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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Sequel to Big Damn Heroes. Wash has found Kaylee. A discussion on the nature of courage
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2359 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
With gratitude to Archer and LJC for providing very quick and insightful advice and proof reading.
Spoilers for Out of Gas, War Stories, and Objects in Space. This takes place immediately after my prior story Big Damn Heroes. A conversation on the nature of courage between Wash and Kaylee.
Wash was looking for Kaylee. She had been avoiding everybody on the ship for a couple of days, not taking meals with the crew, and generally staying out of sight. Mal had been looking for her too. He’d been particularly unsubtle about it, roving through the ship and calling out her name. She hadn’t wanted to be found and she hadn’t been. But Wash planned to be more crafty about the whole searching thing.
Serenity wasn’t that big, and the Captain had looked in all of the places that Kaylee could be. That meant she wasn’t staying in one place. She was on the move, and the best place for her to move to would be where the captain had just looked. She would count on him not coming back to that spot for a bit, at least. So Wash was on his way to Shuttle 2. Mal had just poked his head in there and looked, before he came up to the bridge. Wash had kept him talking on the bridge for long enough for Kaylee to get to the shuttle from wherever she had been, so now Wash had a middling fair chance of catching her there.
He opened the hatch and went in, pulling it closed behind him. Sure enough, there she was, on her back, waist deep under the console with the cover plate off, her tools scattered about as if she was working. But he didn’t think she was working, not really. It just came natural to Kaylee to do her thinking with her hands in the guts of some machine, like he did his at the helm, staring at the stars.
“Hey, Kaylee, something wrong with the shuttle?” he said cheerily
‘Oh, yeah, brilliant line Wash, that’ll get her to open right up to you.’
“Nah, Wash, not to say wrong. Just tryin’ to tune her up and find what causes that rattle. I been tryin’ to find that rattle since I first shipped out on Serenity. Seems like after all this time I’d have it licked, but it’s still just confoundin’ me.”
She was scrunching her way around in the machinery, trying to reach a spanner. He reached down and handed it to her. “So you thought you’d clear it up before you left us? Is that it?” he said, dropping naturally into the pilot’s seat.
She slid out from under the console and met his eyes. Her voice had a tiny bit of a quaver in it, but she hid it pretty well, all things considered, as she said “Whatcha’ mean by that, Wash? I ain’t going nowhere.”
“Tell that to the Marines.”
‘Why the Marines, I wonder? And don’t try looking me right in the eye and denying it. Mal might fall for that because he hasn’t been there, but I have, girl.’
“You tell me you’re not sitting here this very minute, trying to think of a way to jump ship at the next big port we hit. Tell me you’re not avoiding everybody on the boat so no one can see the misery you’re putting yourself through at the thought of leaving Serenity. Go on and tell me that, Kaylee.”
“What you sayin’ here, Wash? I don’t know what you’re talkin’ ‘bout” she said with tight smile of false bravado.
Wash looked at her skeptically as she tried to bluff it out for a moment before her face crumpled and she moaned “How’d you know? You didn’t tell nobody did ya? Please, Wash you can’t say nothin’. Promise me you won’t?” The way she pleaded with him made him feel like a heel to keep on, but he had to finish what he’d started.
“You think I don’t know you’re trying to figure a way off Serenity? You think I didn’t have the same thoughts about leaving, not so very long past? I get it, Kaylee, I really do. More than anybody else on this boat, I get it. But you can’t leave us. You’re like the beating heart of this ship. You’ve gotta stay, or everything that Serenity is will just dry up and blow away, like dust in the wind”
‘Well that was damn poetical Wash; tamade, I didn’t know I had it in me!’
“Oh Wash, I can’t!” she wailed. “I can’t stay; I put ‘em all in danger! I did it twice already and I keep doin’ it every day I stay. I’m a liability, that’s what I am. And you know how the captain feels about liabilities? I can’t bear to wait ‘til he tells me I gotta go. I can’t look at everybody every day, knowin’ how I let ‘em down all the time. I can’t stand havin’ ‘em look at me like the nuòfu I am. Better if they get someone they can count on, before I get someone killed.”
‘Oh Kaylee, I wish you didn’t have to go through this, bao bei.’
“Mal will never ask you to leave, Kaylee, he’d cut out his own heart first,” he said with gentle tenderness.
“That don’t make it any better, his keepin’ me on might get him killed, or you or Zoe. How’d you feel about me then?”
‘Ah ha! I knew that was making it worse, sometimes it’s a real burden being right so much!’
He looked at her seriously. “The truth is, meimei, on any given day any one of us might get killed, or get someone else killed. That doesn’t mean we don’t need you. It doesn’t even mean you are a coward. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought in the dogwatches. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are different kinds of courage. Mal and Zoe and even Jayne have one kind. But you and I, we have our kind too, a smaller kind, maybe, an everyday kind. But Serenity needs both kinds to survive, as a ship and as a home”
Sadly, she shook her head. “I don’t get your meaning, Wash. I’m the onliest person on the boat that can’t hold her end up when push comes to shove. Every other person on the boat can suck it up when it’s a case of ‘have to’. Just not me.”
“Oh, and I suppose that wasn’t you under the cargo deck bypassing the pressure catch on that booby trap the Reavers left? That must have been some other mechanic, risking getting blown to Kingdom Come. You know, kiddo, Mal got Book, Simon and especially Jayne out of the way, he never gave thought you wouldn’t be able to do the needful. I was nearly a quivering nancy-boy myself, you just got under there and did what needed doing.”
‘There, that’s got you started thinking!’
“It’s not the same thing.” She spoke earnestly. “That just engines ‘n such. I just understand the workin’s and I knew I could do it better’n anyone on board. Nothin’ heroic, just engines is all--just cutting a pressure line.”
“Kaylee, it’s not just that you could do it better than anyone else. You were the only one on board that could do it. I come closest, after you, to being able and I didn’t see a way out. My solution would have had us waiting until those Reavers came back for a bedtime snack. Not only did you see it, you didn’t let fear keep you from doing something that you knew how to do. See, I think that Mal, Zoe, even Jayne--they seem heroic with guns and such, but sometimes it’s partly just theknowing.”
In her puzzlement, Kaylee pulled herself out from under the console and sat up, leaning her back against the co-pilots seat to give it her full mind. After a minute she sighed as she said “I don’t see it, Wash, truly I don’t. It’s not the knowin’, it’s the doin’ that makes the difference. I knew if I didn’t hold the ground at the skyplex we’d likely lose everyone. I just couldn’t do it. I knew if I didn’t keep silent about River, that bounty hunter could do her the same as he said he’d do me. I just couldn’t do it. Keep silent, I mean.” Tears leaked out and rolled down her cheeks ignored, not even making a dent in the grease streaks.
‘Oh, Kaylee, how can I make you understand this when I’m not a hundred percent sure that I do?’
“See, what I mean by the knowing; it’s not just knowing in your mind, with your intellect. Partly, it’s knowing from having done it a thousand times before. It’s the way Jayne can strip his guns down in the dark, just from having done it over and over. It’s why soldiers train to kill before they go to war. It’s muscle memory. The way you can re-wire that crappy compression coil blindfolded because Mal won’t buy a new one and you keep having to do it over and over.” That got a burble of laughter, quickly squelched.
“But for Mal and Zoe, at least, it’s also not caring. For Jayne, I still say nothing will convince me it’s not just a lack of imagination.”
“Shenme? Not caring?”
They sat in silence for a moment while he tried to make sense of his own thoughts on the subject.
“Maybe ‘not caring’ isn’t right. It’s hard to explain. Mal and Zoe, they’ve killed a lot of men, more’n you and I ever will. And to make that possible, they had to shut off part of themselves. To do that a person has to say 'I will only care about what is on this side of my gun. ‘My crew, my ship, my cause, my life.' Anything on the other side can be sacrificed to protect what is on this side. They had to stop thinking about the fact that those folks may have families and loved ones and a life of their own to lead. They pay a price for that hardness. It’s why Mal and Inara can’t seem to . . . well, he just can’t. It’s why Zoe still wakes up with nightmares and won’t tell me what they’re about. They have seen too many people they love die, and they’re careful about who they let get on this side of the gun. It’s why Zoe would have shot Simon without a second thought if you’d died that day. Because you were on this side of her gun and he was on the other side. Your death could hurt her, his couldn’t.”
“Then, you mean. His death couldn’t hurt her, then. She wouldn’t let anything happen to him and River now. Would she, Wash? Nor the captain, neither, they’re part of his crew now.”
“Well, now, Kaylee, that’s a complicated question where Zoe is concerned. She might sacrifice Simon if it was your life at stake, or mine, or Mal’s. Not for Jayne. For Zoe there’s degrees of caring.”
“Poor Jayne,” she said sadly. “I feel bad for him; he’s just like a red-headed stepchild around here sometimes.”
Wash grimaced at her quizzically, but didn’t dignify the sentiment by interrupting his chain of thought. “For Mal, he’d do his best for the boy and his sister but he’d cut him loose if it meant you, Zoe or Inara were at risk. He’d make the hard choice and try to fix it after, if he could, and tear himself up about it. In that way Zoe’s more pragmatic. She’d do it and live with the guilt, I think. Tzao-gao! I don’t know. But for the most part you’re right--Simon and River have moved to this side of the gun.”
They sat silently; the thrum of Serenity’s engine through the deck plates was all that could be heard. He knew he hadn’t made her see, maybe because he was only just able to get a glimpse of what he meant himself.
“Nien ching duh, I guess what I started out saying is you have the courage to let people close to you and when you do that you are offering a hostage to fortune. Mal and Zoe, they never choose to let anyone get close ‘cause they are afraid to pay the price that fate might demand. They’ve already paid it too many times. Me and you, we snuck up under their guard. Nothing they can do about it now, and that still pisses Mal off more than half the time, at least where I’m concerned.”
“Oh, Wash, I’m sure that’s not so.” She said with quick concern in her eyes, as if what Mal thought about it could hurt his feelings.
“Don’t worry, Kaylee” he said with his usual grin “He can be as pissed as he wants to be; as long as I’m in Zoe’s bed I win. Neener, neener!”
She gave a gurgle of laughter. “I didn’t know you was keeping score!”
He wiggled his eyebrows at her and said “Of course we’re keeping score. We’re men, it’s what we do. And I’m way ahead on points! Just in case you were wondering.”
“Does the captain know you’re winning?”
“Sure, it’s why he’s such a kuh-ooh duh lao bao jurn. He’d be in a better mood if he thought he was winning. That’s why I’m always in a good mood.”
That got another giggle out of her.
‘This just might work’.
He turned serious again as he said, “The shooting, the fighting, all that can be taught and learned. It’s just muscle memory.”
Doubtfully, “You really think so? That don’t seem likely to me.”
“Dan nang! I don’t mean you’ll ever be like Zoe or Mal. It won’t ever be like breathing to you. You didn’t spend near ten years under arms in the war. But with practice, you won’t be spooked at someone shooting at you and you won’t freeze if someone threatens you. Enough, anyway, that you won’t feel you’re a risk to have on board.”
“D’ya think I could learn ‘nough to pull my weight, really? You’re not jus’ sayin that so I’ll stay?”
“I mean it. I’m not above lying--hey, liars are us. But I don’t think you would buy a lie right now and I need you to understand this. Serenity isn’t just a ship, Kaylee, she’s a home and we’re a family. In every family there’s someone that’s the center, the heart. On Serenity, that’s you. Even Jayne loves you, as much as it’s in him to love anyone. He would have killed that lawman that shot you before you hit the deck. If he thought you wanted him to, he’d lay down in the mud to keep your boots clean, though he’d kill me for saying so.”
“Ahh, Wash, he would not, Jayne’s always teasin’ me or saying somethin’ mean.”
“Think on it, sweetie, that’s mostly since the doctor came on board and he got all jealous and such. Anyway, let’s not waste any more time talking about Jayne, it kind of freezes the blood to think of the man-ape and love in the same sentence.”
“Poor Jayne.” She gave a quavery chuckle.
“The simple truth is, we’re a family in part because you have the courage to love every one of us.”
“Ohhh, now you’re just foolin’ with me.”
“Have you thought about what will happen to Mal if you leave?” He said gently.
“Shenme?. You’re losing me again.”
“Well, near as I can tell, Kaylee, you’re the first person Mal has loved since he left Serenity Valley.”
“Nuh-uh, he loves Zoe!”
“He took his love for Zoe into that valley with him. Hell, it’s probably what made it possible to survive that shee-niou guay. But after he came out, he couldn’t or wouldn’t love anyone else. He wouldn’t give any more hostages to fortune. And because he couldn’t, Zoe wouldn’t.”
There was a pause while he struggled to find the right words to tell her how important she was to him. Finally he said “Did you know—I probably owe my marriage to you?”
“Come again, you faded on that?”
“Before you came aboard, when it was just us and that jing tzahng mei yong duh, Bester, you remember him, don’t you?” he said with a knowing leer.
“Wa-a-a-ash!” Covered in blushes. “Did Mal tell everyone that story?”
“No, that was Bester. He was so pissed off you got his billet he had a real smutty mouth for about half a minute, ‘til Mal shut it for him. Anyways, I had been trying to court Zoe for awhile, and I could tell she wasn’t totally immune to my boyish charms, but she just wasn’t giving me the time of day. I mean, it was all first mate and pilot gôu pì. I think she felt it wasn’t right for her to have something in her life if Mal couldn’t. Then you came on board and everything changed. You just thawed the glacier that man had around his heart with the pure sunshine of your love.”
‘Yeah, sunshiny love, I gotta find a way to use that one on Zoe.’
“And when Zoe saw that Mal had someone else to love, she decided she could too.” He went on, “ I just happened to be handy and, knowing a good thing when I see it, I held on for dear life.”
“I like that story, Wash, makes me feel like I done some good on Serenity, at least.” She was smiling gently now.
‘You got her now, Wash, soft retro burn, don’t blow the landing, fella’.
“Honey, you’re missing the moral of the story. Unlike the rest of us hard cases, you have the everyday courage to love somebody, even when they don’t, can’t, or won’t love you back. Like you’re doing these days with Simon, you did the very same thing with Mal. You didn’t care if you got hurt, if he was mean or if he didn’t love you back. You just kept on loving. That takes a very high order of courage. Neither Mal nor Zoe has it. Nobody else on this boat does. Just you. You may never be a big damn hero. We got enough of them on this boat to last a lifetime, and damn hard to live with, they are too! What we need here is an every-day hero.”
She looked at him with dawning hope. “You think just lovin’ is enough?”
Wash got to his feet and reached down to gently lift her to hers
“Take my word, it’s more than enough, meimei. Now, let’s go get you that shootin’ lesson.”
Many thanks to all the kind contributors to the excellent Chinese translation thread at fireflyfans.net
shénme? [what?]Nien ching duh [Little girl]
Tzao-gao! [Oh crap!]
kuh-ooh duh lao bao jurn [cruel boss]
Dan nang[I'm certain of it.]
shee-niou guay [shit–urine hell]
jing tzahng mei yong duh [frequently useless]
gôu pì [bullshit]
Friday, May 30, 2003 4:24 PM
Friday, May 30, 2003 6:14 PM
Saturday, May 31, 2003 3:26 AM
Monday, June 02, 2003 9:46 PM
Wednesday, June 04, 2003 7:47 AM
Wednesday, June 04, 2003 7:48 AM
Wednesday, June 04, 2003 2:12 PM
Friday, June 20, 2003 6:57 AM
Saturday, February 28, 2004 11:04 AM
Monday, March 13, 2006 3:13 AM
Tuesday, June 13, 2006 6:03 PM
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