Title: Broken Faith (working title)

Disclaimer: Joss owns it all.

Author's Note: So not what I was expecting to write today.

Malcolm Reynolds walked over the ground, coat flowing behind him in the slight breeze of the deceptively lovely day. The war…it was over. This was the first time he'd visited this cemetery since the Alliance had been declared the winners of the campaign he'd devoted years of his life to, and Mal found himself almost wishing for some rain to fall. Something, anything, to make this seem real, because the sunshine and birds singing were just not doing it for him.

He'd lost a lot of men in the war, and he had, in particular, lost a lot of men at the Battle of Serenity Valley. He wasn't going to visit them all, though, only one. He hadn't visited his grave since the day they'd buried him.

It had been sunny that day too. The day they buried Bendis.

Once that thought hit him, Mal's mind flew back to that day. They, he and Zoe, had joined the small crowd standing around the casket; some soldiers, some family, some presumed to be friends. Mal assumed the crying woman sitting at the forefront of the group on the other side of the casket was his mother.

Remembering the woman's tears, Malcolm Reynolds once again felt the crushing guilt that had weighed on his chest since the end of the war, as recent as it was. The Independents had lost, and he had let every one of his men down. They had all sacrificed their lives, for what? For the Alliance to come in like the tyrants they were and belittle their lives? It grated on him, every moment of every day, and he wasn't sure that would ever really stop.

Malcolm Reynolds rounded the top of one last small hill and saw the headstone. Mal walked up to Bendis's grave and stood tall, looking down at the engraved stone. He was visiting the grave of one, and could only see the face or think the name of one, but Bendis had, in Mal's mind, become the representative of all of them…all those men he'd failed. Mal could almost hear it…the chaos of Serenity Valley, the crashes and blasts of battle, and in it all, his own voice:

"We're not gonna die. We can't die, Bendis. You know why? Because we are so...very...pretty. We are just too pretty for God to let us die."

Mal scoffed now at his own words. He'd been wrong. God had let Bendis die. They had fought for the cause, fought for the right side, and fought for freedom, and for what? For most of his men to perish. For God to prove Mal a liar, and let Bendis, chiseled jaw and all, die. For his "angels," his would-be rescue ships, to turn around and abandon his men because some general or other had decided that he and what were left of his men weren't worth the risk to save.



God. What the hell good was God if he couldn't even pick the right side to win a war? If he was going to let young men suffer and die and sacrifice themselves, only to have an army of tyrants take over the 'Verse and set themselves up as gods in their own right…what good was he?

None.

He was trying to start over. He'd gotten himself a ship – a Firefly class – and had gotten Zoe to agree to fly with him. Something had told him to come here, to visit, to do…something. Mal went to one knee at the side of Bendis's grave, and his hands went to the chain that had been hanging around his neck since before the war began, lifting it up and over his head. He held it pooled in his palm, looking at the silver cross against his skin. It was nothing to him now…had been nothing to him since the Valley.

Mal laid the piece of silver at the base of the headstone, head bent in respect, not reverence, before he stood once more. "Bendis," Mal said with a nod, paying his last respects to a soldier who hadn't deserved to die, and through him, to all the others who had shared his fate, and saying his last good-byes to a God who'd failed him. Failed him and the rest of the 'Verse, too.

Mal turned and walked back over that hill, where Zoe waited for him. "Sir?"

"Let's get back to the ship and find us a crew, Zoe." Mal had made up his mind. Things might not be how they wanted, but he still had his sky. It was time to get back in it.