BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

ALIASSE

Zoe and The Dog
Sunday, March 14, 2010

What Zoe did (didn't do) next.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1141    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Dedicated to dog-lovin' Browncoats everywhere, and to Bertie, RIP.

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It was a longstanding Washburne family tradition to name their small, shaggy, white-haired terriers after condiments, ever since Wash had called their first ‘Chutney’. Another tradition was that all of Chutney’s successors were referred to as ‘Hoban’s Dog’, even once Wash had left home. In his more light-hearted moments of objecting to having children, Wash had joked that his parents would expect any offspring to be called Pickle, or Ketchup, or Soy.

The latest incarnation of Washburne pet - known as Saucy – struck Zoe as an in-every-way-objectionable creature. He was revoltingly spoiled; he nagged relentlessly for food, walks and attention; and he was utterly, utterly ineffectual. His bark barely registered as such, expressing more than anything Saucy’s intention of ingratiating himself with any potential benefactor: owner, neighbor, burglar, murderer – it was all the same to him. He therefore failed in the only area which, in Zoe’s mind, justified the keeping of a dog.

And yet Biddie considered it of immense significance that Saucy had been hit by a garbage disposer on the day before Zoe’s arrival. She, Biddie, had a very full schedule: tai chi first thing, then breakfast with friends, then her crossword club, then lunch, with friends, and maybe a shopping trip . . . And it was the same for Hatch, who spent most mornings tending his five by five meter plot on the roof of the apartment building and most afternoons playing golf. In short, neither of them had space in their routines for nursing Hoban’s Dog back to health. The veterinarian had prescribed two short walks – one in the morning, one in the afternoon – as the best means of recovering from the surgery that Saucy had undergone following his accident. And not only was it right – according to Biddie – that Zoe should undertake the exercising of Saucy, by dint of no-one else having the time, it also happened that it was just the kind of thing a woman in mourning should do.

At first – wondering if Biddie’s suggestion wasn’t a comment on the nightcaps she shared every evening with Hatch in the bar down on the corner – Zoe confined her walks with Saucy to the north, east, south and west sides of the block on which the Washburne’s lived. But the Washburnes had lived there for an awful long time and were well-known to the people who came and went, who insisted not only on stopping and smiling sentimentally at Saucy, as though he was a hero of great substance for having survived a collision with a truck that was entirely his fault, but also on engaging her in conversation about the dog’s recovery, all of which, she was aware, was an invitation for her to prove that she wasn’t the stony-faced Amazon that she looked and was in fact as much enamored of useless, fluffy, white hairballs as they were. It was an invitation which she steadfastly declined, right up until hers and Saucy’s last turn about the block and her decision to walk in greener pastures.

Those pastures were to be found a forty-minute bus ride away, in fifty square miles of hiking space known as the Bubble, due to the atmospheric tent that encased it and kept the air separate from the filth that sat over the rest of the planet. Once again, on the bus, the indulgent smiles, inviting her to talk and thereby clarify the not-obvious-at-first-glance relationship between herself and the animal on her lap. At least, though, these people didn’t know the Washburnes, wouldn’t come across Biddie in the local store and say surely that hard-jawed woman clutching Sonny wasn’t the one that poor Hoban married in such grave error, the one who was to blame for his death?

She was glad, when she arrived at the Bubble, to be able to walk that kind of crap out of her head, even if it was only for ten minutes. It wasn’t long, of course, before the veterinarian recommended longer walks, and that was a relief too, to be able to strike out without a sense of Saucy’s new plastic joints holding her back. And, she had to admit, the little almost-rodent thing had a lot of spirit, following her unerringly whichever path she took. There was a day when something in the equation that made the Bubble function fell out of balance very slightly, and the route they usually took along the river was badly flooded. Zoe strode on, undaunted, confident that her boots would carry her through. But the water got higher and higher and higher as they went on – burying the roots of the trees in the wood sloping down to the river’s banks – so that Zoe was forced to pick up Saucy, who was gamely trying to make his way by jumping from one precarious island of branch, rock or hillock to another. That was when Zoe understood Biddie’s intention, because yes, she and Saucy were both recovering from their own experience of death, and were sharing it, unspeakingly, which for him was necessary and for her was the only way possible.

Apart from Hatch – she could talk to Hatch a little. Or mostly just listen. Sometimes they were joined by Hatch’s friends, but usually it was just the both of them and a couple shots of something to make the transition to sleep a little more gentle. He talked about Wash a lot, and his grandkids, the children of Wash’s sisters. Talked about being a parent, hoped quietly, without making himself the main character in the piece, that whatever he’d given to Wash, in terms of qualities and values, it had stood him in good stead for the life he’d had.

“Cos everyone’s flawed as hell,” he said one night, during a conversation about qualities and values that she thought she might never forget, “every mommy and daddy in the Verse. You can’t do nothing about your failings, not really, just have to live with them and hope they don’t put too big a load on the people you got around you. Cos that’s what a family’s for. You create the family, this group of people with a character all its own, and it’s that character that carries you through, that compensates for all the ways you and everyone else in it falls short.”

She took great comfort in that: thinking about what kind of a family she and Wash would have brought a child in to on board Serenity. A way of life with, for a kid, so many, many short-fallings. The waters had just got higher and higher and higher; hadn’t they? The equation had been flawed, brittle, prone to outbreaks of violence, collapsing into oblivion.

Wash’d embodied, quietly reached for a different one, waiting for her to see it too; and he’d been right. And that was the comfort, knowing that it had been right not to have a kid, not with the way things had been. He knew better than her about things like that, with the family he’d come from. He’d brought a lot of the Washburne way on to the ship, particularly the elastic humor that expanded or contracted to encompass the situations that presented themselves with whoever was on board, based as it was on a great fount of tolerance, which itself came from the certainty of being loved. She didn’t have that, so much: knew her folks cared deeply about her, sure, but the Alleyne way had been more about the work and the endurance and the economic good of the whole. As for the Reynolds way: the ever-present standard that Mal had been held to so harshly by his everything-was-better-in-the-Core mother had always been there, making itself present in the daily workings of ship life, in his awareness of falling short of it. Falling short. Individuals fell short; the family held them up above the lonely torment of that.

She’d fallen short; the Washburne family thank God was holding her up. If only she’d understood it, when Wash was alive. Because he was dead, she had to tell herself even now. He was dead. If she’d understood it sooner she would have been sooner to leave Serenity, with him. But . . . was it a good thing to be wearying a little of the ‘what ifs?’

She walked and walked, and Saucy trotted cheerfully beside her.

COMMENTS

Sunday, March 14, 2010 12:24 PM

PLATONIST


You come up with the most creative fic ideas, like this one, love Zoe and Saucy and Zoe’s reflection that the “what ifs” are becoming weary.

Hopefully in the future she can reunite with the rest of the crew, if only for a short while.

Sunday, March 14, 2010 12:51 PM

ALIASSE


Thanks. This was fun to write, after a good few 'I haven't got a clue what to write' moments. I don't think the author's and Zoe's voice meld very well here, but hey...

Monday, March 15, 2010 5:46 AM

BYTEMITE


"Chutney." *face palm to cover the snickers* God, that is so Wash, same as the implied talk of having children with his parents and the vague threat that he might name one "Ketchup."

Also, the hints about what every crew member brings from their family and upbringing to Serenity. I can see how it applies to all of them, but I also like your overt description of the Alleyne influence and the Reynolds influence.

Also, the dog himself, and Zoe's initial declaration of the dog's worthlessness, and how the dog helps Zoe deal with the death. I'd actually go so far as to compare the dog to Zoe's initial impression of Wash, and how Wash helped her as well.

You draw out character development so well, with just the right supporting characters and interactions to make it all poignant.

Monday, March 15, 2010 12:49 PM

ALIASSE


That's SUCH nice feedback, thanks! I can't personally see what there is for Zoe apart from character development at this point in her life, in this particular series. But Platonist's hopes for a return to action are not misplaced...It is Zoe, after all.

Good catch about Wash/Saucy - I hadn't intended it, but it's so true!

Monday, March 15, 2010 4:43 PM

BYTEMITE


Time for Zoe to remember her other family, albeit with a more healthy outlook?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 2:05 PM

GILLIANROSE


Oh, I really liked this! Just the mental image of Zoe on a bus with an utterly, utterly useless and fluffy white dog on her lap, that would have been enough. The Bubble is nicely imagined, too. And I would make it canon, that Wash names his dogs after condiments :) But the part at the end, the musing on human limitations and the workings of (for the lucky ones, blessings of) family, was really beautiful. Aaaand, I see I have more to read!! Yay :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 11:01 AM

ALIASSE


'albeit with a more healthy outlook?' -Yes, Zoe had a BIT of a downer on the whole Serenity thing when she left, especially the way Mal seemed to have so recklessly squandered his chances with Inara. Hatch's comments on, as GR puts it, humman limitations can help her to put the feelings that inspired her to leave in perspective.

I once knew a lady who had a little dog called Chutney. She used to talk about it as though it was a person. Sweet dog. But a dog nonetheless.

Thursday, March 18, 2010 11:52 AM

ELLAGREGGS


Very interesting observations about what kinds of homes/families Mal, Zoe and Wash had growing up, and how it shaped them. You didn't belabour the point, but conveyed it very vividly and economically. I also liked that Zoe was "wearying a little of the 'what if's."

Friday, March 19, 2010 2:00 PM

ALIASSE


Hey EG! Nice to meet you and thanks for reading and reviewing! This fanfic business is fun, right? :)

Friday, March 19, 2010 3:35 PM

ELLAGREGGS


It's pretty wild! I feel like I've fallen down the rabbit hole or something. But once again, I very much liked your story. It makes me think that even though she would stick out like a "stone faced amazon", Zoe might want to seek out the company of Wash's family to feel some nurturing, because Mal loves her, but he's not nurturing.


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