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Fic: A Place to Call Home [Firefly]

Title: A Place to Call Home
Author: Broedy
Prompt: When Simon wants to take River off Serenity, Kaylee has to make a choice whether to stay or go with them
Rating: PG-13
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Most of 'em; Simon/Kaylee
Warning: Um, I've never written Firefly fic before?
Disclaimer: All hail the mighty Joss. He owns these fair beings, not I.
Summary: Post BDM. Kaylee has to choose between her two great loves... Simon and Serenity.

It was Jayne who told her the news. Kaylee wondered if he meant to hurt her with the casual way he announced it, knowing full well she had not heard yet. She'd been hid under the engine couplings, tinkering, for most of her shift. She was covered in grease stains but didn't bother to wash up before charging into the medbay.

"Is it true?" she cried.

Simon looked up from organizing the supply drawer, his eyes passing between her and River who was curled up reading on one of the beds. "What?"

"Jayne said you and the Cap'n were at it again over that little scrape on Beylix."

He snorted. "Little scrape? We barely made it out of there when that Alliance cruiser showed up."

"But we did, just like we have before," she said as she rounded the operating table to face him. "It ain't no cause for you to leave..."

Simon looked over to River again but she showed no interest in their conversation. Nevertheless he pulled Kaylee into the corner of the room and lowered his voice, knowing his sister was still listening.

"What happened on Beylix will continue to happen, Kaylee. It isn't safe for River, or for any of us. The Alliance may not see her as a threat anymore, but they haven't forgotten the insult over the Miranda leak. If they don't come for her they will surely target the Captain."

"So you're just gonna cut and run? After everythin' we've all been through?" Kaylee's eyes were wide with astonishment.

"If I thought that staying was best for all of us, you know I would. But I have to think of River." He slumped against the wall. "She's not getting better, Kaylee. She won't until I can get us settled."

"But the Alliance can just as easily track you down on some planet..."

"I've taken some precautions against that," said Simon, before reaching past her and opening a cabinet.

He withdrew a lockbox and took a key from his breast pocket to open it. He handed her two Alliance identity papers. Kaylee looked down at the images of Simon and River, accompanied by unfamiliar details.

"Dr. Finch?"

He smiled quickly. "I've been buying one set of false papers after another each time we stop. Figure it will take them years to track us down if they ever have the inclination."

Kaylee looked up at him, confusion still clouding her features. "What are you gonna do?"

"I've made some inquiries and there's a hospital position waiting for me on Greenleaf," said Simon with increasing urgency. "I'll find us a place to live – a proper house. River can go to school again. She can get well... It's for the best, Kaylee."

She felt sure her heart was breaking. Handing him back the papers, she nodded sadly. "I guess you're right. Serenity's the first place they'd look for you. I guess you got it all thought out."

She made to leave but Simon quickly grabbed her arm.

"Wait. Here." He reached into the lockbox and pulled out another set of papers. "Kaylee, I want you to come with us."

She looked up at him in surprise, not believing him. Then a smile appeared on her lips.

* * *

Mal wandered the decks, thinking. His footsteps echoed throughout the ship, reminding him how empty it was now. And it was about to become even emptier. Avoiding the shuttle access platform, he eventually found himself in the engine room. Kaylee was standing with her back to him, her hand resting on one of the panels.

"Conversin' with her, are you?" he asked.

Kaylee turned and smiled warmly at him without removing her hand.

"I never could stop this rattle. Tried as I might," she said.

He moved forward to stand behind her, putting his hand on the vibrating surface as well.

"I can barely feel it," he said.

"You can't? Here..." She moved his hand and pressed it onto the warm metal.

"This boat always did speak to you more'n me."

Kaylee's smile was tinged with sadness as she looked over the humming engine.

"Simon's takin' River off Serenity," she said, not meeting his eyes.

"I heard."

"He asked me to go with him."

"Figured he would." Mal crossed his arms over his chest but he kept his voice light.

"I don't know what to do, Cap'n," she admitted. "Serenity's my home. But Simon..."

"Maybe Simon could be home too," he finished for her.

Kaylee nodded, risking a glance in his direction. He could see the anguish on her face. He stiffened his resolve.

"Well, the way I see it, you been on this boat a few good years now," he said. "Maybe it's time to try somethin' new."

"But what about you... and Zoe... Jayne? Everyone else'll be gone."

Mal shrugged, feigning apathy. "Reckon we'll survive."

Kaylee moved away, fiddling with a couple of dials.

"You think Inara'll come back when she's finished at the training house?" she ventured.

His eyebrows rose in surprise. "She ain't decided."

"But she might," she said hopefully.

Mal didn't reply. He wouldn't entertain the notion until he heard it from Inara himself. She had another six month commitment at the training house, but even then he didn't know if things could go back to the way they were. Nothing would ever be the same on Serenity, Inara returning or not.

"If I go too, who'll keep Serenity in the sky?" she asked morosely.

Mal's look hardened. He could tell she was wavering, making herself miserable over the decision. He fixed her with a stern glare.

"Ain't like there's a shortage of mechanics in the 'verse. We'll just stop by some port and pick us up a new recruit." He didn't stop when she looked over at him, clearly hurt. He pushed on. "Might be an opportunity at that, gettin' in some new blood."

Kaylee swallowed hard. "I don't know what to do, Cap'n. Serenity's all I got."

"That ain't so, Kaylee. You got Simon and River. I'm sure the Doc will be able to provide for you, set you up somewhere real nice, the three of you. No need for you to work yourself ragged no more."

"I don't expect to be kept," she retorted, raising her chin in defiance.

He allowed himself a brief smile. "No, I don't suppose you would. But there's some comfort in not having to eke out a livin', Kaylee. At least, I imagine there is, I ain't had much practice at it my own self." Mal's voice grew softer. "Ain't nothin' wrong with findin' a piece of happiness."

"Would you even miss me?"

"I s'pose we'll get on tolerable without you," he said, not looking at her.

Kaylee pressed her lips together firmly, her mouth down-turned. "Well, I guess that's settled then, Cap'n."

"Guess so." He hated seeing the pain on her face, but he knew he had done what was necessary. He threw her a brief nod. "You have yourself a good life, little Kaylee."

Mal left before he was tempted to take it all back.

* * *

He was sulking on the bridge when Zoe came in. She slipped silently into the co-pilot's chair, casting her gaze around the space. She hadn't been able to stand it for some time after the repairs were complete. She couldn't look at the pilot seat which the Captain now occupied and not think of Wash. Her chest would grow tight when she spied the toy dinosaurs which still adorned the helm and she would have to make an excuse about something that needed seeing to elsewhere. But gradually she had forced herself to spend time on the bridge. She couldn't be much of a first mate otherwise.

"How are we travelin', sir?" Zoe asked, when he didn't bother acknowledging her.

Mal, staring glassy-eyed at the view screen, murmured, "I figure eight hours to New Canaan."

"That soon?"

He didn't respond.

"That was a handsome farewell meal we had for Kaylee and the Tams, wasn't it?" She figured she might as well tackle the source of his moodiness, or else be stuck with a monosyllabic captain. The impending debarkation of half of their crew meant conversation would be a precious commodity.

"Shi. It was shiny," he responded begrudgingly. He tapped a few buttons unnecessarily.

"You could ask her to stay, you know, sir," she said.

"Huh?" He looked over at her.

"Kaylee. She'd stay if you did."

Mal returned his gaze to the panel in front of him. "I know. That's why I won't."

Zoe sighed, wishing not for the first time that Malcolm Reynolds wasn't so pigheaded. She didn't push him, waiting for him to continue instead.

"Maybe it's best if she ain't here, at that," he said. "What kind of future is it for a girl like Kaylee? Livin' on this boat, barely enough money to keep us in the air, always one step ahead of the Alliance. Puttin' her in danger."

Zoe frowned. He had never voiced his concern like that before.

"She's better off leavin' now before..."

"Before what? Before somethin' happens to her?" Zoe asked sharply. Her eyes fell on the plastic triceratops on top of the control panel.

Mal shifted in his seat, throwing her an uneasy glance. "It won't do her no ill to be out of harm's way."

"Sir, just because Wash..."

"I won't see her harmed, Zoe," Mal said, cutting her off. He turned to stare out into the inky blackness of space. "Not her too."

* * *

Kaylee was packing up her belongings, wondering how everything she owned could fit into two duffle bags so easily. Simon's booted feet appeared on the ladder and he jumped down the final few steps into her bunk.

"Is this everything?" he asked with the same measure of surprise.

Kaylee nodded as she folded up an ornate maroon shawl.

"Inara left me this," she said. "I ain't had no place to wear it a'fore. Guess I will now."

"You'll look beautiful," said Simon.

He smiled and leaned in to kiss her neck, making her blush. His grin widened as he picked up one of the bags and carried it up on deck. Kaylee's own smile faded as she looked around the now unadorned walls of her quarters, feeling another wave of melancholy.

She thought she would have more time to say goodbye. But only a day after she made the decision to leave with Simon and River, the captain announced they would be stopping for supplies on New Canaan – a perfect port for them to pick up transport to Greenleaf. Simon, appreciating the unexpected detour, had confirmed his appointment at the hospital and would be starting within the week.

Kaylee had barely had time to take it all in. She listened numbly as the captain openly discussed his plans to recruit a new mechanic on New Canaan. He'd even broached the subject of a new pilot, seemingly unaware (or uncaring) of the effect that notion had on Zoe. His planning continued even during the farewell dinner that Zoe insisted they have, leaving her feeling hollow inside.

When the captain announced over the com that they were about to hit atmo, Kaylee went through the familiar entry sequence process in the engine room, despairing at the thought that it was the last time she would feel the shuddering descent of the firefly. The hum of the engine was like music, thanks to the overhaul she'd received only a few months before. But Kaylee knew Serenity still needed someone to listen to her, to fix things before they broke, to make sure she flew fast and true. Kaylee was having difficulty coming to terms with the fact that the engine room would no longer be hers.

She took her time switching off the control panels once they had landed, knowing that Simon and the rest of them were probably waiting for her. When it came time to go, Kaylee cast her eyes around the room once and then left quickly before tears fell.

They were all waiting for her in the cargo hold. Outside the bustling port was dusty and noisy, but inside Serenity was still cool and calm.

"You all set?" Simon asked. On her quick smile, he turned and said his goodbyes to Zoe and Jayne. His handshake with the captain was perfunctory, neither man giving an inch.

"Xièxiè, Captain," Simon said eventually out of sheer good manners.

Mal nodded curtly in response.

"Take care, little one," he said to River. He was surprised when she got up on her toes and kissed him on the cheek.

"Goodbye," she said quietly.

Kaylee hugged Zoe.

"You send us a wave every now and then, all right?" Zoe commanded, her hands cupping Kaylee's cheeks.

"You'll let us know when you're next on Greenleaf, won't you?" Kaylee asked hopefully. "Or even just nearby?"

Zoe glanced at Mal who was studiously ignoring them, before nodding. Kaylee turned to say goodbye to Jayne but was disappointed to see he was pulling on a pair of sunglasses and already heading for the cargo bay door.

"Well, see ya," he said, not even looking at her.

"Jayne always was the sentimental type," Zoe said drolly. She gave Kaylee's shoulder a squeeze when she saw the hurt look on her face. "He'll miss you somethin' fierce and you know it."

Kaylee smiled sadly, giving her another hug. Then she turned towards the captain. Simon watched her for a moment then led River towards the mouth of the cargo bay where they would wait for her. Jayne sidled up to him on the ramp.

"You better look after her," he said in a low, menacing voice. "I know where you live."

"No, you don't," Simon pointed out.

Jayne paused to think about that for a moment, pulling his dark glasses down his nose in order to fix Simon with a beady stare. "Bìzuǐ. Maybe not, but I can find out. And then Vera and me'll be payin' you a little visit, Doc."

Simon didn't react, even when Jayne pushed the sunglasses back onto his face with his middle finger.

"Don't go killin' too many folks," Jayne said sagely to River. "It draws attention."

With a last look at Kaylee he walked away and was soon swallowed up in the port crowd.

In the cargo bay Mal stood squarely in front of Kaylee, his eyes fixed on a spot above her head before he finally looked at her properly. She blinked away her tears.

"Cap'n..." Her voice was strangled.

He had planned a few parting words but they escaped him at the sight of her. He gave in and hugged her tightly, kissing the top of her head as he did so. She didn't let go.

"Be happy, little Kaylee," he murmured with difficulty. "Goodbye, bǎobèi."

Her breathing was shaky when he gently pried himself from her grip and stepped away. She couldn't stop her tears now. As she backed down the ramp, her eyes passing between the captain and Zoe, she raised her hand in a final farewell. The last thing she saw was Malcolm Reynolds' unwavering gaze.

* * *

Simon had arranged passage for them on a ship leaving New Canaan within the hour, so there was little time to dwell on her sadness. They rushed to the processing line and joined a hundred or so other passengers waiting to board the cruiser. The ship was new - an impressive vessel that was about as far away from Serenity as Kaylee could imagine. She wondered how he had afforded the tickets and then realized that now he was returning to civilized society he probably had access to some money again. Kaylee did not doubt Simon's resourcefulness on that score.

"Dr. Finch. Miss Finch. Miss Hay," the boson greeted them with a bow of his head.

Kaylee had to remind herself of her new name, wondering if she'd ever get used to people calling her Serena. Simon had said she could choose any name she wanted and he would arrange for the false papers to be produced. But Kaylee supposed Serena Hay was as good a name as any if she could no longer use her own.

She knew her parents probably wouldn't understand why she had chosen to leave everything and everyone she knew behind. Though she would send them the occasional wave and maybe even try and visit every few years, Kaylee doubted they'd ever accept her decision. She figured they'd probably blame the captain for taking her away in the first place. They never had realized just how much it meant to Kaylee that he had.

They were almost at the cruiser entrance when her steps suddenly faltered. There was an aggravated noise from behind her as a businessman pushed past so he could board.

"Kaylee?" said Simon.

He squeezed her hand gently when she didn't respond. She was looking blankly ahead. After a few seconds her eyes flickered to his, her face set. He felt a sinking feeling in his stomach before she even opened her mouth to speak.

"I'm sorry, Simon," she said evenly. "I thought I could, but..."

Pain crossed his face but he did not argue with her, as if he had half expected it all along. A pleasant voice intoned over the com system that final boarding had commenced. Kaylee still held onto his hand.

"We still have to go," he said.

"I know," she replied, her voice raspy. "But I can't."

"I know." He smiled down sadly at her.

Kaylee flew into his arms.

"I'll miss you," he whispered.

She pulled back to look at him, her eyes shining. "I'll miss you, too. I l-"

He stopped her words with a brief but tender kiss, then stepped away.

"Is Kaylee going home?" River asked.

"Yes, River. She's going home," he said, his eyes not leaving Kaylee's.

Her eyes brimmed with tears as she kissed the younger girl's cheek. She kissed Simon again too.

He signaled to the boson. "Would you help Miss Hay retrieve her bags? She won't be joining us after all."

"Certainly, Dr. Finch." The man accepted the credit Simon pressed into his hand.

"Send me a wave when you're settled," Kaylee cried as they started towards the ship's entrance. "Let me know you're safe."

"I will," Simon called out. "Take care of yourself. And the rest of them."

She waved furiously until they disappeared from view.

"I will," she murmured to herself.

Kaylee waited until the ship had taken off, peering through the glass observation deck in the unrealistic hope of catching another glimpse of them. After the last burning engines had disappeared into the atmo, Kaylee finally retrieved her bags and made her way home.

* * *

Written for firefly_ficfest. Raye made me do it.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 30th, 2008 10:16 am (UTC)
OMG... i can't believe i didn't comment on this earlier.. :)

it's GREAT ..love.. just love the ending.. it wasn't what i THOUGHT i wanted.. but then i realized it's EXACTLY what i wanted :)

Jun. 30th, 2008 10:53 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks Raye! Thanks for making me participate - I never would have tackled a Firefly fic otherwise.

See, she couldn't leave. It's Serenity... (And Mal. Tee hee!!)

Now my challenge is to work out how to place my shiny graphic on my lj profile. Tricksy!

Edited at 2008-06-30 10:54 am (UTC)
Jun. 30th, 2008 10:56 am (UTC)
well... i'm sooo glad you did!!!

I'm hoping that you'll write one for the TYRficfest and i cna give you one of the TYR graphics :)
Jun. 30th, 2008 11:02 am (UTC)
Eep, I'm getting behind. Promise I'm working on the blogathon stuff too. I'm working on another unrelated story and it's just being more problematic than I anticipated. Naughty fanfic!
Jun. 30th, 2008 11:03 am (UTC)
thanks for everything you do! :)
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
Wonderful story! I loved it! Such a bittersweet story...you showcased the developing feelings between Simon and Kaylee, and the relationships between all the 'crew' on Serenity....Even while I was hopeful that Simon and Kaylee could live 'happily ever after', there was a part of me that knew that in the end, she wouldn't leave Serenity, Mal, and the others.
Jul. 19th, 2010 08:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks Wendy. I was never much of a Simon/Kaylee fan, if I'm honest. But Kaylee was a favourite character, along with Mal. I couldn't split them up now, could I? ;-)
Jul. 20th, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
After the losses that the Serenity crew has had...Book, Wash(especially Wash)....they all need to stay together....

Kaylee is a favorite of mine too...

I've liked the actress, Jewel Staite, ever since she was in the short lived series, "Higher Ground".

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )