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by Sara

Date: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 10:38 PM

     Title: Threading
     Author: Sara
     Rating: PG
     Fandom: Firefly
     Summary: Simon remembers boundaries.
     Disclaimer: Joss- like God, but without the smiting.
     Distribution: List archives.  Otherwise ask.
     Betas: Ash, Bonibaru, and Kimberly.  I adore you all.
     Feedback: Coveted.

Needle. Thread. Stitch.

It's simple, really.

Jayne tries his manly best not to wince as Simon carefully sews up the cut in his side. The routine drop wasn't, someone pulled a knife, Jayne got in the way. Nothing terribly unusual.

Simon's hands are shaking.

Not enough to be outwardly noticeable, but Simon feels it from the inside, his veins quivering. Shoulders tensed. His fingers are cold. Heat pricks at his temples.

Last stitch. He tightens the thread, ties it off. Jayne gets up, mutters something that could, in theory, be a thank you, and leaves.

Mechanically, Simon cleans and sterilizes the equipment. The hot water makes his fingertips tingle and burn.

Simon remembers having boundaries. Structure. Rules. Common sense.

He's never been a tense person. Carefully, he files away the instruments, neat rows in drawers. He discards the gloves. Goes to leave.

Stops. Sits.

He was always the best at stitching people up. Steady hands, never left scars, unusually fast healing time. He had a gift for it, they said.

He likes thread, likes working with it. Something so thin, insubstantial. Even the strongest thread can be cut. Can be dissolved, if you know what to use.

His hands are still shaking.

There used to be rules. Boundaries.

Love your little sister. Do what you have to do to keep her safe. Love her. Love her.

Respect your captain. Do what you must to stay on the ship. Keep running.

Follow the rules, especially if you're the one making them.

Things are changing, shifting. Evolving. Love doesn't mean what it used to. Neither does respect.

River always stands too close. She watches him, while he's idling, reading in his room or wandering aimlessly around the ship. Not much there he hasn't seen, but he keeps looking. So does she.

She watches him sleep sometimes. He awakens to find her sitting quietly on the floor and blinking at him.

Last night. Nothing but space and stars and her, pale in the darkness. Unreal.

He stared. Meant to say "go back to your room," maybe ask what she was doing there. Meant to. Didn't.

Said her name instead. "River."

She leaned forward, swift and light. Kissed his forehead, settled back. "Sugar," she said. "Like peaches and strawberries."

He thought to speak again. Didn't.

"Simon," she continued, and then she was closer. Hand on his shoulder, warm and soft. Lips on his cheek, left then right. Lips on his lips. Chaste. "Like sugar." And she climbed into the bed beside him.

"River," he said, and meant "no," and pulled her closer.

Last night. And the night before. And the night before.

Simon remembers boundaries.

Yesterday. Getting near to the drop off point. Restless. Very nearly bored.

Paranoid, because he didn't like being watched. River, he didn't mind so much. His sister. Not well. Allowed to be clingy.

Mal was not.

And it didn't make sense, the watching. Simon had caught onto it because of Jayne, of all people. Eating dinner, and Simon had passed a dish to Mal. Their fingertips brushed. Eyes locked. Mal was staring, Simon staring back. Finally blinked, released the dish. Glanced to the left, and there was Jayne, eyebrow raised, looking very faintly amused. Like he'd finally figured out the answer to a riddle no one else could solve.

Simon resented that, on principle.

But it made him think. Mal was always there. Of course, it was a small ship. But he was pretty sure Mal didn't stare at everyone else like that. Not inexplicable: he was still the new guy. Fugitive. Not to be trusted.

Which didn't explain Jayne's amusement.

This morning. Told to stay near the ship, that they'd be back soon. Left River with Kaylee, and they wandered through town.

He stayed near the ship, did a bit of reading. Waited.

Mal and Zoe came back, trying to assist the wounded Jayne, who resisted despite looking like he was about to fall over. Not much blood loss, but the cut was long and brutal-looking. Mal was hurt as well, a bit scratched and bruised. Nothing serious.

Simon led them back to the infirmary, all business and ready to stitch. Got Jayne settled in and everyone else out. Realized he'd left one of his tools in his room and went to retrieve it.

Mal. Waiting outside the door. Sleeves rolled up, examining his cuts. Simon very nearly crashed into him, rushed as he was. Stopped just short, inches from Mal's face.

Mal blinked at him. His knuckles brushed against Simon's chest. Simon felt the heat through his clothes. Feverish warmth, but Mal wasn't hurt that badly, was he?

Then Mal swallowed, and it couldn't have been anything but nervously.

Proximity. Heat. Watching. Jayne's amusement.

Everything clicked into place.

"Waitin' my turn, Doc," Mal said lightly. "Don't you have a patient to tend to?"

"Right," Simon said. Stepped away. Continued down the hall.

The only way to notice that someone is watching, Simon realized, is to watch them back. He had been noticing. He had been watching.


This morning, another boundary had fallen. Thread stretched a little bit tighter, now from a different, unexpected direction. Taut. Tensed. Not unraveling. Not yet.

Even the strongest thread can break.




     Don't you try to outweird me, I get stranger things than you
     free with my breakfast cereal. - Zaphod Beeblebrox, The
     Restaurant at the End of the Universe

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