A/N: Out of Gas is such an amazing piece of television, it almost needed no additions. But these scenes were bouncing around in my head, so I thought I'd write them down. Let me know what you think! I might make some edits or additions, so if you like it, check back.
"See?" Kaylee's voice crackly, joyfully, over the com. "See? Zoe, you were right! Serenity's got power!"
Wash felt his heart restart.
It wasn't until that moment that he realized how much he'd been sure that they would return to a dead hulk. That they'd all die right here. But there she was. Serenity breathed. She lived! He could see the vibrations from the engine, almost hear her purring. Her hull lights seemed to twinkle through the dusty glass of the shuttle window. Or maybe that was his tears.
He felt Zoe's hand grab his and squeeze, tightly. He turned to her and in one motion, slid off of the pilot's chair to his knees next to her stretcher and buried his face in her, breathing her in, kissing her head. Her hair, as always, smelled like oranges…He laughed at the silly juxtaposition of sensations…and then was crying, sobbing, into her curls.
Zoe's eyes weren't quite dry, either. He heard the doctor give a deep, shuddering sigh. And River continued her happy chatter, wandering around the edge of the shuttle, but Wash wasn't listening.
"Baby, baby…Thank you," he whispered to Zoe. "Thank you for saving our lives. I can't believe you. You're amazing." He stroked her head and kissed it again and again, and then turned back to the controls, piloting with one hand while he held tightly to Zoe with the other. He wiped the back of his hand across his face but the tears kept coming, making it hard to dock.
"You're welcome, lambietoes." she whispered back, grinned at him. It was, Wash realized, probably one of the happiest moments of his life. His wife had returned from the dead. His ship had returned from the dead. They all had escaped suffocation – it was all going to be OK!
An hour ago, they were all surely going to die. Now they were not. It was as simple as that.
All that had had to happen was that Zoe needed to wake up, tell them they were being idiots, and order them to return to Serenity. Once she did that, apparently, they were saved.
"How did you know?" asked Simon, coming over to join them, one eye always on River. "How did you know he'd do it?"
Zoe smiled, a slow, delicious, wonderful smile.
"Man's got a hundred lives, Doc," she said, languorously. "Let me tell you, you are safer with Mal facing a – an Alliance garrison, an exploded engine, and Jayne on a Bender than you would be without him, alone, in bed, in any home on Earth-That-Was. He's just –"she thought for a moment – "Man's got a gift, I guess."
She turned her gaze to the window, and her tone became less happy. "Now if he would just answer our hails…"
Wash felt a twinge of worry deflate his euphoria, too. Why hadn't Mal answered? They'd been trying to hail him ever since they got into range, almost an hour ago…
Well, thought Wash, there must be some good explanation. And it's not that anything happened to Mal, because that would just be ridiculous. How could he get the ship running and then get himself killed?
But then again…why hadn't he called them back?
Why hadn't he come to get them?
The happy feeling was definitely gone, now. Wash could see on Zoe's face that she was beginning to think the same thing.
Wash positioned the shuttle over the airlock, and began the docking sequence. He knew Inara's shuttle would be doing the same thing in moments…
They found him on the bridge.
Wash got there first, scrambling up the stairs. His heart was screaming in his chest in the still-thin air, his head spinning. And then –
There he was. Prone. Splayed out on the floor. Wash would always remember it, would never be able to forget any detail - the bloody hands, the flap of untucked shirt stained black, the pool of liquid on the floor. The bloody smears on Mal's temples and matted in his hair. His eyes closed, and his face white as marble.
He had been three feet from the beacon.
He hadn't made it.
Wash threw himself over the threshold and tripped in his haste and panic, nearly falling on his friend. He grabbed at the wall to get his balance and then dropped to his knees and scrabbled to feel in Mal's neck for a pulse.
"Mal?" he asked, quietly. "Mal?"
He felt no beat, but he was shaking so hard he wasn't sure he could have found one anyway. No! No! We can't be too late! We can't have made it all back for this! His breath was ragged and tore at his ribs. He turned his head to the door and screamed. "Simon! Simon!"
No – there it was – a beat. And Mal was breathing, he could see that now. Oh thank the fucking gods, Wash thought. In English. Still breathing. Oh God Mal, keep breathing.
Gently, forcing himself to move slowly so as not to hurt him, Wash grabbed Mal's shoulders. "Mal, buddy, I'm gonna turn you over now, OK? I'm gonna turn you over, and Simon will be here soon to help us out, OK?"
He turned again to the door and screamed, "Jayne! Simon! Anybody! Get your ass up here!"
He turned back to Mal and braced himself to turn his captain over. As he lifted Mal's shoulders just a hair - barely moved him - Wash felt them tense – Mal gave a little hiccupy sound - and then Wash felt Mal start to tremble. His breathing quickened; it was ugly, raspy. Wash saw Mal swallow, his face still pressed to the floor, eyes still shut. His cheeks were sunken and grey.
"Mal, buddy, you're gonna be OK –"
"Simon's coming," said Kaylee behind him. Did you find –" the rest of her sentence disappeared, was swallowed up. She moaned, a low, animal sound of distress, as she saw what Wash was seeing.
"K-Kaylee." Wash was desperately trying to think, trying not to just fall apart. How could this happen? His voice came out thin, reedy, wobbly. "Atta girl. Kaylee. Cmere," Then, more forcefully, "He's still alive. We've got to get him to Simon. Help me…we need to turn him over."
Nodding wordlessly, Kaylee dropped to the floor and took ahold of Mal's side.
Together they slowly, gently turned him over. His face was streaked with blood and dirt. His teeth began to chatter. Blood had run from a shirttail and the dried streaks were curled around near Kaylee's boot.
Kaylee stared at it, tears running down her cheeks. "What happened, Cap'n?" She asked in her tiniest, most bewildered voice. "Did you – did you fall?" She pulled his shirt open, revealing the bandage below. His blood stained her hands. "No," she corrected herself. Her eyes were wide. "I think you got shot!"
She pulled her hands back from his stomach. Mal's hands moved slightly, and he made a noise in his throat. He arched his head back against the floor and Wash could see his eyes moving behind his eyelids.
"He didn't get shot," corrected Wash. "How could he get shot? He was here all alone. That's ridiculous. Ridiculous. Musta been something else." He wasn't sure why it was so important that Mal hadn't been shot. It just was. "Mal," he said, leaning his head in to his friend's face. "Mal. We're here. I don't know what you did to yourself, but we're gonna get you out of this mess." He picked up one of Mal's shaking, bloody hands and held it in his own. It was so cold…
Wash turned to Kaylee. "He's freezing. It's freezing up here." Wash pulled his sweater roughly over his head and threw it over Mal where it barely made a difference; then Kaylee found the army blanket where Mal had thrown it and draped it over him.
Mal's body trembled with more force; his boot made a thumping sound against the floor. But he's breathing, thought Wash. Just keep breathing, please….
Wash kept watching Mal's face. He saw Mal's lips part, and then Mal was turning his head sideways. Towards the floor. His eyes opened, just a little, but he wasn't looking at Wash. He was looking for something.
Tiny whispered words, through chattering teeth: "B…beacon…
Wash's heart felt like it was crumbling inside of him. Tears ran down his cheeks and yet he found himself smiling through them. "Shhh, Shhh, Mal, you…you did it. You saved us all. We're here. Oh God, for Christ's sake," he turned his head back to the doorway, "where are you SIMON!"
"Here –" Simon's voice rose from the corridor. "There's blood everywhere, all over the ship. Is it Mal's? What - Oh my God.
"Jesus-" then he forced it down and became all business. He pulled up the blanket and began examining Mal. "OK, what've we got? Wash, was he like this when you found him?"
"No, on his stomach. We just turned him over. Oh, God," Wash choked as Simon pressed on the bandage on Mal's stomach and Mal made a terrible, gurgling sound. His hands stretched out as if in a spasm. He blinked, his eyes staring at the ceiling.
"Alright." barked Simon. "We gotta get him downstairs now. Is there – " Simon looked around the bridge for some sort of stretcher. "Forget it – he needs blood now. Wash, take his legs. Kaylee, you help me with his shoulders. Now, people!"
But at that moment finally Jayne was there. Jayne was the one who picked Mal up – with just one enormous hand, or so it seemed to Wash – and hauled him down the stairs. Jayne was moving faster than Wash had ever seen him move. His face was white.
Wash, Simon and Kaylee raced to keep up with Jayne as he turned sideways to fit through the narrow corridors with Mal in his arms. Mal's head was draped back over Jayne's arm, eyes half open. He looked dazed. Blood was falling from him in bits and spatters. It ran in a little stream from Mal's bandages along his side and made streaks down Jayne's pants to the floor.
The infirmary was an age away from the bridge.
They burst in and Wash would only realize later that it was already a disaster scene, with more blood everywhere, on the walls and floor, and bandages and wrapper strewn about. He didn't see any of it now – just Mal, limp, shaking, as Jayne laid him on a table.
Mal looked tiny, vulnerable. A dying man. Wash could never have thought that Mal could look that way.
The crisis was over.
Mal lay sleeping on a table in the infirmary. Kaylee stood over him, gently washing his face and chest with a wet cloth. Simon, exhausted, had ducked over to the kitchen to get something to eat.
Wash sat quietly next to Mal, watched Kaylee as she tenderly dabbed at her captain's temple. Each time she changed sides, she had to carefully step around the tubing that was carrying blood from Wash back to Mal.
Wash scratched absently at the tourniquet; the rubber itched.
He closed his eyes for a moment, and listened. He hear Mal's breathing, slow and regular. He heard Zoe's breathing as well, weaving in and out - the two sounds braiding together.
Two dead people; two people who hadn't died. Two people that Wash loved.
God, he was happy.
He kept his eyes shut and listened to the song of Serenity's engines, felt the slight vibrations from the ship's systems through his feet. He heard tumbling bits of conversation from the hallway, as the rest of the crew tried to process their relief. Keep from falling off their own feet with fatigue. Adjust to life the way it had been hours before – the life they'd thought they'd lost. The new, amazing normal.
Everyone was there. Waiting. No one wanted to leave until Mal woke up.
Wash opened his eyes to see Kaylee carefully tucking a sheet over Mal's bandages. Wash watched her for a few more minutes. Just sitting, pumping blood from his heart to Mal's. Nothing else he needed to do right then.
It felt wonderful to be able to rest. It dawned on him that he was really, truly tired.
With an effort, he turned his heavy eyes to look at Zoe. Zoe... She lay next to the infirmary wall, her eyes closed as well, but Wash knew she wasn't fully asleep. He could see it in the way she breathed, the way she held her head.
"Hey, Zoh - " he called softly. He suddenly wished he wasn't tethered to Mal. He wanted to touch her, feel that wonderful warmth, feel her hands wind around his...
She turned her head to face him and opened her eyed. "Hey, duckie," she murmured, smiling at him.
"How ya feeling?" he asked.
She seemed to think about that for a moment, and then stretched, her long arms moving slowly out till she almost bumped against a cabinet. She gave a low sound of satisfaction, and then said, "...Good. I'm good, sweetie. You?"
"I'm good, babe." He gestured to his arm. "Keeping Mal in fluids."
"So I see."
Simon stepped between them, reaching for a drawer. He looked at Mal, who hadn't moved. "No change?"
"Naw," smiled Wash. "Sleeping like a baby."