When she was little, she loved the dirt.

Wasn't nothing much better than sitting by the creek running out in the back fields with her feet in the water and squishing mud between her toes. She'd sit there long past the time her feet was white and pruny. When Beau lost part of his leg after his tussle with some barbed wire and wasn't no good for herding no more, he'd hop-jog after her and sit, head in her lap and look up at her with those big, soulful eyes.

She can't remember the last time she's had mud 'tween her toes.

Once, when they got to telling stories over one supper or another, Zoe mentioned that she grew up on a boat not too much unlike Serenity. While she don't doubt a bit that it's so, Kaylee finds it a bit hard to wrap her mind around it.

She loves Serenity, and all that comes with her, with a full and true heart, but it's different. On Serenity, dirt is something to be delicately whisked from sensitive engine parts, swept up from the cargo bay and shoved out the door, kicked off of boots. Wash ain't much better; planet where his folk come from, just as like to be poisoned by what comes from the ground as what's floating about in the sky. And Inara...well, if 'Nara's ever had dirt between her toes, Kaylee reckons she'd pay a lot to see the pictures.

For all his grumbling otherwise, she knows the Captain understands. Trip out to one of the Border Moons, or Whitefall, or some like--far enough to be not quite so civilized as the Core--he'll come and stand out on the lander ramp, looking out and breathing deep. Sometimes, she'll come and stand with him, and they'll make small and meaningless conversation just long enough to take it all in. That feel. That smell.

Then Mal will straighten his shoulders, like a man waking himself from a dream. "Well, best be about it then," he'll say.

And she'll just smile, safe on this little bridge between earth and sky. "Yessir, Cap'n."