A missing scene from "Out of Gas."
No dough, no foul.
You wake to pain. Your chest feels like something cracked it open and your head throbs. Your legs are weak; you're not sure they'd support you if you tried to move. In your heart is that secret fear.
You try not to move. The ship you're not looking at through your closed eyelids is not Serenity. Too small, not the right throb to the engines. Not the right throb to your head. Could be a shuttle, you think, could even be one of ours.
You listen. Someone mutters, breathing too fast---a soft voice speaking nonsense. River. Simon Tam can't be far away. Have you been taken by bounty hunters in your own shuttle? Did they knock you out and kill your husband?
You move your arm imperceptibly, try to shift your legs. You don't feel any restraints. Then your freeze, because you hear Wash.
Every time you wake up in one of these situations---and it's surprisingly frequently---you wake with a secret fear that Wash is dead. Even in your own bunk you grab hold of him in your sleep, checking that he's still warm like the living, not cold and gross and dead, as he would put it.
"Still nothing out there," he says. River mutters a cryptic response. You hear Wash's footsteps---you know them---coming across the small deck of this small shuttle.
You feel his hand on your wrist. "This is a gorram crazy-ass plan, and if Zoe were awake---"
"Zoe's awake," you whisper.
"Zoe, sweetheart," he says, touching your cheek. "River, wake your brother up."
Something seethes in his tone, but the fear is distant---cold like a ship out of fuel, not hot like a hostage situation.
You open your eyes. "How long have we been out here?" you ask.
"Too long," Wash says angrily.
You can see from one end of the shuttle to the other. No captain, no Jayne, no Kaylee, no companion, no shepherd. "Fuel?" you ask.
"Plenty," Wash says.
Simon comes over, pushes you back down---gently---and takes your pulse.
"Maybe someone should explain the situation," you say.
Wash does. You listen to the whole tale, too horrified to interrupt. Wash stares at you afterward. "Say something," he says.
"You left the captain alone on Serenity with no air."
"We don't have that much air ourselves," Simon says.
"You left the captain alone," you repeat.
"We are all always alone." River huddles in a corner, her knees to her chest. "He won't run out of air. He'll freeze to death first."
You turn to Wash. "You left him."
"Those were his orders," Wash says. Your man has always been a wee bit jealous, and sometimes just that little bit is all it takes.
You issue your own orders. "Turn this shuttle around."