"Walking Wounded"
Thursday, August 14, 2003

"As the Anniversary approaches the crew of Serenity begin to plan their unexpected day off not knowing what it really commemorates."


TITLE: "WALKING WOUNDED" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe. Mal. Wash. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: New. Short standalone story. ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE:

SUMMARY: "As the Anniversary approaches the crew of Serenity begin to plan their unexpected day off not knowing what it really commemorates." 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.


A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Speaking about it out loud would just make the pain visible and that was the last thing she wanted. An open wound that would fester and never heal.

It was that day again. Zoe needed no calandar. No news feed on the cortex to tell her what day it was. They both felt it. As the day approached Mal became more and more withdrawn. His silence an echo of a deeper emptiness that was slowly consuming him. He had always been a quiet man. In the way he moved on his feet, his spoken words, the way his soul whispered as he walked through life as if determined he would leave no footprints behind him. A ghost among the living. Yet he was never so still and silent as on this day when he became a dead man walking. A husk of a once vibrant man weighed down by the grief and losses of the past. The anniversary was not one they celebrated but it was never forgotten. Like a bullet they carried with their names on it. The day they lost the Battle of Serenity. Had been ordered to surrender. The day the dream of freedom had finally died.

Unspoken there was never a conscious decision but whatever they were doing, wherever they were, they would be inextricably drawn to each other. A need. A longing to be together. As if only their proximity to one another could hold the agony and grief at bay. She knew how it would be. The Captain would smile when he thought it expected. Say words when that was what people needed to hear. Walk, talk, eat, sleep. Do all the things live folk did but the smiles would never reach his eyes, the warmth not touch him, the food hardly eaten. Sleep a nightmare waiting to ensnare him not lull him into a well earned rest. Besides. The dead have no need to slumber. Inside the aching yawning chasm of pain and loss memories would numb him. Grow deeper, darker and more consuming. Zoe knew. She had the same hole gnawing away at her only the Captain's was bigger, darker, more likely to swallow the man whole. Carrying on his back the bodies of the dead with every step he walked. His responsibility. Dead because they had believed in him. Followed the cause. The cry for freedom a whimper on their dying lips. A dream snatched away with their last blood frothed breath as the air filled with the discharge of weapons fire and artillery guns concussing the air and deafening the screams and the agony of the wounded and dying.

They could not do anything about it but they could at least be there for each other. Not to talk. Hold hands. Or even share the sorrow. Just hold a little of the darkness at bay by their simple presence. Wash was babbling away about his plans for her. A happy man. Today had been declared a free day. Captain said and that was right fine and dandy with Wash. There was a lightness everywhere about the place except where Mal walked. The others mostly didn't notice. Too caught up in making plans for how they would spend their free day. The Captain walked soft and silent, giving benign little smiles and nodding to preclude any form of conversation. Circumventing the need to talk. Zoe knew how his throat would be closing up, his heart aching and palms sweating. Grieving for those he had lost. Those he could not save. His heart aching, the pain intensifying until it almost bled out of his ears. It was a well travelled road for both of them. Such a deep raw sadness in him that it broke her heart to look at him. But it would have killed her to look away.

She owed him. So much that she did not know where to begin in repaying the debt. He had kept her alive through shocking heart-wrenching times. Attuned to her in ways that no one else, not even her family, had ever been. He always knew where she was. Sensed it. As if some grace from on high were watching over them. At first Mal had believed as passionately as anyone. Perhaps more so. But after Serenity she never saw him pray again. His falling out with the Almighty seemed to be setting in to a kind of permanence that was not good for either of them. Mal needed God. What most folk could not realise was that God needed Mal right back. Not sure how she knew it, she just did. And what was that about faith? Ah yes, it was taken on trust not proof. So it did not matter who else in the gorram 'verse believed it or didn't it was no less true. Not that he looked for any recompense or would welcome it if it were offered. What was it he had said once when she asked him why he had never told the others? Ah, that was it. 'Why add to their nightmares? Someone on this boat should be able to sleep easy'.

Belatedly she realised Wash was talking. "So what do you think, *bao bei*? The hot tub and massage parlour or that nice little restaurant on the resbah?"

"Reskbah." Corrected Mal quietly. They hadn't heard him join them on the bridge.

Zoe resisted the urge to shudder. Dead man walking. Wash nodded to Mal but was looking at Zoe. "Yeah, that's what I meant, reskbah. So how about it? What do you think cup cake?"

"Why not do both?" Said the Captain amiably, now leaning just inside the door.

Zoe turned her head. Saw the tiny fake smile he gave Wash, not that Wash noticed. She could not smile knowing how much that little fiction had cost him. Her generosity did not run that high, not on this day of days. Had no lightness or laughter in her but Wash did. He had enough for both of them and she loved him for it.

"See? Captain says we can so let's do it. I'll even share my curly carrots with you."

She hesitated. Before she could think of an objection the Captain spoke again. Mouth hanging open in a grin that mocked like death yet knew her name. "That's settled then. I don't expect to see either of you until this time tomorrow." Stunned, she said nothing. Wash was happy. She was confused. Why was he doing this? Why was he giving her an out when she knew he was tearing up inside? Every piece of him raw with pain? She felt as if she were being ordered to surrender all over again and she had no words for how much it hurt. Leaving her wounded behind her. It wasn't right. She bit her lip. Vaguely aware of her happy husband steering her out of the cockpit and down the catwalk, down the metal stairs to the cargo hold. When she finally got her head back together she paused to look back. There was no sign of the Captain. Something inside her broke. Rattled when she walked leaving a great empty hole inside that nothing could fill. Wash finally noticed her odd distraction and stopped just short of the landing ramp. He looked at her anxiously. "What's the matter, *xin gan*?"

Zoe forced the past into that deep dark place where nightmares still haunted her from time to time. "Nothing, husband." She paused. A massive effort to shift mental gears from the habits of the past. Was that why Mal was doing this? Forcing her to enjoy the day as if it was just another day? To break the cycle of heartache and live again? How could she leave him to the darkness and take away his only light? How could she ever find the words to explain it to Wash without causing further pain? Weren't there casualties enough? She gave him a bright smile. Perhaps too bright. But it's hard to notice when you're blinded by love. "The Captain's right." She said. Hoping and praying that one day she could do the same for him. "Let's do both."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bao bei* = baby/darling *xin gan* = sweetheart


Friday, August 15, 2003 6:25 PM


Well, I liked it. A bit depressing sometimes, but not innappropriate; well placed and very true. Excellent descriptions and analogies and perfect at staying true to the characters. I like the whole concept. I wish I would have thought of that, but actually you gave me an idea. Thanks.


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