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Fic: Zuowenzhang, Star Trek/Firefly, PG

Title: Zuowenzhang
Author: caitri
Rating: PG
Pairings: Kirk/McCoy (mentioned), Kaylee/Simon, Wash/Zoe
Word Count: 2,824
Summary: Jim and River dance. Star Trek/Firefly x-over. Part of the First Rule of Flyin’ verse, taking place between Gao Guhn and Feia Hua.
Disclaimer: I know this may come as a shock, but I am not, amazing as it may seem, Gene Roddenberry, J.J. Abrams, Paramount or Bad Robot. Joss Whedon, Fox, or Universal, either. Just so you know.




“I gotta hand it to ya,” Reynolds says as they steer the animals out of Serenity’s cargo bay, “you’ve got a way with horses.”

“Yeah, I grew up with them,” Jim says lightly. He ties a blind over the eyes of a nervous bay mare, leading her down the ramp carefully. “Forgot how much I missed working with them, actually.”

“Mmm.” Reynolds makes a thoughtful, approving sound, but doesn’t say anything. There’s a dozen more of the creatures, and Book, Jayne, and Tam have constructed a temporary paddock to hold them near the ship until the buyers arrive.

The doctor opens the small fence to let the horses into the paddock. One shies away from him, causing the others to spook. “Wha--?” Tam is startled.

“Whoa, whoa!” Jim holds the leads closer to his body, making comforting shushing sounds. “Tell Simon to back off,” he tells Reynolds in a low, even tone. “I think his scent is throwing them off. Shh, shh,” he adds to one of the animals, who quiets obligingly.

“I’ll ask you to back away a bit, Doctor,” Mal says in a soft voice for the horses’ benefit. “Shepherd?”

“C’mon, son.” Book obligingly pulls Tam farther back, and Jim and Reynolds guide the animals into the paddock without a problem.

Tam is flushed afterwards—a mixture of anger and embarrassment—but says nothing. Jim sympathizes with him; somehow he reminds him of his yeoman when she first came aboard, so nervous and eager to do things well she sometimes tripped on her own feet, until she gradually learned to focus her energy onto her tasks. “I—don’t know what happened,” he says to Reynolds in apology.

Reynolds grins in that way he has when he wants to give the doctor a hard time. “It was the clothes, doc,” he says idly. “Confused ‘em.”

“No problem, now,” Jayne says with a smirk. Indeed, Tam’s black clothes, formerly a cut above those of the others, are now covered in dust and grit from the work they’ve been doing. “Doc’s as covered in tsway-niou as us. Shuh muh?” he asks as Reynolds shoots him a dark look and Simon looks even more unhappy.

Gwan nee tzi-jee duh shr, Jayne,” Zoe says firmly. Her hair is damp, as are her clothes, though hot as the sun is she’ll be dry soon. River and Kaylee follow behind, equally damp and their arms filled with bundles of damp clothes.

Jayne makes a disgusted face and spits on the ground, but says nothing. He backs off to stand by the paddock with Book, the two of them chatting companionably. Jim feels his lips twitch in a grin at the unlikely friends.

“Oh blessed river goddess,” Wash says admiringly to his wife as he comes down the deck to join them, “give unto me your favors.” He takes her in his arms and kisses her thoroughly.

Zoe chuckles, after, low and rich. She turns to Reynolds. “First bath in a few weeks is always the best,” she says. “Mind if I steal my husband for a while?”

“Let her steal me!” Wash entreats Reynolds eagerly. “I want to be stolen desperately, Mal!”

“Just stay nearby in case of trouble,” Reynolds says. “The deal goes smooth, the rest of us’ll be wanting baths too.”

“Do you think there will be trouble?” Tam asks hesitantly. His eyes dart to his sister out of habit. She stands a distance away, laughing with Kaylee. His expression as he takes them both in is unusually soft.

“What kind of trouble?” Jim asks curiously. He studies their faces; since Komack had sent him on this mission to a possible lost colony, he’s been doing his damnedest to just try to absorb information, but now and then he just comes across blocks in understanding—particularly with this group.

Reynolds grins at him—a little ruefully. “Your folk got any sayin’s about luck an’ journeys an’ all?”

“More than a few, yeah,” Jim says slowly as he thinks. “There’s even one about never wearing red when you’re on an away team with me, come to think of it…”

Reynolds and Zoe exchange a glance; they both have on their customary dark red shirts.

“Umm,” says Wash.

“I’m pretty sure this doesn’t count as an away team,” Jim says hurriedly. “And you’re not my crew. And it’s a stupid joke. Thing. Whatever.”

“’Kaaaay.” Tam draws the word out long, eyeing all of them dubiously. “Fascinating.” His glance returns to Mal. “So you think things will be fine, then?”

An yi,” Reynolds assents. To Jim he says, “Whatever your folk may make of it, Captain, we’ve got only the one thing here: Keep flyin’.”

As if that had been a signal, a series of dust clouds appear on the horizon, growing closer: Men on horses.

“Oh look,” Reynolds says. “Here’s comp’ny.”

~

Whatever the others had been worried about does not come to pass. The horses are sold, the Captain is paid, and what’s more, the nearby village is having the local equivalent of a harvest festival, to which they are all invited. The crew is relieved, excited even, and the change of mood in the air is palpable.

Kaylee, River, and Zoe stay with the ship and engineer a clothesline to let the crew’s laundry dry in the fresh air while the men retreat to the river, making use of it as the women had done.

“I’ll take care of your shirts, zhang xiong,” River says to Tam.

“Thank you, mei-mei,” Tam says to her with a smile, then she continues to Jim.

“Yours too, a ge,” she says, adding, “You both smell.”

“Thanks, mei-mei.” Jim affects to not see Tam’s frown of displeasure at their familiarity. The man poses little threat, and commenting will only draw further attention to their mutual affection.

He jogs slightly to catch up with the others as they head to the river, putting the incident out of his mind. As far as Jim is concerned, the absolute best part of all this? Is getting a bath.

The other men disrobe in the nearby bushes, except for Jayne, who strips down to his altogether without a pause and climbs a nearby rock to better dive into the water.

Jayne makes an inelegant cannonball as he jumps, hollering in almost childish delight. The resulting splash drenches the rest of them.

“Well that was impressive,” Wash says dryly. “Who knew?”

“I know, right?” Jim agrees as Jayne surfaces, shaking his head from side to side like a giant wet dog.

“Ours not to ask or reason why,” Reynolds says in amusement. Jim suppresses a grin; it’s little quotations like that which remind him how close he is to home—and how far away all at once.

“What ya’ll starin’ at?” Jayne demands as the others regard him in amusement. “Ya comin’ in or not?”

“We had pools like this back at the Abbey,” Shepherd Book comments as he steps into the water, swimming to join his friend. “A cool one and then a hot one. It’s good for the joints and the muscles.”

“Hot springs?” Jim asks as slips in the water, dipping below the surface briefly. The river is chilly, but the mud feels pleasant under his bare toes. Something darts away from him, and he opens his eyes under the water to peer at it, but it’s already gone. “I felt something,” he says when he emerges. “Not sure if it was a fish or frog or something. Do we need to be worried about snakes?”

“Snakes?” Tam echoes. He’s down to his drawers, holding the rest of his clothes in an awkward bundle. “Maybe I should go get my medkit—“

Reynolds regards the area around them thoughtfully. “Shouldn’t be anything here,” he says. “This here moon was terra-formed about five years ago—the only critters here should be what the colonists brought with them.”

“I know a story about two folks and a snake,” Book starts dryly, but Reynolds catches his eye. They stare at one another for a beat, then exchange small smiles and let the matter drop.

“May be,” Reynolds says, “just keep your eyes open. You plannin’ on bathin’ in your clothes, doc?” he adds to Tam. “That ain’t efficient.”

Tam keeps his drawers on, eyes averted. “It makes me uncomfortable,” he mutters.

Book laughs. “The Lord teaches us to feel no shame in the body, son.” Tam flushes. “Besides,” the Shepherd continues almost devilishly, “your clothing needs laundering just as much as ours does.”

“Amen, Shepherd,” Reynolds smirks, just before pushing Tam directly into the water. The doctor squawks in surprise, floundering to regain his footing.

Gwon nee tze-jee duh shr,” Tam mutters darkly.

~

They bathe leisurely, then return to the ship where they idle in the sun to dry. Jim passes the time playing a game of Go! with Kaylee and River, and the others enjoy the day off as well. As the sun dips closer to the horizon, they head to the nearby settlement.

The town reminds Jim of pictures in his history textbooks: simple buildings, largely built from wood. Horses are tethered outside numerous establishments, where hoverbikes and other more modern vehicles are parked separately. The town square itself is cordoned off for the celebration, with small booths set up to sell food and drinks.

“This is some party.” Jim admires the activity around them. The air is cool with autumnal chill, and several fires have been built to accommodate both the cooking of food and the need for warmth.

“Yeah,” Mal drawls slowly. “Just be mindful and don’t let any pretty girls put flowers on your head. Dong ma?”

“Got it,” Jim says, bemused, but not quite sure he wants to know.

He meanders through the crowd, at once as familiar as a state fair back in Iowa and as foreign as a light festival on Risa. He still has some creds in his pocket, so he buys a mug of cider and the local variant of a caramel apple. He sits down a little way from one of the many fires, consuming his treats in peace.

Jim watches the dancers twirl about to the music. It reminds him a little bit of Tarsus, when the colony was flourishing.

“You don’t talk about it.” River sits down next to him. Her gaze is focused on the dancers as well; she doesn’t turn to look at him.

“You neither,” he replies.

“I have no tongue,” she says simply. Her expression as she watches the dancers is entranced, almost mournful. “I can’t even weave!”

Philomele and Procne, he mentally identifies her reference, putting a comforting arm around her carefully. “Hmm.” They sit in companionable silence for a while, and there’s a break in the music. “Can you dance, nightengale?” They exchange a look, and then she grins at him. It’s like a sun coming out from behind a cloud, and all at once Jim feels infuriated at the people who dared to hurt this child so.

He forces himself to relax, to concentrate on feeling cheerful. Even if she’s not a complete telepath, she is sensitive enough that shifting his focus will help her as much as it will him. He stands up, offering her his hand. “Thought so. C’mon, kiddo.”

She takes it eagerly, and he leads her out to the impromptu dance floor.

~

“This is a great party,” Wash says contentedly, arms firmly around his wife. “There should be more of these.”

“I gotta hand it to you, sir,” Zoe says to Mal, “this was a good call.”

“D’you gotta sound so surprised?” Both crewmen give him a pointed look, and Zoe opens her mouth to reply when Wash speaks up.

“Huh,” the pilot says. “Get a load of that.”

They both look where he nods, to see Jim Kirk dancing skillfully with River Tam. They make an odd pair, the blonde man in his worn, borrowed brown clothes, the pale-faced girl dressed in her mismatched cast-offs from the women crewmembers—a rose-colored blouse, a purple skirt, an oversized black coat. River is almost glowing with joy, a wide grin on her face as Kirk spins her around to the dizzying pace of the music.

“No kiddin’,” Zoe says. “What d’you know.”

The musicians improvise their tune, and the rhythm becomes hectic and wild. Some laughing couples drop out of the dance to stand back while the more practiced participants continue. Kirk and the moonbeam are among those still moving at the end, grinning at each other companionably. The music stops abruptly in conclusion, the dancers frozen in their tableau for a moment before the next song begins. This one is slower, and more people melt into the crowd to sway to the slow beat. Kirk and River stay where they are, the girl leaning in to whisper something in his ear that makes him beam at her.

And there, off to the side, is Tam. He does not look happy at all.

“Oh, this can’t be good,” Mal mutters as the man heads towards them.

“You boys have a nice time,” Zoe says quickly, grabbing Wash’s hand. “We’ll just be going—“

Hòu,” Mal says. They both stay where they are reluctantly as Tam arrives.

“Evenin’, Doctor,” Zoe greets him.

“Hi,” the man says, looking at the three of them. He shifts awkwardly.

“Havin’ a good time?” Mal asks innocently. “It’s a swell gatherin’.”

“Yeah, swell,” Tam echoes. He sits down next to Mal abruptly, and Zoe shifts to make room for him, catching Mal’s eye in amusement. Tam nods at Kirk, still dancing with River in the crowd. “Look, I know you brought Kirk aboard, but—“ He breaks off, and tries again, obviously trying to figure how to be politic and failing, as ever. As annoying as it is, Mal appreciates the trait because it means he’s dealing with a man who’s used to being honest, and there’s too few of those out there. “Does he ever seem a little—off—to you?” Tam asks.

Mal shrugs, repressing a smile. “All the time.” At the doctor’s look of irritation he lets it slip just a little, and Tam looks even more put out. “’Sides, he is the only person who’s ever made sense of your moonbeam.”

Tam’s hard expression thaws at that. “I know,” he admits. “That’s what worries me.”

“His intentions seem honorable, if that’s what you’re worrying about,” Wash offers helpfully. “And River’s a big girl, she can handle herself.”

“Can she?” Tam asks distractedly. Kirk is leading River from the dance now, and he sits up to watch them carefully. But Kirk is only taking her to one of the nearby booths, and when they turn, they are each holding one of the ice planets the girl is so fond of: a ball of ice cream flash-frozen, attached to a string and a stick. Hers is white and his is brown, and they take turns trying to eat from the treats. He exhales a little in relief. “I just—worry,” he admits, looking a little rueful. He turns to Mal. “I don’t want her to get hurt, and I know Kaylee likes”—his voice stumbles a little on the mechanic’s name—“him too.”

“He’s a likeable guy,” Wash says placidly. “I like him, too. Not like that!” he adds when Zoe pokes him playfully.

Mal laughs at their antics. “We’ve got our eye on them, Doc,” he says to Tam. “Go find a pretty girl and ask her to dance.”

“I don’t dance,” Tam says awkwardly. He’s still staring at Kirk and the moonbeam, who are now being joined by a laughing Kaylee. Kirk offers her some of his ice planet, and she flushes with delight as she bends to take some of it into her mouth. Tam’s posture stiffens further in displeasure.

“Maybe you should start,” Wash says helpfully. He nudges his boot against Tam’s rear. “Like, oh, say, now?”

The doctor gets up, making a face, and joins the others in the distance. Kirk stands back when Tam joins them, and Kaylee turns bright pink as Tam says something to her, and they head to the dance floor. Kirk and River exchange a grin, and come to join them.

“Yours is better,” he says to the moonbeam, “it actually tastes like vanilla. Their idea of chocolate needs work, though.”

“Bones would like it,” River says with great assurance. “It tastes like Georgia mountains feel.” Something flits across Kirk’s face, and her expression softens. “Don’t worry, we’re almost home now.”

“Are we now?” Mal interrupts, bemused. “Where’s home then, lil albatross?”

“Out in the black,” River answers as if he were simple, “where the stars sing and the moons dance. That’s always where home is.”

“No argument from me,” Kirk says contentedly, taking another bite of the ice planet.

“Yeah,” Mal agrees, looking up at the night sky, “me neither.”

Comments

( 43 comments — Add your .02 )
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wyntreaurora
Feb. 13th, 2011 04:46 am (UTC)
Oh so much love!!! Red shirts and accidental marriage references FTW!! I don't think I'll ever get enough of the awesome that is this crossover *g*
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 04:59 am (UTC)
*G*G* Glad you liked it, bb!!!!
suddenlyswept
Feb. 13th, 2011 04:57 am (UTC)
I pounced on this like white on rice! Or something else that doesn't equal a mixed metaphor!

Loved Jim and River dancing! Just loved *sighs happily*
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 04:59 am (UTC)
D'awwww!!!! *squishes you delightedly*
nikaratrenal
Feb. 13th, 2011 05:02 am (UTC)
This was lovely. The interaction between River and Jim remains lovely. I'm also really impressed with the Zoe/Wash dialogue. It really reads well, and sounds exactly in character. Well done!
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 05:18 am (UTC)
*G* Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!
(Deleted comment)
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 05:17 am (UTC)
*G* Glad you enjoyed it!!!!!
hazel_belle
Feb. 13th, 2011 06:47 am (UTC)
River and Jim happen to be so marvelous and cute when you write them!!

I am digging this entire series!
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
*G* Thanks, bb!!!
claudia_nic
Feb. 13th, 2011 07:04 am (UTC)
I love this so much! But I missed some installments so I have to do some catching up.
Aren't you supposed to be in hiding this weeken btw :D
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 05:54 pm (UTC)
I got an unexpected reprieve. We got a crapload done Friday evening so Todd said we didn't have to go in this weekend. This means if we end up working til midnight anytime this week I'm gonna be very annoyed, though!

And glad you liked the fic!!
littlemissgriff
Feb. 13th, 2011 09:00 am (UTC)
All I can see is the disgust on Jim's face when Bones falls in love with the non-chocolate ice cream. He'd make a fuss over it just to be able to complain.
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 05:57 pm (UTC)
"Dude, that is not chocolate."

"Yes it is!"

Jim stares at Bones, who looks torn between being mutinous and being delighted with the problematic food. "Just--how??"

Bones swallows a bite. "It 'minds me of the malt candy we used to get up by my Aunt and Uncle's when I was a kid," he says. "That's all."

Jim shakes his head, taking a bite of his own. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but for once I prefer vanilla."

Bones snorts. "That's right, ladies and gentlemen," he says in a mock announcer's voice. "Jim Kirk likes it vanilla."
(no subject) - littlemissgriff - Feb. 13th, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
karmic_fic
Feb. 13th, 2011 11:03 am (UTC)
this series just keeps on delivering, thank you so much for the new installment (though i'm not gonna lie i spent the whole thing hoping no one on that planet was contemplating kidnapping a doctor)
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC)
LOL, if it hadn't been done already, I would have thought about it. ;)
aadarshinah
Feb. 13th, 2011 12:57 pm (UTC)
*squees* amazing as always. Especially the ever-evolving epic Jim/River brother/sister friendship (and, yes, that's as concise as I can make it). Everyone is always so in charector, straddling the line that keeps things from becoming too much of one fandom or the other... though now you have me wanting decent chocolate ice cream. :(
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 05:59 pm (UTC)
Ice cream on STRING!

and glad you liked it!!!! *G*
amine_eyes
Feb. 13th, 2011 01:01 pm (UTC)
Aww sweet and happy and a lovely gentle feel :)
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
*G* I'm glad you liked it, bb! *squish*
avictoriangirl
Feb. 13th, 2011 03:24 pm (UTC)
I've told you before how spot on your characterizations are and I simply must quote this, because it's PERFECT:

“Let her steal me!” Wash entreats Reynolds eagerly. “I want to be stolen desperately, Mal!”

And finally - Red shirts! XD This was amazing as usual, bb. ♥
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
<333 *squishes you delightedly*

Aw, thank you, bb!! And thank you for the mystery present, though I admit it's driving me a little nuts--I must play too much World of Warcraft cos I keep thinking there MUST be some sort of trick to open it!!!!!!! ;)
(no subject) - avictoriangirl - Feb. 13th, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - caitri - Feb. 13th, 2011 11:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - avictoriangirl - Feb. 14th, 2011 01:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - caitri - Feb. 14th, 2011 01:17 am (UTC) - Expand
joirerson
Feb. 13th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC)
*squees excitedly at you*

*even more squeeing*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
*squishes you*
weepingnaiad
Feb. 13th, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
Wonderful! This is all perfect, but my favorite is Jim and River, how he gets her, and manages himself so that he can help her keep her balance. They'd be gorgeous together, so I get why Tam's uncomfortable, though he has nothing to worry about as everyone but him seems to know.


caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC)
Y'know, I can honestly say that Jim/River as a pairing never once occurred to me. I just see them as being like siblings in any permutation cos they would totally GET each other.
blue_jack
Feb. 13th, 2011 06:23 pm (UTC)
Ohhhhhh, this was a sweet slice of life story. Lol, poor Tam, always so worked up.
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Simon needs a chill pill. I don't know how to write him as anything other than a spaz, though...
samjohnsson
Feb. 13th, 2011 07:32 pm (UTC)
*\o/*

So! Much! Love! And Wash's method of motivating Simon. Writing question - why have you always referred to him and Jim by their last names, as opposed to everyone else?

“Out in the black,” River answers as if he were simple, “where the stars sing and the moons dance. That’s always where home is.”

So very true for all of them!
caitri
Feb. 13th, 2011 07:36 pm (UTC)
*G*

So in my head, the characters think of each other as they, er, think of each other. So when it's Jim's or Mal's pov, they are going to think of the people they are closest to with their first names and people they aren't so close to with their last names. For example, on the seriesm Mal always calles Jayne "Jayne" but he calls Book "Book" and not "Derrial." Make sense?

As for Jim, he likes and respects Mal, but he thinks of him as the Captain of the crew, so he thinks of him as Reynolds rather than Mal, and likewise vice versa. On the other hand, he feels close to Kaylee and River.

Neither Captain is overly close to Simon, so he is always Tam to them.

/ramble ;)
(no subject) - samjohnsson - Feb. 13th, 2011 07:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - caitri - Feb. 13th, 2011 07:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
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