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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Set four years after A NEW LIFE. An old nemesis comes looking for revenge and one of the BDHs gets caught in the crossfire.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1829 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
A/N: And so now, we've got some yummy angst for you all! I hope you enjoy!
Just so you know, this story, A NEW BEGINNING, is right about 28 chapters, and the sequel, the final part of my trilogy, A NEW DAY, is about 33 with a long epilogue. A NEW DAY will pick up about four months from the end of this fic.
Thanks to Leiasky for the beta!
A NEW BEGINNING, ch. 15: The Blink of an Eye
Elijah’s funeral was a small quiet affair, held two days after his death. Everyone was there, including neighbors and friends from the town and everyone was sad, unbelievably so. Kaylee had not stopped crying for more than a few minutes since she’d learned the news, since she’d seen Simon, crying over the dead boy’s body, cursing his inability to work miracles. She had tried to approach him a half a dozen times in the last two days, but at every turn he had rebuffed her, content to sulk by himself.
And he had not returned to their bed. Kaylee had not told him he could, but she still thought that possibly, after the heartache and sadness caused by Elijah’s passing, he would find his way back to her and they would be able to heal together. But looking at him now, his profile rigid in the fading sunlight, she knew their road back was going to be much longer than she had initially anticipated. Slipping her hand into his, she felt how cold it was and shivered. Squeezing his hand imperceptibly, he did not acknowledge her closeness and Kaylee blinked back more tears as she again turned back to regard the gravesite and listen to the preacher’s words.
After the funeral, many people wandered back to Millie’s where there were all sorts of food and goodies laid out to thank the mourners for showing their support. Rylee and Daniel, both starving, dragged Kaylee away, even as she longed to stay by Simon’s side. He had knelt next to the boy’s fresh grave and she knew he wouldn’t be leaving any time soon. Knowing that she had to take care of her kids, she looked after him with a forlorn gaze and then slowly made her way to the house with the others.
Simon was in hell, he was fairly certain. Never had he felt so terrible in his whole life. Not only was he estranged from his wife, but in the past two months he had watched two children die, leaving behind pain and suffering in their absence. An absence he’d been unable to avoid. Letting his head fall into his hands, he tried not to cry, he had cried too much in the past few days and he knew it was wrong, embarrassing for him to show such blatant emotion, but he was lost, adrift in a sea of melancholy and the worst part was, he had no idea how to find his way back to that bright, sunny place where he prayed Kaylee would be waiting.
“Just lost. Lost in the woods.”
Why his sister’s soft voice surprised him did not know. He had known she would find him. She had been sticking close these past few days, any minutes not wrapped up in Cadie and her pain, spent at Simon’s side, making sure he did not allow himself to fall into the pit of despair he saw looming at every turn. Not bothering to face her, he said softly, “Go away, River.”
Shaking her head, River sat beside him, bringing her knees into her chest and wrapping her arms around them. “Nope. I’m not leaving you alone.”
Simon did not argue with her, he knew there was no point. She was as stubborn as he and if she’d set her mind to something, then nothing would deter her. They sat in silence for a moment, until finally she whispered, “Not your fault. You did all you could.”
Shooting her a hurt expression, he snapped, “Is that why Cadie won’t even look at me?” He had never seen more hurt in a child’s eyes than he had in those first few minutes after Elijah had died. Running in from River’s room, Cadie had thrown herself on the bed, clutching at him and wailing. No one had been able to console her, not River or Jayne, not Simon or Kaylee, not Millie or Marie. She had just stayed there, sobbing until finally over an hour later, her body had tired itself to the point of exhaustion and she had falling into a fitful sleep. “She blames me for his death. And she’s right,” he finished quietly, hearing the bitter tone of his voice.
Placing a firm hand on his shoulder, River sat up and pulled him around so their eyes could meet. With a hard gaze that conveyed her certainty, she told him, “No. She doesn’t blame you. She can’t be near you because of the pain you’re in. She’s got enough of her own to deal with,” River said, hoping her brother could understand. “Between Elijah’s death and the hurt coming off of you and Kaylee, she’s almost had to shut down. She’s only seven.”
Swallowing hard, Simon finally made the connection. Why he hadn’t been able to understand the type of effect all of this would have on a reader he had no idea. But now, he felt even worse. “I’m sorry,” he breathed, shifting his eyes back to the mound of freshly-turned earth.
“Not your fault,” River repeated, allowing him another moment to wallow. “It’s never been your fault, Simon. None of it.”
His body tensing, Simon knew she was no longer talking about just Elijah. Turning to face her, he asked, incredulous, “What?”
Swallowing past the lump in her throat, River steeled herself for the coming conversation, knowing that convincing Simon of his successes and not his failures was a large task. But she would do it, if only to give Simon back the life he so desperately missed. Placing a hand to his cheek, she started softly, “Nothing that happened to me was your fault.” She watched as he blinked back tears, but continued, hoping he would listen and really hear her this time. “Not the time at the Academy, not Miranda, not my baby. None of that was your fault.” Pushing past her own growing emotions, River held his gaze.
Simon opened his mouth to contradict her, but placing a hand to his lips, she told him, “Wait. There’s more.” He nodded once, his blue eyes again filling with tears, as she said, “You have to move past all of this. You have to stop carrying around this guilt for all the things you think you’ve failed to do. You have to let go.”
Stifling a sob, Simon pulled his face away from her hand, rising slowly and walking a few steps from her. River let him go for a moment before rising to follow, feeling his need to be free of his guilt, warring with his need to blame someone, to punish someone for the raw deal he and his sister had been dealt. Standing a hands-breadth away from his turned back, River finally said, “You have to let me go.”
Whirling on her, Simon grabbed her by the shoulders, his hurt evident in his expression. “Mei mei, don’t say that.”
Gently extricating herself from his embrace, River took a step back and with clear eyes said, “You have to. It’s time.”
Uncomprehending, Simon staggered a bit at her perceived rejection and felt his heart plummet to his gut. Nothing made sense anymore.
Rushing to correct his misunderstanding, River added, “Letting me go, doesn’t me you love me any less. It just means we’re growing up. It’s time for me to be an adult, Simon. It’s time for me to be a woman with a loving husband. And it’s time for you to be a man with a loving wife. It’s time for us to live our own lives.”
“I can’t lose you,” Simon muttered, unaware the words were even coming until they had rushed from his lips. It was the truth, he could not lose his sister and his wife and his children in the span of a week. Then he would have nothing.
Going to him, River placed a hand to his cheek and locked her teary brown eyes on his blue ones. “You’re not. You’ll always be my big brother, but I don’t need you to protect me anymore, Simon.” Swallowing hard, River told him quietly, “But Kaylee does.”
Meeting her gaze, Simon saw her conviction and her resolve shining back at him. “What have I done,” he asked, his words barely audible.
River smiled weakly at him and said, “You’ve been a boob. But you can fix it, I know you can.”
Sighing heavily, Simon turned from her again and brought his hands down on the back of his neck, trying to rub away the tension he felt. “I don’t even know where to begin,” he finally admitted, trying to keep his frustration at bay.
Walking around to stand in front of him, River placed a light hand over his heart and met his gaze. “Just start here and everything will be fine.”
Simon grabbed the hand she had laid against his chest and pulled her into a tight embrace. “I love you, River,” he murmured into her hair. “I’ve been watching over you for so long, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to stop.”
Holding him tightly, River blinked away her own tears as she said, “Well, if you don’t, I’ll just have Jayne hit you.”
Simon actually laughed at that, a genuine chuckle that River felt echo from his chest and into hers. Pulling back from him she met his small smile with one of her own, even as he muttered, “Brat.”
Pressing a kiss to his cheek, River waltzed away from him, knowing that he still needed his own time to grieve. Turning back for a moment, she told him, her face again serious, “Don’t wait too long. She waited for your heart long enough.”
Stifling another swell of tears, Simon smiled weakly at her and said, “Love you.”
“Love you.” And she was again away.
Simon watched her go, her silhouette fading quickly as the sun had just started to set. With another heavy sigh, he looked back to Millie’s, a beacon of warmth and light in the night and while he knew he should go down there, he just couldn’t yet bring himself to being surrounded by people. Besides he needed to figure out what to say to Kaylee and that meant he needed time to think.
Turning to his right, he picked a path along the edge of the yard, heading into the night, his mind focused solely on his wife’s enigmatic smile and how he could again get her to shine it on him.
Kaylee stood anxiously on Millie’s porch, a cooling cup of tea in her hands. She had been standing out there, staring out at the surrounding yard looking for Simon, hoping that at any minute she’d see him walking back towards her so she’d know he was all right. But now, over two hours since the end of Elijah’s funeral, he still had not made an appearance.
Walking up beside her friend, Inara placed an arm around her shoulders, surprised when Kaylee jumped just a bit. “Oh, hey ‘Nara. Sorry, you scared me a bit,” Kaylee told her, sipping her tea and making a face as she realized it was too cold to enjoy.
Inara pulled the girl tight to her side and said, “Sorry. I just wanted to be sure you were all right.”
Kaylee shrugged simply and then looked to Inara, meeting her friend’s worried and warm gaze. “Oh, ‘Nara,” Kaylee finally breathed, turning and facing the woman with an intensity in her eyes. “I can’t take this no more. I need Simon.” Her eyes filled a bit with tears at her words, and she hurried to blink them away.
Smiling at her, Inara pressed a light kiss to her cheek and said, “Then go get him.”
A slight smile on her lips, Kaylee handed her friend her mug and headed down the steps. A sudden thought occurring to her, she turned back to ask Inara a favor and saw River standing next to her friend as well. “We’ll watch them,” her sister said, smiling wide in her direction. Nodding off to her right she said, “He went that way. Towards the pond.”
Smiling her thanks to them both, Kaylee turned and hurried the way River had indicated, hoping that she and Simon could finally work all of this out.
It had taken three bottles of watered down whiskey and two whole days, but as Keller circled the large homesteads at the far edge of town, he felt all of his hard work paying off. He had managed to make it to the grounds the night before and now, as night descended again, he watched as the mourners, from some poor bastard’s funeral all trickled away, leaving Simon, his family and his friends ripe for the taking.
Keller had considered toying with Simon, possibly kidnapping his wife or children; he was fairly certain that after watching them throughout the funeral he could readily identify his friend’s next of kin, but once he’d seen Simon, in the self-berating flesh, wander off, he knew nothing would be as sweet as shooting him dead and leaving his lifeless body in the middle of these desolate woods for his loving wife to find.
With a tight smile and murderous glint in his eye, Keller circled back through the woods, having caught sight of Simon’s path and following him at a fair distance. Tightening his grip on his gun, he watched and waited, deciding to take action just as the sun would be setting in about twenty minutes. Revenge was sweet, but calculated revenge was just delicious.
Simon jumped slightly at the sound of Kaylee’s voice. He knew he had wandered quite far from the homesteads and he hadn’t thought she’d be able to reach him all the way out here. He was secretly glad of course, glad to see her, even if it meant they would fight, but he was also nervous, nervous that whatever conversation they had would end with more tears for both of them.
Rising from where he’d taken a seat on the ground beside the pond, he turned in the direction of rustling and felt his breath catch as Kaylee stepped into his line of sight. He’d always known how beautiful she was, but tonight, at this very moment, she was more gorgeous to him than anyone he had ever seen.
“Kaylee, what are you doing all the way out here,” he questioned, taking a step towards her and then hesitating. He had no idea why she’d tracked him down and last time he’d checked, they were still pretty upset with each other.
Even as she felt a blush that creep up her cheeks, she answered quietly, “Looking for you.” Taking a step towards him, she finally met his wide gaze and asked, “You okay?”
Sighing heavily, the concern in her voice and the pain in her eyes reminded Simon in an instant of all they had lost recently and shaking his head, he answered honestly, “I don’t know. I guess.”
Turning his back to her, he crossed his arms over his chest, wishing he knew how to quell the immense sadness he felt ebbing through his heart. He suspected that being loved by the beautiful woman behind him was one solution, but he knew that he had done too much in the past week, the past years, to deserve her affection so readily, even now.
Kaylee watched him for a moment, her anxiety playing out as he again closed himself off to her. She’d had enough of his ego and her pride in these past few days. She wanted it to be over. After everything they had suffered through lately, she had to wonder if this latest bump in the road wasn’t just one they had both cleverly invented to disguise the real pain they were trying to avoid – the pain of watching River suffer the loss of a child and Millie and her family suffer through the same thing. Regardless, Kaylee knew that despite what she’d said just a few days before, she wanted her husband back and she wanted him back now.
Screwing up her courage, Kaylee crossed the last few steps between them and rested a gentle hand on his shoulder, squeezing softly. Simon turned his head in the direction of her hand, his eyes falling to her slender fingers and whispered, “Don’t.”
Pain filling her eyes, Kaylee did not remove her touch as she asked him, “Why?” When he had no answer, she asked again, “Why won’t you let me help you?”
Turning to her, Simon saw that she was again hurting and he knew that he had caused her more pain. It seemed to be all he was capable of doing, hurting her and he couldn’t take it. “Because I don’t deserve it.”
Kaylee bit her lip, knowing that if she spoke, her emotions would betray her and her tears would fall. With an expectant look she watched him, his blue, blue eyes shining as dusk approached, searching her face. Taking her gently by the shoulders, he said quietly, “I keep hurting you, Kaylee and I never want to hurt you, ever. But I do it anyway. I say the wrong thing, I do the wrong thing, I discount your feelings, I focus on everyone and everything but you and the kids and that’s not fair to you or to them.” Simon swallowed hard, his voice threatening to break as more emotion welled in his chest. “You were right to insist on taking the kids and getting away from me. Because protecting you seems to be something I am incapable of doing.”
Placing a hand to his cheek, a few of Kaylee’s tears fell as she whispered, “I was angry, Simon, when I said those things. I –"
“But you were right,” Simon told her, his voice now splintering as his tears came. “I didn’t understand at the time, I didn’t see how putting my sister’s needs first, again, was hurting you. But I understand it now. And it doesn’t make it right, but …” Simon had to stop as his emotions overwhelmed him and releasing her, he took a few steps back, walking to the water’s edge and listening for a moment to the quiet.
Kaylee stood and watched him, wiping her tears away and wondering how things had gotten so bad. Going to him, she kept her distance, but asked softly, “What are you sayin’, Simon? You sayin’ you wanna give up?”
Turning to face her quickly, Simon’s despair was etched into his features, causing a sob to rise to Kaylee’s lips. “No, but I don’t want to hurt you anymore. I want you and kids to be safe. You are my whole world, but I don’t know how to show that to you, I don’t know how to re-instill your faith in me or take away your doubts. I don’t –"
Kaylee had edged closer to him as he spoke, his voice cracking more as his desperation rose to the surface. Now, just inches from him, Kaylee took that one last step and pressed her lips to his. He tried to pull away, tried to continue punishing himself, but Kaylee placed her arms firmly around his neck and refused to let him go. Running her hands through his soft hair, she pressed his mouth to hers more insistently and deepened their kiss.
Simon, at first, wanted to keep her away but he could not deny the passion or the need for her that coursed through him at her touch. As she wound her arms around his neck, he pulled her tight to him, wrapping a strong arm around her waist, trying with all his might to make them inseparable. Placing his other hand against her cheek, Simon pulled back slightly, panting for air. Their foreheads remained touching and Simon looked deeply into Kaylee’s green eyes as she stared back just as intently into his blue ones.
“Simon,” she said slowly, making sure she had his attention. “All you gotta do is love me.”
“With everything I have, Kaylee, I swear,” Simon breathed, pressing another kiss to her mouth and again pulling her into a tight embrace.
Sighing against him, Kaylee hadn’t realized until this very minute how much she had missed his touch. “Then that’s all you gotta do. We’ll figure the rest out. But if you love me and the kids and-“ She stopped abruptly, knowing she should tell him about the new baby, knowing that he deserved to know. Pulling back slightly, she again met his gaze, her arms still wrapped around his neck. Biting her lip, she finally whispered, “And the baby.”
Simon’s eyes clouded for a second with confusion and then widened with shock. “Are you?” The question was a breathless whisper and all Kaylee could do was nod once in response.
“Oh my god, Kaylee!” It was the happiest exclamation she had heard from him in quite some time, and he surprised her even further by picking her up off the ground and twirling her around. Unable to not giggle, Kaylee watched as his eyes danced with delight once he’d set her back down.
Kissing her again, when they parted this time, his joy had been replaced with concern. “Are you all right?”
She nodded and told him, “Just shiny.” Leaning in, she whispered against his ear, “I have done this before.”
Simon again squeezed her to him, happy tears this time falling from his eyes. After a moment, he pulled back and cupped Kaylee’s face in his hands, and held her gaze intently as he said, “Kaylee, I swear by all the stars in the ‘verse, that nothing is more important to me than you or our children. Please tell me you believe that?”
Kaylee’s eyes had again overflowed with tears and just as she was about to answer him they both heard a strange, unfamiliar voice come out at them from the night.
"You are such a sap." The voice was cold and mocking and Simon whirled at the sound, searching the surrounding shadows for the person who he knew he’d find, but shouldn't. "That was actually kind of beautiful. I think I might cry."
Positioning himself between Kaylee and his old friend, all the color drained from Simon's face as he watched Keller approach them, the gun in his hand trained squarely at Simon's chest. Simon felt Kaylee behind him, her hand gripping his arm as she tried to disappear. Focusing all his attention on the immediate threat, he bit out, "What do you want, Keller?"
Sighing heavily, he continued with his mocking tone as he said, "Oh, so many things. A pony, untold wealth, women to do my bidding," he added raising a suggestive eyebrow to Kaylee which made Simon's stomach churn. "But what I really want is to kill you."
Rylee was sitting, bored on the porch, waiting for the party to be over so she could go home. She was tired and a little spent from all the emotions of the past few days and now, as she had tried to retreat to a quiet corner, she found her mind growing more and more weary as the minutes ticked by.
River and Cadie had helped her a lot in the past few days, and she supposed that was why she had been able to sift through some of the emotions around her. She still wasn’t as strong as Cadie or as gifted as her aunt, so some of the swirling cacophony simply flew right past her and she supposed that was a good thing. Being only four, dealing with all that raw emotion could be nearly impossible.
She was about to go and again look for her brother, when her aunt took a seat next to her. Wrapping an arm around her small shoulders, she kissed her on the cheek and asked gently, “How’re you doing, little one?”
Shrugging slightly, Rylee snuggled into her aunt’s warm side, and yawning, said, “’Kay, I guess. I’m kinda tired.”
Leaning her head atop Rylee’s, River murmured, “I know.”
The two of them sat there for a moment until Rylee’s whole body tensed. Sitting upright, her eyes flew open, all thoughts of sleep gone. As her gaze roamed the waning light around them, Daniel, as if aware of his sister’s distress, appeared beside his aunt, his big, blue eyes regarding her with concern.
“Ry, you okay?” He asked her quietly, reaching out a hand to touch her shoulder. She still had not brought her eyes to face him, but at his light touch, she snapped her head in his direction. Rising, she grabbed his hand, and without a word pulled him tightly behind her, running off the porch and into the coming night.
River had watched these events with curiosity and concern and as soon as she saw her niece and nephew bolt, her whole body tensed as well. She had been unable to sense whatever it was Rylee had felt, her own emotions, as well as Cadie’s clouding her senses, but now, as she concentrated, as she tried to pinpoint what exactly had riled her niece, she knew something was there; something dark.
With little thought to her own safety or what she’d find when she met this dark foe, River bounded off the porch as well, following the fleeing figures of Rylee and Daniel.
Kaylee inhaled sharply and dug her fingers into Simon’s arm, biting her lip to keep her frightened tears in. She stepped closer to Simon, pressing herself against him, trying to think of something she could do to protect her
husband from this crazy hundan in front of them, but having no options.
"Simon," she breathed, her breath warm against his neck. "Who is that?"
With a wide grin, Keller answered before Simon could even form an appropriate response. "Why, where are my manners? I am Keller Li." Shooting
a look of mock hurt to his friend, Keller tsked and said, "Simon, you never told your lovely lady about me? I'm hurt."
"There was nothing to tell," Simon ground out, wishing he could think of way to get Kaylee out of here. He knew they were too far from the house for anyone to come at the sound of their argument, no matter how loud they shouted. Hoping that his overly bright brain could think of something, and fast, he decided stalling for time was the only way to go. "What are you
doing here, Kell?"
"I already told you, Tam." The man's face hardened from one of annoyance to anger and he took a few more steps forward, his gun hand never wavering. "I came here to kill you."
"Why?" Simon realized it was not the most poetical question or even the most pressing issue, but he still needed to know.
"Because you destroyed my life." Keller answered him simply as if telling him the time of day and Simon felt his eyes widen as he tried to piece together how exactly the other man had reached that conclusion.
"How," Simon questioned, wrapping an arm behind him and grabbing Kaylee's hand. Squeezing it reassuringly, he did not turn back to face her, but he felt her grip on his other arm loosen just a bit at the touch. He would get them out of this – he needed her to know that. “By leaving Osiris?”
Smiling tightly, Keller kept his aim steady and elaborated. “Well then, apparently that three percent brain of yours is in fine working order. Yes, by leaving Osiris.” His voice turned harsh and cold at the last, and Simon felt himself involuntarily take a step back. “It was my job to keep you there so when your brat of a sister decided to come and take you back, you both prevented me from doing my job.” Again, his eyes cold and deadly, they bored into Simon as he said, “And the men I worked for did not take kindly to failure.”
Simon shivered despite himself, cursing inwardly at his foolishness of trusting the man before him. While nothing would ever compare to the knowledge of his parents’ betrayal, the fact that Keller had worked so masterfully to deceive him cut deep. “You bastard,” he bit out, his eyes now burning with anger.
“Language, Simon,” Keller told him, his tone again swinging back to one of mock amusement. He advanced on them, and Simon kept his hold on Kaylee, determined not to let him get anywhere near his wife. “What would your lady friend think?”
“Leave her out of this, Kell,” he ground out, the fire in his eyes smoldering.
“My, my, Simon, don’t tell me you’ve fallen for some prairie whore.” Only Kaylee’s strong grip on Simon’s arm kept him from launching himself at Keller’s jugular. It would cause his death as Keller would just as soon fire the gun he held as let Simon attack him, and so, with great difficulty, he brought his taut muscles back under control.
Seemingly surprised at his self-restraint, Keller continued on. “Is this the little woman then?” He glanced around Simon trying to get a glimpse of Kaylee. “I must say, Tam, considering how bad you were with the ladies, you did pretty well for yourself.”
His chest heaving from trying to control his urge to pummel the man to death, Simon said, “Get out of here, Kell. It’s over.”
“See, now that’s where you’d be wrong,” the other man told him, waving a bit with the gun. “Because this isn’t over until I’ve ended your life the way you ended mine.”
“That wasn’t my life,” Simon told him, thinking that maybe a small part of the man he’d trusted might still be in there. “It was a hoax, and the best thing that ever happened to me was getting the hell out of there.”
With cold eyes, Keller turned to him and said, “I told you once, Simon.” In a second he was at Simon’s side, the butt of the gun held in his hand and in one swift motion, slammed against Simon’s face, causing him to fall to the ground. “Watch your language.”
Kaylee let out a slight scream as Simon sank at her feet, instantly falling beside him and cradling his head in her lap. The metallic taste of blood swam in Simon’s mouth and while he knew his jaw wasn’t broken, he also knew it was going to hurt like hell. Working the muscles a bit, he sat up, Kaylee gripping his hand, as Keller circled the pair and continued his taunting. “You know, Simon, you do have a point. I mean, who would have wanted that cushy, privileged life you had back on Osiris? The money and the prestige and the women?” Keller kept talking, apparently enjoying the sound of his own voice and Simon let him. He had yet to think of a plan that didn’t result in endangering Kaylee and he needed the time.
“I mean, my god, can you think of anything worse?” The sarcasm in Keller’s tone fell like venom from his tongue. Simon held his gaze, returning one with just as much disgust as his attacker continued. “You were right to throw it all away and live in the middle of the black on some derelict transport with this hussy and your brood.” Kaylee inhaled a bit at his words, but Simon knew she wasn’t taking offense to Keller insulting her, but rather insulting Serenity.
Rounding on them both, Keller grabbed the hair on the back of Simon’s head and jerked back hard, straining his neck muscles in the process. “And you know what? If I’d found you, out here, miserable and alone, I probably would have been on my merry, but the fact that you still won, that you still got the loving wife and the family, means you still have something to lose.” Lowering his face so his eyes were just inches from Simon’s, Keller whispered vehemently, “And that means I get to take it.”
“No!” Kaylee’s cry was loud and painful and Simon winced inwardly at the sound. He knew what would happen now, he knew Keller would turn his attention towards his wife, hoping to taunt her and infuriate Simon. And, with a sickening dread coiling in his gut, he realized he was right.
“No,” Keller asked, dropping Simon to the ground hard and circling towards Kaylee. “No? I think you’re missing the point of this whole little story, missy. You don’t get to tell me no,” he told her, raising his hand and slapping her hard across the face.
Kaylee fell back at the blow, her head swimming. Simon tried to lunge himself in Keller’s direction, but his old friend was too quick and Simon was again faced with the barrel end of the gun pointed at his heart.
Their daughter’s anguished cry ripped through both Kaylee and Simon with an agony that rendered them speechless for a full minute. Raising her head slightly, Kaylee saw Rylee and Danny’s forms, just a few feet away, River’s firm hands resting on their shoulders as they tried to run to their parents.
“Two, Tam?” Keller turned back to Simon with a sly grin on his face. “You ol’ dog.”
River’s eyes locked on her brother, even as Kaylee struggled to stand, making her way haphazardly towards her children. Unable to hold them back, River let them go, Rylee running and practically jumping into Kaylee’s arms, while Daniel ran to his mother and clutched at her leg. River moved to stand next to her sister, a reassuring hand on her back.
Keller chuckled mirthlessly as he finally recognized Simon’s sister. “Oh, and your sister too,” he asked, turning back to regard Simon’s hard expression. “How did I get so lucky? I get to kill the whole brood.”
His eyes never leaving Keller’s, Simon could feel his sister’s readiness for a fight and he knew he couldn’t let her do it. There were too many people at stake now, too many of the people he loved and he needed her to heed him, just this once. Raising a hand in her direction, his gaze never wavering, he intoned, “River.”
Her muscles had coiled, taut and ready to launch an attack, but at Simon’s voice, at his warning, she visibly relaxed, knowing that whatever was going to happen, would be dictated by Simon and the man holding the gun.
Letting out a slight sigh of relief when he caught River stand down out of the corner of his eye, he finally did shift his gaze to meet Kaylee’s. The fear he saw reflected there sent an icy shiver through his heart as did the sight of his children’s equally frightened eyes. “Kaylee,” he said softly, taking a hesitant step in her direction. When Keller did not stop him, Simon continued. Keller was content to watch the man try and save his family, finding it slightly amusing, considering the fact that they would all be dead in a matter of moments anyway.
Getting close enough to touch her, Simon reached out and placed a hand against Kaylee’s cheek and once against Rylee’s back. Keeping as much emotion out of his voice as possible, he told her, “Kaylee, I want you to take Daniel and Rylee and go back to the house.”
Shaking her head fiercely, Kaylee told him, “No.”
“Kaylee.” Simon’s voice was harsher than he intended, but he had to get her and the children away from here, he had to know they were safe, no matter the outcome. “Please.”
Holding his gaze, Kaylee was about to say something, when Keller approached their little cluster. “Ah, if I can say something?”
When Simon shifted his gaze back to his former friend, Keller brought the gun back up to meet his chest and cocked the hammer. “No one’s going anywhere, Tam. None of you are getting out of this alive.”
“Let them go, Keller,” Simon told him, his voice cold and deadly. “They didn’t do anything to you. I did. They aren’t a part of this.”
Sighing, Keller shrugged a bit and said, “True, but see, I really want to make you suffer.” His gaze flicking to Kaylee and back again, he muttered, “And I’m thinking watching them die, is really the best form of torture.”
Simon’s entire body tensed at this threat, and he felt his fists clenching at his sides. He would not let Keller do this, he would not let him destroy his family, kill Kaylee or his children out of a misguided act of revenge. He just wouldn’t.
“So, who should be first?” Keller asked, his voice taking on a lilting tone. “Your son?” He directed his gaze down at Daniel’s frightened form and then back to Rylee, still nestled in Kaylee’s arms. “Or your daughter?” Pausing for one moment, a cold smile crept across his face as he asked in a deadly tone, “Or your lovely wife?”
“It’s me, Keller, just me.” Simon’s tone was even, as his heart beat so loudly in his chest, he thought for sure it would explode through. “You came here for me, so let’s end this.”
Regarding his old friend for a moment more, Keller seemed to consider his words and then sighing slightly, murmured, “Oh well,” before aiming the gun just a tad over Simon’s right shoulder, directly at Kaylee and firing.
It all happened so fast, Simon would never be sure what had truly taken place. With a reflex he’d never known he possessed, Simon whirled to his right as Keller’s finger put pressure on the trigger, shielding Kaylee, Rylee and Daniel with his body.
The next thing he felt was the warm blossom of pain along his lower back, as they all fell to the ground. He was vaguely aware of a skirmish off to his side, but as he tried to get up, tried to make sure his family was safe, he realized he couldn’t. Falling to the ground, he had rolled to his side, Kaylee and Rylee going down opposite him.
Daniel got to him first, his blue eyes over his father’s face in an instant. “Dad, Dad, you okay?” His tiny hand shook Simon’s shoulder and even as he tried to reassure his son he was fine, he knew, based on the wet and sticky substance he felt leaking out of his back, it was a lie.
“Mama!” Daniel’s scream echoed around them, followed by the sound of a second shot and that was all Simon heard before the black of unconsciousness consumed him.
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