“What do you like?”
The pillow smelled like mothballs, and the blanket covering both of them was pilly and rough. He tried to turn his head to look at Ellie, but his shoulder throbbed in protest.
“What do you mean?” he said into the old pillow. All of the lights in their motel room were on, and his eye ached whenever he closed it. Ellie seemed just as unable to sleep as he was.
“You know, movies and books and whatnot. Normal regular things.”
She shifted, and he felt her shoulder blades press into his back. It was more comforting than being pressed against a wall. Someone alive and capable was behind him that he knew was real.
Right. Normal regular things. He did like them. A lot, in fact. He frowned, trying to think of an answer. She nudged him when he didn’t respond right away.
“I’m thinking. It’s been a while.”
She nodded, the movement softly shaking them both. He thought for a while, wanting to give her a real answer, and then it surfaced.
“Those Cosmonaut movies,” he said finally. “The ones with—”
Ellie snorted loudly. “Those are terrible movies!”
He jolted up on the bed and glared down at her in indignation. “No they aren’t!”
“They’ve made like eight of them,” she replied, rolling onto her back to glare right back at him. There was a smile on her face, though. “The first two were okay.”
“They made six,” he corrected her. “And all of them are masterpieces.”
Ellie rolled her single eye. “Yeah okay.”
A flood of Cosmonaut trivia came rushing back to him. Old arguments he had with friends about subversive narratives, technical hurdles overcome in the making of the movies, and their contribution to exploratory space fiction.
He smiled instead of repeating any of the usual movie snobbery, though. The nitty-gritty details were all fuzzy, blurred by years of disuse and a lot of very heavy memory suppressants, but the important stuff was more easily recalled. Late night conversations with friends, ravings that Nicole sat through patiently while listening to him talk about the new ones coming out. Normal regular things.
“You don’t want to start this argument,” he cautioned her.
“Oh don’t I?”
“I will win. You’ll be a convert.”
“I highly doubt that,” she replied. Then she sighed and kicked off the blanket. “And there are eight, by the way. They made two more recently. Both of which are awful,” she added, sitting cross-legged on the bed.
He shook his head in mock disapproval, but the news sent a thrill through him. Something to look forward to.
“Well then,” he said. “What about you? What horrible movies do you like?”
“I only like good things,” she told him. “Like King’s Road.”
He groaned and fell back on the pillow. “Wow.”
“Wow,” she repeated back at him.
“Didn’t take you for one of those people—”
“Oh one of those people—”
“It’s fine,” he interrupted. “It takes all kinds of people to make the world go around—”
“Says the guy who watches kids movies.”
“They aren’t kids movies!”
Ellie said nothing to that, so he chalked it up to a win. She eventually laid back down and stared up at the ceiling with him.
“I dunno how I’m ever going to sleep again,” she sighed, though her tone was flippant.
“Expensive drug habit, that.” She nudged his arm. “But maybe we can watch one of your terrible movies and it’ll lull me to sleep.”
“We’ll have to start at the beginning if this is a serious offer. It’s been a while since I watched them.”
She shrugged. “Better than watching water stains form on the ceiling.”
Ellie set up the holo to project above them. He had trouble recalling the the plot of the movie, but he hadn’t forgotten which site was best to rip it off of.
“Oh so you’re one of those guys,” Ellie said, looking over his shoulder as he downloaded the first movie.
“Yeah, the guy who gets harassed by everyone to get them unlimited free music and vids. Unless you wanna buy it?” He raised a brow at her.
“Just an observation,” she said cryptically, then went to picking at her nails.
He sent it to the holo Ellie had set up above them and laid back down on the bed beside her. He was dead tired, but the familiar opening theme began to play and he forgot about his exhaustion for a while. He forgot about a lot of things as the movie played. Ellie talked through most of it, but a lot of what she said was funny, so he didn’t mind.
It was normal, and not in the banal, underwhelming way their shitty motel room was normal. It was a regular kind of normal, and it provided a blissful white noise that made it hard to hear the noise going on inside his own head. Ellie would nudge his good shoulder, ask him how astronauts shooting in space was physically possible, and he’d correct her and say they were cosmonauts and that booster packs made the physics work, and she’d roll her eyes and tell him he was reaching. Which he was, but it made her laugh, so he did his best to stick to the more outlandish explanations for why the ridiculous gun fights were actually very realistic.
“There’s tiny air bubbles inside the firing mechanisms of the—”
“Air pressure!” She paused the movie to sit up. “It would make the gun explode. You can’t have a contained pocket of oxygen that ignites without it blowing the hell up—”
“They use stasis to slow the reaction post-firing—”
“So the gun explodes slower!”
He was laughing by this point, his shoulder screaming at him to stop, but it felt too good not to. “You’re ruining this movie.”
“It’s ruining itself,” she corrected him, then sat back down and unpaused it.
“Well, tell you what. We can watch King’s Road after this and talk about why the writers know nothing about medieval feudalism.”
“A ship systems engineer would know a lot about defunct economic systems, interesting.”
“I minored in college,” he replied. “So keep that in mind.”
“Oh I will.”
They got a whole forty seconds deeper into Cosmonaut before Ellie began talking over it again, and he realised with a grin that it was going to take them hours to get through it.