Back from the Black.

By Lady Cleo

All disclaimers apply.

The much mulled over sequel to "Beyond the Black." Feel free to point out any out of out of character slips or oddities. This is by no means a literary endeavor such as Lessons in Latin or Copper for a Kiss, just a fun relaxing story for me to write.

Chapter Eight: Where things get complicated…

"Little bit flamboyant, ain't they?" Jayne questioned, nodding his head over Serenity's bunch.

The judge shook his head, "Not quite the word I would use Jayne."

"Well, whatever word you would use, they ain't exactly welcomed here in my opinion. They caused us grief enough in the past. I don't wanna dredge up any of that hurt on River again."

"Caused you grief," Simon demanded. "Because of what you did I thought my sister was dead. Do you even know the meaning of grief?"

"Reckon I'm about to find out," cocking back the lever, Jayne swung the rifle's aim on Simon. "Ain't lost a family member yet, figure maybe losing one now would teach me the meaning."

"Jayne," the soft familiar voice sent a hush of silence over the group.

Simon's heart stopped, his breath hitched in his throat as he spun towards the voice. River stood at the edge of the crowd, a toddler straddling her hip, while her carbon copy hung a step behind her. Tears clouded his eyes for second as his mouth gapped open. She was there- living, breathing. She wasn't dead; it hadn't all been a dream. She was standing right there- that self same familiar frown etched across her lower lip. God she looked- she looked healthy and alive, very alive and very- pissed.

Mal tugged at the corner of his collar, unconsciously taking a step back, "River, nice ta see you breathing again."

Jayne sighed and released the lever of the rifle, lowering the weapon. "Well there goes that notion." Swinging the rifle over to Josh, Jayne caught Mercy as she pounced into his arms. "Reckon now that everybody's here, might as well take the side show inside."

River gave him a curt nod and turned head back to the house.

-

It was a simple house, no 'frippery or finery' but very well kept and maintained. Mal guessed he shouldn't have been too surprised, Jayne had always been rather meticulous when it came to cleaning weapons. Probably didn't hurt that the two most destructive forces, that is the children, were half genius.

River led the rag tag group into the simple living room. Setting the toddler down into a playpen, she mentioned towards the two couches. Inara and Kaylee settled own onto one while the Judge and Book took the other.

Zoe ran her eyes quickly around the room, noting first all acceptable routes of depart. There was one weapon over the fireplace, a huge double barreled rifle. Two bookshelves over brimming with books framed the entry way. The walls were decorated with a mixture of framed family photos, some of Jayne's parents, and a few framed sketches of River's.

Setting Mercy down, Jayne walked over to stand protectively over River, hands resting on his gun belt as he wearily eyed his former friends. "Right, how we gonna start this ruttin' shindig?" Mercy scampered across the room and climbed up onto the Judge's lap, sending a warning glare to Book

Simon clenched his fists, taking a step forward, "How about answering some simple questions? Like how you faked my sister's death and what happened afterwards?"

"It wasn't faked." River's voice was unearthly quiet. "I died and was reborn, reborn to a new world and a new family. I left it all behind to straighten out the mess that was my brain." She spoke so calmly and assuredly that the rest of the group found their mouths dropping open. "The ship was too small, too cramped. I couldn't think or see in those quarters. There was no stabilizing voice to guide the voices."

"River are you-"

"Cured?" River shook her head gently, "No. There is no treatment for what happened to me. Resorted and refigured. I can remember more now, I know what's mine and what's not. I didn't need drugs Simon; I needed time, understanding and peace."

-

Approximately 5 years and 8 months ago…

The smooth, cold metal filled River's hand- she tested the weight, fingered the trigger.

'Escape.'

Trapped- she felt trapped within her own body, unable to decipher simple commands, unable to clear a space to think. The walls were sinking in around her – closing in and silencing any rational thought that could be found.

She was a girl, not a weapon. She was herself, not a thousand voices whispered in her ears. She was River, not a nameless thing. She was a dancer, not a killer. She wanted to feel, not to hear other's feelings. All of these things seemed lost to her, lost in a jungle that she hadn't wanted, that she hadn't created.

'Escape.' The gun seemed to whisper, her fingers moved touched the security, pulled it back. There was no balance in this attempt. She had to go back to the beginning and try again.

The gun lifted-

Simon's face flashed across her mind and River hesitated. He would never forgive her. He wouldn't understand- he didn't understand. She was only a girl trapped. Drugs only make walls smaller, not bigger.

'Escape.'

The gun promised her escape, and escape was like sleep - That was all she really wanted, sleep. Death would give her sleep without nightmares: not her nightmares and not the nightmares of others. There was jut sleep- death was not loss – it was just sleep. The gun lifted to her temple – "Sleep."

"What in ruttin' hell are you doin'?" Jayne demanded.

Escape and sleep were yanked from her fingers. River sunk to the floor, lost in a cloud of pain- her escape disappearing before her eyes. Jayne was turning away from her, glancing around for someone else to hand her off too, for someone to come and make her walls even smaller. Shaking her head River reached out towards him, yanking down on his arm, tears quickly filling her eyes. "Sleep, just wanted to sleep."

-

"qing wa cao de liu mang" means "frog humping son of a bit"