DISCLAIMER: Firefly belongs to the genius that is Joss Whedon and not me. No money is being made from this and no copyright infringement is intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILER: Set after "Heart of Gold"

Don't Let the Sun Go Out
By Celievamp

Inara Serra, certified Companion, denizen of Serenity for the past two years knew that the girl was watching her again. Like a little feral creature hiding in the crawlspaces looking out on a world. What did she see, she wondered. What did she understand? Sometimes River would watch her openly and Inara would try to coax her to sit for a while and let her brush and braid her hair so she looked a little less like a wild thing.

There was a kind of beauty to her sometimes, in her moments of absolute stillness when her tortured mind was caught in contemplation of a mote of dust or the slow descent of a drop of condensation down the walls of their little metal world. And in those moments when the force of life was strong in her when the urge to dance could no longer be denied then she was beautiful indeed, elemental, a fey. Sometimes she seemed completely unknowing, the world opaque to her and yet at other times she let slip insights that at first seemed absurdly simple and then suddenly burst in your mind with all the clarity of a gospel truth.

Inara knew that she wasn't alone in not knowing what to make of the girl. No one did, not even her brother. Yet they all, even Jayne, seemed to have developed the need to protect and watch out for her. She was like a little kitten sometimes, curious and skittish and afraid of nothing yet terrified of her shadow, aloof yet clinging, needing affection and care but only ever on her terms.

And somehow this intriguing girl woman had made Inara break one of her self-imposed rules. Never with any of her crew-mates. It had first happened a few months before when River had been going through a particularly bad patch of nightmares and flashbacks to which Simon's only solution seemed to be to drug her into catatonia. Inara had woken one night to find River shivering with cold and terror in the corner of the room seeming barely aware of her surroundings. Inara had persuaded the girl into her bed, covering her with the quilt and then holding her close, intending only to share bodywarmth with the girl and perhaps give her some reassurance that she was not completely alone in the world.

As soon as she lay down beside her the girl had turned, snuggling into her body, wimpering softly. Inara had begun to gently rub her hand up and down River's bare arm, whispering soft nonsense to reassure the girl that she was not alone and had no need to be afraid. The sensation of River's cool soft lips against the skin of her upper breast took her by surprise.

"River. I don't think." she began, then gasped as a small hand settled on her hip.

"Not thinking is good. Quiet. Lets other things out into the light. The sun... you are the sun. Dancing in the light. You smell good, Inara. Always. I notice that. Sweet and spice and exotic flowers like in the Arboretum at home. I used to go there when I was sad sometimes. Before." she shivered again, her forehead resting against Inara's shoulder.

"Not thinking, remember," Inara said softly. She let her hand rest on the nape of the girl's neck for a moment under the dark fall of her hair, feeling the tension thrumming through the girl's body. If she could grant this girl even a moment's respite from the agony's of her tortured soul. "River, would you like me to kiss you?"

A tiny voice, barely scratching the surface of the silence. "Yes."

Inara set her fingers under River's chin, gently tilted the girl's head upwards. Dark eyes fastened on hers, unfathomable ancient and wise yet innocent. The first kiss was almost chaste. River tasted of strawberries and chocolate. They drew apart. Inara smiled. After a moment River smiled back. Something inside Inara broke at that. She bent her head and kissed River again, gently swiping her tongue against the girl's tremulous lower lip.

And the first time, that was as far as it went. River snuggled into her arms and fell asleep.

And after that every few weeks or so Inara would wake during the night to find a small slender form curled up beside her, one hand resting on her breast or her hip. Sometimes she was asleep, sometimes awake. Sometimes they would kiss, talk softly, tell each other stories. And sometimes there was just silence. And on those nights they were together River slept peacefully, there were no nightmares, no pain.

The last time happened the night after they buried Nandi. Inara was still mad at Mal for what he had done and happy that her friend had not been alone the night before she died. Mal seemed to have truly been moved by her death but then Nandi had affected everyone she ever met. She would not be easily forgotten.

When she got back to her shuttle she lit a candle in remembrance and sat staring at it for a while thinking about Nandi about the times they had spent together. Nandi had been her first lover, the first person to tell her that she was beautiful, the first person to make her cum.

"She was very beautiful," River said softly. "And strong. She cared."

"Yes. She could not help but get involved with people. That's why she stopped being a Companion. We are not supposed to get involved."

"But you are involved with us, Inara," River said.

"I know... and it's becoming a problem," Inara whispered. "River, I'm sorry. It's nothing you've done, nothing." She sighed. "As a companion, most of my clients are men. You know that. If I choose a woman, she tends to be extraordinary in some way. And you are one of the most extraordinary people I have ever encountered, River. I will never forget you."

"Don't leave Serenity, Inara, please." River knelt in front of her. "Don't leave us... leave me. We need you. I need you. The sun will go out inside and there will be chaos." She laid her head in Inara's lap.

"It's something I have to think about," Inara said, stroking River's hair. "I have feelings for you River, and for Mal and for the others. You are my friends, my... family. And that's not good for a Companion."

"But it's good for us," River said. "Don't let the sun go out. Don't leave, Inara. You are our heart, Inara. My heart."

It was the nearest thing to a declaration of love Inara had had for some time. And the sweetest.

"I can't promise anything, River," Inara said softly. "You of all people know how the `verse works. And I'm only thinking about it. I haven't done anything about finding a new place yet, it might take months." The girl's beseeching gaze was getting to her. "I'm sorry River, that's the best I can do." She drew the younger woman into her arms. "Let's just make the best of what we have whilst we have it, okay."

River nodded, her eyes closed as she rested her forehead against Inara's. Within a few seconds her lips curved into a smile and she began to croon a song to herself, her distress forgotten.

There was something to be said for living in the moment.

The End

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