Title: Wild Things
Author: Michmak
Characters: River, Simon
Pairing: River / Jayne
Disclaimers: if only they were mine, I would die happy. But they're not, so don't sue.

Summary: Jayne reminds River of a pet she once had

A/N: Sixteen in The Little Things Series, which are all posted here at If it's too much of a hassle to go hunting for them, you can also find them with direct links to click to the stories at LiveJournal dot com – in the Rayne underscore shippers community. I will also put a link to them through my personal (very boring) LJ - michmak. Say hi if you come visiting! The stories should be read in the following order: Expert , Slippers , Letter Home , Gifts , Rats , In Dreams , Holes , Simon , Bob , Splinters , Salutations, Blood Drops , Pas des Deux , Butterfly and Scar Tissue

Weekends are crazy around here, so sorry I didn't get this posted yesterday. Also, my email appears to be acting ornery again, so bugchicklv hasn't betaed this yet and I can't blame her for my mistakes. LOL.

This little story isn't what I initially set out writing and I have no idea where it came from. Although, I did once have a pet wild Grackle I raised from a hatchling and she was named Allie, so I suppose I've written a Mary-Bird. Forgive me.

Wild Things

The captain has come and gone, yet River is still sitting in the chair in the cockpit even though Serenity has been set to auto-pilot and she should be in bed by now. She doesn't want to leave until she sees Jayne, and she knows that he'll come looking for her as soon as Simon has finished with him.

She can feel him from here and she knows his mind is in turmoil. It has been a lot lately, so busy thinking about all the little reasons they CAN'T work, he fails to see all the big reasons they DO.

And he's scared, so scared that he's going to do something wrong or that she won't love him the way he wants to be loved, deep down in the secret depths of his heart. He tells himself he isn't good enough, that she's just a little girl, that she doesn't see him that way. He tells himself he's too old and too rough, that no one will understand why he wants to be with her – that if he acts on the way he's feeling, he'll lose this new family he's somehow managed to create for himself, out here in the black.

Most of all, though, he's scared that if he lets her in, she'll break him like he's some wild horse. He thinks that if he lets himself love her and lets her love him in return, it will make him weak and tame, and he'll stop being Jayne. He doesn't understand that she's always loved wild things.

River had had a pet bird once, when she was a little girl, long before the Academy ever came calling.

She had found it when it was just a baby, laying on the grass underneath the big tree she and Simon would sometimes climb together, when their parents were away on vacation somewhere and Abigail, their nanny, was the one in charge.

It had been ugly; she remembered this very well. It was still all pink skin and big yellow beak and bulbous blue-skinned still-closed eyes. It had obviously fallen out of its nest, either by accident or attempted suicide – she had never really been sure. She had scooped it up gently in her hands and run to find Simon, because he was going to be a doctor and he would know what to do.

He hadn't, of course – not really. He had examined the tiny thing very carefully, before telling her that it was probably too young to survive without its' parents and that the merciful thing to do would be euthanize it and prevent it from suffering further.

She remembered how outraged she had been that he would even suggest this and Simon had relented, saying that perhaps, if they kept it warm and somehow managed to feed it on a regular basis, maybe – just maybe – they could save it.

He had gone to his room and found an old straw hat he had worn the year they spent the summer at the beach house, and had made strips of an old flannel sheet that had seen better days. He had contributed the study lamp from his desk because they could adjust the height of it, and he figured it would throw enough heat to keep the bird warm.

And then, with River cradling the makeshift nest in her arms, he had gone on the Cortex to see if he could figure out what type of bird it was and what they should try feeding it.

Over the next several weeks, he and River would take turns watching it and preparing a grain-based mash for it that they would roll into little pellets and stuff into its' gaping mouth whenever it was hungry. Sometimes, they would feed it scrambled egg whites, for the protein. Every day that little bird survived was a victory for both of them. It opened its' eyes after four days in their care, and after seven days little tufts of fluff started appearing, quickly turning into feathers.

River had named him Allie, because when the feathers started growing in they came out on his head first, little pieces of fluff that looked for all the world like wiry gray hair. She thought he looked like a picture of Albert Einstein, the famous scientist from Earth-that-Was, and so she named the bird after him.

Allie grew quickly, and before she and Simon knew it the little pink ball of skin was an actual bird, trying to learn how to fly. River would sit outside in the yard for hours with Allie, just watching him as he opened and closed his wings, over and over again. Sometimes he would bask in the sun, resting on her knee, and she would sketch him. More often than not, Simon would join her and they would both watch the bird in awe, as if they couldn't believe they had saved him.

When their parents returned just before summer's end to find their children had made a pet of a wild bird, they had been appalled. For one thing, Allie wasn't tame. For another, it turned out Allie was a Grackle, which was very similar to a crow. Mother thought it terribly ugly, with all those blackish-brown feathers, and Father thought it loud and obnoxious.

"If you wanted a bird, River, you should have told us," Mother had said.

"We could have gotten you a turquoise parakeet, or a peach-faced love bird. Something tame and domesticated; something that sings pretty and that we don't have to worry is going to peck at you if it doesn't get its way. We can still do that, you know – but first, you must get rid of Allie," Father had agreed.

Of course, River had said no, it was Allie she loved. There wasn't another bird in the whole entire 'verse that could replace him. Her parents had argued with her, and when she hadn't given in, they had turned to Simon and blamed him for saving Allie's life in the first place.

"You want me to be a doctor," Simon had argued back.

"A doctor, not a vet!" their father had snorted. But that had been that – end of discussion. River thought she had won.

School started again not long after her parents return. Simon was off to boarding school, but River was still too little to go. Instead, her parents had Abigail take her into the city to an elite school where all the best children from all the important families went. She hated it there. Her first day back at school all she thought about was Allie, all by himself in the enclosure Simon had made for him on the back porch, lonely with her.

He was the first thing she went to find that afternoon, when she finally came back home with Abigail. She ran to the back porch, eager to take him out to the back yard. She was sure if she watched close enough Allie would teach her how to fly with him, but neither he nor the wire enclosure was there. Instead, in its place, was a large white cage, with two budgies sitting in it. One was yellow and green, the other blue and white.

Her mother had come to stand behind her. "Do you like them, dear? Father chose them special just for you. The blue one, in particular, is very rare. It's quite the coup that he managed to even find one."

"Where's Allie?" she had demanded, dangerously close to tears. "What happened to Allie?"

"Your father set him free, River. He is a wild bird after all."

But River knew her mother was lying. Father had NOT set Allie free. She found the cage – the beautiful cage Simon had made out of wood and wire and nails – crushed in the gardener's shed out back. Allie was lying beside it in the compost, not a wild bird at all anymore, just a pile of feathers.

She hadn't confronted her parents about this, though. She had simply gathered up what was left of him and put him gently in a shoebox with her favorite hair ribbon – the one he liked to pick at when he sat on her shoulder. She had taken a trowel and gone out to the tree where she had first found him, all pink and helpless, and she had buried him there, beneath the roots of his first home.

Her parents didn't understand why River wasn't interested in the parakeets they had bought her. She never took them out of the cage, or pet them, or talked to them. She certainly didn't name them. And when Simon came home and she told him what had happened, he just shook his head.

"I'm sorry, mei-mei. I knew when you first found Allie that we shouldn't have tried to save him. I knew what would happen."

"But why, Simon? Why?" she had cried, curling into the comfort of his arms and letting the tears flow for the first time since she had lost Allie.

"They were scared, mei-mei. They don't understand. They think tame and proper and beautiful is better than wild and spirited and free. That's just the way they are."

"How can they love me, then?" she had whispered into his shoulder.

Simon hadn't been able to formulate a response.

Jayne reminds her of Allie sometimes.

He's big and dark, loud and a little uncouth. He's definitely not a tame man. He's got a whole lot of wild in him, and, like Allie, he's a thief. Allie used to steal shiny things and hide them wherever he could, and Jayne does that too. Like Allie, he's stolen her heart.

Earlier tonight, while they had been dancing, River had studied him very closely and she had realized something important – if she watches him long enough, if she takes good care of him and gets him to trust her, he will teach her how to be free. Jayne will show her how to fly.

Her parents would hate him. The thought makes her smile.