The Merry Men of Robin Hood

Mal walked slowly through the ship, scanning the walls and doors carefully; keeping a particularly close eye on the ceiling.

He was looking for River, who had somehow managed to give him the slip and vanished into the ship, going who knew where and doing damage he didn't even want to think about.

It wasn't exactly his fault. She'd been pretty motivated to get away from him, after all. She hadn't been too thrilled with the whole babysitting thing, and he couldn't exactly blame her. He wouldn't like it either, if he was in her shoes.

But the facts remained that she couldn't be trusted alone on the ship; last time they had attempted leaving her by herself she had dismantled the entire navigation system, rearranged her brother's infirmary by discovery of medicines, and decorated the rooms of the crew with drawings of random wildlife she thought 'suited their personality'.

It wasn't all bad; the changes she made to navigation saved fuel and time, and some of the crew, especially Simon and Kaylee, loved the drawings, but the point was that although she had been helpful this time, next time she might not be so inclined.

Mal still had worries that if they left her alone again, they would return to a missing Serenity and be stuck wherever they were until River decided to return the ship – if she even did.

He hadn't been the only one either, but as captain it was his job to lay down the law. Which, in retrospect, probably wasn't the smartest idea he could have done, because he ended up watching the crazy girl while the others hit the town.

He understood Inara (client) and Kaylee (engine pieces) just fine, and the doc had rattled off a list of medical equipment that made his eyes glaze over just listening, but the buyer didn't hate him so much that Zoe and Jayne had decided to leave him behind.

He had only shot him once, in the leg. Politely too, he might add. Shouldn't be any hard feelings still floating around, and if there was his advice was to suck it up and get over it…perhaps mentioning this was why he was here and not there…he was sure there was a moral there somewhere, possibly about thinking before he spoke…

Oh, that's right. Before you speak the gorram truth aloud, make sure Inara is in a good mood and over fifteen feet away (that woman, she had ears like a bat).

So yes, he was stuck on watching moonbrain duty while the rest of the crew attended to various needs in the town. He wished he at least had Wash though, or Book. They were much better at handling the girl than he was; alas, Wash had much pressing business to do in town, something about slinky dresses, and Book had begged off on the excuse that the last time he River-sat she dissected his bible and then freaked out about his hair and hid in one of the many hidey-holes.

He sighed and turned the corner, listening intently for any signs that River was nearby. There was nothing and he sighed again. He was tempted to just call for her, but he figured that she'd think he was engaging in this game of hers and just hide deeper.

The last thing he needed was her starting a new game of hide and seek; the last time they hadn't found her for over three days, and Simon had been climbing the walls in terror. Jayne had locked himself in his bunk, convinced 'Crazy's on the rampage; ain't none of us gonna survive. She's gonna slaughter us all like sheep or somethin'.' The game had ended in a semi-heart attack for Simon when she had abruptly popped out of the ceiling directly above his head and announced she was bored.

So he was a little worried about another game. And for good reason.

Something caught his attention suddenly and he tilted his head, listening hard. He had almost decided he hadn't heard anything at all when the sound came again, so low it was almost off the hearing scale; a giggle. The girl was giggling. His heart sunk in his chest; this was almost certainly going to turn into a game.

Nonetheless he began to follow the giggling, which was now almost constant, in the direction of the kitchen/dining room.

As he approached it got louder and louder, although never quite breaking the barrier between quiet enough to be trouble and loud enough for hysterics.

He was just beginning to worry about her finding a shiny knife or some such toy when he turned into the room and saw her, perched on the table cross-legged, hair hanging all around her, snickering endlessly. It was immediately apparent what was the cause of her amusement.

In her hand, there was a very large bar of chocolate.

XXXXXXXXX

Oh dear lord, was the first thought to flash across his mind. River and chocolate was a recipe for disaster, make no mistake about it. Just the thought of the girl anymore hyped-up than she currently was was enough to make him nervous.

"Whatcha got there Tross?" he asked instead, keeping his voice steady and trying not to think about how Simon was going kill him when he got back.

Then he paused, rethinking that. Simon, kill him? Ha. And besides, River was eating chocolate. What was so bad about that? Sure she'd be excited, but god knew that kid could use some sunshine in her life. Besides, it wasn't like she was his problem; he'd just hand her off to Simon when he got back.

He smiled. Yes, that took care of that problem quite nicely. But still, it'd probably be good to know where that stuff came from, he didn't want Inara yelling at him 'bout how River had eaten some expensive gift thing from a client, although he doubted she'd mind much.

"Chocolate," River said, breaking off her giggling to watch him as he crossed the room and began making himself a cup of coffee.

"And where'd you get it?" he asked, hitting the button for the pot and turning back to the table, drawing up a chair across from her.

River looked around, eyes wide and suspicious, then inched closer to Mal, leaning in conspiratorially.

"It's a secret," she whispered, and then leaned back, smiling brightly. Mal bit back an answering smile and tried to focus on the fact she'd basically admitted to stealing chocolate from someone.

"Wasn't stealing," River said vehemently, shaking her head back and forth violently, hair whipping through the air. "It wasn't, really." She stared at him with giant eyes, suddenly terrified. "Please don't cut off my hand." Her eyes welled up with tears, and Mal almost fell out of his chair in shock.

"Wha-? There ain't going to be any hand-cutting-off going on here, I can promise you that. You're not in trouble, no need to cry." He leaned across the table, patting her awkwardly on the arm.

She blinked at him, sniffled a bit, and then suddenly her grin was back, even bigger than before, and she was vibrating in place slightly.

Mal wondered if it was possible to get whiplash from emotions; if so, River was making it into an art form.

"Wasn't stealing," River repeated. "Was liberating." Mal blinked at her, but her face was deadly earnest.

"You…liberated the chocolate?" he repeated. River nodded just as rapidly as she had before when denying the stealing; it wasn't going to be just him getting whiplash, Mal decided, girl was gonna give it to herself too.

"Yes," River said cheerfully, eyes bright. "Robin Hood. Liberate from the rich to give to the poor."

"So you stole, I mean liberated, chocolate from people who were…rich?"

"In chocolate."

"Riight. Rich in chocolate. So, if you're Robin Hood, why aren't you giving it to the poor instead of keeping it for yourself?"

River considered this, head tilting to the side as her brain processed this new information. Mal watched her for a moment, then got up to get coffee.

He poured the steaming beverage into a cup and then turned around, only to slop half the cup onto his hand and the floor as a sudden shriek echoed throughout the room and River sprouted from the floor in front of him, about an inch from his face.

This close, her pupils were dilated so much the black almost completely covered the color.

"How much chocolate have you had?!" It was louder than he'd intended, but River didn't even flinch.

"Two bars," she said absently, like she was commenting on the weather, and Mal felt ice trickle down his veins; two of those giant things? He was doomed.

"But, I figured it out," she continued excitedly, bouncing up and down and narrowly avoiding squashing his toes. "I'm Robin Hood, but I'm poor, so I gave myself chocolate as a tribute, and then I'll share the rest with my merry men." She beamed at him again.

"And who exactly are your merry men?" Mal asked, carefully stepping around her and placing his cup on the table before he went for napkins to mop up the floor and his hand.

"You," said River, in her duh voice. She probably would have smiled again, except for the fact her face seemed to be stuck perpetually in evil-psychopath-grin mode. Her face muscles were going to cramp tomorrow, Mal thought, finishing up the cleaning and sitting down to begin his coffee and try and sort through the madness that seemed to surround him.

"I'm your merry men?" he asked, taking a sip, swirling the coffee around in his mouth. It was excellent coffee.

"Yes," said River eagerly, and shoved the bar into his face, causing him to swallow the coffee abruptly and force it down the wrong airpipe. He doubled over choking as River hovered, ready to cram the chocolatey goodness down his throat the second he managed to straighten up and present her with a good enough opportunity.

"That's, good," wheezed Mal finally, raising his head slightly to eye the bouncing figure. "But, still don't, know where from," he gasped out, and swallowed half his cup in one gulp.

River stared at him for a few seconds, then eyed the chocolate in her hand speculatively.

"You want to see the castle," she said slowly, "So you can then partake of the treasure?" Mal nodded, and, finishing the rest of his coffee, stood.

"Indeed I do. Lead on, Sir Robin Hood." River took his hand with the one not holding the 'treasure' and begin pulling him out of the room.

"I should have realized you would want your own stash, Little John," she said conversationally. Mal frowned at her.

"I don't want to be called Little John," he complained. Yes, he knew he was being childish, but he really didn't care. As the captain, he deserved some sort of respect…maybe they should have a party. A party would be nice. Oh dear, that caffeine was strong. Maybe not such a good idea with River on the warpath.

"Name is deceiving," River explained, taking a right.

"Still," Mal said. She thought, and then nodded.

"You are correct, the deceiving name should be for one of equally confusing proportions; would you prefer Will Scarlet?"

"I like Will," Mal said reflectively. "I could be a Will. Do you think I could be a Will?" River nodded gravely. "Okay then, Will Scarlet it is then. Lead on, Robin Hood."

They stopped in front of Inara's shuttle, and Mal was instantly back in worried captain mode. Sure, playing with River was fun; he was beginning to understand why Wash liked it so much. Stealing chocolate from Inara? Not so fun.

"We have arrived at the castle," said River. She looked at him. "Are you afraid of the dragon?" she asked.

"If by dragon you mean Inara, then yes, Will is scared of the dragon eating him alive."

River patted him comfortingly on the arm, and then held out the almost untouched bar of chocolate.

"All for one and one for all," she said seriously, waving it around in front of him.

Mal grabbed it and shoved it into his mouth. If this thing gave courage, he needed courage. Inara might understand River playing around in her shuttle, but him? Another story entirely.

He chewed, swallowed, ate the rest of the bar, and waited, aware of River's eyes on him. It didn't take long. It was almost like caffeine actually; a massive rush of sugar hit him suddenly, and almost instantly going into Inara's shuttle didn't seem to be like such a bad idea. Sure, she might be angry, but it'd be an adventure.

"Well then," he said, and clapped his hands together. "Who's up for robbing us a castle?" River squealed and bounced up and down, then grabbed his hand and yanked him into the room.

He barely had time to look around before she was dragging him over to a large box balanced on one of her side tables.

When they got there River flipped open the lid, revealing the largest chocolate stash Mal had ever laid eyes on. There must have been thirty bars in there, neatly stacked and wrapped.

He couldn't help it, a grin broke across his face, and much as he tried to remove it, it felt like it was glued on. Looking across at River, he saw an identical evil smile on her face.

There was a pause as they both contemplated each other, conspirers in crime, and then in the next second they were both on top of each other, ripping the chocolate out of each other's hands and running like maniacs from the room with arms piled high with chocolate, laughing like lunatics.

Probably anyone witnessing said event would immediately call the mental asylum. And tell them to bring the police. And straitjackets. And the strongest tranquilizers known to man.

They arrived in the kitchen out of breath and still laughing, dropping down into their seats (Mal at the head, River on) and depositing their stacks in front of them.

River was bouncing up and down and clapping her hands like a child on Christmas Day, and Mal almost copied her, before realizing he was the captain and maybe this wasn't the best idea and-

River jammed an unwrapped bar into his hand, eyes intent, the pupils still gigantic.

"Eat the chocolate," she said, and her voice was almost scary.

Mal ate the chocolate. Felt the sugar hit. Noticed how the lights were all bright and shiny. Started giggling. River joined in.

Seven bars later, the world felt a whole hell of a lot better, and he had joined River on the table, his pile behind him, protected from River and her grabby fingers.

"Have you ever noticed how pretty spoons were?" Mal wondered, turning the implement over and over in his hands. The light reflected and made it all shiny, like little rainbows.

River leaned over, her head resting on his shoulder.

"Pretty pretty shiny shiny," she agreed, her eyes slightly crossed. She leaned forwards suddenly, poking at the spoon with one finger.

"There's someone in there!" she shrieked. Mal jerked forward, searching the spoon.

"There is," he breathed. "Do you think he's caught? Like, the Alliance trapped him or something?" They both paused a moment, pondering the enormity of that statement.

"Should we rescue him?" River asked, looking up at him.

"We should try," Mal said. He paused a moment, thought, and looked at River. "How?"

"We could…throw the spoon?" River suggested. Mal's eyes widened and he grabbed her by the shoulders, dropping the spoon in the process.

"You are a genius!" he yelled. River nodded enthusiastically, thrilled. Then she paused, looking at the spoon lying on the floor.

"Pick it up?" she asked. Mal looked down as well.

The distance…it was so far away. So much effort.

"Later," he decided. River nodded her agreement, but Mal felt like he had to justify himself. "He probably likes it there anyways," he said. River nodded again, swaying slightly.

"There are shiny things," she said. Now it was Mal's turned to nod, but it seemed like too much effort and he fell backwards instead, landing with a thump on the table. River fell back as well, and the two of them lay there, contemplating the light on the ceiling.

There were so many pretty rainbows, and the light was so nice and soothing…

"Do we live in a spoon?" River asked suddenly. Mal thought about it.

"Maybe we live in a spoon in someone else's world, and they're looking at us looking at our spoon and they're wondering the same thing."

There was a pause. River ate more chocolate.

"We don't," she said firmly. Mal looked at her. She propped herself and stared solemnly back.

"There would be more shiny things," she said seriously. Mal nodded; it made perfect sense.

"You're smart," he said. River nodded, and then reached over him and picked up one of his chocolate bars.

Mal jumped up and tried to grab it away, but she jumped away from him and held it away.

"That's my chocolate!" he yelled, feeling a need to protect the chocolate. His chocolate.

"Mine," protested River, trying to move away. He grabbed her and dragged her back. She bit him and he yelped in pain and jumped away, cradling his arm

"You bit me," he said in disbelief. She narrowed her eyes at him and bared her teeth in a snarl.

"My chocolate," she snapped. Mal snarled.

"That's my gorram chocolate, thank you very much."

River unwrapped the bar and bit into one corner. She chewed slowly, swallowed, and then smiled at him.

Mal bent down and hurled a wrapper at her. It floundered in midair and veered onto the floor, but the message remained.

"You threw something at me," River stated in disbelief. Mal stuck his tongue out at her.

The next thing he knew the air was full of a variety of silverware being hurled at him.

Hi eyes narrowed. Oh, she was going there was she? Stole his chocolate and threw spoons at him. She was going to pay.

He jumped off the table, yanked open the nearest drawer, saw the contents, and hurled a can of protein at her head.

She screamed and ducked, and the protein exploded on the cabinet behind her and showered both her hair and portion of the kitchen with protein.

River paused, and then slowly reached up and picked some protein out of her hair. She held the glop up, then flicked it at Mal, splattering him on the cheek.

"You got protein in. My. Hair," she said softly.

Mal glared at her. She glared back. Both took bites of chocolate. And then all hell exploded and the air was full of flying silverware, protein, packs of crackers and cans of peaches, and anything else they could get their hands on.

And then, just as it began in deadly earnest, there was a scream and they turned to see Inara standing there, her face white and her eyes wide.

"What," Inara started, "the hell?"

Mal pointed his finger at River; River pointed her finger at Mal.

"She started it."

"He started it."


"What is going on here?" yelled Inara, staring around at the wreck that once was the kitchen.

It was buried under a layer of what looked like broken cans, peaches, cracker dust, kitchen utensils, protein, and wait, were those wrappers? Chocolate wrappers?

"You ate my chocolate?" Mal and Rivers' eyes turned towards the floor, and they shuffled their feet like naughty school children.

"It was treasure," murmured River quietly, kicking at a bit of protein.

"It was what?" she choked out.

"Treasure," Mal spoke up. He glanced up, looking at her with an earnest expression on his face. "River was Robin Hood, so she gave out to the merry men what she stole from the dragon's castle."

River nodded rapid agreement.

"Will wanted treasure, didn't want to have leftovers, and I spilled the miracle substance and so replaced it with one of my own finding; you can't be angry, Maid Marian is not the bad guy in this tale."

Mal gave her a see? look and turned to back towards the table, unearthing a leftover chocolate bar. He snapped it in half and gave part to River, taking one for himself.

"I think we live in a spoon, but River doesn't agree. What do you think?" he asked, cheerfully eating the chocolate. Her chocolate.

"What?" she choked out.

"There aren't enough shiny things," River snapped, stamping her foot.

Mal pointed at the light. "That's shiny," he offered. River paused, then nodded in agreement.

"Very shiny," she agreed. They both turned towards the lights and stood there with vacant expressions, staring at it.

"It's pretty," said Mal dreamily. "There are rainbows."

"And unicorns," River put in.

"And fluffy bunnies."

"And puppies."

"And sparkles."

"Maybe they're fairies."

"Don't be silly, Tinker Bell lives in Neverland."

"Maybe she's visiting. Maybe Peter Pan's onboard."

"I don't like him. Never grows up."

"And he doesn't have a shadow."

"He's weird," Mal decided. River titled her head sideways.

"Should we clap?"

"Why?"

"For Tinker Bell. To show we believe." She clapped her hands together a few times absently.

"We believe!" Mal yelled, and the two of them broke out clapping. Then they trailed off, and looked some more at the light.

"Maybe she died," River said, looking vaguely surprised at the fact no fairy appeared.

"How'd she die? We clapped."

"People can kill fairies."

"How?"

"There are no such things as fairies!" Inara snapped, because Mal was acting like a two-year-old and they had eaten all her chocolate and trashed the ship. Honestly. It wasn't River's fault of course, but still. Mal. They should never have left him alone.

"Inara killed Tinker Bell!" screamed River, looking devastated. Mal stared at Inara in horror.

"Why would you do that?" River had tears in her eyes.

"She's the sheriff of Nottingham. She's a witch. Burn her!" Mal looked rather like he would join her.

"Whenever you talk fairies die," he told Inara. Her patience snapped.

"Excuse me?" She didn't make it much farther, because River screamed 'You're killing fairies!' and ran out of the room sobbing.

Inara looked at Mal for an explanation, but he just shook his head in abject sadness and took another bite of chocolate. Before she could say anything else River came running back into the room, her expression bright, the tears on her cheeks forgotten.

"Inara needs chocolate," she told Mal earnestly. "Then she won't kill fairies and be a nice dragon." Mal stared at her in wonder, and then Inara found her arms grabbed and she was being dragged across the ship towards her shuttle.

"Wher-"

"Shhh!" Mal and River snapped, glaring at her. Inara decided to stop before they held a trial for her murder of a hundred fairies in the first degree.

They ran into her shuttle, still dragging her along, and deposited her in front of the box, which still held a good fifteen or so bars.

River and Mal each grabbed half and dragged her awkwardly back to the kitchen, where they shoved everything off of the table onto the floor in a giant heap, revealing a few half-eaten pieces of chocolate, and crawled on top.

River handed her a bar of chocolate.

"Eat the chocolate, Maid Marian," she said in a scary voice.

Inara ate the chocolate. Felt the sugar hit. Noticed how the lights were all bright and shiny. Started giggling. River and Mal joined in.


Simon heard laughter and yelling through the ship and started walking towards the sounds, hoping his sister was doing okay. Maybe it was a good idea to leave her with Mal after all.

That thought vanished the second he saw the state of the kitchen, covered with god only knew what, and his sister and the captain standing in the middle of the mess. Inara was asleep on the table on top of what looked like half a bar of chocolate.

"What?" he choked out. River looked up and smiled at him, then turned and threw the spoon in her hand at the wall. Instantly she and Mal jumped on top of it, and Mal held it upright as they held it up in front of their faces, turning it around and around.

Then River shook her head and walked away, leaving Mal sadly contemplating the spoon.

"We don't live in a spoon," River told him calmly. "And Inara is a lightweight." She glanced at the sleeping Companion and shook her head sadly. "Only five bars," she murmured softly. Then she brightened and glanced at Mal.

"What about the men in the forks?" she asked enthusiastically, and she and Mal dove for the silverware drawer.

Simon shook his head, at a loss, and River gave him a bright smile.

"Do you think we live in forks?" she queried, and then Mal started throwing silverware at the wall, and Simon backed up slowly, convinced he was insane.

The last thing he heard before he escaped the kitchen was River and Mal, oddly enough, seemed to be singing some kind of song…

Oh, we rob from the rich to give to the poor,

We're Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

Oh, we rob from the rich to give to the poor,

And we live in a world made of spoons!

A/N: This fic was inspired by Tel nok shock, my fellow chocolate-lover-in-arms. YAY CHOCOLATE! Truly, a wonderful thing. And all this stuff in my fic could plausibly happen...I should know, I try and spend as much time as possible sugar high. Actually, I'm sugar high now. So much chocolate...yeah. And as for the whole fairies talk when you die thing? Did that to a kid in my school...yup. Even the teacher got into it. Best day ever. Poor child...every time he opened his mouth we screamed "You're killing fairies!/Tinker Bell!