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21 August 2009 @ 12:43 am
She's Just Dancing, Chapter Thirty-One  
Title: She's Just Dancing
Author: Sarah-Beth (memorysdaughter)
Email: memorysdaughter@gmail.com
Summary: She's made a big mistake, but it's too late to do anything about it now.
Series: Chapter Thirty-One
Rating: PG-13-ish
Spoilers: Post-BDM, with two very important changes.
Disclaimer: Not mine. I just meddle and occasionally "squee" with fangirl glee.
Author's Note: While I was writing "Lights in the Sky," this came up and smacked me in the face. So I wrote it. Hopefully there'll be more. This is my second "long-term" Raynefic, and I'm not real sure why I keep writing. But enjoy. :)

Chapters 1-30


They disembarked at Rising Sun early the next morning. Mal watched as Simon and Inara loaded bags and cases into a cart they’d borrowed from the dock patrol.

Next to them, Jayne attempted to say goodbye. “This ain’t easy,” he said, caressing River’s cheek.

“It will be four days,” she informed him.

“It especially ain’t easy when y’ make it so difficult.”

“Circumstances are not going to change,” River said, trying not to sound exasperated. “You will find her, you will dispose of her, you will find the answers, you will come home.”

“Home?”

“Wherever we are,” she said dismissively.

“An’ yer not afraid?”

“There is nothing to be afraid of,” she pointed out.

“’Cept fer all th’ unknowns.”

River smiled, and put her finger on Jayne’s lips. He immediately felt hot tears rush to his eyes, but he was unsure as to why. She leaned in and whispered, “You will come back – you will come back.” It was like a magic spell, one that she draped over him like a warm and comforting blanket.

“How come I always trust ya?” Jayne asked, still leaning into her touch.

“Because you don’t know any better,” River said.

“Oh, yeah.” Jayne wrapped his arms around her. “Gettin’ a bit hard fer me t’ do this, baby doll. Sooner or later I’m not gonna be able t’…”

He went silent all of a sudden, and then breathed into her neck, “I love that. Ain’t felt anythin’ like it… but I love it.”

River smiled, simply enjoying the feeling of his hot breath on her neck, and of the swimming flop of the baby in her belly.

“Jayne?”

Jayne straightened as Mal called his name.

“Y’ done sayin’ goodbye, or y’ want I should wait another hour?”

Jayne looked down to where Simon and Kaylee were standing with Helene and Inara. Sage’s hand was in Inara’s, although the Companion looked a little awkward. “Take care of her!” he said to Simon.

Simon bit back a sarcastic reply, and said, “I will.”

“We’ll be back, baby doll,” Jayne said, and kissed River on the cheek. He strode up the ramp into the cargo bay. He did not look back.

And then Serenity was gone.

“Let’s go see Edenlin, mei-mei,” Simon said, and reached out his hand to his sister.

For some reason, she went.


Edenlin Astrin lived in a tall, rambling Victorian-style house at the edge of one of Rising Sun’s settlements. It was a ramshackle place, but it had a friendly look to it. On one end of the house was a large conservatory, glassed in to grab all of Rising Sun’s most plentiful natural resource – the sun.

“She said just to come in,” Simon said as they approached the large green door. Diamond-shaped glass panels in the door sparkled in the sunlight. He opened the door and led them into the house.

The outside of the house had been painted in a variety of faded reds, greens, and blues. Inside it was filled with books and plants, light sparkling through many windows, hitting stained glass pieces mounted to walls and in doorways. A cat looked at them from the top of a counter in the kitchen, then jumped to a table filled with newspapers.

“Oh, I recognize that,” Simon said, pointing to a stained glass panel made with intertwining knots of glass. “That was in their front door back in Osiris. You remember, mei-mei?”

River reached up and brushed it with her index finger. The panel twisted on its clear fishing line, and the tiny bells attached to the bottom of the panel rang out, clear and pure.

As though summoned by its sound, a dark face popped out from between strands of a beaded curtain. The women brushed the curtain aside and stepped out into the kitchen. She was short and plump, dark-skinned, her face pinched in irritation or exasperation.

“Good morning!” Simon said. “Is Edenlin here?”

“She don’t go anywhere else, Dr. Tam,” the woman said. “You oughta know that by now.”

Her tone was severe, but she broke into a broad smile and threw her arms around Simon. “Oh, Dr. Tam!” she cried. “It’s been too long!”

“It’s good to see you, Lucinda,” Simon said, returning the hug.

“And oh, Missy Tam!” Lucinda cried. “Miss Edenlin told me you was expectin’ – but I didn’t believe her fer a moment! But look at you!”

She swept River up in a gigantic hug. “Oh! It is good to see you!”

Then she turned to the others in the kitchen. “And I have never met you, but if you’re friends of Dr. and Missy Tam, then you’re certainly welcome. I am Lucinda de Roquefort, and I am Miss Edenlin’s caretaker.”

Simon introduced Kaylee and Helene and Inara and Sage, and Lucinda hugged them each in turn. “Now, I’ve got to get back to Miss Edenlin, but there’s tea and coffee in the sunroom, so come on in.”

She led them through the overstuffed house, through several large rooms filled with knickknacks and books and plants and rocks. There were stained glass panels and bells everywhere. Everything seemed to be comfortably shabby, the kind of place where it would be possible to burrow into a jewel-tone armchair and stay forever. It was what Sage did, loosening her grasp from Inara’s and reaching out with her hands until she found a soft pile of pillows on the floor. She burrowed in, gleefully breathing out what sounded like happiness. The others walked on, in Lucinda’s confident footsteps.

At last Lucinda pushed open a set of French doors. “Miss Edenlin, you was right,” she said. “They was standing in the kitchen like they was waiting for a train.”

River immediately shoved past Lucinda and half-knelt, half-squatted on the floor next to a tall, shelf-like platform. “Saw you, saw you. Couldn’t wait to hear you again.”

A screen on the wall suddenly lit up, and words began to flash: “Certainly you took your time getting here.” After a second the words were spoken by an electronic, female-sounding voice.

River shifted to a better position and Kaylee suddenly saw who was doing the talking.

“This is Edenlin,” Simon said, although there was really no explanation necessary. Who else could it be?

Edenlin was a grotesquely tiny woman lying on the platform. She wore a beautiful deep purple dress, and her long brown hair was twisted up into a bun on the top of her tiny head. Both of her twisted hands were up by her shoulders, as though she had fallen from a great height. Her twisted feet were bare, and one of them kicked slightly. It was a pathetic movement.

She looked like an angel, but she was tethered to the ground by a long hose attached to a whumping box of a machine. The hose ended in a mask that was strapped over her face. Every few seconds a breath of air was shoved through the hose and into Edenlin. Every time it happened, it sounded like a gasp, and then a whoof of blow-back as the machine regenerated.

Kaylee had seen River be physical with several people. River hugged Simon often, and was not shy with caressing Kaylee, holding hands with Jayne, or even having her hair brushed by Inara. But it was an odd, new form of physical contact that River immediately began with Edenlin. Suddenly she was on the platform next to Edenlin’s wasted body, despite the fact that River’s belly took up almost as much space as Edenlin’s entire body.

“Too long,” River said, nestling her head up against Edenlin’s shoulder.

There was another pause as the motionless woman on the platform moved one of her hands in the minutest of movements, and then the screen flashed more words: “Don’t lie to me. It’s as if you never left. In another moment you’ll be telling me about stealing your brother’s notes for his anatomy final.”

River flushed. “Only did that once.”

The whumping machine sounded an alarm. Without obvious distress, Lucinda stepped forward and removed the mask from Edenlin’s face. The pale young woman began to gag and gasp. Lucinda grabbed a thin plastic tube from the platform beside Edenlin’s head and dropped it into the girl’s mouth. A moment later, the crisis apparently resolved, Lucinda strapped the mask over Edenlin’s face again.

“Well,” Simon said, feeling awkward, “I promised Kaylee I’d show her the Blackbird Theater. River, will you be all right here?”

She waved her hand at him. “Go. Much to discuss.”

“Do you mind, Lucinda?” Simon asked.

“Oh, Dr. Tam,” Lucinda said, “I haven’t had your sister ‘round for years. It’ll be a pleasure to listen to them two girls chatter up a storm. Give me somethin’ to listen to while I make up lunch.”

She turned to Inara and Helene. “You two ladies want some lunch, huh?”

“Oh, no thank you,” Inara said. “We have an appointment in town. We’ll probably just walk as far as the main road with Simon and Kaylee.”

“Good, good,” Lucinda said. “You all hurry on back for dinner, though, you hear? I’m makin’ cucumber soup and it ain’t gonna keep all day.”

She kissed Simon on the forehead. “I’ll walk y’ out.”

As she left she turned to River. “You know how to suck her out if she gets gooky,” Lucinda said, and she brushed her hand across Edenlin’s head.

When they were gone River turned to Edenlin.

“You staying?” Edenlin asked. Behind the mask her eyes stayed focused on River. “Staying until this baby comes?”

“Don’t know,” River said.

Edenlin shifted minutely, her hand still in contact with the plate switch that controlled her computer. “Why are you so afraid?”

“Not scared,” River said.

“Liar,” Edenlin said almost immediately.

River flicked her eyes up towards the door, but no one was there. “Here’s why she’s scared,” she said, and twisted on the platform, struggling to get Edenlin’s hand to her belly.

There was a kick, a flash and a flutter, and Edenlin’s eyes went wide. Her other hand spasmed on the switch. “She fears too.”

“Yeah,” River said softly.

“Tell me about your spaceship,” Edenlin requested.

River shifted again, so she was lying on the platform again. “Why?”

“Because I like to know about the places I’m going.”

“Not coming with us, beautiful,” River said.

Edenlin’s face, behind the mask, twisted a little. It was her version of a smile. “You were never really good with subtlety. Especially when you thought you had all the answers.”

“Do have all the answers.”

“Oh, come on. You think you’re really going to beat this woman on your own?”

“Not alone. With others. Jayne. Mal. Zoë. Wash.”

Edenlin’s eyes flicked left-to-right, a version of “nuh-uh” that she frequently used. “They’re going to get close, but you’re going to need someone to get in, to deliver the final blow.”

“Me,” River said. “She can… she can do that.”

“Are you kidding? You’re so afraid I can practically see you shaking.” Behind the mask Edenlin’s eyes were serious. “You’re going to just have to take me along.”

River held Edenlin’s gaze, and at last, said, “Good. Missed you, little-little.”

She kissed Edenlin’s forehead, and wrapped her arms around the tiny person.

“River?”

“Huh?”

“You know Lucinda will be coming, too?”

River grinned, her face smashed against Edenlin’s shoulder as the machine on the floor delivered another life-giving breath into her best friend. “Wouldn’t be a party without her.”

“River?”

“Huh?”

“What’s her name? The girl in the parlor, I mean.”

“Sage.”

“Lucinda told me she’s a foundling.”

“Well… aren’t we all?”

Edenlin did the “nuh-uh” movement with her eyes again. “Now tell me about this man.”

“He’s… he’s like a tornado. Sweeps you off your feet and whirls you around and when he puts you down, it’s someplace where you’ve never been… but it looks like paradise.”

“And you don’t love him at all, obviously.”

“Ever been drunk?”

Edenlin grimace-smiled. “I weigh forty-eight pounds. A sip of cough reducer knocks me out. And I haven't been able to swallow since my fourth birthday.”

“Not worth it,” River said, “but… that’s exactly how it feels. Feels like you’re swimming and twirling and dancing and…”

She broke off, realizing that Edenlin had never done any of those things.

“You’re not offending me,” Edenlin said, as though she could sense River’s thoughts. “I have done all of those things too.”

She tilted her head as much as she was able, and her brightly colored dreams flowed through River. River closed her eyes, loving these pictures, and was quiet. Supported by the platform, and the whumping chuff of the machine, the two – no, the three - or was it four? – slept on in the sunlight.
 
 
Current Mood: hothot
Current Music: "Golden Girls" on TV
 
 
 
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
gcg2004: Rivergcg2004 on August 21st, 2009 01:41 pm (UTC)
Oh,wow! That was not what I expected, in a good way. :) Why do I think things will get even more interesting/challenging in the near future?
Sarah Elizabeth: jacksmemorysdaughter on August 22nd, 2009 03:43 am (UTC)
Haha! I like to keep everyone guessing! Yes, things will get even more interesting in the future. Stay tuned! :)

Thank you for reading and reviewing.
Pia: river-pensivecloseupidyllictorture on August 21st, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
Cool story. Thanks for the new chapter.
Sarah Elizabeth: jacksmemorysdaughter on August 22nd, 2009 03:43 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed this. :)
Ally Staralsunwunderland on August 22nd, 2009 03:27 am (UTC)
Hey, how are you? I'm glad to see another chapter of this story. :)
Sarah Elizabeth: jacksmemorysdaughter on August 22nd, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
Hi! I'm currently existing in a too-hot, too-angry, mixed-up daze that's been over me since I finished my job two and a half weeks ago. Luckily for me I'm writing again, which is okay... I wish I could really explain but it's difficult.

I'm glad you enjoyed this. :)
jellie_rayneluvjellie_rayneluv on August 22nd, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)
This just keeps getting more and more curious. And it's drawing me further and further in. Can't wait to see what happens next. More soon please.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )