blue flamingos


Fandom: Firefly

Category/Rated: Gen, PG-13

Year/Length: 2007/ ~4522 words

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: Strange passengers, engine malfunctions, inappropriate remarks from Jayne... situation normal on Serenity.

Author's Notes: Written for [info]spook_me Prompts: Androids, They Walk Amongst Us

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.


"No," the captain says firmly, far enough back in the cargo bay that the sound of their voices won't carry onto the dock.

"Captain!" Kaylee protests. "They're desperate, and we're going that way anyway."

"With a hold full of trinkets that no-one's paid duty to transport off the planet," Mal says. "You remember what happened last time we took on passengers, or should I refresh your memory?"

Jayne actually took Kaylee's side when she first suggested it – she thinks it's because of how pretty the woman is, or just that she's a woman. He frowns at Mal now, looking like he's about to storm off. "It's fine for you to have women on the ship," he says, and the captain looks at him like he's regretting ever keeping Jayne around.

"I didn't know she was here!" he snaps.

"Please," Kaylee says, before they can get distracted by Saffron. Again. "It's only a few days." She gives him her most pleading smile.

He shakes his head and mutters something under his breath. "Fine. Fine. It's not like it's my ship or anything." Jayne grins and the captain stomps off up to the bridge. "But they pay double," he shouts back when he gets there.

"Shiny!" Kaylee says brightly, and goes off to fetch their two new passengers before Jayne can get to them.


Kaylee ends up sitting between Simon and Jayne at dinner, and normally she'd be distracted by how close Simon is to her, trying to lean against him, and press close when she hands him the dishes. Tonight, she barely notices, because she's sitting opposite Dara and she can't take her eyes off their new passenger. She's always thought Inara's the most beautiful woman she's ever seen, but even dressed in worn navy pants and a loose white shirt, Dara is gorgeous. Her long dark hair falls over her eyes every time she bends to take a bite of the food, and her skin is perfect, so pale Kaylee thinks she should be able to see the veins running under it. Her companion, Jaken, looks enough like her that Kaylee thinks they're twins.

"So, you two don't seem the type to have much business on Greenleaf," the captain says, handing the platter of roast tomatoes to Jaken with a fake smile.

"Captain!" Kaylee says, but Dara waves one elegant hand.

"Of course you will be curious," she says. She sounds like some of the ladies Kaylee sees on the core planets when they stop there, her voice light and accent-less. "We were with our father."

"Fancy gent, is he?" the captain asks.

Shepherd Book frowns at him, and so does Zoë, but Dara keeps her small polite smile. "He is – I suppose you would call him a doctor." She looks at Jaken, who nods. He hasn't spoken a word since Dara introduced him. "Yes, a doctor."

"Simon's a doctor," Kaylee says, before the captain can say anything else.

"Not any more," Simon corrects her. "But yes, I was."

"How interesting," Dara says. "What sort of doctor?"

"A trauma specialist. That was a long time ago though." He looks to his side, where River would normally sit, but she's had a bad week, and she's back in her room, sedated.

"It must be nice to be able to visit your father," Kaylee says. She hasn't been back to see her family since she left home.

"We were not visiting," Dara says, turning and tilting her head slightly towards Kaylee. Kaylee can't help leaning forward a bit. "We have been living with him, but now we go out into the world to make a place for ourselves."

"Really?" Kaylee asks. She's sure Dara and Jaken are older than her and she can't imagine staying so long at home. Maybe their father is too poor to have let them go earlier, looking at their clothes. Maybe he isn't a very good doctor. "What are you going to do?"

Dara lifts her shoulders in the slightest shrug. "I am certain we will find something. Our father trained us well."

"In what?" Jayne asks, leering at Dara from between Zoë and the captain. They both smack him without looking up from their food.

"Don't mind him," Wash says. "He was raised by trolls under a bridge."

Dara laughs and even Jaken smiles. Jayne half-rises like he's going to leap across the table at Wash, but the captain says, "Jayne," with warning, and he goes back to his food quietly.

"We have been well trained for anything that we might come across," Dara says, lifting her tea cup to her lips.

"Good for you," the captain says grumpily, and Inara finally joins the conversation to ask about their next destination and change the subject. Neither Dara nor Jaken say anything for the rest of the meal.


When Kaylee wakes up, it takes her a minute to figure out what woke her. Her clock tells her it's too early to be up, and she doesn't usually wake up before she needs to. She's thinking about getting up and making some tea when she feels it again – something wrong in Serenity's engine.

She pulls her boots on and climbs out of her room. The lights are still low, everyone's doors closed, but she's not really surprised when she hears the captain's voice yelling her name as she gets close to the engine room.

"Coming, coming!" She jumps the last three steps and catches herself on Mal's arm.

"What's wrong with my ship?"

"Give me a minute." The engine's still turning, but not with the usual comforting hum. She stops the spinning and crawls as far under the engine as she can, feeling along wires that she can't see until – there. "In my tool box, there's a coil of blue wire. And some clippers."

A moment later, the captain touches her leg, then presses the equipment into her hands. It's awkward without being able to see, but she doesn't have a hand free for a flashlight, and she's done this in the dark before. "Okay." She slides out from under the engine, and sets it spinning again, the hiccup gone from its hum.

The captain frowns at her. "Thought you said she'd be good to Langat."

"She should have been," Kaylee protests. "There was no reason for that wire to wear out."

"Fine. But run a full check in the morning. I don't want any more problems."

"Of course." As if she would have done anything else. She'd do it now if she wasn't still in her pajamas.

The captain pauses in the doorway. "Nice work."


Dara and Jaken are forbidden from the cargo bay – no exceptions, the captain said firmly – so Kaylee's not surprised when Dara walks into the kitchen as she's preparing dinner. There's nowhere much else for them to go, and their rooms are kind of small.

"May I be of assistance to you?" Dara asks.

"Um." Kaylee looks at the pile of tomatoes – again, tomatoes, why do they never get given anything else – and wishes she could be back in the engine room, except she crawled all over the engine earlier and there was nothing out of place. Sometimes wires do just wear out. "You could slice these for me while I boil the water."

"Of course." Dara holds the knife carefully, slicing slowly through the tomatoes, the point of the knife resting on the counter. She doesn't lift her eyes from what she's doing, and Kaylee wonders if she's done this before. "I heard that there was a problem with the engine in the night."

"Nothing serious," Kaylee assures her. "It's all fixed up now."

"You are the engineer?" Dara asks, sounding surprised. "I was under the impression it was someone else who flew the ship."

"It is." Kaylee watches water full the saucepan. "But I take care of the engine. Serenity's my girl."

She turns back to Dara, pan in one hand, and Dara's staring at her, her eyes blank, the knife still moving in her hand. "What?" Kaylee asks, feeling herself flush, confused.

Dara starts, and the knife slips, catching her hand and making her cry sharply.

"Here," Kaylee says, reaching for her. "Let me look at it, I should –"

Dara snatches her hand back before Kaylee can touch it, cradling it close to her body. "It is nothing," she says. "I will go to my quarters for a covering."

It's only when she's gone and Kaylee's picking up the knife to wash it that she realizes there's no blood on it.


"Kaylee said you cut yourself," Simon says at dinner. "Would you like me to take a look at it for you?"

"It is fine," Dara says, her voice as smooth as ever, but Kaylee thinks she hears disapproval, or maybe dismissal. She's not sure if it's to her or to Simon. "It was not a deep cut."

Her left hand – the one she cut – is hidden beneath the table as she eats with her right hand.

"Well, if you change your mind," Simon says, frowning slightly.

"Thank you, no," Dara says. "I apologize, I must seem rude to reject your offer, but in my family, it is not acceptable for a man unknown to us to touch a woman."

Jayne chokes on his food and Zoë thumps him firmly between the shoulders until he glares at her.

"Of course," Simon says, like he hears this all the time. For all Kaylee knows, he used to. They didn't have that kind of thing where she grew up, but she knows they didn't grow up anything alike.


She wakes up again that night, to the same wrongness in Serenity, and this time it's a part that's come loose from its moorings, hanging by one screw instead of four.

She can't find the screws anywhere, but there's plenty of places in the engine for them to have fallen and gotten lost.

"Kaylee?" the captain asks when she's finished fixing it.

"I don't know," she says. "I checked it this morning and there was nothing wrong."

He glares at the engine like it's insulting him.

"You know, it's not like it's that unlikely," she offers. "I mean, Serenity's gone a long way –" She stops when he turns to glare at her. "I'll check everything again in the morning."

"See that you do," he says, and stomps off to the bridge.

Kaylee sighs, pats her engine in reassurance, and takes herself back off to bed.


It's hard to wake up in the morning – her eyes want to close more than she wants them to be open, and she bangs her elbow on the metal frame of her door, climbing out. Sitting at the table, warm steam from her tea drifting over her face, she can hardly keep her eyes from closing again.

"Kaylee," the captain says quietly, nudging her arm. "You want some of this?"

Kaylee blinks at him slowly and he puts the bowl down in front of her then rests the back of his hand against her forehead. "You feeling okay?"

"M'good," Kaylee tells him, but she can't help swaying forward, just a bit, when he takes his hand away.

"You getting sick, mei-mei?" Wash asks from across the table. He's only ever called her that once, when the Fed shot her and he thought she couldn't hear him. She could though, and it made her feel warm all over.

"Nope," she says, trying to make herself sit up and be awake. She has no idea why she's so tired. "I'm fine. Sleepy."

Mal runs his hand over her hair and sits down. "Doc's never around except when you don't want him. Eat your food and go see him. Can't have my best mechanic getting sick in the middle of nowhere."

"I'm your only mechanic," Kaylee reminds him, spooning up her breakfast without really noticing what she's eating. There's not many of them at breakfast this morning, just her and Mal and Zoë and Wash. It's not all that unusual, but Jayne's usually there to eat while the food's still hot. Breakfast, like every other meal, only gets made once.

"Definitely can't have you getting sick, then," Mal says, and he walks her down to the infirmary when she's finished eating, depositing her in Simon's care.

It feels nice to lie down and let him take care of her. He has nice hands and he touches her very carefully, like she's fragile. She knows she's not, but sometimes it's nice to be with someone who wants to care for her anyway.

He asks a lot of questions, his voice washing over Kaylee when she lets her eyes slide closed again, and finally sticks a needle in her arm and tells her she can stay there till it's run through and see if it makes her feel better.

"You gonna stay with me?" she asks.

Simon blinks like he's surprised, then smiles. "I'm going to get something for River and me to eat before it's all gone, but I'll come back and check on you, all right? Just close your eyes and rest."

She's not sure how much time has passed before she hears the doors slide open again and opens her eyes, expecting to see Simon. Instead, Dara is standing on the threshold, watching her.

"Hey," Kaylee says.

Dara smiles. "I did not want to wake you. Also, I was not sure if I should intrude."

"No, it's fine. Come in. It's nice to have someone to talk to." Kaylee pushes herself as far upright as she can and grins at Dara.

"I am sorry that you are feeling unwell," Dara offers, standing just out of Kaylee's reach, her hands folded neatly behind her back. Kaylee imagines her in one of Inara's beautiful dresses and wonders when Inara will find out where she is and come to visit.

"I'm fine, just tired. The captain worries about me." She thinks about it for a second. "Actually, he worries about everyone. Just doesn't like for us to know it."

"I see," Dara says, though Kaylee's not at all sure she does. "I suppose it is good for you to be with someone who does."

"With –" Kaylee looks at her, but her face doesn't change. "You mean, with, that way?" Dara nods once, making Kaylee laugh. "Oh, no. No, no, no. There's nothing like that between us." It's not that she doesn't love her captain, but she could never be with him like that, and neither could he with her.

"I see," Dara says again. She opens her mouth to say something else, but before she can get a word out, something clatters in the open doorway, and Kaylee looks across to see River standing there.

"Hi River," she says carefully. She hasn't seen River awake since before they left Greenleaf, and River can take a few days to get back to normal after Simon's had her sedated. "Have you met Dara?"

"No," River says, but she sounds frightened, and she's moving back from the doorway even though she's still holding onto it. "No, not here – not here."

"River, honey..." Kaylee holds out her hand and wishes Simon was here, wishes that she wasn't attached to a needle and a drip. "There's nothing to be afraid of."

"Don't – don't –" River's eyes go wide and her whole body twitches. "Simon! Simon!"

"He's just gone to the kitchen, sweetheart, tell me what's wrong."

"Perhaps it would be best if I left," Dara says, taking a step towards River and the door, but River flinches back even further, finally letting go of the doorframe and pushing herself against the wall.


Kaylee's about to pull the drip out and go to her when Simon appears, empty-handed, to wrap his arms around River and lead her away. Kaylee can still hear her voice, high and frightened, until Dara closes the door. "She's not – it doesn't mean anything," Kaylee says. She doesn't really know how to explain the way River gets sometimes. She's used to it by now.

"Do not concern yourself," Dara says. "She is obviously disturbed."

"I guess," Kaylee says uncomfortably. "She had – she's not very well."

"I understand," Dara says. "I will leave you to rest. Please apologize to the doctor if I have upset his patient further."

"Sure," Kaylee says absently. She can already feel her eyes closing again, her whole body aching with exhaustion.


Simon eventually comes back from dealing with River to take the needle out of Kaylee's arm, but he's not paying much attention to her, and she doesn't feel cared for at all, more like she's just one more thing he has to deal with. She wonders if this is what all his patients felt like, then tells herself she's being mean. When he was a surgeon, when he didn't have to worry about what the Alliance did to his sister, he must have been as compassionate as he is when he doesn't have to worry about River here.

She's still a little guiltily happy to escape, telling him she feels much better now. It's not really a lie, especially since she didn't feel ill before, just tired.

Her engine room is a relief, familiar and comforting, and she spends the rest of the day checking everything again, looking for anything that might be about to go wrong this time. She's probably only tired because she has to keep getting up in the night to fix things.

The whole time she's there, though, she feels like someone's watching her. It wouldn't be the first time – Jayne sometimes lurks and watches her working, and so does the captain, especially since Jubal Early was on the ship – but both of them would come out if she said anything, and this time no-one does. She even gets up once to check, but there's no-one there, and she tells herself she's being an idiot. A paranoid idiot.

River's missing from dinner, which means Simon is as well; Inara has stayed in her shuttle all day, and Jayne is missing too. The captain just shrugs when Kaylee asks where he is, a look in his eyes that she's never seen before that makes Zoë grin and quickly hide it when the captain looks her way.

"Something you want to say?" he asks, and Zoë shakes her head firmly, her whole face solemn. "No, sir. Pass the rice please?"

The captain glares at her for another few seconds, then hands over the rice. At the foot of the table, Dara and Jaken watch the whole exchange. Kaylee wonders if they're as lost as she is.


Kaylee's not really surprised when she wakes up to Serenity sounding wrong, well aware that she was expecting it even after checking everything. She's never had problems so consistently before, but the captain's always said the ship doesn't like Alliance planets, and Greenleaf's close enough to one some days.

She expects him to be in the engine room when she gets there, but he's not, she can see even with the lights dimmed. She's pretty sure she wouldn't have noticed the figure in the shadows at all if it hadn't moved, making her jump, clutching her hand to her heart. "Who's there?"

"It is only me, Kaylee. I did not mean to alarm you." The figure takes another step and becomes Dara, her pale skin almost glowing in the darkness.

"Oh, you gave me a fright," Kaylee tells her. She crouches down to open her tool box, because it sounds like the problem is a loose fuel line and she can fix that easily enough. "What are you doing in here? The captain won't be too happy if he catches you."

"I am aware of his wishes for his passengers," Dara says, and lays her hand on Kaylee's shoulder. It's heavier than Kaylee would have expected, like she's leaning all of her weight on Kaylee, and it feels cool through Kaylee's shirt. "But I wished to see you, without the others."

Kaylee puts her screwdriver down and stands up slowly. Dara's hand doesn't move from her shoulder. "You wanted to see me?"

"Yes." Dara smiles. "You said that you were not involved with your captain. So I do not believe it is improper for me to offer myself."

"It's not – improper," Kaylee says. She knows she's frowning, but she doesn't often get gorgeous women propositioning her. Actually, she doesn't often get anyone propositioning her. "I'm just not – I have to fix the engine."

Impatience flickers over Dara's face, and Kaylee thinks it's the first time she's seen emotion on her face. She doesn't get a chance to think any more, because Dara's other hand is on her waist, and she's being pushed back against the wall, Dara's mouth on hers, lips cool as her hand is, but Kaylee hasn't kissed anyone in months and Dara's offering, so she puts her hands on Dara's body and kisses her back, waiting for Dara's skin to warm to hers and –

And Dara jerks away from her suddenly, leaving Kaylee holding empty air.

Is pulled away, she realizes a moment later, hearing Dara's body slam into the other wall, and she opens her eyes to see Zoë holding her there with an arm across her neck, even her back looking more angry than Kaylee has ever seen her look. "What's going on?" she asks.

Zoë ignores her. "Tell me how I stop him," Zoë growls, low in her throat.

Dara blinks. "I do not understand," she says smoothly. She's perfectly still under Zoë's hand, but it's not a frightened stillness. Kaylee's known Zoë for years and even she's a little frightened when Zoë gets cold like this.

"Yes you do. Tell me how I stop him, or I'll start experimenting with you."

"Zoë!" Kaylee exclaims. This has to be some bizarre nightmare, it has to be. Zoë doesn't threaten their passengers like this.

"Perhaps you can tell me what I have done to make you act this way," Dara says calmly.

"Brought your – brother, is it – into my home," Zoë says. "Let us carry you thinking you were people. Let him sabotage this ship and injure its crew. Tried to seduce Kaylee so he could do the same to me and my husband. Should I go on?" She presses more firmly against Dara's neck. "Tell me what I have to do to stop him."

"I do not understand what I have done that is wrong," Dara says. "He is not well. I was only doing what I could to allow him to become better. Is that not what you would have done?"

"Not at the expense of someone else," Zoë says. "How. Do. I stop him?"

"I fear you will find that is not possible," Dara says calmly, and surges forward, knocking Zoë to the floor. Kaylee cries in surprise, but Zoë's on her feet before the sound's finished echoing through the engine room, her pistol in her hand, Dara still coming towards her. There's an explosion of sound, too loud in the small room, a shower of sparks, and Dara collapses to the floor.

Everything goes very still.

"That's a good answer," Zoë says. She turns to Kaylee. "Come on."

Wash, it turns out, is watching over Jaken, tied to a post in his and Zoë's room with more rope than Kaylee, still trying to figure out what's happened, would have guess Serenity had on her.

"Stand back," Zoë says, and shoots Jaken in the chest. There's the same shower of sparks, and something in his body seems to turn off, even though his eyes stay open. Kaylee shudders, but she can't look away.

"Kaylee?" Zoë asks gently. "You okay?"

"I, er –" She takes a deep breath. "Did you find a piece of fuel line connector when you were tying him up?" she asks.


"Does it seem to anyone else that this is a little familiar?" Simon asks three hours later, nudging Kaylee to one side so he can check Inara's pulse again. Inara has a folded cloth over her eyes and groans every time Kaylee moves too quickly, but she let Kaylee curl up next to her so Kaylee's sticking around.

"Which part?" Kaylee asks.

"People being drugged by a passenger," Simon clarifies.

"Saffron wasn't an android though," Kaylee says. She's still feeling a little shocked, trying to get her head around the idea that something made of metal could have a use for human parts. The idea that someone she said was safe to have on the ship was actually more dangerous than anyone they've had for a while, and that no-one even noticed what was happening.

"True," Simon says absently, taking out another bottle of the antidote he's already given Mal, Jayne and Shepherd Book, all of them, like Inara, suffering headaches from whatever drug Jaken was dispensing through his skin. He's already made both Kaylee and Inara take some, even after Kaylee pointed out that she never got near Jaken; his theory is that Dara was dispensing something less potent and that's why Kaylee was so tired.

"Maybe Mal has a point about not taking on passengers," Inara says softly from under her cloth. "Present company excepted."

"Thanks," Simon says dryly, and leaves, taking his medical kit with him.

Kaylee curls herself carefully against Inara again. "Do you want another cloth?"

"I'm fine, mei-mei." Inara puts her arm round Kaylee. "Did you fix whatever they did to the ship?"

Kaylee's glad Inara can't see her face, sure she's blushing. "They didn't do anything," she confesses.

"I thought the problems all started when we picked them up."

"They did!" Kaylee exclaims. "I think Serenity just didn't like having them there. I think she was trying to tell me."

"Kaylee, not so loud," Inara says quietly.

"Sorry," Kaylee whispers, falling quiet, drifting in Inara's dimly lit shuttle, still feeling Dara's cool hands on her body, her cool lips against Kaylee's.

It was kind of nice to be wanted, even if it was only pretend.


They detour, when everyone's walking around again, to a planet where terra-forming didn't take, because it's the safest place to leave the broken androids. Kaylee goes down to the cargo bay with the captain and Zoë, even though the captain tells her it's not a good idea.

"Ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng!" Mal, going first down the steps, curses. He hits the intercom button. "Wash, did I or did I not talk to you about opening the doors on strange planets when there's no-one in the cargo bay?"

Kaylee jumps the last two steps and sees the outer doors open, though the inner doors are still sealed – good thing too, since the oxygen level is liveable down here, but only just.

"Oh so very many times," Wash says. "Which would be why I didn't do it."

The captain curses again, yanking open the door to the storage chest they were keeping the two bodies in, Zoë next to him with her gun drawn. Kaylee keeps well behind them, but she can still see.

There's nothing there.

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