Title: "Askesis"

Author: Green Owl

Prompt: # 39 - "Passion"

Challenge: Copper For A Kiss Mini-Challenge (July 2008, 50 Prompts Table)

Rating: G

Word Count: 500

Author Notes: I hate to see this word used in fiction; in fact, I'm known to go into a form of anaphylatic shock at the sight of it. People who use it in their writing, especially when penning a love scene, usually have a tendency to employ an overblown, purple-prose narrative style that makes me want to hurl the book I'm reading into the garbage can or avoid their work like the plague on the internet. How fitting that I now must use it as a prompt, no? I decided to forego the usual interpretation and use the other, more archaic one: "pathos" or "emotional suffering". The Greek words that head up the rest of the parts represent the four ways to free oneself from suffering ("askesis"), according to the Stoic school of thought.

Disclaimer: I do not own or buy/sell/process this mindcrack. I just abuse the hell out of it.

I. Pathos (passion or emotional suffering)

Fear was not an unfamiliar emotion for him, and he knew how to hide it well: an unobserved (but somewhat scratchy) undergarment sheltered by the audacity that he wore like a snowshield on those overlooked moons where the terraformin' crew forgot to balance the seasons.

He could brazen out the sensation most of the time with a combination of bullying, bluster and bravado.

But not this time.

Not now.

Not when the crazy girl's soft little hand was restin' on the button that opened the airlock.

She picked up the communicator and addressed him: "How do you feel, Jayne Cobb?"

II. Sophia (wisdom)

"Cold," he answered, shivering in the unventilated compartment.

The slight, supple material of the medic's uniform made it easy to launder, but did little to keep him warm.

"What else?" she pressed, watching him through the diamond-shaped porthole.

"Hungry," he continued, his stomach growling at the emptiness.

"Is that all?"

Three hours had passed since Mal had left and no one had come to check on him.

"Scared," he confessed, watching her palm caress the button.

"The Academy…the airlock…two by two, yes?"

A moment passed before he realized what she had said.

"Wo dong," he replied.

She nodded. "He understands."

III. Andreia (courage)

"Whaddya gonna do to me?" he inquired.

Her eyes glittered as she drummed her fingers on both of the airlock's buttons. "That depends."

"On what?" he demanded, annoyed. "Already half-frozen in here so if'n yer gonna space me, just do it already!"

She glided forward, blocking his view of the console. "First he must account for his actions."

They stared at each other through the window, stalemated.

She wanted reasons, he wanted out.

"It was just business, girlie," he informed her bluntly. "I'm a mercenary; it's what I do."

She pressed the button.

He prayed his suffering would be brief.

IV. Dikaiosyne (justice)

The door to the cargo bay slid open and he landed in a trembling, undignified heap at her feet.

He pushed himself to his knees, shaking as the girl resealed the doors.

"Why?" he asked, wrapping his arms around himself to get warm.

She crouched down, placed a blanket around his shoulders, pressed a protein bar into his hands. "Not personal?"

"No, 'just business', like I said." He was downright confounded as he bundled up and bit in.

Dark skeins of silky coal-black hair nearly obscured her childlike grin as she patiently explained: "You and I have some that is unfinished."

V. Sophrosyne (temperance)

Coin passing through Jayne Cobb's hands went one of four places: whore's cleavage, barkeep's counter, newstand's cashbox or Ma's bank account.

Book watched warily as the mercenary crossed the greengrocer's palm with a fifth of his platinum. "An entire crate?"

Jayne hefted the box onto his shoulder. "Been awhile since yer 'maters, Shepherd. Guess'n it's my turn to provide the produce."

Everyone was delighted with Jayne's contribution except Reynolds and the girl.

"You put poison in 'em?" Mal demanded.

"Nope," Jayne replied, taking a lusty bite.

"Excessive," she protested.

But he called it even when she accepted the red delicious.