Blue Hand Blues: Track #1-The Re-Education of River Tam
Saturday, February 26, 2005

Hey all. Sorry I havn't been writing too much. This is the first part of a new series I'm writing in which River goes on a new course of treatment, with the help of Simon and Wash. This is just the set-up track. Feedback appreciated.


They were just outside of Boros, when the drugs began to lose hold.

Simon had feared that this would essentially happen. Despite the progress that River had made in the last two years or so, it was only a matter of time before her immune system had built up a tolerance in her system. The drugs that were helping her progress were no longer having an effect on her, and she was back to her old ways. Tearing up cargo, speaking in rhymes and hidden meanings and beginning to become a danger to the crew and to herself. Once again, Simon was back at the table in the dining area, going over his notes and beating himself up for not doing everything that he could. He had just checked off the last name on the list of available anti-psychotics and medication that he had used on River. He was beginning to run out of ideas.

Tiredly, he shut his notebooks and turned off his digitexts and headed back to his and Kaylee’s bunk. He was surprised that she had remained so patient with him since they had been married. He promised that he’d make it up to her for spending so much time away with River. He was even more surprised to see a note taped on the hatch to their bunk. He tore it off the door and squinted from the light of the icicles she had adorned over the frame to read it.


Went to ‘Nara’s shuttle for late night tea and chat. See ya soon.


He smiled, knowing that she wouldn’t be too angry for being away from her tonight. He headed back down the hallway, past the kitchen and towards the cargo bay. As he walked, he saw Jayne on the weights with Book spotting him. He couldn’t exactly make out what they were saying, although he thought he heard the terms “rook”, “bishop” “knight” as well as “the pointy diagonal guy”, “the straight castle dude” and the “gorram pony.” He chuckled to himself as he went over to Inara’s shuttle and knocked.

After a few moments, as well as a few clinks from the other side of the door, the door opened and Inara was standing there, looking elegant as usual.

“Good evening, Simon.”

“Good evening, Inara. Is Kaylee around?”

“Yes, she’s right over there, watching Shooter’s video.”

“Really.” Simon stepped in and walked over to where Kaylee was. She was lying flat on Inara’s bed and watching the wedding video on Inara’s flat screen tv, which was bolted onto the ceiling. After taking in a client who liked to watch the Core matches after sex, Inara decided to add this luxury to her shuttle, just in case if it were to happen again. Kaylee had been coming to Inara’s shuttle more often since this was added, and had watched the wedding video so many times that now she was beginning to memorize the dialogue, with proper intonation and voices as well. It was funny for him to see her try to match Jayne’s growl without going into a coughing fit. Upon seeing his wife laugh again, he took of his shoes and crawled up onto to bed, nestling in on the silk sheets and her denim coveralls. He looked up and smiled in recognition. He hadn’t looked at the video since when Shooter unveiled it on his last night on the ship. Kaylee put it on mute and looked over to Simon.

“So how’s it going?”

“Not to good. River’s immune systems is rejecting the medication I’ve been giving her, and I’ve gone through the list of all medications I’ve given to her that are available.”

“So what’s the new course of treatment?”

“I don’t know. Hey, put the volume back on. I want to hear this.”

Kaylee reached down to the remote on Inara’s bed and clicked the mute button off. It was the moment where River was dancing to the song Shooter had played for her. Even though he had only seen it once, it was still his favorite moment of the whole video. She looked so happy to be dancing to the music of Earth That Was. How her movements coincided with the tempo. How her feet moved around the cargo bay floor like the fingers on the piano keys. And the look of pure bliss as she kept repeating the same line over and over again. “If I don’t do it, somebody else will. If I don’t do it, somebody else will. If I don’t do it, somebody else will. If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

Inspiration didn’t strike Simon Tam very often. His many failed attempts to woo Kaylee when they were first going out was proof to this. But during intense moments of stress in the operating room, or down in the ER on Persephone, he was often able to see the inner workings of the human body more clearer than the other doctors he was rubbing shoulders with. And during those moments of clarity, he was able to figure out solutions to the situation that most of his teachers would never have thought of in a million years. One of the reasons he bonded with Kaylee was that she was like him in the operating room, only in the engine room instead. But it was only now, seeing River dancing to the music and to what Shooter had told him, that Simon suddenly felt inspired.

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

It was two weeks later after seeing the wedding video that Simon was back in the infirmary with River. The Captain managed to land a legal job shipping food supplies for a network of recently terraformed Outer Rim planets, which landed the crew with substantial amounts of platinum. After treating Kaylee to a romantic evening, and re-supplying the infirmary, he had enough money to get what he wanted. It took a while for him to find the right store, let alone what he was looking for. And even though it looked fairly old and battered, it had something to it that reminded him of how Mal talked about the ship. And at a good price, no less.

River was sitting on the counter, fidgeting and nervous as Simon brought out a case from under a cabinet and covered it with a blanket as he set it on the on the operating table. He turned around and faced River.

“So, how are we feeling today, mei mei?”

“Same as always. The various voices compete for my attention. Secrets, lies and hidden truths rattle around on the ship. The liquids don’t do anything for me now. Emotions swirling around. Don’t know how to deal with what I see or feel. Please make it stop, ge ge. Please!!”

River started to shake and cry. Simon rushed over and held onto her as she sobbed. As he held her, he concentrated on trying to feel good and filled his brain with happy thoughts. He felt that-

“Thank you for trying. Thoughts of Kaylee and falling snow won’t help much. Need a conduit. Some way to get it out of my system.”

“I’m glad you said that. Would you like an early Christmas present?”

River immediately went from sad to ecstatic. She loved Christmas and was practically bounding off the table. “Yes. Yes. Show me.”

Simon let go of River and walked over to the table. With a dramatic flourish, he pulled off the blanket and revealed what was on there. He then went over and unfastened the two clamps along the sides and opened the case. Rivers face then went from ecstatic to deflated.

It was an old Allen One guitar. It was shaped like a regular electric guitar, but had a series of switches and dials along the face and side of it. Some of the dials had words around it, such as ‘acoustic’, ‘electric’, ‘base’, ‘mandolin’, ‘banjo’, ‘zither’ and ‘violin’. There was one with numbers all around it, as well as a recording switch, different numbered buttons, a small speaker in the corner, and a jack to plug in either amps or headphones. The neck of the guitar was similar, but at the end, instead of tuning keys, there was a clamp that one could move up and down to change the size of the guitar. The sides were also removable, so as to change the body of the guitar as well. The guitar sat there in the case, cushioned in maroon velvet. And in a crease on the opening half of the case was a bow to use in case if it was in viola mode.


“What was that?”

“Socks are plentiful.” River explained as she took it out, set it to violin mode and took the bow out. “Always disappointed when one gets socks. Don’t need it, and not much though with it. Make-up gift for when the train set never arrives. At least with socks in a ship, your feet never get cold.” After saying that she pulled the bow back and began to play Fur Elise. Even though the last time she played a violin was when she was 4, she handled the fiddle with relative ease. The notes had the proper intonation, the tempo was perfect and her fingers were placed perfectly to get as much music out of them as possible. But once the song ended, she plucked at the strings, and promptly tossed the guitar and bow back into the case. She didn’t even bother to look at it when she walked out.

Simon gazed at the old instrument as it lay there on the operating table. With a heavy heart and sigh, he pulled out a chair and his digitexts and started over again.

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

It was late in the evening. Everyone was in their beds after a long day’s works. Well, almost everyone. River was still up, like she had been recently. The voices and sounds in her head were keeping her awake. She paced around the ship, futily fighting with the voices with her own scientific logic. But logic had a way of being illogically beaten by irrationality. She was beginning to doubt if the voices would ever stop, when two new voices chimed in. One was familiar, talking about dinosaurs with a playful innocence and ignorance. The other was blissful as well, but with a cheeky wisdom to it, singing of yellow submarines and octopuses. She got up the cold cargo bay floor and followed the voices. As she floated higher and higher, she began to smile. The repetition and irreverence was calming. When she reached the cockpit, she saw the male Kaylee humming along to the tune as he swayed his toys to the black of space. Suddenly, he stopped, and so did the music.

“Sorry, Mal. I know you want to chart the- Oh. Hey, River.”

River smiled and sat down in the other chair. “I am not bad. Just curious.”

“Oh. Sometimes when everyone’s asleep, and I have to chart the new course, as I play with these guys, I like to listen to some classical music.”

“Mozart never knew of submarines.”

“Not classic as in the stuff they play on the Core. Classic as in rock and blues and anything that came out of the 20th century. You never heard of The Beatles?”

“No. Never heard of them. Radio always on CBC. Father thought modern music thrived in mediocrity.”

“God, you must’ve had a repressed childhood.” Wash took off the headphones and tapped in the console. “Listen to this, and tell me if this is mediocrity.”

Wash pressed a button, and over the headphones a sound began to play. It started out low, but began to rise in it’s wa-ka-kow’s. Soon after, a piercing guitar began to play. But it wasn’t with form and reserve. There was a strict wild abandon to it. As if the sound was about to explode. And then it did. In an explosion of notes, all the voices and thoughts were blasted out of her mind. She could feel every cell in her being teeming with raw energy as a deep voice sang about chopping down mountains and raising islands. As the song continued, her sense of being fluctuated with the notes and energy. She had never felt so alive. And what the man was singing about made perfect sense. As the chuka-chuka’s subsided, she sat back down in the chair, out of breath and ecstatic. She looked over to Wash who had a self-knowing grin on his face.

“You like that, don’t you. Hendrix has that effect on people.”

“Who is he?”

“Jimi Hendrix was one of the most influential figures of music in 20th Century rock. By all accounts he was a prodigy. Didn’t live too long, like Mozart. But he set the bar for every guitarist afterwards. That was a song of his called “Voodoo Child”. Wish I had the talent to do that.”

River looked at him in puzzlement. “How do you know all about this?”

“Oh, before I became a pilot, I had aspirations of becoming a musician for an intergalactic rock band. We were never any good. Well, I was good, the rest of us sucked. Mind you, all we did was covers because we could never come up with anything original. I tried to come up with new material, but your opinion doesn’t matter much when you play drums. But I liked the music we covered so much that I downloaded the music onto our computer, just to listen whenever.”

River smiled, and then skipped off. She went back down to the infirmary and put the Allen One back in its case. She clasped it shut and bounded back up to the cockpit.

“Oh. There you are again. I guess you weren’t bored with my past history, like so many others are.”

River placed the case in her hands and handed it to Wash.


“Ok. Hope it’s not something corpselike and gross.” He took it, placed it in his lap and opened it. His face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Aw cool. An Allen One guitar. With a ten thousand watt built in amp, and all the dials and switches. And it’s even an 11 model no less. Where did you get this?”

“Ge-ge got it for me. Thought it would help with the voices. Didn’t do it for me. Can’t fight psychoses with sound waves. Thought you might like it more.”

Wash smiled up at her, and then closed the case. He turned it around and put it in her lap.

‘River, I can’t accept it. For starters I don’t know how to play it. And even if I did, I’d probably suck at it and annoy the hell out of everyone else. Not that I don’t do enough as it is to piss off Mal and Jayne, but music ain’t my thing. You should learn how to play this. Simon told me you’re a prodigy. Be prodigous. Challenge yourself. Learn to play something new.” Wash then went back to the console, and punched up something new. He handed her the headphones again. “This is a playlist of my entire library. All the classic albums, bands, subgenres and figures of classic rock and blues on deck. Consider this a crash course on a new classical genre. Good night.”

Before River could interject, the headphones were on her and music was playing through her as Wash walked out the cockpit and toward his own muse. For the remainder of the evening, she just sat there with her eyes closed and let the sounds wash through her.

She had never listened to anything so loud, chaotic and nonsensical. But at the same time, it had an unususal symmetry, a deep metaphorical meaning and an abundance of emotion. Every conflict she felt was brought to life with the wailings of these forgotten legends, the idiosyncratic meshing of forms, instruments and styles and the unusual pluckings of the guitars. Some of the styles were brash and forceful, others were slow and methodical. Some were so fast it was impossible to imagine how ones fingers could keep up with it. Some had a casual pace, with a mix of irreverence, playfulness and misery. Some screamed in happiness, some in anger, some in despair. And the words that accompanied. Some filled with deep metaphorical meanings that changed with every listen. Some were flat out obvious. Some were playful and cheeky. All packed with emotions that she could identify with. These groups of men and women from various roads, walls, stairways the heaven and these emotions from toxic duos, old countries fools, nude woman, war planes, moving rocks and various colors were able to giver her the clarity that she was searching for ever since she came out of the crate and saw Simon.

As the final notes and lines of an album by someone named after a feminine color about the opposite side of a planet faded into silence, River looked at the clock. The Captain would soon be up, and everyone else on the ship would be going through the motions. She would go along with the charade, but soon she will astound them all with her new insight.


Saturday, February 26, 2005 11:33 AM


You're off to a very wonderful start. I can't wait to see where you take this. I really enjoyed the conversation between Wash and River. I'm curious to see how and when River will "astound them all with her new insight".

Keep up the good work!

Saturday, February 26, 2005 1:05 PM


Ah, excellent, excellent! I love your descriptions of the music (Hendrix is God and the Beatles were my childhood rhymes; long live Janice, BB King, and sir Sid!).
I think that approaching River's difficulties using expressive means... dance, music, art... is a great idea. So much in her wants to get out. Yay for Wash to be her mentor!
Keep at it, I really want to read where this is going.

Sunday, February 27, 2005 1:01 AM


I really liked this and can't wait to see what River regales them with once her brilliant but tormented mind finds the correct theme to express everything that has tied her up in knots. Good myth, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, March 3, 2005 9:26 AM


This was a great start. It's nice to see Pink Floyd is still appreciated in the future, and Hendrix will never die.


- Soul


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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.

You Can't Go Home Again: Chapter 9
The Metro opens its doors, Kaylee sees what she's dreamed of, and the first rock concert in two hundred years goes under way with an updated classic.

You Can't Go Home Again: Chapter 8
This is the all singing, no dancing chapter as River and the band play in public for the first time and tap into something big. The Tam's and Kaylee get wind of this and round two of the fight is interrupted by an unexpected source.