Friday, December 2, 2005

Post-Serenity. Life goes on and drags you along, for better or worse.



Free for all ages.

Fluffiest fluff that ever fluffed. With a tiny hint of aaaangst. Tiny.

Post-Serenity, with Spoilers.

All scathing feedback welcome. Unscathing, too.


- - -

The lights were dimmed for the night, giving the infirmary with its multitude of reflective surfaces a calming glow. It was almost completely quiet, not counting the steady hum of the engine. Or the occasional beep from one of the monitors.

Or the very, very soft sound of Zoe breathing.

There was always a stillness to her, an economy of movement beyond such things as distracted fidgeting, but this unstirring sleep had nothing to do with control and everything with the lack of it.

It had been a close call. Bad judgment.

She was slipping away from him, away from the world, in pieces, every few weeks, just when he thought she was out of the woods she would do something and slip. She'd make him watch her die. Zoe, of all people.

She made him watch out so it wouldn't happen. He'd never had to, before, had no practice in it. So here she was, again, and here he was, again, in the middle of the night, willing her body to recover more quickly and take her mind along with it.

Sometimes he found himself wondering who he'd trade to get Wash back from the dead and he never had an answer that didn't make his heart bleed.


It appeared he wasn't the only one awake with worry.

Kaylee's disheveled form stood in the infirmary door, sleepily blinking. Judging by the white men's undershorts that did a very bad job of matching her flowery shirt, Mal guessed she hadn't made her way to him from her own bunk. He wanted to be disturbed but, truthfully, he was too tired to muster up the effort.


With one hand he beckoned her closer until she walked straight into his hug.

"How is she doing?" One of Kaylee's hands, almost completely clean, reached out to pick invisible lint off Zoe's blanket. "Simon said she should have had a transfusion."

"Yeah, well." Wash had been universal donor. A very practical reason to miss him that no one liked to mention out loud. "She'll be fine. Just sleeping now."

Tugging Kaylee with him, he moved away from the bed, away from the too-quiet Zoe, and steered the girl toward the couch outside the infirmary. The plushy, ugly, yellow thing they'd picked out, Zoe and he. It was probably older than little Kaylee herself and nobody should ever want to take too close a whiff of the thing. It felt like yesterday that they'd haggled over it on some street market on Boros, playing the young married couple for the sympathy factor.

He sank down into the cushions with an old-man groan and Kaylee flopped against him, arranging his arm over her shoulder like it belong to her. Things were quiet for a nice long while before she spoke again.

"Zoe never used to get hurt this often."

They were all past pretending. One time, two times, that could all be accidents. Passing inattention. This was the fourth.

"I know, mei-mei."

Mal was fairly certain that he wasn't angry, that he understood. That it was her turn to break.

But then, it could just be hiding. Waiting to come out the next time Zoe was upright, presenting an illusion of normalcy that he wanted so badly to be real. Maybe he'd suddenly start yelling then and say something scathing and she'd finally tell him that she wished it had been him instead of Wash.

Or maybe he'd let her keep lying and hope she'd stop trying to leave.

"It'll get better," Kaylee pronounced from her resting place at his shoulder.

He huffed. "Ya think?"

She nodded. "Always does."

"How do you figure?" The words were whispered against her forehead as she pulled up her legs to curl against him like a sleepy pet.

"Simon was going to leave the ship." She yawned thoroughly for a moment. "But he's still here, and we're finally..."

He jostled her to interrupt. "No details!"

Her answering chuckle was little more than a warm breath through his shirt. "And River is much better."

That she was. Flying his boat right now, point in fact. The dinosaurs never lacked company, or conversation, even if Zoe didn't set foot into the cockpit unless she absolutely had to. Planning was a thing for the bridge, these day. Or the kitchen.

Through the open doorway, he could see her, at this angle mostly feet, as still as before. His boat was no stranger to death. And yet this one loss clung to Serenity like a stain. A memory hiding in every corner and no way to escape.

No, he wasn't angry. He was just scared.

"And 'Nara is back." Kaylee was barely awake anymore.

Mal closed his eyes. If there was one thing to be grateful for... "Yes, she is."

"You just gotta trust that it'll get better some more."

Carefully rocking, he kissed her forehead. "That's what I got you for, mei-mei."

No response. Someone was asleep. Against him.

Well enough.

He didn't realize he had fallen asleep himself until a soft touch of fabric against his arm stirred him into hazy consciousness. "Hmm?"

"Shhh..." Inara stood bent over them, draping something silky over Kaylee's scantily dressed form. "It's too cold for her."

She was smiling like gaslight in the dark room, soft and warm, and when she dropped a kiss on Kaylee's hair, her forehead brushed his cheek. His fluttering eyelashes brushed back.

Something flushed through him, all the way to his toes, and made him swallow when she pulled back. The smile was still there, so his face answered with one of its own. He didn't even have to think about it.

"What, got no shiny robe for me?"

Inara just shushed him and stepped away into the infirmary, looking over Zoe. But that was okay. Not that he needed one, warm as he felt.

Like a kind of gravity, sleep was tugging his under once more, slowly but surely, until he was woken again just a minute later.

Inara was covering him with a blanket.

Something about his goofy grin must have been the right response because she ran a hand through his hair, too. Just once, but ever so gently.

There was nothing he could do but try to drink in the moment and the way her face glowed all by itself.

No, actually, there was something.

His free arm reached for her before she could straightened up again, curling into her waist and pulling.



Truthfully, he had no intention of letting go, and a tussle might have woken Kaylee. So it was a relief when, with one long wordless look, she finally gave in and crawled under the blanket into his one-armed embrace. Her hand rested on his belly, right above where it tingled underneath the skin.

A relief, yes, and a quiet, peaceful thrill. A wave of contentment, really. Pressed against the couch by two bodies, but he felt weightless with them. Warm. Covered.

His head settled back against Kaylee's.

Maybe, just maybe, she was right. And maybe, just maybe, if it was his turn to watch out for Zoe, he would have the strength to do that.

He'd come back from that place, himself. All the way to here.

Seemed like a good enough reason to be hopeful.

- - - - ~End~


Friday, December 2, 2005 12:51 PM


Absolutely fabulous and aching for a sequel. I love the way you had the three of them in a place of peace at the end, sharing their concern for Zoe and affection for each other with an ease that oft' times has been lacking as the ship and crew have lurched from one crisis to another. Hope that healing balm will extend to Zoe when she wakes. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, December 2, 2005 1:35 PM


Oh this is really, very, quite good. I agree with AMDOBELL, I hope there is a sequel. I could really get invested in this story. I like your writing style. I could do with a longer chapter too. You've really captured 'em.

Friday, December 2, 2005 1:39 PM


Cozy fluff indeed. And the aaangst brought a tear to my eye. I hope to seem more soon. Keep up the great work.

Friday, December 2, 2005 2:00 PM


Ohhh, such a lovely moment there at the end... the way Inara ran her hand through Mal's hair... and the three of them together on the couch...
Very nice, and Zoe's behaviour, very very believable...
Please do more, this is worth continuing!

Friday, December 2, 2005 2:23 PM


You do an excellent job of creating a mood through setting and description. It ranks right up there with the best I've read in that respect.

Also, I don't usually go for post-Serenity fics (mainly because they're almost all dripping with anguish) or romantic resolution... but you sold me on both with this piece. Love the Inara-Mal bit.

Friday, December 2, 2005 2:36 PM


Oh that was very good. So many things to like. :)

Friday, December 2, 2005 7:46 PM


And yeah, it still hurts. But if Kaylee promises it'll get better, then I suppose we just gotta believe, right?

Saturday, December 3, 2005 2:11 AM


Awwwww, thank you all! Such lovely comments. Make me all fuzzy, hehehe.

I have to say, this is a stand-alone with no sequel. But I left them in a good place, I think. *g*

Saturday, December 3, 2005 6:38 AM


aaw, it's just like a big warm hug...


Saturday, December 3, 2005 2:56 PM


"Maybe he'd suddenly start yelling then and say something scathing and she'd finally tell him that she wished it had been him instead of Wash."

-so sad and yet probably true, at least for a minute

Monday, December 5, 2005 3:25 PM


Awww, I loved it!
Very beautiful :)

Thursday, January 12, 2006 8:14 PM


there are far too many sentences that really got to me to list them all, but this one at the very beginning; "She'd make him watch her die. Zoe, of all people." really hit me. i love their relationship - that kind of blind trust and understanding that one will always be there for the other without it being said or acknowledged, it's just a fact until something happens that's bigger than those things and what that does to them and their relationship is so heartwrenching... i really thought mal's thoughts on zoe's behavior were so truthful - that disappointment and worry and hurt. and the bit about it being her turn to break... man oh man...

i loved every single interaction with the women of serenity in this - even the mention of River was perfect. i love the idea of her talking to the plastic dinosaurs... just a perfect lovely piece that reflects remarkably well where all these people are after the BDM. each relationship is so clear and beautiful - kaylee's physical warmth and trust and belief that things are and will be better, zoe's strength crumbling and mal trying so desperately to hold her together when it's always been her job... and his relationship with inara finally easing into something a little easier, a little more trusting with eachother, the skittishness finally disappearing... i'm totally rambling, but i *adored* this... awesome, awesome job...

Tuesday, September 5, 2006 6:30 AM


Hmm, I hadn't read this before. I'm glad I did. This was a great emotional moment. From Mal realizing Kaylee hadn't followed him from her own bunk but from Simon's to Inara crawling under the blanket and all three of them sleeping just outside the infirmary, it was all very well done.
You've got Mal and Kaylee's relationship well done here as well as Mal and Inara's.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006 1:43 AM


"Sometimes he found himself wondering who he'd trade to get Wash back from the dead and he never had an answer that didn't make his heart bleed."
Nailed it.


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