DISCLAIMER: Firefly/Serenity is the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The title is in homage to Samuel R. Delany's novel Stars in My Pockets Like Grains of Sand (although the story itself isn't related to that text).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Stars in Her Pockets
In her peripheral visionbeneath the press of fingertips, a palm over her eyelidsthere's a shimmer of movement. But it's the smell that has her spellbound: green and bright, notes of spice and mist fluttering around its edges, and a taste that lingers against her tongue as she draws in a breath.
And then draws in another.
Kaylee's hands are over her eyes, warm and soft, and her presence against River's back brings a touch of engine grease along with it, mingling with the fresh, lively smell of the air.
River had laughedgiggled, reallywhen Kaylee ambushed her in her quarters, face bright and happy, imploring her to come quickly to the cargo bay and to close her eyes.
"And no peaking."
River didn't spoil the moment by pointing out that, peaking or not, she had felt Kaylee's excitement from across the ship, sparks of energy and life reverberating like a deft vibrato across Serenity's grey hull.
So River had followed, or allowed herself to be lead, squirming and laughing and breathing deeply through her nose, as Kaylee had tried to steer her blindly through the ship, one hand on her shoulder, the other over her eyes. And now here they are in the cargo bay and Kaylee's voice has taken on a more brilliant sparkle than before, pleasure threading through every syllable. River is so transfixed by the sound that it takes her a moment to notice that Kaylee's hands are gone.
"River." There's laughter in Kaylee's tone, and River sways toward its lilt. "You can open your eyes now."
So she does.
And there's a forest in Serenity's cargo bay.
Kaylee's brought her right up to the edge of a copse of a dozen pine trees, their tips towering above them, roots and soil below encased in large burlap sacks, and so many branches in between, their deep green needles trembling with the vibrations of Serenity's engine.
Ropes bolster the trees, keeping them upright, and to River they look like shivering captives awaiting an unknown fate. But they're beautiful, too, and the floor around them is covered in soil; River can't help but play it between her toes as she looks around, smiling.
"Some rich folks want them for an old Earth holiday," Kaylee explains. "Since their planet's covered in sand, I guess they've got no trees of their own. Still not sure what they're gonna do with 'em."
"Christmas," River says, not quite certain how or why she knows the word.
Kaylee shrugs, "Can't remember what Captain called it. Aren't they shiny, though?"
River finds herself nodding absently because her friend's voice is brimming with excitement again, and she just has to turn around and look. The trees are pretty, but its Kaylee's eyes that are shining. And, River thinks, even in space, where darkness leaks into everything, Kaylee's eyes are still like stars.
This time it's River who grabs Kaylee's hand, pulling her into the thicket, needles snagging the thin cotton of her shirt. She draws the engineer to the center of the trees and plunks down in the dirt. Kaylee tumbles down beside her, graceless and smiling.
Despite the cold of the cargo bay, River suddenly feels very warm.
When she recalls this moment later, River thinks she might have been the one to move first, but after a split second, Kaylee meeting her halfway, it doesn't really matter anymore because they're tumbling onto hard, cool metal and its River who wrestles herself out of the tangle of their arms and legs to land on top, straddling Kaylee, leaning down to kiss her.
Kaylee looks surprised for a moment, but then she closes her eyes, sighing, leaning up into River's kiss.
It occurs to River that she's never done this before, and her heart is thumping wildly. She can feel blood rush through her body, almost tangible; suddenly she's just this side of hysteria, like after a fightor before onebut it's a good thing somehow, and Kaylee's lips are soft and warm and she's radiating happiness and River feels soil creeping beneath her fingernails from the way she's bracing herself against the gritty, unyielding cargo bay floor.
A full minute goes by, River on the strange and lovely brink of feeling something she can't yet name, and then Kaylee pushes her back, leaning up on her elbows. There's a question in her eyes, still twinkling with starlight and reflecting the green of the branches above them. River frowns.
"Why are we stopping?"
Beneath her, Kaylee's eyebrow quirks, and then she's grinning, and River's frown turns into a pout.
Laughing now, a sound that seems to glisten in the musky bower, Kaylee pulls River back down, burying her hands in the other girl's hair. And there they are, kissing again beneath their living canopy, and River feels a tremor run through her as if she were one of the trees: captive and awaiting an unknown fate, but beautiful all the same.
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