A/N: I know it's been awhile for this story and I'm sorry for that, but the honest truth is this story has spun well out of my control and my mind is buzzing with a thousand different ideas running in two thousand different directions. I can however tell you this story has about five or six more updates if I go where I think I'm going, but do not fear there is a planned sequel floating around inside my brainpan though it will be a few weeks after the conclusion is up for this story before you will see hide or hair of it, mainly because I need to learn to pace myself, running three stories at once is a bit much. The good news is however since the holidays are pretty much done as well as the remodeling on my house (THANK GOD!) I'll have more time to write and hopefully get back to the updating schedule I was on before the insanity began.
Sabrina1204- Ty for the bday wishes momma (all those days ago lol), it was absolutely fabulous. All will be well between our deadly duo before this chapter is through, and don't count old George out just yet *wink* maybe lol. I thought for a minute about finding a 'cure' for Reavers but I highly doubt that anyone would want to live after being brought back from being a Reaver, but I am banging around a few ideas over a vaccine so to speak, though I think it's a bit beyond Simon since he was a trauma surgeon and not any kind of researcher, though between Mr. Top three percent and super genius River they might be able to do something, got a lot rolling around in the old brainpan over that.
Karakot-Thanks for the reviews and I realized that my translation for ta de ma was lacking, after reading the correct version in another story it will be fixed from this point on. Sorry to keep you waiting for the update.
I-Am-Silence- Don't you worry this will get done :D
Don't own a gorram thing *sniffle*
"The girl is sorry," River spoke quietly from the doorway of the bunk she shared with Riddick, whom sat still and nearly completely concealed from sight in the far corner blanketed by shadows, the subtle reflection of light off his gleaming eyes the only indicator of his position.
Riddick did not reply, nor did his gaze falter.
"The girl will go where her beast goes," she continued, approaching him slowly, he made no move to neither encourage nor discourage her actions. "The beast did not actually violate his promise, his thoughts strayed but his actions did not follow, it was the girl who crossed the forbidden line, it was the girl who danced and slashed inside his mind, she is ashamed." Her voice became even softer as she spoke, pushing aside his arms to crawl into his lap. He did not fight her, nor did he enclose her in his arms as he would have. River bit back her tears, she deserved his silence. "The Warrior and the Wash told her to dance, told her she must, but they are not of the living, merely shadows in her mind, the girl acknowledges they have nothing left to lose and the girl has everything. It had been too long since the dinosaurs laughed, since she heard their voices, she allowed the echoes of their rage to pollute her." She continued removing the plastic red Trex from her pocket, "they do not speak, they cry for vengeance their god ripped from the sky and his mate left to bleed on the grass, it is the ghosts that demand the dying and the living are deaf to all calls beside their own."
Riddick took the toy dinosaur from her hands, examining it from every angle, his eyes missing nothing in the darkness and finally he spoke, his voice a low gravelly rumble, there was no anger left in him, in fact his tone was nothing but gentle and soothing, "It's just an object. Doesn't mean what you think."
River wrapped her arms around his neck, choosing to ignore the fact his arms still remained at his sides, and nuzzled into his neck, "The girl imbues it with what she wishes, she wishes that the Wash and his Warrior Queen still walked among the sea of diamonds, and so she hears the echoes of their voices, she acknowledges they no longer exist, she acknowledges what she hears is nothing more than memories and assumptions of their reactions to current situations based on observed behavior from their prior existences, ashes to ashes dust to dust, London bridge has fallen down and the fair lady drowns in the waters weighted by stones and bricks and guilt. She should have seen, she should have known, she sent them to their deaths and now incorrectly assumes spilling more blood will make it right, blood does not atone blood. The girl whom seeks vengeance should begin by digging four graves, for she will die, the ballerina will fall, the beast will be hunted and the man will wither, the girl will destroy her own world trying to escape from it, the girl misunderstood their intention, 'don't let us die in vain' they told her, she assumed they wanted blood, she never guessed they wanted life, they wanted the girl to live, not die cowering in a corner of her mind, they wanted her to climb broken and bleeding back into the sea of diamonds, back into the black, where she may dance in the stars with their memories." Quiet tears ran along her pale chilled cheeks as she rambled, desperate for a reaction any sign of forgiveness he would offer for what she had done. "Please the girl begs you, I, I beg you forgive her and she will not fall to pieces, they're objects all of them, never what you think , the girl, the boy, the ballerina and the beast it's not what you think, she is not as you think, do not forsake her!" Her sobs grew louder, her chest heaving in gasping breaths as she clutched the thin fabric of his tank behind his neck pleading with him to love her still.
"Can't you read me girl?" his voice rumbled low.
"The girl will not enter unbidden, she has committed sin, she will not force her way in again."
Riddick crushed her against him, inhaling in deeply her sorrow and fear, her abject terror at the thought she could not be forgiven, "Done told you bao bei ain't nothin' comes between us, ain't ever gonna want you out of my head girl." He growled into her ear pressing his forehead against hers. "But them things, Serenity, just objects, ain't what you think, Serenity ain't you're home bao bei, the crew ain't your people, I am your home, I am your people, everything else was just biddin' your time 'til I could come for you girl."
"The girl acknowledges this." She said quietly against his chest, the confession causing a tiny tear in her heart, Serenity had never truly been her home, and the crew never truly her family, not even Simon, not since the moment they cut into her brain and stole all she was and all she could have been, and now all that remained in this 'verse was the beast whom cradled her now, her existence was entirely dependent on his.
Silently she raised her face to meet his lips.
Mal sat in the darkened cockpit alone with only his thoughts for company, and it was company he could do without. Zoe. Never thought a day would come where he'd be headin' into a fight without her on his six. Mayhap Riddick was right, mayhap the dead should be left as the dead and not carried as chains on the livin'. How many of the livin' got dead but tryin' to keep the dead alive? Ain't like he had any kind of plan of gettin' to the hun dan, little 'Tross hadn't had time to trace the signal fore word of Inara got to them, more likely than not he was long gone by now, only way a man like that stays alive after pullin' a job like that was to stay movin' keep on the run, hell with all the gorram Reavers huntin' the 'verse now only safe place for anybody was on the run, stayin' put, stayin' groundside was like puttin' yourself on a warming tray for a buffet line, might not get ate in the first run, but you'd be fresh and delicious on the second.
Mercifully he was startled out of his own thoughts by a sudden beeping and he hit the comm. channel without a thought, desperate for distraction.
"Captain!" Kaylee squealed, her face lighting up.
"Hey there Kaylee girl," Mal returned her smile albeit half heartedly, man was worn down to the bone, more tired than any man should ever be.
"Been so worried Cap', where's the others? Everybody come out okay? You got Inara right? Had some trouble of our own, but we're all shiny, a little beaten up but shiny, where's Simon?"
Mal visibly flinched at her questions, but deflected hers with one of his own, his face narrowing, "What kinda trouble? Wasn't them bootleggin' boys was it?" He asked angrily unable to recall the greasy hun dans name, a detail which seemed utterly insignificant in the grand scheme.
"Nah cap'," Kaylee's voice got quieter, "Weren't the only ones who thought Antheia was a good place to lay low."
"Who was it Kaylee?" Mal demanded, a familiar fire rising in his throat, anger was good, anger he could use, better than the guilt.
"Niska," her voice was a low whisper.
"Xi niu di yu (cow sucking hell)!" Mal swore, "Put Jayne on!" Mal demanded ready to ream out his gun hand for letting the gorram bastard get close to his crew again.
"Ain't a pretty sight cap, just warnin' you, but we got 'im out for anything permanent was done."
"What?" Mal asked confused.
"Jayne got nicked protectin' me and Jack, he got torn up somethin' fierce but George helped us get 'em out."
"Shouldn't got any of us nicked," Mal heard Jayne grunt.
"Ai ya tian a (Merciless hell)!" Mal swore again as Jayne stepped into view.
"Ain't a thing Cap, by the by gorram bastard's dead, and I took a little somethin' special for you Cap, just didn't have time to bring 'em back for ya, ya know with all the explodin' and shootin' goin' on there, bit fuzzy really on what went down after that part, George said I'd lost a bit 'o blood, but fucker went to meet the devil without any gorram ears." Jayne smirked, scratching' at a scab, "Ow." He swore when Kaylee smacked his hand away.
"Ain't gonna get better iffin' you don't stop pickin Jayne Cobb!" She scolded.
Mal forgot himself for a moment and smiled a genuine smile, unsure of whether or not to attribute it to the smack or the fact at least one gorram bastard who deserved to be dead was dead.
"'Nough 'bout us Cap, we's shiny and accounted for, got Serenity in shape to, old girl will be ready to fly when you land, you got our lambs?"
Mal swallowed hard, ""Nara and her girl are onboard, have the ship ready to fly when we get there, gotta stop to make on Haven."
"Why we goin' to Haven Cap?" Kaylee asked suspiciously, though over her shoulder Mal could see the immediate change on Jayne's face.
"Who was it Cap?" He demanded.
"Who was what? What's goin' on?" Kaylee's voice trembled.
"We lost Zoe," Mal managed to croak out.
"No…" Kaylee's eye widened and Jayne managed to catch her before she went down, holding her tightly against his chest as she sobbed.
"Be ground side in less than three days, be ready for us." Mal said, his voice even and void of emotion. "And Jayne, you take care of our girls."
"We'll see ya in three days Captain." Jayne answered, his face a carefully composed mask, though his voice trembled slightly.
"Kaylee?" Jack immediately jumped up from the table, "What happened you reach them?" She asked, panic lacing her voice.
"Yeah we got 'em, lost Zoe." Jayne said plainly.
Jack released a secret sigh of relief, sorry that Zoe had to die, but grateful it had not been Riddick. "When will they be dirt side?"
"Three days, Jack, take Kaylee into the bedroom, sit with her for awhile." Jayne asked, his voice unusually soft as he transferred a sobbing Kaylee into Jack's embrace and watched uselessly as Jack led her away, collapsing into a chair at the table the moment the door closed behind them.
George didn't speak, instead he rose and pulled a whiskey bottle out from a cabinet above his sink and filled three glasses to the brim.
Jayne accepted his gratefully, lightly clicking his glass against the third sitting on the table in front of a vacant chair. "Went down fightin' Zoe, ain't a better death in the 'verse."
"Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds" George saluted.
Jayne snorted and drained his glass, "Ain't a single bit of good we done worth shit in this 'verse old man, we hadn't done the good, we hadn't been to Miranda her old man and her would be sittin' at this table slamming 'em back with us, instead of us sittin' here doin' it in their memory."
"Ain't said good don't come with a price."
"When's it too much?" Jayne asked, holding out his glass for another.
"That's for everyman to decide for himself."
"Sound like Book, was the Sheppard onboard Serenity fore everythin' went to hell."
George laughed, "Ain't even close to bein' a Sheppard."
"Nah, I suspect you ain't." Jayne said sipping on his freshly poured glass, eyeing the full one untouched on the table next to him hatefully. How long fore Mal and them sat at a table absent him, a full untouched glass in his empty place?
Five days later….
There was no wind as they laid Zoe to rest beside her husband, no words were spoken, the only sound drifting in the still and stagnant air was the incessant creaking of the ropes as the coffin was lowered into the grave, accompanied by Kaylee's soft sniffling as she battled against the heart wrenching sobs which threatened to bubble from her lips, Simon tucked her closer into his side.
Jack and Riddick stood slightly away, his large hand resting on top her mess of short hair, this was not a moment meant for them, even Rhea kept her distance, unsure of her place or position amongst the crew.
Jayne puffed on a cigar, to keep the muscles in his face distracted, unwilling to break, he stared off into the distance.
Mal held his jaw firm, Inara tucked into his side much as Kaylee was into Simon's. A part of him refusing to believe what was happening, another part screaming and shrieking in rage, but that was concealed on the inside, on the outside he was Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds, burying another causality of war.
It was River who finally spoke, her voice cutting through the silence like a sharpen knife through flesh, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." She said softly, allowing a handful of yellow orange dust to spill from between her fingers and into the hollow grave.
Dinner was a quiet affair, no one quite knowing what to say, though all of them desperate to break the silence, all save Riddick perhaps, though it was him who finally did, "Your move Captain."
Mal looked up from his plate, "Ain't figured it yet Riddick."
"Got a crew waitin' on you to get on with it." Riddick answered harshly though he calmly continued to eat. He and Mal had an unspoken truce after their last conversation, the balance and strength of which was tenuous at best.
"Ain't got a move to make," Mal confessed after another moment passed in silence, not even having the energy nor will to be angry. "The General more than likely ain't stayin' put, got no hopes of trackin' him 'til he shows his pig gu again."
"What's the point?" Kaylee asked quietly.
"Ain't got an answer little Kaylee." He replied.
"If it isn't too much trouble, I have an aunt on Paquin, you have given so much to me already, I would be grateful." Rhea asked quietly from the end of the table, surprising a few of the crew, outside of Inara it was more words then anyone had heard the girl every speak at once.
"Ground ain't safe," Jayne gruffed out.
"If it's all the same I would still like to be with what little family I have left, I mean no disrespect and please believe me when I voice my gratitude, but life out here, on this ship, doing what you all speak on so easily, I'm sorry, it is not the life I was meant for."
River frowned out at the girl, nothing more than porcelain doll, and just as insignificant.
"Ain't see no harm to it, iffin' that's what you want girl, don't make no one stay that wants off," Mal answered, though his pointed glare was aimed at Riddick.
"I guess Paquin is as good as any other place to go," Kaylee said. "Still need to work iffin' we're gonna keep Serenity in the black, Reavers or not, fuel and parts still cost creds."
"Far enough out them New Reavers ain't likely to hit it yet," Mal mused.
"Yeah still got the old to worry on," Jayne snorted.
"Got a friend on Paquin," Riddick suddenly spoke, though it was more of a thought aloud.
River dropped her chopsticks, her body trembling as her mind's eye caught the image of Riddick's friend.
"Well iffin' that ain't a gorram ominous sign." Jayne forked another mouthful of protein in.
"Ain't the man he was River girl," his voice was a soft rumble, "he's the one that led me to you in the end, caught up with him a few months after Miranda, he's the one told me 'bout the ship and crew, helped me track your scrawny pig gu 'cross the verse."
Mal's eyes narrowed.
"The Operative," River's voice answered Mal's unspoken thoughts.
An immediate uproar followed, silenced by Riddick's snarl and the smashing of a plate as it collided with the wall. "Ni men dou bi zui! (Shut up all of you!)," he roared, almost surprised as the table obeyed. "Goin' there anyway to drop of the little whore in training," Riddick ignored the indignant huffs of Inara and Rhea, and continued, "mayhap man's got some information that will lead ya'll to the General, since you seem so hell bent on finding him."
"Ya'll?" Mal questioned an eyebrow raised.
"Done told you Mal wasn't my fight, taking me and mine and kicking on when we get dirt side, just said you're self you don't make none stay who don't want to."
"You're not taking River anywhere!" Simon yelled back at him.
"Ask her Doc," Riddick took his seat again, leaning back with a smug smirk, "Ask your sister."
"River?" Simon questioned cautiously.
"The girl follows her beast." River said studying her plate.
"Where we headin' Big Bad?" Jack asked smiling, pleased by the turn of events, she didn't really mind sharing Riddick with River, but that was as far as her generosity would go, and while she'd gotten close to Kaylee and Jayne and didn't really mind the ship overly much iffin' Riddick said it was time to kick on, well strap your fuckin' boots on and move.
"Ain't sure yet Jack, but disappearin' into the black is what I do best," he gave her an approving smirk, to which she beamed.
River could feel the rage rolling of the crew, even the man named Jayne seemed to be angry though he concealed it best, they felt betrayed and River saw no solution. If she left she would betray her family, if she stayed her beast and reason for existing. She had hoped that he would grow into her pack, she had hoped he would find the same sanctuary she had, and he would have, if things had been different, but they were not, and dwelling was impractical. "The girl does not wish to leave." She said quietly.
"Then she stays." Jayne said his food forgotten.
River shook her head, "Clarity is in direct relation to the distance between the girl and her beast, the further he drifts, the further the girl does as well, she will not lose herself again."
"Gorram it!" Mal snapped suddenly, the whole of the table turning and shrinking back as he cleared his end with a swoop of his arm, he offered no further explanation as he turned his back and stormed out of the mess.
Inara stood to follow but River halted her, "The captain wishes for solitude."
"What does it matter to you River?" Inara snapped back coldly, "You've made your decision."
"The perfumed woman damns the girl for a choice she herself has once made, she has no right, none at all to judge the girl whose reasons are more worthy then hers could have ever been. This girl does not run from her heart, she runs to follow it." River responded emotionlessly shocking Inara with truth.
"This isn't happening," Simon mumbled.
"I'll take you to meet Darius, we part there." Riddick growled from his end of the table before standing.
"She doesn't want to leave," Kaylee said, "why make her leave us," she finished, tears spilling from her cheeks for the hundredth time that day, her heart weighted down by more than she thought she was able to bare, the sunshine in her soul which had burned so brightly fading to a dull glow.
"Better off on our own," was his only reply as he turned his back on the mess.
"The beast is afraid, afraid the girl puts herself at risk for the others, afraid he will lose her because she needs to protect, doesn't want the girl to protect, wants to protect the girl, thinks this is the way. He will take her and hide her in the Shadows, in the darkness where he is the biggest and the strongest."
"How can he be so cruel?" Kaylee asked.
"Fuck you!" Jack snapped, "Ya'll talkin' like Riddick is the fuckin' bad guy, he ain't! Only thing he wants to do is keep us safe, lost two of your crew fore we even gots here, and since we been here ya lost another and me and Kaylee had to go break Jayne outta the hands of some psycho fuck ya'll pissed off. And that's not even talkin' 'bout that fuckin' Alliance fiasco in New Mecca, fact is iffin' it weren't for the Reavers and me, ya'll woulda been pinched by the Feds. Captain's got a knack for gettin' his crew in trouble and pissin' off the wrong people, that's all Riddick sees is a hundred and one ways for Mal to get her killed."
Jayne snorted, "More than crew kid, we's family, thought that'd been explained to ya, ya don't just up and run on family, not when you're needed."
"The choice has been made." River said firmly, "further debate is futile." She rose from the table and followed the trail of her beast's mind, Jack following on her heels.
"It's over ain't?" Kaylee asked more to herself than anyone.
"What's over bao bei?" Simon asked.
"Serenity, us, the 'verse, everythin', ain't a home without a family to call it, ain't a ship without a crew to fly it, everybody's dyin' or leavin'." Kaylee said, her voice tainted with despair.
"Ain't goin' nowhere mei-mei," Jayne told her.
"Nor I," Inara voiced, "I've learned my lesson."
"And nothing in the 'verse can keep me from you bao bei," Simon told her wrapping his arms around her.
Endnote: Okay so I know it's another shortie chappie and ya'll deserve something much longer but I have a terrible headcold and this is the best I can do, not entirely happy with it either but I'm going somewhere with this I promise. One of the things I'm trying to show is the sense of uncertainty in the air right now, what do they do? How do they go on? Is vengeance worth the price? And if it is what exactly are they gaining? Nothing they can do will change the fact the 'verse is over run by Reavers and Zoe is gone and the ship still needs fuel and coin to get by, just what the hell are they supposed to do now?
Hope it didn't completely suck and that ya'll stick around for the next few updates.
Til After Now.