DISCLAIMER: Firefly and Serenity are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and Universal. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Post-Serenity. Written in 2009 and posted to ff.net with the same title.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To howlingturtle[at]hotmail.com
The Beginning of Forever
Three long lonely years since her soul mate had died, leaving her behind. Leaving her broken.
She missed him so much still. She missed laughing with him. She missed him holding her in the dark of their cabin. She even missed him playing with those ridiculous dinosaurs he loved so much.
She remembers his smile. His nicknames for her. His laugh. His witty and entirely inappropriate comments about the things that happened around them. She remembers everything about him that made her fall in love with him in the first place. And she remembers everything that didn't matter to anyone but them.
She tries to only remember the happy times, but she can still hear the echoes of their arguments whispering at her from the shadows. And it makes her hate him a little for leaving her so soon; she'd thought they'd have forever. And she hates herself a little for hating him and for never settling down when he asked her to, so they could have raised a family together. Sometimes she dreams of what that family would have been like, how beautiful that life could have been, and it breaks her heart when she wakes up to the same metal walls around her in a room too big for just one person.
She never thought she'd be sorry for following her captain into space and away from the Alliance, but every once in a while, when alone in her cabin in the dark, she does regret choosing Mal over Wash every time that choice had to be made. She should have let the past, let the war, stay in the past. But even as she thinks it she knows it could never have been so. The war had made her who she is, and it had fostered her loyalty to Mal, a loyalty that once given could not be taken away, for anything. And she can't regret that. What she really regrets is that she could never explain it to Wash so that he'd understand, because she wasn't really sure of it all herself. She just knows she can never leave Mal; he needs her more than Wash ever did.
The pain has lessened over the years, but the ache never really leaves. It sits, like lead in the pit of her stomach, or a weight on her chest. She knows, someday, that weight will be gone and all that will be left are fond memories, but for now she's glad to have the reminder. It makes her remember that she's human. That she's capable of emotion, that even when she doesn't show it, she feels it.
She feels a light touch on her arm a split second before she hears a warm voice speak gently to her, "You're thinking too hard, Zoe. Would you like to talk about what's troubling you?"
Zoe looks to her right where Inara has drifted up beside her on the catwalk. "Same thing I'm always thinking about, Inara."
Inara bows her head. "Wash." She removes her hand from the former soldier's arm. "He wouldn't want you to mourn him forever. He wouldn't want you to be alone either."
"No." It's easy to agree with her. Zoe knows Wash wouldn't want her to be making herself unhappy the way she is. He wouldn't want her to be alone either. He'd want her to go out and find someone who could make her happy, not as happy as he'd made her maybe, but as happy as she could be without him. "I'm not in mourning anymore."
"Then why haven't you found someone new?" The Companion focused the entirety of her attention on the taller woman, her voice schooled to polite interest.
Zoe raised a single brow and turned to face Inara fully, "Not exactly a lot of choice on a boat as small as Serenity. And we haven't been planet side in quite a while."
"Not a lot of choice? I know Simon, Kaylee and River are out, for obvious reasons, but what about the rest of us?"
"Captain and I figured out a long time ago we wouldn't work as anything but Captain and first mate. And I'm not sleeping with Jayne. No telling where he's been." Zoe gave a mental shudder at just the thought of taking Jayne to bed.
Inara laughed lightly. "Fair enough. And me?"
"You?" Zoe gave Inara an incredulous look. She'd never considered that Inara would want her, given her obvious feelings for Mal. "You don't service crew." She remembered Mal's rule, even if the Companion didn't.
Inara stepped boldly into Zoe's personal space and tilted up her chin to maintain eye contact, "I never said anything about servicing. I know the type of woman you are, Zoe."
Zoe felt her heart begin to pound in a way it hadn't since she'd last been with Wash, and she was a little startled to realize she was feeling desire for Inara. Strong desire. Determined to keep her cool she looked down her nose and said lowly, "And what type of woman is that?"
She watched Inara's eyes suddenly soften and she felt a hand tenderly cup her cheek. "The type that wants forever, and won't settle for anything less."
Zoe scoffed, "I lost my forever," she said as she stepped back and watched Inara's hand fall.
"No. You haven't." Inara followed, this time her hands caught Zoe around the waist making sure she couldn't move away. "Wash gave you all of forever that he could. But he wasn't your only chance at it."
She could easily break out of Inara's hold and they both knew it, she wasn't sure what kept her from leaving, but she heard herself asking in a voice so small it didn't seem like her own, "And you think you can give me forever?" It wasn't until she heard the crack in her voice that she realized how much she wanted that forever, how much she needed someone to give her that.
"I can try. If you'll let me."
Inara took a deep breath. "I can't give it up anymore than you could leave Mal. You'll have to share me with my clients, and I'll have to share you with him. It won't be perfect, but we could make it work."
"And you want to try?"
"I do. Will you try with me?"
Zoe looked into Inara's eyes for any sign of pity or uncertainty, knowing if she saw either she'd walk away from this. She'd walk away and never look back. She saw only conviction and caring. Slowly her hands came up to cup Inara's face. She tilted her head and leaned down bringing her lips to Inara's in the first kiss she'd had in three years.
It was quite possibly the most perfect kiss Zoe had ever had, warm and gentle with just a hint of the passion that Inara hid so well. That hint unlocked a door Zoe had kept tightly shut for years, it was the door to her own pent up passions, and she was glad for their liberation.
When Zoe released Inara's lips it was only to say, "I'll try. We'll try." Then she kissed Inara again and gave vent to some of her repressed needs. Moments later they disappeared into Inara's shuttle.
It wasn't love, not yet, but it could be the beginning of forever.
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