How I Soar Chapter 26
Wednesday, February 8, 2006

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


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. "Kaylee, take Hannah and River up to the mess and fix 'em a snack, wouldja?" Jayne said, a worried look on his face.

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

"No," River said. "I'm going with you."

Jayne frowned. "'Nara can fly the shuttle, an' I can handle the cover fire, darlin'."

River gave him a look that reminded them all just how well she could handle herself, and Jayne shrugged. "Fine, then, darlin', let's go."

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," Wash said, shaking his head. "She can't be gone." He looked down at the gun in his hand, then back at Mal, his eyes narrowing. "You," he said, pointing the gun at Mal. "You xiongmeng de kuangren, you kill everything I love!"

Fear flashed in Mal's eyes. He knew the look Wash was wearing now - it was that of a man who had nothing left to lose. "Think about Hannah," he said, dropping Kate's wrist and putting his hands up in a display of surrender.

"I am," Wash said coldly, clenching his jaw, squeezing the trigger. Once for Zoe, once for Kate, and once more for little Hannah. His jaw dropped, and he let the gun fall from his hand. "Mal... Oh, god, Kate." He watched as the gun fell to the ground in slow motion, and turned to run for the ship. He tripped over a body and fell. It was Simon, face down, still half in drag, with a bullet in his leg and another in the back of his head. Wash turned his head and was sick.

He could hear Hannah screaming, and Kaylee singing an old Chinese lullaby in a flat, dead voice, and he placed the barrel of the gun between his lips and squeezed once more, for himself.

"I can't get any control," Inara said, her voice shaky. "River? I can't control the shuttle. We're going to crash!"

River nodded and held Jayne's hand tightly. "It's all going to end in blood." The shuttle careened, glancing off the side of a casino and landing in a fiery heap on the ground. Inara died on impact, River could see, and Jayne's left arm was gone at the shoulder. He was bleeding to death, and so was she. She looked down and told the piece of the console that jutted from her abdomen, "It always ends in blood!"


"How long has she been like this?" Simon demanded. "Jayne, what the hell were you thinking?"

"I tried to get you last night, doc, but you was too busy sexin' up the missus!" The tendons in Jayne's neck were standing out, and a vein bulged in the middle of his head. "She's been havin' these terrible dreams night an' day, but she didn't start doin' throwin' up 'til this mornin'."

Simon laid the palm of his hand against River's forehead. She was curled up on her side, in a fetal position. "She's burning up! River, mei-mei, do you hurt?"

River opened one eye and moaned, giving Simon half of a glare.

"Stupid question," Jayne said, voicing Simon's own realization. Simon gently uncurled River's body and prodded her abdomen with a cautious, clinical hand.

When River's fist connected with Simon's nose, he figured he'd hit a tender spot. "Jayne, I need you to carry her to the infirmary, immediately. I'm afraid River's appendix may have burst, but I'm not sure I have time to do a blood culture to see if she's gone septic. Go. Now!"

"What about you?"

"I'll be there as soon as I staunch this nosebleed, Jayne. Get moving!"


Simon stuck his head out into the hallway where the crew were all waiting. Hannah was asleep in her father's arms, her head on his shoulder and her thumb in her mouth.

"What's the good word, doc?" Jayne asked hopefully.

"How's our li'l albatross?" Mal added.

"Well," Simon said, smiling with relief. "She's minus one appendix, and I've got her on a course of antibiotics to clear up the infection. She's awake now, though, if you'd like to see her now, Jayne. She's asking for you."

The look of gratitude on Jayne's face was shocking enough, but no one expected what happened next - Jayne pulled the doctor into a big bear hug and left him standing there looking confused as he went in to visit the patient.

Mal, Kaylee and Wash all said, "Huh." in chorus, while Simon's mouth flapped and no sound escaped.

"Well," Inara said. "Seems like today is a day for good news, doesn't it?" She squeezed Mal's hand. "I'm okay."

Mal peered at her cautiously. "Okay, okay, or okay for now?"

"Foster's disease is a sham," Simon said. "Inara has a clean bill of health."

"Foster's... what?" Mal frowned. "What did I miss, here?"

Simon smiled. "I spoke to Dr. Foster, the former medical consultant for the -"

"I think we're going to go put Hannah to bed," Wash said, standing up and grabbing Kate's hand. "It's been a long day. Simon, giver River our best, will you?" He shot Kaylee a look, and Kaylee nodded.

"Simon, can me an' the babies go say hi to their auntie?" Kaylee asked, in her most charming voice.

Simon gave her a strange look, then nodded. "Go ahead, but not for too long. She needs her rest."

Halfway back to Hannah's room, Kate elbowed Wash in the side. "What was that about?"

"Mal," Wash explained calmly, "is about to explode. Believe me. You don't want to be there."


River was groggy from the drugs Simon had used to put her under for the surgery, but she beamed up at Jayne when he entered the room. "Just dreams," she said brightly. "The blood was mine, it was just a dream!"

Jayne chuckled and leaned down to kiss the top of her head. "Ain't that what I been tellin' ya all along? Ya gave us all a scare, River girl, an' I'm 'a kick your ass, you pull a stunt like this again."

River smiled sleepily. "You couldn't kick my ass, Jayne."

She was right, of course, and there were two very good reasons why; first, there was her behaviour when they were faced with certain death at the hands of a swarm of Reavers, and then there was the fact that Jayne wasn't fond of laying hands on any woman, let alone the one he loved. It still confused him to think about that. Love wasn't something he'd expected to find out in the black, least of all with a girl half his age who could easily take him down.

"Hey, River," Kaylee said, ducking into the room quietly. "How ya feelin'?"

"Jayne struck Simon dumb, and everybody's not going to die violent, bloody deaths," River said cheerfully. "I can't feel anything below my ribs yet."


"Mal, don't blow this out of proportion," Inara begged, even though she knew he wasn't going to let the Guild's treachery go that easily.

"Out of proportion?" Mal turned to look at her. "They been lyin' to ya for years an' shootin' ya full of who knows what, an' you think I'm blowin' it out of proportion? 'Nara, what if the drug had worked on ya as well as they'd planned? What if... what if 'us' never happened, on account o' them? It ain't a stretch, coulda happened that way just as easy."

Inara didn't say anything; she knew he was right.

"I'm... going to go check on River," Simon said quickly.

"Wave your friend, tell him we ain't gonna make it for his show."

"What? Mal, what about -"

"We can still get hitched nice an' easy on Vegas," Mal said reasonably, "but River ain't gonna be in any condition to prance around in some fancy get-up an' shoes so tall even the doc's scared o' fallin' off 'em, an' him in perfect health. An' once we're all legalized an' whatnot, we're gonna spread the word about the Guild."

"How do you plan to do that?"

"Know a place," Mal said casually. "Got feeds all over the 'verse. Flip a couple switches an' everyone from here to Londonium knows about the fei hua they've been pullin'."

Inara's eyes widened. "You can't mean you intend to make Wash go back -"

"Can't stop the signal, darlin'."


Wednesday, February 8, 2006 3:49 PM


Surprisingly, I was expectin' more of a rant from our beloved Captain about Inara's "condition"....more "I'm gonna rip out the soft and sensitives of every (insert Chinese cursives here) that even had the smallest hand in this!" than what was posted.

Not that it was crap, fiareynne....far from it. This is another piece of excellent fic from ya. Just throwing out my 2 credits ;)


Wednesday, February 8, 2006 4:38 PM


Don't worry, Mal hasn't had his final say about this yet.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006 6:54 PM


Awesome, Fia, as always!

Poor River! Thank God Simon caught it in time!

Keep up the great work!

Thursday, February 9, 2006 6:16 AM


Evil, pure evil...that's what you are!! I have been stressing all week over this story!!! Good one though!!

Thursday, February 9, 2006 8:53 AM


Oh Mal. I don't know whether to applaud him or smack him in the back of the head for being stupid. Either way, I'm continuing to love this story.

Friday, February 17, 2006 4:12 PM


*phew* no death, good good. but what in the sphincter of hell is mal doing, going back to mr. u's complex?!?



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