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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
River runs into a complication, and Mal has a consultation with the doctor.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 660 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
River walked down the corridors of the hospital, mentally matching her surroundings with the schematics she had studied with Kaylee. To the casual observer, she looked like a woman nonchalantly out on a stroll, taking a brief break from the passive waiting game that was so often a part of a hospital stay. But River was far from nonchalant, her mind working and reworking possible scenarios for escape if something should go amiss. She knew it would be a virtual impossibility to get Mal and Adam out of the hospital in the event of a mishap with Simon’s plan.
Alert to her surroundings, she found the exit she sought, and glanced around quickly to ascertain if anyone was close enough by to see what she was about to do. Satisfied that she was alone in the small corridor, she flattened herself against the wall to avoid the ever-present eye of the security camera, and examined her options. Quickly seeing a way to disable the camera long enough to work on the fire alarm, she backed up and took a quick running leap, catching the frame that held the camera in place. She angled the camera to face the far wall of the corridor, assuming that whoever was manning the security station would be less apt to notice a strange view than static if she should cut the camera completely off.
Dropping silently back to the floor, she retrieved the small clippers from her pocket, and set to work on the fire alarm mechanism. In short moments, the job was done, and the alarm was disabled. Pleased that she had been able to do it so quickly, she leaped back up to the camera, and readjusted the angle to its correct position, knowing even as she did so that Jayne would more than likely just shoot it when he and Zoe came through the door later. Finesse was not Jayne’s strong suit, she thought with a hint of amusement.
Slipping the clippers back into her pocket, she turned to leave the corridor, and walked back the way she had come. Relieved that the first part of Simon’s plan had worked well, she began to worry, as she had done since Mal’s accident, that she might be wrong about his chances of recovery. Thus distracted, she did not see the woman until it was too late.
“River?” the woman called, in utter astonishment. “River, is that you?”
River looked up slowly, her heart hammering disconcertingly in her chest. “Hello, Mother,” she said.
Kaylee watched with an aching heart as Daniel’s seizure gripped him yet again. “Can’t we just give him a little of the dilantin, Simon?” she asked, desperate to do anything to stop the cruel punishment to her son’s body.
“I can’t, Kaylee,” Simon said, his voice cracking with emotion as well. “If everything goes as it should, I’ll be doing the surgery tonight, and he can’t have anymore dilantin if I’m going to anesthetize him. The combination of the drugs could possibly be lethal. The best we can do is make sure he doesn’t harm himself during any seizures today, and hope that they will be few and far between.”
As he spoke, he held Daniel loosely, confirming that he was not in any immediate danger. Kaylee stroked her son’s downy hair as the seizure ended. “That one weren’t so bad,” she whispered softly, whether to convince herself or the baby, Simon was unsure. Taking the child from Simon’s arms, she cradled him to her own chest. “He’ll be hungry when he is more alert,” she said sadly.
“I know, ai ren,” Simon said. “But we can’t feed him today for the same reason. I’m not sure how the anesthesia will affect him, and we wouldn’t want him to aspirate during the surgery. It’s better that he have an empty stomach.”
As if in protest, Daniel opened his eyes and made a small whimpering sound. “I know, little man,” Kaylee crooned. “I know you’re hungry, and tired, and sore. But, Daddy’s gonna fix it all up soon. Ya’ just gotta hold on ‘til then, ‘kay?”
The baby looked up at her with green eyes that matched her own, his brow wrinkled as if he were seriously considering her words. He snuffled discontentedly, and she began to rock him gently back and forth, humming a lullaby her own mother had sung to ease her hurts when she was small.
Simon watched them, the lump in his throat growing by the minute, as Daniel’s little body relaxed against his mother’s breast. “What’s that song you’re singing?” he whispered as Daniel’s breathing evened out in sleep.
Kaylee looked up at him, surprised by the question. “It’s called ‘The Nightingale’,” she answered softly. “Thought everybody knew that one. Been around for near ‘bout forever, I think.”
“I’ve never heard it before. It’s beautiful,” Simon said.
“What did your mama sing you to sleep with?” Kaylee asked, curious now.
Simon sighed. “I don’t remember. I think perhaps she didn’t sing to us. At least, I never remember hearing her sing.” He frowned as he thought back over his earliest memories. “I know she never sang to River. I was old enough when River was born that I would have remembered that, I think.”
“Maybe she just weren’t much of a singer,” Kaylee suggested kindly, sensing her husband’s emotion. “Not everybody can carry a tune, you know. I’m sure she did something else just as good to calm you down when you were upset.”
“Yes, I’m sure,” Simon said, though his tone indicated that he was not. “Regardless, I’m here now, and my son has a mother who sings beautifully.” He leaned down to kiss Kaylee softly, careful not to press against the baby. “Think I’ll go to the infirmary, and get everything set up. The sooner we can begin the procedure, the better.”
“What…what are you doing here?” Regan Tam said, her hand resting on the bosom of her blouse in shock. “Where have you been?”
“I could ask you the same,” River replied steadily, stepping aside to let a technician pushing a patient on a gurney pass through the hallway.
Regan looked distractedly after the gurney. “I…I had a board meeting,” she said. “I serve on the Board of Directors for the hospital. I often come down to the Pediatric unit after a meeting. I used to volunteer here when you were little.” Her words trailed off, the shock of actually talking to her daughter almost too much to bear.
“I remember,” River said quietly. “You never brought me here, but I remember.”
Regan reached out belatedly to touch her, but River flinched away, involuntarily betraying the depth of her ambivalence. Regan’s hand dropped uselessly to her side. “Are you all right, River?” she asked quietly. “Are you in some kind of trouble?”
River laughed mirthlessly, the sound abrupt and chilling. “Why ever would you assume that, Mother?” she said.
“You just look…different,” her mother answered helplessly. “Harder, somehow.”
“Perhaps that’s because you haven’t seen me since I was fourteen, Mother,” River said flatly.
“Have you been on Osiris all this time?” Regan asked. “And is Simon…”
River sighed and began walking down the hallway, Regan trailing in her wake. “Don’t walk away from me, River,” Regan pleaded, something in her voice making her daughter’s step falter. “Your father and I have been so worried. When Simon disappeared, and they told us that he had taken you …somewhere, we looked everywhere we thought you might be, but there was just no trace. No one would talk to us, no matter what we offered. We thought….we thought that you must be dead. What else were we to assume when you didn’t contact us?”
River wheeled around, her long, dark hair whipping with the motion. “Don’t you dare make this about what we didn’t do, Mother,” she said with a fierceness Regan had never seen in her daughter. “Simon did what he thought was right. He saved me from the Academy, and gave up everything he had to keep me safe. Father had told him he wouldn’t come for us if Simon persisted in trying to help me, and Simon believed him. He found us another home, and another family who took us in, and made us feel safe again. And I won’t have you say one word against any decision of his. Dong ma?”
Regan stepped back, startled by the vehemence of her daughter’s words. “We didn’t know, River,” she said quietly, with as much dignity as she could muster. “How were we to know that you needed us when you were at the Academy? Even now, I have no idea what must have happened to cause you such pain there. Up until recently, when that prison break occurred on Salisbury, and some of the other Academy students came forward with their horror stories plastered all over the Cortex, we had never heard anything to substantiate what Simon had said.”
“That’s just the point, Mother,” River said tiredly. “You shouldn’t have had to hear any ‘substantiating’ information. You should have trusted your son, like he trusted me. Why would he have lied about such a thing? Couldn’t you see how desperate he was?” Tears welled in her eyes as she looked at Regan, the years of pain and loss too much to face in this moment. Pulling herself together with a tremendous act of will, she said, “I have to go, Mother.”
“Wait,” Regan said. “Please, wait. Just tell me where I can find you to talk with you again. Please, River.”
River hesitated for a long moment, torn between the two disparate things that she should do. Mal needed her and Adam needed her, and her mother would do nothing but complicate things now in a possibly dangerous way. Weighed against that knowledge was the certainty of her mother’s yearning and sorrow, which rolled across River in waves as the woman stood awaiting her next words. Finally, unable even after all that had happened or failed to happen between them to abandon her mother in the cool corridor of the hospital, River looked at her bleakly. “Come with me. We’ll do our talking now.”
Dr. Chin smiled at Mal encouragingly. “Everything we’ve done seems to indicate that you are an excellent candidate for the procedure, Mr. Bowden. And you’re quite fortunate to have such an enthusiastic donor.” He reached forward to ruffle Adam’s hair. “With Adam’s birth mother’s consent, we should be able to proceed in the morning.”
Mal handed Adam over to Jim, hoping the boy was not reading the conflicted feelings Mal had for the man after their earlier conversation. Barely able yet to process his own thoughts in any reasonable fashion, he was certain that they would be nothing but confusing to his son.
“It’s lovely to see such a happy little family,” the doctor said. “We’ve found in our research that being in a committed, long-term relationship is conducive to the recovery process. And the truth of the matter is, Mr. Bowden, that you’re going to need all the support and encouragement you can get. This is a long road you’re embarking on, and even with the best of medical care that we can provide, you’re looking at possibly months of intense physical therapy. And that is if the procedure is effective.”
“I understand, doctor,” Mal said soberly. “And what exactly are the chances that it will be?”
“There is a great chance that there will be some positive effect. Almost all our patients experience some improvement. But the chances of making a full recovery are somewhat less than impressive. About fifty percent of our patients regain the use of their limbs.”
Mal nodded in acknowledgement, having heard the same estimate from Simon. “Anything I can do to up those odds?” he asked.
“Maintain a positive attitude,” Dr. Chin said. “Other than that, you’ve already done what can be done. You’ve come to the best hospital in the Core for dealing with traumatic injury. And you’ve brought a viable donor with you. The rest is up to the fates.”
“And your surgical skill,” Jim chimed in, playing his part well.
Dr. Chin smiled. “I promise you, sir, I’ll do the very best I can for your partner.”
“Good to know,” Jim said, making a show of laying his hand possessively on Mal’s shoulder while Mal tried not to squirm away.
Dr. Chin said, “It would probably be best to get Adam back to his room now, so that both of you can get some sleep. Adam’s surgery will be the first one on my schedule tomorrow morning, so we’ll be starting bright and early. If you wish, I can call a nurse to take him back to his room.”
“No,” Mal said quickly. “My…his mother will be here in a few minutes to get him. He’ll be fine here until then.”
“As you wish,” Dr. Chin said. “Until tomorrow then.” So saying, he bowed slightly, and left his patients to get some rest.
River pulled her mother into Adam’s hospital room. “At least here we can have some privacy,” she said, motioning for her mother to sit on the bed.
“I don’t understand. Whose room is this?” Reagan asked.
River took a deep breath. “This is my son’s room.”
“Your…son?” Regan asked a little breathlessly. “You have a son?”
“Yes,” River replied. “A son, and a husband, and another child on the way, Mother.”
Regan looked as if she might faint, and River waited for her to regain a modicum of composure.
“I know there is much that needs to be said, but I have limited time to explain everything. So I would ask that you go home now, and say nothing of this to Father. I have my child and husband to tend to, and I cannot take the time now to catch you up on the last several years. You will be able to find me here tomorrow. I promise I will explain everything then.”
At Regan’s resistant look, River sighed. “Trust me, Mother. For once in your life, trust your child. I swear to you that I will be here. My son will be recovering from surgery. Where else would I be?”
Regan twisted the rings on her fingers nervously. “I want to believe you, River, but…”
“Then believe me, Mother,” River said abruptly. “But, please, say nothing to Father for now.”
“Your father is not on Osiris,” Regan said. “He’s attending a conference on Ariel. I don’t expect him back for three days.”
“Good,” River said. “That saves you the trouble of trying to hide your shock.” Glancing at the clock on the wall, she said, “You really have to go now. I’m sorry.”
Regan looked at her daughter with hopeful eyes. “Do you know if Simon…”
“Simon is alive and close by,” River said. “When you return tomorrow, I’ll tell you more.” She reached out impulsively to squeeze her mother’s hand, and Regan grasped it like a lifeline. “Go now,” River said.
Regan nodded, unable to speak, and walked out the door and down the corridor in a daze, unsure if what she had just seen was the kindest reality or the cruelest of dreams.
To be continued
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