Ripples - Part V
Sunday, April 5, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Zoe's conversation with Sam. NEW CHAPTER (and forgive the delay - for some reason this was a difficult chapter to write!)


In the warm sunshine by the lake Zoe stared out across the water to where Hank had baited his hook and dropped it off the side of the boat, and was now waiting for something to bite. Pretty much like she was doing. She’d asked Sam what her husband had said about Sweetwater …

“Not a great deal,” the therapist admitted. “It wasn't the specifics he wanted to talk about.”

“No. He said that didn’t matter.”

“I have, of course, heard of it.”

She jerked her head around to look at him. “You have?”

“Of course.” He looked surprisingly relaxed. “It’s almost impossible to read anything about the war without encountering the Dust Devils. That the places they hit were mostly military, but there were other incidents. Soft targets.”

She was surprised. “Sweetwater was listed?”

“It was.”

She sighed heavily. “My ignominy write large for the ‘verse to see.”

“It didn’t mention names.”

“That’s only a small comfort. They didn’t know who we were, else I'm sure we’d be splashed over the pages.”

“Probably.” He ran a hand through his short hair, and an idle and treacherous thought crossed his mind as to how long it would take to grow back, but his main focus was on the woman next to him. “You were in the camps with Mal, yes?”


“So the Dust Devils were after?”

“No. Before.” She leaned down and picked up a stone, tossing it into the lake, watching ripples spread across the water. “Mal … after we got picked up by the medships, he got sick. Real sick. Only it wasn’t just his body that was rebelling. They put him in the infirmary, wouldn’t let me see him at first, then when I managed to get there he hardly seemed to know me. It made me … mad, I guess.”

“So you joined the Dust Devils for him?”

“That’s what Hank asked. And no. Not really. But … there was an escape planned, and I got caught up in it. I didn’t want to go, wanted to stay close to Mal, but they said I had to, since otherwise they were afraid I’d tip the Alliance off.” She shook her head. “As if I would. But I didn’t really have a choice.”

“Why did the others want to escape? As you said, the war was over, and there was talk of repatriation.”

“Yeah, and talk of trials for those they considered war criminals. Folks on board that ship were scared. Hell, I was scared for Mal, seeing as he’d held out longest of ‘em all. But when it came down to it, he was only a Sergeant, and that didn’t count for much in the grand scheme of things.”

“I thought he had a field promotion, to captain.”

Zoe gave a grunt of laughter. “If he had, it didn’t exactly get through to the rest of us. I don’t know, Sam. Whatever, they decided being tossed into the camp on Santo was enough.”

Sam nodded, aware of what had gone on in some of those places. “So, you escaped.”

“Yeah.” She stared back into the past. “I can only figure they thought we were too plain worn out to worry about, ‘cause their security was shit. We got away, and I ended up joining the Dust Devils.”

“Until Sweetwater.”

“Up until then, you’re right. It was mostly military targets, missile silos, the odd barracks. Then we got word that the folks on Sweetwater had been collaborators and they were building new ships to attack good Browncoat worlds.”

“Was that true?”

“Damned if I know. I was so numb by then they could’ve told me the sky was pink with orange polka dots and I’d’ve believed ‘em.” She glanced at him, only seeing the neutral understanding of the trained counsellor. “Soon wore off once I realised it was just women and kids, old folks.”

“Didn’t you try and stop them?”

Zoe closed her eyes, hearing the screams again. “I wish I had. But the hardliners would just have killed me too, and I guess I valued my hide more than I thought. Did kill Gibson, when he protested. But me, MacLean and a few others, we slipped away first chance we could.” She almost laughed again. “It was odd, but up ‘til that point I’d not really cared if I died, not for a long while. I mean, I’d joined up with the Dust Devils because I thought things couldn’t get much worse. Being left in that Valley after the Angels came and they weren't ours …” Seeing his face, that look, disbelief warring with the total and utter loss of the faith that he’d had wrapped around him like a living blanket, warming his soul through every day of battle, having it ripped away from him leaving him naked, vulnerable. She wanted to go out and kill them all.

“So how did you end up in the camp with Mal?”

“I got caught.” This time the laugh actually tickled her throat. “Stealing a loaf of bread of all things. I was so hungry by then I suppose I got careless, although there’s always the possibility that I knew they were coming, and my subconscious betrayed me. Anyway, they scanned me, found out I was an escaped prisoner, that I’d served with the 57th … and next thing I knew I was being herded into the camp on Santo, and there he was, larger than life.”

“I imagine he was glad to see you.”

“Glad I wasn’t dead, at least. Although by the end of our time there, I began to wonder if that might not have been better.”

He didn’t ask, not about that. Things others had said, that Inara had let slip, meant he didn’t have to. “Did you tell him? About the Dust Devils.”

“Yeah. Not straight away, though. I mean, he was better, at least on the outside, but I could see he was barely holding it together on the inside. But after Frey joined us, she managed to get a bottle of booze from someplace, and we got drunk. I told ‘em both then.”

“They understood.”

“Frey did. Straight off. Took Mal a while longer, but we got past it.” A half smile crossed her lips. “I think he actually started to heal a bit then.”

“From you telling him about the Devils?”

“I wish it was, but … no. Probably from having Freya there.”

“And did that make you jealous? That it wasn’t you who helped him?”

“It did. Once.” She looked out at Hank, checking his line again. “Not because I wanted that kind of relationship with him … it was never like that.”

“Why not? He’s a good-looking man. Strong. Why wouldn’t you?”

“Because he was my sergeant.”

She sounded like there couldn’t possibly be another explanation, and maybe there wasn’t. He went back to the subject. “Zoe, what you did … There’s a part of you thinks that man Boone was right. That you deserved to die. Isn’t there?”

She surprised herself by nodding slightly. “War was over, Sam. We … there’s no excuse for what we did.”

“But you’re not looking for an excuse. You’re looking for absolution. Someone to say that because you left the Devils you weren’t at all responsible for their crimes.”

“Except it don’t work like that.”


She studied Hank, who was sitting so still she knew he wasn’t even trying to look like he was fishing any more, just waiting. “So do I ask him for forgiveness?

“There’s no need.”

“But it’s put a strain on us. On our marriage.” Zoe turned her dark gaze on Sam.

“Zoe, sometimes I'm amazed that your marriage works at all, but it does. Just like I'm amazed at River and Jayne. At Mal and Freya. Hell, at me and Inara, and we’re not even married.” He leaned forward, resting his elbow on his knee so he could look directly into her face. “The best relationships aren’t about always being happy. What they are about, is trust.”


“What upsets Hank more than anything is that you didn’t trust him. With what you were once, a long time ago. With the knowledge. Everyone knew, except him. And the way he looks at it is that you didn’t tell him because you didn’t trust him.”

“I did! I do!” she protested.

“Then that’s what you need to say to him.” He stood up, running his hand across his head once more. “Now, I'm going to find Inara, make sure Kaylee doesn’t have her chained to the engine … although there’s a part of me that wonders if she wouldn’t like that … and I’ll leave you two to talk.”


He nodded towards the lake. “Talk,” he repeated quietly, and walked up the shingle.

Zoe turned back, and saw Hank was rowing towards her. Standing up from the deckchair, she stepped to the water’s edge, waiting until the bow of the boat touched land, then pulled it up.

“Hey,” she said softly.


“Catch anything?”

He stood up, a trifle unsteady as the boat rocked beneath him. “Nah. Not even a small one.”

“Jayne will be pleased.”

“You know, I wouldn’t really fill his bunk with fish guts.”


“Mainly because River’d probably do to me what I did to the fish.”

“That’s true.” She waited until he climbed out. “I'm sorry.”

He looked up in surprise. “What about?”

“Not telling you.”

His eyes hooded a moment, then were clear again. “Thought we’d agreed it didn’t matter.”

“No. You said you didn’t want to hear the details, but … you thought I didn’t trust you.”

He shrugged. “Zo, you don’t. Not really. And it ain't like I've exactly earned that trust, have I?” He started towards the bank.

She had to follow. “What are you talking about?”

“My gambling. The fact that I didn’t do what I said I had. Didn’t stop, not until my head was in the noose.”

She hurried forward, grabbed his arm and turned him around. “Is that what this is all about?”

“Why don’t you tell me?” He sounded belligerent, as if it was a subject he’d gone over and over in his head until he couldn’t bear it any longer.

“Are you thinking that in some twisted sort of way all this is my fault? That I didn’t trust you before, so when you were gambling behind my back it was just … I don’t know, justifying that lack of trust?”

“Zoe, that doesn’t make sense.”

“Yes, it does. On an odd, very strange level, it does.” She moved closer. “I did trust you, Hank. And I'm sorry I didn’t tell you. But it wasn’t because I didn’t trust you.”

“You told Wash.”

Ah. Now she understood a lot better. “Yes, I did. But not right at the beginning of our relationship. We were already married, had been for some time. And … it came out in something of a life and death situation.”

“And that wasn’t?” He pointed in the direction of the Firefly with his fishing rod. “Boone, the others … they would have killed us all. How much more of a life and death situation did you want?”

“And I told you then.”

He stared at her, his lips tight. Then he nodded slowly. “I guess … yes, all right. But he still knew. So did the others.”

“But it was the fact that Wash knew, isn’t it?”

“No.” His mouth was denying it, but his grey eyes were doing exactly the opposite.

“Oh, Hank. Don’t ever compare yourself to him.”

“Why not?” The belligerence was still there, if less solid. “He had you first. He’s always going to have had you first.”

“And Risa had you.”

“That’s not the same!” But the declaration had lost its heat.

“Isn’t it?”

“Are we going to argue about this?”

She felt a smile tug at her lips. “Do you want to?”

“Not … no. Not really.”

“Then we won’t.” She eased her grip on his arm, more certain he wasn't going to storm off. “This has brought up a lot of suppressed feelings, hasn’t it?”

A guilty look haunted his face. “Maybe.”

“About Wash. About him knowing things about me that you don’t.”


“Did you know he was jealous of me and Mal?”

It was Hank’s turn to look surprised. “He was?”

“He didn’t believe our relationship could be what it is. Not without something else behind it.”

“But there isn’t. Is there?”

“No. We went through a war together, Hank, and that made us … more than family. But it never made us a couple. Not like that. Not like him and Freya.”

“But Wash thought it had?”

“He was afraid it had. In the middle of the night, sometimes, or when he was on the bridge for long spells of time with nothing else to do but wonder.”

“Honey, I know you’d follow Mal into the jaws of hell. We all have, I guess. But I never thought –“

She put her finger on his lips. “I know. And that’s the point. And in a way that’s why I never told you about what I was. What I had been, for a few short months. Because you trusted me, and I was afraid you wouldn’t love me the same way if I did.”

“You know you’re er bai wu, don’t you?”

“Probably. But it isn’t for lack of trust. Fear, maybe. But trust … no.”

“Even after Newhall?”

“That was different.”

“Okay, maybe it was.” He very deliberately put the rod and basket down, then took her into his arms, feeling her along his body, holding her tight. “I’m sorry, Zo.”

Her own arms came up, holding him against her. “Me too.”

“It’s gonna come up again, though, isn’t it?” He felt her stiffen slightly.

“Probably. When we argue. But we can get past this.”

“That we can.” He moved back enough to gaze into her eyes, dark troubled pools that he wanted to smooth into calmness. “I love you. No matter what. What you’ve done in the past, what you’re gonna do in the future, I love you.”

“And I love you too.” She brushed her full lips against his, before they met bruisingly hard, each trying to let the other know the depth of their feelings.


A few miles away, just under the overhang of a low range of rocks, River nodded, a slight smile on her face.

“What?” Jayne demanded, his voice almost silent, not wanting to scare off their prey. “You got the scent?”

“No,” she said softly. “Hank and Zoe.”

His face wrinkled in disgust. “Hell, I thought that was all settled.”

“No. But it’s getting better.” She lowered herself elegantly to the dirt, and opened up the picnic basket. “Time to eat,” she said.

“Now?” He looked up at the sun, not past its zenith yet. “Not that I ain't hungry, but I thought we were gonna wait until we found that cat.”

“Him?” She shrugged. “Oh, I told him to leave ages ago. He’s already making for a new home, a long way off.”

He put his fists on his hips and glared at her. “We came all this way and you coulda just talked to the damn thing from ‘Nara’s place?”

“I could have,” she admitted, lifting out a lidded box. “But then we wouldn’t have this time together. Alone.” She pried off the lid and sniffed appreciatively. “With chicken.”

He dropped to the ground. “Chicken?”

“I think you love food more than me,” she chided, reaching back into the basket.

“Hell, moonbrain, if’n we didn’t have two beans to rub together for heat I’d still come out into the middle of nowhere to be with you. You know that.”

She looked up at him and smiled brilliantly, making his heart beat faster. The smile grew wider, if anything, and she patted his arm. “Before or after?” she asked.

He grinned, a certain wildness in his eyes that reminded her of the big cat they’d come looking for. “How about both?” he growled, reaching for her.

She sighed happily at the feel of his lips on her neck, and just before all thoughts turned to nothing but Jayne, she heard her inner voice say only Freya to go. Then she surrendered to the sensations her husband was producing.

to be continued


Sunday, April 5, 2009 2:16 PM


Glad to see more of this story. I think you interwove the past and present history of Zoe perfectly - all the pieces fit. And glad to see that the couples are, well, coupling, and next we get to hear what is wrong with Mal/Freya.

Sunday, April 5, 2009 2:52 PM


I absolutely adored the way you had Zoe open up to Sam then explain to Hank in a way that he could both understand and accept. And River mentally sending the cat away but keeping Jayne out there looking made me smile. Quite the little match maker. Hope we get some Mal and Freya goodness soon. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, April 5, 2009 5:49 PM


Wonderful advice that Sam gave Zoe and I'm glad that she acted on it.

And River and Jayne, what a hoot!

Now it's just Mal and Freya and I'm sure that'll be interesting.

Sunday, April 5, 2009 10:53 PM


THANK YOU! I'm a nervous wreck at the moment, and a new chapter calmed me right down. You have impeccable timing. xD I also Loved the Sam/Zoe revelation section, its always good to hear a little background, and its even better because now Hank/Zoe are on the road to recovery ...

Monday, April 6, 2009 4:14 AM


Well, so many things have been said. I really enjoyed the way you worked Wash into this. I could so see Hank being jealous of her former lover and hubby because aren't we all at times with our significant others. Nicely done!!


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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!]

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"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!]

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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!]

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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.

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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!]