In Vino Veritas
You know and I know Joss Whedon owns these characters.
Part One: In Wine...
Wash assumed everything had gone all right with the job. No one had called in air support. No one had shrieked at him to take off Now, now, now! No one dirtside tried to land-lock 'em. No one sent them an obscene wave, promising eternal retribution. Zoe's "We're on, pilot. Take us out," over the comm had been perhaps a tad more terse than usual. Hard to say, though. Exact degrees of terseness could be difficult to assess, without accompanying clues from body language and facial expressions. 'Course Zoe's communication style in those areas were far along the lines of terse as well. But he'd developed a keen sense for reading the tiny – yet highly significant – variations in her terseness. He knew, for example, the precise angle to the lift of her left eyebrow which meant, "You are a bug." And how, if it lifted three millimeters higher, it meant, "I am going to squash you now." Amazing, really, and wonderful, truly wonderful, the volumes spoken by the arch of one elegant brow.
So, while the terseness gave him an excuse to ponder upon Zoe's eyebrow (not that he actually needed an excuse), he discerned in it no cause for alarm or need for speed. Ergo, he'd eased 'em unhurriedly off-planet, nice and smooth, and pointed them toward their next port of call. Out of atmo, he shifted from the pods to the pulse engine with a minimal use of the expensive hydrogen fuel. Then, satisfied, he'd set the boat on autopilot, and leaned back in his seat to refresh his soul with the sight of the brilliant stars soaring through the infinite Black. That took about five minutes. His was a simple soul.
Then the dinosaurs realized they needed new grazing and hunting territory, so they began organizing themselves for the grand trek to new vistas. (Little did they know what terrors and joys awaited them upon their journey.) This took some time, as the T-Rex was feeling particularly fractious. Wash kept one ear toward the open bridge hatch. The crew knew, of course, about the dinosaurs. He'd placed them prominently on and around the helm within a week of signing on, eliciting a few raised eyebrows. But most folks, out here, far away from the Core, allowed for, and indeed, seemed gratified by a bit of eccentricity in their pilots. Was kinda expected, actually, although every vacuum jockey was supposed to have his or her own individual quirk. Not that the dinosaurs were a quirk. No, sir, they were his companions. (Though not in the big C companion sense, of course, 'cause that would be too kinky, even for him.) Bulwarks against boredom. Vehicles for venting the various vicissitudes of the vacuum. Et cetera. Thing was, while he made no attempt to hide the dinos themselves, arranging them in tasteful displays around the bridge, he thought the crew needed a little more time to learn that, yes, he was indeed a serious pilot. Once he had their trust in that regard, he'd let it be known that his friends were much more than mere ornamentation. That they had personalities, and lives and concerns of their very own.
He leaned back in his chair, the T-Rex and the stegosaurus held limply in his lap, gaze focused out again into the Black, its endless expanse giving him a canvas to splash his thoughts across. To be brutally honest with himself, the only member of the crew whose trust he desperately desired loathed him. Mal, he knew, liked him well enough, and trusted him. As a pilot, at any rate, if not as a person. And Wash figured there was only one person in the entire 'verse on the captain's "Trust Implicitly" list, so he was okay with that. Little Kaylee, well, she came trusting. You had to actively work to lose her trust, and you'd have to be the kinda huen dahn who drop-kicked puppies to do that. And Jayne? No, didn't suppose their newly hired muscle trusted him. Didn't suppose the guy trusted anyone, 'cept maybe his mama, his guns and cool, cashy money. So, it was no skin off Wash's nose, not to be an article of Jayne Cobb's high regard. Unless, of course the man-ape actually took skin off his nose, which, on contemplation, could not be ruled out as an unlikely future event.
But, Zoe. Zoe, Zoe, Zoe. Meant "life" in the ancient Earth-That-Was Greek. He'd looked it up on the Cortex. And she had been his life, the past six months, her and Serenity. Truthfully, while he was ecstatic to get his hands on and into an Aught Three K64, he had decided he was going to accept this berth the very second a gorgeous, deadly, self-contained woman had whirled him 'round, shoved him face first against the air lock wall, and run her hands all over – and he meant all over – his body. 'Course, she'd been frisking him, not feeling him up, but the old hind-brain didn't know that. It had imprinted irrevocably on the firm, brisk expertize of those hands. Meanwhile, his mind picked up the challenge of breaching that walled off self-sufficiency to rouse the passion he knew must burn at her center.
And his heart? He sighed, lifting the hand with the T-Rex in it to vigorously rub his forehead with the back of his wrist. He worried sometimes that the reason he persisted in his pursuit was that, maybe, deep down, he was a closet masochist. That some dark little corner of his psyche actually got off on being cut down and rejected on a daily basis. But, whenever he angsted over this for too long, he eventually found himself snickering at the thought that he actually had any dark little corners of any kind in his very, very simple psyche.
No, the reason why he couldn't give up the idea of winning Zoe over was because he wanted her. Or, more correctly, wanted her. All of him wanted all of her. Not just her body, see, though, ai ya, he could make himself agonizingly hard just thinking about her chin. Lao tyen yeh, it was a gorgeous chin, but to sport wood thinkin' about it? Not his usual, um, fixation. Not a reaction he'd had to woman, man, nor even beast, ever, in all his days.
No. Fact was, though there were areas of any person's body he tended to appreciate more than others, Zoe, the whole of Zoe, riveted his attention in an amazing, almost painful, manner. The body counted, oh yes it did, 'cause he was just a guy, not some sort of elevated being. But it was the person in the body that he wanted to touch, to reach, to please, to... to love, gorramit. Yep, he bet even if Zoe were old and gray, she would have him completely wrapped around his own drive axis. Heck, he even had fantasies – long, slow, devastatingly erotic fantasies – about them being old and gray together.
Well. These were clearly not her fantasies. Her fantasies probably involved air-locks and vacuum and bloody foam spewing from his mouth, nose, and even ears and other orifices. He'd tried to haul back on what he figured irritated her most, tried to keep his mouth from running with the thoughts skipping merrily through his brain. Had sacrificed the mustache, as long as it had taken him, as fair as he was, to produce a lip-ferret of note, to the cause. But there was only so much he could give up and change about himself, only so much he could hold back, before pinching off who he was, and start living a lie. And then, what? If Zoe didn't want him, just for himself, well, what was the point? He knew he wasn't smart enough or strong enough to maintain a mask that would engage and impress her for any length of time.
"Rrr," he growled manfully, wagging the T-Rex at the stegosaurus. That dinosaur, wise in the ways of its kind, sighed and replied, "Yeah, right." Wash nodded, acknowledging the assessment of his character, and placed his companions carefully in their places, for the march toward their future, as uncertain as it was.
Often, just after lifting off, the captain would come up, make sure they were headed in the right direction, ask captainy questions, maybe chat a bit about the job, or at least let him know if he was getting paid or not. Looked like this wasn't going to be one of those times, though, as almost an hour had gone by, the dinos were organized, and Mal hadn't come up yet. Maybe the cargo needed a little extra sorting out, keeping him and the others busy. He hadn't yet heard any footsteps in the corridor aft, or any bunk hatches hissing open and closed. They'd had dinner early that day, just before Zoe, Mal and Jayne had gone out to wrap up business in port, and now, hours later, he found he wanted a nosh, tea and maybe one of those fresh rolls Kaylee'd picked up in the market this afternoon. Hopefully Jayne hadn't scarfed them all. He rechecked all their nav readings, made sure all the power, life-support, et cetera gauges shone green, admonished Rex to behave, then wandered down to the galley.
When he reached the steps going down from the corridor, he paused a moment, eyes widening a bit as he tried to make sense of the scene before him. Apparently Mal, Zoe and Jayne were not sorting out cargo, 'cause they were all three of them in the galley. The captain sat at his usual spot at the head of the table, and Zoe sat at hers, at his left hand. Both of them were silent, Mal staring down at the half-full glass in his hand. Zoe, too, had a half-full glass, but her heavy lidded gaze rested on her captain, not her drink. On the table in front of them was a two liter bottle of what Wash recognized as Kaylee's engine "wine." The new gunman, Jayne, was not at the table. He stood in the kitchen, on the other side of the counter, leaning against it. He had a smaller bottle, of what he called his "sippin' whiskey," in front of him. (Though how the guy could stand sipping it was beyond Wash, 'cause the one time he'd gotten close enough to get a whiff of it, it about seared away all the hair in his nostrils.) Jayne flicked a glance at Wash as he entered the room, but quickly turned his attention back to the captain and first mate, lifting a shot glass and tossing back a drink of his own as he did so. The others took no notice of Wash whatsoever.
He opened his mouth, then shut it again, teeth clicking together. No one looked particularly chatty, or particularly patient, so he made his way silently into the kitchen, keeping a concerned eye on the pair at the table. Quietly, he put the water on to boil and, maneuvering around the large man taking up much of the kitchen space, collected his favorite mug, a tea ball, and the tin of loose tea leaves. As he puttered, he shot frequent glances at the silent, near immobile Mal and Zoe. About the only moving around they did was lifting one hand to bring a glass to their lips, or, once, the captain poured them both refills. In the six months he'd been on, Wash had never seen them like this before, working with a grim efficiency to dissolve as many brain cells as they could in the shortest possible time. Zoe, though she was knocking back her fair share, as usual seemed to be serving in some kind of support role, given the way she was focused on her captain. His focus seemed fixed on either the glass in his hand, or the bottle, as he poured from it.
Wash certainly wasn't going to glean what was up from all the merry chatter coming from the table, so he figured he'd have to bite the bullet and ask Jayne. Who might or might not say, with or without a pointed sneer or two. Jayne had made it clear, in the month that he'd been on, that he didn't like him any more than Zoe did. But Wash didn't care, 'cause he didn't have a huge man-crush on Jayne.
"So, what's the deal?" Wash murmured to the gunman, head down, eyes on his tea makings.
Jayne stared at him, pale eyed, a moment, then turned, so his back was to the table, leaning his muscular haunches against the counter. He lifted his glass to his lips, but didn't drink. "Met an ol' army buddy o' theirs in town," he said softly. "'S in a bad way."
Wash made gentle inquisitive noises, encouraging further revelations.
"Gassed, see, when she was holed up in some caves in th' War. Did somethin' t' her nerves. Her brain." Now he did take a drink, grimacing, maybe at the bite of the alcohol. "Stuck inna chair now, all twisty an' twitchin' an' gabblin'. Her kid brother was our contact." He tossed back the last of the amber liquid in his glass, then shoved away from the counter, going to the sink to rinse his glass.
As he put the glass and bottle away in his locker, Wash asked, under the rattle, "Where's Kaylee?"
The gunman shot a glance toward the kitchen table, then leaned down to mutter in his ear, the sharp scent of the liquor on his breath stinging Wash's nose and eyes. "Cap barked at her comin' on board, 'n' she commenced t' bawlin' 'n' run off. Reckon she's in th' engine room." He straightened, sneering. "'Vise y' t' steer clear, li'l man, 'r he'll have you blubbin' too." Stretching, he announced, "'M fer bed."
Wash watched the man saunter off, then reached out hastily to catch the kettle before it let out its piercing whistle. Pouring the steaming water over his tea leaves, he contemplated his options. Just two, really. Number one, the smart one: brew his tea, grab a bun, and head on back to the bridge. Number two, the one with potentially painful ramifications: join Mal and Zoe at the table.
He knew what he was looking at. A guy didn't grow up, first, on the planet he'd grown up on, and then, to be a pilot, especially out here, away from the Core, flying what could be deathtraps, without losing family, friends, and acquaintances along the way. His dad had died when Wash was thirteen, from lung cancer. At eighteen, in flight school, he'd watched a girl he'd just started kissing tumble her craft down the runway in a cartwheeling ball of flame. During the War, he'd lost friends he'd made in flight school, on both sides of the conflict, Alliance and Independent. So, he knew what he was looking at. A wake, although the woman might not actually have stopped breathing yet. A wake with the mourning and the booze, but without the corpse or, more importantly, without the celebration of the life the dead had led. Her stories. Their memories.
And while he felt for the buddy the Alliance had mutilated in one of the worst possible ways, he really did, his concern was for this nascent crew Reynolds was gathering around the core of himself and Zoe. So, while Wash knew he wasn't particularly adroit in the social skills department, he figured, maybe, he could get at least get Mal to talking (Zoe? Ha!), and maybe bleeding off some of this grief. 'Cause one thing he did know, and that was verbal venting.
He shoved his sleeves half way up his forearms, pulled the tea ball out of his mug, emptied into the trash, rinsed it and hung it in the dish drainer to dry. Then, just a tad uncertain as to his own wisdom, he wandered over to the kitchen table.
"Hey," he said quietly, as he sat down. He chose his seat carefully, across from Zoe, but not directly across, and leaving the chair at the corner between him and the captain. Hopefully, it would seem like while, yes, he was joining them, he wasn't trying to crowd his way into a private party. Which, actually, he was, but anyway. Mal didn't lift his head, but Zoe met his eyes with a flat, unwelcoming gaze. Neither of them responded to his greeting.
He took a sip of tea, then put his mug on the table, signaling that one unfriendly look wasn't about to chase him off. "Landfall go okay?"
He persisted. "Jayne says you met an old army buddy in port."
Zoe's glare became even icier, but, after six months on the receiving end of said glare, Wash figured he had a little anti-freeze percolating through his veins at this point. If she reached for a weapon, he'd shut up and go, real quick, but 'til then, he was probably safe from bodily harm.
"What's his name?" he inquired mildly, deliberately getting the gender wrong, 'cause he'd found most folks couldn't leave that particular mistake alone, and would say something to correct it. And it worked, 'cause Mal looked up out of his glass, to meet Wash's eyes.
"Her name's Rhodes. Sergeant Carolina Rhodes." He spoke with the exaggerated precision of a man well lubed.
"Oh, sergeant," Wash said, lifting his mug and swallowing a few generous mouthfuls of tea. "So, she didn't serve under you."
Once rolling, the captain did his bit to keep the conversation going. Maybe he felt he owed Rhodes her story told, if someone expressed an interest. "Did, for a time. I signed her on. Got promoted out. Got her own unit."
"Musta been good, then." He glanced at the woman shooting ocular daggers at him across the table, hid his shiver, and turned back to Mal. "Better 'n Zoe, even. 'Cause Zoe only ever made corporal."
"Nah, nah," Mal protested, waving a floppy hand. "See, Zoe, she jus' would never 'cept a pr'motion. Tried t' snatch 'er 'way from me, what, six 'r seven times."
"Offered me sergeant just twice, sir."
"'M sure you're misremembering that, Zoe."
"No, sir," she replied, tone flat and harsh.
Mal reached out for the bottle of "wine," refilled Zoe's glass, then his, then poured a large dollop into Wash's tea. Wash blinked, but picked up his mug and chugged back a slug, not bothering to hide his shudder as the liquor, harsh even diluted, burned down his throat. The captain smirked, and took a big swallow of his own drink, reacting no more than if it had been water.
"So, you had two warrior women in your command. 'S she as..." Quick, think of a neutral term! "...tall as Zoe here?"
"Hell, no, she's a li'l bit of a thing, hardly come up t' my chin." The man's mouth tightened, muscles in his jaw bunching. Maybe he was recalling that now, in her chair, she came up to about his belly-button. He sucked in a deep breath and went on, "Real pistol, though. Di'n't take nothin' from no one. Huh, Zoe, Zoe, 'member that time those two fellahs from Dodge's company, uh, uh, Wat-Watson an'-"
"Wilson, sir. Wilson and Wu."
"Right, right." The captain began to snicker, knuckles of one hand coming up to his mouth in his habitual gesture, like he was kind of trying to hide the fact he was laughing. With his other hand, he topped off all their glasses again, impressing Wash by not spilling a drop. They all lifted their glasses and drank, Wash taking a tiny sip, barely wetting his lips. He didn't mind tying one on, mind you, not a bit. Get him into a cozy bar dirtside, with crew around him to get him back to the boat once he was blind, you bet. But he never got drunk in the Black, when he might need all his wits and reflexes to get his ship out of a tricky situation. But he could certainly sip sociably, and do his part to keep the conversation going.
Actually, Wilson and Wu had primed the pump, and turned out Mal could spin a pretty fair tale, getting Wash giggling and snorting into his tea in the first few minutes. Even Zoe's mouth bent into a smile. Then Mal made Zoe tell about the time she and Rhodes had gotten stuck behind enemy lines while scouting out some town, and had managed, after many narrow escapes, to make it back to their own unit by masquerading as animal-control officers, uniforms and truck and dogs and all. Zoe's dry as dust delivery as she described the absurd situation had both Wash and Mal clutching their aching stomachs.
"Wait, wait," Wash protested, holding up one hand, tears leaking out of his eyes, "you mean you impersonated a dogcatcher?" He turned to Mal, and, pointing a scandalized finger at Zoe, asked, "Captain, isn't that illegal?"
It wasn't that funny, but Mal was drunk enough that fart jokes would probably seem the epitome of great humor. He nearly fell out of his chair, howling with laughter. Zoe watched him a moment, then turned a look on Wash that might have held a hint of approval.
Once he was breathing again, Mal topped their drinks, and commenced on a series of Rhodes stories that got even Zoe grinning and chuckling. While there were a few squicky bits, what with the exploding heads and all, Wash would have listened gleefully to any manner of gruesomeness if he got to watch Zoe laugh at the same time. He wondered if she'd laugh at his stories if they contained flying body parts too.
Eventually, though, Mal slowed, then ground down to a near inarticulate mumble. Wash and Zoe watched as, head bobbing, the man's eyes closed, and his forehead sank lower and lower, finally meeting the tabletop with a dull clunk. Zoe let out a long, low breath, then heaved herself out of her chair, bracing herself a moment with her hands on the table, taking stock of her own level of inebriation. Her rapid blinking led Wash to believe she might be feeling it a tad.
"Can't leave 'im here," she declared.
"Well, I don't fancy trying to get him down into his bunk. How 'bout the couch?" Wash cocked a thumb at the lounge behind him.
She squinted suspiciously at him and he met her eyes blandly. "I got 'im," she ground out. She moved, with slow deliberation, to Mal's side, then bent, getting an arm across her shoulders. Wash moved smoothly to the man's other side, slinging one arm around his waist, gripping his upper arm in his other hand.
"I got him," Zoe snapped.
"Yeah, yeah, I see that," Wash muttered humbly, eyes averted, but not letting go. "I got just this one arm."
She grunted, but didn't object any further, and together they heaved Mal, a dead weight, up between them, and paced carefully, oh-so-carefully and slowly, to the lounge. When they flopped him down on the sofa, Wash carefully arranged him on his side, so that if he puked, he most likely wouldn't drown in it. Zoe tossed a blanket over him, one of the worn, ragged afghans Kaylee had scrounged up and draped around the lounge to make it more homey.
They studied him a moment, bludgeoned by alcohol into boneless relaxation, the lines of tension smoothed from his face. Then Wash said, "He looks so... peaceful." He glanced over at Zoe and went on, "He should be fine. I'll look in on him in a few hours, when I'm up doing a course check."
She nodded, eyes still on the captain. "Good," she replied briskly. She turned away, going to the table and meticulously collecting the glasses and the bottle. Wash, following, took up his mug, with a few inches of cold alcohol/tea mix left in the bottom. Okay, maybe he had a bit of a buzz on as well, just a tiny one. Mal was a relentless topper-offer. He waited to get to the sink, as Zoe washed and dried, with exaggerated care, the glasses, then tucked them and the near empty bottle away in a locker.
Him, he simply sluiced his mug out, then scampered pretty close along behind Zoe as she strode, with an overly-precise self-awareness, from the galley, up the steps, toward the helm. So he was a couple steps below her and a bit to her left when the toe of her boot glanced off the top stair. Without thought, he sprang forward, his right arm shooting out. Her fingers curled around his wrist, then her stumble carried them both over the top stair and into the corridor to their bunks and the bridge. There they came to a sudden halt.
Wash's heart stuttered, and he sure hoped she noticed that it was her gripping his arm, and not the other way around, that he hadn't actually touched her, that he just sorta happened to be there when she needed to steady herself. Like a railing. Or a wall. Or a chair. And you didn't get mad at a railing or a wall or a chair, and punch their lights out, for being handy. At least, he didn't. Maybe Zoe did.
She looked up from her hand, and into his face, studying his features with an intensity that made him distinctly uncomfortable. Plus, she hadn't yet let him go, and he had never stood this close to her for this long. He swallowed, licking his lips nervously, and a tiny smile curled one corner of her mouth. He'd never seen that expression before, not on her, not on anyone, and it kinda frightened him. She looked back down at her own hand, sliding it upward to squeeze his forearm.
"Strong arms," she noted.
"Yeah," he replied, with a shaky laugh, acutely aware of the power, both actual and figurative, in the fingers resting on his bare skin. "Most pilots have 'em, 'specially on the boats out here. Stiff guidance hydraulics, see, on most of 'em. Even the women pilots. One gal I know, her arms-"
"You ever use that mouth for anythin' but talkin', pilot?" She was still real close and she still hadn't lifted her hand.
"Uh, yeah. Eating. Yep. And drinking," he babbled, wishing he wasn't, knowing it annoyed her. "Sometimes breathing, if I, like, get a cold. I sing, too, on reque-"
He snapped his mouth shut as she lifted her hand from his arm, and twisted her fingers into the collar of his flight suit. She pulled him irresistibly toward her, and he figured he was about a nano-second from being clobbered. He froze in shock when her lips, not her fist, landed on his mouth. His mind blanked in a haze of white static. But while his brain might be wondering what the hell was going on, another organ of his, somewhat lower on his body, became convinced it had all the answers. Proximity alarms went off in his head, loudly, and he edged back infinitesimally, praying to gods he did not know that she wouldn't pull him in any closer.
She, in fact, to his relief, pushed him away, until their faces were a whole blessed six inches apart. Eyes narrowed, she informed him, "Y' weren't kissin' back."
"Well," he squeaked, then paused a second to roughly clear his throat. "Well, no, see, I, um, surprised, you, um-"
"Focus," she ordered, and closed in again.
He quickly lifted his hands, placing them on her hips, preventing her from pressing tight up against him. Figured she'd be a lot less offended by that, than by being nudged by the hardening impudence in his pants. Then, he tried to focus. Boy, howdy, did he ever, 'cause he realized that this was probably gonna be his one and only chance to get a kiss from this woman. And kissing was one of his absolutely favorite activities in the 'verse, right up there in the top ten. Top five, even. And the thought of kissing Zoe had been a delicious torment for months. The thought of kissing her and touching her and tasting-
'Stop!' he frantically ordered his fevered imagination. 'Focus! Here. Now.'
He closed his eyes, and fell into the kiss, reveling in the soft strength of her lips, parting his own slightly, inviting her tongue into his mouth. It accepted, pushing in past his teeth with a gentle yet firm insistence that triggered a faint tremor in his legs. The scent of her, woman and leather and an enigmatic spice, suffused his sinuses, made him dizzy, and, oh God, he hoped he wasn't about to pass out. He could feel his pulse pounding in his temples and his throat, even in his fingertips and other, more obvious extremities. The taste of the pungent liquor they'd been drinking mingled with what must be the flavor of Zoe, and he eagerly met her tongue with his, lusting for more. Her breath escaped in a tiny, almost soundless grunt, and she leaned into him, shoving him gently back against the corridor wall. Her breasts high and firm against his chest, she circled his neck with her arms. His hands, despite his very best intentions, slipped off her hips, reaching around to rest just above her buttocks. He moaned helplessly through his nose as she pressed her pelvis tight against his. No secret now – if it ever had been – where his wicked, wicked mind wallowed.
She pulled back from the kiss, hands stroking along the tops of his shoulders, fingers and thumbs kneading the dense muscle there. Dazed, panting heavily, he met her eyes, and she gave him a slow, heavy-lidded smile.
"Maybe we should take this up in my bunk," she suggested, voice soft, husky.
The word echoed giddily through his brain – 'Yes, yes, yes!' – the racket of it so loud, it took him a moment to catch up with what his mouth was saying.
"...don't think that's a good idea, Zoe." His hands were lifting off her backside, falling limply to his sides.
Whoa, whoa, wait! What was he saying? What was he doing? He quick ran the last few moments back, trying to access the less lust-addled portion of his memory...
Aw, gos se.
Brow furrowing, Zoe took a half-step back, dropping her hands from his shoulders. "You don't," she said flatly. She stared at him, waiting to see what he would say next.
"Well, I, you, see..." He stopped, took a deep, steadying breath, and said quietly, "Zoe, you're drunk."
He went into burble mode, grinning a bit wildly. "Uh, tipsy, tiddly, tight, potted, plastered, pie-eyed, blotto, boiled-"
She cut him off, tone icy. "You're sayin' I'm so drunk, that I don't know what I'm doin'."
"I'm sayin', Zoe," he replied, softly, clearly, "that if you were sober, you would never have just invited me into your bunk."
She stared at him a long moment, with an expression, that even after months of close Zoe-observation, he'd never seen before and couldn't interpret.
Then she said tonelessly, "You're right." Turning away from him, she strode to the hatch of her bunk, triggered it open, and swiftly descended the ladder. The hatch hissed closed again, the click of the lock sounding loud in Wash's ears.