DISCLAIMER: I'm lucky to even own the ideas; Joss Whedon owns the characters, and the Corrs own the song.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Not set after any episode in particular. This is also a songfic.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Something Different
By TheAgonyofBlank


Inara didn't know when exactly this new development had happened; it seemed to have taken place far too quickly, far too soon. She thought it might've started over the course of waiting for Captain Malcolm Reynolds – or as she and Kaylee liked to say when no one was around to hear them giggle and laugh, Mr. Thick Skin. Once, after the ball in Persephone, Kaylee told Inara that she had called Mal "Captain Tightpants." Which amused Inara to no end, and she had quickly dissolved into giggles.

She waited for Mr. Thick Skin to show any signs of affection towards her – well, aside from the regular affection he showed his crew. That wasn't enough, mainly because Mal cared for all of his crew members. All she had wanted was just some tiny signal that he might feel even the tiniest bit of something that she felt for him, but nothing like that came for the next few months – just a tension in the air between them, and words that begged to be said but weren't.

And in the end, it wasn't that she gave up on him – not really, anyway.

It was just that by that time, Kaylee had caught her eye.

Opened my eyes today

and I knew there's something different.

Saw you in a brand new way

Like the clouds had somehow lifted.

And if yesterday I heard

myself saying these words

I would swear it was a lie.

She hadn't noticed it at first – she had merely brushed off the visits from Kaylee as completely platonic, friendly in a friendly sort of way, if that made any sense at all… She and Kaylee had always been close; she had never thought of the younger lady as anything but her mei-mei, her little sister. But after a while she found that these visits she received from Kaylee were one of the few things that would brighten her day. Between arguing with Mal and, well, more arguing with Mal, she came to find that she treasured these visits dearly.

Nothing was expected of her when she was in Kaylee's company – the only thing the younger woman seemed to want was for Inara to feel as though she could be herself without fear of judgment. Of course, one might ask why in the world a Companion – such as Inara – would fear judgment. But it wasn't that, exactly. It was the fact that she could tell Kaylee her deepest secrets, laugh when she wanted to and not when it was appropriate… and basically be herself. She didn't have to worry about the many pressures of society, demanding her to act a certain way or be a certain way.

Trust Kaylee to be able to let her just let loose and relax.

I don't know why

but suddenly I'm falling.

Was I so blind?

I was loving you all the time.

Now I'm hopelessly addicted,

helplessly attracted.

But soon, her attraction to the younger woman was something she couldn't deny to herself for any longer. She had long since stopped calling the other woman mei-mei, because… she wasn't. Inara loved Kaylee – loved her in the way she had once loved Mal. Now, however, her thoughts were constantly filled with Kaylee. It was always Kaylee this, and Kaylee that. She had a sneaking suspicion that River had some idea of what was going through her mind; more than once, the younger Tam had looked suspiciously from Inara to Kaylee.

Kaylee, on the other hand, seemed happily oblivious. She still showed up from time to time – whenever she could spare herself from the engine room – and Inara would carefully, dutifully, even lovingly, brush her hair. Occasionally, Inara would even set out a small basin and wash Kaylee's hair when the young woman came for tea. And in return, even though Inara had asked for nothing, Kaylee would bring some sort of trinket she had fixed together and give it to her lovely dark-haired friend. Once, she had even given Inara part of the radiator on a little silver chain – something that, unknown to Kaylee, Inara wore on her ankle since that day onward.

Inara had never been forward in love matters; she had always needed the other to come to her first – she didn't want to be turned down in the end. Perhaps that was why nothing had ever happened between her and Mal – because both of them were so alike… and so afraid of what could happen should they actually allow themselves to be in a relationship.

I'll make a wish this day,

and I'll send it to the heavens.

That we will always stay

entwined like this forever.

And though the world may change

'cos nothing stays the same

I know we will survive.

But Kaylee was different.

Kaylee was light whereas Mal was dark. Kaylee was shiny whereas Mal was more shadowy. Kaylee was sunshine and roses, whereas Mal was ships and war. While Kaylee seemed to be effervescence personified, Mal seemed to be brooding, and then more brooding. Inara had loved Mal once upon a time anyway, because she'd treasured all his qualities and faults, but now she loved Kaylee for all that she was and more. Because what made all the difference between Kaylee and Mal was the simple fact that Kaylee had been the one who had gone to Inara.

Kaylee was the one who really loved Inara back.

And love was all that Inara needed.

I don't know why

But suddenly I'm falling

Was I so blind?

I was loving you all the time.

Now I'm hopelessly addicted,

Naturally we acted.

It was a regular day on the ship; they were on another job – headed to Shadow from Ezra, and quite frankly Inara didn't want to hear about it. For the most part, she kept to herself and stayed in her shuttle, coming out only at mealtimes. To be honest, she was less than pleased with Mal, who insisted taking the odd job here and there on various planets – all of which didn't seem to have any respectable clientele. How was she supposed to run a business like this? If this kept on, she would have no choice but to leave the ship, whether she wanted to or not.

At some point during this pondering, she became aware of a knocking on her door. Her eyes traveled to the source of the sound, and she heard herself calling out, "It isn't locked. Come in." And even before she saw her, she knew it was Kaylee. Mal would never have bothered with knocking, and none of the other crew members really had any reason to be visiting her. She heard the door slide shut, and shortly after, a cheery face, spotted with engine grease, poked through the red curtain that hung between the door and the rest of the room.

Inara stood to greet Kaylee with a small smile, gesturing with a slender hand for the younger woman to take a seat. The mechanic did so, wiping her hands on her work pants, and looked on in silence as Inara busied herself with preparing tea. Although Kaylee had come with every intention of bringing up a certain subject with Inara and not just for tea, she couldn't help but remain quiet and allow Inara to prepare some. She had always liked watching the older woman prepare tea and pour some for each of them; it was relaxing for her, and by this time it was a ritual for them both. It was rude to interrupt.

I don't know why

But suddenly I'm falling

I was so blind

I was loving you all the time.

The tea didn't take long to make, and soon Kaylee found herself blowing gently at the surface of the hot liquid, hoping to cool it down so she could take a proper sip without burning her tongue or lips. Finally, she set the cup down on the table and realized that Inara hadn't taken a sip of her tea, either. When the mechanic looked up, she was surprised to find that the Companion was staring at her, a curious look on her face.

"Bao bei, is the tea not to your liking?"

"No, no," Kaylee replied, reassuring, even though both of them knew that Kaylee hadn't even had a taste, "The tea is real good, 'Nara. The best." Kaylee thought it pointless to mention that the tea was too hot; after all, it would just cool down. It wasn't a big deal. She folded her legs so that she was sitting cross-legged on the seat and chewed on her bottom lip, lost in thought.

The silence that followed this wasn't awkward in the least; on the contrary, it was comforting. And the best part of this quiet was that it gave Inara some time to sip her tea and meditate and sneak small glances at Kaylee, who she thought looked absolutely adorable the way she was.

And now I'm hopelessly addicted


Kaylee looked up at the voice and into Inara's searching eyes. The younger woman smiled at her friend, and took her tea from the table, lifting it to her lips and finally taking a sip. She herself knew that she was being awfully quiet – and she guessed that maybe Inara was wondering about it, because hardly a day had gone by where she was this somber. Or at least, when she was this quiet, this serious, something bad usually preceded it.

"Are you all right?"

"Just shiny," Kaylee nodded in response to Inara's concerned query, then set her teacup down on the table again. She watched as doubt clouded Inara's face, and suddenly found herself enraptured with the older woman. Any expression looked good on Inara – even doubt, yes. She managed to make it… cuter, more precious, somehow. She heard a soft intake of breath and glanced at Inara questioningly.

"Is it Simon?"

Something in Inara's voice sent pleasant shivers running up and back down Kaylee's spine; maybe it was the possessiveness that rang clear and sharp, or perhaps it was simply the concern that the question had meant to convey. But Kaylee knew better, and she knew it was the former. Especially judging by Inara's expression; the older woman seemed most surprised at the edge her voice had unwittingly taken. In that one question, Inara had managed to impart to Kaylee her feelings about Simon: some envy, for having Kaylee's heart, but mostly disdain, for not taking it.

Helplessly attracted

"It ain't Simon that's got me all quiet-like, 'Nara," Kaylee said quietly, fixing her gaze on the ground. She'd been trying to muster up all the courage she could to tell Inara how she felt about her, but now she didn't feel so brave anymore. Maybe she should have just told Inara when she had first come in, not now after she had sat down and let all the bravery and strength drain from her. She knew Inara said she didn't fancy the captain anymore, but what if she liked someone else?

"What's the matter, Kaylee?" Inara asked, the concern bubbling up in her again. She shifted closer and placed a comforting hand on Kaylee's, as though that would help – she hoped it did. But when Kaylee looked up at her, Inara saw she was smiling. Then she, too, found herself smiling – though somewhat unsurely. She did not know what the cause of this sudden change of mood was, but it wasn't so bad. She just wished she knew why Kaylee was being so silent before.

Kaylee, still smiling, turned her hand over so that both of their palms were touching and wound their fingers together. She glanced up at Inara to see her reaction, and was very surprised when she saw a hint of blush colouring her cheeks. But she did not receive any signs of protest, and encouraged by that, she leaned in.

Chemically reacted

Inara felt her heart quickening as Kaylee leaned closer to her; she could smell the sweet scent of Kaylee, mixed in with oil and engine grease. She closed her eyes… held her breath… and suddenly felt it leave her all at once as Kaylee's lips pressed against hers. Her heart leapt. Her spirits soared. She never thought she could feel this happy… this content… this excited… and at the same time, this calm.

She felt Kaylee pull her hand away from their handhold and a moment later comb that hand through her dark hair, pulling her closer and deepening the kiss. A sigh escaped her lips when they parted, and when she opened her eyes she found that Kaylee was staring at her. She looked away almost shyly at first, and then turned back to Kaylee again.

But neither of them spoke.

"…'Nara?" Kaylee began hesitantly, breaking the silence. She didn't know if she had gone too far, kissing Inara like that. But she had wanted to for so long, and it didn't seem right to hold herself back anymore. At the very most Inara would just tell her that she didn't feel that way about her… but she realized, as she waited for a reply, that she wanted Inara to feel the same way she did.

"Yes, wo de bao bei?" Inara looked at Kaylee fondly.

Kaylee seemed to be satisfied with that response and grinned, settling back into her seat, "That was nice."

"It was," Inara laughed in agreement.

"Can we do it again?"

Inara smirked, Kaylee's heart raced, and their lips met again, this time more firmly and passionately than the first.

Naturally we acted

Now as she lay in bed, her hand trailing over Kaylee's bare back, her mind thinking about their first kiss – that led to their second, and then consequently third – Inara couldn't believe that it had taken her so long. But she was hardly complaining; she loved Kaylee – always had and always would. She had found someone to confide in, someone to laugh and giggle and gossip with, someone to lie with… And that was enough for Inara.

Because wherever Kaylee was, was home.

I was loving you all the time.

The End

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