Book of Secrets (Part 7)
Friday, October 5, 2012

Kaylee comes clean and River goes for a swim.


It took some time before Kaylee made much sense. At first she just spluttered out a whole lot of incoherent words and sentences, most of which was completely unintelligible because of all the crying, and every time Mal tried to probe a little deeper he only made it worse. Eventually Inara took charge of the situation. She made the girl sit down on a chair, wrapped her shawl around her shoulders and poured her a cup of tea, soothed her and – for some unknown reason – threw a scowl in his and Jayne's direction.

It did the trick, though, and finally they got the story.

"It happened while we was growin' up here," Kaylee told them. "Carlos Ryan was my junior by a couple a years, and he was madly in love with me, or at least that's what they's sayin'. The girls thought it was funny. We…" She hesitated. "We had some fun on his account."

She drew in a deep breath before she continued, "And this one day, almost seven years ago, we're all down by the lake outside of town swimming. See, there's this little island, well it ain't much more than a rock really, pokin' out of the water, called the Devil's Tooth. It's sort of a venture for the boys 'round here to swim out and carve the name of their loved one. So I told Carlos that if he did that and carved my name, I'd go with 'im to the Friday night dance."

She paused again, but Mal could already see where this was going. "Lemme guess, he didn't get there?"

She shook her head. "No, he cramped. One of the older boys had to swim out and help him back." She closed her eyes, shamefully. "Boy, did we laugh."

As if on cue, Jayne snorted with laughter and earned himself a string of strict looks from the others. He threw his arms up. "Hey, I think it's funny!"

Kaylee ignored him and swallowed hard. "The next morning he don't show up and no one's seen 'im all day, and people went out lookin', and in the end they found his clothes down by the water."

"Oh no," Inara muttered.

Kaylee was crying again, silently this time. "He'd tried again. And he still couldn't do it."

"He drowned?" Jo almost needlessly asked.

Kaylee sobbed. "They searched for weeks. He was never found."

"Then how'd you know he's dead?" Jayne grunted. "Mebbe he went off-world or some such."

"Naked?" Simon asked him.

Jayne just shrugged.

A heavy silence fell between them for a few short moments. Jo was the first to break it. "That's a real sad story, Kaylee. But I fail to see why his death was your fault."

"I told him to do it," Kaylee protested, as if it shocked her that anyone would not agree. "I told him to swim. He did it because of me, and he did it again because I laughed at him." Her voice cracked.

Mal shifted a little in his seat. "How 'bout the mayor? He blame you as well?"

"He blamed all of us, but mostly me. There was a hearing at the council, but they agreed with you, Cap. Nobody could be held responsible, they said."

"And you don't believe them?" he asked her. When she didn't answer, he tried a different approach, "And the mayor still came after you?"

"He was grieving!" Kaylee insisted, as if she didn't blame the man at all. "And so was I. I stayed out of his way after that, I couldn't face him. And when I got the chance to leave this place, I jumped at it. As you know."

She looked at Simon. "That's why I just couldn't show them what you mean to me. I just couldn't come back here with a new man. I was so ashamed."

"I seem to recall seein' you with a new man when we found you here," Mal pointed out.

"No, Bester meant nothin' to me, that was just sex," Kaylee corrected him.

Simon flinched ever so slightly. "You should've told me," he muttered.

Another wave of pregnant silence hit them, but eventually Mal slammed the palms of his hands against the tabletop, making everybody jump. "Okay, now that that's cleared, let's get on with our day, shall we?" He glanced at Kaylee. "We've got some shoppin' to do. Gotta resupply. Job or no, we're leavin' on Monday. Somehow I find this place less invitin' by the minute."

"Didn't we come here lookin' for a treasure?" Jayne grunted.

Mal eyed him, slightly annoyed. "Any idea where to look?"

Jayne narrowed his eyes. "No."

"Well, neither do I, but I'm sure if Book intended for us to find some clue here, Kaylee would've figured it out by now."

"Didn't she say it had sumthin' to do with that drowned kid?"

Kaylee flinched and stared at him upon hearing this. "I don't know that," she muttered.

Mal eyed her for a moment, but then looked back at Jayne. "Resupplyin'," he repeated. "Take Jo and stock up on ammo. Zoë, Kaylee and myself will get the food and fuel." He turned to Simon, "You got sumthin' you need as well, Doc?"

"A few things," Simon muttered without taking his eyes away from Kaylee. "I'll take care of it."

At least when it came to dealing with his new way of life the doctor had certainly gained a lot more confidence over the last months, Mal thought as gave a nod of satisfaction and turned his head the other way to find Kaylee looking intently at him. "I'm comin' with you?" she asked.

He hesitated. "If you'd rather stay…"

"No," she interrupted him, shaking her head, almost defiantly, "I'm comin'."

"Alrighty then," he said, clapping his hands together, "let's get goin'!" He caught a glimpse of Inara as he spun around to head out the door. "You'll stay?" he asked her. "Maybe keep River with you?"

She smiled apologetically. "Actually, I have some business on my own I'd like to attend to, if you don't mind."

"Okay," he simply said, feeling that familiar sting of uncertainty. She seemed to be having 'business' in every port they anchored in, didn't she?

"River can come with us," Kaylee chipped in, puncturing the uneasy silence and efficiently putting an end to that discussion.


Kaylee wasn't sure what she wished for the most; that she'd never told the others about Carlos at all or that she'd told them the truth right away.

Whatever the case, she now felt naked and exposed and so incredibly, incredibly stupid as she walked the streets of her hometown. She smiled politely to her old friends and neighbors whenever they saw her and greeted her of course, but she kept her head down and tried to blend in with the crowd, afraid to be spotted by the mayor. She also made sure not to look westwards whenever she reached a street corner, so she wouldn't have to see the lake there, just outside of town, glittering in the sunlight, with all its dark and horrible memories.

She thought of Simon, and the sense of shame washed over her with renewed force. He'd just given her that thin smile of his before he'd left with Zoë, who had decided that Mal and Kaylee could handle the food and fuel without her and gone with the doctor instead. She guessed he was still mad, and he had every reason to be.

God, she felt ridiculed! How on Earth-that-was had she even thought she'd be able to hide her shameful past from them?

She threw a glance over her shoulder to see if River was keeping up. The captain and the Cobbs had gone on ahead and left her with the task of looking after her, and the young girl had been quietly trotting in her footsteps, if one could ever describe River's graceful movements as 'trotting', lost in her own inner world, which as far as Kaylee saw it made her a great companion. She didn't feel like having a conversation at this point.

Only now she was gone…

Kaylee stopped dead in her tracks, scanning the crowd for the tiny frame. She bit her lip, almost kicking herself. Way to go, losing sight of River would certainly make Simon forgive her!

She backtracked a little and tried not to be too worried just yet. River often strayed off on her own, but she never strayed far and she always came back. She looked around the roadside stands and peered into a few of the shops, smiling weakly at people whenever they acknowledged her, and in the end – when she finally forced herself to look towards the lake – she found her missing crewmate.

She spotted the tiny figure crossing the otherwise deserted beach, headed for the water with determination, and wide-eyed, Kaylee watched how she pulled off her dress – the blue one that Radiant Cobb had given her – and dropped it to the ground, shamelessly exposing her small breasts, and how she, wearing nothing but her knickers, waded out into the water, dropped below the surface and then reappeared again a few paces farther away from land.

Only then did Kaylee's body finally react and she spurred into action and ran towards the water's edge. "River!" she called. "River, what you doin'? Come back!"

The girl ignored her, like she always did when she had her mind set on something, and kept swimming – straight towards the rock barely visible in the middle of the lake.

"River, no!" Kaylee screamed when she realized what the girl was doing. "River, don't! It's too far, it's like a mile!"

She still got no reaction, and she felt how the panic now kicked the adrenalin in her body into action, and without really thinking, she kicked off her slippers and pulled off her overalls (but kept the t-shirt on) before stepping into the lake herself.

It was cold, but she guessed her history with it made it seem colder than it really was. "River!" she called one last time as she slid down into the water and started swimming after her.

Boy, the girl was fast! There was no way she was ever gonna catch up with her. So why was she even trying? She had no good answer for that question, but somehow turning back didn't seem like an option.

It went well at first; she wasn't a bad swimmer, by no means. But then the initial kick of adrenalin started to wear off, and she suddenly felt her aching muscles and how cold the water really was, and when she looked up it seemed she hadn't gotten any closer to neither River nor the rock out there.

"River!" she cried, and there was a fear in her voice that she hadn't realized she was feeling.

And then she made the mistake of thinking about Carlos.

About how he was still in the water below her somewhere.

And it all rushed back in: the shame, the sadness… the anger.

Yes, she was angry! Angry with herself for doing this. All of this! Laughing at Carlos, running away from it all, taking her frustration out on Simon... Angry with Simon because he let her do that… Angry with Book who'd forced her back here… Angry with River because she just wouldn't listen!


She couldn't even see her anymore.

She wanted to scream, but instead a wave of water hit her face just then, making her choke on it, and that again made her panic…

And then she saw the hands…

Blue, bony hands coming from the darkness below, reaching for her…

And Carlos' face…

And somebody moved right next to her…

This time the scream found its way out.

"It's me, it's me!" somebody called, and she spun around, making the water splash, and the hands were gone, and so was the face – and the captain was there, right next to her.

"Take it easy," he said, his voice calming as ever, and she had never been so happy to hear it.

Below the surface he draped his arm around her, pulling her closer. He looked strict but reassuring, like a commander.

"River," she gasped.

"I can see her," he said. "She's holdin' her own."

"She's headed for the Tooth."

"I know, and so are we. It's closer than turnin' back."

"I don't think I…"

"You can!" he interrupted her. "Come on. Save your strength, but keep swimmin'."

Definitely a commander.

And she followed order.


Gorramit, this was a complicated crew!

Was there one bloody planet in this crap-heel 'verse they could visit without the past catching up to one of them to cause trouble? 'Course, he'd seen plenty of trouble with his former crews as well, but that usually meant trouble of the can-be-fixed-with-a-couple-of-bullets kind, not breakdowns caused by sappy stories about jackass kids who'd drowned trying to show off, and such.

Jayne stood on the shore with his arms crossed in front of him, shaking his head in disbelief. Mal hadn't even said anything when they spotted the girls in the water, not spoken a single word, just kicked off his boots and removed his gun before rushing out to join them there.


Seriously, why was he still with these people?

He glanced over at Jo, who was standing next to him, watching the drama in the lake with a deep frown on her face.

He knew the answer to his question, of course.

"Shouldn't we maybe…?" his sister began.

Jayne snorted. "Don't you think three people drownin' 's enough?" Jo didn't reply, and after a few moments of silence, he turned to walk back towards the docks, adding, "Must be a boat here somewhere."

"Yeah," Jo agreed, and came with him.


The door to the mayor's office was open, presumably in an attempt to let in some fresh air, seeing as the day was hot and sticky. Inara knocked on the frame as she stepped across the threshold. The young red-haired man was at his desk, rearranging a stack of journals and pads. He looked up and opened his mouth.

"Are you the mayor's clerk?" she asked him before he had the chance to speak.

He shuffled to his feet. "I am, I'm Rudy," he declared and then blurted out, "The mayor's not in right now, but if you'd like I can arrange an appointment."

"Oh, that's alright." She smiled her most alluring smile. "I came here to see you. There's something I was hoping you could help me with."




Friday, October 5, 2012 10:35 AM


So did Kaylee really see Carlos in the lake when she swam after River or was she hallucinating Carlos's face onto the Captain? I'm thinking River knows what is on that island, or Tooth. I like Jayne being the practical one and going to get a boat. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, October 5, 2012 4:58 PM


Interesting. This is a really good take on what could be Kaylee's backstory and what might explain what she says in Dead or Alive.

And when River goes into the water, that's some good plot, I could imagine something happening like that in the series. I wonder, though. There's no doubt more to this story than meets the eye.


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Angels We Have Heard (Part 4/5)
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Angels We Have Heard (Part 2/5)
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Angels We Have Heard (Part 1/5)
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The Night Before (revised and reposted)
It's the night before Christmas and Jayne is having spiritual problems. Literally.

Book of Secrets (Part 8)
Mal drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly, closing his eyes for a moment. "Gorram preacher," he muttered.

Book of Secrets (Part 7)
Kaylee comes clean and River goes for a swim.

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The captain dances, Inara's feeling out the new girl and the first secret is revealed.

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Zoë and Inara have a heart-to-heart, and Mal discovers more shades of grey.