BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

GIRLFAN

Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Forty-Three
Sunday, March 11, 2007

Simon's elastic snaps, and Green and Banks step things up elsewhere. NC17 (violence). Canon pairings +1(River/ofc). 4K words.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1543    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Even Roses Have Thorns Chapter Forty-Three: Veluti in speculum (As in a mirror) Part IV

A/N1: the tense change here is deliberate, a sort of attempt at an almost onomatopoeic mental quality. It is intended to be a little weird, dissociatiative and confusing. A/N2: The quote on love (reprised from chap. 41) is from Neil Gaimen's The Sandman, and the songs here are Dido’s See the Sun and 12 stones’ Crash.

*** *** *** Chapters 1-10, Chapters 11-20, Chapters 21-30, Chapters 31-35, Chapters 36-40, Chapter 41, Chapter 42 *** *** ***

Mal was making his final pass of his ship before turning in when Kaylee found him. “Cap’n!”

She sounded a little – strangled. Overwrought. “Kaylee?” He asked, concerned, as he drew close.

Her explanation came out as one breathless tumble of words. “Simon’s in Ceres’ room cuttin’ on himself and he won’t let me in, and Zoë told me ta leave him alone and ta go back to bed.”

Aiya. Go se. If this wasn’t yet another ugly situation. He trusted Zoë’s judgement, and he couldn’t undercut her in front of crew. But, on the other hand – no: on the other hand, there was Zoë too; Zoë was he right hand and his left hand. He had to back her up, even if he didn’t understand why she’d done what she’d done, even if he wanted to ride to Kaylee’s rescue. “Then you’d best get yourself to bed, lil’Kaylee.”

“Cap’n?!” Kaylee’s voice was hurt-shocked. The Captain was her shining knight, her court of final appeal. She’d expected to at least be heard; and once she’d been heard, well, it was often the case that he would find some way to fix things, to make them better.

Mal wasn’t unaware of this, so he deliberately measured out his voice gentle-but-firm. “Wasn’t a suggestion, mei-mei.” As she looked up at him, aghast, he gave her one last forbidding expression before turning to head to his own bed. “Don’t go making the mistake of thinking it was.”

***

She’s lying on the floor crying, and she can’t figure out why she’s screaming. Well, she’s not screaming now, but she was earlier and she can’t figure it out. She doesn’t scream. She hasn’t in – well, she doesn’t remember how long it’s been, but she knows that she doesn’t do that anymore.

She hasn’t cried in a long time, either. Crying, though, that’s kind of nice. First tears in so long, real tears – really crying, breathless, holding-yourself-can’t-do-anything-else crying. Complete take over of reality. Like orgasm.

The crying she can handle. It’s a release.

The screaming, though, that terrifies her.

***

It was River’s turn to make breakfast, again, and frankly, she was in a mood to ruin it, but she understood that that would be irresponsible, so she felt compelled to reapply herself to the task. It was her turn. To take her mind off of her mood she started singing, “I'm comin' 'round to open the blinds. You can't hide here any longer. My God you need to rinse those puffy eyes. You can't last here any longer.

By the time Simon walked into the galley, still angry from the day before, she was half way through the chorus, “And you're asking me why pain's the only way to happiness, and I promise you you'll see the sun again. Come on take my hand. We're going for a walk, I know you can. You can wear anything as long as it's not black. Please don't mourn forever. She's not coming back.” As Simon wondered, annoyed, if this was to his address, he heard the Captain’s sharp breath behind him. When the Captain pushed past him into the kitchen, Simon stalked back to the passenger dorms.

Breakfast itself started out as its normal noisy affair, until Inara asked where Simon and Kaylee were. Mal watched Zoë’s expression, but there wasn’t the slightest tell to be found. He answered neutrally. “Saw Simon briefly, guess he decided he wasn’t hungry. Haven’t seen Kaylee this mornin’.”

River rolled her eyes and answered. It wasn’t like at least half the people at the table didn’t know already, after all. “I think they’re on a break.”

Everyone took this news without comment, except Jayne, who snorted. “Them two’s had more breaks in their courtin’ than I’ve had in ma bones.”

***

Disembodied anger and annoyance floated into her consciousness as she woke. She couldn’t feel where they were coming from, and damn it if she wasn’t doing her best to keep her mind in her own skull. She pushed the thought aside. Of course she was more vulnerable when she slept, but now she was awake: she had to focus.

She smiled tightly as the lyrics played across her mind. Do you remember telling me you found the sweetest thing of all? You said one day this was worth dying for, so be thankful you knew her at all…

The door of her cell opened. “On your feet.” She rose without complaint, though not without effort. “Turn around. Face on the wall. Hands behind your back.” A guard moved behind her and cuffed her securely, before pulling her off of the wall and toward him.

New day dawning. She tries to let her mind float away, but there is too much anger. Adrenaline. And now she’s just so much more pissed with herself because she has to be here for this. When they reach the interview room, Green and Banks are already there, and her chin rises just a fraction higher than it should be. Too proud. It would be impossible to see if the agents were less trained, but to them it’s a coup. She’s reacting.

Green smiled wanly, and the space of three loud heartbeats passed before two guards bullied another female figure, cuffed and hooded, into the room. Here, now, the adrenaline is a bonus. ‘Too small to be River,’ hits her before she has a chance to think it might be her lover. “Time to step this program up, Miss Swann.”

The female hidden under the black hood was forced to her knees beside Banks, who’s hand immediately reached down to touch the female’s head, stilling her slight movements.

Ceres barely spared the hooded figure more than one heartbeat’s worth of a glance, before turning her gaze back fully on Green.

Green smiled. “I think we understand each other, but let me be clear. This is our newest prisoner.” Banks pulled the hood off and Ceres started forward slightly, but managed to pull herself together almost at the same time. The girl’s face was flushed and dirty, blonde hair tangled and caught in the gag cutting into her mouth. Her blue eyes went wider, more scared, as she caught sight of Ceres standing bound before her. Green’s smile never reached his eyes, but Ceres knew that he was pleased with himself. “I see you two do recognise one another. Excellent.”

The girl was Harley Evans; the insignia on her collar indicated that she was a second year military academy cadet. Ceres had known Harley in her life-before-college: Harley had been source of some babysitting money first, and then, later, Alistair’s girlfriend. Ceres had left everyone behind after her siblings’ deaths, sparing no second glances and few second thoughts.

“From this moment on, she is your responsibility. Every punishment you provoke, will be given to her as well. For every blow you earn, she will receive two.” Ceres is too present not too react. Her eyes flash to Harley’s, then back to Green’s. The shake of her head is slight, but slips past her usual iron control, though she does manage to keep the ‘no’ forming on her lips from gaining voice. Green doesn’t fail to notice, and actually smirks. “Oh yes, Miss Swann. Most certainly yes. And you will know. You’ll be present to watch, to listen. She will be with you at all times. In your cell. In training. In discipline. And she’ll know why she’s hurting. She’ll witness your obedience or disobedience, cooperation or lack thereof. We will start now.”

As Green continued to stare into her eyes, Banks flipped open a file, and clicked a pen before asking, “How did you become a member of Serenity’s crew?”

Her answer is prompt, flat. “I was never a member of Serenity’s crew.”

It’s not exactly what they want to hear, but they’ve been asking the question for days now, and they hadn’t made it this far. They pass on the option to hit her for being uncooperative – after all, she’s moving there herself, albeit slowly. Really, it’s more than Banks expected. Miss Evans clearly was the perfect choice. “Very well. What role did you have while aboard Serenity?”

“I was a prisoner.”

Banks’ pen scratched at the papers in his folder. “And yet you were walking around armed, Miss Swann. Explain.”

“I gave them my parole.”

Banks scribbles. She’s dragging it out, but at least they’re getting it.

“Conduct unbecoming, Miss Swann,” Green notes aloud, but Ceres ignores him. It’s not true, but it’s also not a question. She doesn’t respond.

“What were the terms of your parole, Miss Swann?” Banks asked.

Mal’s words floated immediately to the surface of her mind. ‘You’ve never sworn your commissioned oath, so you can’t break it. I’m willing to offer you parole on the following terms: you take no actions against Serenity or her crew, you pay for your room and board by helping out: maybe you can help River, or help Simon understand what was done to her. Maybe you can help on jobs, don’t know that you’re willing. You can help stack and store and the like. Always something to be done. For my part, I will not expect you to take any overt actions against the Alliance – might ask you to – but I won’t expect it. Finally, you get captured by the Alliance or Blue Sun, and I’ll do unto you as I would if you got caught by Reavers. You willin’ to accept these terms for parole?’ She couldn’t tell them that, but she could, she decided, give them an abbreviated version.

“To take no action against Serenity or her crew, to pay for my room and board in kind.”

“What kind of kind?”

“Manual labour.”

“Not, then, armed insurrection?”

“I was at no time expected to take any actions against the Union of Allied Planets or its forces.”

“You took up arms against Alliance forces on Osiris.”

“Incorrect intelligence. I surrendered unprompted on Osiris.”

“What exactly were you doing there?”

“Assisting in the rendering of medical aid.”

“To a known fugitive?”

Ceres knew she couldn’t answer too promptly. It would give the game away. She allowed the smallest vestige of confusion to cross her features, and hesitated. “I don’t understand the question,” she said finally.

“Dr. Simon Tam is a known fugitive, Miss Swann. Warrants for his arrest have been on the Cortex for the last year.”

She made her voice small, and ignored the urge to call the agents idiots. Logic would dictate that the entire crew of Serenity were criminals, if not actually fugitives. “I didn’t have Cortex access aboard Serenity.”

It was a lie, and she knew they didn’t believe her. Green arched an eyebrow and Banks scribbled. They’d wind up back here again.

“What is Simon Tam to you?”

“Dr. Tam is a member of Serenity’s crew.” Green back handed her, almost on a reflex. It sent her sprawling. While Ceres struggled to her feet, the guard on Harley threw a punch that knocked the girl from her knees to her face, and followed up with a kick to the stomach.

Banks registered the look of surprise on Ceres’ face almost before she did, and met her eyes, hard. “When we said two blows for each one you provoke, we did not mean of equal value. Her value in this room lies solely in what she is worth to you. Every line we hesitate to cross with you as too final, too damaging – we will dance over when it comes to her. And if she dies? We’ll just replace her. Another neighbour, or a childhood friend of your sister, or a former classmate of brother – or one of your cousins. It doesn’t matter to us. It only matters because it matters to you.”

Green took that moment to speak up again. “You though you were alone in this cold, dark universe, but you’re not. Isn’t it wonderful?”

Kill me now,’ she half-thought, half-prayed. Nightmares made to order, a Blue Sun speciality. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so a simple phrase… turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.

As Banks looked back at his notes, she makes her gaze pure military eyes-forward-and-center. “Let’s try that again, Miss Swann. What is Simon Tam to you?

Her voice remains flat, despite the fear clawing at her brain stem. “Dr. Tam was my medic during my time onboard Serenity.”

***

Aren and Jayne were the last two left at the breakfast table, and each of them were wondering if the other was just as deliberate as themselves in dawdling. With Serenity due to hit Belleraphon later in the day, most of the crew was off making preparations, or, where that was impossible, pretending to be very busy so that they could avoid one another. Aren arched an eyebrow at Jayne. “I’m making some more coffee. Would you like some?”

“Yeah, thanks.” Jayne licked his lips as he heard her moving around the galley behind him. “Your last day here,” he ventured.

She smiled to herself. Sounded like he might bite. “Yes.”

“Glad to being going back to civilisation?” He tried to keep his voice even, to play it cool. The lady doc was kind of an ice princess at the table, he knew.

“Yes.” She set cups in front of them both, before she sat.

They sipped their coffees in almost companionable silence before Jayne offered, “Must be hard sleepin’ in the same bed as ‘Nara and not getting any.”

Aren didn’t say anything but she knew that her quirked eyebrow and tight smile were an obvious confirmation.

“Guess it’ll be nice to be getting back ta yer own bunk.”

“Yes.” She drained the last of her coffee, and rose. “But I wouldn’t mind a chance to say a proper goodbye, first.”

All things considered, Jayne felt that really, it was almost a pity she was a doctor. “Shiny.”

*** When her answers dry up, Ceres receives a few painful blows, and watches as Harley is beaten severely, before the two of them are moved back to their cell. Harley is left bound and gagged as she’s tossed to the floor, but Ceres’ hands are uncuffed before she’s shoved inside.

It had crossed Ceres’ mind, briefly, that the girl might be in on it, but it didn’t seem likely. As a reassurance, or perhaps a punishment, given the certainty of what she’d find, Ceres had opened her mind to Harley’s as the blows of the girl’s beating rained down on her. The girl was suffering, confused, terrified. Her fear hadn’t even quite had time to melt to horror.

Now, Ceres keeps her mind firmly in her own skull as she crosses the short distance to her cellmate. Harley’s body tenses as Ceres’ reaches to touch her, and Ceres hesitates, swallows. “Cadet Evans, I’m going to remove your gag. Before I do that, you should be aware that our cell is likely monitored.” Ceres squats down next to Harley and carefully unties it. There are the tiniest traces of blood around it where the girl’s lips are split, but Ceres knows that she should check for more serious wounds, even if she can’t do a damn thing about them. “Cadet Evans, I’d like you to roll into the recovery position if you can. Can you do that?” The girl nods and struggles to maintain her balance with her wrists still cuffed behind her back. When Ceres uses her hands to help the girl into position, Harley almost doesn’t tense at all.

As Ceres runs her hands across the girl’s body to check for injuries, Harley speaks for the first time. “What do they want with us?” Her eyes, searching Ceres’, see the older girl’s eyebrow twitch, and Harley adds a belated, “Ma’am.”

“The answer to that is extremely complicated, Cadet, and frankly, irrelevant. It comes down to this: we are prisoners of a dangerous, illegal paramilitary organisation.”

“But it’s Blue Sun!”

Ceres voice goes hard, and the lines of her face stern, though she doesn’t quite keep the fear from her eyes. “Cadet Evans, if I’m not mistaken, you would have been given classes on the nature of our government and the chain of command. Am I incorrect in thinking this?”

“No…” It’s clear that Harley doesn’t know where this is going.

Ceres’ voice is crisp, even. “Then please point out to me where, exactly, Blue Sun falls in your chain of command.” As the girl licks her split lips, Ceres takes pity on her. “Now, you understand.” Ceres pauses again before asking, “What are you training for?”

“Engineering Corps.” The girl’s response is quiet, mostly flat.

Remembering the bright child and teenager the girl had been, this answer does not really surprise Ceres. “No combat training?” Ceres ventures.

“I’ve blown stuff up in training.” There’s a touch of pride in the girl’s voice, before what Ceres must have been asking hits her, and the pride disappears. “We don’t do it under live fire for another six months though.”

“And no SERE training until next year, I guess?” Ceres offers, unsure of it’s placement in the engineering track.

“Sear, Ma’am?”

“Survival, evasion, resistance, escape.” Ceres manages not to roll her eyes, but her tone is a little weary.

“Oh.” There is a long pause. “I don’t think we cover that in third year, either.” It’s pretty obvious that Harley is trying to keep her voice neutral, and Ceres’ covers her eyes with a hand. “Am I going to die, Ma’am?”

“We’re all going to die, Cadet Evans.” Ceres drops her hand and looks straight into the younger girl’s eyes. “If you’re asking if you’re going to die soon,” Harley nods and Ceres continues, “then the answer is: probably, yes.” One way or another. Ceres takes a deep breath before continuing. “I don’t expect you to understand, in any meaningful sense, but I feel that I should make clear that I can’t cooperate with them. Even when this gets bad.” At Harley’s widening eyes, she amends her statement to, “When it gets worse.” Ceres doesn’t know what to say next. An apology seems both appropriate and entirely out of line. “You can resent me, if you have to. Just remember that you’re a soldier, and they’re not in your chain of command. Nothing they say, nothing they do, means anything to the uniform you’re wearing. Do you understand?” At the girl’s tiny nod, Ceres ends with a simple, “Good.”

Ceres measures out ten quick-but-slowing heartbeats before Harley speaks again. “You answered some of their questions,” the girl points out.

“Command decision.” The phrase is ludicrous even in her own ears, but technically, that’s what it was. A senior cadet to a junior one. Children raising children. The worst part is that Ceres knows that Harley finds it reassuring. Harley really thinks Ceres is keeping it together, and will keep it together as it gets bad. Worse. Ceres pushes the thought aside. She will keep it together. She has to, and it’s not like she doesn’t have practice. “It had no tactical relevance.”

+So much for no more handles,+ her critical voice snorted.

But she’s pleased to find herself unprepared to be blamed for this. *Let ‘em twist.* It’s bravado, and she knows it, but it’s a flickering Roman candle against the darkness, and thus it’s welcome.

+After all, it will be gone too soon.+

*After all,* she agrees.

“Try to get some sleep, Cadet,” Ceres says as she lies stretched flat on the floor of her cell.

“Yes Ma’am,” Harley replies. She is tired, but she knows that sleep is unlikely to come. She closes her eyes, however, to avoid the appearance of disobedience.

It’s not very long – perhaps another hour at most – before guards come back to take them to the interrogation room. The guards force Harley to her knees and shackle her hands, still cuffed, to the wall behind her, and manacle Ceres with her hands above her head.

It’s a few minutes before the agents arrive, and Ceres can tell that Harley is ready to cry by the time they do. Agent Cooper gives Harley a short pointed glance before pulling out his combat knife. He runs the tip of it lightly under the colourfully bruised bone of Ceres’ jaw and gets straight to the point. “So.” His eyes catch hers, and the smirk in his hazel stare is triumphal. “Start that shit from yesterday up again and I will carve the lyrics into her skin.”

*** Ceres was surprised. Harley had groaned and yelled under the pain, and shrieked at the terror, but it wasn’t until she was back in the relative safety of their cell that she cried. It’s painfully obvious that the girl is trying her best to be brave, to be a good soldier. She was all of eighteen, and trying to hold it together for all she was worth, but Ceres knew that it couldn’t last long. The girl was an engineer. There was nothing in her training – or, Ceres was certain – earlier life experience to prepare her for dark rooms, terrifying choices, savage beatings, or the degradation that Ceres knew was just around the corner. Ceres cradled the girl’s head in her lap to help her sleep, and propped herself in the corner against the wall. She already wants to die, and she knows it won’t be long before Harley does too. She let the words form on her lips, but didn’t let them slip past.

As I lie tossing in my bed, lost in my fears remembering what you said, and I try to hide the truth within, the mask of myself shows its face again. Still I lie time and time again.

There were only a few more hours left before Serenity would hit Belleraphon, and with the help of one of Inara’s soothers, River laid herself down to sleep, leaving the door to her room open a crack, in case Simon wanted to check on her. Sometimes the only way she knew how to take care of him was to let him know that he could still take care of her. She turned toward the wall and closed her eyes, whispering:

As I find truth where I found it times before, as I search for your hope, I'm finding so much more. And I try to be more like you, and I deny myself to prove my heart is true.

In the infirmary, the scalpel felt cool, familiar, in Simon’s smooth hand, and he sighted down the blade. It was perfect. Creatures of habit, Simon picked up an alcohol wipe and swabbed down his skin before he’d even realised what he was doing.

I hear your voice calling; the time has come for me. Inside this life I’m living, there’s nothing left for me. My mind is slowly fading, so far away from me.

His doctor-fingers palpated the skin of what he called the cubital fossa (but what everyone else would call his inner elbow) of his left arm. He squeezed and relaxed his fist a few times and his forehead wrinkled in concentration, then eased, as the barely-there bite brought a smile to lips.

*** *** *** Chapter 44 *** *** ***

COMMENTS

Sunday, March 11, 2007 9:58 AM

GIRLFAN


This has been done since, like, Thursday afternoon. Thanks to Technicrati (or whatever) and some incredible patience that I had not hitherto known I possessed, I have survived to bring you this.

I hope you like it, and I continue to appreciate your support.

Sunday, March 11, 2007 11:17 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh...this is just all kinds of freaking brilliant, girlfan! Between Mal's moment with Kaylee to the final scene with Simon cutting on himself with a surgical scalpel...I was totally engrossed with what you were doing! Everything felt real and crafted as though Joss himself was benevolently supporting your efforts:D

Also...Jayne's comment about the nature of Silee is quite accurate and sadly hilarious.

BEB

Monday, March 12, 2007 1:04 AM

CHAZZER


I am so torn between loving you 'cos this is so good and hating you 'cos it's so sad.

Sniff

xxx

Monday, March 12, 2007 1:09 AM

GIRLFAN


>I am so torn between loving you 'cos this is so good and hating you 'cos it's so sad.


I vote for loving me.

Monday, March 12, 2007 10:43 AM

MANICGIRAFFE


I have been trying to post this forever...the timeouts are damaging my calm.

Ouch - that had to hurt Mal, but good for him backing Zoe up. All that said, I also hope the both of them lean on Simon to talk in a more appropriate place. Yes, Kaylee blew it big time by trying to appeal to everyone else and he's right to be mad, but they (still!) need some type of resolution here. It's obvious the two of them have no idea what to do, so maybe the "parents" (in this case Mal, Zoe, and to an extent River) can drop the hammer on them. The constant angst is of course driving the mechanic and doctor to distraction (two people you kind of want paying attention most times), but eventually the tension going to harm everyone else, too (or in River and Jayne's cases, it already has, them being the confidantes of each warring party).

And Jayne...I just have to give you a high-five, my man. You've proven to be the most sane person on the ship, and are now regularly hitting up the lesbian doctor. You, sir, are an inspiration.

And the whole "three-people-one-song" thing continues to be really creepy. I am looking forward to an explanation of how that works. River and Ceres I can see, them being readers, but Simon? "Splash over" from River? Or is the reader thing somewhat genetic (conversations with the bad guys seem to think Simon is valuable to their program)?

Monday, March 12, 2007 11:30 PM

BORNTOFLY


Just Wow.

This series continues to make an impact each and every chapter, it's really quite incredible. It's also a testament to your skill as a writer, which is to say quite high.


Firstly, I surely hope that Ceres can get through this, and maybe even pull Harley out with her. Maybe if she can kill Green and Banks on her way out?

Damnit Kaylee! You just don't go whinin' to the Captain just because things aren't going your way! Yelling at Simon obviously isn't gonna work, so maybe it's time to hange tactics? Just not to the kind that facilitate running around behind Simon's back to Mal, or anyone for that matter. It isn't their problem, it's yours and it's Simon's moreso. Deal with it.

Speaking of Simon, that man can be something of a douche. Ya know, I'm looking at my inner elbow right now, and if I squeeze and relax my fist a few times....yes, a nice juicy vein appears. This does not bode well for our cut happy doctor, methinks.


Anbsolutely fantastic, as is the norm with you girlfan!

Monday, March 12, 2007 11:43 PM

GIRLFAN


>Speaking of Simon, that man can be something of a douche. Ya know, I'm looking at my inner elbow right now, and if I squeeze and relax my fist a few times....yes, a nice juicy vein appears. This does not bode well for our cut happy doctor, methinks.

Well spotted. And dude, that's not a vein. In all likelihood - that's the brachial artery you're looking at there.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007 12:01 AM

BORNTOFLY


>Well spotted. And dude, that's not a vein. In all likelihood-that's the brachial artery you're looking at there<

Okay, after some research into the brachial artery, I feel my statement about Simon being a douche needs to be withdrawn and something else placed in it's stead.

Thus, I submit the following:
Simon, you are an unequiovical moron. Though I can totally understand (if not relate...you know, the whole torture thing) your reasons for cutting on your own flesh, it must be said that doing so is only a temporary fix for the problem at hand. You know this, yet you still do it? Moronic, for sure.



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