Categories > TV > Firefly > Under Their Skin0 Reviews
The conclusion of "Under Their Skin"
This is the final chapter! I hope you have enjoyed my story. Thank you again to my fantastic beta testers.
The headquarters of the resistance is the basement of an abandoned church, a church that once burned to the ground. It is dank and drafty. The floor of the main room is lined with cots and sleeping bags. Stores of weapons in boxes line the walls.
Headquarters serves both as a base of operations and a shelter/hospital for freed slaves and runaways. Some of the escaped slaves will end up actually living at headquarters and helping the resistance; others will be moved to the attics and basements of white sympathizers. Malcolm Reynolds walks around the base, wondering if some of the people could be temporarily moved to Serenity so they can keep headquarters for strategizing. It might make more sense to use the basement as a shelter and for the resistance to set up inside the ship instead. He plans to discuss it with Zoe, but one of the fighters is now rushing up to his second-in-command.
"Doctor, we have another group of runaways! One of 'em has a leg wound and another is due to have a baby any day." An awkward pause. "Doctor??"
Zoe furrows her brow in confusion; she doesn't know that the speaker is addressing her. She regains her composure momentarily. "He's the doctor," she says, tilting her head in Simon's direction. "I just help out."
"Really? You ain't a doctor?"
"But you did such amazing stuff yesterday and the day before. You're a nurse then?"
"Not that either," Zoe says. "But I'm pretty good at dressing a wound."
"She's amazing!" Wash calls out, enthusiastically. He doesn't have time to join in the conversation though. He and Kaylee are overhauling the plumbing system, and Wash has just caught snippets of the dialog as he carts some supplies over to Kaylee.
Zoe smiles at Wash's comment as Simon rushes over to help the new escapees. Zoe marvels at how her husband's voice and his smile can suddenly brighten her day - even though her day began with her rising at 05:00 and working without a break in a chilly, loud basement filled with suffering people and the weight of an intolerable situation.
Not long later, Zoe is assisting Simon as he dresses the leg wound of one of the new escapees. The patient's brother stands by his bedside, gripping onto him, the only family he has left. Both of them are teenagers.
"...and this should dull the pain. Don't try to walk for another 24 hours at least. We'll check back in with you then," Simon is saying.
"Thank you, Doctor," the young man responds. He looks up at Simon with fear and reverence.
"Thank you," the patient's brother adds. "Doctor," he begins, truly puzzled, "why are you helping us? We can't pay you. We're just slaves."
"I, uh...," Simon fumbles for the right words. "I help people. That's what I do."
"You ain't slaves," Zoe adds. Her head aches at the thought that -- after just a couple of generations of this retched system -- these young men have been brainwashed into believing they are somehow less than human. "Ain't no one in this verse born to be a slave."
Zoe and Wash make the journey back to Serenity from resistance headquarters at the end of another long day on Turkhana IV. Their feet are tired and eyes are weary, and both could use a shower. They would love to be riding the mule instead of walking but Mal is using it for something pertaining to their mission, and they can't waste the fuel anyway.
Zoe's gun is at the ready as they walk through the dense forest. She looks down and sees that the grass is already well trodden - several members of the Serenity crew and the resistance travel this way from headquarters to the ship multiple times per day. They would move the vessel closer but only this deep in the forest does it have adequate cover, and they cannot risk calling attention to the location of headquarters.
Last night Zoe and Wash slept at resistance headquarters, but today there's not even a blanket free - let alone a cot - and they realize that their bodies severely need real rest if they are to be of any use in the struggle tomorrow.
"Did you hear something?" Wash asks, after his ears pick up some rustling. His flashlight barely illuminates the thickness of the mysterious forest. His free hand holds Zoe's free hand and clenches it.
"I think it's Bishop's unit. They should be headin' back from the ship about now." Zoe makes a few inquiries into her communication device and finds her suspicion is correct.
"What time are you going to go back to headquarters?" Wash asks.
"I ain't sure. Mal told me to take as long as I need, but Lin started her labor and I bet Simon could use a hand with the delivery. I probably should get up at 05:00 again."
"Simon's delivered babies by himself before. Well, er, one baby. At the Heart of Gold. He didn't have any assistance there, except for River." Wash adds, "Though I'm not sure how much she really contributed to the birthing process."
"Yeah, but Simon ain't had a break since longer than I have. Someone's gotta be there to make sure he don't fall asleep." Zoe pauses and then adds, "Plus I wanna see the baby. Maybe hold him. Or her." She swallows and says passionately, "I wanna hold a baby in my arms."
Wash keeps his gaze straight ahead and avoids his wife's. He is weary and hungry, his head aches, and he doesn't want to rehash the argument again now. He can't deal with the longing in her voice.
And this argument is such a difficult one for Wash anyway. He hates to deprive Zoe of something that she wants. But he can't bear the thought of losing his warrior woman. One of the reasons he originally fell in love with her was because of her toughness, the fact that she was a fighter. Somehow the image of her burping a baby is at odds with the image of her that he loves, as she totes a gun and fights off bad guys. Wash also does not care for the idea of Zoe's affections and attentions being directed elsewhere.
"Zoe," he begins, trying to soothe her with his gentle tone.
"I ain't gettin' any younger, husband."
"And our lives aren't getting any less risky. In fact, one could argue that our lives are substantially more risky than ever!"
"Ain't so. Once we're outta here, we got less threat from the Alliance than before. Maybe less from the Reavers too."
"But we're still smugglers. You know, smugglers running afoul of the law, living on the edge, getting shot at every other week. Honey, I just don't see us having a baby now. We - "
"It's okay," Zoe says, shaking her head and cutting off the discussion. A gust of wind blows by and she shivers. "I'm tired, you're tired. Let's not discuss this now. We ain't gonna resolve it tonight."
Wash wonders if they are ever going to resolve it.
The couple finally reaches the ship and their bunk. Their clothing is shed as they collapse under the covers together and attain their spooning position.
"I love you, husband," Zoe murmurs. Her eyes are already sealed shut and she is asleep seconds after Wash says, "Love you too."
The next several days are filled with events. A large shindig is held in the center of town, and Inara procures an invitation. Few have ever seen a registered companion before. The guests speculate on how she has arrived, with some not believing her story that she flew in with the last Alliance transport.
Inara works the event like a professional. Men and women are drawn her to her charisma and beauty. Within moments of entering, she identifies the most powerful people in the room. She avoids them and focuses on the others, engaging them in conversations. Had any of her crewmates been present, they would have been impressed with her articulateness and her gentle persuasiveness. Several guests leave the shindig rethinking their positions on slavery.
A town hall meeting takes place two days later. These meetings occur on a regular basis and are facilitated by the local government. Mal accompanies several (white) citizens of Turkhana IV and they sign the list of those who wish to speak. Mal gives a speech that would have made Shepherd Book proud - indeed, the preacher may be smiling on him right now -- but the colony's leadership has never intended these meetings to be anything more than a charade. Real debate is not permitted at the farce of a meeting, and Mal and the others are hauled off to jail for disrupting the peace.
Zoe and Jayne, along with Ororo, Logan, Bishop, and a few other members of the resistance, are planning the raid on the jail. River will accompany them as well.
On board Serenity, Zoe and Wash sit outside the infirmary. Wash is applying steady pressure to the wound his wife sustained during the successful raid on the prison.
"It's nothin'," Zoe says. "The bullet just grazed it."
"Ni shou shang le. You need to see a doctor," Wash insists. He raises his voice. "Doctor! When are you gonna get out here and see my wife?!"
Kaylee pokes her head out of the infirmary. "He'll be there as soon as he can," she says. "Thomas was pretty badly hurt," she refers to one of the resistance members.
Mal rushes out of the infirmary, brushing by Kaylee, to grab some supplies. "He's gonna need surgery. I gotta assist. Zoe?" he turns towards his first mate. "You gonna be okay?"
"I'm fine," Zoe says, though she is clenching her teeth.
"So, how did the raid go?" Wash asks his wife. "It, uh, looks like you freed Mal." He is trying to get Zoe's mind off the pain.
"We did. River distracted the guards. They didn't expect to see a ballet-dancing teenager. And they didn't expect her to take their keys. Or beat 'em to a pulp when they realized what she did and went after her."
"Simon's going to have a fit when he hears about this," Wash shakes his head.
"Doc's coming to realize that his little sister's one tough lady." Zoe then takes a deep, sharp breath. She is obviously in pain.
Wash inspects the wound and observes, "It looks like the bleeding is slowing down. But you need some painkillers."
Zoe shakes her head. "Supply's too low. And we're gonna need what we got left for Thomas."
Wash's eyes dart around, assessing the situation. Zoe is right that all of their medical supplies are dwindling. Even if he darted into sickbay and absconded with a pain killer, she wouldn't agree to take it. Zoe is also right that her wound isn't that serious. It is causing her pain and serious discomfort, but it's nothing more than a flesh wound and she has recovered from far worse.
"I got an idea!" Wash exclaims.
He reaches into his jumpsuit pocket and pulls out a dinosaur. He reenacts a battle using the dinosaur, accompanied by the appropriate facial expressions and voice intonations. He then brings the dinosaur to her cheek and noisily makes kissing sounds. The dinosaur then merrily tells Zoe about its day and its plans for opening up a diner on Persephone, and asks Zoe if she knows any potential fry cooks. During the antics, Zoe laughs so hard that her sides hurt more and she has forgotten about her wound.
Bishop stands by, cleaning weapons but mostly watching Zoe and Wash. He does not comprehend why she is with Wash and vows to someday show her what a "real" man is like.
Several days later, the resistance leaders and the Serenity crew are having a meeting at headquarters, discussing their next steps. Although they have been making progress in convincing Turkhana IV's people about the wrongness of slavery, they are progressing too slowly for some.
Ororo shakes her head. "We're not moving too slowly, Bishop!" she insists. "Progress takes time. And until we have a couple hundred fighters instead of a couple dozen, we can't wage an all-out war against the government. We don't have the manpower to win."
"What about her?" Bishops asks, cocking his head in River's direction. "We know she's got a ton of powers and we saw 'em in use at the jail. Can't she take 'em down??"
"Let's not talk about my sister as if she's not right here in the room with us!" Simon says.
"I didn't mean any offense," Bishop responds. "It just looks to me like we're really underutilizing her. And her powers."
"He's right," River says. "There's a lot I can do. And I'm confident I can do it."
Zoe listens to River's words. The fact that River is speaking cogently still takes some getting used to even though she has been doing so much better since Miranda. She's not the same person as she was before. The young woman also appears to have no problems addressing the large group.
"She was pretty amazing at the jail cell raid," Ororo adds.
Suddenly Logan rushes into the room. "We got problems!" he exclaims. "They found out where our headquarters are. They're plannin' a raid!"
The Serenity crew and the rest of the resistance are now preparing for their final stand. Most of their fighters, along with River, will be deployed in defending their base.
Serenity will have a crucial role. The ship will provide air support during the battle. In addition to River, Serenity is probably their biggest asset because the colony does not have a starship. Wash will, of course, pilot the ship. The plan is for Jayne and Bishop to be at the ready, hanging from the ship on harnesses and ready to gun down the raiders using their most intimidating weapons.
Mal is coordinating the deployment of their fighters along with the vital role that Serenity will play. He stands around Serenity's dinning room table with Zoe and Bishop. The three have been pouring over a map and examining supplies.
"The harnesses are tight," Mal says. "You an' Jayne will be secure. You'll be amazed at how scared people get when they see big guys with guns hangin' from a huge ship."
"Sounds like a good plan," Bishop says. "I'm ready to finish this thing once and for all!"
"Sir," Zoe begins, "request permission to be on board Serenity instead of on the front line."
"I need you with the ground troops on the front," Mal says, surprised at Zoe's request. "We can't be sure that River ain't gonna need a lot of backup."
Bishop shoots a knowing look at Zoe. "You don't want me alone with Wash. Afraid I'm gonna hurt your white husband?"
"Ain't afraid," Zoe responds, steadily. "But better safe than sorry."
"Well, you can relax. He's on our side and I ain't gonna hurt him." He scoffs, "Still can't believe you married a white man though."
"I still can't believe you think you got the right to comment on my marriage."
Bishop smiles though Zoe's face remains steel. "You're a tough lady. I like that. You ever decide you want one of your own kind, I'm right here for you." He pauses, smiles, "I wanna settle down someday and have kids. You and I could have some beautiful children together."
"Ain't gonna happen."
"Why not? A real man ain't afraid of havin' kids. A wimp would be afraid of it but a real man ain't. Hey, you ever ask your white man what's the real reason he don't wanna have kids with you? Maybe he really wants kids with blue eyes and blonde hair."
Zoe is quiet. Bishop mistakes her silence for contemplation, and asks, "Are you thinking about my offer, Zoe?"
"I'm thinkin' that I'm gonna punch you after we're done with the job. Don't make sense to do it now."
Mal has been quiet during their dialog, but he is acutely aware that time is running out. He doesn't have time to listen to Zoe and Bishop's complicated exchange. "Right, well then...back to the battle and my ship. We were discussin' what we're gonna do with Serenity."
"Right, sir," Zoe says. She turns to Bishop. "Go on ahead without me then. Anything happens to Wash, you get the same. Dong ma?"
"Right," Bishop replies. Zoe eyes him and is comfortable with her assessment that he still poses no threat to Wash.
Not long later, Zoe and Wash bid farewell as he prepares for his leg of the fight on the ship, and she for her role with the ground troops.
"Don't worry, honey," Wash is saying. "I'll be alright. And I'm sure I can take Bishop in a fight!"
Zoe makes a face.
Their work is done. Turkhana IV is still far from being a paradise but the tide has clearly turned, and the crew of Serenity was instrumental in bringing about that turning. They dealt a fatal blow to the maintainers of the status quo, and the rest of the inhabitants of Turkhana IV are quickly realizing that the slavery system is unsustainable.
Wash has set Serenity to break Turkhana IV's orbit. Once the ship is on its way, he and Zoe retire to their bunk. The lights are dimmed and candles are lit. Zoe is holding a small bottle of massage oil, a gift from Inara for Zoe's recent birthday.
"You're still tense, honey," Zoe murmurs. Her wound is healing steadily and she barely thinks about it now.
Wash lays face down on the bed, and Zoe straddles him as she lovingly rubs the oil onto his back.
"I'm still tense because we're so broke!" Wash exclaims. "I should be on the bridge figuring out a more fuel-efficient way to get to Zeus!"
"You checked the coordinates five times," Zoe points out, with an amused chuckle. "Ain't a faster way there than the one you've programmed in."
Mal and his crew have barely enough fuel to reach Zeus. They need to hope they find a job there, and a lucrative one at that. However, the situation is not completely bleak. Inara has one client lined up there, and possibly two. She's willing to exchange her profits for free shuttle rent. It will tide Serenity over if Zeus has no jobs.
"'Sides, maybe someday we'll get to take Ororo and Logan up on their offer," Zoe adds. Before they left Turkhana IV, the other couple invited them to spend some time with them on the vacation planet Risa. Ororo and Logan have a wealthy friend who owns a large complex on the beach, and says that the Serenity crew is welcome anytime. But Risa is very far away and they would need money for fuel to reach it.
"That does give me something good to think about. If we can ever convince the captain that a vacation needs to happen, and we get enough fuel to get there," Wash admits. He sighs, "And I guess if worse comes to worse and we get totally broke, we can always sell the ring," Wash says, mournfully. He pulls himself around to face her. "It'll get us enough to keep flying for a while. And eating. Eating is good. Food is a really good thing."
"Ain't sellin' this ring 'cept as a last resort," Zoe says. "Some day, we'll have enough to get you one. And to get to Risa for a spell. We'll get by one way or another." She sighs gently and squirts out more oil onto her fingertips. "I think things are pretty good right now. We're onto the next job - one always pops up. We got each other. And we helped a whole bunch of people get their freedom."
Wash takes a breath and smiles. "You're right. My wife is always so right!"
"You got it. Now get back on your stomach and let me keep at your shoulders!"
Wash complies, and Zoe returns to rubbing his body with the massage oil. She delights at the feel of his strong shoulders and his muscled back. She touches him with her fingertips and the palms of her hands. She can feel that some of the tension has already escaped his body. She likes the way her heart beats a little bit faster when she appreciates the beauty and strength in his body. Every touch of her hand increases her arousal.
"Mmmmm," Zoe sighs. "I could do this all day." She reaches down to take a nibble on one of his shoulders.
"Fine by me," Wash murmurs. "Except I would like to be able to actually face you!"
"Face to face is nice," Zoe says, as she gracefully leaves her straddling position. "Flip over," she orders.
Wash does so, and Zoe then begins rubbing the front of his chest with the oil. She admires the look and feel of his front as she traces her hand along a firm area. She then tweaks a nipple.
"Don't you want a massage too?" Wash asks. He is eager to get his hands on her skin.
"Eventually," she breathes. Her fingers are now playing with the light hair on his chest. "But I ain't done with you yet." She slowly moves downwards. "I neglected one area."
"Well, you know. Take your time. We have --- oh! Oh wow. I didn't realize that you were going to start using your mouth. Oh!" he gasps with pleasure. Wash leans his head back and enjoys what Zoe is doing to him. He musters enough breath to add, "Um...I do get to reciprocate, right?"
Zoe lifts her head for a second, moving her hand now to a strategic place. "You'll get your turn." She moves her lips and tongue back to the activity they were enjoying.
Not long afterwards, Mal, Simon, and River are walking towards the bridge to check the ship's course. As they pass the crew bunks, they hear loud noises from Zoe and Wash's.
"Remind me to buy better soundproofing the second we can afford it," Mal mutters.
River pauses and tilts her head. She then states, as if she is reading a weather report from the cortex, "Cunnilingus is taking place."
Simon's face changes color. Mal addresses River before her brother composes himself, "River. Don't care how psychic you are or what a great fighter you've become. You share anything like that again, I'm sending you packin' faster than you can say - "
River opens her mouth as if to repeat the term, but thinks better of it and smiles.
Serenity soon reaches Zeus and its next adventure.
--- THE END
More author's notes:
That's a wrap! I hope you enjoyed the story. Please leave a review or email me -- con-crit is welcome as is (of course) praise.