author's note: Oh thank god, I'm writing again. Not necessarily what I want to write (TLM) but, after a month of being creatively brain dead I'll take what I can get. Not sure where the dragon metaphor/simile/whatever came from but it worked so i kept it. This was heavily influenced by my co-morbidity ficlet. I debated posting this by itself but I'm pretty sure I need someone to double check the grammar first.
He was a port in the storm. A silence surround by a churning sea of voices that did not speak and visions that went unseen. Eyes never left him, raptly watching him, searching for some visual clue to his secret. He was old but only in his eyes and the stress lines around his face. He fooled all with his younthful appearance and his mirth at other's expense was obvious in the cruel turn of his lips. Smoke rose from his mouth much like a sleeping dragon and his ancient inhuman eyes watched everyone, ready to burn them all away if he had to. There was a hunger in his gaze only blood, pain, and death could sate. You were supposed to let sleeping dogs lie but no one ever thought the same about dragons.
With a flap of his leathery wings that were a coat he turned to locate the eyes on him and startled. River imagined he expected to find a damsel or a knight and instead found a sorceress with power he could not match. Entranced as she, he stalked towards her cautiously and tilted his head like his avian cousins as he studied her.
"Hullo there, pet. I know I'm a handsome devil but aren't I a little old for you?" He asked curiously, teasing, testing her walls with harmless banter. Except she had no walls and everything was too loud and too vivid with things only she could see and he was the serpent and temptation called.
With a sigh that was part bliss and part relief she wrapped herself around him, pulled herself so close she would have to be in him to get any closer. But that was alright because not being able to be in him at all was part of the charm. She wanted to stay here at peace for eternity but necessity outweighed desire and her brother calls. Captain-father was angry and the dragon, her serpent, was flummoxed because he's not done any wrong, not yet.
"Meimei, will you please let go of the nice man," Simon pleaded, horrified and embarrassed, and ready to scream until his face was blue at her for hugging a stranger.
"Not nice," River argued, her face hidden in his soft underbelly that was his black shirt.
The dragon chuckled, amused by her candidness and the strange situation he found himself in.
"Too right, luv. I'm a bad rude man and no good for a sweet thing like you ta be clinging to," his voice was light, humored, but carried an under current of nostalgia and loss. The last of his kind her dragon was.
"Too old," River agreed unmoved and unmoving. She was safe here in the folds of cloth that were his scales and wings.
He stiffed slightly, unnerved as he realized she saw him for what he was. She might not know his secrets but she could guess in the silence unbeating of his chest.
"River," Simon sighed more than spoke in exasperation, missing the minuscule changes she could feel.
"He's quiet," she begged, pleaded, and prayed for them to understand. "Hums like Serenity, voiceless but not dead. I'm me. Don't let me be torn to shreds again, ripped apart so everyone else can be." She just wanted to be River again, just for a little while.
"Shh, shh, pet. S'okay," he assured, one hand combing through her hair as the other held her against him, now offering his comfort. "Look, I was looking for a lift off this dustball, if ya got room I'll pay to get to wherever yer headed. No need ta upset the pigeon more than need be," her dragon declared, bracing himself against refusal.
"That's mighty kind of you considering you just met us. Strange you go so out of your way to help calm a girl that's obviously touched," Bad-Captain-Father said cautiously, perpared to kill her dragon for being too nice.
He laughed then, loudly, delightedly, and so very self mocking. "Mate, I dated a bird crazier than moonshine for years and use ta work at an asylum. If'n I'm all that's keeping yer girl together do ya really want to try and take me from her?" he asked archly, posing challenge to her rogue knight. His wording was strange. He belonged to her?
Mal took a moment to curse. Another job had gone sour and they needed to leave, now. There was no time to argue, already Wash was informing them escape was going to get tight and tighter with each lingering second. "Fine! I hope you have pay and your kit because we're leaving now," Mal growled and took point. Simon fluttered around him, sputtering and protesting the complete stranger accompanying them.
Only when Serenity was safely away in the space between, where the voices and images were dulled by distance did she release her prize. A piece of sanity to cling to when River needed to stop being everyone else and just be.
"Playin it awfully close, weren't cha Captain?" Kaylee inquired in her sweet tangy voice. "Oh! Who's this?"
"William Summers, but most know me as Spike. Lass decided I needed a hug and didn't want to let go afterwards," Dragon explained once again amused.
River rolled the names over in her head and decided Spike fit best. The other tasted too false, mismatched puzzle pieces forced together to make an impossible whole.
"You know how to do anything other than attend crazies?" Mal demanded testily, too much risk brining a stranger on board but impossible to fight.
"Everything but woodwork and poetry," Spike declared ice blue eyes dancing with glee at the odd looks that got him. "Allergic ta wood dust and I'm a Bloody Awful Poet." There was a joke hidden within those words that only Spike knew.
River enjoyed the pleasant surprise as she realized if she wanted to understand this not-dead not-man and his secrets she would have to earn them. She looked forward to the challenge.