Crew, But Not - Chapter 2
Monday, November 12, 2007

Simon and River struggle to find their place on the crew. Book convinces them to come out and join the crew, who've only just found out that they're staying on.


Chapter 2

Simon had thought that, emotionally, the past couple days were the worst it would be. He had always been naive.

The medical atmosphere in the infirmary was a blessing to him, the one solid piece of his new life. A hypo would always be a hypo, and it would always be used and respond in the same way. A heartbeat was predictable, easy to measure, and the answer he received would always have sense in it. River, however, and Serenity’s crew—he grew more and more frustrated in his dealings with them.

One moment, she’d be in her own mind, such as when she said, though not to him so much as to the general area: “The sterility of the room is not satisfactory for a professional establishment; disinfectants should be applied quickly and regularly to avoid illnesses.”

This was mostly like the River he knew, but in the next moment she would be incoherent, with emotions ranging the gamut from grief to panic to worry to regret. “Darkness in the mind, they hold the key to the light. Thought the key would be easy to guess, but it isn’t.”

“River, you need to sit still so I can get a resting heartbeat.”

“Look harder for the key, don’t guess in the dark.”


“Just guesses in the dark.”

“That’s all right, River, just hold still.”

And then she would fall silent, doing what he told her to, but not appearing as if she comprehended it. In some ways he preferred that, so that his hopes were neither raised nor dashed, but then there was the fact that in the quiet his mind would think and his calm would begin to go.

It was good to be a doctor again. Months of crime, even though his heart was led by love, had left him feeling sullied. He wasn’t one of those men who willingly broke the law; he knew that without laws there was chaos. And Simon did not approve of chaos. But what happened when laws aided chaos, and worse, even evil? Simply using his tools and skills again cleansed some of the darkness that he felt had snuck into his soul.

“Well now, look who’s awake today.” Book’s deep warm tones drifted across the silence in the infirmary, and brother and sister looked up in curiosity. The older man was carrying a tray of food and set it down on one of the benches. “I noticed that you didn’t show up for breakfast, and I thought you might be hungry.”

“Thank you,” said Simon, surprised. “I—I’m very grateful. River had some problems with the food she ate last night, but really, it’s very thoughtful of you.”

“I understand,” said Book, and caused Simon to wonder how true that was. “I have some warm oatmeal, if she’s well enough for that.”

“Oatmeal, really?” asked Simon. “I didn’t realize that there was any fresh food left.”

“It’s odd, isn’t it,” commented Book, settling himself down on one of the stools, “but I would have called oatmeal one of the most miserable of meals until coming aboard. Protein packets are very useful, but—”

“Staid products of formulaic ideas about food and eating being only survival techniques rather than soulful experiences,” put in River, watching the Shepherd with apparent interest.

“Indeed,” said Book with a smile. “Good morning, young one.”

“It isn’t,” said River, her brow furrowing.

“It was rather a bad night,” explained Simon. “And today—until you came, wasn’t much better.”

Book frowned. “Do you have any idea what they did to her?”

“No,” said Simon succinctly. “But I do know what Captain Reynolds did.”

“Ah,” nodded Book. “You do understand that he had no malicious intent, I hope.”

“Doesn’t matter,” muttered River.

Both Book and Simon turned in surprise. “What?” asked Simon.

“Doesn’t matter,” she repeated. “Making better worlds, doing evil.” She twisted her hands and her breathing grew faster. “Intentions—don’t—matter.” A tear fell from one eye.

“River, it’s all right, the Captain’s not evil,” said Simon, shocked and soothing as he gathered her in his arms again. “He won’t hurt us, River, I promise you.”

Book watched the two with emotion in his dark eyes. “She was not like this before, was she,” he said very softly.

“No,” answered Simon, low and regretful, letting her go as her stress faded. “River, are you hungry? Shepherd Book has made you some oatmeal. I think your stomach can handle it.” He took one of the two small wooden bowls and spoons and gave it to her.

River frowned a little as she poked at the grey-white mixture. It had congealed a little, and were it not for the tiny slice of peach and sprinkling of cinnamon, it might have resembled something worse than protein. But she took a bite, and Simon then took some food himself.

“Thank you, again, Shepherd,” he said, glad to have something in his stomach once more.

“Well, I know that the Captain may think you are a little bit of a shady character, but I was quite sure you just had a lot on your table,” said Shepherd, leaning back a little and watching brother and sister. “So the Captain has given you a place on this crew?”

Simon nodded. “For the meantime—or rather, something a little less than crew. There are conditions.”

“He’s a good man,” mused Book. “I think he only adds conditions to appease the part of his mind that convinces him that he does things for his own good alone.”

Simon hmphed, but continued to eat without speaking.

“How long are you going to stay in here?” asked Book. “The crew are anxious to meet their newest passenger.”

“I don’t know if that would be a good idea,” answered Simon, frowning. “River is very unstable now, and I wouldn’t want anything to set her off.”

Book smiled at River. “I can’t think of anything frightening about this ship, or the crew. Perhaps a little warmth and good company would do her good, give her something to grasp onto.”

Simon looked incredulous. “Shepherd, I do not think River would find it comforting to be in the presence of Captain Reynolds or Jayne.”

“Perhaps not,” chuckled Book. “At least the latter would be more unsettled by her presence than the other way around. But I believe that the captain is in his quarters right now, and Jayne is working out in the cargo bay. The others, however, are still around the kitchen table if I am not mistaken.”

Simon looked at Book, his face open and inviting, smiling kindly. He looked to River, who had finished her oatmeal and was now watching them with an unreadable expression. For the moment, she seemed all right. “Do you want to meet them, River?” he asked.

She slid off the medical table as an answer, and reached out touch Book’s shirt, tipping her head on one side. “Shepherd. Religous word, a title, characterizing a monastic order in the Aquinian denomination.”

“That probably means yes,” translated Simon with a little sigh. He took the folded robe that River had worn yesterday, and gave it to her to cover up her makeshift nightgown. Shepherd Book gathered the dishes, and then the three left the infirmary.

As they passed through the common area again, River looked around and walked slowly, though she did not reach out and touch anything. She did not grasp onto the railing as they went up the stairs, but she eyed it intently. As the noise drifted from the dining room, she looked up, and Simon watched her carefully. Inara and Kaylee were sitting at the table, laughing at Wash’s war of wits with Zoe. It stopped as the others came into view, but the silence was curious rather than cold.

“Morning,” called Kaylee brightly.

“Well hey, look who finally—whoa!” said Wash as he caught sight of Simon’s face. “Doctor, you didn’t have another run-in with the captain’s fist, did you?”

“Wash,” reproached Inara in a smoothly amused tone. “Good morning, Doctor.”

“It was a bad night,” explained Simon, half-leading River as she gravitated towards the table, where the remains of breakfast sat comfortably.

“Something go wrong?” asked Zoe, sitting down.

“Cryogenic shock,” said Simon simply. “She’ll recover soon.” He and River were sitting at one end of the table, with the others in various seats around the rest of it, all looking to him with various levels of curiosity.

Zoe nodded at his explanation. “So, Captain told me you’re staying on.”

“For a while, at least,” Simon agreed.

“It’s a good move,” said Wash. “At least, when it comes to the dodging feds part—we’re good at that. As for the Jayne part, well, I at least apologize in advance.”

Simon felt his shoulders loosen, and he almost felt like smiling.

“So this is River,” added Inara, smiling at the girl. “Hello, River.”

River looked at her, but did not answer.

“She’s very shy,” Simon said apologetically, in the best simple explanation he could provide.

“That’s not a problem,” answered Inara kindly. “She’s probably still very frightened after what happened.”

“D’ya want something to eat?” asked Kaylee. “There’s not much left—Cap’n and Jayne didn’t want to save you anything, but I tried.”

“No, we’re all right, thank you,” said Simon. “Shepherd brought us some oatmeal, which is all River can eat right now.”

“Wasn’t it shiny?” asked Kaylee, brightening up even more, if that was possible. “Since Shepherd came on we’ve been havin’ real good food.”

“Yeah, we might just not let him leave,” said Wash. “After all, we’re crooks—might as well steal us some talent.”

Book laughed. “Well, I might not object to a little kidnapping in this case. Of course, the fresh supplies will run out, but I’ve been told that I have a mean protein curry.”

“Really?” asked Inara, very interested indeed.

“Curry is a traditional Indian spice mix from Earth-That-Was cuisine,” broke in River. “Indiian, the original term for residents of India, not misapplied to natives of America.”

“Good morning to you too,” said Wash, casting a quick and rather awed glance at Zoe. “Feeling better, I see?”

“Native Americans practiced human sacrifce in the ancient Mayan temples,” added River, a little upset.

Wash started at her apparent non sequitor. “It’s all right, he wasn’t talking about that,” said Simon, patting her hand.

“It’s very nice that you know all that,” offered Kaylee encouragingly, scooting forward. “Lots more than I do.”

Simon managed a weak smile, but the tone since River’s remark had changed just enough to be a little uncomfortable. River was now tracing the wear marks in the table, clearly oblivious to everything else.

“So, Simon, Kaylee told me that you were a trauma surgeon on Osiris,” began Inara. “Did you work in Capital City?”

“Yes, I did,” said Simon, grateful for the change. “In the Joseph Schofield Hospital.”

“I am told that the Osiran hospitals are some of the best in the Core,” said Inara. “They are renowned for their service.”

“Well, we tried,” said Simon, a little fond memory in his face. “Have you ever been in one?”

“No, I was raised on Sihnon,” said Inara. “My medical experiences were mostly unpleasant there, to tell the truth. And I was only there for checkups—I hesitate to imagine what your experiences were.”

“I did not think of them in that matter,” said Simon, his face softer than it usually was. “I remember the smiles of patients as they left the recovery ward for good, not the long hours when they were under my hands.”

“You liked your job, then,” said Zoe. “I had some medical training in the army, but that wasn’t my preferred area.”

“I don’ even like to think about doctorin’,” said Kaylee with a shiver.

“Have to agree, Kaylee,” said Wash. “I like to see my blood—and others’—right where it should be.”

“Well, ain’t this purty,” came the sarcastic tone of the captain as he strolled in. “Might think you were avoidin’ me, doctor, you only come out of your room as soon as I bid to mine.” Mal slumped into a chair, leaning back and resting his boots on the table. Inara’s lips curled a little, and she scooted her chair rather conspicuously away from them.

Simon said nothing to him, did not even look him in the eyes.

“Best clean up now,” said Book, and he rose to gather the dishes.

“Don’t throw anything out now, Shepherd,” advised Mal. “Warmovers are better than first servings, often.”

“You know, Mal, why haven’t we hired a cook?” asked Wash, turning to the captain as he spooned some egg and potato mixture to his plate before Book took it away.

“We did plan to, sir,” said Zoe, silently putting a napkin by Wash’s plate.

“Well, I don’t set much by my own plans,” said Mal. “Never did plan to get a doctor, you remember.”

Simon looked up at this, and the wheels in his mind began to spin again. He was not the only one this was news to, either. “Ha, proof,” said Wash around a mouthful of eggs. “See, honey?”

“You may be right, husband,” said Zoe, a wry light in her eyes.

“May?” Wash snorted.

“Might one inquire as to the proof I inadvertantly gave?” asked Mal, sitting up straighter.

“Oh nothing, sir,” said Zoe flatly. “Just that Wash and I had differing theories on how long you’ve been missing some of your brain matter.”

“You see, Captain,” continued Wash, “Zoe reckoned it was a more recent development, when I recognized it from the moment we met.”

“Huh,” said Mal, leaning back in his chair again.

“You never planned for a medic?” put in Inara. “Really, Mal, I must incline towards Wash’s opinion.”

“Zoe was fine in a pinch,” protested Mal.

“Zoe is grateful to have a real doctor aboard,” said Zoe in a meaningful manner.

“Well, I’m sure we all are,” said Kaylee.

“Yeah, sure,” said Mal. “Y’all have a good reason for not attending to chores?”

“Getting to know the new folk ain’t enough?” asked Kaylee, giving Mal her most innocent smile.

“Not for a mean authoritarian like me,” said Mal. “Work’s got to get done, don’t matter who’s on board.”

Kaylee sighed and rose to help Book with the dishes.

“Back to the wheel, I suppose,” said Wash, letting go of his plate with a hint of regret. Zoe and Inara also pushed back their chairs and left, an air of business overtaking the former familial one.

“You’ll be required to do chores just like the others, so’s you know,” Mal said to Simon as he rose to go off himself. “Just not today.”

“Of course,” said Simon. “I wouldn’t want not to pull my own weight.”

“With shipboard tasks divided equally among eligible persons, each person will do dishes and cooking every sixth day, laundry every twelfth, and other cleaning responsibilities every eighteenth,” said River, looking up and staring at Mal. “The system is flawed; years divide into twelve but months divide into weeks of seven days each, not six. Impractical.”

“Yeah,” said Mal, shifting slightly uncomfortably, “well, I only got six ‘eligible persons’ as you say on this boat now.”

“You need a cook,” stated River. Mal paused, and then exited the diningroom wihout another word.

Simon stood up himself. “Come on, River, let’s go.”

“No,” begged River. “Not safe, Simon. Don’t go.” She pulled at his hand frantically. “Need to stay and explore.”

“We’re not leaving the ship, River, just the room,” said Simon. “We couldn’t go anywhere else anyway, not with the Black out there.”

River was quickly calmed by his words. “It takes thirty seconds of exposure to the vacuum of space to induce death,” she commented.

“I’m sure it does,” sighed Simon.

She pulled his hand. “Explore now, Simon.”



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.