DISCLAIMER: Firefly & Serenity are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and Universal.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Originally written for puppetoflove for Livejournal's femslash06. The title is from an Umberto Boccioni statue of the same name.
TIMELINE/SPOILERS: Post-'Ariel', Pre-'Objects in Space'.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
The parabolic curves of the engine's rotation remind Kaylee of Spring: inevitable but fickle, infinitely intricate but so simplelife and death and breathing, round and round, and a soft hum that only she perceives as music, as language, as everything.
Of course, she doesn't think about it in so many words. To her, it just feels like Springor what she remembers of Spring from back when the season meant something, was part of a cycle, was something she yearned for as much as a kiss from the boy next door (not always the same boy but each year the same kissbrief and awkward and dry-lipped and beautiful all the same because it heralded the coming of wildflowers that poked up through the desert). In space, her experience of Spring is not perennial, but as capricious as Mal's mood or the irregular ebb and flow their earnings. And although each job planetside Kaylee basks in the iridescence of summer-to-come (when she's lucky enough that their timing is right), she doesn't really miss it when she leaves. Not anymore.
Everything about Serenity's rounded coreher rough, uneasy sophisticationis balm and temperance and security. And Kaylee is speechless because she can be. Words uttered through the simple act of fingers searching metal, and each time she touches the still-warm engine before disembarking (a ritual maybe, or a superstition), she envisions a vast grammar of connections, a complex etymology, and she knows things by heart that she has never fully understood.
She does not need to think in complete forms. Her mind keeps telling her this, or the part of her mind that's always aware of each slip, each fall from grace, each moment when a piece of her escapes the restbe it the numbed corner of her right thumb, the unruly tendrilone strand or fifteen?of hair at the crown of her head, or the fine machinery of her eardrum that throbs lightly every time Serenity falls into an orbit.
Some days River is hard-pressed to follow the panning focus of her own eyes; each object a lure for her gaze, she is fixated and every thing means nothing except itself. The illuminated bulkhead dull and brittle and arching forward to meet her, but as her body winds toward its smoldering pulsepreparation for an embrace, closer and closer, machinery and the sweet melody of blood and muscleshe's distracted by the fact that the bedspread is staring, eyes so wide they encompass her, the room, the ship, the 'verse, and she's arrested by its mocking, open look until Simon comes in, hand on her shoulder, and she's pulled back to the cool rhythm of her own breath, the toughening sheath of skin shielding the balls of her feet from the floor, the viscosity of human bodies in motion (in stillness that is motion even in the pause between heartbeats, and some days it frustrates her that nothing ever stops just so she can think).
Other days, all she sees is patterns. Everything is part, parcel, multiple, elemental, connected. Everything recalls something else and nothing has any meaning, depth, or value of its own. Singularity is specious, and everything is arbitrary except by association and, even then, she's not so sure. These days, River is lucid but huge, taking in everything and knowing without question that her body is not her body but a function of how people perceive it or her or themselves. And they think she is psychic only because they don't realize that boundaries are prescribed by perception. When each breath is an association and everything touches because nothing is separate, minds become very permeable things and nothing as culturally-constructed as privacy or individual thought matters much to her anymore.
These days, River is not a captive of her vision, of the sensory vehicle that is her body; rather, she is the variable in a masterful equation. Not a trite x or y, but n as it approaches infinity on the sharp wings of sigma, and her shifting magnitude sculpts the delicate equilibrium of its resolution.
One of these daysa good day: she's as big as the skyRiver finds herself sprawled along the length of the engine watching the rippling currents of energy. She's not supposed to be there and she knows and she doesn't care because Serenity speaks a language as large as she is.
When Kaylee walks in, the engineer startlesthe first time only, because every time after Kaylee expects to find River and Serenity side by side exchanging secrets, and she's not sure if she should be jealous of their complicity, or afraid, or pleased that someone understands the ship like she does. But this first time, Kaylee startles and takes a breath and recovers, her head lilts to the side in thought and River knows, without any tricks of mental permeability, that she'll be allowed to stay.
River sits up and Kaylee sits down beside her, the knee of her coveralls brushing cotton flowerspink on white. And when she tries to speak, River's finger is against her lips before she can even articulate a thought, let alone its vocal carriage. Her eyes widen, but not in protest, and she even smiles a little and shrugs, follows River's gaze to the assemblage of parts that complete the rotation again and again.
Chaotic juxtaposition, disparate pieces melded to form a whole, but it works, River thinks, and she thinks how she likes that Kaylee takes the world at face value: crazy girl in her engine room, the startling clarity of fractal webbing and furtive circuitry, a head suddenly resting in her lap (Kaylee doesn't question, just begins stroking her hair, and if River weren't playing at being silent, she would sigh), and the snaps and purrs of Serenity whispering her atonal sonata in their ears.
Kaylee smiles in her sleep and River watches. She imagines dreaming up a smiled sleep, dreaming of planets and excitement and the thrumming of engine heat. Not dreams filled with blue and white and glass and cold and pain so marked it screams for itself, but of wildflowers and cows and running through mud.
Speech is cumbersome, but Kaylee's dream-smile is so easy River wants it for herself. For an instant, she can feel herself focusing, feel something slipping, feel herself lured, and then the part of her that is cognizant of these things is gone and all she can see is lips curved upward, a quiet mark of pleasure River can't have. But wants.
Kaylee wakes while River's crawling panther-like towards her (she can't decide what do to with the smile when she gets it or whether it would best be devoured or savored, and what do smiles taste like anyway?). Kaylee barely has time for a startled breath before River kisses her, drinking her in (it's what she decided would work best), and Kaylee doesn't have time to push away (even if she wanted to) because suddenly River is gasping as the world crashes in, as continuity reasserts itself.
Signification is everywhere, and River tries to combat the rapidly shuttling neurons with speech. But Kaylee pulls her down, laying blanket over shoulders, before River can tell her that she wanted to eat her smile, to taste it, to make it her own. And now Kaylee is holding her (and River can feel the other girl's anxiety, her concern, her desire, even a hint of a smile waiting in the wings of the furrowed brow) and River realizes that she doesn't have to decide between touching everything and fading into nothing. Realizes she can do both.
Behind her, Kaylee's breaths are quick and careful, and together they listen to Serenity hum, the chatter of a million parts as one, chaos articulated as music. Kaylee doesn't quite understand why, but she smiles against the back of River's neck. And River learns she can even hear starlight.
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