171 Oak Drive
Thursday, August 17, 2006

This is set as Mal's long walk home after the war. He struggles with some serious issues such as survivor's guilt, PTSD, and God.


Title: 171 Oak Drive Originally posted in LJ community 31nights Prompt: 69 "Understand, I'm a sinner" Drowning Pool - Sinner Completed: 1/31 Fandom: Firefly Character: Malcolm Reynolds Rating: R for graphic images Notes: I blame a lot of stuff for this drabble such as my mom who watches the rain, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Denis Leary, and as always, I blame my wonderful beta-readers Ashe and Sarah - without them it would be even weirder here....This is set an Mal's long walk home after the war. He struggles with some serious issues such as survivor's guilt, PTSD, God, and other shit. Now, none of it is called that or wrapped up so pretty. Enjoy!

Somewhere Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion are both having a headache at this same moment.


The transport back to Shadow had been miserable. Every bump, every flash of light, every loud word sent his mind ablaze. His irises constricted, his hands got clammy, and his gun was never close enough. When he noticed the other boys do the same thing, he couldn’t tell if he was comforted or appalled. They were all in the same boat, but it was the worst damn boat in the ‘verse.

None of the boys were his, but some of them clung to him anyway. A few Mal had known from when he was promoted to Captain. Others just knew his name. Most just knew his title, “Where you goin’ to, Sarge?”

“Shadow,” Mal would reply and stare out into the black. The boys’ eyes were vacant. Looking into that blackness was more than he could handle.

“Goin’ home?”

“Goin’ back.”

Mal had a terrible fear that he could get back to Shadow, but he could never get back home. His cross hung heavy from his neck. Its pressure was intense, but he couldn’t manage to hold it. God had abandoned him and his boys, and yet Mal still couldn’t abandon God. How was that fair? Mal was angry with Him, furious perhaps, but he planned to wait, bear this cross and return when he could. But that fear would never leave. He felt he could get back to God, but he could never get back to that trust. He was afraid that he would never feel God was on his side again.

The shuttle jerked through Shadow’s atmo, and Mal kept his eyes as slits. Local time was past midnight. Outside the shuttle, families waited and thunder cracked. Storms had plagued the planet for at least a month. Crops were beaten to the ground, and animals were being kept in barns causing their muscles to atrophy. Ellen Reynold’s farm was a few miles trek from where the shuttled landed. Too many families offered Mal a ride back. He declined them all. He couldn’t ride with families that were missing sons because of him. Even if the families on Shadow had their sons, all Mal could see them as were families riding with ghosts.

He pulled his coat around him tightly and buckled it as he watched mules ride off in different directions. He pushed out a breath and stared upwards. He didn’t know if he was looking for God, but all he got was rain in his eyes. He pushed his hands in his pockets and began to walk. It would be hours before he’d get to the house. His mama would be sitting on the porch waiting for him. He’d tell her that she should have just gone to bed, and she’d say that she was just watching the rain; God was in the rain.

Mal snorted and shook his head. There weren’t nothing in the rain but water. It had rained in Serenity Valley, and God hadn’t come. Boys just got waterlogged, food got turned into mush, and ammo got ruined. If God were in that water, God was a bastard.

And that was why God couldn’t be in the rain. God and his mother had been Mal’s saving graces too many times. Those two and Lonnie. None of them were bastards. They were his family. Well, Lonnie was a bastard, but that was different.

Mal chuckled deeply in his chest. Lonnie wasn’t that different from God actually. For starters, both were dead. Lonnie would have smacked him for that comment. “God isn’t dead,” he’d say. “Jesus died, but he ain’t dead.” Mal would have just rolled his eyes and called it a technicality.

“Gonna be walking for a while.” Mal glanced beside him and shook his head.

“You ain’t there, Lonnie.” A tall gangly blonde with a crooked nose and an even more crooked smile lopped through the muck of a dirt road and weeks of rain. “Got told about this. Said it was the same sort of go-se that froze up Bendis in Serenity. Night terrors. Seein’ things that ain’t there-”

“Feelin’ guilty that you’re alive?”

Mal shook his head. “You might be dead, you might be fake, but you’re still dumb. That’s somethin’ else.” Mal continued staring straight ahead. There was no reason why he needed to wrestle with his conscience like this.

Lonnie got gutted out on New Kasmir. Ugliest thing Mal had ever seen. The boys getting their heads blown off with those greswalds, that was gruesome, but seeing Lonnie standing there one second shooting off his mouth about how the snow wasn’t that bad, how it made the city look more peaceful, how the right weather could make any ruins look beautiful, and then out of no where having the Alliance bear down on them was something terrible. They tore right through the bastard. The poor idiot was dead before he hit the snow. What made it so terrible was all that red splattering on all that white. It all made Mal sick when he finally had time to think about it.

Lots of other boys saw their end at that little crossroads in New Kasmir. Temples and churches were filled with bodies, and the snow just kept falling. The captain of their platoon got a piece of mortar right in the chest. Meant Mal was the one who got to conduct all the waves home.

“Bein’ pretty quiet, Sarge.”

“Don’t call me that.” Mal glowered at the man that he knew wasn’t really there. “Just a man now.”

“Oh, you know that ain’t ever gonna be true.” Lonnie’s cackle was just as brittle and warm as it had been in life. It wasn’t fair, but Mal decided it would have been worse if it sounded any different. The thought of hearing shrapnel or maggots rattle around in Lonnie’s chest would have been even worse. That was for damn sure.

Mal sent another harsh glare in Lonnie’s direction and then halted in the rain and gawked. “What in the hell happened to you?”

Lonnie quirked up an eyebrow, “Well, I got shot. A few times. I figured you’d remember. I mean, you were there and all.” Lonnie looked terrible. He was still in his uniform; the red scarf, just like Mal’s, was tied around his neck like a noose. Rivulets of rain streamed down the worn brown coat’s leather, but there were garish tears and blowouts splattering Lonnie’s chest and belly.

“Are you supposed to be some sort of ruttin’ zombie?” Mal knit his brows together. He couldn’t believe he was having a conversation with something that didn’t even exist.

“Lots scarier than ghosts.” Lonnie just shrugged. His insides pulled apart and then squished back together. “And we always talked better if we could throw a few punches.”

“That is true.”

“And I wouldn’t want ya to go straight through me.”

“Very considerate, Lonnie.”

They began walking again, but this time in silence. Mal shivered; Lonnie offered his coat, “It ain’t real, and it’s got holes all over it, but it’s somethin’.”

“Nice gesture.” Mal nodded, “Counts for somethin’.”

“Nice gestures ain’t countin’ for much these days. Tryin’ to explain away how much a pain in the ass that snow was just got me killed.” There was nothing Mal could say to make a proper response, so he just kept walking. “You tell my ma that I got killed runnin’ my mouth? Reckon she couldn’t be too damn surprised. She always said it would get me into trouble.”

“No.” Mal shook his head. “You were savin’ boys.”

There was a snort with absolutely no malice, only amusement. “Ai ya huai le, Mal. I was doin’ none such thing.”

“Took the boys’ minds off the fact that the Alliance was gonna be comin’ down on us at any second. Made them stop missin’ home for two minutes. You got them to laugh.”

“So what? I weren’t no saint down there. I might have kept them from eatin’ their gun right off, but you kept us alive, Mal.”

“You know,” Mal smiled glumly, “hearin’ that from a dead man don’t make me feel too good.”

Lonnie laughed again, “Technicality.”

“Regardless, I was no saint.” Mal continued trotting through the fields. “I killed men.”

“They’d’ve killed you.”

“The killing don’t worry me too much. I had to. But this bothers me. I couldn’t save my boys.” Mal stared downward watching his feet kick up mud as he walked. “Not only could I not save them, but I sent them to die. Time after time after time,” his voice was heavy; each word was proving to be difficult to say. “I sent my boys out there, and I knew some of them weren’t coming back, but the worst was when I lied to them.” Mal nodded morosely. “That was the worse. Tellin’ them they were gonna be heroes, that they were makin’ a difference. They weren’t heroes, and we didn’t make any differences. Things are just the same for everyone else. Same or worse. Only difference we made was a terrible one that robbed families.”

“That ain’t true, Mal. An’ you know it ain’t. If I’m sayin’ it, you know it. It was all in God’s hands. Mighta been on the losin’ side, but we weren’t on the wrong one.” Lonnie nodded gently. “Just doin’ your part. If it hadn’t been you, it’d be somebody else, an’ those boys were proud to be under you.” There was a heavy pause and then a hint of pride in Lonnie’s voice, “Proud to die under you.”

“Well, I ain’t proud.” Mal’s words were caustic. “Ain’t proud of a damn thing I did out there. I’m no saint. None of us were.” He sent his eyes skyward. “Understand that I’m a sinner, an’ God don’t look after sinners. An’ if God don’t look after sinners, this sinner ain’t gonna look to God.” Looking back to Lonnie, Mal blinked. Lonnie was gone. All that was there was the soft glow of a lantern through the hazy rain. Stalking two more yards, Mal found himself on his mama’s porch.

“You shouldn’t have waited up for me, Mama.” He stood before her, cold, wet, and ravaged. “You should have just gone to bed.”

“I was just watching the rain, bao bei.” She smiled gently. “God is in the rain after all.”


Thursday, August 17, 2006 12:16 PM


Ah, I loved it that his mama waited up for him, rain be damned! And I thought the part where Lonnie offers Mal his coat was a lovely gesture, made the ghost more human somehow. This was very good though Mal never got promoted to Captain while he was in the Independents. He left a Sergeant, Balls and Bayonets Brigade, and only became a Captain when he bought Serenity. One little query, where the good gorram was Zoe? Would have been nice to have a line or two to cover that. Perhaps she went back to find what she could of her folks while Mal went on his painful pilgramage home? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, August 17, 2006 4:20 PM


I really liked this. I liked Lonnie because, essentially he was Mal - Mal trying to work through everything by conjuring up his bastard companion (small 'C'). So he provided insight into Mal as to what kind of family/friends he had growing up, and what was on Mal's mind.

I loved the "Goin' home?", "Goin' back." distinction. And I loved that Mal's greeting his mama was just as he knew it'd be, and her not makin' a fuss, but still welcoming him warmly.

There are things that aren't in line with my perception of the 'verse as it stood after the war (I'm convinced the 'take my land' refrain is more than metaphor, for instance), but I had no problem accepting your interpretation for this exploration of Mal's struggle.

Within the context of this story, the wider arc of Mal trying to make a go of it back home, then eventually failing and reconnecting with Zoe rings true to me. I like the way you've made Mal's loss of faith and anger with God more of a process than an event. It puts a different perspective on it that is definately worth exploring.

Thanks for sharing!

Sunday, August 20, 2006 1:09 PM


Wow...this was some mighty deep and powerful stuff here, soliloqygirl. Definitely could see this as Mal's moment of final "acceptance" over his loss of faith...something drawn out and agonized over via a debate with Lonnie the Hallucination.

And concerning Mal's rank? It's not quite important, but I like to think that had the Browncoats managed to survive long enough, Mal would have been given at least a Lieutenant's commission, if not a Captain's one for his leadership duties at Serenity Valley. That or he got promoted but never got notified.



You must log in to post comments.



Classy Ladies Aren't Scared
In the future, Mal tends to a ranch and three girls. One is a woman, one is a hellraiser, and one is afraid of storms. This is a story concerning the one who is afraid of storms.

We'll Go Walking On The Beach
Malcolm Reynolds has said goodbye to many things during his long life: his home, his God, his compassion, his hope, his crew, his boat. However, this is the hardest one of the all.

171 Oak Drive
This is set as Mal's long walk home after the war. He struggles with some serious issues such as survivor's guilt, PTSD, and God.

The Old Blue and Gray
Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds knows that it doesn't matter if he lives or dies in the end. He's fighting for freedom, not for himself. :: Pre-series.

We'll Never Sleep (God Knows We Try)
A storm is brewing, and Mal knows how it will end, even if he refuses to acknowledge it. :: Spoilers for Out of Gas.

Way It Is Is The Way It Is - the missing scene of the pilot episode
Based off the shooting script for the pilot episode, this is the scene that I feel happened off camera. Why did Mal attempt to get information out of the Fed when it seemed easiest to kill the man? M/I