The Losing Side, Chapter 24
Saturday, July 22, 2006

Continuation of a post-war POW story with Mal, Wash, and Zoe. Though this has mainly been a Mal story, this and the next couple of chapters focus almost entirely on Wash and his experiences in the war. Remember those two flights Alan Tudyk imagined Wash flew in the war?


Emerging from an afternoon nap, Mal wandered outside to find Wash leaning against the fence, staring at the sky. It was a familiar sight by now, one that was starting to tug at Mal’s heart. Wash seemed genuinely relaxed and even content in this place, but nothing could keep his soul from wanting to fly. As Mal watched the silent young pilot, lines from an old song started running through his head.

He started singing quietly. “Six months out at sea, be coming home soon on leave/I think of her as I stand here on the deck/ no war is ever won/find a job that must be done/It’s just sometimes it feels like no one cares.”

Wash looked like he couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. “Mal, has anyone ever told you that singing is a bad idea?”

“You’ll get back out there, one day,” Mal said. “Most likely sooner than later.”

“Just go a bit land-crazy, bein’ stuck down here so long.” Wash looked down at the ground. “Spent most of my childhood imagining what was out there, what the stars would look like. Got my chance, and I never wanted to look back.” He looked ruefully at Mal. “I always thought of land as a prison, just didn’t ever imagine how literal that’d be.”

“I hate it when metaphors come springing to life. Ruttin’ ironical," sighed Mal, a hint of an amused smile flickering in his eyes. "What’s up there, anyway?”

“Nothing,” replied Wash simply. “All that happens planetside, it just becomes irrelevant from up there. It’s peaceful and freeing, a little scary in a good way.” He looked sincerely at Mal. “Can you imagine having a home, one you love and feel safe in, but you get to travel to any place you can imagine, fly away from anything that bothers you, and still have that with you?”

“Sounds like heaven,” said Mal, relaxing against the fence and enjoying the warm evening air. The sun was starting to fall, giving the sky a warm glow, and Mal was relishing the warmth and beauty of it. If you looked the right way, you could enjoy the view with not a fence to be seen. It was one of those fleeting moments of genuine peace.

“It’s not.” Wash smiled. “The accommodations are crummy, the trips are long, and the food makes what we’re eating here seem like gourmet fare. But I love it more than anything I’ve known.” He looked at Mal. “I want to take you up there, one day.”

Mal smiled back at him. “It’d be an honor. Hear you’re quite the prodigy.”

Wash looked away, his expression instantly sobered. “I was,” he said, his voice cracking slightly. “I was good at it, and I loved it. If I hadn’t a’ been a gorram fool and run off an’ got myself in a mess I didn’t even dream of, maybe I’d still be up there.”

“It ain’t over,” said Mal firmly. "So don't you go talkin' like it is."

Wash sighed, looking at Mal as though pleading for hope. “I’ve spent the better part of my adult life in this cage. Feels over enough to me sometimes.”

“Well, it just ain’t. You’re a damn good pilot from what everyone says, and that’s the case you got a shiny future doing the thing you love.”

“I was a good pilot,” said Wash soberly. There was a bitter note in his voice as he added, “Too bad I turned out to be one hell of a lousy soldier.”

“Why did you join up, anyway?” asked Mal, choosing to ignore the “lousy soldier” comment for the time being. “You don’t seem the military type, and you don’t have any great hatred for the Alliance that I can see.”

Wash slid down into a sitting position and leaned his back against the fence, patting the gravel beside him. “If we’re gonna have this conversation, you might as well get comfortable. Gonna be here a while.” Mal sat and looked expectantly at Wash.

Wash’s forehead crinkled. “Pretty standard tale of woe. I had a nice family, good childhood and all that. Loved my parents, they loved me, and all was more or less right with the world until I was sixteen. One day my dad didn’t come home from work, and my mom sent me to go find him.” He fell silent for a minute, staring hard at the side of the building.

“I found him in his office with a bullet through his eye.” Wash gulped and looked at Mal. “There was a gun on the floor. First time I ever saw one in person. First time I ever saw a body, and it was my dad.”

“Ai-yah tyen-ah!” Mal’s thoughts immediately flew to his own family, and he looked down. He tried to think of something to say, but he knew that was a hurt words couldn’t ease.

“They never did say for sure if it was suicide or murder. There was no note, no reason we knew of that he’d kill himself. But he had powder on his hand, so…” Wash shrugged. “I always had this feeling, right from the start, that he’d been murdered. I – didn’t deal with it well. Went on like nothing much happened, tryin’ to pretend I was over it, didn’t bother me and all that.”

He glanced hesitantly at Mal. “I went a little nuts. Tried to prove to myself that I could forget that sight - that I wasn’t scared whoever killed my dad wouldn’t come for my mom some night when I was asleep. Even joined a gang, for all of one night.”

“Uh, you?” asked Mal, startled. “A gang? What’d you do, threaten to kill your rivals with shadow puppets?”

Mal’s words unintentionally stung Wash. They went right to the heart of the problem; he’d desperately needed to be taken seriously, tried frantically to make people around him view him with respect. Instead, he was always that nice, goofy kid who’d so tragically lost his father. He’d started collecting swords, guns, trying to be the tough guy, his brain conveniently overlooking the fact that he’d never so much as been in a fight.

He’d look at his almost burly frame and figure that had to be worth something, but he’d been cursed with a face that made people instantly feel at ease around him. It hadn’t been consciously thought out at the time, but he realized afterwards that he wanted to father’s killer to respect him, to be afraid to mess with him and his mother. His greatest need was to be a force to be reckoned with.

Mal saw the hurt on Wash’s face and wondered what old wound he’d opened. Wash was at once one of the most mentally stable people he knew and one of the most emotionally vulnerable, and it was frustrating being unable to figure where that vulnerability lay. He gave Wash an apologetic look, speaking softly, “Go on.”

“Sixteen was also when I graduated and entered flight school, and it probably saved me from getting myself in some serious trouble.” Wash stopped and looked around ruefully at the mess of chain link and razor wire surrounding him. “Or, if you look at it another way, it got me into some serious trouble.”

Mal chuckled. “Hey, at least this way you can say it was for a noble cause.”

Wash struck a noble pose, his nose held high in the air and his eyes gazing far away. “Fighting for freedom, for honor, for improvement of self-confidence-“ his voice trailed off dreamily as Mal laughed.

“Anyway, if by serious trouble you mean criminal prison, you’re probably a lot better off in here,” said Mal more soberly.

“Actually, with me, serious trouble would have been, oh, I don’t know, dying in a fire I started to see how fast it could burn potato chips.” A snort of laughter escaped Mal’s lips.

Wash giggled slightly. “Oh, but you only think I’m joking. I once bought an old parachute and used it to jump off a really high bridge. The only problem was, I didn’t know you had to be a lot higher to use one. The chute opened when I was just over the surface, and I got knocked out when I hit the water. I came to underwater, with the chute spread out over the top so I couldn’t reach the surface, and of course I got tangled up in the lines. It was pure dumb luck that the parachute was so old and flimsy that I could just rip a hole in it with my hands.”

Mal was listening with an expression of fascinated horror on his face. “You – wow.” He grinned. “And after that they let you fly a ship into space?”

“Well, uh, I might not have mentioned that. Or the time I went out into a field with a gun and a tank full of gasoline to see if it would really explode when I shot it.”

Mal blinked rapidly, shaking his head in amusement. “I can’t wait to hear about flight school.”

Wash chuckled. “Well, I was the youngest student there, and most people didn’t take me too seriously unt-“

Mal broke in, his eyes sparkling with laughter. “What? No! They didn’t take you seriously?”

Wash glared at him indignantly. “Until I started actually flying, then girls started wanting to date me, and the guys decided maybe I wasn’t so annoying after all.” He shook his head good-naturedly. “Too bad I was too in love with the ships to truly appreciate the girls. Note to self, next time a stunningly beautiful girl looks at you like she wants to marry you, do it, you stupid idiot!”

“Anyhow, I graduated flight school when I was eighteen, went to work for a commercial flight service that specialized in giving the wealthy smooth rides between planets. It was supposed to be a boring job, but I managed to make it entertaining.” He grinned mischievously. “Wealthy people don’t have any sense of humor. Come to think of it, neither do Alliance patrol officers.”

Mal shook his head. “Wash-“

Wash rolled his eyes. “I know, I know. Anyway, right about the time my employers were getting ready to slip arsenic into my drink, the war starts. I was still trying to be this super-soldier guy anyway. I figure, what job could be better than dogfighting and being the heroic defender of freedom and protector of the little guy, etcetera, etcetera. War hero and ace pilot Hoban Washburne had a nice ring to it.”

“It - did?” asked Mal, raising his eyebrows and grinning.

Wash gave him a dirty look and continued. “I enlisted. I’d done well in flight school, graduated number two in my class, had nice impressive credentials, and they liked that. Put me through two months of basic training, which was sheer hell, but I pretended I thought it was fun. I limped out of there and they assigned me to the Lyndono flight center for military flight training, which apparently was quite the privilege.”

Wash shook his head, remembering the briefing at Lyndono that had started this whole spiral of events. “One day they called a bunch of us into a classroom. I remember looking around and realizing I was the only student, all the other guys were experienced combat pilots that were stationed there.” He grinned. “Talk about a thrill.”

He could remember it as clearly as if it had been last week. A lean, middle-aged man with graying hair had marched crisply into the room and turned on the large presentation screen behind him. “Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Major Russell Myers. The most important thing you need to know about this briefing is that I’ve already heard every M&M joke in the ‘verse. A secondary consideration is that everything you hear in this briefing is classified Top Secret. Many of you have recently had your clearances upgraded to allow you to attend this meeting. Please remember that this is not to be discussed with your fellow pilots, girlfriends, or the guy at the deli.”

Wash found himself grinning in delight. The instructors with a sense of humor were always his favorites, and all this talk of security clearances and top-secret meetings thrilled him. Hoban Washburne, pilot and super-spy. It had a nice ring to it.


Song lyrics from Kansas City Lights, by Steve Wariner.


Sunday, July 23, 2006 3:57 AM


Love it but gorramit, I wish it was LONGER! Ended far too soon. Hope it won't be long until the next part is up. This is just such a shiny fic and I love the friendship between Wash and Mal. Can't wait to see how it all pans out. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, July 23, 2006 5:31 AM


Wonderful, as always. Poor young Wash! *pets* I love that Mal sees the vulnerability and wants to know the cause. Looking forward to more of Wash's reminiscences!

"I love my captain."

Sunday, July 23, 2006 1:50 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER I just gotta hear how Wash ended up crashing after two missions..has to be something mucho crazy, due to Wash's skill behind a stick;)


Sunday, July 23, 2006 3:15 PM


I'm always happy when I see a new chaper of your story posted; check frequently. I promise I'll go back and review the other recent chapters in detail, but I wanted you to know I'm always enthralled and enjoy your writing, storyline, and characterizations immensely.

This chapter was deliciously flavorful. I am thoroughly enjoying your take on Wash, his backstory and characterization. You're staying true to the tv series and movie yet expanding on it in fascinating ways. It's especially intriguing to have Mal and Wash have this back-history together. You've sold it for me very well indeed. I think you balanced Wash's obvious presence in the Independent military with his apparent lack of the same sort of dedication (and military knowledge) Mal and Zoe exhibit. Nicely done! Thanks for sharing your interpretation and writing.


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The Losing Side, Chapter 68 - Farewell to Bars
Mal is finally released by the Alliance, and says his goodbyes to friend and foe before being assigned a job in stapler quality control. In the meantime, Wash rebels against the perfection of his new job by buying dinosaurs and loud shirts. This is NOT the end of the story! :)

The Losing Side, Ch. 67 - Bombshells
Everything changes in the space of minutes when Mal is taken to Lee's office and confronted with two very different shocks to the emotions.

The Losing Side, Ch. 66 - Nature of the Beast
A long chapter full of conflict, trust, and musings....and a cliffhanger! An evil, evil cliffhanger.

The Losing Side, Ch. 65 - Trouble in Paradise
Wash wants to strangle the captain of the shiny new luxury cruiser he's flying, and Mal learns that something dangerous may be afoot....with his name on it.

The Losing Side, Ch. 64 - How to Win a Losing Battle
It's a tricky tightrope between trauma, rage, and finding yourself....but Mal is learning to walk it.

The Losing Side, Ch. 63 - The Art of Insanity
Mal may have more then he bargained for in Cody Patton, the mysterious and potentially deranged artist in his housing unit. Is the one real war criminal among them a threat, an asset, or just a damaged young soldier?

The Losing Side, Ch. 62 - Aiding the Enemy
Mal saves the life of an Alliance guard, and starts having serious doubts about his own mental state.

The Losing Side, Chapter 61 - Juggling Frustrations
Mal keeps on finding new and disturbing facts about one of his fellow prisoners, and Wash learns to juggle (and smuggle) goslings.

The Losing Side, Chapter 60
Wash gets a job, and Mal perfects his Alliance-taunting skills while developing an unlikely fondness for getting shots. Oh, and there's an artist who's a mite off.

The Losing Side, chapter 59 - Sharing the Night
Mal, Wash, and Zoe spend a sleepless night together, and Wash experiences some of the first joys of freedom.