Disclaimer: Zoe, Wash, Serenity, and all the rest are not my property, and I'm not trying to profit from them.

This is Day 4 of my New Year's Project to post a oneshot or poem every day in January (various fandoms, see my profile for details).

ETA: major gratitude is due to Aaron Cronin, who pointed out that I had Wash's first name wrong. Ouch. Fixed now, though!

People wonder, sometimes, when they meet Zoe, what in all the 'Verse a woman like that is doing with a scrubby little pilot with a squeaky voice. They wonder why that strong, downright terrifyin' woman would ever take up with a man who once shot himself in the foot because he confused the trigger and the safety. They don't ask out loud, of course, because Zoe's not a woman you want to offend if'n you can help it. She wouldn't be able to tell them the whole answer, anyway, on account of she doesn't know how to put it into words. He wouldn't be able to tell you, either.

Do you want to know? It's downright simple once you really get your head around a few things about Hoban Washburne.

He became a pilot to begin with because he's always been a mite too fond of powerful things. He gets a little bit tipsy on the way engines purr to life at his touch. He loves knowin' that a hamfisted pilot would give her too much fuel and let her burn too hot or a nervy one would be too shy and leave her cold, but his fingers dance. He has a kind of horse sense for just where and when to feed her flame or rein her in. He can sweet-talk her, ask her nicely, and all that gorgeous, shiny power goes where he wants.

Because he always asks nicely. He knows pilots who try to force a ship, showin' off, but he's worked hard not to be that kind of man. It's better to tell her she's beautiful, ask her your favors while she's still smilin', and watch her swing round. Of course, a man needs confidence, too. There's enough power in those fires that losing your head can get folk killed. You can't be rough, but you need to know just exactly where you're goin'. Wash is the best pilot in his end of the 'verse, and that's because he knows exactly what he wants and how to sweet-talk a ship (or a mule, or even a little two-seater shuttle) into giving it to him.

Yes, Hoban Washburne's always had a way with beauties that'd terrify lesser men. Serenity's touchy, ancient heart was his in a few minutes, stolen completely by love and kindness.

He can't deny her second-in-command took him a little longer. True too that the price in pride was a little higher. It's even true that he had to sacrifice a gorram fine mustache to win her favor. Still, he knew the idea was the same. This beauty had fire in her heart and steel in her soul, just like every beauty he'd ever tamed. Just like them, she'd be moved by kindness, and a gentle voice, and lots and lots of time.

Well, she couldn't hardly help it, could she? The first rule of flying a ship isn't about fuel use or boost or steering or even about confidence. Any pilot who really knows his stuff can tell you that the first rule of piloting is: she'll always fly for the man who loves her most, the man who gets lost in the way she moves.

Do you see now why Zoe Alleyne never had a chance?

Does this ring true to their personalities? What do you make of the dialect? Any particular words that I need to change because they just plain look wrong? Drop me a review and let me know if you have criticisms or if you enjoyed it.

I'll be visiting a little-known childhood favorite tomorrow: The Phantom Tollbooth. If you aren't familiar with that one, I hope you'll consider joining me for Merlin and/or Doctor Who in the days to come.