BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

KAYNARA

Bed and Wine: Part 8
Thursday, January 12, 2006

Mal Reynolds is not having his best day ever. And there’s science. NC-17 for Shuttle Shenanigans.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 4038    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Bed and Wine: Part 8

Mal Reynolds is not having his best day ever. And there’s science. NC-17 for Shuttle Shenanigans.

*** AN1: The “science” found in the following is speculative at best. Please do not use said science as part of your term paper ;). Many, many thanks to Dr. A. Hickman for all his hard work and research.

AN2: Special thanks to Shakespeare and Coleridge for the quotations.

AN3: Thanks to all you Browncoats still reading and enjoying!

*** Malcom Reynolds was not having his best day ever. The weather forecast was three more days of darkness, and the dinner menu promised protein in shiny variety. It seemed a day for sulking. Not sulking: brooding. Brooding sounded manlier, right? Mal shoved the last tub of clothes in the laundry tank, pounding it down to fit. Almost two dozen towels; wo de ma, how much showering could a body take? He blamed Kaylee and that kuh-ooh duh doctor who was not his favorite person on a good day, and this was surely not a good day. Every time he turned around, the pair of ‘em was turnin’ up with wet hair and red faces. He’d tried posting a No-Sex-In-The-Showers sign back when Wash and Zoe started defiling them. Made a neat little plaque and everything. And he probably still had the scar where Zoe beat him over the head with it. Not for the first time, Mal wished their old friend Book was alive. Crew could use a good ‘sin and hellfire’ sermon nowabouts. Wasn’t right draggin’ a man’s mechanic off to the alter that way. Doc didn’t ask permission. Hell, didn’t even take captures. Had to be a commandment against that. Right after the one ‘bout coveting thy captain’s sister. He knew what Kaylee would say if he complained. You wouldn’t be so grumpy if you got a little o’ that tension out, Cap’n. Mayhaps that was so. Presently, it looked like all his tension was stayin’ put, lest he took matters into his own hands. Inara had chosen this week as the time to go all skittish again, avoiding him somethin’ fierce. Just yesterday, he tried to kiss her goodnight. He was even all proper about it, knocking on her door and waiting till she said he could enter. She seemed sorta stunned, which was prolly his fault for never doin’ anything like it before. “You want a kiss?” She looked suspicious. “That’s all?” “A gorramn goodnight kiss--that too much to ask?” “I--alright.” “You gonna stand up?” he asked sulkily. She did, but by then the mood was kinda shot. He kissed her quickly, a chaste lip brush that satisfied neither, and made an excuse about checking the trajectory or some such. He scurried up the ladder, embarrassed. Girl made the kind of sense that wasn’t. Had to be a commandment ‘gainst teasing a man senseless, luring him in with wiles and then playing it cool when he was fit to burst at the seams. Still, if he was feelin’ truthsome, he’d have to admit she wasn’t the only one actin’ strangely. They both knew this time was different. He wondered whether they should have a date. *** He had a wife. He, Simon Tam, who’d turned twenty-five his last birthday, had a wife, true and actual: a living, breathing space-mechanic wife. Once upon a time, he’d had parents, a sister, a swelling bank account and a fat file of recommendations from the medical elect. But inexplicable men came from the darkness, stole away his sister--his beautiful, brainy sister--and suddenly none of the rest mattered a damn. So he made a choice, except, no, there hadn’t been a choice. And suddenly he had no parents, no money, no promising future in medicine. But he had River back. Still spectacularly brainy, still achingly beautiful, but broken, altered forever from the way she was. But she was with him at least, real and tangible, able to laugh and breathe and tease. They hid in the Black, hid from the darkness. But the darkness came calling, snatched River away. And yet, something had changed. Simon had changed, because now he had Kaylee; somehow, incredibly, he had Kaylee. Was there some curious cosmic balance at play? Was Simon allowed his share of the bounty, no more? Who, he wondered, was responsible for doling out happiness? He wandered Serenity, traveling the familiar catwalks where River played, padded shoeless despite the captain’s repeated warnings about sharp bits and pretty little feet. “You step on a nail, I’m just gonna laugh,” he promised. River had smiled, waiting, knowing before Mal did what he would do. She seemed pleased, almost smug, when he rolled his eyes, hauled her up over his shoulder and carried her, giggling, into the kitchen. He tossed her down on the sofa, turned to Simon, who sat at the table. “Buy your sis some gorramn boots,” he muttered before strolling off. River had been happy here, content. How was this still home without her? But he knew why. He could hear her humming as he approached the shuttle. He couldn’t place the tune but knew it was an ancient one, nostalgic as an old lover’s scent, warmly, pleasantly familiar. You knew where and whom you were when last you heard it. He lingered in the doorway, watching her fiddle with the control panel. She stood on tip toe, heels arching up, back stretched over the console. Wode, Simon thought. Xia tian hua. In that instant, watching her body curve--just blood and bone and flesh, but together...Kaylee--Simon would have traded anything and everything for her. Was that wrong? If Serenity was River’s savior--home?--then Kaylee was Simon’s. But could he keep her, grab hold and make her stick? He wondered whether her smiles would stay put, her throaty little moans, the almost childlike pleasure of discovering each other: greedy lips and fingers, giving and grasping in the darkness. Did they secretly revel in the captain’s teasing, his only half-affected frowns of disapproval? He treated them as one would naughty children, teenagers playing at being adults. And yet wasn’t that part of the fun? Foibles of the flesh. Shakespeare, most ancient of ancients. Romeo and Juliet. “Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!/ Give me my sin again.” Was sin and the promise of punishment the greatest aphrodisiac of all? Dear God, he sounded like Jayne. And surely there was nothing sinful in this. Pleasure. Joining. He and Kaylee, made one. He approached her quietly from behind, curled an arm around her middle. She jumped, relaxed when she recognized his touch, the familiar press of his hand on her belly. She tried to turn but he halted her, stroked her arms from wrist to shoulder, brushing thick,brown-gold waves back from her face. He leaned in so her backside conformed to his hips, blew warm soft breaths over her neck. She shivered, arched her throat to allow him easier access. He knew she loved neck kisses, knew they were her third favorite type of kiss. He also knew the first two. Slowly, her moved his lips down her throat, nuzzled her collar bone. He found the fleshy part of her shoulder, opened his mouth over it, letting his teeth graze skin. She moaned softly, wiggled her bottom against the front of his pants. He spread his fingers, stroked them up her ribs, slid higher to cup her breasts. Through the soft pink of her t-shirt, he teased her, pinching gently until she was writhing against him. He turned her around then, his eyes a question. She shoved her hands down his pants by way of response, pulling up the fabric of his shirt, tugging it free of the waistband. She worked furiously at the buttons, wanting to feel the hot, hard skin of his chest against her cheek. He managed to catch her around the waist, drag them both down to the floor. She landed on top of him, her legs locking around his thighs. The position offered easy access to her torso. He ran his hands up her sides, dragging her shirt up with them. No bra, just skin. Just Kaylee. He fitted his hands over her, molding her to his palms. She whimpered, loving the way those gentle, healing hands worked over her. Doctor’s hands, long slender fingers, nimble, torturous as they pet. She bent forward so he could take her in his mouth, sucking, suckling. She felt the pangs of lust reach deep in her belly. Slowly, she slithered down his body. He thought of mermaids from children’s stories, warm and wet and always topless. Her fingers found his waistband, her hand pressing flat against his zipper to tease before she drew it down slowly, slid her hand inside. He ground out a breath as she encircled him, began to stroke and squeeze. He groaned and reached down to grab her shoulders, rolling her beneath him. He kicked his pants the rest of the way down, started tugging at her coveralls. He could feel she was ready through her underwear, pushed the slip of cotton out of the way and slid two fingers inside just for the pleasure of watching her face change. Her eyes went wide, her teeth biting down on her lower lip to quell the wail. With careful pressure, he stroked in slow orbits, didn’t ease up until she was rocking, jutting up against his hand. “Inside me,” she murmured. She met his eyes, her own pleading, innocent and straight to the soul. He started to move over her but she pushed him back, pressed him down on to the shuttle floor. She lowered herself onto him, and in that one swift motion every thought was wiped from Simon Tam’s brain. There was only her, sweet and tight and full, holding him, anchoring him. He kissed her while they made love, cradling her face in his hands, smoothing wet strands of hair back from her face. He knew when she was close, felt her tremble, lose her rhythm. He caught her shoulders when she fell forward, let himself fall after her. Afterwards, he held her, stroking lazy fingers down her spine. Her hand rested on his chest, the slim silver band catching the light, reflecting it back again. Oh, yes, if there was sin it was surely his own. He wished he could feel guilty. Later, he’d go back to the infirmary, back to his research. From Jayne’s arm to his brain--a frightening thought. For now, he pushed his sister and her frightening message from his head. Kaylee. Warm, wet, sex-tousled Kaylee. Kaylee who loved him. Wife. *** Smiling to herself, Inara turned the corner quickly, crashed into a man’s chest. Hands gripped her shoulders, pulled her back to arm’s length. “Throwin’ yourself at me again?” Jen dao mei. Why couldn’t it have been Jayne? The thought was enough to jar her to her senses. True, things with Mal were awkward of late. But she needn’t lose her head over it. His smirk lacked its usual confidence. She knew he sensed the change between them, felt the same quickening in his chest when they were together. “Shuh muh,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I’m sorry, those suspenders just drive a girl to distraction.” “You know, Inara, the witty barbs at my apparel stung a mite more ‘fore you started prancin’ about in Simon’s surgical scrubs.” He eyed the hospital-blue pants she’d paired with one of Kaylee’s belly-baring tops. Tight and white and all manner of tempting. “These,” she said, pinching the loose fabric around her waist, “are extremely fashionable on certain worlds, I’ll have you know.” “Yeah? ‘Haps we should visit some of ‘em. That’d be the planet of the tongue-tied mechanic-stealing fugitives, wouldn’t it?” “Try the planet of the don’t you have anything better to do? Annoying me has to be low on a busy captain’s docket.” “As a matter of fact, I was on my way to check on the shuttle. Lil’ Kaylee promised to have her runnin’ by week’s end.” He started to step past her. She threw up a hand to stop him. “No, wait.” She bit down on her lower lip. “You can’t.” “I can’t what, Nara?” When she didn’t answer, he shook his head, started past. She hesitated, torn between wanting to protect her friend’s privacy and yearning to see the expression on Mal’s face when he emerged. Inara had just come from the shuttle herself, intent on asking Kaylee about the restoration progress. Kaylee’s bunk was cozy enough, but Inara missed the space and solitude the shuttle afforded. True Kaylee had moved in with Simon, but twice already she’s knocked on her old door in the middle of the night. Can-I-sleep-with-you-me-and-Simon-had-a-fight, she’d said all in one whimpery breath. Inara didn’t mind the company, and Simon and Kaylee’s fights scarcely lasted more than a couple hours. Still, one of these nights Inara might not be alone when Kaylee came calling. She hardly thought Mal would appreciate the audience. But then Mal hadn’t touched her since that sweetly strange good night kiss. Maybe he was nervous--it had been months since they made love. What if this time it was different, what if they were different? Circumstances were certainly different. They knew more now, understood more. It all added up to a mess of complications, and now was not the time to sort them out. “Mal. Wait.” “There some reason you don’t want me goin’ in my own shuttle, kitten?” “I, um...Can you not call me a kitten?” she said suddenly. “Sure. Xiaomao.” He grinned. “That’s Chinese for kitten,” she said through ground teeth. “Smart little xiaomao.” He skirted around her, sidestepping easily when she tried to grab his arm. He turned the corner, still talking. “You and Kaylee paintin’ those gorram flowers on the walls again? I told that girl I’d lock her in the cargo hold if she put any more flowers on my--tyen shiao duh.” Mal stumbled blindly around the corner, one hand plastered over his eyes. “Oh, that image’ll be with me to the grave. I think you best shoot me now, Nara. Really, be a bit o’ mercy.” “I tried to warn you,” she hissed under her breath. From the open shuttle door, she heard the sounds of two people scurrying around to find lost clothes, dressing madly. In a second, Kaylee scampered out, jumpsuit hastily buttoned. “Cap’n?” She met Inara’s eyes since Mal still had his blocked. “I’m sorry. Really, we was just cuddlin’ though. We’d already got through the fun part.” “Kaylee, I’m begging you, don’t speak no more.” Kaylee rolled her eyes, dragged Mal’s fingers forcefully from his face. “Cap’n.” She lowered her voice, aware that Simon was still stumbling into his pants in the next room. “Ain’t like that’s the first time you walked in on me.” “That was different. Not that I much enjoyed that experience neither, but you was just some prairie harpy then, not, you know, you.” He turned to Inara, seeking help. “Don’t she and the boy have bunks? I seem to recall givin’ em bunks.” “Uh huh. You bunkin’ in the infirmary now, Cap? Or how ‘bout the cockpit?” Kaylee could be sarcastic with the best of ‘em when she set her mind to it. Mal turned weary eyes on Inara, who chose that moment to discover something fascinating on the floor. “Kaylee,” Mal started, taking a deep breath as his ears burned. “Unclench, Cap’n.” She patted his jaw lightly. “I’m a married lady now, all grown up.” “You’re twenty-four,” Mal said dryly. “And just ‘cuz you up and went to a priest, said some pretty words, don’t make you grown.” “Aw.” She smiled affectionately. “You really wanted to give me away, didn’t ya?” “I--that is just not--Kaylee, where you get these bun ideas, anyhow?” Both girls studied him now, grinning widely. Like he was a swai little puppy and them wanting a nibble. It was all manner of disturbing. “You--get back to work on my shuttle,” Mal ordered, gesturing at Kaylee. “And you--you....” Inara watched him curiously, amusement flickering in her eyes. “You--you go teach some folk to two-step,” he improvised. He strode down the hall, muttering something about where was a preacher when you needed one. *** “Captain. Thanks for coming.” Simon rolled his chair up to the exam table, gestured for Mal to sit. “About earlier....” “We ain’t got no need to talk on that!” Mal said quickly. “And I’m only here to lose the gorram weave. Itches like a sumbitch.” “Right. Sorry.” Simon peeled the bandage back from Mal’s side, ran a gloved finger over the scar. “Your lucky the bullet went straight through.” “Yeah. Luck’s always the first word comes to mind when you hear my name.” “Mm, luck.” Simon pinched out the stitches, one at a time. “I would have gone with crime. Violence, perhaps. Thievery.” “Oh, you wanna talk about thievin’, do ya? This from the piece of niou se stole off with my mechanic.” But his tone was mild, lacking its usual bite. Simon had to admire a man who’d insult someone with forceps pointed at his belly. “Mal...I love her.” Her put his scissors down. “Even you’re not so jaded as to question that very basic fact.” “Yeah, don’t mean I gotta like it none. Pick up the pace, Doc; got important crime needs hatchin’.” “Actually, I hoped we could talk while I have you here. Immobilized, so to speak.” “This ‘bout your new bride?” “N-no.” “Make it quick.” “River. You’re aware that she waved us.” “Yeah, Jayne did mention as much.” “I’ve tried to piece together a picture from the bits she told him. I still can’t make sense of it all. The human brain is...complex, partially understood at best. Do you remember what happened on Bellerophon? A couple weeks ago....” “Ain’t like to forget anytime soon.” “Something was wrong then. Her message didn’t make sense, the attack she showed you didn’t transpire.” “Her psychic did seem to be on the fritz.” “Captain...perhaps you could do me a favor.” Mal raised a brow. “I seem to recall doin’ you a whole pile o’ favors in recent history.” “And I’m grateful, really. It’s just that you and River have...a connection.” “Doctor,” Mal warned, not liking one bit where this was headed. “You’ve...seen into eachother’s brains. The room on Beaumonde, when Niska held you captive. River visited you then, talked to you even.” Mal opened his mouth to speak but Simon cut him off. “I don’t know what you two discussed, but it hurt her; that much was clear. She felt, at least a little, what you were feeling. But now, I’m starting to think it works both ways. And on Bellerophon, Captain: I don’t think River was in your brain; I think she brought you into hers.” Mal was silent a moment. Simon waited expectantly. “Doc, I think you been livin’ on a spaceship too long,” Mal said finally. “Captain--” “For sure your sister’s a genius, psychic even. But only thing I can read is books. Yes, I’ve read books,” he added when Simon raised a brow. “All I’m asking is that you try, Mal. Just try to reach her. I can’t help her unless I understand what’s happening to her. And I have to help her.” “Yeah.” Mal nodded, buttoning back up his shirt. “Yeah, I know you do.” *** River watched him shower. Facing the wall, he inclined his head, the steady, heavy spray gliding across his hair, dripping over the muscles of his chest, sliding in sleek droplets down his naked back. “ ‘Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.’ ” Gideon jumped, turned slowly. “River. Did you need something?” “Not me.” She padded barefoot into the steam, felt the mist lick at her face. “Gideon needs.” She stepped under the spray. It soaked her hair, plastering the dark strands to her face and neck. “So much pain.” Her fingers reached up, cupped around the back of his head. “Always turning, turning. No rest.” “River...I’m feeling a little underdressed for psychoanalysis.” “Alone, alone, all, all alone, / Alone on a wide wide sea! / And never a saint took pity on / My soul in agony.” “River.” He was almost begging. “Take your ease, Gideon the Warrior.” She stood on tip toe to find his lips. *** Baby steps. Wasn’t that the way? She knocked. “I’m naked, go away.” “Mal, it’s Inara.” “Ohhh. Well.” She heard him clear his throat. “Come on down.” She climbed down the ladder, wondering at the view afforded by her descending backside. Mal lay on the bed, fully clothed, arms folded behind his head. “I thought you were naked,” she teased. “I could be,” he countered. Then, not wanting to scare her off, “To what do I owe the pleasure, Miz Serra?” “I, um--are you busy? I could come back....” “Not busy.” He sat up. “Was goin’ along with one of the doc’s feng kuang notions, but it’s outta my system.” Ruttin’ ridiculous idea, knocking at the door of River’s brain from a million miles away. “So you’re free then?” Mal looked suspicious. “Well, I’m free for you. Not free for talkin’ to Jayne, which I’m still not doin’--don’t give me that look. Also ain’t interested in helpin’ Kaylee and my sister conjure up homemade baby food for a kid ain’t got no teeth. Gorramn freezer’ll be filled with purified protein ‘fore week’s end, and--” “Mal.” “Yeah?” “I just came down for a goodnight kiss. Do you think you can shut up for that long?” Mal swallowed. “Yeah, think I can do that.” Neither of them made a move to cross the room. She raised a brow. He did the same. “You comin’?” “I’m not kissing you on your bunk, Mal.” “Why’s that?” “We both know why.” “Don’t push your lack of willpower off on me, darlin’.” But he rose, crossed the room in a few long strides. “Goodnight,” he said softly. “Good--” He swallowed her lips before she could finish. His mouth seduced, slow and easy as his fingers grazed her scalp, slid down to the ends of her hair. He let his tongue sweep lightly against hers, felt rather than heard her moan against his mouth. “You, uh.” He broke away, dragging in air. “You should prolly go back to your room now, darlin’.” “I think it’s too late for should,” she said quietly. “Shangdi,” he murmured, dragging her back against him. They fell back on the bed, and he rolled her under him. He skimmed kisses along her jawline, her cheeks. “Mal.” She sucked at his lower lip, ran it lightly through her teeth. He groaned, started drawing wet, open-mouth kisses along her throat. Suddenly she went stiff in his arms. “Stop. Buyao!” Mal lifted his head, saw the look in her eyes. “You’re serious.” He shifted off of her, pulled her into a sitting position. She was trembling. He started to panic. “What’s wrong? I do somethin’?” She shook her head, her whole body rocking. “Are you hurt? Did I hurt you?” He ran his hands over her arms, her belly, not quite sure what he was looking for. “Inara, you gotta help me out here.” “It wasn’t....” She had to stop, gasp in a breath. “You didn’t...it wasn’t anything you did. For a moment--it was like something else was happening.” “Inara...all that was happenin’ was kissing. My lips, your neck.” “It wasn’t you, Mal. I--I don’t know that it was either of us.” “Okay. Now you lost me.” He pressed the back of his hand to her forehead, her cheek. Cool as a creek. “Tell me what’s wrong.” She met his eyes calmly. “River.”

*** Mal settled Inara at the table with a tall glass of water. Then he got on the ‘com. “This is your captain speaking. We’re convening a crew meeting in the kitchen for the following folk: Zoe, Inara, Jayne, Newlyweds. This event is not, I repeat not, clothing optional. Caroline, you’re of course welcome to join, though I ain’t makin’ it mandatory on account of you not never meetin’ the little albatross. Bring your books, Doctor.” Mal sat at the table, raked a hand through his hair. The crew filed in with relative speed. “Hey, Mal,” Jayne tried. “How’s your evenin’ been?” Mal raised a brow. “Just shiny, thanks. I see you’re solo, Zoe. My sister keepin’ an eye on Little Chick.” “Sir,” she nodded. “Prolly best. Ain’t exactly sure how long this’ll take.” “Captain.” Simon met Mal’s eyes across the table. “Did you...were you able to reach my sister?” “Funny story there. If by funny one means all manner o’ disturbing.” “I don’t understand.” “That seems to be goin’ around.” Mal cleared his throat, shrugged. “I tried ringin’ your sister’s doorbell, Doc. No response. Then, not half an hour later, she kinda popped up.” “Um...popped?” “I could feel her, Simon.” Inara kept her hands on the glass, anchored by its coolness. “Or rather, I could feel what River felt. For a second.” “I’m confused...er. Is River communing with you too now, Nara?” “It wasn’t really like that, Kaylee.” “Then how did Inara--” “We were kissing, okay?” Mal glanced around the table, daring someone to comment. “Happy?” “Hell, yeah,” Kaylee declared. “I’m ruttin’ relieved,” Jayne admitted. “’Bout gorramn time.” Simon held up a hand. “I’m still a little baffled. So the captain acted as a medium for River’s feelings and Inara...received them?” “Aw, hell, that sounds like a load of fei hua if I ever heard one.” “Bi zui,” Mal and Zoe said in unison, exchanged glances that said ‘wo de ma, we’ve known eachother too long.’ “Did she try to tell you anything, Inara?” “We didn’t exactly speak. It was more basic, physical. I think she was...with someone. A man,” she added for clarity’s sake. “That’s not...I don’t think she’s ever even--” “She’s a grown woman, Simon,” Inara said gently. “And, in truth, I’m not one to make mistakes when it comes to matters of intimacy.” “Nara would know,” Jayne agreed, ducking guiltily at Mal’s death stare. “The point,” Mal said firmly, “is that lil’ albatross needs our help. Not with the, uh....What I mean is, she could be in danger. No one knows exactly what the Alliance did to her or how it’ll affect her down the road. Now each of us has River memories, times we spent with her, bits we may have gleaned. Think it’s time we fit some of the puzzle pieces, dong ma?” The others nodded; even Jayne seemed unusually cooperative for once. “Good crew,” Mal praised. “Doc, you go first, seein’ how you’re the one knows your sister best. What have you found in that pretty little befuddlin’ brain o’ hers?” Simon glanced around the table, saw five sets of eyes watching him intently. This--his sister’s condition--mattered to them. They cared for her, cared enough to help. Simon folded his hands in front of him, began to speak. “Much of this is speculative. Some of it comes from River herself, what she told me, what she didn’t. I suppose there’s no way to be sure--” “Thought that’s why we did the Ariel job,” Jayne interjected. “Weren’t that supposed to explain it all?” “The pictures from the 3D neuro imager aroused more questions than they supplied answers. I knew what they did to her but I couldn’t understand why. I couldn’t understand why anyone would cut into a healthy brain, strip the amygdala....” He trailed off, noting the blank stares. “They amygdala acts as a sort of emotional regulator for the brain. It controls our more basic feelings: fear, aggression, the sex drive. It also had important functions related to memory. You see, it connects our visual memories to our behavioral reactions.” “And somebody without an amygdala--how’s she fare?” Mal asked quietly. “It’s hard to say. Most of the data is ancient, experiments done on animals back on Earth-that-Was. Monkeys, mainly. Perhaps because they lack our capacity for upper-level reasoning, the removal of the amygdala is particularly detrimental. These primates developed a condition called ‘psychic blindness.’ Essentially, they could see objects but lacked any conception of their psychological significance.” “Doc?” Mal cleared his throat. “Might wanna dumb it down a little for those of us without fancy medical degrees.” “Sorry. They monkeys became almost apathetic in that nothing scared them, nothing angered. A familiar object no longer carries the same meaning, the same warnings or triggers. Do you remember when River had the gun in the cargo bay?” “Ain’t like to forget it,” Mal muttered. “She told me later it was like holding a tree branch. The significance of the pistol was completely lost to her. She understood that she was holding a gun, but she didn’t comprehend its significance, its capabilities.” “That seems a dangerous trait, Doctor,” Mal commented. His eyes were cool, unreadable. “It can be. The monkeys sought pleasure almost arbitrarily, confusing routine objects, jumbling their purposes. Some of them tried to mate with and consume anything, living or otherwise.” “But that don’t sound like River,” Kaylee protested. “Sounds more like--” “Reavers,” Simon finished. “It gets worse.” “What’s worse than rape and cannibalism?” Inara murmured. Mal glanced at her but didn’t offer words of comfort. His expression was dark, dangerous. “Another function of the amygdala is to sustain social relationships. It’s crucial to facial recognition; without an amygdala, animals would be unable to distinguish friend from enemy, so you see, the survival of a species depends on it. Even members of their own tribe could be suspect. I read one study in which a man suffered brain damage, injured his amygdala. He recognized his own parents but believed them to be impostors, not the mother and father he once knew.” “Reavers don’t hunt their own,” Jayne muttered. “Only go after the rest of us.” “That why they desecrate their flesh?” Zoe asked, shuddering. “Mark up their faces way they do?” “It might allow them to recognize fellow Reavers more readily,” Simon admitted. “Of course, all of this is speculative. There’s not way to know....” “Here’s the part where you lost me, Doc. River’s a girl. An odd girl, granted, but that don’t make her a Reaver.” “No, Jayne,” Mal agreed. “But looks like the Alliance wanted her to think like one, hunt like one maybe. Isn’t that right, Doctor?” Kaylee frowned. “I ain’t followin’ ya, Simon. Alliance didn’t removed the Amy-whatevers from the Reavers, did they?” “My supposition is that the Miranda Pax targeted the aspects of human behavior controlled by the amygdala. Likely, they attempted to affect changes to the chemical output of the amygdala by altering its size.  The intention was to cause the areas controlling aggression and fear to contract and the parts controlling pleasure and sexual function to swell, creating a more peaceful populace.  The social implications on a wider scale were never studied, as Miranda itself was the initial testing ground.” “But it all went so terribly wrong,” Inara said quietly. “It didn’t work the way they intended at all.” “Maybe it’s similar to the crowd mentality. If one person in a crowd starts to panic, then panic will spread, often escalate to the point of violence. What happened to the people of Miranda was similar in a sense.  The calming effect "escalated" as it spread throughout the population.  No one worried about the changes because the Pax had so drastically reduced anxiety levels.  Most of the population gradually, peacefully lost its will to live.” “A small percent of the population experienced an adverse reaction to the PAX--the group that would become the Reavers.  In their case, the centromedial nucleus--the region of the amygdala controlling emotional arousal and aggression--became inflamed.  The swelling caused the tissue to secrete excessive amounts of chemicals. This accounts for their aggression, their unmitigated violence.  As the amygdala swelled, other parts of the brain felt the impact, suffered damage as a result. This includes the hippocampus, a part of the brain that accesses long term memory.  The Reavers likely forgot whom they once were and began surviving solely by instinct. They ceased to be their former selves and became something other.” For a moment no one spoke. Kaylee looked horrified, Inara sad. Jayne looked disgusted, and Zoe wouldn’t look at anyone, just stared down at her own hands. Mal reigned in his anger, his voice cool as he spoke. “Wasn’t the edge of space that made the Reavers what they are. Was the darkness of mankind, his gorram fears and his gorram goals.” “They wanted to make things better,” Kaylee said quietly. “Look what they made.”

*** Chinese Translations: wode--mine xia tian--summer hua--flower xiaomao--kitten buyao--don’t Shangdi--God

TBC in Part 9. More River exploration to come. I love feedback.

COMMENTS

Thursday, January 12, 2006 8:57 PM

OLDSOUL1987


THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

Thursday, January 12, 2006 9:15 PM

RIVERGODDESS


Silly. That was me up there, too lazy to sign in!

Thursday, January 12, 2006 9:17 PM

SHINYGEEKET


Great chapter, I love the idea of crew actually being able to reach out to River.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 9:56 PM

SQUISH


Once again, very good! The science was pretty good. You actually got things right about the amygdala that Joss got wrong in the Ariel episode. Nice part on Simon's thoughts about Kaylee. Can't wait for more!

Friday, January 13, 2006 1:42 AM

AMDOBELL


Loved this, very good. I'm curious as to whether Inara was actually channeling River per se or because of the intimate moment with Mal his connection to her flashed over to Inara's more intuitive brain. Whatever, this was fabulous. Well written and just leaving me crying for more. Bravo! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, January 13, 2006 6:37 AM

WEREALLJUSTFLOATING


Loved it. I was waiting anxiously for this!!! Can't wait to see where you're going with the River storyline, also liked how you're tying all the different info we've learnt aout her together and how the crew are so eager to figure out how to help her. The way you write the scenes of the crew together are very like the scenes from the series, I love the dynamic of them altogether for their meetings. Glad to see Mal and Inara are making a go of it again! Don't leave us in suspense too long.

Friday, January 13, 2006 6:45 AM

MISSKITTEN


LOVED! I laughed, I went aw... and you did very well background on the... um... brain stuff :P Can't wait to read more :)

Friday, January 13, 2006 6:59 AM

SYZG


On one hand, Mal is being endearing towards 'Nara...on the other he is being an annoying son of a... just to tick her off ;) I love the awkward tension :-P

Very sweet Kaylee/Simon interpretations...and...River and Gideon? i like it ;)

Friday, January 13, 2006 11:46 AM

2X2


Excellent, as usual!
Really enjoying this story and where you're taking us, and especially all the lovely awkwardness with Mal and Inara... Love the way there's so many things Mal just doens't want to think about, but can't avoid - Kaylee an Simon havin' sex... Jayne sexin his sister... hehe very fun, very well written!

Friday, January 13, 2006 11:10 PM

OLDSOUL1987


ok now that i am more coherant and stuff i can properly leave a comment. I love the mal/ inara moments, i love that she wanted to see the look on his face when he saw kaylee. Its her own way of annoying him like he annoyes her with all the pet names. I love the idea of mal going to her for a goodnight kiss and then her to him latter... oh hell i love your whole aproche to to this couple. I love that kaylee brought up that she knows mal had sex with inara in the med room and stuff and how inara just could not meat his gaze just then. i mal sister, i love the direction you are take'n with her. and I SO love that jayne and her are kinda together... just cause i get a kick out of seeing the captain uncomfy. all in all its great but i have to say i just LOVE this bit:

“Mal.”

“Yeah?”

“I just came down for a goodnight kiss. Do you think you can shut up for that long?”

Monday, January 16, 2006 7:24 AM

BELLONA


"Basically grey matter + sun light = BAD DAY."
think anonymous is onto something there...

b

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 7:04 PM

JOY


I am sooo in love with this series! Keep writing!


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YOUR OPTIONS

OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR

Water, Water Everywhere
This is a sort of companion piece to the first section of Two Times They Were Wet and Cold. It's also sort of crack!fic. While Mal and Inara were having a pleasant dialogue in the cargo hold, Kaylee and Simon spent some time getting to know each other in a broom closet. Takes place during the series. PG-13.

Stumbling Along
Post-BDM. Mal makes a delivery on a familiar moon. Inara reflects. M/I. PG-13

Two Times They Were Wet and Cold
Two things that never happened to Mal and Inara. X-posted to LJ for the Truthsome Ficathon.

Shore Leave or That Youthful Feeling
Post-BDM. The crew visits a drinking establishment on Beaumonde—no, not that one. Shameless Mal/Inara fluff ensues.

Discomfort
One-shot set after OIS. Kaylee/Simon. Response to the prompt: “Simon bent Kaylee over....”

Past and Present
Fluff-angsty little standalone. Post-BDM. Mal/Inara. PG-13.

Wanderers
This is a standalone set preseries (no Simon, sorry, Leiasky). I have no idea what kind of introduction to slap on this thing, so I'll just say, enjoy! Special thanks to Ann for curtailing the worst of my rambles. NC-17. Comments are love!
~April


Just Another Day
Just another day on Serenity. Preseries. PG-13. Happy September 30th.

Leather
Standalone. Prompt: Leather. Simon, Mal/Inara. PG-13.

Bed and Wine: The Epilogue
Huh. That went well....