Disclaimer: Joss Whedon, who art in LA, hallowed be thy creation of Firefly. Thy television show come, thy will be done, on SciFi as it was on Fox. (i.e., not mine.)
(A/N) For all that have mentioned it, I did screw up by not making all of these chapters of a single story. But since I don't want to lose all of your wonderful reviews, I've been keeping it like this. After it's all over, I'll probably put them into a 30 (or more) chapter story. Hopefully you'll all still review it! Enjoy this next one!
She wonders what Simon thinks he's doing with her sometimes. He has no claws, no fur, no growl. He's soft and sweet, chastising with love and care. He's stuck-up sometimes and socially awkward, trying to slip through unnoticed and sticking out like a sore thumb. He doesn't barrel right into situations, but seeks to side-step them with utmost care.
So why does he try to play Mama Bear?
He smiles at her, pets her hair and lets her read the label on the bottle as he counts out pills. Thinks she doesn't know the label isn't right, the effects aren't the same, action and reaction don't add up, make sense, compute. Doesn't work.
"Doesn't work," she informs him, frowning at the bottle and lifting her chin to frown at him, too.
"It will," he replies, having no idea what she's trying to tell him, smiling and reaching out to pluck the bottle from her fingers. "We don't get milk out here like we do at home, so you have to take these supplements. You're a little weak now with your bone structure, but it'll kick in."
"Doesn't work," she repeats, stressing the last word and looking at him irritably. Listen, Simon, why won't you listen, why won't you understand like you used to? "Doesn't compute. They take her and they box her up and keep her safe, keep her away from all the danger, but there's danger everywhere and they know that. So how can they try and keep her away from it?"
Her brother blinks at her, silent and surprised for a moment before he reaches forward, ready to soothe her to silence. "River--" There is a flash of fear, not in his voice, but in his mind. He doesn't understand. He always fears what he doesn't understand.
She bats his hand away, backs away into the corner and continues. "I'm no good, Simon, no good," she informs him, shaking her head slowly, frowning and upset but not at him, how can she be upset when he doesn't understand? "No good, no good, and I have feet and hands and trees that look like guns with leaves that rip and tear into flesh, break it and make it bleed, and I hurt other people--"
Another flash, so much fear in him when she talks like this. Enough to make him reach out, grab her arms, expression a mixture of pain and guilt. "No, no, River, that isn't your fault--"
"I DO IT."
"I do it!" she repeats, no longer shouting, but no less vehement, shaking in his grasp. Her eyes meet his and bore and mine, searching for the treasure inside. "Not them, Simon, not them, just me, your sister and I hit him and I went to apologize and I--"
His face is red, not what she was mining for, and his grip on her arms tightens as he interrupts. "You don't know what he wanted, River, he was--"
"Real girls tease!" she snaps, like a trap set in the woods, hard and sharp and without warning, surging up against his hold. "They joke and they tease and they flaunt and play innocent at the same time - Kaylee, Inara, Zoe, Mama used to do it, but I'm not real, am I, cracked in the brainpan," her voice strains, cracking, and her eyes burn but she doesn't remember setting them on fire, "not real, not real, I try to play at it and I get close but you always ruin it, pull him away, make me fake again, Simon, make me fake..." Trailing off, she shakes her head, hair in her eyes, hiding black glass eyes like the dolls her father used to buy her, porcelain hands can't move by themselves, pretty like a toy but not like a real girl and someone's thrown water at her when she wasn't looking and streaks of it run down her cheeks.
The room disappears and there is only black streaks of dark hair, bright light behind it, and the pressure on her arms has been gone for some time. It's only when pressure returns, feather-light on her forehead, pressing her hair back, lifting her chin, wiping the water from her face... and it's Simon.
He's worried and hurt and scared and guilty and wants to help but doesn't know how so maybe this will help and it's only a little lie just a little one and maybe she can tell but then she'll know he loves her and just wants to help just wants to understand please understand meimei please...
Two discs roll into her hands, small and white and fragile and cold glass rests against her leg. "...They're calcium," her brother, her Mama Bear, whispers.
She looks up at him, old eyes and a little boy's but he takes care of her. "Of course they are," she whispers back and swallows both the pills and the water they came with.
When she passes out just a few moments later, she wonders if her brother's added 'I love you' was guilt- or sympathy-driven.