A/N: A quick River piece. The "Will I still be able to dance?" question comes from the R. Tam Sessions.

chaÎnés turns- In ballet, a series of fast turns


When they asked her to join the program, to help the Alliance create a better world, she had not asked what the program entailed or what would be done to her. Her only question had been "Will I still be able to dance?"

She regrets that now. She had been so childish and shortsighted. She should have stayed in the Gen Ed program, even if most of it was a little slow for her. But she hadn't, and when they unraveled her brain and her being, she found that she couldn't dance anymore. Her body, heavy with drugs, and her mind, sliced and split, couldn't coordinate the movements properly. She could fight, yes, could kill and break, but that was a violent prisoner's dance that was triggered for the Alliance's purposes. She wanted to dance freely, letting her feet flow over the ground and her hands weave through the air and her body twist and twirl.

She can dance now, sometimes. Can pirouette through Serenity's narrow metal corridors, a long-remembered song thrumming through her head as her passion spills and surges out of her. She can do another kind of dance too. She can spin through dreams and thoughts, and she does so often. She chaÎnés through Inara's cool, gentle yearnings; Kaylee's sun-filled dreamland; Book's celestial aspirations; and Jayne's rough-hewn thoughts that stack like bricks. She knows all of their desires and secrets and sometimes it's very hard to keep her mouth shut and keep the mysteries tucked inside.

The one place she doesn't like to dance is in Simon's head. His guilt and sadness weigh down on her, and suddenly her feet are not feather-light anymore. He has memories of Osiris and MedAcad and he misses them. He wishes they weren't caged in and that she would respond to the medication and get better. Sometimes his thoughts brighten, usually when he gazes surreptitiously at Kaylee or when Mal defends them against Jayne, and his thoughts are slowly becoming more contented with the life he has been confined to. Still, she has stolen his life from him, and she doesn't know how to give it back. She tries, but more often than not ends up with nothing but a pile of gibberish that only worries Simon and makes her feel worse.

But Simon is stubborn and doesn't give up on her, and she is stubborn too. She will free them both someday, and then she will be able to dance outside and he won't be dragged down with anxiety over her. In the meantime, when she dances through Serenity, she dances for him. She smiles and hides her pain, because when his eyes light up with hope and the corners of his mouth lift ever so slightly, she feels lighter and more human.

So she dances.