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She made Ryan nervous, which amused Spencer, because Ryan and her had so very much in common. They were both smarter than Spencer, and carried themselves with an odd fragility that others mistook for grace, but was, in fact, just a conscious effort to hold themselves together. Unlike Ryan, she could crush Spencer with her baby toe, and Spencer suspected this was much of what gave Ryan the jitters, but for some reason, it never really fazed Spencer. There were times when a person had to have faith that just because one could cause harm didn't mean one would, and River--and okay, maybe Ryan, too--was evidently that moment for Spencer.

She was a dancer. He'd caught her at while he and Jon were sitting in the cargo bay, discussing what they would do when Serenity dropped them off on the next world. This leg of the trip had exhausted the last of their funds and they were nowhere near as far outside Alliance space as they needed to be to keep Brendon and Ryan safe, keep the Alliance from finding them, exploiting their gifts. Doing what had been done to River.

At first it hadn't been anything, not anything that Spencer could understand, but he wasn't like the three of them, didn't always see things at first, and so it had just been movement, motion without a pattern. But then she had found her rhythm, found her melody. Spencer couldn't hear it--although Ryan assured him it was always there--but as he watched her, he started to see it.

He hadn't meant to interrupt her. Jon had had the sense to leave when they saw her, but Jon was the sensible one, the one who tended to know what was best for himself and often for others. Spencer tried, and he could always manage with Ryan and Brendon, but that was Ryan and Brendon, he'd been doing that since he could remember. He'd just been watching, though, and she'd said, "Peeping Tom," nothing more. She hadn't even looked at him.

Spencer had said, "Sorry, I'll--"

She said, "Reparations must be made for trespass."

Spencer had stayed still, quiet at that. She had laughed, light and high and different. "Dance with me Spencer, Spencer Smith."

"I can't--"

But she somehow climbed the rigging, the sharp ascent to the catwalk and held out her hand to Spencer. Her smile was hopeful but lacking in expectancy, knowing and sure and sad. He took her hand, pulled her the rest of the way up. He said, "There's not much room."

She said, "I'll show you how to avoid gravity."

Spencer didn't laugh. He'd seen her do more incredible things. She stepped backward, onto his toe, but she was barefoot, and though his boots were worn, not so much that the slight weight of her feet could do anything to hurt him. He did laugh then, laughed and stepped back. She said, "There's a count."

"You'll have to keep it for me," he told her.

"No," she said, "no, you just have to listen."

"I listen," Spencer told her.

"You hear," she said.

Spencer knew better than to argue with people smarter than himself. She took a step to the side, he waited to feel the beat and then followed.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile