Title: Deliberate Misquotations
Characters: Zoe Washburne, Kaylee Frye, Inara Serra, River Tam
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Getting the right words in the right order is everyone's problem.
Notes: Set after Serenity.
Kaylee tagged along on the bartering session because, finally, she'd convinced the captain that he didn't know gos se about parts that the ship needed. So Zoe strapped on an extra clip of ammunition as the captain cautioned Kaylee about mucking around with things she knew plum nothing about. He kept his gaze locked with Zoe's the entire time, and Zoe nodded as Kaylee nodded, their assent meaning entirely different things.
When the captain finally strode off, muttering about harridan mechanics and their demands, Zoe smiled. "You know anything about the folk we're visiting?"
"No," Kaylee admitted. "Not a lot. Are they really so dangerous?"
Zoe shrugged, examining the pockets of Kaylee's coveralls. "Plan on bringing any of your tools?"
"Tools?" Kaylee frowned. "We're just going to barter, I thought."
"You know how to shoot?" Zoe picked up a wrench, hefting its weight thoughtfully.
Zoe tucked the wrench in Kaylee's pocket. "Would you carry a knife?"
Kaylee shook her head.
"Then," Zoe said, selecting the smallest, sharpest screwdriver from the set. "You bring your tools, and you obey my orders." Kaylee took the screwdriver, point first, and hesitated. Zoe waited, and knew the mission might break with another word.
She checked her pistol twice more, and when she looked up, Kaylee was fixing the screwdriver into her hair, knotting around it until it looked like an ornament.
"Ready?" Zoe asked.
Zoe smiled and said, "I'm sure everything will be fine."
Inara wrapped her shawl more tightly around her shoulders as she walked into the Alliance den, mincing her steps to maximize the effect of the beads tinkling against the blade of her hip. There was a station at the back of the room, little more than a chair and a communications up-link. As Inara approached, the soldier manning the station swiveled in the chair, and his thorough assessment of her was testament to how very far out on the rim they were.
She raised an eyebrow, expression cooling until the soldier snapped out of his perusal and asked, "Ma'am?"
"I believe you have my friends," she said, not bothering to re-ignite her smile. "I've come to fetch them."
The soldier scowled. "Some very respectable citizens complained about those ladies."
"I'm sure they did," Inara responded. She folded her arms, and the rings on her fingers glinted in the light. "And I'm sure if my friends had broken any laws, you'd already be transporting them to the nearest detention center."
The soldier stood, one of his hands moving to the comm unit on his belt. "Well." His gaze swung low, and Inara clenched the fist hidden by her shawl. "I suppose my supervisor could be persuaded," he smirked, "to be merciful."
Inara cleared her throat. "And I suppose your supervisor would be pleased if the Alliance investigated the respectable citizens who siphon and resell the supplies from this base." She tilted her head. "Or I could neglect to report your," she sniffed, "operation to the Guild."
Under her stare, the soldier stammered, "I--"
"Call your supervisor," Inara said, and then she finally smiled. "I can wait."
River clambered over the metal railing of the cargo hold, dropping from the height like a cat. Kaylee watched her, sorting through a pile of broken and mostly-broken parts by touch. River climbed onto the table, settling cross-legged next to the metal scraps. Kaylee handed her a half a grav dampener and waited.
River twisted the broken filaments together, then dropped it as if it was still sparking. "A blade would have been easier," she mused, licking the tip of her index finger.
"Probably," Kaylee considered, "but all I had was the screwdriver."
"You were afraid," River observed.
"And mad as heck," Kaylee said. "Wasn't any reason for those folk to shoot at us like that." She tossed a broken coil to the side. "Zoe's all right?"
"We'd know if she wasn't," River replied. She handed Kaylee a bolt. "They were afraid."
Kaylee pursed her lips, and then she smiled. "Good."
A/N: Title and summary adapted from David Wagoner's Trying to Make Music. Link courtesy of breathe_poetry.