Title: eyes like the summer, all beauty and truth
Author: seraC
Email: seraphcelene at yahoo dot com
A/N: Written for Serenity Santa '05; post-Serenity (movie) ; title from Death Cab For Cutie's Someday You Will Be Loved. Translations from The MDBG Free Chinese-English Dictionary and The Chinese-English Dictionary. Grammar and all other mistakes are mine; translations at the end of the text.
Rating: PG-13 for themes.
Dedication: written for itsaslashything, who requested post-Serenity Mal/River for serenity_santa '05; thanks to thawrecka for posting the revenge quote just in time to spark a plot bunny, and many heartfelt thank you's to kormantic, stuck in the wilds of New Jersey, for the beta!
Summary: River can kill you with her brain. If you're lucky, Mal will shoot you in the head instead.

eyes like the summer, all beauty and truth

"It's just an object.
It doesn't mean what you think."
-- River Tam, Objects in Space

"I loved her. I did it for love." Eden March curses and cries for the day that he saw fit to reach above his station and fall in love with the beguiling picture of a nan yi zhi xin de mei li whore with liquid dark eyes and a trembling mouth.

He also curses the day that he took it upon himself to travel all the way into the Core, spending his life's savings in the process, and offered himself up to Miz Inara Serra, Registered Companion. Offered to rescue her away from her daio bu ti mian ways and give her a decent home.

Cooking and cleaning. Five step-children, one just crawling baby girl (Mama died birthing her poordearmaysherestinpeace), two cows and three pigs. A handful of chickens. One goat.

His mama had always warned him about the loose women known to inhabit the Core.

"She bewitched me," Eden says in a tear-thick voice. "Ensnared my poor soul so's I couldn't stand the thought of her with another."

River's knife presses tight against his throat, snug in the niche between his Adam's apple and the underside of his jaw.

"Yao jing painted dolls with fine manners and too much freedom," she mutters between her teeth.

Sweat beads and breaks across Eden's forehead and the bridge of his nose. "Just exactly. Yao jing painted doll.

"Love isn't real." River contemplates the layout of the brain, maps it out with one tickling finger across the bald, sweating head of her captive. "Doesn't exist. Just chemical reactions initiated by pheromones and hormonal fluctuations resulting in elevated body temperature, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. It should resolve itself given adequate time. All systems normal."

Mal used to love Inara, but now he sleeps with River and they are bu tong dan dong yang. He looks and sees the differences between them, River's sharp, broken edges, and holds her close every night, anyway.

Blood trickles thin and red into the dingy wilt of Eden March's hand-me-down collar. River revels in the sing-song of his blood on her blade.

"Well, if that don't beat all." Mal bends close, hands braced on his thighs, to stare down into the eyes of the man kneeling at his feet. "And here you were going on about how you did it all for love, spellbound and the like, when it weren't nothin' more than a mighty powerful case of indigestion."

"Heartburn," River says. "It could have been heartburn." She tilts her head to one side. "Or pulmonary hypertension."

"Please," Eden whimpers, tries to hold still. Hold himself away from the shiny-sharp edge of the knife Jayne gave to River three weeks after Miranda.

"It could be your very own Vera. That is to say, you could name it or something," Jayne had said.

"Xie Xie," River whispered back and kissed his cheek. Stroked her gift and imagined how easy it would be to peel skin from meat and split meat from bone.

"Please," Eden cries. "Don't kill me. She weren't nothin' but a zang shang liu whore. High-classed dirt beneath the feet of decent folk. Couldn't see the error of her ways."

His mouth has run away from him the way that River knew it would. Said too much and Mal is so very good not to slam his fist into the old fool's face. Grab him by his grubby fool collar and shake all of his teeth loose. Put a gun to his brain and shoot him right then.

To make him shush, now, quiet, River presses the knife into Eden's throat hard enough to make him choke and his eyes bulge.

"Mister," Mal says. "I reckon you know who I am. Blink if you do."

Eyes blink. Quick, careful brush of lash against cheek.

River imagines the neat incision she will make, a smile carved into the soft, loose flesh of his throat and stretching from ear to ear.

"Figured as much. There are stories told, after all. Might be that you're not aware of who Inara was to me." Mal nods, more to himself than the terrified lump of man-shaped flesh shitting itself before him. "Might not be that you knew."

River pictures Eden March's Adam's apple and thinks that maybe Simon would like to put it in a jar and sit it on the edge of his desk. Tell his students when they come to visit his office how his sister sent it to him after exacting revenge on the murderer of their dear friend, Inara Serra. How she (his sister River, once a fugitive like himself) danced with Reavers like Kali with four arms and three eyes; she saved everyone but the pilot.

"Now, I'd usually just get on with it and put a bullet in your brainpan. But this here little girl, the one with the giant fuck-all knife to your throat, she was rather fond of Inara. And life being what it is, she's been dreaming of revenge. Far be it from me to get in the way of that desire. 'Specially seeing as how I've got a hankering to see you suffer myself."

How River (his genius sister with her mangled amygdala, an interesting surgery that scrambled her brains and left bits of other people floating in her mind) now travels the 'verse with a tan lan pirate captain. Flies a fei liao ship without a sail, stealing from the rich and those that have.

"Little River's also a genius, damned creative, and a mite crazy. I'm sure she knows all sorts of ways to hurt you until I'm ready to kill you."

"Could skin him," River chirps. "Flaying won't kill him if we don't take too much." She angles the blade, drags it up to the point of Eden's chin and gently blows away the whiskers loosened and hovering on its edge. "Pass out. Bleed. Scream." River looks up at Mal, a question: "We could cut out his tongue first?"

Mal scrubs at his chin with the curl of his fist, "Well, now, that might solve all sorts of problems, but it also takes away from some of the fun." His words fall like stones, a fury-filled snarl that echoes. "I want to hear him scream."

River presses a kiss against Eden's balding head, leans her cheek against his. "Too bad," she says. "Simon could have put the tongue beside the Adam's apple, a matched pair on the edge of his desk."

"What did I tell you, creative. Now, Mr. March, creative as she is," Mal winks at River and River's girl parts sing in response. "in many arenas, I don't want you to think that she'll be the one doing the killing. That'll be me. Eye to eye." Mal pauses. "River, you be sure to leave his eyes in his head." He straightens up. "Like I was sayin', I'll kill you man to man. River's just gonna have a little fun first. Girl deserves to have a little fun."

Eden March, warned by his mama so many times to curb his temper and watch his fascination with fast women could see the end of his life spinning out before him, ended at the sure, delicate hands of a moon-eyed girl and her granite-jawed lover.

"Now Jayne's gonna stand just inside the door here and take care of any heavy lifting."

"Keep Kaylee out," River reminds him. "She won't understand. Can't look. Kaylee's too soft on the inside."

Mal nods and smiles, not unpleasantly. "Meanwhile, me and my first mate are going to go and map out a nice, empty rock to dump your broken bones on when we're done with you."

As the infirmary doors slide closed Mal smiles one more time. Blows a kiss at the girl delicately lifting a scalpel from a steel tray.

"You have fun, now, y'hear?"

River reaches for one of Eden March's dirty, stubby hands. "We'll start with the fingernails," she says. "People can live without fingernails."


nan yi zhi xin de mei li - incredibly beautiful
daio bu ti mian - dirty, shameful
yao jing - evil spirit/alluring woman
bu tong dan dong yang - exactly the same but different (I think, and very loosely translated)
zang shang liu - filthy, upper class
tan lan - avaricious/greedy/rapacious/insatiable/greedy/avid
xie xie - thank you
fei liao - manure