Authors note:  Well, you all complained about the short chapters.  You know why they were so short?  Because the epilog's a bloody novel!  -- Enjoy

Epilog: Kaylee's Happy Ending!

(The following is an expert from Shepherd Books Prayers earlier in the day)

And Jesus, thank you for Kaylee.  You give us so many gifts, Lord, but is so rare that you put them all in one person.  God, I praise you for her continual smile, for her compassionate heart, for her exuberant spirit, for her steadfast dedication, for her subtle wisdom and simple faith.  Please, Lord, shower her with blessing after blessing.  Give her all her heart desires.

Kaylee starred into the darkness, it starred back.

                Well, that's not quite accurate, she starred back, or to be more precise, her reflection in the cooled coffee starred back at her.  Every now and then she'd shift the cup, sending ripples across her face, but it didn't change anything.  Kaylee looked at herself, as reflected in a mug, and wondered what other people saw, or to be more precise, wondered what Simon saw, or if he saw anything at all. 

                She wasn't really pretty, she knew that.  Of course the Captain told her she was pretty, but that was like hearing from a Dad or an uncle, they said that because they loved you for other reasons.  And Inara said she was pretty too, but Kaylee couldn't help but feel the Companion meant it the way an adult tells a three-year-old they're clever, meaning 'Compared to your peers, not to me.'  And Kaylee didn't usually care if she wasn't beautiful.  She was other, more important, things.  But she cared tonight, because she'd put in the effort tonight, she'd wanted to impress someone tonight, and he hadn't even noticed her. 

                Tomorrow, she thought, she'd pull herself together and take another go at it, try something different, find a positive outlook.  But tonight she was going to indulge herself in self-pity and nurse her aching heart.  She wished she'd thought ahead and picked up some wine at Harpper's Point, if there was ever a time to get drunk, it was now.

                Her morose introspection was interrupted by an unusually cheerful Zoe, who came bounding into the common area like a wave of heat exiting an oven.   "Hey, Little Kaylee," the first mate said, patting Kaylee on the back as she walked past, heading to the coffeepot.  "What you doin' up?"

                Kaylee sighed, not bothering to hide her sadness, "Hiya Zoe, I didn' much feel like being alone."

                Zoe looked around the room, obviously amused by how empty it was, "I guess you were the only one."

                "Guess so," Kaylee muttered. 

                Zoe picked up the coffeepot and shook it, "Anything left in here?"

                "Naw, I only made enough fer one."

                "Maybe if you'd a made more, someone would'a joined you."

                "Don't think," Kaylee said, rolling the mug between her hands and watching her reflection warp in the ebbs and crests.  "Everyone's too tired."
                "Tell me about it," Zoe laughed, pouring enough water into the pot to make a second mug of coffee.  "All we did was get pampered all day, and Wash could barely keep his eyes open through dinner."  She laughed, "I think he's a little too relaxed."

                Kaylee laughed too, but it was obviously stilted and a little forced.  For the first time, Zoe realized that the engineer was not her usual ball of sunshine.

                "Hey, little sister, is everything alright?"

                "Oh, I'm fine, just shiny!" Kaylee said, with as big a smile as she could force.

                "Ok," Zoe said in her standard cut-the-crap voice as she sat down across from the young engineer.  "You're going to tell me everything right now."

                Kaylee played with the idea of denying her gloomy mood, but quickly dismissed it.  Zoe was tenacious; she'd get it out of her eventually.  Better tell now and save a half-an-hour of questioning and the threat of a gunshot wound.  Of course, the girl mused morosely, if she was shot Simon would have to notice her.   "Do you think I'm pretty enough?"

                That was not a question Zoe expected to hear.  "Darlin' a course you're pretty.  Why you even askin'?"

                "I jus' . . . I really wanted," Kaylee swallowed hard, gulping down her pride.  "I wanted Simon to see me tonight, all dressed up, lookin' shiny . . ."

                "An' ya don't think he saw you."

                "The whole night he was lookin' at River.  He hardly noticed the food," she had to blink furiously not to burst into tears.  "He didn' notice me."

                "Kaylee," Zoe said kindly, reaching out and wrapping her hand's around the young girls.  "Why does it matter what Simon thinks?  If he ain't smart enough to notice you, than he ain't good enough for you."

                "I's jus' I . . . Inara an me, we went shopping especially so I could get a dress, look pretty, look like a lady, an' he didn't even notice."

                "I's a real pretty dress," Zoe said.  "Wash whistled when he saw ya."

                "I heard," Kaylee said, smiling just a little.

                "But Wash don't count.  And them nice things the Cap'in said, they don't count neither."

                "I guess I'm bein' silly," Kaylee muttered.  "Fong luh, tha's me."

                "No," Zoe said compassionately, "I remember the first time I went out ta dinner with Wash, alone, without the Cap'in.  I was laughin' so hard figured my sides would split, harder 'n I ever laughed before in my whole life.  An' I was never one to laugh much. Fact, growin' up, kids called me judge, 'caus I was so serious all the time.  But Wash, he made me laugh," She smiled at the memory, and probably a host of others, "Still can.  An' the whole time we were sittin' there and I was doin' nothin' but laughin' I was thinin' ta myself, 'He must think I'm so dull 'n slow witted.'  Honestly, I didn' imagine that he could be drawn to me, serious like I was."

                "But Zoe," Kaylee said, "Yer so pretty and . . ."

                "An' I ain't anything mor'in you," Zoe said forcefully.  "My point is tha' you never, never know what's in a boy's head.  All that time I was thinkin' Wash figured me for a sha ya tou and, I learned later, the whole time he thought I was just laughin' ta be nice.  He was nervous as I was."

                "He looked at you," Kaylee pointed out.

                "The other thing ta think about," Zoe continued.  "Is that he loves his sister very much."

                "I know," Kaylee said softly.

                "An' he hasn't seen the girl since she was fourteen."

                Kaylee nodded.

                "You know," Zoe continued.  "It's really sweet, when ya think on it, how much he cares for her."

                "I know," Kaylee muttered.

                "So, as far as I can't see it, It ain't exactly right to begrudge him the first time he's seen her dressed up since . . . well, since she was a little girl."

                Kaylee glanced up from her coffee, "I din' think 'bout that."

                "Besides, way the Captain tells it, he had a rough day.  Boy probably didn't have 'nuff sense in his head ta stair at any more'n one pretty girl."

                Kaylee chuckled and smiled naturally, if not broadly.

                "There're you go, Little Kaylee," Zoe said encouragingly, as she lifted herself out of the chair and headed towards the percolating brew. "I was gettin' worried that hell'd frozen over, seein' you without that smile."

                Kaylee's smile broadened as she laughed again, "I'll be ok.  I jus gotta get all the disappointments outa my system."

                "Yeah, well," Zoe said, watching her reflection be distorted as she swirled her own mug of coffee.  "You could wait here fer that ta happen, or you could go over the Infirmary, maybe speed things up a twitch."

                "Why?" Kaylee asked with a nervous caution. 

                "River's gone to bed," Zoe said, with a knowing smile.  "Doc decided ta stay up an' unpack all the new stuff fer the infirmary.  An' last but not least, you're still wearing that pretty dress."

                The smile that had been growing on the girls mouth finally made it's way to her eyes.  "He might want some coffee."

                "Reckon he might," Zoe nodded.

                "But he's probably too tired to get it himself," the girl said, pushing away from the table. 

                "Most like."

                "I'll just make him some," Kaylee said, dumping her cold coffee in the recycler and putting enough water in the pot for another two cups.  "An' then I could, maybe, help him put them new supplies away."

                "I'm sure he'd like the help," Zoe said, suggestion heavy in her voice.  "So long as you ain't to over dressed."

                "Well," Kaylee said, "This is what I'm wearin' so this is what he's gettin'."

                Zoe hit the younger girl on the arm affectionately, "That's my Kaylee."

*   *   *

                "Simon?" Kaylee said, rounding the corner to the infirmary door.  There was no answer.  "Simon?" she called a little louder.  Still nothing.   Worry was starting to develop, but before it was noticeable enough to push down with conscious assurances that nothing could possibly be wrong, she'd reached the door and discovered why the doctor was being so silent.  "Awww, Simon," she said softly, just staring for a second at the sight in front of her.

                The lights were on, making the infirmary the only bright spot on the night-lit ship. Half unpacked boxes littered the floor, miscellaneous medical equipment was stacked and piled in various areas, and in the middle of it all, on the examination chair in the center of the room, Simon lying on his side, fast asleep. 

                Kaylee chuckled softly and put down the two stemming cups of coffee on a surgical cart by the door.  "Simon," She said again, her voice sing-songy and pleasant as she approached him.  She bent over, ignoring the stab of pain in her belly, so that when he opened his eyes he'd see her face. "'S time to wake up."

                The boy groaned.

                "Simon?" She said again, putting her hand gently on his arm.

                "Wha . .?"  the young Doctor said, snapping awake at her touch.   For a second he just stared at her smiling at him.  Then he blinked a few times and pushed himself into a sitting position, "Kaylee," he said, obvious confused, "Hi."

                "Have a long day?" The girl asked sweetly.

                "Ah, yeah," Simon said, rubbing his eyes. 

                "Maybe you should go to bed," Kaylee suggested.  "All this stuff'll keep until mornin'."

                Simon nodded, "I suppose so.  I guess I was just a little eager to . . ." he stopped, as if something had just accrued to him.  "Are you alright?"

                "What?" Kaylee asked, clearly surprised by the question.
                "You're not hurt, or anything, are you?"  he asked with real concern.  Kaylee noticed his eyes drifting from her face down towards her abdomen.  "No swelling, coughing up blood, eye watering pain?"

                Kaylee's hands found their way over the bullet wound.  "You think there should be eye waterin' pain?"

                "I think," Simon said slowly.  "That we should switch places."  He pushed himself off of the chair and gently took her arm,  "Come on," he urged.  "Up you go."

                Kaylee complied.  "You gonna examine me?" she asked, a little mystified.  "In the middle of the night."

                "Why not?" he asked, smiling very pleasantly.  "It's as good a time as any."

                "Ain't you sleepy?" 

                "More worried," he said honestly, as he turned and started picking his way across the cluttered infirmary towards the counter where he kept his medical log.  "I've noticed that your wound has been giving you some pain lately. I think I let you do too much too fast. I'm concerned it might rupture."

                "That don't sound good," Kaylee said nervously.

                "It's not going to happen," Simon assured her, glancing at her over his shoulder.  "Lean back, relax."

                The engineer followed her orders as Simon flipped the pages of the notebook scanning his entries critically.  After a minute of silence Kaylee asked, "How'd you know if I was in pain? I didn' tell anyone."

                Simon smiled at her kindly as he navigated back through the cluttered medical supplies.  "I watch you walk, watch how you move, look at your expressions.  You hide it very well, but  . . . I noticed."

                Kaylee tried to hide how thrilled that made her.  If Simon could tell, he hid it beautifully. 

"I'm, ah," he said taking a deep breath as he stepped up to the chair.  "I'm going to have to slip my hand's under your dress, there," he said, focusing totally on her stomach and not looking her in the face.  "I just need to, ah, feel the way the wound has been heeling.

"'Course,"

                "Now, I want you to breath normally," Simon said officially as he slid his hands between the pink silk cords that made the back and under the front of the garment.  "This might hurt a little."

                "Ahh," Kaylee gasped as Simon pressed down. It felt like he was pushing a penknife in her belly, not gently prodding with his fingers.

"Humm," he muttered, "That hurts?"

"Yuh-huh."

"Sorry," he said, still looking at her stomach, or rather, the general lump under her silk dress that was his right hand. "Tell me," he continued. "Does this hurt more, or less?"

He pressed down again and Kaylee sucked in her breath as her eyes started to water. She was about to say less when she was distracted by his left hand, which had started stroking her hair in a comforting way. Through the pain, she smiled, "Less," she squeaked, "But i'still hurts."

"Humm," he said again, his brow was knit as his medical mind worked the symptoms through to their logical conclusion, his left hand continued to tug gently and lovingly on her hair. "Can you describe the pain?"

"Ahh . . ." Kaylee said, the actions of both his hands were somewhat distracting, she was having a hard time thinking clearly. "Painful . . ."

"I mean," Simon said, slipping his right hand out of her dress and removing his left hand from her hair as he turned to write more in his medical log. "When I pressed down, was it sharp, just at the point I pressed, or did the whole region ache?"

"Just the sharp one I spose," she said. "Like you was stabbin' me or somethin'."

"And if you were to rate it, on a scale of one to ten one being, I don't know, pricking your finger with a needle and ten being  . . .," He glanced away, "Well . . . when you were shot."

"These'r hard questions," Kaylee mused.  "Wha' if I get one wrong?"

"You can't get one wrong," Simon chuckled, his discomfort evaporating.  He looked back at her, "I just want to know how you feel."

Kaylee sighed, "Well, when ya pressed down, Six?"

                "Six?"

                "Is that right?"

                Simon laughed, "This isn't a test."

                "Seem's like one," Kaylee muttered.  

"Sorry," he said meekly.  "I'm just trying to help."

"Well," Kaylee sighed, "Go on then."

 "All, all right," Simon said uncertainly, nodding at her. "And, and, usually, when I'm not pressing down on it, does it hurt."

"What, when I'm just standin'?"

"Yes."

She shook her head, "Not so bad."

"But a little?"

She nodded grudgingly.

"Like what, a two, a three?"

"Spose, not bad 'nuff ta complain about."

"And what if your moving?'

"Movin' how?"

"Ah," he stuttered, "Moving, like, running, or jogging, or walking, or shifting your wait?"

"Four or five, maybe," Kaylee said, finally getting the hang of numbering. "'Course, if I'm runnin' or bendin' at the waist. Tha's when it hurts bad, like an eight."

Simon sighed, "I wish you'd told me," he said, closing his log and turning to her. He looked adorable when he was concerned.

"I didn' wanna bother you," Kaylee said, a little of the lightness dropping out of her voice. "I'm used to cuts and scapes, you get plenty a them workin' with engines."

"This isn't a scrape," Simon insisted. "You have to take it easy."

"I hate takin' it easy." Kaylee grumbled.

Simon smiled at her, opened his mouth to say something but didn't. Instead he shook his head and his smile just got bigger.

"What?" Kaylee asked, her own downcast mood lifting a little. "What is it?"

"It's just your so . . ." He said, starring at her, searching for the right word. He finally settled on "Irrepressible."

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" she asked cautiously.

"Well, it means you . . ."

"I know what it means," Kaylee said quickly. He was so smart; the last thing she wanted him thinking was that she was dumb. "I just want to know if you think its a good thing or," her voice got a little softer as she muttered the last few words, looking at him sheepishly. "Or a bad thing."

"Well that depends," he said, offering her a hand and pulling her into a more upward sitting position so that they were, more or less, eye to eye. "If it means you are running around lifting heavy things, climbing ladders and generally using your abdominal muscles as if you hadn't recently received a near-fatal shot to the gut well, then, it's bad."

Kaylee nodded, "I see."

"But," Simon continued, looking at her with unmistakable gratefulness and admiration. "If it means you insist on treating my baby sister like a normal child despite all evidence to the contrary, well, then it's a very, very good thing."

A beautiful smile blossomed across her face. "River's sweet, weren't no trouble."

Simon laughed at her, "Liar," he said playfully. "She ran away from you and, according to her, you chased her. That must have hurt . . . a lot."

Kaylee shrugged. That wasn't anything she'd ever wanted River, or Simon, to know. "I wouldn'a run after her if I'd known she'd gone straight ta the Cap'in."

"That doesn't matter," Simon insisted. "What matters is that you did, run after her I mean. Thank you."

"Weren't nothin'," Kaylee said again. By now she was blushing.

"Well," Simon said, glancing away.  "It was something to me.  What you did for her today, all of it, that meant a lot to me.  Thank you."

"Well, your welcome," Kaylee said.  That eight-point pain seemed more than worth it now.

"I do have one question for you though," Simon said.

"Wa's that?"

"Did Inara pick out that dress for River or did you because . . ."

He was interrupted by Kaylee's near hysterical laughter.

"Kaylee," the young man said, reaching out and grabbing her arms, worried that she might tip and fall off the chair. "Calm down," her laughter was contagious, he was chuckling too.

"I's just," the girl said, gasping for breath. "Nara an' me, we had a bet over who'd you ask 'bout the dress first."

"And you won?"

"Naw," Kaylee said, coming to herself. "I gotta giver her shuttle a tune up tamarra."

"If I'd asked Inana first, what was she going to do for you?" Simon asked, mischievous curiosity in his eyes.

"That's none of your business, Doctor," Kaylee answered coyly.

Simon nodded, "I see. Well, I think I could help you get out of your bet, if you'd like."

Kaylee laughed again, this time at the doctor, "Simon, you can't lie. You can't even keep a secret w'out showin' it. I don't think an ounce of you could be dishonest no matter how hard you tried."

"You say that like it's a bad thing," Simon said, a little hurt.

"You're on a ship of scavengers and pirates runnin' from the law," Kaylee reminded him. "Lyin's sorta a life skill out here."

"Be that as it may, my plan doesn't require a lie."

"See," Kaylee sighed, "Ya can't even plan ta lie."

"Do you want me to help you or not?" Simon demanded.

"Sorry," Kaylee said, forcing herself not to giggle at the doctor's frustration. "What's yer plan?" "I'm ordering you to bed rest."

"What?" Kaylee gasped. "Doctor, I never . . ."

"Are gonna heal, unless you stop stressing the wound," Simon said firmly.  "Unless there's an emergency and we'll all die horrible deaths because Serenity is about to explode, it would really be best for you if you could just rest.  Mal said it would take us fourteen days to reach Flagstaff.  You can get a lot of healing done in fourteen days."

"I'm gonna get lonely."

"I give you permission to walk to a place, like Inara's shuttle, or the common room, so long as you promise to lie down for at least five hours once you get there."

"Don' spose I could haggle ya down to three?"

"Five's my finale offer, take it or I'll have Mal lock you in your room all day."

Kaylee looked at him shrewdly, "You couldn' do tha'."

Simon took a deep breath, and crossed his arms over his chest, "You're the one that said I couldn't lie.  I think that means I'd be a pretty poor bluffer."

Kaylee laughed softly and broke into a smile, "Don' suppose I could come lie in here?  Keep ya company while you sort through all'a this."

"That would be really, very nice," Simon said, just a touch of wonder in his voice.  "I'd like that."

"Shiny," Kaylee said, struggling to mask her excitement, "It's a date."

Simon chuckled and nodded.  "I guess I'd better walk you home then.  That way I'd be able to pick you up in the morning."

                He helped her down from the bed and hooked his arm in hers as they walked through the common rooms and the kitchen, which had, thankfully, no trace of Zoe.  He glanced at her, brow knit with worry, at every stair.  Kaylee felt pampered. She felt like a lady.

                "You know," Simon said as they reached the crew quarters, "I don't think I told you how amazing you look.  I'm sorry."

                "You complement me then you apologize?" Kaylee asked.

                "I apologize for not complimenting you sooner," Simon explained as they drew up to her door, covered in Christmas lights.  "I was thoughtless."

                "Well," Kaylee said slowly and softly.  "Tell me again what you said, then I'll accept the apology."

                "You look absolutely amazing," Simon said without hesitation, his voice was soft and low, his hands were on her arms and he was starring into her large, eager eyes.  "You have no idea."

                "Hey there kids!" Mal's voice fell on their intimate conversation like a bucket of cold water.  Simon went rigged, he stepped back, almost fearfully, and his face turned a bright, burring red.

                Kaylee sighed, she'd been so close, "Hey Cap'in."

                "Now doctor," Mal said, pulling himself further up the ladder and eventually, sitting on the hatch, his legs dangling down to the room.  "I'm shocked.  This morin' your implyin' things ta our Companion, this afternoon I find ya in the arms of a prostitute named Honey, and here ya are, outside'a my engineer's bedroom, lookin' for all the world like you're gonna . . ."

                "I, ah," Simon stuttered, floundering in a days worth of embarrassments.  

"He's worried 'bout me Cap'in," Kaylee explained, glaring at Mal with a venom4ince that brought a hint of nervousness to Mal's eyes.  "Jus' wanted ta see me home."

"Oh," Mal said, "Is that what he wanted ta do?"

"I should really . . ." Simon said taking another step back.

                Kaylee took a step forward and, before Simon's over-cautiousness could be moved to stop her, she pushed herself on her tows and kissed him sweetly on the cheek. 

"Sleep-sweet Simon," she said, smiling up at him as she took a step back.

                He looked down at her, amazed.  "You too," he said softly.  Then collecting himself, took another step backward. "Kaylee, Captain, Good-night."  He beat a hasty retreat, his eyes on the ground, blushing as he past Mal.

                Once Simon was safely out of earshot, Kaylee turned to Mal and threw him her sourest look, "You owe me," she said forcefully.

                The Captain was trying not to break into snickers, "Do I?"

                "Cap'in, he was gonna kiss me," Kaylee said, exasperated.

                "Certainly seemed so," Mal nodded, pushing himself up out of his hatch and wondering over to where Kaylee was standing, glaring at him furiously.  "Still crushin' over 'im Little Kaylee? Looks like he might be crushin' a little back."

                "Ya think?" she asked, excitement in her voice, her anger instantly melting away. "He's awful nice."

                "Awful handsome too."

                "Cap'in?"

                "Leastwise, that's what Honey told me."

                "That hooker ya had nurse 'im back ta health?"

                "Oh, he told you 'bout that did he?"

                "You told me."

                "Did I?  Huh?"

                Kaylee laughed and then sighed.  "Wha'da'ya think 'bout him?  Really?"

                "I think, Little Kaylee, that he's a good 'nuff man doin' damn well under the worst circumstances.  An' if you gotta crush on someone, well, better him than Jayne."

                Kaylee laughed again, in shock as much as in humor. "You shouldn't say that," she said, slapping his arm.  "He might hear."

                Mal smiled down at her and chuckled, "Spose it don't much matter what guy you hook yourself up with so long as he treats you like a princess."

                "Oh, like you treat me?" Kaylee asked, amused.

                "I do!" Mal nodded.  "I treat you just like them princesses who are real good at fixin' things in a kingdom where things is always fallin' apart."

                Kaylee laughed again and wrapped her arms around Mal in a warm hug, "You treat me too good."

                "Funny thing, bout that, I'd say the same a you," Mal said, kissing the top of her head with a very fatherly affection.  "Now you get to sleep, Princess.  You got two straight weeks a flirtin' with Simon ahead a you, don' wanna start out all sleepy."

                "'Night Cap'in," Kaylee said, pushing open her hatch and, very carefully, starting down the ladder, as a number seven pain twisted in her stomach.  "Sleep sweet."

                "You too, Little Kaylee," Mal said, smiling down on her before he closed the hatch.

                Once she was alone, Kaylee felt very, very tired.  She barely had enough energy to slip out of her new dress and into her pajamas.  She was asleep seconds after she lay down, and her dreams were very sweet indeed.