LIKE WATER FOR LIFE
Inara likes the idea of the sea better than the sea itself.
youth, she used to like the sea just fine. When she was a
child full of childish ways, her parents would take her on special
outings there. She would run and laugh along the waterline,
splashing in and out with reckless glee, leaving the contraptions and
the trappings of the Great City far behind for those few and precious
When she matured, she grew better sense. The sun aged skin, the salt
and wind ruined hair, the dampness spoiled the drape of expensive
clothing, the sand was a nuisance--just plain messy--seeming cling to
everything and linger for days.
Still then she liked the image of the ocean rolling, vast, perpetual
and tranquil under the skies of Shinon. Who
It's expected. Lazy days spent sunning on a sandy beach are
almost a universal icon of relaxation and peace left over from the
Earth that was. No other worlds could afford a sea like
Shinon's. It was one of its most extravagant crowning jewels.
Sometimes clients would take her out on private yachts to make love to
the tempo of the waves. She used to like those engagements,
thinks. Other times she would have clients take her to the
rooms in the finest hotels; many of those overlooked the
Sea. From huge windows she would looking out over
and watch the waves roll in and look down to see the children play as
she once used to. She'd think of how far she'd come--until
client would call for her again.
Inara never thought much about the sea until she left Shinon for
worlds--or for the black of space--where they had none.
at night as the drive of Serenity's engine shivers through her bed, in
the twilight between sleep and wake, she feels the old roll of the
Great Sea instead.
It came to her slowly, like the addition of straw to a camel's back
until it finally cracks: she missed the ocean, and not just the idea of
it. She can't even remember how it used to feel: the salt,
wind, the sand.
Given a chance she would run barefoot through those waves again.
"Whatcha doing?" Kaylee asked. She threw herself
down on the bed.
"Looking at home," Inara said. She turned the
recording around for Kaylee's view.
"Is that the Great Sea?"
"Yes; part of it. Near my parents' home."
Kaylee's world had water only underground, pumped up through machinery
in a plain, utilitarian way. Underneath the planet's crust,
pools of clear pure water collected, going down to unplumbed
depths. There must be a special beauty to those underground
of water, thought Inara, but hidden deep in the bowels of a dusty
little nothing world, who would ever know?
"What's it like?" Kaylee asked. She began to peel off her
"I couldn't say." Inara switched off the record.
"You don't know? You said it's your home. You must
have seen it for real."
"My parents' home, and yes, I have. But I couldn't tell you
in words." Inara slipped her hand beneath the
and to the curve of Kaylee's breast. Like always, her heart
up as the desire became reality. "The
best kinds of
beauty have to be experienced to know."
"I'd like to know." Kaylee pulled Inara's sari down and
the silk choli to free her breasts. Gently, almost too
she began to suck.
Inara lay back against her cushions. The roll of Serenity's
engine thrummed steadily beneath the bed. She opened her arms
pulled Kaylee to her, her moving mouth crushed firmly against her
breasts. As if by reflex, Inara's legs parted just a
"I'll take you there someday," she said.
Mal held the door, not for her, just because she wasn't in.
"In a minute." Even Mal couldn't start a fight that fast. Well, he
could, but without her to back him, he wouldn't.
"It's Unification Day." Mal sounded even more confused than usual.
"Will still be in a minute." Zoe stared him down.
now—really alone—Zoe wandered out back where white
lilies bloomed. Once
upon a time she'd been taught they symbolized resurrection. She didn't
believe that tzao gao, but she picked one anyway.
She didn't believe anything anymore, so it's not like it could hurt.