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.
SPOILERS: Set after the events in the film “Serenity”.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Guiding Light
By Celievamp

He thinks I stayed for him. He thinks I will save him from himself, be his guiding light in the black.

He thinks I agreed to travel with them again, to help repair their broken ship, their broken lives because I love him.

And I do, in a way.

But I love her more. I always have.

The ship was broken, so broken. His precious ship. But we fixed it. All is shiny. We fitted it back together, made new what we could fixed up what we could not.

But we couldn't do it for him.

I made sure he would still be able to see the stars from where we laid his body in the ground. He so loved the stars. He could name them all. I never could tell whether he made them up or not, I wouldn't know different. I wasn't much for schooling before the war and after, well, it was too late. I didn't know that life any more. I was just a grunt, hired muscle, watching the captain's back the best way I knew. Didn't know to want anything more.

I didn't deserve him. He made nice and I fought him. Old habits. I didn't know any other way to be. I wasted so much time fighting what I felt, afraid of how he was changing me. The Captain told me in the end that it was okay to stop fighting, just this once, that he wouldn't have me miss out on the chance of happiness because I was too gorram stupid and stubborn to see the right. He was my guiding light when I didn't even know I was lost.

And I was happy. We were happy. And the others, they were happy for us. And I let him change me, I let myself grow, learn a new way to be. I saw things in a new way. I saw her.

She knows I have taken women as lovers. I know from Kaylee's stories how hard Wash had to work to woo her, to make her admit her love for him. Still flushed in her own newfound love with Simon, she tells me she hopes that Mal and I are truly reconciled. I am honest: I tell her not to get her hopes up, but that I have no plans to leave Serenity in the short term. Zoe is used to being the hunter, not the hunted. She may not even truly feel for me as I do for her, but I think I know the truth of that. I have seen her watching me when she doesn't think I know it. She goes to my shuttle sometimes, when I'm not there. She touches my things. I know that if I wear one particular perfume she will sit that little bit closer to me when we are at dinner and linger a few minutes longer at table before she returns alone to her bunk.

Since Wash died she's withdrawn even more into herself. She always was stoic. Now she's stone. I know that she meant to die fighting the Reavers. I know that part of her hasn't come to terms yet with the idea that she's still breathing. I wish I could help her. I wish I could just go to her, let her know that there is more awaiting her in this life. But she is the hunter, the warrior. She has to make her own way to the light. I can only guide her so far.

Wash is gone. We all feel his loss, in the silence that was once filled with his jokes and stories, in the spaces where he once sat at table. River is our pilot now, which is so strange a concept as is possible to contemplate, a lost soul like her pilot. Even she knows better than to disturb Wash's things. His dinosaurs still roam across the console looking for new worlds to conquer. But we're adapting to him being gone. One day it won't be a surprise anymore to see someone other than him in the pilot chair. One day it won't be a conscious effort to remember to set one place fewer at dinner or set everyone's place a few inches wider so there isn't that gap, that silent memorial next to Zoe where he used to be.

We're waiting for her to talk. It could be a long time waiting. Zoe was never one for idle conversation. The saddest thing is that she was beginning to have dreams, to think of a future. They had talked of children, I know. But they had put it off to calmer times and better days. They would have had beautiful, incredible children together. And now we will never get to meet them. The Reavers stole that from her as well.

Ship needs a pilot, Ship needs to fly. Especially one as sweet to it as Serenity. But that don't mean I have to like that it's someone else doing it. I don't go up there much any more. I don't need to see his things still there like some go tsao de memorial. We're still flying. That's his memorial. He'd laugh his head off to know that it's River that's replaced him. He never took her seriously, she was just another kid in his eyes, but he'd have done anything for her.

I miss him. There, I admitted it and the world didn't end. I miss him. I miss Shepherd too. Neither of them deserved what happened to them no more than those poor folk on Miranda, them that lay down and died and them that were turned into soulless Reavers alike. I'm just glad we didn't lose anyone else. And we have blessings as well. Simon and Kaylee found each other at last and it is a balm to see them together even if they're still shy of showing how they feel around me for fear I take offence. I have to tell them I don't, that something as sweet as their love makes Wash's loss more bearable to me.

And Inara. She's back with us. She and the Captain have come to some arrangement. There's a kind of courtship going on but there's something not settled with her. She likes him well enough but she doesn't cleave to him. She looks to me often, when she thinks I'm not minding her and something in me thinks that there'll be words between us sooner rather than later.

Wash would tell me to be happy. He would want this for me. He would want me to want this for myself. That is one of the things I learnt from him: that it was alright to have hopes and needs, to want things for your own self. To be yourself. To love yourself and love other people.

I will tell her today.

I spent a pleasant hour with Kaylee teaching her things she feels she needs to know to make herself more fitting for Simon. I try to tell her he loves her just as she is, grease and oil and all but she remembers where he came from and what he was used to and the fear that the day may come when he finds her wanting in some way fires her insecurities. I also let her know that in my opinion their springing apart from each other and not touching and not speaking when Zoe is around her hurts her more than it spares her feelings over Wash. She is strong enough to see their love and deal with its reality if not yet strong enough to tell them herself that they should quit walking on eggshells when she's around.

But what of my love? I ponder this as I traverse the walkway back to my shuttle and she startles me, coming out of the shadows at the foot of the stairs.

"Inara… may I speak with you?"

I take a moment to wonder how long she has been waiting and usher her ahead of me into the shuttle. "Sit, please," I say. "Would you like some tea?" She shakes her head, no, her inky curls dancing around her face. She will not meet my gaze.

"I wanted to thank you," she said abruptly. "To let you know that your kindness, your presence has been a comfort to me these past weeks. You…" She falls silent but for the first time she looks at me, those brilliant dark eyes glitter with unshed tears. My heart stops. I don't know what she's going to say next. As ever she surprises me. "You give me hope, Inara, hope that there will be more. That one day…" She reaches towards me, her calloused fingers gentle my cheek. "Wash… he wasn't one for sadness nor for dwelling on what can't be undone. He's gone now, my life with him is done but my life… my life is not done. I don't know if I'm speaking out of turn here but I get… I think… when you look at me sometimes, I see… Inara, do you have feelings for me?"

It is the longest speech I think I have ever heard her make. "Yes," I say, softly but clearly. She has made it easy for me. "Yes, I have feelings for you, Zoe."

She closes her eyes, presses her fingers to her lips for a moment. "Thank you," she whispers. "I can't promise… when. One day."

I reach up, press my lips to her cheek. "I know. I can wait until you're ready. And… don't worry about any other claims on me. When you're ready, I am yours. For as long as you need me."

I find myself in his place, his dinosaurs proudly parading across the console. The lights blink and wink in pale mimicry of the display on the other side of the glass. I was his star, his guiding light or so he told me. He was never afraid to look into the black, my man, and he showed no fear when the black looked back at him. He was a leaf on the wind in the moments before he died, he knew he'd saved us all. Something in me broke when he passed but I hope that it can be fixed up. It won't be the same, that can't be. But it will still shine.

The End

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