BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

TAMSIBLING

A NEW LIFE, ch. 21: Changed For Good
Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Post-BDM: Simon and River have faced down their father, but their mother still needs to be reckoned with. And how exactly do you entertain eight children and 12 adults on a boat like Serenity?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2042    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

A/N: As promised this morning, here is the next chapter. This one is a bit longer, so quit your whinin'! (Sorry, I just channeled Mal there for a minute!)

Thanks again to Leiasky, especially for the help with the conversation where Simon talks to his mother. Trust me folks, that one was like birthin' a baby!

ENJOY - AND LEAVE COMMENTS!

***

A NEW LIFE, ch. 21: Changed For Good

***

Simon watched his sister pull the shuttle into the air. He was tired, both mentally and physically exhausted from the battle they had just waged. But he knew it wasn’t over. As much as he wanted to ask River to simply fly the ship back to Serenity, so he could hold Kaylee and their son, he knew that there was still something else he had to do – to say.

Wearily, Simon leaned his head back against the chair and closed his eyes. After a few moments of silence, he finally turned his gaze back to River, not at all surprised to find her eyes already locked on his face.

Nodding back toward the shuttle proper, she told him, “You have to do this.”

He nodded at the truth of her words. He'd stalled as long as he could, waiting wouldn't make this any easier - on any of them. He needed to talk to his mother and Alicia. He needed to know how involved they were in what was done to him.

Rising slowly, his injured muscles protested at the movement. Looking to his sister’s beleaguered form, he rested a light hand on her shoulder, careful of the bruises and dried blood that dotted her skin. He wanted to check her for injuries, but he knew she would brush him off. He'd delayed this coming conversation as long as she would allow. “As soon as you can, come out. I want to treat those wounds.”

She nodded to him once and turned a smile to him. “Quit stalling,” she chided, shrugging off his touch to return her attention to the controls.

Smiling at her tease, he murmured, “Brat,” before taking one final deep breath and entering the shuttle. Both his mother and Alicia looked up at his entrance. With a halting step, his legs were sore from the fighting he’d done, he approached where they sat. To his great surprise, his mother spoke first.

"I'm sorry, Simon." Regan's voice was small and ragged to her own ears. Forcing her gaze back to her son, his pain and anger caused her heart to sink further in her chest. Quelling her tears, she said again, "I'm so sorry."

Simon wasn't sure he could contain his rage. He didn't like the way his mother was looking at him, begging him with wide eyes to forgive her. It would not be that easy. Crossing his arms over his chest, he said coldly, "I don't want your apology. I want an explanation." She inhaled sharply and Simon continued, unconcerned with her feelings at the moment. "I want to know why. I want to know why you did it."

Regan bit her lip, trying in vain to keep her tears from falling. As the first few salty drops hit her lips, she knew with certainty this would be the end of her family. She knew that Simon would never be able to forget the pain she and his father had caused. Whether it had been unwittingly or not would not matter to her son, not now. The damage had been done.

"Simon, please understand how devastated we were when you and River both disappeared," Regan started quietly, casting her eyes to the shuttle's floor, unable to meet his burning gaze. "Your father and I both felt angry and confused - we couldn't understand what would have driven our son, a man like you with such a bright future, to take such rash action." Regan paused, thinking back to those first few days when neither she nor her husband had known what had become of their children. And then, the shock and horror, as they had learned the truth.

“When we found out that you were wanted by the Alliance,” she said, her voice growing quieter by the second. “We didn’t know what to do. Your father was so angry, angrier than I’ve ever seen him.” Regan shivered at the memory and then forged ahead, finally raising her gaze to meet Simon’s still infuriated look. “He felt betrayed and ashamed, ashamed of his only son.” Her eyes watered a bit and she again allowed her voice to adopt just the slightest hint of a whine, “You have to understand what that did to him.”

Simon’s jaw remained firmly clenched. He didn’t have to understand any of this. His parents had lost their right to forgiveness the minute they had made a deal with the Alliance. Not losing his focus, Simon again ground out, “Why?”

Regan saw not the slightest hint of a reprieve in her son’s eyes so she again continued on with her story, hoping that he might one day try to comprehend. “Your father told me to forget about both you and your sister. He told me that what you had done was unforgivable, that you had shamed the Tam family beyond repair and it would be best if we acted as though you never existed.” Regan was again crying, but she managed to hold her voice steady as she said, “But your father didn’t take his own advice. Due to his position and of course, our wealth, he made some very powerful friends. We started making donations to questionable causes and when I would press him about it he assured me it was a financial dealing I should not be concerned with.”

Looking back to Simon with fresh tears in her eyes, Regan said, “His money allowed us to track you. That’s how we found you on Boros.”

Recognition lit across Simon’s face in an instant and he thought of how he had managed to get out of that holding facility all those months ago. He had been there one minute and then gone the next. There hadn’t been any reason for the authorities to let him go, and only now, as Simon remembered more and more from the past year was he able to piece together those last few days before his mind had been altered.

Regan watched him puzzle it out, but continued, trying to make her case before he could collect his anger and direct it at her. “When they contacted us, they told us you were scheduled for execution. So your father made some calls to some of the men he’d befriended. And he made a deal.”

Letting out a slow breath, Regan’s mind retreated to that moment, that dreadful day when Gabriel had told her it was either let Simon die or destroy his life completely. Faced with an unenviable situation, Regan had pleaded with him to find another way, but as her husband remained firm, she had finally relented. She realized now what a horrible mistake that had been.

“What deal,” Simon ground out, his mouth barely moving as his rage continued to boil. River emerged from the cockpit at that moment and immediately moved to his side. Not looking to their mother, she turned her wide eyes up to him, even though he did not return the look. Placing a light hand against his shoulder, she continued to study him as the older woman explained.

“It was the only way to save you, Simon. You have to believe that.” Regan’s voice was imploring him to listen, to forgive, but he would not be swayed so easily. “The Alliance’s men told your father that they could get you back, but only if we agreed to …” Regan faltered, thinking of what she was about to put into words. It was impossible, impossible to say and even more improbable that, as his mother, she had allowed it to happen. Unable to say the words, she slouched forward heavily under the weight of her guilt and whispered, “We just wanted to be a family again.”

“How?” Simon’s voice rose in volume and pitch and he approached the woman menacingly, his eyes ablaze. River let him go, knowing he needed to let it out. “By erasing my sister from my life,” he asked incredulously, flinging an arm back in River’s direction. “By taking away the only true family I’ve ever had? By taking the one person from my life who loves me?” Simon’s chest was heaving with the intensity of his outburst. His mother of course still thought he was speaking of River, but in truth, Simon’s mind had wandered back to Kaylee’s sweet face. She had almost been lost to him completely because of his parents’ selfishness. And, to him, that was reprehensible.

“Simon, our plan was bring River back too,” Regan assured him, unaware of his double meaning. Rising to stand in front of him, she rung her hands in desperation, and at his disbelieving look, reiterated, “I promise you. Once we were sure the procedure had worked and that you were successfully reintegrated, we had every intention of bringing River home.” Looking over her son’s shoulder, Regan caught sight of her daughter’s beautiful face. The pain and love that radiated from her towards her brother’s angry form brought more tears to her eyes. Looking back to Simon she said, “We just wanted our family back.”

“But that’s not what you got, is it mother?” Simon spit the words in her direction, not caring how hateful he sounded. Backing up from her, he resumed his place at River’s side. "You got a son whose mind you manipulated into being what you wanted it to be. A drone who you could control." He took a breath, trying to shake his considerable rage. "But you didn't get your family back. You've irreparably ripped it apart. And now you've lost us both for good.”

Regan looked between the two siblings and knew Simon meant it, every word. Regan felt her legs give out from under her. Sinking to the deck, she cried, hard and Alicia, who was the only person not truly effected by this whole mess, moved to her side, guiding her gently back to the bench and helping her sit.

After several moments of tears, Regan was finally able to take a shaky breath and look back to her children. Their expressions had not changed and she felt the icy dagger already cleaved in her chest plunge deeper into her heart. “Please, Simon,” she begged, having to talk through more tears. “Please, just come home. Both of you. You belong on Osiris. You belong in that life. We can be a family. You’ll never want for anything.” She reached out a shaky hand to him and Simon eyed it with disgust.

“We don’t need things, mother,” he ground out, his gaze boring into her even as she averted his eyes. “That’s something you’ve never understood. The only thing we’ll ever need we found out in the least likely place imaginable – in the black,” he explained looking to River and getting an encouraging smile in return.

“What could you possibly have there,” Regan asked, her voice still broken by her emotion.

Turning back to her with a cool gaze, Simon held her eyes with his for a moment, knowing the next word he spoke would hurt her deeply and not, for a minute, caring. “Family.”

Regan’s tears fell twice as hard now, and Alicia again comforted her. Throwing a scathing look up to Simon, she allowed her own pain and bitterness to seep into her tone. “A family? With who? Those people? They’re thieves, criminals. How can you consider them family?”

Simon shrugged simply, not surprised by her question. He suspected that had he never been forced to rely on people like Mal or Jayne or Zoe, he wouldn’t be able to understand either. But where they’d come from and who they were did not nullify the good within them or the love they had shown he and his sister.

River slid her hand down into Simon’s and squeezed it reassuringly, urging him to continue. “Because they love us; unconditionally. Which is something our mother and father could never manage to do.”

Regan’s sobs echoed off the walls of the shuttle and Simon stood resolute, unable to show the emotion he felt. He wanted to cry with her, wanted to grieve the time he had lost, not with his blood family, but with that family - the family he had been taken from; wanted to yell and scream at the betrayal he felt at having been deceived by his parents. But he couldn’t give into that sadness, not now. There was still so much at stake.

Again squeezing his hand, Simon this time looked to his sister and saw that she had tears in her eyes. “You have to tell her,” she whispered.

He knew exactly who and what she was talking about, but Simon didn’t know if he could. He had just gotten Kaylee back and he’d just discovered he had a son; he felt ridiculously protective of them, even though he knew his mother had very little power to harm them.

“It’s only fair,” River answered, in response to his conflicted thoughts. Smiling slightly at her, Simon placed a gentle kiss on her cheek and turned back to regard his mother’s shaking form.

“Simon, you have nothing in that life,” his mother said, her words still coming in gasps as she tried to control her sobbing. “No money, no contacts, nothing. How can that be the kind of life you want to live?”

Smiling slightly at her ignorance, Simon allowed his voice to soften for the first time all day. “That’s not true, mother,” he said, moving forward. Kneeling down beside her he said, “I do have something in that life. Something I didn’t think I would ever find and that’s why I have to go back to it.”

When her questioning eyes told him she still did not understand, Simon explained, “I have love in that life. The love of a beautiful woman who has agreed to be my wife, despite my faults.” Simon smiled inwardly thinking of all the times he’d stuck his foot in his mouth and all the times Kaylee’d forgiven him for it. He wondered if she didn’t have the patience of an angel.

Alicia’s eyes had grown wide at this information, and her own silent tears started down her face. So that was it then, over, done. Simon was lost to her, forever. She had known for quite some time, known since he’d left Osiris all those weeks ago, but hearing it now, seeing the love that lit up his features as he talked about this other woman, caused her heart to break fully.

Keeping his attention on his mother, he allowed his tone to again grow slightly steely as he said, “And we have a son.”

Jerking up, his mother’s wide brown eyes regarded him with equal parts disbelief and happiness. Before she could say anything else, Simon forged ahead, “A baby boy who I didn’t even know about until a little over a week ago.” Rising, he again stood over her shaking form as he added, “Because of you.”

Walking away from her, Simon heard her start crying again, her breath coming in short gasps. Without a word, he took his med kit and guided River over to the other side of the shuttle, dabbing lightly at her wounds. As he sat there with her, she leaned her head in and whispered, “She’s sad.”

“And I'm not? You're not? Kaylee's not?” Simon shot his sister an incredulous look. “All of that time. Gone; taken away. Kaylee and I can't get that time back.” Simon's heart ached for the pain he knew Kaylee had endured thinking he was dead. Going through a pregnancy and a birth, without the father of her child by her side. He glanced back at his mother, his jaw set. “I don't care if she's sad.”

“She's sad, Simon,” River repeated, trying to make him understand. Turning an impatient look to her, Simon answered back, “Yes, River I see that. The incessant crying kind of tipped me off.” Rolling her eyes and giving him her best you-are-such-a-boob look, she told him, “Sad because she’s lost her children and her husband all in one day.”

With startled eyes, Simon pulled on her hand harder than he meant to. “What do you mean? Is father –“

Shaking her head firmly, she answered him, “No, but he might as well be. She will not forgive him for this.” Looking back to their mother through her curtain of dark hair, she said, “She’s all alone.”

Simon followed her gaze and for the first time felt a twinge of sadness for the broken woman sitting across the way. He knew what it felt like to be alone; he’d had to suffer through it when he’d broken River out of the Academy. He had suspected she’d had very little to do with what had been done to him, but she’d still known what it would cost him, what it would mean and he could not forgive that. Not now and possibly, not ever.

Finishing one last bandage, Simon told her, “I’m sorry, mei mei, but forgiving her is a little much to ask.”

Pulling her eyes from her mother’s shaking form, River placed a light hand against his cheek and said, “Not forgive, accept. Otherwise, Daniel will suffer from your bitterness and he doesn’t deserve that.”

The sound of his son’s name brought his tiny face springing to Simon’s mind and he found himself swallowing past the sudden lump in his throat. He never wanted his son to question his father’s love for him. He never wanted to put Daniel in this kind of position.

“We’re almost there,” River said quietly, and with a light kiss to his cheek, she stood up and headed back for the cockpit, leaving him alone again with both women.

Rubbing his hands against his thighs, he finally stood and went over to his mother’s side. Sitting beside her, he placed a light hand on her back. She jumped at the unexpected contact and took several deep breaths, before finally turning her tear-streaked face to regard him. “River and I are still in a lot of danger, as is everyone on our ship.” She held his gaze, wondering why he was telling her this. Taking her hands in his, Simon said sincerely, “I need you to not betray us. I need you to keep our secret, keep us safe.” As an additional incentive, since family meant so much to her, he added, “My fiancée, your grandson.”

She nodded once, her tear-filled eyes again spilling over. Pulling Simon into a tight embrace, he hugged her back loosely, still unable to feel more than anger and betrayal for the woman. “I would never put you in harm’s way, son,” she whispered against his cheek. What they'd done had saved him from being executed in the first place. “I would never put my grandson in harm’s way either.”

Simon slowly pulled back from her and felt River set the ship down with the gentlest of landings. She again emerged from behind the cockpit’s divider curtain and announced, “We’re here.”

Turning curious eyes to first River and then Simon, Alicia asked, “Where is here?”

“Port City. We need to get you on a transport back to Osiris,” Simon answered, rising and assisting his mother.

Looking to him with more sadness in her gaze than before, Regan said, “Simon, no. I can’t leave without seeing my grandson. Without meeting this woman who’s going to be your wife.” Grabbing his arm firmly, she said, “Please, Simon, I want to be your mother again.”

Smiling at her with a patience he did not feel, Simon gently covered the hand she had on his arm and lifted it off. “Maybe someday, mother, but not now.”

She held his hard gaze for a moment, knowing he would not relent on this issue. Simon would protect his family and that family no longer included her. Nodding slowly, she said, “Then I want to give you something.”

Rolling his eyes, Simon again headed for the shuttle’s exit as he said, “Mother, I already told you, we don’t need anything.”

“Oh yes, you do,” Regan said, her voice regaining some of its old energy. “You’re going to need to have a proper wedding and that son of yours is going to need regular checkups, food, clothes …” She let the list die on her lips as he turned back to regard her. “It’s your money too, son.”

Simon nodded once, running a hand along the back of his head. In truth, there was a lot they could do with that money, not just for him or Kaylee or the baby, but for the Everetts and Millie and her children. Thanks to him they had basically lost everything. He owed them more than a thank you.

“I do have my salary from the hospital,” Simon commented, looking past his mother to his sister. He'd lived at home, rather than taking his own apartment, and so most of the money he'd earned had gone right into an account to be used whenever the overworked doctor had some free time. There was a considerable sum waiting in those accounts even after only ten months. River nodded her approval once as he said, “Hopefully, they haven’t yet crashed my accounts. Like last time.”

Smiling, Regan said, “Well, we’d better find out.” Moving past him, she strode out of the shuttle, followed closely by River. As Alicia tried to move past him, Simon caught her arm, turning her to face him.

The pain on her face was still fresh and caused him to wince involuntarily at the sight. “Ally,” he whispered, wondering what he could possibly say to make any of this better.

“It’s all right, Simon,” she told him, matching his tone. Pulling out of his hold, she said, “It wasn’t meant to be. I know that now.” Reaching up she placed a light hand to his cheek. Fighting to keep her tears in, she said, “Just be careful, all right?”

Simon nodded once before she fled the shuttle, trying to hide her face behind her hand so he wouldn’t see the fresh tears that fell. As she emerged from the shuttle into the hot daylight, she stopped abruptly as River placed herself in her path.

Startled, she asked, “What?”

River peered up into her face, her large brown eyes meeting Alicia’s tear-filled ones. “It’s okay,” the younger woman whispered, her face full of hope. “You’ll meet him one day, and you’ll be happy. Happier than before; happy forever.”

And with that cryptic statement, she skipped away joining her mother and brother as they headed farther into the docks, looking for a suitable transport. Shaking off the glimmer of hope the young woman had just given her, Alicia followed them quickly.

***

By the time Simon and River said a tearful goodbye to both Alicia and their mother, they had been away from Serenity for almost a day. Watching impatiently as the two women boarded the transport they’d hired, the two siblings turned to each other with large grins, racing back towards their shuttle, despite the pain in their limbs.

Once they were safely on board and in the air, Simon called Serenity, pleased to see Zoe’s impassable face greeting him. “Zoe, everything all right there?”

If the Amazon woman was relieved by the sight of him, it didn’t show. “It is, Simon, good to see ya.”

“Ooh, is that Simon and River?”

A little voice could be heard off screen and Zoe glanced over to her side with a large grin on her face. Sighing slightly, she reached down and when she was again visible to Simon, he saw that she had Ellie balanced in her lap. “Hey Simon,” she called loudly, giving him a big wave.

Unable to keep the smile from his face, he said, “Hi Ellie. How are you?”

“I’m good, but Miss Kaylee’s missin’ ya somethin’ fierce,” the girl confided, rolling her eyes as she thought of her older friend who had been moping around since Simon had been gone.

“Well, I miss her too,” Simon answered, surprised by the lump that formed in his throat. Swallowing thickly to clear it, he again addressed the first mate. “We should be back to your location in a few hours. Is everything all right?”

Zoe nodded again, and took the little girl off her lap. “You want me to get Kaylee for ya?”

Shaking his head, Simon said, “No, we’ll be back before you know it. Just tell everyone we’re all right, will you?”

Nodding again, Zoe finally allowed a smile to grace her features. “Tell your sister that was some fancy flyin’ she did.”

Glancing over to River, he saw a huge grin cross her face, even as she kept her focus forward. “I will,” Simon assured and then flipped off the screen.

Turning back to regard River for a moment, Simon thought about all they had been through in the past few weeks. It seemed that regardless of how much or how frequently the ‘verse tried to destroy them, they always survived. There was some saying, Simon could vaguely remember, about odds, but he was too tired to worry on it now.

“We’ll be okay,” River said suddenly, interrupting his thoughts. Turning to gaze at him, she reiterated, “We will.”

Simon sighed and let his head fall back against the seat. He had almost drifted off when a promise he’d made came floating back to him. Turning sharp eyes to River, he said, “Mei mei, we still need to talk.”

Sighing, River placed the ship back on auto-pilot and then turned to face him. Crossing her arms over her chest, she asked, “Yes?”

So she wasn’t going to make this easy – all right, fine. “I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said, matching her tone and her gaze.

Rolling her eyes, she was about to hurl a sharp retort at him, when Simon exclaimed, “It’s Jayne! I mean, River, come on … Jayne?”

Chuckling at his outburst, River saw his exasperation increase tenfold and she tried to stifle the grin she felt forming. “Simon, we can’t help who we love,” she told him, honesty playing across her features.

Simon’s mouth dropped open and River was a little worried he had just suffered a stroke. Not speaking for several moments, he finally stammered, “L-love? Did you say love? Did you just tell me you love Jayne?”

Knowing that this was only going to get harder for him, River moved out of her seat and knelt in front of her brother. “I don’t know if I love him or not,” she told him honestly, her voice losing any hint at playfulness. The seriousness of her tone, matched with the sincerity in her eyes almost made Simon’s heart stop. “I don’t know much about any of what I’m feeling because it’s all pretty new to me.”

Simon reached out a hand and placed it against her cheek. Pausing for a moment, River gathered more of her thoughts and then continued, “I wish that I had been able to find someone who didn’t infuriate you so.” Simon chuckled softly at that assessment and then listened as she went on. “But whatever Jayne and I have, it’s good. It’s true. And I would know that, better than anyone.”

Simon knew she was right. He knew that if anyone in the ‘verse could not only take care of themselves, but could also handle Jayne, it was his sister. He just didn’t know how he would ever be able to look past all the bad, crude and rude things the man-ape had ever done and see someone good enough for his baby sister.

Leaning forward, Simon cupped her face in his hands and said, “You know that I’m just looking out for you, right? I just couldn’t stand it if you were hurt.”

River’s eyes teared slightly at his admission. Nodding, she said, “I know that. But you can’t protect me from everything, Simon. You’ve done the best you can; better than anyone else and now you just have to trust me. You have to let me find my own way, pain and all.”

Placing his forehead against hers, Simon bit back tears as he whispered, “It’s going to be hard for me, mei mei. You’re going to have to be patient.”

“Or I can just get Kaylee to distract you,” River countered, allowing a playful glint to light her eyes.

Smiling and laughing, Simon answered, “Very true.” Thinking of his soon-to-be-wife, Simon glanced back to the controls and asked, “How quickly until we get back?”

Rolling her eyes at her brother’s one track mind, River resumed her seat at the pilot’s station and answered, “About two hours.”

Noticing the giddiness with which Simon now waited River knew when they got back on board she and Jayne wouldn’t have anything to worry about.

***

Kaylee was back on Serenity, in her engine room. Despite the fear she felt in her gut over Simon’s absence, the familiarity of this room brought a smile to her face as she heard the hum of the engine, telling her all was right with the world. And she had gotten word from Zoe, a while ago and she knew Simon and River would be back soon.

Another sound drew her attention away from the spinning heart of her ship, and Kaylee turned with an even wider grin on her face as her baby cried. With shushing noises she had adopted through practice, Kaylee lifted the dark-haired baby from the makeshift bassinet she’d put in the room and rocked him gently against her chest. She cooed and whispered to him, bouncing Daniel gently as she paced around the room, trying to get him back to sleep.

Gazing down into his beautiful face, his blue eyes, so very much like his daddy’s stared up at her, the tears he had started to cry drying quickly as he felt the love and security this room had always afforded his mother. Kaylee quickly lost track of all kinds of time as she again lost herself in the miracle that was her son.

So content was Kaylee with the little bundle in her arms, she didn’t notice Simon standing in the doorway, a bemused grin on his face at the sight before him. Kaylee turned finally and caught his gaze, blushing at being caught in the middle of some unabashed baby talk. But without a word, Simon crossed the small distance between them and wrapped his arms around them both, planting a gentle kiss on the baby’s head and turning an even more passionate kiss on her.

Kaylee felt his desire and his longing for her in that kiss and she sighed against him, feeling for the first time in a long while like she was home. Pulling back from her slightly, Simon kept his arms around her as he rested his chin on her head. “I missed you, bao bei,” he whispered, reveling in the feel of his beautiful Kaylee in his arms.

“We missed you, too,” Kaylee said, walking away from Simon begrudgingly to place Daniel back in his bassinet. Turning back to look at the love of her life, Kaylee’s breath caught in her throat; having previously been consumed with relief that he was back and holding her, Kaylee had completely missed the haggardness of his appearance and the abundance of cuts and bruises that adorned his normally perfect skin.

Rushing to him, Kaylee studied the bruises on his neck and the dried blood that he had not been able to get out of his clothes. “Sweetie, oh my god, what happened?” Tears instantly filling her eyes, Kaylee rested her hands against his chest, and gazed up at him, fear etched into her features. “Who did this?”

“Shh, Kaylee, it’s all right,” Simon assured her, again pulling her to him. He had known he didn’t look good, that the battle with his father had left a few more marks on him then he really wanted her to see, but they had been apart for far too long. And now, as he held her, he knew even those seconds of indecision had been time wasted. “I’m fine, bao bei, I promise.”

Kaylee nodded against his chest, holding him tighter to her. He was fine, they both were and their son was healthy and they were again together. That was all that mattered. Turning her tear-stained face up to him, Kaylee whispered, her breath warm against his cheek, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” he whispered back. Running his hands up her back, he brought them around to cup her cheeks in his hands and slowly, pressed a lingering, gentle and passionate kiss to her mouth. Kaylee again sank into him, her arms working around his back and pulling her tighter to him. The kiss deepened, as Kaylee and Simon both lost themselves in the touch of each other, until a giggle interrupted their enjoyment.

Breaking the contact abruptly, Simon and Kaylee turned their gazes slowly towards to the door to see three sets of eyes peering in at them. With Ellie leading the pack, she, Cleo and Tristan were all staring and giggling at the two adults. Grinning widely, suddenly Ellie noticed they were caught and squealing, turned and ran the other way, the other two children on her heels.

Looking back to one another, Simon and Kaylee could not hold in their laughter. “Well, this is going to be an interesting couple of weeks,” Simon said, just as Daniel decided he again required attention. Placing a light kiss on Simon, Kaylee turned from him and gathered her baby in her arms. Walking back towards Simon the three of them headed out of the engine room. Simon’s mind drifted as they walked, wondering if there would be any private time for he and Kaylee in the coming weeks, months or even years.

***

By the time the little family emerged into the galley, the rest of the crew was already assembled. Guiding Kaylee to a chair, Simon held it out for her as she settled down with Daniel and he resumed a stance behind her, his hands resting lightly on the seat back. Nodding once in the doctor’s direction, Mal finally brought the meeting to order.

Which was no easy task considering that Millie’s children were running in and out of the room causing quite a ruckus, yelling and shouting as they chased each other back and forth. After Mal’s fourth attempt to say something profound, he finally bellowed, “One o’ you is gonna fall and die and I ain’t cleanin’ it up,” All of the adults, especially the crew, hid their smiles and waited until all seven of the Millie’s kids were sitting dutifully against the far wall of the room, silent as churchgoers. Elijah who had been sitting patiently the whole time, cocked an eyebrow of appreciation at Mal.

“Finally,” Mal muttered under his breath. Squeezing Inara’s hand, he addressed the group. “All right, as we can see we gotta a lot people on this little boat.” His gaze wandering to Walt, Marie and Millie, he said, “And unfortunately, we can’t rightly set you back down on Beaumonde. ‘Fraid it ain’t exactly what you’d call safe anymore.”

Walt nodded once, taking Marie’s hand even as she flashed him a brilliant smile. “Of course, Mal. ‘Sides, there ain’t much left there for us anyway.”

Kaylee’s eyes immediately teared at the thought, thinking of the Everetts’ comfortable home and Walt’s great shop. Simon saw her shoulders tense, and leaned down to rest a reassuring hand on her shoulder as he placed a kiss on the top of her head.

“What about the shop,” Zoe asked from where she stood against one of the room’s far walls. Not surprisingly, Ellie was at her side, sitting at her feet as the other children sat across the room.

Walt sighed heavily and answered, “It was damaged. Not too bad, but bad enough to close it. Eli and Matt are gonna look after it for a bit, until I decide what to do.”

This sobered the group and everyone again turned their thoughts inward trying to think of a workable solution. It was Kaylee who finally spoke up. “Well, cap’n, I’ve been thinkin’ on a plan.”

Smiling at her kindly, Mal asked, “Well, do tell, lil’ Kaylee.”

Looking back to Simon, she saw his love and support shining down and once again encouraged, she looked back to the group around the table. People who were as dear to her as any; there was only one place she could think to take them.

“What about back to my folks’ place? On Harvest,” she questioned, turning hopeful eyes to the captain.

Mal was a bit startled, although he didn’t know why. Kaylee would surely want to show off that little tyke to her parents, as well as the baby’s father, he imagined and considering Harvest were a rim world, there’d be a good chance they could avoid any Alliance entanglements. Glancing over to Inara, he saw her smile back at him, that warm genuine smile that made his heart melt.

“Well, Kaylee, I ‘spose we could,” Mal answered slowly, watching with delight as Kaylee’s small smile grew into a bright and vibrant one. “But you really think your folks are gonna mind takin’ us all in?”

Kaylee looked again around the table and finally back up at Simon. “We’re family,” she told them all, although her eyes remained on the doc’s. “Home’s the one place where when you go-“

“They have to take you,” River finished quietly from her seat next to Jayne. The merc had not let her out of his sight since they’d been back, barely an hour now. And as soon as River has stepped out of the shuttle, Cadie had been a permanent fixture in her arms. Now the little girl sat resting her head against River’s chest, as River combed her fingers through her long, dark hair. They both looked incredibly peaceful.

Kaylee beamed at her soon-to-be sister-in-law and then turned that huge grin to the captain. God help him if that smile didn’t melt his heart as well. “All right then, I guess it’s settled.” Looking to River he asked, “Albatross, how long it’ll take us to get there?”

River turned her big, brown eyes to him and answered confidently, “Twenty-five days, ten hours and forty-six minutes.”

Nodding at her assessment, Mal couldn’t help agree with some of the groans he heard rising from the kids’ lips. Twenty-five days was a long time to be spending on a boat of Serenity’s size with twelve adults and eight rambunctious kids.

“All right now, calm down,” Mal said, turning a steely gaze with no real malice behind it toward the children. They immediately clamped their mouths shut as Mal turned back to the others. “I think we’re gonna need to work out some sleeping arrangements.”

***

Remember now, nice, shiny comments!

COMMENTS

Wednesday, July 5, 2006 4:25 PM

WANMEI


Another brilliant chapter! It was so heartbreaking, poor Simon! I really hope that things work out, that Gabe burns in hell and that Regan decides to think for herself a little more bravely.

Keep it up!

Wednesday, July 5, 2006 4:46 PM

LEIASKY


Yes, birthing a baby...that's what all the re-writes in that scene were like.....LOL! But it came out perfect.

And Simon's overprotectiveness with River regarding Jayne was just great.

Of course, I love Simon coming back to find Kaylee with Daniel in the engine room. And the kids interrupting them. Hee!

Poor Mal is going to lose his poor little mind with all those kids on board!

Wednesday, July 5, 2006 7:51 PM

ECAMBER


This is addicting!! I read the last chapter before work... and when I read you'd post another tonight I spent my shift anxiously waiting to go home!

As always, this was an incredible chapter.

In a perfect world:
Jayne and River would adopt Cadie.
Mal and Inara adopt Elijah, who Simon heals completely.
Zoe adopts Ellie.
Everyone else builds a beautiful huge home near Kaylee's folks land so there can be huge parties when they visit (and a nice big shop for work and refitting Serenity once in a while).
Gabriel gets a very passive, but incurable cancer of the rectum, looses all his money from the Blue Sun taking his accounts, is shunned by his society and dies a slow miserable death as a panhandler.
Regan is tenatively, then warmly, accepted back into Simon's life (and Kaylee and Daniels by extension) and lives a quiet comfortable life.
Alicia marries Keller (because he's gonna need a shrink if he isn't already dead). Better - Alicia marries another shrink, because after the crap she's been put through she could probably use a bit of counseling herself.

The only, ONLY, thing that tripped me up was this bit of River: “You have to let me find my own way, pain and all.” It's good writing and coming out of any other characters mouth, believable. But this seems a bit blaise, almost too coherent for River. I cant' imagine these words coming from her even if she were completely healed (which I don't think she ever could be). The sentiment is perfect though.

And as always: post the next installment soon!!

Wednesday, July 5, 2006 8:14 PM

ERYN


adorable! love it!

Thursday, July 6, 2006 1:56 AM

RIVERISMYGODDESS


Simon's conversation with his mother was intense, I like it a lot. :)

*“It’s Jayne! I mean, River, come on … Jayne?”*

BWAHAHAHAHA !!!!

It does amaze me a little that they kept Serenity flying for a year without needing a mechanic.

*“One o’ you is gonna fall and die and I ain’t cleanin’ it up,”*

That line always makes me laugh.

*“Twenty-five days, ten hours and forty-six minutes.”*

Classic River.

Sleeping and eating arrangements are certainly going to get interesting. Another great chapter, and as always it leaves me wanting for more.

Thursday, July 6, 2006 4:12 AM

MANICGIRAFFE


Sorry I'm late on the comment - the comment box has been disappearing on me lately. Anyone else getting that?

So Simon grows a pair. However, I can't see him not eventually forgiving his mother (dad, on the other hand, can rot in the desert). He's forever compassionate to the women in his life (even if he sticks his foot in it while trying to help). I think I would like to see him make up with her at some point.

ManicGiraffe

Thursday, July 6, 2006 8:47 AM

WICKEDWMS


Well, I guess I will never forget to log in before leaving a comment! So sad the change also erased all the comments left by this story's many fans who happened to not be logged in either! I actually felt sorry for Reagan. She really was following the only option she saw to save her son's life. And can you really hate a mother for wanting her children? I felt bad that she would not get to see her grandson or meet the woman Simon loves and the people he thinks of as family. Keep posting. You know I will be checking incessantly for an update, and I know I will not be the only one. Stay Shiny

Thursday, July 6, 2006 12:10 PM

LEIGHKOHL


Oh man this is like crack, high quality crack, but crack just the same!!!!!Oh I can't wait to meet Kaylee's parents and I am so excited to see thier reaction to all those people, but especially Simon and Daniel! I loved Simon and River's discussion about Jayne, just hilarious! And this line killed me-
>Simon’s mind drifted as they walked, wondering if there would be any private time for he and Kaylee in the coming weeks, months or even years.<
Welcome to parenthood! Just a fabulous chapter and I cannot wait for the next one!

Thursday, July 6, 2006 3:20 PM

WICKEDWMS


Crack is right. I keep rechecking FFF.net to see if there is a new dose. I wonder if there is a Fanfiction anonymous? Hee! Keep up the great work and keep those chapters coming, please. I find I do better with the waiting when I know when the next post will come. I am better at being patiant when I know how long I will have to be patiant for;)

Thursday, July 6, 2006 9:02 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh...Simon's definitely got a shiny set of cajones by this point, ManicGiraffe...can't help but develop them when you're out risking life and limb all the time;)

Gotta admit...Simon's "talk" with Regan was basically spot on. He's gonna forgive her eventually - Simon strikes me as someone who was close to his mother growing up more than his father - but he's got a lot of issues to muddle through before that happens. A tad bit more harsh in the tail end than I would have done it, but let's be honest....I would either make Simon a bit too softhearted or overcompensate with cruel vitriol if I had attempted this;)

BEB

Friday, July 7, 2006 4:55 AM

BLACKBEANIE


Awesome

Saturday, July 8, 2006 11:31 AM

GRIMLOCK


Now that I'm finally current, whew!
What about that Operative comment way back in the Prologue?

And as far as the next 25 days... Why do I have this image of sullen children scrubbing the cargo bay with toothbrushes under Mal's stern gaze?

I also have images of various kids falling in with various adults. The beg problem being, when one of the kids decides they want to be like Mr. Jayne when they grow up!


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