BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

MAL4PREZ

Back Stories I: Chapter 7/14: Kaylee
Monday, May 21, 2007

Mal figures something out, then – Kaylee's really in need of a friend.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2290    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Disclaimer: It belongs to Joss and all those business people. I’m just playing.

Rating: PG to NC17. I will not put warnings on each chapter, because I don’t want to give things away. In general, don’t be getting into any of this if you’re not prepared for adult storylines, violence, explicit sexual content, and - oh my - bad words.

Many thanks: to several fireflyfans.net members: LEEH and VERA2529 for hours of beta reading and entertaining discussions of many things. LEIASKY, TAMSIBLING, and LEIGHKOHL provided additional beta time on the early chapters. The talented MPHILLIPS did the lovely artwork. (Ain’t it nice?) FEI and www.chinesetools.com provided many colorful Chinese phrases. One of AMDOBELL fine fics provided a useful plot bunny. (I won’t tell which yet!) Finally – kudos to GUILDSISTER for her inspirational fic The Blue Sun Job.

Links: Prequels: The Fish Job (FFF) (LJ) and Easy Tickets (FFF) (LJ). Timing, pairings, and canon blurbs are in my FFF blog.

Note: The intro to this chapter refers back to The Fish Job, Chapter 8 (FFF) (LJ) if you care to refresh yourself.

Previous chapter | Next chapter: Wash
 


Back Stories, Book 1

by Mal4Prez

BWkay

Chapter 7/14: Kaylee

Mal figures something out, then –
Kaylee's really in need of a friend.


 

 

Mal walks down the cargo bay ramp into a thick haze. Rays from the early morning sun shatter into a glare that cuts his eyes, a light so golden-white that no other color can challenge it. The sight makes a notion flit through his mind: Ain’t this kind of bright familiar somehow?

It’s ghostly quiet. Canton’s mud works have been shut down in celebration of the new holiday and all the locals are still abed, most like weighed down by too much Mudder’s Milk thickening their blood. Mal squints across a flat space, empty of the activity that’d been there the day before, and he searches until he finds a group of shadows breaking up the monotony: buildings.

That’s where he needs to go – it’s time to collect his crew and find the cargo they’re to pick up. He heads toward the fuzzy brown shapes, on the way passing rows of tall, dry reeds that tower over him.

Maybe it’s the stillness, maybe it’s the way the light bleaches out this hard world, (maybe it’s a memory that nips at him, once forgotten but somehow getting loose again), but it seems like something important and basic is shifting, something so obvious and pervasive that he can’t hope to recognize it outright.

His steps slow as his thoughts wonder (chasing the memory even as it skitters away) and he comes to a stop by a pit full of bubbling mud. Dully, he stares down into it and breaths the sour, earthy stink it gives off. He understands that he’s just broken out of some kind of part he was playing, a role that he’s supposed to be acting out. He should be descending into the tavern, waking Kaylee and Simon, gathering a still drunk and newly heroic Jayne. In one part of his mind, Mal sees himself doing just that, even as he stands motionless. It’s almost like two realities are happening at once.

Two realities? the question floats across his mind. Ain’t that one more than usual? And maybe two more than the truth?

Just like that, the elusive memory breaks free, and a third string of events unfolds…

A shaft of (familiar) hazy sunlight pours through a high window in a bar; it blinds him as he picks a table and sits. A blond kid at the next table over talks tough and makes a challenge. Mal reacts (a bone snaps in his hands) and then it’s like the rules have shifted because it’s not possible that this kid is here on this world instead of left far behind on New Melbourne with a broken face, like reality itself is out to make mischief.

Mal tries to get out, but finds more fools on the street. The threat of them can’t be bypassed (a lawless man drags Kaylee toward a dark doorway) though the endless struggle is wearying Mal to the core (he swings a boot at the cost of another man’s eye). Even as he fights his way free he can’t get to Kaylee (the numbing sting of a sonic rifle takes him down) because the Alliance have come out of nowhere (the butt of a rifle knocks him out cold)…

…and when he wakes up in a cell, the real madness starts.

Mal shakes his head; he’s still standing by the mudpit. It wasn’t real, he tells himself. The place where he broke an innocent kid’s arm and saw Kaylee taken away by a rapist was a nightmare, forced on him by Alliance interrogators who think a human mind is their own to twist about as they please. And he’d believed it. He’d fallen for the insanity without a bit of fight.

Never again, he promises himself, and he steps back from the pit and looks around with new eyes. This place isn’t what it seems. It’s a hoax, just like the planet where he’d stumbled into a bar looking for a job and finding only violence was a hoax. That place didn’t exist; this one must not either.

He steps back further, not sure where to go, how to get out, then he stops short when a prickling sense of weight falls across his back. There’s a threat behind him, something big and angry and likely armed and ready to strike. Mal turns slowly, not wanting to face whatever horror is waiting for him in this place, but there it is, towering over him –

A loud clang and sudden light pulled Mal away from the hazy nightmare, but that last thing he’d seen stayed frozen in his mind.

Kaylee’s voice floated down into his bunk; she was trying to whisper but he heard her clear as could be:

“No, River! Let him sleep!”

“But I want to give him the – ”

The rest of River’s response was cut off when the door swung shut again. Mal rolled to his side, putting a hand to his head to try to shut out what he’d seen. Everything else in the dream was fading, nearly gone already, but that last image stubbornly remained.

Dear God – why he was seeing a statue of Jayne in his dreams? Why Jayne Cobb, standing tall with the sun behind him, its rays making a golden halo around his head?

“I’m still `sleep,” Mal told himself thickly, and he did feel nearly asleep, the warm blanket making a cocoon that pinned his heavy limps down and trapped him where he lay.

“I’ll wake up for real… won’t be rememberin’...”

The heavy sleep sucked him down again, to another dream where

a woman with orange-red hair is waiting in his bunk. She’s in his bed and naked as they come, and tells him how she admires him, wants him, would choose him over all others…

* * *


Dear Inara,

      I hope you are settled down. I know how you missed being in the Core with the other ladies from the House. Are all your clients still there? Anyone real fancy bring you presents because they missed you so much?

      We went by Persephone after you left. Jayne says that Badger is just as much a yăoxī gài de rén as ever. Gave us a job that – I guess I better not write about that. I hear there’s folks who listen in on personal waves, so I got to be careful with the post too.

      I have been busy. The new mule needs a lot of work. I want her looking real shiny! I decided it’s a her, but I ain’t thought of a name yet. The ship is keeping me busy too. Always something that could be fixed better! We are traveling now, and going slow, so I got time for it. Zoë wants us to take our time, to save up on fuel, and

      Oh, goramnit. I can’t do it! I was trying to write all goods things cause I don’t want to make you worry. I know you meant to leave for good. You told me that, and I can see as how you would want to have your own life. But we are coming to the Core, and if there was any way you could

      I can’t say that neither.

      Hell, hell, and hell! I know I shouldn’t, but I got to explain. Some, at least. You see, it’s all gone bad. Everyone’s got their own things they are thinking on (I guess that means me too, but I don’t want to write about that just now) but the real thing is the captain. Something’s happened to him, Inara. I ain’t about to blame you, no one is. Simon says it must have started way back and not had anything to do with you really, but it got bad just after you left.

      I don’t know how to tell you. I guess I’ll just say it and hope it don’t hurt you bad. Things is – Mal don’t remember you. There’s something wrong in his head. He got all sick the day you left when we showed him a capture of you. Not sick like he hated you, not at all! It was like he couldn’t think about you. Like it hurt him. I don’t know why. No one does, not even Simon.

      Now the captain’s started forgetting other things too. He gets worse every day. We can’t talk to him – we have to pretend everything is all right. Zoë won’t let us talk about you at all.

      I don’t know what to do! It’s so hard, cause Simon don’t want to talk to me no more either. That’s my fault, I guess, but I don’t know how to make it better. I wish I could talk to you! It is too much to explain in a letter. I’m sorry I’m writing all this. I wasn’t gonna say nothing. But I can’t help but think that if you were here maybe
 

Kaylee dropped the pencil and wiped at her eyes. She set the unfinished letter on the bed next to her so she wouldn’t wet the paper. Or maybe she should she just let her tears fall; maybe if Inara saw that she’d cried while she wrote, it would convince her…

No, that wasn’t any good. She couldn’t do that to Inara.

She’d really had no plan of getting into all this. It was supposed to be just a short note, to keep in touch like Inara asked before she left. None of the bad stuff. Certainly, nothing about the captain.

Kaylee glanced over the letter again, trying to calm down and consider it reasonable-like. It made some kind of sense to ask Inara to visit, didn’t it? Of course Inara hadn’t meant to hurt Mal, but he’d gone strange right after she left. So it wasn’t her fault, really, but it had to have something to do with her. And that meant that she might be able to help. She’d helped Mal right after Oeneus, she might be able to do it again. Right?

Kaylee blew out a shaky breath. It could also be that seeing Inara would be bad for the captain, and more than anything Kaylee didn’t want to hurt him worse. The last thing Kaylee wanted was to hurt anyone.

Anyway, how likely was it that Inara would actually come? She’d had no plans of seeing the crew of Serenity again – she’d made that real clear the night before she left.

* * *

Seventeen days ago

“Kaylee, could you shut that thing off?”

Kaylee holds the capture where it is, still recording as Inara walks across the shuttle. “But I gotta have proof that we had a real Companion on board. No one’ll ever believe it!”

“I don’t think anyone really wants to see proof of my presence here. Especially…” Inara stops and turns away, picking up some candles that she’d tied into a bundle.

Kaylee shuts off the capture – this kind of talk shouldn’t be recorded. “You mean… especially the captain?” she asks.

Inara glances at her, but doesn’t answer. She turns away to set the candles in a crate.

Kaylee doesn’t want to let it go. “Inara, I know it ain’t my business, but I gotta ask – ”

Inara interrupts, but she speaks gently. “You don’t have to ask; I know what you’re wondering.”

“And it ain’t my business, huh?”

Inara sighs, then she gives up on her packing and sits next to Kaylee on the stripped bare bed. She doesn’t speak right away. It’s like she needs time to put the words together right, and that isn’t something Kaylee sees in Inara often

“It’s not that,” Inara finally says, her voice calm but her eyes far away. “It’s just… talking won’t help. There’s nothing to be done. I let the situation go too far, and it can’t be fixed. The best thing I can do is leave.”

Kaylee isn’t one to judge, and it’s never been her way to be harsh to anyone, but she can’t help thinking that Inara isn’t being fair.

“But… what about him?” she asks. “You can’t just leave him after what happened. I mean… I seen how he was right after. It wasn’t just some tumble you had, it was –”

“It was a mistake,” Inara says, her voice suddenly sharp. “This whole thing was. It was never my intent to get so involved with you all. I only needed time away. I never expected…”

Inara looks away, lost in whatever she isn’t saying. Kaylee’s glad of it, because she’s getting mad. It’s not just a touch of frustration or a bit of impatience; it's a rage that collects up in her chest and rises into her throat so wild and hot that it makes her want to yell. Even if it’s not a fair thing to say, she wants to scream at Inara: What is it with you Core people? Why do you think we ain't good enough to love?

She pinches her lips together to hold the words back, but it's not easy. It’s like there’s a pool of black bitterness living deep inside her, and it wants to come out. She found it just a few days ago, and she can’t make it go away. It came up with Simon yesterday, doing damage that she doesn’t know if she’ll ever fix. Now it’s trying to get at Inara, boiling up thick and inky. If she lets it out, she might not be able to pull it back in.

“Kaylee, will you write to me?” Inara suddenly asks.

Kaylee hesitates, her anger partially buried under surprise. “I ain’t ever been much with writin’…”

“Please? I can’t be separated from you all, and have no idea what’s happening. Just don’t tell Mal, all right?”

Kaylee doesn’t like that. She’s never lied to the captain, and she doesn’t mean to start anytime soon. “I don’t wanna keep secrets,” she says; she can hear an unfamiliar edge to her own voice, and swallows hard to try and get rid of it. “I’m sure we’ll be gettin’ in to the Core now and then, and we’ll give you a wave –”

“We both know that’s not going to happen,” Inara says sadly, and she takes Kaylee’s hand. “Mal’s very angry – rightfully so – and he’s not one to forgive. He won’t be coming anywhere near me. But that’s how it should be. He needs his own life, and I’m not part of that. I can never be part of that.”

Tears sparkle in Inara’s eyes, and Kaylee feels her anger melting into pity at the sight, but she shies away from making any promises. She lets Inara hold her hand, but turns her head away without speaking.

After a moment, Inara stands up and returns to her packing. Kaylee stays where she is, sitting quietly and taking it all in. The shuttle is so different already; it’s starting to look like the other one, dull and dark and empty. The last of her anger fades back to wherever it came from when she realizes that this might be the last hour she ever spends with Inara.

It’s hard to believe. Can Inara really turn her back on them all and leave like this? It just doesn’t make sense. Inara isn’t some heartless high-class snob, using people for her own needs and throwing them away. She cares. Kaylee knows that she cares.

“Inara?” Kaylee asks.

“Yes?”

“You love him?”

Inara stops where she is, standing frozen with her hands full of folded clothes. Her expression is odd. For a few seconds, she looks like she’s lost, too lost to know what her face is showing. But then she sets the clothes in a case, and when she straightens she’s the usual Inara again, smooth and confident, without a single doubt about anything she does. Her eyes meet Kaylee’s and don’t waver as she answers.

“I don’t. I do care about him, as I do everyone on this ship, but I don’t love him. That’s why I have to leave. He has to move forward with his life. Without me.”

* * *

Kaylee hadn’t believed Inara that night, and she didn’t believe it now. She knew that Mal and Inara were in love, or they would be, if they weren’t both so gorramn mixed-up and stubborn. But Inara must have had a reason to lie, and, no matter how much Kaylee was tempted, it wasn’t her business to pry into that. It wasn’t her business to try and force Mal’s sickness on Inara, neither. All she was like to do was make her friend unhappy, and not help the captain at all.

It was at least the tenth time she’d gone through it and decided that, but she didn’t feel any better about it. She sighed and tipped her head back against the engine room’s bulkhead. She was holding a wrench loosely in her right hand, the end of it set on her thigh so it balanced upright. She didn’t look down as she let it tip sideways, falling into the palm of her left hand with a solid thwap.

She’d been doing this for a while, ever since she’d left the unfinished letter in her bunk, hoping that the endless chores of the engine room would clear her mind. But it was so hard to set herself to moving. It was like her body was filled up with hardened ceramic engine parts, too heavy to lift.

Maybe she needed to get sexed. That was one thing that had always put some lightness in her step, a nice long round of physicality. It’d been a long time – how in the `verse had she let that come to pass?

There hadn’t ever been much chance for trim here on the ship. Not that Jayne hadn’t made it clear that he’d be happy to step up for her, but the captain had seen that coming. He’d made an announcement, soon as Jayne came on board, that none of that kind of thing would fly on his ship. Something about unnecessary complications.

Of course, it’d flown with Zoë and Wash, but that was different. Zoë could stand up to the captain when she had a mind to. Her and Mal hadn’t had their fights out in the open, but it wasn’t hard to see how things went – Zoë had wanted Wash, wanted him bad, and that’s how it ended up in the end.

Kaylee’d never wanted Jayne like that; she’d known that much from day one. He was nice enough to look at, in his way, and more then ready to go, but she hadn’t even got close to trying him out. She understood the captain’s point, and had no need to make a mess in her own home.

Now, Simon was different. He wasn’t just a chance for bunk-sport, he was someone she’d want to have next to her for a good long time. She wanted to talk to him – listen and talk and listen some more, until she understood what was going on in his head. He was so different from anyone she’d ever known. She’d met people she liked – plenty of those – but Simon was so… so shiny… and not just in how he looked.

Oh sure, at first he’d caught her eye because he was so gorramned pretty. She remembered it as clear as she could see the wench in her hands: a well-dressed young man with round spectacles almost hiding his eyes and not a hair out of place. He’d stuck out of the crowd of Eavesdowne Docks like a big fat strawberry in a bowl of rehydrated protein – the way he’d stood up real straight and talked like words were scarce, so he had to take special care with each one. It’d made her downright nervous, talking to a man like that. No one else had ever made her nervous the way Simon did.

When she found out about River, and what this fancy man of the Core risked for his sister, she only got more interested. There was more to Doctor Tam than how he looked. Only a mighty decent person would do what he’d done.

But still, after all these months, she hadn’t ever worked it out. Where exactly was the real Simon under all those big words and fancy habits? Where was the man who’d throw a perfect life away for his sister? Who’d stand up to someone like the captain even though he hadn’t a chance of winning in a fight? And why was he all proper manners and nice words even in a dive where nobody cared a bit for it?

It means everything out here. It’s all I have.

Simon’d said that to her once, when she’d asked what was so important about being proper. But she didn’t see it that way. Simon had a lot more in him than proper, if only he’d let it out. She’d think a man who’d broke all the big rules Simon had would be all right to let down his guard and loosen up a bit. He had to feel safe enough to do that on this ship, after nearly a year here. After everything that had happened.

So why hadn’t he ever really relaxed? What was he so afraid of?

“Kaylee?”

She heard her name just as the wrench was making another fall, and she jumped so suddenly that the thing flew out of her hand and all the way across the engine room. It slammed against the far bulkhead, then fell into an access slot in the deck and clattered through the compartment below.

“I’m… sorry,” Simon said after the echoing clangs stopped. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Kaylee was sitting up straight, her back and arms tense as she stared after the wrench. With an effort, she forced herself to relax. “No – you didn’t… um… I was just thinkin’ about… uh…”

She gave up on explaining and clumsily climbed to her feet, then tried her best to give Simon an innocent smile. “Ain’t important,” she said. “You need somethin’?” Her smile fell when she took a closer look at his face. “What happened to you?”

He lowered his eyes and lifted a self-conscious hand to his lip, which had been split open.

“You gettin’ in a fight with the captain again?” she asked.

“No. No! Of course not. It’s just…. “ He dropped his hand from his face. “I’d really rather not get into it.”

“But Simon – why is it you’re always gettin’ yourself hurt? You’re the doctor. You should be fixing folks...”

He smiled at that. “Well, I guess being a doctor out here means more than… being a doctor.”

“I guess.” She continued to study his face, wondering what in the world he’d gotten into this time, until she noticed how uncomfortable she was making him. He was fidgeting, looking he'd just as soon turn and leave than to have her staring at him.

“So – you wanted somethin’?” she asked.

He shifted his feet and looked down at his hands, which folded together for a second before dropping to his sides. “I just thought that… maybe we should start planning for the hospital tomorrow.”

His uneasiness was so obvious that it flustered Kaylee a little. “Hospital?” she asked stupidly.

“Yes…” Simon finally found a place to rest his hands – he tucked them in the back of his belt. He shrugged one shoulder as his mouth pulled into a little grin. “I guess… Jayne was my first choice to operate the holo-imager, but Zoë said he has to do other things.”

Kaylee squinted at him, not sure what to think of that.

Simon dropped his hands in front of him again, and his smile disappeared. “That was a joke,” he said uncomfortably. “I guess it wasn’t very good.”

“Oh, no!” Kaylee said, trying to pull her senses together. “That’s real funny!” She slapped her hands together and got out a short giggle, and even connected it to a longer laugh. “Jayne runnin' the imager,” she said. “That’s a good one.”

It wasn’t her best, but it got a smile out of Simon, and a laugh almost as awkward as hers. Well, maybe a little more awkward.

“So… would you like to come down to the infirmary?” he asked. “I have diagrams there… of the imager. You know – how to run it. And maps.”

“Maps?”

“Of the building. You’ll have to find your way to the imager room – ”

“Oh – right.”

“So… we can just go over them. If you want.”

Simon was looking down at the deck in a way that took Kaylee right back home, called to mind shy boys asking her to have a walk around Bennet’s Pond or maybe go into town to visit the sweet shop…

It was like he was asking her out, she realized. The on-a-date kind of out. It wasn’t such a stretch – it would be just the two of them, after all. Sitting in the infirmary, probably close to each other, leaning over the same cortex screen…

“Oh…” she mumbled, and felt herself blush. She looked around the engine room, searching for any excuse to get out of this without even asking herself why. Her eyes settled on a small box holding her latest project. “I’d love to Simon, but I’d best deal with these.” She pointed at the box – all the uTex’s were there, ready to go. “I was plannin’ to catch everyone at lunch so I can hand `em out.”

“Right,” Simon said. “Of course. You should do that.” He swallowed hard, his face turning serious. His eyes were down still, so Kaylee felt free to study him. It was something she’d seen before, but she hadn’t quite recognized – slowly, the shyness went away. The awkwardness of Simon disappeared as the cool face of Dr. Tam took over.

“After lunch then,” he said, his voice firm now. “Or stop by tomorrow morning. It’s not very complicated, I’m sure you’ll only need a few minutes to work it all out.”

He lifted his eyes to her just long enough to nod, then turned and left.

* * *
“There’s one for each a’ ya,” Kaylee said as she set the box on an empty corner of the dining room table. “You ought’a decorate it so you know whose is whose. Cap’n didn’t pick up no accessories, so you’ll have to stick with paint.” She looked for Mal so she could grin and let him know she was joking, but he was the only one not at the table.

River jumped up and rummaged through the box. “Glue stick?” she asked as she found the device marked with her name on a strip of tape.

“Pardon?” Kaylee asked.

“Glue stick and beads,” River said, but then she denied her own request before Kaylee could do it. “No – we don’t have beads. Glue stick and resistors. 66 megaOhms would be bad.” River stared into the empty air with her mouth open as she worked out the resistor color bands, then she smiled. “230 kiloOhms. Fire and sunshine.”

Kaylee had an idea of what River meant, but she doubted anyone else except Wash did, so she left it alone. She shuffled through the box, going about handing the things out.

“Simon,” she said, but she set his uTex on the table and slid it towards him instead of handing it to him. He looked at it only briefly before tucking it into a pocket on his vest.

Book was sitting within reach, so Kaylee dug out his uTex next. The preacher turned it in his hands, studying it curiously.

“And what exactly are we supposed to do with these?” he asked.

“I got `em all set up so we can talk to each other whenever we want,” Kaylee explained. “They got better transmission distances than the mics we usually use, `cause the network’s everywhere.”

“Yay!” Wash smiled like a kid as he grabbed his new toy. “Hours of fun and games! You say it projects vid?”

“You can nab what you want from the cortex,” Kaylee told him.

“If you plan on doin’ that, you need a credit account to pay for it,” Zoë said as she took hers. “And that ain’t such a good idea. We don’t want anyone keepin’ track of us with these. Speakin’ of that…” She gave Kaylee a questioning look.

“Won’t happen,” Kaylee replied. “River took care of it.”

Simon looked up in alarm. “River?”

“Cut out eyes,” River said proudly.

“Eyes, huh?” Zoë asked.

Kaylee nodded. “Guess they had some trackin’ devices in these.” She got to Jayne next, who took his toy with a sneer.

“Got no use for this gōushī,” the merc mumbled.

Wash was also looking at his uTex doubtfully. “Tracking devices?” he asked.

“It’s okay,” Kaylee told him as she set down the box. “I went through the system, just about reprogrammed ‘em, top to bottom. Ain’t nothing gonna give us away.”

“That’s good,” Wash said. “Because the only kind of video I’ll be recording on this is intended for private use only.” He raised his eyebrows at Zoë suggestively.

“Oh?” Zoë asked. “Dinosaur escapades?”

Wash looked thoughtful. “I guess.. there could be dinosaurs involved. That’s not my personal kink, but if you’re into it, um…”

“Kink?” Jayne asked, and he looked at his uTex with a new level of respect.

“The captain comin’?” Kaylee asked Zoë.

“Havin’ a nap,” Zoë said shortly. Her tone made it clear that she didn’t mean to talk about the captain any more. That put a damper on everyone’s moods, and lunch broke up soon after.

Kaylee stayed at the table, staring into the box. There were two of the high tech toys left – one for Mal, and one that wasn’t ever likely to reach the woman it was meant for.

“I’ll take Mal’s,” River said, and before Kaylee could figure what the girl meant, River’d grabbed one of the things and started toward the crew quarters.

“River – don’t bug him!” Kaylee called, getting up to follow.

“Having bad dreams anyway,” River insisted, and she hit a button on the control panel, opening the door to Mal’s bunk.

“No, River!” Kaylee said, trying to whisper. “Let him sleep!” She hit the button again to close the door.

“But I want to give him the uTex,” River said. “He’ll be happy to see how I fixed it, made it safe.”

“He’ll be happier to rest,” Kaylee said. She tried to pull River back into the dining room, but the girl resisted. She made a little wordless whine and stared at the closed door that separated them from Mal.

“But…” River started. She didn’t finish.

“Oh, honey,” Kaylee said. “I know you’re worried. We all are, but we can’t do nothin’ to help. You heard what Simon said – we got to leave the captain be. Now, hand it over and come on back in here.”

Kaylee held her hand out, and, after one short defiant look, River shrugged and gave up. Kaylee put her arm around the girl and led her back into the dining room, settling them in the alcove. She meant to get River talking about the captain; it had to be hard for the girl to be losing the man she must see as her protector, maybe even a replacement for the father who’d let her down. Kaylee understood the feeling a little – her own Pa was a wonderful man, but she didn’t have him here. Mal filled that need, no matter that he was snippy sometimes.

But River got the talk started first, choosing a subject that Kaylee didn’t care for. “Why aren’t you with Simon?” the girl asked suddenly.

“With… Simon?”

River folded her legs up in front of her. “He wants you, you want him. Problem?”

Kaylee opened her mouth, then shut it again. This mind-reading thing was the real problem. She hadn’t minded so much a few weeks ago, but now there were things she wanted to keep to herself. “River, I think that maybe you shouldn’t be takin’ advantage of certain skills you got.”

River rolled her eyes. “Don’t need to read. Obvious.”

Kaylee shook her head; she wasn’t going to get into all this. “Just `cause you see something `tween two people, don’t mean you know all about it.”

“That’s what I mean – I don’t understand. Why does it have to be so complicated? Why can’t you just want someone and have them?” River looked down at her toes, pinching and rolling them between her fingers. “Well, unless one person was sick. Wasn’t able to see…”

She lifted her eyes to Kaylee, peering through the hair that had fallen over her forehead.

Kaylee blew out her breath, trying to work out an explanation for something she didn’t understand herself. “Sometimes it’s simple,” she said. “Sometimes all you want is a tumble, and that’s just fine. But sometimes there’s more to it. You can’t just bump and go on your way – you got to be around a person, all the time. If you want to stay friends, you got to be able to be friendly.”

Kaylee stopped and thought about it – was that really what was bugging her about Simon? If they had some sexin’, and then were on the same boat together, day after day, she’d be spending lots of time with him. That’s what she wanted, after all.

But then he’d see. The angry in her would come out, sooner or later. She might even hurt him, might say something awful that he didn't deserve, like she'd almost done to Inara that night. Simon would see all the ugly she had inside, and he wouldn’t want to be with her anymore. Kaylee wouldn't want to be in her own skin, if she went and did any more harm to Simon.

“Maybe it's too complicated, waiting for someone else,” River mumbled with a shake of her head. “I'm tired of it.” She stood up and stared down at Kaylee. “I'll be in my bunk,” she announced dramatically. She paused for a long second like she expected some kind of reaction, then shrugged and went on her way.

* * *
The afternoon dragged slow. Kaylee went down to the cargo bay and tried to put in some work on the mule, but she still couldn’t settle in and focus. She kept looking toward the aft hatch, thinking that Simon would come out and invite her into the infirmary again.

He never did.

She hadn’t ever had lunch, only met the crew at the end of the meal. After a few hours went by, her stomach begun to grumble, so she gave up and went to grab a snack.

She was just finishing in the galley when the captain came in from his bunk. He gave her a bleary nod, then fumbled with the kettle. He set it on the burner and stood staring at it like he didn’t know what to do next.

Kaylee couldn’t watch him acting like that. “Why don’t you sit, cap’n?” she told him. “I’ll was just fixin’ to make tea, I’ll get you some.”

She half expected him to protest, but he looked at her dumbly for a long second, then nodded. “Thanks,” he mumbled.

She nodded back and watched him take his seat at the table. He rubbed a hand through his mussed hair, but otherwise stared straight ahead. He looked near asleep still, so Kaylee let him be while she waited for the water to heat. She hadn’t talked to the captain in days, not more than a few passing words, anyway. It’d probably be best to keep it that way, she told herself. Make him his tea and go away.

She reconsidered as she watched him, seeing how lost and befuddled he looked. She’d hate to leave him alone like that. And another thing came into her mind – her letter, the one she'd left unfinished. Should she ask Inara to meet them on Londinium? The Companion always had been able to see into the captain better than anyone else. And maybe those two had fought a lot, but that’s because there’d always been something between them.

Inara just might be able to help, maybe even better than Simon could. She was a special lady; Kaylee'd known that from the moment she met her.

* * *

A year and a half ago

Ever since the captain shared the news, Kaylee’s been walking a half meter off the deck.

Just to think – a Companion on the ship. A real Companion! A woman who’s been all over, to the nice places that Kaylee isn’t likely to ever see. A Companion knows all kinds of famous people and can tell stories about fancy clothes and great food and parties and sex the way it’s done in important places.

Eagerly, Kaylee waits on the stairs leading from the catwalk up toward the dining room, watching the open airlock doors below. The Companion – Miss Serra – will be here any minute. Workers are already piling her baggage in the cargo bay. There’s a whole lot of it.

Kaylee isn’t disappointed when Miss Serra finally appears. She’s a fine lady, pretty as can be and wearing a dress of shiny red and gold fabric that flows from her shoulders. She holds herself straight and graceful, like a statue of a goddess come to life.

More workers come in with her, and she speaks to them softly, a kind smile on her face. They pick up a few boxes and she directs them up the stairs toward Shuttle One, following behind. As they approach, Kaylee stands up, meaning to do her greetings, but the captain beats her to it.

“Welcome, Ambassador,” he calls out from the infirmary hatch below.

“Thank you, Captain,” Miss Serra replies, and her voice is soft and silky enough to fit how she looks. She pauses halfway up the stairs to let the captain catch up. “However, ‘Ambassador’ isn’t my title. ‘Inara’ will do, or ‘Miss Serra’ if you prefer.”

The captain shrugs off the suggestion. “You’re an ambassador now. Only reason I took you onto my boat is for that respectability thing you’re so full of.”

Kaylee’s mouth drops open – the captain may not be a man of sweet, soft words, but right now he’s being downright rude. She backs up the stairs into the shadows as she looks closer at the Companion, wondering if the woman’s done something to deserve the treatment.

“I’m also well versed in manners,” Miss Serra says, putting just a bit of stress on the last word.

“Ain’t so interested in those,” Mal says.

“Indeed,” the woman replies with a meaningful cut of her eyes.

The captain shifts his feet; he looks like a little boy who just got slapped on the hand for talking with too much sass. It almost makes Kaylee laugh; she’s all kinds of fond of the captain, but he sure can talk rough sometimes. He doesn’t so often get schooled on it, and never in such a neat way as this woman just did it.

Mal recovers enough to give the growing pile of boxes in the bay a disapproving glance. “I see you brought a few things,” he says.

Clearly, Miss Serra isn’t about to apologize. She shrugs. “The shuttle needs a great deal of… I guess enhancement would be a close enough word… to bring it up to Guild standards.”

Kaylee frowns self-consciously. She’s been working on the shuttle for more than a month, getting it ready for the renter. And maybe it isn’t all fancy, but it works pretty gorramn good. It’d taken a lot of care to get it that way.

“Guild standards?” Mal asks. “You mean you need somethin’ besides a bed for what you do?”

Miss Serra’s voice is noticeably colder when she replies. “Your experience must be limited, if you think that’s all I require.” She’s right below Kaylee on the catwalk when she looks back at the captain. Her eyes flicker over him as if she’s sizing him up, then her mouth curves in a pitying smile. “Mmm. A shame. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a great deal of… equipment to set up.”

“Equipment… ?” Mal repeats as he watches the Companion disappear into her shuttle. His face shows a kind of fascinated curiosity, but then shifts to something different, like he's mad at himself for being curious. Eventually, he blows out all his breath and leaves with a shake of his head.

This time, Kaylee has to put a hand over her mouth to stifle her laugh; she’s not quite sure if she likes Miss Serra, but having the woman onboard is like to make things much more lively. Once the captain disappears belowdecks, Kaylee comes down to the catwalk – no use waiting to say her hellos to the newest member of the crew.

Miss Serra is opening one of the two boxes in the otherwise empty shuttle when Kaylee leans in. The woman looks up right away, a smile on her face. Not an easy, open smile, more of something you’d see in a pretty drawing, like it’s been practiced in front of a mirror for a long, long time.

“Can I help you?” Miss Serra asks.

Kaylee steps in and holds her right hand out, smiling brightly. “Hi! I’m Kaylee. Kaywinnet Lee Frye. I’m the ship’s mechanic.” She looks down and sees a big smear of grease across her fingers. “Oh, hang on,” she says with a bigger smile, and she wipes her hand on her trousers before she offers it again.

“Inara Serra,” the Companion replies, and she stands and shakes Kaylee’s hand warmly, not seeming bothered by any remnants of the grease. Her smile is better now, too. More real. “Please, come in.”

“I don’t wanna get in the way, Miss Serra, if you’re busy…”

“Not at all! And call me Inara, it’s much cozier.” The Companion looks around the space once, as if she’ll suddenly find a seat to offer. “I wish I could serve you some tea,” she says, “but I have nothing set up yet.”

Kaylee steps further in and looks around – the shuttle does seem kind of shabby when you see it next to a woman so pretty, and a dress like that. “I’m sorry ‘bout the shuttle,” Kaylee says. “I did what I could. If I’d a’known what you needed, I could’a maybe done more – ”

“Oh, no – you heard what I said? Please, I didn’t mean it. I find your captain has a way of… getting under my skin, and the words just come out. The shuttle is perfect. I’m sure I’ll be very happy here.”

Kaylee smiles at that, relieved. She knows how the captain can be. “Don’t you worry about him,” she says. “He’s really as nice as they come. Just you wait `till you get to know him better.”

One of Inara’s eyebrows shoots up, her face a perfect expression of doubt. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Kaylee says. “He’s just like a little puppy dog.”

* * *

Kaylee poured two cups of tea and carried them to the table. She could do this, if she was real careful. She wouldn’t talk about Inara, just chat a bit and suss the captain's mood.

“I hope River didn’t wake you up,” she said as she took a seat next to him.

“Didn’t hear a thing,” he said, staring straight ahead, his face still slack and empty. “I think,” he added. “You feelin’ all right?” she asked.

He frowned like he wasn’t sure if she was serious. “Don’t I look all right?”

“To tell the truth, you ain’t lookin’ so… hale.”

Mal’s face stayed dull a few more seconds, and she wasn’t sure if he even understood what she’d said. Then he dropped his head and laughed. It was a quiet laugh, without voice, like he was too tired to make a noise.

“Ah, hell. Bless you, Kaylee, you do have a way with words. Not lookin’ hale. No, I suppose I’m not lookin’ hale.” He laughed again, in a way that made Kaylee sad more than anything.

“Captain,” she said. “Is there anything I can do…?”

He straightened his face and looked at her. “`Bout what?”

“You just… I thought... maybe you’re lonely.”

“Lonely?”

“Yeah.” Kaylee took a deep breath, then took the plunge. “Maybe it ain’t my business, but everybody needs lovin’. Maybe you do too.”

Mal was giving her a frozen look, but Kaylee forged on. She’d surely gone beyond the limits already – but what was the danger? If Mal got mad, it’d only last a day, then he’d forget.

“I was thinkin’… you ain’t been sleeping so good, and it always helps me if I got someone around. You know?”

“Kaylee, what exactly are you saying?”

“I’m just wandering if there’s any special lady…” Kaylee bit her lip; she couldn’t finish. She wasn’t going to say any more than that, if he didn’t pick up on the hint, that was enough.

Mal cleared his throat and looked away, then sat up straighter. He finally noticed the tea she’d brought him and took ahold of it, like he needed something for his hands to do. Kaylee leaned toward him, hopeful that he was about to say something about Inara.

“Kaylee,” he finally said, glancing at her once then looking away. He seemed real uncomfortable. “Don’t take this wrong. I think the world a’ you – but I ain’t interested in that way.”

Kaylee’s mouth dropped open, and her cheeks blazed as she realized how her words must have sounded to him. “That ain’t what I meant! I was just… I was talkin’ about maybe some woman you might a’ known. Maybe someone you miss. Not me!”

Mal continued to frown at her for a second, then he snickered. “You must be talkin’ about the redhead in my bunk.”

“In your… Saffron? You mean Saffron?”

The captain gave her a piercing look. “Saffron… that was her name. My wife. Wife – can you believe that?” He shook his head, but his face broke into a smile. “Now, how'd I go and get myself a wife?” he mumbled.

Kaylee hardly heard that last part. “How could you even be thinking of her!” she demanded. “That mean ole sāobī... ”

Mal looked offended by that. “Now - hold on! Just `cause she knows nothin' about the `verse don't mean you need to start calling her names. Where'd she get to, anyhow?” He looked around, like he expected to see the woman passing by.

A prickly voice in Kaylee's mind told her that she needed to stop and think about this, that there was a very good reason the captain was acting as he did, but something in her had snapped. The captain still recalled a woman who’d tried to sucker him twice, and yet had no notion of the woman he really could have loved….

“That’s exactly your problem,” she said. “You had something good and important right in front a’ you, and you just went and ignored it! You waited too long, and you lost it, and it’s no one's fault but your own!”

The captain was staring at her open-mouthed, looking just as surprised as she was about the words coming out of her mouth.

“Maybe...” she went on, unable to stop herself, “maybe if you hadn’t been so gorramned yellow-bellied, you’d a taken a chance sooner, told her what you really thought, instead a waitin’ `till it was too late...”

“Kaylee, what the hell are you goin’ off on me about?”

Kaylee felt tears blinding her eyes, but she didn't let up. “Maybe you need to be settin’ a better example, Captain. Maybe other folks on this ship would be better at certain things if you....” She stopped then, realizing too late that it wasn't Mal making her so mad, and it wasn't Mal and Inara she was yelling about.

The captain had figured that much out for himself, too. “My relations ain't any of your business, Kaylee,” he said as he stood up. “And don't be blaming me if you can't work things out with that prissy, uptight doctor. I warned you not to start with him.”

He turned away like he was meaning to leave. Kaylee realized that her mouth had dropped open, and she snapped it shut. The anger took her again, rising so fast and hot that she didn’t have a minute to think on what it was telling her to say. The words just came out.

“You can’t talk like that to me!” she snapped. “Just `cause you’re crazy, don’t mean you can say stuff like that!”

Mal turned back to the table, his eyes suddenly bright and keen. “Crazy? You callin’ me crazy?.”

He took a few steps back toward her, and Kaylee realized what she’d just said. Too late, her mind broke through the cloud of oily black rage.

“I… I didn’t mean that,” she said.

“Yes, you did.” He came back to stand over her. “And you’d best explain exactly why you're saying it.”

Kaylee leaned away, then tried to squirm out of her chair. “I ain’t explainin’ nothing. I’ll get Zoë –”

Mal grabbed her wrist. “No, you’re gonna tell me… ” He fixed his eyes on her, and what Kaylee saw in his face wasn't quite anger; it wasn't hurt either. It was fear. But stronger than the fear was a hard determination to get the truth from her.

She couldn’t look away. “Just… don’t worry, Cap’n. Zoë and Simon are takin’ care of it. They got it all under control.”

“They got what, exactly, under control?”

He was still looking at her hard, his hold on her arm tight. Truthfully, Kaylee’d held the captain dear since the day she’d laid eyes on him, but right now he scared her. She didn’t know what to do, she only knew that the best man she’d ever known was breaking apart so bad that he wasn't himself. He was further from Malcolm Reynolds than she was from Kaywinnet Lee Frye.

She wanted them back. She wanted herself the way she used to be, with this nasty bitterness inside her torn out and gone forever. She wanted Inara back on the ship and the captain his old self, and she wanted a chance to do everything right with Simon.

“Kaylee,” Mal said, a plea in his eyes. “Tell me.”

She couldn’t say no to that. “You’re sick, captain. This ain’t you. You’re sick in your mind.”

His hold on her wrist loosened, but he didn’t let go. Nor did he tell her that she was wrong about that. He only let out a deep breath, like he’d already suspected what she told him.

“But Simon’s gonna help you,” she added, trying to comfort him. “Simon and Zoë are gonna find out what’s wrong, and fix you up.”

“What are they plannin’?” he asked.

“A scan. They’re gonna get one of those fancy 3-D holo-images of your head. It’ll show whatever it is that’s making you forget everything. They’ll fix it, I know they will. Simon's the best doctor...”

She stopped when Mal pulled back from her, finally letting go of her arm. He didn’t say anything, but he lifted his hand to the back of his neck suddenly. His face tightened for a second and he took in a sharp breath, like he was hurting, but then Kaylee saw his eyes start to blaze.

She got out of her chair and backed up a step, half fearful, but he wasn’t fuming at her.

“Zoë!” he suddenly called out, and he headed toward the crew quarters. “Zoë, you get out here!”

Kaylee stood where she was, frozen, as the captain took his anger into the fore corridor. She’d made a mess of it now, so bad that she couldn’t hardly take it in. Voices floated down from the bridge, hard accusations from the captain and confused, defensive tones from Zoë.

Then footsteps approached, the argument growing closer, and Kaylee turned and fled.

She should have gone and hid; after all she’d done that day she should have found a dark corner to stay in `till the storm cleared and she could sneak into her bunk. But her feet had other plans – they carried her straight down to the infirmary.

Simon was there; he looked up as soon as she stopped in the hatch. He must have seen that she wasn't all right, must have noticed how her breath was coming quick and her eyes were wet and her face was heated. But he didn't say anything, just waited for her to speak.

“I'm ready,” she said.

“Ready?”

Kaylee had to think about that, about what she really meant. She knew what she wished she was ready for, but that was a long ways away. Just being here was a big enough step to take.

“Ready... to read up,” she said, making her voice calm. “Can you show me the stuff about the hospital?”

Simon studied her for only a brief second before he replied, “Of course,” his words neat in his doctor way. He turned to pick up a stacks of charts from the counter, and Kaylee stepped into the infirmary.

Something about the stillness of the little room brought her another brief thought of home; it was like walking into the town’s chapel at the height of the saturday night town’s fair, leaving all the noise and heat of the crowd outside. It wasn’t a feeling she’d ever welcomed before, but now the peace soothed her overwhelmed senses.

She didn't want to go back to the fuss. She didn't want to think about any of it at all.

“Maybe...” she said hesitantly. “Can we... can we do it later? Do you think it’d be OK if we didn’t talk about anything serious right now?”

Simon turned back to her, looking surprised and more than a little curious. She expected him to ask her about it, to make her explain what had her running down here and stammering at him like a little girl. But, to her relief, he smiled and set down the charts, then pulled his uTex out of his pocket.

“I have a few vids,” he said. “After lunch I did some searching... Since I can't pay, I could only get old ones that are available for free, but there's a few classics...” He paused, and when she had nothing to say, he mumbled on. “There's this one that I thought was the funniest thing, the first time I saw it in boarding school. Of course, it'll probably seem incredibly stupid now, but–”

“A movie?” Kaylee asked, interrupting him when she finally found her voice. “You wanna watch a movie with me?”

He shrugged. “We can project it.” He walked to the hatch, standing right beside her as he pointed to the large blank wall to the left of the common room. “The sound won't be the best, but...”

Kaylee looked up at him. “That's perfect, Simon.” If she'd trusted herself more, she might have taken his hand. Might have even kissed him on the cheek, but that would risk going someplace serious again. Right now, it was plenty enough just to sit beside him for a few quiet, calm hours, and get caught up in a silly vid. It was exactly what she needed.

“Thank you,” she said, meaning it right from her heart. “That's real nice. I guess I ... ” She felt like she needed to apologize for something, but she didn't know how or where to start.

She didn't need to. Simon grinned and held up the uTex. “Come on, let's see if this thing's worth the hype.”

Kaylee grinned back, then joined him in rearranging the furniture into their own little cinema.

* * *
Translations

yăoxī gài de rén:   knee-biter
gōushī:   crap
sāobī:   bitch

* * *

Previous chapter | Next chapter: Wash

COMMENTS

Monday, May 21, 2007 4:27 AM

MAL4PREZ


Much to respond to this time! I see how it is - set up an odd pairing and throw in a sex toy, and suddenly all the comments come rolling out, LOL!

Leiasky - thanks for the help with this chapter. Angry Kaylee really isn't easy to figure out!

Jane0904 - Thanks again for the comment! Yes, poor Mal. :(

Hoperules - re Mal... it's going to be a long strange trip - hang in there...

Stormwolfdawn - I know exactly what you mean!! Do not abandon hope!

BEB: thanks for saying it so many words: "You actually had Jayne go out and buy River a vibrator?!? Damn" LOL! Everytime I read back through that part I have the same reaction! It's just insane!

Platonist (Orlando Bloom's father-in-law-to-be) - Count your blessings, at least it's not the age of the Backstreet Boys. *shudder* As for Inara - we won't really get there for a bit, but I'll certainly be curious to hear what you think. I can't decipher Joss either, so I went my own way. It sort of fits. If you squint...

Katesfriend - Actually, I am very much River. On all those personality tests? Oh, yeah, hands down, River.
Let's see... I'm a physicist , a dancer, and my brain works in mysterious ways...

jetflair - thanks! I'm glad we agree!

amdobell - Oh! That's why I never heard from you! PM sent...

desertgirl - evil intentions? hmm....

nbz - yay for the unexpected! I hope that I continue to deliver on that! And this chapter clears up where(when) Mal thinks he is, right?

Monday, May 21, 2007 5:11 AM

LEIASKY


Oh, you already know how much I love this chapter. Poor Kaylee trying to work everything out. Her conversation with Simon at the beginning was painful to read. But painful in a good way as you portrayed their hesitation most perfectly.

I love River's question about why Kaylee isn't with Simon. Leave it to River to be direct. And her announcement, like Jayne's, about going to her bunk made me giggle. And Kaylee's is clearly not herself because she didn't pick up on the implication. . .

And I love Kaylee's arguement with Mal. It parallelled her issues with Simon perfectly. She's mad at herself, not as much the Captain, for what's gone on, or not, with Simon. And that when she ran, it was to the infirmary, said a lot, even if she doesn't get it at that moment.

When she noticed how the infirmary calmed her, she made a little breakthrough into seeing just a little bit more of Simon.

It was nice to see Kaylee stumble around for words for a change, and have Simon think of such an obviously innocent (or the start of something?) way to calm and spend some time with her.

Now what was the movie? LOL!

Monday, May 21, 2007 9:22 AM

ELOISA


I actually cooed out loud at the movie at the end.

Lovely stuff, as with the rest of this so far. I adored Kaylee in this. After the bit in Jayne's chapter with her harping on killing, still with Ray on her mind, I was almost surprised there wasn't more of that here, but I suppose that as was implied in the letter to Inara she deliberately isn't thinking of it. Simon as a more proximate concern... lovely.

(And River: "I'll be in my bunk." Priceless.)

Monday, May 21, 2007 10:50 AM

AMDOBELL


What came through loud and clear in this chapter is how out of her depth Kaylee is with the Captain not being himself and the rift between her and Simon. The latter overshadowing everything else until it all comes out when she lets out the pent up anger at the Captain. And now Zoe will be left to calm him and get things on an even keel until they can figure out what is wrong with him and fix it. My heart goes out to Mal and I hope you don't have him permanently miserable and unhappy but have a light at the end of that dark tunnel. I smiled at Kaylee and Simon making their first tenative steps back to each other, with Simon actually coming up with the notion of watching a movie together! What movie did he choose? Is is "Four Weddings and a Funeral"? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, May 21, 2007 5:49 PM

DESERTGIRL


Oh, poor Kaylee I can just feel the angst seeping out of her. Seems like the Captain was calling Zoë to task when Kaylee snuck out of there. Not sure I’d want to be Zoë just then.

I loved River announcing that she’s “be in her bunk,” but more so I loved her waiting for a reaction that never came.

Most importunately - I want to know what movie Simon picked out. He said something about a flick he thought was funny during prep school but stupid now. My guess is something by Monty Python, maybe “Holy Grail” or “Life of Brian.” Or could it be something really off the wall like “Spinal Tap”

Oh dear, I’m I aging myself naming all the cult movies I watched in High School???

Monday, May 21, 2007 7:30 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


I only noted my honest feelings about the scenario, mal4prez. Cuz, to me, if Jayne can take a look at the situation River is facing, realize that she needs a way of getting rid of some shexual tenshun (use a lisp when reading that;D) but knows she ain't ready for some interpersonal contact, and gets her a vibrator without flinching or acting like Simon on a bad day when he hands it over? Yep...the man's ready for a tampon run. That and Jayne's definitely the right man for the job of wooing the 'Verse's most dangerous 17-year old Reader and assassin;D

This chapter was seriously, seriously brilliant work, mal4prez. Kaylee is a fun nut to crack in the best of circumstances and to write her as being angsty and suffering from PTSD as it manifests itself in a seemingly uncontrollable rage? Definitely some new territory for the character. I do feel for her though...all of her safety nets and comfort zones have been stripped away over the past few months, starting with Simon and River's arrival on-board before moving on to stuff like Early's invasion and concluding with all the problems relating to the Oeneus and Niflheim jobs (both personally and involving Mal).

Honestly have to admit though I busted a gut a couple of times while reading this. The scenes where Mal thinks Kaylee is coming on to him and River channels Jayne? Hilarity of the highest order:D

BEB

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 1:19 AM

JETFLAIR


"Oh?” Zoë asked. “Dinosaur escapades?”


Wash looked thoughtful. “I guess.. there could be dinosaurs involved. That’s not my personal kink, but if you’re into it, um…”


“Kink?” Jayne asked, and he looked at his uTex with a new level of respect."

Much that's quotable in this chapter, but that in particular cracked me up. I think you're handling Kaylee really well, with complexity yet remaining true to the character.

It's going to be interesting to see how Mal responds to the plan - :eyes boggle:

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 1:11 PM

NBZ


Brilliant!

Loved the awkwardness of Kaylee more or less throughout. I can see how it must have been hard to write.

I can see where the pieces fit.

I expect the next chapter to be full of brimstone and fire. Maybe even lepers?

Oh, and River's melodramatic moments. Nothing more to say. :) She is a teen afterall.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 1:35 PM

PLATONIST


I know that you are somewhat sidestepping the BDM, but I think we may have seen subtle hints from Joss on what was going on in Kaylee's head about this point in time. Events post OIS leave Kaylee feeling angry, frustrated and obviously sad. I think you've successfully given good reasons for her waning optimism, at this juncture.

I'm enjoying the "fleshing out" of all the characters that were unfortunately given little time in the movie.

great job, and waiting for your next post

By the way, your guess is as good as mine on Inara's story. I do believe she was the "victim" rather than the purb, something out of her control happened... or perhaps a victim of circumstances?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 4:01 PM

KATESFRIEND


Two realities? the question floats across his mind. Ain’t that one more than usual? And maybe two more than the truth?

Hmm, more hints here?

I love how you added plausibility to Mal's plight by mirroring it in Kaylee. And since you're really River yourself, Kaylee would have been quite a stretch - but you pulled it off flawlessly, down to her retreating from the Mal/Zoe conflict to come. I especially liked how she reasoned that Simon was too special to have to put up with her new found darkness of character - perfect!

So many potential plot bunnies being born in every chapter - you're keeping my brain occupied in deciding your next move - I love it! Thanks for the thrills!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 4:36 PM

KATESFRIEND


P.S. Special kudos as to how quickly River recovered from her crush on Mal.


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Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.


Back Stories III, Chapter 24
Mal returns to a few familiar places.

Back Stories III: Chapter 23
The BDH’s find themselves enmeshed in too damned many OCs. But hey, they’re necessary. Plottiness and all.

Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.

Back Stories III, Chapter 21
The battle with the Reavers continues, and Mal makes a choice. All decisions have consequences.

Back Stories III, Chapter 20
Finally a little Mal POV, but it doesn't last long.

Back Stories III, Chapter 19
The trials and tribulations of an older, wiser River Tam.

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 18
The aftermath of an unexpected encounter. Except—not all of the crew are accounted for…

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 17
A lovely day in the mountains: friendly locals and fresh air under a clear blue sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 16.
Zoë tells of her soiree with terrorists on Oeneus.