Simon Ficathon entry follows. Sorry for the lateness!
Title: Voice in Dreams
Author: Sullen Siren (adena(at)direcway(dot)com)
Summary: "He knew he was dreaming. He wasn't sure if that meant it wasn't real."
Rating: R with an NC-17 slant, possibly.
Disclaimer: I own nothing of worth. Please don't' sue. Firefly and all related characters are the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, the Evil Fox Corporation, and so on. Definitely not mine. I'm just playing with their toys a bit.
Feedback: Loved and worshipped and greatly appreciated.
Note: Written for virtualinsomnia's Simon Ficathon. I drew magijessamyn, who requested a story confined to the infirmary and featuring Simon/River. It went darker than what I planned to do, jessamyn - hope you like it anyway. Crazy Space Incest Alert - don't say you haven't been warned please.
"The more a man dreams, the less he believes."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Your father would be appalled." Her voice was soft and measured, proper and educated. His mother's voice, colorless as water with the hard bitten edge of vodka. "All of the money we've put into your education and you spend your time playing with toys." Her hair was pulled back in a tight knot. As a child he'd imagined if he pulled the knot free, maybe his mother would smile, open up - be soft and loving instead of cool and distant. She'd cut it when he was older, and he'd given up the dream and realized that she'd always be what she was. "Honestly Simon, what is it you're trying to do to us?" Precise tones, the movements, the stance. But all wrong.
He shook his head and looked down at small hands - boy's hands - attached where his own should be. "I just . . . she wanted me to build her a castle."
Lips twisted up into a smile that never reached her eyes. "River will learn her place - it's time you knew yours."
Dark eyes, pale skin, dancer's grace. His mother and his sister all in one. "You ARE River."
She turned, looking out the picture window that lit his room in the pale yellow light of a dying day. "Am I?"
He knew he was dreaming. "I don't know who you are."
River looked back at him, long fingers reaching up to free her dark hair from its confines. "Yes you do. You just don't know who you are. It's getting dark, Simon. Can't you feel the cold?"
He felt it, like ice water flowing beneath his skin. "I'm always cold."
"So is she."
"YOU are River."
"River is cold. Hollow. Like metal ships. Her insides creep out and crawl around on the surface, and you make a mess of your room and push her insides back in. But they don't stay, they never stay."
"River . . ."
His mother's smile across her lips. "I'm so disappointed in you, Simon. You don't even know who you are."
"I think I'm lost."
"Yes. Lost in the mess. And no one's going to find you. Except her. And you don't want her to, do you?" She looked him over scornfully. "Sometimes you wish you'd left her."
"Liar." She turned as the picture window went dark. "It's getting colder. I think if you told the truth the sun would come back, Simon. You've lied, and it's freezing the world. Tell me the truth."
He looked at the line of her long fingers. "Sometimes I wish I could have cared less, and left her."
"I know. But it's not warming me. It's getting colder, Simon."
"Simon? Did you hear me? It's getting colder."
He woke quickly, as she had taught him to do. When he was young he could afford to set an early alarm and lounge abed, each stolen moment a luxury as the sun slowly warmed his shoulders through the window of his room. Now he woke at a noise, a touch, a feeling; because in seconds she could rip apart rooms, break medicines, and change lives. He looked at her, and she hovered over him, tangled dark hair flowing down over one shoulder. Gooseflesh along the pale skin of the shoulder her nightdress slipped down, failing to conceal what it should. He looked away, busied himself with the blanket, pulling it off of himself and draping it around her. The air was cold. Too cold. The ship always held a chill, but this was different. "I know, River. There must be something wrong. We'll go and find out."
She followed him down the corridors and up and down the ladders, the blanket draped around her like a cape. He didn't bother to tell her to put on shoes because he knew that she wouldn't. The pilot chair was empty, the bunks open and waiting. He found them all gathered in the engine room in their nightclothes. Kaylee's small, slippered toe tapped as she faced Mal, arms crossed over her chest. When she shifted he could see the peak of a pointed, too-cold nipple from under her arm and he looked away, meeting River's blank gaze on accident. "What's going on?"
Mal threw a look at him that said he didn't belong here. Simon ignored it, as he'd learned to do. There were few places he belonged - he didn't let that stop him from going. "Miss Kaylee here says she can't fix the temperature regulator so we're all gonna freeze ourselves to death."
Kaylee smiled - a bit less brightly than usual, her annoyance with Mal clear - but his stomach tightened anyway at the expression, as it always did. "That ain't what I said at all! I can fix it - but I need a new core for it. Can probably grab it up in an hour. And we ain't far from Psyche - I can shuttle down and pick it up and be back before ya even start to turn blue."
Zoe, Wash's arms wrapped around her, shook her head. "Psyche ain't safe for you to shuttle down there alone. I'll go."
"No. I'll go." Mal stated, ignoring Zoe's raised eyebrow. "You an' Wash can hole up in the front in case he needs to actually do some pilotin'. Jayne an' me 'an Kaylee'll go on down. And we need to hurry this up people. We're due to pick up the Preacher an' Inara from Cassis tomorrow. This gets in tha way, then we're gonna be hearin' a mighty lot of preachin' an' complainin'."
Kaylee smiled. "Well then ya might want ta quit yappin' and get goin', Cap'n. I gotta get dressed." She gave Simon a smile and then darted off toward her room as Zoe, giving Mal a look that said he'd hear from her later headed back toward the ship's front, Wash complaining as followed behind.
Jayne grinned. "Least I'm getting' outta the ice box for a bit. I'll go prep the shuttle." He shouldered Simon roughly aside as he moved - practically skipping, Simon thought distastefully, as a shiver ran up through him.
"Captain, what are we to do?" He asked carefully.
Mal shrugged. "Be cold. Hole up in your rooms. Or in the infirmary - it's warmest there I think. Sleep. Ain't safe for you to wander planetside, doctor."
"Psyche is well known for its police force. Largely privately funded, known to use brutal force, and to look the other way for those willing to pay a bribe. Trained with firearms and low-level vehicles, but not in hand-to-hand combat. Its annual police brutality rate is the second highest in the sector. Tourists are forbidden to carry weapons, and justice is administered to outsiders without trial." River's voice had the distant, childish tone that said she was barely listening to what was said. Somehow that never stopped her from knowing the answers though, even when she shouldn't.
Mal stared at her blankly and then rolled his eyes. "That would be why you're stayin' on the ship, sweetheart. Take her back doc."
He did as he was told because it wasn't his boat, and his place was to follow, here. No matter how much he hated it, sometimes, knowing that his life - River's life - was in Mal's hands.
It was odd but he didn't really think of their lives as separate things anymore, he and River. His life was hers because he'd given up his to give her one back.
"Is it so bad here?" The question was familiar but out of place here, in the gleaming white of the emergency ward. Red hair framed a pale face and dark eyes - he'd been so sure her eyes were blue- stared at him with a liquid softness he couldn't remember her ever wearing. She walked toward him, and she looked like home. Like newness and wealth and she wore his mother's perfume. "Aren't you tired of being gone, Simon?"
"I had to go." He answered and didn't answer, his voice and not. Dream logic letting him be two places at once.
He knew he was dreaming. He wasn't sure if that meant it wasn't real.
The sterile white seemed to shrink around her. She tilted, red hair spilling over her shoulder. It had always looked like a sunrise to him, when his hands tangled in it in dark places where they hid from the world and tangled in one another's arms. Now it looked like blood over pale skin. He found his eyes tracing the curve of her shoulder to look for where the skin must be torn and ripped and bleeding. But it wasn't. "Are you ever going to come home, Simon?"
"You're not home to me."
"No. But I could have been. If you had wanted it. But you didn't. What did you want Simon?"
"To be the best." She corrected gently, running a cold hand up his bare arm. "But you weren't."
"I was a surgeon."
"Brilliant son. Still less than she was though." She turned, her bleeding mane falling down her back. She looked at bed that he couldn't remember seeing a moment before. "You could have been free. You could be still, you know. Let her go. She's broken anyway. Beyond your fixing. First son - second class. It keeps you up at night, doesn't it?"
River lay still and cold and silent in the bed, and for a moment he breathed in cool air and felt as if a weight had lifted from his shoulders. Then it crashed down again, panic coming to batter at his senses. "River . . ." He tried to move toward her, to help her. He couldn't. She opened glassy eyes and looked at him. Opened-eyed and dead.
Red bled over his shoulder as she leaned against him. He looked down into Kaylee's face, Kaylee's brown hair. Blood flowed from her eyes like tears, and ran from her ears, from beneath the skin of the fingernails she dug too-hard into his arms, leaving bleeding crescent moons that he couldn't tell whether they filled with her blood or his. "Two by Two . . ." She breathed, sinking slowly to the floor as his hands - blue gloves catching the light from the too-bright lights and throwing a bruised shadow on the wall - failed to catch her.
" . . . hands of blue. Two by two - Do you hear them Simon? Do they look like you? The bed was narrow and too cold. Is it where I belong? Do you wish I didn't see, or that I wasn't there at all?" Pale fingers, cold like death, dug into the skin of his arm as she sat on his bunk next to him. She stared at him, opaque and unfathomable. When she looked at him like this he wondered if she was even still human.
He hated himself for thinking these things because in some part of his mind, he wondered if she could hear him.
"Genius children. Gifted. Blessed. Shared genetics and family lines. Do you see what I see, or do I see what you see?" Dark head tilted sideways. "I remember her. First love. Sweat and hands in small spaces and abandoned rooms. Red hair. Perfect teeth. I didn't like her. She reminded me of mother, and I felt you were acting out an unsettling Oedipal complex."
She collapsed in on herself before he could voice a protest, suddenly a lost and fragile child again. The frigid air in the ship left her breath slow and puffing from her mouth in a white wind. "Simon, I'm cold."
He opened the blanket, pulled the one she held around them both and wrapped her in his arms, murmuring quiet reassurances as the heat of her body warmed him. "Sleep, River. They'll be back soon."
"I'd rather the fire. The sun. The burn. I'd rather die burning than freezing, heart slowing, skin hardening, teeth chattering so hard they shatter, fingers brittle and breaking-"
"River, they'll be back."
"I know. I was just saying."
"Could you not please?"
"You're so difficult. I can't talk about anything without you acting like a baby."
"River, I think my requesting that you not talk about freezing to death when the temperature is rapidly edging toward icy is NOT an unreasonable request."
"Well, you're insane."
She giggled. "Everyone says that."
"Well, they don't know that you've ALWAYS been insane."
"No. They think it was wires and cutting and blue hands. But some of it was there before. I like those parts. The River parts."
"So do I. Now sleep."
"I forget how to sleep. It baffles me. My brain no longer knows how."
"Then YOU sleep."
"I'm TRYING. Be quiet."
"There ain't no one here, Simon. Just us. You ain't got an excuse no more, you know." Kaylee smiled at him, hair blowing in the artificial wind of the fan next to them. "Empty ship. River off with 'Nara. Cap'n drinkin' with Jayne whiles the Preacher frowns at 'em. Zoe an' Wash off smoochin' somewhere." She leaned in, lips inches from his face. "Just us. Ain't there somethin' you been wantin' to tell me? Somethin' no one else should hear?"
Her shirt rode up to flash her soft stomach, and his fingers found the gap, tracing it with a will of their own. "I think maybe I'm not real anymore." That hadn't been what he meant to say.
"I think you're real 'nough."
"I don't think you're real either. All of this. I watch you, and I think I want to love you. But if I were the real me, I wouldn't even look at you. I don't know what I am now. I'm not a doctor. I'm River's brother."
"You're mine. You could be, if you wanted to be." She looked up at him, and her stomach felt warm in the cool air. He slid his fingers beneath the edge of her too-small pants, feeling the heat rising from the core of her. "Do you wanna be, Simon? Do you want me?"
"I don't know what I want."
"I do. You want to be whole. You think that this broke you. That leaving, changing, shifting - you think it made you less. It didn't. It just made you see that you were only a shadow." She didn't sound like Kaylee anymore, and for some reason he'd expected that.
"I didn't feel like a shadow when I was home." She slid her hands underneath his shirt, fingers cold and warming as they touched him. Her lips found the flesh of his chest as she exposed it, pushing him back down onto the cold metal floor of the ship.
God he was cold.
"You just didn't know there was another way to feel. Everyone is shadows. Half truths. Illusions. You didn't know anyone alive, then."
"No one is alive out here, either. We're all broken. Even the ones who try to hide it."
He looked at her, and it was and wasn't her, just as it was and wasn't really him. "You will be."
She looked away, hair blowing, drifting, twining around his fingers though he was far away, leashing him to her. "Half-truths. Half lives. You're not whole, and I am. And because of that you think you don't deserve me. But the truth is that you don't want me because of that. Because I'm living and you're half of a whole now. And I'm not part of it."
She looked back, smiled. "The other half warms and waits." Her hands moved down, slid off clothes and layers. He was cold and the fan was blowing and he wondered why they'd turned it on. Her mouth against his was hot, wet; her hand sliding along his length was cool and dry. She slid down his body like water, cool skin leaving a trail along him as she pathed down. Hot mouth wrapped around him, dark eyes looking up, hair tangling around her face as he groaned, pushing himself down her throat, hand tangling in her hair.
The cold hit him like a blast as he came, groaning, into her mouth. River looked up at him, lips wrapped around him as he softened, eyes unfathomable. He sobbed once, brokenly as she slid off him. She was naked and he would have looked away if one hand - stronger than it looked - hadn't taken hold of his wrist. If the other hadn't turned his chin toward her, forcing him to watch as his hand - guided by her but powered by him, and they both knew it - delved up inside of curls to slick and wet and warmth.
Her head arched back as he moved his fingers, pressing, kneading, flicking. "Warmer. This. Want. Halves of a whole, now. Not apart. Not together. All wrong, and right, and not one more than the other." She came silently, small body shuddering, hair waving.
His hand fell away. She stared at him and he at her. A shiver rolled through her and he sat up, picking up her discarded nightdress and slipping it over her head, pulling her down to lie beside him. "You hate it when I do this. You want it, but deny it. To me, to you."
"It's wrong, River. If you weren't sick-"
"Sick. Broken. Always will be. Never have any but you, and you can't-won't leave. I took you. Broke you too. But when this - touching, taste, sex, orgasm, love - we're together. Whole." She turned to face him, expression serious.
"No we're not, River. We're just a new kind of broken."
"I'm not alone when you're inside me. I can remember where I am."
He shuddered because she was telling the truth, and he knew they wouldn't stop. "They'd kill me if they knew, mei mei. What we do - it's wrong."
"It's wrong for the rest of the worlds, maybe. But for us, it's all we have to be." She shifted against him and her thigh brushed against him. She smiled as he twitched, half-hardened again. River thought of sex too often. And he was with her too much. It bled into his brain.
"I think maybe I'm going as crazy as you are, you know."
"No." She studied him and picked up his hands, looking at them like puzzles. "If you hadn't come, it would have gone the other way. Two by two, hands of blue. Brother monster, sister killer. Different worlds, still wrong. Rules don't apply outside of pre-determined boundaries. Outside of the normal laws and realities, right and wrong can't be quantified."
"Don't tell anyone."
"I never do. I have secrets under my skin and they stay there. Mice in their hole, hidden away from the cats."
"Who are the cats?"
"I'm sorry, River."
"I'm not. But that doesn't make it better for you, does it? Hear my voice in your head, even when it's not me. Makes you wonder if you're mad. If you're like me." She rolled back over, facing away from him. "You're not. You never were."
She fell asleep and he lay awake as the shuttle and the heat returned and wondered why he still felt cold.