Title: The Menagerie
Summary: We're all just animals, living in a steel cage in nothingness. River's POV.
Spoilers: None in particular, just need a general knowledge of the show.

Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen.

That's all we are, all we'll ever be. Just chemical compositions and electric impulses, no different than an earthworm's.

We're all just animals, living in a steel cage in nothingness.

There's an Elephas maximus. The Elephant is wisest and oldest. He remembers and he knows and he ponders. He makes all believe he is the gentle giant but he has a secret. A secret that has tucks bathed in blood and a trunk raised in violence.

Perhaps that is why he seeks to redeem Ursus arctos horriblis from his violence. The Grizzly Bear is too big for the cage and too wild for the menagerie. He growls and he paces and he fights to stay wild. The Bear is always hungry. For food, for objects, for power, for rank, for freedom. Nothing can fill him, he wants more, always more and the others do not seek him. We stay away from the Bear.

All except Equus ferus. Our Stallion does not let the Bear bully him, nor let him keep away. He challenges him, talks with him, drinks with him to keep him tame. Unusual friendship, the Stallion and the Bear.

But the Stallion is unusual. Freedom claims his soul and makes him wild too, makes him want to run and keep running, with no master and no fence to hold him. But he is a good Stallion. He always cares for his herd because they are his. He cannot let them down; will not let them down. So he takes the bit in his mouth and leads on.

But there is one he lets down. Cygnus buccinators. The Swan may fly from bird to bird to grace them with her beauty, but she is a Swan. Swans mate for life and the mate she wants will not accept her. So the Stallion lets her down with every unspoken denial and she hurts, as though an arrow has been let loose to pierce her white-feathered breast.

Even Panthera pardus see it, and sees how the Stallion suffers to hurt the Swan. The Panther has been with the Stallion so long she sees everything he does not say.

The Panther is like the Bear in her strength and skill but quiet, a perfect killing shadow in the night. Her hunt is flawless and her patience skilled; coiled energy in wait.

But she is not wild like the Stallion or the Bear. She has been tamed by Pteropus scapulatus and is glad, takes joy in her captivity, her strength and his speed and they function. A perfect harmony of opposites.

The Fox Bat flies us, so keen and so sharp with his senses and his agile wings that we see nothing he cannot do. He spirit soars like his wings and he is joyful, gives that joy to us all as he can.

But the Fox Bat would not fly half so well without Morpho amathonte. The precious Butterfly, so fragile and so small that all fear to crush her. Yet she is as strong as she is pretty and as smart as she is light. The flash and flutter of her wings softens all, even the Stallion and the Bear and she is held dear.

And the one most precious to her, Canis familaris. Poor Show Dog, led on a pretty leash and made to do a pretty walk for so long that now his collar is gone and he longs for it, cannot see his freedom.

So he created another leash and tied himself to Dendrobates pumilio. Dart Frog. I think I was meant to be a Tursiops truncates, a Dolphin, but that doesn't seem to matter now. Not since They took me.

I am the Dart Frog, pretty little amphibian they admire from afar for her color and her grace but not to touch. Never to touch because touch could mean death and they're afraid.

They should be.

Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen.

We're all just animals.

Fin.

A/N: Some of the scientific name-to-common-name-translations have been kinda generalized for the sake of fluidity of the writing. For example, Morpho amathonte is a specific type of butterfly, not a general classification for the entire insect species.

For links and information on the species mentioned in "The Menagerie", head over to the entry of this story on my livejournal (http://connie-welsh(dot)livejournal(dot)com/27205(dot)html). You'll also find a neat fanart that my friend Sarah did of Bear!Jayne! :)