Title: Deja Vu
Disclaimer: Not mine, Firefly belongs to Joss. No profit being made, this is purely for entertainment’s sake.
Notes: Been a while since I wrote Firefly. Hope you all like it. x-posted to ff_fanfic, mal_river, madannekidd and artisticlicence
Translations: Liú yì – be careful
mèi mèi – little sister
xiǎo guǐ – little demon (endearment used for children)
bǎo bèi – darling
It was their first job after the whole Miranda and Mr. Universe mess and River was to go with the captain, Jayne and Zoë. Simon, of course, was none too pleased, but Simon was a poop head and was easily distracted by Kaylee, most days. No time for cracks and fractures, but most days they were less, anyhow. The ice was melting and was turning into liquid again, into a river. River flows, and surgeons stay in the ship and make the sun shine so brightly that the river had to go away, sometimes. The river was branching out and making her own way on the land without drugs or chemicals polluting and making it dirty.
She sat on one of the crates and watched as Mal strapped on his guns, eyes trained only on him even though she knew Zoë was checking the mule and Jayne was storing his ammo (bringing his grenades, no matter what Mal told him it weren’t needed. Jayne told him last time he’d done say that they had gorram Reavers chasin’ them up and he’d as like make sure he don’t get shot in the leg again). She swung her legs lightly, bare and watched the smooth material of the skirt as it danced on her thighs and thought of planets, leaves and paper floating on the River with its boatman asking for payment to ferry their way across. Charon, boatman of the river Styxx, the river of the underworld, where Hades stayed with his bride Penelope and they would eat fruit all day –
“You ready, little albatross?”
River looked up and saw Mal standing in front of her, suited up like old cowboy movies from Earth-that-was, and River giggled at the image of Mal blurring into the image of Dirty Harry and back to Mal, but she nodded and jumped gracefully down, landing on her feet silently like a cat. Simon broke away from Kaylee and looked anxiously at her, kissing her on the forehead.
“Liú yì, mèi mèi. Remember, if anything happens just –”
“Yes, Doc, we know. Leave us all to die and run away,” Mal said, sarcastically. Simon just shot him a look, lips thinning. Stiffly, he nodded and started to walk away. River shot Mal a look of pure exasperation.
“Mal in Latin means bad,” she muttered. “Mal in name and nature.” Then she stopped Simon with a hand to his arm. When he looked over at her, she smiled at him reassuringly. “The girl will take care of them, Simon.” He nodded, and gave her a quick hug before walking back to Kaylee and sliding an arm around her waist. Looking a little embarrassed, Mal offered her his hand but she ignored it, clambering on as gracefully as did everything else. With a sigh, Mal got into his place and they went off.
“Job’s simple,” he said, after a moment, watching desert flying past them. “Get in, get the credits, get out.”
“I got a bad feeling ‘bout this,” Jayne muttered, cradling Vera like it was his safety blanket, like a little child clutching a blanket or a teddy bear, like he used to back on his farm with his Ma and Pa and Mattie.
“De ja vu,” River murmured, hair flying behind her like a stream in the breeze. She shivered. “No Reavers.”
“Won’t let them hurt you, xiǎo guǐ.”
“Not a demon,” River shot Mal an aggravated look. “She is a girl.” Mal raised his hands in a sign of surrender, smiling placatingly at her.
“Know that, bǎo bèi. Term of endearment, s’all.”
“For a child,” River muttered. “The girl is not a child, she is nearing nineteen summers. The girl is a woman.” Mal shared a look with Zoë and Jayne, raising an eyebrow. While there was petulancy in her tone, there was also a healthy amount of frustration present as well. With a jolt, he realized that they had all been treating River like a little girl. And when had she turned eighteen? Last he remembered, she was just seventeen… No, they’d past eighteen. Kaylee’d made River a cake, but they’d been chased by gorram Alliance and he and River’d had to do some fancy flyin’ to get their behinds safe and sound. And the celebrations were forgotten. But back to where they were all treatin’ River like a little girl. He knew sure as hell that she ain’t no little girl, ‘specially after her dance with the Reavers. But it had been so easy to forget the weapon when she acted like the broken doll that she was.
“Not a doll,” she said, and although quiet, it was loud in the sudden silence as the three other passengers had retreated into awkward quietness. “Girl is broken, but she doesn’t act like a doll. She is human.” Uncomfortable with the thought that she had read him, he shifted his attention back to the pilotin’ of the mule and almost sighed in relief as he caught sight of the town. That was when he noticed the smoke.
“Ta ma de!”
“What’re we going to do, sir?” Zoë asked, shifting her gun in her hands. Mal hesitated, torn with the need to help and the need to keep his crew, his family safe. Finally he turned to River.
“Darlin’, I’m needin’ you to tell me what we should do,” he said, tensely. “Can you get a feel of things?”
“Need to be closer.” River’s eyes grew sharper, more lucid than he had ever seen before and he carefully brought the mule closer to the edge of town. Suddenly she tensed, every single muscle in her body freezing up and Mal took that as a sign to be turning around when River screamed and jumped off of the mule. He stared in horror as she fell, hand reaching out uselessly to her.