The Talmud (tractate Berakhot 61b) refers to the liver as the seat of anger, with the gallbladder counteracting this. - Wikipedia
So, uh. Hypothetically. A story from the POV of Steve’s new liver would probably be too much crack for the H5-0 fandom, right? Right. - Me, incautiously, on Tumblr
So imagine there's this liver, right? It's a decent liver as livers go; does its job, gets along with the neighbors, maybe goes a little slow on the alcohol detoxification every once in a while so the other organs can have some fun. Point is, it takes good care of its Home, okay, and so you'd think Home would return the favor.
You'd think that, but you'd be wrong.
Because for the last few years, Home, who used to be a perfectly normal human being, has not only subjected his liver to increasingly frequent bursts of adrenaline. Oh no. There have been numerous sprains, inflammations, multiple occasions of blood leakage and once, memorably, the near-total collapse of Home's entire nervous system thanks to what Brain later informed them was something called sarin.
But that's not the worst part.
The worst part is when, after a day filled with adrenaline, bruises, leakage, busted ribs and yet more adrenaline, Home decides that he doesn't actually need his entire liver and has half of it cut out.
More than half of it.
The entire right lobe.
And while said lobe is still shouting, "Hey! Hey, hey, hey hey hey, what are you doing, what's going on?!" and Heart is calling back, faintly, "Sorry, but we gotta!"; while this is going on, dumb, cold hands that don't even have the decency to apologize pluck Right Lobe out of its human, out of Home, where it was grown and where it has worked and lived for the past 39 years.
Pluck it out, just like that, and dump it into a new place. On its way, Right Lobe passes the shredded, quietly leaking remains of another liver, and oh, oh no, that's not good, that's bad, that is really bad. That is terrifying. And the other organs of the new place are sluggish and drowsy, complete strangers, and Right Lobe panics, okay; Right Lobe demands that the cold hands take it back, back to Home, but they connect it to the new system instead.
"Who the hell are you?" a gallbladder slurs. A gallbladder Right Lobe has never met in its entire life, and that's the last thing it remembers before it goes under as well.
Right Lobe, it turns out, is expected to do the work of a whole liver. Because New Place managed to get his own liver torn up so badly that the only organ in the body that can practically regenerate from a quarter of its original mass did not have enough substance left to work with.
Let that sink in.
New Place has managed to lose a vital organ. New Place is an unreasonable, adrenaline-infested hell-hole. New Place, Right-Lobe-Now-Liver decides, is an idiot.
Why is Idiot an unreasonable place to be? Well, first of all, the other organs don't show Liver the faintest shred of sympathy.
"We're gonna make you our partner," Right Kidney says.
"We're gonna get along great," Left Kidney adds, and the other organs snicker.
Liver hates this place.
But as Idiot recovers from his ordeal (hah!), it becomes increasingly obvious why the previous liver ended up the way it did. Because Idiot? Is a suicidal maniac!
Where Liver thought the last few years within Home were stressful, it now misses the relative quiet. Idiot is almost never quiet. Idiot forces Liver to work overtime to produce the hormones that will help Bone Marrow create more blood cells. Idiot leaks practically all the time, and the sheer amount of coagulants Liver has to shove into his bloodstream is exhausting. When Idiot isn't leaking, he's busy running through his glucose repositories and using up his protein like there's no tomorrow. Then again, Liver has already figured out that the likelihood of there being no tomorrow for this guy are distressingly high.
At least Idiot provides more vitamins.
"Come on, it's not so bad," Gallbladder says, because Gallbladder has never known anything else and is thus incapable of realizing that yes, actually, it is that bad. "Hey, you got any bile? I'm gonna order us some vitamin K."
"You know, just once, I'd like to see you bring your own bile," Liver grumbles, but it dutifully flushes some over. "And I don't like vitamin K."
"I bring my own bile! I bring my own bile all the time," Gallbladder protests. Lies. "And what do you mean, you don't like vitamin K? Who doesn't like vitamin K?"
"I don't like vitamin K." Liver says. "Wanna know why?"
"Please, enlighten me."
"All right, first of all, it gets into everything. Small intestine, thoracic duct, bloodstream... by the time it ends up with me, it's practically laden with lipoprotein. I don't like it."
"Brother," Small Intestine says mildly, "you got a problem with my lipoprotein, you can try going without for a while. See how you like it then."
Liver ignores this.
"And second of all," it says instead, "it's got an aftertaste."
"An aftertaste?" Gallbladder repeats incredulously.
"Yes, an aftertaste! A lymph-y aftertaste that sticks around for days." Liver thinks about that for a moment, then amends, "At least it would, if Idiot didn't need so much coagulant that the vitamin K runs out as fast as I can store it."
"His name is Steve," Brain says, not for the first time. Its tone is singularly long-suffering.
Liver ignores this as well.
"So let me get this straight," Gallbladder says. "You don't like vitamin K because it comes with lipoprotein, which you need, and because it would leave an aftertaste if you let it sit for a while. Which you don't."
"Exactly!" Liver spreads its hepatocytes. After all, it's got plenty of space to do so. "See, now we're getting somewhere."
"You know you're weird, right?" Gallbladder says. "You realize this isn't normal."
But it sounds amused so Liver counts it a win.
Because Liver is a diligent worker who may be regenerating cells at high speed, but who's still about forty percent short of a satisfactory output regarding its other duties, it takes a while for it to notice the pattern.
To be fair, the other organs are so used to this pattern that it doesn't cause much of a stir among them. Heart skips a beat and keeps pumping just a little bit faster. Throughout the system, the blood pressure becomes a tick higher.
"Danny," Brain says wistfully, so quietly it's almost inaudible. That's Liver's excuse for not hearing it before, anyway.
Both Intestines give a happy little twitch. A low-key mixture of hormones rolls through Idiot; a combination of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and, most intriguing, oxytocin. Idiot's blood pressure mellows.
Liver knows that combination. Knows it intimately.
"Wait," Liver says. "Wait a moment. Is Steve the guy with the shoulder tattoos? Upper arm?"
Because it may not have been an active participant in interorgan gossip, but there was no avoiding picking up some of it.
"We do have those, yes," Skin says.
"And, uh, this Danny." Liver tries to figure out how to describe... ah. "Blond, great hair? Prefers fatty foods to vegetables?"
"Uh," Brain says, "yes? I wouldn't call the hair great, exactly, but he's certainly obsessed with it."
"I want to touch it. It's probably soft," Right Ring Finger says with a dreamy sigh. All seven other fingers and both thumbs agree.
"All right," Liver says, "let me provide you with some intel."
It takes some convincing that Home – Danny – used to react the same way to Idiot's presence as Idiot – all right, Steve – reacts to Danny's. It takes even more convincing for Brain to act on this new knowledge. Oddly enough, Gallbladder proves to be Liver's best ally.
"Hooyah!" it declares loudly, like that's supposed to mean something. But the other organs pick it up with enthusiasm and eventually, Brain gives in. Liver decides to ask Gallbladder what that was all about, but resolves to do it later. More important things are going on right now.
"If this goes wrong," Brain says, "I'm going to turn him off food for a month."
"He's already eating next to nothing," Stomach points out. Liver almost feels sorry for it; they've all been damaged by Idiot's – Steve's, fine, Steve's – recent encounter with radiation, but Stomach has been hit pretty hard.
"Then I'll make him eat even less," Brain snaps, "now shut up, I'm moving in."
The organs shut up.
Heart pumps double-time in its excitement.
The organs stay quiet.
The level of adrenaline rises.
"Did you move in yet?" Right Kidney asks.
Which is when the whole system gets positively flooded with hormones.
"Whoa," Gallbladder slurs, and Liver has to agree because this feels amazing.
"Contaaaact," Right Ring Finger sighs to the ecstatic agreement of the entire right hand. Stomach churns in jubilation. Skin is shivering with happy goosebumps. Heart is pumping blood and hormones through them all at a speed that cannot possibly be healthy, but they're all drifting along on the best high they've ever had.
And then. Oh, oh, then.
"Hey, Lobe!" Danny's heart shouts, muffled by two sets of ribs and skin. "How you doin?"
"It's Liver!" Liver yells, and hears faint laughter in return.
"Says you," Left Lobe yells back, and Liver misses them, misses them so much, but there's no going back now, is there?
There'll never be any going back.
"Yeah, I'll just be over here," it mutters to itself. "Alone."
The spreading hormones are still too strong to achieve real self-pity, but that doesn't mean that Liver can't try. For one last time, it tries.
Below it, Gallbladder says quietly, "You're not, you know."
"You're not as alone in here as you think," Gallbladder says, strangely insistent, and Liver feels a warmth spread through it that has nothing to do with hormones. Nothing at all.
It pulses, once, sending a gentle flush of bile down its ducts.
Gallbladder quivers slightly.
"Thanks," Liver says, and means it.
Gallbladder is silent for a moment. Then it says, "Did that hurt you? Did appreciating me shrivel some of your hepatocytes?"
And there's that warmth again.
"Little bit," Liver says.
But it's never felt so full.