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Chapter 13

Gotta Be Somebody

Kaylee and Book followed me back to the bay while Zoe stayed behind, her and Mal talked quietly. "Well, I'm fair useless in this venture," Kaylee said crossing her arms as we stopped in the center of the cargo hold.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Can't ride, at least nothin' with four legs, and I can't shoot. Tried once, just can't." She scuffed her feet on the on the metal floor.

"That's nothing to be ashamed of Kaylee," Book said kindly.

"Shepherd's right Kaylee, you have talents in other areas. Count your blessings that you don't have to raise a weapon to someone," I said as I laid a hand on her shoulder.

"I guess you are right, though knowing how to defend myself could come handy. We had a run in with a bounty hunter once and…" She shuddered.

"No need to drudge up the past," Book whispered.

"I can teach you some tricks, how to get away from a larger, stronger opponent."

"I like that idea! Thanks Liara." Kaylee brightened.

"Call it a return favor for fixing up my room."

Kaylee turned to Book. "What about you Shepherd, you going to be the third?"

"I can shoot but never did learn to sit a horse." He replied.

I looked at Kaylee in question and looked back at Book. "Uh, you can shoot?"

"Rabbits, kneecaps…the good Shepherd here isn't your run of the mill holy man," Kaylee responded with a smirk. "Good thing too, he's helped us out of a scrap now and then."

"And got us into a one or two," Book muttered.

"What's going on?" We all looked up; Inara had come out onto the catwalk. "I was on the COM with an old friend and I heard a crash." Must have been some conversation if she was just noticing the commotion.

"Jayne dropped some crates on his head," I filled her in.

"Ahh, that's unfortunate. What of Mal's plans?"

"He might need a third for the job," Book replied.

"How about you Nara? You can ride, must have been in your Companion training, can you shoot?" Kaylee inquired. Horseback riding, archery, and fencing- memories of training in the courtyards and gardens of the House of Doves floated to the fore. Girls and young women in beautiful gowns learning court dances with fans, little girls lined up in rows, I among them practicing court greetings. My first attempt at a curtsey in a slender gown as a clumsy ten year old sent me crashing into my cousin Shae. We had tumbled to the grass dissolving in giggles while Madame Arya, whom we secretly called the Iron Butterfly, stood over us tapping her fan until we came to order.

"I can ride and shoot but this is not the sort of job I'm suited for." She gave us a knowing smile. "I'm more of a help using my particular skills in other ways. I'm no rough rider; you'll have to count me out of this mission." She gracefully descended and headed for the infirmary, just as Mal appeared in the doorway followed by Zoe and Wash who joined us on the floor.

"Alright. Simon has checked Jayne out and it's a concussion and some bruising. Doc wants to watch him for a day or so and won't clear him 'til then, so we are going to need a third as can rough ride, bareback and can fight. We may avoid a tussle but best be prepared." Mal said looking at us all.

Wash stepped forward. "I can help. Not sure how I'll fare with the riding part though, Mal."

"I appreciate that Wash, I need you at the helm, waiting to make our getaway and scanning for trouble."

"Really? Or do you not want me along after the last job we did together?"

Mal absently rubbed his left ear. "Truly Wash, I need you here." The others then voiced their thoughts. My heart hammered in my chest and threatened to jump up into my throat.

I stepped up. "I will go, Captain. I can rope and ride, shoot and fight hand to hand if need be." I crossed my arms to hide my nerves. This would be a chance to prove myself, even though dangerous.

Zoe shot Mal a look. "What about Simon?" She asked.

"Needs to stay with Jayne."

"River?"

"Zoe, Simon would rather have me keelhauled then let his sister go out on a dangerous job. Besides, she could go all moon brained and get us all killed." Mal turned to me and I straightened up. "Liara, you'll be our third, if the doctor says you're well enough. Check with him and then come see me. We'll get our plan of action ready."

I nodded smartly. "Thank you Captain." Kaylee smiled at me and I went to find our good doctor.

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Mal looked around the hold. "Wash meet me on the Bridge in a few minutes." His pilot scurried off. "Good job Kaylee, Shepherd. This space looks promising."

"Thanks Cap. Liara was a big help."

"Kaylee, let's finish moving those crates Jayne kindly got down for us." Book said gesturing to the jumble Jayne had left.

"A word, sir." Zoe said stiffly. Mal turned to his first mate, her face was blank but he knew her well.

"Go ahead Zoe."

"Are you sure you want Liara along? Is she strong enough? Do you trust her enough to give her a gun and watch your back? We've had her on this boat for two days and you want her along on a job."

"I know we don't know much about her now, we won't learn anything if we don't give her a chance. Trust has to be earned both ways, Zoe. Besides she comes from good stock, her pa was a Browncoat, good man."

"You know her father?"

"Knew him, or of him. It was before you and I were stationed together. Marcus Hawke was a captain of an airborne squadron in the war, met him twice. Man made quite an impression. Fire and grit, fearless. His squad was shot down over Serenity Valley."

"Does Liara know that you met her father?"

"No. When we hired her on her name was so familiar but it didn't hit me 'til last night. I see the same bravery in the girl that made Marcus a hero. I'll tell her but not today. Let's worry about pulling this job off first."

"Aye, sir. If you're sure she's good for it."

"She isn't some sheltered dove, Zoe. I have a feeling she's been in more dangerous spots then where we're headed and she's made it this far. Let's go see that husband of yours, we need a flight plan." He glanced around. Kaylee was watching him. "Tell Liara I'm up on the Bridge, if you would Kaylee."

"Sure thing Cap'n." She said quietly. He could practically see the wheels in her head turning. She had overheard his secret, if it could be called that, and was wondering if she should tell Liara. Mal gave her half a smile. She nodded in return and he turned to follow Zoe to Serenity's Bridge.

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I found Simon in the infirmary with Jayne, giving instructions to the big guy to keep awake. Inara stood outside in the corridor looking in. She was resplendent in a gown of violet velvet with silver combs in her dark hair and a fiery amethyst stone at her throat. She was so beautiful. I remembered envying my cousin Shae her honey blonde locks and delicate features, all the training in the 'Verse would never make me beautiful. My mother used to say I was striking, my brothers called me cute. Not plain but not pretty either. I hadn't played at being a lady much after I left the House to hear any would be beaus make lovesick remarks about my eyes or my smile to convince me otherwise. Aldrin found you attractive enough. He used to say every woman was the same in the dark. Yet Aldrin had loved my hair, when he wasn't threatening to shave me bald. Deep chestnut shot with red, thick and nearly long enough to sit on it was my one beauty. Aldrin had loved to run his fingers through it bury his face in it, wrench it in punishment. I almost cut it a thousand times, just to deprive him of it, but I remembered how my father had loved my long hair. Now it remained as a vow to make Marcus Hawke proud and to find what remained of my family.

"Liara?" Inara said softly, touching my shoulder.

I started. "Sorry, just lost in thought. Just waiting to see Simon."

"Nothing is wrong I hope."

"No, Mal…uh, the captain has asked me to be his third for this job, the Doc needs to give me the okay is all."

Simon cleared his throat as he stood in the doorway. "Couldn't help but overhear. Liara, we can step into an empty bunk if you don't mind. Inara could you stay with Jayne for a few minutes and keep him awake? Unless you'd like Inara in the room with us, as nurse?" Simon asked in his very proper manner.

"Oh. No that's fine, thank you doctor."

"Let me grab a few things." He came back with a roll of bandages and a jar. Inara floated into the sick bay and seemed to enjoy poking Jayne awake. Simon and I went down the hall, past our rooms to an empty one used for storage. There was a chair in the center of the room and he placed his supplies on it and slid the panel door shut. "Now, if you would lift you shirt please so I can look at your ribs." I hesitated a moment. "You're safe, Liara. Trust me." Everyone was telling me that lately. "Just like yesterday. I want to change the wrapping. I can call Inara in…"

"No. I'd rather no one else know about my bruises anyways." I took a breath and lifted up my shirt hem, my ribs pulled at the motion. "That salve must be good stuff Doc, my ribs already feel much better."

He eyed me and stepped in and unwrapped my ribs, pressing lightly here and there. It was tender but I didn't get any stabbing-I hissed in pain. "Sorry, they are healing nicely but you are going to have some sore spots, like that one. Your bruises have changed colors again, they are healing as well. Do you feel well enough to do this job, no matter that the captain needs you?" he asked as he reapplied the salve with gentle fingers.

I tried not to squirm and step back, disconcerted by our proximity. Get a grip he's your doctor, he's not out to do you harm. Valkyerie's doctor had been a half inept old man who learned his skills on a battlefield; he hadn't harmed me either, aside from being ignorant. "Yes I do, Doc." I said answering his question. He looked up at me as if to make sure of my determination as he wrapped my ribs in fresh gauze.

" 're cleared, but please be careful, try not to get kicked by a horse. That would be very bad for your ribs." He said wryly.

"I 'spect so Simon. As would being shot, I'll try to avoid both." He finished up tying off the bandage nice and snug. I let my shirt fall back over my battered torso. "Doc, I…I've been having these nightmares, I guess you'd call them. Except they happen when I'm awake, some of them at the oddest moments."

"Are they about random events or memories?" He asked crossing his arms and standing before me.

"Memories." Bad ones. "I don't have any control over when they happen. I'm afraid…that they will happen out on this job and get someone hurt." Or killed.

"Do they make you relive past trauma?"

"Yes," I whispered.

"Are you willing to share them with someone? In my experience it can help bleed the fear off a memory or a dream, like drawing poison from a wound." He asked kindly. His face concerned.

"No. No I don't think so."

"Perhaps one day you will feel comfortable enough to tell someone. Only when you are ready. No one can force you to share things you don't want to." He gave me a little reassuring smile.

Wanna bet? Aldrin forced you to give plenty away. I clamped my teeth together and focused on Simon. "I can give you something. It's seemed to help River; she is plagued by nightmares quite often. It's an herbal infusion I picked up on one of the moons, it's legit. No bogus ingredients.

"Book said she was recovering."

"Ah, yes." Simon looked me in the eyes. His were a warm brown with secrets lying behind. A look I knew well. "She had so much stolen from her and is slowly trying to recover who she is, who she was, if it's possible. Some days I'm not sure it is." He sounded so sad for a moment, that I reached out and touched his arm before I could think. I snatched it back, embarrassed.

"I understand what she's going through." I whispered. "Don't give up on her."

"Never." A knock came on the door and Simon went and slid it back.

Kaylee popped her head in. She smiled warmly at Simon. "Hope I'm not interrupting?"

"No Kaylee, we were finished. Thank you. I'll get you those herbs Liara." He ducked out and she stepped in.

"Can't tell you how much I'd love to be holed up in a room playing doctor with Simon," she said looking over her shoulder.

"Yeah well, no worries Kaylee. Getting a checkup is a far cry from a good time. You sweet on him?" I smiled at her.

Her eyes lit up and she came up beside me and leaned in conspiratorially. "For ages! Can't seem to get him to make a move though, he so darned polite. But he wants to, I know it. He's just so distracted with River and all. So I just let him be. Not used to fellas taking their time." She giggled and winked at me.

"Then it will be well worth the wait when Simon's ready to make his move." I winked back.

Her smile was so wide her cheeks had to be hurting. "You got anybody sweet on you? Back home maybe?" she asked as we leaned in the doorway.

The good feeling of long missed girl-talk vanished along with my smile. "I was too much of a tom-boy to care if boys gave me that kind of attention. Even after my training at the House, like finishing school, I begged to go to flight school soon after that, when I was sixteen. Four years of that and then the War came. Then no one had time to ne sweet on anyone or dared to, in case they didn't come back, you know?" Now there was no one at home missing me, just a twisted gray eyed monster searching the 'Verse to take his revenge.

"That's kinda sad. What about now? You set your cap on anyone?"

Intense blue eyes flashed before me. I shook my head in denial for myself as much as for Kaylee.

"Not very convincing! Come on, who is it?"

Simon came out of the infirmary with a little packet in hand. "Brew it like a tea and take it once a day, I'd recommend at night before sleep and let me know if you have any relapses."

"Thank you Doctor." I turned to our mechanic. "Sorry Kaylee, have to go find the captain."

"Oh! He told me to tell you to meet him on the Bridge. Don't worry! I'll get it out of you."

"You can try Kaylee." I said as I left. "Won't do you any good. Nothing to tell."