Rating: PG-13 by default
Fandom: Firefly
Season: Pre-Series
Spoilers:
None

Disclaimer: Oh, if you were mine…

Summary: Valentine's Day wasn't always a tradition onboard Serenity. Zoe/Wash.

Notes: A little something I wrote for Valentine's Day. No beta, mistakes are my own. Enjoy!

Traditional Nonsense by SLynn

Zoe was the first awake onboard Serenity that morning. They'd been taking an extended break planet-side, thanks to a partially blown thruster, and Zoe felt restless. She always did when they weren't moving. True, they should be going today, but that didn't stop the feeling of needing to be going; of wanting to move forward.

So, feeling restless, she'd decided that, even if it wasn't her turn, she'd go ahead and start breakfast for the rest of the crew. Zoe headed to the ship's small kitchen, which given the hour, she fully expected to find it empty; no one woke earlier than she did, but that wasn't the case. Wash had beaten her there.

For a moment she thought about walking out again. He hadn't seen her yet; his back was to her as he sat quietly at the table. The urge was strong and she tried to push it aside. Zoe didn't really have a problem with him. Honestly. But, if she was being honest, Wash wasn't her favorite person onboard. If she was being completely honest, she was afraid to question why that was. All she knew was that he bothered her. It was something about the way he talked, and how much he talked, and how hard he tried.

If he'd only ease up… but with him it didn't seem possible. Wash yammered a mile a minute and Zoe just couldn't understand him. He was unlike any man she'd ever met before, and it really bothered her. There was no other way to describe it.

"Oh," he said, turning suddenly and catching her still lurking in the doorway. "I was wondering when you'd be up."

"Well," she managed, skirting around the table towards the stove, "I am."

"I was, um… I was waiting for you."

Zoe, never one to shy away from confrontation, turned and stared; ready for what was to come.

"You see," Wash said, fidgeting with a small box in his hands as he stood and crossed the room towards her, "I don't know if you know this. You probably do know this. Okay, even if you don't know this, I'll tell you. Today is the day that, on Earth-that-was, they celebrated some saints, both named Valentine… "

Zoe waited, certain there was more, but Wash had just trailed off, his face turning a bit pink in the process.

"And?" she finally had to ask.

"Okay," he continued after a long breath. "Okay, so on this day, it's kind of like a holiday… traditionally on this day people give each other gifts. And because of that, I thought… I did… I got you this."

Wash finally, mercifully, stopped talking and held out the box he'd been holding in his hands to Zoe.

"It's not my birthday," she said evenly, looking at the box in surprise.

"I know," Wash returned.

"I've never gotten a present on a day that wasn't my birthday."

"I'm… sorry?"

For a moment, she hesitated, but finally curiosity won out and she accepted it.

"Thank you," she said, looking down at the gift as if was a foreign object.

"You probably shouldn't thank me until you've seen it," Wash joked. "It's really not much. You know what Mal pays. But, I saw it and thought of… thought you'd like it and so, when I remembered what today was, um, you know… it's tradition to do this, or it was on Earth-that-was, so I thought…"

Zoe nodded along with his babbling as she opened the box. Again, she was surprised, but this time much more pleasantly. Inside the small box, nestled snuggly in a nest of white cotton was a shiny, blue, heart-shaped rock.

"It's nothing," Wash apologized, looking down at the gift as he did so. "I probably didn't even need to wrap it it's so small, but you know… it's like a celebration. It's a celebration and people give gifts on today and…"

Wash stopped and shook his head, and Zoe knew she should say something. She could sense he was feeling foolish, and there really was no need.

It was beautiful and she loved it. In fact, if she wasn't mistaken, it was the very same rock she'd spotted three weeks back on a peddler's cart in some city whose name she couldn't even recall now. Zoe could clearly remember walking past it, commenting on to Kaylee, and moving on as if no such thing had existed.

The fact that he'd gone back, and he must have gone back because he certainly didn't stop and buy it then… That he'd gone back and bought it for her and then waited until he'd gotten her alone to give it to her… What did that mean?

That he'd even invented some fake holiday as a cover story…

"So," he yammered on, "I thought, you know… since today is the day, and it's tradition… It's nonsense, I know, but it's traditional nonsense so we have to observe it."

"Thank you," Zoe said, finally cutting him short. "This was really nice of you, tradition or not."

"You're welcome," he said, visibly relaxing and managing a smile.

"So," Zoe continued, shutting the lid on her gift and giving him her full attention once more. "Since this is a tradition, did you get anyone else a gift?"

"Anyone else?"

"Or was it just me?"

"Just you?"

"Is your hearing alright?"

"What?"

Zoe smiled and Wash laughed, longer this time.

"No," he admitted. "I didn't get anyone else anything. Just you."

"Is that part of this holiday?"

"You might say that," Wash answered, still smiling.

"Well," she said, her smile replaced once again by her traditional, sterner, demeanor, "I wish I'd known. I feel bad you getting me this and I don't have anything for you. Since it's traditional and all."

"No," he assured her. "That's not necessary. I don't need anything back. That's not why you give gifts. You give gifts to make people happy. To make people smile."

Zoe nodded, putting the box into her pocket, and refusing to look anywhere but into his eyes.

"I like making you smile," he finished, finally leaving his stammering behind and for the first time since Zoe had known him, sounding completely sincere.

And, for the first time since Wash had known Zoe, she was struck speechless.

"So," he said, drawing out the word as he retreated toward the exit, "I'm going back to my bunk now. It's an ungodly hour and I'm still half-asleep. I'm sure Mal's going to want us leaving today, so my day's going to be full, but…"

Out of things to say, Wash simply shrugged and waved and headed out the door.

Zoe stood, rooted to the spot, until finally joined in the kitchen by Inara.

"Good morning," she called out as Zoe hastily turned back to the stove and began prepping for breakfast.

Zoe returned the greeting, lost in thought as Inara joined in to help out.

"You alright?" Inara finally asked, casting her an odd look.

"I'm fine," Zoe returned automatically. "But, I was wondering… Have you… No. Never mind."

"What is it?" Inara pressed.

"I was just wondering if you'd heard of some nonsense that Wash was babbling on about," Zoe said, trying to sound indifferent. "Something about a saint and gifts and tradition. It's nonsense. Never mind."

"Oh."

"Have you heard of anything like that?"

Inara paused, evidently searching her memory, before shaking her head.

"No. I can't say I have? Why?"

Zoe couldn't help but smile. Wash really had made it all up just so he could give her some silly trinket. It was sweet, even if he did bother her. Something no one else she knew would have thought of doing. It was kind and thoughtful and maybe, just maybe, Zoe had been too harsh on him. He was annoying, that was still true, and he did still try too hard, but… Maybe that was it. Maybe it wasn't that he was trying too hard, but that she wasn't trying hard enough.

"No reason," Zoe finished, handing the plates off to Inara to set the table.

Inara took them, thankful to turn her back on the other woman, if only so she could indulge herself in a smile or two.

Inara always did love Valentine's Day.

The End