The Four Winds, Chapter 24
Saturday, June 18, 2011

Me and Elwood, we're puttin' the band back together.


When Serenity emerged from the battlecruiser, Jerrode Eusabian's Nightrunner was waiting.

"They're hailing," Wash said quietly.

What could those people think they have to say to me? Mal wondered, through the black haze that had settled over him.

Inara appeared on the screen. "Mal! Oh, are you a sight for sore eyes!"

Mal stared at her, dumbfounded. "Inara?"

"No, Mal, it's the Easter Bunny," she said, teasing him.

"But, you --" he said, and couldn't finish.

Zoe stepped up next to him. "We thought you were on Eusabian's yacht," she explained. "It was destroyed when the seed exploded."

"Seed?" Inara said. "No, no, I took the shuttle, I -- destroyed? So, Jerrode... oh, my."

They stared at each other for several seconds. At length, Inara said "Serenity looks considerably better than when I saw it last."

"Good as new," Mal said. The screen flickered, and Mal gave it a whack with the side of his fist. It stopped flickering. "Mostly," he amended. "You planning on rejoining us?"

"Just as soon as I figure out how to dock this ship," she said, somewhat ruefully. "Also, what to do with my passenger. I couldn't figure out how to get him aboard."

"Passenger?" Mal asked.

"Yes, I found him floating in orbit," Inara said, switching to an exterior view.

Clinging to one of the Nightrunner's exterior struts was Jayne. His suit appeared to be airtight, but not entirely undamaged. He was yelling, angrily -- clearly, he knew where the camera was, although his mic seemed not to be working. Mal had some vague memory of a problem with the mic and speakers in Jayne's suit. The mercenary looked about to burst a vein, but appeared quite decidedly alive.

"Huh," Mal said. "Well, whaddya make of that?"


Wash had talked Inara through what she needed to do, first to safely get Jayne aboard Serenity -- where Wash made sure to stay well clear of the large, very unhappy merc -- and then to dock the Nightrunner so that she herself could come aboard. Mal went to meet her. Wash put the ship in a geosynchronous orbit, and then slipped away to his and Zoe's quarters. She was already there, waiting for him, and there was a conversation they needed to have.

Zoe had changed her clothes, and was pinning up her long hair as he came down the ladder. She smiled when she saw him. He couldn't help it; he smiled back. After everything they'd been through, how could he not smile back? How could he not put his arms around her and kiss her neck and breathe in the scent of her and just be glad they were both alive?

But, he reminded himself sternly, they really did need to talk.

"Zoe," he said, pushing her out to arm's length. She looked at him expectantly. The words were hard to say, but he forced them out. "When were you planning to tell me?"

She shook her head fractionally. "Tell you what?"

Wash let her go, frustrated, and ran both hands through his hair. "You mean you're still not telling me? Why? Isn't this something we should both have a say in?" His fears welled up and spilled over. "I thought we had an agreement. I thought we weren't going to do this until we could, you know, agree on it, which we never did, and then you go and do it without me -- or, well, I don't guess totally without me, anyway I hope not, but certainly without telling me, and I have to find out from some Alliance guy? I just, I thought... that we had a better relationship than that."

Zoe sat down on their bunk. Her gaze turned inward for several seconds, and then came back to him. "Wash," she said carefully. "I don't have the foggiest idea what you're talking about. What in the 'verse do you think I've done?"

Wash leaned on the ladder, and scrutinized her face. If she was lying to him, she was doing a brilliant job. But was it really possible that...?

"Zoe," he said, and the words got hard to say, again. He could barely wrap his mind around them, let alone his tongue. He reached down to her, and she reached up to take his hand. "Zoe,'re pregnant."

Her eyes widened, and her free hand went to her abdomen. "Oh," she said, clearly surprised. "I...what? How can you know that?"

He sat down on the bunk next to her. "Coles told us. When he told us that he had picked you and Simon up, he said there were three of you. We didn't know what he was talking about. He said, 'I was referring to the woman's unborn child.'"

Wash could feel her hand trembling in his. He knew she would hate that; Zoe's hands were always steady. "They did medical workups on us," she said. "They must have seen it then. But they didn't say anything to me."

"Well, but... even if you didn't know yet, you had to know that you were... trying?" Wash suggested. "Which I didn't know." He tried to keep the edge out of his voice, and failed.

Zoe pulled her hand away from him, and stood, taking a step forward to pick up the small bag she'd brought from the battlecruiser -- the one the Alliance had put her personal effects in. She reached into the bag and pulled something out. "Simon wasn't the only one who went a little long between pharmacy runs," she said, and held out her hand to him. Lying in her open palm was a wrapped contraceptive implant. "I knew I was getting close to needing this. I just didn't realize..." she dropped suddenly back down onto the bunk beside him, and buried her face in his shoulder.

"Oh, Wash," she said, her voice breaking, "We're going to have a baby!"


Inara climbed down the ladder from Serenity's upper hatch, jumping down from the last step and landing softly in her padded silk slippers. The fabric of her gown whispered around her. Mal stood just a few steps away along the corridor, where he had greeted a gruff and ambivalent Jayne - the merc couldn't seem to decide whether he was more angry than he was relieved, or vice-versa -- only moments before. Mal was glad that Jayne was alive, but Inara... the ship suddenly felt, after long days of scant air, like it was overpressurized. Mal could barely breathe, he was so full.

She turned, and smiled. And ran to him, throwing her arms up around his neck. She had a sack in one hand; its contents clunked heavily against his shoulderblades. His own arms went around her, without prompting, but before he could relax into her unexpected embrace she pushed him back to arms' length again.

"Mal," she said, and her face was somehow smiling and serious all at once, "I owe you an apology."

A what? Mal tried to come up with an appropriate response, but he could still feel the warmth of her embrace, and she was still standing right here with that damn green cloth whispering around her like it was chanting spells, and he was too slow.

"I am so, so very sorry, Mal. I am horrified that I let myself be used as a pawn against you -- that I didn't see what was happening sooner. That I almost drew Zoe and Simon in with me and made us all hostages. Mal, I was so stubborn, and I just shudder to think what it almost cost me."

Again, Mal found himself speechless. Inara? Was sorry?

Well, he allowed in some deep part of his brain that was still functioning, her stubbornness had come mighty near getting her killed.

"I'm just glad you're back. Safe," he managed to say.

She hefted the bag. "I've bought you a gift," she said triumphantly. "I hope you'll like it."

Mal accepted the bag, and opened it. Inside was a belt. Real leather, very nice. But not a gun belt, such as he ordinarily wore slung around his hips, with the holster strapped to his thigh. This was a belt of the hold-up-a-man's-pants variety. He turned it over in his hands, admiring the workmanship and wondering what the devil she expected him to do with it.

At some point, Mal's momma had tried to teach him manners. That lesson came to him now, in his hour of need. He said, "Thank you."

"You're welcome," she said, and flipped his suspender strap, playfully.

Oh. So that was what she expected him to do with it.

But how then did she expect him to carry his guns?

Well, maybe she didn't.

And maybe if she thought he could begin to give up some part of what he was - maybe, every now and then - to be more what she needed, the opposite would also be true.

Mal smiled at her. "Welcome back," he said, and meant it with all his heart.


Saturday, June 18, 2011 4:16 AM


Bravo, nauticalgal!

Saturday, June 18, 2011 4:21 AM


A/N: That M/I scene is hot off the presses. Until this morning, it was a cryptic note: "M/I scene goes here." I had no idea what those two were going to say to each other!

Saturday, June 18, 2011 4:22 AM


A/Other N: I worked really hard for that W/Z scene. I would love to know what y'all think.

Saturday, June 18, 2011 4:41 AM


I was wondering how Zoe was going to explain to Wash. That works. But now, is Zoe going to be worried that Wash's unhappiness here is actually not wanting children? In perhaps a sequel?

I thought you had some good Mal/Inara banter here.

Poor Jayne.

Saturday, June 18, 2011 8:43 AM


Bytemite: Yeah, working through the whole pregnancy thing is slated for the sequel.

Thanks for the compliment!

Saturday, June 18, 2011 9:37 AM


I loved how you got Jayne rescued and him being so torn between gratitude and really annoyed. Very Jayne. And Mal and Inara, lovely reunion with a tongue tied Mal just managing not to do a Simon and put his foot in his mouth. Shiny! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, June 18, 2011 10:09 AM


Yeah now you kinda painted yourself in a corner. Now you HAVE to write a sequel. So best get started thinking about the next one... after you finish this one of course. :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011 10:32 AM


LOL Nutluck, I actually know a fair bit about how Zoe's pregnancy plays out in the sequel already. It's just a matter of prying loose the writing time...


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The Four Winds, Epilogue
The end...or maybe just another beginning.

The Four Winds, Chapter 25
The rest of the crew return home.

The Four Winds, Chapter 24
Me and Elwood, we're puttin' the band back together.

The Four Winds, Chapter 23
Inara investigates matters; Mal discovers that the impossible has been done in his absence.

The Four Winds, Chapter 22
River needs Mal to solve her problem; Mal is forced to provide information to the Alliance.

The Four Winds, Chapter 21
When Mal tries to recover the cargo, will he lose more than he stands to gain?

The Four Winds, Chapter 20
Mal makes changes to his plan; River puts her plan into action; Inara decides on a plan of her own; Wash finds something he'd lost.

The Four Winds, Chapter 19
Simon gets an alias; Mal gets a look at his client; Wash gets a shock.

The Four Winds, Chapter 18
Our Heroes - and Our Villains - try to figure a way out of the mess they're in.

The Four Winds, Chapter 17
River finds out what's really going on; Simon and Zoe fall into the wrong hands.