"IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER"
A "Firefly" story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
He supposed he should not have been surprised that the boy had seen through him but Merciful Father no one should have suffered enough in life to have that much savvy. The Shepherd shook his head slightly and reminded himself that he really should stop thinking of Serenity's Captain as a boy. In every respect Malcolm Reynolds was a man pure and simple or rather not so pure or simple. Man was complex and sharper than he seemed. Book had been careful. Quietly covering his tracks from day one of picking out his target. The *lese* old Firefly class transport had been the perfect choice. The rumours he had followed solidified in the simplicity of the ship's name.
Not long after joining Serenity he came to have his first bout of second thoughts. His heart quailing at what he saw as the unremitting bleakness of their austere Captain. The rag tag crew inspiring the kind of emotional conflict you would expect to find in a criminal asylum. Now they were like worn clothes, the fit may be a little ragged and humble but wrapping him in their weathered folds as if made for him. For he was a man fallen from grace himself. And the Captain, young as he was, grim and all knowing for his years as he was, had seen the heart of him in that first glimpse. It had inspired and terrified him. Later, in Inara's shuttle, he had almost confessed the whole of it. God bless the mercy that kept that little weakness hidden.
"I think I am on the wrong ship."
The Companion had placed a gentle hand on his bowed head and reassured him. Funny how the words of a whore had filled him with the resolve of the truly penitent. How ironic that it should be Inara Serra who would teach him humility not the other way around. And disturbing that it would be Malcolm holding the mirror of his faith up to him so he could lay claim to each and every flaw. Oh yes. God truly had a wicked sense of humour.
It was two or three in the morning. The ship was as quiet as she ever got, her crew cradled as they slept in her metal arms, protected by a skin of steel and lulled by the endless turning of her idling engine. The heart of the ship. Not the engine but her crew. Since when did he get so fanciful? The Preacher smiled to himself and began the soothing ritual of making tea. Not surprised when he heard the even measured footfall of the Captain. Not looking up to catch the question in those dark soulful eyes but reaching instead for a second vessel and patiently pouring enough solace to fill two cups. When he was done he looked up, saw the Captain had paused by his place at the table, the Bible lying open where the Preacher had left it. He watched the Captain read the words and quietly joined him. As the cups were placed on the table, Malcolm Reynolds looked up. His eyes locking on the Shepherd's in unspoken truce. "Kind of poetical don't you think?"
The Shepherd raised his eyebrows and pretended not to understand his meaning. Knowing the Captain was not referring to the words on the page. A light dry chuckle escaped Mal's lips as his hand gently brushed the pages of the open Bible, like the touch of an absent friend. The Captain's smile became a sudden bright flash of warmth reflected in eyes that laughed back at him.
"Book." He paused and savoured the irony of the joke. "For what it's worth you took your name from the best, Preacher. I think your God would have liked that."
"He's your God too."
The Captain was about to protest but the Shepherd held up a hand. The inexplicable softening of his features calming his most cherished charge. "Let it be, son."
"I won't change my mind, Preacher. God deserted me, *us*, on that gorram battlefield. Even if you can forgive Him I can't."
Book nodded. Knew. Understood. "I have faith enough for both of us."
Then he watched in silence as the Captain took his tea and left the commons area. Knew he would be heading for the bridge where he would sit and stare for hours on end out across the Black. The only place emptier than his war weary soul. Shepherd Book looked down at the passage he had been reading.
*Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil. For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff comfort me...*
The Captain would keep his secret and there was comfort in that small act of faith. Book. That was his name now. Chosen because his own redemption lay within these holy pages. Reverently he closed it and brought the worn leather cover to his lips so he could kiss it. In his own redemption he hoped to find the keys to another's. It would not wipe away the walls of the honoured dead but it just might give the living a chance.
*lese* = crap