GENIUS SERIES: 3. "Damage Control"
Saturday, January 7, 2006

"The Captain tries to smooth things over with Kaylee. River begins to suspect her memories are not what they seem."



SUMMARY: "The Captain tries to smooth things over with Kaylee. River begins to suspect her memories are not what they seem." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Again with the crying. Captain Reynolds paused outside Kaylee's bunk. Wishing there was something he could say or do to fix this but he knew he was not the person Kaylee really wanted to see. *Diyu*, way she had been acting it was like she never wanted to set eyes on her Captain again. It hurt, in ways he had no intention of letting folk see. Taking a moment or two to sort out what he was going to say Mal knocked on her hatch then swung it inward and began to climb down the rungs before she had a chance to tell him to keep the hell out.

As soon as his feet touched the last rung he found himself floundering for words. Kaylee lay face down on her bunk sobbing her heart out. Only when he reached up and clanged the hatch shut for privacy did she look up to see who it was. Seeing the Captain she turned her head away.

"Kaylee, this's gotta stop, *dong ma*?"

"Not talkin' to you."

He sighed and walked over to the bed. Kaylee sat up and shifted round so that she had her back to him at the far end of it. He sat tentatively at the other end. So. Still mad at him. "Kaylee," His voice was soft, low. The way she had heard him speak a hundred times before when trying to calm River or stop folk going *shenjingbing* before all the facts were on the table. "I didn't throw Simon nor River off my boat, you know that don't you?"

Kaylee sniffed but wouldn't face him.

"Okay, not talkin' then. Guess that means you're listenin' though so best I tell you how it is." He paused, feeling all kinds of awkward and exposed. Captains weren't supposed to have to spell *goushi* like this out and what in the nine hells did he know about love and feelings and some such anyway? But this was Kaylee and she was upset and hurting. Made no never mind that she was blaming him for something he in no way had any control over. Girl was simply protecting her own self that was all. "I had a talk with Simon as you may have guessed. He said he wanted to leave but more than that said he *needed* to leave."

The loud sniffing stopped but the mechanic didn't turn her head.

"Asked him what the good gorram had changed, told me nothin' had. Still had to keep River safe."

That got a reaction. "She was safe, with us on Serenity."

Mal tried to hide how pleased that little bit of reaction made him but didn't want her to think he was all smug-like. "An' so she was. You know that, I know that, *diyu* River knew that but Top Three Per Cent wasn't in the mood to listen. Said every day aboard my boat put her in more an' more danger. Asked him what he meant, what was different today than yesterday but he couldn't tell me an' the more I tried to find out the angrier he got." The Captain paused and took in a breath that pained him. Kaylee glanced at his face, the first time she had done so on purpose since the Tams left. "Would you believe he started off thankin' me?" He snorted softly. "Ended up a'screechin' an' yellin' at me bein' a control freak like I was some kind'a monster had him an' his sister tied up on my boat against their will."

When Kaylee just sat there not speaking the Captain took a deep breath and looked down at his hands, loosely linking them in his lap. Feeling all manner of failure. Worried that without his dubious protection the siblings would get themselves into trouble. It pained him more than he liked to admit to think of that girl back in the hands of the gorram Alliance.

"Guess I am a monster."

Something in his voice softened Kaylee's heart. Just a little bit. "You ain't no monster."

"No? Well if I ain't then how come everybody's treatin' me like a piece of *goushi buru*? Not nobody wantin' to look me in the gorram eye let alone pass a civil word with me an' me bein' the Cap'n of this boat. Don't bode well for the crew stayin' together, little Kaylee."

Her eyes widened. "What're you sayin', Cap'n? You drivin' us off too?"

"What?" The Captain jumped up. "I ain't runnin' nobody off this boat an' don't you go puttin' such words into my mouth!"

"But you said..."

"I know what I said gorrammit. My meanin' bein' a Cap'n can't run a boat if'n his crew ignore him, *dong ma*? This goes on it'll end up with the crew breakin' up, prob'ly have to sell my boat. That what you want, little Kaylee?"

Kaylee stared at him, really stared. And for the first time took in the shadows under his eyes, the sad soulful look on his face. As if he'd been dipped in a vat of sorrow and couldn't get out again. She could hardly believe the way everything was starting to fall apart. Made her feel a mite guilty for laying all the blame on him. "I didn't mean what I said."

"Yes, you did. You think I was mean to Simon an' that's why he left."

There was a short pained silence. After a while she gave him a real intent look. "Did you?"

"Did I what?"

"Say somethin' mean?"

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, wearier than he had been in a good long while. "No. To tell the truth don't know what notion was floatin' around in that boy's head. Seemed like he'd been thinkin' on it a long time."

She shook her head and watched him sit down again. "Nah, that ain't it."

"You think?"

Kaylee moved closer to the Captain, not settling until their shoulders were touching. Her way of saying she wasn't mad at him no more. "We was gettin' real cosy, Cap'n."

"Is that why you think I done somethin'?"

Kaylee dipped her head so he wouldn't see her cheeks flushing. It was easier to blame the Captain than admit to herself that Simon just didn't feel about her the way she felt about him. Oh, he was all polite and gentlemanly about it but the fire and passion wasn't there. Friendship perhaps but not love. Not the way she hoped it would be. It hurt to admit even to her own self. "*Qu*. Guess I was expectin' somethin' that just wasn't there."

Now that they weren't arguing or shouting at each other Mal felt a mite magnanamous. He put an arm around Kaylee's shoulder and she leaned in to him, accepting the comfort and affection that had always been there from the moment they had first set eyes on each other. Automatic as sunshine following rain. That was them. "Now don't you go thinkin' that. Boy's a boob - even River said so. Has to be gorram blind too not to see you're the shiniest thing on this boat."

She raised her head and gave him a cheeky grin. "That so?"

Mal tried to look stern and authoritive. "Don't you know your Cap'n's never wrong?"

"Uh huh."

Somehow the 'uh huh' sounded like she was mocking him but in a friendly 'I still love you' way. He dropped a kiss on her brow. "I'm sorry it didn't work out with you an' Simon." He murmured.

"Yeah," Kaylee sighed softly. "Me too."

* * * * *

The Tam Estate outwardly looked the same as it always had. Formal and manicured gardens. Beautifully appointed sunrooms and interiors. Everything exquisite and in its' place. The servants as unobtrusive as they were essential to the smooth running of the estate. In his office Gabriel Tam considered the encrypted wave. His hair a little greyer, his look sterner. Eyes narrowing as he heard the man out. "You are sure it was them?"

The voice was firm, unequivocal. Gabriel Tam nodded. It had been a hard and long few years tracking down sightings and following sometimes dubious clues but he was not about to give up now. Regan watched her husband but kept her silence. When he was focused on one thing like this it did not pay to be the source of any diversion. The fading bruise upon her cheek paid silent witness to that. But even as a passive observer Mrs Tam listened with avid attention. Hoarding scraps of information and burying them deep.

* * * * *

"This job is legitimate?"

Jayne said the words as if the Captain had offered to sell their gorram souls to the Devil. Right now Malcolm Reynolds was not in much of a mood for pointing out the fine print. "Yeah, Jayne, near as makes no never mind."

"That ain't a yes."

"Ain't a no neither but it ain't dealin' in Alliance goods - stolen or otherwise. Can't afford to be caught with imprinted goods so that option ain't open to us whether it was before or not."

Jayne screwed up his face as he tried to work out exactly what Mal was saying. The Captain had precisely no patience to spell it out for him. Zoe narrowed her eyes but said nothing. The Captain was as tense as she had ever seen him and that unsettled her until she had to speak out. "Sir, there somethin' you should be tellin' us about this job?"

He shook his head. "Nothin' to tell. Contact wants a meet, face to face, one on one. Once he's satisfied we get half the money up front an' the location of the drop."

"If you don't mind my sayin' sir, *wo fandui zhege jihua*."

"*Shenme*? It's a good plan, Zoe."

"Puts us at a disadvantage, sir."

"We're always at a disadvantage, that's what makes us mighty."

"Long as we get paid." Growled Jayne.

"See?" The Captain pointed at Jayne. "Hittin' on all the salad points already."

"Have to be alive to get paid."

"Ain't plannin' on dyin'."

"You'll have no one to cover your back, sir."

The Captain was trying to hide his frustration. He relied on Zoe to back him without question, this newfound speaking up was not improving his mood none. Couldn't say so in front of the others though. Had to keep a united front. "This ain't the part to be needin' that."

Zoe still didn't like it but having made sure the Captain knew her misgivings she dropped any further comments. A fact for which the Captain was grateful. Plan might be wafer thin but it was a plan and right now that was all he needed. Get a job, get paid, keep flying.

* * * * *

It was kind of fuzzy in her brain. The thoughts bleeding in different colours, sounds mixing and running contrary to any definition of meaning. Everything a blur that left her dizzy.

"River? *Mei mei*, can you hear me?"

She nodded but her body felt different. Like it belonged to someone else. Another River, perhaps this one went to the Ocean? Unaware that she was sitting in a chair, that the shiny chrome and glass laboratory was not a clinic, not even a waiting room for the criminally insane. But where the Devil did his best work only the Devil didn't have any horns, that was just a myth. A piece of theatre to frighten the unwary. Was she unwary? Is that why Hades looked so bright and cultured, as if it was a city without sin?

"River, I really need you to wake up now."

Simon's voice. Safe. It was just a dream. Not a nightmare. "Shiny."


In her mind she saw the school, the other children so unquestioning and obedient. The teacher calmly telling her to lie down but River knew it was a lie. A sin of submission. A laying down of arms without a single shot being fired. Wrong. Wrong. So wrong the incongruency of it hurt her brain. Or was it her brain that was wrong? The memories were blending, swirling in a madness she had no control over. Feelings truncated, isolated from her in a way that made her more machine than human yet she was a girl. Just a girl. That was before the equations started, the classroom fading into black, the minions scurrying away on their master's errands while she stayed behind. Homework. Detention for resisting. The inevitable not attracting her the way it was intended. Her brain too smart to be so easily seduced. The lies shining filings, shavings of other peoples' dreams stolen, gleaned, gathered and placed in the obscene magnet of other minds.

Waking was not a comfort. Not normalacy. It brought no resolution only confusion. "Simon?"

"I'm here, River, I'm here."

The sun was bright. So much green. The grass waving like hands across the sea. Hands with no bodies and no faces and just a bland wash of colour that made her faintly sea sick. Where were the trees? Was it rest time? Had the others been dismissed, had she?

"River, how do you feel?"

She blinked. Focus was a lazy tool. The past a puzzle that kept changing yet some parts remained the same but they wouldn't stay still inside her head. Made everything more confusing. "Where are we, Simon? I don't know where we are."

"Sssh, we're here to visit some friends *mei mei*."

Her look brightened, a spark of life in her eyes animating the confusion. "Kaylee?"

"No, not Kaylee."

River frowned then smiled and turned her glowing moon face upon his shadows. "Inara? We can draw pictures, plait my hair."

"No, River, we're not on Serenity any more."

That stopped the celebration in her mind. River blinked. The beauty of the small hill upon which they stood lost to her. The colours a bland mockery of vibrancy. Cheating her out of something she thought was in the palm of her hand. Simon began to regret bringing her outdoors even though they were only a dozen paces from the glass doors. He had thought it would calm her. Make her feel happy. Less afraid. The treatment was advancing so fast and it would be over soon. The body could only take so much and a fragile mind even less. River gazed at him with sad eyes. Loss pooling in the corners like unwanted guests. Her voice sounded small, lost. "No Kaylee?"

He touched her face so gently. His look loving, caring. Willing her to trust him. "No, *mei mei*."

Softly River began to cry. "I don't like it here, Simon, I want to go home!"

"Sssh, you know we can't do that River. We can never go home, it isn't safe."

Simon was talking about the Tam Estate but River knew he didn't understand. As the colours all bled into one all she saw, all she wanted was Serenity. Carefully Simon wrapped his arms around her thin shoulders and cradled her close to his heart. The gentle rocking motion intended to give comfort. A familiarity to give her ease until she adjusted. Instead it just underlined to River the fact that she had lost the only home that meant anything to her. And now River Tam was all at sea.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *dong ma* = understand? *shenjingbing* = crazy *goushi* = crap/dog shit *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit/lowest of the low *wo fandui zhege jihua* = I am against this plan (lit. to resist the wind) *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shenme* = what *mei mei* = little sister


Saturday, January 7, 2006 12:37 PM


Icky. Everbody's upset, and Simon's oblivious.

TIme for River to stage a coup.

Saturday, January 7, 2006 2:20 PM


Great job. This is a great series.

Saturday, January 7, 2006 5:31 PM


Aw... great scene with Mal and Kaylee... so sweet...

Sunday, January 8, 2006 1:43 AM


I'm really liking this. Liked Mal and Kaylee making up.

Sunday, January 8, 2006 1:51 PM

JETFLAIR your scenes with Mal and Kaylee. Very sweet and very true to the characters.


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The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

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Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

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Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.