Title: Serenity Shattered
Rating: M (for violence and language)
Summary: They all think Wash is gone, and they mourn for him, but he's not as far away as it seems…
N.B.: Crossover – Firefly/Stargate SG-1
Disclaimer: I don't own Firefly, Serenity or Stargate SG-1 (although I wish I did), and I made no money from this.
I saw the Serenity movie, was promptly horrified (they killed Wash!) and decided to fix what that &£!(£#&! who decided to kill my favourite character had done.
Me and one of my friends (who was equally horrified) discussed ways of fixing it, and then I used both our ideas and this was the result.
It's not bad.
And it's set (obviously) after the movie in Firefly, and in mid-Season 7 in Stargate.
He sat slumped in his chair, toying with the glass in front of him, watching the pearlescent liquid swirl in a whirlpool of oblivion at the base of the crystal tumbler. He had been warned to expect 'some friction' in moving up a level of existence, but he wouldn't let go of his former life. He didn't even know how the mission had turned out, whether his friends had succeeded in broadcasting the message, or if they were all destroyed, by the Alliance, by the Reavers. He subconsciously ran his palm across his chest, across the invisible scar.
He screwed his eyes shut and knocked back the alcohol, relishing its heady burn in his throat and stomach. He dropped the tumbler to the tabletop and let his head fall back.
He heard the seat across from him creak as someone sat down. "Hello," that same someone said.
"What's your name?"
He opened his eyes and looked up. "Wash," he replied shortly.
"I'm Daniel Jackson," the newcomer said. "You're new around here, aren't you?"
"If you don't mind me asking, how did you…"
"Die?" Wash stretched his legs out under the desk, affecting nonchalance. "Reavers."
"Reavers?" Daniel asked. His forehead was furrowed in confusion. "What're Reavers?"
Wash pulled himself straight in his seat. "Inhuman creatures, who rape you to death, eat your flesh and sew your skin into their clothes, and not necessarily in that order." His face, suited more to jovial joking, was set and solemn. "I was rammed through the chest with one of their harpoons." He shrugged. "Like a bug on a pin."
"Well," Daniel said. "There isn't much I can say to that."
Wash grinned. "Fair enough."
"What do you think of all this?" Daniel asked. "Ascension and… stuff."
"It's a load of rubbish," Wash replied. "I'd much prefer to be alive, on Serenity."
"Yeah. I was her pilot." Wash smiled to himself. "I am a leaf on the wind," he murmured. "Watch how I soar."
"Do I want to know?" Daniel asked, a smile hovering around his lips.
Her bed seemed strangely empty.
Zoë lay on her back, staring into the darkness above her. It was still somehow surreal that he was truly gone, like she was dreaming. But she couldn't deny it, even though they had had no body to bury. She had arrived at Serenity, ahead of all the others, and had found his body gone. The Reavers hadn't breached the ship, they hadn't defiled his lifeless form, but Wash's body had vanished, all the same. But still, she had put it behind her, as she always did, and moved on.
Or at least, tried to move on.
He was her husband, had been her husband.
How could you just move on from that?
She screwed her eyes shut and dragged the cover up over her body. She rolled onto her side, determined to sleep.
The then ship juddered violently, and she was thrown out of the bed. "What the…"
The intercom crackled into life. "Zoë, get to the Bridge. Now!"
She groaned. "It always happens in the middle of the night," she muttered. "Always."
Mal hardly looked up from the helm as Zoë came in at a run. "Sir?"
"Reavers," he replied shortly.
She sat down in the second chair. "Have they noticed us yet?" she asked, her voice terse.
"Of course they have," Mal replied. His fingers were clenched around the controls, his knuckles white. "Whether they do anything is a different matter." He nodded back towards the comm. "Tell the rest of the ship to keep quiet."
Zoë stood up and hooked the mike down. "Everyone," she said, "we have a Reaver ship on our tail, but it'll be okay…"
River looked up as Zoë's voice came over the comm. A thoughtful expression crossed her features. "She wants revenge," she murmured. "They killed him. She wants to kill them."
Then she danced away down the corridor, seemingly uncaring, and Zoë's voice spoke to an empty hallway.
Zoë stared at the slowly moving Reaver ship. It had moved around so they were facing Serenity head-on. Her eyes narrowed, but she wasn't looking at the Reavers. Wash's face swam before her eyes, and she gritted her teeth. They had killed him. He was dead because of them.
And they would pay.
Jack pulled his baseball cap down on his head, shielding his eyes from the boiling suns. His sandy uniform clung to his sweaty body and grains of sand trickled down his trousers as he sat in the shifting grains. He rested his P-90 across his knees, and began to wonder why he had bothered bringing the bulky gun. He was stuck in the middle of a goddamn desert on a godforsaken rock in space in a goddamn binary system with two goddamn huge suns roasting anything stupid enough to be out in the middle of the day, like his (sometimes) goddamn team! What was the likelihood that they were going to encounter any alien hostiles that he could blow, shoot and/or kick the crap out of? Not a lot, that was for sure.
Jack groaned. "Daniel?" he responded wearily.
"I've found something! You gotta see this!"
Jack heard the archaeologist's voice continue to babble into the distance, but he zoned it out. With a twang of protest from his knee he levered himself to his feet and set off after Daniel. "He's prob'ly found some kind of earth-shattering revelation about life as we know it—" he began to climb the rocky side of a swallow basin in the sand "—written in alien squiggles and doodles—" he hauled himself to the top and dusted himself down "—painted on an eggcup and—" he looked up "—holy crap!"
Daniel looked at his CO with an amused grin on his face. "I thought you might say that."
There was a gaping hole in the air, hovering a few feet above the sandy ground. There was a whirling tunnel beyond, dotted with stars and streaked with blue and purple. It made Jack's head spin just to look at it, but he couldn't stop himself staring.
Finally he shifted his gaze to Daniel. "What did you touch?" he demanded, hands on hips, an irritated parent addressing an errant child.
Daniel immediately pointed to Sam, who was studying her scanner intently. "Wasn't me!" he said proudly. "It was Sam!"
"And don't try to blame it on Teal'c! It wasn't him."
Teal'c dark eyebrow shot up, and Jack could tell that the customary 'indeed' was hovering on the big Jaffa's lips. But Sam beat him to it. And she wasn't joking around.
"Colonel," she said distractedly. "Something's not right." She looked up, and there was a hint of suppressed fear in her eyes. "This…thing is emitting massive gravity waves, which are getting stronger."
Jack started to move towards her. "I'm not feeling any different," he said, his forehead furrowed.
"Not sideways," Sam said. She pointed to the clear blue skies. "Up."
"Um, Jack," Daniel said slowly. He was studying the sky, his head tilted back, hand shading his eyes. "Is it just me, or are the suns getting bigger?"
"Not bigger Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said softly. "Closer."
"Why aren't they just ramming us apart?" Zoë asked, though she knew the answer.
"They want us alive." Mal stared intently at the Reaver ship. "They want to keep us alive and screaming."
"They're not gonna take Serenity," Zoë said. "They've already murdered one of us, and they're not gonna take any more."
Mal said nothing, in the positive or negative. His gaze flicked to the row of plastic dinosaurs stuck along the top of the consoles. They were the last physical reminder of Serenity's lost pilot, but Wash's presence still lingered on the Bridge. The Helm belonged to him, and he had died in it. Mal sighed. Zoë was right. Serenity had lost too much already, Shepherd Book to the Alliance, Wash to the Reavers. No more. "They're gonna latch onto the cargo hold doors and try to cut through," he said, his voice almost frighteningly calm. "Go arm the others. Get them all in the hold. And make sure River doesn't panic. That girl's better than Jayne." His hands tightened even more around the controls. "I'll try and lose them, but…" He trailed off, but Zoë knew what he was thinking. I'm not Wash. Mal cleared his throat. "No guarantees."
"Yes sir." As she left the Bridge, a grim smile hovered around Zoë's lips. This was her chance. And no way was she gonna let it go.
"Back to the 'gate. Now!"
"Sir, it's too late!" She studied the readings, and then looked straight at the Colonel. "We're too far away from the 'gate, we'd never make it!"
"Carter!" Jack snapped. "That thing is about to pull two suns into this godforsaken lump of rock! In ten minutes we're gonna be stood in a black hole!" Do you have a better idea!"
Without hesitation she pointed at the anomaly. "We go through there sir."
The thuds and scratching at the cargo hold door was getting louder, more frantic. The crew of Serenity were silent, watching, waiting for the inevitable. Mal had come down from the Bridge and stood beside him crew.
Kaylee jumped as something smashed through the metal entryway. Her fingers were bone-white as they clenched around the grip of her weapon. She jumped back with a squeak as something was flung through the small hole and skittered across the floor to rest at her feet.
"Here they come," Jayne muttered as a crazed yowling filtered through from the Reaver ship, swiftly followed by the stench of rotten flesh. "Let's do it."
"For Serenity," Inara said softly.
"Sir, it makes sense!" Sam exclaimed.
"Jack, she's right," Daniel said, a note of panic in his voice. "It's take a chance on this, or…" His voice faded for a second. "Or end up like SG-10, and Henry Boyd."
Jack groaned. "Not fair Daniel," he complained.
"He is correct O'Neill." Teal'c grasped his staff weapon firmly. "We must try."
Jack glanced up at the sky. The suns were at least three times the size they had been. Definitely closer. "Okay," he said reluctantly. "But me first!" And with that he took a running leap and rocketed through into the whirling anomaly, and SG-1 were right on his heels.
"What is that?"
Simon pointed upwards at the whirling vortex that had just opened above their heads. River looked up, following his finger. A smile slipped onto her face. "From so far away," she murmured. "And so old. Silly woman, shouldn't've touched, usually so clever. Big man scared, but doesn't show." She giggled. "Old man, frustrated, likes to make things go BOOM!" Her face clouded. "But still hurts inside, from his past. And the other… the one who is buried in the has been, who walked among the angels." She frowned slightly. "Doesn't remember, but has seen…" She trailed off, frowning. "Has seen Wash?" No one heard her last three whispered words, but she knew she was correct, and the frown remained on her face.
And she saw the four explorers before they appeared, and skipped lightly back before four figures clad in sand-coloured and –covered uniforms thudded to the deck. She looked over as they tried to orient themselves. Her gaze fixed on the man with the greying hair, and she felt his suppressed frustration swirl just beneath the surface.
River looked over at the entrance to the cargo hold. The metal was shaking with the ferocity of the Reaver attack. She lightly bit her lip. "Boom," she whispered.
And the Reavers were upon them.
Instinct took over; rational thought was thrown out the window.
"What the hell?" Even as Jack yelled out, he swung up his P-90 and let out a burst of gunfire that sliced through the massed mob of crazed hostiles. He heard Sam's weapon chatter, the sharp crack of Daniel's Beretta, felt the heat of Teal'c staff weapon as a bolt of boiling plasma sizzled the air. He swore as he heard a sharp click, dropped the empty ammo clip to the deck and reloaded in one fluid motion. "What are these things?" he yelled, ramming the butt of his P-90 into the closest hostile's face, then spinning the gun around and silencing the creature's howls in a burst of bullets.
Jack rounded on Daniel, who looked just as confused as he felt. "How the hell do you know that?" he demanded.
The 'Reaver' appeared behind the archaeologist at the same time as Daniel saw something over Jack's shoulder.
"Duck!" they both yelled at the same time. In perfect synchronisation they dropped to their knees, raised their weapons, pulled the triggers and two bullets zoomed over their heads, blowing the heads off two hostiles. Jack sprang to his feet, Daniel right behind. He swung around to face the archaeologist.
"Talk later, shoot now!"
"Qu ni di?"
"Qu ni de. You have to say it right Daniel."
"Qu ni de?"
"That's right." Wash looked pleased with himself.
"Wash, what does qu ni de actually mean?" Daniel asked, his eyes narrowed with suspicion.
"Um, 'sunshine and flowers'?" Wash ventured.
"I'm gonna choose not to respond to that," Daniel replied, his arms folded across his chest.
"Err, screw you…"
Daniel's face assumed a well-used long-suffering expression. "You've been teaching me a list of swear words."
"Yeah, I guess I have," Wash said, without a hint of remorse.
"Okay." Daniel shook his head. "What does zao gao mean?"
"Crap," Wash answered, almost the picture of innocence.
"Ta ma de?"
"Fuck me blind."
"Shut up. Not so much swearing…"
"Yian ta de gui?"
"Right. First, it's jian, not yian, and second, it means like hell."
"I worked with Jack O'Neill for six years," Daniel said, thumping himself lightly on the forehead. "Why didn't I see this coming?"
Wash laughed. "I like the sound of this Jack O'Neill," he said. "I think I'd like to meet him some time."
Daniel sighed. "Maybe you will," he said. He leaned forward. "Hey, I've told you about my life, who I was, the people I worked with. You've said practically nothing about who you were."
Wash's face darkened, and Daniel immediately realised he'd stuck his foot in his mouth. Big time. "Sorry Wash," he said softly. "I wasn't thinking."
"No, I guess I have to face up to it sometime," Wash murmured. He leaned back in his seat. "Lemme see. I piloted a ship called Serenity, a Firefly. I liked playing with… with, um, plastic dinosaurs and irritating the others." He rapped his fingers lightly on the tabletop, thinking. "To begin with, there were five of us as the crew. Then we got a Companion, and three passengers."
"Companion?" Daniel queried.
"You'll see," Wash said absently. "Okay. First, the Captain, Mal Reynolds. Runs a good ship. There's me, Hoban Washburne."
"Hoban?" Daniel's voice was full of laughter.
Wash suppressed a shudder. "I think my father was drunk when he named me," he said, trying to ignore the grin creasing Daniel's face. "Anyway. There's Jayne Cobb. He's a bit thick at times—"
"He? A guy called Jayne?"
"I know. Almost as bad as Hoban." A small smile started to twitch at Wash's lips. "He's the hired muscle. And he's got a gun called Vera. Say nothing! Next, Kaylee, Serenity's mechanic. Her name's a bit of a mouthful too, 'Kaywinnit Lee Frye'. Very nice girl. Loves strawberries. Um... Inara Serra, the Companion. Companions are kinda like…" He paused. "Like, I think the term in courtesan…"
"Yeah, but she doesn't really like being called that. Our passengers, Simon Tam, the doc, and his crazy sister River. They're running from the law." Wash stopped for a second. "Then Shepherd Book. He was Serenity's resident holy man, and was very good with a gun…"
"I thought the Bible was against killing?" Daniel interrupted.
"Yeah, but apparently it says nothing about kneecaps." Wash sighed, his grin fading. "Then he was killed by the Alliance, just a bit before I was." Wash's voice faded.
"That's eight," Daniel said, softly. "You said there were nine of you?"
"Yeah." Wash sighed. "Zoë. The second-in-command, the first mate." He paused. "Zoë Washburne."
"Washburne? Related to you?"
Wash looked up at Daniel. "Married," he replied. "She was my wife."
He was my husband, and you took him from me!
The chatter of bullets dimmed into background-noise as her rage took centre stage. She felt the two pistols in her hands recoil and she slammed the triggers, pouring death into the mass of screaming Reavers. Still the inhuman creatures kept coming, trampling the bodies of their former fellows in their haste to get to the band of humans.
"Zoë, look out!"
She recognised the Captain's voice calling out to her, but barely registered the words, or the frantic tone in which they were yelled.
"Zoë, behind you!"
She turned around in a flash, her fingers already tightening on the triggers. She registered some kind of axe swinging towards her head, and then her world exploded into a firework of white-hot agony, and all she could see was darkness.
The feeling of sticking his foot in his mouth was back with a vengeance. And along with that was the memory of another woman, her radiant innocent smile that had been wiped away in an instant by one malevolent being…
Daniel blinked quickly. He looked across at his new friend. Wash was obviously only just holding back his emotions. "Now I feel really stupid," he murmured. "I shouldn't've asked you…"
"No, as I said before, it's okay." Wash stared down at the tabletop. "There is anything I can do."
There wasn't anything I could've done about it. The voice danced in back of his mind. I couldn't've saved her… Daniel shook the voice out of his head, focusing on Wash.
"Why don't you go back?" Daniel asked.
Wash jerked his head up. "What? To Serenity?"
Daniel nodded. "Why not?"
The Bridge of the Serenity was silent. The Firefly was dead in space, the engines cut while the crew fought a losing battle in the cargo hold. A white light suddenly lit the small cockpit, bathing the instruments in a strange, eerie light. Two glowing beings materialised into the white brilliance, shining tendrils of matter spinning out and brushing against the walls and ceiling. The creatures came to a rest, and morphed into their more familiar forms.
"God, I never get used to that," Daniel said, rolling his shoulders.
"Oh…" Wash's gaze was fixed on the Helm console. He reached out and slowly spun the chair around. With infinite slowness and care he ran his fingertips over the smooth material. His fingers snagged in a hole that was almost directly in the centre of the seat. "Oh lao tian ye."
"It means Jesus," Wash murmured. "Hell. I died in this chair. That hole's where the spike went through…" His forehead furrowed into a frown. "Wonder why there's nothing here…"
"Let's take a looked at the rest of the ship," Daniel said softly. He took hold of Wash's arm and led the pilot down the steps into the main body of Serenity.
Mal saw her fall, saw the Reaver move in for the kill. He pulled up his pistol and fired with a sharp crack. The bullet sped through the creature's head, blowing the skull apart and into a billion fragments. "Jayne!" he yelled. "With me! Now!"
The huge man turned and followed Mal as he raced to Zoë. Mal skidded to his knees besides his long-time friend, who lay face down on the deck. "Jayne, cover us!" he yelled. Jayne swiftly obliged, Vera spitting her deadly load into the Reaver crowd.
"No," Mal murmured. "C'mon Zoë." He took hold of her shoulders and rolled her over onto her back. "Oh no…"
"Mal?" The voice was more of a gurgle. "That you?"
"Yeah, Zoë, it's me." Mal tried to smile. "Looks like you've got yourself into a load of trouble again." He forced himself to look at Zoë's ravaged face. Her sightless eyes stared back at him, the deep gashes from the axe blow slicing clean across her eye-sockets. "And you don't look so good." He glanced down at her abdomen. The Reaver's weapon had hacked into her stomach, driving straight through. "I'm betting you don't feel so good either…"
A slight smile flickered across Zoë's blood-flecked lips. "Got that right." A flash of pain slid across her wounded features. "Looks like I'll be joining Wash sooner than I thought."
The ship was too empty.
Wash led Daniel along the corridors, the muted footfalls the only noise. The rounded a corner, and then Wash froze. "Can you hear that?" he asked slowly, softly.
"Shooting." Wash laid his palm flat against the bulkhead, a frown creasing his forehead. "There's too many people on board," he murmured. "They're making Serenity tremble. They're fighting trying to…" He trailed off, and his head slipped down until his chin touched his chest.
"Wash?" Daniel asked. "Are you okay?"
Then the pilot's head shot up.
"Reavers!" he exclaimed.
Wash looked at Daniel, his eyes wide. "In the cargo hold," he rapped out, and then he was running.
Oh God, she's gonna die.
Those five words were a manta, repeating over and over in Mal's head. He could hear Jayne's shouts to the others, but ignored them. "Zoë, you can't die!" he exclaimed. "You have to live!"
Zoë's lips curved into a smile. "I really don't have a choice Mal…" she murmured. A shuddering sigh escaped her lings. "I can feel Wash's presence," she whispered. Mal screwed his eyes shut. She laughed shortly, crimson blood trickling down the side of her mouth. "Guess I sound real cheesy."
"Got that right!" Jayne called, forcing his voice about the roaring chatter from Vera.
"The others there?" Zoë asked hoarsely, her fists clenched tight against the pain.
Mal looked up. The rest of his crew were fighting desperately against the Reavers. The four newcomers were holding their own, the older man and the blonde woman firing sharply, methodically, slicing through the Reavers. The man with glasses was firing a black handgun, but it was obvious that he was not a man of war. And the tall black man with a golden tattoo on his forehead was kicking the zao gao out of at least a dozen Reavers, using what looked like a stick with a bulky end.
Abruptly the man spun the 'stick' around, and a bolt of charged plasma shot out the end, knocking down a yowling Reaver. The man immediately fired again.
Mal blinked. Okay, he amended. A stick that shoots fire.
Suddenly he felt a chill run up his spine, like an icy finger. Something made him look up. His face twisted through a multitude of expressions, finally settling on incredibly confused.
"Mal…?" Zoë asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Up on the catwalk," Mal managed. "It's… it's Wash."
"Mal, I'm nearly dead," Zoë choked out. "You don't have to patronise me, just because I can't see."
"No, Zoë, I'm not joking." Mal stared up at his ex-pilot. "He's here."
Daniel stared down at the writhing mêlée below the catwalk. He could hardly distinguish between comrade or enemy, friend or foe. The screamed of the dying and wounded echoed in his ears, viciously augmented by the cries of the hopeless, the lonely and the heartbroken all over the universe. He looked over at his companion, whose face was frozen in a twisted grimace of emotional torment. The ascended archaeologist found his voice. "Wash?"
"I don't believe this," Wash murmured. "Reavers."
Daniel looked down again. He couldn't see a thing in the whirling mass beneath his feet, but he could feel the animalistic evil radiating from the shrieking invaders. "I take it that this isn't usual," he said to Wash without looking over at him.
Wash didn't answer. "I should be down there with them," he murmured. His fingers clenched tight around the metal railing, his knuckles paling. "Gorram stupid non-interference zao gao!"
Daniel glanced over at the pilot. Not being able to do anything, not being allowed to do anything… it was tearing him apart. The archaeologist frowned, the sounds of the battle below fading to a soft buzz. Wash would never fit in among the Ascended – the Others didn't much go for the wise-cracking, screw the rules type. And Daniel knew first hand the utter agony of losing… Quickly he blanked that thought from his mind. But he knew what Wash could do, what he was going to do.
"Wash," he ventured softly. "You can stop this."
Wash's head snapped around instantly, his sharp blue eyes burning into the linguist. "How?"
Something was happening.
Mal couldn't see exactly what was happening up on the catwalk, but something was different. The air was charged with anticipation. Whatever you're gonna do Wash, do it soon, he thought.
He ducked sharply as a spear went scything past over his head, followed by a disappointed, enraged yowl. Jayne swung around and the yowl was smothered by a burst of bullets. "Mal!" Jayne yelled. "We can't last much longer!"
Mal looked up to the walkway. A small smile twitched across his lips. Wash was no longer there; in his place was a glowing being that was drifting over the railing. "I don't think it'll be long now!" he yelled to Jayne. He looked down at Zoë, a grin on his lips. "Just a little longer!" he shouted.
She was silent.
A sense of dread crept into Mal's heart.
He glanced down at her stomach. The gaping wound wasn't bleeding, though her clothes were stained crimson.
He drifted over the battle, his spirit contained in a glowing orb of pure white light. He looked down, and knew that his friends were losing. Daniel had told him what to do, but the archaeologist's urgent words seemed so far away. He knew what to do though. He could feel the throbbing heart of absolute power in his grasp. He took hold of the energy, and he felt a rush shudder through him.
If he had had a face, he would have grinned in wild delight. As it was, he just reached out to the limits of his celestial body. He could feel all the swirling emotions in the room, and knew who they belonged to. In a fraction of a second he sifted through them. Kaylee. River. Inara. Jayne. Simon. Mal. He faltered, drew into himself. Where's Zoë?
He looked down, scanning the faces below. There was a tiny knot of resistance, around which the massed Reavers swirled, unable to penetrate. The animalistic creatures could sense something within, and it was driving them crazy.
He looked closer. Serenity's crew were locked together in a tight circle, shoulder to shoulder, firing wildly outward. Or at least Kaylee, Jayne, Simon and Inara were. River was kicking Reaver ass all by herself, her dancing movements in complete contrast to the path of devastation she left in her wake. And Mal and Zoë…
Protected by the mechanic, the mercenary, the doctor and the Companion, Mal was crouched over Zoë's still body, his head bowed. She was too still.
Wash recoiled in horror. Zoë! he yelled, but no one could hear him. The world sank into a fuzzy blackness, and all he could see was his wife, laid out on the hard floor, still. Empty. He was dimly aware of lashing out blindly, agonised screeches echoing in the blood-spattered cargo hold, surprised yells from the escapers of his blind pain.
Zoë! he yelled. Wake up!
Jack let out a yell as a thick beam of burning red light shot inches from his head. He dropped to the floor as the network of crazily swerving red lights sliced where his neck was a fraction of a second ago. The Reavers being decimated, wherever the laser-like beams hit skin, the flesh burst into flame.
"Carter!" Jack yelled, rolling to avoid another beam. "What the hell is going on?"
Sam glanced over at him for a fleeting second. There was a flash of animalistic fear in her blue eyes, and then she was professional once again. "I have absolutely no idea sir!" she yelled. "It seems to be controlled by that!" She pointed upwards, her hand red with Reaver blood.
Jack followed her finger. His gaze flickered over the white orb of light, and rested on the figure that was stood on the catwalk. "What the hell!" he exclaimed.
Sam followed his gaze, and froze. "Daniel?" she asked, incredulously.
The archaeologist glanced up, blinking owlishly. "What?" he asked. He ducked another beam, and then looked up to where Jack and Sam's attention was fixed. "Ta ma de!" he exclaimed.
Jack snapped around, his eyebrows disappearing into his silver hair. "Ta ma what?"
His energy was fading.
With each crimson scythe that went slicing across the cargo hold a little more of his strength slipped away. His glowing form sank lower and lower, stamina steadily draining away, bit by bit.
But his anger and pain raged on, unabated. His gaze remained fixed on her limp, deserted body. He couldn't move, couldn't look away.
Daniel grabbed at the railing, leaning forward. Wash's agony cut at his heart, the other's pain flooding over him in scarlet ripples of emotion. "God, Wash, no!" he murmured. "You have to keep in control."
Qu ni de Daniel! You try and keep in control!
Daniel started. "Wash?"
He was ignored. She's dead!
Daniel closed his eyes in sympathy. "Wash, you can't just lose it," he said softly. "You're gonna hurt people."
He felt the pilot's burning scarlet pain and rage start to slowly recede, to be replaced by ice-blue sorrow and… fear? Why should Wash be scared? Daniel shook the thought away, and focused on the problem at hand. He opened his eyes, and looked down. The red beams were fading, flickering in and out of existence. Wash's ascended form was drifting listlessly a few metres above the floor, pale and weak. The Reavers were gone; all that was left was thin dusting of pitch-black ash over the floor.
"Wash?" the archaeologist responded.
I'm gonna get in big trouble with the Others for this.
"Yeah," Daniel answered, "you are."
I don't care.
She's gone, came the morose reply. But it ain't staying that way.
Mal watched with some trepidation as the glowing being (Wash, he mentally corrected himself) descended slowly to the deck. What the gui is going on? he thought. He heard someone come pounding down the steps from the catwalk, but he ignored it, his attention fixed on Wash.
He felt a hand on his arm. "Mal?" Kaylee's quavering voice asked shakily.
Mal covered her hand with his own. "Don't worry, little Kaylee," he said softly. "It's Wash."
"Wash?" Jayne asked gruffly. "Huh. He's changed."
River stepped slowly through the ashy remains of the Reavers, her attention fixed on Wash. "So much pain…" she murmured.
The glowing form came to rest on the deck, and a humanoid form began to emerge from the brilliance. A tiny smile flickered across River's lips as Wash's features formed and the light faded.
Silence filled the cargo hold.
Wash swayed slightly on his feet.
A single crystal tear slid down the pilot's face.
River could feel his utter exhaustion.
"Shit…" Wash said faintly into the silence, and then collapsed to the deck in a crumpled heap, unconscious.
Daniel took a step towards Wash, but then froze. The pilot's body was drifting apart, turning into a billion golden fragments. "No…" Daniel groaned. He knew what was happening. "Oma…"
Mal followed the golden cloud as it drifted towards the ceiling. His gaze moved over to the man who had just come down from the catwalk. He knows what happening, Mal thought instinctively. And he appears to be the only one.
The Captain rose slowly to his feet.
And sure as hell he's gonna tell me.
The breath was forced out of the archaeologist's lungs as he was forced against the wall. He was pinned to the bulkhead by an arm across his throat and a very angry man. "Where the gorram gui has my pilot gone?" the man snarled.
Daniel tried to speak, but his captor was crushing his throat. All he managed was an unintelligible gurgle.
"Listen to me you hun dan, you seem to be the only one who has any idea what is goin' on," Mal spat, "and seeing as my dead pilot just reappeared, turned into a glowing octopus-thingy, kicked some serious Reaver ass, therefore saving all our asses, then turned in gorram dust, I think I deserve some sort of explanation!"
Daniel was beginning to seriously need oxygen, and he nearly collapsed when someone pulled Mal away. He gulped in a deep breath as another someone helped him to his feet. "Thanks," he wheezed.
"You are welcome Daniel Jackson," a familiar voice said.
Daniel froze. "Teal'c?" he asked, looking up.
"Indeed," the big Jaffa replied, nodding to the bemused Ascended.
"So Danny-boy," a familiar sardonic voice asked, "are you going to answer the nice man's question?"
"Jack," Daniel murmured, disbelievingly.
"Or do I have to order you?" Jack completed, his arms folded across his chest, his P-90 slung around his neck.
He opened his eyes, and was surrounded by blackness. "What the…" he murmured. His memory was fuzzy, unclear.
He slowly pulled himself to his feet, the only thing in an ocean of blackness. "Hello?" he called.
Silence echoed back at him.
"Anyone out there?"
"What?" he asked
You have broken the rules of the Ascended.
Wash raised his eyebrows. "I noticed."
You are no longer wanted.
"What does that mean?" Wash asked, frowning.
You are to be sent back to your vessel.
He could sense a response in the affirmative.
He grinned. "Zoë…" he whispered.
And then the memories came flooding back.
He slid to his knees, his hands clenched by his sides. "God, no…" he whispered, stricken.You will be sent back, and your memories will be eras—
He sensed righteous indignation.
"No!" he yelled again.
You have no choice.
"Not without her." He slowly clambered to his feet, his cheeks gleaming with silver tears. "I won't go back unless you send her back with me."
Confusion swirled around him.Your wife?
"Who else!" he yelled into the blackness. He forced his anger back. "I won't go back until you send Zoë back as well."
He felt indecision.
"I won't remember her," he said, his voice cracking. "I won't even recognise her." He swallowed. "She'll know me, I won't know her." He wiped his hand across his eyes. "But at least she'll be alive."
The crew of Serenity and SG-1 were crammed around the small table in the mess. Mal and Simon had taken Zoë's body to the Infirmary, and created an impromptu mortuary. In the mess, the two Daniels were eyeing each from across the table, and Jack, Sam and Teal'c were looking between the two. Inara had her arm around Kaylee, who was crying softly. The Companion was only just holding back her own tears. Jayne was looking oddly thoughtful, and River was studying the descended Daniel, unconcealed curiosity on her face.
All emotion was blanked from Mal's face as he pounded down to the mess, Simon close on his heels. "Alright, what the hell has happened to Wash?" the Captain demanded, staring straight at the ascended Daniel.
"I think the Others took him," Daniel said, studying the table intently. "For judgement."
"What did he do?" Mal asked.
"He broke the number one rule of the Ascended," Daniel said. "He interfered."
"What'll happen to him?" Kaylee asked, sniffling loudly.
Daniel shook his head. "I have no idea…" He frowned. "But, if we see him again, he might not be alone."
"What do you mean?" Mal asked.
"Just before he… left, he said something," Daniel said slowly. "'She's gone, but it ain't staying that way'."
"She?" Jayne asked.
"Zoë," Mal said softly.
"Who?" Jack asked.
Ascended Daniel opened his mouth, but he was beaten to it.
"His wife," descended Daniel commented absently.
Jack rounded on him. "How the hell do you know that?" he demanded.
Daniel blinked in surprise. "I have no idea," he said. "It just popped into my head."
Mal looked from Jack to Daniel and back again. "He's right," he said shortly.
Jack looked up at Mal and then back to the descended archaeologist. "How the hell do you know that?" he repeated.
"Sorry to break up your party, but can you please tell me what in God's name is going on!" Mal demanded, anger, loss and severe pissed-offedness lacing through is voice.
"Carter?" Jack said, turning to his 2IC.
"It's a long story," descended Daniel said.
"Exploring a planet, touched something we shouldn't've, accidentally created a black hole, jumped through a freaky portal thingy, landed in the middle of a great honkin' fight, joined in."
"Okay, not so long," Daniel acquiesced. "Thanks Jack."
"How the hell did you know that!" Jack exclaimed for the third time, his eyebrows raised, staring down the table, wary, and somewhat freaked out.
The Others had gone, leaving him being in an ocean of darkness.
Wash sat stock-still, waiting, numb.
He wrapped his arms around his knees, hugging them to his chest, and rested his forehead against his kneecaps. He screwed his eyes shut tightly, but still a single tear, a drop of liquid silver, slid down his cheek. The drop lost contact with his skin and fell soundlessly down through the empty crevasse, a single silver point in a midnight expanse.
He cannot have her.
But he cannot stay, and he will not leave without her beside him.
The two voices were heated, engaged in an argument which showed no signs of resolution.
He cannot have her! It must not be allowed!
If he will not go without her, she must be given to him!
Shhh. The new voice was muted, calm. Maybe a compromise can be reached.
What do you suggest?
He cannot be sent back to his ship. He must be punished; and that is what he wants. I suggest we send her to Serenity, and send him to those who took his life.
And maybe send the Serpent back as well.
River stared back at Jack. "How the hell did you know that?" she mimicked, throwing the Colonel's voice right back at him.
"She said exactly what I was going to say!" he exclaimed.
An innocent smile spread across River's lips. "Feelings, whirling on the surface, dancing, twisting, streams of thought racing across his mind, plain for all to see, if only you look close enough." She laughed lightly. "Colours, bright and light, floating like butterflies in the wind, surrounding his head with a rainbow aura, his heart in the air." She cocked her head to one side, smiling. "Carter, I have great faith in you," she murmured, her voice exactly like Jack's. "Memories, surfacing like bright fish, taking a breath and then going under again." She giggled, childlike, innocent. "Go back to the SGC and confuse Hammond."
There was silence.
Jack looked at Mal, his eyebrows disappearing into his hairline. "What was that?" he asked.
"Don't rightly know," Mal answered, a frown crinkling his forehead. "The girl's a bit of a mystery."
"No!" The outburst made them all jump. River's eyes were suddenly panicked, wild. "No, no, no, no, no, no! Not there! Don't send him there!"
"River?" Simon gently laid his hand on his sister's shoulder.
She jerked her head back, her eyes full of tears. "They're coming home," she whispered. She shook her head violently. "Not there…" she whispered. "Not there…"
The air stank of sweat, and blood, and death.
He breathed in sharply, lungs gasping for air. Sticky sweat beaded on his naked flesh, and he curled into himself. His mind was a blank, an empty slate.
He could hear growls and grunts, getting closer. Where am I? he thought, searching his mind, looking for answers.
Then he felt hands clawing at his body, attacking his vulnerable form. And he remembered.
Simon moved quietly around the Infirmary, avoiding looking at the form covered in a white sheet. His hands slipped the tiny bottles of pills into the correct boxes on the shelf.
He shivered suddenly.
He slipped the final bottle into place, and turned around.
An orb of light was floating above the medbed. A slim tendril drifted down and brushed the sheet away from the body's head, revealing Zoë's ravaged features. A tiny sphere of blue light spun down the string, sinking into the woman's forehead. A sapphire glow illuminated Zoë's face, mending, healing.
Simon's mouth hung open in amazement.
The being paused, reaching within itself, drawing something out. Something black. The Ascended turned towards Simon, wafting the dark shadow towards him.
The doctor pushed himself back, pressing himself up against the cabinet. He was totally frozen, unable to speak.
The orb moved like lightning.
Within a millisecond, the Ascended thrust the shadow into Simon's chest. The doctor gasped, eyes wide. "Gou shi…" he breathed, and then collapsed to the floor in an motionless inelegant heap.
Mal moved through the corridors, his silence reflecting the mood of the ship. He swung into the Infirmary, and then froze. Zoë was sat up on the bed, the sheet wrapped around her body, a bemused expression on her unblemished features.
"Zoë?" Mal asked, incredulous.
"Sir?" Zoë asked, her voice tired. "What happened?"
Mal moved forward, propping his fists against her bed. "You died."
She blinked. "I did?"
"Yeah," Mal replied, the hint of a smile dancing around his lips. "You gave us quite a scare."
"Mmm." Zoë closed her eyes, frowning. "What'd I miss?"
"Not much. River spouting a load of cryptic mumbo-jumbo, a bunch of new passengers, just stuff like that…" Mal nodded sagely. "Oh! And your dead husband reappeared, killed all the Reavers, and then apparently resurrected you."
"Wash?" Zoë asked, opening her eyes.
Mal nodded. "Uh huh."
She looked up. "Where is he?"
"They sent him back," Zoë said slowly. "He should be here." She frowned. "Where is he?"
Hands clawed at his sweaty skin, tearing bloody rents in his body. He cried out in constant pain, crimson liquid running into his eyes, obscuring his vision. The crazed cries of the Reavers around him drilled into his skull, echoing in his mind, running in his ears. He could feel them using him, but it was as if it was through a curtain, far away. He had retreated into himself, hiding, cowering, trying to blank the inhuman creatures out.
But he could feel himself changing.
He twisted his body away from the Reavers, lashing out at them, snarling like an animal. Some tiny vestige of Hoban Washburne felt sickened, horrified, but the rest of him thrilled in the sight of crimson blood spurting from savagely hacked wounds. He tasted a coppery tang on his tongue, and all that he used to be was wiped away in an instant.
"Carter, when we jumped through the portal thingy, you never said that we'd end up five hundred years in the future, with two Daniels!"
Jack was seriously pissed, understandably so.
"Sir, you knew there was no way to tell what would happen!" Sam exclaimed.
Jack gestured wildly in the direction of the two identical archaeologists. "Two Daniels, Carter!" he exclaimed. "One's bad enough!"
"Hey!" the two Daniels exclaimed in unison.
Teal'c raised his eyebrow, but remained silent.
"How did this happen?" Jack groaned.
"Maybe it was Oma," ascended Daniel said thoughtfully.
"Oma Desala?" Sam asked. "Why would she do that?"
Daniel shrugged. "Don't know."
Jack snorted. "Fat lot of good you are."
"Maybe we have something to do," descended Daniel commented. "To help these people."
"Okay," Jack said. "Daniel, how the hell do you know all this stuff?"
There was silence for a second.
"Maybe it's because of me," ascended Daniel murmured.
"You're him," Jack said bluntly. "How could it be because of you?"
"I haven't descended," he replied. "He has."
"Memories from your time as an Ascended," Sam said, studying descended Daniel.
"Are you saying that I've done this before?" he asked, eyebrows raised.
"It's possible," Sam answered. She looked over at ascended Daniel. "You must be from further back in the time-line."
Jack rolled his eyes, as if to say Well duh! He shifted his gaze to descended Daniel. "It would sure be useful to know what gonna happen next," he said thoughtfully.
Everyone's attention swung to the archaeologist, and he shifted uncomfortably. "It's not like I chose to have memories wiped," he complained. "I can't remember anything."
Jack's forehead creased slightly, and a smile spread across his lips. "I think there's someone on this ship who could help with that," he said grinning slyly.
He was screaming again.
She could hear his voice, broken and twisted, echoing in the empty corridors of her mind. It filled her with sorrow and pain. And fear. He was so alien, his soul blackened. Maybe beyond redemption.
She hugged her knees and tried to drown out the screams with the buzzing beehive of her thoughts. It didn't work though, and her spirit thrummed with the agony that permeated every mote of his being.
Jayne's thick fingers wrapped around the knife's leather hilt, caressing the worn surface as he slid the whetstone up and down the blade. Inara watched the mercenary from across the mess. "Do you even care that Wash is as good as dead?" she asked sharply.
Jayne didn't look up. "Little man was a damn good flyer," he grunted. "He got killed doing his job."
Inara was silent a second. "River thinks he's with the Reavers," she said softly.
Jayne snorted. "That girl's crazy," he answered.
Inara didn't say anything.
Jayne dropped the knife to the tabletop with a clatter. "You believe her!" he exclaimed.
"Yes," the Companion acquiesced.
"She's crazy!"Jayne yelled. "Nuts! Remember the butcher knife!"
"Who's crazy?" a smooth, aristocratic voice asked.
Jayne glanced over as Simon stepped through the entrance. "You sister, that's who," he replied snappily. He turned back to Inara. "You can hardly trust a nutjob," he continued. "The little man is dead, gone and buried. Reavers? The girl's jus' remembering the stuff she gone and done."
"Wow Jayne," Inara said sarcastically. "I think that's the longest speech you've ever made!"
He blinked thinking. "That's right!" He looked absurdly pleased with himself.
"Of course," Inara continued, "it would help if you actually managed to say something… besides meaningless rubbish."
Jayne pulled a face and picked up his blade. "Ain't my fault the girl's crazy," he muttered sullenly.
Inara allowed herself a small smile. She glanced over at the silent Simon, and her eyes went wide. "What are you doing?" she choked out.
The doctor didn't move, didn't answer, just continued dragging the tip of the knife across his arm. The shirt sleeve was pushed up around his elbow, and scarlet blood was running down his pale flesh and dripping to the deck. Simon merely watched the blood's path with detached interest, a small smile curving his thin lips.
"Simon…" Inara faltered.
"Evidently the craziness runs in the family," Jayne breathed.
Sam frowned as a strange tingling feeling swept through her body. "Sir," she started, "we may have a problem."
Jack glanced over at his 2IC. "What kind of problem?" he asked.
"Goa'uld," she replied, her mental tingling getting stronger.
"Where?" He was instantly on his feet.
"The mess hall O'Neill," Teal'c answered.
"Let's go," Jack snapped, and then SG-1 were on the move.
Jayne slowly pulled himself to his feet. "Okay doc," he said slowly. "Let's just put the knife down."
Simon ignored him. "Blood," he murmured. "The essence of life itself. Pumps through our bodies, keeps up clinging to this semblance of life. The very nectar of existence."
"Yeah doc, thanks for the meanin' of life stuff," Jayne murmured.
What happened next was something of a blur.
One minute Jayne was moving slowly towards Simon, the next he was kneeling on the floor, face creased in pain. The knife Simon had held a moment before was buried in the mercenary's shoulder, hilt deep.
"Oh, ai ya!" Jayne grunted, his voice tight. "Ah, gou shi, zao gao, ta ma de!" There was a spreading dark stain on his shirt. He glared up at Simon. "You hun dan!" he snarled.
Simon looked on indifferently.
"Simon, what's going on?" Inara asked, her voice quavering, her hands half-raised.
"Doctor Simon Tam," he said slowly. A smile flickered across his lips. "Yes." He ran his fingers through the blood dripping from his arm. "This is his." He slowly licked the crimson substance from his finger. "This is his." He looked over at the Companion, and the smile vanished, and his voice changed, twisted. "He is gone."
Jack crashed through into the mess, his team right on his heels. "Shit!" he exclaimed. The huge mercenary and the doctor were laid out on the floor, both bleeding heavily.
Sam pushed past him, descended Daniel right behind her. Daniel moved to Jayne, Sam to Simon. Jack turned to Teal'c. "What about the Goa'uld?" he asked softly.
Teal'c shook his head. "It is still on the ship," he replied. "But not here."
Jack nodded. He put one hand between ascended Daniel's shoulderblades and shoved him towards Sam. "You three patch them up," he ordered. "We're gonna go find us a snake."
Zoë leaned back in the pilot chair, her fingertips caressing the pliant leather. She knew he was back, somewhere in the 'verse. The only problem was where.
"Zoë?" Mal's voice drifted up into the Bridge.
"I'm here," she called absently.
Mal pounded up to the Bridge. He slumped down into the co-pilot's seat. "How are you?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Fine," she replied, monosyllabic.
"What about Wash?"
She looked out of the windows at the stars. "He's out there sir," she said.
"I don't doubt it."
Zoë could feel tears pricking at the back of her eyes. She brusquely pushed herself to her feet. "If you don't mind sir, I'll be in my bunk."
Mal watched her go. He sighed softly and leaned back.
Ascended Daniel lightly pressed his fingers to Simon's chest, frowning. "Daniel?" Sam asked.
He tapped his fingers on his thigh. "The Goa'uld was in him," he said quietly.
"Was?" the Major inquired.
"It jumped hosts." Daniel looked over at Jayne. "It isn't in him," he murmured. "There was someone else here."
Mal felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, and he looked up. "Inara," he greeted.
She merely nodded, and sat down in the chair Zoë had vacated minutes before.
"How's the crew?" Mal asked.
"As well as could be expected," she commented.
Mal nodded in acceptance.
"I have not taken a woman's form before."
"What?" Mal asked, startled.
"It is… different to that of a man's."
"Inara, are you feeling alright?" Mal asked, rapidly getting worried.
Her head shot up, and the being that studied the Captain from behind the Companion's dark eyes was twisted, arrogant. Evil.
"Inara?" Mal asked, rising to his feet.
"She loves you, you know." The changed voice made Mal jump.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"It doesn't matter,"the creature said. "All you need to know is that I hold two of your crew hostage, and will continue to do so until—" A stream of blue energy crackled up the stairs and impacted the Companion's body. She crumpled back in the chair, unconscious.
Mal stared at her for a second, then looked down the stairs, mouth agape. Jack waved up at him. "Hi."
River hugged her knees to her chest, rocking back and forth. Every inch of her fragile form was shaking frantically, her eyes were wild. Kaylee poked her head around the corner of the doorframe. "River?" she asked.
The girl didn't answer.
Kaylee moved into the room, worried. "Sweetie, what's wrong?" She sat down beside River. "Ssh, it's okay."
River shook her head. "No, no, no," she raved. "No, nothing's right, nothing's right. He's with them, the ones who killed him. And they're coming here…"
"Who?" Kaylee asked, her forehead furrowed, her hand hovering above River's shoulder.
"Isn't it obvious?" River was shaking, her voice infused with sobs.
"Isn't what obvious?" Zoë was stood in the doorway, a frown creasing her forehead.
River looked up, her razor-sharp gaze instantly latching onto Zoë. "He's with them," she murmured. "He is one of them. They made him one of them." She let out a shuddering sigh, utterly terrified.
"Who are you talking about?" Kaylee asked.
River's head fell forward, her straggly hair shrouding her face like a curtain. "Wash," she whispered.
Zoë stiffened. "What?" she breathed.
River giggled, her hair swaying in sync with her head's movements. "It's Wash," she answered. "Wash's with them. He is one of them. They made him one of them."
Kaylee shot a glance at Zoë. Her face was, for once, openly displaying emotion, and she was utterly stricken. The mechanic turned back to River. "River, sweetie, don't say things like that," she chided softly.
"But you mustn't lie," River murmured, almost to herself. "Lying's bad, mustn't lie. Mustn't lie. Truth hurts, but mustn't lie."
Kaylee jerked to one side as Zoë grabbed River's shoulders, shaking the girl. "Where is he?" she demanded, almost yelling.
River was unfazed. "Coming, coming, ready or not, here I come!" Her voice was high and squeaky, but surprisingly lucid.
River froze, staring straight into Zoë's face. "Coming," she whispered. "Be here. Soon." She cocked her head to the side. "He's killing," she whispered. "Ripping, tearing, bleeding, dying. So many screams…" An innocent smile touched her lips. "Be screaming here soon."
The barkeeper slammed his hands over his ears, shaking, sobbing. They were here, tearing, ripping. Crimson blood spurted into the air, spattering the walls, the floor, the ceiling. Crazed shrieks echoed in the man's ears, and he crammed himself closer into the corner. Agonised screaming floated in the humid air, like demented hornets, buzzing and raving.
The man added his screams to the others as a twisted Reaver appeared over the top of the bar. The once-human creature leapt down, immediately tears claw-like hands into the barkeeper's leg. The man's screams heightened in pitch as blood streamed down his body, pooling on the floor. He tried to pull his limb away, but only succeeded in helping the Reaver tear a huge chunk of bloody flesh out of his body.
The man screamed again, agony tearing through his body. He was swimming just inches from sweet oblivion, and his head was hazy with pain. He looked over at the Reaver, strangely calm. The creature looked back, searing blue eyes locked crazily on his face. Blood ran through its dirty blond hair and across the strangely whole face. A mad grin touched its lips, and it reached out. The barkeeper felt hard fingers digging into his throat, and agony flared through him as the Reaver ripped out his windpipe with a savage roar. It looked at the blood-drenched cartilage and flesh with slight bemusement on its face, and as the life slipped away from the man, the Reaver's gaze drifted to him, and the confusion was gone.
"You shot her!"
Jack raised his hands in a placating gesture. "She's just stunned," he answered.
Mal looked from Jack to Inara and back again. His mouth was open, but no sound came out. "Huh," he finally managed.
It clicked in Zoë's head.
Wash is a Reaver.
An expression of utter horror crossed her features, but she knew that River had to be right. She released River's shoulders, and clenched her shaking hands into fists.
"Reavers are coming again," she murmured.
River looked up at her innocently. "We scream with him?" she asked, seemingly unaware of the horror that she was inadvertently inflicting on the two others in the room with her.
Zoë didn't answer. She pulled herself to her feet, and just stood there.
"Zoë?" Kaylee asked.
The First Mate looked numbly over at the mechanic. She blinked, and clenched her fists tighter. "We need to find the Captain," she said softly.
Mal carried Inara's limp form through the ship to her shuttle, Jack and Teal'c right behind him. "You really ought to… restrain her," the Colonel said.
"I've already told you that I'm not going to," Mal replied stubbornly.
"She'll end up hurting either your crew or herself," Jack pointed out. "D'you really want that to happen?"
Mal looked over at the Colonel. "D'you want to go take a walk outside?" he asked."It's mighty cold out there."
"Are you threatening me?" Jack asked softly.
Mal didn't answer. "Get that door open," he ordered. They had reached the door to Inara's shuttle. Teal'c moved around the Captain and slid the door open, then stood to one side. Mal moved inside and lay Inara down on her bed.
Mal twisted around as Zoë's voice filtered up from the cargo hold. He pushed past Jack and Teal'c and bent over the rails. Zoë looked worse than he had seen her for years. "What is it?" he asked.
Zoë looked up at him. "Reaver's are coming back," she said.
Mal's eyes went wide. He swallowed. "How do you know?" he demanded.
Zoë shook her head. "Not me. River." She swallowed, shaken. "She says… that Wash is with them."
Mal screwed his eyes shut for a second, trying to block out reality, and for a microsecond, it worked. Then he was back, and the world came crashing down on his shoulders. He sighed. "Zoë, get up to the Bridge," he ordered. "See if you can verify what River says. I'll see you up there."
Zoë nodded, and quickly left the cargo hold, her heavy footfalls ringing on the metal floor. Mal turned around and looked through the door into Inara's shuttle. His gaze alighted on the unconscious Companion, and his face softened.
"Those things are coming back here?" the Colonel asked quietly.
Mal nodded. "Apparently." He glanced over at Jack. "If you want, you can leave before they arrive." He jerked his head towards the other shuttle. "Won't go far, but… far enough."
"Thanks for the offer," Jack replied, "but… no thanks."
Mal raised one eyebrow, and so did Teal'c.
"We'll hang around," the Colonel said. "Help out." He shrugged. "It's not much…"
"It's enough." Mal grinned at Jack. "Keep an eye on Inara then," he said, shrugging. The smile fell from his lips. "She may be as dangerous as you insist."
Mal moved slowly up the steps behind Zoë. He was tired, hadn't sleep in days, since before the Reaver attack. There were shadows underneath his eyes, and his footsteps were dogged. "Zoë?" he asked heavily.
She didn't move. "Reaver ship sir," she answered softly. "Less than an hour away. Headed straight for us." She sat down in the pilot's chair, her shoulders hunched.
Mal moved to stand behind her. "What did River say about Wash?" he asked softly, going boldly where angels fear to tread.
"She said…" Zoë's voice faltered. "She said, 'Wash's with them. He is one of them. They made him one of them'." She stopped again, and there was silence. Mal stared out at the stars, knowing what this meant. "In short sir, she said… Wash is a Reaver."
Mal reached out and squeezed Zoë's shoulder. "He'll be okay," he said softly.
"How?" Zoë's voice was choked with tears.
"There a psychic and a supernatural being onboard Serenity," Mal answered. "Do I have to say more?" His flippant reply elicited a small laugh, but no more. He released her and patted her shoulder lightly. "We'll find a way."
"Sam, I think he's coming round," descended Daniel said.
The Major moved to his side, crouching down beside Jayne. The wound in the mercenary's shoulder was bandaged tightly; the knife that had caused it cleaned and laid on the counter. His face was still pale though, and he showed no obvious signs of rising. Sam glanced at Daniel, and then looked down at Jayne's slack features. She looked back up at Daniel. "Are you sure?" she asked.
He gave her a withering look. "I said 'think'," he answered. "So no, I'm not sure."
Ascended Daniel watched the two of them, but he wasn't paying attention. Jayne was coming round, he could feel it, but that wasn't what held his mind enthralled.
He could sense Wash, or at least the chaotic tangle of anger, fear, pain and madness that used to be Serenity's pilot. He had had no idea that the Others would do that to him, and it sickened him. I shouldn't have told him to interfere, he thought, berating himself. I should've known that They would find some twisted way to punish him, some punishment that was far worse than death.
Daniel screwed his eyes shut, biting his lip, trying to think of a way to help, without bringing something similar down on his own head. He opened his eyes and looked up at the ceiling, trying to find inspiration. All he found was dirt, metal, and the troubled corners of his mind.
Mal smiled, despite the circumstances, as he heard a familiar gruff voice. He turned around, looking down the corridor. "Jayne?" he asked.
"Here Mal," the mercenary answered, extricating himself from Sam, who was insisting that he sit down. He swayed along the hall and staggered up the steps. Zoë turned around, once again her calm and composed self, her façade in place. Jayne pulled himself to the top of the steps and quickly collapsed in the co-pilot's seat. He looked up at Mal. "What's going on?" he asked.
Mal studied the bandage wrapped around the mercenary's shoulder. "What happened to you?" he asked.
Jayne glanced down at the wound. "Oh," he said. "I just got stabbed. By the doc."
Zoë's eyebrows went up in surprise. "Simon?"
"Yeah," Jayne said. He lifted his hand and itched absent-mindedly at the bandage. "He went nuts."
Mal shook his head, trying not to grin.
"So," Jayne continued. "What's been goin' on?"
"Reavers are heading back," Zoë said softly, her voice shaking almost imperceptibly.
Jayne's eyes went wide. "Reavers?" he asked. "That ain't funny."
"That would be why we ain't laughing," Mal answered. "They're about an hour away. Headed straight for us."
"But… Mal! We can't fight Reavers!" Jayne exclaimed.
"I know," Mal answered. "You're hurt and Simon and Inara are down. That means me, you, Zoë, Kaylee and River. Our new friends have decided to stay, but…" He shook his head. "We were nearly overwhelmed when we were all fighting fit. Unless we get another miracle, then…"
"What do you suggest?" Zoë asked. "We run?"
Jayne nodded enthusiastically. "That's what I'm thinking."
"We can't run," Mal answered. "And we can't hide."
"We have to fight," Zoë completed.
"But we can't fight." Mal stared out at the stars. "We fight, we die. And I'm not gonna lose my crew."
"So… what do we do?" Jayne asked.
Mal glanced over at the mercenary. "I have no idea."
"We may not have a choice," Zoë said, staring at one of the readouts in front of her.
"Zoë?" Mal asked, tensing.
"They're speeding up," she answered, not looking up.
"The gorram Reavers?" Jayne asked, his voice shaking.
Zoë nodded. She looked up at Mal, and shook her head. "They're going a lot faster than before," she said quietly.
"Then they're gonna be here a lot faster too," Mal said.
Zoë nodded. "Maybe… twenty minutes. Could be less."
Mal closed his eyes. This time, we're in trouble, he thought softly. More than before. He sighed. And we might not be able to get out of it.
Zoë watched the progress of the Reaver ship intently, ignoring the Captain. He had hooked down the mike and was speaking to the crew, imparting the news that they would probably all soon be dead. But Zoë watched the oncoming ship of death, and a tiny smile slipped onto her lips.
She recognised the flying, the speedy, impulsive course the pilot was taking. She had stood behind that particular pilot many times, seen him fly. She closed her eyes, holding back the tears. It apparently didn't matter that he had been twisted beyond recognition. He still flew the way he always had.
Zoë smiled fully. He was coming to her, coming home. She didn't care that he was savage, brutalised, ravaged. She would fix him; make him who he was again. Home. He was coming home again.
And this time, he was staying.
Ascended Daniel listened to the first few words of Mal's speech over the intercom, and then he tuned out. He knew what was going through the Captain's head, over and over. Oh God, we're gonna die.
Then something snapped inside his head.
Oh, screw this.
The Reavers were nearing. That much he knew. Didn't know much else, but hey. Just go for it. Wash had been brave enough to take them out, even almost crazy with grief. So Daniel should be able to fulfil the same feat. Should be simple enough.
He smiled grimly to himself. Or at least, that was Plan A. But he was part of SG-1. And since when did Plan A ever go right for SG-1?
Serenity juddered sharply.
Zoë pushed herself up out of the pilot's seat, out of her husband's seat. The Reavers had latched onto the ship with one of the harpoon that hung off the sides of their ships, grotesque bringers of death. Briefly, the last time she had seen one of those harpoons flashed into her mind, but she wiped it away with brusque matter-of-factness.
She reached up and grabbed the comm. "They're here," she said simply.
Jack jumped back as Inara's eyes flew open.
Despite what Mal had said, he had taken the precaution of binding the Companion's wrists, and he was definitely glad of it now. The Goa'uld slowly sat up, its head on one side. A smile slid across its lips. "Jack O'Neill," came the sibilant greeting.
Jack blinked in surprise. "What the—"
The Goa'uld merely smiled.
"Who the hell are you?" Jack demanded, his index finger twitching next to the trigger of his P-90. Can't shoot her, he told himself. The Captain of this ship would kill you. Not a good move.
"We have met."
"I kinda guessed, as you seem to know my name and all," Jack replied, shifting slightly, "but I meet… and kill a lotta snakeheads, so you're gonna have to be a bit more specific."
The Goa'uld laughed. "Then you will just have to… work it out."
He was part of a swirling tide of black, surging death. They were charging and recoiling, battering at the thin layer of metal that separated them from their prey. He was no longer himself, or the person he had been three days ago, but he still remembered, faintly, at the back of his mind. The ship they were so desperate to get into… he remembered it, but didn't care. His mind was overwhelmed by an insatiable, incredible bloodlust, and he screamed with the rest, just a single part of the whole.
A single crack ran down the bulkhead.
Mal watched it with trepidation. It was them, he was sure of it. They were coming. Again. "Mal?" a quavering voice asked from behind him.
He glanced behind him. Kaylee was shaking, quite literally like a leaf. He reached back and hooked his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close to him. "It'll be okay, little Kaylee," he said softly.
Kaylee sniffled quietly. "How do you know Captain?" he asked.
"'Cause I'm the Captain," he answered. "It's my job to know."
Kaylee leaned her head against his shoulder. "I don't wanna die," she murmured.
Mal looked up at the rapidly widening crack in the wall. His body tensed, and then he looked around at his crew. Jayne was stood just behind him, his finger twitching next to Vera's trigger. River stood elegantly poised on the balls of her feet, watching the crack with detached interest. Zoë stood beside River, her usual sawn-off shotgun in her hands. She saw Mal's gaze, and she nodded to him. I'm ready sir, the motion said. I won't lose it. Mal smiled back at her. He looked up, to the catwalk. Jack, Sam, Teal'c and the descended Daniel were stood next to the rails. Mal had told them not to join in unless everything was lost, and to watch over Inara and Simon.
Finally Mal looked down at Kaylee. He smiled softly at the girl he sometimes considered to be the little sister he never had. He squeezed her shoulders lightly, and then dropped his arm. She looked up at him. "Neither do I," he whispered to her.
But we may not have a choice.
A howl of joy echoed in every single Reaver's throat as they burst through. Serenity's crew instantly started firing, the sharp retorts almost drowned out by the screaming and yowling creatures. Zoë fired methodically, searching for his face, knowing he was there. Somewhere. "Wash!" she screamed into the noise-filled cargo hold, her cry drowned out. "Wash!"
No one answered.
She clenched her jaw and fired again, the shotgun slamming back against her palm every time a bullet was spat out the muzzle. She wreaked havoc amongst the Reaver ranks, and to her surprise she saw them starting to thin.
Her mind was curiously lucid in the blood and pain and death. There should be more of them than this… she thought softly. What happened? Or, what's happening?
Suddenly, she looked up.
The ascended Daniel Jackson was stood above on the catwalk, his fingers clenched around the railing. He was staring at the uncontrollable mêlée below, horror, anger and fear written on his features. But he was still helping. She looked down. Right in front of her, a Reaver stood frozen, traces of white energy crackling around its mutilated and ravaged body. Its mouth was open in a silent scream, and its wild eyes were fixed on some point in the overhead bulkhead. Its body began to twitch, the white crackles multiplying in number and size, delving into its body, burning, searing. The Reaver yowled out in agony, and then…
Suddenly it was gone, just like that.
Zoë stood there, her mouth open, the battle raging around her.
She looked up, and Daniel met her eyes. Find Wash, he mouthed clearly.
She nodded sharply, and looked away, away from the Ascended power, and back to the dirt and blood of their miniature war.
He was looking for something, he didn't know what, he didn't know why, but he was.
It was like an instinctive homing instinct, telling him there was something here that he needed to see, someone he needed to meet. His blue eyes flickered erratically over the mêlée that he was a part of, looking, searching.
And he froze.
His gaze latched onto one of the crew of the ship they were invading, and he stood stock still, the fight swirling around him hypnotically, wildly. Fragments of a word, a name, flickered in his mind. Z… Zo… Zo… No more. He slowly started to move towards her, his mind transfixed.
He was there.
Zoë saw him out of the corner of her eye, moving towards her, a confused expression on his ripped face. The screams and yells around her faded into a dull hum, and her shotgun hung loosely from her hand. "Wash…" she breathed.
His head cocked to one side, as if trying to link something with the sound that had just escaped her lips. He kept moving towards her.
"Wash," she said, stronger this time. "Wash, stop."
He stopped, and stood facing her, barely two feet away.
He looks terrible, Zoë thought, almost in a daze.
Wash's body was remarkably whole compared to the other Reavers', but he was still mutilated by human standards. His clothes were literally rags, scraps held together by rough knots and short lengths of rope. The skin that showed through the gaps was a mess of cuts, bruises and dried blood, not all of which was the pilot's own. There was a bloody scab running across his face, from his left cheek across the bridge of his nose and onto the right cheek. His blond hair was stained brown, and Zoë had no doubt with what. Blood was splashed across his face, transforming his features from the sweet and innocent pilot she had married into an inhuman creature.
But his bright blue eyes blazed out at her, and she searched them, looking for any trace of Hoban Washburne.
Her face fell.
"Wash?" she asked in a whisper, her voice shaking.
Jack swung around as the Goa'uld stepped out of Inara's shuttle. He brought up his P-90, his hands steady. "Get back in there," he ordered. The Goa'uld ignored him, and moved down, wrapping its fingers around the catwalk's railings. It looked down at the tornado of screams below, and a smile slid across its face.
"Get back in the shuttle," Jack repeated, his finger curling around the trigger. "I won't tell you again."
"Come now Colonel," the Goa'uld said calmly. "We both know that you won't shoot me."
"Why not?" Jack asked.
"You don't want to harm the host," the Goa'uld answered smoothly. "And you still want to know who I am."
Sam looked at Jack, her eyebrows raised questioningly.
He glanced at her, and shrugged helplessly.
"Why don't you do us all a favour and tell me who you are?" Jack demanded.
The Goa'uld smiled wider. "And you know very well that I'm not going to do that either."
Daniel sagged against the rail, hearing it creak under his weight. For every Reaver he killed, a little more of his strength was sapped away, draining into the ether. There were barely twenty of the inhuman creatures left, but he didn't have the energy to take any more out.
He slid slowly to his knees, exhaustion overwhelming him. He rested his head against the rail, his eyes drifting shut, unable to stay awake and fighting any longer.
Looking around, Mal could see his crew, fighting for their lives, to protect everything they knew and cared about. There was a bitter taste as he fought alongside them, knowing that they were most likely all going to die as a result of his decisions. His decision to take River and Simon onboard in the first place. His decisions that had forced Inara and Book off Serenity. His decision to follow River's rants to 'Miranda'. His decisions that had caused Wash to die. His decisions that had caused the Shepherd to die. His decisions that had led to the battle they were fighting now.
It was his fault, all of it.
Red drifted across his vision as his anger grew. He raged silently at himself for putting his crew in this position, and he felt his body twist and recoil, his hands blinding pumping bullets into every Reaver he saw.
An impassioned, angry roar escaped his lips. He fired wildly, crazily. And suddenly…
There was only one Reaver left.
Suddenly everything was as clear as crystal, and he felt his anger vanish from him in an instant. Time seemed to slow down, and he saw on one hand the last Reaver, facing Zoë, looking oddly bemused, and realised in a split-second who it was, and on the other he saw Jayne. The mercenary spun towards Zoë and the Reaver, his face twisted in a scream of anger and fear. Vera was ready in his hands, the gun's deadly muzzle pointing directly at the last Reaver standing.
Mal heard someone yelling to the mercenary, and was vaguely surprised when he realised it was himself. But Jayne didn't notice, and the world sped up as his finger pulled back on the gun's trigger, and a millisecond later, the Reaver that wore Wash's face crumpled to the ground silently, a heap of skin and blood and bones.
He slid to the ground without a sound, his eyes just closing, no exclamation of pain, no cry of terror. Zoë watched him fall, horror grabbing at her. She looked up, and across at the mercenary. His face was twisted with hate, but as he realised what he had done, his features became as horrified and frozen as her heart.
Then she was kneeling, methodically feeling along his blood-soaked neck to find a pulse, praying, begging that he was still alive. There it was, a faint beat against her fingers, the blood still pumping through his body, still keeping him alive. She almost collapsed as relief flooded through her.
She felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked up into Mal's face. "He's a Reaver," Mal said. "Dangerous."
Zoë nodded numbly. Mal looked up sharply. "Jayne," he snapped. "Help me get him up."
Jayne didn't move, shell-shocked.
River reached out, brushing her fingers through the Reaver's blood-stiffened hair. A tiny smile crossed her lips. "River?" Kaylee asked. River's face was solemn. The other girl was still shaking, still living in death.
River let her head fall to one side. "His mind is seething," she murmured. "He thinks, thinks, thinks, the thoughts running around and around and around in loops and circles. He tries to remember, tries to recall, but can't, and it drives him crazy."
Kaylee was frowning. River couldn't see her, but she could sense it. "River, I… I don't understand."
River looked over at Kaylee. "He's trying to come back," she explained, as if it was obvious. "He's failing. Trying, trying, trying, but failing every time." She looked back down at Wash, her gaze straying across the ropes bound around the pilot's wrists and ankles, tying him down to the medbed. "Trying, failing, trying again…" A strange expression came across her face. "He could just ask…"
They wouldn't let her near him, wouldn't let her touch or see him. Mal told her firmly that she had been troubled enough by Wash's various deaths, and he needed her to focus, to pay attention.
But she couldn't.
She had subconsciously come to the mess, congregating with the rest of the crew, needing to see that there was still something of her life left, that remnants of her existence still clung to Serenity.
She looked up as she heard two sets of feet thudding down the stairs. Kaylee skidded into the mess, swiftly followed by River. The low buzz of conversation was silenced immediately. Mal slowly rose to his feet. "Kaylee?" he asked. "What's going on?"
"River says she can help," Kaylee said breathlessly.
Zoë stared numbly at River. "How?" she heard herself force out.
Kaylee shook her head. "I dunno," she answered. "But she says she can."
Everyone's attention shifted to River. The girl smiled back at them. "He only needed to ask," she said, her voice sounding like she was explaining something that was painstakingly obvious.
Zoë looked over at Mal. "Sir…"
Mal nodded, and she knew that she didn't have to finish her sentence. "Jayne, come with me," he said.
"Where we going?" Jayne asked.
"River says she can help," Mal answered smoothly. "She's been right about many a thing before." He sighed. "And I hope she's right now." He turned to the girl herself. "What do you need?" he asked softly.
River stared right back at him. "Everyone," she answered. "They have to be here."
Ascended Daniel studied the doctor's drawn features carefully. Simon was laid out in the Infirmary, breathing slowly and shallowly. His forearm was bandaged tightly, the wound healing quickly. Daniel frowned, reaching out. His fingertips hovered over Simon's forehead, as if deliberating whether to act. "Daniel?" Sam asked from the doorway.
"I think I can help him Sam," Daniel answered softly.
"How?" his descended counterpart asked.
The ascended archaeologist lightly touched Simon's forehead. "I'm an Ancient, right?" he said softly. "Well. Kinda."
"Daniel?" Sam asked, stepping forward.
"The Ancients can heal," Daniel stated. "In ascending, I might have gained that ability." He looked over his shoulder at her, searching for agreement. "Right?"
Sam nodded slowly. "It's possible, I guess," she answered.
"How d'you think you're gonna do it?" descended Daniel asked. "I mean, you don't really have any conscious knowledge of how this… healing… thingy works."
"I know," ascended Daniel answered. "But…" He shook his head. "I have to try."
He looked back at the doctor, and his gaze narrowed. Descended Daniel and Sam exchanged at glance, as if to say 'Should we be letting him do this?'. "I have to try," the Ascended repeated softly, like he had heard their thoughts, and then closed his eyes.
Jack kicked the wall morosely, his P-90 resting on the floor beside him. Teal'c merely watched him, one eyebrow steadily climbing his forehead. They were still 'keeping an eye on' Inara for Mal, and Jack was deadly bored. In true Jack style.
"O'Neill," Teal'c said.
Thud. "Yeah?" Jack asked.
"Why do you find it necessary to beat the wall? Has it harmed you in any way?"
Jack turned to look at the Jaffa, a smile tugging at his lips. "Was that a joke?" he asked.
Teal'c looked at him.
"Something along the lines of 'what did the wall ever do to you'?" Jack inquired.
Teal'c continued to stare, but there seemed to be surprise on his stoic features, and his gaze wasn't aimed at his CO.
Jack frowned. "Teal'c?" he asked. When he received no response he turned and followed the Jaffa's line of vision. "What the hell is that?" he murmured, his hands twitching around the lack of P-90 in his grasp.
Inara was still laid out on the bed in her shuttle, still unconscious, just visibly through the transparent window in her door. There was a strange sapphire blue glow around her face, illuminating her features in an eerie light.
"What is that?" Jack murmured again, swinging around to glance at Teal'c. The Jaffa was on his feet, and looked at Jack with an equally bemused expression. Jack turned back around, and started. The glow was gone, and Inara was as peaceful as before. Well. As peaceful as possible with a Goa'uld inside her.
Jack frowned. "Either we've just had some dual hallucination," he said, "or something very weird just happened."
Teal'c raised the eyebrow, still staring at Inara. "Indeed."
Jack turned around, looking along the catwalk. Kaylee was nervously moving towards them. "Mal wants you to come to the mess hall," she said softly.
"Why?" Jack asked.
"River thinks she can help Wash," Kaylee answered. "She said she needed everyone in there." The mechanic peered through into Inara's shuttle. "Inara too."
Jack raised his eyebrows. "Are you sure that's safe?" he asked. "She's a Goa'uld. They have a tendency to do bad things."
Kaylee shrugged. "We gotta help Wash," she said simply. "We don't have a choice. We just gotta help him."
"Err, Daniel," Sam said slowly. "You may want to move."
The ascended archaeologist ignored her. "I'm not moving," he answered stubbornly.
"I think it worked," descended Daniel said, a note of wonder in his voice.
"What?" ascended Daniel asked, opening his eyes and twisting around to look at Sam and the other Daniel. They were both staring at the ceiling, eyes wide. He looked up, and his eyes quickly became as wide as theirs. "I think you may be right," he murmured.
It was the same blue glow that Jack and Teal'c had been gawping at thirty seconds before, but this time it was smaller, more coalesced. It slowly drifted down towards the medbed where the doctor was laid, tentatively, nervously.
"Get back," descended Daniel breathed.
"Just do it!"
Daniel obeyed, moving back to stand with the two others.
"What is that?" Sam breathed.
"I think it's his soul," the descended archaeologist said softly.
The blueness sank down until it rested atop the doctor's forehead, where Daniel's hand had rested seconds before. Twists of azure light drifted down, burrowing into Simon's forehead. The entire light sucked itself down, warming the doctor's features with a blue glow.
Sam leaned over to descended Daniel. "Are you sure?" she whispered.
"No." he answered, "When am I ever sure?"
Then Simon's eyes flew open. He jerked up, gasping for breath. His eyes were wild, and he stared at Sam and the two Daniels.
Sam slowly stepped forwards. "Hi," she said slowly.
"Major," Simon gasped. "What happened?"
"I think you were dead," ascended Daniel answered, his eyebrows creeping up to his hairline.
Zoë looked up as Kaylee returned with Jack, Teal'c and Inara. Teal'c carried the Companion in his arms, her wrists and ankles bound. He deposited her against the wall and took a seat at the table. Zoë glanced over at the mechanic. "What about the other three?" she asked.
Kaylee nodded, but before she could move, Simon, Sam and the two Daniels came through the entrance. "Simon!" Kaylee exclaimed brightly, her face lighting up.
"Hey," he greeted, smiling wearily. She ran across the mess and hugged him tightly. He was startled for a second, and then relaxed and wrapped his arms around her.
Zoë watched the two of them numbly.
Wash'll be back soon, she told herself. Soon.
The moment they entered the mess there was utter silence.
Mal and Jayne carried Wash between them, each dragging him along by an arm. He was still unconscious, and he looked absolutely terrible under the fluorescent lights. Mal surreptitiously glanced at Zoë. She was stricken, he could tell, but she hid it, as usual.
River stepped down in front of them. She bent down and brushed her fingers against Wash's blood-stained cheek. Mal saw Zoë rise to her feet out of the corner of his eye, and he tightened his grasp on Wash's arm.
River knelt on the hard deck, her gaze still locked on Wash's face. She ran her fingertips over his face, memorizing every millimetre of his features. There was silence in the mess, and everyone was watching. The girl leaned forward and pressed her forehead to the pilot's. She closed her eyes, laying her palms flat against his chest. A tiny smile slid across her lips. "Wash," she whispered, her voice echoing in the mess hall.
Then she moved both her hands so they rested over his heart. She studied his face one last time, and then slowly drew her hands back, pulling something black out of him, grasped between her fingers.
A shiver ran down Zoë's spine as an almost imperceptible moan leaked out into the air. Wash…
The black mess slid around between River's hands, and the girl dispassionately crushed the blackness between her palms, compacting it, until there was nothing left.
River looked back to Wash. She lightly touched his face, and then the smile grew on her face. "Wash," she murmured. "Wake up."
She moved back slowly, getting to her feet, her straggly hair tucked back behind her ears. She smiled down at Wash, and then looked across at Zoë. "He needs you," she said simply.
"River?" Zoë asked.
"He needs you."
Zoë slowly moved forward, her footsteps clanging on the metal floor. Everyone's gaze was on her, no one moved. She knelt down, her gaze fixed on her husband. She was close to breaking, close to letting her emotions spill out and breaking down. But she didn't. Not yet.
She closed her eyes, her hand hovering just above Wash's cheek.
River had said that Wash needed her.
And she was right.
Zoë opened her eyes, and laid her hand on Wash's cheek, her eyes sparkling with diamond tears. A shuddering breath escaped her lips. "Wash," she whispered, so soft that she knew none of the others heard. "Wash. Please."
His eyes slid open, and the blue orbs stared out at her.
Zoë let a smile slip across her lips. "Wash," she breathed.
There was silence for a second as he studied her face, his features blank. He blinked slowly, and a tear slid down his cheek, cutting a clear path through the dirt and blood on his face. "Zoë…" he moaned.
Mal and Jayne both released him at the same time, stepping back. Wash collapsed forward and Zoë caught him, cradling his shaking body as he sobbed violently, all trace of the Reaver eradicated.
"Zoë, Zoë, Zoë, Zoë, Zoë, Zoë, Zoë…" Wash moaned, tears cascading down his face.
She held him tight, her own eyes squeezed shut. "It's gonna be okay, baby," she whispered to him. "You're gonna be okay."
"No, Zoë, no," he whispered. "I… I… I killed." He was shaking violently. "I slaughtered, murdered."
"It wasn't you baby," Zoë murmured. "You weren't yourself…"
"I can taste the blood," Wash moaned. "All over me. Staining me forever."
Zoë held him close. "Baby, you'll be okay," she whispered. "I promise you. You'll be okay."
Something was happening to Inara.
Mal moved over to her, his forehead furrowed. "Inara?" he asked.
She was shaking, shivering, her eyes rolled back in her head. Mal dropped to his knees beside her, his fingers fumbling to untie her bonds.
Suddenly Inara froze, staring up at the ceiling. "No!" the Goa'uld screamed from inside her. "You can't take me!"
Mal grabbed hold of Inara's shoulders, trying to hold her still.
"Let me go!" the Goa'uld cried. "This is my body! I claimed it!"
Then a black shadow burst out of her body, soaring up to the ceiling. It twisted, writhed, fought every inch of the way, but was still dragged up.
Inara's eyes were wide, terrified, but they were hers again. "Mal," she whispered. "Mal." She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him close. She was crying, sobbing into Mal's neck.
Mal patted her back uncomfortably, not quite sure what to do.
"Oh, you fool," Inara whispered despairingly. "You stupid, stupid, stupid boy." And with that, she grabbed his face and kissed him hard on the lips, her tears running down both their faces.
Wash looked up at Zoë, his face stained with dirt and blood and tears. "It was their idea of a joke," he whispered. "A joke. To give me what I wanted, to send you back, but to give me to the Reavers, and to send the Burning Sun back to Serenity." He was shaking.
Zoë pressed his face into her neck, stopping him from talking. "Shhh," she whispered. "You'll be okay. We're all gonna be okay."
He was sobbing fiercely, wildly, but she held onto him, pressing him close. "Shhh," she whispered again. "Shhh."
"Daniel, do you know who that Goa'uld was?" Jack asked, looking over at ascended Daniel.
The ascended archaeologist shook his head. "Nope. Not a clue. Could be anyone."
"It knew who I was," Jack said softly. "It knew my name. I just wanna know which one of the Goa'ulds we've killed it was."
"Burning Sun…" Sam mumbled.
Jack glanced over at her, frowning. "Carter?" he asked.
"It was something that Wash said," Sam said thoughtfully. "The Burning Sun. I think he was referring to the Goa'uld."
Descended Daniel frowned. "Burning Sun," he said slowly. His eyes grew wide as he realised exactly what that meant. "Oh my God," he whispered in amazement.
"Daniel?" Jack asked.
"You had met him before," Daniel said, astounded. "You killed him. Blew him up with a nuke."
Jack's eyebrows shot up. "Ra!"
Daniel nodded slowly. "Has to be."
"How d'you figure?" Jack asked.
"Burning Sun," Daniel said. "The Sun. Ra was the Egyptian Sun God."
Jack blinked. "Ra?" he asked, incredulous.
Daniel nodded. "Has to be. He knew you. That and the fact that I just… kinda… know."
Daniel sighed, shaking his head.
Wash was back.
Inara was back.
Serenity was shattered, now she was whole. With extras.
The ship was asleep, the console lights dimmed, the engine turning over slowly. The crew were asleep, Simon in Kaylee's bunk, Wash with Zoë, Mal in Inara's shuttle, River on the floor of her room, Jayne in his bunk. The SGC members were asleep; the five of them sprawled out across the passenger quarters.
Serenity was asleep.
"How the hell are we supposed to get home?" Jack demanded.
"Sir—" Sam was cut off.
"But how?" Jack asked. "We have no 'gate. No allies. Nothing!"
"It would be us who got into a situation like this!" Jack exclaimed grouchily. "Always SG—"
"Sir, Daniel," Sam said, exasperation lacing through her tone.
Jack still didn't get it. "Daniel?" he asked.
"He's ascended," Sam said.
It clicked with the Colonel. "Oh!" he exclaimed. He turned to the ascended archaeologist. "What can you do?" he asked.
Daniel was trying to suppress a smile. "We can travel in time."
"Why the hell didn't you tell us this before?" Jack asked, indignant.
Daniel shrugged. "Oma wouldn't let me," he answered. "I didn't want to disappoint you."
"Can you take us home now?"
Daniel grinned. "Of course."
And they were gone.
"It sure is good to be home," Jack said. "Of course, the number of guns pointed at us never seems to change…"
Sam hid a grin.
Ascended Daniel had put them down in the centre of the 'gate room and then gone, back to wherever he had come from in the first place. SG-1 had managed to startle the Special Forces on duty, and were now in the middle of a circle of gun muzzles.
Jack turned to the numerous SFs, seemingly uncaring about the number of lethal weapons pointed in his direction. "Okay guys," he said, "I'm Colonel O'Neill. You can put the guns down."
"Well, they are trained against alien incursions, and we just appeared from thin air," Daniel pointed out.
"Yeah, there is that…" Jack mumbled. He sighed, and then looked up at the control booth. "General!" he yelled.
General Hammond appeared behind the glass. He looked down at the 'gate room, saw SG-1, shook his head, and grabbed the mike. "Stand down," he ordered, and the SFs did so.
"How come they obey him, and not me?" Jack grumbled as they made their way up to the control room.
"SG-1, where have you been?" Hammond demanded as they stepped into the control room.
"It's a long story," Daniel said.
Jack started, and then asked, "There aren't any visiting psychics here, are there? No one who can read my mind and say what I'm gonna say before I can say it?"
Hammond gave him an odd look.
Jack grinned. "Part of the long story sir."
The General shook his head. "SG-1, go get changed," he ordered. "Briefing Room in one hour."
Jack grinned again, turned, and almost skipped down the corridor. Sam and Daniel smiled, and Teal'c raised the eyebrow.
Hammond shook his head, and made his way up to his office, grumbling to himself.
Jack threw his jacket into his locker and then slammed the metal door shut with a clash. He twisted the key in the lock and pushed it into his pocket. He turned around, and stopped. He smiled. "Hey Daniel," he said.
"Hey Jack," the ascended archaeologist said, waving.
"Why're you here?" the Colonel asked.
"Just wanted to see how you were doing," Daniel answered.
"We're fine," Jack said. "I guess that you'll see that in a… year or so."
Daniel nodded, smiling. "Yeah. I guess I will."
Jack regarded him for a second.
"Well," the Ascended said. "I have to go." He coughed slightly. "You're getting into trouble on Abydos."
Jack's features froze for a second, and then he forced a smile. "Yeah," he said. "Abydos. Good luck."
"Thanks," Daniel replied, apparently not picking up on Jack's state of mind. He waved slightly, and then just vanished.
"Have fun," he said to the empty locker room.
A week after SG-1 had vanished Mal looked up the stairs to the Bridge. The room was silent, but he could see Wash curled up in his chair, his fingers trailing across the consoles. The Captain smiled and mounted the steps. "Wash?" he said.
The pilot swung around, and smiled as he saw Mal.
"Can I come in?" Mal asked.
Wash nodded, still smiling. He swung his legs down, his boots clunking on the hard floor. "Thanks for keeping the seat warm for me," he said softly. "Thanks for giving it back."
Mal shrugged. "Didn't feel right," he answered. "Serenity knew I wasn't her pilot. She was waiting for you to come back."
"Serenity's a ship, Mal," Wash said, but the smile curving his lips told the Captain that he agreed entirely.
"We missed you," Mal admitted.
Wash nodded, his eyes dropping to his knees. "I know," he said. "I know." He looked back up. "I'm not going anywhere now though."
Mal grinned over at the pilot. "Nice to know that."
Wash grinned back, and then turned back to his consoles.
Mal watched him, thinking. The scar across Wash's face was healing fast, already only a thin white line. The rest of the pilot was already whole, fixed by his wife, his friends and his ship. It had—
An alarm beeped from the console, insistent, piercing.
"Wash?" Mal asked, leaning forward.
Wash swung around to the specific screen. He sighed. "Alliance," he said. "One cruiser. Pull over, dock, blah blah blah." He looked up at Mal. "Run?"
Mal nodded. "Naturally."
Mal smiled as Wash sped Serenity up, swinging her through space with more grace than he had ever managed. "God, what have you done to her handling?" Wash complained under his breath. "Feels like Jayne's been flying her!"
Yep, Mal thought. Chased by the Alliance. Insulted by my crew. Fugitives. Again. He grinned at his pilot, and then looked back at the rapidly vanishing Alliance cruiser, half-listening to Wash's stream of mixed encouragements and expletives directed at the vessel under his control. Serenity's whole. We're still flying. It's… enough.
He paused, thinking. He smiled.
To hell with that. It's a damn sight more than enough. It's everything.