Fandom: Firefly (tv)
Characters: Inara/Kaylee
Summary/Teaser: Post-series, Kaylee finds Inara in an unexpected place.
Warnings: girl kissage
Spoilers: full series including unaired episodes, especially "Heart of Gold"
Notes: Written for kernelm for serenity_santa 2004. The request was: Femmeslash fic, porny preferred.
Word Count: 1542

Standard Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and co. own the characters, I’m just playing with them. I do, however, own this story, so don’t steal it. Archive it anywhere; just ask first.

Feedback is always appreciated. Make me blush with praise or rip apart the story with criticism, or both.

Set some months after “Objects in Space” (but written before seeing the movie) and including spoilers for unaired episodes “Heart of Gold” quoteage taken from here.

Simple Tastes
by Elizabeth Scripturient

They were picking up some supplies and Mal had agreed to stay for a couple days since they hadn’t been planetside since St. Alban’s, and that hadn’t been a vacation for any of them.

Turned out folk there were celebrating the winter solstice. Mal had learned to stay away from folk festivals, but he’d already agreed to stay for a couple days, so he couldn’t do much besides extract promises from everyone that they wouldn’t get themselves married or accused of witchcraft or otherwise bring trouble upon themselves.

Kaylee and Simon had stayed friendlylike these past few months, with Simon not botching the courting too often, but they weren’t really going anywhere. Taking care of River took up a lot of his time, and while he was getting better at acting like a real person and not just a transplanted doctor, she still felt awkward sometimes. She was trying to make peace with the fact that he didn’t love Serenity like she did and never would, but it was more than that. He had stopped acting like he was better than all of them -- most of the time, anyway -- but he was still so wedded to protocol. And he clearly didn’t know the protocol for courting, so she could forgive him his awkwardness, usually. But sometimes she wanted more than anything for him to just lean over and kiss and take her right there -- wherever “there” happened to be at the moment.

So when River dragged him off in one direction at the solstice celebration, Kaylee just decided not to follow. Too much time with Simon in yet another strange place and she’d need a vacation from her vacation. Especially since Simon still worried rather overmuch about River getting into trouble. Not that she particularly blamed him after some of the scrapes she’d gotten into, but still. Kaylee could go for a reasonably stress-free day or two planetside.

She’d seen a store selling beautiful dresses, so she thought she’d start there. Get lost in the pretty and hopefully get her mind off Simon.

She was doing rather a good job of both when the sound of a familiar voice startled her.

Kaylee turned and saw Inara talking to the sales clerk.

They had dropped Inara off at New Melbourne some months back, and Mal hadn’t spoken of her since. The rest of the crew had picked up on the unspoken command to follow suit; even River had managed to curb her usual tendency toward inappropriate bluntness on the matter, though admittedly she had been more quiet all around ever since the Jubal Early episode.

Kaylee hadn’t stopped missing her just because she hadn’t talked about her, though. She had thought of Inara every day. Every time the crew sat down for a meal, though they were often riotous and full of genuine happiness, still Kaylee missed Inara’s quiet presence. Sure, sometimes Inara had stories of her own to tell, or a cutting remark for the captain, but mostly she was just a quiet presence, almost regal, and Kaylee missed that. Course she also missed the moments when Inara was very much not regal, when Kaylee would sit with her in her shuttle and they would talk.

She realized she had gotten lost in thought and hadn’t turned her head away, because now Inara was looking straight at her. Definitely too late to look away now. Kaylee met Inara’s gaze and made herself keep it as Inara walked toward her.

“Kaylee, I wasn’t expecting to see you here. It’s so good to see you. Is the rest of the crew around as well?”

Kaylee shifted her weight from foot to foot uncomfortably. “We were picking up some supplies, and Cap agreed to give us a couple days shore leave, seeing as we hadn’t been planetside since St. Alban’s. When he heard about the solstice festivals he hightailed it right back onto Serenity, but he couldn’t go back on his word and make the rest of us leave, so we’re free for a couple days -- provided we don’t do anything stupid like get ourselves hitched or anything.” Kaylee laughed, but it didn’t quite come out right.

Inara still seemed perfectly calm, though. “So the others are around, in the village?” she asked.

“Yep. Zoe ‘n’ Wash went off kind of exploring, and River dragged Simon off to look at some shiny store or another, and Shepherd went to go find some place to meditate, said something about findin’ light in the darkness.”

Inara nodded. “You didn’t go with Simon?”

Kaylee blushed ever so slightly. “Naw, I thought he’d have his hands full with River, didn’t wanna mess up his shore leave any more. Not that we’re not gettin’ along,” she said hurriedly. “We’re real friendly, and he’s right sweet a lotta times. It’s just, I don’t know ‘Nara. He’s trying, he really is, but he’s just, he’s still part of that doctor world, and it seems ain’t nothin’ ever gonna change that. So I thought I’d just leave him with his sister this time and have myself some a my own fun.”

Inara smiled. “Well it looks like you’ve found it. Would you like to come back to my lodging? It isn’t quite as nice as the shuttle was, but there are comfortable seats, and I can pour you some hot tea.”

Kaylee looked quite pleased at the suggestion and eagerly followed Inara. “So you’ve got yourself set up here, doing your old work?”

Inara heard the concern, or perhaps it was regret, in her friend’s voice. “The people here are good people, but that doesn’t mean they’re puritanical. There are still many who seek companionship, particularly during these cold winter nights. And though they may not be as highly thought of by the Alliance as my previous clientele, they are kind people, full of integrity, and there are few whom I would wish to turn away from my bed.”

“But don’t you ever get tired of this work? Don’t you ever want someone to be your companion, and just yours, forever and ever?”

But Inara didn’t answer, because they had arrived at her cabin, and as she opened the door, allowing Kaylee to enter first, the look on Kaylee’s face told her that the question was clean forgotten.

Inara’s shuttle on Serenity had looked like it belonged in a palace, all the rich materials covering every surface, but this was a room like Kaylee’s old homestead. There were coat hooks on one wall of the entranceway, and the short hallway opened out into the sitting room. Kaylee instinctively kicked off her shoes as she walked toward the sitting room. The carpet was lush and grey. A brown couch against one wall faced a pair of windows which had dark green drapes tied back, revealing a view of a spreading valley with mountains dimly visible in the distance. Dark and glowing paintings hung above the couch. As they walked, Kaylee saw a kitchen with wooden furniture and pots and pans hanging from the walls. She was suddenly reminded of Serenity. They didn’t go into the kitchen, though. Inara steered her into the bedroom. It was perhaps the most simple room in the house. Tapestries whose designs more closely resembled folk quilts adorned the walls, but the room itself contained only a low dresser with a tea set resting on top of it, located to the side of one end of a large mattress which covered much of the floor.

Inara noted Kaylee’s confusion. “The tastes of the people here are simple. I find I have grown fond of them myself. The tea ceremony is something I have yet to be able to bring myself to give up, though.”

Kaylee just stood there, staring.

“Would you like to sit down? I could brush your hair as we talk.”

Kaylee obediently sat down on the mattress, nervous about mussing it up.

“Oh please don’t worry about it. Just make yourself comfortable.”

Inara pulled a hairbrush out the low dresser and settled herself behind Kaylee. “You have such wonderful hair, Kaylee.”

Kaylee blushed, then quickly hoped Inara wouldn’t notice the blush. “Y’ really think I’m pretty?”

“I have always known you were beautiful, Kaylee.”

Despite Inara’s suggestion of continued talking, they sat there quietly for a long time as Inara brushed Kaylee’s hair.

“Do you know what I told Mal when I made my decision to leave Serenity?” she said after a long while.

Kaylee shook her head, forgetting about the hairbrush, knowing only that she didn’t trust herself to speak.

Inara put the brush down beside the mattress. “I learned something from Nandi. Not just from what happened, but from her. The family she made, the strength of her love for them. That's what kept them together. When you live with that kind of strength, you get tied to it, you can't break away. And you never want to.”

She put her hands on Kaylee’s shoulders now.

“Do you know what Mal said to me? He said, ‘Life is too damn short for ifs and maybes.’ And Kaylee, much though you know how I hate to say it, I think he was right.”

She turned Kaylee’s head to face her own and kissed away the tears.

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