Crew, But Not - Chapter 3
Monday, November 12, 2007

Simon and River struggle to find their place in the crew. Simon tries to find a routine in the few days on their way to Boros.


Chapter 3

“So, how long ya gonna stay here?” asked Kaylee, her legs swinging off the medical table in a slightly nervous fashion as Simon checked her blood for infection.

“I don’t know,” said Simon. “The captain may change his mind any day, so my plans are still fluid.”

“No, I mean how long ya gonna pretend like this infirmary’s the whole ship,” corrected Kaylee. “’S’like you want to be strangers to us.”

“You’re all clear,” said Simon, turning off the monitor. He glanced over to River, and reached over to take the box of hypodermic needles from her hands. “I don’t want River to have an episode in front of the crew,” he admitted.

“Wasn’t she gettin’ better?” asked Kaylee. “She jus’ seemed shy and kinda scared.”

“Hm, well, I think I know why that was,” said Simon. “I’ve found traces of various drugs in her blood samples, residual traces from the Academy; apparently they remained in circulation while she was in cryo. I don’t even know what some of them are,” he trailed off, eyes sadly fixed on River. He cleared his throat and continued. “From what I could deduce, the drugs that had the longest effect were those that suppressed some of the symptoms of her psychosis. After she recovered from the cryogenic shock, those drugs kept her somewhat level for another day or two, after which she reverted to her normal state, and perhaps even some withdrawal.”

“Ya know, I’ll have to tell the Cap’n that I know why he needs Captain Dummy Talk now,” said Kaylee with a hint of a grin.

Simon sighed. “In other words, she’ been subjected to a series of incredibly inhumane treatments, and we’re only now just seeing all the effects.”

“It all sounds more real when you say it like that,” said Kaylee, her face drooping.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Simon.

“Why, that’s your job?”

“Yes,” said Simon with a half-smile. “And that’s why we only come out for meals. I don’t know much now, and I don’t want her to be a danger to the crew.” He bit his lip.

“Danger?” said Kaylee incredulously. “She’s just different, that’s all.”

Simon didn’t answer. River had been conditioned, for what he did not know, and at this point he was not sure what would trigger her sudden “episodes” or even if there was a trigger.


It wasn’t as bad as he had thought, coming everyday to the dinner table in Serenity, even if he and River were relegated to the end of the table on makeshift stools due to space issues.

“I said ‘So ha!’, just like that,” said Wash, raising one hand and waggling both eyebrows. Kaylee giggled and Zoe shook her head amusedly. “He froze, I swear, but even under my intimidating stare”—giggling again at the demonstration—”all he said was ‘Uh, hi, Hoban.’”

Simon chewed slowly on the protein, listening to the story and ignoring the bland taste.

“Rings around the planets, dust particles drawn by gravity,” River muttered next to him, mounding up her protein mush with a spoon much as she used to do with mashed potatoes.

“And, well, I couldn’t turn him in,” admitted Wash. “It was too nice to have him owe me.”

Jayne chuckled lowly. “Gorramit that’s what I like—brains.”

“It’s nice to know that people appreciate that which they have not,” added Wash, giving Mal cause to suddenly hide his face behind his round glass.

“Ashes, ashes, they all lie DOWN!” said River, ending with a sharp rise in tone and a downfall of her spoon, breaking apart her protein mountain and sending flecks flying all across the table.

“River,” said Simon hesitantly, reaching over and touching the hand that held the spoon.

”Ta me da!” cried Jayne, wiping off the protein spots. “What was that.”

“Lie down, Simon, they want you to,” continued River, fighting against his hand on hers.

Simon kept one eye on the faces watching him, most of their stares not visibly hostile, though Simon thought he could feel it just below the surface. “Come, River, let’s take a break.”


“It’s not that bad,” said Kaylee. “It’s just Jayne who minds.”

Simon gave her River’s favorite look.

“All right, so Jayne and the Cap’n,” she amended. “But really, we just need to get used to her quirks, just like you need to get used to ours. When I first came on, and it was Cap’n and Zoe and Wash, and my mouth ran on without me every time I tried to talk for a while. But then it was all fine. You’re not doing real bad, catching on.”


Simon had decided that River could dry the dishes—they were wooden and metal, and she had been around them without problems for a couple days now. And as long as he was only a few steps away, she seemed more apt to function stably. It was strange to have his hands in soapy water to wash something other than his hands, but oddly theraputic.

“It’s not hot enough,” said River. “Dishes get washed at 6.7 seconds, but take 13.8 seconds for full evaporation.” She put down another dish on the towel in the last empty space.

“Captain Reynolds prefers that we dry by hand if necessary to save on heating water,” answered Simon, putting another dish in the rinse water.

“Have to wash the towels, then,” said River. “Energy savings only equivalent to lowering the lights for two minutes.”

“I know,” said Simon. “Just dry the dishes, River.” He rinsed off the last dish, and walked over to start putting them away.

Shepherd Book came in and stirred the protein stew that had been simmering behind them. “Almost boiling,” he said. “And, dare I say, almost edible.”

Simon started putting the dishes away in the cupboards. “That’s always nice.” He caught sight of his hands and paused, frowning.

“Dermal permeability caused cells to become bloated with water, Simon,” said River.

“Do you know, we called that ‘pruning’ when I was young,” commented Book as he reached over to ring the dinner bell.

There was approximately half a ring before Jayne bounded up the stairs. “Well, finally!” He reached for the pot lid, only to withdraw his hand with a small yelp and suck his fingers. “What is it?”

“Protein stew,” said Book, using a towel to bring it to the table.

“Sounds good,” said Jayne, and walked over to the cupboard.

“Sounds nondescript,” corrected Simon, finding as the days went by that it was hard to ignore the bigger man.

“Hey! Where’s my bowl?” Jayne fumbled around, messing up the neat stacks that Simon had made.

Kaylee had just come in, and she quickly came over. “Oh, here it is,” she said, handing one quickly over.

“Better learn not to hide my stuff, doctor,” said Jayne growling, but choosing to follow the call of his stomach to the table without further action.

“His bowl?” asked Simon, befuddled.

“Makes him feel special, I guess,” whispered Kaylee. “Anyhow, you watch Jayne eat, you be glad to leave it to him.”

Simon grimaced and silently saw the logic in that.

“Just leave it on the right side of the cupboard next time,” finished Kaylee.

“Cock robin,” whispered River to Simon with a strange giggle. “Strut, strut, happy in the illusion.”

“Doctor, did you put my bowl away?” Mal frowned at the cupboard.

“Oh yeah, an’ Cap’n always gets the ceramic one,” added Kaylee.


“Catching on...right,” said Simon, less than convincingly.

“So, I’m ok now?” said Kaylee, bringing the conversation back to her condition. “And if I need ya to, you can tell that to the Cap’n so he don’t tell me to take it easy?”

“I can do that,” said Simon with a professional smile.

Kaylee grinned and skipped out, but Simon heard her footsteps halt and faint voice saying, “Jayne, were you eavesdropping?”

A couple seconds later, and Jayne’s head came around the corner. He seemed to sniff, and then the rest of his body slowly came in.

“Yes?” asked Simon, drawing himself up from the relaxed position he had been indulging in.

Jayne took a hesitant step in. “What’d you do in here?” he asked suspiciously.

“You must be noticing the cleanliness,” said Simon, stepping a little more towards Jayne with his hands clasped behind his back. “It’s not a bad concept, really. Some side effects if you get used to it, of course, but favorable ones.”

“I didn’t come in here for you t’ talk me to death,” said Jayne with a little growl. “I got a problem.”

“Why don’t you sit down,” said Simon crisply, “and then you can tell me exactly what your problem is.”

Jayne sat down on the medical table and drew up one foot. Taking off his shoe and then sock, while Simon remained professionally distant and refrained from inhaling, he revealed a scarred and callous foot. “It’s m’big toe,” he said, thrusting it towards Simon.

Simon stepped forward, pursing his lips and looking down at it. Jayne’s nails were all slightly crooked, but his big toe was a mottled purple and yellow-green, with the nail twisted up at an unpleasant angle. “It hurts, then?”

“Damn right it hurts,” said Jayne. “What’re ya, stupid? Dropped a box o’ cartridges on it, and it swelled up like—”

“Yes, I can see,” cut off Simon briskly. He had learned to fear Jayne’s colorful metaphors. “The nail was dislodged at the root, but it is still blocking the pooling of blood underneath. If you just wait a moment, I can remove the nail and clean up the area in a matter of minutes.”

“Oh no,” said Jayne, pulling his foot back. “Just ‘cause you’re doctor don’t mean you got the rights t’ chop me up as ya please. You just do what I ask ya to, that’s all.”

Simon looked up at Jayne’s face. “Fine,” he said. “The nail will fall off on its own eventually, and I assume you know to clean such an area and keep it covered till the nail regrows.”

“Just give me the painkillers, doc,” said Jayne.

Simon moved to where River was playing, poured out a couple pills, and gave them to Jayne.

“This ain’t enough,” he said.

“Waste not,” said Simon shortly. “You need more, you can come and get them as you need them. I’ll almost always be here.”

“You’re awful uppity for someone we didn’t need until Cap’n lost his brains,” growled Jayne.

Simon said nothing, but continued to stand by the counter until Jayne left, whereupon he sighed and rubbed between his eyes.

“And the little one spoke to the big one,” came the soft tones of River off to his left. “And he said that he didn’t want to play with the other one. Don’t be silly, said the big one, I know what’s best.” Vials of medicines in hand, River looked down on them with wide eyes as they performed the parts of mini-dolls. “I don’t belong with him, the little one said. It isn’t natural.”

“A little dull, isn’t it?” said Inara from the hall, looking in on them and smiling. “The last day before we reach planetside, it is as if the crew runs out of things to do.”

“I’m not bored,” said Simon, but he smiled a little back. “Just—thinking.”

“Ah, well, then I won’t interrupt you now.”

“No, don’t. I’m a doctor, I’m used to seeing patients at all times. Is there something you needed?”

Inara paused at the doorway, one hand resting gently on the frame. Then she took a tenative step forward. “Well, yes there is. My prescription ran out, and I wondered if you had enough to last me until we reach Boros tomorrow.” She glided across the room and handed him an empty bottle.

Simon looked at it, looked up at Inara, whose face was calmly masked, and said nothing but: “I have an equivalent, if that will do.”

“Yes, that will be fine,” she said, a little too quickly and with a smile incredibly bright.

Simon retrieved the appropriate bottle from River’s collection, and withdrew the proper dosage.

“Thank you, Doctor Tam,” said Inara gratefully, smoothly bestowing the medicine in a pocket in the sleeve of her robe. “Your presence is much appreciated, I hope you know.”

“You are my third patient today,” admitted Simon. “But I’m sure the novelty will wear off.”

“Has Mal come to you about that strange mark on the back of his neck?” she asked with a slight wrinkle of her nose.

Simon smiled softly. “Now, Miss Serra, a doctor must protect his patient’s confidentiality.”

She smiled back. “Of course. Thank you for your help, and I hope you accomplish what you desire,” she added, glancing to River. And like a smooth summer breeze, she was gone with barely a sound.

Simon pulled out his notebook, and the one book he had on neural psychology, and settled down to continue his studies. River seemed to be done with organizing the medicines, and began to shift them around again. The little clinks of bottles touching each other mingled with the hum of the engines as background noise.

The main question in his mind now was, how much of River’s current condition was permanent? It was not uncommon for such severe trauma as River had gone through to provoke a brief period of psychosis that, with therapy, could be overcome. Had Simon not heard Dr. Mathias, he would easily have adopted that idea. Fragmented reality matrix, he remembered, and something about neural stripping. At the time his whole mind had been on the rescue plan, not information gathering—he had known he could not do both—so even now he was not sure how much had been done to River’s mind.

Looking over at her, he sighed. Then, a wrinkle in his brow appeared, as he saw the castle that River had created from his medicines as if they were wooden blocks. It was as if she was still the fourteen-year-old girl he remembered at heart—and yet, when she spoke, he sometimes could not even recognize her. His mind told him to tell her that she should play with things that would not break if they fell, and his heart told him not to ruin one of her peaceful moments. There was a war for a moment, and his mouth opened and then shut. His heart claimed the victory.

Simon emerged from the cocoon-like infirmary with River when it was lunch-time, after studying his own notes to death while River took a short nap curled up on the bench. He encouraged her to take naps, as the brighter lights of “day” on the ship seemed to help in keeping nighmares at bay.

Lunch was usually whatever protein concoctions were left over from breakfast and dinner the night before, and though everyone ate at the same time, they made their own dish.

“Hi,” said Wash, as they came in. He caught sight of River’s flowy red sundress. “You look nice—” he said, surprised and a little hesitant. She stared but did not react, and he relaxed. “Kaylee, didn’t you...?”

“Yeah,” said Kaylee cheerfully. “And she looks all better than I ever did, don’t she? Hey, doctor, this protein stuff tastes pretty good with some of the Shepherd’s cloves and cardamum.” She beckoned to Simon.

“Thank you, again, for the clothes,” said Simon as he served up some food for himself and his sister.

“Don’t be silly, I didn’t have anything t’ do with them,” said Kaylee. “Used to like those pretty things, but they got caught on the engine, and I didnt want to muck up my girl.”

Jayne came up the stairs in a little, stopping short at the sight of River standing, staring at him with hands clasped behind her back. “Uh,” he said, and scooted past.

“River,” said Simon, and she turned and came closer to the counter.

“She always knows what y’mean, when all you say is ‘River’ in that tone,” commented Kaylee. “S’that some sort of sibling language I missed?”

Simon thought about it for a moment. “I don’t know,” he said simply. He picked up the two plates he had just served, and walked over to the table. River grabbed chopsticks and followed, murmuring under her breath.

Kaylee took a bite of her food again, and half-skipped to the table where Inara had just settled, a cup of tea in her hand. “Can’t wait till we get to Boros,” she said.

“Mm, yes, it will be nice to be on solid ground again,” said Inara. “Will you shop for any new parts?”

“Naw, Serenity’s doin’ right shiny now. I got somethin’ else on my mind to spend my share on.”

“Oh, I see,” said Inara knowingly, leaning over and chuckling.

“You didn’t guess, did you?” asked Kaylee incredulously.

“Strawberries,” said Inara with a smile.

“I’ve no clue how you do that,” said Kaylee, shaking her head. “I haven’t splurged in so long, Nara,” she continued excitedly. “It’ll be like Christmas.”

“You deserve it after all that’s happened,” said Inara warmly.

Jayne sat at the end of the table, quietly shoveling his food into his mouth. Book sat by him, equally quiet, but with a different air about him. “You gettin’ off at Boros?” asked Jayne suddenly.

“I haven’t decided,” mused Book. “I’m not sure that’s where my journey ends.”

Jayne grunted and turned back to his food. Book watched him for a moment, smiled to himself a little, and ate some more.

Mal came in, rubbing his hands together in a satisfied manner. “Well, well, well, travelers, Boros’ll be slipping up our horizon by tomorrow morning, and it’ll be afternoon planetside. Mark your schedules.”

“We got a new contact?” asked Zoe.

“A decent one,” Mal confirmed. “Rather well-to-do, a few quirks in the brainpan, if reputation is true.”

“Our sort, then,” said Zoe.

“Yeah, that seems about so,” said Mal. “Jayne, you’ll be coming along. Meeting place’s pretty far from the dock, so we’ll be takin’ the shuttle.”

“Aw, Mal, I had plans,” protested Jayne.

“It’s a short job, you can make it up next world,” said Mal firmly.

Jayne glared, and Simon watched from where he and River sat in the corner. Once again the thought went through his mind, though not out loud, what exactly Jayne’s position was on the ship in relation to Mal. There was a strange dynamic to this crew all across the board, though, and Simon wondered if he and River were to become the ignored ones. As long as River was calm, he got only token notice from everyone but Kaylee and Shepherd Book. At the moment, though, Simon was quite fine with that.

“You have errands on Boros?” Simon was jerked out of his thoughts by Mal.

“Yes,” said Simon shortly.

“Don’t go too far,” advised Mal before walking off.

“Right,” muttered Simon under his breath. Lunch was soon over, and it was back to the infirmary until dinner, and then once again to bed. Simon looked at his notebook at the end of the day, and thought that he had never had a day so uneventful. River had not even had an episode.



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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.