BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA

JACQUI

Comfort
Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fourth in the 'Didn't Mean Nothin' saga. Angst Ahoy.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2676    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Okay, yeah, so this is part four. It was supposed to have another two scenes at the end of this (at least), but then... I ended it here. You'll see what happens in the next part.

Disclaimer: If they were really mine, I wouldn't want to hurt them so much.

Rating: G, for this bit, R overall.

Comments: Angst like whoa.

As usual, italics are flashbacks (no real timeline for this one).

Feedback: comment here or email: wily_one24@yahoo.com.au

***

1. "Didn't Mean Nothin'." 2. "Nothin' At All". 3. "No Harm No Foul".

***

There was a knock on her door, hesitant and nervous.

“Kaylee.” Inara smiled and it was genuine. “Please, come in.”

She watched with interest as the normally bubbly mechanic walked into her shuttle with small steps. Usually Kaylee would bound in, her energy eager and endless, her eyes wide and taking in as much detail as humanly possible, cataloguing anything new, seeing if anything had changed, mentally trying to come up with impossibly detailed, romantic stories about whatever client may have given them to her and why.

This time she stepped slowly, barely moving forward enough for Inara to close the door behind them.

“Yeah?” Kaylee turned quickly, eyes bright and rapid, as if she was expecting a trap. “Inara? Cap’n said you wanted to talk to me?”

“That I…?” She bit off her reply, mentally trying to soothe her hackles down. Already she could tell this was going to take effort. “Kaylee, Mal hinted that there might be something you needed advice with, he asked me if I had the time, but he never told me what it might be about. You don’t have any idea?”

There was a brilliant, almost fluorescent color that sped up Kaylee’s neck and over her cheeks. Her right hand fiddled with a lock of hair behind her ear and she wouldn’t meet Inara’s eyes.

“No.”

It sounded more like a question, the way Kaylee’s voice rose at the end.

“Well, then.” Inara just smiled. “It looks like the two of us have some spare time, would you like me to fix your hair?”

“Oh, no.” Kaylee rushed in to answer. “I don’t wanna be a burden, ‘Nara, if you’ve got somethin’ else to do…”

“Nonsense.” She tusked gently. “It’s been a while since the two of us have spent any time together. I’ve missed it and I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing right now.”

Except, perhaps, ringing Malcolm Reynolds’ scrawny, weaselish little neck for pushing the girl into her shuttle and not having the courage to talk to her himself.

“You know, ‘Nara.” Twenty minutes in and Kaylee was already more relaxed and open, settling into the easy routine of being pampered, giving in to the calming effects of the sandalwood and rose oils. “There has been somethin’ I’ve been a bit confused about, lately.”

“Yes?” She regulated her voice so it sounded just this side of interested, but not too eager.

“Well, see, just say someone had a crush on someone else…”

“Are we talking about someone in particular?” She teased.

“No.” Kaylee was quick to answer. “Just… people is all. Anyways, so this person has a crush, real bad, see, and they really like this other person, but that person is just so rich and fancy. And sometimes it seems like things are moving and then nothin’.”

“Kaylee.” Inara threaded her fingers through the strands of hair before her. “Does this have anything to do with what happened between you and Simon last week?”

“What?” She could feel Kaylee tense through her scalp. “Oh no, no, I ain’t talkin’ about me. No, it’s a man. This man, he’s got a powerful crush on a woman who’s just so much fancier than he is, he pines somethin’ awful, but sometimes he doesn’t think he’s ever gonna be good enough for her.”

She had to remind her fingers to relax. These someones seemed to be a trifle familiar.

“Well, I’m sure this woman, whoever she may be, isn’t thinking that at all. Maybe she’s waiting for him to make the first move.”

“Oh, but he has, ‘Nara! He keeps doin’ the stupidest things, just to get her to notice him.” At the very least, Inara thought, Kaylee certainly was descriptive. “Just when it seems like things’re moving along, she goes an’ hides behind rules and protocols and bein’ proper.”

Closing her eyes for just a second, Inara breathed in deeply and gathered herself. It wasn’t like there was much to lose.

“It’s entirely possible that she’s just afraid, mei mei. Sometimes people are so afraid of losing something that they don’t, or can’t, reach out and take it in the first place.”

“Yeah, I thought so.” Came the reply, casual and dismissive. “But that ain’t even the confusing part.”

“It isn’t?” Her surprise was completely genuine.

“No, see, there’s someone else.”

“Someone…” Inara wasn’t sure she heard right above the growling pit of inexplicable jealousy. “… else?”

“Another woman.” Kaylee whispered and Inara was grinding her teeth to the point that she nearly missed the miserable note of her voice. Suddenly, she forced herself to pay closer attention. “He didn’t mean it, didn’t even know what was gonna happen, really, one minute he was all hurt and upset over that first woman and then the second one was there and… and…”

“Things developed from there?” She stopped playing with Kaylee’s hair altogether.

“Yes.” It was desperate, that little sound coming from Kaylee, as if she’d been holding it in for a long time. “It wasn’t supposed to mean anything, they both said it, it was just…”

“Comfort?”

“Yeah.” Kaylee sniffled. “At first.”

“At first?” Inara had to sit down, she brought another chair across to sit in front of Kaylee. “What do you mean at first?”

A companion learns early to control any and all emotion. Sitting across from Kaylee, watching her so obviously distraught and miserable and even, if she was forced to name it, broken made Inara clench her fingers into her palms tightly. This would have to be handled gently, expertly, if she wasn’t going to scare her away. There would be time to deal with the other parties later.

“It was just like they said, comfort and nothing else and then things started to get weird and she tried to stop it, tried to tell him it wasn’t going to happen anymore, but he… he doesn’t want it to stop.”

“Mei mei.” Inara kept her voice steady. “If this woman doesn’t want anything to happen, then it doesn’t have to. Surely you know that?”

There was something wrong and Inara wasn’t sure what it was. It was obviously not what she’d thought when Kaylee had first started talking. She’d immediately assumed the girl had been talking about Mal, but that couldn’t be it. Mal was many despicable things, but he wouldn’t ever cause this amount of pain in Kaylee.

“Oh, I know, I know.” Kaylee nodded up and down. “But I don’t know if she really wants it to stop. And I know he doesn’t, but he also still really likes the first woman and he’s all guilty about that, it’s just… why? Why would anyone stop something they don’t want to stop?”

She thought it over, thought about it seriously, trying not to let Kaylee’s tears cloud her judgment. Had one of her clients come to her with the same story, she would have had advice for them, surely. Something other than ‘tell me their name and point me at them’.

“The only reason I can see to end such a… mutually beneficial… arrangement like that is if it was no longer beneficial to one or both of the parties.”

Delicate, distant words.

“Like, like she just didn’t like him no more?” Kaylee peered at her, looking crestfallen. “Like she was just sick of him?”

“From what you’ve told me, it sounds like both of them entered into this with no particular regard for each other, that wouldn’t have changed.” She breathed in. “It’s entirely possible she’s developed an affection for him and it’s just too difficult to keep up the appearance that she hasn’t.”

“Oh.” A pause. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

A picture was starting to develop in her mind.

“Do you think it’s possible at all that this man feels the same? That he likes this second woman more than he wants to admit?”

“Maybe.” But then Kaylee shook her head. “I know he likes that first woman, though, likes her real hard. If she just admitted that they had something, then they could be so happy. But she never does.”

“One doesn’t necessarily preclude the other, Kaylee.” She saw something flicker behind the girl’s eyes. “It’s possible that these two are using the first woman as a catalyst, a reason to continue what they’re doing while minimizing any guilt about it.”

“Ain’t that mean?” Kaylee sniffed again. “I don’t think they want to be mean.”

“No, I’m sure they don’t, they probably don’t even realize they’re doing it.” She laid a hand over Kaylee’s and looked her in the eyes. “I think this man, whoever he may be, needs to sit down and think about what he’s doing, why he’s doing it and what he really wants out of it.”

Kaylee just nodded, Inara stood up and busied herself tidying up a perfectly tidy shuttle to give her time to reorganize. When she was certain that Kaylee was ready, Inara lead her to the door, one hand over her shoulders.

“If you need to talk about this again, I’m always here, okay?”

“Thanks, ‘Nara.” It was still miserable, Kaylee’s whisper, but her eyes were thoughtful and already sifting through things. “You been real helpful.”

“Anytime, mei mei.” She waited until Kaylee had disappeared over the gangway and up through to the staff quarters before she turned back to the cargo bay. Her smile disappeared from her face and she set her chin. “Malcolm Reynolds, I need to see you in my shuttle. Now.”

“How’d it go?” He barreled in, not meeting her eyes. His shifty movements told her he knew exactly what he’d done. “Did you talk?”

“Yes, we talked.” Her voice was icy and she was impressed she managed to keep it at that. “It would have been nice to have had some warning as to what I was going to be talking about.”

“It’s complicated.” He wheedled. “If Jayne knew I’d told you…”

“Jayne? She’s sleeping with Jayne?” She nearly choked on her shock, before calming down. “I knew it! Kaylee is the man!”

“Huh, um…” Mal got a funny look on his face. “Inara, I honestly didn’t ask him about that part of it…”

“What?” Then it hit her. “Oh, god, Mal. I didn’t mean that. It was just, Kaylee was playing with pronouns.”

“Yes, yes, of course.” He was blushing, the illustrious, unflappable Captain was blushing. “I was just teasing.”

They pretended to glare for several moments and Inara found herself remembering the first half of her conversation with Kaylee and her own reactions to it. She found herself blushing and tried to find something to occupy herself. It didn’t work.

“So?” Mal asked eventually. “What happened? How is she?”

Inara sighed.

“Confused.” She answered simply. “Hurting. Close to breaking point. I think if she doesn’t work things out soon, it’s going to tear her in two. But we can’t push her into anything.”

The rest of the sentence hang in the air, unsaid, but she knew they were both thinking of the week before. Mal’s spectacularly unpopular decision to push Simon.

“So, we just gotta let them be for now?”

Inara looked sideways at him.

“You’d trust Jayne with her?”

Mal didn’t blink.

“Yes. So do you, or you’d’ve said somethin’ stronger by now. ‘Sides,” He sighed. “was Jayne who tried to end it. I don’t think he’d hurt her. Not anymore’n she’s hurting herself already.”

***

Kaylee’s about to catch the ball when two large arms come around her and she goes sprawling to the ground in a mess of limbs and tangled clothes. She hears it bounce to the left of her head and sees more feet rush past her. Her hand reaches back and finds the sensitive spot underneath his ribs and digs in deep.

“Gah!” Wash yells and lets her go. “That’s not fair. Zo? Did you tell her ‘bout that?”

“Not me, husband.” Zoe grins as she stretches out a hand to help Kaylee up to her feet. Teammates have to work together. “Must have been someone else.”

“You wait.” He huffs as he scrambles up, glaring at them both. “You’re not the only one with insider information. You’re going to wish you…”

Kaylee stared down at her plate and tried to choke a mouthful of protein down. It wasn’t working. She could feel half the people at the table desperately not looking at her and the other half watching her like a hawk.

It had been like that all week.

Jayne wouldn’t look at her. Mal wouldn’t stop. Simon kept trying to get her attention and she kept avoiding him. Since their talk that morning, Inara had joined Mal in watching her, searching her every movement. It made her want to shrink into nothing, to shrivel up into a little ball and just roll away, forgotten.

“Little Man!” Jayne yells, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “I’m free! Over here, I’m free!”

“So I’ve heard.” Simon mumbles under his breath.

Jayne catches the ball and his grin is feral as he slams it into Simon’s chest.

“Sorry, teammate?” He asks with a glint in his eye. “You say somethin’?”

“Not a thing.”

Simon spins on his feet and aims for the hoop.

It was like a thick coating of gravel over his tongue and he had to swallow hard before he could speak.

“Jayne, can you please pass the bread?”

There was a grunt for a reply, but no words and no bread was passed his way. He swallowed, opened his mouth to ask again, when the basket landed in front of him.

“There, doc.”

Mal sat down again and Simon frowned. He’d had to stand up and lean half way over the table to do that. Why he’d put himself out like that when there were several other people sitting between them made Simon wonder.

“No.” Mal glares at Kaylee, despite her pout. “I said no.”

“But, Cap’n.” She whines. “They’re winning.”

Like he doesn’t know that as she stands there all akimbo, hands on her hips and chest heaving. Her and Zoe are facing off with him and Book. Across the cargo bay, he can see Wash, Jayne, Simon and River huddle. Well, the three men are, River is trailing around the group.

“Sir.” Zoe entreats. “It would give us an advantage.”

“Fine.” He glares. “You want her on your shoulders, go right ahead, but I like my spine intact.”

Zoe raises her hands and backs off.

“I’m afraid that’s a little past my expertise as well.” Book adds.

“Fine.” Kaylee glares at them all. “That’s why I’m always…”

Mal counted to sixteen before his brain screamed with the silence.

“Wash?” His voice sounded harsh and too loud, even to him. “We set for Three Hills?”

“Be there tomorrow.” Wash agreed, his voice too cheerful. “No sweat.”

“Good.” He looks back down at his plate. “That’s good then.”

It’s grown into a wild, untamable thing, this silence and tension that runs through everyone. Even those not affected have noticed the strain. Wash and Zoe tend to sit as close as possible to each other and further away from everyone else. Even Book sat at the edge of the table, poised as if ready to run whenever the inevitable explosion occurred.

Because that’s what they were all waiting for. For something or, more like, someone to explode.

***

She found him in the infirmary.

“Simon?”

After a week, the sound of his name felt strange in her mouth. He turned quickly, dropping a small container on the bench so that it rolled loudly. Glass on tile, over and over as his eyes searched hers, blue and eager.

“Kaylee?” So eager, like a little dog. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you…”

“Kinda hard.” She let him off easy. “Seein’ as I’ve been avoiding you.”

Inara’s words echoed in her head. They’d been doing it all day long. She honestly didn’t think Simon was merely a catalyst for something else, she couldn’t remember any time since he and River had come aboard that she didn’t like him, didn’t want him in such a visceral way that it made her ache. It was funny, she hadn’t even realized how lonely she was until someone she liked didn’t seem to like her back.

“Well, yes.” He smiled softly. “I had noticed.”

It was strange, how much was offered and given in the little silences, in what wasn’t said as he stepped towards her. She couldn’t help but look at the little jar, teetering slightly on the bench, left abandoned on its side.

He never would have done that a month ago.

“After what happened.” He continued. “I wanted to apologize, it wasn’t supposed…”

“Simon.” She broke in, suddenly tired. “We do this, we always do this. You’re gonna say something real sweet and pretty and I’m gonna get all happy and get my hopes up and then you’re gonna say something else, somethin’ real stupid and I’m gonna be crushed.”

“No.” But it wasn’t a denial, not with the way his eyes pleaded with her. “It won’t always…”

“But it is.” She insisted, not sure exactly why she felt the need to hug her elbows, clutch her arms in front of herself even as she stepped closer to him. “ And I can’t do that. I can’t…”

Kaylee bit her lip. Simon breathed in to speak, but she cut him off.

“Just… just don’t say anything.” It was harder than it should have been. “If you really like me and you want this to work ‘tween us, don’t say anything else, just kiss me.”

She let him, then, let him reach forward and take her face in his hands, let herself relax into him as he leaned forward and their lips met. Her arms fell down to her sides and her spine untwisted, uncoiled into something like a moan as she felt the spark rise between them.

There was something reverent in the way his hands cupped her chin, soft and awe filled. It made her shudder. Even as he turned them around, resting back on the bench and pulling her closer to him, Kaylee had to curl her fingers into her palms. Her eyes opened, looked straight up through the infirmary windows into the cargo bay and it felt like a physical blow.

The fire in Jayne’s eyes made her whimper.

***

end part four.

COMMENTS

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 4:46 PM

SAMEERTIA


Oh lordy.
Angst galore! I LOVE it.

"The fire in Jayne's eyes made her whimper."

Made me whimper, too. He's not a man to stand down in a fight, but he'd never hurt Kaylee, not intentionally. I think he'd cut out his own heart first.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 5:19 PM

BANZAIBILL


No kidding about the angst. Good stuff though.

I think this was a great choice for an ending spot.

The conversation with Inara was great. Hard to follow, confusing for all involved, and just like those "I have a friend" conversations we've all had.

Looking forward to the next installment. I guess I'm just a masochist!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 5:22 PM

CANTONHEROINE


I actually hesitated before reading this. Do I really want put myself through all that angst?
Well, apparently I'm a masochist - but only up to a point.

I hurt for them, I really do. I want for it to get better, and I'm trusting you to make that happen. All this pain is not worth out without a payoff at the end, dong ma?

“I knew it! Kaylee is the man!”
“Huh, um…” Mal got a funny look on his face. “Inara, I honestly didn’t ask him about that part of it…”
Got to tell you, this exchange was a welcome slice of light amid all that dark. Made me laugh out loud picturing Mal's expression.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 6:34 PM

SWEETSERENDIPITY


Awwww, Jayne didn't deserve that! Guess that's why they call it angst. Just don't give him ennui, I don't think I could take it. Keep it up!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 8:59 PM

WYOBAR


my heart just dropped down to my feet-what an emotional ride-good work

Wednesday, March 1, 2006 3:56 AM

HISGOODGIRL


Lord, it's as complex as some Shakespearian play with all the feints and misunderstandings and loves gone wrong.

“You’d trust Jayne with her?”

Mal didn’t blink.

“Yes. So do you, or you’d’ve said somethin’ stronger by now. ‘Sides,” He sighed. “was Jayne who tried to end it. I don’t think he’d hurt her. Not anymore’n she’s hurting herself already.”

Jeeze, I hope the Universe gives our dear Kaylee a wake up call...

Wednesday, March 1, 2006 4:38 AM

MAL4PREZ


fun angst, love the dynamic between the 3, and Inara's part in it. Excellent!

Wednesday, March 1, 2006 6:35 AM

HUMBUG


Just found this and read it straight away......

Oh, Oh, Oh!!! So painful.........

Keep writing...... Gotta know what happens next....

Friday, April 14, 2006 10:32 AM

BELLONA


my stomach feels like it's cramping with all the angsty emotional-ness and feeling for poor jayne...

b


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