Doctor Simon Tam heard the door to the storage room open, but he ignored it. He focused on getting his sister as comfortable as she could be handcuffed and locked in a pantry. He ran the damp towel over River’s face and helped her to lay down. He looked up towards the door and saw Captain Reynolds silhouetted against the light.
“Shhh. It’s okay Mei-mei. Sleep,” Simon whispered to River. He didn’t really want to talk to the Captain, but he knew Mal wouldn’t give him a choice. He stood up and walked over to the older man. “Is there something I can do for you, Captain?”
“How is she?” Mal asked with a nod at River.
Simon looked over at her and sighed. He had a bad feeling where this discussion was going to go and he didn’t want to do it in front of her. He motioned Mal out of the room and saw Mal frown at the movement. The Captain had control issues, but he finally left the room. Simon followed behind him and shut the door.
“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.” The Captain’s tone made it clear that he thought Simon was accusing them of being unreasonable. As much as it hurt to think of them being afraid of his little sister, he couldn’t blame them.
“I’m not accusing anyone, Captain. You asked how she was doing and I told you.” Simon looked away from the older man. He had no interest in seeing the censure that was surely in Mal’s eyes. “What are you going to do with us after we get to Haven?”
Mal sighed and sat down at the table. “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.”
He saw Mal wince at his words. A part of him was glad to see that the Captain was uncomfortable. While Simon did understand the thought process behind possibly leaving them behind, it still hurt and made him angry. Another part of him, however, was horrified with how callus he was being.
He walked over to the table and took a seat next to Mal. “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?” Simon could see that Mal was not happy with himself for asking the question, but he answered instead of letting the Captain off the hook.
“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. “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. “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?” The memory of Mal’s voice cutting through the air still gave him warm feelings. He was so sure they were going to be burnt to death. There was no way out and no one to come for him.
He’d had not doubt that Serenity had been long gone. The one thing that comforted him was knowing that the Alliance wouldn’t be able to get their hands on River again. He’d closed his eyes and waited for the burning heat.
He’d thought he was having auditory hallucinations at first. There was no way that Serenity had returned for them. His own father had told him that he wasn’t worth rescuing. It still confused him why they came for them.
“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.” Simon was still amazed by those words spoken months ago.
Mal sat forward and frowned. “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. Clearly the man’s sense of humor had disappeared that day.
“Did you talk to her?” the older man asked.
“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.” Simon still shuddered at the nonchalant way River had spoken the words.
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 thoughts focused inwards. Wondering what he would do without River to take care of. He supposed he could always ask the Captain to put a bullet in him second, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to see the other man’s response to that. 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.” He got up from the table and headed down the hallway to the infirmary. It was truly the place he felt the most at home on this ship. It was where he was the most confidant, the most in charge. He thought about checking in on River one last time, but he had a feeling that the Captain would be watching over her for a while.
mei-mei – little sister
hwoon dahn – bastard
dong ma - undersand