As if the soles of his boots had their own pretty plan, Mal found himself before River, who lay sprawled like a ragdoll, limbs all akimbo. Cradling the will-o-wisp, he made for the door, his boots struggling to find purchase, what with the mess of bodies every which where. Mal hadn’t seen such unnatural chaos since the war.
It was back then, when the war collapsed on in, that Mal’d laid hold a vow: never again. Never again would he step up, all bright-eyed ‘n believing, to fight a war - cause be damned. Weren’t no freedom in being a pawn on some gorram game board. Necessary loss, all tactical and such - that’s all he and his had been to them. No mind to see they were flesh ‘n bone, breathing ‘n bleeding – men and women only wanting the right to stand on their own two.
It was on that first go-se ‘Unification’ Day when Mal’d laid hold another vow: take care of he and his, to hell with the rest of the ‘verse. First that was just Zoe. After Serenity came into his life, bringing in Wash, followed by Kaylee, that ‘his’ came to mean crew. Then quiet as a cat with kits, crew’d grown to a nervous-making seven. Told himself he was more’n a mite relieved by the leave-taking. Not the least if last, the doc and his sis.
So why then was he carrying her back home? River weren’t crew in need of his protection, dong ma? Her head slid awkward and Mal hitched up her still-limp form until she was cradled right. He huffed. She’d sure gone lick-split though the rough ‘n tumble all on her lonesome. Didn’t need anyone’s help with that, least of all his. But she needed something, and from head to heels, he knew she weren’t finding that certain something without his stepping up.
Boots ringing on Serenity’s gang plank, he laid hold one more vow: no more hiding, only pursuing. He’d seek ‘til she found. It wasn’t about laying thumb to the Alliance - though that made for a more’n pleasant side - but because, truthsome, crew was crew be they on or off boat.
If’n it took all his days, so be it. River moaned in her sleep, clutching his shirt tight. Well, assuming she herself weren’t the death of him first.