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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Starring Simon and Kaylee. Featuring River, Mal, and Introducing Dr. Elias. Elias’s warm welcome leaves River cold. Simon deals with a questionable loan. Kaylee deals with a questionable object. The rest of the crew sulks off-page. Don’t worry, guys. You’re leaving Simon in the dust soon enough. Wait, can I say that?
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 889 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Chapter C. Things Out of Place.
*Characters and their 'verse belong to Mr. Whedon; mistakes and follies, my own.
Dr. Elias was sitting atop a stone wall when River and Simon came into view. He stopped drumming his boot heels immediately, jumped off the column and stood, hand up in greeting. They heard him calling out as they walked up the road, still unpaved, that lead from the main street in town to the more secluded, wooded area Elias had chosen for his clinic.
“Simon, xie tian xie di,” Elias clapped him on the shoulder. “I was sitting there thinking how feng dian this whole thing is. Staying in Westfield? Hell, staying on Aramis? And working, what’s more. Sane person’d take off with your ship, with any ship, for that matter.”
“Elias.” Simon took the extended hand and shook it, swinging his bags heavy with equipment out of the way. River dropped her single one in the dirt, rolled her eyes. “You haven’t seen our ship. We’re happy to be here. Aren’t we, River?”
“What lies more, the rug, the dog, the whore?” Elias stopped laughing, of course, at her answer. Simon’s grin fell off his face. But the sun was shining; the weather clear for the next two weeks, and Elias had a vacation looking him right in the eye. He held out his hand to River and dug out an open smile. When she did not accept his hand, he bowed formally, low enough to respectfully greet a dignitary.
“So, this is ‘the River’. I’ve been hearing about you, though more from the natives than Simon here. His assistant with the all-seeing eyes. They’re lovely. Gaoxing jìandào nî. I’m Elias. Dr. Elias, Doc, Elias, people round here would laugh me out of town if they knew my first name, so I just skip it. Rather like your doctor here and last names. Wei, do you fish? Simon, you fish?”
“Fish?” Simon was working through River’s sudden frostiness rather than Elias’s own style of conversation. “No, not really. Do you?”
“Hell no. Just thought I’d ask. Seems like everyone round here does, that is, when they take some time off, and you outta get a taste of vacation, same as me. Something about trout? Or leaping something. Tain xiaode. Point is, you probably need some down time. Same applies to your assistant.” His voice lost some of its joy, observing the two, and he picked up River’s bag without thinking. “Both of you look like you need sun. And rest. In my profession opinion. Wode ma, sunlight and sleep outta fashion in the Core, again? Westfield’s not exactly the Hanging Gardens of Capital City, but sun we’ve got. And shade. Just right for resting under.” He paused, considered. Simon was smiling at the steady flow of words; River was quiet and blank. Elias motioned them on.
“Come on. We’ll get you settled, then I’ll show ya around. Parts you ain’t seen, that it. Clinic you know.” Simon picked up his red case and bags, and gestured for River to walk ahead, following their host. She put her shoulders back and her nose in the air. Walked forward as a dancer would, hips turned out. A walk that had signaled extreme dissatisfaction, and grudging condescension, he remembered. Such as when his family went to the Hanging Gardens for vacation one year. She had wanted to leave the planet. He wondered now, was she acting? reminding him of that time? seriously upset? Maybe neither, none, but something else wholly. Or fine, and not realizing what she was doing. He ran a hand though his hair, and near unbalanced himself and his bags, doing so. He used to know River at a glance. Now, what? He found an untitled riddle. In a language he didn’t know, about a thing he’d never seen. He turned his worry to something he might be able to fix, on Aramis.
“Hey Elias,” he called. “Is there a ... bakery in town? Or around, somewhere?”
“I’m turning my clinic over to a doc that looks like death warmed over, and he’s asking for sweets. I need my head examined.” Elias said to the sky, pushing open a door.
“It’s not for me, I’m sort of in charge of planning a birthday party. For when the crew gets back.”
“Ah, birthday treats. Well, then. You’ll want Miss Gan’s tea house, for the cake.”
“Tea house? For cake?”
“Welcome to Aramis, my friend. Where we have a little bit of everything. Only sideways. Smile at her, and you’ll get a cake tastes like a dream. Don’t send River, though. She doesn’t care much for girls. Or blonds, for that matter.” He smiled ruefully. “Probably a good thing, cooking like that makes a man consider marriage. Can you imagine? Married? At twenty-eight. To this. And he threw his hand out, towards the dirt road, two-storey town in the distance, and the empty sky.
Simon unpacked in the small room Elias had shown him. Dark wood and light paint, the place had an old feel to it. Like it had seen much. River, he guessed, would be flopped out on her own bed, just across the hall. Elias had first offered her a beautiful room, full of pinks and greens, with a wide bed and two windows that opened up to the woods in back. She had walked out, opened the door to the one she was in now. A room of dark blue, with bunk beds. Elias had shrugged at Simon. “She can take whatever she wants. There’re rooms aplenty—used to be a big family farm. Couple of boys slept here, I think.” Shells, from where, Simon could not imagine, lined a shelf that circled the entire room. The windows faced the road. Simon wanted to believe River picked a room closer to him. But he knew deep down it probably had more to do with the view from the window, or even the bunk beds, than him.
At least, he figured, some things stayed the same. River did not unpack now; she never did before. Just left her things in a case, pulled them out as she needed. Waste of time, was her rationale. And that she would not bring on vacation fabric prone to wrinkles.
He, however, placed his socks in the creaking drawers. Lined his shirts up in the large cabinet that looked older than the world. He dumped out his second bag to sort through the half medical odds and ends, half his own things, drifting in memories of his summer travels, when the clunk of a handgun against a metal case brought him squarely back to the present. He looked at the gun.
Mal had been leaning against in the corner of the infirmary while Simon packed up his supplies.
“You taking everything, doc?” he had asked. Drawled out, really. The question flustered Simon.
“I’m not taking anything I’ll think you’ll need, Captain. Not that I think—hope—you’ll need anything. But these are the sensitive instruments. And the more difficult meds to dose correctly.”
“You saying I can’t handle my own infirmary?” Mal’s eyebrow went up.
“No, no, Captain. I’m just...” Simon stopped what he was doing, and turned to Mal. “Actually, that’s exactly what I’m saying. In fact, I’m taking everything just so you can’t try and use it. Or get hurt badly enough to make someone else use it.” To this, Mal did not reply. Although he stood up straight. Thinking the conversation closed, Simon was about to get back to packing, when Mal stopped him.
“Add this,” he said, holding out the gun. “To your stole-from-my-ship kit.”
“Captain,” Simon said. Unsure of where to go.
“As a precaution,” he said. “Case it takes us a couple of minutes to come save you.”
“Yes, but, I don’t know how to use a gun. Remember? I’ve never actually shot anyone. Even when I’ve tried.” Mal contemplated telling Simon to leave it to River, but decided that line of thought would not sit well with the boy. It hardly sat well with him, leading him wonder if he was only letting Simon out of his sight because River would be around. And what that meant he had no desire to unwind.
“Just consider it one more thing I can’t misuse, in your absence,” he said, and left it on the chair. For Simon to choose.
Simon picked it up. Leaned over to slide it under his pillow. Stopped, and almost laughed at himself. Dropped it back into an empty bag, put the bag in a bottom drawer, closed the drawer with his foot. He got to the doorway before turning around and going back to the drawer. He took out the bag, unzipped it, and slid it under his bed. He sat down on the bed. Then lay down. Turned onto his stomach, dropped an arm over the side. Felt for the bag, pulled it into easy reach. He stopped again, shaking his head. Pushed himself up and flopped over. The very idea was laughable. What could he do with a gun? Nothing—he had neatly proved that twice. But he let it be, and stood up. Surveying the room from the doorway, nothing looked unusual. Just objects neatly arranged, suitcases placed under the bed. He went to find Elias, and get briefed on his new patients.
The sun was setting, as Kaylee wandered the corridors of her ship. She walked without thinking to the catwalks of the cargo bay, ended in front of Inara’s shuttle. Ex-shuttle. Kaylee made another fruitless wish about things not changing. If Inara was still around, she might have convinced Mal to let Ledah stay for dinner. Maybe even have taken them up in the shuttle. It was strange to think a girl three years older than her had never been in a ship before. Let alone taken a flight. She ignored how terra-bound her own life had been, before Serenity. Instead she sighed, turned away from the door and retraced her steps, not knowing what she was looking for. Jayne and Book were below her, working out together. And laughing. Wash and Zoe were likely tucked away in bed, she thought, before work began for real in the morning. And the captain would be sitting somewhere, frowning at nothing. Everyone fun up and left her, she mournfully thought. Inara, gone; Simon and River, gone, even Ledah had left in an hour. Once the Captain’s call about supper’d come over the comm. No one fun left, she thought, or everyone with someone else.
She paused by Simon’s room. He had not taken much, and the place was as neat as ever. Everything right angles and tucked away. She thought of her own room, before she had joined Serenity; every door open, bits and things wrapped in blankets and shirts, flung into bags and an old suitcase of her father’s. Inara had packed most of her things herself, but Kaylee remembered a good bit of disorder as things were divided into piles: pack up, throw out, give away. Simon had not disturbed a thing. “But he would only be gone eight days,” she said silently.
“To Westside, and the new doctor needed tending his own self.” Kaylee dug her hands deep into her pockets. Looked around.
This room never felt much like his, like him. His absence was more notable in the closed infirmary, the turned-off lights and missing cases he had taken planetside. She thought of their last half-decent conversation in the infirmary and sat down on his bed. Took out her hands and spread them against his blanket, leaning back slightly. Simon had sounded concerned about Dr. Elias at dinner, as he always was, when people were hurting. Always trying to fix something, make something better. The townfolk of Westfield were luck to have him.
The sparse quarters made her earlier plans, daydreams, seem brighter, the idea she had of spending time planetside with him—and around her birthday. She would have coaxed him out of their infirmary some evening, when his work was mostly done—and they could have gone for a walk. Under the stars, for once, instead of among them. Maybe even pull together a picnic, drag him out to some real tall trees behind the doctor’s office, so they could still hear if someone came looking for help, and sit under the green canopy, and talk...
She moaned a bit, half in despair, half in amusement at her own woeful self. Rolling over to her side, she curled up on his bed, careful to keep her boots over the edge, not wanting to trail grease and dust across the clean blanket. She rested her head against his pillow, wishing it would smell like him, but all she got was the slightly metal tang of just washed clothes. She set her head down, anyways, atop her folded hands. Almost closed her eyes, except that she saw it, in the nook beside his bed. Eyes wide open, she breathed in quickly. And stared.
Mal was in his bunk, unusually early. He had told the crew to get plenty of rest this night, same as any before a job. When they had that luxury. But he was seated at his desk, looked at the console screen, thinking of Tessa.
Tessa, who he had fallen out of love with. He remembered how it happened, exactly. They had been dancing, dressed up fine, and she had missed two of his quick jokes. She missed all of them, he had realized. Sailed right by them, and kept talking about her horse. Which was a fine creature and could jump any fence, creek or gate in fifty miles, but Mal could not have cared less about her breeding, that went back to Earth-that-was, the family claimed. Especially because he had heard it a dozen times before. You don’t break up with a girl on a night you took her dancing, he knew, but he showed up late for their next three dates, apologetic and wry, and she flounced out of his life. And he had smiled.
So he knew people did. Fell out of tangled desires and wants. Like he was hoping Kaylee would. Didn’t have to be an epiphany. He would be happy with a gradual decay. Slow dawning that she deserved much better than a boy always think of her second, after a scrambled sister. Maybe even after a critical patient.
Hope, though, was mostly for himself. And much as he would like to wake up clear-headed, he figured he would have to settle for a day-by-day fading. But here it was, well more than a year gone, and he felt a little shaky, in his stomach. Had played with his hair more than a couple times. Straightened his shirt, suspenders. And sat thinking. All before he could hit the send button, on his cortex screen. He waited for the connection and hoped.
When Inara’s face appeared, he heard his heartbeat in his ears and knew he was still stuck.
xie tian xie di: thank goodness/god
feng dian: crazy, deranged.
Gaoxing jìandào nî: pleased to meet you
Tain xiaode: God knows.
Wode ma: Mother of God.
Tune in Thursday for Chapter D: What Comes of Talking to Girl-folk.
I’m curious about lengths of chapters. I have some room to play with as to how I break them in the beginning of this story, and as I post to entertain, let me know if I can cut/extend their lengths to better do so.
Sunday, August 20, 2006 4:58 AM
Sunday, August 20, 2006 5:29 AM
Thursday, August 31, 2006 7:21 AM
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