Leaving Zoe on the bridge was awkward—couldn't be easy, being there, not now and maybe not ever—but Mal had to sleep. At least River was there to keep a body company.
Minute his head hit the pillow, Book stood beside his bunk.
Mal sat up, heart pounding, but the vision remained. "Shepherd," he said, hoarse.
"I shall not want."
That was a psalm. Twenty-three, maybe?
As if he heard Mal's thoughts, Book smiled. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."
"For you are with me," Mal remembered.
Book nodded. "I'm not really," he said, soft, conspiratorial.
"No, I don't imagine you are."
"Though much can be true without being real."
"You're starting to sound like our albatross."
Book chuckled, though Mal was starting to see the far wall through him. The pain of loss flared.
As if in response, Book solidified again. "What did I just tell you?"
"Damned if I know."
"You'll figure it out," Book said, and raised a hand over Mal for a long minute.
When Zoe woke him six hours later, he could still feel the blessing: unsettling, but a strange comfort nonetheless.