Lost in the Background - A World of Their Own
Monday, November 12, 2007

Last in a series of five oneshots. Simon tucks River in for bed at the end of the pilot episode.


Wash and Kaylee had dodged the Reavers on Whitefall, and everyone was emerging from engine room and shuttle to congratulate and talk about their parts in it all. It was a warm and happy group, if a little worn out from stress and action and bullet wounds, and they did not even notice the two who silently slipped away and into the passenger quarters. After all, they were a different family, in their own different world.

Simon had decided that River would sleep in his bed. Three passenger quarters had been prepared, but he did not want to go near where Dobson had been, and would not trouble anyone to make up another chamber. No, he would rather sleep on the floor.

The lights were a warm yellow on Serenity, something that surprised Simon after his limited experience with the blue-white ships of the Alliance. The infirmary wasn’t, which gave Simon a place on this ship where he could feel in his element, but he decided that, since the captain was not leaving them on Whitefall, this chamber would be his and River’s home for their stay. The rest of the ship—it looked homey, but it was the crew’s home and he felt like a stranger. But here, in this little room, he and River could have a safe world. One where no captain would yell at them, where no Alliance would find them, where sleep and rest could be taken, assuming the ship was not being shot at. It would do for now, until they got to Boros, or wherever the captain intended on leaving them. Simon would have to ask him later.

As Simon searched through his bag to find a nightshirt that River could use to sleep in, she sat down on his bed, her slender arms wrapped closely around her, and rocked back and forth a little. “Is it safe here?” she asked in a small voice.

“I-I think so,” he answered, frowning a little as he realized that he had nothing really suitable. Unless—yes, there was probably a hospital gown in the infirmary. He turned back to River, who was slowly scanning every inch of the small room’s walls. “Do you need anything?”

“Tired, but can’t sleep,” said River unhappily.

“I can help that,” he said with a little smile. “I’ll be right back.” He moved swiftly out and to the infirmary, grabbed what he needed, and returned to the chamber. River was by his luggage, and when he came in she quickly tucked something small away in her hand. He gave a slightly curious gaze, but said nothing about it and gave her the gown. It had likely come in the first basic infirmary supply kit that the captain had purchased, and was the only thing that he had never found a use for since; it was cheap and old, but it would be warm. “Why don’t you put this on,” he said, giving another weary smile before turning to give her some privacy and to prepare something to help her sleep again.

When he turned back, she was sitting on the bed with her legs tucked up close to her chest, looking almost as small in the hospital gown as in Inara’s robe. “It’s warm,” she said.

“That’s the point,” he said lightly, coming over with the shot, not being able to help a little smile now that she was talking, even if it was nothing but the simple and the obvious. The men in the underground who had helped him break her out had demanded that she be immediately put in cryogenic sleep in case she might be suddenly triggered. It had broken his heart to give her the injection and watch her eyes close in a deathly fashion before they could even share a word or a touch. It had ached even more when she woke in shock and terror, barely seeing him as more than the only thing she could recognize. He knew what trauma did to people, and he knew that her mind was unstable, but he realized now how much he missed River, his little sister. And he hoped he could slowly bring her back. At least there was no longer blankness in her eyes, though the light was still missing.

She looked everywhere but at the needle, and said as soon as he was done: “Not bright here. Not cold, not hard.” She stroked the blanket next to her. “Safe to sleep here.”

“That’s right,” said Simon soothingly. “We’ll be all right here. You need to take your rest.”

“Doctor’s orders,” murmured River, though not in the teasing tone that she had always used before. She didn’t look exactly pleased, but she did begin to crawl under the covers. As Simon rose to turn the lights lower, though, she sat up and called, “Simon?”

“I’m not leaving,” he assured her, turning down the lights and coming back to her side. “The shot I gave you will help you sleep.”

She frowned a little as he adjusted the blankets around her. “I slept for so long.”

“Just a little while more,” he said softly. “Then we’ll find a place. We’ll find a safe place.”

There was a moment as sadness came into her face, and she reached up to gently touch his face as if he was part of a delusion. Then she whispered: “I didn’t think you’d come for me.”

And he knew that she was still there. For moments he wondered where she had gone, but not now, as he finally recognized his mei mei, and his throat choked up as he realized that she had lost all hope before he arrived. “Well, you’re a dummy,” he managed.

Clarity came into River’s eyes, and when she managed the first half-smile he had seen in three years, he wrapped his arms tightly around her as he blinked away tears. It was the hug he had never given her when she left for school, the hug he had wanted to give her as soon as they were free of the Academy, the hug he had wanted to give her when she first awoke from cryo, the hug that he wished would make up for all his halting and inadequate words. “Missed you, mei mei,” he whispered.


“She’s very small,” Simon commented, watching as the tiny blanketed bundle squirmed in his mother’s arms. “And red. But I think I like her.”

“That’s good,” said Regan, smiling at her son. “Because you will have to be her big brother.”

“What exactly does that mean?” asked Simon, leaning on the arm of the chair and studying the way that River’s eyes were proportionally bigger than all her other features when compared to older children.

“It means you are responsible,” said Regan. “She is smaller than you, and weaker, and she will look to you for love and protection. It is what brothers and sisters do.” Simon missed the fond look in his mother’s eyes as she was clearly recollecting, too intent was he on watching his new sister. His face grew very grave as he thought on her words.

“Will it be hard?” he asked. “Being a brother, I mean.”

“Responsibility is always hard, Simon,” said his mother. “But it is what we must do. And just because we must doesn’t mean we don’t like it. I’m sure you two will get along just fine.”

Simon nodded seriously, and put out a hand to rest on River’s bundled little figure. She was more than an infant now, she was his little sister. His new mei mei.


Simon had sat by River’s side until her eyes once again closed in slumber before leaving her to speak to the captain. It was to be a short conversation, a quick confirmation of where they were to be dropped off, not a time for Simon to beg for safe harbor. No, Mal had really surprised him. And Simon had not even wanted to stay here. Had he thought about it for a moment before, the cons would have jumped out as insurmountable. They almost appeared so now, if only almost. A place to stay was a place to stay, though, even one that included Captain Reynolds and Jayne.

There were still problems with the situation, too many and too lacking in immediate urgency for Simon to list before bed, but for now, at least, he had one less thing to worry about. And when he looked at River and noticed that her breathing was still a little shallow, her pulse still light, and her skin was still pale, and he was entirely unsure as to how she was mentally, the loss of one worry was worth something to him.

Settling down onto his makeshift bedding, Simon sighed and closed his eyes, his last thought before exhaustion took him being that, if he and River were going to be here for a while, it would be worthwhile to make up the nearby passenger chamber so he could sleep in a real bed.



You must log in to post comments.



Crew, But Not - Epilogue
FINALLY! The final chapter, as the crew gets back to normal and Simon reflects a little on the adventure.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 13
Lord Tembriar and men board Serenity, while the crew try to hold off until they can escape.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 12
Mal, Zoe, and Jayne come back to the ship while Book gets Wash and Kaylee, but they haven't escaped yet.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 11
Mal needs to escape, and the rest of the crew find themselves in sticky situation of their own, while River and Simon follow Book's plan.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 10
The job is turning out to be troublesome. What's up with Lord Tembriar, and what will the crew do about the incoming feds?

Crew, But Not - Chapter 9
Arriving on Greenleaf, Mal and co. go to finish the job, and Simon and River are left on the ship again.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 8
Things are both better and worse for the crew. Simon starts to wonder about River, worry about his duties on the ship, and what was in that cryo box anyway?

Crew, But Not - Chapter 7
Simon and River find something odd with the cargo, and Simon and Inara match their skills in a game of chess.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 6
Finally, a new chapter! The cargo comes aboard, and Simon starts creating patient profiles.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 5
Simon and River struggle to find their place in Serenity's crew. Mal and his team finally meet the client, while Wash and Kaylee spend some time with the new crewmembers and Book.