Waiting - Part IV
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Things go from bad to worse for little Ethan, and the fall-out is affecting the whole crew. Please, please leave comments ... and I promise there will be fluff eventually!


Simon jumped down the last steps and was inside the infirmary almost before the sound of Freya’s scream had finished reverberating around Serenity. He checked the monitors, quelling the alarm, then was at Ethan’s side, his finger pressed gently against the boy’s neck.

“His heart’s not …” He didn’t finish.

“Ethan?” Freya was in shock.

“Mal, take her outside. Now.” There was no possibility of argument in his voice.

Mal put her arms around his wife. “Frey –“

“No!” She struggled to free herself.

“Please.” He turned her around, made her look at him. “Please,” he pleaded.

The pain on her face, the anguish and distress, torturing her as surely as … “Mal …”


She gave in, letting him lead her out into the common area. She kept looking over his shoulder.

“I need …” Simon ground his teeth as he grabbed different pieces of equipment.

“What?” River asked, appearing at his elbow.

He looked up in gratitude. “Read me,” he said simply.

She nodded, letting the thoughts of what he wanted her to do direct her hands.

Hank tumbled down the stairs, barely stopping himself from falling at the last step. “What was that?” he asked, his eyes automatically going to the infirmary window. And River lifting out the defibrillator paddles.

Don’t let her see. River’s voice in Jayne’s mind had the big man standing, moving between Freya and the door.

“What –“ Mal began, then saw the look on the mercenary’s face. His blood ran cold.

“No!” Freya shouted, fighting to get past them, her mind showing her son’s body jerking with the electricity flowing through it.

Kaylee stepped closer, her cheeks wet with tears of her own. “Frey, let him work,” she said softly.

Freya stared at her, then her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she collapsed, only Mal’s arms stopping her from falling to the floor.

He swung her up, carried her to the sofa. Quickly he checked her pulse. Strong, but rapid.

“She’s fainted.” Mal looked at Jayne. “Will you …”

He nodded. “I’ll stay with her, Mal.”

Mal put a hand on his shoulder and went back to the infirmary door.

Again, Simon thought, pushing air into the little boy’s lungs, all the while checking the monitors, not able to do everything himself, no matter how much he wanted to.

River placed the paddles either side of Ethan’s chest and pressed the button. He jerked.

Simon glared at the monitor, begging for something, anything. Then … a beat. Just one. Then another. More. “He’s back,” he breathed.

River dropped the paddles and took over on the ambubag, the mask covering Ethan’s nose and mouth, as her brother pulled the scanner across.

“Simon?” Mal asked, his voice seeming so lost.

“The sino-atrial node is failing. It’s the regulator for the heart,” Simon said quickly, tracing the damage on the monitor. “The virus must have damaged it, and it stopped sending electrical impulses, causing his heart to …” He stopped and looked at the captain. “We jumped started it again, and he’s breathing on his own, Mal.”

“Did he … was he …”

“We got him back. But that node … I can’t fix it, Mal.”

“Can’t …”

“A small pacemaker needs to be fitted, otherwise it will keep happening. Until …”

“Until he dies.” He could barely say the words.

Simon nodded slowly. “His heart won’t be able to take the strain.”

“How long?”

“Days. Maybe less.”

“Can you –“

“No.” The young doctor spoke firmly. “I don’t have the equipment to operate on a baby. Nor the pacemaker itself.”

“Could you do it? If you did?” Mal asked urgently, but any hopes he had died as Simon shook his head.

“I was a trauma surgeon, not a cardiologist. And on a child this size, it takes a specialism I just don’t have.”

“Then Ethan’s only hope is Greenleaf.”

“I'm sorry, Mal.”

“It’s what you were afraid of.”

Simon nodded.

“Cap?” Kaylee spoke hesitantly.

“Not now.”

“I can get maybe a bit more out of her, Cap’n,” Kaylee said softly. “If I … there are things I can do, that ain't right, but … maybe get –“

He looked sharply at her. “How much more?”

“Cap’n, it might rip her apart.”

“How much more?”

“Enough to cut the time in half.”

“Do it.”

“Cap’n, I just said –“

“Do it!” His voice was harsh. “This is my boat, and if I say do it, you do it. ‘Less you want me to put you off next planet we come to!”

Kaylee swallowed. “I know you don’t mean that. It’s just Ethan ‘n’ all. But I’ll do it.” She backed away from him, before running up the stairs to the safety of her engine room.

“Mal …” Jayne said.

“I know.” Mal wiped his hands across his face. “I’ll apologise later. But … Jayne, this is my son.”

“Yeah. And she knows how you feel. We all do.”

Hank nodded firmly. “I’ll get back to the bridge. Must be something else I can do. Maybe even a cruiser might be closer.”

“Thanks,” Mal said. He watched his pilot run out of the common area, his boots echoing through the cargo bay.

“Jayne,” River called.

“What is it?”

“Bethany.” She nodded down towards the corner.

“What are you talking about?” Simon asked. “What about Bethany?”

Jayne stepped into the infirmary, making very little noise for such a big man, and walked towards the cupboards at the back.

“Don’t you worry none, doc,” the mercenary said, bending down and opening the door. “It’s just somewhere she likes to hide.” He reached in and small hands gripped his.

“Uncle Jayne,” she whispered, letting him pull her out.

“Bethany?” Simon was appalled. “What are you doing in there?” He took his daughter, holding her close.

“I … everyone was so loud,” she whimpered. “Scared. Wanted to disappear.”

“Were you in there all the time?” She nodded, and buried her face in his shoulder. “Oh, honey.”

“Want me to take her back to her room?” Jayne asked.

“I … would you? Sit with her a while?” If nothing else he knew the big man would look after her.

“Sure. Wouldn’t offer if I didn’t want to.”

“Thanks.” Simon handed her back, and Bethany tightened her arms around her uncle’s neck.

“S’okay, short stub,” he said gently. “Ain't nothing gonna happen to you while I'm around.” He carried her back outside.

Simon stared after him for a moment, then glanced at Mal. “You need to let me look at that bullet wound.”


“Your chest. You’re bleeding.”

Mal glanced down. His shirt was stuck to him, and as he pulled it away he realised it was wet with blood. “Hadn’t noticed.”

“I need to check it. It looks like you’ve opened it up again.”

“Doc, like I told your sister, it ain't important.”

“And if you bleed to death while you stand there? Or get infected? How’s that going to help Ethan?”

“Mal, let him,” Freya said, standing in the doorway.

“Honey.” He crossed the infirmary and took her into his arms.

“I can’t lose you too.” Her voice was muffled, her face buried in him.

“Oh, ai ren, you won’t lose either of us.”

“Then let Simon deal with that.” She looked up at him. “Then you’d better go apologise to Kaylee.”


It felt like she was cutting her open. Kaylee’s hands were sure, certain, but every move was like slicing into her own child. Removing the safeties, cutting the margins to below bare minimum, and Serenity was screaming now, wanting to tear herself apart in terror at what was being done.

“I'm sorry,” Kaylee said, over and over. “I'm so sorry.” Tears were running down her grimy face, cutting pale furrows over her cheeks.


She didn’t turn. “I'm doing it, Cap. Ain’t no need for you to come and shout again.”

“Wasn't going to shout,” Mal said, stepping over the sill. “Came to apologise.”

She looked up, surprise warring with the sadness. “What did you just say?”

“I’m saying I'm sorry, Kaylee.” He took a step closer to her. “Got a reason, but no excuse for what I said. And you know I didn’t mean it. My brain ain't exactly working too well at the moment.”

“He’ll be okay, Cap’n.”

“What if he ain’t?” He let the words fall from his lips now, the worries he could never have said in front of Freya. “What if Simon’s right, and his heart can’t … if he …” He closed his eyes, trying not to see the little body. “If I have to bury him on Prom, Freya’ll be next to him. And I can’t … whatever happens, I can’t take that.”

He felt her put her arms around him, pulling him in. His raised of their own accord, holding her tight.

“It won’t happen, Mal,” she said softly. “Simon won’t let it.”

“I'm so sorry, Kaylee.”

“It’s okay. It’s okay.”

As he hugged her, his chin on the top of her head, she remembered all the other times he’d done so, in laughter and in sorrow. When she had homesickness that time, just after she’d come on board, and his first hug had been somewhat awkward, but it gave her the strength to carry on and not ask to be set back on Phoros. Then after the job on Ariel, when Simon had been so clever. And after Wash had died, and she finally realised he wasn’t ever coming back when he eased her pain in the middle of the night. Now she wanted to give him that strength back, to get him through this.

to be continued


Wednesday, May 16, 2007 5:56 AM


Man, do you know how to pile on the angst! I think my heart might have stopped there for a minute right along with Ethan's! Wonderful writing!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 8:13 AM


Oh Ethan ... this is just going from bad to awful ... I'm afraid what might happen ... and if they get to Greenleaf in time but ruin Serenity in the process - then what?

Amazing tension ... now, where is that gorram fluff?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 11:11 AM


Wow, rollercoaster of emotional angst! So happy Simon got a heartbeat back but distressed that little Ethan has to have a pacemaker fitted to live. It's all stops out to get to Greenleaf and get him the help he needs, love how the whole crew is pulling together for that chance. Funnily enough, the part that touched me deepest was between Kaylee and Mal at the end. Such a true friendship, good for them to be there for each other as well as the rest of the crew. Kaylee will always be Mal's *mei mei*. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 2:58 PM


Tian're trying to kill us, aren't you Jane0904?!? Cuz I will be damned to Book's Special Hell if I wasn't paralysed with fear that you would actually kill off Ethan. Hell...Ethan is still out on a limb with Serenity's race to reach Greenleaf in the next few hours. Definitely have to echo TamSibling and ask what will happen if Serenity is pushed past Kaylee-massaged limits saving Ethan's life. Cuz the old gal is a crew member much as any of the human ones:(



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