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 fifth in the Opal Shire series, continued from Fighting The Hollows. (Story Notes:) **: When Kaylee refers to what happened on Ariel, she's referring to what happened in the episode of Firefly that's titled "Ariel". Quick summary? Here we go: River went a little sideways this once and slashed Jane [who's a big strong and often completely tactless guy, even though he's named Jane] across the chest with a kitchen knife. It so happened that they were heading for an Alliance world named Ariel at the time. The Alliance is the big [and rather shadowy and nefarious] government that presides over most of humanity in the solar system. Simon, River's big brother [a talented doctor], offered the crew a job: He'd show them how to steal some very valuable medicines from an Alliance hospital that they could sell on the black market for a lot of money if they helped him get River to a medical diagnostic machine that could scan her brain and hopefully let him know what exactly those Alliance doctors had done to his sister, and this would hopefully let him know how to help her. They were in the process of doing this, when a pair of men with blue gloves from the government showed up with these pen sized thingamabobs that, um, melted peoples' brains or something. They were after River and intent on melting anyone's brain who got in their way or knew too much [they didn't exactly come out and say "give me what I want or I'll melt your braaainnns", but they could have done that if they'd had better senses of humor... not that melting peoples' brains is funny, cause, you know, it's really not]. So, from that, Kaylee and the others could safely assume that the Alliance wanted to get River back very badly. For the full details, if you want them, you can either watch the episode or web search for a longer summary or a transcript.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To jess27[at]live.com

A Voice Calling From The Dark
By Jessica Knight


"Kaylee! Oh, Kaylee, yes, it's me, I'm here. Thank the all the Buddhas that ever were. Are you all right? Is Serenity...?"

"No, we ain't on Serenity, sorry to have to say... We're in your shuttle as a matter of fact, River and me. We got caught out on our shopping trip when the Reavers came." She told her. "Wasn't time to get back. Last we saw Serenity, she was breaking through the clouds in our rearview, us heading in for a crash."

"A crash? You're both alright I hope?" Inara asked.

Kaylee looked over to the bed and saw River sitting up, blinking the sleep from her eyes.

Their eyes met.

"We're fine." Kaylee replied, her voice unconsciously softening a little. "River got us down safe. I had some cracked ribs to begin with, but I'm fine now." I had a good doctor, she thought.

"I'm relieved... but... what... what about Mal, and the others? They didn't come back for you, you haven't had news?" Inara questioned. It was clear she was worried about everyone, but, Kaylee thought, probably the captain in particular, if she was to guess. What it was between Mal and Inara was fair on hard to guess at exactly, but it weren't hard to guess there definitely was somethin'.

"No... no news, haven't heard a peep." Kaylee replied as River came over to her and wrapped them in a bed sheet to keep them warm, sitting down next to her on the couch.

"Oh, I see..." Inara replied.

"'Nara, where are you anyways?" Kaylee asked.

"She's under the mountain." River answered for her. "Keeps her safe."

"She's... right." Inara replied back. "River? How could you...?" Her voice trailed off though, the question left incomplete.

"...The wind whispers it's secrets to her." Kaylee replied when River simply laid her head on her shoulder and closed her eyes sleepily. "That's all I can figure. What does that mean 'xactly though, under a mountain?"

"...Poor James, the governor, as it turns out he had a bunker built inside the mountain under his home, for emergencies. Though he wasn't so considerate as to have them built for the other residences in his colony, I'm afraid." Inara explained, only somewhat bitterly. "I'm down here with him, his family, and a couple of his staff. The bunker has kept us safe enough, but, you see... when the Reavers couldn't get in, I believe they blockaded the door somehow so that we couldn't get out either."

"...Oh, well, I mean that's terrible and all, but at least you're alive, right?" Kaylee replied, trying to look on the positive side. Despite River's statements on the subject, facts bein' what they were, she hadn't really held out much hope that Inara could somehow still be alive out there. So, obviously, she though the fact that she'd been proven wrong was a cause to be very cheerful. "How long do you think you can hold out? And you have any way a'knowing if the Reavers are still lingerin' about? We're a fair ways off out a'town, but I imagine we could hike back if we had to, try'n dig ya out."

"I'm sure we'd all be very grateful for that, Kaylee, thank you." Inara said with soft, sincere gratitude. "And as it turns out, yes. The bunker is connected to a number of outside vid-feeds, covering the town from above and closer in, in some of the public areas. We've been keeping watch and we haven't seen any Reavers for almost a week."

Probably because all of'm left dirtside came t'visit us, Kaylee thought ruefully, though didn't say so. It wasn't as though even Inara, shipmate and friend that she was, would likely believe that adorable but kinda mad seeming River Tam all by herself killed that many of those... things, people, whatever Reavers were. That, and she really wasn't sure it was such'a good idea to let that fact get out, regardless. She could prob'ly trust Inara to keep it to herself, but it sounded like Inara might not be the only one listening. And, if it did get out (especially considering what happened on Ariel that time**), it might end up being dangerous to River someday, if they ever got back up to space again that was (which wasn't necessarily a sure thing, she acknowledged; sure, the captain and the others'd come back for'm if they could, but who's to say they still, you know, could?). "Sounds almost like that right honorable mayor a'yours thought Reavers might pay this place a'visit ahead a'time, don't it?" Kaylee observed instead.

"That thought had occurred to me as well. I asked him about it once, but he told me he'd thought Reavers were a myth, like a lot of people from the inner colonies do, and that this bunker of his was merely an insurance measure against natural disasters or 'possible civil unrest'. Which, I admit, might make sense I suppose. If you're paranoid." Inara supplied. "In any case, he seemed... quite beside himself. And it wasn't as though pursuing the matter would do much good to anyone. So I thought I'd let it lie. Stephen, James's man servant, wasn't so forgiving however, didn't believe his excuse, and... his family had been out there, so, well... you can imagine..."

"What happened?" Kaylee asked as River moved to lay her head down in her lap, wrap herself up in a kind of ball to fit on the couch, and close her eyes.

"At first Stephen wanted to kill him, or beat him until he confessed. I talked him out of it, but only because I reminded him that the man's children would be watching... Still, it was an... uneasy peace. The tension only seemed to build between them. And James, poor James, well, he wasn't doing well besides that. He started to became anxious, and rather more paranoid. It all came to a head a couple days ago, in fact. James said something... distasteful, and completely tactless, and Stephen charged at him. Stephen's a fairly big man, bigger than James, surely, but James was, well, he must have been nearly insane by that point, I'm afraid. He managed to hit Stephen over the head with the base of the nearby bust of his late wife. Stephen was dazed and James rolled him away and got on top of him, meaning to strike him again, kill him I think. I grabbed his arm and stopped him before he could, but he pushed me away and turned on me, as though he meant to do me in as well. I had my gun, so... I shot him." Inara told her story.

"Well it hardly sounds like the man gave you much choice." Kaylee put in.

"No, he really didn't. I did try to shoot to wound though." Inara explained.

"That was kind." Kaylee assessed, thinking she herself wouldn't'a been inclined to take chances in a situation like that. But then, unlike Inara, she wasn't exactly that great with a gun nether; she would'a considered herself lucky if she'd managed to hit him at all. She stroked River's hair then and thought again how grateful she was to have River with her, how grateful she was to her for saving their lives the other night.

"Perhaps, perhaps not. He's in a bad state, Kaylee, I don't think he'll survive past the next day or two." Inara told them. "Perhaps if Simon or another doctor were here, but of course, there's little chance of that, I suppose..."

"Yeah, suppose not... um, so, and the others down there with you? They doin' all right? You all have enough supplies to last a while?" She asked. "How long do you think?"

"Oh, the bunker's well enough supplied, have no fear on that account. There's enough food to last all of us years, and fresh water from an underground well." Inara told them.

"And the others with you? Who all is that by the way?" Kaylee questioned.

"Well, Stephen I already mentioned. He had a bad headache from the blow he received, but he's doing fine. Then there's James's children, May and Daniel. Ten and Twelve. And the household cook, Frita, who's not doing that well with being trapped underground. She's got a fear of enclosed spaces, not a bad case, but still, I think she's only managed to keep herself together for the children's sake. She's... a brave woman." Inara explained.

"Braver than her employer, that's for sure." Kaylee said.

"True, but, then, in this case, his fear seems to have kept us alive, so I don't suppose I really have fair cause to complain, do I?" Inara told her with her usual equanimity.

"Well, when you put it like that..." Kaylee saw her point.

"Kaylee..." Inara spoke softly.


"It's... just really good to hear your voice, you know?" Inara said.

"Yeah... yours too." Kaylee told her back. "Listen, the shuttle's a lost cause unless I can get replacement parts, but don't you worry, me'an River, we'll pack up our things and get ourselves over to you, soon as we can. Dig ya out, whatever it takes, okay? I promise."

"...thanks Kaylee, that means a lot." Inara told her.

"Hey, what're shipmates for?" Kaylee replied, fighting back a yawn. She really did need to get back to sleep, she considered - River had thoroughly worn her out earlier in bed before they'd got around finally to sleepin' after all, and that was after a day a'diggin' graves. But darned if she was gonna let on to Inara about that. "You know, River said you'd be alive. Said you were tied to this life, by strings we'd made. That those strings were stronger than most, an' harder to break. You think there's anything to that?"

"...It would be nice to think so, wouldn't it? It's a beautiful thought, in any case..." Inara said softly.

"I know, isn't it?" Kaylee said back just as softly. "Inara... can I tell you something?"

"Of course, Kaylee. You can tell me anything, you know that. What is it? Nothing bad, I hope?" Inara asked carefully.

"No, it's happy news in fact." She said looking down at River's peacefully sleeping face resting on her lap, and thinking how beautiful she looked like this, how beautiful they'd been together when they'd... made love. How beautiful it was, just being with her like this now even. Or just walking together in the forest. She knew now for dead sure, uncertain though the future might be, that she didn't ever want it to be any other way. "Me an' River, we're sort of a couple now." If they got out of this, she was even sort of thinking she'd ask River to marry her, honestly. After all, when it came to the choice of havin' someone to love or not havin' them, it was a pretty easy choice, 'specially where River was concerned.

"Well, that's certainly a surprise... I thought, well, you know, it seemed you had eyes for her brother." Inara observed, her spirits seeming to be lifted by the news. "That must be quite a story." She said, clearly curious.

"Yeah, you could say that. And I guess I did sort of have a crush on Simon, but... you know, things change." Kaylee explained helplessly.

"So true. But you're right, that is very happy news, isn't it?" Inara laughed happily a little. "So? How'd it happen? You have to tell me all about it."

"I will, but later, okay? Right now, I need my sleep." Kaylee said with a yawn she couldn't hold back any longer.

"Oh, of course." Inara conceded.

"Call back in the morning sometime, we'll talk more then."

"I will. Good night, Kaylee."

"Night Inara." Kaylee replied, hanging up the comm. "River? Hey, come on, sweetie, gotta get up and back to bed."

River yawned and sat up, blinking sleep from her eyes again. "What'd I miss?" She asked tiredly.

"We gotta go dig Inara an some other people out'a a'hole later." Kaylee supplied.

"Oh... that makes sense then." River replied, yawning again and moving in to kiss her, which surprised Kaylee of course, but in a good way. She laughed though when the kiss ended. "Enough of that now, I'm too tired for that sort of thing."

"You're way too pretty, it's not fair." River said a little discontentedly, yawning again and getting up, walking back to bed and sort of falling back in.

Kaylee laughed again, very charmed by River's very cute antics. She got up and, yawning again too, wrapped the sheet around herself and followed River back to bed, getting in and sort of wrestling River back under the covers with her.

They snuggled up together and both promptly fell back to sleep.

They'd slept in that morning, and River had woken her up with kisses, and so it was that an hour and a half later, Kaylee found herself staring down into River's eyes. River who was smiling up at her with such serenity and bliss Kaylee felt like she could hardly breathe. She whined a little piteously and lay down beside her new lover and buried her face in her shoulder. River turned over and somehow unerringly found her lips and kissed her. Soon, Kaylee was on her back again being kissed. She moaned and broke away with only half-hearted resolve. "You tryin'a do me in or somethin'?" She asked with a only slightly shy, but mostly just happy smile.

"No... but you're hard to resist kissing, Kaylee. Is it too much?" River asked with a confused sort of innocent worry on her face.

Kaylee touched River's cheek and looked into her eyes. "Of course it's not, it's just... we've got things we have to do, ya know? We keep going like this, I won't have near enough energy to do anything but sleep some more." She explained. The truth was, she wasn't really as close to getting tired as she might'a been givin' the impression she was. Honestly, it was just gettin' a little too intense for her and she wanted to take a breath as much as anything else of a more practical importance.

River looked annoyed at that, but resignedly got off from on top of her and lay back beside her on her back in bed. "I hate logic." She said, or more like muttered disgruntledly.

Kaylee smiled and got up on top of her, kissing her neck a little and then snuggling in close. "I know what you mean."

"Can we just lay here a while then? I really want to, and it might be needed for... some reason." River asked, wrapping her arms around Kaylee's back.

"Yeah... we can do that." Kaylee agreed, contentedly closing her eyes and settling into cuddle with her girlfriend for a while. Somehow it felt like just what she needed in fact.

They were just silent like that for Kaylee wasn't sure how long, but it was amazing how just nice it felt. How... how just all of perfect. Even with everything else their situation had them needing to do and all, it really did just seem completely ideal in the right here and now.

Finally though, Kaylee got up on one elbow and brushed some strands of hair away from River's face, their eyes meeting and neither of them seeming to want to look away. "We have to make plans you know..." She told her.

"A friend to rescue, and enemies to burry. I'm not very fond of irony either." River explained with a little of a smile.

"At least neither of us will be doing any of it alone." Kaylee reassured with a little frank adoration in her voice. Because really, it was a bit incredulous how deeply she felt like she was falling in love with this woman under her. She felt like maybe she should sing a song or write a poem or do something equally as silly and hopelessly romantic. But in this case they really did have miles to go before they slept again (or at least would have tomorrow), so she figured she'd have to put a lot of that sort of thing on hold for a while. Which was probably for the best, since she wasn't that great a singer and had never written much poetry before either.

River smiled. "You are poetry and song, Kaylee, the best kind of all... didn't you know that?"

Kaylee was a little speechless. "How'd you know to say that?" She asked as soft as a breath.

River shrugged a little. "Just knew." Was all she said.

"Can you... read my mind or something?" She asked.

"Don't think so." River replied.

"I'm thinking of a number between one and ten..." She started.

"Nine." River replied.

Kaylee's eye widened. "If that's not mind readin', what is?" Kaylee asked.

"I don't think it's mind reading if I just know you very well." River told her, a little confusion in her voice. "Well, maybe not as much as I want to know you, but still, the principle holds."

"And you can see the future sometimes." Kaylee provided.

"That too, kind of." River conceded with a little a smile, the emotions behind which Kaylee couldn't quite put her finger on, so she moved down and kissed her. Just briefly.

"I guess it doesn't really matter. Whatever the truth of you is, it wouldn't make much difference. I'd still be hopeless in love with you, wouldn't I?" She told her.

"Even if I'd put you under a magic spell like a witch from mythology?" River asked playfully.

"Well, you didn't, did you?" Kaylee dared.

River laughed. "I deny all knowledge of witchcraft; the broom in my closet is only meant for sweeping."

Kaylee laughed too and kissed her and lay down at her shoulder with a sigh. "So, I guess what we have to do is bury the rest of the Reavers, get our stuff together, plan out the trip, and then head out... what, tomorrow morning, I'm thinking?" She put forward, thinking through it logically in her mind. She wasn't exactly expert at long hikes through unfamiliar territory, but she knew enough from her time growing up on Isis to know that you just didn't up and go on one, spur of the moment like. Not if you were fond of livin'. They'd want to see if they could chart their course at all (the shuttle should have nav records that might be able to help, if the records survived the crash and if she could coax them from the shuttle's databanks), get their bearings, plan what they'd take with them and all, then get a good night's rest and set off.

"That sounds agreeable." River said agreeably. "...I'm going to miss the bed most though."

"It doesn't bother you what Inara must'a got up to in here before us?" Kaylee teased.

"Why would it?" River asked, seemingly honestly not knowing.

"No real reason I guess." Kaylee told her. It didn't bother her either, she just wondered if maybe River could, um, see into the past or something, like she did into the future.

"You have funny ideas sometimes." River told her, pushing her over onto her back and kissing her intently for a while before sighing and stopping, sitting up and back on her knees.

Kaylee blinked, feeling a little dazed and wishing River had kept going, despite how impractical it would have been. "Girl could get addicted to you." She said with a happy go lucky sort of smile as she got up to sitting and met River's eyes again, that same intensity that seemed to only get better between them coming through plain and clear, telling Kaylee again just how right she'd been to fall in love with this woman.

River smiled. "Likewise." She replied simply.

Kaylee closed her eyes and sighed. "Time to go be undertakers?" She put forward a little reluctantly.

"Are you sure we should? Inara needing us as she does?" River asked a little doubtfully.

"You don't think we should?" Kaylee asked. "It's just, it sounded like Inara and the people with her had plenty of supplies, and we already started. Seems a shame not to finish. And anyway, I thought you wanted us to bury them? Or, you have one of those feelings a'yours? That we need to get going soon as possible?"

River shook her head. "No feeling. Just thought maybe it was too sad, that's all."

"...We don't have to, you know. It's not like we really owe them anything. They did try to kill us, you may recall." Kaylee put in, wanting to assuage River's uneasy feelings if she could.

"There are no debts anywhere but in the stories we tell." River said. She smiled a little then. "It doesn't matter. It just seemed so stark, the difference, and I feel too much... sometimes."

"Yeah... I'm guessing maybe you do, don't you?" Kaylee replied softly. "Anyway, it's up to you."

River moved forward and kissed her briefly. "Sadness and sorrow don't stand a chance against you, do they... my love?"

Kaylee felt a shiver go right through her looking into River's eyes when she'd said 'my love'; she honestly felt like she might swoon or something. Her heart sure felt like it was beating a bit faster anyways, and she definitely felt a desire to be close to her again; as close as could be. She swallowed and shook her head a little. "Don't say things to me like that when we're meant to be gettin' out a'bed." She told her. "It's mean."

River laughed at that, but didn't respond verbally and instead sort of tackled her playfully. They wrestled around a while until Kaylee finally managed to pin River to the bed by her wrists. Of course she knew that River had let her win, but still, looking down into River's eyes and seeing the complete look of trust, of surrender there, it nearly took her breath away.

And of course River chose that moment to turn the tables on her then promptly escape, moving so she was on the edge of the bed and then grabbing Kaylee by the arm and pulling her up and with her a little as she got out of bed. "Come on, we're going to be late." She told her, letting go of her hand and going to retrieve both of their clothes. Kaylee sat on the edge of the bed, bemused, as she watched River do that and bring her clothes back for her then start to put on her own clothing.

Kaylee watched River with undisguised interest while she started to get dressed, but then shook her head out of it and started to get dressed herself.

She had to wonder at it all though. When she'd first met River, she'd known right off what a beauty she was, said as much out loud in fact (even though maybe you could blame that a little on her being gunshot at the time), but this was something altogether else. Like looking up into the sky at night and calling what you saw 'space', and then finding your way up there, flyin' though it, looking out at it with nothing but a helmet between you and it, and realizin' what you thought space was wasn't anywhere near the whole story - not even close... and then maybe still feeling like there was something else even beyond that to know about it. Something you could feel out there, something you wanted to know, but couldn't ever because you were born but human and just weren't built for it. With River though, there wasn't any helmet between them, they were built the same, and she felt like she could know somehow, like she would know, if she'd just spend the time and let herself. And she was going to spend the time.

Because, not all that unlike when she'd really seen space for the first time, looking at River lately, she felt like she had then.

Just plain happy, and pretty much amazed. Like she'd just been given the best gift ever.

And nothing would ever be the same again.

It was later on in the day now, a while after noon. They'd talked to Inara for a while and then went out and buried the rest of the bodies. Afterward, River had wanted to go for a last swim in the lake before they went. Kaylee had swam with her for a while, but then got up on shore to lay out their picnic lunch for them. Now she was just sitting on shore, arms resting on her knees, chin on her arms, watching River jump off the top of the waterfall and dive into the lake with nary a splash. Kaylee smiled a little wistfully and lay her head on its side, waiting for River to surface, which she did a few moments later closer to her, her startin' to swim over to her then. Kaylee watched as her lover made her way back over to her, feeling like she was maybe losing something precious. Her and River alone out here, just them. They'd have the trip to the colony town, but after that, she'd have to share her new girlfriend with other people. Even if one of those others was one of her best friends. Oh, she knew she and River were steady and all, but still, there was just something magic about being the only two in the world like it'd felt like they'd been these last weeks. Something she was somehow sure she'd miss once it was gone. She smiled though as River got up closer to her and sat up on her knees, offering her hand to the woman. River took it and smiled to her, and Kaylee could see it in her eyes that she was thinking about pulling her in.

River apparently kept strong against the temptation though and let Kaylee pull her up to shore with her.

River knelt down next to her next and touched her cheek gently, kissing her. Kaylee felt spellbound and easily felt herself get lost in the simple kiss. She sighed a little blissfully when the kiss was over, looking at River with what must surely look like a lovesick gaze.

"How cn'you be this pretty?" Kaylee asked, running a hand through River's dripping wet hair.

"I'm in love." River replied simply. "It makes me glow, makes us both glow... brighter than anything."

Kaylee smiled a little dreamily. "That's so not fair." She told her, River's words just melting her inside.

River smiled, getting up to her feet and taking one of Kaylee's hands in hers and helping her up in the process also. River turned to her and their eyes met again. "I sometimes think that maybe stars are the places where lovers go after they die, you know. So they can always be together. And so they can keep the worlds that spin around them warm, to give other people a lighted path, a way to join them. A choice, between warmth and love, or darkness and wondering alone. It doesn't make sense really, to choose the other option, but I guess some people would..."

Kaylee didn't really know what to say or do just then but to move in closer and kiss her, almost reverently. "It's a pretty thought." Kaylee said after she'd finished thoroughly kissing her girlfriend and found herself wrapped in her arms (which she didn't mind, even if it meant she got wet some). "I kinda hope you're right, too. It sounds kinda nice, living in a star, warm and at home, in love with someone... in love with you forever."

"Some people think that forever can be found in a single moment in time." River replied. "Now, for instance..." She said, kissing Kaylee again and moving even closer to her.

Kaylee's eyes fluttered shut, and somehow she felt River's words start to live a little in her skin in some way. Almost like time just stopped... almost. She couldn't hold on to the feeling of course, but she felt like she'd remember it forever. And maybe that was something of forever after all?

When the kiss ended, she rested her forehead against River's and closed her eyes again, trying to steady her heart from beating so fast, her blood from singing so much in her body. She had no real thoughts in her, but she felt things very intensely right then.

"I'm going to miss this." Kaylee finally spoke. "Just having you to myself like this." She spoke honestly as her thoughts began to come back to her.

"I'll miss it too... but... I'll always be yours. Everything I am is yours... I promise." River told her with simple honesty and vulnerability.

Kaylee smiled and hugged her. "I love you so much..." Kaylee said, feeling a little overwhelmed with emotion right then. Like she might cry from being so happy, from all the feelings this woman gave her that she didn't even rightly have a name for.

"I love you too." River said in a soft heartfelt voice. "You saved me." He voice faint when she said that last thing.

Kaylee thought about that a second then backed up out of the hug, holding both River's hands with both of hers and meeting River's eyes, asking. "I saved you? ...How'd I do that? I thought it was you who was saving me all the time." She said with a little of a smile, a little embarrassed about that actually. She'd wished before that she could do more in fact, pull her wait more.

River just smiled, a little enigmatically. "You just did, that's all." Was all she said, letting go of Kaylee's hands and turning to walk away over to where Kaylee had set up the picnic.

Kaylee watched after her curiously a moment, then hurried to catch up with her. She'd just have to ask her some other time about it. She figured River probably didn't want to say what she meant now somehow.

Kaylee went over to her and they held hands going over to the picnic blanket. Kaylee let go of River's hand and sat down, watching with fascination as she dried off her hair a little and got dressed again. They'd put together a little of a feast today, with all of the berries and such they could gather from the woods, figuring it wouldn't matter because they were leaving the next day anyway. "It might be a big problem, you know. Finding food along the way." Kaylee spoke as River sat down. "I'm not sure, but I think we're at least a week's walk away from the colony town where Inara's at, maybe more." She said, eating a few berries. "We might have to try hunting for birds or rabbits or the like..." She concluded. She didn't like to think about maybe having to do that. She'd never liked eating animals if she could avoid it; ever since she was small she never had, but, well, sometimes a body just didn't have that many options, you know?

River shook her head. "I'm sure we won't have to murder anyone. I think it'll be fun." She told her positively, a cute, happy smile on her lips that made Kaylee smile too, like she just couldn't help it.

"I think so to." Kaylee said, choosing to believe in what River said. After all, River hadn't been wrong so far, so why would she be now? Not that she wasn't going to make sure they were as prepared as she could make them anyway of course, that was just sensible.

She started to eat her portion of the berries and the leftover stew River had made for them that morning (which still tasted really good, even cold).

Later in the afternoon, Kaylee was diligently at work trying to coax the shuttle's computer into giving her the information she needed. This had involved first some creative repairs to the hardware and now she was wading through programming code trying to get the shuttle's operating system to recognize the altered configuration she'd been forced to impose upon it's hardware and resolve the needed data to into something recognizable by humans. She had to admit, program language wasn't really her strong suit (although she weren't bad at it or anything, especially considering she'd had to figure it all out on her own, no one teachin' her anything).

River had been sitting on the bed half-heartedly playing some kind of, from the looks of it, completely original game with herself with Inara's deck of playing cards. Kaylee'd caught her gazing her way more than once though, and they'd talked off and on while she'd worked, River seeming to sense when she needed the quiet to concentrate.

As things stood though, she was starting to get a mite frustrated with this moody and obstinate computer system she was trying to work with. "You're just bound and determined not to make this easy for me, aren't you?" She spoke ruefully to the shuttle. Admittedly, she wasn't getting along with Inara's shuttle as well as she might have liked. Not like she had with her 'momma' anyway (meaning Serenity).

River came padding over to her then and sat down. "Can I help?" She asked curiously.

"Um, well, maybe. You wouldn't happen to know anything about programming languages by any chance, all that schoolin' you had?" Kaylee asked hopefully. River was supposed to be a genius and then some, after all. She hadn't thought to ask her, but now she was hoping River actually could help, because at this rate she was afraid she'd be at it all night. Wasn't even sure she'd be able to swing it at all, really. Nothing seemed to be clicking like it usually would for her. A fact she was actually feelin' kinda embarrassed about, t'be honest. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that her mind kept seeming to drift back to thoughts of River whenever it got the chance? Lately it seemed like that was all she really thought about. Only trouble was, right now, that wasn't very helpful at all.

"I dabbled a little, back in school. I could give it a try if you want?" She questioned.

"Be my guest." Kaylee told her. "About time I took a break anyway, I'm thinkin'. Way things were goin', I'm afraid I might have been like to say something unkind before long. And that never helps anything, now does it."

"If you told someone they were being stupid when they were going to kill them self and they decided not to, that would be helpful... probably anyway." River observed distractedly as she sat down and started scrolling through lines of code.

Kaylee laughed. "Thought you said you hated logic." She replied playfully as she went to get a glass of water.

"Only when it's convenient to. I can be very fickle sometimes." River replied. "That might be a character flaw, I suppose." She said, still going through the code while she spoke, making the occasional change here or there.

Kaylee laughed. "If it is, I've probably got the same one." She admitted as she poured the water into a glass for herself.

"It is fairly common place, I agree." River replied.

Kaylee took a few drinks of water and then came back over by River, sat down behind her, wrapped her arms around her girlfriend's waist, and rested her chin on River's shoulder, leaning her head against River's a little. "Having any luck?" She asked.

"Luck and I are old friends by now, I think. She appears to like me, even if a lot of other people don't seem to much." River observed.

"What other people? The government? The Alliance?" Kaylee ventured.

"They didn't like who I was, so they tried to make me into someone else. You have to really dislike a person a very lot to go to those kind of lengths, don't you think?" River observed, her concentration still mostly focused on her work.

"...Yeah, I guess there would be some kinda truth to that, wouldn't there..." She replied softly. She'd thought a lot about what had been done to River, as little as she really knew on the subject. What little she did know made her shiver just thinkin' about it sometimes. Still, she wished she could somehow take all that hurt away for her, do something that really helped this woman she'd come to fall so in love with. River'd said before that she'd saved her, but the truth was, she'd done precious little as far as she could see. She couldn't even manage to properly fix the shuttle, could she? No, her girlfriend was doing that too. It didn't seem fair on River, her being so useless sometimes like she seemed to be. She'd never thought of herself like that before, because she'd always been the one to keep her crew in the sky. She tried to push those thoughts away though. "You're definitely my favorite person in all creation though, if it helps." She told her sincerely.

"...It's impossible to calculate how much that helps." River said very softly. "...I think I solved it. But you need to move a wire somewhere... I'm not sure which one."

Kaylee moved out from behind River, who moved back a little so she could get in and see what she'd done. Kaylee scanned the code for a few long minutes; River hugging her silently from behind like Kaylee had been doing just before, which did seem to help her focus better, actually. "Oh! I see it!" Kaylee twisted around and kissed River briefly. "You're brilliant, you know that?" She said happily, getting up to go retrieve the tool she'd need then hurrying back to open the cover plate again and make the modification River's code-rewrites needed. It only took but a minute, and, sure enough, once she had, she reinitialized the system and the operating system resolved itself like it was supposed to.

A few commands, and there it was: Rough flight path information, and the topography photos Serenity had taken before breaking atmo and transferred automatically to the shuttle's memory core. A few more quick commands and they had a course plotted. "Shiny." Kaylee said happily as she gazed at the results (the res wasn't as good as some fancier spaceships might give you, but it was more than good enough in Kaylee's opinion). "We're on our way." She turned and hugged River happily. "You're so awesome." She told her.

River was quiet though, and when Kaylee sat back, River just had a shy sort of confused smile on her face. But she looked doubtful too.

"What is it, what's wrong?" Kaylee asked, touching River's cheek with concern.

River shook her head just a little and closed her eyes a moment, then opened them and looked back up into Kaylee's eyes. "It's too fast sometimes, I feel like I might float away." She told her, moving forward and kissing Kaylee with something almost like reverence.

Kaylee felt sort of light-headed then too, but in a really nice way. She felt herself relax automatically and kiss River back. She loved this so much, kissing River.

The kissing ended after a while and River pulled away just a little with a soft, sweet smile. "You're so awesome." She said, still a little shyly, but her eyes were clear and really here now, Kaylee could tell she was feeling a lot better.

"That's what I said." Kaylee replied.

"Echo." River replied. "Can we take off our clothes, go to bed, and have more orgasms now?" She asked hopefully.

Kaylee grinned. "You're such a randy girlfriend sometimes. Lucky me." She said, taking River's hand in hers and getting up, River getting up with her.

She led River back over to the bed and sat down with her, the both of them starting to remove the other's clothing without saying a word. Pretty soon, River had just taken off Kaylee's underwear and she was laying under her looking up into River's eyes. They kissed and she rolled River over to look down at her, her heart beating fast. "It's our last day with a bed for a while, you know." She told her.

"We should make the most of it." River replied, her eyes eager and wanting.

Kaylee kissed her and that was pretty much it, they were lost in each other all over again.

It was morning now, and River and Kaylee were just finishing up getting packed for the long journey ahead. They had no way of taking the map they'd gotten from the shuttle with them, so they both tried to commit it to memory. Kaylee was sure River probably had it down better than she did, but that was to be expected, she supposed, and was in fact a very good thing.

They'd talked to Inara a little in the morning, but now Kaylee thought she should call in one last time before they left. She said as much to River and her girlfriend agreeably joined her over on the couch by the window to make the call.

"Inara, you there? It's us." Kaylee commed out.

"Kaylee! Hi, yes, I'm here." Inara's voice came back just a few moments later.

"Well, just thought I'd let you know, we're all packed up and ready to head out. Like I said, should be out your way in eight or ten days probably, twelve at the most." Kaylee replied. "Depending on the terrain."

"That's great, Kaylee. Again, thank you both so much. Before I heard your voice two nights ago, I was starting to think... well, I'm just... I'm really grateful." Inara told them.

"We're grateful too." River said. "That you're alive. It's like... family..."

"Oh, River... no, I'm sure Simon's alright. You just, you have to believe that River. That's all. Sometimes you just have to believe." Inara told her.

"He's very far away." River replied. "There are a lot of people. I think he's gotten himself lost. I just worry sometimes, that's all."

"We're all lost sometimes." Inara said back.

Kaylee, for her part, wasn't sure she was quite so hopeful, but she didn't want to say so. Putting negative ideas out into the universe had never seemed a helpful notion to her. "Well, we better be heading out. Sooner we leave, sooner we get there." She spoke.

"I'll be here. Just, be careful you two. Take care of each other." Inara said.

"We will, don't you worry." Kaylee replied, and disconnected the comm channel, turning to meet River's eyes.

River smiled, and kissed her briefly, got up and offered Kaylee her hand. "Time to go?" She asked.

"Time to go." Kaylee replied, caressing River's cheek and hair a little, then taking her hand and walking with her back to where they had their gear piled up outside the shuttle.

They'd lock up the shuttle and walk off into the woods.

"Go forward; never looking back, for the devils of your past may chase you if you meet their eyes." River said softly, looking at the shuttle.

"Who said that?" Kaylee asked.

River thought. "I'm not sure." She admitted, fastening her pack around her waist and reaching out to take Kaylee's hand so they could begin their walk. "In any case, it might not even be true." She told her.

Kaylee thought about that a moment, and decided it was probably good advice, anyway.

See you next time...

The End

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