Jayne took the steps from the cargo bay two at a time, rubbing his hands in anticipation as he hurried toward the kitchen.
Preacher had brought honest to goodness bread back from visiting the abbey, and unless River had taken it into her
head to ruin it all, there ought to be some left.
Kaylee was sitting at the big table, an intent frown on her normally sunny face. He reached out to tweak one of her ponytails
as he entered the room. "Dining room's for eating," he teased her, "not...what are you doing, anyway?"
"What's it look like?" she asked, sticking out her tongue and holding up the book so he could see. "I'm reading."
"Reading?" He frowned and took down the box the Shepherd kept the bread in. Not that he didn't think Kaylee could read...seemed
like Kaylee could manage just about anything she put her hand to...but he'd never really thought about her actually doing
it. "What for?"
"It's poetry. I bought it on Persephone." She laid the book flat on the table and smoothed the pages. "I'm trying to pick
up a little bit of culture."
He cut two thick slices of bread and put the rest away. "Still trying to impress the doctor?"
She sighed. "He's so smart. I'm just this dumb prairie bunny, and he knows all about books and politics and history..."
"So you're trying to get yourself some poetry." He held one of the slices out to her. She took it with a hopeful little
"You think it'll work?"
He shrugged and glanced down at the little book under her strong brown hands. "Don't know. But then, I ain't him." Her
smile faded a little and she took a small bite of the bread. He headed for the door. "Mal wants us to take a look at the
generator on shuttle two. When you're done studying."
"Meet you there in an hour," she said, leaning closer over the book. He shook his head and walked away.
He lost track of time, fell asleep in his bunk, and wound up double-timing it to the shuttle ten minutes late. On his way
past the passenger bunks he noticed Kaylee's little book lying on the floor against the wall, the cover bent back at an angle.
He picked it up and tried to straighten it again, frowning. Must've been thrown pretty hard to bend like that.
He left it on a circuit box outside the shuttle. Kaylee was already kneeling in front of the generator with the panel off,
poking around with a screwdriver. He glanced at her face as he hunkered down beside her- her eyes were red and a little puffy,
but her jaw was set like steel. Not the time to tease or joke with little Kaylee; she might just stick that screwdriver into
his arm. He held his peace and squinted into the guts of the machine.
"It shorts out when I run a diagnostic, but I can't find where the trouble is." She sat back on her heels and scowled at
it. "Might be farther in than I can reach from here."
"That's what Mal keeps me around for," he said, standing up and cracking his knuckles. "Got all the power couples undone
so I don't get fried?"
She tugged a few plugs free and nodded. "Let's see what we've got." He dragged the engine out of its housing, huffing with
effort as the metal scraped and whined in protest. When it was finally clear and far enough out in the middle of the floor
that she could move all the way around it, he flopped down into the pilot's chair to watch Kaylee pick and prod.
"Could be the..." The next words trailed off into a mumble and then a hiss of pain. "Ow!" She put her thumb in her mouth
and slammed her other hand on the floor. "Gorram it!"
He sat a little straighter as she picked up the screwdriver and threw it across the shuttle. "Kaylee..."
"I don't know!" she shouted, getting up and turning away from the generator. "I don't know what's wrong with it. Guess I'm
too stupid to understand how engines work, too."
"Now, you know that ain't true," he said awkwardly, staring at the machine. "Something happen with Simon?"
She shook her head, angrily wiping at her eyes. "I'm just not smart enough to be in his world, I guess. I don't know about
his allusions and his symbolism and his...I don't know what all." She put her hands on her hips and turned back to the engine.
"Just stupid little border-planet Kaylee."
He looked at her tearstained face and wondered how much pretty little Simon Tam would like having his face make an acquaintance
with the dining table. "You know how to fix this," he said flatly. She sniffled and shook her head.
"No, I don't either."
"Yeah, you do. Just look again. Look closer."
She glared at him; he glared back; and after a moment, she got back on the floor and started fussing with parts again. He
"I guess, maybe..." she muttered after a moment, "if the left spark bank's firing too early, the charge might jump across
the catalyst manifold, and that would short out the core artery...hand me that tester?"
He grinned as he picked up the little device and moved to her side. "Now that's a hell of a lot prettier than poetry to my
She blushed. "You think? Doubt Simon would agree."
"He'll come around," Jayne muttered, looking at the jumble of parts under Kaylee's deft little hands. He'd see to that himself,
even if the only way to make the doctor understand what it took to keep the ship running was to put him in the airlock and
start venting atmo.
"Got it!" Grease-stained fingers crawled into his hand and squeezed with delight. That was kind of like poetry too.