Saw darkness in me
Friday, September 17, 2004

When Mal looks into the mirror, who does he see? A weird little Mal POV.


* * * * *


* * * * *

He di'n't come down the chimney. He's always been here. I've worked damn hard at keepin' the tamade hundan out, but he was always there. Watching. Waiting for his moment. I gave it to him.

Gave into the weakness. It started with Nandi's death. No. I'm a liar. It started with me beddin' her. She touched me. I let myself be touched. How gorram stupid is that? An' then I failed her. Ain't no use anyone tellin' me I di'n't, cos I know the truth of it.

Losin' her shook me up some. Reminded me we none of us are here in this 'verse for ever. Might all be dead tomorrow. Tonight. Don't they reckon the dyin' never regrets the things they did, only the things they di'n't? Tha's what made me all truthsome with Inara. Jus' wanted to tell her what she means to me. How I want to hold her an' never let her go.

Think she must've guessed. Tha's why she told me she was leavin'. I ruined it all. I meant to pull her closer, and only succeeded in pushin' her farther away.

Everythin' I touch turns to dust.

This crew - my crew – ain't really mine at all. I can't ever go to sleep an' know for certain they'll be there when I wake up. I can't be sure of keepin' them safe an' happy an' together.

Cos I ain't jus' weak. I'm a mean ol' man. A bad man.

Tha's how he got in.

* * * * *

Ain't a power in the 'verse can stop Kaylee bein' cheerful. Sometimes you jus' wanna duct tape her mouth an' dump her in the hold for a month. Girl's like a force of nature. Oughta be under a shinin' sun somewhere, workin' her magic on machines meant for growin' things. Surrounded by a whole passel of critters underfoot. Not cooped up on a creakin' ol' boat like mine. Nor servin' under a monster.

Gorramit if it don't break my heart every time she looks at me, an' sees the man I was, not the man I am. Breaks my heart and makes me wanna lash out. Show her the real me, the nothing inside. Make her look right into the face of it. Force her to stare. Stop her when she tries to look away. Show no mercy.

Woulda been easy when she was jus' Bester's prairie harpie. Shoulda left her that way. Left her where she could hump excitin' strangers an' only dream of emptier skies. Instead of lettin' her become Serenity's other half an' my beatin' heart. 'Cos she don't bring freedom with her. She brings ties. Threads an' ribbons an' ropes an' chains of need an' flattery an' love.

When Zoe was her age, she'd seen it all. Taken it in. Swallowed the bitter down with the sweet an' somehow digested it. Kaylee cherry-picks. Strawberries, hodgeberries an' inter-engine system wine. Nothin' but juice an' fire. No subtle depths, no base notes.

The darkness swirls round her an' she never sees it. Cuts through it like a ship through mist. But that don't mean it ain't there.

Sometimes I want it to cut her. The strain of keepin' her untouched by this brutal 'verse wears me down. I see how slender the thread of her innocence is. I see the sharpened knives that will slice through it.

She ain't never been raped. Only woman on my crew I can say that about with certainty. An' it's like a millstone round my neck. If she had been, I wou'n't always be fearin' the day when she might be.

* * * * *

Got myself a boat full of awfully strange folk. Secrets stowed away in those troublesome little nooks. Some of 'em I can break open easy enough. Kick the lid of their cryochambers an' see what's inside. The naked child huddled within. But some are hidden in open caskets, in plain sight where I can't see the wood for the trees. No wonder I get lost.

Some day that preacher's gonna tell me what he's all about. How come he knows so damn much about crime. An' I know – I jus' know – it ain't gonna surprise me. Figured out long ago that ain't no Shepherd.

Got myself a bad bargain, day I chose him over God. Least the Lord's got the decency to shut the hell up. Damn preacher don't say much, but each word's like a seeker, relentlessly homing in on its target. And those ruttin' eyes. Knowin' an' pityin' an' laughin' all at the same time.

Lost count of the number of times I've wanted to beat him senseless.

* * * * *

Ha'n't hardly met the woman but an hour when she was tellin' me I wanted her. She left the claim hangin' a heartbeat before specifyin' my wantin' her was purely for business. That she could open certain doors for me. Right before she slammed shut the only door I wanted to get through, bolted it and posted a sign. In no circumstances would she be servicin' me or anyone under my employ.


Tha's all she is. Earns her honest livin' by spreadin' for the lonely and hygenically rich. How come that makes her better than the rest of us? Cos there ain't no doubt that she thinks she is. Sweepin' round my boat in all her frippery, chin high an' eyes disdainful.

Second time I punched the boy, part of the blow was meant for her. Tamade jian huo had the gorram nerve to support him an' tell me what to do on my own ruttin' boat. Split his lip for him. Fist twitched with wantin' to do the same for her. Teach her not to second-guess me. Not to go visitin' my intentions.

But I di'n't. Man is stronger than woman by far, so hittin' 'em don't seem right to me – 'less they hit first, of course. Even then, it ain't good. Might only be a petty thief - might've lost my faith - but I still live by a code. Which I think is worth ...

Is a sin still a sin if it stays in your heart? Momma used to tell me those could be the worst sins of all. Sins that are never exorcised, but left to fester and consume. Did she see the darkness in me, even back then? She never said so out loud. But now an' then I would catch her lookin' at me with sadness in her eyes. Was she relieved when she waved me off to war?

* * * * *

Can't deny it – havin' a medic on board ain't a bad thing. Boy's not weak neither. Gave up all he had to look after that moonbrain sister of his. Shepherd thinks that makes him a hero. Shepherd's too charitable. Boy di'n't do it for her sake, did it for his. Got a streak of selfishness in him a mile wide. I see it even if others don't. I feel it. No, the boy saw a chance to get what he wanted an' took it. Never mindin' if it brought a whole heap of trouble down on me an' mine. Gotta admire him for that. Don't mean I gotta like him.

Spoilt rich kid with a smart mouth on him. Thinks he's above you. Better than. Stick up his pigu. More'n a mite like Inara. Hell, they should probably get together. This ain't the kinda life they're used to. Both of 'em'd go back to their worlds in a heartbeat if the right opportunity came along. Back to worlds wear livin' by the rules buys you a nice life, even if the rules make you a slave.

In idle moments I get to wonderin' why he became a doctor. Was it the money? The power? The ability to inflict pain? Bet he never even knew what pain was before he joined my crew. Glad to say I've helped him out on that score. Completed his education, you could say. They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed. Seems only right a surgeon should what kind of pain he's dealin' with.

* * * * *

It's gettin' awfully crowded in here. They crawl inside me uninvited. Hurt me with their million little kindnesses when I thought I was safe. Life'd be simpler without carryin' passengers. No such thing as a free ride. Someone gotta pay. This is my boat and somehow it's me doin' the payin'. Does that seem right to you?

Buried enough of the past on my own account. Don't need their baggage too. Don't want secrets that are gonna turn round an' bite me on the ass. I want simple. In and out. Easy money. A life that goes to the gorram plan. A ship, a good crew. Fighters an' a pilot's all I need. Folk with simple needs that're easily satisfied. Shelter, food, a job. Know where I stand with folks like that. Zoe. Jayne. Wash. They never trouble me.

Soon as I saw this boat, I knew I had to have her. Make her mine, so's I could spread out, breathe easy. Firefly's a good design. I like the way the walls go out. Gives you an open feelin'. Like bein' back on the ranch.

Zoe thought I'd been robbed. Cou'n't see past what she was to what she could be. All she saw was a collection of cheap parts. Di'n't make no never mind. Already had a name all picked out.

She ain't gonna win any beauty contests soon, but she's solid. Her hide ain't smooth, but it's tough. Like a shell, a tough hard shell made of scars and burns. Sometimes I lick her wounds instead of my own. Rust tastes much like blood, like tears.

* * * * *

No matter how long the arm of the Alliance got, I planned to get us a little further. Live free, that was the plan. But you can't live off dreams. Gotta eat and the ship gotta have fuel. Thought it would be easy to take jobs as they came ...

You wanna put a free man in chains? Then make him short of coin. He's still no-one's responsibility but his own, but you'll have taken away his liberty.

Wanna break him entirely? Then make him turn on his own. Tell him one of 'em's worth somethin' to the authorities. Tell him there's a reward.

Those Alliance tamade hun dan broke that little girl. Stuck needles behind her eyes and asked her what she saw. Dressed her up in assassin's robes like a gorram doll. But it was me that was gonna sell her brother to the lawman. The brother who'd given up everthin' for her. The reflection in my mirror than night was of someone powerful ugly.

She has an oddness to her, no denyin'. But that ain't what disturbs me about her. There's a familiar darkness in her. A darkness that comes from powerlessness, from hurt. A victim, tha's what she is. Victims make me angry. They shouldn't exist. They shouldn't lay claim to me.

I di'n't want her on my boat. Wanted her to leave. Melt away. Before I recognized more of my own self in her than I'd seen already. They cut me up too, then called me a survivor. But I'm not. Looked right into the heart of it. Was made to stare.

Don't tell me that I can walk away or that you know I mus' be tired. Don't want pity, don't want takin' care of. Want to be free.

* * * * *

There's was a guy ... It got very blurry ... Thought I mus' be dreamin'. But Li'l sis spoke through the fog, came up with a plan. How does she know what to do? Then I get it – she's very close to me, even if I ha'n't noticed before.

Understands the nightmares. Dreams them too. They tore her apart and left her in pieces. She was too young, too helpless to fight them. So where does that strength in her come from? Is it all scar tissue? Is it magic?

Bastards nearly broke me. Offered me thirty pieces of silver an' I nearly took it. No better than Jayne really. 's why I had to crack that wrench over his head. Hardest sins to forgive are the ones you harbour in your own heart.

River ain't goin' nowhere. Best she don't go with Early. Better by far she stays here, surrounded by people who care for her. Dumbass people like me who have only jus' realized what her brother always knew. That she's a gift. Weak and damaged don't have to mean useless. It can help you see your way out of the woods.

So I pushed that bounty hunter into the Black.

I pushed him and my own face looked back at me.

* * * * *


Friday, September 17, 2004 6:46 AM


Dang. That went to a place. Darkness.

When Mal is quoting Early is the most chilling of all. That you had him having planned to sell out River, play the Judas... wow, never have gone there myself but you wrote it convincingly.

"They cut me up too, then called me a survivor." Very astute parallel.

"Sometimes I want it to cut her. The strain of keepin' her untouched by this brutal 'verse wears me down." Kaylee's innocence as a burden, wishing--almost--she'd be hurt so he wouldn't have to protect her anymore... powerful.

There were many more that struck me as I read--wonderful intertwining of the comments of the others with your own observations and appraisals.

Friday, September 17, 2004 6:55 AM


Oh wow! This is amazing...I love the way you weave Early's comments into Mal's thoughts. Even caught a Badger one. :-D

Friday, September 17, 2004 6:58 AM


This started off really well but I have to say it didn't feel right you using Jubal Early's voice and words for Mal. And Mal wanting to beat on Inara? Nope don't see that at all. While there is undoubtedly a darkness in the Captain there seem to be few redeeming features in this story to make his soul worth the saving. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, September 18, 2004 12:00 AM


That's criticism I can accept, Ali. I think I rushed the ending, and should maybe have given more weight to his inner conflict because I definitely do think Mal's soul is worth saving. I wasn't trying to say Mal *is* bad, just that what he perceives as his weaknesses may *him* fear he might be. At times.

Thursday, October 28, 2004 6:07 PM


Wow, an amazing portrait of a man trapped by in himself.

Thursday, December 2, 2004 7:42 AM


Wow. All kinds of creepy 'n lyrical.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 6:31 PM


not to mention all manner of creepifying.
all that darkness in the cap'n and we neva even noticed. although some of it was a little intense, it was till a good story.

no power in the verse

Tuesday, November 8, 2005 12:22 PM


I'm with Fredikayllow...
downright creepifyin'! Especially when he was quoting Early, but I could feel it, really understand where Mal might be coming from.
I was trying to find a favorite moment, but I liked all of it. Wish you'd focused less on his anger over Inara and just a bit more on his desire for her.. that his desire is at odds with his dislike of her career.

Overall tasty.

Sunday, August 13, 2006 2:17 PM


Dang! You really went to the dark place. *Shudder* Mal is scarier than I like, but very compelling. Great job!


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HOLDING ON: Ch 2 - Tangential
Much to his annoyance, Sanzo's urgent quest to find Goku gets diverted. Meanwhile Mal meets someone from Inara's past. WARNING - slashy but not graphic

The Wheel Never Stops Turning
Mal meets a blonde in a bar. Violence ensues. And Mal discovers religion has its uses.

This is primariy a <i>Firefly</i> fic, but the character Mal ends up doing a job for is from the manga/anime <i>Saiyuki</i>. It's also <b>PG-13 nothing-explicit SLASH</b>. Because that's who I am!

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 7: 'til the day you die.
Inara leaves Serenity for a new life. Mal gets a job with a couple of new employers, but sinks further into despair.
Slash so lite you'll probably scarcely notice it.

MAKE ME A STONE: Chapter 6: You just learn to live there.
Another job goes less than smoothly. Meanwhile River takes matters into her own hands and Mal has a brainwave.

SLASHFIC. SPOILERS for the comics, novelization and movie.

Make Me A Stone: Chapter 5: Chickens come home to roost.
Mal has to accept Badger's offer of a job. Meanwhile old enemies seek to take advantge.
Spoilers for the comics. Very light slash.

Make Me A Stone: Chapter 4. Some residual heat.
SPOILERS for the comics/BDM. Mal has to accept Badger's job offer. Not much else in his life is going right either.

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 3: It's complicated.
Mal decides to pull a job of his own. Simon offers to help. It doesn't go smooth - but that's not entirely Simon's fault.

Non-graphic SLASH.

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 2: And who exactly could fix you?
Simon'a altruism leads to a job going wrong. Mal's not happy.

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 1: Pray there ain't any more surprises.
Warning: SLASH, but not graphic. Mal and Simon both find that the other has hidden talents. It kinda piques their interest ... *g*

TRAUMA MEDICINE: Chapter 23. Two by two.
Four years have past since Mal was forced to blow up Serenity and Simon disappeared with River and Book. A lot has changed since then. But a lot has stayed the same. The CONCLUSION to this series.