Summary: Simon has always seen the world in River’s colors.
Warnings: Crazy Space Incest, Threesome, non-explicit sex
Spoilers: None Specific
Title, Author and URL of original story: Color of Music, by meinterrupted
(The In Her Sea Remix)
"I'm almost drowning in her sea,
She's nearly, crawling on her knees.
It's almost everything I need."
-- Counting Crows, "Sullivan Street"
She breaks him apart and puts him back together again more adeptly than he’s ever managed with her. She is scattered, still. All his needles and calming can’t knit together the shape of the girl she was. Instead he pushes the pieces together and sees something new and fierce forming in the space where the River he knew was. Herself but more, and less, and he mourns what was lost because he loved his sister. And because he was one of those who helped let her go.
Simon tells himself that he lets this go on because like this - above him or under him, body arching to some rhythm he can’t hear, but that she teaches him to match anyway - she looks the most like his sister.
It’s a lie.
But Simon is best at lying to himself.
She murmurs that she needs him. He needs to be needed, so he lets her hands slide over his skin, her mouth press against his. All the ways and reasons this is wrong want to push past his lips, but she has answers for every one. They’ve done this, once, twice, a dozen times. River could always talk her way around him, because in the end, he’s never wanted to do anything but what she wanted him to do. Because it doesn’t add up, doesn’t make sense, doesn’t fit inside the parameters of what he knows is right. But what he knows is worlds away and he can’t help but want this, however wrong.
He sees Kaylee, sweet smile a tiny sun, beaming light into the gloom of their worlds, and he wants to want her. Wants the warmth of love without ropes that tie him down, and guilt that sits heavy as lead on his chest. But it never comes. When he closes his eyes, all he ever sees is River, hair a dark ocean sliding down her shoulders, around her face, dripping down into his eyes to blind him to any sight that isn’t her. On the nights she doesn’t come to him, he breathes in the smell of her that always lingers on his skin and strokes a hand over himself, imagining River against him, around him. He dreams in black and white. He always has. When he opens his eyes to her colors, he thinks maybe his dreams are colored in - they just turn grey and intangible by comparison.
He doesn’t cry when he comes. He thinks it’s because, in his way, he’s more broken than she is. She’s broken in the way that artists always are - beautiful and wild and walking half in a world only they will ever see. He’s broken like sand along a shoreline, slow-erosion as the water batters against him.
She chants his name when she comes, his baby sister, and he fills her up, makes her his. He hears her voice in echo, a child with her eyes laughing as she shows him a drawing she’d done, a dance step she learned. Wrong, wrong, wrong, beats in his head to the same rhythm she chants, and it doesn’t stop him. He can’t stop. When she sings afterward, he recognizes it for the comfort it is, and lets himself be lulled. Until next time. Until the next sin of flesh and blood and family.
Simon knows where she goes on the nights she’s not with him, and he feels something cold burn beneath his skin, or maybe something warm. Cold and heat are no different. Nerves perceive them both as burning, both as pain. He can't tell if it's heat or chill that wrecks him. She comes and goes. Moves to her own music. He listens once, from the top of the ladder, hears shuddering breaths and low grunts and hates himself for being hard. For wanting to watch almost as badly as he wants to rage, to stop it.
He does neither. Simon thinks it would be easier if it was someone else. That he could let go if only it were to a good man. But Jayne isn’t that man, and Simon can’t help but grip her tighter when she comes back, fingers digging tiny bruise-purple moons into her hips, marking her as his.
He tells himself he could let her go to someone else. Even he can’t quite make himself believe that lie.
Everything is music to River. Underneath the music are the numbers that dance through her head, shifting somewhere inside her from math to art. Simon has no art. He never has. He just has numbers and excuses and cold reasoning that can never fill in the whys well enough to explain why he can’t say no to the things he should turn away, and yes to the things he should crave.
He has always tried to give her what she wants. Music on the Cortex when she speaks of duets and triadic harmonies. She looks at him like he doesn’t understand, and he thinks that maybe he does, but he can’t afford to. He remembers when she was little, building dinosaur armies and castles in her mind. He could play in her world, but he’d never been able to build his own. The castles in his head were spun of sugar and dissolved in the rain.
He can see the thoughts moving behind her eyes, spinning out of his reach and out of his control. He isn’t River. But he is far from stupid, and Simon knows what will come, on some level. In some way he understands his baby sister, still, even when she’s fey and strange and beyond comprehension. Blood calls to blood, maybe.
In his tiny, sterile universe at the center of a rusting ship, Simon still ponders drugs and needles. He wonders if maybe one day he’ll slide something into River’s veins that will flow through her blood and make her hate him for what he allowed to happen.
They pass in the halls and avert their eyes. Simon fights down anger and guilt and wonders what emotions Jayne is fighting back, how much he knows. Wonders if he's stood outside and listened to sounds he's not a part of and hated himself for it. If he was only a good man, he tries to convince himself, again, but he can feel the lie and it gives no comfort anymore.
They don't speak, and she's not there, but they're wading through her anyway. She wraps around them, weighs them down, reshapes them. Simon wonders if it's harder for Jayne. At least Simon is used to it. She'd always made him into more than what he was – it’s new to Jayne.
He doesn’t ask, and Jayne doesn’t answer, and they pass like ships that sail the same sea should - cordial and distant, eyes peeled for sight of cannons and violence.
He's waiting, and he knows it. There's some step coming, some movement of hers he can feel but not anticipate, like the mood swings that build in her blood and bubble up in screams and frenzy when all the cracks in her brain shift and he fails to shore them up in time to dam the flood.
When it comes, it's easier and harder than he expects. Her mouth is on his chest, legs wrapped around him. Jayne is in the doorway and braver than Simon, because he lets them see. Lets Simon see, since River sees with more than her eyes. Their eyes meet across her hair, and he can feel the moment where something breaks, and he gives in. Forgive us, Father . . . He's never believed, though. Science before belief, and the thought bubbles through his brain like laughter - half hysteria and half something dark and yielding.
"We're a rainbow," she murmurs, and he shuts his eyes, lets her mouth take him away, lets himself drown in the color and music he's only ever seen when she painted it for him.
When his hands slide past smooth skin to rough, when he looks into eyes that aren't hers, he wants to hate this, but he can't. Secret and shame seem less heavy when they're shared, and they are three bodies now, arching together, a tangle of limbs and mouths. It's still wrong. It will always be wrong.
But he's not wrong alone, at least. Together, they are every shade of sin Simon was raised to know was wrong. It makes it easier.