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: Whoa, my first Firefly fic. I was originally going to write this for ff_friday (which is the Firefly equivalent of wednesday100), but they have an upper word limit of 1000 and I blew that. This is just a quick, fluffy, post-Objects In Space piece.
Engines; she understands those.
Simon? Not so much.
His eyes are forever wandering off, out of focus, and you can tell he's out there in the black, thinking of things other than what's here and now. He's worried about River or he's pondering everything he left behind; he plays his cards so damn close Kaylee's never really sure what he's thinking. And maybe that's part of the problem. Farmboys back home, they were real cute but they weren't much for what the Cap'n would call the subtleties, meaning they took whatever Kaylee offered and didn't make much pretense about it.
No challenge at all.
Simon, though, he's so handsome and grown-up and articulate; and he always smells good, like he brought some expensive cologne onboard with him and it doesn't occur to him that it's a bit rich for everyday shipboard use. He's scarily smart, and sad, and mysterious, all wrapped up in one pretty package. Nothing in Kaylee's short and happy life has prepared her to be attracted to a man like this; it's like he's some new Alliance-made engine she's never seen, and it's going to drive her crazy till she figures out exactly how he works, how all the pieces fit together.
And which pieces are broke. Because she knows there's some things ain't working right, way inside him. And maybe that's another big reason she just can't leave it alone.
There in the corridor, Kaylee watches Simon, standing so close to her but his eyes going off somewhere else, so she just blurts out, "Isn't there anything here you're glad of?"
Blankness at first, and then his expression softens; he's back from wherever he was and he's actually here with her again. A tiny smile plays at his mouth. He reaches a hand towards Kaylee's face and her heart starts to race all crazy, like it's trying to reach escape velocity, and...
And then Shepherd Book walks in on them; and then the moment is gone.
Kaylee's not sure if there's a Hell for them who'd think bad thoughts about a nice, harmless Shepherdbut if there is, she's probably headed there.
Later that night, Kaylee gives serious consideration to sneaking out of her bunk and seeing if Simon's up for finishing what he seemed about to start. She can't quite get up her nerve, though, and she decides it's best to keep trying to figure out how that particular engine works before taking it for a test run.
And later still, Jubal Early comes to Serenity, and that changes everything.
A month later Simon's still hobbling around on crutches; being Simon, he's somehow managing it with dignity.
Two days earlier they'd made an uneventful landing on Emory, a colony planet, and now they've finished loading cargo and running last-minute system checks for launch in a few hours. Kaylee's in the crew lounge mending a pair of coveralls when she hears the unmistakable step-thunk of Simon heading her way on his crutches. She bites off the end of the thread and finishes up the seam; she sets her sewing aside as Simon comes in.
"Hey, Simon!" Kaylee says. "Whatcha got there?"
Simon's carrying a smallish paper sack. "Just a little something from town."
"The Captain let you go into town?"
Simon laughs softly. "Hardly. I still had a little cash, so I asked Book to pick up a few things for me." He hands Kaylee the paper sack, and then eases himself down onto the bench a space away from her. "That's for you."
"A present? For me? Really?"
Simon just smiles at her.
Kaylee's got no notion at all what could be in the bag; Simon's never seemed the gift-giving type before. Which leaves her not much to do but open it and find out.
She unrolls the top of the crinkled brown bag and peers inside; she reaches in and pulls out
a mesh container full of fresh strawberries.
It's all she can do not to giggle with delight. "Simon... How in the 'verse did you know?"
Simon shrugs. "I can't take the credit; I just asked Shepherd Book to find something he thought you'd like."
"Butwhy? It ain't like it's my birthday or anything."
Simon looks away, and he takes a minute to answer, like it wasn't a question he was expecting. "I suppose I wanted to... break the ice. Between us."
"What do you mean?"
Simon sighs and looks down at his hands; flexes his long fingers. "Ever since that bounty hunter came to the ship, you've seemed sodistant."
Now it's Kaylee's turn to look away. She doesn't like to think about that night, is happier pretending it didn't happen, and she wishes Simon weren't saying it out loud like this and making it all real again.
But now it's out there, there's no point dancing around it. She looks up at Simon; their eyes meet.
"He scared me," Kaylee begins. "He scared me real bad. I mean, I been in lots of scrapes with the crew before, but it was never about me, you know? He..." She shrugs. "He had a way of making it personal."
Simon's expression shifts from neutral to suspicious so quickly it makes Kaylee twitch a little; and then she figures the route Simon's thinking down.
"Kaylee" he begins, his voice low and deadly serious.
"He didn't touch me," she says quickly. "I mean, 'cept for tying me up."
"So he didn't"
Simon releases a sigh; he relaxes a little. "That's good."
Kaylee hesitates, then: "He just talked about it. What he'd do to me. If."
Simon winces; he closes his eyes and rubs between them like he's got a headache.
They sit in the quiet for a moment; Simon's got on his out-there stare again, and Kaylee realizes that he's almost-not-quite trembling. Like he's choking back anger. Like he'd slam his fist against the bulkhead right now if he weren't so finely bred.
"Simon," Kaylee says, "It ain't your fault."
He focuses on her, looks at her disbelievingly. "But it is! Haven't you been paying attention? You almost got killed because of me, remember? You got shot! And now you've been tied up and scared and threatened and" He chokes it off, takes a deep breath. "It is my fault."
For such a smart man he can be so gorram dumb.
Kaylee slides over on the bench, closer to him. He's real twitchy sometimes, when people get too close; she doesn't know if that's part of the society he's from or just because life on the run has made him paranoid, but she puts a hand on his forearm because she's not sure how else to get him to listen to her.
"Simon. It's not your fault, hear? You didn't ask the Alliance to kidnap your sister and experiment on her. Everything you've done since then, you've done trying to protect her. Everyone on the ship knows it. If the Captain didn't believe that, he'd have put you off."
Simon looks at her hand on his forearm but he doesn't shake it off; then he finally looks up at her.
"If I've been standoffish," she continues, "it ain't because I blame you for what happened. It's more like maybe I didn't really understand before, how serious it all was. And maybe now I do. And maybe I feel silly coming around and talking to you about nothing much andand flirting with you and making a fool of myself. Because I figuremaybe you got other things on your mind."
Simon's expression is unreadable for a moment, then he shakes his head and sighs again. He smiles at her in a wry, sad way. "I liked it when you'd come around and talk to me about nothing much. It was a nice distraction. I miss that." He looks down at her hand, which is still on his forearm; then he reaches over and places his other hand over hers. "All of it."
And they just sit there grinning at each other like two big fools, until Mal comes in and glowers at them and mutters something about lazy crew.
So they both get up and pretend to have other things to do; they are in final prep for liftoff, after all. But on the way out of the lounge, Simon turns and smiles at her, behind the Captain's back.
Kaylee hides her grin from the Captain.
Later on, after launch, she sticks her head into Simon and River's quarters, just to say Hello; Simon's eyes light up when he sees her.
She can't hide her smile this time; and she reckons she probably should have talked things out with him sooner.
After all, it feels so good to fix stuff.