The Number Ten
Zoe didn’t think anyone else noticed. They were all too busy with their own problems and situations. Mal had run off with Jayne to get into some trouble she’d have to save them from, Inara had taken her shuttle and flown off as soon as they hit atmo, and Kaylee and Simon had taken River off to look for a dress shop or something. It had just been her and Wash.
Then he’d walked off.
To talk to another woman.
A pretty woman.
Not that Zoe was jealous, or intimidated, she was pretty sure she could take the woman in a fight, and Wash loved her. He would never cheat on her, especially when she was only standing thirty feet away, watching them, even if they were in a crowded loud market.
Zoe saw the woman glance at her, and it looked like she smiled, but to herself, not at Zoe. Zoe heard Wash laugh, or she thought it was him. It sounded odd, and strange, and a little insane, but she saw him laugh, and the woman was laughing too.
Zoe wanted to walk over there, and demand to know who the woman was. She even took a step towards them, but then she stopped. Something told her she didn’t want to know, that if she found out she would never look at her husband the same way. She crossed her arms and leaned against an empty stall.
The woman had streaks of gray in her hair, but they looked almost like she had colored her hair that way. She looked far too young to have gray in her hair, but there was a look about her, a presence, like she had been through too much and lived too long.
Zoe thought she had seen that in Wash. It was rare, and usually it happened for only a brief moment after she had been gone for a long time, but it was there. Looking at Wash now, she could see it. In fact the way they were acting reminded Zoe of her and Mal, war buddies, but infinitely more than that on a deeper level. She had never seen someone like that with Wash.
Then, they laughed again, and Zoe thought she heard Wash say something about the number ten. The woman smiled, and Wash started backing away. He held up ten fingers and she smiled and laughed again. He continued walking backwards, somehow not bumping into any of the people that swarmed the market place.
He turned around, and immediately, the world-weary presence he had just had was gone. He looked at Zoe and smiled, and then bumped into a person, and while saying sorry bumped into another person. Zoe almost laughed. Almost.
He walked up to her and didn’t say anything; he just took her hand, and kissed her cheek and walked off back towards the ship. She wanted to ask him who the woman was, she wanted to run over to the woman and demand her to introduce herself, but when Zoe looked back, the woman was gone.
She turned back to Wash, and wondered what the number ten meant to him.