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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Set four years after my A NEW LIFE series. Simon makes a decision that could put his family in danger. Cadie confronts Rylee about her nightmares.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1497 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
A/N: Thanks to Leiasky for the great beta - and for putting up with me as I brainstorm and outline more "epics." She really has the patience of Job!
Please keep reading and responding - the angst is acomin'!
A NEW BEGINNING, ch. 10: Risk v. Reward
Simon left Kaylee early the next morning with a kiss and a promise that he would be back before lunch. Heading into town on the mule he’d borrowed from his in-laws, Simon found the communications station, a small room really with just a few wave screens and paid the credits necessary for some uninterrupted time on one.
Entering the small chamber, he shut the door behind him and took a deep breath. He still didn’t want to do this. Kaylee’s tears and pleas from the night before had not fallen on deaf ears and Simon’s gut churned with an irrational fear that she might be right – that if he invited his mother into his life again she would become intent on destroying it or molding him back into the image she had of her son, one he knew would not involve living on a transport ship or being married to Kaylee.
But that was his fear talking. He knew, deep down, in a very rational place, that his mother had not been the mastermind behind his neural augmentation of a few years ago. He knew it had been his father. Were River’s health and well-being in Gabriel’s hands, this wouldn’t even be an option – there was no way Simon would ever trust his father again and to him, the man was as good as dead.
However, this was his mother and he had to believe, based on the last conversation they’d had, that she would want the best for her children, especially in light of what River had recently been through and he could not let fear rule his actions.
Taking one final deep breath, Simon’s fingers moved over the keys, typing in the source code that had been in his family for years. It was a number he could never forget and one that would search the Cortex, looking for the match, bringing his mother’s face to the screen before him. It took longer than he was accustomed too, although there were many reasons for the lag. Namely the fact that they were on Harvest, a border planet, and his mother was presumably still in the Core, crossing that much space would take a few minutes.
When the screen finally flickered to life, Simon made sure to keep his own screen off so that whoever answered the wave would not be able to identify him. He would only show his face when he knew he was speaking directly to his mother.
The wizened face of an older gentleman greeted Simon and he was slightly shocked to realize he didn’t recognize the man. Hiding his frown, Simon said, “Good morning. I’d like to speak with Regan Tam, please.”
“And who may I say is calling?” The man’s voice was gravelly with age, but not unfriendly, despite the rudeness of sending a wave and keeping the screen dark.
Simon thought for a moment, not wanting to give away too much information to the man. Finally, he said, “An old friend from Beaumonde.”
If the man felt any disbelief that his mistress could know someone from such an unsavory place, he gave no sign of it, but simply nodded once and left to go relay the message. Simon’s anxiety rose tenfold in the time he was gone, but when he saw his mother’s aged features come onto the screen before him he oddly felt the slightest hint of relief.
“Yes?” she asked cautiously, her eyes betraying her unease.
Sighing, Simon flipped on his screen and watched as his mother’s eyes widened in shock, nearly doubling in size. Inching towards the screen, he saw her then squint in his direction as if trying to determine that she was seeing what her eyes told her to be real, but her brain told her to be impossible. “Simon?” She breathed his name barely above a whisper, her voice full of anxiety and hope.
“Yes, mother,” he confirmed, sitting up a bit so his face would fill more of the screen. “It’s me.”
Blinking away happy tears, Regan’s hand flew to her mouth to stifle the sob she felt forming there. Taking a few minutes just to gaze at her handsome son’s face, she asked him finally, “What’s happening? What’s wrong?”
Frowning at her, Simon grew instantly suspicious. “Why do you think something’s wrong?”
Returning his frown and cocking an eyebrow in his direction, she replied dryly, “I haven’t heard from you in four years and you expect me to believe you’re calling now just to chat.” Simon blushed at the truth to her words as she continued, “I may not be half as smart as you or your sister, but I’m not an idiot, son.”
Simon guessed he’d deserved that. Feeling his heart rate slow back to normal, he met her gaze again, uncertain of how to continue. So much had happened in those four years, let alone the past month and a half, he wasn’t certain where to begin.
He figured starting with the truth was the best way to go. “Well, I hate to admit that you’re right, but you are,” he told her, meeting her gaze. Her eyes still held the glimmer of hope that his call might mean a chance for her to again be a part of his life and with just the slightest twinge of guilt, he continued. “River and I are fine, but I need your help.”
“Anything,” Regan told him without hesitation. And she meant it too, she would do whatever Simon asked of her.
“I need you to get me River’s medical records. Any and all of the ones that you have,” he told her, noting how her eyes again widened, this time with fear.
Welling with tears, Regan blinked quickly and then asked shakily, “Is she all right? I thought you said you were both fine.”
Sighing heavily, Simon rubbed a hand along the back of his neck, guessing that trying to jump into the middle of their insane existence was a little too much to ask of his mother. “She is,” he reaffirmed, adding quietly, “Now. But …” He trailed off and then finally admitted, “She’s recently had a miscarriage. And she doesn’t think it was an accident.”
“Oh, my baby,” Regan breathed, her voice filling with tears. Clamping her mouth shut against the sobs she knew were coming, she felt such helplessness at that moment she thought it might kill her.
Glancing back to her son’s patient face, she asked him urgently, “Where are you? I’m coming to see you.”
His anxiety spiking to a record high, Simon sat up straight in his seat, his eyes turning cold and his voice harsh. “No, mother, that is not an option.”
Hurtful eyes fell to his face and Regan tried to understand why her son would want to keep her away. It had been four years since that whole terrible and misguided incident. Surely, he had managed to forgive her somewhat in all that time. “Simon, please,” she begged, her eyes imploring him. “She’s my daughter, I want to help her. This has to be incredibly hard for her.” Pausing, she added, “Besides, I’m assuming this means she has a husband, and I think I have a right to meet my son-in-law. And my daughter-in-law,” she told him pointedly, noting as a blush crept up his cheeks. “And my grandchild,” she finished, the blush that had started on his cheeks as a rosy glow flaming bright red.
Simon knew she had a point, but it was because of his children and his wife, that he would not risk bringing her here. Knowing that his next statement could be unforgivable, he raised his eyes back to the screen and told her, “I’m sorry, mother, but no. I can’t trust you. I can’t risk the good life we have by relying on you again.”
Regan could not stifle this final sob and she dropped her head into her hands, crying so hard her shoulders were shaking. Simon watched her in silence, feeling bad, but unwilling to relent. He had made that mistake once before and he would not make it again, he would not trust her, or his father only to be deceived.
As her sobs died down, Simon finally asked, “How is father?”
Turning red-rimmed eyes to the screen, she shrugged indifferently and told him, “I wouldn’t know. I haven’t seen him since Beaumonde.”
While the statement should have filled Simon with relief, it only served to place a small pit of dread in his gut. He would have felt better if his father was with his mother because then he would know where he was. Now, he was as nebulous as an ion cloud, meaning he could be anywhere and Simon did not like that idea.
Pulling him from his thoughts, his mother spoke again, this time her tone more harsh. “If you want River’s records, then you’ll have to tell me where you are.” She watched as his eyes widened in horror at her manipulation. Crossing her arms over her chest, she would not back down. “I won’t transmit them to you.”
Simon worked his mouth, trying to think of something to say, but his mother again silenced him. Softening her features just a bit, she leaned toward the screen and told him, “I’m not doing this to punish you Simon, or your sister. I just want to see you both. I want to see your families and be a part of these lives you’ve created. Please.”
He wanted to tell her no and end the connection, but he couldn’t. He knew how desperate his sister was to know the truth and he knew that he didn’t have the additional information he needed to give it to her – but their mother might and he could not dismiss her outright, no matter how much he wanted to.
Sighing heavily, Simon raised his still disbelieving gaze to the screen and said, “I can’t make any promises. I’ll have to get the buy-in of quite a few people since the last time you were around a few homes were destroyed.”
Her cheeks flushed as his statement, shame welling in her heart at the truth of his words. She had been so foolish and so selfish. “Of course,” she told him quietly. Again looking into his blue eyes, she said, “I’ll wait to hear from you.”
She moved to end the connection, but Simon stopped her. “And mother –"
“I know,” she told him, smiling. “I won’t tell anyone that you contacted me. I really do want to keep you safe, son.”
He returned her smile with just a small one of his own, and slumped back in his chair, exhausted. Speaking with her had taken more out of him than he’d thought. Sitting still for a few more minutes, their conversation playing over and over again in his mind, he finally rose, heading back to his family and trying to think of a way to spare any of them more heartache.
River and Jayne were out in the yard, enjoying the afternoon sunshine when Simon and Kaylee found them. Hand in hand, Simon and his wife walked towards his sister and her husband, his gut churning over what they were about to discuss. Even after speaking with his mother, Simon was no more convinced that reaching out to her had been a good idea. Coupled with the fact that she now wanted to see them, he was even more anxious.
River looked to him expectantly as he approached, her eyes big and wide as always. Jayne was sitting beside her, playing some kind of game with Cadie who was laughing insistently. However, as the young girl picked up on River’s rising anticipation, she turned away from Jayne and watched in silence as Simon and Kaylee joined them under the tree.
Looking back to Jayne, he was about to say something, when Cadie rose pressing a quick kiss to his cheek and then one to River’s. “I’ll see you later,” she whispered and then bounded away, knowing that whatever they were about to discuss she had no business hearing, not yet anyway.
River watched her go for a moment, and then looked back to regard her brother and sister. They had sat on a bench similar to the one River and Jayne were on, and she leaned forward, clasping Simon’s hands in her own. With shining eyes, she asked, “Well?”
Simon tried to smile at her, but it was a forced gesture and it came across that way. Pulling his hands from her grasp, he patted them gently, before wrapping an arm around Kaylee’s shoulders. Her face was pale and drawn, her fear over Simon’s call and subsequent action regarding his mother still plaguing her. He had tried to reassure her in just the hour or so he’d been back, telling her it would be fine, but the anxiety that had etched itself into her features from the night before, seemed to be permanent, at least for the time being.
“I spoke with her, mei mei,” Simon said quietly, watching as River clutched Jayne’s hand in hers. Jayne’s wide eyes met Simon’s and the two men shared a knowing and hesitant look. If the mercenary’s body language were any indication, he had about as much trepidation regarding this plan as Simon did.
“What did she say?” River asked, having a fairly good idea, but needing confirmation. Since the miscarriage, her abilities had been slowly on the mend and she could now read almost everyone, but some emotions and some people, her brother included were still slightly clouded to her. She found that strange, considering Simon had always been the one person she could read as clearly as any, but shaking her head, she pushed the concern away. She didn’t have time to worry about such things.
Simon swallowed hard and then glanced to Kaylee. She was trying desperately to keep her tears in, but it wasn’t working. Kissing her lightly on the cheek, he turned back to River and said, “She said that if we don’t allow her to come see us, she won’t turn over the medical records.”
Jayne cursed violently under his breath, his opinion of River’s mother, which had already been on a slippery slope, taking a sharp plunge. How a woman could barter with her daughter’s health and happiness that way he didn’t understand. What exactly did she think the definition of a mother was anyway?
Turning sharp eyes to her husband, River scolded him. “No, it’s not like that. She just wants to help. Wants to see me and tell me it’s okay.” Looking back to her brother, she told him, “You know that’s what she wants.”
Hesitantly, Simon nodded. “She said as much, yes. Said that she wants to meet your husband and my wife,” Simon said, smiling at Kaylee even as she wiped away a few tears. “And of course her grandchild. She doesn’t even know about Rylee yet,” he added wistfully, feeling a stab of guilt that his children had never met their grandmother and vice versa. But she had made that choice when she had decided to play with his life.
River rose and knelt in front of him, placing her delicate hand against his cheek and locking his eyes with hers. Smiling at him with that enigmatic smile that always made him grin in return, she said, “It’s okay. She won’t hurt us. Won’t betray us. She only wants to help.”
Pulling his arm from around Kaylee, Simon took both his sister’s hands in his own and leaned forward. “How can you be so sure of that, mei mei?” he asked intently, wanting an answer. “Do you understand what could happen if you’re wrong? Do you understand the danger?”
River nodded once, but would not be deterred. She knew that her mother would not harm her or Simon again. She had read that from her as plain as day last time they had seen her. River had believed her then and she believed her now. Besides, she needed to see her. Her pregnancy and her miscarriage had made her miss her mother in ways she had never expected and now, regardless of the information she could share, River just wanted to see her.
“She won’t hurt us, Simon,” River repeated, again holding his gaze. Squeezing his hands slightly, she whispered, “You have to trust me, please.”
Simon sighed and ran a hand over her cheek, placing a gentle kiss to her forehead. Pulling back from her, he squeezed her hands in return, and River rose slowly, still in a little pain and made her way back to her husband’s side, wrapping her arms around Jayne’s neck and hugging him tight. Simon turned to Kaylee, taking her by the shoulders and addressing her quietly.
“Bao bei, are you all right?”
Kaylee would not meet his gaze, shrugging instead. When Simon lifted her chin so he could again look in her deep green eyes, he felt more guilt well in his chest. He didn’t want to do this to her, he would do anything to keep Kaylee from feeling pain ever again, but he didn’t know how. “I’m sorry, Kaylee,” he whispered, pulling her close.
Kaylee wrapped her arms around her husband, willing her tears away. She knew how conflicted Simon was over this entire situation and she knew that if he could think of another way, if he could convince his sister to let it go, he would. “It s’okay, Simon,” she whispered in his ear, swallowing hard to clear her voice of her tears. “We’ll be okay.”
Marveling at the wonder of his wife, Simon pulled back and kissed her, then finally turned back to regard his sister and Jayne. “This isn’t over, you know,” he warned her, watching as her face fell. Explaining, he said, “The last time our mother showed up, both the Everetts and the Thompsons lost their homes. Plus, Mal and Inara deserve a say as well. If you want Mother to come, you’re going to have to convince them that it’ll be safe,” Simon finished, leveling a hard gaze at his sister.
River’s eyes widened slightly at the prospect, but nodding resolutely, she told him, “Okay. But I’ll need your help.” Simon nodded once, knowing that it made no difference if he was part of the discussion or not, everyone would simply lump him into River’s corner regardless. Glancing again to Jayne, River met his comforting smile with one of her own. She knew it would be up to her to convince everyone to take this risk. She just hoped she’d have the strength and the ability to persuade them.
It had taken Keller more than twenty-four hours to track that damnable wave and now that he had, he regretted it. Why would anyone in their right mind go to Harvest? It was quite truthfully the armpit of the border worlds and he grimaced to think of traveling all that way to have to exact his revenge.
But with a sigh, he knew he would. If that’s where Simon and his happy brood now resided, than Keller would travel there and back again a hundred times over to kill his old friend.
It had been four years, yes, since Keller’s life had exploded with spectacular effect. After Gabriel had paid him a not nice visit in his office at the hospital, Keller had quickly beat it off Osiris, knowing that everything with his good buddy Doctor Tam was about to come to a head and knowing that when it did, it would be his ass caught in the crossfire.
Of course disappearing under Blue Sun and the Alliance’s radar took talent, money and a little bit of luck. And fortunately for Keller he had all three in abundant supply. Utilizing contacts he’d formed while doing the Alliance’s dirty work and some he’d managed to make purely by reputation, he bought all he needed to stay one step ahead of the agents and Gabriel Tam. He now had new ident cards and retinal scans scattered throughout a half a dozen cities on at least four core worlds, allowing him a freedom of movement that he’d never truly had before.
There had been a couple of close calls, but by being his charming self, Keller had managed to mask his continued existence from the wrong people, while still maintaining a good bead on the right people. As soon as Alicia had returned from her sojourn, she had left Osiris as well, moving back to live with her family on Ariel. Which is where Keller had found her. He’d threatened her a bit, but she had eventually told him just enough about Simon and the outcome of their little adventure to know that his friend, the inimitable doctor Tam had again stumbled into a charmed life he didn’t deserve.
Keller had also watched Regan closely, noting the practiced step with which she now circled everything. She was cautious and measured in all of her affairs, closing herself off from many of her old friends and colleagues, including Gabriel. The fact that the elder Tam had not resurfaced was of little consequence to Keller – he would just as soon kill the man as see him again.
So with one ear to the source boxes of the rich, famous and influential, Keller had managed to eke out his own little illegal existence, always looking for the best way, the most opportune moment to get his revenge on Simon. The man had ruined Keller’s life, forcing him to live on the raggedy edge of the lowest fringe of high society and that was something Keller could not forgive.
He’d never honestly thought Simon would be stupid enough to contact his mother, but he’d kept the tap on her source code, just in case. And a day ago, it had paid off spectacularly. So now, he was arranging for his transport to Harvest. It would take at least two weeks to get there, but Keller was fine with that. That would be two weeks of solid planning time – time to determine the best and most effective way to kill Simon’s beloved family, while he watched and then plunge the same blood-stained knife into his friend’s gut.
Yes, planning indeed.
Rylee was sitting quietly in her room at her grandparents’ house playing when Cadie found her. The young girl was on her bed, her hands working furiously to braid her doll’s hair and Cadie regarded her for a moment before bounding into the room and joining her.
Rylee looked up at the unexpected intrusion, smiling when she saw who it was. She had always liked Cadie, even though the girl was quiet on most occasions, a direct contrast to Rylee’s normal demeanor. Picking up another one of her dolls whose hair was also unkempt, she held it in Cadie’s direction and asked, “Wanna play?”
Cadie smiled at her and took the offered toy, running her fingers through her yarn hair and undoing a few of the knots there. “These are really pretty,” Cadie told her, admiring the craftsmanship and simplicity of the toys.
Rylee sighed and smiled, taking a moment to stare at the one in her hands. “Yeah, my aunt River got them for me when I was a baby. We play with them a lot, acting out stories. They’re sisters you know,” Rylee informed her, meeting Cadie’s gaze.
Watching the girl for a moment, Cadie hoped that maybe this easy conversation would help her discuss with the younger girl what she’d come here to talk about. Cadie had been feeling increased anxiety welling from the child ever since her family had set foot on Harvest. Now after two nights in a row of strong dreams that had awoken Cadie all the way in her bed, she knew that those feelings were coming from Rylee and she had a fairly good idea what they meant.
“Really?” Cadie asked, surveying all of this in just a minute as she again worked on the doll’s hair. “What’s this one’s name?”
“That’s Abby. She’s older,” Rylee told her, pointing to the red-headed doll Cadie held. “And this one’s Mary,” she explained, pointing to her own brown-haired toy. “They used to live in a grand castle with servants and knights and fancy things.” Rylee continued the story almost as an afterthought, having finished her doll’s hair and moving to change her clothes, pulling a different dress from the small pile of outfits at her side. She moved the pile to the middle of the bed, so Cadie could also change Abby’s outfit and continued. “But then, this mean old wizard came to their castle one day and destroyed everything but the two of them.”
“How did they survive?” Cadie asked.
Shrugging, Rylee answered, “I’m not sure, Aunt River always says it’s ‘cause they’re so close, ‘cause they’re sisters and they have this special connection.” Meeting Cadie’s blue, clear eyes, she confided, “I don’t always get what Aunt River’s saying.”
Smiling at her, Cadie could relate. Sometimes having a conversation with a reader could be more confusing than not. She was about to ask another question, when Rylee’s hands stilled and she looked up and out the room’s window, her eyes wide, her ears open and listening. Cadie watched her, noting the way her body stiffened and a few tears welled in her eyes, before she finally pulled her gaze back from the window and resumed her work.
Placing a light hand against the girl’s knee, Cadie waited until those brown eyes were again focused on her and asked quietly, “Is everything okay?”
Inhaling sharply at the question, Cadie felt Rylee’s fear spike at the thought that she had been ‘caught.’ The younger child felt deep shame for her wakening abilities and Cadie’s heart went out to her; she knew how frightening it could all be. Shrugging, she looked away and said, “Yeah, I’m fine.”
Trying a different tactic, Cadie told her, “You don’t usually play by yourself. Normally, you and your brother and Mimi are inseparable.”
Shrugging again, Rylee sniffled a bit and told her, “It was too loud.”
Cadie knew exactly what she meant. Scooting closer to her, she asked quietly, “Is it too loud outside, or in your head?”
Snapping her eyes up, Rylee scurried away from the other girl, backing into the headboard of the bed and pulling her knees into her chest. “I don’t know what you’re talking ‘bout,” Rylee told her, even as Cadie watched her shake with fright.
Sighing, Cadie remained as calm as possible and said, “I’m sorry, Rylee, really. I didn’t mean to scare you. I just thought that maybe we could talk about it.”
Her eyes narrowing with suspicion, Rylee asked her, “Talk about what?”
Trying to determine the best way to approach this, Cadie told her, “You know that I’m reader, like River, right?” Rylee nodded and Cadie continued. “Well, sometimes, it’s real hard for me to be quiet or think, because everybody else’s thoughts get in my head and it’s real loud,” she told her, gesturing to her forehead. Rylee’s body relaxed just a bit as she said, “And I know that’s how River feels sometimes too, and I think that’s how you’ve been feeling these past couple of days.”
Rylee’s eyes had again welled with tears. Cadie could read her fear, but not at being found out, as she had initially assumed, but at being so different, at harboring so many emotions that weren’t hers and having to process so much she had no idea how to deal with. Plus, whatever had awoken her the past few nights was scary, and adding that fear into the mix was causing the child some severe anxiety.
Rylee edged a bit closer to her and took Cadie’s hand. “I’m real scared, Cadie,” she whispered.
Squeezing the girl’s hand, Cadie asked her, “Have you told anybody? About your feelings or anything? Your mom or dad or River?”
Rylee shook her head fiercely and told her, “No. Dad’d just be mad or sad and mama won’t know what to do. And aunt River …” She trailed off, knowing that her aunt was the one person who could help her, but she couldn’t ask her, not now. “She’s been through enough.”
Cadie pulled the girl into a hug and said, “I know. But she’d want to help. It’s what she’s good at.” Pulling back slightly she looked into Rylee’s brown eyes still brimming with tears and said, “Why don’t we try to talk with her tonight? She’s getting better, I was just outside with her and Jayne. She’s a lot stronger now.”
Rylee nodded hesitantly, still not convinced, but also not certain she could continue to ignore these rising feelings of unease. “You’re gonna come with me, right?” she asked hurriedly.
Smiling, Cadie said, “Of course.” Looking back down to the doll she held in her lap, she told her, “I think we should rebuild their castle.” Glancing back up to Rylee she saw genuine happiness light her eyes for the first time all day. “Whatda you say?”
Squealing with delight, the two girls took the dolls and bounded from the room, looking for an adequate home for their royal toys.
I hope the "I Heart Keller" fan club is happy now!
Tuesday, August 01, 2006 6:11 PM
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Wednesday, August 02, 2006 11:16 AM
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