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First times second chances

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First times, second chances
by Annuette

Part 1

Simon's never really believed the name Serenity held a quiet calmness about it, he's held it more akin to the longer lasting peace. Can even remember telling Inara he believed it had a funereal quality about it. Now, at this moment, the name is even less appropriate as River's screams rend the air. Battling some kind of inner demon that Simon can't understand much less imagine, the doctor is attempting to restrain her-to hold her down while he administers the tranquilizers.

She's having a bad one tonight and at the moment Simon wishes for help; Mal, Zoe, even Jayne- he's not picky. But no one comes, and Simon's left holding his thrashing sister to her bunk as he uses his teeth to pull off the needle cover. River sees his action and uses it to respond with her own; her head jerks and blunt teeth sink viciously into his arm.

"Ta ma de!"

The words come easily from his lips as Simon stabs the needle into the side of her arm, depressing the plunger. Her teeth are still embedded in his arm, still holding on for dear life as Simon pulls the needle out. As she bites harder, grinding her teeth, her eyes staring at him accusingly, Simon clenches his own teeth to hold off the curses that threaten to come. It only takes 30 seconds for the drug to kick in, for Simon to feel the smooth release of River's rigid jaw. Only thirty seconds before he can ease her mouth open, sliding her teeth from his flesh but for Simon it's a lifetime; a lifetime in which his eyes are still locked to hers, watching as they become more tranquil and knowing that this false relief is all he can give her right now.

River slumps against her bunk, all the fight gone out of her as the drugs kick in. She isn't sleepy yet, just extremely relaxed; her eyes watch him as he holds his arm up to the light to view the perfect set of teeth marks, blood spots form where the teeth broke the skin and purple bruising is already encircling each indent. It won't be long before Simon has a perfect ringed bruise on his arm, yet another wound to add to those his troubled sister leaves - only this one is more obvious.

River's face shows her apology, her sorrow and frustration at hurting him. She doesn't need to say anything, she never needs to say anything, Simon just patches himself up and pretends it never happened - pretends the nights never get this bad. Tucking the blankets around her, Simon watches as she relaxes into them; her eyelids begin to droop as fatigue sets in, it's only a matter of time before she is completely asleep. Simon likes to wait with her whilst that happens, he even has a chair set up in the corner, except this time he won't be reading but tending to the bite she inflicted on him.

"Goodnight, mei-mei."

Simon kisses her forehead softly before he moves back to his chair. So used to this ritual, he is startled when she speaks the words slurring a little, almost lost in sleep.

"Say hello to William for me."

Simon merely nods, though he wonders on her odd sentence till long after she's fallen into sleep. The door to River's bunk slides open and Simon stares up at it, his hand moving from underneath his chin to fall into his lap hiding the bite. He's surprised to see the Captain standing there, even if his attitude doesn't reflect it.

"How is she?"

Mal s question startles Simon. The doctor hasn't been expecting any visitors, especially after River's latest outburst; earlier on it would have been a welcome surprise but now Simon's exhausted, wanting his bunk and nothing more. He should have been expecting Mal's visit; he's known since they landed on this tiny planet that they're going after a large job, he just hopes its not cattle transport again after Mal's comments once before on River spooking the shipment. Carefully he schools his features so his worry doesn't show as he answers,

"She's getting better, the drugs are starting to work again. I managed to mix a new batch for her using some-" he breaks off seeing the expression on Mal's face, "Better, she's doing better. Sleeping now in fact. She won't wake for at least eight hours or so-she won't be a disturbance, not tonight."

"That's good to know, `specially since most of us have been disturbed all evening." Mal's words are rough as usual, but for a moment Simon can see concern in his eyes as he looks at River. "Get cleaned up an' down to the cargo area. Got a job for us all lined up and waitin' for us; you and Jayne are coming with me."

"What, no, I mean I can't." Simon's confused but since Mal's already walked out the room and heading to the bay, Simon has no choice but to follow, but only after sliding his sister's door quietly shut. "Mal, wait!" He calls after the Captain but unsurprisingly the man doesn't stop, or even bother to slow down which leaves Simon tripping over in his haste to reach his side. "I can't, I can't leave River."

Mal's eyes flick down to his and for a moment Simon wonders if he'll get the `I'm the Captain, do as I say speech.' Tien knows he's heard it all before. Mal's still walking and Simon's having to do the same to keep up; the distance has never seemed so short as they enter the cargo bay, Mal finally choosing to answer Simon.

"Inara an Kaylee are real happy to stay here with River; Kaylee started spoutin' something or other about getting out Inara's clothes and tryin' them on. Somehow I think they'll be able to keep your sister occupied if she wakes. Which if I`m remembering rightly, you told me wouldn`t happen for another eight hours."

"Dress up? She's not a doll-" Simon shakes his head, not wanting to know what the women have planned; chances are River will delight in every moment of it. Still that's not the point. They walk past Jayne whose busy cheerfully strapping weapons to every part of his body that he can; normally Simon would be paying the man more attention, especially since he's shirtless and shoeless, but tonight he has other things to distract him. "River has an ear infection; that's what's hurting her, it leaves her feeling a little unbalanced."

"Mind and body in gorram harmony." Jayne's gruff comment earns him a glare from Simon, which the Mercenary returns with a smirk. Normally more comments would follow but Mal senses the direction things are going and steps in between them forcing Simon to look at him, a scowl coming to his face as he hears Jayne's amused snort.

"You've been working damn hard, Simon, been getting us out of trouble and stitchin' us up real good now. But you can't burn yourself at both ends, you need a night off the babysitting." He forestalls Simon's counter arguments by placing a hand on his shoulder, "We got business in town, nice little tavern off the Alliance's radar should get you relaxing real fast."

It is tempting, it's been far too long since Simon seems to have done anything but work or take care of River-but his sense of decorum sets in and he shakes his head. He knows full well, contact or no contact, how Mal and Jayne's bar trips usually end.

"Gonna get you a little less pretty tonight," Jayne peers around Mal at Simon, "well maybe just a little less prissy, doc. You're comin' with us, get yourself some fun times."

Simon's surprised at his good mood, usually Jayne is either surly or confrontational to him. It's an unsettling change and Simon can't help but wonder if he will end up naked and tied to the front of Serenity long before morning.

"Best not be thinking it's a request either. I'm not wantin' my only medic to have a breakdown." Sincerity is showing in Mal's eyes now and whilst he keeps shaking his head, determined to win out in the end Simon feels a pleasing glow in the bottom of his stomach. Mal's words make him feel more like part of the crew and less like an annoyance. Though his next ones do leave Simon open mouthed as the Captain steps to one side, both he and Jayne ready to leave.

"You can shake your head all you like but you're coming with us. Either you come now without complaining or I'll have to knock you out," he glances at Jayne who steps forward eagerly, "Or let Jayne do it. Either way the outcome's the same. Question is, is all your going to be nursing a hangover come tomorrow, or a concussion too?"

Simon's mouth's still hanging open but he's no longer shaking his head, instead a slight smile is quirking at his lips. "Well it seems I have no choice but to agree."

"Can we get gone now?" Jayne's obviously bored of the conversation, or so is appears. Every now and then, Simon can see Jayne's eyes flicking to look at him as he straightens his shirt that was rumpled from the tussle with River.

"After you," Mal's expression is bland but Simon can see a hint of a smile around his lips as he pulls open the door for them, "And Jayne? Since I'm making contact you're responsible for getting Simon back to Serenity before morning take off-dong ma?"

Now Simon's the one who's smiling as Jayne's curses fill the night air.

TBC

Translations:
"Ta ma de!" - damn it
Mei-mei- sister
Tien- God
Dong ma? - understand?