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Author's Note: Written for the ff_friday challenge #20

by LJC

Wash knew about the box under the bed, but no one else did.

She suspected that Mal had an inkling. He'd seen her carry it around, shoved in the bottom of her pack, for almost seven years now. But he'd never, not once, asked her about it. That was how they were, the two of them. They'd once sat side by side in a trench for three days, never speaking a word to one another. Some men would've wanted to fill up those silences. Would have found them uncomfortable. Silence made their teeth itch. But not so, Mal.

Wash had asked her about the box the day they'd finally given up the pretence of separate quarters, and moved their stuff in together. They'd sat on the bed, thighs touching, and she'd opened it up and he'd peered inside.

It was like a child's idea of treasure. A hair ribbon, grey at one end from falling in a puddle. A faded photograph of a woman laughing, her face blurred from movement. A stack of letters, folded and wrapped in wax paper, bound with twine. She knew he'd wanted to ask about them. He was fairly vibrating with curiosity. But there would be time enough for that later. He reached into the box, and drew out a charm on a thin gold chain which caught the light. It was an opal in a gold setting. She kept it in the box because the stone was too fragile for the kind of life she led, and she'd almost forgotten it was there, at the bottom of the box, chain a tangled mess.

With patient and clever fingers, he set it to rights. The stone was cold in the hollow of her throat, but soon warmed. It was from Earth-that-was, she'd said. Passed down from mother to daughter since her great great grandmother had picked it up in a trading station in Tiantán in exchange for a spare gravity drive, back in the day when they were twice as large, and still something approaching new.

He kissed her ear, and then pulled out a round tin from the bottom of his kit bag, hanging on a peg beside the dresser. The lid was jammed on tight, and he fussed with it for a second before it came free. She laughed as scraps of paper floated to the floor, and he carefully laid them all on the bed.

There was his first pilot's licence, the photo of a gangly and grinning Wash making her giggle. Wash-that-was wore a pair of thick glasses, which he revealed in the bottom of the tin, explaining that before his folks had scrapped together the money for the surgery, those had been his eyes. Not that there had been all that much to see, on Demeter, what with the pollution and all. There were stubs from the theatre--she swore he must have seen every monster vid ever made and shown in a public exhibition hall over the last twenty years. Each stub, ink smeared, torn down the middle by some ticket-holder far away, was carefully preserved in his own treasure-trove. But that wasn't what he was looking for.

Removing the layers of cards, photos, letters, and a dried rose almost perfectly preserved despite being layered between his primary school report card and a flimsy Detective Adventure Featuring Slam Bradley, Pinkerton On The Rim! penny-dreadful, Wash came up with what he was searching for.

He slipped the ring on her finger before she had a chance to even see it. It was a little loose, and turned so that the stone caught between her fingers until she used her thumb to spin it back around.

"We can get it sized," he said, as she stared down at the diamond chip in the simple band of white gold. "I never realised how big my mother's hands were, I guess."

"We can get it sized," she nodded, taking his face between her hands and kissing him full on the mouth.


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