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"Lord, Lord please, help this foolish old man." Book fic.
On his knees and Shepherd Book can feel Serenity straining around him, his own carefully folded body trembling in time with her. He thinks about praying--Lord, Lord please, help this foolish old man--and places his hands flat against the floor instead. Lowers his forehead and listens to the thrum of Serenity's engines. He can not sleep. He can not find peace within himself, through his bible, with his Lord.
He has, Shepherd Book thinks, an old man's memory: too ready to glory in things best forgotten, too eager to forget things best remembered. He had felt wise and serene and he had allowed himself to forget too many things. The sun had seemed too steady, the landscape too familiar, the ground too solid and Shepherd Book had looked to the sky and had longed. He had dreamt of the vastness of space, of the beauty of planets laid out beneath him, of stars stretching out as far as his eyes could see. He had dreamt of the majesty of all the Lord's creations spread out before him.
Shepherd Book had forgotten the easy violence of the universe. He had knelt before his Lord and had sought forgiveness for his sins; he had forgotten the desperation of men and women. Shepherd Book had found solace in God's glory; he had forgotten how little faith weighed in the hearts and minds of God's children beyond the monastery's solid walls. He had sinned and repented and the world had not changed with him. Shepherd Book feels suddenly, terrifyingly vulnerable in his faith: but one man clinging to the Good Lord's words in a universe which seems uncaring of them.
Serenity, Shepherd Book thinks, and his sense of irony has rarely served him well. This ship is full of secrets; her crew is angry and frightened and dangerous. And yet, Shepherd Book thinks, and yet, they are good people and that is more horrible yet. His hands are shaking--Lord, oh Lord, grant me strength--and while Shepherd Book has been many things in his life, he does not believe himself to have been a strong man. An arrogant man, cruel, unyielding, and the universe is full of such men. Serenity, Shepherd Book thinks, and he fears for his faith, for his hard-won peace.
Faith is easy amongst the faithful. Kindness is easy towards the kind. What, Shepherd Book wonders now, what is one man's belief in the face of all the cruelty in men's hearts? What is faith, what is goodness, Shepherd Book begs of his God, when even a good man may kill, coolly, calmly, unrepentant? What is the worth of faith to a man too new to such when the demands of survival wear upon even the hardiest of souls? Shepherd Book kneels with his face to the floor, the hum and rattle of Serenity's engines at his ear, the sound of his companions' shouts and laughter too near.
And Shepherd Book fears.