Too damn quiet around these days. No humming up in the cockpit anymore, or the clack-clack of plastic dinosaur feet on the metal consul, or even terribly off-key singing that drove most people away but let them know they doing fine and right on course. He wouldn’t sing if he had be concentrating on something else. Now the whole place got filled up with a pondering kind of silence, competent and sure as anything about flying, but Zoe couldn’t feel the same love that kept Serenity in the air.
There were all kinds of love, she knew. Big ones, small ones, ones that burned you up and used you, others that kept you and sustained you even through the worst of times when you’re cut up and bleeding and dying and near out of your mind with fear. That was the kind she and Wash had for each other.
And then there was the love that flew, that soared, that didn’t know any bounds or stop for anybody or anything. That was the kind of love that Wash’d kept Serenity flying on when they’d run too low on fuel or parts or temper. His love for the black, for seein’ them stars shine bright out that window. For all the joy and wonder that was out there.
She’d never thought she’d see the day when another person’d be flying Serenity.
Another kind of love keeping the old bird going.
Then again, you never see a giant spike through the chest coming. If you do, you’ve got more problems than River.
Only left her with the problem of what to do now.
Lot of options, some good, some bad, some she wouldn’t ever really consider but they managed to cross her mind once or twice. Could always leave. Find a planet to settle down on, finally. Or another berth on another ship. But she couldn’t leave the black, the place she could see the stars clearest, the stars her husband had loved, the ones he had made shine with a new kinda light when he talked about them after she’d long since given up on thinking those were pretty dots in the sky. And she sure as hell couldn’t leave the ship, not when he was worked into every bit and piece of it. When she’d said she’d never leave him, she meant it.
Shuttin’ down seemed like a good idea, right at the beginning. Don’t think too much about where she was sleeping, on who shoulda been sleeping next to her. Don’t feel the aching hole on her heart, like a sucking chest wound bleeding out all over the place. Move, work out, fight, clean her guns, get too exhausted to dream. From moment to moment, each one small and tiny, days divided up as small as she could make them to fill them full to keep her from being reminded how empty they really were.
In between on moment and the next something snapped in her brain. That she shouldn’t be doing this to herself, shuttin’ down again. Alive in body but not in heart or soul. Wash wouldn’t want his absence to make her worse off than when they met. Hell, she didn’t want that. Didn’t want to live that half life again, shut of from everyone and everything, cause it was easier than having to feel the pain and the hurt and the burning that was supposed to let her know she was alive and damn her if that wasn’t okay. She wasn’t gonna stop living cause Wash died. If she did, then he’d really be dead.
He told her once how amazing it felt when he made her smile, like he’d been the crazy bastard who’d stolen fire from the gods themselves. How it made him feel like he’d actually done something with his life, not just being a hot shot flyboy. Not that he didn’t like being a hot shot flyboy, but still. Something for someone else. Someone he loved.
She wasn’t gonna live for him. She was gonna live her life how she wanted, because doing anything else woulda made the time she had with Wash worthless, and damned if she was gonna let that happen.
Maybe she’d find love again. Maybe she won’t.
Maybe she’d die on their next drop. Maybe she’d live till a hundred and twenty with oodles of grandkids around her bed as she slipped off, all quiet like.
Maybe they’ll hit it rich enough to retire to one of them paradise planets and leave the Alliance far behind. (At that thought she snorted, thinking that Mal’d never leave the Alliance behind, but maybe he could be convinced to put a bit more distance between them and his hate. Enough to let them rest a bit.) Or more like they’ll always have enough to just get by and keep Jayne from thinking too seriously about another one-man mutiny.
Maybe they’ll get caught and end up in an Alliance prison. Maybe they’ll fly under the radar and win the fight they’ve started.
Maybe they’ll be villains.
She hopes they’ll be heroes.
All of them.
So the big moment came, that life changing moment when they all went in and were gonna do something not cause it kept them out of the red, but cause it was the right thing to do. It made her heart glad, seeing the captain full of faith and fire again. It made her heart burst with pride and joy to see her husband, the avowed non-combatant be one of the first to throw in for what could get them all killed. For what got him killed.
She couldn’t help the big moment. There’s no choice when those come, she figures. You do the right thing or you go home and die. Might be fate, destiny, she isn’t sure. But what comes after, in how you handle the fallout, the little things that can trip you up and drive you back into being someone you thought you’d left behind a long time ago. Or, or you refuse to loose yourself in the little moments, get bogged down in one thing after another to forget. You take those moments and make them your own, and be glad to be alive. Glad for the gift you’ve been given.
And lost in thought, or prayer, she thinks of him. Talks to him like she did everyday, like she still does.
Wash, Husband, thank you. For everything.
It felt inadequate, for everything he did for her. For all of them. But it’ll do, he’ll understand.
Now. Now she’ll fight the good fight. Now she’ll take the time and enjoy her dinner. Now she’ll go up in the cockpit and keep River a bit of company.
Now she’ll get on with living.