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River is sleeping, now, but I don't know for how long. I had considered giving her a tranquilizer, but many of them seem to have unpleasant interactions with the acaptrazinophinol. Also, after the first time that she fell asleep...I can tell when words appear in her dreams.

I can't find anything that will hasten the decay of the acaptrazinophinol, either.

Book and Kaylee have both been very kind - trays of food appear on the table while I'm caring for River. Kaylee reached over and stroked my hair once, briefly, when she came in. I think she stroked River's hair, too.

I think River's waking up again.

River gave up her perch and curled up next to me in the middle of the night, clutching a chocolate bar in one hand. (Nothing I do, obviously, will render it safe.)

"What's wrong, mei mei?" I asked.

She hunched her shoulders as if someone were beating her and put one hand over my mouth. She closed her eyes tightly for a minute, and then opened her lips slightly and said, "Words. Hurt." It was as if each syllable were ripping her mouth apart as she said them, and she began crying as soon as she'd finished. I held her and stroked her hair until she fell asleep.

Book brought a tray in with breakfast. He began to speak, and River immediately woke up and began crying soundlessly, her hands over her ears. I motioned to him to stop, and mouthed "Thank you" to him.

I tried signing to her briefly over breakfast; her hands flew up to her eyes and, for a moment, I thought she was going to do a reproduction of Oedipus, replacing Jocasta's golden fibulae with a breakfast fork. She did not, but it's apparent that sign language is no better than speech. As written language in part uses the same areas of the brain as does sign and spoken language (and as I suspect she discovered this problem when she read the words on the chocolate wrapper), I do not think it is in her best interests to try communicating in that way.

As long as she cannot hear anyone speak, she exhibits no pain, but the sound of language, even if the person in question is not speaking to her, is apparently excruciating. Kaylee came down to the passenger dorm singing, and by the time she got to our cabin, River was a crying, writhing mess. I took her outside and explained the situation in the barest whisper, and she's since kept everyone away from the infirmary, common area and passenger dorm - except for Book, who silently delivered another tray of food several hours ago.

Part of me wishes I had pursued psychiatry instead of surgery, but had I done that, I could never have saved Kaylee, and River and I would be in Alliance hands by now.

I am aware one proper way to do an assay of psychiatric medications is through trial and error; one tests the medicines that may theoretically help the patient until one arrives at the most effective combination of pharmaceuticals with the least significant side effects. I did not consider when beginning, however, that I might inflict this level of torture (for torture it is) on River. The acaptrazinophinol has a three day half life; it's very likely that words will hurt her for several more days, and it's my fault. I can't even do anything for her, as I don't think analgesics would help the situation; I can only stay silently by her, and hold her, and cry when she does.

I am not intelligent enough. I am not intelligent enough. If our positions were reversed, this wouldn't be happening. If River were herself, and had to care for me, she would know what to do.

I am failing her.

Got very little sleep last night, as moans, sighs and cries of "Ta ma de!" from hay stack in cargo bay were loud enough to travel down to the passenger dorm. Obviously, crew quarters must be better soundproofed - and next time, Zoe and Wash can stay there. I did not need to know about Wash's "da diao", and certainly not to that level of detail.

We all learned the dangers of putting the euphemism "A roll in the hay" into practice. Zoe, it turns out, is allergic. She spent much of breakfast glowering stonily at everyone present while scratching incessantly. Wash announced at breakfast that he had some "important pilot-y things to do" and locked himself in the bridge. Captain mumbled something about "paperwork" and fled back to his quarters. Kaylee said she had to feed the cows, Jayne rushed off to perform septic flush of ship and Book said that his orders called for him to perform a day-long meditation one day of the year and hastily retired to his cabin, thus leaving me alone with Zoe, accompanied by the sounds of cutlery on plate and fingernails on skin.

scratch scratch scratch

I looked up from my plate to see her scratching under her arm. Serenity does not need laser cannons; one look from Zoe is enough to let the atmosphere out of any ship. I looked down at my food.

scratch scratch scratch

I thought of the old story of the mouse and the lion with the thorn in its paw. There was no doubt which one I was.

scratch scratch scratch

I cleared my throat. "Zoe?"

scratch scratch scratch

"What?" she growled.

I looked up, saw where she was scratching, and looked down again, as was not worth bruising and mutilation at Zoe's hands to be caught staring at her there. In the mood she was in, she was only seeking an excuse, which was probably why Jayne found the septic tank flush preferable. "Would you like an ointment for that?"

"No, Doc. I prefer scratching my rutting..." She cut herself off at that unfortunate curse word, and I managed to refrain from laughing (self-preservation instinct apparently not entirely eradicated).

Brought Zoe to infirmary, and dispensed hydrocortisone creme. Began applying it to the rash on her neck, and could feel her beginning to relax. As I began spreading it down to her collarbone, she was almost...purring.

Oh, no.

Am obviously suffering from some twisted version of Stockholm Syndrome. Conditions leading to it, according to psychiatric encyclopedia, are:

  • Perceived threat to survival and the belief that one's captor is willing to act on that threat (am fully aware that the Captain, Zoe and Jayne, at least, would be very comfortable killing me if needed, though wo bu mi lian JAYNE. EVER. )
  • The captive's perception of small kindnesses from the captor within a context of terror (I'm not dead yet, and in fact have a job)
  • Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor (have been largely unable to get a perspective from River)
  • Perceived inability to escape (Serenity vs. some colony world = frying pan vs. fire)
This is the obvious explanation for apparent sexual attraction to half of crew. Were it not for psychological handicap, would undoubtedly be able to perform medical duties without noticing the smell of Zoe's skin, for example.

Handed her tube of cream and suggested she ask Wash to continue with application. Wished for cold shower, but none is available on board - began testing acaptrazinophinol's effects on River, instead. She has become very quiet, but does not seem much more coherent. For two hours, she's been perched in a corner of the table in my room, staring at my new hiding place for the chocolate (how did she figure that out?), as if she is expecting it to come out so she can pounce. Fortunately, will physically block her access to candy while sleeping - although is only marginally less creepy to have her staring at me in same fashion.

Ta ma de! - fuck me blind
da diao - big dick
wo bu mi lian - will not get a crush on

Inara, it turned out, wanted to use the flowers as props for a game - Odysseus and the Sirens. Despite my complete lack of acting ability, it went well until she dragged me down on the rose-covered bed. Would beat Homer soundly for his shi yi writing about "field of flowers", were he not already dead, crumbled to dust, and probably molecularly destroyed with rest of Earth. We spent the majority of the evening removing thorns from each other's tender areas. River was awake when I returned, so I have slept exactly not at all. Am queasy; feel like I am vibrating slightly. Could be a sign of caffeine overdose.

shi yi - poetic

Kaylee, it turns out, has a significant pollen allergy and has spent past 18 hours sneezing and sniffling. Not only am I no longer the last man to poison her, but can now be her knight in shining armor - or at least knight in white lab coat,dispensing antihistamines and decongestants.

Kaylee came to the infirmary before breakfast, her nose an incredibly brilliant shade of vermillion. As I was handing her medication, she suggested that at our next landfall, I accompany her around town on Jiangyin. I said, "Duo me qi miao. It sounds like a lovely afternoon. You, me and a platoon of Alliance security officers - I can't think of anything more pleasant." She stormed out in a huff.

I am yi guan ben dan with beautiful women. Need warning sensor that will trigger vocal paralysis when I am about to say something truly stupid - or, perhaps, trigger an epileptic fit, which could not be much more humiliating than present situation.

Inara just knocked and has asked my help in moving flowers up to her shuttle. Perhaps this means I've returned to her good graces after the dreaded stew incident.

Duo me qi miao - how wonderful
yi guan ben dan - a consistent idiot

Patients treated: 1 - roses purchased: 1 - roses delivered to Kaylee: possibly hundreds (none mine) - chocolate obtained: not nearly enough

Was woken in middle of night to learn Captain would be forced to fight a duel in the morning, and until said duel was complete, we were all hostages of a rather repulsive man named Badger. Did not think much of this - after all, have seen him dispatch men with guns and bare-handed - but learned that he has apparently never learned to use a sword.

It seems that even when I am not aware I am making assumptions in this new life, my assumptions are wrong. Still, reassuring to know there is at least one weapon with which I am more proficient than anyone else on board. If we ever have to conquer a medieval castle, I'm sure it will be a useful talent.

Crew joined together to plot a way to escape the ship. Jayne threatened to take his clothes off to provide a distraction. Just when I thought the situation could not possibly worsen, River appeared. (I will note that the preceding sentence has become a common sentiment in my journal. I hope that changes soon.) I tried to find a way to subtly get her away, but before I could, Badger took note of her.

See above statement about assumptions. I was envisioning babbling, and hysteria, and a quick trip to an Alliance prison. Instead, she spoke to him as if she came from his own world. It reminded me of when we were children at the summer cottage, and snuck down to the village to pretend we were locals. Just like then, River gave a perfect performance, completely setting Badger back on his heels and shocking the rest of us. After turning Badger into a simpering, cowering idiot, she turned on her heel, said to me, "Call me if anyone interesting shows up," and left.

As Jayne pointed out afterward, "That was exactly the kind of distraction we could have used."

By the time we put a plan together that didn't involve Jayne stripping his clothes off or making sexual advances on Kaylee, Zoe, or myself (the thought of the last still makes me shudder), Inara and the Captain arrived. Quite a relief, as I don't think I could have pulled off the distraction in question. The Captain had taken rather a bit of damage in the duel; I dragged him off to the infirmary as quickly as possible.

I convinced him to lie back on the table so I could treat his wounds. He shut his eyes for a moment, let out a sigh, and then looked at me...

...oh, no.

Must have been the combination of sleep deprivation, stress, sexual deprivation, and chocolate withdrawal. Could not, not, not have been the combination of the smell of sweat, grass and blood, the way the dress shirt showed off his shoulders, his slightly battered, beaten appearance, or the sudden vulnerable look in his eyes. (Blue eyes. Very blue. Am restraining self from making comparisons to sapphires.) For a moment, I thought he might kiss me. The ensuing medical care was difficult, as I was unable to maintain the detachment appropriate to a medical procedure and was instead acutely aware of exactly how many centimeters away from his skin I could still feel his body heat, and strongly focused on only touching him as many times as needed to complete the procedure.

Not only as delusional as River; also losing ability to construct sentences properly. Sadly, cannot treat both of us simultaneously. Sleeping with arrogant, acid-tongued captain with severe deficiency in self-preservation instinct seems exciting height of lunacy.

First Kaylee, now Captain. May have some heretofore undiagnosed weapon-wound fetish. If so, pray Jayne does not get shot, stabbed or otherwise wounded in battle; I refuse to date wu zou miaozi Neanderthal.

Did not leave infirmary for several hours, as was searching for drugs to block libido. (Sadly, none on hand that do not have severe side effects, such as temporary death.) Entered cargo bay to find delivery man balancing two dozen roses.

"Hey, you!" he said. "This here's for the lady of the ship."

"I can summon Ms. Serra for you," I said to him.

"Who?" he asked. "Naw, lad. These'm're for a Ms. Frye."

They were the first delivery for Kaylee, but not the last. By the time we left Persephone, she had received sixty roses (two dozen pink, one dozen red, one dozen white, and one dozen mixed coral and orange - am contemplating chemical castration for the man with temerity to send those), four boxes of chocolate, a basket of strawberries, a pineapple, and - the gift she was most excited over - a box of long-handled wrenches and some sort of power drill. I do not know who the Mr. Murphy is that sent the last one, but if we were remaining on Persephone I obviously wouldn't stand a chance.

Chocolate boxes seemed to lose a few grams between their arrival and my delivery of them to her. Obviously learning lessons in thievery from crew. Desperately needed chocolate as emergency bandage for hemorrhaging ego; only feeling slight pangs of guilt.

As Captain, Jayne, Wash and Zoe drove the cows onto the ship, Book returned with chocolate and a rather battered-looking, wilted rose. Could not bear to hand it to Kaylee after carting armloads of perfect hothouse blossoms to her. I gave the rose to River, who promptly fed it to a cow. The Captain shouted at me, "Don't let your damn sister poison the cattle!" and banned her from the cargo bay until the cattle reach their destination.

Kaylee has offered to share the fruit from her admirers with the crew after dinner. Will attempt to feign cheer. Then will retire to cabin to hide most of chocolate in highly secretive, River-safe location, and devour the rest. Shall obviously become criminal, obese, loveless doctor with disgraceful fat hau for wounded crew members.

wu zou miaozi - filthy barbaric
fat hau- lustful feelings

Book has agreed to make purchases for me off ship. Asked him to purchase a dozen roses and chocolate (to resupply new, VERY secret cache). He looked at the money I was handing him, looked at me, and said, "Son, do you have any idea how much roses cost, here?"

Now I do. Have never had to budget before; purchases smaller than a vehicle or a flat were always well within my means. Fortunately, Kaylee used to living on shoestring; hopefully single rose will be enough to impress. Considered sacrificing chocolate, but Book assured me that significant amounts of chocolate could be found for less than the cost of a second rose.

I'm not certain of Book's profession prior to his assumption of religious orders, but the long list of chores I accrued during tonight's card game makes it a safe bet that he was once a card shark. Although if Book were offering me that bet, I doubt very much I would take it. Loud screaming, moaning and caterwauling from Wash and Zoe's room significant distraction during card game. Think Jayne was almost as handicapped as I by the noise. Perhaps vow of celibacy gives Book significant edge.

Game was interrupted when River began tearing labels off food cans. Cannot figure out why she did it; nothing she said made sense. Imagine she also took wrappers off chocolate.

There is some kind of logic here, some kind of code I should be able to figure out. The letters seemed insane, but there was a code inside; I just had to learn to read it. It took me months to crack that one. This may take longer. I'm beginning to wish I had trained as a psychiatrist rather than a trauma surgeon. Everyone on board seems to think I should be able to cure her. I don't think any of them realize that in this particular field of expertise, I'm only slightly more knowledgeable than they are.

When I was told they were hurting her, I had no idea this was what they meant. I keep trying to access journals, papers, anything that could give me some hint of what has happened to her. I need an expert's help, but out here I AM the expert.

"Top three percent of your class," the Captain keeps saying. It doesn't matter. Right now, I'm useless. I can only watch, and work by trial and error, and pray that I don't make her any worse.

Number of physicals performed: 1 - number of times avoided by Kaylee: 190 - number of breakdowns by River: 3 (relieving tedium of day) - bars of chocolate eaten: 2 (out of sheer necessity)

Tried to see Kaylee for physical today, but was unable to speak to her even briefly. Upon seeing me, she either flees or becomes deeply engrossed in conversation with Zoe or Captain or Inara. Need to find some way of making up whole toxic-stew incident to her.

Was given inspiration for gift by Wash during his physical. He was discussing his courtship of Zoe (in light of imminent invasive examination, seemed to feel need to prove himself as heterosexual as possible).

"It was just after she got shot in the leg. You don't want her as a patient, Doc. She's mean when she's hurt. She threw a shoe at Mal when he tried to bring her soup. Or maybe it was her hairbrush. Anyway, she was saying she could take care of herself, growling at everyone and about to rip open those stitches any minute. Probably not the best time to try something, but I figured bu ru hu xue, yan de hu zi, right? And, you know, since she was hurt it would give me the advantage if I had to run away. I spent the last of my cash on two oranges and a rose. Brought them to her while she was trying to get down to her quarters without putting any weight on that leg, and she just about fell the rest of the way down the ladder."

Unfortunately, missed rest of story, as was trying to plot way to purchase dozen roses without leaving ship. May enlist Book as partner in crime. Would ask Inara, but she is far too busy with work to be disturbed.

After learning Wash's family history, am not surprised he became pilot - with so much melanoma in family, spending majority of time in outer space seems sensible way to avoid UV rays.

Came back to cabin to find River crying in middle of floor, surrounded by naked chocolate bars from my hidden cache. Could not find out why she was crying, or where wrappers had gone. Ate chocolate as pure stress release - must not let such items go to waste. River watched me eat and said "N-oleoythanolamine and N-linoleoylethanolamine delay the breakdown of anandamide in the brain. Addict." Then she stole one of the chocolate bars and ran into one of the hidden cargo areas. It has been two hours and I still have not been able to find her, but another chocolate bar has gone missing.

She will eventually need more chocolate. Am wrapping a bar in plastic and placing it under pillow before going to sleep. Will inject her with sedative while she is distracted by rich cocoa confection.

03:15 - River is more sneaky than previously imagined - chocolate bar under pillow has vanished! Considered baiting her bed with last remaining bar, but ate it instead. Cannot be expected to stick to nutritious diet when insane, stealthy, chocolate-addicted sister roams ship freely and unmedicated except by tryptophan, caffeine, sugar and phenylethylamine.

bu ru hu xue, yan de hu zi - if you don't enter the tiger's lair, you can't catch any cubs.

Crew members injured: 2 (only slightly) - physicals performed: 1 - sisters cured: 0 - planets abruptly departed from: 1

Performed Book's physical today. He is in remarkably good health for a man of his age; has also apparently had several injuries treated with the sort of skill one only sees at the best Core hospitals. V. curious as to his occupation prior to becoming Shepherd. Had not imagined discomfort of performing proctological exam on man who generally cooks one dinner; strange to have casual conversation about need for new kitchen supplies while three fingers inserted into Book’s rectum.

Thought we were staying on planet longer, but we left Santo like thieves in the middle of the night. (Of course, other options would be to leave like thieves at dawn, or like thieves in the middle of the day, or perhaps like thieves during a particularly brilliant sunset.) Mal and Jayne robbed some slavers over a game of pool and got into a bar fight for their trouble. Knew uninjured state of crew was too good to be true.

Otherwise, things largely in stasis. River still not well. Kaylee still avoiding me. Wash's wrist still hurts, and he still says he must consult with Zoe before I can investigate their work area. Inara marginally warmer, but not yet to levels of warmth previously enjoyed. On bright side, Jayne no longer chou; apparently blackmail of Book has been sufficient.

chou - smelly

Professor Bovoin once said in class that the life of a trauma surgeon was "boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror." That actually seems far more descriptive of life as a fugitive.

Between tests on River (which she is enduring with less and less grace), have been reading Li ji. Continual messages of filial piety rather distressing; after rescuing River against Father's orders and "going on the lam" (lam/Tam - there's a piece of doggerel just begging to be written), have completely tossed aside most Confucian ideals. Am considering tossing aside Confucian texts, as well. Book would make much more satisfying thud against wall if was old-fashioned paper volume; deleting file from notebook seems anticlimactic. Notebook really should have option of loud crashing noise on deletion, and perhaps an image of flames, just to provide one with visceral thrill of destroying offending text.

Will apparently be on Santo for several days. Am planning to perform crew physicals, as would be nice to get baseline when no one is injured or sick, and am beginning to think this would be rare time when neither of above is true.

Li ji - Book of Propriety (early Confucian text)

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