Disclaimer: They're all Whedon's.

Author's Note: Who really believes that Mal has never done anything that might warrant a death sentence?

Who Shall Stand

by S. Risen

The gallows wear the fragrance of sweet cut pine,

a christening of sawdust -- expectation.

Nooses are elegant in silhouette.

Only the villain of the piece,

straight-backed and proud on the trapdoor,

commands as many pleasant shivers.

It's a clean collection of geometry,

judges the modest audience

(the little ones ugly with fascination).

Don't it sometimes take his head off?

The thief holds his soldier's stance

and trembles like a kitten when they blindfold him.

A voice tumbles out from above a shepherd's collar--

ever-merciful, he wants to know:

You got anything you need to say?

(A word could turn them all to stone,

faces rough-hewn to mirror his nauseous fear.

Dead men have that power.)

He expires in pink blooms of burst vessels,

frosted blue lips. There's a waterfall roar

in his ears--his leaden, freefalling heart

and sated justice purring on the ground.

What was it he said? (They wander off,

their own masters once more.) Anybody hear?

I owe you nothin', the preacher echoes, and echoes.

Not even an explanation.