Summary: Serenity is grounded and Kaylee can’t figure why.
Spoilers and/or Warnings: none
Title, Author and URL of original story: Spare Parts by theladyscribe
A/N: Many thanks to my betas and handholders, ignipies and deirdre_c Thanks you and such creative source material to work with, this is probably the first story I've finished in more than a year.
Spare Parts (the Coincidences Happen Twice Remix)
“Hey, kid,” the woman says. She’s weathered like the landscape, wearing simple flannel over a shirt that used to be white, with kind eyes and hands that can balance six glasses of whiskey across a barfight and two fallen drunks never spilling a drop. “You look like you could use a drink.” She passes a glass towards Kaylee, sliding it deftly across the slick wooden tabletop. “Or someone to talk to.” She pulls out a chair and smiles, tucking a stray hair back behind her ear. She extends her hand. “Ellen Harvelle,” she says. “What brings a girl like you to a place like this?”
Kaylee shrugs and nods over her shoulder. “Him.”
Mal picked the Roadhouse because there isn't much choice of watering holes on this godforsaken moon, and at least there are a few brown coats in the rough-looking crowd. Kaylee can’t decide if she’s glad he did. It feels good to be off the ship—something she never thought she’d think out loud—but it’s noisy and the air smells of off-world tobacco, stale alcohol and sweat.
Ellen follows Kaylee’s glance and watches Mal a moment. Then she laughs out loud. “Oh, honey,” she says amicably. “I know his type. And it ain’t what you want to be following here.”
Kaylee smiles, maybe blushes a little too. “He ain’t my—he’s my captain, Mal, the captain,” she quickly corrects, “of Serenity.”
“That Firefly near crash-landed the other week?” Ellen asks.
Kaylee nods and blushes again. Figures she would recognize it, ships were scarce enough around these parts.
Ellen quickly changes the subject. “He always so angry at the world?”
“We’re grounded,” Kaylee answers simply. Then her face falls. “It’s my fault, really.” She doesn’t know why she’s talking so openly with this stranger, but there’s a weight on her shoulders and she’s suddenly pouring it off now that someone’s there to listen. “I know Serenity inside and out, and I can’t figure out what’s wrong.”
Ellen nods while Kaylee talks about their runs from port to port, about the passengers they’ve taken on since Persephone, about the ship that won’t fly right and the friends she’s lost, and finally half-crash landing on this speck of dust moon called Almeria. "The climate malfunctions don’t make no sense," says Kaylee. “No more sense than the navigation falling offline ‘til we near hurtle headlong into the planet. And the strangest thing… just as we all close our eyes and expect this is the last bit of moon we’re gonna see, everything comes back, Serenity slows just as sweet as can be. Captain ain’t the praying sort, but I swear…
And the thing of it is, I got to fix it but I don’t even know where to start.”
Ellen steeples her fingers and knits her brow. “You know,” she finally says, “I might know someone as can help.”
“I don’t think...“ Kaylee glances over to the pool table where the holographic balls flicker in and out of existence. Mal isn’t so much hustling a game as he’s readying the men around the table for a fight.
“Oh, don’t worry about him.” Ellen winks, then raises her voice and adds, “I hear Captain Reynolds is a man of reason, and reason states that if your best mechanic can’t figure what’s wrong with your ship, then there’s somethin’ wrong with the ship that ain’t mechanical.”
Kaylee quietly follows her lead and sits tight as Mal saunters over. He raises an eyebrow at Ellen. “That so, Miss Harvelle? You think you know somethin’ about our troubles.”
“I suspect you’ve been over that ship stem to stern and can’t find a screw out of place. But you still won’t take her into the air.”
Mal says nothing.
“And I suspect you’ve felt something there, you know deep inside, that your problem ain’t in the compression block.”
“Maybe not,” he concedes.
“And I was just tellin’ your Kaylee here that I might know someone who knows something about things that ain’t strictly mechanical,” Ellen says. She slips the empty glass from Mal’s hand and replaces it with a full one.
His smile is skeptical, but he plays along. “Maybe you should give someone a holler,” he tells her, as he sips the fresh moonshine.
Ellen grins back. “Maybe I will.”
Two days later, Kaylee is sitting on the lowered gangplank, greasing a set of timing valves. She rubs the sweat and stray hairs from her eyes. The sun beats down relentlessly through the thin atmosphere on the moon. It’s always too hot here in the sun, too cold in the shade, and the red dust clings to her skin. But these days Serenity is little relief from the climate extremes.
A shadow falls across the twist of metal pipes. Kaylee looks up.
He’s about the tallest man she’s seen in these parts, with messy hair, a bright white smile and wide, boyish eyes. He holds out his hand and when she takes it, his grip is confident, firm. “I’m Sam,” he tells her.
“Kaylee,” she says.
“I know.” He pauses, grinning at her confusion. “Capacitor and… a fresh sparker, was it?” he asks, looking over his shoulder at someone behind him.
She drops his hand, but before she can ask what in the tyen shiao duh he’s talking about, a second figure steps into the light. She recognizes him even without the grease smudges across his face or the Pegasus lying in pieces around him, as though the years that’d passed were just a few days. The freckles dotted over his cheeks, the gleam in his eye and the curve of his collarbone as it disappears under his faded shirt touch something in her gut and for minute it’s like she’s been hit.
“Dean,” she says once she can breathe, wishing the color from her treacherous cheeks. She shades her eyes and the valves fall to her feet, forgotten as he takes and kisses her hand. Like a real gentleman, she remembers fondly.
“How’d that capacitor work out for you?” he asks.
“About as well as the sparkin’,” she quickly replies.
“Like I was saying, girl knows her way around an engine,” Dean tells Sam, and he gives Kaylee a wink. “What brings you and your Firefly here?” he asks, brushing his work-roughened fingers along Serenity’s hull. “This moon ain’t got nothing much to see.”
“What brings you here?” she half-answers, more confused than she's willing to let on.
“Friend said there was a ship might be in need of some… special kind of help. This is the only space-worthy bird in port, so my brother and I figure it might be the one. Finding you here just makes the job a pleasure.”
Charming, too, she recalls.
Suddenly the pieces fall into place, the conversation at the Roadhouse, the offer for help, the men standing in front of her now. “Ellen?” she asks, “Harvelle?”
“The very same,” Sam nods.
“Some kind of coincidence,” Dean adds, whistling low. “That you found her. And us.”
“No coincidence,” Kaylee says, "It's just that Serenity’s grounded, and she won’t tell me what’s wrong.”
“This pretty bird won’t fly?” Dean knits his eyebrows and runs his eyes over the grav boot and back towards the compression coils, looking genuinely concerned. “Care to tell us about it? My brother and I always got time for a drink and a story, and maybe there’s something we can do to help.”
Kaylee almost lets herself hope. “Maybe there is.”
Two hours later, they’re sitting with the rest of the crew in the galley, sharing stories and rations.
“Then the navigation went off like a fahng-tzong fung-kwong duh jeh, Mal finishes, “Like the controls were possessed, and this was the only gorram port in twelve parsecs. So here we are.”
“Why d’you all care so much ‘bout a stranded Firefly, anyway?” Zoe asks when Mal’s done.
Mal's told the Winchesters the legitimate version of the story, though Kaylee doubts they believe the part about a delivery of hydroponic vegetables. He’s barely touched his drink, but sittin’ around the table in the mess, it feels like the group has been friends for a dog’s age. Even Jayne came in and added his own special flair to the tale, he and Mal unusually open among strangers. Maybe they’ve been too long on solid ground. Maybe it’s Sam and Dean’s faces—honest as only a good kind of fellow criminal could be.
Sam runs a hand through his hair and glances at his brother. “We maybe know something about conditions like yours.”
“Conditions?” Mal asks.
“We ain’t got a condition.” Kaylee isn’t sure whether to be offended or embarrassed.
Dean smiles at her. “Ships that don’t fly, visions what can’t be explained, people who disappear—“ Then he looks Mal straight in the eye. “Things that go bump in the night.”
Mal laughs out loud, but it’s got a hollow ring to it, like this is something he’s already considered and doesn't want to hear again. “Men believe all kinds of gos se in space,” he says coolly.
“That they do,” Dean agrees. “Don’t mean none of it’s true.”
“You gotta admit,” Sam adds, “possessed navigational systems ain’t what you’d call everyday malfunctions.”
“I never said—“
But it’s exactly what he said; Kaylee can’t suppress a shudder, remembering the look in Dean’s eyes the last time they met. She looks accusingly at Dean. “You let me believe were workin’ in a junkyard!”
He smiles. “You should see the lore Bobby’s collected there over the years.”
“And the work you had to do?” She has the feeling this is one question shouldn’t be asked, but it’s out of her mouth before she can stop herself. “Last time we met?”
A dark look crosses Dean’s face. “More of this sort,” is all he tells her.
Sam changes the subject. “We’d be happy to take a look around, Captain Reynolds, if it’s to your liking, of course.” He flashes that wide, innocent smile.
Mal glances at Kaylee first, and when he turns back to Sam and Dean, his nod is tight, like a man who don’t want to believe what’s happening but ain't got any other choice.
“What’re them candles for?” Jayne asks suspiciously.
Sam finishes setting them in a complex array around the center of the hold. “For impressing gullible onlookers,” he explains, lighting the first with a heavily scented stick and standing to survey his work.
Jayne’s laugh is uncertain. "Ain't that impressive," he says, looking up at Sam.
“Naw,” Sam reassures him, “Sometimes they help us find the spirit. Sometimes they just set a mood.”
Dean is pacing the catwalks waving a small device with flashing lights and a big antenna that periodically beeps. Kaylee’s never seen a thing like it, and she wants to ask where it came from. Wants to ask more, too, but Dean’s focused on the work, and suddenly she’s nervous around him. He ain’t like Simon, but just like Simon did he’s got secrets. Somethin’s different, too, since the last time she saw him.
Back then he took her like she was water in the desert, like there was something he wanted to forget, lose himself in her. Now he’s easier, whole, like he’d seen the darkness and come out the other side—like River and Mal after Miranda ages ago.
“Why don’t you show me around the rest of the ship, Miss Kaylee,” he asks.
She likes the way her name sounds on his tongue. "Sure thing," she says.
She leads him through the familiar halls and hollows of Serenity. She hasn’t quite forgiven him for surprising her earlier, but she likes the sound of his boots on the familiar floors. They’re walking through the pod what used to be Inara’s. Still smells faintly of Jasmine and all the nice things she had there. Thinking of Inara, Kaylee works up the courage to ask, “Why’d you tell Sam about—about you and me?”
“Who says I did?” he replies. He runs his scanner over the walls and empty spaces, not looking at her. It ain’t really an answer.
“He knew who I was.”
Dean shrugs. “I told him we met. I told him I remembered that time you came by Bobby’s. Anything else Sam figured on his own.”
He turns to her, almost angry, but his voice is soft. “Look Kaylee, I tried keeping secrets from my brother once. It didn’t work out… for a lot of people.” And there it is again, the promise of things he’s seen that Kaylee won’t ever know.
“I told people too,” she says quickly.
“Inara, for one, who sometimes travels with us. She’s a companion.” He raises an eyebrow. “And Wash, but he don’t really count since he died a while back.” She runs her hand along a bulkhead. “He was a pilot, and we used to talk late at night when everyone else was asleep. I still tell him things sometimes. Like to think he’s watchin’ over us.”
“You think I’m crazy.”
“Yes I do,” he says, “but not in the way you’re guessin’.”
The machine in his hands starts beeping when they get to the cockpit. Dean shuts it off, runs his hand over the dark consoles. “This old girl’s got stories to tell,” he says and it ain’t a question.
Kaylee half-smiles. “She got us through thick and thin,” she tells him, “me and Mal, Jayne, Zoe and Wash-“
“This his?” he asks, picking up one of the dinosaurs Zoe refused to let anyone move from the edge of the navigation array. He turns it over slowly in his hand.
“The pilot, the one who died.” He’s whispering now, and Kaylee has to move in close to hear. “On a job, I’d guess? Or somethin’ worse.”
“How did you know?”
"You're smugglers," Dean smiles at her surprise. It’s mysterious and dark and sends Kaylee’s blood roiling through her veins. “Things happen to people who run the wrong side of the alliance. He was a good friend, I bet, to everyone on this ship.”
“The best. Him and Zoe—“
“He didn’t want to leave you, any of you,” Dean says slowly. “I don’t know if you’ll believe me, really don’t know if your captain will, but Serenity’s got her ghosts, same as most of us.”
Dean nods. “Ghosts, spirits, memories. I think you're right that Wash is still around. What's more, he wanted you here. Used Serenity to make it happen.”
Kaylee’s words stick somewhere in her throat. “Why?” she finally manages to ask, but she suddenly remembers River. He’ll find you. Soon. and wonders if it really ain’t no coincidence they were stranded on this particular moon.
He touches her shoulder, and it’s like an electric shock. “Hey,” he tells her, eyebrows knitted. “We’ve seen our share of hauntings, Sam and me, and I don’t think you’ve anything to fear from this one. You trust me?” He meets her eyes.
And the thing of it is, she does.
Reposted at my journal here