You Can't Go Home Again: Chapter 5
Monday, November 14, 2005

River meet's the band, and Gabriel reminisces with the help of a bottle. It's a bit shorter than the others, but hopefully just as powerful. Feedback appreciated. The more I know how much you guys want me to continue, the quicker I can fillin the blanks.


Hey guys. I know it's been nearly a month since I've re-posted the first three chapters and added a fourth. Me being a perfectionist and schoolwork (two essays, one of which is 20 pages long which I havn't started yet) are my excuses for not cranking these out at a fast rate unlike others. I actually have about 50 pages of the whole story that I havn't posted yet already written. It's just me filling in the blanks. Once December rolls around, I'll try to get the whole thing done and posted by the end of the year. So enjoy. BTW, the song that's sung here is "Starseed" by Our Lady Peace.

* * * * * * * * * * *

After a half hour ride on the subway system, in which River talked to The Dude about her musical background, influences and songs of her own, they arrived at The Dude’s place. It was in a former warehouse district that had been renovated as low rent apartment lofts, designed for the artistic community that was slowly emerging in cities like these on all the Core planets. As they climbed the stairs to the top floor of the building, they could hear the random notes and phrases of a base guitar, a baritone sax, an electric piano and a drum kit.

When The Dude opened the door to the floor, River stepped into a large room. Judging by the cot and personal affects in one corner, and the boxes, crates, old and battered up couches and easy chairs and construction materials and tools that cluttered the walls, The Dude had only moved here recently. In the center of the room, there was a basic set up for an emerging rock band. A set of drums sat predominantly in the space that was surrounded by bongos, a bodhran, amps, mike stands, various wires, an electric piano and a rack of instruments that ranged from brass to woodwind.

At each of the various instruments were four guys. The guy that was playing the drums was a gangly type, with glasses and pale skin. His thin wrists were beating the drums in common time, as he listened intently to the surrounding music around him. Of the four there, he seemed to be the most disciplined one. To his left, there was a guy who was in his late twenties. His neck long hair shined in the lights that were on as he first tested out an Irish flute, and then put it back in his rack to test out a baritone sax. He played a single note, altering his airwaves before he stopped, unfastened the mouthpiece and began replacing the reed. Across from him, a man in his early thirties was playing a Stevie Wonder refrain. His dark skin glistened with sweat as his dreadlocks waved slightly to the beat. A satisfied grin was on his face as his fingers danced across the plastic keys.

And in front of the three, there was a lone man strumming a base guitar. While he gave an aura of experience, he looked to be about River’s age. His short, dark hair stood up on its end as callous, nicotine stained fingers tuned a guitar string. He was dressed all in black. His scarred cheeks were upturned in a way that indicated that he was pissed off either because they were off to a late start or that he wasn’t getting the sound that he wanted.

“Guys…..GUYS!!” The Dude yelled over the disjointed sounds that were being created. They silenced as the four guys looked up and noticed The Dude. “Bout time you showed up,” the base player said with a Welsh snarl.

“Yeah, sorry for the lateness.”

“Why?” the horn player asked with a maritime accent. “Did the guy bail on you?”

“Kind of” The Dude replied. “He OD’ed on me.”

“I told you he was no good.” The piano player responded in a rastafarian voice. “I knew it the moment I saw his arm. You could run a monorail on those tracks of his.”

“Did it to drown the pain.” River stated blankly. “Felt pain all his life. Mother saw him as a mistake. Thought he could purge it with music, but sound waves did nothing to calm him. Decided to swim the light fantastic, but jumped in before he realized there was no water in the pool.”

All of them stared at her in surprise, and a little in unease. After a few moments, the base player broke the silence. “The fuck is this?”

“She,” The Dude replied, “is River Tam. River, this is the band. Let me introduce you to them.” He walked over to the drum player and put his hands on his shoulders. “This is George Henley. George grew up here in Osiris in the Black Out Zone. Skilled with hacking abilities that he learned from his dad, he initially took up drumming as a front. Now he’s doing it full time for us.”

River shook his hand politely, while a look of amazement dawned on his face. “Holy shit, you’re her!!”

The horn player looked puzzled. “Yeah, she’s a girl. So what?”

George shook his head. “Oh you don’t know the half of it. This is River fucking Tam. The only gal who escaped from the Alliance’s Blue Sun Programming facility. For years, there’ve been rumors that the government had been taking prodigies and turning them into psychic assassins. She had managed to get the word out to her brother, and he ended up breaking her out there himself to save her. He and her had been on the run for years, apparently.”

The base player frowned. “I heard that conspiracy theory too. It’s a bunch of fei fei du pee.”

River looked back at the base player and walked up to him. She stared at him for a few moments, and then brought her hand up to her hair. She tilted her head and ran her fingers through her scalp. She tapped on a specific spot and he leaned forward. He squinted and saw a hairline scar that resembled a zipper. She lifted her head back up and stared at him again.

She then turned around and focused her attention on the horn player. “This long haired freaky guy,” The Dude proudly proclaimed, “is Keith McCann. He’s a musical jack of all trades. Played brass for the Londinium Philharmonic, woodwinds at the Ariel Metro, and has subbed for every maritime band in New Melbourne.

Keith stretched out a thick, calloused hand towards River’s and shook her hand, which was tiny in comparison.

“Evening to ya, miss. Tis a pleasure to be in the company of a graceful lass like yourself.”

“Don’t worry about him.” The Dude cracked. “He’s only talks like that when he’s trying to get into another gal’s pants. But he’s harmless enough, so don’t go all psycho assassin on him.”

River nodded at this and raised an eyebrow. “EVERY band in New Melbourne?”

Keith winked at her. “Only the real good ones, miss. You’d be surprised at how much shite can be redeemed with a simple lute and a good attitude.”

“I know. My mei-mei-in-law loves the maritime tunes from there. Made me play Great Big Sea for two months after we dropped off some cargo one time we were there. You think we could weave some of their stuff in?”

Keith gave a subversive smile. “You never know. Maybe these stuffed up rich kids could use a little salt air to give them a jolt.”

The Dude then forwarded her attention to the piano player. “This here is Cliff Robertson. This guy spent his entire life traveling the Outer Rim Delta lines. He’s rubbed shoulders with some of the best blues, rock and country artists in the ‘verse.”

“I should warn ya, miss,” Cliff said as River shook his outstretched hand. “The Dude here has a pre-disposition towards embellishment. But oi think you might be impressed with me and me synthetic ivories.”

Before River could reply, Cliff began to play some Mozart for her. She smiled upon hearing a phrase of such delight before hearing him transition from classical, to blues, to funk with a mix combination of Ray Charles, Elton John, Dr. John and Stevie Wonder to bring it to a close. And all in the span of five minutes, no less.

River brushed some hair away from her face and gave a small applause to Cliff. “That was…”

“Incredible, fantastic, experienced?” The welsh guy interrupted. River looked over at him. He was clearly not OK with her being here. “Yeah, he is. He’s been doing this all his life. So have all of us. And we know what we’re doing. So why are you here? Are you our groupie?”

The Dude came up to River and put his hands on her shoulders. “This is no fuckin’ groupie. This gal,” he said with a reserved glee, “is the missing piece. This is our new lead singer and guitar.”

The reaction to this was mixed. George was flabbergasted by the news. If this gal was supposed to be a prodigy that would make Mozart look like a slacker, then they were in for a treat. Keith was amused by this. He remembered the distinction of bands that had a single female voice in them, like Fleetwood Mac. Maybe this could work to their advantage. Cliff was concerned with this development. While he trusted The Dude’s taste in music and managerial decisions, he wanted to hear this gal play before they let her into the fold.

But the welsh singer just looked away, and snorted. “I can’t fucking believe this.”

The Dude looked surprised. “Why? We needed a lead guitar. We need someone to help us push us from merely adequate to sublime. No offense. You good, Johnny. But you’re just one guy, and one guy can’t fully front a band of this magnitude.”

“And this former mental patient and supposed prodigy is supposed to do this? Look at her, man. She’s a pixie. She probably doesn’t even know how to string two notes together.”

“Yeah, well you weren’t there at the State to see her turn a bar full of suicidal drunks into a full blown rave.” He came closer to emphasize the following. “She knows the entire AMERICAN IDIOT album. And pretty much every single classic rock album ever made. She’s a human music pocket-box.”

“That’s what I told you about me.”

“Oh, here we go with another pri-madonna ego trip. You want some ganja weed with that too?”

As The Dude and Johnny started arguing, River went to the side and unfastened her guitar case. She took her guitar out, set it to acoustic mode, walked back to the band, and plugged into an amp. The crackle of the amp roared like thunder, quieting the arguing manager and bassist. The two looked at her in surprise, while the remaining three reacted and got into position.

River began playing a simple acoustic melody. The notes had a quiet, hypnotic feel to them. She hit a button on the side of the guitar and a single electric note emanated from the guitar as she finished the acoustic notes. She looked over at George, who then began a double time beat on the drums, before doing a drum roll.

River then burst into a raw, scraping lead guitar melody as Cliff caught on and began surrogating for the missing base on his guitar. Keith grabbed a baritone sax and began playing a single note accompaniment. It was on the lower register, and blended with the base with such subtlety that you wouldn’t think that there was a sax. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good start. River then exploded in volume as she took charge of the music they were creating and began to sing into one of the mikes.

“Well I let go of the world that was holding…a passenger that could not fly…in search of souls… in search of something…who let it go…and let it slide.” Her voice turned up into an appropriate whine at the last word before belting a ranging “Yeah”. She felt the band and the mood crescendo before belting into the chorus.

”When I find out…what went on…I'll bring it back, but it won't be easy…They won't believe…how a man, he could drown in…a starseed, starseed.” She gave a low moan that went from sexual to painful as she sculpted the sonic symphony that was emanating from her and these three men.

George was keeping up with the beat and concentrating as hard as he could. He was maintaining the beat, and it was imperative not to slip up. She might have been the lead, but he was the spine. Keith was maintaining a subtlety that not many would notice at first, but would make the song crash if it was missing. Cliff was grooving along to the sound, his dreadlocks swaying to the energy of the song as his fingers caressed the keys of the electric piano, pumping up the beat of the tune. All were working together to support this cascading force of musical power that was blasting away from this rock goddess.

”I hoped to find why this world wasn't glowing… it darkens as we end this ride…We've fallen back under the equator…Were back inside, were back inside.”

River repeated the fluctuating “Yeah” and then repeated the chorus with more snarl, veal and swagger as she began to preen like one of the legends she emulated. By the time she had finished the chorus, Johnny had gone over and plugged his guitar into a separate amp. He knew this song by heart. She might know the lyrics, but she wasn’t going to take away his solo. As soon as George finished his drumroll that popped, Johnny joined in with the guitar solo that was part of the song.

His sudden burst in energy was matched by the restrained abandonment of form. Even though the notes had been embedded in his brain, his delivery seemed unchained and wild. Spontaneity exuded out of him as he raced his fingers across his instrument. River was temporarily distracted by the look of ecstasy and showmanship that was on his face, before she realized that he had to switch from lead to second. He played like her. She was impressed.

They both leaned in to their mikes and belted out the chorus for the last time before repeating a varied version of the chorus. ”When I find out what went on…We’ll bring it back but it won't be easy…they won't believe the man he could…but I'd choose starseed over nothing…nothing.” All five of them were now merged in a unifying sound, with Johnny and River tying it up with a repeat of the last line, with “I’d” embellished into a melodious whine as they, Keith, Cliff and George appropriately tuned out the song. They then relaxed, took a breath, some drinks of water and booze from various bottles to the side and looked over to The Dude. He had taken a seat in his chair, a ratty old recliner that was suited more for burning than sitting.

“So what you think, man?” Johnny asked.

The Dude inhaled deeply, as if the sounds were an aroma and then exhaled. He then shrugged.

“It’s a start.”

“Ta ma de!!” River exclaimed as she stepped forward. “That was perfect.”

“No, it’s not. Johnny”, he started as he pointed at him. “You need to keep a lid on your ego. You are a great guitarist, lead, second, base or otherwise, but you need to learn how to play nice. This is a band, not a solo act. Otherwise, you’ll split apart the whole band before we even get out the gate. Keith, you need to find some ways to incorporate your other instruments. The sax was a nice touch, but slightly out of place. Cliff, you’re no longer subbing for base. Get back to what you can do in your sleep. George, you have to tighten your wrist, give the notes a tighter sound. And River,” he stared directly at her. “Just because you’re this psychic prodigy doesn’t mean that you can do all the work by yourself. You need to let these guys do their thing. They’ve been doing this just as and longer than you.”

“So do we suck?” George asked timidly.

“Like I said, it’s a start.” The Dude then leaned back and showed off his cheshire grin. “But I’m a firm believer in starts. Once we have the start, then everything else will fall into place. And if that’s our start, then the moment we click is going to be historic.”

The guys nodded to this and to each other. River kept looking at The Dude.

“You talk as if I’m a member of this band.”

The Dude shrugged. “Well in my mind, you are. Like I said, you’re the best thing that we’ve heard since we started all this. Without you, we got nothing.” He raised his eyebrows in anticipation. “You want the gig then?”

River was torn at that moment. She was there to see her dying mother and to give forgiveness to her first family. But what about after that? What would happen after her mother had passed and she was back on Serenity? Simon and Kaylee would have Brooke to take care of. The crew didn’t really need her, now that they were making an honest living. The guitar had done so much for her. It kept the voices at bay, gave her a confidence she thought she had lost, and defined her for who she wanted to be. And these guys looked to her and her talent not for destruction, but for creation.

But at the same time, Serenity was her second home. Her second family was all there. The people who had come to her rescue so many times and helped her out in more ways than they could realize. Polite society dictates that to just leave them without notice would be rude, even amongst smugglers and thieves. Who would be there to taunt Jayne with metaphorical musings? Who would fix Book’s broken books? Who would serenade Kaylee and Inara to sleep with silly little acoustic love songs? Who would comfort Mal and Zoe in their dark reminiscing of the past? Who would jam with Wash over the legends? And most importantly, who would be there to take care of her brother? He needed so much looking after, especially with a baby on the way. After all they had gone through; it wouldn’t be fair to leave him for a band on a quixotic quest to resurrect a dead musical genre.

But working with a group on a quixotic quest for their own bit of paradise was nothing new to her. And it was nice to feel like she was on her own. To be true to her own self. And the music was so enthralling.

She looked back at The Dude. “We’ll see. Let’s see what else these guys can do.”

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

As Simon, Kaylee and Regan were fast asleep; Gabriel was making his way towards the wine cellar. As he opened the door to the out of the way room, he fumbled around to hit the light switch. As the lights came on in the dark room, racks of green bottles were illuminated. In the center of the room, there was a wooden bench, which was surrounded by the evidence of late night visits. To one side of a worn out spot, there was a silver corkscrew. An aged cork was still embedded in it, and it lay at a 45 degree angle. To the other side, a crystal wine glass stood silently as one could see the tiny pool of an 85 year old wine nestled near where the stem met the cup. And on the floor surrounding the bench were a half dozen empty bottles and their corks, either standing or laying on their sides.

Gabriel moved forward and grabbed a random bottle off the rack. He didn’t bother to check the label. All of the bottles were considered to be the best wine the cultured vineyards of the Core could produce. The youngest bottle was 60 years old. And any one drunk by a single man could get said man very drunk in a short amount of time. He sat down and set the bottle to the side. He pulled out the aged cork in the corkscrew out and let it slip through his fingers onto the floor. He then took the fresh bottle, and began to screw in the ornate corkscrew. After some initial resistance, he pulled the cork out and set the screw to the side. He picked up the wine glass next to him and poured out a generous amount of aged wine. So much in fact, that he ran the risk of overflowing.

“My cup runeth over.” He thought darkly to himself as he first sipped at the rich drink and then gulped at it. This obviously was not the proper way of savoring such a refined and now impossible to find bottle of wine. But at this point, with Simon’s punch still making the left side of his face sore, he was more interested in dulling the pain than caressing the texture of aged grape juice and alcohol with his senses.

Dulling the pain. He had been doing this a lot lately. With the realization of what the Academy had been doing to River, as well as the complete social and economic breakdown of the world he knew, he had been trying to find ways of dulling the pain of the immense guilt he was feeling. At first, he tried to find some solace with Regan. She always managed to be his support. Gabriel had never been a person people could get along with easily. Whether it was his family’s past or his own personality, he always found it hard to socialize with the people around him. But Regan had that quality of making a complete stranger feel at ease with her. He admired her for that. No, he loved her for that. And whenever he had moments of doubt and despair, she would always be there to take solace in. To make him feel like a human being. But with her sickness disintegrating her body and the truth of the matter revealed to them, they had grown apart when they should’ve been closer than ever before.

“This is their fault”, he thought. “Why should they blame me for all this? I’m just trying to fulfill this family’s legacy. How the hell was I supposed to know they were doing this to her”. It didn’t make sense in his mind that he was made out to be the bad guy. It wasn’t as if he was the one who cut into River’s brain himself. Or was he? Did he really have something to do with all that had happened? “No”, he thought determinedly. “It’s their fault. It’s their fault they did this to her. It’s Simon’s fault for acting so rash. If he just waited it out, they would have saved River themselves. They both wouldn’t be fraternizing with Browncoats, knocking up prairie shrews and playing guitars.” His thoughts grew darker and darker as he gulped more of the wine, dispensing with the glass and taking it straight from the bottle.

He thought back decades ago to when he was about Simon’s age. “My God,” he thought. “Has it really been that long since the auction?” He remembered that day. That hot summer day when as a young student at the Osiris School of Finance, he attended an auction of an estate that was being liquidated. It was the estate of the Chang family. This had been a family that had enormous wealth and influence in the Core worlds. But through excess and bad decisions, the family lost everything and bankrupted themselves. Watching as all of these mementos of a history were being scattered amongst a society, he came upon a realization. The Chang’s had not done a single worthwhile thing in their generations. They had no legacy or significance, other than tales of excess and debauchery. Given time, their name would fade away into obscurity. And as hears the bang of the gavel over and over again, a chilling truth struck him.

This could very well happen to him and his family.

Ever since then, he had always kept in mind the world around him. Every business decision he made, every charity Regan ran or donated too, every associate in high places he managed to charm, everything he did was all done to establish their family name. To make the Tam name synonymous with quality, refinement and significance. But as much good work was done in their name, he knew that he was only one man. That it would be up to Simon and River to continue on with his legacy.

He was shocked and surprised to see how advanced they were mentally as children. They far outstripped any of the other children of the wealthy families of the Core. Upon realizing their potential, he prepared himself to be more than just a father to them. He planned on using his wealth and influences to make sure that they would be the best they could possibly be. They would be prominent people in not just the Core worlds, but in human history. He had fantasized about his son making a startling medical discovery that would shape the course of human physiology. He imagined his daughter, after her ballerina phase, to be a force to be reckoned with in any field she chose. And so, he set out to make sure those dreams would become a reality.

In retrospect then, he thought, maybe he should have taken a closer look at the Academy. Done more research into the facilities, as opposed to looking at the brochures, glanced at the campuses and listened more to the sales pitch, rather than his own conscious. This place wasn’t in any of the recommended schools for gifted children. Wouldn’t a place with such a top alumni boast about its successes, as opposed to be highly secretive about it? He shrugged them off. It was a government sponsored school. The Alliance had been good to him and his family all his life. Surely there was nothing insidious about this at all.

He didn’t need any reminding of how monumentally wrong he was. He thought forward to Blue Tuesday. The day had started bad enough as it was. He had gone to pick up Regan at the hospital after her latest round of chemotherapy. It was when he asked the driver to turn on the radio on the way home that they heard the news. First was the story on the assassination of the whole cabinet, which startled him considerably. Then was the story on the massive stock market crash that effectively made the Core worlds nearly bankrupt. But it was when he was frantically dialing his accountants to see how much they would be in the red, that they heard the final story.

It was a story on the Academy. A leak in the parliamentary chain of command had brought documents to the news stations, giving explicit details on the procedures that were being done there. Evidence of invasive surgeries, numerous lobotomies on healthy brains, and unethical and illegal medical practices were exposed, as well as a detailed web of lies and deceit that stretched all the way to the key members of Parliament. The gut reaction to news of some of the most heinous medical experiments ever done in the name of humanity was nothing compared to the overwhelming sense of horror and guilt upon realizing that their son was right all along.

They had just pulled up to the estate when Gabriel asked the driver to turn the radio off. As he clicked the radio off, Regan fumbled for the handle, as she began breathing frantically. Even though at the time she was nowhere as weak as she was now, he had requested that the staff was to help her out of the car and to have a hoverchair ready for her. But she bypassed them all opened the door herself. She had fallen onto the pavement, her hands bloody and bruised on impact. But she didn’t care.

She then took a deep breath, and emitted the most horrible scream he had ever heard.

It was the scream of a woman whose children might be dead. It was the scream of a woman who had realized the role she had played in her daughter’s rape. It was the scream of a woman who had refused to believe the truth that had been handed to her in coded letters. It was the scream of a woman breaking apart from the inside. It was the scream of a woman who had failed her children.

The screams then transformed into sirens of sobbing. The staff had rushed forward to help her up, but she had feebly pushed them away. It was two hours before anyone was allowed to come closer to her. By that time, Gabriel’s own form of guilt had externalized. He was furious at the staff for not tending to his wife, despite her refusing their help. He had fired them all, and it was he who helped her to her bed. Aside from that, she refused to acknowledge him. She screamed at him to get out and to leave her alone. And unsure of what to do, he headed down to the wine cellar. It was the first of many nights there, consuming the various wines he and previous generations had spent centuries collecting.

He should be grateful. He should be happy that they were all right. That they had survived for four years out in the Black. That she had learned to live with her psychosis and powers and found something that made her happy. That he had married and was about to become a parent. He regretted being so harsh towards Kaylee. In a vague way, she reminded him of Regan. And that before Regan died, they were all under the same roof as a family. So why wasn’t he? Why had the dinner that should have been a celebratory feast turn into a shouting match between him and Simon? Why was he so hostile towards the woman who was carrying his grandchild? Why was he like this? He should’ve gone up to Regan’s room to tend to her and talk it out. He should’ve found Simon and Kaylee and apologize to them. But he didn’t.

Instead, he finished off the bottle, set it aside, reached forward to grab another bottle, pulled one out, pulled out the cork, and spent the remainder of the night trying to drown out the guilt he was consumed in.


Monday, November 14, 2005 6:55 PM


awwww, more, more!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005 6:18 AM


Don't know how, but you do music very well. Unfamiliar with the song River's singing, you make it so that I can feel how it sounds - What it's like to hear it. And you also do a good job laying out River's dilemma - Stick with her flying family, or seek her destiny. Can't imagine your essays being any less genius.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005 7:13 AM


Very well written but I so miss River being with her shiny Firefly family. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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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.