Title: A Momentary Lapse of Reason
Author: tafkar
Summary: River tries to make sense of things. The cue from ff_friday: River.
Category: Drama.
Spoilers: Bits from the whole series.
Rating: R, but it's all in River's head. Really.
Archiving: Always welcome; just let me know you have done so.



It was a bad day. Every time she blinked, it was like curtains coming down at the theatre, and she didn't know if there'd be a scene change when they came back up.


The curtains took so long to come back up. "Subjective time dilation," she told herself.


She was sitting on her bed. Had she just woken up?

This wasn't her room; it was a hospital, clean and white, and Jayne would betray them.

This wasn't her room; it was the kitchen, and she'd just stolen Jayne's roll and he tickled her to get it back.

This wasn't her room; it was the cargo bay, and she had a gun and Jayne was angry and scared.

This was her room. The sheets were rumpled. Her mouth had the sour taste of sleep. She was wearing some grandmotherly flannel nightgown that Simon had bought.

She was on Whitefall, next to Simon, watching Serenity lift off.

"No." All the moments were crushing in like a mob. Each one, even the ones that never were or weren't yet, were clamoring for her attention, wanting to be first. She fought them off, all except for "you, with bed and nightgown and sleepy mouth," she said.

The metal floor was cold against her feet. The sound of the door sliding open took over all her senses - it crawled in her ear, stroking the little hairs, filling her nose with the smell of metal barely warmed by friction. "Bi zui!" she told it. She put her hands over her ears, but realized that would trap the sound, and quickly pulled them away.

Tears prickled. She fought them back as all the moments she had ever cried tried to pile on top of her and smother her in a tumble of skinned knees and blue hands.

Door. Metal. Floor. Cold feet.

Someone needed to make the moments all stand in rows and columns, the future ones in the distance, the now right next to her, the past ones standing behind and the possible ones that never were off to one side of the parade grounds.

River drifted through the ship, quietly. Book's dreams tried to follow her down the hall, but she fought them back. She stopped outside of the engine room.


Simon pressed his mouth to hers. She could feel his hand slide down her coveralls, and heard the clatter as the wrench she was holding fell on the floor. Hot lightning ran through her body.

Cold. Floor. Nightgown.

"You're not my moment," she whispered. "Go back to Kaylee."

She walked up the stairs. The Captain would keep everyone's moments from treasonously changing sides. Everyone and everything obeyed him.

Quiet voices came from Inara's shuttle. She stood outside and took a deep breath. Had she gotten here yet, or was she remembering the future?

The moments stared at her sullenly, even the one that was supposed to be with her right now. She sighed. "You're really supposed to come one at a time. Trust me, it's best for all of us." They growled.

She stepped through the doorway. The captain and Inara looked up at her. They were drinking tea. "Honey, come in," Inara smiled from the couch. She smiled again and again into a mirror, working to replicate the precise curve that would make her customers feel welcomed and wanted.


"Not my moment," River mumbled. Inara and Mal looked at each other, then back at her. No. She couldn't be Crazy Girl again. She needed to make Mal understand.

Mal was shouting, telling her to drop the gun.


He was sitting on the couch, holding a cup of tea. River sat on the floor and pressed her palm into her forehead, trying to make the moments stay in order.


They lay across Inara's silk sheets, their naked bodies touched with gold from the lamp. Inara's eyes went wide as Mal entered her. She reached out to River.


Inara held out a cup of tea, the wide sleeve of her blue dress gracefully brushing the table. "Join us, won't you?" she said.

River sipped the tea. It tasted like


Inara's mouth.


"River, can we help?" Inara asked, looking concerned.

River dropped the cup of tea. "Zhen ta ma de hao chi," she whispered, and began backing out of the room, on all fours.

Mal followed her, grabbed her, pulled her up, looked into her eyes. "There is no call to go sayin' unkind words to Inara," he said. "You want us to find your brother?"

"He can't help!" River sobbed. "You can't help. I hoped you could order them all into line, make them all come one by one, march in step. Everything obeys your orders. But you can't see them! You can't see them to stand them rank and file."

He looked confused. She couldn't make him understand. River sighed, and rested her head against his chest. "You can't help," she said, and watched all the moments walk away.


She was sitting in her bed. Simon was reading by one dim light. Kaylee was curled up beside him, her head leaning against his shoulder, looking half asleep.

"If you keep reading like that and you'll have to have your corneas replaced again," she said. Her voice croaked and sounded strange to her ears.

Simon looked up at her, eyes widening. "Mei mei," he said, smiling. He came over and sat on the edge of the bed, stroking her hair. "I was worried."

"We was all worried," Kaylee said. "You ain't moved nor spoke in near twelve hours."

River took a breath, and blinked several times. "They're all in line now," she said. "I can talk to the ones that aren't here now, but they're happy to wait and take their turn."

Simon's eyebrows drew together. Worried Simon. She patted his knee. "It's OK," she said. "Today is going to be a good day."


Language note:

Zhen ta ma de hao chi - tastes like your mother


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