The moon has lost her memory

"You really think that kid's going to be better off riding in the back of my car?"

Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine and the girl doesn't belong to me either.

Rating: M (Language, sex, angst)

Characters: Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester, River Tam

Pairings: Sam/River (Het)

Author's Notes: This is part of my Firefly/Supernatural crossover series, Rhapsody of a Windy Night.

Spoilers/Warnings: None

She's as still as a statue, her head bent like an angel in a cemetery.

River doesn't look up when the little dark-haired girl sits down in front of her, both of them cross-legged in the grass, but she holds out her cupped hands so the little girl can peer into them. The girl's fingers curl over hers, small shoulders stiffening with a gasp when Sam sees a red dot near River's thumb.

"Don't be scared. They love to kiss flowers – especially pink ones." River's voice is soft and she leans forward with a smile. "It's good luck to be kissed by a ladybug."

She murmurs a silent secret that makes the smile brighten and the little girl scrunches up her face, shaking like she's a spring waiting to uncoil when the ladybug lands on her forearm – and Sam doesn't realize that he's holding his breath until it flies away two heartbeats later, lost in the rustle of tall grass as green as the stains on River's bare feet. A breeze ruffles River's hair and the capped sleeves of her dress when the little girl laughs.

"How did you do that?" The little girl's eyes are wide.

"Ladybugs always listen to the wind," she replies, her eyes just as round until River pokes a freckle-splashed nose. "It's how they know when to fly."

Dean rolls his eyes when they stand up and she takes the little girl's hand, both of them swaying and spinning until they fall giggling into the grass. He's been leaning against the pump, watching her more than he's watching the numbers flicker on the display.

"This is fucking fantastic," he snorts, shoving the rest of his Three Musketeers bar into his mouth. "We're dragging around some girl who talks to bugs."

"What were we supposed to do? Leave her at Waverly Grove?"

"Damn straight. You really think that kid's going to be better off riding in the back of my car? At least she was safe in the loony bin." Dean jerks the pump handle in her direction. "Just look at her. She's three buckets of crazy we don't need."

"I get that, but…"

He couldn't let her waste away in that asylum, not after he found out from Dr. Brubaker that River Tam was running towards a life brighter than the one Sam Winchester lost in a fire. Her friends found her twitching underneath a light post on the path to the library, eyes rolled up into her head while her nose bled; victim to the seizure that ended her life the same night it ended her summer term at Bryn Mawr.

It wasn't a coincidence that she collapsed on the same night a yellow-eyed demon opened his gateway to Hell – not when she woke up a week later screaming about whispers in the thunder and the black clouds that stained people's hearts when lightning crackled across the sky. She had ripped out her IV and knocked out a nurse before they found her huddled in the corner of a stairwell, scratching at her bleeding arms and scratching at her bleeding legs and scratching anyone who tried to touch her.

The doctors pumped her full of enough thorazine to knock out a horse, tying her up with leather restraints to keep her from hurting herself, but that hadn't kept River Tam from shrieking herself to sleep; from begging whoever was listening to rip out her rotting seeds before she spoiled.

He's read the doctors' reports so many times that he knows every drug she was given as part of her psychotropic cocktail and can recall every detail of her graduation picture, the way she's laughing when she pushes away a lock of wet hair – her gown soaked from the rain she had probably danced through the same way she dances with little girls at gas stations.

The girl in the overflowing manila folder he keeps in the bottom of his duffel bag isn't even the same one who stared down into his eyes the night he woke up, a shuddering girl who sighed when his lips brushed skin; all rocking hips and stuttered groans that made him thrust harder and scream into her mouth when his back arched. A girl who could turn a kiss into a promise, her pulse fluttering around his cock when her tongue darted past his lips.

But sometimes Sam thinks he can see a glimmer of the girl in her cap and gown, down to the valedictorian tassel on her cap and the smell of the rain pouring behind her in the archway, when River starts reciting Shakespeare like iambic pentameter is her native tongue.

"…ing to me? This is never going to work."

"It has to work." Sam shakes his head sharply, knuckles scrubbing down his cheek. "We screwed up, Dean. We didn't close the gate fast enough and she's the one who ended up broken. How fair is that?"

"About as fair as blaming yourself for it when you're not the one who opened it. Lots of people got broken that night. Every town we pull into has another person broken by some son of a bitch." The muscles in Dean's jaw tighten, his eyes flicking towards anything but Sam's face. "You can't save everyone, Sammy. Even when you die trying."

It hits like a punch in the stomach, a warning wrapped up in Dean's fists and the white knuckles stark against his ripped jeans. He watches Jess burning on the ceiling and sees the stretch of white skin around Madison's eyes before he pulls the trigger. Sam hears the howl of dogs following Dean wherever they go, listening to shallow breaths while he lays awake at night; the constant reminder that Sam's the fuck-up who can't even figure out a way to save his own brother.

He doesn't notice River's hand twisting into his until she tilts her head and leans onto his arm.


The title of this story is a line from the poem "Rhapsody of a Windy Night" by T.S. Eliot.

This is set in my Rhapsody of a Windy Night 'verse. I am using Sam's POV for the lj user=spn_30snapshots challenge, though I suspect I'll use it to fulfill other challenges as well. I did try to match the "tone" of River's POV in this by writing it in the present tense, which I rarely do. But since this whole 'verse is about challenging myself, I figured…what the hell…

The timeline I chose to follow for Season Three is the one put together by Killabeez, using the track that is based on Sam's statement that all of the psychic kids are twenty-three – which puts the night that the gate to Hell was opened as sometime in mid-June. I know there's an alternate view which believes Dean's number was up on Sam's birthday but Killa's reasoning for the June timeline rang true with me. This bears no relevance to the actual storyline. I'm just that anal. And a little crazy myself… ;-P

Ironically, iambic pentameter is one of the natural meters used when speaking English. The things you learn in advanced poetry classes.

Bryn Mawr has summer terms for high school students but…I changed it a little so that River was attending a freshman-level class for the purpose of this story.