Author's Note: Written for an LJ Christmas gift exchange several years ago.
Most people believed that Wash had made the first move on Zoe. Nobody ever asked them, it was just assumed. Wash understood why, but he and Zoe both knew the truth.
About four months after he joined Serenity's crew he took part in his first illegal activity. Until then he mainly just stayed with the ship. Mal didn't trust him to go on any of the jobs, which Wash found highly insulting considering Mal let Jayne go on all of them. But for this particular job the shuttle would need to swoop in to grab them and the cargo and nobody could swoop as well as Wash.
The job had gone well. Better than any had in months. A genuine smile curved Zoe's lips as she and Wash stored the take in the cargo hold. It was the most beautiful thing Wash had ever seen and he started telling her jokes to keep her smiling. Her laugh rang through the ship and when they were pausing for breath she leaned over and kissed him. Then she had shoved him away and went about her business. Wash, not being completely stupid, didn't say anything or mention it again. But he had trouble concentrating for the rest of the day and Mal ended up yelling at him when he nearly crashed the ship into the side of a mountain during take-off.
After that he tried to make Zoe laugh whenever the opportunity presented itself.
A month after that Mal and Zoe had been bargaining with Lionel, an associate of Mingo and Fanty's, when he took offence to something Mal had said and pulled a gun on them. Wash watched in horror as Lionel got off two shots into Zoe's chest before Jayne managed to take down both Lionel and his bodyguard. Wash rushed to her side to see her sit up and send a peeved glare at Mal as she adjusted her body armour. He was so relieved, his knees nearly buckled. That night he came upon her in the galley as she was prying the bullets out of the armour. Before he realised what he was doing, he bent down and kissed her. Once again she shoved him away and it wasn't discussed.
It was two weeks later that Zoe, Mal and Jayne got into a firefight with Patience on White Fall. Mal'd been shot and Jayne had to drag him to the ship and return fire at the same time. Zoe was holding her own but she wouldn't last forever. Wash saw that things were going south and took Serenity into the air as if to fire on Patience and her people, hoping that they didn't notice Serenity wasn't outfitted with guns. The bluff seemed to work and the tide quickly turned at that point as both she and her men rode off quickly in the other direction. Wash landed, waited until Kaylee told him that everyone was on board then got them the hell off of that rock. As soon as autopilot had taken over he rushed to the infirmary. Luckily Mal's injury was fairly superficial and Zoe patched it up with no problem.
As she cleaned up their eyes met through the infirmary window. Forgetting Mal still sitting on the operating table, Kaylee holding his hand and Jayne lounging on the couch in the common area, Wash and Zoe rushed into each other's arms. They kissed and Wash knew he would never kiss another woman. Zoe was it for him. And he looked into her eyes and knew she felt the same way.
"No." Mal struggled to sit up but Kaylee pinned him down. "No gorram romancin' on my ship. It's in the rules."
Wash had forgotten they weren't alone. For a moment his heart fell into his stomach. As far as he had seen, Zoe had never gone against Mal's wishes. She was his second-in-command through and through. But then his warrior woman spoke and Wash's heart sang.
"Sir, with all due respect, to hell with your rules."
Mal and Inara had kissed once before, though Mal wasn't aware. Inara herself rarely thought of it. The kiss had been born of relief and frustration and had immediately knocked her off of her feet. But thinking of it led to thinking of Saffron and that never led to any good.
If someone were to ask her why she decided to stay on Serenity after Miranda she's not sure what she would have told them. It wasn't a conscious decision, per se. Mal never travelled to Sihnon and she never asked him to. Within a month she had moved back into her shuttle and had taken a sabbatical from the Academy. She hadn't taken any clients though. It hadn't seemed right. And if she were honest with herself, she was hoping for something else. Or someone else, to be more specific.
Mal couldn't take a hint. She refused to use her training on him because if they were to enter into a relationship she wanted it to be on terms agreed upon by both of them. She tried to broach the subject once or twice but he always managed to deflect her. Yet, she saw the desire in his eyes when he looked at her. She heard the affection when he spoke to her.
There were also practical matters. Mal refused to let her take part in the jobs they pulled and with her not taking clients she was making exactly no money. She had some in her savings but it wouldn't last her indefinitely. After a particularly demoralising look at her credit situation she logged into the Cortex to see if there might be any potential clients in Beaumont as Serenity was headed there to make a drop. She was just curious, she told herself. And for once, she believed her inner voice was telling her the truth.
"Lookin' to be a whore again?" She turned to see Mal staring at her from the doorway. His face remained neutral but his eyes virtually sparked with anger.
Inara decided to ignore him. "Is it any business of yours?"
"I thought you were retired."
"I'm on sabbatical. I never said I wouldn't go back." She turned when she heard him start to move away. "Can you give me any reason not to go back?"
He obviously hadn't expected that. "Well… you… I mean, we." He crossed his arms across his chest. "What reason could I give you?"
Part of her thought she should make it easier on him but she knew that he wouldn't do anything the easy way. "Give it your best attempt."
His eyes went skyward and she couldn't tell if he was seriously searching for a reason or if was simply frustrated. The sigh he emitted a second later led her to believe it was the latter. "Kaylee. She'd be… disappointed."
"You know as well as I do that Kaylee isn't the least bit concerned with my occupation."
"Well, it ain't safe on the worlds we're workin' these days. Men who can afford a companion ain't respectable."
"And you know I screen all of my clients very carefully."
"Well, then," he pasted a defeated smile on his face, "I guess there ain't no reason you can't resume your business."
Inara wanted to scream in frustration when she saw him slip out. She didn't want to go back to work any more than he wanted her to but her choices were becoming limited. With a sigh she turned back to her work station.
"You belong to me." She rose and turned toward him just as Mal reached out to grab her shoulders. "There are about a thousand reasons why I shouldn't do what I'm about to, but you've taken me over, Inara, and we both know there's something here between us. That's why you shouldn't go back."
She opened to her mouth, either to yell at him or agree with him, she wasn't sure yet, but before she could say a word Mal pulled her to him and kissed her. For the first moment it was tinged in desperation, but then they fell into each other and the rest of the universe ceased to exist.
It felt like they kissed forever. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, it all blended together and when they finally drew apart Inara didn't know if they had been kissing for a minute or a year. But Mal's arms still surrounded her and he gently stroked her hair so she found she didn't care how long it had been.
Placing another soft kiss on his lips, she couldn't help but roll her eyes up at him.
She sighed. "Took you long enough."
Jayne Cobb didn't kiss girls on the mouth. Kissin' them on the mouth just gave 'em romantical notions and there weren't no room for romance in Jayne Cobb's life. He enjoyed a bit of trim as much as the next man, hell, imore/i than the next man, but that's all it was - a little night of fun with a loose woman or a whore when loose women weren't to be had.
The first Christmas after Miranda, Kaylee went on a decorating spree. Mal'd never let her before, but Jayne reckoned the captain thought they might all need some holiday cheer 'cause he barely put up a fuss. She and River hung sparkly garland, itty-bitty lights and bits of pine trees all over the gorram place. They even put a wreath on his bunk door. He tried to toss it away, but it kept reappearing so eventually he just gave up.
On Christmas morning the two she-devils woke everyone up at an ungodly hour with their carol singing. The only thing that kept him from knockin' their heads together was the breakfast of pancakes and honest-to-goodness sausage that they had laid out on the table.
After gifts got exchanged (and he was thankful that Mal'd prodded him buy everyone a little something at their last stop when he received all the new weaponry and whiskey), Jayne decided to work out. Girl walked so damn quiet he didn't notice River had followed him until they reached the doorway to the cargo hold. She touched his arm to stop him and he damn near jumped out of his skin.
"Gorramit girl, don't be sneakin' up on a person!"
"Wasn't sneaking. You left without offering your present."
"I got ya that box of sweets. Hell, ya already thanked me for 'em."
"Not that present. You have to follow tradition." She pointed to a withered bunch of leaves hanging above their heads.
"What's a dead plant got to do with tradition?"
"Mistletoe. Parasite. Must latch on to others to live. Tradition dictates we latch on to each other." And before he could muster up a word of protest, she pulled his head down to hers and kissed him.
It had been near on ten years since Jayne had kissed a girl on the mouth, but he was fair certain that if it had felt like this he'd never have given it up. For a moment, their lips just rested on each other, but the ifeng le/i girl deepened the kiss and he wasn't about to complain. He pulled her close to him, and ran a hand through her hair as she twined her arms around his neck. Her lips were soft and she tasted like syrup and peppermint.
She was about the closest thing to heaven that Jayne had ever experienced and he nearly cried out when she broke the kiss. She placed a finger on his lips and smiled. "Simon's coming. If you wish, we'll continue this on New Year's Eve."
She disappeared up the catwalk leaving him staring after her foolishly. His lips still tingled and his head felt fuzzy. Maybe getting all romantical weren't a bad notion after all.