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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Takes place after "War Stories". Mal is having trouble sleeping after being tortured. A passenger aboard Serenity discovers an old friend - and makes a new one.-------CHAPTER 7: Mal and his newest passenger both have insomnia.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1071 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimers: Everything belongs to Joss, except for one character of my creation.
**Mousing over the Chinese should reveal the English translations on most browsers. If not, translations follow the story.
The dream that night began as it always did, with Wash and him blindfolded and disoriented in a strange room.
It ended like it always did with him struggling and clawing his way out of sleep to find himself sitting bolt upright in his bed, soaked with sweat, heart thudding.
He rose, as had become his nightly routine, and ascended to the main level, hoping he hadn’t actually screamed out loud and wakened any of the others. Barefoot and shirtless, wearing only sleep trousers, he padded to the galley for the caffeine that would chase away the remnants of the nightmare. Bleary-eyed and chilled from the ship’s cooled air mingling with the sweat on his body, he moved to the stove.
“Hello,” came a voice from the lounge.
Mal started, fumbling the cup he had just picked up.
Wo de ma! he cried, clutching his chest. His heart, which had finally slowed to a reasonable pace, now threatened to just plain stop. He whirled to see Alex sitting on the sofa.
“You scared the hell out of me!” he snapped. “What are you doin’, sneakin’ up on a guy in the middle of the night?”
She smiled and shrugged.
“Not so much with the sneakin’ up—more like sitting with a book and a cup of tea.” She gestured with her mug. “Have some—water’s still hot.”
Mal shook his head and moved to the cubby where he kept the instant coffee.
“Not really a tea drinker,” he said, scooping out enough coffee to make his spoon stand up in the mug and salute. He poured water into the mess and began stirring.
“The tea’s decaffeinated,” Alex said. “Might ought to drink it instead of that—you’ll never get back to sleep that way.”
“That’s the plan.” Mal moved to the lounge and sat down. Resting an elbow on the arm of his chair, he rubbed his eyes. He was quite suddenly aware of his hair, wet with sweat, hanging over his forehead.
I must look a gorram sight, he thought, assessing his bare feet and chest and his baggy trousers. ‘Course, I wasn’t expectin’ company.
“So...what are you doin’ up here?” he inquired, and then he frowned as something occurred to him. “Kaylee put you up to this, didn’t she?”
“Kaylee wha—put me up to what?” Alex was clearly surprised. “Insomnia?”
“She’s still frettin’ over the idea of me not bein’ well, and she had you come up here to pick at my brainpan in the middle of the night and find out what’s ailin’ me. I shoulda known.” He muttered, as an aside, “Remind me to chain her up in the engine room tomorrow!”
Alex laughed out loud.
“Captain, if you’re harborin’ thoughts like that one, maybe you do need your brain picked at some!” she chuckled. “But rest easy—I’m a nurse, not a head-shrinker. Even if I was, I don’t think I would do my best work in the middle of a sleepless night.”
“So, why are you up here, then? In my lounge?”
Alex looked at him, puzzled.
“I told you—I can’t sleep.”
“There’s a passenger lounge...in the passenger dorm.”
“I came to make some tea, and this seemed a comfortable place to sit...I’m sorry, am I not supposed to be here? Because you said I could help myself to anything in the kitchen and make myself at home—”
“I didn’t really mean in the middle of the night.” Mal’s tone was suddenly brusque.
Alex rose, gathering up her book and her tea.
“I’m sorry,” she said, visibly taken aback at his crossness. “Goodnight, Captain.” She moved to exit.
Mal immediately felt terrible.
“Oh, god,” he said, “I’m sorry. I—I’m really sorry.” He shook his head and laughed, a thin, rueful chuckle. “This is just great—I’ve had to apologize to you twice in one day. You must think I’m a helluva guy.”
Alex stopped and looked back at him.
“You are one of a kind,” she agreed, and moved off toward her room.
“Um...come back?” Mal asked clumsily. Alex stopped again. “Please?” Mal said, more softly this time. He hesitated. “It’ll be nice to have somebody to talk to.” He fixed her with what he hoped was a winning smile. “ I’ll be a perfect gentleman—I promise.”
Alex turned slowly and reentered the lounge.
“This I have to see,” she said, and sat down across from him.
Mal sighed and rubbed his eyes again.
“So...” he said, “Why ain’t you sleepin’?” Then he frowned. “Is it your accommodations? Is your room not comfortable?”
For a moment he looked anxious. Alex shook her head and tucked her feet up under her on the sofa.
“No, my room’s fine,” she assured him. She laughed softly. “Funny thing, it’s kinda deja vu.”
“Deja vu?” Mal was curious. “How so?”
“The med ship I worked on during the war was a Firefly. It’s been a long while, but I think my room was in the same location as the one I’m in here. It’s kinda weird. Brings back some memories, that’s for sure. But it’s comfortable.”
“The ‘verse is a small place, after all,” Mal commented. “So what is it, then? Keepin’ you from sleep?”
“Thoughts of what’s ahead, I guess.”
She nodded. “Yeah. It’s beginning to sink in that it really is a scary place, and I’m awfully close to actually being there now.”
“Never too late to change your mind,” Mal suggested.
She shook her head slowly.
“I think it is,” she replied. “My family needs me to do this.”
“How does your mama feel about you goin’?”
“She doesn’t know.”
Mal looked at her sharply.
“She doesn’t know?”
Alex shook her head again.
“She’d worry herself to death if she knew. All she knows is I found a good job and I’ll be able to send her piles of money.”
“Wow,” Mal said. He started to say something else, then stopped.
“What?” Alex prompted.
Mal shook his head this time.
“No, you started to say something,” Alex prodded.
Mal fixed her with a direct gaze.
“Okay...this is gonna sound bad...but what happens if you get yourself killed on that moon? What then? And your family not even knowin’ what happened to you?”
Alex was quiet for a moment.
“It can’t happen,” she finally said.
“But what if it does?” he persisted.
“It can’t, that’s all. It’s not an option.”
They were both quiet for a time after that, sipping their drinks. Mal spoke again first.
“I’m not sure if I think you’re incredibly brave or completely kuang zhe de ,” he said to her. “But I have to admire your reason for doin’ it. Ain’t nothin’ in the ‘verse could stop me from takin’ care of my family.”
Alex nodded her agreement, looking, Mal thought, a little sad.
“They’re all I’ve got,” she said. “I have to.”
“No husband? No kids?” Mal asked.
“No kids,” Alex said. “Had a husband, but he’s dead now.”
Mal sized up his newest passenger while they talked. A pleasant looking woman, although not stunningly beautiful. Certainly not beautiful the way Inara was beautiful (but then, who was? Inara was the most gorgeous creature Mal had ever seen). Alex was pretty in a more average way. Hair somewhere between light and dark, somewhere between long and short. Decent figure, although it was hard to get the full picture, as she had been in loose garments every time Mal had seen her. Mal couldn’t tell in the subdued light of Serenity’s interior what color her eyes were. Age-wise, Mal put her somewhere in her late 30s, maybe 40, although, admittedly, he had never been good at determining age. Too young to be a widow, that was for sure. Clearly, from the things she had told the crew about herself, her life had not been easy. Something occurred to him then.
“You was a nurse during the war?”
“That’s right,” she said.
Mal hesitated before asking the next question.
“So you were...in what...” he began, not quite knowing how to ask it, but Alex read the question and smiled.
“My coat looked a lot like the one you were wearing when I met you,” she assured him.
He smiled then.
“You know, you’re sort of a folk hero where I’m from,” Alex told him.
“Really?” Mal was genuinely surprised that she was aware of who he was.
“Yes. We all said after we heard about the Battle of Serenity that if we’d had someone like you leading our troops, things might’ve gone differently.”
“Well, you can see the way things ended up,” he said, gesturing in a sweeping motion around him. “For all of us. Wouldn’ta made any difference where I was, we still woulda been on the losing end.”
“Maybe,” Alex agreed. “But if someone strong like you had been leading my husband’s unit, maybe he wouldn’t have been captured and tortured in an Alliance war prison. Maybe, if he had to die in the war, he would’ve died in battle instead of coming home so screwed up that the only option he felt he had was eating his own gun.”
Mal was stunned. He had no idea how to respond.
“So...” he finally managed, aware as he was speaking how lame it sounded, but desperately needing to lighten the mood, “...not a big fan of the Alliance, I take it?”
Alex smiled, a thin, humorless smile.
“Not so much.”
They sat in silence then, Alex looking as though her remaining energy was suddenly gone. After a bit, she rose.
“I think I’ll try to go back to sleep,” she said quietly. “It was nice talking to you. I hope you can get some rest.” She took her leave quickly.
Mal sat in the lounge after she left, keenly aware of the quiet and how alone he was there in the middle of the night. His exhausted mind was running over the conversation they had just had, and memories of his past began bubbling to the surface unbidden in a brain that was too tired to subdue them and keep them compartmentalized like he tried so hard to do.
Damn war, he thought. Ruined everyone’s lives. Everybody’s got a story, and none of ‘em good. Just when you think you’ve seen and heard everything, you realize you haven’t begun to scrape the surface.
He leaned his head against the back of the chair, too exhausted to fight the thoughts marching through his head like the soldiers he had done battle with those years ago. The images of war and battle led to thoughts of his own family on Shadow; his mother and the cattle ranch where he grew up...his sister and her husband and children...friends and loved ones and the life he had lived. A family and a world destroyed by the war.
He closed his eyes and just let the movie play.
At some point he fell asleep, and, although plenty was going on his thoughts and in his dreams, for the first time in awhile Niska and his henchmen did not come to call.
Mal slept there in his chair, head back, coffee cup dangling from his hand, and that’s where Kaylee found him in the morning.
Wo de ma = Mother of God
kuang zhe de = crazy
Go to Chapter 8.
Back to Chapter 6.
Saturday, September 9, 2006 12:06 PM
Saturday, September 9, 2006 12:27 PM
Saturday, September 9, 2006 8:01 PM
Sunday, September 10, 2006 3:02 PM
Tuesday, September 12, 2006 6:34 PM
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