Title: When All Else Fails (2/?)
Author: smitha-r
Rating: G
Fandom(s): Bones/Firefly
Pairing(s): None so far, Brennan/Booth & Jack/Angela in the future. Maybe. Depends on what my muse thinks.
Summary: Dr. Temperance Brennan has been the captain of Liberty for two years. She and her crew work outside the Alliance's jurisdiction, privately solving crimes and hoping to find the answers each of them needs. Life isn't easy, but it never lacks in excitement either.
Notes: My knowledge of the Firefly universe is spotty at best, so please bear with me. I don't own anything Bones or Firefly related. Thanks to wiccagirl24 for the beta.

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Zack stood in the lounge, scrubbing at the last of the dishes. Kitchen duty always fell on him, somehow. He figured it had something to do with being the youngest member of the crew. Age was an illogical rationale for creating a pecking order. Besides, Dr. Brennan was younger than Seeley and managed to boss him around just fine. Maybe it was intelligence that determined the pecking order? No, that didn't work either, otherwise he'd be Dr. Brennan's first mate.

"Dish duty once again, huh?" Jack walked in, laughing at Zack as he poured himself a cup of stale water.

"I'm always on dish duty; never seen anyone else clean them up. If I get stuck with the dishes one more time, I'll stop spending my credits on premium coolant for the engine."

Jack laughed again, just before grimacing at the taste of the water. "Ain't a chance of that happening; you love this ship far too dearly to treat it less than a princess."

Zack was about to reply when the sound of arguing echoed from the ventilation system. The two of them fell quiet, realizing that Dr. Brennan and Seeley were fighting. Again.

"I'm only sayin' that if he gets himself in trouble, ain't no one to blame but you." Seeley muttered.

"He is not the sort of man that gets into trouble, Seeley." Temperance countered, her voice rising. "Yes, I take full responsibility for his presence on the ship. But he's a dear friend. He lost everything for standing up for me. Least I can do is give him a place to be safe."

There was silence for a moment, then Seeley spoke with a edge in his voice. "You only want him aboard so that you can get help exposing whatever got you tossed from your fancy Alliance research academy. You're one to talk to me about the harmful effects of personal vendettas."

"This has nothing to do with that. And you're the one with the personal vendetta, not me." Temperance said with irritation. The sound of fading footsteps indicated that the two were moving out of range, ending the eavesdropping session.

Zack blinked. "Vendetta?"

Jack grinned at the man next to him. "I love this place. I always knew that hùnzhàng Seeley had his own reasons for joining Liberty."

Zack was not amused. "One of these days, Dr. Brennan is going to find out that we can hear conversations in the cargo hold up here. Then she'll tell me to pad the ventilation system with sound dampeners. Your fun will be all ruined after that."

"All I know is that both of 'em are hiding lots more than they let on. Conspiracies all around." Jack tossed the cup at Zack and bounded out the door. "We'll be lifting off soon, better finish off your dishes quick as possible."

"They're not my dishes." Zack replied to the thin air. Even though he'd been on Liberty for almost two years now, it was an unceasingly strange experience. He was used to working in solitude, surrounded by machinery and circuits. Being on Liberty forced him to interact with a host of people he would have never interacted with before. Computers were easy to understand, straight-forward and logical. Human-folk were much more confusing.

Putting aside the last dish, Zack left the lounge and headed to the engineering bay. There was still time for a routine spot check before takeoff; he could tell from the sounds of the engine that Jack hadn't even started the pre-flight ignition yet. Everything seemed okay-

Zack turned around suddenly, not quite sure if he was hearing right. He thought... he thought he had heard the sound of a girl giggling, echoing through the air around him. It wasn't the sound of a woman like Angela or Cam (and Zack didn't think Dr. Brennan was the type of woman to giggle at anything), but the voice of a young girl, which made no sense whatsoever. This is crazy; I'm just hearing things. He peered at the dialogs and machinery quickly, not feeling as secure in the solitude of the machinery anymore, and made his way out of the engineering bay, looking for (against his better judgement) human company.

---

Jack heard Temperance coming into the cockpit before he even saw her.

"Wow, a visitor to my humble abode. I'm honoured..." He exclaimed, turning and watching with some amusement as Temperance frowned in response to his quip. Clearly, the fight with Seeley had not put her in the best of moods. "You possibly have a destination for me to fly to now?"

She nodded tightly. "The next project is on Omastre, 'bout a four day flight from here. There's some wealthy industrialists on the Omastrean moon, so Angela's set for her business too. All I need from you is to fly straight and steady."

Jack saluted dramatically. "Ain't no problem, Temperance. I'll have us there 'fore the stink of fish gets out of your clothes."

Temperance puffed her cheeks with annoyance. "I wish you'd call me Doctor like Zack and Cam always do."

He chuckled, setting up the pre-flight check for Liberty. "Titles like that are gorram meaningless nomenclature designed to keep the status quo, make sure the little man stays little and the big man stays big. Things are fair and equal this way. And there ain't a man this side of the 'verse who loves bending the rules as much as I do anyway." He looked at her with a grin. "Unless I decide the most appropriate title for you would be Captain."

Temperance sighed before turning heel. "The lot of you are incorrigible."

"I certainly hope so." Jack replied, knowing she was out of earshot already.

---

"You've never been to Sihnon, Seeley? Absolutely gorgeous place. You'd like it." Cam said with a smile, fingers grasping at that necklace she always wore. "My mom bought this for me when she visited the first time, back when I was still in school. The holos she brought back were amazing."

He had lied; he had been to Sihnon before. And it really was beautiful there. But he wasn't about to tell that to any pretty thing that batted her eyes at him, least of all another scientist geek with no common sense. Well, Cam did have some sense, more than the rest of them. But scientists were scientists and Seeley knew what was the best way to deal with folk like that.

"Well, ain't much time for sight-seeing when you're a soldier." Seeley shrugged.

"Nonsense, isn't that a perk of the job? Seeing exotic new words?"

"Ain't nothin' exotic about a dried out ball of a planet that can't sustain it's own people." Seeley dead-paned. The smile on Cam's face slipped off when she realized he was being serious.

"Fair enough." The look she was giving him set him on edge, the way she looked at him like he was a patient with some physical ailment she wanted to cure. Fortunately for him, Temperance walked into the lounge at that moment to brief them, her demeanour entirely too stressed out for this early in a project. Wouldn't be so stressed out if that boss of hers weren't on the ship, I reckon. Just another thing for her to worry about. If Temperance didn't want to face the facts, that was fine with him. He would take care of himself and only himself when things went bad.

Except he knew that deep down inside, he wasn't really that heartless.

"We're just about ready to take off for Omastre." Temperance said, pointedly ignoring Seeley (the hùndàn), as she passed a data-pad to Cam. "It's an industrial planet, even though the resources are mostly used up at this point. The largest manufacturing company in the capital is called Wellwens Shipyards. They're makers of, not that we'd know, 'the best pleasure craft' in the 'verse."

"Or so they say." Cam interjected with a smirk. Seeley looked at her with surprise. "What? I've already told you, I can't help it if my parents were rich. Rather not have any bitter feelings if we're going to be watching each other's backs."

"Ain't no bitterness here, honest." Temperance said, but it was such a horrible attempt at lying that Seeley nearly laughed out loud. He knew from the few times he had talked to Angela that Temperance's life had been anything but easy. But now was not the time to push the topic. He knew a thing or two 'bout respecting people's pasts.

"Right. So, what's the problem with Wellwens?" Cam asked, reading over the data pad.

"There have been a number of workers at the shipyard who've fallen ill over the last few years. Last month a man died." Temperance looked at them knowingly. "And as we all know, makin' this a public affair's the last thing they want."

"What is it this time? They using some kind of illegal chemicals? Shady financial business?" Seeley asked, fishing a bullet from his pocket and rolling it through his fingers. The promise of another project always made him restless with energy.

Temperance shook her head. "Not sure yet, but I'm leanin' towards the dangerous and potentially illegal chemicals bit."

"Sounds like fun." Cam said, passing the data pad over to Seeley. "How much is the pay for this? I assume it's good money, Wellwens being a division of Blue Sun and all. They can afford to keep their dirty business quiet by hiring outside sources like us."

Seeley whistled, turning to Temperance and handing her back the data pad. "A Blue Sun job? How'd you luck out finding this one, Captain?"

Brennan frowned, turning to Cam. "I didn't even know Wellwens was a division of Blue Sun."

"Well, it's a recent development; Wellwens was purchased by Blue Sun 'bout three months ago. It's a good investment from a economic standpoint." Cam replied.

"Sure, just as long as that doesn't include investing in your employees. " Seeley interjected, tossing the bullet into the air before catching it and putting it back in his pocket. "Tell me when we get there, I'm gonna go prepare myself for some corporate espionage." he said, getting up from the table and heading to his quarters.

Cam watched him go before speaking to Temperance. "I heard you fighting with him earlier. What was that all about?"

Temperance sighed, griping the data pad tightly before heading back towards the crew quarters. "Ain't nothing. Everyone on this ship's entitled to their own opinion."

"Indeed..." Cam said softly, watching the woman go before heading towards the cockpit.

---

"I don't like this life, Dr. Goodman." She confessed, arms crossed over her chest. "I don't like that we help the bad guys. I don't like that there are no good guys."

"You've got to put processed food cubes on the table somehow, Temperance. And there are good guys out there. You just have to find them, make the right connection in this chaotic-"

The comm in his quarters crackled to life. "Temperance? We... have a problem."

Temperance glanced at Goodman curiously. "This is the sort of thing I expect from Zack or Jack, not Angela." She said, walking to the intercom. "What kind of problem?"

Angela paused. "A stowaway kind of problem. In the cargo hold."

"Tiān xiǎode!" Temperance murmured, earning a wide-eyed look from Goodman that she didn't even see as she rushed out the door.

--------------TBC--------------