Z.A.M.M V : The Delicate Sound of Thunder
Friday, June 23, 2006

In which the other shoe drops...Inara has a proposition for Simon


The Delicate Sound of Thunder

“What were you talkin’ to Inara about?”

“She wanted to know exactly why I gave up a life of ease and comfort to go running about the stars with a bunch of criminals.” She turns, spoons back against him. “Wanted to know why I went and fell in love with you.”

“Oh.” His frown doesn’t quite clear. “Why did you? I mean, this is more your kinda world, ain’t it?”

“Hardly. My family didn’t have the money to send me anywhere this flash. Even if I’d ever wanted to.” She twists her head to look up at him. “Anyway, I told her why I love you.”


“Yeah.” It’s a grin of pure wickedness. “Woman sees a great big piece of tasty like you, she’d be mad to let it go.”

“That all I am to you?”

“Of course not, you big idiot. But our hearts are nobody’s business but our own.” Her face is serious. “Takes more than sex to make a marriage.” She bends, kisses the large hand nestled up around her. “These hands aren’t going to hurt me.”

“I hurt a lot of folk over the years...”

“I know what you do. I’ve seen you.” They both think on that a beat. She has less nightmares than she thought she might. “Life is what it is. I fell in love with a man, not his job. But the job is part of him, so I accept that.”

Not the first time they’ve had a talk like this, of course. They do talk, tucked in their bunk, a little quiet time away from the others. Mostly childhood stories, a little of their thoughts on the ‘verse, just...stuff.

(“We got a deal of things to find out about each other.”

“That’s all part of the fun.”

“You might not like some of my past...”

“Everything that you are comes out of what you’ve done in your life.” She traces a pale line, old scar up under his shoulder blade. “You might not like some of my past, either.”

“Don’t like the fact you was married to that chou hun dan...Man didn’t treat you right, an’ don’t tell me he did.” He rubs a hand through his short hair. “Can’t figure why you walked out on a world of plenty, less’n he hurt you some.”

“Not physically. He never hit me.” She thinks. “Although I sometimes felt he might. But I annoyed him. Everything I did. I wore the wrong things, ate the wrong things. Had the wrong job. And he never ceased to tell me so.” Shakes it off. “You can live in a soft world of plenty, and it will still be a nightmare.”)

Jayne looks around him. This is a soft world of plenty, too. But he would bet cashy money that either Zoe or Mal are prowlin’ about somewhere. Slow and careful, he reaches a hand under the pillow, checks his pistol is in reach.

You don’t ever go trustin’ a whore with your purse.


Before dawn, there is a sharp shower of rain, so the morning finds the courtyard hung with silver, the day washed clean. There is still a heaviness in the air, the promise of more to come.

Simon wakes early. Kaylee is still sleeping; in fact, when he gets up, she rolls into the warmth left by his body, and wraps the covers tighter around herself. Simon takes this as a sign that he should seek some fresh air.

He is not the first one up. A group of trainees are doing a tai chi routine in one of the courtyards. Slow, deliberate grace as they dip and turn, sleeves fluttering. And it takes him a moment to realise that one of them is River.

He watches her. A girl amongst other girls.

Inara, standing in the shadow of the terrace, watches him watching his sister. Thinking himself unobserved, his face displays all his love and concern. She is fond of Simon. In their shared time aboard, she had found him to be a charming boy, not someone who should have to be exposed to Malcolm Reynolds, or his way of life. It makes this easier.

“Good morning, Simon.”

He smiles at her. She is of his world, as no-one else is. Ilargia is from the Core, but sometimes, she makes him feel even more alone. He cannot understand how she can turn her back so easily, to embrace (literally) barbarism.

“Inara.” He ducks his head. “I do hope that I didn’t ruin your evening...”

“Oh, no.” Her denial is swift, and perhaps not as sincere as it could be, but her smile is still warm. “I hope you don’t mind River joining Ruksha’s class?”

“Not at all.” The polite dance of manners. “I had forgotten this.”

They both watch for a minute. The tiny instructor looks barely older than the girls. All their faces wear expressions of serene concentration.

“Simon...I have a proposition for you both.” She takes a breath. “The Guild can offer her a home here.”

The Simon Tam of a year ago would have swept his sister into such a sanctuary without a second thought. Now, he bites his lip, considers...

It doesn’t appal him. It was even a choice his parents had once considered for River, before they found out just how smart she really was. Inara’s soft voice continues on...

She could live within these walls. She would have people around her who did not spend all their time plotting ways to rob and kill. She would have peace and stillness, and time to dance.

River is regaining a certain clarity - she will never be well, but she does more than function. Maybe time has accustomed them to her oblique style of speech, its run of allegory and metaphor. Maybe he hopes too much. But here, perhaps she could heal. There is peace and order, a sense of tranquillity. Not things in great supply on board Serenity. She seems to have become accustomed to such a haphazard existence, but it’s not how she should have to live, running and hiding, and living hand to mouth.

This planet has a hospital. Newly-founded and seeking knowledgeable staff.

He could offer Kaylee a proper home. It’s a thought he keeps pushing to the back of his mind, but one that persists, in the quiet watches of the night.

She leaves him to think on it, as the class draws to a close and the girls form into a graceful procession. Inara falls in beside Ruksha, and the two Companions lead their flock away.


He leans his elbows on the balustrade. This is a peaceful place, an oasis of civilization in a howling wilderness. He looks out over the mountains. The Tams’ had taken a holiday one year, to a vacation spot not dissimilar...

“Mount Abora.” says River, behind him. “And you didn’t want to come, wanted to stay with your friends in the city.”

“You didn’t have the monopoly on being a brat.” Simon looks at the elegant young woman who seems to have replaced his baby sister. “Did I really dance with the Captain last night?”

“You waltz divinely.” His sister assures him. Simon puts his face in his hands.

“I shouldn’t drink rice wine.”

“At least you didn’t sing.” River grimaces. Her brother is a brilliant surgeon, but an indifferent vocalist. She steps up and rests her head on his arm. “So. Wants me to become another bird in the gilded cage.”

He’s not surprised that she knows.

“You would be safe here.”

“She thinks I would be safe. But she doesn‘t know the steps of this dance.”

“You’re sure.” It’s not a question.

“The thunder knows. Datta, dayadhvam, damyata. Give,” her arm sweeps around the courtyard, “Sympathize...”(Simon thinks on a conversation about medicine, intelligent dark eyes.) River nods, “Control.”


“Not your decision. Mine.”

“You want to stay here?”

“No, dumbass.” She puts her hands over his. “Have a home, have a family. Don’t want to leave them lost in the woods - need a navigator.” She sighs, lets her hair fall forward. Peers up at him. “Know you want dirt beneath your feet, not under your fingernails. But I am not a broken doll - can’t keep me in the toybox until someone wants to play. I am...useful on Serenity. Not decorative. Need me to fly them through the storms.”

“You love flying, don’t you?”

“Wash knew. Once you have seen the stars, can’t go back. No other place I can be.” Smiles at him, and he sees his sister. Not quite an adult, but no longer a child. Not quite whole again, but healing. He sighs.

“Then we had best go and tell the others.”


Jayne sits up in the wide bed, watches his wife puttering about in her underwear.

“Leave your hair down? You ain’t fussin’ in the kitchen today.”

“You just want me to look all girly for you.”

“Yeah. Don‘t get a chance to see you all tricked out much.” He looks almost shy. “You looked real fine in that green dress.”

“It’s origami, though.” She eyes the folds of silk, gives him a glance. “I’d prefer something in cotton, maybe buttons down the front. More...”(raises an eyebrow) “practical.”

Jayne grins. She ain’t so slinky and painted up this morning. His Larji again, pulling on one of his shirts - and stealing his belt to cinch it in. Still has that touch of paint smudged about her eyes. Makes a bandanna out of a length of material, and grins over her shoulder at him.

“Girly enough?”

“Darlin’, you’d make a stone sit up and take notice.” He can’t figure how a woman can look so damn sexy in his old shirt.


Half the crew are at breakfast, at a table set out in a smaller, plainer room than the dining hall. Kaylee is soaking in the bath, and Mal is still sleeping, but Zoe and Ilargia are both watching Jayne consume a large breakfast, wavering between indulgence and horrified amusement. He smirks when he sees the doctor, waves a bowl of eggs at him. Simon shudders, but gratefully accepts the cup of tea Ilargia gives him.

“No coffee here. Bad for the karmic resonance or something.”

Jayne grunts.

“No bacon, neither.”

Simon wonders how to broach the subject. River frowns at him.

“Just say it. Dress it up and paint it, still the same object. Objective, subjective. Subject to conditioning.”

“You still dizzy in the head from dancin’?”

Simon takes a breath, and is deeply thankful that the Captain is not present.


Zoe’s face doesn’t express surprise, but her eyes narrow fractionally.

“So. Ain’t that something.”

Of course, it’s Jayne who says what everyone is thinking.

“Woman’s done lost her brainstem, she thinks Mal’s gonna like this.”

“I don’t think she’s got the first idea how angry he’s going to be.” Ilargia shakes her head. “Being a the Alliance, it’s not considered a degradation. People actually choose it for their daughters.”

“Did yours ever think on it?” Zoe is curious. Ilargia’s grin is cheerful and wicked.

“Can you really see me all tricked out and being sweetly polite to a man?”

“No.” Everybody choruses. Except Jayne. Who smirks. She slaps him lightly, and continues.

“It’s that psychological profile, again. The schooling system, it’s geared to finding talents from the get go. Gymnasts, musicians...filing clerks,” (she waves her fingers,) “your path set before you, by the age of twelve. Wouldn’t you agree, Doctor Tam?”

Simon nods.

“I had a good basic grounding academically, but I was already being guided into the sciences by then.”

“Used to be a good pianist. Waste of time for a surgeon.” (Simon had forgotten. He looks at his long fingers.) “Gave up such a lot.” River curls into his side.

Jayne snorts.

“Can’t say as I think much of them as would sell their kin to the skin trade.”

“You?” Simon almost chokes at the hypocrisy of the man. Jayne shrugs.

“Coupla months back, I’d’ve dumped her out, and thrown in a box of ammo.” He says frankly. “Can find us enough trouble, ‘thout it come lookin’. ‘Cept we bin through a deal since then, an’ without li’l crazyboots, I don’t reckon on me or my Larji doin’ so well about now. So I figure I got me a debt to pay. She don’t go nowhere she don’t want to.”

Simon stares at him. Jayne glares back.

“Since when did you get a conscience?”

“She’s eating toast.” Jayne jerks his head. “You said it first, doc. We’re on the same crew here. Don’t have to like each other.”

“That’s a relief.”

Zoe ignores the bickering.

“Reckon we’d best get Serenity prepped for take-off. Just in case the invitation becomes more pressing.”

“Inara wouldn’t...”

“Not saying she would, but she ain’t the one in charge of this place.”

Ilargia nods.

“For practical and political purposes, the Guild are Alliance. How do we know that this wasn’t what they had in mind for River all along? Graceful, accomplished, empathic...the perfect Companion.”

River follows Ilargia’s thought process along the logical progression, nods.

“Dance right up and kill with a kiss.” She begins to shake. “Can be a leaf, be a butterfly, be a blade in the dark...”

“Enough with the jawin’.” Jayne’s voice jolts her. “You sayin’ we’re going to have to fight our way out against a bunch of whores?”

“All Companions are trained in a variety of martial arts.”

“An’ Inara was right handy with that bow of hers.” Zoe reminds him. Jayne shrugs.

“Can’t outdance bullets.”

“Who’s dancin’ now?” Kaylee, still pink from her bath, walks in, happily unaware.

“Inara has offered River a place in the Training House.” Simon says quietly.

“Oh, that would be...” Kaylee’s face falls as she takes in their expressions, “not so good. Does the Cap’n know?”

“Walls are still standin, so that’d be a ‘no’.”

“He’s gonna be real upset with her, isn‘t he?”

“It’s ‘Nara. Man’s in a permanent state of upset. I know you like her, Kaylee, but Captain needs to know if someone’s tryin’ to poach our pilot.” Zoe sets her jaw. “I’m really not lookin’ forward to this conversation.”

“Hope Jayne’s left me some breakfast.” Mal shoulders in. His smile dies. “What?”

Simon clears his throat.

“Well, Captain...”


Friday, June 23, 2006 12:49 PM


Oooh, Inara really does like to interfere doesn't she? I like it that River knows her own mind and wants to stay with her family in the Black, which happily means so will Simon and thus Kaylee. I just hope Inara isn't planning on using Alliance pressure to try to force River to stay when she obviously doesn't want to. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, June 23, 2006 1:38 PM


And the shoe drops, indeed. River's conclusion in the last chapter was correct, but I'm glad she makes her own decision to stay with Serenity. Simon himself says in Objects in Space that River loves the ship and that it's home to her. She wouldn't leave it so easily.

I love how everyone just immediately said "The Captain won't like it" the moment Inara's intention was mentioned. And I love the interactions between everyone. Some of my favorite Firefly moments were when the crew was together, either playing games or eating meals. You noticed the feeling of "family" then, even if some members bickered among themselves, but that's just normal. :)

I continue to be completely amazed at how cute Ilargia and Jayne are together. Really, I love them. I want to cuddle them.

Another great chapter. You keep surpassing yourself. I just want to know what's going on in Inara's head, though. I adore her and really don't want her to be at the end of Mal's anger and suspicion for long. But a nice, interesting confrontation is called for, of course, to discuss exactly why Inara is trying to poach Mal's pilot.

Friday, June 23, 2006 3:22 PM


Squeeeee! With the website trouble, I've been pining for the next chapter in this AMAZING story. Thanks so much for posting.

How do I love this chapter? Let me count the ways...

Jayne and Ilargia. The love they share is palpable. Sigh.

Jayne calling River "crazyboots" and sticking up for her and her right to choose. Though I don't generally go for the Rayne stories, I see them becoming friends.

Simon and Inara and what they have in common, how they relate.

All in all, so well written. I can't wait to see what happens!

Saturday, June 24, 2006 4:11 AM


Just got back onto the site for the first time in almost a week and this jewel was the first thing I went to.

I have to say that your work is so powerful, vibrant, the dialogue incredibly true to the characters. I'm especially impressed with how well-defined Ilargia is and the relationship she shares with Jayne is a real delight - strong and warm and funny.

Fave line #1: <“Darlin’, you’d make a stone sit up and take notice.” He can’t figure how a woman can look so damn sexy in his old shirt.>

Fave line #2: < (Simon)“Since when did you get a conscience?”

“She’s eating toast.” Jayne jerks his head...>

Another serving, please?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 5:45 PM


needed a quick fix of something worth re-reading!


You must log in to post comments.



The Road to Haven: Chapter 6: The World, The Flesh and The Devil
The crew are seeing things, remembering things...not all of it is good, not all of it is real and some of it is very strange indeed...

The Road to Haven: Chapter Five: Only Connect
A very old ship, a very nervous crew and a very pissed off Captain.

The Road to Haven: Chapter 4: In Strange Pursuit of Alternative Truths
More WytchAnJl weirdness. What secrets does this old ship hold?

The Road to Haven: Chapter 3: Girders of Babel
Last chapter for today. Wouldn't want to be flooding the BSR, would we? Still us, still crazy after all these years...

The Road to Haven: Chapter 2: In The Maybe World
A WytchAnJL production. Er...what was that? And why is a crazy old man waiting for it?

The Road to Haven: Chapter 1: The Everlasting First
A collaboration between Wytchcroft and SpaceAnJL. Set after 'Those Left Behind', and a sort-of sequel to 'Bell, Book and Candle'...I'm posting it, 'cos Wytch is locked out. Enjoy. Or run away screaming. Your call.

Tic Tac Tao: Ch. 1 A Game of You
Zen II. The start of the sequel, reposted. The usual AnJLverse weirdness - space pirates, assassins, government conspiracies, seafood...

Feegles on a Firefly
A little stand-alone Crackfic. It bothers me that my brain works like this.

Viva New Vegas: 6. Blue Harvest
All Jayne wants to do is finish his breakfast and get back to his wife. Just there's a gang of bikers think a bit different.

Viva New Vegas: 5. The Good, The Bad and The Aesthetically Challenged
Jayne meets the locals.