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Author's Note: Written for [ profile] comment_fic"s "Firefly, Mal, "What's the story behind your tattoo?"" ( Set post-"Trash", obviously)

Zoe had seen her captain shirtless many a time during the war, but she'd never once seen him in the all-together. No reason to, of course. Even before her marriage to Wash, she respected him far too much to even think of fraternizing with him and he'd found out early on that she was the kind of woman you kept a respectful distance from if you wanted to keep both possession and use of your hands.

But after they picked him up where YoSaffBridge or whatever that prairie harpy's name was, after he was dressed and feeling human again, while he was alone in the galley, drinking a cup of what passed for coffee, she had to ask the question that was on the mind of everyone on the crew who'd happened to see him.

"What's the story behind your tattoo?" she asked.

"Whoa, that was point blank," Mal said. "Got it to cover a prisoner number tattoo-thing. Got caught by an Alliance patrol. Broke out, got someone t' cover it up."

Zoe gave him a flicker of a smirk. She'd been around Mal long enough to know when he was coloring the facts. "I'll bet you did."

"Okay, y' saw through it," he says, leaning back in his chair. "Wunna those stupid things y' do as a kid. My first time atta space bazaar, went there when I was seventeen, helping' Ma sell our rice crop. Don't remember much 'cept wakin' up in a strange bed with this tattoo an' Ma standin' over me, tryin' t' be mad at me. Wasn't pleased 'at I'd spent more'n share a' th' take f'r the crop, but figgered it was just a case a' sown' m' wild oats."

"Not a word 'a this t' th' others."

She gives him a half smile. "Your secret is safe with me captain," she said, stepping out of the galley into the companionway. Where she found Wash and Kaylee eavesdropping.

"I bet th' Cap'n was a real heartbreaker back then," Kaylee said, in a pig's whisper, trying to suppress her giggles.

"I liked his first story better, except he's gotta put more detail into it," Wash said, comically disappointed.

"Just so long as neither of you repeats either version of it," Zoe replied. She expected as much from those two.

April 2017


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