You Can't Go Home Again: Chapter 4
Saturday, October 22, 2005

River descends into Capital City, Simon debates whether they should leave, and River is confronted by destiny aka. The Dude.


If the third part of this chapter seems a bit weak, it was because I wrote it at 5 in the morning. When I've written the full series and post them all in one big post, I'll probably do more revisions, like Soul is doing with his series.

* * * * * * * * *

It was already dark by the time River had climbed over the iron gates and picked up her guitar case. She began walking quickly away from the place she once called home. Whatever was going on inside, she just had to get out. She walked for about twenty minutes before she came to the subway depot. She heard the oncoming woosh of the monorail cars and ran to catch them in time. She bounded up the steps eagerly, to be there when the compartment doors slid open. She skidded to a halt just at the edge of the platform, and just stood there to feel the rush of wind as the subway train rushed by and then slowly stopped not only on a coin, but at the exact tick of 8:45. “Still on time.” she thought as she stepped in and sat on one of the surprisingly comfortable seats. A few moments passed, and then the doors slid shut and the train began to move again.

If there was one thing that she did miss about living on the Core, it was the subway. Ever since she was old enough, River loved riding the subway. Her father once proclaimed it “the most effective mode of transportation ever devised by man. The end of the world could happen and it would still run.” She chuckled at this prophetic claim and remembered what she loved about it. She loved how fast it went through the city at speeds that any teenager with a hovercar couldn’t even begin to approach, no matter how souped up it was. She loved how the insides if the windows could double as vid screens so that on her way to school, she could watch cartoons, instead of the boring morning news. She loved seeing all sorts of interesting and fascinating people bumping shoulders and talking to each other about anything and everything. All of civilization was there on display. And being a part of that was indescribable.

After ten minutes of residential areas, warehouse districts and industrial areas, the train began to approach the downtown area. She looked out the window and saw the entire city alight. Buildings thousands of feet high towered up into the sky, reflecting and retracting light from all around. Hovercars, neon and tail lights criss crossed and flowered in all sorts of directions. It was strange. She had seen these sights before almost every day of her whole life. But now, after four years of running, uncertainty and pain, the sight of Capital City at night was too beautiful for words. For once, she didn’t feel like a priority. She wasn’t a reader, or an orphan or a commodity or some savant like pariah. The fate of the verse wasn’t in her hands. She was just another face in the crowd, with a wide eyed look on her face. A tiny cell in the bloodstream of a gigantic body. Insignificance never felt this good.

At 9 P.M., she stepped off at the Younge Street station and descended down into the streets. She began walking around, just taking in everything that was around her. The buildings, the vidboards, the vehicles and the people. It was the people that caught her attention the most. All sorts of people from all over the verse were congregated in this area, going about their usual night lives. What was odd about the whole thing was that the people all had blank faces on them. There was a sense of desperation in their speech as they talked with each other in various circumstances. As she walked past the various restaurants, she noticed that the food that would’ve normally been lavish and expensive was now paltry. People went to pay for the bill, only to end up exchanging looks of embarrassment and negotiations for some sort of trade.

As she wandered from one street to the next, she saw the early stages of poverty in everything. A lot of the buildings and stores were either looted or abandoned. The homeless people that were a common fixture on the streets had equal numbers to match the people who were out for the night. Women and men in evening wear were walking around in a daze. The intention was to boost their spirits, but there was nothing to do, nothing to buy and nothing to buy with. Trash and dust whirled around the corners as a man in a business suit shared a bottle of saki with a dirty, toothless bum on the hood of a crashed hover car. It was as if the people were in a broken down loop. Doing what they were programmed to do, but more out of habit than comfort. Their lethargy needed to be broken.

Her attention was seized by a brownstone building. The neon sign proclaimed it as “The State”, both in English and Chinese. It was a regular bar and grill restaurant, with “Open Mike Night” typed hurridly on the window. She stepped up the wood and glass doors and stepped in. The place was dimly lit, with people sitting at the tables eating, and men at the bar drinking. In the corner, there was a small stage set up with a mike, amp and a drum set in the back just standing there by themselves. She went over to the bar and signaled the attention of the bartender there. A thin middle aged man walked up to her with a bar towel over his shoulder and a concerned look on his face.

“What can I get ya, little girl?”

“Who you calling little?” she asked in a peeved tone. “I’m not here to drink.” She held up her guitar case. “I’m here to play.”

The bartender looked at her for a few seconds and then gave a short laugh.

“What’s so funny?”

“And here I was thinking I’d be getting a hundred platinum tonight.” He leaned in and motioned her to come closer to hear over the murmur of the crowd. “The folks that have been coming here ain’t exactly here for entertainment, you know what I’m saying. They want a cheap bite and an even cheaper drink. If you want to go up there, go ahead, be my guest. But don’t expect them to warm up to whatever estrogen laced folk go-se that you gals seem to peddle. I give you five minutes max before they either boo you off stage or toss you out.”

River merely shrugged. “Whatever. I just want to play.”

The bartender shrugged back. “OK. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

The bartender lifted up the divider and stepped onto the stage as River clicked the latches off the case and brought out her guitar. The bartender tapped on the mike to get everyone’s attention. “Howdy folks. Well, it’s Open Mike Night and we have our first, and probably only act for tonight. So please give a round of applause for-“ he looked over to her to get a name.

“River Tam.”

“River Tam, everyone.” He half enthusiastically clapped his hands as she got a very scattered applause. River merely got up to the stage and plugged the amp into her guitar. It crackled briefly as she squinted from the bright spotlight that was on her. She got up to the mike, looked and felt out over the crowd and cleared her voice.

She didn’t bother to introduce herself, or say what she was going to play. She just jumped right into it with a blistering opening, and the following lyrics.

“Do you have the time….to listen to me whine….about nothing and everything all at once…..I am one of those…..melodramatic fools…..neurotic to the bone no doubt about it.” She riffed some more as she chuckled at the private joke of the matter. “Sometimes I give myself the creeps…..sometimes my mind plays tricks on me….It all keeps adding up…I think I’m cracking up… I just paranoid.. Or am I just stoned?” Her hands flew up and down the guitar at a velocity no one in the room had ever seen before. If they didn’t care before, they were rapt in attention now.

“I went to a shrink…to analyze my dreams…he said it’s lack of sex that’s bringing me down…I went to a whore…she said my life’s a bore…So quit my whining cause it’s bringing her down…. Sometimes I give myself the creeps…..sometimes my mind plays tricks on me….It all keeps adding up…I think I’m cracking up… I just paranoid.. Or am I just stoned?”

River was cascading with raw energy as she ripped into this song by a band 500 years old, but had only now been deemed legal to play. Trouble is, since this kind of music had been censored long ago, very few people actually knew how to really play it. But if this young woman whose hair was flailing all round and fingers were so red it looked like they were about to pop was any indication, then maybe it was true what was proclaimed so many centuries ago. Rock and roll will never die. As she finished up the last repeat of the chorus and let the final note fade away into the air, the crowd clapped again with more fervor and attention. River was feeling doubly pleased. Not only with herself in actually playing that song well, but also the pleasure of having a room full of lethargic people suddenly feeling energized. The entire building was in her grasp and she did what any entertainer was taught.

She gave the people what they wanted.

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

Simon burst into the guest room, still fuming over what had transpired downstairs. He thought that he couldn’t possibly hate his father even more than he had before he came here. But right now his hand was shaking in fury over him calling his wife a slut and blaming him for everything that had happened. He went over to the closet and pulled them open. He started grabbing shirts, pants and any other clothing they could use. After piling the clothes on the bed, he grabbed the suitcase from under the bed and popped it open. He went over to the chesterfield and started pulling drawers out. Upon grabbing extra pairs of socks, he heard the faint audio of the wedding video from the next room.

Even though he was still furious, he had calmed down upon hearing it. He placed his hands on the oak counter and took some more deep breaths. In his mind, his thoughts raced in debate as to whether they should stay or go. He couldn’t stand the idea of being in the same building as that excuse for a father that was downstairs, but he knew he’d hate himself for the rest of his life if he left her. Gabriel was right about one thing. If he, Kaylee and River left, it would kill her.

The door creaked open, and Simon saw Kaylee slowly enter. She looked nervous as she went over to the bed and sat down.

“How long would it take?”

Her eyebrows narrowed. “Shenme?”

“How long would it take for Mal and Serenity to get here?”

Her eyes narrowed as she did some quick calculations. “Well, if there aren’t any hold-ups, I’d say in about three or four days.”

Simon stared in the mirror in front of him. Kaylee stood up.

“Why? You ain’t thinking about leaving, are ya?”

Simon took a deep breath and looked down at his hands. “I’m thinking that tomorrow, we wave Mal, tell them to pick us up, and we go. We find some hotel to stay at, and if Regan’s condition changes, I could come to tend to her.” He paused as he looked back at her. “I can’t leave her, but I can’t even look at him without wanting to bash his head in over what he said to you.”

Kaylee sat back down onto the bed. She took a deep breath and looked up at Simon again. "I don’t care what he says. He's still your father.”

Simon chuckled darkly at her remark. "I figured he would have least made an effort to fix this. But I think he’s actually going out of his way to make me hate him even more." He turned around and leaned back against the drawers. "It's your call. You wanna stay or go?"

Kaylee looked away to where Regan’s room would be and then looked back at her husband. "We should stay, if for no other reason but her. She needs you." Kaylee said looking at him.

Simon scoffed at her remark. "She doesn't need me. There's nothing I can do at this point, so why should we stay any longer than we have to?"

"Because she’s your mother." Kaylee said plainly.

"A mother who stood aside while her husband turned their daughter into a lab rat." He stopped, realizing what he just said and did some breathing exercises to calm down. "I'm sorry, that's Gabriel talking. God, you see how much he's tainted us. I'm beginning to be like the bastard."

"No, you ain’t nothing like him." Kaylee walked towards Simon and placed her hands on his shoulders. He looked into her eyes and felt guilty.

"But I was seriously thinking of leaving here. And he's right in one way. If I were to leave her to die would be like those bastards cutting into River's brain."

Kaylee lightly kissed him and then looked back into his eyes. "You are nothing like your father. And we’re gonna prove it to him by staying here and taking care of her."

After a few silent moments, Simon simply said “OK.” He turned around and put the pair of socks that were on the top of the drawers and put them back into the top shelf. “I'm tired. My throat's a little sore from all that yelling. You wanna go to bed?"

Kaylee yawned and walked towards the bed. “I am a bit tired, actually. Been a real long day for all of us. Maybe some sleep’ll do us good.”

Simon nodded to himself as they both began to take off their clothes. In the beginning, the idea of them undressing in front of each other would get them excited more than anything else. But the day had taken its toll on them, and they were so used to each other’s intimacy that they just got into bed and spooned without any cause for excitement. Kaylee turned off the side table lamp and Simon lazily placed his right hand over her belly.

It didn’t even occur to them where River could be.

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

River was ripping into her final song of the night. She had been playing for two hours non-stop, working the crowd into a frenzy as she not only played the entire AMERICAN IDIOT album from beginning to end (she regretted not having a simple drum beat backing her up), but any other song that seemed appropriate. She was finishing up a song of her own, her fingers red and calloused from picking, strumming and streaking the guitar strings, her voice beginning to sound hoarse after singing/screaming nonstop for two hours. But her energy had not dwindled at all. If anything, she was so pumped full of energy that she couldn’t think of stopping.

She boomed out the last note of the song and let it hang in the air as the crowd put their hands together and cheered. The sound inside the place was deafening. She merely smiled and took a bow. As she got off the stage, the bartender came up to her with a shot glass in his hand.

“For you.”

River took the glass and stared at it. She had never taken in any alcohol before. It was unnecessary, since she was fucked up enough on her own. But she just shrugged and drank the whole thing in one go.

“Thanks, I guess.”

“Compliments of the gentleman over there.”

River looked to where the bartender was pointing and noticed an interesting man looking at her, with a similar drink in his hand as well. He was a young man, mid to late thirties, with a large frame, slicked back hair, a shaggy beard, leather jacket and an eternally pleased grin. He looked like a businessman who had discovered the meaning of life and was reveling in the pleasure of being. To other’s he looked like the sleazy type. But upon seeing him, River felt soothed and strangely compelled to sit at his table.

She walked over and sat at the chair across from him.

“I suppose I should be thanking you for the alcoholic beverage.”

“You could. But I’m just the guy who made the order. He’s the one who actually paid for it. I made a bet with him that if he were to advertise for an Open Mike Night, he’d actually get someone off the street to play.”

River stared at the man intently, trying to get a sense as to who he is.

“You were in money.”

“Yes. But emphasis on were. I used to work as an investment banker. Pushed into it by my family. Gorram hated the whole thing. Got out in time before the whole thing crashed.”

“Lucky you.”

“No. Just smart and knows a good thing when I see it, like you up there.”

River shrugged. “Not really. With no percussion beat to expand the sound, the general ambiences of the tunes were flat.”

“Well, yeah. But you were pretty kick ass with just a guitar. With a fuller sound, you can be so much more. And I want to be the one to help you get that sound.”

River furrowed her eyebrows. The bearded man realized that he was coming on too strong and backed down.

“I’m sorry. Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth and taste. Well, maybe not too much wealth, but I do have a refined taste for all things musical. My name is Jeffery Rabbitte but call me The Dude. The other guys christened me that, and it just kinda stuck.”

“You collect sounds. Harmonies and melodies, crashing and fusing together to create new and old symphonies.”

The Dude paused. He had never heard anyone talk like this before in his life. Come to think of it, the girl did have a strange, ethereal quality to her. He glanced at her arms to check for needle tracks. Seeing as there were none, he realized that she was for real. He smiled like a cheshire cat.

“That’s a nice way of putting it. But if any foolish mortals ask, I’m a manager for a new an upcoming rock band.” He sat up and began talking excitedly. “Along with a degree in finance, I also took a few art history classes. And one thing that I learned is that times of economic and political struggle produce some of the best movements in art, music, literature, everything. And now that the Alliance and the mass media aren’t shoving that techno-China doll go se into the minds and ears of the people, the true musical artists of the verse can flourish. And along with it, the sleeping giant that is rock music can once again thrive. I have been searching the verse, putting together a band that I hope can resurrect the genre. We’re supposed to meet in half an hour, but the guy I had in mind to be our front got all Kuin Xang’ho on me and OD’ed.” The Dude calmed down and asked River politely. “I don’t know what your deal is, but you are without a doubt the best thing that I’ve heard since I started this. Would it be too much to ask if you could come with me, meet the guys, jam with them and see if you’re interested?”

River was surprised at the offer on the table. She sensed that this guy was not a threat, and was desperate to find that missing piece in the puzzle he thought she was. She looked at the clock. It was getting late. Then again, she wasn’t eager to get home anytime soon.

She shrugged. “Sure. Why not?”

The Dude leaned back and grinned. As he got up, he asked “Where have you been all my life?’

“Here. But in the last few years, I’ve been sent to a top secret government facility, had scientists cut up my brain and turn me into a psychic and psychotic killing machine, was broken out by my brother, been living on a Firefly transport, battling blue handed agents, Reavers, my own mind, and a verse full of thieves, swindlers, soldiers and government officials who made me a pawn in an intergalactic battle that would determine the fate of the ‘verse.” She said all this as she packed her guitar into her case and clasped it shut.

The Dude stared at her for a few moments, and then burst out laughing.

“Well, at least it’ll make for great publicity.”


Saturday, October 22, 2005 5:42 AM


Ah, 'roadie, you're back! Thank you so much for the update, repost, and new chapter. It was well worth the wait.

Friday, October 28, 2005 10:07 AM


Good to read you again. Splendid story as always. Thank you.

Friday, November 4, 2005 6:06 AM


I love how all your stories are very detailed. It really helps set the scene and grasp the character's emotions. The song choice for River was well picked. I can easily picture her up on stage, performing to a huge audience, releasing her emotions through her talent.

Your Kaylee and Simon scene was well done. I'm glad Kaylee can be his rock and keep him level headed and thinking straight during this troubling time in his life.

And I loved River's response to the manager saying "Where have you been all my life?" It's was perfect, typical River.

Keep up the great work. I can't wait to see how this story is going to end.


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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.