Summary: Simon knows something's not right.
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Possible spoilers for the episodes "Serenity" and "Safe".
Title, Author and URL of original story: Threads by Yvi recrudescence
"It's an exceptional school for an exceptional girl. If you don't mind me saying, you'd be kwong-juh duh to not take advantage of this opportunity." The Alliance man smiled, teeth neon white against his dark skin.
"How much does this school cost?"
"With River's grades and aptitude scores, she would be guaranteed a full scholarship."
"And how soon would she start?"
"Gabriel!" Regan Tam put her hand on her husband's sleeve. "Shouldn't we discuss this first?"
He patted her hand condescendingly. "Bao-bei, think of the doors this school could open for River. I would imagine that only a select few are accepted into this school." He looked at the Alliance man for confirmation.
"Oh, of course."
Mrs. Tam fingered the slick school brochure. "They offer dancing, don't they? River loves dance class."
Another blinding smile. "The Academy offers fine arts classes as well as the core curriculum. Dance, drama, art, music. " He gestures to the paper in Mrs. Tam's hand. "It's all there in our brochure."
"Why haven't we heard of this - Academy - before?"
"It's a very elite school. You can't apply to it, you have to be invited. We comb the worlds, looking for the top students. Only the best are invited to attend the Academy." He leaned forward and said in a hushed voice, as if imparting the secret of the Universe, "We even have the children of a few Parliament members."
Mrs. Tam raised her eyebrows at that bit of news and Mr. Tam grinned. He could imagine the look on his cronies faces when he talked about this over drinks and cigars at the club.
"It sounds amazing, it does, but it's so far away."
"True, but River would be allowed to send a wave every third month. And she could write anytime she wanted." He could tell from body language that he had the father, and it would only take a little push to send the mother in the right direction.
"I want to go," River interrupted, standing in the doorway. "I want to go," she repeated, and it was a done deal.
- - - - - - - - - -
"Mei mei, what will you do without me?" Simon tousled her hair as they stood in the foyer of their home, waiting for the car that would take her to the spaceport.
"What will you do without me?" River tossed back at him. She was like a filly, chomping at the bit, ready to embark on her "grand adventure".
Simon looked at her, dressed in the finest silk and lace her mother had found on High Street. He pulled her close and rested his cheek on the top of her head, her hair tickling his nose. "Write to me every day."
"At least every week."
She disentangled herself from his hold as their parents came to join them. "Every month, that's the best I can do," she tossed over her shoulder as her father picked up her cases and they headed out the door.
- - - - - - -
"Have you heard the stories?"
"What stories?" River was curled up on her bed, going over her history homework.
"The stories about the missing kids," Lizbeth said. She was sitting at her computer desk on the other side of the room.
River looked up and wrinkled her brow. "There are no missing kids."
"Sure there are." Lizbeth got up and went over to sit on the end of River's bed. She moved a crumpled up uniform out of her way.
River stared at the blue and silver fabric, her thoughts wandering. Everyone at the Academy wore uniforms.. River was pretty sure that hadn't been mentioned in the brochure - it would have been a definite deal-breaker for her mother.
"At least two or three go missing each year." Lizbeth drew her attention back to the current topic. She was a year older than River and had been at the Academy since she was ten.
"Maybe they flunk out." River shrugged and gestured to the stack of textbooks resting on her bedside table. "They do give us a lot of work."
"That's go se! We have the most brilliant minds in the 'verse here; people don't just 'flunk out'."
River felt a chill run down her spine. She rubbed her arms and got up to check the environment levels. As bedrooms went, the one she shared with Lizbeth was pretty generic. It didn't matter so much to River - she was so busy with her classes and then after hours special projects she didn't spend much time in the room anyway. Maybe an hour of homework each night and then sleep.
"Where do they supposedly go?" a morbid sense of curiosity made her ask.
Lizbeth spread her hands wide. "That's just it, no one knows."
River rubbed her arms again and climbed into bed. "Just talk is all. Just talk. We'd better get some sleep."
- - - - - - - -
They were strapping her down again and she could see the needle coming closer. "No!" she screamed, just like she had the last time, and the time before that. It never did any good, but she couldn't submit quietly, led like a cow to the slaughter. She fought against the restraints but they held fast. Just like last time.
"Now, River, this will just make you sleep, you know that," the doctor said in a sickeningly sweet tone. "Just sleep, that's all."
"Jien tah-duh guay!" she screamed.
Seconds later the needle pierced her skin and before the black overtook her, she wished she could see Lizbeth once more and tell her she was right.
- - - - - - - -
The shapeless blue and silver clothes are scratchy against her skin. She itched a needle mark on her forehead, and pushed lank strands of hair out of her eyes as she contemplated the paper in front of her. They allowed her to write home. Didn't want the family to get suspicious and ask questions the Alliance wouldn't want to answer. A wave was out of the question. She knew they were screening her correspondence. Praying that Simon would understand what she was doing, she began to write:
Mom and dad wrote me about the D'arbanville's ball. They said they had a good time, but it sounded duller than last year...
- - - - - - -
River spills out of the cryo chamber in a flurry of shrieks and sobs and wet lank hair, nothing like herself, and Simon kneels in front of her, taking her gently in his arms.
He wonders what happened to his sister, to the girl who fought imaginary battles with Independents and dinosaurs.
When Inara throws her robe over his sister , the satin looks foreign against her skin, like a child dressing up in her mother's gown. He wonders if there's enough fancy thread in the whole 'verse to make her whole again.