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Carving Out a Future

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Summary: Her crew doesn't know that Serenity's new passenger, a carpenter with an 'unusual upbringing', is a relic from the past. And Xander's not looking for trouble. Then again, neither are they. Not usually, leastwise. It just tends to come calling anyway. Gen.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Firefly > Xander-Centered(Recent Donor)dreamfallFR135172,9282609201,067,6783 Nov 0526 May 11No
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Sedation and Other Options

Chapter Fifty-One
Sedation and Other Options

Simon gently removed the needle and flicked his gaze to Xander's face, where his eyes were already drooping closed. He quickly disposed of the needle, set aside the syringe for cleaning, and turned back to Xander again. His eyes were completely closed now, the lines of pain that had been marring his face fading with unconsciousness, and his breathing was slow and even.

"Ta ma de!" Mal suddenly erupted. "He didn't come out an' say who 'Daddy' was, why he was after us, or how the guay he got onto my boat! Or whether somethin' else's likely to come calling next!"

He'd spun around at the first shout, and now glanced warily at the others. Kaylee's jaw was clenched and her arms were folded across her stomach, which didn't prevent her from shaking visibly. Simon took a step towards her, then stopped himself, remembering the bigger picture. Jayne was fingering that axe again, and the others looked fairly unhappy, as well. He glanced again towards his patient, then back to Mal, who was glaring down at Xander, although his anger wasn't really with him, in Simon's estimation. "It seems likely Xander would have warned us, were we in further peril," he pointed out carefully. "He seemed reasonably aware, despite his discomfort."

"'Sides," Zoe added after a moment. "If something was coming fast, it'd be here by now. Time's been a-passing, sir."

Mal nodded once, sharply, and finally his gaze left Xander to focus on Simon. "When's he gonna be on his feet?"

"I'm honestly not certain," Simon admitted. "He's making quite good progress, so far, and should start spending more and more time awake and lucid. But he won't be back to full capacities for quite some time." His eyes flicked down to Xander again, and he frowned at the bandages sheathing his arms. "To be honest, I'd prefer to take him to a real hospital," he finally stated, looking back to the captain. "Without surgery, he might never regain full mobility in his hands and arms, and I simply don't have the facilities here. Nor, really, the expertise. He really should see a specialist. An orthopedic surgeon."

Mal frowned. "Anyplace with someone like that's gonna be a core world," he pointed out. "Cost a pretty penny, too."

"He's got money," Kaylee pointed out, her voice a little off from how it normally was. Strained. "Can't think of a better thing for him to spend some of it on than making sure he heals right."

"Even with his money, the Core ain't exactly welcoming to a ship like us," Mal said, tone that version of reasonable that Simon recognized as completely unreasonable. "Even if they don't recognize us, which they more'n likely would do."

"I've given my medical recommendation," he stated, turning away. There was no use arguing about it—Mal would do what he wanted to do, and nothing Simon could say would change his mind.

"Ta ma de guay!" Mal swore. "Fine! Turn us inwards, Wash. I ain't promising nothing, doc, but we'll get a little closer and see what Xander says when he wakes up. Satisfied?"

Startled he looked up. "More than," he admitted. "I wasn't expecting—anything, really."

Mal shot him a goaded look for some reason, opened his mouth as though to say something, then closed it again with a click of teeth, spun on his heel, and stalked away, leaving Simon staring after him in confusion.

Which grew at Zoe's small smile of approval, as she murmured something and took her husband out of the room after Mal. Jayne followed after, sort of edging around the wall so that the axe wouldn't be clear in view if Xander happened to wake up unexpectedly—at least that's what it looked like his plan was. River had disappeared sometime over the course of the past few minutes. Even with half his attention always on her, she could still do that, and it amazed him sometimes. And Kaylee was still standing there holding herself together with her arms, or trying to.

"Are you ... okay?" he asked hesitantly. He never could come up with the right thing to say to Kaylee. Neutral was usually about the best he could manage.

A larger tremor ran through her as she jerked and looked up at him through big, haunted eyes. "No," she stated.

He took a step towards her, helplessly drawn forward. "Kaylee?"

"Not sure I'll ever be okay again," she admitted. "I'm so—I'm scared, Simon. Everything's turned 'round, gone bad, and—and there's demons walkin' the 'verse, and one of them was on Serenity, and—"

He glanced helplessly at the drawer that held his sedatives, but resisted the urge to prep one. He couldn't keep her sedated until it was better—there was no way she'd get better if he did so. This was no simple matter of physical shock. And, more to the point, Mal would hardly allow him to keep the engineer sedated. She was absolutely essential to keeping this bucket of bolts viable. But hearing her voice crack, knowing it was a symptom of more, of her very reality cracking and herself with it, was almost unbearable and he was neither trained nor naturally adroit with the non-chemical forms of soothing a troubled patient. Especially not one with so much right to be troubled as this! As all of them did, given the circumstances. The only truly amazing thing was that they weren't all so close to falling apart. He certainly would have expected himself to be, and thought perhaps the only thing that had saved him was the utter terror that River was going to be helplessly bound up in all of this—and the relief that she was not. Another harsh, almost sobbing, breath broke him from his thoughts and reminded him that he had to do something, even if he was horribly ill-prepared for—and ill-at-ease with—this sort of emotional situation.

Uncertainly, he took another step forward, brow furrowed, reaching out but stopping just short of touching her. "It's going to be okay," he said in the voice he usually reserved for River on a bad day, when he needed to talk her down, cool her off.

Big brown eyes rose to his, but didn't focus quite properly. "I don't think I'll ever feel safe again," she said, her voice a broken whisper, her whole body trembling.

Glancing around helplessly for some inspiration, his gaze fell on the cupboard with the spare blankets. Quickly, he crossed to it and pulled out a blanket. Returning to his position in front of Kaylee and noticing worriedly that she'd shown no hint of awareness of his movements, her eyes not tracking them, he wrapped it around her, holding it in place in an awkward sort of hug, feeling that trembling. He'd never thought of Kaylee as small before, but she felt it now, small and fragile in his arms. "It's going to be okay," he repeated more firmly, injecting every bit of truth into the statement he could. Reminding himself that whatever else was true, this wasn't about River, which allowed him on some level to believe his own words and therefore make them sound at least a bit more convincing.

Kaylee's eyes finally focused on him, searching his face. "But—" she began.

His grip around her tightened, trying to stop the shaking through sheer force of will. "It's going to be okay," he repeated for the third time, looking her in the eyes and willing her to believe it. "Nothing has changed."

She shook her head disbelievingly, and he released her shoulders with one arm to touch her cheek with his finger, marveling at how soft it was when her callused hands were so rough.

"The world is no more dangerous than it was a month ago," Simon told her. "Less, maybe, because we know the dangers now. Some of them. And we'll learn more, enough to protect ourselves from them. De—" He broke off, not quite able to make himself say the word. "Those things—everything—they were out there all along, we just didn't know about them. Now we do. That's all that's changed, and knowledge is important. Is good. It's power. It's safety. Even if it doesn't feel like it yet."

She stared up at him, something in her eyes desperate to believe him.

And then, somehow, he was kissing her. His mouth on hers, his hand at her cheek moving to the nape of her neck to pull her closer, and it wasn't what he'd imagined a first kiss with her would be like—not sweet and innocent and beautiful. It was desperate and needy and passionate, nothing like anything he'd ever experienced before, though he'd had a romantic interlude or two. He opened his eyes and realized in shock that she was crying, tears streaming down her face.

"Lao tyen yeh!" he gasped, jerking back. "I'm—I'm so sorry. I don't know what I was thinking."

For a long moment she stared blankly at him, looking fragile, and then her lips trembled and the lines of her face crumbled into bereft. She started to turn away.

Knowing he should let her go, he instead grabbed her, tugging her back into his chest. He still wanted to tighten his grip to stem the shaking that was still tearing through her, that he thought had stopped for a time, but he forced himself not to, to keep his arms gentle. "I shouldn't have—You didn't need or want—"

When she pulled away, he didn't try to stop her, just closed his own eyes, knowing he'd screwed this up again, that he'd acted unforgivably inappropriately and—

"Wait, what?" she demanded, a hint of her old life in her voice.

He swallowed, unable to face her. "I—I apologize for taking advantage—"

"Oh no," she said, voice fierce. "No, no, no, you are not doing this."

Uncertainly, he opened her eyes just in time to see her reaching up to jerk him down into another kiss, face still wet with tears. "What?" he finally managed after she released him.

She glared up at him defiantly. "You are not going to apologize for the only good thing that's happened in—in—" he face started to crumble again.

Unthinkingly, he reached out trying to brush the tears from her face, though, predictably, it proved more of a smearing around procedure. "What?" he repeated blankly.

"You kissed me," she said, daring him to deny it.

He flinched. "I know. You were in a—in a weak place, and I shouldn't have—" He broke off in a gasp of pain when the toe of her boot met sharply with his shin.

"Nuh-uh," she said, a faint smile trembling on her lips now, the first he'd seen in far too long. He realized with a bit of a shock how much he'd missed it. "You ain't takin' that back. You, Doctor Tam, kissed me, and there ain't no two ways about it."

"But you were crying!" he pointed out, despite the almost incomprehensible belief that, somehow, she wasn't furious at his incredible breach.

She folded her arms and glared up at him. "I'm busy comin' to terms with the fact demons are real, I'm allowed to cry," she informed him.


"And furthermore," she added, "as a doctor it's your job to help me cope, ain't it?"

"Um," he said.

She nodded firmly. "So you ain't nohow allowed to stop kissin' me, Simon Tam, you got that?"

Simon's jaw dropped.

Apparently, Kaylee took that as an invitation.

The End?

You have reached the end of "Carving Out a Future" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 26 May 11.

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