La, la, la, Firefly isn't mine. I'm just a priestess at the Joss altar.

***

It's a good day. Or, anyway, it's a good time-after-waking-up-and-before-going-to-sleep, the whole timekeeping concept of day and night becomes irrelevant in the black. There's no need to function by such constructs when they have no basis; there's no sun or moon to judge the passing of time by. (If she had her way, she'd abandon it altogether; sleep when she was tired, eat when she was hungry, but Simon frets when she gets it in her mind to do these things at what he calls "inappropriate times," and claims it's best to keep to a sort of schedule, to maintain regularity, particularly if they have to dock and find themselves subjected to someone else's notion of "time" again, as they are now.)

But when she wakes, there's no cold sweat that comes with the fear, and none of the overactive heartbeat that indicates she might have been having a nightmare again. Based on this, she's in a good mood as she slips into her thin little print dress, wandering barefoot up to the galley. (Simon likes her to eat breakfast, all part of his "schedule" - he's still too tied to what he'd call "civilized life," she thinks, though she doesn't dwell on that too long at risk of coming head-to-head with that nagging guiltish feeling she associates with knowing it's her fault he's separated from it.) Inara and the Shepherd are brewing tea, and very kindly inviting words - good morning, sweetie - Inara is subject to the constructs of time, too - would you like to join us? - spill out of Inara's deep red mouth. All is in order, the Shepherd is in his tidy false-morning state and not his about-to-sleep disorganization and chaos, so River sits at the beat-up table, folding one leg under her, and drinks the tea that she's offered, sweetened with something like sugar and diluted with something like milk (she doesn't like it too strong; she portions the additives precisely before stirring them in). She sees the Shepherd and Inara exchanged pleased smiles, smiles that celebrate her lucidity, when they think she's not paying attention. They still haven't learned she'll always notice.

After she's finished, she finds they've started in on a spiritual discussion, and when she has been so far in a good mood, she doesn't want to spoil it with thoughts of noncorporeal beings allegedly watching in the sky above the sky; to hear the Shepherd's symbol-book tell it, they believed their god was in the sky, but River can't accept that; after all, they are in the sky, Serenity and other ships and other planets, so wouldn't that imply the so-called heavens surround them? And doesn't that contradict the notion that their god is otherworldly, then? The men who invented the symbology didn't think to answer these questions for the future; did their god only apply to Earth-That-Was, then? Instead of staying and finding herself frustrated, rolling her eyes, getting into arguments that would negate the earlier smiles, she curves her own little mouth into a semblance of a smile and wanders out, bare feet whisper-stepping against the metal-grating floor. The ship is hers today, she possesses it thoroughly; Captain has taken Zoe and Jayne on a job, and Wash and Kaylee went to gather supplies, and (yes, she's glad he did, she wanted him to) Simon accompanied them. (Kaylee works harder than any of the rest of the crew to make sure River smiles, that River's awake hours are pleasant, and River tries to return the favor; she wouldn't be inclined to share her brother with just anyone, but jie jie Kaylee deserves him, she's decided.)

Once she's in the main hold, a thought strikes her. All the levels and stairs and beams, the floors and grating and poles and chains, it's not unlike the sort of place a gymnast-dancer might train. One railing becomes a barre, another a set of uneven bars, a balance beam, even a surface like for vaulting. Her muscles begin to ache at the thought, and she wishes she had resin. Oh well, she thinks, and, with a concentrated expression, leaps onto the nearest railing, balancing her weight evenly between her two feet, testing for stability. She finds it adequate, and, tilting her head backwards to judge the distance, tips towards a lower rail, reaching behind her with her hands and stretching her body between the two. Her hold is strong, firm, not slipping even without resin, and more confidently, now, she swings her feet up, finding herself standing on her hands, now.

A real smile breaks open, a face-splitting smile, and she almost, almost laughs; it's not long before she's about turned the hold into her own private playground, executing flawless flips and spins on the bars, always landing on her feet (there used to be gold and silver and bronze passed out for doing this, she remembers reading about it; she thinks she'd get all three). Sometimes just landing on one foot, the other extended like a ballerina, like a graceful bird. She loses track of what the others call "time" and when the door swings open, the others trailing in (from upside-down, she notices Kaylee and Simon are still speaking; he hasn't made a fool of himself today, and she'll congratulate him later), she doesn't think to stop.

Until, of course, Mal really catches sight of her vaulting herself about the landings, and near-screams, "Tian xiao de, River, what's the meanin' of turnin' my ship into a gorram jungle gym?" Jayne mutters things not worth repeating; Wash says something to try to get her down.

Time to dismount. She lands, as solidly as ever, gracefully, without so much as a wobble, two feet in front of the Captain's startled face. Immediately Simon rushes at her, exclaiming, "River, what were you thinking? Did you get yourself hurt?"

"No," she says, rolling her eyes. "It's not that sort of day."