Family (Part 9/14)
Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sometimes it sucks being a doctor. And a land baron.


"It's called Anson's Syndrome."

Simon was standing in the middle of the living room, not really sure who in his captivated audience he should be looking at. The Cobbs and the Campbells, as well as the captain, were all present, and the scrutinizing eyes directed at him and the deafening silence reminded him of that very first evening he'd spent on Serenity, when he'd delivered that speech to the crew, pleading his case.

He'd hated it then, he hated it now.

The most prudent thing would be to look at Mattie, he concluded; after all this concerned him more than it did the others. But it wasn't easy, and he had to force himself to do it.

"It's a genetic disease," he explained, "that runs in certain bloodlines." He turned to address Radiant, "You mentioned to the captain you had a brother suffering from the same thing?"

She nodded affirmatively, but otherwise her face remained expressionless.

"It attacks the lungs, slowly destroying their ability to take up oxygen. It's degenerative; you're obviously born with it and it'll worsen over the years." He paused and for a beat everybody was silently waiting for him to continue.

In the end it was Mal who asked the dreaded question. "Is it treatable?"

"No." Simon kept the answer deliberately short. There was no reason to drag this out more than necessary. "There are ways to ease the symptoms, of course, but no, there's no real cure." He forced himself to look at Mattie again. "Few live past the age of twenty."

"And I'm twenty-four," Mattie calmly remarked. "Guess I should consider myself lucky." There was surprisingly little bitterness in his voice, and when he felt his mother tense up next to him, he turned towards her and smiled bravely.

"I'm sorry," Simon said.

"It's not your fault, darling," Radiant told him. "You're only confirmin' what I already knew." She mimicked her son's brave smile.

Mattie glanced back at him. "So… how long?" he asked.

"You're in the final stages," Simon replied, hesitating a little. These things were always hard to calculate. "Maybe six months. At the most."

How he hated this! Not being able so save everyone was an inevitable part of being a doctor, but that didn't mean it ever got easy. And telling a man not older than himself that he was going to die still… sucked. To put it mildly.

Mattie nodded, still stoic and calm, and draped an arm across his mother's slumping shoulders. Over by the window Jude started crying quietly, Jo was staring intently at her feet and Jayne shifted uncomfortably in his seat, never taking his eyes off Simon.

The only person who seemed to have a hard time accepting the harsh reality, was actually the captain. "Is there nothing you can do?" he asked.

"No," Simon patiently repeated. "And I assure you it's not because of lack of will or resources."

"And you're absolutely sure your diagnosis is correct?"


"Damn," Mal muttered.

Radiant had gone pale and she seemed completely unaware of how Mattie was stroking her cheek to comfort her. Eventually she looked up to meet Simon's eyes. "Genetic?" she said. "He got it from me?"

"It would appear you're the carrier of the gene that causes the disease, yes," Simon confirmed. "There's a fifty percent chance you'll pass it on to your children, and of those about a third will develop the disease. It's probably what killed your little ones," he added, referring to the two infants she'd lost – and instantly regretted it. She hadn't needed to know that.

"What about my grandkids?" she asked, and the question caused a reaction in Jude who looked up and stared at him as well, the sorrow on her face momentarily replaced by fear and worry.

"If Jude's a carrier of the gene, she could've passed it on to them," Simon truthfully replied. "But if they had the syndrome they should've shown symptoms by now, at least the boy. They seem healthy to me."

"Could you find out for sure?" Jude asked, and the tone of her voice told Simon how desperately she needed to know.

"I can test you," he offered. "See if you have the gene. If you don't, they don't. It doesn't skip generations."

"Then do it."

"Okay, the procedure's quite simple. I only need a sample of your blood."

Jo jumped to her feet. "And me," she said. "Test me as well."

Everybody instinctively shifted their attention to Jayne, and when he became aware of it, he cleared his throat. "Fine, me too," he mumbled.

"Alright," the doctor nodded. "You can come by the infirmary later tonight, and I'll have an answer for you in a couple of days."

"Thank you," Jude said, and clung to the reassuring hand Fergus had placed on her shoulder.

"I'm sorry," Simon muttered again, before he silently slipped from the room, leaving the family to digest the bad news in privacy.

Mal came with him. "Damn," he repeated. "I'd really hoped it'd be somethin' you could fix, Doc."

"I thought it would be," Simon admitted. "I'm overly confident that way."

"Hey, don't kick yourself." The captain sounded genuinely sympathetic. "Now," he glanced back over his shoulder, "we'll let Jayne have a moment, but you and I should head back to the boat. We have a lot of planning to do, and not much time to do it in."

Simon put up a puzzled frown. "Planning? I'm part of your planning?"

"Yes, you are. Like I said, I have a job for you."

Simon sighed. "I'm not going to like this, am I?"


And so it happened that about twenty hours later Simon found himself walking down the main street of New Inverness with Kaylee by his side. She was holding his arm, smiling and skipping along, trying to give the impression that they were just out for a stroll, but Simon was pretty sure they were fooling nobody. "Try not to draw any attention," the captain had instructed them, but that was easier said than done; after all they were the only strangers in town.

"Simon," Kaylee whispered, "you're supposed to look relaxed."

"I'm trying," he hissed back. "Maybe if we talked about something? Maybe that would take my mind of the fact that everybody's staring at us just when we're about to do something illegal?"

"Sssh," she shushed him, but never took the now clearly fake smile off her face. "Okay, then. Have you told River 'bout Mattie? 'Bout how he's going to die?"

"Maybe not about that," he muttered, but he still answered her question, "No."

"Why not?"

"She doesn't have to know. I'm not sure how much she comprehends anyway. She's like a child sometimes."

"Poor Radiant." The phony smile had vanished. "First her husband, now her child. She's such a nice woman. She don't deserve this."

"No, she doesn't." Simon knew he sounded bitter, and he'd made no attempt to hide it anyway. And maybe he should have talked to River? Before she got too attached to the young man. His sister had experienced too many losses in her short life already.

Simon was still lost in these thoughts (and they had taken his mind off the crime about to be done), when Kaylee stopped. "We're here."

They had come to a rest in front of a three-story building that, if it hadn't been the largest house there, would have looked quite simple. A plaque nailed to the wall told them that these were the headquarters of Northern Star Wood Processing, Inc., but they were really only interested in the vehicles parked on the curb outside. One in particular stood out; a flashy hovercraft that looked more expensive than all the others combined.

They stepped up to it. "Here goes," Kaylee said.

"Is this it?" Simon asked.

"Yup, just where Wash said it would be."

Simon bit his lip. "Let's just hope he's got the other details right as well."

He glanced around to check if the coast was clear. It wasn't. People were still passing by on the street and several of them threw them long looks, perhaps wondering why they were just standing there, apparently doing nothing, and so Simon put his arm around Kaylee and pulled her closer, to give off the impression that they were lovers stealing a private moment.

And suddenly her face was very close to his, and he felt her warm breath on his skin, and her lips looked welcoming and so very reachable…

Through the corner of his eye he saw that there was finally a gap in the traffic and the sidewalk empty, and he gently pushed her away. "Come on, do your thing. And please hurry."

She immediately dropped to the ground and swiftly rolled in underneath the hovercraft. From his pockets he produced the tools he'd helped her carry and slid them to her. Then he casually leaned against a signpost close by, glanced at his watch and pretended to be waiting for someone, now and then coughing loudly to camouflage the tinkering sounds the mechanic was making.

It only took a few minutes, but it felt like a small eternity. "Kaylee," he urged at one point, glancing nervously at the main doors of the building, expecting the man to walk out at any moment.

"Nearly there," she whispered back.

An old woman passed him, staring at him, and Simon smiled and nodded to her, but she said nothing, just put up a suspicious face as she walked on by.

Finally Kaylee climbed out from under the car and stood up, smiling. "Done."

"Good, let's go."

They stepped out into the street again, but as she made to walk back the way they'd come, he gently nudged her along in the opposite direction.

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"I thought since we're already here… There's something I'd like to check out first."

She looked puzzled, perhaps surprised by what he knew was an uncharacteristically behavior, but she followed him nonetheless as he determinedly started walking towards the city hall.


A few miles outside of town, on a deserted strip of land, Wash was waiting. He was hidden in a thicket at the top of a small hill, and when he heard the sound of a hovercraft approaching he peered out from the bushes to look at the road that ran past beneath. The vehicle's engine didn't sound right; it made a hissing, coughing noise and left a tail of black smoke behind. Wash smiled broadly to himself as it finally died away all together and the hovercraft came to a stop.

Right on the spot.

Wash's grin grew. Kaylee was certainly worth her weight in gold.

MacHaig stepped out, cursing loudly – Wash could easily hear him from his hiding place – and opened the hood, and as he did so more black smoke came pouring out, engulfing him.

Wash bit his lip not to snicker out loud as he watched how two black-clad and masked figures slowly stepped out from behind a cluster of trees next to the road with raised guns. A third popped up too, but stayed back to keep an eye on the surroundings. None of them spoke, but when MacHaig spotted them, he was smart enough to lift his hands in a defensive manner.

"I've got no money here!" he shouted. "You're makin' a mistake."

It didn't look like any of his assailants were listening to him. One of them only waved him away from the vehicle and kept him at gunpoint while the other climbed into it and started rummaging around.

"And you can forget about the car!" MacHaig yelled. "It won't do you no good. It's got a state of the art security system. It needs my DNA to start."

Still he got no response, which seemed to make him even angrier.

"You have no idea how much trouble you're in! Don't you know who I am? I'll have you put away for life, all of you!"

The lookout, who until then had stayed on the sidelines, took a few threatening steps in his direction, but backed down again when the one pointing his gun at MacHaig gestured for him to do so with but a wave of his hand.

Wash's attention was on the third person, the one aboard the hovercraft, who by now had found the secret compartment underneath the passenger seats in the back, just where the factory workers had told Wash it'd be.

Every Thursday, they'd told him. Every Thursday MacHaig came this way, alone, unguarded, always the same route, always carrying the same thing, 'safely' hidden away in the 'secret' compartment everybody knew about but nobody dared to touch.

The person on the vehicle pulled out something that looked like a big toolbox, and judging by MacHaig's reaction they'd struck gold. "That's just some old tools!" he insisted, a little too frantically, as the lookout stepped up to the hovercraft to help haul the box away.

Then all three assailants, who still hadn't spoken a word or shown their faces, walked away with the loot, leaving a steaming MacHaig with his broken car.

Wash scrambled out of his hidey-hole and hurried to meet up with the others by the hidden pickup truck a little further down the road. They were already there when he arrived, and Zoë tore off her mask just as he came up to them. "He'll know it's us," she declared.

"No, he won't," Mal retorted as he peeled his own mask off. "He'll suspect it, but he won't know it. And he can't prove it."

"A man like that don't need no proof," Zoë pointed out. "He'll come."

"I certainly hope so. It's all part of the plan."

"How so?"

Mal didn't answer, because Jayne, who'd also shed the mask, just then managed to pry open the toolbox, and they all leaned in to look at the contents.

It was stuffed with money.

Just like the factory workers had said it'd be.

Every Thursday, they'd told him, MacHaig collected his earnings of the week from the company office, in cold hard cash, just the way he preferred it, and took it home to his estate in his hovercraft.

It was a robbery waiting to happen. This man was certainly too arrogant for his own good.

They all grinned broadly at the sight of the cash, except Zoë, who still didn't look fully convinced. The captain saw it. "Oh come on, Zo', this is a damn good take, you'll have to admit."

"Normally I'd say so," she agreed. "Normally I'd be thrilled. But normally we'd be headed out for the stars by now. This time we'll be leaving people behind. Innocent people who'll pay the price in our place."

Jayne, who'd until then had been completely bedazzled by the credit bills in the box (nothing distracted his already somewhat simple mind more than money) looked up and shifted his eyes from her to Mal and back again. "I won't let 'im near 'em," he growled.

"No worries," Mal said, he sounded dead serious and kept his eyes firmly on his first mate as he spoke, "I've got this under control."

He turned and mounted the truck. Jayne loaded the box unto it and followed him.

"Now, why don't I find that reassurin'?" Zoë muttered, but Wash was the only one who heard it.




Sunday, February 19, 2012 5:38 AM


Oh no, Mattie's condition is incurable? And his mother is a carrier? Poor Radiant. In fact, poor Cobb family. The hold up was perfect and for once Jayne didn't call out Mal's name - a minor miracle in and of itself! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Thursday, February 23, 2012 6:47 AM


Very moving scene with Simon giving the diagnosis and prognosis for Mattie. Definitely a tough part of the job of being a doctor. I am entirely of Zoe's way of thinking: Mal's repeated reassurances that everything is going according to plan, no worries, all under control -- this just makes me worried! Something is going to happen!

Friday, November 23, 2012 2:06 PM


Well...I gotta say that you took a path seldom tread in Browncoat circles: making Mattie's ailment incurable and fatal. Certainly allows an insight or two into Simon, Jayne and the Cobbs' minds about such a revelation. Plus I can just see it as a failure on Mal's part...thinking that he can once again save the day by having his medical genius medic cure a terrible ailment and be a hero. Repent for perceived sins...



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Angels We Have Heard (Part 4/5)
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Angels We Have Heard (Part 3/5)
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Angels We Have Heard (Part 2/5)
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Angels We Have Heard (Part 1/5)
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It's the night before Christmas and Jayne is having spiritual problems. Literally.

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Kaylee comes clean and River goes for a swim.

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Zoë and Inara have a heart-to-heart, and Mal discovers more shades of grey.