~ Firefly crossover for grey_bard

She smiles at him, sweet and charming the way she practised in the mirror her sister hung above their bed. The way that made Tarri Adams carry her books for a year and made Sweet Ginger write poems with her name in the title.

Kaylee knows she can look just as sweet and innocent as she sometimes can remember feeling. She knows everyone around her thinks she still is -- and she don't mind because it's nicer, being that way, and it's easier when everyone treats you like you still was.

But sometimes she sees a face that makes her want to be anything but -- and she smiles, despite knowing that the robe he's wearing means he's a priest or monk of some sort and won't be doing nothing about what she wants.

He smiles back and she stops. She's got time to get back to Serenity, and talking to him is better than just looking. This way she'll have his voice in her head when she's in her bunk tonight.

"Hey there," she says, and his eyes are electric blue. Something courses through her when the corners around his eyes crinkle up as he grins. He's happy, too happy to be anyone who lives regular on this ball of dirt.

"Hello," he says, and she is so damn glad she stopped. His voice is gonna be inside her for a long, long time.

"Name's Kaylee," she offers.

"I'm Ben," he replies and he reaches up to titch back the hood of his robe. His beard is grown out, needs trimming. His hair's kinda sticking up -- like maybe he forgot about 'hood hair' when he combed it that day. But it just makes her want to run her fingers through it, mat it down then brush it back to standing up.

"You lookin' for a ship?" Because there's always a chance, and if she brings this one back the others will be grateful to her for weeks. Even if she doesn't share.

"No, thank you." He smiles again and the joy is just leaking out of him. She wants to hang onto him, all of a sudden. Let some of that leak into her -- and not in a physical way, not just. Been forever, it seems, like she felt any joy. Maybe the last time she ate a real, live, peach. A year ago on Bisbayne.

"Change your mind, I got a right good one. Strong and steady, get you anyplace you wanna be."

His smile doesn't change, but the colour of his eyes dims to green. The joy has flipped over and she sees grief -- the same kinda grief that chased her momma out of the house when her little brother died.

Kaylee can't breathe and she reaches out for Ben's hand without thinking of it. His eyes have gone back to blue and he's smiling again, and the happiness is creeping back in but it can't change what she saw. What she knows.

"Is there anything I can do?" she asks, unable to speak louder than a caught-whisper.

Ben shakes his head and his fingers touch her hand. The electric blue of his eyes is there in his skin as well, and she wants to cling to it. Wants to make it hers, wants to bathe herself in it.

She flushes, embarrassed to be thinking so hard about him with him standing right there. But he doesn't know, and she can control her tongue well enough not to let him hear what she wants.

"There is nothing to be done," he says and the sadness is there again, but he looks determined. Like maybe there is, only it ain't time for it yet.

He starts to move his hand away and she turns her hand over, catches his fingers as they slide away. His skin is rough and dry, like everything on this planet. When they leave, she's going to put herself under the shower head and run the sponge over her body for as long as she can make her ration last.

Maybe she'll think about Ben. Maybe she won't.

"It'll be fine," she says, though she doesn't know why he'd believe her. "You'll see." And she smiles, the right pretty one that makes the cap'n look like he's gonna pat her on the head and send her off to play.

Ben nods and his eyes crinkle again with the laughter that has been there a lot -- but maybe not anytime lately, she thinks. Then he glances over his shoulder and he reaches up and pulls down his hood.

"May--" he begins, then he cuts himself off. "Take care," he tells her and he walks away. She watches, but soon enough he's gone in the crowd and she can't see anything of him. His robe too close to the colour of the sand, she tells herself, because otherwise it was like he just disappeared.

Kaylee turns around and goes slow back to Serenity. She's parked in an open bay with her ramp guarded by a bored-looking Jayne; as she walks up, Kaylee raises her fingers to her mouth.

She can taste him there. She tilts her head up to the electric blue of the sky and lets it fill her up, before walking up the ramp and inside.