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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Have you never done that? In all those times you were treating someone in the hospital, when you were the great Doctor Tam, didn’t you once tell less than the truth to someone if it made them feel less desperate?”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Inara's fate, and what follows. My apologies for the wait!]
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1071 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
The beeping stuttered. The machine counting Inara’s heartbeats wavered, recovered, then faltered again. A little race of heart-beats, then a pause.
“Simon …” Sam was white, a shade he shouldn’t have been able to reach.
Simon nodded, pulling on a clean pair of sterile gloves and picking up a scalpel. “You need to leave.”
“If I’m to save the baby –”
“Simon, wait.” Freya spoke from the common area.
“There’s no time.”
“Please. Just … wait a minute.”
He looked across into her clear gaze, hearing her steady voice, then shook his head as a wave of distrust broke over him. “No. No, you don’t do this. Not again.”
A feeling of immeasurable sadness almost drowned her, but she said again, “Please.”
“Doc, give it a minute.” Mal’s voice was quiet but firm. “Sixty seconds.”
Simon glared at him then nodded just once, turning pointedly to face the infirmary chronometer.
Ten. Fifteen. Twenty … seconds passing, each accompanied by little hiccups in Inara’s heartbeat. Thirty. Forty. Fifty. He turned back and prepared to make the incision.
Sixty. Sixty-one. Sixty-two.
Simon hadn’t moved.
Sixty-five. Sixty-six. Sixty-seven.
She licked her lips. Not much, just the smallest flicker of her tongue, but Sam felt his own heart leap, the tension in his body as tight as a bowstring.
“Inara?” he asked again, pleading to be heard.
There was an eternity of waiting, the gaps between the seconds so wide galaxies were slipping between. Then …
Just a breath. A whisper.
“I’m here.” If anything he managed to get closer to the medbed. “Inara, my darling, I’m here. Can you open your eyes?”
Her fingers extended as if she was stretching. “Thirsty.”
“Here.” Simon held out a cup with a spout to Sam, the scalpel fallen to the floor and forgotten. “A little. And slowly,” he added, his eyes scanning his screens, taking in the information and allowing his brain to process it.
“Top three percent,” River murmured, coming out of her garden in her clean dress and standing by Jayne.
Sam held the cup so Inara could take in a little water, her throat moving painfully as she swallowed.
“That’s enough,” Simon ordered, staring at one image in particular.
Sam moved the cup, and Inara’s mouth made a moue of frustration.
“If you want more, you’re going to have to look at me,” Sam whispered.
Her eyelids flickered then opened slowly. “Mean,” she muttered, then smiled. “Hello.”
“Hello.” Sam stroked her hair back. “Where’ve you been?”
“I thought you …” He cleared his own throat. “I thought you were going to.”
“Are you … all right?” Her voice was gaining strength with every word but still sounded as if she were a long way off.
“Am I …” He shook his head. “Inara …”
Simon interrupted, his gaze finally moving from the screen, “I need to run some more tests.”
“More?” Sam asked. “It worked. You can see it worked.”
“She’s awake. So something … worked. But there are still things I need to check.” He knew he had to rein the relief in, and it pained him to do so. “At the moment all I know is that Inara’s vital signs are stronger. Not that she’s cured. Let me find out.”
“Better let him get to them,” Mal said gently, stepping into the infirmary. “And I’m guessing he’s just getting around to telling you he doesn’t need an audience while he does them.”
Sam didn’t move, then he felt Inara squeeze his hand. He looked down.
“Not going anywhere,” she said, smiling at him. “Promise.”
“Only if I find you’ve gone gallivanting off …”
“Don’t know how.”
“You? An ex-Companion?” He smiled shakily. “I’ll show you.”
“I promise.” He stood up. “Just a few minutes. That’s all.”
Simon nodded, already turning back to the counter and pulling out drawers.
Sam allowed Mal to steer him out into the common area, where for the first time he was able to take in considerably more than just Serenity’s crew clustered around, all looking at him with hope on their faces. Suddenly it was all too much, and his chest tightened to the point where he couldn’t breathe. Pushing through he jumped up the stairs and ran through the cargo bay, out into the fresh air.
He stopped, leaning forward to rest his hands on his knees and attempting to pull air into his protesting lungs. After what seemed like a lifetime he managed to stand upright, his face wet, just in time to feel a drop of rain hit his cheek. It mingled with the hot tears, almost like an electric shock.
“Takes you that way, doesn’t it?”
He looked back to see Zoe standing at the top of the ramp.
“Seeing the person you love, the person you thought was dying, come back to you.” She stepped down to him.
Zoe nodded. “A couple of times now. And it doesn’t get any easier.”
He knew from the look on her face that she was thinking about Wash, too, how he hadn’t come back. “How …” He had to swallow. “How do you cope?”
“If I ever figure it out, I’ll tell you.”
“Thanks.” He turned away again.
“And it’s okay to be angry.”
“No?” She moved to stand next to him, seeming to study the clouds building up just to the east, already starting to release a few heavy drops of rain to splash down onto the earth. “Want to try that again?”
“I … am so ashamed.” He shook his head savagely. “Inara didn’t do this on purpose.”
“Except she didn’t tell you.”
“And I understand why. I really do.”
“Who are you trying to convince?”
Sam gave a half-laugh. “Is this how Mal feels all the time? Angry at everything?”
“Some,” Zoe admitted. “Before Frey it was a lot worse. She’s made him … mellower.”
“And that makes you angry?”
“Hey, you’re the one we’re psychoanalysing.”
“And as a counsellor I’m fully aware I hate being on the receiving end.” He took a deep breath, a little ragged at the edges, but it made him feel somewhat more in control. “And yes, you’re right. I am angry at Inara. Just like I was angry at Celia … my wife … for dying. And just as pointless.”
“Doesn’t stop it though, does it?” Zoe felt her own memories overwhelm her for a moment. “And you can’t even take it out on them, shake them back into life so that you can shout some sense into them.” She looked up. “And we’re going to get soaked if we’re don’t get back inside.”
“And you don’t like talking about yourself either.” He wiped his hands across his cheeks again. “But thanks.”
“Giving me time. And you’re right. I need to go back inside now.”
It was late enough that it was closer to sunrise than sunset. Sam had been persuaded to shower and change his clothes, but it had been so rushed his hair was still wet when he sat back next to the medbed until Freya draped a towel around his shoulders to soak up the worst. The various crews had either returned to their own ships or the house after a meal that had been more relaxed than any in what seemed like years, and most were asleep as the night waned.
Mal couldn’t. Whether it was the alcohol or the events of the day, dreams decided to evade him, and in the end he’d slipped out of bed and redressed.
He looked down at her, eyes barely open, hair mussed. “It’s okay. Go back to sleep.”
“Anything wrong?” Freya struggled to stay awake.
“No. Nothing’s wrong. I just need some fresh air.” He perched on the edge of the bed and stroked her shoulder. “Honestly.”
She smiled crookedly. “Want some company?”
“Go back to sleep,” he insisted, leaning over and kissing the top of her head.
Her eyes already closing, she settled down again. “Long as you’re …”
Mal watched her for a minute, as always wondering at his good fortune, then grabbed his boots and climbed the ladder out of their bunk. Now he stood in the open cargo bay door, watching the rain fall and wondering if he shouldn’t have also picked up Freya’s scarf to wrap around his shoulders. There was a wet chill in the air that would probably get into his bones if he stayed out too long, but he needed a little time to ponder the events of the past hours.
Simon had been about as confused as Mal had ever seen him. While the crew clustered around the infirmary door and Sam sat talking quietly to Inara inside, he’d kept muttering to himself, checking and rechecking his equipment.
“Well, doc?” Mal asked eventually.
Simon shook his head. “I … don’t believe this.”
“Believe what?” Mal hadn’t left the infirmary doorway while Simon had taken his samples, apologising to Inara for the discomfort she had to be feeling. “Did it work?”
“I … Yes. Yes, it worked. I don’t know how, but the gene isn’t just turned off, it’s … normal.”
“I can’t see a thing wrong with it.” He was still staring at the screen as if something was bound to change, maybe leap out at him brandishing its teeth and howling. “Not just dormant. Functioning … normally.”
“Hey, don’t go looking for the bad when it’s all good.”
“You don’t understand.” Simon finally turned from the screen and Mal was shocked at the haggardness of the young man’s expression.
“No, I don’t.” Mal glanced at Sam, back sitting next to Inara, holding her hand, but both of them trying hard to look as if they weren’t listening to the conversation going on around them. “Come on.” He pulled the young man out of the infirmary, past the crews still clustered around the doorway, and took him towards the lower crew quarters, away from prying eyes and ears. “So explain.”
Simon hadn’t resisted, his brain still in the cool blue room. “What I gave her, what I had time to fabricate … it shouldn’t have done this.”
Mal knew he needed to talk, to try and make some sense out of a mad and contradictory ‘verse. “Come on, Simon. I know it has to be captain-dummy talk, but I’m listening.”
Simon ran his hands through his hair, making it stand. “I have no idea.”
“Does it matter?”
“Mal, you really don’t understand. I need to know.”
“Why? Inara’s gonna live. So’s her son.” Something crawled up his spine and he shot a look towards the infirmary. “He is, isn’t he?”
“Yes. Yes, as far as I can tell without invasive tests, and I don’t want to do those. When he’s born I can check the amniotic fluid, take some cells from the umbilical cord …” Simon finally gave a small smile, barely a lift of his lips. “But I think he’s going to be fine.”
Mal felt a knot unravel in his belly. “Then what’s the rush?”
“This … what happened … if I can figure out what … how …” He shook himself to regain some of his poise and sound less like a nervous intern. “Mal, do you have any idea how many genetic diseases there are in the ‘verse?”
“You know I don’t.”
“I do. All right, not all,” he amended, “but I know about enough that a cure could save thousands. Maybe millions.”
“And that’s what you think you’ve got.”
“I think I have the start.”
Mal nodded slowly, crossing his arms. “Okay. So what do you need?”
“Time.” Simon started to pace. “Time to figure it out. To see if it’s the Anti-Pax base or …”
“I can only think …” Simon’s voice faded away, and a look Mal recognised as Bethie’s flashed across his face, equal parts guilt and defiance.
“Think what? What did you do?”
“I … uh … I think it’s because I used some of Freya’s genetic material in the mix.”
“Is that why you’re knocking yourself out?” Mal barked a laugh. “Hell, near as I can recall the woman suggested it herself.”
“And I said it wouldn’t work. But I was desperate, Mal. Nothing was working, then when River showed me what I’d worked out before …” Now there was just a hint of disgust in his eyes.
Mal sat ruthlessly on the inclination to knock the doctor down, instead taking refuge in humour. “So ’Nara’s gonna become a gun-toting ex-soldier with an eye to my bed?”
“Half right already.”
“And no. I stripped it out, used just the section that was damaged in Inara’s sequence then combined it with the modified Anti-Pax. It was just my first shot, to see what happened, I didn’t expect it to … I don’t see how it worked.”
Simon sank back against the wall. “We know both the antidotes are time sensitive – they’ll only work on anyone exposed to the Pax for a few hours, maybe a day, after that the DNA modifications are set. But this was a genetic anomaly, something passed down for generations.” He looked up. “Mal, this shouldn’t have worked.”
“Except it did.”
“I have to study this. How it … what happened … whether I can replicate –”
“Tomorrow. Tomorrow, Simon.” Mal pulled the young man back to his feet. “You’ve got time. Hell, you’ve given Inara time, and that ain’t nothing. ‘Sides, you’ve got a wife who’d quite like to spend some time with you.”
Simon turned his head towards the infirmary, where Kaylee was leaning in the doorway but keeping a watchful eye on her husband. “I can’t leave –”
“Yes, you can. You think Sam’s gonna leave her side? And you know River’s gonna be listening in all night, so’s Frey, Bethie too. So you can go to bed and get some rest, ‘fore your wife skins my hide.”
Simon had protested, but gone back to the infirmary, accepting the congratulations of the crews on his way through.
Mal shifted his weight from his left leg to his right, feeling the tug in his hip where he’d been shot, and wondered if it was his age that made bullet wounds seem to take longer to heal. He hoped not, since he wasn’t stupid enough to consider he wouldn’t get hurt again. Maybe it was the cold making it worse; yes, that must be it.
With a slight groan he pulled the door closed, leaving the rain to its own devices. He slowly climbed the stairs, stepping through into the top corridor in time to see his wife standing in the doorway to the kitchen, dressed only in pants and a loose shirt. He was about to speak, then heard a voice from inside, but tinny and slightly distorted.
“I am allowing this to happen because I don’t have a choice. No. That sounds like I’m being forced. I’m not. And I believe if I say no then they won’t do anything. Except … Buddha, there’s always that except. If I know, if I remember how to do this, well … I am all too well aware of what people are capable of, of how they would stop at nothing to get this information. I know this is the only way, to keep my family safe. And if I’m listening to this, then I will understand why.” There was a faint click.
Freya wavered but stepped down into the kitchen, and Mal could see Simon was sitting with his back to the doorway, in Mal’s own seat. He was holding something.
“Hi,” Freya said. “Can’t sleep?”
“No.” Simon pressed play again on the small recording device. “I am allowing this to happen because I don’t have a choice. No. That sounds like I’m being forced. I’m not. And I believe –”
“Mal can’t.” Freya made herself smile. “And I couldn’t get back to sleep properly, not without him beside me.” She walked around the counter, knowing she was talking just to fill the silence over the recorded words. “I was going to have a sugar stick but I think we’re out.” Opening one of the cupboards carefully with her damaged hand, she reached inside. “At least Jayne hasn’t eaten all the protein snacks.”
“Are you going to make me forget again?”
Freya stopped. “Simon –”
He pressed stop and his phantom voice died. “Are you?”
Mal had moved up to hide in the shadows by the door, but he could see Freya behind the counter, poised with one hand on the cupboard door, the other to her chest, clutching a bag of snacks. He could only see Simon’s back, but it was hunched over, quite unlike his usual perfect posture.
Freya took a moment to gather herself, then said, “No. We can’t. Too many people know what you did, how you saved Inara.”
“They don’t know how.”
“Then what?” Simon still hadn’t looked up, his eyes on the recording device. “How do you stop me building Super Reavers?”
“Do you want to?”
Finally his head lifted. “Freya, I’m not stupid. And contrary to popular opinion, I know why you did it. I can’t forgive you for it, but I understand.”
“I know it’s not logical. I can’t help that. It’s just how it is. And you haven’t answered my question.”
“Nor you mine.”
Simon slammed the recorder down onto the old wood of the table top, and something cracked. “Of course not!”
“Then we’re both starting from the same point.”
“And what’s the answer? Or do you just kill me to stop the information ever getting out?”
Freya’s gasp was audible even in the corridor. “Simon, you know we’d never do that. How could you think it?”
“Because I don’t know you. Not anymore.”
“But it’s what would be easier. More permanent. And how do I know Mal hasn’t already made that decision?”
“He hasn’t. He wouldn’t.”
“He’s perfectly capable of it.”
Freya was shaking her head. “Diyu, you really don’t know us at all, do you? Any of us.”
“Do you blame me?”
He looked up at her, the planes of his face sharp in the dim light. “What?”
“I blame you for taking this situation and making it more important, more … significant than all the years you’ve lived on board this ship. With this crew. This family.”
He dropped his head again. “That’s just words, Freya.”
“Yes. Yes, they are. But in your heart you know River wouldn’t let anyone hurt you.”
“No. I don’t know that. She did this to me. After all that was done to her, after what those hwoon dahns did, changing her, making her into a weapon, she still agreed to ...” He didn’t finish, his anger tangling the words before he could get them out.
“It’s not the same.”
“It is to me.”
“You accepted it. And you have the proof in your hand.”
He waved the recorder. “How do I know you didn’t make me say that? That she didn’t put those words into my mouth?”
“We’re talking in circles.” Freya took a breath. “Look, I may not like it, but I accept you feel you can’t forgive me. You feel I betrayed your trust. But forgive River. Please. She needs you.”
“She doesn’t need me.” The words had a bitter tang that reminded her of a time long past, when the young man couldn’t accept his sister’s relationship choice. “She has Jayne.”
“Simon, don’t be fukua duh xiaochou. You know she needs all of us. Jayne grounds her, yes. But you’re her family.”
“What I know is that you don’t understand. What you did, what you … persuaded me was the right thing to do … it was a violation, Frey. You know that. You two went into my head, and you made me forget. I can’t forgive that. I don’t know if I ever will.” He gave an unexpected bark of laughter, devoid entirely of humour. “Did I feel like that before? Did you make me forget the loss of my trust?”
“No. Not … specifically.” Freya sighed this time. “But when you forgot why, it didn’t come into it.”
“At least you’re honest. Now.”
Freya slammed the cupboard door closed, the sound reverberating through the room, ignoring the pain it set up in her fractured wrist. “Yes, in essence we lied to you! For your own good! Have you never done that? In all those times you were treating someone in the hospital, when you were the great Doctor Tam, didn’t you once tell less than the truth to someone if it made them feel less desperate?”
“Now you’re lying to me.”
“Why, are you reading me?” The icy, almost contemptuous look in his eyes should have frozen her on the spot.
“No. But I know you.”
“Really.” All the energy suddenly seemed to drain away, and Freya felt a lassitude invade her muscles. “Simon, you do what you want. Believe what you want. You know why we made you forget. And despite the unaccountable depth of your occasional denseness, you understand. You accepted. And what happens next is going to be discussed, I’m sure, in great detail.” She sighed heavily. “But I’m tired, my wrist hurts, and I need to sleep.” Looking down at the bag of crackers she no longer wanted, she opened the cupboard and tossed them back inside, closing it much more gently this time. “It’ll be dawn soon. A new day. You’ve saved Inara’s life, and that of her son. Hold onto that, if nothing else.”
Simon didn’t respond, just stared at the recorder in his hand.
Freya shook her head but walked slowly past him and up the steps out of the kitchen.
“You okay?” Mal asked softly, seeing the pain quite clearly on her face, even though there was barely enough light for her to be in much more than silhouette.
“You want I should go talk to him? Make him see sense?”
“You don’t have to.” She glanced back over her shoulder. “You weren’t the only one eavesdropping.”
Mal looked past her, through the warm kitchen to where Kaylee stood in the far doorway, one hand on the rim. “Then you come on back to bed. I’ll help you down the ladder.”
She nodded, allowing herself to be coaxed to their bunk.
Kaylee watched them disappear, then turned her attention back to her husband. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Simon didn’t look up.
“You gonna be sitting there holding that thing all night?”
He pressed play, but nothing happened. “I think I broke it.”
“No need to fret – I’ll fix it.” She stepped down into the kitchen, her sandalled feet making soft flapping sounds as she crossed to sit in the chair next to him. “Otherwise we’ll have to buy Frey a new one.”
“Whatever.” He lifted his head to gaze into her warm, loving eyes. “You understand, don’t you? Tell me you understand.”
She took his hand, squeezing it tight. “A’course I do.”
“Then you see why I’m angry.”
“I can see why you think you should be.”
His eyes narrowed. “So you’re with them?”
“Nobody’s with anybody, Simon. It’s just two points of view on the same thing, and it ain’t like you can change anything.”
“How would you feel?”
“Simon, we already talked about this.”
“Well, it hasn’t gone away.”
Kaylee looked down at their joined hands. “You know, Bethie’s scared.”
“Scared? What of?”
“’Cause of the fact she’s psychic. Like her Auntie River. And Auntie Frey. And the fact that you’re so angry at the both of them, she thinks you must be angry at her too.”
“Of course I’m not!”
“That’s what I just told her. But she said that if she’d been older she’d have done the same thing as they did. To keep you safe.”
She carried on over his objections. “’Cause she loves her Daddy so much. And she knows what might happen if anyone ever finds out what he knows, what they might do to him to make him tell them. What they might threaten to do to her, to me. And it scares her.” Kaylee almost smiled. “You should’ve seen her, the look in her eyes. She had her hands curled into little fists, like she’d take on the ‘verse just to keep you safe.”
“When was this?”
“Just now. She came and woke me up, told me about the conversation you and Frey just had.”
“I think her walls are a bit thin at the moment, worrying so much about her Auntie ‘Nara.”
“Is she still awake?”
Kaylee didn’t get the chance to answer.
“Daddy?” Bethie appeared in the doorway, Fiddler slinking past her to hide under the table. “Don’t hate us.”
Simon’s heart beat a little faster, and he held out his arms. She jumped down and ran to him, quickly wrapped in his embrace. “I don’t. Oh, Bethie, I don’t.” He felt tears prickling at his eyes.
“’Cause we won’t let anyone hurt you,” she said firmly if a little indistinctly, her face buried in his shoulder.
“Me and Uncle Mal and Uncle Jayne and Uncle Hank and Auntie River and –”
“You don’t have to list everyone.”
“Yes, I do.” She looked into his face. “Daddy, wasn’t done to hurt. But to keep safe.”
“They told you that?”
“I know it. Here.” She touched her temple. “And here.” Her fingers traced where she thought her heart was.
“And don’t say I don’t understand ‘cause I’m too young. Not a baby anymore.” She pouted. “Are we going to leave Serenity?”
Simon gazed into her huge brown eyes. “Why would you ask that?”
“Don’t trust anyone.” She yawned. “I don’t want to go.”
“I … nobody’s said anything about leaving.”
She put her head on his shoulder, snuffling against him. “Good. Don’t want to leave Ethan. Or Jesse. Or … Ben. Or … or …” Her voice dwindled, and she slid into sleep.
“She’s not wrong, though,” Kaylee said unexpectedly, but speaking quietly in order not to wake her daughter. “Oh, not ‘bout the trusting, but leaving the ship, even for a while. I can’t see you wanting to let ‘Nara out of your sight ‘til the baby’s born.”
The surprise on his face was a welcome change from the cold anger. “I hadn’t honestly thought about it.”
“I mean, she’s gonna be okay now, but it’s likely to be a few months before the baby comes. And knowing Inara, well, you thought Frey was bad enough when you told her she had to rest before Ethan.”
“I can hardly see her running to Mal’s rescue brandishing a gun.” The mental picture made him smile slightly. “Even if I would pay to see that.”
“Me too.” Kaylee grinned. “But she ain’t gonna want to sit twiddling her thumbs, either.”
“No. No, I suppose not.”
“So do we stay on Lazarus?”
Kaylee shrugged. “Well, you could be here by yourself with a houseful of women and only Sam and Mr Boden to protect you, but I wouldn’t like it. Nor would Mal, losing his medic. But if you don’t trust them either …” She let the words hang in the air.
“But what if they changed something else?”
“Altered more of my memories? Put things in?”
He was like Fiddler, worrying at it like a bone, Kaylee decided. “Honey, how do we know any of this is real? Maybe we’re just some … figments of someone’s imagination. Like the characters in one of the books Hank’s writing. Telling us what to say, what to do, what to think.” She shook her head and smiled wryly. “We can’t live like that. So we believe this is reality. And you know they wouldn’t do that. They wouldn’t have any reason to make you bark like a dog.”
“Bark like a … where did that come from?”
“No idea. Must be sleep deprivation talking.” She stood up. “We all need to go back to bed. Sleep on things. And it’ll be a lot brighter in the morning.”
Simon got to his feet, still holding Bethie who was now snoring slightly. “I’d better check her sinuses in the morning, make sure they’re not blocked.”
“You do that.” She tugged on his arm. “Come on. I’ve got that ship of Alex’s to check over tomorrow. Seems like he thinks he broke it getting here so fast.”
“You’ll enjoy that.”
“And we got plenty of time to decide about ‘Nara. ’Sides, you’re gonna need your strength.”
“I heard tell Mrs Boden and Inez are getting together to make breakfast. I figure we’re all gonna need some of those little pills of yours after. Either that or a stomach pump.”
to be continued
Monday, October 12, 2015 1:42 PM
Saturday, November 7, 2015 8:47 AM
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