NOTE: Bonus points if you recognize the quote!****************
The sharp crack! told her immediately what had gone wrong, and Kaylee began swearing, hauling out some of the ripe old oaths her father had kept for best. She dove across the engine room and slapped the cutoff switch before the long belt, now torn clean across, could whip itself off the gear and lash through the air.
The rumble of the engines continued, but the hum of the big generator was gone. Kaylee took a firm grip on the nearest piece of gear that wasn't hot or moving, feeling suddenly lightheaded, and began counting seconds in her head. At six, Wash's voice erupted over the comm.
"Kaylee? What's going on?"
The mechanic grabbed at the comm mike. "Generator belt snapped. We'll be flying light until I can get it fixed."
"Shiny. Well, make it snappy, can you? Zoe always gets a little testy in zero gee."
Kaylee grimaced. "Do my best, but it depends on what I've got in the spare parts box."
"Need any help?" She could almost see his grin.
"I'll let you know." Kaylee let both the comm mike and the stanchion go and vaulted neatly over the main engine, smiling a little despite the challenge that had just landed on her plate. Zoe might have a sensitive stomach, but Kaylee always enjoyed flying. She bent her knees to absorb momentum as her feet touched the deck, then took a moment to leap again, executing a complex spin and somersault in midair before pushing herself off the ceiling and back toward the deck. Another gentle push sent her toward her spare parts "box," and she fished in her pocket on the way, finding a piece of wire that would suit her purpose. Hooking one leg around the doorframe, she bundled her hair back haphazardly and twisted the wire until it stayed in place. Zero gee hair did tend to get in the way.
The little room off the main engine room was low-ceilinged and cramped, but it held all her spare parts, secured in a tangle impenetrable to all but herself. Kaylee knew quite well that she didn't have a matching belt, but she probably had the equipment she needed to jury-rig something.
Forty minutes later she was floating between the generator and the deck, bouncing gently between them as she wrestled the whip-stitched belt back onto its gear, inch by inch. Good thing the Captain's off negotiating something, or he'd have been down here twice asking when we'd have gravity again. Kaylee admired Mal tremendously, but his sense of urgency was a bit more...well, urgent, than hers. She hummed softly between grunts, communing with Serenity and remembering an old, old quote, one captain speaking to another: "Sir, have you ever noticed that while we run our ships, our engineers own them?..."
A thump sounded from the direction of the hatch, and Kaylee braced the belt and shifted to look out from under the generator. Simon hovered in the doorway, a lock of wayward hair wavering up from his normally neatly-groomed head. He peered in at her with that look of uncertainty she found so endearing, a small smile playing around his mouth. She grinned at him.
"River's dancing in the air in our quarters, Zoe's recuperating in Inara's shuttle, and I just finished collecting the medical supplies that were floating around the infirmary," he said mildly. "Would you mind telling me what's going on?"
"Just a little repair," she replied. "Should be done soon."
The doctor propelled himself awkwardly into the room. "Can I watch?"
"Sure." Kaylee patted the deck next to her.
Simon managed to get out of midair and kneel next to the generator, but immediately began drifting away from the deck again and had to grab the machinery and lever himself back into place.
Kaylee chuckled. "You're not used to zero gee, are you?"
He gave her a sheepish smile. "Living on Serenity seems to bring a host of new experiences."
"You're telling me." She wrenched the belt another inch or two into place. "Little planet I came from--mostly grasslands--you freeze in the winter and swelter in the summer. Out here I've seen more worlds than all my family put together, worlds where it's springtime all year long or where it never rains or snows. It's amazing."
Simon unfolded his legs and wedged them under the generator. "It sure is." He grabbed the edge of the belt just above her hands and helped pull. "To tell you the truth, I kind of expected being a fugitive to involve more...well, more skulking."
"Nah." Under the focus of repair, the back of Kaylee's mind was admiring the strength in the doctor's arms and grip as they coordinated their efforts. "Looking like you got something to hide just draws attention. Fly casual, and you slide right by."
The belt slipped suddenly, and the edge caught her finger in a sharp pinch. Bright red droplets began to form, sailing lazily away from her hand. Simon let his section go and grabbed her wrist. "You're hurt."
"It's just a cut," Kaylee answered, but let him look. It did sting.
The doctor bent his head to examine her fingers. "It's not deep," he said after a moment, "but it needs to be cleaned. There's no telling what kind of contaminants you could have picked up."
"Are you calling my engine room dirty?" Kaylee asked severely, biting back another grin. He was so much fun to tease.
He looked up, startled, dark eyes wide, but he must finally have gotten used to her poking, for instead of apologizing, he grinned back. "Filthy," he retorted.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out an immaculate handkerchief, but Kaylee pulled her hand away before he could stanch the blood. "It'll stain," she protested.
He gave her a stern look. "It'll wash," he replied, and captured her hand again to wind the cloth neatly around her finger. "Besides," he went on, tying a knot, "it's Jayne's turn to do the laundry."
Kaylee rolled her eyes. "That means it'll never come out."
Simon chuckled. "It's not important. So long as you come down to the infirmary and let me clean and web the cut."
"Sure thing. As soon as I get the gravity back up." Kaylee took hold of the belt and heaved again.
"That would be nice," Simon said dryly, and resumed pushing himself. "It is rather disconcerting to open a drawer and see the contents float gently into the air."
"That's life out here, Doctor," Kaylee said between shoves. "Always be prepared."
With him to help, she had the belt back in place sooner than she expected. Twisting out from beneath the generator, she boosted herself back over the machine, stretching cramped muscles in midair. "Better secure yourself," she warned Simon, taking up the comm mike again and switching it to shipwide. "Okay, everybody, gravity in thirty seconds, get ready."
"Is it going to come on all at once?" Simon asked nervously, bracing himself against the deck.
"Oh, no," Kaylee answered, flipping the generator's main switch. "It takes about ten seconds to come up to full strength, so nothing gets broken. Better watch it," she added casually, "I'm not positive the belt'll hold." The doctor ducked involuntarily and gave her a dirty look.
But it did hold. Within a minute, the shimmering crimson spheroids now drifting near one wall sank to the floor and flattened into smears, forming meaningless hieroglyphs in organic red ink. Kaylee sighed as gravity settled over her again, and promised herself a little rec time the next time she had to do vacuum repairs on Serenity's hull.
Simon pushed the errant hair from his forehead. "Is that it?"
"That's it." Kaylee pulled the wire from her hair, suddenly conscious of how grubby she was. It was one of the annoying side effects of being around the doctor; normally she didn't care if she had grease on her pants.
"Then come on." Simon held out a hand, putting on medical authority. "You promised."
Kaylee glanced down at her hand, where the snowy white cloth was spotted with red, and smiled. "Coming, Doctor."
They vanished down the corridor. Behind them, the engines rumbled on contentedly.