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Shortly after "War Stories", Wash asks Zoe an important question.
DISCLAIMER: All belongs to Joss and Co.
"So just how close you were to the captain during the war," Wash asked as he slid under the sheets.
Zoe grimaced, knowing that one day she would she would have to answer this question, but at this point, and considering the events of the past days, there was no point in resisting. Zoe took her place beside Wash in bed and released a big sigh.
"I want you to know that during the war," she began, "the captain and I was very close."
Wash smirked a bit. "Is this an admission I'm hearing?"
Zoe shifted. "No."
"Aha," Wash blurted. "You slept with him didn't you!"
Zoe rolled her eyes uncomfortably. "No, It wasn't like that," she said, her voice full of sincerity. "It was about a month or so after Du Khang."
"We had just won an important battle," Mal said, "major victory."
"No doubt by your cunning leadership," Inara added.
"Why of course, woman," Mal smiled.
Mal and Inara were sharing drinks in the dining hall. No implications, at all. Period. Kaylee and Simon had been there but had since left, leaving Mal and Inara alone. Mal couldn't help but feel he was being set up, but sat there cordially all the same. Inara had always shown interest in old stories and so he decided to entertain her with one of his favorites.
"Anyway we was back at base, and the soldiers were having a little party."
"Cap'n was the type of man who had a girl in every port," Zoe admitted. "You wouldn't see it so much now, but he was a powerfully persuasive ladies man."
"Go on," Wash said hesitantly. "Did he use his wiles on you?"
"Hell, no," Zoe laughed.
"I'll admit I was pretty lubricated," Mal said, taking a sip.
"Drunk as hell, would be the term," Zoe said with a laugh.
"Oh," Inara questioned raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, but so was Zo," Mal recalled fondly. "She was trouncin' about, hoopin' and hollerin' just like the rest of us."
"I maybe had a drink or two," Zoe said softly, and not too convincingly either. Wash immediately picked up on it.
"Oh this just gets better by the minute," he said through spurts of laughter.
"Well here's where the trouble came," Mal said with a bit more intensity rather than comic recollection.
Inara piqued up at this and stared more intently.
"Her name was Wilma," Zoe continued, "That I distinctly remember."
"Her name was Martha…or Belle," Mal continued. "I can't remember which."
Inara snickered, which Mal ignored.
"The point is, I was with this girl you see…"
"And the Cap'n dancing and drinkin' with her," Zoe said. " He starts feelin' this girl up."
"What," Wash exclaimed, "Mal?"
Zoe nodded. "Yeah. Now if she was as smashed as he was I wouldn't have said anything, but she clearly wasn't." The latter she added defensively.
"She spilt somethin' on her shirt," Mal said sheepishly.
Inara rolled her eyes. "Oh, Mal, you didn't."
"So I just tried to wipe it off is all," Mal said defensively. "And the next thing I know, I've been slugged across the face."
"I had to do it, Wash," Zoe defended. "It was…downright disturbing to watch."
"Ah," Wash replied, "That it would be"
He waited, knowing that there was more to the story, something Lambytoes wasn't telling him.
"You were drunk," he stated.
"So now I'm on the floor, Belle's gone, and Zoe's wagglin' her finger like she's… I don't know what she what she thought she was!"
"She was pretty plastered too I guess….and I guess she said a lot of things she didn't mean."
Inara fully comprehended now. "She was treating you like….she was a nagging overbearing housewife, right?"
"Just about," Mal said through a laugh.
"Well someone needed to set him straight," Zoe said. "If it was me he was feeling up—"
"Oh this is just too precious," said Wash through a great guffaw. "You drunkenly gave advice to Mal on how to treat women."
"Well the rest is a bit blurry," Mal admitted.
"I bet," Inara said with a smile, "conveniently."
"Convenient, yes," Mal admonished, "but still blurry nonetheless."
"So what happened?"
"I think I danced with Zoe…"
Wash blinked once or twice.
"…had a few drinks…"
"…and the next thing I know, me and Zo are back at the barracks."
"Mal! You didn't –"
"Now just hold on," Mal interjected. "You have a smutty mind you know. No doubt and effect of your particular occupation."
"And then I said 'Mal I'm drunk, so I'm gonna go now back to my bunk where I'll dream unicorns and fairies safe in my bed while you dream of beanstalks and gingerbread in yours and not in the same bed and we'll live happily ever after' the end," Wash said as if telling story to a child.
Zoe ignored his quip and continued. "I think he started blubbering on about something."
"She starts acting all… chummy," Mal recalled, "romantic like."
"Zoe? With you," Inara questioned incredulously.
"Kinda addles the brain, don't it."
"And he's saying stuff like… 'this may be our last night together'," Zoe continued, making sure not to make eye contact with her husband.
"…professin' feelings for me…"
Zoe shifted the worst of the story now on the tip of her tongue.
"And then things got real hazy."
Wash blinked once or twice again. "The end?"
Zoe slid deeper into the sheets. "Are you sure you want to hear this?"
He shrugged. "Came this far, didn't we?"
Zoe inhaled deeply and continued. "He leans in, like he's gonna try to kiss me!"
"She leans in to kiss me!," Mal exclaimed. "I mean Zoe tryin' to kiss me!"
"…and he keeps getting closer…"
"… and she must of has a couple of drinks too because her breath was pretty colorful…"
"Ugh, the smell of alcohol on his breath!"
Mal reclined a bit into his seat before collapsing. "The last thing I remember was her falling into me….she uh…passed out."
Inara waited a second before she erupted into laughter. "She passed out!?"
He nodded again.
"He passes out right on top of me," Zoe said embarrassedly.
Wash breathed a sigh of relief, "Ah. Well at least he didn't…uh…he didn't right?"
"I mean I guess I must have passed out soon after as well," Mal mused.
Inara finally finished her bouts of laughter. "So is there an embarrassing 'morning after story'?"
Mal inhaled, bracing himself for the next part of the story.
"Cold water," Zoe said. "That's what I saw next. Couple of our buddies who were a little less hung over found us lying there. Never let us live it down. "
There was a bit of a pause.
"So did you ever talk to Mal about what hap—"
Inara finally settled out of bouts of laughter. "I bet your army buddies never let you forget that."
"That they did," Mal said with a smirk. "That is, until the next stupid thing I did, then that story with Zoe and I became old news."
"And what was this stupid thing?"
Mal hesitated before speaking. "Do you remember back on Triumph…the soft cotton dress?"
The following morning Mal was the first up, as per usual. His story was still fresh in his mind and he couldn't resist talking to Zoe about it before the rest of the crew awoke.
"Zoe, do you remember that…incident ... back after Du Khang?"
Zoe's grimaced. "I surely do, sir. Not likely that I want to be talking about it though."
Mal sidled up to her. "Well there's more than a couple of things that are unclear to me about that night, but I do have one question though."
"Good, just checkin'."