C.C.M Ch 9
Sunday, September 3, 2006

Tyler is noticing River. River is noticing Tyler. And Mal is noticing them noticing.


This time, it’s Ilargia who nearly falls over a soggy little person on the stairs.

“River, sweetie, have you hurt yourself?”

“Only inside.” Inelegant snuffle. “Stupid man.”

There is only one person who River reserves that tone of voice for. Ilargia sits down.

“What’s Captain Dummy said now?”

River shakes her head, takes the proffered hanky. Ilargia sighs. She isn’t cut out to be motherly.

“Adequately parented.” River tells her. “Don’t need more. Got a father, however distant.”

Ilargia filters that, comes up with a fair idea of what the problem is.

“I don’t think this is the best time to overload his mind, sweetie.” She rubs her eyes. “You did something extraordinary to get us out of our mess, didn’t you?”

“Something only I could do. No choice.” Lip trembles. “Why does being useful hurt so much?”

“You get too good at things, people sometimes take you for granted. Forget to say ‘thank you.’”

“Like they did on Bernadette.”

“Like that.” Ilargia agrees calmly. “But that’s my private business. And a long time past.”

River looks at her.

“We all have clean clothes, now. Fresh bread. Coffee and cookies while we work. He never says ‘thank you’ to you, either. But I notice.”

Ilargia actually blushes.

“You notice lots of things.” She stands up. (Not as young as she used to be, can’t sit on cold steps for too long.) River looks up at her.

“Does it get better?”

“Eventually. Hormones are crap.” She tries to think of a good way of putting things. “This isn’t exactly a good environment for quiet reflection.”

“Only one we have.” Manages a small smile. “Here and now, we are alive.”

“Here’s hoping we stay that way.” Gives River’s shoulder a comforting squeeze.

River watches her go. There’s strength of a different order to Ilargia. The woman lost nearly all her possessions and almost her life a few months ago, yet she has quietly got on with the business of living. River knows she has nightmares, still, and that those nightmares are not of fire and knives, but colder and harder. She has locked her past away, and sometimes it still claws at the doors of memory, but she is strong enough to bar them. River just hopes that one day she is strong enough to open those doors, too. Secrets eat you from the inside out.

Everyone here has been shaped by their past, and not into what they might have once hoped. Even the sad, bewildered mind she can sense. Dived into an adventure, but now the past weighs on him. A series of very complex emotions flit across River’s face.

She’s a genius, and a weapon, and a reader. She is also a seventeen year old girl, and not immune to...curiosity.


The next while is a little tense. They ain’t sure if Ott is well gone; the ship was damaged, but moving, and it still had that bigass gun on it. Stopping don’t seem like a good option. Mal needs Zoe on the scope to check they ain’t got more company, and Jayne, Kaylee and Simon are dismantling their various ‘projects’. No-one has time to spare for sulking teens. Even Ilargia is kept busy; it doesn’t take much training to move and stack the small crates from the drone, but it does take a degree of organization to keep track of what’s in them, and if any of it is likely to leak, smell or explode. It’s a routine she used to be very familiar with, and she falls back into the pattern easily enough.

Jayne watches her, as she chats absently to Kaylee, a trim, bossy little figure with a clipboard, and memory takes him back to their first meeting. They’ve all come a long way in a few months. He grins. An’ he ain’t complainin’, neither. Reckons if he can get Mal to watch on Tyler for the evening, he’s gonna get that smile back on her face. Something about escaping from things makes him just wanna...As if she catches that thought, she turns and looks at him, that slight smile and wicked eyes that make him know that he would do anything for her, anything to keep her.

“Done all I can here, and I calculate that we’re due for another meal sometime soon.” Stretches out her back in a way makes Jayne nearly slip the cutting-torch.


Tyler slouches sadly down, unaware that he has chosen one of Jayne’s favourite brooding steps. (Jayne having far less need of it, nowadays.) The fun is wearing off a little now, and he’s beginning to feel guilty. Ma is gonna be fretting herself sick. Near falls off the step when River ghosts up out of the shadows and peers up at him.

“You’re sad.” A statement, not a question. But it ain’t accusing.

“I miss my Ma.” Tyler admits. This little princess girl won’t laugh at him.

“Miss mine, too, sometimes.” River says. Edges a fraction closer. “Family is important.”

She senses Tyler’s apprehension. He’s gone all odd and tense. Scared of her. She stops. Tyler scuffs his feet. River waits, sadly. Then, he looks up.

“I ain’t ever seen anyone fly like you.” Tyler blurts out. He isn’t scared of her because she’s a weapon; he’s just seventeen and hopeless. (Not that they get any smarter over thirty, she reminds herself.) “You was...Ms River, you was perfect.”

River feels her cheeks heat up, and a silly smile on her face. He’s even more incoherent than the Captain, which is saying something. Tyler, encouraged by the fact that she hasn’t laughed at him, edges nearer.

River looks at him. He’s a bit clumsy, but the big hands look gentle. There is nothing in his mind but admiration and a wistful hope. She likes the way he looks up, all shy, with that smile. Likes blue eyes on a man. Finds an urge to smooth those dark curls down, see if that hint of stubble scratches...

Tilts her head, an invitation, and smiles.


Simon pulls the zip on the body-bag, and stretches out himself. It had been curiously absorbing to go back to a medical exercise. Not a great deal different to some of the crash victims he had dealt with back on Osiris. The surgery on the man had been neat, practical, and, apart from its usage, rather routine. Simon himself had done similar cerebral connections for a man who had lost an arm, and a colleague of his, what was her name, Nadia something, she had specialised in the cerebral implants for the partially sighted. He can’t even be too revolted by it; the surgery has been expertly handled, with a definite purpose, unlike the experimental butchery on his sister. Without the cables jacked into his skull, this man would have probably looked and functioned like any normal person. Except for the sockets pitting his skull. But thinking of his sister brings him guiltily back to the present, and he looks around.

“Where’s River?”

“Prob’ly talking to Tyler.” Kaylee carefully places another small, oily something in her pile of treasures. “Reckon he’s a mite homesick.”

Jayne sniggers.

“Don’t think you got a worry there, Doc. Tyler thinks she’s the sweetest li’l morsel...”

A beat, and they are both scrambling.

“You left my sister alone with him?”

“Ain’t your sister I’m fretted for. How’m I gonna tell my sister her boy done got his head ripped off by a crazy girl?”

But nobody is ripping anyone’s head off. Tyler and River spring apart, hastily. Then it all gets very loud.


Simon and River are having a proper row. Not doctor and prodigy, but big brother and bratty little sister, shouting at each other.

“...not a child any more, you bai chi!” floats up the stairs, shrill.

“You’re a xue xing nuisance...” Simon’s voice, no longer the cool moderated tones of a professional.

“What in the sphincter of hell are you two screamin’ about?” Mal bellows.


Mal wants to hit something. He can’t figure it. River ain’t a babe in arms, an’ she can surely deal with folks as bother her. (‘Cept she weren’t fightin’ Tyler off...)

Can’t yell at the boy. He ain’t crew. Can’t yell at River. She ain’t right. An’ what would he say? Don’t go kissin’ boys? That’s Simon’s job to do. An’ Jayne has hauled off the youth. They can hear a muffled bellowing from here.

So he’s left on the catwalk, stranded and angry, and he don’t really know why.

Simon stomps up the stairs. He has a pink patch flaring on one cheek.

“Your sister is growin’ up too damn fast, Doc.”

“Tell me about it.” Simon flails his hands a little helplessly. “Tried to tell her not to...about...well, she slapped me.”

“Ain’t like she’s slow on the uptake.” Mal remembers being seventeen. Scowls. “Ain’t like our new passenger is slow, neither.”

“Jayne’s having words with him.” The Doctor seems slightly calmer. “At least he didn’t think it was amusing.”


“What’n hell were you thinkin’?”

“We was kissin’, is all.”

“You don’t go jumpin’ on girls...”

“She done asked me...” Tyler wails. It ain’t the act of a gentleman, but he can’t help it; Jayne’s shakin’ him til his teeth are like to come loose.

Jayne does think it’s funny, then. He can’t blame the lad - River’s a cunning li’l thing, if a mite scrawny, an’ it ain’t in a man’s nature to deny a pretty girl a kiss. It has got the Doc in a snit, that’s for damn sure.


Ilargia stares at her husband, then starts laughing.

“Oh, the poor kids. You must have embarrassed them horribly.”

“Yeah.” An unrepentant grin. “Left the Doc and his sis shaping up for a real screaming match.” Shrugs. “Sounds right normal to me.”

“Yep.” Ilargia smiles at him. “Isn’t it wonderful?”


“He’s not being careful of the damaged genius any more, he’s yelling at his annoying sister. It’s what she needs.”

“Bein’ yelled at by an uptight pi gu?”

“Being treated like a girl.”

“Oh, she’s a girl, right enough.” Jayne snorts. “Tyler’s walking round fair mazed. Told him to mind his manners round her.”

Oh dear. Because telling a couple of young people to stay away from each other was going to work just fine. All it needed was one of the Captain’s diatribes on ‘shipboard romances’...She blinks, then frowns.


Mal is sulking on the bridge, Simon is sulking in the infirmary, and River has vanished off somewhere. Tyler peers nervously into the kitchen area, but there’s only Kaylee, sitting at the table.

“It’s all my fault, ain’t it?” Tyler is glum.

“Only ‘cos they all flutter round like River’s gonna break or something.” Kaylee sighs, puts her chin in her hands. “Never had folks look after me like that.”

“Well, I ain’t sorry I kissed her.” He’s defiant. “She wanted me to.”

“Oh, a shuai young fellow like you, bet you got all the girls after you.”

He don’t mind Kaylee teasin’. She reminds him of his cousin Evie. Kicks his feet a bit.

“I liked a few girls, but I ain’t never had one as liked me back. Couldn’t buy ‘em pretty things, an’ all.”

“If it’s just gifts they’re wantin’, they ain’t worth a cuss.” Kaylee says hotly.


River knows a lot of hiding places on the ship, but Ilargia was a smuggler, and she knows most of them, too. She and Jayne run the girl to earth in the laundry room, perched up on the dryer behind the door.

“Just kissed. Too shy. Sweet, but a boy.” Smile widens. “Too young for me.”

“He’s not a child, River.”

“Can take care of myself.”

“Beating him up after you’ve encouraged him is even less kind, young lady.” Ilargia eyes her. “All you’ve done is get the poor lad a hiding off Jayne.”

“Oh.” River looks stricken. “Not the plan.”

“Can’t plan with people.” Ilargia looks at her, then puts her hands on her hips. “River Tam, were you doing what I think you were doing?”

River hangs her head, which is answer enough.

“Oh, you silly girl.” Ilargia is relieved, cross and amused in equal measure. “That was cruel. You can‘t play with his feelings like that. Either of them.” She adds, sternly.

“Only wanted to make him notice.” The big tearful eyes have less of an effect on Ilargia than they do on Jayne.

“Gonna be a lot of men will notice. Anyhow, thought you was keen on...” Her glare stops him.

“Am. But doesn’t notice I’m a girl. Tyler noticed.” A certain smugness.

Jayne gets it finally, frowns.

“Playin’ with hearts is cruel.”

“I know. Didn‘t mean to.” River bows her head. “Was a nice kiss, though. Treated me like I might break. His fairy princess.”

“Don’t s’pose you got a lot of boys to play with in that fun factory you was in. You never had a boyfriend afore?”

River’s smile is conspiratorial, and she is suddenly entirely a young woman.

“Not my first kiss.” Looks at the ceiling. “Not all ‘bad socialization’ was bad.”

Jayne doesn’t understand that. Then, he don’t understand River most of the time. She keeps smiling at them, but it’s like real people, not a crazy look. So he just says,

“Don’t you be tormentin’ Tyler.”

River shakes her head.

“Has an honest heart. Like his uncle. Not going to torment him.” A defiant pout. “Might kiss him again, though, if he wants.”

“I told him to mind his manners.” Jayne frowns. “Anyhow, Cap’n catches you kissin’ him again, he’s like to throw the boy out the airlock.”

River files that away on the ‘success’ side. Smiles.


Sunday, September 3, 2006 4:40 AM


I love you knack for getting us inside folk's heads and motivationsm, especially River's need to be related to as a ral girl, not just as "Crazy" or a weapon. Crisp, brief style, nice use of language.

Still loving Jayne's relationship with Ilargia: << Something about escaping from things makes him just wanna...As if she catches that thought, she turns and looks at him, that slight smile and wicked eyes that make him know that he would do anything for her, anything to keep her.>> Like what are you willing to do, Jayne?

Sunday, September 3, 2006 4:13 PM


Okay, just deleted the comment I wrote. So here goes another attempt and I hope I remember what I said before.

I liked the focus you had on River in this one. I especially liked that she was behaving mischievously in playing a bit with Tyler. It makes her human and a young woman - in other words, not perfect.

My favourite section was the conversation between Larji and River on the steps and the secrets that are hidden away. I wonder if this is foreshadowing where something from her past might arise. And if she's having nightmares, is Jayne aware and what is he doing, being (I assume) oblivious to the reasons why.

Another great chapter. Only please don't leave us hangin so long for the next one!

Monday, September 4, 2006 9:43 AM


Oh...I kinda feel sorry for Tyler. The guy only wants to spend some time with lovely Ms. Tam and he gets played rather nicely. Still wondering if Tyler might actually pull of a come-from-behind and get River to see that youth and lack of worldly experience isn't so bad;)

Still...mighty shiny stuff here, SpaceAnJL! Definitely waiting patiently for ch. 10:D


Tuesday, September 5, 2006 1:16 PM


Just found this series of yours. Hooked me, and I had to go back and read the rest. Love this. Can't wait to find out what happens next!

Wacky Fun!


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