Disclaimer: Thankfully Ivan left my possessions intact. However Firefly and crew was not among them.
Notes: The long over due follow up to Infectious/Interrupted. If you haven't read those, please go do so because none of this will make sense if you don't and I like people to read what I write! Still takes place before the series begins. Still going to be a Wash/Zoë fic no matter what you think after reading this first chapter.
Also, finally getting to watch a lot of the episodes I missed, my timeline is way off. This is either assuming that timelines don't matter, or Inara hadn't been on the ship much more then two months before the event in Infectious. My bad.Chapter 1: Back to Before
If there be sorrow
let it be
for things undone ...
to these add one:
Love withheld ...
... restrainedMari Evans (If There Be Sorrow)
Mal had to admit that they were handling it well.
It had been well over three weeks since Zoë had told him that Wash and her were over. She'd said he didn't have to be worried about them being short with each other or otherwise causing problems now that it had ended. Mal had even offered to get a new pilot, but she said there'd be no reason too. They could still work together without problem.
And they did. Just as good as before. Maybe even better.
That might be a stretch. They didn't so much work together as work in silence. Mal had been worried, real worried that if things had gone sour between the two of them they'd be screaming and hollering too much to mind their jobs but it hadn't been that way. They had both remained professional which was to be expected regarding Zoë, but had surprised him a great deal considering Wash.
Whatever had happened he was just relieved it was now at an end. It had been gotten out of their systems and was thankfully over. They could all move on now with no harm done.
"Cap'n," Kaylee called from the doorway interrupting his thoughts, "Wash says we're fixing to land. We picking up passengers?"
Shuttling passengers was new for Serenity. They'd gotten desperate for a job about a month back and Kaylee had first brought up the idea. Mal had doubted it, seeing as most folks who could pay to travel didn't need to be riding on a Firefly, but Kaylee persisted and had done a damn good job bringing them in. The girl not only had a knack for engines, she could also sweet talk just about anyone.
"Not this time," Mal answered choosing to ignore the hurt look in her eyes. Kaylee loved picking up passengers.
"Okay," she sighed, trying hard to now sound too disappointed.
"We'll see how the job goes. Maybe you'll get lucky and it'll be a bust. We may have to take on a few just to make ends meet."
Kaylee nodded in agreement and left it at that.
"Hey Wash," Kaylee said startling him a bit as she entered the bridge.
"Hush. I'm flying. I could've killed us all."
She let out a snort and could tell, even though she only saw the back of his head that he was smiling.
"You could probably land Serenity blindfolded."
"I don't think Mal would like that."
"Besides there's nothing here to crash into."
"Not now, but fifteen minutes ago there was. Besides, you never know," Wash said, still not facing her. Truth was he really did have to concentrate on this. He'd sat still too long again. Ever since Medea his back had been killing him and everything he did seemed to aggravate it more. Sitting, standing, eating, sleeping, it all hurt now. A small voice in his head was whispered that maybe it wasn't just his back causing the pain, but he ignored it. He was getting good at ignoring that voice.
And aside from the pain, getting onto Circe wasn't exactly easy. Circe wasn't very populated for several reasons. One, getting there was a challenge. Circe was just left of an asteroid belt. A rather unstable one. Navigating it was tricking, but not impossible. It came down to timing. Two, aside from the asteroid belt there was its sun. Circe's sun also had a reputation for being rather unstable. It was continuously emitting flares, huge stop your ship dead in its tracks flares, but that too was a timing thing. But the third and probably biggest reason for most was no one wanted to be so close to the reavers and this was undoubtedly their territory. They only thing keeping reavers off of Circe's were reasons one and two, and for most people that just wasn't enough.
Kaylee had come and leaned against the counsel beside him.
"You ever been here before?" she asked.
"Twice. I think we'd just left Helios before you joined up."
The port city of Helios was just coming into view. Helios was the largest city on the planet Circe and it was prosperous. Circe was the only planet on the fringes, this close to the wild, but somehow it always had supplies, always had work and always had lots of people.
Wash reached across the panel to fine tune the left-rear thruster and a wave of pain shot up his side. Grimacing, but trying hard to conceal his obvious discomfort from Kaylee, he sat back down.
"I'm fine," he said flatly.
Kaylee said nothing. She knew it was a sore subject in more ways then one. Wash's back had gotten bad but for the most part he masked it well. She doubted that anyone outside of Zoë or herself even knew it was a problem for him. Wash joked about a lot of things, even whined about the trivial just because it was, but he would not complain.
Kaylee bounced from foot to foot knowing she should say something but not wanting too. It wasn't the time but she also felt that time was running out. She also knew she should probably be in the engine room right now, they were fixing to land after all, but she couldn't bring herself to leave. She watched Wash as he concentrated on his job, trying to read his expression.
"Do I have something on my face?" he asked with a smile, not taking his eyes off of the display.
Kaylee smiled a bit and shook her head.
"Well what is it?" he laughed, "You're staring at me like you're expecting me to disappear or something."
Kaylee didn't say anything to that. It wasn't funny. Truth is that was exactly what she was expecting.
"We're landing in five," Wash said into the comm before turning to her briefly and asking again, this time more seriously what was wrong.
Kaylee quickly looked over her shoulder, ensuring they were alone, and then back to him.
"I know you're looking. I know you've been looking for a while. And while I can't possibly know how hurt you are, because you won't tell me, I wish you'd stop looking and stay."
Wash turned away from her, glad to focus on the task at hand. He said nothing.
"Have you found something yet?" she asked.
"I'm not looking for a job Kaylee," he said quietly, still refusing to look back at her.
She didn't believe it.
"Then what are you doing?" her voice had risen a bit in volume and they both quickly checked over their shoulders to ensure no one was listening.
"Every town we land in the last week you take off as soon as you can and don't come back until we're ready to leave," Kaylee continued lowering her voice to near conspiratorial levels, "And I can't be the only one that's noticed."
"I'm not looking for a job Kaylee," he repeated, attempting to shrug it off.
"You're just going to leave us stranded one day, aren't you? Take a new job and never look back," she somewhat accused.
"No," he said finally turning to her, "Never. I wouldn't do that."
"Then what?""I'm looking for a replacement, okay? I've been out looking for someone to take over for me," he finally admitted somewhat resigned, "I just can't do this anymore."
"That's even worse!"
"Kaylee," Wash said sharply, this time positive someone would hear, "please, could you keep it down some. I'm going to tell Mal as soon as I've found some one right for the job."
"Oh and he's going to take that well."
"Well, it'll be up to him if he hires the new guy or not, but at least I'll have done my part and not have stranded Serenity without a pilot," Wash said as he began descent into their assigned terminal.
"So you're serious?"
"Don't know what else I can do," he said focusing once more on the task at hand.
Kaylee'd never heard him sound so sad before. She didn't have the particulars, the whys and what's of Wash's and Zoë's relationship together, just that it had ended badly.
She left the helm as quick and she could and made her way to the engines. She didn't want Wash leaving but she didn't want him miserable either. Given her choice she'd have the two of them back together.
Checking over the usual gauges, mentally noting that the left thrusters were running hot again, she sat down on her hammock and vowed to herself to do everything she could to bring them back together. It was where they belonged, whether they could tell it or not.
Wash absentmindedly went through the post-landing checklist. He'd done it so often it was like second nature. He'd barely even registered Inara as she confirmed her shuttles departure and arrival times. She had customers here and would meet back with them late three days from now before they'd departed. He just couldn't focus on that now. Kaylee'd managed to unnerve him.
He didn't think he was being that transparent.
Checking the panels once more, he shut down Serenity. He knew he was expected in the cargo hold, Mal always liked to give little 'lay-low' talks whenever they landed, especially if their next job happened to be less then legal. And this next one was.
Not that he'd have much to do during it. Kaylee and him weren't going to be involved, weren't even leaving Circe. They'd planned to so some minor repairs but that was it.
Wash got up and headed for the cargo bay and was glad to see he was the last one there. He planned it that way so he didn't have to small talk with anyone. He wasn't in the mood.
"Okay," Mal said seeing they'd finally all arrived, "Zoe and I are heading out to meet our contact. I don't want anyone leaving the area until we get back. We don't know yet what this guy wants or even if we'll be accommodating him, so just hang tight till then."
Jayne made his way over to the cargo hold to open up Serenity's main doors. Kaylee joined him, cheerful as ever, wanting to catch a glimpse of this new place. Wash, trying to make a quick escape back to the helm, didn't.
"Got a second," Zoe said effectively stopping him.
"Sure," he replied wheeling round but not really looking at her so much as in her general direction, "What do you need?"
"Just to talk. You and I still have..."
"Zoe," Mal called from across the bay, "Ready?"
"One second," she hollered back.
Wash stood before her now determined to meet her gaze. She read it well. Knew his looks and moods probably better then he did himself.
"Later then?" she asked, equally determined that they would have this out.
He just nodded and she walked away just as Kaylee strolled up.
"You talk to her?" he asked, still watching Zoe go.
"No," she answered, "don't imagine I'd have too."
Wash looked down at her and she shrugged. It was true. If Kaylee had seen that far into his plans, Zoe had too.
There was no escaping her insight.