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Not Pickles and Ice Cream
The brown paper package sat carefully cradled on Simon's lap.
"Well, that went well." For once that statement was not steeped in sarcasm. The small convenience store on Boros had had what they needed, at a price that while not quite reasonable, was affordable, and they were now safely on their way back to the ship.
"Some might even say smooth."
"Some might." Simon and Wash shared a smile, remembering the captain's diatribes about the complications that Zoe's pregnancy would bring. It felt good to be sarcastic about the captain with someone who wouldn't punch him for it.
"You know, this whole pregnancy thing is going pretty well. Aside from the occasional side trips and Mal's first reaction." Wash paused as if there was something he was forgetting. "And also the morning sickness. For which I was ready with the fearsome vomit pan and sponge."
Simon wondered if selective memory was at work, or if Wash just didn't want to talk about his initial reaction. Simon remembered well the subtle inflection in Zoe's voice when she threatened to kill him if he told anyone, especially Wash, after she had Simon run the tests. That she was unaccompanied had further indicated that she was less than certain of Wash's reception of his possibly impending fatherhood. But after some tense moments and ship-reverberating arguments, the sight of the zygote in the scans settled Wash into his more usual role: largely accepting, somewhat worried, overprotective until Zoe persuaded him otherwise, and eager to hold her hand through it all. He was good at accepting what was done and couldn't be changed. Simon wished he had that talent.
"It would make it even simpler if she just craved red-coloured protein crackers," Wash said, interrupting Simon's reverie. "I mean, we've got plenty of those. And no one else really likes them much."
"Theoretically, these cravings are based on a lack in the mother's diet and the assumption that the human body knows what it requires to best nurture a fetus. However, studies have been done, and while a good portion of the cravings can be accounted for, there are too many cases where there was no correlation or pattern. Likely that is dependent on what testing methods were administered and how the element in question is used." Simon had never been good at paraphrasing doctor-speak so that it could be understood by the average layperson.
Simon couldn't bring himself to tell Wash the real reason, that due to the 2496 legislation involving abortion laws and legalities about miscarriages, "fetus" was the correct term up until birth. Instead he sidestepped, "You could solve the problem yourselves by deciding on a name â€” or even better, agreeing to let me tell you its sex."
"Zoe really wants to be surprised. Me, I handle surprises a little less well. But she is doing the hard part right now, with the carrying. So I figure it's her call. And there's the part where she's a lot stronger â€” and now bigger â€” than me. Also the third trimester sex is amazing. Easily among the best sex we've ever had." The part of Simon that couldn't leave his proper upbringing behind winced a little, but Wash blithely continued.
"You should try it. But not with my wife." Wash grinned. "Though I should probably enjoy it while it lasts. She's still going to get bigger, right? And while I love her very much, squashed is not on my list of things I really want to be. I mean, husband â€” great, father â€” amazing. Squashed? Not so much. That's why I never went in for sumo wrestling seriously."
"Sumo wrestling?" Simon sometimes wondered about Wash's neural pathways and how well they connected considering his tendency towards the tangential.
"Yeah, you know, where the really, really huge guys try to push each other out of a little ring?"
"You were going to be a sumo wrestler?" Simon couldn't help raising his eyebrows in disbelief.
"I could've been!" he protested proudly. "You should have seen me as a young lad â€” I was huge. Enormous. Gigantic." Wash took his hands away from the controls for a minute to illustrate his former girth. "You wouldn't think it to look at me now, but I was. And the planet I grew up on, sumo wrestling was quite the sport. On some planets they may juggle geese, but on my home planet, we wrestled. No geese to speak of, anyway, due to the pollution. But my first match? The guy they put me up against was easily 400 pounds." Wash paused for dramatic effect, and Simon rose to the occasion.
"He sat on me. And that was the end of what could have been a very profitable career in wrestling. Truthfully, I like flying much better. Good thing too â€” never would have met my lambie-toes otherwise." Wash smiled. "Though the food would be better, if I was a sumo wrestler. But truth to say? I wanted to see the stars."
"Astrophysics was never my strong suit."
"Not astrophysics, Simon. Stars. Look. Aren't they beautiful?"
"Yes. Sure. Of course." Simon backtracked unconvincingly.
"Such the romantic."
"Possibly the only thing worse than freezing in the nothingness of space would be burning to a crisp by getting a bit to close to one of those giant helium burning cores."
"You insulting my flying here? Cause you know, I could always â€”"
"No, I didn't mean... I just â€” Space isn't my thing. I'd rather just not think about it. And it's less... central when we're on Serenity."
"Trust me, Simon. I almost never get into accidents." Wash patted Simon's shoulder in an exaggerated fashion before quickly removing it to grip the controls in feigned panic.
"Almost never? I'm completely reassured," he deadpanned, enjoying their repartee.
"Well, it couldn't have been too bad if I'm still here, now could it? In all seriousness, last time I did something monumentally stupid was in flight school. Hangovers and steering do not good bedfellows make."
"Oh, you just need to have access to the right drugs to mitigate the effects of the alcohol." Simon's tone was casually flat, as if reciting from rote.
"You never!" Wash said in surprise.
"Me? What â€” No. We got drunk. But never before a test or a shift. No, the drinking came after." Simon bit his bottom lip, eyes going dark with remembrance. He pushed past those memories to find one with more levity. "Though there was a time when I thought I'd never be able to look at sake ever again."
"There was drunken debauchery? The upright Doctor Tam! Now this is a story I want to hear." Wash cracked his knuckles and leaned back in his chair.
"Well, I wasn't so upright that night," Simon said, rubbing his temple with his forefinger. "Though I was sober enough not to fall off the statue of Hippocrates. But drunk enough to think singing naked was a henbang idea. Until the feds came."
"See, I would be laughing... but, well, Simon, you need to learn how to tell a story. Embellish more. Turn those hand gestures into shadow puppets."
"I somehow don't think that story lends itself suitably to shadow puppets." He crossed his arms over his chest.
"I'm a grownup. And the human form is a wonderful thing!"
Simon shook his head as if not hearing this. Especially not from Wash. "While as a doctor I agree with that last sentence, I don't think my sentiments fit with your intended meaning."
"Yes, Doctor." Simon could hear the capital D. "Did you always want to be a medic?"
Simon wracked his brain for childhood dreams of something else, but found none. "I don't think I can remember a time when I wanted to be anything else."
"Well, it worked out then. Though if you had specialized in obstetrics I might feel a bit calmer. Of course, if you weren't a trauma surgeon, Zoe might also have been dead by now. So altogether I'm happy with your choice."
"You really think everything works out for the best, just like that? I mean, what if you had become a sumo wrestler? Would that life have been miserable?"
"I do â€” think it all works out for the best, I mean." Wash said earnestly, his blue eyes compassionate and sure. "I don't think there ever was another life for me other than this one."
Zoe ambushed them the second they re-entered Serenity, mission complete.
"I love my husband," she purred, a cat-that-got-the-canary smile lighting her face. Managing her increased bulk with ease, she grasped the package by its string in one hand and Wash by the collar in the other, and headed in the direction of their bunk.
henbang = great