Eidolon (Chapter 23)
Sunday, November 13, 2011

"I'm sorry," he said to the captain, and despite everything that the man had done to him, he meant it. "I think that the concussion from the blast she was caught in was enough to disturb the delicate balance of her system." (Exposition)


Perhaps he was picking up some of his sister's uncanny skill, because he felt as though someone was watching him. The injured surgeon opened one eye and, careful not to dislodge his ice pack, found River sprawled across the end table, her feet in the air, watching curiously as he reclined on a sofa in the dim lounge outside the infirmary. At eye contact she ducked her head and began writing in a frenzy in the journal he'd given her.

The approaching stomping on the metal stairs paused on the landing, and he glanced up in time to fumble with then secure a thrown flask of whiskey. Simon surveyed the projectile, then the barrel-chested animal in a lewd tee-shirt who had been aiming for his face. "Have we downgraded to barroom rules now?"

Jayne frowned, the expression exaggerated by his unkempt goatee, his thick eyebrows meeting in a furrow. The brute almost looked hurt, almost turquoise eyes squinted despite the dim light. "Drink some already," he insisted, in an impatient rustic grumble, "Gotta have words an' be easier if y'got a few shots in you." The less violent of the two men opted not to comment on the unfortunate turn of phrase. Simon unstoppered the bottle and felt his sinuses burn - the fumes alone might be deadly. "Best'n I got stowed," the philistine insisted, lumbering the rest of the way to loom over the couch, "least what didn't get all smashed when Mal belly-flopped us into the ground."

A professional killer really shouldn't have been able to guilt him, but he could recognize this was some bizarre attempt at male bonding. River narrowed her eyes at the distraction. "Inconclusive results. More study needed," she muttered, and went back to work.

"I shouldn't, I'm effectively on duty," the medic argued. "With the captain's propensity to find trouble, the odds are he'll be in bad shape when he gets back." After all, Mal had been out of sight for more than thirty seconds.

But the last time Jayne had shared a drink with him, two of their friends had died. Simon tasted the liquor and almost immediately choked it back up.

Jayne took the flagon from him and dropped down on the far cushion. "Then we tipsify Mal too," he countered, with an audible swig, apparently immune to the substance. He passed it over again, and at Simon's hesitation, he rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Just take your medicine like a man."

Which reminded him. "Didn't you hit me not too long ago?" Simon asked, once his next coughing fit subsided.

"Had'ta," Jayne shrugged, "it's a rule." Rarely if ever were their roles reversed, and the mercenary shifted uneasily at Simon's confusion. "Y'know, the rule," Jayne explained before the question was out. "Like if it was someone else and your lil' sis." His mouth twisted in distaste. "Not that I woulda. No offense or nothin' to the banshee girl, but if she got a knife fetish I got bits of me I've a fondness for. An' I don't part with them for nobody."

His sister was smiling at them now in a rather unsettling way, almost entirely shaded by the low lights, her teeth standing out like a cheshire cat grin. "Conducting important research. Curious behaviour of the Y chromosome."

Jayne recoiled, leaning as far away from her as he could. "You leave my chrome-zones alone!" he cried out, his voice taking on an uncharacteristically high pitch.

Simon looked between them, bemused. "On the bright side, I don't think you could be more emasculated than you are right now."

Even River seemed to take pity on the oaf's continued agitation, flipped the page over, and began drawing, as though the previous exchange hadn't happened. Perhaps to her perceptions it hadn't, and she thought she was caught in a dream, coping with what had happened to her by rejecting reality entirely. The thought hurt, as it always did; sadness, that she might not even know he was here, that she was safe and away from that awful place, but also pride, for her persistence and strength.

The other man also studied her contemplatively, though more warily, and only spoke again when he was satisfied that River was sufficiently distracted. "I see how it is. I ain't ignorant," the lummox asserted. "It took me some figgering though."

Simon schooled his expression into something innocent. Jayne was trying to be civil, aside from the pummeling; he could extend the same courtesy. "What do you mean?"

"This crew," the mercenary answered. "Made no kind of sense at first. But Mal's got some xī qí gǔ guài flight-of-fancy that folks ain't gotta be blood t'be kin." He was disdainful and cynical, but there was also a grudging acceptance in his words. "Like you two. Ain't about the bounties for him, s'about the amends."

Memories of the ill-fated Lilac heist and his departure on Beaumonde suggested otherwise. "Mal only allows us to stay because we're useful. Or, in my case, entertainment."

Jayne took another mouthful of whiskey. "Sure. He kept'cha on after crazy wrecked the Maidenhead bar because he wanted an Operative on his ass. Hell of a punchline." Not even unexpected insights from Jayne of all people could convince Simon to forgive Mal for endangering his sister. The other man shook his head, frustrated by his chronic alexithymia. "All for one and none for all. 'Cept me," he growled. Another drink.

Was that a complaint or remorse? Simon was quickly having to adjust his estimation of either the bigger man's tolerance downwards or the alcoholic content of the drink drastically upwards. Surely a sad and repentant Jayne was not a sober Jayne.

"Doc," the man hesitated, as though testing out the word, his fingers drumming out a rhythm on the metal flask. "You an' I ain't the friendliest, but we been through some ordeals, so maybe now I don't sell you out to Feds an' you don't announce to the girls whenever I got some unpleasantness at a brothel. An' you got that whole thing about healing and such."

Simon didn't need the reminder, and really hoped that Jayne hadn't contracted chlamydia again. He sighed, and braced himself for another journey into horrors best left unknown. "You'll have to be more specific, Jayne, if you're asking for my help."

"Not me," Jayne corrected. "My kid brother. Got some kind of superbug, his usual pills for his damp lung don't work no more." There was something very like a pout on his face, one Simon had also seen when the bodybuilder was sitting forlorn and alone at his workout bench. "No older than your sis," Jayne gestured at River, "and he's dyin'. I ain't spent most my life lookin' out for him and sendin' cash home for him to kick now." He studied Simon shrewdly. "I was thinkin', maybe you know some new-fangled core meds or somethin' might help."

It was a night for the unexpected, Simon supposed. He would never have thought that he would feel sympathy and understanding for any of Jayne's plights. "I'll look into it."

Jayne clapped him on the shoulder. "Then we're settled far as Kaylee's concerned, 'til the next gaffe. Don't much matter whatcha did." It was such a comfort, knowing that Jayne didn't even need a reason to justify attacking him. Still, that was surprisingly less selfish, depraved, and violent than usual. Then Jayne continued. "Vexin' Kaylee more'n the sexin', though. Oughta see to that."

Simon dearly wished he was not having this conversation, and especially not with Jayne. He glanced at River, who seemed unaffected. Perhaps she hadn't heard. "You knew about us?"

"Twenty-one minutes and nine point six seconds in the engine room," River supplied unhelpfully, still scribbling. "Not counting foreplay." Her brother decided that he was going to pretend he didn't hear that for the continuing sake of his sanity.

Jayne snorted. "'Course we knew. Maybe slobberin' over her face 'fore everyone by the mule's your kinda trickery, but ain't exactly a largish boat, you two goin' at it everywhere an' all hours for three months. Kaylee alone can pierce the bulkheads. Louder when she's with company." And apparently the discussion could get worse. "Only reason we weren't ridin' y'all 'bout it was 'cause Zoë's in mournin' and it's right comical when Mal messes with ya."

He felt his jaw drop from the outrage. All the interruptions every time they were having a moment, dumping chores on them to keep them busy for entire days, the seemingly innocent innuendo... The doctor found himself seriously considering that the next time that lǎo húli was in the infirmary for a headache, Simon would give Mal yin yang huo capsules instead of painkillers and convince him the hyperphilia was a side effect.

Simon almost didn't hear the distant clatter of the attaching shuttle, the crackle of the intercom. "We have injured," the first mate announced. Simon still had difficulty identifying Zoë's moods or the different tones of her voice, but thought he heard gravity instead of mere annoyance or amusement, and shelved his plans for revenge. "All personnel report to the infirmary."

His patient was there almost before she had finished her sentence; not the injury prone daredevil, but Inara. The doctor rose and any anger he might have felt was overridden by the sight of the captain carrying the companion, the pale and tense look Mal spared for the rest of the crew. Both curious, River moved to investigate and Jayne stood presumably to help, not that they were paid any notice. Without needing any direction, her bearer pushed open the doors of the infirmary and placed Inara onto the examination table like an acolyte before the altar.

Explosion, they said, perhaps she had been hit by some shrapnel or something. The soldier stripped off his brown coat and rolled up his sleeves in case his assistance was needed, but instead, Simon shooed out the gathering crowd so he had room to work. With no small effort, they eventually pulled Inara's would-be sentinel away from the observation window as well.

After he had determined what he already knew, he found them in the galley, gathered around the worn dinner table - normally a loud and social place, now subdued. Even the warm glow of the lamp and the whimsical decorative vines along the walls struggled against the melancholy, and were not enough. He was reminded of any number of grim watering holes he had seen on this journey, the patrons hunched over their tankards and drowning their sorrows. Or perhaps a bohemian bistro in an opera, and dead lilacs.

Kaylee had apparently thought to warm a spread of leftovers in a fit of nervous energy, with about as much of her normal cheer as a butterfly when the autumn frost first arrived. River simply smiled at her brother, and returned to her meal, and Jayne didn't even stop his usual vacuum-like eating, but the rest looked to him when he entered, not particularly hungry. The captain slowly dragged his thoughts away from some impressive brooding, his plate untouched, and waited.

Simon took a breath, cognizant of the three empty chairs. This would be difficult. "I owe you all an explanation, and an apology." He glanced at his tiánxīn, her hazel eyes wavering, her soft lips thinning at his disclosure, and quickly resettled his gaze on the others. "A few years ago, while I was looking for River, I stumbled across a cortex alert from Sihnon that caught my attention."

Mal interrupted, his eyes narrowed with impatience. "This resembling a point in the near future?"

"Yes," Simon frowned, with a flash of lingering irritation. "A companion was assaulted on the grounds of one of the guild houses, and several students were nearly abducted." Suddenly his story had become much more interesting. "The girls had been attending a preparatory academy on the side, to fulfill a general education requirement that was part of their training. I thought there might be a connection to the attack and River's disappearance, so I subscribed to a client list and arranged for an appointment to talk to one of the victims." He hesitated to tell them the rest, but they deserved to know the truth. "It wasn't an easy time for me, and she... comforted me."

A stony silence answered him, except for Kaylee, who looked crestfallen, and Jayne, who swallowed his food and gave a low whistle of admiration. "Companion, huh?" the lout asked, clearly still not aware who they were talking about. "She any good?" Despite a murderous look from the captain, he leered with unsavoury speculation, his fork tracing curves in the air for emphasis. "For that kinda coin, petals must smell like peach blossoms, snug as a holster, and nǎi zi like two..."

"Jayne," Zoë warned.

Kaylee crossed her arms in a sulk. "Was she comfortin' you at that resort on Pelorum?" she accused, and shook her head, her brown hair bouncing around her shoulders. "River and I went huntin' for you after you took off, but you were in 'Nara's shuttle all the while."

Simon wasn't sure how she knew about that, but the captain spoke before he could formulate an answer for her. "She was sick then, too, wasn't she?" His voice was low and tired, almost as though weighed down by his troubles.

"I've been running tests for her," the doctor confirmed. "When I had to change ships on Persephone, I tried to research what was available, and I found an advert over the cortex about her arrival. I thought she might be willing to protect my sister if anything happened to me. It didn't really work out that way, I didn't have a chance to tell her about River. But even after you found out about my stowaway, she convinced you all to give us a second chance." His thoughts grew pensive. Her harsh jibe at him to Mal early on, her disapproving stares whenever he upset Kaylee, dismissive comments about her job whenever he complimented her. "I think, even though she adored River, she felt betrayed by me. I didn't find out about her illness until later, when I accidentally found some of her medications, and then I saw helping her as a chance to atone for my presumptions."

Kaylee was still upset, and he could see that she didn't quite believe him, but he was relieved when she turned some of her anger towards another target. "You said they was havin' an affair," she rebuked, scowling at the other jilted admirer at the table.

The slow-witted mercenary blinked. "Doc? And 'Nara?" Another glare from Zoë shut him up.

Simon could see the regret in the slump of Mal's shoulders, and reminded himself not to take any of this personally. "I'm sorry," he said to the captain, and despite everything that the man had done to him, he meant it. "I think that the concussion from the blast she was caught in was enough to disturb the delicate balance of her system. Her condition has gotten worse."

Mal absorbed that for a few moments. "How bad is it?" he finally asked.

You saw how bad, she's completely unresponsive, Simon thought, but didn't say, because he could see Mal was grasping for any kind of hope that could be found. "She has spinocerebellar ataxia with extrapyramidal akinesia. It's rare," he answered, "and still poorly understood, because there are never many cases to study at any one time. Simply, her brain cells produce too much glutamine amino acid. Eventually it builds up, impairs function, and becomes toxic."

River finished her meal and neatly crossed her utensils over the plate. "Goodnight," she said, and even after she left, wandering down towards the stairs to the infirmary and the passenger dorms, Simon couldn't decide if she was commenting on Inara's ailment or not.

"That contagious?" Jayne asked worriedly.

Simon sighed. It was the stupid question portion of the evening. "Genetic. Her mother had a slower progressing variation of the disorder, which appears to have anticipated and aggregated in Inara." Jayne seemed satisfied with that answer, and got up to rummage in the kitchen for a second serving.

"Okay," said the captain, skimming past the medical jargon he didn't really understand and focusing on where his strengths were: decision, command, and action. "So how do we treat it?"

His throat tightened. Regardless of their history, Simon still considered Inara a friend. "I've given her an anti-inflammatory to reduce the swelling from her concussion and something to counteract her glutamate levels, but there's been no change to her condition." He tried for consoling. Whether for himself, for the captain, or for the rest of the crew, he wasn't sure. "She isn't going to wake up from this, Mal. All we can do now is keep her comfortable."

They all reacted with various degrees of shock. Kaylee gasped, her hands clapped over her mouth and forgetting for a moment their relationship tangle and the hurt, Jayne's head lifted as he looked over from the kitchen area behind the counter, and even Zoë's eyes widened. Mal looked as though every emotion had been stricken from his face, staring blankly as the other members of the crew slowly turned to watch his reaction. Then, impossibly, he managed to crack a disbelieving smile and barked a humourless laugh. "What? No. C'mon, no, really. There's gotta be... What about gene therapy?"

"Family history of bad reactions. Gene therapy is what originally hastened the onset of her mother's condition. It will only make her worse, if it doesn't kill her outright, and painfully," Simon replied, repeating what Inara had told him when he'd confronted her about his discovery.

"You're a genius, top three percent at MedAcad, you said so. She'll be fine, she..." He was rambling now, one last effort at denial, at convincing himself, then he saw Simon shaking his head, pitying, no. And Mal's temper audibly snapped, his chair knocked backwards like a gunshot as he surged to his feet and slammed his palms on the table, startling them. "You have to help her, you're a gorramn doctor! Fix her!" he snarled, every line of him bristling, looking like he was about to leap across the space between them after Simon, who raised his hands as though to ward off a wild and enraged animal. Mal simply growled. "Fine then. You won't do anything, I will." He pushed off the table almost like he was throwing it aside, storming off towards the stairs in the direction River had gone.

"Sir?" Zoë asked, alarmed, moving to follow him and keep him from injuring himself.

"We still have that cryochamber?" he asked, and didn't wait for her to answer. "Get poindexter to fire it up, or cool it down, whatever. We can store her in there 'til we get her to Sihnon and find a real doctor." He stopped long enough to stare Simon down, blazing with righteous anger and hatred, then continued, raising his voice for the rest of them, not that he needed to. "Anyone who doesn't wanna go there I'll drop off with fare to get them elsewhere, but there's folks on Ezra right now planning on taking the antlion out and we're gonna help. Longer we stay here, less chance she has and more chance we get caught by the Alliance." His voice dropped dangerously. "We're gettin' off this world."

"Finally," Jayne grouched, and was very lucky Mal didn't hear.

"Where are you going?" Simon asked, uncertain if he should join Zoë's efforts and at the same time not looking forward to another fist to the face.

The shadows of the back corridor fell over Mal as he almost vanished through the passage way, but he grabbed onto the frame with one hand and looked back over his shoulder. "Going to get her comfy like you said," he answered. "Prep the damn box."


Sunday, November 13, 2011 5:37 PM


Then, impossibly, he managed to crack a disbelieving smile and barked a humourless laugh. "What? No. C'mon, no, really. There's gotta be... What about gene therapy?"

Breaks my heart, Mal has lost so much but he can't bring himself to think about losing her.

Sunday, November 13, 2011 7:06 PM


Oh my, it's like a punch to the gut.

First you warm us up with some very funny dialog between Simon and Jayne and River:
--"Gotta have words an' be easier if y'got a few shots in you."
--"With the captain's propensity to find trouble, the odds are he'll be in bad shape when he gets back." After all, Mal had been out of sight for more than thirty seconds.
--"Conducting important research. Curious behaviour of the Y chromosome."
--"Sure. He kept'cha on after crazy wrecked the Maidenhead bar because he wanted an Operative on his ass. Hell of a punchline."
--"All for one and none for all. 'Cept me," he growled.

Then you hit us with spinocerebellar ataxia with extrapyramidal akinesia. I felt for them all, when Simon told them Inara would not be waking up from this. Especially for Mal. You have Mal reacting exactly in character. Of course he has to _do_ something. He has to.

Great chapter.

Monday, November 14, 2011 6:01 AM


Nothing like a little mood whiplash humour to say, hey, it's serious, but we're still having fun, right?

...I am an evil monster.

Monday, November 14, 2011 12:37 PM


Yes, we are still having fun. You're just tugging at our heart strings.

...and doing a damn fine job of it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012 12:49 PM


"Like if it was someone else and your lil' sis." His mouth twisted in distaste. "Not that I woulda. No offense or nothin' to the banshee girl, but if she got a knife fetish I got bits of me I've a fondness for. An' I don't part with them for nobody."
- collective boo from all the Rayners! Tee hee giggle!

Thursday, January 5, 2012 12:53 PM


Jayne Jayne Jayne! - tipsify, vexin' more than sexin', and that contagious should be canon.

Thursday, January 5, 2012 12:54 PM


Also, this chapter was perfect.

Thursday, January 5, 2012 1:06 PM


A boy named Jayne.


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Eidolon (Epilogue)
Someday, she knew they would visit the graves of Serenity Valley and not hear the howl of the ghosts. Someday, they would walk across the green prairie of a restored world and watch the rain. (Glimpses)

Eidolon (Chapter 40)
Clouds were blossoming in the distance, promising rain for the city later. The crew of Serenity and the badlands around Eavesdown Docks to the south would probably see only a harsh windstorm. Two different worlds, she mused, caught between them. (Deliverance)

Eidolon (Chapter 39)
The question seemed to hit her hard. In the mirrors of her eyes, he saw himself, forced to see her lose more ground every day. Hurt more, because of him. Saw her watching him back as she pulled him out of a nightmare. (Try)

The Gift
They don't have much. But they have each other. (Just a little holiday story from the Firefly verse. Belongs to Joss)

Eidolon (Chapter 38)
The girl processed that response. "He brought the medicine? He saved us?" Inara nodded, considering her own inclusion in the question. (Renewed)

Eidolon (Chapter 37)
A wind clear and sweet stirred the air, humming as a shimmering, ever-shifting blaze of color flashed from one horizon to another. The breeze carried with it a distant song, rising over the hills and through the vales like a soulful hymn from his childhood. (Flight)

Eidolon (Chapter 36)
"I cut the strings. They were never yours anyway.”(Liberation)

Eidolon (Chapter 35)
A few twists of a little turnscrew and the mechanic was stripping wires and rerouting circuits in moments. (Break)

Eidolon (Chapter 34)
Stars scattered in the night, coalesced from the stellar dust from a far away sun and others that came before. A spark, scintillating into a network, a stream, like the lights and streets of a city. (Cascade)

Eidolon (Chapter 33)
"Put me back in that place," River said, "Little bluebird singing in a cage, puppet on broken strings." (Capture)