Happy Endings
Monday, December 19, 2005

They’re all a matter of perspective. A short little twist on the ending of the movie.



Mal snatched up the com, falling into a familiar routine that gave his weary mind some peace. "Kaylee, get set up for full burn. Soon as we clear atmo I want this place to be nothin’ more than a memory."

Without waiting for a response, he jammed the com back into place and spun to the pilot’s seat, his lips already forming a name out of habit. The wrong name. It caught in his throat as he faced River, her hands gripping the controls and her eyes fixed ahead.

"I can’t be him," she said, still watching the sky.

The captain hadn’t said the name. "How did you know ... ?"

She turned to lift an eyebrow at him.

"Guess you would at that," he smirked despite the odd feeling that he was suddenly naked. "Gifted and all." Mal looked back to his controls. "Still," he said, absentmindedly flipping a few switches, "wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea."

"I know," River said to the sky.

The captain crossed his arms and turned to her. "And what exactly do you know, young lady?"

"I know you. And what you think of me."

"That so?"

River lips bent into a Cheshire grin, her eyes still on her work. She was enjoying this. "I always knew, especially when you didn’t want me to." The grin spread as she sifted through memories, her distant expression drawing a heavy gulp from Mal. "It’s all there – all the words for her, and me, and the rest of them. You keep them locked away. Swallow the key."

Her eyes swam back to the present, and they rose to bore into Mal. "But I hear you," she said. "Your words are the loudest. You’re the loudest one here."

Mal studied her for a moment, this little girl lost who was guiding them all. "I’ll try to keep it down," he said.

Both worked silently for a few moments as the ship sped toward the edge of the planet’s atmosphere.

"Know what I’m thinkin’ right now?" Mal asked as he checked a gauge in front of him.

River looked at him. There was a short silence.

"I belong," River breathed. "I belong here with you. No more secrets."

His eyes cut up toward her, his hand never leaving the controls. "But you still ain’t quite right," he smiled.

River smiled back, big and full.

"No call t’look so happy about it," Mal continued. "Got a lotta work ahead. I figure we go three days hard burn..."

She had turned to face the stars that were opening in front of them, and his words faded into her subconscious. Serenity filled the last dark corners of her mind, and something inside her gave way.


River Tam’s perspiration-soaked body jerked with one final spasm then fell limp on the upright metal bed, her hands unclenching.

A man in a white lab coat leaned close to her face and put one blue-gloved hand to her eye, prying apart the lids and staring at her pupil. "Shut it down," he called.

"Deactivating Serenity program," came a voice from the wall.

The girl was strong, resourceful, and far too aware. She had suspected the truth, caught glimpses, and part of her brain had refused to accept the false reality, refused to commit to it. But month by month, the splintered pieces of her reluctant mind were coaxed into this new sanity.

Most of the people in the room knew firsthand how effective the program was. The only person who ever tamed it was the one who inadvertently created it: a browncoat captain who had been captured after the war to recover his knowledge of the scattered rebel remnants. He was strong, too, and his mind had crafted an intricate escape from this room; aboard an imaginary ship with a woman who had died under his command. In time he added more faces to his escape – a farm girl from his home planet, a rim world prankster he once met, even the gun-loving Alliance sympathizer who had betrayed him and brought him here.

Malcolm Reynolds found his escape. His project was terminated. But they soon realized how to use their record of his creation to bring far more valuable prizes to submission, and their ranks swelled.

Still the Serenity program had surprised them all as it nimbly seduced this girl. It adapted with her, introducing new people and relationships to subtly mold her state of mind, creating complex conspiracies as a conduit for her suspicions and then resolving them to soothe her. It would bring her peace, whether she wanted it or not. Everybody gets their happy ending.

The machinery hummed to silence, and the shackles that held her in place clacked away. The man watched her closely. Black hair stuck to the girl’s sweaty skin as her breathless mouth formed the same phrase over and over. The voice would take a moment to return.

River Tam was gone now, forever drifting on that imaginary ship with the ghosts of long-dead friends she never knew and the brother who had never suspected her fate. In her place stood someone who had been created in this room.

"I belong to you," she whispered at last, and her lips bent into a wan smile.

The man in the white coat smiled back.



Monday, December 19, 2005 8:43 AM


Creepy!!! But really cool................ a Sixth Sense / M. Night Shyamalan kind of a way!!!!

Kinda freaks me out........... glad it's just fanfic.........................

Monday, December 19, 2005 8:43 AM


Wonderful! I'm not generally fond of "and it was all a dream" type endings, but you put a beautiful twist on this by making it a fiendish lab experiment. Also, I like that Mal's dream of finding inner peace lives on, for himself and others, even if he doesn't. "Once you're in Serenity, you never just learn to live there."

Monday, December 19, 2005 9:42 AM


Wow! Creepy and spooky as *diyu*. Very neatly done and reasoned but have to say I am so glad it wasn't all a fabrication (except in Joss's mind). Excellent work, *xie xie ni*, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, December 19, 2005 10:54 AM


*Bows down to you*


So very... intense. And I loved every word, the whole concept was... fancinating. I love it.

Monday, December 19, 2005 11:56 AM


Nicely executed!

Monday, December 19, 2005 12:17 PM



You're a mean, mean man.

It was good, scarily so.

Monday, December 19, 2005 12:27 PM


I'm gonna echo what everyone else has already said, creepy...intense...and I'm just a little bit scared of your brain now.

Monday, December 19, 2005 1:13 PM



My head just exploded.

Monday, December 19, 2005 1:36 PM


I'm gonna keep up the echoing. Nice bit of "what if" played out there. I would actually be interested to see where you go with this, and if the people that River created in her mind actually help her to take back her body in reality...

Monday, December 19, 2005 2:35 PM


"if you remember that one buffy episode"

That's the first thing my wife said when she read it. I actually *don't* remember that episode.

I got the idea from a classic Civil War short story that's been ripped off by everybody from Terry Gilliam to Futurama. I just applied it to this 'verse and added a few personal touches.

But I'll be happy to take all the credit (and everyone's fear). Fear me and my ability to rip off classic literature!

Monday, December 19, 2005 5:56 PM



And yet, I rather enjoy being part of the Serenity Program my own self.
It brings me peace.
Here is my happy ending.
Here I belong...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005 6:13 PM


mad props! even my boyfriend, who calls me a "flirefly flan" enjoyed this one - ironically enough, he's the one who first introduced me to the series.

Thursday, December 22, 2005 10:55 AM


"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce

We have a winner!!

Friday, December 23, 2005 12:23 PM


eep! and to echo cantonheroine:
here i belong...


Wednesday, December 28, 2005 10:42 AM


I didn't see that coming, thanks for a creative and interesting story


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