A/N: This is not a nice chapter. I didn't like writing it. Truth be told, I kind of love this chapter because it's so important and it was such a challenge, but even so... I feel... unclean. *shudders dramatically*
And to head off any confusion, yes, it's supposed to be this way. There are reasons. All will be explained in the next chapter or two.
Moving quietly, Simon slid the door to his room shut behind him, not bothering with the light. The darkness seemed more appropriate, anyway, given his mood. He wasn’t sure he could handle even the scant comfort illumination would offer; rather, he wanted nothing more than to retreat from the world entirely, to deny the reality of his current situation. He was fairly certain he was still in shock after having his deepest fears revealed and confirmed all in a few short, unexpected moments. As he sat down on the edge of his bed, Simon took a series of deep breaths to quell the tremors that threatened to rack his body the instant he let his guard down.
!” he cried, spinning to look beside him where River sat calmly at the head of his bed. “River, I… I didn’t see you there,” he said, his heart pounding in his throat.
“I wasn’t hiding,” she said sensibly.
“No, you were just sitting here,” Simon countered rationally. “In my room. In the dark.”
“So were you,” she pointed out.
Simon started to argue, but stopped himself short, shaking his head as if to clear it. “River, you should… I need to be alone. I need time to think.”
River cocked her head and stared at him. “Your considerations are false,” she said.
“My… what? Never mind. I don’t have… I can’t do this right now,” he said brusquely, running a frustrated hand through his hair.
“Simon?” River said again, but this time her voice wavered; she was frightened.
“Go to bed, River,” he ordered tiredly.
“Something’s wrong,” she stated, not moving an inch.
“It’s nothing,” he lied. “Go to bed, please. I just need to think.”
She shook her head. “You’ve already decided,” she accused, not understanding what was going on but terrified nonetheless.
“It’s nothing,” he repeated desperately. “I- the captain and I had a conversation, that’s all. He wants… we talked about what would be best for you.”
“Everything that River needs and nothing that she wants,” River sing-songed angrily. “Mal for bad in Latin, but nothing like the shadow that whispers in your ear.”
“We… agreed that I’m- that I might be holding you back,” Simon said in a strangled voice, unable to look his sister in the eye as he did so.
“No, you can’t!” she whimpered. “You can’t leave me!”
“I- I have to, River,” he protested. “I can’t… It’s for the best. I promise.”
Suddenly furious, River slapped her palm across his cheek. “There’s lies everywhere, all over inside of you!” she cried, burying her hands in her hair in frustration.
“River,” Simon said, bewildered, bringing a shaking hand to his stinging cheek. “Why-“
“Don’t take candy from people in masks,” River interrupted, shouting angrily, her gestures wild and uncontrolled. “It’s against the rules, taking poison in pretty wrappers when the face smiles at you. Not listening to the eyes when the surface is so much easier. Can’t take words from lips that don’t kiss, it’s contradictory and it isn’t allowed!”
“River, you have to calm down,” Simon said, calmer now himself that he was on the familiar ground of handling his sister’s mood swings. He tried to put a hand on her shoulder, but she pulled it out of his reach and glared at him.
“You’ll get blood on my dress,” she spat as she got to her feet and stormed over to the door. “False knife in his hands and you showed him where to cut you! It wasn’t even real, but you bled for him anyway. Sit still while it devours you, bits and pieces all a mess. Always such a good boy, that Simon!”
“River-“ he protested, but she wouldn’t hear it.
“I’m going to bed,” she shouted, leaving him to sit alone with his thoughts.
*~*~*~* “You think you’re all alone.”
Kaylee dropped the wrench as she tried to hold back a scream. She’d thought she was alone, hadn’t noticed the ever-more-familiar feeling of eyes on her as she did her work. Hating herself for looking back over her shoulder, she stuck an unruly strand of hair back behind her ear and picked up the wrench again.
“Seems so certain, doesn’t it? That I’d not happen again.”
Kaylee gasped and whirled around; she could have sworn he’d be right there, his lips at her ear. So close, but the room was empty. “You’re not here,” she said as sternly as she could, her voice wavering. “There’s no one here.”
The silence in the wake of her declaration confirmed her solitude. Glaring at every shadow that might hide someone that shouldn’t be there, she turned back to the engine.
“They ever tell you how long it takes one to die, out in the black?” his voice asked her, not caring that Early himself wasn’t there to speak it. “Me alone with air meant to sustain me till port of harbor, only there was no harbor. Makes the whole endeavor a bit useless, don’t you think?”
“You ain’t here,” Kaylee said louder. “You ain’t in here and you ain’t on this ship.”
“Looks like I’m in your head, though. That puts me right here in this room,” he told her rationally. “Right beside her beating heart.”
Kaylee didn’t answer, didn’t look around. Her hands shook as she tried to tighten a loose bolt, but she didn’t look behind her.
“Everything gets loose, sooner or later,” he observed. “Motion of the ship, it wiggles those screws right out over time. Whole purpose of the ship is to move, but in doing so it causes itself damage. Marches on toward some… inevitable end, I suppose. And that’s the way of everything, isn’t it? Marching on.”
“Stop it!” she cried, bringing her hands to her ears. “Just stop it, please! I can’t-“ she cut herself off and climbed to her feet.
“Can’t run away if I’m not here,” he said. He wasn’t taunting her, just stating a fact, vocalizing a train of thought. “Anywhere you go, I won’t be there either. It’s interesting; if you’re trying not to be where I’m not present, then wouldn’t you only succeed if you ran to where I am
“Bu zuo sheng, wo li dan du
! Please, just leave me be!” she shouted, eyes shut tightly as she ran from the room. She dashed blindly down the hall, not stopping until she collided with an unsuspecting Spike. Panicked, she didn’t realize it was him at first and nearly fell down attempting to get away from him.
“Woah, hold up there, love,” he said, surprised, as he caught her forearms to keep her from falling.
“Oh god, Spike,” she gasped as she flung her arms around him and buried her face in his chest.
“Hush now, pet,” Spike crooned softly, stroking her hair. “You’re alright now. I’ve got you, love.”
“I keep hearin’ ‘im, Spike,” she sobbed. “There’s shadows and sounds, and I never know what I’m hearin’ anymore!”
“Who do you hear, Kaylee?” he asked, pulling back so he could look at her face, which was streaked with tears.”
“That man, that- that bounty hunter, but he isn’t there,” she said. “There’s nobody there, but he just keeps talkin’ to me and I don’t know how to make it stop!”
“Well, I’m here now, aren’t I?” Spike said reassuringly. “No one’s talking to you now except for me.”
“I know, but it’s not like that when I’m all alone. It’s like he’s there,” she cried frantically. “It’s like he’s with me, talkin’ at me just like before, sayin’ the most awful things…”
“You’re safe now,” he promised, cupping her cheek and threading his fingers through her hair.
“He made me say it,” she whispered, her eyes screwed shut. “Made me say there’s nobody could help me. Made me say it so I knew it’s true.”
“Shh, shh. He can’t hurt you, yeah? He’s not here anymore, and we are. I am. Not going to let anybody hurt you, understand?” He let her pull closer to him again, dropping her forehead onto his shoulder. “No one’ll be hurting you when I can help it.”
“How is it you make me feel so safe?” Kaylee whispered.
They stood there in the hallway until Spike felt her tremors start to ease. Once her terror had eased somewhat, he loosened his embrace and brushed away the tears under her eyes. “Come on, now, let’s get you to bed,” he said.
She nodded, but made no move to extricate herself from his arms. With a small smile, Spike gently picked her up and carried her to the brightly decorated door bearing her name. The door opened with a soft hiss, but Spike found himself unable to cross the threshold.
“Looks like you’ll have to invite me in,” he told her. “Vampire rules, you know.”
She met his eyes with a mischievous grin. “Spike, are you askin’ your way into my bunk?”
“S’pose I am,” he answered.
“Well, in that case, be my guest,” she responded. The barrier removed, Spike leapt down into her quarters, eliciting a surprised gasp from the mechanic.
“Lord, you landed so soft!” she exclaimed, her arms still around his neck. “Just like a- a cat, or somethin’!”
Spike smirked and gave her a quick wink, setting her down on her bed. “You’re alright, then?” Spike asked seriously.
Her nod was hesitant. “I- I guess, but I…” she looked worriedly around her room. “I never know that I’m alone anymore.”
“Can’t get much farther away from folk than on a spaceship,” Spike pointed out, but she just shook her head.
“I know, but… I mean, that’s how it’s supposed to be. There’s just us here, and nobody can get on without us knowing, but he did. Snuck himself on board, and wasn’t even the Captain or Wash could see him do it. Pulled his ship right up on our tail and we never noticed it happening, and then he were just… there, talkin’ to me in the engine room.”
Spike took an unnecessary breath and looked around. “Well, there’s no one here now that’s not supposed to be, I can assure you of that.”
“I know, and I trust you, I just…” she trailed off, tears once again gleaming in her eyes.
“You’ve been shaken up a bit,” he supplied.
“It’s… I never been scared like that before,” she told him. “He was so soft, the way he spoke, like he wasn’t angry or worried or nothin’. Like it was just another day for him and it weren’t no matter about the rest of us. Weren’t no matter whether we ended up okay or not, we was no more than just things to ‘im.”
Rather than answer, as there was nothing he could really say, Spike helped her to lay down and pulled the covers over her. “I’ll stay until you fall asleep,” he promised.
“Somethin’ about you, Spike,” she said, looking into his eyes. “You make me feel safe like I didn’t think I could again.” Sighing, she closed her eyes, a tiny smile touching her lips when Spike began to run his fingers through her hair.
It didn’t take her long at all to fall asleep, though Spike continued to pet her hair for some time, not wanting to leave her. When he finally did stand up, she didn’t so much as stir, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was abandoning her. Even so, as much as he hated the idea leaving Kaylee alone and vulnerable, something was happening to make the poor girl so frightened. He needed to talk to Dawn.
Unable to sleep, Simon found himself once again in the infirmary, this time making sure that the crew would have everything it needed once he was… gone. Fully immersed in his impromptu inventory, he nearly jumped out of his skin when he turned around to find Mal leaning casually against the infirmary wall with crossed arms and a cold expression.
“I- I didn’t hear you come in,” Simon stuttered, trying to calm his breathing.
“Weren’t paying much attention, it seems,” Mal responded offhandedly, though there was something harsh and dangerous at the edge of his tone.
“I, ah, suppose I was distracted,” he said with a forced chuckle, setting down the syringe he’d been preparing.
Mal shoved off the wall and paced slowly across the room, careful to keep the same distance between himself and Simon as he walked. “Got a lot on your mind, then, doctor?” he asked.
Simon shrugged and tried not to look too intimidated. “Well, what with River-“
“You want me to fuck you, doctor?” Mal interrupted quietly.
“She’s very- excuse me?” Simon asked as the captain’s words penetrated.
“You want me to fuck you?” Mal said questioningly, stalking slowly toward the
other man. “You want me to tear into you? Wo de zi hao fe zhai zhi nei ni de ao dong
Simon didn’t move as Mal came progressively closer, a predatory look in his eyes. He clutched his fingers against the counter behind him, wishing there were somewhere, anywhere he could go to escape this unfamiliar and angry version of Mal.
“Shall we see just how wide those pretty lips can open?” Mal continued. “Do you want me to fuck your mouth, Simon? Ni xiang bu xiang ha wo deh bang
? Do you want me to come inside of you?”
Confusion and terror warred with the arousal Mal’s words incited in Simon, disgust at himself boiling continuously beneath the more powerful emotions. The words were too harsh, the tone all wrong, but they were so close to what Simon hated himself for wanting to hear. There was almost no space between them, nothing but a breath of air that kept them from touching, but Mal still leaned forward until his lips were mere inches from Simon’s ear. For a long moment, neither man moved, the empty space between them charged with a sickly electricity.
“Ni shi sha gua
,” Mal whispered maliciously.
A single, dry sob escaped Simon’s throat as he shut his eyes, not watching as Mal stepped back and shook his head in disgust before striding out of the infirmary. Though his arms began to tremble with the strain, Simon didn’t loose his grip on the counter’s edge, instead clinging to it as his only anchor to reality as carefully-constructed denials and half-abandoned hopes all crumbled away within his mind.
= expression of surprise.Bu zuo sheng, wo li dan du
= Be quiet, leave me alone!Wo de zi hao fe zhai zhi nei ni de ao dong
= I don't particularly want to translate this one. It's mean and gross and I'm a little ashamed I even went so far as to look this phrase up.Ni xiang bu xiang ha wo deh bang
= See above. Seriously, it's not a nice thing to say.Ni shi sha gua
= You are a fool.