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Author's Note: The following snippet was written for Firefly Friday fic challenge #8.
She wasn't sure when she realised it, exactly. When it stopped being about frantic groping in his bunk, or hers—hoping Mal couldn't hear them. Knowing he had, and not caring. When it became more than making sure there was a plate of dinner left for him, when it looked like Jayne would go for thirds before he even got to the table. When she stopped being embarrassed when she woke with tears still wet on her cheeks, and instead welcomed his arms around her, his whispered assurances against his neck.
It happened slow. Gradually. Until she couldn't imagine a day going by when he didn't make her laugh. When the petty spats hurt more because she was gripped by the fear that maybe this one would be the last one. Maybe she would drive him away. Maybe this relationship came with an expiration date, and she should just enjoy it while it lasted because all good things end. When she realised she dreaded the ending so much that in-between fighting dirty, their love-making acquired a frantic edge. Like she had to store up on all those smiles, and sunlight, and laughter while she could.
Once she knew, then there was that free-fall feeling, deep in the pit of her stomach, as she wondered if maybe it as all her. She was living a fantasy in her own mind, and maybe something broke in her during the war that couldn't ever be fixed and she was a fool for trying. For using him. For letting him use her. Fooling herself into believing that she could be so lucky. That the gods of fortune could smile on her after all she'd done. After all she'd killed. After all that time she'd wasted.
Once she knew, it was like slow agony. Everything he said suddenly had double, even triple meanings. She drove herself to distraction, trying to sort it all out. Suss out how to be the sort of woman a man like him would want for more than just the night, or to watch his back in a fight, should it come to that. Days and weeks and months of feeling like a child again, uncertain of everything, the constant highs and lows that she hid behind a cold exterior because she was afraid that weakness would drive him away. That he could see how much she needed. How needy she had become.
She finally told him—as casual as she could make it sound, couching the shattering confession in a kiss against his neck and murmured words as they rolled away from one another in the darkness. Told him and waited, trying to pretend what he did next didn't matter. That it wouldn't change how she felt about him. That life would go on just like it had before she'd let the genie out of the bottle.
She hadn't been prepared for what happened next. The girl who was always prepared for any eventuality. Always wore the vest to stop the bullet. Always had the knife and boot gun in case the sawed-off jammed. Always knew what the Captain was gonna say before he said it. It had taken her completely by surprise.
When Wash kissed her like it was the first time, and told him he loved her a thousand times in the space of a minute and meant it every single breath, the clock had started ticking again and life hadn't gone on just the way it had before.
And that was the best part.
ljc's firefly fan fiction