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Author's Note: Written for Firefly Friday fic challenge #5.

Silence
by Tara O'Shea

They were blue gloves.

She'd wondered why, at first. The men and women who had done this to her—they had worn simple white gloves. Gloves that showed the smears of blood as they'd cut her open, changed her. Made her into what she was now.

But their gloves were blue, and they always wore them, even though they never touched her. There were always two of them, standing and watching, and asking all the questions. The tall one had a face like granite. Like he was carved from immobile stone. But River wasn't afraid of him the way she was the other man. The one who always watched her. The one with the smile, and the smooth voice, and eyes that seemed to strip her naked, as if he could see into the very core of her. As if she was a laboratory animal.

"What do you want?" she asked him, throwing the words over the should of the medtech who was securing her restraints (his name was Michael, and he had had tuna fish for lunch, and his shoes were too tight and pinched, but that was because they were new, and he'd never told her his name, or that he had nightmares about her face from which he woke, sweating and terrified).

They were the first words she'd spoken in days. They'd worried, after the last procedure, if she would go catatonic the way the others had. If she'd end up in the "vegetable patch" like the little boys and girls who had come before her. She didn't know how many others, but she could see all of them if she closed her eyes. Row after row of metal beds with still unmoving occupants, their eyes wide and staring at the cavernous ceiling as machines measured their every breath and heartbeat, and nameless, faceless men and women cared for their bodies which refused to die even though the minds trapped inside them already had.

"I want it all," the smaller man said, blue eyes boring into River's as another tech (Julia, who had had an argument with her lover that morning before she had left for work. She was terribly afraid that when she returned to their apartment on the other side of the city that night, Michaela would be gone, all of her things missing from their customary places) swabbed her temples with a cotton pad soaked in alcohol that was cool and stung slightly before it evaporated.

He came a step closer to her, hands clasped neatly in front of him. She could see gleaming white cuffs peeking out between the charcoal grey suitsleeves and the blue gloves. "I want everything."

She couldn't find his name. Her voice echoed back at her from the empty space he occupied. They were just a crushing presence, but without form. Without being. She would have welcomed the silence, except the silence frightened her more than the voices she couldn't stop. Their silence terrified her.

"You're not going to get it," she replied with a giddy smile, just before the needles went in and she began screaming.