Harry followed Jayne into his room, a small compartment that he'd decorated with a number of pictures taped to the walls, mostly of scantily dressed females but with a fair amount of what looked like advertisements for firearms or beer, it stank of gun oil and sweat. Harry thought it was an awesome room and wished he'd had one like it while at the Dursleys.
Jayne kicked the door closed behind them so he could reach under the bed and pull out a long case which he opened and set on his bed. "This is my baby, Vera," Jayne said, gesturing to it. "I've also got some really nice 45s, might be a bit big for your hands, but you can get some experience taking em apart anyway. I like to see how fast I can take them apart and put them together while I'm drinking."
"Whoa," Harry said running his fingers along the barrel.
"She's a Callahan full-bore auto-lock," he explained proudly. "Needs a replacement barrel, cause she got cracked saving my life."
Harry concentrated for a second and then ran two fingers along the barrel, incanting "Reparo!"
The crack in the barrel slowly vanished and the metal began to brighten, discolorations from heat and skin oils fading away.
"Whoa," Jayne breathed in disbelief, before glancing at Harry nervously. "You can't explode heads with your mind, can you?" he asked cautiously.
"Maybe," Harry said with a frown, "but it's not something I'd wanna do."
"Glad to hear it, one person on board like that is enough," Jayne said. He picked up his gun and examined it. "You do good work."
"Thanks, just figured out how to do it recently," he said cheerfully.
Jayne returned Vera to her case and grabbed a couple of bottles of beer, popped the cap off them and passed one to Harry. "What's your piece?"
Harry grinned and pulled out his blocky grey pistol and passed it over. "It's an Institute laser pistol. I was going to get a plasma pistol, but you get a lot more shots per core with a laser pistol and you can adjust the strength a lot better."
"Feels like a toy," Jayne noted as he examined it and hefted it in his hand, careful not to point it in Harry's direction.
There was a loud chirping noise and a burst of blue light, leaving a smoldering patch on the door to the room.
"It doesn't have a safety," Harry offered.
"Shun-SHENG duh gao-WAHN," Jayne muttered, holding the pistol a lot more carefully. "This is better than the Lasiter!"
"The what now?" Harry asked.
"A laser pistol we were hired to steal and then steal back," Jayne explained. "It's basically a rich man's toy."
"The Institute doesn't make toys," Harry told him, "their laser guns are serious weapons, though they do trade damage for accuracy and number of shots per fusion core."
"Institute? Fusion core?" Jayne asked curiously.
"The Institute is a group of people that built a home underneath their college when the bombs dropped on America. Fusion cores are what they use as fuel for handheld weapons and robots."
"America… The Earth That Was?"
"It's still there… just a lot more bombed and radioactive," Harry told him.
"Huh," Jayne said thoughtfully, before brushing it off as unimportant. "How do you set this for it's lowest power so we can use the door for target practice?"
"We can jump ship tomorrow, if you think we're too much trouble," The Leewit told Mal as they moved through the ship.
"We're days away from any port," Mal complained, "and I'm not someone who's going to space a couple of kids."
"You let me wor-," The Leewit began only to get interrupted by a thin young woman who was suddenly in her face, her hair greasy and unwashed.
"I can't hear you," the dark-haired woman said loudly. "I can hear everyone else, but you are quiet."
"Mei Mei," Mal said gently, "this is… a new passenger, and you shouldn't jump on people like that."
"I can't hear her," she complained.
The Leewit tilted her head. "Someone has done something to you."
"River this is… The Leewit," Mal introduced the two, wondering what new insanity was going on.
River giggled. "Those threads tickle." She scratched her arms.
"Yes, but they're letting me get a good look at what's been done to you," The Leewit replied, sinking threads of klatha into the disturbed young woman.
"Am I missing something?" Mal asked, looking from one to another.
"Probably quite a bit," The Leewit said absently. "They have made a mess of your grey matter. I can see where they have actually removed the sheathing on neural tissue to increase the sensitivity."
"She's a reader," River told Mal with a smile.
"I'm a bit more than that," The Leewit said firmly.
"And that's why you can't hear her?" Mal asked, guessing at the reason for her response.
"I like my privacy," The Leewit said firmly.
"Wish you could teach me how to do that," Mal said with a sigh.
"I wish she could teach all of you," River said, "my thoughts get lost in the currents."
"I can," The Leewit said. "Why would you think I couldn't?"
"Really?" River exclaimed, a desperate hope leaking into her voice.
"Yeah," The Leewit replied, placing a hand on River's shoulder, "it's not perfect, and any half decent witch could still hear their thoughts if they wish, but The Empire came up with quite a few programs designed to blunt telepathy. So, teaching the crew to think quietly and not shout out their thoughts isn't a problem."
A high-pitched chirp rang out.
"What is that?" Mal asked, frowning as it sounded like something important might have broken on his ship.
The Leewit sighed. "That's just Jayne playing with Harry's laser gun. It's set low enough not to worry about hulling the ship," she assured him.
"Jayne's rarely that happy with his pants on," River noted, as Mal closed his eyes and muttered something under his breath.
"That doesn't work when we can both hear your thoughts," The Leewit told him.
"If you're a reader than you should know that muttering under your breath is a way to relieve stress without being completely rude or offensive," Mal told the little blonde witch.
"I'm young and impressionable, you should be trying to set a better example," The Leewit told him.
Mal just gave her a deadpan stare while River giggled. He turned and walked away, muttering under his breath.
The Leewit waited until he was out of hearing range before saying, "I like him. Now, let's see if we have some exercises that'll help you distinguish your thoughts from everyone else's."
The Leewit blinked and looked around, it was hard to think, everything seemed… fuzzy. She couldn't feel her connection to Harry and the klatha surrounding them was slow to respond to her. The room was familiar, but it took her a few seconds to recognize it. The naked boy standing next to her grabbed her attention as he looked a lot like Harry… but he was bald and seemed to have been fed properly.
"The Leewit?" Dr. Li asked.
"Yes," The Leewit agreed, before examining herself and noting the lack of hair, "or possibly not. Synth?"
"Indeed," she agreed. "I hope you're not too upset."
"Still considering it," The Leewit replied with a thoughtful frown. "It's a complicated topic and I've only been conscious for a few seconds."
"Most synths take hours before they are fully conscious and not just running on implanted reflexes," Dr. Li noted.
"I have a well-ordered mind," The Leewit replied as she extended threads into herself and Harry. Synth or not they were still 'them' or close enough for her not to bother with any distinctions. The threads she sent into Harry were pulled into a tiny knot of klatha, a far cry from the knot she was used to. Neither of them had their patterns, but that knot of klatha he carried was rebuilding itself somehow.
"How is Harry?"
"He's going to be recovering for a while," The Leewit replied.
"Do you still have all your psychic abilities?" Dr. Li asked.
"Yes, but I feel like I'm out of practice," The Leewit said with a frown.
"A number of synths have reported a loss of precision, but that usually works itself out within a couple of weeks," Dr. Li assured her.
The Leewit nodded. "Hopefully that applies to magic as well. Clothes?"
"Linda and Sally will be here shortly," Dr. Li replied. "they'll have Institute jumpsuits and boots for you."
"Why did you make us?" The Leewit asked.
"The Leewit and Harry were of great help to us and Linda and Sally missed them," Dr. Li replied.
The Leewit considered that for a minute. "This was Linda's idea, wasn't it?"
"She was very enthusiastic about the idea, however we would have created synths of you two anyway," Dr. Li replied.
The Leewit nodded and tossed a line towards Harry only to have it absorbed. "I noticed I have ovaries."
"Having children seemed important to The Leewit, so I had to ensure you were capable as well," Dr. Li replied. "It's one of several modifications we had to make to ensure you could both grow properly, since you are not starting off in adult bodies."
The Leewit nodded. "I'm leaning heavily towards pleased now."
"That's a logical response," Dr. Li said with a smile. "I find it's better to exist than the contrary."
"My other self may disagree, as finding another you is a bit of a shock, but I have my own Harry, so she'll get over it," The Leewit decided.
"Excellent," Dr. Li said, as Sally and Linda entered carrying clothes for the two new synths.
"The Leewit, Harry!" Linda dropped the clothes and squealed, before she rushed over to hug them.
The Leewit smiled while Harry blinked and a little more awareness seeped into his eyes and wondered what their other selves were doing.
"Feel your heartbeat, concentrate on just that," The Leewit repeated for the hundredth time.
"Heartbeat while resting 60 to 100," River muttered, her eyes twitching beneath her closed lids. "Jayne's is currently approaching 130, usually it only increases that much while masturbating… or playing with a new weapon. My brother's tops out at 125 while engaging in sexual activity, which is ten less that his heart rate when he was attempting to ask Kaylee out."
"And that is not something I needed to know," The Leewit muttered as she weaved a net of klatha with deft twists of her fingers and thoughts, causing River's eyes to snap open and stare.
"I can't see it, but I can," River said confused and then dove to the side when the little blonde witch gave a flip of the wrist, trying to dodge something she couldn't see. She stiffened, eyes widening in shock… then began to smile. "It's… quiet," she whispered.
"Yeah," The Leewit agreed, "that'll help keep others' thoughts out of your head for a while."
"It's not permanent?" she asked sadly.
"No, but it'll give us time to work on everyone," The Leewit assured her.
River leapt forward and hugged her tightly. "Thank you, thank you, thank you! It's been so long since I've been alone with my thoughts, so long since I was able to sleep for longer than half an hour before being woken… by other…."
The Leewit sighed, as River fell asleep on her.
Beta by: Abyssal Angel & Mist of Shadows