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Disclaimer: Firefly and all related elements, characters and indicia © Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television, 2003. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations -- save those created by the author for use solely on this website -- are copyright Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television.
Lyrics for Teddy Bears' Picnic written by Jimmy Kennedy and used without permission, but with fond childhood memories and love...
Notes: Written for ff_fridays challenge the seventh: something stolen and something freely given. Much thanks to TaraLJC, Karen, and witchnyn for shiny betas.
We're All Lost in the Woods...
Simon felt rays of golden sunlight wash over the backs of his eyelids as a small, strong hand impatiently tugged on his. He knew without thinking whose hand it was.
"Si-mon!" River called, a hint of exasperation in her voice. She attempted to drag him after her, but he stumbled, eyes wearily trying to shut of their own accord. River quickly let go, severing their connection. "Catch her if you can!" she yelled happily. Blue eyes blinked in the light, attempting to focus on the lithe figure flitting ahead of him like a butterfly.
"River!" Simon called, then sighed when he didn't get a response. He hurried after her, careful not to let her out of his sight, barely seeing through eyes still adjusting to the dazzling brightness. He was surprised at how long the adjustment was taking. He didn't think he had become that accustomed to the dark.
The path twisted, snaking around and among foliage in shades of green in an abundance only rendered by nature. This wood was not carefully manicured; it was as wild as his sister's hair flapping behind her as she skipped down the dirt path. She was singing under her breath, and he caught snatches, sound waves carried by the gentle breeze... "If you go down to the woods today, be sure of a big surprise..."
The woods were surprise enough. His own experience with natural forests was very limited. He vaguely remembered a trip when he had been 15 or so to Proserpina, to an elegant but rustic resort which had been the height of fashionable summer retreats. He'd spent almost the entire trip locked in the cabin with his textbooks; concentrating on his studies, on obtaining knowledge to further his career goals while River had grown bored with him and explored on her own, petulant that he wouldn't join her. He should've enjoyed the trees, he thought, on the edge of bitterness. But that forest had been carefully planted and tended. It was tame in comparison to this explosion. His foot caught on something, sending him sprawling, and Simon found himself better acquainted with the forest floor. He stood up and brushed himself off. The other forest had also been without exposed tree roots to trip on.
"See them gladly gad about…They love to play and shout …They never have any cares…"
Simon heard more snatches of River singing, and he hurried faster, thankful that his spill had not put him too far behind.
Suddenly the forest changed into a clearing. Before him spread open space with many blankets laid out, forming bright islands of colour in a sea of grass. He glimpsed matching tea sets, quite unlike the delicate raku favoured by his mother or by Inara. But this tea was not for them, or anything human, for that matter.
Simon had stumbled on a teddy bear picnic; large, person-sized teddy bears. But this barely registered as his eyes raked over the scene, one thing on his mind only. Then his gaze alighted on movement, on one teddy bear with light brown fur that had just risen. There was River, seemingly appearing from nowhere, running towards the bear, arms open wide. River embraced it in pleased recognition, but the dirty, green coveralls it wore, with a patch in the shape of a young girl over the thigh, escaped Simon's notice for the moment.
"At six o'clock their mommies and daddies will take them home to bed." River told it, burying her face in its fur. The bear returned the hug gladly, paw gently patting River's head. River, radiating joy, turned towards Simon, beaming. "You didn't catch us unawares! We caught you by surprise!" she giggled.
Suddenly she was 14 again, wearing the same grey jumper that she'd worn the last time he'd seen her. "You better go in disguise, or you'll get stolen, too. But you can steal me back again… Or maybe you won't, because she was freely given to you, by herself! I always belonged to you, but now you have a choice." River's happiness waned slightly. Simon, previously frozen to the spot by this spectacle, moved towards her, but then froze again as the teddy bear face morphed into that of a real brown bear, despite being extinct on earth-that-was. It roared right in River's still-smiling face, and closed its jaws over her head.
Simon blinked. Tried to open his eyes, and was caught between the world of sleeping and waking. He existed both in the dream and in his bed for a confusing minute, wondering why there was no blood. And then wondering why, then forgetting completely as his eyes opened for good and his arm encountered the real coveralls, clothing the body huddled beside him on top of the covers.
Simon blinked again in surprise. They must have fallen asleep while talking last night. His cheeks reddened, though there was no one to see them, and despite the fact that they had fallen asleep together before. Though this time the memory wasn't blurred from alcohol. The last thing he remembered about the previous night-- or maybe it had been morning--was Kaylee telling him about Saturday picnics with her whole family, down by the lake near her house. She had seemed wistful, though was quick to turn to funny stories of her cousins' antics. Maybe he could try and convince the captain to have a picnic next time they stopped planet-side. If he got the rest of the crew behind him, he might even succeed. River would like it, too. It would be something normal, a concept that he was forgetting on Serenity, if he has ever indeed known it.
He checked the time and decided to let Kaylee continue sleeping. He carefully extricated himself from the bed, and left, as it was time to go check on River. He closed the screen carefully, subconsciously whistling a tune he barely recognized from childhood under his breath.