BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

GUILDSISTER

Blue Sun Job, Part 9: More of Zoe's Tale
Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Continuing to trek through Mal's and Zoe's character and relationship study...


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3314    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Blue Sun Job, Part 9: More of Zoe’s Tale

Sequel to the
Truthsome series (link is to part 1)
Blue Sun Job, Part 1: Plans and Schemes
Blue Sun Job, Part 2: Into the Lion’s Den
Blue Sun Job, Part 3: Going Smooth
Blue Sun Job, Part 4: Return to the Core
Blue Sun Job, Part 5: Life That Was
Blue Sun Job, Part 6: More Life That Was
Blue Sun Job, Part 7: ...and Robberies That Were
Blue Sun Job, Part 8: Zoe’s Tale


Chinese:

No critical dialog using actual Chinese characters

混蛋 = hwoon dahn (hundan) = bastard
他妈的 = ta ma duh = f*ck, or motherf*cking
懂吗? = dong ma? = do you understand?


Blue Sun Job, Part 9: More of Zoe’s Tale
靑日 Job: More of Zoe’s Tale

Do you remember...?

Of course... Always. Everything.

Ain’t necessarily a comfort...

“Wash has been good for you,” Mal commented

Zoe turned her head to look at him, studying his expression to see if he was being serious or sarcastic. Mal stared upward with a distant, thoughtful look, a thousand light year stare. She read nothing but truthsomeness in his face.

“I’m surprised to hear you say that,” she answered carefully. There was a time, long ago, she’d have never questioned that he was being absolutely truthful. So much had changed.

He flicked her a quick, insolent glance. “Mite surprised to be saying it.”

“Didn’t think you necessarily approved of me marrying Wash.”

“Yeah, well...” Mal gave her a half-grin. “He is kind of an idiot sometimes.”

With mock ferocity, she said, “Watch it. That’s my husband you’re talking about.”

“And he’s my pilot. First. Being suited to one thing don’t mean he’s suited to the other. Though judging from the noises comin’ through the bulkhead, something fittin’ is goin’ on in your bunk.”

“Oh, yeah... fits real well.”

He grimaced, then rolled up on his elbow, facing her. “What is with those toy dinosaurs? He got a screw loose or something?”

She snorted. “Which among the crew of Serenity makes him what? Normal? Sane? Well adjusted?”

“It is a curious bunch of strays we’ve gathered,” Mal said, rolling back away from her.

Zoe smiled wistfully. “That they are. They’ve been good for you. Especially Kaylee.”

“Hmmph. Making an old man of me before my time, the whole worrisome lot of them. But Kaylee is a sweetie. A walkin’ bundle of happy.”

Chuckling, Zoe said, “You looked so startled the first time she gave you a hug and a kiss. But it also made you smile and that came as a bit of a shock to me.”

“ ‘bout as much of a shock, I suppose, as came to me the first time Wash swatted you on the butt and you didn’t break his arm. You giggled. Hadn’t heard that sound in more years than I care to count. Scary sound. Terrifying, might say. But shiny too.” He fell silent and Zoe knew he was remembering those years, just as was she.

“It does worry me,” Zoe whispered uncomfortably. Back away, Zoe. Leave it all buried. Leave the doors closed.

Mal didn’t answer for a moment. “All you ain’t told him.” He hadn’t said it as a question. Zoe frowned, turning her head away so he couldn’t see her face. “About me?” Mal asked. “Us? And all what was?”

Zoe swallowed hard, clamping down onto the cool control that had seen her through so many hard times. “Yes,” she said shortly. “We’ve had fights about you.”

“This ain’t news to me,” he said and she could hear some amusement creep into his tone.

“It’s not funny.”

“Kinda is. You’re afraid to tell him and he’s afraid to ask so you yell at each other instead of just settling it once and for all.”

“You have a warped sense of humor,” Zoe said. “Wash thinks you’re crazy, you know.”

“Sure. Probably am.”

“Probably?”

He looked over at her. “Which comes to the heart of the matter. If I’m crazy, so are you. Sooner or later he’ll be wanting to know the whys and wherefores. Or he’ll find out when you don’t mean him to. You gotta decide how you want it to be.”

Zoe couldn’t keep the trace of desperation out of her voice. “I want it to be simple. I want it to be pure. I don’t want him to look at me and see the cold and dark. I don’t want to look into his eyes and see him looking back with revulsion. Or contempt. Or disgust. Or worst of all, pity.”

Mal reached over. Zoe felt his hand touch her cheek, gently at first, then firmly turning her to face him. His eyes stared into her steadily. “Don’t see how that could ever happen, not less’n I’ve been reading that husband of yours every kind of wrong. Listen... I ever look at you that way?” She shook her head slightly. “I know everything there is to know. I’ve hurt you. Been hurt by you. Seen you at your best and seen you at your worst. Trust that this man you say loves you will love you still no matter what. I know you ain’t afraid of losing, got plenty practice at that...” Zoe’s lips twisted in an involuntary smile at his tone. “...don’t be afraid of winning.”

“That was a real pretty speech, sir. But you’re a fine one to tell someone to spill their guts,” Zoe said, a bit harsher than she intended. “You ever bare your soul? Make a full confession? Gonna tell me all the clichés next? Where there’s life, there’s hope. Every day’s a gift. Wishes can come true?”

Mal laughed sharply. “Set that one to music, darlin’, and you could dance to it. Life’s a game and we all play our parts. None of it means a thing.” He paused, struggling upright, propping the pillow up, leaned against it, folding his arms over his chest. Zoe twisted around so she could see him. “Seriously, Zoe,” he said, “we’re just passing a sleepless night here, and not the first. Don’t mean nothing. But if you got something you need to talk out,” he shrugged, “I’ll listen. Got no pretense between us. It doesn’t have to be all ‘good’ and ‘fine’. If you’re worried, you can be worried. Got no secrets between us I know of. You can tell me anything.”

“You said something like that to me once before. Do you remember?”

“Of course I remember.”

* * *

Early years of the war...

Sergeant Reynolds turned carefully at the junction of the corridor, aiming his rifle down each passageway. Too many branches and blind corners with no one to watch his back. Worrisome. He could hear distant gunfire spattering, punctuated by occasional dull thuds of explosions. The diversion still going strong. Bless those lads. A good bunch--crazy as bedbugs--to follow him on this damned fool suicide mission.

Or so the brass had called it when they’d flat-ass ordered him “no”. Funny how that big fellow--the one called Monty--didn’t take a shine to the notion until he found out Mal was gonna be violating all manner of direct orders to pull it off. Mal guessed not everyone in the army was straight by-the-book after all. Made sense the rebels would have a little rebel in ‘em.

Flattening against the wall, Mal quickly consulted the rough map of the complex he’d drawn on the back of his left hand. All the prisoners accounted for--freed or dead--save one. One. Where...? Hadn’t meant to have to probe in here this far. He was gonna get hisself killed and then he’d be in big trouble with the brass.

With a last glance at his hand, he chose his route. An ugly hunch had come to mind that might lead him to her. Though he had more than a good notion of what the 混蛋 were capable of, there were still some lines he didn’t figure a decent soldier doin’ his duty would cross. Or would they?

The door to the rec room was ajar. Mal kicked it open, leveling his rifle in a sweep across the room. Chairs were scattered, tipped as the ‘plex’s guards had rushed out at the first sounds of the attack. Only one soul remained in the room.

Zoe.

Mal couldn’t take the time out to offer up a proper prayer, just sent a quick, almost wordless plea upwards, then knelt beside her. Swallowing hard, he tried not to look too close at the evidence of what they’d been doing to her. There was blood. Quite a lot, it seemed. Bruises and cuts. She’d put up a good tussle. Didn’t figure she’d do no different. Always was quite a gal. Tough. Tough enough to get through this, he hoped. He flicked a finger without thinking about it across the cross hanging from his neck, feeling it through his shirt.

“Zoe,” he said, carefully turning her face toward him. One eye was swollen. A bruise on her cheek. She moaned, not quite conscious. Laying his fingers on the side of her neck, he felt her pulse. Steady and strong. Glancing back at the door--nothing--he dug out a mini-injector, field type, and jabbed it into the side of her neck, then tossed it aside. The combination of pain-killer and stimulant brought a stronger moan.

Zoe’s eyes snapped open. Mal involuntarily jerked back. God. Her eyes... deadly. Cold. Almost feral. Not the bright, shining, flashing girl he’d known once upon a time. These 混蛋 would pay for this. They would pay.

“Zoe. Can you hear me?” Black eyes fixed on him with hatred searing out of them. He looked back steadily, willing his caring to reach her. “Zoe...?”

A blink. “Mal Reynolds?” Her voice was a harsh whisper. “What are you doing here?”

He chuckled. “Beats the hell out of me. But it ‘pears I’m rescuing you.” He reached toward her.

She jolted hard. “Don’t touch me!”

He pulled back. “Okay. No touching. But I gotta get you loose and get you out of here. So you just suck it up and let me do what I have to do. Can you do that?”

She nodded. Fiercely. Sharply.

Mal studied on how to free her. They had her cuffed to the legs of a table, bolted to the floor--he couldn’t lift it up. Her arms spread wide. The metal dug into her wrists. He frowned. He could hunt this room for the key a dangerous amount of time without finding it. Digging it his pouch, he pulled out a pocket torch.

“I gotta cut these chains. Just stay still.” Like she had a choice. She writhed when a spark landed on her bare flesh but made no sound.

The first chain parted. He stepped over her to the other. A bare glance toward the doorway. Zoe made a small sound. She heard it too--the clatter of boots nearing. Gritting his teeth, Mal concentrated on the right-now problem. The torch sputtered, nearing the end of its fuel. Grasping Zoe’s wrist, Mal yanked hard. The remaining hot metal of the chain snapped.

“Come on,” he said, pulling her to her feet. With an uncomfortable glance at her, he shrugged out of his long, tan coat, tossing it toward her. “Put that on.” He snatched up his rifle. “You have to keep to your feet, Zoe. I have to cover us. Can you do that?” She nodded. “You follow my lead,” he ordered, edging toward the doorway.

They were cut off from the route he’d come in. The clatter neared. “This way.” He headed the other way. Only option. A glance at the map on his hand. Right turn. Spinning to try to cover all directions at once.

He fired off a burst. A scream from one. The others fell back. More. Behind them. He spun and fired. Two more.

“Back this way.” They stepped over the two bodies. One squirmed.

“Got a knife?” Zoe asked. Mal didn’t answer. Fired another burst. In moments they’d be cut off. “I’m gonna finish him off,” she hissed in a raspy whisper. He felt her snatch his knife from the sheath at his waist but couldn’t spare time to glance or comment. Another burst. One more and they had a chance to get through. Just poke your head out you sumbitch.

The high-pitched squeal behind Mal caused him to flick a micro-second glance back. The sight registered. His head snapped back around to stare.

“Good God, Zoe! That is not what ‘finish him off’ means.”

A shot caught him in the right shoulder, slamming him back against the wall. Fire like he’d never known burned through his chest and down his arm. His fingers numbed, losing his grip on his rifle. The ‘one more’ edged around the corner, leveling his weapon at Mal for the fatal shot. Mal struggled to grasp his rifle with his left hand. Wasn’t gonna make it.

A flash whipped by his head. The knife blade buried to the hilt in the Fed’s chest. The Fed’s eyes widened, startled, looking past Mal as the life ebbed from them as he slid to the floor.

Leaning against the wall, Mal panted, turning to look at Zoe. Her face was a mask of ice. Her eyes shifted to meet his. A hint of the girl he’d known shone through. Still Zoe.

“That’ll teach you to look away from the enemy during a fight,” she said with a chilly grin.

“You teaching me how to soldier?” he grated out through the dazzling pain, seizing his rifle left-handed. She reached out, helping him position it so he could fire one-handed. She snatched up one of the Alliance soldier’s rifles.

“Appears you need it.” Her smile broadened a touch. “Now let’s get the hell out of here. You lead. I got your back.”

Mal laughed. “Good to see you again, Zoe.”

“You too.”

* * *

Sergeant Reynolds stopped outside of Zoe’s infirmary room. Through the glass window he could see her on the bed. Her head was turned, staring at the blank white wall with a light years distant stare. He swallowed and looked at the doctor.

“Well?” he asked.

“Physically she’ll be fine,” the doctor said, flipping through chart pages. “No lasting damage. Should be able to have more children. As for the other...” He shrugged. “These times being what they are...” He sighed. “There’s just no therapy or coddling to be had. She’ll have to just soldier through, or not, like the rest of us.”

Mal looked away from Zoe to study the doctor’s face. He looked to be on the brink of exhaustion or collapse himself. “Just gotta have faith,” Mal said softly. He gave the doctor a warm smile. “Thanks, doc. And thanks for patching me up, too. I’ll try not to give you so much business in the future.”

His smile broadening at the doctor’s expression. Every ward was filled with the results of Mal’s illegal mission. Lots of folks shot up--some real bad--but none killed. And they’d rescued five from the captured ship, including Zoe.

“You kids,” the doctor snorted, stomping off away.

* * *

Zoe turned her head sharply, warily, at the sound of the door opening. It was Malcolm Reynolds, grinning at her like they were meeting up again at some gorram barndance instead of in an Independent’s base hospital. He moved very slowly, though, limping badly. His right shoulder was heavily bandaged, arm in a sling and strapped down to his chest. His light brown shirt was draped over his right shoulder, open in front. Zoe’s eyes fixed on the plain silver cross he wore on a chain around his neck. Took some guts, she suspected, to do so openly in the midst of the rough soldiering world.

He eased down into a chair by her bedside, lowering himself gingerly with winces and groans. “Ooohhh...” he let out a sigh, then turned a boyish grin on her.

“You look like hell,” Zoe said, studying every inch of him, savoring the sight like an oasis in the desert. “That all happen on account of me?”

He chuckled. “It’s nothing. Been hurt plenty worse than this.”

She shook her head. “You are a terrible liar, Malcolm Reynolds. Got no knack for it.”

Shrugging, he grinned at her. “Okay. Never got more than a scratch before this.” He shifted, groaning painfully. “Don’t think I want to make a habit of this getting shot up.” His expression softened as he looked at her. “How you doing, darlin’?”

Zoe looked away quickly. “Fine. I’m good. And don’t call me that.”

“Sure. Never again.” He seemed to hesitate. She glanced back at him. “Listen... Zoe. You want to talk... ever...”

“I don’t want to,” she said, knowing she sounded harsh but not able to care. “But thanks,” she added.

“Whenever...”

Zoe stared away, at the blank white wall. “Daddy got killed when they took the ship.”

“I know,” he said softly.

“We were gun-running for your side. Independent cargo hidden beneath the Alliance load.”

Our side,” Mal whispered. She turned back to face him. Nodded. Our side. She was in. For always.

She worked her mouth, blinking hard for a moment. No tears. She never cried. Never would. Zoe swallowed. “How long you been in?” she asked, glancing at his uniform shirt and trousers.

“Nigh onto a year now.”

“And a sergeant already.”

He laughed lightly. “For now,” he said wryly. “After this little stunt I’ll probably get busted back to dishwasher. Assuming, that is, they don’t court martial me and throw me in the brig.”

She stared. “All that? For me?”

“Come on... you think when I heard the name of the ship they snagged I wouldn’t go all out to find you?” He smiled at her and she could see the cheery, perpetually optimistic boy from Shadow still shining through the do-what-needs-to-be-done soldier.

“I won’t doubt it again,” she murmured. “I’m sorry for all...”

He put a hand up to stop her. “Let it go. All’s forgiven and forgotten. Let the dead bury themselves and move on.”

She studied him thoughtfully. Be nice to have the sort of confident faith he had. If she couldn’t manage to find it in the Lord, maybe she could tag along a bit on his faith, have faith in him. Zoe managed a slight smile.

“When were you last on Shadow?” she asked.

“Better than a year. Sure as hell can’t go back now ‘less I wanna end up in some Alliance stockade. Feds don’t like folk what shoot at ‘em.”

Trust Mal to inject humor into the bleakest situations. She knew Shadow had been overrun and suppressed. “The ranch...?”

A slight shake of his head. “Confiscated. Lock, stock, and barrel. Put the torch to it ourselves rather than turn it over to them.”

“I’ll bet they didn’t take kindly to that.”

A laugh. Quite genuine, too. “Oh, that is the truth. Feds arrested me and a couple of the hands. Locked us up in the town jail.” He laughed again. “Broke outta jail like some sneak thief on the lam.”

Zoe surprised herself with a small laugh. How’d he manage to cheer her up while telling her about how his home was destroyed? It was a gift, it was. “Mal Reynolds in jail. A lawbreaking criminal. That’s a thing I never thought I’d live to see. And busting out of jail... How’d that all fare with you?”

He flicked her a mischievous look. “Kinda fun, truth to tell.” The smile diminished slightly. “Had to get out after that. They were rounding up everyone of fighting age. Choice was join the Alliance military or get stuck in one of their detention camps.” He grinned at her. “So, took the third choice and here I am.”

“Well, I hope they keep you a sergeant ‘cause I enlisted... on the condition it was in your platoon.”

“I’ll be damned. You figure you’ll take my orders? No questions? No back talk?”

“Yes, sir. As long as they’re not stupid. And I’ll watch your back,” she answered. “You need it.”

“All right, then,” he said. “And you don’t call sergeants ‘sir’. 懂吗?”

“Habit,” she said. “Called Daddy ‘sir’ when he was captaining the ship. A ‘sir’ might slip through now and then.”

“I’ll try to adjust.”

* * *

Mal looked down at Zoe as she finished talking. She’d rolled over away from him. She still hadn’t talked on the events before he’d arrived to free her, but it was the nearest she’d ever come. Wash would understand. Hell, Mal’d toss him out an airlock if he didn’t. But Mal knew that wasn’t so much the part Zoe didn’t want to tell Wash. It was the other... them, he and Zoe, together in the Before sharing each other’s bodies, and later sharing each other’s souls--so close even a husband couldn’t step between.

He looked down at Zoe. She wasn’t sleeping. He reached to brush a curl of hair from her cheek. Stopped. No touching.



Return to Part 26: Interactions

Blue Sun Job, Part 10: Going In -- Mal's & Zoe's way backstory and the robbery of the Blue Sun treasury

COMMENTS

Tuesday, June 22, 2004 1:24 PM

AMDOBELL


Wow, I just love this series you are crafting. You bring Zoe and Mal to life so effortlessly with all the little interjected flashes to the time before and how they were then to how they are now. So very shiny. I hope Zoe does summon up the courage and means to tell Wash without ruining her marriage. *Xiexie ni* for some brilliant writing, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, June 23, 2004 1:28 AM

KISPEXI2


One More, With Browncoats!

Perfect. Do I need to say more? OK, utterly perfect.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004 3:38 AM

JEBBYPAL


I'm almost gonna be sad when they do rob the place. Very shiny and very believable backstory. both stay in character while causing us to fall in love with them all over again. Great job!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004 9:44 AM

GUILDSISTER


Kispexi2-- [snarf!] I *will* be swiping the phrase "Once More, With Browncoats" at some point ;-)

Glad to know someone got that--I went a line or two long on that bit to hit the point harder. Mal's also quoting Tara at one point. The 'climbing out of the grave' allegory is a direct parallel between the shows and characters (hence the reason I'm inserting reinforcements of it throughout). Were they the types to burst into song, Mal & Zoe could do Buffy's "Going Through the Motions" convincingly at an early point in their character development.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004 10:58 AM

ARTSHIPS


Best reason I've read for their relationship. Excellent writing, particularly for portraying the cheerful Mal we frequently saw in the show but less so since. Thank you so much.

Saturday, October 16, 2004 2:08 AM

HEB


"You lead. I got your back"

Wow!

I think I just got the Mal/Zoe relationship. That really just sums it all up.

Shiny!



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