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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
This fan fiction takes place after the events in Firefly and Serenity, and is also the first part of a sequel to Wash: Double Booked, which was in turn a sequel to Wash: Connecting Flight. This means it has SPOILERS, folks, and major ones at that. So please don't read this unless you get the chance to see the series and the movie -- and read my first two Firefly stories in this series.
In the first part of WASH: CHANGING COURSE, Our favorite pilot thinks about who she used to be, where she came from and what she's going to do now, and gets advice from an unexpected source.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1089 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Wash sat in the pilot’s chair, the one place where thinking had always come easily. That part of who she was hadn’t changed, unlike most of the rest of her. Still, a lot had changed since the untimely death of the man she used to be in that very same chair, and her unusual resurrection in the pleasingly-shaped and quite female body of Linda Rachel Wehr, the woman who replaced him as Serenity’s pilot.
Of course, she wasn’t actually on flight duty at the moment. After she had pushed herself so hard keeping the ship in the air during a rescue attempt a few hours back, she wound up fainting at the controls. The ship’s Doctor had forbidden her to fly for 24 hours, or anything else particularly strenuous. Keeping her out of the cockpit for a day wasn’t really a problem, though. When Serenity was out in the Black, between the planets and moons that made up the system, she could usually find her way without help.
So Wash wasn’t really flying, just curled up in the chair, her chair, staring out at the stars. And thinking. About Jayne.
‘I told him I loved him,’ she thought, still a little amazed at both her declaration and the fact that she actually DID love him. ‘And I kissed him and he touched me and ... sometime soon I’m going to climb into bed with him and I can’t believe I’m looking forward to that, too. I mean, Jayne? I thought the Verse was strange with the geese juggling and all, but seriously ... me ... and Jayne?’
She smiled just a little, thinking about the conversation she wasn’t supposed to have heard between Simon and Jayne.
“Oh, come on, Doc,” the mercenary said, doing his best to keep his voice down with Linda in the next room. “It ain’t like I’m gonna be chasin’ her around the ship or nothin’. We’re gonna be in my bunk ... or her bunk ... or somewhere else ... oh, hell, I don’t know, but I ain’t gonna hurt her. I’d never hurt her. You know that!”
Simon looked at Jayne, and he could see how being this close to actually being with Linda was ripping him up inside. Still, she’d just burned through so much energy hovering over Hustler, it was a wonder she was awake now at all. As much as he understood how Jayne was feeling, his patient always came first.
“Jayne ... I know you just want to be with her, and make her happy,” he said softly. “But she’s been through a lot, and she’s weaker than she should be.” Simon leaned forward. “If you two ... get together tonight, Linda is going to crash so hard afterwards that she’ll be back in my care before morning. Do you really want your first time together to wind up keeping her in bed a few more days ... without you?”
Jayne looked down and shook his head. “You know I don’t.”
“Okay, then.” The doctor said. He put his hand on Jayne’s shoulder, and the other man looked up. “It’s just for one night. She needs rest more than anything else. And tomorrow, I’ll examine her again, and certify her fit for light duty ... along with any other after-hours activities she might want to engage in. All right?”
The mercenary nodded, then sighed. “I reckon it’ll have to be. You’re sure she’ll be okay?”
Simon smiled. “A little sore in the shoulders, but nothing a little massage therapy couldn’t fix. Linda would like that.”
“Yes, massage. Muscle manipulation.”
“I know what a massage is, Doc,” Jayne growled, then looked away, his face red. “If she needs it, I’ll do it. I just ain’t never done it to anybody before, so I don’t know what all I’m supposed to do.”
Inside, the doctor sighed, but he knew this was all unfamiliar territory for Jayne. “Go see Inara, and she’ll teach you a few things to get you started. For now, go kiss her goodnight and tell her you’ll see her in the morning. Dohn-ma?”
“Dohn-ma.” Jayne looked back through the window, and saw Linda watching them. She smiled, and he smiled back before a thought occurred to him. “She ... uh, she can’t hear us out here, can she?”
Simon shook his head. “Doubtful. Med bay is pretty well insulated sound-wise.”
“Okay, then. She and I, we danced this long. I reckon we can hold off ‘til it’s right.” He said, almost to himself. “Got to take care of her. Gotta keep her safe.”
She couldn’t hear that last part, but she could read his lips through the glass. And remembering what he said hours later, after she’d slept a while, made her smile all over again.
‘I can’t believe the idea of him taking care of me makes me feel so ... special.’ She shook her head and looked down at her body. ‘Okay, granted ... I’m not the me I used to be, but still ...’
“You’re disobeying Doctor’s orders, you know.”
Zoe spoke from the doorway, and her voice had that little deep-throated purr that used to drive Wash wild in the middle of the night. The pilot looked back over her shoulder, saw the first mate’s smile, and shook her head.
“Ma’am, no Ma’am,” she replied, answering Zoe’s smile with one of her own. “I may be good, but even I’m not good enough to fly this ship without touching the wheel.”
“Still, shouldn’t you be in med bay?” Zoe was in a long silk bathrobe Wash had given her as a gift after a particularly successful job. The pilot was happy to see her wearing it.
I’m supposed to rest.” Linda shrugged. “Here’s as good a place as med bay. Better, because ... well, it’s my place. You know?”
The first mate took a step onto the flight deck before she stopped and cocked her head.
“May I join you?”
“Of course!” Linda waved a hand towards the second seat. “Glad for the company.”
“Ah, I see,” Zoe said, moving to the co-pilot’s chair and settling in with a sigh. “Is that why you’ve been sitting here all alone? Because you know this is the most highly-traveled part of the ship in the middle of the night, and you were waiting for someone to come along and say hi?”
“Something like that.” Linda hugged her knees and stared out into the Black. “I had some thinking to do, and for me, this has always been the best place to think. After all, when you’re surrounded by the Verse, you tend to put things in perspective.”
“My husband used to say much the same thing.” Zoe looked out at the stars. “Hard to see any problem as too big to solve against a backdrop like that.”
She looked back at Linda. “Let me guess ... Jayne?”
The pilot shook her head slightly and gave her ex-wife a shy smile. “Got it in one.”
Zoe smiled back. “Must admit I was surprised my own self, after how he treated you when you came on board the first time.”
Linda looked out at the stars again.
“I never expected ...” She stopped and began again. “It turns out there was so much more to him than I thought at first. I mean, I know he has a family, gods know where. He must have grown up knowing what it meant to be close to someone. But somehow he’d lost it along the way. Now suddenly, he gets it. He’s human again. He’s part of this family.”
She looked over at Zoe. “I suppose, being part of this crew, even Jayne would have to get it eventually.”
The first mate shook her head.
“Not so much,” she replied. “He was learning, but it was slow going. And letting down those walls of his was always too risky for someone who’s lived a life like the one Jayne lived. No, he did it because he finally found someone he cares about more than he cares about himself. You.”
Wash turned to look at her, thinking this was one odd conversation to be having with the woman who used to be her wife. Zoe met her eyes and she smiled, just a little.
“Love is a funny thing. When I first met my husband, I couldn’t stand him. I saw this funny little man with a big bushy moustache, wearing loud shirts and flight suits and talking a mile a minute. He could fly, not doubt about it, but for some reason, he’d run at the mouth whenever he tried to talk to me. There was something ... not right about him, and it took me a while to realize what it was.”
“He was trying to impress you, but he couldn’t figure out how.” Wash smiled slowly, remembering how frustrating it had been.
Zoe saw something in Linda’s eyes – something warm, a memory ... and a flash of something familiar. She nodded.
“I remember the first time we had a real conversation, he and I. It was the middle of the night, ship’s time, and he was sitting just where you’re sitting now, staring out at the black. I stood in the doorway and watched him for a while, and the expression on his face was priceless. I started to back away, not wanting to disturb him, and he spoke, his eyes never leaving the sky.”
“‘Where I grew up,’ he said, in a tone I’d never heard before, ‘the air was so thick above us that we could never see the sky. I’d heard about stars, of course. Seen pictures of ‘em ever since I was small. But when I got old enough, I went up on a suborbital freighter run with my uncle. When we broke atmo, the Verse appeared, and it was everything I could have wanted, hoped for ... wished for. The stars were so sharp and the spaces between so empty, I felt it all call to me like nothing had ever called to me before. That’s when I decided to be a pilot, and live out here in the black, surrounded by beauty.’”
“Then Wash turned to me, and looked into my eyes and said, ‘Then I found this ship, and I found you, and you were more beautiful than the whole Verse to me. I’ve tried so hard since I came aboard to make you see me. I don’t know what to say to make you see how I feel. But I know now that a million words won’t touch you the way I want to touch you, or show you how much I love you. So I look at the stars and the space between, and wish I could get you to look at me the same way. But I really don’t think I can.’”
“You remember all that?”
Zoe looked at Linda, and there were tears in her eyes. “Word for word. I fell in love with him right then. He stopped acting and let me see him. No more words, just emotions. And it was only a matter of time until we were married. After all, that’s what happens when someone loves you that much.”
Linda felt the tears in her own eyes begin to make their way down her cheeks.
“That’s what Jayne did,” she said softly. “He took down his walls. He handed me his heart and said, ‘I can’t stop myself from loving you. This is me. Love me or don’t, but just know I love you, and I’m not going to stop.’ When I saw that, something in me broke open, and I realized that ... that I loved him, too.”
The two women were silent, sharing the moment, then Zoe spoke.
“So what’s the problem, then?”
Wash looked over at the woman she had loved more than life itself, and let her see the confusion in her face.
“I’ve never loved a man before.” Zoe’s eyes closed, and she took a breath. Then she reached over and put her hand on Linda’s and squeezed.
“But you have loved.” It was a statement, not a question, and the pilot nodded
“There was a woman,” she whispered. “She was smart, and beautiful, and sexy, and I loved her so much. She was everything I ever wanted, and she loved me too, more than words could say. But death ripped us apart. And now here I am, months later ... and I love this ... this man. It feels so right, but at the same time it feels wrong. Part of it feels like I’m betraying her somehow. And part of it is ... I’ve never felt this way about a man before. How do I love a man? How can I?”
Zoe bowed her head, then raised it again.
“You’re not loving a man. You’re loving Jayne. That’s what love is, Linda. It’s about the person, and how you feel about them. How they make you feel, and how you make them feel. Damn, girl, how does he make you feel when he touches you?”
All the tension leaves Linda’s face, replaced by a simple joy that answers Zoe’s question without her saying a word. Zoe reaches out and touches Linda’s cheek.
“See? You do the same thing to him, when you touch him. You make him happy beyond words. You make his world complete. That’s how you love him. Just by being ... his.”
“And ... sex?”
“I’m not thinking that’s a problem, honey,” Zoe said, smiling again. “I think Jayne’s been around long enough to know what to do with a woman once she’s in his bed. And I think you’ll be able to think of things to do to make it worth his while to keep you there.”
Wash blushed and looked down, a little embarrassed about talking like this with the woman she used to keep happy, back when her bed was their bed. She noticed a kind of twitching on the mass detector. It was barely a flicker on the display, jumping back and forth a hundredth of a percent, but they were way out in the middle of the middle of the Black, and there wasn’t a planet or asteroid anywhere near them.
She watched as the ship’s course began to change, just a few hundredths of a degree off at first, but then it started increasing, and the flickering on the display became a solid indication of something nearby, even though she still couldn’t see a thing.
Letting go of Zoe’s hand, she linked the mass detector with the nav computer and let them talk about where the heck that mass reading was coming from. The nav computer said it was straight ahead, but when Wash looked, there was nothing there but black ... just a hole between stars ... black ... hole.
Black hole. She felt her insides twist, and her blood ran cold. A quantum black hole.
The best way to stay unnoticed in a crowded universe is go places other ships don’t. So it stands to reason you would run into things other folks wouldn’t, usually. Like something way too small to see that eats anything in its path and keeps on eating until there’s nothing left to eat.
And if anyone else did run into a quantum black hole out here, it would eat their ship and everything in it long before they could ever find a port.
‘Just like it will eat Serenity,’ Wash thought, ‘and everybody aboard her.’
The proximity alarm finally sounded as the black hole’s pull increased enough, but the pilot was already kicking in everything the ship had.
“Wang Ba Dan.” she swore, wrestling with the control yoke.
“What’s wrong?” The first mate tried to stand up.
“No!” Linda shouted. “Strap in. It’s a black hole.”
Zoe dropped back into the co-pilot’s chair, and buckled the harness.
“If we don’t avoid it,” the pilot said through gritted teeth, “there won’t be anything left of this ship but a memory.”
As hard as Wash flew, all she could manage was an orbital stand-off at full burn. Serenity and the black hole went around and around each other, over and over, with each orbit bringing the singularity closer and closer to touching the hull.
Her mind raced, wondering what she could possibly do to stop this from happening, but they’d never covered this in flight school –– not even in his extra lessons with Chiang.
Chiang. The man who taught him the one thing that kept them all alive when Serenity’s electronics were fried on the approach to Miranda.
"Consider the leaf on the wind,"he said softly. "It does not think, or feel, or believe. It simply is. It dips, it soars . . . it flies, but only as the winds and gravity command. But if the leaf could think, could feel . . . could believe . . . it could also choose not to do what nature demanded. It could soar when the wind said to dip, or drift when there is no wind at all." His eyes found Wash's and held them, and the pilot could've sworn they flashed with a green fire that came from within. "Mister Washburne, the belief of a determined individual can be stronger than all that is, if only his will is strong enough."
‘What,’ she thought with a growl, ‘I’m supposed to just change the laws of physics ... on a whim?’’
The Chiang in her memory turned to face her, and spoke.
‘Why not? I did, when you saw me floating on air when we first met. You did, too, when you saved your ship and crew on approach to Miranda.’
‘In case you’ve forgotten, old man, I died on Miranda!’
Chiang’s face was stern. ‘In case you’ve forgotten, young woman, this is why you’re here.’
Then the scene changed, and she remembered her conversation with Chiang in that bar on Santo, all those weeks ago, about why she needed to come back to the Verse as Linda.
'But why a she?’ Wash had asked, confused. ‘Why her? Admittedly I wasn't always a finalist in the Mister Testosterone contest, but still --"
'Because she is our only chance. Our last chance.' Chiang's voice was cool, and Wash heard something there he didn't expect. Worry. 'Because Mal has places to be, and Linda is the last candidate under consideration before he gives up for now and leaves River at the controls. And if you're not there to save them in the next few months, another chance will never come. Serenity and her crew will die in deep space, alone and unremembered -- unless you're behind the stick. Unless you are their pilot.'
Back on the flight deck, Linda’s eyes widened.
“Wuh duh ma huh tah duh fong kwong duh wai shung!” she screamed aloud. “That’s NOW?”
Panicking, she scanned the control systems, looking for something, anything that could help. But after a few seconds, she realized the measurements and the instruments themselves wouldn’t help her at all. Even the forces they measured were all firmly rooted in the here and now, in the science that humans knew and understood.
Where Chiang wanted her to go was somewhere else -- into the mystical. It was the stuff science laughed at, the concepts that couldn’t be verified by experiments or quantified by technology. He wanted Wash to accept the stuff dreams were made of – the things you took on faith.
He wanted her to do the impossible.
‘Okay, FINE,’ she thought, putting every ounce of sarcasm she could into her mental voice. ‘I’ll DO the impossible. But if this doesn’t work, Gladys, I’m never speaking to you again!’
After a few seconds, she shook her head. ‘When letting us all die starts sounding like a win-win, it’s clear I left sanity a few hundred klicks behind. Time to embrace the madness.’
“So, I can do the impossible?” Linda muttered aloud, her mind racing. “Fine. How do I make a black hole go away? If I try to run, no matter how fast I can make the ship go, it’s just going to follow us and eat Serenity from behind. Make us really dense, like neutron star dense? That would just make us more attractive to the gorram thing.”
“Wait. So if I make the ship less dense ...” She chewed her lower lip, then shook her head. “No, no, that would slow it down some, but it would still ... well, it would still know we’re here, and it wouldn’t stop coming. How can I make it just ignore us completely? Can I make Serenity ... not exist for long enough for it to ... lose interest?”
Wash suddenly realized she was waiting for a response, and almost snorted. Who was going to answer her? Chiang? As if. She knew better than to expect anything remotely like direct assistance from the ghostly guru. Still, it was the best idea she had, as totally off-the-wall as it was, and she knew that she only had seconds to make it happen.
Linda locked the wheel on auto-pilot and sat back, closing her eyes but keeping her hands on the control yoke. She reached out with her mind through her hands and touched every part of the ship, surprised at how easy it was to do. She felt that oneness every pilot feels when she and her ship have been together as long as Wash and Serenity had been. With the smallest effort, she made the connection even stronger, until she could feel the ship as if it was part of her.
At the same time, Wash could feel the concentrated pocket of emptiness that kept chasing her in ever-closing circles, and wondered just for an instant if what she was doing was suicide. Then she remembered that if she didn’t do something, they were all dead anyway.
So she focused everything she had on remembering what she had learned, and what had happened at Miranda, and started whispering.
“I am a leaf on the wind ... watch how I soar ...” She felt the ship start to thin around her ...
“I am a leaf on the wind ... watch how I soar ...” Her own body began to lose its mass ...
“I am a leaf on the wind ... watch how I soar ...” She started seeing the stars through the control panel and the side of the ship.
Suddenly, with a sharp flickering of everything, Serenity simply stopped —
— and ceased to be.
Wash balanced the ship’s very existence on the knife’s edge between here and gone. Hovering in the thin almost nothingness that makes up the place where Schrodinger’s cat both lives and dies, she feels an immense something that was also about the size of a grain of sand move through the cockpit at speeds beyond imagining. The Verse seemed to vibrate all around her, making a noise like a perfect chime that went on and on and on, and Wash felt the black hole tug at her consciousness as it passed through where the ship was/might have been. It almost as if Wash’s soul was the only thing for light years around that could be touched by its passing.
Which, of course, it was.
The black hole moved through and past the where-when Serenity used to inhabit, then shot off into the Black to find something else to feed its terrible hunger.
Wash sighed, and her concentration wavered just for an instant, and with another odd flicker of inexplicable otherness, the ship —
— came back.
With a few well-practiced motions, Wash slammed Serenity into a hard burn that pushed her back into her seat. She wanted to get as far away from that gorram ship-killer as she could. Almost immediately, the proximity alert went quiet, and she watched the mass detector as the black hole faded into the space behind her until it was nothing but a memory.
“Damn,” she whispered softly. “I really am a leaf on the wind.”
There was a prolonged squee from just beyond the cockpit door, and the pilot suddenly found herself wrapped in a huge hug from behind.
“Hoe-bann,” River said as she squeezed the pilot tight. “That was so shiny! You made the ship just ... go away! You have so got to teach me!”
“I won’t get the chance, if you kill me with kindness,” Wash managed to whisper. “I haven’t figured out how to breathe without pulling air into my lungs just yet, and you’re not making it any easier.”
River kissed her just behind her ear, let go, and backed up a few steps.
“Sorry, jei jei,” she said, and Wash could hear the smile in her voice. “But you did it. You did what you came back for. You should be proud. You saved everybody, just like you were supposed to.”
“I guess I did at that,” Wash replied, her own grin growing. She spun her chair around to face the younger girl ... and came face to face with Zoe instead.
The first mate sat in the co-pilot’s chair and stared at Linda, half-confused and halfway to putting all the pieces together.
“River ... called you Hoban,” she whispered, “and I just saw you make the ship disappear while not really going anywhere at all ... and you ... you said the same ... the same thing ... that he said when he managed to land Serenity ... on Miranda ...”
Zoe looked up at River, then back to the pilot. Her eyes narrowed. “And there’s only one person I’ve ever known who would dare lie to a black hole and think he could get away with it.” Her voice took on a tone somewhere between wonder, surprise, happiness — and anger.
“Wash? Is that you?”
The pilot felt hot all over, then cold, and then about ten different kinds of embarrassed. She could feel herself blushing, thinking about talking to Zoe ... about Jayne. But at the same time, part of her was relieved that the hiding was over — at least between her and Zoe.
“Hi, lamby-toes,” she said weakly, holding up both hands. “Believe it or not, I can explain.”
Whatever she was going to say next was interrupted by Zoe leaping at her from across the flight deck, wrapping her in a hug even tighter than River’s was, and giving her the kind of kiss that Wash remembered oh so well from when she and Zoe were man and wife.
And gorram if it didn’t feel just as good now as it did then.
Sunday, June 12, 2011 4:08 PM
Monday, June 13, 2011 2:09 AM
Monday, June 13, 2011 6:34 AM
Monday, June 13, 2011 7:12 AM
Monday, June 13, 2011 11:53 AM
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