Captures of a Son
Disclaimer: I don't own Firefly, Serenity, or any of its characters. If I did it wouldn't have been cancelled and Wash would have lived.
1/23/06 I had to change the age at which Zoë dies or the sequel's timeline won't work.
Wei nan – little man
Tsai boo shr- no way
Dong ma- understand
Liu kou shui de biao zi he hou zi de ben er zi- stupid son of a drooling whore and a monkey
Fei hua- nonsense
Wo ai ni- I love you
My daddy died before I was born. Never even knew about me. Momma used to tell me that even if I had known him there wasn't any way I could be more like him. She would say that after I'd gotten into some mischief or another, but she always had a smile on her face when she did.
My life growing up, well it wasn't exactly what you'd call normal. I spent the first twenty years of my life on a ship. But not just any ship. The best ship in the entire 'verse. Serenity.
Daddy had just died when Momma found out about my impending arrival. Mal asked her what she was planning to do and she told him that she wasn't going to take me landside and away from the only family I'd ever have. That's how Kaylee tells in anyway.
Mal was an interesting figure in my life. Part mentor, part friend, part father, part screaming authority figure. But most importantly, Mal was the person I went to when I had a question I couldn't ask Momma. I can remember some of our late night conversations like they happened last week instead of years ago.
I would sneak out of me and Momma's bunk when something, some question, was keeping me up. More often than not I would find the captain sitting on the bridge, staring out at the stars. I asked him once if he ever slept. He said that sleep was never something he was well acquainted with.
The most memorable of these talks happened when I couldn't have been more than seven years old.
Something had been gnawing on my young mind for several days. So I waited until Momma went to sleep before sliding back the curtain that separated our areas of the bunk and making my way up to the bridge.
As expected, Mal was sitting in the pilot's chair just staring off into space. He turned when he heard me.
"Hey wei nan," he said. "Everything okay?"
Here's one of the great things about Malcolm Reynolds. Earlier that day I had rigged the ship's wave screens to play a capture of Mal singing an old song from Earth-that-was while washing dishes and dancing. He'd been furious and reprimanded me for messing with his ship. But none of this mattered at night. Regardless of the trouble I got into during the day, Mal was always willing to lend an ear at night.
I walked over and leaned against the consol. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure," Mal answered.
"Does…does Momma ever…does she ever wish I wasn't here."
"What are you talking about? Tsai boo shr."
"I just, sometimes I see her lookin' at me. And she's got this real sad look on her face. Maybe I act too much like my daddy. Maybe I just make her sad that he's not here. I try not to act like him but…"
"Conor Book Washburne," Mal said, "you could no more stop acting like your daddy then you could stop breathin'. I don't wanna hear no more talk like that. You be who you are. Dong ma?"
"Now as for the rest," he continued. "Ain't no denying that when your momma looks at you she sees your daddy. Hell, if you didn't have her hair and skin I'd say your daddy just cloned himself."
I smiled a little at this. Mal reached out and pulled me onto his lap, wrapping his long arms around me as I lay my head against his shoulder.
"When your daddy died I thought your momma might die too. But then you came. And she named you Conor. You know what your name means?"
"River told me it means much wanted."
"That's right. And that's what you are. Your momma loves somethin' fierce. Fiercer than I ever seen her love before. She don't want you not to be here. No matter how much like Wash you are."
"Conor your momma is always gonna miss your daddy. Ain't nothin' that can stop that. We all miss him. But I want you to hear me when I say that she ain't got no regrets when it comes to you."
"I miss him too." I looked up at Mal's face. "Daddy I mean. Sometimes when you all are tellin' stories 'bout him I miss him so much my stomach hurts. Is that wrong? Missin' someone you ain't never met?"
"No wei nan, it ain't wrong."
I must have fallen asleep after that because the next thing I remember is waking up in my bed listening to Mal give Momma a rough description of what I'd asked him. At first I wanted to be mad that he'd told her but when he left and Momma pulled back the curtain I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep.
I felt the bed shift as she sat down on the edge and pulled the blanket closer around me. When she leaned down and whispered, "I love you more than life my beautiful baby boy," all thoughts of anger towards Mal were gone. I was surrounded by the love of my mother and I knew that somehow, I was surrounded by my father's love as well.
My Momma was the greatest woman I ever met. When I was a kid I thought she was superwoman. I didn't think there was anything she couldn't do. My life growing up on Serenity wasn't quiet or even what you might call a normal upbringing, but it was never boring and I never doubted that I was surrounded by people who loved me and who would always protect me.
I guess you could say that the oddest thing about my upbringing was my education. I didn't have what you'd label formal schooling. I learned what I needed to know from the people around me who were willing to teach.
Thanks to Kaylee I knew how to make a ship fly. Thanks to Simon I could keep a wounded crewmate alive until a doctor could get there. With Jayne, I was a better shot than most Alliance soldiers I've run into. And due partly to genetics and partly to Mal, I could fly a ship nearly as well as my Daddy.
Inara put herself in charge of my more traditional education; teaching me to read, write, and about different cultures, she even taught me to dance.
River taught me the value of playing; we'd spend hours playing with the plastic dinosaurs that had once been my daddy's. Mal taught me how to lead people, how to strategize in tense situations, and how to be an honorable man.
And Momma, well momma taught everything else. I learned how to walk so no one could hear me, how to figure out an enemy's weakness, how to trust a crew. Momma taught me how to be loyal; she taught me how to love.
When people find out I grew up on a ship they're surprised. But they're even more surprised when they find out what the crew on that ship did for a living. I get asked all the time how old I was when I first saw someone die.
The first time I ever saw someone die was when I was five years old. A man, I either never knew his name or I've forgotten it, he was angry at Jayne. Jayne had wronged him in some way or another. This man thought the best way to get Mal to turn Jayne over was to hold a gun to me.
I don't know if my momma or Mal or Jayne shot first but that man ended his days with three holes side by side in his forehead. After that all I remember is momma's arms around me and Jayne apologizing over and over again. Mal told me some time later that it was the first time he'd ever heard those words sincerely from Jayne.
People are shocked that I can talk about these times with such calmness. I don't tell them that it's the things I won't talk about that still wake me up in a cold sweat.
I guess physical scars are to be expected when you live on a smuggling ship. I have my fair share of them, including a very impressive one that travels the length of my back from the time when I was twelve falling in the engine room during a particularly turbulent take-off and sliced my skin open on part of Serenity's engine. Kaylee sat with me the whole time Simon was doing the stitches; I had to convince her that I wasn't mad at Serenity.
It's the emotional scars that really stick. I carry less of those around with me but the ones that I have cut deeper than Serenity's engine ever could have. One however, one scar sticks out.
I got it when I was ten years old. We'd just finished a job and gotten paid fairly well so Mal said we could stay landside on one of the outer moons for a day. Kaylee, six months pregnant at the time, dragged Simon to the nearest junkyard to scavenge for parts. Jayne headed to the nearest bar. Inara and River decided to check out the local shops and Mal went with them…well because he wanted to watch Inara try on clothes.
That left me and Momma. We decided to buy some food and have a picnic by the lake near the town. I was thrilled to get a whole day alone with Momma.
I don't rightly know how we were captured. My memory cuts out for a while. I know there were three of them. I know that when I woke up in a small cell with my hands bound behind my back, Momma was bleeding from a bullet hole in her upper arm.
The faces of the two men who came for us and brought us to another room are lost to me. But the bigger one had a tattoo along his arm of a mutilated body. Momma caught be staring at it and moved so her side was touching my shoulder.
"Listen to me Son," she said. "When I say your name, I want you to close your eyes. Don't open them, no matter what you hear. Dong ma?"
I nodded. We were led into a room with a pillar in the center. Another door opened and a man walked in. As much as I can't remember the minions' faces, this man's face is burned into my psyche. It's his face that can still wake me at night. His voice that I hear in my nightmares.
"Niska," my Momma growled.
"Mrs. Washburne," he replied. "So nice to see you again."
"It's been ten years Niska. When you gonna give this up?"
"Zoë, Zoë, Zoë, it's not about how much time has past. Surely you must see that. Can you tell me that if I were to pass you on the street you would not shoot me?"
Momma was silent. Niska then turned towards me. "Well if you aren't the copy of your father. Such a shame he couldn't join us."
At this comment Momma tried to rush forward but she was held firmly in place by tattoo man. "You touch one hair on my boy's head and I will end you," Momma said, her voice dangerously soft.
Niska faced her once again. "I believe you. So I will not touch him. You on the other hand, well I think it's time we got to know the real Zoë Washburne."
All of a sudden two hands grabbed my shoulders as tattoo man bound Momma to the pillar. They hooked up machines to her all the while I struggled against my captor. Momma looked over at me, "Conor," she said.
I nodded once and then shut my eyes tight. I wished I could use my hands to cover my ears because the sound was horrible. Electricity and burning and Momma trying not to scream. After a minute it stopped and Niska spoke.
"Well now young man," he said. "I do not think you seem to understand what I am doing here. My little experiment might not work if you close your eyes. So why don't we play a game. Every time you close your eyes or look away I'm going to turn my little machine up."
My eyes flew open went straight to my mother who was shaking her head. Blood was running down the side of her face. "No baby," she said. "Don't listen. Just close your eyes."
Niska tapped the controls to the machine. "You wouldn't want to be the cause of your mother's pain would you?"
"Please," I whispered. "Please don't hurt her."
"You must know that I'm going to hurt her. But how much I hurt her, well that depends on you." He pushed a button and Momma tensed in obvious pain. By reflex I shut my eyes. "Now why did you go and do that?" Niska asked.
I quickly opened my eyes. Niska smiled and continued his torture of my momma. Tears began running down my face. After ten minutes I was shouting at him.
"Stop! Please stop!" Every time I asked tattoo man would hit Momma where the bullet had got her. Momma kept telling me to look away. I did and Niska turned the machine up significantly. Momma's cries of pain made me open my eyes again and keep them open. I willed myself not to be the cause of more pain.
It went on for another ten minutes. I was sobbing at that point. Yelling obscenities at Niska, things I'd heard others on the ship say. "Leave her alone! You frog-humping bastard! Liu kou shui de biao zi he hou zi de ben er zi! Stop it!" But he just smiled.
Now again my memory flickers out again. I remember shooting. Mal, Jayne, Simon, and Inara running into the room. Mal throwing Niska through a window and then shooting him in the head. I can see Mal freeing Momma and picking her up into his arms and I remember seeing the blood on her face, thinking she might be dead. I remember Jayne's arms picking me up. Then all I remember is darkness as I must have passed out.
When I woke up I was back in the infirmary on Serenity. Though I still felt exhausted, I was instantly alert. I looked over and saw Momma lying there. She was asleep and I could see the bandage on her arm and where Simon had stitched her face. There were various other cuts and bruises on her arms and face as well. Ones I hadn't noticed.
I felt sick.
Simon, who'd been cleaning his instruments turned and saw that I was awake. But before he could come over to me I jumped up and bolted. Simon called out after me but I kept running until I got to the cargo bay. Finally stopping to breathe I felt sick again and threw up between some storage containers. Since I hadn't eaten for some time all that came up was bile.
When the heaving stopped I sank down to the floor, leaning against the side of a container. Pulling my knees to my chest I tried to stop the hyperventilating. That was where Inara found me minutes later.
"Conor," she said softly, in her gentle way of talking that usually calmed me. Not that day. She tried to put a hand on my shoulder but I flinched and curled up tighter.
"Don't touch me," I said.
"It's Inara sweetheart. I'm not going to hurt you." Again she tried to reach out to me and again I pulled farther away.
"Conor do you know where you are?"
I nodded. "Serenity."
"You're safe now. Niska can't hurt you anymore."
"He didn't hurt me," I said into my knees. "He hurt her."
"Your momma is fine. Simon says she'll be awake soon. She'll want to see you."
I shook my head vehemently.
"Of course she wants to see you," Inara said. "Conor…"
"It's my fault," I whispered. "He told me to keep my eyes open or he'd hurt her more. I tried. Couldn't help it. I tried." The last words were more of a sob and this time when Inara pulled me towards her I didn't fight back. She rubbed my back and whispered soothing words.
It felt like hours before I stopped crying. Finally I pulled away and wiped my eyes. Looking up I saw that Mal was standing on the stairs watching us. "Come on wei nan," he said, holding out his hand.
I stood up and looked back at Inara. She smiled down on me and kissed my forehead lightly. "You're a brave boy Conor Washburne," she said.
I nodded and walked over to Mal who put a comforting hand on my shoulder as he led me out of the cargo bay. "Your momma's awake," he told me. "Simon and Jayne took her back to your bunk."
"She's gonna be fine. Doc fixed her up real good."
When we got to the bunk the door was open. I could hear Simon giving Momma instructions about her injuries. I climbed down the ladder, Mal following close behind. When I stepped into Momma's side of the room I tried my best to hold back the hot tears that were pushing against my eyes again. I didn't want to cry. I wasn't the one to get hurt.
Momma was sitting up in bed and when I walked into the room I saw her face relax. "Come here baobei," she breathed, holding out her arms.
I rushed to her and held on for dear life as Momma rocked me gently and kissed my hair. Mal and Simon must have gone but I don't remember them leaving. I just remember holding on to the most important person in my life and never wanting to let go.
Eventually Momma shifted so that she was lying down on the bed, her arms still held tight around me. I lay my head against her breast and listened to the steady heartbeat. "I'm sorry Momma," I whispered at last.
"What do you have to be sorry for?"
"I should have kept my eyes open."
Momma squeezed me tighter. "No baby," she said. "It's not your fault. That man was fengdian He would have done it no matter what."
"Wo ai ni Momma."
"I love you too baby."
We lay like that for a long time. My body shaking with sobs that never seemed to end. After a while Momma's voice began to sing softly.
Baby mine, don't
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part, baby of mine
It was song she used to sing to me when I was little. A song from Earth-that-was.
Little one when
Don't you hear what they say
Let those eyes sparkle and shine
Never a tear, baby of mine
Baby mine, don't
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part, baby of mine
She didn't know all the words but listening to her voice the sobs began to subside and I slowly fell asleep.
I've never told anyone that story. Never told anyone that for two weeks I slept in Momma's bed because if I tried to sleep in my own bed I'd be awake all night with visions of Niska and Momma's face when he was torturing her.
They say time heals all wounds. Heals is a mighty strong word for what time does to wounds. I'd say time is the scar tissue of wounds. Covers them up, but leaves a mark. My Momma never really healed from losing my Daddy. River never really healed altogether either. And me, well I eventually went back to my own bed. The nightmares never completely went away but I went on with my life. Mal used to say that if you didn't then the bad guys won.
Played dinosaurs with River and danced with Inara. Had shooting practice and combat training with Jayne. Later that year he gave me my first gun. Momma told me that every time I drew it I should think about what I was shooting for. I kept up my late-night talks with Mal, I'm pretty sure Momma knew about them but she never said. Helped take care of Simon and Kaylee's son when he was born.
They named him Hoban Frye Tam. I saw a tear run down Momma's face when they told her. Little Hobie was the brother I never had. Even with our age differences we remained close throughout our lives. As we did with Mal and Inara's daughter Mia, and Hobie's baby sister Janey.
Most kids want to grow up so that they can go out into the 'verse on their own. The children of the crew of Serenity were different. We've stayed with the ship for our whole lives. When our parents got too old to be running around the 'verse we all went back to the Haven. Rebuilt, and made a home.
Serenity stayed with us though. Mal gave it to Mia when he decided to settle in the Haven. She took over as captain, Janey had her namesake's gift for combat so she became first mate. Hobie followed his mother as a mechanic while I took over my father's chair as pilot, dinosaurs and everything.
At first all we used the ship for were supply runs and the occasional job that came along. But when the Second Independents War began…well that's another story.
Momma died almost five years ago. Followed Mal who'd gone two years before, and Jayne three years before that. She was eighty-three. The only comfort I can take in their deaths is that all three lived to see the end of the war. Lived to see the Haven become an Independent territory, along with many others.
I took her back to the place where my Daddy was buried and laid her next to him in the ground. It was where she belonged.
The rest of the remaining crew was there. Kaylee, Simon, Inara, and River all looking old and worn but still alive. Hobie, Janey, and Mia stood beside me. My wife Megan and our twins Zoë and Alec stood with Hobie's and Mia's daughter Leona. Mal, Jayne, and Shepherd Book's graves surrounded hers and Daddy's. A family, even in death.
In the distance Serenity stood by. Though Hobie and I had completely gutted and rebuilt her engine, and the outside had been pieced together with various parts and worn by war. She was still Serenity. Silently watching over her children.
There might be more stories involving Conor and the Second Independents War.
I do not own the lyrics to "Baby Mine."