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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. En route to Newhall, Bethie surprises the crew, and not in a good way. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1917 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“So what was your first time, Mal?” Hank asked, wiping his plate around with a piece of bread.
Serenity’s captain sat back, his mouth twitching. “Why should I let you in on that, I wonder?”
“Come on,” the pilot said. “We’ve all told the tale. Me and Risa, Jayne and … what was her name?”
“Yeah, that was it. Nice name.” He smiled at the big man, but only got a glare in return. It had been like this for the past five days since they left the Keyser Skyplex, and although he knew why, he wasn't about to tell anyone else. He turned back to Mal. “So it’s not fair. Even Zoe confessed. Now it’s your turn.”
Mal chuckled. “Well, I have to say, it’s a sorry story.”
“We’re all ears.”
“Cattle rustlers. We’d been having trouble with them, and not just us, but neighbouring ranches too, so me and a friend of mine, Pete Mahoney, decided to do something about it.”
“And you got shot?”
“How old were you?”
“All of fifteen.” The chuckle became a laugh. “Damn, but it hurt.”
“What did your Ma say?” Kaylee asked, her eyes wide and bright.
“I seem to recall some harsh words being bandied about, least until she called the local doc.”
“And which one of your many scars is thanks to that little escapade?” Simon put in.
“That, I’m afraid to say, is something you’re never gonna find out.”
“Spoilsport,” Hank said goodnaturedly, eating the last of his bread.
Mal felt Freya’s eyes on him, and he turned his head enough to be able to look at her. There was a smile on her lips, and yet again he cursed her abilities.
What’s it worth not to tell them rustlers weren’t involved? he heard in his mind, a definite laugh amongst the words.
We had rustlers at that time!
Yes, but you got shot in the ass by your friend Pete when you were out duck hunting. And I think everyone should know that.
Don’t you dare. He saw the smile widen and her mouth open, so he said quickly to Simon, “And how’s our latest patient?”
“Bethie?” Simon’s brows drew together a little. “Still under the weather. I’d say it was the ‘flu, but she should be feeling better by now. I'm going to run a few more tests if there’s no improvement tomorrow.”
“It’s even put her off her food,” Kaylee said, her cheerfulness dimming at the thought of her little girl not being well.
“Now that is worrying,” Mal said. “She could eat us out of ship and home.”
“She’s not that bad!” Kaylee snapped back, then looked slightly ashamed. “Sorry, Cap’n.”
“No, mei-mei, it’s my fault. I shouldn’t’ve made fun.” His eyes were at their softest blue as he said, “If anyone can make her eat, it’s Ethan.” His son was down in the sickroom, sharing a tray piled high with the best they could offer.
“He’s been looking after her real well,” Kaylee agreed, anxious to make up for her ill-temper.
“Like father, like son,” River added, nursing Caleb as he slept in her arms.
“Hey, honey, you wanna give him to me a while?” Jayne asked, his voice gentle. “You ain't touched more’n a morsel yourself.”
“You gotta eat.” He reached out and took his son, so careful that the baby didn’t even stir. “Now, you clear that plate.”
River smiled, just a little. “Yes, Jayne.” She picked up her fork and speared a piece of protein.
“How do you do that?” Mal asked, shaking his head. “No-one on this crew ever does what I tell ‘em.”
“I'm sure it’s just the novelty of it, sir,” Zoe assured him. “Being newly-weds.”
“You mean after a few months they’ll be arguing like the rest of us?”
“I don’t doubt it.”
“Hey, we don’t argue!” Hank protested.
“No, but then again you don’t do what I tell you anyway,” his wife pointed out.
“Well, there is that.”
“And we do what you tell us,” Freya added, putting her hand on Mal’s knee. “When it’s important.”
“Uncle Simon?” Ethan’s voice from the doorway had them all turning to look.
“Hey, big feller,” Mal said, smiling at his son. “You finished that lot already?”
Ethan glanced at him, his eyes anxious, but said, “It wasn't my fault.” The little boy was tugging on the ear of his teddy bear, a sure sign he was agitated.
Mal’s grin faded. “What wasn’t, Ethan?”
“Bethie’s face. I didn’t paint her.” He looked unhappily around the table.
Simon stared at him. “What are you talking about?”
Ethan crossed the dining room and slipped his small hand into Simon’s larger one. “Come look.” He led the way out of the galley, all of the rest of the crew following. “She wouldn’t let me come for you before,” he added, holding tight. “But she’s asleep.”
At the stairs he started to go down them one at a time, but Simon couldn’t wait. He scooped the little boy up and handed him to Mal. “I have to …”
“Go, doc. We’re right behind you.”
Simon ran down the stairs, Kaylee at his heels, both of their hearts pumping furiously.
“I don’t know.”
“If anything …”
He didn’t answer as they reached the lower crew quarters, and he flung the door aside, stepping into Bethie’s room. She was facing away, the covers pulled up to her chin. “Bethie?” he said softly, trying to control his breathing as he sat down on the bed.
“Daddy?” She yawned and rubbed her eyes, turning towards him. “Is it time to get up?”
“Run-tse de fuo-tzoo,” Kaylee breathed, holding onto the doorjamb.
“No, sweetie,” Simon said, his hand already touching her face. “I just need to take a look at you.”
She flinched back, realising what he meant. “It wasn't Ethan’s fault,” she insisted, pulling the covers higher.
“I know. Just let me see.” His fingers, more gentle than they had ever seen, began to trace the red rash on her face, the skin thickened slightly. Removing the sheet from her grasp, he opened her nightdress a little, and the edge of the red tide was clearly visible on Bethie’s chest.
“You swore it wasn’t Minuet’s!” Freya hissed, holding onto Mal’s arm so tightly she was leaving bruises, livid with rage and fear.
“It isn’t.” Simon glanced over his shoulder at the rest of the crew. “What it is … is measles.”
“Measles?” Mal shook his head. “Didn’t think anyone got that no more.”
“I’ll run a couple of tests, but I’m sure.” Simon gathered his daughter into his arms, lifting her up easily. “It’ll take a few minutes.”
“Long as you need, doc.”
“I'm sorry,” Freya said, watching Mal rub his arm.
“I just … seeing that redness … I thought …” Her eyes closed.
“I know.” He pulled her closer. “But it’s just measles.”
“Where do you suppose she –“ Freya stopped as movement in the infirmary indicated Simon was coming back out. “Well?” she asked. “Is it?”
“As I suspected. Measles.”
“Why didn’t you test for it?” Kaylee demanded from the doorway, her own colour high.
“Because it’s so rare.”
“Rare? Your daughter -”
“Rare in the Core, Kaylee.” He tried to speak calmly. “It’s been virtually eradicated there, with only one or two cases a year.”
“Well, make that three now.” She crossed her arms, still furious with him.
“What?“ Mal asked quickly. “More?”
Simon shook his head. “No-one bothers inoculating against it anymore, Mal. At least in the Core. River and I are definitely at risk.”
“And the rest of us?”
“I’ve had it,” Jayne put in. “Mattie brought it home when he was just starting school. So I’m okay.”
“Me too,” Kaylee said reluctantly. “When I was eight or nine.”
“I think I missed it,” Hank added, looking at Zoe worriedly. “What about you?”
“I don’t think so,” his wife said.
“Then Jayne and Kaylee are the only ones who are honestly safe,” Simon interrupted before the discussion could go around the rest of the crew. “I can check the last lot of blood work I did on all of you, but I’d say they’re likely to be the only ones with natural immunity from contracting the disease.”
“People used to make sure their children caught things like this,” River added, Caleb awake now and sucking contentedly on her little finger.
“They did?” Hank asked.
“To get them out of the way. Over with.”
Mal stirred. “I seem to recall my Ma saying something about that once,” he said slowly. “There was an outbreak of something or other in the town, and Ms Hollister came round with her boy, wanted to know if she could take me along.”
“Did your mother allow it?” Simon asked, interested from a medical point of view.
“Nope. My Ma said it was crazy, and the best way of me not being sick was not to be in the same room as sick people.”
“Well, she was right about that.” Simon shook his head. “The problem is that there is a minor epidemic sweeping the Rim at the moment.”
“You been looking it up?”
“While I was waiting for the results.” The young man began to pace. “The incubation period is about three weeks, so I think she probably picked it up on Verbena.”
“See,” Mal commented to Freya. “We do legitimate jobs and this is what happens.” He turned back to Simon. “So what now? We all gonna come down with it?”
“I hope not.”
“Why?“ Hank asked quickly. “Is it dangerous?”
“Not to the children, not usually,” Simon assured him. “Mostly they just recover with plenty of fluids and bed rest. But for adults, that can be a different matter.”
“I think you’d better clarify things here, doctor,” Mal said firmly.
“With little or no immunity to the virus, adults can have … complications.” Simon sat down next to Kaylee. “Worst case scenarios are brain damage, loss of hearing, that sort of thing.”
“But that’s worst case, right?”
“Oh, yes. But even in milder cases it can be unpleasant.”
“That’s why parents used to let their kids catch these things, ain’t it? ’Cause they knew what might happen if they got them while they were older.”
“Your mother wasn’t in the wrong, Mal,” Simon added. “A case could be made that, if you kept children isolated, the disease would die out naturally.”
“Except it ain’t.” Mal took a deep breath. “So, what do we do?”
“There’s an antiviral that’s pretty effective at stopping the disease in its tracks, if the person gets it soon enough.”
“Well, with this variant Bethie has probably only been contagious for a few days, so we have maybe a week before the rash appears. After that point we just have to wait things out.”
“And do you have this antivirus thingie?”
There was sudden silence.
“Then what’re we talking about here, Doc?” Mal stepped forward, his hands thrust into his pants pockets to keep them still. “We’re all gonna get sick?”
“No. I don’t think it’s going to come down to that.”
“Then what? Head back to Keyser?”
“No. And if we did we’d have to explain why we wanted the antiviral, and then we’d be quarantined. Measles is a communicable disease, especially at the moment. But we’re landing on Newhall, aren’t we?”
“To make the delivery, yeah.”
“They’ll have a hospital. And hopefully the equipment I need to make the antiviral, even if they don’t have a supply of it.”
“It’s gonna be a day ‘til we get there,” Mal pointed out. “Are we gonna be in time?”
“Well, if they don’t have any ready, it will take a day or two to synthesise the -”
“Simon. Yes or no.”
“Good.” He looked at Hank. “See if you can shave the time a little.”
“On it, Mal,” the pilot said, jumping to his feet and hurrying out of the galley, glad to be doing something.
“What about Bethie?” Kaylee asked her husband, her hands rubbing round and round each other. “And the other children?”
Simon thought a moment. “She’s contagious, but she might not have infected them or anyone else yet. If it’s okay with Mal I think she’d be better off in shuttle one. At least it has its own air system, and we can scrub it easier.”
“She can’t be in there on her own!”
“She won’t be.” Simon put his hand on top of hers. “You’re going to be with her. I told you, you’re safe from the disease.”
“Good idea, doc,” Mal said, nodding in agreement. “We’ll make it like a home from home.”
“And you?” Kaylee prompted. “You said, you and River weren’t ever inoculated.”
“I’m a doctor, Kaylee. I’ll be fine.”
“What, you gonna shout at the germs and tell ‘em not to infect you?”
“I could try it.” He tried to smile a little for her, but she was still glaring at him. “Sweetheart, it’ll be fine. We’ll get the vaccine and … Kaylee, honestly. You don’t need to worry.”
“She’s my daughter, Simon, and you‘re my husband. A’course I’m going to worry.”
There was nothing he could say to stop her from doing just that, so he squeezed her hand gently. “Why don’t you get it ready for her? Take whatever she needs in there and I’ll bring her up shortly.”
“I’ll help,” River offered.
Kaylee swallowed hard. “’Kay.” She stood up, wiping her nose on the back of her hand. “You coming?”
Simon caught Mal’s eye. “In a minute.”
“’Kay.” The two young women hurried towards Bethie’s room.
Simon turned back. “What?”
“Is there something you ain’t telling us?”
Mal waved his hand. “All of this.”
Simon exhaled heavily, aware of the others watching him closely. “Mal, the truth is, we’re probably all infected by now. Living like this, so closely together … it’d be a miracle if we dodged that particular bullet.”
“And how’s it going to affect us? Honestly?”
“Well, the sooner we get the vaccine, the better. Initial symptoms are like a cold, maybe bronchitis, but as I said once the rash appears there’s nothing I can do except alleviate any distress.”
Mal glanced at Freya. “Which will be?”
“Loss of appetite, extreme tiredness, sensitivity to light, bronchial congestion, pneumonia if we’re really unlucky …”
“How long until we feel better?” Zoe asked, concern for her own son uppermost in her mind.
“At least two weeks after the rash subsides.”
“Always wondered if having it made Matty sicker when he got that damplung,” Jayne commented quietly, looking after where his wife had gone.
“It’s possible.” Simon got to his feet. “I’d better go and help Kaylee.”
“Hang on a sec,” Mal said. “More’n once we’ve needed a vaccine. This equipment we ain’t got. Expensive?”
“Anywhere we can steal one?”
Simon allowed a small smile. “I’ll make a list.”
“Take that as a kindness.”
to be continued
Wednesday, April 23, 2008 12:18 AM
Wednesday, April 23, 2008 6:44 AM
Wednesday, April 23, 2008 5:52 PM
Thursday, April 24, 2008 1:46 AM
Friday, April 25, 2008 10:44 AM
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