BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Secrets - Part XXIII
Sunday, May 17, 2015

Jayne materialised from the darkness and wrapped his strong arms around the young doctor, pinning him. “Not a good idea. Mal’s as like to give you one last chance then shoot you. If you’d tried that on me, now, you’d be bleeding into the dirt, but then Mal always was a soft touch.” “Let me go!” “Nope. Less you’d like me to hand you over to Frey, and don’t go thinking that’s the easy option.” [Maya. Post-BDM. Couples talk, Simon's anger bubbles over, and Inara's time is running out.]


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1507    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Hank rolled over for the third time in less than a minute, pummelled the pillow that felt like it was full of rocks, then sat up in disgust, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed.

“Baby?” Zoe asked from next to him.

“Sorry.” He looked round at her, the hair he loved to tangle in his fingers all wild about her head, her dark skin glowing in the low light. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”

“You didn’t.” She sat up, the sheet falling from her body. “I doubt anyone’s sleeping that much.”

“Probably not.” He ran his hands through his own hair. “’Cept maybe the kids.”

“I doubt that too.”

The children were all still in the house, Molly having taken up residence in the nursery, but none of the Serenity adults wanted to be any further away than somewhere on the ship.

“Yeah.” Hank shook his head. “I just … I feel like I should be doing something, but there’s nothing I can do.”

“You spoke to Monty, left a message for Theo.”

“Yeah, right. Whoop de doo.” His tone was unusually bitter.

“You even managed to get through to Dillon, and I have no idea how you did that. They should have been well out of range.”

He felt his skin warm. “I piggy-backed off a few relays, bit like Mal skipping those stones.”

“It was amazing.”

“You’re just saying that.”

“No, I’m not. Have you ever known me give praise where it isn’t due?”

“Well –”

“You did good, husband.”

He had to smile, just a little. “Maybe River ain’t the only one who can work miracles.”

“And Simon won’t give up.”

“No.” He bit his lip. “Did you know?”

“About what Frey and River did? No.”

“I didn’t think they could do that.”

She edged closer so her skin was touching his. “I don’t think we know what they can do, certainly together.”

“But to … pick his brain like that? I mean, not just read it, but erase bits?”

“I don’t think it was quite like that.”

“But they did. They made Simon forget. How do we know what else they’ve done? Maybe they’ve been doing it for years. How do we know this was the first time?”

“You don’t believe them?”

“Yes. No. Gorramit, I don’t know!”

“Simon gave his permission. He might not want to accept that he did, not yet, but you heard it. We all did.”

Freya had played the recording in front of them, River at her side, as they explained what had happened and why. Simon, though, had refused to be in the same room as them.

“I know.” He lay back and gazed at her, her magnificent breasts just inches from his face but for once having no effect on him. “I’m dai ruo mu ji.”

“Dumb as a wooden chicken?” She smiled, just a tilt of her lips. “No. You’re scared. Why?”

He suddenly looked guilty. “Nothing.”

“Tell me.”

“I just …” He swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple moving in his throat. “Frey knew how I felt about you. What if … what if …”

“What if she made me fall in love with you?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, Hank.” She leaned over and kissed him. “For a nominally intelligent man you can be surprisingly dense, can’t you?”

“Sometimes,” he admitted.

“Do you have any idea how long it took before I didn’t want to just shoot you?”

He laughed, such an unexpected sound he blushed. “Are you over that feeling?”

“Most of the time.” She touched his cheek with just her fingertips. “You made me realise I could love again, and for a while I hated you for it.”

“Wash must have been some man.”

“I can’t help feeling you would have got on. You’re as much of an overgrown child sometimes.”

“You think?” He twisted on the bed and somehow she found herself on her back, him leaning over her and taking the weight of his body on his elbows. “I’d say otherwise.”

She smiled gently. “Do you mind if we don’t?”

“You just want to cuddle?”

“Yes.”

“Hey, me too.” He lowered himself down and gathered her into his side. “So tell me Wash stories.”

“Did I ever tell you about the time he and Mal got bound, and Inara had to wear a belly dancer’s outfit?”

“I don’t think I know that one. Go on – you intrigue me strangely.”

She laughed, just a low vibration that ran through them both. “Well, somewhere or other she acquired a boa constrictor …”

---

In their shuttle Jayne was cleaning his guns, while River sat on the bed and stared at a blank page in her sketch book.

“You helping your bro?” he asked, sighting down the barrel of Betsy and making sure he’d brushed out all the accreted gunpowder.

“No. He wouldn’t be pleased to find me tiptoeing through his mind right now.”

“He’s a sha gua chun zi.”

“No. He’s right, in a way. It is but a step removed from what they did to me.”

“No, it ain’t. They cut into you.” He could still remember the pictures Simon had manipulated in the holoimager on Ariel, just before he tried to sell them. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, he wondered what would have happened if he’d succeeded, and the thought froze what was left of his heart. “’Sides, he agreed.”

“He didn’t think he had a choice.”

Jayne put down the gun. “And if he hadn’t?” he asked. “What would you have done?”

She looked up. “I don’t know.”

“Would you still have made him forget?”

“No.” She sighed heavily. “No, we wouldn’t. That is something neither mu qin or myself would have allowed the other to do.”

Unlike Mal, Jayne was much more understanding of the way River looked on Freya, and didn’t comment on her words. Instead he said, “So how would you have handled it?”

“Destroyed his notes, yes, but …” She bit her lip. “Kept him safe. Locked him away somewhere. Perhaps.”

“But he could’ve helped Inara before this?”

“No.” She got to her feet and drifted across the shuttle to stand in front of him. “It is only a tool, not the solution.”

He pulled her between his thighs. “And now? You gonna make him forget again?”

River shook her head. “That time is past. Too many people know now, and we’d have to … No. We’ll have to think of another way.”

There was a crash from outside in the cargo bay, and inventive cursing drifted in through the open doorway.

Jayne looked at his wife, then moved her gently away from him before going outside, his curiosity peaked.

River sighed and pulled a strand of dark hair around into her mouth, chewing absently, her mind elsewhere.

---

Inara was asleep, Sam dozing next to her, his head resting on the medbed. The numbness had finally worn off, at least mostly, although Inara complained her hands and feet were tingling like pins and needles. Simon had offered to give her something to try and stop it, but she’d declined, saying that at least if it was uncomfortable it meant she was still alive. Neither of them commented on what they knew to be a last stage symptom.

“And?” Sam had prompted when Inara first fell into dreams. “What else?”

“Do you really want to know?”

“Yes. Simon, I have to. What happens next … will it … hurt?”

Simon considered how much to tell him, but this was another man of science, a doctor. “Yes. In fact I’m surprised she hasn’t had another seizure, although that’s probably because of the drugs I’m using. But there will be one, and if it’s strong enough it could break bones, tear ligaments. She was right, it could affect her heart, reduce the blood supply to organs. At the very least the numbness will probably return, or all her nerves could start firing at once, sending pain signals to her brain. There are … I can’t be definitive.”

Sam, his olive face as pale as a ghost, nodded. “Thank you. For being honest. Then you had better get back to work.”

“Yes.”

“Did it … have you made any progress? Has that formula helped?”

Simon felt a flare of anger burn through him, not at this man in front of him, but at his sister and the woman he’d thought was his friend. Still, that particular problem had to be kept for another day. “It’s made me look at it differently. Understanding how it works, being so specific without the side effects … it won’t cure Inara but I might be able to use it to reverse engineer something.”

“Anything, Simon. Even if it’s only a few more months. And I am appalled that I am going to say this, but if it’s a choice between Inara and our son …”

Simon had nodded, praying fervently that it wouldn’t come down to that, and gone back to work.

Now Kaylee was standing in the doorway, dressed in a soft, washed out t-shirt and an old pair of his sleep pants, rolled around at her waist. “It’s late,” she said softly, stepping up behind him. “In fact it’s so late some might call it really early.”

“I know.”

“Do you?” She whispered in his ear, “You need to sleep.”

“No.” He took a deep breath. “I have to keep working.”

“And if you make yourself sick? Or you miss something because you’re so tired your eyes are crossed?”

He almost smiled. “My eyes are not crossed.”

“Could be.” She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him against her. “A coupla hours ain’t gonna make that much difference, are they?”

“They might.”

“And half a day ago you didn’t even have a start.” She squeezed a little more. “Come to bed.”

He turned in his seat to look at her, pulling her into his lap. “A nap probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. And I’ve got something cooking in the ViroStim that’s going to take a while yet.”

“A cure?” Her eyes widened.

“No. Nothing like that. But a step, perhaps.”

“Then you come to bed right now.”

“Only to sleep, Kaylee. That’s all it would be.”

She wriggled suggestively. “What, you think I can’t keep my hands off you?”

“Stop that. And yes.”

She stood up and held out her hand. “No, now, that’s Frey and the Cap’s problem.”

Simon’s face darkened. “Don’t talk about her.”

Kaylee sighed. “I’m angry myself at what they did, but truth is they didn’t have to tell you at all. And now there’s hope.”

Sam raised his head and looked at them, and Simon suddenly stood up and walked into the common area, Kaylee following.

“You don’t understand, Kaylee,” he said, his fists tight.

“Maybe not everything. But some. I know it’s ‘cause of what they did to River. Playing with her brain. And you think it was the same.”

“How can I not?” He turned on her, then dropped onto the couch. “Kaylee, I left everything to go after her. I nearly didn’t have you because of what they did.”

“Now that’s real nice, but we both know if she hadn’t gone to that place then you’d never’ve had to get her out, and we’d never have met.” She sat down next to him. “But she’s here now. And you have me. For always.”

He looked into her face, into those eyes that showed him so much love that he could almost feel forgiveness. But only almost. “They had no right.”

“Maybe. But I understand why.”

“You do? Kaylee, how can you say that?”

“’Cause I do. What if they’d taken Bethie? Or Hope? Or any one of the other children, and told you they’d hurt ‘em if you didn’t tell? That they kill ‘em if you didn’t make Super Reavers for ‘em?”

“But they didn’t ask. They just –”

“Yes, they did. I heard it. I listened to that recording, the one you won’t. And it’s your voices, and you give ‘em permission.”

“No, Kaylee.”

“Yes. It’s just ‘cause you’re thinking if you had this sooner then maybe ‘Nara wouldn’t be this bad.”

“Well, it’s true.”

“No, it isn’t. And if you’d get that top three percent mind out of your pigu you’d realise it. They told you soon as you had any idea what it might be. You know that.”

“But what else did they change? What else, Kaylee?”

“Nothing. Why should they? ‘Sides, like you said, after what they did to River, and to Frey don’t you forget, you think they did it lightly?”

“But this may save lives.”

“And take more.” She sighed. “Honey, I can’t even imagine having my head messed with. And then not knowing.”

“Maybe they have,” Simon said darkly.

“No. They said they didn’t, and I believe them.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s Frey. And your sister. They ain’t gonna do this without a gorram good reason, and I for one think it was.” She held up a hand. “I don’t want your brain to run outta your ears any more’n you do, but that’s not what they did. They just made you forget.” Kaylee shrugged. “In fact, the only thing seems odd to me is that they didn’t tell Mal.”

Simon stood up slowly. “No, that is odd. Only he never said they didn’t, did he?” He strode up the steps, and Kaylee rolled her eyes in disbelief.

“Simon, stop,” she called, following him.

He was already halfway across the cargo bay, heading for the cool night air coming in through the open door, and he gave no sign of having heard her.

Kicking one of the weights benches she swore, loudly, at length, and with great invention.

“You okay, girl?”

She looked up at Jayne hanging over the top railing outside the shuttle. “Can you go and stop someone killing someone else?”

---

Mal stroked the back of Freya’s hand, his thumb making small circular motions on her skin.

“Stop that,” she commanded, but with no heat.

“Stop what?”

“That. I know what you’re doing. I taught it to you.”

“Oh, this?” He pressed a little harder. “Frey, you need to relax.”

“I’m fine.”

“And you busted your wrist earlier.” He nodded down at the cast resting in her lap. “I don’t think fine is the right word.”

“It will heal.”

“And Simon’s a fool, but you’ll both get over it. But right now you need to obey your captain.”

“I do. Usually.”

“Right.”

They were sitting in the orchard on the wrought iron chairs that Mal had moved until they were side by side. Above them the Lazarene moon was barely showing a thin blade of crescent, so the stars had pride of place in the sky. It wouldn’t be long before the day started to make the night blush, but until then it was as if they were alone in the world.

“You know, you could go to bed without me,” Freya pointed out.

“Why’d I want to do that?”

“Because you’re tired?”

“So’re you.”

“I wouldn’t be able to sleep.”

Xin gan, you got no reason to feel guilty.”

“I know.”

“You’ve told me I should let the guilt go often enough. I’m thinking maybehaps you should be taking some of your own advice.”

“I didn’t say I felt guilty.”

“And I know you better’n myself.”

“There are things you know nothing …” She stiffened. “Oh, wuh de tyen, ah.”

“What is it?” He glanced in the direction of her stare. “Cao.

“You knew,” Simon said, marching up to them and glaring at Mal, his anger evident even in the low light.

“Knew what?” Mal got to his feet, his thumbs hooked into his gunbelt, the one he hadn’t taken off since Lecomb.

“About this … what they did to me.”

“You knew too. Just ‘cause you won’t listen to that recording doohickey don’t mean it ain’t true.”

“Don’t split hairs. Did they tell you what they planned to do?”

“Simon, don’t you think you should take a breath here and –” He didn’t get any further as the young man took a swing at him. He was almost ready for it, so was able to lean back into it, but it still connected and made his ears ring. At least he stayed on his feet even as Freya went to step past him to stop Simon trying again. She didn’t have to worry.

“Whoa, now.” Jayne materialised from the darkness and wrapped his strong arms around the young doctor, pinning him. “Not a good idea. Mal’s as like to give you one last chance then shoot you. If you’d tried that on me, now, you’d be bleeding into the dirt, but then Mal always was a soft touch.”

“Let me go!”

“Nope. Less you’d like me to hand you over to Frey, and don’t go thinking that’s the easy option.”

Mal shook his head, clearing it. “Simon, I get you’re pissed. I would be too. And you ain’t wrong.”

“Mal, don’t,” Freya urged, knowing what he was going to say.

“No, now. This has gone far enough.” He looked back at the doctor. “And yeah, you’re right. Frey was gonna take the blame, make it like she told River what to do, and that without letting on to anyone else. She was afraid how you’d take it, and I have to say you’ve lived down to her expectations.”

“How the diyu else was I going to take it?” Simon was still struggling in Jayne’s embrace.

“Only I ain’t gonna let her. She told me, her and River. We talked about it, argued about it the first time it happened, and I decided. Me. Nobody else. So I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt about the punch. But there won’t be another.”

“The first time? There have been others?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes!” He twisted again, trying to break free. “Of course it rutting well does!”

“Jayne, let him go.”

“Mal?”

“Do it.”

Jayne shook his head, then released the young man, who stood uncertain.

“Doc, you can try and hit me again, we can tussle on the ground and make fools of ourselves – ‘though I tell you now I’ve had enough experience of bar fights that I guarantee you’d lose – or you can agree we have this conversation another time. You’ve got a patient to be getting back to.”

“Simon!” It was Kaylee, running out to them. “It’s Inara!”

---

The sound of the respirator was loud in the blue room, breathing for the woman on the bed, lifting her chest by forcing life-giving air into her lungs.

“I thought she was waking up,” Sam said, his hands gripped together, something white showing between his knuckles. “Then she gave a sort of moan and started … started shaking. I tried to hold her down but she went … rigid.” He swallowed. “I thought she was just waking up.”

Simon nodded, only half-listening because this was the third time Sam had gone over what had happened. During the first two he’d injected Inara with a dose of relaxant, then a second. Neither seemed to have any effect. For one long, terrible moment he didn’t know what to do next.

It was River who got out the respirator, putting the mask over Inara’s face. “Do it,” she murmured.

“You know what’ll happen if I do.”

“No choice.”

Simon nodded, just a small jerk of his head, and injected a third dose.

Inara’s body seemed to turn to liquid, her bones not capable of holding her up.

“Doc?” Mal asked.

“The amount I had to give her to stop her hurting herself suppressed her respiratory functions.” Simon was checking her over quickly, professionally, but everyone out in the common area could see the sudden tension.

“Is it bad?”

“Yes.”

Sam straightened his shoulders. “My son?”

“The baby’s showing signs of distress.” He adjusted one of the sensors unnecessarily.

“And Inara?”

“Sam, I need to work.”

The counsellor stepped around the bed. “Take the baby.”

“What?”

“It’s putting a strain on Inara, isn’t it? Making it worse.”

Simon stared at him. “I don’t think it would do any good.”

“Are you telling me she’s … this is it?”

“Sam, I –”

“How long?”

Everyone held their breath as Simon contemplated what to say, then went with the truth. “Before, perhaps weeks. Now, hours.”

“I’m going to lose her?”

“I’m sorry.”

Someone sobbed outside.

“Then … you have to do what she asked.”

“It’s too soon.”

“Simon, you have to.”

“I don’t have an incubator.” His voice was quiet, but everyone heard, even above the sound of the ventilator.

“You mean …”

“It’s what I was trying to tell Inara. It’s too soon. The baby is unlikely to survive. Kaylee was working on something, but it’s not ready.”

Outside in the common area Kaylee gasped, then turned to Freya. “I can finish it. I just need a bit more time.”

“The local hospital,” Hank added. “Me and Jayne can go in the shuttle. Borrow one.”

Freya nodded. “Go. Take River, she’ll know what to look for. Kaylee, you get things ready for –”

The murmur of Inara’s heartbeat on the monitor stuttered just as the ViroStim beeped.

“What’s that?” Mal asked sharply. “You got something?”

“No.” Simon was adjusting the ventilator at the same time as trying to keep his concentration on the screens. “Yes. No, not really.”

“She gonna live for a minute?”

“I need to keep –”

“I’ll do that.” River slid between him and the machines.

“Now have you got time?” Mal had moderated his tone, but barely.

He looked around in surprise. “What?”

“Tell us. Tell me.”

Simon didn’t answer, just crossed the infirmary to the ViroStim. He bent over and lifted the tray out, a single ampoule of liquid nestled in it.

“Simon, I am a hair’s breadth from shooting you. Don’t make it worse. Is it a cure?”

“No.” The doctor shook his head. “It’s not a cure. It was something I hoped would lead to one, but …”

“Can you use it? Buy you some time?”

“Mal, it’s like I told you before. I need a scalpel, not a sledgehammer. This could be worse, like using a … a combine harvester to cut a single blade of grass.”

“Have to doubt you’ve ever seen one of them, let alone used one, but it gets the job done.”

“And I have no idea what else this serum might do.” He held up the phial, the liquid inside moving thickly and seeming to sparkle.

It put Mal in mind of Quicksilver, and a sympathetic ache ran across his chest. “You got a choice?”

“Mal, if it works, it if stops this disease, if it works at all, it could leave her deaf, dumb, blind, paralysed … it could take her back to childhood, poison her … or any or all of the above.”

“Do you have a choice?”

The monitors hesitated again, and Simon took a huge breath. “No.”

“Do it,” Sam ordered. “I want to be angry with her about this.” He held out a sheet of paper, scrunched from where it had been in his fist.

She’d asked for her tiny Buddha statue, and he’d reluctantly left her side to run into the house to find it in their bedroom. There, on the dressing table, had been an envelope, addressed to him in Inara’s distinctive handwriting. He’d picked it up and shoved it into his pocket, grabbing the figurine and hurrying back to Serenity. He’d only opened it after Kaylee had taken Simon out of the infirmary.

Mal went to take it but crossed his arms instead. “Not my affair,” he said shortly.

“Simon, please.” Sam had ordered, and was now begging. “Please.”

“You have to understand the risks –”

“Please.”

Without another word Simon slid the phial into a hypo and placed it against Inara’s neck. He pressed the button and the gas hissed, the fleeting perfume of roses gone before it even registered.

“Well?” Mal prompted.

“Now we wait.”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Monday, May 18, 2015 1:52 PM

BUCKSHOTPILOT


DAmn! I'm on the edge of my seat! Thanks

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 4:07 PM

AMDOBELL


Oh good gorram, what a cliffhanger! What with Simon going nuclear over what Frey and River did to make him forget and then Inara on the brink of dying it seems the only option left is the one Simon most fears using. Let's hope it at least keeps her alive long enough for them to find a cure of some kind. Brilliant writing as ever, Jane0904. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, May 22, 2015 8:15 PM

KATESFRIEND


Wow, that was some fast action! So much in character of Mal assuming responsibility for the decision to change Simon's memory, and Simon human enough to be capable of being so touchy and unreasonable for all the wrong reasons. Eagerly waiting for more, and sure hope you have as much fun writing as we do reading!


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