Prompt: Firefly, Tams (+ crew), River sacrificed everything to pull her big brother out of a secret Alliance facility
Mal stood and let Kaylee introduce the passengers to him. The Shepherd was annoying but it was the girl that stood out. She was young and rich and smart. She had no business on a transport ship like Serenity, especially without an escort. She tried to keep to herself, which Mal appreciated, and was constantly checking on her cargo, which Mal didn't appreciate. Still it was something of a surprise to see the seemingly innocuous passenger holding a gun on River Tam and threatening to call the Alliance on her.
Mal shot the passenger and didn't care that he never learned the man's true name. Serenity survived the Reavers and it was time for Mal to discover the source of the new Alliance trouble. It took both Zoe and Jayne to hold the tiny girl back as Mal opened the cryo. To his surprise, Mal found a naked man sleeping inside. His brain twisted sideways trying to figure out why the Alliance wanted this man returned.
"Is he a criminal?" he demanded of River. "A slave? Are you planning to sell him?" Mal supposed that he was pretty enough if you were sly. But normally, the flesh trade started younger and they moved them as cheap as possible.
"No. Please," she begged. "He's not ready to be wakened. You could damage…"
The man chose that particular moment to wake. He screamed and screamed and tried to scratch his skin. River shook off Jayne and Zoe and they let her. She was only concerned with the man. She spoke to him quietly, too quietly for the crew to hear anything. It should have been too quietly for the man to hear her, but he was calming. Finally her voiced raised a bit. "Simon, Simon? I'm going to touch you now."
Simon flinched but allowed the contact. It took the man a couple moments to focus his eyes on River's face, but when he did, he recognized her. "River? River? It's too loud. It's too much. River? I can't do this." The man continued the litany and River gathered the bigger man in her arms. She covered his nakedness with her own body.
"Shhh, it'll be alright," she crooned.
Mal interrupted the tender moment. "What the hell is this?"
River let the man nose her hair and kept a hand on his head. Her face was steel as she turned to glare at Mal. "This is my brother, Simon."
River stood in front of the crew. Her back was ramrod straight and she didn't cower for being shorter than them all. "I'm a genius, everything comes easy to me. But Simon, Simon was special. He could smell dinner when we were out playing the yard. He could hear our parents whisper down the hall. He could identify visitors a mile down the road. He could be a real brat about it too. I could deduce most anything, but he… Simon knew. He wanted to take all those abilities and be a doctor. He figured that if he could smell the disease and hear the heart beat that he could be the best doctor in the 'Verse."
Jayne moved to pour himself tea impatiently and River veered back to her story. "Two men came and said they were from The Academy. They said that they had experience with Simon's abilities. They said that they could help. By that time, Simon was having trouble controlling his senses. They be working at our level one moment, his the next and then be completely gone for a day or two. He was worried that his own health would prevent him from becoming a doctor. We had never heard of the Academy before but they said that they could train Simon to use his senses toward whatever goal he wanted. They promised that they would get him into the best medical school in the 'Verse when he was old enough. I didn't want him to go, but Simon wanted to be a doctor. He left with the men. At first, he sent letters overflowing with accomplishments, then the time between letters began to lengthen and the letters themselves got shorter and shorter before they stopped altogether.
"A couple months later, I received a letter, rambling about events that had never happened and words that I had coached him on were misspelled. The letter itself had changed content, from medical applications of his senses to what Simon would be able to accomplish as a soldier. It was a code. 'They're hurting us. Help.' So I tried everything, contacted everyone to get him out."
"How did you do it?" Zoe asked.
"Money and luck." River paused for a moment and then drew herself even straighter. "I used sex to find out Simon's location, but it was mostly luck. Some people contacted me and said that if I paid for it, they could get Simon out. They held their side of the bargain. I took Simon and I'm going to hide him until he's better. He will get better." There was a determination in her voice that the Serenity crew had to accept.
Jayne had his head tilted and was eyeing River's body. "How old are you?" He had probably stopped listening the moment the girl had admitted to whoring for her brother.
River wasn't ashamed and she didn't back down. "Old enough."
Jayne hitched up his belt. "Are you still selling?"
"You don't have information that will assist me."
"What are your plans?" Wash asked.
"I'm going to find someplace safe on a Rim planet far from everyone else and I'll coax my brother out of his pain."
"There's trouble with that plan," Mal told her. "You stay in one place for long and the Alliance will come lookin' and if you go too far out, the Reavers will get you."
River eyed Mal suspiciously. "I understood Reavers to be crazy ship faring tales."
"No, ma'am," Mal shook his head. "Reavers are very real."
"I don't care. Between my genius and Simon's senses, we'll survive."
Mal nodded. "Well then, it sounds like you and your brother are useful and we could always find room for useful on this ship."
Mal watched the hardness of her experience fall from her eyes. River started looking less like a defiant genius and more like a lost kid just found. Mal escaped to the bridge before the girl could follow some fool notion and hug him.