DISCLAIMER: Firefly/Serenity isn't my copyright, this is a not-for-prophet story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Chinese translations provided at the end. (Series:) This is the 6th in the Opal Shire series, continued from "A Voice Calling From The Dark"
ARCHIVING: You can post this story to other sites if you want, just make a good-faith effort to notify the author when doing so. If you make any modifications, additions, or subtractions to the story before posting to other sites, please make sure to note that in general at the start of the story and make it clear the modifications weren't done by the original author. You can also translate this story into other languages if you want, just note that it's a translation when posting and that the translation wasn't done by the original author.
FEEDBACK: jess27@live.com (I'd love to hear from you.)

Company For The Journey
By Jessica Knight

 

Kaylee heard her footfalls on the wet ground and imagined they were keeping good time with her own heartbeat as she and River ran, hand in hand, through the woods in the pouring rain and blustery wind. Thunder sounded in the distance, with lightning flashing in the sky only a second after, visible even through the tree cover.

Opal Shire colony'd had its own climate control setup, originally. That wasn't typical for a colony world of course, because they cost so darn much. But the governor and his cronies who'd founded this place were the type'd had the money to spend on it. Course, trouble was, to keep workin' right, those things needed monitoring, upkeep, that sort of thing. And the Reavers would'a done away with whomsoever it had been who would'a been doin' that, now wouldn't they've? They might even a'set the control center on fire or blown apart some of the satellites on their ways towards planetfall for all she knowed. All of which meant that the relatively idyllic weather they'd been enjoying previous to now wasn't ever likely to've lasted forever on. Obviously, Kaylee had hoped that it would'a held out a good deal longer than this - at least until they'd made it to the colony town would'a been highly agreeable - but well, apparently that simply wasn't to be, now was it?

There was no sense grousin' about it now though, was there? She'd enough to worry about at the moment making sure she kept pace with River, who was the one leading them through the trees at a fast pace, her course steady - though Kaylee didn't have a clue where they were heading exactly.

Kaylee'd at first suggested they find a likely looking clear spot and set up their tent. River had shook her head and pointed up saying over the wind and rain that it wasn't safe and that rabbits like them needed to run, long and far, and she'd taken her hand and they'd run. Kaylee had considered pulling River to a halt and asking her why they needed to run, or why they were apparently rabbits now for that matter, but she'd thought that would probably be wasted effort, because, really, by this point she trusted River more'n enough to just go on faith in the matter.

Her legs and lungs started to burn after she wasn't sure how long. She was getting used to the rain stinging her eyes, and she didn't feel so cold anymore from all the runnin' she was doin'. Her thoughts were gone blank, her eyes just locked on the back of River's head as she followed, both their footfalls in steady rhythm making a drumbeat together with the rain. The lightning seemed to be almost chasing them, Kaylee imagined - and was it more imagination, or was she smelling smoke faint on the air?

Sometime later, they broke out into a clearing at the foot of some rocky hills. Over in one direction, Kaylee could just see a range of mountains off in the distance. Her and River's eyes met then, and Kaylee was shook inside to see fear reflected back plain as day in River's eyes. River tried to smile a little for her then, and Kaylee smiled back, feeling shaky too as she felt herself start to shiver a little from the cold and the damp, her legs start to ache even more now that they'd stopped running. River looked away then, and started leading them over towards the rocky hills, going at a slower, but still hurried, pace.

Getting up on into the rocks in a short while, they began climbing up as they went. Kaylee got to feeling a little numb inside after a while of it, like her actions weren't really her own anymore. They really were, she knew. She was telling her legs to keep going, her arms to pull her up, her hands to close on rock, and her eyes to always keep track of River because she was scared in a very deep way of what would happen if they got separated - but, in all of that, River was the only part of it that truly seemed real to her anymore.

A ways up the hills, River helped pull her up onto a ledge. It took all of Kaylee's effort to manage it, and when she was up and over, sitting on the cold and wet rock, her and River's eyes met a for a moment that seemed sort of timeless somehow, and then the world just slipped away from her and everything went black.


When she woke next, the vivid memory of her experiences running through the rainstorm and climbing up into the hills with River came to her right away and her eyes flew open almost in surprise that it had actually happened. She sat up and immediately regretted it - her whole body felt like it was all a fire with aches. "Tiāntáng hé wǒ de zǔxiān bǎoyòu hé bǎohù wǒ." She spoke softly to herself, groaning and looking absently down at her lap to see thin travel blankets pooled there.

"Tiānkōng shì wǒmen de jiāyuán, nǐ de línghún cóng yáoyuǎn de kuángfēng qiánwǎng zhǎo wǒ. Nà nǐ gēn wǒ yīrán shì wǒ zuìdà de kuàilè, ér wǒ zuìdà de fúqi..." She heard the soft words spoken, warming her heart and surprising the heck out of her with the sheer romance of them. Like a love poem...

She looked up then and met River's eyes, felt River's hand caress her cheek, and Kaylee couldn't help but smile in sheer recognition of that feeling she was getting more and more lately whenever she just glanced River's way - a feeling of just rightness and home and deep belonging. She swallowed, and tried to speak, though her emotions weren't makin'it so easy. "Hey you... Fancy meeting you here." She said, bringing her hand up to touch River's hand on her face.

"Not so fancy." River spoke, sounding a little bit shy. "Just a tent with the roof off inside a cave in a rocky hill. It's positively rustic. I did build a fire for us though?" She offered hopefully, as if that might start to make up for everything yesterday. Her eyes betrayed her though - something definitely wasn't right.

"Long as you're here, it's more than fancy enough, far as I go." Kaylee said, sighing and closing her eyes a moment, remembering like... "You carried me here, didn't you?" She asked as she opened her eyes and met River's gaze again, her concern mounting all the more when she did.

River just smiled a little. "We're safe now." Was all she said back.

"But safe from what? You never did say, you know." Kaylee asked.

"Holocaust." River replied softly, looking away and dropping her hand from Kaylee's face. "Many are screaming and burning - dying in fire, even as we receive it's warmth." She explained, her voice a deep tired, and hollow sounding.

Kaylee sat up straighter and touched River's face as River had touched hers. "A forest fire, you mean?" She guessed softly. "From... from the lightning?" She asked. She could smell it on the air, she realized. She had smelled that scent once before, so she knew it for what it was.

River looked up and met her eyes then. "The screams are so very loud." She told her softly, tears falling down her face. She looked just so tired, so drained. "I can't help them, not at all, only you and Lola... I wish... I wish it was over... I wish I could sleep."

"Lola?" Kaylee couldn't help but ask.

"She's over there." She tilted her head to the side a bit, indicating where Kaylee should look. "Small and furry, just a young girl like I was once, really."

Kaylee looked and saw a rabbit cradled in a towel by the fire. It was probably the most completely cute thing she'd ever seen in her entire life. She looked back over at River and her heart broke for her more'n a little.

Kaylee moved forward then and took River up in her arms in a crushing hug, just clinging to her really, mindless of her own body's aches. "I'm here." She told her girlfriend softly. "Just... just stay with me. I'm here for you... I always will be..." She spoke it like a promise, feeling somehow almost as if she might understand, even feel a little, what River must be going through. She didn't know how, would probably never know the how of River Tam, but she believed her now, whatever she said. If River said she felt, heard, the trees and animals and such out there as they burned to death, Kaylee knew it was truth. And she knew that just knowing, that was all the mattered. The hows and whyfors mattered not at all.

River started to cry in earnest then, to weep really, and to cling to her.

Kaylee just held her and cooed soft words of comfort for her, feeling tears start to fall from her own eyes at how River was suffering. She imagined then, what she guessed must have happened. That River must have known from the start that there was going to be a fire once the rain died down. That that must have been why they'd run. And then, in the hills, when Kaylee had passed out finally, River must have carried her here, probably left their things and gone back for them later. Probably found Lola, and brought her back too. She would have started the fire then, dried Kaylee off, changed her into her dry second set of clothes, got her under the blankets, and set up camp for them - and all while... all while she'd have been hearing death screams in her head somehow... She'd gotten through it anyway though, she'd held it all back... for her. Until now, at least... until River saw that she was awake and safe...

In that moment... Kaylee promised herself, swore it as solemn as could be, that she'd be there for River from now on - no matter what came. She promised herself, that, no matter what she had to do, she'd do it.

Kaylee held the girl she loved in her arms like she was until River finally started to calm down some, and then she managed to get River into the tent bedding with her. Luckily, River only had on a pair of shorts and a shirt anyway. They curled up under the covers together, River snuggling up close in her arms and, at length, drifting off into sleep. Kaylee herself felt tired enough that she was sure she could go to sleep again too if she wanted.

She sat up and looked around. The fire's warmth was nice, but if she rolled the tent's roof up over them, it would keep them warmer than the fire would. No, the fire River had started had more been for drying their clothes and things than for keeping them warm. River had set it up so the clothes probably wouldn't catch fire, but she'd had to put them close enough to get dry of course, so the danger was there... In any case, if you had the choice, it really wasn't a good idea to go to sleep with a fire still burning no matter what the circumstances. Never really knew what could happen. She could dowse it of course. It would delay their journey some because they'd need to set the fire again later to dry the clothes the rest of the way, but that hardly mattered much now. What mattered to her was that she'd have to get up out of the tent bed and leave River to do it, even if it was just for a little bit of time, and that was something she just wasn't willing to do right now.

Kaylee laid back on her back, gathering River to her again. She'd just have to stay awake for now, she decided. There was nothing else for it.

For the first little while, her thoughts were calm; River's steady heartbeat, her soft breathing, and the familiar warmth of her body a comfort to her. After a while though, her thoughts grew more stormy. Thoughts of River, River's life, her own life, Inara under the mountain, Serenity - the Captain, Zoe, Wash, Simon, Jayne, Shepard Book... Even if maybe the others might not, the Captain or Zoe, either one of'm would'a come back for her if'n they could, she was dead sure of it - and there was no way Simon wouldn't have come back for River by now if he could either. Something had definitely gone sideways up there... and if that was true... If that was true, and with the climate control down like it was...

Well, it might be alright - the weather might even out reasonably on its own before long... it probably would in fact. The terraformers'd made this place wouldn't let a planet like this go depending just on climate control to make it livable after all - climate control was just... a luxury feature, really. Keep it from gettin' too cold, too damp, keep things sunny and warm with only enough temperate rain to keep the crops nice'n happy and the wells full year-round.

Trouble might be though... if the Reavers really had knocked a satellite or two out of the sky on the way down, and/or if they really had burned down the control center... well, she wasn't any expert, never having even seen one of those setups in person before, but she imagined that a partially functioning or partially malfunctioning climate control system could potentially wreak a lot of damage before it gave up the ghost and died completely... and how long would that take? Days, months... years... she had no fit way a'knowing, did she? Not unless she could find the control center or some kind of console with ties to it she could run a diagnostic from. Once they got to the city, she realized, she'd have to make it a point to follow up on that. Would be way too big a risk not to, circumstances allowin' of course. If worse came to worse - no control interface to be found and the weather getting too dangerous to be survivable in, she considered they might even conceivably have no other better choices than to scrounge for parts to fix Inara's shuttle and then fly up into orbit to disable a satellite or two... Here's hoping it wouldn't come to that.

Her thoughts having carried her away for a time, it was River stirring just a little in her sleep that brought Kaylee's thoughts back to the present moment again. Kaylee ran her fingers through River's hair, the simple action doing a lot to calm her troubled thoughts again. It was amazing really, just how much it affected her now - just touching River's hair, just... everything about the woman in her arms - how much she affected her now.

It was actually hard for her to even think about sometimes.

She closed her eyes then, and glanced over at the fire. It had died down to embers now, and she was feelin' tired too, like she wasn't sure she'd be able to keep herself awake much longer, even trying as much as she was. Well, River was sleeping peacefully now, so she could probably get away with it for a moment or two. It any case, it was a small chance that it could happen, but she sighed and decided to get up and smother the embers with dirt just to make completely sure they didn't catch the clothes to fire while they slept.

She did that, took just a second to look in on Lola too, and when she turned around to go back to the tent bed, River was sitting up, staring blankly at her, a bewildered look on her face.

Kaylee rushed back over to her and got down on the bedding with her, caressing her face and meeting her eyes. Neither of them said anything, but River kissed her then, just lightly enough that Kaylee absently thought she might be dreaming this.

They settled back down under the covers then and Kaylee pulled the tent roof closed over them, as it was starting to get pretty cold in this little cave of theirs without the fire. Kaylee looked into River's eyes and kissed her back once just as softly before they both took off the clothes they had on, closed their eyes, and went off to sleep again, holding each other as close as they ever had or likely ever could.


In the morning, Kaylee woke up first and was content to just stay in bed in their tent until her girlfriend woke up too. When River did, her eyes were dull and sleepy and she yawned and cuddled up to her and closed her eyes again. Kaylee smiled a little to herself at that and closed her eyes too, happy to let River take her time waking up - after last night, goodness and the daylight both knew she certainly deserved it.

She wasn't really sure at all how much longer it was after that that River stirred again and sat up, blinking. "Morning's here..." She said softly, looking down at her hands as if she didn't quite recognize them and was curious what they were. They were scraped and dirty looking, just like Kaylee knew her own here from all that climbing they'd done on the rocks.

Kaylee sat up too and pulled River back down onto the bedding with her, getting on top of her some and looking down into her eyes, caressing her face and running a hand through her hair. River looked up into her eyes with something like awe or wonder there, and she smiled just a little, reaching up and touching Kaylee's face in return. "Your eyes are magic..." River spoke, sounding kinda dreamy, like she hadn't really woken up all the way. River moved up then and kissed her and somehow Kaylee found herself on her back and under her girlfriend before she'd realized it was happening, and River was kissing her more - not in any hurry at all, but it felt so intensely intimate Kaylee could hardly believe how it made her feel - so good and warm inside and alive and like birds with fluttering wings were living in her chest.

Kaylee was caught spellbound by it, and she let herself get completely caught up in just kissing with River. She felt like she could do this forever, even if that did sound silly in her head, even now in the moment. She didn't really care that it was going to stop at some point though... Except, when, who knew how long a time later, it did, and River was looking intently down into her eyes with a dazed sort of look in her eyes, she did wish that it had kept going like that between them at least a little while longer.

"How, um... So, how are you feeling then?" Kaylee asked her softly.

River sat back, straddling Kaylee's hips and looked at the tent around them and then down at her. Her head was touching the top, it was so close inside this little tent they shared (not that Kaylee was minding that at all, much the opposite actually). "My head feels fuzzy..." River admitted, their eyes catching and locking in a meaningful but elusory sort of way. River just looked into her eyes for a while then without blinking, until Kaylee blinked and then River laughed a little nervously and lay down beside her. "You be on top now?" She asked. "I liked the kissing part better."

Kaylee smiled just a little to herself and, pointedly ignoring all her aches (which were feeling much improved, if they still bothered her some), rolled them over so she came over top of River and agreeably started kissing her again. River reciprocated automatically and Kaylee let herself move in closer, as close as she could, and as she did, she felt River noticeably relax in her arms, felt the difference in the way she kissed. Like maybe she was finding her way back to really wakefulness again... or at least starting to. Kaylee didn't blame her girlfriend for being tired and sleepy, she still was too - after all, they'd both ran all out through the pouring rain and then went climbing through the hills on wet and slippery rocks until she'd fainted and River had had to carry her who knew how much farther. She was slightly amazed River was doing as well as she was by this point - it was kind of awe-inspiring how resilient she was, really.

As they kissed, the passion between them increased. Hands gliding over soft skin, their bodies moving together in a way that just felt magnetic and nearly out of either of them's control.

River's hand cupping one of her breasts and squeezing, the other hand on her ribs, the small of her back, then cupping her butt. Kaylee's hand, her fingers, inside of her lover, making her tremble and gasp in desire and pleasure, guiding her over the edge of passion... and then River was on top again and Kaylee was soon just completely lost...

The whole experience had a certain dream-like, ethereal quality to it, and when it was over and she came back to herself and met River's eyes, she found something disturbingly distant there. River looked almost... absent. "River..." She spoke, looking into her eyes.

"...Everything will be alright..." River said, in a voice that was quiet as a whisper, but unmistakably not a whisper.

River lay down next to her then and cuddled up with her and Kaylee couldn't quite bring herself to say anything else somehow either. She just held River to her like that for as long as River wanted.

After a while, River did get up though, and fetched her clothing from the zip-pouch that served as their pillow. Kaylee went to retrieve her own set of clothing that was strewn about on top and beneath the covers (where it had been carelessly left the night before because she hadn't wanted to bother stowing it away in the second zip-pouch, her pants and over shirt having provided enough of a pillow to get by on.

When they were dressed, River opened the tent roof and got up to standing, going over to check on the other clothes. "Not dry all the way..." She said absently, going to start another fire.

Kaylee watched her from sitting on their tent bedding, her legs brought up, arms crossed over her knees, head resting on her crossed arms. It just went that way. River brought her food from their packs and they ate, not saying very much.

River just seemed... lost somehow.

She'd been there, right with her, when they'd made love before, Kaylee was sure of it, but... it wasn't enough, was it?

Finally, Kaylee couldn't stand it anymore and she brought River back to the tent bedding and sat her down, looking into her eyes. River looked more confused than anything, but was smiling, just a little in a shy sort of way.

"Stop it all right?" Kaylee told her softly, moving in to kiss her. "Just stop." She told her, looking into her eyes and pleading with her in every way she knew, and every way she could only guess at. "Come back to me, alright?"

Slow but steady, Kaylee could see understanding start to wash over River's features. She could see the light starting to come back into her eyes. And then River smiled, really smiled, and hugged her. She moved back after a little and stared into her eyes, and Kaylee smiled, but she was speechless, and River pushed her over onto her back and held her down with a playful sort of look in her eyes. "And that's why you don't make sense to me sometimes..." River told her.

"What do you mean?" Kaylee asked, her heart beating faster in her chest, her skin heating.

"How you didn't know... When I told you that you saved me... you didn't know what I meant... It doesn't make sense... How could you not know that?" River asked, a genuine sort of awe in her voice. "The answer's so easy..." She told her, kissing her. Kissed her, and kissed her again. "When I'm with you..." She told her softly, kissing her neck. "I feel like me again." She told her. "And each time..." She stopped kissing her and went up to look into Kaylee's eyes again. "And each time you look at me, each time you see me, I think... See? Right now? You're saving me right now, Kaylee... It's a wonder..."

And River was kissing her again before Kaylee could say anything at all in reply. Inside though, it felt like her heart was blooming like a flower at River's words... [Is that what I'm doing?] Kaylee asked herself as they both tossed around some, trying to get their clothes off enough to do again what they were definitely going to do again. She felt so much heat and passion well up in her, and River was almost ravenous about it. Not dreamy or ethereal at all anymore. She was right there with her now. So intense - the force of her eyes when they met hers was like live current. Every touch just got better - it wasn't long before any thoughts she had were just gone and all she could do was go at River as intensely and wildly as River was going at her... It was all she could do to keep enough air in her lungs that she didn't pass out, really.

She didn't know how much time had passed when their passion had finally ran its course, but River was looking down into her eyes, holding her down by her wrists, they were both sweating, and Kaylee's heart was beating so loud in her chest.

"Marry me?" Kaylee asked her softly.

"I... what'd you just say?" River asked in a small sounding voice.

"I um, well I asked you to marry me... It was a proposal." Kaylee told her. She'd never be able to describe to anyone what she was feeling right then, but hells and holly branches was she ever feelin'it.

"...Did you mean it?" River asked, looking both curious and thunder-struck at the same time.

"Oh, heck yeah." Kaylee told her, smiling that kind of smile that you couldn't stop even if you had the mind to. She was sure about this - surer than she'd ever been about much of anything, really. So of course she'd asked - and oh did she ever mean it.

River just looked like her brain wasn't working for a few seconds. "...We don't have anyone to marry us. Maybe Lola could, do you think?"

Kaylee laughed. "Is that a yes then?" She asked a little playfully.

"Yes." River smiled softly to her. "Yes is inevitable in this situation..." She told her in a very intimate sort of way, moving down to kiss her.

They just sort of lay there making out for a good long while until River stopped and sat up, she looked over in the direction Lola was. "The rabbit who's going to marry us is hungry... and probably also needs a hug." She spoke, looking down to Kaylee. "She... lost her family today."

Kaylee sat up so River was straddling her lap and looked into her eyes. "I'll get breakfast for her, you can take care of the hug?" She offered, hopeful it would cheer her fiancÚ - and what a great word that was to use - up.

"Agreeable." River smiled shyly.

Kaylee kissed her again and the two of them got up, got dressed again, and Kaylee went to fetch a rabbit-sized portion of food while River went to pick up Lola and cuddle her in the promised hug. Kaylee stopped a moment and looked at that, bemused greatly. She shook her head and smiled, her mind drifting to a very funny daydream about their wedding with Lola up on a rock with a flower necklace... that she was snackin' on, a'course. It's what rabbits did, ya'know? A markedly darker thought occurred to her and she sighed, looking down at what presently consisted of their food supply. T'wasn't much, really, not at all... an'if the forest was burnt, where would they get more?

Feeling the weight of that thought, she got up and brought Lola her breakfast, watching happily with River as their new furry friend ate what they offered her. As River cooed over Lola a little more, Kaylee got t'standing and padded her way over on stockinged feet towards the mouth of the cave. River watched her on her way out but didn't say anything. Prob'ly because there wasn't much t'say, reallys. They both prob'ly knew the problem well enough.

The scent of it caught her stronger as she got closer to outside. Burnt things - lots of'm.

She came out of the cave they'd been in and saw sky, then walked up to the edge of the rocks and just stared. "Sǐwáng hé hēi'àn de dōngxī dū zǒuliǎo wǒ de dàolù, bìng zài qí shēnhòu liú xià huāngliáng..." She spoke to herself, even as she heard the very faint sound of River walking up behind her.

All to the fore and the right was all mostly burnt away, about s'far s'you could see, but... left, a wide river'd made a firebreak. She let out a relieved breath. That was the way they were going, th'way Inara was. "We ain't gonna starve, River. That's good, huh?"

"Shiny..." River told her softly.

Kaylee turned to her and saw River still with Lola in her arms. "Oh, River." Kaylee spoke, touching her face and hair and gazing at her as River met her eyes.

River smiled just a little. "Even in bleakest darkness, there is always light waiting for us. We just have to remember to look." She told her.

Kaylee smiled. "For me... that's you. You are the kindest soul... and you are also even cuter than rabbits sometimes, River Tam. My light, you are. I swear... I'll always try my best to be that for you also."

River sighed, smiled shyly, blushing just a little. "You're so good at that..." She told her.

"At what?" Kaylee blinked.

River turned away. "At getting me all flustered and blissful inside. At making me want sex with you so very often." She spoke, pausing a moment as she walked away before heading on back into the cave.

Kaylee swallowed once and smiled, all too pleased with herself somehow. "She does know just what to say to me sometimes, don't she?" She mused to herself. She took one last look out over the landscape then turned and trailed after River, some very pleasant sex thoughts running through her head.


A short time later, they were packing up to go. River was just finishing with the tent when Kaylee decided on impulse to go over and sit next to her. There hadn't been any more sex after they'd come back in, notwithstanding of what River'd said. They already'd done that a lot already this morning, and, practically speaking, with the long walk they had ahead of them, they didn't have near enough food and water to justify burning more energy and hydration, no matter how much Kaylee might like to. Still, she was feeling in a very romantic mood and wanted something more to make her forget their troubles and hold her over until later, so, when River turned to meet her eyes, Kaylee slowly moved in to kiss her. Her eyes fluttered shut as River kissed her back, River dropping what she'd been doing in the process.

Her heart was beating faster in her chest as they kept making out for exactly how long she couldn't rightly guess at much. It was heavenly though, through and through. Kissing with River always was. Doing that other thing surely was too. All things bright and shiny was it ever great to have someone she could do that with again... and someone who was so, so, so very good at it too... almost enough to make a woman grateful to be stranded on a Reaver blighted colony world with a fritzed out weather management system. Would be enough too, she thought, if it she weren't so worried about Inara and the others were on Serenity now... that they hadn't come back for them by now, it was worrying her more all the time. River didn't talk about it much, but Kaylee knew she felt it too, specially for her brother. T'wasn't nothing either of them could do about it though, wasn't much t'say about it t'hadn't already been said either... all talk'n on't more would do was bring down their spirits, and that didn't do anyone any good.

The kissing broke at long last and River was smiling to her, looking... fairly blissful. Kaylee had to admit, despite all their troubles, she was kind of really feelin' that way too. Was amazing how bein'n love could do that to a person like that. And Kaylee knew she was definitely in love - in love in a way more deep and wide feeling than she'd ever felt... Vast as the sky it felt...

"We need to get going, don't we?" Kaylee asked, almost hoping River could come up with a reason not to.

River nodded positively. "So we can have sex like rabbits again, later in the day."

"We're rabbits again now?" Kaylee asked with a bemused smile.

River nodded. "Lola adopted us into her family. By rabbit customs, it's fully official."

Kaylee laughed. "I should be able to tell if you're joking with me or not by now, shouldn't I?"

"It would be less fun for me if you could." River replied.

Kaylee pounced on her and kissed her again, long and thorough. River had such a smile on her by the time she was done. "Stars." River spoke softly.

"What about'm?" Kaylee asked.

"You just make them dance in my head sometimes. I like that about us."

"I like that about us too." Kaylee told her back softly, kissing her just softly once more for good measure.

"...I like everything about us, all the time..." River spoke after the kiss.

Kaylee swallowed. "You're pretty darn good at it too, you know?"

River smiled. "I had strongly suspected it, yes."

Kaylee sighed. "Time to go for a hike?" She asked.

River kept smiling. "We can hold hands again?" She asked.

"What about Lola? Don't you have to use both hands to hold her right?" Kaylee asked.

"I'm going to make a bed for her in my backpack." River told her. "When traveling across treacherous terrain, its best to have your hands free for balance."

"Clever you then." Kaylee replied.

"More than I thought, actually." River mused.

"How's that?" Kaylee asked.

"Something I did made you want to ask me for a marriage. I've tried to think what it was, but answers are illusive..."

Kaylee smiled. "...and that's why you don't make sense to me sometimes."

River looked surprised again. "What do you mean?" She asked, a playful, happy smile forming on her lips.

"Well, it's just, the answer's so easy..." Kaylee told her, moving down to kiss her again.

When the kiss parted, River started laughing.

Kaylee smiled and burred her head in River's shoulder, laughing a little too.

Kaylee raised her head up and kissed River again. It was just so easy to kiss her, so easy not to stop. She did stop though and sighed. "We need to stop doing that at some point."

"We do..." River replied.

Kaylee closed her eyes, sighed, and sat back, getting off her fiancÚ and offering her a hand up.

River laughed just a little again.

Kaylee looked over to her and smiled. It was really nice hearing her laugh again. She blushed just a little, thinking about how love-sick she really was for this woman.

She made herself focus on getting ready for departure then. They really didn't have very much left to do for that. Soon, Kaylee was putting Lola in River's pack and watching the rabbit curl up in a cute little ball.

"It's really kind'amazing how tame she is for us." Kaylee mused.

"We're her family now." River replied. "Family trusts family. That's the it way works... by some definitions at least..."

Kaylee moved in close and hugged her. "You are my family."

"I know..." River replied, soft and simple. "We're going to be married soon, right?"

"Come what may." Kaylee said it like a promise.

The hug parted and River stepped back and smiled to her, offering her hand. "Come what may." She said back, like she really belived in it too.

Kaylee smiled back and took the offered hand, letting River lead her out into the day.


Having climbed back down from the rocky hills into what used to be a forest - a graveyard, she supposed it really was now... at least until life came back to this place somewheres down the line. Was remarkable to her how she'd think that though, it never would have occurred to her before, prob'ly. She'd been raised on a farming colony, sure, but she'd never really... taken to it much, she supposed. She'd done what was asked of her, but her head had always been elsewhere - family, friends, chasing boys, and building an'fixing things mostly. That an'dreamin' of all the adventures she wanted to have one day. She'd never thought much about nature, animals and trees and things... She never would'a seen what was around them now as... as a holocaust or a massacre, like River did. But... she'd seen how it had affected the woman she loved, so it was real for her now also. And it was sad too, walking where they were, with carrying Lola with them. Sad, but hopeful too. A light in the darkness, she supposed, like River'd said...

The scent of burnt things was everywhere, but there was also the scent coming off the river ahead carried on the wind, and the sight of green and growing things on the other side. Food, water, and hope. That much closer to getting to where Inara was - to saving her. And at least that would be one more of those she cared for safe and accounted for, wouldn't it?

About what must be close to half ways through to the river, they came to the charred trunk of a fallen tree that hadn't burned through much. The rain had some back sometime during the night for a'time, meaning the damage was a bit less than as total as it might a'been otherwise. There were still bits of glowing ember here and there though, some on the tree trunk too. No easy was 'round it, so over they were going. River let go of her hand, took a few very fast steps towards it, and just sort of hopped up onto the log, easy as you please. She stood, turned around, then knelt and offered Kaylee and hand up. Kaylee appreciatively accepted and fought her way up.

It had been a long walk on too little to eat or drink and her energy was flagging. River's didn't much seem to be yet though. "How d'you do that?" She asked a little breathless as she stood up on top of the tree with River. "Have so much go in you?"

River smiled to her and had a thoughtful, curious look in her eyes. "Just do, I guess." She told her, touching Kaylee's hair and then caressed her breast and pressed her thumb on her nipple, making Kaylee gasp a little and blush some. "Also, I have very excellent motivation." She told her, moving in and brushing her lips in a soft, feathery kiss. "When I think about you, nothing else seems so bad as it might seem otherwise." She told her softly.

Kaylee blinked, swallowed, and tried to get her head to work again. She wanted to kiss River back about then, hard. Just... she didn't want to lose her balance and fall, so she squashed the urge. She did smile though. "I think I feel a second wind comin'on." She told her softly.

River giggled just a little. "I always like to be helpful." She told her, resting her hands on Kaylee's hips and gazing into her eyes, lookin' all love-struck and bemused and all of beautiful too.

"That you surely are." Kaylee found herself tellin' her. "That an'then some." She said softly, feeling all wrapped up in River all over again.

River smiled shyly and blushed just a little. She moved forward then and held herself to Kaylee.

Kaylee was a little surprised, but went with it easy enough, encircling River in her arms and holding her close.

They stayed like that for long moments before River pulled back and smiled bravely to Kaylee. Bravely... but something else too. "Hey, talk to me?" Kaylee asked, touching River's hair and face, resting her other hand on River's hip, sliding it 'round back a'little to pull her just a bit closer. "Is there something the matter?" She asked.

"...There could be." River told her in a quiet voice.

"...Well, what is it then?" Kaylee asked. Not feeling worried... exactly.

"...It's just fear I think, that's all." River told her, looking down and moving closer to her again.

"Fear a'what?" Kaylee asked.

"What all the wealthy fear: that what I have could be taken away somehow. It's happened before you know. It could again." River told her in a gentle, thoughtful sort of way.

"...You think you're wealthy, then?" Kaylee asked softly.

"Not think - know. It's more than strikingly obvious." River told her, looking up to meet her eyes. "We're in love, Kaylee. Love of the truest kind there is. The kind of love that only gets better. The kind that of love that would for sure lead us to live in a star one day, if my fanciful theory about stars happens to be true somehow... It's the most valuable thing there is anywhere, don't you think so?" She asked in that same egalitarian way she had a'askin' things.

Kaylee smiled a just happy sort of smile. "Yeah, I guess I do think that, now you mention it."

"It's not very rational of me, being afraid sometimes like I am. Probably just a classical aversion response. Once stolen into shadows, and I'm twice shy. I'm trying to ignore it in hopes that it will go away." River told her honestly.

Kaylee smiled. "You really think that's going to work, huh?" She asked a little playfully.

"Fear needs attention, like sunlight for plants. If I don't feed it for long enough, it should wilt and perish." River told her logically.

Kaylee looked into her eyes and touched her face in a light caress, blinking her eyes once. "Fears like that, they aren't usually so easy to ignore for most people, ya know?" She asked.

"...There are other strategies at work." River explained. "Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Armstrong sung a song that told people about it once... Love can stop my fear, if I let it..."

Kaylee smiled and laughed a little. "That's a really long name, you know?" Kaylee told her.

"She thought her parents were cruel to give it to her. But I always wished I had a long name like that when I was a girl, so I probably have a billy goat living inside of me somewhere, just like she did, except in reverse. And maybe a troll." She told her with a cute smile.

Kaylee laughed. "A troll, huh?" She asked playfully.

"Scary troll. Her name is Annabelle. She gets cranky sometimes, and likes to eat the goats." River told her seriously, though you could tell by her eyes that she wasn't bein' at all serious. "It's always a challenge to invent new goats, and to try to keep them safe." She explained.

"I can see how that would be a challenge alright." Kaylee replied with some equanimity of her own.

"Somehow I thought you'd understand, if anyone would." River replied with a bright smile. "Come on though, it's time for us to emulate my goats some more now. That way, we'll be sure not to lose our footing. It's clever." She explained, stepping back and jumping down from the tree with grace that would make a billy goat blush.

"Cleverness is easy for you." Kaylee replied as she jumped after her, River catching her up in her arms before she stumbled and fell.

"I know. But I think it's actually easy for you as well..." River replied. "You understand me... more than anyone does... I'm not easy to understand, even to myself many times. It's good for our relationship that we have things in common, it means we can be lazy and forgetful sometimes, and it won't be as damaging."

"Are you planning to be lazy and forgetful?" Kaylee asked curiously.

"It's not a plan or a plot, it's facts and figures and fault lines. I aspire, but I fear. I try not to expect, because I don't want to send invitations I don't want received and made use of... Once a guest shows up that you decide you don't like, you have to close the door or let them in. So you're either rude or miserable, and everyone's inconvenienced." She said thoughtfully.

Kaylee just smiled fondly and shook her head a little. "You sure can turn me right 'round sometimes, things you say..."

River just quirked a smile at her. "Should I try to stop, then, you think?"

Kaylee giggle. "Never, ever." She told her positively, moving closer to kiss her, and loving how it made her head swim so.

['Better and better', huh?] She thought. [Now ain't that a just pretty thought...]


See you next time...

CHINESE TRANSLATIONS FOR THIS CHAPTER:

"Tiāntáng hé wǒ de zǔxiān bǎoyòu hé bǎohù wǒ." = "Heavens and my ancestors bless and preserve me."

"Tiānkōng shì wǒmen de jiāyuán, nǐ de línghún cóng yáoyuǎn de kuángfēng qiánwǎng zhǎo wǒ. Nà nǐ gēn wǒ yīrán shì wǒ zuìdà de kuàilè, ér wǒ zuìdà de fúqi..." = "The heavens are our homeland, and you a soul that traveled on the winds from far away to find me. That you are with me still is my greatest joy, and my greatest blessing..."

"Sǐwáng hé hēi'àn de dōngxī dū zǒuliǎo wǒ de dàolù, bìng zài qí shēnhòu liú xià huāngliáng..." = "Death and dark things have walked my path and left bleakness in their wake..."

End

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