A new Day Dawning
Series: A new Day Dawning
Disclaimer: Not mine
It was exactly 6th months ago today that Jubal Early had managed to get on Serenity. Some changes have occurred since that night, but mostly everything was the same. Inara never left, she almost did but the look in Kaylee’s eyes when she brought the subject up in front of the crew changed her mind. She never brought the subject up again and neither did Mal. Book was basically the same but there was a tension between him and Simon. Nobody knew what it was about, not even the captain. Early’s comment was never brought up between the preacher and the doctor, but it still hung there. Simon had changed. He was a little more relaxed and less stiff. It was as though he finally accepted his old life was gone and that he would never get it back. He could have, very easily, but chose not to give his sister over. Wash and Zoe were the same; a little more stable then they were before. Wash’s jealousy over Mal was pretty much gone. He’d finally accepted they had a bond that he’d never understand or be able to break, but it wasn’t the same as his with Zoe’s. Theirs was based on a long line of trust, death, war, and friendship. Wash and Zoe’s was based on love. Jayne was the same loud, crass man he’d always been, but at the same time he was completely different. He finally came to accept the crew as family.
Mal was as affected by Early as Kaylee was. But on a different level. Mal felt guilty, someone got on his ship and put his crew in danger. He should have stopped him, not River. Kaylee had lost her brightness for a while. Early’s threat scared her. For months she wouldn’t even go into the engine room a night unless it was absolutely necessary. She jumped at every little sound and had even started locking her door at night, something she never did before. She hid it well from most of crew, all except River. River could feel her fear, almost like it was her own.
“Captain.” River says as she slowly makes her way into the mess hall where Mal sat alone.
“River, what are you doing up at this hour? Where’s your brother.” Mal jumps a little when River comes into the room. He was still a little anxious around the girl, but no longer worried she was gonna slit his throat in his sleep. She saved them all, could have let Early kill them, but she stopped him.
“He lies with fake visions of strawberries, grease, and sunshine.” River answers back.
“He’s sleeping, dreaming sweet dreams of Kaylee.” River clarifies.
“Oh. That’s nice, I guess.” Mal looks a little uncomfortable hearing about Simon’s dreams. “Still didn’t answer why you’re up, it’s late.”
“Couldn’t sleep. Too much fear.” River explains.
“Fear? Wait a second, nobody else is trying to sneak on Serenity, are they?” Mal unconsciously grabs the pistol he always wears.
“No, Serenity is safe. Not that kind of fear. Comes from inside, been here, since He came.” River starts.
“Huh, you aren’t afraid, are you? You know I’not gonna let anything happen to you.” Mal assures the young girl, thinking she was finally breaking down from her ordeal.
“No, not my fear. The sunshine has left. A solar eclipse has taken it away.”
“What? Why can’t you just talk normal like?” Mal digs his finger through his hair getting more frustrated by the moment. “Wait a second, sunshine, you mean Kaylee, don’t you.”
“Used to be so bright, blinding. Lit up every corner of the ship. Now it’s artificial, brightness isn’t real.” River whispers a tear falling down her cheek. “He came, snuffed it out. Nothing’s the same.”
“Okay. You’re saying Kaylee’s scared. Why?” Mal asks.
“I’m going to tie you up. I won’t touch you, hurt you in anyway unless you draw attention to yourself. You throw a wrench into my plans and you’re body’s forfeit. It’s just a body to me and I can find all unseemly manners to use it.” River voice has taken the same accent and power that Mal remembered Early’s having.
“What?!!!! Is that what that ching-wah tsao de liou mahng said to her?” Mal practically yells. “She didn’t say anything? Why?” Mal gets up from the table and starts out of the room but is stopped when River puts her hand on his arm.
“What can you say that’s going to make this better?” River asks realizing Mal was about to go storming into Kaylee’s room. River stands up and pushes Mal down into the chair right next to her then retakes her own seat.
“I don’t know, something.” Mal answers, completely pissed off by River stopping him. He didn’t know what he was going to say to Kaylee but he needed to say something.
“You ever been raped?” River questions. “I have. Not the way Kaylee could have been, but it was still rape. My brain was cut open for people to play with for their own pleasure. I know you’ve been tortured, I saw the results. But still you can’t understand the fear of having someone holding their strength over your head. Being tied up while you’re fate lies in the whim of a monster. Knowing there is nothing you can do to stop them. Being completely helpless.”
Mal is feeling two things at this point. The main being anger. He had never wanted to kill someone more than he did at this moment. The other being confusion. Why was River so lucid? A few seconds ago she was talking in riddles and now she was making perfect sense.
“Sometimes the thoughts get jumbled, can’t get them out. Too much moving in and out. Sometimes if I can concentrate on one thing, block everything else out, it’s easier to talk.” River explains, seeing Mal’s confusion. “Nothing you can say will make this better, make her feel safe. Actions need to be taken.” River at this point has taken Mal’s hand and is tracing the lines on his palm. She has a look of complete concentration on her face, like focusing on his hand was all that was keeping her here.
“Actions, he’s already dead, ain’t he. How can we take action against a dead person?” Mal is a bit started when River grabs his hand, but it seems to keep her from going all crazy, at least for the moment.
“Oxygen ran out, suffocation proceeded. Not action against the cause, it’s too late. Need to make the sun feel safe, so it can come back out, light up the world again.” River is puzzled by Mal’s hand. Shouldn’t it be red? So many life’s ended by his hand. She drops his hand to look at her own. It should be red too. Why doesn’t the blood stain skin? It stains the soul, only makes sense that it would stain skin too.
“So what are you suggesting we do?” Mal asks, a little amused by watching River compare their hands. She looks so confused, like there was something missing. “What’r you looking for?”
“Blood.” River says as though it made perfect sense.
“Huh?” Mal looks a little scared, like he was waiting for River to pull out a knife and cut his hand off.
“People killed, so much blood spilled. Our hands should be covered in it, but it just washes away.” River explains, placing her hand next to Mal’s on the table. “Should be stained red, but there’s just skin. Why aren’t our hand’s stained red?” River looks up at him like he could explain it.
“Don’t know River, it always just washes away.” They had speculated that she was an assassin, but to have her pretty much admit it scared him and at the same time made him mad. Simon was right, she was just a girl, she should never have to wonder why her hands aren’t stained with the lives she’d taken. “So, little genius, you have a plan or something.”
“Yes. A couple actually. She doesn’t sleep. Not when everyone else does. She can’t. She does try but it escapes her, fear takes over. She naps during the day, when everyone else is busy, awake. Doesn’t go to her engine anymore, not like she used to. No longer her oasis, now it’s a prison.”
“You sure?” It keeps getting worse and worse. He knew Kaylee was a little scared after Early, but never realized it was to this bad.
“Yes.” River states. “We can’t end the fear, that is something she has to do on her own. But we can make her feel safer than she does now.” Out of her dress, River pulls 2 boxes and hands them both to Mal, when he looks at them strangely she explains what they are for. “Also, I think she would feel safer if she wasn’t alone at night, someone to sleep near her. It could be like camp, having bunk beds.”
“You sayin you and Kaylee should be roommates?” Mal asks out load, but answers himself before River could. “That ain’t a half bad idea. In fact, I think I’ll talk to her in the morning.”
“She’s awake now.” River points out.
“How do you know...never mind, I forgot, mind reading genius.” Mal gets up from the chair River put him in and walks out of the hall, patting her on the head on his way. “You best get some sleep, big day tomorrow.”
“Captain, don’t forget to knock, the door is locked.” River stops him before he makes it completely makes it out of the room. He acknowledges her with a nod then continues on her way.
Kaylee never locked her door before; he doesn’t ask how River knows that she does now. As Mal makes his way to Kaylee’s bunk, he can’t help but feel guilty. Kaylee has been suffering through this for so long on her own. He should have known. He knocks on her door when he makes it there, and he hears shuffling, like someone is putting something away. “Who is it?” Kaylee’s voice called out.
“Captain. Can I come in?” Mal asks.
“Yeah, just a sec.” He hears Kaylee making her way toward the door and the audible sound of the look turning. “Come on down.”
“Hey little Kaylee. Why’r you still up?” Mal questions, taking a seat on the edge of her bed.
“Couldn’t sleep. No big deal.” Kaylee answers.
“Oh, mei-mei, you’ve never been able to lie to me, don’t try starting now.” Mal takes in her shocked look and continues. “Thanks to our own, personal mind reading genius, I know what is going on. Why didn’t you tell me? About what he said, did to you?”
“You already felt so bad, didn’t wanna make it worse.” Kaylee explains.
“You should have told me. You can’t keep things like this a secret. You don’t feel safe anymore, do you?” Mal reaches over to hug Kaylee to his side.
“No. Ain’t your fault. I know you would protect us but what if someone else was to sneak on the ship?” Kaylee whispers.
The silence that follows is thick. Kaylee just continued to rest against Mal’s side while he stares at the wall in front of him. “Mei-mei, you don’t want to go home, do you?” Mal hears her gasp but keeps going. “I don’t want you to leave, fact it might kill the crew to see you gone, but if you don’t feel safe here, maybe you will at home.”
“I am home. Serenity is my home. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. But, I hate feelin like this.” Kaylee can’t imagine being anywhere else. She’d rather be scared shitless and on Serenity then feel perfectly safe anywhere else.
“Shiny. Cause I don’t want you to leave. But you can’t go on feelin unsafe.” Mal says somewhat relieved. “So, River has come up with a couple of ideas that I wanna run past you. First being this little box.” He holds up a box about the size of a catalizer that had wires running out of the sides. It had been pieced together with parts Kaylee had junked.
Grabbing the object out of Mal’s hand, Kaylee starts studying it from every angle. “Shiny. What is it? Did you make it?”
“Naw, River did. Don’t know what she used sides spare parts. It’s an alarm. She said to fix it on the inside of the door, didn’t completely understand how but she can just explain it when we do it. The whole thing just means that nobody will be able to open the side door from the outside of Serenity without an alarm ringing, loudly.” Mal explains still somewhat impressed by River’s little invention.
“Really? When can we set it up?” Kaylee asks happily. If it worked, well it would make her feel so much safer than she does now.
“Yeah. You and Wash can get with River tomorrow and have her explain how it works. Then we can get Jayne to put a suit on and go out and test it. What’a think?” Mal asks seeing the relief on her face. River was right. There was nothing he could say that would make her feel completely safe, but there was some things he could do that would make her feel a little safer.
“Shiny. What’s the other one?” Kaylee asks pointing to the other box. It looked kinda like the other one, only smaller.
“This one is for you. River said to put it in the engine room, somewhere that it won’t be easily seen. Maybe under the engine, someplace where it can’t guck up the runnings.” Mal starts to explain but is cut off by Kaylee grabbing the part and looking at it.
“Is something wrong with Serenity? I know I haven’t been payin as much attention to her as I should. Did River find something wrong with her?” Kaylee face has taken an ashen look. She knew she’d been neglecting Serenity, but if something were really wrong, it would be her fault.
“No, Kaylee. Serenity’s just fine. It’s another alarm. Only River said it was a silent one. She called it a panic button. If something happens that makes you scared, press the button and it will set an alarm off on the bridge and in mine and Zoe’s bunks.” Mal tells her.
“Can we do that one tomorrow too?” Kaylee asks, her eyes really shining for the first time in months. How did nobody see how far gone she was? He’d have to talk to the rest of the crew in the morning to see why they hadn’t noticed anything either.
“Yep. Her last idea is somethin you’ve got the final say so on. She thinks maybe you’d feel better sharin a room with someone else. I tend to agree with her.” Mal says.
“It would be nice. But would Simon really let River bunk with me?”
“How’d ya know I was talkin bout River?” Mal asks.
“Who’d else ya be talkin bout? Know it weren’t Jayne you was talking bout. Nor yourself. Preacher wouldn’t ever room with a girl. Inara’s got the shuttle. That leaves Simon and River. You’d never let me room with a guy who weren’t my husband. You’re old fashioned that way. So that leaves River.” Kaylee answers. “Do ya think he’d let her?”
“Won’t have no choice if you’re wantin too.” Mal says.
“I do. We could lower my bed then attach hers above. It’d be like camp.” Kaylee replies, mentally already taken measurements to figure out how to get her bed in here.
“Sounds like we got a full day ahead of us. You best be getting to sleep.” Mal presses a kiss to Kaylee’s forehead then gets up to leave.
“Cap’n.” Kaylee whispers. “Will you stay until I fall asleep?”
“Yeah, mei-mei.” Mal answers. She reaches up and turns out the light then settles under the blanket. Mal takes a seat in her chair scooting it up enough so that he can prop his feet up on the bed. He was just plannin on staying until she feel asleep but the silence and darkness dulled his own senses until he too gave into slumber.
Mal woke from his deep sleep sometime later still in the same position, his feet propped up on Kaylee’s bed, his neck sitting at an awkward angle. Damn, how long had he slept. He silently moves his feet off the bed and stands up. He turns to leave but hears Kaylee say his name. “Shhhh mei-mei, just going to check the time. Go back to sleep.” Kaylee gave a little grunt but rolled over and went back to sleep.
Mal debated on heading up to the bridge but decided he needed some coffee before he tried to do anything. Walking down the hall toward the mess hall, Mal bent his head side to side trying to work out the kinks. Man, he was getting old. Was a time he could sleep on the ground surrounded by gunfire and snoring solders and still wake up feeling fine. Now he falls asleep for a few minutes in a chair and it feels like his neck is gonna fall off.
When he walks into the mess hall he is quite shocked to see his entire crew, minus River and Kaylee, sitting around the table.
“Why’r you all up so early?” Mal questions, making his way over to the counter to make a cup of coffee. It couldn’t be later than 6am. Seein how it was bout 4:30am when River came in. They’d talked for bout 20 minutes then he went to Kaylee’s bunk and they had talked for bout half an hour. He figured he slept for an hour at the most.
“It ain’t early Mal. It’s bout 10am.” Jayne answers between mouthfuls of protein.
“What? That’s impossible. Means I slept for 5 hours. That can’t be right.” Mal mumbles, more to himself then his crew. No wonder his neck hurt.
“Sir, where were you? Checked your bunk but you weren’t there. Gave up looking for you after a while.” Zoe asks watching Mal stir his coffee then takes a seat at the table.
“I was in Kaylee’s bunk.” Mal answers, taking a drink of his coffee.
“What?” Simon yells, his face getting a redder by the minute. Was there something going on between Mal and Kaylee?
“Sir, is there something you need to tell us?” Zoe asks a little shocked. She always assumed Mal thought of Kaylee as a little sister, if so why was he sleeping in her bunk?
“What are you talking bout?” Mal questions, and then realizes what she was hinting at and becomes quite pissed. “Zoe, I can’t believe you of all people would think something like that. You know me better than that. And don’t even think bout giving me that special hell speech again, preacher. No need.”
“No, I don’t believe there is a reason this time.” Book replies. “If I may ask, why were you sleeping in Kaylee’s bunk?”
“She asked me to. Was supposed to just stay till she fell asleep but guess I was more tired than I thought.” Mal turns to look at Simon. “Where’s you’re sister?”
“She’s asleep. I was actually going to go wake her in a few minutes, she’s been asleep since 11 last night.” Simon answers.
“Naw, don’t go doing that. She was awake bout 4:30, reckin she’s just tired.” Mal says. “And before you go askin, no, wasn’t anything going on, she just couldn’t sleep.”
“Why didn’t she wake me up? I could have given her something.” Simon says, a little shocked that his sister hadn’t woken him up.
“She didn’t need anything. Just wanted to tell me something.” Mal was getting a little worried about how ready Simon was to drug his sister. Maybe he needed to talk to him about it.
“So, what did our little genius have to say?” Wash asks, always amused by what River talked about.
“A lot actually. She also made us a couple of gifts.” He reaches into his pocket to pull the two alarms that River had made and tossed them to Wash.
“Shiny. What are they?” Wash asks looking at the items.
“They ain’t gonna explode?” Jayne asks, looking at the boxes suspiciously.
“No.” Mal chuckles at Jayne’s look. “I’ll explain what they’re for in a minute. First, I have a question. Anybody notice something wrong with Kaylee lately. Since Early was on board.”
Nobody says anything for a minute, like they’re lost in thought. Inara is the first to speak, “She seemed a little quiet, a little jumpy. We talked about it. She said she was fine.”
“She say anything to anybody else? Simon, she talk to you bout what happened with Early?” Mal asks.
“Well, yes, we talked about what happened. She said she was fine. I didn’t push the issue.” Simon answers, confused about where Mal was going with this train of questions.
“She didn’t tell anybody what he did to her. Said to her.” Mal figured she might have talked to Inara or at the very least the doc or preacher about it.
“No. Did he do something to her?” Inara asks.
“He tied her up. Threatened to rape her if she tried to do anything.” Mal says bluntly.
The crew was silent, except for the cuss words Jayne was mumbling under his breath.
“He threatened her? He didn’t say, just said he tied her up.” Simon whispers, his face turning white.
“You knew he tied her up and didn’t say anything.” Mal yells at the doctor.
“She told me she would tell you. I tried to bring it up a couple weeks later, but she changed the subject. Didn’t want to talk about it.” Simon answers.
“She tell you he tied her up?” Mal asks.
“No, he did.” Simon sighs then continues with his story. “When he found me and asked me where River was, I refused to answer him. Wasn’t going to make my last act before dying be betraying my sister. Then he said if I didn’t help him he’d go back and violate the mechanic he had tied up in the engine room. Said he’d take no pleasure in the act but she would die, weeping. I didn’t want to help him, but I couldn’t let him hurt Kaylee. I thought he was just saying that to scare me. She never said he threatened her.”
“Yeah, there is a lot she never said.” Mal growls, his anger building again. “But you should have said something to me.”
“I know. I was going to, but you already looked so guilty. Since it didn’t happen I figured there was no reason to say anything. You know the old saying, ‘what you don’t know, can’t hurt you’.” Simon replies.
“Yeah, well, for now on what you keep from me will hurt you.” Mal threatens. “That goes for everyone. This is my ship. Something happens on it, I want to know about it. Dong ma?”
“I killed a rat this morning.” Jayne drawls, not looking up from his plate. “Hey, you said you wanted to know about it.”
“I mean something that affects the health of Serenity or any of its crew.” Mal explains, sending Jayne a glare. “But as I was saying, he threatened her. She ain’t been the same since. She’s not sleepin, at least not at night. She’s avoiding the engine room unless it’s absolutely necessary. And she’s lockin her bunk at night.”
“How do you know all this?” Wash asks. Him and Kaylee were pretty close. They had a bond. They both understood Serenity better than anybody else. Plus they both know what’s it’s like not to be a warrior. Neither one of them had any real place on jobs besides manning the ship. They didn’t, well actually couldn’t fight. Wash didn’t lie to himself. Just because he was in one firefight to save Mal, didn’t make him a fighter. That was a mission of revenge and rescue, purely simple. He knew he couldn’t hold his own, any better then Kaylee could. He was surprised and a little shocked that she hadn’t talked to him. If anybody would understand, it would be him.
“How do you think? Our resident mind reading genius. That’s what me and River talked bout. Well, mostly River talked and I listened. She actually makes some sense when she needs to. Though she had to hold my hand for must of it.” Mal remarks.
“She held your hand? Isn’t that special.” Book says, sending Mal a specific glance.
“Hey, I already said none of that special hell talk. It wasn’t like that. Said if she could focus on one thing, it makes it easier to talk. She just used my hand is all. Nothing special.” Mal defends himself, once again. “I’m gettin tired of you always assumin I’m some kind of ruttin pervert, preacher.”
“Sorry. You seem to occasionally put yourself in that kind of position. I’ll try to give you the benefit of the doubt next time.” Book says sincerely.
“Yeah, well, see that you do.” Mal says. “Though I did learn something from the experience, sides that fact that she’s got really small hands. Remember our talk after her gettin that gun?”
“Yes. The one where you accused my sister of being a witch, a reader, then at last an assassin.” Simon says with a glare at the captain.
“Yes, that’s the one. Turns out we were right about 2 of the 3 things.” Mal says. “And just in case anyone’s wonderin, she ain’t a witch.”
“What are you saying, Mal?” Inara asks.
“Girls an assassin. Pretty much admitted it when we talked.” Mal answers.
“She came out and said she was trained as an assassin.” Simon questions, running his hand through his hair. This really couldn’t get any worse.
“No, she never admitted anything.” Mal replies. “She just kept starin at my hand, then her own. Wanted to know why there wasn’t any blood.”
“She didn’t hurt you, did she Mal?” Simon was worried. He was afraid if River had any more violent “episodes” Mal would kick them out.
“She didn’t mean blood that way doctor. She was wonderin why they weren’t stained. Don’t remember her exact words but it was somethin bout how we killed so many people but the blood didn’t stain. Said our hands should be covered in it but we just wash it away. Asked me why our hands weren’t stained with the blood from the people we’ve killed. She’s killed and I ain’t just talkin bout those three 3 men she shot with her eyes closed neither. She’s killed folk.” Mal explains fully.
Nobody says anything. Everybody is just staring at Mal not wanting to be the first to respond. Surprisingly, it is Jayne who breaks the silence. “Guess that just makes her one of us then, don’t it.”
“Sir, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but Jayne is right.” Zoe speaks up, and then continues, despite Jayne’s growl. “She’s killed people, don’t make her different from most of us. And like I said before, I don’t think she’d hurt anybody, except maybe Jayne.”
“Yeah, I know. I didn’t say anything cause I was thinking bout makin her leave. I just thought everybody deserved to know. I know she ain’t gonna hurt any of us. Don’t even think she’d hurt Jayne now. She seems to be more stable then she has been. Proof being those alarms she made.” Mal replies.
“Alarms?” Wash asks looking at the two boxes he sat on the table in front of him.
“Yep, she made us some protection.” Mal explains what the alarms are for and how they’d be hooked up, as well as he could. “When River wakes up, she’ll explain how to hook them up. Jayne, you get to put a suit on and go out and test the door. Doc, you need to help your sister pack her stuff and make sure she gets it all. Jayne, I want you to get some tools and remove River’s bed from the wall.”
“You just said you weren’t going to make her leave.” Simon says.
“M’not. She’s moving into Kaylee’s bunk. We’re gonna lower Kaylee’s bed then place River’s above it.” Mal held up his hand to cut off Simon’s protest. “It’s not a request. It’s an order from your captain. I’m doin what’s best for the crew. Kaylee don’t feel safe sleepin alone n’more.”
“She’s my sister. I think I should have some say in the matter.” Simon protests.
“She is your sister but she’s also my crew. This ain’t just about Kaylee’s well being. It’s bout River’s too. She isn’t a child anymore Simon. I think it’s time we all accepted that. She needs to have a place away from you. She already depends on you too much. And I’m startin to wonder if you don’t depend on her a little to much too.” Mal answers back in a voice that Simon has learned not to argue with. “Don’t worry doc, was your sister’s idea.”
That meant the subject was closed for discussion. The crew just went back to what they were doing before Mal came in. Everyone was quite startled when Jayne loudly pushed his chair back and stood up. He walked over to the sink and noisily washed his bowl and cup out. Drying them off he placed them back in the cupboard, slamming the door shut. He then walked passed the table and started out of mess. “Jayne, where you going?” Mal questions the merc.
“My bunk. Get some tools figured I could work on the bed first fore they do them alarms.” Jayne answers, not stopping in his exit.
“Well, I guess I should go help my sister pack, seeing how’s she’s moving.” Simon says sarcastically.
“Good idea.” Mal replies, not at all bothered by Simon’s tone.
As Simon makes his way down to the guest quarters that he shared with his sister, he was fuming. It just sometimes pissed him off how the captain made decisions for everyone without consulting the person affected about it. But the man was his captain and if he wanted to remain on this ship he would have to obey his orders. Didn’t mean he’d have to like it.
He walked into their room and sees his sister asleep, curled into a ball under the covers. They are pulled up around her face completely covering her body. There are a couple of books lying in the bed next to her; she must have been reading them while she was trying to go to sleep. He moves over to the lamp, intending to turn it on and wake up his sister, but River’s voice stopped him.
“No. Girl doesn’t want to wake up. Sleepy.” River’s small voice comes out from under the blanket.
“Sorry mei-mei, but the captain is moving you. He needs you to get up so we can pack your stuff.” Simon says a little angrily.
“Don’t be mad. Already knows. Plan was formulated in her center. Possessions already counted and carted away.” River mumbles. Then points to some boxes by the door. “Over there.”
Simon walks over and looks at his little sisters belongings all packed away. He didn’t want to let her go. Last time he did, she was tortured and turned into some kind of government’s plaything. Logically, he knew that wouldn’t happen again. Not here. But telling that to his fear was a whole other issue.
“Yes, I see that. Good job. But I still think I should make sure you have everything.” Simon says as he moves back over and flips the light on.
“Illuminate, too much. Needs to find herself before tumbling out of slumber. Put the brightness out.” River growls. Simon just stands there looking at his sister with a confused expression. “Now.”
He still doesn’t move, just continues trying to figure out what she wanted him to do. He just figured out what she meant and bent to turn off the light but it was too late. River must have grown tired of waiting because she decided to take care of the problem herself. Her right arm comes out from under the covers, a book clutched in her fingers. She tossed it at her brother, hitting him on the nose. While Simon reached up to grab his nose, River poked her head up from under the covers and stuck her tongue out at her brother. Then she reached over to turn the light out and crawled back under the covers.
Simon was grasping his now bleeding nose, trying to figure out if it was broken. After a few seconds he decided he was going to have to go to the infirmary and use a mirror. Holding a towel he’d picked up from the floor, he held it to his nose he turned around to head out of the room. Only to see the captain and Jayne standing in the doorway.
“What the hell happened to you?” Mal questions his doctor. Him and Jayne had come down here to see if River was awake, so that Jayne could get started on disassembling her bed.
“My sister decided that she didn’t want the light on at the moment. When I didn’t follow her wishes, she threw a book at me.” Simon glares at the now laughing Jayne.
“Well now. I thought she had all those violent tendencies under control. If she doesn’t, I might have to rethink moving her in with Kaylee.” Mal says. When she first brought up moving in with Kaylee he thought the idea was great. But now that he was being confronted with River’s tendency to strike without warning, he was starting to think it might be a bad idea.
“Captain, I don’t think she would ever hurt anybody, especially Kaylee.” Simon replies. “I believe she does have most of her violent urges under control.”
“Why’d she throw a book atcha then?” Jayne asks.
“Must play within the rules of siblings. Little cub is allowed to pick on big cub. Just ask Jayne.” River’s small voice could be heard coming from under the covers. The three men turn to look at the lump on the bed.
“What’r ya talkin bout girl?” Jayne growls. “Don’t know nothing bout any cubs.”
“Matty.” River answers back.
“What..why’r ya bringing her up?” Jayne starts, then answers himself. “Oh, I get it. She just means little sisters are supposed to pick on their big brothers. It’s like a verse known rule.”
“How’d you figure that out Jayne?” Mal asks a little impressed. Decoding River speak was not easy to do. He had to think about what she said for a few minutes before he could get the gist of what she was trying to say. And given look on Simon’s face, the same was true for him.
“Makes sense much as the moon brain could. Little cub is little sister and big cub is big brother. I think she just meant cause doc is her big brother, there are different rules to dealin with him.” Jayne explains.
“Huh.” Now Mal was even more impressed. He never thought of Jayne as one to look past what was directly in front of him. Never thought Jayne was deep enough to understand River’s rambling.
Simon didn’t say anything, just walked towards the infirmary. Jayne and Mal watched him for a few seconds then made their way into the dark room where River was sleeping. “Mal, you’re the captain, wake her up.” Jayne says once the came to be next to the bed.
“River. It’s time to wake up.” Mal says, sending a glare at Jayne. River didn’t move nor make a sound. After a few minutes, went to turn the light on only to be stopped. “Illuminate, too bright. Makes white spots appear.”
“What?” Mal questions. He turns to look at Jayne who was reaching on the floor to pick up one of River’s blouses. He then put it over the lamp, making the bright light dim a lot.
“Girl said the light was too bright. Hurt her eyes.” Jayne growls.
“Uh-huh. You’re startin to scare me with understandin her crazy talk, Jayne.” Mal says.
“Startin to scare myself.” Jayne admits. “I’m guessin she ain’t gettin up anytime soon.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. Can you still work on the bed with her lyin there?” Mal questions.
“Don’t see no problem. Need to get it off the wall first. After it’s disconnected, then I can start takin the bed apart.” Jayne explains. “So that means ya got bout 25 more minutes of sleep comin. After that, ya got to get up.”
“Time frame given is acceptable.” River says.
Without replying, Jayne drops his tools onto the floor and sits down next to her bed. Then he lies down and scoots under the bed. He is too big to fit all the way under, the edge of the bed ends above his belt. “Mal, slide me the tools.” Jayne requests, holding his arm out to grab them. He finds the wrench that fit the bolt holding the bed to the wall and starts to undo it. It’s slow work. For one thing, there isn’t a lot of room to for his arm to move, seeing how he’s so large. The other being the bolts are old. Jayne was figuring the bed hasn’t been moved since it was first installed. With the first few turns he could hear the bolts and hull of the ship squeaking, not wanting to be separated. But after a few more times he could feel the bolt leave the hull and the give enough where he could twist it out with his fingers. So, he got one done only 7 more do on the under the bed and 8 to do above it.
“Jayne, you don’t want help do you?” Mal questions.
“Are you nuts or something Mal. There’s barely nuf room for me under here. No way you’re gonna fit under here too. And even if ya could, I’m not wantin to be that close to ya.” Jayne growls at him.
“Yeah, can’t say I fancy that either. So if you don’t need my help I’m gonna go check the bridge see how far from Menthos we are.” Mal says turning to leave the room. “She wakes up, send her up to the bridge. Maybe by that time Kaylee’ll be awake and River can explain to her and Wash how to set up those alarms.”
“Sure, Mal.” Jayne answers. He continues to work on the bolts, now on number three. He can hear Riv…the girl sleeping. She makes little purring noises in her sleep. She doesn’t move as much as he figured she would. She just seemed like the type to toss and turn a lot while she sleeps. She seemed to sleep like him, stayin in one place unless somethin disturbs him. Not that he thought bout her much. Just sometimes. He starts thinkin bout Menthos and what he can do when he gets there. That gets him thinkin bout gettin some trim, which gets him to thinkin on the girl lyin bove him. He quickly changes his thoughts from trim to his guns. He needs to give Vera and Betty-Lou a good cleanin. But then he just starts thinkin bout the girl using Sally to shot down them three men and that gets him to thinkin bout trim again. Not that it has anything to do with the girl, she’s just the only one appropriate to think bout.
Kaylee’s too much like a little sister, can’t think on her without grossin himself out. Zoe is like one of the guys to him, even if he sometimes teasin Wash bout it. Wash is just too easy of a mark when it comes too his wife and other men. He used too think bout Inara, but after seein her relate to some of her clients, he can’t anymore. Her type of whorin is too proper and professional, too many rules to follow. When he gets trim, he’s just tryin to get rid of an itch that his own hand can’t cure. Doesn’t want any rules on conduct to follow. He’s not wantin to sit down to tea and talk bout his feelings. Just wants to relieve a little stress. He just can’t imagine Nara gettin all down and dirty. Now, River he can. She may be rich and smart, but she’s also rough and violent. He’d never tell anybody this, but when she cut him, it kinda turned him on, a little. He liked the thought of a woman that could be as rough as him. Not that he’d really hit a woman. He even felt a bit guilty bout hittin her that one time. Was just his natural reaction. She just seems like she’d be a wildcat in the sack, all bitin and scratchin. Not that he’d ever know, just sometimes thought about it.
He pushed the thoughts to the back of his mind and finishes loosening the last bolt. Putting them into his pocket he pushes out from under the bed, gathers his tools, and stands up. He rotates his shoulders to help loosen the tight muscles. Then he kicks the side of the bed, “Hey girl, get up. Need to loosen the bolts next to ya.” Jayne growls at the lump.
“Fake pictures not done cycling. Shall shuffle bulk towards the end.” River mummers.
“Fine finish dreamin, but you fall off, s’not my fault.” Jayne says, waiting for the girl to move towards the edge of the bed so he can fit next to the hull. He briefly thinks about how easy it’s becoming to understand her, but it freaks him out somewhat so he instead focuses on moving over her without touching any part. He manages to squeezes between her and the wall, but it’s a tight fit. Her bed’s small and she’s as far over as she can be safely. He can feel part of her pressed against his back, can’t be sure which part, she’s completely covered by the blanket. He can smell the light scent of peaches and with a start realizes it comes from her. How can she smell like peaches? The last real fruit they had was apples and that was almost a year ago. No reason she should smell like something they never had on this boat. But he can’t help but take in a deep breath, peaches are his favorite fruit. Would have bought them instead of apples, but apples last longer. Plus it wasn’t bout him was bout the girl. He once overheard the doc telling Kaylee how his sister loved apple crisp. She would beg their cook into making it for her. So after Ariel, he couldn’t help but to buy the apples.
He needs to get out of this room; her scent is going to drive him insane. He quickly finishes the 4 bolts by foot of the bed, and then moves up toward the head to work on them. He gets the first 3 done with no problem; it’s a lot easier to maneuver up here then under. The fourth one turns out to be a larger problem. It’s rusted so much more than the others were and he’s afraid he puts too much pressure behind it, the threading will strip and he’ll have to go get a drill to get it out. This last one took longer than any of the other ones.
By the time he gets the last bolt to move the slightest bit, he can feel the girl start moving. At first it’s just a slight movement, probably just turning over or something. Then what has to be her right leg, since it’s the one closest to him, moves along his back. He can feel goose bumps pop up all over his arms at the feel of her leg rubbing against the back of his head. He feels her leg move off him and turns his head in time to see it bending back towards the wall above her head. He watched in amazement as her leg touched the wall, her foot completely flat against it, her leg lying level with the rest of her body. Unscrewing the bolt, he moves up onto his knees and puts it in his pocket with the rest.
“Jayne, what the hell is going on here?” Mal yells from the doorway. He came down to check on Jayne’s progress and instead happens upon a sight that better not be what it looks like. From his point of view, it looks like his merc is kneeling between River’s legs. And in the process, he pushed her leg up above her head in what has to be an extremely uncomfortable position.
“Nothin.” Jayne answers, still kneeling.
“Don’t look like nothing from here.” Mal replies.
“I was workin on the bed, like you told me to.”
“You wanna tell me why it looks like you’re kneeling between that child’s legs?” Mal demands.
Jayne opens his mouth to answer but is cut off when River brings her leg back up, again rubbing against Jayne’s back, making him shiver slightly. She then sits up and swings around to stand up. “Told Simon I wasn’t a child, that they should all stop seeing me that way. Yet treats her like one telling her brother to make sure she packs all her things. Also, you just called me one.”
“Well, yes, I suppose I did. But that’s not the point. What did I just walk in on?” Mal questions the small girl. River doesn’t answer, instead she cracks her neck using her hands to twist it side to side. After she seems satisfied that it has cracked enough she bends over touching her hands to the ground, moving them backwards to wrap them around her ankles. She stays in that position for a minute or two then straightens up, holding her hands up towards the sky. Then she bends over backwards touching her hands to the ground again, doing a backbend. Her back cracks at both actions and River gives a small moan.
“Was releasing air trapped between joints.” River announces as she stands up once again.
“She was stretching, trying to crack her back and stuff.” Jayne explains.
“Okay then. I suppose that’s okay. So, if you’re done sleeping, why don’t you come with me so you can explain to Wash and Kaylee how to hook up those alarms.” Mal says, moving aside so River can walk in front of him.
“Must expose of waste first.” River states.
Mal looks over to Jayne to see if he understands her. “She’s gotta hit the head before she goes.” Jayne says as he picks the mattress up and tosses it to lie on Simon’s bed. He tries his hardest to ignore the peach scent coming off her blankets. He can hear River muttering as she moves towards the head and is disturbed with how relaxing he finds her voice.