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Became much too interested in Mal's life before the Unification War, and also had the idea of a person (idyllically female) whispering, "I miss him, too," when the other person hasn't said anything about anyone. So, River's the girl (I'm as surprised as you are) because of that brain-ninja thing, and I made up a bit of a backstory, because, seriously? Joss set the war way too late, chronologically. Mal was forty-two at the Serenity Valley thing, supposedly.

And that's all leading us to this, Firefly vague Mal/River backstory. Kind of assumes that the war began aroundabout 2507 (when the Serenity Valley thing didn't happen until 2511), but it's quite conceivable that a war last four years.

 

Mal was usually really, really good at only thinking about what he needed to be thinking about. 

But on a day like today, four days into a five-day hop across a third of the whole gorram ‘verse, when everything to be considered had been done to death and any unexpected trip-ups still couldn’t be expected yet, Mal doesn’t need to be thinking about anything. 

So, Mal has to think about things he doesn’t need to be thinking about. 

Today, this time, no matter how many times he tries to focus on the horses, horses that he grew up tending and raising and riding on Shadow, happy times and bijuu sweet cream pies, good memories and Serenity and soft, fragrant women he’d known, Mal comes back to.

And he’s sitting in the cockpit, staring out at the black, waiting for his brain to leak out of his ears rather than think about. 

Connor. 

They’d been the same age on a ranch too big to cross on a horse before supper. They couldn’t have kept from being friends if they’d tried, so they hadn’t. Connor was a hand, taken on when he and Mal were fourteen because Connor’s older brother was hired, too, and each was all the other had in the ‘verse.

Connor and Mal spent five years giving each other black eyes over who should have the last fresh apple of the season (Connor) and glaring, tight-lipped, hating each other over SaraBeth (who left them both to their own and went with a computer guy too smart for their fallow little moon). 

Then, Mal had taken over running most of the accounts for the ranch, and Connor was back to being a hand when he’d never really been to begin with. 

They were both men, technically, and more comfortable in their skin, and they laughed more over times past than they created new ones. 

Then their twenties were waning, and dark winds were blowing further in the system about the Central planets straightening everything out. Connor and Mal had seen peaceful sunsets and planetrises and generally agreed that nothing much was bent to begin with. 

Things had gone like that for better than ten years. Mal sold Connor a parcel of the ranch’s land because the gorram fool never got around to leaving or spending any of his money. Connor even married a girl a few years younger, a plain and simple girl but a strong one, and they were happy. Mal knew they were happy. 

And then they were in their late thirties, and the jury-rigged but perfectly manicured Central Congress passed the Declaration of Unification and all hell, literally, broke loose. 

It took two days for the call to reach them for able bodies to hold guns and wear the brown coats and generally provide the Central Army (weren’t naming themselves Alliance yet, that was later) with warm, gooey target practice. 

Connor and Mal went off to war, for the ranch and for Connor’s steady, loyal wife and for quiet, slow planetrises and for the last fresh apple, and for a lot of other reasons that were a lot less clear on the other end of the war. 

And they trained up for two weeks and marched out, shoulder-to-shoulder with other boys and men and women and girls all looking to fight, but maybe not for the last apple. 

They both made it through the first volley, when plenty didn’t. They’d ducked into a ditch, and Connor’d pulled a thin, hand-rolled cigarette from a pocket that Mal was pretty sure was supposed to hold extra ammunitions, and Connor smiled, and stood up to fire back. 

That was it. 

Mal lost sight of most of the reasons in that first battle. 

Now, now, he’s sitting in the pilot’s chair and staring out at the black and measuring his heartbeat against the rhythmic thrumming of Serenity’s engine. 

And there are chilly, slim fingers settling on his shoulders, and River’s wet cheek is pressing into Mal’s, and they’re staring out together. 

After Mal’s back to himself all the way, steady-footed and aware, River steps back and curls into a little ball at his feet, watching Mal with wide, awed, tear-red eyes. 

“Me, too,” she says, voice broken. “I miss him, too.” 

Mal looks down at her, and wonders if it hurts to sit on the grating like that, and whether or not she could tell him what his reasons were if he asked.

River smiles, tired and drained. “Could do. No moral, no journey. Walk the path with me.” 

And Mal might just do that. But, just now, he’s wondering something else.

Her face splits, grin wide and toothy. “Can, can. Can do anything, everything, nothing, all at the same time. Intrinsic.” 

“Missed our chats, little miss.” Mal sets his hand on her head and messes her hair. 

The ache of Connor is fading again. Nearly all gone.


Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
dodificus
May. 27th, 2008 10:16 am (UTC)
and whether or not she could tell him what his reasons were if he asked.

It's a wonder that more people on Serenity didn't try to ask River something like that. I know for me the idea of being able to get answers about yourself from another person is very attractive.

I liked this:)
rotynd
Jun. 16th, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)
cross-reviewing 1
“Mal was usually really, really good at only thinking about what he needed to be thinking about.”
- Mm. Because being two-thirds of the way through The Psychology of Joss Whedon makes this line even more delicious, if possible. Simple and smooth, he does so like things to be… including himself. Pesky trip-ups.

“…unexpected trip-ups still couldn’t be expected yet…”
- Mostly because I swear I hadn’t read ahead, and so am having one of those irrational sqee moments over the fact that I used the same word you use a second later. Baby, we’re fate.

“…Mal doesn’t need to be thinking about anything.
So, Mal has to think about things he doesn’t need to be thinking about.”
- But back to the actual story. I adore this. Thing is going smooth, and it eliminates the simple from over-smoothness. The irony, I love it...

“And he’s sitting in the cockpit, staring out at the black, waiting for his brain to leak out of his ears rather than think about.”
- And the abrupt cut-off before it; you’re so incredibly good at matching the format to what you’re doing, it’s not even right. Plus, the use of the name “Connor” serves to further disorient me, so thank you for the whole carpet-from-under-your-feet feeling in general.

“They couldn’t have kept from being friends if they’d tried, so they hadn’t.”
- This line delights me thoroughly. It makes them adorable and practical simultaneously. Apples and girls. It is as it should be. Then… I like the growing most especially. I have no idea how you managed to pack an entire novel’s worth of tired bittersweetness and childhood crashing on the rocks of adulthood in a quiet, practical sort of way and then the ensuing nice-if-grinding daily adult-ness following it into about four sentences, but god in heaven did you succeed.

“Connor and Mal had seen peaceful sunsets and planetrises and generally agreed that nothing much was bent to begin with.”
- God, I love that too. It pretty much automatically brings to mind the Operative all ready to kill for his better world, and “Me and mine gotta lay down and die so you can live in your better world” and just how things ARE…

“…and generally provide the Central Army (weren’t naming themselves Alliance yet, that was later) with warm, gooey target practice.”
- And also the entire running-up to of a war in about no space, but this especially - the “target practice” thing, which is so Mal and yet not, with how deeply he believed in Independence beforehand, and even after, and that they weren’t the Alliance then, which somehow makes them oddly human. Impermanence and all that, I guess.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 16th, 2008 01:49 am (UTC)
cross-reviewing 2
“And they trained up for two weeks and marched out, shoulder-to-shoulder with other boys and men and women and girls all looking to fight, but maybe not for the last apple.”
- Oh bugger. You have found a talent here, haven’t you… military life. Two weeks. I mean. Two weeks. And all those reasons - even just these two are all confused, aside from the apples, so just think of the sheer mass of reasons all compounded in just one troop or whatever.

“…Connor smiled, and stood up to fire back.
That was it.”
- But he didn’t even finish his cigarette…

“Mal lost sight of most of the reasons in that first battle.”
- Like Connor took the apples and planetrises and, well, Mal - as was - with him. You have to watch out for the dead. They’ll grab things on you.

I love so much that River’s crying. Like she took his tears and cried them for him. Tidying up in his head. Heart.

“ ‘Me, too,’ she says, voice broken. ‘I miss him, too.’ ”
- There we are, then. The Moment. Perfect.

“Mal looks down at her, and wonders if it hurts to sit on the grating like that, and whether or not she could tell him what his reasons were if he asked.”
- Because I am mad for those two together; a normal little thing like grating (not so little when you’re the one sitting on it, though, unless possibly you’re River) with a thing as big as reasons.

“Could do. No moral, no journey. Walk the path with me.”
- I do not even pretend to have the slightest idea, but it’s very pretty and it fits. Morals and journeys… things most fiction needs, and they’re in fiction of fiction, and where are they walking if they’re not taking a journey…?

“Missed our chats, little miss.”
- So pretty. Missed, little miss as “the ache of Connor” - missing Connor - “is fading again.” If you get any more clever with words I shall have to take strong action.

Oh, that’s just damn perfect all around. Words and reasons. And it’s good to feel better, but the ache is all Connor left, for all he took with him, and… well. New things will come.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )