Title: Unexpected Places
Author: tafkar
Summary: No one expected to be on Serenity. The cue from ff_friday: "Sometimes, life can surprise you.". (This has been revised slightly from that version, as I felt Simon sounded too stilted.)
Category: Vignette? Drama? Character study? Help me out, here.
Spoilers: None
Rating: G
Thanks to: Roseneko, for pointing out the difference between negative reinforcement and positive punishment.
Archiving: Always welcome; just let me know you have done so.

 

UNEXPECTED PLACES

"I've had lab rats that were more intelligent than you," Simon said distractedly as he began stitching the bullet wound on Jayne's thigh. It had missed the bone, and hadn't damaged too much muscle tissue.

"Used to be a baboon. Now you're comparin' me to a stinkin' lab rat?" Jayne said.

"Positive punishment. It's basic psych. Place a rat in a cage, and shock it if it goes somewhere you'd prefer it didn't. Pretty soon, it learns to avoid those areas." Simon drew the curved needle through Jayne's skin. "You've been in here six times since I came on board, and yet you still don't manage to dodge."

"Don't they teach ya bedside manner at that school o' yours?" Jayne snarled, shifting a little bit on the table.

"Hold still until I'm done," Simon said, pulling the thread through yet another stitch. "Maybe my bedside manner is another method of positive punishment. If you find it unpleasant to come here, maybe you'll avoid the injuries that cause you to visit."

"If we didn't keep you busy, then what'd you do for work?" Jayne said.

"Maybe I'd become an itinerant minstrel on some colony planet."

Jayne snorted. "You, a minstrel? And your crazy sister'd be court jester."

Simon smiled. "You never know. Sometimes, life can surprise you. A year ago, I couldn't have imagined being on this ship any more than I could imagine becoming a troubador."

"Troob-a-what?"

"Singer," Simon said shortly. "I'm sure this is exactly where you planned to be, though."

"Off planet? Yeah. Didn't wanna work in the mines like my daddy did." He winced as Simon pulled the stitch tighter. "Didn't expect to be doin' this, though."

"Being stitched up? You didn't think they'd shoot back at you?"

"Didn't think I'd be shootin' people."

Until this moment, Simon had been counting the moments until Jayne would be out of his medical lab; now he wished he had more than one final stitch. "How did you plan to get off planet, then? Cruise director?"

"Naw. Was gonna get on the snowball fighting team."

Simon paused while his brain tried to make sense of this information. "The what?"

"Don't any of the core planets have snowball fightin' teams, Doc?" Jayne sounded almost…condescending.

"I have to admit, that's a team sport I'm not familiar with. Is it popular where you're from?"

"Oh, yeah. Nagano, Valhalla, Valdez – all the cold planets got 'em." Jayne leaned forward, suddenly animated. "A lotta times the mines'll set up the teams, see, and if ya get on it, ya can make a lot of money, see plenty o' worlds when you go there to play – the championship is even on Boros. If you're good enough, you can even do endorsements for Blue Sun to pick up extra cash."

Simon tied off the last stitch, and began bandaging up the wound. "Why didn't you play for the team?" he asked Jayne.

"I was second pick in the draft.."

Draft? They have a draft for this? Simon thought.

"…but between the playoffs in the spring and fall training, the war started. We wasn't on either side, but everyplace between us and other planets in the league was a war zone, and the season got cancelled for the whole war. Found out I was good at hittin' someone with more'n a snowball, found out I could get off Nagano doin' that, an' still have money left to send home, an' here I am," Jayne said. "Ain't nearly as glamorous as being a pro snowball fighter, but it's somethin'." He slid off the table, and pulled on his pants, dried and stiff with blood. "Thanks for stitchin' me up, doc. Hope I don't have to see you again too soon."

Simon stared out the door at Jayne's disappearing back, leaning against the table. He was still lost in thought as Zoe walked in the room.

"Hey, Doc, you OK there?" she asked.

Simon blinked a little bit, pulled out of his private thoughts. "Fine, um, fine. Just…do you need something?"

"Just a couple of painkillers. Even with the captain and Jayne to help, getting that donkey out of the well was a pretty big strain." She watched as he went through his drawers. "Looked like you had something on your mind, there."

Simon handed her two pills and a glass of water, then leaned back against the counter. "All this time, I've been thinking that I never expected to end up here. It never occurred to me that anyone else on here felt the same way."

Zoe looked out the door. "Jayne had something else planned out?" she asked, one eyebrow raised.

"Professional snowball fighter," Simon said.

Zoe's second eyebrow joined the first one. "Rough game. Most players don't last more than four years."

"Really?" Simon asked.

"They pack the snowballs pretty tight; you can bust someone's eye socket with that, and then they're done for good," Zoe said. She smiled wryly. "This isn't exactly where I expected to be, if you were wondering."

Simon grinned. "What did you want to be, when you grew up?"

"I was going to be a schoolteacher. I'd even finished my first year at the teacher's college, but then the war came. I wanted to make sure my kids would have a school to go to, so I signed on. Didn't manage to save the school, though."

"I'm sorry," Simon said. "I didn't think – "

"Don't worry about it," said Zoe. She began to leave, then turned around. "I bet if you asked most folk on board, though, not a one would say they expected to wind up on Serenity."

After watching her go, Simon cleaned up his medical lab, wondering what everyone else had dreamed of being.
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Note: semi-professional snowball fighting is now an organized sport in Japan, which holds the annual world championships.

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