6:03 PM

February 14th, 2008

Echo Park, California

As always, when there was a knock at Casey's door, he made sure he had his gun in hand before answering. But, as usual, it was just Chuck.

"What's up?" Casey asked. "Got tired of discussing sandwich condiments with Morgan?"

"We've never discussed –"

"Do I need to play it for you?" Casey interrupted. "You know I can."

Chuck just rolled his eyes and shook his head. "No, I've got a favor to ask."

"A favor? You're asking me for a favor?"

Casey picked up his day planner from the coffee table. "Let me write it down. Today, a miracle happened. Bartowski came to me asking for a favor."

"Ha, ha, very funny," Chuck deadpanned. "No, this one has more to do with the future."

"The future?" Casey asked. "You mean the Serenity?"

"Yeah, exactly," Chuck said. "You know how we discovered that the NSA still existed in the 26th century?"

"Uh, yeah," Casey replied. He didn't like where this was going.

"Well… I was wondering if it would be possible to put something in the NSA's archives for delivery to the Serenity in 2520."

"But you left in 2519."

"Yeah, but the date that I want it delivered on, I was still on the Serenity in 2519," Chuck explained. "So it has to be 2520."

"The date you want it… oh, God," Casey said, coming to understanding as he realized what day it was. "You want to send the redhead a Valentine's Day card through the NSA archives?"

Chuck said nothing, just handed Casey a thin box. A Buy More shipping label had been affixed to the exterior. It read "Kaywinnit Lee Frye, c/o transport vessel Serenity. To be delivered February 14, 2520."

Casey took it from Chuck, looked at it, and then shook his head. "I'll make sure it happens."


2:42 P.M.

February 14th, 2520

transport Serenity

"Transport vessel Serenity, this is the Alliance cruiser Columbia. Release helm control and prepare for docking."

"Do as they say," Mal said quietly to River. Nodding, she took her hands off the controls, and the Columbia's computer took over guidance.

"What the hell could they possibly want," Mal muttered. "River! Call Jayne, Zoe and Kaylee and have them meet me in the cargo bay!"

When the ship had docked, Mal told Jayne to open the bay doors. However, they were not greeted by the usual welcoming committee of a squad of Alliance soldiers. Instead, it was just one officer, holding a thin black box in his hand.

"Is one of you Kaywinnit Lee Frye?" he said, with no greeting.

"That's me," Kaylee said, stepping forward uncertainly.

"I am Captain Omar Yagosian, cruiser Columbia," he replied, introducing himself. "This package was in the archives of the National Security Agency. It is addressed to you, for delivery on this date."

Kaylee's brow furrowed in confusion. She stepped forward and took the package from the officer. Then she saw the faded Buy More logo on the label and her face softened into a smile.

"Thank you," she said quietly.

"You're welcome, ma'am," Captain Yagosian replied. He started to turn, then paused and said, "You know, there must be something very special about you. That package has been in the archives for over 500 years." He looked as if he were going to say something more, but instead, he did an about face, and returned to the Columbia. The cargo bay doors shut behind him.

"What is it?" Mal asked.

"Ummm… I think it's what would be called a valentine," Kaylee said. "I also think you can probably consider it private."

"Aw, that's no fun," Jayne said. "Come on, you're not going to share?"

"No way," Kaylee replied.

After everybody had left the cargo bay, she crossed to the corner where the Herder was still secured to the floor. Opening the door, she sat down in the driver's seat, gently held the box for a moment, and then after careful consideration, opened it.

Inside was a memory stick, a dried flower of some sort in a plastic package, and a pink envelope. She pulled out the memory stick and plugged it into the player that Chuck had wired into the car stereo. She turned the key to accessories to turn on the stereo.

"Nothing's gonna change my world… nothing's gonna change my world."

Kaylee smiled and got a little teary-eyed as the strains of the truly appropriate Beatles song filled the little 500 year-old Toyota. Picking up the envelope, she gently opened it, and removed a very brittle card from inside. Gingerly, she laid it open on the passenger seat. It split down the middle as she did so, but that didn't make the words inside any less legible.

February 14th, 2008

Dear Kaylee,

By the time you receive this, it will have been a little less than a year for you since I left Serenity. For me, it's been a little over a month.

When we celebrated Valentine's Day in 2519, I didn't have a card or roses to give you – two of the traditional symbols of Valentine's Day.

So, with that in mind, I thought I'd send you a Valentine's Day card. I also got hold of a rose, had it pressed and freeze-dried, and I've sent it to you. I know it doesn't look nearly as nice as it would if it were alive, but you're one of probably a very few people – maybe the only one – in your time who can say you've actually seen and touched one.

But, besides wanting you to see a rose, in my time, a man giving a woman a rose is supposed to be a sign that he truly cares about her. And I do care about you, Kaylee Frye. You might not even be born for another 490 years, but you really are a very special person.

And I'm so not good at this kind of thing, so I'm just going to stop before I make an idiot of myself. I'll always remember you, Kaylee. You'll be with me in my heart.

Okay, I think I just succeeded in making an idiot of myself. I'm stopping now.

I'll always love you,

Chuck Bartowski

Tears rolled gently down Kaylee's cheeks, even as she laughed at Chuck's clumsy but sweet words and his self-deprecating manner. After a moment, she turned the Herder off, exited the car, closed the door, and headed toward the mess.

When she entered, Inara was there, holding a little three month old boy, speaking softly to him. It never failed to amaze Kaylee how well Inara had taken to the baby. She figured it must've been the Companion stereotype that made it hard for her to consider it, but Inara always just looked so natural holding the baby.

Kaylee looked at him for a moment, considering the little boy. Three months old now, he already had an incredible amount of hair – "Hell of a lot more hair than I had at that age," Mal had said.

He had gotten a lot from his father – the curly hair, the slightly pointed chin, the deep brown eyes that always seemed to be observing everything they saw. But he had definitely gotten one thing from his mother – his curly hair was bright red.

Inara looked up and saw Kaylee. "Hi," she said quietly. "Little Chuck fell asleep about half an hour ago. Before that, though, he cried for a good long while. I thought that perhaps he missed his mother, but I think it may have been more that the atmosphere in the ship was so tense during the docking with the Alliance cruiser."

Inara crossed to Kaylee and handed Little Chuck to her. "You know, it's funny that he looks so much like Chuck, but he ended up with your hair."

"Freakish genetics, I guess," Kaylee said. "Simon could probably explain it –"

"And we'd both be bored to tears," Inara replied, laughing softly.

Inara started to stand up, and then paused. "Kaylee," she said, "why didn't you go with Chuck?"

Kaylee was quiet for a moment. "He asked me to," she replied. "He practically begged me to. It broke my heart to say no, just as much as it broke his heart to leave. But I told him that just like his family was back in the twenty-first century, my family, my little family that puts the fun in dysfunctional, was here, on Serenity."

Inara didn't say anything for a moment. "You're an amazing young woman, Kaylee," she said. She started to leave the room. "I've got some work to get done, so I'll see you later."

"Bye, Inara," Kaylee said.

Sitting down at the table, she looked at Little Chuck. His eyes opened, and he looked right back at her, and then his eyes closed, and he fell back to sleep.

Kaylee sat quietly for several minutes, and then spoke. "Charles Irving Frye," she said. "Little Chuck. Let me tell you a story, a story about your father. It begins on December 24th, 2007, at 5:32 in the morning. We're in Los Angeles, on Earth-that-was…"

fin


I hope you've all enjoyed this story. I sure thought that writing it was damn shiny.

It occurred to me, as I was in the middle of the epilogue, that I have written a story about Firefly that is fourteen chapters long and has a Big Damn Epilogue. Strangely appropriate, but totally coincidental.

And now that I've finished the adventures of Charles Bartowski in the 26th century, it's time for me to go back to actually concentrating on my job when I'm at work. Thank you all for reading!