Three short fics about Zoe and Mal
Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Three short preseries fics because Slumming was kind enough to say she'd like to read more. And because I love Mal and Zoe. Three because they're too short to post alone. (Knows she is supposed to be writing Simon.)


THE CORPORAL Why did Zoe remain a corporal? This was written for my pal and corporal Hez because she is such a sucker for that line.

He bolted to his feet the moment he saw her push aside the flap and exit the distant Command tent.

“Gorramit, Reynolds, sit down!”

“Later.” Mal shook off the medic’s grip and fairly charged out of the med tent, striding across the dirt of the makeshift compound, meeting her halfway.


“Sergeant.” Tzao gao. Her face was standard Zoe unreadable, but her greeting… she’d addressed him by rank, rather than the usual honorific. Tzao gao! He’d lost her. Not that he hadn’t expected it. Hell, it was surprising they’d lasted as long as they had.

“You should be getting that seen to.” She pointed to the shrapnel gash on his forehead, her own right hand and wrist freshly bandaged.


“Gonna leave another scar in the collection.”

“Long as I’m still pretty.” He spoke the rote answer without hearing it, trying to size her up. She was evading the issue. Worse, then, worse than he had thought. Son of a bitch. Any time, it seemed, any time in this gorram war when something went right, it got taken away. “Zoe---”

She started walking and he automatically moved with her.

“Who is it? Hicks? You going with Hicks?”

Her expression revealed nothing and he pressed on, struggling through the inventory of names on the call-up sheet he’d pilfered.

“McGrath? God, he’s a worthless slug. I’ve met some of his boys. Choi? ‘Cause I hear he ain’t too bad…”

She was looking straight ahead as they walked, wasn’t going to give him so much as a gorram morsel. He knew times like this she was working on the way to say something and it was best to wait her out, but he wished she’d answer already. Truth be told he was feeling a little lightheaded, almost feeling a need to sit rather’n match those long strides ‘til she spilled her news. Maybe the new corporal’d have shorter legs, one as took shorter steps, like two to his one. Be a sight easier on a body...



“Sit, Sir.”

Mal sat, surprised to find himself once again in the med tent. “D’you say ‘sir’?”

Zoe peered at him. “You get hit harder’n we thought? Only been calling you Sir since the day I was assigned to your sorry ass unit.”

“Yeah, but you don’t say ‘sir’ when you’re a---”

“Can’t see why it should be causing you such puzzlement.”

“But…HQ…they called you in… ow! ” Gorram Merrick and his gorram sutures. Mal tried to wave the medic away from his field of vision.

“You move your head, Reynolds,” Merrick growled as he worked, “and so help me, I will slip and sew your mouth shut. Sit still.”

“You try that and see what a yours I sew shut,” Mal grumbled, but he made the effort to hold his head steady, staring over the medic’s shoulder at the tent wall, focusing on a spot as he attempted to pick up his interrogation of his corpor--- of Zoe.


“Here, Sir.”

He turned instinctively to find her.

“Gorramit, Reynolds, you backwater hundan! Don’t. Move!” Zoe settled behind the medic, where Mal could at least see her face. Faces. There seemed to be two.

“Zoe.” And now his voice sounded distant, even to his own ears. “You gonna explain to me what happen---”

“I turned them down, Sir.”

Mal blinked, trying to get a better bead on her features without shifting under the grip of the agitated Merrick.


“Turned them down, Sir.”

“You refused a promotion.” He had hit his head too hard. Couldn’t be hearin’ this right, not from a woman as bent on the military way as his corporal.

“I did, Sir.”

“But, that don’t make no kind a sense.” Less and less did, come to think on it.

“Not a damn thing in this war does. Or so I been told.”

He squinted at her now, no longer feeling the pinch of the sutures, only the pull. “You sure? You truly sure, Zoe? They ain’t like to ask you every week.”

“I’m sure, Sir. Plus, they told me next time you get busted, I could have your slot. And that is like to happen every week.”

“Hah, ‘s‘very funny.” He started to sway and Merrick gripped his arm. Mal strained to focus. Gorram. “You’re sure, Zoe?”

“I’m sure, Sir.” She moved closer to him. “I’m going to leave now, Sir, check in on the others. I’ll report back when I’ve seen them all. Sir? Sergeant?”

“Right.” Someone was easing him back and he went with it. “Right. ...Corporal.” He smiled as he spoke it. Laying down felt good.

“I’ll be back, Sir. I’ll come back when you’re awake.”

Her voice reached the only part of his brain still functioning, and that weren’t staying open for long.

“Good,” he managed, no longer fighting the light feeling overtaking him, and figurin' his grin was probably perplexing the hell outta Merrick. “That’s good.”


SODBOOT Wartime Zoe and Mal. Mal paints Zoe a picture of the best freedom he can imagine.

“So,” he stretched out on the ground, shifting his pack under his head, “what was it like, bein’ raised like that?”

“Bein’ raised like what, exactly, Sir?” Her voice came from his right, where she was likewise laid out for sleep that would not come.

“On a ship. Always on a ship. Didn’t you never miss bein’ on the ground?”

“Hard to miss what you never had.”

“So you’re saying,” he leaned up on his elbow, “you’re sayin’ you never lived planetside?”

“Never been a sodboot, no, Sir.”

“Huh.” He lay back down and scanned the night sky.

“What’s that, Sir?”

“What’s what? I only said ‘huh’.”

“Served under you a year now, Sir. You don’t ever ‘only say huh’.”

He considered that observation for a moment. “No,” he answered, bemused, “I suppose I don’t. Just wonderin’… just wonderin’ how I’d manage to live cooped up on a ship.”

“No cooped up about it. Military ships ain’t exactly small, you may have noticed.”

“No, but there’s no… outside. No weather, no horizon, no…freedom.”

“You’d be surprised how many think different from you. Boat gives you freedom to move all about the ‘verse. You know any rocks can do that?”

“Aah, but it ain’t the same, Zoe. Freedom…freedom is when you can mount up and head off on your own, if you’ve a mind to. Ride all the way into tomorrow and still keep going, still see a sunrise leadin’ you on. Feel the breeze, touch the grass and dirt, hear the birds and rivers. Place where you can breath in---”

“---Smelly old cows.”

“Yeah,” he smiled at the stars, “acres and acres a smelly cows. We finish up this war, I got me a piece of freedom waitin’. Freedom as’ll be free again this time. You come visit, you’ll see what I mean. No place like it, the way it gets under your skin...”

He raised his head up, suddenly inspired.

“Tell you what! I’ll teach ya to ride. ‘Course you’ll probably end up better’n me.”

“Probably, Sir.”

“Would figure. Better in space, better on the ground. How is it I’m the sergeant again?”

“You’re prettier, Sir.”

Right. Right.”

Resting his head once more, he shifted his pack around again. Listened to the sound of soldiers, sleeping or trying to. Looked at a freighter passing out of atmo.

“Can’t be free on a ship, Zoe,” he said softly, smiling again at the thought of Shadow. “You come with me, I’ll show you where to find freedom.” He nodded to himself. “I’ll show you.”

“I’ll come, Sir,” she answered, so softly he almost didn’t hear. “You find that freedom, I’ll come. You find it, I’ll be there.”


TEA FOR ZOE When Serenity became home.

“Zoe.” He crouched down next to her blanket, holding out a tin mug he had filled with tea. Or, what passed for tea. Leastways, it was hot, and would help soothe her cough some. He handed it over as she sat up, not letting go until he was sure she had a firm grip. “Mind you don’t burn yourself.”

“Thank you, sir.” He watched as she took a sip, then launched into a spasm of coughing.

Mal seized the mug, spilling the tea on himself. “What is it? You OK? Zoe?” She was coughing in earnest now but waved him off.


The worst of the coughing had stopped and it dawned on him that she was laughing. In a crackly, wheezing sort of way.


“Sir,” she managed as her breath returned, “that ‘tea’ is the worst toxic tap water as I’ve had the misfortune to sip at in the past five years. You scrape that off the walls of the fuel tanks?”

“Well, I know it ain’t ‘xactly Core-grade.” Mal sniffed at the offending beverage. “Was all I could get.”

“Was beginning to think it came with the boat.”

“Hey…” Mal protested, but she cut him off.

“Another thing, sir.” She’d dropped the laughter out of her voice, commanding his immediate attention. “You need to stop looking at me like I’m fixing to drop on you at every turn. I have a cough. Everyone gets ‘em. It’s uncomfortable for sleeping, but I ain’t dyin’ of consumption. At least not until I see if you can really get this hunk of fei hua off this rock.

“Again with the fei hua,” he complained, even as he winced at her hack. He couldn’t help it. A year removed from the camps but his gut still froze when he heard a cough like that. Cough back then meant death more like as not. Meant someone’s body had survived Serenity Valley but weren’t gonna walk out of internment. Just rattled and rattled til there was no air left. Then there was no noise at all.

“We’re not there, sir.” She brought him back to the present again. She did that well and he wondered again what she was doing staying with him now, now that they weren’t bound by orders. He ought to learn to stop questioning it. “This place is almost as ugly,” she continued, looking at the grungy walls and ceiling of the kitchen where they were camped. “Almost as ugly and most like just as deadly, judging on what we seen crawling around the crew quarters. But we’re not there.” She placed a hand on his forearm. “Nobody’s dying. Least of all me.”

She started coughing again and he mutely offered the tea mug. To his surprise, she accepted.

“Cold in here don’t help,” he muttered, “both like to catch our death if I can’t get the life support functions up soon.”

“Better than sleeping outside.”

And it was. Better than sleeping where anyone or anything could get at you – wild dogs, wild Alliance patriots. Heard a story just recently where some Browncoats had been beaten to death while they slept. Was a damn sight better to be inside. And that could possibly have been the first positive thing he’d heard Zoe say about Serenity.


His ship. Dirty. Infested. Not running. Cold enough to see his breath. But his. With the doors sealed, and them kipped on the kitchen floor.

Zoe had settled back down and was trying to sleep. Mal stretched out next to her, something they’d done countless times over the past three years. A roof over their heads. A place he’d make warmer tomorrow. Then, more repairs, a pilot, jobs, freedom. Their freedom.

Mal drifted off listening to Zoe’s breathing, coughing, breathing. At some time during the night he flung his arm over her. After that, they both slept soundly.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008 2:57 PM


I absolutely ADORED this! The voices were so true and it made perfect sense when Zoe explained why she didn't take the promotion. And I loved to bits when Mal asks Zoe how come he's the Sergeant and Zoe deadpans "You're prettier, Sir". ROTFLMAO at that one. And then the last snippet showing their first days on Mal's new old boat, I could so see each of those scenarios and love them all. You have a gift for this and I can't wait for more! *Xie xie ni*, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, February 19, 2008 4:24 PM


Wish I could give these higher than a "10" because they are wonderful. You show the bond between these two so well, and you show a side of Mal that only Zoe knows and Kaylee suspects. The last ficlet with Zoe's cough was especially evocative of how hard things were when you've lost a war and everything else but each other. Sigh. I know you should be writing about Simon, but could we please have some more homespun?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008 5:13 PM


Thanks AMDOBELL and Katesfriend, you guys are the best. I was just on a Firefly jag, and as I've had no time to write up anything new, I felt the need to play with these ones. Katesfriend, I think you know I have one more Mal and Zoe story. Maybe I'll post it in a few days, I don't want to clog up the board. These make me want to write more. Maybe Zoe and Mal will talk to me sometime soon.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008 10:44 PM


This is love. Not the romantic kind, with slopping kisses and mooning around, but two people who know each other inside out, have seen the worst, seen the best, and care more about each other than anyone could ever imagine. Together forever. No wonder Wash was insecure!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 3:32 AM


Beautifully done! Thank you so much for posting these. I'm glad I asked, and now I'll ask again. More, please! :D

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 2:54 PM


This was great. I especially like the last story. There needs to be more Mal and Zoe.

Sunday, February 24, 2008 11:55 AM


I luvs me some Mal and Zoe, so this was a delight!

In 'The Corporal', it is illuminating seeing Mal insecure about losing Zoe to something so mundane as a promotion, and of course, her lower rank certainly requires an explanation. I am always tickled by Mal-as-difficult-patient, and, in my mind, the gash on Mal's head lines right up with the scar on Nathan's, which makes me happy.

I am totally in love with 'Sodboot'... A small and simple moment, Mal as who he was, but also Mal as who he is. The essence is the same, just the dirt that's missing. And Zoe there, knowing. Their interactions are perfect.

In 'Tea for Zoe', I love the way that cough calls them both back to their time post-Serenity Valley, naturally and meaningfully, and highlights their past and current struggle. And Zoe giving him a hard time always cracks me up.

You have wonderfully captured the essence and evolution of their relationship here. Thanks so much!


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Three short preseries fics because Slumming was kind enough to say she'd like to read more. And because I love Mal and Zoe. Three because they're too short to post alone.
(Knows she is supposed to be writing Simon.)

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