Birthday - Part III
Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Simon sees the face of their kidnapper ... My muse is still working, but keep feeding back!


“You’re dead,” Simon whispered, staring at the man he knew as Eric Lon.

“Well, I’d say that was pretty obvious I’m not. You might, however, be thinking of my brother.” The man smiled. “Lots of people said we were so alike they couldn’t tell us apart. But he died.” The smile left his face. “As you seem to know. I wonder how that could be?” He stared at Simon, then his good humour returned. “My name is Mitchell, by the way. Eric was, for his sins, my twin.”

“Where’s River?” Simon demanded. “Where’s my sister?”

“She’s all right.” Lon shrugged. “At the moment.” He leaned on the wall. “Of course, I remember you from a long time ago. Eric was the doctor, but he used to come home, tell us all about his students, and you in particular. He was most annoyed when you decided to come over all noble and go after your sister. He almost felt you’d insulted him.” He sighed. “Eric always did have a quick way with taking offence. Me, on the other hand, I like people.”

“What have you done with her?”

“Now, you see, here I am, opening up myself to you, and all you can think about is your sister. And I told you, she’s all right.” He pushed away from the wall and came to stand close to Simon. “You’re the one you should be worried about. You see, we know you’ve been trying to help her. Hell, you wouldn’t be her brother if you didn’t. But we need to know exactly what you’ve been doing. In order for us to reverse it, of course.”

Simon struggled against the men holding him. “You’re not going to hurt her!”

“Well, that depends.” Lon bent forward. “My brother was the one with all the medical training, but I had the aptitude. I was more intelligent than him, had more drive … but a few little things in my past stopped me from being at MedAcad. Which was a pity, because I think I’d have made a much better doctor.” He stood upright. “Eric was very sharing, though. Taught me a lot. Particularly how to get information out of recalcitrant gentlemen like yourself. And believe me, it won’t be pleasant.”

“I'm not going to help you!”

“Well, Dr Tam, I never considered that you would. At least willingly.” Lon sighed again. “Just once, I’d like to come across someone willing to tell me what I want to know without all this dancing around. It would make such a change. Ah well.” He nodded at the men holding Simon, who lifted the young man to his feet. “No time like the present, then!” He looked into Simon’s furious eyes and sighed. “Any last requests?”

Simon bit his tongue, stopping all the swear words he’d learned since joining Serenity, and contented himself with glaring at Lon. As much as he wanted to know that Kaylee was safe, he was glad she wasn't here right now. There was no knowing what this man would have done to her to get the information. And he wasn't sure he wouldn’t just have told Lon everything. “Get on with it,” he spat. ---

“How did you know?” Mal asked, standing at the head of the table, his arms crossed.

“I have friends, captain,” Smith said, sitting with his hands loosely clasped in front of him. “I may not yet be in a position of power, but I hear things.” He looked up. “I came to warn you.”

“Well, you were a mite late in that,” Mal said.

“I could hardly send you a wave, could I?” the chestnut-coloured man said. “Every message is monitored somewhere, and if it’s scrambled that sets off a whole new set of alarms. I had no choice other than to come in person to let you know the Tams were in danger. And I am sorry that I was too late.”

Mal glared at him then exhaled. “Do you know who has them? Where they’ve taken them?”

“No, not at this present time.” Smith looked apologetic.

“But the Alliance must have -” Hank began, but Smith interrupted.

“I don’t think it is Alliance,” he said.

“Not …” Mal stared at him. “Who else? Who the hell else would want them?”

“Captain, when the information passed my desk, I did some checking into Simon and River Tam. How he used his fortune to break his sister out of one of the Alliance’s Academies. There were some sightings, not corroborated, on planets like Persephone, until an incident on Ariel. However, it appears they managed to escape when several Alliance personnel were killed.” Smith looked at Mal. “Did you have anything to do with that?” he asked.

“Never killed anyone on Ariel,” Mal stated.

“Hmmn. Then they vanished again, as did the bounty hunter sent to find them. There are rumours that they were involved with the Miranda incident, but again these have not been corroborated. Only your own part is known for certain, Captain Reynolds.”

“This is ancient history.”

“Perhaps. But history is something of a hobby with me, and the Tams are intriguing, don’t you think? Death and destruction seem to follow in their wake. Perhaps you should leave them to their fate, rather than go chasing after them.”

“Yet you still came to warn us.”

“I did, didn’t I?” Smith seemed almost surprised at his own actions. “When the information came to me that they had been identified as being on board a Firefly, I immediately thought of you, captain. I wonder why that was.”

“Because I’m so pretty?”

Smith smiled briefly. “Perhaps. But perhaps it was more because I know the kind of man you are, the kind who won’t leave people dying, who would rather die himself than see one of his crew ended.” He glanced down at Freya sitting further along the table. “That is, after all, part of the reason why I’m here.”

“Yes, but you still haven’t explained why you don’t think it’s the Alliance who has them,” Hank put in.

“As of twenty minutes ago, the warrants on the Tams are still valid, still outstanding,” Smith said, turning his dark face on the pilot. “If it was Alliance, or bounty hunters employed by them, this would no longer be the case.” He looked back at Mal. “We are, if nothing else, efficient.” He shook his head in amusement. “You really shouldn’t be travelling with wanted fugitives on board, captain. This was bound to happen at some point.”

“Well, sometimes I ain’t exactly known for my intelligence,” Mal said, sitting down opposite Smith. “But if it ain’t Alliance, who is it?”

“River Tam was one of the Academy’s best subjects. Honed and trained to be whatever the Alliance wanted. Defence or offence, it made no difference. A psychic assassin, programmed to do whatever the Government wanted.”

“Sound like you don’t approve,” Freya said at last.

“I don’t,” Smith said, surprising them. “Wars, if they are fought at all, should be in the open, not underhand with murderers hiding in the bushes. There’s no honour in that.”

“Wars ain’t honourable, Jeremiah,” Mal said. “They’re vicious, bloody and painful. No-one ever really wins.”

“Ever the philosopher,” Smith said. “And I could have such arguments with you over this, but I am afraid that will have to wait. On the matter of River Tam, however, I can’t help but agree with you. If she is reprogrammed, she could make war on people and they wouldn’t know it until they were lying in their own blood.”

“Reprogrammed?” Zoe said. “You mean brain-washed.”

Smith shook his head sadly. “My dear, there would probably not be any need for that. The conditioning laid into her psyche goes way beyond any that you have seen. I doubt her brother, as smart as he is, had the knowledge to remove it all. It would only take the right amount of pressure in the right place …” Smith stopped.

“And someone took her to do just that?” Mal asked.

“I fear so.” Smith gazed at him. “Such an assassin would be beyond price, and there are men out there who would pay fortunes for one like River Tam to do their bidding.”

“For what?” Hank threw his hands into the air. “You make it sound like she’s a machine that you just switch on.”

“To these people that is exactly what she is. A tool. Something to use to gain what they want.”

“And what do they want?” Mal asked quietly, holding his rage in check.

Smith smiled slightly. “I don’t even know who they are, captain. This is all conjecture. Based on some facts and a lot of supposition. But I don’t know anything.”

“That isn’t good enough,” Freya said.

“You may have to accept that River and Simon Tam are lost to you.”

“That ain’t gonna –” “You think we’re gonna –” “Are you totally out of your –” Voices talked over each other.

“No.” Mal’s voice cut through. “That’ll never happen. They’re my crew.”

“You’ve lost crew before,” Smith pointed out.

“Not this time.” Mal leaned forward, his blue eyes cold as ice. “There’s a little girl in that infirmary just come into this ‘verse. And I promised her momma that she’d get to see her daddy. I ain’t breaking that promise.”

“I admire your resolve, captain. But this time you may –”

“There ain’t gonna be a ‘this time’.” Mal’s voice was calm, controlled, showing the total extent of his anger. “And you’re gonna help.”

“Me?” Smith leaned back in surprise. “How can I help? And, more to the point, why should I want to?”

“Because you were too late getting here to warn us. And because you hate owing me something. You help us find River and Simon, and you don’t owe me a thing.”

Smith gazed at him, saw the utter determination in his eyes. “Very well. I shall call in a few favours. See what I can find out. But I have to warn you, Captain Reynolds. It was only be sheer luck that this information came to me at all. The man who passed the details was found murdered, and it was only through a note he made that Lee managed to piece it together. There may be nothing more to find out.”

“They’re out there somewhere,” Mal said. “And someone knows where that is. Just need to push in the right place.” ---

It was cold, but sweat was pouring off him, pooling beneath his legs and around his back. His head was held in some kind of vice, his arms cuffed. Not that he wanted to move. Every touch on his skin was like fire, and it was so much easier going with the embers than lighting new ones.

“We’re not thugs, Dr Tam,” Mitchell Lon said, standing next to him, a green lab coat protecting his clothes. “We don’t do things like beat on you until you tell us what we want to know. For one thing it’s messy, and for another it’s all too easy for the subject to die.” He picked up a hypo. “Although I’m sure at the moment that’s what you’d prefer. I imagine you’re rather uncomfortable about now.” Leaning forward he looked into Simon’s blue eyes. “Of course if you would like to be sensible …”

Chur ni duh,” Simon ground out, his mouth burning.

“Now, that isn’t the attitude to have.” Lon reached up, positioning the hypo against one of the openings in the head restraint. “But you’ll get over it.”

He pushed and Simon felt as if the needle had gone directly into his brain. His back arched as he screamed. ---

Kaylee had insisted, telling Lee she needed to be with her daughter somewhere quiet. He’d argued, but he didn’t know how stubborn she could be when she wanted.

“You’d better let her,” Zoe had said. “Otherwise she could make life uncomfortable for all of us.”

Lee had stared at the little slip of a girl on the medbed, holding her baby and radiating obstinacy, and given in. “But you rest. Gentle exercise is good, but no going up and down stairs. And no forays into your engine room.”

“Wasn't intending to,” Kaylee assured him. “Just want to get to know Bethany.”

So here she was, tucked up in Simon’s room – their room now. For nearly three months he’d insisted she spend all her nights with him, and she’d got used to it. He said it was because he didn’t want her going up and down that ladder, not in her condition, and he’d even encouraged her to make the room next to them into a nursery. Kaylee had decorated it while she could, with flowers painted all around the walls, and soft cushions and throws, mostly given to her by the others. Freya had even donated her brocade shawl, and that lay across the crib Jayne had made.

Molten acid dripped into his brain, and he couldn’t think, trying to see through eyelids squeezed tightly shut against the pain.

“Dr Tam, if you relax it will be much better.”

His muscles were so tense he thought they were going to burst through the skin, his fingernails digging so hard into the palms of his hands that he felt blood dripping.

“Tell us what we want to know and we’ll stop this. It’s easy. Besides, there’s no guarantee that what we plan will work anyway. So you telling us what you did for your sister won’t be betrayal at all.”

He couldn’t breathe. Didn’t want to. His chest felt like rock, hard and solid, crushing his lungs, his heart, squeezing the life out of him.

“What did you give River Tam?”

Kaylee had been so surprised when he brought it in from the cargo bay, as close to blushing as the big man ever got.

“My dad made one for me and Matty, and for … anyways, I thought you might like it.” He gestured towards the carving on the end. “Moonbrain drew the pattern, I just carved it.”

“It’s beautiful,” Simon had said, his conception of the mercenary as not having an artistic bone in his body shaken.

“Thank you!” Kaylee trilled, reaching up to place a kiss on his cheek.

“Yeah, well, just somethin’ I can do that ain't involved with killing.” He’d hurried off in case emotions were catching.

It now sat there, waiting for Bethany when her mother could bear to let her go.

It would get worse. The small part of him that was still real, still functioning, looking dispassionately at the quivering wreck he had become, knew that what they using would continue to fire his pain receptors, causing the phantom agony that was killing him. Eventually something would short circuit and he would either have a stroke or possibly die, but that wouldn’t be until after his teeth had shattered from the grinding, his jaw crack or bones dislocating from their sockets.

“Dr Tam, your patient is River Tam. Report on what you used to control her psychosis.”

The voice was like shards of ice jabbing through his ears and he tried to shut it out, but it was insistent.

“Dr Tam.”

“Perhaps we’re coming at this from the wrong angle.”

“Really? What do you suggest?”

“Dr Tam … who was the pregnant woman with you?”

No. Please. Not that.

There was another reason Simon had insisted she move into his room: it was also because he wanted to be close to the infirmary. He still hadn’t told her what concerned him, not really, and she hadn’t pushed. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to know, as much as she believed her baby was healthy. But the closer they had got to her delivery date, she knew he was still worrying.

She’d told him, before they went back down those mines to rescue Harry, that even if their daughter had problems they would still love her, and she meant it. She’d given him the opportunity to tell her, explained she knew, but he’d still managed to sidestep the issue. But he’d come back, and for that she was honestly grateful. Only now his daughter was lying in her arms, and he hadn’t been there, and she was so afraid she was never going to see him again.

And Bethany was beautiful, with all her fingers and toes present and accounted for, and blue eyes that reminded her of Simon. She knew all babies had blue eyes at birth, but she hoped little Beth would keep them, so that when her father looked at her for the first time, he could see just how much she looked like him.

“Hey,” Mal said from the doorway. “How are the pair of you? Though I can see little Bethany is looking as pretty as her mother.”

“Thank’s, Cap’n.” She smiled up at him, then burst into tears.

“Hey, hey,” he said, moving forward quickly to sit on the bed to comfort her. “What’s all this?”

“He ain't seen her,” Kaylee said, looking down at her daughter.

“He will, xaio mei-mei. He will.”

“I can’t take feeling like this, Cap’n,” Kaylee said, turning her eyes to his. “I’ve got this beautiful little girl here, and I am happy, I really am, but there’s a part of me that’s missing. What do I do?”

“Trust me,” Mal said, leaning forward to pull her into him so her head was on his shoulder. “You trust me, little Kaylee.”

Simon was standing on the edge of a cliff, wind whipping his hair around his face. He pushed it back with one hand, but it wouldn’t stay put. He looked down, seeing clouds beneath him, and every so often the gleaming, glittering silver of a river far below.

“Why don’t you jump?” River said, stepping close to him, so close he could feel her hair as it moved in the gale. “I’ll catch you.”

“I can’t,” he said, staring down. “It’s too far.”

“Of course you can. Top three percent, Simon. And I’ll be waiting down there for you.”

He looked round at her, into her dark eyes, her smile. “I can’t,” he repeated.

“Just let go, close your eyes and step forward. It’s so easy.”

“River …”

She laughed. “Come on,” she said, gliding off the edge of the cliff and hanging in mid air. “See? It’s easy. Come on.”

Simon took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He stepped forward and fell forever.

“He’s ready.”

to be continued


Wednesday, November 8, 2006 3:43 AM


Holy Crap!

Why do I get the feeling that if Simon survives this torture (he survives it right? Right?), he's going to be so pulled apart either physically, emotionally or mentally (or all three), that he won't be in any kind of shape to even hold his baby, let alone care for her?

Oh that's right! Because you're and evil, evil person (in the best, most kindest and complimentary way) for putting Simon through that...and you know what? I LOVE IT! You see, I have an affinity for Simon's pain, it makes my heart sing in twisted way.

Also, what's the dealio (yes, I just said that) with Mitchell Lon? That man seems even more evil than his brother, if that's even possible.

I can totally feel for Kaylee in this too.

All in all, that was fantastical!

Wednesday, November 8, 2006 4:48 AM


This was beautifully angsty in all the right ways! Kaylee's pain and remembrances interspersed with Simon's torture were just heart-wrenching. Although I think she forgot another reason that Simon wanted her to sleep in his bunk ... he LOVES HER!

And I have a feeling that the inimitable doctor Tam either just fell forever into a coma or died and I might have to hurt you for that!

Please update quickly, my little heart can't take the suspense!

Thursday, November 9, 2006 8:49 AM


Good gorram, that Lon is even more evil that his brother! Poor Simon and why can't River 'see' what is happening? I hope Smith come up with the information of where he is and who has him before Simon's brain becomes a puddle of goo and all his and Kaylee's dreams for happiness die with him. Can't bear what he is going to so let's pray the cavalry get a clue and rescue him PDQ. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, November 9, 2006 2:03 PM


Oh...that's just not cricket, Jane0904! You can't leave us hanging like that! Even Joss was compassionate enough to unilaterally indicate when a character's dead or comatose!

Still...this was brilliant writing, I must say. Especially you alternated Simon's mental torture with Kaylee spending time with her newborn daughter. I just hope that if you have messed Simon up...he can eventually claw himself back:(



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Now and Then - a Christmas story
“Then do you have a better suggestion? No, let me rephrase that. Do you have a more sensible suggestion that doesn’t involve us getting lost and freezing to death?”

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little standalone festive tale that kind of fits into where I am in the Maya timeline, but works outside too. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Epilogue
"I honestly don’t know if my pilot wants to go around with flowers and curlicues carved into his leg.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. The end of the story, and the beginning of the last ...]

Monied Individual - Part XX
Mal took a deep breath, allowing it out slowly through his nostrils, and now his next words were the honest truth. “Ain’t surprised. No matter how good you are, and I’m not complaining, I’ve seen enough battle wounds, had to help out at the odd amputation on occasion. And I don’t have to be a doc myself to tell his leg ain’t quite the colour it should be, even taking into account his usual pasty complexion. What you did … didn’t work, did it?”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Simon has no choice, and Luke comes around.]

Monied Individual - Part XIX
“His name’s Jayne?”

“What’s wrong with that?” the ex-mercenary demanded from the doorway.

“Nothing, nothing! I just … I don’t think I’ve ever met a man … anyone else by that name.”

“Yeah, he’s a mystery to all of us,” Mal said. “Even his wife.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Hank's not out of the woods yet, and Mal has a conversation. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVIII
Jayne had told him a story once, about being on the hunt for someone who owed him something or other. He’d waited for his target for three hours in four inches of slush as the temperature dropped, and had grinned when he’d admitted to Hank that he’d had to break his feet free from the ice when he’d finished.
[Maya. Post-BDM. The Fosters show their true colours, Jayne attempts a rescue, and the others may be too late.]

Snow at Christmas
She’d seen his memories of his Ma, the Christmases when he was a boy on Shadow, even a faint echo of one before his Pa died, all still there, not diminished by his burning, glowing celebrations of now with Freya.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A seasonal one-off - enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVII
Jayne hadn’t waited, but planted a foot by the lock. The door was old, the wood solid, but little could stand against a determined Cobb boot with his full weight behind it. It burst open.

[Maya. Post-BDM. The search for Hank continues. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XVI
He slammed the door behind him, making the plates rattle on the sideboard. “It’s okay, girl, I ain't gonna hurt you.” The cook, as tradition dictated, plump and rosy cheeked with her arms covered to the elbows in flour, but with a gypsy voluptuousness, picked up a rolling pin.

[Maya. Post-BDM. Kaylee finds the problem with Serenity, and Jayne starts his quest. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XV
“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]

“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]