Clearly sometime in/around "War Stories." Somewhat AU, in that there is the potential for lady-sexin'. M rating for the gratuitous use of batteries.

Not mine. Joss is boss. Always.

They're all dumbfounded by the beauty of Inara and her lady client standing together, but Kaylee is startled to find there's a sensation like air going out of her when the door shuts behind them. The others spread throughout the ship, going about things as usual, but she lingers awhile, unable to tear her gaze away from that shuttle door.

She chalks it up to a pure sense of loneliness, one that, despite being around the others near every moment, still has a way of kicking in. Sometimes the loneliest place is surrounded by others who've really got something: Wash has Zoe, and Simon'd look after River come hell or high water. Inara's never alone less she wants it that way, Jayne's got his guns and women whenever they dock. The Shepherd, well, he's got his God. Mal has… well, he'd realize he had Inara if he opened his eyes all the way, wouldn't he?

On a good day, Kaylee tells herself she's got the ship. She's got Serenity, her girl. Not many a woman her age could say they've got a girl so trusty, nor one that's weathered so many storms. But everyone's got Serenity, one way or t'other. They've all got their own parts and pieces what belong to them. So it's no real consolation.

Everything's more than shiny amongst the engines, and not much else for her to do about the rest. Everyone's busy some way, and Kaylee figures she won't be much missed if she retreats into her bunk awhile. Not to imply she's in a mood; little Kaylee and moods don't go side by side. But she's less than her usual self, and she reckons a bit of time to sort out what she's thinking might be helpful.

Drawing her knees into her chest, she lets her thoughts drift to Inara and her woman client. 'Course it made sense a Companion'd take both sexes time to time, women have needs same as men. More, sometimes. And not as if they can just take what they want same's a man. They've got softness to contend with, and all those impulses they hear can't be trusted. If they take the lead, it's being pushy, and Kaylee doesn't mind being pushy, but plenty out there who she'd try to push would take offense.

She imagines it's easier with another woman, in a lot of ways. No panic regarding whether things fit, or if there's gonna be consequences nine months down the line. A woman understands which places really feel right, what little spots a man might never notice. And a woman doesn't worry about what they did upholding their reputation or whether they size up the same. It's simple, sweet. It has to be.

She imagines Inara and that client, slightly older, short blonde hair, fine and fancier than she herself could ever dream to be. The way their soft bodies would match up, fall together; their skin pale against Inara's red satin sheets. Her eyes close, and in her mind she's the blonde woman, and Inara's lips meet hers.

This could account for that twisty feeling in the pit of her stomach watching them sequester themselves, Kaylee reckons. A blush rises in her cheeks as she entertains these thoughts of Inara, Inara the Companion, Inara her best friend. She's not sure which title makes her blush more, but ain't wrong just to think. She'd never –

She might.

Biting her lip, she slides out of her coveralls. The heavy fabric falls to a heap on the floor, and she reaches one hand down, slow and careful, to slip under the fabric of her panties. Men never could find that place that felt just right, not without a lot of prompting, but a woman could. Easy. She works in a slow circle at first, feeling the warmth start and spread through her body. She's always to the point with others, but she teases herself, running two fingers over her slit but not letting them enter.

There's all she needs under the bed, and it's a testament to her need how quick she finds it and flicks it on. Kaylee runs her other hand over her breasts, fingernails scratching lightly, as she glides the trusty little vibrator into her. She's wet before it even enters, and it's unmistakable, now, that when she closes her eyes it's Inara's hands working this magic on her body and not her own. Her breath comes in quick gasps and sighs, and her hips buck into the toy. Her mind is full of Inara: dark curls brushing over Kaylee's pale skin, lips against her throat, delicate hands so soft and knowing.

When she climbs up for dinner, River's standing in the corridor, eyeing her with a curious expression. "You want what you don't have," she says. "It's a screaming need."

Kaylee is sure River's just being her usual cryptic self, but it still causes her to blush.

"There's no shame in wanting," River tells her.

They hit the black once more, and Inara comes across Kaylee in the kitchen one night, sitting with her head in her hands at the table. "Mèimei, is everything all right?" Inara questions, her eyebrows knitting together with concern.

Kaylee brightens, regarding her friend and fantasy with the lit-up eyes of someone who's just woken. 'Been doin' some thinkin', is all," she says vaguely.

"On what subject?"

She bites her lip, then turns in her chair to face Inara properly, even as her cheeks redden. "What's it like, 'Nara? F'you, bein' with another woman?"

Inara seems unsurprised by the question, but she doesn't rush into answering. "Has everyone been discussing my latest client, I take it?" It's said with a smile, to show she doesn't mean any accusation by it, but it strikes Kaylee as evasive.

"It's natural to be curious," Inara says gently. "I suppose it's different from woman to woman, just as it is from man to man. I couldn't explain it perfectly."

A sigh escapes Kaylee's parted lips, and she leans on the chair, her eyes tracking Inara as she moves catty-corner to her. "Just got to wonderin', I s'pose."

"Kaylee. Sweetie, your hair's all tangles," Inara near exclaims, taking her hand and pulling her to her feet. "Come on, let me fix that for you."

She feels like a little girl, following Inara back to her shuttle – not hardly the composed, glamorous woman whose footsteps she wishes she was walking in. But she does as Inara says, sitting on a cushion before Inara's bed as the other woman positions herself behind her and takes a brush to her messy hair. Kaylee's eyes flutter closed, just enjoying this light touch.

"What it feels like?" Inara continues quietly. "Well." She sets the brush down and slips her hands to Kaylee's shoulders, applying light pressure to the tense muscles. "It's a great deal… softer. Often, though not always, more gentle." And then she practically doubles over, reaching her hands to take Kaylee's. She rests her head against Kaylee's shoulder, and her own eyes close as she adds, "It's much rarer for me to choose a woman."

Her lips find Kaylee's, and the younger woman smiles. Everything she'd hoped it would be and more.

mèimei; "little sister"