HOPE SERIES: 4. "The Right Thing"
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"The crew help Zoe and Hope get settled on Bernadette."


TITLE: "THE RIGHT THING" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: No specific pairing. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "BODY BLOW". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "The crew help Zoe and Hope get settled on Bernadette." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Zoe had known leaving would be hard but oddly enough it wasn't the Captain standing in her way. Fact was he had been remarkably supportive. It was the rest of crew that piled on the guilt. Not in so many words but with reproving looks, a world of hurt in their eyes and sometimes tears. Even Jayne was unhappy with her, only brightening up when little Hope was around. The crew forcing on so much false cheer for the little one's sake that it made Zoe's teeth ache. At first Hope had been happy. Excited at the thought of their new home and having a room of her own and a garden. A real, honest to goodness place with soil and growing things and a big blue sky above to watch the birds come soaring down to pinch the berries off the trees. The picture her mama had painted made Hope so impatient to see everything that it took a while for the full import of what was happening to creep into the little girl's brain pan. River took her hand and elected to show her the newly fenced in garden, Kaylee trailing along like a mourner at a wake. In the single bedroom she could hear Inara talking to Mrs Johnson as they made up the two beds and began filling the blanket cupboard with her things.

"Where'd you want your trunk?"

Zoe paused, tearing her eyes away from Hope's happy bright face as the little girl ran in from the garden with River and Kaylee in tow, the three disappearing into the bedroom, door shutting behind them. The look she gave Mal was both grateful and wary. "Just inside in the kitchen'll be fine. *Xie xie ni*."

The cabin had but two rooms, large and roomy as they were that was it. At least the bedroom had a wash stand with a basin and jug on it and an old fashioned but working shower in one corner. Basic but functional and more than some would ever have.

The Captain hefted the trunk with ease, Jayne stomping in after him with a pile of clothing and bedding which he dumped on top of the trunk. Zoe had wanted to insist she didn't need them but Mal said they were hers and that though the dresses were pretty they wouldn't fit him. The humour was welcome but fell kind of flat, the hurt he tried to hide was screaming back at her every time she saw the stiff line of his body and the tightness around eyes that refused to cry. She reckoned the problem was she knew him too well. Wasn't like she wouldn't miss him but this wouldn't be forever. Jayne had quipped, "Yeah, just 'til short stuff's old, grey an' married." No one had laughed and the big man had mumbled some excuse and gone back outside.

Seconds stretched, the moment became more than awkward. Zoe had spent years with Malcolm Reynolds, in every kind of situation imaginable and never had she ever felt this twitchy. Things unsaid sticking like chicken bones in her throat. She hadn't meant to hurt him, to hurt any of them, but it was her life. Her's and Hope's. Why was this so difficult? Yet here she was feeling like the bad guy in some cheap novel.

"Looks solid."

Zoe watched the Captain as his critical eye travelled up the walls and across the ceiling, following the fit of the joists and how the timber construction fitted so neat together. His hand confirming what his eyes were telling him, that this was a good solid timber construction.

"It is. Had it looked over." At Mal's look of surprise she rushed to explain feeling oddly embarrassed that she hadn't asked him to do it. "Just to be sure."

He nodded. "Good thinkin'. Can't be too careful."

This was worse than awful. It was like talking to a complete stranger instead of her oldest friend. "Mal, I know this ain't easy..."

"You got your reasons, *wo zhidao*. An' they're good ones." He tried to lighten the mood some. "Just think what could'a happened if I'd had schoolin'? No. You're doin' the right thing."

She stared. Really? The right thing? Then why was he all but crawling out of his skin trying to make gorram small talk he wouldn't even bother with back on Serenity? It hit her like a closed fist. He was trying to make this easier for her. The thought almost made her cry. Emotion too strong to master for a moment. Zoe turned away, pretending to inspect cupboards and shelves while getting herself back under control. Pretending not to be listening for any snippets of conversation from the bedroom. What were they all talking about in there? What was Inara and Mrs Johnson still doing inside? Wasn't like she had that many things needed putting away. Were Kaylee and River trying to talk Hope out of leaving? No. They might not approve but they wouldn't go against her wishes like that. Wouldn't make a hard decision harder. She realised with a jolt that Mal was speaking.

"You got enough supplies? 'Cause we got..."

"*Qu*, Mrs Johnson got a box of housewarmin' supplies for me. Seems to be a tradition on Burnadette. A welcome to the new arrivals."

"Tradition, huh?" He waved towards the closed door. "She the teacher?"

Zoe shook her head. "No, neighbour. Lives two doors down. Her husband runs the dry goods store."

Just then the door to the bedroom swung open and Kaylee and River fair flew out, talking nine to the dozen and not making a lick of sense. Their voices over bright, eyes extra shiny. Kaylee made some muffled comment in the Captain's vague direction about needing to see to something on Serenity. He thought there was a word or two for Zoe then she was gone. River paused, her expression apologetic. "We're a little emotional right now."

The Captain was about to comment when she rushed on. "Simon wants to give Hope a last full check just to make sure everything's fine." She paused, gulped back the flurry of words so she could slow down. Her eyes fastened like limpets on Zoe's face. "Made up a first aid kit for you both."

Zoe nodded, not quite trusting herself to speak. Then River left, voices from the bedroom suddenly filling the silence. The Captain looked at Zoe then both of them poked their heads around the doorframe. Little Hope was standing in front of Inara, her eyes huge and wide, glistening with tears as Inara patiently and gently explained that no, the rest of the crew would not be staying on Bernadette. Zoe inwardly cursed. She had meant to break the news to her daughter gently. The little girl sniffed, turned her head and saw her mama and the Captain standing in the doorway. Mrs Johnson gave Zoe a sympathetic nod and left. Inara hesitated. "Hope asked."

Then Inara was talking, the words not connecting in Zoe's brain. All she could see and hear was her daughter, the tears running down that heart shaped face. All the joy of the garden and the shiny new house dimmed by the knowledge that her friends and family were leaving. Inara shot a look at Mal when Zoe didn't respond. He gave a slow solemn shake of the head then indicated for her to go. Inara gave Hope a hug and a kiss, told her they would all be back to visit, then left before her strength to do so failed her.

Hope ran to her mother and Zoe caught her up in her arms, buried her face close to her daughter's. Allowing the tears she had held back to mingle with Hope's, her back to the Captain. He took that as his cue to leave and started to walk backwards to the door. "Best I go, let you get settled an' such."

To his surprise Zoe spun round and lifted an angry and tear lined face. "Don't you dare walk out on me, Malcolm Reynolds!"

He stared. Shock slowly giving way to annoyance, trying hard to keep the hurt and anger at bay. The last thing the little one needed was to see her mama and Captain in a shouting match. "Ain't goin' nowhere. Not 'til you tell me, *dong ma*?"

The anger fled as quickly as it had come but to his alarm the tears on his friend's face didn't. Hope stopped crying but was sniffing, her eyes big and round and full of confusion. It tugged at his heart something fearsome not to go to her but she was in her mama's arms and that was how it should be. Then Zoe was speaking. "*Duibuqi*, sir." She was wiping her face with her free hand, straightening herself up as if coming to attention. He watched as she pulled herself together but a part of him was sad that she thought she had to do so on his account.

"Nothing to be sorry for." He resisted the temptation to ask if she was sure about this. Didn't want her to think he was attacking her decision while she was upset. "In fact, I'm on the lookout for a spare cortex link. Think I know where we can get one, if it all works out we could swing back round in a week or so? Kaylee can fix it up for you, that way you can keep in touch. Call if you need us."

It was too much. All the reasons to be doing what she was doing crumbled. Seeing her so upset had him moving before he realised it. His intention had been to sit her down, pour some water in a cup or something, anything to help ground her but it didn't happen that way. Soon as he reached out to her Zoe was in his arms, little Hope turning her tear stained face and burrowing in his neck. With a sigh the Captain put his arms around the pair of them and just held on, lending his strength in the only way he could. Not through all the horrors of the war had Zoe cried, leastways not in front of him or the men. Mayhap she did her crying in private, it would be like her, or not. Never had met anyone emotionally stronger than she was. Then there was Wash. After his passing Zoe had closed up again but little Hope. She was the crack in her mama's armour.

Didn't know how long they stood in that huddle but time lost all meaning. Just as his legs and arms were going a mite numb Zoe stirred and raised her head. A thousand conversations flashed between them but the word that came out of her mouth stunned him. "Stay."

What was he supposed to say to that? What, stay for supper? Sell the ship and settle down with her on Bernadette? Or stay and hold her some more? A flicker of amusement drifted in those dark eyes and the Captain stopped his internal rambling. Seeing that look he realised his Zoe was coming back from that confusing place her head had been for the last few weeks. Wasn't sure what it meant but it brought a sloppy smile to his face. "Welcome back." He said softly, not wanting to jinx the moment.

Her lips quirked, her voice as soft and quiet as his. "I go somewhere, sir?"

Flicking his eyes to meet Hope's, he gave the little girl a smile and was rewarded with a watery one back then looked Zoe in the eye and put every bit of feeling he had in his answer. "Very nearly, Zoe. Very nearly."

When Serenity took off it was a very bemused Mrs Johnson who watched it leave. Folks had come out of their houses only when the ship was airborn, maybe a little intimidated by the stern woman and the people who had brought her here. She watched until the Firefly was nothing but a little speck and didn't move until it was out of sight. Dawson Brooks stomped over to her and scowled. "What in the nine hells was that all about?"

Mrs Johnson had liked Zoe. Saw something in her that was admirable, something that would mayhap have made Bernadette a better place. When Dawson got no reply he walked away and gradually the folks that had taken an interest drifted off until only Mrs Johnson was left. Opening her hand she stared at the shiny brass key and smiled. Yes. She would look after the place, perhaps rent it out if there was a calling. Who knows? Maybe it would start a trend.

High up in the atmo above, the crew of Serenity were celebrating. Hope engulfed in hug after hug, tears and laughter, Kaylee's inter-engine brew for the adults and water sweetened with honey for the little one. Zoe looked from much loved face to much loved face, her smile widening. The Captain so full of happy he couldn't put a name to it. As Hope finished her rounds with the crew she ran up to him and he dropped to one knee, arms opened wide to greet her. Zoe watched her daughter clamber into her best friend's arms and knew that this was what coming Home felt like. Wasn't a gorram thing like it on the turning of the worlds.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*xie xie ni* = thank you *wo zhidao* = I know *qu* = yes (lit. go) *dong ma* = understand? *duibuqi* = sorry


Wednesday, August 12, 2009 1:04 AM


Thank you. For this, for not breaking up the family, for letting us see Zoe start to heal ... thank you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 1:27 AM


That feels much better now, thank you for putting them back together.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 4:14 AM


Oh my.. reading this I was soo distraught. I had tears, honest to goodness tears, thinking about Zoe leaving the crew, leaving Mal. Thank you for showing Zoe what family is, what it means and giving her the opportunity to heal with those who love her and will always love her.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 11:57 AM


This was one of your very best. I love the emotion and the way you convey it to your reader. One of those few stories that would touch even the 'non' Browncoat. :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 1:26 PM


Thanks for all the shiny comments, it is much appreciated. I just had this feeling that if Zoe did have a baby after Wash she would be torn between her loyalty to Captain and ship, and Wash's assertion that a ship was no place to bring a little one into the 'verse. Now at least she knows that it is not the place but the folks in it that matter. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Thursday, August 13, 2009 2:47 PM


Say it with me now "Awwwwwwwwwww"

Friday, August 14, 2009 6:14 PM


You've really outdone yourself with this one! I could picture it all so perfectly in my head...which was hard to do with the lump in my throat. Thank you for sharing this one! :)


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The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

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