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Insults and Injuries

By jeffslade

Scifi

Chapter 1

“Ow! That hurts!” River pulled her hand away from her brother, who had been dabbing disinfectant on her skinned knuckles. She shook her hand, pulling it close into her body and scowling at Simon.

“River, I can't help you if you don't stop moving like that.” He let out an exasperated sigh, placing his medical tools back on the tray beside him. Screwing the cap back onto the bottle of disinfectant, he rolled the tray off to the corner, then turned to face River again. “Let me see your other hand.”

Shaking her head, scowl still intact, she pulled that other hand in close to her body as well, then quickly raised her knees up under her chin and wrapped both arms around her legs.

Simon knew better than to argue with his sister when she got like that. Once she put up a wall, the only person who could tear it down or let others past it was River herself. Many other people never did understand that but, having grown up with her, he knew it better than anyone.

“Alright then, maybe we'll look at it later, ok?” He sat down himself, not pressing the issue. “How did you hurt your hand anyway?” Simon had been summoned to look after his crazy sister, as the Captain and certain others on the ship often referred to her, and he hadn't asked them why at the time.

“It's all your fault.” Her tone was petulant though the grimace on River's face had softened some what, if he wasn't mistaken. She didn't move from the same position, leaving her chin resting between her knees as she peered over at him.

Frowning at that, Simon blinked before replying. “I'm sorry, I don't follow. What was my fault, exactly?”

“This.” She held up her hand for him to see once again. This time she didn't pull away when he moved closer, and Simon didn't bother to reach for the disinfectant again for fear of her withdrawal. He slowly reached out, watching his sister to make sure she was alright with the contact, then gently placed both of his hands around hers. The knuckles didn't appear to be skinned that badly and he'd already managed to disinfect part of her wound so he could stand to take things slowly.

“Looks like you got into a fight with someone maybe.” Sliding his fingers behind her palm, he carefully pushed out River's fingers. They seemed to move well enough, which indicated no broken bones at least, though he did spy what looked to be the early onset of a bruise along the edge of her hand.

“Maybe.” She avoided eye contact, still letting him inspect her hand but not exactly anxious to cooperate with any of her brother's interrogation. Her eyes watched his hands move, inspecting her fingers, though she never quite met his gaze. “Nothing's broken.”

“Mmmhmm.” Simon continued his examination just the same, then, when he was satisfied she was correct, he let go of her hand. “You still haven't answered my question though.”

“You didn't ask me a question. You made a statement. 'Looks like you got into a fight with someone maybe' isn't a question, it's a statement.”

Smirking, Simon nodded his head. “You have me there, River. I suppose you know what I'm going to say next though, right?”

Lowering her hand, River sighed and nodded in answer. “It was Jayne.”

“Jayne did this to you? He hurt you?” Simon's eyes went wide at his sister's words. “That liu koushui de biaozi he houzi de ben erzi...” He got to his feet and turned to leave the medical bay.

Before her brother could exit the area River reached out and grabbed onto his shoulder. “Simon, don't. He didn't hit me.”

Turning to face her, Simon shook his head and tried to understand what she was saying. “Then how did you hurt your hand?”

“I was the one that hit him.” Once again she avoided eye contact with him, turning around now that he wasn't leaving and sitting back down. River crossed her arms over her chest, hiding her injured hand behind her other arm.

Simon stood in place for a few seconds, unsure of what to say to that. After another handful of seconds he slowly walked back into the medical bay, stopping in front of his sister and sitting down once again.

“Alright, let me get this straight. You, River, are saying that you hit Jayne? For no reason?” He rubbed his forehead as he started to wonder if perhaps there wasn't some kernel of truth to what the Captain thought about his younger sibling.

“I didn't say it was for no reason. You said that, not me.” She was still avoiding eye contact and had shifted her head downward so her chin rested on top of her knees.

“River! What in the 'verse would ever make you want to... you know what, forget it. Just forget it.” Simon exhaled deeply, running his hand through his hair. He got to his feet, ready to leave again.

“He said you were stupid.” She still didn't move her head but her eyes darted upward to look at Simon. “They were talking about you and Jayne made a joke and said that you were stupid. You're not stupid.”

Simon had no idea what to say to that. “So... you hit him?”

“With my fist.” River pulled her hand out to show him once again, flexing its fingers into a fist and then back out again. “In his face. His left cheek, with a roundhouse punch.” She paused again in case her brother wanted to interrupt her but continued when he didn't. “His eye watered a little reflexively but he pretended that it didn't happen. The watering, not the punch, because everyone else saw it.”

It took a few seconds but eventually Simon's dumbfounded expression turned into a small grin, then a smile, and finally a chuckle. He shook his head as he took his sister's hand into his own, squeezing it a little before reaching over for the disinfectant. “Thank you, River. Now hold still, this might hurt a little.”

River's own mouth turned up in a nearly imperceptible smile, and this time she didn't struggle with him.

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