Telling Secrets

Kaylee is nice. She always tries to be there for River when she needs it, and even when she doesn't. Not many people will do that, especially for someone like her, for someone unpredictable, who could at any moment turn from a seemingly innocent girl to a weapon. Most would run. Kaylee almost did. But she changed her mind and she stayed and now they're friends again and everything is okay.

Everything is okay now, but River is worried. There is something else she hasn't informed Kaylee of and it is something big, something that will impact on the mechanic in a big way if River is right – and River is usually right. Kaylee has to know, and soon.

River finds Kaylee in the engine room that morning, doing a tidy up of the wiring that has gotten tangled and out of control. There are so many wires of so many different colours and sizes. Some gleam coppery gold and some have coloured tubing over them to make it easier for Kaylee to identify their purpose. Coded, organised. A key.

The mechanic greets her warmly and continues to work, her fingers moving deftly over the wires and expertly sorting them out into neat bunches that she tapes together and puts out of the way. River watches, wide eyed, fascinated, learning. She always did love to learn new things and figure out the way things worked. Kaylee is a natural and she is enthralling to watch. She makes it look easy when River knows for most, it would not be.

An hour goes by and River is still watching her. Kaylee has told her several times now that she doesn't have to stay, that there are other things she can do if she is bored, but River just smiles and shakes her head. "It's interesting," she says. "I like to watch."

To that, Kaylee just grins. "See this, then?" She shows River another part of the engine and goes into detail about what it is there for and how it works. And then she moves onto something else and explains how that works too. It's midday before Kaylee gets bored and goes in search of food. River could stay and listen for hours more, but she follows Kaylee into the mess and chews on the protein she is given while Kaylee eats hers and chats animatedly with Simon, who is also having lunch and tea that Inara shared with him before Kaylee and River arrived.

Kaylee's eyes light up so much more when she is talking with Simon. It makes River jealous and it makes her happy. It's weird to feel both those things for the same reason, but she understands. She wants Kaylee to be happy and her brother makes Kaylee happy. River doesn't want Kaylee to ignore her though and give all her attention to Simon.

Luckily, Simon finishes his food and says he has to go. He apologises profusely, rambles his reason and his face tinges pink. Usually Simon wouldn't spend time with Jayne, but on the captain's orders, the two men are to gather some equipment while they're still planet side. Simon says sorry to River too and checks with Kaylee that she can watch her while he's gone. Kaylee agrees without hesitation.

It occurs to River that now is her chance. With Simon gone, off the ship, there is no chance of him interrupting her confession. Simon can't be around when she tells Kaylee the truth. He won't understand why she has to tell Kaylee. She doesn't want him to be mad and she doesn't want him to be there to stop her from saying what Kaylee needs to hear.

River waits til Simon and Jayne have left, bickering about who was in charge and who gets to look after the money. Jayne is certain that Simon will lose the money if he is to look after it and Simon thinks Jayne will keep the money they don't use to himself and lie to the captain about how much they spend. They're both wrong, both far from truth. Their bickering amuses her.

She follows Kaylee back to the engine room and stands by her side, hands clasped behind her back, chest thrust out just a little bit and a cheeky smile on her face. She waits for Kaylee to look up and ask her if she's okay.

"Have a secret," she says.

Kaylee smiles, amused. She is not at all prepared for what River has to say. There is no way to really get her ready for what River has to tell her. "So?" Kaylee asks. "What is this secret, River?"

"Promise you won't tell."

"I promise." Kaylee has a look on her face that supports her words. The mechanic will remain true to her word.

River beams. She knows that it is time now and that she is free to reveal to Kaylee her secret. In fact, Kaylee seems very much intrigued and full of wonder at her admission of having a secret to tell. It is expected that she will now reveal what she has been so very pushy about mentioning.

And so, she tells Kaylee, leans in close to her and whispers it in her ear. "I love you."

Kaylee moves back, surprised. "I... River..."

River gives her a small smile. "I love you, best friend," she adds. She sways a little from side to side, just enough to be noticeable. Her feet shift over the floor, feeling the cool metal. "Do you love me too?"

Her laughter is music, warm and flowing and filling River right through. River senses some relief in Kaylee – for what reason she isn't sure – and she senses warmth. So much warmth.

"I do, River," Kaylee says. "You're my best friend too."

River grins and reaches over to rest a hand over Kaylee's head for a moment. Her other hand she keeps behind her back. The mechanic looks at her as if she's doing something odd, but she goes along with it and doesn't move or push River away. And then, just as quickly as the urge to let Kaylee in on her secret came, River gets another feeling rising inside of her.

"I have another secret," River says.

Kaylee's eyes widen slightly. "Yes?"

"I wanted to help and-" River reveals her other hand. In it is grasped a wire.

Kaylee sighs. "Show me where you took it from?"

River nods and together they kneel on the ground around the engine to put it back together, a big smile on River's face and an amused one on Kaylee's.