Disclaimer: I do not own Firefly nor do I own the characters of Mal or River. I do however own the DVD box set, the movie, a few books and a lot of fun discussions there of.

Note: This was originally a sort of writing excercise but I rather sort of like it so I thought I would post it up here and see if anyone else did too. This is my first time posting anything that is straight up Firefly. Constructive criticism is more than welcome.

Please enjoy!

Story Note: This takes place sometime after Objects in Space and before the BDM. More or less. I wasn't really thinking about "when" while writing this.


Echoing into Reality

Pain is an entirely different animal to a psychic.

A large part of what the human being considers to be pain is actually a mental and emotional repercussion to the actual physical sensation. This is why things that actually hurt very little will cause someone to cry. If there is emotional trappings to something, such as Kaylee's pure dislike of pain and very real fear of it, smaller things became big and large things became incomprehensible to her system and she made great comments to her idiot brother. Or, conversely, if there were no emotions attached, or as was likely to be the true case of the matter, were not actually human but some sort of man-ape-thing, as Jayne was, then even larger pains were of little matter because the ability to disregard them allowed for the pain center of the brain to ignore a larger part of the receptors and categorize them properly as simple nerve fluctuations in response to the act of cellular damage.

If the man-ape-thing could even be said to have fluctuating nerve patterns much less enough humanoid cells to damage.

Then there were other people whose pain was purely emotional. The actual physical reaction to cellular damage was negligible but the emotional and mental trauma of any one event could cause waves of physical pain to pass through the body. Most of these were almost imperceptible to the conscious mind but manifested in a constant bodily soreness, exhaustion and – in Mal's case – a perpetually sore mood. Some hid it better than others, Zoe and Inara were almost all emotional and mental pain but they focused on other things so it didn't wear on them as much. Her brother let it affect him and she hated knowing that she was the root of his pain but he would never listen to her when she tried to apologize.

The pilot was an entirely different story. He was like sunshine and storms and she enjoyed his company immensely.

The Shepard…he was pain and she would rather not speak of it at all. Speaking is thinking and thinking is pain and she was already in enough, really.

And she felt all of it. All of theirs, one by one and sometimes all at once. She felt the pain of those that they killed (or tortured, there could always be torture). She felt the pain of rage of those mindless creatures that forgot and were forgotten but remembered and hated and scared of and so much rage and too much rage was pain and pain was rage.

Too much screaming.

She sometimes couldn't remember what pain actually felt like. Was it sharp or dull or both? Did it linger or fade or come and go in an instant? Was it real or fake, all just memories or things syphoned? Had she ever felt pain? Logically she must have. Pain is as much a part of the human being as breathing and digesting food and attempting to get enough deep sleep cycles to prevent psychosis. She couldn't entirely claim to be a human being anymore but past tense did exist and she must have had experienced pain there. Had experienced, past perfect. How can the past be perfect? There are flaws, grammatically and historically.

She was in pain but it was all just an echo. An echo of pain that would not be erased.

But this was pain, it was real pain she was certain of it. It took time sometimes to sort out what were her emotions and theirs, what were her thoughts and not her thoughts. But she realized, suddenly as she usually did, things rarely snuck up on her…except Simon's birthday but since they would not let her near anything resembling a form of outside communication or a computer at all (not that she blamed them) that wasn't really her fault…she was alone.

It started happening more and more recently since Jubal Early had made himself unwelcome (past perfect again) and she had become the ship and a parasite to another ship and had made them all generally feel uncomfortable about their attitude around her and then comfortable again because she wasn't going crazy and killing all of them (not that they knew that she knew how), all except the man-ape-thing who slept through all of it. But they would leave her alone for a bit at a time, never too long. In a field of flowers by a town, a field like she was in now, or in her room safe and tight.

And then she would be alone and her thoughts would be her own and she would be more sane than not and her thoughts would be coherent enough for speaking and breathing and being. Gerunds now. But they would all be gone and when they came back and brought their chaos with them and she would have to try hard to stay herself and not someone else, even the quiet ones who never screamed and yelled and pressed themselves on anyone else (personality and politics are the same and one and different but all-encompassing depending on the politics).

But she was alone now and there was no one to give her echoes. And these didn't feel like echoes, they felt too real. And it was throbbing and sharp and her eyes felt too big and her skull to small and everything was compressed in on itself and she wanted to explode and implode and make a mess. Perhaps the mess could be cleaned up again and from the scraps of her imperfection and broken they could put her together whole again, not perfect but perfectly her, future perfect. Will have fixed.

The pain hurt and it was simple to say but hard to feel and harder to stop, especially when you had forgotten how (past perfect). And she was alone so she couldn't ask anyone how to stop it. She just had to feel it and wonder about being numb and if there would be echoes of reality or if imposed emotion only left echoes and real pain just made scars.

"You alright there, little one?"

She was not alone all of a sudden. She opened her eyes and peered up at him. He stood against the light and she thought about cursing him but he usually just shrugged it off with a laugh and at the moment she wanted him to make the pain go away and being mean to him might make him more contrary than helpful even if he started it.

She forgot to answer and he took her silence for answer enough and knelt down on the ground beside her where she had curled on her side (she didn't remember when, that she blamed on the pain).

"Do I need to get your brother to see to you? Are you hurt?"

"Pain."

"I see that, right enough. Did someone hurt you or did you fall?" He looked around as if to determine a culprit for her pain or if he had to blame gravity, a harsher culprit as it required acceleration no greater 11.5 km/second initial thrust to escape, on this planet at least.

"Flowers."

"The flowers hurt you, darlin'? Can't say I can imagine how."

He pat her lightly on the arm, an affectionate gesture he gave her sometimes when he wasn't using all his will power to not touch her at all. He was frightened of her for many reasons but terror attracts especially when there is a root of magnetic draw to cause the terror in the first place.

She liked his smile.

"Pollen. Minor allergic reaction in the respiratory system causing the sinus cavities to flare and become enflamed causing great pressure through the face, temples and surface tissue of the skull."

He looked around again, his eyes on the flowers. She knew he was amused at her way of speaking. She also knew that while he pretended to be stupid to the crew, he was a lot smarter than he let on. Liked to pretend so people spoke to the point. Blunt words betray more than just their definition. Also faster.

He brushed the hair away from her temple with that same smile and she was echoing, or hurting, or gerunding.
"So, basically, you have a headache? And a pretty killer one at that, I imagine."

"Imagine so."

His mind did tricks then, screaming and echoing and she gasped in pain and reality and him and nothing and everything. And then he stopped and smiled at her one more time before picking her up so gently in his arms. She smiled then too, his mind was more tranquil and the echoes of peace brought the emotional turbulence of her own pain down and her mental facilities relaxed while they expanded and the pain echoed, or felt?, less.

"And I imagine that you'd have just laid there all day if no one had stopped by to check on you instead of doing the thing someone as smart as you are supposed to be would do and go to the med lab. I tell you, you two don't say much for the idea of intelligence."

"You say enough." Her smile would not go away, even in the echoes and wakes and cracks and pains. It was nice and she couldn't remember being held. Her brother would have known she wouldn't allow it and her father had too much consequence. She liked it though and wondered if she could find more excuses for him to carry her like this.

"Thank you, Captain."

"You are mighty welcome, little one. Just don't go telling your brother. He might think I have designs on you. Probably afraid you'll get the cooties from a man touching you in anything but a doctorly way."

"He approves of dancing."

His chest jumped as he scoffed at the idea. It made the echoes scream and turn into reality but she told herself she didn't mind and will power was reality if you made it strong enough, a theory that always faltered when it came to will power over your own mind but she'd puzzle that out some other day. Meanwhile she had to put that will power to other nicer things. Would he hold her again like this if she gave him reason? She could come up with reason, she was really smart despite the incessant insanity, if he would.

"He would."

He was chuckling again and she knew he was talking about something else but where there is will there is might and her head was echoing in reality too much to care about semantics at that moment. She had asked a question.

He had answered.


Thank you for reading!

Til next time!