BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

OURMRSWASHBURNE

Scar Petals - Chapter 3
Sunday, April 9, 2006

Zoe tries to stay together. Mal tries to help. The crew of the Kestrel may have a problem. Set at end of BDM, so spoilers. Slight naughty language in translations. Occasional grimness. Please enjoy...


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1931    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

CHAPTER 3

Zoe places the last Hawaiian shirt on the top of the pile and closes the trunk, slowly, carefully, then sits back against the bed she used to share with her husband. She looks round the room, her eyes taking in the Spartan décor of the room, so different now without Wash and the colour he’d brought into her life. It could be a soldier’s bunk. It is a soldier’s bunk. Ai ya, it could be MAL’S bunk, it’s that bare. She sighs; she is so tired, but she can’t let go. If she cries, she knows she won’t be able to stop.

And Mal needs her; the crew need her. Mal’s up on the bridge, teaching River to pilot, or being taught by River how Serenity should be piloted. Girl just up and took hold of the controls like she’d done it all her life. Little Albatross, Mal was calling her now.

Just so long as nobody gorram shoots her, Zoe thinks, and locks the trunk containing Wash’s belongings. She doesn’t know what to do with them. Put them in storage? Under the bed? Send them out into space? She can’t think.

Maybe she shouldn’t even have stripped the room of all his stuff anyhow. Inara had seemed almost shocked that morning, when Zoe had staggered along the corridors with all the sheets from their bed. But she’d had to. She couldn’t have kept sleeping in Wash’s scent, in his warmth. She’d have gone mad.

She wishes the little dinos were in the trunk. That would somehow make it more real. She’s tucked the palm trees in there, under his shirts, but it’s not the same.

Zoe wonders what Mal’s thinking, what he’s going through, if he’s even feeling anything. Mal always was good at hiding things, even from her. She daren’t go up onto the bridge, though. Not again.

She makes her way blindly to the kitchen, not really knowing what she’s going there for, not really knowing what else to do. Jayne’s at the table, booted feet up on the wooden polished top. Kaylee, humming to herself, making bao in the far corner. Zoe remembers Wash’s comments when Saffron – or whatever her name was – cooked up fresh bao for Mal, and her eyes burn with unshed tears. She blinks, hard, and snatches up an apple from the crate that Shepherd Book had left them. It’s even hurting her to think that the Shepherd won’t be back.

If only he’d walk in through the door, his white Afro hair all River-startling and crazy, smiling that wise smile, carrying that gorram Bible everywhere. If only he would.

If he would… then Wash would, too.

Oh, Wash. Husband.

She sits at the table, opposite Jayne, who looks at her carefully, frowning, clearly trying not to seem like he’s looking at her. It’s kinda sweet, really, but she doesn’t look up. Kaylee comes over, serves him up a couple of bao, smacks his boots off the table with the empty pan. Kaylee waiting on Jayne? Zoe frowns. That’s just plain peculiar.

She cuts into the apple, using Jayne’s knife, then puts it down, remembering how she and Mal had told Wash why they never bit into apples, all the war stories, the time she’d nearly lost him. Nearly lost them both, come to think of it. But she’d taken Wash away from Niska first, knowing Mal was strong enough to hold up, knowing, to her almost-shame, that Wash wasn’t. He couldn’t have stood for what Mal did, couldn’t have clung on to life like Mal had. He’d have given up, scared and in pain, slipped into the blessed darkness as if it were Zoe’s own arms. She’d had to take him. Even if it had hurt Mal.

She still doesn’t know if her choice had hurt Mal or not.

She jams the knife into the table, point first, unable to say half the things she wants to say.

“Wei!” Jayne protests, then thinks better of it as Zoe glares at him.

“Got somethin’ to say, Jayne Cobb?”

“No, ma’am.” Jayne glowers and spears his bao with a chopstick, looking at his beloved knife in case Zoe’s wrecked it. He reaches out and plucks it from the wooden table, stroking the blade with one finger.

Zoe gives up on the apple and leans back in her chair. Kaylee gives her a strange, sad, tight little smile. In a way, she’s grateful for it; for knowing that someone else is missing Wash, too, and that they CAN express how they feel. Kaylee’s eyes are reddened from weeping, and Zoe thanks God that someone can cry her tears for her.

“There must be a gathering,” River’s voice intones over the loudspeaker, making them all jump. She’s using the intercom over the pilot’s desk, God alone knows how she learned that one. “Come see the black. See how we fly.”

“Uh…that’s real nice, Albatross,” Mal’s voice cuts across her. “What she means is, all crew to the bridge…”

Jayne snorts and bites into his bao. Kaylee starts cleaning the pan, but self consciously, as if she’s not sure whether Mal gave a proper order, or whether River was playing about. Simon moves slowly through the kitchen, holding his side as if it pains him to walk. He glances at Kaylee, then at Zoe, then disappears through to the bridge.

“NOW, gorrammit!” yells Mal, not bothering with the intercom this time.

Kaylee drops the pan into the sink and scoots. Jayne follows her, taking the chopstick with the remains of his bao stuck on it, munching as he goes.

Zoe leans forward, resting her head on her arms, feeling the smooth wood of the table top cool against her skin. She can’t. She won’t. Mal and the crew can meet her, here, or anywhere else. But she will not go through to the bridge. She’s done it once, and had to get out. The walls had pressed in on her, the air heavy with Wash’s scent. She squeezes her eyes shut, and his face shimmers in her mind. Smiling. He’s always smiling. Oh, God. She can’t go through there. To the bare pilot’s desk, and River with her hands on the steering column, and the chair that still feels moulded to his body is drowning in his blood.

“River? Can you hear me OK?”

Mal’s voice, very close. Zoe opens one eye.

“You’re still with me,” River replies through the intercom.

Zoe sits up. The crew are seated round the kitchen table, Kaylee in front of her, Inara, smelling of jasmine and oranges, further over on the right. Jayne standing, wearing his hat – thank God for colour – and Simon, neat and tidy, standing next to him.

Mal stands too, his hands on the back of Wash’s chair, half-smiling at her. Like he knows, and it’s all right.

“Shiny,” he says carefully. “I figure we can all meet in here for a while, from now on. River’s got it covered.”

“Yeah, ‘s more comfy in here anyhow,” Jayne says, glancing at Zoe, tugging on one of the tassels on his hat.

Mal looks at his own chair, then at Zoe, then moves round the table til he’s standing by what was Book’s seat. He sits down.

Jayne, of all people, takes his lead, and sits down in Mal’s own chair.

Inara too catches Mal’s reasoning, and takes Simon’s seat; Simon moves to Inara’s place. Kaylee, looking scared, gets up, and moves round. With a worried glance at Zoe, she sits down in Wash’s chair.

Zoe stiffens, knowing what they’re doing. Some kind of game to prove that things change. But she looks over at Mal, his face grave and kind, his eyes softer than she’s ever seen them, and realises he’s trying to put her at her ease, so Wash’s chair won’t be empty, so it won’t stay ‘Wash’s chair’ forever.

Seconds later, he’s at her side, and the tears that have finally spilled down her cheeks are soaking into his shirt. Kaylee’s stroking her back, Inara has hold of her hand, Simon’s fussing round patting her other hand. Even Jayne puts a hand on her shoulder, leaves it there, all heavy and uncomfortable-like, but it’s warm.

“We’re here, Zoe,” Kaylee says, near to tears herself. “Promise.”

Yeah, Zoe thinks, floating in a bubble of Serenity. Whatever happened to Wash, whatever happens to her, they’ll be here for her. Cos they’re family.

* * *

Tom Bettany is telling Hoban Washburne a story. A story about three dinosaurs, and their incredible journey to a new ship. Still unconscious, but no longer kept under by Sallie’s heavy drugs, the rescued man lies on the medical bed, so still and white it’s almost believable he could have just slipped away then and there. It’s clear he needs to sleep. This time, he’s keeping himself under. Sallie’s been and gone, her knifework finished for the day – they hope – her tubes and needles and whatever else she’s put into him doing some good.

Kate Malory just hasn’t moved, all gorram day. Tom had come back with more soup, this time for her instead of for Sallie, but it’s still standing on the worktop, untouched, now cold. She sits, hugging her knees up to her chest, watching Hoban Washburne sleep, listening to the story.

“So Bob the T-Rex stood on the pilot desk, looking out into the fearsome Reaver battle below,” Tom continues, swigging from a bottle of hooch.

Bob, thinks Kate, and can’t help smiling. At least Steggy’s a good name for a stegosaurus, and the triceratops has been duly christened Nadia. Kate has no idea why, but it’s good to see Tom all chirpy, even after the major battle.

She feels terrible that she’d dragged them all to that moon in the first place. Even if it hadn’t been her idea to start with. Gorram Will and Kerry and their persuading. Hadn’t done Kerry a lot of good, in the end.

“And the hand of a goddess came down,” says Tom, lifting the toys high in the air, “ and plucked them from their dangerous home, to follow their pilot wherever he may go – and the goddess carried them, and sheltered them in the secret places of, um, of, of her flight suit…”

Kate can feel her ship, the Kestrel, twitching under her feet, not running as smooth as usual. Lucy’s clearly shaken up by something, and it’s coming out in her flying. Could be the fact she found the poor guy all cut up and pinned to his chair in the damaged Firefly. Lucy’s first thought woulda been for the pilot. Natural, Kate supposes.

“Oh, the hills!” cries Tom in Nadia-the-triceratops’s squeaky voice, pretending to look round. “With that wonderful valley between them! Truly, my dino brothers, we have come to a beauteous land indeed!”

“I agree,” growls Steggy, marching up Hoban Washburne’s arm. “Here we will find all the support we need…”

Kate ignores the reference to her chest. Tom’s probably only doing it to wind her up. She doesn’t even know if it’s helping the injured man. If he even hears it.

She lets Tom waffle on. He creates an amazing landscape in her lingerie, letting the dinos peek out of the top of her suit so they can see an amber-haired god (clearly Tom himself) using a magic sword to cut the injured pilot free and spirit him away on a magic stretcher. She smiles in spite of her worry. The boy’s a born storyteller. It’s what kept him alive in Sihnon.

Oh, God. If only she hadn’t let Will persuade her to come to that moon. Where everything was dead, where Lucy had been frightened at every turn. Lucy just can’t take dead things. And the sheer pointlessness of going, the fact that his family had been dead for so long, his mother’s rotting face pressed up against that window like – like tian xiaode. God knows what. They’d just – died, where they were, standing in the street, sitting in their chairs, at their desks, in their homes, wherever. Horrible. And then – the Reavers. And the Alliance. All of them, descending on the moon at once, crazy. Just plumb crazy. Kate doesn’t think she’ll ever forget it.

Will had railed at her, said they’d all have died together if he’d never met her, if he’d never signed to her boat. Blamed her for his family dying, when Kate herself had no gorram idea what killed them. She should have stuck to her guns, should have carried on towards Persephone again, carried on to the job she’d planned. But no.

Will had been so anxious, so lost. She’d tried to help him. She’d tried to help and it had ended badly, again. She’d shot Stuart in cold blood to keep him safe. Will had lost Kerry as well as the rest of his family. Only Kerry hadn’t just died where she stood. She’d been dragged off by Reavers. Please God let them have killed her first. Please God.

Kate sits up a little straighter, her back starting to ache. Sallie’s likely got some painkilling tablets kicking about in one of the drawers, she thinks, and starts to look for them. Ah, there. She takes out a plastic case filled with little blue pills, marked clearly in Sallie’s small neat writing.

She hasn’t felt the need to take these since she started out on the mercenary route. She’s just got on with it. These blue saviours, and the heavy antidepressants she’d been given by those doctors so many years back, had dragged her through Phil’s and Pa’s deaths and out the other side. She hasn’t touched any kind of drug since.

Sometimes she thinks about Pa, and about Phil, stuck in the trench, fighting for his life and for those of his mates, all guns blazing, noise so loud it makes your eardrums bleed. Watching your friends get shot up and killed all around you. They’d sent his coat back to Ma, along with Pa’s dogtags, the soft suede leather full of bullet holes, covered in blood. Ma had washed the darn thing. Kate wouldn’t have. She’d have worn it, as was.

She still keeps it now, in a box in her bunk, lined with sweet orange flower scented paper, damaged and wrecked as it was. One day she’ll wear it. She doesn’t know when, but she will. After all, it ain’t everyone whose daddy fought and died at Serenity Valley; it ain’t everyone whose little brother was a Browncoat.

“Mal…?”

A hoarse voice, harsh and hurting. Kate’s hand closes so tightly on the plastic box that it breaks in her hand, driving long sharp splinters into the soft skin.

Has she imagined it? Has Tom said something that she’s misheard? Is it Phil’s ghost, laughing, tormenting, the way brothers do to sisters sometimes? Or is it just that now Stuart’s gone, she needs to belong again?

Nobody has called Kate Malory ‘Mal’ for nigh on seven years.

“Shensheng de gaowan!” A chair scrapes on cold white tiles. She turns round, only to see Tom backing away. “Sallie! Sallie, wei! For God’s sake!”

Kate takes in the scene. Tom, looking afraid, backing up like he can’t get far away enough. The man, lying still on the bed, eyes closed. She frowns. One of Tom’s jokes.

“Tom, stop messing about, dong ma? Sallie won’t thank you for it. Now take that dinosaur out of his hand and - ”

She stops.

Take that dinosaur out of his hand?

“Ta ma de,” she breathes. “Go get Sallie.”

Tom scarpers thankfully. Kate sits down by the bed, leaning over, trying to make sense of it all. Tom hasn’t put anything in anyone’s hand.

Hoban Washburne has taken hold of the T-Rex all on his own. And from the looks of the muscles bunched in the back of his hand and all along his arm, he isn’t going to let go in a hurry.

Just when she thinks she’s had enough weirdness for one day, he says it again. And there ain’t no mistaking it this time, ghosts or no ghosts.

“Mal…” * * *

Translations:

Wei: Hey Ta ma de: F*ck me blind Dong ma: understand? Tian xiaode: gods knows what Ai ya: damn Shensheng de gaowan: Holy Testicle Tuesday!

COMMENTS

Sunday, April 9, 2006 9:34 AM

OURMRSWASHBURNE


LOL, who IS that? :)

I aint plannin on stopping Wash's crazy dino adventures any time soon...

Sunday, April 9, 2006 12:22 PM

BOOKADDICT


I think I'm back. You write Zoe's grief so well, and everyone trying to help her.

Sunday, April 9, 2006 2:58 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Well now...Wash is awake....wonder what crazy conversations he is gonna have with the crew of the Kestrel;)

And I hope you don't do a "24" and give him amnesia to jack up the tension....


BEB

Sunday, April 9, 2006 3:24 PM

SQUISH


This has been great so far. I love how you've described Zoe's grief, an excellent interpretation of how it might actually have occured.

But I'm a bit confused about something, it sounds like you have the Kestral going to Miranda and actually finding Wash there. But Wash died at Mr. Universe's planet. Sorry to be nitpicky, maybe I just didn't quite pick up on what you had intended.

Still, you've done a wonderful job with this.

Sunday, April 9, 2006 3:30 PM

SWEETSERENDIPITY


LOVE IT!!!! so, how fast can you write? Please, more soon, PLEASE!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 2, 2006 9:41 AM

AGENTRUSCO


that fist part really brought tears to my eyes... poor Zoe. I love the fact that Jayne is wearing his hat. I've missed it.

Nice touch with Kate's Browncoat ties. Also good choice of name. I was wondering when the 'Mal' connection would surface.

Onto the next. Consider me a fan!

Thursday, May 4, 2006 2:17 AM

AMDOBELL


I love how Serenity's crew is doing the best they can to show Zoe they are there for her, love her and are hurting over Wash and for her too. Family. And now we have Wash landed among strangers who have taken him in like some injured little orphan, a new home with new faces to learn. It's kind of creepy that Wash's first word is "Mal" not "Zoe" but I am guessing you did that to get the connection to Malory. Can't wait to see what happens next. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, May 4, 2006 11:29 AM

OURMRSWASHBURNE


Ali D,
Yeah - Partly for the 'Malory' connection, and partly cause I wanted him to be asking Mal about Zoe first...

Thursday, May 4, 2006 11:59 AM

RIVERISMYGODDESS


Another great line:
"teaching River to pilot, or being taught by River how Serenity should be piloted"

I didn't mention this in the last one, but I love the part that River had to play at the gravesite. As you can guess, I absolutely love anything that has to do with her.

Uuhhhh, somethin about your writing has got me all worked up. You put so much emotion into it and tell such a great story.

Monday, June 12, 2006 8:05 AM

BELLONA


he's alive! he's aliiiiiiiiive!!! *realises she's doing a frankenstein impression*

oopsie *sheepish*

b


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