TITLE: A Little More Silence
SPOILERS: I'm gonna say the entire series, just to be safe.
SUMMARY: Simon remembers.
CHARACTERS: Simon, Book (and a bit of River, Mal, Jayne and Zoe on the sidelines)
PAIRING: Simon/Book-ish... maybe... sorta?
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. All belongs to Joss. Please don't sue.
THANKS: Kay, Erin and Skripka for holding my hand and listening to my "I'm never gonna finish this!!!" rants... not to mention all the beta help! (Thanks esp. to Skrip for help with my Chinese! *hugs*)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Don't know if this is quite what you wanted, Lise. But hopefully you'll like it anyway.
chajin yisheng = useless doctor
diyu = hell
hundan = bastard
zhen daomei = just our luck
dong ma = understand
shensheng diyu = holy hell
All but means nothing
Just shadows that move
Across the wall
They keep me company
But they don't ask of me
They don't say nothing at all
-- Sarah McLachlan, Time
Simon remembers calloused hands and gentle touches ghosting across his face, lingering at his temples to rub in light circles that slowly melt the tension out of his muscles.
"Close your eyes. Concentrate on breathing, slow and even."
He remembers thinking bemusedly that he never would have expected a shepherd to have rough hands.
"I *am* concentrating."
"The fact that you can argue with me over whether or not you're concentrating just proves that you're not really concentrating at all."
Simon makes a face, but he remains silent, closing his eyes and trying to relax.
The hands continue to work their magic, soothing his frayed nerves until he feels like he could melt away into nothingness. It's a good feeling. A wonderful feeling, really. So decadent and wrong in all the best sorts of ways.
He knows he should be working now. He has so much to do. He's still nowhere near finding a way to help his sister, and that's supposed to be foremost in his mind at all times. But he finds that he can't think about anything other than the fingertips carding gently through his hair and how sublime it feels to do nothing for a change.
His entire body feels like it's suffused with a warm glow that seeps all the way down into his toes. He feels the inexplicable and entirely undignified urge to wriggle said appendages and indulges himself. After all, if he's nothing but a warm glow, then who would even be able to see his toes? He acknowledges that's the sort of logic that only makes sense when one's on the verge of sleep... or perhaps really, really drunk. The thought makes him want to giggle, but he restrains himself. Warm glow or not, there's no way he's going to giggle in front of an audience.
"I thought you were going to teach me to meditate."
He sounds somewhat snarky and not at all giggly, thank god.
"Baby steps, Simon. Baby steps. First you need to learn to relax."
And while he's sure that's at least somewhat patronizing, he opts to ignore it. The hands have moved on to his neck now and are kneading the tense muscles there, which feels simply heavenly. He thinks perhaps the shepherd missed his true calling. He would have made a fabulous masseuse.
He says so and the only response he gets is a deep, throaty chuckle that seems to reverberate though Simon's entire body. He is unable to resist its infectious nature and finds himself smiling blindly up at his companion.
"You should do that more often."
He opens his eyes and blinks lethargically up at the preacher. "Hmm?"
Oh yes, stunningly intelligent answer, that. High marks. Thankfully, Book seems unconcerned with Simon's pathetically monosyllabic response.
"Smile," he replies, his voice melting over Simon like warm chocolate. "You should do it more often."
Simon shrugs awkwardly. "Maybe I feel I don't have much to smile about."
And wow, he couldn't have opened a more obvious door to things he doesn't want to talk about than if he'd set out intentionally to do so.
Forcing his sluggish muscles into motion, he sits up and scoots to the edge of the bed. "I’d better be going. I need to check on River..."
Not quite a lie – she's playing with Kaylee and was doing just fine when he last saw her – but close enough to be noticeable. He hopes Book lets it slide this time.
The shepherd nods, not questioning Simon's story. He has a serene smile on his face that Simon's always secretly envied. He wonders what it feels like to have true peace. He thinks that maybe it's like gentle hands, kind eyes and laughter that invites you to join in with it. Then he thinks that perhaps he thinks too much.
Mumbling his goodbyes, he quickly stands and turns to leave.
"Hey, you chajin yisheng, pay attention when I'm talking to you!"
He blinks and his surroundings have changed. He's sitting on the floor. It's cold and hard.
"What the diyu is your problem? I swear, they told us you were some kind of fucking genius, but you act like somebody smacked you one too many times on the head when you were a kid."
There's a loud clatter on the ground just in front of him. Something wet and sticky sloshes onto his leg. He doesn't react.
"Well, anyway, there's your supper. Eat up, because we leave in two hours and that's the last food you're going to see until tomorrow."
There are receding footsteps and the sound of a door closing and locking. He ignores them. He ignores everything but the memory of friendly laughter and gentle hands. It's a good memory. He likes it there. Everything makes sense in that moment. Not like here.
When the man returns in an hour to take away his dinner, the plate is untouched and Simon is still sitting on the floor like before, as still as a statue.
When they come to take him away, he isn't there. He's with his sister. Her hair flowing through his fingers like silk as he calms her down after a bad dream. He murmurs little nothings into her ear, telling her that everything will be all right.
It's a lie, of course. But it makes her smile up at him, the tears drying on her cheeks, and that is enough for now.
Rough hands grab his arms and propel him into motion, jarring him back to where he doesn't want to be.
"C'mon, get moving already! Shuttle's waiting, you crazy hundan. And they don't like it if we're late."
He walks because if he didn't walk, they would just drag him along anyway.
Once they have him situated in the shuttle, he stares out the window into space. Their conversations flow around him, but he doesn't listen. He just watches as the huge bulk of the Alliance cruiser they'd been on moves away into the distance. It's an optical illusion, of course. It's their shuttle that's moving as they head down into the planet's atmosphere, not the cruiser.
He continues to stare off into the distance and remembers a time before, clinging to the side of a ship, the blackness of space opening up beneath him and making his blood run cold. Even as his sister's eyes danced in joy and saw wonders he couldn't begin to fathom.
Space isn't nearly as frightening as he once thought it was. That's one of the few things they've given him. He now knows real fear. And once you know real fear, everything else seems inconsequential in comparison. Space doesn't frighten him anymore because he has seen true darkness, and it lies, not in empty space, but inside the souls of men.
The journey starts out uneventful. The guards and the pilot converse quietly with each other, while Simon sits silent in his seat and drifts through memories as insubstantial as gossamer. But then, once they've hit the atmosphere and are out of the cruiser's weapons range, something unexpected happens.
A sharp jolt shakes the shuttle, strong enough to knock Simon from his seat were he not in restraints. The pilot's instruments scream out warnings and after several more hits, he announces in a tight voice that they're going down hard.
The landing is bad. One of the guards is knocked unconscious and the pilot's leg is trapped under the wreckage that used to be his console. The three remaining guards stumble to their feet and immediately get Simon up and out of the chair's restraints.
"It’s an ambush! We've got to get the prisoner out of here!"
They haul Simon out of the hatch as soon as it's open, but before they even get half a dozen steps away, a gunshot rings out and one guard falls, blood tricking from a well placed shot directly between his eyes.
The other two guards scatter, abandoning Simon in their haste to escape. So much for the vaunted Alliance soldiers bravely facing down death in the line of duty, Simon muses to himself, only absently noting when his knees buckle and he lands in a heap on the ground just a few feet from the shuttle hatch. He hears more gunfire, followed by screams. Apparently the guards didn't make it very far.
And then, the next thing he knows, there are people running toward him. Someone kneels in front of him, hands gripping Simon roughly by the shoulders. Familiar voices wash over him.
"Why ain't he movin' at all? What's wrong with him?"
"I think he's in shock, captain."
"Zhen daomei, we finally find him and he’s worse off'n his sister."
There are footsteps and movement all around him.
"Zoe! Jayne! All of 'em accounted for?"
"Pilot's in the shuttle, sir. Pinned down good. He’s not like to be causin' us any trouble."
"We got three guards down out here."
"I thought Inara said there'd be four."
Simon thinks of the guard that he'd assumed was unconscious inside the shuttle. But before he can react, an arm locks around his throat and drags him to his feet. He feels cold metal pressed against his temple.
"Nobody move a muscle or I'll splatter his brains all over!"
"Now hold on a sec, don't do nothin' rash. That there's our doc and if you kill him then there's several of my crew that're gonna be none too happy. And these are not people you want to make unhappy, dong ma?"
Simon blinks once, twice, three times. He looks down and sees a familiar figure at his feet, looking up with worried eyes. Book. He sees other people he recognizes, people from before. People who, up until now, he only saw in dreams and memories. Mal. Zoe. Jayne. He looks back down and meets the shepherd's gaze and something in him realigns itself, the shift subtle but all encompassing. He feels lighter, and yet more solid at the same time. More real.
And he calmly twists in the guard's grasp, one hand snaking out and grabbing the hand holding the gun. A sharp jerk to the side and the gun is released with a howl of pain, landing in Simon's waiting hand. And then he's standing in front of his former captor, the gun's muzzle pressed to the man's forehead.
One shot. That's all it would take.
One shot to make him a murderer.
He shifts his grip on the gun and clubs the guard across the temple, knocking him unconscious.
The gun drops to the ground from suddenly numb fingers and Simon turns, stumbling on his first step. Strong arms catch him and he smells leather and gunpowder. Mal.
"It's okay, you're safe now, Doc."
He nods against a hard shoulder, not trusting his voice just yet.
"Shensheng diyu, that was unsettlin' to behold. First you was standin' there still as a statue and then 'fore I could blink, I thought you was gonna blow that guy's brains out, calm as you please."
"Jayne, would you shut the hell up already?"
Simon lets them lead him away, not focusing on the conversations going on around him. But soon he sees the familiar bulk of Serenity in the distance and can't help but smile. This is really happening. He's really here.
Mal catches the smile and smiles back, clapping him firmly on the shoulder. Simon can read his emotions easily. Pride over a job well done, happiness now that his crew is about to be reunited. They're good feelings.
Simon remembers good feelings now.
Once on board the ship, he hears the pounding of booted feet coming down the hallway towards him and then his arms are full of River, all flying limbs and laughing eyes. He holds her close, breathing in the familiar scent of her hair, and remembers what home feels like.
"Are you all right?"
The soft voice at his shoulder belongs to Book. Simon meets his gaze over the top of his sister's head and smiles.
"No, I'm not."
They'd all thought he was broken. That he was destroyed beyond repair. But he wasn't. Bent, maybe. But not broken. Not yet.
"But I will be."
The shepherd places a hand on Simon's shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze, and Simon feels just a bit of that warm glow return. It's not a lot. But it's something.
And that's enough for now.