Red Rocket, White Candle
Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I ain't sayin' there's any peace to be had, but if there is, Wash will find it in the Western sky.


Disclaimer: All works cited herein are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, 20th C. Fox, Universal Motion pictures. Written for fun, not profit.

Notes: All constructive criticism is appreciated.


Red Rocket, White Candle


On some rudimentary level, it was beautiful. There were mountains in the distance, tuape and lavender with the sunset. The ground they stood on was hard and rocky. They flanked three tombstones in small groups. It was almost enough to know that they loved enough to bury. Still though, that didn't take away the ache of burying. And it didn't soothe the pain of being without one of their own. Mr. Universe had been a friend. Not enough of a friend that they knew his name, but a friend. Shepherd Book had been a friend, too. Not enough of a friend that they knew who to contact to say he was gone, but a friend none the less. A personal friend to each of them.

But Wash. Wash had been one of them. More than a friend, better than a brother. A lover and a confidant and a helper and a pilot and a man. It was just plain hard to deal with the idea that he was the only one of them who hadn't lived through the sortie between the Alliance and the Reavers. Each and every one of them had their own miracle to talk of. Jayne's gut wound would've killed a weaker man. The cut on Zoe's back had been centimeters from her spine, but she walked tall. Kaylee had taken drugged darts in the throat-- should have been paralyzed, or mute, or worse. Another gut wound for Simon that had inexplicably driven only into soft, muscley tissue. Inara with only a bow and arrow and her wits between the front line and her half-covered body. Mal in the fight of his life and River the fight that should have been her death a hundred times over. No one had asked how she could know all those moves in advance but still have given no warning, no hint that their pilot would be killed.

So they had come here to bury Wash. Praising him would wait for a day when the wounds were healed some, the grief less fresh, the memories less painfully sharp. Still, they took their time with their dead. Not a one of them didn't hear Book in the head saying How we treat our dead is what makes us different than them that did this. And they were as different a bunch as could be. Had proved it. Had showed the gorramn Alliance just what it meant to want to live free and why it mattered. So they took their time, bowed their heads, errected monuments. Inara and Simon spoke the words, sacred as they needed to be, as Zoe asked. And then, at sunset, they said goodbye to their pilot.

Zoe was the first to tape a note to the plastic rocket. She set it up, on a cairn of its own. Nobody read it, nor asked her its contents but they could be sure of what it said. She wrote, A rocket because you love to fly. And the only way I'll ever be close to you again is to take to the sky. It was terse. It was Zoe. It said all it needed to say. She stood away, holding a single taper candle, lit: waiting.

Simon, hobbling toward the rocket, found he had too few words and felt frustrated. How was he to thank a man for all the times he'd shown effortless, beautiful, inborn skill to save his sister from discovery and harm. Simon respected Wash as one professional respects another. Recognized him as one gifted man does another. Remembered that despite knowing little to nothing about his background, Wash was civilization to him, like Inara was-- a course chart and the nav sats and the power to move from one place to the next without fear. A rocket for life. For the spark that you were. For the fire we'll never get back.

Jayne, simple but not naïve, thought of Wash in simple terms. Wash terms. On the boat, everybody had a job and no matter how little he had thought of Wash and the jokes he'd made-- jokes that Janye never entirely understood-- he'd been a good pilot. He'd done his job and done it well and made sure he helped everyone else do theirs. So Jayne wrote, A rocket because you flew. Flyin's what you did best. Better'n anybody, I 'spect.

Kaylee taped her note to the top of the rocket, keeping its length away from the fuse that would later be lit. She found that once she started writing, she couldn't stop. She had to talk to Wash, and not just to say goodbye to him, but because he had known her girl and been good to her, and Kaylee was grateful for herself and for her ship. A rocket for force. For the force of knowledge and of feeling. A small explosion in honor of all those you prevented. Who knows my girl like you do? Four hands are better'n two and she listened to you. Touched her gentle and made her know you'd treat her right. If I hadn't saw it, I'd say breaking her apart broke your heart and that was what did you in. Know it ain't true, but no one else understands her like I do, now that you're gone.

Inara spoke aloud as she made her contribution. She'd seen the look in Mal's eyes and though she never would have admitted it, she needed to speak as much as they, the crew, needed to listen. This was the contribution she could make. Though she was certain she should've reconsidered, she knew her bow and arrow hadn't made much difference at all in the fight. Her ability to read a situation and alter it through word and action was her contribution. So she made it, trying as hard as she could to see past the emptiness in Mal's eyes. “A rocket. A dragon,” her voice rang out. “Rest in the peace of the Western sky. This is all I have to offer the sky father, your father, as an offering. Take it. Be at peace. Be at peace in the Western sky.”

Her voice didn't break, but it took all her effort. Mal still didn't look pleased, but she knew some words of deeper meaning needed to be said. And despite Mal's smirking acknowledgment of her religion, she was certain that Wash wouldn't have minded. He'd called on liao tien bu plenty of times.

Xie xie,” Simon muttered.

Then there was a quiet stretch. They listened as Kaylee muttered the Lord's Prayer. Jayne completed with an quiet, “Amen.”

Inara noticed the Captain twitch. The hand holding his own contribution swung out from his body and he lurched toward the cairn and the rocket. He attached his note and stood for a minute, obviously wrestling with whether or not to speak. In the end, he merely turned and returned to his place, stony-faced and grim. Go then, it read. This is all I can give. Not sure it's enough. You an' me,, we didn't always see things the same. But hear me leastways. I'll take care. I won't forget. She's been yours as much as mine and I ain't talking 'bout Zoe. I'll see she's treated right, with respect. See she takes the landings soft and the upthrust with the joy of the black. You earned your peace. Go.

River was last then, looking around her and seeing the crew with new eyes. It was painful, for she felt their feelings. The ability to cope with them didn't make the job of it easier. And she knew, in the way she knew some things but not others, that she'd take her turn at replacing Wash. The thought caused tears to flood her eyes, but she blinked them away, tired of crying and angry at mourning. A rocket for power. For unpredictability. For the common, merciful acceptance of the everyday occurrence that is telling gravity to go to hell. She didn't dare smile, but she knew Wash would have laughed.

The silence rang around them, driving home the point that they would never hear that laugh again and it would never lead them in much needed laughter.

In the end, Zoe approached the rocket with a single, burning candle. She lit the fuse and watched as it soared heavenward. It wouldn't even come close to breaking atmo, they knew, but it flew enough for their purpose-- up and out of sight. Through the sky so their wishes would be imprinted on Wash's true home. Through the winds, but not into the black. Never again into the black. When it landed, there it would sit.

Serenity would fly again, but she'd never be the same.



Tuesday, August 29, 2006 6:38 PM


Very good. You caught them all nicely.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 9:00 PM



Wednesday, August 30, 2006 4:45 AM


Oh my gosh! That was seriously one of the greatest things I've ever read about Wash's deathness... And I've written quite a few myself. I'll tell ya true, tears are pretty much streaming down my face and that seldom happnes. Sure, my eyes get moist when I watch the film. When I write about it, when I've read others... but manoman. I love this.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 9:34 AM




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Red Rocket, White Candle
I ain't sayin' there's any peace to be had, but if there is, Wash will find it in the Western sky.

Married and Madly in Love
In the aftermath of Saffron, Wash and Zoe talk marriage, stars, and geese.

Consistent Resurrection
A short history of Zoe.

First Mate
Wash is injured-- physically, and by Zoe's reluctance to make him her first priority.

Laid Bare
Ever wonder what happened to that ambulance? A little bridge between Ariel and War Stories.

Natural Talent
Kaylee and Wash? It could have happened, but it didn't.

Over and Over and Over
Moments of Zoe, in the spaces of War Stories.

Extreme Unction
The living heart of Serenity bleeds to death. A volley at Succatash.

The Heart of Her
Wash proposes.

Mood to Burn Bridges
Mal's original edict on shipboard romances