Wash had just drained his sixth cup of coffee when River padded silently into the galley. She had a bundle of yarn and needles in her hands and seemed to be knitting a pair of gaudy striped socks. Wash wiped his mouth off with the back of his wrist, before staring at his fingers, which were now jittering. He pressed his palms to his thighs as he turned to greet River. “What you got there?”
River shrugged. “Darning his socks by the fireplace didn’t work.” She eyed the yarn sadly. “They were supposed to turn into socks, but they’re just meaningless lumps of string now.”
“Still better than I could do. Bit early for you to be up, though, isn’t it?”
River shrugged. “Can’t sleep. The room keeps spinning.”
Wash set his coffee mug down, leaning against the counter. “I know what you mean.” He squeezed his eyes shut.
Tilting her head, River studied him. Her eyes drifted to the empty coffeepot. “You haven’t even tried to sleep.”
Sighing, Wash nodded without opening his eyes. “I got distracted by a broadcast over the Cortex.” He yawned. “By the time it was over, it was too late to turn in. I’ve gotta land in about forty minutes, hence the need for my reluctant wakefulness.” He patted the coffeepot. “The caffeine will ensure I don’t crash and kill us all on the decent. Or, at least, I hope it will.”
River wandered in front of him, trailing her free hand over the backs of the chairs at the table. “You watched the massive lizards, saw them rending flesh from limb to limb.”
Wash opened his eyes at the words, focusing on her as she crossed to the lounge. “Some of them were herbivores, you know. Anyway, it was all recreated. It isn’t as though there are any real dinosaurs to film.”
River furrowed her brow. “You like the little ones.” Her head tilted like she was trying to catch a melody on the wind. “They come in packs, with their wicked teeth, polishing the victim to the bone.”
“Velociraptors,” Wash supplied. Wistfully, he added, “I always wanted one. A toy one, I mean, but they don’t seem to make them.”
Settling into one of the couches, River attempted to resume her knitting. Without looking up, she announced, “I will knit you a dinosaur.”
Wash gently laughed. “That’d be nice. But, don’t you think the plastic ones would make fun of him?” He crossed through the galley to take a seat beside her.
River concentrated on her task, her tone carefully controlled. “He’ll be bigger than them. He could squash them if they teased.”
Wash sunk into the soft cushions of the couch, letting his eyes slide closed. “Can’t be a velociraptor, then. They’re tiny.”
“Can,” River protested. “None of your dinosaurs are to scale. Shouldn’t start now.”
Wash shrugged, conceding the point. “Well, I look forward to whatever psychedelic Mesozoic concoction you knit up.” Sighing wearily, he sat up. “I’d better schlep back to the bridge before I fall asleep here.”
River pulled herself out of her knitting to look at him. “You should sleep. I’ll wake you when we’re close.”
Wash studied her for a bit, debating whether or not she was trustworthy enough for that task. “We really will all crash and die if you forget to wake me.”
River gave him a sweet, girlish grin. “I’ll watch over you. It’ll be all right.”
It didn’t take much to convince Wash to slump back into the couch. “Well, okay. But if we all die, it’s your fault. And, in the event that we do, don’t bother to wake me.” He smiled sleepily. “Thanks.”
River set the pile of yarn in her lap so she could watch Wash. She could tell the very second he fell asleep as she felt his breathing shift and slow. He leaned into her until their arms pressed together, and she smiled and was warm.