Those Left Behind Chapter 1: Possibilities
Friday, April 30, 2004

River has a breakdown.


Disclaimer: I don't own anyone in the story – they all belong to Joss and Mutant Enemy.

Author notes: This is the third story in what has become the arc following Advice in Space. The second was Screams in the night. You probably don’t need to read those to understand this one, but would probably help and they are both short vignettes. Set after Objects In Space, but will probably be rendered completely AU by the BDM in a year or so. This story just keeps pestering me even though I've been telling Mal that I'm too busy with RL to play, but he can't seem to keep River under control. Not beta-ed mostly because all the characters insist they are acting just fine and don't need to be altered any at all. If there are any typos, I apologize.

Those Left Behind Chapter 1: Possibilities

Chinese glossary Yuchun – stupid/idiot Diyu – hell We de ma – mother of god

Kaylee yawned as she entered the engine room. Wash had woken her with the information that it was okay to shut the engines down. The mechanic had been harassing the pilot and Captain to find a time to cruise without the engines so she could do some much needed maintenance work. After threatening to keep them on planet for an entire week, Mal had finally relented and decided that the money he would save in down time and fuel would equal any bonus the ship would get for delivering their goods early. As a result, Kaylee was now awake well before the ship's normal morning in order to get a head start on the maintenance before the first meal.

Kaylee jumped and let out a squeak when she saw someone in the dark corner beside the now quiet engine. Once her heart left her stomach, she could clearly see River's pale skin under the girl's long hair. "River, you scared me. What are you doing awake so early?"

"Sometimes the engine is louder," River told her.

Kaylee raised an eyebrow. The other girl made the statement as if her meaning was clear, but sussing out what River really wanted to communicate was difficult when the mechanic wasn't groggy. Kaylee walked over and leaned against the wall in front of River. "Honey, what is the engine louder than? Is Shepherd snoring again?"

River shook her head and then glared at her as if Kaylee was being dense on purpose. "No dummy. No one snores, none of them sleep. The screams keep them awake too." Kaylee started to get worried when River started rocking. Maybe Simon had forgotten to give his sister her medicine the night before. "The pills and shots don't stop it either yuchun!" River informed her nastily.

"Well, someone definitely didn't get enough sleep missy. Whatever is making the noise, I'm sure Simon or the Cap'n can help make it quiet," Kaylee shot back. She was just too tired to be understanding this morning and had too much work to do, Kaylee thought as she tried not to feel guilty.

"No, no they can't," River told her. The young genius looked heartbroken at this admission. "It won't ever stop, not till their story ends." Kaylee sighed. It looked like the Captain would just have to accept that the repairs would get started a little later.

Suddenly, River's face brightened and she smiled at Kaylee as if she were totally at peace for once. "No, I was wrong. I don't have to wait for the story to end." After that statement, River quickly crawled to the cabinet containing Kaylee's metal saws and saudering irons. Kaylee was momentarily frozen in shock as she realized what the other girl intended to do. However the sight of River picking up the diamond saw jolted her into action. Picking up a nearby wrench, Kaylee quickly crossed the room to where River sat fascinated with the solution to her problem. Mentally apologizing to her friend, Kaylee hit her solidly in the head with the wrench. Sobbing, she hit the engine room's comm button. "Captain, Simon, I need you in the engine room now," Kaylee begged.


Simon had quickly determined that his sister had suffered no more than a mild concussion. In fact, he had been forced to sedate her just to determine that. The young teen had regained consciousness just as the Captain had reached the engine room and she had been furious with Kaylee. Shaking his head, he turned to the other three who awaited his diagnosis. "She'll be fine, she just has a slight concussion. I'll need to look at her medicines, one of them must be affecting her emotional state," he informed them.

Zoe just raised her eyebrows at his statement and otherwise made no change to her normal inscrutable expression. Mal shook his head as he patted Kaylee comfortingly on the shoulder. "See I told ya you didn't hurt her none." Turning to the doctor, he considered how best to make the boy consider other reasons for his sister's behavior. "Doc, I don't think this episode was caused by your meds," he stated.

Simon crossed his arms as he replied. "And this conclusion is based on your infinite pharmaceutical knowledge from where?"

"No need to get smart son," Mal said with an edge to his voice. "Kaylee told us what River said before, well before it all happened. I think that given your sis's abilities and history that there might be more than one explanation for her behavior."

Simon shook his head as he started to angrily put away his instruments. "Oh that's right, she's a reader," he almost shouted. "I suppose she's hearing the lambs being slaughtered on Whitefall," he continued sarcastically.

"That's one possibility," Zoe interjected.

"Oh and there are others? Tell me Zoe, what is your educated conclusion as to why my sister tried to kill her self? And Captain, does your opinion agree with it?" Simon demanded.

Gorramit, they should have given Simon the smoother, Mal thought. Who'd have thought that the psychotic sibling would be the more rational one of the pair? "Look, all I'm saying is that I see two possibilities. Hopefully the girl is just having flashbacks. But as her doctor and brother, I think that you should consider all the possible causes before drugging her out of her skull!"

Mal's conviction deflated Simon a bit. "And the other possibility?"

Mal sighed. Diyu, he'd hoped to be able to talk to River before even suggesting the possibility to her brother. Hopefully she'd be able to tell him and Zoe that their fears were completely wrong. Hopefully, but given their gorram luck, completely unlikely. "The other possibility being that she is hearing all the others still there," he answered gently.

Simon looked from Mal to Zoe quizzically. "Others?"

This time Kaylee answered his question with a horrified expression as she realized what the Captain was implying. "The other kids still at that place, that academy."

Simon stumbled at her words. Surely not, River would have told him if something like that were happening. "No, it's the meds and the trauma!"

"Son, we're just saying it's a possibility. Now, we've all had enough excitement for one day and we still gotta a day full of work ahead," Mal stated. "I think for the next couple of days someone should stay with River at all times, but Zoe, be sure that all of the crew understands that there are to be no weapons of any kind near her at any time. Now, I'm gonna leave the two of you to get our girl settled while I help Lil' Kaylee get caught up on her repairs."

Simon just stared dumbfounded at the Captain's back as the man escorted Kaylee out of the infirmary. Zoe moved into his line of vision after he remained frozen for several minutes. "She'll be fine Simon, we'll get her through this," she reassured the younger man.

Simon shook his head as he turned his attention back to his baby sister. His beautiful, gifted little sister. It wasn't fair! He had saved her and only gotten pieces of the child he had watched grow into a young woman in return. And now that rutting place threatened to take what little he had away as well. "How Zoe? How will we get her through this? Whatever the diyu this is!"

Zoe walked to the other side of the treatment chair and put her hand on top of Simon's where his hand rested on the top of the girl's head. "By being there for her even when she doesn't want us to. The Captain and I have not a little bit of experience of helping people to cope; might be that we can give her a bit of perspective on not letting the memories destroy all that's left," she explained. "Besides, in case you haven't noticed, this crew all think of her as their little sister and this family doesn't leave anyone behind," she continued with a rye smile. "Now, how bout we get her comfortable in her room before she wakes up?"


Once in the engine room, Mal shut the door to the rest of the ship. Kaylee turned around at the sound and her eyes got wide. "I'm sorry Cap'n, I should have told her to leave immediately," she started explaining quickly.

Mal gave the mechanic a confused look. "Calm down Kaylee, I ain't mad. In fact, you did real good." Kaylee smiled at his praise. "However, I need you to tell me if we can do a few things. Is it possible to put a code on the doors leading to here, the bridge, and the cargo bay doors?"

"Well, the bay doors are easy enough since the computer controls them, but here and the bridge are just manual. I might be able to jury-rig a lock mechanism of some sort though."

"One that can keep little River out?"

"Well, I can't promise that, but it would slow her down, that's for sure. Why?"

Mal sighed. Leave it to Kaylee to ask the question he didn't really want to answer. "Ship in space is a dangerous place for someone who really wants to end it all," he explained. When the mechanic's eyes got big and started leaking tears, he pulled the young girl into a rough hug. "Now, now, Zoe and me won't let things get there. I just want to be prepared is all. River's gonna be just fine."

Kaylee pulled back from him after she wiped off her face. "But what about those others? We are gonna save them too, aren't we Cap'n?"

Wu de ma, sometimes he really wished he had a crew with a little thicker skin. As soon as the Preacher and 'Nara heard about the morning's events, he was sure he'd have most of the entire crew threaten a mutiny if he didn't head for the Core at once. "Kaylee, what you're asking isn't no simple thing. If it was in my power to do it, we'd be headed there right now. And even if we could manage it without being bound by the feds, what would we do with all those kids? Kids who might be worse off than River is?" Gorramit, he hadn't wanted to knock the hope out of the girl, but she had to understand that he couldn't save everyone in the 'verse. Hell, keeping Serenity flying was hard enough sometimes.

"I understand Captain. But if you was to find a way, and I know you will, you'd do it right?"

"Kaylee, you know that if I find a way to take anything the feds got, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Now, enough of this woolgathering, what do you need me to do to get our girl flying again?" he asked her. He sighed as she turned her attention to the silent engine and began explaining things in Captain-dummy talk. He really hoped that his promise didn’t come back to bite him in his ass.

TBC in Those Left Behind Chapter 2: Consequences


Friday, April 30, 2004 4:10 AM


Oh, this is shiney! And you know, they are right...acting just fine!

But I think the best part of this one is really starting to feel like a series here, which gives me hope for more!! :-)

Friday, April 30, 2004 7:28 AM


Yep, yep, noticed the "Chapter 1" thing after I hit submit...LOL

An yes, I just re-read this one, it's that d*mn good!

Monday, May 3, 2004 12:01 PM


Oh yeah, loving this. And as sure as there were pips in that crate of apples Jayne bought this is gonna come back and bite our shiny Captain in the ass. Huh, just gotta love those Big Damn Heroes... Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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