When The Best Defenses Fail You

Summary: A few months into working together, Zoe realizes exactly why she dislikes Wash so much.

A/N: Once again, I'm using fluff in order to cope with the painful trauma from the BDM.

"Love is giving someone the power to destroy you, but trusting them not to."

When she first met the new pilot, she knew immediately that she didn't like him, but couldn't figure exactly why.

Wash, as he chose to be called, was quirky and funny: not an altogether bad reason to dislike a person in her mind, but she had known many other funny, quirky men and none of them bothered her quite the way he bothered her.

He was overly-cheerful almost constantly, which might be considered annoying, but Kaylee put him to shame in that regard – and Zoe didn't have a problem with Kaylee at all.

He was immature (what grown man plays with dinosaurs?), but that never interfered with his stellar skill as pilot, and so she didn't much mind as long as he kept the ship in the sky.

He had bad taste in fashion and that God-awful mustache, but what did she care about that? Well, okay, maybe the mustache was part of it...

But as far as she could tell, she was the only one to have any sort of dislike for the pilot.

He shared an easy-going friendship and working relationship with Mal, a bubbly conversational one with Kaylee, and his light humor tended to balance even Jayne's sardonic demeanor.

She didn't know why she shouldn't like him just as much as the rest of the crew...

The realization came after their first truly dangerous escape together, and it hit with such force that it would have been impossible to repair the damage, impossible to go back to a time when Zoe didn't know.

Serenity had been caught in a firestorm as the ship sought to escape both the bandits they'd looted and Alliance ships alike. Tensions had run high, fear and adrenaline surging in the crew members. The firefly sped on, weaving and dodging with precision. They would have been overtaken in a heartbeat if it wasn't for Wash's flying expertise.

When he'd finally managed to give their pursuers the slip, Wash had turned to her and smiled. As if it were nothing, what he'd just accomplished. He had no unnecessary pride, only a humble sense of confidence.

And that damn smile.

He made it look so easy, to be happy and sincere.

And that's when she knew. She disliked Wash for one reason and one reason only: he made her uncomfortable because he'd done what no other person could do, and he'd done it without even trying.

The skillful pilot had managed to blow through all her carefully constructed walls, dodge all the barriers and obstacles that she'd thrown out to keep herself safe. Since the war, she had cherished those walls, knowing that to let them down for even an instant would mean vulnerability, and the possible return of pain.

Hoban Washburne had defeated her. He'd pierced her armor and, with the help of that damn smile of his, had managed to reach her heart and give it the most gentle but oh-so-dangerous of tugs.

A/N: Reviews greatly appreciated.