One Night In A Million

Based on a FDCMuck chat between Duke (Leila) and Mallory (Jadestar).

`I don't know what to say to you
Tears are on your face
You don't know how we'll make it through
Such a lonely place
Close your teary eyes and sleep
I'll watch through the night and keep'
-Our Love

`We've all seen trouble from time to time
There is a mountain ahead I've got no strength to climb'
-Helping Hand
Amy Grant

The word slapped Mallory on her heart, and she struggled to keep it from showing on her face. The ‘accusation’ reminded her of past taunts and memories she tried to forget. "I am not butch!" she screamed.

Duke smirked slightly.


It was an hour later. The word’s impact still stung on Mallory, but she pretended it wasn’t there. She sat in Nosedive’s room. He was tucked into his bed, still sleeping off the effects of his appendicitis. Why she was there, she wasn’t sure. It wasn’t like the boy was going to die in the night. He was fine. But Mallory hung around anyway, feeling largely guilty for a number of things, and just in an all-round bad mood.

Duke returned from his trip to the bathroom. He took one look at her, and handed her a I got it from won’t be mentioned…"

He relaxed, and smiled slightly. "Decent of you…" he gently kidded.

Mallory unbuckled the necklace to put in on, and smiled. "Yeah, I’m such a saint..."

Duke grinned. "A saint with red hair an’ a redder temper!"

She laughed quietly. "You just listed my two good points." she informed him as she redid the necklace around her neck.

He smiled. "It suits you."

Mallory couldn’t meet his eye. "Thanks."

Duke looked uncomfortable. "Look, Mal, I’m sorry for being such a jerk. I don’t really think you’re butch… not in the least!" How was I meant to know you’d take it to heart? I still don’t know why you did…

‘Mal’ looked back to him. "I’m glad. Apology accepted. And I’m sorry for… well… a lot." She fingered the necklace. "I do doubt this truce will last, though, knowing us."

Duke smiled, then laughed quietly. "Well, that makes the peaceful times more special anyway, huh?"

She looked thoughtful. "I guess it does." Her forehead creased. "I never really thought of it that way before."

He walked over to the sleeping Nosedive and sat on the edge of the bed, being careful not to disturb the exhausted teen. He placed his hand on the blonde’s shoulder for a moment, then took it away. "Same thing with him, too. Despite the way I act toward the kid, I’d *never* let anyone hurt him…"

Mallory followed, not wanting to raise her voice to be heard. "None of us would, so I know what you mean. Well…" she paused. "Maybe I don’t understand it as much as the rest of you. I mean, I guess I’m too harsh on him sometimes. This has gotta be tough for him." He didn’t ask to be taken here. Oh wait, maybe he did?

"Of course it is. It’s hard on all of us. Mal, I really don’t think you’re doing such a bad job, either." Duke smiled suddenly. "As long as ya keep him away from the bar…"

Mallory laughed bitterly. "Exactly. I should be shot for that." She frowned in retrospection. "Well… at least he’s OK now…"

He shook his head. "We all make mistakes. Besides, in that case, that was just as much his fault. He’s old enough to make decisions for himself, now. And suffer the consequences of those decisions. As much as we’d like to protect him."

She punched the wall near the bed gently. "So why do I feel so guilty?" she asked frankly. You know why? Because it *is* my fault. I’m the one who toddled off to a bar, knowing full well he was a minor. It’s easy for you to say that.

Duke looked at Mallory, a little concerned. "You may wanna punch *me* after I say this, but maybe it’s because you’re starting to feel like a mother to the kid. Hell, I’m starting to feel like a brother…You’re the only female role model he’s got."

Mallory winced. "That isn’t what I wanted to hear. Unfortunately, I’m too tired to punch you. ‘Brother’ is a far cry from ‘mother’. What about Tanya?" There’s no way that’s it. No way on Puckworld and Earth.

Duke ticked the points off on his fingers. "One, Tanya doesn’t count. She’s so into her machines it doesn’t make a difference *what* sex she is. Two, sometimes the stuff you don’t want to hear is the stuff that’s closest to the truth." He looked away into the past. "I know that the second is true for me."

Mallory looked strangely at Duke, not used to this side of him. "That made a lot of sense. More sense than Grin normally does." She slid down the wall to sit on the floor. "I guess everyone has something they don’t want to believe."

Duke got off the bed and sat next to her. He tried to smile. "A number of things, in some cases."

She squeezed his hand. "You want to talk about it?"

Duke gave up on trying to smile. He took a deep breath. "No. I don’t." Duke looked at Mallory quickly. "It’s nothing personal."

I know. Mallory didn’t push it, and instead asked something she’d been considering. "Do you really think we’re ever going to see Puckworld again?"

Duke shrugged. Dunno’, and don’t care. "I don’t know. And I’m not sure I *want* to." He turned to her suddenly. "Mal, I’m …I’m *safe* here - here I can get away from my past, easily! Haven’t you ever wondered what might happen to me if we go back?" Duke asked in a low voice.

Mallory nodded quietly. "Duke, I want you to know something." She waited for a moment, trying to find the words. "I wouldn’t ever really turn you in. Sometimes I get so angry that I feel like it, but I never would." She patted her friend’s shoulder. "If we ever do make it, I’m sure we could hide you away somehow."

Duke smiled sadly. "Yeah, sure." Like I’ve done for the best years of my life, for more than half of my life. Who wants that?

Mallory spoke earnestly, not knowing what he was thinking. "Yeah, sure, we could do it! We’d just keep you out of sight for a while, and then you could just…" she paused. "Well… you know…" I’d rather have you on the streets than in prison.

Duke swallowed hard, fighting. "Mal, I’m…" He took a deep breath agold necklace. It was a beautiful old thing, small diamonds surrounding a sapphire charm. He smiled at the reactions fighting for space on her countenance.

Duke’s breath was momentarily lost as he found himself slammed into a wall. Mallory had him pinned. The flicker of apprehension that was on his face before he regathered his composure was enough to make Mallory relent slightly.

"Where did you get this?" she asked him softly. "And why did you show it to me?" I don’t want to know this kind of thing Duke. I don’t need to know.

Duke looked uncomfortable. "Uh…I’ve had it for a long time…It’s for you." he muttered. "An apology."

Mallory turned the necklace over and over in her hand, admiring the way it reflected the light. "It’s very pretty." Duke’s smile turned to surprise has she held it out to return it. "You can not be seriously giving this to me. Duke, this is worth…well, a lot!"

"Why else would I give it to you? I don’t want it." She looked thoughtful, and he continued. "It is stolen." he admitted. "But from such a long time ago now that it doesn’t matter anymore."

She looked torn. It always matters. "I thought so. Tell you what - I’ll keep it for now, but if we ever get back to Puckworld, I will be looking for the owner. Of course, where nd tried again. "I’m scared." I don’t remember saying that out loud since… ever…

Mallory slipped a comforting arm around Duke’s shoulders. "We’re all scared. Maybe not of the exact same things to a degree… but you aren’t alone."

Duke smiled shakily. "Damn… look at me… I almost feel like crying. That’d be a first…" What am I doing? She won't understand. She can’t. No one can.

Mallory closed and opened her eyes slowly. "You realise that if you start to cry, I probably will too. And then we might wake the kid." She sighed heavily. "The last time I cried was on Puckworld. Seems like an eternity ago." Maybe it was. Does time even run the same between here and there? There’s so much we don’t know…

Duke sighed. "I don’t think I remember how." he whispered to himself more than to her.

Mallory almost smiled with the bitter irony of it. "I don’t think it’s something you can unlearn. You were born crying, and chances are you’ll go out crying too." Duke closed his eye, and she immediately regretted what she’d said. "Sorry. I’m sorry… I just… Saying what I think."

He shook his head. "It’s okay. It’s probably true, too." He tried to smile, but failed miserably. Man, I gotta get outta here. This ain’t my scene.

Mallory ran her hand up and down the chain of her necklace, setting herself up for a new habit. "I hope it’s not." she said, utterly sincere and serious.

Duke swallowed the lump in his throat. "I have to go to the bathroom." he muttered, and he picked himself up and walked out, being careful not to look back.


Duke slid to the bathroom floor. The small tears trickled slowly down his checks. He made no sound, bar a small chocking noise as he fought to keep himself private. I’m not crying, I’m not crying, I don’t cry. Man, man, man…He swore in his mind, and swallowed the lumps in his throat again and again, almost making himself sick. His chest heaved against his will.

He waited until the pain was gone. Instead he felt something else in his gut. It wasn’t peace, there was never peace around this place. It was something akin to numbness. What it was even he didn’t know, but he preferred it to the pain.

He took a few deep breaths, washed his face expressionless, and went to find Mallory, hoping she’d ask no questions.


After poking his head in a few doors, he found her sitting on her bed. He wasn’t sure why he wanted to find her, the night would have been over faster in his own room, but there was something he sensed with an old instinct. Something was changing.

So she sat on her bed, scribbling like there was never going to be another chance. Duke recognised the book as one he’d heard about in fits of temper. Her little blackmail book.

He looked at her closely. "What are you doing?"

She didn’t move her gaze from her page. "Wait."

So he did. He sat down next to her and waited, not trying to peer over her shoulder. After a few minutes, she sighed heavily, locked the book, and returned it to it’s normal home on her bedside table.

The feeling in his stomach turned more comfortable. "Mal? Did you just do what I think you did?"

She turned her eyes on him, honesty plainly shown. "Duke, I did not write anything bad about you. I promise."

Duke nodded, a small smile playing underneath his face. "I know. I didn’t think you did."

She slid so her back was against the side wall, and hugged her pillow. "Thank you."

He glanced at her. "For what?"

Mallory looked down at her bed for a second, then up. "For trusting me enough to show a bit of the Duke…" she put her hand on the left side of his chest. "… in here."

He didn’t know what to say. Somehow, all of the sharing of feelings, all that it had brought up and out, it was suddenly all worth it. He quietly took her hand in his.

She closed her eyes, and rested her head comfortably on his shoulder. "It’s getting late."

Duke sighed. "I know. You know what would be best? If we could stop time, and just stay like this forever." He was surprised to find that he meant it too.

Mallory nodded her head slightly. "There’s probably a way to do it. Too bad we don’t know how."

Duke closed his eyes as well. "Too bad… Let’s just stay like this as long as possible. Until we go to sleep…"

Mallory was too exhausted to agree or disagree, though her mind replied in the positive. Duke sensed her answer, and he smiled gently. "You know I don’t mean anything by that. Not now."

Mallory knew what he was referring to, it’d come up often enough. "It wouldn’t be right."

Duke nodded. "I know. Somehow it doesn’t fit." He smiled. "Bet ya never thought you’d hear me say that…" *I* never thought I’d say that.

The red head smiled vaguely. "Bet you never thought I’d let you get this close." she countered sleepily.

Duke shook his head, with a sense of wonder. "Funny thing is, I woulda jumped at this opportunity a while ago - and milked it for all it was worth. But now that I finally got it…" he shrugged tiredly.

"… It doesn’t seem as if it’d be worth that much." she finished his sentence. Does he have that chance? I guess he does…

"Kinda like someone spending his youth riskin’ life an’ limb for the sake of jewels…. And finding in the end that all he’s got is a pile of shiny rocks."

Mallory laughed. "Well I’m sure I’m flattered that you see me as a pile of rocks. No, I know what you meant." She paused. "We’ve had a few surprises today, you and me."

Duke grinned. "And Nosedive wasn’t the cause of ‘em, for a change!"

Mallory chuckled to herself. "Wait until tomorrow, my friend."

Duke gave her a droll look. "I can hardly bear the excitement…"

She smiled. "I’ll bet…" she yawned.

Duke yawned too. It must be contagious. Duke sighed. "I better get back to my bunk then… if Dive finds us asleep in here tomorrow morning, we’ll *never* hear the end of it…"

Mallory tried to laugh, but it turned into a heavy exhalation of breath as she fell asleep.

Duke looked affectionately at his companion. He got up slowly, so he wouldn’t wake her as he shifted her from his shoulder, and pulled the blankets around her the best he could without waking her. She smiled faintly in her sleep as she felt the increased warmth. Duke stood back and smiled. "Night, Sweetheart…" he whispered, and he walked away. A spirit was lifted, and Duke slept easy.

Story Copyright Jadestar Flashblade and Leila deSilver ’98. All characters Copyright Disney, and used without permission