Eidolon (Chapter 4)
Friday, June 10, 2011

But every night will end with a dawn and she felt her, ready to awaken, but long, so long before the morning will warm. (Arisen)


Having grown up vessel side, her family militia-for-hire, Zoë hadn't ever really figured out the way some took to staring out into the black. The stars were always there, permanent and unchanging, wasn't like they were apt to disappear. Her husband had been appalled by her attitude, and had done a fair bit of teaching her appreciation through long, smoldering sessions of pure sensation. The two of them, on the bridge or in their bunk, wrapped in each other's arms, and stars like she had never seen them.

She thought maybe she understood now, wondered if the captain sought out the eyes of his mother in those distant lights, if Wash looked for his father who'd given him those gorramn dinosaurs, same as she looked for Wash. Took her a while to retake the bridge, but during repairs she'd eventually picked up the job of repairing the front viewscreen, and she'd started falling asleep up there, just looking, waking up next morning tucked into a brown leather coat.

Never could find her mister out there, but maybe, as the gold faded and the first few specks shone from the deepening sky, maybe he was watching. And laughing, enjoying the village's music, the bonfire, the festive air.

He'd tell a joke – 'So who's Mal gonna drunk-marry tonight? My bet's on the seventy-year-old. She looks sprightly' – and she would smile, he would make her feel like smiling. And then, she thought, spotting Simon and Kaylee, they'd watch the fire together, him holding her, and he'd whisper sweet nothings in her ear. Man could talk better nonsense than River if he put his mind to it.

It was going to be one of those nights. She looked up at the stars again, asked them for strength. If you're there, baby, I need you. She braced herself as she walked through the crowd to the spread of food. Nodded to the young couple as she passed, torn between warning them of the religiosity of the townsfolk and the pang as their hands sprung apart. Simon distracted himself with River, drawing her away from the fire where she was arguing with Jayne over the meat he was turning.

She'd held grown men that way, rocked them to sleep wondering if they'd wake up. Her only brothers, and only one of them left.

"It's just lamb!" Jayne yelled after the girl, offended by her reaction to his cooking, "Ain't like ya never had dog 'fore now!" River paused long enough in ranting into Simon's shirt to stick her tongue out at the man. Zoë's expression was hardly an invitation, but Jayne wasn't the sort to pick up on cues like that. "Didn't even hafta poach this'n from the flock hereabouts, an' no tellin' when we'll have fresh agin. She keeps fussin' an' she don't get any when she wants some."

The man'd been sullen and ornery ever since they'd opened their mail, only mustering enthusiasm at having meat for dinner. Didn't feel like arguing. "Takin' some to the captain," she told him, putting together something resembling two plates and an appetite and ignoring how he shouted at River that see, Zoëy'll eat it.

The captain was about as she expected to find him: at the edge of the merriment, deep in discussion with the village patriarch, a calm, older man named Omar who looked like he'd let someone flatten his face as a boy. Most likely explaining how their new guest wasn't going to delay their departure, what with the Mal seeing the wide open plains of his lost homeworld everywhere and wanting to get a move on in the morning. The downtime had been good for them, but she could feel it, the restlessness that kept her watching the horizon. Wasn't safe, even when it was. They'd both taken that away from the war. Keep moving, keep breathing. Hold together as best could be and carry on through the pain.

Most of Ezra were nomads, caravans living off the herds they drove across the vast grasslands, only riding to outposts of the capital like Jordan to trade with kinsfolk. Even so, with the wanderlust in his own veins, Omar welcomed them to stay as long as they liked, keenly concerned about their salvation. Whenever the captain insisted the patriarch should worry for his own, that they were dangerous just being around, the patriarch would smile knowingly, stroke his grizzled beard, and talk about family and community.

The crew had been all but adopted by the villagers. Even this wedding reception was supposedly thanks to them, the groom a slave who had escaped after Niska's death.

The captain finally excused himself and made his way through the crowd, stopping now and then to exchange a few words but alone even when surrounded by people. A few boys trailed after him, staring and whispering and fighting over who got to wear an oversized brown robe for their play acting before they scurried off to invent their own adventures.

When she caught up, he was brooding against the side of the guesthouse the village put them up in, seated, glaring over his knees at the cryobox like it was ticking down. He'd been unusually withdrawn lately, and after Kaylee's rescue, she had a inkling what was troubling him. Seen it herself in the mirror. So she held his eyes when he started to refuse the plate she was offering until he relented, and then settled into her old place at his side. "You ever having the talk with Simon?" she asked, "He's gettin' jumpy."

The captain's mouth quirked up despite himself. "You mean about him an' Kaylee? Nah. It's funnier to keep him guessing. I'll spring it on him with the contraceptive talk." He shrugged, suddenly awkward. "It's tradition."

She felt a flash of gratitude for the topic, both because of the direction she wanted this talk to go, and because everyone was walking on eggshells with her about Wash. She was afraid she was forgetting him, impossible as it seemed. The smell of cheap cinnamon gum was fading from her bed, and she didn't know if it'd been real anymore. "And how long," she demanded, "did you string my man along with that zhì qì é zuò jù?"

"Three months," he admitted shamelessly. He popped another strip of roast into his mouth, chewed thoughtfully. The air between them sobered, and he swallowed. The captain set his plate aside, finally looked at her for the first time since they started talking, eyes full of apology. "Zoë, you an' Wash, you were special together. Took me too long to see."

She drew a breath through her too tight throat into her too tight chest. "Don't think you've seen yet, sir." Surprised him with that one, and she pressed the advantage. "The next time you get that lovesick, you could tell us before you run off and try to get yourself killed," she suggested, blunt and severe.

His expression darkened, and he gave a humourless laugh. "I let Kaylee die, and you can shoot me yourself." The captain surged to his feet, grimacing against the pain.

That was a dodge, his defensive brush-off. "May just take you up on that, sir," she replied, unruffled. "Wasn't talkin' on Kaylee." He'd been about to stalk away, but her words stopped him. She got up as well in case he decided to follow through on that impulse anyway.

She'd been by him through some of the worst hell ever conjured, through darkness like to drown them. They'd clung together, fought together, thought together, bled together, but always they'd been kicking for some light at the surface, or they'd have pulled each other under. "Who were you really tryin' to die for?" Zoë asked, "Because I don't remember you half so alive as when you were heading into a sure ambush for Inara."

"Zoë." Back turned to her, voice threatening. Dangerous territory, but there was grief there, hamstringing the both of them.

She stood tall, shoulders squared; they were soldiers, they would face this. "I miss him," she confessed. "Miss him so damn much, an' I know I shouldn't, not what I've seen." Her voice choked a little, but she pulled herself together, purged the emotion from her voice. He was watching now, and if she sagged, he'd catch her and not hear. "Ain't no stranger to death. Not even the first I've ever wondered how to go on livin'." Fiercely. "But I do. We do. 'Cause we're the only ones left to carry the memories."

His jaw set, stubbornly defiant but also uncertain about what to do in the pain he saw in her. He was saved from having to hear any more or making any kind of response by a chime from the cryobox. "SIMON!" he bellowed, "your gorramn patient is incubated enough!"

- - - - - The ocean was crying, every silver jewel a tear; they would remember, long after the reflections faded. She heard their silent whispers, so full of sadness, overwhelming her, hard to breathe. When she looked she saw everything with her own eyes, and wished she didn't feel so much that wasn't hers but she held them all close anyway and it confused her because she didn't know who (what) she was.

She hadn't meant for this to happen. She didn't know even if they'd ever shine like they used to, because the lambs had been sacrificed, the laughter and the faith were gone and the blood had seeped into her skin like a condemnation. No daggers had spilt the betrayal but the spots were there and she could not command them, they would not wash away.

But every night will end with a dawn and she felt her, ready to awaken, but long, so long before the morning will warm.

She was trying to explain this to Simon. Not going well. His mind was a list, running through the medications, worrying over combinations, whether he might be the indirect cause of her current distress. Unable to understand, desperate, but trying to comfort, like his arms and wishing could put her mutilated amygdala back together. Her mouth was arguing and rebelling against her insisting neurons, not saying what she meant. Disorganized thoughts cantered around rainbows and stormclouds and dipped their toes in shattered glass, coming out paper snowflakes.

The words weren't tying together with grammatical string, they stumbled over each other and trailed off into uncertainty. Her hair shifted and petted her arm as he cradled her. Wriggle. Not close enough, not to protect her from her own brain. Her nose scrunched up and she tried again. "I'm hungry."


Kaylee glowed brightly again, no longer wavering, and Simon was basking in the sparkle of her light even as he thought his relief was the momentary coherence of his little sister. Too blind, can't really see yet, but the persistence of pretty eyes and affectionate hearts would change that. Her hopes smiled for them, insisted: no more sacrifice.

Another sunbeam for her, her friend had so many. "Still got my momma's tasties a plenty, if ya want some."

No, couple's time now. She pushed away, the hem of her skirt climbing her legs and needing correction, eyes jumping to each and every mingler around them. "Dessert, from the French, desservir, de-serve, clear the last course from the table, after entrée." Her toes shifted in the dirt as she watched them, then moved towards Jayne. "Need to wash hands."

'Which reminds me, I should prepare some antitoxin,' she didn't hear Simon say, then Kaylee's reponse, 'Oh, ain't so bad. Jayne burns everythin' too much to get anybody sick.' Eyes still on her feet. Interesting shape, functional. Focus, she reminded herself.

The Neanderthal was hunched over his meat, protecting his food. "Didn't mean it," she told him. A ready snarl was waiting to eat contriteness, teeth already barring at her, terrifying sight by the flickering flame. The explanation hurried. "There were symbols, and they spoke to me, but the cooking was behaving and I shouldn't have listened."

"Yeah, maybe you shouldn've," he grumbled. A dismissal. Still here. Pout. Still pouting. "Aw, don't… năo-cào." He threw some pieces on a plate and pushed the dish at her, then turned away from the firelight. "Here. A woolly for a woolly. Now git."

Caverns of fire gaped their many mouths wide to swallow them, and she was chased to the other side of the fire until the revelers drowned out doom. The night darkened again with the grief of the captain and the first mate as they sailed through their oceans, and she clung to the presence of Simon and Kaylee through the storm, waiting for the inevitable.

- - - - - He watched her as she apologized to Jayne, as she finally settled down as part of the circle singing about legends around the fire. River, sparks floating so near to her, then up, seeming to disappear among thousands more scattered across the sky, this required some attentiveness.

This had been her first episode since they had crashed, she hadn't even been alarmed like the rest of them by their surprise mail earlier. He had thought that maybe, at last, he had found something for her long term stability, that the fresh air and the peaceful green meadows stretched for miles outside of the tiny village might be the cause of her improvement. But perhaps that had just been his own wishful thinking.

Kaylee had curled up into his side, trying to help keep an eye on his sister but ultimately more of a distraction. The crisis seemingly over, she nuzzled her cheek into his deltoid, sighing at the perfection of the same glittering lights her eyes had captured so well. "Ever seen anythin' so magical?"

The time they shared in her prismatic hammock in between repairs, the room blushing and aglow… The memories were unforgettable. This night was promising that it could fade away the world until it was only the two of them, only this moment.

Opening his mouth could ruin this for her. "No, this is new," he answered, thoughtfully, careful to consider every word. "Osirius is the seventh planet out from the core, so it's a dark world, but the cities make everything twilight. I never really saw the stars much."

"New?" she asked, surprised but still smiling. "Been up in Serenity more'n a year now. Ain'tcha never just looked before?"

"Not really," he admitted, fighting the urge to squirm as he remembered the time they had been boarded by the Alliance, and to remain undetected, he and River had to put on the EVA suits and go outside. "This might come as a shock, but I don't actually do too well with spaceships or space."

No! Why did he say that? Kaylee pulled away a little bit, something pleading in her expression. "But… You do like it now? On Serenity?"

He fumbled desperately for some way to save the conversation, and that was precisely when River inserted her face between theirs, having somehow managed to sneak around behind them. "Time!"

They both startled, then, before Simon could wonder to ask, he heard Mal yell for him, loud enough that a few of the other people nearby turned to look. "The ogre calls," he groaned, rising and brushing dirt from his trousers. Kaylee shrugged and smiled apologetically, at least a smile, and he wordlessly thanked his sister for her insight as she dragged both of them off.

As they approached, Simon noticed the two soldiers were gathered around the cryochamber with guns drawn, and he broke away into a run. "What are you doing?"

Mal acknowledged him with a tense glance before nodding at the green indicator light. "It's done. Unlock it and step back."

"So you can shoot them?" the doctor accused, outraged and incredulous. Unbelievable, just… Not for the first time, Simon asked himself if the man wasn't insane, or just completely barbaric and unfeeling.

The cold hardened glare he received might have frozen him in place, and not for the first time, he concluded it was a little of both. "Believe I gave you an order," the captain warned, low as thunder, and flicked the safety of his sidearm off. "Do it."

Simon almost shook with anger, defiantly holding the gaze of those menacing, icy eyes even as he stepped forward and undid the latches to the chamber. Mal had push him away when he didn't immediately move; he relaxed, but only barely, still looking daggers, when Zoë gave him an almost imperceptible shake of her head and Kaylee, River, and now Jayne joined them.

The quietest sound, an exhalation chasing the depressurized air escaping the opened lid. A breath to follow, lungs and heart reengaging in response. After a few seconds, Zoë raised her shotgun and Mal's arm fell slowly to his side, his pistol dropping, forgotten, from dumb fingers. A few seconds more, and then Mal was sliding his coat off his shoulders, laying it reverently over the sleeping figure within, then reaching, almost diving in, and lifting Inara out.


Friday, June 10, 2011 9:02 AM


Sorry about the repost delay, my brother came home from England last weekend.

We're going camping tomorrow! Chances for outdoor writing are probable.

Friday, June 10, 2011 10:06 AM


Wow, absolutely BRILLIANT! Stunning chapter, Bytemite, I loved this to bits so no need to apologise about the delay. I really enjoyed Zoe's insight about her and Mal and still missing Wash but not ignoring her friend's pain either. And River was superb, with Simon typically not getting it and worrying about her medication. At times your vocabulary was so beautifully lyrical with River's stream of consciousness and everything fit. And at the end, Inara! Wow, just WOW. Great job, shiny! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, June 10, 2011 10:50 AM


Zoe after the movie is always an interesting balance. She's a soldier, and as a soldier who's seen so much death and been so hardened, she has some conceptions and experience about how she should react to death. But as a wife, she's having to reconcile the familiar with what is particularly and unexpectedly painful - dashed hopes, futures, and dreams. She wasn't ever expecting that Wash would go before she did.

So while she's trying to hold strong here, as is her nature, she's internally struggling and not sure how to deal. With both all this peace they're having (which won't last) versus all the violence that Wash never approved of.

River is also always fun, because she thinks in layers and symbols and metaphors, which sometimes get mixed up in ways that can be hard for anyone to decipher. I've been told that there's some River speech in this story that is entirely incomprehensible, which I actually take as a little bit of a compliment. River herself as a character is both knowing and unknowable, a genius and a mystic that operates on entirely different levels than anyone else does. She is a sweet girl and a frightening force of nature, sometimes at the same time.

Saturday, June 11, 2011 9:38 AM


So who sent Inara to them in cryo, and why? I suppose we'll find out in good time.

Interesting chapter, Bytemite. Been long enough since the last that I had to go back and re-fresh a bit on the details...

Liked your section getting inside River's head.

Sunday, June 12, 2011 2:35 PM


Been out of the world a while, so to speak. Camping. :)

The needing a refresh read between them has been known to happen, particularly when I normally only update the new chapters once a month. I am unfortunately a very slow writer.

I'd actually be surprised if anyone knows what's going on anymore. But, I forge ahead. And I thank people for reading anyway.


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Eidolon (Epilogue)
Someday, she knew they would visit the graves of Serenity Valley and not hear the howl of the ghosts. Someday, they would walk across the green prairie of a restored world and watch the rain. (Glimpses)

Eidolon (Chapter 40)
Clouds were blossoming in the distance, promising rain for the city later. The crew of Serenity and the badlands around Eavesdown Docks to the south would probably see only a harsh windstorm. Two different worlds, she mused, caught between them. (Deliverance)

Eidolon (Chapter 39)
The question seemed to hit her hard. In the mirrors of her eyes, he saw himself, forced to see her lose more ground every day. Hurt more, because of him. Saw her watching him back as she pulled him out of a nightmare. (Try)

The Gift
They don't have much. But they have each other. (Just a little holiday story from the Firefly verse. Belongs to Joss)

Eidolon (Chapter 38)
The girl processed that response. "He brought the medicine? He saved us?" Inara nodded, considering her own inclusion in the question. (Renewed)

Eidolon (Chapter 37)
A wind clear and sweet stirred the air, humming as a shimmering, ever-shifting blaze of color flashed from one horizon to another. The breeze carried with it a distant song, rising over the hills and through the vales like a soulful hymn from his childhood. (Flight)

Eidolon (Chapter 36)
"I cut the strings. They were never yours anyway.”(Liberation)

Eidolon (Chapter 35)
A few twists of a little turnscrew and the mechanic was stripping wires and rerouting circuits in moments. (Break)

Eidolon (Chapter 34)
Stars scattered in the night, coalesced from the stellar dust from a far away sun and others that came before. A spark, scintillating into a network, a stream, like the lights and streets of a city. (Cascade)

Eidolon (Chapter 33)
"Put me back in that place," River said, "Little bluebird singing in a cage, puppet on broken strings." (Capture)