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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Coda to Simon's time of dying. PG (language, themes).
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1318 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Even Roses Have Thorns
Chapter Forty-Seven: Pulvis et umbra sumus. (We are dust and shadow.)
A/N1: the quote at the beginning of this chapter is from Dante’s Inferno.
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Chapters 1-10, Chapters 11-20, Chapters 21-30, Chapters 31-35, Chapters 36-40, Chapters 41-45, Chapter 46
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“We enter'd on a forest, where no track/ Of steps had worn a way. Not verdant there/ The foliage, but of dusky hue; not light/ The boughs and tapering, but with knares deform'd/ And matted thick: fruits there were none, but thorns/ Instead, with venom fill'd.” The man’s mellow voice was familiar as it spoke from the dark of the wood.
There was a pause as Simon considered his possible responses. “You’re not really him,” Simon said confidently as he turned to face the shade of Book.
“How do you know?” Book asked mildly.
“Because you’re exactly as I remember you. No one ever is, you know. So you’re not really him.” Simon studied the face of the man in front of him. “You’re a memory, a dream – perhaps the face of friend on a demon.”
“But you don’t really believe that.” It wasn’t a question.
Simon’s smile faded as he answered. “No. Not yet.”
“Have you decided if you’re dead or not?”
Simon looked around. “If I remember my Dante correctly, I should be one of the trees, not wandering among them. And Dante wasn’t dead in the Divine Comedy.”
“So I’m not dead. Or you really are a demon, and this really is Hell.”
“So you’re not sure?”
“So I’m not sure.” Simon agreed quietly as he sat on the exposed root of one of the nearby trees.
Book – or possibly the thing wearing Book’s face – chose a root opposite. “Let’s assume for the moment that I’m not a demon, that I’m a memory or a dream. A voice of your conscience, perhaps.” There was a pause, but Simon didn’t try to fill it. “Why do think I’m here?”
“Because Wash isn’t exactly Virgil material?” Simon’s tone held no trace of the sarcasm of his words; it was – something else.
“No. I think perhaps Wash would make a fine Virgil. It was not, after all, a man of God that guided Dante on his journey, but a storyteller. I think you know why you wouldn’t choose Wash as your guide, even unconsciously.” At Simon’s silence, Book prompted him. “Don’t you, Simon?”
“Yes.” It was a once hesitant and firm. It reminded Simon of his conversation with Mal before Ariel. He recognised the tone, the feeling. “Guilt.” He admitted out loud.
“Yes. At what you are doing to his wife. You know, perhaps better than her, the risk she faces tending to you, the strain she’s been under since her husband died – the strain she’s been under since you were captured.”
“And you feel guilt, too, at what you perceive to wasting chances that he, were he alive, would have taken.”
“Yes.” The endless fighting with Kaylee.
“You think that he died for you. To make your sister whole. Your goal, your mission. But the Miranda broad wave was not your idea. Even if it had been, Wash agreed freely to it, as he did to far less worthy dangers that might have ended his life.” The shade of Book paused again and peered around under the dark canopy. “I wonder if you’ll ever learn that there is always enough blame and guilt to go around without grasping for more?” The shade of Book appeared to sigh. “So. Do your want to talk about your regrets?”
Simon snorted and asked rhetorically, “How long have you got?”
But the shade either missed the humour of the dark comment, or ignored it. In any case, he answered: “Eternity.” Simon said nothing, though he frowned a bit, and Book stood. “Come along. Let’s walk for a bit.”
Simon rose to follow.
After a while – and Simon couldn’t really tell how long – wandering the woods in silence, Book spoke again. “But I wonder if you would truly be punished enough, here. Are your sins really so small?”
Simon’s head snapped toward Book, but the shade didn’t turn around. A cold wind whipped through the forest, and in a moment, the forest was gone. They stood, instead, on a vast frigid plain.
The shade continued, his musing apparently undisturbed by the changing décor. “After all, there are many sins you have committed, and precious few of them for which you have repented. You’ve always enjoyed the privileged arrogance of false pride. I wonder how much of your self-destruction was self-serving? Let’s not pretend, as you wish to, that this will somehow make things better for the others. You know it won’t. Couldn’t possibly. You know that it violates your hierarchy of loyalties, it can’t not. You’re leaving them without a doctor, which they need more than ever, without a brother, which River will never not need. I wonder, on whom are you laying that burden, without so much as a by-your-leave? Leaving without so much as a goodbye for Kaylee, who deserves more than that from you. She got the door open, you know.”
It occurred to Simon that he did know. “The engine outage. The door opened right after.”
“She saved your life, if you’re alive. And if you’re not, well, she tried her best, to save your life, to save your soul, and despite her fear for you – and at your current rate of going, probably despite her fear of you, as well.”
Simon nodded again, remembering the defiant look she’d worn the night before as she’d tried to stop him from hurting himself. She had been frightened, he knew. Certainly for him; he had worried too that she had also been frightened of him. He had threatened her. He shook his head in disbelief and shame as he remembered what he’d said to her.
Her eyes were openly scared as much as defiant. He seen her try to brace herself, then shake her head. “Ain’t letting ya hurt yerself.”
And for her love, and bravery, he had sneered at her. Thrown her mistakes, her once-secret worries, hesitantly confided to him, into her face. “No, of course not. Where would the fun for you be in that?” Then he’d slammed the door on her, and threatened her when she had tried, desperately, to reach him. “So help me, Kaylee, if you come in here tonight I will put you back on your side of the door.” Kaylee may have been partly motivated of fear, or a selfish childishness, but she had always acted out of love. He had acted out desperation, and despair, and worse: his last acts toward her had been of spite; and worse still: given the chance to make another choice, to make it right – to give her a different last moment – he had chosen otherwise, to let the spite stand. And for all of that, he had felt the certainty of his rightness in the weight of his judgement of her (far smaller) sins. Pride, much? He had dared to judge her: plank vs. splinter. He was reminded again of Nietzsche, and his sister, and of how she had so often reassured him: that which is done out of love always takes place beyond Good and Evil.
He sank to his knees with the weight of his disgust in the snow. It was a long moment before he looked up to meet Book’s hardened expression.
“You’ve betrayed those you loved, who loved you; those to who you had loyalties – by birth or contract – did you really think you could get away these worst of crimes? The suicide discount? No, I think perhaps you should know better.” Book’s gaze cast around the frozen landscape, but Simon knew where they stood already. “Traitors are punished in the lowest circles of Hell, you know".
Simon did. He bowed his head in acceptance of the shade’s pronouncement. He deserved no better – and now, for all time – he would receive none.
He could feel the ice slowly creeping up his feet and legs, and the tears in his eyes froze, unfallen.
Banks stepped into his superior’s office. “Sir, may I have a moment?”
“Certainly.” Agent Green looked up from the medical records that he was studying.
“We’ve found him, sir.”
Green smiled at his partner. “Dr. Tam?”
“Very well. Send an extraction team.”
Inara peered closely at the alert her Cortex search had thrown up: ‘Swann Patriarch sets large reward for information leading to the return of grandson’.
It was an odd coincidence. Without surrendering blindly to hope, Inara began to follow it up.
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Sunday, March 25, 2007 11:45 AM
Sunday, March 25, 2007 1:31 PM
Sunday, March 25, 2007 2:39 PM
Sunday, March 25, 2007 6:31 PM
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