Title: Hiding (Chapter 1)

Disclaimer: I own nothing in Firefly universe. It all belongs to Joss Whedon. Please don't sue.

Author's Note: I hope you guys enjoy this one, it's just a bunny that's been hopping around my head. It'll develop into a story, but I can't promise an epic plot.

Since Miranda, River had taken to hiding around the ship. Now that the pressure of the Miranda secret was no longer clouding her mind, River was struggling with her Reader abilities more often than not. She was generally more lucid than she had been, but most days it was difficult to keep herself from hearing things she shouldn't, or things she didn't want to hear. Before, Miranda had made her jumbled and unable to tell what was remembered, what was happening, and what was coming from whom.

In the weeks immediately following Miranda, River had tried to ignore it. She wanted the crew – her family – to think she was better. But the thoughts continued; she heard too much, saw too much, knew too much. She had to hide. No one could see her fighting this; they couldn't help, and they would all just think that she'd gotten worse or needed more medicine. There were plenty of places aboard Serenity for a young "slip of a thing" (as Zoe sometimes thought of her) to hide away, but there were still problems.

She couldn't hide in the room she shared with her brother, even if it was in name only, seeing as he spent most nights with Kaylee. Simon was far too likely to come in, find her, and decide she needed drugs. No more medicine, so no hiding in her own room.

The cargo hold had plenty of hidey-holes, usually used for storing cargo of a less-than savory nature. She knew of those, she'd hidden there when the dearly departed Shepherd Book's hair had scared her so badly. But those places presented a problem or two as well: they usually held shipments, and were therefore full, and she'd used them before, so detection was unavoidable.

Public areas of the ship were out for obvious reasons. Even the bridge had ceased to function as a location to escape to, because she was expected there now that she was the pilot. And the passenger cabins were far too close to the room she shared with Simon; he would find her there.

These problems left only one more option: the living quarters of the others aboard Serenity. Kaylee's room was easily stricken from the list. The young mechanic was far too likely to try and talk to her, and her brother's presence was more likely than not. Besides, Kaylee had some of the loudest thoughts on Serenity. They were happy thoughts, sunshine in the darkness of the mood of others, but loud nonetheless. Inara's shuttle wasn't really an option either. The tension that followed the beautiful woman – mostly based around a certain captain – hurt River's head and heart. And even if she did try to hide in the rented shuttle, River would be afraid of messing anything up or breaking something, or just…ruining the splendor that Inara had created in there. Zoe's quarters were definitely not even remotely close to being an option; she was still grieving, and her dark mood was overwhelming for River. Zoe acted as if she was coping well, put on a wonderful mask for the crew, but River could see, River 

knew…and hiding in her room would not let River hide from that, not at all. This left only two options: Mal and Jayne. Captain Daddy made River feel human, believed in her, which made her feel safe. But his thoughts, his feelings, ran wild inside him. He was still mourning the loss of his crew members, he was still fighting his feelings for Inara, he was still brooding…she had seen Serenity Valley too many times from his eyes to be able to hide in his rooms.

So really, there was only one choice left for River: Jayne's bunk. The overbearing mercenary, while loud in demeanor, had surprised River by being the quietest in thought. Jayne was a man of action, and so what thoughts she did get from him were very simple, direct and to the point. He grieved for Book, and even Wash, in his own way, but it wasn't the all-consuming grief of Zoe or the Captain. He was warm and safe, and while she knew most of the crew feared her in some way or another, she'd gotten less sense of apprehension from Jayne. He didn't like that she had done what he couldn't, but he admired that she had. There were other things as well, feelings that made Jayne warmer, but she couldn't see them. Whenever they started around her, Jayne would immediately clam up, or leave. Besides, Miranda had changed Jayne, as it had changed them all. He knew the bond of the crew now, saw them all differently, even the "little Crazy." He still thought she was crazy, but he didn't hate her, and River had found that she particularly liked his smile.

So, River crept down the hallway, walking on the balls of her feet and peering this way and that, making sure no one would see her. She knew that Jayne wasn't in his bunk; he was double-checking cargo, and planned to lift weights after that, and she had plenty of time before he would come home. So, she opened the hatch and half climbed, half fell into Jayne's room. She looked around, taking in the scene as she breathed in the scents. Some unwashed clothes and sweat smell, to match the clothes in the corner waiting to be washed; gun oil and metal, to match the wall of weapons hidden (badly) behind a blanket; the smell that was just Jayne, left behind by a prolonged stay in the same place. It was all very soothing, really. And quiet. River climbed up onto the bed and crawled into the corner, knees drawn up to her chest and propping her chin on them, and just existed, hearing nothing but her own thoughts for the first time in a while.

Relaxing. Peaceful. Safe.