Everything and Nothing
She's afraid of everything, but he's afraid of nothing.
Everything is needles and water and shadows. Everything is blue hands and the Academy and the infirmary. Everything makes up the universe and it's everywhere, all-seeing, all-knowing. Omniscient, like her but not her. (She wasn't completed or finished and she knows but can't formulate, doesn't know that she knows, can't see what she sees)
Everything is touchable, tangible, real. Her nightmares are everything because once they were real. Real memories, real events, real people and places and things.
Everything can hurt you, like the secret she carried, eating her from the inside out. Gobble gobble, chew chew. Everything is poison, but everything is there, not like nothing.
Nothing is what he's afraid of. Nothing is absence, abandonment, alone. Absence of sister, of money, of parents. Alone in the black, all by himself.
Thought he got his sister back, thought he wouldn't be alone anymore. But sister was gone too, and the nothingness in her stare, her words, her jumbled up sentences, broke him.
She was nothing now, just an empty little vessel that he dreams of filling again, so he won't be alone in the Black. The Black scares him too, the thought that they are surrounded by nothing and more nothing. As Jayne once told him, 'Surprising what nothing can do to a man.'
When they clung to Serenity's hull he was scared, terrified. Scared they would lose their hold and float away, terrified that they would drift through the space with nothing (everything) to catch them, stop them. They would just float out there until they lost all their oxygen and asphyxiated. And what scared him more than anything was the thought that when they were drifting, she would float away from him and he would die alone, nothing and nothing and more nothing.
Everything is punches and kicks and electrodes when she fails and doesn't complete her mission, the job. Nothing is the empty house that he sleeps in, by himself, hearing the echoes of her laughter and feeling the ache she left behind, the void he cannot fill.
The funny thing (ironic really) is that everything and nothing cannot exist without each other. You must have balance, stability.
Simon was her balance, and she was his. He was everything for her, her rock, her anchor. He came riding his metal horse dressed in his armor of blue cloth and yanked her away, flying away into the sky.
She was his nothing, his absence of sadness and tiredness and oldness. She took away the weight that held him down, that heavy mantle of expectations and worries. She's a better thief than Mal and Zoe and Wash and the rest all put together; she stole away all the bad and left him with nothing to tether him to the ground but her. (And since she's nothing but the fact that she tethers him, what does that make her?)
But now he's afraid of nothing, afraid that the Black will chew them up, swallow them whole, and not spit them back out. And in a way he's afraid of her, not that he'd ever admit it. Afraid when she screams and cries and throws things. She doesn't take away his sadness now, just adds to it, and that thought hurts her more than the blue hands ever did.
She's a black hole and he knows it, always wondering subconsciously what will happen if he gets to close and she sucks him down with her. Part of him thinks he's already been pulled down, thinks that the darkness that crawls inside of her, twining with her blood, has reached out and infected him, leeching the life out of him while he works to save her. If he just asked she would tell him it's not contagious, that the disease is passed through needles and blue gloves.
He thinks she's a ghost, the way she's drifting around the ship, muttering nonsense and singing gobbledygook. They took her away from him, and now he always wonders, when he reaches for her, to help her up when she falls down the stairs because she's screaming about hands of blue, if his hand will just go through her and he'll be pitched into space to fall through the emptiness until the blood boils out of his eyes.
She's the same, except she knows it and wishes she could change it. (But she can't, because the part that knows and wishes is the part that huddles in the corner of her mind screaming)
They used that against her, her trust. She saw the codes once, and the files and the words that would trigger her, make her fight or sleep. They knew she saw and tried to force the information out of her but she wouldn't say, sewed her lips shut and drifted away on the wings of angels.
But then Simon came and he didn't know and she told him, spilled all of her secrets and they came tumbling out of her mouth like a waterfall and then he was gone and she was never sure if he was real or imagined as they strapped her down and cut the resistance out of her. (She never could fight them again, never yell and scream and bite and kick and thrash, and she knows that it was her fault, because of her trust in him)
Every time she looks at him she sees the ways to take him down the fastest, the way to silence him forever, or the way to make him tell her everything. Sees the weak spots and the arteries and the way the knife on the counter can cut through skin and bone and sinew. And she knows that he knows and that every flinch when he reaches for her, every time she stares at him, expecting a trap, hurts him like a slap. But they took away her center of gravity, ripped it out from under her and showed her the fragility of it all, and she knows she won't ever be able to take his hand when he pulls her upright again because she'll always worry that it will crumble away when she's almost up and she'll fall to the ground and scramble her brains all back up again.
She's afraid of everything, but he's afraid of nothing. The thought is funny, and it makes her smile.