Summary: They take care of each other.
Genre: drama, hurt/comfort
Characters: Simon, River
Pairings: can be read as Simon/River
Warnings: spoilers for the entire show/Serenity
"Thank you for loving me when I still tasted of heartache and war."-Nikita Gill
He's the first one after their mother to hold her when she's born and she's so tiny, barely more than a piece of glass, that he's afraid he'll break her. His fingers stroke her cheek, and she's wrinkled, and pink, and scrunched up, and he's never seen anything so beautiful in all of his short life.
"Your sister." His mother says, and he hears yours. Something all his, something to protect and love.
Love is a strange emotion. He's hungered for it from his parents, ached with the lack of it, bled with the pressure of holding it inside, keeping it walled within a heart. He's never been able to give it before.
River wails, and Simon cradles her against him.
"Take care of your sister." His mother says absently, and he understands that to mean forever.
River is breath-taking. Precious. A gift. There are no words descriptive enough to capture her, like trying to apply adjectives to the most brilliant of stars, the most priceless of jewels. She excels at everything, from mathematics to dance, and he's overcome with awe and pride, lacking even the slightest twinge of jealousy.
He wants to weep when he takes her out of the Academy, half carrying her as she whimpers nonsense, clinging to him with all her strength, eyes wild and frightened.
Later, when he's lifting her into the box, where she'll sleep while they escape, her arms come around his neck, clinging to him, and he thinks he hasn't felt home in a long time.
"You take care of me." She whispers, and he presses a kiss to the side of her hair, damp and tangled with sweat.
"Forever." He says, and he marvels how easy it is to turn his back upon everything, just to have her again.
He's a grown man, and she's a grown woman, but he feels like a little child, crumpled on the ground with the blood leaving his body - quickly, far too quickly, his medical training warns him - and his pulse pounds in his ears, heart struggling to circulate what's left. Dying, he thinks, and leaving River.
"You always take care of me." She whispers into his ear, voice thick with tears, and he wants to summon the strength to comfort her, to hold her once more. "My turn." She says, breath ghosting his cheek, and then she's gone, tearing the warmth from him, running from him like sunlight glinting off water, a beautiful, deadly dance as he fades.
His eyes open. He's lying in the medical bay, sheets and bandages scratching his skin, an ache in his chest that tells him, against all odds, that he's still alive.
Something brushes his hand, a touch he'd know anywhere. River. His lips form her name, but he's too weak to talk.
"Shhh. Rest now." Her voice is sweet, gentle, but strong. Clearer than its been since before the Academy. Little River, being the strong one, taking care of him.
She leans over him, kisses his forehead.
"Sleep." Her voice is like a song. "I'll be here when you wake up."
So he does.