AN - - - I have no idea where this came from, so don't even bother asking. I just found it in my files the other day, edited it, reviesed it, and well.. Ended up with this. I'm actually pretty fond of it... I re-did all of River's rants, and they aren't very good but were a lot of fun to write. As for a time frame... Well, I was thinking post-Serenity, but whenever, really, works.

Review, and make me a very happy girl.


"Hey, Jayne?" Zoe called, catching the arm of the mercenary before he shuffled into the kitchen.

"Yeah?" Jayne asked, resisting the urge to jerk his arm away. Early mornings did not suit him.

"Watch out for River, okay? Simon's given her some new meds and – well, just stay away," Zoe said with a knowingly arched eyebrow before letting go of Jayne and moving on to the bridge.

Jayne paused for a moment. The last thing he wanted to do was cross paths with River again – the moon-brained girl made him nervous as a ... nervous person, and he'd do better to avoid her. On the other hand, he was really, really hungry. His stomach growled agreeably, and as such he threw caution to the wind and stepped into the kitchen.

She sat apparently calmly atop the table, legs crossed, hands folded and her head cocked curiously to one side. "Hello, bully," she said cheerfully.

Jayne frowned, taking a moment to process what he eventually decides was an insult as he rummaged about in the cabinets. "What'd you just call me, girl?"

"I called you a bully. Bul-ly. Two syllables. An aggressive person who intimidates or mistreats weaker people. It came from the mid-sixteenth century, but the origin is uncertain. It's probably from the Middle Dutch word boele, which means lover. It was originally sweetheart, then fine fellow, then blusterer, and now bully."

Jayne blinked, staring at the container of protein bars in his hands. "Syllables?" he repeated, having stopped listening there.

River sighed. "Syllables. A unit of spoken language that-"

Jayne slammed the cabinet shut with a bang. "Never mind, girly. I get the point. That's just shiny. Feel free to call me mean names and then make me feel stupid. I don't mind." He stomped off towards the door, thinking about just how right Zoe was when a strangled sob filtered through to his ears.

He immediately groped for the pistol that was strapped to his hip and wheeled around instinctively, pointing it at the now writhing young girl on the table top. Still cautious, he frowned and lowered his gun, watching River through narrowed eyes. "Hey... Hey, River? What's wrong – Uh, Simon? Hey, Simon! Get over here!"

"Everything, parliament, everything! Nothing is right but nothing is wrong, and she wonders what it means to take the knife, to die and kill, and the guns sound and she knows it't time to go, so she says 'bye, bye'. There were guns and drums and drums and guns and it really doesn't matter because she's dead, and he's dead, and everyone's dead, and Miranda's coming, and who cares at all, anyway? Because to bear, to bear the forgotten and the forgetful and the forgettable is too much to bear and you should know this, Master Cobb, more than anything else. More than anyone else! Who are we, mere mortals, mere laughable mortals, to judge the universe and it's secrets and its dark and its fears? Who are we to judge? We aren't. We aren't anything, we aren't anybody. So we let her die and we let her kill and we may shed a few tears but not nearly enough!"

She was still sobbing, but at least she was upright now, punctuating every sentence with a wave and occasionally her small fist slamming onto the table as she paced.

He frowned. "Master Cobb?"

River turned suddenly lucid, watery eyes on him as she froze. "Jayne Casey Cobb. That is your name, isn't it? Oh, do tell me I'm in the right room."

Jayne's eyes widened, wondering where that doctor was. "How'd you know my middle name?"

"Oh, it's simply a matter of the mind, Jayne," and she was purring, now, the only evidence of her previous heartbroken state tear stains on her cheeks. She slid off the table and stepped in that precise, cat-like way of her's towards him, finally stopping a foot in front of him, eyes still holding his. "A matter of the mind and of the soul. Connections and acquaintances, hand in hand and heart in heart, same as always, Jayne. You should know this at least, unintelligent as you may or may not be. I know you, Jayne Cobb, perhaps better than you know yourself."

She drifted slightly closer, just close enough so that she could reach out and touch him if she so pleased, and promptly collapsed.

He caught her just before she hit the ground, utterly unconscious. Cursing colorfully under his breath, he easily picked her up in the classic bridal style and carried her back over to the table, which he spread her carefully out on, concerned he might break her. He plopped down into a seat against the table, planning to eat his protein bar in peace, thank you very much, and then leave her there to wake up while he tried to find her brother.

He swung his legs around so he was facing her and the table, and found himself studying her curiously as he munched.

She really was a pretty thing (bone-deep insanity aside) he pondered. Nice nose, soft skin, high cheeks. He could easily see them together (bone-deep insanity and age aside, this time). Could see them kissing passionately, one of his hands on the small of her back and the other in her hair, her legs wrapped firmly around him as she-

River sat up on the table as though she had been electrocuted. "How dare you think things like that about me?!" she shrieked.

Jayne immediately pushed his chair back, hands up in a defensive posture, remains of that poor protein bar in his lap. "Think what? Gung shey, girl, I didn't think anything about you!"

"You did! Oh, don't deny it, oh mighty king, sitting there atop your throne." She tipped her head up, chin jutted forward, but glared at him through slitted eyelids. "Oh, mighty king, looking down upon your disciples, your children, your slaves, with laughing eyes. Laughing, kindly, killing eyes that simply don't know any better then the girl with the knife! You watched me and thought I was pretty, Jayne Cobb! You thought we'd be a lovely couple, Jayne Casey Cobb!" She slid from the table so she was standing beside him, towering over him since he sat. She slammed her flat hand onto the table.

"If you wanted to date me, all you had to do was say so!"

And with that, she waltzed arrogantly from the room.

As she went out one door, Simon finally came in through the other, looking frantic. "What's wrong, Jayne?"

Jayne frowned, rubbing his neck as he stared, dumb-struck, after River. "I have no idea."

--Cayenne