He was never one for a trip down memory lane—especially since most of his memories he'd much rather forget—but there was something about that day that always took him back.

It was his Ma's birthday. He rarely remembered it. Hell, he rarely even knew what day it was. Anyhow, he always found himself thinking back on things and wondering what she'd say about his life now if she were still alive.

Mrs. Reynolds was a tough woman. She drank whiskey like it was water and spent most of her life working. When she wasn't working, she was cleaning her guns. She rarely cared about much of anything except for two things: her ranch and her family.

When it came to Mal, she was often compared to a grizzly bear…if it was given steroids and a six shooter. If he got hurt, she'd tell him to get up, stop crying, and try to avoid bleeding on the furniture, but the second he brought a girl home, the overprotective claws came out and so did the six shooter. Sadly, the latter wasn't a metaphor.

Ma would do the same thing whenever he brought a gal home. She'd give them a once over with her critical eye, fake a smile to lull them into a false sense of security, invite them in for supper, and during the meal her true colors would come out. She'd ask the girl question after question, purposely making them all sorts of uncomfortable. That was nothing compared to after they were done eating.

He could practically smell the gunpowder and whiskey just recalling her ritual. Ma would point to the couch and they'd sit down while she poured a cup of whiskey. She'd set it aside and go for the entire bottle. Then she'd drink while cleaning her gun. After she'd do that, she'd give the same long speech she'd always give.

It was rare for his relationship to last two weeks after she met his mother. He hardly ever brought them by, but they'd have to meet her eventually.

He was a little sad that he wouldn't get the opportunity to introduce Ma to her. She wasn't like anyone else he had ever been with. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she would have survived the visit to his mother's. Hell, she would have probably been able to survive holidays on the ranch. He resisted the urge to laugh as he pictured the visit in his mind.

Ma would look her over, give her that little fake smile—she'd see right through it—and lead them to the dinning room. She'd wait until the main course to dig her motherly teeth into his new girl, but she wouldn't be able to make her uncomfortable. Nothing made her uncomfortable. She'd answer calmly and evenly with that enduring smile.

After supper, Ma would lead them to the living room, point to the couch, grab the whiskey, and start cleaning her favorite gun. She'd look up at her sitting beside Mal, attempting to hide the joy she got in terrifying perspective daughter-in-laws.

"Oh watch it darlin', you're right in my line of fire. If I were to slip and this went off, the bullet would go right through that pretty head of yours."

And then she'd look his Ma square in the eye and state simply, "The gun isn't loaded."

He'd laugh and get that "I'm gonna take a hickory switch to your behind, Malcolm!" look from his mother.

Next it would be time for the speech. "If you're gonna be a part of this family, you best take care of my boy like I know he takes care of you. If you do anything to hurt him, on intention or not, I will hunt you down and put a bullet in your head," she'd dramatically shut the cylinder with a snap.

She'd answer all earnest-like. "I love him, Mrs. Reynolds. If I did anything, even if it was unintentionally, to harm him, I'd deserve that bullet. It was a pleasure meeting you."

"I think that you portrayed me perfectly," she said as she turned to face him. "That's exactly what I would have said."

He grinned at her. "How long did you know I was standing here?"

"Since you made up your mind to come and see me."

She motioned to him. He walked over to her and she pulled him down by the suspenders to give him a kiss. She laughed as he easily lifted her from the chair and into his arms. He sat back down with her seated comfortably in his lap.

"I would have liked to have met her," she commented while mindlessly tracing the outline of his face.

"You really are crazy."

She laughed. "I'd be up for the challenge."

"You know, Ma might of liked you."

"She wouldn't have liked anyone you brought home."

"She would of disliked you less."

"I'm glad to hear it. If you met my parents…"

"I'm glad you're still a fugitive in that respect."

"Don't worry. Simon is worse than they would be."

"I have the scars to prove it."

"You do not! You have no scars on your face. That's where he hit you. Your scars are in…other places…"

"You would know."

She smirked up at him. He brushed some of the hair out of her face.

"It don't matter what she'd think anyhow."


"Yeah. 'Cause what I think 'bout you is all that matters."

"What is it that you think?"

"You know what I think."

"Remind me."

"I think that you're great."









She huffed. "You aren't saying it."

"'Cause I don't think it. I know it. I love you darlin'."

"I love you too."

He leaned down and gently kissed her again. He knew that if Ma would have approved of any of the women he brought home, she would have approved of River.

The end

Happy Mother's Day!