Something To Think On: Epilogue
Thursday, January 28, 2010

M/I. Post-BDM. In which your author gives you a glimmer of hope.


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Something To Think On
by clio

Any other time, he’d’ve been disappointed with the anticlimax that was their trip back to Beylix, back to Serenity. Any other time, he’d’ve been the slightest bit upset that there were no near-misses, no gun-play, no death-defying mid-air heroics. Whether this trip was different, or he was different, wasn’t no matter: what mattered was that something was different, and every hour that passed by with no news, he counted another blessing.

He’d slept some (a blessed relief) but spent the rest of the time sitting beside her, watching her chest rise and fall. But where before he’d watched with fear, terror, that each movement would be her last, now he watched rejoicing over those to come. Not enough of them, to be sure, but some, and he’d savor each breath she took, for as long as he could.

“She didn’t want you to leave her. ‘Not leaving you; don’t you dare leave me.’ You understand, don’t you?”

He turned his head toward the infirmary hatch, where she stood like a dancer, feet turned outward like she was about to plié, left arm rounded down toward her hip, head tilted to the side, long hair draped over her shoulders. He shook his head. “Scares me how much you see, sometimes.”

Again, her voice up a notch, a little desperate: “You understand, don’t you?”

A nod. “I understand. And I conjure you know better than anyone how grateful I am.”

“You didn’t want to leave her.”

“And I don’t ever want to.” (His voice low and fierce.)

Her eyes, on his, like she was trying to see into his soul. “No. Never.”


A day later, and they were home. Would he have been able to say that if she weren’t there? He wondered, and would from time to time in months to come. Could the caverns of his boat still be home without her?

Simon had kept her sedated through most of the trip, to help her through the pain of the treatment – had only brought her around a few hours before they’d touched down. The boy’d asked Mal to be alone with her, then, and he’d complied – had watched through the single window in the infirmary as Simon spoke to her, sitting beside her, holding her hand in both of his. He saw her face fall just enough to tell him that the story she told herself wasn’t true: she wasn’t a woman ready to die.

After her brother had left (a quick nod to him as he walked past), he’d gone in. Her eyes on his, questioning. And then quiet: “Did he tell you? Tell you what he told me?”

He dropped his eyes. “He told me.”

“I should –” She let out a shuddery breath. “I should be grateful. It’s more than I ever hoped for.”

And then his hand was around hers, tight: “It’s less than we deserve.”


There were times that came to mind when they’d walked next to one another, her supporting him when he’d been injured (shot, most times), him leaning on her not so much because he needed it but because he wanted it. As she leaned against him as they walked through the Beylix dust and sun toward Serenity’s gangplank, he wondered if she felt the same way.


She did what was her duty (because that was who she was): she sat with them in the living area off the galley, all of them around her, listening to her say the things she thought they wanted to hear.

River sat at her feet, gazing up at her, devotion plain in her eyes. Jayne stood to the side, grinning each time she described his feats of bravery (such as were told to her by the man himself). Simon held Kaylee on the sofa; she was crying, the boy gazing off at nothingness with a peculiar look of not-quite-satisfaction on his face, like he was already on to the next problem. And Zoe: Zoe looked happy (wearing a peaceful little smile) for the first time in too long.

He stood across the room from them. Arms crossed over his chest, he leaned against the cooker (right in the spot he’d been that very first night, when she hardly knew him, and he knew her less), and he watched her: watched her perfect posture, the crease beside her eye, the pink that had come back into her cheek, the way she bowed her head when she smiled, the curl of hair, missed from the rest, that danced against the back of her neck. Watched, and wasn’t scared of being caught watching her, because, for three years, she was his to watch. And so when he felt Zoe’s eyes on him and he turned his toward her, he just smiled – a tired but joyful smile.

His warrior stretched her arms wide, then, and gave a dramatic yawn. “Think we’d best be letting Inara get some rest. Reckon she’s earned it. I’d say we all have.” A smile thrown his way as she bent down to whisper a few parting words in the Companion’s ear, and she was off, the rest of them not far behind.

Quiet all around them, then, and she herself was standing and walking toward him, one step at a time, something a little devilish in her eye. He didn’t move, just watched (his lips quirked into a smile) as each footfall brought her closer, till she was standing right under him, her head tilted up and to the side. Her voice low: “Are you happy to be home, Captain Reynolds?”

His, rough, his eyes studying hers: “Happy so long as you’re here.”

She reached both hands toward him; he met them with his own, and then she was backing away, pulling him out of the galley and down Serenity’s central artery toward his bunk. He felt some surprise. “Not to yours?” But she just shook her head, and so he followed her, to the little room that’d been his home for so long now, with its still-broken mirror, and two captures of her beside his bed, and walls that screamed at him of all the thoughts he’d ever had of her.

He’d had two years to learn her, two years he’d wasted. But it was foolish to chide himself. Not enough time left for regret.

So he started new: began to learn her that night (languidly), and to let her learn him. Gave her everything that he had, everything he was; and maybe, just maybe, she did the same.

Reckoned he’d keep doing just that until he couldn’t anymore. Until his time was up.

And he loved her.


Between all the new moments of joy, he still watched her dying. Slower this time, but dying nonetheless. He prayed every day that she wouldn’t.


Unrest in the Core: political protests (turned violent) stretching from Sun to Sun; resulting crackdowns throughout the ‘Verse; martial law in parts unexpected. He became accustomed to coming to the bridge at night only to find Simon trying, mostly in vain, to wave his father, or scanning the Cortex for news. Meaning to do right by his children, he reckoned, Gabriel Tam had decided to speak the truth at long last.

One night, on the bridge next to him, watching the black as the boy sat entranced by the screen in front of him. Seeing the drop of his shoulders, the sudden pallor in his cheeks, Mal didn’t have to ask what the news was. It was seven months after their return from Ariel.

When he told her, she didn’t cry.


She’d told him once that time was a thief. Truest of truths: a year gone by in a blink. Each of his moments with her he tried desperately to hold onto, but still they slipped through his fingers like the sands of Beylix.

The dead of night, sitting beside Simon outside the infirmary. The boy reached his arms over his head; stretched back into that yellow sofa. Then, leaning forward, he scrubbed his hands over his face. “You know, you don’t have to sit here with me. I’ll let you know as soon the tests are finished.”

He shrugged. “I can tell you right now, sitting here listening to your stories beats the hell out of tossing and turning in my bunk.” (That image recounted of ringlets and cloisonné clips still played through his mind, too stubborn by far to disappear. He reckoned it never would.)

The doctor took a deep breath. When he spoke, his voice was soft. “Mal, you know that I want nothing more in the world than to be able to give you good news.”

He closed his eyes; nodded. “I know. And you know, no matter how it turns out, I can’t ever thank you enough for trying. It means – Christ, it means everything.”

The boy stood up; stretched the stiffness out of his shoulders. “I can’t take much credit, regardless. It was River, mostly. Her ideas, her research, her experiments. It’s been – just miraculous, to see her so focused, and alert, and attuned –” He drifted off, looking for all the world like he was at a loss for words (probably a first for him, Mal reckoned). Shook his head. “So present. It’s been so good for her.”

He nodded. “Fair enough. But you’re the one’s made her imaginings reality. Just want you to know I won’t ever forget it.”

A half-smile on the boy’d lips: “We’ll see.”

From the infirmary, the sound of silence, sudden, as the soft hum of the centrifuge cut out, and then a low beep. He stood, but couldn’t make himself follow the boy – just watched, frozen, his eyes wide, as Simon walked into the infirmary, donned gloves, and prepared a sample from the test tube that he’d had spinning.

He watched as the boy held a small wand over the sample (and, Jesus, he could hardly even grasp what that was, might be) – then closed his eyes, took a deep breath, opened them, and studied the projected image in front of him.

Seconds ticking by too slow as the boy moved the wand a touch, then again, looking back and forth at what surely must’ve been the same gorram view, over and over, and why in God’s name couldn’t he just stop looking and tell him what it was he saw?

He thought maybe he hadn’t been breathing, because when the boy turned his head toward him, smiling, and nodded, the breath that filled his lungs burned, but burned good. So good.

“Mal?” Her voice from the edge of the room, but it filled the space around him, controlled him, and in two long steps he was standing in front of her, his eyes closed, his forehead and nose against hers, one hand on the back of her neck, the other on her stomach. Her voice, soft, tinged with sleep. “I woke up, and you were gone.”

Wanted to say something, to tell her, but all he could manage was a satisfied hum.

She pulled her head back, and he opened his eyes to find her looking at him, her eyes hopeful. Just a whisper: “Mal?” Still, words were too much for him: all he could do was nod, a tired grin on his face, and hold her.

She must’ve caught sight of the doctor over his shoulder, because the next thing she said wasn’t to him. “Simon? Is it true?”

He looked back; saw the doctor nod. “It’s true. I’ll run it again. I can run it ten times, a hundred times, if you want. As many times as you need. But I... I think it worked.”

Then her eyes were gleaming, and she was blinking fast, tears on her cheeks, but smiling, smiling. A hand on her belly, beside his, and she was whispering: “Do you hear that, baby? You’re whole. No sorrow for you. Just joy.”

Wasn’t full true, that there, at least not for him. The tears on his cheeks had some sorrow to them. But it was true enough: the taste of them was more joy than sorrow, because for maybe the first time he could begin to imagine a future even if she wasn’t there. And so he nodded, his forehead back down against hers. “Joy.”

Just a breath: “Joy.”

She linked her fingers through his, and was pulling him back, toward their bunk, when he felt the doctor’s hand on his arm. “Mal. Could you stay for a second?”

She looked back and forth between them, a question in her eyes. He cleared his throat. “Go ahead. I’ll be there.”

Her eyes, on his, and she was trying to read him. Then she nodded, took one step away, letting his fingers slip out of hers. “Don’t be too long.”

He watched until she’d faded into Serenity’s night shadows. When she was gone, the boy: “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something. Something that’s been on my mind.”

Not waiting for an answer, the boy turned, walked into the infirmary. Mal followed him. “So talk.”

When he turned back toward him, he was holding a data reader. “I received this a few weeks ago. He must’ve sent it to me just before he died.”

He closed his eyes; squeezed the bridge of his nose between his fingers as he absorbed what it was the boy was saying to him. “So why are you just showing it to me now?”

A beat. “I needed some time to think.” Not an explanation, not really, but it would have to do. He pushed the screen toward Mal. “And now I want you to go through it, and I want you to think. I haven’t made a decision yet. But – Mal – you know me. You know I don’t find it very easy to let go.”

His eyes hurt. His head hurt. Too much, too soon (the high and low and in between). He looked at the boy’s outstretched hand. “Simon –”

“Just look. Please.”

A beat. “I expect you don’t want me to tell her.”

He shook his head. “No. Not yet.”

A deep sigh, and then his hand was around the edge of the reader, both of them holding onto it for a second before Simon nodded, let go. “You’ll do it?”

He ran one finger along a sharp edge; studied the gleam of reflected lights on the glass. He nodded, and when he spoke, his words came slow. “I’ll do it. How could I not? It’ll give me something to think on. Sometimes a man needs something to think on, don’t you think?”


end something to think on

Comments appreciated more than you can imagine!


Thursday, January 28, 2010 7:23 AM


It would have been so easy to end with Inara dying, yet all the time I was hoping there could be a happy ending, or as happy as they get. And here it is, albeit with the possibility of civil war hanging over them again. Is there more to come? Hope so.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 11:22 AM


when your series started i struggled with my unwelcome interest in mal and inara kissing and having feelings and so forth (icky!); by around ch. 9 i cursed your for not updating daily and fumbled with my own fic (clio-lite); and here, with the epilogue, i frown a happy frown.

i was really hoping you'd take at least a month or two to finish the epilogue. that way, my favorite series would still be in play. but now that its over, alas and damnit. granted, a strangely satisfying ending, but an ending all the same. maybe now i can go back to being a normal human being, instead of a hopeless fic'er.

thanks again for all the effort you put into this! it was a fantastic read, and i look forward to whatever you come up with next (so long as it isn't silence). i suppose there's nothing left to do but read the entire series once through in a sitting (something i've looked forward to for a while).

Thursday, January 28, 2010 12:31 PM


Hopefully going back through will be a bit more satisfying now – I've gone back and cleaned up the beginning a fair amount! Of course one sitting will probably show off all my inconsistencies. :-)

Anyway, I for one am very proud to have made you into a romantic. Here, here!

Thursday, January 28, 2010 2:57 PM


I don't think I left a review here yet, but every time you updated my heart beat a little faster ;) This was a fantastic story...and now I can't wait to see what you have coming up next!

Thursday, January 28, 2010 4:43 PM


Could Gabriel have found something in the end, a cure, something if he joined up with the right crowd going up against Blue Sun before he died? Hmmm... :)

The beautiful bittersweet tone from the last chapter carried right into this one. I think this is the only way this could have ended, and now I wonder if maybe this is the way Joss himself would do it. I have no doubt that he could make it all as grim and miserable as possible, but if there were to be any hope, I think it would be this.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 5:32 PM


Agree with Byte on Joss's possible intentions with their love story. It would have been a slow reveal, a mystery unfolding each week, and a beautiful thing to watch, as far as character development, as you've done here.

The tears of joy they shed for their healthy baby, that will only know joy in living and a reason for Mal to think of a future, even when she’s gone...just perfect in its simplicity.
I like how you included a healthier more focused River doing research with her brother, definitely something I could see happening in the future, she is after all a genius.

I think I’ll go back and reread, too, maybe watch the series one more time, read the comics again, and put in the movie DVD again… it will give me something to think on:)

I'm curious also, as to what Gabriel Tam left behind.

Thanks for writing. I do hope you find time to visit this verse again

Thursday, January 28, 2010 5:51 PM


I never commented before because I skimmed your first few stories and did not enjoy your portrayal of Mal as so hostile. At the time I needed a "feel good" story after a very long day. So many stories have dark endings, and some days that is just fine and a true piece of art, and some days not so much. Times are a little easier now so I have the emotional reserves to read it, especially since I know that it has a fairly happy ending. So thanks for writing, and thanks for persevering with it and thanks so much for sharing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 8:56 PM


FTBM: Thanks so much for letting me know! I'm really glad you've been enjoying. And, though I'm not sure I'll have any great flashes of inspiration, I can promise that if I DO have a burning idea, it probably will get written down. :-)

BM (and Platonist): That description of the Core, and the idea that Gabriel might have survived the Ariel incident and actually attempted to redeem himself were kind of last-minute ideas. Seemed like I'd brought GT into the story with the intention of doing more with him than I had, and that Simon's sadness in his telling of him didn't fully mesh with the hazy image we'd gotten – Platonist's comments last chapter, which conveyed a certain disappointment with him and his behavior, drove that home. So in the end, I decided to signal redemption, and to let this mysterious information of Simon's come from him. I'm glad it didn't seem to forced.

KF: Thanks for giving my story a try. No pressure, of course – it IS a bit of a slog, and so I completely understand (of course!) if you don't make it through – but I appreciate that you're thinking about giving it another try. :-)

Friday, January 29, 2010 7:20 AM


When we consider reoccurring themes in Joss's work, I'm glad you decided to redeem Gabriel Tam. IMHO, Serenity is a story essentially about redemption, recognizing wrong doings, taking responsibility, and attempting to rectify those wrong doings, by being honest and setting the record straight, as best you can.

There are a number of things I find exceptionally executed in your fic, the narrative reflection on Mal’s part, the dire subject matter of Inara’s secret, author’s tone (which I’ll admit, made me cringe at times, too) the universal and timeless themes of love, sacrifice, and redemption.

And, my most favorite thing, if there is such a thing, is you gave all the characters their fallible human moments and no one gets punished for being emotionally fragile, and tragically flawed, at the expense of another character’s feelings or ideology, which I find is rampant in this fandom, as far as fic goes, but ironically, not present in canon.

An A+ for this exercise!

Friday, January 29, 2010 10:44 AM


Oh, honey, this is just gorgeous. Written with such shining love for all the characters, it's a beautiful wrap-up to your series. There are so many things I love: first of all, Mal's startling reference to what "we" deserve; him acknowledging the beauty and rightness of what they have together; Zoe's theatrical yawn/sigh...I would love to know what she whispered to Inara; the sexy but soul-first delicacy with which you treat their first night together; Simon's "we'll see." And it's so touching to me that River made many of the leaps that will give the baby more of a chance at life - a wonderful link to Simon's dream in Better Days, and another echo of River's "My turn" moment in the movie. Her turn to use her gifts for her sister, it's making me tear up even now :) As is the moment Mal and then Inara find out their baby need not endure what Inara and her mother did.

And I will hold on to this glimmer of hope, that what Gabriel Tam sent (and maybe died for?) can give Inara more than another two years. It's an intriguing bit of mystery, what the nature of the contents are that have Simon thinking over them for weeks...

Thank you so much!

Friday, January 29, 2010 2:48 PM


>And, my most favorite thing, if there is such a thing, is you gave all the characters their fallible
>human moments and no one gets punished for being emotionally fragile, and tragically
>flawed, at the expense of another character’s feelings or ideology, which I find is rampant in
>this fandom, as far as fic goes, but ironically, not present in canon.

I think that often happens in fandom when an author for whatever reason just doesn't like a character. A lot of people seem to feel that way about Inara. Or it happens when people are exceptionally drawn to a single character – a lot of people feel that way about River. I think the beauty of Firefly is how beautifully the ensemble works – which is part of the reason I tried my best to include good Wash moments, even though it's a BDM story – though poor Book got a pretty short shrift! I have trouble with River, so she probably got slighted a bit, too, but not for want of trying. Of course it's super Mal-centric, but I tried my best to pull everyone in in a real way.

Saturday, January 30, 2010 8:07 AM


...whatever reason just doesn't like a character. A lot of people seem to feel that way about Inara.

Oh, definitely agree on that. Inara is the most misunderstood and under appreciate woman of the verse. She's emotionally strong, confident, but she's also compassionate, nurturing, and dignified.
And she is the only person in the verse who Mal is truly fearful off. She owns him, which gives her incredible power in my estimation;) You need to be an old soul or just plain old to get her and that’s why she’s my favorite lady of the verse.

Focusing on favorite characters over an ensemble; I can understand this, in a way, because it’s hard to include everyone and get all the voices down and include character growth, in a plausible plot. And I think there may be an element of Marysueness as far as romantic pairings, wanting to embody that person and pair them up with your favorite ship, which is okay, because we all need a little fantasy in our lives and after all, isn’t that what fanfic is for?

Saturday, January 30, 2010 9:32 AM


> because we all need a little fantasy in our lives and after all, isn’t that what fanfic is for?

Truer words, truer words... :-)

Monday, August 6, 2012 2:40 PM


I loved how you ended this but would have liked to have seen what Gabriel had left for Simon and that he showed Mal. Why he hesitated to show Mal makes me wonder was it good news or not and why not let us in on it? Apart from that I was so happy that Mal and Inara finally got some good news with the baby she is carrying not having the gene that carries what ails Inara. Can only hope in my own fantasy that Inara does recover and they live out a long and happy (but not uneventful life) with their 'family' on Serenity. Thank you for a great story, it was an emotional journey. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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Something To Think On: Epilogue
M/I. Post-BDM. In which your author gives you a glimmer of hope.

Something To Think On: Chapter 19
M/I. Post-BDM. The journey reaches its end.

Something To Think On: Chapter 18
M/I. Post-BDM. Beginning and ending with a kiss. Nearing the end.

Something To Think On: Chapter 17
M/I. Post-BDM. On coming full circle.

Something To Think On: Chapter 16
M/I. Post-BDM. On lying and learning to let go.

Something To Think On: Chapter 15
M/I. Post-BDM. The things we risk and the things we hide.

Something To Think On: Chapter 14
M/I. Post-BDM. On Miranda and descending into the dark. Here there be monsters.

Something To Think On: Chapter 13
M/I. Post-BDM. On making waves.

Something To Think On: Chapter 12
M/I. Post-BDM. Plotting the course.

Something To Think On: Chapter 11
M/I. Post-BDM. More on giving, and some punching.