Title: Summer's End
Author: tafkar
Summary: Zoe makes a life-changing decision. The cue from ff_friday: Zoe.
Category: Drama, pre-series.
Spoilers: None.
Rating: G
Archiving: Always welcome; just let me know you have done so.



"Hey, Zo?" Paul said, coming into their dorm room. "Zoe, where are you?"

"Down here," came Zoe's voice, low and choked. He walked over to the desk and crouched down, to see Zoe sitting under it.

"Oh, hon," he said, reaching his arms out. In the middle of finals, Zoe could always be found under her desk. She'd told him it was because in space, it was a lot easier to keep a small space full of oxygen than a big one. Presidio, where Paul came from, was prone to earthquakes, and in times of stress he felt most comfortable in an open field, far from things that could fall on him. During finals, they never spent much time with each other.

Right now, they weren't anywhere near finals.

"What's wrong?" he asked, crawling under the desk to sit next to her.

She sniffled, and held out her palmtop. "Letter from Mom. The Alliance took the ship."

"They what?" Paul asked, shocked.

"Take a look. They said they needed it to move some troops, and they took it."

Paul looked over the letter. He felt like his brain had locked up. This was the sort of thing some of the more radical newsfeeds, the Independent-sympathizers, talked about, but he didn't think it ever really happened. "It says they gave your mom compensation."

Zoe laughed, without a smile. "Compensation. Yeah. It wasn't anywhere near what the ship was worth, Paul. Nowhere near. And -" her eyes welled up again "- it was my home."

"Sweetie, come here." He held her, resting his head against the top of hers, letting his long straight black hair tangle with her brown curls. "It'll be OK. We'll...well, we can figure something out. Zoe-bunny, wherever we settle down to teach, they can come live with us." He could feel her stiffen under his arms. "Haak hau haak mihn. Really, it's going to be OK."

He felt her shaking her head. "No, it's not." She sighed, then nudged him. "C'mon, Paul, let me out."

He shuffled over and let her by. She crawled out, as usual a little clumsy, and went to the closet, where she took out her suitcase, tossed it on their bed and began tossing clothes into it.

"What...why are you packing?" Paul asked.

Zoe looked up at him. He'd never seen her look this angry, not the time he accidentally deleted her paper on cognitive development in preadolescents, not even the time he'd forgotten which day she was coming back to school and had forgotten to pick her up at the shuttleport. "I'm going to join up. I'm joining the Independents."

"You're - that's feng le! You're a year away from graduating. Next year you're going to start teaching. We're going to start teaching."

Zoe slammed her fists down on the bag. "They took my parents' ship, Paul! They took it and they didn't even give them half the money it was worth. That isn't right, and you know it."

Paul sighed. "So, file a protest. Get a lawyer."

"You can't get a lawyer. Haven't you paid any attention to the things we're supposed to teach? The government can take our property in time of war, and we don't have any litigation rights. This isn't a matter for the courts. It's the law that's wrong. It's the government that's wrong."

It was a warm day, and Zoe's window was open, but Paul felt as cold inside as if he'd been poured full of dry ice. "No. No, Zoe. Don't do this." He tried to take her hands, but she turned away, back to the closet to grab more clothes. "They're never going to take you!" he yelled. "You've never fired a gun."

"I can learn," she gritted out.

"Fei yu, you can't even run a lap in the gym," he said, grabbing her around her thick waist. "Write about it in one of the feeds. Get a petition together. Just - just don't do this."

"I'll lose weight. I'll learn to fight. I'll figure out something. But I can't just sit by anymore," She closed the suitcase.

"So you're gonna just walk out on me?" he asked, shivering.

She stared into his eyes. "You could come," she said confrontationally. Her eyes scanned his face for a moment. "No. You'll talk a lot in the caf, but when it comes down to fighting for what you believe, you'll never do it."

He tried to put his arms around her again, to hold onto her, to talk some sense into her. "Stay. Please. Think about it overnight."

Zoe sighed. "I'm not thinking about it anymore. And I'm not...I ain't changin' my mind." The Colony drawl sounded a little forced. She took off her ring, the one he'd given her, and put it on the desk.

"Please, Zoe." He was begging.

"Goodbye, Paul," she said as she walked out.


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