Disclaimer: Firefly and all related elements, characters and indicia © Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television, 2003. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situationssave those created by the authors for use solely on this websiteare copyright Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television.
Rock and a Hard Place
Part I: River
Simon doesn't answer you right away. He is concentrating on making four perfect stitches in the palm of your right hand.
"I'm sorry," you say again. You are always apologizing to Simon. This morning you threw up in his room, and could only cry as you watched him clean up the mess. You wanted to stop crying, but you couldn't. You wanted to stop apologizing.
Simon has sewn the last stitch. He raises soft black eyes to look at you. "It's okay, River."
"But I broke the mirror."
"I know. The captain might have something to say about that." He examines his finished work, and curls his mouth in annoyance. The stitches aren't quite even. Simon likes everything to be even. "Do you want to tell me why?"
"It was already broken," you say.
"Uh huh." That's the sound Simon makes when he is pretending to understand you. He places your hand gently in your lap, and decides to try another tack. "Kaylee's very pretty, isn't she?"
"I'm sorry," you say, and burst into tears.
You didn't mean to. You didn't mean to want her so bad. It started out with a smile, and a pretty word, and a light touch on your arm. You didn't mean to save those things, hold them to you like precious jewels, until the sum of those things turned into wanting so hard that you hurt all over. You didn't mean to kiss her, that time when you were playing in the cargo bay, when you wrestled her to the ground amid fits of giggles. Her mouth seemed so close, then, so flushed and ready, and you didn't mean to but you couldn't help it. And Kaylee just smiled at you.
"Ain't gonna distract me that easy, sweetie." And she wriggled out from under you, and pinned you to the floor until you begged mercy, helpless and laughing.
She was Simon's. You knew that. You didn't mean to take her from him. You just meant to keep her with you in your head, along with all the other things that you keep there. Things that aren't real. But when you saw them kissing in the common room, their images melted into one and reflected in the mirror behind them...you thought the mirror must be the thing that wasn't real. But you'd been wrong.
Simon has injected something into you to calm you down. He holds you, until you stop crying.
"She is beautiful," you whisper into the neatly pressed fabric of his vest.
"Yes," he agrees.
"She tastes so sweet. And soft."
Simon stiffens slightly against you. "Yes."
"I'm sorry," you say quietly, and close your eyes to sleep.
Part II: Simon
After putting River to bed, you tidy up the infirmary. The supplies that you used to stich up River go back into their proper place, waiting for the next time that there is an injury on board the Serenity. Which you're certain will be soon enough.
You brush a hand along the smooth white countertops, the coldness comforting to your skin. River hates it in here, and you can hardly blame her. But you love it. It reminds you of the hospital, the Core, your old life. Things that you have all lost. This room is the only one on the ship that provides anything familiar.
"Is she alright?" The voice, coming from the doorway, belongs to Kaylee. It is full of worry.
"She's fine," you say, turning around to face her. "Just four stiches. She's sleeping."
"I guess you're mad at me," Kaylee says, stepping into the room.
"Mad at you for what?" you ask sharply. "Kissing my sister?"
Kaylee blushes, as you knew she would, and you instantly feel guilty. It is a deep blush, her cream skin flushing rose pink, from the curve of her forehead to the smooth slope of her neck. "It... it wasn't nothin', Simon. Just a kiss. It wasn't in my mind to betray you."
"It isn't about betraying me," you say. That's only a little lie. "It's about River. She's not well, and she's easily confused. She's just a girl."
Kaylee's face has turned bright red. Her brown eyes flash dark, the first signs of anger that you've ever seen on her face. "She ain't no girl. She's a woman. An' she knows what she wants, unlike some people. She don't hide behind being proper."
Standing in front of her, you reach out to touch her. Your steady surgeon's fingers trace the curve of her ear, and touch the softness of her cheek. Her skin is warm. She glares at you, still angry. "Do you think that that's the problem?" you ask her. "That I don't know what I want?"
"Well, if you know," Kaylee answers crossly, "you never gorram say. Or show it, or do anythin' to make me think that you've noticed me from a hole in the ground. River at least"
You grab her slim waist and pull her towards you. This kiss is not like the others. Your mouth finds hers as surely as if you had done so a thousand times before, your tongue tasting the sweet wetness and needing more. When you pull back, you can feel her breaths coming shallow against you. "For just a moment," you whisper hoarsely, "I'd like to not talk about my sister. Perhaps not talk at all."
You pick her up, and lay her on the operating table. Her chestnut hair spills out all around her, framing her pretty face.
"You gonna cut me open again, doc?" she asks, giggling.
You run a strong hand up her side, feeling the curve of her thighs and her hips underneath her worksuit. You reach underneath her suddenly, grabbing the firm roundness of her ass, making her squeal out laughter. "I might," you answer. "I could open you up Kaylee, and let out all the light inside of you. It would spill out of you. Light so bright it would blind everyone in the room."
Kaylee giggles again. "I ain't never heard you talk like that, doc."
"I don't suppose that you have." You climb onto the table with her, and kiss her, drinking her in. Then you roll her underneath you, drawing your tongue alond her neck. You hands unbutton the suit and slip underneath, stroking her breasts, pinching the nipples until she gasps. "Don't ever," you murmur in her ear, "suggest that I don't know what I want."
"Got it," she kisses your ear, "no problem, doc." And she thrusts her hips againts you, reminding you that you are growing hard.
Underneath the jumpsuit, her panties are made of soft cotton. You pull them down just slightly, enough to touch the cleft between her buttocks, to feel where she is moist between her thighs. Moist and ready.
"Simon," she whispers softly, "don't stop."
"I have to," you whisper back.
You can feel the confusion rippling through her body. "Have to?"
"Yes." And you pull away from her. The moment is up. "River's going to wake up soon. She'll need me."
"I guess you're mad at me."
It is late. You have knocked on the hatch to Kaylee's bunk, before entering. She is sitting on her bed, reading. When she looks up, her stare meets yours, not embarrassed or shy. Not even very angry. "Mad at you for what?" she asks. "Bein' a tease?"
A slight smile touches your mouth, and settles in the blackness of your eyes. You cross the room to sit on her bed, careful to leave a large emptiness between your body and hers. "Have I told you about my life in the Core? My life at the hospital?"
She nods. "Sure. You said that you loved it there."
"I did. But I gave it up."
"Yes. I gave it up for River. I've given up so much for River."
"Musta been hard, doc."
"That's just it. It wasn't hard. It wasn't hard at all. I thought it would be, but..." your voice trails off, remembering. Kaylee is sitting with her elbows on her knees, waiting patiently for you to get to the point. You pause, just a moment. So many things hang in the air, stifling your words. The sharp bitter sting of disappointment, the sticky sweetness of unfulfilled desire. It wasn't meant to be this complicated.
"Did you know," you ask her quietly, "that my sister is in love with you?"
Brown eyes widen, and she shakes her head. So like Kaylee, to be surprised at something so obvious. "No, it ain't nothin' like that. She might like me a bit. But that's all."
You'd be the first to admit that you don't always understand what River is talking about. And you feel some guilt about that, not being able to communicate with your own sister. But the look on her face when you asked her about Kaylee needed no translation. "She's in love with you," you answer surely. "And I..."
And I am not. That's what you'd been about to say. But the hurt on Kaylee's face lets you know that it doesn't need saying. You wish that Kaylee would find some way of keeping everything that she is feeling from showing on the outside.
You want to taste her, one last time. You lean forward, and kiss her gently on the mouth. When you lean back, you see that she has started to cry. "Simon," she whispers, "don't go."
"I have to." You are already at the door. "River's going to wake up soon. She'll need me."
Part III: Kaylee
Last night you went to Mal's room, and cried. It upsets Mal to see you cry, and you know this, and that made you feel guilty, and that made you cry even harder.
Not knowing what else to do, he wrapped his arms around you, warm and solid and comforting. "What's the gorram doctor done?" he demanded to know. "You want me to go hit him? I can go hit him."
You laughed, through the tears that are staining his shirt. "He don't need hittin', cap'n. He ain't been nuthin..." you paused, remembering the feel of sure, strong hands underneath your clothes. "He ain't been nuthin' but a gentleman."
"Yeah? That why you're cryin', mèimei?"
You don't answer, don't tell him any more, and so he doesn't ask, just tucks you into his bed and watches you cry until you fall asleep.
It wasn't meant to be this complicated. It started so simply. It started with a gentleman, cool mouth and well-pressed suit, asking you where the Serenity was headed.
"Any place you want. Long as it's the outer planets." You had smiled. "You in a hurry?"
It had started with a bang, and your head hitting the ground, and the doctor asking you to dance.
"Don't go workin' that crush too hard," Mal had said. But it was too late, and he knew it.
It started with the girl, lying on a bed in the infirmary. "She's beautiful," you'd said to Book.
And she was. So beautiful you were always scared to touch her, afraid that she might break. An illusion that held true when she opened her mouth, speaking only riddles. You understood her better than you should. And she understood you, like she'd taken your heart out of your chest and read the words printed on it. She understood everything.
Today you are hiding in the engine room, huddled in a corner beside the hulking comfort of the creaking engine. Serenity's heart, and the only thing left on this ship that isn't broken. You brush your hair out of your face, determined not to cry.
You passed River in the hallway this morning. She wouldn't talk to you. She wouldn't even look at you, and when you reached out an arm to get her attention, she recoiled as if she'd been struck. "Sorry sorry sorry sorry," that's the only word you could hear, as she scrambled away from you and down the hall.
Worse was Simon. Simon smiled. He smiled at you at breakfast, he politely passed the sugar, as if nothing was different. As if kissing you and not kissing you are the exact same thing.
And perhaps they are.
You lean your head against the wall of the room, listening to Serenity clank out her sympathy. You don't hear River enter.
She sits down, next to you, squeezing her small body into the limited space. She presses against you, and her warmth suffuses your body with heat. She is silent, breathing into you, for almost forever. You are glad of that. River's words are sometimes more than you can bear.
"I'm sorry," she whispers.
Your heart sinks, like a stone, into your aching belly. "Sorry for what, sweetie?"
"I broke it.'
"Ain't your fault. Simon l-loves you." You stumble slightly over the four-letter word, remembering. "An' he says..."
"Simon talks too much," she interrupts sharply. "He's always selling pies. At the fair. All sugar and no substance."
"No. He's shiny. He means well."
River nods. "He's my brother. But there's a lot he doesn't understand. He doesn't see the colours." Her hand reaches towards you. She pinches your arm, between her thumb and forefinger, and watches, as a spot of your peach skin turns red. "Or the shapes." Your bicep is rough-shaped muscle from lifting iron tools, and River's fingers are silk running across it. "There's a lot he doesn't understand," she says softly.
"I don't think that's true," you answer, defending him despite yourself. "Simon's a gentleman."
"There's more to life than being a gentleman."
You turn your head to face her. River's eyes are bright like stars, teasing you. "Like what?"
She leans forward and kisses you. This is a soft, slow kiss, her mouth searching yours, unafraid.
You know that there are reasons why you shouldn't, and your mind struggles to find them. But all you can say, when she pulls away, is her name. "River."
"He's still inside you," she says.
You want, so badly, to kiss her again. But the look in her eyes, dark and flat, stops you from trying.
"He's inside you," she says again. "I can taste him there. There's no room." She leans her face towards you, and presses a warm cheek against your own. "I wanted to get inside you, Kaylee," she whispers into your ear.
"I know," you whisper back.
"I wanted to crawl inside you, and count the beats of your heart. All your dreams would be made of me. But there's no room."
You can feel wetness, slick on your face. River has started to cry, as her body relaxes and folds into yours. You close your eyes, holding her, wishing that she wouldn't always leave you this way. With nothing left to say.
Translation Notesmèimei little sister