The first night, when he comes to dinner, she tries to pretend he isn’t there. It’s not an outright insult, as such, it’s just that he bugs her, and the captain is a damn fool for hiring him. She last five minutes before he says something stupid and she has to let the captain know that they will surely regret this particular decision.
After two weeks she has to admit that the man can fly, but his jokes make her squirm and his laughter makes her flinch, and if he sighs at her again, she might just have to introduce him to the black. Up close and personal like.
She stops complaining about him sooner than she thought she would, but only after Mal offers to get rid of him once and for all if it would only keep her quiet. She figured she didn’t really want him to go, though she didn’t necessarily want him to stay either, but a decision had to be made.
Even if his sighing still annoyed her.
It’s Mal’s idea to stop at the bar, in the ever futile hope that they may be able to drum up some sort of business there. It’s a dirty and crowded place, filled with the stench of cheap alcohol and unwashed men watching some sort of indescribable sporting event. She watched as Mal weaved his way through the crowd, silently placing a bet on how long it would take him to get into trouble. How long until she would need to come to the rescue.
But it’s the damn pilot who beats him to it, taking a heavy bar stool to the side of the head. As she watches, she burns inside, a strange heat that’s somehow familiar and foreign at the same time, like a long forgotten memory.
She doesn’t think before she’s on her feet, beating the unwashed warrior down. She doesn’t think before she’s on the floor, kneeling next to the pilot. She doesn’t think before she presses her lips against the rising lump on his head.
She knows that she’ll have to think about this later, that she’ll have to pull it apart and put it all back together again. She knows that there’s nothing right and everything wrong about falling into this sort of situation.
But as she helps him out of the bar, she’s somehow feeling the happiest she’s ever felt.