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Routine Upkeep

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Kaylee figures the Tams didn't hug their kids a lot, because Simon's always surprised when Kaylee snuggles him, even if it's needed.

He's takin' to it, though he hesitates before he hugs her back. Kaylee feels like River, reading his thoughts: Is she busy? Am I being rude? When he's hovering, Kaylee reaches behind, snags his shirt, hauls him in until he bumps against her back. Then he puts those arms around her belly, rests his chin on her shoulder and gives a sigh of contentment.

Kaylee grins. "There's that good medicine," she says and he laughs against her neck.


When she's low, Inara hugs like it needed careful planning and maybe a diagram. She folds her arms around Kaylee and her long sleeves follow seconds later, crossing over in front of them. Makes a girl feel like she's a paper crane coming together. Makes a girl want to see Inara coming undone. Makes a girl glad she's got clever fingers and a busy tongue.

Afterwards, she and Inara lie curled together in folds and creases that weren't made according to any plan. She winds Inara's hair around her fingers, forming coils, and she feels Inara's smile on her skin.

Mal's always been a hugger. There's the fly-by, flinging an arm around Kaylee's shoulders as they pass on a gangway. There's the grab-and-peck, scooping arms around her with a whoop to plant a kiss on her head. The all-nighter, working on the same part of Serenity's engine, arms wrapped all around each other, waking with the engines singing.

After Miranda, there's the stealth-mode. Kaylee's gotta catch him alone in the dark, but if it goes just right he'll let her wrap him up and pull him close. And if that was a sob, ain't nobody got to know but them.


After Miranda, Zoe doesn't hug much. She never was one for casual affection, but after, she's like stone. Not in the way she speaks, not after a while anyway, but in the way she holds herself. Kaylee ain't going to intrude on that, but she does what she can to ease things. Gathers up the laundry, presses the shirts the way Wash used to do.

When she's got a bunch of them, hanging crisp and white, she wraps her arms around them and carries them back to Zoe's cabin, and in a way it's like hugging Wash and Zoe both.


River comes to Kaylee like a clap of thunder when you've been waitin' for the dry to break. Kaylee feels a thump on her back and then the breath is driven out of her in a gasp.

"I'm just a little black raincloud," River says, with her long arms and longer legs wrapped tight around Kaylee's body. "Pay no attention to little me."

"You're makin' it kinda hard there, raincloud." But Kaylee shoulders the load and carries her back to work on the engines. Can't let a little rain get in the way. Gotta keep that ship in the air.