She hadn't taken a personal day in years. Not even after her husband died, taken from her so unexpectedly. She'd worked through it as she always did. That was how Zoe Alleyne-Washburne got through things.

Today, though, she'd had little choice. She'd seen the look in the eyes of the others at breakfast. Sympathy, grief reflected back at her. Those two emotions she could deal with. It was the pity that she couldn't get over. Particularly today.

"I'm taking the day to myself," she'd said simply. No one said anything, no one questioned her. The look of shock and disbelief on Mal's face was almost her undoing.

One hand beneath her head, the other hand clutching the sheet on the empty side of her bed. She still wasn't used to that. If she closed her eyes and wished hard enough she could still feel the warmth of him, the dip in the bed where he'd laid. She didn't do that today, not needing that for the first time in a while. She stared at the ceiling of her bunk, and for the first time since Wash's death let herself go. The tears came as she knew eventually they would. It was inevitable. She just wasn't expecting it so soon.

Today.

Anyone watching her would be baffled by the conflict in her emotions. She missed Wash, but the tears today were ones from amazement, of joy. She was sure Shepherd Book could explain it to her if he was still around to explain such things. She smiled at the look on Mal's face were she to ask Shepherd such a question.

All she knew is that Hoban "Wash" Washburne had managed to leave his mark on this verse in more than one way. She was just sorry he hadn't lived to see the day that a baby had finally taken fruit.

"A baby," she murmured into the solitude and silence of their bunk. She'd contemplated switching, but couldn't bring herself to do it. This was their bunk. This was where their private times had been spent, memories she had only to herself. Locked away in her mind, her heart, things she held in.

The hand clutching his side of the bed moved to her stomach. She rubbed her abdomen. She no longer would have reason to hold those things in. She'd have someone to share them with, all the while sparing the crew of Serenity the details of a life they mostly didn't understand.

She fought the urge to wipe the tears away, let them come, wanting to get it all out of her system. She could blame it on the hormones, but she knew this was just her mind's way of closing one door and opening another. And for once, she could live with the evidence.

Wash would always be with her. And for that she was grateful. He'd be so happy if he was here. She smiled at the thought, a bittersweet smile that he wasn't really here for him to hear the news firsthand. Her heart was a little lighter, though, her soul eased somewhat at the loss of the one person she'd ever really loved. Who'd not only loved her back, but understood her. Proof that opposites did attract and could make it work.

Proof. Such a strong word, bearing hope if one thought to interpret it that way.

She was after all carrying proof. Proof that life did renew itself.

The End