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: Be nice... aw hell, be vicious. It's my maiden voyage into Firefly fanficdom; I actually started another one first but this one's shorter so logically it got done faster. Anyway, it's the one y'all get first.
Mal hears everything she does. It's muffled, hollow-sounding as it carries through the bulkhead separating his room from Kaylee's, but he can still hear.
He doesn't like to eavesdrop too much, so he doesn't linger after he rises. Her voice disappears as he moves away from the bed.
It's his only way of checking on her without being pushy.
At night he faces the wall, as if he can see her on the other side. Most nights everything on her end is fine; soft sleep-mumbles and rustling of the sheets. She hums to herself if she's just had a nightmare. Sometimes she cries.
Kaylee cried as they broke atmo of her home planet. She watched the rear video screen up in the bridge, and Mal almost asked himself if he was right to bring her along. He would find that he was. Wash turned in his pilot's chair and smiled at her, and his loud shirt and silly-looking mustache made her smile back.
She was homesick at first. She spent a damn lot of time in the engine room that first day, as if she was expected to sleep there. When Mal came in to check on her late that night, she looked up from the turbine and wiped her eyes sheepishly. Looked away.
"Autopilot," she said.
It was all unidentifiable gears and switches to him. But he nodded because she was right. "Ain't you goin' to sleep? Seems like it's been an exciting day for you, and the others are all bunked down for the night."
Kaylee shrugged, met his eyes.
Hell, she couldn't spend all night here. She was going to have her own bunk like the rest of them. He wasn't a gorram slave-driver. Mal made her follow him to the empty room between his and the bridge, and disengaged the hatch. He wasn't sure why he'd thought of this one right off the bat. Maybe close to the bridge so she would know she was really there and that it wasn't an illusion. So she would know that she had become an important part of their lives that day. Without a mechanic to keep the engine turning like it was supposed to, Serenity was an industrial-sized paperweight.
"You'll be fine here, Kaylee," he told her. "Anything you need from now on, you don't bother askin'. Just go on and take it; you're part of my crew. Dong ma?"
A faded version of the smile he'd seen when he had asked her if she wanted to fly with them maneuvered onto her pretty face. But homesickness didn't allow her to look excruciatingly happy this time. Missing her daddy.
"Where will..." she started, trailing off as she looked at him.
"I'm right on the other side of this wall," Mal promised, and nodded towards the next hatch over. His bunk.
Then she smiled, just like she had earlier that day. It forced something uncharacteristic into the captain, something that made him want to hug her and tell her she was going to be all right.
But they were still new to each other, and he didn't know if it was okay. Thankfully, he had plenty of time to figure out that it was perfectly fine. Two days later, she'd put up her lights and sign, declaring the room as her own. She didn't seem so homesick after that.
Now she mutters something on the other side of the wall, and to Mal's surprise, the just audible voice that answers her belongs to Simon.
He's not sure whether or not he likes that.
Mal rolls over to face the bulkhead. His bed squeaks and he goes still in the dark so he can listen.
Cows and silk. They are talking about Inara's fancy clothes and the cattle that had been their cargo awhile back. A harmless enough set of topics. Well, maybe the silk wasn't entirely safe...
He stares at the iron wall separating them. Silence now. Mal presses an ear to the cool, humming metal. He knows he shouldn't. Invading her privacy.
High-pitched giggles slice through the bulkhead, and Mal recoils with so much force he almost falls off his bed. "Gorramit..."
What are they laughing about? Slowly, Mal leans his still-complaining ear close to the wall again.
"That tickles! I'm gonna get you, mister!"
Mal rolls back over to face the opposite wall and lets his eyes close sleepily. He's not convinced he wants to hear this.
Back when he'd first met Kaylee, he wasn't particularly bothered by the thought of her little romp in the engine room. After all, it had left him with the best damn mechanic in the entire ‘verse, in all her sweetness. Hell with Bester.
Something inside the captain had rapidly changed gears. Soon after he'd taken her on, he'd found he was fiercely protective of her. Fatherly protective, almost. It was new to him, and he didn't fight it.
Now, if he'd found her in a similar situation with some shithead like Bester, there would be manly violence. She wouldn't be at all happy with Mal for it, but God help the bastard that came near her. All he really had to worry about now was Simon; part of him didn't mind.
Part of him.
He wakes at the sound of her door hatch scraping open. Groggily, Mal paws at his bedside table in complete darkness for the clock, but ends up knocking it to the floor. The loud clatter makes him wince.
What time is it? Had to be an hour since he first heard Simon and Kaylee, maybe two. The sound of the clock hitting the deck has ripped all of his safe, beautiful drowsiness away in one cruel motion. He needs coffee.
And he wants to see Simon leave Kaylee's room.
Just to be sure.
Simon pulls the hatch closed; Kaylee's Christmas lights wink and dangle in front of him. He tries to do it quietly so he doesn't wake up the whole ship, but the solid chunk of the latch betrays him.
Turning to leave, he slams directly into Jayne, who looks as if he's been standing there for a good long while. How could he not have noticed?
Behind him, another hatch opens, but he doesn't turn to see whose it is. Footsteps recede.
"A mite late for house calls, doc," Jayne sneers. He's wearing a threadbare t-shirt with what looks to be an upside-down pig on it. No Pork Please, it requested in Chinese.
Simon falters. "I don't see how my business is anything for you to be concerned about," he manages.
And boy does it give Jayne the wrong impression.
"You got ‘business' down there, I got perfect right to concern all I ruttin' well please," the bigger man informs him. Nods to Kaylee's room.
He tries to think of something else to say to amend his previous statement, but he's drawing a blank. Jayne snorts and moves past him to climb down the ladder into his own bunk.
Just as he starts down, Jayne stops and looks back at the doctor. Glares. Not his usual glare.
This one promises something very specific.
Hurt her and I will tear off all your appendages if only to beat you to death with them. There won't be enough left for a Reaver to snack on, dong ma?
Jayne makes sure the point gets across, and completes his descent. Ka-chunk, says the hatch, not at all different from the sound Vera makes when he cocks her.
Simon stares at the bulkhead for a moment before realizing that there is someone else there. He turns now and sees Mal standing outside the open door to his room. He holds an tin cup of coffee.
The doctor almost nods to Mal and bids him good night. But the captain is giving him the exact same look Jayne was.
He blinks, the coffee steams, and Mal's look doesn't waver. Dong ma?
Simon turns tail, quietly going back to his own room.
Translation Notesdong ma? understand?