A Little Leaf
It's lonely in the black. It's lonely drifting through space. It's even lonelier for a little kid. Lonely and boring.
Emma had played with her little ships, they had delivered candy to the dinosaurs of the far of planet of Sofa. The T-Rex had tried to steal all the candy, but the Triceratops had expected it's sudden but inevitable betrayal. He managed to get the candy back from from that mean old Rexxy. Hut he was a nice Trike, he still shared the candy, just like Auntie Kaylee had taught her. And now that the Dinos had their candy her crews job was done.
And she was bored.
Mama was busy helping Uncle Mal keep the beagles in line. Uncle Mal complained about the beagles, said that "Cows didn't run around as much." Or get as friendly with his leg, whatever that meant. Emma liked the beagles, but Uncle Mal told her not to get attached to them. They would be left at the next planet, and we couldn't keep one because beagles like to run around in backyards, and ships didn't have backyards.
Auntie Kaylee was busy fiddling with the engine, and Simon was helping her. She always wondered what a doctor could do for the engine, but she'd heard Aunt Kaylee say that he kept her engine revving all the time, so it must be necessary.
Jayne was busy cleaning his guns. He said guns weren't meant for little girls. Jayne always seemed like a grumpy meanie-head, but he always snuck her some extra dessert. She liked Jayne.
Inara was busy talking to people, setting up the next job for the crew. Uncle Mal says that Inara always had a way with words, that they never got half as much money when he was doing the talking. Inara said that was because Mal would just say something stupid. That made Emma laugh.
That just left River. River was on the bridge. Emma didn't know why, but she always felt nervous around River. River seemed nice, but there was something about her. She always seemed like she was both far away, but also way too close. She felt nervous around River. She felt even more nervous on the bridge.
But right now she was more lonely than nervous.
She picked up her little ship and made her way from the kitchen, through the hall that led to the bunks, and up the stairs that led to the bridge. But she stopped right outside the door, looking in on the bridge. River sat there, gently pulling on the steering, flicking a switch here and there.
"What's wrong, Wishy Washy?" River asked, without turning around. She always seemed to know when anyone was about. River was the only one who called her Wishy, and only when no one else was around. Emma didn't know why. And despite how nervous River made her, she always love being called Wishy.
River started to turn around in her chair, and Emma looked down at her dress. "I delivered candy to the Dinosaurs, and now my crew doesn't have anything to do," she told her dress and held her ship up to show River.
She glanced up and saw River smiling at her. River didn't smile much. Emma liked River's smiles, even though she made her nervous. "And I bet that mean old Rex tried to take them all, didn't he?"
"Yeah, but Trike shot him in the nose with Vera. She was set to 'Owie', so it didn't hurt Rex too bad," Emma told her dress. She fiddled with her ship, starting to feel more nervous than lonely.
Before she had decided to walk away River spoke up suddenly, "Rex always caused trouble, even back when your daddy used to play with him."
Emma had never heard River talk about her daddy before. Mama, and Uncle Mal, and Aunt Kaylee, and Simon, and Jayne would talk about what a good guy he was, but she had never heard River talk about daddy. Suddenly she wasn't feeling lonely or nervous. She was feeling a way that always gave Mama headaches. She was feeling curious.
"Ms. River? Can you tell me about my daddy?"
"Of course, Wishy. What would you like to know?"
"Ummmm..." Emma didn't know what to ask. What did she want to know about her daddy? She knew he was a good guy. She knew he was a good pilot. She knew that he loved the Dinos just as much as she did. But what did she want to know? "Ummm. What... What was daddy like?"
She felt stupid as soon as she said it. She knew daddy was a good guy, what else was there to know? But her question just made River grin more.
"Your daddy was a man of wonder. A man who made this ship dance as well as you can make your dinosaurs dance. He became a pilot to see the sky, and once he did, no one could take the sky away from him. He helped a caged bird learn to fly. To this day she is lifted by his breeze, flying this ship in his place. He was full of so much love. You can't keep a ship in the sky without love. Without love the ship won't even float. He had so much love in him, he not only made this old ship float, he made her soar! This ship still soars with his love. He was a leaf on the wind."
Emma had been drawn in by River, but that last line made her pause, "What does that mean? 'Leaf on the Wind'?"
River sat forward playfully, and in a conspiratorial whisper said, "Even he didn't know that. But that didn't matter. He was a leaf on the wind, and we all couldn't help but watch him soar."
Emma leaned against the door. She'd never heard anyone describe her father that way before. Now she didn't feel so stupid for asking, she just felt a little amazed. No wonder her Mama always told her that daddy loved her. If he had enough love to keep Serenity in the sky then of course he had plenty of love to spare for her.
River smiled at her and stood up from the controls. "I'm sure that all the love he had for you could even help you fly. Would you like to have a seat?"
Emma was dumbstruck. She'd only ever flown her little ship, the one she held in her hand. Did she have enough love in her to keep Serenity flying, even with her daddy's love? She nodded, shaking a little as she approached the chair. This was her daddy's chair. The chair where he kept Serenity in the sky.
She slowly sat in the seat, squeaking a little as River spun it back around. Facing forward Emma looked up from the panel. And she saw the sky.
She'd never looked out at the stars for the ship. Never seen them, shiny and glistening before her, waiting for her. And right then she knew. No one could take the sky from her.
She was a leaf on the wind, and her daddy would watch her soar.