DISCLAIMER: Firefly/Serenity is the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Where your road leads (I will follow)
"So, you're leavin'?"
Inara didn't turn around. She had never heard such harshness in Kaylee's voice and didn't think she could take seeing it borne out on her face. She nodded her head slightly, not trusting her voice.
"Were ya thinkin' on tellin' me any time soon? Like, maybe 'fore you got off the boat, never to be seen again?"
"Who told you?"
Inara closed the food locker she'd been listlessly rummaging in and looked down at the counter. A sudden hand on her upper-arm spun her around and she was facing Kaylee. Her heart shattered at the sight. Tear-streaked and angry, Kaylee was shaking with emotion. Some of the anger in her eyes dissipated as she saw tear-tracks to match her own on the Companion's cheeks.
"Why are you goin'?" Kaylee's voice was little and pleading, her eyes seeking out answers.
"Kaylee " Inara began, reaching out to stroke Kaylee's cheek.
But Kaylee pulled away.
"Don't touch me!" she whispered, her arms wrapping subconsciously around her midsection.
Inara felt like she'd been slapped. The sting of Kaylee's reaction threw her back a few steps. Rallying her thoughts she tried again, this time reaching for Kaylee's shoulders and again the young woman avoided her touch.
"I said don't. I can't think when you touch me. My head gets all messed up into thinkin' that you feel things that you can't feel. Cuz if you did feel them then you wouldn't be leavin'. Couldn't leave me."
Inara watched Kaylee's face crumble into tears, and all her years of training couldn't prevent her from doing exactly the same. She stood with tears running freely down her face, looking at the top of Kaylee's head, at her shoulders shaking with sobs. And she moved forward and wrapped her arms around her. This time Kaylee didn't protest, she accepted the embrace and returned it fiercely. She clung to Inara, her face hidden in her neck. Inara stroked Kaylee's hair and whispered in her ear.
"Bao bei I have to go. We both knew this could never work."
Kaylee looked up in surprise.
"No we didn't. I didn't ever think it couldn't work."
"Oh, baby, come on. How many times have we talked about the policy on Companion dating?"
"Yeah? So? We talked about a lotta things. We talked about Jayne's eatin' habits a few times didn't think they had any bearin' on us."
Inara released Kaylee and stepped away, shaking her head.
"You're being silly now."
Kaylee followed right behind her.
"How am I bein' silly? Is it silly that I love you? Cuz if it is then I'll gladly say that I'm silly. But if we're still talkin' about this stupid Companion stu "
"It's not stupid!" Inara turned around, her face a hair's breadth from Kaylee's. Then she turned abruptly and made to stalk out of the kitchen. She was halted by Kaylee's words.
"It is stupid. How stupid is it to let some dumb job tell you who you can and can't be with?"
"Kaylee " Inara started, beseechingly, turning back around.
"No, listen. You love me. You know ya do. But you can't have normal, straightforward love like everybody else so ya got to run away. That's the stupidest thing I ever heard."
Inara sighed. She knew there was truth in Kaylee's argument, but it was one she'd had with herself enough times that she knew the response.
"How can this possibly work? If the Guild were to hear about us my license would be revoked and I would no longer be able to work. If I can't work what use would I be aboard Serenity? I'd have to leave the ship anyway, so I'd be alone. Only I'd be penniless and unable to earn. At least this way I'll be able to remain self-sufficient."
"Is that what you care about? The money? Good God Almighty, 'Nara!"
"Of course that's not all I care about! But it is a consideration for me. If my license were taken away and Mal dropped me on some rim planet how would I get by? Whore myself?"
"The cap'n wouldn't do that."
"No? Why would he keep me here? He's made it abundantly clear that he's unhappy about my relationship with you so it's unlikely that my status as your partner would be enough to keep me around. He'd kick me off this ship faster than I could "
"I wouldn't let him."
Inara laughed at that.
"I have no doubts that your charms can move mountains, my darling. But it might take a bit more than your smile to convince Mal."
Kaylee sighed and looked at the floor.
"OK, so if that happens, then we'll leave."
The breath left Inara's lungs in an unrefined gasp.
Kaylee looked up.
"I said we'll leave. We'll find someplace else, some other job."
"You you'd leave Serenity?"
"I'd be with you."
The simplicity and honesty of the statement resonated in Inara's head. Kaylee watched as realization sank in.
"You didn't think I'd come with you that's how come you didn't ask me to go with you this time."
"I didn't I didn't think I had the right to ask that of you."
Kaylee came closer, taking Inara's hands into her own.
"'Nara, you got the right to ask anybody anythin'. Ain't no fancy rules out here in the black. Jus' like I got the right to make my own choices."
She moved in, her arms going around Inara's waist, holding her loosely.
"An' I choose you."
Their lips met, softly, in reassurance. Inara wound her hands into Kaylee's hair, deepening the kiss, tears mingling on their cheeks. They parted, foreheads still touching. Inara's voice was shaky when she spoke.
"I didn't think you'd ever leave Serenity. You love her so much."
Kaylee wiped her own tears away, then Inara's, before replying.
"When I first came aboard this boat I used to sleep in the engine room, cuz the sound of the engine would help me sleep. Gave me comfort, I guess."
Inara nodded, dropping kisses on Kaylee's cheeks as she continued.
"Then I started spendin' time with you. The first time I fell asleep in your bed, my head was on your chest and I listened to your heart beatin' under my ear. Now, when you ain't here I sleep in the engine room. Cuz it's the closest thing I can find to the sound of your heart."
Kaylee pulled back slightly so that she could see Inara's eyes.
"But she ain't you. Ain't even close."
Inara choked down another sob, unwilling to waste any more time on tears. Instead she leaned in and kissed Kaylee's lips again. Kaylee was smiling when she drew away.
"So now what's the plan?"
"We stayin' or we goin'?"
Inara smiled at the choice.
"Well, since things have changed "
"Things ain't changed. Things've always been this way. You just found out is all. Maybe if you'd thought to ask before we coulda skipped all this stuff and we could be in bed right now."
"Well, now I know. And in future I promise to ask before I go ahead and make any more stupid decisions. And by the way, we're staying. Mal's not going to be thrilled."
"He'll get over it. I'll work my charms on him."
Inara laughed for the first time in days.
Later that night, Kaylee fell asleep to the steady beat of Inara's heart, smiling.
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