Everything Burns
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What if the crew hadn't made it back to Jiangyin in time at the end of Safe? What would become of Simon and River? (PG13)


Disclaimer: Yup, you guessed it, it's still Joss Whedon's.


So this was how it was going to end.

Simon looked around at the crowd of spectators gathered to watch River burn at the stake. Everyone looked so condemning, so fearful at the same time. The patron stood front and center, directing the ritual. Simon felt his anger rising with each gaze that he caught in the crowd before him. He heard shouts of burn her; thou shalt no suffer a witch to live! River wasn't a witch and Simon was appalled at the fact that these people could confuse someone so innocent, so graceful for a creature of hatred and scorn from the mythologies of the Christian religion.

"She has done nothing to you!" Simon shouted.

The patron gave him a stony glare and then turned his eyes to River, gesturing with his hand to the two men slowly creeping up on River.

"Bind her," he commanded. "She must be purged with fire."

"Don't do this," Simon pleaded angrily. "There has to be another way."

Simon could hear River screaming behind him. A glance over his shoulder showed him that she was being restrained by two men, being carried up onto the pyre and placed on the platform. What disturbed Simon the most was that she wasn't even fighting, just screaming, and even the screaming was beginning to taper off. He swallowed thickly as he watched the men tie her to the stake, as he looked around, seeing the self-righteous looks on the faces of the men and women nearby all holding torches. He turned once again to face the Patron, narrowing his eyes. He stared at the man for a long moment, all of his hatred for the Patron himself as well as the beliefs of the entire community evident there. Simon spun on his heel and faced the men who had just finished securing River to the stake.

"Get away from her!" He snarled. "If you must have a sacrifice, have me instead!"

"God commands us to destroy this evil," the Patron said simply. "She's a witch, there is no other way."

Simon knew that no matter what he said he would not be able to convince these people of his sister's innocence. He looked around, weighing his odds. He couldn't possibly take on this crowd and live if he tried to get River down. He knew then that it would be ending. There was nothing left to do but let River die. But he wouldn't let her die alone. He would stand with her and die with dignity.

Simon rushed forward to River's side, suddenly feeling a strong pair of arms seize him and halt his progress. He struggled in vain for a few moments, feeling a sharp pain in his jaw when the punch hit him. He had to fight. He couldn't just watch her die. And so he did. Simon felt a rush of adrenaline and fought out of the man's grip. Within the span of twenty seconds he had successfully taken down three men and was at River's side, his hand on her cheek, brushing the fringes of hair out of her eyes.

"Post holer; for digging holes for posts," River said blankly.

"That's right," Simon said with an almost inaudible laugh.

Simon looked at River, met her gaze. He saw no fear in her eyes, no remorse, nothing but peace. He saw, for the first time since the Academy, his little sister staring back at him. Simon sighed shakily, wrapping his arms around River, wanting to hold her even in this, the hour of their death. He hadn't wanted it to end this way, this soon, but at least he would be with River. At least now they could find peace. With that thought, Simon turned to the mob that had gathered to watch the burning.

"Light it," Simon said calmly.

Simon watched the Patron nod, giving the order to a man nearby with a torch. This was it, the moment of truth. Simon closed his eyes for a moment and felt the heat as the pyre around them suddenly burst into flame. He opened his eyes again and looked at River, her features lit up in a bright orange, the light of the flame dancing in her eyes.

"Time to go," River said softly.

"I'm sorry, meimei," Simon said shakily. "I've failed you."

"No," River said quietly. "It's okay. It's better this way. It'll make the nightmares go away. We can be alone now; we can live without fear of reprisal."

Simon nodded, gritting his teeth and fighting the urge to scream as the flames rose around them, clawing at their clothes, at their flesh now. Soon Simon knew he would close his eyes and fall, the pain overwhelming him, turning him over to the welcoming arms of darkness. It would be like falling asleep, he knew. And River, the same would happen to her. He watched her now as they burned together, her features completely stoic, her expression angelic, graceful. That was dying with dignity. Her eyes were closed, a small smile playing about her lips. She was awake, she could feel the pain, he knew, but her tortured soul had finally come to rest, and it gave her courage enough to burn in silence.

Soon the pain became so great that Simon just ceased all feeling. He knew exactly why that was, knew that his body was producing incredible levels of endorphins to numb the pain, but he didn't care anymore. He didn't want his last conscious thought to be a cold and clinical one. He wanted his last moments to be all about River, to be all about the passing from this life to the next with her. And that it was as he held her, the flames consuming them completely now, hiding them from view of the spectators.

Simon heard one last gasp from River among the crackles in the fire before he felt her go limp in his arms. She had gone first. She was waiting for him on the other side. Simon allowed his own eyes to close and soon felt darkness descend, felt pain for one last moment before feeling nothing at all. One last breath escaped his body and he found himself with River once more, standing at her side, watching the pyre from afar, watching their physical beings fall to pieces as their souls finally became whole again after the many long months of living in the shadows.

Just then, a great noise was heard from the heavens. Without even having to look up, Simon knew it was Serenity. He knew the crew had come to save them only moments too late. There was nothing that could be done for them now. A small, sad smile graced Simon's lips. He knew that Kaylee would be heartbroken. He knew that the crew would all be affected, as much as some of them would deny it, but he also knew it was for the best. They could get back to living their lives the way they had before Simon and River had complicated them, and now Simon could once again take care of River in a world of piece and unending light. And she would be his River again.

Taking River's hand in his, Simon turned and walked off with her into the light that none but them could see. The light that would welcome them home to a place where they would be neither unwanted nor disliked. It would be the perfect place for them, out of harm's way.

A light breeze blew through the trees as Simon and River disappeared forever, as if to wave them off for their journey into eternity.


Even before they had come to hover directly over the village where they suspected River and Simon were being held, Mal had the feeling that something wasn't going to be right. When the cargo bay hatch opened he felt a faint rush of warmth as he looked down on the scene in the middle of the village. A large fire burned around the remnants of a stake as the crowd cheered. Mal gave the order for Wash to set them down. With Zoe at his side, he marched into the town, demanding the attention of everyone gathered there.

"Well isn't this a lively celebration," Mal said with a raised eyebrow. "What exactly is it that y'all are celebratin'?"

"Who are you?" The Patron asked, stepping forward.

"The name's Malcolm Reynolds," he replied. "And I have reason to suspect that y'all have somethin' that belongs to me."

"Is that so?" The Patron queried.

"It is," Mal replied, one of his characteristic grins firmly in place.

"What is it that you're lookin' for?" The Patron shot back.

"Two of our crew members disappeared in these here woods earlier today," Zoe spoke up. "We think you might be hiding them."

"Crew members, you say?" The Patron said, slightly nervous as he eyed the weapons adoring Mal and Zoe's bodies. "I don't know what you're on about."

"Our lovely doctor and his crazy sister have up and vanished," Mal replied. "You wouldn't know anything about that now, would you?"

"The doctor's sister was a witch!" Doralee came forward and exclaimed. "We purged the devil from them both with fire and brought them to their fall!"

Mal and Zoe's gazes both quickly turned to the fire, slowly burning out into nothing more than smoldering coals, evidence of human remains strewn about, bones and metal accessories that the fire just could not destroy. The captain and the first mate both felt their hearts lurch unpleasantly. They had almost lost the shepherd and now, in order to save one life, they'd sacrificed two. Mal's gaze turned back to the Patron, his hand on his weapon at his thigh.

"You mean to tell me that I'm short two crew members?" He said in a dangerous tone.

"It was God's will," the Patron stated.

"Which God in the 'verse commands the death of two innocent people, Patron?" Zoe snapped. "A good God? A merciful one? I don't see how that makes any logical sense. And does not the bible say judge not lest ye be judged?"

The Patron was speechless, his mouth opening and closing like that of a fish out of water. He looked around at the mob he was surrounded by for a moment before turning quickly on his heel, making a run for the trees.

The second Mal sensed the Patron was going to run, he held up his gun and pulled the trigger, watching the Patron fall. He could hear the man's pained gasps for breath but he didn't shoot again. He would let the Patron die a slow, painful death, just like the one Simon and River had been forced to endure. Mal slowly looked up from where the Patron lay and looked around the crowd.

"Let that be a lesson to all o' ya," he called. "Let that teach you that the only devils in the 'verse there may be are all flesh and blood like the man that lies before you here."

With that, Mal turned swiftly on his heel, Zoe at his side, and marched back towards Serenity, making his way into the ship through the cargo bay doors, closing them behind him. The second he and Zoe reached inside, they were faced with the anxious gazes of the rest of the crew members.

"Where's Simon and River?" Kaylee asked worriedly.

"They're not here, little Kaylee," Mal said softly.

"Well where are they?" She asked. "D'you think they migh' be in the next town over?"

"I'm afraid not," Mal replied.

"Wha'?" Kaylee quipped. "Well where are they!"

Mal turned his head to look at Zoe and was thankful when the first mate stepped forward, putting a hand gently on Kaylee's shoulder. He stepped aside, feeling that if he had to break the news to Kaylee, he might just have to go out there and murder a few more not-so-innocent people out of rage. He'd failed; he'd been too late. Mal averted his gaze, his hand still on the gun at his hip, as he listened to Zoe.

"Kaylee honey," Zoe said softly. "Simon and River were here, but these folk have some pretty radical ideas. They thought that River, that her gift, because she could read minds, was a gift from the devil. They thought she was a witch. What they do to witches to purge them is to rid the world of them… I'm sorry, Kaylee. Simon and River they're... they're not comin' back."

Kaylee stared at Zoe blankly for a long minute, completely silent. Her lower lip quivered a little bit as she tried to hold in the tears and sobs that threatened to overwhelm her at any moment. Simon and River were gone. They were dead. She shook as she stood there, feeling as though her legs might give out at any moment. Her hand went to the scar she had from where she’d been shot the first day she’d met Simon. She swallowed thickly. Simon had saved her life, he’d brought her back from the brink of death, and she hadn't had the chance to repay the favor. She never would.

Kaylee made a small noise, a strangled sob. It was all she could do to hold it back. With that she turned on her heel and ran from the cargo bay and to her quarters, climbing down the ladder, collapsing onto the bed and pressing her face into her pillow, the tears finally coming. She cried hot, bitter tears, her sobs echoing in her quarters. She felt suddenly cold, suddenly drained, and she screamed; a long, mournful sound.

"Ni ta ma de tian xia suo you de ren dou gai si!" Kaylee screamed. "Ren ci de shang di qing dai wo zou! Wo xiang mei er mei xin bian shi tou! Duibuqi!"

Kaylee silently prayed to God for Simon and River. She felt as though it was all her fault, that she was being punished for some sin, that she had brought Simon and River to their deaths. She sobbed raggedly, barely able to draw a breath. This couldn't be happening, this wasn't happening. They were both so innocent.

A thousand different emotions were welling up inside of Kaylee at that moment. She felt grief for Simon and River's loss. She felt heartache, because she’d never have the doctor's love. She felt remorse, for not having the chance to forgive him after he'd upset her that morning. She felt anger at the captain for not going back for them in the first place. She felt sin, for living on after living a life of crime with the crew of Serenity while Simon and River died, as innocent as ever.

That night, after a long day of mourning, Kaylee cried herself to sleep, her thoughts straying dangerously close to taking her own life so that she could be with the two people that she was now forced to miss.


It was a chilly morning the day Simon and River were laid to rest on their home planet of Osiris. The crew gathered around the headstones that had been erected for their two departed members. It was a small, private funeral, not even the siblings' parents were present. Just the crew. All seven sets of eyes were settled on the flickering holograms that adorned the top of each headstone. Each set of eyes was filled with a different emotion, but each set expressed what words could not; how much the Tams would be missed.

Kaylee's eyes were glazed with tears, the thousand emotions she had felt those few days before when she'd first heard the news still evident there, still just as fresh as they had been. The wounds where she’d tried to cut herself, to bring herself closer to Simon, were fresh as well and she rubbed absentmindedly at the bandages, wishing that the good doctor had been around to care for the wounds. Then again, if he'd been around, she'd never have had them in the first place. The thought made Kaylee weak, shaky. The shock of Simon and River's deaths, in such a brutal, painful fashion, was still fresh in her mind. She choked back a sob and turned her head away, averting her gaze from the scene before her.

Jayne's eyes were full of wonder, nothing else. He wondered how the doctor and his crazy sister had taken being burned to death. He'd never felt much for the pair, well, except for maybe some disdain, so he couldn’t exactly mourn their loss. He just wondered how hard they'd fought. He wondered if they'd tried to save their hides or if they just let themselves die.

Inara’s eyes, filled with the pain of loss, were glazed over much like Kaylee's as she stood next to the young mechanic, a reassuring hand on Kaylee’s shoulder. Inara hadn't had the chance to get to know the doctor or his sister very well in the time that they'd been aboard Serenity, but she knew how much they meant to Kaylee, and so she knew they were very good people. It was the thought of losing two wonderful souls like theirs while the people like the ones that had condemned them to their fate lived on that made Inara the most upset. She squeezed Kaylee's shoulder lightly and looked up to the sky just in time to see a shooting star streak over them and smiled softly. She knew that Simon and River weren't really gone and she hoped that Kaylee knew it too.

Zoe stared at the grave markers that stood in the shade of the willow tree towering over them, squeezing Wash's hand. She hadn't actually witnessed the burning, save for the final few flames the pyre had come down in, but each time she looked at the hologram that displayed Simon and River's faces, she could see it vividly before her eyes, their bodies being swallowed by the flames, their souls escaping. She wasn't quite sure how to feel. Her loyalty to Mal was strong as ever, but there was a flicker of doubt there. What if he'd chosen another course of action? What if they'd gone back for Simon and River earlier? The siblings would still have been among them, not lost in the black as memories. She swallowed thickly and sighed, feeling somewhat guilty for ever considering Simon and River burdens.

Wash felt Zoe squeeze his hand as he silently stared at the grave markers and he squeezed back to reassure her. The few times he'd ever really talked to Simon had been quite nice, the doctor was pleasant enough. He hadn't interacted with the man's sister too much though, but he assumed that when she wasn't crazy, she was just as nice. He would miss the siblings, not on a very deep level, but he’d miss their company. When push came to shove, the two really did have some unique things to offer.

Mal stood in his usual stance, feet braced shoulder width apart, arms crossed over his chest. There was an unusual guilt in his eyes, however. A man like the captain, so used to killing he could do it without a second thought, wasn't one to feel guilty. Not unless it was warranted like it was now. Mal had spent the past several days questioning himself. Could the shepherd have waited? Should they have gone back for Simon and River right away? Mal sighed; something he'd gotten into the habit of doing over the past several days. He just didn't know.

Shepherd Book stared out over the gravestones, over the crew gathered around them, as he prayed for the souls of Simon and River Tam. They died so young, it was such a shame. They had so much to bring to the world. But they were with the good Lord now. At least they had no more suffering ahead of them. He spoke flatly, officiating over the funeral, performing the last rites.

All gazes settled once more on the gravestones. Kaylee stepped forward, two single red roses in hand, and placed one on each grave. Inara and Zoe did the same. Each paused before the holograms and watched as the smiling faces of Simon and River Tam flickered out and were replaced every few minutes with the siblings' epitaphs. The words brought tears to many of the crew members' eyes. Choosing the epitaphs had been difficult work, but the words commemorated Simon and River so well. They were the perfect send off.

All flowers laid down in their places, the crew turned and slowly headed back to Serenity. It was finally time to say goodbye for the last time.


Simon and River stood in the shade of the willow tree, the breeze ruffling the long and graceful boughs. They watched the crew walk away, whispers of each and every person's breath left behind, hanging in the cold air. Simon smiled softly, watching Inara as she comforted Kaylee. He knew the mechanic missed him and he wanted nothing more than to comfort her, but at the same time he knew that this ending was just a new beginning for her. Leaving River standing in the swirling snow, Simon walked towards where Kaylee had stopped and turned to stare at the grave markers just one last time. As a single, icy tear slipped down Kaylee's cheek, Simon reached out and brushed it away before it could freeze there. Though Kaylee didn't know it, he would never leave her. He would always be there, in every whisper of wind, in every drop of rain. He would cheer for her on the day of her wedding, he would cry happy tears with her when she was with child. He knew she'd make a great mother. In the end he would wait for her, his arms open, to welcome her to the other side, to be with her again, to finally tell her that he didn't blame her, that he wasn't upset for leaving her like this without ever being forgiven for his last trespass.

River watched Simon with a smile as he stood in the spot where Kaylee had been moments before. She reached her hand up and waved to the skies as she watched Serenity take off. Walking forward once the ship was gone, River took Simon’s hand, giving it a squeeze.

"Come on now," River said softly. "Time to go."

Simon looked over at his sister with a soft laugh and nodded. Together they walked off into the night with a wish and a blessing for the crew that they’d never had the chance to get closer to...


Wednesday, January 25, 2006 6:43 PM



Ni ta ma de tian xia suo you de ren dou gai si - fuck everyone in the 'verse to death

Ren ci de shang di qing dai wo zou - merciful God please take me away

Wo xiang mei er mei xin bian shi tou - I will close my ears and my heart and I will be stone

Meimei - little sister

Duibuqi - I'm sorry

Wednesday, January 25, 2006 7:33 PM


Beautiful. Absolutely tragic.

Oh my gosh. I'm just crying here. Especially when Simon was talking about Kaylee at the end, and how she'd be a great mother.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006 8:26 PM


I've read and reviewed this at another site but I just re-read this and I'm sniffling. very well done. 'Safe' is one of my favorite episodes because you really see Simon's dedication and love for his sister.

Well done, but angsty!


I need to go write (or read!) some good Simon/Kaylee lovin' to cheer me up!

Thursday, January 26, 2006 4:56 AM


That was beautiful, I'm trying so hard not cry right now.

Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:17 PM


Wow!! You made me cry!!! This was very good and powerful!

Saturday, January 28, 2006 5:04 PM


I originally read this on, it seems as if you're reposting a lot of your stories here. I'm glad you're sharing your great stories with others. Anyway I thought this was a great piece of bittersweet fiction. Great job!

Wednesday, February 8, 2006 10:51 AM


*cries* god, i miss 'em already...


Friday, June 23, 2006 12:38 AM


*a creature of hatred and scorn from the mythologies of the Christian religion*

F-ing x-tians, always gotta think they're right, when their whole religion is based on lies.

Well, you have brought tears to my eyes, and I'm not even halfway through it.

*he might just have to go out there and murder a few more not-so-innocent people out of rage*

Mal has more restraint than I do, that entire village would be a river of blood and burned bodies.

The string of Chinese from Kaylee in her bunk was exceptional.

Jeeshus woman, this was spectacular.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006 11:12 AM


I started crying after I read the summary, because I knew they were going to die.

And now, at the end, I have tears running down my cheeks, and I'm trying desperately hard not to let out a gut-wrenching sob (which, in turn, is actually MAKING my gut wrench).

It took a lot for me to get through this, but it was beautiful. Sad, but beautiful (and, oh, the music from River dancing in Safe just came on. How appropriate). You wrote the characters reactiosn well, and thank God Mal shot that gorram Patron.

Keep up the good work. Make me cry again.


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Caught in the Act
As she waits in the infirmary for Simon to join her for an evening out, Kaylee's curiosity gets the best of her.

Cruel Summer (Chapter 4)
The crew visits Kaylee’s family on Harvest. Kaylee shows Simon that there’s more to life outside Serenity’s walls than he could ever have thought. (PG13)

Cruel Summer (Chapter 3)
The crew visits Kaylee’s family on Harvest. Kaylee shows Simon that there’s more to life outside Serenity’s walls than he could ever have thought. (PG)

Cruel Summer (Chapter 2)
The crew visits Kaylee’s family on Harvest. Kaylee shows Simon that there’s more to life outside Serenity’s walls than he could ever have thought. (PG)

Simon is feeling dominating and decides that it's Kaylee's turn to sumbit. Simon/Kaylee. (HARD NC17)

Cruel Summer (Chapter 1)
After the BDM, the crew decide they need some quiet time and go to visit Kaylee’s family on Harvest. Kaylee shows Simon that there’s more to life outside Serenity’s walls than he could ever have thought. Simon/Kaylee. (PG)

Soft Curves
Simon wakes Kaylee up in an unconventional way. (R)

As My Anger Reigns
Sometimes all it takes to soothe an angered soul is a gentle kiss. Mal/Simon. (PG13)

What Defines Her?
Simon thinks about Kaylee and all that she means to him. (PG13)

Kaylee decides that maybe a little pain is worth the gain. Takes place just post the pilot, Serenity. (PG)