Pairing: Gen (River, ensemble)
Word Count: 460
Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters or source material; I’m not making any money from this.
Notes: Used the comment_fic prompt “I can hear the ocean.”
Summary: She hasn’t heard the ocean in a long while.
Mal takes a job that sends the crew to New Melbourne. He’s not going to turn down a legal, decently-paying job, not after any sort of job has been harder to come by now. The Alliance’s started to crack down on smugglers, with more docking regulations and harsher punishments; while the Tams have officially been cleared as fugitives, there’s still plenty of people who could make a fortune off their capture.
It’s a fairly easy job, and Mal can’t see any opportunity for things to turn sour. Still, he doesn’t need anyone making trouble. “Have her stay on the boat,” he tells Simon, who nods once and walks River to her room.
Mal, Jayne, and Zoe with the buyer; Kaylee poking around for a cheap alternator; Simon downloading a new study about paranoia off the Cortex--River’s unattended to. (Inara’s on Greenleaf for a few days.) Serenity’s quiet; all River can hear is Simon muttering to himself, the tapping of stylus on tablet, and the ocean. Just a low murmur, calming and inviting. She hasn’t heard the ocean in a long while. She hasn’t set foot on a beach since a few weeks before she left for the Academy.
Slipping out as quietly as possible--Simon will worry if he knows she’s gone. Nearly the whole planet is an ocean, so it only takes a few minutes before River reaches the dunes, stepping out of her boots and leaving them as a mini-landmark. The sand’s hot underneath her toes, almost too hot--sends her skittering down towards the water’s edge, lightly as a bird.
The sound is stronger now, and clearer, not a far-off one, dulled by the metal frame and walls of the ship. Waves lapping gently, nipping at her feet, washing salty-cool water over her toes. She notices the pebbles under her soles, worn smooth by their repeated contact with the waves. Salt heals.
The tide starts to come in now, climbing higher with each retreat and return until her ankles are wet, her knees, the hem of her dress. She can let herself float if she chooses: flip onto her back--grow like a flower; spread her arms and legs like a starfish; drift on the surface. There are secrets on the ocean floor, and sunken treasure, but even she would run out of air before she reached any of them. So she listens.
River can’t hear anything else now, not Simon’s worries or Jayne’s nightmares or Zoe’s dreams. Nothing but small waves of the green-blue ocean water gently crashing against the shore, and the occasional splish-splash when a seagull swoops down to catch a fish. She feels quiet and peaceful away from all the screams and voices.
This is serenity.