DISCLAIMER: Firefly belongs to Joss Whedon !!! I grovel at his feet in awe of his genius!

NOTES: Sooo back again for take 2! If you haven´t read "WHAT JUST HAPPENED?"  you might want to because otherwise some things in this story will not make sense to you. SORRY!!!! This story takes up about two weeks after WJH! Hope you´ll enjoy it as much as my first!!!

PROLOGUE

CUSP

Hänsel and Gretel walking through the woods

The woods were dark and cold, so very cold

They came across a cabin build from gingerbread

Who could the master of that estate be?

The old nursery rhyme repeated in River´s head over and over again, sung by her own voice. But they weren´t walking through the woods. They were lost in a cave. River could feel the rough stone under her searching hands, even if she couldn´t see anything. The darkness was complete, enveloping her like a thick blanket. It was cold though, very cold and drafty. The rough stone hurt her hands and bare feet. Her feet were getting numb from the cold.

She wasn´t singing the old nursery rhyme…..the other thing was as they stumbled through the darkness together. It took a hold of her hand as they turned around a corner and there seemed the be a light at the far end of the cave. As they approached the exit River looked down to find herself dressed in a black dress made for a girl considerably smaller than she was ……a dress for a child. A dress with a white ruffled apron and a cape with a hood ……a red velvet cape.

Little red riding hood …..and yet,  as she looked at her feet she could see that they were following a trail made of tiny crumbs of bread. So the other thing had progressed to browsing the memories of fairy tales in River´s mind ……..only that it had them all mixed up, combining several elements of different tales because it didn´t quite comprehend their meaning.

She turned her head to look at the other thing, singing and holding her hand. It was as though looking into a mirror and yet ……it wasn´t her.

" Look….." It lifted its arm to point at the sky now that they had safely stepped out of the cave. The light should have been blinding, but it wasn´t. There was no warmth. They stood on a cliff overlooking miles and miles of grey desert.

" Where did the ocean go?" River asked, staring up at the dark blue sun that hung in the sky like an evil cloud.

"They took it away……just like Christmas……" her mirror image whispered, squeezing her hand tighter.

" Look, little sister ……you need to open your eyes and see …….for me …..for us."

River´s gaze followed the other thing´s gesture to the horizon. On the horizon one could barely see the ruins of a city stretching skywards above the desert sand.

" Like locusts they are ……all brothers and sisters…….making nothing out of everything. They will come for us, little sister. Maybe not today or tomorrow …….but they will come. They will need to know about us ……what we´ve become."

" I know ….." River sighed, dimly aware that all this was just a dream……

" They don´t want the house or the city …….they want ….."

"….. the whole ´verse." River finished, pulling the hood from her head as she let the red cape slide to the floor.

"You decide our fate, little sister and when they come you will have to decide……"

The other thing mimicked her movement, then took her other hand into hers, squeezing both of then so tightly it hurt.

" …whether you want to be no one´s master or their slave….."

River awoke with a gasp, jerking upright so abruptly that she fell out of bed with a thud.

" Ouch …."

" River ….?"

Jayne´s voice was heavy with sleep. He sat up, looking down on her with a bemused expression as he saw her sitting on the floor next to the bed.

" What the gorram´ hell you doin´girl?"

River frowned, having half a mind to tell him that he had pushed her off the narrow bed in his sleep, but then thought the better of it.

" Another one of those ruddin´dreams?" She nodded, crawling back into bed. Her heart was still racing when she rested her head on his chest. Soon enough she felt the familiar movement of his hand raking through her tangled hair.

" She´s trying to tell me something….."

" Well if she got something to say, she´d better ruddin´come out with it!"

River shrugged.

" Somehow I think she doesn´t know how….."