Sunshine (Part of the Shadowverse)
Monday, February 9, 2009

Set four years after "Starlight", Sabrina, Aiden, and Malcolm set out for a visit to family, but an outside force interferes with that simple goal.


"We there yet?" asked Malcolm, stretching up on tiptoes and trying to see over the wagon seat.

"Not yet, honey," Sabrina replied again. "And you need to keep your hat on. Sun's bright and high." She ran a hand through his wind-mussed hair, and then pulled his cowboy hat back into place.

What'd been amusing when Malcolm'd asked the first time - when the ranch was barely fading into the horizon - was now… agitating. She supposed it was her own fault; she'd turned right giddy when Aiden suggested the trip. 'Course their son with his sensitive soul'd picked up on it and been a bundle of excitement ever since. Add in that ten minutes was forever to a four year old, and a long trip was beginning to feel like eternity. Or possibly purgatory.

"You know what helps traveling go lickety-split?" asked Aiden, glancing back at their son.

Malcolm shook his head, face as serious as could be.

"Sleeping. When you sleep, time just flies, now don't it?"

Good thing Aiden was looking straight ahead and not at Malcolm like she was. He'd be laughing too hard to be convincing. Even if it was truth through and through. The child's brow was scrunched up, trying to sort it out. "Why can't I stay awake and have time fly?"

"It just don't work that way. You remember Christmas Eve, don't ya? Did Santa show up faster when you were awake and watchful or when you were all tucked in tight?"

That garnered pushing back his hat and running his hand through his hair - just like when his pa was thinking hard. Sabina held a hand over her mouth to hide her smile.

"When I was tucked in." With a nod he burrowed on into the blankets in the wagon bed ‘til nothing but the top of his head showed. Later, Sabrina would thank God for the blankets, for Aiden's suggestion, for Malcolm's miraculous lack of additional whys and buts.

"You know what helps sleeping?" came Malcolm's muffled voice.

"I dunno. What?" she asked.


She and Aiden shared a smile. Was he wanting a lullaby? Not more than last week he'd insisted mamas only sing to babies, and he wasn't no baby. But for this reprieved moment, he was. Not that she'd say it out loud. She rubbed the growing bump of her stomach. 'Sides, soon he'd be a big brother.

Twisting back toward him, she sang a favorite. "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine; you make me happy when skies are grey—"

"Kao! Gou cao de hun dan!"

"Aiden!" It wasn’t like him to curse so, least not with Malcolm near. Turning forward, she had her answer. Cruiser with a pilot buzzing the ground, coming toward 'em way too fast.

Aiden had slowed the horses. Being down side of the slope, a full stop wasn't an option. Why couldn't the Alliance leave well enough? And why wasn't the pilot easing up or off?

Their ears. The team's ears. Gou shi.

She gripped tight Aiden with one hand and was reaching for the seat with the other when the horses—


She and Aiden were tumbling in the hayloft, rolling and laughing and kissing, giving no mind to the scratch of the hay,


the heat of the day,


or the—


"Yes, Malcolm. Mama's here." Sabrina forced her eyes open, then winced. The brightness of the light was now harsh, whence before it had been a help. Turning her head, she found Malcolm a silhouette above her, the sun haloing light 'round his hair like a cherub angel, ready to guide home the dead. But they weren't dead. Hurting like hell everywhere she touched along her body, mind you, but alive. She caught her lower lip between her teeth. The baby. This couldn't have been good for their baby.

She tried raising herself up on an elbow, only to fall back with a cry. Something was amiss with her left arm. Least the bone wasn't poking through. Mayhap Aiden could bind it. Trying again, she pushed off with her good arm and asked Malcolm, "You alright? Anything hurt?"

He shook his head.

She gave him a once-over; he looked alright. Scraped up, 'course. Then she spied the matted blood in his hair. She ran her fingers through 'til he squawked at the tender spot. It was a shallow scrape, nothing too serious. Just looked a fright. Thanks be. "Where's your pa?"

"Sleeping," said Malcolm, frowning. "Won't wake up."

"Won't wake? What's he about? Wanting to shorten the trip with a little nap?" she said lightly, trying not to think the worst as she tucked the thumb of her bad arm inside her waistband. She'd jury-rig a better sling later. "Lead me to him, honey."

When she saw the angle of his head and the now-black rock beneath it, she knew. Wanted to pull Malcolm into her skirts, to hide his eyes from it, but it was too late for that, wasn't it? She pressed close her eyes, willing her voice steady. "Wait here."

Sabrina went to Aiden' s side and though she knew better, she tried his pulse. Her hand hovered over his hair, wanting to brush it from his closed eyes, to touch his cheek. Instead she fetched his sidearm, sliding it into her waistband near the small of her back.

Rejoining Malcolm, she reached for his hand, giving it a squeeze. "Let's let your pa sleep a while, alright?"

He nodded, with that deep frown on his face and his chin dipping 'til it nearly touched his chest. His whole life had been lived on the Starlight, its rhythms of life and death there since before he left the cradle. Playing let's pretend wouldn't do.

Kneeling down, she touched her forehead to his. "I'm sorry, Malcolm. I didn't mean to be less than truthsome."

He nodded, and then pulled back, his eyes locked on her. "Pa's not sleeping." Not angry, nor accusing. Not even a proper question, but deserving of an answer all the same.

"No, he's not. He's…" Her voice faltered and she looked away, pushing the heels of her hands against her eyelids, willing away the tears.

"Mama." He nearly knocked her over with the force of his hug.

She steadied herself and with a deep breath said what she could. "He's not sleeping, but we should still get him a blanket, alright?"

After covering him, Sabrina started the awkward climb, with Malcolm scrambling up out of the ditch ahead of her. It was then she felt the first cramp; she let her knees ease into the grass, willing it away. Mightily as she wanted to stay there and scream to the heavens, that wasn't an option. When the pain passed, she finished the climb and assessed the situation. A good cry wasn't even in the top ten of things needing doing. First off, Tommy was down, tangled in tack and with a broke foreleg. Tucker was a fair piece off, but looked alright. Standing at least.

She knew his eyes were on her. It was all more'n she could process; what must he be thinking? Less thinking, more doing. Least for now.

"Malcolm, go check on Tucker, please? Tommy's hurt real bad. The gun'll be loud when I put him down. Might startle Tucker. So iffen he's spooked too bad, you keep your distance."

She waited 'til he was halfway to horse before delivering the shot, letting a sob free at the same time, knowing it was masked in the shot. Later. Tears would be later.

By the time Malcolm walked Tucker back, his chubby hands tight fists on the lines and Tucker following, docile as could be, she'd managed a sling for her arm and a plan that she hated in its necessity.

Even if they could right the wagon, the hitch was splinters and kindling. Given the cramping, if there was any hope of saving the babe, riding double was out of the question. Walking out might take too long and wasn't much better. Waiting wasn't realistic neither; they'd seen precious few souls on this back road.

After tying Tucker to the wagon – with it flipped over, it made a good hitching post and a passable bench as well, seeing how Malcolm was sitting on its edge, his legs swinging and his heels making a soft thump against the side - Sabrina leaned in toward him, given partial ease to her feet. "You've been real brave today. You've made your pa… made me so proud with how you're handling yourself. And you were right; you're not a babe no more."

He looked at her with those big blue eyes, saying nothing.

"How would you like to ride Tucker?"

"Really?" he asked, which was a relief to hear, even if a solitary word.

"Really truly. Should we get you ready?"

He grinned at that, looking so much like his pa.

She sent him after his hat, then held up his coat.

"But it's hot!"

"I know, but it'll cool down quick and then you'll be right glad you got it on. 'Sides, it's got pockets. Filled 'em with jerky. And I wrote a note for when you find help."

He shrugged it on without further complaint and then scrambled up the overturned wagon, making it possible for him to climb onto Tucker. She'd already shortened the lines to make child-friendly reins, complete with being tied together so they couldn't slip away. But seeing the way his little-boy legs barely spanned the horse's back, she was affronted again by the sheer foolery of this plan.

"I want you to twine your fingers in Tucker's mane. He’ll stay on the road on his own." As long as that hun dan cruiser stayed gone. "Only use your heels and hands iffen he needs some directing, you hear?"

"Yes, Ma."

"We're right close to Mimi and Poppy's place; can't be more'n 10 miles. Even better, there's friends afore that. You watch for a silo on the right. Go to that farm, but don't you let go of Tucker ‘til one of the O'Shaughnessy's help you down, dong ma?"

"Dong ma."

"Being all bossy, aren't I? I love you, you know that, don't you?"

"Dong ma… Ma." This time a smile joined the reply.

She smiled back. The imp. If he was like this now, she wasn't sure how she'd ever ready herself for his teenhood.

"If you feel scared or lonely or what not, you just sing. I'll be singing right along."

And that's what she did. She sang ‘til he and the horse was out of earshot, and kept singing ‘til they was out of eyeshot. Then she did what she'd been singing. She hung her head and cried.



dong ma: understand gou cao de: dog humping gou shi: worthless thing, [literally] dog excrement hun dan: bastard kao: goddammit


Saturday, February 21, 2009 4:58 AM


Powerful and so very sad. Makes you understand why kids can grow up so fast and so practical to the realities and necessities of life when they have to. And that's what can make them such a good Browncoat sergeant - thanks so much for sharing!


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Summertime (Part of the Shadowverse)
Malcolm helps Hoss deliver hay to a neighboring ranch.

Thank you to soundingsea and mommanerd for their betas; all mistakes are mine. Mal and the 'verse belong to Joss.

Sunshine (Part of the Shadowverse)
Set four years after "Starlight", Sabrina, Aiden, and Malcolm set out for a visit to family, but an outside force interferes with that simple goal.

Starlight (Part of the Shadowverse)
My PG imaginings of what Mal's ma and pa might be like prior to Mal being on the scene.