Summery: On bad days, he was there.
She stepped down lightly, turning the water on as hot as it could go.
It was not a good day.
The walls had been talking to her, and Simon had been hovering, and this was the only place she could go without him insisting on following her.
Her head hurt.
The water was stinging, and she absently did the math to figure out how fast the water was flowing.
“So many pounds per square inch,” she sighed to the door handle. “The sin that washes away drains down and down.”
River sank to the floor, wrapping her arms around her knees tightly. The water beat down on her head and she raised her face to the spray in the dim light.
The yelling was trying to sneak in, slither in like snakes under the water, but she kept her eyes closed. They couldn’t pass her eyelids without her permission.
She didn’t even realize the door had opened.
Her eyes opened with a gasp.
“Shouldn’t be here.”
His hands were large and rough, and she jerked back.
“No,” she pushed him away. “Everything hurts.” She curled tighter into herself and sobbed dryly against her knees. “Everything hurts.”
He didn’t listen, which shouldn’t have surprised her, but it did.
He could always surprise her on bad days.
On good days, he was gruff and mean and teased her worse than Simon ever did. On good days, she could hear his thoughts buzzing against her spine – irritating and comforting at once, like scratching at a bug bite.
On good days, he was just there and was another noise in her head.
Bad days were different.
On bad days, Simon’s voice felt like glass and the walls could talk and Serenity would tell her of bad things that she could do to the others.
On bad days, she couldn’t feel him at all. Her spine was intact and didn’t buzz under his mouth, and she had no idea what he was thinking.
She could guess, and did, as his hands slide down to her hips.
The water had been turned off, and she turned her hazy eyes to him.
“They won’t stop,” she told him.
He didn’t look at her.
But then, he didn’t. On bad days or good days.
His eyes passed over her, rarely looking her in the eye, or even focusing on her face.
But on bad days, he always came to get her.
She let herself rest against his shoulder. His shirt was wet under her cheek, and she realized that he must have been there for a while.
How long had she been trying to drown the whispers out?
This was something Simon didn’t know. Something Simon wouldn’t understand.
It was something she didn’t understand.
And if she wasn’t so tired, and her head wasn’t throbbing in time to the heartbeat she could feel in his chest, she would try to quantify it.
It wasn’t something as simple as male and female. She wished it was. It would be easy to do the math and know what he wanted.
Sometimes it was that simple. What Simon thought about Kaylee, and Captain refused to acknowledge about Inara, sometimes Jayne would think about her.
Fleeting, flashing images - radiating down into her belly at dinner, her chopsticks bouncing off the floor.
How could he picture her so clearly, when he barely even looked at her was something else she didn’t understand.
“Can’t quantify, can’t qualify,” she muttered against his neck as he lifted her. He sometimes thought those things, but never on her bad days.
“Shut up, girl.”
She nodded, letting her eyes fall closed again.
She was so tired.
His heartbeat worked better than water, drowning out her sins.