Waiting - Part II
Monday, May 14, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Ethan's sick, and everyone is tense ... and the angst grows! Please comment, if you read, as I need your feedback! (And when all this is done, there will be fluff - I promise!)


River lifted her head, like a wild animal scenting the air.

“Honey?” Jayne asked.

“Ethan.” She was on her feet and running towards the sickbay.


“Give him to me.” Simon held out his hands as Freya and Mal stumbled down the stairs.

Freya handed her son over, and the doctor carried him into the infirmary. “He’s burning up, Simon. And I can’t wake him.”

Simon put the small boy on the medbed, grabbing different bits of equipment. “Open up his suit.”

Freya tried to oblige, but she couldn’t control the trembling in her fingers. Mal leaned past her, put his hands on hers, and moved them out of the way. He undid the small press-studs and revealed his son’s chest.

“Simon …” he said, his voice catching at the almost cherry aspect laid bare.

“Let me work.” He placed sensors on Ethan’s skin, then gently attached one to his finger.

“He was okay …” Freya said, wrapping her arms around herself. “The temperature had gone. And I looked in on him before …” She could hardly breathe. “Oh, God.”

Mal held her closely, feeling her heart beating wildly against his ribs.

River slipped into the infirmary unnoticed, and picked up the blanket from the side counter. Gently, almost without him being aware of it, she placed it around Mal’s bare shoulders. All his attention was on the still form of his son, lying like one of Bethany’s rag dolls on the medbed.

“What the diyu’s going on?” Hank demanded, stepping into the common area from the cargo bay. “Kaylee demands Zoe goes into one of the shuttles, then …” His voice died away as he saw the activity in the infirmary. “Shen sheng de gao wan,” he whispered.

“Ethan,” Jayne said simply.

“Is it …”

“Don’t know yet.”

Simon was checking the readings. “His temperature’s way too high,” he said quietly, reaching into his supplies for a vial of milky liquid. He prepared a shot, then rapidly revised the amount taking into account the size of the patient, before stepping back to the bed. “This will bring it down,” he explained, knowing they weren’t going to be taking in anything above the most basic information. He injected Ethan in the neck.

The little boy twitched.

“Simon?” Freya stepped forward, her heart in her mouth.

“Just a reaction. Nothing to worry about.” Simon let his professionalism talk to them, not the man underneath. “I’m just going to take a blood sample.”

Mal nodded, although Freya didn’t even show she’d heard.


River left the infirmary and went back to stand by Jayne. “I saw,” she said softly. “But not soon enough.”

“Is it me?” Jayne asked. “Thinking ‘bout me made you not see what was happening?”

She didn’t answer. Instead she made her way up the stairs towards the other level.

Jayne followed. “River?”

“I should have,” she said, turning to gaze at him. “Every time I don’t see, someone gets hurt. I should have seen this coming.”

“It ain’t your fault.”

“If I’d known …”

“No, River.” He closed the gap between them until he was standing just below her. “Ain’t your fault.”

She looked into his eyes. “You’d better get back. Wait to find out what happens.”

“Where’re you going?”

“I’ll be back in a moment,” she said by way of answer, then was gone on silent feet.


Mal could feel Freya trembling against him as if she was freezing, despite the warmth in the room and the robe around her. He tugged the blanket around them both, holding her close.

“How soon?” Mal asked.

“It‘ll be a little while,” Simon said, letting the machines start their analysis. “Why don’t you wait outside, Mal? Take Freya to sit down before she falls down.”

Freya shook her head, and Mal said, “Ain’t going anywhere, doc.”


Zoe was pacing the small shuttle. As soon as Kaylee had called, Hank had insisted she do what she was told, and she’d been waiting, more or less patiently, from that moment.

That patience, however, was beginning to wear very thin indeed.

“Honey?” Hank’s voice through the door.

“What's happening?” she called, hurrying round. She reached for the handle to open the door, let him in, but she saw him grab it from the other side, holding it closed.

“Ethan’s sick.”


“Don’t know what with yet, so you gotta stay put.” His face was slightly distorted through the thick glass.

“What? Why?”

“Because you’re pregnant, Zoe.”

“Hank …”

“Please. Don’t argue. No-one’s gonna put you or the baby in danger.”

“How sick?”

The look on Hank’s face said it all. “Pretty bad.”

“Mal and Freya?”

“’Bout what you’d expect.”

“I need to be there.”

“You need to be here. Please. Don’t make me worry more.” He was pleading.

Their eyes met, dark brown to grey. “Okay,” she said. “But you keep me informed.”

He nodded. “I will. Look, I’d better …”


He put his hand on the glass, wishing he was touching her, then vanished.

Zoe stood still for a moment, then went to sit in the cockpit chair. She so desperately wanted to be there for them, to be Mal’s right arm, giving him her strength, instead of locked away as if she was afraid.


“Did I do right?” Bethany asked, watching her mother standing in the doorway.

Kaylee was trying to see what was happening without actually leaving her daughter. Now she turned and looked at her. “Course you did, sweetie.”

The little girl was huddled in the corner of the bed, clutching her doll. “Only I was peeking.”

“Oh.” Now Kaylee understood. She sat down on the bed and held out her arms. Bethany scrambled into her embrace. “You did the right thing, Bethie. Peeking’s mostly bad, but when it’s done for the right reasons, like now, then it’s okay.”

“He wanted to call out. Wanted to tell his momma that he was sick, but his throat hurt.” Bethany buried her little face in Kaylee’s chest.

“So he told you instead?”

Bethany nodded. “Auntie Frey was busy. Then she was asleep, and he … Is Ethan gonna be all right?”

“Oh, I’m sure he is, honey. Daddy’s looking after him. I’m sure he’s gonna be fine.”

Bethany held on tightly, seeing Kaylee’s thoughts as plain as day as her mother prayed she was telling the truth.


“Here.” River had slipped back into the infirmary and held out some clothes. “You need to dress.”

Mal glanced at her, almost as if he didn’t recognise her, then nodded. “Thanks.” He took his pants, dropping the blanket onto the ground as he pulled them on, not bothering to do more than make himself decent. The shirt he left hanging open.

“You’re bleeding.” River pointed to the red stain showing on the bandage around his chest.

“Don’t matter.”

She reached out to take a look. “At least let me -”

His hand grabbed hers. “No. I said it doesn’t matter, River. It ain’t important.”

She gazed into his eyes, then nodded. “Ethan.”


There was a click, then a slight buzz, and Simon turned to his machines.

River melted out of the sickbay, going to stand by Jayne, sliding her hand into his.

“Soon?” the big man asked.


Simon double-checked the results, then brought up information on the Cortex screen.

“Simon?” Mal asked.

The young man held up a hand. “Give me just …”

“No, doc. You tell us. Now.”

Simon took a deep breath and turned to look at them. “I know what this is. Ethan has a variant of Minuet’s Fever. Children are prone to it, but once they’re over the age of two it usually manifests itself as nothing worse than mild ‘flu.”

“And under two?” Mal asked, dreading the answer.

“A baby’s immune system isn’t as well developed, and what with him living on a ship like this –“

“What? What are you talking about?”

“In a normal environment, on a planet, he’d have come into contact with lots of different germs, viruses, and his immune system would have got stronger to deal with them. As it is, living here, he hasn’t –“

“You mean even though I thought I was keeping him safe he …” Mal’s face was white.

“I only mean he hasn’t been exposed to the things children planetside are. Nothing else, Mal. Bethany’s in the same situation, and she’s never had more than a cold or two. This is just unlucky.”

“Luck?” The sheer icy rage in his voice had Simon almost take a step backwards. “My son might be dying and you’re talking about luck?”

“Dying?” Freya could hardly speak. Only Mal’s strong arms around her stopped her from slipping to the floor. “No, please, not that.”

Simon tried to stop her panic. “What I’ve given him is bringing his temperature down. I’ll set up an IV to get some fluids into him and we should see some improvement soon.”

“So he’s gonna be okay?” Mal asked, grasping at his words.

“There’ll be some improvement. When I know how much, then I can decide on the best form of treatment.”

“Where did he get it?”

“Probably Paquin. The course of this particular form means the crisis comes about three days after initial exposure.”

“Halvie’s boy.”

“More than likely. Although Halvorsen’s child is probably older. I doubt they knew it was anything worse than the sniffles.” The young doctor was trying to keep them calm.

“How come you didn’t pick this up when you found he’d got a temperature before?” Mal wanted to know. “Didn’t you check for things?”

“I did check, Mal. But this virus hides. In this case it took advantage of that weakened immunity, only flaring once it …”

“What, Simon?” Mal stared down at his son. “What’s it doing to him?”

“That’s not important right now, so much as what we do next.”

“Next?” His head jerked up. “You said there’d be improvement. Now you’re saying you can’t treat him?”

“I’m not saying that at all. I’d just feel better knowing we were somewhere with proper medical facilities.”

Mal stared at the young doctor‘s face. “Hank,” he called.

The pilot leaned in the doorway. “Cap.”

“How fast can we get to Greenleaf?”

“Twelve hours if we push it?”

“Burn the compression coil out for all I care. Just get us there soon as you can.”

“On it.” Hank ran for the bridge.

Mal stared at Freya, holding their son’s hand. He took a deep breath and dragged Simon outside. Freya didn’t even notice them leave.

“There’s more than what you’re saying, isn’t there?“ Mal glared at the young man, his eyes like chips of ice.

“Mal, do you want to have this conversation here?” He looked pointedly around, at Jayne and River, at Kaylee standing in the entrance to the lower crew quarters.

“Doc, you start talking, or so help me …”

Simon let his training take over again. “Mal, I don’t have the antiviral. That means we do what we can with what we have.”

“You mean he ain’t gonna get better?”

“I didn’t say that. We can keep his fever down, keep him hydrated … give his system a chance to recover naturally.”

“Will it?” Mal‘s grip on his arm tightened. “Will it?”

“Mal, Minuet’s isn’t usually …” He couldn’t finish.

“Fatal. That’s the word you’re looking for.”

Simon took a deep breath. “Most children, even his age, survive it with no discernible after effects.”

“After effects. What kind?”

“Mal, there’s no reason to think -”

His grip tightened. “What kind, Simon?” He glanced into the infirmary, at his wife standing next to their son, more pain in her than all that Wing had managed to do. He looked back. “Please.”

Simon couldn’t speak for a moment, then said, “In a hospital, with the kind of equipment they have, the Minuet’s would probably have been detected before now. They would have administered the antiviral, and Ethan would have recovered quickly.”

“Would have.”

“With it having got as far as the fever, there’s more chance of possibly permanent damage.”

“Tell me.”

“No.” Simon spoke firmly. “I won’t do this. You’ll be worrying about something that isn’t going to happen.”

“Doc.” Mal’s voice showed the pain he was in. “Please.”

He gave in. “Blindness. Hearing loss. Mal, these are just worst case scenarios -”

“What else?”

“Learning problems. And, more immediately, heart failure.”

Any colour Mal still had in his face fled as he let go, taking a step back. “Tah muh duh.”

“That’s why I’ve got him on all the monitors. Why I can’t let him go back to the nursery, even if he wakes up. If there’s going to be … it’ll be soon.”

“Don’t tell Frey. Not unless …” Mal could hardly breathe, his chest was so tight.

“Do you think she doesn’t already know?”

Mal walked to the window, looked in at her. She was smoothing Ethan’s hair for the hundredth time. “Be bald by the time she’s done,” he muttered, and she looked up at him through the glass. “Oh, Frey, why’d you have to be psychic? Why now?” He couldn’t stop the tears from falling, mirroring her own.

to be continued


Monday, May 14, 2007 2:17 AM


Oh poor Mal and Frey! Poor Ethan! Poor everybody for the angst and torment of watching little Ethan in his life and death struggle. It isn't River's fault but it won't stop her blaming herself. Just hope they get to a hospital facility in time for a miracle. Whatever you do, please don't kill the baby! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, May 14, 2007 2:57 AM


Okay, now my heart hurts! Poor, poor Ethan and crew! Angst of the highest order! Write more immediately (and make it all better, for the love of God)!

Monday, May 14, 2007 6:27 AM


Yikes! Poor Ethan, Mal and Freya, but more importantly, poor Simon! He doesn't take being helpless well!

This could be so bad!

Monday, May 14, 2007 9:26 AM


Please let little Ethan recover. I know well the angst of a Mother with a sick child and it's horrible.

Monday, May 14, 2007 6:13 PM


Oh god....please let Ethan recover without undue harm, Jane0904! Mal and Freya can't take another pile of angst landing on their chests....straw, meet the camel's back:(

Brilliant work here, my dear. Everyone involved was in character and I definitely have to feel for Mal, Freya, River and Zoe right now. The first two due to their struggles to not lose their sanity while their son fights for his life; River because she knows that she would have noticed Ethan's deteriorating condition faster than Bethany did had she been receptive; and Zoe must be going up the walls because of being unable to stand beside Mal in his (and Freya's) hour of need due to her own current condition.



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