Spitting Venom 1/1
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What if River doesn't get "better" after Miranda? River spelled backwards is = REVIR, which sounds like Reaver...


Title: Spitting Venom Author: Instant Karma Girl Date Started: August 2008 Words: 9,414 Disclaimer: Joss is Boss and I would do nothing to detract from him. He and others own the ‘Verse…I just wish they played in it again. Author’s Note: It kinda feels rushed, but my intentions were good!

Ever since Miranda, everyone thought Miss River Tam should be doing much better, but in her heart and in her head, she knew different; that there was no ‘better’ for her. She could feel something coursing through her body and mind, spreading rage and destruction like cancer to cells. River tried her hardest to keep it all a secret, to act normal when the other’s were around, especially her over protective older brother, Simon.

In the past, he’d been worried at the slightest sneeze from the girl, but since Miranda, he’d been watching her every move. It wasn’t everyday that a brother witnessed his younger and troubled sister take out a pack of mutilated humans called Reavers. And he had a right to be concerned. Contact with Reavers typically ended in either death or conversion.

Perhaps what River was feeling was due to her dance with the Reavers. Perhaps the PAX the Academy pumped into her was the same as the Alliance pumped into the air of Miranda. Perhaps she was supposed to lie down now, but she kept thinking that she could never lie down. Perhaps their blood mingled with hers, infecting her tissues and her mind. Her thoughts had been more violent as of late.

As she walked through the corridors of the ship she loved, the only home she really even knew anymore, her thoughts turned to how easy it would be to eliminate the crew of Serenity and take it for herself. All she would have to do is flick the switch in her mind and it could be hers.

She would be quick with her brother, a snap of the neck, and with Kaylee she would stick a knife into her heart, ending it before she knew what was happening. Inara would be an easy kill. The one time companion would fight as she’d been taught to, but she would be no match for River. One quick kick to the back of the head would be all it took to make her body stop functioning. River supposed that the Captain would try to intervene and help Inara, but River just planned on slitting his throat. Zoe would come next and while she’d try to defend herself, River knew the soldier was dead inside anyway. Death would be a sweet reward for Zoe. And finally, River would slice Jayne open from gut to gullet. His eyes would open wide, like he should’ve expected it, but then he would see his own insides and know that this was exactly how it was supposed to end for him.


“I’m fine,” was her instant answer as she turned towards her brother, the violent thoughts in her head receding.

Simon smiled. “I didn’t ask how you were. I asked where you were going.”

“But you wondered how I was. You always wonder how I am. I’m fine, Simon,” she said again, her voice wispy. “I wasn’t going anywhere. I was just…walking.”

“Do you feel like you need some more…”

“Medicine? No. River does not need to be controlled by chemicals. River is fine.”

“Mei mei,” Simon started, but stopped as River began to walk away.

River made her way to the galley, noticing Jayne sharpening his knife collection. There were more than twelve knives spread out before him. Palms down on the table, River sat down next to him. As always when she was around, Jayne sat up straighter and turned his head towards her. “Whatcha lookin’ for, Crazy?”

River did not answer him. Her hand moved out, finger gliding over the tip of his biggest knife. The image of slicing Jayne open returned to her mind. “Whoa, oh, no,” Jayne said, quickly snatching up the knives. “No sharp things for the little witch. I still sting from the last time you was holdin’ a knife around me.”

“I was just looking,” she said quietly. “Jayne likes knives.”

He nodded in agreement, all the while bundling up his weapons. “Jayne does like knives. But he don’t like ‘em in the hands of a fa feng assassin.”

“He’s afraid,” she whispered to herself. “Afraid of the girl who needs a bullet to her head.”

“Now don’t go on about that pi hua, girl,” Jayne said loudly. “Ain’t no secret I never liked you none, ‘cept maybe that one time you was naked, but I ain’t scared of ya. Don’t think ya need a bullet in your brain neither. But ya don’t need no knives. You do enough damage without weapons. I’ve seen ya.” Jayne stood up, tucking his roll of knives under his arm and left the galley, leaving River to sit there and ponder the empty table.

The captain entered long minutes later. “Well, hello there, lil Albatross. Today’s a shiny new day, ain’t it?”

River knew the reason for his lightness of voice and glow of the skin. He’d finally gotten Inara’s approval in more ways than one. Instead of answering his question, River spoke the thoughts that were in her mind. “No touching guns or sharp implements of any kind.”

Mal stopped in his tracks and made a face. “Good advice on all accounts. Glad to have that straightened out. You feelin’ on the level this fine day?”

She stood up and said, “River is flowing steady today,” as she left the room.

~**~ River stood behind the wooden wall in the small house in the middle of town, fat tears streaming down her cheeks. She was meant to be a lookout. The captain loved her on jobs now because she could read and feel when things were about to go wrong. But today had been different.

Today, River was too taken with the chatter she heard of the people close to her. She was separated from the others while they made the drop, but she was close to the townfolk. Distantly, she could feel that something wasn’t right, someone was on his or her way in an attempt to thwart Mal’s well-laid plan. But River was more interested in the mind of one man.

Before she knew what she was doing, she found herself alone with the man, having incapacitated his family. What she heard in his mind was not innocent, yet he was not evil by any stretch of the imagination.

River looked down at his body, at the Y incision she had made when he was still alive. She felt confused. Why had she done that? She knew what the insides of a man looked like. He’d done nothing to her or those close to her. But she had killed him. Not only killed him, but mutilated him…like a Reaver would have done.

Her head was so full of thoughts and cries and horrific pictures and doubt, that she didn’t notice the noise coming near to her. River twisted around when the door crashed down behind her. She saw Jayne enter the small room. His eyes locked with hers, then slid down to the body on the dirt floor. His face twitched just slightly as he brought his eyes up to her bloodied hand, still holding a broken piece of glass, the same sharp instrument she used to cut open the man.

“What’d you do, girl?” he asked, his voice steady and low. His eyes narrowed as she shook her head. A crash behind him made him turn to look out of the door. Quickly, he turned back to the grotesque scene, moved to River and shook the glass from her hand. “Gotta go. Alliance is here.” He took her by the shoulders and moved her to the doorway.

Her eyes never left the man on the floor. “I killed him,” she whispered to the mercenary.

He paused for just a moment before saying, “He was comin’ after ya, girl.”

River shook her head again. “No. He wasn’t.”

And explosion to his right made him jump, reminding him that they needed to make it back to the ship. “No,” he said firmly. “He was comin’ after ya, girl. Ain’t yer fault whatcha did.” Without anything further, he dragged her through the empty streets, lined with fire until they’d caught up with the mule, Mal and Zoe waiting.

“’Bout damn time,” Mal said as Zoe took off as soon as Jayne and River were inside. Mal’s eyes moved to River’s bloodied hand. “What happened?”

River opened her mouth to speak the truth, but Jayne cut her off before any words came from her. “Gorram townie attacked her. Ain’t nothin’ she coulda done but…” Jayne’s words trailed off as they neared Serenity, her bay door open wide, waiting for them.

The captain jumped out quickly, racing to the bridge to prepare for a hasty departure, while Zoe closed the bay door. River sat there in the mule, her eyes fixed on her bloodied hand. Very quietly, she whispered, “Murderer.”

Jayne sat next to River. She figured he did not quiet know what to do, but felt like he shouldn’t leave her. “Shhh, with that, River. I done told you he was attackin’ ya. You just need to…”

“River!” Simon came running and jumping up on the mule, his eyes taking in the shape of his sister. “What happened? Are you okay?”

“Blood and beating heart and cries for mercy, but there was no stopping.”

“She’s fine,” Jayne interrupted. “Got attacked and had to defend. Seems a little whacked in the brain about it though,” he finished. Hopping out of the mule, he made his way up to the catwalk, heading for his room.


The whole crew was on edge since the last job. River, the resident wild card, hadn’t stopped crying for three days since they made their getaway. The first day, she stayed in her room, wailing, the second day, she sobbed quietly but continued to stay in her room. On the third day, she emerged, still weeping, walking through the ship with no real direction.

Most of the crew tried to engage her, but she would not respond back. Finally, after supper, of which she ate nothing, she sat down across from Jayne’s weight bench. He was finishing up a set when he noticed her. “Gorramit, girl, don’t sneak up on a man like that.”

She stayed silent as he sat up, wiping the sweat from his brow. With his elbows on his thighs, he leaned forward. “What’s up with you, girl?”

River wiped her eyes, almost mimicking Jayne’s movement. “I’m a killer. You didn’t tell anyone.”

Jayne shrugged. “Ain’t a reason to. Everyone knows your noggin’s not on right. No need to…”

“You saw him. You saw what I did. He was alive, Jayne.”

His jaw clenched at the thought of it. “You ain’t right.”

A smile floated over River’s face as she tilted her head up and laughed at the ceiling. “No. No, she’s not right.”

Jayne moved off the bench, squatting down before her. “Ain’t your fault you are the way you are. You don’t need more punishment.”

River moved her head to look him in the eye. “I could kill you so easily. I’ve pictured it in my head.”

With narrowed eyes and a deep breath, Jayne moved even closer, talking in a low conspiratorial tone. “Then we got that in common, ‘cause I’ve imagined killin’ you manya times.” He pulled back. “But you ain’t gonna kill me and I ain’t killin’ you.”

“She is not in control.”

Jayne rolled his eyes. “That ain’t a secret. But you need to work on it. You think sometimes I don’t wanna just gut everyone on this boat? The answer is to do something else to keep yer mind offa it. You think that I like doin’ what other people tell me to do?” He moved his hand to her chin and lifted it just slightly. “Hell no. And I wouldn’t gut ‘em for fun, but I ain’t like them. You gotta figure out how you can deal with it all without lettin’ ‘em see ya all violent like.”

Jayne stood up, bringing River up with him. “You know your brother will just stick you with needles to control the weapon inside ya. But you don’t need no needles, do ya, River?” She shook her head. “I ain’t tellin’ no one whatcha did back there. You go tellin’ people and they’ll turn on ya.”

“I know,” she whispered as Jayne walked away.


River’s mind was quieted by the conversation she’d had with Jayne. She pushed the image of the man on the floor to the back of her mind and tried to figure out how it she could control the unsettling urges that had been plaguing her as of late. There were so many options.

She tried dancing. That held her attention for a while, but the movement made her want to fight as, they were intricately linked, almost like one action. She tried to draw, but somehow she always came to be drawing the octopus from the Fruity Oaty Bar and then scrawling in big letters, “Not Mandatory.” And seeing the octopus made her want to fight.

River tried roaming the ship, which at one time calmed her, but even that made her emotions go haywire. Walking past Inara’s shuttle, that Inara didn’t need for meeting clients anymore, but kept because it was the largest living space on the ship, River would get chills of ecstasy. The same would happen near the engine room and Kaylee’s quarters. Walking onto the Bridge, she could feel Zoe’s pain more intensely than the soldier herself. There were no real comfortable spaces for River anymore. She even felt trapped and enclosed like a rat in a maze in her own room. But there was no cheese for River.

Her thoughts weren’t lucid; they were scrambled until she felt like the only thing left to do was spill some blood. River found herself wanting to hurt someone, wanting to be in control of something. She snuck into the infirmary, which wasn’t hard to do considering everyone was occupied. River was quick and grabbed what she wanted.

Returning to her room, she slid the door closed and laid the object on the bed while she pulled off her clothing. She closed her eyes for a moment and tried to breathe, but all she could do was feel the sensations of Mal with Inara and Kaylee with Simon. She could even feel that Zoe was remembering her nights with Wash as Jayne masturbated, his eyes glued to one of his pin up girls.

Opening her eyes slowly, she grabbed the object, a stainless steel scalpel. Slowly and deliberately, she drug it against the soft, supple skin of her torso. She made small little lines from her belly button to her side at first, and then drug the scalpel in deeper the next round. It made her feel good to see the blood. She could smell the iron in it. For whatever reason, her heart sang at the pain. And somewhere deep inside, she was proud that she’d been able to save the others from herself.


“She’s been so melancholy and morose lately,” River heard Simon say from the galley. River was hiding the corridor, listening as the group spoke about her.

“I’m sorry, what?” asked the captain.

“Them are fancy words for sad,” Kaylee explained.

“Why didn’t he just say ‘she’s sad’?” Jayne asked, his voice full of annoyance.

“It’s her birthday,” Simon said, moving on. “I just want to make sure we let her know that we all care about her and that she’s…loved.”

River moved backwards down the hall, heading away from the galley. She would let them plan their celebration and she would partake in the festivities, but she highly doubted that it would do anything to truly lift her mood. But she would pretend. She would act the way her brother desperately wanted her to be. But it would be just that, an act.

So, River acted surprised that night at supper. She smiled during the singing of Happy Birthday and the eating of cake. It was an actual cake, baked with real rice flour and coated with the most chocolately frosting known in the black of space. Even though she was unable to really care, she did take note that Kaylee had gone through a lot of trouble to make it for her. The only blemish was one streak through the icing, as wide as Jayne’s finger, where he’d stole a taste of it.

River received some new clothing from Inara, some new colored pencils from Zoe, a book from Simon, a compass from Mal, and a ceramic elephant from Kaylee. Thanking everyone for everything, River retired to her room, where she dumped the presents unceremoniously on the chair. She performed her new nightly ritual of cutting a different part of her body. Tonight it was a small cut on the inside of her upper arm.

She waited until the blood stopped trickling to leave her room again. At that point it was late and everyone was in their bunks. Traveling quiet like a mouse, she made her way to the crew dormitories and popped open the hatch she’d sought out. Without a sound, she climbed down the ladder and found Jayne sitting on his bed, quietly strumming a beat up old guitar.

“It’s out of tune,” she said. If she hadn’t been so melancholy and morose, she would have laughed at the sight of him jumping.

“Gorramit, girl, whatcha tryin’ to do? Give me one of those heart attacks?”

She moved further into his room. “You didn’t give me a present.”

Jayne stood up and set his guitar at the end of the bed. “Yeah, well, I ain’t really the gift givin’ type, you see.”

River stared at him for a moment, her eyes traveling from the top of his head to his bare feet. He was still clad in the same cargo pants and yellow T-shirt that he wore at dinner. She could feel the aggression pooling within her. It would only be moment until she snapped and wouldn’t be able to control herself.

Jayne shifted where he stood. “Why ya lookin’ at me like that, girl?”

That was it. That was all River needed to set her body into motion. In an instant, River had Jayne backed up against the wall. Her hands were roaming all over his body. For his part, Jayne stood surprisingly still, stuttering something about how she wasn’t supposed to be in his bunk. In one swift action, River stood on her tip-toes and ripped Jayne’s T-shirt down the front. “Hey!” he yelled.

With full access to his skin, she pressed her face to his chest, her tongue darting out to taste him. A knock sounded from above and then Mal’s voice rang out. “Jayne? All okay in there?”

Jayne had started to become aroused at this point. “Ah, yeah, Mal,” he answered loudly, his words stunted. “Everyting’s just…shiny.” River unbuttoned his pants and tugged them down, leaving him virtually naked in front of him. “Aw, hell,” he breathed, as River’s hand curled around his hard member.

She pumped him until he groaned, then pushed him down onto the bed. He went willingly but they both knew he didn’t have much choice. She climbed on top of him, sinking down, her eyes closing as she felt him enter her. River began to grind down onto him. While she’d never done anything like this before, she was a natural at it.

She nearly screamed when she felt her first orgasm, her shout echoing in the metal room until he put a hand over her mouth. “Gorramit, girl, you can’t be makin’ that kinda noise now. The captain…” His words trailed off as she bit his neck.

It was Jayne’s turn to be aggressive. With River still attached to him, he stood up, cupping her under her ass and moving to the metal dresser opposite the bed. He set her down, grabbed her legs by the thighs and forced them back towards her chest. He pounded her and all of the items atop the dresser were knocked off. After long minutes, he pulled her up and turned her around, pushing her down and bending her over the dresser. He went at humping her like he was angry. But he wasn’t angry; he was just enjoying the battle.

After leading River to another orgasm, Jayne felt himself teeter towards the edge and then finally spill over. Breathing very hard, he moved back from her, and then sat down on the bed. He watched her as she straightened herself up, smoothing down her skirt as she turned to face him.

“What are those cuts?” Jayne asked in a husky voice.

“They are my release.”

“You did that to yourself?” He shook his head. “You ain’t a Reaver, kid.”

“I’m not? Are you sure?”

“When I said you should find somethin’ to keep your mind offa doing violence, I didn’t mean for you do to violence to your own self.”


Two days after River’s eighteenth birthday, Jayne convinced her to spar with him in the cargo bay. His theory was that by fighting at 60 to 70 percent with him would satisfy her need for violence. They’ve been going at it for nearly an hour when all of the sudden, they heard, “Eta kooram nah smech.”

River fell to the floor and Jayne turned around to see Simon standing up on the catwalk with the captain. “What the hell ya go and do that for?”

“She was trying to kill…”

“Aw, hell, no she wasn’t. We was just burnin’ off a bit of steam, usin’ up a little energy.” Jayne squatted down to take a closer look at River as Simon came down the stairs to do the same.

“Since when do you care about my sister?” Simon asked, almost coldly.

“Since never.” Jayne stood back up. “She’s just got a lot of energy, like me. She’s a good fighter, like me. She gets bored with just sittin’ around, like me. So we figured we might as well train together or somethin’.”

“I don’t want her training to fight. She’s NOT a weapon.”

Jayne smiled. “Well what you want and what is, ain’t the same, there, doc.”


River woke up in her room and she woke up very, very angry. She knew what Simon had done and it made her incredibly angry that someone could control her by mere words. Her jaw was clenched as she left the bedroom and made her way through the ship. River’s mind blocked out everything she passed, people and objects. She found herself in the Cargo bay, a heavy wrench in her hand. How she came to be holding it, she didn’t know, but she was fully aware of herself walking down to the infirmary and repeatedly banging the tool against anything and everything she could.

She was alone in the room for a full five minutes before the entire crew of Serenity descended upon the small room. Everyone had their hands up, inching closer to her, talking loudly to her except Inara and Jayne. They stood watching the scene from the doorway. “River!” Simon yelled.

At the same time, the captain yelled, “Little one!”

River ignored them, turning instead and continuing to break vials and dent tables. Cocking her head to the side, she heard someone try to move closer to her. She sensed it was her brother. He was thinking about the safe word. With rapid speed, River swung around and hit her brother on the head with the wrench. She was saturated with the sensation of pleasure at hearing the delightful sound mingled with Simon’s cry of pain, Kaylee’s scream, the captain and Zoe’s shouts, and Inara’s little “eep”.

Mal and Zoe attempted still the girl, but got hit in the process. Mal fell to the ground, cradling his arm while Zoe slumped against the wall, her arms wrapped around her mid section. Kaylee backed out of the room into the protective arms of Inara as Jayne calmly made his way through the door. He stayed back as River stood there before him, challenge in her eyes. Crossing his arms over his chest, he shrugged. “Continue,” he said, letting her know that he wasn’t there to stop her.

River let her arm relax, the heavy wrench pulling it down to her side. Her breathing slowed and the tool slipped from her hand to the floor, the loud metallic clank making the crew flinch. Her eyes took in the damage, then saw the captain inching closer to her. River side stepped him easily, passed Jayne, and then ran from the infirmary.

She crawled into a very small space near the ceiling, a place she’d like to hide in from time to time, knowing that they wouldn’t find her. Wrapping her arms around her knees, River rocked back and forth, tears spilling from her eyes. She didn’t understand why she enjoyed hurting her brother. She comprehended why she wanted to trash the infirmary. It was a symbol of all that had happened to her. It was the space, or a representation of the space, that made her who she was; that made her a weapon. It also symbolized her brother, who while trying to ‘help’ her, was also trying to control her. Just like them.


She could hear their voices calling to her. They’d been doing it for the past two hours. River thought they’d calm down a bit. Really, where was it that she would go? They had to know she was still on the ship. They had to know that she wouldn’t come out of hiding for a long, long time.

Her small space was actually an air vent, which gave her access to almost every place on Serenity. From time to time in the past, she would move through the ship, checking in on various people. After her tears had dried, she began to crawl through the cramped tunnel towards the only place she could think of going. Jayne’s room.

She hadn’t heard his voice amongst the many calling for her and sure enough, she found him in his bunk, laying sprawl on the bed, one arm bent and used as a pillow, cradling his head. “Jayne?” she called quietly.

She watched through the vent as his eyes opened. Other than that, he didn’t move. “What are you doin’, little mouse?” he asked, his eyes moving up to the vent.


A small chuckle bubbled out of his throat. “I can tell that, River.” Jayne paused. “You gonna come out any time soon?”

“They’ll just make me sleep.”

“Well, you tore up that med room pretty bad, girl. Don’t think there’s much left.”

River’s fingers curled around the grating. “Simon only needs words. Is he okay?”

“Made you feel good, didn’t it?” River sighed but did not respond. “You gotta figure out how to enjoy violence without hurtin’ the people you need.”


“Simon,” River whispered as she quietly entered his room. She watched as he sat up straight, then flinched and held his hand to the goose-egged cut on his head.

“River,” he responded, his voice hesitant and his eyes narrowed. “What are you…”

“Shhhh,” she soothed, keeping her hand on the sliding door, her fingers picking at the wood. “She’s sorry, Simon,” she whispered, sounding like a little girl.

“Mei mei,” he said with concern. “It’s okay. I’m okay, I just need to know what happened.”

“They gave her PAX, Simon. Just like on Miranda. She isn’t right. She knows you want her to be, but she isn’t and she won’t be.” Simon made a move to get up out of bed and River backed away, holding a halting hand out in front of her. “You can’t fix her.” Raising her eyes to look directly at her brother, River added, “And she gets very angry at people controlling her.”

“River,” Simon tried.

“River knows your mind, Simon.


A week had passed and everyone had kept their distance from River, everyone except Jayne. Mal tried to make it seem like he wasn’t staying away, but he was. Even Simon kept clear of her and River knew that Kaylee was petrified. When they’d set down to do another job, no one asked River to be a part of it.

She was all alone on a great big ship.

She’d been picking at the same piece of skin on her ankle for two hours. It was red and raw. It didn’t fulfill the burning need inside of her, so she threw on her boots and left Serenity.

As she walked out onto the bustling street, she felt anger towards the others that they hadn’t even informed her that they were visiting such a big city. She wondered idly if they would get back before her and even know she was gone. She wondered if she really even wanted to return to Serenity. There wasn’t anyone trying to control her here.

River walked for quite some time, sizing up the city, the people, categorizing the weak and the strong. Finally, reaching the edge of the seedy center of town, River entered an establishment that reminded her of all the taverns her parents told her never to go near. Inside, she found all the people her brother had warned her against and it was here that she felt comfortable.

The anger of being left behind on the ship, the feeling of being different, the alienation she’d suffered not only the past week, but most of her life welled deep inside of her, bubbling and spitting until it erupted out of her. Like some elaborate dance, she took to fighting with the pub’s patrons. It was similar to what had happened in the Madien’s Head, only she this time her mind was not clouded. She was full aware of the mayhem she was creating.

And her body and soul sang with each splatter of blood.


She returned to Serenity, covered in blood, a few broken bones in her hand. River’s dark hair hung in clumps over her eyes, kept in place by the blood of the countless men and women she’d fought an hour earlier. Her head hung low as she walked past the crew.

Their thoughts invaded her head, but she pushed them out. Her only objective was to remove her soiled dress and wash away the blood and grim from her body. She had not been ashamed of starting the fight. She was not ashamed of the violence itself. Those people knew what risks they took frequenting a place such as that.

What caused her discomfort was what happened after, what happened on her walk home. It wasn’t that she hadn’t wanted to cause more pain, because she had. She wanted to make someone hurt like she did. It was her choice of victims that disturbed her. While there was no end to the options, she settled on a very nice looking, physically fit local lawman.

He’d been easy to seduce. She could’ve taken him with sheer force, but she’d never played with seduction. One small hike of the skirt, and he was hers. She toyed with him before slitting open his gut, pulling out his insides with her hands as he grunted and cried for her to stop, to have mercy, that he had a wife and kids.

River stepped into the shower, letting the rain of cold water pour down onto her, dress and all. It gave her pleasure to see the red stained water swirl around the drain.

“Mei mei?” she heard Simon’s voice echo. “What…Are you…I was worried about you.”

“No you weren’t. You were scared of her, not for her. River is fine. River will always be fine.” Reaching out her hand, she pulled back the thin curtain and found Simon standing there, arms crossed. The shocked look on his face indicated to River that he’d thought she was naked inside the shower.

“You’re hurt,” was all he said, his voice soft.

“Her hand is broken, but besides that, she is fine.”

Simon swallowed hard against the lump in his throat and backed up as she ducked her head under the stream. “When you’re done, come to the infirmary and I’ll set it for you.”


“Simon?” River called, her voice echoing just slightly in the empty infirmary. Her brother had done his best to put it back together since the last time she was in there. River was confused. She’d been told to meet him here for her hand. Turning around, she was taken by surprise as Simon snuck up behind her and stuck her in the arm with a hypo.

He quickly retreated before River could process what had happened. Simon closed and locked the door behind him, leaving her alone in the cold room.

Simon hadn’t given her enough to put her out, just enough to dope her into complacency. She felt the instantaneous anger subside as a mellow feeling replaced it. Retreating to the corner, she watched Simon through narrowed eyes as he peered at her through the window. Instinctively, River looked around for any sharp object but could find none in plain sight. Her right hand moved to her left arm, her nails digging into the flesh, the pain overtaking the overall numbness.

River only lowered her eyes when she saw Simon move away from the door. If he hadn’t given her the drugs, she would have been very angry. After a while, River hopped off the counter and opened every cabinet, every drawer, but found them all empty. The dope was wearing off and the now familiar thoughts began assaulting her mind.

She could easily kill every one of them. It wouldn’t take much to pry open that door or break through the glass. And with the shards, she would steal away, waiting for the others to run down to see what had happened. River would wait until most of them were in one neat little spot and then she would pounce, jabbing and slashing at them. Inara and Kaylee would be the easiest. Mal would be moderately difficult, but ultimately, River knew his affinity for her would cause him to hesitate, leaving her the perfect opportunity to break his neck. Zoe and Jayne would cause a little ruckus, making her work harder than the others, but she was confident that she could finish them off without breaking a sweat.

And that would leave Simon. Her dear brother. For him, she might knock him unconscious, put him in the infirmary, dope him up until he couldn’t move and then poke him with needles and run tests and ‘analyze’ what make him work. Just like he had done with her.

River violently yanked the drawers from the cabinets and the doors off their hinges. They had left her nothing! Nothing to use as a weapon or a tool. She was angry. Angry at them and angry at herself. She should have been strong enough to resist the urges she’d experienced. She shouldn’t feel the way she did.

With a loud thud, River rammed her head down onto the countertop. It dazed her for just a moment. She did it again. And then again. And then one last time before her legs gave out beneath her. Crumpling to the floor, she let out a sob. She was an abomination. She should just give up and go back to the Academy; let them use her like the weapon she was intended to be. The fighting, the struggle, the gorram contradictions with in her made her tired; made her want to use whatever she could to end it, to end it all.

And she knew she could do it so easily.

Her mind quieted and she knew the others were in the galley talking about her; what they should do about the growing problem. She waited, knowing at some point that Jayne would tell them about the man in the town and about the night in his bunk, but it never came. River couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t tell anyone about it.

They were coming. River huddled down underneath the exam table, wrapping her arms around her legs. She wouldn’t attack them. She didn’t want to attack them. She hadn’t really wanted to kill those men; it just happened. She wasn’t in control of herself. She hated hating everyone.

The door slid open. “Mei mei?” Simon saw her on the floor and kneeled down next to her, the others holding by the door.

“She hates everybody,” River said, staring past her brother. “She doesn’t know why. It swims within her.”

“There’s someone on Osiris I’d like to take you to see.”

River blinked, then brought her eyes to fix on her brother. “We’re going home?”


River, her face hidden under a hooded cloak, took a deep breath and stepped hesitantly into the sterile room. “Why can’t you do this, Simon?”

“I told you before, I don’t have the equipment on Serenity. It’ll be quick.”

“Quick,” she repeated before adding, “but not painless.”

“Dr. Tam,” a deep voice boomed in the small room. “Good to see you again.” The portly man in a white lab coat extended his hand and smiled when Simon shook it.

“Marcus, it’s good to see you too,” Simon said, trying to keep his voice calm, even though he was on edge at hearing his name said so loudly. “Thank you for seeing my sister.”

“Not a problem.” He leaned closer. “Don’t worry, you’ve always been generous to me, I will not repay my debt to you by putting you or those you love in jeopardy.”

“Thanks.” Simon was still hesitant, but he glanced over to River. She nodded, as if to let him know that the other man was being honest. “We just need the normal tests and if possible, a few…experimental scans.”


River had given her brother the slip quite easily. It was almost boring to the girl how easy it was to outwit those around her, even Simon, who’s intellect was far superior than most.

River wasn’t surprised at where her feet took her. It felt quite right that she should be standing outside of her childhood home. She smiled fondly at the once complex security system that now seemed so simple to her mature mind. With one quick twist of a red wire and a simple entry of a five digit code, River entered her parents’ house. The code had come to her from the small gray box. Objects that normal could never speak, told River many things. Imprints of their function. And how naïve of her parents to think no one would try that simple of a code: 11235. Yes, River Tam’s parents were complete geniuses. She wondered how they even figured out how to mate.

River crept inside quietly. The house danced with thoughts of River and Simon as young children. In the foyer, she spun around, her skirt twirling around her thighs. This was where Simon tried to imitate a dance move and ended up breaking his arm. A smile formed on River’s mouth. She moved further into the house.

While the images of her past swirled around her, she felt light like a feather, floating on a cool breeze. But when her thoughts and feet took her to her father’s study, the smile was gone. This was the place where he’d told her about the Academy and how great it would be. Sure she’d agreed to go, but it was her father who had convinced her. When she had brought up all of her concerns, all of the negative things she intuitively felt about the Academy, her father had squashed them. He hadn’t even entertained the thoughts.

She had gone to her mother, but found no more sympathy there. Her mother had told her about the excellent dance programs and how the Academy could be the beginning of a whole new life for River. She had been wrong about the dance programs. There had been none, but the Academy had been the beginning of a whole new life for her.

River felt within her entire body the anger of having been abandoned to this new life. Had her parents known that this is what the Academy wanted to create? Had they willingly sacrificed their daughter to the Alliance? She had read enough of Simon’s mind to know that they were not in favor of him trying to break her out. River’s hands balled into fists when she thought of how many times she’d tried to let them know she was hurting. Weren’t parents supposed to protect their children? Weren’t they supposed to prevent the pain and suffering? Her teeth clenched at the memory of the pain she endured; the anger bubbled up as she thought about her parents living their normal lives while it happened.

Enraged, River stormed into the kitchen. She was not concerned with being quiet. No good had ever come to River Tam from being quiet. Flinging open a drawer, she found what she needed. With lightening speed, she was upstairs in her parents’ room, standing over the bed.

“Daddy,” she said, her voice soft like a child’s. When he did not stir, she repeated, “Daddy,” a little louder.

Slowly, his eyes fluttered open and then narrowed, fixed on her. “Who…River?”

“Yes, Daddy.”

Quickly, he sat up, scooting back to the headboard, his eyes flicking over to his still sleeping wife. “What are you…they said you…”

She couldn’t stand the sound of his voice. “I’ve made you proud, Daddy. Mommy too. I’ve danced all over the ‘Verse!”

“River you’re…” his voice trailed off as he slowly moved his hand to the side of the bed.

She grabbed his wrist. “Won’t be needing that, Daddy,” she said, pouring all of her hatred into that one term of endearment. “No touching guns. Or sharp implements.” She nodded to the knife in her other hand. “Except this one.”

“River,” her father said, trying to sound as authoritative as possible. “River, put that down.”

Without moving her eyes from his, she said, “Okay,” with a smile while plunging the knife downward into his thigh. The sound of his cry was like electricity; it sent pleasurable sensations down her spine. “Hello, Mommy,” she said as her mother was startled out of her one peaceful sleep.


Sitting down at the kitchen table, River finally set down her bloody knife. Her mind was calm, no wild flow of thought that normally invaded her. Despite a craving for very rare red meat, River felt sated. She felt full and complete.

It would be only moments until dawn and she knew she would have to leave her childhood home behind. This would be her very last visit to the place she had once loved. She let her eyes slip close and sat still and listened, letting the house sing to her.

A few minutes later, River stood up and walked to her old room, intending to get the one item she’d thought about since she’d left for the Academy. Pushing open the wooden door, River felt the now familiar anger bubble within. Nothing in this room had ever belonged to her.

She could have screamed. How long had they waited to turn River’s room into a second study? The calm that had consumed her mind only minutes ago was wiped away. Rage and hatred replaced it. River walked with purpose once again to her parents’ room. She had no weapons but her bare hands.


Silently, she walked onto the ship, just like before. She knew she looked atrocious, hideous even. She knew that they would be wondering where she had been and what she had been doing. Covered in blood, she was sure they could figure it out. What else would she have done on her home planet of Osiris?

Although her hair veiled her face, she could see her brother coming closer to her. With an outstretched hand, she stopped him. She felt as though if she were to have to speak, all she would do was scream. River didn’t think she could take hearing her brother’s voice.

She didn’t bother showering. River simply laid down in her bed, dried blood and all. She had returned for the one item she’d treasured since she was a little girl, but came back not only empty handed, but she had returned a killer of her own parents. She didn’t feel guilty at all. In fact, she was pleased with having ended their lives. It felt right.

She hadn’t gotten used to the idea of killing for pleasure. But she hadn’t just killed them, she had played with them, mutilating them until they looked as horrible as she felt. Without opening her eyes, her fingers slipped into the hem of her skirt, pulling out the trophies she had brought back with her.

River sat up and looked down at her hands. Two clumps of hair, bloody at one end laid on the palm of one hand. These were the last pieces of her parents she had left. She tucked them gently under the mattress just as she heard a knock on the door.

She didn’t have to answer. The door slid open and she saw the captain looking down at her. She let her mind open to his. He thought she looked disgusting, something from a horror show…something like a Reaver.

“She might be,” River murmured.

“Pardon?” When River did not respond, Mal rubbed his hands on his pants and cleared his throat. “Right. Well, I could use your expertise up on the bridge, Lil’ Albatross.”

River stood up. “No. You want to deliver her into a trap. Simon will be there with needles to make her sleep. He always wants her to sleep when he doesn’t understand.”

“Why don’t help him understand?”

“Understand what?”

“What you’ve been up to. Where’ve you been. Why you’re covered in blood.”

Cocking her head to the side, she remembered what Jayne had told her. “I was attacked. I had to defend myself.” She sat back down. “I will not accompany you to the bridge, Captain. If Simon needs to inject me, he can do it here.”


For the next two days, River floated about the ship, remarking in her mind how it was almost empty. She would be certain someone was in the galley, but when she got there, no one was there. Simon had come into her room and had administered medicine, chemicals that were created to control the mind.

She hadn’t fought it. She had simply stuck out her arm while keeping her eyes fixed on the wall. She hadn’t responded to any of his questions. Deep down, River knew. She knew that no one on Serenity was safe with her on board, so she allowed her brother to control her mind with drugs.

River didn’t mind, actually. It kept her anger and rage subdued and apart from a few cuttings she did with the paring knife she had stolen from her parents’ house, she felt nearly normal…or at least as normal as a girl like her could be.

The emptiness of the ship was soothing. She could still hear the minds of the others, but it was more like a background buzz instead of the Cortex turned up too loud. She knew that the others were worried for her and for themselves. She knew she was a time bomb and she knew the danger she posed to the others. In the back of her mind, she was sure that at least some of them knew she had paid a visit to her parents. Perhaps there was an alert on the Cortex about it.

Walking along the steel catwalk above the cargo bay, River twirled, her arms up in the air. How freeing it was to have a calmed mind. As she continued to move, she realized that this was how she’d felt on the chemicals Simon had given her before her dance with the Reavers. But she knew. River knew that it would only be a few moments before her body broke down the chemicals and forced her brother to come up with new cocktails to give her.

Would she need subduing forever? In the end, River was sure that at some point there wouldn’t be a chemical in the world that she wasn’t tolerant too and then God help them all.

She descended the stairs and came to an abrupt stop at Jayne’s weight bench. Climbing on top, she reached for the straps attached to the walkway above and lifted herself up. Jayne liked doing pull ups. Did pull-ups help Jayne quell the beast inside? The question was pointless as River knew whatever kind of beast he had was nothing in comparison to hers.

After thirty quick pull-ups, she dropped down, smiling at the thud that reverberated in the cargo bay. “Whatcha doin’, girl?”

River spun around, her hair fanning out as she did. “Jayne,” she said with a smile. “You’re still here.”

“Last time I checked.”

She watched him sit down on the bench, obviously preparing to lift weights. “Haven’t seen anyone but Simon in days.”

Jayne chuckled, then laid back, taking the bar off its cradle and bringing it down to his chest. “That’s ‘cause you’ve got ‘em scared.” Jayne pushed the bar up, then brought it back down.

“Are you?”

Again, he laughed. “Of you?” After another five repetitions of raising the bar, he set it back on the rack. “No,” he said, sitting up. “I’m not scared of ya.”

River moved closer to him, speaking softly. “You should be.” Jayne sat up a little straighter. River straddled the bench behind him, pressing herself to his back. “I killed my parents,” she whispered.

He took a deep breath, then turned his head to look at her as best he could. “I figured it was ‘bout time for you to do a little violence.”

“I didn’t just kill them,” she said to his back. “I hurt them. I enjoyed it. It was like listening to a symphony.”

“Well, that’s distrubin’.”

“And after I had killed them, I went back and made a mess of their corpses.”

Jayne stood up, turned around, and then sat back down, facing River. “You told your brother about this?” She gave him a face. “’Course you ain’t.” He took a deep breath. “There’s something wrong with ya.”


Jayne had led her unceremoniously to his quarters. River couldn’t read his mind, but she wasn’t really trying. It was simpler for her to just let things happen. She’d never been gifted with the talent to push worries aside, so the freedom Simon’s newest cocktail gave her was delicious. Not very gracefully, she plopped down on his bunk, watching him lean back against his dresser.

“What your problem is, girl, is control. Don’t like to be out of it, but either way, with meds or without, you ain’t got the control.”

River laughed. “My problem is that I’m becoming a go tsao de Reaver.”

“Oh, shut up with that horse shit, River. You ain’t becomin’ no gorram Reaver. Just because some doctor somewhere pumped ya full of the same shit they did to those Reavers, don’t make you one of ‘em. You’re just…you’re just spittin’ venom.”

“But I kill…”

“Like I said, control.” Shoving off the dresser and moving toward the bed. “Last time we were in this room together, it was pretty clear you had control issues.”

River shook her head. “That was aggression. Aggression brought on by the mingling of Reaver blood with my own.”

“Just stop, girl. I know you and your brother think you’re all kinds of smart, but you ain’t a Reaver. Cuttin’ yourself, killing a few people, bein’ aggressive during sex? That don’t make you a Reaver.” Jayne sat down. “Those gorram men cut into your head. You ain’t a Reaver. You feel things, River. It didn’t pass through your mind that mayhap you’re just acting out the imprint they left on you? And killin’ ain’t nothing. It’s what you’re trained to do.” River looked at Jayne through narrowed eyes. At what point had this man, this man-ape as Simon referred to him as, gotten this analytical? “Near as I can tell, girl, you’re about as normal as you’re gonna get. Like I said before, you gotta work on controllin’ it.”

River deepened her stare and looked into his mind. “You went to the captain. You told him to use me in more jobs. Said that it would help.”

“A spot of violence from time to time would keep the urge satisfied. Trust me, I know.”

“I could see where it could be beneficial. But my brother would never agree.”

“Simon ain’t Captain. Don’t make the rules or assign the jobs.”

“Why?” River asked, sitting up a little straighter.

“Why what?”

“Why are you like this with me?”

Jayne crossed his arms over his chest. “Ain’t your fault you’re the way you are. You don’t mean to be. You’re stronger than Reavers. So even if their blood mixed with yours, you got people to pull ya back, girl. You ain’t so lost in bloodlust that you’ve forgotten who ya are.”


“You’ve gotten the results back,” River said, stepping into the infirmary. “Well?” she asked her brother, trying not to be hurt by Kaylee’s hasty exit. She knew she frightened the mechanic. She knew she frightened everyone, including her brother.

“The blood work looks good.”

“Good?” She hopped up on the table.

“Well, normal.” Simon wiped his brow, letting his eyes float to anything in the infirmary that wasn’t his sister. “The brain scans didn’t show me anything more than the scan on Ariel.” He sighed. “Looks like we’re no closer.”

“No closer to what?” River studied her brother. “Oh, a cure. You think I can be cured.” She held out her arm and waited. “Come on then,” she said.


“It’s time for my injections.”

Simon finally looked at her. “You hate your injections. Why are you …”

“Because without them I do things that I don’t want to do. I know you want your sister back and this is the only way for it to happen.”

Simon moved to retrieve the vials and the hypo. “It’s only a matter of time before your body starts to break this down.”

“You’ll find different medicines to give me.”

“Yes, but for how long?”

“Forever. Until dirt and grass cover over me.” Taking a deep breath, River steeled herself. “But there might be another way.”


River danced. It was the same dance she’d performed before. It was the dance of death she’d perfected after many attempts. She had settled into her new role as a crewmember of Serenity. She was the dealer of death when it was needed. Along with Jayne and Zoe, she was the muscle, performing the most dangerous jobs.

But she was quicker than Jayne and Zoe. She had been trained for combat in a way neither of them could ever be.

Simon had no say in it. And while he was upset for a while, River continued to take her meds without argument. It was that fact that helped him relinquish the fear he felt. River had eased back into hesitant relationships with everyone on the ship. She was nowhere near as close to Kaylee she had once been, but relationships change and River knew that. Every now and then, they would find themselves alone together. They would share a tentative smile and then Kaylee would leave as quickly as she could.

River knew she was different. River knew she would never be like Kaylee. She knew she would always be the ticking time bomb; the government trained assassin with bits of her brain missing.

But she was learning to deal with it. The hate and anger bubbled up less and less. And like Jayne said, she was able to keep it in check when she allowed herself a good spot of controlled violence now and then.

Even so, River Tam still enjoyed spitting a little venom from time to time.

But she kept that to herself.

~**~ Fin


Tuesday, August 26, 2008 5:19 PM


Well, fuck.

Thursday, August 28, 2008 9:13 AM


You know, I never realized just how much Jayne and River are kindred spirits until reading this.


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