Prompt: writerverse challenge #05, prompt #01 song: “China Roses” (Enya)
Word Count: 500
Pairings(s): (pre-) Jayne Cobb/River Tam
Warnings: grammarians beware, this is written in Firefly-‘verse-talk.
Summary: Jayne is simple, not stupid. River is broken, not crazy. They have an understandin’.
Note(s): originally posted to the writerverse wv_bookclub
Jayne couldn’t believe nobody else had figured it out. All that fancy Core-bred learnin’, and they couldn’t see what was plain as day. Oh, they knew River was better now. She didn’t call herself ‘the girl’ anymore (well, hardly ever) and she talked most of the time so as everyone could understand her.
But nobody else could see it was an effort. Sayin’ things proper was work for the Moonbrain, like she was speakin’ a different language— she could, but she thought other words before spoke the ones they’d understand.
So, it was only when she was tired, or angry, or hurt, that she started speaking Crazy again.
Only, now Jayne thought of it, it wasn’t really Crazy. It was more like… poetry, like in that book his Ma had, all pretty words that said somethin’ but meant another. River talked in words that didn’t make one lick of sense at first, but then somethin’ would happen and Jayne would understand what she’d been tryin’ to say.
He’d never much liked poetry. Seemed like a waste of time, usin’ all those flowery words to say perfectly simple things. Why say ‘rolling verdant waves’ if’n you meant ‘grassy hill’? He liked talk that was clear, and gave nobody the chance of misinterpretin’ his words.
But if the girl was goin’ on jobs with them, Jayne should make sure he could understand her, like he’d figured out those Army hand signals Mal an’ Zoe used. He didn’t have his Ma’s book, but the Cortex had some stuff that didn’t make his brain sore, and he looked ‘em over when he had some time.
So, on the next job that went bad— which, of course, was the next job they took— when River took a knock to the head and shouted, “Burning wings! The egg brings death!”
Mal an’ Zoe just gaped at her, but Jayne lobbed a grenade right at the huan dahns’ shuttle.
It exploded, and gave the crew of Serenity enough of a distraction to escape.
“I thought I said no grenades!” said Mal, when they’d broken atmo.
Jayne pointed at River. “I was just doin’ like she said!”
“Yes,” said River, lookin’ up at Mal. “Understood exactly, even when the words were wrong.”
“Not wrong,” protested Jayne. “Jus’… jus’ diff’rent.”
Mal scowled as River grinned. “Albatross, set us a course for Persephone.”
Jayne followed River back to the cockpit. “You’re not crazy,” he said, not knowin’ why it was important to say. “Even if I say y’are.”
“Understood exactly,” River repeated, soundin’ worried now. “Others tried, but you succeeded. Can see the words behind the words. She is— I am better, but sometimes the words are too hard to find and—”
“Hey!” said Jayne, putin’ a hand on her shoulder to stop the words tumblin’ out. “I thought you wasn’t crazy.”
Her face cleared. “Jayne is still a girl’s name,” she said.
“Yeah, well, River’s just a bunch of water.”
But he was smiling, and so was she.