inkvoices (inkvoices) wrote,

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Fic: Correcting Colours

Title: Correcting Colours
Author: inkvoices
Rating: PG13
Length: 1,402 words
Summary: Simon visits River in her room, in a 'missing scene' from near the beginning of Ariel, after she is confined there for attacking Jayne. River thinks Jayne looks better in red.
Author's Note: A mild crossover with Harry Potter, because sugar-fey was chatting with me a while ago about what Houses the crew of Firefly might be Sorted into.

Correcting Colours

His sister was lying on the floor with her legs at a right angle going up the wall, as if she was sitting on the wall and leaning back against the floor. As a child, River had limited strange poses to dance routines. Now they had been incorporated into the everyday.

Simon closed the door behind him, ensuring the lock was secured, and wondered if the strange seating – and standing, lying, or otherwise – positions were yet another code that he was meant to unravel in order to understand a message River was trying to send to him.

"I sewed up the cut you made on Jayne," he said carefully.

"He looks better in red." River stuck her chin out defiantly. "You hid it away again, put it back inside. He pretends it isn't there, but then he goes looking for it. Thrilling heroics and paints himself with other people's. Red, red, red."

Simon walked towards her bed, glancing over at her every few seconds, loath to take his eyes off her when she was unstable. Her blanket was screwed up and littered with sheets of paper covered in precise renderings of what looked like the components of an engine. He shuffled them into a semblance of order and placed them on the bedside table, eyes flickering from his own moving hands to the immobile River.

"Just because Jayne hurts other people doesn't mean that you should hurt him."

Whatever else was in his sister's mind at the moment, he wanted her to be clear that hurting people was a bad thing. Even Jayne didn't deserve to be sliced in half.


Simon shook out the blanket to remake the bed and nearly tossed his portable cortex link onto the floor before noticing a corner of the screen sticking out from under the haphazard folds of cloth.

"Did you take this from my room?" he asked, already knowing the answer. He always ensured his own property and space was tidy, as neatly ordered as he kept the infirmary, and he would have remembered River asking to borrow it.

Apparently his sister also thought that that inquiry didn't require a response from her. She remained silent.

The device was still active, connected to the main cortex library and showing a list of classic fiction. Simon switched it off and slid it into a trouser pocket with a sigh before sitting down on the bed with his hands resting loosely in his lap.

River began crossing and uncrossing her ankles repeatedly, hitting her heels against the wall with a dull 'thud' each time.

"River, that isn't helping."

"I'm tired of people pretending." She bent her knees and brought them towards her chest until the soles of her bare feet were flat against the wall. "The Captain's brown is rusted red and Zoë following making him think she's the same, but she isn't. She wants, wants to be so much; soldier, wife and mother. Green of wanting in her."

Simon sighed and rubbed at the headache forming behind his temples. River, it seemed, was in a talking mood.

"Wash playing at what the Captain is, what he thinks his wife wants, but she doesn't, and he isn't. Lives inside the blue, flying for what it is and not destination or ambition. Sees stars in his head. It's pretty up there." She traced a circle around her left kneecap with a fingertip. "Kaylee trying to fit in with them, but not brave enough. A yellow streak."

He frowned. "She is brave."

It was unusual for River to insult Kaylee, who River viewed as a friend. He shifted his weight, physically expressing his mental discomfort, and made the bed frame creak slightly.

"She's strong. It's not the same. Believes so much in people."

"So she wouldn't be pleased that you cut someone, right?" said Simon.

"But they're all pretending!" River sat upright and hugged her knees, her long hair framing her face like drapes in a shop window display. "Inara all warm colours on the outside, but cool green in, and Book behind his Shepherd's uniform, thinking uniforms simplify things when they don't change, only cover. Both of them lost in the green, green woods, not knowing what they really want but wanting all the same."

"Do you want anything?"

He wasn't a psychologist and he didn't know what to do with the words that poured out of her mouth, but if there was something that she wanted… A craving for a particular food group might lead to a medical diagnosis. Or if all she wanted was some colouring pencils he could find some and make her happier.

"That isn't my colour," she told him in her 'my brother is a boob' tone of voice.

It made Simon smile, although their current circumstances didn't allow his face to settle on that expression for more than an instant. He used to hate the sound of his little sister talking down to him. He'd always known that she was cleverer than him by far, but for a long while that tone had felt like she was rubbing it in.

Now it meant that she was still River. However many people she hurt, she was still River, and he would help her, even when she was so much more intelligent than he was, because that was what big brothers were for.

"If the population is to be divided into primary colours, although green isn't, then I'm not green." She rested her chin on her knees and stared up at him. "However much blue you wear though, you're not like me. You want, Simon. Want to please Father, to make surgeon, to keep me safe. Always chasing what you want however much you pretend you're happy playing with brains. You're not like me. Can't understand me."

"River…" He leaned forward to close the gap between them and she covered her eyes with her hands to block him out.

"Live in my head and it's not mine anymore. Lines in the sand and needle tracks. Dug holes in the sandpit and left broken castles, plastic bottles and rubbish on the beach."

Simon abandoned the bed to sit down on the floor next to her and wrapped both arms around her shoulders, holding her as if holding her could hold her together. His trousers rode up, bunching around his knees and exposing his socks. The portable cortex link in his pocket dug into his hipbone. River's hair tickled his ear.

"I'm going to help you," he said firmly, tying to hide his worry and desperation. "I promise."

"What you want not what you can do." She sounded sad, but not as if she was crying.

He stroked some of the hair away from her face and asked, quietly, "What are the colours about?"

"Population divided into four." River lowered her hands and raised her head to glare at him. "Weren't you listening?"

"All right."

Simon carried on stroking, slow and gentle, even though all her hair was behind her shoulders and out of the way. She leaned against him and he felt her muscles relax.

"Colours and danger in the Academy and taking the extra soul particles out of his head by dying. Grip the stone. Look death in its train station eye."

He listened to her breathing and the distant hum of the engine whilst he tried to figure out how to respond to something that sounded an awful lot like his sister was contemplating suicide, or at least thinking more about death than was right. He reflected on coded messages and cries for help.

River rubbed her nose against his neck.

"Oh, mei-mei." He sighed and wrapped his arms around her again. "I just don’t want you to hurt yourself, or anyone else."

She nodded, her nose rubbing up and down, brushing against his ear lobe. "You just want me to want coloured pencils."

"Do you want some colouring pencils?" Simon felt it against his neck as she huffed in exasperation and he pulled back a little, trying to see her face. "Well, I could get you some pencils."

"People not pencils, all spilling over into each other. Paint everywhere." River buried her face in the space where his neck met his shoulder and said plaintively, "it's too messy. Your green hurts, but be green please."

Simon went back to stroking his sister's head and wondered what, exactly, green was meant to be.
Tags: fanfiction: all, fanfiction: crossovers/fusions, fanfiction: firefly/serenity
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