Firefly/Serenity, Post-BDM, Mal/River
Not mine, never were, won’t ever be, just using them for my own personal gratification. Characters property of Mutant Enemy. All praise be to Joss.
The hunted and the haunted. If you don't know where you're going, can you ever find your way?
He sits on the bridge with the ghost of a pilot and the shell of girl, trying to make himself belong somewhere he rightfully should. But the chair ain't his, won't form and mold and yield like it was meant for him. He'd swear the ghost was using all of afterlife standing over his shoulder, and the girl can find buttons and switches with her eyes closed when he’s still got to look.
He’s plotting course – or tryin’ to, anyhow – when she breaks the quiet, softly like she don’t want to startle him, but he’s been counting down the minutes.
“You can’t find your place.”
Eyes locked on the screen, he breathes deep before he answers her.
“Place is found and waitin’,” he reasons, finally sparing her a glance. “Just a matter of getting there.” But it's not what she meant, and he suspects that she smiles because he already knows.
She’s curling herself into the seat, as she tends to – arms pulling her legs close, toes twined with her fingers and curling over the edge – and perching a cheek on her knees, eyes takin’ him in like somebody who can’t reach into his head and pull out his insides. “It’s not the same,” she muses sagely. “The signal degrades. Here and gone until it’s all static.”
Girl’s clearly seeing something beyond his coordinate confusion – but he’s only half-listening, more taken with the dots and blips that have him confounded and the lingering spirit of a pilot who could map the stars in his sleep.
“Right,” he hums in answer, more to acknowledge her than anything. He knows his mumbling won’t appease her – she’s still eager as a pup to prove she’s worth more than a walkin’ weapon and a talkin’ fortune cookie. But he can’t keep letting her slip him the answers. This boat’s his, now more than ever, and it’s plain xu wei of him to expect his crew to earn their keep when he can’t hardly carry his own.
“You’re reaching for black and white, and it’s all gray.”
His hand halts halfway to rubbing bleary eyes. What he’s reaching for is sanity, pure and simple. “Be that as it may, little one, I still need to steer through all this black and get us to the little white dot that’s gonna keep us livin’ this lavish lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed.” His voice is lighter than he feels, and he hitches his mouth up at the corners for good measure.
She’s not fooled, and he feels like one for trying. “White is the absence of color,” she offers. “Black is the combination of all color. Life is in the levels.”
There’s a hitch in her voice that’s nudging at his brain … but he’s missing something every time she opens her mouth, so that ain’t anything new. Still, he sets sense aside to look over.
Her head comes up, and looking was a mistake – she’s got him pinned with a stare that says he’s slower than Jayne on a bad day.
“The same matter can’t occupy the same space.” She blinks, once, twice, again, like it’ll help him crack whatever code she’s speakin’ in, but her eyes are just dots in the darkness, blips on the screen, and he can’t make them out, either. They finally roll, and her feet slap the floor as they drop, lending her disgust a sound of its own. “You can’t remember how to be.”
“Ain’t my memory that’s the problem.” Sliding down low in the chair, he lets his head fall back on his shoulders and swipes a hand down his face. “We’re not like to run into anything soon.” Burning up a mess of fuel while he fought with empty space, but they weren’t hurting yet. “It’ll get sorted out. I’ll sort it out.”
“You’re not you yet,” she counters. “He’s black and white, and you can only be gray.”
He tips his chin down, rubs at the back of his neck, and battles the little voice in his ear that’s counting out his weaknesses and chanting down to failure. “I’m beginning to think,” he starts, careful as ever with her, “that we’re not readin’ the same map here, Little Albatross.”
“Haven’t plotted the points yet. Going in circles…” She draws her legs back up, hugs them tight. “Mapped the fight to the cause, white stained black with everything in between. Target in his sights and his finger on the trigger and they're gone in a blink and a pull.”
Her eyes have stopped their decoding dance – they’re open wide and fixed on his, brown pools of stars with black holes at their centers, and then it’s her voice whispering in his ear, burrowing beneath his skin. “Gone from his care just as fast – his eyes are still searching and his finger's itching for another squeeze. He’s the hunter until he’s not. And then it’s over, and black is too heavy for him, and he’s bled too much color to be white again.”
She blinks, and the spell should be broken, but he’s still caught in that pull. “Used to be him,” she says, shrugging a bit, “can't be anymore. Targets have turned into bodies, and fingers have to dig the holes he put them in. The hunt is over, and all that's left is the kill. You have to navigate the gray.”
There’s just blaring in his head now, white noise and static that’s ringing too true and flashes of faces with names he knows and bones he’s left behind. His hands ball into fists, but he can’t fight the ghosts on his tail, and all at once it’s too much – the place he can’t fill, the fight he can’t win, the girl laying his brain at his feet when he hardly knows his own mind.
She can’t help it, he knows – truth calls to her like a beacon, and she never would have sense enough not to unearth what the rest of them left buried. But sometimes, gorrammit, a man had to make his own way.
She’s turning back to the screen before he can even rock to his feet, her fingers fluttering over the keys like wings.
“I’ll do it,” she says, dismissal so clear he almost checks her shoulder for stars. “You have other places to be.”
xu wei :: hypocritical