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Wash made his way quietly through the galley looking for his wife. He had seen the Captain and Jayne skulk to their bunks several minutes ago but Zoë had yet to make an appearance. He’d heard her voice over the com but he couldn’t relax until he had laid eyes on her and seen for himself that she was alright. He made his way through the hall and down the companionway leading to the passenger lounge, coming to a stop when he saw Kaylee sitting alone with her head in her hands.

“Kaylee, you okay?” he asked taking several steps toward her. Kaylee looked up and tried for a smile, but fell uncharacteristically short.

“Me, Wash? No, I’m fine, just tired’s all.”

“Yeah, I get you there,” he looked into the infirmary window, but the room was empty. “We get paid today?” he asked finally. The coiling in his stomach told him the answer before the look on her face did.

“Don’t know, no one’s bothered t’ tell me,” Kaylee said with acres of heartache filling her voice. “But to judge by the looks on their faces I’d have t’ go with no.”

“Yeah, I had a feeling,” Wash said resting his hands on his hips. He sighed. Damn it, they needed money. He looked up at the mechanic again, “You seen my wife?” he asked with an attempt at a playful tone.

“She’s in the showers I think. All of ‘em smelled somethin’ awful when they came on board.”

“Thanks.”

He turned and made his way back to the small locker room area, and heard the sound of rushing water. He crossed the tiny room reaching the three narrow stalls in four long strides, and stood in front of the one that was closed.

“Zo, you in there?” She didn’t answer but he could see enough of her outline through the deformed glass to know it was her. He pulled it open a crack and looked inside. Zoë leaned against the wall, her saturated curls stretching with the weight of the water forming a long curtain that shielded most of her upper body. “You alright, Baby?” he asked, brow furrowing in concern. She didn’t respond vocally, but simply turned to look at him.

There wasn’t much to read in that beautifully stoic face, but he’d had six years of practice. The hard set of her jaw told him of her anger and frustration, the almost imperceptible, sardonic down turn at the corner of her lips told him she was worried, but her eyes told him everything else. While she had the ability to make those gorgeous orbs as unreadable as endless black space, this time she didn’t hide what was there. Everything she couldn't carry alone she shared with him in those rich, dark eyes.

Wash stripped out of his clothes and stepped inside with her in record speed. The space was cramped with two, and Zoë stepped back into the water a bit. Naked, and standing on bare feet, he actually had two inches on her. It had been so long since he’d stood naked with his wife that he’d nearly forgotten. All their time lately had been stolen and rushed. Crammed in between her off ship duties and his need to practically sleep in the pilot’s chair because of malfunctioning parts they couldn’t afford to fix. A naked Zoë standing near him had the same effect on him it always did, but he pushed the thought aside and looked in to her eyes. He reached out his hand and caressed her arm, his palm sliding over her wet skin in a soothing gesture. His other arm circled her shoulders and gently pulled her to him.

She stepped into his embrace wrapping her arms around his back and rested her head against his shoulder. He in turn leaned back against the wall, pulling her closer his hands moving soothingly up and down her back. Zoë buried her face into his neck, and Wash felt the expanding of her ribs as she breathed in deeply. Zoë wasn’t the type to go weepy on his shoulder, but he could feel her taking comfort from his presence, relaxing into him, letting him take her weight and Wash gave her all he had in return.

“Everything is gonna be alright, baby. I don’t know how, and it probably won’t be anything peaceful and trouble free… but this is just a rough patch right?” he looked into her eyes, trying to convince himself as well as her.

“I’m worried,” she said calmly pulling back only slightly so she could see his face.

“What about?” he asked simply returning her earnest gaze, and caressing her cheek, brushing away drops of water with his thumb.

“’Bout money, about the captain…” she shrugged slightly and squeezed him tighter. “About us.”

Wash sighed. “Money…yeah me too, I can’t fix that I’m afraid.” He let his fingertips slip into her wet hair. “But Mal will be fine once the money issue is fine.” He didn’t really want to think about Mal for numerous reasons, and he couldn’t fix that worry either, so he moved on. “But you and me? We’re fine. And we’re gonna stay fine. I’m not going anywhere. You’ll have me around to irritate you, and all those other things I do so well,” he gave her a small smile, “For a good long while. And I’m sure as hell not letting you go anywhere without me. So, don’t you worry about that.”

“Well, I do,” she said, a tiny smile playing at the corner of her full lips. “Just cuz you say not to, don’t change it.”

He smiled back looking her face over carefully. “Yeah, well when have you ever done anything I told you?” She leaned in and kissed him. Her lips moved over his slowly, and he reciprocated. He tasted her with his tongue and she opened her mouth kissing him back fervently. His fingers slid farther into her hair, until he was cupping her head in the palm of his hand, but still she took control of the kiss. Desperation and need poured out of her, and he strove to take it, to replace it with all his stores of hope and comfort.

Their kisses grew in urgency, and fervor. Each touch bled into the next, until Wash turned, bringing her with him. Zoë leaned back into the wall as his mouth moved to her neck. Her hands roamed free, unable to get enough of touching him for reasons she could not explain in words. His lips traveled to her ear, nibbling the lobe, whispering his love as he lifted her up. Zoë grasped his shoulders as he pressed her into the wall, pinning her there with his hips.

They made love against the tile, heedless of the lukewarm water that trickled over their bodies. Zoë sought with all her mind to memorize him to the point where her heart ached from trying. There was an urgency drumming inside of her, demanding, begging pleading, but no matter how she tried moments seemed to slip through her fingers.

The fervor passed, their kisses slowed and his hands gentled on her skin, carefully allowing her to slide down to her feet. He kissed her eyelids, her nose, her temple next to her hair.

“I love you, Husband,” she breathed against his ear.

“I love you, Wife,” he said softly, his lips smiling against the shell of her ear.

Neither was aware of how long they were there, leaning against the wall holding each other, Zoë held a bit tighter as she felt him take a deep breath. She didn’t want to let go just yet. Beyond this moment there were a lot of things she just plain didn’t want to deal with anymore. It was funny to her that she was the one who wanted to hide, and he was the one about to drag them back to reality.

“Your hair smells like sewer, Dear,” he said, pulling back to give her a dubious look, but he didn’t let go yet and she was thankful. She returned his look with a hard stare. He just grinned and turned to find the soap she used on her hair. He had to let go to reach it, and Zoë felt the loss down to her toes.

“Let me do it?” he asked when she held her hand out to take it from him. She stepped back into the stream of water now cold. Captain would probably have words with them over the water use, she took a moment to think, and then let the thought slide by, what was done was done. Wash worked the soap into her hair with care, his finger tips massaging her scalp without tangling the curls and when he was finished he helped her to rinse them.

Zoë turned off the water while Wash reached out to retrieve her towel. They took turns drying each other, each stroke of towel growing more playful and adventuresome then the one before it.

Mal’s voice broke into the moment echoing from the door way.

“Zoë, I need to speak to you soon as you’re finished in here.”

Zoë looked up at her husband, who sighed dramatically and looked up to the ceiling. She kissed his chin, and he looked back down at her smiling. He kissed her back.

“Zoë, you in here still?”

Wash pulled away from Zoë’s sweet mouth for a moment. “She’ll be out in a little while, Sir,” he called loudly and then returned to kissing his wife. Life out here - their life - it was what you made it. Some things you just had to make time for.