You Can't Go Home Again - Chapter 12
Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gabriel is confronted by his family with the news, Kaylee makes a call to Inara, some unexpected guests arrive, and Gabirel is confronted by a familiar demon.


Gabriel was leaning against the car, looking up into the overcast sky. The lights of Capital City were reflecting against the clouds, giving a yellowish orange glow to them. He looked at his watch again and looked around. He noticed the masses of people leaving the building forty five minutes ago, and was wondering why they were so late. He was on his last cigarette when he noticed the four of them coming towards him. He dropped the lit cigarette and stamped in on the ground. He was about to say something when he noticed something odd.

Simon and River had solemn looks on their faces, while Kaylee looked like she was fighting back tears. Regan was being carried in Simon’s arms. She still had that look on her face. That frozen look of peace and serenity on her face that was darkened by the overcast environment. Gabriel looked at her very still. His expression did not betray the sudden coldness that overcame him. He took very long breaths as the realization of what happened hit him.

He remembered their wedding day. God, she looked beautiful. He remembered the errant phrase “til death do us part”, which in his then naïve mind he always felt was a redundant phrase. But now the full meaning of those words rang in his mind. She had been his wife for thirty odd years. She had helped him in every conceivable way. She had shown him the value of compassion and had given birth to two amazing children. But he had neglected her. The things he fell in love with became annoyances in his mind. He had abandoned her children, and was slowly beginning to abandon her as her body deteriorated. Her earlier outburst had made him come face to face with his shortcomings as a human being. And as he smoked, he had made up his mind to stop with the bottles and honestly try to right his past wrongs. But as he cupped her cold chin in his right hand, he realized that there was now no chance at regaining her respect. No chance for redemption.

None of this came across as he pulled his hand away and stated plainly, “Right. General is twelve blocks away. We should go there now and get her to the coroner before any decomposition occurs. I’ll call the funeral home. Tell them it’s time.”

He turned away and unlocked the car. He did not catch the looks that came over their faces as the three went into the back seat and laid Regan’s body across their laps. They sure as hell weren’t going to stuff her into the trunk. Kaylee was astonished at the coldness he was showing. His wife had just died! Shouldn’t he be pounding the ground and roaring in grief? He was so clinical and detached. Did he even love her? These thoughts raced through Kaylee’s mind as the dam of tears she was holding back finally burst. She cradled her head in her lap, placing it near her extended womb and making sure that the wig didn’t fall off. River clutched her guitar as she looked down at her mother’s feet. She contemplated on how fast all of this was happening. Yesterday, she had returned home, left, met The Dude, ingratiated herself to a rock band, and became a figurehead of hope and inspiration for a misanthropic generation. But none of that mattered as she felt the lifeless body of her mother. And Simon stared ahead as he saw the buildings go by. Her death didn’t come as a shock to him. If anything, it was almost anti-climatic. And he had seen and touched enough dead bodies in his short life to not feel alien around them. But it still felt surreal to know with certainty that his mother, the person who had inspired him to become a doctor, was now a corpse. There now was nothing left he could do for her.

Aside from Kaylee’s sobbing, the drive to the hospital was completely silent.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As Inara closed the shuttle door behind her, the tiny light from her cortex monitor blinked on and off. She approached her cortex screen, curious as to who was trying to contact her. Her curiosity turned into concern as she saw who it was. It was Kaylee. The display on the monitor showed that she was General Hospital in Osiris. She was crying, and it appeared that she had been doing so for a while.

“’Nara? Are you there?”

“I’m here, sweetie. What’s wrong?’

Kaylee wiped her eyes with her fingers and sniffed up some snot. “I uhhhh….I wanted to call because we’re going to be here a few days longer. I tried getting in contact with Capt’n, but no one’s picking up on the ship.”

Inara frowned as she saw Kaylee act highly unusual. “They’re off on a mission. I’ll relay the message. But what’s wrong? Why are you going to be a few days?”

Kaylee looked back up to the cortex screen and a new wave of tears started from her. “She’s dead. She’s gone.”

Inara felt a cold pit in her stomach form as she heard the news. “Who’s dead, Kaylee? Is it River?” Inara paused. “Is it Brooke?”

Kaylee tearfully replied, “No…No. It’s Simon’s mom. Regan. She finally died. We were at the opera house, and River was playing with her new band and she looked so happy. Like she was finally where she wanted to be. We were so excited by all of it that we fought through a huge crowd to get backstage to meet River. We even saw her get signed by this music company. And we went back up to the Tam’s balcony to tell Regan the good news. But when we got there, she was gone.”

Inara merely gave her adoptive mei-mei a concerning and respectful look, even though she was confused at what she was hearing from Kaylee. “Where are you?”

“We’re at General. We brought her right here so that the coroner could get his report. All the arrangements had been made. We’ll probably be burying her two days from now, so you should pick us up on Monday. I just figured someone needed to tell you guys.”

Kaylee looked away. She was alternating between calm and sobbing, which to Inara meant that this death had more affect on her than normal. “Kaylee…”

“She was so good, ‘Nara. I only met her two days ago, but she was really nice and sweet and kind. You know, she actually tried to bring down that Academy by herself?” Inara gave her a subtly surprised look. “Yeah, she spearheaded this big civil case against them with all the other mothers. Would’ve gone through with it if the leukemia didn’t kill her.”

Inara spoke to her in a comforting manner. “She was really special, wasn’t she?”

“Yeah. Kinda reminded me of my momma.” Kaylee looked way for a brief moment and then continued. “It ain’t fair, ‘Nara.”

“What isn’t fair, mei mei?”

“Everything.” Inara could detect a hint of anger as she continued. ”The whole thing. It ain’t fair that Simon and River had to go through all this. It ain’t fair that the one parent that did something died. It ain’t fair that that hundan of a father of theirs is so stonefaced, like he ain’t got a heart. Kept going on about greatness and legacy. Called me a speck of dust and a backwater slut. It ain’t fair that he’s still alive while Simon and River’s momma is dead.”

Inara sighed as she felt Kaylee’s pain. She attempted to give her some consolation by explaining, “People deal with their grief in many different ways, bao-bei. I’m sure Mr. Tam is dealing with it in his. I’ll be sure to tell Mal and everyone as soon as they get back.”

“Thank you.” Kaylee smiled weakly through her tears, before pressing a button off to the side, cutting the feed off. Inara simply settled back into her chair, and said a tiny prayer for the Tam family.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The next two days were some of the most unbearably quiet days that any of them had experienced in their lives. All the funeral and burial arrangements had been made months ago, so there was very little do in way of preparation.

They had each gone off by themselves and retreated into their own corners of the mansion to grieve. Kaylee spent the whole two days in bed crying her eyes out. As she clutched her belly, it was not out comfort but more out of desperation. She kept thinking that her baby was going to die and she had to feel her moving to make sure she was still alive within her. River was even worse than Kaylee. She had regressed slightly and began to babble inconsistently. Outside of her calling Johnny to tell him the news, she kept to herself and had a death lock on her guitar. For the first time since she got it, it didn’t give her comfort and support. Upon returning home from the hospital, Gabriel went straight to the wine cellar and went on a bender to end all benders. The alcohol he had consumed in that time would have killed a normal person. But the only effect it had on him was that it merely made him pass out in a pool of his own vomit and urine. He didn’t even leave the wine cellar until it was time to get ready for the funeral.

Simon was the only one keeping himself busy. He had spent the next day calling up other families they had known and giving them the news of Regan’s demise and inquiring as to whether they’d attend the funeral or not. Some were surprised at who was calling them. Some hung up upon hearing his voice. Some didn’t even pick up at all. The few whose conversation with Simon lasted more than thirty seconds said that they couldn’t attend for various (ie. made up) reasons. By the time he crossed off the last name on his list, he knew that this would be an incredibly intimate funeral.

The day of the funeral was a surprisingly warm and bright day. It had been grey and overcast all week, and the weather reports indicated a shower. But the bright sunlight of Osiris bore down on them as they got out of the rented hearse. Gabriel, amazingly enough, managed to keep himself sober long enough to shower, change into a suit and make himself presentable for his wife’s funeral. But as he staggered out of the driver’s side, it was clear that the alcohol was beginning to take its toll on him. Simon was wearing a suit that he hadn’t worn in over five years. It felt odd and alien to him, like when he had to wear the space suit so long ago. Both River and Kaylee were wearing simple black dresses. It was the first time since Simon met Kaylee that he saw her wear black. It was like seeing Wash without his Hawaiian shirts. It just seemed so out of character for her.

As Simon went over to comfort Kaylee, as she dried her eyes with what had to be the two thousandth tissue in the last two days, River looked down the road that went through the cemetery. She saw an old, beat up hover car pull up and stop. The doors opened and River faintly smiled. They had shown up after all.

“River,” asked Gabriel in a concerned tone. “Who are these men?”

River gave a shrug. “They’re my band.”

Gabriel stared up at them in shock and mild vehemence. This was his wife’s funeral. All the important Alliance families should be here. She deserved, no, demanded a royal funeral. What she got was a pregnant mechanic and four slacker “musicians”.

Even though the guys had never met Regan at all, they realized that this was an important thing for River. She needed to know that they would be there for her, even if that included being impromptu pallbearers. Johnny, Cliff, George and Keith walked up to the hearse. They were wearing whatever black clothing they could find at such short notice. While they didn’t wear exact suits, it was enough for the occasion. When they reached the hearse, Johnny opened the door and put his hand on the brass handlebar. Gabriel rushed over and grasped his hand.

“Who the hell are you and why are you touching my wife’s casket?”

Johnny looked Gabriel dead in the eye and pulled off his hand. “My name is Jonathan Brian Goode. I co-front the band with your daughter. And it looks like you need some pallbearers.”

Gabriel was pissed. “What makes you think that I’d let you and your cronies carry her all the way up to the family plot?”

“Well, for starters, this casket is heavy as Hell, and I’m sure that you and Simon would look ridiculous carrying it all the way the hill by yourselves.”

“No more so than her being carrying to her resting place by –“

“Dad.” Gabriel looked to Simon who was giving him one of Mal’s patented cold stares. “If you have any respect for her, you’ll let them carry her all the way to her grave.”

Gabriel looked around him, and realized he had no choice. He grasped the opposite bar and nodded to Simon. Simon took Johnny’s spot and began pulling out his mother’s coffin. Johnny and Keith followed behind him, while Cliff and George clasped the remaining handlebar behind Gabriel. All of them lifted up and began carrying the oak coffin up the hill to the family plot.

When they arrived, they saw the priest in his white gown, holding his Bible as he waited for them. When they set down the coffin onto the straps that were suspending her above the grave, Cliff and George joined Johnny and Keith to the right side of the coffin, while River, Gabriel, Simon and Kaylee stood to the left.

The priest went over to Gabriel. “Will there be-“

“No.” Gabriel quietly interrupted. “This is all there will be.”

The priest nodded and resumed his position. He began the service, and droned on for twenty minutes about Regan’s life, what the Bible said about death and dying and the usual funeral stuff. After rattling off the 23 Psalm as the coffin descended into the grave, he shut his book and nodded to Simon. Simon stepped forward and cleared his throat.

“I uhhh….I’m…not sure exactly how to do this. I’ve…I’ve never done this before. I’ve never…tried to sum up a person’s life with a few words. It’s almost ironic. She would have been the person to ask about doing something like this.” Simon took a deep breath and continued. “As long as I could remember, I could always come to her and ask her for help. I remember…the first time I changed River on my own, I made such a mess.” At this point, Simon started to do a hybrid laugh/cry at this memory. “It was after one of the servants noticed the smell and I had completely ruined my best clothes that she came in and showed me how to do it properly. The thing I remember the most was that she was never mad at me the whole time. She just smiled…showed me how to do it properly…and when River was asleep, she helped to clean me up.” He stared down at the coffin and raised his eyebrows in admittance. “I don’t know why I’m even saying this. Why after knowing her all my life that I choose this memory to tell at her funeral. I haven’t really thought about her since…” he trailed off at the end as he thought about the last few years. As he took a few more deep breaths, he stared at the front end of the coffin. “For the last four years, I’ve considered the crew of Serenity to be my family. They’ve helped me and River in more ways they could ever know. And I suppose a bit of that consideration came from me being angry at them for what happened. And because of that, I guess I’ve been trying to replace her with them. But I can’t.”

It was at this point that Simon started to come apart. His voice became hitched as he began to cry for the first time since she died. “I can’t stay mad at her anymore. I don’t have it in me. I can’t just cut her out of my life, because at one point I was her life. I was her little boy. And she was my mother.” He then leaned down and clenched a fist of fresh dirt in his hand. “She’s the only mother I will ever have. And nothing can ever take that away.” He looked at the dirt in his hand for a few moments and then tossed it into the grave.

As Simon stepped back and Kaylee put her hand on his shoulder, River looked up. She smiled as she saw another group of motley companions walk up to the grave. Kaylee also looked up and gave a teary gasp of recognition.

Mal, Zoe, Jayne, everyone from Serenity had come to pay their final respects. While Mal had a look of uneasiness to him, everyone else had mournful looks and gave the Tams a notice of regret for what had happened.

After a few beats, River took her own fist full of dirt and stared at it for a few moments, contemplating not only the molecular structure of the dirt, but the significance of the tradition as well. She looked back down into the grave and with her other hand, fished out two platinum coins from her pocket. She inserted the two coins into the clump of dirt in her hand and then tossed it down.

“Goodbye, Mom. I’ll always love you.”

Kaylee then went up and took her share of dirt and looked at it. She let a few of her tears drop into the soil to create a tiny bit of mud.

“Goodbye, Regan. It was truly an honor to meet you.”

She threw her bit of dirt into the grave and then walked away towards Simon. As she came towards him, the band and the crew got in line and began to throw their own bit of dirt into the grave. After a few moments, Inara who was wearing her most tasteful gown in her expansive wardrobe came towards Kaylee.

“Hey, ‘Nara. Never thought I’d see you wear black.”

“I could say the same for you, bao-bei.” The hug that Kaylee got from Inara made her feel better.

“I never thought you’d all be here.”

“For a while we almost weren’t going to come.” Inara broke the embrace and looked over at Mal who was waiting his turn near the back of the line that had formed. “Mal said he had been to enough funerals in his life and that he wasn’t going to ‘go to one of the enemies’. But Zoe, Book, Shooter and I managed to convince him that if there was a time when you, Simon and River needed him and Serenity more than ever, it would be now.”

Kaylee gave her a tiny smile and watched as each of the crew and the band take a bit of dirt and throw it into the grave. After the task was done, they walked away from the cemetery and towards the collection of transport vehicles that were on the road at the bottom of the hill. Zoe and Mal were the last two to throw in some dirt. There was some hesitation and some intense discussion between the two, but after a few moments they both threw in their handfuls and went to join the rest of them. As they all walked back to the hearse, the hovercar and one of the shuttles, Kaylee looked back at the grave. Gabriel was still there, staring blankly ahead as the caretakers came in and began filling in the grave. As horrible as he had been to her since she was introduced to him, she couldn’t help but feel saddened for his loss. She couldn’t begin to imagine what was going on in his head.

* * * * * * * * * *

Gabriel was kneeling on his wife’s grave. After when everyone left to go back to the various modes of transport, the caretakers of the cemetery came in and filled in the grave and lain in fresh grass that blended in perfectly with the well manicured lawn. You could hardly tell that there had been an open grave there ten minutes ago. He stared at the large tombstone in front of him. In an elegant font, “Tam” was etched into the limestone. To the left, “Regan Francis Tam” was etched into a panel. Below it, there was “2471-2521”. The 2521 was fresh. Across from her panel was his. It read “Gabriel Leopold Tam”, and below that, a single number stated “2468-“. His eyes were focused on the center of the tombstone. A hologram played an image of Regan in her youth on a loop. She was standing at a podium, lecturing to a packed audience. She was dressed in a simple business suit, but was laughing and showing off her billion dollar smile. Every few seconds, that perfect image of her would repeat.

“Did you like the service?”

He looked up. Standing behind the tombstone, Regan was staring back at him. She was dressed like she was in the capture, but she was not smiling. The eyes behind her reading glasses did not twinkle like they normally did, but were blank. This sudden appearance did not phase him at all. He merely responded the way he normally did.

“No, I didn’t. Completely disrespectful. The majority of the people there never met you and could care less about you and it was too bright and sunny.”

Regan snorted lightly. “So we’re blaming the weather now, are we?”

“You know what I mean. It didn’t suit you. It wasn’t a proper funeral.”

Regan shook her head. “You’d think that after all this; you’d figure out that propriety doesn’t mean a damn thing when it comes to doing what’s right for your family. They all understood that. Especially that daughter-in-law of yours that you’re so intent on hurting.”

Gabriel started to breathe deeper in resentment towards her. “That girl is an annoyingly cheerful little twat. Probably take Simon’s inheritance money and blow it all on a junkyard. That’ll be good for this family’s legacy.”

Regan shook her head in disappointment. “You will always think of our children as figureheads. Even when they called you ‘Daddy’ as babies, you were always thinking about how they could make you look good.”

Gabriel shook his head in an attempt to deny what he was hearing. “I was a good father. I was just as good a parent as you were.”

Regan shrugged and smirked. “Yeah, you were a great parent until you sold our daughter to the highest bidder. And even when they came home you spent more time in the wine cellar than talking to them.”

Gabriel was starting to lose it. His eyes were beginning to water up, and he was doing everything to keep them at bay. “I don’t know-“

“Of course you don’t know.” Regan was now goading him with a malicious streak a light year wide. “You never chose to know. You were so wrapped up in your paranoid fantasy of sublimity that you’ve managed to lose every single thing that you cherished.”

Gabriel swore to the demon that was relishing in destroying him.

“Because that’s who you are. When it comes down to the real you, you’re just a pathetic drunk with delusions of grandeur.” She began walking around the tombstone and kneeled in front of him. “Go ahead and finish off the wine cellar when you get back. When you’ve drunk yourself to death, you’ll finally feed that insatiable ego of yours that wasn’t satisfied with our children’s souls.”

“Leave…me….ALONE!!!” he shouted to her. But when he looked up, the only Regan he saw was the one in the capture. He was alone. Aside from the party that was waiting for him on the road, he was the only living soul in the cemetery. He shuddered for a few moments and dug his fingers into the fresh grass. He swallowed the lump in his throat and stood up. He hastily composed himself, and then walked briskly to the party that was waiting by the gate.



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Wash and Shooter discuss death and dinosaurs, Gabriel tells Kaylee about Regan, River brings her family together one last time, and Simon and Kaylee face an uncertain future.

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Everyone returns to the mansion, Johnny helps a grieving River with some Van Morrison, and Gabriel asks Mal to end it all.

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Gabriel is confronted by his family with the news, Kaylee makes a call to Inara, some unexpected guests arrive, and Gabirel is confronted by a familiar demon.

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