How I Soar Chapter 24
Monday, February 6, 2006

An AU in which Zoe sacrifices her life for Wash... and he must learn to move on.


Kate had just finished getting Hannah ready for their shopping expedition with Wash, when Hannah started in on the temper tantrum to end all tantrums.

"You want me to what?" Mal asked, over the sound of the screaming toddler.

"She wants you," Kate said, clearly flustered. "I... really I don't see the appeal in spending the day with a grouchy old captain, but, there it is."

"So you want me to babysit?" Mal's eyes shifted back and forth between Kate and Wash and their little girl.

"We need to stock up the kitchen and get the boat fueled," Wash said reasonably. "We can't do either of those things with her hollering her head off, Mal."

Mal scowled. "You don't fool me, you know. I know you're gonna go have a little romantic escapade while I keep the munchkin occupied."

Wash rolled his eyes. "Groceries, Mal. Who better to pick out the food than the woman who cooks it for you? Simon stocks the infirmary, Kaylee shops for engine parts..."

"Fine, point taken," Mal grumbled. "One condition."

"Which is?" Kate asked, relieved.

"Pot roast. Carrots, potatoes, onions, the works."

Kate grinned. "I love my captain."

Mal scooped Hannah up into his arms muttering something about her mama spending too much time with her auntie Kaylee. "I wanna shove off this rock by sundown," he called back over his shoulder. "We got places to go and people to rob."

"Yes, sir," Wash said, with a funny, cock-eyed salute that he thankfully didn't see.


"We can stop to rest a minute if you need to."

"Kaylee," Inara said for the fifth time since they'd left the boat. "Mei-mei, please. I'm not going to break."

Kaylee looked sheepish. "I know, 'Nara, it's just that I can't help worryin' about ya. Are you sure you oughta be goin' on this job tomorrow?"

Inara smiled warmly. "I have to earn my keep just like the rest of you," she pointed out. "Everything's going to be fine. The Vegas job is going to go more smoothly than you can imagine, and then Mal will relax a little." She hoped she was right.

"What if the job don't go smooth?" Kaylee asked, running her hands over a stack of tiny folded baby clothes.

"We'll be fine," the former Companion said confidently, "just like we always are."

Kaylee wanted to point out that they weren't always fine - take the Shepherd and Zoe for example - but chose to nod silently. "River ain't sleepin' good," she said, changing the subject. "Jayne made her promise to nap some more today, says she keeps wakin' up screamin' or gaspin' like she's havin' nightmares."

Inara frowned. "She's been doing so well, lately."

"Jayne made me promise not to tell Simon, 'cause he'll just give her a smoother an' she don't like bein' drugged." Kaylee grinned. "They're awful cute, ain't they, River an' Jayne?"

"They're something," Inara laughed. "It might be cute, but I'm not sure that would be the first word that springs to mind. Disturbing, perhaps."


"Yes, Foster's disease," Simon repeated. "A malady of the respiratory system, causing the slow deterioration of bronchial tissue over the course of -"

"I heard you the first time, son," the elderly doctor said. "I can tell you right now what you're looking for doesn't exist."

Simon's eyes lit up. "Really? How can you be sure?"

"Your patient by any chance a Companion?"

Simon stared blankly at the old man. "That would be breaking doctor/patient confidentiality," he said, finally.

"Take that as a yes, son. Your patient's been hoodwinked," the old man told him, "And you can take it from me, she's gonna be just fine."

"I'm not sure I can take the word of a stranger on such a serious matter," Simon said suspiciously.

"I'm no stranger," the man said. "I'm Dr. Thaddeus Foster, former medical consultant for the Companion's guild, boy, and I know from whence I speak."


Inara grabbed River's hand and dragged her away from the melee.

"Simon!" River cried. "We have to help him!"

"Simon's fine," Inara lied calmly. "He's with Kate, they're fine. We've got to get back to the ship."

"No!" River sobbed. "It's all going to end in blood! It always ends in blood!"

"Stop it!" Inara snapped, her soothing voice becoming harsh. "Simon and Mal have more to worry about than whether you and I are all right, so we have to get back to the ship, ma shong."

River whimpered and followed Inara back to the ship.

"Where's Wash?" Inara asked Kaylee when they stumbled into the cargo bay. "Tell him to take a shuttle. Kate, Simon and Mal need an evac, now."

Jayne looked confused, taking the crying River into his arms. "We thought he was with you."

When Hannah saw River crying, she started crying, too. "Jayne, take Hannah and River up to the mess and fix 'em a snack, wouldja?" Kaylee said, a worried look on her face.

Jayne looked doubtfully at Kaylee, but scooped Hannah up with one arm. "Come on now, girls, let's go have us a cookie or two."

The sound of gunshots was all Wash could hear as he searched for Kate; his vision was clouded by smoke. Suddenly someone was holding him by the throat, the cold metal of a pistol's barrel pressed to his temple. The man behind him laughed, and then there was a distinct shot, and the man went silent and released Wash from his hold.

His eyes met Kate's with a grateful smile, but it faded to fear when a shot rang out and he realized she was hit.

"What the hell part of 'stay with the boat' didn't you get?" Kate said, her hand pressed against the bullet wound. The white satin brocade was blossoming red despite her attempts. There was one more shot, followed by silence.

"That's the last of 'em," Mal said, relieved. "I think the lady's question deserves an answer, but it can wait 'til we get back to the ship."

"This is the last time," Wash said angrily. "I've had enough of your si wang di yuan wang, and this is the last time I let one of my women get this close to death because of you."

"Wash, stop..." Kate whispered, and her eyes closed.

"We've got to get her back to the boat," Wash breathed, his eyes full of fear.

Mal knelt by Kate, picked up her arm to check her wrist for a pulse. "She ain't gonna make it back to the boat," Mal said sadly. "She's gone."

"No!" River screamed, sitting bolt upright.

"Hey, hey, baby, it's okay," Jayne said soothingly, dropping the knife he'd been sharpening onto the small table, to perch on the bed next to her and take her into his arms. "S'all right. Just a dream."

River blinked a few times, clearing the sleep from her eyes, and looked up at him. "Is it?"


Mal stared helplessly at the little girl before him. "Potty?" he repeated, flustered. "I... nobody told me there was gonna be pottying involved here. Do ya just use the regular toilet, or is there some kind of special -"

"Big girl," Hannah told him. "Hannah need potty."

"Big girl," he repeated, thinking he must sound like a parrot, but then, he reckoned Hannah didn't know what a parrot was. "Okay, let's go find the potty." In his nervous state he forgot the small bathroom off the common area and brought her to the main bathroom in the crew dorms.

Hannah stared at him expectantly.

"What?" He looked down at her. Right, she probably couldn't manage the taking down of her pants or the climbing onto the toilet seat on her own, could she? He averted his eyes awkwardly, hauling the little girl's britches down to her knees and planting her on the seat, where she looked dangerously close to falling in.

Hannah stared at him some more.

"Go on," Mal said. "Do... whatever it is you need to do."


Mal muttered something in Mandarin that he really hoped the toddler didn't add to her ever-growing Ass Song, hitched up his pants to sit on the floor, and started trying to come up with a story that would encourage her to use the bathroom. He didn't even want to think about the cleaning up required afterwards.


"You made up a disease?" Simon stared at Dr. Foster in shock. "You lied to... I can't even fathom how many patients, just to drug them?"

"The drug was supposed to dampen their ability to make emotional connections," Dr. Foster said. "It was meant to keep them loyal to the Guild."

"What ever happened to the Hippocratic Oath, Dr. Foster? 'First do no harm'?" Simon couldn't even begin to understand the doctor's motives.

Dr. Foster sighed. "I was young, like you are now, Doctor. I didn't think I was doing any harm, don't you see? Once I realized how wrong what we were doing was, it was out of my hands."

Simon goggled at him for a few moments. "What... what kind of effect do you think this drug might have on a patient whose amygdala has been stripped?"


"Admit it," Wash said. "Come on, Kate, I know I saw you smile at least three times."

Kate shook her head and sighed, smiling again. "Fine. I admit it. I had fun. But we weren't supposed to be having fun, we were supposed to be doing the groceries."

"We got the shopping done," Wash shrugged. "Eventually. I don't think I've heard you say you forgive me, yet."

Kate gave him a mock-glare. "Maybe I haven't yet."

"Kate," Wash said, in as serious a tone as he could manage when he felt like swooping her up into his arms and spinning her around in circles because he was just so happy she wasn't pushing him away, "You know you can't stay mad at me. I'm too cute."

She swatted his arm. "It's not fair that you know that," she said. "That takes away any kind of power I might have had over you."

"No," Wash said, shaking his head. "It really doesn't." He started to unload groceries from the back of the mule. "I'll bring these up to the kitchen, you go rescue the captain from Hannah."

"River's got Hannah," Jayne said. They hadn't even seen him there, leaning casually against the railing at the bottom of the catwalks. "The captain... he's gone a mite twitchy."


Monday, February 6, 2006 11:39 AM


Excellent chapter, keep up the quality work, I can't wait for the next one.

Monday, February 6, 2006 1:51 PM


Absolutely brillo pads! I just love how well Kate has meshed with the crew and how sweet she and Wash are together. Laughed out loud at Hannah and Mal, wonder who was potty training who by the end of it. Very much worried about River and hoping her vision or whatever it was doesn't come true. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, February 14, 2006 1:56 AM


nonononononoNO. this is the one time river's wrong. right? either that or kate's got some twin or clones or something hiding somewhere....

agree with kaylee: river and jayne are sooooooooooo cute!!!!

and mal's gone twitchy, eh? would pay good money to see that.



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