Written in response to a challenge issued by drama-princess, to take the first line of one of her fics and create a whole new fic from it. Set pre- "Objects in Space". These wonderful characters are sadly not mine, but are the property of Joss Whedon, who is probably God and just hasn't let on yet.

Thousand

There are a thousand ways to kill yourself in this house.

Of course, River reflected, it wasn't a house. Not really. A house was stable, didn't break down. White picket fence, dog barking next door, two-point-five children and Simon with a smile.

This, she thinks, this is a home. She loves it, the moving, floating, darting and skittering through space. Never having to stay. Always somewhere new to run.

But she sees it everywhere now… that Serenity can be dangerous.

no touching guns, says the captain's voice in her head, but River knows that Simon can cure guns. Simon can twist his wrist and out! comes the bullet and in! go the stitches, needle flashing silver, winking at River.

She wants to believe that Simon can cure everything, but she knows that there is no way he can. It is not possible. People will all die someday, no matter what Simon tries to do; sometimes River wonders what the point of saving them all is, and then she wonders if this thought has ever crossed Simon's mind.

River can think of a thousand ways to die that Simon couldn't cure.

There was always the engine room. All the chemicals Kaylee kept there, just out on the shelves and gleaming in their containers, knowing the way that Kaylee knows things that nobody would ever hurt anybody with them. that's my girl… that's my good girl. Kaylee trusts, and so River does not go into the engine room any more to look at the bottles. She doesn't want anything to be Kaylee's fault.

She stares at the cans in their boxes, stacked in the kitchen so harmlessly. zoe, how come you always cut your apples? She runs her fingers over them, tears the labels, gives them back some of the mystery they had when they were still part of an earth, part of a plant. Sharp edges of tin will cut; botulism can form inside the shiny casings, distending and misshaping. Large chunks of food will close airways, stop lungs, stop blood, stop everything… but Simon could save her. Simon saves everyone.

She trails her fingers down the walls, down sleek panels of steel that are beginning to rust in places, over waffle-patterns of grills, feels the cold on her bare feet. She knows what it would take to penetrate the hull, to suck everything inside into space and feel herself burst. the human body can be drained of blood in eight-point-six seconds, given adequate vacuuming systems. The stars are her friends, but even they do not want her; besides, all the heavy tools are Kaylee's.

Wash is always in the control room, always piloting. Jayne sleeps by his guns, covered with a blanket in his room, hanging on the wall, hiding under the bed, strapped snugly on his belt. Simon is always in the infirmary, but Simon knows that River can't be trusted. Simon keeps his medicine close, his sharp needles and his jewel-colored tonics locked in boxes and cupboards. Zoe and the captain are always watching, watching everything… and the Shepherd holds his Bible, but she knows there is more. bible's broken. contradictions, false logics. doesn't make sense.

Sometimes she stands on the railing high above the floor of the cargo bay, holding on just by her fingertips to the pole on one side of her. one of you is gonna fall and die and I'm not cleanin' it up. She thinks that she could let go, free-fall, land in a mass of bones and broken body, a junk heap of useless parts, still warm.

you are my beautiful little sister. She doesn't want to leave Simon behind, but she knows sometimes that Simon wishes he could leave himself behind, be in sunshine, be a real doctor, be with Kaylee. That River was all right. That he wouldn't have to worry.

There are a thousand ways for Simon to never worry again, but River is not brave. There are a thousand ways for Simon to stop running, but River can't give him any. Everywhere she goes while she is alive, Simon must go too… but she can't release him.

She climbs down from the railing slowly, slowly. She will die. She feels mortal and bloody, all delicate tissue and twig-bones. She will die, even if Simon tries to save her… but she wants to prolong it. She wants Simon to find her a cure, if only so Simon can smile again. No matter what happens, Simon must learn to smile again. Blood and pain does not make Simon smile… no, patching up, making better brings the light to Simon's eyes.

So River will stay. River will sacrifice to let Simon make himself happy from her. River will hurt everyone… but that is just River's way. River must hide… and hiding hurts. She never meant to.

There are a thousand ways to kill yourself in this ship... and River wishes she needed a single one.