It was that day. The day that the old scars were ripped open and started bleeding all over again. She hated that day. It was a reminder of what she lost and how gorram bad it hurt to lose it…lose him. It was seven years later, seven, yet her heart was still aching.
Zoe loathed her anniversary. She avoided thinking about how many years she would have been married to Wash. She didn't want to think about it. She didn't want to remember or feel any of it.
But damn, thank God for Jayne Cobb. He was the perfect drinking buddy. She needed that night out.
They had been friends for quite sometime. There really wasn't any other option. Everyone was coupled with everyone aboard the ship, so they were left to mingle. One night out in the bars turned into another and another. Suddenly it was a ritual, one that she looked forward to. They had fun. It made her forget.
She needed that. Between the happily married couples back home and the sudden presence of children running about, she was losing her mind. It bothered her to see Simon and Kaylee kissing or even the one time she walked in on Mal making out with River on the pilot chair.
Tonight she decided it was time to get over the pain by drowning it in the glass of whiskey she clasped tightly in her hand.
"Thanks for comin' with me tonight," she sighed sadly as she took a large gulp.
"It weren't a problem. I like drinkin'," Jayne grinned. "To drinkin'!" he raised his glass.
"To forgettin'," she added.
"To gettin' totally drunk and pissin' Mal off!"
She laughed. "Amen."
Their glasses clanked together and they finished what little remained in them.
"Bartender, a few more over here!" Jayne called.
He watched as Zoe downed the whole thing in a single gulp. "Another…" she choked out.
"Gorram, Zo. You're hittin' 'em hard tonight."
"Don't wanna remember. Today would have been my anniversary…"
Jayne grew quiet and nodded. He wasn't the best guy in all the 'verse. Hell, probably not even in the top forty percent, but he was going to try to be there for her as best as he could.
She finished another and then another.
"I think you should take it easy," he said calmly.
"Na, I can…hold my liquor…" she slurred slightly.
"Has you ever seen the way Mal looks at her? It's like…nothin' else exists in all the 'verse. She's it. I used to look at Wash like that. He used to look at me like that."
Jayne watched her take another ridiculously long swig of her drink. She looked up at him and their eyes met.
"You know…" she began. "You're kinda lookin' at me like that now."
"What? Me?" Jayne stuttered out.
"I don't like watchin' my friend drink away the pain. That ain't right."
"Since when do you care 'bout anyone other than yourself?"
"I ain't all bad."
"I know. We've all got shades of gray. That don't make you a bad guy."
He nodded in agreement. She looked at him again.
"You're really great sometimes."
"What?" he asked in surprise.
"You make me forget. Make me smile. It's like the hole in my heart ain't there."
"I think you're drunk."
"Na, I'm just slightly…buzzed. I mean it."
"You're great too."
He looked at her with his piercing blue eyes.
"You're doin' it again."
"Lookin' at me like…"
"Like I'm the only thing in the 'verse."
"I'm jus' payin' attention's all."
"I think you're lyin' to me."
"Well I ain't!"
"I want you to help me forget…" she stepped towards him with wanton eyes.
He was taken aback by the come on. Surely it was the alcohol talking. Not for him. He had developed feelings long ago. She was sexy, smart, funny, dangerous, strong, brave…why wouldn't he want her? But she was hurting, grieving for the man she was still in love with. He couldn't take advantage when she was drunk. He couldn't.
"Zo, you're drunk. It's the alcohol talkin'."
"No it's not."
She stepped into his space. His heart was pounding.
"Make the pain go away…" she said quietly.
"I don't think so. If you weren't drunk, that'd be another story. But you are. I ain't takin' advantage."
"I'm the one takin' advantage."
His breathing stopped as she leaned in and her lips pressed against his. He had a policy: no kissing on the mouth. That was his way of distancing himself. But he didn't want distance. He wanted her.
He kissed back hard and got his hand tangled in her hair. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him in, fighting back hard with one of her own kisses. They pulled apart and looked at each other.
"Upstairs," Zoe said plainly. It wasn't a question. It wasn't a statement. It was an order.
They made their way through the bar and up the steps to the rooms over the bar. Jayne didn't want to explain to Mal why Zoe was so damn drunk anyhow, so it worked out. He figured that he'd just let her sleep it off. That would be it. Sleep it off.
He knew that wouldn't happen when they got the door open to one of the rooms. She pulled him in and slammed the door behind them. He was flat on his back within seconds and she was going for his belt.
Her mouth devoured his and all of his apprehensions were gone along with his shirt and boots. Her boots were off and her clothes were flying throughout the room. Eventually of their garments were off and they were kissing savagely.
He let his mouth explore her body, but somehow his lips always wound up back on hers. He wondered why he had been avoiding kissing like that for so long. He had forgotten what it was like.
She felt his rough skin with her warm hands. She traced all of the different scars with her fingers or with her tongue, depending on which was closer, before kissing his tattoo. His lips found hers once again. She tasted sweet with just a hint of whiskey and sugar…
They lay intertwined and panting. Their hearts were still racing from the moment they just shared. He wrapped his arm around her and she wrapped her arm around him as well. He felt her ragged breathing on his chest slow and even out. She shut her eyes with a smile and he did the same.
He woke first, slightly hazy from the night before. He wasn't sure if he had dreamt it or not, but once he saw her next to him wrapped only in a tiny blanket with most of her glistening skin exposed he knew it wasn't. He felt a bit of guilt. She was drunk and it was her anniversary with Wash, but he definitely wasn't regretting it.
Zoe stirred with a bit of a smile. She opened her eyes and saw Jayne beside her. She was really foggy from the night, but she did remember a few things. Sleeping with Jayne was one of them. She felt some shame. It was her anniversary and she slept with another man. She felt sick like she had cheated on Wash, but somehow she didn't regret it.
"Mornin'…" he said cautiously.
They got dressed in silence. They paid for the room in silence. They started the walk home in silence. Finally they reached Serenity. She turned to him before they entered.
"Just so you know, I'm not sorry about last night."
They smiled and then entered as if the night hadn't happened although they were both happily aware that it did.