DISCLAIMER: Firefly is not my copyright. This story's classified as not-for-prophet, no money is being made from it and access to it should not be bought or sold.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: (Series:) This is the fourth in the Opal Shire series, continued from Quiet Moments.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To jess27[at]live.com

Fighting The Hollows
By Jessica Knight


It was two days and some later now. The sky had patchy white clouds in it that were right now covering the sun above them. The air smelled sweet in one of the many ways it only ever did on an honest to goodness planet with trees and lakes and waterfalls and such. And at this particular moment, Kaylee found herself backed up against one of those trees thinking about none of those things at all as she and River kissed.

River's hands were gently but firmly holding her forearms to the tree, their bodies were so close that the heat between them felt almost like a fire, and Kaylee was in no mood at all to call a halt to it. In fact, she wasn't sure if she'd ever enjoyed kissing someone quite this much her entire life. It was making her feel a little dizzy, to be honest.

When River finally stopped, her lips still just a breath away, Kaylee was kind of struck trance-like for a moment, until her brain kicked itself into workin' again. "Why'd you stop?" She asked softly, shivering just a little at the sound of her own voice.

Their eyes met and River smiled a little in that knowingly confident way she sometimes had about her. "No reason." She said back simply, moving in to kiss her again, letting go of Kaylee's arms, her hands sliding, one up, the other down to Kaylee's waist, then up to her ribs.

Kaylee kissed her back, almost on auto-pilot. They'd been doing this off and on since that night when they'd danced. Afterward, they'd talked a little and... ended up kissing; she still wasn't sure who'd started it. It had been kind of a surprise to her (this was the first time she'd done this sort of thing with another woman, after all), but one she was actually starting to really get used to.

Her sister back on Isis had only ever liked girls. Last she knew; she was married to one in fact. Chelsea Isaacs was her name - Pretty, with dark hair and intense dark brown eyes. Not long on words and not anything like a social butterfly, but, her sister had assured her once, fantastic in bed. For Kaylee's part though, she'd never found herself having eyes for another girl like that, only boys. It hadn't been that she'd thought one was better than the other, just, she was attracted to who she was attracted to, just like her sister was. Now, she was definitely feeling attracted to River, and, in fact, was wondering if River'd be as fantastic in bed as Chelsea Isaacs was. Though... she wasn't quite sure she was ready to find out just yet somehow - Which was baffling to her, honestly. She'd never exactly been hesitant in that area before, when it came to the love interests in her life. Why now? Was it just because River was a woman? She didn't know why that should matter, but, well, maybe it did sometimes.

In any case, River didn't seem to be in a hurry to move things to the next level yet, so she had time to consider things, she supposed - As pleasantly difficult as River was making that at the moment.

A little frustrated, Kaylee pushed River back off of her some and shook her head a little. When her and River's eyes met again, River was just looking back at her curiously, as if simply wondering why Kaylee had done that. Kaylee found herself considering whether to back River up against a tree herself next or not, them looking into each other's eyes like they were, but she decided not to. She sighed in frustration though and sat down on the ground in front of the tree, running a hand through her hair and trying to get her head to working again.

"Something's wrong?" River asked, getting down and sitting on the ground with her.

Kaylee looked up through strands of her hair that were falling over her eyes and met River's interested gaze. "Only that it's hard to think when we get to doin' that." It was getting kind of hard to think period, where being around River was concerned, if she were being honest.

"That's only a biological reaction, though some would say a spiritual truth exists behind it." River offered.

"Yeah? And what truth would that be?" Kaylee asked, her hand moving her hair around on her head a little more.

"In summary... that love tends towards making everything else seem boring by comparison." River explained softly.

"And..." She met River's eyes again. "You'd say that... we're in love?" She asked.

"All signs are pointing strongly in that direction, yes." River smiled. And again, like every time before, Kaylee marveled at just how very much River Tam could say with only a smile.

"...yeah. I'm guessin' they are, aren't they?" She replied softly, looking off somewhere into the forest. They were just a little ways from the shuttle they now called home, just come back from getting fresh water (which was sat down in containers a few feet away).

"Aren't you... pleased about that?" River asked.

"Huh? Oh, no, River, 'course I am." She laughed a little. "Could hardly be kissin' you like that if'n I weren't pleased, now could I?" She remarked, leaning her head back against the tree and looking up into the canopy of branches above. By chance, she saw a bird flit past, orange colored mostly.

"Nonsense happens sometimes." River shrugged. "It's best to check, when it's important, I think."

Kaylee looked over to her again. "River... how long have you felt... you know, attracted? To me, I mean?"

River looked a little bothered by that. "Who can say?" Their eyes met again, kind of wondered back to one another. "I knew this would happen though, the first time we met." She told her. "I saw it. Saw it even in the before, I think..."

Kaylee was a little stunned. "How?" She asked softly. "How does... whatever it is you do, how does it work?" She asked.

River shrugged again. "It's hard to say. There are theories..." She offered.

Kaylee considered that a moment. "...prob'ly not important." She said softly. "Mysteries are for fools and lonely philosophers who can't be bothered to learn how to swim, right?" She quoted River back to her.

River smiled a delighted smile like as if Kaylee had just told a clever joke. "We could go swimming again if you want?" She offered.

"You really like being in the water, don't you?" Kaylee asked.

"Mm-hmm." River replied. "Some people think our ancestors were fish, or... maybe dolphins."

"Isn't a dolphin a kind fish?" Kaylee asked.

River shook her head 'no'. "They have holes in their heads." She tapped the top of Kaylee's head playfully.

"You sayin' I have one too?" Kaylee asked back with a smile.

"Just the normal ones like most people." River replied lightly.

"Oh, is that all." Kaylee replied, smiling playfully.

"I like mine to kiss yours... not most peoples'?" River offered hopefully.

Kaylee smiled at that and reached out a hand to take one of River's in hers. "Let's go home, alright?" She asked, moving to get up.

River got up right along with her. "Alright..." She replied, looking down at their joined hands a moment when they got to standing, then letting it go to go retrieve one of the water containers. Kaylee went to get the other one.

They walked together in silence for just a bit, but when the shuttle came into view, River broke the silence. "I think a storm is coming soon..."

Kaylee stopped and looked over to her. "Why do I not like the sound of that?" She asked.

"Echoes of the void. There will be a war." River replied, continuing on towards the shuttle without looking back.

Kaylee watched after her for a moment. Why was it, that every time she thought she had River figured, the woman'd say something so sideways like that? Somehow though, whether it was because she'd come to understand River Tam so much more these last weeks, or because of some other reason, she knew, just knew, than it would be smart to take what River had just said very seriously.

She hurried up to catch up with her shipmate.

Or, she supposed, River might actually be her girlfriend now.

The next day, Kaylee watched from the bed, not just a little anxiously, as River set up barricades and traps in a very exacting manner. She'd offered to help of course, but River had firmly said no, that it was better if she did it herself, because things had to be just so ('course, she hadn't used those words exactly, but Kaylee had caught her meaning just fine).

"Tell me again: If Reavers are coming here, why aren't we just gettin' elsewhere?" Kaylee asked, her eyes tracking River's movements almost on automatic now, as though just watching her move and do things like she was doing would make her feel better. And it was; over the last weeks she'd gotten to very much like just watching River do things in fact (there really hadn't been all that much else to do), because she'd discovered there were always so many layers to whatever it was she was doing. Since they'd become... closer, she found she liked it even more, in a way that was entirely unexpected to her, but, after what River had said, that comforting effect only went so far.

"This location is defensible, also our home. I have to protect you, skew the vectors closer to certainty. It's essential." River explained distractedly as she was bending down, the side of her head almost touching the floor as she looked at something she'd just set up from an odd angle.

"But, wouldn't it make more sense not to have to... defend me, and everything? If we just left...?" She offered, unsure of what else to say.

"They have a hole in them... they try to fill it, but they can't. They don't know that, they don't care, but they always know where to look." River said, getting up and moving something she'd set up slightly to the left.

"What are you sayin'?" Kaylee asked, having a feeling she already knew, but hoping she was wrong.

River turned and looked to her then, her eyes finding Kaylee's effortlessly, as if River had known just where to look, down to the millimeter. "They always know, Kaylee. Always." She said, looking at her for a few almost timeless moments, then quietly turning back to what she was doing.

"You sayin'... they'll find us, right? Even... even if we run?" She asked.

"Can run, but we can't hide. 'Better to stand and fight and die with nobility, than to cast our fates upon the rocks...'" She looked over to Kaylee again. "So Elina Kensington said once... She died, those that followed her too, but we won't... promise." She said, turning back to her work.

Kaylee watched her work a few more minutes, then got up and found her gun belt, retrieved it from the place she'd been keeping it beside the bed, and put it on, keeping the gun out and on her lap as she went back to sit down and watch River do what she was doing.

About an hour or so later, Kaylee found herself pacing back and forth, nervousness, irritability, and fear her only company. River had left, went out into the woods. The light was just starting to die on the far off horizon. Through the widows, you could see the beginnings of what was prob'ly gonna be a very beautiful sunset. Not that, things bein' what they were, Kaylee was in any sort of mood to appreciate it properly.

River had told her to stay put, but, crazy as she knew it was, Kaylee wanted to be out there, with her. It was all very unfamiliar, feeling this way about someone. She didn't have a name for it, or know how to explain it, even to herself, but with River, it was just... different. Complicated.

With the men she'd been with, it was never like that, never complicated, just fun and easy (at least when things were good between her and the man in question). There wasn't a lot to think about, 'least not this much. With River though, she felt nervous, and afraid for no good reason sometimes (though there was definitely a good reason for that now, which only made it worse). Her mind just wouldn't stop racing sometimes, thoughts she wasn't at all sure she wanted to have, but... River. Something about her, just... did the trick, fit. Kaylee felt so wrapped up in her already, and, while she didn't know quite what to do with it yet, with all these feelings, she knew she didn't want it to stop. Didn't want for this not to have happened... well, if it ended up them getting tortured for days then killed by Reavers, then she'd probably wish it (the crash) hadn't, but that was pretty much a given.

She looked down at the gun in her hand. They said that, if it looked like you were done for anyways, was far better puttin' an end to yourself than lettin' the Reavers have you. The stories she'd heard, things she'd seen, she believed it. Still, she wasn't sure she'd be able to actually do it, if it came to that.

She looked out the window and thought of River out there. Somehow, as wildly improbable as it seemed to think about in any rational way, Kaylee just had this feeling... that they'd be okay. That, some how, some way, River actually would protect them both. One woman though, even River with everything Kaylee had seen her do before, against a horde of Reavers she didn't know how many strong... Any way she looked at it, no one in their right mind'd give River more than a snowball's chance in the hot place a'gettin' out of it in one piece. Anyone'd ever seen a Reaver in person'd be like to think so. Savage didn' even cover it. There was somethin' just so... far, from anything human, about'm. 'Hollows' River'd called them, and, you'd have t'admit, the name fit. Still though, Kaylee had the crazy thought that River would win somehow, and she was trying to just... hold onto that.

"I had any sense in my head, I would'a dragged'er out'a here anyway I could. Take our chances runnin'." She muttered to herself a little ruefully, sitting down on the bed, head in her hands, her frustration getting the better of her.

"They're here now." Kaylee heard River's voice through the comm.

Kaylee was on her feet and over to the comm station in a flash. "River? River, you still there?" She sent back urgently. But there was no reply, just silence. She let loose a string of Chinese obscenities and kicked the wall, hurting her toes a little. Luckily, she'd been wearing boots.

She was almost regrettin' that she'd got the comms workin' again. Any message they sent wouldn' carry into space much past a low stationary orbit, the state their transmitter was in, but it meant that one of them could call back to the ship when they were out if they had a comm until with'm. Right now, that wasn't exactly a comfort... wasn't 'xactly not either, it was just...

She went back to the bed and sat on the edge and started to look intently at the shuttle's hatch, her gun in her hands. 'course the traps were there still, but River'd told her where to walk to avoid them, in case Kaylee needed to get out. She could go outside. Of course, she wouldn't know where River was to look for her, but still...

Time seemed to pass slow and quick at the same time. So she wasn't really sure how long it was until a sudden, soft noise caused her to startle a little and get to her feet. The shuttle was supposed to be sound-proofed, but, since the crash, it wasn't no more - Wouldn't be again unless repairs were made to the hull.

There were more sounds then, sounds that definitely didn't belong to the forest outside. Not that there had been many forest sounds coming in that evenin', just a soft wind in the trees sound. It was like all the animals knew something truely dangerous was coming, and they'd all been sensible and went t'hole up somewheres 'til it was over.

She bit her lip a little, clenched her fists, said somethin' her mother wouldn'na approved of in Chinese, marched across the cabin, and pressed the button to open the hatch.

The light from the sunset came in on the breeze right along with the sounds of fighting.

Kaylee's nerves were more on edge than she could ever remember them being. She knew this was stupid, knew she was prob'ly more'n likely gonna get herself killed, but it didn't matter, because for the life of her, she couldn' think of anything else to do but go out there. River might need her help.

It was strange, like her actions weren't even really her own. She knew that as soon as the hatch was down, she'd run out there. She knew it, she couldn't even remember havin' decided she was going to do it, but she was going to. Was just a fact.

The hatch hadn't hit dirt yet when she saw River out there, surrounded by Reavers, men an' women all a horror, and her feet were moving, gaining speed. The hatch hit dirt, and suddenly River turned and their eyes met and River was moving right at her, so fast, and she could swear there wasn't even the sound of her feet on the deck plating. Then River's arm caught her around the middle, twirled her around somehow and, faster than she could really understand how it happened, she found herself bein' carried, gentle feeling as a feather, in River's arms just like that, the other girl hardly having seemed to even break stride in the doin' of it. Kaylee only had time for the brief thought of 'how in the heck did she do that?'.

Behind them there was the sound of screaming and, what sounded to be bloody mayhem, plain and simple. River was settin' her down gently on the bed. "Stay. I won't die." She told her simply. "Believe in me."

Kaylee watched a little dumbly as River turned around to face what was coming, reloading her gun. Kaylee couldn't help herself, she moved to look around River at what was happening. The Reavers had followed River through and were being cut down mercilessly by the, as it turned out, deadly efficient traps that River had set. There... there were a lot of'm though, and the ones behind just seemed to climb over the bodies of the fallen. Some started to make their way through that way and Kaylee watched as River calmly and efficiently killed them, one shot each to the forehead, right dead center every time.

Before long though, River's gun ran out of ammunition and she had no time to reload again. River already had a short sword in one hand and now she tossed aside her gun and drew a machete from behind her. What was next were a series of swift, brutal strikes. River just seemed to, it was almost like a dance for her, one she had every move down pat to an' then some. Watching her like that, Kaylee couldn't help but think that maybe... maybe she'd had it backwards, and it was the Reavers who'd never had a chance, stead of them.

One of the Reavers came at her, a woman with three small human skulls on a macabre necklace around her neck, cheeks slashed with scarred over cuts, eyes that sent a chill through her unlike anything Kaylee'd ever felt before. Almost without conscious thought, she found herself raising her gun to meet the threat. Time seemed to slow unnaturally and somehow she had the time to think 'There's not enough time'. She wouldn't get her gun raised and aimed before the Reaver would be on top of her. But, the next thing she knew, the Reaver woman was falling to the floor before her, her head sliced clean off. A few bits of blood sprayed Kaylee's face, and, absently, she thought 'there's not e'nuff blood...'. She'd seen heads lopped off before, and there was always more blood sprayed about than that. Had River really moved so fast?

She looked up and met River's eyes. River, standing there, dirty and bloodied, the only one 'sides her left alive apparently. She'd won. They were safe. And she'd kept her word, she hadn't died.

River turned and threw her machete, killing one last Reaver who'd been hurt but not killed by one of her traps, then turned back to her. Their eyes met again as River walked over to her then, dropping her last weapon carelessly on the floor before kneeling down in front of her. The look in her eyes was haunted... but also sure and hopeful. "Everything will be all right." River told her softly, simply. "It's over now."

Kaylee moved forward and was hugging River to her then mightily, a few tears falling down her cheeks and no words immediately coming to her lips.

"Kaylee..." River started to say.

But Kaylee backed away just enough to move in and kiss her girlfriend fiercely. River acted surprised and tensed up a little at first, but then relaxed into the kiss and returned it. When the kiss finally ended by seeming mutual consent, Kaylee found herself feeling a little light-headed, her heart beating fast in her chest. She closed her eyes a moment and tried to steady herself. "I'm not sure I believe all that stuff that jus' happened really did, just so you know."

"That happens to me sometimes too. It can be kind frustrating when it happens unexpectedly." River replied, seemingly in all sincerity. "...so I can relate." She told her.

Kaylee smiled a little of a charmed smile and kissed her just lightly on the lips for but a second. "You're kind of really amazing, you know that... If I haven't said it before." She told her. "Thank you."

"What for?" River asked curiously.

"Saving our lives again, dummy." Kaylee said. "It's gettin' to be a habit for you."

River simply looked at her curiously. "You're welcome, then." She said with just the beginning of a smile before she sat down on the floor and sighed, getting up and crawling up onto the bed. "I need to sleep now though, I think." She said, yawning in an oddly cute way as she lay down on her side and closed her eyes.

Kaylee smiled a little to watch this and thought again just how amazing River was sometimes. All the inexplicable things she could do... but watching her falling off to sleep like that, she looked just like any normal girl. Well, she was also very pretty to look at, even with the blood and dirt and such, but still...

Kaylee sighed and forced herself to look over at the carnage that was piled up on the hatch and strewn about the cabin of the shuttle they called home now. "This is going to take forever to get clean..." She said. And it was already starting to smell.

She didn't feel like it at all, but she knew she had to start cleaning this up... and hope she'd be able to hold her stomach while she did, because, as she got up to start doing that, she really was starting to feel like she might throw up.

And it wasn't as though they had so much in the way of food supplies that they could well afford her doin' that, now did they?

After laying down for around a half hour in a light nap while Kaylee had started the cleanup process, River startled awake and sat up, bolt straight, blinking her eyes in confusion a little.

Kaylee, who'd sat down by the window to take a break and steady her mind, noticed right away and got up to go over to her. "You alright?" She asked in an almost shy sort of voice.

River looked over to her, blinking a few times, then fell back onto the bed and sighed. "My head makes too much noise sometimes."

Kaylee considered that for a moment, and, though she did feel kind of nervous around River again all of the sudden for some reason, she none the less went over on the bed and got down lying next to her, tilted River's head to the side, and kissed her - Once, then more often. Not really seriously, but very intently none the less. Soon, River seemed to get completely absorbed in the activity, which is what Kaylee had been aiming for. "Better?" She asked softly after a while.

River blinked in confusion. "Better than what?" She asked absently, moving to start kissing her again.

Kaylee started to giggle a little at that. "Better than too much noise, I mean." She explained, finding it endearing that them kissing had made River lose her train of thought so completely.

River seemed to understand then, but none the less pushed her over onto her back and started kissing her again. "Better than anything..." River spoke just softly between kisses.

Kaylee let the makeout session continue for a while, because, honestly, she felt like she needed it right then too, but before long, better sense and the realization that they were in fact making out in a room full of dead bodies, made her make a sort of whining noise and reluctantly push River away.

"Why are we stopping?" River asked, clearly disappointed.

"We're in a room full of dead bodies, and you need a bath. Me also, but you first." She told her with a sort of fond smile.

"Oh..." River replied. "That makes sense then, I guess." She said, reluctantly sitting up and looking out at the room.

Kaylee got up to sitting too and moved over beside her girlfriend. "Are you all right...? You know, after... all of that?"

"...my right elbow hurts." She said softly. "I used it to hit one of the hollow men in the head. It was... necessary."

"...that's not what I meant, and I think you know that." Kaylee replied, taking River's hand in hers.

River was silent a moment. "It was necessary..." She finally said. "And I helped them, to escape."

"Escape?" Kaylee asked softly.

"From life." River replied, looking over, a little unsure, to Kaylee. "To some people, it's a prison... even if they never meant it to be."

Kaylee was silent and River got up, walking towards the mass of bodies at the hatch. "I'll take this part. Some of the traps might still be dangerous..." She said softly, Kaylee very deliberately watching as River stepped over and around the corpses her traps had killed, making her way down to where the hatch met the ground and picking one of the corpses up in her arms. "I think we should bury them, in proper graves, don't you?" She asked, not turning to meet Kaylee's eyes.

Kaylee had gotten up off the bed too, so as to keep River in sight still. "It'll take us a long time..." Kaylee offered, even though she agreed and was in fact glad that River would think of that. It was another comforting thing, after having seen River do... what she'd done, to save them.

"I know. I still want to, though." River replied, carrying the body she'd picked up down off of the hatch and setting it away from the ship, then coming back to retrieve another.

Kaylee turned and went to start dragging bodies over closer to the hatch. "See if you can make a path through, then I can help more, okay?"

"Okay." River agreed, meeting Kaylee's eyes again.

"And... don't worry, we'll give'm proper burials River, I promise." Kaylee offered.

River smiled a little falteringly before she knelt down and picked another body up in her arms. "His name was... Jeffery Thomas Eagan. He had two sons, but his wife left him, because she didn't want to be a mother anymore..." River said as she picked him up and carried him off.

Kaylee swallowed and felt like she might cry. This was all just so wrong. Someone like River, she had no business doin' things like this. 'course, Kaylee considered, neither of them did, really. Nor most anyone else, she imagined. Even the Reavers maybe, whatever had happened to make them like they were.

The universe, she reckoned, if it were alive somehow like some people thought, named God or whatever else, really must not believe much in fairness. Unless you counted it as fair to let people pay for sins what they had no part in whatsoever.

The clean-up effort lasted well on past sunset. They were working along now by the lights from inside the shuttle, carrying the bodies out, then cleaning up inside enough so that at least the place wouldn't stink unbearably come morning.

By the end of it, they were both, fair to say, just running on fumes. It just had to be done though, no two ways about it.

River had fallen silent at some point, and Kaylee hadn't felt the need to break the silence. They just sort of worked at what they were doing together without either of them having to tell the other anything besides maybe a look or a gesture here or there. It was plain and obvious what had to be done after all, not lot'a guess work involved.

At least Kaylee's stomach had calmed down to just a dull aching by then and she wasn't so worried about throwing up anymore; that was something, right?

When at last it looked like they were done enough, Kaylee sat back against a wall and looked over at River who was sitting on the floor looking around the room as if in search of something to do next. Her eyes met Kaylee's. "Done now?" She asked, with a little tired hopefulness in her voice.

Kaylee wiped some sweat from her forehead and lay her head back against the wall. "Better be." Was all she said.

She heard River do something and brought her head back up to see that River had just laid herself out on her back spread-eagle on the still blood-stained floor. She couldn't help it, she laughed a little. It was comical was what it was. It was also kind of amazing, how what River did seemed to speak so much more clearly than what her words usually said.

Her body already starting to ache too much for her tastes from all the heavy lifting she'd done, she hauled herself up to her feet and went over to River. Knelt down beside her and took her hand in hers. "Can't sleep on the floor like this, ya know." She told her reasonably.

River rolled her head to the side so their eyes met. "Are you sure about that?" She asked skeptically. "I think it might be a good idea to do tests..."

Kaylee smiled fondly. "Nothin' doin' - Gotta get you up and out of those clothes, in to bed." She said, tugging on River's arm a little.

River groaned cutely a little. "No sex until after a bath, girl's gotta have standards." She said tiredly, yawning and closing her eyes.

Kaylee felt her cheeks burn a little hot at that. "I'm not gettin' fresh, you. Now come on, up! Otherwise I'm liable to pass out here on top a'you, then we're both in trouble." She complained stubbornly.

"Fine..." River said, opening her eyes and letting Kaylee help her up to her feet. "But I'm only doing this because I'm in love with you, it's important you should know that." She said tiredly and Kaylee guided them over to the bed and River sort of fell down onto it, face first.

Kaylee was too tired to laugh, and simply climbed up on to the bed too and started to tug River's clothes off. River protested a little, but tried to help not hinder a little at least - Even helped her when Kaylee was trying to get her own clothes off. She tossed all of the garments in a corner and got under the covers with River at last. It wasn't a shower, but at least with their clothes off it wouldn't be too gross or uncomfortable for them to get to sleep.

Kaylee thought to maybe say something nice or girlfriend like to River before fallin' off, but as soon as River's head hit the pillow, she was out like a light, snuggled into Kaylee's arms happy as you please, apparently, from the look of peace that seemed to wash over her face. She looked... really beautiful... sleepin' like this - Not that she always didn't, but... Kaylee sighed and yawned, holding her girlfriend to her and finding it very easy to fall off to sleep (pass out really) right after her.

Her last thought, was that River had said... she was in love with her.

Despite that this, what she'd seen and all the bodies she'd carried, probably made this one of the most horrible days of her life thus far, that fact seemed to somehow make up for it... well, at least as far as anything rightly could make up for something like that, which, she had to admit, maybe wasn't really all that far when you got down to it.

Still, it made her feel a good deal better, more hopeful, which was something she was dearly grateful for right about then.

In the morning, well past dawn, Kaylee woke to find herself pretty much in the same position as when she'd gone to sleep, holding River in her arms. She touched River's hair a little and that one small action seemed to cause River to stir, blink her eyes open, and kiss her. Just a peck really, but it make Kaylee smile a little, and feel just a bit shy also.

"Hey, you." She said softly.

"Hay is for horses, not people..." River spoke sleepily.

"...Then why'd my mom and dad feed it to me in the mornin's back home so of'en?" She asked back in jest.

"That's nonsensical." River replied. "Your assertion has no veracity, does it?"

"Only if it makes you smile?" Kaylee asked.

River opened her eyes again and smiled a little, a small but bright seemin' smile that charmed Kaylee instantly, then River moved to kiss her. Kaylee found herself on her back next thing, and thoroughly enjoyed the feeling.

It was a minute or two later when River was kissing her neck right below her chin that she suddenly stopped and lay her head down on Kaylee's shoulder and sighed. "We both smell bad; baths are needed." She said as though the idea both appealed to her, for obvious reasons, and disagreed with her because she didn't like the idea of getting up, which Kaylee could relate to. Still, if they weren't going to be foolin' around anymore, a bath was just what Kaylee wanted.

"Sold." Kaylee replied, getting up while River just sort of flopped back on the bed on her back and made an almost whining sort of sound in protest. Kaylee laughed just a little and somehow found that very endearing. 'I must be in love.' She thought ruefully. "Um, how about I go get the bath ready, you just lounge in bed awhile longer? I'd say you earned it, after all."

River moaned just a little and curled up, closing her eyes. "You're the best girlfriend ever." She said sleepily.

Kaylee just smiled at that. "I love you too, River." She said softly, turning to get up out of bed. Before she could though, River encircled her in a hug from behind and kissed her cheek.

"You're words are magic." River said softly, kissing her again, seeming to have come more awake all a'sudden with Kaylee's declaration.

"Says the original magician, brought back from long ago, bag a'tricks no one knows how deep." Kaylee replied fondly.

"They're only tricks if you don't know the math, and can't sing the music." River replied.

"...I could sing for you. If you wanted..." Kaylee found herself saying somehow, emotion rough in her throat.

"...songs should only be sung when they call to you, Kaylee Frye... is one calling you now?" River asked.

Kaylee smiled. "Only if you're a song, and not a person like I thought you were."

"Is it hard to tell the difference?" River asked softly, kissing her neck lightly again.

"No... but, I gotta admit, sometimes you do remind me of a song, River." Kaylee admitted softly, somehow feeling she was lost in a world she'd never been to before, maybe the one River lived in so often.

"How?" River asked.

"...the way I feel when you're with me? I don't know how to explain it, really. But, it's not that unlike how I'd feel... when I was listening to a really beautiful song, and it feels like it's movin' my soul, because there's just... such amazing beauty there, plain to see." She said softly, some amount of shyness weaving its way in between her words. It scared her a little, sayin' these things out loud. Things she hadn't really completely realized before she'd said them out into the open like this.

"Then... we're a good match, because that's how I feel now too." River said simply, laying her head on Kaylee's shoulder.

Kaylee felt her heart swell up with emotions, and she knew then, even more than she had before, that she was surely, truly falling in love again. With someone who loved her right back.

That'd only really happened to her once before.

She just hoped... this time, it'd turn out better.

Sometime later, after having taken baths and eating breakfast together, they both set about moving the bodies of the dead Reavers out away from the ship and into the woods, into a nearby clearing, where she and River planned to dig graves for them all. It was hard, sweaty, generally ugly work, but they'd got it down to a rhythm. She was using the litter that River had made for her back before, when she'd had her ribs hurt after the crash, to carry bodies, while River was just simply picking them up in her arms and carrying them like it was no bother at all.

Kaylee had suggested that they make a second litter, but River had said that it felt like they were her weight to carry... as she'd been the one to kill'm and everything, Kaylee guessed. She'd counted; there were forty-two Reavers in all. She'd been a little stunned to find out there'd been so many, and that River had fought and killed them all, an' her comin' out of it with but a little of'a hurt elbow? It was hard to get her mind around it, actually - But then, that was River all over, wasn't it?

By lunch time, they'd managed to get all of the Reavers into the clearing, lined up in rows next to where they planned to dig the graves for each. "That's the last of'm, I'd say." Kaylee said, wiping some sweat from her forehead and going over to River who was bringing one body over to lay it next to another. "Why you doin' that?" Kaylee asked curiously.

"They loved each other once; before they lost themselves somewhere out in the dark. Philippe Yang Se and Marcus Cole Wright - They had a son together, named Jeffery Cole Yang Se, and they had a nice... a nice life. They lost their knowing, lost their song, lost each other, all gone... but its right they should be together now, at the last... don't you think so?" River asked her softly, and when her and Kaylee's eyes met, Kaylee could see River's eyes were a little misty, like she might cry if she thought about these things much longer.

Kaylee went to her and hugged her and felt River start to cry like she thought might happen. "Its okay, River. It'll be okay, I promise." By this point, the question of how River might possibly know what the names of the two dead Reavers were was barely a concern for her. Sure, a sensible person would say that River was prob'bly just making things up, maybe to cope or make herself feel better or whatever else, but by this point, Kaylee surely didn't think that was it at all. She'd seen too much. She had no good explanations and had since given up trying to get them from River herself whom, she thought, might well not even know herself. She did believe that River was connected to something, some greater knowledge or whatever it was, but, whatever the truth might be, she now believed in it - In River. That the things she said, they all had a meaning, even if Kaylee couldn't always quite manage to guess at what those meanings might be.

"You have faith then?" River asked faintly.

Kaylee broke the hug and still held River in her arms as she gently wiped her girlfriend's tears away with her thumb. "I don't know, maybe I do. I do today, at least." Kaylee told her. "And I love you, and you love me, and that makes a big difference too."

"A blessing then, for the those that's left and gone to live other lives. Do you believe in such things?" River asked.

"Do you?" Kaylee asked back gently, touching River's face.

River smiled a sad sort of smile. "I do today, at least." She said, nuzzling her cheek into Kaylee's hand a little and closing her eyes a moment. "We should go home now. We have berries we can eat." She said, opening her eyes and meeting Kaylee's curious gaze.

Kaylee felt like her heart skipped a beat almost, that look in her girlfriend's eyes. River had a way of doin' that sometimes. Sometimes Kaylee'd look into her eyes, and... she didn't know how to say it exactly, but it was like... that everything that ever was or ever could be, might just be lookin' right back at her in those eyes somehow. She swallowed a little and moved in to gently kiss River - Only a short kiss, but one that made her smile.

She took River's hand in hers then and they walked together back through the woods, leaving the bodies of the dead to be tended to later.

They were half way back when River spoke. "I think I should build a bigger bathtub." She said thoughtfully.

"You do, huh?" Kaylee replied, a little of a curious smile coming to her lips. "Not that I'm complainin', but why's that exactly?" She asked.

"Proximity." River replied simply.

Kaylee thought about that a few moments and promptly blushed a little. "Proximity, huh?" She said a little shyly.

"I'd need your permission though. Do you think it's a good idea?" River asked.

Kaylee considered that. "Yeah... don't see what it could hurt." She said softly. "I'll help." She offered.

River didn't say anything back at first, but then, a few moments later. "Kaylee... why do you suppose we fell in love?" She asked.

Kaylee was caught off guard by that, but thought about her answer seriously.

"Why does anybody?" She asked back softly some moments later.

It was on into evening now.

They'd buried some of the bodies... River had spoken at each of the graves after they'd been laid to rest, so it took longer than it would've otherwise, not that Kaylee was about to object. Everyone disserved words said, when it was their time, if it could be managed... she believed that too.

They'd taken turns at baths again, after the work had been done, and washed the bed sheets best they could also. Eaten a meal together. (Their supplies were gettin' low, they'd need to be out lookin' for food more often now, maybe start a garden too, Kaylee considered. First steps on the path to a farm, could even be, she supposed.)

But that was for later. Now, they had clean sheets and were washed clean of the sweat and grime of a long day's work in the sun, and somehow... Kaylee found, she wasn't really all that tired.

In fact, as River came over and got on the bed with her, the both of them lacking any clothes, Kaylee felt positively energized. (All their clothes were dirty and they were both too tired to clean'm. There were some of Inara's things. Really nice things, still left un-appropriated and clean, but somehow Kaylee didn't think that seein' River all done up in silk like that was really going to be much better. And... she'd liked sleeping without last night, so she hadn't suggested raiding any more of Inara's possessions, and neither had River. So here they were, and Kaylee couldn't quite make her eyes move away.) She swallowed a little nervousness, but then, nervousness wasn't exactly what was drivin' her most right then. How she'd come to that place for herself just now, she wasn't quite sure, but she wasn't complainin', not at all. She wanted... proximity, with River, and she was very, very sure of that at this point. When her eyes, having traveled up River's body without much hurry, finally met River's eyes, she knew that River knew what was going to happen just as sure as she did.

She felt a confidence in herself about this that she'd been missing at realizing that, and she got up out from under the covers and went over to River, touched her hair, her face, her arms. They moved closer to one another, their lips met, and they kissed.

"Tell me you want this too? I know you do, I just, I want the words." Kaylee asked when the kisses stopped and they were in each other's arms.

Before she really knew any different, Kaylee found herself on her back, River's eyes, clear and intense, looking down into hers. Kaylee couldn't help but feel like those eyes really... really saw her - All of her, every bit, in a way that shouldn't even be possible, but was anyway.

"Down deep, in parts of me that are timeless and have no names... I think... that I have always wanted this." She said with gentle, heart-felt honesty.

"...oh..." Was all Kaylee could say. Her heart was beating fast, her skin was hot underneath, and when River's lips came down to claim hers again, Kaylee moved up to meet them.

River's words were like music in her blood, and as they made love, Kaylee imagined, maybe their blood, their hearts, or whatever else, maybe they started singing together. In songs, they had a word for that.

They called it harmony.

But it was more than that, it was life. And, especially after the last two days, that was something Kaylee was beyond grateful to be able to feel. Something, she imagined, that they had both needed to feel. Even and beyond the darkness that had come over their lives the last two days.

Sometime in the night, Kaylee stirred in her sleep. The feeling of weightlessness seemed to just fade away from her. She and River were space mermaids, right? Her mostly still asleep brain told her. But then, no she wasn't. They weren't. Someone was talking - Someone familiar. She'd been dreaming, she realized, dreaming her and River had found a magic golden wishing dolphin that had turned them into space mermaids so they could leave and go home to Serenity, because the dolphin was afraid River would burn down the forest when she made the bigger bathtub.

"Well, that obviously didn't happen." She said a little blurrily under her breath as she opened her eyes.

She heard the familiar crackle of static, then something very much not static. "Repeat, is anyone there?" She heard that, now vividly recognizable, voice say.

"Inara?" She asked out loud, sitting up quick and getting up quicker, scrambling over to the comm station and clicking the reply button just as Inara started to say something else.

"Inara? Is that really you?" She asked.

See you next time...

The End

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