(This ficlet uses the backstories for the crew of Serenity that I created in "Phyxius". It's got spoilers for the entire series of Firefly and the movie Serenity, and for the Supernatural episodes "The Monster at the End of This Book" [4x18] and "Swan Song" [5x22].)
Girl might've saved the 'verse, but that didn't mean he was ever gonna expect to see her little body, looking like something he could crumple up and stow away in the cargo hold, where Wash's solid presence used to be.
He jittered around, watching her bring Serenity up with the ease of unthinking mastery. She was set, Inara was back, Jayne had more guns than he knew what to do with, Kaylee had busier hands than Simon had imagined; they had the sky spread out before them like velvet underneath diamonds, like all he had to do was hold out his hand and the perfect life would drop right into it. His jittering was unaccountable. Maybe he wasn't cut out for the shiny life, fancy hats and more ease than the king of all Londinium.
Still with the jangling inside him, a knotted fist throwing out flashes of lightning, he left the bridge to River and her big scary brain.
Only to find it staring him in the face when he got back to his bunk. Gorram girl had no more sense'n a bitty little bug, rooting through his things like that. Needed to be taught a lesson, but he weren't so twisted up inside that he couldn't see he weren't never gonna be the one to teach her anything.
That soft red cover was spotted with dirt and dust, marks of battlefields and everyday use, both. He'd thrown away the cross he'd kissed, but couldn't bring himself to leave behind the book Luke and Charlie had given him, bound in the fabric of his mother's favorite horse-blanket, the book she'd tucked into his hand every Sunday evening because she claimed that mornings were a time for work and she'd think more easily on the Lord's blessings when she was worn through with labor and the melody of a joyous hymn could wind right through her.
He traced a finger down the front cover, nail snagging on the worn patch as familiar to him as if he hadn't last seen the book in Zoe's hands after Serenity Valley had marked him as her own. The bible fell open easily, reminding him where he'd left off, in the story of the two brothers, choosing sides, fighting, trying to hang on.
At home only together in the car that had sheltered them as truly as they'd loved her. Watching the stars, when they wanted to sit shoulder-to-shoulder. Watching each other the rest of their lives, each knowing that all he needed was the other, a smile below serious eyes, a fellow warrior, a comrade, an equal.
The fist inside him opened suddenly, the prophet's words lighting the way. It was Zoe that he was feeling inside him, Zoe who had lost more than any of them and still managed to shore him up.
He stumbled out of his bunk, found her dry-eyed in her own, head bent an angle that he knew on her to be sorrow. Grief had kept her hands still, not tidily mending laundry or efficiently cleaning a weapon, still and locked over her empty womb. She met his eyes squarely, and he lost himself for a moment, just gazing back; Zoe was his, completely familiar, but he'd never get used to the beauty of her.
This bunk had been hers to share with her husband, and he knew he didn't belong. But there was a view from the empty shuttle of a spot where the last remnants of Serenity's war paint could still be seen, and they went together to the shuttle, sat close enough that there was warmth shared between them from hip to shoulder, down the matching lengths of their thighs, and they looked out at the bloody marks, faded by the light of the stars.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.