Summary: River says goodbye.
Disclaimer: Firefly and all associated with it does not belong to me - I just take it out from time to time, treat it right, buy it dinner and some flowers, give it a peck on the cheek and have it home by ten.
The Tams were a well-to-do family.
"Well-to-do." They did and they did well and what they did well was of little importance since it was done and done well.
Sometimes River smiled when she thought of how much she knew about her father's business, and how much she knew about Mal's: not much of the former, too much of the latter-- according to Simon.
But the Tams had been wealthy, privileged, and River and Simon had been along for the ride. They lived in an expensive home with an impressive estate, had everything a child could ever need or want...
...they could even send her to a fancy, government boarding school...
The best part, River always thought, were the trips. All kinds of different planets, different settings - nowhere off the Core, of course, for the well-to-do stayed away from the well-to-don't and that was just the way it is. But exploring was more fun when it was a new planet, a new setting, and River was always excited to leave, to travel, to keep moving.
She'd seen the ocean her first time on Persephone - first time for the ocean, for Persephone, and for River. She'd been a child, then, her head full of big thoughts, even when she was trying to convince Simon that there were mermaids in the water that waved to him every time he turned around. Eventually, he humored her and she got him to dive in with her, splashing amidst the waves, fully clothed and laughing until their mother noticed and pitched a fit on wet clothing. Respectively giggling and abashed, River and Simon had swum back to shore to take their punishment, which was little more than a slap on the wrists. Literally.
The well-to-do don't punish their children publicly, nor do they ever use more force than absolutely necessary.
Wet and slowly growing cold, River had huddled under a towel with her brother, their parents on either side, outside the towels so they couldn't get wet themselves, but close enough to share the heat. River had shivered and smiled and leaned her head against her mother's shoulder, sighing softly as she took in the sight before her.
Waves crash. They're always described that way, but you never know until you hear it, see it hitting the sand and sending up a spray of foam and sand and shells and rocks. They crash, beating a reaction out of the earth, leaving the evidence of its touch all over the sand in ripples and rivulets, the air-bubbles of whatever animal hiding beneath had to exhale after the waves retreated.
Sitting on the catwalk with her legs dangling over the edge, River watches a bear shoulder his pack and walk across the cargo bay. The world crashed around her, around the ship, and when he looks back at her, his eyes send up a spray of sparks that shoot a line of fire straight from her own pupils, down her spine, and to her toes.
She looks at him for a long moment before moving, leaning her head against the substitution of her mother's shoulder - a cold bar of the catwalk - and taking in the sight before her.
He seems to sigh as he turns back, and she can feel the exhale, the air-bubbles rising to the surface and break there, the only evidence there was anything hiding under the waves at all.
When he's gone and the doors have closed up, Wash has warned everyone and Serenity takes off from its five-minute stay on Gomorrah, River sighs, too.
She hides in his bunk for the rest of the day, running her fingers carefully over the edges of the knives he left behind, the ripples and rivulets of his waves.