Tuesday, November 8, 2005

"River starts showing some odd symptoms. The journey to Dresden hits an unexpected snag."



SUMMARY: "River starts showing some odd symptoms. The journey to Dresden hits an unexpected snag." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Inara Serra was concerned for River but the girl - correction 'woman' - was completely unfazed. In fact she seemed amused by the flicker of worry that kept shadowing the Companion's beautiful face like fleeting lines of age time could not yet inflict, their moment not yet come. A foreshadowing of future years but with no place in the Here and Now. Although her face was glowing softly, River kept still. Didn't want to smudge the kohl or ruin the Companion's handiwork, not in one so gifted. Inara's stock in trade should count for something even in the Black. "I'm not sick."

Now the Companion did frown, clearly not believing her. "You were sick, *mei mei*. I wasn't the only one who saw you throw up."

"Not me."

The gracious hands paused, Inara's mind jumping tracks not sure what River was trying to say. "*Shenme*?"

"Empathy not infirmity." She sang back brightly, then her candle dimmed and she stilled the flash flood of chaotic but happy thoughts, knowing Inara needed something more mundane and tangible to make sense in her mind. "I'm fine," She said in a tone mimicking the Captain when he was hurt but unwilling to admit it. Brightening again it was as if someone had just turned the lamp up, her intensity riveting the Companion to her shining face. A second later the Captain appeared at her shuttle door. Not surprised in the least, River touched Inara's hand in thanks. "*Xie xie ni*."

Inara barely responded, wondering whether River had known the Captain would come at that precise moment in time. She shook her head, annoyed with herself for indulging in such fancies then looked at the Captain's face as River smiled up at him. The grim sorrowing planes softening in a way that made her own heart ache. From some distant place inside herself Inara hoped that River would not hurt him. As if her thought echoed like a warning bell in River's mind, she turned and gave Inara a brief sombre look. Like a promise set in stone. "I won't."

Mal looked confused. "You won't what?"

River turned back to the Captain, jumped up and kissed his cheek. He froze a moment and Inara wondered whether he really did come to her shuttle for a reason. A look flicked her way and all the air in her lungs became stagnant as if it had nowhere else to go. "We gotta go, drop off our passenger, it'll mean two days on your schedule." He sounded apologetic, looked uncomfortable, seemed hardly to notice River gently taking one of his calloused hands in hers but Inara knew differently. The slight husky timber of his voice telling her that the Captain was acutely aware of River Tam even if he chose to show no outward sign. The two smaller hands cradled his right hand between them like something precious, palms gently wrapped around his as if River could protect him though what Mal would need protecting from Inara did not know. Transfixed, Inara watched the pale luminescence of River's face transfer momentarily to limn the outer skin of her hands like mother of pearl. As if only touching the Captain could make her shine. A connection completing a circuit that had been idle too long.

"So," The Captain's voice brought her out of her reverie. "You okay with that, Inara?"

It was on the tip of her tongue to make some ascerbic remark but that would have been mean and petty. Besides, not even Malcolm Reynolds could be blamed for the destruction of an entire planet not to mention the friends he had lost. The thought was its' own admonishment to her unworthy thoughts. After pushing the man away for so long she had no right to give in now to sparks of jealousy. "*Qu*. I'll send a wave and cancel my next appointment."

"Cancel not reschedule?"

She nodded. "I doubt the minister will have time for another appointment until we next pass this way."

"Then I'm sorry."

Surprise was a fleeting guest in her eyes but the Captain didn't see it. He was already walking out of the shuttle, River talking quietly to him, her hands still clutching his as they left together. It looked strange, incongruous, yet something in their easy way with each other felt right. Inara shook her head and berated herself. Aware she was part of the reason things were moving along in that direction yet she could not find it in her heart to deny them something she could never have. Whether Mal would let it turn into something more was a more complicated question.

* * * * *

Wash set course for Dresden and hoped nothing else untoward would happen. The joy of fatherhood tempered by the death of Shen Ling and the horrors they had found on Glory. He wondered what Chung-li would do now that he had no home and no family to speak of. Would the Captain ask him to stay on Serenity? He was not sure what to wish for his own self. He liked the man well enough, respected him even, but enough to be crew? Then there was this other little complication. The thing with River. He might not be as smart as Simon academically but there was nothing wrong with his eyesight and seeing the girl blossom into a woman right before his very eyes had changed the dynamics aboard the ship in ways that had somewhat alarmed him. Simon's reaction was as predictable as it was funny but the humour vanished quickly as the implications sank in. If the doc didn't come to some kind of an understanding with his sister and the Captain things could go to *diyu* in a hand basket quicker than a blink of the eye and where would that leave him and his newly expanded family? An unhappy ship was no place to bring up a little helpless person much less his son.

Yet it was as if the main players had come to some kind of truce. The Captain showed no sign of taking River up on her subtle and not so subtle attempts to get closer to him though he was careful to do so in a way that would not be hurtful or painful to her which gave Wash hope that there was more to this little attraction than the one sided ravings of a sex starved teenager come adult coping with an accelerated form of puberty. Gorrammit. Made his head spin six ways from Londinium just trying to work it all out. The Captain had a darkness in him that was all kinds of scary but Wash had also seen something equally as frightening in River. A hollow place where nightmares wept. Maybe those two had more in common than he had first thought. That was a disturbing notion. Wash tried to distract himself, moving the dinosaurs almost by rote but not really able to concentrate on them. With a sigh he returned them to their correct positions on his console, a sad apologetic eye promising to make it up to them later. Mal's sudden appearance on the bridge made him jump, the guilty expression on his face causing the Captain to frown at him.

"Wash? There somethin' goin' on I should know about?"

"No, no, you just surprised me Cap'n. Couldn't you stomp or shout or be more Captain-y rather than sneak up behind me?"

Amusement lightened the burden of grim sorrow etched onto his face and made Wash feel better. They might not be best buddies but they were friends of sorts. And but for Mal he would never have met his oh-so-gorgeous-but-deadly wife.

"Wasn't sneakin'." The Captain paused then his mood darkened again. "How long 'til we reach Dresden?"

"Just under two days."

"Anyway we can shave some off that?"

Wash blinked then checked his calculations. "I could have a word with Kaylee, see if we can go for a few hard burns. We space 'em out won't hurt Serenity none but it'll eat up our fuel twice as quick."

The Captain frowned. "Still leave us enough to make the trip without refuelin'?"

A few more checks then Wash nodded. "Yep, should do. Providin' we don't do any side trips but once we get to Dresden we're gonna have to refuel."

"Dresden is a core planet."

The pilot nodded, wondering what the Captain was getting at and why the tension level had just gone up a notch or two. He wanted to ask *what's the matter, Mal?* but didn't want to make things worse. Man seemed all brittle and fragile, something telling him it was more than just the tragic events on Glory. Though what he could not fathom. Wash waited.

"There're other core planets near? Maybe something less shiny to Alliance eyes?"

Ah, now he understood. The Captain didn't want to fuel on Dresden. Didn't want to do more than let the passenger off then get the good gorram out of there. A sentiment Wash could fully get behind. "Um," He flicked through the online charts. "There are a couple of moons. Two of them are pretty prosperous - Canaan and Bantyre - but there's another one, a little farther out called Petra." Another pause as Wash brought up everything he could find on Petra. "Huh, well named. Seems that ball of rock is little else."

"It got folks on it?"

Wash nodded. "Small colony, miners mostly but low grade stuff. No precious gems or metals, mostly iron ore. Hard work, low pay, poor conditions. Nice little place to contract Bowden's Desease."

The Captain winced slightly. He still felt bad about taking that medicine in the train job even if he did make sure to give it back as soon as he knew what it was. That was no way for folks to die. "They got fuelin' facilities?"

"Yep, mostly commercial grade an' pretty crude but it'll get us to the next Alliance free planet."

Mal straightened and smiled, clapping a hand on his pilot's shoulder. The relief evident in his tired eyes. "Good enough, that's all I'm askin' Wash."

A flicker of concern made Wash a mite reckless. "You okay, Cap'n? You seem a little... tense."

"*Hen hao*, Wash, just want Milo off my boat an' us back in the Black where we belong."

"An' Chung-li?"

There was a pained pause, the Captain staring out into the Black as if all the answers in the 'verse were hanging right before his eyes could he but see them. "He goes or stays, whatever he wants." Another pause then bright sharp eyes turned their laser points on Wash. "You gotta problem with that?"

"No, no, just wonderin' is all. Wasn't sure if he had any other family."

"None to speak of."

"I noticed he doesn't wear a gun."

Mal gave him a funny look. "Meanin' what exactly?"

"Don't mean anythin' just if he's stayin' I was wonderin' what he would do on board?"

"If he did nothin' but gather dust I wouldn't throw him off my boat." Growled the Captain.

Alarmed, Wash put his hands up in mock surrender, his eyes widening as he realised his words were being taken the wrong way. "*Wei*, not sayin' that."

"Just get us to Dresden quick as you can but without makin' it look like we're hurryin', *dong ma*?"

The pilot nodded, eager not to set the Captain off again. As the Captain left Wash wondered why Mal was so uptight, all but itching to be rid of Milo. Not that he liked the man much his own self but so far their passenger had remained as quiet and inoffensive as a mouse. Or was that the point? Had something in the man's demeanour set off the Captain's radar and if so was it something he should be worrying about? Thoughtfully Wash called up Kaylee on the com, her cheerful voice bringing a smile of pleasure to his lips. "Kaylee, Cap'n wants to shorten the travel time to Dresden. I was thinkin' a few hard burns with time for Serenity to cool down between times."

He could hear her singing and humming to herself between words. It split his smile into a wide grin. "I'm on it, Wash!"

* * * * *

Simon was puzzled, Shepherd Book alarmed, Inara concerned and River annoyed. Jayne just stared from one face to the next, not understanding a rutting word of what the good gorram was going on. "If she ain't hurt why ya scowlin' like she's dyin'?"

The doctor's eyes narrowed angrily at the mercenary. The King of Tact had nothing on Jayne Cobb. "No one's saying River's dying but there has to be a reason why she can't stop vomitting."

"Maybe it's the food on this *lese* boat, ya ever think that?"

Before he could answer the Shepherd stepped in. "Just because River has thrown up once or twice doesn't mean she's sick."

All he got was a hard glare for his trouble. "And you graduated from Medical Academy when?"

"You know I am no doctor," Said Book soothingly. "But you have to admit all your tests have failed to show anything wrong."

Inara brushed the hair from River's face. The girl was sweating but not profusely, her pale skin almost glowing. She was surely running a temperature. "Maybe she picked up a virus."

It was funny to see River sitting on the infirmary bed pouting back at them. She looked nothing more than a sulking schoolgirl. "I told you Simon, I'm not sick."

Just then Zoe walked into the infirmary, a frown forming as she looked at the little huddle. Alarmed to see Simon's sister in the middle of it. She paused in the doorway, baby Jack wriggling and gurgling in her arms. If River had caught some kind of virus no way was she going anywhere near her. "What happened?

"River's been throwing up and we don't know why." Explained Book.

"It isn't a virus or a germ or a bug," Rattled off River as if they were playing a game of animal, mineral and vegetable. She tried so hard not to lose her patience with them but then intelligent people often failed to see what was staring them in the face.

"Then what is it, *mei mei*?" Simon's cool hand on her forehead was nice.

"Not my secret to tell."

Silence. Stunned looks transmitted face to face. Warily, Simon hunkered down so he could look her straight in the eye. "River? What do you mean it's not your secret to tell? Did someone do something to you?"

She shook her head just as the Captain stepped into the infirmary to see what all the fuss was about. River turned and gave him a blinding smile. Simon started putting pieces together at an alarming rate, his eyes going wide as he pushed himself to his feet. The Captain failed to see the look of speculation in Simon's eyes. "What the good gorram's goin' on? Somebody took sick?"

Mal could not take his eyes off of River, her face aglow with happiness bringing a smile to his lips in response. Her joy eased some of the dark that was dogging his gorram path. His momentary distraction was all Simon Tam needed. Some instinct caused the Captain to turn his head just as the doctor's fist slammed into his face. Jayne caught the Captain as Zoe and Book stepped in to restrain Simon. The doctor's lips pulled back from his teeth as he snarled angrily at Mal. "You dirty, loathsome, *wangba dan*! Just couldn't keep your hands to yourself let alone keep your promise."

Startled, stunned and more than a mite puzzled the Captain stared at him as if the boy had completely lost his mind. River looked distraught, her hands flapping like bird's wings, trying to calm the panic in her voice and speak beyond her growing distress. "Simon! *Ni bu dong*!"

"What did you do?" Simon spat out. "Did you force yourself on her? Was that it?"

Shock reflected on every face then slowly the Captain's face darkened into pure anger. Zoe knew that look. If Simon wasn't careful he would never have to worry about River again. Death being all kinds of a leveller. It was Shepherd Book who tried to inject an element of calm. "What is it you think the Captain has done?"

Simon didn't take his eyes off Mal, not at all disconcerted by the deadly glare or the trickle of blood from the Captain's nose and mouth. It had been a pretty solid punch. "River is showing all the symptoms of early pregnancy."

It was quite comical really. The variety of expressions covered the whole gamut. Mal looked at Simon with a shocked and hurt expression on his face. "An' you immediately thought I'd done somethin'?"

"It wouldn't be the first time you'd broken your word, I imagine."

Now Zoe was beyond puzzled. What the *diyu* was Simon talking about? "Word?"

"He promised," Simon elaborated, voice quieter now as he realised how he had got the promise not that he regretted it or anything. He was simply protecting his sister.

Inara sat on the infirmary bed next to a sobbing River and put her arm around the thin shoulders. "Ssssh, *mei mei*, it'll be alright."

Slowly Jayne blinked at River. "Are ya sayin' the crazy girl's pregnant?"

River pushed herself out of Inara's arms and jumped off the bed, moving to stand between her brother and the Captain. She stared at Simon with wounded eyes, exasperation clear in every word that came out of her mouth. "I'm not pregnant, Simon!"

"But River..."

Then she did something she had not done in years. River stamped her foot, hard. Anger bubbling up as she backed away from Simon until she stood in front of a dazed and bemused Captain. "It's Kaylee."

Blank looks multiplied. Simon's mouth flapped a moment or two as he tried to grasp her meaning. "Kaylee?"

"Kaylee's pregnant, not me, you boob! But we're friends. Empathy not infirmity."

The stunned silence was broken by Zoe laughing, the laughter becoming so hard and intense tears sprang from her eyes and ran down her cheeks. She had to lean on the doorway for support, the look on her friends' faces a priceless treasure. She would have liked to have painted the Captain's expression in oils. Gorrammit, where was Wash when she needed him?

"River, Kaylee isn't..."

"Yes, she is. Why do you think she's been jumping you morning, noon and night?"

Now Simon was colouring, the flush outpacing the words he was struggling to get out. "*Shenme*?"

"Kaylee wants a baby, Simon, but she knew if she discussed it with you it would be put off. Not safe enough, too early, need to settle down first. Yadda yadda yadda." River mocked a yawn and rolled her eyes. "A woman only ever gets what she wants when she tells the man afterwards. Saves all the arguments and everyone's happy."

Simon looked like a landed guppy, his mouth opening and closing but nothing coming out. He looked at the little sea of faces then at the Captain. His flush deepened with shame and embarrassment. "Um, I'm sorry Captain, I shouldn't have hit you."

Luckily Mal was starting to see the funny side of things, his second in command crying with laughter having a more than positive effect on wounded feelings and righteous anger. He still wasn't pleased with the doctor but at least he could appreciate where he was coming from. The thought that came on the heels of that one left him inordinately sad. He gazed at Simon for a moment, River reaching for his hand and leaning back into him. Without thinking he hugged her to him. "Still you don't trust me?"

The words were quiet but they shamed Simon into silence. He wanted to apologise, say sorry, but he was so confused. How could Kaylee be pregnant and him miss it? And if that was true how could River be having symptoms? It was too bizarre to comtemplate. River lifted the Captain's hand and dropped a gentle kiss in his palm then looked at her brother. All calm now. "Kaylee's my best friend. I took the pain and sickness so she could try again. Again and again until you got it right."

Now it was the Captain's turn to guffaw. The tension of the last few moments broken into humour and laughter at Simon's expense this time. In shock one thing alone rang loud and clear in Simon Tam's befuddled mind. Pushing through the others he had to get away. His steps a loud reckless clatter as he flew from the infirmary towards the engine room. He had to see Kaylee. Nothing else right now meant a damn.

Back in the infirmary the mood was light and almost festive, everyone smiling or chuckling. Zoe wiping the tears from her eyes as she struggled to control her outburst of mirth. River turned to face the Captain, his arms still wrapped around her, a smile now on his face. River raised a hand to wipe the blood off his face, Book leaning close enough to offer his handkerchief. Mal nodded his thanks as quick nimble fingers took the square of cloth from him, River cleaning him up then watching transfixed as Mal smiled down at her. Before he could say thank you, River raised herself on tip toe and kissed him on the mouth. The happy banter faltered round them, but neither noticed. River's arms snaking up around Mal's neck, her kiss deepening with want and need and bursting with joy when he tentatively began to kiss her back.

Jayne stared with his mouth open then grinned at the Preacher. "Maybe Simon wasn't so far off after all."

The couple parted, River turning her head to pin Jayne with a glare. "A kiss is just a kiss but I can still kill you with my brain."

The look on the mercenary's face was a mix between disbelief and horror. With a mumble he retreated as quick as he could mumbling about needing to clean out his gun. Girl was gorram damaged but didn't mean he was wanting to take any chances. In his room Milo was thinking along similar lines but for an entirely different reason.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*mei mei* = little sister *shenme* = what? *xie xie ni* = thank you *qu* = yes (lit. go) *diyu* = hell *wei* = hey *dong ma* = understand? *lese* = crappy *wangba dan* = fucking bastard *ni bu dong* = you don't understand


Tuesday, November 8, 2005 3:37 PM


tee hee, I love this chapter

River- "Why do you think she's been jumpin you morning noon and night??" LOL

Wednesday, November 9, 2005 2:35 AM


Hee! I knew it. But it was all kinds of funny to see the way it played out. Poor Simon. And Mal must truly be under River's spell not to have killed him for the punching.

And Jayne. Ah the joy of his blunt, spot-on comments! ;-)

Friday, November 11, 2005 1:37 AM


So I just caught up with this series and loving it!
Keep it up!

Thursday, November 3, 2011 7:31 PM


Hahahahaha I can't believe Simon didn't notice Kaylee going all baby crazy LOL!

The stunned silence was broken by Zoe laughing, the laughter becoming so hard and intense tears sprang from her eyes and ran down her cheeks. She had to lean on the doorway for support, the look on her friends' faces a priceless treasure. She would have liked to have painted the Captain's expression in oils. Gorrammit, where was Wash when she needed him?
Loved this!!!


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His head still ached from the rutting probe but after the men had satisfied themselves that his story was true a thousand questions peppered the air like machine gun fire.

The vessel was shiny, sleek and black with nowhere near the bulk of an Alliance ship. Something about the way it moved through the Black was more than a little creepifying.

Personally she didn't care if Serenity was towed off to a junk yard and stripped into spare parts. She had promised the ship to Jer and his crew as a bonus but it looked like scavengers had beaten them to it.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 2. "Counting Chickens"
The fact that her eyes were hard and sharp with intelligence kind of chilled him. Smart women always made him uneasy, it just weren't natural.

What in the nine hells were they so afraid of? Then he remembered Tracy. The body mailed to them by their old war buddy and all the trouble that had brought down on them.

If it was too gorram wet to hunt for rabbits what in the nine hells was his son really hunting? And was it something on four legs or two?

The man was in a terrible condition, his pulse weak, and for some reason he was soaking wet which did nothing to staunch the blood soaking through his clothing and seeping from the poorly tended wound where he had been shot.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 9. "All The King's Men"
The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 8. "All The King's Horses"
Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 7. "Friend or Foe"
Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.