When River was first aware of her soulmate in her dreams, she was four. He braided daisies in her hair and he taught her how to dance beneath a swirling sea of stars. They played make-believe and sailed on ships across oceans and through space. Together, they explored deep jungles and devoured entire libraries full of knowledge. It was beautiful.
He was beautiful...
She told Simon her secrets, about her man with a girl’s name who shared her dreams. Simon told her about soulmates, how they were rare and she was blessed to have one. Their parents would not understand. She had a duty to them, to marry a good Core boy with money and standing.
Simon would probably turn purple if he knew some of the things her soulmate had taught her, she certainly blushed. He was wild like the untamed horses that lived on the Earth-That-Was. They lived worlds apart and shared their dreams whenever they could. He would say that time was a bitch. It really was.
When she slept it was dawn for him and the opposite was the same for her. There were times they planned to meet in their shared space. He would tell her all about his large family and the work he did to support them. Sometimes, River was jealous that he had so much family. From his stories, they sounded as if they were full of warmth. Simon was the only other one that cared about her feelings.
A breath, a whisper, a finger on the trigger...
The man called Jayne liked his whores. River was not jealous. Maybe just a little. He was a man and he had his urges. She was a child. The kisses they shared were chaste and nothing passionate. Kisses were her’s.
Things changed when she went to the Academy. It was now the middle of the day for Jayne when she slept. They rarely got to see one another in their dreams. River learned so much. She filled her days with learning and dance and poetry; she had everything she wanted. It didn't last. There were whispers of dread that made her question her teachers, little voices that steered her down paths that others didn't understand. She knew things that were supposed to be secrets. Sometimes, other children left and never returned.
It was supposed to be a class about soulmate bonds for those who had them. She was one for six in the class. Lessons were tests of skills that stretched from the bond, of knowledge acquired from their mates. There was sleep deprivation. There were drugs.
Simon's letter smelled wrong...
She didn’t know how she knew, but River knew that they were reading her mail. She sent coded letters in codes that she knew that he would understand. River forced herself to sleep at odd hours, searching for Jayne. He needed to know that they were hurting them.
They found out about her soulmate...
River didn’t know when the pain started, she only knew that they didn't want to stop.
Subject CM deceased; self-inflicted; exsanguination.
Subject RS deceased; self-inflicted; overdose.
Subject MR deceased; gunshot wound to the stomach; terminated upon request.
Subject GG deceased; coma; terminated after 1 year upon request.
Subject JL alive; transferred to BLUE Division.
Subject RT alive; transferred to BLUE Division.
The girl remembered Jayne. They strapped her to the table and she forced herself to sleep. She crawled through the dark place and screamed his name. It had been a long time since they had really seen each other. He was taller and broader and had scars. The girl didn’t need to know what she looked like.
She begged him to stay with her to stay and never leave. The men with their blue hands hurt and cut and tore, but he was starlight and warmth that kept away the cold.
He was off to slay the dragon and the sorcerers but the princess was left in darkness. She didn’t want to remember much after that.
Pick up the pen.
There was so much screaming.
She is aware that the blood is sticky between her fingers.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
We need to keep this quiet. If the public were to find out, the aftermath would be catastrophic!
The planets swirl around in a mess of colors. She is dizzy.
Where is Jayne?
Where is Simon?
It’s the PAX.
”Most of our best work is done when they’re asleep.”
Reclaim the subject, dispose of the intruder.
Space is quiet and empty and vast. There is peace and there is chaos.
They wonder if she will kill them when they sleep. She has thought about it. It would be too problematic if she did.
Simon wants the girl to sleep, wants the girl to be his sister. It’s an impossible task.
I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast...
Cold needles and sleep.
The dark place is quiet. Jayne has not been here in a long time. River has half forgotten the sound of his voice.
Daisies and cornflowers in their hair, around their necks, and dances to share. A kiss or two upon the head, my mate you’ll be until we’re dead.
Jayne didn’t talk much about his private life. He was a merc. He liked guns, whores, and money. He also loved his ma and sisters somethin' fierce. His soulmate was something he never spoke about. No one in the verse needed to know his business and that was the way things were.
River had been that special something that was worth waiting for; like dessert. She was smart and pretty and still wanted him even though he was beneath her and all. Her family gave her all the fancy schoolin' she wanted and she knew more than everyone back home knew combined. River was a girl that your ma would approve of and tell the family secrets to. He had his fill of whores, but Jayne didn’t kiss em' on the mouth. She’d be his first.
“You’re a boob,” she’d say. Yeah, probably.
Three years, four months, and twenty-three days; that’s how long she’s been gone. Jayne’s been counting. His dreams have been pretty empty since then. He waits in their garden for her but she doesn’t come ever. Sometimes he gets tired of waiting and goes to clean his guns or lift weights. It keeps his mind off of the bad ideas.
Jayne whores, he shoots, he kills, he lies, and he cheats. He keeps counting.
The doc is a stuffy and prissy type of guy. Kaylee’s all aflutter over him, but Jayne can’t understand why. He reminds him of River, all with his manners and properness, crept River is probably smarter. Things were going pretty easy till Dobson called the feds, but Jayne can’t be mad about that, not when he’s barely holding the doc back and River is lying there in a box.
Liou coe shway duh biao-tze huh hoe-tze duh ur-tze.
She’s screaming, wailing in pain or in fear, he can’t tell. The doc is outta his arms and is in front of her. He wants to chase after him and pull him away, but he’s there, calling her mei mei and he realizes that this is her Simon.
Simon is holding her while she shakes like a leaf and comforting her. Jayne stands there confused.
Simon brings River down to the med bay and makes her sleep. Jayne stays a little bit longer just to trace the outline of her face with his eyes.
Simon tells the story of his sister. Jayne sits and listens until he can’t anymore.
He says that he’ll be in his bunk but it’s a lie. Jayne creeps down to the med bay where Kaylee is alive and resting and where River is alive and resting. He thinks that breathing is a little hard when he notices the tears. Fucking feelings.
He goes to interrogate the fed who folds faster than he thought possible. Damn shame too, he wanted an ear. Dobson offers him money, a lot of money, but he doesn’t take it. Soulmates are priceless.
Things all go tits up with Patience and reavers and the fed getting shot, but they made it out. Jayne watches River from across the room while they celebrate living another day. She doesn’t look at him or even notice his presence, it’s as if he doesn’t exist.
Ta ma de...
She is a mouse. River waits until Simon is asleep, and she waits until the ship sings across the stars. River tiptoes down the metal halls that whisper melodies that only she can hear. There are secrets and stories the walls know that only she can garner. Jayne... He sleeps lightly, searching for her. She knows and also doesn't know. They took their connection, broke it into little pieces that can't be glued back together, and he is waiting for her. He is still waiting for her.
River crawls into the tiny bed and latches around him. He wakes almost instantly. Jayne's hand finds hers and it's finding purchase after being lost for so long. The bed creaks as he rolls over to face her. Their legs tangle and he breathes in the scent of her hair. It probably smells stale but he just pulls her closer.
"I looked for you," he murmured against her forehead.
"I know." She closes her eyes, knowing that she doesn't need to dream to be with him anymore.
He's right beside her, like the stars cradling the moon.