Disclaimer: I do not own "Firefly" or its characters, nor do I own any of the saints mentioned.

A/N: Inspired by Book's line from the BDM, and references events in it, as well as "Safe," "The Message," and "The Train Job." I don't consider it anything too spoiler-y, though. This is my first "Firefly" fic. I'm not entirely overjoyed with how it turned out, but it's not completely horrible, either. Also, if I've made any mistakes about the saints, please forgive me; I don't mean to offend anyone. I got information from the Catholic Encyclopedia (www dot newadvent dot org), and the Catholic Community Forum (www dot catholic dash forum dot com), which has a very good Patron Saints Index. So before my note gets longer than the fic, onward.

St. Francis of the Skies

It's not your way, Mal.
I have a way?

There had been a great number of saints on Earth-that-was. Book's order didn't venerate saints—personally, he considered them faithful servants or righteous people, worthy of admiration, but not adoration. Still, their stories were fascinating, and Book had read about many of them. The stories of their faith in the face of tribulation and their work with the poor and disenfranchised were inspiring, they surely were. But it was their miracles that enthralled Book. He felt a little ashamed of his wonder and curiosity, and he knew that modern technology could disprove some of the more legendary stories, but still... Faith could not be explained.

Tradition assigned patron saints to any number of occupations or positions or countries. There were saints for plumbers (Vincent Ferrer) and musicians (Cecilia and Gregory), the blind (Lucy) and the lame (Giles, Servatus, Lutgardis),

orphans (Agnes of Rome, Frances Xavier Cabrini, Aurelius, and still others, although the Tams weren't orphaned legally, just spiritually and emotionally),

travelers (Christopher, perhaps the best-known saint all around)

and doctors (the apostle Luke, the archangel Raphael, Cosmas, Damian, and Pantaleon)

and pilots (Joseph of Cupertino, Therese of Lisieux, and Our Lady of Loreto)

and mechanics (Catherine of Alexandria)

and soldiers (Michael the Archangel the most outstanding of a long list, and Joan of Arc)

and reformed prostitutes (Mary of Egypt, Mary Magdalen, and Margaret of Cortona)

and hopeless cases (Jude). Book had often thought that Captain Reynolds would appreciate St. Jude.

But Francis of Assisi was the one who reminded Book most of Mal. Francis had fought in a losing battle and had been jailed thereafter. Unlike Mal, Francis later embraced a life of poverty, choosing to live as a poor but holy man and trying to lead his fellow men to faith and salvation. So perhaps the saint and the captain were not so similar in cold historical details; the similarities were in spirit. Francis cared for the poor and for animals, and delighted in doing so; Mal didn't quite share Francis' love of man- and animal-kind, but he loved his crew and his ship, and he would do anything to protect them.

For all his denial, there were beliefs that Mal held dear. He believed in freedom, especially the freedom they found with Serenity. He believed in Serenity herself, and in his crew's ability to keep her flying. (Book wasn't sure how they did it, but they always did.) Mal Reynolds certainly did not have a righteous love for his fellow man. What he had, though, was some sense of justice. A sense of right and wrong that, while it usually did not mesh with that of the ruling powers, honored those who were overlooked by those ruling powers.

He could have left River in the Maidenhead. He could have left Simon and River on Jiangyang—left them there permanently, that is. He could have turned Tracey over to the crooked lieutenant, could have given the medicine to Niska and left the people of Paradiso to suffer. But he didn't.

Because Mal had, as the saying went, a soft spot for strays. He couldn't not care for them. Much of the time his motivations were not pure or noble and certainly not holy; the Tams were helpful to have around, at least in theory, and could be of a personal benefit to Mal. Sometimes the captain liked to pretend that he only did things for people because they were useful to him, and he could be quite convincing. He helped too many people who could do him no good for it to be true, though.

Mal was no saint, that was certain; and he held no promise of heavenly reward for those who suffered in this life. But St. Francis didn't just preach about the afterlife; he fed the hungry and ministered to the sick wherever he found them, no matter what the consequences were to himself. Mal claimed he was a bad man, and a criminal, and an unbeliever, but no real saint ever declared himself one. He took care of those who couldn't take care of themselves, even those he didn't owe something to, those he didn't know. He would never be sainted, but there were people whose lives were better because of Malcolm Reynolds.

And after all, followers of St. Francis wore brown coats, too.