A/N: I usually find Kaylee quite difficult to write for but in this, not so much. I found her remarkably easy this time around. So. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did writing it! On another note, I intend on editing my Mal/Inara fic, "Realisation" and continuing on with it. I'm hoping to get much of it done by my birthday on Valentine's Day (though it's not a V-Day fic - it's just a date I've set for myself). If that's your kind of thing, keep an eye out. ;)

Last Marks

She's cold, freezing in fact, and the snow falling gently around them has nothing to do with it. Tiny flakes of snow get caught in her hair and as they melt, they send shivers down her spine. The wind is biting and stings her face. What chills her more is the atmosphere of the small gathering they make and the solemn faces surrounding her.

Everyone looks so sad. And they should be. Between them is Tracey's coffin. His parents stand closest to it, heads bent down in respect for their son, now passed on. They shouldn't have to deal with this. Children should outlive their parents, not the other way around.

In his mother's hands is the recorder she'd given her of Tracey's voice – one of the last marks he'd make in the 'verse – on her way out to join the group. Her knuckles are white from holding it so tightly.

She feels the corner of her mouth twitch involuntarily as she watches the mourning family, a slight grimace. She doesn't want to be here. She wants to be inside Serenity where it's warm and cheery and where she doesn't have to contend with the death of a friend. She wants to be away from the dull aching in her heart. She wants to lie in her hammock in the engine room and take comfort in the soothing melancholy that is her baby's engine humming with life.

She's not there though and she has to deal with what is. Her mind returns to the present.

Beside her stands Simon as still and long faced as the rest of the crew. In a moment of weakness and misery and hope for a better ending, she reaches for his hand and takes it in hers. The flicker of a smile mars her features when he squeezes her hand in response and he tilts his head to the side for a second to consider her.

He opens his mouth to speak and then perhaps thinks better of it and closes it again. This is not a time for one of his stuttering attempts at making her feel better. Nothing will make her feel better but time. She is grateful that he seems to realise that and lets out a soft sigh.

She allows her thoughts to drift off once again as Mal offers useless words of comfort to Tracey's parents and Zoe stands stoically by his side, sadness in her eyes. Her mind wanders as Wash wraps an arm around Zoe's shoulders to provide her with some support.

Before she knows it, preparations for Tracey's parents to take the coffin have been made and plans of moving onto the next job are set in place. Simon, still holding her hand, leads her back towards Serenity with the rest of the crew – Inara places a hand on her shoulder as she passes – and they end up in the engine room, just where she wanted to be.

"How are you...holding up?" Simon asks quietly, not quite looking her in the eyes.

She tries to smile but it comes out as more of a grimace. "I'm holding," she says weakly. "I'm sad and I'm going to miss Tracey – he was mighty nice – but I'm okay."

Nodding, Simon gestures with one hand towards the door. "River," he explains. "I should..."

"Go." She catches his eyes and finally manages a real smile as small and watery as it is. "I'm fine here."

He looks like he wants to protest but nods again and heads out. As he clears the doorway he flickers his gaze back to her. "I'll be around, you know, if you need..."

"Thank you." She wraps her arms around herself and runs her tongue over her lips. "Go make sure River's okay."

When he's gone and out of earshot, she allows herself to cry for the man who could have been more to her had he lived long enough.

fin.