Scenes from a Firefly
Part Five—Paying Respect
Authors: justslummin and Midnight Obsidian
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Just playin' in Joss' sandbox.
Summary: This is the last in a short series of one-shots in the lives of the crews of Serenity and the Hit or Miss.
"Can't imagine it's all that easy for you to come here," Marcus said in a low voice as he approached Mal.
Mal looked up and saw the younger Captain through the light on the world that used to be called Mr. Universe's planet. Hoping that Marcus might mistake the faint misting in his eyes for something pertaining to the glint of the sun, Mal consciously lifted the corners of his mouth into a slight smile. "Not the happiest of places, I'll admit," he said.
Coming to stand beside him, Marcus looked at the holograms projected on the three burial markers. "How long did the Shepherd fly with you?"
Mal sighed. "Book was with us less than a year," he said. "But even when we dropped him off on Haven, he was still…." He paused for a moment, swallowing thickly past the lump in his throat. "Still part of my crew."
"And your pilot?" Marcus asked, turning to Wash's smiling face. "Looks like he was full of life."
Mal nodded. "Had the thought on more than one occasion that he was a little too full of life to be with us." He turned to meet Marcus' eyes. "After the war, me and Zoe…well, we were half dead, I reckon. Walkin' and talkin', but not really feelin' much of nothing for a long while. Then, Wash comes along, with his eye-burnin' shirts and his jokes and his…."
Marcus watched Mal sympathetically, hardly able to imagine what pain he would feel if he had lost any of his own crew.
Mal sighed, stopping in mid-thought. "Brought Zoe back to life. Won her right over, for all her sayin' she didn't like him at first."
"Well," Marcus said kindly. "Least now she seems happy with Jim."
Mal looked at Wash's image again. "Guess that's sorta one reason I came out here today. Wash'd be happy to know she's doin' okay. Wouldn'ta' wanted anything less than that for her."
The two men stood in silence for a long while, both paying their own brand of respect to Wash and Book. Finally, Mal spoke. "So, what brings you here?"
Marcus shrugged. "Murdocke was talkin' to Kaylee over the Cortex, and she mentioned you were coming here. We were close by, and I thought you might like some company." He looked down at his feet, shuffling a little uncomfortably in the sand. "Truth to tell, I don't know how I would react if I'd been through anything like what happened to you on Miranda."
Mal stared into the distance, watching the sun's path as it set over the horizon. "You'da' gotten up and done what we all did. Eatin', sleepin', or at least tryin' to, breathin' in and out 'til it becomes a dull ache 'stead of the sharp pain it was at first."
"But still, you're here, on this day, standing in this place, paying respect," Marcus observed.
Mal nodded. "Just 'cause it ain't a fresh wound don't mean it's ever gonna go away. Matter of fact, I wouldn't want it to. Would mean I'd forgotten who they were, what they were."
"Don't reckon that's like to happen," Marcus said. "I didn't even know them, but from the stories I've heard from your crew, I'm aimin' to remember them myself."
A slight wind started to blow and Mal shivered despite his long coat. Seeing it, Marcus asked, "You wanna go back to the ship?"
Mal shook his head. "Think I'd rather just stay here a mite longer."
"All right," Marcus said, taking that as a cue to leave.
"Could do with the company," Mal said, almost too softly for Marcus to hear.
Marcus nodded. "Want I should make us a little fire? Wind's picking up."
Mal nodded, and Marcus walked off a small distance to find suitable kindling for a small fire. When he returned, Mal had not moved from his spot. Thinking it best just to build the fire where Mal currently stood, Marcus busied himself with the task, saying nothing.
Mal watched through hooded eyes as Marcus expertly tended the flames, creating a fire that generated a good amount of heat to be so small. "Where'd you learn to do that?" he asked, breaking the silence.
Marcus looked up. "What?" he said. "Doesn't everybody know how to build a fire?" Mal looked at him steadily until he added, "My dad taught me. Took me campin' now and again."
The mention of his parents added to the somber occasion and Mal wished suddenly that he hadn't asked the question. As if sensing his thoughts, Marcus smiled tiredly. "Old wound," he said. "Dull ache, like you said earlier."
Warming his hands over the fire, Mal sat down. "S'pose that's the way of things in the 'verse," he said. "Hard to get to be a grown man without experiencing some sorta loss."
Marcus nodded and they listened to the almost soothing sound of the crackling fire and watched the flames dance in the wind. After a long while, Mal asked, "I ever tell you about the time Zoe took Wash to that little hotel on Verbena?"
Marcus shook his head. "Don't believe so," he answered.
Mal began to chuckle. "You shoulda' seen 'im," he said. "See, Zoe has a wicked sense of humor, and Wash didn't know that the little hotel was…."
Marcus closed his eyes, listening to Mal recount that story and many others about the two men he's taken in as crew and lost so cruelly. Mal talked long into the night, the words flowing from him as they rarely did, bubbling to the surface to breathe free once more. And Marcus could hear the love in Mal's voice, the unspoken admiration for those men rippling beneath each laugh, each moment of contemplation in the retelling of their lives. And when the night was done, and the sun rose pale pink against the sky, Mal stopped and turned to his friend.
"Glad you came," he said simply.
"Me too," Marcus replied.
Author's note: So ends the spate of little one-shots. More coming soon with the crew of the Hit or Miss, in Midnight Obsidian's story entitled, "Four of a Kind"! As always, thanks for reading and commenting!