You woke up screaming, and Simon wasn't there. Usually he has found you before you have regained full consciousness, whispering in your ear that everything will be okay.
Simon is a liar. But he helps to shake off the dirt of your dreams, and so you pretend to believe him, like a girl with nothing to lose.
This dream clings to you, forcing you out of bed. The floor is ice-cold underneath your bare feet. You tiptoe out of your door, and through Simon's. His room stands lonely, his bed untouched.
Jayne, you wonder, or Mal? Jayne, the answer comes back to you. You have crept halfway down the hallway, before you start to change your mind.
Jayne doesn't need Simon as much as you need Simon. That's a certainty. But Simon needs so much. He needs so much and pretends to need so little. And Jayne will hurt him in the end, but for tonight...
You take two steps backwards. You hands are shaking and trembling in front of you, your pale skin illuminated by the pale glow of light coming from underneath a door, down the hall.
The engine room.
Kaylee. You can see her, suddenly, engine grease smeared on her hands, listening as Serenity whispers her troubles. Listening carefully, touching her gently, opening her up and healing every wound.
You trip over nothing and clutch the wall, trying to keep the stab of jealousy down. "It's just an object," you tell the darkness. "She'll miss the moon, when she gets back."
"River?" The door opens, and light streams out and down the hall. "You should be in bed. Ain't Simon given you your medicine? You...you're freezin' cold."
She has come up beside you, and taken your hand. Her palm is hot and soft against yours. "They came for me."
Kaylee's look of worry deepens. You hate that look. But you don't have the right words to push it away. The words always let you down.
"They came, and I wasn't fast enough. I couldn't get away."
She leads you back to your room and tucks you into bed. "It was just a dream," she tells you, as she draws the covers over you. "Just a dream, sweetie."
That's what Simon says. But there's no such thing. "The dreams are real," you whisper softly. "It's the light that can't be trusted."
Kaylee pulls the cover up to your collarbone, one hand resting light on your shoulder. "Try and sleep. It'll be okay."
Just one word, a dangerous word. It leaves your mouth before you can stop it. Kaylee pauses, then nods. "'Kay. Just a little. 'Till you fall asleep."
Her boots thud heavy on the floor, as she kicks them off and crawls into the tiny bunk. You can feel the warmth of her pressed into your back.
"When I was little," she tells you, "I was afraid of the dark."
You shift position slightly, listening.
"I was terrified. Right up until I was fourteen, maybe fiteen. I always thought there was something in the dark, come to get me. Reavers. I dreamt of the Reavers a lot, an' I'd wake up with the nightmares in my head. And my pa'd tell me it weren't nothin'. Dreams never are. He'd ask me what else I'd dreamt that night. And it was always somethin' silly you know, like me an' my pa buildin' a chocolate spaceship. One that talked."
You giggle. Kaylee continues, her breath warm on the back of your neck as she talks.
"Last night I dreamed that me an' Jayne moved to Persephone and opened up a strawberry farm. An' the strawberries kept growin', and our house filled up with 'em, till we couldn't hardly move. I dream about food, a lot." Her hand drifts onto yours, a reassuring weight. "You must have nice dreams, sometimes."
"I..." you open your mouth, then remember, and close it again. Sometimes you do have nice dreams. Sometimes you dream about Kaylee. About Kaylee's mouth, pretty and warm on your own. You dream about her hands, underneath your dress, and long legs wrapped around yours. You dream about the shape of her breasts, and the feel of her skin on your tongue. You dream about Kaylee, and awake breathless, with the thoughts of her still heavy between your thighs.
"It's okay." She has been waiting for you to say something. "You don't have to tell me about your dreams."
"I...it's always the same," you whisper. "I can't run fast enough. They peeled off the skin, and found nothing. Left nothing."
"Oh, sweetie." She doesn't know what else to say.
"If I was a ship, you would know how to fix me."
She laughs gently into the dark. "I would, at that. But Simon's a people mechanic. He'll make it better. There ain't nuthin' here to be afraid of."
You are quiet, listening to her breathing into the dark, until the deep even rythmn lets you know that Kaylee has fallen asleep.
You turn over, gently, trying not to wake her. Kaylee's face is a painting, outlined by the darkness. Long eyelashes rest on smooth cheeks, her lips curved in the barest of smiles. Dreaming about food.
Peaches, pears, oranges. Nothing here to be afraid of, she said, but she'll never know. You're afraid of going back. Of never being fixed, never being whole again. Of never finding the path into Kaylee's dreams, of always being on her outside, sleepless.
You're broken. She can't love someone that's broken. You close your eyes, and try to sleep.