Midnight Cowboy - Ch.1 Sleep Cycles
Monday, January 1, 2018

A peek into what goes on during Serenity's artificial nights. Mal pretends to be mad and River pretends to misunderstand. Mal fumbles through too many variables and they both grow into their own before everything goes pear shaped.


Sleep Cycles

Mal couldn’t sleep. He felt like he could sleep for a week straight he was so tired but actual sleep wouldn’t come, so he laid awake in his bed staring up at the heavy cloth hanging from his ceiling instead, trying to remember how it had gotten up there in the first place. He knew Inara was responsible for the bit of frippery; nobody else would have thought to hang bolts of cloth from a gorram ceiling. It wasn't to his taste but it was an easy enough thing to ignore so he usually did. A bit too well apparently because here was, actually trying to remember when and how it had gotten into his bunk, without success.

Irritated that he couldn’t pin down the exact moment his space had become invaded made him shift restlessly again, forgetting that Inara was curled into his side and accidentally jostling her. He froze automatically, unwilling to think too closely on why he was so against waking the woman in his bed. The seconds dragged through the suddenly tense atmosphere in his bunk far too long for his liking before Inara finally stopped squirming and instead of clinging stubbornly to him, as she was fond of, she rolled over onto her belly.

Onto her side of the large bed.

Relief left him boneless for a few precious seconds, so absolute he would have dozed off peacefully if it hadn’t been quickly swallowed by guilt... which brought him right back to restless. Unable to lay still anymore he scrambled to get dressed, choosing to focus on pushing everything away , so he could walk Serenity’s halls without everything eating away at him hanging over his head. He was up the ladder and out of his bunk in record time.

Once the hiss of his door closing behind him ended with a satisfying click, Mal found himself heading toward the kitchen, because why not make his insomnia worse by making himself a cup of coffee? After all, the night had that all too familiar feel of I-won't-be-getting-any-sleep . Resigned but with a steaming cup of watery coffee doctored with some whiskey to ease him into things, Mal made his way to the bridge. The autopilot was running smoothly, genius pilot and all having set it, which left him with the choice of either sitting down and doing nothing but watch the stars float by while the spiked caffeine kicked in, or continuing to wander around his boat… he chose the latter.

If Mal had stopped to think on things he would have noticed that the uneasy feeling that had kept him from sleeping had slipped away as soon as he walked away from his door. No, he very purposefully didn’t follow that train of thought, because that would then lead to him thinking about why and he would much rather enjoy this peace with his girl rather than picking things apart that he had no true desire to look at too closely. Any fool knew not to go poking at things you didn’t want to know the answer to.

He took a deep breath and savored the nutty smell of hot coffee, perfectly content to let Serenity’s night noises whisper to him like the softest of lullabies. He came across River in her room in the passenger dorms, the faint light brightened her open doorway like a beacon.

It wasn’t often that he came to this part of his boat beyond his captain-y duties and he had never actually stepped foot in Rivers room now that he thought on it. Curious as a moth he moseyed over to take a peek inside. He found River laying with her back on the deck and her legs folded over the edge of her bed, fully awake.

Amused despite himself at her unique choice of lounge repose he leaned his shoulder into her doorway, “Something wrong with the mattress, Little Tross?” River turned her head to smirk wryly at him, “Too soft, to hard, too warm, too cold.” was her round-about simple reply.

Mal snorted, “Couldn't sleep either hmm?” River's smirk blossomed into a cheeky grin. Smiling and shaking his head at her antics, Mal took the opportunity to look around her room while he sipped his coffee.

The smile slid right off his face as he took in a whole lot of nothing, the room looked unoccupied, there was nothing to indicate that a young girl called it hers. Except for the slightly rumpled bedding, everything was exactly in its place with not one personal belonging in sight. Not understanding why he was bothered by this he turned back to River, his unasked question clear on his face.

River simply blinked back at him, letting Mal work through his thoughts in his own time. I like to hear you say it . It took him a minute but he finally grasped the root of his problem with the state of River’s room: There was not a single personal belonging in the room; if she were to never come back here, there was nothing for her to miss. Nothing to show her ownership of her space. ‘There’s nothing of her in here.’

Mal walked softly over to where River laid on the ground and crouched down, closer to her level, “don’t you have things to fill your room up, River?”

She had closed her eyes while he had pondered over things but he knew she was still awake, the girl had an energy to her when she was awake no matter how still she was. Her eyes popped open and he realized that, despite their heights, he was a whole lot closer than he had meant to get when she easily reached a pale hand up to smooth the frown from between his eyes with a cold thumb, “I have a drawer for clothes and my boots are in the corner by the door.” She told him softly. This only made Mal frown harder, absently he wrapped his own hand around her small wrist to stop the distracting sensation of her thumb ghosting over his skin.

“You know what I meant, Darlin’, don’t you have things? Personal things like Zoe has in her bunk or Kaylee has in hers, and the engine room…and the kitchen. Hell, the girl has made her mark all over my boat.” He tried lightening the mood at the end so as not to make River feel awkward even going as far as twisting his lips into a weak smile to reassure her.

River purposefully misunderstood, tilting her head slowly in that way of hers before answering so softly it was almost a whisper. It made Mal lean in toward her in order to better hear, “I have undergarments in the same drawer as the rest of my clothes. Bras will, sadly, never be required. Dancers are seldom graced with bountiful breasts.”

The Captain’s eyes widened comically and Mal jerked back so fast he toppled onto his ass beside her on the floor, his cup of coffee spilled and rolled under her bed unnoticed. He was too busy blinking owlishly to remember the cup or to notice that he still held River's wrist in his large hand, so it was another shock when he calmed down enough to focus on his surroundings and found River halfway in his lap.

He must have pulled her with him when he had fallen, he realized dumbly. The patented River eye-roll made the corners of his mouth twitch while he was trying to give her his best stern-captain-look. She only laughed at his antics. Despite his best intentions to stay mad at the girl for her mean trick, Mal found himself relaxing instead.

He gave up on his mock anger, letting the smile stretch across his lips as he straightened his legs out in front of him and settled his back against the edge of her bed. River adjusted her head on his leg and stretched out her own lean frame. Both of them easily slid fluidly into they’re strangely comfortable positions. It wasn’t long before they fell into an easy banter, sleep not far behind.

Later Mal would ponder on the lack of personal things in River’s room more deeply but that was for a different restless night.


Friday, January 26, 2018 11:39 AM


Wow, I liked that a lot! You captured a different side of capn and Rivers odd relationship. Thanks

Tuesday, March 27, 2018 6:57 PM


Thank you I'm glad you liked this! I tried to build on the mood between them in the last scene in the movie. They get along so easily despite rarely having scenes with just the two of them don't they? ;)


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Midnight Cowboy - Ch.2 Way Down We Go
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This chapters title is named after the song: "Way Down We Go" by Kaleo. The songs intro is perfect for this chapter, the way its sung and the actual lyrics fit whats creeping up on Mal and Ill give no more hints this round :)

A New Game
A short & sweet little one-shot about how the crew of Serenity has some good natured fun at Mal's babysitting skills.

This is dubiously cannon (all of the comics events have still happened) if you haven't read the comics all you need to know is that Zoe gave birth to a little girl who she named Emma... you just have to ignore the Mal/Inara pairing in the comics for this to be strictly cannon :3

Midnight Cowboy - Ch.1 Sleep Cycles
A peek into what goes on during Serenity's artificial nights.
Mal pretends to be mad and River pretends to misunderstand. Mal fumbles through too many variables and they both grow into their own before everything goes pear shaped.