DISCLAIMER: Firefly/Serenity is the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Angie


She's waited a good while, in the hope that it would go away. Or, at least, that it would start to hurt less.

It still hurts.

She goes to bed every night and tries not to notice how empty it feels. But she still wakens on his side, seeking his warmth, needing that contact.

It's that same need that drives her to Inara's shuttle that night. Everyone has turned in for the night and the ship is silent, save for the distant hum of the engine that keeps them flying.

She raises her hand three times before she manages to knock on the door. When it opens, Inara's years of training hide any surprise she may feel at seeing Zoë.


Inara's voice holds no question. It is as even and soothing as ever. It's almost as if she had been expecting the night time visitor. She stands aside as Zoë enters the shuttle. The tall warrior stands awkwardly amid the finery. Smoke is rising in threadlike slivers from incense burning on the dresser. It gives the space a hazy atmosphere. Zoë almost wishes the smoke were thicker, to obscure her face, her motives. To make this anonymous.

Inara sits down and looks up at Zoë, waiting for her to speak.

Zoë brings her head up and looks into Inara's eyes.

"I…I need to…make use of… your services."

Inara looks away. She stands and moves to the dresser, busies her hands with moving bottles and boxes. Zoë waits.

"I told Mal when I came aboard that I wouldn't…"

Zoë knows how that sentence ends, so she interrupts.

"Lot's changed since then."

Inara turns back to face her. The enormity of Zoë's words hangs in the air between them, caught in the smoke.

"Yes, it has."

Zoë sees pity in Inara's dark eyes and she pushes down the emotion that swells in her chest because of it. She averts her gaze, keeping her voice businesslike.

"This ain't to do with him. I just need…I miss…"

She can't vocalise the hollow ache she wakes up with every morning. She can't tell Inara that she can't remember the last time her skin came into contact with another person's. She can't explain why she's shied away from the touches and comforts that she longs for.

Inara seems to understand without hearing the words. She moves towards Zoë and takes her hand, lacing their fingers together. Zoë remains still, adjusting to the sensation of holding a hand that isn't his.

"I don't want your money, that's not what this is about."

Zoë starts to protest but Inara silences her with a hand behind her neck, pulling her into a kiss. Zoë has to bend down to meet Inara's lips. It feels strange and familiar all at once. Inara's lips are warm and soft. The kiss is not one of passion, nor is it chaste. Inara's arms go about Zoë's body and Zoë sinks into the embrace, her taller frame draping over Inara.

Inara draws the kiss slowly to an end. She turns in Zoë's arms, taking hold of her hand and urging her in the direction of the bed. She stops when she reaches it. In a few smooth motions, Inara's robe is pooled on the floor around her feet, revealing her naked body to the air. She pulls back the covers and slips underneath. She lies and watches Zoë, waiting for her to make the next move.

Her hunger awakened, more by the touch than the kiss, Zoë removes her clothes methodically, placing each item on a chair as she does so. Once undressed, she joins Inara in bed. The cool glide of silk against her skin makes her shiver as nerve endings react to the sensation. Inara lies on her side, her eyes intent on Zoë's face.

Zoë reaches out and runs her hand over Inara's hip. The warmth of skin through the thin cover burns her fingertips but she continues upwards until her hand is cupping Inara's cheek. Inara moves so that her body is covering Zoë's. Long expanses of skin come into contact and Zoë hisses, drawing air in through her teeth and closing her eyes.

Then Inara's lips are on hers, more insistent this time. Zoë brings her arms up around the smaller woman, holding her in place. Inara kisses her way down Zoë's neck, pausing to suck gently at the pulse point, her hands drifting over Zoë's torso. When a soft palm grazes her nipple, Zoë arches up, pressing her breast into Inara's hand.

Inara grants the unspoken request, increasing friction on the sensitive skin, rubbing and squeezing the hardened flesh, almost to the point of pain. Zoë presses her head back into the pillow as Inara's thigh comes up between her own. She rocks her hips, her wetness sliding against the pliable surface.

Fingers ghost over her stomach and down to where her need is greatest. Two, then three fill her up and she presses into them. Inara has talented hands and Zoë isn't sure she can hold on for much longer. She rocks herself faster as her breath shortens. The sensations threaten to take over: the lips on her shoulder, the hand on her breast, the stomach rubbing slickly against her own, the fingers between her legs.

She comes, tightening around Inara's hand, and tightening her arms around Inara.

A heaving sob escapes her chest and she pushes Inara off of her and turns so that she is sitting on the edge of the bed. The sobs won't stop coming and she covers her face with her hands. Inara watches, she knows now is not the time for comfort or touches. She has done her part.

Zoë weeps.

She cries for him. She cries for herself. She cries because she can still feel. She cries because she knows she can move on, and she's not sure that she wants to. She cries.

When her tears subside, she swipes at her face and stands. She dresses in silence. Inara watches from the bed. Zoë turns to face her in the dim light.

"I…thank you."

Inara simply smiles and inclines her head. Zoë nods back. And understanding passes between them. Then she is gone, the only sign that she's been there is the disturbance of the smoke in the air that she walked through on her way to the door. That, and the cooling warmth she left on Inara's thigh.

The End

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