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Challenge: Addictions
Title: Relapse
Author: Jebbypal
rating: mature for drugs and adult themes
Word count: 1066
A/N: This is a little bit different look at the Mal/Zoe dynamic, definitely not canon. Just wanted to do something a little different though.

Originally posted to [livejournal.com profile] ff_friday


Zoe let out a string of curses when she saw Mal crumpled over his desk with his belt around his arm. Some were directed at her Captain while the most colorful were reserved for the woman who had pushed him towards this latest relapse. It had been a good three years since Mal had experienced a setback like this, but just two days after that rutting Companion left the boat are all it took for him to run back to it.

Zoe roughly manhandled his body over to his cot oblivious to the number of bruises she inflicted in the process. He deserved any and all reminders of his stupidity. She checked his pulse before leaving to begin the long process of hunting down any stashes of the drug he might have hidden. It was a routine she knew well although she had hoped that she would never have to relive it again. It would take less time to search the boat if she told the crew, but that wasn't an option. If the crew even suspected that Mal had a problem like this, they wouldn't respect him. Few of them had been through the ordeals Mal had; she didn't expect them to understand the ghosts that drove him to it.

Zoe punched the locker on the bridge. There she went, making excuses for him again. True enough, both of them had enough bad memories that no one could blame them if they used illicit substances now and again to dull the visions. Problem was she knew Mal had entered the war with his little problem. There was a very good reason that a leader as good as Malcolm Reynolds never rose above the rank of sergeant. Good reason he and Tracey had been such bosom buddies on every leave they got too. Only difference was that Mal was smart enough to stay sober on the battlefield. She suspected his sobriety stemmed from not wanting to dull the rush of all the near death experiences.

She hated Serenity when he did this. Gorram Firefly had too many nooks. Always was the risk that she'd miss one. Oh well, she could stand Wash being peeved at her while she shadowed her Captain for the next week or so. If she'd missed a stash, he'd lead her to it. And then she'd beat it out of his hands.

This was why she'd stayed with him after the war. Oh, she liked him well enough, even respected him when he was sober. But after saving his life time and again during the war, she had been determined that she wasn't going to let the Alliance kill him a bit at a time with the poisonous drug he preferred to inject into his veins.

That was what had made him get clean and go ship hunting in the first place. She'd tracked him down after yet another purchase of the gorram drug from Badger on Persephone. He looked all contrite and apologized to her after he came back from yet another almost OD. She'd had it that time. Just thinking about it brought the rage, the smells, everything back.

*Flashback*
Zoe could smell the filth of the hotel room around her. Already she imagined she itched from fleas that infested the place. Beyond the smell of old sweat that permeated the small room, her nose wrinkled at the stench of his vomit and other fluids. She'd gotten rid of the filthy sheets after the worst of it was over, but the mess had soaked through to the colorfully stained mattress. No light trickled through the crack of a window and less fresh air. She wanted to leave, to let him finish his detox alone. However, her anger made her stay. This was the last time. In fact, if he didn't make an effort to stay clean this time, she'd wash her hands of him. Better things in the 'Verse to do than watch him die slowly and better places to do it than the slums of Persephone.

She turned when she heard him groan. He was making the painful journey back to consciousness. Out of spite, she turned on the one light in the room. He'd chosen this and she planned to ensure he suffered as much as possible.

She kicked the bed. "Awake yet? Hurry it up will you, I want to leave this dump."

"Zoe?" Mal slurred. "Not feeling too good here."

She snorted. "Yeah, hear tell drops will do that to a man. Especially when he injects enough for three hundans in one hit."

Mal didn't answer, just tried to pull the small bundle of cloth that served as a pillow over his eyes. That was the last straw. Zoe could only see the pitiful form of the man who had led her to hell and back outlined in a pulsing red halo. She tore the pillow from his hands and jerked his sickly, starved body out of bed.

Slamming him against the wall, Zoe ignored his whimpers. "Shut up and listen to me Mal. I'm sick of it, all of it. If you want to die so badly, say the word. I'd rather snap your neck now than wait around till you finally OD. Not a fitting way for a soldier to go. So tell me what you want."

By the end of her rather verbose rant, Mal had stopped struggling in her hands. His arms hung limply at his side and he was actually struggling to focus through the pain to stare at her.

"Just want it to stop. Want to feel something again Zoe. Right now all I can feel is the drops."

She slammed him against the wall again. "Did you feel that?" she asked after his yelp of pain died down. "The pain means they didn't kill us. We walked out of Serenity Valley despite their best efforts, Sir. Survived the camps, the transport to this shithole. You die like this, they win. We either fight to make it to the day we can feel something again or end it. Which do you want?"


Then, as now, his eyes had met hers and she'd seen the desperation in them. He'd chosen then to live. Now that he'd survived to feel again, she could only pray that he'd choose to survive again until the pain of Inara's desertion faded as well.

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August 2017

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