Crossover: Sherlock (BBC)/Firefly
Word Count: 15,147
Characters/Pairings: Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, River Tam, Simon Tam, Malcolm Reynolds, Inara Sera, rest of Serenity's crew.
Warnings: Violence, mental health issues, aftermath of surgery, minor blood
Spoilers: Full Firefly series (pre-Movie), general for Sherlock Season 1
Disclaimer: I own neither Firefly nor Sherlock and I don’t make a dime off them.
Summary: Mal's latest pair of passengers slowly reveals they have more of a connection to the crew than anyone would have thought, when Simon discovers that Sherlock and his sister had been in the same government program over a decade and a half apart. Sherlock's friend John, his rescuer and keeper, tells the crew the story of living a life on the run, something that is both less and more familiar than anyone expects.
Author’s Notes: Written for crossbigbang. Thanks to brighteyed_jill for helping by listening to my woes, and polka_ducha for a super-awesome last-minute phone beta!
John reported to the recruiting station with a feeling of déjà vu. But unlike years before, his information was not impersonally entered into a computer to be sorted and profiled until they’d found a good recruit officer match. There were no endless questions to figure out his career trajectory. Lestrade found the two of them in the crowd and all but dragged them to the back room of the town hall.
“Look, Watson, you’re the best doctor we have-,” he began, and John interrupted him. War was coming; it was time to put all the cards on the table.
“Lestrade, I was Alliance military before I got my degree,” he stated.
Lestrade was only a little surprised at that, and didn’t even hesitate. “Thought it might have been something of the sort. You shoot too well. All right, that simplifies matters.” He turned away and pointed at Sherlock, and John got a terrible sense of foreboding.
“You’re too bloody smart. Command wants you as an analyst.”
John opened his mouth to object and Lestrade talked right over him.
“Watson, you’ll go with him, keep Command healthy.”
At Lestrade’s declaration, Sherlock had gone pale, with the kind of long stare that usually preceded one of his bad days.
“I won’t do battle maneuvers. This is not a game, Lestrade. I will help extract, retreat, show ways out, plan rescue missions, reconnaissance, but I will not plan out fatal tactics.” Sherlock’s voice was toneless, in the way of veterans speaking of harrowing battle experiences. That was the kind of trauma John had been trained to understand.
“You know what they’re going to do here, right?” Lestrade asked, puzzled in the extreme by Sherlock’s vehement response.
John backed Sherlock, pressing their shoulders together, giving him solid understanding. “We know, Lestrade. I am extremely aware of what the Alliance will do in battle. But the people here are trying to live free, not slaughter others. No battle strategies, or don’t bother with us.”
“Barking mad, the pair of you. Pacifist soldiers.”
“Don’t be absurd. I’m well aware of the consequences of war, and it’s just as likely people will be killed on a rescue missing as an assault. Death is inevitable in this kind of conflict. But I won’t be a direct part of the killing,” Sherlock said.
Lestrade had to think about that for a minute, weighing the pros of having two of his most reliable, oft-consulted settlers taking on their self-appointed task eagerly and the cons of having them only engaged in a support capacity versus what it would take to change either of their minds. It was clear he didn’t thing he could convince either of them, and forcing them, well, that was counterproductive to the whole point of the war, wasn’t it? Sherlock mercifully stayed quiet while Lestrade came to that conclusion, rather than indulging in an acid quip.
“Command won’t like it,” he said finally.
“Command will get used to it,” John said sharply. Now that Sherlock had shown his willingness to fight in his own way, John would fight to make certain none of his newly-declared principles were violated.
“That was my purpose, John. I was to analyze clues, look for weaknesses, tell them where to strike for maximum damage.”
John shook his head. “That’s not you. Not ever.”
“Some of the others reveled in it. They amused themselves with the variety of ways people could die, could be controlled. They were so happy…” Sherlock trailed off, and River moved closer and ran one finger through his hair. Right over one of his scars.
“They pared away conscience,” River said.
“And dropped in madness,” Sherlock responded, like it was a poem they were reciting together.
“That’s how the others worked. They enjoyed what was done to them, and what it let them do. The results were all that mattered.”
Sherlock nodded slowly, and turned towards John. “John and I worked as eyes and ears and the brain for Independent maneuvers. A great shortage of brains on either side, really, so they were lucky to have us at Kingstone.”
Zoe sat straight up in her chair as a few nervous chuckles died away at Sherlock’s flippant comment. She regarded John and Sherlock keenly, like a hunting bird searching for prey.
“There’s none too many who know about Kingstone,” she said. Sherlock nodded shortly, his eyes challenging. “Intel,” she said positively. Another nod.
Mal sat straight up as fast as if he’d been shocked. “You? And… both of you were there? That fight was hell on earth. I’m surprised you walked out of that one alive.”
“Many didn’t. I didn’t walk out,” John said.
The air shuddered around them, filling the command center with dust as another bomb collapsed a nearby tunnel.
“North Two and Three closed.”
“West Five is open, but East Three has been taken. We have--”
“Three minutes, yes, I know.” Sherlock’s voice was muffled by the insect-like mask they all wore down here to breathe in the depths of the mines, but his impatience came through clearly. Throughout the whole bloody mess of the war thus far, Sherlock had managed to keep it together, the stimulation of keeping the Independent forces intact along with John’s careful buffering keeping him on a sharply even keel.
“Only one unit left to extract, heading our way.”
“We’re the target of this bombardment! Tell them to divert to South Two, go down one level, and take the emergency shaft east--”
“East is taken!”
“Not on that level, and they won’t be expecting opposition there, relay now!”
“Sherlock?” John asked, as Ellerton relayed Sherlock’s instructions to the last remaining squad. “How do we get out?”
“We don’t. We’re a decoy. As long as the Alliance concentrates on us, the last unit will get out.”
Silence greeted that pronouncement, and John felt a peculiar mingling of fear and pride. Fear for his life, for Sherlock’s and the others here, and pride that Sherlock had unflinchingly made a decision to save as many lives as he could.
“I knew you all would rather see the others live,” Sherlock said, almost too softly to hear. Ellerton broke the stillness with a brief salute and turned back to the radio to keep the remaining soldiers on their path to freedom. Another blast shook the air, closer this time.
“They’re moving faster than I anticipated,” Sherlock said, a note of alarm in his voice.
“Unit six is doubling back,” Ellerton said, voice rising sharply.
“You tell them to get to their evac point now!” John roared. He would be damned if they were all going to die for nothing, not after Sherlock nearly had them home free.
“John, they’re coming,” Sherlock said abruptly, taking his gun and moving against one wall. John did the same, standing slightly in front of Sherlock. They both had their orders, and also their own promises to each other. If it looked like they were about to be captured, John had grenades for both of them. Better dead than in Alliance hands now.
Ellerton shoved away from the radio as the wall next to him caved in. John started shooting immediately, not waiting for the dust to settle. It revealed their position, but gave them half a chance to get out through the back.
“Someone’s there!” Ellerton hissed. Flanked. Damn.
“No, John, it’s-,” Sherlock began.
John didn’t hear the rest, as someone on the Alliance side returned fire. Pain flared as bullets hit his body armor, and crescendoed as one pierced his shoulder. He swayed on his feet, staying in front of Sherlock, and felt his hearing going as bodies poured in behind him. They fired into the Alliance soldiers, everyone’s faces anonymous behind their breathing masks. John’s last sight was of brown-coated soldiers standing in front of them.
Safe as he was going to get, he passed out.
John woke up, rather surprised at doing so. Even with friendlies having arrived at the last second, he hadn’t been sure they would have been able to extract them out of the depths of the compromised mine. The entire left side of his body ached, with bright points at his shoulder and knee. Despite the pain, John knew immediately that things were probably better than he had any right to expect. The slight euphoria from pain-killers meant he was worth saving. Warmth was pressed into his good side, and his ears told him that the soft taps there were from someone on a comm device. They stopped suddenly, and he felt someone stir.
“John?” Sherlock’s voice. He’d survived. The relief was so great that it overwhelmed the pain for a while. John croaked a response, throat sore and dry (he’d been in surgery with a tube down his throat, he realized belatedly). Sherlock interpreted the formless sounds instantly. “You’re at Base Three on Hera, been out for three days, sustained a penetrating bullet wound to the left shoulder that shattered your scapula. Your surgeon was able to reconstruct your bones, and there will be no permanent impairment in muscular or nervous function.”
Sherlock hesitated a long moment, and returned to the comm device. John remained silent, his too-thick tongue scratching his dry mouth, until Sherlock abruptly thrust a straw between his lips. John drank gratefully, but he could see how badly Sherlock’s hands were shaking. John felt guilt settle into his stomach like a ball of lead. He’d went and gotten himself shot, effectively leaving Sherlock alone for days. Sherlock hadn’t been on his own for more than a day since John had rescued him. John tried to roll towards him to apologize properly, and felt something rip in his knee, making him blanch with pain. A strained scream vibrated John’s throat and he passed into oblivion.
The next day they moved him, hauling him along on a transport, Sherlock again at his side. John was just beginning to realize he’d never left. His clothes were still gritty with rock dust from the Kingstone mines, his hair grayed with pulverized granite. John turned his face to the wall to block out the coffins neatly stacked and secured on one side of the cargo bay. Some of them had been Command, fallen one by one because John’s primary concern had been for Sherlock. How many others had died unjustly, bleeding out in the mines because there had been no medic to save them? How useless was he now?
“It was war, I know,” John said, as Mal leaned forward. “It was my first tour, my first losses, my first major wound.”
“That’s never easy, ‘specially when you already had another burden,” Mal said. John wouldn’t say that Mal was looking at him with respect now that he knew a bit more about him, as he was still sore about John’s deception where Sherlock had been concerned, but the near-open hostility was all but gone. That, he could live with. Also he could live with not getting chucked out the airlock before they’d made planetfall.
“Well, I did what most fools do when they’re in that situation,” John said.
“Take the blame?” Zoe asked.
“Take the blame.”
John tested himself gingerly as he got out of bed for the first time, Sherlock hovering anxiously nearby. Pain shot up from his knee and thigh in merry defiance of his actual wounds. The crutch thunked irregularly on the floor, and his shoulder throbbed distantly.
From the minute he’d started on this madcap adventure with Sherlock, John had been on the go. Building a home, riding a horse, roping a cow, shooting a gun, being a human shield… He’d been the protector, able to insert himself between Sherlock and the world, acting as a two-way translator. Now he couldn’t. Sherlock was depending on him, for all the progress he’d made, and John had gotten himself crippled.
“I am the worst sort of person,” Sherlock said softly. “I took your life, John, as surely as if I’d come into your office that first day and shot you dead. You gave up all for me.” Sherlock’s hand came down on John’s shoulder lightly. “I beg your forgiveness.”
Sherlock hadn’t eaten in days, had sniped at everyone, was being hounded by Command via the comm, and he still had enough focus to say something like that to John. John had lain there, semi-conscious on the transport, listening to Sherlock rattling off this or that plan to the higher-ups, and had perversely wondered if he was even needed anymore, if his injury had forced Sherlock into independence.
“I’m sorry,” John said, his voice a croak.
“You threw yourself in front of a bullet for me, John.” Sherlock loomed over him, his hand tight on John’s good shoulder. “It’s enough, John. Please.”
John turned away, unable to walk far, his knee a torment. This was it, then. Sherlock didn’t need him.
“What I’d do if you weren’t there, I’m not sure. There’s only so long I can interact with these idiots. There’s only so much to do here, John.” Sherlock paused, and turned his comm towards John. “The Alliance razed Shadow today.”
The pain at losing their first home was only a strange, distant ache rather than a numbing blow. John had known this was coming, so the pain had already been there, tears already cried. He was surprised at himself for how well he was taking it, until he saw Sherlock with the same resignation in his eyes. He knew. Of course he knew.
“What’s Command want next?” John asked, painfully easing himself back down on the bed.
“Immediately? Retaliation. Long-term goals will see us here, defending Serenity Valley in our next holding position.”
John shut his eyes. “Oh, God.” This wouldn’t end well. Perhaps it was the pain speaking, or the drugs, but John was beginning to see the shape of the war, and it wasn’t ending with an Independent victory. He didn’t count himself a cynic, but living with Sherlock for so long tended to make you learn how to think critically.
“We’ll do the best we can, John.”
Everyone was staring at them as John finally fell silent.
“And after Serenity Valley?” Zoe asked.
“We did what most did, scattered to the winds. I spent some time healing up, and then we found work. Whatever came our way, provided it was odd and mostly impossible to solve, we took it.”
“Sounds like what Mal usually finds for us,” Wash commented, and ducked as Zoe leveled a stare at him.
Mal mostly managed to cover up the twitching that heralded a smile. “Ok Doc, I think I won’t space you and yours.”
“Very generous of you, Captain.”
“You just keep yourself busy for the next few weeks and I think I can be persuaded to forget your little ruse entire.”
Sherlock smiled broadly at Mal’s challenge and John didn’t put his head in his hands.
Sherlock trailed after River with the air of an absentminded older brother, unlike Simon who was keeping a careful watch on both of them. John kept his attention focused outward, a hint of a smile on his lips as they penetrated deeper into the marketplace. It was just a stopover on the way to another of Mal’s jobs, but it was the first time Mal had been willing to let the two out without fear that they might do something particularly foolish. Not that it would have stopped John and Sherlock, but being able to leave Serenity without the fear that they’d get left behind before they’d gotten to Krandle Station was comforting.
It was also the first time since John had come aboard that Simon had been able to get him alone and ask some other pointed questions. Oddly enough, in the crowded market they had even more privacy than they would have on the ship.
“Truly, he’s all right most of the time,” John said, in response to an incident the other day that had involved River and Sherlock in the engine room that had ended up with Simon having to take an hour to calm down Kaylee. “It’s just the long voyages get to him. Waiting doesn’t suit him.”
“How, exactly?” Simon pleaded.
John lost the smile and his eyes grew cold, though no less watchful. “I told you he was given things to solve every waking moment in the academy. Without some kind of stimulation, he practically goes comatose.”
“And that’s where you step in.”
“It’s why we move so much. God knows I’d love to get us our own ship, but we don’t have the scratch. A bit of home and we wouldn’t get thrown out of every other place we’ve been.”
“Don’t tell Mal,” Simon said.
“Are you mad?”
“Couldn’t be sure. You were on the run from the Alliance with one of their most valuable military intelligence projects. Only a crazy man would do that,” Simon said.
“And an idiot,” John agreed.
“Barking mad fool, that’s what that person would be.”
“Quite,” Simon agreed solemnly.
John paused for a second and sighed. Simon echoed him a moment later.
“They’re gone, aren’t they?” he said, not even bothering to look around.
Sherlock had put away his Cortex comm and strolled through the market with the seasoned bob and weave of one used to such crowds. He followed in River’s wake, eyes alert to her movements. She hadn’t meant to leave Simon behind, or rather, she hadn’t wanted him to worry about them while he talked, and Sherlock had given John the slip in much the same fashion. River was focused, dancing, and searching for something with utter dedication. He didn’t dare impede her progress, not when she was stalking the market like a hunting cat alert for the presence of prey.
River drew up short by one stall, arrested, as if she had hit a wall of force and Sherlock paused to peruse the goods. The place carried crafts carved of system planet woods, from simple boxes to elaborate furniture and instruments. It was one of the latter that River was focused on, a sensuously curved violin, its grain glowing a warm amber in the lights. Sherlock came up behind her and leaned towards it, eyes darting to take in the details.
“Do you hear it?” she asked him.
Sherlock continued to stare at the instrument, and the proprietor, a little dumpling of a man with long, bony fingers, seemed to smell a sale.
“Ah, a lovely piece, that. You have excellent taste, sir. My prices are reasonable, very reasonable…” he trailed off, uncertain, when Sherlock picked up the violin and bow like he was cradling a child. “You want to try it out? Please do, you’ll want to buy it on the spot!”
Sherlock didn’t answer, just fitted the violin under his chin and set his bow to the strings. His hand found the neck of the violin and he slowly positioned his fingers like he was rediscovering something he’d lost long ago. River reached up and nudged his hand slightly, and something clicked within Sherlock. He raised the bow and brought it down again, drawing a bright cascade of notes to spill out over his hands.
Simon had been utterly frantic to find River again, traumatic memories of being nearly burned at the stake leaping to the forefront of his mind, when John halted his desperate search.
“Listen,” he whispered.
Simon calmed himself enough to filter through the dull roar of the crowd, fearful to hear a shout of terror or, even worse, the tramp of booted feet or sharp tones of an official voice. Instead an unfamiliar tune played on a stringed instrument was undercutting the chattering voices. Eyebrow raised, John tugged him towards the source, pushing through where the crowd had thickened. As they emerged from the circle of people, Simon stopped dead.
River was dancing, whirling through a wild reel with three or four other girls, all of them smiling and laughing as their feet skipped along the ground as if they were barely constrained by gravity. There was something in her expression, a freedom and ease he hadn’t seen since just before that disastrous incident on Jiangyin, that he hadn’t known she could still feel.
At the seller’s stall, Sherlock held a violin in his hands, his expression serene compared to the rollicking dance music he was playing. He swayed in time with the beat, fingers and hands working in perfect concert, and John froze as he watched his friend.
“Yes,” John whispered, nearly unheard in the clapping of the crowd. “Yes.”
Simon only spared him a single curious look as Sherlock swept into another tune, then another, music pouring from him like a spring that had been stoppered too long. River continued to dance, her hands describing arcs and birds in the air, keeping up with Sherlock’s endless stream of music… or perhaps she was conducting it, signaling him in ways Simon couldn’t understand.
John stood, mesmerized at the scene, and put a restraining hand on Simon when he might have tried to intervene out of pure nervousness. “It’s all right. Trust me.”
Simon turned to look at him, knowing he was right, needing to see River whole for a while, finally knowing that yes, it was all worth it.
It was a long time later when Sherlock finally flourished his music to an end, not even acknowledging the crowd when they cheered him and River and every other girl that had joined in, not even paying any attention to the coins and bills that some enthusiastic patrons showered down upon them for the impromptu entertainment.
John moved first, scooping up the money before it could vanish and paying for the instrument before the stunned proprietor could think to ask for it back. Sherlock just looked down at the violin in his hands, at John’s smile, and River gleefully hugging Simon around the neck in a fit of childish exuberance, and smiled.
Inara answered her shuttle door with alacrity, waving John inside with a graceful gesture.
“Ah…” John hesitated on the threshold, knee throbbing abominably. It was what he got for standing for hours watching Sherlock play, no matter how marvelous it had been. That had been a full day past, and he still wasn’t quite right. They were close enough to Krandle Station that he’d been willing to ask the resident Companion if he could barter for a tiny fraction of her skills, at least enough to soothe his wretched, uncooperative joint so he’d be all right when they finally docked.
“It’s all right,” she said soothingly, and put her hand on his elbow, escorting him inside. “Please, come sit.”
John sat, nervousness fading as Inara knelt to pour the tea, every movement practiced and precise, meant to draw his eye to her arms, her hands, the colorful silks and bright jewels with which they were bedecked.
“I should apologize in advance,” John said, and Inara stretched over to lay a finger over his lips.
“If you’re worried that Sherlock will show up at an inopportune time, he won’t. We talked earlier.”
“You did?” John was faintly stunned, and found himself peering into corners, wondering if Sherlock had hidden himself somewhere to observe his meeting.
Inara smiled. “Yes, for quite some time. You see, I don’t usually serve members of the crew. They’re my family, and it’s hard to remain objective around them. Almost impossible to see what they really need, because I’m so close all the time.”
John took his tea and swallowed the hot, fragrant liquid automatically. Companions were, in their own way, as perceptive as Sherlock at times. But talk of serving… John wouldn’t have said no, but Inara didn’t give away her skill, any more than John did. And he knew he couldn’t afford more than a fraction of her skill or time.
“He wants you to be happy.” She smiled as she poured her own tea. “And he had questions, of course.”
“I hope he didn’t bother--”
“Oh no. It’s… refreshing to find someone for whom my job isn’t some great mystery. I lent him some of our philosophy books.” She sipped her tea carefully, and put it back on the tray, rising to sit beside John. “He was more concerned that you overworked yourself when you were looking for him, and needed some straightening out.” Her hands framed her meaning perfectly, and John didn’t flinch when she laid them on his shoulder.
John smiled, shook his head, and looked at her. “I would damn near kill for a massage,” he confessed with a rueful smile. “But--”
“Well, you don’t have to do that,” she said quickly, cutting off his protest.
“Sherlock covered my fee for you.”
“Oh Lord, Inara, there’s no way we could afford--”
She put a finger on his lips, and John could taste tea and honey on her skin. “It is at my discretion to determine the form of my fee. Sherlock had some rather valuable advice that I would have gladly paid for. So, nothing to break your budget. He wanted you to relax.” She smiled disarmingly, warmly, and John sipped the last of his tea.
Sherlock respected Inara as a fellow student of human nature, and acknowledged her as his superior in carnal matters. There was no way for John to afford the services of a Companion normally, and his and Sherlock’s nomadic lifestyle precluded most other intimate relationships. Well, mostly.
There was the momentary thought to be angry at Sherlock for setting him up like this, beyond what he’d intended. But what purpose would that serve? None. None at all.
John got up at Inara’s gentle tug, and sank into the plush softness of her bed. Warmth surrounded him as he luxuriated in the feel of the silken coverlet. Even back when he’d been living on Core planets he hadn’t had the wherewithal for such luxury. Inara drew aside his shirt and placed her warm, smooth hands, slick with sandalwood oil, on his back, and began to rub. In less than a minute, John was a boneless imitation of a human being, uttering the occasional sigh of satisfaction.
“It sounds like you haven’t rested in quite a while,” Inara said as she sought out every ache and chased them away.
“Not really. Couldn’t,” John said, addressing the coverlet.
“Maybe.” John let Inara’s hands work on him for several minutes more before he spoke again. “Yes, now.”
“Your friend seems to be doing much better.”
John was quiet, and Inara dug deeper with her fingers.
“Who did you leave behind when you left with Sherlock?”
“Sister I had never gotten on with, parents that died while I was on the run. Another half-decent doctor at the academy.”
“You couldn’t trust her though.”
How Inara had known the doctor was a her, John didn’t ask.
“I couldn’t. I didn’t dare. He only trusted me, and there wasn’t time to ask her.”
“And who do you have now?”
Her fingers delved deep, releasing tension John didn’t even know he’d been carrying.
“Him. He’s my everything.”
Inara didn’t comment on that for long moments, but he felt her hair against his back as she leaned closer, and pressed a kiss into his scarred shoulder. John shuddered underneath her lips, body shaking with something like fear, something like ecstasy.
“And Simon and River?” she asked.
“They already knew that a long time ago. It took me a lot longer to figure it out.”
“You told us quite a lot. More than most strangers would.”
“They’re not strangers,” John said fiercely. “They deserved to know everything they could.”
“But we didn’t have to.”
John lost himself in the rhythm of Inara’s hands for long minutes, slow and regular as a heartbeat.
“Sherlock knew this boat was for us the moment he laid eyes on it. He knew it was the right ship. He’s never wrong.” John breathed deeply, in and out. “We lost so many friends. And those that are left, they have no idea.”
“You trust River’s judgment,” Inara said positively.
“And Simon’s. He wouldn’t stay anywhere she could get hurt.”
Behind him, John could tell that Inara was smiling.
Krandle Station loomed on Serenity’s screens, an unlikely collection of mismatched modules set at the juncture of shipping lanes. A smuggler’s paradise. Mal would had approved the stop whole-heartedly, even if it hadn’t been John and Sherlock’s final destination.
“You know Jayne has been complaining most of the day,” Simon said, as he helped John pack up the rest of his supplies.
“Let him. Inara can handle herself,” John said, snapping a case closed. Simon gave him a sideways, speculative glance, and John shook his head. “You know I won’t tell you anything.”
“Ah,” he blushed. “Sorry. I just… wanted to thank you. I think I have a better idea of… well, what’s going to happen with River.”
“I doubt it,” John said, much to Simon’s surprise. “Don’t think. Just be there. Know you aren’t going to know much of anything. And just remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Every time I tried to out-think Sherlock, I might as well have stayed in bed for the day.”
“Did I ever tell you River likes to walk in the rafters?” Simon said, grinning.
John laughed out loud.
Sherlock waited at the air lock, seated on a carryall, the violin case at his feet. River knelt next to him, watching as he finished writing down a long string of numbers across a musical score.
“It’s beautifully complex.”
“You can hear it?” he asked.
“Always. Use a wave; send me your composition when it’s finished.”
“I shall.” Sherlock pressed the paper into her hand and rose, putting the bag over his shoulder as John entered the cargo bay with Simon.
“I’ll send you my choreography,” River said.
“Perfect.” Sherlock moved to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with John as the docking clamps engaged and the cargo bay door finally opened. With a final wave behind them, John and Sherlock left Serenity. River slipped her hand into Simon’s as the two disappeared into the crowd, moving so easily together it was as if they were dancing.