Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sixth in the short episodes following BIRTHDAY. Hank has an unexpected visitor ... please, like it or loath it, let me know.


Hank was reading, some trashy novel he’d picked up on his last buying trip, on his back, his head resting on one arm. He couldn’t much lie on his side yet, what with the bullet wound still healing, but he was glad to be back in his bunk. The fact that it had taken Jayne to help him down the ladder still rankled, but he’d live with that. Truth was, he couldn’t stand being around the infirmary any longer, not with Mal spending so much time there. As much as he liked the captain, him and Freya together getting all lovey dovey were sometimes more than a body could stand.

He turned the next page, wanting to see what Clint did to make Emily fall for him, and wondered idly whether it would work with Zoe.

“Can I come down?”

Hank jerked, hearing the first mate’s voice just when he was thinking about her, and groaned a little as the injury pulled. “Um, yeah, sure,” he managed to say.

Zoe climbed sedately down the ladder, and Hank watched first her feet, then her thighs and hips, her torso and arms, and finally her beautiful face appear. He blushed a little at the impure thoughts racing around his libido.

“Hank,” she said without preamble. “We need to talk.”

“Oh. Right.” He put the book down on his hips, trying to hide the slight arousal he was feeling. “What about?”


“Us?” he yelped, twitching again. Through gritted teeth he added, “Is there an ‘us’?”

“If you keep doing that you’re going to open up that hole again,” Zoe warned, pulling the one chair in the bunk across and sitting down. “And thanks, I will take the weight off my feet.”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry. Ain't too comfortable, though.”

“It’s fine.” She stared at him until he started to feel nervous. “You heard what I said in the infirmary,” she remarked finally.

“What?” Hank just couldn’t stop the twitching. “When?”

“You weren’t unconscious, not quite.”

“Um, sorry, Zoe, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He looked bewildered.

She gazed at him, calculating the odds that he was actually telling the truth. “Right.”

“What … what did you say?” Hank asked, honestly intrigued.

“Nothing,” Zoe said quickly, standing up and putting the chair back. “It was nothing. Just hoping you’d make it, is all.”

“And you came down here to see if I’d heard.”

“Yes. And to check you were … keeping well.” Even to her own ears that sounded pretty feeble.

“As well as can be expected,” he agreed.





She turned and headed back towards the ladder.

“Unless you were meaning you telling Simon he was to save my life or you’d kill him.”

Zoe stopped. Hank watched her lift her head, almost like a lioness scenting blood. Or prey. She span slowly on her heel to look at him.

He grinned. “Was that it?” he asked.

“You said you hadn’t heard.”

“Well, at the time I figured I was dreaming. Did ‘til you came down here.” His grin got wider. “Does this mean you ain’t hating me no more?”

“No, it means you are not to say anything to anyone.” She approached the bed again. “To anyone, dong mah?”

“Why not? Simon knows.” He lay back and laughed. “Hell, it’s something I want to shout.”

“You will not shout,” Zoe said quietly, every word clearly enunciated. “You will not tell a soul.”

He shook his head. “Why not?” He gazed into her dark eyes. “It’s kinda nice.”

“No, it isn’t. And I didn’t mean it.”

“So you’d have been okay if Simon’s hand’d slipped and he’d sliced my jugular open?”

“Your jugular’s in your neck. He’d have been more likely to cut your aorta. Or possibly your renal artery.” She leaned forward. “I can show you if you like.”

“Whichever, it would have been messy. And you’re changing the subject.”

“I just …” For once in her life Zoe was floundering. Well, maybe not the first time. But certainly since Wash had died. “I didn’t want Mal to have to find a new pilot,” she said finally.

“Why can’t you just admit you like me?” Hank asked.

“Because I don’t.”

“Didn’t want me to die.”

“That … I explained that.”

“Bought me that armour.”

“Which you weren’t even wearing.” Zoe felt a trickle of righteous anger like a thread of ice water. “And why was that?”

He wriggled uncomfortably. “Look, it isn’t what you –“

“Why weren’t you wearing it?”

Hank blushed again. “It rubs.”


“It rubs,” he admitted. “But that doesn’t change the point that you bought it for me. Musta thought something to do that.”

“I … look, Hank, I'm still in love with Wash. I always will be.” Zoe looked almost apologetic.

“I know,” he assured her. “And funnily enough I ain’t trying to take his place. Couldn’t do that.” He struggled to sit more upright but only managed to make the wound in his chest pull, and he hissed in pain.

Instantly Zoe was on her feet, holding his shoulders in one strong arm, arranging the pillows behind him with the other. He could smell her, the leather soap she used on her waistcoat, the slight odour of gunpowder, and the unexpected hint of Jasmine. It lit fires inside him.

“Better?” she asked, letting him lean back.

“Um, yeah.” He took a deep breath. “Thanks.”

“You were saying?”

“Oh, right.” He tried to pull himself together. “Look, Zo, if I could I’d stop being a pilot for you. ‘Cause I know that’s one of the problems between us – he was Serenity’s pilot, and so am I. But what else could I be? You know I ain't handy with a gun – proved that too often for it to be funny no more.”

“I could teach you,” she suggested.


“How to shoot. Not like the Alliance tried, but properly. The kind of shooting that actually works.”

“You mean where I actually hit people?” He shook his head slightly. “Ain’t too sure about that.”

“Better’n letting them hit you.”

He reddened a little. A few months before he’d taken his life into his hands and explained to Zoe something of his former life, about having been married once himself, only losing her. Then joining the Alliance to fight in the war with the one aim of getting himself shot. “Kinda got over that,” he said. “And if this is anything to go by, I did the right thing.”

“You were lucky.” She lifted her eyebrows at him. “And what do you mean, the armour rubs?”

“It’s too …” He stopped, embarrassed.

“Too what?”

“It’s too long,” he said quickly. “It rubs my … my man parts.”

Zoe tried not to smile, and her lips only twitched slightly. “You have man parts?”

“Hell, you should know. You tried to make them disappear with that damn bed bath while I was sick.” He shivered at just the remembrance of the ice cold water soaking into his pyjama pants.

“Well, you pissed me off.”

“Wouldn’t want to do that again,” he muttered. When she didn’t answer he looked into her face and realised she didn’t think that was funny. “Not that I’d do it again, ever,” he said hurriedly. “Piss you off, I mean. Not the bed bath. Although I’d rather you didn’t. Did nothing for my reputation.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Zoe said, deadpan. “I wasn't looking.”

“Of course you were.”

“Are you saying I'm lying?”

Hank held up his hands. “I would never do that. Not without my armour on.”

“Speaking of which, you’re a fool. Someone buys you something to save your life, and you don’t wear it.”

“I told you –“

“I heard. And what did you expect? It wasn't tailor made for you. Must have been a bigger man entirely.”

“Not that big, ‘cause it would have rubbed his man –“

“I meant taller.”

“Right.” He looked at her. “Why did you? Buy it for me, I mean?”

“Captain thought it was a good idea.”

“He didn’t pay for it. I know. I asked. He told me you said you were going to buy it, asked for his opinion then went and bought it anyway. He said it wouldn’t have mattered what he said.”

“You’ve been talking about me behind my back?”

“Look, Zoe, why don’t you just shoot me now? I ain't gonna win, so just get it over with,” Hank said in exasperation, lying his head back and closing his eyes. “Go ahead. Right in the temple. Only be careful and make sure you don’t miss.”

“I never miss.” She waited for a long moment until he opened one eye. “And I ain't gonna shoot you.”

He grinned. “See, I knew you liked me.”

“But I could be persuaded to change my mind.”

Hank sighed. “Don’t. I mean, don’t shoot me. I just … I care about you,” he admitted, suddenly very serious. “I know you ain’t … you can’t feel the same way, and I understand. I can never measure up to your husband, and I never will. That’s the problem with having a wife … a husband that dies on you. You only ever remember the good parts, and not the niggles. No-one ever comes close. Least, not for a good long while.” He lifted himself up onto his elbow, ignoring the pain in his chest. “But I seen you, Zoe. From the moment I set foot on this wreck I watched you, and you’re … well, if I could have you I’d be the luckiest man in the ‘verse.”

“She’s not a wreck, and better not let the Captain or Kaylee hear you say that.”

Hank lay back, shaking his head. “See, that’s where we part company. I try and tell you how I feel, and you go all … first matey on me.”

Zoe looked at him, his brown hair all mussed, his green eyes staring into the ceiling, and felt a frisson of something. A little like recognition, and a lot like anxiety. “Hank, I'm not ready,” she said quietly. “I don’t want to get married again – it’s not in my plans for a good long while, if at all. I thought Wash and me, that we’d be forever. Only forever turned out to end too soon.”

He turned his deepsea eyes on her. “Then let me court you.”


“Let me take you out to dinner once in a while. We can have breakfast – but nothing in between,” he added hurriedly. “Just be friends. See if you get to like me more.”

“Hank –“

“Just think about it. Please? For a dying man?”

“You ain't dying.”

“You can, you know. From a broken heart.” He sighed dramatically, covering his face with his arm.

She couldn’t stop the smile this time. “Do you ever take anything seriously?”

“Nope,” he smiled, looking at her from under his wrist. “What’s the point? Mal does that all too much for the rest of us.”

“He’s the Captain.”

“So? Does that mean he can’t have a little fun once in a while?”

“Do you sleep with earplugs in?” she asked in turn, and Hank actually blushed a little.

“Yeah, well, okay. He has fun. But it’s taken a woman to get him there.” He smiled encouragingly at her. “Don’t you think it could be nice? You know, you and me? Just being friends?”

She shook her head, smiling ruefully. “You won’t stop until I say yes, will you?”

“Absolutely not.” He grinned. “I'm like a rash that won’t go away.”

“Simon has things for that. Perhaps I should suggest he makes a house call.”

“Just so long as you can nurse me back to health.”

“Do you want another bed bath?”

Hank cringed. “Uh, no.”

“Then just take what you can get.”

“And what’s that?”

“Friends. That’s all.” Zoe stood up. “Now I have things to do.”

“First matey things?”

“Yes. So you just lie there and get better. Otherwise it’s no fun kicking you.” She went to the ladder. “I might come back later. If you’d like.”

He nodded, so hard it looked as if his head might come clean off his shoulders. “I’d like.”

She smiled. “Then I’ll let you get back to that book.” She started up the ladder.

“Thanks,” he called.

“No problem.” Then, just before she disappeared, she leaned over and said, “By the way, Clint runs off with Emily’s stepmother and ends up working for a pirate before coming over all remorseful and dying in her arms.” She stepped out of the hatch.

Hank stared at her then picked up the book, thumbing quickly to the last page. “Gorramit!” he said, throwing the book at the wall in disgust.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006 7:22 AM


I adore Zoe telling Hank the ending of the book and him actually being upset about it!

And I think this was a great convo between them. It was funny and touching and just a tad humiliating for Hank. Perfect!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 7:29 AM


Oh this is really funny. Can't wait for their wedding!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 12:04 PM


Ah, this was great and I find myself liking Hank more and more as the tale progressing. Also loved him bravely asking if he could court her. My God the man has courage, must be love! Ali d :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 2:36 PM


Hank is a fantas character. you've really hit a gold mine of depth and interestingstoryness (oh me speaky good english!). Love the story love your work. keep it up.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 4:43 PM


Gotta hand it to ya, definitely pulled off a tricky path with this chapter, since you had to stretch out Hank's attempts at getting Zoe to move closer to being able to be with someone again BUT not have her skip several important emotional development points to get to the good stuff quicker;)

And Zoe's spoiling the ending of Hank's book? Totally freaking hilarious, if only cuz it would be something Zoe would do as part of a hazing process to get Hank up to her standards;)



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Now and Then - a Christmas story
“Then do you have a better suggestion? No, let me rephrase that. Do you have a more sensible suggestion that doesn’t involve us getting lost and freezing to death?”

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little standalone festive tale that kind of fits into where I am in the Maya timeline, but works outside too. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Epilogue
"I honestly don’t know if my pilot wants to go around with flowers and curlicues carved into his leg.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. The end of the story, and the beginning of the last ...]

Monied Individual - Part XX
Mal took a deep breath, allowing it out slowly through his nostrils, and now his next words were the honest truth. “Ain’t surprised. No matter how good you are, and I’m not complaining, I’ve seen enough battle wounds, had to help out at the odd amputation on occasion. And I don’t have to be a doc myself to tell his leg ain’t quite the colour it should be, even taking into account his usual pasty complexion. What you did … didn’t work, did it?”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Simon has no choice, and Luke comes around.]

Monied Individual - Part XIX
“His name’s Jayne?”

“What’s wrong with that?” the ex-mercenary demanded from the doorway.

“Nothing, nothing! I just … I don’t think I’ve ever met a man … anyone else by that name.”

“Yeah, he’s a mystery to all of us,” Mal said. “Even his wife.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Hank's not out of the woods yet, and Mal has a conversation. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVIII
Jayne had told him a story once, about being on the hunt for someone who owed him something or other. He’d waited for his target for three hours in four inches of slush as the temperature dropped, and had grinned when he’d admitted to Hank that he’d had to break his feet free from the ice when he’d finished.
[Maya. Post-BDM. The Fosters show their true colours, Jayne attempts a rescue, and the others may be too late.]

Snow at Christmas
She’d seen his memories of his Ma, the Christmases when he was a boy on Shadow, even a faint echo of one before his Pa died, all still there, not diminished by his burning, glowing celebrations of now with Freya.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A seasonal one-off - enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVII
Jayne hadn’t waited, but planted a foot by the lock. The door was old, the wood solid, but little could stand against a determined Cobb boot with his full weight behind it. It burst open.

[Maya. Post-BDM. The search for Hank continues. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XVI
He slammed the door behind him, making the plates rattle on the sideboard. “It’s okay, girl, I ain't gonna hurt you.” The cook, as tradition dictated, plump and rosy cheeked with her arms covered to the elbows in flour, but with a gypsy voluptuousness, picked up a rolling pin.

[Maya. Post-BDM. Kaylee finds the problem with Serenity, and Jayne starts his quest. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XV
“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]

“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]