BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

GIRLFAN

Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Thirty-Four
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Simon is on the mend, and Mal and Inara have a truthsome moment. PG13. Canon pairings.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1826    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Even Roses Have Thorns

Chapter Thirty-Four: Primum non nocere (the first thing is to do no harm – from the Hippocratic oath) Part III

*** *** *** Chapters 1-10, Chapters 11-20, Chapters 21-30, Chapter 31, Chapter 32, Chapter 33 *** *** ***

Zoë sat next to Simon’s unconscious form, wondering how long it would take for him to recover fully – well, not fully, they all knew that that was impossible – but recover to the maximum extent that he could. She brushed some hair off of his face, and she noticed, once again, how young he really was. Of course, in absolute terms, they all were young, even those that hadn’t felt it in years, like her and Mal. But in relative terms – well, Dr. Simon Tam really was just a boy – and all the hot housing of his accelerated education had left him, like his sister, with large gaps in his life experience. Yet, simultaneously, he could not be described as sheltered; his war, though more private than her own, was no less brutal, and probably far more lonely. In her mind’s eye she could map the wounds and scars on his body – some years old, some newer; she had more than a passing understanding, too, of the wounds to his mind, his ego; but she wondered how deeply the scars on his heart and soul went. As his eyes began to flutter slightly, she swept her own over his monitors. All still normal.

***

Inara was still sitting up when Aren walked in with her nightly cup of Darjeeling. “Oh, darling, you’re still up. We missed you at supper. I take it that your talk with Mal did not go well?”

“My talk with – was I that obvious?”

“No, darling, not at all. It just seemed the most likely.” Aren sat on the bed and slipped her shoes off.

“It did not go well.” The Companion paused. “I decided to let my license lapse.”

“Really?” The doctor flipped her legs up onto the bed.

“Really. It’s just too risky, Aren. It wouldn’t even be the first time that the Alliance managed to get a handle on Serenity through me – they set a trap at the Training House while I was there.”

Aren took a careful sip. “And is this what you told him?”

“Yes.” Inara looked over to her friend. “But he didn’t react the way I expected him to. I thought that he would be happy – he’s never approved of my work – but instead he seemed, well – disappointed. Bitter, even.”

“Darling, you know I love you, don’t you?”

“Yes.” Inara bowed her head with a smile, remembering a conversation she’d had with Kaylee not so terribly long before, and from where she’d learned it. “And you say this with love.”

“Yes. I say this with love. I think – perhaps – that Mal is disappointed not by your decision to leave, but because of your reasoning. Couldn’t you just tell him the truth?”

“I did tell him the truth, Aren!”

“No, you told him one truth.” She took another sip as she tried to form her thoughts into words. “You know, doctors and Companions are not so dissimilar – both, as the nature of their practice, deal deeply in intimacies. And to protect ourselves – and our patients or clients – we simultaneously create a formal distance from them, and that intimacy. These people are your friends – to the extent that you would lie for them, run from the government with them, call in favours from old friends – and yet you described them, as I recall, as ‘the Captain’, ‘the medic’, ‘the pregnant woman’, and ‘the mentally unstable girl’. You may be giving up your license because you are frightened for their safety, but that just begs the question, why do you care?”

“They’re my friends, Aren.”

“Or, put differently, in no more letters than the total number of people on this boat?”

It was barely a whisper. “I love them.”

“Yes.” Aren put her cup down and moved her fingers to her friend’s neck. “And see, you’re still alive.”

Tears were welling up in Inara’s eyes when her friend gathered her into a tight, warm, hug. “Who’d have thought that a Companion would have intimacy issues?”

“Perhaps you should ask Simon how he feels about being a patient.”

“How is Simon?”

“Better. Zoë’s offered to stay with him while he’s in recovery. Serenity is very lucky to have her – she’s quite the field surgeon.”

***

When he first woke, he complained of being cold, so Zoë rigged up the heating blanket. Clearly, he wasn’t quite done sleeping off the anaesthetic, as, frowning deeply Simon curled up and went back to sleep after a few minutes.

The second time he woke, he kept trying to say something to her, a single word – but completely unintelligible. She coaxed him into writing it down, which he managed to do in appalling, almost childish scrawl: hydroponics. “You’re just higher than a kite, aren’t you, Simon?” But he just frowned again at his sleep being disturbed.

When he finally woke to the point of drowsy-but-definitely-awake, Zoë herself was plenty ready for a night’s sleep, but she smiled as Simon carefully examined the new hand – and she gave him back the pen and paper pad. Under ‘hydroponics’ he scribbled ‘oh! NB: hydroponics! Don’t let me forget that.’

“No, I don’t think I’ll be lettin’ you forget that for a while, Simon.” Simon smiled groggily at Zoë’s humorous tone.

“Funny.” He mouthed, but scribbled: ‘hydroponics for the babies’.

“You want ta use my children ta run a water farm?”

When he stuck his tongue out again, she laughed out loud. She watched as he scribbled, scribbled, scribbled and then flip the pad at her. ‘Hydroponics farm, on Serenity. Legitimate business, lots of fresh food – can do it in the black, sell surplus at markets we’re near to. Less risk, safer Serenity for the babies. Bet Kaylee can rig it up.’

Zoë stared at the scrawl, and read it twice. It was a tian cai idea, no doubt about it. Definitely worth running past Mal. Before she had a chance to tell him so, he was scribbling away again. ‘Where is Kaylee/River?’

“Asleep on the couch, curled together like kittens. So cute Jayne couldn’t resist tuckin’ ‘em in. ‘Course, I don’t think he knows that anyone saw that.” Simon snorted. “Want me to get ‘em for you?” She saw that his hand instinctively ducked under the blanket, checking. “Everything’s fine. You’re fine. Clean and dry.” As she watched, his eyes – his face – closed. She dropped her voice further. “Simon, ya ain’t the first person to be bed bound on this boat, and I’d be more’n little shocked if you were the last.”

He opened his eyes, but his face remained guarded. Scribble, scribble – flip pad. ‘Did you have to?’ At her expression – because she honestly didn’t know rightly how to answer him – he scrawled ‘I’m so sorry, Zoë.’

“Simon, I may not think on it too hard, but I’m well aware that I’ve been out cold in your care for more than a few hours at a time. Also, point of interest: you’ve had your hand further up my yoni than my husband ever did. I’ve told you things about me that I’ve only ever volunteered to two other people, and I think you know who they are.” Simon nodded. “And I’m told childbirth ain’t exactly a dignified process.” Simon did the half nod, half tilt thing he sometimes did when he didn’t particularly want to give a straight yes. “So. Ya gonna have hang ups, don’t have ‘em around me. Would be a damn long time before we were ever even, and I know you’re not keeping track, or you’d already know that. So, quit worrying about it, ‘cause I ain’t keeping track either. Alright?” She smiled a little at his tiny nod. “Now, you want me to go get River or Kaylee?”

‘Let them sleep.’

“Alright. Would you like me to stay?” Zoë asked softly.

He moved his lips rather than his fingers. “Please.”

Zoë moved to the counter and turned back to him with the sock. “River gave this to me for you.” Zoë tried to hide her smile. “And to tell you that it’s not what you think it is.”

Scribble: ‘Where did she get this?’

“Jayne, I believe.”

“Jayne? Jayne?”, then ‘Jayne? Why would he, my sister?’

“Nothing like that. Nothing untoward. Jayne’s kept a close, watchful eye on your girls this whole time. Might say you owe him a beer next time we hit port.”

She saw that he grimaced. ‘I’m never getting off this boat again. Unless I’m ordered.’

If it hadn’t been so sad, she would have smiled at the ‘ordered’ part. Zoë spoke softly. “I’ll get it for you.”

‘Thanks, Zoë. Good night.’

“Good night, Simon.”

***

Simon was pleased. Well, as pleased as anyone in significant pain, tired-but-not-sleepy and bored out of their mind could possibly be. This morning’s ordeal had been the last of his collagen and re-gen treatments, and tonight, he would sleep in his own bed. It would be a damn long time, he suspected, before the infirmary felt like his infirmary again.

“Hello Simon.” Inara was standing in the doorway with a box under her arm. “I know that your fine motor control isn’t perfect yet, but some practice will fix that. Correct?”

He nodded. With a smile she presented the box. “I was wondering if you would like a game of go?”

He smiled and mouthed, “Yes, please.”

Carefully balancing the board on one of the rolling table trays, Inara set up the board. “Now, if I recall the house rules correctly, the person shut up in the infirmary gets to pick his favourite colour and go first.” Simon’s smile went wider – she was pleased to see that his mood was improving, if only for a little while. Simon picked black. He scribbled on his pad, ‘Beautiful board. Antique?’

“Yes. A gift from a client, many years ago.” It had been a bequest, actually. He’d been quite old when Inara met him and thus in need of companionship in its small ‘c’ capacity. She’d been young, and found him sweet and easy to deal with. Days on end spent playing instruments and games of go followed by light lunches and sumptuous dinners, fine wines and listening – truly listening – to his reminisces of times and friends past. She’d mourned him when he was gone, and still thought of him often – not something that happened often with clients, after such a long time in her profession.

Inara moved the board toward Simon, and he quickly executed his opening move.

***

“Walking on your own feet. Feels good.” River supplied as she helped her brother walk the small distance from the infirmary. ‘Yes Mei-mei. Feels good,’ he thought at her.

Kaylee, on Simon’s the other side ducked out from under his arm to pull the door to his room open. Simon’s eyes fell on the changes that his sister had helpfully made – a spare bed made up on the floor, Inara’s go board set up on a side table. Fresh sheets. It was nice. River pulled the bedding down and his ‘girls’ as Zoë had called them, helped him up onto the bed.

As she tucked him in, River stated, “I will be just across the hall, Simon.” He smiled and nodded, and they shared a hug for the first time in – well, too long.

Kaylee waited until River had left to strip down to her underwear, and then pulled on a night shirt. “And I’m gonna be right here, Simon, sweetie,” she said, pointing to the bed on the floor. “Here’s the sock.” Simon rolled his eyes. “Aw, she means well, Simon.” With a gentle kiss, Kaylee tucked his blankets tighter around him, before settling down into her own makeshift bed.

***

Inara was gently brushing her hair for bed when the knock had come to the door. It was Mal’s knock. “Come in.”

“Hey, ‘Nara, wanted to catch you while you were alone, and Aren’s still in the infirmary, squaring things away, I guess.” He scratched behind his ear a little.

“Would you like to sit? Can I offer you some tea?”

As he sat he nodded toward her. “Tea’d be nice, ‘Nara.”

That sat in silence as she served the tea. Mal used the quiet moment to collect his thoughts. “’Nara, I just want to say that I’m sorry that I wasn’t more responsive last night. I’m glad you’ve decided to stay here, and I’m sorry that you think that you’re not being a – legitimate business woman – no more would somehow make you less a part a this crew, ‘cause it don’t. I guess – if you’d permit me to be truthsome for a moment, I guess I was hoping that maybe you’d wanted to stay with us, not just for us. That it was for you, too. That you wanted to be here, not that I find anything objectionable about you caring about us, ‘cause we all care about you too. Just wish it was what you wanted, not something you felt you had ta do.”

Mal’s truthsome tone always scared her a little. That really should have been her first clue that she was having intimacy issues. “Mal, I – I do want to stay for myself. The safety thing – it’s just one reason, not the whole of it. I love Serenity, and her crew. And I want to be here. To be an aid when things are rough, and to share the joy when times are good. And for all the times in between, I guess, well, I just want to be here.” She paused before continuing. “When I brought up the topic of my license it was because I didn’t want to be less than useful. And I know, as much as you’d rather it wasn’t the case, that there were times when my rent made the difference between us flying and us drifting. I don’t suddenly want to become a burden. That’s – that’s not who I am, Mal. But it wasn’t about anything else.” She looked at hands, folded in her lap. She didn’t want to try to meet his eyes.

Mal looked at his own hands, and focused on just stating things true and not looking to create a battle or score points. “I – well, I understand that ‘Nara, and I can’t say as I blame you or that you’re wrong. But it ain’t as if you’d ever let yourself be dead weight around our necks. Wouldn’t happen. But, if it eases your mind some, let’s talk on what you might be able to do here.”

“Well, I recall you mentioning the day we brought Tracey home that me helping out on the Lassiter job didn’t make me a crook. But you know it did, right?” Mal’s head snapped up toward her. “It was a crime, Mal. I committed a crime. Not to mention all the lying to the government to protect Simon and River when we were boarded, not to mention helping storm the Pandora.”

Mal tried to wrap his head around that one. “You wanna be a merc?”

“Not want, particularly, Mal, but just to be of use. In any capacity that I can. Help Zoë with the babies. Help Simon with his recovery, psychologically as well as physically. Just you know generally be there for the crew, be a sort of – I guess – boat’s mother”

“Including protecting your brood with violence.”

She nodded. “Including protecting my brood with violence, where necessary. Just generally, you know, the role of a Captain’s wife.”

Mal looked stunned, but quickly returned his face to composure. “Well now. Inara Serra, would you be proposing to me?”

Inara smiled, almost blushingly. “Well, it’s not a leap year, so I guess I’m proposing that you propose to me.”

Mal smiled widely in return. “Well then, I accept your proposal to propose to you.” As he spoke, he stood.

*** *** *** Chapter 35 *** *** ***

COMMENTS

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 12:32 PM

GIRLFAN


Once again, thank you to all who continue to read and comment (publicly and privately).

I do apologise, as it's not my best chapter - the next one is shaping up better.

Next chapter: some movement toward a permenant solution for Simon, the crew gets get their cuts, and River has her birthday.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 1:10 PM

JONDESU


Wow. I love this story (haven't commented yet because I just found it), and that proposal at the end caught me completely off guard. Good job!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 5:51 PM

AJAMES


Well, it took me just over a day, but I just finished reading the last 34 chapters.

To be honest, I was initially hoping this would turn out to be a Jaylee fic (I can't help it!), but I have loved the way the story has shaped out.

Thanks, and well done!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 7:45 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Isn't your best work? I find that to be a bunch of poppycock and balderdash, girlfan! This is some mighty brilliant work and you should be proud!

:D

And I gotta admit...that ending? Quite the plot twist;)

BEB

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 8:10 PM

MANICGIRAFFE


Whoa. That was a bit unexpected there, Inara. Honestly, it didn't sound like a "proposal" type of proposal - I'm not actually expecting Mal to whip out a ring (but how hilarious if he does?). More like a promise of solidarity - and maybe some nooky in the shuttle when no one is looking? (Right. Like Kaylee and Zoe wouldn't notice...)

And River continues to tickle me. She's doing an awesome job of slowly backing herself out of the Simon-support role and handing it over to Kaylee - which both of our "boob" couple needs. Well done.

Have to say, I'm surprised no one's had the idea for a hydroponics farm until now. "Voyager" had one. I'm quite sure Kaylee can rig it up, as I have a long standing belief that she's already got a grow operation going somewhere in the engine room (and I ain't talkin' potatoes, if you catch my drift).

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 10:19 PM

BORNTOFLY


Wowza!

Girlfan, you have nothing to apoligise for, you humble, humble person! That was in keeping with the usual quality of other chapter...that usual quality being good enough for a Gold 'BornToFly Seal of Ficcy Goodness'.

A rare thing to receive. So rare, in fact, that you have the only one (and I made it up just then....feel special!).

Highlights had to be Zoe's ponderings over herself and Simon at the start, which I feel couldn't have been better done honestly. Also, Mal's kinda nervous, truthsome ramble while Inara served tea. Brilliant.

Shiny!


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