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A Place for Tears

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Zoë's skin was soft beneath Inara's fingers. As calloused as Zoë's hands were, or how steely her gaze, the skin of her back was soft. The skin of her calves, the inside of her thighs, and the underside of her wrists were also smooth, Inara knew. She had learned every secret spot on Zoë's body, and she knew Zoë no better than she had three months before.

Inara pressed her thumbs into a knot at Zoë's neck, eliciting a low moan from deep within Zoë's throat.

"It's been a long week," Inara said, leaning over Zoë's body, so occasionally her long locks just brushed against to Zoë's skin. Inara worked the knot until it faded under her touch.

"Mm," Zoë agreed. She was splayed face down on Inara's bed, stripped naked and vulnerable. There was no armor, no pretense, and no fear.

Inara, still dressed in her red silk robe, smiled to herself and poured more of her perfumed oil on Zoë's back. She carefully avoided the raised scars, the shrapnel from the war still embedded beneath the skin. There were other scars, including one frighteningly near Zoë's spine that appeared to have been a gunshot wound. Zoë's gorgeous skin was like a map of her past, missing one very important piece.

Working her hands lower, Inara pressed her fingers into the small of Zoë's back. "You could sleep here tonight, if you'd like."

"No," Zoë said, her words slightly muffled by the pillows. "This is fine."

"Is there anything else you'd like for me to do, then?" Inara asked.

Zoë pushed herself up and turned over, her hair falling in dark curls like a waterfall over her bare breasts. Her face was wet with traces of her tears. She took Inara's hand and guided it between her legs. "This."

Inara pressed her fingers into Zoë's wet slit. Zoë leaned her head back, her eyes fluttering shut. She slid her hand up Inara's arm, drawing invisible lines with the tips of her fingers grazing lightly across the skin. The touch sent shocks throughout Inara's body. Zoë's desire was electric. Her desire to be seen, not just as fighter, but as a woman. To be heard in her grief that had been faded with time by everyone but herself. To not be alone in this moment.

"I know when you came on, the arrangement you made with the Captain was how there wasn't to be any servicing of the crew," Zoë said, looking out of place in Inara's shuttle. She was rough around the edges, hard in the middle of all these soft, lush items, but no less beautiful. "I don't want to break any... conditions of trust, but--"

Inara took Zoë's hand and looked her square in the eye. "Tell me what you need."

Zoë's hand found its place, wrapping her fingers tightly around Inara's thin bicep, pulling Inara in closer to her, and holding her there.

Tilting her head to the side to press her mouth to Zoë's ear, Inara whispered, "Breathe." She pushed two fingers deep inside Zoë, still caressing the clit with her thumb in light circles.

Zoë gasped, arching her hips upward, sending Inara's fingers just further inside of her. "More," she said. She squeezed Inara's arm to the point of pain, but Inara barely paused, feeding into Zoë's fervor "More."

Inara lowered her chin and kissed Zoë's neck. She breathed in, and Zoë was gunpowder and leather. Her heart beat through her skin in red hot rhythm, matching Inara's pulse beat for beat. In that moment, Inara could feel the entirety of Zoë's soul and mind bursting with lust, anger, and sadness, all simultaneously, both conflicting and complementary. She brushed her lips against Zoë's jaw and tasted the salt of her tears. Every noise from Zoë's throat was a cry for something Inara could not provide, but if anything, she could try.

Zoë's fingernails dug into Inara's skin and there would be no way to stop the bruising. Inara moaned, the pain coursing through her, overstimulated and unattended. The heady scent of Zoë's need had taken their hold on Inara, and the object of her own desire began to break through.

Inara moved her way down Zoë's body with her mouth, kissing Zoë's throat and running her tongue along the length of a collarbone. Inara worked Zoë's clit harder now, feeling every pull of Zoë's skin as she stretched and released, pushing herself closer to the edge beneath Inara's touch.

"Oh! Ohh," Zoë moaned, and then she had no words, reduced only to sounds and cries through her orgasm. She dropped back, her head falling onto the pillow, and she sighed, quiet and satisfied.

"I can pay." Zoë said after she said her piece.

"That's not necessary."

"I'd rather. Keep it business."

Inara nodded. She knew Zoë couldn't afford her rates as a proper client, but if they were already blurring the lines between business and therapy and friendship, then exceptions could be made. Deals could be found. If it helped Zoë find her way back, Inara was willing.

"Better?" Inara asked. She lay down next to Zoë, resting her head on the same pillow. She rested a hand on Zoë's smooth stomach, scratching her nails lightly across the skin, just enough to create a blanket of gooseflesh.

Zoë turned her head to look at Inara, their faces nearly touching. Her smileless, yet content expression did not change. "It's better."

"Good." Inara smiled and pushed the throbbing between her legs to the side of her mind where she could not reach it, but it never quite left her alone. She could be alone to her own arousal after time.

Of a typical encounter, Zoë would take this time to roll from the bed and dress, but she continued to gaze into Inara's eyes. "And what about you, Inara?"

Inara raised her eyebrows, the smile fading from her lips. "What about me?"

"Don't have to be a companion to see you could go a round for yourself." Zoë leaned in closer and pressed her lips to Inara's, something she'd never done before, not in all the time they'd spend together. She pulled at the tie of Inara's robe and tugged it open, revealing a strip of white skin between Inara's breasts, leading down to a perfectly manicured stripe of dark hair.

Inara's breath caught in her throat. It wasn't often that happened, but Zoë had always been beautiful, and over these last months, Inara had learned how deep that beauty ran. A companion sought compatibility of spirit, and there was no doubt in Inara's mind that she had found it in Zoë.

Zoë appraised her carefully, something shifting in her eyes. "I don't know these steps."

Inara sat up and removed her robe, shedding her own armor to expose herself completely.

She knew the soft parts of Zoë's body, the little places that could draw out moans and cries, but there were very few people in the 'verse who knew her own. Not many had the opportunity to learn, and those who wanted to were rarely worthy.

Inara smiled. "I can show you how."