She’ll Fly True

Nov 20, 2008 18:19

Title: She’ll Fly True
Author: ubiquirk
Fandom: Firefly
Rating: G
Genre: drama
Word Count: ~1500
Characters: River, Zoe
Disclaimer: Not mine; no money.
Prompts: flying; picking up the pieces; coming to an understanding about River piloting the ship after the BDM
AN: Written for galpalficathon 2008. Thanks to my beta, firefly_124.

Summary: After Serenity, River and Zoe deal with pilot chairs and plastic dinosaurs.

She’s careful, so careful during those first few months - listening for Zoe and not sitting in his seat, not moving his dinosaurs, even when the echoes of Wash ask her to play with them.

A part of her, that most logical part, wishes to point out that it’s not Wash’s seat - not really - that it’s a replacement for the one the Reaver spike ruined. But the newer part, the part that feels … better, more in control after Miranda, argues that being logical isn’t the same as being right, and she keeps quiet.


Night after night, their voices whisper at the edges of her mind, and after three months, Zoe’s restless haunting of the bridge during ship’s night lessens enough that River goes to them.

Harvey, the big Tyrannosaurus rex, is the loudest, speaking though River in Wash’s gruffest voice, “This is my palm tree, and you will not have it!” River moves Harvey around in little circles, squinting so that her focus falls only on the arms, the short appendages seeming to flail in ways that mean fighting and ownership.

Matilda’s voice is high and clear, and she bristles her Stegosaurus spinal plates as she says, “No, the palm tree belongs to all the dinosaurs at the oasis! I will fight you for it!”

“Then you will die! Grargh!”

They come together in a clack of plastic.

Shrieks and grunts fill the cockpit, as the onlookers scream support for their favorite, Wally and Bea yelling for Matilda overtop of Art’s deep, “Harv, Harv, Harv.”

Harvey’s teeth lunge for Matilda with a clack while she swipes at his underbelly with her pointed tail spikes. Scrape.

“Grrr. Grargh! Die!” Harvey yells, thrusting forward to rip at her throat.


“Never!” Twisting to force her spinal plates between her and the Tyrannosaurus, Matilda screams again, “Never!”


They part to circle, each looking for an opening to begin the third round, when River hears the faintest scuff of shoe behind her. She quiets the echoes of Wash in her mind to read … Zoe.

Jumping out of the pilot’s chair, River sets the dinosaurs down in the first place her hands fall (not the right place, not the right place at all, not his place … pain) and moves to the side of the cabin.

Zoe’s face holds nothing as she looks at the plastic toys.

Too many words spill out, tripping over one another, tangling on her tongue. “It’s … Can you … I’m not …” She takes a deep breath and pushes that last thought forward. “I’m not trying to be him.”

Zoe looks at River, her expression conflicted: the sadness that tightens the small muscles around her eyes, the lip quirk of amusement, the tiny brow crease as she puzzles through possible meanings. Emotions swirl off of her, sparking across River’s brain (a kaleidoscope of color, spinning, pressed back, back, back, and constantly bucking to be free). But what Zoe says conveys none of that. “I know.”

River drops into the copilot’s seat. Discomfort washes over her skin, pricking, as the confused mass of Zoe’s suppressed feelings hit her, and River rubs her hands over her arms, wishing it away.

Zoe sits in Wash’s chair, and after a few moments, her hand reaches out to touch the dinosaurs.

River will try this then, the external expression, transference. “They miss him,” she says.

A bark of laughter emerges that seems to surprise Zoe, her eyes all wide with it (hot yellow blasting across everything). She nods and picks up Matilda.

Laughter is good, but it’s not enough. River continues, voice serious. “They miss him and don’t understand why he’s gone, why the ‘verse would do that.”

Zoe snorts. “War’ll teach you right quick the ‘verse don’t make a lick of sense when it comes to living and dying. Them as try to find such is just fooling themselves.”

River leans forward. “But they don’t think it’s fair.”

“No, I imagine they don’t.” Sighing, Zoe puts Matilda back, and not in the place where River left her, but in the place where Wash always put her, just to the back of the radar. She slides Harvey to his regular spot on the left as well. Her voice whispers as she lightly touches each dinosaur, “I imagine they don’t.”

They sit quiet like that, looking at the toys, looking out into the black, looking inside at private things. And River fights to let Zoe keep it private, to not read so exactly, to blunt sharp thoughts into soft impressions of emotion as they flood to the front (red anger swirls in a tight dance with blackest grief, neither able to determine who leads, and love pulses warm with the faintest touches of remembered happiness underneath, still too weak, palest yellow, to slow the mad dance of pain.)

Zoe stands to go, pausing at the doorway, her back to River. “You should … you should sit in this chair when you pilot. It’s got more and better controls, and that’ll make flying a sight easier.” She clears her throat. “Besides, he’d want that, want someone to do it right, to …” Her voice fades to silence, and her receding steps soon follow.

River goes back over to the pilot’s seat. Reaching out, she makes sure all the dinosaurs are truly back in place, in Wash’s exact places, all mapped in her mind in millimeter precision.

She’ll use his chair come tomorrow. It’s too soon for anything else.


Trouble finds them about a month after that.

Quick adrenaline rush, she’s pushed back into the pilot’s chair as she pulls the nose of the ship up sharply. Hard bank right around another asteroid then whip down and left, calculating vectors, so many vectors, all filling her vision with their arrows of collision and death as she weaves Serenity through them.

A fireball flashes briefly in the rear sensor, and Zoe makes a quick grab for the intercom to tell the crew. “They’re done for. Seems Niska’s people ain’t got a pilot as shiny as ours.”

River twirls the ship sideways through a gap, keeping her left side-engine from hitting on one of the largest asteroids. She smiles, warmed by Zoe’s words and Mal’s answering whoop from sick bay.

Down, left, hard right, spin, spin, spin!

A small chuck of rock whacks the duraglass right in front of the copilot’s seat, a percussive beat that blends with the small thumps echoing throughout the ship.

“You do realize we can get out of this now,” Zoe says dryly.

Jerk up, right, twirl clockwise and use the spin to corkscrew through a maze of rock.

“Yes.” But it’s fun. Still, River angles the nose up every chance she gets, edging them up above the plain of the asteroid field until it floats below them, a wide gravel road.

Zoe unstraps and stands. Picking Wally up off the floor, she sets him back to the left of the radar, sliding the other dinosaurs into their set places from where they fetched up against the edge of the panel (kaleidoscope whirl of color, too confused, too hard to understand, but spinning free, not squished). “That was some good flying.”

“Thank you.” More words want to tumble out, about piloting, about Wash, about this ship they both love, about crew and family. But nothing else fits the colors.


A couple of months later, ship’s night is quiet but for the sounds filling the bridge. Plastic clashes and cracks in an epic battle, and River laughs as she hasn’t in long years - free and silly like the fourteen she almost remembers.

Wash’s voice doesn’t speak through her any longer, but she’s found her own stories for Matilda, Harvey, and all the rest.

“Hrumph,” Harvey grunts in disgust, slinking off to the far side of the instrument panel.

“And stay over there till you learn how to behave!” Matilda yells at his retreating back, swishing her tail a few times in joy.

Bea and Wally crowd close to the Stegosaurus, patting her on the back, while Art hangs back, sheepish at having supported the losing side.

River moves the dinosaurs back into position, then tilts her head, observing them for a few moments. “Anthropomorphization offers alternative ways to work through complex social dynamics.”

“And here I thought it was for fun,” Zoe says from behind her.

River turns to smile at her. “That too.”

Zoe settles into the copilot’s chair, and River senses better, freer things in her (grief softened to grey sadness leads the dance, wisps of anger making a counterpoint instead of a partner, as love rises up to dance golden beside the pain, not yet touching).

Nodding a goodnight to Zoe, River stands to go to her cabin, sliding Matilda over to the right so that she guards the palm tree, spinal plates raised in victory.

The Stegosaurus remains in her new place the next day.

ch - river, fandom - firefly gen, ch - zoe, genre - drama

Previous post Next post