Seeing Eyes
by Jennifer-Oksana

She is light on her mouse feet, lighter, lightest, the one with all the secrets dancing through her head. And River knows, River is alive with knowing, and she is creeping toward Him, the one who doesn't know she knows.

Simon is busy. River made sure. Simon is talking to Kaylee, pretty little Kaylee, who is afraid, so afraid, of her. Kaylee is afraid because Kaylee is good and lovely and sunshine on the river, and Simon likes Kaylee because he is like Kaylee. They are good, wise children, the salvation of the world. Preacher would know. Preacher knows so much, if only his hair won't eat him first.

Preacher's got secrets, and she keeps them, because there's no use in telling what can't be changed. Ruttin' shame if he lost Serenity for the telling of secrets that aren't hers to tell. River knows that they'd be shamed if they only knew who Shepherd really was, and they couldn't bear to keep him among their humble selves.

But she won't tell, oh, she won't tell, for all the secrets she knows only speak themselves as riddles, and they wouldn't understand anyway.

Let those who have ears to hear, hear what River's whispering in the streams of conversation.

Light feet, lightest feet, they mustn't hear her, they'd be worried she meant to do him harm. As well she might, if she hears an answer she doesn't like.

("Mei-mei, you mustn't say such things," Simon said, brushing her hair away from her face. Simple Simon, sweet Simon, the best brother. The best man. But River isn't sweet enough for sweet Simon. Not by half.)

Big man, mean man, coward. She knows cowards, and she knows not to fear. And she knows so much that it hurts, and it will hurt him if he does not do what she wants.

"What're ya doin' here, runt?" he says suddenly, and oh, her clever feet have taken her all the way to his door, and she is outlined against it, leaning against the frame. Skinny little bird, raggedy sweaters, crazy eyes.

"He thinks you're a hero," River says, smile on her face. "Thinks you saved us."

"What the hell gibberish are you babblin'?" he says.

"Captain knew. Didn't tell. I know. Won't tell. Maybe."

His big tough face gets real scared, big Jayne Cobb, mean Jayne Cobb, ruttin' goddamn coward that he is, but she knows him, doesn't like him, but she's got his number and he is so easy.

"Knew what?"

"You're a coward," she says, stepping into his bunk. Smells like it never gets clean. Probably doesn't. Not many would want to brave Jayne's bunk. "I know something Captain don't."

She's talking like them, picking up bits from sweet Kaylee, quiet Zoe, strange Mal, Jayne himself. It gives him the willies, she knows. River knows so much, too much, and she knows that she's doing something Simon won't like. Has to be done, though.

("River. You're seeing things." "I have eyes to see with." "There's not--I don't." "Not saying you do.")

"What do you know?" he says, standing up. Swaggering. Like she didn't cut him faster than he could say Jayne Cobb. She could destroy him with her fingers. River smiles.

"You look at him," she says, putting her hand on the top button of her dress and pulling it open. "Not the captain. I saw you."

Jayne's not too bright--big dumb thug, he is, too greedy to be smart--but he knows when he's been caught and it don't do no good to lie. None at all, cuz River knows so much he can't even imagine.

"What's it to you? I got eyes, same as you."

"You'll hurt him. I'll hurt you." She's got the top of her dress open and he's still not looking at her. He's looking away at the dirty laundry and the naked pictures, but she's such a little thing, little Simon's crazy sister, ruttin' crime to look at a girl not big enough to handle a gun.

"I ain't got no plans to do no hurtin," he says, honest for once. "Don't much go for fancy plans nohow. Blows up in your face. What are you doing?"

("River! You shouldn't--River--what are you doing?--we--no, River--")

Her dress is unbuttoned to the waist, the already limp fabric hanging in lifeless lines. He's not looking. He's not gonna look, girl's got no right to do such a thing to him, he ain't made no comments.

"Not going until you look," River says.

"I ain't lookin," he avers.

"Yes, you will. Because I'm not going until you do."

She is stronger than him. Knows how to handle a gun. She will win this round, because River knows him and he doesn't even remember her name. All the water names. Got him confused, don't they? But he knows one thing.

"Not lookin."

"You ever think about killing us all while we sleep?" River asks, walking forward, pushing the dress off one shoulder.

("Everyone's asleep, no one's listening, who would listen?")

"What the rut--damn it, girl--what're you doin? You're gonna get us both in trouble!" he protests. River has another smile for him, a funny smile.

"I thought about it. So many thoughts. Too noisy to sleep. Take a knife and no more noise out of the bunks," she says. "You're not afraid of me."

"What's there to be afraid of?" he asks, and he is looking at her. He is looking at her and he is maybe even seeing her. "You could use some feeding. Kaylee's are better--not that I ever--you mind you don't mention that neither."

"Kaylee's scared of me. They're all scared of me. Think I might do it some time. Poison the well. Cut a throat. Cut you, didn't I?"

He thinks about it. Then he laughs.

"Ain't no one on this boat who wouldn't do it if they had cause," he says, putting his big hand on her. "Put on that dress. Nobody's gonna think it wasn't me who had the notion, and I'm not lookin' to get keel-hauled by the whole crew cuz you had it instead."

This time, River laughs, pulling her dress up. "I'm coming back," she announces.

"I'll lock my bunk," he replies.

"No lock I can't pick," she counters.

"What'll get you out of here with the least fuss, you crazy--?" he snaps, driven to distraction with how she clings like space trash. Can't get rid of her, can't do nothing yourself til she's gone. It's her nature. She's always present until she gets what she wants.

("Just once." "Mei-mei--" "I've seen you. You look." "River--" "Just once." "Mei-mei, I can't--")

"You won't hurt him."

"I won't hurt him."

He's not quite looking at her, buttoned up all wrong, canny as a cat with three legs, eyes glittering.

"I'm coming back."

He gives up. What's the use? Not worth quarreling over, as long as she's out. She knows it. She smiles.

"If you do, I ain't gonna look at you," he says, blustering like a boy.

"Who says I want you to look?"

("Yes. Like this." "No. Never again." "I'll come back." "I won't do this again." "I'll never tell.")

Jayne's not entirely stupid. "You said it more than once," he says. "You go run, little girl. You got what you wanted."

River laughs, and runs out on bird-feet, flying away. He doesn't understand.

"Not yet I haven't," she murmurs, skipping back to her bunk and her brother. "But I'm coming back."


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