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Big Talks, Small Spaces

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This story is No. 3 in the series "Lost in Serenity". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: While the crew pulls a job in Canton a recovering Xander is forced to confront his growing feelings for River. Lost in Serenity Episode 3.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Firefly > Xander-Centered > Pairing: RiverMidknightJFR15514,92343519,0667 Jan 0915 Oct 09Yes

Any Other Day

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Disclaimer: I'm poor. I own nothing





Ten Days Ago

Simon closed the door as quietly as he could, managing only a soft click as the latch caught. He stood there a moment, thoughtful expression on his face, before he sighed and rolled his shoulders and headed down the hall.

River was going to be mad at him. Well, perhaps more annoyed than mad, but she certainly would not be happy. Simon could live with that. It wouldn’t be the first time and wouldn’t be the last either. That was just part of being siblings, questionable mental stability or not.

The simple fact was that she needed real rest in a real bed. So when River had fallen asleep in the med bay, half on her stool and half sprawled on his patient, Simon had taken his chance. With gentleness born of years of practice he lifted her into his arms and carried her to her room without causing her to stir.

He hadn’t even given a second thought to how he found her. She had barely left Xander’s side since he was brought back onboard; leaving him only long enough for Simon to do his job before she was at the bedside again. At the time it had been easy to quell the overprotective brother in him. When the unconscious and bloody body had been placed before him Simon had gone straight into doctor mode. Afterwards he just couldn’t muster up the energy to worry about it.

Plus, as he had told Xander, he had never actually blamed the boy. No matter how much he had wanted to.

He still remembered River’s words when Xander had walked away on Beaumonde. Simon had asked why she had married Xander and River had told him that she thought they could heal each other. Who knows, maybe they could. He remembered the haunted look, the pain that was in his eyes when Xander had spoken of that Willow girl.

Nobody deserved such torment, let alone someone who hadn’t even reached twenty.

There was even a part of Simon that hoped the younger man would stay this time. These past few days were the most lucid, the most normal, that he had seen River in a long time. He had seen what good he was for his sister. Imagine what he could do for her conscious and less doped.

Sure it wounded his pride some, but he could live with it. After all, he couldn’t walk down every step to recovery with her. River needed other people she could depend on if she was ever going to live a halfway normal life again. The crew of Serenity had been good for her, for the most part, but she seemed to have connected with Xander on a whole other level. To be honest, at this point Simon was willing to take any help he could get.

Right now he was just wishing there was more he could do for the man.

Xander had been lucky. Not the getting shot in the back part, that had been decidedly unlucky, but he was fortunate that the damage hadn’t been too extensive. If he had still been at Capital City General with the latest in medical technology at his fingertips it wouldn’t have been a problem at all. But he didn’t, and even without it the surgery went by without any complications.

It was a point of pride for Simon that he could still perform his duties with the more traditional tools of his trade. Many of his peers in the Core would be lost without their laser scalpels and scanners. Simon had always found it sad that the tried and true medical practices were slowly going to the wayside. Sure they were still taught at the medical schools, but they were rarely something a Core World doctor would ever have to rely on.

Simon, though, had soaked up that knowledge. When he had first entered medical school he had been as idealistic as anyone else his age. It had been his dream back then to open a small clinic outside the Core. Perhaps not way out on the Rim, but somewhere his skills would be needed more.

Then he had done his residency and became a trauma surgeon at Capital City General and still planned to move once he had saved enough. It hadn’t been long until he had simply grown used to the money and the status and it had been so easy just to stay and put childish dreams aside.

Then he had gotten River’s coded letter. Who’d have thought that childhood dreams could prepare him for a life on the run? Yes, it came in very handy indeed. Xander was only the latest to benefit from those skills.

As it was Simon expected a full recovery. Xander would just have to take it easy for a while and perhaps a crutch or cane to ease some of the stress on the healing wound for a few weeks. He just wished he could do something for the nightmares that seemed to torment the man whenever he wasn’t doped into a dreamless sleep.

It reminded Simon far too much of some of River’s worse evenings for his comfort.

The similarity in his mind had caused a great deal of sleep loss for him. Simon had made a habit of checking in on him several more times a night that was perhaps strictly necessary. There wasn’t much he could do really. Make him a little more comfortable, check if the pain meds needed adjusting, and that was about it. It didn’t stop him from going.

It turned out he wasn’t the only one tonight.

Simon was nearly knocked to the ground when Jayne came barrelling through the med bay doors and walked on without so much as a grunt of apology. It was all Simon could do to bite down a retort, though he was less concerned with antagonizing Jayne as waking his patient.

What was Jayne doing there at this time of night anyways?

Curiously Simon peered through the door. He blinked in surprise to see Xander sleeping peacefully for the first time since he had come back aboard the ship. His eyes were drawn to an object leaning against the bed with Xander’s hand wrapped tightly around it like a lifeline.

At that point the only thought going through Simon’s mind was, Why is there an axe in my med bay?





Now

It was supposed to have been a fairly easy job. Go to Higgin’s Moon, pose as buyers to avoid suspicion, and slip out with their cargo when they had the chance. So, of course, nothing could go as planned.

For starters, their contact got himself in a bit of trouble with the local magistrate. The kind of trouble that gets a man’s hands and feet hacked off and rolled into the bog. On the plus side they got themselves a new contact and the job was still a go.

It’s the second issue that shot the whole plan to hell and made Mal’s mind boggle. Jayne was apparently a folk hero. All for accidentally dropping a case of cash on the town. Not that they knew the accidental part, but the whole town recognizing him kind of threw a wrinkle in the plan.

Now Mal watched Jayne get handed the good stuff from the bartender and surrounded by a crowd of locals singing his theme song (Mal didn’t even want to go there) and was trying to figure out what plan B was.

He hadn’t got very far when someone grabbed his arm and spun him around. It was all Mal could do to keep his hand away from his pistol. “'What the hell is goin' on?” his well-dressed and decidedly annoyed contact hissed lowly. “This how people lay low where you're from?!”

Seeing as the man had a legitimate concern Mal decided to let him get away with that. This time at least. He glanced over at Jayne with a woman under each arm, a bottle in both hands and eating up the attention from the crowd. “Not generally, no.”

”Listen, friend,” the man spat out lowly. “I came here to make sure a deal went down solid, not to get chopped up by the Canton prod crew and fed to the bog!”

Mal pulled his arm free. “Understand your concerns, friend. But this here is all part of our new plan.” With that Mal gave the man a little shove towards the door and shot him a look that clearly said the discussion was over.

“Captain?” Kaylee asked as they watched the contact walk away. “How exactly is this part of our–”

“Still workin' the details.”





On the outside Inara was the picture of politeness and patience. On the inside she wanted to slap Magistrate Higgins up side the head and throw him out of her shuttle. She figured that was Mal’s influence on her. Fortunately she was better trained than to give in to such impulses

“What is this?” Higgins asked gesturing to the china and tea set out on a low table. “I brought you here to bed my son, not throw him a tea party.”

Mentally Inara counted to ten. She was a Companion, not a whore. But she’d dealt with men like this before, many times. Polite but firm was often the best way.

“Sir,” she said patiently. “The Companion Greeting Ceremony is a ritual with centuries of tradition behind it. There are reasons for the way we do things.”

Higgins was having none of it. “Listen, Inara, I called on you for one thing and one thing only. My son is twenty-six years old and he ain't yet a man. Twenty-six!” Again Inara was tempted to slap the look of contempt he shot his son off his face. “And since he can't find a willin' woman himself–”

Inara had had about as much of the Magistrate as she could take and decided the man was going to require a more hands on approach. Gracefully crossing the distance between them she took his arm in hers in an escorting gesture and firmly guides him towards the door. The look on his face was almost comical as he allows her to move him. The whole point had been to catch him off guard, as she doubted she could have done this so diplomatically if he hadn’t been.

“Mr. Higgins, you are not allowed here,” Inara told him with a note of finality in her voice.

“I– What?” Higgins was obviously still off balanced. A man like him would be unused to someone taking charge of him, even subtly, and especially a woman.

“As I said, this room is a consecrated place of union. Only your son belongs here.”

The Magistrate was still sputtering as Inara led him out the door. “Well! This is– I–”

“Now you go on, and let us begin our work.”

“Now you listen here, young lady–” Higgins started, standing as tall as he could and staring down at her, apparently having finally collected himself.

Inara just flashed him her most innocent, sweet smile and closed the door. “Goodnight, Mr. Higgins,” she called through the door.





Simon was plastered and Kaylee was enjoying every minute of it. He was a lot looser when he had a buzz going, and he definitely had one going now. Kaylee didn’t even think he realized how intimate their position looked; him sprawled in a large chair and her sitting on the arm, practically in his lap, leaning into him.

The Doctor’s voice was slurred and he raised his glass to punctuate random words as he spoke, the drink threatening to slosh over the rim with every motion. “You know, I've saved lives. Dozens. Maybe hundreds. I reattached a girl's leg. Her whole leg. She named her hamster after me. I got a hamster. He drops a box of money, he gets a town.”

Kaylee giggled at his antics. She had a bit of a buzz going herself, but not nearly as much as Simon. After the statue, the song, and Jayne’s fans, Simon was doing two or three rounds to her one. She was actually surprised he could hold his liquor so well.

And she really didn’t see what the big deal was. Sure Jayne got a town’s adoration for what really was just a well-aimed accident, but she thought Simon’s story was cute and she smiled at him. “Hamsters’ nice.”

Simon seemed not to hear her and raised his glass and spoke loudly. “To Jayne! The box dropping, man-ape-gone-wrong-thing, hero of Mudville.”

She shook her head and laughed nearly as loud, but nonetheless clinked her glass with his in a toast. With another laugh Kaylee brushed his bangs away from his face. “You know, you're pretty funny, even without cussin'.”

Simon downed the rest of his glass and smiled up at her. “You know, you're pretty... pretty.”

Kaylee’s eyes went wide and her mouth formed an ‘o’. Had he really just said that? “What?” she asked seriously. “What did you say?”

“Nothing,” Simon told her, still smiling drunkenly up at her. “Just that you're pretty. Even when you're covered with engine grease, you're– Maybe 'specially when you re covered with engine grease, you're–”

“It's time to get out of this nuthouse,” Mal said coming up beside them and complete missing the brief flash of annoyance on Kaylee’s face at interrupting Simon’s compliments. “Got some plannin' to work out.”

“Now, Captain? But things are goin' so well!” Kaylee said with emphasis on the last word hoping Mal would get the point.

“Um. I suppose, Jayne's certainly feelin' better about life. But we–”

Kaylee interrupted Mal with a pointed look and repeated, “I said things are goin' well!”

“Oh. Well,” Mal drew out, finally getting the mechanics point. “Well... I tell you what. Jayne's stuck here with his adoring masses. How about you and Simon hang around, keep an eye on him for me?”

Simon raised his glass in drunken salute and Kaylee gave him a brilliant smile.





“River?” Xander heard Book call, signalling that the shepherd was about to try yet again to coax the girl out of the crawlspace. Definitely not something Xander would be opposed to. These spaces weren’t exactly built with comfort in mind under the best of conditions yet alone two weeks after you’ve been shot in the back. He’d been sore when River had first pushed him in here but had been getting steadily worse as his pain meds started to wear off. As River buried her face in his chest at the sound of the voice Xander knew he’d grit and bare it for her.

“Please,” the Shepherd continued. “Why don't you come on out?”

“No,” River called back muffled by his shirt but it was still the first she had spoken since dragging him here. “Can't. Too much hair.”

Xander could just imagine the surprise on the man’s face even before his stumbled words reached him. “Is– Is that it?”

Apparently Zoe was around for this attempt and he heard her voice filled with more amusement than he remembered hearing from the normally serious woman before. “Hell yes, preacher. If I didn't have stuff to get done, I'd be in there with them.”

“It's the rules of my order. Like the book, it symbolizes–” Book started and Xander wondered if the shepherd actually thought an explanation why would actually matter to her at this point. Maybe later she’d listen, but not right now. Even Xander could admit that it had startled the hell out of him too.

Fortunately Zoe came to their rescue and cut Book off. “Uh-huh. River, honey, he's putting the hair away now.”

“Doesn't matter. It'll still be there... waiting.”

Xander had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. Even with her head in his chest blocking her view she apparently still knew and he yelped softly as she pinched his side in retaliation. He was about to say something that would probably get him pinched again when loud footsteps and a louder voice came to his rescue. He made a note to do something nice for the pilot later.

“Honey, we're home!” Wash proclaimed piercingly, drawing everyone’s attention. Even River had raised her head despite that fact the pilot couldn’t be seen through small opening.

“Where’ve you guys been?” he heard Zoe ask. “Mal, Bernoulli's chompin' at the bit. Says he wants his merchandise yesterday.”

“Yeah, well, we got a couple of wrinkles to work out on the deal.”

That was when Wash apparently decided to elaborate for the captain. “Did you know Jayne is a bonafide folk hero? Got a song and everything.”

“Hoo-tsuh,” Zoe retorted and that one Xander knew was something like ‘shut up’ and could imaging the look she was giving Wash at the moment. “You been drinkin', husband?” Fair question. Xander was wondering that himself.”

“That he has,” Mal confirmed. “Don't make it any less the case.”

“You're telling me Jayne is a–” Xander couldn’t blame her for not being able to get the whole sentence out. Jayne didn’t exactly strike him as the hero type. Sure the man had saved his life on Beaumonde, but Xander had the feeling he had been somewhat bullied into it by this ‘Glowy Lady’. Not that he would complain either way. He’d gotten used to this living thing and planned to do it for as long as possible.

”It's true. True enough to use, anyways,” Mal told her. “We've talked a few pillars of the Mudder community into havin' a little 'Jayne Day' celebration in town square tomorrow. That should buy us enough distraction to get those stolen goods out from under the foreman and his crew a' prods.”

“You're really gonna have to start again.” Xander agreed. This was one story he wanted to hear from the beginning.

“Shepherd, everything goin' ok?” Mal asked, apparently noticing Book and the open panel for the first time.

“I, uh, I'm working on it, Captain.”

“We need a snow shovel,” River said suddenly.

Xander craned his neck and saw Mal crouch down and look in at them. He gave the Captain a grin and a little wave.

Mal just shook his head and stood up. “Any other day that would seem odd.”
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