BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE

CLIO

Something To Think On: Chapter 14
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

M/I. Post-BDM. On Miranda and descending into the dark. Here there be monsters.


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Something To Think On
by clio
Chapter Fourteen

Miranda. Miranda Miranda Miranda Miranda Miranda Miranda Miranda.

Sometimes he thought if he closed his eyes tight enough and said the word to himself times enough when he opened his eyes it might be like it never happened. But every time when he opened his eyes, Wash and Book were still dead; Zoe was still grieving; Simon still carried that haunted, blank look on his face, and Kaylee that sadness.

This time when he did it, he was sitting on the floor of Grace’s infirmary, his back to the wall opposite the bed where the Companion slept, River’s head tucked in his lap. She’d been shivering and sniffling when he pulled her out from under Inara’s bed. It had taken all he had to get her to cross the room, where he sat and held her tight till she stopped shaking and drifted off to sleep (though every now and again a hand or foot kicked out; he figured her sleep was rarely peaceful).

He himself had drifted off once, and just once. Wouldn’t happen again, because that time, when he woke up, the girl was standing over Inara, holding a scalpel to the Companion’s wrist (red on her own) and muttering nonsense to herself about truth in blood. He was behind her in a second, pulling back her arm, yanking her away, back to him. But he was too weary for rage, and she’d fallen against him bonelessly anyhow. Even after that bit of excitement, he couldn’t quite bring himself to go and fetch her brother, so there he sat, his hand clamped over the gash on her wrist (not so bad as he’d thought), his eyes closed tight but sleep nowhere close.

“Miranda Miranda Miranda Miranda Miranda Miranda Miranda Miranda....” Said it until it stopped making sense, stopped sounding to his ears like something that existed in the ‘Verse.

But when he opened his eyes, the little albatross was still curled up in his lap, bleeding and dreaming, and she was still lying there, across the room. Still dying.

***

So what? Had there ever been any choice in it, really? Instead of lifting her tiny little body up into his arms (like he’d lifted the Companion’s them months later), could he have left them both on Beaumonde – run and left them with what she’d done? They’d’ve been captured, maybe dead, within a day, he figured, after a ruckus like that. And then. And then.

The boy had waved her the night before the Fanty and Mingo meeting. “We can’t stay here. We’re leaving Serenity,” he’d told her.

She let out a little gasp. Her eyes had gone wide, her face twisted with worry. She held out a hand toward him, like she could, maybe, just maybe, touch him across all them thousands of miles. “No. No, Simon. You can’t do that. You’re not safe.”

His voice hard: “We don’t really have a choice. That’s been made abundantly clear.”

Shaking her head, like to will it away: “Yes, you do. Apologize. Do what you have to. Just stay.”

The boy cocked his head, a far away look in his eyes. “Would you?”

Her eyes had dropped to her lap. When she’d lifted them next, she’d sighed. “Well, at least tell me where on Beaumonde you’ll be. I’ll come to you. I could be there within a day. You and River will come back here, with me, at least for a time.”

And whatever in the gorram ‘Verse that meant – why she would offer something like that, why Simon wouldn’t have seemed surprised, just a touch sad – he hadn’t wanted to know.

He didn’t know how they ended things – he’d turned off the monitor, gone down to his bunk, and promptly put his fist through his mirror. (Seven years bad luck, give or take a few. No worse than he was already doing, he conjured.) No one else was the wiser: the weave was off by the next afternoon, and his skin looked near-new. But he was – he was wiser. Wise to something. Something there that he wished he could un-see, un-hear, un-think.

And so he went into that meeting with Fanty and Mingo full expecting to give them two away. Leave them behind. Couldn’t do business with the boy on his ship, like he’d told Kaylee. Just hadn’t told her all the reasons.

And so what? So she’d come to Beaumonde, and she’d take them away. Maybe he’d even see her, and she’d curse him for being so mean (not even human, she’d say in her head). She’d kiss the boy, and she’d pet the girl, and they’d leave together, her holding them under her wings. After River was asleep, she’d take the boy into her room. Later, with his head between her legs, she’d cry out to Buddha, and some time after that, as he moved inside her, she’d just cry, because she was rén after all.

But so what? So he’d leave them on Beaumonde, because they sure as hell weren’t for the likes of Serenity, just like she wasn’t. Hadn’t ever been; he was just too blind to see it. Only ones belonged on Serenity were her family.

***

“Simon.” Her whole body jerked, that time, and she was muttering in her sleep. Her hair looked near-black, spread over his lap. Her words weren’t nonsense, though (if ever they were). Just as she spoke them, the door to the infirmary slid open, and the doctor pushed into the room. Three in the morning, by the time they’d been keeping most recent.

The boy didn’t notice him or his sister, though, tucked in the corner nearest the door, opposite the patient. Just walked toward her bed (put a hand to her wrist with practiced skill as he glanced for a few quick seconds at his watch), then opened a low drawer and pulled out a bag with tubing around it. (For blood – he’d seen plenty enough like it in battleground medical tents.)

The doctor (still dressed in his vest and white shirt, never mind the hour) was rolling up his left sleeve, a tourniquet and beveled needle on the tray beside him. And just as he was snapping on surgical gloves: “Mind telling me just what it is you think you’re doing?”

He swung around on his little stool, his mouth half-open, his eyes wide – nervous-like. When he saw the girl in his lap, though, his face went dark, his jaw set tight. Slowly, emphasizing each word: “How did she get here?”

Shrugged; tried to keep his expression neutral. “Probably should be asking her that. I was a mite surprised to find her here, myself. Seems she didn’t take too kindly to bein’ left behind.”

Grumbled to himself, in his head, that she’d asked to come, after all, just like she’d asked to come to Lilac, even if the boy didn’t know it. (Her brother couldn’t imagine she might have a mind of her own.)

Now, in front of him, the doctor stood; tried to look imposing. “I thought I made myself perfectly clear –” His voice was loud, echoing in the room, and the girl twisted a bit but didn’t awaken.

He gestured with his chin at her head in his lap. “Again, you can talk to her about it. Don’t see it as doing too much good. I reckon we’d both agree we can’t turn around now.” Simon’s quick look over his shoulder – at the Companion – proved him right. “And on that subject, I want you to tell me just what you came in here to do.”

Simon’s hands were deep in his pockets, his face hard to decipher. Set, but anxious about – something. “I was about to draw some blood.”

A nod. “That much was plain. I want to know why.”

He took a breath. “Because we should have a ready supply. It’s not unlikely that she’ll need a transfusion. We need to be ready.”

He’d conjured as much. “You reckoned you’d do this in the middle of the night?”

He tilted his chin up, maybe in defiance. “I thought it best not to provoke alarm in regard to her condition.”

A harsh laugh escaped him. “Her condition? Plain as day she’s dying. I don’t guess this makes it that much worse, now, do it?”

The doctor swallowed. “I suppose not, no.”

Closed his eyes; took a deep breath. Tried to rein in his temper. Probably didn’t make no sense why it should bother him so. But it did, something fierce. (Fierce as those images roiling in his brain.) “Here’s what I’m curious about, Doctor. Just what made you think it should be yours?”

Simon’s eyes narrowed; his jaw was set hard. “Do you know what happens when you mix incompatible blood types, Captain? Do you want me to describe it to you in detail? What would have happened to her?”

No, no, no, gorramit, and Simon knew what he meant. The boy’s evasions didn’t change that. “So you’re telling me you’re the only one in the whole gorram crew could’ve given her blood?” His whole body felt taut, like the string of a bow nearing its breaking point.

But the boy didn’t budge an inch; just watched Mal for a second, like he was a bug about to be dissected, and nodded slow to himself, like he was just coming to an understanding of sorts. His voice had a hard edge to it.

“Would it have meant something to you, Mal, if it had been you? If you’d been able to give this to her? If your blood had been inside her?” He shook his head, answered his own question. “No, it would have meant nothing. Less than nothing: it would have meant that you had to wait until she was nearly in the gorram ground to offer up something to her, and that even then it wasn’t something it hurt you to part with.” A hard laugh. “Let me tell you something, Mal. This isn’t about whatever it is you imagine you want with her. It’s about her. It’s about what’s best for her. Sometimes I don’t think you even know what that is.”

Anger, white hot. His words came out a growl: “You best stop talking before I stop you talking.”

He shook his head; let out a breath of air. “You’re a piece of work. Yes. Of the three of us here, I’m the only one who could have given her blood. Perhaps River, though I’d have to cross-match her to make sure.”

Silence for a time, then, and the boy turned back to that seat by her bed. Circled his arm with the rubber tourniquet and bit off a knot; found a vein like it was something he did everyday, and then his blood was running down a thin bit of tube and pooling, dark, almost black, in the bag hanging beside him.

When he spoke again, there was an edge to his voice, coupled with a kind of bewilderment. “What is it you think you get out of fighting me, Mal?” A beat. “We both want the same thing.”

There wasn’t much to say to that.

***

In his mind he divided his life into neat little sections, each one bookmarked by tragedy. Birth (a kind of tragedy in and of itself, he reckoned) till Shadow. Then there was Shadow till Serenity. Serenity till Miranda. And Miranda till – this.

That night on Beaumonde was the turning point for the last chapter. Sitting with Fanty and Mingo, talking on Lilac, he’d been blessedly ignorant of that place that’d been so much on the little one’s mind. Miranda. After that night, he’d never be able to forget it.

Until River’d had her turn, that night hadn’t been about Miranda in the least. And his hatred for Simon hadn’t been about Miranda. Up until that night, he’d hated Simon Tam because of her. Seeing those waves made it a hundred times worse. He knew enough before not to like the boy – had caught him in or near the shuttle a handful of times (her always with some sassy retort at his piqued anger), had heard them talk in that fancy tongue, had seen them dance like they were the same person.

And the funny thing was, looking back on the waves now, knowing she’d been sick (dying), didn’t make it any better. So many things it had. Over days past he’d gone over every speck of their time together, tried to put the pieces together with this new glue, the dying. It explained a heap of things. Explained too much.

Didn’t explain this in any good way, though. He wanted, more than he wanted most things, to be able to tell himself that her leaving his boat had been about her being sick – about her not wanting to cause folk grief. But her talking to Simon – and talking so intimate – it told him plain as day that her leaving wasn’t about that. It was about him. And every time he saw them talk, her words came back to him like a slap in the face: “Mal – I don’t want that.” She’d told him, then. Made it perfectly clear. Then why did those waves – a question here, a confidence there – feel like a betrayal? Because they did. Every time.

Whether or not she gorram thought on him.

That night, Kaylee’d been going on and on about the boy until he snapped. Wanted her to see how foolish she truly was. Wanted to protect her, too, he reckoned. “How do you know what he feels? He’s got River to worry on, but he still could’ve shown you.... If I truly wanted someone bad enough, wouldn’t be a thing in the ‘Verse that could stop me from goin’ to her.”

She’d turned it back on him, and good. “Tell that to Inara.” Ironic thing was his little mechanic didn’t realize they were just alike, in truth: both of them pining after a body that didn’t want them back.

But all of a sudden the night had shifted. He’d gone in a blink from never having heard that word (Miranda) to hearing it in his dreams every night, in his waking thoughts every hour of the day.

Back to that first question, then. Had there ever been any choice in it? Could he have just slipped out, quiet, when that switch in her head got flicked? No. He figured there wasn’t never a choice. If he’d left them on Beaumonde, the girl having killed – how many? four? five? – it wasn’t just them that’d pay for it. Others would get caught up in the crossfire, others who intended to come looking for them. And no matter the betrayal, no matter the taking and the giving, no matter getting it all tossed back in his face, no matter any of it, he reckoned (no matter what she said) he was just a little too rén to let that happen.

***

Watched Simon’s blood flow into that bag for twelve minutes, by his count. The room was silent, all except River’s occasional mutterings.

Finally, Simon sighed. Unhooked his arm and tended to the bag before walking back to her bed (his hand holding a bit of gauze to the puncture in his arm) and watched her for a moment. “I think, Mal, that you think we were something we were not.”

He tensed. “Do I, now?”

A nod, though he was still looking down at her face, her closed eyes. “You should know that you’re mistaken.”

Suddenly, in his lap, her eyes were wide open. “Madness. Madness.”

And she was up, pushing at him, kicking him, struggling to stand. (“Jesus Christ,” he muttered as her elbow connected with his ribcage.)

Now she was standing, facing Simon and the Companion, but her eyes far away. And what came out of her mouth made, all at once, perfect sense and no sense at all. “Have you looked at this scan carefully, Doctor?” she asked the wall, or maybe something beyond it. “At his face?” A beat, like she was waiting for an answer. “It’s love, in point of fact. Something a good deal more dangerous.”

***

Before Miranda, he’d hated the boy because of her. After Miranda, he hated him for something entirely different.

He’d kept the boy on his boat that time, after Beaumonde, not just because he couldn’t leave the little albatross to what would’ve found them in that bar – but he couldn’t leave her, either, to stumble into it, trying to find them. And when he’d gotten her wave, he didn’t need to think twice about whether or not to go to her. “What about the part where it’s a trap?” Wash asked – but Mal reckoned his pilot knew the answer to that better than anybody.

When he first saw her, he let himself feel a moment of joy. Joked about ponies, and, even as she chastised him in her way, she’d sounded happy, too. But maybe he’d just been fooling himself. Certainly felt like a fool, later on Serenity, when she’d made him admit that he’d come there for her.

The next days and nights went by so fast. Wished he could grab at them, stop them – but they slipped past him like wind. (Leaf on the wind.)

The Shepherd, dead. Strapping his body to Serenity’s hull; defiling it with red paint.

Wash, dead. Pulling the rod that had gone through him out of his lifeless chest.

Simon, shot. Watching her, leaning over him (not crying like she’d not cried so many times before), trying to stop the blood.

And Zoe, in that white dress, her face just – empty – as she put flowers on her dead husband’s grave.

Yessir, after Miranda, he’d hated Simon for something entirely different. But how he wished to God it was still just for the other.

***

end chapter 14

COMMENTS

Saturday, August 1, 2009 12:21 PM

BYTEMITE


I didn't mention it before, but here, I like how Inara offers Simon to stay, and Mal sees it, and the seven years of bad luck he's already had.

And the "you're not good enough" Simon-ness. Although now that I think of it, and since your reveal, it's strange that Simon would speak that way about Inara... ah, well, Mal and the doctor, they push each other's buttons.

Sunday, August 9, 2009 8:54 AM

BYTEMITE


Since you changed that exchange, I thought I'd reprise my comments here.

I think that this is a better way for Simon to address the issue with Mal. Talking about the BLOOD being inside Inara is I think a little more like Simon, I think maybe what was wrong is that the other comments just felt too crude for him.

Monday, August 6, 2012 12:30 PM

AMDOBELL


This worked well and I wasn't surprised when River turned up on Grace. Poor Inara, I hope they manage to save her in the end. Wish Mal could get passed the hate that is eating him up when it comes to Simon but that may take more time. And where is Jayne? I thought he was taking Jayne with him? Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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M/I. Post-BDM. On Miranda and descending into the dark. Here there be monsters.

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