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Disclaimer: Firefly and all related elements, characters and indicia Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television, 2003. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations -- save those created by the author for use solely on this website -- are copyright Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television.

Lyrics for Teddy Bears' Picnic written by Jimmy Kennedy and used without permission, but with fond childhood memories and love...

Notes: Written for ff_fridays challenge the seventh: something stolen and something freely given. Much thanks to TaraLJC, Karen, and witchnyn for shiny betas. Thanks to hawkmoth for suggesting I do the commentary!

We're All Lost in the Woods...  COMMENTARY

by liquideyes

[Oh, just as a warning, I have a feeling that the commentary will be longer than the story. I babble.  So, on with said commentary...]

[Firstly the story set-up - or how it came to be written. I wrote this story for ff_fridays. In fact this was the last fic I ended up writing for it (so far - I hope to get back to weekly snippets when I have more time) Work, school & other WiPs happened... This is also the longest ff_Friday fic I ever wrote. I actually had to go through it and cut unnecessary words and make contractions to make it fit. This is cause once it was done I really couldn't bare to cut anything substantial and was at my wits' end. So I talked to the fab Carol working out cuts and sent it to the wonderful TaraLJC and she sent it back with rewordings & such and together the suggestions made it under the word limit without cutting anything in essence. They be kickass betas:) ]

[This was posted for the challenge "Something Stolen & Given" however, it was first conceived as something for the challenge before that - "Something Lost" but grew and changed and also didn't get written in time... ]

[The note I have in my notebook is: "'Nara 'We're all lost in the woods' --> Simon musing about this in bunk on Serenity... (right after Pilot)"]

[I can't for the life of me remember what made me think of it (likely I was thinking about making my Kaylee coveralls costume), but I do remember having a shower and getting the image of a teddy bear wearing the coveralls with a patch of a girl. And then I though of the woods being literally the woods and Simon dreaming and a teddy bear picnic and it went from there...I also remember thinking that at one point it could even lead to being a bit smutty if it went in another direction. But it didn't and thus wasn't. I think my latest fic more than makes up for that though...]

[I also remember chatting with Karen a lot around the writing of this, bouncing ideas and freaking about having to cut stuff... And she remembered the lyrics to teddy bear picnic to help me with that! Karen rocks.]

[So, onto the actual story:]

Simon felt rays of golden sunlight wash over the backs of his eyelids as a small, strong hand impatiently tugged on his. He knew without thinking whose hand it was.

[I love the phrase "backs of eyelids." Or "behind eyelids." I've used it in quite a few poems... There are lots of shots in the show of River and Simon holding hands. It seems to be a connection thing for them, and one that I really like, so I used it here.]

"Si-mon!" River called, a hint of exasperation in her voice. She attempted to drag him after her, but he stumbled, eyes wearily trying to shut of their own accord. River quickly let go, severing their connection. "Catch her if you can!" she yelled happily. Blue eyes blinked in the light, attempting to focus on the lithe figure flitting ahead of him like a butterfly.

[Pure brother & sister dynamics here. This also harkens back to "Safe" and the hide-and-seek... I figure tag wasn't a big stretch]

"River!" Simon called, then sighed when he didn't get a response. He hurried after her, careful not to let her out of his sight, barely seeing through eyes still adjusting to the dazzling brightness. He was surprised at how long the adjustment was taking. He didn't think he had become that accustomed to the dark.

[The "accustomed to the dark" was a reference to his life on Serenity in the black and how used to it he's getting. I don't know if it really worked/anyone noticed... but there it is]

The path twisted, snaking around and among foliage in shades of green in an abundance only rendered by nature. This wood was not carefully manicured; it was as wild as his sister's hair flapping behind her as she skipped down the dirt path. She was singing under her breath, and he caught snatches, sound waves carried by the gentle breeze... "If you go down to the woods today, be sure of a big surprise..."

[I love the word "snaking" second only to "flanked" in terms of describing motion... "sound waves" was something I think was suggested I cut but I didn't want to cut cause it was so sciency!Simon... Ooh, and then there's the first reference to Teddy Bear's Picnic! I love my childhood... It also amuses me that both time I've written River dialogue I've used song lyrics (one's in an unposted WiP). This was the first time I wrote non - Simon or Kaylee dialogue... and I was worried. Of course, River doesn't have much to say that isn't lyrics... likely on purpose. I used the lyrics when I could. And they provide lovely foreshadowing. I still don't think I could write anything just River. Maybe one day I'll try...]

The woods were surprise enough. His own experience with natural forests was very limited. He vaguely remembered a trip when he had been 15 or so to Proserpina, to an elegant but rustic resort which had been the height of fashionable summer retreats. He'd spent almost the entire trip locked in the cabin with his textbooks; concentrating on his studies, on obtaining knowledge to further his career goals while River had grown bored with him and explored on her own, petulant that he wouldn't join her. He should've enjoyed the trees, he thought, on the edge of bitterness. But that forest had been carefully planted and tended. It was tame in comparison to this explosion. His foot caught on something, sending him sprawling, and Simon found himself better acquainted with the forest floor. He stood up and brushed himself off. The other forest had also been without exposed tree roots to trip on.

[This was in reference to Simon's mention of hiking in regards to something to do on a core planet in Ariel. I figured if it was a common activity in the core that there might be planets devoted to green tourism, as it were. In naming the planet I was upset that Persephone (Greek goddess of vegetation) was already taken, so I used the Roman equivalent of the goddess... And how Simon is it of him to have been studying instead of seeing the sites? I've never gone quite that far, but I do remember having to do homework in Grade 4 on a weekend trip to Algonquin Park with my parents. ]

"See them gladly gad about... They love to play and shout... They never have any cares..."

Simon heard more snatches of River singing, and he hurried faster, thankful that his spill had not put him too far behind.

[Originally, Simon was going to come to a fork in the road and choose the right hand fork because left is sinister, in the Latin. And that would have alluded to "the road not travelled." I couldn't make it fit at the time, but now I'm sad that I didn't. It would have been a nice allusion, with the choosing River theme of the story.]

Suddenly the forest changed into a clearing. Before him spread open space with many blankets laid out, forming bright islands of colour in a sea of grass. He glimpsed matching tea sets, quite unlike the delicate raku favoured by his mother or by Inara. But this tea was not for them, or anything human, for that matter.

[Wow, was that abrupt or what? I don't know that I like it... But I do have quite the picture of this in my head of this, and I don't know if it translated. Also, the "islands of colour" was supposed to evoke "no man is an island" but I think that that got lost... So, had you figured out it was a dream by now? Cause if not, I think the next paragraph makes that pretty clear...]

Simon had stumbled on a teddy bear picnic; large, person-sized teddy bears. But this barely registered as his eyes raked over the scene, one thing on his mind only. Then his gaze alighted on movement, on one teddy bear with light brown fur that had just risen. And there was River, seemingly appearing from nowhere, running towards the bear, arms open wide. River embraced it in pleased recognition, but the dirty, green coveralls it wore, with a patch in the shape of a young girl over the thigh, escaped Simon's notice for the moment.

[This is even more abrupt. And I'm not particularly happy with it. But *heee* it's teddybear!Kaylee. And Simon has eyes for no one but River.]

"At six o'clock their mommies and daddies will take them home to bed." River told it, burying her face in its fur. The bear returned the hug gladly, paw gently patting River's head. River, radiating joy, turned towards Simon, beaming. "You didn't catch us unawares! We caught you by surprise!" she giggled.

[I loved using the song for this bit here.]

Suddenly she was 14 again, wearing the same grey jumper that she'd worn the last time he'd seen her. "You better go in disguise, or you'll get stolen, too. But you can steal me back again. Or maybe you won't, because she was freely given to you, by herself! I always belonged to you, but now you have a choice." River's happiness waned slightly. Simon, previously frozen to the spot by this spectacle, moved towards her, but then froze again as the teddy bear face morphed into that of a real brown bear, despite being extinct on earth-that-was. It roared right in River's still-smiling face, and closed its jaws over her head.

[Oooh, look, more abruptness. Maybe it fits with the dream, but I still am not happy with it (see, I really like the stuff writing that's not the picnic, so maybe it's just comparatively I'm not satisfied)? Originally I had River in a purple dress.. why I don't know. But then I changed it to grey from the flashback in "Safe"? Oooh, look it's me trying to fit the challenge theme into the story a bit awkwardly. and in River-speak.*groans* (I know I had a clearer and better way to do it when I started writing, but then it went in a different direction and I'm pulling it back (or trying to)) and oooh, look, it's Simon's subconscious telling him that his friendship with Kaylee will add many complications to his need to fix River. Subtle, yes, I can be subtle. *cough* I also don't' know whether this story happens before or after Objects in Space, where the Kaylee or River choice really gets emphasized and contrasted with the same choice in Serenity. It shows how far Simon has changed. You could make arguments for either, cause here it's all his subconscious.]

Simon blinked. Tried to open his eyes, and was caught between the world of sleeping and waking. He existed both in the dream and in his bed for a confusing minute, wondering why there was no blood. And then wondering why, then forgetting completely as his eyes opened for good and his arm encountered the real coveralls, clothing the body huddled beside him on top of the covers.

[Nothing really to say here... except that I like this paragraph. That's usually how I wake up from dreams I don't remember.]

Simon blinked again in surprise. They must have fallen asleep while talking last night. His cheeks reddened, though there was no one to see them, and despite the fact that they had fallen asleep together before. Though this time the memory wasn't blurred from alcohol. The last thing he remembered about the previous night -- or maybe it had been morning -- was Kaylee telling him about Saturday picnics with her whole family, down by the lake near her house. She had seemed wistful, though was quick to turn to funny stories of her cousins' antics. Maybe he could try and convince the captain to have a picnic next time they stopped planet-side. If he got the rest of the crew behind him, he might even succeed. River would like it, too. It would be something normal, a concept that he was forgetting on Serenity, if he has ever indeed known it.

[I love Jaynestown and Drunk!Simon a lot. A whole lot. And awkward, embarrassed, proper Simon. I'm not sure there's a !Simon I don't love... I'm pretty sure I borrowed the idea of them spending many a night talking about things in Simon's room from TaraLJC's fic. But it is evident that they're spending a lot of time together talking by the comfort levels in Objects in Space... I don't like the word choice of "normal" here. Simon didn't have picnics on Osiris, I don't think...]

He checked the time and decided to let Kaylee continue sleeping. He carefully extricated himself from the bed, and left, as it was time to go check on River. He closed the screen carefully, subconsciously whistling a tune he barely recognized from childhood under his breath.

[Always River, forever River first. That's just who Simon is. But he just has to learn he doesn't really have to choose... And I'm really proud of that last line. As close to a perfect ending note as I'm likely to get?]

[Remember when I said at the beginning that the commentary would probably be longer than the fic? Well I was right, it's almost 2.5x the fic.]

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