Quintessence of Dust
Sunday, January 2, 2005

This is a one shot story that takes place after THE SERENITY GIG. It's Simon and Book talking about Shakespeare, with a little bit of Simon and Kaylee thrown in there at the end. Sorry it took so long. Hope you enjoy.


It was three weeks after Simon and Kaylee finally married. But instead of taking advantage of the fact that she was willfully sleeping with him, Simon was spending this evening in the dining area of the ship, going over his latest medical notes on River. He had hoped that this union with Kaylee would be the beginning of something new and better. But after the euphoria of the events had died down, and the sand of Anubis was washed away, things seemed to be getting back to normal.

When he and Kaylee had gotten back to the ship after their short honeymoon, he was treating both Kaylee and River. River with a new, experimental drug he had managed to get his hands on, and Kaylee with a deep gash in her right foot from a particularily sharp seashell. Simon had stitched up Kaylee well enough, and was about to inject River with the new treatment. He had gone over to the sink and began to wash his hands, when a terrible smell emerged from the sink. It reeked of urine, feces and whatever biological waste the different crew members of the ship produced. The smell tripled in intensity when septic waste started to flow out of the faucet and the drain of the basin at an alarming rate. Simon staggered back, Kaylee held her mouth to keep from vomiting and River started screaming. The entire infirmary was soon filling up with shit.

It took about half an hour before the flowing stopped as soon as Kaylee ascertained what went wrong. Apparantly, someone had re-routed the pipes of the waste disposal so that it would lead to the infirmary sink. It was obvious that this was Jayne’s idea of a prank, which only he found funny. Of course he had to clean it all up and not by blasting it out of the airlock. But Simon was the one who was really concerned. Not only was his workspace that he had worked so hard to sterilize become a bacterially infected, shit smelling Petri dish that would be out of operation for weeks, but the sight of shit bubbling up had sparked a new wave of hysteria and shock into River. The new treatment was effectively useless, due to its contamination. And it was only now that River started to seem more in control of her emotions and actually began to sleep and act normally. Of course Jayne was punished, but that was beside the point.

So here Simon was, looking over his medical notes as well as some digitexts to see if there was another way to help out River. After a few more hours of this, he slumped back into his chair exhausted. All the other crew members were asleep already, and he was thinking of going back to bed with Kaylee. Although the reason he wasn’t sleeping in the first place was that he still smelled like shit, although not as bad as before.

“Yep, things are definitely back to normal.” He thought. “I’m on the run, treating a damaged girl who may be beyond repair, the woman of my dreams wants nothing to do with me, at least for the time being, and Jayne is making this harder than it has to be.” He thought back to his life on the core, but that just made things sour for him. He remembered back to his Medacad days, where one of his electives was Shakespearian Tragedy. His favorite was obviously Hamlet, and he had even auditioned for a production of the play. He thought back to that one happy moment of reciting the lines and began muttering them to himself in the dark kitchen.

“I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth.”

He paused, thinking that for once in his life, the line actually had meaning for him. “And indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory.”

He looked around, to be sure that no one was around to hear him, or was about to walk in on him complaining in poetic prose. He had not complained once when he was on the ship, and he didn’t want to come off as doing so now. He continued a bit louder than before, bringing a little flourish to his delivery.

“This most excellent canopy of air, mind you. This o’er hanging firmament. This majestical roof fretted with golden fire. Why it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.”

Simon stood up from the table and began to walk around, pretending that the dining area of the ship was a stage. He thought back to what has happened to him and his sister and for once, the words he had strived so hard to memorize amidst all the medical information he was studying for were coming back to him with more meaning and potency than ever before.

“What a piece of work is man. How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties. How like an angel in apprehension. How like a God. The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet to me what is this quintessence of dust.”

With a defeated tone, Simon sat back down on his chair and rubbed his eyes. “Man delights me not, no. Nor woman neither…..nor woman neither.” Simon lifted his head up, and was surprised to see Book at the port entry. Simon didn’t know if Book’s presence was either a welcome sight or a threat.

“That was a very passioned delivery of HAMLET, son.”

“Oh, thanks Book. I was just tired and for once, the words seemed to have meaning. What are you doing up?”

“I was just doing some late night meditating and thought to fix myself a snack. What about you? I’m guessing you’re not normally up to two in the morning reciting Shakespeare.” Book took one of the protein bars and some very bitter instant coffee and sat down across from the young doctor.

“I’m just going over some medical text and my notes in trying to find a new treatment for River.” Simon replied. It was comforting for him to be in Book’s presence. He saw him as the old sage of the ship, even though they had been on the ship for roughly the same time as they had. And he was glad that of all the different crew members with the exception of Inara, he would be the only one to fully appreciate the words of the greatest writer who ever lived.

“Do you read a lot of Shakespeare?”

“I’ve read most of his works. Every year, the Abbey funds a production of one of Shakespeare’s plays. So I’m well versed in Shakespearian lines and tragedy. All the world is a stage, and we are merely players.”

“So what do you think our roles are? Like who do you think on this ship are Shakespearian characters?”

“Well, for starters I think Wash is Yorick.”

“Ah yes. Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him. He was a fellow of infinite jest. Although I sometimes pictures him as Mercutio. Or just any comic characters that were made to counter the tragic characters. Mal definitely seems to be every tragic Shakespearian rolled into one. Macbeth. Lear. Richard the Third. Julius Ceasar. All of them.”

“I think the Captain is more along the lines of Glouster’s son in King Lear. A man whose had everything he held dear taken away from him, and now must act insane to keep everyone safe. Or maybe Shylock from Merchant of Venice.”

“I can see that. I also think that Mal’s relationship with Inara is similar to Benedick’s relationship with Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.”

“How so, Simon?”

“Well, Mal and Inara put on this show about how they detest each other and all that, but after seeing Shooter’s video about us, I noticed this strange look in their eyes as they walked down the aisle. That maybe they have a deep affection for each other, but they can’t admit it. Even to themselves.”

“I think I can see that. Since we’re talking about Shakespearian relationships, I like to think of you and Kaylee like Romeo and Juliet. Two star crossed lovers from different social realms finding each other. Although hopefully without the tragic ending.”

“Well, if it does turn tragic, I’d rather not have you give us a potion to simulate death or anything like that. You’ve done enough for us as it is. And if Kaylee is anyone, she’s Cressida from Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“Actually, I find a lot of Midsummer Night’s Dream in our galleys. Inara always reminded me of Titania, River and Wash seem to have Puck in them, Wash moreso than River. And at times, Mal seems to be Bottom.”

“Hey. If anyone is Bottom, it’s Jayne. He’s an ass already, so why not just call him that. What hearty fool this mortal be”

“I wouldn’t be that harsh against Jayne. I think of him as either Rosencrantz or Guildenstern. He knows the lines, but is unaware of the direction of the play. Either one of those two or Malvolio from Twelfth Night. What about Zoe?”

“I don’t know. She’s a tough one to place. The closest I can think of for her to play is Lady Macbeth, although I don’t think she’d manipulate Wash into killing the Captain. Do we have to be gender specific?”

“Not necessarily. Men played women when these plays were first written, so why limit ourselves. I often saw Zoe as Hotspur from Henry the Fourth.”

“Interesting. I never really paid that much attention to that play. I liked the tragedy’s, Hamlet in particular.”

“Yes. You and River remind me of Hamlet and Ophelia. But I often think of River as Lavinia from Titus Andronicus. Beaten and maimed beyond the ability to speak, but with supernatural insight.”

Simon winced in thought as he put the parallels together in his mind. It was appalling enough that they had carved into her brain like a turkey, but to think of her mutilated was making him angrier than before. He thought that maybe like Titus, he would try to exact the same style of torture on those wu de bien men. But his tiredness some overcame him and he slumped back in the chair.

“Well, before anyone else here decides to shovel off this mortal coil, I’m going to bed. I’m sure Kaylee won’t mind my smell now.”

Book and Simon got up from the table at the same time. Simon left for Kaylee’s room, which had recently became theirs, while Book put his mug in the sink before heading down back to his private chambers contemplating. He was flattered that Simon thought of him as the priest from Romeo and Juliet, but knew that he was Leontes from A Winter’s Tale. He thought of this, as well as the other roles of this crew on this interstellar stage. But before he closed his eyes, he had one last thought.

“If life is a stage, and we are merely players, then who is the audience?”

Simon popped the hatch open and began to climb down quietly into their room. As Simon quietly took off his shoes and most of his clothes, he looked around. Even though it was slightly dark, he could still feel the warmth of Kaylee’s decorations and mementos all around him. Somehow it calmed him to see all this wholesomeness and naivetee surrounding him. It made him feel safe. Down to only his boxers and t-shirt, he slipped in under the covers and moved closer to his wife. She sensed this and purred.

“Hey. What’cha doin up so late?”

“Oh just going over notes and meditexts, trying to figure out a new treatment for River. I had a conversation with Book about Shakespeare.”

“Hmm. I figured you two would talk about that. Inara showed me some of his works, but didn’t like too much. So depressing and too much death. Even in Romeo and Juliet, they both died.”

“Well, that was his style. He loved tragedies. And lately I’ve been identifying with them more than ever before.”

Kaylee frowned at this. She never liked it when Simon berated himself. Brought everything down more than the Captain’s cruelty or Jayne’s ignorance. She turned over and looked him in the eyes. “Simon, there ain’t nothing tragic about you. You’re alive. You’re a good doctor. You saved your sister. You’re free, and you’re with me. Call it fate or accidental, it don’t matter. It’s here and now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, dong ma?” Simon smiled at her and chuckled. “Yes, I guess you’re right.”

“Good.” She kissed him and turned around, already falling asleep. “Besides, what’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, right?”

“Right.” Simon was slightly confused. Was that intentional or not? And then he thought he was thinking too much. And right now, all he needed was to sleep next to his warm wife’s body.


Monday, January 3, 2005 12:45 AM


I thought your use of the Shakespearean plays was brilliant and Book was the perfect accompaniement for Simon to interact with. Loved it!
Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, January 3, 2005 7:21 PM


It turned out well. You incorporated pretty much everyone's ideas, which gave it more depth than just picking only one character for each crewmember. I love these corollaries with Shakespeare.

Monday, January 17, 2005 4:56 PM


Maybe someone should fill Jayne's bunk with something gross. It would serve him right!

Love the story! Keep up the good work!


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You Can't Go Home Again - Chapter 15
Kaylee goes into labor. Hilarity and drama ensues.

You Can't Go Home Again - Chapter 14
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.

You Can't Go Home Again - Chapter 13
Everyone returns to the mansion, Johnny helps a grieving River with some Van Morrison, and Gabriel asks Mal to end it all.

You Can't Go Home Again - Chapter 12
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.

You Can't Go Home Again - Chapter 11
Signal rocks the house, Regan makes a realization, and three major things happen to River in the span of half an hour.

You Can't Go Home Again: Chapter 10
The Tams make their way to the Metro, Johnny get's spiritual clarity with the help of thousands, River plays a favorite of hers, and Simon and Kaylee go on a long delayed date.

You Can't Go Home Again Chapters 6-9
The next day of Simon, River and Kaylee's journey to the Core. Simon comforts Regan in more ways than one, Kaylee makes some figurative and literal repairs of her own, River and Johnny go from the top of a warehouse building to front and center of the Metro in less than 24 hours, and Regan shows it's never to late to make things right.

You Can't Go Home Again Chapters 1-5
Set after THE SERENITY GIG, BLUE HAND BLUES and SHOTGUN TAM, this story takes place in an AU where the BDM never happened, although there will be refrences to it. With the social and economic breakdown of the Alliance, the Tam's are finally free. But a message from home forces them to deal with a larger issue at hand.

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You Can't Go Home Again: Chapter 8
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