Disclaimer: Firefly and all related elements, characters and indicia © Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television, 2003. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situationssave those created by the authors for use solely on this websiteare copyright Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television.
Author's Note: fter my brilliant friend Pyrrha wrote a wonderful epilog to "Objects in Space" I got jealous so I wrote one too.
"With Form and Matter, Time and Place did join; Body, thy foe, with these did leagues combine To spoil thy peaceful realm, and ruin all thy line;" Simon muttered as he stared up at the atrocious blob of color hanging over his head. Were those supposed to be dried flowers or fireworks or different types of stars really, really close together, or was it just blobs of pointless color meant to make the room feel warm and, well, colorful? "But turncoat Time assists the foe in vain, And bribed by thee, destroys their short lived reign," Simon hesitated, he couldn't quite remember the next line. "Something something something something ain," he said, finishing the stanza.
"Don' think that's what comes next," a soft, timid voice said from doorway between the common room and the cargo bay. Simon craned his head and saw Kaylee's form poking around the doorframe, as if she were waiting for permission to come in.
"Kaylee," he said before sucking a breath between his teeth. Simon pulled himself up into a sitting position, with his injured leg stretched out in front of him on the couch. "How long have you been there?" His voice was thin with pain.
"Oh," the girl said, not venturing in and flopping down on the couch like he expected her to. Rather, she stayed in the cargo bay, just a sliver of her visible as she leaned on the doorframe. "Since ‘Severed from thee, its sole original'," she admitted. "I didn' mean ta pry, I..." her voice trailed off as she glanced back into the darkness of the cargo bay. "I can go an'..."
"Kaylee," Simon said again. He wanted walk over and meet her, catch her delicate chin in his hand, run his fingers through her soft brown hair, gaze into her seemingly-fathomless eyes, and ask very softly and very kindly what was troubling her. But all his leg would allow him to do was lean forward, and even that hurt more than it reasonably should have. "Are you all right?"
"Oh," she said weakly, bobbing her head in a way that was almost a nod and almost a shake and entirely baffled the doctor.
"Well," he said after a moment. "Did you plan on coming in?"
"Ya don' mind?" the girl asked as if she was apologizing.
"N... no," Simon said, her behavior was worrisome to say the least. "I mean, it'sit's not like I'm sleeping or... anything."
"Right," Kaylee said laughing softly as if he'd been joking. "Can't sleep."
She didn't move from her spot.
"Kaylee," Simon said gently. "What's the matter?"
The girl sucked in a breath, as if he'd punched her in the gut. "I don'," she muttered. "I jus'..."
"Kaylee," Simon said a little desperately. He already had one half-mad girl in his life, he couldn't handle another. "Stop it."
"Wha...?" the girl asked, a little baffled.
"You're scared, fine," he said, looking right at her. His soft steady gaze seemed to unnerve the young mechanic; she didn't meet his eyes. "You don't want to be alone, I understand that. But I'm too tired for you to be a blubbering mess in the cargo bay. Come in here, sit next to me, and then you can start bawling. But don't do it where I can't reach you."
"Right," Kaylee said with a gaspy breath as she stepped full into the doorway. If she hadn't been so obviously upset, her appearance would have made him smile. She was wrapped in a standard gray blanket, covering up a white flannel nightshirt with purple lace trimmings, her hair tumbling around and in front of her face haphazardly and a pair of fuzzy pink slippers covered her feet. As she trotted down the stairs, Simon very carefully took his injured leg in both hands. Pivoting his entire body, he swung it around and carefully rested it on the coffee table so that it was pretty much perpendicular to the ground. He had to bite on his lower lip to keep from screaming in pain. With a quiet thud, his foot hit the table and he felt the coursing pain that came with every slight motion of his leg ease to a more general pain, which he was too cautious to dope away. He closed his eyes, leaning back so that his head was resting on the cool wall behind him, and let out a long, shaky sigh.
"Do it hurt too much?" Kaylee asked, easing carefully down beside him.
Simon turned his head, opened his eyes, and looked at her. She was sitting about a foot away from him, straight-backed, her hands in her lap, her legs folded under the couch, and her head bowed. Simon would have described her posture as prim, except that her right thumb was rubbing her left thumbnail almost obsessively. The good doctor hadn't been able tell from across the room as Kaylee hid in the shadows, but now that she was close it was obvious that her eyes were bloodshot and her cheeks were flushed. She'd been crying.
"It does hurt," Simon said. His throat felt suddenly dry, undoubtedly from his late night poetry harangue. Unfortunately, to get a glass he'd have stand and walk. That wasn't going to happen, so he resigned himself to being thirsty. Asking Kaylee to fetch him some water never entered his mind. "But, ah, I was pretty much expecting pain when I got shot, so..."
He smiled weakly at her; she smiled weakly back before her eyes drifted back down to her thumbs.
"Come on," Simon said softly after a moment. "Tell me what's up."
Kaylee took a deep breath and nodded. When she started speaking, her voice sounded strained and jittery, like she was talking through tears. But, as far as Simon could see, nothing was streaming down her pretty face. "I... I can't sleep," she confessed.
"That's understandable," Simon said, reaching out and brushing her cheek with his knuckles. She turned away and Simon, a little deflated, let his hand sink back down to the couch. "It was a horrifying night, for everyone. But you, especially."
"No," Kaylee insisted. "River almost got took, Cap got beat on, you got shot."
"Kaylee," Simon insisted, "That man was psychotic. He tied you up and..." Simon hesitated, suddenly realizing that what he was about to say was probably the last thing either of them wanted to think about. Simon leaned left, towards her, grimacing in pain as he shift his weight towards his wounded leg, and snatched both her hands with one of his, stopping the nervous thumb-rubbing. "And I was frightened, too."
She glanced at him skeptically, without turning her head towards him. "You're brave," she asserted, as if that would end the dispute.
"I don't..." Simon said shaking his head, confused.
Kaylee turned to look at him, her mouth open, an exhortation clearly on her lips. And she stayed there for a second, convicted, with something to say, and yet nothing came out. Finally, she turned her head and muttered, "I don' wanna talk ‘bout this," as she pulled her hands away from his. Simon retreated, allowing the girl to wrap her hands in the edges of the rough blankets and wipe away tears that hadn't yet fallen.
"Of course," Simon sighed. He was unsure if he was disappointed or relieved. "Let's talk about anything else."
There was a long pause as they both waited for the other to introduce a topic.
The silence got to Simon first. "That's, ah, that's a very pretty nightgown."
"Oh," Kaylee muttered, looking down at her apparel, as if she'd forgotten what she'd gone to bed in. "Yeah, my ma sent me this fer Christmas last year," She said a little louder as she stroked the white flannel smooth on her lap. "Never wore it 'till tonight."
"Really?" Simon asked conversationally.
"Yeah, It's kinda warm and frumpy an' Nara gave me this little..." Her voice trailed off and she glanced at the doctor. Her cheeks were already flushed so there was no way to tell if she was blushing. "I offered it to RiverI mean, this one, not the... and, anyways, she said she didn't want it. Said she liked sleepin' in yer old shirt. Said it smelled like sanctuary."
Simon chuckled softly. "Well, at least I know I make her feel safe."
"Course ya do," Kaylee said, her voice growing melancholy again. "What you did when... an' after he shot ya..."
"Well," Simon said. Kaylee's adoration made him feel oddly uncomfortable. "Wethat is you and I, both had..."
"I," Kaylee interrupted, her voice was stretched thin and sounded tight. She cleared her throat and tried again, glancing up at him through the corners of her deep brown eyes. "Could we, maybe, talk ‘bout somethin' else?"
"Sure," Simon said softly, nodding.
"That poem," the girl said quickly, clearly dreading any lull. "What was it about?"
"The poem?" Simon asked. The sudden change of topic had caught him off-guard.
"Yeah," Kaylee said, turning to him. Her demeanor was so frank and almost offensive that Simon couldn't help but wonder what she was defending. "The one you were sayin' when I came in."
"Oh," Simon said, blushing a little. "That poem is about nothing."
"Simon, I'm curious."
"No, that's not... the poem, it's literally about nothing, on the subject of nothing, nothingness. John Wilmot wrote it in the 17th century of Earth-that-was."
"An' why were ya sayin' it?" Kaylee asked.
Simon shrugged, "I was alone, there was nothing better to do. It kept my mind off of the burning pain in my leg..."
"Ouch," Kaylee said, scooting a little nearer so she could get a better look at his leg, even though there was nothing to see but the hole in his pajama pants which Inara had so kindly washed and mended.
"Yeah," Simon said, his eyes also focusing on the small mess of gray thread a slightly different shade.
There was another long quiet.
"I want to thank you," Simon said after a bit.
"Fer what?" Kaylee said. Her voice sounded nervous.
"For always being kind to River," he said, smiling warmly at her. "When she came in here tonight, before she went to bed, she told me that you played jacks with her."
"That ain't nothin'," Kaylee scoffed.
"Well, to her it is," Simon asserted. "She never... that's just, games and friends, they weren't a huge part of our childhood."
"Everyone's got friends."
"We had friends," Simon said. "But I don't think... I mean, they weren't at all like you."
Kaylee stared up at the doctor, clearly confused.
"You accept River," Simon said. "She's not special and she's not amazing and there are no expectations. You just see her as River, and you accept whatever comes. That's not what she... what either of us are used to."
"'S the only way I know how to be," Kaylee said softly.
"I'm grateful," Simon asserted, reaching up and touching her cheek again. This time she didn't immediately pull away. "I'm glad that here, on Serenity, there is a person who can be such a good friend to River and to me."
Far from the warm smile and gentle nudge that just might lead to other gentle things Simon expected after such a heartfelt comment, Kaylee turned her head away from his hand and her body seemed to go rigid. For the second time that night, Simon's hand fell, rejected, back onto the couch. He didn't understand what was going on with Kaylee, and he was starting to wonder if he just kept saying the wrong things. Maybe it was the late hour, maybe it was the pain in his leg or perhaps even the painkillers, but he felt like he was fumbling the words. "I'm sorry," he said, although he had no idea what infraction he had committed
"No," Kaylee said, her voice cracking. Simon leaned forward a little so he could look at her averted face. Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut and there were glistening tear trails running down her flushed cheek.
"Kaylee," he said softly. He wanted to reach out for her, as he had before, but thought better of it. She'd brushed him off twice before, why bother trying again?
"You don' understand," Kaylee said. "I... I told him."
"Told who?" Simon said cautiously. "Thethe bounty hunter? Early?"
Kaylee sucked in a shaky breath and nodded.
"What did you...?"
"I told him where River was," Kaylee practically whispered.
She turned and looked at him her tears were still trailing out of her eyes, but she didn't blink and she didn't wipe them away. Simon felt like he had to say something, but there were so many things running through his tired mind: It wasn't her fault, he'd done the same, Early would have found her eventually, it didn't matter, it was in the past, etc... But he didn't really believe any of those kind words and lying to her about that sort of thing would have been worse than telling a hurtful truth, which was that he was upset at the world which could pit such a kind heart against her friend when both were blameless. He was just thankful River hadn't been helpless, as he and Kaylee had been.
"I'm real sorry," Kaylee choked out, she was crying openly now. "I didn' mean..."
"I know," the doctor said, cutting her off briskly. "That is, I understand," he added, more tenderly. "Early, he washe was frightening. I didn't think there were peoplereal, live, peoplewho could be that... soulless."
"But," she insisted, calming a little as she turned to look at him. "You were brave."
"You've said that twice, now," the doctor observed, shaking his head, confused. "I don't see what bravery...?"
"You ever been scared, Simon? I mean, really scared?"
"Kaylee, I told you before, he scared me too."
"It ain't the same," Kaylee said, shaking her head. "You attacked him. You were shot an' you attacked him. An' then, River told me all these funny thing's ya said when he had the gun pointed right at you. You weren't scared."
"Well," Simon said, a little offended that his emotions were being minimized. "If you're not going to take my word on it, I'm not really sure how I could persuade you."
"I mean," The girl insisted, sniffling a little and regaining some composure. "I don'... mean that you weren't scared. But it ain't the same."
"Tell me." Finally, whatever had shadow been consuming his usually bright Kaylee was finally going to be illuminated.
"I couldn't think," she said softly, looking back down to her hands folded in her lap, one thumb rubbing the other. "I could barely breathe... I wanted ta scream so bad, but there just wasn't..."
"Shhhh," Simon said, reaching up with both his hands and cradling her face, wiping away sticky tears. "He's gone."
"That's it," Kaylee said, her voice cracking. "That's jus' what I told myself. An' when the lights are on an' I can hear the Cap'n's voice and see River's face, then I can believe it and I'm fine, ain't nothin' botherin' me. But when I was alone in the dark and there weren't no noise but the engine..."
"Kaylee, shhhhh," Simon tried to soothe. He dropped his hands from her face and wrapped them around her shoulders. Gently, he pulled her closer; she didn't resist.
"I'm sorry Simon," she said again, resting her head on his shoulder. "I didn' know what ta do."
"Nothing that happened was your fault," Simon said, stroking her hair. "I'm just glad you're okay."
"It ain't fair," Kaylee muttered. "I don' wanna feel like thisI just don't..."
"Shhhh," Simon said. "You are very brave."
"I don' want you to lie to me either."
"I'm not lying," Simon asserted. "Unlocking those doors, if he'd seen you..." He couldn't finish the sentence.
"He said he'd a raped me," Kaylee confessed with a calmness beyond terror or grief. "You did what you did 'cause otherwise he'd'a killed you. He wouldn't have killed me. I would still..."
"Don't think that way," Simon said, he was feeling his throat constrict. He would have gladly have had his leg amputated for a glass of water at this point.
"I'm just scared a bein' hurt."
"We all are, Kaylee," Simon said, his eyes scanning the ceiling. "I don't mean to sound existential but, to a point, death's not that frightening. It's actually fairly unavoidable. No one wants to die, but I don't... that's not what I'm afraid of. And, maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think that's what you're afraid of either."
"I'm afraida less'n that," Kaylee muttered.
"I was scared," Simon continued, ignoring her interjection. "Not that heart-freezing, mind-numbing terror you describedstill, I was afraid of being killed. I put on a brave face and I convinced myself that my life didn't matter and the fear, that didn't matter either. Then, when he told me he would... that he had you upstairs, tied up, and all my false bravado was... well, it melted away. I was stuck in this, this moment of horror and all I could think of was... was that he would do what he said and that possibility... it paralyzed me."
Simon could feel Kaylee trembling under his arms. Her head shifted on his shoulder so she could look up at him, but he couldn't quite muster it within himself to look down at her. He cleared his throat, turned his eyes to the discolored thread on his pant leg and pressed on. "I hated him. I mean, everything inside of me got hot and cold at the same time. I hated myself too because I didn't want to submit to someone so sick and evil, but I was just... what he said frightened me so much. I couldn't think, I couldn't plan, I couldn't do anything but what he said because he had you. And the only thing that mattered was not letting him touch you and..." Simon amended quickly. "And, well, River, but she... "
"You were scared for me?" Kaylee asked softly.
"Bein' brave is doin' what ya have ta do even if yer scared," Kaylee sighed, nuzzling a little closer to the doctor whose protective arms made her feel like he could be brave for the both of them. "Don'cha hate it when life lessons can be summed up so neat?"
"It does make you feel a little stupid, doesn't it?" Simon asked, chuckling.
"Yeah, like things shouldn't be as hard as they are," Kaylee continued. "Like you're jus' a big baby."
"That's not how it is, you know," Simon said, absentmindedly rubbing his left hand up and down her back, sending delightful chills down her spine every time the tips of his fingers gently tugged at the ends of her hair.
"I know," the girl said softly.
They sat for a while, comfortable in each other's arms until their breathing fell into synchronization.
"You asleep?" Kaylee muttered so quietly that the silence, somehow, didn't seem disturbed.
"Not just yet," Simon said just as quietly.
"I don' wanna move."
"You gonna sleep out here?"
"You mean to?"
"I ah," he chuckled softly and titled his head so he could feel her soft hair on his cheek. "I meant to go to my bed from the infirmary hours ago."
"Why didn' you?"
"I didn't quite make it," Simon said, taking a deep breath, saturating his lungs with the wholesome scent of her hair.
"Well," she said after a minute, "I'm glad."
"Me, too," he muttered into her hair.
"'Night, Simon," she said.
"Good night, Kaylee."