Firefly, Mal/Kaylee, spoilers through Objects in Space
Not mine, never were, won’t ever be, just using them for my own personal gratification. Characters property of Mutant Enemy. All praise be to Joss. Title courtesy of Deb Talan’s “Forgiven.”
”You worry on hurting anybody any more, you worry on small comfort, one of us seems not to tremble, you make a rift inside me, every day, and then you choose to stay, I walk the edge and push you wider… you are forgiven, I open all my doors, you are forgiven, what a heart is for, I am no martyr, you give me reason, I try harder, and wait for a warmer season, meanwhile, you are forgiven…”
He watches her from the mouth of the engine room, near doubled in two, face streaked with grease and half-hidden by loose knots of her hair.
She pets at the casing like a kitten soothing a wounded dragon, and murmurs drift from her lips, broken bits of Chinese and nonsense meant to ease the pain of invasion as she works. But it’s the dragon that purrs. The engine hums back to her like a prayer song, steady and trustful, like weren’t nobody worried but her tiny caretaker, a soft spot in the middle of hard edges and manmade madness.
Kaylee speaks to Serenity in a language all their own, ticks and groans and wheezes he can’t make heads or tails of. Ship is his, bought and paid for. Obeys his command, follows where her pilot points, plays home to a whole ragtag bunch. But she belongs to a girl with stars in her eyes and a mind for machines. Gorram boat would turn herself over if she could, live shiny in Kaylee’s know how ‘til one of them is dead and buried. And there ain’t a doubt in his mind that Kaylee would go first, if it came to choice.
Little Kaylee, who feels so deep she don’t know to cry out when the ‘verse cuts to the bone…
The liúmáng had left his mark. His threats came and went unfulfilled, a piece of mercy in the eyes of a cold-blooded killer. But to know that leaving her bound and helpless in the company of what she loved so much would steal her spirit, he’d have to know Kaylee. Putting fear in a place so sacred was violation all the same.
She’d been at it since, sweatin’ and slavin’ and tending hurts nobody could see. Made a sling of her broken bonds to hold the capacitor just so, tightened a loose lug that had the engine leaking coolant like tears. Thing had kicked back as she wiped the tracks away, shot up a mighty puff of smoke like it didn’t appreciate her erasing all the effort it took to cry for her when she wouldn’t do it for herself.
Six nights he’d stood here, without her knowing. Or caring out of that. Not once had she looked up from her work to ask after his presence, throw a grin his way. Left him cold, stole his breath like bad atmo.
Ain’t a bit of joy left in her. No trace of the Kaylee he took in and under his wing, the girl who’d hold her heart out to anyone willing and could find the good in a Reaver. The girl who might be shot and spilling out her insides and would yammer on with her last breath about how nice the floor looked red. Nothing left but a shell with a shape he knows, unsmiling and too quiet and lifeless as the machine she tends, trying like hell to make it hers again.
Laughter hangs at his back, the sound of life goin’ on. He watches as she reaches for a wrench, sees it slide into her hand like it belongs, before he speaks.
“Come on up. Chow.” His voice echoes, invades the scene like an intruder. If she’s startled, she don’t let on.
“Not too hungry. I’ll stay if it’s all the same.”
Crossing his arms, he leans into the doorway. “Well it ain’t,” he counters. “Missed more meals than I can count. Wouldn’t want you wastin’ away to nothing.”
“No danger there that I can see,” she mumbles, the halfhearted response nearly swallowed by the engine – it’s whining now, high and hollow, resenting the interference. She spreads her legs wide and reaches underneath, fiddling until it’s placated. “Full as I can be, Cap’n. You go on.”
“And it’s you givin’ out orders now? Must’ve knocked my head harder than I thought.” He blinks to hold his patience. “I’m not askin’, I’m tellin’. Get on up to that table with the rest. I’ve got no use for a mechanic starvin’ herself senseless. Boat’ll be just as needy with you fed.”
The wrench hits her battered toolbox with a bang, and the sound of her breath can be heard through the echo. She stands, pushing hair out of a face gone blank.
Her footfalls to the door are like bullets. Like thunder, with doom in their rhythm.
Straightening, he fills the doorway, and she stops so close he can feel her current, vibratin’ in time with the engine’s turn and spittin’ energy like a storm, contained and fighting to get free. There’s a tick high on her neck; he can see it pounding through her skin as she sets her jaw tight. Her eyes lock on his, but they’re covered in clouds and looking straight through him.
Lightening strikes once, twice, in warning.
“You got something needs sayin’, Kaylee?”
Half of him is waiting for the Chinese curse on his very name. Hoping she’ll mumble under her breath with all the venom she can gather, as she’s prone to when she’s tetchy and wants him to know it before it’s lost in the cheer she can’t keep down. A bit of her he’ll recognize, to take away the chill in the air that’s setting into his bones. But her eyes fall away, and the storm passes like it never was.
“No sir,” she mumbles, half-dead and not Kaylee by any means. Her hands close on the doorframe, and she bends, twists, finds enough space to slip through and leave him untouched. “Nothin’ at all.”
The thunder rolls on by, fading to silence and leaving him in haze. The engine quiets down to near nothing, no longer fightin’ for affection, like it knows she’s gone and wants to save energy. But he can still feel the quake beneath his boots, feels it like Kaylee’s pulse beating before his eyes, only sign she’s still livin’ and breathin’.
Time was, Kaylee’s shine was enough to light the black. Shadows slipped in while he wasn’t looking, breached her hull to dull her glow and put the light out and leave Serenity bleak as her namesake. His vision fogs at the edges where his mind’s bleedin’ bad memories, blurred with dust and dread and soldiers waiting around to die, all wearin’ Kaylee’s face, and his sky has never been darker.
He swallows the deng yimiao creeping up his throat and wrestles the ni meí shì bà back to his gut, and they both go down like glass.
liúmáng :: bastard
deng yimiao :: hold on a second
ni meí shì bà :: are you okay?