Captain Malcolm Reynolds stood in the doorway of the store room and watched as Simon tended to his sister. Jayne’s question still echoed through his mind. Why were they still on Serenity? He had the perfect opportunity to get rid of them. He doubted Simon would have even blamed him if he had abandoned them on Beaumonde.
Simon suddenly looked up at Mal and stared at him for a few moments before turning his attention back to River. He whispered something to her and then stood up and walked over to Mal.
“Is there something I can do for you, Captain?”
“How is she?” Mal asked with a nod at River.
Simon looked back at her and sighed. He motioned for the Captain to leave the room. Mal wasn’t sure what to think about the Doctor’s implied order but he left the room. Simon followed close behind him and shut the door as they left.
“She’s doing about as well as can be expected. She knows that everyone’s afraid of her.”
“Well, you can’t blame anyone for that. I think we got reasons for being afraid of her,” Mal said in an exasperated voice. He wasn’t sure if the younger man had been accusing the crew of being unreasonable or not. It was hard to tell with the Doctor. He had that born in the Core autocracy attitude down pat.
“I’m not accusing anyone, Captain. You asked how she was doing and I told you.”
Mal couldn’t help but notice that Simon was avoiding looking at him. He always seemed to do that, when he was standing up for himself. He would glare at you eye to eye if it was River he was defending, but he never seemed quite so confidant when it was himself he was talking about.
“What are you going to do with us after we get to Haven?” Simon asked.
Mal sighed and walked over to the dining table. He sat down and looked at the other man. “Can’t rightly say. I’m hoping the Shepherd will have some ideas on that.”
“So I’m guessing that we won’t be staying on Serenity.” Mal opened his mouth to defend his decision but Simon raised a hand to stop him. “I’m not accusing you, Captain. If anything I’m amazed that you brought us back on board after Beaumonde. You did have the perfect opportunity to rid yourself of us.”
Mal winced at how closely the Doc’s words matched his thought earlier. They sounded so cold and callus when spoken aloud by the doctor.
Simon joined Mal at the table. “Truthfully I’m amazed that you kept us on board as long as you did. I know you don’t like me, and my sister has not been the easiest person to deal with. You had plenty of chances to get rid of us, but you never have. That’s always confused me.”
“Yeah, well, you ain’t the only one been confused by it.”
Simon gave him a tight smile. He looked around the dining room. “She loves this ship you know. It’s home to her. More home than any other she’s ever had. The crew is more of a family than she’s ever had. How sad and pathetic that sounds.”
“What about you?” Mal could have shot himself for asking. He knew what the Doc was going to say and he really didn’t want to hear it.
“I suppose it’s more of a home than any other that I’ve had. Well, other than the hospital of course. That was always my true home. But yes, I suppose I had started to think of Serenity as my home.”
Mal was silent for a moment. The response was not what he’d been expecting. “What about family?”
“River is my only family, Captain. She always has been. Do you know when this ship started to feel like home?”
Mal shook his head. He wasn’t sure what had caused Simon to loosen up enough to talk but he wasn’t going to question it.
“It was after Jiang Yin. You had the perfect chance to rid yourselves of us, but you came back. You were gone, River and I watched as Serenity took off. I thought it was over, that we’d never see you again. Can’t even really say I was surprised.
“I was surprised however when I heard your voice. Standing on that platform waiting for those villagers to burn us alive, I heard your voice. Saying that we were yours.” Simon shrugged. “You could have knocked me over with a feather. I couldn’t understand it. Why? Why would you come back for us? My own father wouldn’t have come for me. And if blood relation wouldn’t have rescued me, why would a virtual stranger who didn’t like me, save us?
“After, when I asked you why and you said that it was because we were part of your crew, that’s when this ship started to feel like home.”
Mal sat forward, he had always thought that there was a good chance that Simon and River’s father was a shi da koudai but it hurt to actually hear it from the man’s son. He couldn’t understand it. He’d always known that his mother would have stood behind him and protected him no matter what. Hell, Jayne’s mother loved him and look at what an asshole he was.
“Well, we ain’t that hwoon dahn here. We take care of family here, and if you’re crew, you’re family, dong ma?”
“I thought I wasn’t crew, Captain? I got the impression that you didn’t, what was the word you used, you didn’t conjure us as crew.”
Mal shrugged almost sheepishly. “You pissed me off. You’re damn good at doing that, Doc. You are crew, but I got a problem. I gotta protect my crew and your sister is a threat to them.”
“I know. That’s why I won’t blame you for leaving us somewhere. Just as long as you don’t space us, I’ll understand.”
Mal glared at Simon. Even if it was a very weak joke, he didn’t appreciate anyone hinting that he would do such a thing. “Did you talk to her?”
“Yes. I asked her about Miranda. She said that we had to ask ‘her’.”
“Who, ‘her’? River? Miranda? Is River, Miranda?”
Simon gave a small smile. “I wouldn’t suggest asking River that. I did and if I were to translate the look that she gave me into words, you’d kick me off Serenity for vulgarity.”
Mal grinned. “You sister does have an expressive face.”
“Yes she does. She said that she has memories that aren’t her’s, that she shouldn’t have them. What ever this is, it’s causing more problems. She’s regressing almost to where she was before I started treating her. The drugs just aren’t working anymore. Most of what she says doesn’t make sense. Well, other than when she said to shoot her in the head.”
Mal sat forward. “Now, you know we ain’t gonna do that, Doc.”
“You might have to. If she goes violent again and I’m not there to give her the safe word…” Simon’s words drifted off and his eyes were focused inwards. Suddenly he blinked and came back to himself. “Well, I have some things to do in the infirmary, and you should get some sleep.”
“Yeah, reckon you’re right. Good night, Doctor.”
“Good night, Captain.” Mal watched Simon leave the dining area. He walked over to the storage room and opened the door. He watched River twitch and whimper in her sleep. He wished for a moment that he’d been able to meet her before the Alliance had gotten their claws into her. She must have been an amazing girl. Much like her brother was. But as Jayne had said, “if wishes were horses, we’d all be eating steak”.
He gently closed the door and headed for his quarters.
shi da koudai - sack of shit
hwoon dahn – bastard
dong ma - undersand