Character(s): Kaylee, Serenity, everyone else
Prompt: Kaylee, after Serenity
Word Count: 2170
Author's Notes: Thanks to sure_i_am, mtgat, taraljc, Rache, and especially ayiana, for their very fast betas, and to paperflowered for her patience with my tardiness.
Summary: After Serenity there are many, many pieces to put back together.
There weren't an inch of Serenity she hadn't checked herself.
The Operative...he'd had Book and everyone at Haven and so many others killed. He'd got Serenity and their hearts and family ripped open like they were no more than a paper lantern. Almost got all of them killed. Got Wash killed.
Still, she had to own that his men were good...but they didn't know Serenity like she did. And they weren't going to have to keep her flying cobbled together with baling wire and a prayer neither.
So every patch, every rivet, every wire, she followed them, worked alongside them. More'n half the time she took a tool or part out of their hands when they weren't doing it right or with the proper respect or care. Less than half a day into the repairs, every worker knew to ask for Kaylee--as "Miss Kaylee" or "Ma'am" or just "Chief" depending on their age--before touching even the deck plates.
Less than two hours after the Operative told his men to stand down, Kaylee stood by the flight controls as they disengaged the Reaver harpoon from Serenity. She couldn't help biting her lip, though she could still barely feel that side of her face and neck. She didn't look at where Zoë stood rigidly at the door, shotgun held tightly in her hands.
The screech of metal on metal was piercing, painful, and almost loud enough to drown out the squelch and thump as Wash's body was freed. Almost loud enough to drown out Zoë's half-suppressed sob. The soldiers tried to pick Wash up, and Zoë shoved them aside.
Zoë straightened Wash's legs and folded his arms over his chest, gripping his hand as she stroked his face. "You stupid, crazy, heroic man."
Her voice sounded wrong, and Kaylee felt tears rolling down her cheeks and a bitter, metallic taste spread through her mouth. Hiccuping sobs bubbled in her chest, and her fingers flew to her lips. She stayed clear of the field bandage visible through the gash in the back of Zoë's vest as she touched her shoulder lightly, then she fled.
Half an hour later she was still swiping at her nose with a sleeve. In between sobs she worked on salvaging wiring where the nacelle had been ripped off in Wash's miraculously controlled crash landing. She sniffed and swallowed hard against the salt-and-snot taste that filled her throat. At least she could no longer smell the carbon and sulfur of burnt-out systems and stressed metal.
Her lips still sagged on the side where the darts hit her, but since she could only breathe through her mouth she didn't much mind. Her hands kept up their work, the left still just a bit sluggish, while her mind ran like wildfire thorough the past week. A planet full of corpses. Book covered in blood, head lolled to one side. Zoë's blank expression as she said, "He ain't coming." The limp and dust-covered form of the boy who'd leapt into her arms just days earlier. Mal's beaten face and bloodied eye. Wash, chin on his chest, skewered to his chair. The entire flight deck smelling of blood and death.
She blinked. Realized her hands had fallen still. The voice sounded uncertain. She hadn't heard his footsteps at all. She wiped her face and looked up. "Uh-huh?"
"Ma'am, they're ready to tow the ship into repair dock on your command."
"Cap'n been told?"
Kaylee nodded, climbing to her feet. "I'll be right there."
The day after they crashed, Serenity was hoisted into the air so they could fix her underside. Half the outer hull panels were bent or peeled back, all the skids had broken off, and all but one of the support struts were crushed. There didn't seem to be a system on the ship without damage.
She oversaw the men replacing panels, made sure they could tell which could be fixed and which couldn't, and watched them do the welds then put in rivets to make sure they'd hold. Zoë was welding the internal struts by the time Kaylee was satisfied enough to go to repair the shuttle docking mechanisms.
The panel covering the circuits, like every other panel she'd worked on, was jammed in place. She pried at it, grunted, cringed at the whine of the metal. Hands suddenly covered hers and the panel came free. She fell on her rump and the jolt knocked her breathless. She was still gasping when Jayne held out a hand.
"Sorry," he muttered.
She accepted his hand up, then swatted his arm. "You scared me!"
He shrugged, picked up a bundle, and moved to leave.
"What're you doing over here? I thought you and Mal were un-Reaver-ing Serenity."
"Done finished. That cannon came off last and those..." His lip curled. "Those soldiers are helping scrub off the paint so she don't look like she's smeared with blood. Blood's their fault anyway." He glared back down the passage, then stepped away.
She touched his arm. "What've you got there?"
"Ain't none of your concern. Just going to see Inara." He turned and pounded on the shuttle door. The door slid open and Jayne went in.
Kaylee made a face at the closed door, then knelt. She shoved the loose panel aside, and it clattered to the floor. Gorram rude Jayne Cobb. She dug into the mechanism, rapping her wrist sharply against the piping. "Ow!" She leaned farther into the wall, reaching for a loose connector, and her head pressed against the outer panel. Ear to metal, she heard Jayne's voice.
"I know you're getting Wash's body ready, so I brought you this."
Inara asked something Kaylee couldn't hear.
"I, uh, scrubbed bits of him off that gorram harpoon and the old pilot chair. These're the rags...so's you can burn his blood with the rest of him."
Inara's tones were measured and smooth like always. "Thank you. I'll include these in the rites before the burial."
There was a silence, then the door opened and he strode past with only the briefest of glances at Kaylee.
"The captain says we'll be ready to leave in only one or two days." They were in Simon's quarters, the ship's silence loud in Kaylee's ears.
"Yep." She kissed him and tucked her hands inside the back of his pants.
Simon cupped her cheek and kissed her back. "I feel like I've been pretty useless this week in getting the ship repaired."
"You've made sure we all healed up good enough to get her ready. And you've helped keep me going." She undid and dropped his pants, still marvelling that, after all this time, she could. "Outside's cleaned up, hull breaches are sealed up, nacelle's back on and rotating smooth, landing gear's in place." She smiled at him, pushed his shirt off his shoulders, and kissed around the defined muscles of chest. His lips pressed against the top of her head and she sighed. "I've still got some work to do inside but we're getting real close."
"That's good to hear," he said, then gasped as she flicked her tongue against a nipple.
She shifted behind him, kissing him along the way, and spread her hands across his chest and stomach. She'd never thought to see someone who did so little physical labor have a body that rippled so strong under soft skin. "Um, Simon," she murmured, lips moving along the planes of his back.
His hands covered her roaming ones, fingers brushing along hers. She swirled her tongue at the base of his neck and up towards his ear. "You might want to talk to River about sex."
He tried to pull away, but she pushed him onto the bed and leaned over him. She chuckled against his neck. "Don't go getting all prim! She's your little sister, but she's a woman, too. We have appetites, you know." She pressed a knee upwards between his legs.
He gasped, and his thighs tightened convulsively. "I, uh, have noticed, yes." His tongue slipped out to wet his lips, and she bent down, kissing him till he broke away. "But...what does this have to do with River...and...do you really think it's, well, appropriate to bring up while we're, you know..."
She kissed him again, stopping his stammering. "It's no big thing. It's just today I was repairing the door mechanism, and Zoë was installing the new pilot's chair, and River came in. She told Zoë she'd seen inside Wash's head...before he...died, knew what Zoë liked, and she'd picked up more ideas from watching us. She offered to help Zoë feel better by having sex with her--"
"Bù kě néng! She what?" He shoved her away, pulling the sheet up around him as he scanned the entire room, eyes darting to every corner, every grate.
Kaylee laughed, then clapped a hand over her mouth, setting the other on his knee. He looked so scandalized! "It's all right. After I stopped laughing and Zoë left, I talked to River. Asked her not to watch us having sex cause it's private. She said she won't anymore." She slipped her fingers under the sheet, trailing them along the curled hairs on his thigh.
"But... You...you... She.... River? River...watches us?"
"She did. She was curious."
"And she...propositioned Zoë?"
"She was just trying to help."
"Help?" His voice squeaked.
"Simon. Calm down. River just wanted to comfort her. She knows we comfort each other--"
"Because she was watching us have sex!"
"And she's not going to anymore. Simon, she wanted to help Zoë. We all do. I just thought you'd want to..." Simon's eyes were still all round and she frowned, offering, "Maybe I should talk to River again?"
Simon just nodded mutely.
She smiled, cupping his cheek with one hand. Familiar heaviness tugged at her and she looked away, her chin resting on her chest.
"Hey." He tucked hair back over her ear.
She bit her lips together to hold in a sob.
"What is it? Do you want me to...talk to River?"
"No, no. I will. It's just...I wish...I love making love you, and I've waited and imagined...but, well, after River...I keep thinking of Zoë today, of how she's alone. Do you think we're hurting her more by being together?"
Simon's hand settled against the side of her head and she leaned into his warmth. His thumb brushed her cheek and she realized another tear had crept out. "I think Zoë and Wash would be happy that we're right where we are."
She stared for a moment, then leaned in to kiss him. "Nothing makes me miss them any less, not even the work."
She sat up straight and frowned. "Just don't you go getting yourself killed and go leaving me, you hear?"
"I'll do my best."
She stared at his earnest face for a moment, then nodded. She lifted the sheet and scooted forward till her knees touched the soft warmth of his side. She lifted one leg, straddled him, touched the mostly-healed wound on his stomach lightly, and slid her hands up his chest and down his sides. He was definitely more gorgeous than she could have imagined a year ago, hidden under all those layers of fancy clothes. His fingers slipped along the flesh at her waist and she reached up as he pulled her shirt off over her head. She bent forward to nuzzle his neck so she could feel the vibrations of his moans and his cool shoulder against her warm cheek.
They were definitely where they belonged.
His voice reached her before he did. "How much longer till my ship's ready?"
"Just a few things left. We don't want pieces falling off in the middle of space."
"No. We don't. But I do want to get off this rock. It's been eight days. Alliance knows we're here, and if they want us, they're on the way. I want to put some distance between us and them."
"We're almost there, Cap'n. Just these last few couplings and..." She twisted the connection and half the engine room lit up. She smiled, nodding as the engines started to turn and Serenity shuddered back to life. "See? She's about to be doing just fine."
He smiled then touched her cheek with a thumb. "You're smudged."
She grinned. "Always."
His expression grew more serious. "And how're you doing, mèi-mei?"
She gulped air, trying to get it past the heaviness that suddenly filled her chest. "I'm...doing all right." She pursed her lips, nodding and trying to smile. "How about you, Cap'n?"
She squeezed his arm but didn't call him a liar. "Zoë?"
"She's...keeping busy." He looked around the engine room. "Best let you get back to it so we can fly off this rock."
"If you don't mind me asking, who's going to fly her?"
"I will. Learned a lot from Wash. Our little albatross says she'll make a good pilot, so I'll see how she does, her being a genius and all. You just get her spaceworthy. We'll get her in the air."
She nodded. "I'll call you. Probably just a few more hours. Soon as she can fly."
His boots clanged on the grating, the echo as empty as the flight deck.
There weren't an inch of Serenity she hadn't checked herself.
She'd checked every rivet in the hull, tested every electrical connection, run the fluid lines for leaks. Captain's ship was as sound as she could be just more'n a week past crashing. Better, even, than she'd been a week before, maybe. Couldn't say that for the rest of them, still ragged around the edges, mending not yet done.
She stood, sheltered from the pouring rain that beat on every surface. Only the captain was still outside. He'd always be the last one to board if he could manage. She took one last look and walked up the ramp into the cargo hold.
She smiled sadly at Zoë. "Cap'n's on his way in. Should be ready to go right away."
Zoë nodded back, adjusting a box of provisions.
Kaylee placed a hand on Zoë's arm. When Zoë turned, she pulled her into a hug and held on tight. The room wavered through the tears that were never far off, and Zoë, though stiff, returned her hug slightly.
Kaylee pulled back. "We all miss him." She nodded to Zoë and breathed shakily. "We're here for anything you need."
Zoë nodded with that impassive expression and bright eyes, and Kaylee let her hands slip from Zoë's arms.
They weren't all as much back together as her good girl, gussied up as fine as she'd ever look. She was their patched-together home and she'd fly them out into the black, with Inara's painting blazoned like a call sign for luck.