Coupled Oscillation
by Dana Woods

It's only You, Simon. Only You. And me, but I don't matter. No, I don't. I matter to them, and they don't count because they're not You. I matter to You, but You're all that matters.

It's a circular argument; it can't be won. Just give up, Simon.

It's syllogistic logic. I was crazy and You were sane. Therefore, we're both sane. Or crazy. No, that's wrong. I get confused sometimes, even though I shouldn't. It's easy for me, You know.

We're both crazy and sane, syllogism aside. Only Simon and River, since the others--

I don't want to talk about that.

It's supposed to be me, over here by myself. You over there, with Your needles. Recipes tested and tried, with dashes of seratonin, and pinches of chlorpromazine. I shuffled like something broken and cracked and You shook in our bunk with Your hands in Your hair. Add a hint of Valium and I saw stories on the grate of the catwalk on Serenity--

Emergent computation. Toss together random nerve cells, and they'll form a neural net. What kind? You can only find out once You've done it. Toss nine people into the black on a boat named Serenity. Which net? You tell me, Simon. Tell me, because I can't see it.

I see pendulums and clocks. One pendulum next to another. Many swinging pendulums next to one another. They synch up. Always. Stop them, and they do it again. It's not one influencing the others. It's all of them shifting. Sometimes backwards. Outside forces don't matter. They become a new rhythm, Simon, different from each individual starting rhythm.

Coupled oscillation. That's what it's called. That's what it was like on Serenity. Nine pendulums, swaying to their own rhythms, set next to each other. Then they swung all together, all in a row. Knock one down and they all fall with it. No, wait. Knock one down and nothing changes. Move them apart and everything becomes different.

That's why You're a little crazy now, Simon, and why I'm a little sane.

Simon-clock and River-clock, with our pendulums swinging next to each other, all alone on this cold rock, far from everywhere we used to be. Far from the shattered clocks that we used to be synched with--

You called me Kaylee the first time.

Crazy little house on the darkest side of this planet, which isn't as dark as the Black, but so very close that it makes do. Mismatched furniture, so like Serenity--Kaylee's sparkly domain, and Mal's sparse one, and Wash and Zoe's spousal one, all rolled into one. Most like the galley area. Welcoming wood all around, family in the air, little particles of it that we inhale all the time.

Maybe not so much crazy, as sanely insane, our house. Like You, only and always You, with me just to the side.

First change in motion bringing You closer to insanity, me closer to sanity. You inside me, whispering her name with my face in Your eyes. Every thrust a shift. Every moan a slide. One step towards coupled oscillation, with my head slipping off the red silk cushion, legs tangling in a velvet throw blanket. Your limbs grabbing the sofa back, falling off the other side.

My face in Your eyes, Simon. Names matter, but they're not everything. See Mal, a lifetime ago. Reality is more than limiting denotations. You taught me that, back when I was whole. Made me close my eyes, held flowers under my nose, took me away from biology and chemistry and mathematics to lingering scent.

There was a point and I see it now. Fact and fancy together, entwined like lovers.

You were behind me the second time, and I couldn't see myself in Your eyes, but You said my name.

Held me like a symbol of everything and nothing that was wrong in all the 'verse, and then You ripped me apart but there wasn't a remedy except time itself, which carries too many burdens to fix all that quickly. Tightness and tearing and blood, but it was what it was, and even You don't control everything. Especially You.

Biggest shift, right then, like the planet tilted and gravity wasn't what it always is. You cried with Your face in my lap, and I petted Your hair and told You about Fibonacci numbers. Start with zero and add one, then add the current number to the previous number. Zero plus one is one, one plus one is two, two plus one is three, three plus two is five.

Told You that this was right, because You and me is two, and You sobbed harder, but it didn't take long before You understood.

The third time, I swayed on Your lap and it was backwards synchrony (I was sane and You were crazy) and there was the inherent rightness of Fibonacci (three also belongs to the Son of Bonacci). It was a small bit of what You wished for when You found out the truth about where I was.

You were sane again, once upon a time. Like in a fairy tale, once upon a time. You read those tales to me, while I sat with my eyes closed, flowers across my face, world reduced to scent and Your voice. Silly things, I called them. All important things now.

Sane. Again. You. "Did you know?" is what You asked, and I told You, "Yes." And then You said, "You should have stopped it!"

Static, Simon. Some things can't be changed. I spent a night wrestling with probability, rolling around on the floor with it like You and I used to do when we were the bright lights in our parents' eyes. It was too strong, too determined.

Seven clocks shattered into bits of wood and bent stems of brass pendulums, eighty-nine bullets strewn among them, wedged in pieces and bits of them. Five more in You and me. Eighty-nine and five, both Fibonacci numbers, Simon. It was inevitable and--

I don't want to think about that anymore.

I knew it would be thirteen. Our thirteenth time. No triskaidekaphobia in our house, is there, Simon?

You kissed me like I was something ripe that You were savoring. Like Kaylee with her strawberries--

And You touched me with reverence, like Jayne caressed Vera--

Ran Your fingers through my hair, like Inara must have with clients--

Laughed with me when we fell to the floor, the kind of laughter that Wash and Zoe always--

Stared at me with eyes more intense than Mal's--

Said my name like those prayers that the Shepherd used to--

We knew each other like we did before I went away to--

We confused each other like we did when You got me away from--

And it was synchronicity. Simon-clock and River-clock, pendulums moving as one, remembering how we used to sway, back before the bullets. Rhythm and motion matched and locked.


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