It goes like this. Every night, it goes like this:
She comes to him, she kisses him, she starts to strip. He holds her close to still her hands and tells her no.
"It's wrong, River," says Simon.
"Simon says, Simon says," River moans. "Not a game. Not a child. Not anymore."
She looks at him with pleading eyes and he feels his resolve melting, and it frustrates and confuses him, because tonight was going to be the night he ended it. Tonight and every night before.
"Simon," she says, looking up at him.
"I love you," he says, cupping her face in his hands, and he kisses her again. "Are you sure?" he asks. "Are you sure you want this?" Begging her to say no.
She nods quickly, her chin bumping the heel of his hand.
"Tell me," he entreats.
"Yes," she whispers.
Simon asks her at every juncture, every inch of skin exposed, every kiss of flesh. She says, "Yes," every time, softer every time until he can barely hear her, so he stops, starts to pull away. And then River reaches out, pulls his hand back to her, or his head, or his hips, and whispers, "Please," and so he does, then, and cannot stop.
He hates himself after. He feels hollow inside, feels cold and empty as space and the only warmth in the universe is her body, pressed against his, seeking the comfort of his touch even in her sleep.
The thing Simon does not know--and he does not know because River has been careful, so careful, since the men realized she could do this and took her away--is that it is not that he has no strength against her, it is that she saps his strength, binds his will, moves in his head as he moves in her and flips the switches, love to lust and want to need and no to yes. She does it slowly, so he thinks it is his own will turning on him. He thinks himself weak for not resisting her, when he has no means to resist this.
River is quiet, as quiet as she can be, because he told her once, in a fit of shame, that the others would hear. Simon tries to be as quiet as she, but when she draws him to her, he sometimes cries out. She holds him to her and muffles the sound with her shoulder, her neck, her hair.
Simon thinks that he is in control because he lives in his own mind. River is in control because she does not.
Simon feels desperate because he cannot stop himself and does not understand why. He thinks of telling someone, of letting them do the stopping. He is afraid to tell the captain because he thinks it will get him thrown off the ship, and River needs him. He thinks of Book, of asking if he hears confessions. It becomes a fantasy: Simon imagines baring his soul to the shepherd. Book, in Simon's fantasy, tells him to be strong and resist temptation, but Simon cannot. He always breaks before his sister.
And he never does tell anyone, because shame rises up and burns the back of this throat, and he cannot speak. River overpowers him.
Simon thinks that if he can fix River, if he can undo what they did to her, then it will stop. She will understand the sin, she won't ask him to touch her, she won't let him take advantage of her. For this, he becomes a criminal mastermind, cobbles together a plan to get into an Alliance hospital to diagnose her and treat her.
It's a long shot, the plan riddled with holes. The soldiers of the crew are stumbling over the medicalese, and the store rooms are on the other end of the hospital from the morgue, and the Alliance is after him and River. And they have to die to get in, which terrifies him even though he knows it's only temporary.
But it's the only thing Simon knows to do, and it terrifies him less than how he feels when he makes love to his sister, so he does it. He prays to God that it will work. God hasn't shown him any mercy lately, except, perhaps, Malcolm Reynolds's inexplicable kindness and protection, but that only means that Simon is owed a little mercy, he thinks.
God, apparently, thinks otherwise. Even with the treatment Simon devises, River is only lucid in the morning, not at night when he needs her to be, and when the medication starts to wear off, the first place she runs to is Simon's bed.
He closes his eyes. "My sister," Simon says as he holds her. He loves her, and despairs.