Title: And Suddenly, I Saw
Warnings: None, except for general series spoilers.
Characters: Kaylee, Inara
Prompt: "You don't love a woman because she is beautiful, but she is beautiful because you love her"
Spoilers: See warnings above
Gosh, she’s pretty.
There’s just something about her that makes you want to drop your head into your palms, sigh deeply, and watch her all day.
Something caught up in the bright, white flash of her smile, in that lilting laugh that’s more a song, and in the graceful sway of her hips underneath those oceans of cream-and-red satin fabric that just steals a girl’s breath away. It’s no wonder that everyone on board Serenity is captivated; even the grumpy captain turns away to hide his pleasure every time he sees her.
You think – you’re not a jealous girl by any means. You’ve had plenty in life to call your own: boys by the dozen, a well-enough home, good friends and good times. But you’ve never had anything half as pretty as her, even if you count all those curly-haired dolls of your youth. You find you envy everything that surrounds her: the dresses that hang so pretty from her frame, the glasses of wine that she presses up against her lips, the pearls that drape against the milk-white of her skin, everything that touches and feels and graces her.
And oh, especially the clients.
You don’t see most of them, and when you do it’s only long enough for Inara to whisk them through Serenity’s entrance and away to her private space. But it’s time enough to fuel a fantasy or two, or maybe fifty where you (and, disturbingly Jayne) are concerned. You imagine what it’s like to be one of them, elegant and bright, to feel her slim fingers on your shoulders, to hear that pretty voice in your ear. You think she probably would make you feel like you’re a princess born of gold and not just some okay-doing-and-looking mechanic, smudged with oil.
Golly, you think. If only.
But then there’s a clinking noise in the engine and Mal is calling your name like something’s going to explode and River is hovering nearby with a piece of metal you think might be sort of crucial to the functioning of everyone’s favorite Firefly ship, so you shut off those fantasies and focus on what’s at hand. You weave your way into the engines and, past cords and wires and hunks of machinery, and this is something you can be graceful at.
The song you hum, though, you learned from Inara.
You both sit, alone but together, knee-to-knee. A cool air breezes through, and half of Inara's dark curls splay out across her face like one of her embroidered fans. She's pretty as a doll, but you don't say so; you're not very shy, not particularly modest, but there's still a bit of that knock-kneed teenager in you, trying to get out. You focus on your sugar pop instead, because it's melting like cold lava in your hands.
The others are out: the captain has taken Zoe, Jayne and a reluctant Wash on a mission; Simon, River and Book are visiting the local library. Only you and Inara remained behind when they left, you because there's a lot to catch up on in your favorite engine room, Inara for one of those unexplained and slightly curious reasons. All you have between you right now is this: a couple of sugar pops and then you'll be on your way, to separate corners that might as well be separate worlds.
"I don't know how you do it," You admit, when she leans forward to lick the sliding sugar from her fingers and her beauty catches up with you again.
Inara only grins. She's used to being admired. But then she adds, "Pay more attention to yourself. You've got some secret charms of your own."
The first kiss is a shock. They are practicing a dance, something Kaylee saw Inara perform and was so delighted with that she had to confess it. That the lesson pulls her closer to Inara is an unintended bonus. She didn’t plan to be pressed up close against the Companion, feeling the smoothness of her hands and the softness of her curves as they twist and turn across the floor. She didn’t plan to gasp when the footwork intensified and Inara slipped an easy leg between Kaylee’s two struggling counterparts. She certainly didn’t plan to feel her heart thud against her chest when Inara played the man and dipped her backwards, so that Kaylee felt her own hair spill back behind her, exposing her neck and her heart all at once.
“I was thinking the same thing,” Inara agreed her, and pressed a kiss against her lips. She tasted sweet and smelled sweeter, like milk and honey and strawberries, too. When she pulled back, the air was still warm and Kaylee felt like she was drifting on a cloud.
It took a second for the haze to clear and when it did, Kaylee brushed a finger against her mouth. “I – I don’t understand.”
“I don’t mean to be insulting, but I’m quite confident you’re familiar with kisses.”
Kaylee blushed. “Well, I know what they are. I just don’t know why you’d be giving them to me. Not that I didn’t like it,” She added in a rush. “I just mean, I’m… well, me. And you’re… you. And, why would you want to…”
“Maybe I shouldn’t have,” Inara acknowledged, bowing her head, slightly. “But I could hardly resist the chance to taste someone so beautiful.”
Kaylee blinked. “Me? You must have everyone in love with you. You’re so beautiful. How could anyone resist?”
Inara tilted her head and said, “Kaylee.” It was almost chastising. “You don’t love a woman because she’s beautiful. She’s beautiful because you love her. What those people call love – the ones who send me flowers and candy and cards and songs, when they’ve only seen my face? That’s not love. It’s infatuation. And while I may like it well enough, when I think about falling in love – really falling – it won’t be with anyone I’ve serviced. It’ll be someone who catches my eye and keeps it. Someone who sees past the shine and loves me for me.”
“Beginning your pardon, but it seems to me it’s awfully to see past the beauty when even your words have a kind of flare.” Kaylee sighed and shook her head. “I think you’ll have to count me with the rest of the besotted regulars.”
“I don’t know about that,” Inara said. “We live in pretty close quarters – I’m sure you’ve seen the on the side of things.”
“Well, there was that time your hair came out all crazy like,” Kaylee admitted with a giggle. “And you ate that piece of wild fruit and got that ugly rash. And the time-”
“Oh, I think the point is made,” Inara interrupted. “What I’m trying to say is, I don’t think of you like any ‘besotted regular’. I think of you as a beautiful, charming, wonderful girl and one of my very best friends.”
“You mean to say you might consider…”
Inara touched Kaylee’s face and said, “I mean to say I have considered.”
Inara kissed her again, and after a moment, Kaylee thought – Oh.
Author's Notes: Tada, I finished! I didn't think I would. But a note to my promptee: this prompt was fun, but so was your dark!willow prompt. I actually wrote/am writing it, but I don't know if it will be finished in time for the big posting day, but just throwing it out there.
Thanks to the mods/maintainers for their great organization for this ficathon!