DISCLAIMER: Firefly/Serenity is the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Nothing more than Feelings
By Angie


When River shows up at her door, Inara isn't surprised. They all come to her eventually. She is the eye of the storm, calm and quiet. They come to talk and to seek counsel. She invites River to take a seat and she sets some water to boil, for tea.

River does not sit, but remains standing. Most people stand awkwardly in the presence of Inara and her finery. River seems as comfortable as she ever does, looking at everything in that way of hers that makes the most mundane object seem like something new and surprising. She moves around the shuttle, fingering the drapes and ornaments, not in awe but in genuine experimentation. Finding out how things feel or smell.

Inara watches in silence as River examines the many accoutrements on her dressing table. Her fingers ghost over perfumes and powders and finally come to rest on Inara's hairbrush. This she picks up. She turns it over in her hands, feeling the weight of it, the texture of the wood. She turns and holds it out to Inara.

"Would you brush my hair?"

The question throws Inara slightly. River does not usually initiate any kind of intimacy with anyone other than Simon. But she quickly nods.

"Of course. Here, come and sit."

Inara sits on a stool and River sits on the floor, between Inara's legs. Inara runs the brush through River's long hair in smooth, gentle strokes. River's eyes close and her head falls back.

"You do this with her."

The brush stills in mid-stroke.

"With who?"

River giggles.

"With Kaylee. You brush her hair. You like brushing her hair. But you want more. You want to touch her. But you're afraid."

Inara stands and moves away from River. She places the brush back on the dressing table. She leans heavily, both hands flat on the surface.

River watches her closely.

"You think about touching her, how it would be, how she would be. You think she'd probably taste of something sweet. That her lips would be the softest you've ever kissed."

River stands and moves towards Inara. She notes that Inara's breathing is becoming faster.

"Sometimes you think about just lying in bed with her, watching her sleep."

A sob escapes Inara's throat and she turns to face River.

"Please stop."

River tilts her head to the side and reaches out to brush a tear from Inara's cheek. She continues as if she did not hear Inara's whispered plea.

"You spend your life pretending to feel. But you are scared to really feel anything. You're terrified that she won't love you, and frightened that she will. You want to run your hands up her sides and feel her shiver underneath you. You want to have her when she's all grimy and covered in oil. You want her to take you, to want you, to love you."

Inara tries to push past but River's grip on her wrist stops her. The girl's eyes are unreadable, blank.

"You can do all those things. Do them to me."

Again, Inara tries to move away but River is stronger than she looks and pushes her back, her thighs bumping against the dressing table.

"You don't have to be scared."

Then River's lips are on hers and Inara moans in a protest that sounds like encouragement. River's hand slips inside her dress, glides over her belly and down. They are moving together. Before Inara realises what's happening they are on the bed and River is lying on her, kissing her neck and shoulders, hands pulling roughly at complicated clothes.

"You want her like this, on top, dominating. You want her to make you come, make you feel something. You want to hear her gasp in your ear as you touch her."

She tries to shut out River's frantic whisperings. She tries to pretend. But it isn't real and she can't fake it this time, not like this, not with River.

She pushes her away, as gently as she can.

"Stop, mei-mei. Stop this now. We're not going to do this."

River's eyes come up to meet hers and the confusion and pain in them pierce Inara's heart. She reaches out and strokes River's cheek, they are still on the bed, lying side by side. River is quiet for a spell. Inara waits, knows she will speak when she is ready.

"I…I feel all of these emotions…the feelings, they flood into me and they get all mixed up in my head and I think that they're mine…Kaylee's are the worst, the strongest. She feels everything so strongly."

River moves closer to Inara, seeking out comfort rather than passion. Inara runs her fingers through River's hair as she talks.

"She thinks about you, so I think about you. She wants to be near you, so I want to be near you."

River looks hard at Inara.

"You really should get together with her you know. Between you you've got me crazier than I already am with all your longing and wanting."

Inara is taken aback.

"So you're saying…I mean…so Kaylee…thinks of me in that way?"

River looks at her so incredulously that Inara laughs at the expression. It reminds her that River is a teenager and can roll her eyes with the best of them. River shakes her head.

"And I thought Simon was a boob."

She rolls off the bed and stands, her back to Inara.

"And Simon. What about him?"

Inara looks down at the sheets as she asks the question, hating to pry into Kaylee's thoughts but needing to know.

"She likes him well enough. She likes him all the more because she thinks she'll never get you. He's a good consolation, to her mind anyway."

Inara smiles but River is still facing away from her. She starts to head out of the shuttle. Inara stands and calls out.

"River, wait."

River stops, turns her head to look back over her shoulder.

"You don't have to say anything. You don't know what to say anyway. Just go and get it over with."

"Thank you."

And she means it, sincerely. River nods and walks out of the shuttle.

Inara stands outside the engine room, a mass of nervous energy. A deep, shaky breath, then she enters to find Kaylee bent over some machinery. She straightens up as Inara approaches, her smile as wide as the sky.

"Hey you."

And with two words, Inara knows everything will be alright. She returns the smile, head tilted slightly.

"Hey you."

The End

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