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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Ultimate chapter (i.e. the conclusion). PG13 to be on the safe side (language only). Canon pairings +1 (River/ofc).
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1664 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Even Roses Have Thorns
Chapter Fifty-Three: Saepe creat molles aspera spina rosas. (Often the prickly thorn produces tender roses.)
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Chapters 1-10, Chapters 11-20, Chapters 21-30, Chapters 31-35, Chapters 36-40, Chapters 41-45, Chapters 46-50, Chapter 51, Chapter 52
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Inara finished hanging the curtains – swathes of red silk salvaged from her shuttle (and symbolic of good luck, Kaylee had earnestly reminded the superstitious Mal) – at the entrances of the small lounge outside of the infirmary; quietly she took the medical bag Simon had packed for non-emergency first aid, and moved toward the galley.
“They settled in all right?” Mal’s head swung up to meet Inara’s eyes as soon as her soft footfalls approached.
“Yes, Mal. Everything is fine,” Inara made her voice perfectly calm; certainly calmer than she felt. “Simon knows what he’s doing.”
“Simon had help the last time,” Mal reminded his fiancée. “You helped him.”
“I helped Petaline, Mal. Zoë’s having the baby. She calls the shots.”
“All the doc’s gonna do is catch’em babies anyways, Mal,” Jayne added soothingly, though the look in his eyes did not have all the reassurance he was trying to share.
Mal was silent for a long moment, before standing to address the crew. “Alright. We’ve all been over this. We stick to our regular watches, our regular jobs. Anyone as needed ll’be called. Kaylee, you and Jayne run your scheduled checks, whatever maintenance needs to be done, and otherwise, just keep quiet. I’d appreciate if you two didn’t stray too far from the engine room in case something comes up.” Kaylee nodded her agreement immediately, eyes wide with nervous energy; Jayne just rolled his eyes, but it wasn’t really an objection. “Ceres, as planned, you’ll be standing in for Simon – any medical care required is addressed to Ceres first.” Mal looked around the crew, “I trust you all to know when you have to call for Simon. Y’all realise how important this is. So, unless something must, absolutely and immediately be seen by Simon, I want it at least triaged by Ceres first. Triage station will be run here in the galley, and as there will be some checking in on Zoë, and on each other’ll be happenin’ today, Ceres has been asked to whip up some snack food to have as I ‘magine we’ll all be in’n’outta here some fair bit today looking for scraps a’ news and such. River, you’ve got the bridge.” Mal stared down his crew for a long moment. “Just to make it clear once more – under only a small number circumstances are the red lines to be crossed: an obvious emergency, an emergency triaged by Ceres, or ‘cause you’re been asked there.” He paused. “We clear?” Mal’s eyes scanned the table, sensing no dissent. “Good. We’ve all got jobs to be getting to, so get to ‘em.”
As Mal headed out, the others sat in silence, staring after him or at each other. Finally Jayne spoke, putting voice to the thoughts in the other’s heads. “That how he acts when it’s Zoë poppin’, Simon’ll hafta knock his ass out when it comes your turn,” the merc said derisively, gazing at the Companion.
Inara laughed lightly, and somewhat knowingly. “If this is how he acts when it’s Zoë’s turn, Simon won’t have to knock him out when it’s my turn.” Inara paused as the crew turned to look at her in disbelief before she added, “He’ll fall down out cold at the first contraction.”
Jayne snorted agreement, and the others just shared a smile at the Captain’s expense before heading in their separate directions.
As they’d discussed, Zoë and Simon had allowed the early stage of Zoë’s labour to progress undisturbed – and, frankly, secretly. There was an unspoken understanding between the two of them to pull off the labour with as little fanfare as possible. When Zoë’s contractions had begun the night before, she informed Simon and merely returned to bed. River and Ceres were woken by their excitement, but burned off the adrenaline rush in a quick bout of love making before returning to sleep as well, keeping the others’ secret to themselves.
Now, safely ensconced in the veiled off lounge, Zoë alternated between walking and resting on the couch. As her labour had progressed, the layers of her clothing were shed. By the time Inara had finished hanging the silk, all that Zoë had left on was one of Wash’s oldest, most faded Hawaiian shirts. As soon as the curtain was hung and Inara had left, the shirt was unbuttoned. Dr. Tam was a little taken aback, but Simon had to admit that he kind of found the whole thing rather charming.
Zoë’s contractions were coming about five minutes apart, Simon knew, almost without timing them; he’d long had an excellent sense of time passing. Zoë didn’t need – or want – to be coaxed through them. His silent, solid presence was as much reassurance as she craved, and they were both comfortable in that knowledge. He walked with her while she walked, and sat with her when she sat, and rubbed her back through a contraction – all without a word passing between them.
At the midway point before the next contraction, Simon ducked into the infirmary to grab Zoë’s file to make some notes in – and he smiled silently and handed it over when she gestured for it and began to update it herself. After a minute’s study she asked quietly, “So what do I add now?”
Simon leaned over to see what she was pointing at: the margin in which he’d coded his frustrations and opinions. He smiled. “Well,” he began, “we should start with OB/GYN.” Zoë raised an eyebrow at the young doctor. That sort of straight answer was not really what she intended. Simon’s smile went wider. “Here it means: oh boy, got you naked.” They both snorted with laughter, especially given Zoë’s prolonged strip tease.
“Scratch and sniff?” Zoë asked mildly, and smiled beatifically as Simon blushed.
“Where did you learn that?” The young doctor asked incredulously after a moment, running his tongue behind his teeth.
“Been brushin’ up,” Zoë shrugged. “Gotta know whatta write when I’m updating the charts.”
Inara joined Mal in Zoë's bunk – she was honest enough with herself to admit that she still thought of it as Zoë and Wash’s bunk.
“One way or another, I guess she’ll be back down here tonight,” Mal remarked ominously.
“Mal.” Inara’s tone was reproving – not because Mal assumed that Zoë would survive – he was the superstitious one, after all, she reminded herself – but because he was so determined not to be cheerful or hopeful at all, in case it somehow cost Zoë. Inara gathered that more was going on than she was privy too, but she had no way of knowing what it was. Hera, through her brief life, if it could be called that, had affected him deeply, wasn’t Mal’s secret to tell.
Nonetheless, at her tone Mal looked up, and she caught a glimpse of his heartfelt sorrow and terror, and she couldn’t help but reach out to him, “It will be alright, Mal. Just you wait and see.” She thought that he might be tearing up, and quickly turned away – his tears were his to share with her if he chose, not hers to intrude upon. She began to strip the bed carefully.
Zoë already knew that Petaline’s Jonah was the first child that Simon had delivered as the primary physician, so Simon decided, instead, to regale her with the stories of Jayne’s two deliveries.
“Well, like I said, first time Mother was birthin’ and Daddy’d gone to git the doctor. Mother was poppin’ ‘em out pretty fast by then I guess, so the doctor didn’t get there in time, and Mother called me and told me how to grab it and catch it. Weren’t breech or nothing, just left it come out by itself.”
That wasn’t too shocking. That sort of thing could happen easily enough, and did, especially on the Rim. “How old were you?”
“Were Matty’s birthin’, so I guess eleven and a bit.”
“Right. And the second time?” The mercenary blushed a bit. There was a lengthy pause. “Uh, Jayne?”
“Yeah, well, second time was when I was still with Marco, and we was holding up a bank. We kinda got stuck in there, and had a bunch a’ citizens in there with us, and we’d been holed up there most of a day when this lady started screaming. Marco yelled at her to shut up, ‘an I probably did too, it was a mite tense in there. So, turns out she was poppin’ and no one there’d ever seen a birthin’ – couple folk just got all squeamish about it and passed out.” Jayne met Simon’s eyes at this point. “Guns pointed at ‘em all day. One bitty woman talkin’ ‘bout havin’ one bitty baby and they just keel over. Anyway, she was really small, not proper pregnant looking at all, and I was scared the baby was too early, but wasn’t nothing I could do ‘bout that. Baby came out ok, bit small but breathin’ fine.” Jayne smiled. “Lady called ‘er Jayne, too.”
“Jayne delivered Matty Cobb?” Zoë asked between laughs, remembering Jayne’s sisters. Matty had stood out in all of their memories both because of the letter Jayne had proudly shared and because of her – relative to her siblings – short stature.
“Apparently,” Simon smiled. Time had worn away the worst of the edges between them, and shared adversity had created an understanding. There was a core of wound steel to Jayne that Simon could not help but like and respect: and understanding, as Simon did, the older-brother ethos, he couldn’t help but see the older man through the eyes of Jayne’s younger sisters. “He’d hate for anyone to know, but he’s a good boy,” Simon added.
“A good soldier,” Zoë mused.
“Not exactly the word I would use,” Simon said, remembering Ariel, but remaining silent on the topic.
“Getting’ there,” Zoë remarked, as another contraction torn through her. When it was finished she spoke again. “Cap’n has that affect on his men.” Simon knew that she’d meant ’men as much as men.
“Caelum videre iussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus,” Simon agreed softly.
Zoë breathed deeply as she began to rise for another tour of the lounge. She translated as she reached for Simon’s hand, “He bid them look at the sky and lift their faces to the stars.”
There hadn’t been a damn thing to do when Mal had ordered them to the engine room, and both of them knew it. Jayne had originally kept his mouth shut more from deference to Zoë than to Mal; watching Kaylee try to find something to do, he wondered if maybe that’s what the Captain had been thinking of when he’d ordered the pair down here, away from the infirmary. “Ain’t a thing we can do, lil’Kaylee,” Jayne offered quietly. “Outta our hands, and no good’ll come from wring’em,” the merc added, remembering one of his father’s pieces of advice.
“Wish Book were here.” Kaylee remarked quietly.
Jayne started. It wasn’t in his nature to really talk about such matters; he didn’t even really think about them, for all he might feel them. “Ah, me too, lil’Kaylee.” Jayne offered, though he figured he’d never exactly been subtle about missing the old man. “Figure he’s watchin’ o’re us anyway.”
“Guess so,” Kaylee replied, after a moment. Another passed before she spoke again. “Ya ever pray, Jayne?”
Jayne recognised the tone: the fierce defiance of the utterly terrified. Nothing to lose in the asking? No. All money on a single bet: win or lose, big. Perhaps only because of that, his hesitation was minimal. Though Jayne was aware of it, Kaylee never noticed it. “Every day, lil’Kaylee.” His admission was almost quieter than her open-mouthed and shocked silence. The older man shrugged. “Talk to ‘im every day.” His tone remained low, though his posture shifted slightly. “That’s prayin’, no?”
But Kaylee accepted this without comment, with the open-mindedness she embraced most things. She’d already moved on to new worries, not stopping to judge her adopted ge-ge and his rather alternative morality. “Think he’s watchin’ over Zoë?”
“Reckon he’s watchin’ o’re alla us mei-mei,” Jayne responded, on somewhat firmer ground.
“Ya think,” Kaylee began hestitantly, “that he’s watchin’ o’re River and Simon’s baby?”
The merc’s forehead furrowed and a long moment passed without reply. “Reckon so. Baby ain’t even born yet, can’t count as any sort a wrong doin’.” Ceres and Simon’s baby had more or less been granted a free pass once the existence of her incestuous sister had been revealed.
“Ain’t never though Simon’d be havin’ babies without me,” Kaylee admitted finally.
Jayne nodded wisely. He’d sensed that she’d wanted to say those words aloud for a while and he’d had time to think. “Ain’t havin’ ‘em without ya, Kaylee.” Jayne waited, heart rate speeding, as the words sank into his adopted sister’s head. “Needs yer support as much now as he ever did. Gonna catch ‘em as they come inta the world, and watch’em as they grow up a room or two away, and never hear ‘em call ‘im nothin’ but ‘Uncle Simon’?” Jayne didn’t really know how to say what it was that he wanted to say, but he drew a breath and plunged on. “Ya think he’s not gonna need hands to hold ‘im up when his heart is breakin’?” The older man shock his head. “None’a us’d need love if life were perfect, Kaylee.” God, how he hated these conversations.
Zoë was silent for a long moment as she digested what Simon had confessed. “Three a’ya were just making each other crazier moving your pain around. Ceres tryin’ keep River outta her skull, sounds like she ended up makin’ you her overflow. You couldn’t hide that from River, and River wasn’t even trying to hide that from Ceres – ain’t a wonder it ended up as bad as it did.” There was silence, and, in the lounge, Zoë leaned into another contraction; it was a long moment before she spoke again. “More a wonder you all survived.”
Despite the softness of Zoë’s words, Simon shuddered. “Except we didn’t. Aren still died. Like Book and Wash.”
Zoë shook her head. “We were goin’ to Belleraphon anyways, Simon. Not much chance that she’d’a survived at all. Can’t go unwishin’, ain’t the way the ‘verse works.” Zoë squatted a little, bracing herself against Simon’s strong hands. “Even if it was – no way a knowin’ in advance if it woulda really been better that way.”
Jayne scrubbed his face his hand. “Kaylee,” he began. “Don’t know what ta tell ya. Near as I can figure, you ain’t done much wrong. Nor Simon, nor River. But ya all go around grasping from blame like a money lender grasps on ta… well, money. Ain’t right.” The older man shrugged and wrapped his free arm around the mechanic. “So ya ain’t Zoë. Say a prayer a thanks fer that, Kaylee. That kinda strength comes from knowin’ – really knowing what it’s like not ta have another thing ta lose.” Though no one else might have suspected it, Jayne reconsidered his words, and amended them slightly. “Yer strong in lots a’other ways, Kaylee. Bounce back, and try again. Knuckles bruised against the casin’ don’t mean you take it out on the engine.” Jayne racked his memory for a word, and one of River’s sprang to mind. Absently, he wondered if the reader had placed it there. “Yer resilient. You’ll fix it up and make it work.”
There was a long silence, and Jayne almost relaxed into it; finally Kaylee spoke. “Na. Almost perfect. He’s a doctor, guess it’s second nature ta try’n patch things up,” she said, oblivious to how her own attitude had recently appeared to others. “You were right. Simon’s got a big heart. I jus’ broke it too many times.”
“Don’t have a doubt you’ll make a good father,” Zoë breathed between contractions.
“I doubt I’ll get a chance,” Simon remarked honestly, his attention mostly elsewhere.
Zoë nodded, more to herself than to Simon, whose attention was focused almost entirely on her, but not really on her head, as such. She knew the pain of parenthood thwarted, and would not diminish it in the hopes of giving the boy some short lived and false hope to cling to. “May not,” she agreed, making her voice easy – all the harder to do in the grips of labour pain. “Not something you’ve anymore control over. You’ve done your bit, and you’d do more if called on. All a body can ask of a parent, mother or father.” It was the first time in an hour, Zoë estimated, that Simon’s eyes met hers. They both knew that Simon’s parents weren’t a standard to aspire to. It was sad. Zoë had heard some of the stories from happier times from Simon, as well as darker stories as retold through Kaylee’s fears for Simon’s sake.
“I always – well not always, but I’m sure you understand,” Simon began and Zoë nodded. He continued. “I just – well I guess I thought I’d be making children with Kaylee.”
“Ain’t no reason you can’t, Simon. Every child ain’t planned for. Some ain’t even wanted,” Zoë breathed deeply again, and Simon grasped her hand tighter, as if it were he that were riding the pain of the contraction. She didn’t have the strength for anything more overt, but smirked inwardly at the unspoken vote of confidence.
“I know she doesn’t mean it,” Simon began by way of explaination, “but I don’t think she’ll ever forgive me.”
“Ain’t got a thing ta forgive ya for,” Zoë remarked as soon as the contraction passed. “Least ways, not in how them babies came to be.” Zoë pushed sweat-soaked curls back from her forehead and fanned herself with the damp cloth of the Wash’s old shirt as she considered her words. “If there’s anyone you two are harder on than your own selves?” She sighed long and low. “It’s each other.”
Simon nodded, and haltingly told her the story of his proposal to Kaylee months earlier.
Zoë breathed deeply before she replied and squatted low, hands tight around Simon’s before she spoke again. “River has a new next-a-kin, Simon. And some’d say she’s healing faster and better than you are.” The older woman’s voice was gentle. Simon nodded his agreement.
River knew that Wash had not been forgotten in the events of the day; still, she yearned deeply to somehow, if completely unknown, include him. She lined Wash’s dinos up and explained to them, with grave voice and in serious tones, what was going on out of their sight. She whispered to them her own hopes and fears, having learned, if not perfectly, how to keep another’s secrets.
More than anyone except Zoë, River wished that Wash were there; not merely so that his steady hands could hover in their contained chaos above the controls, but also so that they could, in their quiet strength, corralled the terror of the unknown into some semblance of a sense of adventure. Unheard by any of the others aboard, Serenity’s youngest crewmember – for as long as that lasted – laughed to herself.
The laughter was better than tears, and a more fitting memorial for the erstwhile pilot than any other that River could think of, try as she may.
Mal had assembled the double crib silently, guardedly, and without input as Inara had watched. She’d known better than to say anything, though she could not fathom why such silence was required. Mal’s face was serious, though it had lost the barely-contained fear that had lurked there as they had descended the ladder; Inara had no desire to watch it return, and aided her finance as unobtrusively as she could.
Zoë pushed her daughter into the world with what someone else might have called a grunt; to Simon’s ears, it was somehow too uncommitted to be described as such. Baby Girl Washburne was placed in her heated bassinet as her brother made his way into the world with no more flourish than she had received.
Once Simon had helped Zoë deliver the after birth – the least exciting part of labour for all involved – Simon helped his friend wrap her newborn children – Miranda Allenye Washburne and Hoban ‘Ben’ Alleyne Washburne – in their father’s old shirt. As Zoë rested, smiling and exhausted with her children, Simon eventually relaxed and made his way toward the engine room. He stopped, first, on his way in his own room to retrieve a small box, which he pocketed.
Jayne, unsubtle as he was, seemed to realise immediately that Simon had not appeared to announce the birth of the ship’s first mate’s children, and politely excused himself with nothing more overt than a hand squeeze for Kaylee.
Once the big merc had left, Simon took a deep breath. It was time – past time – that the two of them had put aside their differences and decided what the future held for them. As the young mechanic watched him quizzically, he lowered himself to the floor to her. “I, uh,” the brilliant young doctor began, “have some things I’d like to say.” He paused and swallowed hard. “And then – then I have something I’d like to ask you.”
Sunday, May 20, 2007 8:39 PM
Sunday, May 20, 2007 10:02 PM
Sunday, May 20, 2007 11:44 PM
Monday, May 21, 2007 7:37 AM
Monday, May 21, 2007 4:08 PM
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 12:58 AM
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 9:32 PM
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