Spoilers: Serenity - The (Real) Pilot
Archive Permission: Granted to anyone who asks. Please ask.
Author Notes: Thanks to Shaye, House Draven and Cofax for comments, and Melymbrosia who had the pokey stick.
Disclaimer: Characters property of Mutant Enemy, no infringement intended. No money being made. Tell Fox you want more of the same.
Feedback: Read and re-read until the electrons fade at firstname.lastname@example.org
The window lacks three of four glass panes. The breeze blows through the frame unfettered, and brings with it the sound of distant hollering and the staccato thunder of bolting horses. Patience draws the blanket closer. The thin weave no more keeps out the sound than it does the cold wind.
Once, shouts and the sound of running horses would have pulled her from the bed no matter the weather or the hour. This was Whitefall - her world, her town, and no one raised hell without her leave. Her place, her people. Three years ago, a man walked down main street, shooting holes in lit upper story windows as he went, drunk as a missionary after High Mass. From the dirt street, he was only shattering glass and ventilating a few yards of tarpaper. Patience herself shot him, still wrapped in a quilt but wearing her hat, three hundred meters and one bullet through his head. She went back to bed and slept until daybreak. After breakfast, finding the drunk's body still on the street, she stripped her sheriff of his badge and run him out of town in his longjohns.
Once upon a time. Now she needs a nurse to help her rise from bed, and a pair of canes to walk. Patience shuts her eyes and wishes she could close her ears to the distant brawl.
It has been a year, just, since Malcolm Reynolds dropped Stevison's horse on top of her, breaking her hip and shattering one ankle. She had lain there in the dust for ten hours, the horse stiffening and fifteen liters of blood thick on the ground. The buzzards had started circling the second hour, landed the fifth. From where she lay, she had heard the birds squabbling over the eyeballs and sweetmeats of the scattered corpses. She had lain there throughout the day and into the night until the deputy mayor had realized the drop had fallen and sent riders to retrieve her. Another four hours in a travois, bouncing over sage and stone, as the men muttered in low voices about the fiery flash that had reached over the rim of the world. So bright it even eclipsed the sun. She had shut her eyes then, too, against the pain and the burn. But there was no shutting away the sound, and the words linking Mal Reynolds to a midday, miracle dawn gnawed straight into her brain.
She hears tales, now and then, when unwary strangers get likkered up in the bar and start talking of sights they've seen and tell they've heard. She hears how Mal Reynolds fleeced an Inner-World hospital of a thousand thousand platinum's worth of drugs. How Reynolds had crossed Niska twice and still lived. How it was getting to be enough to shorten a person's life expectancy to cross Malcolm Reynolds.
Sometimes, if the speaker's had enough gin to forget where they are, they tell the story of how Mal Reynolds had a Reaver ship tight on his tail, and slipped away, in a flashy, suicide maneuver old as Earth-that-was and possible only in a Firefly class crate.
And the sound always carries to Patience, sitting in a corner of the bar, and drinking cheap rye against the grinding ache in her leg. Even the haze of drink cannot shut away the sound of laughter, low but unmistakable, in the far corners of the bar. Trapped by her crippled body, she keeps on drinking. It makes the laughter as easy to ignore as the sidelong glances her deputy and the sheriff exchange when they think she's not looking.
Now glass shatters in the near distance. Patience draws the blanket closer. Once upon a time, the only disturbers of the peace in her town had ridden for her brand. Now her subordinates circle each other, black vultures under a clear sky, drawing silent arcs in the air. And Patience is an old woman, crippled, who can feel power slip through her fingers like limestone grit.
The wind stirs the curtain as it passes. Patience shuts her eyes, waiting for silence.
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