BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

KACIDILLA

Midnight Art Critic
Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mal can't sleep; River finds the reasons inspiring. All characters belong to Joss - i'm just playing with them for a spell.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1400    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Mal woke from a sleep he had been fighting to maintain since his head had touched pillow. It wasn't the first night this had happened. It was the first night in a long while since it had happened. He sat up carefully - his ribs still ached from Niska's machine, even though that had been over a week ago. He hadn't told the doc yet. It wasn't something he hadn't lived through before. Ribs would heal. He knew that from experience. He was more concerned with the dream he'd been fighting in his sleep... Wo de ma, those images were hard to shake. He got up and, for lack of anything else to occupy his mind, climbed the ladder to the rest of his ship. His Serenity. His home. His reality. He made his way to the bridge, knowing everyone else was sleeping comfortably in their own bunks, capable of counting sheep without the plague of nightmares that were currently haunting him. He checked the course heading, re-read the wave that had invited him and his crew to the job and busied himself with various other tasks that did not need to be done. He cleaned off part of the consule - it looked as though Wash had been eating while flying again. He moved some of the dinosoaurs into new and amusing positions. He stared at the stars as they flew by in the night. He couldn't get rid of the memories. He left the bridge, passing Kaylee's brightly lit doorway and wondered if she were sleeping in there or if she was sleeping in her hammock in the engine room again. They were trying to save Serenity from any excessive energy and had turned down heating during the nights. She had plenty of blankets in her bunk, but he worried she might catch a chill in that hammock of hers. He passed his own bunk and continued on towards the engine room, telling himself he wasn't avoiding sleep. He was just making sure his crew wasn't trying to tempt pneumonia. He stopped short when he saw there was a light on in the dining room. Who could possibly be awake? And why? And would they wonder why he's awake, as well? He stepped forward to see...River sitting at the table, splitting her focus between the lamp (and only source of light in the room currently) and a large piece of paper before her. She was drawing and writing and muttering to herself - or, Mal supposed, she could be talking to the lamp itself. "Single source of nothing, too much to think to stop," she was whispering just now. "Take the leg, but save your wing for supper. The light burns away the shadow monster and no one saw it coming, what did Wiley see, he saw it but he didn't report it. Not reporting it - that's a crime. It's a crime..." She stopped suddenly and looked directly at Mal.

"Can't sleep?" Mal asked softly. River frowned at him, then looked at the paper before her. She seemed stumped by the question.

"The accessibility of sleep is not an impossible state of being," she said slowly. "It is an undesired repetition. I'll have none of it."

Mal entered the dining room completely, allowing himself into the small circle of light, and placed his hands on the back of the chair nearest him. He considered her words carefully. She watched him with a look of curious disinterest, as only she could.

"Can't argue with that," he finally assented. He glanced at the paper she had before her and nearly stopped breathing. "What's that there?"

"Paper," she answered. "Flat remains of a living thing, home now to a host of symbolic series of lines and arcs as they recreate the stains of a long lost after-thought. Do you want it?"

"Do I...what?"

"Hang it on the ice box, show it to your friends," River babbled, adding more lines and arcs to the after-thoughts. "Such a pretty drawing, I can see that is a dog and Mommy and Daddy. Why does Mommy cry when daddy says he loves her, can't you see I'm busy show your pictures to the nice man now, sweetie, no one is here to judge you, but that's not nice you shouldn't pull your sister's hair."

"Thank you for that explanation," Mal muttered in reply. The girl was now staring into the light again, her hand moving the charcoal against the paper without thought.

"There's so much blood, stop the bleeding, save the leg, it's a crime..."

"River, stop," Mal said firmly. "Stop. It's best you get to bed. Where is your brother?"

"You shouldn't pull your sister's hair, she didn't mean to," River replied darkly. She looked to Mal with a hurt look on her face. "It hurts."

"I wouldn't doubt it," he answered, not completely sure what he was answering. "I'll speak to him in the morning. But for now, you should be in bed."

"Can you save the leg?" she asked as he took the piece of charcoal from her unresisting fingers and helping her to her feet.

"I...they did," Mal promised. "Not to worry, it's saved."

"No one sleeps like a baby," River sighed, her eyes watching the paper on the table as she allowed Mal to lead her to the doorway. "It's a crime. It's such a crime."

"That it is," Mal nodded, herding her to the passenger dorms and to her own room. He didn't allow himself to think of the meaning behind this conversation. "But you should really be sleeping right now."

"Your words," River grinned over her shoulder. "Ghosts that linger and hold you. Why do you dream?"

"You tell me," Mal whispered, knowing how close they were to Simon's room and not wishing to wake anyone else. River turned to face him.

"No one knew about it," she whispered. "She took away her own pain, but gave the pain to someone who was sleeping anyway. Held her nose and dipped below the surface but never told them the water's fine. But the water is on fire. Can't breathe if you can't swim."

"Bed," Mal ordered.

"Pulls my hair but won't apologize," River pouted as she entered her room. She turned back to close the door. "Didn't mean to, doesn't matter. Still hurts."

"I'm sorry," Mal said softly once the door slid closed. He didn't see her nod in reply. He returned to the dining room, suddenly tired. He bent to pick up the paper, which had managed to slide to the floor in the absence of River's hand keeping it on the table. He looked at the dark lines and arcs in the low light.

He had to admit, she was talented. He could read the words on the IV as clearly as he had years ago when he'd been hospitalized in the war after a severe attack had nearly killed his unit. The name on the IV was a painkiller...it was supposed to have been working its job in his system, allowing him to sleep while he healed. Instead, it portrayed the nightnurse who had been keeping a "special eye" on the critical wounded pushing the IV's needle into her own vein. At the time, Mal had been sure he was dreaming it, as he had been sure he had dreamed most of the conversations that took place around him. It wasn't until Zoë caught the woman in the act and had taken steps to correct the situation that he had realized his painkillers weren't as weak as he'd originally thought.

It was an amazing likeness of a woman River had never met...and Zoë's face in shock and horror behind the nurse's dizzied expression. Surrounding this image, forming a border of macabre images, there were the other pieces from Mal's nightmare that night.

Mal's ribs ached. He rolled the paper tightly, turned off the light and went back to his bunk - completely forgetting his original impulse to check on Kaylee in the engine room. He tucked the tube of paper into his trunk beneath his bed, taking care it wouldn't be crushed by anything, but that it also wouldn't come unrolled any time soon. He washed his hands of the dust the charcoal had left behind and dried his hands carefully before settling into his bed once more.

The girl...was not quite right.

It was the last thought he had that night before sleep overtook him.

He didn't think of that drawing or the midnight conversation again until weeks later, when Kaylee confessed to the crew that she'd witnessed River shoot three men with her eyes closed.

And then, he couldn't help but think of it.

COMMENTS

Sunday, February 27, 2011 6:23 PM

KATESFRIEND


Great job and a great imaginative view of what convinced Mal on so little evidence that River was a reader. Loved the multilevel staging of past, present and future you included in such a compact fic. Great visual images of night, the lighting, and the drawing done without her looking at it. Love your writing!

Sunday, February 27, 2011 7:17 PM

BYTEMITE


Very interesting. I also think you did a good job with the River speak.

Monday, February 28, 2011 6:43 AM

AMDOBELL


I really liked this, especially the connection between River and Mal. She seems to tap into the things that ail him in a way that brings them sometimes to painful light but in an oddly healing way. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, February 28, 2011 9:09 AM

JANE0904


I wouldn't be surprised if, had the series continued, Mal and River would have had other conversations like this, and he would have admitted there had been other incidents that persuaded him she was a Reader. Good stuff, if slightly chilling.

Monday, February 28, 2011 1:39 PM

PLATONIST


I’ve always wondered why and how Mal seemed to know River's abilities earlier than the rest of the crew.

Thanks for writing and welcome back.


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