Moonlight on Water

by Katinka

A/N: My first foray into Firefly fanfic! This was written as part of a Christmas exchange between friends – I was assigned to write about Zoe giving a gift to Kaylee.

At the sound of boots on grating, Kaylee Frye's heart gave all appearances of stalling in her chest. She lay frozen on her back as the footsteps neared, fingers gripping her wrench, trying to battle back a reaction that still surfaced, even after all those months. While she knew the chances of Jubal Early ever setting foot on Serenity again ranged from crazy-slim to slimmer'n that, it still was a hard truth to make her mind believe on late, quiet nights like this, when it was just her and the hum of the engine.

It ain't him. Can't be him, she told herself sternly before sliding out from under the engine, wrench in hand. She eased herself up to standing as quietly as possible and then, taking a deep breath, peered around the whirring machinery. Her knees threatened to buckle, but her heart soon resumed beating at the sight of the ship's first mate in the doorway.

"Hey, Zoe!" Kaylee breathed in relief, stowing the tool in her pocket with a shaking hand. "Why ain't you in bed?"

"Couldn't sleep," Zoe replied. Her voice held its usual steady tone, but her fingers were fiddling slightly with the strings on the bulky, brown paper package she held.

"Oh, I could," Kaylee said, and she broke into a grin. "Can scarce keep my eyelids open after a dinner like that. Never knew you could make a decent pecan pie with a cup of dried beans! But we ain't gonna break atmo on Pellario 'less I straighten out the circ-valve, and it's been giving me all kindsa trouble tonight."

She paused, but Zoe only stood in her place, her face stiffer'n a rusted crank axel. It didn't exactly encourage friendly conversation, but Kaylee reckoned it weren't concern about the circ-valve that had brought her to the engine room in the middle of the night. "Whatcha got there?" she asked, undaunted.

Zoe let out a heavy breath. "Here," she said brusquely, and she held out the package.

Curious, Kaylee ran her grimy hands down her coveralls and moved completely around the engine, ducking the ropes of blinking Christmas lights that threatened to entangle her. "You'll know what to do with it," Zoe added as Kaylee took the offering, but the mechanic's fingers knew what was inside long before the paper was off.

"Oh!" she gasped, flashing a smile that rivaled the room's décor for brightness as she held up a copper compression coil. "The M-459, too!" She turned it around in the red and green light, marveling at its metallic twists and turns. "Where'd Captain find it?" she continued reverently. "I've been nudgin' him for over a year to get us one of these beauties."

Zoe watched Kaylee impassively, although her legs shifted a fraction. "Captain don't know about it," she said, raising her chin slightly. "Best not mention it to him."

Kaylee looked up from her windfall, questioning on her face.

"Gotta think he's still in charge of most things," Zoe went on, and the faint trace of a smile finally graced her mouth.

"Shiny, Zoe…" Kaylee giggled, turning her attention back to the compression coil. "You know, you only gotta screw a couple tension clips onto each end of this, and she'll run better'n the M-487 or the M-500. She'll last you a good 30 years, too, you take care to oil her good." Her mind was already a dozen star systems away, imagining the smooth ways her girl could take off with this treasure in place.

"Give a Firefly a good mechanic, the right parts, and a handful of prayers – she'll glide like moonlight on water," Zoe murmured, as though by rote. Her eyes moved away to watch the turn of the engine.

"Your daddy tell you that?" Kaylee asked as she continued to inspect. "Mine always said – "


Kaylee looked up at that, and Zoe turned back. For a moment, the women's eyes locked while Serenity sang softly around them, sharing words voiced by neither.

After a spell, Kaylee ventured a tentative smile. "This'll have her flying like a dream, Zoe," she said quietly, blinking back the sting in her eyes.

Zoe's lips opened, but pursed together again. With a curt nod, she turned on her heel, and left.


A/N: You really can make a decent approximation of pecan pie with pinto beans and brown sugar. You just don't want to eat it once you know that. :P