Firefly ain't mine. Does vaguely allude to a couple of my other stories, but you don't need to read them to follow ('course, I'd love if you did).

Having her Inara jiĕjie back has been a comfort and a happiness. Even before it's all put back together, even busy, they've returned to their old ways. Kaylee's clearly still admiring even as she gives Inara a chance to be just a silly girl. Together they're an unstoppable force, keeping things light and pretty enough as they fix their home. Both women may feel low at times, or confused, or lost, but neither wants to let on. They keep a few secrets, but not from each other.

When Kaylee appears one morning, eyes bright, Inara just knows it's a smile with a reason. Only Jayne's in the mess with them, and he notices Kaylee's mood just as quick, though not as aptly. "That's a gorram gŏu shĭ chī de xiàoróng if ever I saw, Kaylee-girl."

Kaylee's not really in the mood for banter, but she's too happy to get tetchy with him. So she just imitates Inara (with love, and Inara smiles at it) and raises an eyebrow coolly. "Is it?" she asks.

"You know your own self," Jayne returns.

"Perhaps she's content to keep it to herself," Inara defends archly, and Kaylee flashes her a grateful smile.

"Yeah, well," Jayne grumbles. The thing to do would be for him to take his leave, sensing the women need a bit of gossip time, but it's Jayne, there's only so much can be expected of him.

Instead, once she finishes making her tea, Inara pours it into cups and hands one to Kaylee, nodding for her to follow.

"Xièxiè, 'Nara," Kaylee murmurs, on Inara's heels and leaving a perplexed grumbly Jayne behind (he's always the last to figure it out) taking the stairs gently to keep the tea from spilling.

Once they're in the shuttle, Inara positions herself on her sofa and nods for Kaylee to join. "I imagined a public confession hardly appealed," she smirks.

"Rather it didn't," Kaylee giggles. "But I do gotta get somethin' out."

Inara can sort of imagine what needs said, or at least the outline of it, but she'll allow Kaylee the privilege of getting to reveal it herself. "Yes?" she prompts.

"We-ell. Y'know I was outta sorts last night," Kaylee begins. "An' y'know Simon came t'find me."

"Yes," Inara nods. Kaylee has always craved active listening, and Inara is happy to provide; she doesn't even have to consciously make the effort to, as with some people, she can't help but be engaged by Kaylee's enthusiasm, her talking a little too quickly, saying "y'know" too often when she gets excited. A conversation that's not practiced and calculated is honestly refreshing.

"We were – well, we were talkin' a bit, sorta – cuddlin', I s'pose?" Kaylee continues. "An' then – well, we kissed again, an' it was that kinda kiss that means more, y'know?"

"And?" Inara prompts.

"And… well," Kaylee giggles into her teacup, blushing – not in the awkward, embarrassed way exactly, but more the oh-I-can't-believe-my-luck way. "It's a crime that boy spends so much've his day clothed, f'one."

"So it was a nice surprise," Inara smiles.

"More a fantasy well worth waitin' on," Kaylee clarifies. She's still ear-to-ear grinning, even as she admits, "Woulda maybe been fine not t'wait, but it paid off nice."

"I'm happy for you, mèimei," Inara says warmly.

"I think it's – y'know, it's gonna maybe be a thing," Kaylee says, flushing more. "A lastin' kinda thing. S'a weird feelin', that, but – it ain't just sex, y'know?"

Inara nods. "You've cared for each other a long while," she muses. "It doesn't surprise me at all that your connection is beyond the physical."

Hesitating a moment, Kaylee has to ask, "How early's too early for thinkin' love?"

To that Inara just smiles again, taking Kaylee's hand and squeezing it comfortingly. "It varies from person to person," she says softly. "With this case, I'd suppose that since you've been harboring feelings so long it's entirely reasonable to think it now."

"Shiny," Kaylee returns, laughing nervously. "I – well. I don' wanna be one'f those sad needy girls, but it's crossed my mind more'n once."

"You're in no danger of being needy," Inara assures. "You're simply enjoying what you've long awaited."

Kaylee lets out a relieved sigh. "Y'say it so pretty."

"I'm simply being truthful," Inara affirms. "And it's important to remember."

After a moment, Kaylee has to change the subject, her voice tentative, almost a whisper. "'Nara? Glad you did, 'course, gladder'n almost anything coulda made me, but – why's it you came back?"

It wasn't a question Inara had been expecting, nor one she really knows the answer to (at least outright) so it takes her a moment to construct a proper answer. But it's just Kaylee, so it's slightly more honest than otherwise it might have been.

"For one, I missed Serenity," she begins, and like a proud mama Kaylee beams. "I suppose I hadn't realized how much a part of me she'd become."

"She's happier with you back," Kaylee nods.

"And I'd missed you all," Inara continues. "I'd missed you, greatly, and River and Simon, and Zoe. I think I'd even missed Jayne's crassness, a bit."

Kaylee giggles, though she does notice the omission. "An' we'd missed you too. 'Specially I had – but all've us." She very purposely leaves that all of them.

That makes Inara break eye contact for a moment and take a sip of her tea; for her, that's like turning bright red and then hiding her face in a pillow. Kaylee feels like perhaps she's struck a nerve, but acknowledging that would just make for a further awkwardness.

After a moment, Inara looks straight into Kaylee's eyes again and adds, "I think – I think that I'm too used to this life, as well."


A soft smile. "The travel, the opportunity to –" her smile goes wry, now – "Well, to adventure. Being back at the training house, it was a bit too mundane at times. Certainly it was peaceful, but being accustomed to a lack thereof it was almost tiresome."

"Well, adventure we ain't short on," Kaylee chuckles.

Inara takes Kaylee's teacup from her and nudges her to turn around, and Kaylee's missed their girl time, so she's quick to oblige. Soon, Inara's brushing her hair out, and Kaylee's quickly drifting into that bliss that really only getting your hair played with can bring. Maybe it's this, or maybe it's just that she's missed having honest conversations about these things, but finally, chewing her lip, Kaylee asks, "Is that all?"

"What do you mean, mèimei?"

"The – the only reasons you stayed."

Inara sighs, glad of the chance to think that concentrating on a knot needs detangling gives. Finally, she admits, "I'm not sure."

A frown. "Don't mean t'pry or nothin'."

"Oh, Kaylee." Inara searches for Kaylee's hand and takes hold for a moment, comfortingly. "You're allowed to ask these things of me. I'm thankful you do."

Kaylee is reassured, at least a bit, by that. She trusts that Inara's being honest. "Just I wanna know you're happy is all."

"I am," Inara says. "I think I belong here, more than I do anywhere else."

"You do," Kaylee tells her. "We're our little family out here, an' t'ain't th'same without any'f us."

Her voice wobbles at that, and Inara sets the brush down altogether, wrapping her arms around Kaylee carefully. That tremor just goes straight to her heart. "I know, sweetie," she murmurs. "Perhaps it took my leaving to see I needed to stay, but I know it now. There's more for me here."

"Family an' –"

"And a bit more, possibly," Inara admits.

"I've been seein' him look at you," Kaylee whispers, not sure what reaction to expect.

Inara won't bother playing coy. She has enough affectionate respect for Kaylee to keep from doing that. so after a moment, she just says, "We haven't spoken of it."

"But you're – thinkin'?"

Inara answers the question indirectly, finding it altogether easier. "I gave him a massage the other day."

"What, all soft an' sexylike?" Kaylee asks. It's more surprised than anything. "Any more t'that?"

"Yes and no," Inara sighs. "It's very possible, though it's frustratingly difficult to read him, even for me." She punctuates her statement with a sardonic chuckle. "And I'm aware he has a similarly difficult time reading me."

"Funny," Kaylee giggles. "'Cause all th'rest of us can see it plain as day."

"We're – I'm really so obvious?" Inara asks, vaguely mortified (though good-naturedly).

"Well, Zoe prob'ly only knows 'cause of knowin' the cap'n so good, an'…" And Wash knew by association, is the unspoken addendum. "An' River, 'course, she figures ev'rythin' out, an' 'tween her an' my pickin' up, Simon's heard." Kaylee shrugs apologetically. "Dunno Jayne knows, 'least?"

"Well," Inara says, exhausted by that list. "It's rather amusing, yes. Though it is known that a personal bias or desire to maintain said bias can affect one's perception of these things."

"What I don' follow's why you've both been so hell-bent on stayin' apart," Kaylee declares, sounding more comfortable now. Have she and Inara really never discussed this before? It seems odd and obvious all at once.

But there's something different about Inara. Something a little less refined (relative, as she's still the picture of class) and a little more open. A little more willing to be a part of this life, and not a glamorous, benevolent visitor to it.

"There are dozens of reasons," Inara says finally. And plenty aren't for being shared right now. "I imagine we both just fear – complicating things."

"Well, in one way, ye-ahh," Kaylee concedes. "But what Cap'n always goes on 'bout, shipboard romance an' all, s'just gō se. Look at Zoe an' –"

Kaylee catches herself, and Inara just gives her another squeeze; the two women are resting entwined, heads against each other's shoulders. It's comfortable; their friendship always has been, and both have needed it some.

"Daresay you and Simon will work out, as well," Inara murmurs playfully.

"Here's hopin'," Kaylee smiles, but she can't be distracted from her original curiosity. "Y'didn't finish your answer."

"I suppose I didn't," Inara agrees. "I'm not sure there's any one conclusion to reach."

Kaylee sighs. "So y'plan on doin' somethin' 'bout it?"

"I don't think I could have stayed if I didn't," Inara confesses, feeling relieved she's finally said it aloud. She's even tried to keep it secret from herself, though that's impossible.

"Hope, then, it happens quick," Kaylee chirps. "Knowin' him, y'might have t'make your move first."

"Oh, I'm anticipating it," Inara grins, giggling in concert with her.

jiějie; "big sister"
gŏu shĭ chī de xiàoróng; "shit-eating grin"
xièxiè; "thank you"
mèimei; "little sister"
gō se; "shit"