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 "Objects in Space"

This Woman's Army
By Celievamp

"I never expected to fall in love, you know. After the war it was the last thing on my mind."

Inara knew that she was not the object of the other woman's affections. She was still not quite sure what she was to Zoe nor of where she stood with the former soldier. But every now and then for the last couple of months Zoe would come to her in her shuttle and they would make love and they would talk.

"Never thought I was made for it. I `spect you grew up pretty much the same. You made do with what you had. And if it wasn't much, well that was just the cards you were dealt. I `scaped to the Army you became a Companion," Zoe reached out, ran her soft yet calloused fingers up Inara's bare thigh. "And we both turned out to be damn good at what we do. Hell, if it weren't for the war I would probably still be lookin' at the same ten acres of scrubland I was born on. Wuo duh Ma knows why I thought it was worth fighting for."

It amused Inara that out there, on Serenity, days would go by and she would not hear Zoe speak, not to her, not to anyone. She was a lithe catlike presence, silent as the proverbial sphinx. Yet in here Zoe talked, told her things that she was pretty certain not even Wash or Mal knew. That kind of trust humbled her. It made her a Companion to this woman in the truest sense.

"The war changed my life, saved my life. I was good at it. fighting, strategy, weapons. Finally got to look beyond that ten acres of land. Showed me the `verse in all its power n'glory. Flying free. Brought me to this ship, got me a husband, friends. you." She leant in for a kiss, stroking her fingers down Inara's cheek, her eyes wide and dark.

"I could say the same things," Inara reached up, captured Zoe's hand where it rested against her cheek, turning her head to whisper a kiss across her palm. "I never expected Serenity to become a place I considered home. And to make friends here. not at all what I expected!" And to find you my beautiful Zoe. Even if I have to share you.

"That's something else the war taught me. Work out who your friends are and keep them close. Watch their backs because the day will come when you'll need them to watch yours. Serenity. all of you - you're my army now. The Captain and Wash - I trust them with my life, I can't imagine not having them in my life," she shrugged, smiled.

"They're good men and true," Inara agreed. She did not know what would have happened between Nandi and Mal if her friend had lived but she knew that he would have treat her well. Mal Reynolds had an old-fashioned courtesy to him. And Wash. no one quicker with a joke or a kind word. A day brightened with his presence. And he loved his Zoe. Her Zoe. For tonight anyway.

"Now Jayne you might not want watching your back," Zoe observed. "I feel better when I've got him in sight."

Inara was under no illusion over how many of Jayne's daydreams she was likely to feature in. She had to agree with Zoe's assessment that keeping him where you could see him was generally a good idea. Yet even Jayne was not irredeemably bad. He could usually be trusted to do the right thing. Eventually. If not always for the right reason. "What do you make of Shepherd Book?" she asked.

"For a man of the word he's uncommonly good with firearms," Zoe smiled lazily, stretching in response to Inara's touch on her skin. "He has a Past, that one."

"Most folk do," Inara said, bending her head to better inhale the scent of Zoe's arousal. Spice and jasmine, gunpowder and gun-oil. Uniquely Zoe.

"True, but he knows a mite more about Alliance procedures and protocols than I'm comfortable with sometimes. And I think he has war stories of his own that might be a 180 on the ones Mal and I tell. I know the Captain feels the same but the man's proven himself."

"He saved your life, getting you treatment on that Alliance station," Inara said. Her fingers skimmed over the faint pale scar that was all that remained on her lover's torso. The shudder that thrummed through Zoe's body was not entirely in response to her touch. She had gone through the war with little more than a few scratches. That day was the closest she'd come to walking hand in hand with death. Book had saved her life, blagging his way onto that Alliance ship and getting her treatment that time they had mislaid their doctor and her hurt so bad that even she had thought she was dying.

And talking of their doctor. Simon Tam, lost soul, proverbial fish out of water. Outside of his medical skills not much good for anything, at first sight anyway. But anyone who gave up everything and everyone he had ever known, including the rest of his family, to rescue his sister from those go-ram bastards that had experimented on her had a core of steel running through him however shrinking he might appear. And that scam he thought up with the medical supplies. the man might yet have what it took for a life on the edge.

Inara guessed the direction of her thoughts. "Simon. how such an intelligent man can be so absolutely clueless. Some days I don't know whether Kaylee's going to kiss him or kill him."

"She needs to take him in hand," Zoe said, letting her own hands slip between her body and Inara's deftly unloosening the ties on the other woman's clothing. "She might appear to be an innocent." Like the rest of the women-folk on Serentity. All tried and true even though none of them looked like they could withstand a stiff breeze never mind an all-out attack.

Kaylee, a sweet girl, not much use in the gun-toting department or anything much that didn't involve engines but even if she was scared to death she still stood up to be counted when it mattered most.

The witch-girl, River. Strange fey creature that she was. All her brother's skill and knowledge in doctoring and he could not mend her. But when it counted, she was there. Helping to rescue Wash and Mal from that hwoon dahn Niska. Getting rid of Jubal Early. Pulling that go-ram stunt taking on the persona of Serenity had been something else. A sweet child, she thought with a smile.

And then there was Inara herself, the Companion. Zoe had to admit that she had not considered her much beyond excess cargo and an unnecessary distraction when she first came aboard Serenity but she had proven herself. She let them get into places that a ragtag crew like them wouldn't normally have got a sniff at. She wasn't above getting her hands dirty. And she was one of the few people who could get one over on the Captain. Something which so far she had not abused. And Zoe gave her credit for that.

None of her female companions were what you would call doe eyed innocents. Not even Kaylee. Of course, looking at that picture of fresh faced innocence one did tend to forget just how she had got most of her engineering education. Definitely a hand-on experience, on-the-job training. And Inara, icewater in her veins sometimes with a stoneface to match Zoe's own when things were not to her liking. Then there was the girl... Kaylee had finally confessed to River's uncanny proficiency with weapons. There was definitely more to her than met the eye. Thank God she was on their side. More or less.

Her friends, her family, her loves. after the war love had been the last thing on her mind. Zoe smiled, thinking of the first time she had met Wash, the Captain all fired up and ready to hire him on the spot, her with her hackles raised her paranoia packed and loaded. Everything about him from his silly little moustache to his insistence in seeing the fun in everything that he did just enraged her. She did not understand his philosophy: life was too short not to have fun.

And he loved her. She had no doubt about that. He loved her. She just hoped that she was worthy of him. It was that whole Past thing again. One did not come through a war as an active soldier without accumulating a little darkness in your soul. Unless you were Jayne. but she got the feeling sometimes that he had sold his soul off at the first opportunity.

She had had lovers before Wash, both male and female, but none that had meant anything to her. When there had been opportunity, and a companion who had excited her interest she had asked the question. She was under no illusion about her own physical attraction. She had never been turned down. But always without fail she had been the one to do the asking. Wash had been the first to ever pursue her. It had got to the point where she had asked him what the tven sah guay he thought he was doing. With the barrel of her gun resting in the curve of his jaw if she remembered correctly.

"I think I'm wooing you," he said, a slightly panicked expression on his face. "It's going well, don't you think?"

And he had smiled at her. And she had kissed him.

Wash made her laugh. He told her that she was beautiful. He was still a little in awe of her as a warrior woman and absurdly happy and grateful when she did normal `womanly' things for him like making him `wife-soup'. And when they made love he took such good care of her. He had changed her life, her future. She had even considered the possibility of having children. Zoe knew they would make beautiful children. She could not wait to meet the children they would make one day.

Wash made her laugh. Inara made her soul sing. Something she needed almost as much as she needed the laughter. Zoe sighed, smiled as Inara kissed her way across Zoe's breasts, taking first one and then the other erect nipple into her mouth for a moment, rolling her tongue across its pebbled surface. Zoe's hands stroked down Inara's soft pale curves. She loved the way they looked together, entwined like this. She reached between the other woman's parted thighs, running her fingers through the neatly trimmed hairs that nested her core feeling how wet the other woman already was. Inara kissed her, moaned into her mouth as Zoe stroked her, Inara's hands resting on her shoulders, their breasts pressed together now, one of Inara's slim thighs between Zoe's legs, Zoe rubbing herself against her toned flesh. They came within seconds of each other, clinging to each other in the afterglow, kissing, whispering soft nonsense.

Zoe sighed, glanced at the clock. "I should."

"Stay, please," Inara whispered. "Just for a little while longer. Just until I fall asleep."

Zoe nodded, laid back down beside her lover.

"Wash and I are going to try for a child," she said softly. "I've finally talked him into it, I think."

"You're not going to leave Serenity, are you?" Inara asked.

"I don't think so," Zoe said. "Not while we can still fly free. Where better to bring up a child than this?"

"The two of you will have beautiful children," Inara said softly, reaching up to run her fingers through Zoe's midnight curls.

"And what of you, Inara?" Zoe asked softly.

"I have my work, my duty," Inara said. "I'm not looking for any more than that. Not yet. Maybe not ever."

"A few months ago you spoke of moving on, of leaving Serenity."

"I was afraid that I had become too close to. to all of you," Inara said. "It is not the way of the Companion. That's what I told myself. I think it frightened me to realise how much I had come to care for you all."

"As we have come to care for you, Inara," Zoe kissed the smaller woman. "Wherever the `verse takes you you will always be a part of our family. My family."

The End

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