Character: Zoe Alleyne Washburne
Pairings Included in Manifesto: Zoe/Wash (lol, Hoban)
Blurb: The thing that’s wonderful about Firefly in general, and Zoe in particular, is that they give us something unexpected. Joss and the writers looked at space colonization and decided that it probably wouldn’t be that much different than the colonies of America. Outer space is basically the New Old West. There are gunslingers, saloons, hookers, bandits, cattle barons, you name it. The culture is a hell of a lot more diverse, and technology is a hell of a lot more advanced, and the drama is spread out over planets, but other than that, not much has changed. People are people.
Another unexpected thing about Firefly is the great, defining conflict of our main characters’ generation is already over. And their side lost. The plucky heroes tried to bring down the empire, or at least remain separate from it, and they failed. They failed hard. Nobody ever even briefly entertains the thought of restarting that conflict, and if anyone ever came to Zoe trying to get her join some “rebel alliance”, she’d probably put a bullet in the fool’s head and save him the trouble of finding an Allied soldier to do it for him. So what, then, is the show about?
Survival. Staying free. Living life on your own terms.
So, that’s all well and good, hurrah for Firefly. But there are nine main characters; what makes Zoe so special? I’m glad you asked.
Zoe’s the most badass bitch in the ‘verse, and she doesn’t have time for frippery and foo-fer-a. And can I just say, I greatly appreciate that Zoe doesn’t feel the need to strut around in a leather catsuit, a la Trinity, or a metal skirt and bra combo, a la Xena. That sort of thing just ain’t practical, and Zoe’s a married woman, after all, not some hussy. She’s got a job to do, and if you value your life, don’t go gettin’ yourself on the opposite side of her in a fight. So in the pilot episode, we get all that in about the first five or six minutes. Zoe in a nutshell. Then the title credits roll, and whoa, back up, hold the phone: she has a husband? And it’s the guy who’s first scene is him playing with toy dinosaurs? Zoe doesn’t really seem like the marryin’ type, does she? And if she was to go and do some fool thing like gettin’ married, why pick a guy like that?
In science fiction, or any other genre typically filled with violence and action, two characters in a relationship are generally only seen as equals unless they are in the same profession, i.e. two warriors, two scientists, etc. Have a relationship with a fighter and a nonfighter, and it usually ends up filled with angst and drama. But here we have exactly that—Zoe, a soldier, a battle hardened veteran. And Wash. What can you say about Wash? He’s a pilot, sure, and one of the best, for dead sure, and his fancy flying has saved the lives of the crew plenty of times. But he’s a chicken. He didn’t fight in the war, and besides that—he’s a goofball. He’s always ready to break tension with a well timed joke. He wears Hawaiian shirts. He wears Hawaiian shirts while playing with toy dinosaurs, for crying out loud.
And this is the guy Zoe married. The guy she’s clearly nuts over. And he’s just as nuts over her. What is with them?
I’ll tell you what. Respect. Zoe has the utmost respect for Wash. He has an amazing talent—remember, that thing he does that’s saved her and everyone else on board Serenity’s life a couple or dozen times? That thing that only he, of all of them, can do—which sure, it can be learned, but Wash has a real knack for it. To quote Zoe in a scene from the episode “War Stories”: “It’s like throwing a dart, Jayne, and hitting a bull’s-eye 6,000 miles away.” Then, proudly, “That’s my man.” And in the film Serenity, as Wash is working out a tricky landing, Zoe tells Mal, “Nobody flies like my mister.” Zoe doesn’t see Wash as inferior just because he’s not willing or even capable of taking a human life. People like him are the reason she fought in the first place. It takes all kinds to make the ‘verse, and she doesn’t see anyone who doesn’t match “her kind” as any less worthy of respect because of it. Look at how she treats Kaylee and Inara for proof.
And Wash, well, he may not be a soldier, but he gets Zoe. He knows she’s been through some horrific things, and they’ve left their mark on her. I think he understood early on that Zoe probably didn’t think she would ever be happy again; hell, that she probably thought she didn’t deserve to be happy. My guess is, when things first started between them, he saw making her happy, even if it was just a brief little smile, as a kind of challenge, and as he figured her out, and broke down her barriers, he fell in love with her, and Zoe couldn’t help but be drawn to him, to someone so completely the opposite of her. He brings out a side of her that she either thought she never had, or left dead on the battlefield.
Which isn’t to say that they have an idyllic, perfect marriage. They have shit to deal with like any other married couple who want to stay married. There are times Wash is jealous of Mal, the captain of Serenity and, in another life, Zoe's sergeant in the Independent Army. Which is understandable, after all; Mal and Zoe have years of history predating his and Zoe’s. And Wash sometimes thinks Zoe blindly follows Mal. Which isn’t true. Zoe is completely loyal to Mal, yes, and she has his back no matter what, but if she thinks Mal’s way off course, she speaks her mind—respectfully, of course. The war may be long done, but a soldier’s a soldier, and Mal will be her sergeant until they day they die. And that’s something Wash has some difficulty wrapping his head around: that Zoe has room in her life for both her husband and her captain. And Zoe sometimes gets fed up with his insecurity, and if she’ll call Mal on his bullshit, then she’ll sure as hell call Wash on his, and do it in more…colorful language.
Their whole relationship dynamic is just so different and refreshing. It's real. There's a reason why, in almost every Firefly fan group I've ever participated (or lurked) in, people say that this is the first fandom they've shipped the canon het pairing as much if not more so than the noncanon het and slash pairings. Zoe and Wash are just really freaking awesome.
And now for the recs! I really had to curb my enthusiasm here, otherwise I'd have like, fifty of 'em....
Fic Rec #1: and love is not a victory march
Rating/Warning(s): R/Mostly past tense violence and gore
Why This Must Be Read: My favorite Zoe/Wash backstory fic! Much of their history is left out of canon; all we know is that their relationship was definately not love at first sight! XD
Fic Rec #2 "After a Really Good Myth"
Why This Must Be Read: A delightful little missing scene from the episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds".
Fic Rec #3: To the Names of our Wounds
Pairing/Characters: Zoe, Mal, The Tenth Doctor
Why This Must Be Read: A short little Doctor Who crossover. It's good. Really. It's--what's the word. Poignant.
Fic Rec #4: Above and Beyond
Pairing/Characters: Zoe/Wash, Mal
Rating/Warning(s): PG 13/None specified
Why This Must Be Read: A really great, Wash-centric fic. It's kinda on the long side. But there are some really great Zoe/Wash interactions, and Zoe being her badass self, which I always appreciate.
Fic Rec #5: Strength in Broken Places
Pairing/Characters: Zoe, Mal
Rating/Warning(s): PG 15/Dark themes
Why This Must Be Read: Zoe and Mal post war. Zoe gives a Mal a verbal and well deserved the kick in the pants. Beautiful characterization.
Fic Rec #6: You Make Me Happy
Why This Must Be Read: More Zoe/Wash backstory, from their wedding day. There is not enough of this out there, imo.
Fic Rec #7: One of Those Days
Pairing/Characters: Zoe/Wash, the rest of the Firefly crew
Rating/Warning(s): NC 17/Explicit sex
Why This Must Be Read: I LOVE the formatting of this fic! I love Zoe's internal monologues, I love Wash being Wash, and their relationship here is just. So. Perfect. And the sex, of course. ;D
Fic Rec #8: Like Breathing
Rating/Warning(s): PG/None specified
Why This Must Be Read: More backstory fic. ♥
Fic Rec #9: Little Lepto Lost
Rating/Warning(s): Pg 15/Implied sex
Why This Must Be Read: Wash plays with toy dinos and ZOE IS A TEASE. :D :D :D
Fic Rec #10: Timing
Rating/Warning(s): PG 13/Spoilers for episode "Heart of Gold".
Why This Must Be Read: Another missing scene fic that I ADORE. Love the dialogue in this.
Fic Rec # 11: Keeping Christmas
Pairing/Characters: Zoe/Wash, the rest of the Firefly crew.
Author: shanna_s (Shanna Swendson)
Rating/Warning(s): PG 13/None specified
Why this must be read: Okay, okay, this isn't exactly Zoe/Wash centric, but it's Christmas fic, and they're in it, and it's wonderful, and I already linked ten other fics so this is okay.