Friday, April 21, 2006

Zoe corners River about Mal.


Title: Candles Author: Ana Sedai Rating: PG Character(s): River, Zoe Prompt: 027 - Light Word Count: 787 A/N: 15/100 for Mal/River Joss100.

Summary: Zoe corners River about Mal.


It was late. Most of the crew were snug in their bunks, except for River, who was sitting vigil at the helm. It was good to for Serenity to have a destination, she thought. It was a beacon guiding the way, provided a purpose to fulfill.

She recalled the high-spirited dinner conversation, and smiled a little to herself. Silly man. Mal might as well have hung a sign on her at the deal earlier today. He still wouldn’t let himself realize all the reasons why he’d reacted as he had. She knew he hadn’t gotten her whole message. She also knew there was someone who had.

“River?” Zoe.

She’d realized this was coming. Zoe was not one to beat around the bush, especially if it concerned Mal. It was as it should be. River swiveled the chair around.

Zoe stood in the doorway, arms folded, her expression unreadable. “Need to talk to you for a minute.” She entered fully and propped her hip up on the nearest console, careful to not disturb the models that still held a place of honor there. “Got a few questions I’d like answered.”

“You wonder if I’m playing, if I know what I’m doing. You wonder if you’ll need to pick up the pieces of him if I don’t.” She spoke without resentment.

“Somethin’ like that. He’s a man as has been hard-pressed to hold onto things.”

“I love him.”

Zoe nodded. “Figured as much. Doesn’t mean you can’t break his heart worse’n Inara ever did.”

“He’s my light in the dark, helps me to see. I’ll be his, too, if he lets me.”

Zoe gave her a hard look. “Needin’ someone ain’t the same as loving ‘em. The need has to come from the love, not the other way ‘round. It ain’t healthy otherwise.”

I’m not healthy. Not all the way, not yet. When he admits the whole truth, what I am, and who he is, and what we are, then I’ll be complete. Can’t break a part of me.”

“You do realize that he might never admit it?”

“He will.” Of that, she was absolutely certain.

“You sound awfully sure of yourself, little girl.”

“Not a little girl, not anymore, not for a long time.”

“No, I don’t suppose you are.” Zoe’s expression softened. “I don’t want to see either a’ you hurt. The two of you together, well, I won’t say it’s anything I expected.” She cracked half a smile. “Then again, who am I to talk about what’s to be expected in who folks fall in love with?” A shadow passed over her face, and River steeled herself against the knife edge of fresh grief. It still cut deep, but it was perhaps not as sharp as it had been.

“Point is, loving takes everything a person has to give, and lovin’ Mal, well, I expect you have some notion of what that’ll take.”

“I know. I’ve always known, even before I realized I knew.”

Zoe searched her face, evaluating, weighing. River held her gaze steadily. Two women, each of whom loved the same man in different ways, one trying to reassure the other that she could be trusted with a deceptively hard yet fragile heart.

After a few moments, Zoe must have seen something that at least partially satisfied her. She nodded once, stood up and started to leave.


She paused, one foot out the door. River glanced at the grinning dinosaurs and bit her lip, uncharacteristically hesitant about her next words.

“I’m sorry. Sorry I couldn’t see it. The flame blew out too fast. He deserved to die an old man in bed, all the children and grandchildren around him. With you.”

Slowly, Zoe turned. There was a knot in her jaw where she was clenching it, but not from anger. River wondered how long it was possible to hold in that much pain without dying inside.

“No use bein’ sorry for something you can’t help. He was mine, even if it was for far too brief a time. And I was his. It’s enough.” Her gaze became fierce. “And because I know how short a time we all might have, I’ll tell you this: Mal’s a hard man to love, and I’m still not sure you’re up to it. But if you are, and the day comes that he knows it too, then you hold onto each other and never let go, not for anything.”

She marched out, back ramrod straight, her bootsteps resonating down the corridor. River sat very still, waiting for the reflected grief to fade with the echoes.

Life is a guttering candle, and there is far too much wind here. Oh Mal, how long will we have to wait?


Friday, April 21, 2006 4:01 PM


Excellent! Zoe's response was perfect. And painful.

Friday, April 21, 2006 8:39 PM


I really liked this discussion between River and Zoe. Straightforward, honest and in-character for both of them.

Though honestly, I thought Zoe was going to reacted a bit differently to River's apology. Was thinking that Zoe would be a bit more angry or bitter, even if she knew she couldn't blame River for what happened to Wash.


Saturday, April 22, 2006 12:44 AM


Thanks, everyone! Since Zoe and River never had any private conversation in the series or movie, I wasn't sure if I'd get it right. Good to know that it worked okay. :)

BEB - I thought about Zoe's reaction for quite awhile. But while she is most definitely still bitter, I don't think that she'd blame River for what happened. They all decided to follow Mal and River, even Wash. They knew the risks. Zoe would probably think it disrespectful to his memory to hold River accountable for choices that Wash made. Just my opinion.

Sunday, April 23, 2006 5:06 AM


Well done! If your medicine is as strong as your writing, Simon better watch out.

Friday, December 22, 2006 2:02 AM


A really moving mediation on love and mortality.


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