Holiday Chores: In Stitches

Written by: KMSpider

Kmspider at aol dot com

Summary: No Labor on Labor Day

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Just another quiet day out in the black.

Simon sat on the couch in the common area reattaching a button to one of River's hand-me-down dresses she'd received from Kaylee.

He didn't mind the labor too much. Being a surgeon, he had been encouraged by his teachers to learn different patterns of stitching. It keptthe fingers nimble, and taught students both patience and the intricacies of thread; and strengthened the fine motor skills required for sewing and surgery. Different thread behaved differently. Nylon slid through fabric easily, but tended to slip knots. Cotton wasn't as strong, but a good knot required snipping. The same principles held for both cloth and flesh. It was no wonder that half the surgeons he had knownhad owned boats. Sailor's knots were useful, too. He'd even had a nurse teach him to crochet a little. Not that he would ever achieve the speed that she had, but, again, he'd learned a little about how loops and thread could be bound together, or easily pulled apart.

His stitches never pulled apart.

He'd tried to show River how, but her bit of yarn had quickly morphed into a cat's cradle, and she'd run off to get Kaylee to play with her. When last he'd looked up, she had cornered Jayne at the bottom of the stairs near the infirmary, while the mercenary grumpily tried to maneuver the string to form the next shape, all the while claiming that he had better things to do and no ruttin' time for crazy girls.

The Captain had walked by the two of them and had merely rolled his eyes at his big mercenary playing children's games, but had said nothing.

Mal passed through the common area again, and had, with studied casualness, asked if Simon wouldn't mind working on the pair of pants that he had tucked away in his hands. Simon hid his grin and nodded. The Captain dropped them beside him and headed to the bridge.

Simon had to smile when he picked up the Captain's trousers and studied the rip. He changed the color thread in his needle and thought back to when the Captain had done the damage.

They had just finished a job, and were within minutes of lifting off, the engines already warming up. Mal had been standing near the end of the ramp, saying his goodbyes to the customer, getting ready to board. Apparently Zoe hadn't seen that he wasn't quite on yet. She'd hit the button to raise the ramp. Mal had heard the sound and had turned and jumped on, sliding down on his butt as the ramp raised. Some small bolt in the ramp floor had caught the pants, and the resulting rip had echoed throughout the cargo hold, almost louder than the ramp itself closing.

Zoe's eyes had widened in horror, then suppressed laughter. Jayne wasn't quite so polite. His guffaws shook the hold. Kaylee shrieked once, then covered her mouth to stifle her giggles. Even Book had chuckled.

Mal had glared at the lot of them, and Simon had hurriedly herded his sister down the steps and away from the impending explosion. Neither of them could hold their laughter either.

Kaylee passed River and Jayne, stopping long enough to string the cat's cradle into a different configuration for Jayne, before River had it laced back among her fingers, next puzzle pattern making Jayne scratch his head.

"Hey, Doc."

"Morning, Kaylee."

"Would you mind taking a look at my coveralls. My blue flower is coming off."

"No problem. Just bring them over."

"Thanks. I'll go get 'em now."

He smiled as she turned and headed up the stairs to her quarters.

Minutes later she was back, her favorite jumpsuit neatly folded beside him. She talked to Simon a few moments, than wandered away to pluck the cat's cradle from Jayne's frustrated fingers.

Simon set aside the Captain's pants and looked over Kaylee's clothing. The small blue flower covered the bore hole from the lawman's gun when he had shot Kaylee in the stomach. Even with all the violence and pain, she hadn't wanted to give up her favorite coveralls, so she had applied a small appliqu to cover it. The flower fit in with the other appliqu of the teddy bear stitched to her pocket.

Simon took out a second needle and threaded it with blue thread, neatly reattaching the flower, than using the brown he'd readied for the captain's pants to fortify the stitching for the bear.

Finished, he looked up, checking on River. She was calmly sitting a step down from Jayne, still playing cat's cradle with Kaylee while Jayne brushed her hair. Kaylee sat across from her wearing the atrocious hat that Jayne's mother had sent him.

Shaking his head in wonder, Simon picked up the Captain's pants again, running thread through the sturdy material.

He heard River begin to softly sing a tune.

"Doe, a deer. A female deer," River sang.

Zoe and Wash wandered through, looking for Book to settle a biblical question for them. Simon was pretty sure that the answer would be that dinosaurs did not have souls.

"But if God existed, lamby-toes, who else would the dinos have worshiped? Hey, Doc. Oh, you're sewing. I've got a shirt that needs a bit ofstitching. Zoey was quite the amazon queen last night," Wash rambled, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively, "And I, her humble concubine."

"Ray, a drop of golden sun."

"Bring it down," Simon instructed, shaking his head. "I've got laundry duty till the end of the day anyway."

"Thanks, Doc."

"Could you bring my red shirt, too, dear? It's got a gash in the sleeve from that flesh wound I took last week."

"Sure thing, hon. Be back in a minute."

"Me, a name I call myself."

Wash hurried out of the room and Zoe took a seat in the chair next to the couch. Conversationally, she said, "You know, if he makes that pig tail any tighter, your sister's ears might just pop off from the strain."

Simon looked up to see that Jayne had gathered all of River's hair into a tight pigtail. Not a single hair strayed from Jayne's grip and he wrestled it into a hair band. River wasn't complaining.

"Far, a long, long way to run."

"I don't know what worries me more. That River will sit still for it, or Jayne's secret desire to be a beautician."

Zoe chuckled and Wash returned a moment later, clothing in hand. The couple left, still in search of the preacher and the answer to dinosaurs' souls.

Jayne began to braid the pigtail.

"Sew, a needle pulling thread."

Simon looked up and caught River's eye, sharing a smile at her lyrics.

Inara and Book walked in from the other direction, sharing conversation and tea. They both began to sit, until Kaylee told the preacher that Zoe and Wash had just left and were looking for him. Book excused himself and left to find the couple.

"La, a note to follow sew."

Inara set a cup of tea on the table next to Simon. "I brought you a cup of Darjeeling, Simon. And a piece of sewing, I'm afraid. You always seem to sew on Saturdays, so I took my chances."

"I must be getting too predictable," he smiled in reply, taking a sip of sweet, hot tea. "Everyone else is catching me today, too."

"Tea, a drink with jam and bread."

A soft piece of linen pillowcase was unfolded from the wide belt around Inara's waist where she'd tucked it so she could carry the cups of tea.

"The seam is coming apart. Small now, but..."

"A stitch in time, as the old adage goes."

"Thank you, Simon."

"And that will bring us back to doe."

Inara took a sip of her own tea, looking over the rim to watch the girls and Jayne, calling out to them, "Jayne, do you need a hairpin. You can have one of mine."

"Thanks, 'Nara," Jayne called back, and Kaylee got up from her seat to retrieve it.

Jayne had finished the braid and had wound it into a complicated bun, finishing it off and holding it in place with the butterfly pin Inara supplied.

"Doe re me fa so la tea doe!"

"Schoolmarm," Kaylee teased River, taking the cat's cradle from her, missing a thread and having to start over.

Simon could swear that his sister's ears were an inch higher than normal.

The Captain wandered through again.

"Doe tea la so fa me re doe."

"Have you ever seen such a lazy crew," the Captain stated, but he was grinning.

"Not all of us," Simon said, holding up the pants.

Mal smiled, and turned them over to study the stitching. "Right fine job there, Simon."

"Maybe you'll stop using the ramp as a slip and slid next time, Mal," Jayne scolded.

"Weren't me that shut the ship."

"Don't look at me. That was Zoe!"

Simon let the friendly banter wash over him as he picked up Zoe's shirt, and searched for red thread.

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Mal wandered around the large table in the mess hall handing out slips of paper to his crew. Dinner had been finished a while ago, and most of the dishes cleared, awaiting a good washing. The crew sat relaxed, taking an occasional sip of Kaylee's homebrewed hooch, or a cup of coffee, and rubbing full bellies. As the Captain passed out the notes he heard various responses, groans, giggles, offers of trade. Skipping over River, he finally reached the last member, the Doctor, and handed him a slip, too.

The young man took it and turned it over, glancing at the inscription. "Laundry? Again?" he said, looking up at his Captain.

"Problem with that, Doc?"

"No. I suppose not," he replied distractedly, forehead scrunched in consternation. "It's just... I had it last week. And the week before, too."

Zoe caught Mal's eye, her own twinkling in merriment, but keeping quiet all the same.

"Luck of the draw, Doc," Mal drawled and moved on.

"Game's been fixed," said the doctor's pixilated sister. "The deck is full of jokers." Simon hushed her and absently rubbed her back.

"Just for that you're assigned to help Kaylee with dishes, Miss River. And no water fights this time," Mal ordered as he retook his seat at the head of the table.

"Easy to juggle cups."

"Just don't break anything."

The rest of the table broke into discussion, Jayne trying to trade away his 'septic vac' chore, while the preacher tucked his 'cooking' chore away in his pocket with a smile.

Zoe leaned close to Mal and whispered, "Don't think he's caught on yet, Sir. But he will soon."

"Hope not." He ran a contemplative hand down the front of his old tan shirt. "My clothes have never looked so clean. Boy even knows how to get out blood."

Wash leaned over, joining in. "I like when they come back mended."

"Boy's got a real gift for stitching things back together, and that's a fact," Mal smiled, one hand unconsciously gliding over the stitching on his backside.

"How many times have you blown out the back of those britches, Sir?" Zoe asked innocently.

Mal glared at her and she chuckled.

"Kind of like my shirts coming back on a hanger, all pressed and neat," Wash mused. "Even my jump suits!"

"Did you notice he even hangs Jayne's tee-shirts?" Zoe added, in awe.

"Beginning to think Jayne hates that," Wash replied.

The other two turned to give him a puzzled look.

"Makes him think he has to bathe more often."

"Ah," the command crew answered in unison.

"Wouldn't want a man to change his entire lifestyle for a shirt," Mal grinned.

"This would explain what's been happening to our water supply, Captain," Zoe pointed out.

"Hell, I'd hate to have to take Simon off laundry duty because Jayne's getting clean. Finally."

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At the other end of the table another quiet conversation was taking place.

"Uh, hey, Doc?"

Simon looked up from his assigned chore and met Jayne's eyes. "What is it, Jayne?"

"Um, the girls got a mite frisky with the hat my momma sent me." Jayne displayed the hat, holding it under the edge of the table, trying to hide the damage from the girls. A small finger size hole gaped among the frayed yarn. "Think ya could fix it?"

"We don't have any orange thread."

"Oh." Jayne displayed his disappointment like a child.

"Do you mind if I use brown?"

That got a big smile. "Not at all. Thanks, Doc."

Simon smiled in return and wondered just how long the Captain would stick him with laundry. He'd long ago figured out that the chores weren't being passed out randomly.

For instance, Zoe was never assigned to cook. Hearing Jayne describe her singular attempt since Simon had come aboard as smelling like crotch had given him all the evidence he needed as to why.

Kaylee never got septic vac. Simon believed it offended the Captain's sensibilities to have her slopping about with it. Preacher never got washing dishes as he was better at cooking. Wash never got laundry. Pink shirts for the Captain had put a stop to that.

And lately, all he got was laundry, Not that he minded. He liked the precision of it. Corners neatly folded, shirts ironed stiff, colors that didn't run, correct mix of chemicals to get them clean. Everything neat and tidy. The whole crew was looking spiffier. None of them could afford new clothes and Simon had come to appreciate durable fabric and did his best to make sure the clothing lasted as long as it could.

And as for the stitching, well, it was more than thread that held them all together. They were family.

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The End

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This story has been nominated for 2005 Strawberries: The Blue Sun Fandom Award for'Series and Sequels' Category

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