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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Serenity's crew take a trip to the funfair and Simon realizes he's on the ride of his life. And a look at some of the events of "The Train Job".
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1903 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Joss. And they're haunting me.
WARNING If you don't want to be spoiled for “The Train Job”, don't read this. Contains dialogue taken from the episode.
* * * *
TRAUMA MEDICINE: Chapter Seven,
Sit down and hang onto something.
* * * * *
Simon has ridden rollercoasters just often enough to know he hates them. He hates that feeling of falling, of being out of control. Hates the dizzying, short-lived highs and the headlong plummetting into the lows. The all-consuming fear of death. No, rollercoasters are definitely not his thing.
Which makes this all manner of ironic.
“Come on, Doctor,” Kaylee pleads, tugging at his hand. “Just for me.”
Kaylee loves rollercoasters. She loves the way her stomach drops away as the ride hurtles downwards. The way her heart thumps in her chest. The G-force that presses her back into her seat. And the feel of the wind in her hair. Rollercoasters make her feel vibrantly alive. The sky looks bluer and the grass greener. The only thing that feels better is being in love. Coming here was her idea. Mal was so relieved she survived Dobson's bullet he allowed her to talk him into letting Serenity's crew take a trip to the funfair on Sundown and, now they're here, Kaylee's determined to enjoy every minute of it. And part of her enjoyment depends on Simon sitting next to her.
“Ain't scared Doc, are ya?” Jayne jeers, jealous that Kaylee didn't ask him to ride with her but all manner of smug that his rival for her affections is lettin' himself down by bein' all weak an' cowardly about gettin' into the carriage. Jayne can handle rollercoasters. Gotta get yourself in the right frame of mind is all. Imagine you're launchin' yourself into the fight of your life. Grit your teeth and clench your fists and just gorram well do it! Once that adrenalin gets flowin' you don't need to think about a damn thing.
Jayne barges Simon aside and takes a seat beside Wash and Zoe who are already strapped in. Zoe can take or leave fun rides, but Wash loves 'em. His eyes are round with anticipation and he's twitchin' in his seat. “Learnt some of the finer points of flying on these babies,” he tells his wife happily, patting the side of the carrige like he would a favourite horse.
River steps up beside Simon. “Potential energy converted into kinetic energy,” she says solemnly, craning her head back to look at the highest point of the ride. “One hundred miles per hour. 5 Gs. Medium level intensity.” She smiles at her brother. “You won't die.”
Simon blanches, looking like he might prefer to as Kaylee begins dragging him towards the car. He casts a desperate look at Mal who is doing his very best not to laugh. Simon feels the stiff collar of his shirt tighten round his neck as he swallows nervously. He wishes Mal would give him an excuse not to get on. Or order him to. Anything to put him out of this agony of indecision.
“Up to you, Doc,” the Captain shrugs. “Just s'posed to be a bit of fun. Don't go gettin' it all out of proportion. Ain't like it's a matter of life an' death.”
“Y-e-s,” Simon says uncertainly. “But what about River ...”
“Yeah, River, come on,” Kaylee urges, but her friend shakes her head.
“Sensory mismatch induces vomiting,” she explains.
“Don't worry, Doctor,” Inara smiles, putting an arm around River's shoulders. “I'll take care of her for you.”
Inara tired of rollercoasters long ago. The thrills they offer aren't real. They depend on the suspension of disbelief, on believing that you really might crash to a bone-shattering death, whereas in fact everything has been carefully calculated to evoke maximal sensation at minimal risk.
“Hey, Shepherd!” Jayne shouts over the fairground music to Book, who is standing at some distance from the others. “You wanna ride? Looks like the Doc here might be in need of a preacher 'fore long!”
“No. Thank you. Think I'll just wait this one out,” Book smiles. “Trust in the Lord, son,” he calls to Simon with a wink. Book used to ride rollercoasters long, long ago. But now they put him in mind of Our Lord in the wilderness being tempted by the Devil. He has no desire to put God to the test by throwing himself from a high place, because he's not convinced the angels would consider him worth the catching.
“What about you Cap'n?” Kaylee asks as Simon finally gets in beside her.
Mal shakes his head. “Ain't lookin' to part with my lunch jus' yet, Kaylee.” Mal ain't never been on a rollercoaster and has no intention of ever doin' so. His life's already more excitin' than he'd like. Don't need no extra brushes with death. An' he can't see the fun in trustin' his life to some other fella's math ...
Ten excruciating minutes later, Kaylee has to be help Simon off the ride. His pale features have turned a delicate shade of green and his hand is clamped against his mouth. Jayne guffaws, giving him a hefty smack between the shoulder blades that makes him double over. “Now that was fun!” He slings an arm around Kaylee's shoulders and gives her a squeeze.
“That's enough, Jayne.” Mal's voice is quiet and nearer than Simon had expected. “Doc jus' needs somethin' to settle his stomach. How about some fried eggs, son?” Simon's eyes widen in horror. “No? 'Course you'd probably prefer somethin' fancier what with comin' from the Core'n all. What about jellied eels? Think I saw a booth sellin' ...”
A thick gurgling sound bubbles up from Simon's throat and he takes off at speed for some nearby bushes where he wishes a painful and embarrassing disease on the Captain as he is violently and copiously sick.
“Captain,” Kaylee scolds, hands on hips whilst Zoe fixes Mal with a disapproving stare and shakes her head. “Nice goin', Sir.”
Mal just grins. “What? Oh come on – don't tell me it wa'n't funny!”
“You're psychotic,” Wash tells him. “Definitely psychotic.”
“Yeah. Maybe. OK, people. Time to be gettin' back. Got us a rendez-vous to make, remember?”
* * * * *
Reluctantly Simon finally lets go of his white knight and, with a sigh of resignation, rubs his hands nervously up and down the thigh of his pants.
Inara raises an eyebrow as she surveys the chess board. “That's a bold move,” she comments.
“I live on the edge,” Simon replies with a bitter laugh. “Or at least, I do now.”
Inara moves the red queen two squares to the side. “Check mate, Doctor.”
Simon stares at the board, shaking his head in disbelief. “Then again, sometimes I feel the need to throw myself right over that edge.”
River rolls her eyes at him. “Nice work, dumbass. You don't play a player.”
“Would you like a rematch?” Inara asks. “Best of three?”
“No point,” River says matter-of-factly. “You'll lose.”
“Not necessarily,” Simon protests. “I was chess champion three years running at medacad.” The declaration hangs in the air like a ripped flag, a pathetic reminder of past glories. Simon clears his throat and stands up. “Thank you, Inara. But I think we'd better go. It's time for River's meds.”
For a moment River looks like she might bolt but Simon catches her by the arm. “Fine. Let's do this,” she sulks, as her brother steers her towards the door. She looks back over her shoulder at Inara. “I'm thinking we'll rise again. All of us.”
* * * * *
River accepts the injection with barely a murmur and pushes herself up onto the exam table where she stretches out quietly, watching as Simon tidies the already too neat infirmary. She closes her eyes, her head filling with numbers and latinized drug names as her brother counts and alphabetizes. His fingers move over syringes and needles and she feels metal. Sharp, cold metal. Hot penetration. An invasion. Her hands bunch into fists and she screws up her eyes, trying to push away the pictures rapidly overlayering each other in her mind. There's a voice in her head and it's not Simon's. She jolts upright, panicking. They want her back. She has to get away. Run... She scrabbles off the table, sending surgical implements clattering to the floor.
Simon drops a handful of wound dressings and moves tentatively towards his sister, who is now crouched against a cupboard, pulling at her hair in distress. He knows there's something dreadfully wrong and it isn't all the Captain's fault for opening the cryochamber too early, too abruptly – much as Simon would like to have someone to blame. It isn't even the after-effects of byphodine. Simon has taken bloods and found no trace of the drug.
“River, River ...” he says gently, holding out his hands to her. “It's okay. It's me ... You know who I ... ?”
“Simon,” she says wearily, making him feel like an idiot.
He doesn't like this at all. The way she goes from hysterical to lucid in a heartbeat. It's just not normal. “Were you dreaming?” he asks. “Did you dream about the academy?”
“It's not relevant,” she mutters dismissively, making him feel like he's disappointed her in some way. And then she's talking about the ship, about Serenity, in the kind of detail that in anyone else he'd take as an indication of obsession or of some developmental disorder. “Midbulk transport. Standard radion accelerator core. Class code 03-K64. Firefly.”
“Well, that's something. I can't even remember all that.” Mal remarks with a touch of admiration as he enters the room, heading for the sink.
Simon bites back the urge to point out the enormous gulf between his IQ and River's and instead adopts a doctorly manner as Mal runs his knuckles under the cold water tap, “Need a weave on that?”
Simon smiles wryly, recalling being on the receiving end of a 'nothing' from Mal. “I expect there's someone's face feels differently.”
For the briefest moment, Mal feels uncomfortable. Now why is that? What's done is done. Ain't no changing it now. And yet ... The Doc's givin' him this little smile, tryin' to make light of Mal havin' punched him, like he wants him know he don't bear a grudge. In the circumstances. Feelin' a pressin' need to concentrate on somethin' else, Mal thinks back to the bar room brawl. No regrets on that score at least. “They tell you never to hit a man with a closed fist, but it is, on occasion, hilarious.”
Simon manages to hide his revulsion at the Captain's casual attitude towards violence. “I suppose so,” he says, failing to sound like he means it. “The fight didn't draw any .. any attention?” he asks carefully, wary of saying something that might encourage the other man to seek out any more hilarity.
Mal gives him a look, then a cold smile. “No feds. Just an honest brawl between folk. Ain't none of us want the Alliance on us, Doctor. That's why you're here.”
“I thought I was here because you needed a medic.” Simon wants to insist upon the point. Make Captain Reynolds acknowledge his usefulness, his very essence. Because if Simon isn't ship's medic, he's nothing and he needs something to hold onto.
But Mal is either too insensitive to notice that need or simply doesn't care.“Well, not today.”
* * * * *
Shepherd Book has seen it all. Nothing much surprises him anymore, although he suspects Captain Reynolds may well prove the exception to the rule. The man is, as Inara Serra remarked, a bit of a mystery. Very protective of his crew, even those new to it like the boy and his sister. He decides a little probing may be in order.
“That young man's very brave,” he comments to the Captain, watching through the infirmary window as Simon Tam tries to contain another of his sister's sudden destructive outbursts.
Mal's pretty sure the preacher's no special friend of the Alliance, but there's somethin' not right about him. Ain't gonna be tellin' him anymore than he has to. “Yeah, he's my hero,” he replies in as unconvincin' a tone as he can muster. Cos - if he's truthsome about it - he does admire the boy for havin' had the balls to spring his sister from that Alliance camp. Even if'n he's all manner of irritatin' what with his smart mouth an' Core ways.
Book presses the point. “Give up everything to free his sister from that place. Go from being a doctor on the central planets to hiding on the fringes of the system. There's not many would do that ...”
“Suppose not,” the Captain grudgingly agrees, although he'd prefer not to be thinkin' about the Doc at all. He starts making his way up the stairs, but the gorram preacher follows.
“There's not many would take him in either. Why did you?”
Mal's eyes narrow. What the diyu is the Shepherd suggestin'? That he got some kind of ulterior motive? He flashes the man a quick warning smile. “Same reason I took you on board, Shepherd. I need the fare.”
Book laughs. “There's neither of us can pay a tenth of what your crew makes on one of your 'jobs'.”
Mal tries to divert him into an argument about the morality of how he keeps flyin' cos the other man's gettin' mighty close to some raw nerves with this line of questionin'. “Are you referring to your perfectly legitimate business enterprises?”
Damnit but don't Book neatly side-step it! “I'm wondering why a man who's so anxious to fly under Alliance radar would house known fugitives. The Alliance had her in that institution for a purpose, whatever it was, and they will want her back. You're not overly fond of the boy, so why risk it?”
'Not overly fond of the boy'? What in the good gorram does that have to do with it? She was the youngest of the ones who survived. Just seventeen. Little more than a kid. But they took her anyway ... and he cou'n't do a damn thing about it ... They made him watch ... She di'n't die ... She staggered out of that place ... and looked him cold in the eye. Did she blame him? Never did find out. Killed herself a few weeks later. Couldn't live with it, couldn't endure it ... damn well let them win.
Because ... Because this one I got a chance at savin', Preacher. An' maybe that'll stop the nightmares an' I can live like a person again.
He can feel Book's eyes boring into him, trying to excavate some deep truth. He turns round to look the Shepherd in the eye. “Because it's the right thing to do.”
“You got a thing ... here,” Wash says indicating a place on his own jaw line.
Zoe's hand moves to the spot on her own face, noting how tender it feels and realizing she's going to bruise. “It's nothing.”
“No, it's not nothing,” her husband says, suddenly serious. “Can't say I much like the way Mal keeps getting you into pointless punch-ups. One of these days you could get seriously hurt, bao bei.”
Zoe smiles. “It's usually Mal comes off worse.” And her smile broadens as she remembers ....
Five years ago
Some instinct must've told Mal they were off-duty feds and ripe for a fight, Zoe thought, taking a well-aimed swing at the nearest of the four. He went down easy enough, but she decided right there and then they needed to get some fire power if they were going to be making a habit of this. Which doubtless they were, seein' as how Sarge wa'n't ready to admit the war was over an' done with. Lost.
Mal was caught between two of 'em, grinnin' from ear to ear as he landed a punch in one's stomach and another to the other's chin. The only one left standin' let out a roar of anger and threw himself at Mal's throat. “Could do with some assis....” Mal managed to choke out before his assailant blocked his windpipe.
In a flash, Zoe drove her fist under the man's jaw, forcing his head up and back. His hands snapped away from Mal's neck and he dropped heavily to the floor. Mal laughed and flashed Zoe an ain't-this-fun smile only to have it knocked off his face as her fist finished its trajectory in his face.
Mal blinked, stunned for a second.
“Sorry, Sir. Heat of the moment.”
“Sure,” he nodded, wondering, but her face betrayed no emotion.
* * * * *
River is resting, leaving Simon restless. Hearing activity in the cargo bay, he decides to investigate and finds Kaylee dragging heavy cables across the floor and attaching them to winches. He's glad it's Kaylee.
“Hey,” he says, hoping she at least will be pleased to see him.
She smiles and he relaxes. “Oh, hey Doctor.”
“You really should just call me Simon.” Because that's who I am now. Simon. Just Simon. Not Doctor Tam.
Kaylee is delighted. “I'll do that then.” She feels suddenly shy, like they've crossed a threshhold an' he's waitin' for somethin'.
“So what are we doing?”
Simon's mouth opens in surprise. “Crime. Good. Okay. Crime.” He hardly hears Kaylee's explanation as his 'verse spins wildly out of control again. He should have expected as much. The Captain's a sadistic bastard and his crew are just a band of petty crooks after all. And yet he'd hoped ... he wanted them to be more than that. Stupid, really ...
“Easy as lyin',” Kaylee concludes and it's his cue to say something smart. Something not-upset-by-illegality.
“You've done this before?” is the best he can come up with.
Kaylee laughs. “Oh, hell no! But I think it's gonna work. The captain's zhen de shi tian cai when it comes to plans.”
So – the Captain's plan. No point in trying to persuade yourself that, inspite of his cruel sense of humour, he's essentially a good person just because he's given you and your sister sanctuary. You've fallen among thieves, Simon Tam. Better get used to it.
“Is there anything I can ... something I should be doing?”
“Staying the hell out of everyone's way,” a low voice growls. Jayne.
Jayne ain't at all happy at what he's seein'. Li'l Kaylee simperin' at another man. If'n you can call him that. And gorramit if she don't defend him. “No call to be snappy, Jayne.”
Ni tamade tian xiao suo you de ren dou gai si! Jayne's about to do somethin' ruttin' heroic here. “Are you about to jump onto a movin' train?” he demands, looking for a little credit. And to ensure the Doc comprehends the lay of the land, he continues, “Captain's not around – I'm in charge.” Kaylee tries to protest but Jayne's too mad at the injustice of her flirtin' with this ... this piece of gou shi. “Jus' cos Mal says you're medic, don't make you part of the crew. You just play at figurin' what's wrong with that moon-brained sister of yours till we call for you, dong ma?”
Simon glares at the mercenary, angry on so many levels. Furious at being treated like a no-one. Livid at his sneering indifference towards the tragedy of River's condition. Seething at being humiliated in front of the one person on this boat who treats him with respect. But then he remembers his priorities. His priority. River. And Jayne has a point; he should be figuring out what's wrong with her. “Right,” he says, a little steel in his voice, as he turns to leave.
Simon's problem is this isn't his area of expertise. He's a trauma surgeon, not a psychiatrist. He fixes bodies, not minds and the workings of the psyche are a mystery to him. He returns to his bunk and sits down miserably on the bed, head in his hands and staring at the floor as he contemplates the enormity of his task. He doesn't even know where to start. He slams a fist down on the mattress in frustration. And his Universal Encylopedia bounces down onto the bedside rug.
Simon picks it up, shaking his head at his own stupidity. There's only one place for a doctor to start. Make a list of the patient's symptoms. Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, cure. Simple, really. He'd just been too lost in the woods to see the trees.
Simon smiles, inserts the medical data rod and waits for the screen to flash “Voice.” “Psychiatric illness,” he says resolutely.
“Don't start,” Inara snaps, snatching back the trinkets and makeup Mal has picked up from her table.
She's standing so close he can smell the scent of her hair. Taste it almost. And empty-handed again, it'd be so easy for him to reach out an' touch her. He could just slide his hand under her jaw, tilt her face up and kiss her. Tamade! He let himself think this way just once and now the gorram thought won't leave him alone. He gotta fight this weakness. Forget this hopeless dream and concentrate on business.
Inara can feel the heat radiating off of him and chides herself for having got this close to him. She tries to focus on returning her things to their proper place instead of the way her pulse is racing. It wouldn't have happened if she'd maintained the proper distance between them. Standing this near to a man signals permission or intent to touch. She takes a little step back, reminding herself that she has a job to do. She's supposed to be getting under his skin, not the other way round. If she can't even do that, she might as well pack her bags and leave.
“We don't have a location yet,” Mal is telling her. “We're docking on a skyplex in a bit. It's run by a fellow called Niska.”
“Never heard of him.”
“Well, I have and while we're there, you'll stay confined to the ship.”
Inara smiles, grateful for the timely reminder that Malcolm Reynolds is overbearing, ill-mannered and prudish. “Is the petty criminal perchance ashamed to be riding with a Companion?”
“Niska has a very unlovely rep. If he's got work for me, fine, but I don't ...” He hesitates and her gratitude evaporates. “I'm not sure you'd be safe.” Because now she remembers Malcolm Reynolds is also fiercely protective and possessed of a ridiculous sense of chivalry. A gentleman in as many ways as not.
“Mal, if you're being a gentleman, I may die of shock,” she warns, a teasing smile tweaking at her lips.
He blinks away the sting the remark inflicts and bows theatrically. At least they're on safer ground now, making him confident enough to return to their old bantering style.
“Have you got time to do my hair?” he asks innocently.
“Out!” she orders, like he knew she would.
“Still no word from Dobson. One must assume he's no longer actively engaged on the case.”
“Did we get anything useful from him?”
“The girl is on a Firefly. No ID, as yet.”
“That is unfortunate. Must be thousands of them out there.”
“An aught three.”
“Well, that narrows it down a little.”
“Time is on our side. We just keep looking until we find her.”
“How long before she is needed?”
“You doped him!” Kaylee exclaims with a grin.
Simon grimaces. “It was supposed to kick in a good deal sooner. I just didn't feel comfortable with him in charge.” He could add that he has a real problem with relinquishing control to anyone – let alone Jayne, but instead appeals for support. “I hope that's all right.”
No-one is going to say it isn't.
“So how do we get the others?” Book asks.
Wash looks anxious. “Jayne was right about them not making contact. Chances are they got pinched getting off that train.”
Kaylee's face falls. “And we can't just waltz in and pull 'em out.”
“Someone respectable enough might be able to.”
For an instant Simon believes Book wants him to do it. Go and rescue the Captain and Zoe. His stomach flips at the prospect of facing up to the law. And then again as, even though he tries not to, he imagines Mal's face when he sees who's come to spring him from jail.
“Some like a Companion, you mean,” Inara sighs.
And Simon remembers he's a wanted fugitive, with no power or influence. Forced to the ass-end of the galaxy and living on a piece of gou shi with people who refuse to take him seriously.
“Wha' ...” Mal's surprise reaction to Inara's appearance shimmering in red satin is cut short by the stinging blow she lands on his cheek. He blinks as much to stop his eyes from watering as from the shock of it. Weak as he is, he's been catchin' himself imaginin' what her hands on him might feel like. An' it's never like this. In his dreams, they're always softly urgent.
“Don't you dare speak to me!” she hisses, trying to ignore the reddening imprint of her hand. She hurt him. She didn't mean to. She glances at Zoe behind whose eyes are glowing with something like satisfaction although her expression remains impassive.
Inside Zoe is smilin'. Smilin' broadly. She loves Mal beyond the tellin' of it, but wo de ma she enjoyed that! After all, they do say as how revenge is a dish best served cold. Inara jus' served her up another slice an' no mistake. She hardly hears the rest of what Inara is sayin' but promises herself, she'll congratulate the Companion on the nuances of her performance as outraged proprietor as soon as she gets the opportunity.
Inara is making herbal tea. Jasmine most like, Zoe judges by the scent coming down the hallway. She steps down into the kitchen and checks there's no-one else there.
“That was quite some blow you dealt the Captain,” she remarks coolly, taking a sachet from one of the lockers.
Inara looks sheepish. “I didn't mean it to be so hard. Perhaps I shouldn't have ...”
“No – you did fine,” Zoe assures her. “Captain was still complainin' about it to Wash when I came down here. Mighty annoyed about it, he is. So it looks like you killed two birds with one stone,” she gives Inara a meaningful wink. “You know – our arrangement. Seems to me you got everythin' under control.”
“Mmm,” Inara murmurs doubtfully. Everything under control.
“Where did the Captain go?” Simon asks Kaylee. “I thought he was injured.”
She punches the switch that secures the cargo bay door and gives him a proud smile. “Takin' back the medicine. Cap'n says those folks in Paradiso needs it more than Niska so ...” She shrugs happily. “He's a nice man, Simon,” she explains as the doctor frowns with incomprehension. ”A real nice man.”
“He ... he took it back?” Simon repeats. “Won't that cause trouble with Niska?”
“Cap'n don't care 'bout that,” Kaylee grins delightedly, giving him a playful punch in the shoulder. “See? A real nice man.”
Simon smiles, allowing her to take his arm and lead him upstairs. “And there I was thinking he was arrogant and insufferable and rude ...”
“Oh yeah. Well he's that too. Ain't gotta let that put you off though.”
Tamade and shit! Simon thinks, as yet another of his reasons for dimissing Malcolm Reynolds as a self-serving, ill-educated bully is whisked away. He really doesn't want his life to get any more complicated.
Simon is just about to retire to his room when the infirmary door slides open and Mal enters. He pushes himself up onto the exam table and takes off his shirt. “Wanna take a look, Doc?” he asks, pointing to the cut on his chest. Simon takes a deep breath. It's worse than he feared. All of it. He snaps on his surgical gloves and gently palpates the area around the wound, testing for signs of infection. Mercifully there are none. Mal – the Captain's skin is more elastic than he'd been expecting. Which must mean, for all he continually addresses Simon as 'son', there's not such a big age gap between them after all. Zao cao! Good muscle tone, too. Very good muscle tone, damn it.
“You should have let me do this sooner,” Simon scolds as he begins stitching.
The Captain give a soft snort. “I've had plenty worse. This is just a ....OWW!” Mal flinches at the sudden sharp pain, making Simon jump. Who'd have thought the Captain would be such a baby? It was only a little prick. Simon swallows a smile. “Sorry.”
“Just be careful,” Mal warns, a mite embarrassed. Why the hell'd he make such a fuss? “That was pretty fast thinkin' – dopin' up Jayne. Can't say you've made a lifetime friend.”
“I'll deal with him,” Simon replies coolly, knowing he will.
Mal nearly smiles. “I'm not too worried about you. How's your sister?”
“The same. One moment she seems perfectly cogent – the next she speaks nonsense. Like a child” She was seventeen. Just a kid. “It's so difficult to diagnose. I still don't know what ....”
They took her and he cou'n't do a damn thing about it.
The only way Simon can persuade River to calm down is to allow her to crawl into his bed. She curls up into a tight ball and gradually her agitated breathing slows. Simon gets carefully to his feet but her eyes fly open. “Stay. Don't let them take me away again.”
“Hush, mei-mei,” he croons, stroking her hair. “We're safe here. No-one's taking you anywhere.”
She sighs and relaxes again and Simon resigns himself to spending the night on the floor. He takes out his encyclopedia and begins studying it again. Some time later, there's a tap at the door.
“Captain!” he says with some surprise as he opens it to find Mal standing there, holding a tray of food.
“Missed you at dinner. Thought you might be hungry,” Mal says, looking for somewhere to set the tray down.
Simon hastily clears a space. The room suddenly seems much smaller with Mal in it. “Thank you. That's very ... uh .. thoughtful.”
Mal shrugs. “Kaylee's idea.”
Simon nods. “Of course. Was there ... I mean, is your shoulder ...?”
“It's fine. You just worry about your sis.” His gaze falls on the encyclopedia. “Any idea what the trouble is?”
Simon hangs his head. “Not really. She's suffered some kind of trauma, that much is obvious. Her sleep pattern is disturbed and she's having nightmares. Not just random ones but the same one over and over again. And some things – ordinary, everyday things – trigger an extreme response in her. She's having these terrible mood swings. One minute she's fine and the next she's beside herself. She gets so angry – has to lash out. Mostly at me. The worst thing is ...” he stops, afraid he won't be able to say it without crying.
“Go on, son,” Mal says gently, without a hint of ridicule or pity. “Worst thing is ...?”
“Sometimes it seems like she's not my sister any more,” Simon whispers, more to himself than Mal. “We were always so close. Shared everything. And now there's a part of her I can't reach her. A part she doesn't want me to reach. I don't know if I'll ...”
“No,” Mal agrees. “But that ain't gonna stop you tryin', is it?”
Simon gives him a bleak smile. “No, it isn't.”
“OK then. Now why don't you eat that an' save me from gettin' an earful from Kaylee?”
Simon sits down on the edge of the bed and puts the tray on his lap. “Thanks. I will.”
“Good.” And then Mal does the strangest thing. He reaches out and ruffles Simon's hair, as if he were comforting a child. Simon can still feel the touch of his hand long after he's gone.
“Potential energy converted into kinetic energy,” River mutters, without opening her eyes. Simon wonders if she's dreaming. “Speed of light. All the Gs you can take. High level intensity. On the rollercoaster now, Simon. Can't get off. Don't even want to. Don't worry – you won't die.”
The story continues in Chapter Eight
Friday, November 19, 2004 7:18 AM
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