"River, Author"

By Abby

Summary: Malcolm finds someone up in the middle of the night.

Notes: This might be the first chapter in a small series. I haven't written fan fic in QUITE a while, and my muse had been fairly silent until I came across this unique pairing. So here is my triumphant return. Please give me some constructive criticism to let me know how I'm doing. Thanks!

O o o o O

The quiet whir of life vibrated through every panel of Serenity. Although most of its occupants were asleep, still it hummed, a mechanical lullaby. Malcolm put his hands up and pressed them to the wall as he passed them on the way to the cockpit, feeling the pulsations. It was almost like a heartbeat, matching his own. His life had become so intertwined with this ship that it was as if it was an extension of his very body. Call it a connection, call it reading, but if something was amiss on Serenity, Mal felt the physical pain.

Which is why he was surprised, upon mounting the steps, to find a huddled figure on the floor of the cockpit, shaking silently in sobs.

"River?"

He knew she wasn't at all in the capacity to answer, but still he crouched down in front of her. Obscured by long black locks of hair, he couldn't make out her face, but it was obvious that things were not alright in her private world.

He sought to break through, appealing to her through comfort, a nickname he had been accustomed to calling her these last six months.

"River," he repeated, softer this time, "Where are you, my little albatross?"

At that utterance, sound suddenly burst forth from River, and her head tilted back to reveal a tear stained face, contorted in grief to look almost fearsome. Her sobs finally released and audible, they filled the room.

Malcolm attempted to hush her, sliding a hand down her arm, noticing the cold and the shudder. He waited in the dark there, listening, waiting for the sobs to quiet, waiting for a word, a sign. Instruments beeped merrily in the background, a deranged harmony to the desperate melody of cries.

Finally.

"I couldn't stop it…"

Malcolm, jolted out of his deep reflections, now stared at River, who was currently raising her hands to the level of her eyes, watching the fingers twitch of their own accord.

"Stop what, albatross?"

She sniffed a little, still watching her fingers, apparently terrified. "It was flowing…thick, viscous, full of anger, fear, suspiscion… I couldn't stop it! Flowing out my fingers… bleeding…black drops…"

Her babblings almost never made sense to him, they always turned him in the chest, made him unsettled. But that night something compelled him to dive in headfirst, tackle her fears head on.

"I need more than that, River." Malcolm said, gripping her more tightly. "Stay with me. Tell me, what is it that's coming out of you?"

For the first time in that darkness, the gleam where he knew her brown eyes to be shifted and made contact with his own. He could see she was struggling to convey something to him through that connection, something full of depth, sorrow, as if she were pleading with him for something.

Fighting off an urge to answer her eyes' supplication and pull her to him, he saw River point one of her long fingers away from her, Malcolm's eyes following suit. There, under the left console, lay a book. It appeared to be bound in a bright blue fabric, wrapped around once with a silk ribbon. In a room full of age-stained metal, it seemed ethereal, fairy-like. At the moment the ribbon was untied, and, looking further, Malcolm also saw a small pen laying beyond it. They appeared as if thrown there. The source of her anguish.

Curiosity took over and his hand reached out for the book, seeking the reason River was so troubled in the middle of the night. He barely made contact with the soft satin of the cover when two slender hands swiftly snatched it out of his grasp.

"Mei you! Bu yao peng!"

River's fear had worn off and she was now standing over him, book safely tucked into her folded arm.

"My thoughts, captain. Not yours."

She promptly ran off, her bare feet scarcely making a noise as she descended the stairs and retreated to secrecy, leaving behind a thoroughly confused Malcolm Reynolds lost in thought under the surveillance of the stars.