Zoe goes numb. And the others –
He's on the bridge, flying, wondering about finding a new pilot, 'cause no gorram way is he going to depend on River. Maybe he'll let her play, once in a while, but he can't be relying on her when things get desperate. He's already got the safe word memorized, having twisted Simon's arm something fierce to get it.
"Zoe ain't right."
He doesn't turn around. "Is that so, Jayne?"
"It's bad for business. You keep relyin' on her, keepin' her as second in command, lettin' her do the things we need doin'. It ain't right. She's gonna snap, and I ain't interested in that while we're in the middle of some ruttin' job."
Jayne doesn't take a breath while he's speaking; it's like that he rehearsed this before coming up here.
"Zoe's been through worse." They saw through worse together.
Jayne snorts. "You so gorram stubborn that you really think that? You think she's just fine, never mind, like Wash weren't never here? It ain't like that. She's got trauma."
Mal keeps his eyes on the stars. Whitefall, and the job, are still two days out.
"She's gonna snap," he repeats. "It won't be pretty. Hell, she already went apeshit back with the Reavers. Ignored all sense, just went out there, started shootin', hittin'. I had to reel her back in, weren't sure it was gonna work. She ain't balanced, Mal."
Mal turns now, stares at Jayne, who's leaning against the doorframe. "You just want second in command. You want me to trust you more'n her."
Jayne's eyes narrow. "Mebbe. But you're askin' for trouble if you don't do somethin', mark my words."
"I make crew decisions, Jayne."
"Right. Well, while you're up here, staring at the stars, best get thinkin' on those decisions. And while you're at it, better start wonderin' about Kaylee and the Doc, 'cause she ain't been quite right since Haven." He turns and walks out.
Since when did Jayne start offering advice about crew dynamics? Seems like Zoe ain't the only one who's not quite right.
Kaylee loses herself in Simon. He lets her.
But she misses Wash. It ain't the same without him; no one else gets Serenity like she does, like Wash did. Not even Mal. She doesn't get any more late nights, her and Wash on the bridge talking up a storm, while Zoe and Mal relive old war memories. She ain't got anyone to share Serenity's quirks with, to talk shop. Mal ain't interested, and Zoe never was. Simon don't get it, Inara listens and asks nice questions, but is always far away somehow, and River –
River scares her. And Mal kinda does too. Since Haven.
With Simon, the sex is great. He focuses right in on her, even when they're not in bed. He's intense, and he knows what to do with her body.
And after, they lie around, and sometimes talk about the ship, but it ain't the same. Kaylee wants Wash back.
"You look worried." Simon strokes her hair back, nuzzles her neck.
She is. Serenity hums, and they got jobs, and the Alliance ain't coming after them right now. But Kaylee's got a bad feeling.
River dreams. Floating, flying down to the world; high above it. She is a leaf, cast from her tree.
When she wakes up, the feeling is almost palpable. She wants to float.
On the other side of the ship, Zoe isn't sleeping. Zoe doesn't sleep much at all anymore, and River knows Mal is ignoring this.
It isn't right.
Jayne carries weapons, more'n usual. Even on the ship. He can't help it. It ain't normal, but without them, he feels twitchy. It ain't so much the death of Wash only. More like the death of everything, all that killing at once. Jayne knows all about killing, but this was carnage.
Shepherd used that word once while talking on something, and Jayne looked it up. Carnage. It fits real well.
He never goes anywhere unless he's fully armed, not the kitchen, not the bridge. Not even Mal's bunk. The two of them getting undressed these days is like a freak sideshow. How many rutting weapons can two men conceal? Five guesses for five rutting coins.
Jayne always leaves his stuff within arm's distance. No sense being a fool. He and Mal, they used to really get into it, especially after a bad job. They'd get lost in the sweating and grunting and the sex, then lie around Mal's bunk, drinking, laughing, and telling stories about when things went right, or went down funny-like. But now, Jayne can't get into it in that same way. He just can't let his guard down. There ain't banter after, and Jayne mostly drinks alone, forcing himself to stay awake.
When he sleeps, he gets dreams. Makes him maybe understand what River saw, even if she was too rutting weak and let it take her over.
Alone in her shuttle, the doors sealed, she sits and she cries. Not the delicate tears of a Companion touched by a scene in a play, or the beauty of a poem, no. She cries, and it's messy.
Wash had always been kind to her, but it's more than that. She cries for Zoe, who was half of a true whole. She cries for River, who never will be. She cries for the children on Haven, and for the Shepherd, who never did anything but offer them shelter, and try to be good. She cries for the people on Miranda, the people who lay down and died, and those who were killed, eaten, by their own neighbours and family.
And she cries for herself.
After, she waits until her eyes lose their redness, and then she waves the training facility. She takes her shuttle, and when she arrives, her things are waiting for her, beautifully packed, delicately scented. A few gestures, a few words, and the trunks and cases are carried into the shuttle for her.
Inara lifts off, double checks on Serenity's position, and heads for home.
When Simon's not with Kaylee, he reads.
It's wonderful to be able to access the Cortex without paranoia about being tracked. Mal figures they've got some downtime before the Alliance comes back after them. There's too much smoothing they need to do first, quieting down the border worlds and even some of the core planets.
Simon reads about post-traumatic stress disorders. He reads, he takes notes, he makes plans and contingency plans. He approaches Zoe, but she pushes him away, and so he just watches. He knows she's suffering from it. And it's not just her.
They all have problems, and it isn't only about losing Wash. At first, they'd ridden on the wave of doing something right, of actually mostly getting through it. And then they were absorbed with fixing Serenity, and readjusting internal dynamics. But after the first couple of jobs, things started to fall apart. Serenity is held together by welding and hope, and Kaylee. But the rest of them are moving along, barely holding together. There are so many gaps that Simon loses count.
Jayne drinks. Simon sees it, sees the physical signs, although so far, Jayne isn't drinking during jobs. Jayne will probably work things out for himself, but Simon still watches.
Kaylee obsesses about Serenity, and throws herself at Simon. He's not pushing her away, because he needs human contact as much as she does. But he sees when she starts to shake, when something startles her and she doesn't know what is coming. He finds her staring at walls, eyes shuttered, face blank.
Mal avoids Zoe, and Simon thinks this is possibly the worst thing he could be doing. They got through the war, but then they had each other. Right now, it's as though an energy field is pushing them further apart a little more each day.
Only Inara and River seem relatively balanced. River he can't fathom, and he wonders why he thought he ever could. And Inara might move from room to room, eyes kind, face gentle, words soft, but she's drifting.
They all are. The running, the Operative, the loss of Haven, the Reavers, the uncertainty, they took something from each of them, and Simon isn't sure what will get it back. He doesn't really know how to even begin treating each of them.
So he reads.
Zoe goes numb. She finds herself sitting in her bunk, fingers stroking Wash's shirts. She can barely feel them.
Around her, things are changing. She sees the way Jayne looks at her, worried, and hungry, and tense. And Mal, skirting around her, avoiding her. Kaylee, eyes sad, longing. Simon, waiting for her to collapse.
She sees it all, but she doesn't feel. She knows she's beginning to drift from the orbit of Serenity. She plans.
Reavers might have killed Wash, but Zoe knows who was behind it all. Mal had let him go, honouring a truce. But Zoe doesn't let go that easily. No matter what Mal says, what he wants from her, this time, Zoe's going out on her own, even if that means not coming back. The Operative is finished in the Alliance, and he'll go to ground. And Zoe knows all about going to ground when you're being hunted by the Feds.
She's been accessing the Cortex, talking to Inara, gathering everything she can.
Zoe is numb. But she's got plans. She's just biding her time.
She won't wait forever.
|Characters: Zoe, Inara, Mal,
Jayne, Kaylee, Simon, River (gen fic)
Summary: Zoe goes numb.
Spoilers: The movie