A/N: Finally, the last in my Five Random Songs series, inspired by the song Voices by Theatre of Tragedy. This one turned into something a bit more epic than I originally intended - there is a reason behind River's breakdown in this story, a nasty one, and I may revisit it at some point if I feel inspired.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Never will be either.
Spoilers: post-BDM; established Rayne.
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Voices by Theatre of Tragedy
An endless flow of words
And miles and miles of stars
It came upon her mind as a wave of sound, a susurration of voices flowing towards her consciousness, inexorable in their approach. Her sanity had been so improved since Miranda that she was able to view the onset of madness with all the horror of familiarity. She could feel her fragile grasp on her own mind and thoughts fade in and out, as she clutched helplessly at her anchors to reality. Serenity. Her family. Jayne.
Oh, Jayne, she thought, as she fought desperately for control. Their relationship was still too raw and fresh for such a test. How would he see her if she reverted back to the moonbrain, the 'gorram freak'? Would he ever be able to view her again as an equal? Would his love fade away to disgust and fear as before? She didn't think she could bear it.
Whimpers clawed their way up her throat, as she fought back the enveloping confusion to engage the autopilot, terrified that she might lose control and harm the ship somehow. The seconds it took seemed to stretch out like toffee and as soon as she had relinquished the ship up to automation, she sprang from the pilot's seat and almost stumbled her way out of the bridge, sobbing as the voices gained in volume.
She pressed the nearest com panel frantically, "Help me, oh help me, please. Jayne! Simon!! Can't keep them out… I'm drowning…"
Subdue these sounds forever
Someone visited my mind in wonder
Somewhere behind walls and halls another sight surrounds me
Voices say: "If you could set me free?"
By the time the others came running up, their anxiety spiking red and bleeding into the air around them, she was curled up into a ball against the wall of the corridor, little white hands pressed to both ears, trying to keep the voices from spilling out of her brain. There were so many of them, thousands upon thousands striving to be heard. How could she listen to all of them at once?
"Bi zui!" she yelled, banging her head back against the wall, but they paid her no heed.
"River," Simon crouched beside her and stroked one hand gently down her arm. She focused in on him, trying to use him as a lifeline to cling to. "What is it?"
"Can't hear," she said. "Too many tales to tell. Cacophony is not conducive to comprehension."
"Aw, hell," came Mal's exasperated voice from behind her brother. "Please tell me my only pilot hasn't gone all feng le again. Thought you said she was all better now!" This last was aimed accusingly at Simon.
"Actually, what I said was that she is considerably improved, sufficient to reduce her medication to a minimum. This is the first episode she's had since just after Miranda." Worry coated his words. "I don't understand what could have triggered it."
"What you sayin', Doc?" That was Jayne, sounding wary. River peered frantically round her brother, trying to see him. She had to explain, she had to see whether he still loved her or whether he was looking at her like he used to, all angry and afraid. "This another bunch a' Fruity Oaty go se?"
"It doesn't fit with that pattern," Simon admitted. "She hasn't attacked anyone, after all. This is more like how she was when she could sense the deaths on Miranda."
"Shut them out, cannot bear witness, sensory overload…" Her eyes filled with tears and she wailed in anguish. "Jaaayyynne!"
Then he was there, solid and grounded, her rock. He plucked her up into his arms with barely any effort at all, cradling her into his body, and she wept with relief. He was not repelled by her. Not yet.
Read to me a story now
Can you sing your lullaby?
He carried her into the infirmary and placed her gently on the examination table, staying at her side and holding one hand firmly in his own. His thumb brushed absent-mindedly across her knuckles, over and over, and she found herself focusing in on that contact, letting it soothe her, drawing on his strength to push back the intrusion in her mind.
Simon swabbed her arm and injected her – she felt the fire of the drug spread out from that pin-sharp point of entry, washing through her system and wrapping her nerves in layers of woolly numbness. She turned her head wearily to stare at Jayne and bit her lip at the worry she saw in those bright blue eyes.
"Still in here," she whispered, trying to get through to him. "Don't let go. Can't climb the walls if I fall too deep into the well."
"Ain't lettin' go," he said gruffly, his hand tightening on hers. "Ya just figure on gettin' better real soon, ya hear?"
River sighed. "I am trying, but I am only one and they are legion. They will swamp the River."
"Well, rivers are all kinds a' powerful, dong ma? Remember I told ya 'bout the one that came down from the mountains near where I was raised?" He reached his hand across and gently smoothed the sweat-dampened hair away from her face.
"I remember," she said, her eyes fluttering shut as the drugs took hold. "Named her a goddess. Tell me again, my Jayne. Need a focus point for spotting to keep from falling over."
His low, rumbling tones as he told her the fairy story of the little river that grew to a raging flood lulled her into oblivion.
I'll be yours now
How can I be sure if I am me and you are you?
"She be herself when she comes to?" he asked quietly. Simon turned from where he was sorting through possible medications and looked at the big mercenary. He always seemed even more hulking when stood next to River but, for all that, the two of them seemed to fit together somehow.
Simon hadn't been entirely surprised when the juvenile bickering and teasing between his sister and the resident muscle had finally spilled over into equally juvenile flirting and touching. That the relationship between the two of them had grown and matured as it had, though, had come as a surprise to all of them. River and Jayne simply brought out the best in each other. He was still obnoxious, of course, and she was still a brat, but the faults of both were tempered slightly now, at least with each other.
"I honestly don't know," he admitted now to his sister's… what? Boyfriend? Lover? Partner? None of the terms seemed sufficient for the bond that existed between them. "Until she wakes, I have no way of knowing what state she may be in. I may have to monitor her brainwaves and continue to sedate her until I can figure out what's going on."
"Don't much care fer the idea a' druggin' her senseless all the ruttin' time," Jayne said angrily. "Seems ta me like that's yer answer fer everything."
"I'm not happy about it, either, Jayne. But it's better than her being in emotional pain, or a threat to herself and others."
"I guess." He frowned down at the fragile figure on the table and shook his head. "Always f'get how little 'n deli-cate she is. Gorram woman's scarier than a twelve-bore when she's awake and fightin'." The fact that Jayne could compare the woman he loved to weaponry with such an affectionate tone made Simon smile.
"No argument here," he said wryly. "You may have noticed who wins all our sibling quarrels?"
Jayne chuckled. "Hells, yeah. 'S a wonder ya don't get them fancy duds a' yours all filthy, what with all the rollin' over ya do…"
The two men were quiet for a few seconds, the silence companionable now where once it would have been taut with antagonism.
"I don't know what to feel 'bout this," Jayne said finally. "What if she stays crazy again? Can't rightly have no kinda relations with someone don't even know her own mind." His hand stroked her hair again, needing the contact, craving it. "What if we can't get our River-girl back?"
"I don't know, Jayne." Simon moved over and clasped a hand on the mercenary's shoulder in support. "All I can promise is I'll do my very best to make sure that we do."
"Gonna hold ya to that, Doc." Jayne muttered, his troubled gaze fixed on that pale, beautiful face, at peace for the moment, safe in the eye of the storm. "Gonna hold ya to that."