|[||music|||||Always On My Mind-Phantom Planet||]|
Title: Returning Sight to the Blind.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. Joss Whedon has just made them incredibly easy to manipulate into my mad fantasies, but they're still his.
Summary: Job goes south as they inevitably do, but at least it comes with some earth shattering revelations for the captain.
Pairing: Mal/Simon, Mal/Inara (mentions of)
Genre: romance, teensy bit of angst, but I swear it's all over with the next chapter and the ensuing porn. I promise.
Rating: pg for dirty thoughts
warning: the betaing was a bit of rush job, so if you find any mistakes please tell me.
Tock. Tock. Tock. Thunk.
Simon was attempting to look at the Cortex for any prior cases involving unconsciousness and small glass balls. So far it seemed like the entire network was simply laughing at him. Well they should, Mal’s case was definitely high up there on the list of medical mysteries.
Simon looked up from the brightly lit data-pad in his hand and glared at Jayne. The other man ignored him in favor of tossing a small fist-sized bouncy ball at the wall repeatedly.
“Must you do that in the galley?” Simon said, crossing and uncrossing his legs.
“Jayne!” Simon barked. The other man just looked at him and continued tossing the ball at the wall.
“You could go elsewhere doc, this here ship ain’t wanting for hidey space.”
Simon wanted point out that he’d been there first, but that was petulant and stupid and besides, Jayne wasn’t like to listen to him anyway. He tossed the data pad down on the table and got to his feet. He had better things to do than constantly run into dead ends anyway.
“I’m going to check up on Mal,” Simon announced unnecessarily considering that Jayne didn’t give a rats-ass what he did as long as he didn’t let River get into Jayne’s things.
Simon let out an annoyed breath and then exited the room, murmuring about trigger-happy hit-men and likely misadventures on the operating table.
“You sure do know how to drive ‘em away, don’t you Jayne?” Kaylee said with a huff as she stepped in the room, thinking that she’d ransack the kitchen for fruit in order to distract herself from the captain’s current state.
“And you’d be givin’ yourself a good gorram heart attack over that zhu tou even if he wore pink panties on his head!” Jayne replied as he continued to chuck the ball at the wall.
Kaylee blinked. What a scenario, indeed! The question was, would she?
“All right, where we goin’ now?” Mal asked sullenly as he and the ‘spirit’, as he now thought of her, trudged down another unfamiliar corridor.
“Patience, they say, is a virtue,” the girl answered tonelessly.
Mal let out a breath. “They also say I shoot people, so tell me where we’re goin’!”
The girl looked over her shoulder at him, blue eyes uncanny. “Your threats, I find, are rather endearing.”
“Endearin’?” Mal snorted. “You are one strange little lady!”
“I try,” she replied dryly. Suddenly they were standing on the cargo deck of Serenity and Mal felt like he could jump for joy. He was back on his ship, thank heaven for that. River walked by them looking unusually frazzled. She paid neither of them any mind, but Mal didn’t find this unusual. River always waltzed around in her own world.
Mal noticed that the stairs to the upper deck were a little more rickety than they were in the morning and he wondered if River and Kaylee had been jumping around in excess. He climbed up them, cursing as his foot went clear through a gap in the metal sheeting.
What had they done to his ship in his absence?
The little girl, her dress snagging on a rusty bit of metal, walked behind him, and when he looked over his shoulder, her caught her giving him an inscrutable look. Whatever. They were back on the ship, and the day from hell could officially be called over. He looked over at the doorway to Inara’s shuttle and on impulse decided to drop in. The doors swished open easily in front of him, but the shuttle was empty. Of everything. Not even a single silk curtain was left in the companion’s former living space.
“Sheng Sheng De Tianna!” Mal shouted, loud enough for the entire crew to come running. No one, however, did. “What’s goin’ on?”
The little girl ignored Mal’s growling and walked past him, leaving footprints in the long-settled dust.
The little girl said simply, “She couldn’t stand it anymore.”
“Stand what?” Mal asked harshly, wanting, not for the first time, to grab the little girl and shake her.
She turned and walked out, the walkway creaking ominously under her almost non-existent weight. Mal was starting to wonder if Jayne had come back to the ship and started experimenting with the charges inside. They continued onwards towards the flight deck and heard voices before they even got there.
“You can’t do this anymore, baobei!” Wash shouted at his wife. “He’s a wreck and he’s dragging us down with him.”
“And he’s my captain!” Zoë shouted back.
Wash sighed. “There comes a time, lamby toes, where you gotta do what’s best for you!”
Mal stepped into the room, expecting to see Zoë jump away from Wash hurriedly and pretend that they were never arguing, especially about him. Neither Wash nor Zoë acknowledged his presence, a sensation that was becoming eerily familiar.
“This is what’s best for me!” Zoë crossed her arms and turned away from her husband.
“Oh, is it?” Wash snarled back. “Go se! Every month we pull in less and less platinum. This place is falling apart—it’s getting to the point where we can barely feed ourselves!”
“Excuse me?” Mal attempted to interrupt. “We’re nowhere near starving here!”
Zoë and Wash both continued to ignore him. That was definitely not right. Wash, maybe, would do that, but Zoë would die first. He looked around the flight deck again, noting this time that the machinery appeared a little worse for wear.
“What’s going on this time?” He turned to the little girl, who’s sitting in Wash’s pilot seat.
She shrugged. “It’s another eventuality.”
“Where’d Inara go?” He left the flight deck, not wanting to be around Wash and Zoë any longer. He was perilously afraid to find what sort of a wreck he was in.
“She left, because she could tell you loved Simon more.” The little girl skipped ahead of him.
Mal had admitted to wanting Simon, all that alabaster skin and all, and he’d been confronted with the little happy family scenario earlier in the evening, but he ain’t said anything yet about loving the upright doctor.
“Now wait a sec!” Mal protested.
“Simon stays because he loves you too much to leave, despite the fact that, these days, it would probably be better for him to do so.” She plowed onwards, heading towards the engine room. “River isn’t getting any better. Her agitated outbursts are increasing. The last place you made landfall she nearly killed a man who ran into her.”
Kaylee sat in the engine room, looking pale and wan, simply staring off into space.
“Xiao meimei?” Mal asked, knowing that she wouldn’t or couldn’t answer him.
The spirit sighed and ran a hand down Kaylee’s cheek. “She’s very sick. She thinks she’s hiding it from everybody, but Simon has been sneaking an entire array of medications into her food for months. Nothing is working.”
A wracking cough overtook Kaylee and Mal watched appalled as the hand she covered her mouth with came away covered in blood. He exited the room as fast as possible. This was a nightmare, what on earth could’ve gone so wrong? The engine itself looked like it was barely being held together with Sealer tape.
“Kaylee and Simon haven’t spoken in nearly a year. She caught you kissing him and has refused since to talk to him in spite of everybody’s attempts to bring her around.”
They were going down the stairs now to the infirmary. The railing swayed precariously beneath their feet and Mal felt sick at all the evidence of decay and neglect he was seeing everywhere. Simon was inside the infirmary, no surprises there. He looked horribly tired and care-worn, the medical supplies he was organizing were much depleted from what Mal remembered the last time he was in the infirmary.
Suddenly, Simon dropped a bottle of pills on the floor and slammed his fist onto the counter-top. “I can’t do this anymore!”
The little girl gave Mal a hard look. “You give him half of the affection he deserves and rarely let him past your shell. He has to fight you every step of the way to love you. Sometimes he worries that you truly loved Inara more than you love him. It isn’t true, but he can never tell with you.”
Mal felt bitter tears starting to leak out of the corner of one eye. He hadn’t cried since, well, ever. He wasn’t sure about loving Simon more than Inara, and yet the sick feeling welling up in his stomach at the thought of Simon is undeniable. He couldn’t seem stop the tears that slid down his face.
“Is anybody happy?” Mal whispered brokenly.
“Well, Jayne seems to be all right.” She offered, like that was any consolation. “He signed on with another crew, because ‘y’all got too gorram depressing’ I believe were his exact words.”
Even Mal had to laugh at that.
“The world changed, smugglers and raiders and cowboys are in far less demand than they used to be. It was never really the appropriate lifestyle for you and you refused to get out when you still could.” She sighed. “Soon Wash and Zoë will leave, they want to start a family, and Zoë is beginning to realize more and more that Serenity is no place for one.”
Mal closed his eyes, hoping for one second that it would all go away.
Simon looked up from fiddling about with medical supplies, having nothing better to do after he left the galley, when he heard a noise from Mal. He turned around to stare at the captain lying on the operating table and immediately took in the slight twitching Mal’s fingers made.
Once again he prised open Mal’s eye and shown the penlight into them, however, Mal’s pupils did not contract. He clicked off the light and sighed in frustration.
“What in the ‘verse happened to you?” he whispered at the captain, knowing that he wouldn’t get an answer.
Mal stilled on the table and Simon let out another harsh sigh. He was completely discouraged with the whole coma thing. However, god only knew what would happen if he attempted to administer adrenaline when Mal was so unresponsive. Horrifying visions of Mal going into cardiac arrest raced behind his eyes. He brushed his fingers over Mal’s wrist and shook his head.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when Mal mouthed an ardent ‘No!’
“No, what?” Simon asked. “No, don’t touch you? No, you’re really fine?” He shook his head again when, predictably, Mal didn’t respond.
Zoë wondered what their next move should be. She knew she should contact their buyer, but something was telling her not to, which really creeped her out. It defied all good sense. If she could get rid of the orb than not everything would be a complete waste, yet with the captain out cold she just couldn’t bring herself to. No doubt he’d want her to though, and when he woke up they’d probably go through an entire song and dance about why she hadn’t.
Zoë wanted her captain to wake up, but she was NOT looking forward to that conversation.
Anyway, where was Wash to tell her she was wearing a hole through the steel when she needed him? Suspiciously absent. She sighed. That also meant Wash was not going to be there to tell her to stop passing by the infirmary.
She remembered her last pass-by with a sudden smile. Simon had been reading a novel as he sat next to the captain. The doctor would’ve been called attentive by even the least praise-worthy alliance idiot, but she would bet her gun arm and her entire marriage to Wash that he’d never sat by her like that when she’d ended up on the table.
Now if only she could somehow get the two of them to realize it, Mal’s pent-up frustration would practically disappear. Good lord, Zoë realized he’d only been laid once (Nandi) in the last eight or so years. What a daunting eight years it must have been too.
Inara was horribly worried. If she didn’t do something soon, she might find herself beating her head against the wall or dancing about the ship performing prayer rituals for Mal’s safety. Although the prayer ritual thing had only happened once, when she was an apprentice and had gotten intensely paranoid during a party that had involved abundant use of opium and camphor.
She supposed she could mend some of her clothes. She hadn’t much time to shop for new ones, or for that matter much of a place to do so. Even though Inara was trained in the art of the needle, it was a task she’d despised and often over-looked what with it being well within her monetary capabilities to simply replace everything that was ruined.
She wondered if she could bribe someone else to do it, usually Inara was very self-sufficient but sewing crossed a certain boundary. And finding someone else to do the work would also take her mind off of Mal lying in the infirmary.
Jayne probably couldn’t sew worth a damn. He was after all, as Simon put it, “a trained ape without the training.” Kaylee couldn’t sew either, she’d come to Inara a few times to mend the tears that she’d gotten while working in the engine room and Inara had always acquiesced but not without a certain hidden rancor. Zoë sewed but only stiff utilitarian stitches she’d probably learned as a soldier, no doubt she’d be at a loss with a poplin dress that had a rent in it. Inara certainly wouldn’t hand her dress over to Wash, and seeing as Mal was neither of the sewing or the awake variety, that ruled him out.
Simon was a fair hand with a needle, what with being a surgeon and his little sister’s caretaker in the wake of neglectful parents. However, that was the trouble. She didn’t want to ask Simon for anything. She thought it would be a little awkward if the dress she knew Mal responded to the most had been cleverly stitched up by her rival in his affections. Inara was used to having to fight for the things she wanted. In the early days when she hadn’t yet established a name for herself, she’d had to fight her way for the best clients. She expected a fight for Mal, yet somehow wearing Mal’s favorite dress mended by Simon seemed somehow a rather dirty way to fight.
“I’ll do it!”
Inara gasped and dropped the fabric she was holding in startlement.
“Oh, River, you scared me!” Inara pressed a hand to her breast and let out a breath of relief when the other girl walked into the light of the room.
River picked the poplin off the floor. “I’ll do it,” she reiterated.
Inara looked at the other young woman. “You know how to sew, sweetie?”
River turned away from Inara fabric in hand and went straight out the door of the shuttle. Well, Inara had seen her with knitting needles on one occasion, and considering that there was basically nothing that River couldn’t do with fine precision and skill, she would take her word for it.
Mal was blinded by the sun, turning the edges of his vision an annoying greyish blue. The little girl was standing just behind him, her small hand in his. When his pupils finally contracted enough that he could see more than spotty images she stepped closer to him. They were on a high cliff overlooking a valley filled with sunflowers with a single house in it. It was a nice enough house, maybe not by Simon or Inara’s standards, but it was in good shape.
“Come on,” the little girl said, tugging on his hand and readying herself for the steep climb downwards.
“Are we going to the house?” Mal followed, mostly because he didn’t know what else to do, but also because he was curious to see what she was going to show him this time.
He managed the climb all right. He kept reaching out to steady his tiny companion but she batted his hands away every time, scaling the rocks like she’d been doing it every day of her life. Mal was a little blind-sided by his sudden paternal affection for the annoying little spirit girl who acted like she was nearly forty.
Mal carefully chose his steps over a steep outcropping. “Well, today certainly is a day for revelations.”
The little girl stopped ahead of him, turning around and shading her eyes against the harsh sun. “I do believe you’re beginning to understand, Malcolm.”
Mal made another face at her and pretended to pay attention to his footing. She only smiled when he turned away. She hoped he wasn’t a lost cause, but God knew he could be stubborn as an ox sometimes.
Finally they reached the bottom and Mal was practically ecstatic, goddamn it was hot. The little girl didn’t even seem to have broken a sweat, she just flitted hither and thither, making him dizzy. He wondered what her parents would do if they could see her running about in sunflower fields in nothing but her nightie and battle-hardened smuggler at her side.
“Hey, kid!” he called after her.
“I’m almost four centuries your senior, young man!” she yelled back over her shoulder.
Mal shook his head and raised an eyebrow as he watched her prance around the fields. For someone who claimed to be a veritable crone in age, she certainly didn’t seem like it now. “What’s your name?”
She stopped suddenly and paused as if thinking very hard. “My . . .name?”
They walked towards the little house at a more regular pace. His question seemed to have subdued her quite a bit. “Yeah, you got one?”
“I guess so . . .” She replied in the same tone she might have used if he’d asked her if she thought vegetables were necessary.
“What do you mean ‘you guess so?’ Either you got one or you don’t got one!”
“I don’t like it very much,” she answered in frank tone that no child would ever use. Mal gave her his captain-y ‘you better answer me’ look that even Simon responded to. “Oh, all right, my parent’s called me Mara!”
“What do you call you?” Mal asked hoping that the house they were going to was a good sight cooler than the outside air.
“I don’t call myself anything, except maybe dead.”
“That’s all kinds of morbid!” Mal shot her a look. “You’re here speakin’ to me, ain’t you?”
She didn’t answer and Mal started to wonder if the reason for this field-trip was because he was dead too.
“Stop that thought right there!” she poked him hard in the side. “You’re here so that you don’t make a muck-up of your life!”
The captain rolled his eyes for what felt like the 80th time, but was, nevertheless, relieved by her proclamation. He wasn’t quite sure if he was ready for the world beyond yet. Hell, he ain’t ever even kissed Simon yet, and here this little lady was practically trying to marry them off. He shot her back a glare that he hoped she wouldn’t notice, but he could tell from the little glance she shot him that she knew every thought running through his head. Now that was all kinds of bothersome, Mal didn’t want anybody inside his head but him.
They trudged through fields of wild sunflowers, the yellow brilliance almost blinding and certainly distracting enough. They heard the voice of a young woman raised in jubilation as a winsome music played. The sunflowers ended as they drew closer to the house, leaving it in stark resolution against the harsh blue sky. Mal hadn’t heard music like that in his entire life.
A blur of fabric and motion caught his attention from the corner of his eye and like the seasoned warrior he was he immediately whirled to face it. A laughing River confronted him. She had spread her arms out and was twirling about like a whirly gig, stopping suddenly and falling over.
“Oooh, dizzy yet,” she laughed and shouted to the empty valley. “Semi-circular canals haven’t caught up with the rest of my brain,”
“River, what in the name of earth that was?” a perplexed voice called over Mal’s shoulder, a perplexed voice that Mal knew very well.
He turned around to see Simon standing on the veranda, and he supposed he really should be used to Simon’s appearance in “exotic” locales, but every time it caught him completely off guard. Simon was dressed in his starchy best: vest and tight trousers that Mal had always enjoyed on him.
River stood and seemed to walk straight through the little girl, Mara, who barely even flinched at the contact. Mal was pretty sure he’d have pitched a fit if someone walked right through him.
“Down in the village, they opened the vault, but there was nothing there, nothing there but words of days gone by,” she replied, as if that explained everything.
Simon was accustomed to it, so he simply crossed his arms and waited for a further explanation.
River sighed. “Don’t you hear the music?”
“Yes, mei mei,” he directed his eyes upwards towards the sky, as if taking in the music and the scenery. Mal noticed then how lonely Simon seemed and also that Mara was shooting him significant looks.
He glanced over at her. “What?”
“Don’t you hear the music?”
“Erm,” Mal paused. He listened for a few minutes, ignoring River and Simon converse.
I have climbed highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you
“Yeah? It’s all mushy and the like?” he gave her a pointed look.
“Oh, for the love of god!” Mara cried. “Would you keep listening?”
Mal shot her a long-suffering look and paid attention once more to the lyrics.
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
He looked back over at her. She was making even less sense than River usually did. “Yeah, so?”
“Hopeless!” Mara practically stamped her foot.
Mal was just about to say something back when River ran straight through him. “Kao!” Mara started and looked at him, Mal just shivered and shook his limbs out. It hadn’t hurt or anything, but it had been the weirdest sensation he’d experienced in a long while and that was, in and of itself, a feat.
“You get used to it,” Mara said by way of apology.
“I sure as hell hope not!” He brushed invisible dust of his shoulders. When he turned back to the two siblings, River had already disappeared inside the house and Simon was still standing on the porch glancing out over the fields of sunflowers. The song changed and Simon’s eyes closed.
He gripped the porch railings in one white knuckled hand and mouthed one word, “Mal.”
Mal sighed. “All right, what gloomifyin’ horror have I unleashed this time?”
“Well, it’s just an eventuality, so don’t get mad at me when I tell you . . .”
“All right, darlin’, what is it?” Mal replied using his stern captain voice.
Mara fiddled with flimsy material of her dress. “You chose Inara.”
“And there by ruined Simon’s life? What I gotta take his happiness account when I’m going after my own now too?”
Mara sighed. “Would you just wait a minute? At least until we get inside before you start going crazy on me.”
“Oh wait to go crazy she says! Like I ain’t been dragged around and seen the weirdest gou shi in half the verse in the last few hours! Hah!” Mal grumbled as he followed her inside.
The house was homey, yet not all like the one he’d shared with Simon in the first scenario he’d been shown. He wondered if that was his influence and then put it out of his mind. Hell, he wanted Inara, he thought Simon was attractive and all kinds of other things, but he wanted Inara, he was sure of it, and by the looks of it, it was possible to get her.
Mal looked at the capture of the crew of Serenity prominently displayed in the living room and felt like he’d been kicked in the gut. Did Simon really think of them as family?
“Yes, he did.” Mara once again pried into his thoughts. “For all you never wanted to believe it or let him in, for all you needled him and refused to recognize how much he did for you.”
“Hey now! I recognize what the doc has done for us!” He looked at her indignantly. She just turned a way.
“Inara asked him to leave.”
“What?” he interjected.
She put her hands on her hips. “Inara asked Simon to leave after you professed your undying love to her.”
“Why would she do that?” Mal responded, clearly skeptical.
“I dunno, Mal, she saw him as a threat?” her voice was acerbic with sarcasm. “And Simon, who has ever done what was asked of him, went.”
“What’s that?” Mal crossed his arms. “Wuh de mah! Simon has never done what was asked of him!”
“By which you mean he hasn’t just waltzed himself right out the airlock?” she returned with a caustic lift of a brow.
Mal growled. “I can’t believe we’re arguing about this, little girl!”
“Don’t believe it then! Just meditate for a second. Simon may have resisted you in matters concerning his sister, but he has always given quarter for anything else you needed of him.” Mal let out a derisive snort. “Anyway, it was a mistake for Inara to ask Simon to leave, because two weeks later you got shot and bled out because the proper medical attention wasn’t provided.”
“What? I did not!”
She let out a long suffering sigh. “Oh, all right, fine, I just made that up.”
Mal shot her a look and moved on to another room. The wooden floor boards creaked lightly under his footsteps and Mal wondered why it was exactly he could affect the floor boards and not the oblivious Tams. Well, whatever it was, it was clearly beyond him.
He gathered it was River’s room from all the drawings tacked to the wall. There was one of a little girl standing in a cherry blossom that seemed to draw heavily on both his own features and Simon’s. Mal wondered how exactly how he knew this and then put the thought out of his head. He loved Inara, Simon was a distraction.
“You stomped around for weeks after Simon left, throwing things and the like. The entire crew avoided you, even Inara, the new blushing bride.”
“If you would kindly quit makin’ disparagin’ remarks about my life!”
It was Mara’s turn to snort. “Simon left, he set up a practice on a newly terraformed moon, bought a house in the middle of sunflower fields because River took a fancy to it, and tried to forget you.”
“You and Inara were happy as larks for about two months, but then she started taking clients again.”
“You started fighting daily.” Mara picked at the coverlet on River’s bed. “You finally asked her, knowing she wouldn’t stop being a companion, to set certain rules for the two of you.”
“She wouldn’t do that either, would she?” He whispered.
“No, she wouldn’t.” Mara put a light hand on Mal’s elbow, but he shrugged away from the touch.
“Why?” Mal’s voice cracked as he sat down on the bed. “She’s exactly what I want, what I need!”
“No, she’s not. She’s beautiful, and she provides all kinds of spark, but she doesn’t know how to love just one person, Mal.” Mara drifted around the room. “She’s never had a relationship like that. She loves you, truly, but loving you isn’t enough. It isn’t more than her love for what she does.”
“Why Simon?” He fell back against the bed.
Mara leaned against the door jamb. “Are you trying to tell me that you don’t want to fuck him?”
Mal sat bolt upright, his face red, trying not to think about the images of Simon splayed out in his bed racing through his head. “Language, missy!”
She laughed. “Well?”
Mal looked away.
“Thought so,” she retorted, the superiority in her voice practically a tangible object. “Simon loves with everything he has and he’s always got room for one more.”
Mal looked over at her in disbelief. Simon loving everybody? Yeah, right. That boy loved starched vests and River and as far as he could conjure nothing else.
“You might not see it,” she fired back in response to his thoughts and walked out of the room, forcing Mal to get up and follow her. “His entire life he’s been taught to be closed up, to not show emotion, to be more than human, and mostly the people he’s loved have failed him.”
Mal let out a breath of air and decided to let her speak her piece. She clearly knew nothing, but was going to say whatever it was that was on her mind, with or without his input.
“Did you ever ask him about his parents?”
Mal looked at her, getting the feeling she already knew the answer to that question.
“They refused to believe that something was wrong with River, and then they disowned him for trying to get her back.”
“His rich and fancified parents threw away their precious little doctor, I don’t believe that!”
They passed by the washroom, which Simon was walking out of, his hair curling around his ears with damp and towel slung low about his hips. Mal gulped and turned to watch him walk back in his room, his eyes following the muscles of his buttocks underneath the towel.
When he looked back at Mara she was giving him a knowing look. “What was that about Inara?”
“Bi zui!” he nearly snarled.
“You’re so damn stubborn.”
He stomped out of the house, Mara trailing behind him “I try.”
“Mal?” she asked as they got outside to the fields.
“What?” he snarked at her.
She smothered a laugh behind her palm. “Be honest for a second, would you?”
He turned around and looked at her, his face devoid of expression.
“If not to me, then to yourself,” she added and turned to walk back through the brightly colored rows of flowers.
“I—what do you mean?” He batted a flower out of his path.
“When you saw yourself with Simon the two previous times it didn’t bother you at all. You could admit when you saw it, that it was something you wanted.”
He refused to answer.
“You love him, too.”
“Inara?” he asked simply as they started scaling the rock upwards. He wondered why they weren’t just disappearing to wherever they had to go next, but he refrained from asking.
“I have tried to show you various situations that would enlighten you a little on that subject.”
“You know, it’s not like it’s always fun and games with Simon either!” He was getting frustrated now.
“No, it’s something you have to work at.” She gave him one of the pointed looks he was getting well accustomed to by now. “You seriously need to re-evaluate the way you’re headed.”
They stopped on a ledge and it was hot enough that he had to brush sweat off his forehead. “Why are you doing this?”
“It’s what I was built to do.”
“Shen me?” he gave her a startled glance, she certainly didn’t look like a robot, at least not like the one Mr. Universe had.
“I’m not.” She fluffed her hair with one hand.
“But then . . .” and suddenly it clicked in his brain. She smiled, sensing the dawning realization in him.
“Yes, I’m the Celandine orb.”
“So that’s why people want you so bad!” he looked her up and down, and wondered how on earth this had happened.
“Frank Alcazar Celandine created me in 2015. I essentially calculate the most probable stream of events, and show you which are most likely in the hopes that you will choose a favorable outcome.”
“But you said earlier that you were dead,” Mal pointed out.
“I am, Celandine created me in the image of his daughter, Mara, who died in a car accident at an early age. In a way you could say that I am, in fact, her.”
Mal didn’t know what to say, so he just grunted and changed the subject. “So now what?”
“When you wake up you won’t remember any of the specifics of what I’ve shown you, just the gist. Celandine didn’t want to create any messes with the space time continuum.”
“Y’know usually I need to be turned on to work.”
“You were in such need of guidance you set me off by touch alone.” She smiled at him.
He rolled his eyes yet again. “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
“It is my professional opinion that you will be the happiest with Simon, regardless of everything else. Of the many eventualities that I’ve calculated you have a success rate of—”
“Okay, okay, I get it.”
She sighed and shook her head at his interruption. “Goodbye, Mal.”
“Uh, goodbye then, I guess.” He presented her his hand to shake, but she ignored and gave him a hug.
“You are an amazing man, Malcolm Reynolds, but the Shepherd was right. You must believe.”
He looked down at her and gave her hair a tentative stroke. “Yes ma’am.”
“Now this really is goodbye,” she said as she pulled back.
And then everything was black.
Jayne walked into the kitchen to see River hacking away at a dress and wondered what had set her off this time. Instead he just sent her a look and walked as far away from her as possible so that he could get his cup of coffee. She looked up at him and snipped the scissors menacingly in his direction but other than that made no effort to engage him in any kind of interaction.
River made a little aha-ing noise and then stood up spreading the fabric out with audible snap, and Jayne was confronted with the sight of a long chain of fabric stars using almost all of the fabric there was in the dress. He blinked and decided that leaving, coffee in hand, was probably the best idea. As far as he could see, she had two options, knife him with the scissors or strangle him with the stars.
When he looked over his shoulder on his way out though, she was hanging the stars up around the kitchen like Christmas decorations. Jayne shook his head and left for the comfort of his bunk.
Mal came to with a shuddering start, giving Simon a shock who was dozing in a chair next to the infirmary bed.
“Tianna, Mal! Trying to give me a heart attack?” Simon got to his feet, his manner completely professional as he prized one of Mal’s pupils open and shown the light in for probably the fifth time that evening. He made a satisfied noise when the pupils contracted like they should.
“Simon?” Mal croaked. “You can hear me, see me?”
“No Mal, I’m shining lights on the bed to inspect it for lint! Of course I can see you!”
“No need to get all testy like,” he groaned as Simon poked him in a few places. He appeared to be in working order, just sore in all kinds of places he shouldn’t be from just lying on the bed for the last couple of hours.
“How long was I under?” He covered his face with an arm.
Simon glanced at his watch. “Just under 20 hours, I would guess.”
Mal bolted upright in the bed. “Wuh de mah, that long?”
Simon prodded him in the shoulder and forced him to lie back as he continued to examine Mal, testing if he could still feel all his limbs and all the rest of that.
“Most of the crew have been awake worrying over you.” Simon responded absently.
“They shouldn’t have worried—hey do you have to do that?” Mal protested as Simon lightly grazed a ticklish spot by his knee.
“Captain, there are several things that cause sudden fainting spells, none of them good. If a part of your brain died due to lack of oxygen during the period of unconsciousness—well the ramifications are too drastic at this point to even consider.
“Way to cheer a man up!” Mal grunted, trying not to lean back and enjoy Simon’s hands smoothing down his calves. His eyes opened, jesus, Mara was right, he was nuts for the doctor, Inara or no. The ramifications of that were almost too drastic to consider as well.
“So tell me, Captain, what happened?” Simon sat back down next to the bed, resting his chin on arm.
“I—oh hell, I’d better tell it to the entire crew.”
“As you wish,” Simon replied. “Can you stand by yourself?” Not even waiting for an answer, Simon pulled Mal into a sitting position and began to brace him so that he could stand up.
Mal batted his hands away. “Of course I can stand!” He swung his legs over the edge of the table and tried to get to his feet, only to lurch right into Simon.
“Indeed,” Simon said, bracing the larger man’s weight against him, smiling fondly at Mal’s profile when the other man wasn’t paying attention, very glad that the love of his life, however oblivious to this fact the subject in question was, was still alive.
So, third chapter in progress. I promise.
Playlist for this story because these songs just work . . .
“Same”- Snow Patrol
“Days Go By (Acoustic Version)”- Dirty Vegas
“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”- U2
“Svo Hljótt”- Sigur Rós
“Everybody Hurts”- R.E.M
“Midnight Radio”- Hedwig and the Angry Inch