Those who knew a little of Malcolm Reynolds would have said, thinking to be poetic, that his first love was the war. They would have been wrong. His first love was the sky.
It was difficult—impossible—to describe to someone who had been earthbound all their life the joy that Mal found when he was flying. It wasn't the colors, because once you were airborne everything was black, and it wasn't the stars, because all Alliance planets looked the same and the planets on the outer rim that rejected the Alliance's authority did, too. The destinations were nothing special
Had Mal been pressed to describe it, he would have said that the sky was freedom, and the definition would have bothered him in its inadequacy. Truth be told, it was wrong. It was the ship that was freedom, that allowed travel and experiences and life. But to every born captain before him, like the sea from Earth That Was, the sky was the canvas upon which all these things were painted. She was the ocean in which a thousand possibilities could become reality one reality. There was nothing smaller that could be said about her.
Sometimes, as everyone tends to do, he forgot what made his beloved special. All too often when he found himself on land, frustrated by the grimy, dirt-ridden ambitions of humans for whom greed was an end in itself, it was easy to lose focus on the important. She became a backdrop for the rest of the 'verse, a transparent prism holding planets in place.
But all it took was one glance over the horizon to remind him of why he still flew. There was life in that emptiness, not the teeming, sweating energy of humans but pure, thrumming verve. This was his love—this was his God—this was his sky.
"You don't ask for much, do you?" Inara asked him, that tiny, perfect smile on her lips. "Just the sky to call your own."
At the time, Mal had no answer for her. Never a man of words, he could not explain why the words "my sky" fell so easily from his lips. He could only look around him, at Jayne caressing Vera with a lover's touch; at Kaylee and Simon and their awkward, adolescent flirtations; at River, overflowing with quirks and random, nonsensical wisdom; Zoë, who understood him better than anyone else onboard, and Wash, who had the lightest heart and quickest smile of the bunch; Book with his Bible; Inara with her beauty.
With all these things inside him, he found himself in the cockpit, looking out into the black. Serenity was humming beneath him, telling him the stories of the crew. Mal leaned back, grinned.
Of course it was his sky.
Who else could it possibly belong to?