Even Roses Have Thorns, chapter seven
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Zoe handles the crew, starting with Mal and moving on down. Rating G.


Chapter Seven: Ense et aratro (with sword and plow, which is to say, citizen-soldier, one who serves in war and peace)

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The first two chapters are here: three and four are here:, five is here: and six is here:

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Zoë reached the bridge before him; that wasn’t particularly a surprise, she’d aimed to, so that she could talk to him alone, both for privacy’s own sake and because he had always had less need to posture when he was alone with her. She stood behind the pilot’s chair staring out at the black. She heard him stamp up the steps, though he didn’t intend to sound angry.

“Zo, I honestly don’t know what I’m gonna do with that boy.” He sat into the pilot’s chair and looked up at her. “Been a sore point with me since day one, Zoë. She got shot on his account, and he didn’t hurry to fix her either.” It was clear that he was just gearing up for the larger part of the rant… this was just the pre-rant warm up venting. Zoë didn’t bother to look down.

“Might say he ‘had a legitimate conflict of interest’, Sir, what with him trying to keep his sister safe and away from cruelty we’ve known – and possibly some well past it - and as I recall that phrase saw a bit of use on that particular day.

“It did Zoë.”

“He wasn’t crew then, Captain.”

“There a plenty o’ days that boy still acts more like a spoiled child than a crew member.”

“You know that’s not true, Sir. In fact, I think your eye has a tendency to gloss over the crew member with the most history of acting like a spoiled child.”

He interrupted. “Now, Zo… even you told that boy to apologise.”

“Of course I did. There’s a fight, ain’t never gonna start to make up if one of them don’t apologise. That’s relationship advice from someone who’d time to make her one mistakes, and executive advice on crew relations. Got a few more first-mate-y duties to discharge, Sir, such as to point out that even a good captain is two bad decisions away from a mutiny.”

“Where am I?”

“First one, Sir.”

“Zoë, for the love of Book’s God and Inara’s Buddha, just speak your piece.”

“Simon and Kaylee are both right in thinking that they have to have some authority over the things they have responsibility for. Couldn’t work otherwise.” Mal nodded and Zoë continued. “Now, once you allow that, it follows that Simon had to leave her engine room – he obeyed her legitimate – if tentatively held – authority on the matter. Couldn’t ask the boy to do more. Now, Kaylee may have had a good reason, a bad reason or no reason for she did, but if we don’t go down there and talk to her about it, that’s telling the crew that it’s acceptable for Kaylee to disobey your orders. Remember the stunt Wash pulled in the shuttle before the Niska jaunt?”

“Zoë, I ain’t ever gonna believe that lil’ Kaylee hurt Serenity. Girl would take a bullet for that engine.”

“That image alone don’t trouble you none, Sir?”

“A mite.”

“Sir, it’s gotta be done. Discipline’s gotta be maintained. Not suggesting you flog her like the days of yore, Sir, be we have to ask some questions, look like we noticed and cared, and let her know that tantrums, if that’s what this turns out to be, are not acceptable.”

“You think that’s what it is?”

“’Fraid so Sir.”

“And I’ve always been set against intra-crew fraternisation?”

“Dead set, Sir.” Mal was not cheered by her choice of phrase, but she continued. “Has Jayne ever told you how Marco used keep discipline on his ship?”


“He had ‘em beat. Several crews Jayne’s been on I believe. I’m not suggesting we start, but I think we can handle giving lil Kaylee a much-deserved slap on the wrist. Now, Sir, crew relations have always been a part of my job, so I can talk to her if you like. But it was your orders she disobeyed.”

“Ah, I think I’ll delegate this to you Zoë. Need practice for the baby and what.”

“Like as not, Sir.” She about turned and quietly left the engine room without ever having met his eyes. Mal half turned to watch her go, and smiled. She really was his right and left hand.


Simon stood as close to the engine room door way as he possibly could without entering. “Kaylee, I would like permission to enter the engine room to speak to you.”

“Don’t much wan’ ta talk to you.”

Inara spoke up. “I think I’ll leave you two it, then.” Inara calculated her exit from the room to cause Simon to step into the room to let her out. As she walked away she heard him scamper backwards immediately, back outside Kaylee’s territory. Inara smiled. He really was a good boy.

“Kaylee, I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’ve done to make you think that I don’t respect you, because I do. I don’t know what I’ve make you think that I think you’re a loose woman, because I don’t. There’s nothing wrong with being from the Rim. It’s just where you were born. I may not understand your customs, but I try to respect them.”

She interrupted. “Na you don’t. You’re always saying how crude Jayne is.”

“Bao bei, Mal and Zoë have both had plenty to say on those lines, and seeing as their both from the Rim, they probably know better than me what’s Rim custom and what’s just Jayne.”

“Yeah, just they’re from the Rim, that’s different.”

“If that were the case you’d get just as mad at the comments Inara makes about Jayne and you don’t. What it comes down to is that this is about something else.” He paused, as she stared at him. He was pretty certain that she was a moment away from shouting again. “So, I apologise for my part in your hurt, but I will not pretend to be the monster you’ve created in your head. When different customs meet, tolerance makes the best treaties. When you’re ready to stop thinking of me as a shui core-bred hundan, I’ll be ready to talk. Just please stop putting words in my mouth. They don’t fit, as my feet are usually already in there.” He bowed and walked away, pretending not to hear the sound of something banging off the doorway.

When he got back to his room River was still there. He sat on his bed next to her. “How was I?”

“Less wormy and more Simon. Not true grovelling.”

“You mean I have to do it again?”

“No. I suggested an apology – you suggested grovelling. Grovelling is unnecessary and sort of kinky.”


She threw her hands up, and said, “Hey, it’s true.”


Zoë saw Simon walking back from the general direction of the engine room and smiled. He would make someone a fine husband one day. She headed down to talk to Kaylee.

“Miss Frye, time for a word.” Zoë allowed the tiniest edge of to creep into her voice. It wasn’t to be mean, but it was important to let the girl know that this was *that* sort of conversation.

“Zoë?” Yes, the girl had picked it up just fine.

“I see Simon is not at class. Bumped into him earlier, asked why. He said you two had quarrelled and you’d thrown him out of the engine room. This the case?”

“Well, Zo…”

“It’s a yes or no question, Kaylee.”


“Now, the Captain and I spoke, and he agrees that you and Simon have to have some authority over the areas for which we hold you responsible. Thus, Simon was right in leaving the engine room at your request. But I’d like to know why you made that request, given that you knew the Captain’s orders.” There was a lengthy silence. “This is your chance to explain, Miss Frye. Don’t give it to me, and I’ll have to assume it’s ‘cause there isn’t one.”

Kaylee fiddled for a moment. She didn’t want to get Simon into trouble, but she didn’t much like being in trouble her own self, especially as she considered the whole thing his fault. “Well, Zo’ just he was making fun a’ Jayne and you know kinda takin’ shots at Rim folk and how he’s so tolerant. Can’t feel like a lady around him, always so proper and two-faced.”

Zoë just stared. “Kaylee – a word from a woman who’s been a wife – you can’t be pickin’ fights all the time and expect him to endlessly apologise. The boy’s who he is, and if you can’t feel like a lady around him, ain’t a soul going to do it for you. The boy’s proper, it’s just who he is. It’s as silly to expect him to act like Jayne as it would be to expect Jayne to act like Simon. Lovin’ you isn’t going to make him perfect either – those big feet a’ his like as not still goin’ to spend plenty a time in his mouth. Now, that’s all I’m goin’ to say on that. You pickin’ fights with Simon is ultimately a matter between you two. You don’t get to throw tantrums when it comes to Captain’s orders, though, and you did that this morning.”

Kaylee hung her head. Zoë nodded, though Kaylee couldn’t see.

“So, your free time is rescinded until further notice. You’re not in here doing your job, or at some task as assigned by the Captain, or at chow or in bed, you’re to be scrubbing the common areas of the ship – including the cargo bay. I mean scrub. Floors and walkways and stairs washed in the cargo bay, floors cleaned and wet dusting elsewhere, the walls in the kitchen washed, everything in the cupboards in the kitchen washed, dried and put back neatly. Dishes and other chores are still as per the rota, but you’ll have to do your own. When you think you’ve finished, come get me. I’ll inspect it. When I find you’re done, you’ll get your free time back. Ya understand?”

“Yes ma’am.”

Zoë held in her smile at the impromptu ma’am. “Alright. Best get started then.” Zoë left the room.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006 8:20 AM


Nice! I like Zoe being the disciplinarian, that's not something we ever got to see. I think it's an interesting concept that Zoe and Mal in a roundabout way, realize that Kaylee needs to mature a bit.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 8:42 AM


I went back and read all the parts again, just to get the people straight in my head.

I'm now more firmly convinced that Zoe played this exactly right. She made a good distinction between personal and personnel issues, and handled Kaylee as she would Jayne in a similar situation. Good for her.

Kaylee's obviously making Simon as evil as she can in her head so she can try to "hurt him back" (reminds me a lot of the "robot" comments she gave Simon in "The Message" when he made a perfectly reasonable offer to autopsy Tracey).

However, they both seem to be ignoring the issue that started it all: Simon's inability to put anyone before River. Are they going to revisit this topic, or does Simon consider the matter closed and now it's all about co-existing? Because this sure as hell isn't going to work in its current form. Simon will get more and more depressed, while Kaylee will stay pissed at him and act like she's 12 - I don't think Zoe's advice will sink in quite so easily. They really need to hash it out, even if it's just to let Kaylee vent for a while to get it out of her system.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 10:24 AM


I do very much like how this is turning out and hope that Kaylee and Simon can eventually move past their troubles and be stronger in their relationship for it.

Kaylee is acting like an immature child and its nice to see Simon not the one to blame for a change.

Still eager to see where you take all of this.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 10:25 AM


A-1 stuff here, girlfan! Definitely gotta give you mucho props for having Simon apologize for the stuff that was directly his fault AND politely inform Kaylee that he will not stand by and let her ride roughshod over him by putting words in his mouth and making assumptions about his attitudes and perceptions. He's finally got to show Kaylee he's got a backbone when it comes to her, and that he'll be reasonable when she does:D

Gotta agree with ManicGiraffe though...don't think Zoe's words and punishment will cause Kaylee to put this aside. Will lay good money that Zoe's advice and drill sergeant behaviour (though a lot more subdued than most DIs I have encountered) will only cause the underlying issues to fester more. Kaylee and Simon need a chance to air their grievances fully and with the understanding that both parties will let the other speak before responding or speaking themselves:(


Tuesday, December 19, 2006 1:23 PM


Thank you to all of you who have comment previously or on this chapter.

Your various speculations are highly entertaining, and very useful - it really helps me to see what parts aren't coming across as clearly and what to hint at more, and such.

I am enjoying myself immensely - I hope you continue to, as well.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 4:52 PM


That's a lot of cleaning Kaylee's going to have to go through, I don't envy her the next week. Here's hoping someone sweeps her off her feet next time they hit port.

Don't know how you're going to get her over her resentment of Simon; that was quite a list of Simon-sins she told Zoe.


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