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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Kaylee tries to think of a way to ease Simon's anxiety over their approaching wedding while River shares some of her past with Rafe. Simon/Kaylee, River/Rafe, Mal/Inara
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1002 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
A/N: The plot thickens and the angst builds ... here we go ...
Thanks to Leiasky and Kaynara ... you know why!
And keep commenting - it keeps me writing!
“Sweetie, what’d ya think?”
Simon glanced over to his fiancée, unable to keep the smile off his face at her sated expression. Leaning towards her, he nipped a bit of wayward frosting off her lip with a quick kiss and teased, “You mean, I actually get a say?”
Swatting at him playfully, Kaylee giggled, and the sound warmed Simon’s heart. Sitting back from her, he watched as she curled her legs underneath her on the sofa, pulling a small notepad off the coffee table. “Well o’ course, silly. Now, we tried the chocolate-chocolate, which I know would be ‘Nara’s favorite,” she confided, consulting her list. “An’ the chocolate-coconut. Then there was the vanilla-raspberry, the vanilla-lemon an’ the vanilla-strawberry.”
Looking back to the tray on the table before them, Simon saw the remnants of their cake samples, a few drops of icing and crumbs. Stroking his chin thoughtfully, he sat back and pondered. “Well, the chocolate-coconut was awfully good.” Catching Kaylee’s pout out of the corner of his eye, Simon pulled her towards him and whispered, “But the vanilla-strawberry was the best.”
Squealing with excitement, Kaylee kissed him soundly, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling herself flush to him. Simon returned her ardor with equal fervor of his own, delighting in the sweet taste the icing had left in her mouth. Pulling apart as they needed to breathe, Simon rested his forehead to Kaylee’s and told her, “I am so in love with you.”
“You are, huh?” Kaylee teased lightly, starting a gentle line of kisses from his jaw to his ear. As she swirled her tongue around the lobe, Simon felt his insides quiver with delight and he sighed. “It’s a good thing I’m in love with you too.”
With his arms still around her, Simon held her even closer and pulled them down onto the couch, Kaylee’s warm and supple body lying on top of his. With both of them feeling a bit heady from the sugar rush, they continued to kiss and caress like two teenagers, and it was only once Simon read the pure bliss on Kaylee’s face that he decided to ask the question he’d been hesitant to broach for over a week.
“Kaylee?” he asked quietly, smirking as she all but moaned an acknowledgement, her lips firmly planted on the soft skin of his neck. Running his hands along her back, he continued. “I was thinking, wouldn’t it be great if we were already married?”
Doing her best to concentrate on what he was saying, Kaylee propped herself up on one arm. Gazing down into his serious eyes, she furrowed her brow and asked, “What?”
“I was thinking,” Simon told her, brushing some of her hair back from her face and glancing his hand to her cheek. “What if we just skipped the wedding and eloped?”
Unlike the giggle of delight and bright, shining smile he had hoped for, Simon was suddenly confronted with a very peeved Kaylee. Pushing herself off of him, she scrambled to the other end of the sofa, straightening her clothes and glaring. “What’re you talkin’ ‘bout, Simon Tam?”
Sitting up himself, Simon took a deep breath and prayed he had not just discovered a new way to be a boob. “It’s just that the wedding is so much work and we don’t need to have a fancy party just to tell everyone how we feel.” Reaching for her hand, his face fell as she stubbornly crossed her arms over her chest. “Eloping we would be so much more intimate, just the two of us.”
Green eyes blazing, Kaylee’s lips pressed into a thin line as she regarded the cowardly man before her. She had always thought Simon was brave and noble, sacrificing everything for River all those years ago, taking a bullet from Early and doing his best to keep them all alive during the Reaver battle. But now as she watched him furiously try to backpedal out of their wedding, she had her doubts.
“I don’t believe you,” she bit out, swallowing hard in an effort to fight back the tears of hurt she felt forming. “I thought you was happy about us gettin’ married. I din’t know you was ashamed of takin’ me for your wife.”
His eyes widening in a look of pure horror, Simon’s mouth fell open as he found himself desperate for some kind of response to her accusation. Hurrying to fix what had clearly become a huge misunderstanding he inched towards her and said earnestly, “Kaylee, that’s not it at all. I would feed our wedding to every cortex screen in the ‘verse.”
“Then why you wanna call it off now?” she questioned, her anger slowly fading to hurt and confusion. “We only got three weeks to go.”
Sighing heavily, Simon hung his head. Bringing his hands up to rub at his temples, he hoped to stave off the pounding headache he knew was coming. The same one that had assaulted him every day since his mother had waved to RSVP. Raising anxious eyes back to her, Simon admitted, “My parents are coming.”
Still not catching on, Kaylee scooted towards him. It was obvious by the sad, strained look on his face that whatever was happening was taking its toll. Reaching for his hand, she squeezed it and told him, “I know. You said your ma waved last week.”
Nodding, Simon tried to explain. “Right, and just as I suspected, she made it a point to tell me that she and father had duties they must perform as the groom’s parents.”
“Well, yeah, sweetie, I read all about ‘em.” Kaylee had indeed versed herself in just about every known wedding tradition, both English and Mandarin over the past months. “They’re supposed to host and pay for the rehearsal dinner and pay for a majority of the reception.” Almost as if to herself, she added, “’Course we’re kinda fudgin’ that one, what with us payin’ for an’ plannin’ a big part o’ the party afterwards.”
Squeezing her hand, Simon drew Kaylee’s attention back to him and smiled sadly. “Kaylee, I wish I could tell you that all the plans you’ve made are going to remain the same once my parents arrive, but …” Releasing another sigh, he finally admitted, “It’s just not the case.” Taking a deep breath, he added, “My mother asked for the seating chart, menu, catering service and location the other day. She wants to make sure it meets with her approval.”
“Oh.” Kaylee’s small exclamation was quiet, but Simon could hear the disappointment in her tone and he hated it.
“I’m so sorry, Kaylee, but this is just what she does.” Simon felt awful and as a result he could no longer sit still. With his anxiety on the rise, he stood abruptly, pacing a convoluted path about the room. “I tried to reason with her, but to top it all off, she’s invited some of the biggest names in Sihnonese and Osirian society. And all they’ll care about is appearances.”
Kaylee watched Simon for a moment, still a bit put out that Regan would be so un-trusting of her. Kaylee had really thought she and the woman had bonded quite nicely during her last visit. But as she studied Simon’s nervous and tense posture, she knew that it didn’t really matter what Regan did or did not do. What mattered was that her fiancé, soon-to-be husband, was going to worry himself sick over something neither of them could control. And she couldn’t have that.
Rising, Kaylee stepped into his path, halting him with her hands resting on his shoulders. “Sweetie, you gotta calm down. Your mama an’ I, we’ll talk things through an’ see what happens. It’s gonna be all right.”
“But all your plans,” Simon stated again, his tone a bit wistful as he thought of the hard work Kaylee had put into their special day falling to the wayside.
“Plans are meant to change, Simon,” she reminded him, her smile bright as she shared more of her eternal optimism. “Hopefully, once your ma sees all I’ve done, she’ll be a bit more relaxed an’ let us be, but if not …” Shrugging, Kaylee simply flashed another huge smile and said, “Well, all that matters to me is that we’re married by the end o’ the day, so as long as she don’t fool ‘round with that, I’m shiny.”
Releasing a pent-up sigh, Simon quickly wrapped her into his arms, holding her tight. “I love you,” he whispered against her cheek, pressing kisses to her temple. “Thank you.”
Squeezing him back, Kaylee asked lightly, “You really wanna thank me?”
Chuckling softly, Simon answered by pressing a warm and hungry kiss to her mouth which Kaylee eagerly returned.
Kaylee rose to the sound of furious tapping. Rubbing her sleep-filled eyes, she pulled herself out of bed with a groan and tied on her robe. Following the consistent noise, she wandered to the living room, unable to keep the tiny smile off her face as she regarded Simon.
He was bare-chested, a pair of sleep pants his only clothing as he sat on their plush couch, holding a data card and stylus. It was obvious he’d been reading something, but now it appeared he was lost in thought. The stylus, the source of the noise, was absentmindedly drumming against the screen, Simon’s fingers rolling it back and forth as his blue eyes focused on a far off point.
Sighing quietly, Kaylee wished she knew of a way to ease his trepidation over his parents’ imminent arrival. A mischievous smile playing across her features, she hurried back to their bedroom, grabbing an item from his dresser before returning.
He had not moved in the seconds she’d been gone and so, still smiling, she sidled up behind the couch. Leaning over next to him, she dropped the socks she’d grabbed into his lap.
As he looked to her with a startled expression, Kaylee teased, “I figured ya might need ‘em. Fer your cold feet.”
Chuckling lightly, Simon picked up the socks and threw them in a high arc across the room. As Kaylee laughed, he turned to face her, rising up on his knees, and pulled her close. Bringing his mouth to hers, he murmured, “My feet are fine,” before kissing her fervently, his lips possessing hers with passion.
Moaning softly at his exquisite touch, Kaylee held onto him tightly and whispered against his mouth. “Then why’re you out here?”
Continuing to kiss along her cheek and to her ear, Simon placed one last kiss to her temple before wrapping his arms around her waist and laying his head to her breast. “I was just restless,” he explained vaguely. “I didn’t want to disturb you.”
Running her fingers through his hair Kaylee dropped a kiss to his scalp. “Sweetie, whatever your folks do, it’s gonna be okay,” she reminded him, moving her other hand to the base of his neck and starting to massage the flesh there.
Feeling some of his tension release at her touch, he answered, “I know. You’re right. I just want to be sure that they remember this is our day.”
“Well then, we’ll jus’ keep remindin’ ‘em,” Kaylee told him, pressing another kiss to his hairline.
Simon sighed softly and tightened his hold around her waist. He often wondered how exactly he had gotten so lucky, and then just as quickly avoided the topic all together. Simon Tam knew that perfection was in short supply in the ‘verse and he knew he’d been given more than his fair share. He could not lose that – lose Kaylee – ever.
“Are you excited about your parents coming?” He asked as casually as possible, feeling a small smirk grace his face. Simon knew Kaylee was completely clueless that he had already arranged for the transport to bring them three days early, allowing the Fryes to join in all the pre-wedding festivities. She was also still under the impression that only her parents would be attending – Simon could not wait to see the joy on her face when she was greeted by her entire family.
Feeling a huge smile spread across her face, Kaylee told him, “Oh, heck yeah. I ain’t seen ‘em in quite a bit, so it’ll be good jus’ to catch up. My mama an’ I, we’re used to talkin’ regular. I’ve missed her,” she added softly.
Catching the wistfulness in her voice, Simon pulled back slightly and told her, “Kaylee, you do know that you can wave your family any time you want? You can even send them money to come and visit.”
Frowning at him slightly, she questioned, “What money, Simon? I ain’t made a dime since we left Serenity.”
Smiling widely at her, Simon took her hands in his, rubbing his thumbs along the backs in soothing circles. “I am making more than enough for both us. Ridiculously large stacks of money, remember?”
She giggled softly, but Simon saw the blush creep onto her cheeks as she ducked her head and he knew the discussion was making her uncomfortable. Undeterred, he added, “You should consider that money yours as well.”
“But it ain’t, Simon,” she reminded him quietly, raising her vivid green eyes to his face. “I can’t spend your money, that ain’t right.”
“Bao bei,” he sighed, gently resting a hand to her cheek. She was so earnest, so trusting and loving in all things, it honestly made his heart ache at times, the small organ threatening to burst due to the amount of love he felt for her. “It’s our money. Not mine, ours. And if you don’t believe me, do a little reading on post-marital rights. Once we’re husband and wife, you’ll legally be entitled to half.”
Shrugging slightly, she muttered, “I guess.”
Cupping her cheek, Simon leaned forward and brushed his mouth to hers. “No guessing about it, dong ma? Half and half.”
Smiling softly, Kaylee placed her hand over the one he held to her face and coaxed gently, “Come to bed.”
Hiking himself over the back of the sofa, Simon did not need to be told twice.
Tentatively, Rafe took a step into the common room, knowing he’d seen River head this way not too long ago. Of course, with the way she moved she could be just about anywhere, but having already checked the cargo bay, bridge and both their bunks, he was assuming she was still in the immediate vicinity
But he did not expect her to be in the infirmary.
Rafe knew she had an uncommon aversion to the room, one which he didn’t really understand, but also hadn’t tried to. He assumed after they’d left her brother, Simon, on Sihnon, she avoided the med bay because it reminded her of him, maybe even caused her to feel a bit homesick. He’d thought he’d heard other rumblings, coming from the captain and Zoe about alternative theories, but Rafe had dismissed them as gossip. Unless River told him herself, he was going to assume there was nothing pertinent to know.
Standing in the doorway to the dim room, Rafe crossed his arms over his chest and watched intently as River stood, unmoving, before the counter. Her pale hands were resting against the flat surface, palms down, one on either side of a syringe. From where he was standing Rafe was uncertain if it was full, but her proximity to the needle was causing enough panic regardless. Her gaze was steady, looking out the window before her that showed the stairway and gray wall beyond – not much to look at, but at the moment, she appeared riveted.
“You okay?” Rafe asked quietly, not venturing closer. It had been over two days since he’d found her dancing in the cargo bay and she still had not returned to their bunk. In fact, she had barely spoken more than two words to him. However, after passing Zoe in the galley earlier and getting a small smile and nod of encouragement from the stalwart woman, Rafe had decided to brave whatever mood River was in. “I’m worried ‘bout ya, bao bei.”
“Sweetheart.” The word was toneless, and quiet and Rafe strained to be sure he’d heard her. “Darling, someone who is loved.” Her gaze never wavered from that far-off point she was so intent on even as she defined the word.
“Yeah, that’s you,” Rafe assured, taking one cautious step into the room. As she slowly turned her head to look at him with haunted eyes, he swallowed thickly. “Ain’t it?”
“Is it?” River moved slowly towards him, trailing her hand along the counter, leaving the syringe behind. Cocking her head to one side, her long brown hair swished down over one shoulder, even as her eyes focused past him. “Is that me? Someone who is loved? Someone who is lovable?”
Reaching out a hand, Rafe clasped one of hers in his, hissing softly at how cold she was to the touch. On instinct, he moved closer, rubbing his hands up and down her bare arms gently to get circulation flowing. “Ai ya, River, you’re cold as ice, darlin’.”
“Cold.” The word was a whisper and Rafe got the distinct impression that whatever she was staring at or thinking on was far removed from this time and place. “Detached, indifferent, without emotion.” Shifting her eyes to him, River’s big brown eyes shined in the dim light as she murmured, “Like a killer.”
Concern clouding his features, Rafe felt an overwhelming surge of protectiveness towards the frail creature shivering before him. Removing the over shirt he often wore, a worn flannel that he had had for far too many years, he draped it across her shoulders, pulling River close. She allowed him to hold her, but stayed stiff in his embrace and that concerned him. “River, sweetie, what’re you sayin’? You ain’t a killer.”
“I am,” she whispered, wrapping her fists around the edges of his shirt and pulling it tight about her. “I was. I could be again.” Releasing a heavy sigh, she finally dropped her forehead to his shoulder and murmured brokenly, “What am I saying? I never know what I’m saying.”
“Shh, bao bei, you’re okay,” Rafe whispered, holding her tightly against him. She seemed even smaller than normal, thinner and more ethereal than he ever remembered before and Rafe had the distinct impression that she was disappearing before his eyes. Running a hand through her hair gently, he told her, “Why don’t we get some sleep?”
Shaking her head, River pressed her forehead into his neck, using the warmth of his skin to provide some comfort. “Can’t, can’t sleep. Keep hearing the screams, smelling the blood, keep seeing it. It won’t stop.” Becoming more and more agitated as she spoke, the images of Miranda and the Reaver battle continuing to flash through her mind, she raised tear-filled eyes to Rafe’s worried gaze and murmured, “Make it stop. Please, make it stop.”
“Stop what, Riv?” Rafe had never felt more helpless. Not since he’d watch his mother die from cancer had he felt so immensely useless. River was in pain, that was obvious to him and while he had no idea of its cause, he also had no idea of how to take it away. “You gotta talk to me, bao bei. I don’t understand.”
Swallowing thickly, River squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath. She had beaten back her insanity before when she had had so much less to live for. Now, with the feel of Rafe’s arms around her and his soothing presence so close, she knew she had to fight it again. After another few seconds of trying to collect herself, River pulled back slightly and met his concerned gaze with a sad smile. Caressing his cheek lightly, she murmured, “There’s something I need to tell you.”
Returning her gaze unwaveringly, Rafe nodded once and then wrapped an arm around her shoulders, leading her from the room.
Kaylee smoothed down her skirt and straightened her shoulders before lifting her hand and knocking on Eli’s office door. Smiling softly as she heard his familiar voice invite her inside, she entered the room and greeted him warmly.
Unable to keep the automatic smile from his face at the sound of her chipper voice, Eli glanced up from his work. “Well, well, well. This is a pleasant surprise.” Standing up, he circled his desk quickly and engulfed the young woman in a big hug. “How are you, my dear?”
“Real good, doc, thanks.” Kaylee hugged the man back, enjoying his embrace as it reminded her so much of her father’s, warm and comforting. Pulling away, she smiled and shrugged slightly, “Still ain’t pregnant, but other than that, I’m shiny.”
Placing his hands on her shoulders, Eli held her gaze steadily and reminded her, “It’ll happen when it’s meant to, Kaylee. Remember that.”
Blushing slightly, she murmured, “Yes, sir.” Shaking off her momentary sheepishness, Kaylee raised bright eyes to him and said, “Anyways, I came here to ask ya somethin’. Do you got a minute?”
“For you, I’ve got all the time in the world,” Eli admitted, gesturing her to a seat before resuming his own. Resting his hands on his desk, he asked, “What can I do for you?”
Shifting a bit uncomfortably, Kaylee took a deep breath. She had hoped that coming to Eli and asking for a favor would be all right, but now that she was here she realized it could be considered a bit presumptuous and inappropriate. Shaking that thought away, Kaylee faced him and said, “You know that Simon an’ I are gettin’ hitched in a little over two weeks.”
“Well of course, my dear. Didn’t you get my RSVP?” Eli teased, smiling again.
Kaylee returned the grin with a nod and continued. “Well, he’s gettin’ real anxious ‘bout his folks comin’ an’ all the people bein’ here an’ … well, I got this idea. Kind of a weddin’ present o’ sorts.”
Leaning back in his seat, Eli continued to grin and encouraged her, “Do tell.”
“Well, I was thinkin’, maybe I could throw him kind of a surprise party, just some of our friends an’ the crew, ‘fore all the families get here an’ things get real crazy. Maybe relax him a bit.”
Nodding once, Eli couldn’t agree with her diagnosis or treatment idea more. “I think that’s a grand idea, dear. How can I help?”
“Well, I … um …” Kaylee found her nerve failing as she realized just what type of favor she was asking of her good friend. Rising swiftly, she backed towards the door, feeling her cheeks blushing intensely. “You know what? It ain’t important, I can think o’ somethin’.”
“Kaylee,” Eli said firmly, regarding her with a no nonsense expression. “Just ask. You know I would do anything for the both of you.”
“Well, since I don’t got no money, I can’t rent a place or get it catered.” Glancing to her feet, Kaylee twisted her hands together as she asked, “I was kinda hopin’ maybe you an’ Evelyn wouldn’t mind hostin’ it. You wouldn’t have to get us any other kind of present or nothin’ an’ I got a bit of money still from when I was on board Serenity. I can prolly help pay for the food.” Swallowing uncomfortably, Kaylee risked glancing up to him, expecting to find either a shocked or disgusted expression on the older man’s face. She was completely surprised when it became obvious he was doing his best to stifle a laugh.
“Evelyn and I will happily host you, the crew and anyone else you want,” he told her jovially, rising to stand before her. Resting his hands to her shoulders, he cocked an eyebrow and asked, “Although I’m curious. How can you have no money? Don’t I pay Simon enough?”
Worried she’d offended him, Kaylee hastened to explain, “Oh, you pay him plenty, trust me, doc. But I’m only volunteerin’ at the orphanage. I don’t make any money.”
“Why don’t you spend Simon’s?” Eli questioned, quite intrigued by the younger woman’s logic.
Surprised by the question, Kaylee stated matter-of-factly, “That’s Simon’s money, not mine. I ain’t got no right to it.”
Laughing heartily, Eli again hugged her and said, “Oh, I should have you talk to my wife and daughters. They have no problem spending any of my money.”
Giggling softly, Kaylee felt a great weight lifted off her shoulders. “Eli, I can’t thank ya ‘nough. Simon’s so prone to worryin’ anyways an’ I just …” Smiling brightly to him, she hugged him again. “I know this is gonna be just the thing to relax him.” As Eli returned her grin, Kaylee stepped back, glancing to the clock on his desk. “I gotta go. They’re expectin’ me at the orphanage soon.”
“Not a problem. Call Evelyn as soon as you can and I’m sure the two of you will have the grandest party planned that Sihnon has ever seen in no time.” Rounding his desk and sitting again, he added, “I’ll call her now and give her a heads up.”
“Thanks doc,” she told him sincerely, offering him another one of her wide smiles.
“No thanks necessary, Kaylee, believe me. I just want you and Simon to be happy.” Eli smiled to her again and Kaylee waved slightly before shutting the door.
As she headed for the lift, she again wondered just how exactly she and Simon had gotten so lucky as to meet and befriend a man like Eli Butler. He was truly like a surrogate father/mentor/role model to them both and it warmed Kaylee’s heart in a way she could never fully explain to know that should she and Simon ever need anything, he and his family would be there for them.
It seemed that in a ‘verse where friends and family could be few and far between, Simon and Kaylee had been overly blessed.
“Bring her back. Please. I just want to hold her.”
Mal awoke abruptly to the sound of Inara’s pained cries. Turning over swiftly, he studied her intently in the dim light, trying to determine just what exactly had her so bothered. A small sigh of relief escaped his lips as he noted that she was still sleeping, her sleep-talking obviously the result of a nightmare.
Whimpering softly, Inara thrashed about, trying to pull her arms out from under the heavy blankets and grasp for something. Scooting closer to her, Mal ran a gentle hand over her forehead and through her hair as he whispered, “Wake up, ‘Nara. You’re dreamin’.”
Inhaling sharply, her big, brown eyes snapped open and she searched the darkened shuttle anxiously, trying to quickly get her bearings. Once she recognized the silk hangings over the bed and touch of Mal’s hand through her hair, she closed her eyes and took a long, deep breath, using the moment to rid herself of her tears.
Turning her face to look at him, she reopened her eyes and smiled weakly. “Sorry to wake you,” she told him, running her fingers along his stubble-covered jaw.
Taking her hand in his, Mal kissed her palm and then lay back down, tugging her gently towards him. She came willingly, resting her head on his chest, feeling the reassuring sound of his heartbeat beneath her ear.
“You okay?” he questioned softly, clasping her hand firmly in his and holding it over his chest.
Nodding once, she told him, “Fine. Go back to sleep.” When she heard Mal sigh heavily, Inara knew he was unconvinced that whatever had awoken her was no big deal. Hoping to change the subject, she reminded him, “We need to finish this next job quickly if we’re going to make it to Sihnon in time for Kaylee’s surprise.”
“Jus’ how many parties does that girl think she’s gonna get?” Mal asked, his tone conveying a bit of fake annoyance. Inara knew that if Kaylee asked him to walk through the fires of hell and back, he would, no questions asked. Arriving on Sihnon a day early for a party was no trouble at all.
Curling herself tighter to him, Inara answered, “As many as she wants Mal, she is the bride.”
“Yeah, well, as long as it don’t get outta hand,” he slurred, sleep again coming quickly.
His eyes closed of their own accord, even as Inara did her best to shake the remnants of her dream. She had been so close this time to actually holding her daughter, to seeing her tiny face and running a finger along the top of one small, curled fist. But again, Inara had come back to consciousness, without the opportunity.
“That how you’re gonna be?” Mal slurred, rubbing his cheek lightly against the top of her head. “When we get hitched?”
Inara felt her breath catch in her throat as Mal’s words registered. Taking a deep breath, she slowly lifted her head from his chest and let out a small sigh of exasperation as she noted he was again asleep. “Oh, you coward,” she murmured, unable to force the small grin off her face as she pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth and again settled in to sleep.
“I don’t understand.”
River watched with sad eyes as Rafe paced the small confines of her bunk, a hand absentmindedly running through his hair over and over again. He’d been agitated from almost the second she’d begun to tell her story and she could both see and feel now how difficult it was for him to comprehend all she was saying.
“Your folks sent you to a place where they, they cut on ya?” Rafe asked, pausing long enough to look back at her, confusion etched into his normally warm, blue eyes.
“They didn’t know,” River told him, hugging her arms about herself, grateful that he hadn’t yet taken back his warm shirt. It smelled like him, a bit of engine grease mixed with a scent that was undeniably Rafe. River smiled slightly, wondering at the irony of both her and her brother falling for mechanics. Maybe machine oil really was an aphrodisiac.
“But Simon knew an’ he got you out,” Rafe recapped, continuing to pace. This was so incredibly unreal, he was having a very hard time making any sense of it. The thought that River could have been subjected to such torture, that her skull had been opened repeatedly, her brain sliced like a piece of fruit, made his insides twists. Biting back the nausea he felt, he looked to her and asked, “Do you remember your time there?”
Shrugging, River cast her eyes to the bedspread she was sitting on so he wouldn’t see the full extent of her pain. “Some of it, not all. I remember more from the first few months, before it got really bad. The last few months, before Simon got me, are all a blur.”
Swallowing hard past the uncomfortable lump in his throat, Rafe tried to digest this information, before he asked, “An’ what they did to you, that’s what caused you to know ‘bout Miranda?”
Nodding once, River continued to stare at her lap as she recounted more of her scarred past. “When they started to pick at my brain, things became very jumbled. There wasn’t much I could understand. Memories got mixed with current events and pain started to become comfortable.” Risking a glance to him, she explained, “Sometimes, no matter how much something hurts, the absence of it is almost worse.”
Feeling a surge of anger quickly replaced by compassion, Rafe moved back to her. Sitting before her, he rested a hand to her cheek, glad that she didn’t pull away. She seemed so distant now, so far from him and it scared him. He was worried she may not come back.
River offered him the smallest smile as a sign of reassurance before continuing. “Eventually, I was just raw, like an exposed nerve ending. I was the ultimate receptor, I could take in and absorb just about anything and so, as the doctors and scientists at the Academy paraded officials and members of Parliament past me, my mind picked up on things.” Her gaze turning from sad to imploring in a second, she told him breathlessly, “I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want to know those things. They were awful secrets, memories and knowledge no person should have to carry around. But I couldn’t keep them out. I couldn’t keep them away, I had no control.” The end of her statement came out strangled, as her emotions and the memory again overwhelmed her. Burying her face in her hands, River felt tears wetting her palms.
Rafe hesitated for only a second. He had known from the beginning that River was different, unique and special in a way that had made him love her even more fiercely. But now, as she explained what had truly shaped her into the woman before him, he found himself in awe. She was more than unique, more than special, more than different – she was a survivor, a hero, an angel. And most importantly to him, she was love.
It was this last that dictated his actions. By instinct his arms encircled her, pulling her into his chest even as she tried to fight him. “There’s more,” she cried softly, trying to push him away. “You have to know everything.”
“Shh, darlin’.” Rafe tried to reassure her, shifting slightly so he could pull her into his lap. Leaning against the wall of the bunk, he pressed kisses into her hair as she continued to shake from the intensity of her tears. “I don’t gotta know it all tonight.”
“You have to know, you have to make an educated decision,” River hiccupped, pulling away from him and meeting his equally pained gaze. “Have to know all the facts.”
Cradling her face in his hands, Rafe studied every inch of her, his eyes lingering over her wet brown ones for untold minutes. It was her eyes that had drawn him in initially – those wide, all-seeing eyes that could twinkle with the light of a thousand stars and burn with the intensity of a thousand suns. The eyes were the window to the soul and as soon as Rafe had looked deeply into River’s, he’d seen that soul and he’d known it was pure and it was good. Nothing she could tell him now was going to change that.
“You know what I know?” he questioned softly, gently caressing his thumbs along her cheeks and pulling some of her tears away. “I know that you are the most amazin’ woman I have ever met. Jian mei,” he whispered, before brushing a light kiss to her mouth.
“Beautiful and strong,” River translated as he again pulled back to study her. Blinking her eyes open, her lashes sparkled with a few tears as she breathed, “Really? That’s really how you see me?”
Smirking slightly, he challenged her, “Why don’t you tell me?”
Biting her lower lip, River looked to him skeptically. He nodded once, giving her permission to look into his mind, something they had established early on in their relationship she would not do. Closing her eyes, River let out a long, slow breath and found herself in Rafe’s mind’s eye in seconds. It was warm and inviting, just like him and River immediately felt safe and protected there. Glancing about the orange and yellow space, she turned and found herself face to face with her mirror image. However, the woman she beheld was not feral or violent – she was beautiful.
Flowing hair breezed past her bare shoulders, the light purple dress she wore skimming her knees. In one hand she held a pair of ballet slippers and in the other … focusing more closely, she found herself unable to hold back a grin. Was that a torque wrench?
Opening her eyes with the smile still on her face, she asked, “A wrench? You see me carrying a wrench?”
Nodding once, Rafe made no apologies. “Damn straight,” he told her. Kissing her again, he whispered, “I think it’s gorram sexy when a woman knows how to handle tools.”
Blushing slightly, River leaned in to kiss him again, her breath whispering over his lips as she told him, “I’ll keep that in mind.”
Chuckling lightly, Rafe silenced any other conversation by kissing her again, his lips warm and supple as they covered hers. His hands still holding her cheeks, he moved one around to the back of her neck, threading his fingers through her hair and pulling her closer to him, deepening the kiss. He wanted her to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that anything she’d told him had only served to heighten his feelings for her, not diminish them.
River felt herself floating as she gave in to the love and passion Rafe showered on her. Shifting closer, she slipped her fingers through his hair, using all the instinct she possessed to guide her actions. This was still new for her, kissing, touching and while she enjoyed it – so very much – she still found herself concerned with Rafe’s feelings and reactions. She wanted him to enjoy it as well.
Nipping lightly at his lower lip, she pulled it slowly into her mouth, plying apart his lips and using the opening to tease his tongue with her own. The light touch was all the encouragement he needed and Rafe eagerly plundered her mouth, his tongue recklessly exploring.
River wanted more, she knew that. Her body had been giving her the signs for about a month now: that intense coiling just below her belly, that warm, wet feeling between her legs, that heightened heartbeat, that heady feeling of needing a release; but something had always stopped her, stopped them and while it frustrated her, River also found herself slightly grateful. She loved Rafe, she knew that, but she also knew that taking that final step would be irrevocable and she didn’t want to risk ruining what they had. Rafe’s presence in her life, his love for her, was more precious to River than just about anything else. It was the one thing she had always assumed she’d never have and so she now protected it with a ferocity that would put most mother lions to shame.
Forced to part for air, River rested her forehead to his and murmured, “There’s more I have to tell you.”
Pressing a kiss to her temple, Rafe shook his head once and said quietly, “You can tell me tomorrow, River. Right now, we both need to get some shuteye.” Pulling back so he could meet her tired gaze, he asked softly, “Can I stay?”
Nodding eagerly, River kissed him again. “Please. The dreams might come.”
Releasing a huge sigh of relief, Rafe kissed her once more before they both shifted, moving to get under the covers. Once they were situated, River’s body molded easily into Rafe’s side, her head on his chest, he reached behind them to flip off the light. Dropping another kiss to her scalp, he murmured, “No dreams, jian mei. Not tonight. Jus’ sleep.”
Kissing his cheek, River sighed softly, her eyes closing easily as her exhaustion took over. And just slept.
Translations: Jian mei – beautiful and strong
Up next: Chapter 5
Saturday, May 19, 2007 9:27 PM
Saturday, May 19, 2007 11:34 PM
Sunday, May 20, 2007 12:17 AM
Sunday, May 20, 2007 8:26 AM
Monday, May 21, 2007 5:29 AM
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 7:07 AM
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