But where the dead leaf fell, there it did rest

Everyone told him that you didn't want to get on the wrong side of "Slick" Zachariah Harris, that old Slick loved the Goral more than he loved women or whiskey or the payoff when a transport didn't go south, but Wash signed up for the hitch anyway.

Disclaimer: Not one of them belongs to me.

Rating: T

Character(s): Wash, Zachariah (Gen)

Warnings/Spoilers: Anything in either show is fair game, as is Serenity. AU obviously. Character death.

Beta(s): quellefromage

A/N: Written for dhark_charlotte based on a prompt requesting the characters in question.

Everyone told him that you didn't want to get on the wrong side of "Slick" Zachariah Harris, that old Slick loved the Goral more than he loved women or whiskey or the payoff when a transport didn't go south, but Wash signed up for the hitch anyway. No one else wanted him, still smelling like a backwater hick from Erinyes, and the Goral was better than no way out at all.

Even if folks liked to talk about the way its captain could gut a man who did him wrong without losing his smile, that there was always a guài wu slithering underneath the grin waiting for you to cross it.

Slick just handed him a shirt along with the job, told him to scrape the stink of Erinyes out of his pores before he came back to the bridge, and slapped Wash on the back like Slick had been doing it for years. Wash wasn't bèn. He did what he was told and only just. Kept his mouth shut when Slick and his boys were talking business in the galley, kept his eyes on the stars instead of worrying about the bloodstained clothes piled in the makeshift infirmary.

The black was enough, just him and the sky and the way that old firefly would shine as bright as anything when Wash pulled out of atmosphere.

But the first time Wash set the ship down in a rocky landing, he could feel Slick standing behind him ‒ could feel the yāo mó leaning down – and the hairs underneath Wash's ear prickled when Slick let out a hot sigh. "You did good, son," Slick said, his voice as cheerful as it was every time he picked up a biăo zi planetside. "You passed the test with flying colors. We couldn't have asked for anything more."

Wash swallowed when Slick's slow footsteps circled him. The captain was smiling like Wash was his favored son instead of the bái chi that had just taken off three of the Goral's side panels flying too close to an outcropping before the ship skidded to a halt in front of cliff face. There wasn't a knife in Slick's hand like the stories said there would be and Wash thought he was getting off easy until a burning spike exploded through his chest, a screech of metal pinning Wash to the pilot's seat.

Pinning him to Serenity, listening to Zoe scream his name with ears that could no longer hear while he stared through the shattered cockpit at Reavers with eyes that could no longer see. Reavers crawling towards Serenity like ants fighting over a bread crumb.

"Most martyrs don't spend eternity punishing themselves." Slick reached down to wipe off a rivulet of blood spilling out the corner of Wash's mouth. He would have jerked away if his body still worked, would rather feel the blood dripping thick onto his chin than be touched by a mèi with a smile like that. "I'm not the villain in this scenario, Wash, no matter how much you want me to be. You're the one who flew straight to your destiny, a little cog supporting the big wheels that make the Universe run as smart as clockwork, and you're the one who flew River Tam through the storm so that she could meet her own."

He should have been the one siding with Jayne when it came to throwing her out of the airlock.

Not that it was River's fault that the Alliance had turned her into a weapon but it was a damn sight kinder than leaving her with those strangers who had been waiting for her on Miranda, fighting a xuè xing zhàn with the knife that they had given her. It was going to end as bloody for her as it had for the rest of them – Zoe's life pooling out through her severed spin and Mal convulsing on the Operative's sword. Simon had died with his head in Kaylee's lap, watching his baby sister cut a swath through dark-eyed Alliance soldiers, her knife leaving sparks in its wake on her way to the white-eyed Operative giving all of the orders.

"Don't you understand, son?" Slick sighed, a drawn-out breath more amused than exasperated. "Everything happened the way it was meant to happen. Their meeting was foreordained."

Maybe it was – two men named after a rifle and a girl who killed like it was a pretty dance, the three of them dodging the lightning and the thunder that had infected the black in a ship named after a valley where good men died making a stand – but that didn't change the truth of things. That Hoban Washburn was the one who had flown his family into the belly of the beast, had dropped Zoe and Mal and even Jayne into the wreckage that would become their tomb, and died before he could do a damn thing to save them.

And calling it destiny was nothing more than cold comfort.


The title of this story is a line from the poem "Hyperion" by John Keats.

This was written for dhark_charlotte based on the following prompt: Firefly/SPN, Wash meets Zachariah, post-Serenity. I have no bloody idea how this weird ass story evolved from that prompt though I did learn that I think Zachariah is a manipulative prick. And that I need to work on my Wash voice.

"Goral" is Hebrew for "Destiny."