Jericho Wells - Part VIII
Monday, May 25, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Zoe tells the crew about the speech, and River comes up with a unique solution. NEW CHAPTER


“Honey?” Hank peered into the kitchen, hearing someone throwing things around and swearing. Only he was finding it hard to believe it was Zoe, even from the voice. Maybe River was teasing him. Or perhaps Jayne had learned ventriloquism, even if he couldn’t spell it. Or even Simon, having caught himself somewhere tender down in the infirmary and then come upstairs to get a palliative cup of coffee. “Is that you?”

Zoe leaned over the counter and glared at him. “Who else would it be?”

He decided not to go through the various options that had passed across his mind. Instead he smiled. “How did it go?”

She didn’t answer, just pulled back and started slamming the cupboard doors again.

Ah. That good. Fine. In fact, shiny. Perhaps it was time to go and get the body armour out. Wondering whether this was in fact anything like a good idea, he stepped down into the galley and sat at the table, his arms on the old wood, hands clasped lightly in front of him.

It took almost a minute for her to notice him.

“What?” she demanded.

“Nothing.” He smiled a little. “Just waiting.”

“What for?”

“My wife to come back. Do you think she’ll be long?”

The look on Zoe’s face almost ignited his clothing, then it softened, and she finally gave a small grin and shook her head. “I think she’s on her way.”

He was glad to have diffused … whatever it was. “Good.”


“No need to apologise. I too occasionally feel the need to turn the air blue and chuck a few things at the wall. Although I tend to do it on the bridge, with the door locked so no-one can hear me. And I clean up afterwards too.”

She glanced around the kitchen area. “I don’t think I broke anything.”

“It didn’t sound like it was through lack of trying.”

She chuckled, a welcome sound that warmed him through. “I know.”

“So would you like to tell your husband what the matter is?”

“I suppose.” She rounded the end of the counter and sat next to him.

His chair squealed as he moved it closer so that their thighs and hips were touching. “Better,” he said softly. “Now, tell Hank so he can kiss it better.” He suited the word to the deed and brushed his lips across her cheek.

Her lips curved briefly, but it wasn't for long. “I have to give a speech.”

“What, for the election? Well, that’s no problem. Voting day isn’t until the 6th, so we can –”


He raised his eyebrows. “Tonight?”

“Gotta be there at 6.” She pulled the leaflet from her pocket, pressing it flat against the table top.

He read the introduction quickly.

Campaigner for Women’s Rights

In order that the good citizens of Jericho Wells should have the opportunity of meeting with the candidates for the above post, a series of meetings have been ordered. Each of the candidates in turn will explain their reasons for standing, then there will be the chance for the general populace of Jericho Wells to put their questions. In this particular instance, and for the minor positions only, the general rule regarding the minimum of twenty-one days notice for each question will be in abeyance.

Meetings will be held in the Town Hall, and will start at 6.30 pm precisely. Candidates must report to the relevant election officer by 6.00 pm. No drinking or smoking on the premises. No communication devices allowed. No swearing. Suitable clothing will be worn.

Jericho Wells wishes each candidate the very best of luck.

Below was a list of half a dozen dates, four of which had already passed, one was that very evening, and the last was the night before the election itself.

“No swearing, huh?” he said finally. “Not sure you’ll be able to manage that. Not on recent showing.”

“I was mad.”

“And what do you think they mean by suitable clothing?”

“A dress,” River said, stepping down into the kitchen from the bridge corridor. “Or at least a skirt.”

“Somethin’ slinky?” Jayne asked, following her.

“Not suitable,” his wife said.

“Would be for me.” He grimaced as she elbowed him in the belly.

“A dress.” Zoe’s voice was calm, but it was a stillness suggesting imminent irritability.

“Or a skirt. Either.” River sat down at the end of the table in Mal’s chair. “I'm sure Frey could find something. One of Dillon’s, perhaps.”

“Why would my delightful and delectable Zoe need to wear a dress, pumpkin?” Hank asked.

“Zoe’s gonna wear a dress?” Kaylee appeared at the other end of the galley. Simon was only a moment behind, ready to catch her if she slipped climbing awkwardly down the steps.

“No, I'm not,” the woman in question said.

Hank held up the leaflet. “But it says –”

“I know what it says. But I ain’t wearing a dress.”

“What’s going on?” Simon asked, but everyone ignored him.

“Moonbrain?” Jayne looked at River for explanation.

The young psychic sighed. “The men of Jericho Wells are … backward. They believe a woman’s place is in the home, specifically the kitchen or the bedroom. They do not believe in women’s rights.”

“But they’re holding elections for a women’s rights campaigner,” Hank pointed out.

“Lip service. The Alliance says they have to, so they are.” River shrugged. “But it doesn’t mean they have to like it.”

“Surely they can’t be as … old-fashioned as that, mei-mei?” Simon said, going behind the counter to get Kaylee a glass of milk as she lowered herself into a seat.

“Haven’t you seen outside? Not one woman is wearing pants.”

Everyone thought back to when they were ‘chasing’ Ethan, and they came to the same conclusion, some faster than others – women on the streets certainly, but all in skirts, long ones at that.

“Gorramit, she’s right,” Jayne breathed for all of them.

“They need Zoe to stand up for them,” River went on. “But to do it, she must wear a dress.”

“And give a speech,” Hank added.

Zoe sighed heavily.

“That true?” Jayne asked. “You gonna be speechifying?”

“Looks like,” Zoe admitted.

“What’re you gonna say?”

She sighed again, even heavier if that was possible. “I have no idea.”

“We can help,” River said. Everyone looked at her, then at Jayne. She laughed. “No. Me and Simon.”

Jayne made a great show of wiping imaginary sweat from his brow. “Not that I’d’a minded, a’course,” he declared. “I know a few jokes’d go down well. I can tell you a few if’n you’d like.”

“No, thanks,” Zoe said quickly, knowing exactly the kind of things the big ex-merc found amusing.

“Then Simon and I will assist.” River smiled widely. “Simon was a leading light of the debating club.”

Simon went paler than normal, spilling some of the milk on his hand. “No, mei-mei, I'm sure they don’t want to hear about that.”

“I do,” Kaylee chirped.

Jayne’s face screwed up somewhat. “Debating club? What’s that when it’s at home?”

“Where people take it in turns to argue,” River explained.

Jayne grunted a laugh. “Sounds like this boat sometimes.”

“Oh, no. There are rules. No-one can interrupt anyone else, and people have an allotted time to make their point.”

“Don’t sound like arguing. Anyone get hit?”

“Not … usually.” For some reason she glanced at her brother.

“That was one time, mei-mei,” Simon said hurriedly, handing Kaylee the milk and sitting next to her. “And it wasn't my fault. Just because Ferdie MacLeish didn’t take kindly to my reasoned contention. And he hit me first.”

“You broke his nose.”

Jayne guffawed. “Good for you, doc.”

“I'm not proud of it,” Simon insisted, even as a light tide of pink coloured his cheeks.

“Of course you were,” his sister said. “You went around with a head as big as the Osiris Stadium for weeks.”

“I'm sure that Ferdie person deserved it,” Kaylee put in, gallantly stepping up to the plate for her husband.

“I thought he did.” Simon smiled ruefully. “And my father wasn’t at all pleased.”

“I get the feeling you spent more time being a normal kid than you’ve let on,” Jayne said, smiling broadly.

“I was young. And sometimes hot-headed. I grew out of it.”

River sighed. “Yes, he did. He became a boob instead.”

“Brat.” Simon shook his head at her.

She grinned at him, then turned back to Zoe. “Anyway, as I said, Simon and I can write your speech –”

“’N’ I’ll add in a joke or two,” Jayne offered.

“– and you’ll be fine,” River finished.

“I can write it myself.”

“Sure you can,” Hank said, taking her hand and squeezing it. “So after they’re done you can make it yours, take out some of the long words nobody’s going to understand, and the obscenities …” For some reason he glanced at Jayne. “You’ll do fine, sweetheart.”

“Now go and find something suitable to wear, while Simon and I get started.” River waved her hands at the first mate. “Go on.”

Kaylee stood up, more than a little unsteady. “I’ll help ya,” she said, licking a ring of milk from her mouth. “I know I've got a few things might do, else I’m sure Frey could find something. Or …” Her eyes lit up. “We can go shopping!”

Mal had once said to Zoe that he’d found himself sighing a lot more now he was married and had kids, so he’d had to find another way of regarding it, and had taken to thinking of it as exhaling with meaning. Right now she considered he had the right of it as more air escaped her lips. She stood up. “Let’s see what we have first.”

“Shiny!” Kaylee led the way towards the bunks, Zoe following on, shaking her head.

“You think they need a man’s point of view?” Hank wondered aloud, watching them leave.

“A good idea,” River said. “You won’t let Zoe wear anything too revealing.”

“Zoe? Revealing?” He paused for a moment, then was on his feet. “You’re right.” He was out of his chair and up the steps in a heartbeat.

Simon chuckled. “I think I’ve got a pen and some paper in the infirmary,” he said, standing up. “Don’t start without me.” He walked out the other way.

As Simon’s footsteps echoed up the stairs, Jayne leaned against River slightly and said, “So you think Mal might take on the idea of a debating club?” He grinned. “You know, all them rules and regulations you were talking about – might make it easier for him to tell us what to do.”

She swatted him with the flat of her hand. “I think the Captain would be an excellent debater. He would be able to put his case clearly and succinctly.”

“Yeah, then threaten anyone who disagreed with the airlock.”

“Threaten who with the airlock?” Mal asked, stepping down into the galley, Freya right behind him.

“Anyone as didn’t do what you said, Mal,” Jayne explained.

“Sounds about right.” He looked at his albatross. “How’d you get onto this subject in the first place?”

River smiled. “Zoe has to give a speech. Tonight.”

“And we’re gonna write it,” Jayne added.

Mal laughed out loud and rubbed his hands together. “Sounds like a plan.”

“Better than the one about the bank, anyway,” Freya muttered, but nobody heard. She exhaled with meaning.


“I feel ridiculous,” Zoe said for the tenth time.

“You look wonderful,” Hank said for the eleventh.

They were outside the Town Hall, and they could hear the clock above gearing up to strike 6.00 pm.

Zoe smoothed the dark tan dress Kaylee had finally persuaded her to buy down her thighs, wishing it was her normal pants. Wishing she had her gun on her. Wishing she was just somewhere else entirely.

“You should wear a dress more often,” Hank went on. “Shows off your great legs. Not, you know, too much of them, but enough so that everyone can see you have them. Great legs, I mean.” At her look he backpedalled a little. “Not that anyone else is going to see them. Apart from me.”

“At this rate, not even you.”

He smiled, taking her hands in his. “Honey, you’ll do fine. I’ll be in the audience, backing you up. And Mal and Frey’ll be there, giving you moral support. Jayne said he’d be along too, so River could watch through his eyes. And Kaylee said she would, but she’s got that part to bed down before supper.”

“I know, Hank. I was there when she said it.”

He chuckled. “Of course you were. I just wasn’t sure you were taking it in.”

She was about to make a sharp retort, some comment on the fact that she was perfectly capable of doing more than one thing at once, when she saw the warmth in his grey eyes, the love shining clearly through. “I went through a war,” she eventually said, her voice quiet enough that he had to strain to hear. “A peace that ain’t been peaceful more than a week at a time. Seen things happen a body shouldn’t be made to see, and I've come through the other side. Yet this … knowing I have to stand up in front of a load of strangers and give a speech I didn’t write …”

He squeezed her hands, feeling the wedding ring on her finger pressing into his palm. “Zoe, it’s alright to be scared. I am. All the time.”

“I'm not you.”

“Which is a good thing, otherwise it’d be icky and would’ve been really messy when Ben was born.” He grinned. “You’re so much stronger than me. And I know you’ve never shown anyone fear in your life. Not even Mal.”

“I don’t know about that. Maybe once or twice.”

“But I’m your husband. I'm allowed. You can be as afraid with me as you want.” He paused. “Okay, that didn’t quite come out right, but you know what I mean. You don’t have to be strong and silent all the time. Not all the time.”

“I don’t know why I feel like this,” she admitted.

“Because you feel guilty. Guilty about feeling nervous. That you shouldn’t be, ‘cause this is nothing, compared to that war you talked about.” He stepped closer, pulling her to him so they were hip to hip, chest to breast. “I bet you were scared, during the war, though. Scared for your men, for Mal … but never for yourself.”

She found herself nodding. “I knew Mal would pull us through.”

“Even when you lost?”

“Even then.” She had, too. It was one of the reasons she’d stayed with him, all these years. Because no matter how broken up on the inside he was, no matter how much of his own soul he thought he’d lost, he still cared.

“Only now it doesn’t matter if you lose.”


“It doesn’t matter if you lose. That’s the point. Even if you won, we wouldn’t be staying. You’re doing all this … wearing a dress, making a speech … for one reason, and one reason only. And it ain’t to be voted women’s rights campaigner.” He smiled. “And I think that’s why you’re scared. Because it isn’t life or death. It’s just a means to an end. And you still wanna do it right.”

She stared at him. “When did you become so insightful?” she asked finally.

The smile became a grin, the one that made her heart do little flip-flops in her chest. “Must be the company I keep.”

“I guess it must.” They leaned in to kiss.

The clock above them chimed the hour, and the door opened.

“Ms Mills?” It was Cromwell, the election officer from earlier in the day. “I was beginning to think you weren’t going to show up. Of course, that would mean your deposit would be forfeit, but … well, here you are.”

Zoe looked into Hank’s eyes one more time. Then she straightened her shoulders and turned to Cromwell. “Yes. Here I am.”

He looked her up and down, as if trying to find something to be disapproving of, and his face turned even more sour when he couldn’t. “Good. Come with me.”

Zoe felt Hank run his fingers down the inside of her wrist, then she strode inside, her boots making solid sounds on the wood block flooring.

Cromwell led the way further into the building, along corridors, then stopped outside a panelled door.

“This it?” she asked, her stoic mask firmly back in place.

“It is.” Cromwell opened the door, ushering Zoe through.

Inside the small room, almost silhouettes against the tall window, were four women, looking at her with expressions of distaste, distrust and downright resentment. Only the woman on the far right had anything else on her face, and that was puzzlement.

“Zoe Mills,” Cromwell announced, then leaned in towards her ear, raising the hair on her neck with his breath. “Meet your opponents.”

to be continued


Monday, May 25, 2009 8:36 AM


You left us with another cliffhanger? This is getting very intriguing because there is more going on than you are saying and the last two lines are very very interesting.

Monday, May 25, 2009 12:16 PM


Yes, a lot more seems to be going on. I can't wait to see how this goes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 1:14 PM


I could so see Zoe reacting this way and loved how Hank calmed her down with undiluted love and support. So many times when I am reading Hank it is like he is channeling Wash. I wonder what River wrote for Zoe? Knowing River, it will probably be ten times better than anything any of her opponents come up with. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, June 3, 2009 9:13 AM


Hmm. Enemies or possibly an ally, that last one? And I still smell sleuthing into the underbelly of Alliance-puff-pastry-perfect Jericho Wells.


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[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]

“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]