HOLD ON TIGHT
Inara holds on tight to Kaylee's hand. She has decided that if she
never lets go, then Kaylee can never leave. It's a sort of
magical thinking from that secluded realm that is restricted solely to
children too young to know better, and to adults too smart to fail to
see that final hour when no better idea remains.
Inara caresses Kaylee's arm. She thinks back to the first
that they touched. It was onboard her shuttle, when the paint
still fresh and the cushions with scarcely a dent. Inara had
invited Kaylee in for tea. It wasn't that she didn't have better things
to do, but for a renter dependent upon the whims of a self-acknowledged
criminal crew, it seemed a pragmatic choice.
Like most women--and more than a handful of men--Kaylee had gaped to
behold the cornucopia of feminine luxuries that were a daily part of
Inara's world. Kaylee bent to feel a length of wispy
embroidered sari, as it happened--as if to confirm that this microcosm
of riches was for real.
"Here, I'll show you." Inara draped the sari over Kaylee, with expert
deftness fitting the folds to her form. To all appearances,
was a polite kindness; in reality it was a necessity to keep those
hands that worked in grease and dirt from soiling up her
The wrap was not her favorite, but it was sea-foam green with golden
stitching, like the lights of The Great City dancing over the
Inland Sea on Sinon, and it always made her think of
Inara had watched in worldly tolerance as Kaylee danced. But
then--to her dismay--Inara found that she was enjoying the show--no,
the entire moment--as if unexpectedly infected by a virus of the girl's
contagious joy. The realization was so startling that Inara dropped her
hands and ceased her clapping. She hadn't planned on having
"You can keep it, if you like," Inara said, covering her confusion with
her words. As much as she could ill-afford the wardrobe loss, she
needed the mechanic's good will more. Although an able pilot
herself, those skills would get her nowhere if her engines ceased to
"Oh, no!" Kaylee began to unwrap herself to pass the sari back. "I
can't be wearing that!"
Inara paused, embarrassed by her oversight. This girl lived in a world
of metal parts and oily floors, not of finery and delight.
redirected her approach and used the voice she had been trained to use
for work. "I can see you like it. Take it,
You don't need a special occasion, you know. You can just
to please yourself."
"I know that," said Kaylee, her voice lilting with surprise.
if it had never occurred to her to dress for anyone but herself, and
couldn't for the life of her see why anyone else wouldn't think the
same. "But this ain't me; it's you. It should stay
with the other shiny things." Kaylee blushed and looked down
that certain way she had. "I like it, 'cause I like to think of you
wearing it. If I took it, it wouldn't be the same."
The ingenuousness of Kaylee's face left no room to cover any jealousy
or regret. In some distant corner of her mind, Inara thought that she
must have known others as open and real, but that was hundreds of
clients, years of Academy conditioning, and at least one terrible war
"Tell you what," Inara said. "Why don't I give it to you, but you leave
it here. That way you can visit it whenever you
want. If I
don't have a client, that is." She added the last words in a rush.
Kaylee beamed. "Really? And you would still wear it?"
"If you let me. It would be yours to decide."
"I like the idea of a companion borrowing my clothes. It's
Kaylee giggled and Inara thought that that might be the closest she
would get to bathing in sunshine on this ship.
Inara swathed the sari around the girl again, this time tucking it, in
carefully, lingering hand over waist and skin longer than was strictly
"How do I look?" Kaylee spread her arms.
"Beautiful. Now, let me fix your hair." Pushing her
hourglass aside, she picked a hand-mirror off the dresser and passed it
to Kaylee. Inara took her time with the hair. She
work with her fingers, for her eyes were watching Kaylee's
It was only later, as she straightened up, that Inara realized that she
hadn't seen any oil stains at all.
Inara brushes Kaylee's chest. She watches each rise and fall
mentally wills the next. Inara thinks back to the first time
they made love. More gestalt remains than specifics, but she
still replay a certain few: the little coos Kaylee made in her ear, the
way she wrapped her legs and the feel of her rounded ass. She
remembers the words Kaylee had whispered, begging her to do anything at
all save stop. She remembers the smell and the shape of that sweet
little pussy and the deluge of barely coherent Mandarin that Kaylee
poured out in torrents as Inara plunged her fingers in and worked them
One thing Inara remembers is her own release. Oh, not moment
moment. That she never does. Each climax is like a
snowflake, individual if not perfect, with much of the wonder stemming
from its fleeting, ephemeral nature.
What she remembers is that was the first time that she had let herself
be brought to climax by another not for show, not to gratify or
reassure or attempt to increase her pay, but purely and selfishly
because it she wanted to and could.
And she remembered that it was fun.
When it was over, then came the guilt. Propped on one elbow,
Inara had watched while Kaylee sat, cross-legged on the floor with
basin and sponge, to wash.
"Kaylee, I shouldn't have done that."
"It's okay," Kaylee said. "I ain't hurt. Just next time,
maybe you could cut your nails."
Inara rose and knelt behind her, hand sliding over to caress between
breast and shoulder, almost exactly where it lay now. "No, I mean, the
whole thing. I shouldn't have done any of it.
companions aren't supposed to take lovers."
Kaylee chuckled. "Silly, we ain't lovers."
Accenting the absurdity, Kaylee washed the evidence from between her
legs as Inara stared.
"We're just...us," said Kaylee. "That's all." She turned her
head back towards Inara's face and grinned.
Torn between laughter and affection, the latter won out in Inara's
brain. She leaned in and kissed her on the mouth, her hand
slinking further down Kaylee's side until Kaylee dropped the sponge.
"Then...I'd very much like to be 'just us' again," Inara, when she
finally broke away.
Kaylee shrugged. "I'm always me. If your gonna be
you, then I guess we have plan."
This time Inara did laugh. They kissed again, playfully at
but soon for hard and real. Together they went down amidst
plush and silk and cushions and stayed until Kaylee had to start her
wash all over again.
Inara traces Kaylee's neck. Was it only six hours ago they
made plans for tonight? Plans that did not include getting
It seems like a whole lifetime ago. For Kaylee, she considers
wryly, it might well be just that.
Inara smiles recollecting the demure, 'hey you's on the stairway--a
secret language for a province that is all their own. They
kept it quiet not because they had to or should, but because there were
no words to make the others understand. And neither of them
think of a good reason that they should try.
Inara fondles Kaylee's hair and thinks of all the things they may never
do. She thinks of things that she never knew that she wanted
until a mere half-hour ago. She thinks of window boxes and
bathrooms with two sinks and a yard cluttered with countless engines in
various states of disrepair. She thinks of midnight feedings
diapers, of kites and schools and scraped knees on a clever boy with
Kaylee's eyes. She thinks of growing old and gray with a
of children and grandchildren so mingled together that they can no
longer remember who issued forth from whom.
Inara holds fast on to Kaylee's hand, for Kaylee holds Inara's
heart. She hadn't meant to let it happen, but it seems that
not always get a say. You see, Inara has known
more people than Kaylee has ever met by name. She has known
people who have lusted for her, pined for her, killed for
She has known those who came to use her, humiliate her, hurt her or
just ride through life the easy way on her power and
Most have wanted to rescue her, worship her, marry her, adore her, save
her, keep her, love her--or at least hire her long term.
Inara has even loved some of them back--at least as close to love as
she had thought that she could come. Yet in all those people,
all those hours, days and nights, she had never known a single one who
wanted nothing more from her than just to be a friend.
Ironically--or not, perhaps, considering the life that she has
chosen--Inara finds that the most erotic thing of all.
In the Companion Academy they teach, among other things,
psychology. They teach that at the root of all anger is
fear. And Inara is so very angry now. She is angry at the Fed
and at the Alliance government that sent him here. She is angry at Mal
and Simon for almost doing nothing. She is angry at Zoe, who was
perfectly happy to let it stay that way. She is angry with
and Jayne and with everyone else in the whole universe who doesn't care
as much as she does for the pale, still body clinging to life before
her on the surgical bed.
But mostly, Inara is angry with herself.
Here, with Kaylee teetering on the rim of Shan-Yu's proverbial volcano,
Inara knows her thoughts should be on her friend, but no matter how
hard she tries, they won't stay. When Inara looks at Kaylee,
touches her, thinks of all they had and now, perhaps all they never
will, Inara sees herself and the long, dark lonely years that loom
ahead, poised to begin the instant that Kaylee fails to take another
Inara drops her face to Kaylee's neck, not caring who else is there to
see. Inara breathes in the scent now almost lost to that of
antiseptics and laser scalpel scabs and blood. Inara clings frantically
to Kaylee's hand, and for the first time in her pampered, privileged,
useless life Inara finds the words to pray.
Inara doesn't like the woman she used to be. She thought that selfish
side of her was dead. Had she her way, she would bury her
entirely and forget her--another late-entry casualty of that rutting,
That she doesn't, is for one reason only. Because Kaylee
that woman and found something good, something redeemable inside. Only
a fool would argue with what Kaywinnit Lee Frye declared to be good,
and whatever else Inara may think of herself, she knows that she is no
And so, Inara holds on tight to Kaylee's hand.