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A "Firefly" story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
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He thought he understood.  She knew he didn't.  Had been so rutting jealous at first.  Her loyalty to the Captain straining the bonds of their marriage even as he struggled to grasp the depths of a relationship that stood outside the normal parameters of intimacy.  They weren't lovers but they were friends.  Would die for each other without even having to give it a single thought.  Understood each other in ways that were creepifying to a man on the outside looking in.  Zoe knew the thoughts carooming inside Wash's head.  The little green monster that resided inside that part of him that could still be rocked by insecurities.  There was no such weakness in his wife.  And if the Captain had somesuch he hid it better than any of them.

Wash had ranted and raved at the Captain.  Accused him of all manner of unseemly things.  His panic reaching across the stunned space that separated the two of them as the jealous husband reached for anything to back up his anger and wrong foot the man who held all their lives in his psychotic hands.  Seeing the bafflement on the Captain's face had not been a reassurance to him because it did not give any answers.  He wanted to know, to understand.  To touch the things that made them so close, the past that was as remote to him as another world lost in time.  All that they shared that excluded him.  He hated it.  Feared it more.  Loved her so much that he could not bear the thought of Mal knowing things about her he would never know.  Sharing moments and thoughts and perhaps even more.  It burned him up inside and drove him insane.

Then came Niska.  A man even more derranged and unstable than their noble Captain.  He learnt more about himself than Mal in that abomination's hands.  Little glimpses of insight scorched through his tortured body like a branding iron.  Throat raw with crying out and screaming.  Anchored by the Captain's indomitable will and insane version of humour.  Odd how the man held him to his sanity.  Provided a rock that would keep him stable through the most bizarre and excruciating of circumstances.  Little glimpses of this complex man filtered through his tormented senses until he fancied he saw what she saw.  Began to understand her unwavering faith in him.  A man whose honour and loyalty would never be for sale, never be compromised to the altar of inferior gods.  It was like a seam of steel running right through the man's spine and defining him in ways that Wash had not thought of.  He began to see Zoe in a different light.  Seen through the eyes of a man who had walked through hell with her.  It shamed him that he had been so weak.  So terrified.  So needy.  Found himself reaching out emotionally for the man strapped into the frame beside him.  The man who now kept him dancing on the edge of oblivion, rallying him time and time again.  Giving him the strength to endure.

When Zoe came for them and chose him equal parts of Wash rejoiced and cried in denial and shame.  That was when he understood the full brunt of it.  Zoe loved him but Mal was her friend.  It was something forged almost at the level of their DNA.  Not even siblings like Simon and River came closer.  Their souls welded together as if they shared a single heartbeat.  No wonder Mal had fought against her marrying Wash.  No wonder Zoe would follow him blindly into certain death.  Friendship.  As he loaded his weapons and got prepared to go back to get the Captain out he realised that the experience had not only redefined his understanding of the term.  It had redefined himself.  He was stronger now.  Grimmer in his resolve.  The lighthearted man was still there.  Buried beneath the armour of a new faith.  The laughter still bubbled beneath the surface but it had a sober edge to it now.  Knowing the price at which it had been bought.  Yet he knew another thing too.  One that stirred a strange emotion in him.  A desire to be part of that select bond.  To earn his place among them.  He wanted to be part of that friendship.  Embrace it and make it his own.  He was not jealous of the Captain any more.  Was not afraid he would take Zoe from him or come between them.  He just wanted him back.  Safe.  Their little number complete again.  Almost without thinking he adopted the man's creed as his own.  Rachetted the rifle rounds into the magazine, a firm line to his lips, eyes hard and resolute with an iron will.  A man bracing for a battle.  One he intended to win.  The knowledge that he could accept nothing less was an epiphany.

"There's a code among people like us."  He said to Jayne like a man throwing down a gauntlet.  "Leave no man behind."