Zoe has scars everywhere. Some are thick and rigid; others are fine delicate tracery. Some are visible, some not so much, unless you catch her on a really bad day. She knows them all, can tell a story for each. She never does though, at least not to others. They're her scars, and there's no need to share what they mean.
Wash, bless him, thinks they're all from the war and Serenity Valley. Zoe remembers one night, shortly before they got married. They had been a little drunk from celebrating their first really successful run. It had made Wash sentimental, and he'd touched all the scars he could see while telling her softly that he loved her. He told her how strong she must have been to survive Serenity Valley, seeing as how bad the scars were and how terrible the wounds must have been. Zoe isn't sure if Wash chooses not to see that some of her scars are far older than that battle. She isn't sure if maybe he just doesn't have enough experience to know old scars from newer ones. It's one of the things that makes her love Wash the way she does.
She loves the way he looks at her sometimes still, kind of surprised that she's joining him in their bed; or suddenly thrilled when she smiles at him. He teases her too, doesn't let her get too caught up in herself and her past. Wash grounds Zoe, he keeps her human, and she loves him for that.
She didn't see him fighting Mal for her, after she was knocked out by the blast from the fire, but she heard all about it later from Kaylee. Wash isn't what Zoe would call confrontational, but she loves the hard streak he has, the one he keeps hidden until he decides it's necessary to show everyone his teeth.
Mal used to ground her, even when he was distracted by watching out for the other soldiers -- farmboys, miners, women with children at home, maybe even still alive and wanting their mothers -- under his command. She's not quite sure when exactly he stopped being that person, but she thinks maybe it was around the same time that she started to run her fingers over her scars; reminding herself of who she is and who she doesn't want to be.
She misses the way Mal used to be, sometimes. Even if she does like who he is now -- how he can still make the hard decisions, but not in the dead, automatic way he used to have.
There are times she thinks maybe she could have married Mal, if he'd been open to the suggestion. But she loves Wash, and she's never seriously been tempted to look elsewhere, not since she'd convinced him to shave off that awful moustache. She still smiles to herself sometimes at the memory of how cheap and pathetic Wash looked when they first met, how she brushed him off as a waste of her time, someone to be tolerated only because of his skills and because Mal depended on her cooperation.
It took her a long time to realise Wash was courting her, all slow and gentle like he was afraid of pushing her away by acting too quickly. It wasn't exactly her usual seduction experience. Zoe is more familiar with quick decisions for mutual pleasure; business-like transactions, not because of a lack of passion, but because she's always set a time-limit. Once she'd decided Wash's dancing around the issue wasn't annoying, that his strange ways were actually welcome, she'd let him play out his plan, at least for a little while. She'd waited a few more weeks, then given up the wait and pounced on him. The look on his face, a mix of surprise, pleasure, relief and plain want had almost been reward enough for her patience.
It had taken her a while longer to understand that Wash hadn't been playing for something casual. It had been a shock, but eventually she'd realised that was welcome too.
Wash has a sense of wonder at the universe that Zoe's long since lost. It reminds her of Kaylee, and it's no surprise that those two get along so well. They both mix weird practicality with a crazy sort of innocence that is nothing like the clueless trusting the Tams exude. At least Simon is starting to better see what's going on around him lately.
Simon's a subject she's not all that comfortable thinking about, mostly because she figures eventually she'll have to deal with the threat he and his sister represent. It's tiring for Zoe to see the way Simon twists himself up, and the way it makes Mal twitchy.
Her responsibility is to Mal, to make sure things run smoothly for him. She resents the way Simon's needy body language and confused smile makes Mal a little crazy sometimes. She hasn't seen that for a long while, not since Mal first had to send out poorly equipped and barely competent farmers to fight Alliance forces. They've never talked about it, and they never will. These are Mal's own scars, and Zoe has no right to them. Still, she figures Mal feels he's got some making up to do for the things he had to do in the war. She's damned if she's going to let that attitude make Mal foolish about the Tams.
But Simon did put together a damn good raid on the hospital, even if bad luck and bad timing ended up nearly blowing it all to hell. She's willing to give the Tams a bit of a reprieve for the planning and the profits they all made. She'll do it because Wash has. He's not sentimental, and he's not a fool. He'll only tolerate so much. But he's got a more giving nature than she does, and she tries to be worthy of that. Still, she knows Wash will stand by her if she decides that the Tams are too much of a risk and need to move on from Serenity. Wash'll stand by her decision, even if Mal puts up a fight, which Zoe thinks he just might do.Zoe's not willing to risk everything she has now: Wash, Mal, Serenity. She and Wash have plans and dreams, something Zoe hasn't had since she was a girl, clueless in the ways of the fringe worlds. Those dreams won't be sacrificed for the sake of two people who would never understand the reasons for her scars.
Summary: Zoe has scars everywhere.