BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

GWENFREWI

Memories that Haunt
Sunday, May 20, 2007

Another atrocity that was committed by the Alliance is brought to light.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1694    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Memories that Haunt Word Count: 8,839 per Word Rating: NC-17 = nudity and rape issues Summary: Post BDM. WARNING: Rape Issues. The crew, but mainly Mal/River and NO Mal doesn’t rape River.

Author’s Note: Apologies to all you Mal/River shippers out there. This fic was something I had to write. I hated it and didn’t want to write it, but my muse was holding me hostage and wouldn’t let me work on anything else until this was done. Right now I’m hoping this is some kind of therapy because I don’t do dark fics like this. Feedback is very much appreciated.

Background info: Mal and Inara made a go of it for a while, but it finally came down to the fact that Mal hated what she did. He didn’t mind the selling of her body, it was the selling of her affection that he despised. She couldn’t give up being a Companion, he couldn’t handle her being one, so they parted, badly.

A year after Inara left for the last time, Mal began to see that his lil’ albatross wasn’t so little anymore. He saw the woman she was becoming. Thus began their courtship and our story joins them in the middle.

Please note: Thanks to BlueEyedBrigadier for giving me what he believes is the correct planet where Inara's training house was. Which was Bena, that I believe was a shortening of Verbena.

Dream sequences in italics.

Disclaimer: The great, almighty and powerful Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. own the universe and characters. I'm just playing with them. Please don’t’ take away my shiny toys Captain.

Special thanks to: who kept encouraging me to work on this by nagging and prodding and whipping me to do it. who graciously agreed to beta this. I know it was a difficult task given the nature of this fic and I can never repay you for this, but I will try.

Copyright (c) May 2007 Patricia Flynn

* * * * * * * * * * * * Mal awoke groggily to the sight of River huddled in the corner under his desk. She was crouched with her head pressed against her knees, her hair obscuring her face from view.

As he rose unsteadily to his feet, he realized she had his gun trained on him.

“Boa bei?” Mal queried as he took a step forward.

River cocked the gun. Mal stopped, his heart pounding like it had that day on the bridge during the Miranda Incident. He realized that she was mumbling something and he strained to catch the words.

“Presents stolen from the children. Never asked, just pilfered with greedy, grabby, graspy hands. Plundered by lustful bodies.”

Mal spoke softly and soothingly as he skirted sideways toward the comm.

“It’s all right. No one's going hurt you. I’m just gonna call Simon.”

River didn’t acknowledge what he was saying but the gun tracked his movements with an eerie accuracy, even though her eyes were buried in her knees.

Finally reaching the comm, Mal hit the button.

“Doc, I need you in my bunk. Now.” Mal barked the order.

Unlocking his bunk, he rested his hands in plain view and kept speaking soothingly to River.

River never broke her strange chanting the entire time.

Mal breathed a sigh of relief when he heard Simon open the hatch.

“Might want to come down slow and easy there, Doc. River’s in a bit of a state.”

Heeding the Captain’s words, Simon slowly lowered himself down.

The sight of his naked sister huddled in a corner, gun trained on the half-dressed captain, greeted the doctor.

“What the hell did you do to her?” Simon’s voice trembled in rage as he glared at Mal.

“That’s the thing, Doc, weren’t nothin’ that happened that I know of to have caused this.”

“I’ll bet.” Simon’s tone dripped with sarcasm as he moved cautiously toward River.

“River, it’s Simon. Why don’t you put the gun down?"

“Can’t. Won’t let it happen again. Not going let them take it again. It’s mine to give and they can’t have it anymore.”

“Shh. That’s right. It’s yours and no ones going to take it from you. Let’s just put the gun down first.”

Simon didn’t know what River was going on about but he knew the first order of business was to disarm her and then calm her down.

Mal’s eyes widened in suspicion, as her words coalesced into a stunning realization.

He watched, as Simon got close enough to River to retrieve the weapon from her.

River’s tear stained face looked up when she felt the metal leave her grasp to see Simon holding the gun.

“Oh god, Simon.” She cried just before she began to sob uncontrollably.

Mal took that as his cue to leave and threw on a shirt before he climbed out of his bunk.

Kaylee, Zoë and Jayne stood huddled in the walkway whispering and turned curious eyes toward him as he shut the door.

“Sir?”

“I…let Simon handle it.” Mal said before turning to walk into kitchen, buttoning his shirt.

Kaylee began to open her mouth to probe further, but Zoë’s hand on her arm stopped her. She turned and saw Zoë shake her head.

Zoë’s eyes filled with deep concern as her gaze followed Mal’s stiff posture as he left the corridor.

Making a swift decision, Zoë turned toward the others.

“Kaylee, why don’t you go down to the infirmary and get the lights and heat on for Simon. I think he’s gonna need it.

“Jayne, go back to bed. I’ll see to the captain.”

Zoë’s hard stare and tone had the two of them hurrying to comply, leaving her a moment to take a settling breath before venturing into the kitchen.

Mal had taken his usual seat, so Zoë strode up to hers, pulled the chair back and sat. What she saw when she was settled, shook her to the core.

Mal had grabbed a glass and his new whiskey. As she watched, his hands were shaking so badly he couldn’t pour himself a drink.

Taking the bottle and glass from him, she poured him a drink before sliding the glass back to its original place.

Mal grasped the glass with both hands and then stared into its amber depths, hoping for an explanation, for relief, for absolution that wouldn't come before giving up and slugging the drink back.

Sliding the glass back toward Zoë, he waited for her to fill it again before slamming that one down his gullet.

He again placed the glass in front of her for a refill.

Zoë’s face reflected her concern as she filled the glass for a third time. She’d seen Mal drink before but the only time she’d ever seen him drink like this was after he’d heard the news wave about Shadow.

When Mal dropped the empty glass before her again, she decided to speak up.

“Sir, not to speak out of turn, but you won't find peace in there," gesturing to the bottle, "you never do. What happened with River?”

Mal’s eyes swung toward her. The look within those familiar azure orbs caused a gasp to escape her lips. Zoë opened her mouth to speak but Mal cut her off.

“Don’t. Just…don’t,” he waved in the general direction of the glass, "just fill."

Zoë refilled the glass repeatedly as Mal pounded the shots back. In less than an hour he’d finished an entire fifth of whiskey.

When Mal stood it was as if the whiskey had had no effect on him. He just turned and walked calmly out.

Zoë’s troubled gaze followed Mal’s retreating form.

* * * * *

Simon held River as she wept uncontrollably.

His eyes searched around the room until he spied her red sundress in a small pile next to the bed.

After about five minutes, River had reached the hiccupping phase of her crying jag, so Simon swiftly retrieved her garment.

With soothing words, he convinced her to stand and slide the dress on.

“Let’s go to the infirmary. I want to check you out.”

River agreed weakly as Simon led her out of the Captain’s bunk.

Upon reaching the infirmary, he smiled gratefully at Kaylee. He realized she’d come and readied the room for them.

Guiding River to the bed, Simon had her lay down before placing a blanket over her.

“Mei mei, I need to talk to Kaylee for a minute. I’ll be just outside. Okay?”

River nodded. Her eyes closed and tears leaked out from behind her lids.

Simon drew Kaylee out into the common room.

“Thank you,” he said as he held her in his arms and placed a kiss on her forehead.

“Was Zoë’s idea. What happened?”

“I don’t know the details yet, but something happened between Mal and River. I found her huddled naked under his desk with a gun pointed at him.”

Kaylee’s eyes widened at this.

“You don’t think…?” She whispered.

“I do. First I want to get the facts from River and make sure she’s okay before I shoot that son of a bitch.” The venom in Simon’s voice startled, but didn't surprise, Kaylee.

“Simon, the captain would never do that. I’ve known him longer than you have and I could never imagine him being capable of doing that to any woman.”

“What you could imagine someone doing and what they actually do are two different things.” Simon’s tone was laced with steely resolution.

“Don’t do anything hasty. Find out what happened from River first. Okay?” Kaylee pleaded with him.

Simon shut his eyes as rage coursed through his body. Grinding his teeth, he nodded in agreement.

“If I’m right, no one is going to stop me from putting a bullet in that hun dan.” Simon said through clenched teeth before stomping back into the infirmary.

Kaylee just stared in fear and amazement at Simon and River through the window.

“River, I need to do a gynecological exam,” the brother within choked on these dispassionate words.

“Won’t matter. All fluids flow from the river.”

Simon’s eyes narrowed as he realized what she was saying.

“No mei-mei. I need to look for tearing and blood.”

“Damage hidden in the past.”

Fury made Simon’s body tremble. Obviously this wasn’t the first time this had happened and Mal had managed to keep it hidden from him.

Talking several calming breaths, Simon finally spoke.

“River, I need you to tell me what happened.”

“He. They. Oh god, the.... " River trailed into a haunted silence as she shook her head violently, attempting to eject the fractured images from her mind.

Simon’s hand trembled as he stroked her hair and made comforting noises as River struggled with her torment.

She curled herself into a ball, letting the matted waves of her hair fall across her face, shielding her from the world, from her brother's concerned gaze. "Big brother can't fix this. Broken forever. Presents stolen from the boys and girls."

She looked up through her locks, met Simon's eyes for a split second before quickly shifting her focus to a point just beyond his head. Her eyes took on the glazed look of memories long buried before she began to speak in an eerie, detached, monotonous voice.

“They came once or twice a week, one doctor and two of the lab technicians at the Academy. They stripped us, strapped us down on our beds, then they touched us for their own enjoyment, finally forcing themselves inside us. Found their pleasure in our pain. They wrenched the innocence of every last one of us in there.

"After the neural stripping, I got to experience what happened to the others on the nights they didn’t visit me. Reader's the star pupil, you know.” The grim irony of the comment escaped neither sibling.

The demons of hell - memories - stalked her, backing her into a corner and with no other recourse River began to scream.

Simon, realizing that River was hysterical, quickly loaded a tranq and injected her.

Placing the empty injection gun onto a tray, he turned weary eyes toward the doorway, as his broken sister sagged into unconsciousness.

Kaylee stood framed in the doorway, tears streaming.

“They…” Her throat was too constricted for speech.

Simon rushed to embrace her as he too gave in to his own tears.

The pair clung to each other as they wept for the newest atrocity revealed from the depths of Rivers psyche. They both wondered if River would ever be free from what the Alliance had done. Just when she seemed to get better, some new trauma they inflicted upon her would rear its head. She carried memories that no one should have to bear.

* * * * *

Mal climbed down into his bunk, locked the hatch and turned toward his bed, hoping to find oblivion in sleep.

An item lying innocuously on the floor of his bunk caught his gaze. It did the one thing his past, with all its horrors, atrocities, and abominations, couldn't. River’s washed out, flower covered panties broke Captain Malcolm Reynolds. He fell to his knees grasping those panties to his chest as huge, wrenching sobs wracked his usually stoic frame. All the pain he’d ever pushed down had finally boiled over.

* * * * *

Emotionally spent, Mal stripped down to his sleep pants and crawled into bed.

As he lay there, still clutching River’s panties, he prayed for the oblivion of sleep to overtake him. He’d take his normal nightmares over the bitter, frigid hell of a reality he now faced while awake.

Finally, he’s eyes drifted shut as exhaustion claimed him.

* * * * *

Down in the med bay, River’s eyelids began to twitch as she entered dream-sleep.

A flash of white, fading to shapes... sterile white room…her cell at the Academy…lying on her bed…three figures moved around her…hands and feet restrained.

Body trembling…revulsion choking…sibilant voices with cruel words and intentions.

River’s subconscious, no longer able to suppress the memories of her violations, reached out for the one thing that made her feel safe.

Across the ship, Mal entered REM sleep.

Closing her eyes…turning away…skin on skin contact…violated by words, hands and deeds…eyes flying open…Mal chained to the wall.

Mal’s rage burning…flames dancing on and under her skin…eyes pleading for help…his mouth moving…silent words...nothing but pain radiating from her.

He struggles against chains…a figure grunts and is done…the next starts…Mal’s mouth open as if he's screaming…still silence.

Hands touching…hurting, biting…River screaming…Mal wrenching against his chains, blood trickling down his arms...

Hitting her now…River whimpers…tears falling…Mal’s eyes carry the specter of death…laughter from the trio.

Wetness fills her…last tormentor takes his place…cruelest of all…nails digging into her skin…foul breath across her.

Mal’s wrists and ankles bleeding…she is bleeding…he is bleeding…the room is red…blood and tears flow like a river around them.

Mal jolted awake, pale and shaking, covered in a cold sheen of sweat and pain.

* * * * *

It had been a week since that night and tension had fallen over Serenity. The crew's nerves were perched on a razor's edge and no one knew what to do about it.

Mal was angry and lashing out for the smallest things and avoiding River. His dreams were filled with abominations so terrible he’d barely been sleeping. He’d catch a catnap here and there, but based on the condition of the circles under his eyes, they weren’t helping.

River was avoiding everyone by staying locked in her room. She would only open the door for Simon when he would bring her food.

Zoë had tried several times to talk with Mal and for the first time in their long history together, he wasn’t communicating with her and she couldn’t discern what was wrong with him.

Kaylee’s cheerful demeanor was dimmed by the recent turn of events and she'd hidden out in the engine room. Jayne, for once, wisely kept his mouth shut and camped out in his bunk.

It was Simon who finally confronted Mal about the situation. He found Mal one night while he sat staring out at the stars from the cockpit and locked the door behind him.

“I owe you an apology.”

Mal turned the chair to cast him a baleful stare, not needing to agree.

“I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions.”

Mal’s eyebrows rose before he turned around to gaze out the window again.

Simon sighed heavily. He really hoped that Mal would meet him half way but obviously he was holding a grudge.

“I’m worried about River.” Simon started cautiously. Anyone who’d mentioned River’s name to Mal usually got their head snapped off for their troubles.

Mal cast a sideways glance at Simon but said nothing.

Taking his silence for acquiescence, Simon continued.

“She’s not eating or sleeping. I’ve given her a sedative to sleep but she claims that it just makes her nightmares worse. We need to do something.”

“What do you suggest WE do?” Mal asked sarcastically.

“She needs professional counseling to help her deal with the memories of her rape. I’m not trained for that kind of therapy.”

Mal flinched at the ugly word: rape.

After few minutes, Mal nodded and said, “I’ll see what I can set up.”

Relieved, Simon smiled. “Thanks.”

Simon unlocked the door and let himself out. With a last worried glance at Mal, he shut the door behind him.

Mal swallowed painfully against the lump in his throat before turning toward the Cortex screen.

He’d been thinking of contacting an old friend to see if they could help. With Simon asking for his help, he could say that his Doctor asked that he contact them.

As he waited for the wave to connect, he planned out what he was going to say.

The screen connected and a face from his past appeared.

“Mal, to what do I owe the honor of this wave.” Inara’s dulcet tones inquired.

“Need a favor.”

“Oh? Would this be legitimate or illegal,” she taunted.

Mal ignored the jab and continued, “Simon asked that I contact a specialist. As I recall, you mentioned that they taught rape counseling at that school of yours.”

The passive expression on Inara’s face changed quickly into concern. “Is Kaylee alright?”

“Kaylee’s fine. It’s River.”

Inara’s expression flashed her abject horror before she recomposed her normal placid appearance.

“How could someone get their hands on River?”

“Academy.” Mal spat.

Inara’s eyes hardened briefly and she stared for a few moments at the visage of the man she not-so-secretly loved.

He was exhausted and the sorrow and grief that shone from his eyes spoke of a hurt too deep for words.

“I don’t dare trust River with anyone else, given her talents and history. Can I bring her to you?” Mal’s voice held a small note of desperation in it, which Inara noted carefully.

“Please do. I might suggest you all take your ease here for a while. I might even scrape up some work for you while you’re here.” She smiled soothingly.

“Thanks. We should be there in two days.”

Mal leaned forward to flip the screen off, but Inara spoke before he had the chance.

“Mal, are you okay?” Inara’s body, face and tone reflected her concern.

“I’m fine. Worry about River.” Mal replied stonily before flipping the switch.

* * * * *

Mal informed everyone but River the next day that they would be going to Verbena to visit Inara for a spell.

Kaylee cheered right up at this, as did Jayne and they began to talk excitedly about it.

Zoë just cast an assessing glance at Mal to try and decipher how he felt about it and came up blank again. Her worry was growing something fierce.

Simon merely nodded and left to inform River.

* * * * * Mal managed to land Serenity not a mile away from the training house. The crew was edgy as the walked up the steps to the temple. Simon and River were behind Mal, Jayne and Kaylee. Zoë was covering their back. No one expected anything dangerous to happen but they all expected River to bolt. Inara stood, waiting graciously at the entrance. “Inara.” “Mal.” Inara’s gaze swiftly took in his demeanor before sliding to his right to Kaylee. “Hey you.” Inara said lovingly. “Hey.” Kaylee walked forward and hugged Inara. Pulling back from the hug, Inara kept Kaylee by her side as she turned to look at the rest of them. “Jayne.” “’Nara. Where are all the tasties?” Rolling her eyes at Jayne, she gave him a cold stare. “They’re not whores, Jayne. They’re Companions and you can’t afford them.” “Aww, I can’t even get a freebee?” “No.” Jayne’s pout elicited a wry half-smile from the Companion as he walked over to the table where there was food laid out. By this point, the remainder of the crew had joined them. Zoë and Inara just exchanged nods in greeting before Inara turned her focus on the Tams. River had sidled up as close to Mal as she could get without touching him. Mal’s body was tense but he made no motion to move away or discourage her. Inara observed all this as she and Simon exchanged greetings. Her gaze turned to Zoë’s and they exchanged confused looks. “Please, let’s have some tea and refreshments.” Inara gestured toward the table that Jayne had been sniffing around. They all took a seat, making themselves as comfortable as possible in their posh surroundings. River once again managed to maneuver herself as close to Mal as possible. The conversation was strained and carried by Kaylee and Inara. Jayne was busily shoveling food into his mouth, not taking the time to enjoy the delicate, savory flavors cultivated by the chef. Mal and Simon were impatient, anxious to make River better. Zoë kept her attention on Mal and River. River’s eyes darted about constantly. She flinched anytime someone moved too suddenly especially Jayne. Inara and Kaylee’s girlish gossiping wound down and an uncomfortable silence fell, the struggle to maintain the thin veneer of normalcy becoming too much to bear. In the void, the Companion turned to the doctor, “Simon, why don't we go for a walk, while everyone finishes their tea?” Simon all but jumped up from his chair and waited for her lead. The remaining party sat silently, watching the door close behind the pair as they continued supping for a few moments before River began mumbling as tears started to fall. Kaylee moved and tried to sooth her but this only seemed to agitate River further. “No, no, no. Go away. Can’t have me.” River began crying in earnest. Her eyes were wild and flittered to and fro before landing on Mal. Everyone was shocked when River launched herself onto Mal’s lap and curled up. She pressed her face into his chest as she clutched at him desperately. Mal’s body had gone completely rigid when she landed on him. His hands curled into fists as River sobbed uncontrollably against him. “Kaylee.” Zoë gestured for her to fetch Simon. Kaylee rushed through the door and shortly returned with the doctor and the Companion. Inara sat back and shrewdly analyzed the situation, dying a little inside, as Simon rushed to River. Simon pulled a preloaded injection gun from his pocket, tranquilized River and seconds later she fell asleep. Simon reached forward to pick up her up, when Mal’s words stopped him. “I’ve got her. Inara, why don’t you show me where I can put her?” Mal carefully lifted River into his arms and stood. Inara gestured for Simon to follow and led them into the training house, ignoring the breaking feeling inside as she watched the tenderness that she'd never known from Mal. *****

Mal deposited River gently on the bed.

Straightening, he stared down at her. His hands curled into fists and his body resumed its rigidity from earlier before he turned and stalked out of the room.

Simon fussed with the blankets, tucking her in; anxious to make sure his sister was okay.

Inara was intrigued by Mal’s behavior and stared pensively after his retreating form, before turning back to the siblings.

“Simon, how long will she be out?” Her voice broke the silence.

“Usually about four hours.” Simon sat on the edge of the bed and began stroking.

“I’ll have one of the girls come and sit with her then. Let’s join the others.”

* * * * *

The crew enjoyed several days just relaxing, taking in the local color and visiting with Inara in her free time, everyone except Mal.

Mal’s sleep was still interrupted with nightmares, so he’d taken to stalking around Serenity at all hours of the night. He was withdrawing more and more into himself and Zoë's worry grew exponentially. Her captain avoided everyone and had started to miss meals. In desperation, she appealed to Inara.

The next day Inara approached Mal with a job.

He seemed glad to be going, knowing the offer for the distraction it was.

Simon was reluctant to leave River but since Inara assured him that she would wave him every day with River’s progress, he reluctantly agreed. That and the fact they would be gone for only three days convinced him.

* * * * *

Zoë kept a careful eye on Mal during the job.

It relieved her that he was actually sleeping and his mood improved slightly, but he was still unusually uncommunicative.

Simon made sure to update Kaylee about River’s progress at dinner. He knew Mal would want to know what was happening but he didn’t want to give Mal the impression that he approved a hundred percent of Mal’s relationship with River, so he chose to do it subversively.

* * * * *

The job completed, Serenity returned to the training house for a few days.

Once again, Mal’s nights were tormented by nightmares and he was increasingly short and brutal when dealing with the crew.

Inara had approached Mal several times to try and determine what was wrong with him. She always lost control of the discussion and they ended up arguing and rehashing past hurts from the relationship that never was.

Zoë watch Mal’s behavior reverting back and her disquiet resumed.

Inara realized that the situation was becoming unmanageable, quickly found some more work for Serenity and her crew ferrying some new students to the training house.

This time, Simon opted to stay behind to try to help with River’s therapy.

* * * * *

They were gone for two weeks this time, as they rounded up the new neophytes to the Companions' guild.

Mal rested well, relaxed a little, and grew more civil during the journey. Zoë, ever vigilant, took it all in.

Within forty-eight hours of their return however, all that was obliterated and the cruel, cutting side of their Captain returned.

In desperation, Zoë sought some private time with Inara to seek her advice.

They were seated in Inara’s private suite, drinking tea and discussing everything but River’s situation, when a lull in the conversation provided Zoë with the opportunity to voice her unease.

“Inara, what do you think of the Captain’s behavior?”

Inara paused momentarily in raising her cup and assessed Zoë over the rim.

“You mean other than his more obnoxious than normal behavior.”

“Yeah.” “I’ve been trying to determine the cause of his caustic demeanor. I imagine he’s upset about what happened with River and all, but it doesn’t explain why he’s taking it out on the crew. That is entirely unlike him.”

Zoë mulled over Inara’s observations for a minute while she weighed the decision to confide completely in her.

“Well, the Captain hasn’t been sleeping much lately. Ever since that night, he’s been having nightmares and walking the ship at all hours. The only time he seems to be getting a decent nights sleep lately is when we’ve been running the jobs.”

Inara’s perfectly sculpted eyebrows shot up with this disclosure. It couldn't be just a coincidence that River’s worst nightmares occurred while Serenity was gone.

“I’ll speak with him and keep you apprised of the situation.”

Zoë, satisfied that something was being done, finished her tea and left.

Inara sat silently with the tea after Zoë’s departure, her mind awhirl with possibilities.

Having reached a decision, she summoned Simon to discuss the new approach she planned on taking with River’s therapy.

* * * * *

The next morning, Inara requested Mal to join her before River’s daily session.

Mal strode into her room to find Inara settled on her couch, tea laid out before her.

“What?” He growled.

“Please sit.”

“What do you want?” Mal asked, refusing to take the seat she indicated.

Inara sighed heavily and calmed herself before responding.

“I need to speak with you regarding River’s counseling.”

Mal’s eyes narrowed, “Why?”

“Please sit and I’ll be happy to explain.”

Mal grunted in exasperation before dropping down heavily into the cushion.

“Go on.”

“It’s come to my attention that you’re having problems sleeping.”

“What's that to do with River?” Mal glared at her suspiciously.

Inara continued as if he hadn’t interrupted, “Do you sleep better when you’ve been away on the jobs?”

“Failing to see the point here.” Mal started to rise.

“Malcolm, please indulge me. Just answer the question.”

Responding to her rare use of his full name, he sank back down and answered, on a sigh, “yes.”

“You’ve been having nightmares while you’re planet side?”

“Yes.”

“Hmm.” Inara poured herself a cup of tea and sipped thoughtfully.

“What do my sleep patterns have to do with River's state?” Mal demanded impatiently.

“What are the exact natures of your nightmares?”

Mal’s eyes blazed furiously at her apparent avoidance.

Inara met his glare calmly. His reluctance to answer this question confirmed her suspicions.

“I would like you present during River’s session with me this afternoon.”

“Why in the hell would you want me there?” Mal hated this conversation and just wanted to be gone.

“I believe it would be beneficial to River.”

“Ha! That’s unlikely.” Mal jumped up and turned to leave the room.

“What makes you think that?” Inara taunted him in her most condescending voice. She knew he never could refuse responding to it.

“Because I’m the one who did this to her.” Mal shot back, freezing as the words came like a bomb detonating on a sleeping city. His body stayed locked rigidly, as anger and guilt warred in his head with a deep sense of betrayal. He had been the reason all along. If only...

Horror and pity shone from Inara’s eyes as she realized what Mal was saying.

Speaking softly, she said, “Mal, you didn’t rape River. Those men at the Academy did it.”

“Tell that to River.” Mal ground out, ignoring the "If only..." ringing inside.

“She knows that. I know that. Everyone knows that but you. Maybe if River tells you herself, you’ll believe her.”

Mal closed his eyes as the unbidden emotions tore through him.

“Mal, please, come sit back down. River needs your help.” Inara pleaded.

Shoulders slumped in defeat, Mal dropped back into the seat, succumbing to Inara's trump card. He loved River enough to put himself through hell if he thought it would help her.

Inara poured his tea and handed the cup to him.

Mal looked at her curiously before accepting the proffered cup, defeat radiating from every angle of his form.

Sipping their refreshments, they both took a few moments to let emotions settle before Inara spoke again.

“Simon and I have agreed that having you attend River’s therapy might be beneficial to you both.

“While Serenity was gone, River’s nightmares were worse then when you were here and close by.

“She informed me what triggered the return of those memories and shared what she remembers, but adamantly refuses to tell me about the nightmares. I believe the key to helping her start on the road of healing, lies in examining those dreams. I’m hoping having you here will encourage her to talk about them.”

Mal nodded sullenly and continued drinking his tea. He didn't want to do this.

Inara slipped into silent contemplation as they waited for River’s arrival.

* * * * *

Uncharacteristically, Mal’s back was to the doorway when River stepped into the room.

Inara watched carefully, waiting for River to realize Mal was there. River’s eyes flashed with happiness and her body relaxed minutely.

“River, please join us.” Inara patted the cushion next to her.

Inara really wasn’t surprised when River chose to sit next Mal. She’d been avoided being close to anyone except Simon and Mal.

“Is it okay if Mal joins us for our talk today?” With that, the light collapsed back into the haunted visage and River glanced cautiously at Mal before nodding.

“I was hoping you’d tell me about your nightmares today.” Inara inquired calmly.

Mal watched as River began to tremble and twist her fingers anxiously.

Inara and Mal exchanged perplexed looks. By unspoken agreement, they waited for River to speak.

“Won’t. Told the truth. Dreams are just a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep. Not safe. Discussion lets slip the hounds to find and kill the wounded fox.” River replied as tears began to slide down her cheeks.

“River, sweetheart, you’re safe here. No one’s gonna hurt you.” Mal’s voice was raspy with barely restrained rage and guilt.

“Safety and freedom are chained to walls and beds. Only one safe place and it can’t get free.”

Inara was just about to inquire what would make River feel safe enough to talk, when River stood up and crawled into Mal’s lap.

Mal was startled by this unexpected move and his arms quickly wrapped around her to hold her close.

His eyes closed as he savored the feeling of her body against his. He hadn’t realized how very much he’d missed holding her in his arms. He began to stroke her hair as she buried her head in his shirt and sobbed.

A small jab of jealousy was quickly repressed as Inara watched the ease that came over them both with the contact and she sipped patiently on her tea, waiting for River’s crying to subside.

“River, can you tell us now?”

River’s head bobbed before she took a deep shuddering breath and spoke.

“Broken images, vague and unclear; the room, the people, and myself. Only difference from the reality is Captain in chains. Words spoken but only silence is heard. Anger and frustration sliding like needles across skin as his struggle for freedom is waged. Only sounds are hissing voices, cruel words and crueler deeds.

“Then tears and blood flow and drown me.” River whimpered before burying her face deeper in Mal’s chest.

Mal’s eyes had widened in shock when she mentioned him in chains and his gaze met Inara’s in stunned realization.

Inara registered the fact that something about River’s dreams had struck a cord with Mal. His expression was similar in form to when Atherton Wing had driven that sword in his abdomen.

A strange idea occurred to her then and she set it aside for later. With a bob of her head, she encouraged Mal to sooth the girl in his arms.

When River had calmed down enough to resume her own seat, Inara decided that more ground had been covered in this brief half hour than had been found in the last week of therapy.

“Honey, I think that’s enough for today. Why don’t you go find Simon?”

River contemplated Mal for a few moments; naked longing in her eyes, while Mal stoically avoided her gaze.

Sighing dejectedly, River rose and left the room.

“Mal, you seemed perturbed by River’s description. Why is that?”

Mal raked a hand nervously through his hair. Hell, he couldn’t believe it himself. When it came to their reader and the multitude of phenomenon that happened because of her, he was willing to give it a chance of being the truth.

“Mal?”

“Hell, she just described my nightmares, only from her perspective.” Mal’s hands were shaking and he fisted them together to avoid the display of weakness.

“Hmm.” Inara nodded as her theory was confirmed.

“What?” Mal barked.

“River’s pulling you into her nightmares when you’re near, isn’t she?”

“I…yeah.” Mal nodded.

“This takes this to a whole new level, the likes of which no one has ever had to deal with.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, usually in the case of the victim, we encourage them to take control of their dreams. It gives them a sense of gaining control over a situation in which they had no control.

“The fact that she has you chained up like she does is very telling.”

Mal just stared at her expectantly.

“River believes that the only safe place she has is with you. That’s why she pulled you into her dreams.”

“That makes absolutely no sense.”

“The mind does what it does to protect itself. In this case, having you there makes the pain of having to relive it over and over again easier.”

Mal was wholly unconvinced that him being there made it better for River but Inara was technically the expert in this matter.

“So, what do we have her do?”

“Actually, I think it’s what we need you to do.”

“Huh?”

“You need to get through to her in her dreams. Convince her that she can free herself and you.” Mal mulled this over for a minute before saying, “She said she couldn’t hear me.”

“I know, but she said she could feel what you’re feeling. You have to take control of your anger and frustration and make her feel safe and strong and loved.”

“That's just crazy.”

Inara arched an eyebrow, her expression clearly saying ‘like you’ve never done anything crazy before’.

Mal smirked good-naturedly at her before acquiescing.

“I guess anything’s worth a shot.”

“Just remember, you have calm yourself. Don’t get wrapped up in the dream. Take control.”

“I get it. I got it the first time.” Mal glared as her as he rose and strode from the room.

* * * * *

That night, the crew was stunned when Mal was the first one to retire for the night.

Surprised and confused glances were shared all around but no one wanted to jinx the possibility of the Captain getting some much-needed sleep.

Down in his bunk, Mal prepared himself for sleep. His mind all the while thinking about the coming nightmares and what he needed to do there.

As Mal lay himself on his bed, he draped one arm over his eyes as he began his ritual to fall asleep.

Back in the training house River was dozing off to sleep.

A half hour later, Mal and River entered REM sleep simultaneously. Mal was chained to the wall of the white cell with metal cuffs. River lay naked and cuffed at the ankles and wrists to the table.

Three men, one a doctor and two technicians surrounded her. Touching her, taunting her. Mal had already memorized those faces and if he ever came across a one of them, well, that would be an interesting day. Mal saw and heard everything they were doing. Rage began to boil his blood until he saw River's tear stained face looking desperately at him. Closing his eyes, he took several settling breathes before opening them to stare at her and her alone. He ignored what the trio was doing and focused his attention on her. "Come on sweetheart. You're better than this. I love you. Ain't no one stronger in the 'verse than you. You don't have to lie there and take this. "Genius brain like yours, you know you can get out of those cuffs. Show those bastards what you've learned." Mal spoke sincerely. His (un)consciousness focused entirely on making River hear and feel him. "Mal." She whispered. "I'm here, bao bao." "I can hear you." "Good. Now get out of those cuffs." "Can't get free." "Yes you can." "Can't." Defeat was clearly written in every feature of River's face. "Fine. Free me." "What?" "They never chained me up. You chained me up. Let Me Go. "River, you can do it. Free me." River looked unsure and then closed her eyes. Mal focused all his love and faith to the forefront of his mind to encourage her. River's face scrunched up as she felt his emotions wash over her in cleansing waves. Mal's right wrist was released, as was River's. River failed to notice that she was free, so focused was her concentration. Their left wrists released, then both their ankles. River's eyes opened to see Mal leaning against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest and a huge smile gracing his face. "You're free darling. Why don't you dance for these hun dans?" River beamed as she took his meaning. One leg came up and swiftly kicked the technician who standing between her legs in the face. The cartilage in his nose shot up into his brain; killing him instantly...she was up on the table. A swift kick sent the most brutal of her molesters flying across the room... she was on the floor in front of the doctor. She grabbed a pen from his pocket and thrust it into his eye. The third had risen to his feet, River grinned ferally...a flurry of movements by the small woman and she was before him. He swung and she danced out of his way...her hands flew in deadly orchestrated movements...he stood frozen for a moment before falling to the floor. She'd hit several nerve clusters in precise order that caused paralyzation first in the extremities, then to the internal organs. The mind however, was fully cognizant that it was suffocating and could do nothing about it. River stood and watched as the horror of his death screamed from this man's eyes. Mal was next to her and watched as the hun dan's eyes twitched in his death throes and then became still. "Let's go back to Serenity." Mal scooped her up and cradled her in his arms. He opened the door of the cell to discover his bunk. Laying her down, he turned to go sit in his chair when her hand seized his wrist. "Hold me." She pleaded. "Anything darlin'." Mal joined her on his bed before gathering her in his arms once again. Feeling safe once more, River began to sob. When the storm of tears had settled, they both drifted off. In the training house, River woke up for the first time in over a month unafraid. Slipping from her room, she silently made her way to Serenity. Standing at the entrance of Mal's bunk, she smiled happily before sneaking in and locking the door quietly behind her. Seeing the man she loved draped so temptingly across the bed asleep, she grinned before she crawled over him to snuggle up against his side. Mal turned, wrapped her in his arms and began to softly snore. River stifled the urge to giggle and let the sound of his heartbeat lull her to sleep.

* * * * * Mal lay on his bed, River curled asleep next him on their bunk. It had been two months since they’d left Athens. River was getting better every day and her weekly chats with Inara were now cut back to monthly.

She was still twitchy at times and clung to Mal or Simon anytime she was around any man she didn’t know, but she was getting better. She'd even stopped jumping everytime Jayne moved or spoke. Mal was relieved that he had played some part in helping her come to terms with what had happened. He still felt guilty about bringing those memories back to her but every night she slept wrapped in his arms and would occasionally pull him into her nightmares. Whenever he appeared, River would immediately find the strength to break them both free and then proceed to murder those hun dans. Mal couldn’t help but smile at this. He’d been surprised and if he were honest, scared at the numerous methods River used to kill them, even if it was only in her dreams. Frustration gnawed in his gut. He’d been suppressing his desire to show her how wonderful lovemaking could be. He wanted to replace all those painful memories with pleasurable ones. Sighing, he leaned back and mustered the self-control to go to sleep when he felt her stir. “Bao bei?” River’s hand, which rested on his chest, began stroking him gently.

Mal grabbed her hand in an attempt to still this action but she quickly wiggled it free and continued caressing him. Mal gritted his teeth. Gorram girl was driving him slowly insane. “River baby, you need to stop.” “Don’t want to.” Mal took a deep calming breath before continuing, “Darlin’, you need to stop.” “You want it. I hear it.” “What I want and what you need are not exactly similar. ‘Sides, I think you need some more time” River raised her head and stared into Mal’s eyes. “Now. Later. Time is relative. The when doesn't matter so much as the how. Saw the how and want it very much. Cleansing fire to banish the horrors. To burn like a phoenix and then arise from the ashes renewed, want and need it.” Mal stared into River's eyes and saw the stubborn determination therein. Sighing in defeat, he made a decision he hoped neither of them would regret. “If we’re gonna do this, there needs to be an understanding between us first. Dong ma?” River grinned as she nodded, “Will let you know if I need you to stop.” “That’s right, darlin’. Also, if we’re gonna do this, we’re doing it my way.” Mal shifted so he way lying on his side, facing her. He cupped her face and looked deep into her eyes.

“Darlin’, this is somethin’ you’ve never done before. It’s nothin’ like what those hun dans did to you and completely different from us kissin. Dong ma?”

River nodded.

Mal leaned in and kissed her forehead.

River was awash in Mal’s emotions. Love, tenderness, concern, passion and several other things she couldn’t quite name filled her. “You sure about this darlin'?” “Yes,” she whispered tentatively. “We’re gonna take this nice and slow. You can say stop at any time. Okay?” River slipped her hands over his shoulders and kissed him. Mal's hands stroked her back. After a few minutes, his mouth opened to allow his tongue to flick against her lips, causing her mouth to open and her tongue to gently duel with his. River moaned as her hands crept up and her fingers tangled themselves in his hair. He pressed her body closer to his so she could feel the rigid line of his cock nestled against her belly. Feeling his desire both physically and emotionally, she whimpered and began to snuggle closer. Realizing that she wasn't frightened, Mal's hands worked their way down her thighs and his fingers began to work the fabric of her nightgown up, until the hem was in his hands. He began stroking the exposed skin and working it further up her body. Breaking the kiss, he leaned back and watched as she rolled onto her back, arching and squirming to help remove the garment, leaving her clad only in her panties. River shivered briefly as the cold air hit her skin and tightened further her already taut nipples.

“God, you're beautiful.”

Mal smiled, his azure eyes twinkling. His hand came forward and with one finger, he stroked a line from her lips, down her chin and neck to the dip at the base, then down across first one nipple, which he circled and then repeated over the other before continuing its journey to her belly button. His gaze was locked with hers and he watched with eagle eyes for her reaction. His finger then made its way down over her panties to come and rest poised over her clit. River trembled in anticipation. The heat from his finger had painted a path of yearning across her body and she was becoming desperate for more. "Mal." She whispered urgently. Mal just grinned, untold delight reflected on his face. He reached with both hands for the waistband of her underwear and gently slid them from her body, exposing her to his gaze.

“You’re perfect.” He whispered as he kissed her again. His hands cupped her breasts as his calloused fingers grazed over her nipples.

River sucked in a breath and closed her eyes. He began to lick and nibble his way down her neck, pausing to flick his tongue across her pulse point before working his was down between her breasts.

His hands journeyed downward to caressing her hips and thighs. Sometimes brushing into her curls causing her legs to fall open in invitation.

Mal paused and looked up at River, when she looked down at him, he smiled mischievously before his tongue flicked over a nipple.

River’s body arched, begging for more contact.

Mal’s gaze locked with River’s as he repeated the motion over and over again until she was whimpering.

A smirk graced his mouth as he broke eye contact and sucked a nipple into his mouth. At the same time, his fingers slid through her curls and parted her pussy.

They nimbly found her clit. The delicate scrap of his skin over this sensitive bundle of nerves caused River to moan loudly.

Mal alternated suckling her breasts as his fingers worked their magic.

River was panting and moaning as her body tensed in preparation for an explosion. She was afraid, not understanding what was happening to her and she tugged frantically on Mal’s hair to get his attention.

Mal looked up at her. His fingers continued their onslaught.

“Baby?”

River’s eyes were fevered with desire and panic.

“River, baby. Trust me. Let go.” Mal said as he leaned down and kissed her.

River did as he instructed and as his tongue slid into her mouth, the pleasure exploded with in her and she screamed into his mouth.

She tugged painfully on his hair as wave upon wave of pleasure washed over her and her body trembled and jerked as she rode them down.

Mal grinned as he moved his hand to her waist and held her as she came down from the high.

Feeling her breathing settle into a normal pace, he inquired, “Ready for what’s next?”

River opened languid lids to look at him, smiled and nodded lazily as her eyes drifted shut again.

Mal slid his sleep pants off, tossed them to the floor and then moved to kneel between her legs.

River’s eyes flew open when she felt him between her thighs and panic set in. She began gasping and trembling in terror.

Her leg reared up, ready to strike him in the face, but Mal had been prepared and expecting this reaction.

He swiftly extricated himself and was now standing naked in the middle of the room. His attention focused intently on her panic attack.

River’s breathing resumed its normal pace as she turned a tear filled gaze toward him.

“Mal,” she whimpered.

“Bao bei, you okay?” Mal asked softly.

Nodding, River held a hand out to him beseechingly.

Mal walked slowly and carefully to the bed.

As he took her hand, River tugged gently, her intention for him to join her.

Mal resisted for a moment, their eyes in a silent duel for supremacy.

Sighing in defeat, Mal laid next to her on his side. Their only point of contact was their joined hands.

River rolled over and pressed herself against him.

Mal wrapped his arms around her in response as she buried her face in his chest.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered against his skin.

“Darlin’, it’s alright. I told you it was too soon.”

“No, not too soon. Just,” River searched for the right words as she looked at him, begging him to understand, “looming figure and I felt helpless again.”

Mal nodded in understanding.

“Let’s get some rest,” he said as he stroked her hair.

“No.”

“River.” Mal said plaintively.

“Have determined the cause of fear. Must negotiate around it to achieve objective.”

Mal’s mind wrapped itself around what she was saying and then he smiled hugely.

“Well, that bein’ the case, I think I have a solution.”

River read his intention and pushed him onto his back as she straddled his thighs.

“Huh.” He said as he viewed the woman above him.

“Unsure as to how this is to work.” Her gaze confused as she looked at their positions.

Amused, Mal grasped her neck and tugged her down for a kiss.

Her hands landed next to his shoulders and her body slid up his until his cock was nestled against her pussy.

Eyes wide with understanding, River kissed him.

As their tongues dueled, Mal ran his hands lovingly over her body to her hips. With a practiced ease, he adjusted her hips and his position so he was poised to enter her. Thankfully, she was still wet from her earlier orgasm.

Breaking the kiss, River grinned at him and nodded.

Their loving gazes locked as Mal gently pushed himself inside her.

They were frozen in place. River loving the feeling of him buried within her and Mal reveling in her warmth clutching him.

The urge to move swept over River and she shifted her hips and twitched at the pleasure the movement caused.

“Sit up, darlin’.”

She did as instructed and felt him penetrate her further than before.

Mal’s hands settled on her hips and he showed her how to raise herself up and then lower herself again.

River quickly caught on and settled into a rhythm, allowing Mal’s hands to roam freely across her body.

Mal watched fascinated as River rode him.

Sitting up swiftly, he sucked a nipple into his mouth as his hands slide around to cup her ass. River grasped his shoulders as she moaned.

They were both close and they knew it. River’s motions became frantic as she pounded against him.

Mal fell back against the bed; he was so close to coming.

River rested her hands on his chest as she kept up the pace.

Mal reached between them and stroked her clit.

River screamed as she came, Mal shouted as he thrust up into her as he too came moments after her.

She slumped forward over his chest. Her hair draped over them, his cock still within her as she kissed him.

Mal stroked her back as they lay there.

Ten minutes later after coming down from the post orgasm high, Mal extracted himself from her but kept her nestled on his chest.

“Baby?”

River gave a contented hum in response.

“River?”

She turned a very languorous gaze at him.

“Mal.”

“You okay, baby?”

River beamed before asking hopefully, “Again?”

Mal chuckled, “Give me a minute, darlin’, then yes, again.”

COMMENTS

Sunday, May 20, 2007 6:08 PM

TAMSIBLING


Wow! This was some delicate subject matter but I think you handled it beautifully. Not only River's reactions but Mal's as well.

And the sex at the end, that was just hot! Nice job. Write some more Mal/River goodness.

Monday, May 21, 2007 12:28 AM

AMDOBELL


This was excellently done. I did worry a bit in the beginning that Simon would act before getting the full story out of River but it didn't happen that way. A pity he has such a low opinion of the Captain that he will willing believe the worst of him at the drop of a hat but then his love for River blinds him in many ways. I thought Inara handled her part well showing just how much the lady she really is, her profession notwithstanding. I liked Zoe's reaction, her worry for her friend tied in with the confusion of trying to unravel what was happening to a barely coherent River. Love how it all ended well with River and Mal right where they both needed to be. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, May 21, 2007 10:49 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Before saying anything else, know this: my gender aside, it takes something mighty powerful to get me to cry, Gwenfrewi. And I balled more than once at what you were doing here...the feelings of fear and pain and helplessness that you had radiating off River when you have her reveal she was repeatedly raped while at the Academy. And I could feel the fury and the heart-breaking depression Mal was wrapped up in after realizing what had happened to his bao bei.

I do have to note that I think it was in the "Those Left Behind" mini-series that it was established the planet/moon the Guild's Training House where Inara was at the start of the BDM was Bena. Now...I don't know if it was meant for the planet to be just "Bena" or whether Mal had just shortened the name "Verbena" when he spoke.

The scenes at the Training House were all kinds of brilliant, especially Mal and Inara's conversation before River's counselling session, and the counselling session itself. Inara, Mal and River were all in-character and I could totally picture the scene going off like this had it been used as part of a series of episodes.

Finally, I have to say I was all kinds of impressed with how you handled Mal and River being intimate with one another. It was all kinds of hot...but it was slow, soft and River was in the driver's seat:D

BEB


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