You Can't Go Home Again: Chapter 2
Saturday, October 22, 2005

An old friend returns, a message is delivered and many things are revealed about the people on both sides of the screen.



It was a busy time for both the new governments and planets of the ‘verse and on Serenity. Along with the news that Kaylee was pregnant, the demand for the ships services quadrupled. With new societies springing up almost every day, and the vast stockpiles of Alliance goods being liquidated throughout the galaxy, the crew was working overtime to deliver all their new cargo and make all their drops on schedule. The crew had never been so busy than now. And there was so much platinum being transferred that Jayne actually got sick of the sight of it.

After dropping off two shipments of medicine, five crates of fresh fruit and a kennel full of recently legalized beagles, the crew was getting a much deserved break. Most of them were planning on taking advantage of the new benefits that used to be pleasures of the privileged. The only ones that decided to stay on the ship were Mal, Simon, Kaylee and River. Kaylee pooled her resources with the Captain and decided to buy and install a brand new engine that was left over from a ship building subsidiary of the Blue Sun Corporation. It would cut their shipping time in half and use less fuel than usual.

It was already a challenge for Kaylee to maneuver around, given her slowly expanding womb. But she was eager to install the new engine, which was double the weight of the old one, and was looking forward to the challenge, despite Simon’s insistence that she rest. He ended up compromising by helping her in the engine room, although ‘help’ was an overstatement. River was in the cargo bay as usual, listening to some new music that had been released to the public after the Alliance Censorship Board was dissolved. It was nice for her to listen to Green Day without violating half a dozen bans. Mal was just idling wandering the ship, thinking about his intrepid crew and all the memories that came with each step on his ship. He was killing time before he met with his newest client, even though he had made the strange request of meeting Mal on the ship. Mal walked down the metal stairs over to River, who was engrossed with the lyrics and playing style of Billie Joe Armstrong. River looked up at him and smiled.

“Hey, Capt’n.”

“Hey, Janis. How’s the composing coming along?”

“OK. I think I want to branch out into punk, now that it’s no longer illegal. I know I don’t have the proper background for it though, living in the lap of luxury all my life.”

“Some could say that. But the way I see it, you were royally screwed over by the culture you lived and believed in. That should entitle you to musically give the finger.”

River chuckled at the Captain’s logic and went back to listening to her music. Mal just kept walking and opened the cargo bay doors. It was time for the meet, and the client said that it was too important to be late for. As the metal ramp descended, a lone figure was standing there. His clothes showed a lack of maintenance and weariness. In one hand there clutched a camera. His head was downcast, with the top covered by a black felt outback hat. The head then tipped up, revealing a bearded face, filthy rectangular glasses and a face filled with enthusiasm.

“I came here to kick ass, and screw bridesmaids. And I’m all out of bridesmaids.”


River ripped off her headphones as she shot up and bounded towards Shooter. The Allen One got in between them as River gave Shooter a big hug. Shooter actually didn’t back down at all. It seemed like he hadn’t had any real physical contact in a long while.

“I see the Doc finally took my advice. How long have you been playing?”

“About two years now. Check it out.”

River stood back and began to jam the first couple chords of a Prince song, which not only brought a smile to Shooter’s face, but brought out another girlish squeal which emanated from near the infirmary.

“Lucas!!!” Despite the additional weight around her mid-section and the grease all over her coveralls and feet, she still ran full force to give her old childhood friend another big hug.

“Jeez, I should’ve come back a long time ago. Here I am settin' foot on this ship, and I’m being accosted by two fun loving women. And one of them apparently has been having a bit too much fun, loving.”

“Yep. I’m almost five months along.” Kaylee then took Shooter’s free, calloused hand and placed it on her womb. “Can you feel her kicking?”

“Yeah. She packs a punch definitely. Is it a she?”

“Yes, it is.” Simon said as he came up to them in a more reserved tone, but still smiling. “Were calling her Brooke. After her, of course.” He nodded over to River, who flashed Shooter a devilish smile.

“Well, this is all fine and dandy,” the Captain said in a sarcastic tone, “but I believe you’re here on business. You mind telling me what the job is for us?”

“Actually, Mal. I’m the one doing the job. And me setting foot on here was half the job. Now, I’ve been traveling the verse for the last two weeks trying to track you guys down. And it certainly makes a man hungry for anything after eating only dust and exhaust fumes. So as much as I’d like to finish the other half of the job, I certainly can’t do it on an empty stomach. River, you mind reminding me where the kitchen is?”

“Sure, it’s right up here.”

River then headed towards the catwalk, followed by Shooter, Kaylee, Simon and Mal. By the time Mal set foot in the kitchen, Simon was helping a large Kaylee down in her seat, River was idly strumming an acoustic number, and Shooter was gorging himself on anything he could get his hands on.

“Hey, hey. You’re eating more now than Kaylee does every day.”

“Sorry Mal. But after not eating for the longest time, even processed protein and freeze dried stuff begin to taste good.” And in less than five seconds, Shooter had swallowed two protein bars without chewing and drank an entire quart of powdered milk.

“Well, before you make us have to go to market to re-stock our cupboards, why not you tell us why you’re here?”

Shooter wiped his mouth with a dusty sleeve and cleared his throat. “Well, the reason I’m here actually has to do with our recently pardoned siblings.” He sat down as the attentions of the other crew members were now hanging on his words. “About two weeks ago, I was doing a wedding on Osiris. Despite the fact that romance should be the last things on these peoples minds, these formerly wealthy Alliance families still wanted to go ahead with the wedding. The whole thing, including my fee, was paid up front, so I still had an obligation to do this wedding. Which I would’ve done anyways. Never like taking money from someone and not doing the job afterwards. Guess I ain’t cut out from criminal life, huh?” He noticed that he was losing his audience and decided to get back on track. “Anyhow. It was during the down time between shots, and I had gotten back to my seat. The only seat available was at this table in the back. The only people there were this old couple. The wife seemed pretty sick, while the husband seemed to be really distant and angry. I struck up a conversation with them, and oddly enough they seemed happy to have my company. So we were talking for a while, and eventually the conversation steered towards children. And then the mother, who had been fairly quiet the whole evening, suddenly launches into this long monologue about how she failed her children, how she never truly appreciated them, and how she’d give anything to see and hold her children one last time. To which the husband replied “If wishes were children, River and Simon would be here right now.”

The room was deathly silent. Pretty much everyone was in a shocked silence as they realized why Shooter was telling this story. After a while, Shooter kept on.

“I actually had that same reaction when he said those two words. I inquired a bit as to see if this was the same Simon whose wedding I did two years ago out in the black. And it was. Right then and there, we decided that as soon as I was finished, we had to get out of there. Half an hour later, I was at their estate, telling them everything about the gig. I didn’t mind telling them everything, since I figured any arrest warrant would’ve been erased after the collapse of Blue Sun and the Alliance Judicial System. I even showed them the video. I always keep a copy of everything I do, just in case. Guess my OCD actually helped me out for once. I’d like to say they were happy seeing the video, but it was only for one of them. Your father had this sour, angry look on his face pretty much the entire night. Your mother had a smile during the big moment, but there was sadness in her eyes. Anyways, after it was done, they excused themselves to talk about what they just saw. They told me they would be a few minutes. Ended up being three days. Didn’t mind, really. Got to edit the video, helped myself to some real food, even if it was a bit old, and slept on the most comfortable couch I’ve ever slept on. Anyways, on the evening of the third day, the husband came down and handed me a bag full of platinum. He then told me this is payment for a job he wants me to do. Essentially, he wanted me to find you guys, and give you a message. River, do you think you can get the lights?”

Shooter then took the camera that was sitting on the table, and pressed a few buttons on it as River went to turn down the lights in the room. As the lights dimmed, a square figure appeared on the white pained cupboards, which acted as a screen. The light projected from the lens as it was set on “Projector” mode as Shooter focused. After lining up the frame exactly, Shooter pressed PLAY. As the shot started, all that was in the frame was an old chair near the fireplace. Simon recognized this chair as The Chair. The chair that no one but Gabriel was to sit in every night . But then the man himself stepped into the frame and sat down. The last four years had not been good for him. He had gained a considerable amount of weight, his hair, once as black as space was between light gray and pure white, and his face was filled with wrinkles, which contoured with his bitter look. The purple robe he wore for so long was now old and faded. The man seemed to be aging drastically by the minute.

“Hello Simon. Hello River. I hope that this message finds you. This Shooter fellow seems to be trustworthy enough.” He paused. He seemed to be trying to say what was on his mind in the right way, so as to not shoot himself in the foot. “I know that the last time we spoke, we didn’t leave on the right note.” At this point Simon snorted. “But a lot has happened in the last four years, and I would like to resolve these issues, at least for your mother’s sake. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a trap for you to walk in. I’ve made sure that there will not be any police interference. Not that it matters.” Gabriel paused again, but now had a look of desperation on his face.

“Children, your mother’s dying. She has leukemia. We don’t know how long she has left. All the doctors here in the Core seem to be off on other planets, leaving only incompetent med students around. She wants to see you and you’re…wife…before she goes. She wants to have some closure. Thinks it’ll be good for her. Look, I don’t know if this will find you, and if it does if you want to come home. You two seem happy…where you are. But please consider coming back home.” He paused again awkwardly and then gave a look to Shooter, as to say “I’m Done.” The image then cut out and went to blue. As the lights turned back on, Shooter shut off the camera.

There were various looks on each of their faces. Shooter looked around, wondering what was going to happen next. Mal had a poker face look. While he did want to give his medic and Greek choir a chance to go home again, something he personally never had, he didn’t like the idea of having Wash fly them all the way to Osiris just to drop off three of his crew. Not if there was a chance for shipping cargo, at least. River was concerned about Reagan, and was curious as to why no one was saying or doing anything. Kaylee had a look of reserved sadness and nervousness on her face. She was trying her hardest to suppress her tears for the people on both sides of the screen. She wanted so much to go there and fix everything herself, but was unsure if she’d be welcome. Her last interaction with Core people was a mixed experience. It all seemed to hinge on what Simon thought.

But Simon had a blank look on his face. It was hard to tell what was going on inside him. But very suddenly, he sat up and banged his fists onto the wooden table simultaneously and stormed out of the kitchen. After a few moments, Kaylee maneuvered herself up and followed slowly.

Shooter looked over at Mal. “Should I stick around?”

As Kaylee stepped slowly down the metal staircase while maneuvering her pregnant girth, she heard a soft thump and some muffled words. As she got closer, there was another thump, accompanied by louder words. Ever step she took, the tempo of the thumps and words increased. When she got to the doors of the infirmary, the thumps became the sound of pounding flesh and bone against wood with the words being the longest string of English and Chinese swear words put together.

Normally the sight of Simon swearing would make her laugh uncontrollably. But these words were spoken out of pure hatred, anger and desperation. The look of pure anguish and rage on her husbands face as he slammed his fists against the cabinets he had re-stocked so well actually scared her a little. Any more pounding, and he’s punch right through the wood. She had seen him angry over her sister and what happened to her, but it was a reserved anger. A simmer, really. He never once raised his voice in anything. Now he was screaming so loud in anger that the others were soon coming down the stairs as to see what’s going on. Kaylee waved her hand at them to keep their distance as Simon began to calm down and take a series of deep breaths.

“Simon. Are you okay?”

He took another deep breath. “Yeah. It’s just that it really pisses me off.”

“What exactly?”

“Everything. That smug look on his face. His avoidance of the big issue at hand. His arrogance in thinking that he can just buy us back, like it never happened. And I’m also pissed at myself. If I had given a damn about them, I would’ve tried to convince Mal of sneaking us home earlier to see them. I would have noticed if anything was wrong with her. I would’ve taken her in for treatment. I would’ve made sure she’d survive it. I’d make sure that he wouldn’t disregard her physical state like he did with River’s mental state.”

Kaylee stared at him. She gulped and asked “Is that it?”

“That, and also…" Simon turned his head towards her and shamefully admitted, "I never wanted to go back. But even without the Alliance hunting us down, they still find a way of bringing us back.” “Simon, I know how you feel.”

Upon hearing this, a very dark side of him emerged. “No you don’t. You had a great family upbringing. You had a mom and dad and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins that loved you unconditionally. You’re childhood is a gorram storybook." As he continued, his voised raised in volume and anger. "You’ve never begun training at a young age to be a prominent member of the bourgeoisie society. You’ve never had the experience of getting scolded for getting a B plus on something you’ve pored you heart and soul into just to make your parents proud. You’ve never lived and believed in a way of life your entire life and then have it taken away from you overnight and abandoned like the sister that only you seemed to give a god damn about.”

Despite her body being in a state where the slightest thing would set her off emotionally, Kaylee had learned not to walk out on Simon when he said something stupid. She knew he was just getting over-emotional about it, and justifiably so. She just sat up on the examining table and looked him straight in the eye.

“You’re right. I haven’t had that experience of losing faith in everything I believe in. I suppose I would have to need something like that or to be in Serenity Valley to happen for me. But my childhood was no Saturday morning anime. I’ve had my share of family squabbles and arguments and times where I wished my folks were dead. But you know what? You deal with them. Instead of avoiding the issue, you confront it, you talk it out and you don’t go to bed until everything’s resolved. My daddy taught me that and my daddy proved it. Ain’t no different anywhere else in the verse.”

Simon sighed another heavy sigh and sat across from her. The darkness fled and was replaced with guilt. “Now it’s your turn to be right. I just don’t have that same level of optimism as you do.”

“Well, if we were to go, it wouldn’t be just to patch things up between you and your dad. There’s your mom. Can’t imagine you and River wouldn’t want to say goodbye to her before she died. And I imagine River would like to visit home just for old times sake. She seems to have forgiven your folks for what they did. Maybe you should too.”

Simon looked up at her. She had her hand placed on her belly, feeling the kicks from inside her and rubbing it back and forth. That image was enough to let some of the stress in him melt away. He came over and began feeling her stomach as well.

“What about you? The last time you were on a Core planet, the high class treated you like go se. I imagine Dad wouldn’t be impressed by you off the bat.”

She just shrugged. “I also managed to win the charm of a few gentlemen just by talking about engines. So maybe it won’t be too bad. And even if it is, I know you’ll defend me like always. Besides, who wouldn’t like the woman who’s carrying their grandchild.”

Simon leaned in and kissed her. After breaking the kiss, he put his arms around her and hugged. “I’d rather not do this. I’m happy here.”

“So am I.” She leaned back and looked at him with complete honesty and grace. “But I think the only way you’re going to get past this is by going. For your parent’s sake, for River’s sake, for Brooke’s sake, for my sake and most importantly, for yours.”



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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.

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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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Signal rocks the house, Regan makes a realization, and three major things happen to River in the span of half an hour.

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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.

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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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