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The first year

“Why are there dinosaurs?” Plastic dinosaurs on the bridge, in bright, shiny colors, there was something wrong here. They were even arranged as if they were going to fight, she picked up the T-Rex to see if maybe it had something written on it. Maybe there was some actual logic involved and not that the new pilot was even more immature than she figured. She heard footsteps and the Captain and the pilot, Wash, entered discussing the course and she shook the dinosaur at them as Wash gave her a look better suited for a puppy dog, “There are dinosaurs on the bridge. Why?”

“Because dinosaurs,” Wash said as he moved to take the T-Rex from her and put it back where it belonged. He was careful to not touch her hands too much as if she would bite him, well, he should be, just because he could fly didn’t mean she had to like him. She glanced over to the Captain who was looking all innocent and with that smirk that meant he was trying not to laugh, “Well, then I’ll just leave you boys to play with your toys.”

As she left, she heard the two of them laughing, it was nice to hear the Captain happy that way.

*******

She woke up sweaty from a damn, fine dream that ended too soon, Mei’s hands had been all over her with her salty kisses. It had been too long since she’d had a woman kiss her that way, not since right after she left the army. Mei hadn’t wanted to follow after Mal and go out on the edges, she’d wanted to find her own sort of safety and they didn’t make sense without the army holding them together. She pulled herself out of her rack, drying off with a towel and getting dressed, she wasn’t going to sit here and think on the past, it never worked.

The ship had a lovely quiet, just her shoes on the metal, up to the bridge where a blaring bit of orange sat on the seat, Wash. He had the worst taste in shirts of anyone she’d ever met, his clothing was even brighter than Kaylee’s.

“Morning, there’s a free seat,” He didn’t even turn his chair all the way around, just glanced over his shoulder, he’d have been dead fast as a soldier.

“I can see that. Have you shaved that thing off your lip yet?”

“I spent years growing my mustache, every pilot needs one,” He was actually preening as he said it.

“Says who?” The other seat was comfortable, it made sense why the Captain would come here and drape himself over the chair, there was proper padding and a fine few.

“Best pilot I ever knew, he said a pilot needs a mustache to show his confidence, wings for your face," He said as he put his feet up on the bridge.

“It looks more like something died on your face. How does anyone kiss you without laughing?” A giggle got out as she thought of kissing him.

“Women are lining up to kiss me, because I know what to do with it.”

She laughed, he was ridiculous and mustaches were weird. It would be like kissing a brush, which wasn’t right, kisses were meant to be smooth and men’s faces were never smooth. They always had stubble or something growing there, the one time she’d kissed Mal, her face had itched for the rest of the day. And that had only been on the cheek because he was looking sad. She settled down into the seat, thinking of kisses was nice and Wash was quiet, for once. Something settled onto her and she woke up, reaching for the knife at her hip to find Wash going back to his seat and a blanket over her.

“You looked cold,” He said with a smile that was kind of sweet and she shook her head. It was a nice smile that was all, he was a man and not her type even if he had been a woman.

She shouldn’t have slept here, he was just comfortable like the Captain. “Thank you, how long was I out?”

“Two hours, we’ll be coming up on Dyton soon. I’ve got some coffee brewing, don’t think its burned yet.”

“I’ll go get it,” Best to get going and ready to face the day, she was a bit stiff as she stood but she’d slept in worse places. The coffee was about to burn, he seemed to only have a good sense of time when flying was involved, it was dead on then. She poured out two mugs and came back up, handing him a mug before sitting once more. This wasn’t too bad a way to wake up.

*******

Inara was laughing as she brushed out Kaylee’s hair, “A good mustache can be nice to kiss if the man knows what he’s doing.”

“Oh yeah, or when they know how to give you that bit of a rough when you’re wanting it,” Kaylee added with a smirk.

“I’m not lookin’ to try any rough that involves mustaches. I know what I like and its not that. No, I want a woman with a nice smile, proper laugh and hands that know their way around me,” She should have never mentioned mustaches, but Wash’s was distracting.

“Yeah, need to know how to laugh. The ones that don’t are never any good in bed, there’s a time and a place for poetry and it ain’t there,” Kaylee added as she leaned into Inara’s lap as Inara smiled down at her.

Then Inara looked into her eyes and said, “How’s my laugh?”

Zoe grinned and poked Inara’s foot, “Too fancy for me, you’ll just have to find me a woman worthy of me.”

“What if I found you a man? Wash makes you laugh and you’ve seen how he pilots. Not my style but I know how he handles our girl, bet he’d be good in bed,” The smirk on Kaylee’s face was awful and knowing.

“Kaylee! Its Wash, have you seen that thing he has growing on his face. I don’t want that anywhere near my tender bits or my lips either.”

“If you asked him, he’d shave it off. He’s been thinking about it, keeps asking me if he should or not,” Kaylee added as she giggled into Inara’s head.

“I don’t want Wash doing anything for me except flying us where we need to go and making dinner more often. Anyway, I don’t need anyone but do need you to fix up my vibrator, Kaylee.”

“We’ll get it once my hair’s done, I’ll get it up to places you’d never imagine.” She laughed at Kaylee’s answer, that would keep her going for a while, she didn’t want any man even if he did make her laugh and feel safe.

*******

She was going to die because of a thunderstorm and their fool of a pilot who didn’t know how to tell Mal that something was stupid. They shouldn’t have left orbit, not until they had to and Wash was muttering something as his dinosaurs shook and seemed ready to fall down.

Her hand hurt from how tightly she was gripping the Captain’s chair as Wash and Kaylee talked in engineering. The air bumped, or they bumped the air, it didn’t seem right then they were flying smooth. Wash turned and gave her a smile; without his mustache, it was a much nicer looking one and he did know his business. She smiled back at him as Mal grinned and stood up saying, “Right, we’ll just be gettin’ onto our job then.”

“Yes, captain, but next time, find us one that’s not happening during monsoon season on New Melbourne,” Mal was a smart man and a fine captain when he was thinking about it, but sometimes he was an idiot.

The second year

“You’re not cutting them the right way, they won’t cook properly, Wash. How many times have I shown you this?”

Sometimes she wondered if he kept making mistakes when cooking to spend time with her, but he couldn’t tell a lie to save his life. His face was too open and he hadn’t learned like she and the captain had how to keep things tucked away.

“Far too often. I humbly apologize and will clean the dishes if you’ll teach me, Zoe?”

Then he turned those damned eyes on her, there was always a laugh in them and she could never stay that angry with him.

“Since you asked so nicely, I will,” She took the knife from him and was aware of his quiet solidity behind her, he didn’t have the held energy of the captain who was always waiting for something. Instead he just sort of was and he made her feel secure, an odd thought but there it was. He wasn’t her type even if he had been a woman, he wasn’t tough, he was childish, always looking for a bit of fun, though he did know his work.

“Zoe, where have you gone to?” His voice jarred her out of her thoughts and she laughed before getting back to explaining how to make protein taste as good as possible.

*******

Inara’s shuttle wasn’t good for pacing, it was too small, “I’m not attracted to men. I never have been, never dated one, never wanted one and I’m not now.”

“Zoe, you can be attracted to both. No one will take anyone anything from you for it. He’s what you said that you wanted. I know he makes you laugh, because you keep smiling around him,” It wasn’t fair how Inara said that so confidently.

“I smile around you and Kaylee, even the captain sometimes when he’s not being an ass.”

“But you don’t worry about those smiles,” Inara pointed out with a pointed lift of her tea cup.

“This isn’t worry. I’m a strategist, all I’m doing is making sense of my next tactical move,” She said firmly, she wasn’t going to think too much about this.

“Kiss him,” Inara said with a laugh.

“No, that won’t help.”

“Of course it will, kiss him, get it over with and know how you feel. You can’t lie with physical reactions as you well know. You can read a lie better than anyone, it’s how you’re such a good soldier. Kiss him and decide the truth of your feelings.”

“How will I explain it to him? He’ll start talking and then I’ll have to tell him things and I’m not going to do that. Just because he makes me laugh and has nice lips doesn’t mean anything,” She couldn’t believe she was having this discussion, she’d always been lesbian, it was who she was.

Inara sighed and fell back on her bed, “You’re bisexual, so am I, you think he’s attractive, go do something about it.”

She flopped down on the bed beside Inara, she had never liked a man before, this had to be wrong. Only being around him made her think of Irene, her first girlfriend who seemed to carry proper summer around, her laugh warmed a room and she hoped. Wash hoped too, he’d find a course through any sort of trouble and his shirts were always a spot of growing life on the ship, “He’s still a man.”

“Who doesn’t have a mustache anymore because he knew you didn’t like it.”

The worst part of that sentence was that it was true, right after he shaved it off, he gave her this smile that asked for her approval. It was adorable, “You know too much, Inara.”

“Have some more tea.”

*******

The bonfire was heaven though the moonshine could have cleaned the engines and the job was over. Mal and Inara were doing their weird dance of flirting and arguing, as Book poked at the fire and Jayne drank too much. Kaylee had found a handsome farm boy and was having a good time. Wash had been by Book then she felt his warmth as he bowed down to her offering a bottle, “Another drink?”

“Better save it for the engines than our insides.”

“You’ll wound our noble hosts,” He dramatically put his hand across his chest and ended up leaning against her.

“I think they’ll manage, pass it over,” He was solid behind her as she took a long drink of the rotgut.

“You did good today,” If it hadn’t been for his flying, they would have been sitting in an Alliance prison or worse.

“I live to serve you, Zoe,” The happiness in his voice warmed her more than the drink.

“Idiot,” As she said it, she kissed him, he tasted of moonshine and grease and didn’t react at first. She didn’t like that, she’d seen his looks, this was a time when he should think on his feet. He kissed back, gently at first then there was the heat and she sighed, this could work. His lips were bigger than she’d expected but he did know what he was doing with them.

Time got away from her until she heard clapping and drew her knife, breaking away from the kiss to find Inara and Mal applauding as Mal said, “Took you long enough. Now give over the bottle, you’ve been hoggin’ it.”

“Captain, sir, I’ll throw the bottle at you if you ain’t careful.”

“Course you will, come on, Inara, let’s leave the two lovebirds be.”

She could feel Wash laughing and hit his shoulder as he said, “I’m not arguing with the captain, just sittin’ here by the fire.”

“I am standing up and not paying attention to any one of you. And taking the bottle with me,” Standing up, she didn’t wobble too much and smiled at them all as she walked away. Getting to the ship took a while, but she made it and when she fell over into her bunk, she kept thinking about his lips. He really did know what he was doing with them. Still, that didn’t mean Inara was completely right, attraction was weird and she liked women, but maybe she could try another kiss if the time was right.