DISCLAIMER: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and its characters are the propert of James Cameron and Fox. Firefly belongs to Joss Whedon. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The title: "To describe a relationship as "star-crossed" is to say that it is 'thwarted by a malign star', or that the stars are working against the relationship." Happy birthday, inspectorboxer! So very glad I have you in my life.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Zoe watched with amusement as River skipped up to the bridge where the pilot was already working, a handful of flowers she had picked on their last stop behind her back. Zoe's smile widened when she heard a sharp rattle of tools and a stream of accented Chinese come from the bridge. Connor must have been deep into her repair, Zoe surmised, as the voice quieted. A few moments later, the two of them made their way down the stairs together to put the flowersweeds really, Zoe knew Connor knew as well as she did that they were considered a nuisance to be eradicated planetside, the same way she knew Connor would never tell River this factin water.
The two of them, the pilot and the sometimes seer, assassin, and co-pilot, moved around each other like a pair of constellations in the night sky, slowly wheeling through the black and fixed in their orientation to the other. When in each other's company, the rest of the crew receded to a point far in the distance, but neither noticed. Each was oblivious and innocent in her own way; Connor lived in the moment, through a concerted effort to avoid the past and all the demons that came with it, and so she didn't consider where things with River might be headed or what it all meant, to both of them. And well, River was River. She had lived among the crew, felt their lives, loves, disappointments and pain, but Zoe wondered if she understood all the emotions she felt. Sometimes, Zoe got the sense that River lived so many lives yet none of her own, like she had felt so much and so intensely that she had no way to translate to her own emotions, to name or understand them.
And so they roamed the night sky, their stars aligned if either ever figured it out. Zoe figured it was a 50-50 chance, even money, and she wasn't sure which side she would have placed her bet. So Zoe just watched, like she watched so much lately. Since Wash's death, she had felt herself subtly shift to the edge of the crew, the void within her unable to be filled by Kaylee's good nature or Inara's good intentions. Zoe was withdrawing, becoming almost wraithlike, a ghost to match her husband. Mal had noticed but he seemed at a loss to help.
And so she watched as they all moved around her, wheeled and danced in relationship to each other. One relationship that was strained was between the pilot and the captain; that night that neither of them remembered a source of confusion and distrust even to this day. Zoe wondered what they would say if they discovered that she knew what happened that night, and had kept quiet for all these years.
It had been Connor's birthday; someone had discovered the date, and Connor hadn't been thrilled by it, but any excuse for a party during a few days away from the warzone, so she had allowed herself to be dragged out to a saloon. It was the usual boisterous crowd, a sea of brown, flyboys and grunts mingling in the forced good cheer encouraged by flowing alcohol and the sense of death behind every corner. It was a good night, only a few fights, broken up quickly, and Connor's normally pale features were ruddy under a sweep of dark hair. Depositing a shot glass of the vile and potent liquor that Connor favored, Zoe sat down beside the pilot as she told a detailed story about a bombing run, her hands animated as she described the angle of the opposing ship. Smiling her thanks, Connor tossed back the alcohol neatly, in marked contrast to the heavy thud that was Mal Reynolds dropping down into the seat beside the pilot. His beer slopped onto the table as he set it down, interjecting himself into Connor's story to describe how the fight looked from the ground. Connor glared even at Mal's praise of her flying, but she allowed him to take over the conversation.
Leaning back, she gave Zoe a lazy smirk to let her know what she felt about Zoe's lieutenant. Away from the center of the conversation, Connor's face turned contemplative, and lines betraying her tiredness showed around her eyes. "I could sleep for about three days straight," she whispered to Zoe conspiratorially, her head resting on the cushion next to Zoe's shoulder.
"If we leave now, you can just about make it before we're called back up," Zoe observed dryly.
Connor nodded, and turned her attention back to the conversation, where Mal and a flyboy in Connor's squad were heatedly discussing tactics and strategy, their voices elevating dangerously in a room overrun with drunk flyers. "Your boy has had too much to drink."
"He had too much to drink about two hours ago," Zoe agreed, a second before they both surged up to pull Mal away from Connor's co-pilot a second before they came to blows. It took both of them to wrestle him out the door, and that's how Zoe found herself stuck between her lieutenant, now sleepy and maudlin as he slurred his way through how he would run the war, and the enigmatic pilot who was apparently much more drunk than she had let on.
Zoe supported both of them as they weaved their way through back alleys, Zoe's boots instinctively heading toward the infantry barracks. She had dragged Mal home after drinking many a night, and the weight on her left was familiar. The pilot on her right stumbled less, but still leaned on Zoe heavily, her quiet and soft curves a marked contrast to Mal.
Zoe didn't remember how exactly she got them all back to Mal's quarters, her memories consisting mostly of Connor's softness against her side and warm breath against her neck.
She dropped Mal onto the bed first, or rather, mostly onto the bed. His upper body was sprawled across the top corner, while his booted feet remained planted on the floor. He didn't seem to mind, however, as he immediately began snoring loudly.
Zoe was more careful as she lowered Connor to a seated position at the foot of the bed, smiling in mute apology at the state of the room. Connor swayed a little and Zoe caught her shoulders to hold her steady, once again marveling at the soft skin and hard muscles under her fingers. She realized with a start that her thumb was caressing the tight muscles at the back of Connor's neck in a light massage. The pilot eased into the caress, and Zoe increased the pressure, the muscles slowly unbunching and knots easing as she slid her fingers under the loose linen shirt the pilot wore.
She felt Connor's hands sliding up her legs, over the back of her knees, along her thighs, and up to her hips, the heat where the pilot's hands rested causing a shiver to run up her spine. The pilot coaxed her a stutter-step forward until Zoe was standing between Connor's knees, close enough to feel warm breath flutter the fabric over her stomach.
Her gaze found a pair of green eyes, clearer than they should have been, staring back at her, and the intensity of that gaze shook her. The two were brothers-in-arms, and on the occasion, friends, and this kind of battlefield comfort was not uncommon among the loose knit group, but the desire and longing in Connor's eyes spoke of needs far beyond a roll in the sack and they gave Zoe pause. She wondered what it would take to fill that need, to soothe the hurts, and make the woman she was looking at whole again, and she knew that a night's comfort in the middle of a war zone was nowhere to find that kind of solace.
But then Connor's fingers slid around her hips and found the buttons over her stomach, and at the first touch of the pilot's lips against her, Zoe reasoned that even a little comfort was better than none at all. The pilot made quick work of buttons of her shirt and began on her trousers while she kissed a slow path up Zoe's stomach. Arching into the light touch, Zoe dug her fingers into Connor's shoulders and hung on. The wildfire that raged through her body threatened her balance, but Connor's strong hands on her hips steadied her. The rush of desire wasn't only caused by the fact of the embrace or the sureness of seduction, but by the fact that it was Connor's lips pressed into the open V of her trousers, Connor's thumbs caressing her hips.
Roughly grabbing a handful of dark hair, Zoe dragged Connor's lips away from her body and caught the pilot in a deep, searching kiss. There are sparks, fireworks, and then there are supernovas, and the meeting of their lips belonged in the latter category, Zoe decided when she came up for air. But her recovery was short-lived; a sharp gasp drove the much-needed air out of her lungs as Connor caught a nipple between her teeth, her tongue expertly teasing.
It was too much for her shaky legs, and Zoe collapsed heavily down on top of the pilot, tumbling them both down onto the bed but failing to dislodge Connor's persistent mouth. Braced against the thin mattress with trembling arms, Zoe fought to keep quiet, even though she knew it would take nothing short of a mortar blast to wake Mal, snoring away on the edge of the bed. Connor tugged on Zoe's belt, dragging her trousers down, and Zoe kicked off her boots and twisted her body to help. A low moan reached her ears, and she redoubled her efforts, even as her trousers slid free.
As if synchronized, Connor lifted her head just as Zoe dropped hers, both searching for the other. Zoe felt those talented pilot hands tickle down her back and along her thighs and she shifted her legs in a mute plea. Connor stroked her, parted her, and teased her until a growl deep in Zoe's throat urged the pilot on. Connor slid home, with the authority and surety Zoe expected, filling her completely. Pausing for just a moment before starting to move, Connor's eyes found hers and locked, keeping them connected as she pulled back and dove in again. Connor found Zoe's rhythm, matching it for a few thrusts before increasing the speed, taking her faster, and higher, as if by the mere movement of her hand she could catapult Zoe into orbit.
And it felt like that when she came, like riding a rocket straight out of the atmosphere and then slowly falling back to earth.
Zoe blinked open her eyes and found a pair of sleepy green eyes staring back at her, a satisfied smile pulling at the corners of Connor's mouth.
Zoe raised up on her arms and shook her head emphatically. "Oh no, girlie, we aren't done yet." To prove it, she kissed down the pilot's neck, her fingers racing down the buttons to stay one step ahead of her lips. Parting the uniform shirt that the pilot wore, Zoe teased Connor with tongue and teeth on her stomach, until the taut muscles were quivering and dancing to her every touch.
The snap of Connor's trousers was loud in the room, and the pilot lifted her hips to help, to hurry, to slake the need Zoe could feel in the trembling of her thighs. Zoe paused for a second between her legs, watching as Connor's movements became more insistent, her body opening and inviting. Zoe marveled for a moment at seeing this side of the pilot, normally so closed off, marveled at the fact that she had brought her to this state. But then she succumbed, unable to resist a first taste.
She never imagined that the pilot would lose control so easily, so quickly; Zoe had expected to have to coax Connor to the heights of her desire, but she met the movements of Zoe's tongue readily, eagerlytoo fast, in fact, for Zoe to get her fill. The pilot's strong hands guided and held her as her body rode out the waves until she collapsed onto the bed, sweating and exhausted.
Zoe curled up against Connor's side, her head nestled into the pilot's shoulder in lieu of the paper-thin pillow and listened to the twin snoring before drifting off herself.
Waking was an incremental process; first, Zoe was aware of being curled around a warm, soft body, and a happy lassitude in her muscles. Opening her eyes, she saw her hand splayed across an angular stomach, dark against the pale skin. Then all the events of the night before came crashing in on her, along with a squeezing, breathless feeling she identified as panic. It was all too much, suddenly: Zoe didn't know what to make of it. The night should have been easy to categorize, sex after a night of drinking, a war zone tumble. Everyone did that, and walked away as comrade-in-arms the next morning. But Zoe wasn't sure that that was what this was, or if she wanted it to be, or what Connor would think. The one thing she did know was that she didn't want to be there when those green eyes opened to answer all those questions.
Sliding out from under the pilot's arm, Zoe pulled her clothes on hurriedly, absently noting that Mal was still in the same position that they had left him. Pausing in her headlong flight just long enough to cover Connor with a blanket, Zoe headed for the communal showers, hoping that some time, distance, and hot water would help clear her head.
Hair dripping and head clear after a shower long enough to empty a small lake, Zoe headed back toward Mal's quarters, determined to drag the pilot back to her own room for copious amounts of water and a long talk.
The scene that greeted Zoe, however, was not what she expected. Mal was pounding on the door, yelling about how she couldn't throw him out of his own quarters and Connor yelling back that he's lucky that that's all she did. She began to enumerate all the things she might do, including drop him on the heads of the Alliance soldiers from a high altitude, all interspersed with a variety of Chinese and English curses.
Zoe watched for a moment, and then tiptoed away, deciding to wait until the pilot calmed down before they had their talk. However, Zoe's decision ended up being a bad one, as they were called to the front days early for a major offensive in Serenity Valley, and she didn't see the pilot again until that day in the market on Bardeen. Too much had happened by then, to explain or apologize, and Connor had, from the very beginning, shown no inclination to revisit the past or the bitter memories of their last days together.
And so Zoe watched the crew revolve around her, like she was the only one steady and standing on the ground, watched as River and Connor dance around each other. Her regrets were few; what might have been didn't hold any power over her in the light of what was, her love and time with Wash. Their stars hadn't aligned the way hers and Wash's had, and she accepted the will of the fates.
But Zoe did remember a certain date coming up in a couple of weeks, and she wondered what River might do, armed with the knowledge of the pilot's birthday. Hearing the light tread of untied, flopping boots on the lower catwalk, Zoe hurried to catch up with the girl.
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