Word Count: 1075
Summary: Mal has to find a new way to deal with his least favourite day a few weeks after Miranda. Post BDM.
Author’s Note: Written for isha_libran’s prompt: a tipsy truthful Mal who forgets everything the morning after but it didn’t really work its way into the fic at all I’m afraid. But I’m quite happy with what did come, so I’m going with it. Maybe some day I’ll try and redo the prompt. Or, you know, you could give me another ;)
I used a bit of a different style on this one, one I’ve used a few times before and was reminded of while reading ‘The Killer Angels’. I like it. I’m curious to know what you all think of the title? The words just came to me, like someone else was speaking them, and they stuck.
I also just discovered that Unification Day falls on Mal’s birthday, September 20th. Is there nothing the ‘Verse won’t take from this man? ;)
They were extra difficult this year. The memories. The ghosts. Voices that were normally mostly silent but that always came louder, more frequent, as this day approached. Was why he did his damnedest to find an Alliance friendly bar to pass the day in. A way to blur the memories, ease that pain with a fresh application of fists.
Was different this year with the day falling so close on the heels of Miranda. More ghosts, walking his ship. Weren’t safe to go looking for a place. Stick to the black, keep flying. And then there was Zoe. Wasn’t the best idea she should go looking for a fight right yet either; he weren’t exactly sure he wouldn’t be the one on the receiving end if he did ask her. Had its appeal, he had to admit. But Zoe hadn’t set foot outside her (her’s and Wash’s) bunk this day, and there was precious little in this ‘Verse could make him disturb her.
He’d gone through the day on autopilot. Weren’t much that needed seeing to, out where they were. Crew knew enough to leave him be for which he was grateful. But still they weighed on him, all those ghosts, and by the end of the day he was in need of more than distraction and solitude could afford him. His intention was to drink himself beyond their reach. Escape their clutching grasp by drowning his memories instead of drowning in them. But he’d only the one bottle, and by the end of it he’d known it weren’t going to be enough. Knew he’d need something more to make it through the night.
Was really only just one. Couldn’t go to Zoe. Wouldn’t. Jayne, while no stranger to the ways of killing, hadn’t fought in the War, didn’t have the right kind of understanding. The Doc might, if he were inclined to talk to the man. Was too occupied fraternizing with his mechanic these days anyhow, and enough darkness had touched Kaylee already. Didn’t want to take any more of her light. River. River would know every one of his ghosts in exquisite detail and that would be a look in the mirror he weren’t ready or willing to take. Too close. Too sharp. Notwithstanding the landscape of his memory was the last place she needed to tread. Which left only one.
Her shuttle was dark. It was her shuttle. Had always been her shuttle. But the door was ajar, open a few inches. A connection. An invitation. He slipped inside. Stood a moment until his eyes could adjust; pondered the wisdom of his being here. But she was here. There was a reason for that.
He stepped further in and went to her side. She lay sleeping on the cot, grey scratchy blanket pulled up to her chin. Hair curling into the darkness around her head. Her breaths steady; even. There was a crease in the skin above her eyebrows - some troubled thought she slept with. He touched her there, fingers tracing her distress, and she came awake with a gasp.
“Sorry,” he said into the quiet. Shook his head. “’S a lie. Meant to wake you.” Her eyes glitter in the dark and he feels his throat close up, breath leaving him in a shudder. She sits up, pushing the blanket aside. Motions wordlessly for him to sit beside her. He does. Head bowed, hands clasped between his knees. Her eyes are on him, but still she says nothing. Waiting for him. She knows what day it is.
He feels the ghosts all around him. Memories. Piles of the dead. Stacked up for lack of cover. Anything to stop the bullets that carried the names of those still living. That came anyway. “Dead ’re in my head tonight,” he said finally. “Can’t get ‘em out. Don’t got the booze or the bar to distract me.
Don’t know why I’m here ‘cept I don’t think I can go through it alone.” Her hand comes to rest against his arm. Warm. Present. Draws him closer to now, pulling him back from then. He looks at her. Sees sadness reflected in her eyes; something else. Swallows. “Got no right to ask you.”
She brings her fingers up, smooths them over his forehead. Brushes his bangs aside lightly. Her touch keeps him there, in the present. He wants to kiss her. Thinks she might let him. He doesn’t.
She does. Turns his head to face her, hands going to either side. Slow. Careful. Like he might run otherwise. He might’ve. His eyes close at the first touch of her lips to his brow. Soft benediction of his lost soul. A breath. Her lips on his left eye lid. His right.
Frozen in a place between, he holds himself still. Holds in self-imposed darkness until her lips brush his. Tender. Tentative. Close-mouthed, but wet with the taste of her salt. His eyes open to meet hers. The revelation of her own pain tracks its way down her cheeks; grieving the loss of their friends...her beliefs...her truth. Everything shattered in the knowledge gained by the message they’d sent across the universe. The loss of her whole world. They have that in common now.
And her, enduring in silence ever since. His breath draws in in a painful ‘oh’ as he reaches for her, pulls her to himself and wraps his arms around her. His eyes are wet and he no longer knows if he’s crying for her or himself. Doesn’t matter. She doesn’t wail or weep or fall to pieces in crushing release. Just cries with him. Holds him. Takes comfort in the comforting. It is who she is, after all. He’s sorry that it’s taken this for him to realize it.
When they pull apart, he returns the blessing she bestowed on him and presses his lips to her eyelids. Kisses away her tears. Her eyes, when they open, shine even more brightly. There could be more, but he doesn’t press. She understands. Invites him instead to lie down on the small cot with her. Presses her back into him and crosses his arms under her breasts. Holds his hands. His nose in her hair, he can smell honey and flowers and a scent he thinks could be heaven, or at least home. He’s inside her walls now and she’s inside his. Together, for this night at least, they are stronger than the dark things that haunt them.