"What are you runnin' from?" Kaylee and Inara are drinking cold tea in the engine room, Inara in the hammock and Kaylee leaning on Serenity's contented heart.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't mean to pry none, but everyone on this ship is runnin' from somewhere, and I've been wondering about you."
Inara sips her tea slowly, formulating an answer. Everything she does is calculated, considerate, designed. She's not sure she wants this to be.
"I'm not running from anything," she begins. Kaylee looks down at her drawn-up knees, frowning at the seeming lie. Inara hurries on. "I'm not running from, exactly. It's more that I'm running to."
Inara looks around the room, at the spinning engine and arching walls, at the scattered tools and complicated knots, at Kaylee. This tiny world is all red and gold, all heat and life.
"I love this ship," she says, and Kaylee smiles. "That's something else everyone here has in common, Kaylee, loving Serenity. She's a release for all of us."
Inara pauses, meets Kaylee's eyes. "On Sihnon, everything was gloriously beautiful and unfailingly perfect. I adored it, but after a while it became rote. I didn't want to lose my love of perfection to something as ordinary as predictability, so I left."
"We're not perfect here," Kaylee says sadly.
"Not always. Not even often, but sometimes it can surprise you. Nothing is ever boring here, Kaylee. I can make there be perfection in the most improbable places. And there's so much—space, and opportunity, and unexpected beauty." Inara smiles. "Like Serenity, or you."
"Me?" Kaylee frowns, confused, "'Nara, I'm not beautiful."
Kaylee is as warm as Serenity, as lovely as the strange, ceaseless kindness of Serenity's crew. Kaylee is family. "You are."
Something in her voice must ring true, because Kaylee stands and leans over the hammock to kiss her. Inara is unused to the cautious bravery of first kisses, but she likes it, likes the sweetness of Kaylee's soft lips and delicate tongue, likes the taste of tea and desert sand and sunlight. It's like every other kiss she's ever had, and entirely different.
"See what I mean?" She murmurs against Kaylee's mouth. "Unexpected."
Kaylee laughs. "But good?"
Inara smiles, and tugs Kaylee into the hammock. "Perfect."