Simon has always preferred autumn.
The weather turning crisp enough to necessitate a thicker jacket, the sunlight still enough to
warm, if not heat.
Summers in Capital City are bright and overheated. If he could, he'd spend the entire season
indoors, with lights that could be adjusted or turned off and wonderful, blessed climate control.
But somehow he always seemed to end up taking his vacation time at the hottest time of year.
Thankfully today there is a cool breeze blowing through the covered patio he and River are
seated at. Talking and eating in a combination and manner that would utterly shame their
"I know what <i>kind</i> of school I want to go to, and I've narrowed it down to only five or
six." She paused to stuff a chunk of fried dumpling into her mouth.
"So only half a dozen then." Simon teased.
River paused in her chewing to stick her tongue --also bits of chewed dough-- out at him. He
laughed and tucked into his kuài cān while River swallowed angrily, somehow managing not to
"Simon, this is important! It could, in fact, be the most important decision of my life. And I am
<i>not</i> being overly dramatic!"
"Alright, this is a huge, monumental, life-changing choice that you only have nine weeks to
Her stare was very specific in telling him exactly how stupid and obnoxious he was.
"Mèimèi , if it turns out you don't like the school you pick, you <i>can</i> transfer. It's allowed.
Any school would happily take you."
She smiled at him. Then narrowed her eyes slightly.
"You just want me to quit whining don't you?"
Simon's mouth formed a line and he looked her in the eye.
"That is a large part of it, yes."
Her eyes changed from narrowly suspicious to angrily slit. And stayed that way a little too long
for Simon's comfort.
He was just about to start fidgeting and apologizing when she rolled her eyes away and started
tossing their trash on the tray.
"Fine. Let's go take pictures of things."
"Medical equipment can be some of the most difficult to operate machinery in the 'verse."
"You use it everyday at the hospital. I've seen you work, it's almost instinctive."
"Is there a point to this, or are you just trying to bolster my ego?"
An impish smile broke through her serious façade.
"You can't work the capture."
Simon's head snapped up.
<i>"I can work a capture."</i> He paused in his fiddling to turn the thing upside down and
examine <i>that</i> end for a moment. "However I may have broken it when I dropped it back
River rolled her eyes at him so hard her head lolled back.
"So tell me, does that happen <i>every</i> time a pretty girl smiles at you?"
He gave her a glare that, at the hospital, tended to leave people scurrying away from him. His
sister, however, his fourteen year old little sister nearly went into hysterics.
"Bì zuǐ xiǎo wánnào." he muttered, going back to fiddling with the capture's buttons and settings,
ignoring his mèimèi sighing.
"You really have no people skills."
"My manners are impeccable."
"Yes, your manners are perfectly fitting for a man of your social and economic class. I wasn't
talking about <i>manners</i>. We've had manners drilled into us by our parents and various
nannies since birth. We can say 'please', 'thank you' and 'excuse me' at the drop of a finely crafted
hat. I’m talking about basic human interaction. You simply fail."
Simon gave up on the capture, pushing it toward River.
"My patients and their families? My colleagues? The nurses and orderlies, therapists and
"Simply a doctor's manners. You do deal with patients and families better than some doctors, but
still, it's part of the package of Doctor Simon Tam."
"This is more than just teasing me. You've really thought about this haven't you?"
"I get bored a lot."
Simon has been hearing that tone for years. Since she learned to talk, it seems. Everyone's
moving too slowly and she's been having to entertain herself. Which, on occasion, is a Very Bad
"What are you trying to get to?"
She gives him her best innocent look.
They converse in looks as only two people who know each other so well can. The silent
conversation ends with River tossing a broken piece of the capture at Simon.
"My point <i>is</i> that when you aren't being Doctor Simon or Big Brother Simon or The
Eldest Tam Child, you have no idea what to do with yourself."
"So what's your explanation for the tied tongue and butterfingers?"
"I told you, I was jostled."
"Hmm. Denial then." She responded with a knowing and slightly mocking expression.
"Shǎo luō suō."
"You're never going to have sex."
Her laughter starts breaking through.
"You're going to die a virgin!"
"I am not a vir-- Oh my God!"
River twirls away from him, laughing even harder at Simon’s gaping expression.
After that the afternoon was shot. Simon couldn't form coherent sentences and River wouldn’t
stop laughing at him.
At nearly two in the morning River’s not in her room. Simon finds her in the third place he
looks, sitting in a patch grass that they had years ago determined to be the best stargazing spot on
the estate, staring up at the sky.
"Looking for Earth?"
"Would be that way, dummy," She gestured to her right. "Also, you can't see a planet in another
system. Just it's sun. Sol. It can't be seen this time of year anyway."
He sank down beside her, minding the damp grass and dirt, settling an arm around her shoulder.
"I couldn't sleep. I'm nervous. I know <i>you</i> were this nervous but…"
"You're pretty much always nervous."
"I am not!"
He pulled her closer then, half hug, half headlock.
"Boob," she murmured into his shoulder.
Sometimes she takes so much looking after.