don't see why she couldn't have watched it with us," Kaylee said.

"No!" Mal and Simon responded in unison, then glanced quickly at each other and just as quickly looked away.

"Good vid." Wash was standing at the end of the aisle, his arm wrapped around Zoe's shoulder.

"Hey you shut up?" Mal accused him.

"What? Hey, no, that wasn't me; I was busy making out with my wife." He nuzzled Zoe's neck, and she smiled before gently pushing his head away.

"Not now, husband," she said.

"There's a second showing. We could always stay." Wash waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

"Nobody's staying," Mal cut in. "We all got chores to see to. Kaylee got what she wanted, now we go."

He moved out into the aisle and gestured to Inara, Simon, and Kaylee to follow him.

"You're just a hopeless romantic, aren't you, Mal," Inara snipped as she glided by him.

"Not neither, proud to say," he shot back.

Simon passed him then waited politely for Kaylee to exit the row. She stopped in front of Mal. "I'm sorry to be a bother, Cap'n," she said apologetically. "But I'm real happy that you let us all come. It's been a shiny birthday."

Mal ducked his head, then looked at her again. He mussed up her hair a bit and then kissed her quickly on the cheek.

"Not so much of a bother. Happy Birthday, little Kaylee."

"You all gotta leave so I can clean the place!" An elderly man stood at the back of the theater, a broom and waste can at the ready.

"We're going," Mal said.

"I know what you said, Cap'n, but it'd be real interesting to find out where Jayne wants to go, wouldn't it?"

Mal just groaned as he pushed open the door and exited into the daylight.


Written 11/29/03

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