A Slinky Dress
Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just another standalone, post BDM. Zoe finds something unexpected.


Disclaimer yada yada Joss yada yada Mutant Enemy yada yada.


Laundry day. It seemed so strange to her to be folding her clothes alone, with no one around to complain. Everything felt so wrong and foreign. This was the hardest part for Zoe, having to relearn how to do things without Wash around. When the love of your life dies, things don't just go back to normal. You don't move on, you can't, and you don't want to. There's no bandaid that you can just stick on your heart to make everything okay again. Nothing would ever be the same, everything would change.

Zoe wondered if she'd ever start to feel again, but it was much too soon to tell. Her heart had only just frozen, it didn't seem likely that the ice would melt any time soon. She didn't mind so terribly. It was easier to be numb than to let every little thing cut her up. This was a delicate procedure, a surgery, if you will. Something had gone wrong inside her that needed fixing, yet there was no known cure. Time for exploratory measures. Right now they were just waiting for the novocaine to take effect and work its magic.

Her hands felt like clumsy blocks of wood as she folded article after article of clothing without really knowing what she was doing. It was all she could do to not think. She needed to be free of thought today of all days. If she just kept busy, she'd make it through the day, and tomorrow might be just a little bit easier. But she had to get through today before she could even contemplate that.

The others understood her silence, her mechanical movement from one moment to the next, and they even understood it when she couldn't bear their company anymore. For the first few days, she hadn't wanted to see them. She hadn't wanted their comfort, their grief, their attempts to lift her spirits, and more than anything, she hadn't wanted their pity. It'd gotten easier, though, to be in their presence again. She still half expected Wash to suddenly say something witty and amusing every time Jayne said something stupid, or to hear his voice over the intercom proclaiming that they would be exploding any minute now, but she was healing, if very slowly.

She'd smiled the other day. It'd been fleeting, but it had indeed been a smile. No particular reason to have been, she supposed, just a sudden urge to smile. Almost as if he'd been standing next to her, talking to her. Not about anything important, just talking. And she'd realized that he would never leave her all alone. He'd always be there, walking beside her, whispering in her ear, letting her know that things would get better. Somehow, she knew that it was okay for her to be numb right now, natural even. This way, she could let the pain come to her gradually, in small amounts, only as much as she could handle.

But oh, how she wished today would be tomorrow already. It almost hurt worse for him to not be here today than the day she had lost him. Her hand hit the bottom of the laundry basket and she realized that she'd run out of clothes to fold. For several seconds, she just stared blankly at the flat white plastic, but then she was overcome by the thoughts she had been trying so hard to suppress. She'd lost the flow of busy work and was paying the price for it now.

A single tear slipped down her cheek and landed on her still outstretched hand, where she watched it slide off and land with a soft smack in the laundry basket. Zoe only ever cried when she was alone. It wasn't that she was ashamed of her tears or the way she was feeling, but that it hurt too much when the others bombarded her with a million and one questions whenever they noticed. Except for River, of course. The girl understood that sometimes a person just needed to cry. Sometimes she even went so far as to distract the others from seeing Zoe's tears if Zoe couldn't make it back to her bunk before they washed over her. Zoe was extremely grateful to the young reader and had never felt so close to her. The girl just knew exactly when and how to help-or not to help, depending on how Zoe felt at the time.

When Zoe's arm started aching from holding it erect for so long, she slowly came back to her senses. The way she moved was reminiscent of a shipwrecked survivor that had just woken up on the beach and was crawling out of reach of the cold, cruel waves. Her body turned and she brought one knee up onto the bed, crawling ever so slowly up to Wash's pillow and wrapping her arms around it, clinging to it as if it were her lost husband. Just as slowly, she curled her body into a tight little ball and let the waves of pain take hold of her. Though she cried and shook and sobbed so forcefully, no sound escaped her lips. That is, until she burst out laughing. It felt so nice to just laugh herself hoarse.

"Here lies my beloved Zoe, my autumn flower. Somewhat less attractive now that she's all corpsified and gross."

The words drifted across her mind as if they'd just been spoken. How apropos for her to recall his words today. They warranted a response.

"Here lies my beloved Wash, my leaf on the wind. Still just as ornery now that he's all corpsified and gross."

It surprised her how much it made her feel better to make this little joke as a long delayed response to his. She could hardly even believe that she'd brought herself to say words like that, and yet, here she was feeling better because of it. He'd done it again. Hoban Washburne was her hero, even from beyond the grave.

"Could you please tell my wife the fun she's missing out on?"

More words from a distant memory filled the room. Of course. He wouldn't want her to lay around feeling all sorry for herself, sorry for him. He'd be the first one to tell her about all the great adventures she was missing out on by locking herself away and crying until she didn't have any tears left.

"I know, baby... I shouldn't... but it's just so damn hard to make myself do anything without you..." she responded. Good thing she was alone, else the crew might be getting a little worried right about now, what with her talking to herself and all.

"Know what happens you fall asleep now?"

"I get to see you again?" she asked, her voice hopeful. All of the words he was speaking to her now were things he'd said to her in the past, but she'd had enough conversations with him to make a whole new one with the bits and pieces. And it was damn good to hear his voice.

"No." came the soft reply, "Not tonight. Stay. It's a surprise."

"A surprise?" Zoe asked, sitting up. It would be like him to surprise her on this special day. But she must have spent too much time by herself if he was actually saying something like that. Time to be getting up and moving about, head up and have a wonderful adventure of sitting in the dining room while everyone pretended not to stare at her. And yet she couldn't bring herself to move. Some part of her hoped beyond hope that she wasn't crazy and that there really was a surprise somehow. "Okay. I won't sleep. What now?"

"Work. Work. Work."

She sighed. It must have just been her subconcious telling her that she still had plenty of busy work to keep the insanity at bay. Grumbling slightly, she got up, grabbing the folded laundry and heading to the dresser. The last thing she put away were her pajamas-which she'd taken to wearing because it almost felt like he was holding her instead of the fabric. As she did so, her fingers brushed against something of a different texture inside the drawer. Curiously, she pulled the strange brown parcel out and examined it.

A small card was tucked under the twine that held the package together. It simply read, "Happy Anniversary." Tears filled her eyes as she carefully tore the paper away to reveal a shimmering, slinky, black dress.

"You want a slinky dress? I can buy you a slinky dress."

A watery smile touched her lips as she stripped, pulling the dress on. It was so beautiful. He must have bought it a while ago and had been waiting until this special day to give it to her. It was the best anniversary gift she could ever have asked for.

"Happy anniversary." she murmured.


Thursday, November 13, 2008 3:29 PM


Sad and bittersweet. Very nicely written. Sigh. I miss Wash.

Friday, November 14, 2008 3:37 AM


Beautiful! Heartbreakingly beautiful.

Friday, November 14, 2008 6:14 AM


Wow, I'm glad you guys liked it. It's growing on me, but I wasn't sold on it at first.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 6:24 AM


You've done a lovely job of capturing Zoe's nature and the process of grieving, of stuggling to get though each day in the hope of hurting a little less the following one.

I especially liked how you've woven Wash's comments into the story and the hidden anniversary gift seems totally fitting. What surviving spouse hasn't prayed to find some token from their lost loved one, like a message from beyond the grave?

Very nicely done.


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