AUTHOR: Erin Giles


DISCLAIMER: As usual, Joss is boss!

SUMMARY: A little post "The Message" fic because when starting out on firefly fanfiction I didn't want to throw myself in at the deep end…

No one spoke at dinner that evening, no one had any reason to. Wash and Zoë sat in sombre silence, Wash, a comforting hand upon Zoë's thigh, Zoë a watchful eye on her husband as he deliberately played with his food, his appetite lacking this evening. Simon and Kaylee sat closer than usual, their hands resting close beside their knives between mouthfuls, fingers brushing each other's hand subtly. Shepard Book sat in silent prayer for a long time before his hands even touched the cutlery on the table. Even River sat beside Jayne silently, watching every member of the crew sat round the table. Her eyes resting on Malcolm Reynolds for a long moment, he did not seem interested in his food, or in his surroundings and it didn't take long before he rose and left. Eyes followed him out the Mess and soon the rest had departed, only Jayne left to eat what no one else had felt they could eat.

Zoë lay down between the sheets next to her husband who watched her for a long moment before he reached out for her. She let him wrap his arms round her as she moved towards him, burying her head in his chest as she wept silently, something she had not done in the long time, "Bao bei." He whispered softly as he ran a hand through her hair, holding her quivering body close to his. He would never understand what was between Zoë and Mal, could never understand what the war had created between them.

Zoë eventually pulled away and looked up into the crystal blue eyes of the man she loved, "I'm sorry." She whispered as she reached up and gently touched the bandage that concealed the bullet graze. He frowned in pain before he pulled her towards him again, "Nothing to apologise for, Zo'." He said softly, "War was just in his nature."

"I was too young to remember the war, but my daddy told me plenty." Kaylee said softly to Simon as they sat outside the infirmary, "Told me everything that went on, 'bout people who fought bravely for what they believed in, people that came home again." Kaylee turned to look at Simon, "He never told me what war did to 'em." She looked down at her hands, but Simon did not speak, "Just seems wrong somehow, someone so young got an attitude so wrong he can't trust people on his side, only wanted to see his family 'gain." Kaylee sniffed as she lent into Simon, "That so wrong?"

Simon didn't say anything but sat in silence as Kaylee sobbed quietly into his shoulder. He had dealt with veterans, dealt with people both physically and mentally damaged by what had happened to them, and like Kaylee he couldn't stand it. But he had bigger things to worry about, more Wars on his hand that but him up more deeply than any veteran.

Malcolm Reynolds sat in the pilot's chair of his ship, Serenity, watching stars flit across the sky in a mournful wake. He had shot many a man in his life, but never one he felt so guilty about afterwards.

He had reason though, one of his crew, his family was in danger, one of his crew already hurt, yet Zoë hadn't had a second thought. War did terrible things to a man, he knew, could take away his faith in anything and everything – had done in fact.

Mal knew Tracey had had no other choice, he was desperate, it was kill or be killed, always was in times of war. You save yourself before you save others, its instinct, you don't need it hammered into you, its already there. The instinct of War never fades, but you learn to live with it and overcome it, but it's always a part of you.

Mal sighed as he gazed round the cockpit of his ship as Tracey's words echoed throughout Mal's brain, while he sat staring out into the nights sky.

"When you can't walk, you crawl, and when you can't do that…"

"You find someone to carry you." He said softly to Serenity as she hummed her approval.