Carrying the Burden
Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mal does a little introspection and gets a little shock.


Disclaimer: all things Firefly/Serenity are the property of Whedon et al. I’m not making any money off this, just playing with the toys.


The captain turned his head towards the direction of the voice and squinted. Too much gorramn fog about the place. Couldn’t make out a hand in front of a body’s face.


Mal looked another way, still unable to tell who was calling his name. He stopped. Ain’t no one called him Malcolm, ‘cept the Feds - then only including his last name - and his...

He pushed his chin out, leaning a little. “Ma?” He blinked and gave his head a shake. Going feng luh, he was. Mama Reynolds had been on Shadow when the Alliance come through. He shut his eyes. Thinking on that was only to cause heartache and Malcolm Reynolds, captain of Serenity, had seen more than he cared to.

“Malcolm.” The voice had greater authority. “Come here.”

Without thinking, Mal’s legs took him towards the voice, feeling himself the thirteen year old boy having been caught behind the barn with Melinda Chiu. He grinned; first girl in his class to start developing.

‘Course, that didn’t matter no more if the rumours he’d heard about her hooking up with Henry Colson were true. Henry’s folks had the largest cattle ranch on Shadow and he was destined to take over. There’d been talk about how they managed to keep the place secure and more than one tongue wagged about purple palms. Figured now that the stories weren’t true or that they weren’t enough to keep the purplebellies from storming.

“Malcolm Reynolds, if I have to say your name once more...”

“Yes, ma’am,” he heard himself reply and wondered when he started believing that this voice was that of his mother’s.

He continued to stride through the thinning mist until a form came into view. Finally, he was able to see clearly and it nearly scared him to death.

Her face was softer than he remembered and her dark hair fell onto her shoulders. Her lips were coloured a little red and her eyes were bluer than he could ever recall. Her stance, however, was one he would never forget: hands on hips and booted foot tapping.

Mal swallowed involuntarily. “Ma?”

The tapping stopped.

“Mama?” He waited, trying to suss out just what the di yu was going on. “You’re dead.”

A crooked grin crossed the woman’s lips. “I know that.”

“Then how is it you’re here, now, talkin’ to me?”

Her expression changed, a light sadness appearing. “Because you’re dead, too.”

For a moment, Mal didn’t move, couldn’t find the strength to lift his arms, to yell or to run away. Was like he lost all that was inside him. This surely wasn’t right.

She now stood in front of her son, her eyes finding his. She brought her hands to his shoulders then stroked them down his arms. “You’ve become so strong.” She laughed lightly. “So different from when you signed up.”

Mal frowned before looking away from his mother’s face to scan the area. He felt a breeze across his cheek and through his hair, could smell the freshly cut alfalfa and hay. A swallow cooed from the barn out back and he could hear the whinny of the old mare, Tess. The hills to the north were green with the summer growth. Out front of the ranch house was the beat up wagon he’d played pirates on with a couple of the old time ranch hands.

“Knew you wouldn’t ever come back home.” The woman’s voice cracked a little and Mal saw the tears sliding down her cheek.

The scene overwhelmed him. He pulled her into a hug and could feel his own eyes water at the contact. He’d always meant to wave her, to let her know that he was safe, but he never found the time. Letters home had been infrequent and uninformative. Only when he’d been sitting in the prisoner camp with Zoe did he learn of Shadow’s fate. Felt like his heart had turned to dust. God mighta failed him, but he could still have his mama’s love. Except the ruttin’ Alliance had taken that, too.

“Now isn’t the time,” she said quietly, shifting out of his embrace. “We need to go.”

“Ain’t leaving my crew,” Mal said firmly.

“You don’t have a crew anymore, Malcolm. You’re dead.” Her voice was sure, confident, just like his mama.

“Still don’t mean I give up on ‘em.”

The woman’s face contorted. She didn’t raise an idiot, but time could change a man. “You do understand what being dead means?”

“Most certainly do.” Mal lifted a hand to shield his eyes from the sun and watched the windmill begin to spin faster in the afternoon sky. Dark clouds were coming mighty quick.

“Then you know that you can’t go back to them. They can’t save you, Malcolm.”

He grinned. “That a fact?”

His mother lifted a hand and stroked her son’s cheek, feeling the stubble. “Always were stubborn.” She cupped his cheek before letting go. She then noticed the clouds and her hair began to wave in the rising wind. She looked to her son once more and shook her head. “When did you become right about everything?”

The captain smirked. “It’s a burden I’ve learned to carry mostly well.” He bent down and kissed her cheek. “Love you, Mama,” he whispered into her ear.

“Love you, too, Malcolm.” She swallowed then set her shoulders and straightened her back. “Make me proud.”

Lightning cracked in the now black sky, blinding Mal. When he could see again, he wished he couldn’t.

“Meester Reynolds? You died, Meester Reynolds.”

“Seemed like the thing to do,” Mal rasped When did his throat get so sticky?

“When you die, I can’t hurt you anymore and I want two days, at least. Minimum. I think many people know the name Malcolm Reynolds. Many know he crossed Niska. They must know what happened after that.”

End (but you know what happens, right?)

A/N: Mal's not my usual subject so I'd be appreciative of what you think, good, bad or ugly.


Saturday, May 12, 2007 3:06 PM


Totally not what I expected. In a good way.

The timeline threw me for a spin once I realised. :)

Saturday, May 12, 2007 4:05 PM


Oh, very O'Henry ending. Well done.

Saturday, May 12, 2007 4:41 PM


Well done! Nice take on the episode's time gap.

Saturday, May 12, 2007 7:07 PM


Commented about this over at, but I will do so again.

Absolutely....fabulous, ArtemisPrime! The setup for this brilliantly done and the moment between Mal and his mother was just heart-wrenching. Though I was kinda waiting for a Whedon-style twist of Mrs. Reynolds actually being Satan or something in disguise. Hey...what can I say...I like Elvis;D


Saturday, May 12, 2007 10:03 PM


I figured it out about 2/3 of the way thru. But that don't mean there's anything wrong with it. Very nice...

Saturday, May 12, 2007 11:09 PM


I figured it out part way through as well...but it was the awesome sort of figuring out, the sort that comes with a grin and an internal "oooh, cool!"

Awesome story!

Sunday, May 13, 2007 12:52 AM


Wow, this was fabulous, not that I like the idea of our noble Captain being tortured. Very well put together. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, May 13, 2007 12:53 PM


Yay! =) A new Artemis fic! I liked this very much. I only wish it wasn't so short. =(


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