Disclaimer:  I own nothing.  Okay I have a few possessions, but Firefly and crew is not among them.  Although I do own the DVDs, does that count?

Notes:  Wash/Zoë.  Wash POV.  One chapter.  Occurs before the series begins post 'Infectious' by about a month.  Probably won't make much sense if you haven't read Infectious, might not make sense even if you have since it's kind of a ramble.  This is the third draft and title for this piece.  I think I finally found its voice.  This is really just a precursor to a story I'm developing, the real follow-up to 'Infectious'.  Tell me what you think.

Interrupted by SLynn

Wash sat in his bunk trying hard not to think about last night but without much success.  It was all that filled his head.

He knew that he'd be needed soon at the helm but didn't want to go.  He needed to be alone.  To let it all sink in.  Mostly he needed time too just control his emotions.

"What have I done?" he whispered to no one.

It was a question he could answer but still couldn't comprehend.  And it didn't really matter.  The aftermath was important now, not the action. 

It was over.

In a single night he'd killed what had been between them.  In a moment.  And now that it was gone he wanted it more.

Love had surprised him like that.  Wash never expected it to be so consuming.  So intense that some days he couldn't think straight, he just needed to be near her.

Sure they had had problems.  Every couple has problems but their temperaments, although radically different were complimentary.  They got mad but never for long.  Most of their problems stemmed from a single source. 

Trust.

He could admit he had trust issues.  Who doesn't?  All things considering, he thought he was pretty good about trusting people.

He trusted Mal when he said they could pull off a mission.  He trusted Kaylee would always find the problem with the engines and fix it.  He trusted Inara would never give any details what-so-ever about any of her rendezvous'.  He trusted Jayne would always hit his mark.

And until tonight he had trusted that Zoë loved him as much as he loved her. 

And now…

Now what?

He was beginning to understand that you can't really have love unless you have trust.  And with her he was beginning to feel he didn't have either.

Maybe it was for the best; the two of them together had never been an easy thing for anyone involved.

He hadn't considered that an 'us' would include so many people.

Zoë and him wasn't just about Zoë and him, it seemed to be about everyone.

It had been rough.  Mal had been mad as hell, and although he hadn't said anything about it, mostly because he couldn't even talk to Wash for weeks, he made it perfectly clear in other ways that he didn't approve.  Kaylee had been overjoyed to the point of annoyance.  He had always loved Kaylee like the sister he never had, but he had begun to love her like the sister he never wanted.  Inara had perhaps been the kindest in that she had been the quietest.  But even she had managed to sneak a satisfied smirk or two in their direction.  And Jayne…  Jayne had started off as incredulous and ended up at insufferable.  Not that Jayne knew what either of those words meant.

But it really was okay with him.  Wash knew that he could put up with the endless parade of interference in their relationship if he could just be sure that she loved him.  If he could just trust that…

And that was the real problem.

He didn't.  Not now.  Not after last night.

The teasing, well meant or not; the looks; the orders; all of it, he could handle.  Not a problem.  Screw them, they don't matter.

He could do it if he knew without a doubt she loved him.

And one stupid, drunken slip of the tongue was all it took to erase that trust.

That's the real reason people shouldn't drink.  Forget the rest, drinking made you say things you know you shouldn't.  Things you'd never, not in a million years, dare to tread near when you're stone sober.

Like last night.

He could see it all still in his head, playing over and over again.  They'd been just hanging out at some dive having a few drinks.  Finally alone.  Laughing.  Not a care in the world.  And for some stupid, foolish reason, he'd just started rambling on and on to her about how much he loved her.

Now he'd said it before.  Wash hadn't been afraid of telling her that.  It was true.  Wash loved Zoë like he'd never loved anyone before in his life.

But tonight he wasn't just talking love.  He'd got it into his head to talk about the whole package.  Love, marriage, kids, all of it.  And mid-ramble he happened to look up at her face…  The look on her face was still etched in his mind.

The look on her face said more then she ever could on the subject.  In an instance he knew that she just wasn't interested.  That wasn't the life she wanted and never would be.  And he should have known given her loyalty to Mal, but he never really thought about it before in terms of an 'us'.

And from there the doubt crept in. 

Maybe he'd been blind.  Maybe he'd just been the idiot everyone supposed him to be, but until tonight he had never doubted for a moment that she did love him. 

Maybe he'd been imagining more to their 'us' then there really was.

He didn't think Zoë was the type to play with a guy's emotions like that.  Maybe she wasn't.  Might be that until that moment she'd never really known herself.

After that they pretty much called it a night, went back Serenity, and for the first time in a long time slept in their separate quarters.  They hadn't talked about it yet.  He wasn't sure they needed too.  What would they say?

Some day soon he was going to have to decide if he loved her enough to stay onboard.  Part of him thought he could if he knew she really loved him.  But if she didn't, he didn't think he could stand it.  Didn't think he could just go back to before.

Mal had certainly been right about that.

For now he just needed time to think and it was time he just didn't have.

Any minute now he was going to have to head up those stairs and pretend there was nothing wrong with him.  Fly the ship.

Not for the first time did he wish he could take it all back.  He wished he could remain blissfully unaware that Zoë's plans for the future didn't differ so dramatically from his.  He wished he could go back and again be as certain as he once was that she loved him.

But how?

It was like being interrupted in the middle of a beautiful dream.

Try as you might, you could never start back at exactly where you left off.

The End