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A Hole in the World
My toes are cold. Kaylee murmurs and pushes me away in her sleep as I drape my feet over her lower legs to warm them a little. Like the sunshine of her smile, Kaylee radiates heat when she sleeps. The physics of this is quite simple. When I am cold and seek warmth I come to her for comfort. Kaylee is sweet and gentle and she loves me like she loves all broken things. When we are together, she lavishes on me the same attention she gives to Serenity's engines and systems. I know she remembers when the bounty hunter came, when I pretended to be the spirit of the ship. Everything changed between us that day. We saved each other then. I know that Kaylee thinks her friendship and her comfort and joy might just fix me one day.
She might be right.
Here in the black it does not matter whether my eyes are open or closed. I know what I cannot see. We are all particles, interacting with one another, feeding and sustaining and repelling and the relationships are dizzying. The unification of the whole, Serenity plus. Within that strong interactions provide cohesion: Zoe and Wash, Simon and me, Mal and his ideal. The uncertainty principle will Inara stay much longer, will Mal really shoot Jayne one of these days, will the Alliance operatives catch up with us, will Shepherd Book reveal his past life, will I go insane makes for flux and mutability. Vertexes form and decay with every interaction yet the overriding force stays true. We are the crew of Serenity.
I drift in and out of dreams. Red shifting, hands of blue skitter away as I seek another path. Here, there, down the rabbit hole. Earth that was. I am dancing, dressed in white. I am sad. I see a girl in a red dress elf-slender and dark watching me with eyes like a deer. There was a hole in the world and the girl fell through, split from herself and from everyone she loved. The dark man and the scarred man and the red headed witch girl.
The girl is falling tumbling through time and space like a sere leaf blown on the wind. And as I reach out to catch her I wake.
I let Inara comb out the tangles in my hair, humming under my breath as her soft touch gentles my spirit. I have borrowed paper and ink from her and it waits for me by the door. Her fingers linger on my cheek and I turn to look at her. Her dark eyes are soft with concern for me. "Kaylee said you didn't sleep so well last night."
"The girl was falling," I tell her. "There was a hole in the world and she fell right through. Her hair was long and dark like yours. The witch girl is crying for her but there's nothing she can do. Her hair is red, redder than Wash's even. She's prettier than Wash as well. And powerful. But she draws it from the darkness. If she uses her power, if she tries to save the falling girl, she'll break the world like an eggshell and all will come a-tumbling down." I sighed, sketched the formulae into the skin of my forearm with my fingernail. The symbols show red against my pale skin but fade too soon. "I can't help her either, not on my own. Too many things are broken. The attraction isn't strong enough and none of the quarks are the right flavour. All I could see were leptons when she really needs hadrons. Too much strange and not enough charm." I make no sense, not even to myself.
Inara is checking to see if I have a temperature but I know I am cold. In the space between it is always cold. Entropy. Mass and energy tesseract in the fifth dimension fractal energies spiral and fold in on each other. Fold space so that in a breath A to B become one place. Everything and nothing.
"How do you feel, River?" she asks. Inara always asks the hardest questions. Broken things like me don't feel the same, we feel too much or not at all.
"Cold," I say. "I feel cold."
In a hidden corner of the hold I lay out paper and ink and began to try to express the mathematical equations that dance in my head. But expressing polydimensional tesserae transcendent on two dimensional wood pulp is frustrating. The paper is too small and the idea is too big. And if I write on the walls again Kaylee will frown and Mal will use his Daddy voice.
Inara lets me sleep with her tonight. I like being in her shuttle, the textures and tastes, the smells and sounds and colours, they keep my senses occupied they don't let me drift into the dark. I cuddle up to Inara on her soft bed, my arm around her waist, my face buried in her hair, my forehead resting against her cheek. Before I know what I am doing my hand has teased up inside her nightshirt and I am touching her breast. It is soft yet firm and I feel her arousal against my fingers.
"River?" she breathes, but she does not move away or tell me that I am doing wrong.
"Soft," I whisper. I nuzzle at her throat. "Sweet."
"Is this what you want?" she asks.
"Touch me," I press myself against her. "I'm real, a real girl, not a broken machine. Not an Alliance doll with a head full of secrets. Make me a real girl, Inara."
Her fingers count down my ribs, my flesh jumps where she touches and I giggle.
"So River Tam is ticklish, I never would have guessed," Inara smiled in the darkness. Her hand splayed on my stomach, her palm warm against my skin. Her hands are soft not calloused like Kaylee's and she smells so sweet. When Kaylee touches me it's like Serenity herself is touching me, her scarred finger tips and the smell of engine grease and lubricant that is part of who she is. Inara's hair falls across my skin like perfumed silk and as her lips touch mine I can smell the cloves she chewed earlier to sweeten her breath. Her fingers cup my mound, brush over the sensitive nub of flesh they find there and I make a small purring sound deep in my throat. She likes that, whispers encouragement to me. As her fingers part my lower lips and begin a delicious stroking and teasing I close my eyes.
I can feel the power rise through me. Chakras igniting down my spine. Here and now. The attraction is strong, a silent wave front pressing me forward, onward, upward, outward. Fractals swirl into infinity. The dark haired girl dances among the stars, trailing points of light from her fingers. On an empty slate of dark matter she brings equations into being a complex mathematics that I recognize as the full expression of my pitiful attempts earlier. This is how it should be, working with the stuff of the universe itself. She senses me watching and holds out her hand. I grasp her fingers, they are warm and she twirls me into the dance with her. We dance close, almost as one, staring into each other's eyes, sharing everything. Neutrinos scatter like fireflies. And we are the spirit that was before and is behind all things and we are light and heat and stardust. Energy courses through me, erupts from me and the part of me that is real feels Inara hold my quaking body as the orgasm shudders through me. She murmurs my name and kisses my brow and then on the lips. The girl lets go of my hand and we fall away from each other but I am not afraid, not any more. Not for her, not for me. I know that all will be well.
This girl is no one's damsel in distress. This girl is rescuing herself.
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