Without Rest, Without Peace
Saturday, June 25, 2005

River has trouble sleeping.


Author: Rawles {rawles[dot]marie[at]gmail[dot]com} Type: Gen Genre: Drama Characters: River. Mal. Author’s Notes: There's an entire DVD commentary version of this one to be found here:


The wind whisked past River’s ears, carrying voices from afar. She opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue to taste the air. It was fairly clear today, like water. There was a slight coppery tang. That was always there. She sat down and closed her mouth. She wasn’t thirsty just yet. Long green grass sprouted up around her in an ever-expanding circle. A single red leaf was in her hand and River busied herself following the path of its veins. As she did so the lines of her palm changed to match. Soft pale flesh was just beginning to take on crimson hues when the wind changed.

It swirled around her making a brown cyclone of her hair, buffeting her bare skin. It forced itself into her ears. The voices were deafening now. They tore through her. After a moment she realized that they no longer needed the wind to carry them, they were everywhere, desperate and throaty. A moist, withering heat set in and her leaf wilted. She stood and sweat beaded on her body, tickling her maddeningly as it trailed across her skin. She attempted to wipe her face and her arms with her hands but flesh to flesh contact sent shockwaves of emotion through her that she could not stand. So she was left to endure the salty sheen that blanketed her. Her eyes burned and her ears were beginning to hurt. Through the corners of her tear-blurred vision River could see embers. The green grass began to blacken and crumble as the fire rose. She would not get to be a tree today. River forced herself to wakefulness.

She opened her eyes and the last murmurs of the dream-voices died away. She was trying hard to get better. She’d promised. Her conscious mind worked with her medications to block the worst of the waking-voices out most times. But when she slept she was vulnerable. The nightmares didn’t come as often as they had, but still her dreams seemed to be easily invaded. She took a deep breath and sat up. A droplet of sweat snaked down from her hairline and ran along the curve of her cheek. With a quick brush of her fingertips, River irritably wiped off the offending perspiration. She ignored the shiver that the brief contact sent through her body.

Rising from her bed, she took the few steps to her door. Her hand hovered in front of it as she wondered why she thought it should be red. The door became brown like bark and her hand seemed to drift away from it, fluttering towards the ground. River breathed deeply, letting go of the dream, and pressed her palm, and then her ear, to the screen. She closed her eyes as the buzzing in the back of her head warned her that it was coming. Her senses were assailed all at once. Writhing bodies. Tangled fabrics. Heavy breathing. Friction. Whispers. It pulled at her like needy hands holding her down. Like fire threatening to consume her.

River’s eyes shot open. She pulled away and sat back down on her bed, forcing her defenses back into place. She avoided blinking and took slow measured breaths. One. Two. Three. Inhale. One. Two. Three. Exhale. One. Two. Three. In. Out. In. Out. In- She shook her head violently. No. That was too much like the other thing. Similar rhythms. Too simple to be music, but still it had rhythm. Must be poetry. Rhythm but no rhyme, because there were no words. Only a name: ruthumpbedfucklovesexgrapple. Many names. She knew there was a reason why, she just could not understand it right then.

River rummaged through her clothing and selected a long green summer dress. The way it swished around her calves when she walked reminded her of willow branches. She had planned on being a maple in her dream but this would suffice. Especially since she could not go back to sleep just now.

She slid open the door to her bunk and stepped out into the hall. She hugged the wall, moved towards the common area, and held her breath, staying as far away from her brother’s door as she could. Her feet instinctively followed the corridors that would take her to the bridge. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, back and forth in their one-two beat. River paused just as her right foot was about to hit the floor once more. Her face screwed up in mild confusion. Why did everything seem to follow that same rhythm? Breathing, walking, even her heartbeat all wanted to drag her back to that place of twisted sheets and sweaty bodies. It seemed a universal constant, but she did not belong there. It was dirty. At least, she thought that was the way of it. Sometimes she thought it was dirty and wrong and her cheeks burned and she averted her eyes, but other times she breathed in tandem with them and felt what they felt and it sent a thrill through her like nothing else in the world.

Instead of letting her right foot hit the floor again River hopped three times on her left, then switched to her right and hopped twice. She switched back and pirouetted on her left foot, then performed a jeté, landed on her right foot, and hopped five more times.

“What the hell are you doin’?” came a voice from behind her.

River did not turn around, instead switched to her left foot and hopped twice more before she answered. “Breaking the rhythm, Jayne.” She closed her eyes and swallowed. “Don’t want to be a dirty girl,” she admitted.

“You’re a buggy girl, is what,” he said as he passed her to get to the hatch to his bunk.

“The only people that are truly crazy are the ones who insist that they’re totally sane,” she informed him.

“Yeah, well, I’d be the crazy one if I sat around talking to you all night,” he said as he began to climb down into his room, “And don’t be up here jumping around makin’ a bunch of racket while normal folk are trying to sleep.”

“It’s not as if it would wake you, anyway.”

The only answer she received was the sound of the hatch clicking shut. Slightly distracted by the contemplation of locking mechanisms, River let her foot fall. She mumbled curses in Chinese and hopped once landing on both feet. She could usually just ignore them, but it was more difficult today for some reason. The need for an erratic rhythm remained. She had to overwhelm that haunting iamb that even now repeated in the back of her mind. Iamb.

River clapped her hands together lightly, in time with the scene playing in her head. It was a trochee, she realized. In was sensation; out was cessation of sensation. Out was when he breathed. Stressed then unstressed, not the other way around. She had made a miscalculation. She was so weary. Walking wasn’t the same after all. The feet there were spondaic. The same with breathing. Sex was trochaic, like heartbeats. So where did iambs fit? In sonnets, River decided. She thought that she had written those before, but she couldn’t remember the words. She smiled anyway. She had finally made sense of that perverse, perfect meter. She knew what she could and couldn’t do if she wished to avoid it. There were still other questions, but those answers were not part of River’s wealth of knowledge. She continued on to the bridge, walking and breathing and ignoring her heartbeat.

Mal was seated in the pilot’s chair staring out at the black. He was as serene as she had ever seen him. Not at peace. Never at peace, but he was close. River suddenly found her mind back in the passenger dorm, on the bed, underneath him, ankles locked together, legs around his waist. They were close too.

“Captain,” she said by way of greeting as she sat down in the co-pilot’s chair.

He regarded her out of the corner of his eye. “I heard Jayne grousin’. What were you doing out there?”


“Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

She met his eyes. “Humidity rose. Sweat like crawling bugs. Everything’s ashes. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down when the wind blows too hard. Too loud. All too loud.”

The Captain was silent for a few moments and River knew that he was taking in her weary countenance. He made as if to stand.

“C’mon, we’ll get your brother to give you something.”

“Do not disturb,” she said firmly.

“I reckon he won’t mind,” Mal said as he lightly took River’s arm to help her from her seat.

River shook her head trying to think of a way to make him understand. “Daddy can’t go into the parlor. The boy’s forgotten all his manners. He isn’t being a gentleman. They’re busy. If you see, Kaylee’s reputation will be ruined.”

Mal released her arm. Realization dawned on his face. “Oh.”

He took his seat once more, still looking at River. After a moment he spoke again. “When you said it was too noisy to sleep...”

River smiled. “Not all manners are forgotten. Too considerate for that, Captain. They bite back the sounds. Didn’t hear with my ears.”

Mal’s eyes widened and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. River could see that he took no solace in what she’d just told him.

“You can read their emotions, while they’re-” He trailed off.

“Sensation’s overwhelming. It-it pulls at me, takes hold and won’t let go... It doesn’t make sense.” She struggled with the words to explain her confusion. “I don’t know... what they’re doing. The purpose.”

River could see Mal measuring his options for response. “Well, this ain’t something I should be, uh, discussing with you. It’d probably better if someone else maybe explained-”

“Don’t need fairy tales flying and buzzing around my brain,” River assured him. “I understand the mechanics. Of mechanics and doctors,” she smiled briefly. “Penetration, stimulation, pressure, fall. Motivation is an enigma. It overpowers. Leaves everything else behind and even when they’re not-- they never forget. They can’t. Why? Why be consumed?”

Mal seemed to consider this seriously. “Don’t rightfully know,” he admitted. “But be that as it may, in their minds while they’re... busy, ain’t somewhere you need to be.”

“I know.” She knew very well, but still, some things could not be stopped. Only controlled. Scanning for metrical patterns had finally occured to her. She would be fine.

Mal seemed to consider something for a moment. “Wash and Zoe- do you hear them too?”

“I did. Then isn’t now, anymore. Now is now and different, with the medicine and Simon helping me see... Before there were nightmares. I was trapped inside myself, couldn’t travel often, or get visitors. Now, I can dream and I dream everybody. But Simon and Kaylee are closer. It’s a vacuum, and they’re the only sound.”

“Well, maybe I could talk to them, tell them to, maybe move it to Kaylee’s room so you won’t be so close.”

River smiled. “Then you’d hear them. Right next door.”

Mal looked slightly disturbed.

“Besides, can’t tell Simon. He doesn’t want to have The Talk. He’ll go red and then he’ll stop. Kaylee won’t be pleased to be robbed of her pleasure.”

“Yeah, well, that’s-” Mal said, obviously not wishing to hear more.

River ignored him, too concerned with detailing how events would progress if they were to tell Simon. “She’s waited patiently, you know. Then, Simon’ll want her and he’ll feel bad. And they’ll both be frustrated. And then they’ll think and I’ll hear and everyone will see until the circle closes in on itself and we’re back where we began. Only everyone else will have been inconvenienced too. There are some things people aren’t meant to know, Captain.”

“Well, when you put it like that...” he began, and she was hopeful, “Nope, it still ain’t right. Something’s gotta be done.”

River rolled her eyes, then suddenly lurched forward, bowled over by a shockwave of sensation. She sat up again and took a deep breath.

“I can handle it, Captain,” she said pointedly.

“Was that- Did they just-”

River nodded.

Mal looked positively horrified. “Look, I can’t just sit by and do nothing while you have to sit through... this.”

River met his eyes. “You carry your own burdens, Captain. Let me do the same.”

This simple statement seemed to reach Mal in a way that her other protestations could not. She’d known that it would.

“Well, at least you can go to bed now.”

River shook her head as she turned to look out at the stars. “That only makes one. They’re not finished.”

Mal made a strange choking sound and River couldn’t help but giggle.

“You know, taking into account your special talents and the recovering you’re doing, I think it’s about time we have a conversation about what information you decide to give out there, River, and what to keep to yourself. Folk like to have private thoughts and feelings and it ain’t quite right for you to go blabbing things whenever-”

"No more coital discussion involving Simon, Kaylee, or any other crewmembers?” she asked, cutting him off.

He turned towards her. “I would appreciate it very much, yes.”

“Aye-aye, Captain.”


Saturday, June 25, 2005 6:28 PM


I love the opening sequence. River is an incredibly difficult character to write, but you've done an outstanding job, detailing the imagery and emotion that she feels and then having it make sense. Outstanding!

Monday, June 27, 2005 8:07 AM


I thought your previous story was pretty damn good but I absolutely adored this one! You wrote River so very lyrically and the awkwardness she engenders in the Captain is so well drawn I was laughing and appreciating the whole glorious confection. The whole piece flowed like poetry - very River, and very shiny! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, November 17, 2005 1:41 PM


“Was that- Did they just-”

i can just picture the look of abject horror on mal's face...priceless


Wednesday, March 8, 2006 1:16 PM


Oh this was just hysterical. Wonderfully done.

Kaylee won't be happy to be robbed of her pleasure, indeed!


Just lovely.


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!WARNING! !MOVIE SPOILERS! There are so many movie spoilers, in fact, that I cannot even tell you what this is about without spoiling you.

Everything He Has
Simon wants it all.

Shall We?
Kaylee danced just like she smiled.

Sweet Reality
Who needs dreams?

Without Rest, Without Peace
River has trouble sleeping.

Sometimes it’s hard to know when to let go and when to hold on.

A promise kept.

Exhausted Resistance
Simon has some things on his mind. AU.

Thwarted Union
Mal doesn’t believe in most myths, but he chooses to believe in this one.

Sometimes there’s a second chance to say things left unsaid.