When Wash saw what had happened, he decided the best thing to do was to play dumb. As long as nobody could prove anything, he would remain in one piece. After all, if he knew his wife, and he did at that, she would rip him limb from limb for this. So really, this was in everyone's best interest. Okay, well, perhaps mostly just his, but he happened to be very fond of his limbs. They were nice and limb-shaped, for one thing, and they were damned useful, for another. There were lots of things he wouldn't be able to do if he didn't have his limbs. Like walking, running, flying... flying! Yes, see there, it was in everyone's best interest that he keep his limbs, because otherwise there would be nobody around to fly the ship. His conscience thus assuaged, Wash hurried to the cockpit to get on with said flying, and not because he wanted to be as far away as possible from the scene of the crime, no sir, he was just really keen on that whole flying thing.
He saw Simon and Kaylee in the mess hall and offered them a smile in passing. He hoped it didn't look too strained. He had a lot on his mind, after all, what with all the limb-ripping and everything.
"Hiya, Wash," the petite engineer chirped happily. "How's it going? Anything interesting happening?"
Zao gao! Why would she ask him that? Did they know something? Did they suspect him?
Wash looked into their expectant faces and felt the panic rising in his stomach. Or maybe that was his lunch. With what passed for food on this boat sometimes, it was hard to tell.
"No, no, its...um... well...everything's going just fine... really fine," Wash stammered, trying not to fidget. Zoe always said that she could tell a liar from a mile away if they fidgeted. Fidgeting was bad; in short, fidgeting equaled no limbs. He would be Stumpy, the no-limbed man, if he kept this up!
"I'm fine!" he exclaimed loudly. "Zoe's fine, we're all fine; nobody's missing any limbs or anything, god no; nothing at all's wrong; why would anything be wrong?"
The doctor raised an eyebrow. "Um... are you feeling all right, Wash? You seem a little nervous about something."
"No, no, just in a hurry, that's all," Wash replied, as he slid by them and quickly made his escape. "Ship won't fly itself after all." Well, of course, that wasn't entirely true. There was the autopilot. And then Mal was somewhat capable, if truth be told. Nowhere nearly as talented as Wash was, but still, the captain could fill in in a pinch. Though that was no reason to go about ripping people's limbs off gratuitously, now was it? No siree.
Wash continued past the crew quarters on his way to the cockpit and almost ran straight into Mal as he was climbing up the ladder from his room.
"Tian na," the captain exclaimed. "Why don't you watch where you're going? You're like to kill a man!"
"Sorry, Mal," Wash replied, hastily moving around the captain and attempting to make it to the cockpit without further incident. Mal apparently wasn't ready to let him go just yet, though, and what the captain said next made the pilot freeze in fear like a startled rabbit.
"Hey, Wash, have you seen Zoe hereabouts?"
"Zoe?" Wash repeated dumbly, and by god, had his voice just risen an entire octave?
"Yes, you know, Zoe? My second in command? Your wife?" At Wash's continued lack of response, Mal snapped his fingers in front of the pilot's nose. "Hey, are you hearin' me in there?"
"Uh... yeah," Wash said, swallowing nervously. "I hear you, Mal."
"Well, can I be expectin' an answer to my question any time this year?" the captain asked, beginning to sound a little frustrated.
Lao tian! Did the captain suspect, too? Was the whole ship out to get him? What was he going to do?
"I think she's in the cargo bay," Wash announced, though he had no idea if that was even true. Anything to get rid of Mal so he could make his escape. After all, Zoe wouldn't kill him if he was in the cockpit, would she? There were too many sensitive buttons and panels in there; she wouldn't want to hit something she shouldn't, and limb-ripping was a pretty violent business, or so he'd heard.
With the captain finally gone, Wash all but ran up the steps to the cockpit and threw himself into the pilot's chair. Safety at last! Surrounded by all of his dinosaurs, he felt calmer already.
At least he did until Zoe came up behind him, wrapped her arms around his chest, and whispered right into his ear, "Hello, husband."
To say he shrieked like a girl would be overstating things, Wash decided later, but perhaps not by much.
"Are you okay?" Zoe asked, stepping back and fixing Wash with a curious look.
"I'm just peachy," Wash announced, trying to keep the fear out of his voice. If Zoe sensed fear, he was done for. "Yes, I'm peachy with a side of keen, oh love of my life!"
The corner of Zoe's mouth crooked up into a small smile. "Right. Well, I'm glad to hear it; though, are you sure you're feeling okay?" She placed a cool hand against his cheek. "You're sweating."
If Wash had heard her say it once, he'd heard her say it a thousand times. Guilt won't kill a man, but sure'n it'll make him sweat a lot. This was it; it was over. He was done for. She knew everything. She was just giving him a chance to 'fess up before she grilled him.
"Anyway, I was just wondering if you-"
"It was me," he blurted out, interrupting her before he could think better of it. "I was the one who did it. But it was an accident, I swear; I don't know how that dye got in there! And I'll buy you a new vest just as soon as we get paid for that last job. You'll hardly notice it was gone!"
"-were hungry, because I made some of that stew you like," she finished, giving him an arch look.
Wash blinked. "You... you said... stew?"
"Now," Zoe said, crossing her arms over her chest and cocking her head to one side as she studied him. "What was that about my vest?"
Wash took a step toward the door. "Say, have I told you that you're looking particularly stunning this evening, lamby toes?"
Zoe pursed her lips. "The vest, dear?"
Wash took another step toward the door, but Zoe easily blocked his way. He gulped. "Um... look at that, it's time for dinner! I bet the others are already waiting for us."
"Tai-kong suo-yo duh shing-chiou sai-jin wuh duh pee-goo!" Mal yelled so loudly that his voice carried throughout the ship. "What the hell is this? Who turned all my gorram shirts pink??"
Zoe's other eyebrow rose to join the first. "I'd say you have more to worry about than my vest, baby."
All the color drained from Wash's face. "Hide me?" he asked his wife plaintively.
Zoe looked him over consideringly. "You'll have to make it worth my while," she told him as she began to lead him towards their quarters.
As the captain continued to yell in the background, Wash grinned. "Don't I always?"